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New kiosks make e-ticketing easier

Though the airlines love e-tickets (they save millions in paperwork), we have had a lot of reasons to hate them since they debuted in the mid-'90s: You could not exchange them by phone, and if you missed a connection, you had to race to the ticket counter for a printout of your flights.

Today, most Continental and Northwest terminals have freestanding e-ticket kiosks that work like ATMs; Delta, US Airways, and United have begun to install them, too. These machines let you bypass check-in lines, print your boarding passes, even choose seats.

Northwest, which already has 240 kiosks, and Alaska Airlines, which has 353, recently announced that you can check in and print boarding passes on the Web _ less than 24 hours but more than 90 minutes before your flight. US Airways and Delta plan to roll out similar programs this year.

Hotel ratings

confusing?

A two-star French auberge may not be the same caliber as another country's two-star hotel, so make sure you know what you are checking yourself into. Here's a quick ratings guide to hotels in France, Greece and the United Kingdom.

FRANCE: One star and no star: Simple hotel with basic comfort. May not include breakfast. Two stars: Comfortable hotel that may not include breakfast. Three stars: Better class, comfortable hotel. Includes breakfast. Four stars: High class, comfortable hotel. Includes breakfast. Four Stars L (luxury): Deluxe hotel with luxuriously furnished rooms. Includes breakfast.

GREECE: D, E: Simple rooms, often with shared bathrooms. C: Charming and homey, usually found in the countryside. A (first class): Many of the same amenities as L, minus direct-dialing. L (luxury): Hotels will have conference rooms, swimming pools, air conditioning, elevators, minibars, televisions and direct-dial phones.

UNITED KINGDOM: One star: Small, independently owned, with a family atmosphere. Limited range of facilities, simple meals. Some bedrooms may have private bathrooms. Two stars: Small- to medium-size, comfortable rooms, usually with private bath/shower. Three stars: Reception and public rooms, restaurant, all bedrooms have full baths (usually with hair dryer), direct-dial telephone. Four stars: Bedrooms are spacious and have coordinated furnishings; 24-hour room service, laundry and dry cleaning. Five stars: Luxurious accommodations throughout. Strong attention to interior design. Formal service, restaurant, knowledgeable staff.

For other countries' general ratings, contact their tourism office; most have offices located in New York City (area code 212).

Economy class

hard on health

Recent studies have linked air travel with deep vein thrombosis, blood clots that form in leg veins due to blood pooling. The lack of mobility and dehydration often associated with long, economy class flights are believed to worsen the thrombosis, which can be dangerous.

To safeguard against deep vein thrombosis, book an aisle seat so you can move about the plane more easily, wear loose-fitting clothes, walk around regularly, limit alcohol and coffee, and guzzle plenty of water. Aspirin's blood-thinning effects may also help.

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