Friday, February 13, 2009

Paper Trail

Currently living in the Washington, DC area? Itching to escape the partisan bickering, policy wrangling and maddeningly surreal Beltway traffic jams? Well, the Washington Post is here to help. On February 1, 2009, DC's most prolific paper released its Annual Travel Guide. Cleverly dubbed "Way to Go," it claims to be "the smart way to get from the Washington area to just about anywhere." Sounds pretty good, but what do you actually get for your Sunday paper fee? I decided to investigate.

For starters, you get a lot of tips for traveling on a budget. Of course, if you're anything like me and have spent most of your traveling life as either a student living off loans or an idealistic non-profit employee living off next to nothing, you don't really need these sections. You already know how to find hotel deals online and book a flight with a low-cost European carrier. The travel guide will also help you find your traveling niche, with ideas for seniors, families, vegetarians, and volunteers, among others. What, no category for unabashed Francophiles? There's a whole section devoted to giving you the lowdown on DC airports (my suggestion: go Reagan National), as well as information for those who still need to apply for a passport (my suggestion: prepare to hate your photo).

But my favorite section by far is the one they tucked away on the back page. "21 Regional Destinations" offers Washington-weary Washingtonians tips for nearby getaways. Sure, day trip and weekend guides are a dime a dozen, but I can't get enough of them. They remind me that travel doesn't have to mean trekking halfway across the globe, which is reassuring to someone with few funds and even fewer vacation days. Plus, they always remind me to take advantage of my surroundings. With just a short drive in either direction I could find peace and quiet on Tangier Island, buy Amish goods at a market in Maryland, or visit an area of West Virginia where scientists listen for sounds from outer space. Or I could just read about it in the paper.

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