Q:Are there travel companies that coordinate trips for folks who have learning disabilities?
A: Here are two tour companies that specialize in trips for the developmentally disabled:
The Guided Tour (1-800-783-5841, www. guidedtour.com) offers supervised tours to many destinations, including Rome, Hawaii, Disney World and Williamsburg, Va. "We're social workers, not travel agents," said director Irv Segal, who has been running the company for 29 years. Segal said there is at least one staff member for every three tour participants. The company also offers specialized itineraries, including baseball spring training trips, whale- watching tours and New Year's Eve celebrations. The company's motto is to "offer opportunities for personal growth, recreation and socialization through travel." It does not allow relatives and friends to accompany the vacationer. Prices range for $399 for a weekend in the Poconos to $2,589 for a Hawaii cruise.
Sundial Special Vacations (1-800-547-9198, www.sundial-travel.com) has been offering organized and supervised tours for the developmentally disabled for 27 years. Destinations include Puerto Vallarta, Nashville, Las Vegas and Ireland. It also offers theme trips, including a dude ranch vacation, white-water rafting and African safaris. Friends and family are welcome. Prices range from $456 for a three-day trip to Las Vegas to $2,973 for a two-week trip to Africa; air fare is not included.
Several nonprofit organizations can supply additional information. Mobility International (541-343-1284, www.miusa.org/travel.htm) promotes educational exchange programs for the disabled and keeps a list of travel resources. The Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped (212-447-7284, www.sath .org) has collected a fairly comprehensive list of contacts. You may also want to buy a copy of the "Directory of Travel Agencies for the Disabled," by Helen Hecker (1-800-637-2256).
Q: My wife and I recently returned from Turtle Island in Fiji, which offers gorgeous, truly private beaches that couples can reserve for picnics, swimming, sunbathing, etc. There are a few other such resorts in Fiji (Vatulele Island Resort, Kaimbu Island Resort, Waykaya Club, Laucala Forbes Resort). Are there any such resorts in the Caribbean or the Bahamas?
A: The resorts you mention in Fiji are ultra-exclusive, "zee plane, zee plane"-type destinations. These all-inclusive resorts set out to indulge their guests' every whim. The 500-acre Turtle Island, where the movie "The Blue Lagoon" was filmed, takes only 14 couples at a time. Couples can book a private beach for the day, complete with picnic. Expect to pay between $800 and $1,300 per night per couple.
The resort on this side of the globe that comes closest to fitting that image is not in the Caribbean or the Bahamas. Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys is an exclusive resort that can cost upward of $1,000 per night per couple. The five-acre private island has 30 villas set on stilts and situated for maximum privacy. Information: 1-800-3-GET-LOST (1-800-343-8567), www.littlepalmisland.com. Other resorts worth looking at:
Guana Island (914-967-6050, www.guana .com), a private island in the British Virgin Islands, offers seven beaches that can be booked for picnics by guests, who number no more than 30 at a time. High-season rates start at $765 a night for two.
Petit St. Vincent (1-800-654-9326, www.psvresort.com) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines stresses its respect for the privacy of its guests. Each of the 22 cottages has a small bamboo flagpole with message box: Hoist the yellow flag and a member of the staff (two for every guest) will immediately pick up your message and grant your request; hoist the red flag and you will not be disturbed. High-season rates are $830 a night per couple.
Drake's Anchorage Resort Inn (617-969-9913, www.drakesanchorage.com), a private island in the British Virgin Islands, hosts 20 overnight guests at a time. All accommodations are waterfront with private terrace. High-season rates start at a bargain $518 per night for two.
Q: I have heard that the German VAT (value-added tax), which is currently at 16 percent and is added to purchases of all goods and services, can be reclaimed by tourists at the airport upon departure. Is this true? How do I do it?
A: The value-added tax, common in Europe, is a version of our sales tax. In Germany, it's a flat 16 percent. Business travelers can get refunds on expenses, but as a tourist in Germany, the only value-added tax that you'll be able to reclaim is on purchases that are being transported back to the United States.
Stores that display a "Tax-Free Shopping" logo in the window will have forms necessary for obtaining VAT refunds. You'll usually have to buy things worth at least 50 German marks (about $28) to get a form; if your purchases are for less, get an itemized receipt. You can then tally up several smaller purchases and get a refund on the total amount.
Some tourist centers in Germany have VAT refund offices, but most tourists file at the airport VAT office. You present the article you purchased, the receipt and the refund form. Remember, only unused articles are eligible for the refund. The officer will give you a processed form, which you could bring back to the store for a full 16 percent refund. Realistically, however, you'll probably go to a bank in the airport, which will give you your refund minus a 2 or 3 percent handling fee. On purchases of under 50 marks, you will have to mail in the form to get a refund.
As a frequent visitor to London, Jane E. Kirtley of Minneapolis appreciated the list of "good and inexpensive sources of ethnic food" in that city (Travel Q&A, Oct. 31), but she wants readers to know that Zamoyski is on Fleet Road, not Fleet Street. "Zamoyski is on Fleet Road in north London, nowhere near Fleet Street. The nearest underground station is Belsize Park on the northern line, and it is about a 10-minute walk from there." Kirtley's review of the restaurant: "Tiny place, but terrific food. Pirogi, cherry palacsinta and the finest roast duck in London."
Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost .com), fax (202-334-1069) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071).