It's not the cost of an audio tour ($5 or so) that discourages us from renting one of those headsets's that the tours tend to be unwieldy and dull. Now, however, museums and attractions are making the extra effort to create exciting audio guides, and the technology has improved, so you can hear the information in whichever order you choose. Seven we think are worth the money and effort...
Chicago The Art Institute of Chicago $12, gallery audio tour $4.
Dallas The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza $10, audio tour $3.
London British Museum Free, family audio tour, $6.50. St. Paul's Cathedral $15, audio tour $6.50.
Louisville The Speed Art Museum Recommended donation $4, audio tour $3.
New York City The Museum of Modern Art $20, audio tour $5.
San Francisco Alcatraz $11.50, audio tour $4.50.
How would you spend $100 of our money?
We asked six readers that question--and then put our money where their mouths are. (Wish we'd included you? Then sign up for our e-mail newsletter! Details are at BudgetTravelOnline.com/newsletters.)
New Orleans "Riding a Segway through New Orleans was a blast! The tour started on Decatur Street, where my group of three got a quick lesson. After a few tries it felt like I'd been riding my whole life. Our tour guide was great as we set out along the Mississippi River, then over on the ferry to Algiers Point. It was hard to get anywhere, however, without someone stopping us to talk about our fancy two-wheelers. I got so much attention it was like being queen for a day--and well worth the price." --Carmen Shirkey, Fairfax, Va. City Segway Tours, New Orleans, 877/734-8687, citysegwaytours.com, four-hour tour $65.
Dominica "We went on a Caribbean sunset sail. It was 85 degrees, the sea was calm, and the sunset was fantastic. My wife Debbi and I saw sperm whales and baleen whales breaching right next to the boat--both adults and juveniles. Then suddenly the sun dropped from a cloud formation, there was a green flash, and the sun plunged into the ocean." --Larry Lunsk, Philadelphia, Pa. Ken's Hinterland Adventure Tours, 011-767/448-1660, whale and dolphin tour $50 per person.
Waco "When we learned that our son would be playing in a baseball tournament in Waco, Tex., we jumped at the chance to turn it into a mini family vacation. We enjoyed viewing 19th-century homes, seeing the Suspension Bridge, and of course, cheering for our son's team. Plus our special dinner at Lake Brazos Steakhouse was delicious. We had fresh-baked rolls, juicy marbled rib eyes, charbroiled shrimp, the works! Despite going 0-for-4 in the baseball tournament, our family declared this vacation a winner!" --Laura Mrachek, San Antonio, Tex. Lake Brazos Steakhouse, 1620 Lake Brazos Dr., Waco, 254/755-7797.
New York "My wife and I felt pampered from the moment we arrived at Aureole. Our four-course $35 tasting menu was superb: yellowtail sashimi, ricotta cavatelli with braised short ribs, Hudson Valley duck, and a chocolate and hazelnut pyramid that looked like a work of art. The dining room was elegant, with some of the loveliest flowers I've seen. And the service was outstanding. It was a wonderful experience, and certainly worth splurging." --Bill Wang, San Francisco, Calif. Aureole, 34 E. 61st St., New York, 212/319-1660.
Moorea "After a fabulous two weeks in French Polynesia, my husband and I had a fantastic splurge at Te Honu Iti in Moorea. We got a table with great views of the bay, plus a closer look at the stingrays, parrot fish, and eels that swam next to the terrace. Chef Roger's gourmet specialties, paired with the setting, made for an unbeatable combination. While it was sad to think about leaving, we were happy to have our special last-night dinner." --Nancy Cooper, Seattle, Wash. Te Honu Iti, Cook's Bay, Moorea, 011-689/56-19-84.
Italy "On vacation in Northern Italy, my husband and I looked forward to driving the Strada delle Dolomiti. The route winds through the Dolomites and we had planned a lovely picnic. The weather, however, didn't cooperate, and we were greeted with snow and heavy rain. We decided that an intimate lunch at the charmingly rustic Antico Pozzo Restaurant and Winery in Bellagio would substitute quite well. After our delicious salads, risotto, and calzone, we were fortified and ready to get on the road. Our splurge may not have gone as planned, but our lunch was still magical and romantic." --Diane Fiero, Castaic, Calif. Antico Pozzo, Salita Mella 26, Bellagio, 011-39/031-952-185.
It's the most wonderful guide of the year! Whether you're shopping for foodies, shutterbugs, beach lovers, or that friend who loves to travel with her pup, we've got something for everyone. Here's your go-to list of perfect presents for travelers.