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T+L's Holiday Travel Survival Guide

holiday travel

Today officially kicks off the holiday travel season—are you ready?

An estimated 25 million people are traveling by air this Thanksgiving. That means crowded airports and full flights—all made worse by a winter storm that’s scheduled to hit the eastern seaboard later today. To help you ease your way through the crowds and anticipated flight delays, we’ve put together our holiday travel survival guide to get you from Point A to B—and home again. Bookmark it, print it, stash it in your carry on. Just don’t leave home without it.

Before you leave

Sign up for text and email alerts about flight delays and cancellations from your airline and services such as FlightStats. You can also get a sense of what’s happening with FlightStats’s compendium of delays and cancellations around the globe.

Use social media. Sometimes it can take a crucial few hours for a text message with information on a flight delays to arrive. Be proactive about checking airline Twitter handles for updates. You can also use Twitter to stay on top of weather updates (@weatherchannel) and breaking news (@cnnbrk).

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FCC Gets On Board With In-Flight Phone Calls

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

The days of shutting down cell phones from takeoff to landing may soon be behind us. Next month, the Federal Communications Commission will address the proposal to lift the ban on in-flight phone use, which they call “outdated” and “restrictive.”

Now that long-standing safety concerns have been debunked, the FCC is looking to join France, the UAE, Singapore, and a number of other countries already allowing in-flight calls. This comes on the heels of the FAA’s recent decision to drop restrictions on other personal electronics last month.

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HotelTonight Now Allows Booking Before Noon

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The ultimate tool for travel procrastinators has just become a little more democratic. HotelTonight, the pioneer of same-day mobile bookings, has long made their last minute deals available starting at noon on the day of check-in, but now, users will be able to book a full three hours earlier, at 9AM. Given the ever-growing number of competitors that offer same-day deals before noon, we’re not surprised at the news—though it’s a welcome change nonetheless. Especially if it means getting your room settled before boarding that 10AM flight.

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 HotelTonight

Best New Walking Tour Apps

Walking Apps

Love exploring cities on your own two feet? These mobile services—each vetted by T+L—put the guide right in your pocket, giving you local expertise wherever you go.

For Spontaneous Adventures: Field Trip
This Google-designed app uses your phone’s location services to pick up on what’s cool around you nearly anywhere in the world. (Use the app’s “Feeling Lucky” setting to minimize data-roaming charges.) Wander the streets of Bangkok, for example, and you’ll get notifications about great restaurants, shops, historic sites, and even special deals nearby—each tip pulls information from resources such as Zagat and the American Institute of Architects. Exploring by car? Set the app on “speaking” mode for a hands-free experience. Free; Android, iOS.

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Boston Opens Country's First Helmet Vending Machine for Bikers

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Boston's popular Hubway bicycle sharing program just got a lot safer for out-of-towners. The new HelmetHub allows users to rent or purchase helmets in the country's first helmet vending machine.

Located by the bike sharing station at Boylston Street and Mass. Ave, the HelmetHub holds over 30 helmets. The goal? Encourage all users, whether daily commuters or one-time visitors, to ride safely.

The helmet machine is one of 14 set to arrive in the city as part of a pilot program. Boston's Director of Bicycle Programs Nicole Freedman tells T+L that if all goes well, more may soon sprout up among Hubway's 100+ stations.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and part of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: HelmetHub

Swiss Hotels Offer Pay-What-You-Want Holiday Promotion

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Early booking specials and last-minute deals are ubiquitous in the travel industry, so we at T+L are always fascinated when someone gets creative with their pricing.

A collection of hotels in Switzerland have done just that with their "Pay What You Want" two-night stay offer before the holidays. Guests pay the normal rate for the first night, and then decide what they'd like to pay for their second night based on the service they receive. And given that each of the 18 participating hotels were voted some of Switzerland's Most Welcoming Hotels in 2013, it's likely their award-winning service will have guests paying full price or more for their second night stays.

Learn more at Switzerland Tourism's website.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: Martin Ruetschi/Keystone/Corbis

Do I Need to Lock My Bag When I Fly?

luggage lock

Last year, 26 million bags were reported mishandled worldwide; of those, 12.9 percent were pilfered or damaged, according to global aviation consultancy SITA. It may sound like a lot, but that still comes down to just about one bag per 1,000 passengers. Want to reduce the risk? Be sure to get the right lock—only those with Travel Sentry or Safe Skies emblems are TSA-approved.

45: The percentage drop in mishandled bags worldwide from 2007 to 2012.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


 

Photo by istockphoto.com

TSA Welcomes Southwest Airlines and Members of Military to PreCheck

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Keep your belt on!  

Southwest Airline’s frequent-flyer members need no longer undress to pass airport security. Today, the carrier became the eighth domestic airline to offer TSA PreCheck, a program to pre-approve travelers for expedited security screenings.  

The president of the US Travel Association, Roger Dow, calls the initiative “decidedly pro-traveler.” It’s meant to make travel easy, so that people fly—and fly often.

By the end of December, Pre-Check will be available to all members of the military at every airport in the country offering the service. At this time, military personnel can enjoy the perk at 10 domestic airports. 

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Travel Advisory: Warnings vs. Alerts

Travel Advisory

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) issues a Travel Warning when it identifies a chronic and sustained threat to U.S. citizens in a given country. Sometimes it warns against all travel there; sometimes it simply informs people of the risk. Travel Alerts usually address problems of finite duration, such as elections, public demonstrations, or hurricanes. The DOS also issues Security Messages and Emergency Messages, depending on the situation. To get updates for a particular trip, sign up for the DOS’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at step.state.gov.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by istockphoto.com

Disney Cruise Line Aces Environmental Exam

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Big-name environmental organization Friends of the Earth recently released its 2013 Cruise Report Card, and Disney Cruise Line has come out on top, earning an A.

The report ranks the world's major cruise lines according to their ships' sewage treatment, air pollution reduction, and water quality compliance. Go Disney!

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo courtesy of Disney

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