QOur family plans to drive along the Mississippi River, from its headwaters in Minnesota to Louisiana. We'd like to take short boat trips along the way. Any suggestions?

Tom Howell


AThe Mississippi is the longest waterway in the United States, flowing 2,552 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The Great River Road hugs the river as it cuts through 10 states. Along the way are 87 parks and 1,100 National Historic Register sites.

I'd suggest getting your hands on the info-packed map ($3) produced by the Mississippi River Parkway Commission (763-212-2560, www.mississippiriverinfo.com). It outlines the route and points out more than 200 cities and sites to visit. Among those: the headwaters of the river at Lake Itasca State Park in Minnesota; Mark Twain's boyhood home in Hannibal, Mo.; and prehistoric burial mounds in Iowa, Illinois and Kentucky.

A good theme for the middle chunk of your trip could be the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's expedition. Many museums and tourist sites along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail are celebrating the anniversary with exhibits and events. Consider a stop at the gravesite of William Clark in St. Louis. Info: 402-661-1804, www.nps.gov/lecl.

For cruises, the Great River Steamboat Co. runs the paddlewheel-driven Julia Belle Swain out of La Crosse, Wis., with overnight cruises from $279 and day trips from $30. Info: 800-815-1005, www.juliabelle.com. An hour-long sightseeing cruise runs three times daily aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat in Hannibal for $10. Info: 573-221-3222, www.marktwainriverboat.com.

If you continue on to New Orleans, consider a two-hour jazz cruise aboard the steamboat Natchez. Cost from $18.50. Info: 504-586-8777, www.steamboatnatchez.com.

On a recent flight I noticed a lot of people had both a suitcase and computer case as carry-on items, even though the limit was supposed to be one. Are they considered one item? I was afraid my purse would be considered my carry-on and I'd have to check my computer bag.

Rebecca Frasure


Rules vary from airline to airline, but what you noticed was the "bag-plus-one" policy in action: Each passenger is allowed one piece of luggage to cram into the overhead bin or under a seat, plus one personal item, such as a purse, briefcase or laptop. In your situation, your computer bag could be considered your luggage and your purse your personal item.

Some but not all airlines also permit you to tote along what they call "special items." Among the ones that Northwest Airlines allows, for example, are coats, umbrellas, strollers and duty-free goodies. That means the super-size Toblerone you bought with your last euros won't count as your one personal item.

As always, check your airline's rules before departing. Details usually can be found on its Web site.

Our soccer group is planning to attend the 2006 World Cup in Germany. We'd like to stay north of Frankfurt, perhaps in the town of Marburg. Do you have any recommendations for outfits that deal in rentals?

Dee Flanagan


It's always wise to plan ahead, especially for an event of the magnitude of a World Cup, but you may be a little ahead of the game.

As with the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea, FIFA, the international soccer federation, will set up a special housing bureau to book rooms throughout the region. FIFA hasn't released any plans yet, but monitor the Web site www.fifaworldcup.com for details.

It's not known yet whether properties in and around the lovely medieval town of Marburg -- known for its 16th-century university that the Brothers Grimm attended -- will set up contracts to work directly with FIFA, or even if they book this far in advance. But check with the tourist office for the state of Hessen, where Marburg is, for a list of 1,000 vacation homes and apartments for rent. Info: 011-49-6117-7 8-800, www.hessen-tourismus.de. The German National Tourist Office also can help. Info: 212-661-7200, www.cometogermany.com.

The World Cup, with matches in 12 German cities, begins on June 9, 2006, with tickets scheduled to go on sale Feb. 1, 2006, according to FIFA. Prices range from $43 for the first-round matches to nearly $750 for the top seats at the final.

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