TRAVEL TIPS

Inn to inn in Japan. Trekkers can go from lodge to lodge this spring or fall. A back-country route leads to mountain lodges and traditional Japanese Inns, called ryokans, where guests sleep on futons, eat multicourse Japanese meals, and immerse themselves in Japanese culture. The 16-day tour, ``Mountains, Temples, and Hamlets,'' includes Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, six days in the Kita Alps, and visits to Takayama and Kyoto. The trip is scheduled for May 21, Sept. 16, and Oct. 1. The cost is $2,225 plus air fare: $825 from US West Coast and $1210 from East Coast. For free brochure, write Journeys East, 2443 Fillmore St., No. 289M, San Francisco, CA 94115, or call (415) 931-2509. Alabama offers black heritage brochure. As a state rich in black history, Alabama has developed a statewide tour to important historical and cultural sites covering the last 200 years. Among the locations are the church where Martin Luther King Jr. began his leadership role in the civil rights movement; the cabin home of W.C. Handy, called the ``Father of the Blues;'' and the Tuskegee University National Historic sites. A free brochure, ``Alabama's Black Heritage: A Tour of Historic Sites,'' can be ordered from DCI, 220 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10001, or by calling the Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel at 800-ALABAMA.

Cruise features scuba diving. A new concept in diving and cruising is the M/S Aquanaut Explorer that sails from Tortola through the remote islands and reefs of the British Virgin Islands. The 165-foot cruise ship (20 cabins/40 passengers) offers seven-day cruises with unlimited diving and snorkeling, departing each Friday for $699 per person, double occupancy. The ship is in its second season after a successful first-year record of never canceling a trip. For details contact Aquanaut Watersports, 241 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33334. Call 800-327-8894 (out of state) or 800-432-8894 (inside Florida).

Into the forest as a volunteer. Workers of all ages are needed to help augment regular employees in many United States parks and forests. Some serve as fire lookouts, campground hosts, historical researchers, wildlife observers, back-country guides, and trail workers. Volunteers aren't paid wages but in some locations are given travel expenses, housing, food, and on-the-job training. The American Hiking Society has compiled a list of over 1,000 jobs in 42 states. ``Helping Out in the Outdoors'' is available for $3 from the society, at 1015 31st St. NW, Washington, DC 20007.

Art during Australia's 200th. Over 50 years of works by Australian artists will be displayed during the 1988 biennial in both Sydney and Melbourne this year. A two-week Australian Art tour will include this, plus a performance at the Sydney Opera House, sightseeing, and a concert at the New Victorian Arts Center in Melbourne. In Brisbane, the group will visit the Queensland Art Gallery and Performing Arts Center, with a day at World Expo '88. The tour leaves Los Angeles or San Francisco on May 12 and returns on May 26. For details, write Promotional Tours, 651 Washington St., Brookline, MA 02146, or call 800-343-4070 (outside Massachusetts) or (617) 734-3100 (inside the state). New Guinea or bust. Current information about travel to New Guinea has always been hard to get. Now the Adventure Center has established a ``New Guinea Desk'' to serve individuals and groups planning to go. Trips can be arranged to include challenging adventure trips or the comforts of modern hotels. For information and brochure, contact Adventure Center, 5540 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618; or call 800-227-8747 or 800-228-8747 (in California).

Taking your bike on the plane? American Airlines recommends that a passenger pack a bike in a rugged bicycle carton, for sale at its ticket counters for $10, or from a bike store. Further, they suggest that all detachable accessories be removed and packed separately and handlebars be turned sideways. The carton should be filled with packing material to prevent shifting in transit and sealed with strong tape. Previous labels should be removed and the carton marked with instructions such as ``THIS END UP,'' with a shipping label showing owner's name and destination address.

Theater weekend in Reykjavik. If you've given up on tickets in New York or Boston and want to catch ``Les Mis'erables,'' you can book a flight to Iceland. There's an Icelandair package offering an evening of dinner, orchestra tickets to the show, and dessert and dancing afterward. The package costs $332, plus $60 for the theater evening, and includes round-trip air fare from four major US cities, two nights in a first-class hotel, continental breakfast, and transfers in Reykjavik. The production is in Icelandic, so understanding the dialogue might be a problem. Longer stays can be arranged. Further details are available by calling Icelandair at 800-223-5500.

Luxury tour through Zhivago's Russia. Finnair offers a 15-day tour by luxury train, state-of-the-art bus, and cruise ship through April 15 organized in cooperation with the Russian Travel Bureau. The tour includes a cruise across the Baltic to Stockholm; a bus tour to Leningrad; and sights in Novgorod, Kalinin, and Moscow. Flights depart from New York to Helsinki, with a day for sightseeing and shopping. The return trip to Helsinki is on a sleeper express train. The cost is $1,689 to $1,972 depending on the date of departure. More information on this and other tours is available from Finnair Tour Desk at 10 East 40th St., New York, NY 10016; or call 800-223-5700, or (212) 889-7070 (out of New York state).

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