The Kind of Vacation Opportunity That Occurs Once in a Blue Moon

Aspiring Moonies Bureau: Looking for a summer vacation spot that isn't overrun with tourists? Then pick up Frommer's new travel book: "Frommer's the Moon: A Guide for First-Time Visitors" (Macmillan). In it, you'll discover "everything you need to know to travel to the moon," including how to use a vacuum toilet and what kinds of artifacts you can take home as souvenirs (mostly rocks).

Other highlights:

* The Hilton hotel chain recently drew up plans for a Lunar Hilton featuring 5,000 beds, several restaurants, a swimming pool next to an artificial lake, an ecumenical church and weighted shoes so guests "will be better able to cope with the weaker gravity."

* For tipping, follow the customary cruise ship practice: Tip the flight crew before liftoff and the space station and moon base crews upon arrival.

* Russian and English are the official languages of space.

* During liftoff, you'll need to wear an adult diaper as a precaution against "extreme acceleration pressure."

* In a weightless environment, you can sleep just as well standing up as lying down. However, showers are impractical, so you'll have to rely on sponge baths. All food will be coated with a thin layer of gelatin to keep crumbs from floating away and damaging the spacecraft.

* No booze or smoking is allowed in space, but chewing tobacco is OK.

* The stench within the confines of a spaceship can be overpowering. Former astronauts say some odors are "incapable of being eradicated" by air-filtering systems.

* Gambling is not advised on the moon. Because of low gravity, certain movements seem to occur in slow motion. For example, you can tell which way a flipped coin will land while it's still in the air--and "hoodwinking an opponent as the dice roll is a snap."

* Your regular health insurance will not cover space travel.

The book also outlines sightseeing excursions to such popular spots as the Moon Alps, the Schroter Valley (said to be more impressive than the Grand Canyon) and Neil Armstrong's first footprint (which will probably be preserved under plexiglass). Just be sure to visit these sites early in the morning, to beat the crowds and the heat (afternoon temperatures can soar to 266 degrees).

Frommer's also considered publishing a travel guide to Mars but determined that the red planet wouldn't become a major tourist destination any time soon because "you could never get that kind of time off from work." The trip takes at least three years (which would be great for frequent-flier miles).

However, the moon also has pitfalls, namely price. The estimated cost of a round-trip ticket is $25,000 to $200,000, which is why we're waiting for someone to publish "The Moon on $20 a Day."

Random Facts Bureau: Snakes are allergic to Tylenol, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Alarming Trends Bureau: A chimpanzee has constructed a sentence using a laptop computer, according to a report in the London Telegraph.

In other words, Off-Kilter can now be replaced.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Armless Man Weds Legless Woman! She Met Him in a Supermarket and Fell Head Over Knees in Love With Him!" (Weekly World News)

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service. Off-Kilter's e-mail address is Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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