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The Post's Flight Crew: (from left to right) John Deiner, Carol Sottili, Steve Hendrix, Anne McDonough, Gary Lee, K.C.
Summers, Cindy Loose, Andrea Sachs.
The Post's Flight Crew: (from left to right) John Deiner, Carol Sottili, Steve Hendrix, Anne McDonough, Gary Lee, K.C. Summers, Cindy Loose, Andrea Sachs.

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The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, February 5, 2007; 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.

You may also browse an archive of previous live travel discussions. For daily dispatches, check out Travel Log, the Travel section's new blog.

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Steve Hendrix: All those times during the last two months that I bemoaned the creepy mild weather and wished for a real blast of winter? I take it back. Crikey. Just walking to lunch made my teeth chatter, and that was going to the cafeteria the second floor--it's THAT cold.

I wonder if this long-coming brrrrrrreath of the Arctic is generating a rush on flights to warmer climes? South seems good right now (although that soggy Super Bowl was hardly a commercial for South Florida weather).

Just to encourage a little healthy workday fantasizing, we invite you to send in your best escape-from-the-cold scenario. Can something true from your travel history, can be made-up, can be anything you like (except pornographic or dull), just give us something to warm our hands over.

And of course, we're here for any follow-up questions to our huge Way to Go section yesterday, our annual encyclopedia of all things travel.

So. Away we go.

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Clifton, Va: I had thought Sidestep was the ultimate airfare search engine (excepting specific airlines such as Southwest). But last week it came up fruitless when we had a fairly narrow window to go from Washington to Dallas. In desperation, I tried the other sites separately, and Orbitz got me what I needed. What gives? I thought Sidestep "searched all the other sites". Can you remind us of your super-travel-search-engine favorites?

Carol Sottili: All these sites have their strong/weak points. That's why it's a good idea to try a few. Kayak.com is another metasearch site that usually works, although I get frustrated with it at times, too. Sidestep is usually a good product.

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Cupcakes: I know this is a silly question, but I assure you, it's real, and TSA won't respond to my inquiries: I am taking a group of 13 friends to Costa Rica with me in 2 weeks. We will all be on the same flight. One of my good friends will have her birthday the day we leave. I wanted to make it special & celebrate with chocolate cupcakes on the plane. I want to know if it's ok to bring them on the plane or will they be "randomly" take away from me at security? No liquids, no jelly filling, just plain store bought chocolate cupcakes. Help?

Andrea Sachs: You can bring your cupcakes and eat them too, as long as they are solid food (no liquidy icing). Just keep them in an unwrapped box that can be easily opened for inspection.

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Washington DC: Hi Flight Crew, I really appreciated the article on getting good hotel rates. I'm usually pretty good, but picked up a few new sites and tips from yesterday's article.

Question, tho. What should I do if I need multiple rooms? I have a band coming in from NYC for an event I'm organizing this summer & will need to put up 10 ppl. None of the websites mentioned (e.g. priceline, expedia, hotels.com, etc) allow you to get more than 3 or 4 rooms & I've been less than pleased with the response from the hotels "group contacts". Any suggestions?

Thanks.

Gary Lee: Try the website www.groople.com. It seems to provide just what you're looking for.

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Williamsburg, Va : We are flying from Dulles to Frankfurt next month on United. We just found out the aircraft used for our flight was switched from a 767 (which has individual seatback monitors, crucial when travelling with two young girls and the whole reason we chose UA rather than Lufthansa) to a 747 (communal, kid-unfriendly monitors hanging from the ceiling). Do we have any recourse with United? I don't expect them to switch planes but a little peace offering on their part would be nice.

Carol Sottili: You don't have any recourse, and United is not going to sweeten the pot. The airlines reserve the right to switch aircraft, and this happens fairly frequently. It's maddening, I know, but I've learned that if an airline offers lots of different aircraft, there's a chance you won't get the plane you want. Even if they agreed to switch you to a different flight with the 767, no guarantees.

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United Airlines via USAir: My parents and I are on the same flight to Aruba in March. My mom booked hers with USAir and I used United because the difference in cost was minimal. The flight is a United operated flight, USAir is sharing it I guess.

When checking in should she go to United or USAir?

Also, she has United mileage account and no USAir account. Can those be converted to United, since the flight is operated through them?

Cindy Loose: If the flight is really a United flight, even though she bought the ticket as a code share from US Airways, she should check in with United.

As to ff miles---you can't switch them between accounts even with partners once you've earned them, but before flying you can designate which frequent flyer account you want your miles credited to. So, know your frequent flyer number for the appropriate airline and let them know when buying the ticket or sometime after, before flying, that's where you want your miles credited.

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Bethesda, Md: My biggest beef about most hotel web sites is that you cannot indicate that two people travelling together want a room with 2 beds. You can do this on individual hotel and hotel chair web sites. Of course I haven't checked out all your entries, but I have used most of them. Do you have any suggetions on how to get around this problem? Thanks.

Gary Lee: It's hard to get hotels to set aside any particular room for you in advance. What I'd recommend is booking through whatever site gives you the best deal. After the reservation is confirmed, called or e-mail the hotel, give them your reservation information and tell them that you want a room with two beds. Ask them to confirm that and take the response with you when you check in.

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Arlington, Va: Funny that you mention this cold weather...

I'm planning to visit one of the islands in the Caribbean. I've looked at airfares and am a bit depressed at how high the airfares are ($550+). As an alternative, I'm considering buying airfare for different legs of the trip - e.g., ticket for DC to Miami, second ticket for Miami to Caribbean. I've never used this type of arrangement, and would appreciate your input on this type of arrangement. Is this a pain to go through the check-in times two? How much time should I allot between legs to make sure I don't miss any flights?

Thx!

Steve Hendrix: Well, it does add hassle to fly on more than one carrier, but it's hassle that can be minimized with some research and planning. If you can avoid checking bags, you'll save a lot of time between flights. Find out BEFORE you book if the flights are in diffent terminals or otherwise (in Miami, they may well be different terminals even on the same airline), and give yourself plenty of time cushion. If you get delayed by one carrier, you can't expect any sympathy from the other.

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Boston, Mass: My best beat the cold travel story would have to be spring break from last year!

I go to school in boston, and last year it was terribly cold in early march, so my friends and I found cheap plane tickets and booked ourselves a flight to the bahamas. The only thing was we did not really factor a hotel in any of this, so we decided to turn our break into an ecotrip! We camped half the time and stayed in cheap hotels the rest of the time. It was wonderful and not cold!!!

Steve Hendrix: Camped where? On the beach? In proper campgrounds?

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Lefty, Morocco: Some friends are considering Marrakech this year, and I'm

interested but I'm concerned because I'm left handed. I've

heard that is considered very rude to use ones left hand for

eating etc. How much of a problem is it?

Anne McDonough: How about this: If you can avoid using your left hand when handing over money, and if you shake with your right hand, you'll be fine. If you're sharing a common dish with the group at a restaurant and it's just your friends, don't worry about the left vs right, just eat; if you go to someone's home and there's a communal dish, if you can do it, try using just your right hand hand. I wouldn't let this hold you back, at all--it's such a great place and as long as you're not flagrantly dipping your left hand into a communal dish and waving it around (and who would do that?!) you'll be fine. I can recommend Hotel Essaouira, right off Place Djemaa el Fna and about $11.50 a night for a double (not ensuite), and Essaouira itself for a fabulous day trip. Cascades d'Ouzoud, too--though only if you go by taxi or rent a car; I did it by public transportation and that leaves so little time at the falls itself. Also, Andrea's a lefty who went to Morocco, and never felt out of place or disrespectful. Go!

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Washington, DC: Hi Flight Crew! I'm heading to Asheville, NC in two weeks. I'm planning to visit the Bilmore Estate for a day. Is it worth spending time outside even though it's winter (Chimney Rock? Blue Ridge Parkway?)? Any restaurants that should not be missed? Thanks!

John Deiner: Hey, DC. That's a great part of the world, and even at Biltmore you may find yourself outside a bit exploring the gardens, or at least what's usually gardens.

I'd definitely consider doing outdoorsy stuff; at Chimney Rock, for example, there's a buy-one-get-one-free deal for Valentine's week if you want to "Bring your sweetie to the Park for a romantic walk in the woods." (That's they're quote, not mine). The following week there's a "Naked Tree Peeping Guided Hike." Assuming it's the trees that are naked and not the peepers. Go to www.chimneyrockpark.com for more details.

And the winter is a great time to hit the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check out www.blueridgeparkway.org for a slew of hints on how to visit the area this time of year. Be aware that parts of the route are closed for various reasons, but there's a link to a list of closures.

As far as restaurants go....help! Anyone out there have some hints?

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Silver Spring, Md: We are considering flying into Calgary in early April, then driving to Vancouver, via Banff and other scenic places. How likely are the roads to be clear of snow by then? Would we be able to tour much in places such as Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper? We do not know much about sights we might see along the road in British Columbia, other than Glacier (a bit off our route, I think). We plan on ending our trip in Seattle, either taking the train from Vancouver or the large commercial catamaran from Victoria. Suggestions?

Cindy Loose: The roads between Calgary and Banff and Lake Louise should not be a problem. By April they tend to have slushy, wet snowfalls and they clean it up quickly. In fact, those roads are well scrapped all year, so at worst even in the dead of winter you just have to wait out a blizzard, knowing the trucks and plows will be clearing up the minute the blizzard stops.

As to the high passes beyond that in British Columbia--probably it will be okay in late April but the weather is quite unpredictable and there would be no guarantees. You might want to call reservationists at 800-Alberta and ask what they know, and also ask them for the contact in B.C., which I don't happen to know by heart.

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dc office: may not sound warm enough for some - but a few years ago i left dc in feb. to go to....Iceland - but more specifically the Blue Lagoon for a weekend. A bathing suit on, outside in Feb - was lovely!!!!

Steve Hendrix: Oh, extra points for a counterintuative fantasy.

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Selecting a seat: Is it unusual for all the seats on a late May flight to be assigned already? I tried to select seats from the airline's website soon after booking with an online agency, but everything is taken--and we're stuck in the dreaded middle row for an overseas flight.

Any suggestions for sweet talking the airline into moving us?

Carol Sottili: If you get to the airport early enough, there is a good chance you'll get your seat switched. They save some of the better seats for last-minute customers and/or frequent fliers - in other words, people who will spend bigger bucks on the tickets. When you say you are stuck in the middle row, as long as you have an aisle seat, that's not too awful. Your chances of getting a seat moved are better if you're traveling alone, or you're willing to be split up. I was in a similar boat recently and had no luck with phone/Internet before the flight. Because I had no seat assignment (at least I think that's why), I couldn't check in online either. Got to airport early and got an aisle seat in the middle row bulkhead.

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Driving 'round the Big Island: Hi there,

We're going to the Big Island for 9 days at the end of March. Wish we were going sooner with this arctic weather, alas. We plan on driving clockwise around the island, starting from Kailua-Kona to Waimea, then Hilo, Volcano National Park, South Point and Captain Cook, back to Kona. Is this doable - and enjoyable - in the time we have? Our plans are to hike to the volcanoes, hike down to Green Sand Beach, kayak, ride horses, y'know, the whold active vacation thang.

Thanks v. much.

Steve Hendrix: Oh sure. You make it from Hilo to Kona in a morning, even less if you take the Saddle Road (which those namby pamby rental car companies don't like you taking. It's fine). You've got plent of time.

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Atlanta, Ga: Hello Flight Crew. I am going to be visiting Paris and Rome next month (four days in each). This will be my first time in either city, and I was wondering if any of you had suggestions re: things not to be missed (outside of the no-brainers like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Colosseum)? Thanks!

KC Summers: Here are a few of my favorite places and things to do in Paris: the St. Chapelle church, for the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the city; walking in the historic Marais neighborhood, with its gorgeous architecture, shops, galleries, etc.; the Rodin, Picasso and d'Orsay museums; wandering around St. Germain des Pres. In Rome, I'd strongly recommend two side trips to the 16th-century Villa d'Este, with its incredible gardens, and Hadrian's Villa -- two really unforgettable places to wander.

Other nominations for favorites from the chatters?

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Wooster, Ohio: Hi:

I have an airline moral dilema I was hoping to get some advise with.

I booked a flight for my family in December for a trip on Friday. I didn't buy a ticket for my daughter who was 1 at the time - however, she just had her second birthday and is now two (and not a lap baby)- this did not register with me when I bought the tickets.

I paid about $190 per ticket in Dec - buying the same ticket now would be over $700. Do I have any recourse other than either paying $700 or just lying to the airline staff, neither of which is very appealling. I'd love to just pay $190 for another ticket, but I don't think they'd let me - and if I'd ask, they would probably make me buy the $700 ticket. Help!

Cindy Loose: That's a tough one. Normally I urge people to buy tickets even for infants cause it's safer to have them in a seat and easier for the parents. And I never advise lying, and under normal circumstances would say you owe it to the airline and to the child to have a seat. But I see your point that this is not a normal circumstance.

That's as close as I want to come to advise lying, and am also going to seek the opinion of others. What do you think, dear chatters?

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Rio de janiero: I'm leaving for Rio next Tues and will have a day or two to relax before Carnival kicks off. Is there anything you'd recommend that I see or do while I'm there? I've been there before so I've see the soccer stadium, the Jesus statue, etc. Anything local that shouldn't be missed? Thanks!

Gary Lee: Check out the Corcovado Train.

Anyone else have Rio tips.

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Pittsburgh, Pa: Wish I were in my beloved Azores right now, where the temperatures are higher in Celsius degrees than they are here in Fahrenheit!

Specifically, today's forecast for there was max/min 17/11C, whereas here it's now UP to 6F. (Those Celsius temps work out to roughly 63/52F). I don't think I could take really hot weather right now -- the shock to my system would be too great, and I'd probably get heat-sick.

Folks in the Azores are preparing for the upcoming Carnaval right now. BTW, when's the WaPo article on Azores tourism going to appear? Just reading it could make me feel a bit warmer!

Steve Hendrix: Thanks, Pitts. Look for Mr. Deiner's long-awated Azores story in March.

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Boston, Mass: RE: Spring Break

The Bahamas actually do not have any formal camp grounds, but we actually just asked a guy who owned some beach front property if we could camp out for a couple of days as a joke and he said yes! It was heaven on a beach!

Steve Hendrix: Bravo!

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Woodley Park, Washington, DC: Scotland airfares--I'm traveling to Scotland to walk the Great Glen Way with family the week of May 11. Airfares are outrageous. Nearly $1000 roundtrip. Should I wait and hope they come down, or suck it up and buy the ticket? Thanks.

Andrea Sachs: Since high season is nearing, the fares are going to start rising. But that seems on the high end. I'd wait. In fact, I just did a search on Orbitz and found $600, plus taxes.

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Washington, DC: I'm trying to use United frequent flyer miles to get to Vietnam. Of course, as expected there is very limited seat availability. But United appears to have erected a new obstacle to using FF miles that I was unaware of. The United rep told me that the total miles for the flights must be no more 10,000 miles--which essentially limits routing to one option! That option takes 30+ hours, instead of 24 or 25. Basically we waste another day traveling. Have you run into this? Any way around these limitations?

Carol Sottili: I've not heard of this new wrinkle, and a quick search of www.webflyer.com didn't come up with anything. I'd log on to www.flyertalk.com to see if anyone knows details. Or maybe one of our chatters can help.

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West End, Washington, DC: With MaxJet suspending operations from Dulles until May, do you sense this is the end of MaxJet? Are you hearing that people are having trouble rebooking flights?

Cindy Loose: I've heard they're doing fine out of NY, and when I talked to their CEO recently he assured me all was well-for what that's worth. Certainly big airlines with multiple flights cut service to Europe in the winter and increase in the summer, so I don't think that MaxJet's suspension this winter necessarily means its death.

I haven't heard from a single person complaining of having trouble rebooking, but since I've mentioned it now maybe I will.

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Respite from the Cold: I have never been so cold as when I was in Beijing in January of 2003. In fact, it was so cold inside (due to the fact that no one ever turned on the heat wherever we went), that sometimes it was warmer outside, where at least we had the sun. The best purchase I made there was to buy a packet of red gel-like substance that had a metal disk inside its plastic pouch. You snapped the metal disk, and the gel instantly liquefied and became hot. It lasted for 20-30 minutes, and it was great to stick in your pockets to keep your hands warm. The Chinese had stations outside that would re-heat these metal packets for you on metal lids over pots of boiling water. I don't know how I would have survived the Siberia-like conditions had it not been for these little packets of heaven!

Steve Hendrix: Well, the hallway to our cafeteria is even colder than that.

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Silver Spring, Md: No question, just a comment.

Thank you for the Travel Log (blog). Overdue (I know you're all busy) but chock full of a great variety of travel information. Please keep it going and keep up the great work. Plus, your photos are enlarged on it and you have quite a photogenic crew!

Strong work and thanks again.

KC Summers: Hey, if it's true that any idiot can do a blog, we figured we were prime candidates! The heck with all that pesky reporting. Kidding! We are really having fun with it and it seems to be enhancing, rather than detracting, from our day jobs -- we're getting great feedback from some of the responses, and it's great to be able to put breaking news items, deals, etc., out there. We can just throw the topic sentence out there, if need be, then expand on it in the print edition or in this chat. Synergy, baby.

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May seat assignments: Remember, on many airlines you can keep logging in on their website to view the seat assignments. I have bought and then checked closer to the date to "re-assign" myself seats many times.

Carol Sottili: When I went through this a couple of weeks ago, no new seats were released until flight day. I think that's common on international flights.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Flight Crew-

This is a story that happened a few weeks ago, but I didn't see any coverage in the Washington Post. Any comments about the family that was taken off the Air Tran flight because their daughter was having a tantrum? I saw this story on Good Morning America and thought it presented a number of interesting issues with regard to airline safety and security measures. (Apparently the girl wouldn't get in her seat for takeoff and was under the seat and in the aisle. The plane couldn't take off as long as she was not in her seat.)

John Deiner: Hey, DC. I actually blogged about it last week. You can check it out in the blog archive. Seemed to strike more of a nerve with parents than it did with people who were upset over safety issues.

Clearly, the plane couldn't take off until the child was seated, and the parents just couldn't get her to settle down. A lot of people really felt for the mom and dad, but even more were cheered that AirTran ejected the family so that everyone else on the plane could get to their destination.

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Asheville eats: Eat at the Biltmore estate (I think it's the Deer Park, or something) or make reservations now at the Grove Park Inn--can be hard to get into, pricey but lots of atmosphere, fabulous service, and good food, too.

John Deiner: Good stuff....I've never been to Grove Park Inn. That's a great suggestion. Thanks!

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cupcakes: Clarification: you SHOULD be able to take your cupcakes, but remember that TSA gate personnel take orders only from Mars--which is to say that as a frequent flyer, my home-packed breakfast was making it through only about half the time, and it's fruitless to argue. I now buy a muffin past the security line.

Andrea Sachs: Okay, we are currently having a Cupcake Debate. If you can smear, pour, pump, spray, squeeze, spread or spill it, then it's banned--according to Cindy and her chats with the TSA. Can you do any of those things with your cupcakes? The problem is, there is no certainty. Unless you bring just the cupcake mix.

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For Asheville-bound: I recall a wonderful meal long-ago at the Pisgah Inn along the Blueridge Parkway, Unfortunately, checking the Inn's website just now, I find that it's closed for the season till March 27. I wonder if lots of other places around there are also closed for the season, too.

John Deiner: That's an excellent point. I imagine that a lot of things are still open in Asheville, but maybe outside of town it could be dicier. Anyone know for sure?

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Washington, DC: Flying to Hong Kong tomorrow -- I'll have 1 day to myself (the rest is business) -- any "don't miss" suggestions for sightseeing or just soaking up the atmosphere?

Anne McDonough: With one day, I would definitely get to the top of the Peak, have a meal at a floating restaurant in Aberdeen, take a look at Stanley Market and hop the Star Ferry. Standard itinerary, yes, but it's still how I'd spend the day! Check out Discover Hong Kong (www.discoverhongkong.com) for some more ideas. And chatsters, what do you think DC should do with one day in Hong Kong?

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Washington, DC: Hi Flight Crew!

My boyfriend and I will be attending a wedding in Jamaica this June - currently air fares are about $415 round trip. Is this a good rate?

Thanks!

Carol Sottili: There are occasional fare sales to Montego Bay, but $415 is a pretty good price, especially if it's a nonstop flight.

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Madison, Wis: Hello,

My husband and I were "invited" to spend up to two weeks beginning mid May traveling anywhere in Europe with our 21 year old who is currently studying in Spain this semester. The 2 of us have never traveled "abroad." We'd like to see Spain for perhaps a week before joining our daughter. The Barcelona area, Madrid, and the cities in the south seem like too much to plan to see in a week. Any suggestions for spending a week in Spain?(daughter will be traveling elsewhere) Next,I've narrowed the approx. 2 weeks to seeing places in Italy and perhaps Greece.

The northeast and Tuscany regions in Italy including Florence and Venice as far as large cities have long appealed to me.We enjoy scenery, small towns and meeting people. Do you think including Greece might rush a lovely trip. Again, suggestions or comments as to places to see or what to plan? Thank you!

Gary Lee: For first time visitors to Spain, I recommend dividing your time between Madrid and Barcelona. I like Madrid, especially for its fantasic museums, but would recommend that you allocate two days there. Barcelona, which has better dining, shopping and touring options (the architeture is amazing) should be the focus of your Spain trip.

After Spain you should either: Italy (Florence and Venice) or Greece (Athens and a few islands). Trying to do Italy and Greece is week would be rushing things too much.

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Big Island: Having recently been to the big island, the 9 day counterclockwise trip is definitely do able. A recomendation if you can go horseback riding in the Waippo (spelled wrong I know) valley. Really beautiful.

Steve Hendrix: Right. And don't miss the Tsunami Museum in Hilo.

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non-lap baby: you can take the chance, but you run the risk of them asking for proof of age(betting they will) and you'll be stuck paying an even higher fare (or not having a ticket available) on the day of the flight. I also think you are being VERY unfair to whomever has to sit next to you. It isn't an unusual situation here - you forgot. It happens. But it is your fault. Not the airline, who you'd be cheating out of a legitimate fare, and not your potential seatmate, who has the right not to have a bigger-than-lapbaby sitting and wriggling next to him or her the whole flight.

Cindy Loose: Then again, we're not talking an 80 pound baby, but one who's a few days over the limit. You do raise an interesting question about whether they'd ask for proof of age. Anyone out there with a baby who has been asked?

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Washington, D.C.: For the Calgary-Vancouver person: There is plenty to see in Banff and Lake Louise all year-round. Even if you don't ski, the Chateau Lake Louise is gorgeous and you can stroll at least partway around the lake. Banff is an easy town to get around, whether by walking or public transportation, with many shops and restaurants, plus hot springs if you want to take a dip. Jasper is much more quaint and also a very walkable town with shops, restaurants, and scenery...but it is a few hours to the north by car. While the trip on the Jasper-Banff Highway is really beautiful, and includes the Columbia Icefield, you'd have to add on at least a day if you wish to drive to Jasper, visit the town, and go back down to Banff to carry on to Vancouver via the Trans-Canada or other highways in southern Alberta/BC. You could cut across BC from Jasper, but it will take longer. Glacier National Park is south of Banff, which would also be a day trip. While it still snows in the mountains in April (May, June...), they certainly do their best to keep the roads clear. Be prepared for winter driving, however.

Cindy Loose: Thanks for those insights.

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Alexandria, Va: In April I will be going to Vietnam for vacation prior to going to Singapore for work. I would like to arrange air from Saigon to Hanoi to Angor Wat to Singapore but am having some trouble on line.

Any help would be appreciated!

Andrea Sachs: With tough itineraries like that, you might be wise to call a travel agent, especially since it can be hard to book flights online that do not orginiate in the States. You can also check the low-fare carrriers in Asia. For a list, see www.attitudetravel.com/lowcostairlines.

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Warm weather getaway: My husband and I have started the tradition (this is year 2) of going to Florida for a 3 day weekend in early March for baseball spring training. Nothing like sweating in the sun, eating a hot dog, and watching baseball to feel like summer. It doesn't happen in the coldest part of winter, but it comes right at that point when it is not yet really warming up here but it feels like it should be any minute.

Steve Hendrix: Excellent! Pitchers and catchers are on their way now.

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Washington, DC: Hi!

Not exactly a warm-you-up question, but...

Going to London next month (figuring it still be a little nippy there) but wondering if you all have any ideas for "unusual" things to do indoors?

I did all of the museums (National Gallery, Tate, Imperial War, V&A) about three years ago when I was last there.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

KC Summers: In London in winter, you're pretty much limited to museums, shopping (once you get inside) and parking yourself in a nice cozy pub. You did the big museums, but how about focusing in on some of the smaller, more unsung ones? Like the John Soanes House, one of my most favorite house museums ever; the Freud Museum, out in Hampstead, where you can see The Couch; the Geffrye, a really neat little place that looks at living rooms through the ages, plus how pensioners lived in the 19th century; the Cabinet War Rooms, the nerve center of the war effort.... London's got hundreds of these little places.

Anyone else with cold-weather London suggestions?

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For Scotland: I went a few years ago with a friend - we flew in to mainland Europe and took Ryan Air up to Glasgow. It was like $25 round trip - that may be worth doing if you can spare the time - you'd probably want an extra day on each end since the cheap airlines usually fly out of lesser used airports.

Andrea Sachs: Great suggestion. I have always wanted to take advantage of Ryan Air's one pound fares.

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Washington, D.C.: What's the difference between first class and business class, and do all airlines have both? Thanks

Carol Sottili: Both classes are not usually offered on domestic flights, except for transcontinental nonstops. There are differences in seat sizes, pitch, service, etc., but the differences vary by airline. First-class is more expensive. Some airlines are also offering economy plus seating now. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, for example, have four levels of seating (economy, economy plus, business, first-class) on their nonstops to London: United offers all four levels, but doesn't sell economy plus (these seats go to best customers for no extra charge). Go to www.seatguru.com for plane seating plans.

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Moral Dilema: For the poster with the two year old - As tempting as it may be to sneak the little tot on, even if she's small, I wouldn't and here's why, besides the obvious. There's nothing that kids like more than to tell people how old they are, and they never ever say they're younger than they are. It is a very important thing to be two AND a half. Can you imagine going to the ticket counter, they ask how old she is, and she pipes up "two!"

Cindy Loose: Yes, when they can talk all sorts of problems arise. I remember when my daughter was two she offered to say the blessing at my father's table. She was then going to a Jewish nursury school and he was a very strict Christian who didn't know that. I cringed and my heart beat very fast as she said a Hebrew prayer. But then it was alright, cause when she was done she proudly announced--"That was French," and luckily my father was none the wiser.

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Raleigh NC: Regarding the winter trip to Asheville and the Biltmore, I suggest taking a look at Chowhound.com, and searching for Asheville. Asheville is an amazing dining destination. I recommend Salsa's (Caribbean/Latino fusion, casual dining), Fig (bistro, romantic place), Limone's, 28806 (fine dining), Zambra's (tapas). Actually, depending on where you are staying, ask your concierge/check-in staff. Most locals in Asheville are quite proud of (and for good reason) their amazing restaurant selection. Also, if you are able to track down some French Broad Luscious Chocolates, buy some! These are amazing chocolate truffles made by a local couple that prior to moving to Asheville ran a small bakery-chocolateria in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica (Bread and Chocolate). The chocolates are all certified organic, and true to their name, are really luscious!!!

John Deiner: Raleigh, amazing stuff there. Thanks so much! Are those chocolates hard to track down?

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Alexandria, Va: To the person wanting to use FF miles to go to Vietnam: Try calling United again. To book a trip to China, I had to call twice -first time got someone who totally messed up my itinerary and told me a lot of things that weren't true, and the second time I got someone who knew what he was doing and gave me just what I wanted.

It's all in who you talk to!

Carol Sottili: I do the same thing. I also use that process when dealing with Verizon, DirecTV, etc.

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re: Paris: Four days is too short a time to pack in the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, Rodin & Picasso. You should either plan and budget your time (i.e. you can decide only 4 hours at the Louvre and we're only going to see X), otherwise you'll wander and get really tired for anything else.

Walk as much as you can so that you can look at the shops, and if you have the time and/or energy, Galleries Lafayette and Printemps are the ultimate department store experiences and like museums themselves.

KC Summers: Gee, four days sounds like plenty of time to do four museums to me. Great idea to treat department stores like museums, though.

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Washington, DC: Thanks so much for the helpful "Way to Go" travel guide yesterday! I have high hopes of it helping as I plan my next big trip... which is to the Philippines in December for a wedding. Having never been in Asia, I'm considering taking a week and splitting my time between the Philippines and at least another country over there. Any thoughts of which country could be easily covered in 3-4 days and would be a good match for say 3 20something women? We're all about seeing culture and having small adventures - not necessarily "lie on the beach" types. Thanks!

Anne McDonough: You're in the Philippines already, and only have one week. Stay there--you have more than 7,000 islands to explore and have small adventures on!! You're going to have jetlag and wedding-related craziness, so adding another country into the mix, to me at least, is too much. If you definitely do want to go to another country, then consider Singapore as it's small and you'll get a better sense of it than you would traveling around, say, Malaysia in three days. But I'd check out the tourism site (www.tourism.gov.ph) to get psyched about the Philippines, and spend your vacation time there.

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Spain: All Three Weeks!: With a Spanish-speaking (or at least learning I assume) daughter, why not spend all three weeks in Spain? The country is so large and so diverse and easy to travel in, I would heartily suggest staying there for the whole trip. More time in one place is so rewarding. Just my two cents!

Gary Lee: Thanks for that thought. It's a good one.

But I assume, perhaps wrongly, that our travelers won't be traveling frequently across the Atlantic and so want to use this trip to see as much as they can. If that's the case, two southern European countries in a week is not too much to manage in two weeks.

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To Boston, Mass., who camped in the Bahamas: So you find it amusing that you camped on the property of some guy you asked on a lark, do you? Tell us, where did you go to the bathroom -- behind the bushes? This is definitely NOT good for the environment, especially if more people are now feeling inspired to follow your example. There's a good reason that we have waste-water treatment facilities.

Steve Hendrix: On the contrary, that's a great travel experience, gutsy, engaged, economical, trusting. All the things we travel to achieve. Sure, you shouldn't be pooping all over the place, but there are responsible ways to do all those things (ask any backpacker, or just visit restaurant bathrooms). I stand by my "bravo."

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The Burbs: Flight crew, please help us pick a family vacation spot--none of us like the same things. Mom likes sightseeing, museums, theater, and history, and dislikes amusement parks and beaches. Two teenage kids like amusement parks and beaches, and hate sightseeing, museums, theater, and history. Dad just wants to keep the peace. None of us are into sports or camping. Help!

Cindy Loose: So museums and theaters, you're talking cities. So, question seems to be what cities are on the beach, with amusement parks nearby.

In the U.S. I immediately think Los Angeles.

San Diego and Miami defiantely have the beaches and there must be amusement parks nearby, so ask your wife if either of those cities appeal. Then of course you have the beaches in Europe, but not much in the way of amusement parks come to mind. Canada has some great cities near water, like Vancouver for example, but they're not really beach destinations of the sort I think your daugthers are envisioning.

Anyone else have ideas, besides having the mother take a separate vacation, or getting the daugthers to agree to go somewhere less than perfect if they get a weekend or two at an amusement park in the area? That latter approach would be my tact, cause they might really enjoy a city, even if they let mom do the musems on her one here and there.

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Lap Baby or Not: Two years ago when I flew with my lap-baby the airline required a birth certificate to prove the babies age before they would allow us to board. And she was only about 6 months old at the time. The parent may want to check with the airline if any additional documents will be needed for the potential lapbaby.

Cindy Loose: Thanks for that good advice.

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Washington, DC: I was at National Airport recently to meet a family member arriving via AirTran. The flight information was not on the monitor (once I found the monitor), so I asked the person at the information desk, who told me AirTran never posts flight information, and I would have to ask at the ticket counter -- which meant having to stand in a long line. How can an airline be allowed to not post such basic and necessary information?

Carol Sottili: That sounds truly odd. I tried contacting an airport official, but no luck. Anyone out there have a similar experience?

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Philadelphia, Pa: Buy the child a ticket and get an FAA-approved seat for her/him! Yes, it costs a lot more, but honestly? The point is to have people buckled in safely. Think of that $700 as insurance against injury or death caused by turbulence or a rough landing, or someone wiggling out of control at the wrong moment as the coffee's being served. Think of it split among all of your tickets, not just the ones you already got. I've seen grown men be thrown around in the aisle - flight attendants, who have presumably experienced a lot of turbulance - over minor bumps. It is not possible for a parent to hold a child securely in all instances. Is your child worth the risk? If you won't pay for the ticket, why not just hire a family member (grandparent, beloved aunt/uncle) to watch her/him while everyone else goes off on vacation?

Cindy Loose: Thank you. That's my usual advice. It's just I can feel the pain of having $190 tickets and having to lay out $700 for the last one.

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For Wooster, Ohio: You should check with the airline in advance regarding their policy on lap children and what, if any, documentation you have to have about their age (you could do this without giving them your specific info). For example, I know that Southwest clearly states you have to have a birth certificate with you in order to prove the child is under 2, and most (though not all) flights we've taken with them, they've asked to see it.

You may not have any option except to get a ticket--you don't want to show up at the counter and get a hard-nosed agent who won't issue you a boarding pass-equivalent (which is the only way you can get through TSA) because he/she doesn't believe your child is under 2.

Cindy Loose: Leaving the baby at the gate would definately be upsetting to both parent and child.

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Alexandria, Va: Hi guys-

I'm a single 30-something gal who will be traveling solo to London and York this spring. I'm looking at two hotels in York, a Best Western located across from the Minister and Four Seasons B&B located 10 minutes from the center. Wondering how safe it is to stay outside the Walls and is it worth it to pay more for the hotel inside. PS, I won't have a car.

Thanks and love your chats especially Gary who helped w/my last Paris jaunt.

Steve Hendrix: Safe? Yorkshire? Have you heard something we haven't?

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Silver Spring, Md.: I have a feeling this is one of your standard questions, but at least it's not about Paris: I'm headed for Bergen, Norway for a few days the week after next, and I'd really like to stay somewhere cheap, cozy (not corporate-feeling), and with cable TV. The three C's, you could call it. Oh, actually four C's: convenient to the tourist destinations. I don't imagine you have a list of such places in Bergen, but can you tell me how to find my dream hotel/hostel/guesthouse/pension?

KC Summers: Well, what we DO have is a bunch of knowledgeable chatters who've been just about everywhere, so let's ask 'em: Anyone out there know Bergen and can recommend a hotel?

And in case our Bergen experts are all doing actual work right now, you can start your research online by going to a hotel review site like TripAdvisor.com and checking out your fellow travelers' recommendations. It's also worth checking travel forums like Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree. Or check a hotel site that specializes in European cities, like Venere.com. Good luck!

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Harrogate, England: Guys, Thanks for all the great tips! I've got the tough job of going to Honolulu for a conference in a couple of weeks, and am going to take my beautiful spouse add 4 extra days to the end for our deferred 20th anniversary celebration. We want to see lava flowing, so plan to go to Volcanoes Nat'l Park. Question is, are we better off flying over for all 4 extra days, or should we take a day trip, or perhaps a helicopter tour, and stay in Honolulu instead of the Big Island? We're staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village hotel for the conference - any restaurant or things to do in the evening recommendations? Thanks!

John Deiner: Greetings, England. How you doing today?

Given my druthers (and I really would rather not give them away, to be honest), I'd fly over and stay there for four extra days. You're going to hate just zipping in there and zipping out. Every island is wonderful, and to take all that time and effort and money to just fly in for a day would be a waste.

As far as Hilton Hawaiian Village goes, not really familiar with the property. Anyone have suggestions for Harrogate?

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Capitol Hill, Washington, DC: Wanted to submit a positive entry:

On New Year's Eve, I was scheduled to fly from Fayetteville, through Chicago, and into national, arriving about 4:30pm on American. Because of weather in Chicago, my flight was delayed out of Arkansas and into Chicago. I just missed my connecting flight, and couldn't get onto another flight until one departing at 7:00pm. The morning's delays bumped that to 8:00pm, then 9:00pm, and then they stopped calculating. Finally, at 9:30pm, they announced that a flight attendant had to leave and they were searching for another one. We finally left Chicago at 11:20pm (after the new year in DC) and landed about 1:20am.

I considered trying to get some miles on my frequent flyer plan, but weather wasn't their fault, nor was a sick flight attendant. However, 10 days later I got an email from American Airlines apologizing for the delay and crediting me with 7,000 miles. A fabulous gift that put me over the limit for a free ticket!

It's why I'm so loyal to American.

Carol Sottili: That's a nice story. I think many companies are missing the boat by not giving away small rewards to instill loyalty. I know, I'm old school.

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babies on board: My Christmas-time visiting daughter and son in law had a 22 month old travelling as a lap baby, but had no birth certificate. Counter personnel actually called me (grandma) from the airport to orally verify the child's age, since he's a relatively big toddler, and they were on the verge of making the family buy a seat for the return flight. Question--do you have someone who's willing to lie for you? That's the moral dilemma, and I'll leave the safety dilemma up to the experts.

Cindy Loose: No question being strapped down is safer.

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montreal-bound: Have you visited Montreal in winter? We're trying to decide if we should go to Montreal as a "winter trip" - or hold off until spring. We don't ski or ice skate... but are game for anything else. Any thoughts?

Anne McDonough: I spent about 10 days in Montreal in January a few years back and LOVED it. Freezing, yes. But the city is magical in winter, and you can traipse around Parc Mont-Royal, take a caleche ride wrapped in a blanket, watch folks skate on rinks right in the Old Port by the St. Lawrence if you don't want to skate yourself. You can explore the city through the underground tunnels and spend lots of time in the museums, catch a hockey game, and if you go between Feb. 22 and March 4 that's when the Montreal Highlights Festival is on (www.montrealenlumiere.com). BUT having said all that, if you have a choice between spring and winter, I'd go for spring.

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Washington, DC: for Asheville: Tupelo Honey Cafe, a wait but worth it.

John Deiner: All the best places have waits, don't they? Love the name though. Thanks for the tip!

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London: Two indoor things I like to do - although honestly, with the weather we've been having, you may be able to stroll through the gardens and enjoy the flowers; my neighbours' roses look particularly lovely at the moment - are the City Museum, which traces the history of London itself, and the Art Museum at Guidhall, which recently opened the Roman Amphitheatre, which was discovered just a few decades ago while doing excavations for Guidhall renovations. They've excavated the gladiators' entrance, plus two likely animal stalls, as well as part of the arena - the rest remains buried in the City. One walks along the gladiators' entrance and marvels at the ruins. Although of course you can't touch it, and photographs are not allowed, one can smell the age. It's a very thought-provoking site. And, of course, the Art Gallery is wonderful, too.

KC Summers: Ah, London, it's so nice to get the scoop right from the source. Great ideas, thanks!

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Washington, DC: for Hong Kong: Go to top of Peninsula hotel to the Phillippe Starck designed Felix, ask for table farthest to the rear and feel like master of universe, where even the bathroom have killer views of the harbor.

and for hotness, people, Chinese mustard.

Anne McDonough: Killer views of the harbor with drink in hand. Excellent suggestion, DC.

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Washington, DC: Please help! Our trip is coming up soon and we're not sure what to do. We're two mid/early twenties women who are going to Mexico City for a wedding and then to the beach (Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa) for a few days. We found a great deal to Mexico City, but we're not sure how to get to the beach.

We figure the options are plane, bus or rental car. We checked Mexicana and Aeromexico, and flights were between $250 and $400 each, which seemed really high. Renting a car would set us back maybe about $270 total (including the extra fees for being under 25, grr), and the cheapest option, the bus, at $35 each way, is NINE HOURS.

How do people do this?? The beach is seeming farther and farther away...

Andrea Sachs: I think often travelers fly right to the beach resort, or only connect through Mexico City. However, you might want to check fares offered on the no-frills carriers, such as Click, Volaris, Interjet, Viva AeroBus and Avolar.

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Re Philippines trip: A few suggestions: Get away from Manila. The traffic is unreal and so are the crowds. One of the few things I like about Manila is Intramuros. That's the old city. Take a walking tour and learn about the revolutionary war hero Jose Rizal.

The poster said she and her friends aren't beach types, but there are TONS and TONs of beaches in the Philippines. I recommend the island of Boracay (take a short plane trip there). Lots of European tourists there, so restaurant and hotel prices are inflated. But there are some very good deals, esp. at the high end.

Anne McDonough: For the Philippines wedding guests...thanks for the suggestions!

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For person going to Rome:...for the first time. I know it's not technically Rome, but go to the Vatican and see the Cistine chapel. Even if you're not religious in any way, it's really a breathtaking site.

KC Summers: Yes, the Sistine Chapel is a don't-miss for sure, but I figured the chatter would have lumped that in with the other Rome no-brainers like the Colosseum.

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Raleigh NC: RE: French Broad Luscious Chocolates, they're brand new, only started selling in the past month. I'm not sure if they have any local spots they're selling yet, but if so, it's likely at Greenlife Grocery. Which, incidentally, would be another possible dining destination. It's an organic/natural market, and they try very hard to sell locally-produced foods (likely any and all winter squashes currently for sale were grown within 50 miles of the store). They have a nice lunch counter with a pretty broad selection of quick foods.

I saw the comments about Grove Park Inn. I really recommend stopping by the Inn; it's beautiful, the stonework is amazing, most folks don't know that's where Annie Oakely retired to (and taught shooting skills to the barons of industry in the 20's). But the food is kind of, well, feh. But you can just get a drink and chill in front of the fireplace that's large enough to park a Volkswagon in, or if it's nice, out on the patio overlooking the mountains. Just a lovely view, especially for sunset.

John Deiner: Man, Raleigh, you really know your stuff. I'm going to be spending a little time in your area and could use your expertise. You haven't written a book, have you?

Anyhoo...great stuff about the chocolates. And Annie Oakley retired to the Grove Park Inn? Man, you guys know everything out there!

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Scotland--plus taxes: Orbitz fare was $660, plus taxes of $200. Sigh. I guess I can't do any worse by waiting.

Andrea Sachs: Really, I found less: $782 with taxes. It is a little less.

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Cupcakes and Hong Kong: Thank you for answering my original question! I admit, if taunted, I could smear a cupcake. I think I will just take my chances and make a cake in Costa Rica.

Regarding the Hong Kong suggested itinerary:

My parents are from Hong Kong and I've been a few times. I think your suggestions are excellent. My parents took me to Victoria Peak last February during Chinese New Year (Feb. 18th this year) and it was amazing. In all the years they had grown up there, they never went up. It was an amazing experience for all of us. Although, please note: that you won't see anything on a cloudy day and the weather changes drastically as you ascend. There is a huge architectural building near the peak- a crescent moon-shaped building. My uncle's company built it, but I didn't get to go in.

Stanley Market is the best for deals and to do most of your soveneir shopping!

Anne McDonough: Maybe you could bring the cupcakes but pack a cake mix in your bag, just in case they're confiscated. And thanks for the caution about the Peak being great when the weather's clear but not so much when it's cloudy.

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cupcakes: yeah, you'd like to think so, huh. But I know someone who had a pumpkin pie nabbed by TSA agents. I consider it a solid (lord knows the one my mom makes sure is - ugh). They apparantly didn't. End story is you can NEVER be sure, and even if you are 100% sure and have a copy of the reg to prove it they still can can will disallow something if they want to. That's the most frustrating part of the whole process. Even if you are right, you're wrong.

Andrea Sachs: So true, so true.

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Timing airline ticket purchases: I just bought plane tickets to seattle for the end of May. I had been watching the prices for about a month, and I think the price was okay, but not fantastic. Even with a great sale, I don't think I'd see anything much more than $30 less. But it's almost 4 months away, so I feel like I bought too early. But if I were buying a ticket to Europe at the same time, I think prices would only go up. Can it ever be too early? Is there a rule of thumb for how far in advance to buy (other than at least 2-3 weeks?)

Carol Sottili: No rule of thumb. But if you follow airfares closely enough, you'll know how low they will go. For Seattle, for example, if you can get anything around $218, you've hit rock bottom. Anything under $250 is good. Under $300 is fair, except if you get a nonstop flight for that amount (that's wonderful). You're right if you're flying to Europe in summer - prices usually keep going up as long as seats are selling, but there are occasional sales close to travel dates if there are seats to fill. And with dollar being so weak, lots of Europeans are filling those seats.

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Alexandria, Va: Hey Crew! Steve: I understand you're a native of Savannah! I'm headed there for the first time this weekend and am looking for some recommendations. I love old architecture so I'm really looking forward to taking a walking tour...do you have a favorite? Also, I've heard that Mrs. Wilkes for lunch and Pinkie Masters are must-do's...what else should I make sure I don't miss? Thanks!!

Steve Hendrix: Mrs. Wilkes is very touristy, but also very good (unlike the Pirates House, which is extra-ultra-touristy and not much else). You'll probably prefer one of the house-focused walking tours (as opposed to the haunted ones or the "Midnight" ones) to give you an overview of the squares, gardens and architecture. That way you can orient yourself for further solo-waking. Check in with Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), a powerhouse of building perservation all through the historic district, and also E. Shaver Books on Bull Street (and good bookstore and clearinghouse for Savannah arcitecture stuff). Might want to head out Boneventure Cemetatary for some quintessential Savannah atmosphere, and a drive way out Skidaway Drive for some great houses on the Isle of Hope.

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Waldorf, Md: Cold Weather Story: About 10 years ago, I surprised my wife with a 3-day holiday. I booked a trip to Nassau and a hotel on Cable Beach. Then I called her work and told them the secret, and that she wouldn't be in to work those days. I called a relative in California, and got her to spring the trap: a day or two later, the relative called us, said she'd be visiting the Washington area, and could we pick her up at BWI airport on Thursday morning at 0-dark-hundred, and stay with us a few days? Of course, my wife said "Sure." It was January, and on the appointed morning we had to drive to BWI, and it had begun snowing the night before. We had a hellacious drive through increasingly bad snow and ice to get to BWI, ostensibly to pick up our relative. My wife kept suggesting that maybe we should turn around, and I kept saying, "No, we have to get to BWI. We can make it." When we got to the parking garage I popped the trunk and got out a suitcase which I had packed for her and myself. This was the first she suspected anything. I refused to tell her where we were going until we checked in at the airline counter, where she saw the destination. I was worried the flight would be cancelled, but it wasn't (we might have been the last plane out, though, because BWI shut down for a while later that day). So while a blizzard swept through the DC area that weekend, my wife and I spent three glorious days on Cable Beach and sight-seeing around Nassau (our second trip there).

Steve Hendrix: Wow. That trick about picking up a relative, that's brilliant. Congrats.

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Arlington, Va: Hi! My husband and I are invited to a wedding just outside of Bath, England in May, but we only have a long weekend (5 days or so) to vacation. We'd like to spend at least a day of sightseeing in London too, especially if we need to fly in and out of the city, but aren't sure if we should rent a car to get to and from the Bath area or rely on the train. To make it more complicated, the rehearsal is dinner is Friday night and wedding is Sunday afternoon. Advice? Is there enough to do and see on Saturday and Sunday morning in Bath? Thank you!

Cindy Loose: I've been wanting to go to Bath to check out the rejuvinated "baths" there. I haven't checked it out to closely yet, but here's what I would do:

It's only a two-hour drive or so from London so I'd be inclined to rent a car cause I'd want one in Bath and that's probably the cheapest way to do it. However, I would go to the trouble first of seeing how much it would cost to go by train and then rent a car for running around Bath, cause that would be the ideal way to go. (Arriving in a strange placeand immediately getting used to driving on the other side of the road is challenging, as is worrying about directions and stuff.)

Given the time you have, I'd spend what's left after wedding events in London. As to a few days in the English countryside--it's hard to imagine it could be bad so I imagine you'll have a great time there. I would check out the baths.

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Mcpherson Square, Washington, DC: I'm getting ready to book honeymoon at Sandals Negril/Jamaica. Has anyone ever booked through Cheapcaribbean.com, allinclusiveoutlet.com or honeymoons.com? any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.

Carol Sottili: I've not booked on any of these sites, although I'm familiar with Cheapcaribbean.com. Before you book with any online company, check out how long they've been in business, whether they belong to any associations that monitor behavior, whether they have a good rating at BBB.org. And check with Sandals directly - they may be offering the same deal (or better). Also, check with a travel agent.

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Amusement Parks/Beaches: If you went in summer, you could stay on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, the girls could go hang out on Lake Street Beach and go shopping, and Mom could do museums. There is even a 6 Flags if you wanted to rent a car and make an hours drive outside the city. Plus tons of good food, outdoor festivals, Cubs games. . .

Cindy Loose: There's an idea. In fact, they could split their time between Chicago and some of hte great beaches in Harbour County, about two hours away.

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London: For the woman traveling to London/York. I'm a single woman, late 20s and have had no trouble traveling through London or around York on my own - and I like to stay in hostels, too. The York hostel is particularly nice, and not within the city walls. It's a lovely little walk along the river into the city (when it's light) and a lovely little walk along "busy" city streets (busy for what you will think is a small town) in front of Guy Fawkes' primary school.

I would suggest, however, that if you do stay in the hostel, or really, well, anywhere in York, if you choose to be out late walking about, perhaps you do not want to spend your first night on one of the ghost tours. York is the most haunted city on the island, supposedly, and even for us non-believers, after the town falls dark and most people disappear inside, it can be rather unnerving. Especially with the way sound echoes along the Shambles...

Steve Hendrix: Thanks for the smart tips.

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Newport, R.I.: Hi All! My sisters and I bought our parents plane tickets to Ireland for their 20th wedding anniversary and they are all set to head there in June. They will most likely be based out of Dublin, but can you recommend some short trips out of the city? They are also open to possibly renting a car. I think they will be there for nine days. Any advice would be appreciated: good tour operators, suggestions on what to see. They have never been and I want them to have a wonderful time. Thanks!

KC Summers: Wow, your parents brought you up right! What a wonderful present. Listen, if they have nine days in Ireland I would really encourage your parents to rent a car. It's really the best way to see the towns and villages of the west, and that's my favorite part of the country (much as I love Dublin). They need to go to Galway, the Dingle Peninsula, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Connemara. Driving in Ireland can be daunting, but if they allow plenty of time (distances are greater than they seem on a map) and take it easy they should do fine.

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For Asheville-bound: Don't forget local food, too! We had breakfast one morning at a Big Boy, where my husband -- far more courageous than I -- tried grits for the first time.

John Deiner: You mean Big Boy, of Bob's Big Boy fame, or is that a restaurant owned by a very large child? But everyone should always try to eat local food, shouldn't they? Not that grits are that scary, but still . . .

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MaxJet: I was supposed to fly home via MaxJet last week - obviously that didn't happen. I got routed through NYC and that flight was very full. So I think their NY leg is doing quite well.

That being said I'm terribly dissappointed with how they handled their announcement - 4 days notice (a weekend and a federal holiday in the mix) - I was almost stuck in the UK for an extra day because they sent one email and left one message at home. A big change for so little notice!

Cindy Loose: I'd agree; they must have had some inkling of their plan earlier.

I too have heard NY flights are pretty full, but thanks for the up close and personal insights.

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Herndon, Va: I've had my winter cure. My wife and I spent three glorious weeks in Argentina, ranging from Iguazu Falls in the jungle in the north to Bariloche and its mountains and lakes in mid-Patagonia to El Calafate and its mountains, lakes and glaciers in southern Patagonia, with some time in Buenos Aires, of course. I'd highly recommend such a trip to anyone, particularly with food costs being so low. Our biggest meal night in Buenos Aires, with huge steaks, side dishes galore, a good bottle of wine and desert, barely broke $30 US with tip included.

Steve Hendrix: Where hearing lots of great reviews of Argentina these days, most of which included the favorable exchange rate. No restaurant robberies for you, a la the Bush girls? (It happed to one our Style colleagues too, last year.)

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Thinking hot: Over the last couple of years, I've managed to go to some very hot places during their less than ideal seasons: Cancun in September, Costa Rica in August, Cambodia in September. Although these were all fabulous trips (with fewer tourists around) the weather was steamy hot. On a day like today, I try really hard to remember what it was like to sweat so much that my underwear and hair were soaked, or that my camera lens steamed up when I stepped out of the air conditioned car.

Of course, the next time I'm in a tropical location in the heat and humidity, I'll call up memories of walking to the metro on a 10 degree plus wind chill morning in February in order to cool off.

Steve Hendrix: Good point. After a day in the eighties, we'll all be complaining about the heat, no matter where we are.

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London: Me, again. To get to Bath - look first into the National Rail site, and then the National Express (Coach - bus, as you say) site. The time may not be much different, and you see the countryside without having to worry about driving on the left-hand side of the road, using manual (if you're not accustomed to that; most of our cars are, or you pay a hefty fee for automatic), being accustomed to our signs, etc. National Express often runs "funfares" if you can purchase your tickets online - it may be possible for you to get round-trip tickets for less than 8 pounds.

Steve Hendrix: And thanks again.

_______________________

Bergen, Norway: It's at least cozy - Steens Hotel. Bit of a walk from the main

downtown but it's an old home converted to nice rooms.

Steve Hendrix: Steens it is, Thanks.

And that's it for the week. Thanks for the toasty fantasies. We're ready for another day of winter.

See you next week. And remember to check in with us every day at the Travel Log, http://blog.washingtonpost.com/travellog.

_______________________

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