On vacation . . . . . .'Survivor'-style

TRAVEL SMARTS

March 17, 2002

Vacationing Survivor-style may seem like an oxymoron, but that hasn't stopped Island Quest Vacations.

"Survivor was the inspiration," says company spokeswoman Annesophia Alexander. Island Quest trips will mimic the reality show, she says, but "there's no eating bugs, starving or getting voted off."

Although no trips have been scheduled yet, Island Quest's plan is to give vacationers a week of fun in the sun -- on St. Croix or aboard a Royal Caribbean ship -- with daily quests, secret missions and nightly point-earning summits.

In other words, you get Survivor adventure without the hardship. The company conducted test trips last year to gauge interest, and has tentatively scheduled the first official trip for later this year, Alexander says.

Each day, guests, who will be split randomly into two groups of eight or less, will participate in a "Treasure Quest," in which they can win prizes like DVD players or digital cameras, and a "Cash Quest," in which they're playing for the chance to add money to the prize pool.

Quests may involve driving around in an SUV on a scavenger hunt, a boat race or diving for "pirate treasure."

If all goes according to plan, the top two point scorers from each team will compete in a final quest at the end of the week to determine the survivor, who then must decide whether to take the money (which could be as much as $7,000) or come back for a free vacation and a chance at winning a $35,000 prize.

Alexander says the Island Quest trips will cost from $2,300 to $5,000 with most meals included. For information, call 800-301-7976 or go to www.iqvacations.com.

-- Tricia Bishop

A TASTE OF INNS IN WINE COUNTRY

Go west from the comfort of your kitchen with California Wine Country Bed & Breakfast Cookbook and Travel Guide (Rutledge Hill Press; $20). The book lists the vital statistics for more than 50 inns throughout the Golden State's wine regions -- from Fort Bragg in the northwest to Santa Barbara in the south -- but, more important, it includes the inns' best recipes.

Authors Carol Faino and Doreen Kaitfors Hazledine, who have done similar books focusing on Colorado and Washington State, started the project by inviting B&B owners throughout California's wine country to send in recipes for everything from dinner entrees to scones, which they then cooked and judged. Only their faves made it into the guide, making the key to choosing an inn as easy as picking a favorite recipe.

Buy the book online at www.rutledgehillpress.com or by calling 800-441-0511. -- T.B

Luxury hotel lets guests travel light

Frequent visitors to Washington's Four Seasons Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue can now travel a little lighter as long as they're not looking for wardrobe variety. The luxury hotel's new TravelLight program lets guests leave their luggage -- and its contents -- behind when they head home.

The staff will store the bags in a "secure room deep inside the hotel," says spokeswoman Tricia Messerschmitt, and bring them out in time for your next visit. That part's free, but there is a charge if you want your clothes laundered, dry-cleaned and laid out in the room before your next stay. Messerschmitt is quick to point out that your bags won't be opened unless you ask for it. For information, call the hotel at 202-342-0444. -- T.B.

Check status of tickets

Students holding discount plane tickets issued by student travel specialist Council Travel had better do a little homework to find out if their tickets are still valid before heading to the airport.

The New York-based agency, the largest student travel agency in the United States with 75 offices (in Baltimore at 3400 N. Charles St.), filed for Chapter 11 reorganization last month, and the first reaction from some airlines was to refuse CT tickets. Airlines later agreed to honor the tickets, but whether they continue to do so is uncertain.

Council Travel, whose stated mission is to help students and budget travelers "see the world," says on its Web site (www.counciltravel.com) that the com-pany is still open for business and there is "no cause for concern."

-- From wire reports

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