20 Long Weekends
1 Backwoods Hiking in the Adirondacks
Pack your compass, binoculars, and Timberlands to roam Adirondack State Park, a 6 million—acre landscape of isolated lakes, granite peaks, and hardwood forests in upstate New York. If you somehow exhaust the 2,000 miles of trails, you can stop to watch eagles and red-tailed hawks from the fire tower atop Blue Mountain, cast for brown trout in icy streams outside Lake Placid, or canoe past beaver dams on the Oswegatchie River. For a real workout, tackle 2,874-foot St. Regis Mountain, a vertical climb that rewards you with panoramic views of the High Peaks. Or sign up for a group bushwhack with the Adirondack Mountain Club (518/523-3441; www.adk.org).
where to stay Make your base camp in one of the down-to-earth log cabins at the Wawbeek (800/953-2656; www.wawbeek.com; doubles from $145), a rustic Adirondack lodge on the shores of Upper Saranac Lake. how to get there Drive the six hours from New York City to Lake Placid on Interstate 87. Or fly: Continental has daily connections to Saranac Lake and Burlington, Vermont. don't miss The stellar collection of Great Camp furniture, paintings, and guide boats at the Adirondack Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (518/352-7311; www.adirondackmuseum.org).
2 Baja California: Return to Nature
Baja has all the beauty and promise of the West, on Mexican time. Be as active as you want: the sapphire Sea of Cortés is perfect for kayaking, deep-sea fishing, and diving. From January through March, keep your eyes peeled for gray whales along the Pacific Coast. Or just have a nice long siesta. Baja Expeditions (800/843-6967) offers a variety of eco-adventures ideal for a long weekend.
where to stay Danzante Baja Eco-Resort (408/354-0042; doubles from $220, including meals and some activities) is so remote it doesn't even have an address. The solar-powered resort, 20 miles from Loreto, has nine hilltop suites with private terraces, hammocks, and stunning views of the sea. Mexican-tile bathrooms and hand-stitched quilts add to the sense of laid-back luxury. But time is the real indulgence here: Have a margarita poolside while you contemplate the sunset; dinner is ready when you are. how to get there Aero California flies the 110-minute nonstop from Los Angeles to Loreto. AeroMexico has a stopover but originates in more U.S. cities. don't miss An overnight tent experience—with candlelit dinner for two—on the resort's private white-sand beach, accessible only by boat. Gilligan never had it so good.
3 Heli-Fishing in British Columbia
Less than 100 miles from Vancouver, the glacier-cloaked Coast Mountains shelter serpentine rivers teeming with char, salmon, and trout. To plumb these remote valleys, you need either (a) backwoods savvy, strong boots, and an iron will, or (b) a helicopter. We recommend (b). Flying in from your lodge on the Strait of Georgia, you'll navigate sheer rock walls thousands of feet high before landing on a forest-girded gravel bank, where master guides will show you where to cast and which flies to use. If you're truly hopeless, they'll even set the hook for you.
where to stay After a day hip-deep in 36-degree water, you'll relish the outdoor hot tub at the Rendezvous Adventure Resort (866/833-4323; three-day heli-fishing package $2,695 per person). Nothing beats sinking into the bubbling warmth and looking out over the mountainous hinterland you've just angled. how to get there From Seattle, it's a two-hour hop on Northwest Seaplanes (800/690-0086; $380 per person round-trip for up to six people) to the lodge's dock. don't miss The front-seat view as your chopper crosses over the Homathko Ice Field en route to the Southgate River. Surrounded by the glass of the bubble nose as you skim over the luminous blue ice, you'll feel as if you're floating over a distant planet.
4 Dominican Republic: Get Wet
The Amber Coast, on the north side of the island, is named for the rich mineral deposits in the nearby hills. But water and air are the essential elements in the town of Cabarete, which calls itself the windsurfing capital of the world. If you're a beginner, head for the flat sand and freshwater of Islabon Lagoon, where Happy Surfpool (809/571-0784) can teach you windsurfing, surfing, or wakeboarding. You can also learn kiteboarding; dive and snorkel in the calmer waters at Sosua Beach up the road; or head to the hills for mountain biking and rafting.
where to stay Natura Cabañas (809/571-1507; www.naturacabana.com; doubles from $100, including breakfast), run by a Chilean couple, Lole Sumar and Pablo Garimani, is on a private beach away from Cabarete's main drag. Its six thatched-roof bungalows are tucked away in the trees with porches, hammocks, and rockers. The beachfront café serves fresh seafood; Lole teaches yoga and handles the spa treatments. how to get there Continental flies direct from Newark to Puerto Plata (a 20-minute drive away); American, from Miami. don't miss A guided horseback ride through the lush mountains, waterfalls, and caves of the Cordillera Septentrional (Rancho Alcantara; 809/571-0816).
5 Cultural Chicago
From jumping jazz to inventive theater, culture hounds have countless options in Chicago. The music scene has thrived here since Louis Armstrong arrived in 1922, and it shows no signs of cooling down. For an earful of history, book an evening at the Jazz Showcase (312/670-2473; www.jazz-showcase.com), the world's second-oldest jazz club. With more than 200 theaters, Chicago is also the ideal place to preview Broadway-bound shows. Last year, hometown director Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses received universal acclaim here and upon its move to New York. Her latest—Philip Glass's opera Galileo Galilei—is now playing at the Goodman Theatre (312/443-3800). So when the Next Big Thing leaves the Midwest to tread Broadway's hallowed boards, you can announce: "Oh, I saw that in Chicago."
where to stay Not only does the W Chicago Lakeshore (312/943-9200; www.whotels.com; doubles from $229) have excellent views of Lake Michigan, but it's also within walking distance of the theater district. don't miss Anything from About Face (773/549-3290; www.aboutfacetheatre.com), the theater company known for its offbeat adaptations.
6 Spa-Hopping in L.A.
In Tinseltown, where image is everything, looking your best can take all day. The warm grapefruit oil—and—sugar body scrub at Thibiant Beverly Hills Day Spa (800/825-2517) makes for an invigorating wake-up call. Follow it with an aromatherapy facial at Enessa Wellness Spa on Melrose Avenue (323/655-5950)—that's what Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston would do. Finally, at the salon in the St. Regis hotel in Century City (310/407-8258), Billy Yamaguchi invokes feng shui precepts to do your hair, makeup, and nails for a night on the town. All that beautifying can be exhausting, so make sure you get a massage the next day: Try a Swedish treatment at Robert Scott Face/Body in West Hollywood (323/656-5975).
where to stay The 196-room Peninsula Beverly Hills (800/462-7899; www.peninsula.com; doubles from $375) is a pampering hideout for stars who crave luxurious treatments such as a hot rock and crystal ritual or a green tea and ginger body wrap. don't miss The silver body treatment at Ona Spa (7373 Beverly Blvd.; 323/931-4442), which moisturizes your skin with Dead Sea mud, essential oils, and pure colloidal silver to get you ready for your close-up.
7 London's Indian Scene
Seduced by Indian flavors but not up for the haul to Bombay or New Delhi?Head to London, where you can smack your lips through the entire subcontinent in just a few days. Following the Michelin-star success of nouvelle-Indian temples like Zaika and Tamarind, the British capital's offerings have never been hotter. Zaika offshoot Bar Zaika Bazaar (44-207/584-6655; dinner for two $52) lures the young and the hip with its chakna (street food) and shimmering cushions and saris for sale. And for something completely different, stop at Rasa Travancore (44-207/249-1340; dinner for two $58), where fans of southern Indian food go for Keralan-Syrian-Christian specialties.
where to stay In addition to contemporary rooms and private butler service, 51 Buckingham Gate (44-207/769-7766; www.51-buckinghamgate.com; doubles from $448) has its own southern Indian restaurant and—to cool off your taste buds—the longest bar in Europe. don't miss Bombay Dreams, Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical about star-crossed lovers in Bollywood, at the Apollo Victoria Theatre (44-870/400-0650; www.bombaydreamsthemusical.com).
8 Shopping in Miami's Design District
If South Beach's retro-glam look inspires you to redecorate, head across the causeway to the Miami Design District (www.designmiami.com). These 18 square blocks of erstwhile no-man's-land just north of downtown have been beautifully revamped and stylishly reoccupied by such merchants as Holly Hunt, Knoll, Poltrona Frau, British Khaki, and about 120 others. Don't worry about dragging your decorator along: everyone here welcomes the public, even those whose other showrooms are strictly to-the-trade. And the colorful backdrop—a fountain designed by Kenny Scharf, a giant shoe—cum—gondola by Spanish artist Antoni Miralda, and The Living Room, a sculptural installation carved out of the exterior of a low-rise cement building—will act as a muse.
where to stay South of downtown Miami—and its cookie-cutter hotels—lies Brickell Key, where the Mandarin Oriental (866/888-6780; www.mandarinoriental.com; doubles from $395) derives its design sensibility from both the tropics (blue Bahía marble) and Asia (bamboo flooring). how to get there The district is a 15-minute shot over the expressway from Miami's airport. don't miss Catalan specialties at the Meeting Point Café (305/576-8109; lunch for two $40), especially the coca de cristal, a crispy almond confection.
9 Block Island: Chill Out
This tiny refuge off Rhode Island is remarkable for what it doesn't have. No traffic jams (there are hardly any cars). No private beaches—just 20 miles of unfettered coastline. And, as of yet, no movie moguls or vacationing presidents, unlike nearby Martha's Vineyard. Block Island's low-key visitors are more interested in scenery than in a trendy scene. And what scenery: undulating hills and breeze-rippled grasslands, stone walls reminiscent of Ireland, and trails lined with bayberry and beach roses.
where to stay Book an ocean-facing room at the Atlantic Inn (800/224-7422; www.atlanticinn.com; doubles from $165), an 1879 Victorian set on a hill above the town of Old Harbor, amid six acres of immaculate lawns, flower beds, and herb gardens. how to get there Interstate Navigation Co. (401/783-4613) runs ferries from Point Judith, Rhode Island (45 minutes from Providence), and New London, Connecticut (where US Airways flies). Don't bother with a car: a rented bike will get you around, if you can handle the moderate hills. don't miss A hike along the Mohegan Bluffs on the island's south end. Stairs lead 200 feet down to a magnificent (and usually empty) beach. The mainland may be only 12 miles away, but you'll have forgotten it exists.
10 Barbados: Get Pampered
Cross British gentility with Caribbean hospitality and you'll have the House at Tamarind Cove, a new boutique hotel on Barbados's west coast. The tranquil hideaway—all bougainvillea and palm trees—puts privacy at a premium, but the main draw is the team of "service ambassadors." Combining the functions of concierge, waiter, majordomo, and camp counselor, they'll meet you at the airport, whisk you through customs, drive you to the House, and remain on call to attend to your every whim. Too hot on the white-sand beach?Call for iced papayas and mangoes or an Evian spritz. Does the view from your suite of the picture-perfect Bajan sunset make you thirsty?Order a potent rum concoction (the Mount Gay Distillery is in nearby Bridgetown) and remind yourself that it's only Friday.
where to stay If massages at check-in aren't enough, Frette linens will ease your descent into slumber (800/326-6898; www.eleganthotels.com; doubles from $358). how to get there American and BWIA fly direct to Barbados from the East Coast. don't miss Renting a mini moke (a small jeep) to tour the island's miles of rippling sugarcane fields and the dramatic Atlantic shoreline on the east side.
11 Reboot in California
At Sage Hill, a Mediterranean-style retreat on 40 acres of high chaparral outside Ojai, abstinence is the new indulgence. No wheat, no alcohol, no red meat, and no men allowed. Instead, you'll learn stress-reduction techniques from Rita Rivest, who opened her stunning hacienda in 2000 for those committed to lifestyle change. Expect yoga, meditation, stretching, and private consultations on fitness and nutrition. Rivest leads daily hikes through an informal bird sanctuary of eucalyptus and walnut trees with views of the Ojai Mountains and the cool blue Pacific. She'll brew you a steaming cup of invigorating long ching tea or suggest acupuncture to balance your energy. Each day ends with a delicious, well-balanced, low-carb dinner: carrot-ginger soup, mesclun salad with chèvre, and grilled salmon or chicken.
where to stay Sage Hill accepts four to six guests per three-day retreat. Bedrooms in muted colors, soft robes, and blank journals ease the transition from harried outside world to inner peace. Sleep is a fully sanctioned activity (888/394-1333; three-night packages $2,300). how to get there Ojai is two hours north of Los Angeles. don't miss An evening aromatherapy massage with blended sage and lavender oils.
12 Serenity in Puget Sound
Where do Seattleites go to decaffeinate?Whidbey Island, just 50 miles north of the city, favored for its windswept beaches and accessibility—it's easier to get to than the San Juans. The best place to stay is the Inn at Langley. Each waterfront room, decorated in neutral wood and slate, has a cedar porch overlooking the Saratoga Passage (you may get lucky with a whale sighting). Reserve ahead for innkeeper-chef Stephen Nogal's legendary five-course "kitchen dinners" on Fridays and Saturdays, when Northwestern specialties such as Penn Cove mussels and king salmon are served at a sleek table set for 12.
where to stay Book any of the inn's 24 rooms or either of the two new cottages; each has a 180-degree water view (360/221-3033; www.innatlangley.com; doubles from $225; cottages $575). how to get there The Mukilteo ferry landing is 45 miles from Sea-Tac Airport. Boats depart every 30 minutes; the crossing takes 20 minutes (206/464-6400; www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries). don't miss A hike along the grassy bluffs at Fort Casey, where you can explore battlements from the 1890's, watch freighters navigate the Strait of Juan de Fuca, or build driftwood forts on the beach.
13 Sonoma County Wine Weekend
Northern Sonoma, home of old-vine Zinfandels and knockout Pinots, is wine country's best-kept secret. Healdsburg is the ideal base for exploring connoisseur favorites such as J. Rochioli (707/433-2305) and Ferrari-Carano (707/433-6700; www.ferrari-carano.com). But the real indulgence is at the table: Healdsburg's restaurants pour formidable boutique wines and serve some of the most spectacular food in northern California.
where to stay Eight-month-old Hotel Healdsburg (800/889-7188; www.hotelhealdsburg.com; doubles from $205), the town's first luxury hotel, is the best place to lounge by the pool between meals. Situated smartly on the town square, it also houses Charlie Palmer's very Sonoma restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen (dinner for two $84). After dinner, sip a silky eau-de-vie in the lobby grappa bar. how to get there Healdsburg is a 70-minute drive from the Oakland or San Francisco airports. don't miss Steamed and roasted honey-soy glazed Liberty duck legs with fresh Chinese noodles on the terrace at Ravenous (707/431-1770; dinner for two $55). They're luscious with a 1999 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.
14 Maui: Spa Weekend
After you loll in turquoise water under the same shade of sky, you can walk right out of the waves, Ursula Andress—style, to your massage appointment. True, spending a long weekend at the Hyatt Regency's Spa Moana won't get you a movie-star body. But there is a gym overlooking the water, a "couple's spa suite" for those who can't get enough of each other, and outdoor cabanas for rubdowns, manicures, and pedicures in the balmy air—all to the sound of crashing waves (real ones, not on tape). The Kaanapali Coffee Body Scrub—made from local beans and macadamia nut oil—looks like chocolate-chip cookie dough, smells like mocha, and feels like an itch being scratched.
where to stay Right on Kaanapali Beach, the 40-acre Hyatt Regency (800/554-9288; www.hyatt.com; doubles from $315) has two pools, four restaurants, an astronomy center, and a collection of exotic birds (including, for some reason, penguins). how to get there United flies nonstop from Los Angeles and San Francisco, American from L.A. and San Jose. don't miss A Lava Flow (piña colada with strawberry purée) and the crispy ahi tuna at I'O (808/661-8422; dinner for two $84), a beachfront restaurant in Lahaina.
15 Super-Stylish London
As classic British style enjoys a renaissance—witness the Burberry blitz—and London reasserts itself as a design capital, pond-hopping has never been more necessary. The Concorde, the ultimate transatlantic taxi, returned last November with new ink-blue interiors by Sir Terence Conran; expect cashmere throws, lamb's-wool curtains, and lots of Krug. Upon arrival, start shopping. Hardy Amies, the queen's couturier, is being revitalized with a hip new ready-to-wear line and a flagship Savile Row store opening in September. Trendy blokes are racing to once-stuffy Dunhill on Old Bond Street for bespoke shirts and accessories made from red cricket-ball leather.
where to stay With just three rooms and a fashionable restaurant, West Street (44-207/010-8600; doubles from $365) in the West End is the latest bastion of exclusivity. The hotel's seventies-style décor lends it a certain James Bond rakishness. how to get there British Airways flies the Concorde daily from New York's JFK to London's Heathrow in less than four hours—for more than $6,000. If you go subsonic, choose a morning departure for less jet lag. don't miss The Stork Rooms, a new private club by restaurateur Marco Pierre White, filled with black leather sofas, gold-leaf wall coverings, French crystal chandeliers, and free-spending Europeans. Call Danielle (44-207/734-3686) and drop names for access.
16 Iceland: Taking the Waters
One look at those famously healthy Icelanders tells you there must be something in the air. Or maybe it's that spas are to Reykjav’k what pubs are to London. Locals take frequent advantage of the city's many geothermally heated swimming pools, saunas, and mineral-rich "hot pots" (soaking tubs kept at nearly 109 degrees). Public spas charge only $2 for admission—try Laugardalslaug (011-354/553-4039), where massages start at $19. Most spas are partially outdoors, so you can step from the steam room into brilliant sunshine. Pristine Reykjav’k has almost no pollution—even the tap water is as pure as a bottle of Evian.
where to stay The Radisson SAS Saga Hotel (800/333-3333; www.radissonsas.com; doubles from $230) is a short walk from downtown. Its new Mecca Spa is the best in the city—not least for the Lava Massage, which uses hot volcanic rocks and herbal oils. how to get there Icelandair has daily nonstops from five U.S. cities; the flight takes five hours from the East Coast. don't miss A pre-departure soak in the Blue Lagoon (011-354/420-8800; www.bluelagoon.is), a giant thermal pool en route to the airport. (Warning: You may decide to skip the flight home.)
17 Doo-Wop Motels on the Jersey Shore
Just up the shore from stately Cape May, the Wildwoods are to architecture what hula hoops are to sports—nostalgic, brightly colored, and hard to take too seriously. The 200-plus fifties- and sixties-era motels on this five-mile barrier island are perfectly pickled in time, conjuring memories of tail fins, the twist, and two-week vacations. Preservationists from Yale and the University of Pennsylvania have dubbed the style Doo-Wop and believe that the Wildwoods are an important repository of Americana. With peanut-shaped pools, plastic palm trees, and neon signs announcing dreamy names like Monaco, Tahiti, and Sea Kist, the motels epitomize the exuberant decorative style of postwar leisure culture. A trolley tour marks the highlights (weekday evenings through August 29; 609/884-5404; www.doowopusa.org; $8).
where to stay Though a latter-day creation, the sparkling StarLux (609/522-7412; doubles from $179) does Doo-Wop to the max: lava lamps, board games (Twister!), and a faux roaring fire in the glass-enclosed lobby. Service-wise, though, it's still a motel (think form over function). how to get there The Atlantic City airport, served by US Airways, Pan Am, and Spirit, is an hour north on the Garden State Parkway. From Philadelphia, driving time is two hours. don't miss A walking or trolley tour of Cape May's Victorian and Craftsman architecture, a startling contrast to Wildwood's kitsch and glitter (609/884-5404; $6).
18 Atlanta: Porsche Driving Experience
Want to drive fast as hell?Buckle up behind the wheel of a flame-red 911 and hit the pavement at Road Atlanta Motor Sports Center. In a one- or two-day course, you'll learn how to handle hairpin turns, skid and slalom courses, and high-speed straightaways. Hot-rodding will not be tolerated; leave that to the faculty of professional racers who guide participants through two miles of undulations, elevations, and gradual and hard turns (770/290-3599; www.porschedriving.com; from $1,595; also available at Sebring Raceway in central Florida).
where to stay Four miles from the sports center is the Château Élan Winery & Resort (800/233-9463; www.chateauelan.com; doubles from $139), a slice of 16th-century France south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Its 3,500 acres afford plenty of off-road activities: golf, tennis, spa treatments, and equestrian shows. how to get there Road Atlanta is 55 miles from Hartsfield International Airport. don't miss Driving home in your own 911 Carrera Coupe; outfitted with a Bose sound system, bi-xenon headlights, and the Porsche Stability Management System to help with those hard stops, it'll set you back a mere $74,830 at Jim Ellis Porsche of Atlanta (770/234-2100; www.jimellis.com).
19 Southwestern Cooking in New Mexico
As much as you may love tamales and chiles rellenos, you've never made them as well as Jane Butel. The veteran cookbook author—and one of the earliest champions of Southwestern cuisine, back in the sixties—teaches a hands-on weekend course once a month in Albuquerque. In a 2,000-square-foot kitchen with six state-of-the-art workstations, up to 18 students learn to prepare traditional Mexican dishes (rich moles, piquant chile enchiladas) and Nuevo Mexican creations (hearty pozole stew, or her famous bizcochitos, anise-flavored cookies). One lesson is devoted to bread-making, from tortillas to puffy sopaipillas to Navajo fry bread; another might focus on low-fat or vegetarian versions of classic recipes. Butel also dispenses insider tips such as how to avoid fearsome "chile burn."
where to stay Classes, organized by Gourmet on Tour (800/504-9842; www.gourmetontour.com; $995 per person), are held at La Posada de Albuquerque, a 1939 Spanish-style hotel that's on the National Register of Historic Places. Three nights' lodging are included in the course package price, along with breakfasts, one group dinner, and two lunches (guess who makes them?). how to get there Several major airlines offer direct flights to Albuquerque's International Sunport airport. don't miss A side trip to Santa Fe, an hour north, where indulging at renowned Southwestern restaurants like Coyote Café, Santacafé, and Geronimo qualifies as research.
20 Yellowstone Wildlife Lessons
Wouldn't the wide-eyed kid in you love to spend a weekend learning about "Mid-Sized Carnivores" or "Insect Vampires"?Throughout the year, the Yellowstone Association Institute (307/344-2294; classes from $60 per day, including simple accommodations) offers 180 mini-courses (one to 10 days) at America's oldest national park, on subjects ranging from field photography and nature writing to horsepacking, kayaking, and fly-fishing. Most courses are held at Buffalo Ranch in the Lamar Valley, where you might spot bison, elk, and the occasional wolf pack. Highlights this month: "Wolf Watching," on the 1995 reintroduction of the gray wolf to Yellowstone; "Geysers, Mudpots, and Hot Springs," a look at the park's dramatic thermal landmarks; and a field course on mammal tracking taught by veteran instructor James Halfpenny, the Sherlock Holmes of the prairie.
where to stay Students are put up in Lamar Buffalo Ranch's log cabins (bring a sleeping bag) and prepare their own meals in the ranch kitchen. how to get there Fly to either Bozeman, Montana (for entry on the north side of the park), or Jackson Hole, Wyoming (if you plan to arrive at the south entrance). don't miss The Old West Dinner Cookout (www.travelyellowstone.com; 307/344-7901; dinner for two $64) near Roosevelt Lodge, a nightly open-air feast—steak, beans, corn bread, watermelon, the works. Guests arrive by wagon or on horseback.
Written by Leslie Brenner, Laurie Jane Drake, Peter Frank, H. Scott Jolley, Peter Jon Lindberg, Shane Mitchell, Niloufar Motamed, Kimberly Brown Seely, Paula Szuchman, Bonnie Tsui, Anya von Bremzen, Stephen Whitlock, and Jeff Wise.
Tips For Saving Time and Money
1. Check the Web
Smarterliving.com gathers deals from airlines, hotel chains, and tour operators and sends out weekly e-mails to members. Site59.com is a great option for last-minute package trips. All you need is flexibility and a high threshold for wordplay such as "Fondues and Don'ts" and "Your Palace or Mayan." Or take advantage of just-released offers, cancellations, and distressed inventory from airlines, cruise lines, and hotel brokers by logging onto Quikbook.com, Hoteldiscount.com, 11thhourvacations.com, Lastminutetravel.com, Icruise.com, or CheapCruise.com.
2. Use Nonprofit Resources
The Rails to Trails Conservancy, dedicated to converting former rail corridors to public pathways, maintains an extensive Web site (www.traillink.com) that lists places to hike, bike, and ride nationwide, most of them free. Historic Hotels of America, a division of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has created a series of heritage packages that include accommodations, admission fees, and a portfolio with driving directions and a story-based thematic itinerary (877/782-2045; www.historichotels.org).
3. Be Your Own Guide
Many walking and biking outfitters will customize an independent itinerary of just two or three days. ATG Oxford (44-1865/315-678; www.atg-oxford.co.uk), which arranges excursions in five European countries, will book your hotels, transport your luggage, and give you a booklet detailing routes, background information, and restaurant recommendations.