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Best Travel Websites and Apps

Sometimes you need a vacation from planning your vacation. Take the stress out of trip-planning with these seven essential resources that will save you time and money.

AIRFARES + FLIGHTS
GetGoing
If your plans are flexible, take advantage of the website GetGoing, which promises to save travelers up to 40 percent. Choose two destinations in the same region of the world (for example, Vienna and Geneva, or Costa Rica and Panama) and enter your travel dates. Then provide your billing information to complete your reservation. The Get Going team randomly selects one of your two options.

Related: Avoid These Online Travel Scams

Pintrips
The idea of pinning something on the web began with Pinterest. Now, Pintrips brings that kind of functionality to online airfare searches. You can pin fare results you like and collect them in a personal folder on the Pintrips site. It makes it easy to compare your flight options and share them with others.

SeatGuru
Enter an airline and flight number and SeatGuru calls up a detailed airplane plan, indicating seats that are desirable (emergency exits, those with extra legroom, etc.), average, and simply bad (reduced legroom or recline). It also has reviews of different airline services, as well as quick-scan icons for such in-flight amenities as food, entertainment, in-seat power ports, and Wi-Fi.

HOTELS
Hipmunk
You can filter hotel searches by price, quality, and distance, as well as "Ecstasy," a rating based on a mix of price, amenities, and reviews. Hipmunk also offers a series of heat maps that show you which hotels are closest to food, shopping, and nightlife.

Guestmob
Guestmob lets travelers choose between collections of similar hotels in one city-all with names and picture galleries—at the same price. Pick a collection and you're guaranteed a spot in one of its hotels at the advertised rate (up to 50 percent off).

TRAVEL SERVICES
WordLens
Aim your phone's camera over a written phrase for an instant translation courtesy of WordLens—no costly data connection is needed. The service is available in English, French, Italian, and Spanish.

GlobeTipping
With tipping guidelines for more than 200 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia, GlobeTipping is the most comprehensive of the global tip calculators. It can factor in tips by percentage and divide the overall bill by number of diners.

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Tech Thursday: The Solar Plane Heading Across America

Think solar-powered airplanes are the talk of futurists? Not really. Solar Impulse, a company started by two innovative engineers, has been flying by the power of the sun since 2010, when it accomplished an incredible 26-hour flight without an ounce of fuel. Their plane, covered in solar panels across the length of its 208-foot wingspan, is now embarking on a new mission, criss-crossing America to raise awareness for sustainable energy.

The journey begins on May 1, with stops in San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and New York. But keep an eye out for open houses, where guests will be able to check out the plane in all its high-tech glory at various airports (the first is tentatively slated for next Saturday at Moffett Federal Airfield, in San Francisco).

As for the company’s next goal? A flight around the world, currently scheduled for 2015.

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

 

SFO Moves to Block Car Sharing Services

Here today, gone tomorrow: FlightCar, that quirky car-sharing company we recently told you about, has been shut down by SFO.

And it's not alone: Also on the airport's cease-and-desist list are five other ride sharing companies, from UberX to InstantCab, according to The Huffington Post's Aaron Sankin. Why the sudden crackdown on automotive sharing startups? Apparently the tech-forward companies have been getting an easy break thanks to legal loopholes that don't require them to hold licenses from the California Public Utilities Commission, and taxi drivers—who not only need the licenses but pay fees for each airport ride—aren't too happy about it. But that doesn't mean it's game over for the six companies at stake, as a hearing is scheduled to determine their future later this month.

Our prediction? FlightCar will live on, sans curbside pickup service. As for the companies whose core premise includes a driver? They may not be so lucky.

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

Surprising Number of Travel Innovations Announced Today

glass plane

Strange things are afoot in the travel world today. It seems like our inboxes have been flooded by announcements of weird and wonderful innovations. Here's a selection of the most interesting news of the day (that would be April 1, by the way).

Ever the publicity hound, Richard Branson announced that his engineering team has secretly developed the world's first glass-bottom airplane. (Picture above) The plane's underbelly will be completely see-through, allowing travelers the "opportunity to look down on the beautiful scenery of Great Britain as they fly." But rest assured: Cabin crew will be trained to calm the nerves of vertigo-prone fliers. (Amy Farley)

Read More

Free WiFi Coming Soon to IHG Hotels

The winds of change are upon us. IHG, the company behind InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and Hotel Indigo, announced that it will offer free internet access to all 71 million members of its loyalty program beginning in 2014. With this decision, it joins Fairmont, Kimpton, and Omni Hotels, all of which offer free Wi-Fi access to members of their (also free) loyalty programs.

By covering more than 4,600 hotels, IHG is certainly the largest company to make such a commitment to its loyalists of all ranks. And the IHG twist: you won’t need to be a guest of the hotel to access the internet. The service will be available free of charge even to loyalty-program members who just pop into the lobby.

Trip Doctor: Aloft Pioneers Apple TV Pilot Program

hotel entertainment

If you're prone to downloading the entire seasons of Breaking Bad onto your iPad before a trip, this will be welcome news: Aloft, Starwood's intrepidly tech-savvy brand, is testing the in-room entertainment system of tomorrow, with Apple TV as its anchor.

In every Aloft room, you'll find a Jack Pack, which plugs into your laptop or mobile devices and projects the content onto your in-room HDTV. Now with AppleTV, guests can use their TV in a huge variety of ways: As a stereo system for music, a medium for editing photos, or perhaps most useful, a big screen for streaming Netflix or iTunes movies.

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Tech Thursday: Free Airport Parking, Courtesy of FlightCar

FlightCar

Certain things can only work on the West Coast—take, for instance, FlightCar, a new San Francisco-based startup that lets you loan out your car while it's parked at the airport. The concept is a win-win in theory: travelers get their expensive parking tab subsidized by approved renters, who get a better deal (and maybe even a nicer car) in return.

The program has recently piloted at SFO, with expansion plans in the works. And so far, the selection of cars is promising, ranging from a 2005 BMW 3 Series to a 2008 Honda Accord on a trial search (both would cost $46 a day to rent—compared to $150 for similar models at Hertz or Enterprise).

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The Doctor Recommends: Must Reads for the Week Ending March 8, 2013

Here are a few recent travel stories that piqued the interest of T+L's news team.

Clearly, we're not alone in our obsession with Hotel Tonight. Here, the folks at Hotel Chatter put together a few nifty tips for maximizing your deal on the last-minute booking app. (Nikki Ekstein)

What happens when American Airlines opens up its software to a SXSW-hosted hackathon? Hopefully, something cool, according to Skift. (N.E.)

Is free wifi the key to turning hotels into social hubs? Maybe, says Barbara De Lollis in USA Today, but we're still pining for free wifi in our rooms, thank-you-very-much. (N.E.)

Need another reason to heed the TSA's warnings against checking luggage you didn't pack yourself? You might wind up in an Argentine prison like Paul Frampton, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill physics professor who was just trying to help a friendly Czech bikini model he thought he'd met on the internet retrieve a bag with "sentimental value" in Bolivia. Maxine Swann's New York Times Magazine story must be read to be believed. (Matt Haber)

Also, check out this map of United States Passport Ownership that comes via one of the internet's best curators, Maria Popova. Now, go make sure your passport is up to date. (M.H.)

See a story you'd recommend to us? Send it via Facebook or Twitter.

Opinion: The Travel #Humblebrag

travel #humblebrag

Are you traversing the planet in high style? #Goodforyou, but T+L doesn’t want to hear it.

Anthony has checked in to the Armani Hotel Milano. The yacht that Jeremy is on has an awesome diving board, and he posted a photo to prove it. Laura and Jonathan are enjoying a romantic weekend at GoldenEye, Ian Fleming’s Jamaican villa. When one’s own passport has seen less action than a nun, catching up with friends on Facebook can lead to unkind thoughts.

Read More

Tech Thursday: 360° Grand Canyon Panoramas Added to Google Maps

This morning on Lat/Long, the Google Maps blog, a proud product manager unveiled new eye-popping, wig-launching Grand Canyon imagery that will be added to the region in Google Maps. (The shots, taken by hikers wearing 40-lb. packs mounted with Google 360-degree cameras, cover 75 miles of trails.)

Take a stroll through some of these spectacular panoramas while solemnly humming This Land Is Your Land. Kind of beats the pants off finding your childhood home on Google Streetview, eh?


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Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.

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