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Should You Pay for Wi-Fi? Airports Explore Tiered Service

USA Today |  For years, one of the top if not the top amenity on many road warriors' wish lists has been free Wi-Fi at the airport. Slowly but surely, it's happening.

Take a look at the USATODAY.com Airport Guides, airport websites, and various commercial and user-generated Wi-Fi directories. You'll see there are now hundreds of U.S. airports offering travelers complimentary wireless Internet access.

San Francisco? Free. Orlando? Free. Seattle, St. Louis and San Jose? Free, free, free. Washington's Dulles and National airports? As of April, 2011, free as well.

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Tech Review: T-Mobile G2x Smartphone

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With the advent of the smartphone, finding a cell phone that has access to travel-friendly apps is easy. Nowadays, the real trick is finding one that not only can run all those apps, but also do it seamlessly.

So when I tested out the new T-Mobile G2x, powered by Android 2.2, I was happy to see that it was top notch. The phone, released just a few weeks ago, is a great addition to the slew of new Android-based smartphones. I found the touchscreen to be extremely responsive and on point when making selections and even typing texts. (Though I should admit, I don't think it's quite up to par with iPhone's responsiveness, but that's a feat that seems to be among the biggest challenges for all creators of touchscreens.) Still, the mistakes made while firing off texts were few and far between.

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New App Delivers 1-Night Hotel Deals for Stranded Travelers

Sam Shank

Innovator Sam Shank

Who He Is: “I got bitten by the travel bug late in life,” serial entrepreneur Sam Shank says. He’s certainly making up for lost time. In the past decade, Shank founded the hotel site travelpost.com, and dealbase.com, which compiles online travel discounts. His latest venture, Hotel Tonight, comes to the aid of stranded travelers.

His Big Idea: While on a business trip to Seattle last year, Shank’s plans changed at the last minute and he needed to stay an extra night, so he tried to book something on his phone—a surprisingly difficult process. The result? The free Hotel Tonight app (iPhone/iPad), which instantly delivers three one-night hotel deals per city in different categories and lets you book one in just seconds. The app is available for Boston, Chicago, L.A., New York, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., with Las Vegas on the way.

Photo courtesy of Sam Shank

T+L's Best of Europe for iPad!

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All this Royal Wedding chatter got you thinking about your next trip to London? Or maybe it’s the weather forecast in Santorini you’re after (high 60s, scattered showers and possible T-storms until Saturday….) Check out Best of Europe, Travel + Leisure’s latest digital edition for iPad ($1.99), now at TravelandLeisure.com/iPad or on the App Store. The editors of T+L have put together an essential compendium of where to go right now from the Azores to Istanbul, just in time for your summer holiday planning.

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Trend Alert: Hotels Implementing Mobile Concierges

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It’s no secret that the introduction of iPads into the market, just over a year ago, has resulted in the reshaping of how just about every industry imaginable does business. And as I’ve reported before, hotels are no exception to this.

A relatively new trend that I’m seeing on the rise is the use of iPads as personal, portable concierges.

InterContinental’s new Concierge Insider Guides app features more than 120 destinations around the world—all in which one of the hotel chain’s properties can be found, of course.

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Denver Deals via Text

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By now, most cities in the States have developed a mobile app or two to help visitors navigate via their smart phone or iPad. But Visit Denver, the official CVB of the Mile High City, has something even cooler up their sleeve. While many web-savvy travelers are familiar with online deal sites, like Groupon, Visit Denver developed the “Denver Deals” program to deliver deals from area businesses via text message.

While I’m glued to my desk in New York for the moment, I tested out this new program—the first of its kind—to see what they had to offer.

I texted “Denver Deals” to 63638 and within a few seconds my inbox had two new messages:

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Nextpedition: Surprise Vacation Planning

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I've never made a travel itinerary for any trip I’ve taken. Why not? Partly because when I’m on vacation, I like to go with the flow. But it’s also because I don’t really like to spend a ton of time researching. Let’s not forget that half the fun in traveling to a new destination is the excitement that comes from the unexpected.

Knowing there are quite a few folks out there who think similarly, American Express, T+L’s parent company, developed a new booking service it's calling Nextpedition (tomorrow is its grand debut). Primarily targeting twentysomethings, Nextpedition creates trips based on your travel profile. But here’s the catch: you won’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing until the last minute.

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When Words Get In The Way…Of a Google Search

201103-b-google-1jpgEver wished you could hold up a photo to a search engine and say, “Hey computer! Find me this, and make it snappy!”?

With Google Search (free; iPhone, iPod, iPad), a picture is worth a thousand keywords. The newly upgraded app makes it even easier to scour the Web with images straight from your smartphone camera.

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Technology Aboard Cruise Ships

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Gone are the days of heading out to sea and losing all contact with the world. Cell and Internet services are now standard (though free in-room Wi-Fi is not), and some lines have gone even further with their tech amenities. Holland America has introduced a series of classes covering such subjects as digital photography and blogging. And on its October voyage, Crystal Symphony will offer a digital filmmaking workshop, led by BBC producer Michael Rosenblum, that includes instruction on shooting and editing travel videos.

Sherri Eisenberg is a contributor to Travel + Leisure.

Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Foursquare’s Most Popular Places for 2010

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Foursquare, a social media tool that encourages users to “check-in” at venues, realized a phenomenal 3,400% growth last year, with 381 million check-ins worldwide.  The company just released a fun infographic that reveals the most popular places in 2010, according to its members’ updates.

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