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The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, July 16, 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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Andrea Sachs: Greetings dear chatsters.

So, I have a confession to make. I recently booked a flight to Boston and Rhode Island for an upcoming trip and accidently have myself departing from Dulles and returning from BWI. Yes, that is what I wrote. Not returning TO BWI but FROM. Can't blame that goof on the airline industry. So, to win a prize, confess to us your silliest booking blunders and how you resolved them. In my defense, at least I did not have myself flying from Dulles to BWI!

Also, for today's chat, we have a guest, Conservation International's Jamie Sweeting. So ask him all of your eco-concerns regarding travel. Go green! Go travel!

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Woodley Park, DC: Panama--has anyone been there recently? I've been hearing great things about it, and would appreciate any recommendations. I've heard it's better to go to the Caribbean side than the Pacific side. Also curious about experiences in Panama City. Thanks!

Cindy Loose: I'm thinking it's a great time to visit Panama, given that--as CoGo reported Sunday--Copa Airlines just started non-stop service from Dulles to Panama City, and introductory flights start at under $500.

Alas, no one on the crew today has been, but I'll post a link to two stories we ran in February, and encourage other chatters out who might know Panama to chime in.....

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Arlington, VA: I have liked the Post's Travel section, but I was disappointed to see that the global warming hype and politics usually found in section A has worked its way into your section. The "hurry up and see them now before they melt/submerge/wither away" storyline is certainly misleading and rather alarmist. Of course, if this theme in this past Sunday's Travel section was actually more tongue-in-cheek than serious, please forgive me for missing that angle!

Jamie Sweeting: Alas, a great number of travel sites are being affected by climate change and other environmental issues. When in discussions with the editors about this issue we talked about the Galapagos Islands. This is a destination that the World Conservation Union (IUCN) just added to their "World Heritage Danger List" - a mark that signifies that a unique and special place in the world is in trouble. That is not to say we can't do anything about it and I believe this is what this week's Travel Section was all about. We can take action now to safeguard these places both for our own pleasure and for future generations. FYI, if you are interested in winning a free "eco-adventure" trip to the Galapagos, courtesy of Celebrity Cruises, see www.conservation.org

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Crownsville, MD: My husband and I are considering taking a safari tour in South Africa with a well known travel company. The tour includes stops in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. There will be several privately chartered flights between camps as well as flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town. We were wondering about the safety record of air travel within Africa. Any info you can provide will be appreciated. Perhaps our concern is unnecessary. Many thanks.

Jamie Sweeting: I have found flying on small plane in Southern Africa to be safe and secure. I do advise going with a reputable charter company and it is often best to book through an established tour operator that has worked with them for a number of years.

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Arlington, VA: Hello flight crew! I'm heading up to Jersey (Vineland specifically, about halfway between Philly and the shore), for a wedding in mid-September. Does "beach traffic" on I-95 and the Jersey Turnpike tend to be a problem that late in the summer, or are we safe trusting the drive time estimates from Mapquest? On a related note, rather than staying in Vineland (which sounds like a small town?), we're mulling a stay on the shore, so thank you for the article a couple weeks ago!

John Deiner: Hey, Arl. In mid-September, you should be fine. Those first few weeks after Labor Day are very quiet on the roads, it seems, because all the kids are back in school. (Then there's that mess in Delaware, but that's going to be with us for a while.)

And glad you fuond the section helpful. I'm a huge fan of Ocean Grove now. I grew up less than an hour from there and never knew it existed.

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Arlington, VA: Do you think it will be safe to start submitting normal passport renewals by September? I don't want to plan possible overseas vacation travel for next year without a passport, but don't want to wait too long and hit the "summer crunch" again.

Cindy Loose: I don't know when the crunch will be over---it probably won't be over for a long time given that there is another deadline looming when people will need passports for most border crossings by land.

However, if you're talking about travel next summer, never fear: The backlog isn't THAT bad. To be safe, if I wanted a passport in less than three months I'd pay extra to expedite. But for a passport say six months from now I wouldn't worry. Then again if I needed one nine months from now I'd go ahead and apply now just for the peace of mind. A year from now----don't worry about the crunch being that bad.

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Cary, NC: I'm gouing on a bus tour that includes Belarus and Russia. I have a free day in both Moscow and St. Petersberg; any suggestions of things to do not included in standard tours? Also, how much freedom to explore is allowed? Can I get money from ATMs there? I'll probably get some foreign currentcy before I go. Lastly, what's the best unusual souveneer/Christmas gifts to purchase there? Thanks in advance.

Gary Lee: In St. Petersburg, spend as much time as possible in the Hermitage and the Russian Museum. Many tour groups skip over the latter. You should not. It's got a fantasic collection of icons and other Russian art.

In Moscow, I always like the Novodevucky Cemetery -- it's colorful and there are some interesting people buried there.

Also, if you can go to the churches on the Kremlin grounds. In terms of souvenirs, bring a hand-painted laquer box or -- if you don't mind being unpc -- a fur hat.

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Panama: It's been over a decade since I was there, but heartily endorse taking an 'eco-tour' of the canal. Large portions are natural lakes and swamps. Plenty of bird and animal life (monkeys!) and an easy day trip from the city.

Cindy Loose: Thanks for Panama advice.....

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South America: Hi Travel Crew,

How safe is it to travel to South America? For instance, if wanted to travel to Brazil or Chile?? My husband and I are not the most experienced travelers but he is on this kick and really wants to go. Will we be safe? Are they nice to Americans?

KC Summers: Good timing, since I just got back from my first trip to South America -- to Ecuador -- and have nothing but raves to report. Everyone I encountered was perfectly lovely, with the exception of one elderly indigenous woman at a market who swatted me on the butt and muttered something malevolent -- I think I had inadvertently brushed up against her fruit stand. As a rule, though, shopkeepers, hoteliers and locals were gracious and welcoming. Overall, I'd say they were friendlier to Americans than Europeans are.

As for safety, I spent time in cities and the countryside and took the usual precautions, and felt safe everywhere. Just do your homework and research the places you want to go. E.g., I was advised not to travel near the northern border with Colombia, so I stopped my explorations a little south of there. And if you do end up in Brazil, you should take extra precautions in Rio, where things have been iffy lately. But my colleague Gary Lee, who has traveled extensively in Brazil, Chile and Peru, agrees that those countries are basically safe if you take the usual precautions. So go!!

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washingtonpost.com: Is Panama City the Next South Beach?; Birds of a Feather, Sort Of, (Feb. 18, 2007)

Cindy Loose: Here's a link to one of our stories on Panama; there is a second one that same date at www.washingtonpost.com

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Waldorf, MD: I was wondering if anyone on the panel has been on a Disney Cruise. My wife and I watched the DVD over the weekend that has an overview of everything, and my folks are going on one in September, but I was wondering if anyone has had any personal experience.

John Deiner: Hey, Waldorf. No one on this side of the screen has been on a Disney Cruise, but we hear good things -- that the cruises are as detail-oriented as the company's theme parks and rat-based animated movies.

But can anyone out there offer a report on a Disney cruise?

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Alexandria VA: Hi Crew,

My wife and I spent the weekend in Atlanta and, three hours before my return flight departed, I discovered that I'd lost my wallet. Fortunately, someone at the Martin Luther King National Historic Site found it and turned it in to the rangers. However, it led to discussions (and fruitless calls to Delta) about what our options would have been if it hadn't turned up. Lost IDs have to be an occasional occurrence. What can a traveller do in that situation?

Andrea Sachs: Call your airline immediately and ask for their advice. If you have a copy of your ID at home, see if a friend or family member could fax it to the airline. Even better, if you have it stored in an e-mail account, print it out. Best of all: You carry a copy with you in a seperate wallet or bag. The airline also might accept a secondary form of ID, but there is no uniform policy, and most airlines take it on a case-by-case basis. If you have time, try to get a police report for your lost or stolen wallet; it can only help.

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for CI guy: So, how about purchasing carbon offsets for air travel? I'm sure the two of us can agree that the best thing would be not to travel in the first place, but...I love traveling, so I'm going to cross that option off the list. But it seems like carbon offsets are really kind of sketchy - I'm not at all certain that carbon sequestration is understood well enough to justify putting money into it. I mean, it doesn't count as carbon storage if I plant a tree that's going to be cut down and burned in 30 years, or even if it falls down and is digested by bacteria. Help! What's a green girl to do?

Jamie Sweeting: I hear you! I have the same challenge - having to travel for both business and pleasure - what is the responsible thing to do? My view is that you try to pick the airline that is doing the most to "green" their operations and then look for ways to "offset" the greenhouse gas emissions. CI has been part of something called the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (http://www.climate-standards.org/) which has created a standard for all forestry offsets. In order to qualify you have to meet rigorous, third party verified, standards -- the net benefit is an offset that not only negates the climate emissions but also benefits local communities and protects biodiversity...a triple win if you will.

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Oklahoma: My friend and I are thinking about taking a 4 day vacation to DC. She's never been but I have before. I'm thinking about staying in or near Georgetown. What are some hotels that you recommend?

Gary Lee: Hey, fellow Okie here (I'm from Tulsa.)

I like both the Fairmont and the Park Hyatt, both a pretty easy walk to Georgetown. The Latham, based right in the smack of that stylish neighborhood, is also good and less expensive than the former two. Marriott also runs a conference center hotel right on the Georgetown U campus. It's a bit cookie cutter -- and not that convenient to public transport -- but otherwise fine.

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Bad Booking: I once scheduled my Thanksgiving trip home for the week after Thanksgiving, because I was CERTAIN that Turkey Day was always the LAST Thursday in November. Ooops. Its the FOURTH Thursday! I was able to re-book, but I am pretty sure I had to pay the $100 change fee. Thats some expensive turkey!

Andrea Sachs: For that, you deserved the last slice of pumpkin pie (which is not the prize, but wouldn't that be nice).

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Alexandria, VA: We're flying domestically out of National Friday at around 5:30. We're going to do advance check-in and we won't be checking any luggage. What time do you recommend we get to the airport?

KC Summers: The airport recommends getting there 1.5 to 2 hours before your flight. That sounds extreme, but why take chances -- bring a book and chill.

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Herndon VA: Hi,

We are travelling to Cancun next week. Are there any cultural/historical places that we can see. We will be there for a week. Any other tips also appreciated. Thanks

Cindy Loose: Absolutely, assuming you're willing to travel down the coast a hour or more. You can rent a car and drive---it's a very easy, straight shot, you can't get lost kind of road, although do travel during the day. Alternately, there are tours of some of the following:

There is a terrific mayan ruin along the coast at Tulum. In the same neighborhood there is a cultural center called Xcaret that is a little disney land like but accurate and attractive just the same. You can also travel further inland to another large ruin in the jungle called Coba. You can also check around your hotel for brochures about a company that will take you to Coba with a stop along the way at a real, living Mayan village where the locals take you for kayaking, serve a meal cooked outdoors, and take you down a deep well for swimming in a real ceyote--basically a cave filled with water.

Cancun has lovely beaches, but the best part about it is that you can get away from the Americanized feel of Cancun and see real countryside relatively easily.

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Passport Visa: Hi, I'm traveling to Asia this winter, and I noticed that an old visa I have is valid until about 7 days after I return. My question is, can I still travel with this? I know passports have to be valid for at least 6 months after a trip, but does the same apply to visas?

Andrea Sachs: Not sure we understand your question, since most visas are single-entry and date specific. But most likely, an old visa is OLD. If it is valid, then you should be good as long as you leave on the date it expires.

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NH Bed and Breakfast: Do you (or any other chatters) have any B&B suggestions for NH-VT-MN in this summer off-season? I'd love to take a weekend (or an extra day or two) to stay up there... swimming, boating, fishing, hiking. All those things are great! Thanks!

Gary Lee: I was up in NH a few weeks back and discovered a couple of really precious places: The Riverbend Inn, near Conway and the Notchland Inn.

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Purchasing Thanksgiving Tickets: How far in advance should I look into purchasing tickets to fly home for Thanksgiving? The prices always skyrocket toward the end and I need a good deal this year!

John Deiner: My guess: NOW! I just know my brother flies home from Florida each year for Christmas and he usually buys by the end of August. I would definitely be looking now, and if you see a fare that seems reasonable, grab it. If you book on Southwest, remember you can cancel penalty free and re-book if the price goes down, then bank the difference for a future flight.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hello,

Does anyone know of a source of 3 oz. reuseable bottles? I don't want to measure out 3 oz. and the only bottles I can find are either 2 oz. or 4 oz. Thanks.

KC Summers: Have you tried REI? They have refillable bottles in all sizes and shapes.

Any other suggestions for SS?

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Vienna, VA - My Bad Blunder: I had a bad cold and was arranging to attend a funeral for a favorite uncle the following weekend. When I arrived at the gate they had no reservation for me. I showed them my e-ticket and was chagrined to see that it was for a WEEK LATER! I couldn't believe it. I had never ever made such a mistake. The ticketing person must have seen my expression when she told me the price if I wanted to book a ticket at that moment (a LOT) and I realized I couldn't attend the funeral... Then an amazing thing happened. She smiled and re-booked my ticket with a minimal change fee. She was an angle that day... and the airline deserves who the kudo for having such a kind employee was Delta.

Andrea Sachs: Wow, a blunder with a happy ending (well, happy enough considering the occasion).

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Arlington, VA: My fiance and I are browsing honeymoon locations and have zeroed in on St. Maarten. We're looking at an early December honeymoon so we should be in the off-season. Any tips or recommendation such as whether or not we should go there?

Cindy Loose: I think St. Maarten is a fine choice of Caribbean islands. The French side of the island is known for good food, the Dutch side not so much on the food thing, as one might guess via stereotype. Nice beaches and great water sports, which can of course be said for most islands in the Caribbean. You're next challenge is to choose a hotel or resort that will suit all your dreams and desires. Best of luck on wedding, honeymoon, and many happy years together.

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Jersey Beach Traffic: Don't be too sure about those estimates. Traffic, especially on the well-traveled roads (AC Expressway, I95) can be brutal. If a local can give you alternate routes, take them.

Also, the drive from Vineland to the shore is an hour plus, depending on the destination, be sure to have a designated driver-caffeine supplier!

John Deiner: Good point. I should have advised taking I-295, which closely parallels the Turnpike and is often not congested. But, personally, I never hesitate to travel on September weekends up north.

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Laurel, Md: To our guest conservationist:

Many hotels are encouraging guests to participate in certain "green" practices, like not asking for clean towels every day. But most of these share the characteristic of saving the hotel money.

Are there any green practices that costs the hotel that can be used as a yardstick to determine if they're sincere, or only interested in conservation to the extent they profit from it?

Jamie Sweeting: Certainly helps when you can make an immediate "business case" for good environmental practices. Though you would be amazed how many hotels don't use compact florescent lightbulbs (CFLs) even though there is a rapid return on investment. Some good things to look for: 1) has the hotel been designed and built with nature in mind (if a beach resort - is a lot of the orignial vegetation still in place or have the mangroves/dunes been removed)? 2) Does the hotel actively support conservation and community development initiatives in their destination? 3) Does it look like the environmental program the hotel is involved with is "tokenism" or is it part of a philosophy/standard policy? What I like to call "part of their DNA". Hope this helps!

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National Airport: We use National a lot. If you're bringing carry on luggage only and have already checked in online, one hour prior is enough time.

KC Summers: Yeah, you're right, as a rule. I just hate to take chances when it comes to checking in for a flight. Also, these folks were leaving Friday evening, another reason to play it safe.

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Great Falls, VA: I'm headed to Lima for business in early September and I'm thinking of adding a few days to my trip to tour the area. What are your favorite things to see/do in Peru? Should I stick to Lima or move around the country some? Thanks.

Gary Lee: The best of Peru is places outside of Lima. If you have three extra days by all means go to Macchu Picchu. Everybody should see the ruins there at least once. Keep in mind that you need a day or so to get to Cusco and get settled, a full day for getting to Macchu Picchu, touring it and getting back, then another day in Cusco (it's a great city, well worth whatever time you can spend there.)

If all of that is too much, head to Arequipa, Peru's second city and a colonial gem in the south. The folks at Casa Arequipa (www.arequipacasa.com, a lovely B&B there, will help you plan your trip.

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Arlington, Va.: Here's a booking blunder for you. I'm getting married this October. One of my good friends from Florida booked airplane tickets several months ago for her and her fiance to travel up here for my wedding. However, they ended up calling off their own wedding (which would have been last month) just weeks after booking the tickets. Here's the kicker--she booked her ticket in her married name, but since she never actually got married, now her name and the name on the ticket are different. I know that the airlines are real sticklers about names matching up. Any advice for my friend? Will she have to just eat the ticket?

Andrea Sachs: Well, some of the advice only a therapist is qualified to dole out, but for the name change, call the airline and explain the situation. They should be able to reissue the ticket. I think your friend deserves a prize.

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For Oklahoma: I routinely put out of town guests at the GWU Inn. It's fairly quiet, within walking distance of the Kennedy Center (send them to a Millenium Stage show or two) and right near the metro stop for access to everything. And, Notte Bianchi is right downstairs for a good dinner after all that sightseeing.

Gary Lee: The nice quiet neighhborhood makes the GWU Inn a good bet. The River Inn is another lovely option in that area.

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Passport Success Story: I want to pass on a success story for you, understanding that others may not have such an experience.

In late June, my wife sent in her passport for renewal, along with a name change, in advance of our trip to Spain this September. She coughed up the extra bucks for expedited service. About 2 weeks later, her new passport was on our doorstep. Like I said, your mileage may vary, but there are some glimmers of hope.

Andrea Sachs: Another point for the State Department.

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Sass in Arlington: Hiya Flight Crew! Thanks for taking my question.

I'm getting married in early October and my fiance and I really, desperately want to go to Morocco for a honeymoon. We both speak Arabic but have never been to that part of the world.

Ideally, we'd like to visit a few cities, stay in riads, generally immerse ourselves in the local culture, and maybe take a day hike in the Sahara.

The only problem: We aren't comfortable spending more than $3000. Does that sound at all reasonable? Is it possible? Do y'all have any suggestions? Thanks!

Anne McDonough: Congrats, Sass! It is possible, and Morocco is just wonderful and romantic and I think a lovely place for a honeymoon. But it's doable only if you're really flexible--if you mix up a short stay in a supernice romantic riad (La Maison Arabe in Marrakech would be one suggestion) with nights at a more basic one, if you're up for flying from NY instead of directly from Washington, etc. (I just found a nonstop for $618 including taxes flight from NY to Casablanca for early October, whereas from Dulles the cheapest started at $935 with one stop). I was there last November and while I spent $11.50 a night for double room in a lovely but basic riadish courtyard hotel (Hotel Essaouira, right off Marrakech's Place Djemma el Fna) I spent almost as much on lunch! Food just wasn't as cheap as I would have thought it would be, even though most meals were without alcoholic drinks. Also in terms of flights, if you find a cheap one to a place in Europe that connects via RyanAir or EasyJet to Marrakech, Casablanca or Fez, consider jumping on it. (I flew to London for $303 and then to and from Marrakech on EasyJet for $70.) If you could push off your honeymoon until the next month, flights seem to drop for November departures.

If you do manage to get a roughly $650 roundtrip fare, that's $1300 plus whatever it would take to get to JFK (now that would be a great wedding present--if someone drove you to the airport! So you have roughly $1,500 for all inter-city travel, lodging food, activities, souvenirs (bringing back a rug would be a great way to document the honeymoon but won't fit in that budget), etc. If you're going to do this, I'd say stick to 2 to 3 locations maximum, and make sure they're within bus or hired car distance from each other; flights will quickly eat away at your funds. I loved my Marrakech-Essouira-Cascade d'Ouzoud itinerary, and would highly reccommend it. But that doesn't include hiking in the Sahara. I say, starrt looking for flights in all of the combinations and if you find a cheap one then it's absolutely doable. If you don't, I'd either save Morocco for another trip or get a little more comfortable about upping the budget. You could backpack your way around and do this absolutely no problem, but if you're looking for more honeymoonish comforts, then it would be tight.

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Alexandria, VA: My son and I would like to go to Mexico for a week this summer (last minute, I know) but we're having trouble deciding where. We like the water but we also want a nice town to walk around and explore. Night life and shopping are not a priority. I've always been interested in visiting the Gulf of California and thought La Paz might be a good choice. Any other ideas?

Gary Lee: Puerto Vallarta is a natural. Nice beaches, wonderful exploring, good restaurants.

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ID stored in email: What a great idea! But how secure is your email, especially when you have accessed it from some public computer in a foreign country? Seems to me that the risks might outweigh the benefit?

KC Summers: Maybe I'm not as paranoid as I should be, but I don't see what the problem is if you're careful to check the "Do not remember my password on this computer" box. However, I'd never send credit card numbers via email. If you want to email yourself this info, use a code.

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Downtown, Washington, DC: Okay here's my confession. About two weeks ago I was ecstatic to find a roundtrip flight from DCA to Orlando for Thanksgiving for about $200 (with easy to manage travel times too!). I jumped on this and bought a ticket for myself and boyfriend. We emailed our travel info to his family in florida and receive a frantic email informing us that I bought the tickets for the week AFTER thanksgiving. Who knew thanksgiving wasn't the last week in November? Okay, probably everyone except me. Thankfully, travelocity has an easy refund policy for tickets placed in a 24-hour window. I got all my money back except the $12 processing fee. Now I just need to suck it up and buy a $300 fare for thanksgiving :P

Andrea Sachs: Actually, the first Blunderer who wrote in did the same thing. Maybe you guys should start throwing your own special Thanksgiving together.

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Passports: The State Dept. has set up a "Passport Operations Center" downstairs in my building and all those bright young new foreign service officers who thought they'd be hammering out peace treaties in the middle east have been streaming in to stamp passports here instead...

Andrea Sachs: It's a war out there, on 19th Street NW.

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Re: Arlington, VA: Have you visited the sites mentioned? It is clear that they are in danger because of intensifying weather patterns and temperature change. Don't you want your children, grandchildren, and other descendants to have the opportunity to see these and other wonders of our natural world? It seems pretty selfish that you would stop short of doing anything possible to allow them to have the same opportunities you do to see these natural wonders.

Jamie, I was sad to see your answer didn't address the need for us to be learning as much as possible about global warming and its effects. Of course these issues should be in the travel section!

Jamie Sweeting: Sorry to disappoint! You are absolutely correct. I think the challenge, when it comes to travel (as you will see from a couple of other postings) is that when people go on vacation they are going to relax and have fun and don't want to get lectured at. A key challenge in my work is to try to convince companies that that doesn't mean that people should check their responsibilities at the door when they leave home. In fact, encouragingly I believe a lot more people are interested in finding out more about what they can do to limit their environmental footprint and that it can actually be a fun part of your holiday experience instead of a guilt trip. In my humble opinion, Climate Change will be the most critical issue of our time (not terrorism!) and we will all have to become more aware of what we can and should do about it both personally and as a modern society. I wish the science was wrong but I'm afraid its not.

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Arlington Frequent Flyer: John Deiner wrote:

"If you book on Southwest, remember you can cancel penalty free and re-book if the price goes down, then bank the difference for a future flight."

Actually, just about every airline nowadays will refund the overage if their price drops before you fly and you notice it (they won't volunteer the info, you've got to keep checking to see what it would cost to fly on the same itinerary); that refund may come in the form of a voucher for future travel, but there aren't any change fees for that transaction.

John Deiner: Hey, AFF. If Carol were here, she would know for certain, Goddess of Airfares that she is. I'll take your word on it, but it sounds sort of dicey to me. My understanding is that if you rebook a flight to get the cheaper rate, you still have to pay a change fee in most cases.

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Washington DC: On booking errors: Last year I booked the wrong time for a Southwest flight - 9 am rather than 9 pm. I noticed it immediately, picked up the phone, and called Southwest, ready to beg, plead, and spend more in additional charges than I had on the $119 roundtrip ticket.

An operator picked up immediately. I briefly explained the problem and gave her my confirmation number. There was a long pause, and then she said, "I've made the change." I was off the phone in under a minute. Thank you, Southwest!

Andrea Sachs: Thankfully, I made my mistake on forgiving Southwest too. No change fee, but I did have to drop a bit more because of the difference in fares.

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National Airport: We flew out of National on a 6AM flight on July 4th, and we barely had time to snag a bagel and coffee and board our flight, and we arrived at 4:40AM, having checked in the night before (we did have to check bags, though).

There are a lot of people traveling this summer who are not regular travelers, which means check-in lines (even the electronic kiosks) and especially security lines are moving considerably slower than usual (I can usually breeze through check-in and security at National in under 30 minutes, even on Christmas Eve). Definitely be sure to leave enough time to get through.

KC Summers: Thanks for the feedback. Yes, the airports are nuts this summer, another reason to be sure to allow enough time to check in.

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Rockville, MD: Re: Lost IDs. Just a tip - I make sure I scan my passport/license and email it to myself before going on a trip. That way, at least I can find a computer, and print out a copy in a pinch. Haven't had to use it yet, but I can't imagine it not helping tremendously...

Andrea Sachs: Smart idea. Now everyone, do it!

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Booking Blunders in VA: Hi Flight Crew!

This was not my blunder, but my travel agent's...on a recent overnight trip to San Francisco, I went online to check in for my return flight and the check-in engine couldn't find my reservation. Called Jet Blue, only to learn that my corp. travel agency had somehow cancelled the return portion of my flight - leaving me stranded in San Francisco. There were no seats available on any other Jet Blue flights for that day, so I called the company travel agency to book me a one-way ticket on ANY airline that could get me home when I needed to (because I had another flight out the following morning!). Finally ended up on a Delta flight which had 4 gate changes and a 3-hour delay due to t-storms at Dulles. Needless to say, the travel agent had to eat the cost of the 1-way ticket, which was about $1500.

Andrea Sachs: Yikes, wonder how much longer he/she kept that job.

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Washington, DC: I noticed from the picture included at the head of the chat that many of the travel staff are very attractive. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I think you often reccomend folks travel solo. I've done it, and often find it very difficult to meet people. It seems your experiences are different. That's all well and good, but I'm guessing my experiences would be different if I looked like Anne KC or Andrea. Just an observation. I love your section.

Cindy Loose: Cindy Loose here. I can't help but notice that I didn't make your attractive women in the travel section list, but that's good, cause I can assure you that even though I don't score with K.C., Andrea or Anne on the 1-10 list, I too travel alone and have some rollicking good times.

For one thing, I always look out for other ugly women to whom I can be friendly, and find that works very well.

Only kidding. Fact is that if I were looking for men ready to fall in love with me I'd probably come away disappointed 90% of the time at least. Other fact--sometimes I don't meet people with whom I feel so compatable that I come away with a friend. On the other hand, I do as often as not manage to exchange pleasantries with people, and sometimes end up meeting people with whom I share a meal or an actitivity, and once in awhile even make a friend. The liklihood of that happening is much greater, I find, when I stay at a very small hotel as opposed to a large one. You can also consider taking a tour--either the entire trip or a day tour here and there.

Luck is sometimes involved. Like, twice I've taken a cruise alone. The first time I was seated with other single travelers and most of us at the table of eight went off to the evenings entertainment together, and met up to go on excursions together. The second time I really did not like the other people at my table, and they apparently didn't like me and nothing clicked.

The trick is to be prepared to spend time alone if necessary, while also being friendly and open to oportunities to meet people.

Also check out travel clubs--I know there's one in the area that arranges local trips and has started going further afield as well. In fact, I've been planning to go on a trip with them. Come to think of it i've missplaced their contact info, so if anyone else has it and is listening in, remind us all what it is.

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Old Visa: Crew, many countries issue "multiple entry" visas that are valid for a specific amount of time. For instance, I got a visa for India in May that is good through October. I already went to Delhi in June, but if I wanted to go again in September, I could still do it on the "old" visa.

The chatter heading to Asia should be fine using their "old" visa, so long as they have no reason to anticipate a delay in their return.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the info. In our answer, we just wanted to be sure it was not a single-entry visa.

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Zurich highlights: Hello Crew! I will have one day/night in Zurich coming up soon and am wondering besides just chilling and absorbing the ambiance of the area, if there are any sights to absolutely not miss. Can you help?

Gary Lee: A few Zurich spots:

1. Fraumunster church, which has several fabulous windows painted by Marc Chagall.

2. Kunsthaus Zurich, exhibits a lot of truly memorable contemporary art.

3. Blindekuh, a restaurant where diners eat in pitch dark and all the waitstaff are blind.

4. Kronenhalle, a restautant serving great Swiss fare.

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Silver Spring, Md: Regarding storing a copy of ID, If you scan a copy of your ID and save it in a PDF you can put a password on it, adding a level of security. Then email it to yourself - AOL has a "save on aol" feature for emails, making them accessible from anywhere you have internet access,no matter how old the email is. I've used this a few times, mostly when I'm traveling and want to leave my passport in the safe, but have a copy to carry around.

Andrea Sachs: Great advice. Thanks.

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For Jamie: One of the early pioneers in green tourism was the Maho Bay camps on St. John's in the USVI. I've been there twice now and was wondering how well it's held up as an eco-friendly destination.

Jamie Sweeting: I love Maho Bay Camps - Stanley Selengut, the man who pioneered the development of this upscale eco-camping concept was certainly before his time. Last I heard, the lease for the land was running out and alas they were not able to secure the renewal (I hope I'm wrong). As a result they have developed a new site - Concordia on the other side of the island which is even more cutting edge. See http://www.maho.org/ for more info.

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Anonymous: How safe is travel to South America? What if one asked how safe is travel to North America? To Brazil? It is the size of the continental U.S. Best idea is to get a map and look at a guide book and come up with ideas where one wants to go. And have plenty of time, since it is difficult to travel as quickly as one does at home, and air fares, sadly, are not a bargain in most parts of South America. A Brazil air pass is a good idea if more than a couple of domestic flights are planned (needs to be purchased when an international ticket is purchased). I agree about Rio and also think it is a stunningly beauitful city, but if one is really concerned about safety they might want to spend time in places such as the Pantnal, Amazon, northeastern beaches, etc. And do not ask the Brazilians if they speak Spanish.

KC Summers: Thanks, Anon. Yes, can't say it enough, do your homework before you go.

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Washington DC: Hi Crew,

I submitted my passport for renewal on Monday April 2, and it has yet to arrive.( I did not ask for expedited processing, since it was only a little after I submitted it that the news stories of back-ups were covered). I am supposed to be heading to Europe August 15, so should I start badgering them now, or wait?

Thank you as always, for your advice

Cindy Loose: You waste your breathe if you badger too soon; they ask that you wait until 14 days before departure. Otherwise, you just tie up the phones for people in a real crisis, and they're not going to pull your file for extra help anyway.

Good luck, and I'm guessing you'll see it fairly soon.

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Bowie, MD: Has anyone cruised on the Carnival Freedom?

If so what are your thoughts?

Andrea Sachs: We have not yet; anyone out there been a Freedom cruiser?

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3 Oz Bottles: Check out the travel section at the Container Store. They have a terrific selection of travel-friendly containers, including the guaranteed-leakproof Nalgene ones!

KC Summers: Good idea, thanks. (Why is it that I always walk out of that store with at least $50 worth of stuff I had no intention of buying?!)

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Sarasota, Fla: Booking blunders:

Three weeks ago I had an overnight trip to Cincinnati, which I booked online. At the airport to fly home June 21, they found no record of my reservation...and I had just thrown out my printed confirmation cleaning out my purse while waiting for the rental-car shuttle.

FInally I found my boarding pass from the day before, so they could track my reservation...only to tell me I was booked to fly home July 1. I KNEW that was wrong, since I'd done the booking myself, but had no way to prove it, since I was not traveling with my laptop. Finally, I was so sure I was right I paid $10 at Laptop Lane to access my email to find my confirmation...only to discover that sure enough, I had booked myself home on July 1 by mistake.

Luckily, I had been very nice to the ticket agents rather than yelling and screaming, so I slunk back to the counter and threw myself on my mercy. They managed to get me from Cincy to Charlotte that night (for a $100 change fee), but all workable Charlotte-Florida flights were full. I wound up spending the night in a Charlotte fleabag motel and missing half a day's work the next morning, getting home after 11 AM.

The moral: be nice to the ticket agents. The only worse thing than being wrong is being nasty, and then wrong...

Andrea Sachs: A great example to follow, and so humble you are.

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Washington, D.C.: My husband and I looking for an affordable (less than $100/night) San Francisco hotel/b&b/apartment rental for August 11-18. We are former SF residents, and would prefer to be in a neighborhood (Pacific Heights, the Mission, North Beach, Inner Sunset, Inner Richmond, Cole Valley, Nob Hill, Western Addition, etc.) rather than downtown or in SOMA.

John Deiner: Hey, DC. That's a very tall order in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, but maybe someone out there will have a good idea for you. I visited in May and found a place that was well reviewed on Trip Advisor called the Nob Hill Motor Inn. I gotta tell you: I LOVED that place. It's in Pacific Heights (I think) two blocks from the cable cars, one block from major bus lines and a 15-minute walk to all the gunk on Fishermans Wharf. I checked online, and a standard room is $144 for the nights you're there. It's not fancy, but it was clean, the rooms were large -- and it has free covered parking. Lots of restaurants nearby.

Any other suggestions?

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Baltimore,MD: My parents (they are in their mid-70's and cannot walk a great deal) will be visiting in mid-august and I was thinking about taking them on one of the day cruises that goes from Annapolis to St. Michael's. Does anyone have any experience with these cruises?

KC Summers: Sorry, none of us has done this trip -- can any of the chatters help Baltimore out?

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Some comments from last weeks chat: I have lived along I95 corridor for 10 years. If you want to fly out of philly and need to drive...an alternate option is to take Amtrak. I do notknow what the cost is from either baltimore or union station, It may be much more reliable than I-95 traffic --especially on Friday. You can take Amtrak upto philly, and then transfer to a subway to the airport.

When my friend came down to visit one time when I was living up Md/DE line and we were returning from an evening orioles game it was near midnight and he was stunned by the traffic---that was 10 years ago, its alot worse now.

Wyomiing winter--some advice ---since as you said you have been southerners, how do you handle the cold. Cold means single digit cold. Yellowstone area is generally one of the coldest morning lowest for the continental US. It can be handled but you would just need to be prepared for the temperature. Tahoe in the winter does not have that ultra cold potential.

Fare changing: Its possible that certain web site will increase the price based on you coming back multiple times through cookies and other IP address software. That is the whole idea behind targeted adds on websites by getting your computer info. You should always look at other sites for the best fare.

Anne McDonough: Thanks for chiming in with these follow-ups!

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RE: Booking Blunder: I was trying to save $20 on an Air Tran flight from IAD to LAS, so I booked the cheaper flight. Then I realized that the only difference in the two flights offered was a 3 hour layover in Atlanta! So, I called Air Tran and they changed the reservation for free since I requested the change within 4 hours of booking. I'd gladly pay the extra $20 to avoid a 3 hour layover! Don't know what I was thinking...

Andrea Sachs: Yeah, you would have spent much more than $20 trying to amuse yourself during your long layover.

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To Silver Spring-3 oz bottles: I was just in the AAA travel office in Wheaton, where they sell a 1-quart zip-top bag (but heavier-duty than something from the grocery store), with four or five 3-oz screw-top bottles in it. Don't remember the price, but do remember thinking, "hey, that's pretty handy!"

KC Summers: There you go, SS, sounds like just what you're looking for.

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NW Washington, DC: Hi Crew- I am planning a trip to Prague over Thanksgiving. I missed out on a RT ticket for $528 IAD-PRG last week and today it's selling for $599. Needless to say, I was beyond bummed I didn't jump on this earlier!

My two-fold question is- since this is a slower season, what is a realistic price range for this flight-- have you seen it lower htan $528? I would be leaving on Tuesday and returning on a Tuesday. And second, I know you aren't fare forecasters but given that I have a couple months, what would you advise in terms of waiting or not waiting to purchase this ticket?

Much thanks!

Cindy Loose: Given you're talking a holiday period, I'd go for the $599 while I could still get it. Who knows--prices could fall, and then you'll be kicking me instead of yourself. But think of it this way: probably $200 of that price is taxes and fees, so the airline at that price is getting about $200 each way. I don't imagine the price would ever drop by more than $100, if you got incredibly lucky, but could go up by many hundreds of dollars. I'd say the price now is decent, so grab it and don't look back.

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Gaithersburg, MD: To Waldorf MD re: Disney Cruise - Love it. Have been 4 times in 7 years. Went with spouse and teen age kids and also just with a girlfriend. Treatment and service is more special. The "Disney" way shines through. Drinks and food are wonderful, special restaurant (Palo) is superb, stage shows are lively and filled with Disney songs and characters. Movie theatre with first run Disney movies is a big plus. Spa facilities very nice and clean. Can't say enough - go,go go!

John Deiner: Hey, Gaithersburg. Great stuff . . . but four times in seven years? That is one rousing endorsement.

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Newport, R.I.: I come to DC every Thanksgiving to spend time with a bunch of college friends. Last year I wasn't sure I could make it as I had to work on Friday evening, but after much lecturing from said friends and the announcement this year's theme, "Five Meat Minimum" I had to say yes. I flew down on Wednesday evening and spent much of Thursday eating and drinking bottle after bottle of champagne (the cheap stuff!). The late night trip to St. Ex didn't help either. Needless to say, when Super Shuttle picked me at the crack of dawn Friday morning, I was not in good shape. Upon arriving at BWI I attempted to self check-in and was promptly told by the computer that I needed to see an agent. The nice man at the Southwest counter informed me that I was scheduled to fly home the following day. Luckily, he felt bad for the girl with a hangover, got me on a flight leaving in 45 minutes and I was able to get home in time to nap before I had to be at work.

Andrea Sachs: Too bad you didn't have a spare drumstick to show your thanks.

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Re: Airline Tickets: Most airlines do not actually "ticket" your reservation within the 24 hours, and can make changes if you explain nicely. Of course you will have to pay the correct price for what you shoudl have booked instead of what you paid when you got so excited...

Andrea Sachs: Yes, I too have used that window for bad bookings. Good to remember.

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Passport Differences: Please don't make the mistake of mixing passport APPLICATION horrors with passport RENEWAL success stories. They are very different -- the renewals don't require much if anything in the way of verification (it was done when you first got your passport).

Cindy Loose: Yes, in fact I just got a call from someone who'd paid $60 extra to expedite a renewal for a passport she doesn't need until Sept., and I was thinking she had wasted $60. She got her new passport within two weeks. Then again, the birthdate was wrong, and she has to redo it. I'm thinking that the crunch makes the process more prone to mistakes for two reasons: there are people who are filling in who aren't experienced at issuing passports, plus everyone is overworked and tired and therefore prone to make mistakes. But really, if you have several months to play with, don't worry too much.

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Dive Panama: One of my favorite travel memories ever came from a trip to Panama. For adventurous types, the narrow isthmus allows the opportunity to dive in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the same day. Your hotel or a local scuba shop should be able to organize the day trip for you.

Also the Miraflores Locks, not far from the Bridge of the Americas, are a marvel and well worth a visit. You can see massive container and cruise ships literally rising through the jungle.

Cindy Loose: Thanks; it sounds good.

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Silver Spring, Md: About hotels doing things that are green and also save them money - see, I think that's -good-. It's great when we can explain to businesses that doing green things will also save them money. When you're talking to CEOs, you can't just sell them on the idea of being a goody-goody and saving the environment. They want to see how it's going to help the bottom line. And so often those things actually -do- align. I mean, take energy efficiency: you should do it to reduce emissions, yes. But also, if you improve efficiency, you spend less money on energy! Everybody wins! Some businesses are also picking up on the fact that consumers like to give their money to environmentally-friendly operations, and that's cool, but that's where you also have to watch out for tokenism.

Jamie Sweeting: Completely agree with you! The challenge is when things don't seem to directly tie in with a return on investment (like eco-efficiencies do). For example, what is the business case for a cruise line to go above and beyond their legal requirements? It is necessary to build the business case around the importance of maintaining the environmental integrity of the places ships visit - i.e. risk to the business associated with poor tour quality, benefits to the cruise lines if local people see them as allies in protecting the nature and culture of their destination. Why did I single out cruise lines? Well, because I have found the executive leaders of this part of the travel industry to be the most open and committed to really making a difference in this regard. Most people when I tell them this seem surprised. We are certainly happy with the way the cruise lines, through their industry associations - CLIA (Cruise lines International Association) and F-CCA (Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association), are stepping up to the plate in this regard.

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Washington DC: I'm thinking of a trip to Anguilla in the Caribbean in the last week in August. The prices are great but how worried should I be that a hurricane will ruin my vacation?

Gary Lee: Hitting a storm is always a risk during summer and fall trips to the Caribbean and Anguilla is in the storm zone. But the risk of hitting a storm is far lower in August than in October. I would say: go for it but buy trip insurance.

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Egypt and Jordan: Hi FC,

I'm looking into taking a trip to Egypt sometime in Sept-Nov with all the usual sights/stops (Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Nile Cruise, etc) and am considering tacking on 4 days to go to Petra in Jordan. Have any of you done this and can anyone recommend a good tour company?

Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: No Egypt-Jordan trip in our slide collection. Any out there?

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Going to Guatemala tomorrow: Hi! A fun question: I'm going to Guatemala tomorrow, first to

Antigua and next to Panajachel, for a total of four days.

Really excited! If there were one food you'd recommend I try

while I'm there, what is it?

John Deiner: Nice! I was there a few years back and remember loving everything, including guacamole with baby-head-size avocado pits still in it. Anyone out there have some, uh, better recommendations for our Central America-bound clickster?

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Atlanta, Ga.: To the poster inquiring about Panama...Go! My then girlfriend (now wife) and I went two summers ago and still talk about going back. Panama City is a cosmopolitan city with a bustling nightlife. Don't miss the Canal either. The visitor's center at the Miraflores locks does an impressive job of breaking down an engineering marvel into terms that even a layman like myself could understand. The mountain town of Boquete is charming, and the Bocas del Toro islands off the Caribbean coast offer beautiful beaches and a variety of accommodations. (Caution, the weather there can be a bit rainy/cloudy, even during the dry season.) Roads and other travel infrastructure are high-quality--better than Costa Rica in my opinion, prices are relatively low and visitors are safe if they take the normal precautions. You won't be surrounded by other tourists, but more and more people are discovering Panama every day. The only real downside could be that as Panama has yet to catch up to Costa Rica as a tourist destination, you may not find the variety of package type 'eco-adventures' if that's what you're looking for. You'll have to do strike out on your own to really see all the country has to offer.

Cindy Loose: You've sold me. In fact, I was sold when I heard there were direct flights under $500. Of course those might not be available when you want them, but I'm thinking other airlines are going to have to reduce fares to match what Coba's doing, at least to start.

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Thanksgiving: What are the cheapest days to fly around Thanksgiving? A Wed-Mon itinerary seems like one of the better options so far...

John Deiner: Wednesday is better? Wow. That's surprising since that's the big travel day. If you see a good fare, I'd grab it. I would have guessed the previous Monday or Tuesday, or the Saturday before. (Remember that the whole world will be flying that day, though.) Monday makes perfect sense though.

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Washington, DC: Hey Travel crew!

I was stuck in NYC this week - on Wednesday night USAir cancelled flights to BWI due to "previous weather cancellations". The trains were full, so I was stuck getting a hotel and waiting until Thursday to fly (I don't drive). The airline would not pay for the hotel, nor would they compensate me. Flights on other airlines were going to Dulles and Regan, but USAir would not switch me. Do I have any recourse at all?

Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: Not really. If the delay was caused by weather or any other "act of God," then they are not responsible for your additional expenses.

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Washington DC: Hi Crew!

Taking a very long flight to Japan in September, and was wondering--if it were you, what would you pack as snacks? (We're also not sure how long it'll take to make train connections or get "real food" after we arrive, so the snacks may need to hold out a while).

Thank you!

KC Summers: For long flights, I always fly with a big bag of trail mix (Trader Joe's is a great source for this, with a zillion different options), plus granola bars, dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, and baggies full of baby carrots, sliced green peppers, etc. It weighs me down but I really hate paying money for gross airport snacks. I like to take an assortment of fresh and dried stuff, obviously eating the fresh/perishable items first. Don't forget to pack paper napkins and a couple of spare plastic bags for apple cores, orange peels, etc.

Other snack suggestions for Wash?

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Fredericksburg, VA: It's hot. It's humid. So I am thinking Autumn foliage trips. My wife and I would like to be up in the North East in late September to enjoy the fall colors without fighting hordes of tour buses and jam-packed backroads. Any suggestions on scenic, less-than-manic parts of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire to have a long weekend trip? Thoughts on best airports to fly to from the DC area? Thanks.

Gary Lee: Good thought.

However, know this: leaf peeping season is high season throughout New England; roads are crowded and B&B rates hit the roof.

I would think about centering a trip around western Mass. The Berkshires get all the colorful leaves and fewer of the crazy bus tours.

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invalid airline tickets: Not our blunder, but Expedia's: for our honeymoon, we booked tickets on United to Paris, transferring to Croatian Airways to Zagreb and finally to Dubrovnik. To make a long story short, we learned in Zagreb that United doesn't have an interline agreement with Croatian, so Expedia essentially sold us invalid tickets. We had to buy one way tickets to Dubrovnik, and then spend our entire honeymoon week on the phone or email with Expedia to get them to fix our tickets. In the end, we had to buy one way tickets back to Paris to get to our United flight. Expedia reimbursed us, but it was still a major hassle.

Andrea Sachs: That sounds worse than wedding planning.

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Bad Booking: My son was competing in a sports event in Louisville, KY. The coach made all of the team's travel arrangements. We arrived at DCA only to be told we didn't have reservations - 6 of us were in that boat. The agent finally discovered that 6 of the group of 14 were actually booked to fly out of Dulles - at the same time! The 6 of us grabbed a cab, raced to Dulles, ran ourselves ragged to get to the gate, only to be told the flight had just left (we asked if they would hold the flight before we left DCA - they said "no"). The gate agents at Dulles said "If we had known you were coming, we would have held the plane." Then, they said "Hmmm, you were at National?" Yes. "And they wouldn't put you on that plane?" Right. Turns out there were 40 empty seats on the plane out of DCA! We flew stand by and eventually got to Louisville - after 11 hours! Could have (should have!) driven it! Lesson learned - book your own travel!

Andrea Sachs: But you worked as team--maybe that was the coach's intention.

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Fairfax, VA: Hey Flight Crew!

A couple of things...first, to the poster considering St. Maarten/St. Martin for a honeymoon - December is decidedly NOT off-season. Hurricane season ends on Nov. 30th and prices tend to jump right after that. For places to stay, consider Esmeralda Resort on Orient Bay on the French Side (lovely villas in a tropical-garden setting and the restaurant in the resort is fabulous, plus you're just a few minutes away from the activities & restaurants of Orient Beach - and the nude beach if you're feeling naughty).

OK, now here's my question...some friends and I would like to take a long-weekend trip (4-5 days) to celebrate our 40th birthdays (in February). We'd like to spend about $1K or less per person for airfare & lodging. We don't need incredible luxury but somethinglike your average Marriott or Hilton would be nice. We'd prefer someplace warm that we can get to on a nonstop flight, that has great food and nightlife (but not overrun with kids on spring break), and which either has a great beach of amazing pool area. We've thought about Vegas (but not sure of temperatures in February), Caribbean (but not sure about where to go to maximize $$), and South Beach or Key West (but prices seem pretty high there for that time period)...any other suggestions?

Cindy Loose: Not exactly off season, but the several weeks before Christmas are often very slow, as so many people are saving up their vacations for the Christmas and Hannakah holidays. I know last year I was on the west coast of Mexico two weeks before Christmas and prices were very good, and were slated to zoom just days before the holiday.

If you want to swim in the ocean, Feb. can be pretty chilly in Florida, although it's great for pool swimming and just lying out. Same with Bahamas and Bermuda. If getting into natural bodies of water isn't important, those are good options.

For places with direct flights that are also relatively inexpensive, plus warm enough to take a dip in a natural body of water, start by looking at San Juan, P.R.

If none of that works for you, let us know next week and we'll try again.

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Cambridge, Mass: To the person going to Woodstock, VT later this week. This is one of our favorite towns. Our favorite restaurants is The Prince and The Pauper - in the center of town. It is definitely a foodie restaurant.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for sharing. Can you make an 8 p.m. reservation? Table for four?

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Falls Church, VA (3 oz bottles): Bed, Bath, and Beyond had a set of travel bottles, all 3 oz and smaller, packaged in the gallon size zip-top bag. It was in the checkout line, and about $5. Might not be the best quality, but seemed worth it...

Also, went to Merrifield Post Office to renew my passport, and it could not have been easier or quicker. I paid for the expedited service for a trip in October, and will keep my fingers crossed.

KC Summers: Another good source for teeny tiny containers.

Re passports, I'm definitely getting the sense that the bottleneck is clearing. Our reader complaint file is much less active these days, passport-wise anyway.

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re: Panama: Visit the San Blas Islands (Komarca Kuna Yala).... its amazing, if you can stand no electricity/showers etc. for a few days.

Andrea Sachs: Cleanliness is so overrated anyway. So is lighting.

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3 oz bottles: The Container Store does NOT have 3 oz bottles - they have been requesting Nalgene to make them for a long time and Nalgene won't. They think the 3 oz rule will go away. Hah. They could be making all kinds of money.

KC Summers: Actually they do. I've bought them there. They have lots more different brands than Nalgene, in all different sizes of refillable containers, with different style caps -- squirt tops, screw tops, etc.

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Visa clarification: Sorry, it is a five-year multiple entry visa, so its actually good until Jan 13th, and I'm planning on returning Jan 6th. I guess I can also call the embassy to get more info. Thanks!

KC Summers: Thanks for clarifying that.

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Alexandria, VA: I fly several times a year to Edinburgh, and usually use the Dulles-Heathrow-Edinburgh route. For an upcoming trip, I am considering connecting to Continental's direct flight to Edinburgh from Newark. However, I have NO experience of the Newark airport, and I don't trust the connection times shown on Continental's website. Any thoughts on Newark, and particularly transit times between terminals and/or security lines?

Andrea Sachs: We have not flown out of Newark in ages. Anyone have Newark on their speed dial?

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washingtonpost.com: Quebec City, Inside and Out, (July 23, 2006)

KC Summers: Here you go, for the Quebec City-bound. Thanks, Kim.

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Green travel: ok, so maybe the hotel doesnt' use environmentally friendly lights. but it IS providing jobs to locals, which in my opinion does far more good. I guess I am in the minority here. I try to recycle, I try to be conscious of not generating excessive waste, but I also dno't judge people for traveling where they want to travel and not where conservation-mided people think they should. Why is everything a -my-way-is-the-only-way mindset with so many "green" folks.

Jamie Sweeting: I see where you are coming from but I guess I believe we can and should be able to "have our cake and eat it." I see no reason why all forms of travel can't be more responsible. No one should be able to tell you where you can and can't go other than the local people in the destination you are visiting and they should be able to reserve the right to decide how visitors can and can't access their home. That said, is it so bad to want tour companies to both employ local people and limit their environmental footprint?

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Alexandria, VA: Honeymooning next July -- looking for a nice, quiet, relaxing place. Had someone suggest Napa, another Victoria, CAN -- it hadn't really occured to us to stay in the North America, much less the U.S.

Question: Aren't those spots going to be overrun with tourists and super-expensive in July? If so, any thoughts on a good, but not break-the-bank (less than $3500) honeymoon for a week spot(s)? Thanks!

Cindy Loose: I'm guessing people started thinking of U.S. and Canada when you mentioned a $3,500 budget for a week. However, that amount of money could also get you a nice week in the Caribbean in July---hurricane season, but you could try the ABC islands, which are virtually hurricane proof.

Actually, though, I think we need to know more about what appeals to you, besides quiet and relaxing. Do you imagine lying on a beach? Driving around charming towns? You want a big resort style place, all inclusive, or do you imagine dining in little out of the way places. Do you want a city to be included? If you want to go further afield, you'll pay more for airfare, which might mean you'd sacrifice on the kind of hotel you might be able to afford. Which is more important--a foreign feel or a great hotel?

I.E. tell us more.

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Silver Spring, MD: Heading off for a few days in Quebec City. Any things that are must sees? Is this a city for which a rental car is not really necessary?

Cindy Loose: This is one of the better cities to see without a car. The old part of the city is very, very walkable--and a lovely walk it is. Their is also a couple streets lined with restaurants that start just outside the old city, and at least the closer one are within an easy walk. The city then spreads out a bit from there, so you'd need to take a bus or cab to the largest museum in town. You might also want to visit nearby attractions, like a waterfall or Anglesey island, but you could take a tour.

The city is celebrating a major anniversary this year, so check their tourism website to see what kind of entertainment might be happening related tothat. I'm thinking the anniversary has driven up prices, so I hope you have hotel already. Also, this info about the city being walkable depends on your hotel being in or close to the old quarter--know where your hotel is before heading out.

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Andrea Sachs: So, the end is here. Sad, but we will back next week.

Thanks to all of the Blunderers who admitted their erring ways. And for that, well, we wish we could send you all gifts, but my soap opera heart goes to the friend who booked in her (non) married name. Please send your info to me at sachsa@washpost.com and I will send you both a prize. I have to go dry my tears now.

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