Technology - General
In a move that many might see as either Orwellian or plain-old useful, Google has just launched a new feature that lets you canvass all your personal information—appointments, bookings, photos—simply by asking spoken questions. It’s a bit like Siri, but smarter: ask Google to show you all the pictures you took in London, and those will pop right up. Ask whether your flight is delayed, and it will cross check your confirmation email with the airline’s most current information. Want to figure out how to get to your hotel? It won’t just show you the booking record—it’ll find the address and pop it into your Google Maps. Naturally, it works best if you use all of Google’s organizational tools, from Gmail to Google Calendar. But those on Apple devices reap the same benefits as long as they’re signed into their Google accounts. Importantly, all the information is kept private and secure, and the feature can be disabled for those who find it creepy. But why would you? This is smart technology at its best.
Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.
Photo by istockphoto
The much-awaited news is in: Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has unveiled details about his supersonic “Hyperloop,” which promises to transport passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in thirty minutes flat.
For weeks, speculators have tried to crack the code on how Musk’s ultra-high speed network could work, and skeptics have been quick to point out that travelling at roughly 800 miles per hour would nothing short of stomach-churning, if it’s even safe at all. At long last, the answers have arrived:
How many people does it take to run a hotel’s front desk? Soon enough, the answer will be zero. Just last month, Marriott Hotels debuted a new app that lets guests check in from their smart phone starting at 4PM the day before their arrival. As it stands, these guests still need the help of a front desk clerk—if only to pick up their room key.
But Marriott isn’t alone. InterContinental Hotels Group (which owns the flagship InterContinental brand as well as Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn) has recently debuted a similar technology, letting guests at select properties check in via a mobile app. With theirs, a machine in the lobby can dispense your room key upon arrival, so long as you can supply some basic identifying information. (Can you hear the collective weeping of receptionists around the globe?) We’re also hearing rumblings that some clever hoteliers are attempting to take mobile check-in to a whole new level—perhaps even eliminating the need for a room key overall.
We’ve long loved Hipmunk for its brilliant intelligent search capabilities, which help you find the least agonizing flights or the hotels that are best suited to your individual needs. Today, the app launches an update that once again changes the game: this time, it takes on the last-minute hotel booking sphere that has become quite the competitive space as of late.
In this day and age, it’s pretty rare to hear about new services on flights—unless they come with a side of sticker shock. Southwest is an exception to the rule, as they’ve always maintained an anti-fee ethos, but we’re still impressed by their latest announcement: as of this week, the airline’s customers will enjoy free On Demand and live TV—all streamed to their mobile devices—via DISH Network on every WiFi-equipped Southwest flight. The lineup features most major networks (along with dedicated sports channels) as well as 75 on demand titles. The catch? It’s only free for a limited time. According to a spokesperson, the promotion will likely run through the end of the year; even then, all signs point to a reasonable $5 price tag for in-flight streaming once the deal expires.
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 Southwest Airlines
Color wars. Village communities demarked by wildlife flags. A reveille bugle to wake us every morning. The 325 of us, ranging in ages from 19 to 67, were warned. We were prepped. But it was only when we stepped deep into the cover of 80 acres of cool redwoods in Anderson Valley (three hours north of San Francisco), into a 1970’s boy scout camp straight out of Wes Anderson’s wildest dream that we realized, finally, where we were.
And not just any camp. A camp for adults. Without electronic devices, computers, phones, lights, heat, or watches. We were not to speak about the “W” word (that would be work), what we did for a job (hereto forth to be called “fun” or “play”), and that revealing our names or ages would result in severe punishment (pulling out one another’s hair, strand by strand for each offense). We were asked to hand over our bags of iPads, Kindles, iPhones, Blackberries, digital cameras and a jumble of cords. Mine alone weighed 15 pounds and was giving me a lopsided walk; just one of the many reasons I had signed up for this experience. The offending devices went into a paper sack and were unceremoniously locked away as the campers (again, mostly me) whimpered softly.
The one gadget that makes every hotel a workstation: CB2's ultra-compact Universal Travel Adapter ($23). It's half the size of its competitors and has one simple switch that toggles between built-in plugs for virtually every destination around the world. It comes in four bright colors, making it easy to find in your suitcase.
Nikki Ekstein is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.
Photo courtesy of CB2
Despite travelers’ obsessions with being plugged in on the road, only 38% of domestic flights—and less than 1% of international flights—offer WiFi on board. Change is coming, with over 2,400 domestic and international flights rolling out Wi-Fi in the near future, but even then, in-flight web surfing will be far from ubiquitous, says data by flight engine RouteHappy. So here’s what the study suggests you do to make sure you stay connected in the skies:
Blending in with the locals. For most travelers, that’s the goal. We know that pulling out a guidebook never helps. But what about sporting funky headgear?
That’s what I was trying to figure out as I did a test drive yesterday of Google Glass at the company’s New York offices. Lens-less glasses with wraparound arms and a tiny screen above your right eye: Glass isn’t obstructive (that’s the whole point, after all), but it’s also not unobtrusive. And as my Google handler—who has worn hers in public—told me, you have to be prepared for some stares.
So do the benefits outweigh those stares?
Eight hundred bottles of alcohol, 1,600 pounds of food: this is the typical amount consumed on a weeklong European river cruise. But how does the vessel actually get from the shipyard to the river to the point of serving you dinner? We sent Nilou Motamed behind the scenes with Viking River Cruises in Germany to find out—and produce an exclusive backstage video.
The video is just one example of bonus T+L content you can get just by sending a tweet. In the magazine’s July issue, Travel + Leisure teamed up with Amex Sync from American Express, our parent company, to give readers special access to additional experiences. When you tweet hashtags found in the July issue, you’ll be able to unlock tips, restaurant lists, videos, and more.
If you’re hungry in the City by the Bay, you’ll be able to unlock our Foursquare guide to San Francisco’s best new restaurants by tweeting #TL4sqListSanFran.
For a good laugh and some holiday cheer, tweet #TLSMITTYsVid to watch Canadian airline WestJet’s video of a Christmas flash mob taking over their airport waiting area. The viral video won a 2013 T+L Social Media in Travel & Tourism Award (SMITTY), announced this month.
Planning a trip abroad? Listen to the Trip Doctor’s simple trick for saving money on international airfare—just tweet #AmexpubTLAirfare.
And of course, if you want to watch a cruise ship being built, tweet #TLVikingCruiseVid and watch our behind-the-scenes video with Viking River Cruises.
Gabrielle Blitz is an Associate Social Media Editor at Travel + Leisure.
Photo credit: Emiliano Granado