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In the past, we have reported on Interhostel and Familyhostel, which used to be affiliated with the University of New Hampshire. After 25 years, the company reformed in February of this year independent of the university as Educational Odysseys (tel. 877/676-9400; www.educationalodysseys.com). The company works with universities, museums, colleges and cultural organizations around the world to design the best possible learning tour. Group sizes are kept small, usually 15-25 travelers, and prices typically include all sightseeing, lectures, activities, taxes, tips, air transportation, most meals, and accommodations in three, four, or sometimes five-star hotels. Educational Odysseys leads more than 60 trips per year all over the world, and can provide a behind-the-scenes experience for learning, for a range of interests and activities.

So, what exactly is an educational odyssey? "We at EO feel that education doesn't begin and end in a classroom. Education is a quest to understand the world and our place in it," says marketing director Cindy Weir. The company runs three types of trips. Destination Classics are traditional, educational travel trips for those over the age of 50. For journeys that are shorter and more adventurous, active adults of any age should check out those categorized as Changes in Latitude. Finally, families with school-aged children, along with grandparents might enjoy trips characterized as Family Connections. All of these types of trips provide different ways to explore a culture and expand your horizons. Weir puts it this way: "Only through travel and exploring the unknown do we truly open our eyes, heart, and minds to the beauty the world has to offer. This is what characterizes a 'good' educational odyssey."

There are a number of destination classics trips to choose from in the fall, including Moscow and St. Petersburg: Art of Czars. It takes you to these two great Russian cities (three nights in Moscow, one on an overnight train and four in St. Petersburg), where you can explore the architecture and art with lots of walking tours. The trip departs October 15 and is a ten-day excursion. Land-only it is priced at $4,035; air-inclusive, $4,862, based on Boston departures. It's promised to be an "insider's guide to these cities," with a guest lecturer on modern Russian art, a vodka and caviar reception at private visit to part of the Tretyakov Gallery, among other activities.

History buffs take note: there is a trip to Europe departing September 20 called The 101st Airborne: Follow the Route of "Band of Brothers" and space is still available. This trip, priced land-only $3,645 and airfare-inclusive at $5,020 (based on Newark, NJ departures), takes you through the places where many events of World War II occurred in France, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, with two nights in Paris, Nijmegen, Bastogne, one in Colmar, three in Salzburg and two in Zell am See. You'll stay in four-star hotels and 21 meals are included. Right now, the company is offering $300 off per person for registrations for this trip received through August 1.

Here's a unique trip for the whole family that is taking place now up -- Harry Potter's England and Wales. Weir says that they're planning on running that one again next year -- stay tuned to the site for dates. In the meantime, families looking for a getaway this year can consider Costa Rica Family Exploration which departs in December for travel over Christmas, December 22-28. It is priced at $2,386 per adult, $2,236 for children 12-17 and $2,126 for children 8-11. All of your meals, accommodations, activities and excursions are included. You'll stay at four-star hotels or better, and spend two nights in San Jose, two in Monteverde and two in Jaco/Manuel Antonio. The airfare is calculated based on Miami departures; but as with all the company's trips, you can make it work based on your home city and depart on and arrive on your own, or make arrangements to meet up with the group flight, depending on your preference.

Under the Changes in Latitude category, there are a number of possibilities in the U.S., Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia. One of them is the new trip Bhutan: A Cultural Introduction; unusual because few trips visit this country located in the Himalayas between India and Tibet. Both the February 12-26, 2008 and October 5-19, 2008 departures are priced at $3,895 land only; airfare inclusive prices TBA, but the land-only price does includes airfare from Bangkok to Paro (you will fly from the U.S. to Bangkok). The program is limited to 20 people, and you'll stay at four-star accommodations, experience considerable walking on hilly terrain, exploring this unspoiled country that has an eye on sustainable tourism.

If February is too long to wait for travel in this category, Walk in the Footsteps of the Wicked instead. This trip runs November 4-11 and sets you up in three-star hotels in London for seven nights to explore "what was understood to be 'wicked' at different times" through history, in both fictional applications and real life occurrences. Your education comes from a crime historian, a well-known lawyer and a retired policeman. Of course, a stop at the Tower of London is included, along with Bankside, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Inns of Court, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Oxford, and more. Fourteen meals are included; land only price is $3,595 and air-inclusive is $4,449, based on departures from Boston.

The company is running a few specials, including an early booking savings of $100 for first-time participants who register for a 2008 program by September 12 (or $50 for U.S. and Canada programs). Past participants, including those who have traveled with Interhostel or Familyhostel, can take $200 off per person, or $100 off for U.S. and Canada programs, for 2008 bookings. The special cannot be combined with any other promotion, including "hot deals." The "hot deals" promotion gives you $300 off per person if you register by August 10 for select fall 2007 and winter 2008 international trips (or $150 per person for U.S. tours), including the aforementioned Russia, the Band of Brothers, and Costa Rica Family trips. The company offers other specials for first-time and past-participants, along with discounts for its cruises, and a rewards program; see the site for more details.

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