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Need To Know

November 23, 2008|Catharine Hamm, Susan Spano, Jane Engle and Susan Derby

Be thankful for helpful sites

If you're jumping on the big bird this week for Bird Day, here are some websites that can help you avoid aviation insanity:

* If you're not a frequent traveler, go to the Transportation Security Administration's website and look up the rules that govern travel. The most important: Take off your shoes, remove your identification from its holder and be sure you have no liquid containers larger than 3 ounces, and that includes that lovely bottle of wine, salsa, cranberry sauce and so on.

* You can see, at a glance, which airports are backed up and plan pickups and departures accordingly.

* This site also offers a map showing delays but goes far beyond that, with such features as flight status by route.

To figure out parking and pickup, see (LAX, Ontario, Van Nuys, Palmdale); (Long Beach airport); (Bob Hope Airport in Burbank); (John Wayne Airport).

-- Catharine Hamm

Rome in 3-D

It's back to the future -- or is that forward to the past? -- at a theater near the Coliseum where "3-D Rewind Rome" just opened. Visitors wear 3-D glasses to watch a 30-minute program that uses about 60,000 virtual characters -- senators, plebeians, even vestal virgins -- brought to life. The show opens at a construction site in modern-day Rome where a frescoed tunnel that once led to the living quarters of gladiators is discovered. Then, as part of a virtual crowd in the Coliseum during a gladiatorial contest, audience members get to give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down sign to a prostrate fighter. The action seems so real that preview audiences flinched when a gladiator thrust a sword in their virtual direction. Besides its entertainment value, the program educates visitors who too often wander around the Forum area with no real sense of what they are seeing. "3-D Rewind Rome" is showing at the Sala Rewind, 5 Via Capo d'Africa; tickets cost about $12 per person. Info:

-- Susan Spano

Award seats

Here's a fresh answer to a frequent-flier frustration: finding award seats., which alerts ticket buyers when fares drop and helps them get travel credits, will now e-mail you if award seats become available on flights you're tracking. The service is free. So far only flights by Alaska, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways are covered. But Yapta spokesman Jeff Pecor said his company was working to add more carriers. Another website,, includes searches for awards and upgrades, along with other services, in subscriptions that start at $4.99 per month. ExpertFlyer's program covers more airlines than Yapta's. Info:,

-- Jane Engle

Solar bags

You know who they are: the friends who ride bikes to work, never take a shower longer than five minutes and book carbon-neutral vacations. With the holidays coming, don't even think about getting them more reusable bags. Instead, consider cutting-edge Voltaic bags, whose exteriors are embedded with waterproof solar panels that can generate up to 14.7 watts of energy. A battery pack stores generated power to play an iPod or charge a cellphone or laptop during non-sunlight hours too. Not eco-impressed? The fabric on these totes is made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (soda bottles). Info: Voltaic bags, $199 to $599;

-- Susan Derby


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