Where to go, how to save, what to avoid

Destination of the week: America by rail

This summer the US National Park Service is offering a "Trails and Rails Program" in which volunteer guides provide guided tours through scenic areas. Examples: along the Adirondack route between New York and Montreal; the Ann Rutledge from St Louis to Springfield; and between Seattle and Portland aboard the Coast Starlight.

In addition, the spectacular line between Seattle and Vancouver is to be augmented with an extra train each day. Fares and availability can be checked online at www.amtrak.com, or through a specialist rail agent such as Trainseurope (0871 700 7722; www.trainseurope. co.uk). Members of the AA or RAC can get a 10 per cent discount by booking at least three days ahead and presenting their card on board.

Bargain of the week: Boris country

The Hotel du Vin (01491 848400; www.hotelduvin. com) in Henley-on-Thames – the town represented until recently by Boris Johnson – has a special summer deal of £99 per room per night, without breakfast. This boutique hotel (above) retains the Georgian exterior of the old Brakespear's brewery.

The same price applies to other Hotel du Vin properties. But if you can time it right, a special Sunday-night-only deal, aiming to fill rooms on the sabbath in summer, is even better value at £145 for a double room, a three-course dinner, plus breakfast the next day. It applies at Hotels du Vin in York and Tunbridge Wells. Book on 0845 365 4247; quote "Lazy".

Warning of the week: Congested traffic in France

This weekend is the first of the summer when motorists visiting France are likely to encounter "extremely difficult" traffic, according to the authorities. The reason: the annual summer exodus of drivers to the south. The roads around and between Paris and the Rhône Valley are likely to be congested today and tomorrow, with the Rhône Valley rated "extremely difficult". On Monday, Paris and western and northern France rate a "very difficult". But the worst weekend of all is the first in August; on Sunday, 2 August, the forecast is for extremely heavy traffic across the country.

Coming home, the days to avoid around Paris are 17, 24 and 31 August. The usual August return of Parisians from the south to the capital will be amplified by British visitors heading for the Channel ports; all these dates gain a "very difficult" tag. For more information, see www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr. The Calendrier Bison Fute section uses colour coding for predicted traffic levels: green is "normal", black rates "extremely difficult".