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Strategies: Airline Fees, New Passport, Sightseeing

Let's vent
• Doesn't it seem as if you always get stuck in an airplane seat that has no direct view of the movie screen?
• Why do so many good hotels have such bad telephone operators?They take forever to answer a guest's call, and they never seem to know whom to transfer you to.
• Delta rightly changed its mind and decided not to add a $1 (one-way) or $2 (round-trip) charge to domestic tickets not purchased on its Web site. It had made us wonder whether we'd soon have to pay for the peanuts.

The new-look blue book
According to the State Department, the new passport "represents the most important improvement in passport technology in 17-years." (Changes were made to prevent counterfeiting and add useful information.) Some offices have already started issuing the new-and-improved version, but it won't be available everywhere until the end of the year. In the meantime, here's a peek.
• In place of the old laminated photo is a digital image, which is printed into the passport to deter forgers from substituting photos. You still have to submit two old-style photos — one will be digitized, then both go on file.
• The red hexagons on the data ; The Important Information (pages two to seven) now gives more addresses, phone numbers, and Web pages to help travelers prepare. Deleted: warnings about specific countries in which U.S. citizens are forbidden to do business. You can now check updated safety and entry information by mail or on the Web.
—Matthew Yeomans

Sightseeing without the lines?Sign us up!
One of our favorite deals, CityPass — booklets of half-price tickets to six top attractions in Boston, New York, San Francisco, or Seattle — adds Philadelphia to its lineup next month. For just $27.50 the new Philly CityPass gets you into the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Academy of Natural Sciences Museum, the Independence Seaport Museum, and the New Jersey State Aquarium in nearby Camden. (Prices for other cities vary.) The booklets contain actual tickets, so you can skip those god-awful lines; tickets are valid for nine days from the date you use the first one. CityPass also throws in the hours of operation for the sites and directions via public transportation. Interested?Call any participating attraction or CityPass itself, based in Napa, California (707/256-0490; www.citypass.net). Stay tuned: The program will expand again soon — hello, Chicago — maybe even into Europe.
—George Hobica

So you have meetings in ... SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL
Best business hotels: Renaissance São Paulo (2233 Alameda Santos; 800/468-3571 or 55-11/3069-2233, fax 55-11/3064-3344; doubles from $260); Hotel Inter-Continental São Paulo (1123 Alameda Santos; 800/327-0200 or 55-11/3179-2600, fax 55-11/3179-2669; doubles from $390). Expense-account restaurant La Tambouille (5925 Avda. Nove de Julho; 55-11/883-6277; dinner for two $80). Car service of choice: Central Taxi (55-11/215-0404); or get a car from your hotel. If you have a free afternoon: Museu de Arte de São Paulo (1578 Avda. Paulista; 55-11/251-5644). If you forgot to pack a tie or scarf: Boutique Daslu (536 Rua João Lourento; 55-11/822-3218); Boutique Daslu for women (284 Rua Domingos Leme; 55-11/820-4483). Web resource: darkwing.uoregon.edu/~sergiok/brasil.html.

Going my way
Name: Dick Vitale
Occupation: ESPN and ABC college basketball sportscaster; lecture-circuit speaker
Home base: Sarasota, Florida
How often do you travel? During the season, I'm away at least five days a week. After that, it varies depending on speaking engagements — but it's much less.
How long do you tend to stay? I'm in and out. Tonight, I'm in Lexington. Tomorrow, Chapel Hill, then home. Friday, I'm back in North Carolina. Sunday, Orlando.
Do you ever get a chance to see the places you go? I try, especially if it's a resort and I'm there more than one day. I have a Vegas trip coming up, so my wife's going to meet me. We'll spend a day or two.
What's your favorite college town? The Triangle area in North Carolina. You have Carolina in Chapel Hill, Duke in Durham, and North Carolina State in Raleigh.
What are your favorite hotels? I like so many, but a standout is the Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill.
What's the one thing you won't travel without? Reading material. I'm constantly reading some form of basketball literature. Got to have something for the plane.
Any gripes? Delays at airports frustrate the heck out of me. I hate fighting the clock.
How do you combat jet lag? I get so acclimated that it doesn't bother me. I fly a lot of red-eyes and get home quick.
Do you worry about losing your voice? Definitely! I do exercises all the time. And I suck on those lemons, baby.

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