June 2000
Photo: Nikolas Koenig

q. I love the funky style of motels, but hate their low-budget décor. --A.K, Reston, Va.
a. If you crave great design, check out three just-opened motels in Southampton, the elite beach community on the eastern end of Long Island. The Atlantic, the Bentley, and the Capri (877/886-7428 or 631/287-0908; www.utopiainns.com ) are 1950's motels and condos, all with pools, that have been given a modern spin by Dutch artist Peter Van Sambeek. He revitalized dingy rooms with stylish palettes and bold graphics: mustard-yellow stripes, sage-green diamonds, masculine black and mahogany trim.

The 29 rooms of the minimalist Capri (doubles from $190) are hung with framed black-and-white photographs--not an anonymous seascape in sight. Down the road at the Bentley (doubles from $290), it's all suites: each is 750 square feet, with custom-made furniture in every room. Red-rubber-floored bathrooms have built-in shelves stocked with Aveda products (the impossibly fresh-smelling Shampure is our favorite). The kitchen and breakfast bar face glass doors that open onto tennis courts.

The Atlantic, the largest of the three, has 62 rooms, some super-sized with high ceilings, a private alcove separated by velvet curtains, and a pullout sofa covered in white duck (doubles from $260). Behind the motel are hammocks and a huge tepee, the perfect setting for a summertime pool party. But all this high style doesn't mean the low-maintenance motel aesthetic is gone. "You can come in all sandy from the beach and not have to worry about making it past reception," says manager Remco Loevendie.

q.I'm planning to take a vacation by myself this summer. Can you recommend any groups for singles?--A.L., Reno, Nev.
a. Whether you want a completely solitary trip or an outing with other unattached tourists, Connecting: Solo Travel Network (800/557-1757; www.cstn.org ) has much to offer. The Vancouver-based not-for-profit organization helps travelers avoid exorbitant tour supplements by polling "single-friendly" operators and publishing a bimonthly newsletter packed with ideas for a range of budgets and adventure levels. Recent listings include treks through Egypt and Israel, a bike tour of Tuscany, a photography workshop in Bangkok, a house-building expedition to Jamaica with Habitat for Humanity, and cruises to Hawaii and the Mediterranean. A one-year membership is $28, which gets you the newsletter, a directory of businesses that offer discount packages to people traveling alone, and access to a lively network of advice and fellowship.

q. My ears always hurt when I fly. What can I do?--C.S., Chicago, Ill.
That painful clogging and popping in your head is caused by trapped air in your eustachian tube, a small canal inside your ear. When the air pressure in your head doesn't match the pressure outside--and we all know how rapidly pressure changes in a plane's cabin during takeoff and landing--your eustachian tube swells and can cause intense discomfort. Many T+L staff members swear by EarPlanes, earplugs that help prevent "airplane head." The ridged plug creates an airtight seal; its porous ceramic filter creates a proper pressure balance in your eustachian tube. (Weird science, but it works.) EarPlanes, which cost only $5 per pair, are available nationwide at airport shops and major drugstores; order online at www.earplanes.com .

q. My reading group wants a day of beauty, within driving distance of home. --P.J.W., Atlanta, Ga.
In the Georgia hills 30 minutes north of Atlanta is Château Élan, a 3,500-acre winery and resort with a 63-hole golf course, seven restaurants, and a convincing Irish pub. But forget the bogeys and beer--you're here for the spa (678/425-6064). Daily packages begin at $228: a facial, followed by a hydrotherapy bath and a Swedish massage. Élan's Anti-Stress package of aromatherapy treatments uses grapefruit essential oils to soothe away worries (that amazing scalp rub works wonders, too). If you're feeling particularly indulgent, spring for a 3-D Spa Body Wrap ($90), in which a scented clay body mask helps draw out toxins. Included in your day is unlimited access to the château's steam and sauna rooms, lunch (the health-conscious menu offers surprisingly low-calorie dishes such as pan-seared red snapper with a potato mille-feuille, and grilled tuna over wasabi pasta), and afternoon tea.

E-mail your questions to AskTL@travelandleisure.com , fax them to 800/926-1748, or mail them to: Ask T+L, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, 10th floor, New York, NY 10036. We regret that questions can be answered only in the column.