Q: My wife and I will be flying to Europe this summer and returning in 12 months. The airline discounters I called say that return tickets cannot be held open that long. We will have to pay more for one-way tickets. Why is this so and can anything be done to get a lower one-way fare?
A: You can't do it, because the computer won't let you. The computer inventory used by airlines extends no longer than 330 days out. You can always buy a ticket with a return less than 330 days out, and then change the return date later and pay the change penalty. But: The "contract of carriage" implicit in every airline ticket requires a round-trip ticket to be used within 365 days of departure, meaning the longest trip you can get using this gambit is precisely one year. The simplest solution is to scale back your trip and just be gone for 330 days. Problem solved.
Tom Parsons, editor of Bestfares.com, a magazine and Web site that provides discount advice, said some consolidators provide one-way discount fares to Europe, including Discount Airline Ticket Service (1-800-576-1600) and World Travel Network (1-800-409-6753). Still, even these often cost more than half a round trip. Parsons recommends flying into and out of London for best deals. Tom Michelson, spokesman for High Adventure Travel, which specializes in around-the-world ticketing, agreed that London is a good choice for one-way discounts, adding that Athens is worth a look, too.
Since you are traveling in the summer, one-way fares may be exorbitant, in which case it may make sense for you to buy a discounted round-trip ticket and throw out the other half. (Note: This violates airline rules; some agents have been punished for selling tickets to be used this way.) To get home, you can buy either a one-way or round-trip ticket, depending on price.
If you're over 62, Parsons recommended looking into individual airlines' senior discounts; some coupon programs allow for cheap one-ways and flexible returns. And if it fits your lifestyle, look into flying as an air courier. Basically, you get a discounted ticket for acting as a baggage courier. As You Like It Travel (212-216-0644) said it offers one-way courier flights between New York and London for $299 plus taxes in high season. Be aware that you'll not be allowed any checked luggage, so you would have to ship your belongings separately.
Q: I would like to join an inn-to-inn bicycle tour of Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard. I have located such a tour that lasts for six days, but I have only three or four. Can you suggest one?
A: Boston-based Bike Riders Tours (1-800-473-7040, www.bikeriderstours.com) offers weekend cycling trips on both Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The "Backroads and Beaches on Martha's Vineyard" tour starts with a warm-up ride on Friday evening, an all-day loop ride on Saturday and a shorter ride on Sunday. You stay at the same inn both nights. Price is $390 including all accommodations, most meals, guides and a support van; bike rental is $60. The company's "Nantucket Weekend Retreat" is a similar tour offered on Nantucket Island. Departures are offered in June, September and October.
Q: I'm planning on traveling from San Francisco to Seattle by way of the Pacific Coast Highway, but I can only find information on selected parts of the highway. Do you know of any book or reference that encompasses the whole of it, including great places to eat, places to stop and see, etc.?
A: You'll have to buy two books, both by the same author, outdoor recreation writer Kenn Oberrecht. "Driving the Pacific Coast: California" and "Driving the Pacific Coast: Oregon and Washington," published last year by Globe Pequot Press, give detailed descriptions of communities along the coast, including routes, lodging, sites and dining. The California book, in its third edition, details communities from Southern California to the Oregon border. The Oregon and Washington book covers the coast from Brookings, Ore., to Blaine, Wash., near the Canadian border. The books are available, or can be ordered, at local bookstores.
I'd also contact the three states' tourism offices:
* California Division of Tourism (1-800-862-2543, www.gocalif.ca.gov) includescoastal road map with information about sites, etc., in its visitors guide.
* Oregon Tourism Commission (1-800-547-7842, www.traveloregon .com) will mail a free scenic byways guide that includes information about Highway 101.
* Washington State Tourism (1-800-544-1800, www.tourism.wa .gov) does not publish a specific guide about coastal routes, but will send a packet that includes information about coastal towns.
J. Reid Williamson of Annandale, who said he's traveled almost every mile of U.S. Route 1 (Travel Q&A, June 27) over the past three decades, disagreed with my statement that Route 1 is cut-up and poorly marked, saying that while it may be tough to follow in a couple of the biggest cities, "one can still drive on the original route of U.S. 1 from Fort Kent to Key West." Williamson also challenged my assertion that 170 moose were killed on Route 1 in New Hampshire, saying that in 30 years of regular visits, "I have seen fewer than a half-dozen moose in the state." I should have said that, in 1991, 170 moose were killed on all highways in New Hampshire, including Route 1.
George Wead of Harrisonburg, Va., had this to add about the item on mad cow disease in England (Travel Q&A, July 4): "The mad cow business is evidently still on enough minds over there that the non-English want to calm their customers' concerns, as well as have a jibe at the English. Our favorite bumper sticker (seen during a visit last May) was one we saw in the Highlands: 'Treat Your Man Tonight: Give Him Scottish Meat.' "
Send queries by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), fax (202-334-1069) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Include your name, town--very important!--and phone number. We can't offer individual replies, but we'll answer as many questions as possible in print each week.