Q: I'm going to Alaska in a motorhome via the Alaska Highway. How can I get and send e-mail?
Yvonne Easter Driggers
A: There are modems for your laptop that use radio frequencies to connect to the Internet, but these won't work for you because coverage areas are limited. Ricochet Mobile Internet Access (1-800-469-4735, www.ricochet.net), for example, is viable only in select areas, including Washington, San Francisco and Seattle; cost is $29 a month, plus about $200 for modem and activation. This system can be used outside the coverage areas with telephone lines; a dial-in feature makes finding a phone jack unnecessary. But if you're willing to hunt for a pay phone, there are simpler, cheaper products, including one called Pocketmail, that don't require a laptop.
The product is easy to use and relatively cheap. You type e-mail messages onto a tiny keyboard with a small display screen, dial a toll-free number and then hold the device up to any phone to both send and receive. The organizer-size devices are being marketed by Sharp Electronics as the Telmail TM-20, and by JVC as the HC-E100 Pocketmail. They cost between $130 and $150 and are available at office supply stores. The service charge is $9.95 monthly, which gives you access to the toll-free number. If you travel out of the country, you can still use the device, but you have to dial a toll number.
Information: 1-800-POCKETM (1-800-762-5386), www.pocketmail.com.
Q: My husband and I would like to visit Fiji and Tonga. What are the names and costs of beachfront hotels? What does it cost to play a round of golf? What are other activities?
Paulette Y. Davis
A: Fiji and Tonga are not known as top golfing destinations. Tonga has only one golf course, the executive Manamo'ui Course at the Tonga Golf Club on Tongatapu Island. Fiji, with five 18-hole golf courses and several par-3 courses, offers a bit more variety, but it's no Hawaii. All but one of its five 18-hole courses is on the largest island, Viti Levu. Its Pacific Harbour Golf Course, 20 miles west of the capital, was designed by Robert Trent Jones; a round of golf on weekends will cost about $50 per person plus the $15 golf cart fee. Other courses include the Fiji Golf Club in the capital of Suva, the Nadi Airport Golf Club adjacent to the airport, and the Denarau Golf & Racquet Club, in the Sheraton Royal Denerau Resort.
Tonga and Fiji offer water-based activities; both islands offer sailing, scuba diving, fishing, windsurfing, kayaking, surfing and whale-watching. And both offer a wide selection of beachfront accommodations. Properties range from inexpensive guesthouses to luxury resorts. In Tonga, the Royal Sunset Island Resort on Atata Island, for example, offers free sailing, windsufing, snorkeling and water-skiing; rooms are about $100 a day. Fiji has dozens of resorts; the Sheraton Royal Denerau Resort on Denerau Island, for example, is one of the more expensive with rooms from about $200 a night.
For information and listings of travel agents that specialize in the South Pacific, contact Tonga's and Fiji's tourism bureaus. For Fiji, contact 1-800-932-3454, www.bulafiji.com; for Tonga, contact its Consulate General's office at 415-781-0365, or its Visitors Bureau Web site at www.vacations.tvb.gov.to.
Q: Eight of us are interested in a barge trip on a canal in France for a week in May or June of next year. We want to crew the boat ourselves. Please advise us of companies renting such boats.
A: LeBoat, based in Ramsey, N.J., has been arranging both crewed and self-drive boat trips on the canals of France for 20 years. Boats are equipped with full kitchens, linens, navigational charts and a log book that gives a description of the towns you will visit, along with canal-side restaurants. The barges sleep from two to 10 people. A small boat for seven nights rents for $910 to $1,400 depending on the season; high season is generally July and August, shoulder season is May, June and September, and low season is March, April and October. A boat that sleeps eight will rent from $2,090 to $3,240 depending on the season. Information: 1-800-992-0291, www.leboat.com.
Crown Blue Line (011-44-1-60-363-0513, www.crown-holidays.co.uk), based in Norfolk, England, is another well-known company that rents boats for canal self-drive holidays. The cost for a week-long rental of a boat that sleeps eight starts at about $2,670.
Also, the French Government Tourist Office (410-286-8310, www.francetourism.com) will supply tourists with a fairly extensive list of barge boat companies.
You've probably noticed that Travel Q&A has moved inside the Travel section this week, taking its place alongside other information intended to simplify and streamline the often baffling process of travel planning. To make our column even more useful and immediate, we want to feature more first-hand travel information sent in by you--insightful and pithy tricks, tips, strategies and observations to supplement our advice. So, if you read a question-and-answer about visiting Paris and you've stayed in a perfectly located inn with a great concierge, let us know. If an item about New York reminds you of a wonderful tour of the city's museums, drop us a line. And if we describe the route between here and there, and you know of a fantastic restaurant right off the main drag, please share it. Comments can be sent by snail mail to Carol Sottili, Travel Q&A, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.