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Talk About Travel

Travel Tips and Deals

The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, March 14, 2005; 2:00 PM

The Post's Travel Section Flight Crew will take your comments, questions, suspicions, warnings, gripes, sad tales and happy endings springing from the world of ... the world. Of course, the Flight Crew will be happy to answer your travel questions -- but the best thing about this forum, we insist, is that it lets travelers exchange information with other travelers who've been there, done that or otherwise have insights, ideas and information to share. Different members of the Crew will rotate through the captain's chair every week, but the one constant is you, our valued passengers.

We know you have a choice in online travel forums, and speaking for the entire Flight Crew, we want to thank you for flying with us.

The Flight Crew, from left: John Deiner, Carol Sottili, Steve Hendrix, Anne McDonough, Gary Lee, K.C. Summers, Cindy Loose, Andrea Sachs. (Melissa Cannarozzi - for The Post)

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The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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KC Summers: Well hello everyone, and welcome to the travel chat. And a special welcome to the folks who are joining us fresh from the Post's wine-tasting festival at the D.C. Convention Center last weekend. What a happy crowd! I enjoyed meeting a bunch of you on Saturday and hearing about your favorite destinations (most of which seemed to involve grapes). Now it's time to Put the Wineglass Down and start planning your next trip.

If you're new to this format, the point is simple: We help you get away from it all. If you're wondering where to go on spring break, are looking for an affordable way to do Europe this summer, or just want to hop in the car for a long weekend somewhere nearby, we'll try to help you figure out the best way to do that. And since this is, we like to think, a true online community, we hope you'll chime in and help out your fellow clicksters if you've got specialized knowledge about a place.

Joining me today are Travel section writers and editors John Deiner, Cindy Loose, Steve Hendrix, Carol Sottili, Andrea Sachs and Anne McDonough. Our prize today -- which we'll give to the chatter we deem most helpful to fellow clicksters -- is a lavish coffee-table book, "The Most Scenic Drives in America" (120 spectacular road trips).

Let's go!

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Allentown, Pa.: Hi, I have a question for Vegas-lover John Deiner. (And anyone else who has a good take on the city!;) I have to pick between the Mirage, Bellagio and Caesars.

I found a package for a four-night stay at those hotels (Sun-Thurs) in late July for around $1,000 including airfare for two people from New York. Our priorities are room quality, a fabulous pool and location, because a friend who is traveling with us is going to a convention at Caesars.

Where would you stay? If it helps, we're in our late 20s, we don't care about the "in" crowd, and we like to casino hop.

Thanks!;!;

John Deiner: Hey, Al. No question, I'd pick Bellagio if the package costs the same for all three. It's right in the middle of everything (so casino hopping is a breeze), the pool is outstanding and it's easy enough to avoid the "in" crowd if you can cover your eyes from their glow. Really, it's a beautiful hotel, just has a snotty attitude.

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The Flight Crew: Beyond Cancun (Post, Feb. 9, 2003)

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Ready to Travel, Va.: We used to travel. Had a kid. Stopped traveling. Kid now old enough to travel. As we plan our glorious month-long trip across the U.S., I want to visit Travel Books Unlimited Bookstore. Did I miss something while I way out raising a child? Do they still exist and where??? What Happened?

KC Summers: Sorry to be the one to break it to you, Ready, but yes, they've been gone for a while now -- at least a couple of years. They left some big shoes to fill, as you know. We like Candida's, a relative newcomer at 14th and P streets NW. Politics and Prose on Connecticut AVe. also has a good travel book section.

Anyone have a favorite travel bookstore they can recommend?

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Rockville, Md: Crew: My daughter will be spending the fall semester in Rome. She has been told there is a start date for her semester but has been told not to book a return date, instead to get an "open ended ticket." What exactly is that and how will that work? Will I have to pay a penalty?

Carol Sottili: Check with www.statravel.com and www.studentuniverse.com to see if they have any good deals on tickets with no return date. These fares are usually higher than the cheapest economy sale fares. It seems odd to me that they can't give you a better idea of a return date. You would think the college would at least have cut deal with a consolidator.

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Old Town Alexandria: Going to Cancun in June for the first time. Can you inform me on some "must see" sights? I'd love to visit some of the ruins, but don't know which ones are worth it and which can be put on hold. Any ideas would be much appreciated.

Cindy Loose: I'm a big fan of Tulum, which is an easy drive. I like the small restaurants and hotels in the part of the town of Tulum that is along the beach. I'll post a story I did a year or so ago about that area, which is being spoiled in my opinion and now has the fancy name of the Riveria Maya.

Coba is a bit further., but a different kind of ruin--Tulum is along the sea. Coba is in the jungle, but well cleared and more extensive than Tulum.

There are no ruins there to speak of, but I like taking the ferry over to Isle Mujures--it's as I recall about a 20-30 min drive to the ferry, which is a short hop--some of the ferries take cars. However, study the guidebooks to make sure something that appeals to you is on the island, and close enough to the downtown docks to walk or cab if you're not renting a car.

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Washington, D.C.: John, I loved your article in this morning's Travel section on Atlantic City. Haven't been there in years because its its so disgusting, but I may give it a shot now. Do you really think it has potential as a new Vegas? Keep up the good work!

John Deiner: Hey, DC. Thanks much. AC is still pretty disgusting, but it's becoming less disgustinger by the moment. A new Vegas? Hmmmmm...ya know, give it a year or two or three, and it may be a pretty good alternative to heading west. I'm looking forward to seeing the boardwalk cleaned up--that and the Atlantic Ocean are, really, AC's ace in the hole.

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The Flight Crew: Beyond Cancun (Post, Feb. 9, 2003)

Cindy Loose: For the Cancun area traveler

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Newark, Del.: Here's an interesting question for the group. A lot of Latin American countries (Mexico in particular) offer tourist excurions to Cuba. Is it legal to travel to Cuba as an American through these third party travel companies? I've heard Cuba is beautiful, but don't know if I'll ever get there.

Cindy Loose: President Bush has cracked down hard on Americans who attempt to travel to Cuba. Not only is it not legal, but he's created a hearing office that will actually take on the case against you---previously, the U.S. might send you a letter asking you to pay a fine, but if you asked for your right to a hearing, the open secret was that there was no office or judge to hear your case.

Cuba is incredibly beautiful, and fun and interesting and historic etc. but no matter what the third party companies tell you, it isn't legal. You need a special permit from the U.S. gov, and the Bush administration has ended most categories that used to allow for permits---unless you belong to a church that can prove you and your congreation is going there to save souls. By the way, it's the only country in the world that the U.S. says its citizens may not visit.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Travel Crew - I'd like your advice on airfares to Europe. This fall, I'll be visiting parts of Spain, France, Italy and the UK. I think my flight itinerary would be considered an open-jaw with a stopover on the return home. The flights I'll take would be: Washington-Barcelona, Milan-London, then London-Washington. (I'll be going overland from Barcelona to Milan, so no flights there). The best quote I'm getting for my ideal itinerary (flights at convenient times, direct flights where possible, and flying with British Airways) is $863 - including more than $200 taxes and fees. Found it on Orbitz, but a travel agent quoted me the same thing, plus a $50 service fee.
My question to you is: Would you book this fare now, or wait for the price to drop? The trip would start late Sept., so it's still 6 months plus away. Thanks for your help!

Carol Sottili: That sounds a little high. Have you tried booking the Milan-London ticket separately from the WAS-BARCELONA/LON-WAS trip? That may give you a cheaper price because there is discount air service between Milan and London - only problem is you will probably have to then get from Gatwick or Stanstead airport to Heathrow. Try www.ryanair.com amd www.openjet.com to price the Milan-London flight.

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Hello, crew. For two weeks in the Southwest to absorb its uniqueness, what cities would you suggest basing ourselves so that we can do both tours and driving? And what would be some really important things -- historical, natural, entertaining -- not to miss?

Steve Hendrix: So many nice towns and regions to chose from, Foggy. Some of my favorites (as a frequent returnee to the Four Corners) are Flagstaff, Az. (Grand Canyon, Coconino National Forest), Moab, Ut. (ARches and Canyonlands National Parks, red rock country, slick rock biking) and Telluride and Durango, Co. (the San Juan Mountains, mining towns, killer skiing and mountain biking, depending on season).

You'll find the Moon Guide to the Four Corners by Julian Smith to be an excellent resourse. There is a LOT to do.

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Washington D.C.: I just read your feature article about Atlantic City. When I was there 3 years ago and showed it to my friends from overseas, we all had a pretty bad experience. First of all, I was stunned by how hostile, even criminal, the atmosphere was. There were cops everywhere, very strict 21+ checks, etc. Secondly, almost no places to eat. Very rude people in the few fast-food places we found ("Excuse me, get away from the counter, your face is near somebody's food"?!). People staring at my European visitors like they were from Planet Mars. Is it any better now?

John Deiner: Hey, DC. Ewwww. Someone said that to you in a fast food place?

Anyhow, I was there maybe eight months ago, then returned a few weeks ago and couldn't believe the difference. As you said, always seemed like a police state. While it's no place you want to spend a tremendous amount of time (yet), I was really wowed by the changes. They still crack down on the 21+ rule, which to my mind is a good thing, but now that there are bands playing and cocktails being served with those little umbrellas and people dancing...whole new vibe. Lots of restaurants are opening up in the casinos, though on the boardwalk there isn't too much except for predictable stuff like pizza places. That's due to change in the next year with the Pier at Caesars and other development.

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Boston (when does spring start?), Mass: We are escaping to New Orleans for four nights at the end of March. We're a couple in our late 20s who have both done the Quarter/Mardi Gras thing. We love good music and good food. Can you recommend some "don't miss" places and activities? Many thanks!; Can't wait to get back to Nawlins!;

KC Summers: Hi Boston. I'm a big fan of the Faubourg Marigny district -- it's cheaper and quieter than the Quarter, but still very cool and full of great little jazz clubs, bars, restaurants and b&b's. Great for walking around in and making your own discoveries. If you walk down Frenchmen Street in the Marigny, you'll pass the Blue Nile, d.b.a., the Spotted Cat -- you just can't go wrong.

As for restaurants, look for an upcoming issue in April or May highlighting some locals' picks. Among my current favorites: Dick and Jenny's in Uptown, Feelings (dumb name, great brunch) in the Marigny, and Fiorella's in the Quarter across from the French Market.

Oh, and here's a great don't-miss if you like art: the new Ogden Museum of Southern Art. It's really nicely done, and there's an amazing exhibit of the works of Walter Anderson, a relatively unknown Mississippi artist. Worth a trip just to see that. The D-Day Museum is another good choice.

Other recommendations for Boston?

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Bowie, Md.: Greetings,

I have signed up my family for a 5 day cruise to Bermuda the 1st week in August. The cruise ship will sale out of Baltimore harbour on July 31, 2005.

Any tips for a 1st time "cruiser"? Any particular sights we should consider seeing while in Bermuda? Anything we should steer away from either on the ship or while in port?

Cindy Loose: My most important tip for first time cruiser: study the options for your land trips as closely as you would if you were simply flying there for a week. In fact, planning ahead is even more important on a cruise, cause you don't have time to bumble around and make choices you turn out not to like.

which will appeal most to you is personal--does anyone out there know something in Bermuda they believe is of universal appeal?

You should A. get a tour book and pour through it. B. look at what shore excursions the cruise line is offering, since they often zero in on what the average cruiser will be most interested in, but then see if you can arrange a similar tour for less, and without the cruise pack.

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Arlington, VA: Hi, Flight Crew!; We're considering Curacao for a honeymoon destination. Has anyone traveled there? Any comments on the island?

KC Summers: We haven't been there, Arl. How about it you guys? Anyone know this island?

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Chicago: Thanks for your help on airfare to Prague/Vienna last week. I am proud to say I scored airfare from Chicago to Vienna and from Prague to Chicago for $750 on Swiss Air for the first week of Sept.

Now what to do? What shouldn't I miss? Any hotel recommendations? Food? Things to do?

Anne McDonough: In Prague: in addition to all of the regualr sightseeing (the castle, Kampa Island, Josefov, Dancing HOuse, church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius), don't miss Vysrhrad Cemetery, jazz at Reduta or another club, the pizza (some of the best thin crust pizza I've had) and just wandering. From Prague, very worthwhile day trips include Terezin and Karlovy Vary.

In Vienna, I'd suggest the Belvedere, Hundertwasserhaus, ubercheap opera and ballet standing room-only tickets. I could have skipped the Spanish riding school, but a lot of folks seem to like it. Coming up is a link to a piece about a "Third Man" tour of Vienna. Definitely see the movie before heading over, if you haven't already.

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The Flight Crew: Vienna, With a Twist of Lime (Post, Dec. 12, 2004)

Anne McDonough: Thanks, Fritz!

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Vegas hotel choice: I would tell the person trying to choose between the Mirage, Bellagio and Caesars to skip all three and head to Treasure Island or the Hard Rock. Both will cost A LOT less per night.

TI is centrally located and it has nice rooms for the price. And although its off the strip, the Hard Rock can be an outstanding value that time of year ... the rooms are great and it has a fabulous pool. I bet you can save $200. You can rent a car and see the entire city.

John Deiner: Thanks for the input...I haven't stayed in TI, so I can't vouch for the rooms. But I don't like its casino at all, if that matters. I'm guessing (perhaps incorrectly) that the Clickster wanted to check out one of those three hotels (three of the more highly regarded in Vegas), and of the three I'd give the nod to Bellagio.

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Alexandria, VA: Is there something wacky going on with ticket prices? Last month I bought a non-stop one-way ticket from BWI to Dallas for $95. This month the one-way ticket is $519. Say what? Round-trip tickets are no better - usually I can get a roundtrip from here to Dallas for (far) under $250, but I'm mostly seeing $300+. Any ideas?

Carol Sottili: Airfares go up and down based on which carrier is holding a sale, what days you want to travel, whether there's a holiday, etc. I just went to www.airtran.com and found a $171 one-way fare. You need to be flexible to get the cheap seats.

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Rockville, Md.: "are looking for an affordable way to do Europe this summer"...

Yes!!!! Where would you go if you had a week. Two early-thirtysomethings, no kids.

Thanks!

KC Summers: I'd go to . . . Non-Euro Europe! Check out our special section this Sunday featuring stories about countries that haven't adopted the euro and are thus a lot more affordable than their better-known counterparts. Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria are beautiful and offer great bang for the tourist buck -- you'll be amazed! Plus, we give tips on how to get the most from your buck if you do want to do the Western Europe thing.

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Cleveland, OH: Are "youth hostels" just for young people or can anybody make use of these inexpensive lodgings? Where can I get information?

The Flight Crew: Nope, you don't need to be a youth to stay at a hostel--despite the moniker. However, some hostel networks might require a membership; but it's usually only a nominal fee. There are lots of hostel Web sites and organizations to choose from. Here are some: Hostels.com; the Youth Hostel Association (Wales and England, www.yha.org.uk; for Australia, replace the "uk" with "au"; the network also includes many other countries); European Hostels.com (www.europeanhostels.com/fall); and Hostelling International (www.hihostels.com).

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Lincolnia, Va.: HI:
My wife and I, and our 16 and 11 year old girls will be flying into Las Vegas and out of Las Vegas this summer. We have a one night stay before we head out to the Grand Canyon and other parks. We have a one night stay at the end of the trip as well before we fly home.

We can afford to stay in a major hotel or choose a less expensive place (and spend the extra cash having some fun.)

The goal for either of our overnight stays would be to park the rental car, check in, grab some food, walk around a bit, do something with the kids, play some slots for an hour or so, and take in the sureal scenery.

I assume we should stay on or near the strip (Las Vegas blvd. between Tropicana Ave or Falmingo Rd).

What are your thoughts and suggestions?

John Deiner: Hey, Lincoln. I'm guessing your girls would love to stay, given a choice, at the Hard Rock, which as the previous clickster noted has an amazing pool and lots of pretty people and maybe even a celeb or two. Plus, if you request it, an outstanding view of the Strip (really, it's postcard quality).

To stay on the Strip, per the previous posting, looks like Treasure Island would be a swell choice. For a great pool for the girls, consider Mandalay Bay. To be in the middle of things, I love the Venetian, which has impossibly large rooms great for families. Also, remember that you can jump on the monorail to get up and down most of the Strip, though you'll be doing a large amount of walking either way.

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Arlington VA: Any comment from you or the chatters on the relative merits of the Homestead and the Greenbrier as destinations for families with small children?
We went to the Homestead last year. Loved the rooms, loved the grounds, hated the children's food. The kid who was old enough for the children's camp was too shy to enjoy it, so we need things we can do together as a family (pool, bowling, board games and jigsaw puzzles, putting green)

Steve Hendrix: Well, if you've done the Homestead, try the Greenbrier. It's kid heaven, with all the perks you mention (including bowling). Even in the tie-required dining room they're plenty accustomed to a little bread throwing by thier youngest patrons.

We'll link to a head-to-head comparison we did on the two resorts a few years ago.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hoping you'll take my question this week, since it's my last chance! I got to Iceland next week for a few days of vacation and was wondering, is it easy and inexpensive to rent a car? As far as I can tell, it seems more economical than a bus tour for a day-trip, but how is driving over there, if we stay on main roads and go to popular sites (like Geysir)? Thank you!

Cindy Loose: I drove around Iceland with no problems. In fact, found it quite easy--there aren't that many main roads in Iceland. And English is spokenly widely---just ask young people, not old people, since English is a newish phenom. Geysir was one of the places I drove to, and enjoyed the drive very much.

Sorry I don't remember prices of rental cars--nothing is too cheap in Iceland but you can check places like expedia.com, or individual car companies. I know you'll find it much cheaper anywhere in Europe if you can drive a stick shift. When someone asks for an automatic, it's like a big siren blows and people shout--american on the line, see if they'll take the overpriced automatic out back.

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The Flight Crew: Choices, Choices: Greenbrier vs. Homestead (Post, April 2003)

Steve Hendrix: Here's that Homestead/Greenbrier link.

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San Francisco, CA: A few months ago someone posted a question about use of plug adapters overseas for chargers (digital camera, iPod, etc.) and you guys said you would find an answer. Any answer found yet, or did you post it already and I missed it?

Steve Hendrix: We thought that question would make a good roundup for the section, SF, but the wheels of Travel grind exceedingly slow. And it was just a few weeks ago, I think!

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Falls Church, Va.: We are going to the Gold Coast of Florida with elementary-school-aged kids next week. It looks like it may be to cold for the beach. Do you have any other suggestions of things to do?

Thanks

The Flight Crew: We (gulp) are not quite sure what you mean by the Gold Coast. What cities are you visiting?

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Manassas, Va.: Hi crew - my mom is flying in from la la land on an ATA/southwest code share. I have zero experience with this and she's kinda freaking out. Does this mean she will go to the southwest counter at LAX to check in on a southwest flight, then transfer to an ATA flight in Chicago?

Carol Sottili: My guess from reading between the lines is that she is flying from LAX to Chicago on Southwest and then connecting to an ATA flight to Reagan National. She should check in at the Southwest counter in LAX and yes, she will then transfer to an ATA flight in Chicago. It's really easy - just tell her to ask at the Southwest counter if they already know the gate number for her ATA flight out of Chicago (they probably will) and tell her to look for the flight number on the board when she gets to Chicago.

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Bowie, Md: Hi crew. My mother, 84, is SO wanting to visit Ireland. Problem is that she's restricted (uses a rolling walker) and it's very tough for her to get around. Wonder what you or the clicksters might know about Ireland and what problems we might encounter. Also, if there are any websites for info/travel planning for this type of situation? Thanks.

Cindy Loose: I'm guessing that you'll be hitting some uneven, even some cobblestone streets. Is your mom too proud to use a transport chair? Some are very lightweight and fold up easily and are the perfect solution for your problem---except it might be hard to rent one in Ireland, and you might want to think about whether it's worth spending $150 or more to buy one to take.

There are in fact websites for travelers with disabilities--the one that comes first to mind is Access-Able Travel, www.access-able.com. If they don't do all you need them to do, ask them for more such groups.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a college student (read, cheap) looking for a nice weekend getaway, preferably scenic, with mountain lakes/water being particularly desirable. Can't spend too much, but am willing to pay for a reasonably nice overnight. I'm not too familiar with the Mid-Atlantic region, so any help would be a appreciated. Thanks.

KC Summers: Wash, the good thing about DC is that we're near both mountains and water. For mountains, consider Berkeley Springs, W.Va. (Coolfont is the rather "rustic" resort out there -- but it's a beautiful setting, and there are spas both at the resort and in town). There's also nearby Loudoun County in Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, with gorgeous mountain views and lots of wineries, hiking, horseriding, antiquing etc (go to www.visitloudoun.org for a list of b&bs). Harpers Ferry, W.Va., is also wonderful -- great national park, hiking, shops, history.

For water, there's the Eastern Shore, about a two-hour drive from the city, with wonderful little colonial towns (Chestertown, St. Michaels). The ultra-posh Inn at Perry Cabin is there but there are tons of cheaper inns too. There's also the new Hyatt resort in Cambridge which has nice weekend packages.

Enough?

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College Park, Md.: We are a small family of three and our child is 5 years old. Typically we spend time at Rehoboth Beach each summer. This summer we are considering going to Cape May instead. I have three questions: Can you recommend any hotels that are child-friendly, inexpensive, yet walking distance to the ocean? Second, what are the activities that you recommend a family should NOT miss out on? Finally, I heard the ocean is more difficult for children because of all the rocks, is that true?

Thanks!

John Deiner: Hey, CP. I'm going to throw this out to you as another option: Wildwood, N.J., just a few miles up the coast. Hotels are bound to be cheaper and the beaches are absolutely outstanding--massive, free and clean. If I'm remembering correctly, the Cape May beaches are nothing special.

For families, there's the boardwalk, the swimming, all sorts of watersports and, just over the bridge in Cape May (really, it's only a few minutes away), whale watching and looking for Cape May diamonds near the lighthouse.

In case CP still wants to head to Cape May, anyone out there hotel suggestions?

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Atlantic City: John, great story!; I just spent the weekend there myself and won $1,000 on video poker at the Sands. It was my first time playing, I swear!;

I totally agree with you about Swingers. There was a cover band there on Saturday night but they got the crowd rocking. The bar draws in a lot of 20- and 30-somethings (so does the poker room on the fourth floor) who would otherwise not be attracted to a casino dominated during the day with seniors ambling around the slots.

John Deiner: Hey, thanks. And I had the same experience there, except, uh, without the extra grand in my pocket from video poker. Did win a $5 jackpot on the penny slots though! Woohooo!!!

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Arlington, VA: Love your chats - very informative. I am planning a trip to a friend's wedding in Hungary in August and plan to spend another week in E. Europe - likely Vienna & Prague. Now flights from DC-Budapest are around $950+. Is that likely to drop? My other option is to fly to London and catch a discount flight to Budapest. Last week I saw a BA flight to London from BWI for about $560. I have found cheap flights to Budapest from London and back to London from Prague. I am thinking this might be better since it will likely be cheaper and offers some flexibility so I don't have to backtrack to Budapest. Do you agree? Thanks a lot.

Cindy Loose: There is one important thing you must be careful about: if you buy two separate tickets, you MUST allow loads of time between connections. Thing is, if you buy one ticket--even on different airlines--airline number two will put you on a later flight if you miss the connection because number one was late. If you have two tickets, the connecting airline simply considers you a no-show if you're late, and you'll lose your ticket and your money.

Ideally, I'd want my flight from London to Budapest to be a day later than my flight to London. For sure, I wouldn't book a same day connection if the day you plan ot arrive in Hungary is the day of the wedding, cause if you don't make the connection, it might be awhile before you buy another reasonable ticket. by the way, there is a new website for intraEurope flights: www/ufly4less.com

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Gaithersburg, MD: Strict 21+ checks in Atlantic City?!; I don't know of a single New Jersey high-schooler who hasn't spent his share of time at the Sands!;

John Deiner: Really? Man, they carded me. I felt so special. Okay, they didn't, but I always thought the casinos were pretty strict about that. Did appear that everyone in the casinos after about 2 a.m. were about 16 years old though...seriously, where do these kids get their money?!

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Fairfax, Va.: Any recommendations for a traveller with a single day for sightseeing in Brussels next week? Sights? Tours? Restaurants? Thank you Flight Crew!

Anne McDonough: Definitely go to the Belgian Centre of Comic Strip Art-absolutely incredible-and as you walk around the city you'll see gorgeous murals randomly painting on buildings. Getting a coffee at a cafe in the Grand Place is great people watching--a few years ago I witnessed a bachelor party where in broad daylight a guy had to strip down to his skivvies and redress as a 16th-century courtier, complete with white tights, puffy purple pantaloons and a gold vest. As for restaurants, a link should be coming up to Tom's Postcard from Brussels from last spring.

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The Flight Crew: POSTCARD FROM TOM: Brussels (Post, April 4, 2004)

Anne McDonough: For the Brussels bound...

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Arlington, VA: I'll be flying DC-Barcelona, and Air France is offering the cheapest fare, connecting in Paris at Charles de Gaulle. The thing is, the time between connections is only 1 hr., 15 mins. on the outbound trip. Isn't this a little optimistic? The times I've been through CDG, I've found it very chaotic and sprawling. Plus, wouldn't I have allow time for going through passport control?
Would it be a better bet to pay $80-100 extra (round-trip), to fly British Airways, connecting through Heathrow? Connecting time between flights more like 2 1/2 hrs. Thanks!;

Carol Sottili: Are you a gambler? Sounds to me that you'd feel better having more time to make the connection. If you'll stress out about it, pay the extra money and relax. You don't want to be checking your watch every few minutes during the entire flight. Plus, if the first leg leaves late, you'll really have no chance of making it. A little story - I was on a flight yesterday with a really nice but naive young woman who booked a ticket from Montreal to Phoenix with a 40 minute connection time in Washington - of course, our flight was an hour late and she didn't make it. She was an absolute wreck the entire flight, got a migraine, and it wound up taking her upwards of 20 hours to get from her small town outside Ottawa to Phoenix. She just plugged in her dates at Expedia, it spat out the flights and she thought that that alone ensured she would have enough time. It annoyed me because there was another flight to Washington that was 40 minutes earlier, which would have given her plenty of time to make the connection. Morale of the story - shop around and give yourself plenty of time.

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Bethesda, Md: Dear Crew,
I'm looking into going to Australia. But I have to say I'm rather terrified of the long flying time between DC and here. My longest flights thus far have been from Europe - and those have been long enough to make me want to poke my eyes out with a fork. On my last flight back I watched three movies AND read half a book in German (not my native language, thus slower reading) and was going stir crazy. I cannot sleep on planes, and would certainly ask a doctor for a sleeping pill prescription, but that wouldn't make me sleep for the entire flight from the West Coast to Australia. How does one deal with these super long flights?

Cindy Loose: I've done that flight, and it's like childbirth--I wouldnt repeat it if I didn't forget alot about the agony of it. However, that said, I think most people do get into a groove--I certainly do when I take a car trip. Like the first hours I'm going crazy, then eventually settle down and pick up the new tempo.

australia is worth some suffering, I think. I suppose you thing you could do, if you have time, is break up the trip with a stop or two. ever thought of making a ship in a bottle or something like that. tons of books and loads of horrible snacks that you don't normally allow yourself to eat are nice pick me ups too.

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Washington, DC: This is for my mom - she is leaving for London on 3/28. She worked over there in the late 60's/early 70's, but hasn't been back there since. So besides all the usual tourist spots that have been around for 30+ years, what are some current must-sees?

thanks so much!;

KC Summers: Tell her not to miss the New Tate Museum -- it's on the South Bank of the Thames, and she can walk over on the footbridge across from St. Paul's for a spectacular entrance to it. It's right next to another must-see, the new Shakespeare's Globe Theatre -- it might be too early for a play (they're outdoors), but she can take a behind-the-scenes tour and there's a great museum there too.

Also, she should definitely check out the new Churchill Museum which just opened about a month ago. I'll post a link to our recent story on that.

Anyone else got suggestions for Wash's mom?

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For Vienna: You've got to go see the Lippizaner stallions while you're there. Sometimes they'll let you in to watch them practice which, in some ways, is even cooler than the performances. Also, don't forget to try the famous linzer torte, which is unlike anything else. Enjoy!;

Anne McDonough: This is the Spanish Riding school that I mentioned. I didn't see a performance, just practice, but didn't find it as awesome as I would have thought. Sacher torte, on the other hand...

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The Flight Crew: London War Rooms Add Churchill Museum (Post, Feb. 6, 2005)

KC Summers: For Wash's mom. Thanks Fritz!

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Old Tappan, NJ: I'm interested in Travelling to Turkey in August. I would like to hit up some of the Turkish beaches to make it a "true" vacation, but also wanted to see some of the major cities. My goal would be to spend most of the time at the beach(es) and do a few day trips to some of the major sites. Is this doable? Any suggestions as to where I should stay and if there are any travel packages that cater to this agenda? Thanks for the insight!;

Steve Hendrix: Well, it's too far from Istanbul or Cappadocia for a daytrip from the Mediterranean and Aegean beaches (unless you fly), but there's plenty to do along the coast: Izmir, the the Ephesus ruins, etc. You might start in Istanbul, spend the bulk of your time on the coast, then fly up to Antolia for a look at Cappadocia on your way out.

We'll link to a two-part Turkey story we did recently.

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The Flight Crew: Two Turkeys: Solo vs. Tour Group (Post, July 7, 2002)

Steve Hendrix: Here's our look at two ways to visit Turkey, with a group or on your own.

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Frederick, MD: To the people who are going to New Orleans, I know this chat is dominated by the bar and nightclub scene, but try the acquarium and/or the zoo. You can get from one place to the other by a short river taxi. Both are great places to visit!;

KC Summers: Hey, I recommended the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the D-Day Museum! Give me a break!

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Washington, D.C.: Does anyone have any experience with destination weddings in Mexico? Any resort suggestions? Also, when is the best time to look for airfare for Thanksgiving weekend?
Thanks much.

Cindy Loose: There is no good time to look for a flight for Thanksgiving weekend, assuming you mean a good cheap flight. It's the most traveled holiday of the year.

Anyone out there have a good idea for a destination wedding?

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Denver, CO: Frequent flier question: Wife & I were planning to use out united mileage balance to travel to NZ next Christmas, but with the bad exchange rate we were thinking of waiting a year or two. Is there some way we could transfer or otherwise insure our united miles in case UA goes belly up by then? Could we order our tix for this year and then somehow convert that into a future flight credit for a nominal fee? Any suggestions?

The Flight Crew: You could use your miles on with a Star Alliance member (Air New Zealand is one of them--that way the miles are safe with a solvent airline. However, compared to Europe, the dollar isn't doing that badly: 73 cents to the NZ dollar. Maybe you should go next week!?!

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Electronics Abroad: When I went to the Middle East, I took a charger for my digital camera battery and for my PDA. There was no problem, just take the same country-appropriate voltage adapter you would use for the hairdryer. A lot of nicer hotels abroad have complementary ones for you.

Steve Hendrix: Yes, and most modern laptops have a converter built in. But we still hear the odd horror stories of fried circuits.

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Silver Spring, Md.: We are headed to Atlantic City in two weeks for a mid-week getaway. Any suggestions on restaurants? A good place for breakfast and dinner? A buffet?

John Deiner: Hey, SS. For a great buffet, try the one at the Showboat--it's massive and just as good as any of the allyoucaneat gorgefests in Vegas. As for other restaurants, I'm going to throw that out to the Clicksters--I liked the places I ate at (Corky's and the Crab Shack at Tropicana, a cafe at Bally's) but nothing too special. People seem to love Carmines at the Tropicana, and you can get some exquisite meals at Borgata, but again....Whaddya say gang?

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Cuba: It may be illegal to go to Cuba, but it is easily doable. Bring your passport, but have Cuban officials do the stamp on a seperate piece of paper, not in your passport (and of course, do not let US officials see it). From where I am most people fly to Mexico City and just get a package deal from there, but there are other places where it is possible to do that from (and the poster seemed to know). There are many people that have done this, with no problem at all.

Cindy Loose: And there are people who've gotten caught. If you do chose to engage in some admirable civil disobediance against an inane policy, don't buy anything and keep no receipts., thus making your lawlessness harder to prove.

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Rosedale, Md: Hello Flight Crew,
I'm going to Vail, Co the week of 3/27 to go skiing but I've never been skiing before. I'm planning on taking some lessons at Roundtop this week. I don't plan on skiing the whole week and would like to do some site seeing. Can anyone recommend some places to see?
Thanks!;

Carol Sottili: You'll find plenty to do, especially if you like the outdoors. There are snowshoeing hikes, tubing, iceskating, etc. And there's plenty of shopping, restaurants, etc. Go to www.vail.com for more ideas. I really like the town of Breckenridge, which isn't too far from Vail - it's a neat place to walk around and explore. Also, the ski school at Copper Mountain, which is not very far, is excellent.

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Chinatown, Washington, D.C.: Hi there! Going to Budapest in April. Any recommendations for off-the-beaten-path activities, sights, restaurants, lodging... just looking for the inside info that's hard to find in a guidebook. Thanks!

Anne McDonough: Hey Chinatown, make sure to pick up next week's Europe issue as there's a whole feature on Budapest and other Hungarian destinations like Pecs and Sopron. Definitely do the baths--I loved Gellert for indoor and the one on Margaret Island for outdoor--Statue Park and the opera.

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Courthouse, Va.: My two girlfriends and I are thinking of doing a walking tour of the Dingle penninsula in Ireland this summer to celebrate our 30th birthdays in a casual, slow-paced way. Anyone have any particular tour operators they recommend? We'd prefer something self-guided, rather than getting lumped in with a thundering herd.

KC Summers: Courthouse, you couldn't have picked a more spectacular part of Ireland to walk around in. I think it's one of the prettiest places in the world -- absolutely spectacular scenery, and still remote enough that it's not running over with tourists a la Kerry. But I saw it via car, so can't recommend any walking tour operators. How about it, clicksters?

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Sion Mills: Milan > London
September lowest price $30 one way.

Pat Gallagher

Carol Sottili: Yes, that's what I saw. I'm sure it will price out cheaper doing it separately.

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Bowie, Md: For the honeymooners considering Curacao - just came back from a cruise when we spent a day there. What a beautiful place, European feel, Dutch influence, friendly people. The beaches look great - definitely a place to consider returning to. One good thing is that as part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao), you're out of the hurricane belt, so you would have great weather most anytime of the year. Check airfares, it can be a bit pricey for that area, though. Happy Honeymooning!;

KC Summers: Thanks Bowie!

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Munich, Germany: What's the first U.S. destination that comes to mind if someone tells you that they's like to escape the unusually cold European spring. Nature scenery and some nice fresh air with a few mild hiking possibilities (for someone with a bad knee) would be the perfect vacation right now. Thanks.

Cindy Loose: On the East Coast, I'd say North Carolina. On the West Coast, anywehre in California except the LA area.

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Re: Cuba: And you know, here I was, thinking we lived in a free country. I find it completely rediculous that our government actually prohibits Americans from traveling to Cuba. If this is truly a free country, then it is none of the federal government's business where we go on vacation. Thoughts?

Cindy Loose: As I like to say, the Office of Foreign Assets Control has a three-fold duty: apprehending and punishing internaitonal drug traffickers, merchants who traffic in weapons of mass destruction, and Americans who vacation in Cuba. Freedom of travel aside, and the hardship for ordinary cubans aside, does anyone think that taking money from the first two missions makes sense in order to pursue the third?

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Flight Crew! I am going to Poland with some relatives in mid-September as part of a tour group. The tour package includes a flight from Toronto which is $600, and a bus from Buffalo to Toronto. I am estimating that it would cost about $125 r/t to get to Buffalo, putting my total transportation cost to $725. My question is - should I be able to find a flight to Warsaw in Sept. from DC for under $725? The tour company says I won't be able to, but I am skeptical since I am sure they make money off my ticket anyway right?

Carol Sottili: Have you tried pricing it out yet? I just did a quick look and came up with $750 on British Airways. Will the tour company cut you a land-only deal?

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South Orange, NJ: For the family looking for Cape May beaches, you suggested Wildwood, NJ. Just my two-cents but I was there a couple yrs ago and thought it was pretty seedy. My family usually goes to Long Beach Island and last year tried Bethany Beach. Those are much nicer destinations with small children.

John Deiner: Them's are fighting words. I can't help it...I just adore the Wildwoods, special place in my heart. As far as beachy boardwalky places go, I'm a huge fan, though I always stay in Wildwood Crest (a mile or so from the most crowded area). But I do agree that LBI and Bethany are both lovely alternatives as well.

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Re: Hungary Trip: Thank you for your response to my question. If I booked the flights I have looked my flight from London to Budapest would leave the day after I get to London and a day before the wedding. Do you think prices from DC-London will get much cheaper than $560 for August? Thanks again - you guys are the best!;

Cindy Loose: That's a crystal ball question and we always hesitate to predict, cause then if a freak sale appears you'll be angry with us. However, for August, the fare could get much higher, and is more likley to rise than to fall, assuming nothing unforeseen occurs. How's that for a political/diplomatic response?

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Connecting in Paris: Clickster might also check whether she needs to go through customs/immigration in Paris (transit passengers need to do this if transiting through the U.S., I believe). That dramatically ups the time requirement. Also, which airline has more flights onward to Spain after the one they are booked on, in case they miss their connection (this is assuming that the airline will get them on the first available flight if they miss their connection-- but only if they are on the same airline all the way through, which seems to be the case here, and is an argument against tight connections if using two airlines).

Carol Sottili: Customs can go either way - I've sailed through and it's taken me more than an hour. And yes, it helps to know whether there are other options if you miss your flight. I don't like to book myself when I'm connecting on the last flight of the day for that very reason.

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Re: Ireland for the Elderly: I lived in Dublin while Pregnant (not exactly the same, but mobility was still an issue) and can safely recommend any of the daytrips out of Dublin put out by Eire rail or bus. They are pretty easy to handle--as long as she can climb the stairs to get into the bus--and I took them up to the ninth month with no problems getting around. Obviously she won't be kissing the Blarney stone, but Dublin itself is flat and the Ring of Kerry is best seen by car anyway.

I especially recommend Kilkenny and Kilkenny castle, and the trains anywhere--very comfortable, great scenery. Belfast is also a great overnighter, and the rail trip also offers an excursion to Giants Causeway that can be seen from the bus.

Cindy Loose: Thanks.

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Carson City, NV: Re the Prague/Vienna questions: I would DEFINITELY echo the Josefow, Terezin (aka Teresienstadt) and "just wander around" comments. Absolutely wander around - Prag is a beauuuuutiful city, I've been there multiple times and every day the sun shined through a brilliant blue sky. There was always this knife-swallower there, too, don't know if he still is there. Echo your thoughts on the pizza too. As for Vienna, I would also recommend seeing the statue commemorating the bubonic plague - where else are you going to see one of those? - and Freud's House and Museum, and the Opera. And, Vienna has the best pastries and coffee, so go into a konditorei and have some!;

PS - FYI on the hotel rooms at TI - I've stayed there and they are pretty nice. Really nice furniture, rich fabrics, etc. I don't know if it's like the higher-end places, but it was nicer than the Rio or Tropicana... then again, I am one of those people who doesn't care about the room since I'm hardly ever there!;

Anne McDonough: Forgot to mention this before--don't know if it's still there but I loved, loved loved having lattes and lazy breakfasts at Ebel's, which was right behind Our Lady of Tyn church in Old Town Square in Prague. Right by two marvelous English-language bookstores, too. Thanks for the Vegas tips, too!

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Downtown DC: Recommendations for the couple going to New Orleans - I would definitely eat breakfast at Brennan's restaurant - deeelicious. I would stay away from the Emeril restaurants - my experience is that they are way overpriced and not that great. I went on a ghost tour one evening, through the French Quarter, and loved it. Also - take a cab out to a Swamp Ride - you ride on an airboat and actually see alligators in the wild. And finally - go to The International House (which is a hotel) for drinks - they have a candle-lit bar that is supremely cool. (am I in the running for the book!;)

KC Summers: Yep, you're in the running, DDC. Thanks for the good tips. I stayed at the International House once and you're right, the candlelit bar is pretty cool (too cool for the likes of me, actually). But the IH also has the distinction of being the only hotel I've ever stayed in where the room didn't have windows. Good thing I'm not claustrophobic...

Swamp tours are fun, but you don't have to take a cab, just sign up for one of the big-name tours and they'll come pick you up at your hotel in a bus or van. Important: Bring sunscreen and a hat or you'll die of heatstroke.

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Whale Watcher: If given the choice between Semana Bay in the Dominican Republic or Maui to view humpback whales in February, which is the better choice? I think Maui will be much more expensive, but sense that there may be more package deals available to travel there.

John Deiner: Hey WW, I'm no whale expert, but I was absolutely flabbergasted by the number of humpbacks we saw last January in Maui. Unbelievable, and so accessible...there are dozens of dinghys/sailboats/catamarans/schooners at the ready to take you into the harbor, plus you can see them from the coastline frolicking. Never seen them in the DR, but maybe somebody out in e-land has.

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re: Vienna: For the Vienna visitor- When I was there several years ago visitors could get in to see the Vienna Boys' Choir perform at Sunday service at one of the palace chapels. If they still do it, it's not to be missed!; Get there early- there is standing room outside the chapel but it gets pretty crowded

Anne McDonough: Agreed--and if you have a choice between sitting on the same level as the choir or in the balcony, go for the main floor; I had a hard time actually seeing the choir from up on high.

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Washington, D.C.: Are there any airfare sales during vacation times ??? I'd like to travel to Miami this Memorial Day weekend.. THANKS

Carol Sottili: Memorial Day sales are common, but there's no way I can guarantee that they will take place this year. They usually aren't offered until a week or two before the holiday. If you can go into Fort Lauderdale, you'll have more options.

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Washington, D.C.: I just started my own band and I'm really on budget, but a friend has been able to get me a gig in London (which I know nothing about). How does a 5 man band with friends in tow find cheap airfare and rooms for everyone? Thanks!!!

The Flight Crew: Hook up with groupies . . . or try Priceline. If you are flexible, you can cheap air or a package with air and hotel room(s) for less than you'd pay separately. You might also consider renting a flat, which will save you money on food (cook your own) and can cost less than nightly hotel rates. For example, www.easylondonaccommodation.com has holiday rentals with multiple bedrooms. You might also consider contacting a travel agent who might be able to score a group rate, if you are traveling with an entourage. Just imagine: One day, you can just hop in your private jet and fly off to your grand estate outside London (maybe you'll be Madonna's neighbor)! Keep the dream alive!

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Baltimore, Md.: Is there any general guideline for how far in advance to purchase airline tickets to get the best price? (At the moment I'm looking for tickets to San Antonio in July, and they seem a little expensive, but I've never traveled there before so I don't really know; but I'm really looking more for just a general rule of thumb).

Thanks.

Carol Sottili: No, it's hit or miss. Register at the major sites (Orbitz, Travelocity) to be notified when airfares drop. And Southwest now has something called Ding that alerts you about sale fares.

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Baltimore, MD: I'm heading to Istanbul on Thursday for a week, and am looking for sights/restaurants/events, etc. I shouldn't miss. Thanks!;

John Deiner: Hey, Balmer. Steve touched on this a little while ago, but you can't go wrong doing anything in Istanbul. The bazaar is big and sorta creepy but tons of fun (watch your wallet!), and the mosques are incredible. My favorite sight was the Topkapi Palace, which you easily spend a day exploring.

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Washington, DC: I'll be going to London soon, via Heathrow. Saw on Heathrow's web site that the London Underground stop at Terminal 4 will be closed until sometime late in 2006, due to construction for an Underground connection for the new Terminal 5. Until then, passengers wanting to take the Tube to and from central London are being told to connect via bus at Hatton Cross station. My question is: Have any of the Travel Crew (or any readers of the chat line) experienced this yet, and if so, how well is it working? Thanks.

Steve Hendrix: Righto, WDC, Heathrow's Piccadilly stop is closed at least until fall, 2006 to extend it to the new terminal 5. I tell you, unless I was in major, major economising mode (or had tons of spare time), I would blow 15 quid on the Heathrow Express rather than do the Hatton Cross shuffle. It's a hike.

Having said that, no one here has actually tried it yet. Readers?

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Laguna Niguel, CA: Although it's been almost 15 years since I've been to Wildwood (a yearly family vacation from dreary Scranton, PA), I seem to recall that North Wildwood, near the beginning of the Boardwalk and adjacent to the wide beaches (15th/16th St. and Ocean Ave.) had a nice family atmosphere, and a lot to offer. Ah, memories!;!;

John Deiner: Well, coming from Scranton . . . Just kidding! But I'm with you--one of the nicest things about Wildwood is that it really hasn't changed all that much.

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Washington, D.C.: I am thinking about taking a trip to Southeast Asia this summer, and I'm trying to figure out where to start. I have about three weeks to work with, and I'm interested in visiting Thailand, Vietnam, or Cambodia. I definitely want to spend some time on the beach, but I'm also interested in cities, hiking, temples, etc. Do you have any advice? Any websites you'd recommend that might have deals on flights and hotels? I'm not really interested in a tour guide-led trip, but some help in putting together itineraries might be nice. Thanks!;

Cindy Loose: Personally, with two weeks, I would either do Thailand alone, or would do Thailand/Vietnam or Thailand/Cambodia if I was set on doing two countries.

Definately, all three is more than I'd want to do in two weeks, although others might disagree.

The main reason to visit Cambodia would be to see Ankor Wat. If that doesn't ring your bells too loud, you can find great beaches in Vietnam, but better ones in Thailand. I think North Vietnam is very cool, cause I am fascinated by Hanoi, and think Ha Long Bay is pretty.
Very hard choice between Vietnam and Thailand---Thailand I think has somewhat more to offer the tourist. Vietnam grabs my interest personally cause of our history with the place.

You could easily find everything you've listed here in Thailand alone. Don't consider doing Cambodia alone--too much was ruined during the long seiges there in the last century, and parts remain dangerous.

If this is too confusing, maybe a travel agent could help you sort out the options.

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Arlington, VA: Any thoughts on can't-miss-yet-affordable options in Belize? I'm in the process of planning a two-week trip there for May.

KC Summers: Lots of can't-misses in Belize, most involving the water (diving, snorkeling), the jungle (hikes to see animals and Mayan ruins) and history (ditto). Belize is not as cheap as a lot of people think -- it's definitely been discovered. So while it's a no-brainer to avoid high-end resorts and luxury lodges like Francis Ford Coppola's digs, you still shouldn't scrimp when it comes to paying the going rate for a reliable dive or snorkel company, or someone to lead you through the jungle.

One way to save is to book an all-inclusive hotel. I liked the Mopan River Resort near the Guatemalan border -- besides being relatively affordable, they also offer a lot of day trips (jungle treks, caving etc) as part of their package.

Don't make the mistake of spending all your time on a caye -- definitely check out the interior, you won't regret it.

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Naples FL: Carol, in one of your answers in last Monday's column, you said:
Carol Sottili: There is a real art to working the frequent flier system.

Do you have room in your email column to expound upon or can you direct me to some source who has attempted to do so with any degree of success recently? Thanks, Intimidated - in Naples

p.s You overlooked Naples as a truly laid back and sensible Spring Break site; for those few sincerely interested in sensibly goodtimes. And now that Naples Beach has been named the best in Florida and one of the best in the U.S., it's an easy decision to make. A number of off-beach fun spots, too.

Carol Sottili: I thought Naples was only for rich people (just kidding - it's a really beautiful spot in Florida and I'm sure there are some reasonably priced places to stay, right?) As for working the frequent flier system, take a look at www.frequentflier.com and www.webflyer.com. I've never been interested enough to become an expert, but every time I fly coach, I vow to change.

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More for the college student: Even though I have been out of college for (gulp) quite a few years now, I still try to travel on student budgets--so I can do more travel!; So here's a couple more great getaways that won't break the bank--

--Blackwater State Park, WV-- beautiful waterfalls and river, and if you're not into the camping thing, at this time of year the cabins and the lodge are under $80.
--Deep Creek Lake, MD--the state park has rustic cabins, and there are also some nice B&Bs up there that may cut a deal at this time of year
--Chincoteague--again, the hotels are not expensive this time of year, and you can drive onto Assateague and see the ponies. If you have an SUV, you can get an offroad pass and drive straight onto the beach. Check the rules before you go though.

KC Summers: There you go, more for our impoverished college student.

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Airfares: For the person going to Buffalo/Toronto - Southwest goes to Buffalo for $39 each way on sale. US AIr has a sale to Toronto for $144rt.

For London - British Air is having a sale $139 each way from NY, they have it for more from DC.

For Vienna, Warsaw etc try Austrian Air, they have e-specials, from Washington to Vienna was $249 rt in Feb. You can then pick up Sky Europe in Bratislava, a short bus ride and go to many other cities in Eastern Europe.

Carol Sottili: Yes, there are many ways to save a buck and get where you want to go. But how much is convenience worth?

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Capitol Hill, Washington DC: Going to New Orleans at the end of the month with friends. We want to go on a swamp tour. Do you suggest going on one of the tours that leaves from the city, or renting a car and going to a park or wildlife reserve? We know the former would be easier, but we don't want some cheesy tour either.

KC Summers: Ah, they're all cheesy, CH. The alligators come right up to the boats to eat marshmallows, for god's sake -- it ain't exactly Wild Kingdom. But it's still lots of fun -- those airboats are loud and FAST. So just sacrifice your dignity and do the easiest thing, which is to get picked up at your hotel and driven out to the swamp in a bus or van.

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Deep Valley, USA: Adapters:

All modern gadgets sold internationally, such as iPods and PDAs and laptops are designed to sense what voltage they're on and adjust themselves. That applies to stuff sold within the last four-five years at least.

Others will have a little switch on the bottom someplace.

So all you need is a plug converter. You can get a kit at any Radio Shack that has all the different ones. Just plug your thingie into the right plug adapter, and go to town.

This used to be a big problem and is much less of one now.

Caveat: this doesn't apply to some places like India where the voltage is strange.

Steve Hendrix: Well, yes but...DV. Some of the melting wire stores we've heard are from people who assumed their gadgets featured the built in converters, but didn't. Look at the back; if it's the flexible kind, it will give a range of acceptable voltages, usally 110-220. And you're right, not all countries are encompassed in that range.

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Curacao: I went to Curacao on my honeymoon. It was pretty sedate and relaxing after the wedding-craziness. Often we were the only people on the beach. I loved it, but if you are look for a lot of different activities, this might not be the right option.

KC Summers: Thanks much!

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Washington, DC: Flight Crew,

You've given me nothing but great advice in the past, so I'm hoping you can keep it going!; Here's the deal - I'm headed to Ottawa this summer to visit my wife's father's family. Never been to Canada, much less Ottawa. What's a brother to expect?

Cindy Loose: Just been to Ottawa for second time. I love it in the winter, when the canal around the city is frozen and people are walking around town dragging sleds and carrying skates.

Ottawa is a clean and pleasant place, but doesn't get much play cause it can't compare with Vancouver, Quebec City, Toronto and Montreal--and that's the order I'd put them. Keep in mind its on the Quebec border, so you'll find lots of French language and food, partiuclarly across the canal in Hull--or have they remanmed that town?

If you like outdoor stuff, there are big parks around there. Basically, Ottawa is a capitol, like Washington, so expect lots of government buildings,and some really terrific museums--sort of like another capitol we know and love.

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Accessible Ireland: The best site for limited-mobility travel in the UK is www.undiscoveredbritain.com

Cindy Loose: thanks.

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Rockville, Md:
We just spent a long weekend in New Orleans and have spent several weekends there in the past few years with a daughter in school there. The D-Day museum is great as are some tours of plantations on the mississippi. Try to get into Jacque-i-mos for dinner, Acme Oyster House and some local places. Avoid the Brennans places unless you just want to be a real tourist. High prices, small plates and just okay food. Local places are better

KC Summers: Thanks much, Rock.

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Re: Hostel: Some hostels have upper age limits. It is usually around 30.
I'd call ahead and ask.

The Flight Crew: That's good to know, though the sites I looked at did not mention any maximum age limits. Of course, calling ahead is always a good thing, or ask when reserving (another good thing).

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Yorktown, Va.: Suggestions needed for a one day visit to Amsterdam. We are adding a day at the end of a cruise and flying home very early the next morning. What are the "don't miss" things to see? Do you recommend staying near the airport or staying in town? We are just back from Tahiti so the Van Gogh museum is on the list, but what else? Appreciate any advice. Enjoy the forum very much and all the good info. Thanks!

Anne McDonough: Definitely go to the Anne Frank House. A good way to get a sense of the city when you don't have a lot of time is to take one of the water taxi tours; lots of them leave right near Central Station, the main train station in town. If you've had enough high art, there's always the only-in-Amsterdam Sexmuseum. If you're flying out of Schiphol, it's pretty close to Amsterdam so staying in town shouldn't be a problem; see if your hotel has a free shuttle to and from. Once at the airport, make sure to check out the Rijksmuseum outpost there; it's after passport control and is free.

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Burke, VA: Family of four (me/wife/kids 14 and 10), flying into Heathrow this week. To get to our hotel in London, do we cab it for big money, or take the tube? Or are there other options?

Steve Hendrix: A cab is the most expensive way into town from Heathrow (I remember it costing me about 60 pounds, late at night w/ no traffic). But that may compare well for a family of four up against the 14 pound per person fare on the quick and effecient Heathrow Express rail service (26 pound return). The Tube is very cheap but the Terminal Four stop on the Picadilly Line is closed for construction for next year and a half or so (see above); Terminal 1-3 stop is still working.

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Vienna, Austria: I just love this city. The best museum we went to was the House of Music. They had great interactive features on sound and music. You even get to "direct" an orchestra. I also enjoyed the Imperial Museum and the great audio guide they offer. The tour of the Opera house was fun, and the cathedral was stunning. Be sure to check out the -Heurige-, wine bars in the nearby suburbs, and coffee and sweets at a cafe. I also enjoyed the buffet dinner at the art museum -Kunsthistorisches Museum---it was a great way to see some art and enjoy a meal.

Anne McDonough: Great tips--especially the House of Music. Thanks!

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Bethesda: We've gone to the Homestead three times in the past two years with our small children. You can order them adult meals. The resort doesn't care. It's even easier on the wait staff to bring out the regular meals. They are quite accomodating. We, too, had to bag the kids camp because of the number of pets and our allergies. But, we settled in for a family vacation by day and in the evenings hired a sitter for some adults only dining and dancing.

Steve Hendrix: good stuff, Bethesda, thanks.

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Headed to Australia?: I know its been touted on this website before, but the sleep aid Ambien really is a miracle pill. I too have problems with long flights ... but I love travel more. I got a scrip for a trip to Japan/Korea over the holidays, took pills on the plane to grab 7-8 hours rest. Stir-craziness & fatigue were MUCH, MUCH less of an issue when I traveled to Australia and New Zealand without it.

Steve Hendrix: I've said it before; I Heart Ambien.

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Colorado: Vienna - Summer Palace is beautiful and view of the city from the Tea House is not to be missed.
St. Stephens is also amazing.

Budapest - I think that the Jewish quarter was pretty amazing - seeing the ghetto wall and memorial to Holocaust victims was moving. Also, see the other "half" of the Austro-Hungarian empire by seeing palace here (at top of bluff on one side of the city)

Prague - I would second the cemetary, and also the attached synagogue.

Anne McDonough: Thanks, Colorado! Defintely have color film when heading to St. Stephens-that roof is awesome.

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Washington, DC: Hi Crew,

I'm flying to Berlin in May on Delta, and then I'm planning to take an EasyJet flight from there to Krakow. My flight gets into Berlin at 8:00 AM, and the flight to Krakow doesn't leave until 3:00 PM. The only thing is, they're at different airports--I get in to Schoenfeld (or something like that) and leave from Tegel. Is seven hours enough time to get in, clear customs, and make it to the other airport? Or should I spend a day in Berlin and leave the next day?

Cindy Loose: That would be enough time if your Delta flight arrives near to the time it's supposed to. But how do you know it will? You'll completely lose the ticket for your second leg if you miss your connection. So, if it were me, I'd think about seeing a bit of Berlin. along the way Hot tip---the more luxury hotels in Berlin are very cheap cause of over building. Not sure if same applies to budget places. Also, Berlin has some cool new stuff.

In Krakow, try the Jewish restaurant--fun music and good food and not expensive.

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Chicago, IL: Hey- I want to visit Machu Picchu this summer. I tried to read the Peru links in your archives but they don't work. Can you please fix that or provide a new link? Thx.

washingtonpost.com: Ups and Downs on The Arduous Trail To Machu Picchu (Post, Nov. 23, 2003) All Peru stories

Anne McDonough: Thanks, Fritz...

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Silver Spring, MD: Will the countries you mentioned before, Slovakia, etc. be changing over to the Euro at any point? I want to be able to time my trips. Thanks!;

Cindy Loose: At some point yes, but there isn't a specific date--it depends when they get their economic ducks in a row to the satisfaction of EU leaders.

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New York, NY: I like to travel solo and frequently encounter problems once I get to customs. I almost always have to get questioned further simply because I'm traveling alone and don't know anyone in the country I'm going to. I thought customs people would be used to seeing/talking to solo travelers all over the world. What's the deal, have any of you encountered this? What's the best way to handle it without being rude?

Carol Sottili: I've gone through customs many times alone, including a few days ago, and have encountered no rudeness. Maybe when you sound more definite about your plans, they don't look at you that closely. For example, when they ask why you are traveling to France, for example, it's better to say "to see the Louvre" than "I have no definite itinerary." Plus smile, smile, smile.

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Bethesda: Could I ask each of your best tip for travel safety and security. I'd appreciate specifics on clothing (to hide wallets, etc.)

Thanks!;

KC Summers: Well, I never open a map on a public street if I'm at all nervous being identified as a tourist. I'll duck into a restaurant or restroom and do it there. Here are some more safety tips from the gang:


Cindy: Take a money belt. Also check State Dept. web site for the latest travel warnings.

John: Look for a room for in-room safes. Oh, and remember to close and lock your hotel room door. [Editor's note: He learned this one the hard way!]

Andrea: On a train, pick a car with other people in it. Don't travel in a car by yourself, esp in Europe.

Anne: Sleep in your money belt.

Steve: Check w/hotel staff about whether it's safe to walk around in certain neighborhoods.

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For Munich and the To-Be-Weds:: On the west coast I would say Lake Tahoe hands down. This year I would also recommend Oregon, but OR isn't usually as nice as it has been this year.

Destination weddings: Don't know if you are opposed to this or now, but I'm sure you know that lots of the resorts do weddings for free if you stay there. We had one (actually it was a vow renewal, but they treat them exactly the same) at Breezes Puerto Plata, and we went to a destination wedding (a real one) for friends at Breezes Montego Bay. I was actually very impressed with the way it was handled, the way we were treated, the amount of thought and planning that went into it, and so forth. If you go on www.theknot.com there is an entire message board just for destination brides.

KC Summers: Thanks a lot!

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Washington, D.C.: Can you please tell me what else there is to do in Aspen besides skiing? We'll be visiting family for a week at the end of the month, and plan on hitting the slopes for at least three days, but is there more?! Restaurants, culture, music, etc.? Thanks!

Anne McDonough: Check out the budget Aspen story we did last summer, in the Travel index under...Aspen..for some syggestions.

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Flying to Australia: One thing to keep in mind bethesda is with United, you leave in early evening and connect in SFO or LAX with a 10:00 P.M. departure time (1:00 AM our time). You willfind it much easier to sleep then lfying back from Europe.

KC Summers: Okay, thanks. No easy way to get there!

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KC Summers: Wow, out of time already. In fact, we've overstayed our welcome (sorry Fritz). Lots of great questions and tips this week -- but the coffee-table book goes to Vienna, Ausria, who recommended the House of Music. Send your contact info to me at summersk@washpost.com, and we'll get it right out to you. Thanks for chatting, everyone, and keep an eye out for this Sunday's print edition, when we focus on non-euro Europe.

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