Talk About Travel
Monday, November 12, 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.
Cindy Loose: I'm guessing most of our chatters today are people who get off work on Veteran's Day. No such luck in house: We're all here--Editor K.C. Summers and John Deiner and Scott Vogel and Christina Talcott and Carol Sottili and myself, Cindy Loose.
For questions we can't answer, and for additional info, we turn to you. The best helper can claim a new Road Atlas of hte U.S., Canada and Mexico, valued at $14.95. Sorry, but we've run out of Ginzu knives so there is no bonus this week.
I've just returned from a Air Transport Association briefing at which they warn of incredibly crowded skies and plans over the 12 days surrounding Thanksgiving. Warning: 90% of seats on planes will be taken, and that's not counting the seats taken by people who missed their first flight. So, question is, given the circumstances in air travel, how far are you willing to drive to avoid flying? Has that calculation changed over time?
Baltimore, MD: Re yesterday's horror story: yikes! But wasn't it Continental's responsibility to hold the flight to Europe to wait for passengers on its own connecting flights? I've had flights held for that reason. And a friend of mine was sent in a taxi (paid by the airline) from BWI to Philly to make her flight to Ireland when the BWI-Philly flight was delayed.
Cindy Loose: Holding flights for people connecting is getting to be a very rare occurance. If an airline knows people are on their way and will be there soon--and I can't define soon but would guess well less than 30 minutes--they might hold a flight. But you can't count on it, and if your delay is a long one, forget about it.
One problem from the airline's perspective---if flying overseas they're held fairly strictly to a landing time, and risk losing their slot if they're very late.
Towson, Md: Rental cars in Europe: On my recent trip to France, my rental car was an Opel Meriva (not something you'd see in the USA). I am a lifelong stick-shift driver, but the first time I tried to shift into reverse, the shift lever wouldn't go there! I had to get an employee of the rental car firm to show me how. On that car, you have to lift up a ring that's right below the shift knob. I am really, really grateful I discovered this while still in the parking lot and not someplace miles away! It's always important to know how to operate everything on your rental car; here's one more thing to check.
Cindy Loose: Great idea to check shifting. I can't tell you how many times I've failed to follow your advice to check out the car thoroughly, arrived at a gas station and could not figure out how to get the cap to the tank open.
Stick shift I definately wouldn't have thought about until was stuck somewhere and couldn't turn around.
HdG, MD: AHHHHH!!!! Thats the sounds of a sardine being unpacked, or a frequent flyer getting off a plane and breathing again. Yesterday, I encountered a new plane behaviour. Stuck in a middle seat, and the guy in front of me reclined his seat. Oh, fine. I generally just inhale and deal. But then, he proceeded to lean forward with his head on the seat in front of him. Annoyance built up, and I finally asked him if he could raise his seat since he wasn't using the recline-ness. He refused. Can I nominate him for jerk of the day? (and I'll put $5 down that someone else will write in and say I was being unreasonable, it was his seat to recline whether he reclined himself or not). Thanks for listening. I feel better!
Oh, and I asked recently about things to do around El Paso. Well, my trip was cut short so I didn't have the 4 days free. Just 12 non-sleeping hours. The hotel desk staff suggested a mall and a movie. That seemed sad. So I drove through the franklin mountains, took a short hike, and then explored the El Paso Archeology Museum, the U.S. Boarder Patrol Museum, and the cactus gardens between the two. Wasted about half my free day.
KC Summers: Hey Havre. LOL. Although I really hesitate to put this out there since I think we all remember all too clearly what happened the last time we unleashed the subject of reclining seats -- major incivility, name-calling, nastiness, etc etc.
But your story has a new twist. I will weigh in and say yes, the guy was a being a jerk. Of course, I'd say that anyway, whether he was leaning forward or not...
PS -- Thanks for the El Paso report.
Alexandria, VA: Regarding Cara Lanza's trip, another strategy I would have used is to not book an international flight out of National. Wouldn't a direct flight from Dulles to Rome had been a better booking?
Cindy Loose: I think Air France has a direct from Dulles to Rome and there might be something else. Direct flights are always preferable--they at the very least cut in half your chances of having a problem than if you take two flights. Sometimes they are more expensive, but it's good to consider the reduction in the odds of long delays, and the increased chance you have that you luggage will fly with you, and the ease of just getting on one plane and zoning out.
College Park, MD: I've been having trouble sorting through conflicting online information about air courier opportunities, partly because so much is out of date. What is the current status/viability of these opportunities, and where, online or in print, might I find the most accurate and helpful information? (Apologies that this is pre-posted, cannot join 2 p.m. session)
Carol Sottili: Air courier travel is no longer common. It was once a great way for flexible travelers to save a bundle, but it's fallen out of favor. Lots of reason involving international trade regs, etc. There are still organizations that say they will connect you with courier flights, but I've not tried them out in some time. And they cost $ to join. Try International Association of Air Travel Couriers (www.courier.org) or the Air Couriers Association (www.aircourier.org).
Arlington, VA: I am taking my mom to Cancun the first week of December (staying at the Riu Palace de las Americas-any thoughts??) We are first timers, so I want to get out and do some excursions. My question is, is it best to book online beforehand, like through Expedia activities or should we wait until arriving to get better deals, through concierge/activity groups in Cancun? Will popular activities be booked/more expensive there? Any ideas on good Cancun excursions?
John Deiner: Hey, Arl. I just got back from my first trip to Cancun recently myself. Gotta tell ya: I loved the place. So much fun.
Riu hotels generally get good reviews, so you should be okay in that regard.
As far as excursions go, you'll probably find you won't have too much trouble booking one once you get there. I found it really easy, and I could play it by ear once I was on the ground (rainy days vs. nice days, etc.). I'm not sure you'll get a better deal by booking ahead, but does anyone out there know?
I did an excursion to Chichen Itza, one of the New Wonders of the World. I have to be honest: The Apple tour I took was a bit underwhelming, as it was hot and crowded (that's the bus I'm talking about) and I wasn't knocked out by the tour guide. It was just a long, grueling day, though the ruins are fantastic. The best part was the swimming hole we stopped at on the way home. In retrospect, I wish I'd just rented a car and gone on my own -- it's a pretty direct route down good roads for the duration.
I have heard great things about Xcaret, a natural park where you can float underground on a river. Then again, the snorkeling is supposedly wonderful in the region -- some folks I spoke to couldn't say enough good things about it.
Anyone out there with an opinion on Cancun excursions?
Baltimore, Md: Hey all- thanks for taking my question. I'm going to Taipei over Christmas, and coming back via Seattle on New Year's Eve. My flight actually comes into Vancouver and then has a layover there before continuing to Seattle (Air Canada from Seoul to Vancouver, in case you were wondering). We will be spending New Year's Eve in Seattle, and that also is my husband's birthday.
My question: given the length of our layover, I thought we might have a more enjoyable time if we just rented a car and drove to Seattle from Vancouver rather than waiting in the airport for several hours. But I'm not sure we can pull this off - will we be able to get our luggage once we get to Vancouver, or will they check us all the way through to Seattle? Will the airline expect us to be getting on and then go on a hunt for us if we don't turn up? Is this all just too much trouble?
Cindy Loose: Nice idea, but is Seattle your final destination? If not, if in fact you have an onward ticket with just a stop in Seattle, then it won't work. If you miss one leg of your journey, the airline will consider you a no show and will probably invalidate the remainder of your ticket.
If however Seattle is the last stop, at least on the ticket you're using for that part of the journey and you have a separate ticket to fly from Seattle to some other place, then I'd think you could do this. Chatters, correct me if I'm wrong, but wont this traveler be required to get his/her luggage in Canada to go through customs?
Washington, DC: The family is headed to a rental house in the Toronto area for Thanksgiving and since we are driving we are thinking of taking some food with us. Are there any restrictions about taking food across the border? In particular, what about taking a turkey? I know we can buy it there, but they take so darn long to defrost it seems like it might almost be easier to buy it here and transport it in a cooler. Thanks!
KC Summers: Wash, you may want to go ahead and defrost the bird in Canada -- there are strict regulations about bringing good into Canada. To quote the Canadian Border Services Agency (www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca):
"Travellers are often surprised when they are told that their one little piece of fruit or meat can cause serious damage to Canada. Certain items are restricted or prohibited because they can harbour foreign animal and plant pests and diseases that could pose a risk to human, plant or animal health and cause irreparable harm to Canada's crops, livestock, pets, and environment. Because of this threat, travellers are required to declare any meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, animals, and plant or animal products they bring into the country."
Okay, I've just spent valuable chat minutes combing the Web site of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency -- who knew there were so many different kinds of meat?! -- and can't find a definitive nix on bringing raw turkey meat into the country. However, I wouldn't risk it.
Anyone else have firsthand experience with this?
Pittsburgh, Pa: Among the advice offered in this weekend's article on avoiding disastrous international flying vacations was: when taking a trip entailing two or more flights, always book them on the same airline. Alas, those of us living in the comparative hinterlands often don't have that option, unless we want to limit ourselves to only a few international destinations. At best, on my three-flight trips to Europe I've managed to book my transatlantic and connecting intra-European flight on the same airline, but from a home airport like Pittsburgh there rarely domestic flights on the same airline to my US portal airport (e.g., Newark, Boston). I've thus far succeeded in coping by allowing generous layover times for changing airlines, but wonder what ELSE a passenger can do to avoid a plight like the person's in your article.
Cindy Loose: Your ticket doesn't have to be on the same airline, it just has to be on the same ticket. In other words, can't you buy a ticket from say U.S. Air that takes you from Pittsburgh to Newark then onward to a city overseas on another airline---but same ticket.
Even if you're on the same airline you shouldn't buy two different tickets for connecting flights.
Maybe I'm missing some nuance involving smaller airports, but I'm 99.99% sure you can buy one ticket even from a smaller airport like yours and keep going around the world even on a different airline.
Reston, VA: My daughter will be studying in Sydney, Australia, for her Fall 2008 semester. What's the best strategy for purchasing her airfare at the lowest cost, as well as tickets for the rest of us to visit her during the Xmas holiday? Thanks.
Carol Sottili: Start tracking the sales now by signing up for email alerts at the main airlines that fly there (namely Qantas - www.qantas.com - and Air New Zealand - www.airnewzealand.com). Both airlines have fairly regular sales. But be aware that the lowest economy fares often have a 30-day maximum stay. Also, travel around Christmas, especially to a warm destination, is going to cost more than average. Also, try ticketing your trip (and your daughter's) in two segments to see if that saves $ - from here to Los Angeles, and from L.A. to Sydney. You won't be able to book travel for Christmas 2008 now - flight schedules come out about 335 days or so in advance.
re Cancun trip: For the Cancun traveller--check out the Tulum ruins, they're much closer to Cancun than Chichen. Not as impressive, but still right on the water and worth the trip. I visited Chichen Itza last year and it was phenomenal--I'd urge you to go even though it takes a few hours to get there.
John Deiner: Ah, good suggestion. I was in "World Wonder" mode and didn't want to miss the opportunity, but that's a great suggestion.
Washington, D.C.: We have a 2-month-old baby and I'd like to take our first little excursion as a family this weekend. I was thinking we could just go to Frederick, Md. Can you recommend places to stay and baby-friendly restaurants there? We love walking in the little downtown area. What else should we do while there? Are there nice parks nearby for a short hike?
Scott Vogel: The very helpful Frederick County tourism office (www.fredericktourism.com) told us about a few kid-friendly places in the downtown area, among them Brewer's Alley Restaurant and Crabapples Delicatessen. (Check the internet for contact information.) Park-wise, Bakers Park is just west of the downtown artery, Market Street, and it has a large children's play area. Finally, hotel-wise, several Frederick-area hotels are listed as having child discounts, which I suppose means they're child-friendly. Among these are the Holiday Inn on Holiday Dr. and the Fairfield Inn on Westview Dr. Have fun with your kiddo!
Vienna, VA: Dear Crew,
Fairfax county schools were closed last Mon. & Tues. for teacher work days, so our family took the opportunity for a quick 3-night getaway to OBX. We rented a house in Duck and had a great time and -- thanks to global warming -- great warm weather, though too bad more restaurants weren't open. Anyhoo -- my point is that I wonder if ya'll couldn't pay a bit more attention to the local major public school closing schedules and give us some trip tips for them. Here's a hint: FFX schools will be closed again Fri. Jan. 25 and Mon. Jan. 28. Where should we go for the a long weekend in late Jan.? Thanks
KC Summers: Hey Vienna. Sounds like a great getaway. Since there are so many different school districts in the metro area, it would be pretty hard to tailor our coverage to one district or another. But here's a tip: When you have a long weekend looming, go to www.washingtonpost.com/escapes for a great collection of regional getaway ideas.
As for a long weekend in late January, does your family like cities? If you stay in a place with an indoor pool, you can put together a great weekend of museum-going (Philly's historical attractions are great for kids), fun meals out, theater and more. Or if you're looking for something more outdoorsy, consider Wintergreen in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, with skiing, snow tubing, hiking, horseback riding, spa and more.
Other ideas for Vienna?
Vienna, VA: Hello! I'm going to the UK soon, and I'd like to bring a homemade banana bread for my relatives there. If I put it in my checked-in luggage, is this a customs no-no? Thanks.
Andrea Sachs: The concern is not whether you can check or carry on the banana bread; the issue is whether it will be permitted through Customs. Most nations ban fresh produce from entry, but baked and dried goods are another matter. (Basically, if there were any bugs on those bananas, they are now cooked.) Just be prepared to eat a whole loaf if they say No to your bread.
Washington, DC: about to disobey your strategy--yikes!
Need to fly into Lihue, HI and although Southwest shows it as a flight pattern, using ATA, neither ATA nor SW will show actual flights. They claim that a "direct" flight will route through Oakland. I can book a flight from BWI to Oakland and from Oakland to Lihue. Am I asking for trouble? I figure if I take the first flight in the morning, I'll have nearly 3 hours in Oakland for my connection.
Cindy Loose: Three hours is a lot of time and you'll have a good chance of making the subsequent flight. But be aware that the stakes are high for betting wrong----if you can't make the connection, it's as if you never bought that second ticket. Your only choice then would be to pay a walk-up fare, assuming there even is room on a subsequent flight. If it were me and I felt it expedient to buy separate tickets, I'd consider even more time, and even think about enjoying San Francisco overnight along the way. I'm also trying to think what travel "trip interruption"insurance would get you---probably reimburse you for pre-paid rooms and such cause you missed your trip, but I've never heard of a policy that will pay for another ticket to get you where you're going if you miss your connection.
Rockville, MD: suggestion: Cara might have taken the first available flight to "anywhere" in Europe and then bought a train ticket to meet friends in Rome. We, in America, often forget how marvelous and FAST the trains in Europe are.
Similarly, I wonder if the airlines/she thought about checking for flights from other nearby airports? That's one upside of being on the East Coast. She could have taken a flight from Kennedy, LaGuardia, Philly...all relatively close.
Cindy Loose: Agents were looking at various options of where to fly out of to get to Rome or Naples, but I don't think she thought about trains. Good idea, though. Thanks. If you want the road atlas email me an address at email@example.com
Columbia, MD: Hi.
Most of my vacations are local and easy to coordinate, but once in a (long) while I plan on longer, more complex (at least to me) trips.
I'm planning on visiting Arizona and Utah for 2 weeks this Fall. I'll fly to Vegas, stay at 4 places, and rent an SUV for off paved road exploring. Coordinating these elements doesn't come easy - I have to book space at National Parks early to get choice accomodations (already done), but airlines don't take reservations that far ahead. With rooms reserved, I'll have no flexibility with flight times, and I will want non-stop only.
Do you have recommendations on when to book flight and car rental reservations? Should I do it as soon as I can, or do I hold out, and watch for deals and sales?
Also, any thoughts on trip insurance to protect myself from unrefundable plane tickets, etc?
Carol Sottili: I'm guessing you mean fall 2008. Shouldn't be that difficult to coordinate because several airlines, including JetBlue and Southwest, fly nonstop from the Washington area to Las Vegas. I'd just watch the sales and strike when I see a flight for $200-$225 round trip including taxes. As for renting an SUV, I like Priceline.com or Hotwire.com for those deals. And, re: trip insurance, I don't know how much this trip is going to cost, but it may not be worth getting insurance, especially if you book with an airline, such as Southwest, that allows you to cancel your flights and use the $ on another flight during the next calendar year.
Philadelphia, PA: I'm travelling to Frankfurt for two weeks and am leaving Christmas Eve. What should I not miss while there? I have a very fluid travel plan - Romantic road, King Ludwig's castles, Munich, Frankfurt - but am wondering how best to utilize my time.
My travel partner is starting her year at Landstuhl Army Base in a week and will be joining me when she can.
Any advice on car rental vs. train travel?
Cindy Loose: Hmmm, Munich is good. I'd be satisfied with just a day or two in Frankfurt--some nice museums and riverfront but you won't find a lot of old world charm in Frankfurt, thanks to Hitler thinking he could take over the world and not pay for the attempt.
Last time I was in Frankfurt I took a rather long drive but an overnight trip to the Black Forest and went cross country skiing--very fun and you can learn easily while doing.
I'd use trains for the longer trips, maybe rent a car for shorter trips between towns. Personally the autobahn scares me cause they go so fast and you're looking for signs in what for me at least is a foreign language.
Folks, I need your help----with two weeks after flying into Frankfort, where should she go?
Alaska - Cruise or Drive?: Greeting Flight Crew,
Hubby and I are planning a last big trip b/4 we settle down and start a family. Alaska is at the top of our list. We are having trouble deciding if we should cruise or drive? If we fly, we'd have about 8 solid days on the ground. If we cruise, we would like leave out of Seattle or Vancouver for a 7 day cruise and spend a day or so in whichever port we leave from (we've never been to either city). Any thoughts? Generally speaking, we are vacation to see places - not to relax. Reading about my options makes me realize you see very different parts of Alaska on a cruise than you would by flying to Anchorage and exploring by car. What do you suggest?
Andrea Sachs: So much depends on your preferred mode of travel, and how much pre-planning you care to do. If you take the cruise, you will definitely see stunning scenery and have some shore time and excursions--but you are slave to the cruise ship's schedule. By car, of course, you are literally behind the wheel and can experience the state at a much more intimate level. However, a driving tour requires a lot of planning, especially since many areas can only be reached by plane.
When I visit Alaska (one day, I hope), I most likely will do a mix of car, ferries and small planes. Just my preferred mode of transportation.
Takoma Park, MD: Regarding Cancun: My experience is out of date, but I'm guessing some things don't change much. We went there 10 years ago. WE found that hardly anyone spends the night away from Cancun. So, if you travel to Chichen Itza or Tulum (another amazing excursion from Cancun), spend the night, and get to the site before 10 a.m. the next day (which is when the big buses from Cancun start rolling in), you have the place almost all to yourself. At Chichen Itza, we hired one of the independent guides hanging around the entrance. We found his tour to be much more informative and believeable than the goofy tour (full of jokens and info that just seemed bogus) organized by the group tour we'd arrived with the previous day.
John Deiner: Hey, Takoma. Love the suggestion, and I'm sorry I didn't do the same thing.
Flight terminology: Are direct flight and non-stop flight interchangeable? It was my understanding that a direct flight is one in which there is a stop on the way to the destination though not necessarily a change of planes and a non-stop flight is just that.
Cindy Loose: You are right; direct means the plane might stop but then continues to your destination without you necessairly getting off. Non stop doesn't stop. Sorry if I used the two interchangeably/Non-stop is the best. And often more expensive.
Washington, DC: While I sympathize and can, to some extent, empathize with Ms. Lanza's horrific experience, there is simply no way I would charge over $7000 for a first class plane ticket "hoping to be reimbursed." What planet does she live on? If I were she, I'd take the proffered $2000 and run. Unless you have it in writing, and sometimes even then, dream on. Sad but true.
Cindy Loose: I am hoping for the best but betting on the voucher and cash already offered being thebest offers that's coming.
Western NYS: Is there such a thing as the 'best' time to be in NYC? We'll be spending most of our weekend catching the big-ticket exhibits. Other than Restaurant Week, what else should we consider?
Scott Vogel: I suppose this goes without saying, but Thanksgiving week, particularly the day after Thanksgiving (when you can get a jump on seeing the over-the-top window displays on Fifth Avenue and elsewhere) is a certifiably magical time in the Big Apple. And of course there's the Macy's parade... While we're on a Christmas jag, on Wednesday of the following week (Nov. 28) you can see the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center.
But of course this is a question that permits a thousand answers, and I'd love to hear what some of our readers think.
Washington, DC: Quick question: Is $488 (round trip, nonstop, all taxes, etc.) a good price for a mid-January fare from Dulles to Dublin?
Any chance the airfare might go even lower? (tried to sign up for Expedia's fare watcher thing, but it apparently only works on Windows XP....)
Carol Sottili: Aer Lingus is the airline that offers cheap flights to Dublin. The fare went lower than that when service first started from Dulles this summer, but I think that's as low as it's going to go now. Sign up for emails at www.aerlingus.com, but I'd buy now.
RE: Sydney flights: United generally has the cheapest regular flights from LA or San Francisco to Sydney (occasionally Air New Zealand has better deals but their flights have a stopover in Auckland thad adds more time to an already looooong flight). However, Qantas offers a flight package that includes the transpacific flight from the US west coast as well as 2 or 3 flights within Australia. If you are planning on visiting several destinations in Australia, the Qantas package is a good deal.
Carol Sottili: Thanks. I haven't seen as many sale fares from United, but I don't follow fares from L.A. or San Francisco.
Travel in December: Hi, Crew! I am planning to take most of December off and would like to take a 4-6 day trip (could be shorter, too). Love good food, art museums, history, and am not averse to traveling to Europe or within North America. BUT I do not want to put on a bathing suit! Do you have a good travel destination (or two!) you'd recommend?
KC Summers: Taking most of December off? What did you do to deserve that?! Okay, if I had such good fortune, I think I'd head to a Mexican colonial town like San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato. I'd buy pottery and silver and art, stroll cobblestone streets, wander into cathedrals, listen to music, eat great food... plus, be warm. However, if you're a hardy sort, December can be a great time to visit a European capital. I've had great times bundling up in Paris, London and Dublin in winter, enjoying the relative lack of crowds in museums and shops, and the lower prices.
So many great destinations out there, these are just two... hope this gives you some ideas. Let us know where you end up!
Washington, D.C.: For the person going to Vancouver/Seattle: You will be collecting your bags because you're either going to be going through one or both of Canadian customs and the U.S. pre-clearance (a number of Canadian airports have U.S. customs). The Vancouver airport website, www.yvr.ca, has a section about connecting passengers. (I can empathize, as I once did Edmonton-Vancouver-Seattle-Taipei-Manila-Cebu City and back).
Cindy Loose: Hey, here's the real deal, from a reader, who confirms what I thought was true.
And enjoy Taipai---I really, really like Taiwan. Going there also felt good, as opposed to going to China, whose current government has accomplished the seeming impossible: providing the very worst of both communism and capitalism in one neat package, then throwing in some fascism to boot.
transporting food across borders: fyi - it isn't just taking it that way - the US restrictions are pretty tough as well.
But usually if something was commercially packaged (and remains so) it is allowable. worth checking
Might also want to consider finding a farm local to your destination and picking up a fresh turkey on the way to your vacation home.
KC Summers: Yeah, all things considered, I think that would be a lot easier.
Annandale Va: With regards to the folks who want to go to Sydney next year, also check United Airlines. On my way back from Sydney last year I noticed the plane was packed with Aussies. when I asked why, they almost all said that United had much better fares that Quantas. who knew!
Carol Sottili: Another vote for United.
For Canada-bound: I know this is the travel chat, not the food chat but... why don't you just order a fresh turkey in Canada that you pick up once you're up there?
I live in a country that does not sell frozen turkeys and where the grocery stores do not stock whole turkeys-- so we always order one from a local butcher or poultry store for our family's Thanksgiving (we celebrate Thanksgiving even though we don't live in the U.S. as half our family is American, myself included)-- and now I wouldn't go back to the frozen Butterball!
KC Summers: Thanks. So where do you live, then?
NY: RE crossing the border to Toronto: going from US to Canada is a piece of cake (uh, no pun intended) - we've frequently had food on board and in plain sight. It's on the way back that is a lengthier process. They really actually stare you down and do more than just scan your passports. They seem to flip through to see where you've been (as if your travel experience is indicative of anything they should look out for).
KC Summers: Hmm. Interesting... but I still wouldn't take the chance.
: ( Working today too: I second the recommendation to rent a car and drive to Chichen Itza. When my husband and I did it, we took the old highway on the way there, and the toll road on the way back. The outbound trip was MUCH more fun, albeit slower. We also stopped in Valladolid on the way, a lovely colonial city. Tulum is another fun day trip that you can easily do in a rental car. Those ruins are much smaller, but the site is magnificent, right on the Caribbean. I'm not a photographer but I've got a framed picture that I took from the high point - people are constantly asking where it was taken, because they want to get there as quickly as possible!
A third good day trip is to take the ferry to Isla Mujeres, although that little island off the north side of Cancun has apprently seen some growth since I was last there and may not be the laid-back, relaxing place I remember from just a few years ago.
John Deiner: Why the long face? At least you jumped on board with the Crew today, and we're grateful for that.
Hey, my bus went to Valladolid as well -- but we never stopped! Our guide just told us to look at the charming this and that, and we spent all our time looking through second-story windows at people going about their lives (it was a tall bus, and oh-so-awkward). I'm definitely driving next time.
Silver Spring, MD: Good afternoon flight crew!
I am a grad student doing an exchange semester in Paris next spring (departing for either CDG or LHR in late Jan or early Feb), and am weighing my flight options. Its a bit tricky since I haven't solidified my return plans, i.e. whether to come back when the semester ends in early July or to stay on and return at the end of August. I'm leaning towards purchasing a one-way ticket to Europe now, but am worried as to if a one-way ticket flying out of Paris or London during the summer would be prohibitively expensive. Any suggestions?
Carol Sottili: I think you're right. You're probably better off buying a round-trip ticket, and then paying the penalty if you need to change the return date. Price it out both ways (you can do that now) and read the fine print to find the penalty $ charged by the individual airlines to change flights. Make sure the ticket allows changes.
Baltimore, MD: I am of modest means but have no dependents and a Federal job that will give me a decent pension, so I use what money I have to travel. To avoid Ms. Lanza's experience as much as possible, I try to book packages through an airline or tour operator. That way, if something falls through, they will almost always provide accommodations, meal vouchers and the like. Even when doing this, I sometimes have to argue for additional time between connecting flights. On balance, though, I can't complain. Other than spending an unexpected night in Cincinnati (when a tour inexplicably routed me to Athens via Cincy and JFK) at the tour operator's expense, I've had relatively smooth flying.
KC Summers: That's good advice, Balto -- thanks for chiming in. When you say airline, I'm assuming you mean an airline's trip-planning arm, like United Vacations and such.
Tempe, Ariz: John is right on with his suggestions for the Cancun excursions. We were there in September. We used Cancun as our base and would decide the day before on the excursions. It's really easy to book the tours. Xcaret was awesome. For Chichen Itza, we found it easier to take a first class bus to Chichen, then stayed at a nearby budget motel, about $40 a night. It gave us the opportunity to see the pyramid light show that night and we returned to the ruins the next morning around 8 a.m., when it was still a bit cool. We were leaving just as all the tour buses were arriving and the heat and humidity were setting in.
John Deiner: Oh my gosh...I did it soooo wrong, didn't I? The sinkhole we swam in was right outside the park, at a place called Ik Kil. On the grounds were lovely cabins that our guide said were about $100 a night -- they seemed very plush. Okay, I went up and looked through the windows. The best Web site I can find for them is www.wohlmut.com/Maya/Ik-Kil.htm.
Washington, DC: Just wanted to throw this out there to you and the chatters, even though it's only partially travel related:
If you had the opportunity to live in Santiago, Chile; Montevideo, Uruguay; or Buenos Aires, Argentina; for two years, which would you choose?
Obviously it depends somewhat on what your interests are, but I'm just curious to see what others think, especially people who have been to more than one of those places. Thanks!
KC Summers: We'll throw this one out to the chatters, but please answer quickly as we only have 15 minutes left. Fans of Montevideo, Santiago and B.A., please jump in and explain your choice!
Pittsburgh (follow-up): When you say "it just has to be on the same ticket," does that mean I should book using an online service like Expedia or Orbitz? Do travel agents even book flights-only any more?
Cindy Loose: No, you don't have to book through Expedia or such, and I don't mean that you can't get a land package along with your airfare.
Here's what I mean by example---You can buy a single ticket from say US Airways to say Timbuktu. USAirways doesn't fly to Timbuktu, but their partner United does, so you buy one ticket to Timbuktu, so you fly US Airways to Newark then Newark to Timbuktu on US Airways' partner United. You might have separate pieces of paper for those flights, but still, it's one ticket in the sense you paid one entity to fly to Timbuktu.
Contrast this to going out and buying a ticket on US Airways from Pittsburg to Newark, hten going to United and buying a ticket from Newark to Timbuktu. In this case, if your US Airways flight is late, United just considers you a no show, end of story and of help.
In the previous example, United considers you a connecting passenger, andwill treat you as it treats a a pssenger connecting on a United flight.
Buying two separate tickets can sometimes be cheaper, but you have to undestand the risk you take. I wouldn't take that risk unless I was planning to stay overnight in the connecting city at the least.
Washington, DC: Any thoughts on where to look for good new years flight deals? Don't really have an idea of a particular destination but would hope there might be some sort of search engine that lets you put in your dates and point of departure and let figure it out from there.
Carol Sottili: Try www.kayak.com and click on its buzz page. Also, try www.independenttraveler.com's bargain box and www.smartertravel.com.
Takoma Park, MD: My husband and toddler daughter and I will be traveling from the DC area to Amsterdam for my brother's wedding in August. Since we know the dates of travel (roughly Aug. 3-11), we could buy the tickets now. But with airfares constantly changing, what is the best strategy for getting tickets at a good price? Because it's the height of tourist season, we won't have enough frequent flier miles even to get 1 ticket free. Thanks!
Carol Sottili: It doesn't seem as if you have lots of flexibility, which I think is one of the only ways to get deals to Europe for summer travel. I would keep checking it over the next weeks, unless you now have a fare that's under $1,000 including taxes - if so, buy it. I think that fuel prices are going to drive next summer's fares higher. Try www.farecompare.com to search.
A question for Cindy: In your story on the disasterous travel experience there was one thing in it that I was suprised in seeing:
When would a major airline not be able to rebook you on another airline? Did the rules change with airlines doing this?
What I think needs to be done by the federal government is force airlines to had flights or volume on routes if over a period of time if the % flight fill is greater than 70%, if not then at the hubs the airlines should have standby planes and pilots to prevent cancelled flights.
Another rule that should be put in place is--if you are at the hub and miss the contecting flight or the flight was cancelled at the hub there needs to be consumer protection when the airline cant get you to your final destination until 3 days later. And they wont let you return home. This is an issue, especially if this was a long weekend getaway.
This is a serious issue when you are flying to limited sservice airports. An example was if you were going to fly direct to one of the ski resort town out west (Aspen, Jackson, or Teeluride) where they only have one flight a day so if you miss the connection then its good luck getting there for that weekelong or weekend getaway.
As a result because you may be concerned about making connections, it can be difficult when trying to book long layovers because the online systems wont allow you to do that.
I avoid some of the smaller airlines where their is limited service with only single daily flights like on some southwest routes as weell as routes on airtran and ATA becaause you dont have the rebooking on other airlines if there are problems.
For example say you were flying to europe through philadelphia and due to delays you couldnt make the connection but the next day you see there are flights available going out of nyc airports or dc airports on the next day, they should compensate you on the different travel plans by paying you to use a rental car or take an amtrak to one of the other airports to take a flight---and give you your luggage back.
This past year I was returning from Phoenix through Charlotte. We were delayed a few hours so we missed the last flight home. It was mechanical so we were arranged hotel and cab vouchers for a flight the next morning. What they would do was give you your luggage back so many didnt have their personnal stuff.
Cindy Loose: Different carriers in fact have different rules about putting you on another carrier if they can't get you where you're going in a reasonable time, AND if the delay was their fault. I can't remember off hand which airlines do what, but some for example say they MIGHT, AT THEIR DISCRETION, decide to put you on another carrier if the fault is theres. Others promise to do so if they can't get you to your destination within a certain amount of time, and the time varies. Some don't mention other carriers. You have to look at their contracts of carriage. Also, none of them say they'll put you on another carrier if the delay was due to weather or some such.
Yeh, it's bad when you get delayed and there is only one flight a day. It's much worse if there is only one flight a WEEK, as passengers on such carriers as Ethiopian Air and other players with limited U.S. service.
Re: Not to miss in Germany (Frankfurt, Munich): THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS!! Regardless of the town or city (larger cities have multiple markets) seek out the Christmas markets in the evenings for Gl¿hwein (mulled wine) or a crepe or just to see townspeople spend their evening with friends. It's also a great way to pick up tips on other things to see while in town. Many markets will also have small crafts or foodstuffs for purchase (food useful for snacking the next day). Shops are normally allowed to extend their hours around Christmas, but don't expect anything to be open on the 24th- that's a holiday in Germany. Also, bear in mind that it will be much colder and get dark quickly over there. Layers are key. Frohe Weihnachten!
Cindy Loose: Thanks. And where would you send her by car or train?
Washington, DC: I would like to take a weeklong yoga/pilates retreat this winter...any suggestions? Costa Rica
What are some reputable retreat outfits?
Andrea Sachs: For a true yoga experience, go to India, which has a bevy of Ayurveda and Ashiyana retreats where you will learn from spiritual gurus. Other popular destinations include Belize, California, Hawaii, Bali and Costa Rica, which have a host of resorts that specialize in yoga and pilates. (You need to decide first if you want a retreat or a resort; the amenities and exercise intensity vary considerably.) For specific resorts/retreats, contact a yoga association like Green Yoga Association (www.greenyoga.org)for advice, or skim the ads of a publication like Yoga Journal. Yoga Journal, for example, mentions Yoga Oasis on the Big Island and the White Lotus Foundation Retreat Center in Santa Barbara. Also skim the book, "Yoga Vacations: A Guide to International Yoga Retreats" by Annalisa Cunningham, for ideas.
Takoma Park, MD - more on the Yucatan: When I went 10 yrs ago, we also ended up renting a car (an old VW bug) and drove to Merida, a very nice town west of Cancun. We also drove to a town on the west coast of the Yucatan whose name I forget, then to Coba, then to Tulum, and back to Cancun. It worked out great, but in the last few years, I've read horror stories (in the Post) about the trouble you can get into if you're in an accident in Mexico. This made me think twice about how wise renting a car might have been.
John Deiner: Thanks, TP. Good to keep in mind.
for the UK Banana Bread person...: Freeze the bread SOLID (for several days), then wrap thoroughly wax paper followed by several layers of foil, then pack in your checked luggage. It'll defrost in travel but not go stale that fast, and because it will be frozen for a lot of that time, you don't have to worry too much about it getting smooshed. Besides, it'll still taste good!
Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the tip, Chef.
Washington, DC: You CAN'T go to Cancun and not see Chitchen Itza! Yes, it's a long bus ride, and tour guides vary in quality, but come on -- it's 3000 years old!
John Deiner: Hey, DC. I don't think anyone's saying to skip it here. Just do it smartly and more memorably than being wedged on a bus with a bad tour guide.
Washington DC: We recently traveled for the first time with our new baby, and because of all his gear, we used services we'd always ignored in the past. It brought up some questions. Would you ming posting a comprehensive how-to on these extras? Such as:
Skycaps: are they paid a wage by the airport, or do they live on tips? What's an appropriate amount?
Hotel doormen: Should we tip just on arrival and departure, or every time he hails a cab for us?
Hotel housekeeping: again, just on arrival and departure, or every day? Should the gratuity depend on how much of a mess we make?
Turndown service: What is this?? Seriously, a pass through the entire hotel just to unmake the bed? If we're in the room when they come by, should we let them do their thing, or say no thank you? This may be the most baffling thing of all...
KC Summers: Hey Wash. Good for you for taking the baby on the road. We actually published a handy guide to tipping not too long ago -- we'll post a link. In the meantime:
* Do tip the skycaps -- they get paid, but depend on tips to make a decent living.
* I tip hotel doorman each time they handle my bags and hail me cabs.
* Definitely tip the hotel maid. You can leave the whole amount at the end of your stay, but it's probably better to leave something every day since you might get a different maid each day.
* Turndown service is just a nice gesture -- usually they try to time it for when you're out to dinner. No need to tip.
Charlottesville, VA: To the person going to Frankfurt on Christmas Eve:
I'm from that area of Germany, and there are plenty of day trips that can be done near Frankfurt. All along the Rhine river are romantic towns, cathedrals and castles - Bacharach, Mainz, St. Goar, just to name a few. Beautiful cathedrals are in Mainz, Worms, and Speyer (Speyer is really worth a day trip if you can make it - great romance cathedral, old alleys, and hardly any tourists). Also, before New Year's, some French cities still have Christmas/New Year's markets - the one in Strasbourg is very pretty and only 2 hours away by train or car from Frankfurt.
For New Year's, if you can make it, Berlin and the Brandenburg Gate are the places to be.
Don't forget to pack a warm coat and have fun!
Cindy Loose: Thanks for the great advice. I haven't been to Berlin since before the wall fell---showing how ancient I'm becoming--and it looks very intriguing. Isn't there some great musuem on like a little island a stone's throw from Berlin?
Also, I love the area down near Lake Constance, aka the Bodensee, but maybe it's not so great in winter.
washingtonpost.com: Tipping and Travel: It's No Easy Equation, (April 16, 2006)
KC Summers: More tipping info for the new parents. Thanks Kim.
Washington, DC: I have been offered the opportunity to go to Sri Lanka in March. I know next to nothing about Sri Lanka. Have any of the flight crew been? Would you go? What is there to do? Any insight would be most appreciated.
Christina Talcott: Wow, I'm curious about that offer - is it for work? A friend's wedding? Whatever the case, you should know there have been clashes between the government and rebel groups in the last 6 months or so, mostly in the north and east, prompting many people, including intellectuals as well as ethnic Tamils, to flee the country. Though Americans (or Westerners in general) aren't being targeted specifically, the CIA has issued a Travel Warning for Sri Lanka (link coming). Have any chatters been there recently who could share their experiences?
South American living: I would choose Buenos Aires, hands down. The dollar is strong (one of the last places!), and the food is simply amazing. Beef, ice cream/gelato, empenadas, sausage, dulce de leche....oh yeah, and the wine!
KC Summers: And don't forget shopping for leather!
washingtonpost.com: Sri Lanka: Travel Report from the U.S. Department of State
Christina Talcott: Here's that Sri Lanka link.
Important: Remind people bound for NYC...: that there is a stagehand strike going on that is affecting some Broadway shows--I read that several were dark this past weekend. That would be disppointing not knowing this ahead of time if you have tickets!
KC Summers: Very true. Consider them warned. Thanks.
Washington, DC: I am headed to Paris over Thanksgiving weekend and am worried about the transport worker strike. Any idea how long it might last and how much we'll be affected?
Scott Vogel: First, the facts. Believe it or not, the second French transit strike in a month is planned to begin on Wed (Nov. 14). Unlike the Oct. 18 strike, this one has no pre-planned duration, which makes the course of events even more difficult to predict. The strikes are actually scheduled to begin at 8pm Tuesday (Paris time), and the strike this time is also scheduled to include employees of electric and gas companies. One source I can recommend is our previous blog entry (the one for the last strike), which contains information on Web sites you might check as the strike date gets closer and beyond.
washingtonpost.com: Travel Log post on French Rail Strike.
Scott Vogel: Here you go.
Del Ray, VA: Can you explain how buying upgrades with miles works? I've heard it's best to buy a coach seat, and then use your miles to upgrade to business class (on an overseas flight). How can you be sure that the upgrades will be available to obtain? I'm trying to decide whether to use miles to go business class to South Africa, or whether to buy coach tickets and then upgrade. But I want to be sure that I can go business class, and won't find out after I buy the coach tickets that there are no upgrades available to buy. Does that make sense? I'd be buying 330 days ahead or so. Thanks for any light you can shed!
Cindy Loose: First, know that you can't get a ff upgrade on the cheapest coach fares, so be careful that what you buy is upgradable.
Secondly, if you're flying not to far in advance you can check seat availability at the airline's website and get a good idea of whether your chances for upgrading are good or not good. But this far out there is no way to tell whether business class seats will be available for upgrading. I'd say if you really want to have the comfort of booking far out and knowing you have a business class seat, you're going to have to cough up the miles to procure a buisness class ticket from the start. If you want to take a risk and could live in coach, then just make sure you buy a coach seat that is upgradable.
Rockville, MD: (submitting early--but I will make this booking today, please help) Am flying to Oahu in Feb for training and tacking on a few days to visit an aquaintance on another island. She's suggesting nabbing a cheap airline ticket, as the ferry is controversial. But I've read that the airlines come and go...like the wind. Is there any insurance I should consider? Will it help me recover money if an airline goes out of business as well as replace a ticket at reasonable cost? (and who decides what reasonable is?)
many thanks! Aloha!
Carol Sottili: I don't think airlines come and go like the wind in Hawaii. There's a brutal fight going on between three competitors, Go!, Aloha and Hawaiian, but last time I checked, they were all operating. I'd buy the air ticket. And, unless you can tolerate no risk, I'd skip the insurance.
Flying to Lihue: Regarding the person seeking info on flying to Lihue, unless I am mistaken, Southwest and ATA now have some codeshares, in which case it ought to be possible to buy the thru ticket for that itinerary from one airline or the other and avoid the issue of risking the mess of connecting on separate tickets (and, if you have to check a bag, you can check it all the way thru and avoid that issue as well).
Cindy Loose: They do have a code share--good strategy. Thanks.
Reston, VA: Deal of the year (and a question): Just booked RT flights for Christmas from Dulles to SFO via Virgin Atlantic, nonstop, for $338. Yippee. Double yippee that they let me "purchase" the bulkhead seats for $25/each/each way!
Travel question for Thanksgiving. Staying put in VA, not a holiday my family really celebrates...any suggestions for day trips or 1-2 day journeys in the area? Have a 7 year old, and I'd rather avoid amusement parks. She suggested Lake Anne (not sure where she heard of it), anything to do there that's fun?
KC Summers: Good for you, Reston. As for Lake Anna (note the "a"), I'm not so sure it's a good choice for a cold-weather destination. It's pretty and all (the second-largest freshwater inland lake in Virginia, with 250 miles of coastline, it says here), but activities seem to revolve around boating, swimming and fishing. Here's another idea: Harper's Ferry, W.Va. I've been there in cold weather and it's fun to tramp around the town, checking out the museum and views. Some funky places to stay there, too. And it's near Shepherdstown, a very cute college town.
Other one- or two-day options: Philly. Richmond. Cleveland (Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame!). NYC.
Oviedo, Fla.: Re: New Years in Seattle or Vancouver. The drive down
across the border is clogged at the holiday and will likely
give you a rainy drive. Why que up with immigration
checkpointers and see a lot of I-5 thru a wet windshield?
Fly on to Seattle. The new waterfront Marriott is nice and I
would drive to Pacific Place, park underground and have
dinner. I like Il Fornaio - insist on window table and have
great views even in rain. Walk down the street several
blocks and see gingerbread houses in hotel lobbies (at
least one - look at seattletimes.com for details) which is a
Seattle holiday tradition. Have brunch at Yarrow Bay Grill
on east side, overlooking water and - maybe - a mountain
view. Or splurge and drive 45 mins. from downtown to
Salish Lodge for fab high $$$ meal, room and spa
treatments. A cocoon of luxury with a pretty nature walk
to the falls, a trip worth the $$ for a b-day treat. Food to
die for. Not having salmon is illegal. Stay off I-5 and the
checkpoint, trust me.
former Redmond, Wa. resident
Cindy Loose: Good inside info. Thanks.
Fairfax, VA: I don't have any suggestions, but I can tell you I'm definitely not flying at Thanksgiving (or Christmas) this year. I'll be traveling to NY to visit family, as I always do, and have decided the traffic up the Jersey Turnpike will be easier to deal with than the crowds at the airports.
With this relatively short distance, it's about the same time commitment either way, really. And when I drive, I can yell at annoying people in the privacy of my own vehicle, rather than risk an encounter with a member of the Thousands Standing Around. . . .
Scott Vogel: What does it say about us when people are actually cheerfully driving the New Jersey Turnpike in dead stop traffic rather than brave the airports? It says that given two hellish situations, one's own private hell is slightly preferable. And I'm with ya, Fairfax!
Chantilly, VA: Horror story flying from CA to Dulles recently on United...overnight flight, a passenger with dog in the economy cabin decided to use the first class cabin bathroom to clean up said dog's, uh, accident...this was after she made a mess in the rear bathroom. The entire plane reeked. Flight attendants were waving bags of coffee beans all night long. I seriously wanted to throw up all night long, but refrained b/c I did not want to step anywhere near a bathroom to do so. I made a complaint to the desk customer service folks who basically said, too bad. Any recommendations for taking this up the chain complaint-wise?
Cindy Loose: I think writing a letter has a better chance of getting a little attention, but probably not as high as you'd like it to go. Calls are just so much easier to forget than a piece of paper with strong words.
Working on Vet's day...: so thanks for being here and providing a lovely afternoon distraction!
I have been a lifelong avid traveler, but at this point the airport/flying situation has me really weary. Generally, I'll drive 6-7 hours over flying (I live in the Midwest so that's about the distance from my hometown to a number of major cities-- Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver...)
I will also pay a LOT more to fly nonstop... I'd spend $150 or more extra to avoid connections in Chicago, etc. Which sucks, because I don't have a lot of extra cash, so that's a big sacrifice.
KC Summers: I'm with you, Working. And we're glad we were able to provide a little bit of pleasure in your dreary workday!
Easton, MD: Re: Ms. Lanza's nightmare, one word comes to mind. Well, actually, 2 words: Trip Insurance! Sure, it adds $100-$200 to the cost of the trip, but it's more than worth it. If necessary I cut back elsewhere to be able to afford it. No overnights on airport floors for me! At least until insurance policies start following the general trend of giving less for more.
Cindy Loose: Problem is, it wouldn't have gotten her where she wanted to go, would merely have paid some of the expenses.
Downtown DC: Regarding how far we're willing to drive: For us it depends on whether or not our dog is going with us. We're willing to make the 10-11 hour drive to our cottage in Maine so our dog can go with us, but we'd never think of spending that much time in the car if we were going somewhere that she couldn't join us. On Friday we're leaving for 8 days on Maui. Our dog is going to Camp out near Culpeper.
KC Summers: Wonder who'll have the most fun...
Re Cancun: If you like snorkeling, between Cancun and Tulum is a spectacular park called Xel-Ha. I'd recommend getting there early because it will be crowded later. Nice facilities (locker room, etc.) and spectacular underwater life. If you want a more laid-back, less commercial place, there is a lagoon near the town of Akumal - I'm blanking on the name - which also is very nice for snorkeling. We stayed in Akumal in the summer of 2005 and walked to the lagoon from our condo.
John Deiner: I'll have to remember that -- sounds spectacular. Thanks for chiming in.
Sri Lanka...: is AWESOME!
I spent 3 wks there and it was best trip of my life. Amazing wildlife and parks, nice beaches, cool old ruins, NOT touristy. First place I have ever been that I would say was "teeming with wildlife." Elephants everywhere. Food is the best of Indian and Thai.
(I do not work for the Sri Lanka Board of Tourism.)
Christina Talcott: Wow, thanks for the quick response! That sounds like an amazing trip. When did you go? Maybe we can chat more about it next Monday (sadly, it's almost time to end today's chat...).
Bethesda, MD: Traveling to Bali with a layover in Taipei international airport. Flying coach. We want to find a hotel in the airport. The Evergreen hotel only accepts people from local flights. any suggestions?
Andrea Sachs: Sorry, we have never had a long layover in Taipei, but it seems hard to believe that a hotel only takes passengers on local flights. Did you try to book online?
Also, any chatsters sleep on a comfy bed near the Taipei airport that they can recommend? (If all else fails, there is a shower room and hair salon on-site.)
Gettysburg, PA: Ms. Lanza must have a lot more money than I do if she can charge $7,000 in hopes of getting it back. $700, maybe. $7,000, no way! If my getting it back is not signed in blood, and maybe if it is, I'm not ante-ing up that kind of money. That's at least 3 decent vacations, maybe more. Sheesh.
KC Summers: Well, as she said, she panicked... It's hard to know how you'd react unless you're faced with the situation and see your precious vacation going down the drain. And she did seriously think she'd get the money back.
Trenton, NJ: Yesterdays story was horrible. A trip of a life time basically distroyed. My advice to Ms. Lanza is get a good attorney! I think you should fight for your money back. I know I'll never fly British Airways again after reading this.
Cindy Loose: Suing the airlines is tricky, cause they pull out all stops with the staff of attorneys. Unless you're a retired attorney looking for something to do with your free time, I'd not invest alot in that. Understand how you'd like to sue, though. In fact, I currently want to sue a teacher for being mean to my child, but sometimes the their is no court of last resort.
Bethesda, MD: Your deconstruction article yesterday is the most interesting piece of travel writing I've read in eons!
I can't really beleive, though, that it's MY responsibility to check the arrival/departure statistics to determine connecting flights. That really seems like it's the airline's responsibility to make sure I'll have enough time to connect.
KC Summers: As we reported, it's frequently not in their best interests to do this. It's important to be proactive these days when planning and booking flights, because who pays the price when things go wrong? Not the airlines, usually.
Congrats on the "Anatomy of a Nightmare" article -- well written, and a useful learning experience for all who read it.
However, you left out the most important lesson to be learned: Why didn't she take a nonstop flight from Dulles to Rome, instead of connecting through Newark? This would have avoided all of the problems she experienced. Although nonstops sometimes can cost more than connecting flights, the time value of money means that nonstops are invariably worth the extra cost, or the extra travel to Dulles instead of National. Penny wise, pound foolish.
Indeed, when I checked some travel dates in February, United's nonstop to Rome was actually cheaper (in Economy) than flying on Continental or Delta from National with a connecting flight!
Bottom line: given a choice between a nonstop and a connecting flight to the same destination, go with the nonstop.
Cindy Loose: Best advice of the day. Sorry I already awarded the atlas, but if you'd like a set of coasters--I have no idea why anyone sent coasters to our travel section, but they did--then email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Loose: Goodbye, good Veteran's Day and Good Night. HOpe to hear from you next week, same time, same site. Cindy
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