Click Here for Your Fantasy (Getaway)
So you want to take a vacation, but not just any vacation. Say you always wanted to fly a combat mission--or tango through Argentina. Thanks to a range of specialty tour operators dedicated to flights (or any other conveyance) of fancy, it's doable.
The Web is your best source of specialty travel info. One of the better sites is ShawGuides' www.shawguides.com, listing "more than 4,300 learning vacation and career programs worldwide." You can browse by month, interest, or destination. Since the company annually publishes The Guide to Cooking Schools, its list of culinary courses and tours is particularly strong. But you also can find auto racing and spelunking trips as well as arts-and-crafts workshops. The print is small and crowded, but what the site lacks in presentation it makes up for in content.
TRUFFLE HUNT. Easier to read is www.educated-traveler.com. Affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System series The Educated Traveler, the site allows you to search by interest, touring organization (e.g. "Smithsonian Institution" or "Audubon Society"), destination, or departure date. Problem is, you can't browse categories. You pretty much have to know precisely what you're looking for and supply the appropriate keyword. The site does have a handy "ask the experts" link, where you can find out where to sign up for a pig-led truffle hunt or whatever else might intrigue you.
Too bad it doesn't show replies to questions posed by others, as the Savvy Traveler does. Although www.savtrav.com doesn't list specialty operators, you can learn a lot from its Q&A section and from transcripts or audio clips of shows about unusual trips that aired on Public Radio International.
Other worthwhile sites include Specialty Travel Index (www.spectrav.com), InfoHub Specialty Travel Guide (infohub.com/travel.html), Great Outdoor Recreation Pages, or GORP (www.gorp.com), and Adventureseek (www.adventureseek.com). All have a large number of categories you can browse and search. But be aware that the offerings may be limited to the tour operators with whom the site has a financial relationship. GORP and Adventureseek cater more to outdoors enthusiasts, offering physically demanding trips such as rock climbing in the Andes or sea kayaking in Belize. Meanwhile, for would-be cowpokes, Sankey Rodeo Schools (www.sankeyrodeo.com) lists camps in 12 states.
Finally, peruse the alternative travel section on Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Online (www.frommers.com/vacations/offbeat). It profiles tours you won't find elsewhere, such as "political" tours that focus on policy issues facing various regions. When planning a dream vacation, it pays to do some site-seeing first.
By Kate Murphy