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Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Donald Expands

Apparently not content with owning major chunks of planet Earth, Donald Trump last week bought into cyberspace with GoTrump.com, a travel site with the usual array of flights and such, but with some twists: The site includes private jets and tickets to exclusive events, a section featuring the Donald's favorites , an e-mail address to get his travel tips and a 120 percent price guarantee on certain hotel deals.

But who's this site for -- the super elite or the guy trying to save a buck? The hotel portion of the site includes 60,000 hotels, rather than the 600 hotels worldwide that might appeal to the private jet traveler. Maybe it will evolve into a site with only premium brands, says financial analyst Henry Harteveldt of Forrester Research. He guesses that it's a "vanity site" that won't make much money.

As for practical aspects, CoGo liked the detailed sorting available for hotels: Search not only by price and neighborhood but by dozens of amenities, like a pool or casino. On one test, CoGo found that once you included Trump's $5 reservation fee, you could do just as well at the hotel's Web site. On a second test, Trump beat the hotel's best price.

CoGo also liked that the site includes all of the major car rental firms, plus more obscure choices. Then again, most travel sites have personal twists. Last week, for example, Orbitz announced new customer care options, including alerts about flight delays to your car service. Orbitz and Expedia already trump Trump's price guarantee if you consider the narrowness of his promise. As always, shop around.

WALLET WATCH

The Even Smaller Print

As we noted in these very pages recently, government taxes and fees can nearly double a base airfare , so reading the small print is important. But beware: The Department of Transportation is considering a rule change that could remove the obligation for airlines to include the small print .

The DOT's longstanding "full-fare advertising rule" now specifies that while airline advertisements may highlight the base fare, the total cost must be shown somewhere in the ad.

Recently, an industry trade group asked the DOT to let airlines also break out the fuel surcharge from the base fare. But the DOT instead decided to review the entire full-fare advertising rule . The options:

· Completely eliminate fair advertising rules.

· Eliminate the rules but stipulate that airlines must tell passengers the full price before they buy a ticket.

· Keep the old rules.

· Allow only the total price to be advertised.

CoGo's least favorite option: No rules. You have until Feb . 13 to tell DOT Secretary Norman Mineta your opinion on the rule -- formally known as OST-2005-23194 -- by mail at 400 Seventh St. SW, Washington D.C. 20590, or online at http://dms.dot.gov/ . Click on comments/suggestions.

TRAVEL TICKER

The answer is: Get two passports. The question arose after a CoGo item last week mentioned that most Middle Eastern countries deny entry to visitors whose passports show they've visited Israel. A second passport, available once you explain why you want it, is a limited special edition specifically for your Middle Eastern needs. Get details at the National Passport Information Center, 877-487-2778. (Israel does not reciprocate by penalizing visitors who've first visited predominantly Islamic countries) . . . Fifty US Airways tickets will be sold every workday in February for 50 cents (plus taxes and fees) on a first-come basis to holders of the new US Airways MasterCard. Details: http://www.50centflights.com/ .

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

London Business

Fly business class from Washington Dulles to London for almost the same price as economy. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose.

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

London Business

Fly business class from Washington Dulles to London for almost the same price as economy. Details: What's the Deal?, Page P3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose.

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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