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How to Help Victims of the Philippines' Typhoon Haiyan

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Following the destruction wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan, which appears to be the Philippine Islands’ worst natural disaster in history, relief efforts are rapidly rising up across the world. Here, while Americans commemorate the courage of their veterans, the State Department is hurrying to organize a team of these hometown heroes to provide aid in the storm-torn Philippines.

The scale of Haiyan’s devastation is overwhelming. More than 10,000 lives are feared to have been lost in Friday’s storm, and at least 600,000 people have been displaced. Police officials report at least 80-percent of the worst hit Leyte province’s infrastructure was leveled by the 200-mph winds and 20-foot waves.

This beloved travel destination, known for its breathtaking white sand beaches and jungle-capped cliffs, is home to four of the World’s Best Hotels, and is now in great need of international support. At TravelandLeisure.com, we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected by Haiyan, and we encourage everyone to do what they can to make a difference for those in need.

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FAA Drops Personal Electronics Restrictions

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today that it would drop existing restrictions on the use of personal electronics during takeoff and landing, urging airlines to implement the changes on their own timelines.

This means that flyers will soon be able to use their phones, tablets, e-readers, and other gadgets at all stages of the flight, as long as they are set to Airplane Mode.

Last month, as T+L reported, a committee set up by the FAA urged the administration to reconsider the current restrictions, finding them unnecessary from a safety perspective. Originally set in place to prevent electronic devices from interfering with a plane's equipment, the restrictions have come under scrutiny after experts concluded such fears of interference are groundless.

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Betty White Talks In-Flight Safety in Air New Zealand's Latest Video

Air New Zealand, known for their offbeat in-flight safety videos, has released a new four-minute reel, featuring actress Betty White. The latest video depicts the former star of The Golden Girls at the fictional Second Wind Retirement Resort, where she instructs a lot chess-playing residents to “listen up” as her “cousin’s grandson” (a.k.a. an Air New Zealand flight attendant) reminds seniors of the usual on-board precautions (fastening seatbelts; pulling down oxygen masks).

“We had a lot of fun on set and I think we’ve shown that it doesn’t matter what age you are, it’s important to live life to the full,” says White.

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Crash-Test Dummy Dogs Help Make Pet Travel Safer

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Road trips with your pup just got a little safer, thanks to a new pack of crash-test dummy dogs. Partnering with Subaru, the Center for Pet Safety in Virginia used the dummies—which stimulated dogs from a 25-pound terrier to a 75-pound golden retriever—to test out seven different pet harnesses. Findings released last week “uncovered serious flaws in many of the popular pet restraints…with many resulting in catastrophic failure.”

“Selecting the wrong harness could be just as detrimental as not using one at all,” claims Michael Michale, Director of Communications at Subaru of America. While pet owners may get giddy at Fido hanging his head out of the window, pet advocacy groups insist this is a serious danger to both pet and passengers during a crash.

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Committee Urges the FAA Reconsider Electronic Device Prohibitions

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An advisory committee is recommending that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) ease its restrictions on electronic devices below 10,000 feet, finding current rules pointlessly prohibitive. The council's 28 members hail from the aviation industry and within the FAA.

Flyers today must shut down their phones, tablets, e-readers, and other gadgets to prevent interference with the plane's equipment during takeoffs and landings. Anyone who refuses to do so may be kicked off the plane, a la Alec Baldwin.

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Sinkhole Near Disney World Swallows Section of Resort

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It’s normal for visitors to Walt Disney World to worry about falling from the sky—the Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain, and other rides all feature nausea-inducing drops. But last night, the worry was of plummeting into the earth below.

Late Sunday, a 40-foot wide sinkhole opened at Summer Bay Resort, a condominium vacation complex located just minutes from Walt Disney World. Guests first became alarmed when their lights went off, but creaking noises and large cracks forming on the wall signified something grimmer than a mere power outage.

A security guard ran through the complex telling the roughly 35 guests in the affected buildings to evacuate. Within minutes, the hole had swallowed about a third of two buildings. Just fifteen feet deep, the shallow sinkhole totally destroyed 48 condo units, and no injuries were reported.

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Family Friday: Villa Rentals by Kid & Coe

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Navigating the world of villa rentals is a dicey proposition. What looks incredible online (spacious rooms, gorgeous pool, state-of-the-art kitchen) often ends up being in one word—a dump. Case in point: a couple of years ago, my husband rented a house in Costa Rica and arrived to discover the place had no roof. While I have no problem camping out under the stars, it’s a different story when the kids are with me. A new villa rental company launching in October, Kid & Coe, aims to assure families that you won’t reach your dream house to discover a 50-foot cliff drop off the pool. Launched by Zoie Coe, wife of DJ Sasha, from Sasha & Digweed, the company has properties in Europe and the US, as well as a few prime vacation destinations like Sayulita, Mexico and Transcoso, Brazil. All houses are approved by the Kid & Coe team, often by Coe herself who is constantly on the road with her little ones. Stylish, functional, and safe digs are guaranteed.

Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Kid & Coe

What the Global Travel Alert Means for You

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The global travel alert that the U.S. Department of State issued at the end of last week has been met with a fair amount of criticism and head scratching. It’s vague. It’s frightening. And it’s not very clear what a traveler should do with this information.

The alert, which is valid through August 31, warns U.S. citizens about “the continued potential for terrorism attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.” It was prompted, according to news reports, by intercepted communications between al Qaeda operatives—chatter that Senator Saxby Chambliss, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee characterized on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.” Though Yemen is obviously a major area of concern right now (the U.S. has not only evacuated the embassy there, but urged all Americans to leave the country), the State Department’s alert is not restricted to any particular region. It even goes so far as to remind travelers of the possibility of attacks on “public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure,” including subway, rail, and aviation services. (A threat that is underscored by a recent ABC News story about terrorists working to develop an as-yet-undetectable explosive liquid.)

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New Cruise Safety Disclosures

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Starting today, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Lines—which represent nearly 90 percent of the cruise business in North America—will begin posting allegations of ship-board crimes on their websites, all in an effort to address concerns related to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA). T+L reached out to Cruise Lines International Association for comment. Their take?

Cruising is one of the safest, most enjoyable vacation experiences for millions of people every year, and the crime rate on cruise ships is a small fraction of corresponding rates on land.

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Classic Travel Scam Led To Death of Malcolm X's Grandson

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Family members have planned a private burial service for Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of slain civil rights activitist Malcolm X, in Hartsdale, New York tomorrow. He was beaten to death in a bar fight on May 9 in Mexico City. But in the widespread news coverageof the killing, one fact has been curiously underplayed: Shabazz was the unwitting victim of one of the oldest scams in travel.

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