It's almost too late for complete freedom of choice about where to stay. But if you want to see New England's fall foliage spectacle, now is the time to map out your route. To help you, each state in the region maintains ``foliage hot lines'' - telephone services that will tell you where the peak colors are to be found. Most states also offer information kits describing what there is to see and do, if you come.
Although many hotels, inns, and bed-and-breakfasts are booked already, don't be discouraged. Persistence is often the key to finding that treasure of an inn that can make your visit memorable.
Here's a list of this year's hot lines:
For weekly foliage updates, contact the Maine Publicity Bureau Inc. at 97 Winthrop St., Hallowell, ME 04347; (207) 289-2423. The bureau offers a ``Great Escape'' kit, which includes a map of the state, a list of hotels, suggested routes, and a calendar of events.
Two numbers for visitors, each with a recorded message, are in service now: 800-842-7492 from in the state; 800-243-1685 from outside the state. If you want to receive a visitor's information kit, leave your name and address at the tone. This kit includes a map, lists of accommodations, tours, and day trips, and a calendar of events.
For further information, contact the Department of Economic Development, Tourism Division, 210 Washington St., Hartford, CT 06106; (203) 566-3385.
For in-state information, call 800-632-8038; from surrounding states, 800-343-9072; from elsewhere call (617) 727-3201, all numbers operative in mid-September. In the meantime, contact Lauren Hackett at the Massachusetts Division of Tourism, 100 Cambridge St., 13th floor, Boston, MA 02203, or call (617) 727-2303 for a copy of the fall foliage guide or calendar of events.
Since the Berkshire Mountain region is tremendously popular for leaf-peeping, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau acts as a clearinghouse for hotels, when there are vacancies. To contact it, write Berkshire Hills Conference/Visitors Bureau, Berkshire Common, Plaza Level, Pittsfield, MA 01202, or phone (413) 443-9186.
Starting Sept. 1, callers can hear a recorded message that's updated twice weekly by calling (802) 828-3239. The message includes tips on which routes are best for prime viewing. This number will be operating through Oct. 25. Here, as well, Vermont information offices and welcome centers will be keeping tabs on empty hotel and inn spaces and providing phone numbers for specific parts of the state. Many ski resorts open their rooms during this season, though in some places a two-night minimum stay is required. Midweek visitors will find accommodations more easily.
Details can be obtained from the Vermont Travel Division, 134 State St., Montpelier, VT 05602, or by calling (802) 828-3236. The Travel Division responds with information requested within a day, and for $1 will send it via first-class mail.
Hot-line numbers (effective Sept. 14) are 800-258-3608 and 800-258-3609 for out-of-state callers and 224-2525 or 224-2526 from inside the state. Information is updated Mondays and Thursdays. An information package is also available from the New Hampshire Office of Vacation Travel, Box 856, Concord, NH 03301; (603) 271-2665.
Though New York isn't part of New England, many visitors to the Northeast find the foliage there just as captivating. And since New York doesn't attract the crowds one usually finds in the New England states, roads, restaurants, and lodgings are likely to be less congested. Callers in the continental United States may phone toll-free 800-CALLNYS. From Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada, the number is (518) 474-4116.