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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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Low-Cost Airline to Fly from New York to London: Less than $250, One Way

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Remember when you could fly round-trip to London for less than $600? Nope? Faded from memory already? Recalling the good old days, Norway’s low-cost carrier Norwegian recently announced that it is launching service between London Gatwick and New York (JFK), Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale airports beginning next summer. The airline’s new 787 Dreamliners will fly the transatlantic routes starting July 2014. Norwegian is introducing these routes with special fares that are as low as $240, one way, from New York, and $321, one way, from Los Angeles. The introductory fares are being snapped up quickly, but we still found round trip tickets from New York for as little as $590 in August. See you at the pub?

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 courtesy of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA

Enterprise Launches Harley Rentals in Vegas

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This just in: Visitors to Las Vegas can now rent select Harley Davidson models.

Motorcycle Rental by Enterprise launched October 16th, making it the first major rental company to bring two-wheelers to the Strip. As of now, there are 10-15 bikes available.

Why Vegas?  “All this is based on customer feedback,” explains Yona Spiegelglass, Brand Publicity Director for Enterprise Holdings. “Many of our customers expressed interest in renting motorcycles there—it's a great opportunity to see the Strip and the Hoover Dam.”

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Test Driving the New HP Chromebook 11

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This week, Google announced the next generation of Chromebook—a glossy white beauty with top-of-the-line hardware—and we’re impressed. It’s slim (under 18 mm), lightweight (at 2.3 pounds), and travel-proof, with a magnesium alloy frame that’ll withstand bumps and dings, a slick widescreen that’s great for movie watching, and speakers that port up through the keyboard for ultra-clear, fuzz-free sound.

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India Rolling Out Visa on Arrival

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We’ve heard countless horror stories about the process of getting an Indian visa (lost passports! slow service!), so imagine the relief when we heard that the country will soon be rolling out Visa on Arrival service for citizens of 40 countries—the United States included. As part of the new legislation, travelers will now be able to access an online application system for visas or simply secure their documents the moment their plane touches ground on Indian soil. And the service won’t just be available in Mumbai—airports such as Delhi, Chennai, and Hyderabad also have the program in the works.

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

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Vail's Epic Pass Announces Global Ski Race

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Just last week, we wrote about saving big on ski passes by purchasing them early from Liftopia and Epic Pass. Now, Epic Pass has announced a new competition—fittingly dubbed the Epic Race.

The first ten people to ski all 26 resorts included in the Epic Pass will win a pass for life. That means free lift-tickets to some of the world's top ski destinations: U.S. mountains include Vail, Beaver Creek, and Breckenridge. In the French, Swiss, and Austrian Alps, passholders can enjoy the slopes at mountains such as Courchevel, Verbier, and Stuben.

Registration for the Epic Race starts November 1. Learn more here.

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 credit: iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: How Can I Tell If My Vacation Apartment Rental Is Legal?

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Question from Alison Frank, Washington, D.C.

A: The boom in short-term apartment rentals, fueled by companies such as Airbnb, FlipKey, and HomeAway, has made rooms everywhere from Paris to Portland available online. That’s great for travelers looking for affordable hotel alternatives. But the rapid growth of this aspect of the new “sharing economy” has outpaced the law in certain cities—leaving some hosts (if not their guests) in decidedly murky legal terrain.

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Five Things We Love About the New Kindle Paperwhite

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The one gadget I can no longer travel without? My e-reader. But now that I’ve seen the new generation of Kindle Paperwhites, I’m thinking it might be time to upgrade what I’m putting in my carry-on. Here, the three things I’m digging most about Amazon’s latest release.

Page Flip: The only thing I miss about the paper book experience is the ability to flip back to earlier chapters. The new Paperwhite lets you pull up a slider that lets you scan through any novel—improving on their previous X-Ray feature that simply found previous mentions of common characters or concepts.

Integration with Goodreads:This isn’t out just yet, but soon, Kindle users will get to share book recommendations with friends on this innovative social media network.

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Delta Pays for Automated Passport Machines at JFK

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Delta Air Lines, fed up with long lines its passengers face when arriving at Customs in New York City's JFK airport, is footing the bill to install automated passport machines.

Lines at the airport are the worst in the country, averaging over 90 minutes during peak hours, and nearing five hours on some occasions. Automated machines can shed 40 percent off of waiting times to clear customs, and at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport—the only U.S. airport to already have such machines—interview times with Customs officers have been halved to 30 seconds.

Delta views the new automated machines as a step in the right direction, says spokesperson Leslie Scott. She hopes the airline's contribution—whose price is undisclosed—will spur increased staffing, especially at peak times for international arrivals.

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Department of Silver Linings: U.S. Passport Offices Remain Open Despite Government Shutdown

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After watching the federal government grind to an ignominious halt last night over the budget impasse, you could be forgiven for wanting to get out of town—as in, leave the country—for a while.

Fortunately, although national parks and monuments are now closed and thousands of FAA aviation safety inspectors have been furloughed (shudder), U.S. passport offices remain open and processing applications. If you’re traveling within the next two weeks and need to get a rush passport, you can still schedule an appointment at your nearest passport agency. Just call ahead to make sure that office isn’t located in a federal building. If it is, you may be out of luck.

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 credit: Blue Jean Images / Alamy

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