(MONEY Magazine) – HOTEL DEAL Business and pleasure. Nearly 30% of U.S. business travelers build vacation time into their work trips, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Hotels have taken notice. Until May 26, Intercontinental (800-327-0200) and Crowne Plaza (800-227-6963) hotels are offering weekend stays for 50% off weekday rates if you pay full price on a Thursday. A weekend night at the Hotel Intercontinental Miami, for example, will cost just $89.50.
INTERNET Web surfing for beginners. This looks to be the year of the so-called Internet appliance, a device that provides Internet access and e-mail without the complexity, or price tag, of a full-service computer. Among the first to hit the market is the $299 i-opener, made by Netpliance (888-467-3637). Little more than a flat-panel screen, keyboard and mouse, the i-opener promises Web access even for the severely technophobic. When we tried it out, setup proved as easy as billed. We initially had trouble getting online but, when we did, the machine's internal 56kb modem made for smooth surfing. One major complaint: For now, it works only with Netpliance's own $21.95-a-month Internet service.
DVD RENTALS All the movies you can watch. NetFlix (www.netflix.com) offers unlimited DVD movie rentals for a monthly fee of $19.95. You can take out up to four of the company's approximately 5,000 titles at a time. If you watch at least six movies per month, you'll end up saving money over Blockbuster prices. Shipping, which typically takes two days per order, is included in the monthly fee.
CHILD SAFETY Free car-seat checks. The National Safe Kids Campaign has found that more than 80% of child car seats are improperly installed. DaimlerChrysler now gives free inspections at 400 Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and Jeep dealerships (and at 600 more by the end of the year). Trained inspectors will check any car seat, regardless of what kind of car you have. Call 877-348-4254 for an appointment.
ITALY Wanted: More tourists. Talk of Italy being overwhelmed by visitors to the country's yearlong Millennium Jubilee celebrations is, according to Italian press reports, actually keeping people away--making this an opportune time to visit. For travel April 7 to May 31, Italiatour (800-845-3365) offers a five-night package to Rome or Florence, including air fare, hotel and breakfast, for $869 per person, double occupancy, from the East Coast and $999 from the West Coast. That's nearly 30% off summer fares.
ADVENTURE TRAVEL Discount packages. Gorp.com (www.gorp.com), a website for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers, has added a booking service that regularly features trips at 10% to 15% off. Starting in March, for example, a trip to Kona, on Hawaii's Big Island, includes six-day accommodations and all the mountain biking, kayaking and snorkeling you can endure for $960 per person, double occupancy.
PRICE ALERTS Until May 15, one-way, intermediate-size car rentals picked up in Florida and dropped off in any of 25 East Coast or midwestern cities are $9.95 a day from Budget, mileage included. Call 800-527-0700.--Tax-time deal: Outpost.com (www.outpost.com) will sell you both Quicken 2000 and TurboTax 99 for a total of $49.95--or only $9.95 after $40 worth of mail-in rebates.
Reported by Brian L. Clark, Grace Jidoun and Natasha Rafi