I'm willing to admit that far away places

Have some pleasant and likable phases.But all we shall find as we continue to roam

Will never equal what we could find at home. - W.A. Hightower

Let't talk travel.

I am going to assume that the majority of readers have taken some sort of vacation in their lifetime. For many of us, that probably has meant a trip to some relative's house two states away.

Price wars between airlines, fun parks and vacation hideaways have made traveling more affordable the past few years. Special "freebies" for frequent fliers, hotel guests and restaurants have open the floodgates for tourists. A good number of us have been sucked in by these heavy currents.

Take the vacation my roommate, her mother and I took recently. We spent 10 days in western New York and Ontario, Canada. I took $350 with me and came home with $35 to spare. Most of our money went for buying gifts and mementos.

The three of us flew to Buffalo, N.Y. - two of us paid, one went free. We stayed at a relative's home - free of course. (I would like to add here that the host and hostess must read Miss Manners' column, for everything was just perfect).

We needed good transportation to get us from point A to point B. Understanding our frugality, our host directed us to a "cheap" car rental business named "Ugly Duckling Rentals." For $19 a day and 100 miles a day free, we drove four days and 500 miles in a Renault Alliance, with 113,453 miles on the speedometer. The car had a rattle-and-shake motion to rival the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. It did get us there - and back - for a total of $30 per person.

Our plans included three fun-filled days and two nights in Toronto with free accommodations at the Toronto Airport Marriott Hotel. We paid $9 to see an in-room movie. With other fees and incidentals our two-night stay came to a whopping $15 - regularly $395.

Depending on the form of sight-seer you are, you can spend virtually nothing and have the time of your life. For enjoyment we drove the free tree-covered lanes of rural Ontario, basking in the autumn leaves; we spent three days walking the various free luxury malls in Toronto and Buffalo; felt the free mist emanating from Niagara Falls; and hit all the free historical sites near Palmyra, N.Y.

Some of the real thrills, but by no means cheap, came trying to find parking in downtown Toronto - a problem I didn't need to leave home for.

Just so we could say we spent some fun money while we were gone, our last night in Toronto we decided to eat at the Mikado Restaurant in the hotel. After all we had a buy one, get one free deal. The hostess seated us next to some friendly businessmen and the party started.

The menu didn't indicate free entertainment with the meal, but we got it. The cook did a song-and-dance routine using the salt and pepper shakers as batons, while our meal sizzled on the grill in front of us. And one of those three-piece-suit guys next to us, John DuRant, ended up being a loquacious troubadour and bard.

We didn't spend money to see "Phantom of the Opera" in Toronto; we didn't need to. We heard Mr. DuRant for free.

Thanks John, my best to Sam McGee.