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Orbitz’s New Loyalty Program Puts the Focus on Instant Gratification

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There’s a new currency in the travel industry, and it’s called the Orbuck. Today, Orbitz launches its long-in-the-works Orbitz Rewards, a loyalty program that’s smart, transparent, and a hell of a business move for the popular OTA.

Here’s how it works: Book any flight on orbitz.com, and you’ll immediately be rewarded with at least 1 percent cash back (in Orbuck form); hotel bookings will yield at least 3 percent in returns. Book on the mobile app, and you’ll get bonus Orbucks—each Orbuck translates to a dollar off any future booking. Book a special deal, and you might net even more. The Orbucks show up in your account as soon as your transaction goes through, meaning you don’t have to wait to rack up tens of thousands of points before they’re redeemable. On the contrary: the cash you get back from a flight booking can be immediately applied when you book the hotel fifteen minutes later.

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The Suitest's Hotel Room Price Predictor

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Considering a visit to New York but turned off by the sky-high hotel prices? Try browsing The Suitest, a suite-focused hotel search engine whose new Price Predictor advises on the probable fluctuation of room rates in any major destination. Much like Bing’s airfare search, the tool also provides insight as to whether rates are likely to climb, decline, or sell out entirely in the next week. It’s all calculated with an algorithm that riffs off Wall Street hedge funds, which use the similar models to analyze mortgage-backed securities (topics not nearly as exciting as planning your vacation). Ignore the “Deal Grades,” or snapshots of a quote’s relative value—they seem largely arbitrary—and focus instead on our two favorite features: “fair value assessments” that compare your quote to the hotel's “usual price” and a six-month calendar showing the average rate each night in the city of your choosing.

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 TheSuitest.com

New Travel + Leisure Articles on Pinterest

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Pinterest isn't just for recipes, decorating, or (our favorite) travel inspiration. It's also a great way to see what other people are reading and discovering online.

Starting today, Pinterest is launching improved article pins, and Travel + Leisure is proud to be a launch partner. Over the next few weeks, you'll begin to see articles from Travel + Leisure on our Pinterest boards, with helpful information about the piece right in the pin—such as the headline, author, and a brief description. This will make your boards more useful and easier to keep organized.

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Luxury Travel Grows On Sina Weibo

When the Chinese travel abroad, what do they want? Traditionally, they’ve been more focused on luxury products than luxury hotels. But as more Chinese develop a taste for high thread counts, that trend is changing—quickly. One important sign of this change: Ritz-Carlton has just launched on the Twitter-like Chinese-language social media site Sina Weibo, joining other luxury hoteliers like Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons (as well as luxury brands like Mercedes Benz and Burberry).

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Tech Thursday: RocketMiles Goes International

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Three months ago, we introduced you to RocketMiles, a disruptive booking service whose purpose is to score its users thousands of airline points for every hotel reservation made on the site. This week, RocketMiles is breaking away from its competition as it announces international service—in terms of both hotels and airline partners. With the upgrade come properties in Europe’s capital cities, among other popular destinations around the globe (think London’s Langham Hotel, which nets a cool 5,000 Delta SkyMiles a night, or the Shangri-La Tokyo, good for 2,500 AAdvantage points per night). Don’t fly either of those airlines? The site’s service expansion brings aboard carriers such as KLM, AirFrance, Etihad, and Alaska Airlines—so it’s easy to cash in on the RocketMiles’ promise.

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

Photo courtesy of Rocketmiles.com

Tech Thursday: Stayful.com Offers a New Way to Strike a (Boutique) Hotel Deal

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A new day, a new way to score a deal—or so it seems with travel start-ups these days. Joining the pack is Stayful, a site that launched yesterday with a premise that borrows bits and pieces from familiar players like Priceline, Luxury Link, and Hotel Tonight

The mission is simple: help trendy boutique hotels move unsold inventory by putting rooms up for bidding. Browse their inventory—currently limited to New York City and San Francisco, but featuring such hotspots as The Standard High Line and Hotel on Rivington—and name your price. You’ll find out within 24 hours if the hotel has accepted your offer, or if they’ve decided to rebut. Should you want to suggest a big to a hotel that’s not already on Stayful’s list, the site allows you to do so, inviting the hotel of your choice to participate with them if they’re ready and willing.

Our preliminary thoughts? Stayful seems better built to accommodate hotels’ needs than travelers’ (the name itself should be a clue), but if it nets value-driven results at sought-after properties, we’ll enthusiastically be jumping aboard. The service is currently in beta, and accepting invitation requests, so you’ll hear more on our verdict once we’ve fully put it to the test.

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 Stayful.com

Peek.com Expands to London and Paris

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Peek.com, the trailblazing site that lets you book trip activities and attractions online, hopped across the pond today, providing a slew of things to do for London- and Paris-bound travelers, both on and off the beaten path. Among the experiences available for purchase? For the adventurous: bungee jumping over the Thames (pictured above); for the traditionalist, a three-hour-long French pastry class. (Peek.com also serves some 15 U.S. markets, including Boston, Miami, and Napa.)

In each city, a host of trips under $50 are joined by splurge-worthy, once-in-a-lifetime excursions (think volcano helicopter tours in Hawaii or a private tour of Paris’ Opera Garnier), catering to any type of traveler. It also offers itinerary suggestions, and is enlisting even more boldface names to share their favorite spots and activities. (Think Entourage star Adrian Grenier's Broooklyn, or Diane von Furstenberg's Los Angeles.) Needless to say, we’ll be staying tuned as the company expands throughout the Continent and beyond.

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 Peek

Trip Doctor: Webflakes.com Translates Foreign Blogs for You

A new website is making it easier for Americans to get the local scoop on international destinations. Webflakes, launched in May, uses its growing team of volunteers (currently at around 200) to translate foreign blogs into English, a major boon to anyone who’s ever been frustrated at the lack of English-language, international posts in the blogosphere.

The site compiles posts from over 60 hand-selected bloggers who hail from France, Italy, Japan, Spain, Argentina, Peru, and Switzerland. That list of bloggers and home-countries is set to grow, with German and Chinese blogs predicted for the near future. The posts cover traditional lifestyle topics including travel, design, architecture, relationships, fashion, wine, and food & dining.

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How to Guarantee You'll Get In-Flight WiFi

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Despite travelers’ obsessions with being plugged in on the road, only 38% of domestic flights—and less than 1% of international flights—offer WiFi on board. Change is coming, with over 2,400 domestic and international flights rolling out Wi-Fi in the near future, but even then, in-flight web surfing will be far from ubiquitous, says data by flight engine RouteHappy. So here’s what the study suggests you do to make sure you stay connected in the skies:

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Tech Thursday: Low Fare Alerts and More from Trip Watcher

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With so many new tools promising to help us find the best (or cheapest) flights, it’s easier than ever to turn flight searching into an all-day obsession. Enter Trip Watcher, a new site by Hotwire.com, which does all the constant searching for you. Enter your desired destinations and dates (or range of dates), and the site will monitor the fares on your behalf, sending you alerts every time it finds a new low price. You choose the preferred method of contact—email, Facebook, or Twitter—so that you can jump on the deal before it disappears.

I’ve been putting Trip Watcher to the test with five sample itineraries—three domestic and two international, some with set dates and others more flexible. In just one day, the engine found lower fares for three of those routes, dropping the price by 20% to Chicago, 15% to Lima, and a whopping 38% to Charleston. The latter—a deeply discounted fare of $102—disappeared quickly, but it was entirely within my reach thanks to the instant update.

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