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New Book for Barbecue Fans

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Need inspiration for a summer road trip? Look no further than The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue, by T+L contributor Daniel Vaughn. The new release is jam-packed with over 200 pit stops throughout the Lone Star State—as well as a guide to the different style of Texas ‘cue and the stories behind the pitmasters. To execute this true labor of love, Vaughn clocked an estimated 10,000 miles—but with chapters devoted to individual regions, it offers plenty of smaller itineraries that’ll ramp up your appetite. Need extra persuasion? See the Austin-based, BBQ-obsessed trip that Vaughn created for T+L right here.

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 Anthony Bourdain/Ecco

 

 

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

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This month, travel to Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Andes is almost in full swing: if you’re headed to the region and haven’t already asked an outfitter to wrangle your Inca Trail passes, you may be out of luck this season. Luckily, there are plenty of other delightful ways to reach Machu Picchu, which we outline in our Trekking, Walking, and Hiking guide (May 2013). Here’s one of our favorites:
 
SALCANTAY TRAIL

Best for: Creature comforts.

Known as the back door into Machu Picchu, Salcantay is also the area’s highest path (it reaches 15,200 feet). Mountain Lodges of Peru, a string of stone-and-timber inns along the trail, is the only lodge-to-lodge way to reach the lost city of the Incas: take this route on a trip with Wildland Adventures (11 days from $3,800).

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 courtesy of Mountain Lodges of Peru and Wildland Adventures

The Doctor Recommends: Must-Reads for the Week Ending May 17, 2013

 

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Enterainment Weekly's Sara Vilkomerson lives out the dream of millions of tween readers by spending the weekend at the Key West home of Judy Blume: Are You There God, It's Me, Judy Blume. (Matt Haber)

Super aggregator Jason Kottke presents some wonderful color footage of London from 1927. (M.H.)

Think we’re making progress in lightening our footprint on this planet? We've got a long way to go. Emily Badger of the Atlantic Cities reports on a project involving NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, Google (of course), and other organizations to turn 30 years of satellite photos into timelapse videos of anywhere on earth. The resulting GIFs are sobering. Don't miss the map tool that lets you zoom into any location to see the change over time. (Amy Farley)

Google Maps just blew everyone else out of the water, unveiling new apps for Android and iOS (coming to an app store this summer) that integrate all the content, innovations, and intelligence of its varied recent acquisitions, as our friends at Skift report. Apple, your move. (A.F.)

It really is the week of Google news: as the Verge reported on Thursday, the company has officially unveiled a redesigned Google+ that automatically retouches the photos you upload (or that are automatically uploaded from Android phones everywhere). Creepy, cool, or just a last-ditch effort to get people to care about Google+? You decide. (Nikki Ekstein)

Unearthing the culture of a destination fascinates me. To get a true look into a Hawaiian local's perspective, pick up Kristiana Kahakauwila's new short story collection, This is Paradise. Her writing is as captivating as the politics behind it. (Maria Pedone)

With the Cannes Film Festival in full swing, local hotels become home-base for countless celebs and their entourages. On its blog, the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez published a fascinating infographic that reveals exactly what goes on in the star-studded hotel during the festival. Want 220 pounds of caviar? You've got it. (Peter Schlesinger)

And last but not least, in Berlin, a new Barbie Doll Dream House has opened to the delight of many fans and the horror of many feminists. Protesters see the plastic doll as an unworthy role model that reinforces strict gender roles, and formed the group Occupy Barbie Dream House, as detailed by Mark Johanson from the International Business Times. See pics of the pink palace on this BBC slideshow. (P.S.)


Got a recommendation? Tell us in the comments.


Photo: iStock Photos.

Tech Thursday: A Playlist to Cure Your Fear of Flying

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Listen up, airlines—it’s time to start playing Adele’s Someone Like You on the PA as you’re boarding your flights. According to research launched today by music service Spotify, the song is the perfect tune to settle travelers’ jittery nerves, thanks to its ideal tempo (67 bpm) and harmonious tones. About one in four fliers suffer from some sort of travel-related fear, says the study by London-based anxiety psychologist Dr. Becky Spelman, who helped Spotify identify characteristics in songs that are most de-stressing (see the full recommended playlist here). But tuning in is just the first step: breathing in time to the rhythm, listening on headphones, and closing your eyes will all work together to theoretically lower your heart rate and blood pressure, stimulate both sides of your brain, and calm your mind. Fly on, frazzled road warriors, fly on.

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

 


HotelTonight Introduces New “Snap Your Stay” Feature

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With a new update that was released last week, HotelTonight is seemingly taking a page out of the TripAdvisor playbook by adding user-generated content. But unlike the user-generated review giant, HotelTonight’s “Snap Your Stay” feature cuts out the issue of subjectivity: What they’re calling “reviews” are really no more than user snapshots documenting their hotels room’s view, bed, bathroom, and so on. Semantics aside, it’s a natural fit and welcome addition for the mobile booking platform, where users aren’t particularly inclined to read paragraphs of unreliable content. And it offers a genuine, objective look at whether a hotel will fit your particular needs.

Read More

The Doctor Recommends: Must Reads for the Week Ending May 10, 2013

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Forbes's Larry Olmsted discusses Boston Bites Back, the tasting event happening next week in Boston's Fenway Park where top local chefs are teaming up to raise $1 million for victims from the marathon bombings. (Peter Schlesinger)

One hotel in Egypt is trying to provide a "new kind of tourism"—by smashing all the booze in its bar and declaring itself the country's first dry hotel. HotelChatter takes a closer look. (Nikki Ekstein)

Have you ever dreamed of chucking it all and moving to tropical paradise? Outside's Ned Zeman chronicles how one couple's dream of building their own mountaintop compound in Costa Rica went very, very wrong. (Matt Haber)

What's it like to be a personal chef on a private Gultstream G550? So glad you asked since Cincinnati Magazine's Donna Covrett talks with Michael Worth about his high-flying gig. (M.H.)

Let Mashable take you on a trip Around the World in 80 Instagrams. (M.H.)

Check out this amazing animated GIFs that show how the earth has changed over time using images from Google Maps. (M.H.)

Got a recommendation? Tell us in the comments.


Photo: iStock Photos.

Trip Doctor: Date Confirmed for NYC Bike Share

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New York's bike share program, Citi Bike, has finally announced a starting date. Trip Doctor  previously reported that it was sometime in May—and now, we're happy to say, it is official.

Members will be able to hop on a bike starting Memorial Day, May 27, while single-time users can ride one of the 6,000 new two-wheelers beginning on June 2.

Be sure to check out Trip Doctor's FAQ about biking in NYC.

Photo credit: Lars Klove /New York City Bike Share

Go Around the World for 60 Days with DoubleTree

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This week, DoubleTree by Hilton debuted DTour, a devoted YouTube channel created in collaboration with Google that lets travel aficionados add their favorite tips—or find inspiration—on a constantly evolving map of the world. While the hotel’s budding relationship with Google raises our eyebrow, we’re currently most excited about the prospect of winning a DTour of a Lifetime—an eight-week, all-inclusive trip around the globe.

Want to enter for your chance to win? Upload a video with your favorite travel tip to the DTour map by May 31—the six most promising global correspondents will be sent around the world to document their adventures for the brand.

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 DoubleTree by Hilton

 

Tech Thursday: How to Turn Your Hotel Stays into Airline Points

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In the last few months, we’ve been tracking two new sites, PointsHound and RocketMiles—both trying to disrupt the stronghold of Expedia and Travelocity by offering airline points in exchange for hotel stays. How does it work? Consider it a big circle of back scratching, where hotel sale commissions buy airline miles that get passed on to you, the consumer, who’s still getting a best rate guarantee. And not only are the hotel rates good—an average booking can earn upwards of 7,000 miles with your preferred carrier.

To put them head to head, we entered an identical search heading to Chicago over Memorial Day weekend with United Mileage Plus as our preferred reward currency. The Tremont Chicago Hotel at Magnificent Mile showed up on both searches: $169 a night with 7,000 miles at RocketMiles; the same price at 6,500 miles with PointsHound. Some comparisons were less evenly matched: The Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown netted 2,100 miles on PointsHound, and almost double at RocketMiles, for the same price. Incidentally, prices were equal to or better than what the hotels were offering on their own sites, and the same as Expedia’s current rates.

But PointsHound gets an advantage in two key criteria: it offers much more variety in inventory (whereas RocketMiles had just 8 hotels available in Chicago, PointsHound had far too many to count, including some of our favorite properties). And by booking regularly on PointsHound, you “level up” and become eligible for even greater rewards. Regardless, both are tools we’ll be keeping in our back pockets.

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 PointsHound

 

Trip Doctor: Dubai, Beaches, and Bikinis: What's Allowed?

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With all the news recently about bans on skimpy swimwear at UAE beaches, T+L wanted to clear the air and figure out what travelers need to know when heading to the Emirates.

First off, the bathing suit laws aren’t laws. After initial reports that bikinis and bikini briefs were banned, UAE newspapers reported that police backtracked, and later clarified that the regulations were only guidelines. After receiving multiple complaints from local families, authorities posted signs stating, "All coastgoers should commit to public morality and modest clothing." Police "strongly discourage" individuals from wearing revealing swimwear, and to respect "cultural sensitivities."

Secondly, these official recommendations apply only to the country’s northernmost emirate, Ras al-Khaimah. The emirate attracts few tourists compared to flashier Dubai, which sees nearly 10 million visitors annually, although it is home to 2011 It List property Banyan Tree Al Wadi.

So does that mean it’s acceptable to wear a thong on the beaches of Dubai?

I checked with the emirate’s Legal Affairs Department to get the final say. Here’s what beachgoers in Dubai will want to know:

° All beaches, even those next to hotels, are public, so local families and international vacationers have access to the same sandy stretches in Dubai.
° Several beaches offer women-only days one day a week. On these days, males—excluding toddlers—are prohibited.
° There is no Dubai law prohibiting a particular bathing suit, but swimwear should not be worn off the beach. Nudity is strictly prohibited.

Still, when considering which suit to wear on their UAE holiday, bikini-toters should consider that the local population, along with the majority of international visitors, in Dubai are Muslim, and therefore unlikely to appreciate skimpy swimwear.

If looking for a destination where scanty suits are a-okay, try Egypt, whose tourism minister stated on Monday that "bikinis are welcome in Egypt and booze is still being served."

Related: See the Future in Dubai.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: © Jon Hicks/Corbis

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