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August 24, 2008|Jen Leo; Jane Engle; Catharine Hamm

One less thing to unload

Do you have a "checkpoint friendly" laptop bag? As of Aug. 16, the Transportation Security Administration allows laptops to remain in their bags -- but only certain kinds of bags. Here's what you need to know before crossing your next security checkpoint. Laptop bags that are OK: Basically, your laptop bag needs to be able to lie flat on the X-ray belt. There can be no pockets inside or outside the laptop section or anything else in the laptop compartment that would obstruct a view of your laptop. Butterfly and tri-fold-style bags work because you can isolate the laptop-only section for viewing. Laptop bags that are not OK: If you carry a backpack or an accordion-style bag, you might take this new ruling as an opportunity to go shopping. Bags with zippers, metal snaps, buckles inside or on top of the laptop-only section will not be permitted. Caveat: TSA still retains the right to rescreen any laptop regardless of what bag it is in. Info: www.tsa.gov.

-- Jen Leo

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More room?

Jets are expected to fly less full over the Labor Day weekend than they did last year over the holiday. So you should have a better chance of getting a seat and less chance of getting bumped. The reason is falling demand. U.S. airlines expect to carry nearly 6% fewer passengers over the holiday period than they did last year, the Air Transport Assn. of America said last week. In a news release, James C. May, president and chief executive of the industry trade group, blamed economic uncertainty and high energy prices for the falloff. U.S. carriers can't seem to cut flights fast enough to keep up. American Airlines, the world's biggest, recently reported that its capacity in July was down 1.2% from a year ago, but traffic was down more -- 3.5%. United Airlines reported similar figures. Southwest Airlines, which has bucked the trend and added flights, filled only 76% of its seats in July, compared with 81% a year ago.

-- Jane Engle

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Traveling bear

We travel to bear witness, and now, a bear can witness our travel. The bear's name is Tedrick, and he's the star of "Teddy's Travels," billed as a "personal guidebook and journal all in one place." If all of this sounds like a quick OD on cute, fear not: Ted also is a pretty darn good tour guide as he takes kids through a selection of U.S. parks. He (and author Trefoni Rizzi) can't take us to all the parks, but he hits many of the high points (Grand Canyon, Yosemite) and some of the lesser-known spots too (Muir Woods, Lava Beds). He asks his young readers to explain erosion, how the valley in Yosemite was formed, who John Muir was. Good for the traveler or the dreamer, from about age 5 and up. $19.95, plus about $9 for shipping (depends on your ZIP Code) and available through online bookstores and through www.teddystravels.com.

-- Catharine Hamm

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Tram closure

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which whisks visitors 2 1/2 miles up Chino Canyon, north of the city, will close Sept. 8 for annual maintenance. It is scheduled to reopen Sept. 27, although visitors should call ahead to be sure. For Labor Day weekend, the tram begins running at 8 a.m. daily, and the last tram from the top leaves at 9:45 p.m. Tickets cost $22.25 for adults and $15.25 for children ages 3 to 12. Info: (760) 325-1391, www.pstramway.com.

-- C.H.

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For more travel news, go to latimes.com/travelblog.

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