There's an app for just about everything, from making the most of an extended flight delay to tapping into local culture. Here are the best digital tools for travelers, all tested by Travel +Leisure's tech correspondent
Everyone has an airport horror story. But you can make the most of a bad situation with apps likeFlight+, which will keep you abreast of the latest delays and gate changes. And if you need a shower, unlimited Wi-Fi, or a work space during your extended layover, LoungeBuddy will alert you as to which free and pay-as-you-go lounges are available.
These are just two of the digital tools that can improve your experience on the road—among the 100,000-plus travel apps on the market. No need to feel overwhelmed, though. We spent the past year travel-testing apps and websites, everywhere from airplanes and buses to airport lounges, cars, and remote camping sites across the globe. The resulting list represents the best of the best, with runners-up in categories where the competition is fierce.
Find Rock-Bottom Fares: Adioso
Don’t know where you want to go? This flexible search tool lets you browse airfares by continent, country, region, or type of trip (say, adventure) to find deals that fill the bill. The site also delivers inspiration in the form of “Wanderlists,” which show you what it might cost to get to the best cities for art lovers (London; Miami) or top beach destinations (St. Bart’s; Hawaii), among other categories. Free; adioso.com.
T+L Tip: You can shop Adioso with specific dates in mind, though you can also look for departures “any Friday” or “sometime this fall.”
Pick a Pain-Free Flight: Routehappy
Cheap tickets can come with high hassle factors (impossibly short connections; multiple stops). Enter Routehappy, which uses “Happiness” scores to prioritize itineraries that are shorter, have the simplest layover logistics, and the best prices. Its user-friendly design makes it easy to see the benefits of each route and book your favorite in just a few taps. Free; routehappy.com.
Track Fares: Yapta
Not only does this scrappy site watch your airfares and alert you when the price drops but it also monitors your ticket (or hotel) after you’ve booked, up to the day you depart. Should it fall further, Yapta automatically helps you secure any rebates you’re eligible for; the average user saves $335 annually. Free; yapta.com.
Runner-up: Trip Watcher
Compare Vacation Packages: Kayak
The flight aggregator you know and love has a new feather in its cap: the package search now lets you know whether bundled deals for airfare and hotels are actually more affordable than the sum of their parts. Make reservations directly on Kayak, or click through to third-party providers; the site that offers the best price will be shown front and center. Free; kayak.com.
T+L Tip: Kayak’s app includes loads of valuable extras, such as an itinerary manager, a flight tracker, and a currency converter.
Runners-up: Momondo, GetGoing
Don’t End Up in a Bad Seat: SeatGuru
News flash: you don’t have to pay for a costly upgrade to get extra legroom on your next flight. SeatGuru’s search tool lets you look for seats with maximum pitch, power outlets, in-flight entertainment, and Wi-Fi. Want to shop like a pro? Check the site’s plane charts before booking your ticket to make sure you’re not sacrificing precious inches for a slightly lower fare. Free; seatguru.com.
T+L Tip: If the best spots on the plane are unavailable, try Seat Alerts by ExpertFlyer(free; expertflyer.com). It e-mails you when better options open up on your scheduled departure.
By Tom Samiljan
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From NYC to Los Angeles, famous celebrity-home listings that provide A-list vacations—entourage not included
Are stars just like us? It doesn’t feel that way when gazing at some celebrity’s multimillion-dollar estate through the window of a star-map tour bus.
But thanks to the rise of peer-to-peer vacation rental sites, staying in a legend’s current or former home is now sometimes just a click away. These properties offer travelers the chance to live vicariously—and, sure, lavishly.
Denzel Washington/Jimmy Page: Malibu, CA
Celebrity history runs deep at this estate, infamous for its parties in the ’60s and ’70s. (According to the current owners: “Captain & Tennille, a pop music duo from the 1970s, were one of the first occupants and lived here, we were told, with a chimpanzee.”) Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the three-bedroom, three-building property with natural light. It sprawls over eight acres up in the bluffs overlooking Broad and Zuma beaches; some guests have reported seeing dolphins and breaching whales. $490 per night with a two-night minimum; airbnb.com.
Jim Morrison: West Hollywood, CA
Rocker Jim Morrison slept here—and gave interviews, jammed on his guitar, and wrote poetry. His former home is decked out with The Doors memorabilia, vintage furniture, and a bit of retro ’60s style: beads hanging in a doorway, a trippy floral shower curtain, colorfully painted walls. The two-bedroom is a short walk from the Sunset Strip. $3,180 with a 30-night minimum; airbnb.com.
Bode Miller: Carroll, NH
Olympic skier Bode Miller and his wife, Morgan Beck, a professional beach volleyball player, own this cozy estate in New Hampshire’s ski-resort territory. Beck tweeted about the home in 2013 and touts its “gorgeous views of Mount Washington.” Guests can also expect stone fireplaces, deep-soaking tubs, hand-carved wood furnishings, leather sofas, and four bedrooms that accommodate up to 10. $800 per night with a two-night minimum; airbnb.com.
Paula Deen: Tybee Island, GA
Y’all Come Inn includes, naturally, with a stellar kitchen stocked with all of Paula’s cookbooks—one of which will be signed for guests as a souvenir. The 2,000-square-foot house also features three cheery bedrooms and a front porch with picnic-table seating. It’s located on Tybee Island, 20 miles from Savannah and four blocks from the beach. It’s a neighborhood that’s also attracted homeowners John Mellencamp and Sandra Bullock. $295 per night with a two-night minimum; vrbo.com.
Bing Crosby: Palm Springs, CA
Palm Springs has attracted enough legendary residents (among them Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra) to inspire multiple celebrity-home tours. For a truly immersive experience, settle in to Bing Crosby’s 1934 hacienda in the old Movie Colony. The Spanish-style four-bedroom villa has the original tiled floors, vaulted ceilings, and a wood-burning fireplace. Modern amenities include a projector in the screening room as well as an updated kitchen. You’ll be tempted out of doors by the heated pool, surrounded by bougainvillea and citrus trees. $675 per night with a three-night minimum; airbnb.com.
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Travel + Leisure dishes on where to satisfy your craving for all things bacon, from the best BLT to the best bacon-infused cocktail
Talk about pigs: Americans ate 1.1 billion bacon servings during the 12-month period ending April 2014, about 6 percent more than the previous year, according to market research firm the NPD Group.
We’re not just eating more bacon, we’re also making better bacon (consider the proliferation of artisanal bacons and chefs curing their own bacon in house) and finding creative ways to enjoy it. There’s bacon butter, bacon soda, bacon-infused booze, and bacon ice cream, to name a few inspired iterations.
All-Bacon Meal: Sage General Store, Queens, NY
Bacon is always on the menu at this new American café in Long Island City, but diehards show up for the three-course bacon brunch. It kicks off with a trio of bacons: Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, Dewig’s slab bacon, and Ham I Am! peppered bacon. Diners have their choice of mains like grilled bacon-and-cheese, mac-and-cheese-and-bacon casserole, and Wisconsin breakfast pizza with caramelized onions, ricotta cheese, crème fraîche, and (naturally) bacon. A sweet-and-savory bacon brownie finishes the meal off.
Bacon Happy Hour: Bad Decisions, Baltimore
Chef-owner John Reusing describes his Fells Point spot as a bar with a bacon addiction. The low-key neighborhood joint is known for its monthly bacon nights, when offerings might include bacon-wrapped Vidalia onions with bacon onion dip, baconsatays, and bacon Bloody Marys. Even the non-bacon drinks are quirky; the Bee Sting is mixed with mead and cider.
Bacon on Wheels: Bacon Bacon, San Francisco
This food truck doles out bacon-accented comfort foods like bacon burgers; bacon fried chicken; and bacon, belly, and butt tacos, plus sweet treats like chocolate-covered bacon and bacon caramel corn. No wonder its Bay Area–wide reach stretches as far north as Larkspur and as far south as Sunnyvale.
Bacon Challenge: Paddy Long’s, Chicago
Five pounds of ground sausage, pork, and beef wrapped in brown sugar bacon and slow cooked, the bomb is intended to serve a table of six to eight—unless you’re after bragging rights. If you can eat the entire thing in 45 minutes or less, the glory of a Paddy Long’s T-shirt, a place on the wall of fame, and a free meal (the bomb) are yours. Warning: many (89) have tried; only six have succeeded.
Bacon Cocktail: Grange Restaurant & Bar, Sacramento, CA
Ryan Seng, the adventurous barman at the Citizen Hotel’s Grange, loves to get crafty with his seasonally driven cocktail menu. A crowd favorite? Tusk, a twist on a Boulevardier that pairs bacon-infused vermouth, Angostura bitters, and Buffalo Trace bourbon with a garnish of candied bacon.
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The magazine's annual ranking includes more U.S. hotels than last year's list
For 19 years and counting, T+L readers have voted for their favorite hotels and resorts, evaluating them in categories like value, food, service, rooms, and location. More than just a list of the best properties, the World’s Best Awards results also highlight bigger travel trends. A significant number of this year’s winners are close to home, with the share of U.S. properties growing by more than 19 percent over last year.
No. 1 Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, MT
A luxurious mountain retreat, Triple Creek Ranch knows how to pamper its guests (adults only). Itineraries are tailored to fit your preference of activities, among them, scenic hikes, wildlife spotting, wine tastings, cattle drives, and helicopter tours above Glacier or Yellowstone National Parks. When you’re ready to come indoors, upscale log cabins set a romantic mood with wood-burning fireplaces, hot tubs, and locally woven woolens. And staffers are on hand to welcome you with fresh-baked cookies—or recommend a bottle from the 2,000-strong wine cellar. Don’t be surprised if you feel one stay wasn’t enough; approximately half of all visitors are repeat guests.
No. 2 Nayara Springs, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
At Nayara Springs, each of the 16 villas comes with its own plunge pool, drawing on mineral-rich spring waters from Arenal Volcano next door. Venetian mirrors, hand-loomed rugs, and hammocks add to the easy-breezy vibe at this secluded jungle retreat, complete with a spa and yoga or Pilates offered daily. Get to know your neighbors—namely howler monkeys and blue morpho butterflies—on a tour with one of the local guides. It’s just one of the experiences that your personal host can coordinate.
No. 3 Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest
Once an apartment complex during Hungarian Communist rule, this 179-room hotel is now one of the Four Seasons’ grandest properties. The luxury brand gave new life to the 1906 Art Nouveau structure with a $125 million restoration, and ever since, the hotel lobby has wowed visitors with its stained-glass windows, mosaic tiles, and custom-made crystal chandelier. Opt for a Danube-facing room, and plan your visit during summer to check out the nearby Festival of Folk Arts at Buda Castle.
No. 4 Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia
At Southern Ocean Lodge, each of the 21 suites is outfitted with limestone floors, works by local artists, and an outdoor terrace. Don’t look for an AC switch—it’s unnecessary here: the lodge was built to take advantage of natural weather patterns on Kangaroo Island. Book the glass-walled Osprey Pavilion suite for a private plunge pool and hand-carved granite bath, or try your luck fishing Hanson Bay. Chef Tim Bourke will incorporate your catch into a dish along with local produce.
No. 5 Ocean House, Watch Hill, RI
A Victorian oceanfront hotel renovated to the tune of $146 million, this 1868 property is as grand as ever. Croquet lawns nod to old-world glamour, while 49 light-filled guest rooms and 22 private villas feature modern bathrooms and custom-made furnishings. Consider visiting in the off season—moody skies, long walks on the private beach, and cozy treatments at the hotel spa make for a romantic stay. We recommend requesting the Grand Deluxe Room 301 for its ocean views, freestanding tub, and blue-tiled fireplace.
Soak up the scenery and the creative cocktails at these cool new rooftop bars
When the golden hour hits on summer evenings, a ritual unfolds in cities across America: cubicle dwellers rush for the exits; lines form waiting for elevators to open; and social media is flooded with images of backlit skyscrapers and bright cocktails. It’s rooftop time.
Frolik Kitchen and Cocktails
Summers on the Puget Sound are downright idyllic, and downtown Seattle’s new—and only—rooftop bar breaks with the city’s rough-hewn mold. On the fifth floor of the artsy, just-opened Motif hotel, Frolik’s splashes of bright color (purple stools, yellow-accented couches) and modern flourishes (LED-lit bar) evoke Hollywood glitz more than Pacific Northwest chill. The patio is more playful, outfitted with orange Ping-Pong tables and shuffleboard courts. And if it does get damp and chilly, huddle up next to one of the glass-walled fireplaces and order another Dark and Stormy.
A slew of chic rooftop openings—including the Refinery Hotel in 2013 and the Archer Hotel’s Spyglass—has revived a once-dormant section of town with some after-hours buzz. And newcomer The Skylark is the crown jewel. Nightlife veteran David Rabin (Lambs Club, Jimmy at the James) is behind the concept, which pairs an upscale summer cookout menu (mac and cheese cupcakes, root beer Old-Fashioneds) with 270-degree views encompassing the Hudson River, Empire State Building, and Times Square. Raining? Head downstairs to the Mad Men–mod lounge outfitted with Midcentury Modern furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows.
High at Hotel Erwin
Venice Beach, CA
Did the moniker of Venice’s only rooftop bar come from High’s enviable post above the legendary boardwalk or the ever-present wafts of California’s famous cash crop? Ponder it over a double IPA from San Diego’s Stone Brewing Co. or a jalapeño strawberry margarita alongside the beachy-bro Angelinos who spend languid afternoons watching sailboats ply the Pacific.
IO Urban Roofscape
Acidic-level testing, measuring ingredients by weight, infusing drinks with exotic hybrid fruits and habanero salt air foam—chef Riley Huddleston’s affinity for experimentation is on display at the Windy City’s most eye-catching new addition, the retractable-roofed IO Urban Roofscape, in River North. After an education in molecular mixology at Grant Achatz’s Aviary, Huddleston conceived “cocktails from the kitchen,” a philosophy that turns to obscure methods and mixers (mangorange, mandarinquat) for inspiration. Its location in the new cubist, ultramodern Godfrey Hotel is a fitting match. The solarium-esque space is embellished with video installations, a waterfall wall, and soaring stingray-shaped canopies.
The coterie of chefs at Juvia may hail from royal culinary houses—Boulud, Morimoto, Ducasse—but it’s the sleek aesthetic that earned this quintessential SoBe spot a James Beard Award. On the penthouse level of a Herzog & de Meuron–designed parking garage, Venezuelan architect Alejandro Barrios-Carrero channeled Miami’s Latin spirit: Brazilian wood floors, a violet amethyst-topped bar, and a spectacular 22-foot vertical garden. At night, the South Beach It List comes out for house-music DJs and overflowing bottles of Veuve Clicquot. Bring your black card.
Nate Storey, Travel + Leisure
Celebrate National Donut Day with the cream of the crop
We’ve all been there. That alarm clock goes off, the questionable outfit’s been picked, the dreary commute commences, and we’re craving a small treat—something familiar and delicious—before the workday begins. Enter: donuts. Here are the best from around the country, selected by the editors of Travel + Leisure:
Peter Pan Bakery
Looking for the ultimate ice cream sandwich? Look no further. This modest-size Polish bakery, in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, will slice a donut of your choice in half and stuff it with a generous scoop of ice cream. (They recommend the red velvet donut with strawberry ice cream.) The freshly made donuts are so good (perfectly chewy and just the right amount of glaze), 30 Rock’s Tina Fey gave Peter Pan her thumbs up in an Esquire interview. If you want your pick, get there early.
There’s a good reason Voodoo is such a huge hit with all donut fans: the Bacon Maple Bar. It’s a yeast donut topped with maple glaze and not one, but two strips of crisp bacon. Beyond that, much of Voodoo’s eclectic donut varieties can’t be found anywhere else. Not only are the toppings unique—bubblegum, cereal, or M&Ms, anyone?—but since the shop is in eco-friendly Portland, there’s even a series of vegan donut options.
Most patrons swear by the face-size apple fritter served here, with its melt-in-your-mouth glaze and soft chunks of apple-cinnamon inside. The 32-foot donut adorning the roof of Randy’s—conveniently located minutes from Los Angeles International Airport—is like a beacon calling out to hungry commuters and weary travelers needing a sugary pick-me-up.
If you really want to make the most of your experience here, order your donut à la mode. The variety of toppings isn’t what makes these donuts special (because there aren’t many choices), but rather the main ingredient: potato flour. The result is a spudnut (do not call it a donut!) that will not only result in a much lighter treat but, according to the owners, immediately turn you into a regular (read: addicted) patron.
Bob’s Donut & Pastry Shop
You have to try the giant, cakey glazed donut that is literally the size of your head. (We can’t guarantee you’ll finish it all, but at least you’ll enjoy trying.) This old-fashioned spot serves up freshly made donuts 24 hours a day; go early in the morning for a guaranteed super-fresh batch. The staff—all of whom have a reputation for being just the right amount of sweet (much like the donuts)—only add to the experience.
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The hot dog is definitely having its day. Here’s the Travel + Leisure frank guide on where to find the country’s best tube steaks
At Bill Kim’s industrial Logan Square joint, the “belly dog” comes fully loaded with egg noodles, pickled green papaya, and spicy togarashi fries. Don’t forget the curry mayo.
The “dachshund in the grass” slaw dog gets our vote at this casual beer garden—best with a side of hush puppies.
Tim Wiechmann recently introduced the smoky “Brondog,” covered with melted Emmentaler cheese and vinegary sauerbraten on a poppy-seed potato bun.
Salt Lake City
Viet Pham’s “brat Reuben” is a hungry-man mash-up of beer-braised bratwurst, pastrami, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing on a basic white bun.
Hog & Hominy
Bocce meets boiled peanuts here in East Memphis, where a pretzel bun is stuffed with a beef-and-cheddar dog.
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Make the most of your summer weekends with these quick beach escapes
Summer brings a craving for lazy, sunbaked days featuring ocean breezes and an inclined beach chair. Luckily, you don’t need to travel far to stake out your place in the sand: Travel + Leisure collected easy beach weekend getaways from major U.S. cities.
Bars are shaking up the standard margarita—and these versions are worth their salt. The editors of Travel + Leisure name the best
America’s best margaritas, recommended to Travel + Leisure by tequila experts and some of the country’s top mixologists, range from spicy to sweet, shaken to frozen. We wanted to toast the classics as well as quirky variations on the standard recipe of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice.
The Matchbox, Chicago
Refined over the years since 1995, the Matchbox margarita consists of Cointreau, reposado tequila, fresh-squeezed lemon and lime, powdered sugar, and egg whites. Powdered sugar is also used to rim the glass instead of salt. The recipe is so popular that nearby Taco Joint added it to the menu. And that’s good news for fans of the drink, as the tiny wedge-shaped bar at The Matchbox fits only 19 stools. The bar also offers margaritas with house-infused apricot tequila and with mango or passion fruit purée.
Pomegranate and Sloe Gin Frozen Margarita
Pastry War, Houston
Other pomegranate margaritas rely on the fruit juice; Bobby Heugel’s consists of whole pomegranate seeds and Plymouth sloe gin (a gin-based liqueur flavored with strawberries). These ingredients are mixed into the house margarita along with the frozen option of your choice: strawberry and balsamic; habanero and mango; or mole and ginger. Bubble tea straws come in handy for sucking up the pomegranate seeds. The drink goes down smoother on weekdays from 4 to 6:30 p.m., when margaritas are $5.
Bark at the Moon
La Puerta, San Diego
La Puerta’s spiciest cocktail features a heart-burning chile pepper mixed with Dos Lunas Reposado, fresh lime, agave nectar, and the special ingredient of muddled serrano. Its fire isn’t for everyone, though; the Whole Lotta Love (made with Azuñia Reposado and agave nectar) is the best selling of the nine available margaritas. But on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the biggest crowd-pleaser is the frozen margarita, only $5.
Salt Air Margarita
Oyamel, Washington, D.C.
Salt air—a foamlike substance made with the powdered emulsifier sucro—crowns the top of Oyamel’s most popular margarita, which also features Milagro Silver, triple sec, and fresh lime. There’s a long list of mezcal and tequilas available to keep you going through a hearty meal of antojitos (“the little dishes from the streets”), papas al mole, and tacos with handmade tortillas inspired from all corners of Mexico.
Tivoli & Lee, New Orleans
Even though most of the cocktails at this southern restaurant draw on whiskey, mixologist Kimberly Patton-Bragg’s Modern Margarita has proven to be a top seller. Hibiscus (sourced locally), jalapeño-infused Chinaco blanco, Solerno Blood Orange liqueur, and lime juice are shaken and double strained over rocks. San Pellegrino Pompelmo soda gives a citrusy tang to this boozy refresher. Patton-Bragg—who will mix cocktails on demand—is also partial to the Shake the Devil Off margarita. The cinnamon of Bittermens Hiver Amer balances the sour taste of grapefruit cordial and house-made vanilla over Cabeza tequila.
Travel + Leisure’s 2014 ranking tells you which airlines are most likely to land at your destination on time
Certain airlines are consistently good at getting you there on time; some yo-yo from year to year; and others—let’s just say there’s always room for improvement. To rank the carriers with the best and worst on-time arrival records, Travel + Leisure surveyed the results provided by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for the 12-month period ending January 2014 (the most recent numbers available).
Altogether, the 16 airlines that report to the BTS combined for a 77.34 percent on-time average, slipping from 81.85 percent in 2012. The U.S. Department of Transportation defines “on time” as any flight that arrives within 15 minutes of schedule.