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Gwyneth Paltrow on New York City Pizza (Good) and Paris Concierges (Bad)

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Sure, she’s in the summer’s biggest blockbuster, is on the cover of this week’s EW, and was just named the world’s most beautiful woman by People. But what Gwyneth Paltrow wants to talk about right now is travel guides—specifically, the ones she’s created for her lifestyle brand, GOOP. Yesterday she was promoting the GOOP app at New York’s Apple store in SoHo with Jessica Seinfeld; before they took the stage, I had a chat with her, travel editor-to-travel editor.

Turns out Gwyneth started these city guides for herself. “I’m a Libra,” she said, “I can’t make up my mind about anything.” Now she can just open the GOOP app for her own highly curated list of restaurants, shops, bars, hotels, and more in New York, L.A., and London. “I find them very helpful,” she said, “even though I made them.”

And what does it take to get the Gwyneth stamp of approval? “Quality,” she says, “which could be a $2 taco. It has to be worth going out of your way for.” In New York, only 13 hotels make the cut: well-known places like the Trump SoHo, but also lesser-known spots like the Inn at Irving Place, which doesn’t even have a sign. And the NYC guide has a separate section for pizza, which Gwyneth loves. (A couple of her picks, like Di Fara and Co., get the T+L approval stamp, too.) She’s personally been to “almost” every place in each guide, and if she hasn’t, at least three of her most trusted friends have to have given their thumbs up.

GOOP’s Paris guide is coming out next, and Gwyneth is excited to direct people away from hotel concierge recommendations, which she sees as a shady business. “Paris is the worst kickback city,” she said. “I feel so bad when people say they’ve saved up but gone somewhere terrible. It’s such a nice thing to say ‘this is where you should go.’”

So will we see the GOOP app in any upcoming movies—maybe Tony Stark using it in Iron Man 4? “I don’t know,” she said, laughing. “I don’t think so. Wouldn’t it be weird if I was in a movie referencing my own product?”

Photo by Rich Beattie

Sorry, Wrong Number: British Tourist's Stolen Phone Racks Up Five-Figure Bill

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You assume, if your credit card gets stolen when you're on vacation, that the bandit will make a beeline for a local electronic store. And if your phone gets stolen, most of us would assume that the device just gets sold.

But London ad exec Mike Clear discovered a new, dizzying level of travel theft last month when he was vacationing in Spain.

According to a Daily Mail article by Martin Robinson, Clear’s phone got stolen one day in Alicante by pickpockets—lousy luck, to be sure. But the real shock came when his phone bill arrived: the bill, usually about £100, was now approaching £15,000 (about $23,000 Stateside).

As it turns out, the crooks were repeatedly calling a “premium rate” number that cost a whopping £21-a-minute, which racked up the exorbitant bill in just about two hours. It appears the crooks also set up that premium rate number, connected to their own bank account, and just needed to “recruit” phones to help them generate customers.

The article speculated that the pickpockets were also savvy enough to have some software that cracked the security code on Clear’s phone, which he had locked. 'There must be plenty of people who think that remote locking their phone when it's lost or stolen will give them some protection,” Clear told Robinson. “But it's a more or less useless security measure.”

For the first several days after the bill arrived, the story details, wireless provider O2 maintained that Clear was indeed responsible for his lofty phone bill. Happily, after further investigation, the company agreed to forgive the charges. A spokesperson for O2 called the crime “unprecedented.”

The lesson for the rest of us: if your phone ever gets stolen, cancel the phone—and any security code—stat.

See: Finding Lost or Stolen Gadgets.

Illustration by Mark Matcho

Trip Doctor: Compare Smartphones—Which Platform is Best for You?

compare smartphones

Android, Windows, and even BlackBerry are stepping up their game against Apple, benefiting travelers. T+L’s tech expert finds which platform is best for you.

For the Organization Wiz

Windows 8: Seamless integration with any Windows device is the greatest selling point for this platform. We also love its resizable “live” tiles, which let you put what’s important to you—flight alerts, for example—front and center; innovative tap-to-pay technology; and travel-friendly features, from built-in Skype to top-of-the-line photo capabilities.

The Phone to Get: The sexy and slim Nokia Lumia 920 ($99) has some of the best picture modes we’ve ever tried.

Read More

Trip Doctor: Best Food Apps for Travelers

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We’ve road tested the latest crop of digital tools to help you find exactly what you’re looking for, from the perfect cup of coffee to a last-minute restaurant deal.

For Restaurants You’ll Love: Ness
While the popular Foodspotting app has mastered the art of predicting your next craving based on specific dishes you’ve said you enjoy, up-and-comer Ness uses its algorithm to deliver Pandora-like recommendations of restaurants themselves. The app factors in your preferred price point, cuisine, and more. As with the music service, the suggestions get better the more you use it. Free; iOS.

For Last-Minute Dining Deals: Savored
A cut above the usual dining deal sites, Savored offers discounts at surprisingly excellent (sometimes even trendy) restaurants around the country. The app is best for off-peak days or hours: on Sunday or Monday nights, you might be able to snag 30 percent (or more) off dinner at Mercadito, in Miami, or Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne, in New York City. Free; Android and iOS.

For Your Caffeine Fix: Best Coffee
If you turn your nose up at Starbucks, try these café-centric maps, which pinpoint independent coffee shops in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and London (more cities are coming later this year). Staff-written reviews note brewing methods, Wi-Fi availability, and even the types of grinders used. From 99 cents; Android and iOS.

For the Best Local Brews: Untappd
Like a Yelp for beer-lovers, Untappd helps locate the best bars around you—and pinpoints their top microbrews. A notepad function keeps track of beers you like and ones you’d like to try next. You can also share your finds on Facebook. Free; Android, BlackBerry, and iOS.

For Tips From the Pros: Chefs Feed
Who better to seek out for advice on where to eat than the professionals themselves? This app canvasses well-regarded chefs in 16 global cities for their local picks. Insider tips range from Chris Galvin’s favorite quintessentially English meal (calf’s liver and bacon at London’s Delaunay restaurant) to Graham Elliot’s beloved Chicago deep-dish haunt (Lou Malnati’s). Free; iOS.

One to Watch: Evernote Food
Digital note-taking pioneer Evernote’s culinary spin-off might be the best new documenting and sharing tool for foodies. Built-in templates let you record your meal (with everything from maps to photographs) on the fly. When you’re done, your notes instantly upload to your account and become digital mementos of your gastronomic pilgrimages. Free; Android and iOS.

Tom Samiljan is Travel + Leisure’s Tech Correspondent.

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

Illustration by Joanna Neborsky

Tech Thursday: Google’s New Field Trip App

Field Trip app

Want the Google results without the search? That's essentially the conceit behind Field Trip, the tech giant's latest app for iPhone and Android that helps you find the great things nearby. First, tell the app a little bit about your interests—are you an architecture buff? Do you search for deals wherever you go? Maybe it's just little-known historical trivia that adds color to your neighborhood walks. Either way, Field Trip will cast its net for the parameters you set—no matter how broad or specific.

The results are impressively curated, pulling from all our favorite local resources, from Eater to Thrillist to Remodelista—all blogs whose recommendations we’re happy to follow. Additionally, the app filters in special deals on offer through other apps, like Scoutmob, so that we could net 50% off an Italian restaurant 147 meters away. But our favorite feature was feeling like we had our own little guide in our pocket, telling us that The Godfather was filmed one block away or that T+L's building was a hugely popular Vaudeville venue in the early 20th-Century. Who knew?

Like most apps that rely on tracking your location, this one can drain your battery if you're not careful. But it won’t keep us from exploring our own city—or those that we visit—any time soon.

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 by Nikki Ekstein

Tech Thursday: Foursquare Launches Best of Lists

romantic cities

According to Foursquare, your feelings about Valentine’s Day may be totally dependent on where you live. As part of a new series of “Best of” lists, the social media company has crunched its data to find America’s most—and least—romantic cities, based on the number of check-ins to date-friendly spots. The results may not surprise you. Topping the list for most romantic is San Francisco, with its postcard-ready bay views and artisan patisseries, followed by New Orleans and New York City. But survey says: if you live in Trenton, NJ, or Akron, OH, don’t count on dazzling your date with a night on the town. For those living in America’s least romantic cities, we recommend homemade sweets and champagne cocktails.

Valentines or Galentines, we’re digging the new Foursquare feature—and with over 30 “Best of” lists for different US cities, it’s our new destination guide on the go. Browse the lists online before you fly, and save any hotspots to your profile: They’ll be waiting for you as soon as your plane touches down.

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

Trip Doctor: Best GPS Apps for Travel

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Looking to get from A to B with nothing but your smartphone? GPS apps are steadily increasing in functionality and accuracy—giving even Google a run for its money.

Best for City Driving: Google Maps
The all-around app to beat, Google is particularly good in urban environments. It allows you to toggle between maps, street views, and 3-D cityscapes, and provides an extraordinarily complete picture of your surroundings. It takes you from car to foot to public transportation seamlessly, and (for Android users) it even has indoor maps of stores, hotels, and other buildings. Points of interest and area businesses are well marked and up-to-date. Free; Android and iOS.

Read More

TODAY Show Video: Top Travel Sites and Apps

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Mark Orwoll shares travel websites and apps that will make it easier to book your next trip.

Backbid: Reverse hotel bids
Post a reservation request (dates, location, number of stars) with maximum rate you're willing to pay. Hotels in that destination will bid for your business, presenting the lowest rates they can offer. Unlike other bidding sites, you know the specific hotel where you'll be staying using Backbid. When I tried it, I got my first reverse bid within two minutes at a savings of more than 10 percent of what I would have paid on the hotel's own website.

See More of the Best Travel Websites and Apps

Tingo: Automated hotel rebooking at lower rates
Book your hotel through Tingo and if the rates go down, Tingo automatically rebooks you at the lower rate. It's great for those travelers who know which hotel they want to stay at but are concerned whether they really got the "best" rate at time of booking. Tingo only rebooks if there are no rebooking or cancellation penalties and the price difference is refunded automatically to your credit card. All you have to do is enjoy your hotel stay.

Read More

Cool New iPhone Photography Apps

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I finally pitched my Droid2 for an iPhone recently and am still floored by how good the camera on it is. But now that I've figured out Instagram, I'm excited to see there's a bunch of new iPhoneography apps out there to play with. Here are some of my favorites:

Piction—$0.99
Want to add text to your photos? With Piction you can easily add captions in a variety of different fonts, seen above, including a few custom ones alongside classics like Futura (so you can make all Instagram photos look like screen grabs from a Wes Anderson movie, if you're so inclined).

Vine—free
Vine is like Instagram but for small gif-like looping videos. I'm still figuring out how to use this (confession: my entire feed is just videos of my cat, so far), but it has a lot of potential to share something more compelling than just snapshots. Be warned, the most recent update includes a requirement that users must be 17+ due to some, ahem, questionable content cropping up on the app.

For more new favorites, click through.

Read More

Tech Thursday: Mophie Juice Pack Helium for the iPhone 5

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We constantly obsess our iPhone accessories here at the T+L offices—deciding between that J.Crew chevron stripped case or the Otterbox may be Trip Doctor's debate of the century—but our eyes are officially turning to a third option. Mophie, the adventure-friendly brand whose juice pack cases add extra battery life (and heft) to your mobile devices, is launching a super-slim model—the first of its kind for the latest generation of iPhones. The Helium is expected to add 80% extra charge to your battery life (that's six hours of talk time, or seven hours of web browsing)—and it also features forward-facing speakers for enhanced sound. Pre-orders opened to the public yesterday, with devices shipping nationwide on February 19. For now, the slim gunmetal finish will do—but we'll take this opportunity to plea for some fresh designs on the Helium 2.0.

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 mophie.

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