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Sky-high costsMaking changes to your airline ticket...


Sky-high costs

Making changes to your airline ticket is getting more expensive.

United Air Lines and TWA have recently increased their dTC ticket-change fees to $50 from $35, and other airlines are considering similar moves. The charge applies to any change, including altering the date or flight time.

And some travel agencies have begun adding their own rewrite charges of $10 or more, on top of what the airline charges. That means ticket holders who need to make a change might cut their costs by calling the airline directly.

The charge isn't exactly new; Northwest Airlines has charged $50 for several years. But recent efforts by the airlines to cut costs and by travel agencies to recover their expense of rewriting tickets have led to the changes. The charges don't always apply, however. Southwest Airlines, for instance, sometimes waives the fee.

Maine raft trip

White-water rafting is one of the fastest-growing outdoor activities in America. And it's no longer just for the adventurous.

Jay Schurman, owner of Unicorn Expeditions in Brunswick, Maine, offers family trips on the lower section of the Kennebec River in the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine (through Aug. 31).

The one-day outings contain mild rapids, but enough excitement to keep everyone entertained. The trips are designed for those age 6 and older, and include rafting, a swim, a riverside barbecue, a hike to 90-foot-high Moxie Falls and time for the "jumping rock" at Black Brook Stream.

The trips are $59 for adults and $39 for children; lakefront lodging and meal packages are also available. Call (800) 864-2676.

On the American Orient Express

You can ride the rails through the Midwest on a deluxe private passenger train -- the American Orient Express -- during TCS Expedition's seven-day excursion.

The activities will begin in San Francisco Sept. 24 and end in San Antonio Sept. 30. Passengers will stay at the Mark Hopkins Hotel and attend a cocktail reception before departure Sept. 25. Upon arrival in San Antonio, passengers will stay in La Mansion Del Rio Hotel.

The train will make stops in Los Angeles, at the south rim of the Grand Canyon; Sedona, Ariz.; Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M.; and El Paso, Texas. Passengers will also visit the West Texas prairie, the ancient Puye Anasazi cliff dwellings near Santa Fe and the art galleries of Sedona and Santa Fe. Escorted excursions of the sites will be given, but for those who like to wander solo, time will be allotted for individual exploring.

Fares start at $2,750, per person, double occupancy, and include excursions, most meals and hotel accommodations. Bookings are accepted through travel agents. For more information, call TCS Expeditions at (206) 727-7300. Overseas travelers have often had to conduct business in hotel rooms or a client's office, but American-style business centers have begun popping up in foreign countries with growing frequency.

The centers are equipped with computers, fax machines, voice-mail systems and copiers, and staffed by multilingual receptionists. Some also have e-mail capability and video-conferencing, and almost all the centers can be rented by the hour, day, month or indefinitely.

HQ Business Centers of San Francisco has 150 franchised centers in 15 countries, including financial centers such as Munich, Germany; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Toronto; Vancouver, Canada; Mexico City; Madrid, Spain; and London.

At the business center in London, meeting rooms and a large conference office rent for about $35 an hour, while monthly rates range from $1,220 (plus 17 percent value-added tax) for a one-person room up to $4,000, plus value-added tax, for a room for up to six people.

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