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Coming and Going: DVDs for Your Flight

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

UPRIGHT AND LOCKED

Mission: Unplayable

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to spend $5.99 on a DVD that self-destructs in 48 hours.

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Starting this month, Hudson newsstands at Washington-area airports and about 70 other airports and transportation terminals around the country will offer Flexplay DVDs, which purportedly stop working roughly two days after they are exposed to air. Retailers' rotating selections of 32 titles will include movies from Warner Home Video, Paramount Home Entertainment and DreamWorks, from kiddie flicks ("Charlotte's Web") to darker fare ("Sweeney Todd"). At press time, the Flexplay Web site listed 55 available titles. If you buy them on the Web site, DVDs are $4.99, including free shipping to U.S. postal addresses.

Flexplay discs come in sealed envelopes and look and play just like regular DVDs. Once they are opened, however, a special surface coating starts to oxidize two days later, dimming the onscreen image until it finally goes dark. The discs can be recycled in any standard plastic recycling program.

CoGo sampled a Flexplay DVD of "Babel" on a laptop, and it played just like a normal disc. Mission accomplished.

Note: At 7 p.m. Thursday, 56 hours after it was opened, the DVD was still playing -- no signs of destruction yet.

For more information, visithttp://www.flexplay.com.

DEPT. OF SMALL FAVORS

Dollar Daze

Pity CoGo: Amid the gloom and doom of the times, finding happy travel news isn't as easy as it used to be. Last week, however, we indeed unearthed one -- albeit minor -- reason for good cheer: The dollar has gained a bit of ground against foreign currencies. Six months ago, you would have paid $18.36 to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower; now those same 12 euros can be purchased for just $16.20.

Be still my beating heart, right? Okay, CoGo knows that no one's going to, say, book passage to Rome because a visit to the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel is now 11 percent cheaper than it was in March, or high-tail it to Spain just to save a buck-50 off admission to the Prado in Madrid ($12.23 as of last week). But it adds up. Think about it: The London Eye costs 15.50 British pounds, or around $27 in today's market. That's a lot for a Ferris wheel, admittedly. Then again, say you wanted to ride it 10 times. (Just roll with it.) For what 10 rides would have cost you six months ago, you can now ride it . . . 11 times.

FRANCE: VIRTUAL EDITION

The Almost-Real Deal

Then again, maybe your savings account is toast after Wall Street's wild ride, dashing hopes for a trip to France. Never fear: 14 Omni Hotels stateside are offering a "French Toast" package on Saturday nights between now and the end of January so you can experience some joie de vivre without crossing the pond.

Upon arrival, you're served champagne and a cheese-and-meat plate. Afterward, have a private (from 6 to 20 students) cooking and wine-pairing class taught by Omni chefs and sommeliers, who in September were sent to France to perfect their techniques. Make Provencal-style sea scallops, for example. Included in the double-room price are three-course dinners -- coq au vin, ou i, and the to-die-for mousse recipe that the chefs brought back from the Valrhona Ecole du Grand Chocolat in the Rhone Valley -- with a bottle of wine and French toast (of course) breakfasts.

Packages start at $169 (plus taxes) at the Omni Royal Orleans in New Orleans, which has a view of the French Quarter. Others under $300 include Los Angeles ($299), Pittsburgh ($279) and Atlanta ($255). Boston is $319 (the room alone would cost $249). Top price is $450 at New York's Omni Berkshire Palace.

Why it's a deal: Regular Omni room rates can exceed the package price (an online check showed a November Saturday in New Orleans at $199 sans package); dinner for two with wine costs $100-$150 at Omni restaurants; and you take home a sturdy souvenir wine tote with two bottles -- Laboure-Roi pinot noir from Burgundy and Domaine du Tariquet sauvignon blanc from Gascony -- that list for $32 each on Omni menus.

For more information call 888-444-6664 or visithttp://www.omnihotels.com(click the Savor the Flavors of France promotion).

TRAVEL TICKER

Admit it: You've never understood why the TKTS booth in Times Square -- which specializes in half-price, same-day tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows -- didn't take credit cards. Well, now it does. When the new kiosk in the heart of Manhattan's theater district opens Thursday, you'll no longer need to risk losing those "Spring Awakening" tickets while scrounging for a midtown ATM. At last, all major credit cards will be accepted. Info: http://www.tdf.org. . . American Airlines announced last week it will add a filter to its GoGo in-flight Internet service to block pornography sites, saying it is "an appropriate measure to take."

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Fly from Washington Dulles to Johannesburg starting at $884 round trip, including taxes and fuel surcharge. The November to Remember sale on South African Airways applies to travel Nov. 4-Dec. 5; lowest fares are available for Tuesday and Wednesday flights, and some dates are sold out. Fare on other airlines starts at $1,239. Purchase by Oct. 17 by calling 800-722-9675, or at http://www.flysaa.com.

Reporting: Ben Chapman, Scott Vogel, Sue Kovach Shuman

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.


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