Taking a vacation from travel for the moment -- posterior firmly planted in your armchair? Don't fret: At least where you are, the food is good. And the accommodations? Just like home. While you're figuring out just where in the world it is safe to go, and how much you can afford to spend there, consider the video vacation -- in which nothing is off limits. Pickwick's Travel Videos in Boring (no kidding), Ore., rents the same videos they have for sale, with about 350 travelogues to choose from, from far-flung destinations to those closer to home.
After paying a one-time membership fee of $25, you can rent three to six videos at a time. Rental costs range from $2 per 15-minute tape to $5 per 45-to-60-minute tape; shipping via UPS runs $6 to $9 anywhere in the country, and you also pay the return shipping, by UPS or U.S. mail, including insurance. So, for example, 55 minutes of "Vidal in Venice," 30 minutes in Peru and 40 minutes on a Zambian safari will cost you about $30, with round-trip shipping and rental fees. While that's considerably more than picking up a video at your local shop, the Boring folks have 10 times the inventory. Call 800-333-3367 for a catalogue and membership application. And when you decide to abandon your armchair, you'll be ready. Tear-Off Travel
Calling all coupon devotees: Entertainment Publications Inc. has put together booklets of half-price and two-for-one coupons for 14 international destinations. The U.S. city books have been available for years, but now travelers to London, Scotland, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Goteborg (Sweden), Israel and seven spots in Canada also can get in on the deals. The coupons allow travelers to cut costs on hotel rates, meals, shopping, attractions, rental cars and occasional airline tickets. Each book costs $30 to $45.
There are some restrictions though. Read the fine print to determine when the coupons are good; most offers are "subject to availability." And if you are using them for hotels, you must make your own reservations, rather than through a travel agent, and identify yourself as an Entertainer card-holder (each book includes a plastic credit card).
Also available for 1991 are "Half Price Europe" ($70), for savings in 15 countries, and "Travel America at Half Price" ($29.95). In addition, Entertainment Publications Inc. will sell you your second coupon book at a discount -- one-third to half-off, depending on which book it is. Call 800-521-9640 for information or to order. HOSTEL HAPPENINGS
How about recapturing your lost youth by signing on for what American Youth Hostels (AYH) calls "low-cost hosteling adventures" for participants of all ages? Its 1991 Discovery Tours of the United States, and to Europe and Canada, include bicycling, hiking and some backpacking, and emphasize travel as a learning experience. Sign on for eight days in the John Muir Wilderness Area in California, helping rebuild a section of hiking trail, for $250; spend 21 days exploring Alaskan national parks on foot for $1,300; or backpack in the Scottish West Highlands for nine days for $425 (all prices exclude transportation). Participants must join AYH ($10 to $35), but it's a small price to pay to be young again. For a copy of the "1991 Discovery Tours" catalogue, call 202-783-6161. TRAVEL TRIVIA
What are three places in the world you can't phone from the United States, even with operator assistance? TRIVIA ANSWER: FORGET ABOUT REACHING OUT AND TOUCHING SOMEONE IN CAMBODIA, NORTH KOREA AND VIETNAM.
You say the last time you thought about Mustangs was 1965? No, no, not the kind you drive, the equine kind. Having just watched "Lonesome Dove" again, you may have the urge to get back in the saddle again. So sign on for four days of tracking wild mustangs in central eastern California's Inyo National Forest, near Bishop. The group will ride out from base camp each day to observe the mustangs during mating season. (Mustang population control, incidentally, has been an ongoing controversy in the region.)
Participants should have riding experience and expect to spend about six hours a day on their mounts. This is not a trip for tenderfoots, say the folks at UCLA Extension, who are sponsoring the trip, June 6-9. The cost is $495, excluding air fare and ground transportation to and from Bishop. For more information: 213-825-7093. Just Answering
This being a budget issue and all, let us remind you that talk is still cheap. And we got lots of postcards in the bargain, when we asked about your hotel pet peeves. Since we put no limits on the number of entries per customer, one reader responded twice, and another four times. Most frequently -- and bitterly -- complained about were extortionate telephone surcharges -- like the $8 it cost David Harfeld of Chevy Chase to confirm dinner reservations in New York (he was charged by his hotel for every call he placed, whether it was answered or not). Also in the both-hands-in-my-pockets category were a plague of bellboys: "One takes your luggage from the car to curb, another from curb to front desk, another from front desk to the room ... and the same in reverse on the way out," wrote Joyce Rankin of Vienna. And all, of course, expect tips.
We heard about encounters with surly and incompetent front-desk personnel who, worse, become incensed by complaints about service (the winner for incompetence was from Lyla Shealy of Arlington, at a hotel in Rio where the post-Carnival hung-over staff took 1 1/2 hours just to place an order in the dining room).
There was also a lot of grousing about lack of hygiene. T. Ihnat of Arlington wrote of mold in bathrooms: "I don't live with it at home and don't expect to have to pay for it when I travel." There were sins of omission (no soap) and commission (a faulty guardrail outside a rooftop room at a New Orleans hotel, writes Tom Keer of Boston), and rooms furnished in late torture chamber, with "Pillows by Prudential" (from Elaine Schwartz of Arlington). It's enough to make you want to stay home.