That new client you're anxious to impress has scheduled your first meeting -- at 8:30 a.m. ... in New York. Not to worry. You can still get a good night's sleep without leaving a day early by taking advantage of Amtrak's Executive Sleeper service.
Amtrak's northbound sleeper train leaves Washington every night at 10:30 and arrives in New York at 2:38 a.m. But passengers can remain in their sleeping accommodations until 8 a.m. The sleeper service also operates for southbound travelers, who can board the train at Pennsylvania Station in New York as early as 9:30 p.m. -- even though it won't depart for Washington until 3:45 a.m., arriving in New York at 7:55 a.m.
This hotel-on-rails offers a convenient late-night alternative for travelers after the shuttle flights have shut down for the evening. And the sleeper train is also a restful option if you have to get to New York for an early-morning flight overseas.
The Executive Sleeper offers two types of accommodations: roomettes for one person and bedrooms for two. Both have a toilet and sink, as well as comfortable seats or sofas when the beds are not down.
With a one-way fare of $103 per person, including continental breakfast and a morning newspaper, it's cheaper than many hotel rooms these days. (A bedroom for two is $195 one way.)
Staying in Touch Amtrak also expanded its Railfone service recently so that passengers can use the AT&T calling card to make telephone calls while aboard Metroliner and San Diegan trains.
AT&T is the first long-distance calling card to be used for the on-board service, which Amtrak says has proved quite popular with passengers on its Metroliner and San Diego/Los Angeles corridor routes. Railfone users are charged $1.50 per minute (plus a $1.50 set-up fee per call) for calls in the United States -- including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands -- and Canada. Overseas calls cost $4 per minute, plus the $1.50 set-up fee per call.
Train Service of a Different Sort Private railroad cars -- once the ultimate status symbol and often called "mansions on wheels" -- are now primarily symbols of a bygone era. But guests at the Greenbrier, the five-star resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., can experience some of that luxury firsthand: The resort has purchased and refurbished four private railroad cars and made them available to guests for special tours and private parties.
Guests once arrived at the Greenbrier by train, and the Southern Colonial-style depot still sits across from the resort's main entrance, its ticket window now a bar. The four Pullmans, stationary now, are next to the depot, which can be rented for private meetings and parties.
"Our guests are always looking for new ways to entertain, and we think the cars will have tremendous appeal, especially to meeting planners looking for a unique place to host a special reception or smaller group gathering," said Ted J. Kleisner, president and managing director of the Greenbrier. The cost of renting the depot varies, depending on catering requests and a particular group's other arrangements with the Greenbrier. Private tours of the trains are free to guests of the resort.
All four cars were custom-built between 1925 and 1945 and feature detailed woodwork, porcelain bathroom fixtures, pine paneling and brass lighting fixtures. Each car has an elegant dining room, complete kitchen, and sleeping areas with private bath and living room. The four cars are now connected, so groups can mingle throughout.
For more information: (304) 536-1110.
Get Me a Desk Forget the king-size bed and the VCR. It may be the size of the desk that sways the business traveler trying to choose overnight accommodations.
The Houston Marriott Brookhollow recently took a telephone poll of more than 200 of its frequent guests. Granted, that's too small a number -- and too circumspect a group -- to be the basis for sweeping conclusions. Still, the survey did reveal some surprising preferences in hotel amenities. Of the major pieces of furniture in a typical hotel room, desks were rated the most important, followed by king-size beds, overstuffed chairs and sofas. Videocassette players were considered least important by business travelers.
Additional survey findings: Free local telephone calls topped the list of other amenities evaluated by the guests, followed by free cable television movies and free faxes and photocopies. Surprisingly, the availability of in-room personal computer hook-ups was ranked least important.
Women business travelers also placed a high value on full-length mirrors, hair dryers, irons and ironing boards in the hotel room, and said they favored hotels that provide extra security for single women travelers. Least important to the women travelers? Complimentary bubble bath and free "women's interest" magazines.
Rental-Car Updates Hertz has put GTE cellular credit-card phones in the cars it rents at Dulles, National and Baltimore-Washington airports, as well as at nine other airport rental locations: Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, St. Louis, Hartford, Houston, Oklahoma City and Detroit.
The cellular phones are available at no additional charge -- except phone charges -- to Hertz renters. A customer's credit card activates the phone, and both outgoing and incoming calls are billed according to cellular air time used plus AT&T charges for any long-distance calls.
At National Car Rental, plans are afoot to expand the company's Smart Key service, which lets frequent customers rent and return a vehicle without the help of counter personnel.
Under the current system, customers use a Smart Key machine in the airport to process the rental agreement, and receive the key and the location of the car from the machine before heading to the National parking lot. These larger machines will still be used in some locations. But the streamlined Smart Key II program soon will allow customers to make rental-car arrangements more easily at many more airport arrival areas.
Beginning in September, new counter-top Smart Key machines will be installed at multiple arrival areas in major airports. The machines will process rental agreements as before, but will issue only a receipt telling the renter where the car is parked. The keys will be in the cars at secured locations. Because the new machines operate without issuing keys, they are smaller and can be placed in more airport locations.
New on Video Two travel-industry attorneys have put together a 40-minute video, "Business Travelers' Legal Rights," to help frequent travelers know their rights -- and how to enforce them. Included is information about dealing with flight delays and cancellations, reservations, overbookings, and defaults by and bankruptcies of travel industry firms.
The attorneys, Mark Pestronk and Ivan Michael Schaeffer, distributed similar advice last year in a pamphlet. Pestronk is an attorney with the Travel Law Firm in Fairfax, and Schaeffer is president of Travel Trust International, a consortium of corporate travel agencies.
The video costs $29.95, plus $4 shipping and handling, and can be ordered from "Business Travelers' Legal Rights," P.O. Box 65096, Washington, D.C. 20035-5096.
Free for the Asking A 20-page pamphlet, "Traveling Healthy," has just been published by Pepto-Bismol/Metamucil. It offers nearly 100 suggestions on how to treat travel-related ailments, including jet lag, motion sickness, bug bites, sunburn and stress. Also included is information about travel health insurance and emergency care, plus a list of suggested medications -- including Pepto-Bismol, of course -- for putting together your own travel medicine kit.
The pamphlet is available free from Traveling Healthy, P.O. Box 10208, New Brunswick, N.J. 08906-9910.