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TRAVEL Q&A

Travel Q&A: Dude Ranches, Vacations for Elderly


(Hyosub Shin - The Washington Post)

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By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, April 5, 2009

Q. My husband and I are looking for a dude ranch. It's probably too much to ask for, but a place without children would be great. (I work with kids all day.) We would like this to be within a day's drive.

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Chris Audi, Sterling

A. It's surprisingly easy to find dude ranches within a day's drive of Washington. It's also easy to find ranches that cater to adults only. But adults-only dude ranches within a day's drive of D.C.? Not so easy.

Nonetheless, here are a couple of options. In New York's Adirondack Mountains, 1000 Acres Ranch Resort (800-458-7311, http://www.1000acres.com), about an eight-hour drive, offers several couples weekends throughout the year. For $450 per couple, you get two nights' lodging, six meals, horseback riding, full use of ranch facilities and no screaming kids. Pinegrove Ranch, in New York's Shawangunk Mountains (800-346-4626, http://www.pinegroveranch.com), also offers a couples weekend -- in January.

Hmm.

If you can compromise on the kids thing, you have a few more options.

For example, Cataloochee Ranch, adjoining Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Maggie Valley, N.C. (800-868-1401, http://www.cataloocheeranch.com), is about an eight-hour drive and has horseback riding, pack trips, hiking and fishing. New York (http://www.iloveny.com), Pennsylvania (http://www.visitpa.com) and West Virginia (http://www.wvtourism.com) also have some guest ranches. Just don't expect Wyoming.

If you're willing to fly out west, your adults-only ranch options really open up. Gorp Travel has a good list at http://gorptravel.away.com/xnet/dude_search_main.tcl; scroll down to All Adult Ranches.

Help me help my mom. She is recently widowed and would love to do some international travel, but I'm nervous about her traveling alone. Are there quality companies or groups that specialize in single senior travel?

Michelle Haas, Damascus

The granddaddy of senior tour operators is Elderhostel (800-454-5768, http://www.elderhostel.org), a not-for-profit organization offering group tours and cruises for adults 55 and over. Trips have an educational and cultural bent, and the company will match same-sex roommates at no charge, so that solo travelers can avoid single supplement fees. And no, your mom won't have to stay in hostels.

Another respected tour operator that appeals to mature singles is Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door (425-771-8303, http://www.ricksteves.com), which also offers free roommate matching.

Also catering to seniors: Grand Circle Travel (800-959-0405, http://www.gct.com), an established company with a wide array of trips. It, too, offers free roommate matching. But be aware that while the Better Business Bureau gives GCT an A-minus rating, it reports a "pattern of complaints" against the company.

Your Turn

For the reader who wondered whether to go first class or coach on the Eurostar train from London to Brussels (Travel Q & A, March 29), Kathy Masters of Arlington confirms that coach is perfectly comfortable. "Save the [$77] fare difference for a meal in one of Brussels's many lovely restaurants, like the charming L'Estrille du Vieux Bruxelles near the Place Sablon," she says. Regarding whitewater rafting options near Washington (March 22), Denny Georg of Wellersburg, Pa., recommends the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, Pa., and Friendsville, Md., and the Cheat in Albright, W. Va. For the reader asking about Russian visas for cruises to St. Petersburg (March 22), Virginia Salitrik of Gaithersburg notes that at least two companies offer tours geared to the two-day stops: Red October (http://www.redoctober.us) and Denrus (http://www.denrus.ru).

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


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