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Trip Doctor: Hotel Tonight Launches in Mexico and Europe

Hotel Tonight app

Listen up, last-minute travelers: our favorite last-minute booking tool has gone international. As of last week, you can use Hotel Tonight (free on iPhone and Android) to make same-day room reservations in cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Acapulco, in addition to the app's growing list of domestic destinations. Better yet, Hotel Tonight has simultaneously added a Gift Credits program—a digital gift card of sorts that you can share with friends—perfect for those perpetually delayed travelers who constantly find themselves on cancelled flights (we know a few of these folks, ourselves).

Among today's deals, we're excited about Edinburgh's sleek Dakota Hotel ($108 tonight) and the posh Boscolo Exedra in Nice ($155 tonight), both bargains that are tough to pass up. Of course, last-minute international airfares can put a wrench in your spontaneous plans, so don't jump the gun before getting a full picture.

For more of our favorite apps and websites, check out T+L's recent roundup of the web's best.

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 Hotel Tonight

Trip Doctor: Google Maps App Released on iOS

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Were you one of the countless iPhone users that felt like hitting your head against a wall after updating your phone to iOS6 and subsequently coming face-to-face with the horror that was/is Apple Maps? While the upgrade was welcome in other aspects of the phone, the map feature was universally declared a mapocalypse by the entire tech community. A handful of major landmarks went missing; public transportation stops were nowhere to be found; and if you wanted navigation help on a city’s subway or bus system, forget about it. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the major blunder, so you know it was bad.

But now iOS users can rejoice. As of Wednesday evening, Google Maps made its way back onto iPhones via a new, free app. The minute I saw the story posted on my Facebook newsfeed, I reached for my phone and pulled up the App Store. It was as though the clouds parted and angels sang to me. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but I was pretty darn excited.) What are the new features you can expect to see (and love)? Hint: these maps far supersede their former iOS iteration.

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Latest Travel Tech Innovations

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We love Day 1 of the annual PhoCusWright conference—the Travel Innovation Summit. A full 30 companies present; some are startups, some are existing companies introducing new products; four judges then give feedback (which ranges from encouraging to blistering). The day offers a snapshot of where we are in the evolution of travel technology.

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Tech Thursday: Using Social Media for Storm Updates

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It’s no secret that last week’s hurricane took a major toll on the East Coast and its residents; with so many outages, how was anyone able to stay current with news of the situation?

Both Facebook and Twitter played a big part in helping to keep everyone informed. Whether you follow the actual sources of the information, or your friends do and repost, everything anyone needed to know about the storm was all there—flight cancellations, public transportation announcements, and even voting location changes—at the touch of their fingers. I kept myself up-to-date mostly via information streaming through my Facebook feed, with a few glances at my Twitter feed.

But you can’t always rely on your friends to provide this information, so just in case, here are a few important accounts to keep an eye on to stay in the know when it comes to inclement weather.

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Finding Lost or Stolen Gadgets

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If you’ve ever reached into your carry-on only to find an empty space where your phone, computer, or camera used to be, you know how thoroughly a lost or stolen gadget can ruin your trip. Fortunately, there are services to help track down your missing gear and protect you against identity theft. GadgetTrak Mobile Security ($19.95 per year) brings the features built in to Windows Phone and iOS to Android and BlackBerry users: it will locate your phone using GPS and Wi-Fi and can also lock the device or wipe your data—even if someone inserts another SIM card. CameraTrace ($10 per camera) tracks a registered camera using metadata embedded in digital photos, so it can find any pictures taken with your camera that have been uploaded to one of many popular image-sharing sites.

Knowing the location of your device is useful if you’ve simply misplaced it, but in the case of theft, it won’t do you much good without the help of the law. Unfortunately, limited resources mean few police departments will bother pursuing stolen tech gear. But when a laptop enabled with LoJack for Laptops (from $19.99 per year) is reported stolen, the program’s forensic tools automatically contact LoJack for Laptops’s central command every 15 minutes, making it easy to collect evidence that police can use for, say, a search warrant. “We have about 60 ex-police officers working for us,” says Mark Grace of Absolute Software, the company behind this product, “and they know how to work with law enforcement authorities across the globe to get these cases solved.”

Photo by David Alexander Arnold

American Airlines to Allow iPads in the Cockpit

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In an effort to save money on fuel costs, American Airlines requested, and subsequently received, permission from the FAA, to allow its pilots to replace their often bulky kitbag (a 35-pound paper-based reference manual pilots tote around with them at all times) with iPads. The iPads would be loaded with all the documentation the kitbags contain, but take up far less space and, at about 1.5 pounds, make their loads much lighter. AA said that this reduction in weight will save the airline as much as $1.2 million, based on current fuel prices.

Let’s just hope that the pilot doesn’t forget to charge it before takeoff…or get too distracted by a game of Angry Birds.

2010-hs-josh-pramisjpgJoshua Pramis is the social media editor and resident tech aficionado at Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis

Photo: Pixellover RM 8 / Alamy

Tech Thursday: T+L Launches Tripeze App

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Exciting news! Here at T+L, we’ve been busy working on creating a new iPhone app, and finally our hard work has paid off. Today, the app, called Travel + Leisure Tripeze, debuted in the iTunes store. And we couldn’t be happier to share it with all of you avid travelers.

The app was designed to map your treks so that you can a: keep a record of them so you can remember exactly where you went, and b: share the trips with your friends, with you acting as a virtual tour guide of sorts. Not only that, but if you’re looking for inspiration while you’re on the go, we’ve included more than 200 trip itineraries around the world (all with photos), with another 500 coming soon.

Now the work to build the Android counterpart begins. Stay tuned…

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

Tech Thursday: Roaming Tips

Roaming Tips

Even sending a short e-mail while traveling internationally can cost $10 or more. Below are three ways to keep data costs low while staying connected.

1. Purchase a roaming plan. If you want to use your U.S. phone abroad, get an international plan with discounted by-the-minute rates on phone calls and the ability to use data without extra charges. AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer monthly roaming packages, which are prorated and start at $4.99 for calls and $25 for 100MB of data (most phones will let you monitor the amount you’ve used). Be sure to shut off auto-sync when you are roaming.

2. Maximize your Wi-Fi. Unless you have a roaming plan, put your phone on airplane mode and turn on your Wi-Fi. If free hot spots are scarce, try Boingo Wireless (from $7.95 per month) or a router from FON ($49) to access thousands of free and paid Wi-Fi zones worldwide. JiWire’s WiFi Finder points you to hot spots. You can also buy or rent a portable hot-spot device such as Verizon Jetpack (from $49) and XCom Global (from $14.95 per day).

3. Get a local phone or SIM card. Need a local number so friends don’t have to dial the United States? Buy a SIM card at your destination for about $20 and insert it into an unlocked GSM phone (you can rent one for $40 on cellhut.com). Or buy a simple local phone with prepaid credit (around $30; $3 per day for data plans). You can also rent a phone with a data plan before you go at fonerent.com (starting at $9 per week; $5 per 100MB).

Photo by iStockphoto

The Race is On at Vail Resorts

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We love it when celebrities drop by the T+L offices. And on Wednesday, Olympic and World Cup Champion skier Lindsey Vonn stopped in to tell us about how many pairs of skis she travels with (150), how many days a week she trains in the off-season (6, for several hours each day), and how many eggs she eats to fuel her workouts (a lot).

But the gold medalist didn’t come to the snowless east coast just to talk training. Lindsey’s also involved in a cool new program with Vail Resorts, and she brought along the company’s CEO, Rob Katz, to announce EpicMix Racing.

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Tech Thursday: Top New Smartphones

Top New Smartphones: Samsung Galaxy SIII

Time to upgrade your mobile device? Here, four state-of-the-art models that will keep you connected, wherever you may roam.

Apple iPhone 4S: The iPhone 4S (and the upcoming iPhone 5) is unbeatable when it comes to apps—more than 675,000 at press time—but international perks vary by carrier. AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer roaming plans, and Sprint and Verizon let you use a local SIM card. $199; AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless.

Samsung Galaxy SIII (pictured): This sleek phone operates on networks at home and abroad (though Sprint and Verizon only work in 48 countries). Its technologies are impressive: one tracks your eye so the screen stays on when you look at it; another switches from text message to call mode when you put the phone to your ear. $199; all major carriers.

HTC One S: Slim, light, and with long-lasting battery power (up to a day and a half), this Android avoids roaming charges by automatically switching to an Internet phone setting when you call from a wireless hot spot. Camera functions include a “burst mode” that can take 99 continuous shots. $149; T-Mobile.

Nokia Lumia 800: Travel apps are a breeze on this tiny phone, which uses the new Windows Phone system. The Lumia 800 also lets you use a locally purchased SIM card abroad. When you include data in your prepaid SIM plan, you’ll have access to your apps on the road. $900; amazon.com.

Photo courtesy of Samsung

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