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Escorted tours are structured group tours, with a group leader. The price usually includes everything from airfare to hotels, meals, tours, admission costs, and local transportation.

Several travel companies offer escorted bus tours of historic sites in both Virginia and southeastern Pennsylvania. These 1-week or longer tours usually start in Washington, D.C, and visit Mount Vernon, Fredericksburg, Williamsburg, Richmond, Charlottesville, and the Shenandoah National Park. From there they go on to Gettysburg and the Amish Country in Pennsylvania before ending in Philadelphia. You'll have to pay extra to get to Washington, D.C., and home from Philadelphia, but meals, lodging, and bus transportation are included in the tour prices.

Check out Trafalgar Tours (tel. 866/544-4434; www.trafalgartours.com), Tauck Tours (tel. 800/788-7855; www.tauck.com), and Mayflower Tours (tel. 800/323-7604; www.mayflowertours.com) to find out what they're offering when you plan to travel.

Despite the fact that escorted tours require big deposits and predetermine hotels, restaurants, and itineraries, many people derive security and peace of mind from the structure they offer. Escorted tours let you sit back and enjoy the trip without having to drive or worry about details. They take you to the maximum number of sights in the minimum amount of time with the least amount of hassle. They're particularly convenient for people with limited mobility and they can be a great way to make new friends.

On the downside, you'll have little opportunity for serendipitous interactions with locals. The tours can be jampacked with activities, leaving little room for individual sightseeing, whim, or adventure. And they focus on the most touristy sites, so you miss out on many a lesser-known gem.

For more information on escorted general-interest tours, including questions to ask before booking your trip, see www.frommers.com/planning.

1-Day Bus Tours -- During the warm months you can also make 1-day escorted bus tours from Washington, D.C., to Charlottesville with the venerable Gray Line (tel. 800/862-1400 or 301/386-8300; fax 301/386-2024; www.graylinedc.com). The trip costs $90 for adults, $60 for children 3 to 11, including admission to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello home. The company occasionally offers 1-day excursions from D.C. to Williamsburg.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.