Travel: "We would be pleased to welcome one or two children free of charge"

You read it here first: this year, you can expect a lot of newspaper travel stories on family camping holidays in France. I further predict that a disproportionate number will involve the writer driving a Vauxhall Sintra and sailing on Brittany Ferries.

In the most generous freebie offer of the year so far, the tour operator Eurocamp has written to journalists offering a free fortnight in France for them and their families. And when the company says "free", it isn't kidding:

"Your Eurocamp holiday will include 14 nights' accommodation in a tent or mobile home for two adults and three children at any time in 1997. Brittany Ferries are offering a complimentary return crossing for you and your family. A Vauxhall Sintra to drive for your whole holiday will give you the driveability of a luxury estate car and that extra roominess to bring back a case or two of your favourite wine."

Don't worry about those irritating extras, either. Eurocamp will throw in personal and vehicle insurance, plus a Green Card, free.

What if you would much rather offload the kids? PGL Adventure Holidays steps in with an offer that gives a whole new meaning to the concept of free child places: "We would be pleased to welcome one or two children free of charge on any of our UK holidays".

If, like me, you find yourself familialy challenged, then the deal can be passed on: "It is transferrable to a friend or colleague's children, provided that you still write the holiday feature."

To qualify for either of these free holidays, all you need do is write for a newspaper and, in PGL's words, "Agree to feature their adventures in next year's travel editorial." Any paper, that is, apart from The Independent. Our policy of refusing free or reduced-rate travel remains unchanged.

There are, however, welcome signs that we may not remain in humble isolation for long. The Sunday Times, whose travel writers last weekend enjoyed free trips to Chamonix and Bali, has reviewed all the leading British hotel guides. The paper's first choice reflected perfectly our no-freebie policy. The Good Hotel Guide was selected, simply because "Its great strength lies in its squeaky clean integrity - no free hospitality accepted".

What is the most ridiculous holiday injury you have sustained? The writer and tour leader David Else has just returned from Tanzania with a couple of cracked ribs, and sets a painfully high standard with a mountaineering mishap.

"I'd successfully led a party of 12 tourists to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro", he writes. One member of the group was so pleased at reaching the 19,345- foot summit of Africa's highest mountain that he decided to embrace Mr Else.

"Unfortunately, he was a 15-stone bodybuilder. Even three-and-a-half miles above sea level, he had enough puff to pick me up and swing me around as a sign of gratitude - with such force that he broke two of my ribs."

Despite his injury, Mr Else plans to lead another expedition to Kilimanjaro in a year's time. "But next time I'll make sure I brief all the clients on peak etiquette."

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