Even Budget-Pinched Students Deserve a Resort-Area Vacation

Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Internet http://www.izon.com

For those exploring North America this summer, here are two new hostels in popular resort regions, including one in Southern California.

The new Big Bear Lake Mountain Resort Hostel is in the San Bernardino Mountains (altitude 7,000 feet), about two hours east of Los Angeles. It is close to the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,660-mile hiking trail that runs from the Mexican border (near San Diego) to the Canadian border in Washington state.

In summer, you can enjoy mountain biking and hiking, rock climbing and water sports.

It's also about two miles from the Snow Summit and Big Bear Mountain ski resorts (with snowboard parks), which should appeal to winter sports enthusiasts.

The hostel is at 527 Knickerbocker Road, next to the village and about a five-minute walk from the lake. You can reach it from the San Bernardino bus station using the Mountain Area Regional Transit Authority (MARTA). For details call MARTA at (909) 584-1111.

A room costs $39 for one person, $50 for two, $66 for three, and $84 for four people. Beds in shared dormitory rooms are about $20.

Contact Big Bear Lake Mountain Resort, tel. (909) 866-8900, Internet http://www.adventurehostel.com.

The SameSun Hostel Network has announced completion of a new hostel in downtown Kelowna, the capital of British Columbia's beautiful Okanagan Valley.

The 120-bed hostel is near restaurants, pubs, shopping and Kelowna's popular beaches. It has air-conditioning, an in-house kitchen, barbecue, volleyball courts, travel planning center, Internet terminals, pool tables and a large communal kitchen/dining area.

Overnight rates are about $13 in the dormitory rooms, $32 in private rooms. Reservations can be made by calling toll-free (877) 562 2783, or visiting http://www.samesun.com.

The SameSun Hostel Network is Canada's largest private hostel company. Besides Kelowna, it has facilities in Big White, Silver Star, Fernie, Kimberley and Banff.

Helpful information geared to independent student-style travelers is available for 40 European cities on a new section of the http://frommers.com Internet site. You can get helpful advice on where to crash in Budapest, Hungary; five things to talk to local residents about in Prague, Czech Republic; the neighborhoods of Paris; and the night life of London on the new Hanging Out section of the Web site.

Each of the pages has good basic background information on how to get around, what to see, where to stay, night life and so on. It can tell you what to do if you have as little as 12 hours.

You'll also find a message board where you can post questions or comments for other travelers in town.

For those who intend to make Amsterdam their gateway to Europe, the Netherlands Youth Hostel Assn. (NJHC) has arranged low-cost three-night "City Break" packages. They cost about $76 and include accommodation in a six-or eight-bed room at Vondelpark Hostel, which offers separate dorm rooms for men and women. The package price includes breakfasts, linens and tourist taxes.

You also get a three-course dinner in the hostel's "Backpackers" brasserie (with free beer); a three-day public transportation pass valid on trams, buses and subway; a city map and information kit; a ticket for a canal tour; and free entry to the Van Gogh Museum.

This is one of 34 hostels in the Netherlands affiliated with Hostelling International (HI). Non-HI members pay an additional fee of $2 per night.

For details, visit the NJHC Internet site at http://www.njhc.org, or phone the association at 011-31-10-264-6064. You can contact the NJHC City Hostel Vondelpark at Zandpad 5, tel. 011-31-20-589-8996.

Holland is great for cycling, with flat terrain and more than 6,000 miles of dedicated cycle paths that pass castles, windmills and fishing villages.

You'll find bikes for rent at rail stations, and Dutch youth hostels offer bike rentals and cycling programs.

Paths link many of the NJHC hostels, which range from a castle to a hunting lodge.

The hostels are open to groups and individuals. There are no age restrictions.

A free map with a list of the NJHC hostels is available from the Netherlands Board of Tourism, tel. (888) GoHolland (464-6552).

For other Holland information, check out http://www.goholland.com.

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