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Online Data Vault... Laptop Lanes

Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio March 2000 Current Issue
March 2000 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Sarah J.F. Braley

Online Data Vault... Laptop Lanes

A Web-based service puts critical travel information in a virtual lockup

In touch on the road. Oakland, Calif.-based Lonely Planet Publications, known for its budget-minded destination guides, has teamed up with the Australian communications company eKit.com to offer eKno (www.ekno.lonelyplanet.com; 800-707-0031), a package of electronic services for travelers.

At first glance, it looks like just another Web-based calling-card service, offering budget international calls from more than 40 countries, easy-access voice messaging (via the Internet or a phone) and travel information. One of eKno's free services, however, is the most attractive and convenient: the travel vault. Instead of carrying photocopies of traveler's checks, itineraries, passports and credit card details, this information can be stored securely online, accessible only with a "passphrase" that you choose. EKno promises, "Once you've created a passphrase, not even we can get at it."

If a traveler has no access to the Web at his destination, he still can access the information saved in his travel vault. When inputting the details, users check a box saying they want to be able to open the vault by phoning customer service. A traveler can call the customer service number for the country he is in, and eKno will tell him what he wants to know or will fax the information. Upon returning home, eKno e-mails a reminder that the passphrase should be changed because it was provided over the phone.

For gymphobes. Those who do not like to head to a hotel's health center to exercise now can work up a sweat in their rooms. San Jose, Calif.-based On Command is offering a 30-minute fitness program from Pittsburgh-based Body Effort to be shown on in-room televisions. The private gym class costs $5.99 and is available at 300 hotels with the On Command entertainment service.

Scrabble, please. The new 236-room Serrano Hotel in San Francisco makes sure guests with play time have plenty to play with. Checkers, puzzles, Monopoly and more are available in the lobby. Also, guest rooms have an honor bar for games, stocked with pastimes to purchase and games for in-room use. More entertainment choices are available through room service.

Not so stuck in the airport. When delays happen, several airports have made it easier to get work done, even for those not carrying a computer. Laptop Lanes (www.laptoplane.com) are 40-square-foot workstations with lockable doors (better than your cubicle at work). The service costs 38 cents per minute and includes printing, faxing, domestic long-distance calls and Internet usage. Those with computers in hand who have an Ethernet card can log on at T-1 speed and print in color to the concierge station. Laptop Lanes currently are open at the following airports: Chicago's O'Hare, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Denver, Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan, Hartsfield Atlanta, Philadelphia, Phoenix Sky Harbor, Seattle­ Tacoma and Tampa. The service is coming soon to Dallas/Fort Worth, Raleigh­ Durham, and New York City's JFK and LaGuardia airports.

Apple warning. Traveling with an Apple iBook that has an AirPort networking card? The manufacturer has sent out an alert that the card might interfere with the avionics of a plane. Apple suggests switching off the networking card in the control panel before flying.

Has it landed yet? Those who like to check the status of an arriving passenger's flight should log onto the Flight Tracker at Trip.com (www.trip.com). Choose the airline, type in the flight number, and select the graphical display. Up comes a map showing the exact geographical location of the plane, as well as its air speed, compass heading and altitude.

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