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Avis: First Car Rental Company Available on Google Wallet

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Avis Car Rental is keeping up its tech-y track record with the integration of Avis Preferred, its express rental service, with Google Wallet—making them the first company in the car rental industry to join Google’s new app. Wallet’s application allows users on Android and iPhone devices to send money, pay for online purchases, and store loyalty program info all in a 24/7 fraud-monitored location. As of today, travelers can enroll in Avis Preferred through the app and have their new Avis Wizard number appear automatically, while existing members can save their Wizard number in the app. Users will then receive offers from Avis directly through Google Wallet, expediting the car rental process—especially convenient for travelers on a tight schedule.

Maria PedoneMaria Pedone is on the digital team at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @mariapedestrian.

Photo credit: Newscast / Alamy

Gogobot’s New Tribes Feature Finds Opinions From Likeminded Travelers

If you haven’t been on Gogobot in a while, it’s a good time to make your return—today, the site announced a new feature called Tribes, which lets you filter for recommendations from likeminded travelers, both online and on your smartphone. Tribes cover various travel personalities and interests, from luxury travel to wellness or art and design. Join the Local Culture and Foodie tribes before a trip to Chicago, for instance, and Stephanie Izard’s hotspot Girl and the Goat is your first dining recommendation. Family travelers, on the other hand, will get Giordano’s, the classic deep dish pizza haunt, as their top pick for places to fill up. 

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Mandarin Oriental Jumps on the Free Wi-Fi Bandwagon

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If free Wi-Fi has typically been the exception at luxury hotels, there’s more hope than ever that it will soon be the rule. Case in point: this week, Mandarin Oriental has announced that they will offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi to any guest who books on the mandarinoriental.com website and fills out a guest questionnaire. Why the caveats? The brand is better able to learn about their guests, anticipate their needs, and market to their audience with the help of online profiles, and direct bookings reduce the fees and commissions associated with outside booking vendors. Plus, Mandarin promises to offer the lowest rate on their site—or beat any better deals by a full ten percent. Want the Wi-Fi without the runaround? Try Peninsula, Shangri-La, or Hilton, which recently partnered with AT&T to provide free Internet for many of its guests.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental

Test Driving the New HP Chromebook 11

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This week, Google announced the next generation of Chromebook—a glossy white beauty with top-of-the-line hardware—and we’re impressed. It’s slim (under 18 mm), lightweight (at 2.3 pounds), and travel-proof, with a magnesium alloy frame that’ll withstand bumps and dings, a slick widescreen that’s great for movie watching, and speakers that port up through the keyboard for ultra-clear, fuzz-free sound.

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Free Global Roaming Announced with T-Mobile

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Today, T-Mobile announced a groundbreaking international roaming plan that squarely puts the carrier in the running for most travel friendly—a prize we’ve historically handed over to either Verizon or AT&T. What’s the fuss all about? All members of the carrier’s Simple Choice plans will automatically receive unlimited data and texting in more than 100 countries around the globe—and phone calls will be charged at a flat rate of 20 cents per minute from any of those countries. Another plus: there won’t be any activation or monthly fees for the service. Said CEO John Legere at T-Mobile’s launch event this morning, “Today’s phones are designed to work around the world, but we’re forced to pay insanely inflated international connectivity fees to actually use them. You can’t leave the country without coming home to bill shock. So we’re making the world your network—at no extra cost.” That’s logic we can all get behind.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Five Things We Love About the New Kindle Paperwhite

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The one gadget I can no longer travel without? My e-reader. But now that I’ve seen the new generation of Kindle Paperwhites, I’m thinking it might be time to upgrade what I’m putting in my carry-on. Here, the three things I’m digging most about Amazon’s latest release.

Page Flip: The only thing I miss about the paper book experience is the ability to flip back to earlier chapters. The new Paperwhite lets you pull up a slider that lets you scan through any novel—improving on their previous X-Ray feature that simply found previous mentions of common characters or concepts.

Integration with Goodreads:This isn’t out just yet, but soon, Kindle users will get to share book recommendations with friends on this innovative social media network.

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The Suitest's Hotel Room Price Predictor

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Considering a visit to New York but turned off by the sky-high hotel prices? Try browsing The Suitest, a suite-focused hotel search engine whose new Price Predictor advises on the probable fluctuation of room rates in any major destination. Much like Bing’s airfare search, the tool also provides insight as to whether rates are likely to climb, decline, or sell out entirely in the next week. It’s all calculated with an algorithm that riffs off Wall Street hedge funds, which use the similar models to analyze mortgage-backed securities (topics not nearly as exciting as planning your vacation). Ignore the “Deal Grades,” or snapshots of a quote’s relative value—they seem largely arbitrary—and focus instead on our two favorite features: “fair value assessments” that compare your quote to the hotel's “usual price” and a six-month calendar showing the average rate each night in the city of your choosing.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of TheSuitest.com

Enterprise Debuts Electric Cars in Orlando

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If you’re planning a vacation to Orlando this winter, you may want to consider renting an electric car. In an effort to make the Sunshine State a shade greener, the Electrification Coalition has partnered with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, among other area travel companies, to launch their new Drive Electric initiative. The project is a big step towards eco-friendly travel, especially since Orlando is one of America's most visited cities (according to Forbes), attracting over 50 million guests annually.

Besides shrinking your carbon footprint, the perks also extend to your wallet. Orlando's metro area boasts over 300 charging stations—many of them free—with complimentary re-charging at participating hotels like the Peabody Orlando. And with no gas tank to go empty, you won’t have to waste time filling up between Kingdoms.

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Tech Thursday: Foursquare’s New Menu Search

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In an ever-increased push to highlight the app’s exploration features, Foursquare has rolled out a new “menu search” feature that lets users find the best local spot for whatever it is they’re craving. Whereas users could previously search for general categories—Southern food; French restaurants—it’s now possible to hone in on more specific requests, like fried pickles or gluten-free dishes. For road warriors with picky palates or dietary restrictions, it’s a real game-changer, and one we hope will help broaden Foursquare’s reach to a wider demographic of travelers.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Foursquare

Tech Thursday: Samsung Announces Galaxy Gear Smartwatch

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The new tech trend is… smartwatches? Yes, it’s true. Samsung announced their latest device—the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which goes on sale September 25—at an electronics trade show in Berlin yesterday. Part James Bond, part Nike Fuelband, the $299 gadget will come pre-loaded with 60 apps (Facebook; a pedometer; a Siri-like personal assistant) and snap photos and video. Don’t expect to make calls on it, or have it replace your phone, though: it’s intended to fulfill relatively simple functions and act as a “companion” that can sync to your Samsung phone for easy access to messages and texts. And it wouldn’t be a trend if Samsung was the lone smartwatch pioneer. Similar products include a new Sony device announced in June, and an Apple version that’s still spinning in the rumor mill. So what’s it all mean for travelers? Just one more way to navigate, snap, and share on the road.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo Courtesy of Samsung

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