travel

New safety video for Qantas + preview of PDX new gates

Happy Friday. Here are two fun videos to kick off the weekend. A pretty new safety video from Qantas and a time-lapse preview of a concourse expansion at Portland International Airport.

 

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.

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.

Airlines roll out new “smart luggage” rules today

Starting today, January 15, airlines will no longer allow passengers to checkg or carry on “smart luggage” with non-removable lithium batteries.

Powered luggage began appearing on the market a few years ago and some new versions of these high-tech bags can weigh themselves, be locked remotely, report their locations, provide power for gadgets, offer rides to the gate and follow travelers around.

The extras are enticing, but industry-wide concern over lithium batteries igniting and starting fires led the International Air Transport Association to instruct its almost 300 airline members to restrict carriage of certain bags:

“Effective 15 January 2018, for IATA member airlines, baggage with removable installed Lithium batteries (“smart luggage”) must be carried as carry-on baggage or the battery must be removed. With the battery removed the bag can be checked-in. If the battery cannot be removed, the bag is forbidden for carriage.”

Citing “safety management and risk mitigation,” American Airlines was among the first to alert its customers to the impending rule change. The carrier also said the standard question it asks customers checking bags – “Have you packed any e-cigarettes or spare batteries for laptops, cellphones or cameras?” – would be altered to include smart bags.

Other airlines are changing their check-in and boarding procedures as well.

“Throughout our guests’ journey, we will remind them to remove all lithium batteries from checked luggage, or disconnect and turn off batteries being stored in the overhead bins,” said Alex Da silva, a Hawaiian Airlines spokesman, “We are also training employees on the various types of smart bags so they may assist customers.”

Some smart luggage manufacturers are scrambling to redesign their smart bag products to comply with the new airline rules. Others are making sure customers know how, and how easily, the lithium batteries can be removed from their bags. And companies who have smart bags without lithium batteries are touting that feature.

“We believed that there would come a time when lithium batteries could be seen as a safety issue. So we purposely powered our luggage with AAA batteries to avoid any of these potential future rulings,” said Emran Sheikh, President and CEO of luggage manufacturer and distributor Heys International.

Sheikh and others emphasize that it is the type of battery used in some “smart” luggage designs that is the problem, not the category of ‘smart luggage’ in general.

“The airline industry’s recent attention to safety surrounding lithium ion batteries should boost our confidence that the travel industry is monitoring current trends and updating their own best practices to reflect modern travelers’ habits and needs,” said Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association, Consumers can expect to see luggage manufacturers respond accordingly and release new iterations of smart luggage featuring even safer power sources.”

(My story on new smart luggage rules first appeared on CNBC in a slightly different form.)