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Travel Q&A: Teen-Friendly Destinations, Replacing a Damaged Passport

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By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 26, 2009

Q. As uncle and grandfather, we are planning to treat 13- and 15-year-old boys to an overseas trip next summer. Budget and time constraints limit possibilities, but could you suggest countries, cities and travel sites to interest teenage boys?

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Paul O'Shea, Fairfax

A. Despite a few drawbacks (weird sleep schedules, staggering food bills), traveling with teens can be rewarding, even exhilarating. Here are a few ideas:

-- A world-class city. Vibrant European capitals have plenty of teen-friendly attractions, such as sports and music venues, cool markets and classic sites. Go easy on the museums and seek out funkier attractions, such as Paris's Catacombs, featuring stacks of bones and skulls, or Rome's Mamertine Prison, an ancient dungeon where new arrivals dropped in through a hole in the ceiling. Let the boys explore on their own via subway, or sign them up for a Segway or bike tour. In Paris, a four- to five-hour Segway tour costs about $99 per person (http://www.segwayguidedtours.com).

-- Outdoor adventures. For the adventure trip the boys will remember their whole lives, cruise the Galapagos Islands and see sea lions, giant tortoises, warm-water penguins and other exotic creatures up close. It's expensive, but tour prices vary considerably, so shop around (Ecuador Tourism, http://www.ecuador.us). Other overseas adventure options: Go trekking in Peru, see Wales on horseback, go sailing in Turkey, hike Iceland's lava fields, play cowboy in Argentina, mountain-bike in Switzerland.

-- Islands and beaches. Swimming, diving, kayaking, tubing, horseback riding -- what's not to like? St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands has all that and more, and lodgings range from affordable tent camps to luxury hotels (USVI Tourism, 800-372-USVI, http://www.usvitourism.vi).

The picture page of my passport picked up some kind of fungus in dampest India. Now some scanners can't read the bar code, and one immigration officer told me he could technically deny me admission to his country. Will the State Department replace my passport, even though there are several years left until expiration?

Gary Krist, Bethesda

Damaged passports aren't valid for travel, so you'll have to replace yours -- and unfortunately, it'll cost you. Not only will you not get credit for the unused years, you'll have to start from scratch as a first-time applicant, according to an agent at the National Passport Information Center. That means applying in person at an acceptance facility or passport agency, providing the required documentation (your damaged passport does not qualify) and photos, and paying $100 in first-timer's fees. Details:

National Passport Information Center, 877-487-2778, http://travel.state.gov/passport.

Your Turn

Another tip on how to visit the Vatican (Travel Q&A, July 12): David Epstein of Bethesda says that because of the enormous din, visitors should take a tour that provides a "whisper headset" so they can hear the guide more easily.

Regarding how to get to Rehoboth from Washington without driving (June 21), Steve Atlas, author of "Car Free at the Beach," has another suggestion:

Take Amtrak or Greyhound to Wilmington, Del., then catch a DART bus to Rehoboth. Details: DART First State, 800-652-DART, http://www.dartfirststate.com.

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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