Sure, you could go lie by the beach for a few days somewhere on your next vacation. But this year is also your chance to see Siberia with a scientist, Chichen Itza with a museum curator, baseball with the Smithsonian, Petra via private jet.
Those are a sampling from the hundreds of tours offered to the thinking traveler by museums, other cultural institutions and for-profit tour operators. Having recognized educational and cultural travel as a growth field, those organizations have been steadily adding alternatives to the marketplace.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 18, 1998 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 6 Travel Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Thinking Tours--An incorrect telephone number for booking a tour called "The Wallace Line: Where East Meets West" was given in Travel's Jan. 11 editions. The number for Aslan Adventures is (800) 927-5269.
For the last four years, this section has run a January roundup of 10 top tours sponsored by museums. This year, we're relying on the same expert for our top 10 trip picks--Ann H. Waigand, publisher of The Educated Traveler newsletter--but we've broadened the field to include all thinking trips, no matter the sponsor.
Tours are in chronological order. Prices listed here are per person, presuming double occupancy, and are subject to change. Some prices include many meals and excursions, some don't. Also bear in mind that tour operators generally reserve the right to cancel or change itineraries.
(Every year, Waigand lists hundreds of thinking trips in a Directory of Museum-sponsored Tours and a separate Directory of Special Interest Travel. The directories come with the cost of a subscription to The Educated Traveler, P.O. Box 220822, Chantilly, VA 20153; telephone  648-5168. Cost is $48 yearly for six issues.)
Insights to the Ancient Maya
March 13 to 24. Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Price: $3,150 excluding air fare to and from Merida, Mexico. Most meals included. For more information, contact Far Horizons Archaeological and Cultural Trips at (800) 552-4575) or the Tours at the Women's Committee, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at (215) 898-9202).
Dr. Robert J. Sharer, director of the University of Pennsylvania's excavations at Copan in Honduras (and curator of the museum's American section), will lead this tour and take participants into the newly dug tunnels at Copan, which are currently closed to the public. Tours of Chichen Itza and Labna will be led by the directors of the excavations there.
Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Carolina-Style
June 18 to 21. Sponsored by Smithsonian Study Tours. Price: $725, excluding air fare to Durham, N.C. Includes meals. Itinerary is basically a Thursday to Sunday long weekend, with three games, ending after the Sunday afternoon game. For more information, contact Smithsonian Study Tours; tel. (202) 357-4700; or check Web page: http://www.si.edu/tsa/sst.
The topic of this domestic study tour is a change of pace for the Smithsonian: minor league baseball in America. Travelers go to the ballpark made famous in the film "Bull Durham" and attend presentations by experts including Miles Wolff, the minor-league entrepreneur who bought the Durham Bulls (later sold) in 1980; and the real "Crash" Davis, role model for the part played by Kevin Costner in "Bull Durham."
Bali and Beyond
June 18 to July 4. Journeys of the Mind, a tour operator based in Oak Park, Ill. Price: $3,400, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles on Singapore Airlines. Most meals included. For more information, contact the tour operator at (708) 383-8739.
You don't often see a lot of private access in Bali, but this tour is chock full of it, as well as visits that highlight Balinese arts and crafts (including stone carvings, woodcarving, silver and gold, textiles, music, dance and even a stay at a hotel where a shaman is in residence). There is a lecture by the vice director of the Indonesian Academy of Performing Arts; and at the Krambitan Palace, travelers will get a private nine-course dinner and dance. Village dancers will perform the Tektekan Barong, a trance dance, accompanied by gamelan orchestra. Also includes four nights on the island of Sulawesi.
Island Hopping in the Cyclades: a Family Trip
July 2 to 18. Hellenic Adventures, a tour operator based in Minneapolis. Price: $3,995 to $4,385, excluding air fare to and from Athens. Most meals included. For more information, contact the tour operator at (800) 851-6349 or (612) 827-0937.
This is a family tour in every sense: The leaders are Hellenic Adventures owner Leftheris Papageorgiou, his wife, Jane, and their son, Alexandros (age 12). There's a good mix of activities on this tour (essential when traveling with children), such as holding a footrace at the original Olympic site; visiting the oracle at Delphi; sailing on a 70-foot motor-sailer (children might enjoy watching, or helping with, the sails); snorkeling, swimming, fishing, walking in and around on an island itinerary that includes Kea (a.k.a. Keos), Syros, Tinos, Mykonos, Delos, Paros, Ios and Santorini. There are five days of cruising in all.
The Wallace Line: Where East Meets West