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Business Trip: Interactive Agents

if you can't beat 'em, join 'em
How travel agents are using the web to their advantage -- and yours

Just when it seemed travel agents might never find a way to compete with the Internet, they've hit upon a new concept: online consortiums that give you easy access to what agents provide best -- expert advice and trip planning. The largest of these, Vacation.com, lists hundreds of packaged trips; when your search turns up one you like, the site connects you to an agent who can book it for you. ByeByeNow.com offers a similar service using its network of franchise agents. Virtuoso (formerly API Travel Consultants), through its virtuoso.com site, assigns a luxury-travel specialist to plan a trip according to your needs. Paul Ruden, senior vice president at the American Society of Travel Agents, calls these sites "a step in the right direction" for agents. Given the benefit to consumers, we couldn't agree more.
--Robert Maniaci

surfing by phone
A new service goes online for you -- when you can't

The Internet is a great source of information, but sometimes you just can't get access to it. For those moments, there's iNetNow (888/463-8669; iNetNow.com), a new service that puts on-the-go people in touch with someone who can access the Web for them, 24/seven. Rushing to a meeting in a taxi and need to know the quickest way from point A to point B?Dial iNetNow and one of its Net-savvy surfers will give you exact directions, as well as a traffic update, estimated time of arrival, and the name of a good nearby restaurant. While you're at it, have the representative check your stock portfolio, do some research about Sun Microsystems, change your flight reservation, even solve your crossword puzzle -- all for 45 cents a minute.
--Hillary Geronemus

copies in a flash
Need printed materials on the road?Send your documents electronically to www.mimeo.com by 10 p.m. EST, and they'll be printed, bound, and shipped to you by the next morning. Prices (excluding shipping) are usually cheaper than the local Kinko's.
--H.G.

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