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The Rise of the Mobile Concierge

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For those who make a habit of frequenting the concierge desk before a day on the town, there’s a new way to tap into the local scene—no fold-out map necessary. These four hotel brands are putting the concierge in your pocket. What could be more convenient?

Conrad This all-in-one concierge app handles wake-up calls, dinner reservations, valet parking, bath amenities, and even check-in. Android, iPad, iPhone.

Hyatt  When you use the tag @hyattconcierge on Twitter, you will get a response from a concierge within 15 minutes.

InterContinental Concierges from each of InterContinental’s 127 destinations package their little black books for your smartphone in an app that has tips on where to shop, what to eat, and what to pack. iPad, iPhone.

Ritz-Carlton Along with location-based suggestions for sites and activities, this app includes QR codes that unlock anything from cocktail recipes to kid-friendly scavenger hunts. Android, iPhone.

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 Conrad Concierge App

The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending June 14, 2013

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This week, Amazon launched a fun new tool called "Around the World in 80 Books," poised to help you find the required reading for your upcoming vacation. The picks are great, from Peter Godwin's When A Crocodile Eats the Sun (for imminent safari-goers) to Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos (for the South America-bound). (Nikki Ekstein)

This Buzzfeed list of the 16 ways to make flying easier has a few ingenious solutions. Who'd have thought to bring golf balls on board to create your own little spa treatment? (Peter Schlesinger)

A Connecticut bill is claiming that the Wright brothers were not the "first in flight," 110 years after their historic plane took off in Kitty Hawk, NC. Whether or not German-born  Gustave Whitehead is truly the grandfather of aviation, there's no doubt about his level of wanderlust. Via Circa. (Adrien Glover)

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Trip Doctor: New Index Ranks International Cities by Cost

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Newsflash: Oslo (pictured) is an expensive city.

Actually, according to a recent study by TripAdvisor, the Norwegian capital is the most expensive city for travelers. And while the priciest cities shouldn’t be too surprising (Oslo is followed by Zürich, Switzerland, and Stockholm, Sweden), the results are fascinating.

The website ranked 49 popular travel destinations around the world on a pricing index based on the relative costs of an evening out (cab rides, dinner, and drinks) and a one-night stay at a four-star hotel.

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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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Trip Doctor: Legislators Renew Push for Family Flying Policy Changes

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Back in February we reported that several senators had expressed opposition to recent airline fees that force families to pay extra if they wish to sit together. Now, five lawmakers from New York and California are sponsoring a bill that would require airlines to change their policies.

The legislative push is still in its "early stages," according to the offices of the resolution's main sponsor, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), so no news on when (or even if) to expect a vote. Right now the sponsors are working on outreach both with other members in Congress and their constituents.

Nadler introduced a similar proposal last July with 10 co-sponsers, but the resolution was never enacted.

Have strong feelings about this? Contact your Congress representative and write to them about House Resolution 2191.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Trip Doctor: Tag Heuer's Waterproof Watch

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Q: We’re going scuba diving in Belize, and I’m looking for a watch that works as well underwater as it does on land. —Anthony Dwyer, Westport, Conn.

A: Just ask the U.S. Navy SEALs, who tested and approved elements of the Tag Heuer Limited Edition Oracle Team USA Aquaracer 500M ($4,200). It’s the latest in sporting chronographs: water-resistant to 1,640 feet, with rhodium-plated hands and a scratch-resistant crystal—and cool-looking, to boot.

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.

 

Photo courtesy of Tag Heuer

Trip Doctor: TSA Caves on Knife Policy

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Cue a collective sigh of relief: after much hoopla several months ago, the TSA has finally retracted their effort to take small knives off their banned items list. Also still prohibited: novelty baseball bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, golf clubs, and lacrosse sticks—all of which fell under the same (now dropped) proposal that would have allowed the potentially dangerous items on planes. We asked a TSA spokesperson what pulled the final straw, and it seems there was plenty of consensus between the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, law enforcement officials, passenger advocates, and "other important stakeholders"—opening this can of worms simply wouldn’t be a good idea (told you so). Instead, the TSA says they’ll continue to focus on Risk-Based Security, which allows them to “keep passengers safe by focusing on those we know less about.”

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 credit: Anthony Dunn / Alamy

Trip Doctor: The Final Say on "Stealing" Hotel Shampoo

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Our informal poll of luxury hotels found that taking one set of toiletries a day is generally acceptable—even expected. (They know us well.) But don’t be surprised if the hotel—especially a mid- or lower-tier property—cuts you off during a longer stay. if that happens, you’ll just have to dig some of that shampoo back out of your suitcase.

17: The percentage of U.S. hotel guests who admit to taking linens and towels from their rooms in a Hotels.com survey.

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

The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending June 7, 2013

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Earler this year, Anthony Bourdain confessed that his most memorable meal was in Granada, Spain. Now the traveling chef and TV personality is making more memories in the African Congo, as told to Eatocracy, where dishes include everything from fufu (cornmeal paste) to caterpilars. (Maria Pedone)

Sure, National Donut Day might be the perfect excuse to try a SoHo cronut (croissant + donut), but did you know the Salvation Army started the holiday 75 years ago to raise funds during the Great Depression? Neither did we. (M.P.)

Tourism in Myanmar is estimated to increase by a full 700% in the next seven years—but thanks to a $500 million loan from the government of Norway, concerned citizens can rest assured that the resulting footprint will be a light one. The Asian Development Bank outlines their plans (and we raise a glass to the generous Norweigans who made it happen). (Nikki Ekstein)

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Tech Thursday: Two New Tools for Intelligent Flight Searching

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When Hipmunk released its airfare-focused "agony index" a few years back, it was the talk of the town here at T+L—frankly, we’re still pretty obsessed. But these days, a number of services are trying to one-up the flight search pioneer with what’s now being dubbed "intelligent searching," where users can pick and choose itineraries based on far more than just price and schedule.

Rising to the top of the pack is Momondo. The company recently launched a new Flight Insight tool, which makes the search process as transparent as it gets. By aggregating data that the company has collected since its inauguration in 2006, Flight Insight offers a tremendous amount of information on all the factors that can affect the price of your flight, from seasonality to airport combos. Plug in your desired itinerary, and the tool will help you find the best airlines, days of the week, or times of the day to search for if you’re hoping to snag a bargain. Interestingly, Momondo suggests that you’re almost always best off booking a flight 60 days ahead of your departure.

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