Interactive Traveler: Website Conveniences
Published: May 2009
gain for pain
How one web site will pay for your travel inconveniences
Lately, travel Web sites have been making all sorts of offers to attract customers. But a new service from Biztravel.com, owned by travel agency giant Rosenbluth International, is possibly the most novel--and potentially costly--of all: refunds for travelers who book flights on the site and experience delays or service problems on any of five major airlines (American, Continental, US Airways, British Airways, and Air France). Clients will get $100 back for flights that arrive more than 30 minutes late, $200 for delays of over an hour, and a full refund for flights that land more than two hours late or are canceled on the day of departure. (An exception: delays due to mechanical problems.) Smaller refunds or payments are promised for seat assignments that aren't honored and a few other mishaps, as well as for problems with Biztravel's own operations. At press time, the company pledged that the plan would remain in effect indefinitely. Until the first big snowstorm, perhaps?
What is it? The Kodak PalmPix, a petite, 1.5-ounce attachment that turns your personal digital assistant into a digital camera.
Setup: It's plug-and-play--almost. First you have to load the enclosed software onto your computer and then download it to your Palm (but that's easy enough with the lightning-quick HotSync feature). Mac users are out of luck, though, since the software runs only on the Windows platform.
Picture this: The Palm's low-res screen sometimes makes it hard to see details--is that pixellated blob a tree or a person?But once you upload images to your computer (again, via HotSync), you can print or e-mail crisp digital files. And with the Palm's supercool beam function, you can zap pictures to nearby friends with PDA's.
Verdict: Great for gadget junkies; serious photogs might prefer something sharper.
Cost: $179, available at kodak.com/go/shop or major computer retailers nationwide.
--H. Scott Jolley
If you've waited too long to plan your next getaway, don't despair. Now the latest in last-minute Internet travel services, Site59.com, will do everything for you, offering all-inclusive, discounted weekend packages from 18 cities (no worries about coordinating hotel, air, car, and dinner reservations). The "At Your Service" option will even walk your dog while you're away. Don't want to leave home?If you're in New York, Boston, or D.C. (more cities to come), "Local Flavor" will plan a night or day on the town.
New features at notable sites
Priceline.com devotees can pick their price for car rentals. Coming soon: international destinations, travel packages, and cruises. . . . Travelocity.com has introduced Dream Map--you input the amount you can spend on airfare, and the site shows where you can afford to go. . . . MapQuest.com, besides stepping up the number and kinds of maps it offers, has added travel services, including expanded city guides and live traffic updates.