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Best Apps for Managing Frequent Flyer Miles

air travel mileage tracker

Staying on top of your many mileage, hotel, and rental-car programs is one of the biggest headaches for frequent travelers. Ditto figuring out whether or not you’ve accumulated enough points to book a first-class ticket for your next big getaway. But luckily, online mileage trackers have stepped in to help, letting travelers input their various member ID’s and passwords to conveniently consolidate all of their programs in one place. Besides displaying your latest balances, these services also notify you of all upcoming expiration dates, which is essential for keeping (and amassing more!) points.

Each site has its own edge: MileBlaster is particularly good at tracking your miles and alerting you whenever your points are about to expire, while AwardWallet smartly provides users with a convenient wallet-size card listing all of their loyalty numbers. We like TripIt’s iPhone- and iPad-optimized apps, which let you quickly access your details on the fly.

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Announcing the SMITTYs: T+L's Social Media in Travel & Tourism Awards!

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Let’s face it: social media is taking over. If you’re not at least on Facebook and Twitter, you’re, well, behind on the times. To honor and acknowledge those in the Travel industry who are doing an exceptional job on these new platforms, we’re introducing the first-ever Travel + Leisure Social Media in Travel & Tourism Awards or, as we’ve come to call ‘em, "The SMITTYs." (Clever, right?)

Want to nominate a travel company that's doing something cool? Or has your company launched an innovative/exciting/super-successful social media campaign? If yes, submit one or more nominations for a chance to win one (or more!) of these monumental new awards. Who exactly can enter? We’re looking for submissions from the following:

- Hotels & Resorts
- Cruise Lines
- Airlines
- Airports
- Tour Operators
- Tourism Boards/CVBs
- Travel Agencies/Online Travel Agencies
- Car Rental Agencies
- Attraction

There are three categories you can submit a nomination for:

- Best use of a social media platform.
- Best single social media promotion.
- Best social media promotion of travel deals.

Nominations will be accepted until March 2, 2012, and then the winners will be selected by a panel of social media experts and announced in our July 2012 issue.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s see what you've got!

[Please be sure to read the rules before submitting.]

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Joshua Pramis is the social media editor at Travel + Leisure and resident tech aficionado. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis

Take a Smithsonian Scavenger Hunt

cellphone fantasy coffin

Over the cold MLK weekend, my kids and I headed south to meet some cousins in Washington, D.C. and had the chance to test-drive a Smithsonian Art Adventure mobile-phone-based scavenger hunt from Stray Boots.

On Sunday morning, bundled up and armed with instructions for the hunt (the company’s website calls them “interactive walking tours” and “urban games”), we headed to the designated starting point, the Smithsonian Castle, punched our confirmation code into the phone, and the questions started coming.

Players participate via text message or, by using a smartphone, type answers into a web interface.  Points are awarded for correct answers and hints are available for incorrect ones, and additional interesting trivia is served up with each answer.  The cost to play is about the same as joining a human-hosted walking tour, but the phone-delivered narrative allows for more pausing, food breaks, and general messing-around, which suited our group better.

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Blurb Mobile’s Photography-Sharing App

Jim Lanahan

Innovator Jim Lanahan

Who He Is: When online custom book publisher Blurb wanted to build its mobile division, it tapped Jim Lanahan, a former photojournalist and early adopter of digital photography, for the job. Lanahan had previously helped to develop Apple’s original digital photography strategy in the early 1990’s, playing a big part in making it the go-to company for graphic designers and photographers.

His Big Idea: Blurb Mobile (free) is an app that lets iPhone and iPad users create beautifully packaged picture-and-video slideshows, then instantly share them not only with other Blurb Mobile users, but also on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr—all in just a handful of simple steps. How simple? Lanahan’s 81-year-old father quickly mastered it, so he could share his travel photos on the fly.

Photo courtesy of Jim Lanahan

More Airlines Add Wi-Fi, but Fliers Balk at Paying

USA Today |  Travelers are treating in-flight Wi-Fi like a bag of peanuts: They'll take it, if it's free.

Airlines are spending millions of dollars to equip planes with Wi-Fi capability. But only a small percentage of travelers have used the service since it was introduced in 2008, numbers from providers and analysts indicate.

"It is certainly something everyone recognizes as a value, both to the airlines and the passengers," says Michael Planey, an industry analyst at H&M Planey Consultants. "The question is at what point do airlines or service providers make money or stem losses?"

Airlines and in-flight Wi-Fi providers won't disclose how much the service is used.

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Best Video-on-Demand Services

video on demand service

How do you watch your favorite programs while you’re on the road? Besides iTunes, the vast crop of on-demand services for your laptop, mobile, and tablet should keep you entertained.

Netflix ($7.99 per month) remains the undisputed leader, offering tens of thousands of TV shows (from classics to recently aired series) and movies (a healthy mix of blockbusters, obscure film-festival favorites, and more) for mostly seamless, advertising-free viewing.

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Tech Tips for the Thanksgiving Road Tripper

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If you, like me, are one of the crazy people hitting the road the day before Thanksgiving, and at least have the good fortune of not having to be behind the wheel—let’s hear it for bus travel!—there are a few ways my good friend ‘technology’ can help you pass the time while you’re (inevitably) sitting in traffic, without completely losing your mind.

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Battle of the Smart-Phone Keyboards

smart-phone keyboard

Whether you’re dashing off a quick text before the airplane door closes or typing a business report on the go, the accuracy and comfort of your smart-phone keyboard are important. Contrary to popular belief, touch screens haven’t entirely taken over. New BlackBerry-style handsets with physical keyboards are still coming out at a consistent clip, while innovative on-screen keyboard technologies such as the Android-compatible Swype, which allows you to drag your finger across the “keys,” connect-the-dots-style, are supplying revolutionary ways to make touch screens more accurate and simpler to use.

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3 Great "Techcessories" for the Music Lover

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If you're like me, you can't be without your beloved iPod-or other MP3 player when traveling. Whether it's passing time on a long bus commute (my primary mode of transportation) or soaking up the rays at the beach, the perfect tunes enhance the travel experience. And so, in turn, do the perfect tech accessories.

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Jean-Marie Hullot’s New Photo Encyclopedia

Innovator Jean-Marie Hullot

Innovator Jean-Marie Hullot

Who He Is: “I am a passionate traveler, a passionate photographer, and a passionate technologist,” says Hullot, a former Apple apps CTO who created software for the first Macintosh computer. After leaving Apple in 2005, he spent two years taking inspiring trips.

His Big Idea: Hullot conceived Fotopedia, which includes an image-driven encyclopedia made from user-submitted photos with minimal text—a visual Wikipedia of sorts. Lately, Fotopedia apps for iPad focused on UNESCO World Heritage sites, Paris, and (most compellingly) North Korea have given the traditional coffee-table book a digital spin. “In most magazines and books, pictures are used to illustrate a story,” Hullot says. On this app, it’s the image that tells the story.

Photo by Françoise Brenckmann

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