California: The Cheap State?

By Carol Sottili
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 9, 2003

Q My friend and I are planning a trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles to celebrate finishing his master's degree and would like to do it fairly economically. Any suggestions, such as tour packages, fly-drive, economical hotels?

Clyde Rippy

Silver Spring

A An escorted tour may save money, but most attract an older crowd. Several tour operators, however, cater to young adults and offer California itineraries, with side trips to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, etc. Lodging, most meals, tours and transportation are included. Among the choices:

• Trek America, which operates camping trips for those aged 18 to 38, has a seven-day "Western Wonder" trip March through October; it starts in San Francisco and ends in Los Angeles and includes Yosemite and the Grand Canyon; trip starts at $569 per person plus airfare. Info: 800-221-0596,

• AmeriCan Adventures, which recently merged with Trek America, offers a seven-day "California Cooler" trip March through November that covers San Francisco, Lake Havasu, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Yosemite and Los Angeles. Accommodations are in hotels and campgrounds; Web specials as low as $440 per person plus airfare are offered. Info: 800-221-0596, www.american

• Contiki (800-CONTIKI,, which specializes in trips for ages 18 to 35, has a six-day "California Highlights" tour that visits Las Vegas, Yosemite, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles; price starts at $575 per person plus airfare, with year-round departures and hotel accommodations.

Airfares shouldn't be expensive. I priced a flight on Travelocity from BWI to Oakland on June 11 and returning from Los Angeles to BWI on June 19 for $234 round trip on United.

If you'd prefer going it alone, picking up a rental car in one city and dropping it off in another within California is not cost-prohibitive. I found a week-long rental at Orbitz with a San Francisco pick-up and a Los Angeles drop-off for $242, including taxes, through Budget.

Chain hotels are probably the cheapest option. The EconoLodge in L.A., for example, costs $55 a night in June, and the Days Inn in downtown San Francisco is $81 a night. Hostelling International-USA (301-495-1240, also offers inexpensive lodging statewide.

I was offered a trip to Belize and found limited information on the country. Is it safe, expensive, rustic? What can you tell me about accommodations?

Richard Mower

Montgomery Village

Belize is known for eco-tourism and diving. Most visitors stay in a jungle lodge or a beachfront villa, and there are also companies that package jungle/beach tours. The country is fairly rustic, and you can get cheap and simple accommodations right on the beach. Thatched cabanas are the typical style of lodging; don't look for modern high-rise hotels.

The Belize Tourism Board (800-624-0686, has a very good Web site where you can search for accommodations by price, amenities and location. Another good resource is

As for safety, jaguars do live in the jungles, but you probably won't get lucky enough to see one. And as long as you don't wander into Belize City on your own or walk alone on the beach at night, you should be safe from human predators.

I'll be in Rome and would like to take a two-day excursion to visit the museum in Naples that maintains artifacts from the Pompei excavations. How can I locate the museum's schedule and make sure no major portion is closed for renovations? Could you recommend a nearby moderate hotel?

Don Kelly


The National Museum of Archaeology of Naples (fax 011-39-081-44-0013, did recently undergo a major renovation, but it is "nearly completed," according to its Web site. The collections that relate to Pompei are on display and include wall paintings removed from Pompei's Temple of Isis, plus other artifacts from the site.

The museum is open daily except Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hotel Del Real Orto Botanico (011-39-081-44-21528) is a moderately priced hotel within walking distance of the museum.


Several readers had suggestions on Turkey tours that highlight Byzantine history (Travel Q&A, Jan. 26). Ellen Herscher of D.C. recommends at tour by the Archaeological Institute of America titled "Glory of Byzantium: A Voyage Between Venice and Istanbul," scheduled for April 18-May 1; the tour, which starts at $6,995 per person plus airfare, will be led by James Wiseman, a professor of archaeology at Boston University. Info: 800-748-6262,

Barbara C. Burhans of Alexandria recommends the "Pearls of the Byzantine Empire" tour offered by Peten Travels (fax 011-90-212-246-1936, www, a company based in Istanbul; the seven-night tour, with departures in April, June and November, costs $1,775 per person plus air.

Send queries by e-mail (, fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington D.C. 20071).

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