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Specialty Travel Resources

By Anne McDonough
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 4, 2007

You're out to conquer the world, one vacation at a time. And to help you along the way, we scoped out niche resources covering 10 popular travel categories, from dietary (vegan tours to Italy, anyone? Anyone?) to pet-friendly (including info on pet sitters). We also sought recommendations from experts in each field. Here are umbrella organizations, travel agents, Web sites and phone numbers to help you plan the Next Great Trip.

African American

P.J. Thomas is editor of Pathfinders Travel Magazine for People of Color (215-438-2140, http://www.pathfinderstravel.com; $18), which also offers a free e-mail newsletter with travel tips and deals. Thomas suggests consulting the travel agent locator operated by Travel Professionals of Color (866-901-1259, http://www.tpoc.org), a trade organization with several members in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

Among other resources we found:

* The African American Travel Conference (330-337-1116, http://www.aatconline.com) is an organization of more than 2,500 travel planners focused on African American travel. Its site is mostly for travel agencies but also lists contact info for its members.

* The Black Boaters Summit, a popular event held in the British Virgin Islands, is arranged by Honey Let's Travel (510-222-6308, http://www.honeyletstravel.com), an African American-owned travel agency in California.

* The nonprofit National Association of Black Scuba Divers (800-521-6227, http://www.nabsdivers.org) arranges dive trips and is a clearinghouse for dive-related information and education; Underwater Adventure Seekers (http://www.uasdivers.org) is the Washington chapter.

* National Brotherhood of Skiers (773-955-4100, www.nbs.org) is an umbrella group of more than 75 ski clubs across the country. One area club, Black Ski Inc. (301-231-3900, www.blackskiinc.org), organizes year-round ski and non-ski travel events.

* SoulofAmerica.com (http://www.soulofamerica.com) publishes online city guides focused on African American culture and heritage. The site includes information on passport rule changes, photo galleries and Caribbean island highlights.

Gay and Lesbian

John Tanzella, executive director of the nonprofit International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (800-448-8550, http://www.iglta.com), recommends travelers go to the destination city's convention and visitors bureau Web site. "Many of them now are adding a GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] link on their sites for this specific niche," he said by e-mail.

According to the IGLTA, the top three gay-friendly U.S. cities are San Francisco (415-391-2000, http://www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/gaytravel), Key West (800-352-5397, http://www.fla-keys.com/keywest/gaykeywest.htm) and New York (212-484-1200, http://www.nycvisit.com, then "Visitors," then "Planning Your Trip," though it needs a 2007 update).

Among other resources we found:

* The Damron Co. (415-255-0404, http://www.damron.com) publishes guidebooks, compiles a worldwide events calendar and offers a tour guide database.

PlanetOut Inc. is a multimedia company that publishes magazines and Web sites with travel-specific info, such as the Advocate ('>http://www.advocate.com/travel), Gay.com ('>http://www.gay.com/travel), OutTraveler.com ('>http://www.outtraveler.com) and Planetout.com ('>http://www.planetout.com/travel). The annual PlanetOut Travel Awards, listed on the site, go to winners in 10 categories, including gay resort towns, tour operators and cruise lines.

Health/Disability

The nonprofit International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet (919-349-6661, http://www.icdri.org) scours the Web for helpful sites. Mike Burks and Mark Urban, ICDRI chairman and vice chairman, respectively, offer the following suggestions for sussing out travel options for those with disabilities.

* Accessible Europe (011-39-011-30-1888, http://www.accessibleurope.com) is a group of travel agents headquartered in Italy and specializing in accessible tourism.

* Accessible Journeys (800-846-4537, http://www.disabilitytravel.com) focuses on wheelchair travel, offering group tours and independent trips, and is the self-proclaimed "largest group cruise operator in the world for slow walkers, travelers with wheels, their families and their friends."

* The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (800-900-8086, http://www.ncpad.org), hosted by the University of Illinois, has recreation resources on outdoor/travel activities, such as canoeing and horseback riding, and info on what you need to know before you go.

Among other resources we found:

* The Web site of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (877-394-8747, http://www.cdc.gov/travel) is essential for information on travel health.

* The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (716-754-4883, http://www.iamat.org) maintains a worldwide membership of English-speaking doctors with medical training in the United States, Canada or Great Britain.

* The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (212-447-7284,http://www.sath.org/), a nonprofit membership organization, provides Web links to the disability access information of 25 major airlines, as well as info on the Air Carriers Access Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Military/Government

William Bradner, spokesman for the U.S. Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, offered the following travel resources for military personnel:

* Armed Forces Vacation Club (800-724-9988, http://www.afvclub.com) partners with the MWR to offer vacations at timeshare resorts for $299 per unit per week on a space-available basis.

* Government and Armed Forces Travel Cooperative (http://www.govarm.com) is a MWR-sponsored group that offers travel and leisure services to federal employees, military service members, and civil service and military retirees.

* U.S. Army Family and MWR Command (http://www.armymwr.com) runs four Armed Forces Recreation Centers (in Florida, Hawaii, Germany and South Korea) and offers discounted hotel accommodations, tours and attractions through its travel service partners.

* U.S. Central Command Rest & Recuperation Leave Program (http://www.armyg1.army.mil/WellBeing/RRLeave/index.htm) is an official site run by the Army G1 (Personnel) Office, providing information on R&;R leave in the United States for soldiers deployed to combat/hostile areas; it provides links to R&R programs in Europe.

Among other resources we found:

* The U.S. General Services Administration, Office of Citizen Services and Communications (http://www.usa.gov/Federal_Employees/Travel.shtml) has info on government room rates and active and retired military-specific deals.

* Military.com (http://www.Military.com), a free nongovernmental military membership organization, lists discounts and travel tips and hosts travel discussions.

* The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association endorses NARFE Travel (800-607-4538, http://www.narfetravel.com), which arranges cruises, land tours and other trips for members.

Pets

The Humane Society of the United States has a page on its Web site devoted to pet care and traveling with pets (202-452-1100, http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/caring_for_pets_when_you_travel). The society's companion animal issues specialist, Kelly Connolly, also recommends the following resources:

* TripswithPets.com (877-717-2964, http://www.tripswithpets.com) features pet-friendly accommodations and travel tips. Also included are a link to finding animal hospitals in travel destinations and an "Ask the Travel Dog" section dealing with pet-caregiver questions.

* PetsWelcome.com (http://www.petswelcome.com) lists pet-friendly accommodations and travel tips. There's also a pet-sitter component, which could come in handy on the road.

* PetsOnTheGo.com (http://www.petsonthego.com) lists pet-friendly lodging and trips, and offers a blog written by staff members.

* The magazine Fido Friendly (http://www.FidoFriendly.com; $15 per year), devoted to traveling pets, highlights travel accessories and accommodations, and offers travel tips.

Among other resources we found:

* The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/animal.htm) Global Migration and Quarantine site covers the importation of pets and other animals into the United States.

* The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (301-734-7833, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/pettravel.html) has info on domestic and international pet travel.

Seniors/Family

An advocacy group for the over-50 set, AARP (888-687-2277, http://www.aarp.org/travel) has travel-specific information on its site; AARP the Magazine, which has a travel section with a free online presence (http://www.aarpmagazine.org/travel), is included in the $12.50 annual membership fee. The editors of the magazine also suggest the following resources, most of which are also appropriate for multigenerational travel:

* The AARP Passport program through Travelocity (888-291-1757, http://www.travelocity.com/AARP/home) allows members to arrange discounted travel through the all-purpose booking site.

ยท For those planning a destination family reunion, Groople (888-447-6675, http://www.groople.com) is an online agency that specializes in group travel. The Group Cruise Wizard also gives the option of having everybody select and pay for his or her stateroom online, so one person doesn't get stuck with bill.

* IgoUgo.com (http://www.igoUgo.com) is a user-driven site where you can post questions, get tips from locals and connect with travelers whose interests mirror yours.

* If you're more interested in bathrooms than bargains, the editors suggest checking out TheBathroomDiaries.com (http://www.thebathroomdiaries.com), which rates more than 9,000 public restrooms worldwide.

Among other resources we found:

* Elderhostel (800-454-5768, http://www.elderhostel.org) is a nonprofit group that runs education-focused, all-inclusive "learning adventures" in more than 90 countries for travelers 55 and over. The associated Road Scholar program (800-466-7762, http://www.roadscholar.org) is also learning-focused; its trips are a bit higher-end.

* The Family Travel Network (703-905-9858, http://www.familytravelnetwork.com) is a Web site that offers family-focused vacation ideas, resources, budget tips and deals.

* Hostelling International (301-495-1240, http://www.hiusa.org) membership is free for those under 18, $28 for those 18 to 54 and $18 annually for those 55 and older. Many hostels offer doubles or family rooms (you may still sleep in bunkbeds but at least the whole room is yours).

Single/Solo Travel

For more than 15 years, Canadian Diane Redfern has published the bimonthly Connecting: Solo Travel News, an electronic publication with information she's gathered on trips for single and solo travelers, in conjunction with her site, Connecting: Solo Travel Network (604-886-9099, http://www.cstn.org). The site offers info on single-friendly trips; enhanced membership ($30 a year) includes an additional database and the newsletter. Redfern also recommends the following resources:

* Solo travelers of the same sex room together -- and avoid the single supplement -- on tours through Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door (425-608-4217, http://www.ricksteves.com).

* TravelAloneandLoveIt.com (http://www.travelaloneandloveit.com), run by longtime flight attendant Sharon Wingler, includes a helpful Q&A column and links to other solo-travel sites and the Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory (http://www.towd.com).

* Those both single and attached can sign up for a trip buddy through Travel Chums (212-787-2621, http://www.travelchums.com). The free membership provides an info database, notification when someone else with similar travel criteria joins and access to subject-specific message boards. For $95 annually, you can post photos and send messages to other members.

* 2insteadof1 (http://www.2insteadof1.com). The travel companion site's catchphrase may be cheesy ("twosome instead of lonesome"), but the impressive Quickfinder feature lets you search member postings by travel date, destination and activities.

Students/Teachers

STA Travel (800-781-4040, http://www.statravel.com) is the self-proclaimed "world's largest student, youth and budget travel organization." According to STA Travel spokeswoman Cristi Day, the organization recommends the following resources:

* The International Student Travel Confederation (http://www.istc.org) is a nonprofit membership association endorsed by UNESCO that works with travel agencies focused on student, youth (under 26) and teacher travel. Its identity cards, available fromhttp://www.myisic.com, provide discounts worldwide. The site also links to a worldwide embassy directory (http://www.embassyworld.com), handy if your passport is stolen.

* The Web sites for Travel publication companies Lonely Planet (http://www.lonelyplanet.com) and Let's Go (http://www.letsgo.com) provide blogs, downloadable playlists and RSS feeds -- "making them very interactive and useful for students," said Day in an e-mail.

* Social networking sites such as MySpace.com (http://www.myspace.com) and Facebook.com (http://www.facebook.com), among others, can host forums and discussions about where to go and how to get there. There are specific travel-related pages, such as the STA Travel page (http://www.myspace.com/statravel).

Among other resources we found:

* Founded in 1947, the Council on International Educational Exchange (207-553-7600, http://www.ciee.org) provides high school- and university-level study abroad opportunities and "gap year" information, plus programs for teaching abroad.

* The comprehensive Web site StudyAbroad.com (http://www.studyabroad.com) offers info on educational opportunities worldwide.

Vegetarian/Dietary

John Cunningham handles consumer questions directed to the Baltimore-based nonprofit Vegetarian Resource Group (410-366-8343, http://www.vrg.org). He suggests consulting the following organizations, as well as logging in to vegetarian/vegan-focused message boards (such ashttp://veganforum.comandhttp://www.veganfreaks.net/forum/index.php):

* Maryland-based Green Earth Travel (888-246-8343, http://www.vegtravel.com) is run by Donna Zeigfinger, "a travel agent with lots of experience that can help a neophyte veggie traveler," Cunningham says. Kosher, halal and medical diets can also be accommodated.

* The Travel page on the Happy Cow's Vegetarian Guide (http://www.happycow.com) includes a guide to vegetarian B&Bs, picks of the world's top five veg-friendly cities and information on health stores and restaurants in 96 countries.

* The International Vegetarian Union (http://www.ivu.org) offers a multilingual database for the traveling vegetarian who wants to patronize like-minded organizations.

* The Online Guide to Natural Foods Restaurants in the U.S. & Canada (http://www.vrg.org/restaurant), hosted by the VRG, is a search-by-location database of vegetarian-friendly eateries.

* The VegDining.com (http://www.vegdining.com) restaurant directory is free, though the $4.95-per-year subscription gives access to full listings, recipes and other info. The fee is waived for those with the $10.95 VegDining Card (discounts at Vegdining.com member restaurants).

* Run by an executive of the British-based Vegan Society (http://www.vegansociety.com), the Vegetarian Guides site (http://www.vegetarianguides.co.uk/index.shtml) posts vegetarian and vegan events and festivals worldwide and markets the destination-focused Vegetarian Guide titles.

Among other resources we found:

* For those who keep kosher, Shamash: The Jewish Network (http://www.shamash.org/kosher) offers a database of 2,500-plus kosher restaurants worldwide.

Volunteer

The nonprofit Action Without Borders (212-843-3973, http://www.idealist.org) is a great place to start; with more than 65,000 member organizations worldwide, "I don't know of another huge collection of resources in one place," said Executive Director Ami Dar. Volunteers can search the database by location, area of focus and dates. The travel-specific page (http://www.idealist.org/volunteer/travel.html) lists organizations seeking volunteers, from ACDI/VOCA (two- to four-week all-expenses-paid international development placements) to Youth With a Mission (one-week to one-year projects with a Christian focus, for which the volunteer covers expenses).

Among other resources we found:

* The American Hiking Society (301-565-6704, Ext. 206, http://www.americanhiking.org) offers field trips for rebuilding trails and fences on public land in about 30 states. Trips cost about $130. The AHS is also working with the Patagonian Foundation on volunteer trips to Chilean Patagonia.

* Global Volunteers (800-487-1074, http://www.globalvolunteers.org) is a nonprofit international development organization that places about 150 teams each year in one- to three-week projects. The educational, social or medical projects (chosen by the local community) start at $750 per volunteer. In addition to about 20 overseas programs, there are also sites in eight states.

* Habitat for Humanity's Global Village (800-422-4828, http://www.habitat.org/gv) offers nine- to 14-day home-building placements in the States, Canada and overseas; cost runs between $900 and $2,200, plus airfare. Habitat can provide fundraising resources, such as a Web site to accept donations.

* Health Volunteers Overseas (202-296-0928, http://www.hvousa.org) runs 65 clinical education programs in 25 developing countries and places medical professionals in one-month teaching and training programs. Volunteers cover their transportation to and from the work site.

* The International Volunteer Programs Association (201-221-4105, http://www.volunteerinternational.org) site could use some updates and a spell check, but its list of volunteer organizations casts a wide net, and it includes fundraising and scholarship information.

* Volunteer Match (415-241-6868, http://www.volunteermatch.org) pairs volunteers with the U.S.-based organizations seeking them. If you know what city you want to travel to, type it and your interests into the advanced search form and see if any opportunities (such as post-Katrina cleanup) pop up.

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