Airports

Flying on Valentine’s Day? Cupid may be too.

Charles Lindbergh-themed Valentine

Air travel isn’t romantic unless you’re flying with your sweetie or are on your way to being with them, but this Valentine’s Day some airports and airlines are doing what they can to make the day special.

Shortcut to marriage

The uptick of couples applying for last minute marriage licenses in Las Vegas around Valentine’s Day usually overwhelms the downtown county’s clerk’s office, so this year there’s a pop-up marriage license bureau set up through February 17 in the baggage claim area of Terminal 1 at McCarran International Airport.

Couples will still need to find someone to perform the legal marriage ceremony, but filling out a pre-application and getting a license at the airport can go a long way in streamlining the process. For lovebirds in a rush, keep in mind that the Terminal 1 baggage claim area at the Las Vegas airport also has 24-hour flower vending machines and a to-go liquor shop.

Flowers and chocolates

(Courtesy PHL Airport)

As they have in previous years, volunteers at both Philadelphia International Airport and Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport will be handing out Valentine’s Day carnations to passengers.

To celebrate the opening of its automated people mover – called SkyConnect – and its new 2.6 million square foot rental car center, Tampa International Airport will be giving out 1,000 roses to passengers and guests who come out for the first ride.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport caps off its fourth “We Love Our Guests Campaign” on Valentine’s Day with key rings and teddy bears for passengers and photo booths and love-themed music playing throughout the airport.

There will be a “Kissing Booth” distributing chocolate kisses and Valentines to passengers at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) on February 14 and a chance to hug and pose with some of the miniature therapy horses that regularly visit the airport.

The horses at CVG will be decked out in their Valentine’s Day attire, as will the therapy dogs at Los Angeles International, Phoenix Sky Harbor and many other airports around the country. The love-fest will continue February 16, when specially-dressed therapy dogs and team-member Lilou the pig help passengers usher in the Lunar New Year at a photo station in San Francisco International Airport.

Heat-shaped lollipops will be handed out to passengers during Valentine’s Day in many terminals at Los Angeles International Airport and in the Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale International Airport they’ll be celebrating the day with a live entertainment, face painting, and complimentary chocolate roses and candy buffets.

Chocolates will be offered to passengers flying through Austin Bergstrom International Airport on February 14 and, for those who still need to purchase a Valentine’s gift before leaving the airport, they’ll be a booth selling chocolate-covered strawberries from local favorite Amy’s Ice Creams in the bag claim area. Shops in most every other airport will have chocolates, heart-shaped bake-goods and trinkets and other romantic items wrapped and ready to go as well.

Valentine’s Day activities at Heathrow International Airport will include live music, free heart-shaped candies, Polaroid photo ops, complimentary caricature sketches and make-your-own Valentine’s Day card stations. And to insure no Valentine’s Day proposals are inadvertently ruined by a shiny engagement ring drawing the attention of a security officer at the checkpoint,  officials at England’s East Midlands Airport have been offering “secret codes” to travelers who’d like their bags inspected out of their traveling companion’s line of vision.

Airlines offering Valentine’s Day treats for travelers. 

Passengers on Southwest Airlines flights will be treated to a complimentary alcoholic beverage on Valentine’s Day and, at airports across the country, airline employees will be setting up candy and card stations for passengers. Some Southwest flights will be declared “fun flights,” with employees hosting trivia games and giveaways as well.

United Airlines will be setting up Valentine’s Day candy stations in its club lounges on Valentine’s Day, ANA (All Nippon Airways) will be handing out specially-made chocolates to all passengers, and Alaska Airlines will be unveiling a heart-shaped sculpture with a special meaning at San Francisco International Airport.

And Economy and Business Class passengers taking a Valentine’s Day flight from Dubai on Emirates will be served heart-shaped chocolates with their meals.

 

 

Cathay Pacific adds in-flight yoga.

Airport yoga rooms are great amenities, but Cathay Pacific suggests you try doing yoga on the plane.

The airline has partnered with Pure Yoga to offer an inflight “Travel Well with Yoga” program that offers a series of six yoga videos with meditation exercises and tips.

The videos are in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese and are running on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon routes in the  Lifestyle section of the inflight entertainment program.

Instructors offer yoga and meditation routines that can be done before, during or after a flight (if you’re not to self-conscious to try it) and are designed to improve circulation, enhance joint mobility  – and relax the mind.

Some moves work on the plane – even in economy, says the airline – others you can do when you unfold from your seat and get to your hotel.

Here’s a sample.

TSA found a record number of firearms at airport checkpoints in 2017

We knew it was coming, but now it is official:

According to the Transportation Security Administration, a record setting 3,957 firearms were found in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country during 2017.

That’s a 16.7 percent increase (556 more) over the 3,391 firearms found in 2016, an average of 76.1 firearms per week and an average of 10. 8 firearms each day.

Of the firearms found during 2017, 84 percent (3,324) were loaded and 34.8 percent (1,378) had a round chambered.

Firearms were found at 239 airports, with the most in any one month (31) discovered in August at Hartsfield-Jackson Altanta International Airport.

Top 10 Airports For Firearm Discoveries In 2017:

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): 245 (222 Loaded)

Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW): 211 (165 Loaded)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston (IAH): 142 (124 Loaded)

Denver International (DEN): 118 (102 Loaded)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX): 115 (109 Loaded)

Tampa International (TPA): 97 (90 Loaded)

Orlando International Airport (MCO): 94 (82 Loaded)

Dallas Love Field (DAL): 93 (81 Loaded)

Nashville International (BNA): 89 (71 Loaded)

Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA): 75 (60 Loaded)

 

Share the love at U.S. airports: get chocolate, win a prize

Keep an eye out at airports this Valentine’s Day season for giant 8-foot chalkboards where you can add your message about the meaning of love – and maybe win a prize of a getaway for two valued at $1,000.

HMSHost, which operates restaurants in dozens of airports across the country, is bringing these chalkboards to about a dozen airports and will select one traveler and their story as the prizewinner.  (See contest rules and details here.)

Live music events will accompany the chalkboards in many of the airports and everyone who takes the time to add a message will receive a dark chocolate bar, a Valentine’s Day card and a coupon for a 15 perecent discount at HMSHost dining locations (while supplies last).

Chocolate? Who wouldn’t love that?

Leftover currency? Here’s what to do with it.

Courtesy Beth Whitman

As souvenirs go, going home with leftover currency can feel wasteful. For my first story on Travel+Leisure, I gathered up some suggestions for putting that “funny money” to good use.

Here’s a slightly different version of that story.

Spend it

Some people suggest stopping at a Starbucks before leaving a country to have leftover cash added, fee-free, to a Starbucks card balance. Others suggest paying part your hotel bill with your remaining cash and coins and paying the balance with your credit card.

Save it for another time

Beth Whitman, founder of Wanderlust and Lipstick and WanderTours has a basket of envelopes and small purses filled with coins and bills from past trips around the world, organized by country. “It helps to have some local currency upon arrival for taxis or tips without having to go to an ATM or change money,” Whitman advises.

Exchange it 

Travelex exchanges leftover currency at its stores in cities and in airports, and by mail. Airport stores swap bills and most coins on the spot, but know that each store sets its own rates and fees. Mailing-in exchanges to Travelex are limited to banknotes and their checks may not arrive for three weeks, but the $5 fixed fee and day-of exchange rate is apt to net you more.

Another mail-in option is offered by a Leftover Currency, which takes both notes and coins for circulating and discontinued currencies. They promise to pay within 5 working days via PayPal, check or bank transfer, or to donate the value of what you brought home to charity.

Donate it

Look for “change globes” or bins to collect leftover money from travelers leaving a country. And ten airlines, including American, Cathay Pacific and Qantas, currently participate in UNICEF’s Change for Good program, which collects spare currency from passengers on international flights.

Make friends

“Ask around to see if friends or neighbors have nieces or nephews who collect coins,” said traveler writer Carol Pucci, “A little bag of foreign coins that had been sitting my desk for years recently found a good home in a kid’s collection.”

Make Art

Leftover coins offer an opportunity to explore your inner Etsy. Drill holes to make earrings or a necklace, or get out the glue gun and decorate a frame to hold a favorite travel photo.

Surprise yourself 

Keep it in your wallet. “Whenever I go to pay for something and stumble across the foreign currency, I’m transported, for a moment, back to that destination” said Francine Cohen.

Have another suggestion for what do to do with your leftover currency? Share your ideas in the comment section.