WORTH A TRIP: Amid a world of tempting exotica, sometimes the best trip is simply going home. In the August-September Saveur, Sarah Lydon gathers with her family at their Nantucket summer house, slipping "seamlessly back into our old summer rituals." Her tangled hair stiff with ocean salt, she stops to pick blueberries "no bigger than a baby's fingertip" that offer themselves up "almost wantonly." This journey reaches into the past with every sense -- taste, smell and the "all-day squeak and slam" of the screen door across the street. As a child, Lydon "earnestly assumed that Nantucket was some kind of small, independent country." Now she's visiting with her own daughter. Pondering a recipe for blueberry pudding, we want to go, too.
WORTH A FLIP: It looks like a gigantic interior designer accessorized the terrain with massive stone vases. But in reality, Laos's Plain of Jars has been dubbed "the world's most dangerous archaeological site," with unexploded bombs that litter the land. Archaeology tells you how to visit (safely) this area that may become the next UNESCO World Heritage site . . .
Outside tips us off about "the Book," a mythic collection of grubby, hand-scrawled tomes that can be found -- if you know where to ask -- in laundromats, hostels and bars across Latin America and Asia. It's the "best unknown guidebook in the world," a "collective, disorganized stash of travel tips, phone numbers, discount deals, crazed illustrations, conspiracy theories, backbiting marginalia, and boozy reminiscence, penned by and for the deeply broke backpackers of the world" . . .
The chic-er set should turn to Elle Decoration (U.K. edition), which dishes design-savvy hotels and tells you what ideas to steal. Look for "black, bento-box-style open-air bathrooms" in Bali, Christian Lacroix fashion sketches on the walls in Paris and "a communal bed for ten" in Amsterdam (of course). Thankfully, several lodging options are under $150 per night, including a Marseilles masterpiece designed by Le Corbusier . . .
Travel+Leisure pays an uneasy visit to Tibet, where the people cling to their religion and identity, even as "a profit-driven, and still repressive, Chinese regime is building a Disneyland of Tibetan culture." "Go now" is the message, while simple sights like a man twirling his prayer wheel still have the "power to bestow happiness" . . . For others, the latest gizmo bestows happiness, and Backpacker has a whopper: the Motorola i860 by Nextel is a GPS (Global Positioning System)-enabled camera phone that lets you send "waypoints" (coordinates) and images directly to another phone. Found a hidden waterfall? Send the photo and GPS data to a pal; she can pinpoint it, and meet you there -- assuming she has the magic phone . . .
Or perhaps you'd prefer to rendezvous over a nice glass of Pouilly-Fume. French wineries are typically not set up to welcome drop-in guests, France Magazine says, but it names six where you'll find hospitality to equal the stellar wines. One Champagne-maker even offers lessons in slicing open bottles with a saber . . . The swells at GQ dis New York dining and name De Valls Bluff, Ark. (population 783) as the "per capita best eating destination" in the United States, thanks to great barbecue and a legendary pie shop. Plus, the fish market down the road just happens to supply caviar to Petrossian.
WORTH A CLIP: Conde Nast Traveler lists "champion" travel consultants -- specialists who are experts on a region and have been put to the test by a "rigorous screening process" that includes sample itineraries, extensive phone interviews and client references. Even better, they don't just cater to the super-rich.
WORTH A CLICK: Budget Travel can be a boggling hodgepodge of tips and trips. Thank goodness, the mag recently put its searchable archive online at www.budgettravelonline.com. You'll find extras too, including nifty, printable "Snap Guides" for various cities. We like the New York one.
WORTH A GAWK: What's wrong with us? Mother Jones reports that the average American needs three vacation days before feeling relaxed, and 43 percent of us return feeling overwhelmed by the work we have to do. Then there's the 3 percent who develop flu-like "leisure sickness" during weekends and holidays.
But wait, hope is on the way! The RAND Corporation, a California think tank, gives employees a 5 percent bonus if they use all their vacation days. No telling if they're among the 17 percent of Americans who say they'd find a nude resort "an extremely or very desirable experience."
-- Gayle Keck