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4 Reasons to Love Google Now

Google Now

Google’s new take on Siri is more than a voice-activated search tool—it’s a full-fledged digital assistant. Here are four things we love about Google Now.

1. It’s easy to use on mobile with the surprisingly accurate voice search (prompted by “OK Google”).

2. It can scan your location, search history, or confirmation e-mails—all to offer personalized updates (when to leave for the airport, for example) on virtual cards.

3. It anticipates your needs, telling you the local weather or how to get to your Airbnb rental before you think to ask.

4. It’s opt-in, customizable, and not just for Android phones. (On iOS? The free Google app contains all Now features.)

Related Links:
Best Apps and Websites for Travelers
15 Tech Innovations That Will Change the Way You Travel
Google’s Self-Driving Car Makes The Road Trip of Tomorrow

Tom Samiljan is Travel + Leisure’s Tech Correspondent.

Have a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

New Rosetta Stone App Helps World Cup-Bound Travelers

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Rosetta Stone unveiled a special Portuguese Futebol Edition of its Travel series on Wednesday, targeting lucky Americans heading to Brazil for the Fifa World Cup this month.

The free app, which uses an immersion-based system like all Rosetta Stone products, teaches key soccer vocab (beyond "Gol!"), as well as useful phrases relating to public transportation, restaurants, and attractions in the Games' twelve host cities.

With the Cup just one week away, Brazil-bound travelers better learn quick, or should I say rápido?

The app is available for Android and iOS.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure and a member of the Trip Doctor news team. You can find him on Twitter at @pschles08.

 Photo courtesy of Rosetta Stone

 

Google's New Tools Improve The Way We Travel

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“Google, when does my flight leave?” I asked Google Now aloud.

Within seconds, the app accessed my flight reservation and created a travel card, announcing that Virgin Atlantic flight VS45 from London to New York had been delayed 45 minutes.

This is just one way Google is trying to make travel easier for users, along with a handful of other recently unveiled new and updated tools.

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Social Media 101: How to Get the Most from Tweeting on the Road

For the third year, Travel + Leisure's Social Media in Travel and Tourism (SMITTY) awards is recognizng the brands and companies transforming the industry with their online innovations (think digital concierges and exclusive social giveaways).

To help you leverage the digital boom on your next trip and cash in on the latest social currency, we tapped four platform experts for their outreach strategies and insider tips.  

This week, Twitter’s Head of Travel Mike De Jesus explains how to leverage your social clout  - and reveals the one hashtag you shouldn’t be traveling without.  

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Best New Food Apps and Websites

Food Apps: Viator

Looking to book a Shanghai street-food tour or a Provençal cooking class? Let these new food apps and sites take care of the legwork.

Best For Tailored Recommendations: Peek

Like an OpenTable for guided activities and food crawls, Peek (free; iOS) provides direct booking service straight from the app or website. Its real strength lies in its carefully curated content—all outings are vetted by Peek staff or trusted tastemakers. Take a quick personality quiz for customized suggestions.

Why Foodies Love It: Unique offerings—a dinner cruise on the Thames in London; a coffee plantation visit in Maui—are the rule, not the exception.

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Foursquare Launches New App Swarm For Global Networking

foursquare_appjpgYesterday Foursquare pushed its new app, Swarm, to the iTunes and Google Play stores, revealing to the world what it had been teasing for weeks: a tool to help you connect with friends globally, in a way that’s more socially-driven than the Foursquare we’ve long known and loved. Swarm differs from Foursquare by focusing on interactions, and not solitary check-ins or points, which were hardly being used in the competitive, socially-charged way that had once been intended.

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Lyft Introduces New Premium Cab-on-Call Service

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There’s a new ride in town, though you may recognize it by its signature facial hair. Lyft Plus, a new premium offering by Uber’s quirky, mustachioed competitor, is now piloting service in San Francisco before rolling out to all of its 60 cities coast to coast. As the name would suggest, the new model offers a more souped-up cab-on-call experience--while there’s nary a Mercedes-Benz in sight, the premium experience features custom-outfitted Ford Explorers, each decked out with custom under-car LED lights, 20-inch sport wheels, quilted leather seats for six, and (our favorite) Spotify Premium access. It’s less expensive that Uber Black by about a 20% margin, and roughly twice the cost of a regular Lyft ride, running $3.00 a mile or fifty cents a minute. As for the token mustache found on all of Lyft’s regular cars? You’ll find it affixed onto the grille in brushed steel—trés classy.
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Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Lyft

AirBnB Introduces Last-Minute Booking

Airbnb

AirBnB is taking a page out of the HotelTonight handbook today, opening their network of apartment rentals to the last-minute market. But unlike every other booking tool for spontaneous travelers, this one’s not focused on markdowns. Says an AirBnB spokesperson, the new feature responds to a “lifestyle shift” among travelers, who are more willing than ever to plan getaways on the fly. But it’s also thanks to an increasing number of AirBnB listings featuring “instant booking,” a one-click checkout system that requires no back-and-forth messaging between the traveler and host (the company says they’re up to 90,000 such listings, from just 30,000 last year).

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Severe Weather Across the US: Be Ready With These Smart Weather Apps

Nor'easter

UPDATE: Whether you live in the Deep South, the Midwest or along the East Coast, you're likely to experience severly stormy weather today. According to CNN, 75 million Americans, or a third of the country, are under threat of severe weather, which may include tornadoes, high winds and hail; the Deep South has been the hardest hit, with a powerful spring storm system overtaking Mississippi and Alabama. The risk of severe weather is expected to continue through Wednesday, and may affect Americans living between the Great Lakes and the Gulf Coast, and through the Midwest and the East Coast.

This one falls in the “Are you kidding?” category: Just as East Coasters from New Jersey to Massachusetts are coming back online and picking up the pieces after the ravages of Hurricane Sandy, a nor’easter is threatening to wallop the same area this Wednesday or Thursday. Named for the direction the storm travels, this type of weather typically has many of the same characteristics as a hurricane—fierce winds, heavy rains or snow, and—brace yourselves (again) coastal residents—tidal flooding.

While this new storm is not expected to be pack the same intensity as Sandy, it is worth watching—especially in the Carolinas. Whether you live in its projected path, are planning a trip East, or just want to have smart weather forecasts in your pocket, there are five Webby Award-winning apps that should be on your Doppler radar:

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Le Fooding Releases an English App

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Given the rate of their output, if Le Fooding, the indispensable French restaurant guide, has been taking long French-style vacations, well, they’re obviously burning the midnight oil during the rest of the year. Since launching in 2000 as an insert, the annual publication has rolled out traveling food festivals and star chef pop-ups, which have steadily picked up steam, especially in the past three years. 

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