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Preparation ...Research is key to enjoyable travel

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The peak season of travel is soon upon us. From April to October, millions of people take to the skies and hit the highway in pursuit of the dream vacation. But along with the millions of miles traveled, there are a million places to go, a million things to pack, a million little details to arrange and, alas, a million things that could go wrong.

And to find out where the risks are, they ought to do the research, the experts say.

"You have to feel confident you have all the information available," said Mark Orwoll, managing editor of Travel & Leisure. If you're contemplating a trip to a potentially dangerous place, such as Uganda, Orwoll said preparation and research is key.

But regardless of the destination, it's important to do some homework.

"Americans Traveling Abroad: What You Should Know Before You Go" by Gladson Nwanna, 910.202 N

"Tips for the Savvy Traveler" by Deborah Burns, 910.202 B

"Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World" by Edward Hasbrouck, 910.202 H

Whether you're traveling abroad for business or pleasure, you'll find yourself at the mercy of a welter of laws and regulations that are far from uniform and subject to frequent change. These three titles distill the numerous bulletins churned out by the U.S. departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Coverage includes customs, immunizations, security, drugs, animals and plants, cars, possible abduction and hostage situations, etc. Mundane matters such as visas, passports, jet lag, culture shock, climates, tipping and shopping are also detailed.

Red-flagging the cultural and social gaffes and missteps to avoid is an important feature of these books. Myths exposed include: "Tickets will be cheaper locally," "You can choose and change your route as you go," and "Round-trip fares are always the cheapest."

"Eco-Touring: The Ultimate Guide" by Magnus Elander, 910.202 E

"Ecotours and Nature Getaways: A Guide to Environmental Vacations Around the World" by Alice Geffen, 910.202 G

"Green Travel Sourcebook: A Guide for the Physically Active, the Intellectually Curious or the Socially Aware" by Daniel Grotta, 338.4791 G

Ecotourism (also referred to sustainable or green tourism) takes travelers to relatively undisturbed natural areas. It already generates billions of dollars globally and it is growing at a rate of 10 percent to 15 percent annually, the fastest growth rate in the travel market.

According to a recent article in the Journal of Travel Research, available at the library, much of this growth has been in travel to developing countries that offer pristine environments and indigenous cultural experiences. These three titles, while written for the traveler, demonstrate how this concept is being carried out.

They describe the world's principal nature reserves, as well as the accommodations and resources to be found in such places. These three books are loaded with guidelines, precautions, hints and tips for travel off the beaten path to such places as Togo and the Yukon.

"The Packing Book: Secrets of the Carry-On Traveler" by Judith Gilford, 910.202 G (demonstrations on "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America" of how to pack for three weeks and two climates in one carry-on bag!)

When you travel, do you take all sorts of things, "just to be sure," that you end up never actually using? Do you wait for the last minute to pack and end up with a bulging bag that weighs about as much a refrigerator and that you have to sit on to close?

This author genuinely believes that planning and a modicum of good sense will get everything you need into a single carry-on bag. This also avoids that suspenseful and time-wasting wait at the baggage carousel, jockeying for position with a horde of other floor-pawing hopefuls.

Gilford provides plenty of insightful checklists for those who tend to forget the obvious and the essential; there are illustrated instructions on how to pack skirts, slacks and jackets to maximize space and minimize the unintended grunge look. Among the very useful tips: wear rather than tote your heaviest outfit, coat, sweater and/or shoes!

If your traveling party includes youngsters, you'll want to know about books in the "Kidding Around" series, such as "Kidding Around London" by Sarah Lovett, 914.21 L. Each title attractively presents sights that will appeal to kids over 8 and send them home with an appreciation of the places they've visited.

There's enough packed into each book to keep you interested for up to a week. For instance, the London volume goes beyond Big Ben and double-decker buses to insider attractions such as haunted houses and the Serpentine. Other titles in the series include Atlanta, Hawaii, Kansas City, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York City and the District of Columbia.

(Mike DePue is the business librarian at the Main Library, 397 East Central. For almost 18 years he has answered thousands of questions on as many topics.)

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