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May 01, 2001
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May 2001 Current Issue
May 2001 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley


THE WELL-CONNECTED TRAVELER

Handheld devices and wireless phones make getting from here to there easier and more fun

With the proliferation of tiny computers Palms, Visors, iPaqs, Web-enabled cell phones it’s tough to find a traveler who doesn’t carry some kind of device in her pocket. Most of the airlines and the companies making software for the handhelds know this and have introduced an array of new applications. The difficult choice is which ones make the most sense for your travel needs.

IN FLIGHT
American, Delta and United airlines, for instance, distribute information such as updated flight status via wireless Palms and Web-enabled phones.

The most extensive program comes from Northwest Airlines, with a full electronic menu of services, especially for wireless Palm users. With the PDA, passengers can check flight, gate and weather status; be paged when the flight status changes or when they receive an upgrade; check their frequent-flyer miles; check for CyberSavers fares and promotions; view airport maps, and more. Many of these services also are accessible over a Web-enabled phone. Pagers can receive flight, gate, weather and upgrade status.

Similar services are available from Alaska Airlines, which in addition offers wireless check-in for e-ticketed passengers. They just access Alaska Airlines on their Palm (using downloaded software) or Web-enabled phone (by going to wireless.alaskaair.com), follow the check-in instructions, then go to the gate and show an ID when the flight is called.

Currently being tested by Irving, Texas-based Aeritas Inc. is a wireless check-in service for mobile phones and PDAs. After checking in, travelers receive a bar-code boarding pass on their phone or handheld device, which is scanned at the gate by airlines’ existing machines. Information on more than 800 flights scheduled worldwide is available for devices using the Palm operating system, Pocket PCs and Web-enabled phones from the Official Airline Guide (www.oag.com).

TRAVELING DESKTOP
Hundreds of programs offer travel information, expense reporting, currency exchange and more. Following are some of the choices available at sites like Handango (www.handango.com) and PalmGear H.Q. (www.palmgear.com).

Two firms offer Microsoft Word and Excel-compatible programs for devices running Palm OS: Documents To Go from DataViz (www.dataviz.com; $49.95) and Quickoffice from Cutting Edge Software (www.cesinc.com; $39.95). Both enable users to create word-processing and spreadsheet files on handhelds. Documents created on a PC can be saved to the handheld; any subsequent changes made to the file are then updated on the desktop the next time the handheld is synced. (Documents To Go also works with Macintosh.)

Translate by DDH Software (www.ddhsoftware.com; $12 per language, $70 for the set) provides translations to and from English for 19 other languages, including Danish, Esperanto, French, German, Hungarian even Latin.

Profiles of 91 cities by Weissmann Travel Reports (owned by Cahners Travel Group, M&C’s parent company) are compiled by NeoHand (www.neohand.com; $12.95 per city; multidestination discounts available). The information covers areas such as dining, lodging, business services, resources, transportation and nightlife.

DAILY DOWNLOAD
Palm, Pocket PC and Web-enabled phone users can sign up for news updates, fun reading and more at AvantGo (www.avantgo.com). The site offers hundreds of channels, including current headlines from The Wall Street Journal and The Sporting News; information from the Weather Channel; restaurant and hotel picks for more than 30 cities from Fodors.com; travel services from Expedia To Go, and short mysteries from HandHeldCrime.



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