THE FIFTH ANNUAL

Extra Mile Awards

Remember when travel was easy? When reward programs actually delivered rewards and lines actually moved? Well then, join us in saluting 10 innovators that have worked hard over the past year to make traveling simpler, more affordable, and—yes!—more fun.

Google's GPS-enabled tricycle topped with a 360-degree camera
Google's GPS-enabled tricycle topped with a 360-degree camera (Courtesy Google)
The city of New York has permanently closed five blocks in Times Square to traffic (Courtesy Google)

APPLE
Because what does the latest iPhone not do for travelers?

Translate languages, locate a bathroom, scout nearby gas prices, spot the shortest lines at Disney parks....The iPhone has quickly become the ultimate on-the-go multi-tool, thanks largely to the dizzying number of downloadable apps. More innovative than ever, the new iPhone 3GS rises above its predecessors for three reasons. It gives you the power to:

1. Shoot Better Images The 3GS records video about as capably as a standard-definition ultracompact camcorder. The still camera is improved, too, with autofocus and the ability to capture higher-resolution images—up from two megapixels to three.

2. Navigate More Reliably A newly integrated compass automatically orients you based on the direction the phone is facing. A host of new apps maximize the technology by, for example, pointing you to a trailhead or an out-of-the-way restaurant.

3. Do Everything Faster The 3GS is significantly speedier than older models, and that changes everything. Quicker camera reaction, downloading, and app launch times mean the iPhone is all the more useful—because if you have to wait forever for Google Maps to find where you are, you're better off just asking for directions.

JETBLUE
Because now you can order a Heineken at your gate while you wait

Lucky passengers flying out of JetBlue's Terminal 5 at JFK can have a made-to-order meal delivered right to them. Throughout the terminal, more than 200 touch-screen monitors display menus from Re:Vive bar, which serves sandwiches, tapas, and drinks. Place your order, swipe a credit card, and a waiter brings the meal to your kiosk in no more than 10 minutes.

DELTA
Because the Red Coats are back! Hallelujah!

Sometimes, the most brilliant customer service move is the most obvious one. Like making increasingly rare agents (no, not machines) easier to locate. Spotting an opportunity to stand out in an industry bent on streamlining, Delta brought its Red Coats (essentially customer-service superagents) back to 12 U.S. airports this past summer. More than 500 of the agents, who were elimi­nated in 2005 to cut costs, have returned in their signature red blazers; they roam the gates and concourses with handheld devices that can pull up reserva­tion and baggage information, print boarding passes, and produce vouchers if flights are canceled. This is one time when we're glad to see red.

AMERICAN AIRLINES
Because loyal fliers deserve loyal airlines

Just when we'd resigned ourselves to how hard it's become to actually score reward trips from travel loyalty programs, American Airlines introduced One-Way Flex Awards, allowing travelers to book flights for as few as 12,500 miles. That's a low enough threshold that even casual travelers can start cashing in.

HYATT
Because surprise perks are the sweetest perks of all

Getting an unexpected upgrade can hook you on a place—and that's the motivation behind Hyatt's "random acts of generosity" initiative (yes, it's an initiative), announced in May. The company's CEO told employees to occasionally tear up guests' bar tabs, comp massages, or dole out some other out-of-the-blue treats. Consider us hooked.

INTREPID TRAVEL
Because going green doesn't mean you shouldn't go on vacation

The Australia-based outfitter this year eliminated the carbon footprint of its 38 most popular trips—and not just by buying offsets. Its goal: making every one of its 600-plus itineraries carbon neutral by early 2010. Here's how:

Transportation By far the biggest source of greenhouse gases on any trip is transport. Intrepid compares the emissions of every mode of local conveyance available, from planes and trains to bikes, boats, buses, and tuk-tuks. On its Road to Angkor trip, the company swapped a flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap for a five-hour bus ride through the countryside—a more scenic experience anyway.

Waste In Vietnam and Cambodia, Intrepid subsidized the installation of watercoolers in hotel lobbies to reduce the number of plastic water bottles used by travelers. In northern Thailand, they participate in a program in which local women make cloth shopping bags for tourists.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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