You say you can't get satisfaction ... over a longstanding complaint against an airline, tour operator or travel agent? So who you gonna call?
* For airline service complaints, call the Department of Transportation's Office of Consumer Affairs, 202-366-2220.
* For complaints about airline travel within the FAA's jurisdiction (among them airport and flight security and safety procedures, carry-on baggage and child safety seats), call 800-FAA-SURE (800-322-7873).
* For disputes with travel agents and other travel-related problems, write to the American Society of Travel Agents, Consumer Affairs Department, P.O. Box 23992, Washington, D.C. 20026-3992; state your case (which can be no more than 6 months old), providing documentation. For more information, call 703-739-2782.
Also, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) will mediate consumer disputes with tour operators who are members. Call first, 212-944-5727, to find out whether the operator is a member, then write Robert Whitley, President, USTOA, 211 E. 51st St., Suite 12B, New York, N.Y. 10022.
In the Event Of
"Tourist Events, 1991" should probably be subtitled "Amy L. Beam's guide to the events she missed on her around-the-world jaunt and doesn't want you to." Oktoberfest in Munich? The Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Bangkok? She missed them all -- always arriving, it seems, a day too late.
So she has compiled a directory of more than 2,500 happenings in 85 countries worldwide, including the usual array of festivals, sporting events, shows, parades and fairs, and some events that are, well, more unusual. Want to attend a Camel Wrestling Festival in Turkey, the World Transplant Patient Games in Budapest, or the Konomiya Naked Festival in Japan, where 10,000 men streak by? (You may want to get a copy, just so you know when not to visit.) The guide is $19.95 and may soon be available at area bookstores. You also can place credit-card orders by calling 202-726-2948 or 800-766-2450, or send $21.95 to TTA Press, P.O. Box 9930-S, Friendship Station, Washington, D.C. 20016.
Bear With Her
At last, a museum for lovers of ursus ubiquitous -- the common teddy bear. The founder of Frannie's Teddy Bear Museum, Frances Pew Hayes, started collecting late in life, launched on her furry pursuit by her grandchildren. Now she brings her formidable collection to bear in Naples, Fla., in a newly opened museum.
More than 1,800 bears -- old and new, limited-edition and mass-produced, from the United States, Poland, Israel, Sweden, Mexico and Japan -- are in residence. There also are a library and reading room, where Frannie's Grannies hold weekly story hours, and the Visiting Bears Gallery, where bears of celebrities will make cameo appearances. Bear left around Naples to 2511 Pine Ridge Rd.; for information, call 813-598-2711.
Fortunate skiers have friends in Europe, close to the mountains, who know the ins and outs and the best runs at the ski areas, and will take them there. The less fortunate might try Snow Safari. With Chamonix at Mont Blanc as a base, the company takes small groups of seven skiers -- of at least intermediate level, please -- to a different slope every day, sometimes off-piste, to ski areas at Mont Blanc and in nearby Italy and Switzerland, within easy driving distances. Each group has a guide who takes you where conditions are best for the day, knows how to avoid lift lines, and even videotapes you in action, offering pointers on technique (not that you need any). At night, you can watch yourself in your own little private World Cup.
Trips depart Fridays (Feb. 16-April 6), arriving in Geneva on Saturday. Choose from a variety of accommodations, in apartments (four guests) or hotels (from B&B to full board), costing $632-$1,179 per person, based on double occupancy, excluding air fare, plus approximately $156 for lift tickets. Call ETT Tours Inc., 800-551-2085.
Fit to Be Tried
The people at MountainFit think of the outdoors as "one big gymnasium." To take advantage of Mother Nature's facilities, they offer one-week trips to Utah, Montana and Maui that combine hiking by day with spa living by night. Founder Diane Wechsler, a triathlete and former film producer, does what she calls "location scouting" for her trips, hiking all the trails first. Then her crew travels to private villas, estates or B&Bs for a week -- with 15 trunks in tow -- turning them into MountainFit spas for groups of 12.
Their trips are aimed at fitness enthusiasts who want to rough it, but not too much. They may make you hike uphill but they'll pamper you beforehand -- with a morning "Blister control," even putting on your shoes and socks for you -- and after, with massages and Jacuzzis and spa food. They cannot, however, take credit for the scenery. Trips go to Maui ($2,100 for eight days) in March; to St. George, Utah, in April and May ($1,750); and to Bozeman, Mont., in July and August ($1,750); all prices exclude air fare. For information: 800-926-5700.
It's not just another Russian premier, but the American Film Institute's trip to Russia. Participants may meet filmmakers, tour film studios or perhaps see a (film) premiere (if they can find subtitles). The two-week tour, April 6-20, also will take in its share of world-famous sites and other cultural events in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Tbilisi (where there is quite an active film community). Cost is $3,295 per person, all-inclusive (air fare from New York). For information, call Lance Tucker at AFI, 202-828-4015.
Where is the largest population of giant tortoises in the world?
TRIVIA ANSWER: ALDABRA ISLAND IN THE SEYCHELLES, WITH ABOUT 150,000 TORTOISES.
Because of the Persian Gulf war, the State Department is advising travelers to defer travel to more than 20 countries worldwide. For up-to-date information on war-related travel advisories, see War Watch, Page E1. Other current advisories include:
* Myanmar (formerly Burma). With continuing widespread political unrest, travelers should exercise caution. Internal travel, especially by air, is not safe, and armed security forces are often on the streets of all major cities.
* Chile. Exercise caution when traveling here, as bombings and other violent acts continue to occur against institutions identified with the United States.
* Haiti. Due to recurring civil disorders and continued unsettled conditions, defer all nonessential travel here.
* Peru. Crime and terrorism are serious problems. Despite improvements in security screening at the Lima International (Jorge Chavez) Airport, FAA specialists recently found inadequate security standards.
* Senegal. Use extreme caution when traveling in the Senegal River and Casamance regions. Violent incidents have resulted in both military and civilian casualties. Because of ruptured diplomatic relations with Mauritania, all air and surface routes between the two countries have been closed.
For late-breaking information, contact the State Department's Citizens Emergency Center, 202-647-5225.