Fall Foliage 101

WHERE TO GO Montgomery Center, Vt.

WHY GO The Rockwellian town is ranked by foliage aficionados as one of the country's best jumping-off points for leafing. Having spent a week there a couple of years back, witnessing the birch leaves shift from kelly green to Easter yellow and the oaks turn a rich auburn, I concur.

WHEN TO GO The colors usually peak the first week of October. But Vermont state foresters say color changes are a bit late this year and predict a mid-month peak.

GETTING THERE Sure, you can drive (about 11 hours from D.C.). But it's far more romantic to take Amtrak's Vermonter to St. Albans, a town 30 miles from Montgomery Center, and rent a car there. The train makes a daily run from Washington for $86 one way; it's a 13-hour trip. You could fly to Burlington, 40 miles southwest. United is quoting a round-trip, mid-October fare of $284, with restrictions.

WHERE TO STAY The Inn on Trout River (1-800-338-7049), a friendly Victorian guesthouse, has doubles for $86, including breakfast. (A tasty New England dinner is also available.) The 196-year-old Black Lantern Inn (1-800-255-8661) in nearby Montgomery Village has 10 rooms in the main brick house and six suites in an adjacent house. Doubles with breakfast start at $85. Book now.

WHAT TO DO Drive out Route 242 to Jay Peak, a year-round resort. Trams there run every half-hour. From the top, you get a great panoramic view, one of the most dramatic in New England. Later, take Route 58 east to Hazel's Notch. Look for signs for the Green Mountain Club's camp site, an excellent hiking and picnic venue about a half-mile walk from the road. For adventure farther afield, stay on Route 58 to Irasburg, where you pick up Route 14 south, which follows the Black River. The long-distance views along this stretch will take your breath.

FOR MORE INFO Vermont's foliage hot line is 802-828-3239. For lodging and dining tips, contact Vermont tourism, 1-800-VERMONT or http://1-800-vermont.com. Yankee magazine's Web site, www.newengland.com, has good features on foliage. -- Gary Lee

What's The Deal?

Online Discount Rush; London for Two

Most major airlines -- including Continental, Delta, United, US Airways and American -- are offering 5 percent discounts off any fare booked via the airlines' Web sites. That's $12.50 off a $250 fare, $20 off a $400 trip. Why the online push? Offering special fares to Internet customers would be prohibited by a Senate bill passed Sept. 15 but not yet law, and by the airlines' voluntary service improvement pledges filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation that same day -- which take effect Dec. 15.

The deal sounds great: Buy an economy ticket on Virgin Atlantic to London, put it on your MasterCard and your companion flies free. (Buy by Oct. 31, fly by Feb. 28, with the usual holiday blackouts, 21-day advance purchase and Saturday-night stay.) But there's fine print. First, taxes for the free ticket are $88. Second, Virgin's best fare to London is about $600. But with the MC deal, the lowest fare available is $800. Meaning: You'll pay at least $888 for two -- $444 each. A good deal, but hardly the steal it may appear. 1-888-747-7477 (refer to the MCOFFER), or www.fly.virgin.com.

Travel tip 114

The Recycled Suitcase Trick

Problem: Insufficient space in your luggage to carry accumulated travel detritus and "bargains" back home. You don't want to mail the items home, and you really don't want to carry on your shopping bags.

Solution: Buy a thrift-shop suitcase, check it through and -- bonus eco points! -- recycle it when you get home.

Tip Report: "We've found that almost every city has thrift stores, where we inevitably find perfectly serviceable luggage, priced appropriately for one-time use," boasts Jerry Cothran of Manassas. "We've rarely paid more than $5 or $10. After returning home, we simply recycle the luggage at our local thrift shop."

Send travel tips (100 words or less) to us by e-mail (travtips@washpost.com); postcard (Travel Tips, Washington Post Travel section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071); or fax (202-334-1069). Winners receive a Washington Post Travel section T-shirt. No purchase necessary. Tips become the property of The Washington Post, which may edit, publish, distribute and republish the information in any form.

Help File

Our weekly guide to useful trip-planning resources. Have tools you prefer? E-mail us: travel@washpost.com

WEATHER

* For anticipating future weather at most destinations (average highs, lows, rainfall, etc.): www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/weather /historical/historical.htm; enter city or country name in search field

* For four-day forecasts in major cities: www.weather.com; click on either U.S. Cities or International Cities

CURRENCY

For a printable, pocket-size chart converting dollars into any currency: www.oanda.com/converter/travel

SAFETY AND POLITICAL INFORMATION

* For U.S. State Department travel warnings (urgent notices), public announcements (milder heads-ups) and consular information sheets (broad intelligence and travel reports): http://travel.state.gov

/travel_warnings.html, 202-647-5225

* For current international security news: www.airsecurity.com/ hotspots.htm. Register for free "hotspots" e-mail, an edited report drawn from major international newspapers.

* For more detailed analyses about threats to (mainly) Western business travelers: http://pgis.pinkertons.com/pgis/

Traveler HEALTH

* For good, country-specific reports, plus information on traveler diseases and treatments: Health Travel Online, www.tripprep.com/index.html

* Also worth consulting, but unwieldy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/travel/travel.html, 404-639-2573. Features cruise ship health inspections.

PASSPORTS AND VISAS

* To get, renew or seek answers about passports: http://travel. state.gov/passport_services.html, 1-900-225-5674 (35 cents a minute for automated service, $1.05 a minute for a live operator).

* For visa and foreign entry requirements for places you're headed: http://travel.state.gov/foreignentryreqs.html

AIRPORTS

* BWI: 1-800-435-9294 (tape), 301-261-1000 (person), www.bwiairport.com. Parking: 1-800-468-6294, then dial 300 (tape); www.bwiairport.com/original/park1.html

* Ronald Reagan National: 703-417-8000, www.mwaa.com/national/index.html. Parking: 703-417-4311 (tape), 703-417-4300 (live).

* Dulles International: 703-572-2700, www.mwaa.com/dulles/ index.html. Parking: 703-572-4500 (tape), 703-572-4580 (person).

* For information on most U.S. and global airports you're headed to, www.quickaid.com

* For a list of airport codes, for seeking fares from online agencies: http://flyaow.com/citycodeb.htm

AIRLINES

For airline phone numbers and Web sites: www.washingtonpost .com/wp-srv/travel/toolbox/airlinecontacts.htm

TO DO

HOME THIS WEEK? 15th anniversary of D.C.'s Travel Books & Language Center, with lectures, prizes, discounts through Oct. 3. 202-237-1322.

THE REGION

Budds Creek, Md.: Oct. 1-3, President's Cup Nationals, 301-884-9833, www.mirdrag.com. On your mark, get set, go to the Maryland International Raceway for high-octane action.

Virginia Beach: Oct. 1-3, Bill Pickett Invitational Black Rodeo, 757-460-3093. 50 rodeo performers salute Pickett, the African American "bulldogger" known for biting the lower lips of his mounts.

THE NATION

Custer State Park, S.D.: Oct. 2-4, Custer Bison Roundup, 605-255-4515, www.travelsd.com. We say buffalo, you say bison. But when herding 1,500 of these burly beasts, call them what they want. Buffalo chili cook-off precedes; auction follows.

Jonesborough, Tenn.: Oct. 1-3, 27th annual National Storytelling Festival, 1-800-952-8392, www.storytellingfestival.net. Once there was a yarn that spun into another yarn. On it went, another 100 hours.

THE WORLD

Dublin: Oct. 4-16, Dublin Theatre Festival, 1-800-223-6108, www.iftn.ie/dublinfestival/index.htm. Beckett may still be waiting, but modern drama is in constant motion during the citywide play-a-thon.

Send news about events, festivals and other things To Do by e-mail to travcal@washpost.com

Site of the Week

To plan trips to Italy: www.itwg.com/home.asp

After we published tourism office contacts last week, reader Mary E. Enama of Bethesda, who is planning her first trip to Italy, e-mailed us about this Web site, which she proclaimed far more useful than Italy's official site. She's right. The Italian Tourist Web Guide site is unusually rich and smart and easy, featuring guides to various areas (many off the worn path), a useful clickable map and links to restaurants and accommodations of many types.