Instant Access




Instant Access

By   Anita Dennis, a Journal contributing editor.
 

I t's always possible to turn travel plans over to a travel agent, but many people do their own scheduling of airline travel by contacting the airlines directly. For those who have been relying on telephone reservation lines, there is an alternative: the Web sites maintained by many major airlines. These sites allow visitors to check schedules, book reservations (this option often is only for members of airline frequent flier programs) and learn about travel packages, current discount offers or new routes. Southwest Airlines has even introduced ticketless travel through its Web site, allowing fliers to book and confirm reservations that are stored in the airline's computers, and thus don't require a ticket at the gate (a reservations confirmation is sent to travelers). Sites also have helpful links to other informative home pages packed with information for business travelers.

Here are the Internet addresses of a few major airlines and, for those who like personal contact, their phone numbers, as well:

In addition to the airlines' own sites, there are other Web pages that offer valuable options to travelers. One is Preview Travel's www.reservations.com, which allows comparisons to be made among different carriers for the best schedules-and airfares. The site's Best Fare Finder searches all of the relevant airlines' prices to offer the best one.

After you've chosen and booked your flight, would you like to know something about the airport in which you'll be arriving? Would you like to be able to check your e-mail between flights? Then check www.quickaid. com, a public information service for airports that has lots of great features for travelers. For example, you can learn about local travel and hotel options at major airports around the country before you depart. Once you arrive, you won't have to orient yourself to a new airport or its services; you'll already know where you're headed. In addition, the company's QuickAID Travelers Club allows fliers to access e-mail and online services or useful Web sites from different airports.



WEATHER OR NOT
W ill it rain today in Seattle? Is the sun shining in Santa Fe? To get a quick answer, you can call one of two new Weather Channel telephone information service numbers. The services provide local weather reports as well as forecasts for 600 U.S. cities and almost 300 international locations. Those who dial 900-WEATHER (900-932-8437) from a touch tone phone can access these options plus news about driving conditions. There's even an option that allows you to schedule a time when the service will call you with the day's weather. If you're away from home, dial 800-832-8437 and have a credit card handy to get information; both numbers charge $0.95 per minute.

Tariffs at Top 10
Rental Car Destinations

Here's the tax charged on
car rentals at the top-volume
rental locations.

  • Las Vegas 21.0%
  • Reno, Nevada 20.0%
  • Austin, Texas 18.0%
  • Chicago 18.0%
  • Dallas 18.0%
  • Houston 16.0%
  • Seattle 15.5%
  • Washington, D.C. 14.0%
  • New York City 13.3%
  • Minneapolis 12.7%

Source: Tax Foundation & TIAA, SatoTravel TravelLine



INSPECTING
YOUR RENTAL CAR

W hat steps should you take when driving an unfamiliar car? Drivers equip their own cars to be ready for emergencies, and the same precautions ought to be taken with a rental car. In addition, renters should check to see that their cars are undamaged and in good working order before they leave the rental agencies. If they don't, they may be held responsible for any damages-even if they didn't cause them.

Here are some suggestions for inspecting a rental car from Travel Rights , by Charles Leocha (World Leisure Corp.; $7.95):

  1. Always check to make sure the car has a usable spare tire. Look for the basic tool kit containing the jack and lug wrench.
  2. Walk around the car to check for dents, scratches or broken lights. Bring them to the attention of the agency employees and get them to acknowledge them in writing before you leave the lot. If you do not, you may have to pay for repairs.
  3. Find out on which side of the car the fuel tank is located. This will prevent the inconvenience of driving around a gas station trying to position the car correctly.
  4. If you think you will be using snow chains, make sure they are the right size for the car.


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