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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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New Air Travel Rules Make Flying Easier for Disabled Passengers

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The Department of Transportation has added new rules to make air travel easier for passengers with disabilities. From ticket purchasing to check-in to the flight itself, the entire experience should be accessible within two years. Here are some of the changes you'll be noticing:

  • Airline websites will be easier to use for everyone: Becoming more accessible for individuals with disabilities—based on the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)—websites will actually become more accessible for everyone with improved visuals and clearer forms to fill out.

  • Same goes for automated kiosks: On top of being at varying heights for those in wheelchairs, check-in kiosks will also meet WCAG criteria. Every new kiosk installed must be accessible, until 25 percent of the kiosks at that location are usable by all.

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6 Things You Didn't Know About Your Boarding Pass

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1. The Bar Code
The International Air Transport Association mandated in 2005 that all 240 member airlines have to use boarding passes embedded with bar codes rather than magnetic strips—making it possible to print them at home and ushering in the era of paperless travel.

2. Flight Time
The practice of padding flight times to account for unpredictable tarmac traffic peaked around 2010. Airlines have since scaled back. This JFK-LAX flight went from six hours, four minutes in 2005 to six hours, 40 minutes in 2010. It’s now six hours, 15 minutes.

3. Security
The TSA’s PreCheck expedited security program continues its rapid expansion, adding new partner airlines and airports to its ranks. If you’re a member, scan your boarding pass to see if you’ve been granted PreCheck clearance for a given flight.

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Gogobot’s New Tribes Feature Finds Opinions From Likeminded Travelers

If you haven’t been on Gogobot in a while, it’s a good time to make your return—today, the site announced a new feature called Tribes, which lets you filter for recommendations from likeminded travelers, both online and on your smartphone. Tribes cover various travel personalities and interests, from luxury travel to wellness or art and design. Join the Local Culture and Foodie tribes before a trip to Chicago, for instance, and Stephanie Izard’s hotspot Girl and the Goat is your first dining recommendation. Family travelers, on the other hand, will get Giordano’s, the classic deep dish pizza haunt, as their top pick for places to fill up. 

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JetBlue Celebrates First Flight to Allow Gate-to-Gate Use of Portable Electronic Devices

A few weeks ago, I was scolded by a flight attendant for switching my iPhone into airplane mode instead of powering off. This week, however, we are living in a world where portable electronic devices can be kept on from take off to touch down. JetBlue celebrated its first PED-approved flight on Friday, allowing gate-to-gate usage from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Buffalo Niagara Airport. The video above captures this moment of joy in air travel history. With both JetBlue and Delta's approval of the policy, we can only imagine that more airlines will follow suit and adopt this tech-friendly stance.

Maria Pedone
Maria Pedone is on the digital team at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @mariapedestrian.

Mandarin Oriental Jumps on the Free Wi-Fi Bandwagon

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If free Wi-Fi has typically been the exception at luxury hotels, there’s more hope than ever that it will soon be the rule. Case in point: this week, Mandarin Oriental has announced that they will offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi to any guest who books on the mandarinoriental.com website and fills out a guest questionnaire. Why the caveats? The brand is better able to learn about their guests, anticipate their needs, and market to their audience with the help of online profiles, and direct bookings reduce the fees and commissions associated with outside booking vendors. Plus, Mandarin promises to offer the lowest rate on their site—or beat any better deals by a full ten percent. Want the Wi-Fi without the runaround? Try Peninsula, Shangri-La, or Hilton, which recently partnered with AT&T to provide free Internet for many of its guests.

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental

HomeAway Launches Luxury Rentals

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Culling the inventory for a high-end getaway on HomeAway—a vacation rental company that lists more than 775,000 properties in 171 countries—just got a little less overwhelming. The Austin-based company has launched Luxury Rentals from HomeAway, a curated collection of villas, estates, and the like geared to customers looking for a more deluxe experience.

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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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"Generous Chocolate Upgrader" Rewards Fliers in Worst Seats with Candy

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Unhappy with your 43B seat assignment? Consider a stopover in Copenhagen or Stockholm, where Anthon Berg Generous Chocolate Upgrader kiosks dole out treats for passengers flying with the worst seats, as rated by website SeatGuru.com.

Travelers simply scan their boarding passes—with the help of an Anthon Berg “stewardesses”—and, voila, the stewardess will give them a "chocolate upgrade." Someone in a middle seat near the bathrooms at the rear of the plane, for example, will walk away with an eye mask, a neck pillow, and a large bar of chocolate. Anyone with an aisle seat towards the front, on the other hand, will receive only a small chocolate sample.

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Virgin America's New Video Puts a Spin on In-Flight Safety

Virgin America's added a little twist to their in-flight safety video. Grooving nuns, rapping kids, and auto-tuning robots guide you through the airline's safety regulations. This won't be the last dance, either. Virgin America has already posted a casting call on Instagram for future video stars. And if you can't get down with the funk, Virgin America's offer—20% off flights for today only—is sure to make you jump. Simply use the promo code "GETDOWN" upon checkout.

Maria Pedone
Maria Pedone is on the digital team at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @mariapedestrian.

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