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What the Global Travel Alert Means for You

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The global travel alert that the U.S. Department of State issued at the end of last week has been met with a fair amount of criticism and head scratching. It’s vague. It’s frightening. And it’s not very clear what a traveler should do with this information.

The alert, which is valid through August 31, warns U.S. citizens about “the continued potential for terrorism attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.” It was prompted, according to news reports, by intercepted communications between al Qaeda operatives—chatter that Senator Saxby Chambliss, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee characterized on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.” Though Yemen is obviously a major area of concern right now (the U.S. has not only evacuated the embassy there, but urged all Americans to leave the country), the State Department’s alert is not restricted to any particular region. It even goes so far as to remind travelers of the possibility of attacks on “public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure,” including subway, rail, and aviation services. (A threat that is underscored by a recent ABC News story about terrorists working to develop an as-yet-undetectable explosive liquid.)

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Do Lonely Planet Layoffs Signal the Death of Guidebooks?

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Maybe Jeff Bezos wants to buy Lonely Planet, too? This spring, BCC Worldwide sold the Melbourne-based guidebook company to a Tennessee media company for a reported loss of $130 million. Now comes news that Lonely Planet is planning to lay off some 70 to 80 employees at its Australian headquarters, a development that has sparked eulogies across the digital sphere (perhaps ironic, given the Internet’s role in guidebooks’ demise). The publisher has had to deny rumors that its printed guides are on their way out.

This is only the latest twist in what has been a decidedly rollercoaster couple of years for guidebooks. After Google bought, for $23 million, the stalwart Frommer’s brand of travel guides and then bled the books for content (see the new and improved Google Maps), it sold the brand back to Arthur Frommer himself in April. The 83-year-old recently announced that he would begin publishing guides again in October, introducing a short EasyGuides series aimed at attention-deprived audiences. As reported in the New York Times, he hopes to have roughly 80 titles published by the end of 2014. To call this plan ambitious is an understatement.

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Trip Doctor: 3 Simple Steps for Packing Shoes

There is a definite method to packing shoes for a trip. Here are 3. 

1. If you are not using a shoe bag then keep the soles towards heaven or facing away from your clothes, for obvious reasons; soles are dirty!

2. Shoes are one of the heavier items you will have in your bag so give lots of thought to taking too many. Chose a pair that can be worn in a variety of situations. Along with the one you are wearing, you’ll have enough.

3. Use the edges and corners of your suitcase to ensure every crack and crevice are used.

Mimi LombardoMimi Lombardo is Travel + Leisure’s style director. Packing is rarely easy—we’re here to help. Send your question to tripdoctor@aexp.com.

The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending August 2, 2013

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According to Yahoo!, Borders bookstores, which went bankrupt in the U.S. in 2011, are now re-opening in Singapore. [Maria Pedone]

Two world records were broken at the annual Lorraine Mondial Air Balloons festival in eastern France, with over 400 balloons hitting the skies, via AP. [M.P.]

No knock-knock jokes for this Nantucket bar: a five-foot long shark was found in front of the door at Sea Dog Brew Pub, via Huffington Post. [M.P.]

In an attempt to contain rowdy foreigners, the Greek island of Crete is considering setting up designated tourist zones to keep its citizens safe, according to CNN. [Jennifer Flowers]

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Trip Doctor: Norovirus on a Plane—What You Need to Know

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This morning’s news of a possible norovirus outbreak on a Qantas flight from Santiago, Chile to Sydney, Australia, has us all on edge. Known for wreaking havoc on cruise ships, the norovirus is not a typical worry for fliers. Should it be?

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Trip Doctor: TSA’s Not-So-Great Report Card

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Here’s some news that will make you squirm in your airplane seat: complaints filed against airport security workers have increased by 26 percent over the last three years, according to a new study the Transportation Security Agency released yesterday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

About half the cases—9,622 in all since 2010—had to do with attendance and leave (32 percent) and screening and security (20 percent). Shockingly, those screening and security offenses included allowing travelers or baggage to bypass screening, sleeping on the job, drug and alcohol use while on duty, mishandling of classified information, and inappropriate or sexual misconduct. The report also cited a case in 2011 where a transportation security officer at Orlando International Airport pled guilty of embezzlement and theft charges for stealing more than $80,000 worth of laptops and other electronics.

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Tech Thursday: Hipmunk Gets a Last-Minute Upgrade

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We’ve long loved Hipmunk for its brilliant intelligent search capabilities, which help you find the least agonizing flights or the hotels that are best suited to your individual needs. Today, the app launches an update that once again changes the game: this time, it takes on the last-minute hotel booking sphere that has become quite the competitive space as of late.

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Pet Travel Wednesdays: Road Trips

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Look over on the highway to find a dog with his tongue hanging out of the window, ears flopping through the wind, and it’s hard to fight a smile. There’s something classic about a pup braving the open road.

But of course, safety comes first, and all those “Buckle Up” signs apply to Fido as well. For this week’s pet travel tip, we reached out to our Instagram follower Tiffany Tosh (@tiffxtosh). Sure enough, she confirmed that her Chihuahua, Louie (pictured), “is so happy go-lucky with traveling, but I always keep safety first and keep him buckled up in his car seat!”

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Trip Doctor: Is Train Travel in Europe Safe?

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Recent news from the railroads of Europe has not been good: On July 12, an intercity train derailed at a station outside of Paris, resulting in 6 casualties. On July 25, 79 passengers died when a high-speed train from Madrid careened off the tracks. And earlier this week, two trains collided in Switzerland, killing one and injuring dozens more.

The three fatal crashes give cause for thought: Are European railroads safe?

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Trip Doctor: I Accidentally Damaged My Hotel Room!

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Do...

Assess the mess. One that only requires cleanup costs less than one that calls for replacing broken furniture and fixtures.

Fess up. The hotel will find out regardless—and you’ll want to be there to plead your case.

Don’t...

Fret if the damage is small and unintentional. Hotels will often let you go without penalty.

Assume you can walk away scot-free. If the damage is major, you could be responsible for repairs and lost revenue.

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.

 

Illustration by Ben Wiseman

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