Everyone's a specialist these days, and travelers are no exception. Even a cursory search will turn up an endless supply of associations, publications and Web sites that can help you plan your trip. The listings below are among the best resources for some of the more popular specialty travel topics. (Note: Many organizations could fit into multiple categories, but we chose the one that seemed most apropos.) For one-stop shopping, Specialty Travel Index offers a Web site (888-624-4030, www.specialtytravel.com) and a biannual magazine.
Adventure Travel Society/Adventure Travel Trade Association, 719-530-0171, www.adventuretravelbusiness.com. Trade association promoting adventure and travel. Limited trip-planning services for the public, but helpful links are on the Web site.
_____2003 Way to Go Issue_____
Booking Air Online With Ease (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Free Cities! (Well, Almost.) (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
52 Great Weekend Escapes (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Airport Security (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
How to Renew or Apply for a Passport (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
To B&B or . . . (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Airline Contacts (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Taking the Train (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Cruise Lines (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Catching the Bus (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Airport Shuttle Services (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2003)
Appalachian Mountain Club, 800-411-5776, www.outdoors.org. Oldest recreation group in the United States (founded in 1876) sponsors hiking treks, mainly in New England. Excellent workshops and family outing suggestions on the Web site.
Away.com, www.away.com. Extensive site that features Top 10 lists of places, activities and adventures, and highlights travel deals. Also, great photography and feature stories. The same company owns GORP Travel (877-440-4677, www.gorptravel.com),an excellent guide and reservation service for outdoor and active travel, including destination reviews and "best of" lists.
National Outdoors Leadership School, 800-710-6657, www.nols.edu. Pricey wilderness trips that make going back to school an adventure -- great for working on those mountaineering and backcountry survival skills. Undergrads at more than 400 colleges can receive college credit for semester courses.
Sierra Club, 415-977-5522, www.sierraclub.org/outings. The environmental group offers more than 350 trips worldwide, including 90 volunteer vacations in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Trips are led by volunteers and are for members only (for travelers over 18), but you can join when signing up.
Wilderness Travel, 800-368-2794, www.wildernesstravel.com. Offers intense, expert-led -- and expensive -- cultural, trekking, archaeological and oceanic expeditions worldwide.
Audubon Naturalist Society, 301-652-9188, Ext. 11, www.audubonnaturalist.org. The local preservation group's Nature Travel Program offers U.S. and overseas trips to observe the outdoor world.
Better World Club, 866-304-7540, www.betterworldclub.com. Organization that touts itself as more socially responsible than AAA, offering roadside assistance (including a new bike program) and eco-friendly car rental discounts. Basic membership is $49.95 a year.
Conservation International's Ecotravel Center, 800-406-2306, www.ecotour.org. The center doesn't offer vacation ideas or itineraries, but the Web site does have destination profiles of eco-hot spots and provides information on in-country eco-friendly agencies.
Ecotravel.com, www.ecotravel.com. Searchable listings of tour operators and a good variety of eco-vacations. Highlights include descriptive destination reviews and itinieraries for solo travelers.
Green Hotels Association, 713-789-8889, www.greenhotels.com. Organization that promotes saving energy and water and reducing solid waste. They're the ones who ask if you really need a new towel every day. The Web site's listing of green hotels is arranged by state.
International Ecotourism Society, 202-347-9203, Ext. 275, www.ecotourism.org. Organization members can answer eco-tourism questions, or become a member for $35 and use the Web site to find tour operators, eco-friendly lodging or specialized info by region.
National Audubon Society, 800-967- 7425, www.audubon.org.Offers natural-history-focused "Nature Odysseys" worldwide and works only with companies that adhere to the society's eco-sensitive travel ethic guidelines.
Nature Conservancy, 800-628-6860, www.nature.org/aboutus/travel. Its "Conservation Journeys" division partners with eco-tour companies in some of the world's "Last Great Places," highlighting a few destinations annually. The members-only magazine lists trips to several TNC properties in the United States.
Planeta.com, www.planeta.com. Eco-travel clearinghouse that's best used for its eco-news in Spanish and English and its online forums; focus is on Latin America. Trip planning resources limited, but there's an extensive directory of Spanish language schools.
Interhostel, 800-733-9753, www.learn.unh.edu/interhostel. Interhostel's reputable programs are for travelers over 50 (if you want to take the kids or grandkids along, try the associated Familyhostel program). The University of New Hampshire-sponsored trips mix lectures and excursions.