WHAT: "Radio on the Road: The Traveler's Companion," a guide to the frequencies and formats of more than 15,000 AM and FM radio stations in the United States and Canada, by William Hutchings ($14.95, Arrowhead Publishing; 1-800-431-7274 or 909-337-8937). Also lists stations that carry NFL and NBA games and such popular talk hosts as Rush Limbaugh, Art Bell and Dr. Laura (but not, alas, radio gods Don and Mike).
WHY: For travelers, the car radio still can be a peerless time-killer and a decent substitute for both human conversation or a map of the local landscape, cultural or not. And if you have a favorite talk show or NPR program you hope to tune in away from home, the "scan" button just misses-- or hits--way too much to be useful.
HOW: Extended, informal tryout. Carried the book in the car--it doesn't quite fit in the glove box--for six months, consulting it whenever frequent road trips faded the familiar signals of home. (Note: The type's real small. Please pull over first.)
RESULTS: Hey, it works--about 80 percent of the time. The third edition came out in 1998 (another due next spring), and station formats, especially on the deep-discount AM band, tend to change faster than the passing scenery. But the book helped make a spring weekend drive the length of Maine thoroughly happy, as I tuned from one Maine Public Radio link to the next in the chain without missing a minute of an all-day lineup that included "Car Talk," "Prairie Home Companion's" annual all-joke show and "World Cafe" (syndi- cated by the University of Pennsylvania's folk-rock-whatever WIOQ, another find). I got to hear the local news and (more important) weather in Greenville, S.C., and Harrisburg, Pa.--in both cases by announcers whose local inflections made both them and the passing countryside less alien. I found that car dealers across this great nation believe that shouting male voices with cheap reverb are the thing to have in a radio spot.
CONCLUSION: Worth more than most $14.95 auto accessories. Since it already doesn't fit in the glove box, maps would be a nice addition.
WHAT'S THE DEAL?
Two Continents for Less; Easy Belize
* For travelers younger than 26 and students who have more time than money, Council Travel is having a four-day sale on air fares to Europe and South America, starting Tuesday and ending Friday. The flights leave from BWI, Dulles and National and alight in 26 destinations, including Lima ($299), Guatemala ($239), Amsterdam ($250), Dublin ($214) and London ($169). But to qualify for these low-low fares, travelers must have an International Student ID Card (for students 12 to 32) or an International Youth Travel Card (for the 12-to-25 set, regardless of student status). To apply, visit Council Travel on 3301 M St. NW with proof of your age or student status, a passport-size photo and $20. To obtain the card before the sale is over, you must apply in person rather than by mail. (Travel is Nov. 1-Dec. 16 and Jan. 3-March 31, with some blackout dates.) So, do the math: a little inconvenience for a $169 round-trip flight to London equals . . . a smart deal. 1-800-226-8624 or 202-337-6464, www.counciltravel.com.
* To do Belize on a budget, Capricorn Leisure Corp. trades cushy comforts for low cost. The $508 package to Caulker Cay includes: American round-trip flight from BWI, National or Dulles, 20-minute air transfer to the castaway island and five nights of accommodations. What's missing: pool, air conditioning, room service. What's hard to beat, besides the price (Belize flights alone start at $677): the quaint charm of the turquoise-and-pink, seven-room, beachfront Trades Hotel, easy diving access to the barrier reef and no high-rise, wide-body resorts. Three-day advance purchase is advised, and travel must be completed by Dec. 10 (add $50 for weekend departures). 1-800-426-6544, www.capricorn.net.--Andrea Sachs
TRAVEL TIP 117
PROBLEM: Teens on overnight trips sneak out of their hotel rooms after their chaperons turn in for the night.
SOLUTION: Trust but verify: Tape their doors from the outside with masking tape.
TIP REPORT: Tipster Maggie Holobaugh of Takoma Park learned about this one the hard way, as a middle school student on a class trip. "Every night, teachers would tape our hotel room doors from the outside. If we left the room, there was no way we could 'tape ourselves in' again!"
Send travel tips (100 words or less) to us by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org); 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.
HOME NEXT WEEK?
Margaret Mead Traveling Film and Video Festival, Oct. 24, National Museum of Natural History, 202-357-2700.
Elkins, W.Va.: Oct. 29-31, Fiddler's Reunion, 304-637- 1209, www.augustaheritage.com. Old-time fiddlers who learned to play by watching Granpa on the porch return to their Appalachian roots.
Gaithersburg: Nov. 18-21, Sugarloaf Crafts Festival, 1-800-210-9900, www.sugarloafcrafts.com. With 550 artisans displaying their wares, eclecticism is an understatement. Bonus: Sculptooning!
Key West, Fla.: Oct. 22-31, Fantasy Fest, 305-296-1817, www.warptime.net. Only the underdressed look like freaks at this week-long Halloween fete.
Scottsdale, Ariz.: Nov. 5-7, Thunderbird Balloon Classic, 602-978-7797, www.t-birdballoonclassic. com. More than 130 hot air balloons invade the skies, upstaging the birds with their brilliant designs.
Lucerne, Switzerland: Nov. 18-21, Lucerne Piano Festival, 212-757-5944, www.lucernemusic.ch. Six recitals ranging from baroque to contemporary music, plus original recordings from the early 1900s, evoke the timeless grandeur of the ivories. After Bach, Beethoven and Bartok, Chick Corea jazzes up the night.
Send news about events, festivals and other things To Do by e-mail to email@example.com.
SITE OF THE WEEK
For a brief, tailored guide to a city you're visiting on business: www.ontheroad.com
On the Road proves that less is better by tailoring its 10 city guides to the tastes of business travelers--which is to say, folks eager to make wise use of their time and business credit cards while in town. Live human editors in each city cull items for the weekly updates, which include restaurants to impress clients; networky honchofests; select entertainments; and a blissfully short list of restaurants. Not for everybody, but if you often find yourself marooned in a Top 10 business city scratching your head, On the Road is the best on the Web. The full service is $99 a year, but bookmark the home page and click into Snapshots, where you'll find free versions of the next four weeks' guides to each city.
* For anticipating future weather at most destinations--average highs, lows, rainfall, etc.: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/weather/historical/historical.htm, and enter the city or country name in the search field
* For four-day forecasts for major cities: www.weather.com, and click on either U.S. Cities or International Cities
* 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 reports with useful traveler information): http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html, 202-647-5225
* For current international security news: www.airsecurity.com/hotspots.htm. Register for free daily "hotspots" e-mail report, international news hand-culled by major newspapers.
* 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, International Travelers Information Line, 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 or $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
* 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
* Reagan National: 703-417-8000, www.mwaa.com/national/index.html. Parking: 703-417-4311 (tape), 703-417-4300 (person).
* 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, used for seeking fares from online agencies: http://flyaow.com/citycodeb.htm
* For airline phone numbers and Web sites: www.washingtonpost .com/wp-srv/travel/toolbox/airlinecontacts.htm