Oodles of closer places make cheaper but equally fascinating stand-ins for dream vacations to world destinations.
Have a hankering for flaky croissants, pretty sidewalk cafes and the poetic sounds of French spoken by natives, but don't have the $1,000 or so it costs to fly to Paris right now? Think Montreal, a far less expensive -- and closer-to-home -- destination. That French-Canadian city can be a balm to the extravagant-minded traveler with a stingy bank account (even if protests, spurred by tuition hikes, have sometimes turned ugly this spring).
Like Montreal, oodles of other places make cheaper but equally fascinating stand-ins for dream vacations.
If Machu Picchu is on your bucket list, but money in your bank account has mysteriously disappeared (like the lost Inca community that once lived high on that Peruvian mountaintop), consider the Four Corners regions in this country. Magnificent Anasazi ruins, the remains of long-abandoned villages, line the sides of cliffs looking like overgrown beehives where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona meet. You could turn a visit there into a road trip.
Anyone wistful for an out-of-reach African safari can go wild in a few ways. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers a "roar and snore safari," during which you sleep in a tent, take a night hike and meet critters up close. Participants sign a consent for medical treatment (though they have yet to lose anyone to a leopard). It's one of several zoos offering overnights. Just north in Salinas, Calif., is Vision Quest Ranch. The B&B doubles as a wildlife rescue operation where visitors fall asleep to the roar of lions and awake to feed an elephant breakfast before they get their own. How dreamy is that?
Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.