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Will This Scary New FAA Warning Change the Way You Travel?

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
September 29, 2021
Lonely Planet - Dover, Kent, United Kingdom,England
Lonely Planet

The FAA is warning airlines that rechargeable lithium-ion batteries pose a risk of “catastrophic aircraft loss” because the batteries can catch fire and explode, and that current fire-suppressing systems on planes cannot control a lithium-battery fire. The reason this is potentially terrifying to travelers is that rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are found in cell phones and other electronic devices.

Take a deep breath. Exhale. You okay? While you're certainly going to see some hysterical headlines about this issue, the good news is that the high risk of fire and explosion the FAA is talking about is associated primarily with cargo containing high-powered batteries or large shipments of batteries. The battery in your phone is not going to set off the kind of apocalyptic pyrotechnics seen in this shocking FAA video. (Say “thank you” next time you have to charge your tiny phone battery: Its relatively short life is what makes it safer than, say, the battery in a hoverboard or larger piece of electronic equipment.)

Many passenger airlines are voluntarily agreeing to stop carrying rechargeable lithium-ion batteries as cargo, and the FAA is urging airlines to assess safety risks to better manage the potential dangers posed by lithium batteries. Whether this changes the we travel with personal battery-powered electronic devices like phones and tablets in the future remains to be seen.

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Travel Tips

Is Europe Safe for Travelers?

In the wake of the July 14 terrorist attack in Nice, France, many are asking themselves: Is Europe safe for travelers? The answer is yes, with the logical caveat that the better informed you are, the more observant you are, and the more prepared you are, the safer your trip anywhere in the world will be. Am I biased in favor of travel? You bet I am: There’s simply no better way to understand the world, to bridge the differences among cultures, and to embrace our personal stake in this little blue planet of ours. The State Department reminds travelers to adopt the following practices when visiting Europe: • Exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation. • Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places. • Exercise particular caution during religious holidays and at large festivals or events. • Follow the instructions of local authorities, especially in an emergency. • Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities. • Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions. • Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency. • Register in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.

Travel Tips

Air travel booking secrets for 2017

As we shift into the new year, there’s a lot of looking back on the travel industry to see what worked and what didn’t, what succeeded and what failed, and, of course, where, how, when and why people traveled. We look back so that we can have a clearer vision and understanding of what’s ahead. While technology allows us to do nearly everything aside from decisively predict the future, piles upon piles of data lets us to come pretty close. The more data we can pull from, of course, the clearer the vision. In a recently released study by Expedia, the company partnered with Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), a trade organization, to crunch the numbers between January 1, 2016 and October 24, 2016 and figure out worldwide air travel trends. The report, “New Heights for Air Travel,” looked at data from Expedia—which encompasses the 335 million itineraries it created in its 20 years of operation. Those itineraries cover 1,820 cities within 203 countries. ARC, meantime, offers information on more than 12.5 billion passenger flights. (That's a whole lotta packs of tomato juice and packs of pretzels!) The main takeaways of the study forecasts a huge win for travelers. First, according to the International Air Transport Association and ARC, air capacity is up about 5% globally, which means airlines are flying more planes to more destinations. Global growth typically clocks in around 3%, even in boom times. So in other words, 2016 saw a tremendous amount of growth. More seats in airplanes means more competition for passengers, so this past year also saw a tumble in average ticket prices. Those two factors—more space and lower cost—are a formula for creating more travel opportunities at lower prices in 2017.  How much of a tumble in those ticket prices, you ask? In the nearly 10 months examined, average ticket prices in North America fell about 6% for economy one-ways and about 5% for economy round-trips. That means, for instance, a round-trip ticket that cost $472 in 2015 cost $450 in 2016. With billions of data points at their fingertips, Expedia and its partners were able to examine buying patterns and assess ticket pricing trends and quirks. By and large, the results pretty much validate a lot of urban myths. First and foremost, some times are better than others for purchasing airline tickets. Weekends are the best time to book flights. Fridays are the worst, primarily because that’s when business travelers make their bookings. The study also notes that for domestic travel in the US, you can save as much as 11% by purchasing tickets on a Sunday vs. Friday. You can save even more on tickets to Europe—as much as 16%, in fact—by making your ticket purchase on a Sunday. And now for the good news for the early birds among us. We all know that it pays to plan, but this study tells us just how much. According to ARC, 21 days in advance is the tipping point. When it comes to traveling within the United States, within Europe and even between the US and Europe, booking three weeks ahead of takeoff can score you as much as 30% over waiting until the last minute.   When you’re planning a trip, don’t underestimate the impact of a weekend stay. Expedia’s study determined that you can get the best deals when you include a Saturday night overnight stay on your itinerary. That can mean savings of up to 57%, as the researches found to be the case in Southern Europe. That does it for the “how.” Now, about the “where.” Based on its data, the study looked at 500 top destinations. Not surprisingly, the airport with the most significant leap was Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, which surged in capacity by 53% from 2015 to 2016. Coming in a very close second was the airport in Da Nang, Vietnam. Among other destinations that spiked in popularity were Zhuhai, China (41 percent); Cusco, Peru (39 percent); and Santiago, Chile (38 percent). Cities in Uruguay, Iceland, Panama, and Russia were other mentions. There are plenty more general findings. Perhaps you can chalk it up to the coast-to-coast growth of tequila and the taco truck boom, but overall growth of Mexico City as a destination was a significant 11%. Industry watchdogs are already deeming it a 2017 hotspot. Largely because its economy is pulsing, airlines are ramping up flights to India as we speak. Same goes for Dubai as well as China, which saw nearly 10% growth in airline capacity over the past year. Notably, in addition to more airlines instituting new routes to China, new airports have opened or expanded throughout the country. Experts predict that most of the destinations that have seen growth in 2016 will continue to thrive. It’s up to you to prove them right. Or chart your own path and prove them wrong. 

Travel Tips

The 7 New Rules of Packing You Must Know

Can't find packing gear that suits your needs? Why not create it yourself, Shark Tank–style? OK, most of us don't have the time or expertise for that, but Hudson + Bleecker founder Eram Siddiqui took on the challenge so the rest of us don't have to. Siddiqui always had trouble finding the perfect travel accessories to safely pack all of her things, so she launched her own line that blends fashion with function: attractive garment bags, jewelry cases, toiletry bags, and more. Each bag has a waterproof lining so nothing inside or out gets ruined (translation: no more spills that destroy everything in your suitcase), and the exclusive patterned textiles are printed in-house. Hudson + Bleecker's accessories are a splurge (check out the sale section for deals!), but they make for awesome gifts—even if they're presents for yourself. The tips below, though? 100 percent free. And who better than a packing expert to tell us how to pack a suitcase? Below are Siddiqui's packing tips that'll streamline your next getaway like the sleek jet-setter you are. 1. FOR SHOES, FOLLOW THE RULE OF THREE.  Real talk if you're overzealous about your footwear, whether it's too many sneakers for your favorite sports or an over-the-door shoe caddy's worth of heels: “Three pairs of shoes is all you need. It's efficient, takes the guesswork out of what to pack and saves a lot of room in your luggage. Pack one pair for a night on the town, one comfortable pair (sandals or ballet flats for women) to give your feet a break, and a pair of sneakers or runners for a run or hike. You can conveniently fit three pairs in our travel shoe bags.” 2. PRE-PACK A BAG OF TSA-FRIENDLY TOILETRIES.  Collect a stash of 3.4-oz-or-less toiletries, and ensure it's permanently ready to roll through security. “I always have a toiletry bag pre-packed so that if I need to take off at a moment’s notice, all I need to do is grab a carry-on and pack my clothes and shoes, and I'm ready to go. If you're a frequent traveler, pre-packing your toiletries is a significant time-saver.” 3. BRING A PAPER COPY OF YOUR PASSPORT.  “As a rule, we all know it’s best to keep a copy of your passport at home or with a relative. However, with new laws and travel restrictions domestically, I carry my passport and a copy of my passport at all times, whether it’s a quick domestic flight or a long haul.”  4. SHIP THE HEAVY STUFF.  “We all love to shop and collect keepsakes when we travel. To avoid overpacking and paying exorbitant baggage fees, I ship my new treasures home whenever possible. Now that I am a new mom, I also purchase all of my little one's essentials on Amazon.com and ship them to our final destination. If you're staying in a hotel, it is very easy to coordinate with the hotel concierge to collect your packages upon check-in.” 5. TWO WORDS: PACKING CUBES.  “Trust me, the more organized and compartmentalized your luggage is, the more enjoyable your trip will be. Packing cubes have changed the way I pack and unpack. If you're traveling solo, use a packing cube to separate your apparel from your intimates. If you are traveling with children or family, pack one cube per traveler. I use our shoe bags to pack for my little one, as everything fits perfectly in one. This avoids having to dig through a never-ending pile of clothing, and I can literally unpack my bags in less than five minutes.” Need a cube? Siddiqui designed this stylish packing cube ($50), look for rugged sets from outdoor brands like REI ($30), or check out see-through mesh cubes like these from Target ($25). 6. DESIGNATE AN "ESSENTIALS" POCKET.  “Whenever and wherever, I try to travel with a carry-on only. So the front pocket of my luggage has everything I need to access quickly. A great hack is to pack a small pouch with chapstick, a small hand lotion, eyedrops, ibuprofen, and a small pair of socks, so if you need to refresh, you can grab what you need easily.” If you're envisioning your perfect "essentials" pouch now, try Siddiqui's multi-use pochettes ($19), or click through an extensive collection of travel-themed Everything Bags (from $12.50)—artists receive a percentage of the proceeds. 7. THROW IN A SWEATER OR WRAP-NO MATTER WHAT. Even if you're headed to a tropical paradise in the middle of the summer, play it safe and swaddle yourself. “Airplanes are always cold and so are hotel rooms, so I always pack at least one sweater or pashmina. You will inevitably use it during your travels or even when you arrive at your final destination. I like to pack either black, gray, or neutral colors, as those shades go with almost anything.”

Travel Tips

How the Electronics Ban Will Affect You

Headline news about travel bans is starting to feel like business as usual. You’re not alone if you find yourself thinking: “Pretty much we’ll only be able to bring Saltines and an actual print newspaper and maybe a wallet when we board a plane.” Fact is, though, there are loads of nuances and contingencies beyond that big bold “travel ban” headline, especially when it comes to the latest electronics ban, which was announced on March 21. The ban, which is applicable to specific airlines leaving specific airports in the Middle East, prohibits travelers from carrying laptops, iPads, and anything larger than a cellphone on flights to specific US airports. The items must be checked. The ban applies to flights from 10 airports in eight countries. Nine airlines are affected - Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Air, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. When all is said and done, the measure, which will continue indefinitely, affects about 50 flights per day.  Many news reports and commentary note how this will strongly impact business travelers who have company-owned laptops, perhaps containing sensitive information. We, however, would argue that it would be equally exasperating for parents who might depend on laptops to keep young children from throwing temper tantrums at cruising altitude. The questions that arise are why now and why the specificity? According to a New York Times report, "officials called the directive an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack." But the UK followed suit with a similar ban the following day and, according to anonymous security sources cited in news reports, the government based its decision on specific intelligence reports about the Islamic State developing a bomb that can be concealed in portable electronics.   But according to Jason Clampet, editor-in-chief of Skift, a travel news website, questions have been raised about the intent of the ban, what with its specific targets. Some experts speculate the measure is designed to hurt Gulf carriers because they’ve emerged as rivals in transatlantic flight packages. This ban is a hassle for more than just the passengers. Airlines have been complaining about the lack of communication with Homeland Security, one of the government agencies that ordered the measure. Clampet explains that it was rolled out without warning, which stands in contrast with the liquid ban instituted in 2006, Clampet noted, which rolled out in a much more systematized fashion that involved training TSA agents before it went into effect. "The ban came in the middle of the day, there was no way for airlines to communicate about it ahead of time." Clampet explains. "The same thing happened in January with the travel ban. It just happened--no communication. The CEO of American Airlines came out and said government messed up. You never hear airlines talking about the government like that."