Picks and Pans Main: Etc.

UPDATED 06/01/1981 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/01/1981 at 01:00 AM EDT

Overseas 1981: A dollar-stretching guide for the smart traveler

A dollar for a Coke in Denmark. Five for a martini in London. Gas $3-plus a gallon over most of Europe. Does rampant inflation mean that travel abroad is out of the question? Not necessarily. But it does mean that more than ever, the U.S. tourist needs expert advice. The following guidelines for 1981 were prepared for PEOPLE by Herbert Teison, editor and publisher of the monthly news-letter Travel Smart ($26 a year, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. 10522).

Trip costs are not graven in stone. Travel professionals know cost-shaving devices, and the dollar has recently strengthened throughout Europe. But agents are not able to psychoanalyze you, research your special needs and come up with the perfect vacation for you. The good ones, though, are well equipped to execute your vacation plans, and should be consulted once you have checked other sources and made the basic decisions.

SOURCES OF INFORMATION

Guidebooks suffer from lightning obsolescence. By the time you buy them they've been on the shelf for six months and the information in them is a year old. The best are those by Steve Birnbaum (Houghton Mifflin) and the annually revised series by Arthur Frommer (Simon and Schuster), known in the dear, dead days as the "$5-a-day man."

Sunday newspaper travel sections are far more timely, but their copy tends to be upbeat and to boost destinations. (Who wants to read that it can rain in Spain?) But the ads do give specifics on prices and dates. Among the most complete and reliable are those in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe and Long Island's Newsday.

Travel magazines also suffer from the "upbeat" syndrome. But Travel & Leisure, the largest (925,000 circulation) and most practical, tries to be helpful without affronting its advertisers.

Government tourist offices are good sources of general information about countries and cities. Those most helpful are the British Tourist Authority (which has branches in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Toronto), the Dominican Republic (N.Y.C.), France (N.Y.C., Chicago, L.A., Dallas, Montreal, Toronto), Israel (N.Y.C., Chicago, L.A., Atlanta, Toronto), Portugal (N.Y.C., Chicago, L.A., Montreal, Toronto), Scandinavia (N.Y.C.), Spain (N.Y.C, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, St. Augustine, Toronto), Switzerland (N.Y.C, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto) and Yugoslavia (N.Y.C).

PACKAGE TOURS

The best bet for 1981 is a package tour: You know in advance what the entire trip will cost, and generally it is less than traveling independently because tour operators have been there before. They make deals (based on volume discounts) with airlines and hotels, and the tourist gets the benefit. The following are the pick of the tour packages. Ask your travel agent for brochures so you can check details.

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