>Q. My grandparents used to go on Elderhostel vacations and loved them. My parents are now empty-nesters and I would like to encourage them to travel. Here's the challenge: Dad is independent, doesn't like tours, and has no fear of being lost or mutilating a language to ask for help. Mom is a nervous nelly who hates flying, worries about absolutely every minute detail and might as well have a "mug me" sign on her forehead. Are these "Road Scholar" programs going to have a good balance of independence and hand-holding?
A: Your dad may chafe a bit, but the Road Scholar (new name for Elderhostel) trips typically attract a more learned, well-traveled crowd. They also offer independent city discovery trips that may be more to your dad's liking. And take a look at Eldertreks.
>Q. I was on a trip recently and bought some things at a store in the airport. I didn't realize until I was on my flight that the store had shortchanged me by about $20. I tried contacting the store later but got no answer. Is there anything else I can do?
A: Right now, your best option is to send the store a brief, polite e-mail and if it's part of a larger chain, then copy the parent company. Make sure you mention the date and time of your transaction. The store will probably have a record of one of its registers being over by $20, and can take care of it.
>Q: My husband and I will be in Buenos Aires for a week in April, and we are discussing our housing options. Our preference would be to rent an apartment or stay in a bed and breakfast in the Recoleta area. An older, architecturally interesting site would be a big plus. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Some who have rented apartments in Buenos Aires have raved about the experience. For rentals, check out VRBO, Homeaway, Airbnb, etc. For example, on Airbnb, there's a two-bedroom rental in Recol- eta for $65 a night. For B&Bs, BedandBreakfast.com has some great options at www.bedand- breakfast.com/buenos-aires-argentina.html.
>Q: We hope to spend some time in the spring in France and Switzerland. What's the cheapest way to get from Avignon to Geneva or Zurich? What is the fastest way for the same trip? All suggestions will be appreciated.
A: Your best bet is to take the train rather than flying. Avignon to Geneva by high speed rail takes about 3 1/2 hours. There are all kinds of discounts available for rail travel, and you're better off buying directly online using the French rail system's website at www.sncf.com. It offers online specials as well as senior discounts. In general, even though there are many discount airlines in Europe, when you're traveling a relatively short distance rail travel is the way to go.