TIME Travel

The Top 11 Travel Trends for 2015

737 Space Bins at 737 Configuration Studio
Courtesy of Boeing

What’s on the horizon for the coming year? Here, a look at 11 trends that are changing the way we move through the world

Remember when you actually had to go to an airport check-in counter to get your boarding pass? When calling home from abroad racked up exorbitant fees (hat tip, Skype), or when catching a cab meant waiting forlornly for one to pass? (Thanks, Uber and Lyft).

Every year, the travel industry takes an evolutionary step forward, as companies offer up innovative solutions to the inevitable problems we face on the road. In 2015, we will see the rollout of Boeing’s new overhead Space Bin luggage compartments—promising a faster, easier airplane boarding process—and the rise of even-more-comfortable premium economy cabins to tempt us from the increasingly pinched back of the plane.

Our smartphones, which serve as navigators, translators, itinerary managers, and taxi summoners, will get us into fully booked restaurants and double as our wallets (as if our relationship with them weren’t codependent enough). And our social media profiles will open doors and unlock deals at hotels, and connect us with useful business contacts while we’re traveling. Hotels, meanwhile, will find new ways to help us sleep better.

But the changes ahead for 2015 are more than just improvements. This will also be a year of expanding horizons. We’ll stay in private houses and apartments that feel surprisingly like hotels (and vice versa). We’ll visit resorts and travel with companies where the bottom line is measured by how much goes back into local communities. And we’ll make the world our classroom, attending workshops, salons, and conferences across the globe.

In our annual trends package, Travel + Leisure tracks the biggest changes for the year ahead. Here are our predictions for how you’ll travel in 2015.

Your Rental Will Look More Like a Hotel

If you’re interested in staying at the new Drift San Jose, a stylish eight-room property in Los Cabos, Mexico, that appeals to independent millennials, you won’t be able to book through its website, or any hotel website, for that matter. Rooms are available only through Airbnb. That’s a sign of things to come: since the apartment-rental behemoth enlisted boutique-hotel guru Chip Conley in 2013 to advise hosts on how to improve the guest experience (scented candles, fresh fruit, ambient music), the line between hotels and rentals has become blurred. Airbnb has introduced a range of initiatives to this effect, including a Super Host program that highlights some of the site’s most professional-style listings and a three-day conference that offers tips for aspiring hosts. Other rental services, such as the high-end One Fine Stay and the affordable-minded BeMate, are also stepping into this nebulous middle ground, offering guests cleaning and concierge services. BeMate will even store luggage for you and, in lieu of room service, deliver food from nearby partner hotels.

Airports Will Follow Your Every Move

If your phone starts buzzing the next time you’re in an airport, it could be location-specific alerts enabled by nearby “beacons,” low-frequency Bluetooth sensors that can tell you which currency-exchange counters have the best rates, how long it’ll take to reach your gate, and other useful tips. The technology is already being used in airports from San Francisco to Amsterdam.

You’ll Sleep Better on the Road

Las Vegas may be the best place to rest up right now, thanks to an array of sleep-centric tech enhancements—in lighting and furniture design—in 171 rooms (and counting) at the MGM Grand. And that hotel isn’t alone in prioritizing your REM sleep. Fifteen years after introducing the Heavenly Bed, Westin is piloting wearable monitors with a companion sleep-coach app, which it hopes to roll out to hotels in the near future. Crowne Plaza, meanwhile, has unveiled a new headboard that helps cut ambient noise by 30 percent. Here’s a closer look at how hotels are rethinking your bedtime routine.

Stay Well Dawn Simulator: The bedside fixture at the MGM Grand gradually wakes you up with cortisolproducing shades of blue light.

Noise-Reducing Headboards: The next-generation Crowne Plaza room features angled, padded headboards placed slightly away from the wall to minimize ambient sounds.

Healthy Mattress: MGM’s organic-cotton mattress builds in extra posture support to eliminate tossing and turning.

Sleep Monitors: Lark Technologies’ wrist sensors at Westin hotels will track your movements at night and analyze the causes of any restlessness.

You’ll Take a New Route Overseas

The latest way to get to Sydney: via a Qantas A380 from Dallas, the longest flight in the world, at 8,500 miles and almost 16 hours door-to-door. It’s just one of the many new flights launched by top-notch international carriers that are making long-haul travel more appealing. Below, we mapped out our favorite additions in 2014 and 2015.

Cathay Pacific: Boston to Hong Kong
Emirates: Chicago to Dubai; Boston to Dubai
Etihad: San Francisco to Abu Dhabi; Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi; Dallas-Fort Worth to Abu Dhabi
Finair: Miami to Helsinki
Hainan Airlines: Boston to Beijing
Icelandair: Portland to Reykjavík
Japan Airlines: Los Angeles to Osaka
Korean Air: Houston to Seoul
Qantas: Dallas-Fort Worth to Sydney
Qatar Airways: Miami to Doha; Dallas-Fort Worth to Doha; Philadelphia to Doha
Turkish Airlines: San Francisco to Istanbul

Your Phone Will Become Your Wallet

Championed by Google and cemented by Apple Pay, mobile transactions are about to become the new normal. Sync your credit and debit cards with Google Wallet (for Android) or Apple’s Passbook (iOS), and you’ll be able to buy things simply by placing your phone in front of a sensor at checkout. Taking a page from Uber, an increasing number of travel apps, such as Airbnb and OpenTable, now offer digital transactions that link to your card.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Travel

The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2015

best-places-to-travel-in-2015
Robin Thom

Presenting 50 incredible destinations for 2015. Where will you go this year?

“Fez is multilayered, multifaceted,” says resident Tara Stevens. “Every time I go out the front door, I discover something. This is a city on the cusp of change—and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”

Stevens, a British food writer, and American Stephen Di Renza are behind Fez’s stylish Restaurant No. 7, which hosts a rotating series of guest chefs. They’re part of a group of expats restoring riads and encouraging experimentation—along with enterprising locals like Anis Sefrioui, who recently unveiled Hotel Sahrai, with 50 contemporary rooms overlooking an infinity pool and a light-filled spa with elaborate latticework.

The world is getting smaller, but the chances of having an extraordinary new experience are only increasing. We’ve identified 50 standout destinations, based on industry news and trends, with input from contributing writers, A-List travel agents, and our new local experts. These are the places changing the travel map, whether it’s an emerging arts hub in Germany or a quiet stretch of sand in the Caribbean.

READ MORE The Top 11 Travel Trends for 2015

So where else can 2015 take you? The panda capital of Chengdu, China, is appealing to a broader range of travelers with a new 72-hour no-visa policy and a packed lineup of hotel openings: Six Senses, Fairmont, and Swire’s Temple House. In Japan, meanwhile, the dollar has hit new highs—good timing for powder buffs who can also now use Vail’s Epic Pass at Hokkaido’s Niseko United resort.

And you may be surprised by what’s brewing close to home. We selected a dozen destinations in the U.S., including Houston, for its ambitious food scene, and Miami, where the spotlight has turned to the Mid-Beach neighborhood. The latest art-centric 21c Museum Hotel will open its doors in Durham, NC, a once-sleepy college town that now thrums with fair-trade coffee shops, micro-distilleries, and some of the best barbecue around.

What inspires a trip varies from person to person, of course. But as a head start, we’ve mapped out 12 months’ worth of places with the kind of “it” factor that Fez’s Tara Stevens describes.

READ MORE This Is The Number One Travel Destination for 2015

Fez, Morocco

For more than a decade, Marrakesh has been the Moroccan destination on everyone’s list. Fez, about 240 miles northeast, was often an afterthought. But slowly, quietly, a sophisticated scene is taking root. It started with expats and locals restoring riads, and continues as hotels, restaurants, and galleries pop up. The biggest news is the Hotel Sahrai, with a hip rooftop bar and 50 rooms, many overlooking an infinity pool. Other notable places to stay include the medina’s Karawan Riad, whose seven renovated suites offer a modern alternative to more traditional riad hotels, and Palais Faraj, a 19th-century palace transformed by architect Jean-Baptiste Barian. On the culinary front, Restaurant No. 7 is making waves with a rotating series of acclaimed guest chefs. It’s the brainchild of British food writer Tara Stevens and American Stephen Di Renza, part of a group of expats who are encouraging experimentation. So far, overdevelopment isn’t an issue. Whether this will last—especially with the 2015 debut of an upgraded airport, set to accommodate 2.5 million passengers, five times the current volume—is anyone’s guess. Don’t wait to find out. This is the moment to see Fez. Find out more about T+L’s top pick for 2015.

Catskills, NY

The region that welcomed Jewish families in the ’50s, hippies in the ’60s, and soon, perhaps, casino gamblers is also making room for a new tribe: hip, design-crazed travelers. A string of stylish B&Bs have opened, many of them by transplants from Manhattan and Brooklyn (call them “hicksters”) who value buzzwords like local, authentic, and handmade. Among them are the bohemian-chic Hotel Dylan in Woodstock, the Arnold House in Livingston Manor, with its tavern and diminutive spa, and Phoenicia’s Graham & Co., where the retro amenities include Tivoli radios, bonfires, and a badminton court. Area farms provide the ingredients for inventive restaurants like Table on Ten, in Bloomville, which just added a trio of whitewashed rooms upstairs. The blackjack tables—and a few megaresort proposals that envision the return of the area’s Borscht Belt heyday—may be only a few years off, so now is the time to enjoy fly-fishing, hiking, antiquing, microbrewery-hopping, and other placid pursuits.

Rotterdam, Netherlands

If Amsterdam is a study in old-world elegance, then the scrappier port city of Rotterdam is all big, futuristic ambition—and its constantly unfolding city center has become one eye-popping explosion of style. The latest attraction, and reason enough to visit, is the MVRDV-designed Markthal, an igloo-like horseshoe that houses 96 stalls (Dutch cheeses to Moroccan spices, reflecting the polyglot city), 20 shops, nine restaurants, and 228 apartments. It also happens to feature Holland’s largest artwork: a trippy nimbus of mammoth, tumbling fruits and vegetables arching across the market ceiling on 4,500 aluminum panels. Other recent starchitect landmarks include the multipurpose Rotterdam Central Train Station and native son Rem Koolhaas’s nhow hotel, sitting like a pile of stacked metal boxes on the south bank of the Maas River, the city’s reigning cultural hub. After visiting the neighboring Netherlands Photo Museum and the lipstick-red New Luxor Theater, toast a trip well-taken with a Dutch Blossom cocktail in the hotel bar.

READ MORE How to Get Paid for a Flight Delay

Puerto Plata, D.R.

Far from the resort-clogged beaches of Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic’s less-frequented northern shore has remained largely under the radar. But developments slated for 2015 in Puerto Plata are bound to lure well-heeled sun-seekers. First up is The Gansevoort, offering three-bedroom apartments with private pools and four-bedroom penthouses equipped with rooftop hot tubs. Later in 2015, Aman Villas will become the second Caribbean outpost from Singapore-based Amanresorts and the first golf-integrated Aman Resort. It’s the first phase of a development that aims to introduce some 400 residential villas, along with sports and equestrian facilities. Each is a welcome departure from the island’s cookie-cutter all-inclusives—and a promising sign of what’s to come in the luxury circuit.

Wasatch Mountains, Utah

You can craft a linear story arc from the first edition of Robert Redford’s film festival in 1984 to the summer 2014 purchase of Park City Mountain Resort by Vail Resorts—the behemoth operator’s second recent foray into Park City (it bought the Canyons in 2013). Along the way a small mining town became a cauldron of Olympic athletes, Hollywood’s A-list, and luxury hotel brands like St. Regis and Waldorf Astoria. But a ski region blessed to have won the geographical lottery—seven world-class resorts span three parallel canyons in the rugged Wasatch Mountains, all within an hour’s drive—remained second fiddle to neighboring Colorado, whose star has shined brighter. That’s about to change. Where Vail’s vaunted Epic Pass goes, a legion of loyal snow junkies follows. The new year brings new restaurants, high-speed chairs, and lifts, including one that connects Canyons to PCMR, making it the largest ski resort in the U.S. And the industry is buzzing over a proposal that seems headed for approval called One Wasatch, which would link all seven ski areas in a European-style mega-network spanning 18,000 acres and 100 lifts. The project will have major tourism implications, introducing a new flock of riders to what locals proudly declare on their car license plates: the greatest snow on earth.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Travel

How to Get Paid for a Flight Delay

20-ways-to-travel-better
Andrew Myers

20 ways to travel smart

There are two types of travelers in this world: those who put up with the difficulties and occasional indignities of travel and those who are determined to triumph over them.

If you’re in the former camp, take note: with so much new technology available at your fingertips—and so many companies coming up with innovative solutions to travel dilemmas—there’s no reason to suffer in silence any longer.

For the past year, Travel + Leisure’s Trip Doctor news team has been testing and evaluating ways to travel better. Among our finds: a new breed of flexible airfare search tools that are making it easier to find lower-priced tickets that work with your schedule and travel parameters.

We also uncovered some enterprising services that will help you get paid—handsomely—when your flight is delayed or your luggage goes missing. And once you’ve arrived in your destination, we’ve identified simple ways that you can access a gym (a good one), stream your favorite television shows, connect to Wi-Fi for free, keep your business attire looking sharp, and ensure that your essential mobile devices never run out of batteries.

We even looked closely at the real reason some bags don’t make it to their final destination. And we asked Google Maps to analyze its traffic data to help us pinpoint the best (and worst) times to hit the road before a major holiday.

The result of all this research: your road map for how to travel better in 2015.

No. 1 Get Paid for a Flight Delay

If time is money, then air travel collectively owes us all. Tipping the scales in travelers’ favor: Berkshire Hathaway’s new AirCare insurance, which offers generous compensation for a fixed rate of $25. Delays of two or more hours get you $50; if you miss a connection, there’s a $250 payout. And tarmac delays of more than two hours get you $1,000. (A bag delayed by 12 hours is worth $500.) You can purchase a policy up to 24 hours before departure time and payments are often instantaneous— wired into your bank or PayPal account.

Strict European Union regulations mean that passengers departing from any European airport (or flying a European carrier into the union) are eligible for compensation of up to $750 for a delayed, canceled, or overbooked flight. Here in the United States, travelers who are involuntarily bumped from a flight could be owed up to $1,300. AirHelp will go after your money for you, minus a 25 percent commission.

No. 2 Understand Code Shares

Think you’re getting credit for all your frequent-flier miles by traveling on a partner airline? Not necessarily. Each partnership works differently: some offer full mileage and elite-qualifying credit for tickets on other carriers; others offer reduced (or even no) credit. And because some domestic loyalty programs calculate miles based on dollars spent (rather than distance flown), you may even bank more miles if you buy directly from a partner airline. Check the terms of each code share with your preferred carrier before booking.

No. 3 Beat Holiday Traffic

When hitting the road on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Friday before Christmas—among the busiest days of the year—planning down to the hour can make a difference. With the help of Google Maps, we’ve charted the traffic patterns around four of the country’s biggest cities.

The data from Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York City reveal that on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 4 p.m. is the worst time to travel, while 5 p.m. is the worst time to travel on the Friday before Christmas.

Methodology: Google Maps analyzed the total number of cars on the road at a given time, looking at the speed of vehicles with location-services-enabled android smartphones. Traffic is measured for the year 2013.

No. 4 Use a Digital Assistant

If you’re a Google user, it’s time to get on board with the app’s built-in digital assistant, which puts Siri to shame. More than just a smart voice search, the service scans your Gmail and Google Calendar for booking details and appointments, learns your preferences via your browsing history, and monitors your daily habits to deliver relevant updates (local weather, currency conversions) within the app. What you’ll get:

Real-time Updates: Get info about flights, including delays and gate changes, starting 24 hours before departure.

Scheduling Assistance: Based on traffic and your preferred mode of transportation, it’ll tell you when to leave for the airport, a dinner reservation, and meetings and appointments.

Rebooking Help: If your flight is canceled, Google provides a direct link to Google Flight Search, which displays alternative flights.

Itinerary Management: A new feature launching this month pulls up your flight and hotel confirmations, restaurant bookings, and more. Simply say “OK Google, show me my trip.”

No. 5 Get Through Customs Faster

Good news if you travel to Asia on business: for the first time since its introduction in 1997, the APEC Business Travel Card is available to American citizens. What that means: preclearance and expedited immigration processing in 21 member destinations (China, Singapore, Australia, and Mexico, to name a few). If you are already part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler network (Global Entry, SENTRI, or NEXUS), apply through CBP’s online system, GOES. Or start an account with GOES, and request to be enrolled in both programs at the same time.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Travel

The World’s Most Luxurious Hot Tubs

Angsana Tengchong Resort, Yunnan, China
Angsana Tengchong Resort, Yunnan, China Courtesy of Angsana Tengchong

Luxurious hot tubs from bucolic China to downtown Manhattan have more than warm water in common—the views are incomparable

There’s no escaping it: after a day hoofing it around Paris from Montmartre to Montparnasse; off-roading in a bare-bones Land Rover on safari in Botswana; or attacking moguls in Vail, CO, the day’s activities are bound to haunt you. One of the oldest, most common ways known to man to relieve aches and pains is also one of today’s most luxurious and coveted amenities. In ancient times, the Romans named it the caldarium; we simply call it the hot tub.

Today, hot tubs are tucked into balconies and placed like ornate centerpieces on white-sand beaches. Hotels are increasingly charging architects with creating steaming jet-powered oases that will fuel guests’ imagination and allow them to while away their vacation in warmth—and turn to Jell-O.

And that’s exactly what happened when Resorts West partnered with Ski magazine and Deer Valley Resort to build the most idyllic ski-in, ski-out home possible. Resorts West CEO and cofounder Joe Ballstaedt wanted to one-up the extravagant lodges he had visited in Europe and South America—especially when it came to the après-ski amenities.

“Our Ski Dream Home—a six-bedroom luxury home atop Deer Valley Resort’s Little Baldy Peak with a stunning kidney-shaped hot tub for 12—improves on Chile’s top resort lodges with natural grottoes and epic mountain backdrops,” says Ballstaedt.

The view, though, is just one measurement of a great Jacuzzi. For John DiScala, owner of the travel Web site JohnnyJet.com, the hot tub also needs to be secluded. And DiScala has seen plenty of hot tubs, good and bad—he travels about 150,000 miles and visits around 20 countries each year, from Brazil to Malaysia.

So we consulted him and other hot tub aficionados to compile a list of the world’s best hot tubs, which stretch from Jackson, WY, to the Maldives. Some tubs sit on the edge of pristine, white-sand beaches, while others are hidden behind deep jungle foliage. A few will take hours and a tiny seaplane to reach, and one was even created by film icon Francis Ford Coppola.

Go enjoy the sense of place all these tubs offer—it’s a great excuse to soak yourself silly.

The Molori Safari Lodge, South Africa’s North West Province

You can watch elephants, zebras, African wild dogs—even lions—from the six-person in-ground tub at this five-suite lodge, situated below the red-hued Dwarsberg Mountains on 12.4 acres deep inside South Africa’s 185,329-acre (malaria-free) Madikwe Game Reserve. Personal butlers supply soakers with Amarula, a South African cream liqueur made from the fruit of the African marula tree, on crushed ice, and “Biltong and Droewors,” a traditional cured-beef snack.

Nimmo Bay Resort, British Columbia, Canada

At Nimmo Bay Resort, two idyllic red cedar tubs, heated to 104 degrees, are secreted away in a wooded inlet, 200 miles north of Vancouver. After a day of wildnerness adventures or heli-fishing the area’s remote rivers and lakes, rotate between the naturally cold plunge pool and one of the two eight-person hot tubs for an exhilarating hot-cold rush. The tubs are filled by Nimmo Bay’s cascading waterfall, whose clear water trickles down from the top of Mount Stephens.

Amangani, Jackson, WY

This 40-suite resort’s hot tub clings to the western edge of Jackson Hole’s East Gros Ventre Butte and is a mere 20-minute drive from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The slate tub is 103 degrees and was designed, alongside the 35-meter, quartzite-tiled pool, to be the resort’s centerpiece. Since the winds can howl at 7,000 feet, it’s not uncommon for one of the resort’s staff to bring guests hot beverages in the colder months and cold beverages and assorted treats like sorbets and snow cones in the warmer months.

Blancaneaux Lodge, near San Ignacio, Belize

Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge has a hydroelectric plant that heats the 11,000-gallon hot tub with the excess electricity it generates. The tub itself was designed by Oscar-winning production designer Dean Tavoularis. Made from thousands of pieces of local granite and built by local stone craftsmen, it sits in a hillside amid the same kind of lush jungle paradise Coppola fell in love with while filming Apocalypse Now.

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives

Overlook the Indian Ocean from the ultra-private two-person, 104-degree hot tub outside of Conrad Maldives’ Over-Water Spa on Rangalifinolhu Island. The resort is set on two private islands, linked by a bridge, and surrounded by a vibrant coral reef, among miles of idyllic white-sand beaches. Each secluded tub gives guests uninterrupted views of the bright blue water. Hotel staffers supply cool aromatic towels and fresh fruit juices.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Culture

American Cities and Towns With the Most Holiday Spirit

Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, Colorado Jeremy Swanson

Twinkling lights, sumptuous meals, and maybe even Santa skiing down the slopes: T+L readers share their favorite towns for the holidays

Johnny Johnston has lived in Los Angeles for 20 years, but when he goes home for the holidays, he finds himself enchanted all over again by the winter wonderland where he grew up: Vail, CO.

“From the moment you drive into the valley, the streets and public spaces are all lit with Christmas lights, creating a Norman Rockwell moment,” says the broker for Sotheby’s International Realty. Even if his mom still hassles him about what shirt he wears to his aunt’s dinner party, “Vail is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen for the holiday season.”

Many Travel + Leisure readers agree, ranking the Colorado mountain town at No. 2 for seasonal cheer in the America’s Favorite Places survey. Readers evaluated hundreds of towns in dozens of features, from romance to thriving art scenes to irresistible bakeries. To determine the best towns for the holidays, we combined the scores in a few festive categories: department-store shopping, notable restaurants, and Christmas lights.

Plenty of the top 25 holiday towns offer creative spins on holiday traditions, too, whether they look like winter wonderlands or not. In a South Carolina town, you can have your turkey dinner in barbecue sauce. In one mountain town, the annual tree lighting involves a faux pine made of recycled skis. And in places from Healdsburg, CA, to Charlottesville, VA, you can pick up holiday gifts—local wines, French linens, or antique cookbooks—that you’d never find at the mall back home.

Another kind of holiday magic (low-season rates and fewer crowds) can create a blissful version of Silent Night. That’s why Far Hills, NJ, resident Gavin Macomber has spent a few Christmases by the beach in Nantucket, MA. “It’s fun to walk around town sipping hot chocolate and watching snow fall,” says the founder of Andegavia Cask Wines. “Nantucket is particularly peaceful this time of year—which makes it an ideal place to escape to during the holidays.”

No. 1 Aspen, CO

A combination of luxe living and quaint charm helped this Rocky Mountain town capture the spot as the merriest of them all. Wandering along Cooper Avenue, you may chance upon cookie exchanges, public s’mores roasts, or elf meet-and-greets. But the two most famous hotels in town act as the nerve centers for holiday cheer. The lobby of the Hotel Jerome regularly hosts carolers, while the Ajax Tavern and Element 47 at the Little Nell both serve fabulous holiday meals, with indulgences like venison loin with huckleberries, black truffles, and chestnut-and-caramel profiteroles. The Little Nell also hosts the all-you-can-sip Bottomless Cristal New Year’s Eve Party.

No. 2 Vail, CO

Ski season kicks into high gear during the holidays in this Colorado wonderland. December brings the festivities of Snowdaze—where the fresh powder is celebrated with live concerts every evening—and Holidaze, which includes the village’s tree lighting during the winter solstice and a New Year’s Eve torchlight parade down Golden Peak, followed by fireworks. Any time of year, readers love Vail’s liquid nourishments, ranking the town highly for its hot coffee (compare local favorites Yeti’s Grind and Loaded Joe’s) and equally warming cocktails. You might toast the New Year with a Rosemary Lemon Drop (rosemary-infused vodka with lemon juice and a sugar rim) at the icicle-decorated bar Frost, inside the recently renovated Sebastian Vail.

No. 3 Ogunquit, ME

Readers may be drawn to this former artists’ colony in Maine as a beach getaway, but the holiday season brings the perks of winter on the sand: lower prices and overall calm, with just enough festivity to keep things humming. Mid-December’s Christmas by the Sea Festival typically includes a bonfire on the beach and a soul-warming chowder fest. From Ogunquit, you can also easily reach two shopping areas for getting through your list: the Kittery Outlets and, an hour away, Freeport. For distinctive local shopping, browse the Harbor Candy Shop, where the gift boxes include a Vegan Sampler, featuring soy truffles, marzipan, and orange peel enrobed in dark chocolate.

No. 4 Nantucket, MA

The banner event during the holidays in this island town started in the 1970s, because too many locals left to shop in Cape Cod. Today, during the annual Christmas Stroll—typically the first weekend in December—you can shop downtown amid dozens of seven-foot, decorated Christmas trees, and take part in wine tastings, ghost walks, and home tours. Pick up some gifts at Murray’s Toggery Shop (the mother ship for holiday-ready Nantucket Reds pants) and Jessica Hicks, the boutique of a local jewelry designer. For more tree-gazing, go to the Whaling Museum, which houses 80 trees decorated by local artists, merchants, and kids. Nantucket also scored well with readers for feeling both mellow and romantic.

No. 5 Naples, FL

This Florida town lacks snowman-building material—it ranked highly in the survey for warm weather and beach getaways. But the snowbird-style winter wonderland still lured holiday revelers with its luxury stores, cool boutiques, and festive ambience. Third Street South is the headquarters for the official tree, evening “snow” showers during Thanksgiving week, and gorgeous window displays, like those at department store Marissa Collections in the Old Naples Historic District. Continue shopping along Fifth Avenue South, and check out whimsical clothing and gift shop Wind in the Willows, whose window won Best in Show at the 2013 local holiday decorating contest. Of course, the holidays are about more than retail; catch the Naples edition of the worldwide TUBA Christmas, a concert on Fifth Avenue South’s Sugden Plaza featuring brass tubas, euphoniums, and baritones.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Education

America’s Best College Towns

Syracuse, NY
Syracuse, NY Wainwright Photography

Visit these thriving college towns for a crash course in live music, craft beer, art, and history

“Depending on how you look at it, Santa Cruz is either the best or the worst place to spend your college years,” says Keijiro Ikebe, a Silicon Valley visual designer who graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2002.

“With the town surrounded by shimmering water and lush forests under sunny blue skies, the last thing you want to do is spend a beautiful day taking notes in a lecture hall.”

After all, ivy-covered walls, stately libraries, and cafeteria meals don’t make a great college town. It’s more about the distractions—and Santa Cruz is overflowing with them. There are miles of beaches with some of the best surfing in the country; mountain-bike trails at Wilder Ranch State Park; artisanal coffee bars almost as numerous as craft-beer taps; and your nightly choice of any genre of live music.

This kind of lively atmosphere earned Santa Cruz a place among the top 20 college towns in America, as chosen by Travel + Leisure readers in our latest America’s Favorite Places survey. They evaluated hundreds of towns for live music, pizza, dive bars, hamburgers, and other qualities that add up to a great college town.

Syracuse, NY, takes home top honors, thanks largely to an abundance of choices for such collegiate necessities as beer, good, cheap food, and strong coffee. Lafayette, LA, was a close runner-up, with high marks for its live music, cocktail bars, and singles scene.

Read on to discover which other college towns scored big.

No. 1 Syracuse, NY

Syracuse earned top marks for things that fuel your typical university student. It was voted No. 1 for both pizza and hamburgers (sharing the latter honor with Lafayette, LA), No. 2 for coffee, and No. 4 for both food trucks and craft beer—apparently consumed by an abundance of hip locals, for which this Finger Lakes town rates No. 2 in the country. You’re likely to find aforementioned hipsters at Faegan’s Pub on Tuesday nights, when patrons earn their name on a plaque after completing a “tour” of some of the 44 brews on tap. Syracuse also ranked in the top 20 for its historic sites; start that sort of tour at Hanover Square, surrounded by buildings dating back to the Civil War era.

No. 2 Lafayette, LA

Lafayette made the grade for its plentiful extracurricular activities. The Acadian town ranked No. 1 for both its concerts and live music scene, and came in second for its nightclubs, cocktail bars, and singles scene. Music has deep roots in the heart of Cajun Country; tap into it with some “swamp pop” at the Blue Dog Café, a zydeco dance party at Vermilionville, or a Creole jam at the Blue Moon Saloon. When you’re done dancing, curl up with a good book—Lafayette was voted second best for bookstores like husband-and-wife-run Alexander Books.

No. 3 Charlottesville, VA

The University of Virginia was not only designed and founded by Thomas Jefferson, but it’s also the only beautiful campus named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That stately attractiveness extends to downtown Charlottesville itself, where a brick-paved pedestrian mall is the place to meet for shopping, gallery-browsing, dining, and drinking. You might start the day with a currant donut at the Albemarle Baking Company, then slip into your running shoes for a jog up Observatory Hill. Come evening, slip over to the Whiskey Jar, featuring more than 125 kinds of bourbon, rye, whiskey, and scotch. It’s a decidedly grown-up spot to strike up a conversation with locals, voted No. 1 for intelligence, yet still approachable—among hundreds of towns, Charlottesville came in at No. 24 for friendliness.

No. 4 Fort Collins, CO

The untamed Cache La Poudre River apparently isn’t the only thing to run wild through Fort Collins: the home of Colorado State University was also voted No. 5 for “wild weekends” by T+L readers. Some credit goes to the abundance of destination breweries, both big (Anheuser-Busch, New Belgium) and small (Black Bottle, Equinox). At the Bike Library, check out a free set of wheels and pick up an itinerary for an eight-stop brewery tour. End the day at Social, an underground speakeasy in Old Town serving a toothsome menu of nibbles, including blistered shishito peppers, roasted bone marrow, and charcuterie plates.

No. 5 Duluth, MN

Duluth grew up around the world’s largest freshwater port, Lake Superior, where captains of industry built magnificent mansions (many are now B&Bs), and immigrant dockworkers loaded ships with ore from Minnesota’s nearby Iron Range. Today the waterfront Canal Park is Duluth’s most popular destinations for tourists and locals alike, who grab a seat on the deck at Grandma’s Saloon & Grill to sip one of the dozen or so local microbrews and watch the Aerial Lift Bridge rise to let ships through, just like it has for nearly 110 years. And while the winters are frigid in Duluth, you’re bound to get a warm welcome from this town ranked 22nd for friendly people.

Read the full list HERE.

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These Are the Most Visited Tourist Attractions in the World

Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
Grand Bazaar in Istanbul Michael James O'Brien

Embrace the wisdom of crowds by adding the world’s most-visited tourist attractions to your bucket list

For nearly 500 years, the emperors living within Beijing’s opulent Forbidden City dictated who could enter and leave. Well, the gates have opened, and tourists are pouring in to see it all for themselves. Attendance is up by 2.5 million since 2010.

The Forbidden City is a dream destination for some Americans, but most have never researched a trip to Everland or Lotte World. Yet these South Korean theme parks also rank among the world’s 50 most-visited tourist attractions—beating out the Eiffel Tower (nearly 7 million), the Great Pyramids (4 million), and Stonehenge (1 million). And there are more surprises.

Where we choose to spend our vacation time says a lot about what we value. Despite—or perhaps because of—what the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) calls “global economic challenges,” more travelers are hitting the road than ever. International tourist arrivals increased by 5 percent in 2013, according to the UNWTO. That translates to a record of more than one billion trips. With its population of 1.36 billion, China became the second-largest exporter of tourists. Russia, now the fifth-largest outbound market, increased travel spending by 26 percent.

Like it or not, theme parks clearly have worldwide appeal. France’s Disneyland Park draws about the same number of visitors (10.5 million) as Sacré Coeur, and four of the world’s 20 most-visited tourist attractions are Disney parks.

Many inspiring and iconic places can’t quite keep up. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum narrowly missed the top 50, as did the British Museum in London (6.7 million), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (6.3 million), and the Roman Colosseum and Forum (5.1 million each). The Berlin Wall Memorial Site logged only 500,000 visitors in 2013, though extra crowds are arriving in November 2014 for the 25th anniversary of its fall.

Accessibility can be a factor. It takes extra effort to reach Yellowstone National Park (3.2 million) or the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China (4.8 million). And Peru’s Machu Picchu has restricted tourism to help maintain the site’s integrity; only 2,500 can enter per day, or 912,500 per year.

So what is the most-visited tourist attraction in the world? And can 91 million people be wrong? Read on to see the results—and an explanation of our methods for calculating it all.

The Methodology: To tally up the world’s most-visited attractions, we gathered the most recent data supplied by the attractions themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and reputable media outlets. In most cases, it was 2013 data. Attractions that don’t sell tickets gave us estimates as best they could.

We defined “tourist attractions” as cultural and historical sites, natural landmarks, and officially designated spaces. So Boston’s shop-filled Faneuil Hall Marketplace (est. 1742) made the cut, but not Minnesota’s Mall of America, which, with 40 million annual visitors, would otherwise have tied for No. 4. Short walkways and plazas also fit our definition of tourist attractions; that disqualified the Blue Ridge Parkway. We also omitted beaches, bridges, and sites that draw almost exclusively religious pilgrims.

No. 1 Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Annual Visitors: 91,250,000

Hand-painted ceramics, lanterns, intricately patterned carpets, copperware, gold Byzantine-style jewelry, and more eye-catching products vie for your attention within this 15th-century bazaar’s vaulted walkways. It has since expanded and become increasingly touristy, but locals, too, are among the millions of bargain hunters. To haggle like a pro, lowball your starting offer and don’t be afraid to walk away. And if it all gets overwhelming, break for a succulent doner kebab or strong cup of Turkish coffee.

No. 2 The Zócalo, Mexico City

Annual Visitors: 85,000,000

Formally known as the Plaza de la Constitución, the enormous Zócalo thrums with activity. It hosts military parades, cultural and political events, concerts, exhibitions, fairs, and public art installations. Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace flank this historic public square, and an imposing Mexican flag, raised and lowered daily, waves over the scene.

No. 3 Times Square, New York City

Annual Visitors: 50,000,000

Tourists flock to New York’s neon heart for the flashing lights, Broadway shows, megastores, and sheer spectacle—including costumed characters eager to pose for photo ops. Pedestrian-only areas with café tables introduced a few years ago have made it easier and more appealing to hang out here. Times Square can even be a convenient, if chaotic, base, thanks to hotels at every price point and easy access to public transportation: subways, rails, buses, and more yellow taxis than you can count.

No. 4 (tie) Central Park, New York City

Annual Visitors: 40,000,000

New York has larger green spaces, but none is more famous than Central Park, which stretches across nearly 850 acres of prime Manhattan real estate—an oasis for both tourists and locals. You can ride in one of the horse-drawn carriages, check out the modest-size zoo, climb to the top of 19th-century Belvedere Castle, or take a break from pounding the pavement to sprawl on the Great Lawn, gazing at the skyscrapers above.

No. 4 (tie) Union Station, Washington, D.C.

Annual Visitors: 40,000,000

Opened in 1907, this busy station shuttles some 12,500 passengers daily in and out of the city. But it also handles millions of tourists who pass through to take in the impeccably mixed architectural styles throughout the colossal building: from Classical to Beaux-Arts to Baroque. More than 70 retail outlets make Union Station a shopping destination, and it’s also a jumping-off point for many D.C. tours.

Read the full list HERE.

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The Best and Worst Airports for Flight Delays in America

Airport terminal
Jeff Greenberg/Alamy

Flight delays are on the rise at airports across the nation. Learn where you’re most likely to get stuck at the gate—and how to boost your odds of taking off on time

A word of advice for anyone who dreads being stuck in the purgatory of an airport terminal, gazing wistfully at the departures screen: avoid Chicago.

We analyzed data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for 29 major U.S. airports to highlight which have experienced the least and most delayed departures over a 12-month period (July 2013 to June 2014). And both of the Windy City’s major hubs are among the worst offenders.

At Chicago’s Midway International Airport, one in three planes left behind schedule, earning it the title of tardiest airport—for a second year in a row. Nearby O’Hare International Airport landed at No. 4, with more than a quarter of its flights running late.

At the other end of the spectrum, Salt Lake City International held on to its No. 1 spot as the most punctual of American airports, with less than 13 percent of departures behind schedule.

Airports, admittedly, are largely at the mercy of air traffic control and weather when it comes to delays, says aviation consultant Mike Boyd. “The airport itself has really no control whatsoever on reducing delays,” Boyd says. “They care, but they can’t do anything.”

Nor can you always control which airports you fly through. Yet you can plan your travel in a way that lessens your chance of sitting at the gate. For each airport, we identified the time of day to depart. Hint: the times to avoid are often in the afternoon and evening, thanks to the domino effect of cascading delays. “An earlier flight always makes more sense than a later flight,” Boyd says. “But that’s still not a guarantee.”

To find out your odds, see where San Francisco, Dulles, Orlando, and other major hubs rank among the best and worst airports for avoiding delays.

Best: No. 1 Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

Flights Delayed: 12.9%

This Delta hub retained the top spot for punctuality for the fifth time since 2008, despite a 1.2 percent uptick in delays year over year. More than 90 percent of flights depart on time for 12 hours each day at SLC. Just avoid the dinnertime twilight zone, when nearly a third fall behind schedule.

Best Time Window: 6–10 a.m.

Worst Time Window: 6–8 p.m.

Best: No. 2 Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

Flights Delayed: 14.3%

Up three spots from last year, the oldest airport serving the nation’s capital is also the one least likely to keep you there longer than planned. While the other two D.C.-area gateways both rated among the worst for delays (BWI at second worst and Dulles at eighth worst), DCA posted an on-time score better than 85 percent.

Best Time Window: Before 1 p.m.

Worst Time Window: 8–10 p.m.

Best: No. 3 (tie) Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Flights Delayed: 14.6%

Although delays increased by 1.5 percentage points compared to last year, Sea-Tac still held on to its third-place position. Just over 40 percent of the airport’s total passengers arrive and depart via Alaska Airlines, which operates its primary hub here—and was recently rated the second-best airline for avoiding flight delays.

Best Time Window: Before 11 a.m.

Worst Time Window: 4–5 p.m.

Best: No. 3 (tie) Portland International Airport (PDX)

Flights Delayed: 14.6%

A 2.1 percent bump in delays cost PDX the No. 2 ranking that it’s owned for six previous years. But the airport—which introduced in-line baggage screening in 2010—still managed an on-time percentage of 90 percent or higher for half of each day. It has also won praise for its food selection and free Wi-Fi.

Best Time Window: Before 11 a.m.

Worst Time Window: 2–3 p.m.

Best: No. 5 Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

Flights Delayed: 15.6%

One of three Delta hubs among the 10 most punctual airports, MSP transports nearly half of its passengers via the legacy carrier, which holds the title of best major airline for avoiding flight delays. Travelers will appreciate MSP’s consistency; its percentage of on-time departures dips below 80 percent for only four hours daily.

Best Time Window: Before noon.

Worst Time Window: 6–7 p.m.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Food & Drink

The Best Whiskey Bars in America

Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Saloon

Toast your next vacation with craft cocktails or a tasting flight at one of these top whiskey bars

Mark Twain once observed, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough”—a philosophy Americans are increasingly taking to heart. In 2013, sales of the heavenly brown liquid outpaced all other spirits, and specialty bars are popping up at an overwhelming rate.

“Five years ago, you could count the good whiskey bars on two hands,” says Lew Bryson, managing editor of Whisky Advocate. “Now it’s impossible to keep up.”

So what makes a whiskey bar stand out from the crowd? A solid selection (at least 50 bottles) is imperative, according to Bryson, as is staff knowledge and enthusiasm. “I want servers who actually drink the stuff,” he says. It’s also promising if a bar hosts a whiskey tasting club, as does L.A.’s Seven Grand.

Some whiskey fans seek out bars stocking an encyclopedic variety, from American small-batch rarities to Japanese single malts. At Seattle’s whiskey emporium Canon, you’re spoiled for choice between a menu that runs more than 100 pages, a selection of tasting flights, and craft cocktails like the Skull and Blackberries (Canon select double rye, dark rum, Rossbacher, blackberry, blueberry smoke).

For others, bourbon is king. And the seat of that kingdom is Kentucky, where the Bluegrass Saloon serves bourbon from nine regional distilleries, including every variety imaginable from companies like Bulleit and Wild Roses.

Bourbon, rye, Scotch—all these types of whiskey are distilled from fermented grain. Yet the flavor can be infinitely affected by variables like type of grain (bourbon legally has to be 51 percent corn, for instance) and the barrel in which it’s aged.

To get the most out of each whiskey’s flavor, Moiz Ali—cofounder of Caskers, a crafts spirits club with hundreds of thousands of members—recommends tasting it neat first. “For high-proof whiskey, I might add a few drops of water or a cube of ice,” he adds. “This helps open up the whiskey’s aromas and flavors, which can be masked behind the high alcohol content.”

As a first pour, we’ve rounded up 16 notable whiskey bars across the nation. While fans will have their own favorites, we can all get behind the meaning of the word whiskey: “water of life” in Gaelic.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon, Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is our nation’s capital, and a visit to Jack Rose may convince you it’s also the center of the whiskey universe. The Adams Morgan saloon serves whiskey on tap and stocks an incredible 1,800 bottles of the golden stuff. Consider a spirit like the 15-year-old Jefferson’s Reserve from the Rare Bottlings collection. You can savor it in the cozy, wood-paneled whiskey cellar, on the open-air terrace, or in the dining saloon itself, where cigars are also on the menu.

The 404 Kitchen, Nashville

Nashville has recently attracted national attention for its food and drink scene. Credit goes to innovators like the 404 Kitchen, located within a 40-foot former shipping container adjacent to the 404 Hotel. Here, whiskey aficionados will find more than 150 varieties, including super-rare spirits from Ireland to Utah—and a sizable collection of Japanese “juice.” Hungry? You’ve come to the right place: 404 is a James Beard Award semifinalist, known for locally sourced Italian-style dishes like delicata squash soup and cornmeal-crusted fluke.

Bluegrass Tavern, Lexington, KY

Since 2009, 2.5 million tourists have traveled the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to tour its nine historic distilleries, including Bulleit and Woodford Reserve. So a Lexington bar better be legit: patrons are guaranteed to know their stuff and expect to be impressed. Bluegrass Tavern comes through with 230 kinds of bourbon, including scarce vintages like Four Roses Limited Single Barrel.

Canon, Seattle

Seattle may be famous for its coffee, but not to the detriment of other vices. Canon, the rainy city’s very own whiskey library, offers the largest selection of American whiskey in the Western Hemisphere. Stacks upon stacks of bottles are piled high to the pressed-tin ceiling, and Canon’s booze book dedicates nine to rare batches alone. Guests can browse old-school bartending books while they wait for a craft cocktail and helping of Angostura-bourbon nuts from the ever-changing menu.

Flatiron Room, New York City

Manhattan’s premiere whiskey destinationcharms patrons with nearly 500 varieties—some accessible only by ladder—as well as highly informed whiskey guides, live jazz music, a swanky setting (plush banquettes, cabaret-style tables, chandeliers), and A-list people-watching. You can even get schooled during one-day classes in its private upstairs room. Just be sure to make your reservation ahead of time. As Flatiron’s website states: “We love our guests. So much so that we are willing to turn some away so the ones inside can best enjoy their experience.”

Read the full list HERE.

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These Are America’s Most “Haunted” Bars

The Jury Room in Columbus, Ohio.
The Jury Room in Columbus, Ohio Courtesy of The Jury Room

At these historic bars, spirits aren’t just on the drink menu—they’re making noises in dark corners and downing patrons’ glasses

Here’s one way to ensure a bar will be haunted: open it in a former morgue. That’s the case with Captain Tony’s Saloon in Key West, FL, also a former speakeasy, where you may find yourself sipping gin and tonic next to a grave—or a ghost.

“Ghosts tend to go to places they frequented when they were alive,” says California-based Loyd Auerbach, author of A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. “Consequently, places like bars, where people gather for social reasons or for other personal reasons, are often the target sites for the disembodied.”

Every city seems to have a haunted bar and an intriguing story behind it. The ghostly presence can often be traced back to an erstwhile love affair or, sadly, the result of a grizzly murder. In Austin, TX, the victim of a bar fight has been causing mischief at The Tavern for decades, changing the TV channels or banging dishes in the kitchen. And outside of Las Vegas, a gambler killed when caught cheating still roams the poker tables at Pioneer Saloon.

Still, some ghost tales are taller than others. Jim Fassbinder, who leads ghost tours in San Francisco, says: “There’s a bunch of haunted bar stories out there mostly promoted by barkeeps who know a well-told ghost story keeps ’em drinkin’ and gets the barkeep a tip.”

Not so at Stone’s Public House in Massachusetts, where paranormal experts confirmed eerie happenings the owner had noticed. It’s one of our picks for the most haunted bars in the nation—and you might want to consider a nice tip, after all, if you want to keep the resident spirits happy.

The Ear Inn, New York City

The charmingly ramshackle interior of this old sailors’ drinking spot in SoHo is still the preferred haunt of at least one sailor, Mickey. He likes the ladies, as female patrons and employees have complained of being goosed by Mickey. And he also likes his drink; regulars have been perplexed to find pint glasses suddenly empty. In September 2014, there was a ghost sighting by a waitress’s boyfriend. They were sleeping in an upstairs room (the space used to double as an inn), and she woke up in the middle of the night to find him transfixed. When she asked what her boyfriend was doing, he said, “I’m just saying hello to the strange man standing in the corner.”

Captain Tony’s Saloon, Key West, FL

As the site of a former morgue, Captain Tony’s Saloon happens to be one of the few spots you can sip a gin and tonic next to an actual grave. There are, in fact, two here. Oh yeah, there’s also an old tree growing through the roof of the bar; according to legend, it was used to hang criminals. So it’s no wonder that bathroom doors become mysteriously locked on their own or that people regularly feel strange sensations while having a drink here.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, New Orleans

The 18th-century building that houses this Bourbon Street bar is brimming with ghostly intrigue. There’s E.J., who apparently sits at the bar. There’s the woman who sometimes appears in the mirror. And then there’s Jean Lafitte himself, a former pirate who ran a smuggling business here in the 18th century—and who may have used this bar to hide his stolen loot. Patrons have apparently seen his apparition standing in a corner scowling and smelled a trace of his tobacco.

The Jury Room, Columbus, OH

It’s a bold move to build on a former Native American burial ground. Yet that’s where the Jury Room sits. Since 1831, this spot has been popular with drinkers, including the spectral kind. Regulars and employees have talked of seeing a tall shadowy man roaming the premises. Workers claim that objects regularly fly off of shelves, and one person even saw a pitcher of beer being poured by itself.

The Brass Rail, Hoboken, NJ

When a bride-to-be tripped at the top of the steps and died after breaking her neck, she ushered in a ghostly era for this Hoboken bar. Since the incident in 1904, employees have regularly seen a lady in white hovering near the steps. Note to any betrothed couples: don’t get married here.

Read the full list HERE.

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