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HootRoot Travel Tool

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, November 17 12:01 PM

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To be (green), or not to be, that is the question. When it comes to traveling, the answer is usually "not." But website HootRoot, which has just won a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency award, aims to change all that.

Plug in your start and end points (say, Boston and New York City), and HootRoot cleverly scans Google Maps and HopStop for routes, travel times, and carbon dioxide emissions for various modes of transport. For the Boston-New York City trip, for example, flying takes only 29 minutes (minus airport time) but emits a whopping 428.9 pounds of CO2, while driving clocks in at four hours and 238.84 pounds. Transit, which takes just minutes longer than a car trip, whittles one's carbon footprint to just 18.07 pounds. Consider it ready ammo for making green decisions--and saving a bundle on offset credits.

Photo: Courtesy of HootRoot

Southern Spirit Whistle Stop Tours, Australia

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, November 15 12:08 PM

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You may have noticed that Australia is big. Really big. Only slightly smaller than the United States, in fact, with vast stretches of countryside separating its cosmopolitan cities. Flying around the country is expedient, but on Great Southern Rail's new routes aboard the Southern Spirit, you get to see all the gorgeous landscapes in between.

Passengers on Southern Spirit Whistle Stop Tours can hang ten in hip surfing town Byron Bay, quaff New World wines in the scenic Hunter Valley, pet koalas at Taronga Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo, and go walkabout in the beautiful forests of the Grampians. Now that's the spirit.

Southern Spirit six-day Whistle Stop Tours from $4,235

Photo: Courtesy of Southern Spirit Tours

Gogobot App

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, November 11 10:00 AM

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When Gogobot, a mashup of Facebook and Yelp for travelers, appeared on the scene last year, we were charmed. And with the introduction of the Gogobot app, you've now got this excellent planning tool to go.

Gogobot crowdsources recommendations and filters what's hot and what's not through your social network. The app loads your travel plans, pulling up what else is nearby, contact info, and maps at a tap. Snap a photo and turn it into an Instagram-like postcard to tweet or send to your mates (for jealousy now) or turn into an on-the-fly review (for helpfulness later). Everything is collected online in your digital Passport, a scrapbook of spoils to annotate and share. Perhaps it's time you took some friendly advice.

Available from iTunes for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Android version coming early 2012.

Photo: Courtesy of Gogobot

The Real Cuba, Austin-Lehman Adventures

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, November 01 11:14 AM

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For decades, American citizens with a hankering to see Havana had to engage in some serious (and not recommended) 007 business to make that happen. But now, with the launch of Austin-Lehman Adventures' "the Real Cuba" itinerary, visiting Castro country is easy and--more importantly--legal.

The ten-day trip, a far-ranging intro to Cuban life, includes visiting private homes, helping out with community projects, and meeting artists, artisans, and Santería practitioners. After exploring Old Havana, you'll travel via old steam train, vintage car, and even horseback to tobacco farms, coffee plantations, and rural villages. Best of all, Austin-Lehman arranges the charter flight from Miami or Cancún and handles the visa process.

Austin-Lehman Adventures' ten-day trips starting February 2012, from $4,998 per person

Photo: Courtesy of Austin-Lehman Adventures

The Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, October 31 01:50 PM

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If well-executed design is music to your ears, tune in to Amsterdam's latest triumphal symphony of style: the Conservatorium Hotel's transformation of a 19th-century bank-turned-music conservatory into a five-star modernist escape. Soft-opening on the Museumplein opposite the Royal Concertgebouw and near the tony P.C. Hooftstraat shopping strip in mid November, it'll reach a galloping allegro by December. The hotel's most harmonious note? Over half its 129 rooms are double-height duplexes.

Italian design maestro Piero Lissoni has combined vintage decorative elements (Asian rugs, tribal masks, Delft plates) with exposed beams, wood floors, and oversize windows to create a homey, loftlike feel. Common areas are equally lively. A glass ceiling tops an eight-story atrium lobby with a cocktail bar and restaurants by Dutch chef Schilo van Coevorden. There's also a 10,000-square-foot holistic spa (Watsu pool included). Apropos of everything, classical music echoes throughout. We think that deserves a standing ovation.

Photo: Courtesy of Design Hotels

Amir Building at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, October 27 07:00 AM

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It's impossible to guess what lies beneath the new Herta and Paul Amir Building of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (opening November 2) when viewing it from outside. Architect Preston Scott Cohen's prismatic shiplike structure, made of 430 polished cement and glass panels, hides a library, an auditorium, and almost 30,000 square feet of gallery space in its unassuming angular belly. Ramped promenades and staircases spiral around a top-lit 87-foot-high atrium, its complex geometric surfaces bouncing the Mediterranean sun three floors below ground.

A temporary exhibit of works by Anselm Kiefer plus 250 pieces from the museum's permanent collection (prints, drawings, photography, design, video, and sculpture from 1906 to the present) will inaugurate the $55 million cultural hub--as well as Tel Aviv's Art Year festival.

Photo © Amit Geron. Courtesy of Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Legoland, Winter Haven, Florida

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, October 26 01:08 PM

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Build it and they will come. That's the theory behind Florida's newly opened Legoland theme park. Spanning 150 acres, it's the world's largest Legoland and is positively stacked with attractions, including rides--try the junior roller-coaster that dips and loops through a jungle populated by animated and Lego brick dinosaurs--and a section called Fun Town, where you can see how those ingenious bricks are made.

The can't-miss attraction, in our book, is Miniland USA, featuring intricately detailed scale models of cities and landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Las Vegas Strip, and Washington, D.C., complete with mini replicas of the First Family (hi there, Bo!) plus tiny cherry trees that blossom every spring. Move over Harry Potter, there's a new (plastic brick) kid in town.

Photo: Courtesy of Legoland

Herschel Supply Company Novel Duffel Bag

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, October 19 12:06 PM

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We've all got baggage. But if you'd like to keep yours in hand, we'd suggest scoring the new Herschel Supply Company Novel Duffel Bag ($80 from Flight 001).

A zip pocket in the side keeps your sneakers or dirty laundry separate from the main compartment. The bag has a detachable shoulder strap and is the perfect size for a weekend away (23 x 11 x 10.5 inches). The look? Think 1950s gym rat meets urban lumberjack. Definitely a step in the right direction for carry-ons.

Photo: Courtesy of Flight 001

Great Ape Escape, Rwanda and Tanzania

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, October 06 10:57 AM

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Sure, elephants and lions are cool and all. But when it comes to the animal kingdom, it doesn't get much more fascinating than observing our relatives. The drama, the pathos, the hairy chests (we're talking about primates, not your Aunt Sarah).

On Safari & Conservation Company's new Great Ape Escape, you'll get up close and personal with the primate world. Starting in Rwanda, you'll trek to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat before flying to the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania to observe chimps in the wild. The best part? With your own private plane, you avoid the hassles of airports, taxis, and charters. Because no one needs that kind of monkey business on vacation.

Photo: Courtesy of Safari & Conservation Company

Tumi Ducati Luggage Collection

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, September 28 10:31 AM

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Every stylish piece of luggage we've ever owned has been roughed up, stained, and spit out by the brutal baggage-handling process. But over the years, we've made peace with the fact that only people who fly private own sexy suitcases. Until, that is, we discovered Tumi's new collection.

A partnership with motorcycle supremo Ducati has produced a new line of look-at-me, lipstick-red luggage (from $645) that's got more curves than a Diddy music video. The 360-degree wheels know how to take turns. And the polycarbonate ABS outer shell means that the bags are both thin and tough. Kind of like the biker chick we always wanted to be.

Photo: Courtesy of Tumi

Topo Designs Klettersack Backpack

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, September 08 07:00 AM

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As the wee ones tromp off to school, we have to admit we're a little jealous. Not of juice boxes or chalkboards or recess (okay, maybe a little jealous of recess). What we really covet are their backpacks. As we hoist heavy purses and messenger-style bags onto sore shoulders, we long for the days when a carry-on could mean a snappy knapsack.

Thankfully, happy days are here again with the new Topo Klettersack ($139). It has the functionality and comfort of a backpack as well as grown-up style. The rugged Cordura pack has a water-resistant liner and padded straps reinforced with seat-belt webbing for serious durability. Plus, it's made in a LEED-certified shop. That's an A+ in our book.

Photo: Courtesy of Topo Design

Holographic Gate Agents, Orly Airport, Paris

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, September 01 07:00 AM

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Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger had Total Recall and Princess Leia begged for Obi-Wan Kenobi, we've been waiting for our hologram fantasy to become a reality. Now, at Paris's Orly Airport, we're one step closer: holographic gate agents.

An image of an airport employee beamed onto an acrylic silhouette greets passengers and displays gate information. Orly's virtual assistants can be found in Hall 40 of Terminal Ouest, the airport's testing ground for emerging technologies. These agents always smile, never take a bathroom break, and don't go on strike (yet). It's a strange new world, indeed.

Photo: Courtesy Aéroports de Paris / Jean-Pierre Gaborit

JetSuite SuiteDeals

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, August 29 07:00 AM

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In this era of austerity, nothing says excess like a private jet, right? California-based JetSuite, which runs a brand-new fleet of Phenom 100 planes, aims to change that perception by making the high life more accessible, even for those of us whose names don't start with Jay and end with Z.

Becoming a fan of the company's Facebook page gives you access to daily last-minute deals on flights such as San Francisco to Las Vegas and Austin to Houston. What kind of deals are we talking about? Try flights for as low as $499 one-way...for the entire four-passenger jet. SuiteDeals are released at the end of the business day Pacific time, typically for flights departing the next day. Spontaneous travel just got a whole lot more fabulous.

Photo: Courtesy of JetSuite

Roadtrips Monaco Grand Prix Packages

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, August 26 07:00 AM

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Helicopter flights. Ferraris. Yacht charters. If you're going to do the Monaco Grand Prix, you should do it in style. Well, that's what the insiders at luxury outfitter Roadtrips believe. They're putting travelers on the fast track to Formula 1 glamour with their new Monaco Grand Prix packages (from $5,950 per person for five days).

A helicopter transfers you from Nice Airport to your hotel in Monte Carlo. You meet and greet drivers, patrons, and celebs; roll out in a sick Ferrari F430; and choose between diversions like a day in St. Tropez or a Cannes screening. At night, it might be a fashion show, a tasting dinner at Joël Robuchon, or a VIP after-party. Consider our engines revved.

Photo: Courtesy of Roadtrips

They Draw & Travel

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, August 08 11:07 AM

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A journal, a sketch, scribbles on a napkin. HDSLR gizmos are great and all, but sometimes it takes putting pen to paper to truly capture the essence of a destination. And for that, brother-and-sister duo Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell launched They Draw & Travel, an online gallery of illustrated maps.

Artists submit maps of locations they have a personal connection to, adding local color, literally, via vibrant free-form cityscapes and sketches. For example, a quirky Antarctica map includes a clothesline of frozen laundry and a snorkeling seal, while a Kyoto map displays a huge bowl of noodles with a smiling face, indicating a tasty ramen stop-off. The site features more than 300 maps and is searchable by destination, style, and interest. Starting next month, you'll be able to order high-quality prints of the artwork (photographic prints from $63, canvas panels from $109; sizes range from 36 x 13 inches to 90 x 33 inches). Consider us drawn in.

Photo: Charleston map by Jessica Pollak, Williamsburg map by James Gulliver Hancock; courtesy of They Draw & Travel

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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