I’ve long loved Rome 2 Rio as a transportation guide: it tells you every possible way to get from Point A to Point B, and offers in-line prices and itineraries. Since I started using it, I’ve realized just how efficient train travel can be—factor in security lines and early airport arrivals, and the train can take less time than flying, depending on where you’re going. For the first time, an OTA is in agreement, as CheapAir has announced today that it will be integrating Amtrakrailway reservations into its flight search system. Now, when you search for routes connecting, say, New York and Boston, you’ll see airfares interspersed with train routes, so you can compare prices and schedules. Better yet, you can mix and match airfares and train reservations, so that you can capitalize on a discounted international flight that leaves from a city a few hours away.
In this week's travel news round-up, Disney launches its smart travel app, Airbnb is on the rise for business travelers, and we recap the controversy over the Picasso curtain at the Four Seasons Restaurant, New York.
There have been a boatload of travel innovations revealed today, and the Trip Doctor news team is pretty excited about them all. Here are a few of our favorites:
Microclimates on a Plane: Soon, passengers flying Virgin America will be able to set the temperature for their immediate surroundings thanks to a new partnership with thermostat company Nest (see video above). Expect the "Nest-controlled microclimates," with temperature settings ranging from "Cancun Afternoon" to "Chicago Polar Vortex," on Boston- and Newark-bound flights from both Los Angeles and San Francisco first, with implementation on all routes completed by the end of 2014.
One of London’s famous landmarks got a modern spin last week, as Café Royal Hotel—which opened just over a year ago on Regent Street—debuted a front- and back-of-house integration with Apple technology that's intended to streamline its entire operations process. Now, guests staying at the property can check in remotely using an iOS device, be it en route from the airport or over a cup of coffee in the restaurant, rather than having to queue up at the desk.
A few months ago, Delta eliminated free Delta Sky Club guest passes for American Express Platinum, Centurion, and Delta Reserve cardholders. But credit card company seems to be making up for the loss in it’s new partnership with Boingo: free, unlimited Wi-Fi. Starting this June, Platinum, Centurion, and Corporate Gold card members will have access to more than a million hotspots in airports, hotels, and retail locations around the world on up to four devices. We know what you’re thinking, and unfortunately, the answer is no—this does not include inflight Wi-Fi.
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.
True or false: booking a hotel and airfare package is cheaper than booking each component separately. If you guessed true, you’re right—most of the time, anyway. But there are exceptions. Helping you navigate those murky waters is Kayak, which has just launched a tool to aggregate package pricing and help you find the best options.
Looking to score a deal on a great hotel? These digital tips and tricks from T+L will ensure you get the best price in the house.
Know the Market
Timing is key. The Web-based price predictor feature on TheSuitest forecasts how room prices are expected to fluctuate for the next month—use it to find the right time to buy in any market. Then cross-check with DealAngel and Bing's Hotel Rate Indicator—both compare quoted rates with a hotel’s average cost, telling you which deals are really worthwhile.
The most frustrating part of planning a trip? Not being able to score the right restaurant reservations (well, for this foodie, anyway). Several city-specific tools have cropped up to serve those of us who are both discerning eaters and poor planners (SoonSpoon.com in Boston; TableSavvy in Chicago; New York’s @LastMinuteEatin’ on Twitter), but today OpenTable is announcing a new program that will take the model coast to coast.
With Hot Tables, OpenTable lets VIP users (those who make at least 12 reservations a year) sign up for alerts when their preferred restaurant is already booked—anyone who has signed up for the alert will get a text message notification the second a table opens up. (In other words, there will still be competition.) Sound a lot like Rezhound? That’s because it is—the independent site had been offering the exact same service without being under OpenTable’s purview, proving just how much demand there might be for an official product.
Priceline’s introducing some exciting new features today—and we’ve gotten a sneak peak at what to expect. Exclusive to users on iPhone and iPad, the upgrade includes a partnership with intelligent fare search Routehappy as well as a location-based hotel search tool. When looking for a place to stay, the Deals Near Me feature will now scan the thirty mile radius around you to find great room discounts in the vicinity—it pulls from Priceline’s entire database, featuring both Express Deals and retail prices. As with any dynamic zone hotel search, this lends itself best to last minute bookings, but don’t count it out as a planning tool—you can manually change your position on the map to anywhere in the world, accessing deals that are say, walking distance from the Prado—and search for reservations months out in the future.
This week, Apple introduced their new CarPlay system, and it’s something of a revolution for road trippers. A follow up to iOS in the Car, which launched quietly last year as a way to have your iPhone screen show up on your in-car dash, CarPlay is set to ship in Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo cars any day, with nearly every auto maker following suit by the year’s end (notable exceptions include Fiat, VW, and Chrysler). Included in the release? Full integration via your phone’s lightning port, offering access to Siri, Apple maps, hands-free calling, and text messages through voice commands and in-car controls. One feature we can’t stop thinking about: controlling Spotify (or any other music app) without having to take your eyes off 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.