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Travel Log

August 24, 2003|Times staff

Get answers to passport questions

It's getting easier and cheaper to find out everything, or nearly everything, you need to know about getting a passport.

The National Passport Information Center in the U.S. State Department last week launched a toll-free information line, expanded the hours that operators will answer your calls and added e-mail access for questions.

The toll-free line, (877) 487-2778, replaces two numbers that carried a charge.

The phone has a recorded menu that tells how to obtain a passport or report a lost one, and it links to another toll-free line, (888) 407-4747, with information on travel and safety abroad. It also offers the option of talking to an operator between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. (The paid lines used to be staffed only from 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)

There is also a new TDD/TTY phone for the hearing impaired, (888) 874-7793.

At the e-mail address npic@state.gov, you can check on the status of your passport application and ask other questions about passports. Information is also available at www.travel.state.gov. (Click on "Passport Information" under "Services.")

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Lettuce entertain

you at museum's

farming exhibits

The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Calif., the 5-year-old museum that celebrates the life and work of author and native son John Steinbeck, is set to open a new wing that shines a spotlight on agriculture.

The $5.2-million project, which is to open to the public on Labor Day, tells the story of crops from "field to fork" in Monterey County, where agriculture, especially lettuce, artichokes, broccoli, celery and cauliflower, is a nearly $3-billion-a-year industry. Hands-on and interactive displays (vote for your favorite vegetable, manage an agricultural concern), memorabilia and equipment (the much-hated short-handled hoe) and photos and videos are used to depict what Steinbeck called the "Valley of the World."

The wing also tells the story of the diversity of people who populate the area, including the Midwestern refugees from the Dust Bowl years, Mexicans, Japanese and Filipinos.

After seeing the new exhibits, "I don't think you'd look at a head of lettuce dispassionately again," says Amanda Holder, spokeswoman for the center.

The museum, at 1 Main St., is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for some major holidays. Admission to both parts of the museum will be $10.95 for adults, $8.95 for seniors 62 and older, $7.95 for youths 13 to 17, $5.95 for children 6 to 12 and free for children 5 and younger. For more information, call (831) 796-3833 or (831) 775-4720 or visit www.steinbeck.org.

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American Airlines loosens rebooking rules

American Airlines last week loosened its rules on nonrefundable tickets, which it and several other major airlines tightened last year. Essentially the airline is giving you more time to decide when you want to rebook.

Customers who don't use a nonrefundable ticket on the scheduled date now have up to a year to rebook and take their flight, provided that they had canceled their original reservation before the scheduled departure. Previously they had to rebook before the scheduled departure. The year deadline is counted from the date the ticket was issued.

The bad news: As before, you'll still have to pay a change fee, typically $100 for domestic flights and up to $200 for international flights, plus any fare difference on the new booking, according to American spokesman Tim Wagner.

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Alaska Airlines

cracks down on

overweight bags

Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, are lowering the weight limit for free baggage service. Starting Oct. 1, the excess-baggage fees will be $25 for bags weighing 51 to 70 pounds and $50 for bags 71 to 100 pounds.

Currently there is no fee for bags up to 70 pounds, but there is a $50 fee for bags 71 to 100 pounds. Bags more than 100 pounds cannot be carried as baggage.

The airlines said they were trying to reduce workplace injuries by making the changes.

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Traveler's notes

America West Airlines on Oct. 26 will begin daily nonstop service between Los Angeles and New York's JFK airport and Boston. Flights will depart twice a day to each city from LAX.... American Airlines on April 4 plans daily nonstop service between LAX and Tokyo.... Internet travel seller Orbitz is offering bonus miles for US Airways bookings made on www.orbitz.com. You get 1,000 miles for the first ticket you buy and 500 miles for purchases after that. You must book by Oct. 5 and complete travel by Nov. 25.

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DEAL OF THE WEEK

Four nights in

Prague for $499

You can visit the historic Czech Republic capital this winter for prices starting at $499 per person, double occupancy, with airfare.

The package, offered by Nordique Tours, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Picasso Travel, includes four nights' hotel in Prague, daily breakfast and round-trip airfare from Los Angeles on Lufthansa. Airport taxes are extra; hotel upgrades are available at extra cost.

You must book by Oct. 31. The deal, subject to availability, is good for travel Nov. 1 to March 31, except for the holiday period, Dec. 12 to Jan. 11. (800) 995-7997, www.nordiquetours.com.

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FREE FOR THE ASKING

Warming up

to Fairbanks

In its 20 pages, the "Fairbanks 2003-2004 Winter Guide" lists dozens of events and activities from September through May in and around the Alaskan town, where you can gaze at the Northern Lights, catch the World Ice Art Championships (in March) and warm up in hot springs. (800) 327-5774, www.explorefairbanks.com. (Click on "Request Information.")

-- Compiled by

Times staff

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