We asked the experts what Web sites, resources and organizations could help travelers who have special needs or who fall into niches. Here are their choices.
Youth Beat columnist Lucy Izon says these resources are among the best for young budget travelers:
Hostelling International: A network of more than 5,000 hostels around the world, Hostelling International has a reservation service for hostels in gateway cities, so budget beds can be booked before arrival; 733 15th St. N.W., Suite 840, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 783-6161, fax (202) 783-6171, http://www.hiayh.org.
Let's Go: The Web site of the popular student-researched guidebook series Let's Go contains government travel advisories, basic destination information, a forum for exchanging information, features and special sections, including "First Timer's Europe" and the "Great American Road Trip"; http://www.letsgo.com.
Lonely Planet: The Web site behind the world's leading guidebook series for independent travelers has features, health information and, best of all, the "Thorne Tree," an active online message board where you can ask questions and share information; http://www.lonelyplanet.com.
STA Travel: STA issues international student or youth identity cards (good for discounts worldwide) and books student air fares, tours, packages and budget accommodations. Its Web site offers links for study and volunteer programs. There are several offices in L.A. and Santa Monica; (800) 781-4040, http://www.statravel.com.
StudentUniverse: A good online travel service with economical air fares. You also can research international rail fares, book a hostel bed and get information on destinations and on studying and volunteering abroad; 100 Talcott Ave. East, Watertown, MA 02472; (800) 272-9676, http://www.studentuniverse.com.
The following were compiled with help from solo travel experts:
Connecting Solo Travel Network: This not-for-profit, member-driven organization, founded by experienced solo traveler Diane Redfern, publishes a newsletter six times a year and maintains a Web site with tips on traveling solo, advice exchanges, news about trips and information on companies friendly to single travelers. Membership is $25 via Internet, $35 by mail; 689 Park Road, Unit 6, Gibsons, BC V0N 1V7, Canada; (800) 557-1757, (604) 886-9099, fax (626) 608-2139, http://www.cstn.org.
O Solo Mio: A company that specializes in tours for singles, and it can match you up with a roommate; 160 Main St., Los Altos, CA 94022; (800) 959-8568, fax (650) 941-5334, http://www.osolomio.com.
Solo Flights and Mature Tours: Betty Sobel has been in business for 28 years, and her company offers tours for solo travelers (providing roommates as often as possible), usually with low single supplements; 10 Taits Mill Drive, Trumbull, CT 06611; (800) 266-1566, fax (203) 445-0109.
Travel Alone and Love It: Flight attendant Sharon B. Wingler, author of "Travel Alone & Love It" (Chicago Spectrum Press, $14.95), has become an expert on traveling solo. Her Web site offers a Q&A, tips and resources; http://www.travelaloneandloveit.com.
Travel Companion Exchange: A long-established service that helps solo travelers find companions (one way to avoid the single supplement) and publishes a newsletter with advice, tips and bargains; P.O. Box 833-W, Amityville, NY 11701; (631) 454-0880, fax (631) 454-0170, http://www.travelcompanionexchange.com.
Some of Taking the Kids columnist Eileen Ogintz's favorite Web sites:
Databases: At the Family Travel Forum, http://www.familytravelforum.com, or Travel with Kids, http://travelwithkids.about.com, you'll find advice on traveling with a toddler or a teen, deals, tips and a forum for asking questions.
Dvorak Kayak & Rafting Expeditions: The outdoors outfitter offers family kayaking and rafting trips in the West, including some on which kids float free; 17921 U.S. Hwy. 285, Nathrop, CO 81236; (800) 824-3795, (719) 539-6851, http://www.dvorakexpeditions.com.
Klutz: You'll find an array of craft kits, books, magic kits, yo-yos and the like that will keep any kid entertained in the car--at least for a while; http://www.klutz.com.
For outdoors: Retailers L.L. Bean, (800) 441-5713, http://www.llbean.com, and REI, (800) 426-4840, http://www.rei .com, are good sources for gear, from kids' hiking boots to baby carriers and camping stuff.
Package tours: Expedia, http://www.expedia.com, and Smarter Living, http://www.smarterliving.com, offer extensive family pages with theme park and family resort packages and an archive of "Taking the Kids" columns.
Rand McNally: The mapmaker has several locations in Southern California where you can buy products designed so the kids can help navigate; (800) 275-7263, http://www.randmcnally.com.
Survive the Drive: Rent a VCR as well as games to keep the kids amused; 28 W. Eagle Road, Havertown, PA 19083; (800) 573-6018, http://www.survive-the-drive.com.
The world is awash in deals for people who have reached a certain age. Here are a few places to start the search:
American Assn. of Retired People: AARP's magazines, Modern Maturity and My Generation, and the organization's Web site have travel stories, consumer tips and information on discounts; 601 E St., N.W., Washington, DC 20049; (800) 424-3410, http://www.aarp.org/travel.
Elderhostel: Elderhostel is the grande dame of senior travel organizations. The not-for-profit educational and travel organization for adults 55 and older has thousands of "learning adventures," many priced at less than $600 per person, and some spanning several generations; 11 Avenue de Lafayette, Boston, MA 02111; (877) 426-8056, fax (877) 426-2166, http://www.elderhostel.com.
First Gov for Seniors: This Web site, maintained by the Social Security Administration, has travel tips, advisories and useful links; http://www.seniors.gov/travel.html.
The Mature Traveler: A monthly newsletter that has deals, discounts and destinations for "49ers-plus." Among other features, once a year it compiles a list of airline discounts; P.O. Box 1543, Wildomar, CA 92595;(800) 460-6676, http://www.thematuretraveler.com.
"Unbelievably Good Deals & Great Adventures That You Absolutely Can't Get Unless You're Over 50": An expert called this book by Joan Rattner Heilman "the bargain hunter's bible for people 50 and older." The 336-page 14th edition is packed with ideas (Contemporary Books, $14.95).
TRAVELERS WITH DISABLITIES
The following organizations, companies and Web sites may help make travel easier for people with disabilities and special needs:
Accessible Journeys: An agency that arranges travel for people with disabilities; there's also an online newsletter, Access to the Planet; 35 W. Sellers Ave., Ridley Park, PA 19078; (800) 846-4537, (610) 521-0339, fax (610) 521-6959, http://www.disabilitytravel.com.
Access Northern California: A nonprofit organization with resources, tips and other information on visiting Northern California for people with disabilities; 1427 Grant St., Berkeley, CA 94703; (510) 524-2026, http://www.accessnca.com.
Access San Diego: A nonprofit information center for people with disabilities traveling in the San Diego area. Its Web site has useful links; P.O. Box 124526, San Diego, CA 92112; (858) 279-0704, fax (208) 460-9487, http://www.accessandiego.org.
Emerging Horizons: A quarterly magazine with news, destination articles and resources for "people with mobility disabilities, from wheelchair-users to slow walkers." C&C Creative Concepts, P.O. Box 278, Ripon, CA 95366; fax (209) 599-9482, http://emerginghorizons.com.
Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality: A nonprofit educational organization representing the interests of travelers with disabilities. It also publishes a magazine; 347 Fifth Ave., Suite 610, New York, NY 10016; (212) 447-7284, fax (212) 725-8253, http://www.sath.org.