User-friendly check-in terminals aren't just for airlines anymore. Hotels and car rental companies are installing self-service kiosks as well, saving travelers time in lines and, in some cases, improving choice.
Prefer a room on a high floor, far from the elevator and facing the courtyard? You can be that specific if you stay at a Fairmont Hotel, which installed check-in kiosks in a pilot program last year at its North American properties. While hotel self-check-in isn't new--Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Sheraton have self-service terminals in many hotels--the Fairmont kiosks are the only ones that let you choose from available rooms. (If you have questions or problems, a roving "wireless guest ambassador" can help you, armed with a wireless computer tablet that's linked to the hotel's property management system.) Another nice touch: When you use a Fairmont kiosk to check out, you can also check in and print a boarding pass for any Air Canada flight.
As for car rental companies, Alamo Rent A Car is set to roll out self-service kiosks at locations throughout the U.S. this year. The touchscreen system allows anyone with a valid driver's license, major credit card and existing reservation to skip the rental counter. A receipt-size rental agreement is printed from the kiosk, and you're directed to your car on the lot. At the exit booth, just show the agent your rental agreement and license. Beta tests showed that using a kiosk cut waiting time by about 50 percent--a bonus for road warriors.
Julie Moline is a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant in New York City.