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AMERICAN TRAVELERS SKIMP ON SOUVENIRS

SHARE AMERICAN TRAVELERS SKIMP ON SOUVENIRS

HEY, BIG SPENDER: This isn't about Christmas shopping, but you could say that Scrooge does enter into the picture.

A recent travel industry survey reveals that after forking over hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands, on airline tickets, hotels and restaurants, American travelers spend an average of only $80 per vacation buying gifts and souvenirs to bring home. Forty-two percent of the 1,500 adults randomly polled said they spend less than $50, while 24 percent spend more than $100 with 11 percent of those generous souls splurging more than $200 on trinkets.More young vacationers, 18 to 24 years old, are likely to buy gifts (it's hard to pass up all those stuffed mouse dolls at Disney World), but this exuberance, too, passes with age. As travelers get older, they're less tempted to buy gifts at all, the survey shows. The most frugal of gift-buyers hails from the central western states, spending an average of $58, the most free-spending from the South Atlantic, $94, with Northeasterners and New Englanders coming in a close second at $90.

LIKE THE MOVIES: Meryl Streep's run through the rapids in "The River Wild" has sparked an increase in bookings of white water rafting trips, reports Bruce Howard of Idaho Afloat.

The outfitter runs three- to six-day expeditions on the Snake River through Hell's Canyon and on the Lower Salmon River through the Salmon River Gorge (the movie was filmed on the Kootenai River in Montana), for beginners to experts, families to adventurers, from mid-May to September. The trips cost about $200 a day per person, including meals and equipment. Howard advises booking any rafting trip this year no later than April; (800) 700-2414.

If that sounds a little too strenuous, you can take a 16-day trip to remember, affair or not, on the Polynesian freighter where Annette Bening and Warren Beatty launched their "Love Affair." The Aranui regularly carries 2,000 tons of cargo and about 100 passengers from Tahiti to Rangiroa in the Tuamotos and up to the little-visited Marquesas. Passengers get to explore the islands at stops where the freighter loads and delivers such goods as copra (dried coconuts). Accommodations range from cabins, from $2,860 to $3,900 per person, to sleeping on the sheltered deck on a mat for $1,560, including all meals; air fare extra. Call the Compagnie Polynesienne de Transport Maritime, (415) 541-0677.

QUICK TAKES:

- The new, pocket-sized "San Francisco Potty Guide," $8.95, post-paid, from Handley Brown Publishing Co., contains directions and maps to 293 toilets throughout the city from Alioto's Restaurant on the Wharf to the Zoo. Facilities, including those that are wheelchair accessible, are rated for "obviousness of pathways" and there's even a listing of Toilets with a View; (415) 927-1583.

- The Washington, D.C., Visitor Information Center at 1455 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., is closing Dec. 17, but it will be replaced in early spring by the White House Visitors Center, operated by the National Park Service and dispensing free tour tickets of the White House and other info, in the U.S. Department of Commerce building, 1450 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. Call (202) 523-3847 for information.

- Add to the list of what not to do while traveling: If you alight in San Carlos, Calif., 20 miles southeast of San Francisco, don't toss your leftover lunch to the wild pigeons, or you could face a fine of $250 for violating a new ordinance aimed at making the town less-hospitable to the birds that merchants say are ruining the streets.