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Tech Thursday: Google Glass—Half Empty or Half Full?

Google Glass

Blending in with the locals. For most travelers, that’s the goal. We know that pulling out a guidebook never helps. But what about sporting funky headgear?

That’s what I was trying to figure out as I did a test drive yesterday of Google Glass at the company’s New York offices. Lens-less glasses with wraparound arms and a tiny screen above your right eye: Glass isn’t obstructive (that’s the whole point, after all), but it’s also not unobtrusive. And as my Google handler—who has worn hers in public—told me, you have to be prepared for some stares.

So do the benefits outweigh those stares?

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Tech Thursday: Instagram Launches Video

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The rumors turned out to be true: today, Facebook announced that Instagram would gain video sharing capabilities after two years devoted strictly to photos, meaning your travel videos can now be broadcast at the push of a button. We can’t say we’re surprised: Vine and Cinemagr.am, the leading apps for short, looping videos, have been the talk of the town—and Facebook’s not one to fall behind on social sharing trends. The new app is now available on Android and iOS, with 13 cool filters that borrow from the app’s photo-driven aesthetic. Record right in the app, and take up to 15 seconds of video at a time—more than double the average clip on rival services, while maintaining low upload times. Then, choose a cover frame to set the tone for your super-short-film, use the same hashtags you would for normal pics, and you’re all set. The key distinguishing points? Videos won’t loop—and with a little bit more time to share, they’ll have a different look and feel from other services (which we’ll continue to use enthusiastically). And thanks to a nifty feature called Cinema, videos will be automatically stabilized. Says CEO Kevin Systrom, “It’s the Instagram you know and love—but it moves.”

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 Jessica Zolman

 

Trip Doctor: Arrive Early, Stay Late at Hotels

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What’s the easiest way to get the most out of your next hotel room? Extend your stay by arriving early and checking out late. Fortunately, hotels are making it easier for you to hold onto that room key as long as possible.

If you’re angling for an early arrival, some properties will let you pay for the privilege. For $30, you can check in as early as 9 a.m. at Aria and the Bellagio, in Las Vegas. Guests at the Peninsula Beverly Hills get their room whenever they like and stay as late as they please—even if it’s more than 24 hours later—just by calling in advance. Similarly, Starwood’s most loyal guests (those who log 75 nights a year) can check in at any time and keep the room for a full 24 hours. Top-tier members of the GHA Discovery Program (which includes Omni Hotels and Kempinski Hotels) are rewarded with a 9 a.m. check-in when available. Even if you don’t have elite status, it never hurts to ask. Phone ahead with a polite request and you may be accommodated.

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Trip Doctor: What Americans Really Think about Flying

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With summer vacation upon us, it seems students aren't the only ones getting their final grades. A slew of reports and studies recently came out—including ones from Harris Interactive, J.D. Power & Associates, Consumer Reports, and the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)—surveying a total of over 67,000 Americans on their latest opinions North American air travel. Here are some of the highlights:

Satisfaction is…Up!

  • Even though Consumer Reports concludes "There isn't much good news for passengers," recent findings by J.D. Power & Associates suggest that the passengers themselves disagree. The marketing information firm surveyed nearly 12,000 individuals and measured customer satisfaction on a 1000 point scale based on airline performance in 7 categories: cost & fees; in-flight services; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservation.  The results?  Overall passenger satisfaction is up 14 points to 695, a score not seen since 2006, before the age of a-la-carte baggage fees.

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The Best New Hiking Backpack for Your Next Adventure

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Since we’ve been talking a good bit about hiking around here lately, here’s the one accessory you should plan to pick up before your next adventure. Known more for their tech-friendly messenger bags than for their outdoor gear, Timbuk2 has just launched a new collection of urban-inspired camping backpacks, which are rugged enough to survive your toughest mountain climbs but designed to convert into a rolling suitcase for less elemental pursuits. The Aviator Travel Pack (from $179) is smartly designed with carbon ballistic nylon for durability, padded straps and a hip belt that stow away when not needed, and a water-resistant rain shedding pack cover that tucks into its own dedicated pocket. But what really does it for me are cleverly placed compartments that store (and protect) a 17” laptop, important-to-reach items like your phone and wallet, and separate spill-protecting toiletry panels. If only we could custom-order them in pretty colors and patters, like Timbuk2’s flagship messenger line.

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 Timbuk2

Trip Doctor Series: Trekking, Walking, and Hiking (Africa)

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We’re all for seeing Africa’s amazing flora and fauna from the comfort of a vehicle, but have you ever considered stepping out of the jeep and into the wild? As someone always looking for a way to turn up that adventure dial, I know I have. In our May issue’s Trekking, Walking, and Hiking Guide, we call out veteran outfitter Robin Pope Safaris in Zambia, which happens to be the home of the walking safari, for its standout mobile camping trek through a remote part of South Luangwa National Park. Spend your days tracking lions or observing buffalo along the Mupamadzi River bank, and evenings at a roving camp with walk-in tents and Mara campfires. robinpopesafaris.net; eight days from $4,388.

Jennifer FlowersJennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.

Photo credit: Monika Hoefler and Jens Schwarz

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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