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Expedia Upgrades the Travel Menu

Online travel operation Expedia, determined to stay among the front-runners in this ultra-competitive e-commerce segment, launched a Build Your Own Trip tool that lets customers add services and activities at their destinations.

The tool, featured prominently on the Expedia home page and part of a new shopping cart type service, lets consumers make arrangements for things like theme park tickets and ground transportation while completing their flight or hotel reservations.

Bellevue, Wash.-based Expedia said that customers are now "able to choose which travel components, locations, and dates they need, and then can decide which hotel, flight, car rental or activities they want within those components."

In other words, you can book a whole itinerary all at once, instead of having to do it one thing at a time -- a nice feature that gives Expedia a leg up on some of its larger competitors. It's not a first, however -- E-Vacations.com, operated by Rail Europe Group and U.S. tour operator Avanti Destinations, has been offering a similar service for leisure travelers for some time.

"More important than how you get to your destination is what you do when you get there," said Erik Blachford, president of Expedia for North America. "For business travelers, it might be as simple as ground transportation so they can get downtown for their meeting. For leisure travelers, it might be a variety of activities -- from tours of Stonehenge to sea kayaking near San Diego."

The new services apparently capitalize on synergies with Expedia's new sister company, ticket seller Ticketmaster Inc. . The two companies developed a relationship when USA Interactive Inc. acquired a controlling interest in Expedia from Microsoft Corp. last February.

Expedia said its Shopping Cart services are built on top of Expedia's Expert Searching and Pricing (ESP) platform. As customers add components, their trip is re-priced in real time, and, after booking, travelers can then view and print the vouchers they need.

"... by providing Expedia's Shopping Cart services atop the ESP platform, we are breaking beyond the bounds of 'packages' and instead providing travelers with flexible and complete trips," Blachford said.