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Interactive Traveler: Hotel Computers, Travel Deal Searches

COMING SOON TO A HOTEL ROOM NEAR YOU
If you think those personalized greetings on your hotel-room TV are cool, you're going to love ProGear. Set to be the next wave in guest/front desk communication, this portable, wireless, broadband-based device is bigger than a Palm but smaller than a laptop and utilizes touch-screen technology to record guest preferences, take room-service orders, and even speed up checkout. The best part is, it also serves as a computer: travelers can use it to check their e-mail, surf the Web, and order tickets to local events. The 3.3-pound tablet can be customized by a hotel or cruise line to carry software applications such as Word Perfect or RealPlayer. Can't wait to try it out?It's currently being tested in rooms at Chicago's Swissotel (800/637-9477 or 312/565-0565; www.swissotel.com; doubles from $229).

THE NEW WAY TO FIND THE BEST RATE
With countless travel Web sites offering different deals, it can take hours of surfing to find the best prices. Now there are three new search engines designed to sift through what's out there—simply type in your desired itinerary or destination, and they'll do the work for you.

FareChase.com searches more than 80 sites, 40 for airfares, 20 for hotels, and 20 for car rentals, as well as multipurpose travel sites such as Hotwire.com and Travelnow.com.

Qixo.com operates similarly, but scours fewer sites (at press time, a total of 20).

SideStep.com searches only official airline, hotel, and car-rental sites (roughly 90, including 54 hotel and 28 airline sites). To use it, you'll need to download a plug-in and have Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher.

Since each engine links up with a different group of sites, you'll want to try your luck on all three. Keep in mind that it can take awhile to get your results, and that some of the biggest and best online resources are not yet partnered with these sites (Travelocity and Expedia, for example, have opted to stay out of FareChase and Qixo, respectively).

CLICK YOUR WHEELS
Sure, it'd be fun to tear around Denver in a rented Ferrari Testarossa, but how would you find one?Drivenimage.com is a new site that lists luxury car-rental firms in more than 40 U.S. and foreign locations. Although Lamborghinis and Bentleys come at a price—anywhere from $1,200 to $2,800 a day—if you rent through the site you'll get a discount averaging 15 percent.

WEB WATCH THE BUZZ ON NOTABLE TRAVEL SITES
Since its October launch, booking site Hotwire.com has added hotels, international flights, and rental cars. . . . Adventure travel resource Gorp.com has a new look, including the City Weekender feature (vacation ideas near 26 U.S. cities. . . . Last-minute travel supplier Site59.com has introduced special-interest packages like Great Dates; it's also added trips to cities such as Paris and Cancœn. . . . Savvio.com, Spa.com, and Foodline.com have closed up shop.

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