Tube Talk: Get away this summer with an ‘armchair vacation’

For those whose schedules or budgets make summer getaways next to impossible, there’s always armchair travel.

Rick Steves’ travel shows have long been a staple of PBS, and I know several frequent fliers who rely on his shows and their accompanying travel books when planning their vacations. The current series, Rick Steves’ Europe, airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. on WTTW, with each episode exploring a specific town or region not necessarily on the beaten path.

PBS also airs Globe Trekker, a fun travel show that visits international and domestic locations all over the world. Like Rick Steves’ Europe, Globe Trekker airs locally on both WHA-Madison and WTTW-Chicago, but air dates and times vary.

Of course, the Travel Channel has the widest range of travel programming anywhere—at least when the World Poker Tour isn’t on—so I’ll narrow it down to a few favorites.

If you’re looking for a little Latin flavor to spice up your summer, you’re in luck. Samantha Brown: Passport to Latin America is all new, Wednesdays at 7 and 7:30 p.m., and 5 Takes: Latin America—which follows five travelers seeking different experiences in the same locales—airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. A recent episode of 5 Takes went to Buenos Aires, where one guy sought out local neighborhoods, another visited all of the Eva Peron sites, and a couple of the hosts took tango lessons.

If domestic travel is what you prefer, check out regional culinary specialties on Taste of America, or visit towns where iconic American products originated, in Made in America. Two hours worth of these shows air back-to-back Tuesdays starting at 7 p.m.

For the more adventurous at heart, Travel Channel has 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Thursdays at 8 p.m., and The Best Places to Find Cash & Treasures, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., which lets viewers unleash their inner geologist by taking us digging for things like fossils, meteorites and diamonds.

One of Travel Channel’s most popular shows is Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (which returns at 9 p.m., Monday, July 30, with all-new episodes).

Bourdain—a chef and author who recently spoke in Rockford—explores different cultures by sampling indigenous cuisine and beverages of the world.

If Travel Channel can have shows about food, it makes sense that Food Network has a few travel shows. You can catch repeats of Rachel Ray’s $40 a Day (of course, I’m one of those who loves to watch for how much of that $40 she saves by leaving small tips) every night at 10:30 p.m., while her new show, Rachel Ray’s Tasty Travels, is paired on Tuesday nights with Road Tasted, hosted by Bobby and Jamie Deen, sons of Food Network icon Paula Deen. Tasty Travels is at 8:30 p.m., and Road Tasted follows at 8:30 p.m.

Giada De Laurentiis is another Food Network star hitting the road with Giada’s Weekend Getaways, Fridays at 9:30 p.m. (Her lead-in is a repeat of $40 a Day.)

Of course, watching all these travel shows might just whet your appetite for the real thing.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide. Send your suggestions to

from the June 20-26, 2007, issue

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