Q I'd like to go the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy. Any last-minute tips on hotel availability? Should I stay in Turin or another location? Is a rental car a smart option?



A In less than 100 days, Turin will kick off the XX Winter Olympics, and the news is mixed. "Tickets are still readily available, but hotels are hard to come by," said Matt Bijur, president of CoSport, the official vendor of tickets and packages for the Feb. 10-26 Games. "You don't want to buy tickets then find that you can't actually accommodate yourself once there."

According to Bijur, individual tickets for 85 percent of the events are still on sale. Prices vary; men's downhill, for example, costs $185, while curling goes for $34. You can buy tickets through CoSport before you depart -- a wise option -- or at the company's Turin ticket office once the Games begin. Brokers also sell tickets online, but prices could be steeper, and there is the risk of bogus tickets (and no recourse).

The sold-out events include the big-draw spectacles, such as gold-medal hockey and women's freestyle skating, but don't lose the dream: CoSport packages include ticket(s) to the high-demand events. The $8,140 per person double package, for example, includes four nights' lodging; your pick of four events, such as the opening and/or closing ceremonies, men's hockey, etc.; two meals; and transportation to the events. The $2,800 package includes four nights' lodging, one choice event, breakfast and airport transfers.

If you prefer to organize your own Olympic holiday, you'll have to compete for pillow space. All events are in the city and the mountains, about a 11/2-hour drive away, and lodging in Torino and Susa Valley is tight to nonexistent. At this point, rooms in the mountains could cost $1,000 a night and up, and city hotels are nearly sold out. However, CoSport has four nights in a three-star property 20 minutes from Torino for $2,000 per room and $520 a night per room for a property 45 minutes away. Rooms could also open up; Bijur recommends checking back with CoSport (877-457-4647, www.cosport.com) frequently. Also, check the Torino Winter Games's Web site (www.torino2006.org), which has info on accommodations. When we plugged in some dates, options included a single room at a B&B for less than $100.

Even if you're staying far from town, a car rental is not a good idea. Besides traffic, you will have to reserve (and pay for) a parking spot near the venues, then hop a shuttle. Instead rely on public transportation.

My husband and I may go to Alaska on a land/cruise trip. I've heard that there are different times to go for the best weather, wildlife viewing and scenery. Is there one time that takes all of this into consideration?

Jean Turnbull

Clinton, Md.

Alaska not only has a best time of the year, it has a best day of the year: June 21. On the summer solstice, Alaskans enjoy 24 hours of sunlight, so you can tour from sun-up to, well, sun-still-up. In broader terms, Dave Worell, spokesman for the Alaska Travel Industry Association, writes in an e-mail, "June, July and August are the prime season for all of Alaska's visitors. Like the migrating birds that flock to Alaska by the millions or the whales who return each year from their winter in the tropics, visitors are drawn by the explosion of life caused by near constant daylight."

In addition to 20-plus hours of sunlight, summer offers a green landscape abloom with flowers, warm weather (65 to 70 degrees, and hotter as you move inland) and active wildlife, including bear and moose rummaging for food.

The locals also celebrate their brief respite from the cold with festivals and late-night activities, such as midnight golfing. (The season shuts down around mid-September, when the cruises and trains stop running and the Katmai National Park bear-viewing outfitters close.) The only downside to summer is the threat of wildfires, caused by the lack of rain, and the absence of snow. For that, you need to come in fall; indeed, Fairbanks had a white Halloween this year.

For more information on travel to Alaska: Alaska Travel Industry Association, 800-862-5275, www.travelalaska.com.


A couple of readers offered additional companies specializing in World War I tours (Oct. 30). William White of Nokesville, Va., recommends Military Historical Tours (703-212-0695, www.miltours.com) of Alexandria, which offers a May tour to the American WWI battlefields east of Paris. White added that the company also visits the French battlefield at Verdun as well as various monuments, memorials and American cemeteries. Salvatore Compagno of Berkeley, Calif., suggests Bell Travel (800-966-1216), also of Berkeley, for World War I tours to Europe's major battlefields.

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