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Ask T+L: New Zealand Driving Itinerary, Travel Widgets, Art Tours

Q: Where can I find affordable designer pieces in Milan? —Kathryn Mills, Huntington, N.Y.

A: Before your trip, order Marina Martorana’s book Low Cost (Antonio Vallardi; lafeltrinelli.it; $18; in Italian only). It has the addresses of more than 50 of the best designer outlets, such as Marni, that are in or near Milan. Also check out boutiques from up-and-coming designers, which offer discounts of up to 70 percent during winter sales (January–February); I adore the quirky styles from Anna Fabiano.

Q: Can you suggest a weeklong driving itinerary around New Zealand’s North Island? —Evelyn Thompson, Marietta, Ga.

A: The southern route, from Lake Taupo to Wellington, is one of the country’s most scenic. The lakeside Acacia Cliffs Lodge (doubles from $430) makes a good base for a long weekend. Head south on the 28-mile-long Desert Road (keep an eye out for the wild Kaimanawa horses that roam the plains). Along the way, stop at Tongariro National Park (doc.govt.nz) for a two-hour trek through volcanic terrain. For a change of pace, continue four hours southeast on country roads to the four-room Tirohana Colonial House (doubles from $180, two-night minimum in high season), set on a 6 1/2-acre vineyard in Wairarapa wine country. In the morning, drive an hour south over the winding Rimutaka Mountain Range to the new hotel Ohtel (doubles from $330), in Wellington, New Zealand’s seaside capital.

Q: What are the best new travel widgets? —Darren Newell, Fremont, Calif.

A: T+L editors have tested dozens of travel applications. Here are the three we’re most excited about: the Ultimate Travel Widget allows you to compare airfares on hundreds of airlines from 28 different sites and book reservations with the major cruise lines as well as hotels in more than 20,000 locations. Currency Converter automatically updates exchange rates for more than 200 currencies, including unrecognized and older European notes, so you can prepare for trips to even the most far-flung destinations. And for those hosting out-of-town guests, Flight on Time! provides up-to-the-minute information on the status of incoming flights on hundreds of U.S. airlines.

Q: Are any operators offering good, in-depth art tours of Europe this fall? —Matt Landry, Dale, Pa.

A: On the seven-day trip to Spain’s Basque Country with Smithsonian Journeys (877/338-8687; smithsonianjourneys.org; $2,995 per person, double, November 2–8), you’ll meet with local artists and take a two-hour tour of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Travel for the Arts (44-20/8799-8350; travelforthearts.co.uk; $1,800 per person, November 25–29) runs a five-day excursion in central Prague that culminates in a performance at the grand Estates Theater, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni premiered. If you’re looking for a customized itinerary, Exeter International ($2,625 per person, double) brings guests to St. Petersburg for exclusive access to the Hermitage’s vast storage chambers, filled with furniture once used at the Winter Palace.

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