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Talk About Travel

Vegetarian fare in Ireland, shoes for traveling, Park City, Utah...

The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, January 24, 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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Carol Sottili: How is everyone on this Monday, Jan. 24, also known as the gloomiest day of the year? John, Anne, Gary, K.C., and Carol, your driver today, have shaken off the snow and are ready to answer your travel queries.
Back to Jan. 24. According to a professor at Cardiff University in Wales, today is top dog among depressing days. The prof used a somehat sketchy mathmatical formula - 1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA - W is weather, D is debt minus the money (d) due on January's pay day, T is the time since Christmas, Q is the period since the failure to quit a bad habit, M stands for general motivational levels and NA is the need to take action and do something about it. Who knows if there's anything to his theory, but it does lead me to the topic of the day: Have you ever been so depressed by the cold, darkness and general dreariness of winter that you took a drop-everything, spur-of-the-moment trip to warmer climes? How did you manage it? And did it buoy your spirits, or depress you even more once you returned to winter and the credit card bill came in? Best story gets a Bahamas mousepad and Elton John's "Peachtree Road" CD.

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Fredericksburg, Va.: I'm trying to get to Park City during the end of March. My brother swears he got tickets during the same time last year for about $200. The cheapest I can find is $270. Was my brother wrong, or should I wait for the fares to drop?
Thanks!!

Carol Sottili: Airfares to Salt Lake City often go to $200 or below, but those fares are often good out of BWI. Have you tried that?

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20009: Hello
I booked an upcoming flight on Frontier; resaonably inexpensive non-stop from DCA to DEN. Anyone have experience with this carrier. More of a Jet Blue or a Southwest kinda thing?
Thanks

Gary Lee: I have taken this flight. The airplanes are nice and the service is very good. In all the experience is probably closer to Jet Blue than Southwest. But you have to buy food and movie service. On the whole, not a bad deal.

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Annapolis, Md.: Please help!

I'm going out in early June to run the San Diego marathon. I've never been there before and the plan is to arrive Friday and stay somewhere in downtown/old town that's clean, comfy, easy access to stuff (to reduce walking pre-marathon) and stay there through Monday. From Monday to Thursday, I'll be able to relax, celebrate my marathon, site-see, etc, and we want to stay in a different part of town. Do you have some hotel recommendations?? I've been looking at tripadvisor, but wanted some other opinions.

Thanks and wish me luck!

Carol Sottili: Hotels.com or quikbook.com should have some good rates. Downtown, I like the US Grant - it's a great historic hotel that often offers very competitive rates. I love the Marriott on Coronado Island. The Catamaran in Pacific Beach is another favorite. And, in La Jolla, the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club is a good choice. If you want to go cheap, the Holiday Inn Express south of La Jolla is a good bet.

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Richmond, Va.: We are planning a Disney World vacation in the spring. Our kids want to visit some non Disney attractions as well. Any advice on best (and most cost effective) places to stay that easily allow for Disney and non Disney activities?

John Deiner: Hey, Rich. First advice would be to stay off of the Disney property, since lodging there is not really cost effective and they're sort of out of the way if you want to tour other things.

I'd suggest anywhere along International Drive or U.S. 192. Check out our recent guide on Orlando hotels for some ideas on particularly good options. Also keep in mind that Polk County, just west of the area, is trying to lure visitors to the theme-park plex with more than 5,000 vacation rentals, many of them homes with multiple bedrooms/bathrooms, a kitchen and a pool. Could be a lot cheaper than eating out all the time, plus you'll have more space. Check out www.sunsational.org.

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Arlington, Va.: Great article today about traveling to Ireland. I spent time there last March and loved it. We never ran in to a crowd and there was always a pub to pop in to if the weather didn't cooperate. In addition to items mentioned in the article, I'd recommend a trip to Northern Ireland. The history of Belfast could fill a visit in and of itself and a visit to Giants Causeway on the northern coast will make the entire trip worth it.

KC Summers: Excellent suggestion. Glad you liked the piece! Ambrose Clancy, the author, is the best kind of Ireland fan: His affection for the place is based not on shamrocks and leprechauns but rather a clear-eyed appreciation of the Irish people in all their quirky glory ("razor-tongued misanthropes," I believe he called them in his piece yesterday) and a real reverence for the country's physical beauty.

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New York, NY: Please help -- time-sensitive question!; I'm leaving this Friday to ski in Colorado for 10 days. This weekend I was SEVERELY WARNED by a friend that basically, I'm gonna die from acute mountain sickness (i.e., altitude sickness). He said that both rapid/shallow breathing and frequent bathroom trips are normal and necessary. Then he handed out 10 pages of info about what to do if we feel headaches, faint, etc., since we could pass out in our sleep or get edema and die.

My question: is this REALLY that big a deal? Our house is at 9,000 feet, and the mountain is at 10,000 feet. Does altitude sickness kick in by then? What else should we do besides drink water? And can we take painkillers or Nyquil if we have a cold? Please, any help from you or readers would be appreciated. Thanks!;

Carol Sottili: I've skied in Colorado many times, and I've never gotten altitude sickness. But members of my family and several of my friends have suffered from it, and it is a miserable experience. Nausea and headache is common. I drink plenty of water starting several days before leaving, take it easy the first day or two, and stay off the booze. Some people stay in Denver overnight before going to the resorts in order to get acclimated.

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Rockville, Md.: My husband and I are going to San Francisco in March and will be doing a lot of walking. Can anyone recommend a good but stylish shoe? I have hiking shoes and running shoes, but they aren't so dressy. I'm looking for a black shoe that will go with everything- and won't leave me with blisters and a backache.

Thanks!!!

KC Summers: Rock, I'm a huge fan of Mephisto and Ecco brand walking shoes. You can find them at Nordstrom as well as places like the Walking Company. I've got my black leather Mephistos on now and they work just as well with work clothes as they do with jeans on the road. Both brands are pricey, but well worth it.

Anyone else got a good brand to recommend?

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Bethesda, Md.: Hello!
I'm hoping to head to Kiev,Ukraine this summer to visit my sister-in-law who is working as a Peace Corps volunteer. Any advice/tips on booking flights and accomodations? BTW, I did see a United flight for $550 RT last month. Any chance that comes back again?

Gary Lee: As far as air fare goes, you have to shop around. Tickets in summer, which is peak season there (as in the rest of Europe) are unlikely to be as low as $550. You might try Eastern Tours Ltd., a New York-based consolidator that specializes in that part of the world.

As for lodging, if I were you, I'd ask my sister in law for advice on that. In that part of the world there are often deals and/or options easier for locally based folks to find or book.

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Washington DC: Is there any reasonable way of finding transportation from BWI to DC on a Sunday evening? Without the Marc it seems options are limited and expensive.

Anne McDonough: I checked a random Sunday, and a regional ticket on Amtrak is $13, but goes up to $36 if you take an acela. You could take the bus for about $1.60 to the Greenbelt metro stop and then take the metro into the city. To Union stattion, for example, the off-peak fare is $2.35; the peak fare is $2.90.

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Alexandria, Va.: Does anyone know anything about Glacier Bay Cruiseline? We would like to take an Alaska cruise, but want to avoid the huge ships and the accompanying crowds.

Carol Sottili: It has a good rep. Appeals to an older, educated crowd interested more in the environment than Las Vegas type shows.

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Vienna, Va.: We are planning a spring vacation which includes a family visit to Ocala, Florida. We want to be there for a few days and then drive to a beach for the rest of the week. We'd prefer a West Coast beach because we like picking up shells. There seem to be East Coast beaches within about an hour's drive, but the West Coast beaches seem to be either way north or way south. Aren't there any nice beaches on the West Coast that aren't a long drive? I am hoping to discover a lovely "unspoiled" area, perhaps? Any ideas?

P.S. We are allergic to Disney, so that is NOT an option.

John Deiner: Hey, Vienna. Disney move to the coast and not tell us about it?

Anyhow, I really love the East Coast beaches closest to Ocala, which include those in the Daytona area. I'm not real familiar with those beaches directly west of you on the Gulf Coast however, though I understand that the Crystal River is an amazing place to tube and see the manatees. You can't go wrong by heading farther south and hitting the St. Pete/Clearwater beaches, which are phenomenonal. Fort Desoto beach is among the country's best by many accounts, and it really is a beaut. Don't remember a whole lot of shells lying about when I was there, though.

Anyone have any good Gulf Coast beach options for Vienna that aren't too far from Ocala?

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McLean, Va.: Our group of 10-12 midage professionals, 40s and 50s, are planning to head to Salt Lake City area for 3 days of skiing in early March, but is at a loss as to which mountain area to pick -- Deer Valley, Park City, Canyons, Alta, Snowbird. We are generally advanced intermediates or low experts, have skiied together through most all of the Colorado ski areas, and are excited about exploring Utah. Any suggestions as to the right mountain or several mountains over 3 days, where to stay that is comfortable, convenient, and clean but not plush, and whether we need a car or can rely on shuttles?

Carol Sottili: Why choose one place? I'd stay in Park City, where Park City proper, Deer Valley and The Canyons are all located. You can get to all three via the shuttle. Park City also offers great restaurants and nightlife, and isn't far from Salt Lake City. You can get a shuttle from airport to Park City. Car is more convenient, but you don't need one.

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Washington, DC: Hello Crew!; My fiance' and I want to go on a honeymoon to Scandanavia in June. I know of the big cities (Oslo, Copenhagen, and Stockholm), but what are some cool places to see. We like to hike and bike ride. I know there is some beautiful countryside up there. Thanks!;

Gary Lee: For starters, you can make some great day or overnight trips in the greater Stockholm area. The archipeligo off the coast of Stockholm (Sandhamn, etc), reachable by ferry are a particular favorite of mine.

Gothenburg is also a great city, especially for food.

Any other thoughts on places of the beaten trek in Scandanavia?

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Spur of the moment trip: Greetings from the cold and snowy midwest. About 4 years ago I was purchasing a house on a Carolina beach. I did not need to attend the closing, as everthing could be done by fax and FedEx. However, the gray cold January weather was getting me down, so I decided to attend the closing and invited one of my girlfriends along as the sellers has said if I wanted I could come and stay in the house before closing (beach property is often sold fully furnished and equiped). Getting tickets at the last moment proved no problem using the web. Well, I made it down without problem, but my girlfriend, who was ravelling one day later was rerouted all over the eastern US because of weather related problems. Because the airport was an hour's drive from the beach, at a certain point I had to just leave and hope the airlines would get her from Pittsburg(!;!;!;) to her final destination. I ended up spending several hours waiting at the airport for her plane to finally come in. After that the Carolina weather was spoty - some beautiful 60s weather and some chilly fog so thick you could see neither the ocean nor the dunes if you walked down the center of the beach - but so much better than what we had left behind. The closing went without a hitch, I still have a great beachhouse, and I was refreshed enough to suffer through another 6-8 weeks of winter when I came home.

Carol Sottili: But what became of the girlfriend?

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Denver, Colo.: Hello from sunny and 65 degrees Denver (I'm not making that up). For the posters who are lucky enough to come out here soon, some responses to your queries:

1. Frontier (based in Denver) is a great airline. I've flown them a number of times and have never had a problem. The staff is friendly and the $5 direct TV is worth it.

2. Altitude Sickness. Carol was right - drink lots of water before coming out here and while you are out here. Eating helps, too. Before moving out here I experienced slight altitude sickness while visiting and you just have to give in to it and rest. I recovered pretty quickly though.

3. Have a blast while visiting. I've lived here for about 4.5 months and absolutely love it!

Carol Sottili: Thanks! And we are very jealous about your weather, although I'm sure the ski resorts there aren't happy.

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Clifton, Va.: To the person going on a 10-day ski trip to Colorado wondering about altitude sickness, I just returned from a 10 day ski trip to Colorado (and I want to go back). I didn't suffer from altitude sickness but everyone in my sister's family did during the same trip. I believe one of the main reasons that it didn't affect me is that I frequently travel to higher elevations (a couple of times a year) so I'm used to it whereas it was my sister's first trip. Also, as the travel gurus stressed, take it easy the first day or so and DRINK TONS OF WATER. Just when you think you can't drink any more water, have another gallon or two. Also, use lots of hand lotion because your skin will get incredibly dry. But, most importantly, have a great time (and drink lots of water).

Carol Sottili: Just don't drink so much water that you get sick from that! I've heard that runners sometimes overhydrate, which can cause problems.

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Arlington, Va.: I am in the process of planning a trip to Southern Sweden and the Copehagen area this summer. It appears that every little town has its own website and tourism office that is happy to send maps and all sorts of other toruism guides. I am considering a day trip to the Danish island of Bornholm (which is off the south coast of Sweden). I will be based on Malmo for a week and then a couple of weeks in Copenhagen for a week-long event and to tour around. From Malmo it looks like it takes a few hours each way to make the Bornholm trip via train and then the fast ferry from Ystad. I'm wondering if it's worth all the travel time for the few hours I would have to knock around there. Has anyone out there ever been to Bornholm?

Gary Lee: Sounds like a lovely trrip. I've traveled a lot in that corner of the world but never in Bornholm. Does anyone out there know it?

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Piney Point, Md.: I took a trip in the opposite direction - I decided to go to Niagara Falls in the winter (January of 2003). It truly was remarkable from the Canadian side of the falls, with the inch of ice on everything, and the suspended water in the air making the sky appear red. It was more special with a paucity of people there (most of them sane). I was able to make my co-workers envious of the experience, so it had lasting value.

Carol Sottili: That's one way to handle it - embrace the beast.

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Boulder, Colo.: Going to NYC w/ husband (his first time) and would like to watch the taping of a show (SNL or something similar). How do you get tickets? The websites aren't clear if you can get them in advance or where to wait in line, etc.

John Deiner: Hey, Boulder. NYC & Co., the city's tourism wing, has what seems to be a detailed list of shows you can see, plus info numbers on where to get tickets and where to stand on line, etc. Go to nycvisit.com and type "tv show" into the search engine; it should show you a link to "TV Show Tapings."

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Maryland: I don't know about the marriott on coronado island, but the waterfront marriot by seaport village is a great central location. if you are interested in staying on coronado island after the marathon, do it up right and do the hotel coronado. BUT - you need to rent a car if you stay over there - taxis get prohibitely expensive. you can get away with no car if you stay in san diego proper.

Carol Sottili: I like the Marriott on Coronado Island better than the Hotel Del, where rooms are very small and incredibly expensive. I do, however, love going to the Hotel Del for afternoon cocktails and Sunday brunch.

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Boston, Mass.: Home on a Snow Day! Great timing on your Ireland in
winter article. I'm going to Dublin in March on a business
trip, and I'll be taking my husband and one-year old with
me. Any recommendations for what a little boy and his
dad could do in Dublin? They're already planning to go to
the zoo in Phoenix Park. We won't have a car, so we're
looking for anything bus or DART accessible.

KC Summers: Hmm, a 1-year-old -- I was about to suggest a bunch of children's theater offerings, but methinks not. Try a site called Dublinks.com for a list of child-friendly restaurants and other activities. One thing that sounds cool is the new Dublin Butterfly House and Insect World, featuring Bert, a resident tarantula who's as big as a dinner plate, and a giant bird-eating spider.

One fun thing would just be take a picnic lunch to St. Stephen's Green, the big park in the heart of Dublin, and let him run wild -- it's a great place to let loose, and Dad can people-watch.

Anyone else got ideas for little ones in Dublin?

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Bethesda, Md.: I am travelling from Monte Carlo to Paris over the summer and am looking for a great place in between to stay a night or two on the way. Something easy to get to from the train would be great. Any suggestions?

Gary Lee: You might try Lyons. There are decent hotels near the train station there and you can eat marvelously.

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Washington, DC: My wife, my son (3) and I are trying to plan a family trip to France for this summer (we want to stay a month). I have done many research over the Internet, and I can not find any affordable flights to France. When do airlines start posting their summer fares? How early should we plan our trip? What option do we have when it comes to airfare?

Thank you

Pascal Brazey

Carol Sottili: You just have to stay wired onto the Internet booking sites and strike when a sale hits. I'm waiting to book my summer flights to London, and hoping it goes below $800 round trip. But it may not - I've heard that Europeans, armed with their strong Euro, are filling the planes.

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Overhydrate: Drink as much water as you can, just make sure you mix in some salt, or better yet, Gatorade every once in a while. Electrolites can get dangerously low if you only drink to much water.

Carol Sottili: Good idea.

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Arlington, Va.: Greetings.
Regarding travel to Ireland in the colder months. My wife and I were in Ireland last February-March, jumping off at Shannon and returning from Dublin (definitely the way to do it), and driving all over in between. Several points that travelers to Eire during these months should be aware of--but the article missed. First, it is cold there; it actually snowed while we were in Galway. Those coal (mostly, very little peat these days) fires are indeed charming, but not very warming. Second, many small inns and B&Bs actually turn off the heat at night, despite the cold, so anyone going to Ireland should ask before booking. And, lastly, be aware that during the winter many tourist destinations, such as those in the Burren (which the article recommends, and is indeed beautiful when dusted by snow), are closed for several months. Those are the downsides. The upsides are many, particularly now that the smoking ban is in effect. Slante!

KC Summers: Yes, we've talked a lot about the heat problem in Ireland in winter on this chat and elsewhere, and probably should have emphasized that in the story. It can be coooold in those B&Bs at night. I did come across some peat fires in village pubs when I was there in fall/winter -- lovely. And yes, we did make the point that many if not most "attractions" outside Dublin are closed in winter. No problem hiking in the Burren though, and the roads are blessedly free of those blasted motorcoaches.

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Drink water: Please don't scare people about drinking too much water. Hydrotoxemia, or water overdose, is very rare and usually happens in runners who are doing long distances (marathons) in very hot weather. The result is sweating so much and drinking so much that the body's sodium content plummets. There is almost no way to accomplish this from only drinking even with moderate activity. Don't raise uneccessary worries for people who need to be drinking water at altitude.

Carol Sottili: Just want to cover all the bases.

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WDW-bound: We must be the odd ones out, but we actually like staying in a Disney property. This year, we found a great rate on their web-site for the week before Xmas (after making a phone reservation at the rack rate). You then get free parking and early access to the parks. In the winter, this makes a difference as they close pretty early. Maybe in spring or summer this wouldn't matter as much. At Universal, staying at the Hard Rock Hotel meant we could easily walk to both parks, park tickets for 2 of us were included in the hotel price, and we could (through their Express Pass system) ALWAYS go to the head of the line (non-park hotel related guests are limited to 3 EP/day). Our kids now refuse to wait more than 15 minutes for a ride. I know, very spoiled!;

John Deiner: Howdy, and thanks for chiming in. You make some swell points.

I love staying in Disney properties and try to do so whenever I can--like you said, you can't beat those perks! But the clickster asked for some options for spring that were also cost-effective. Gets very business in O-town in the spring months and prices really spike at Disney and elsewhere around town. The week before Christmas isn't a particularly busy time for Disney--it's the week between New Year's and Christmas that's a Mouse Madhouse. So it's understandable that you could find some bargains then.

That said, if folks can find cheap rates at Disney, they should certainly stay there (except for Pop Century, which is a DUMP).

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Maryland: I grew up on the FL west coast. Ocala to Sarastoa is about 3 hours. Siesta Key in Sarasota is a great main beach with miles of wide white sand with conveniences (food, bathrooms)(Siesta) and a very nice smaller option (Turtle). Beaches on the key have won many worldwide "white sand" competitions. There are also many smaller beach access areas along the length of the key. Siesta Key village is nice, and hotel options abound. It also gives you a chance to visit the ringling museum which is in Sarasota (but not on this key). other nearly beaches and keys give a multitude of options.

John Deiner: Great stuff, Maryland. And as long as we're down that far south, I really love Anna Maria Island as well--talk about undiscovered.

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Clifton, Va.: To the person wondering about which ski resort to ski in Salt Lake, I agree - ski all of them. They all offer a lot. Plus, it's worth driving to Snowbird for a day of skiing. It doesn't offer the resort atmosphere of the others but the skiing and scenary is the best. Intermediate slopes there are advanced everyplace else.

Carol Sottili: If I had only three days, I wouldn't drive to Snowbird. But if you have four or more, it's worth the trip. I prefer Alta, which is right next to Snowbird, because it's so naturally beautiful - you share the slopes with porcupines and they have bird feeders outside the restaurants.

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Maryland: I am planning a 5 week vacation in July this year, and plan to visit maui, hongkong, singapore, and yunnan china. what would you suggest to get the best airfare? what will be an optimal travel route?

thanks.

Anne McDonough: Cathay Pacific's All-Asia pass is about $1500, flying from NY to Hong Kong, and then from there you could go to Singapore; for an add-on, you can fly to Shangahi and then buy an internal flight to somewhere in Yunnan (probably Kunming, and the spread out from there) and then go back to Hong Kong. That does leave Maui out of the mix, though. If you're set on hitting all those destinations, I'd consider contacting a travel agent to find the best price. The ideal might be Hong Kong, then Yunnan, then Singapore, then home via Hawaii.

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Arlington, Va.: For some reason Travelsmith sends me their catalog every couple of months. I have never bought anything from them as it all seems to pricey. But I must admit some of the clothes look really nice and the descriptions make them sound perfect for traveling light. Are these things worth the expense or is there a cheaper alternative?

KC Summers: Personally I think their clothes (as well as from other places that specialize in travel goods, like Magellan's) are a little dorky. I think you can do better (not to mention cheaper) just buying knit, Lycra and lightweight-type clothing from the stores you regularly shop at. And be creative. One of my favorite pair of black knit pants for traveling are actually yoga pants.

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Shoes for Rockville: Born shoes are very comfortable and stylish enough for most non-coat and tie establishments. They are often available at Discount Shoe Warehouses at about $40, I'd guess.

KC Summers: Yep, I forgot Born, they're great.

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Puerto Rico bound!;: Hi Flight Crew!; I just found out that I'm going to San Juan for business in a couple of weeks, but will have an entire weekend to myself, to do as I please. Any recommendations for activites, food, etc? I don't know anything about the place so any advice is much appreciated!;

Gary Lee: You can't beat Old San Juan for elegant Caribbean charm. There's a fort right on the water there that you should visit. Otherwise, there are many boutiques some great for shopping in that area. You can also take a day trip to the rainforest just on the edge of the city. Your hotel can organize that.

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Bethesda, Md: Dear Crew,

I fly frequently, but I HATE turbulence and windy landings, etc. I'm the one grasping the seat in front of me and closing my eyes, praying for it to be over, while everyone else goes on reading and chatting. Are any of you in the same boat, and if so, how do you deal with it when it happens? I always try to reason with myself that flying is still safer than driving, etc, but such logic does not keep my heart from trying to escape from my chest!;

Carol Sottili: There are courses you can take to get over fear of flying. But before you invest big bucks, try these:
"Flying With Confidence" (888-U-WILL-FLY, www.flyingwithconfidence.com) is a $19.95 video that "explains modern airline flight in a calming way." Books include "Wings of Discovery" by Stacey L. Chance (Lumina Press, $13.95) and "Flying Without Fear" by Duane Brown (New Harbinger Publications, $14.95). Audiotapes include "Overcome the Fear of Flying" by Glenn Harold (Diviniti Publishing, $17.95) and "Fly Without Fear: Guided Mediations for a Relaxing Flight" (Soft Stone Publishing, $16.95).

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For San Diego bound: If you like Coronado (and what's not to love?) look into staying at the Glorietta Bay Inn. The main building is the former mansion of the guy who built the Del. There are inn rooms (expensive) and regular hotel rooms. You can walk around the charming main street area, but you will need a car (it's California!;) to reach downtown San Diego.

Carol Sottili: Yes, that's a very nice hotel!

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Walking shoe: It's not a walking shoe per se, but I would highly recommend a pair of waterproof Rockports. I'm wearing mine now, as they are great for trudging around in snow, but they are also super comfortable on long walking days.

KC Summers: I know a lot of guys swear by these. Do they make them for women, do you know?

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Arlington, Va.: I plan to visit Vancouver in early April. Is it a good time to visit? I don't mind the cold , but the rain. Thanks.

Gary Lee: It's a wonderful city to visit and like most places it's far more attractive in the sun. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that it won't rain, either in April or any other time of the year. I would say, go ahead but take an umbrella.

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Alexandria, Va.: My boyfriend and I are going to Ireland in late March, and have decided to extend our Icelandair layover in Reykjavik to about a day and a half. We are planning to rent a car, but are unsure about the best places to see in such a short time. Any suggestions? Also, we were wondering if it's necessary to book a place to stay in advance, or if we'll be safe just playing it by ear.

I loved the article on Ireland in winter in yesterday's paper - made me feel not quite so crazy for going in March.

Thanks!

KC Summers: Cindy, our Iceland expert, is off today, but we'll post a link to her recent ode to Iceland.

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RE: Lyons: Did you mean "Lyon" for the person from Monte Carlo to Paris? I lived there and its great. Great bars on Rue du St CAtherine!;

Gary Lee: Yes, Lyon it is and it is great ...

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Honeymooners heading to Scandinavia: For easy biking, try the Swedish islands in the Baltic Sea - Oland & Gotland.

Gary Lee: Thanks...

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New York, NY: I'm planning to go to Greece at the end of March. I looked up airfares on Friday and found a flight that was $650 and checked again this morning and the same flight was $750!; Do you think I should wait to see if the price drops or should I just go for the $750 price?

Carol Sottili: If you're at all flexible with dates, wait a week or two and see if the fares go down. If you need specific flights on specific dates, you may want to book now.

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re: shoes: Regardless of how comfortable they are when you buy them, take time to break them in, and not just by walking around the house. I've learned this from bitter experience and still remember the looks of pity from shopkeepers in Athens as I attempted to find sandals with the fewest possible straps for my blistered feet.

KC Summers: True, but I've found that if you get a good-quality shoe and are properly fitted, you can get away without the break-in period. Or maybe I'm just trying to rationalize how much money I spent on these Mephistos.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: My 9 siblings & I are planning to take my mother to Las Vegas in mid-June to celebrate her 75th birthday. She is in excellent health and this would be her first trip to Vegas. She has enjoyed the casinos on the East Coast & Carribbean. Any suggestions on where to stay or tips on planning/negotiating group travel deals for about 20+ people with kids as young as 7? The majority would be traveling from Maryland, three from Atlanta, GA and four from Austin, TX. Anyone know of a good travel agent for this type of trip?

John Deiner: Hey, UM. Sounds like a wild and crazy time you have planned out there.

Since I've never planned a trip for 20 to Sin City, don't really know what to tell you, except perhaps to zero in on some of the hotels you're interested in then calling to see if they'll give you a special rate. For a big group with kids, I'd suggest Mandalay Bay if you have a good budget, Circus Circus if you don't. Both are kid-friendlier than other casinos and fairly well located. (Circus Circus in particular is near Wet N Wild, a kid fave).

The travel agent idea is a good one as well, though I don't have anyone to suggest. Perhaps even AAA travel agents could give you a hand.

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washingtonpost.com: Earth to Iceland, (June 30, 2002)

KC Summers: For the Iceland layover person....

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Clarendon, Va.: Would really like to take my boyfriend some place special for Vday weekend, just a 1 night trip (leave Saturday and come back Sunday). Any great Inns/B&Bs/Resorts you can suggest that are reasonably priced and less than a 2 hour drive away please? Many thanks!

Anne McDonough: Forgive me for this but especially if you're looking for B&Bs that are reasonably priced, and less than two hours away, I'd say don't give in to the Valentine's hype and instead save a getaway for another weekend--nothing is more romantic than doing something for your own reasons rather than because it's dictated by the calendar and Hallmark. With that lecture over, check out the upcoming link to last June's issue all about B&bs within an hour of the Beltway for some ideas.

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washingtonpost.com: One Hour, (June 6, 2004)

Anne McDonough: Thanks, Kim! Here's the B&b roundup...

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Maryland: To the Utah skier, if you want to just ski and not worry about night life, then stay in SLC and ski at Snowbird and Alta. And its much cheaper than the PC area. Alta and Deer Valley also do not allow snowboarders. Snowbird and Alta I found to be more challenging than PC, but I also go stuck in a tree in the Jupiter bowl in PC, so what do I know.

Carol Sottili: It is much cheaper to stay in SLC, but it's not as convenient. I agree that Snowbird and Alta are overall more challenging, but the Park City resorts are not a cakewalk.

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Spur of the moment trip - girlfriend: She's still a friend. She is in real estate development, and had a great time looking at a totally different situation. We toured some new developments in the area (non-beach) for her to explore a different environment (her busman's holiday).

Carol Sottili: Good to hear!

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Park City Airfares: To the poster looking for cheap airfares to SLC: I have a place in Park City so I am constantly tracking these fares. What I've found is that there tend to be sales, but they only last about 24 hours at the most. Also, they happen more on the weekends. The best thing to do is track the fares on my yahoo (or another site) and jump as soon as they go down. I fly only out of national and got fares this season of $218, $258 (both non-stop DCA to SLC on Delta) and $141 (on American in March.) Good luck!; It's a great place to visit.

Carol Sottili: Thanks for the tip.

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Ireland question: My husband and I are both very interested in visiting Ireland, but I'm a little nervous about the food. Not for the usual reasons, but because I'm a vegetarian who really doesn't like making a fuss about special meals. Somewhere like Italy, I can quietly order food that doesn't include meat without drawing attention to myself. How dependent is Irish pub food on meat? Would we need to eat in restaurants only? I just hate to go and be the Picky American.

KC Summers: Anne recommends following a liquid diet. But seriously, folks, I think you could exist quite happily on the amazing, wonderful brown bread found everywhere in Ireland, and cheese -- but I'm no vegetarian. Can any non-meat-eaters who've spent time in Ireland opine on this?

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Arlington, Va.: Hello. I'm 30, single and an Indiana Jones/National geographic type adventurer with 4 weeks off in April. I want to take advantage of this opportunity to really go somewhere fantastic, spending under $4000 for the trip, including air. Been to Ecuador/Galapagos, most of Central America, Middle East. With such a long break, I'm going to the other side of the world. I'm looking for a place that offers ADVENTURE, and a variety of it. I'm contemplating Mongolia, or Laos/Vietnam/Cambodia. Maybe go diving in Ampat Raja, Yap or find a secluded fishing village on a Japanese coast. Maybe go to Yunnan or Gaungxi in China -- great landscapes, I hear. Where should I be considering? What place today screams ADVENTURE?

Gary Lee: I envy you. In your shoes, I would think about the Amazon. I took a great trip to Suriname a few years back: lost of fabulous hiking there and you'll have bragging rights 'cause hardly anyone has been there. Other possibilities: the Colca Canyon in Peru. I think combining the Irkutsk/Lake Baikal area of Russia with Mongolia is another great option but it will probably be cold n April.

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Rockport shoes: Yes, they make Rockports for women, but most stores carry only a few ugly models. I had much more luck find a pair of moderately attractive Rockports in Toronto at a huge Rockport store. So, if you can find a very large Rockport store (not White Fling or Montgomery Malls), you might luck out.

KC Summers: White Fling. Great typo!

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re: Iceland: One important thing to know if you heading out of Rejkyavik is that many places are closed outside the summer season. Also, go to the Blue Lagoon first - it's good, but not as wonderful as everyone will tell you. Favorite thing - riding Icelandic horses, an easy day trip.

KC Summers: Cindy's a HUGE Blue Lagoon fan too. Also loved the horses. Thanks for the tips.

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St. Paul, Minn.: Do you know of any website that would list restaurants in Paris that are open on Easter Sunday?

Gary Lee: You'd probably have to call the individual resturants for opening times. For starters, try patriciawells.com.

Bon Voyage!

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Fairfax, Va.: I'm curious what affect Southwest's announcement of code sharing with ATA will have. We can now book flights out of National and into Honolulu. Could we see Southwest flights out of National soon? Is the airline moving to take over ATA?

Carol Sottili: No, I don't think you'll see southwest jets flying out of National any time soon.

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Alexandria, Va.: Eleven years ago, my boyfriend (who became my ex 6 months later) and I decided to hop in my car and drive to the Outer Banks for Super Bowl weekend. It was as cold in Kill Devil Hills as it was here, but we got a room right on the beach and it was cool walking on the beach with snow blowing around. Watched the big game sitting at Awful Arthur's bar (and called in "sick" the next day at work - ex was a bad influence on me!).

Carol Sottili: But he does sound like fun.

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Turkey and then some...

I have had this inkling to go to Turkey recently. I've heard wonderful things about it, especially from those who went recently to combat the evil Euro's empire in Western Europe. I'm sort of a new traveler in that I've been to a lot of the major touristy sites in Europe so far (i.e. Paris, Rome, London, Madrid, etc.), but haven't really been off the beaten track. I realize Istanbul is quite touristy, but I realize there are great things to see there. I've heard that a visit to Turkey without doing an island hop is a fruitless trip. Is this true? I've heard that Turkish beaches are beautiful. More and more, my girlfriend and I are leaning the cruise route, so that we can see plenty of beaches, not only in Turkey, but Greece, Croatia and Italy. Since we are planning on travelling in August, the cruise option might be the best to escape the balmy weather of the Mediterranean. Do you recommend a cruise, or are we better off picking a country (i.e. Turkey or Greece) and visiting the islands ourselves? Are there any good sites to find discount cruise fares outside of Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity?

Thanks

P.S. - Just got back from Prague for New Years. Summary: Beautiful, more tourists than Czechs, cheap food/drink, go now before they adopt the Euro!!!!!

John Deiner: Hey, FB. Bravo to you for considering Turkey! Lots of questions here, but I'll jump on the Turkey one with relish.

Just go. It's wonderful, doesn't matter if you see Istanbul or the whole country--touristy, shmouristy, I say. If you don't go someplace because other tourists have discovered it, you'd never see the Grand Canyon, Paris, Rome, the Great Wall. You get the picture. Istanbul is an amazing place--you'll never forget it, despite the other tourists ambling around. And I'd much rather see just a piece of something than none of it at all--if I'm lucky I'll get to go back and see everything I missed.

Lots of ways to find good cruise prices, but one of our favorite ways these days is to go to www.cruisecompete.com and let various agents fight over us. Type in what you want, and you'll get different prices from different agents for the same cruise. (For my money, I so enjoyed traveling through the Turkish countryside that I'd always opt to be on the ground in that region.)

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Washington, DC: I decided just last week to head down to Costa Rica for this past weekend (what with my office being shut down Wed. afternoon and all day Thursday). Used frequent flyer miles and went. It was gorgeous and sunny!; So, so nice to get that dose of sun and warmth. The only downside was having to use the standard miles rather than saver. Spent four days in Manuel Antonio overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Carol Sottili: You have made me very envious.

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Last Minute Trip Ideas: Besides Site59.com, do you know of any good websites that offer last minute trip deals? And... if one were looking for to spend a long weekend somewhere warm without breaking the bank, what would you recommend?

KC Summers: We like Site59. Did you know that Hotwire and Priceline have last-minute deals now too? And check out SmarterTravel.com (the former Smarter Living) -- they regularly offer great deals. Also, I like a site called Go-Today.com, which has had some really incredible last-minute packages.

For a last-minute warm weekend, check sites like Liberty Travel and Apple Vacations for three-day package deals (air/hotel and sometimes food too). You'll probably end up in touristy places like Cancun or Puerta Cana, D.R., but you know, if you're craving the sun, it's amazing how much fun you can have in places like these.

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Somewhere USA: Just a small suggestion. As you look at questions you plan to answer on your chat, coudl you try and start with those for which you don't know the answer and are relying on other clicksters for a response?

When requests like those come at the end of the chat, there's rarely time for a response, but if they come earlier, we may be able to get to them.

Thanks.

Carol Sottili: Geez, I wish we could be so organized. We just try to get through as many as we can, as quickly as we can.

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Singapore: To the person coming to Asia this summer -- don't know how the fares would compare, but they might want to look into Singapore Airlines as Silk Air flies into Kunming. Getting to Maui from either HK or Singapore requires fortitude -- or travel via Tokyo/Narita (maybe also Taipei), but nothing direct from their other travel choices.

Anne McDonough: Good idea--thanks! The other thought is getting an L.A. leg in there somewhere and then buying a separate LA-Maui ticket.

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WDC: Walking shoes: Try Zappos.com for good walking shoes. They have free shipping and returns, so if the shoes don't work out you can easily return them. I'm a big fan of the site.

KC Summers: Ooh, thanks much! Will definitely check this one out.

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RE Walking Shoes: Merrill's!;!;!; I can't say enough about them!; They come in a variety of styles, from high-top hiking boots, to, well, pale pink suede loafers. I have to literally walk miles some days for my job (farm inspector), and I swear by these shoes!;

KC Summers: I love Merrills too -- I have three pairs -- but I think they're a little sportier than the questioner had in mind. I haven't seen their pink loafers though! They sound cool.

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Shoe Rec: I have a pair of Munro boots from Nordstrom that are very comfy. I second the part about breaking in the shoe, or at least making sure it will not give you blisters by wearing the new shoe for a full day before you go.

KC Summers: Noted.

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Laurel, Md.: It wasn't a "last minute, get up and go trip" but I did just get back from a week in the sun. We left on Saturday the 15th, which you might remember was the first day that wasn't in the 60s. Now that I've returned...

Oh, well, it snows every year.

Carol Sottili: Funny, I lived in San Diego for ten years, and missed the seasons. But I often wish winter would last for only about six weeks.

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Rockports for women: They have quite a few models at the outlets in Hagerstown where their store is combined with Reebok.

KC Summers: Who knew shoes were such a hot topic? thanks for the tip.

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Washington, DC: Costa Rica person again. Just wanted to note that the flight was only 4.5 hours there and just 4 hours back with the direct flight on United. With a one hour time difference, this is an easy weekend trip!;

Carol Sottili: Thanks.

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RE: Veggie in Ireland: My sister and I went in '98. We're both veggies and hate making a fuss. We ate great the entire time. Honestly can't remember how we did it, but we did. And there were several pub trips. Have a GREAT time!;

KC Summers: So, what did you eat?

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for fear of flying poster: i too fly frequently but do not like turbulence. many years ago, i was seated next to an elderly woman and we hit terrible turbulence. i was very scared, and she said, it was nothing to worry about, that turbulence was like an airplane flying through potholes. somehow that analogy calmed me and still does to this day. hope that helps!;

Carol Sottili: Hmmm. Never thought of it that way.

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Washington D.C.:
Hi -- fine article on New York's upper West Side, but I thought that the world's largest cathedral was in the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire)?

Perhaps the one in New York is the world's largest Protestant cathedral, still a mark of distinction.

KC Summers: Hmm. We'll have to check this out. Stay tuned....

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Washington, DC: Hi flight crew,

A mulipart question here: I'm planning a trip to Eastern Europe this spring (April or May). The friend I'm going with wants to visit Prague and Budapest, and we're trying to pick two more cities--is this too much for two weeks?

If not, what cities would you recommend? I'm leaning towards Vilnius (for family history reasons) and maybe Riga or Krakow, because I've heard they're interesting. She's leaning towards Berlin, because it might be cheaper to fly into than the others. What do you think? What makes the most sense geographically (I know these aren't all that close together), price-wise, interest-wise?

Also, are there any particularly good places to look for package deals? I definitely don't want a guided tour, but do you think a flight-and-hotel package might end up being cheaper than booking it all separately?

Gary Lee: I have been to almost all of the cities in that region, including all those that you mention. Here are my thoughts:

Aside from Paris, Berlin is probably the most interesting city in Europe. However, since you are already doing the top urban destinations in that part of the world, it might be nice to balance it out with something smaller.

In that case, I would combine Vilnius and Riga. They are near enough to one another that you can do them both without too much hassle. (When the Soviet Union collapsed, I took a taxi from Riga to Vilnius.)

Concerning packages, sometimes they offer a break, sometimes not. Price it out. Check with Eastern Tours LTD. They have packages in that part of the world.

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Columbia, SC: For the folks with the big group going to Vegas I would not suggest Circus, Circus. Even small children might realize that this place is not a very nice property and poorly located on the Strip. If budget is a concern, I would focus on Strip properties that have really nice pools but which are at the lower end of the budget spectrum: Tropicana and the Flamingo Hilton. However, if you schedule your trip from Monday - Friday (with no nights on the weekends), you probably could get a good rate at nicer places such as Mandalay Bay. While normally I would suggest signing up for e-mail alerts from the casinos, since you have such a large group I would think that you might get a special rate of some sort.

John Deiner: Thanks, Columbia. Good points about Circus Circus, but I can't whole-heartedly agree. Yeah, it's not the best property, but the place always seems to be a kid magnet, the rooms are decent, and there's a heck of a lot more for them to do there (game areas, circus acts, that amusement park) than anywhere mid-Strip. Ideally, you wouldn't bring your kids to Vegas at all (which I've been preaching for years). That said, Flamingo has a totally rockin' pool, and I agree with you that kids really dig it.

Going mid-week is an excellent idea, too, as long as there's no big convention eating up rooms at the particular resort you have yer eyes on.

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For the Istanbul traveler: Istanbul is worth a week at least, so focus there. I lived there for 2 years and totally recommend it. A good investment is Freely's Strolling Through Istanbul, which will definitely enhance the experience.

John Deiner: Good stuff. Thanks!

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Talking Turkey: Most of the islands off the coast of Turkey are Greek.

John Deiner: Thanks.

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Anchorage, Alaska: I am going to take a trip to Central Europe this summer and plan to rent a car. The Int'l Drivers Permit is apparently offered through many venues. The most legitimate seems to be AAA. Do I need to be a memeber to purchase an IDP through AAA? Are the others that charge more legit?

KC Summers: No, actually the U.S. State Dept. has only authorized two companies to issue IDPs: AAA and the National Automobile Club. Link to yesterday's CoGo item on this coming right up.

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Veggies in Eire: My wife is a vegetarian and went to school in Dublin. We went to visit her family 2 Christmas's ago and had no problem at restaurants. It's a modern, Western European country and the staff at all of the places we went were very accomodating to her diet.

KC Summers: Excellent. Thanks much.

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Re; Veggie in Ireland: My husband and I just got back from Scotland and we're both vegetarians. Turns out almost EVERY menu (whether a nice restaurant, pub, whatever) had an entire veggie section on it. Some were the usual -- mac & cheese, veggie lasagna, salads, whatever -- and some went above-board and created some really unique things. The UK is pretty forward-thinking with their food. You shouldn't have any problems at all.

KC Summers: Perfect. Thanks.

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Arlington, Va.: Re: Disney hotels

I recommend staying at the Doubletree Club Lake Buena Vista. Great property, reasonable price, right by Disney property, and easy access to I-4...

John Deiner: That's a beaut...thanks Arl. Plus I believe it's connected to the Disney parks by Disney buses.

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Arlington, Va.: Regarding vegies and Ireland. My wife and I (we of the heat-seeking last year) are both vegetarians, and had no real problem even in small towns. Breakfasts are not all rashers of bacon or whatever, but include porridge and scones and the like. The bread and cheese are indeed excellent, and everywhere there are outstanding vegie soups. If one extends to fish, there are many opportunities as well for fine fresh seafood. And Guinness, of course, is vegetarian, so no problem!

KC Summers: More good news for veggie-lovers in Ireland....

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Alexandria, Va.: To the hesitant vegetarian traveler to Ireland - my husband and I, both vegetarians, found plenty to eat when we were there several years ago. There is always soup (okay, we didn't ask about the base), bread, cheese, salads, potatoes (yes, I know), and tons of ethnic restaurants (some of the best Indian food I've ever tasted). Ireland is one of my favorite places, and the food was better than I expected.

KC Summers: And more...

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Infrequent flyer: Two questions re. airline travel: Will a hair dryer set off any alarm bells with security? Assuming no, should it be packed in checked or carry-on luggage?
Any pointers on how to keep a 4-year old occupied during a 2-hour flight?

Carol Sottili: A hair dryer in either checked or carry-on luggage should be fine. As long as your flight is on time, you shouldn't have trouble keeping your child occupied for two hours. When my kids were small, we read books to them, colored, played Go Fish, and packed lots of snacks.

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Non meat eating Irish visitor: I really didn't have trouble finding veggie options in Ireland. Usually I supplemented my liquid diet with great breads, salads and even great grilled cheese sandwiches!; Most large cities have a wide array of restaurants, like you'll find anywhere in the US. We had great Indian food in Dublin, not a piece of meat in sight!; Take the trip- and enjoy it!;

KC Summers: And still more...

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Philly: We're going to Philadelphia in two weeks for a concert at The Electric Factory. We'll only be there Friday and Saturday. I've read your article, but we haven't been to the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall yet. What do you think are the best attractions? Also, do you think we could walk to most things? Our hotel is next to the convention center.

Thank you!;

Also-the person worried about altitude sickness should make sure everyone wears sunscreen and they should use a buddy system so no one is alone. Altitude sickness can manifest itself as confusion as well.

Gary Lee: You can go to the Liberty Bell and do most of the other things in the article in two days. If you have to skip something, don't worry about the shopping venues or the boxing (unless you're really into boxing.)

The Constitution Center, the Kimmel Center and the Rodin Museum are must-sees.

And Warmdaddy's is a good late night distraction.

Please give a report on the Electric Factory when you get back. I am curious about it.

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Arlington, Va.: I didn't do a spur of the moment get away last year, but did a spur of the minute booking last January. Windjammer was having a great special - kids sail free- and although we already had a summer beach week planned for July, I just had to get my family on that trip. So, although I was still stuck here in February, I was able to enjoy my pre-trip daydreaming through the cold temps. Spent hours checking into the islands we would visit - St Kitts, Tortola, Vigin Gorda - and got the kids involved in deciding which excursions we'd like to do. I also spent lots of time investigating options for hotels in St Marteen - after reading up on chat rooms and such. For me, getting geared up for the trip is ALMOST as much fun as the trip itself--- but not quite.

Carol Sottili: Windjammer often does have good last-minute deals.

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20009: to south lake tahoe: I'm planning a short excursion to ski a few places at Tahoe. I would love to hear any recomendations of a place to stay less than $80 a night. A cute, clean mom and pop place would be great..with a hot tub to ease tired ski legs would make it perfect.

Carol Sottili: I don't know what the prices are now, but several years ago, we stayed in the Best Western Stagecoach Inn. Price and location were good, and it has an outdoor hot tub.

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Washington, DC: Any contact information for Eastern Tours Ltd?

Gary Lee: It's actually Eastern Tours Consolidated.

The website is www.traveltorussia.com. Tel. 800-339-6967.

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Vienna, Va.: The Homestead or The Greenbriar? We want to take my husband's parents to one of these resorts for their 40th anniversary. The Greenbriar is much more expensive...is it worth it? Or will they be just as pleased with the weekend at the Homestead? They both golf, but aren't anywhere near pros. Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Greenbrier vs. Homstead (pdf file)

KC Summers: Here you go, a link that addresses that very question. Steve and I compared the resorts last year on everything from afternoon tea to spa services to the types of movies they offer. I've stayed at both and would have to say that while you can't go wrong at the Homestead, it's a little more Southern-feeling and genteel than the Greenbrier. Not dowdy, just a little more staid. I personally loved the eye-popping decor at the Greenbrier. The public rooms just knock your socks off. Also, I thought the shops were better.

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veggie food in Ireland: I'm a vegetarian, and I didn't have a problem finding food when I traveled to Ireland last year. I found plenty of potato soup that wasn't made with chicken stock, pasta, and a delightful dish at a French restaurant in Dublin (unfortunately, I had too much wine to remember what it was exactly!;). In addition, I always check out www.vegdining.com and happy cow before I travel to get suggestions, so I have some places to go if I can't find veg food anywhere. The Irish people are quite wonderful, so I'm sure they'll be happy to accomodate you!; Slainte!;

KC Summers: And more... thanks for that WEb site tip.

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Carol Sottili: Thanks eveyrone for joining us on this allegedly depressing day. The sun is shining and the days are getting longer. The winner of the Elton John tape and Bahamas mousepad is our gal with the bad boy ex-boyfriend who knows Awful Arthurs (yes, we also own the T-shirt). Send your contact info to sottilic@washpost.com.

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