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Marriott and Taj Hotels Offering Free WiFi—But There’s a Catch

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UPDATE: Starwood has joined the free Wi-Fi ranks. The hotel behemoth recently announced that it will offer complimentary service for all members of the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program beginning in February. One hitch: you only get it if you book through an official Starwood channel, including hotel brand websites, SPG.com, and the SPG app.

Hyatt and Hilton: the ball is in your court.

 

In the last few weeks, two major hotel brands have announced that they will start offering free WiFi: Taj Hotels started November 15, and Marriott next year, on January 15. But before you start cheering, there is a catch: the internet speed is only fast enough for checking email, browsing the internet, and updating social media. All things we do while on the road, sure, but if you were hoping to stream any video or download large files, it’ll cost you.

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Must-Download iPad App: Pixelmator

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Have you ever tried to get a photo in Times Square or Grand Central—without the obstructions of fanny-pack-wielding pedestrians? Chances are you have, and that you’ve failed. Enter Pixelmator, a powerful new iPad-only app that can make it happen.

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New Ideas In Travel Innovation

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Each year, T+L travels to the Phocuswright conference to hear about the latest in travel technology. This year’s gathering took place in Los Angeles at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live, where the crowd heard from major industry players as well as startups. The first day of the conference—the Travel Innovation Summit—is when some of the most intriguing new players present their new ideas and products, some of which are so fresh they’re launched at the show.

One of the most interesting takeaways? An increased focus on offline travel agents—either by building your itinerary and sending it to a live agent to price out (Going Somewhere), or, as TripScope is doing, letting users video chat with an agent to collaborate on a trip plan in real time.

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Could Apple Disrupt International Roaming?

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International roaming as we know it is on the verge of becoming obsolete: the EU has proposed a single network for all European countries, T-Mobile no longer charges customers when surf the web abroad, and apps like Ringo help you tap onto local networks to circumvent pricey roaming packages and overages. Now, Apple is also getting in on the act with Apple SIM, a proprietary SIM card built into the new iPad Air 2.

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What It’s Really Like To Use Starwood’s Keyless Entry

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Last year, Starwood unveiled plans to swap plastic keycards for Bluetooth technology—enabling guests to unlock their hotel rooms with a simple wave of their smartphone. We predicted it would be one of the biggest travel trends for 2014, and indeed, Hilton Worldwide and Caesars have since announced plans to bring the technology to their hotels as soon as this winter. But this week, Starwood is back in the spotlight as they pull back the curtain on how mobile entry works—and introduce it to ten properties in the Aloft, W, and Element portfolios.

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Indianapolis Airport Introduces Customer Service Robot

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Combine old-fashioned customer service with a novel use of technology, and you get Double Robot. Indianapolis Airport recently rolled out its newest employee to complement guest services and assist in answering passengers' questions—airport transportation, gate locations, direction, more. An airport agent visibly appears and communicates with passengers through a tablet screen, propped up on a roller dressed in a blue customer service shirt similar to other employees. Cute, convenient, or creepy?

Nicoletta Richardson is a freelance editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Airport


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Crowne Plaza Adds Smart New Sleep Innovation to Guest Rooms

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Big innovation can come from tiny tweaks—at least, that’s what Crowne Plaza has found as they designed their next-generation guest room.

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Westin Launches Sleep Sensor Lending Program

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It’s been a full fifteen years since Westin introduced the Heavenly bed—an icon so popular it’s since been adopted by Delta and sold to consumers worldwide. To mark the occasion, the brand is now introducing a sleep sensor lending program in collaboration with wearables company Lark Technologies—the latest in a series of wellness-related innovations by the Starwood brand.

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Apple Announces New iPad Air 2

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If you were one of the thousands who lined up for a shiny new iPhone 6 last month, get ready to queue up again: Apple is back at it with next-gen iPads that are bound to become instant travel tech classics. Here’s everything you need to know about today’s big news.

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Skype Launches New Video Messaging App, Qik

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Ten-plus years after Skype was first made available for download, the ubiquitous app is gaining a sibling—Qik, Microsoft’s first foray into video messaging. Available now for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, the free, stand-alone app allows users to send short video messages, up to 40 seconds in length, to anyone in your phone book with the tap of a button. Cheeky name aside, it’s a great solution for travelers—the videos are shared almost instantly, cutting out traditionally long relay times, and don’t use up precious phone storage space.

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