Two Texas hotels make Travel + Leisure ‘It List’


Two Texas hotels make Travel + Leisure ‘It List’

Travel + Leisure just announced its 2016 “It List,” featuring the 49 best new hotels around the world. Two Texas properties made the cut.

“The ‘It List’ showcases new hotels and resorts that raise the bar in a variety of ways, from great design to spectacular settings to service and product innovations,” Travel + Leisure editor Nathan Lump said in a statement. “These are places that don’t just provide a place to sleep — they deliver experiences that travelers will find both stimulating and transporting.”

Austin’s own South Congress Hotel, an 83-room boutique hotel designed by architect Michael Hsu that opened in late 2015, was among 10 U.S. properties that made the list, as was San Antonio’s new Hotel Emma.

To see the complete “It List,” visit


Five things to know about passport renewal

Going international soon? Better act now.

Last week, the State Department warned travelers to renew their passports as soon as possible because nearly 49 million will expire in the next three years, causing a major logjam of renewal requests that could take six weeks or more to fulfill.

Why is this happening? In part, it’s because nine years ago a law began requiring U.S. citizens to have passports when traveling to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. Passports are only good for 10 years (five years for kids), so everyone who got a passport when the law went into effect is coming up on expiration. That, coupled with regular renewals, could cause significant delays, the State Department said.

In Austin and need to renew your passport? Here are five things you need to know:

  • You can renew by mail if your passport is undamaged and can be submitted with your application was issued when you were 16 or older; within the last 15 years and in your current name (or you can legally document your name change). A passport does not have to have expired to be renewed.
  • Anyone 15 or under must apply in person using form DS-11.
  • If you need to appear in person, go to the Travis County District Clerk’s Passport Acceptance Facility (5501 Airport Blvd.). It’s open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily but wait times can be significant. If you arrive late in the afternoon, you may not be seen that day. Once your application is processed, your new passport will be mailed to you within about six weeks. (You will also receive your old passport separately in the mail.) Some post offices and other locations in Austin also accept in-person passport applications. Call ahead, though, as some only process passports on certain days and during certain hours.
  • To renew your passport you will need to pay a $25 passport processing fee and a $110 passport renewal (for applicants 16 and older — applicants under 16 are $80). If you need your passport back within three weeks, you can pay an additional $60 expedited service fee (see website for updated processing times).
  • Need it even faster? Go to Dallas or Houston. Both cities each have a U.S. Department of State Passport Agency. If you go, you’ll need to make an appointment ahead of time and have proof of immediate (within two weeks) international travel or a life-or-death emergency. You will be required to pay the additional $60 expedited service fee on top of your renewal and processing fees for appearing in person at the agency. If you arrive in the morning with all of the correct documentation, the agency will process everything and leave your new passport for you at will call, usually on the same day.


Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard and the cutest travel video ever

In case you missed the adorable music video featuring Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard dancing to Toto’s “Africa” that became an Internet sensation last week, let me catch you up.

Bell and Shepard, who married in 2013 and have two daughters, made this video while vacationing in Africa and posted it Jan. 27. In the video description on YouTube, Shepard wrote: “This was our last trip before having kids. Our sole objective was to rage hard and honor Toto properly.”

The video, which you can find at, fulfills all of our hopes for a video of this sort: Shepard in the bathtub; lions; Bell air drumming; hippos; Shepard with binoculars; giraffes; Bell playing air guitar. You get the picture.

More than 4 million people have watched the video, inspiring #couplegoals everywhere. Toto is said to approve.


Go all inclusive in the Caribbean

Dreaming of a beach vacation? If you’re willing to drive to Houston, this could be the deal for you.

Right now, Travelzoo is offering a six-night, all-inclusive trip to the oceanfront Caribe Club Princess Beach Resort & Spa in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic — including nonstop airfare from Houston.

The deal includes all meals and drinks and is good for departures on May 27 or June 3; summer departures are $849-$949.

To get the deal, you must book by Feb. 12. For more information or to book, go to

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