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Specialty Travel

By Anne McDonough
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 26, 2004; Page P06

Whether you're into scaling mountains, saving the rain forest or planning vacations around your furry friends, there's a travel organization, Web site or non-profit out there to help pull off an amazing trip. The listings below are among the best resources for some of the more popular specialty travel topics. One umbrella organization, the aptly named Specialty Travel Index (888-624-4030, www.specialtytravel.com), publishes a biannual magazine covering everything from gorilla viewing to barge tours.

Adventure Travel

• Appalachian Mountain Club, 800- 411-5776, www.outdoors.org. Hike through the northeast (mainly New England) with the oldest recreation group in the United States. Excellent workshops and family outing suggestions on its Web site.

_____Way to Go Guide_____
Travel Agents, With Reservations
Booking a Flight: A Seven-Step Plan
Hotels, by the Booking
Catching the Bus
Taking the Train
How to Renew or Apply for a Passport
Specialty Travel
Before You Go: A Traveler's Toolbox
Travel Web Sites

• Away.com, www.away.com. Extensive site that features Top 10 lists of places, activities and adventures, and highlights travel deals. Also, great photography (including a "Behind the Image" section) and feature stories. The same company owns GORP Travel (877-440-4677, www.gorptravel.com),a guide and reservation service that also includes destination reviews and "best of" lists.

iExplore.com, 800-439-7567, www.iexplore.com. National Geographic invested in this adventure and experiential travel agency that offers trips around the world, from Mount Kilimanjaro to Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest.

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 volunteer-led trips worldwide, including 90 volunteer vacations in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

• Trails.com, www.trails.com. Descriptions and maps of 30,000 trails can be accessed for free at this all-trails-all-the-time site. The new Topo Finder lets the cartography-crazed search for topographical maps anywhere in the United States. Annual membership for full benefits starts at $29.95.

• Wilderness Travel, 800-368-2794, www.wildernesstravel.com. Offers intense, expert-led -- and expensive -- cultural, trekking, archaeological and oceanic expeditions worldwide. New this year: Libya.

Eco-Travel

Audubon Naturalist Society, 301-652-9188, Ext. 11, www.audubonnaturalist.org. The local preservation group's Travel Program offers 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 and eco-friendly car rental discounts. Its travel service charges $35 for inquiries. Basic membership is $53.95 a year.

Conservation International's Ecotravel Center, 800-406-2306, www.ecotour.org. The center doesn't offer vacation ideas or itineraries, but its Web site does have profiles of biodiversity spots and provides information on in-country eco-friendly agencies.

• Green Hotels Association, 713- 789-8889, www.greenhotels.com. The folks who ask if you really need a new towel every day offer a Web site with eco-conscious hotels 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 and specialized info by region.

• National Audubon Society, 800- 967-7425, www.audubon.org. The worldwide, natural-history-focused "Nature Odysseys" work with companies that adhere to the society's eco-sensitive travel ethics.


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