l receive countless inquiries asking me to suggest novel methods of vacationing __ tactics designed to get the listener or reader out of a vacation rut. To my surprise, these questions continue to recur, even though I regard the answers to them to be rather obvious. Here is my take on five suggested tactics for avoiding a "vacation rut":
First, opt for a learning vacation. On the East Coast, consider Cornell's Adult University, scheduled for July and early August at the famed school in Ithaca, N.Y. (www.sce.cornell.edu/cau) . Its succession of one-week programs puts you up in university housing and at student dining halls, then places you in your choice of several classrooms to explore topics in the liberal arts, as led by eminent faculty. In the west, consider the same at Santa Fe, N.M.' s St. John's College (also in July and early August), studying your choice of one of the acknowledged masterworks __ the "great books" __ of the Western tradition (www.stjohnscollege.edu/outreach/SF/SC/classics.shtml). For study programs farther afield, consider the summer weeklong and longer programs at Oxford (The Oxford Experience, www.conted.ox.ac.uk) and Cambridge University (Cambridge Summer School, www.ice.cam.ac.uk) in England.
Two: Book a once-in-a-lifetime experience __ either an African safari or a trip to ancient Egypt. For about $2,500, including airfare, you can go on safari in Kenya with a company like Lion World Tours (www.lionworldtravel.com). Alternatively, you can go to Egypt with an outfit like Misr Travel (www.misrtravel.org) and do what every human being should do at some point in their lives __ see the pyramids, the Sphinx, Cairo's archaeological museum and the antiquities at Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel.
Three: Go someplace entirely different, like China, Panama, Nicaragua or Cuba. The last-named (Cuba) will be expensive (because of unusual government requirements relating to the nature of a Cuban tour), but China is one of the great values of travel from companies like China Spree (www.chinaspree.com) or China Focus (www.chinafocustravel.com). And you also can go to Panama or Nicaragua for comparatively little.
Four: Schedule a trip to one of the great American national parks, especially Yellowstone or Yosemite. If you haven't been to either, you are missing one of the great travel experiences. But even the lesser parks are head and shoulders above most other destinations in terms of the vacation experience they offer.
A final option: Engage in a vacation exchange — swapping use of your own home or apartment for the home or apartment of a person living somewhere overseas — and thereby enjoying the authentic experience of a foreign country. Here's the single most logical and effective way to eliminate the cost of accommodations and at the same time enhance the quality of your stay. Try HomeExchange.com (www.homeexchange.com), Intervac (www.intervac-homeexchange.com), International Home Exchange Network (www.ihen.com), Exchange Homes (www.exchangehomes.com) or any of a number of competitors. All these are obvious suggestions, but they can never be sufficiently stressed.