Insect Aside

Veterans of Washington summers have more feet-on experience with bugs, but for the hands-on, world-class kind, you want the Montreal Insectarium. Georges Brossard, the Insectarium's founder, had 250,000 bugs in his house, so he did what any of us would do: He opened a museum.

On view are insects -- both dead and alive -- hailing from 88 countries, and rarities (thank goodness) like the giant cockroach of Madagascar and the Malaysian cicada, the biggest and loudest in the world. Butterflies cruise a 25-foot-high aviary, and tarantulas get their crickets in the breeding laboratory at feeding time. There's even a special ident-a-bug service. Just take whatever's crawling around your bathroom. (Sorry, they don't make house calls.)

Exhibits are in both French and English, as is the Insectarium's recorded message (514-872-8753), which reminds visitors that there is no restaurant on the premises. That's okay. Really, we couldn't eat a thing. Going Off-Price

"What the Basement in Boston is to Armani jackets, Vacation Outlet wants to be to travel," says company co-founder David Fialkow. Three years ago, Vacation Outlet Filene's Basement opened in that bargain emporium offering attractive prices on what Fialkow calls "top-quality vacation packages, cruises and club vacations," to the Caribbean, Mexico, Florida, Hawaii, California and Europe.

By virtue of high volume, he says, they pass the discounts on to their customers -- up to 40 percent. There are weekly specials posted every Monday, last-minute deals and departures from Washington and Baltimore (as well as Boston). In September, a week in Jamaica or Orlando, Fla., cost $399 (with air fare), and London round trips on TWA sold for $429. Vacation wardrobe not included. Call 1-800-LAST-MIN (1-800-527-8646) for more information.

Vote USA

Traveling on election day this year? Make sure you arrange to vote in person in advance (in every state but New York and Oklahoma), or get an absentee ballot. Vote America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation, tells you the rules for each state. Don't like any of the candidates? Think of it as a vote for democracy. Call 1-800-526-VOTE (1-800-526-8683), 24 hours a day through Election Day. TRAVEL TRIVIA

Where is the only Baha'i (Persian) House of Worship in North America?


PHONE HOMEAnyone who has ever lived overseas and phoned home knows about outrageous monthly telephone bills. Now, from 82 countries, ex-pats and international travelers can dial AT&T access numbers toll-free, get an American operator and pay U.S. rates. Use an AT&T credit card number or call collect. On a 10-minute call from an overseas hotel room, "USA Direct" costs about 50 percent less than a call made through local carriers. For an updated wallet card, call 1-800-874-4000, Ext. 374.