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TRAVEL INSIDER

Guidebooks Dated? Web Tangled? Try a Newsletter

Publishing: Small, no-frills periodicals can be just the ticket for the latest details on specific destinations.

April 25, 1999|CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS | TIMES TRAVEL WRITER

In these days of instant Internet information, a monthly newsletter, delivered by snail mail, may seem hopelessly retro. But if you're studying up on a potential travel destination and looking for more detail than a newspaper can give, more timely information than a guidebook can offer, and more reliable information than is found in the unedited grab bag that waits out there on the Web, a specialized newsletter could be your answer.

In fact, a newsletter gave me a crucial answer just last month, on a trip to Berlin. In a newsletter that focuses on Germany, I found a rave review of a stylish and affordable little hotel, open less than a year, that wasn't yet listed in any guidebooks. Berlin's tourism office hadn't heard of it, either. Since I stayed several nights in the hotel, that single tip was worth the price of a year's subscription.

Most newsletters use graphics rather than photography and dispense with purple prose in favor of phone numbers, addresses and prices. Typically, they're tiny operations run by jack-of-all-trades publishers devoted to their topics. (Because of the high mortality rate among young newsletters, this list focuses mostly on those that have survived at least five years.)

Many newsletter publishers have started putting at least part of their product on the Internet. The travel portion of this newspaper's Web site, http://www.latimes.com, includes a listing of several other newsletters that are broadly aimed at leisure travelers rather than specific destinations. For the reader who wants to go beyond these lists, there's the Oxbridge Directory of Newsletters (accessible through most public libraries or on the Internet via http://www.mediafinder.com).

Here's a sampling of travel newsletters that specialize in specific destinations. Circulation figures were supplied by the editors.

Discover Baja, 3089 Claremont Drive, A-2, San Diego, CA 92117; tel. (800) 727-2252 or (619) 275-4225; Internet http://www.discoverbaja.com. This newsletter, published six times a year, is a perk of membership in the Discover Baja Travel Club, founded by Hugh Kramer in 1993. The club gets its members discounted car insurance and preferred rates at hotels, smooths the way to fishing permits and other government paperwork, tracks road and weather conditions, arranges Spanish classes and generally acts as a resource for Baja-bound members. Typical issue: 12 to 16 pages. Circulation: 15,000. One-year membership: $39.

Gemutlichkeit, 288 Ridge Road, Ashland, OR 97520; tel. (800) 521- 6722 or (541) 488-8462. The title roughly translates as "hospitality" or "feeling of well-being." Editor Bob Bestor covers Germany, Austria, Switzerland and occasionally Eastern Europe, often looking beyond standard tourist spots to find underappreciated country towns, home and apartment rentals and so on. Subscribers get discounts on Swissair flights. Thirteen years old. Monthly. Typical issue: eight pages, with a four-page advertising insert. Circulation: "less than 10,000." One-year subscription: $49.

The Italian Traveler, P.O. Box 32, Livingston, NJ 07039; tel. (800) 362-6978 or (973) 535-6572. Editor Howard M. Isaacs started the newsletter in October 1988. Detailed reviews of restaurants and lodgings and reports on transportation and locales. Eleven issues a year. Typical issue: eight pages. Circulation: "in four figures." One-year subscription: $59.

La Belle France, P.O. Box 3485, Charlottesville, VA 22903; tel. (800) 225-7825 or (804) 295-1200. Published monthly since 1984 and aimed at upscale Francophiles, with emphasis on hotels and restaurants. The same publishers circulate Golf Odyssey, a 7-year-old monthly newsletter ($79 yearly) on domestic and foreign golf-related travel. Typical issue of La Belle France: eight pages. Circulation: about 5,000. One-year subscription: $87.

Las Vegas Advisor, 3687 S. Procyon Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89103; tel. (800) 244-2224 or (702) 252-0655. Editor Anthony Curtis looks closely at hotels, restaurants, gaming operations and discount offers of all kinds, and accepts neither advertising nor freebies. Published since 1983. Monthly. Typical issue: 12 pages. Circulation: 12,000. One-year subscription: $50, which includes a substantial package of discount coupons.

London Theatre News, 12 E. 86th St., Suite 620, New York, NY 10028; tel. (800) 533-4330 or (212) 517-8608, fax (212) 585-4173. Since 1988, editor Roger Harris has run reviews of all major shows, theater news and features, and West End restaurant assessments. Publisher also runs a ticket service. Typical issue: 12 to 18 pages. Circulation: about 2,000. Three-month subscription: $23; six months, $31; one year, $51.

Paris Notes, P.O. Box 15818, North Hollywood, CA 91615; tel. (800) 677-9660, Internet http:// www.parisnotes.com. Since 1992, editor-publisher Mark Eversman has offered cultural articles and investigations of the city, with information on hotels and restaurants too. Ten issues a year. Typical issue: eight pages. Circulation: about 9,000. One-year subscription: $39.

The Shipboard Cruiser, P.O. Box 533737N, Orlando, FL 32853-3737; fax (407) 422-3608, Internet http://www.shipboardcruiser.com. Editor Phil R. Beach, who started publishing in 1992, tracks itineraries and amenities among the burgeoning number of ships serving the U.S. market. Monthly. Typical issue: 12 pages. Circulation: above 20,000. One-year subscription: $49.

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