As uncle and grandfather, we are planning to treat 13- and 15-year-old boys to an overseas trip next summer. Budget and time constraints limit possibilities, but could you suggest countries, cities and travel sites to interest teen-age-boys?
Despite a few drawbacks (weird sleep schedules, staggering food bills), traveling with teens can be rewarding, even exhilarating. Here are a few ideas:
• A world-class city. Vibrant European capitals have plenty of teen-friendly attractions, such as sports and music venues, cool markets and classic sites. Go easy on the museums and seek out funkier attractions, such as Paris’ Catacombs, featuring stacks of bones and skulls, or Rome’s Mamertine Prison, an ancient dungeon where new arrivals dropped in through a hole in the ceiling. Let the boys explore on their own via subway, or sign them up for a Segway or bike tour. In Paris, a four- to five-hour Segway tour costs about $99 per person (www.segwayguidedtours.com).
• Outdoor adventures. For the adventure trip the boys will remember their whole lives, cruise the Galapagos Islands and see sea lions, giant tortoises, warm-water penguins and other exotic creatures up close. It’s expensive, but tour prices vary considerably, so shop around (Ecuador Tourism, www.ecuador.us). Other overseas adventure options: Go trekking in Peru, see Wales on horseback, go sailing in Turkey, hike Iceland’s lava fields, play cowboy in Argentina, mountain-bike in Switzerland.
• Islands and beaches. Swimming, diving, kayaking, tubing, horseback riding – what’s not to like? St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands has all that and more, and lodgings range from affordable tent camps to luxury hotels (USVI Tourism, 800-372-USVI, www.usvitourism.vi).
The picture page of my passport picked up some kind of fungus in dampest India. Now some scanners can’t read the bar code, and one immigration officer told me he could technically deny me admission to his country. Will the State Department replace my passport, even though there are several years left until expiration?
Damaged passports aren’t valid for travel, so you’ll have to replace yours – and unfortunately, it’ll cost you. Not only will you not get credit for the unused years, you’ll have to start from scratch as a first-time applicant, according to an agent at the National Passport Information Center. That means applying in person at an acceptance facility or passport agency, providing the required documentation (your damaged passport does not qualify) and photos, and paying $100 in first-timer’s fees. Details:
National Passport Information Center, 877-487-2778, travel.state.gov/passport.
Find the perfect beach
Myidealbeach.com is the best five-minute work distraction this side of a Mai Tai. Whether you can take a vacation or merely dream of one, get swept away to a dreamy beach resort customized just for you.
It’s a quick and easy three-step questionnaire that asks your travel preferences and delivers a variety of beach resort options, whether you’re traveling alone, with the kids, with friends or trying to get away for some romance. The site is powered by Orbitz, but you don’t feel as though you’re on the Orbitz site until the end when you select the hotel. The site suggests one ideal resort but backs it up with other recommendations. The site qualifies its selections and lets you know whether that particular resort is even just a slight mismatch for your hotel or activity interests.
However, the downside is the hotel was $75 to $100 a night cheaper on Orbitz than it was through the beach site’s overview. And once you select the ideal beach resort, you can’t use your browser’s back button to go back and see the other recommendations. There is a “back to results” link in your results — on the lower left side of your resort description — but be warned that the sound of the ocean waves and details of your dreamy resort might distract you.