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TRAVEL Q&A

Travel Q& A: First Class vs. Coach on Eurostar, Outer Banks Fun for Kids

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By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, March 29, 2009

Q. We're taking the Eurostar from London to Brussels, and our travel agent recommends purchasing first-class tickets. She likened the regular-fare seats to a "cattle car." We will be tired after flying in from Dulles that morning, so we want to make the trip as relaxing as possible. Recommendations, please.

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Patty Thomas, Williamsburg

A. Go with coach and use the savings for a chocolate binge in Brussels. This is, after all, just a two-hour trip. A one-way, nonrefundable first-class seat starts at $175; coach, $98. Here's what you get for the extra $77: a reclining seat, more legroom, newspapers and magazines, meals and refreshments served at your seat and a power socket.

In coach, the seats are not as comfortable, said Deborah Jett, a leisure-travel specialist with McCabe World Travel in McLean. You have to buy your food, and you'll be sharing your car with the likes of students, backpackers and families with children. "It's not quite as comfortable as first class," Jett said, "but it's not exactly a cattle car."

My family (two adults, two kids ages 7 and 4) is going to North Carolina in July, spending three or four days at the Outer Banks. Could you suggest kid-friendly activities two or three hours from there?

K. Bocus, Derwood

You have two basic choices, says Wit Tuttell of North Carolina's Division of Tourism:

-- If you're staying in the northern part of the Outer Banks (Corolla, Duck, Nags Head), go inland to the little towns in northeastern North Carolina.

"This will be old-fashioned North Carolina and a real different experience than the beach," Tuttell said.

A little more than an hour's drive west of Nags Head is Edenton, known as the prettiest small town in the South, with a fascinating Colonial past (the town had its own version of the Boston Tea Party in 1774) and trolley tours of the historic district. Take the kids to see some of the world's rarest and most exotic birds at the family-friendly Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park (252-826-3186, http://www.shwpark.com), or go hiking, canoeing and mountain biking in Dismal Swamp State Park (252-771-6593, http://www.ncparks.gov), with 20 miles of trails. You can learn about the early dwellers of the region in Elizabeth City's Museum of the Albemarle (252-335-1453, http://www.museumofthealbemarle.com).

-- If you're in the southern Banks (Hatteras, Avon, Ocracoke), head to the Crystal Coast. While this area is still beachy, it's a very different experience, Tuttell said, because the coast faces south and doesn't get the same wave action as the Outer Banks.

Tuttell said one of his kids' favorite activities in this area is the Wee Pirate Treasure Hunt in Atlantic Beach (252-726-1434, http://www.piratequeenpaddling.com), where little swashbucklers paddle to a secret island, follow a treasure map and return with their booty. Cost: $35 for kids, $25 for adults.

For ghost stories, visit the Colonial town of Beaufort, haunt of the notorious English pirate Edward Thatch, a.k.a. Blackbeard. Port City Pirates and Ghosts (http://www.portcitytourcompany.com) and Beaufort Ghost Walk (http://www.tourbeaufort.com/ghostwalk.htm) offer tours. You can see artifacts from Blackbeard's ship at the N.C. Maritime Museum (252-728-7317, http://www.ncmaritimemuseum.org).

For more info: North Carolina Division of Tourism, 800-847-4862, http://www.visitnc.com.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


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