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Duck, N.C., Alaska, Israel, Budapest, Dominican Republic and more.

The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, January 7, 2008 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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KC Summers: Hi, everyone, and welcome to the travel chat on this first... full... work week of the New Year. Sigh. Quick, let's plan our vacations. But first, a plug for our new blog feature, The Monday Rant. Join us as we highlight what we consider the worst travel atrocity of the week each Monday on our blog, Travel Log, at http://blog.washingtonpost.com/travellog. Of course, you're already reading our blog Monday through Friday anyway, aren't you? Aren't you?!?

Looking to shake things up a bit and travel someplace a little more adventurous this year? We're lucky to have Post diplomatic correspondent Glenn Kessler, author of yesterday's wonderful Borneo piece, with us today to discuss his trip. Also on board this afternoon are Travel staffers John Deiner, Andrea Sachs, Scott Vogel, Carol Sottili and me, your captain of the day, KC Summers. Here's our Question of the Week, and it's a repeat of a very interesting question that Cindy Loose asked about on our blog last week: Have you noticed the fabulous trips that more and more high school kids seem to be taking these days, many times on their own, or with minimal supervision? Is this a good thing? Bad thing? Let us know if you've observed this phenomenon firsthand, either as a parent, a paticipant or an observer, and what you think about it. A swell prize from our Big Box o' Promotional Junque goes out to the most helpful and/or amusing poster: a DVD of Season 2 of Gourmet's "Diary of a Foodie," AND a gorgeous calendar with images of Petra, Jordan.

And we're off.

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Arlington, VA: Again with a France article (last week)!!! And while I love Thailand there seem to have been a whole lot of articles about the Land of Smiles as well lately. Can we declare a moratorium and start covering the rest of the world, please?

KC Summers: Et au juste quel est le probl¿me avec celle, peut je demander??

Just kidding. I hear you, Arl, and I vow to do better. It's just that, well, people do go to France and Thailand, and like to read about them. And these particular two pieces were especially timely right now. But thanks for reminding us to that not everyone's a Franco- or Thaiphile.

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McLean, Va : Hi Crew--Thought I would pass along a piece of information for anyone heading to St Martin/St Maarten. We stayed over near Grand Case on the French side and found that many of the restaurants there were offering prices where $1=1 euro. A forty percent discount, only if you paid in cash--no credit cards.

Also we found the Voyager Ferries to St Barths to be unreliable. We were cancelled at the last minute and wound up having to take a very expensive 10 minute flight. The cost of the flight could have been reduced if we had booked ahead instead of counting on the ferry.

KC Summers: Hey McLean. Thanks much for the great tips. The St. Martin-bound appreciate it.

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Alexandria, VA: I'm planning a trip to Duck, NC the first weekend in May (Friday to Monday). Can you (or the chatters) recommend some good places to stay? I'm looking for something mid-level. Thanks!

John Deiner: Hey, Al. You don't have too many options if you're thinking about a hotel, alas.

Up in that area, there's the Sanderling, which is very expensive. There's also the Hampton Inn, however, which is really quite lovely and right on the beach (it's in Corolla, about 15 minutes north of Duck). I just checked rates, and it's coming up about $179 a night for the cheapest rooms (mid-level, right?). There are several bnbs in Duck itself as well, including the Duck Inn (www.theduckinnbnb.com).

Another option is to check out the realtors in that area and see if you can get a short rental in one of the big homes. That's off-season, and you can probably get a pretty good rate (many home owners, eager to get any money they can out of their rentals, are willing to let folks occupy them for long weekends in quiet times). Check www.outerbanks.org for a list of realtors.

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Washington, DC: Hi, Travel gurus! I'm very jealous of my friends and the awesome trips they are on right now, so I've decided to go to Alaska this year. Only, I know nothing about it! I think I would prefer to take a cruise, to see a variety of spots rather than be stuck in the right place - when would be a good time to go? Can any of the chatters recommend a good cruise? I would also like to visit ANWR, to see what the deal is - any advice? Thanks!!

Scott Vogel: It's definitely the time of year to be thinking about this summer's Alaska offerings. There are so many different kinds of ships, itineraries, etc., that my first recommendation is for you to visit the cruise page at www.alaskatravel.com, which sorts cruises by line, month of travel, etc. Would love to hear the views of Alaska cruise veterans out there.

As for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the summers are quite short and so is the window of time in which you can visit. I've heard good things about Wilderness Birding Adventures (www.wildernessbirding.com), among the several companies that offer tours. And watch for an upcoming Travel section article on this very subject!

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Washington: On Dec 17th, I was on a 3 pm Continental Express flight from DCA to Newark. To my surprise, the single flight attendant stated that "rule" about nobody being able to stand up until after 30 mins out of DC. Because the flight was so short, that and the usual "remain seated" period meant one man had a shouting match with the attendant about how he was going to burst if he couldn't pee immediately. While entertaining, it was kind of disturbing too. I thought that "rule" had been rescinded a while ago. Is it still in effect? It has been ignored on other flights I have taken recently.

Andrea Sachs: Yes, you are right. DCA had its 30 minutes, but no more. You are free to wander the aisle, until told to sit down. The flight attendant must have been a holdover from those Code Red days.

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Anonymous: Hey, I just came back from SE Asia, including Laos & Cambodia. Tell anyone going to picturesque Laung Prabang, LAOS that they need to either bring cash or be prepared to pay a hefty transaction fee if all they have is VISA. Visa as of now -- I'm sure it will change -- does not work in ATM machines! So you pay a commission to some agency to do the transaction and then pay another for the actual transaction (believe me, I went to a bank to try and get around this.) Oh, and BTW: C-o-u-n-t your money. Both a clerk at the bank as well as a clerk at the Money Exchange tried to short me (yes, it was small change, but it was the principal.)

Also, don't fall for the "will you be my sponsor" from the young monks. It seems they've learned more than begging for alms in the a.m. They're engaging but the monastery does take care of their education.

KC Summers: Great firsthand reports and tips today. Thanks much, Anon.

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Upper Marlboro, MD: Am I the only one here? I only see the welcome message. Is there chat text elsewhere? I have dial-up, so probably will just lurk for a while. I was hoping to see some conversation about the Borneo article.

KC Summers: Be patient, UM, Glenn's here and typing as fast as he can.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm inspired by Glenn Kessler's trip to Borneo with his children! I wonder where he went when the kiddos were younger? I have a 3-year-old and two 10-month-olds. We were thinking about renting an apartment in Paris in the fall, but the Euro...ack! Does he any recommendations for other (less pricey), baby-friendly international destinations? We're not particularly interested in beach vacations. (Well, we are...but we already go to Cape Cod to visit family.) Thanks so much! Mary Ellen Flannery

Glenn Kessler: I'm glad you enjoyed the article. We went two years ago to Vietnam, which was a wonderful trip and which the children loved. It's very a special place and, ironically enough, has to be the most pro-American country I have ever visited (or at least equal to Israel.) Vietnam has a great city (Hanoi), amazing sights, unspoiled beaches and incredible shopping. Our children especially liked going into the old Viet Cong tunnels and also an overnight train ride into the mountains to ethnic hill trips.

Your children are relatively young. When our kids were younger (ages 2 and 6 and then ages 2, 6 and 10) we went to untouristed parts of Mexico. We didn't do beaches either but on both trips we spent a week at a lovely hacienda, called the Hacienda Mariposas, near Patzcuaro. We liked it so much that I wrote about it for the Post at the time. The food there is excellent, and the children can ride horses on the property or help gather the eggs for their breakfast. Plus you can visit a nearby volcano, which had covered a town with lava. The church steeple is still sticking up out of the lava. This was a huge deal for our kids!

Here's a link to the article, which is on the website of the hacienda mariposas:

http://www.haciendamariposas.com/en/washpost.htm

The article also mentions that we stayed at Tlaquepaque, an artistic suburb of Guadalajara, which was also very special. The music there was a thrill for our children.

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Washington, D.C.: We're heading to Buenos Aires in April/May. I've been dying to go to the Teatro Colon, but hear that it is closed! Do you have the latest on its re-opening date?

Andrea Sachs: To my knowledge, it is scheduled to reopen May 25, the same date as its centenary season. Until then, performances will be held in alternate venues around the city.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, DC: Is it just me, or has Northwest's service become, well, terrible? I had an awful (series of awful!) experience with them recently. At every step of the way, I felt like I was met by ineptitude and incompetence. And when I finally spoke to a supervisor (who would not answer a call placed by an agent, I had to track him down myself), I was accused of lying and told whatever problems were basically my fault. And Northwest wonders why people refuse to fly with them...

And, of course, my e-mailed complaint cannot be answered in a timely manner because of "higher than expected" volume. I wonder if its because everyone else complained or because, like at the major airport I flew from, they only have one staffer to handle all the customers.

KC Summers: I can't say we've had more complaints about Northwest than any other airline. Our readers dump on them all. You should see our email box. There's usually smoke coming out of the computer.

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Silver Spring, MD: I'm going to be in Las Vegas on business but have a free day. I've never seen the Grand Canyon. Are the helicopter trips worth the $250 (3 and a half hours total with hotel pickup)? Thanks.

John Deiner: Hey, Silver. Hmmmm. That's a good question and one that I can't answer since I've never taken one. But, that said, if that's the one way that would guarantee me seeing the canyon, I would definitely do. And I'd love to see the canyon from a helicopter (even though they sorta freak me out).

Anyone out there ever taken a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon?

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Fairfax, Va: Regarding high school students travelling, I think its wonderful that at such a young age individuals wish to learn about other countries and interact with other cultures and different points of view. It will only broaden their understanding, and being future leaders it is imperative they have first hand knowledge and people-to-people contact with other nations and cultures.

As it is, we Americans are rather timid when it comes to travelling abroad as compared to our European counterparts where such travel is the norm. High school students travelling should strongly be encouraged.

KC Summers: You're right of course. Still -- and maybe I'm just a bad person -- but something about it rankles when I see these kids waltzing off on what to me would be a trip of a lifetime. Just jealous I guess.

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Arlington, VA: Thanks for yesterday's article about the guide service in Japan. I have become convinced that a good guide is worth his/her weight in gold, especially when you are in a place where you cannot speak the language or read the signs. I love wandering around on my own and discovering things, but having a personal guide to show you around is just so neat. My guides in Thailand and Cambodia were much more like friends showing me around their hometown/country. And it is fun to keep in touch with them by email now that my trip is over.

KC Summers: I agree completely. I hate guided tours, but an individual guide sharing his or her expertise -- priceless. Glad you liked the story!

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Adams Morgan, Washington, DC: Loved the article on Borneo yesterday! How long is that flight entirely? (I assume you need to change in Hong Kong or Japan...).

Definitely got me thinking about an alternative vacation this summer...

Glenn Kessler: Thanks for the compliment. We changed in Seoul. Korean Air Lines has a great non stop out of Dulles. It's about 14 hours but every coach seat has there own video screen with dozens of movies. Our kids never slept! Once in Seoul, it was an easy two-hour layover to take the five hour flight to Kota Kinabalu. That flight was at night, so everyone just slept, and we arrived the next day. We actually took the same KAL flight out of Dulles when we went to Vietnam the summer before, changing in Seoul to go to Hanoi.

Of course, you can also change in Tokyo or Hong Kong on different carriers, but that might mean also changing in LA. All told, expect to spend about 19-20 hours on the plane to get to Southeast Asia.

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Maryland: RE: HS kids traveling.

I think there is good and bad. Good, in that any travel and exposure to other cultures is good. Bad, in that based on what I see, only the well-off kids have an opportunity to do this. Used to be we held fundraisers and everyone figured out how to get everyone there, while now some parents write big checks and their kids do nothing for it to "earn" the trip (ok, they might, but I think you know what I mean).

But the only thing I throw out there to the parents is this: have you prepared your child for what to do if something goes badly wrong? Do they have access t a credit card on which they are an authorized signer? Do they know how to find a western union or an American Express in the country they are going to visit? Do they know the location of the US Embassy or consultate nearest to their destination and have enough cash on them to get themselves there if somehow they get separated from their group? Do they know how to recognize the symbols for police and fire/rescue in the country they are visiting? I know this seems like overkill, and it is if nothing happens, but if something goes badly wrong, this could be the difference between a bad experience and a tragedy.

KC Summers: Very good questions. You're much more articulate about the inequities than I was.

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Arlington, VA: If you had 5 days, 4 nights; a total budget of $1k per person; and a desire to get out of town in early March, where would you go? We're a couple in our early twenties who would like someplace warm but want to avoid college Spring Breakers. Open to tropical locales/cities/really whatever. We're thinking possibly Austin, TX but also maybe somewhere in the Caribbean. Any thoughts?

Scott Vogel: One thing's for sure -- you don't want to go anywhere near Cancun, Panama City, Fl., South Padre Island and a few other places like that. Among the warm and not overrun: Costa Rica is still not on the Spring Break short list (although it's technically not in the Caribbean), and the Dominican Republic can be very reasonable. Would love to hear other ideas out there.

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Nashville, Tenn: Hi -

Here's a tip for anyone with a very long (in our case, eight hours) layover in Kingston, Jamaica - grab a cab and go to the Jamaica Pegasus hotel. They have a 1/2 day rate of $99 which includes your room, free breakfast buffet and use of all facilities, including a great pool and children's play area.

We did it coming back from the Cayman Islands over the holidays and couldn't have been happier and, obviously, MUCH better than sitting in the airport. Although, please don't even ask about trying to get through security on the way home. Complete and utter chaos....!

KC Summers: Hey, that's a great tip. Thanks!

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Greenbelt, MD: Hi-- nice to have you back!

I spent a couple hours at BWI airport Sun. 12/23 waiting to meet various relatives who were flying in on Southwest. I had to leave the Southwest baggage area because a busker (street musician) kept playing the same irritating melodies over and over. Not everyone felt this way, however; he handed out business cards and had accumulated a fair amount of cash by the time our party was complete.

I checked with the Info Desk and was told they don't like it either (they have to listen to him all day) but the man has a permit and there is nothing they or anyone ele can do about it.

I was surprised to learn about this practice, but one of my grandsons, a talented violinist, would like to apply for a permit! If one is granted, he promises to play a wide-ranging repertoire rather than the same two or three pieces over and over again.

Any idea how he should go about this? Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: I would much prefer a violinist to a cell phone-ist: "Yes, Baggage Claim 2. Two, not Three. MEET ME THERE!" Makes my ears bleed.

We are going to give this question the CoGo treatment. So, check the column for an answer.

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Adventurer-DC: I have always wanted to see the polar bears in Manitoba and with all the concern about global warming and their future, I think this may be the year for me to do it. Can anyone suggest a tour company they would recommend for such a trip? I have looked at a trip through Environmental Adventures Company? Has anyone had any experience with them.

As for high school trips, my big school trip in the'60s was to Washington and New York. My first plane ride. Our bus driver took us into the Pentagon. I guess that's one experience few HS travellers will have today. As to today's students, a friend's child has already been to more places that I may ever travel to in my lifetime. It seems like travel is part of the resume qualifications that kids feel they need to have today.

Thanks

KC Summers: Hi Adventurer. Do you think your friend and/or the kid would mind talking to one of our reporters for a story on high school travelers? If so, please email me with their contact info at summersk@washpost.com.

Re polar bears, I'll post a link to a story by Paula Stone last year on her fabulous trip. The box will mention her guide company. And if anyone out there has used Environmental Adventures Co., please share.

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McLean, Va: Re Alaska--We had a great cruise with Cruise West several years ago. They feature small ships--about 120 people versus a couple of thousand on the "troop" ships--as our captain referred to them. Being on a small boat allows you to get in some places that the big boats can't handle.

Scott Vogel: Here's a vote for small versus big ships when it comes to Alaska cruises...

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Travel in Israel: Glenn,

Please, please give me some info on travelling to Israel this spring with a 7 year old!

We'll have 10-12 days total, and want to absorb all we can. Religous sites should be Jewish in nature, but otherise, where to stay that's not a big hotel? Any apartments or villas to rent? Is there one central place to stay, or do we need to change cities (as minimal as possible).

Thanks!

Glenn Kessler: This should be a wonderful trip. Israel is very small so you could in theory stay in one place for most of your stay, unless you want to spend some time near the Sea of Galliee in the north. When traveling with kids, frequent changes of hotel is not a good idea. You should also find a place that has a pool, so your seven-year-old can cool off in the afternoon.

I would stay in Jerusalem. There is something magical about the city. I have been there many times in recent years but never tire of it; I have not been to Tel Aviv for 30 years so I can't say whether it has improved but I recall at the time I always preferred Jerusalem. You can make great walks and certainly see lots of sites. Nearby, climbing Masada at sunrise is a must. A trip to the Dead Sea will be very cool for your child--you can float!--but I find it's something you only need to do once in a lifetime.

Unfortunately, I can't say much about possible hotels. We always stay at the same one when I travel with the Secretary of State!

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Washington, DC: Hey Crew. Any tips you can pass along for Budapest? I'm leaving in two weeks for a spur-of-the-moment vacay!

KC Summers: Hey Wash, we haven't been recently, but our colleague Amy Orndorff from across the partition in Weekend was there last year, and says one of the coolest things to do is to walk through the underground passageway in the Budapest Castle district. It used to be used by the royalty to escape. Amy says that going at night is much more fun than during the day, because you carry lanterns and it's really scary. She also loved the Central Market, and says definitely go to an underground club, where the absinthe flows freely. Hope this helps -- let us know your trip goes!

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washingtonpost.com: All Aboard the Polar Express, (March 6, 2006)

KC Summers: For the poster who wanted info on polar bear trips... Thanks, Kim.

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Arlington, Va: I loved the article on taking the kids to Borneo. Glenn Kessler is my hero! I have made that trip myself and, in the event that I have children, I only hope that I can raise them with a sense of adventure and a lust for travel to far away places. I can't wait to hear about their next trip!

Glenn Kessler: Thanks so much for the kind words. Not many people go to Borneo so you clearly already have a sense of adventure. And there is nothing like seeing the world through a child's eyes. It makes travel to exotic places even more fun.

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Los Angeles, Calif: My parents were nice enough to send me on two solo-ish trips while I was a junior and senior in high school (10 years ago).

One was a summer program at a university, from which we'd trek all over New York, Boston and DC on weekends. Then I went back to spend New Year's Eve in Times Square with all of my east coast friends.

I still can't believe my (normally quite strict) parents let me do that -- and paid for it! Their own love for travel probably had a part in that decision. And I believe the experiences helped me learn to travel more independently and adventurously!

(Please send me the Petra calendar. I'll be taking a trip there next month ... with my parents!)

KC Summers: Okay, can't resist that bald-faced plea for the calendar. Send your contact info to summersk@washpost.com. For the rest of you, the Gourmet DVD is still up for grabs...

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Adventurer_DC: KC

Thanks for the link to the polar bear story. I will ask my friend. Her son is an aspiring journalist, so he may be interested.

KC Summers: Anytime!

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Denver, Colo: Do you know of any place to get discounted tickets for Disneyworld?

John Deiner: Hey, Denver. I don't actually, although maybe a Clickster can set me straight.

Disney's ticketing policy is extremely complicated; you have to decide how many days you want on your ticket, and then there are 4,235 options after that. Basically, the more days you buy in advance, the smaller the per diem. I see ads all the time for discounted tickets, but then the savings only seem to be for a few bucks -- when a weeklong pass can cost a couple hundred dollars, it's not such a big savings.

For instance, if you go to the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau online ticket sales center at www.orlandoticketsales.com, you can buy in advance, but the savings are slight. Then again, just avoiding the line may make it worth your while.

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Deep Valley, USA: Just wanted to report on a lovely trip to Savannah during Christmas week. Keeping it short:

The Mulberry Inn (now a Holiday Inn) is a fine place to stay. Slightly out of the noise on Bay Street but still convenient, and as an old building the walls are thick enough for privacy.

Don't miss the Black History bus tours offered through the visitors center. Run by an eccentric but informed 30-year resident.

The Olde Pink House was worth every penny for a blowout meal. Pirate's House was fun but pedestrian food. Firefly Cafe good lunch/brunch. Vinny Van GoGo excellent cheap pizza joint crowded with locals.

WALK all over the downtown; it's small and lovely.

KC Summers: Thanks DV! You guys are really doing your part today, tip-wise.

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RE: Duck, NC : And you must eat at the Blue Point. So delicious.

John Deiner: OOOOH. Yeah, you're right. And the view from the deck there is great.

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Philadelphia, Pa: I loved the Kyoto guide article. I'm saving it just in case I ever get a chance to visit that part of the world. I had a similar experience in Rome, of all places. We hired a day guide at the beginning of our short vacation for the Colleseum and the surrounding ruins -- of course we could have visited on our own, but we learned so much more, and got fantastic tips we used throughout the 5 days we were there.

KC Summers: Thanks for the feedback!

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For Arlington, VA: If you're interested in going to Austin, TX in early March, consider that the South by Southwest film and music conference will be held from March 7-16 in Austin. It can be a great oppotunity to see live music and indie films, but if you're not into that scene, watch out for the town to be very crowded and expensive during the conference. You'll be overrun by hipsters instead of spring breakers, consider which would be the most bothersome to you!

Scott Vogel: Regarding the earlier Spring Break without Spring Breakers question, here's something to keep in mind regarding Austin.

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Washington, DC: Re: kids and travel. My mom, who lives in western Virginia, told me a couple weeks ago that she was going to a fundraising breakfast that their local Girl Scout troop was holding so the scouts could go to a camp in SWITZERLAND! Wow. When i was in Girl Scouts in the 1980s, it was a big deal to go tent camping 20 miles south of here at Prince William Forest Park.

Yes, maybe I am being small-minded, but are these scouts old enough to fully appreciate the history and experience of travelling in Europe? I would tend to favor a start-small/think big approach: why not start travelling locally, then state-wide, then US-wide? International travel could come in college or equivalent age, when one has had enough world history/language classes to more fully appreciate the money that they (or someone else) has spent to get abroad.

KC Summers: Those are the kind of thoughts I try to resist, but as I said, I'm a bad person.

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Gaithersburg, Md: Hi,

Planning a trip to Dominican republic in feb. Which side of the island would u recommend. Looks like most of the resorts are in East Coast and close to Punta Cana. Is that easiest airport to get from the US or would you recommend one of the other airports or coasts ?

Any recommendations for a good AI welcome, family of 4 with 2 kids under 6

Thanks

Andrea Sachs: The main hubs for all-inclusives in the Dominican Republic are Punta Cana and La Romana on the East Coast, and Puerto Plata in the northwest. Having visited both areas, with stays in AIs, I prefer Puerto Plata. In addition to the activity-heavy resorts, Puerto Plata has many out-of-resort experiences, in case you need to escape the compound. Family-friendly outings include an aquarium with meet-the-sealife programs and a cable car ride up the mountain. Puerto Plata has Breezes, which caters to families. The area also has Riu and Iberostar properties, which also have kid activities.

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Washington, DC: I think spending a semester abroad is far more valuable than these en masse two-week trips where all the teens just go to McDs and goof off. IF they are going to go, they should earn and save the money themselves. But again, going with a group of your classmates is not teaching you much about foreign cultures. In my experience, it is just an opportunity to try to sit next to the cute guy/gal you like on the bus trip and buy lots of stuff. A far more valuable experience would be sending these kids to a week working on a Habitat for Humanity project or some other service-based trip right here in our own country. Several thousand dollars for a goof-off vacation seems criminal when you look around at the deprivation right here (take a look a DC schools with leaking rooves and 10-year-old textbooks). FWIW, I spent a semester abroad in HS, and I had to save every penny from the jobs I had starting at age 14 (full time in summer, part during the school year) to be able to do it. It meant a whole lot more, and I became fluent in a foreign langauge and learned a great deal.

KC Summers: You spent a semester abroad in high school? That's new to me. Is that done a lot?

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Re: Teen Travel: I was an exchange student in high school- a year abroad. It went fine and in fact, changed the course of my entire life. My later college and career choices had a direct connection to that year.

However traveling as an unaccompanied teen strikes me as something that depends on the teen- or the maturity of any person in question. Some get handed trips all the time and end up the ones people groan about. Others can handle themselves just fine. However this "depends on the person" ideas extends beyond high school- the typical drunken beach party spring break in college comes to mind. I never got that, but my guess is those are some of the same teens who took things too far when they traveled on their own or even with families.

I don't have children, but can imagine doing what my parents did: if I wanted to travel somewhere special (exchange, etc.), I had to fund a certain portion on my own AND I had to prove that I could be trusted with the responsibilities that came with it.

KC Summers: Another high-school exchange student. You sound very sensible.

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Bethesda, MD: high school kids and trips:

I'm not that long out of high school myself (less than 10 years) and these trips aren't about seeing the world or learning about different cultures. They're about getting drunk and partying without parental permission. My cousin did a week in Cancun and came back with a tattoo and lots of racy stories but not one picture of a Mayan temple. My 'class trip' to Paris was filled with people who drank to all hours and then did museums hung over wearing dark glasses. If a teen as an interest, like archeology or history, there's a chance they'll go and learn but mostly it's a vacation from following the rules.

KC Summers: I've seen firsthand the sort of things you've observed -- but I also saw on the same trip kids who really appreciated what they were seeing and got a lot out of the trip. So it depends on the kids, I guess.

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Susquanhanna Twp, PA: We're headed to Vegas in 2 week and I was wondering has anyone had any experience with Tickets2nite or Tix4tonight discount tickets for day of show tickets?

John Deiner: Hey, Pa. My experience is that the shows available are there for a reason: They're mostly of the magic and bad/old-hat comedian variety and not so much the Cirques and the Barry Manilows (well, I don't know what category he would fall under). But you can save significant money on some good ol' Vegas stalwarts; I had friends who paid next to nothing to see David Brenner last year and they loved it. But if you go thinking you can get into "O" for $30, you'll be disappointed.

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Re: Las Vegas: Hi, I am a travel agent and had a number of clients do the helicopter tour, it is actually one of the things I recommend for those who want to see the Grand Canyon and don't have much time to drive and back, plus it gives you a very different perspective, especially if you get inside the canyon by a helicopter and go to the bottom. It is very rare that one of my clients come back and don't call me to say "this was one of the most amazing things I have ever done in my life" and they have been to a lot of places in the world. THe price may be a little steep, but in the end they all think it was well worth it, and was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are various companies out there, make sure to pick one reliable and with new equipment.

John Deiner: I saw the family from "Little People, Big World" take a helicopter tour to the canyon a while back, and it blew me away. Thanks for chiming in.

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Washington, DC: Do you know if Cathay Pacific is going to have their Asia Pass deal this year?

Scott Vogel: According to a Cathay Pacific representative I just spoke with, the airline does indeed plan to offer Asia Pass in 2008 to U.S. travelers. Details are expected to be released in the next couple of weeks, or by the end of January at the latest. Monitor the Web site at www.cathaypacific.com or subscribe to their newsletter on the site to be notified as soon as the pass becomes available.

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Arlington, VA: This is related to your school trips topic...back in March I was on a flight from ORD to DCA on a Friday morning. When I arrived at the gate area, there were about 60 middle school aged kids (and maybe 5 chaperones?) in the gate area, along with the usual assortment of fellow bleary eyed business travelers who were eyeing the group suspciously. When it was time to board, the gate agent made the announcement that we had a group of 8th graders on board today for a trip to DC, and that all OTHER passengers could board first. The kids and their chaperones then took up the back 3rd of the plane. That actually worked out very well. The kids were pretty well behaved considering (and frankly I found the camera snapping in the cabin by a few of the chaperones to be more obnoxius!). On our final approach into DCA, we ended up having to abort the landing and do a "go around". The kids LOVED it, and frankly made the rest of us feel a little less scared thanks to their enthusiastic reaction. (And I was still a bit scared even though that it was my 3rd "go around" at National in 12 months.) The pilot and flight purser did a great job explaining what happened and why, and the passengers all got a little chuckle out of the kids excitement at our "bonus" views of DC. That being said, I think I am still weary of seeing 50 teenagers at my gate!

KC Summers: Good for them, and at least they weren't going somewhere exotic and jealousy-inducing!

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Washington, DC: Has any one been to Bimini? Is it really a location for spring breakers or is it more adult like?

KC Summers: No one here has -- how about it, chatters?

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Takoma, DC: Oh, I don't see why the girl scouts shouldn't go to Switzerland - the orderly progression of local to regional to national to international travel sounds cute, but there's no reason why kids shouldn't travel overseas. I still (age 32) remember fondly the trip I took to England and France at the age of 7 with my family. It really changed my perspective on the world and gave me motivation to understand the world, rather than requiring (as the poster did) that I already understand world history as some kind of prerequisite for international travel.

KC Summers: You're right, you're right.

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Cherry Hill, NJ: I absolutely loved the article on Borneo. How did the children fare during the extremely long flights? What did you do to keep them occupied? Fly at night? Did they fly in coach? Thanks for the inspiration! Also - what is the earliest you'd take your kids on an international flight. We're thinking of bringing our baby to visit relatives in Wales, but it's a 7 hour flight and the doc says we can travel after 3 months, but we'd like input from seasoned travelers. Thanks!

Glenn Kessler: Thanks for the compliment. Our kids did great on the plane--which 14 hours to Seoul, nonstop, on the first leg. It certainly helped that every coach seat had its own video screen, with a selection of dozens of movies. We don't let our kids watch much TV so they were in hog heaven the whole flight.

But they did fine on other flights with no TV screen. We gave each child a small backpack, which they were responsible for, and told them that any personal stuff that did not fit in the backpack stayed home. So they thought seriously about what they would take.

Traveling with a baby is easiest. We went to Holland when our oldest was 18 months old, and he did fine. One tip: If the baby is nursing, have her/him nurse during take off and landing so the change in air pressure doesn't bother them as much. (If they have a bottle, have them drink then.) You may need to get up and walk around with the baby every so often but that's fine. The nice thing about traveling with an infant is that they have no input in decision-making. Once they hit three, they have opinions! (Our oldest insisted that Italian garbage trucks were more interesting than churches when we took him at age three to Tuscany, so we had stop to look at every garbage truck.)

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Beach Vacation: I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts/advice about doing a summer beach trip to Nova Scotia. (The kids will be 7 and 4 this summer.) I am fascinated by the Bay of Fundy and think the ferry ride from Portland would be fun. Seems that this may be a low key summer vacation. I have collected my used guide books, searched the web but do not know anyone who has vacationed there. And am looking for unbiased opinions. Thanks

KC Summers: Can anyone opine on Nova Scotia?

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30 Minute Rule: I was on a Spirit Airlines flight in November and they said the same thing about the 30-minute rule...

Andrea Sachs: Well, here is the deal (isn't there always a caveat with these things?). The TSA revoked the rule, but airlines are free to set their own rule. So, take it up with the pilot, not the government.

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S. Rockville, MD: I'm contemplating a trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls for this summer. I'm pretty familiar with the kitchy-ness that is the Falls. What can you tell me about Toronto and Canada between Toronto and the Falls?

John Deiner: Niagara Falls kitschy? WHAT??? Okay, it is, but they're so much fun, and just getting a little bit away from the Ferris wheels and Maid of the Mist yields rich rewards.

That said, I have no idea what they are. Does anyone out there know what's between Toronto and the Falls?

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Baltimore, MD: I'm doing a cruise of Alaska's Inside Passage this summer and, like your previous poster, would like to know about various locations. While my agenda is set, I'd like to avoid the expensive excursions set up by the cruise line, but still see the towns. What are some highlights where crowds may not be, in Skagway, Juneau and other Inside Passage ports?

Thanks!

Scott Vogel: Another question for those of you out there who've been on an Alaska cruise...

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Kids and travel abroad: My 1st experience abroad was in college, for a year's study in Italy. While I adapted quickly (always loved to travel, took 4 languages in HS/college, majored in International Studies), I definetly felt I had to become independent quickly.

Hubby & I took our 6 year old daughter to Paris this past May. The 2 of them learned basic French vocab (I already knew), we stayed in an apartment in a non-touristy locale, and encouraged her to use her (even minimal) French whenever possible. She learned how to use the Metro map, ate French food, watched the Mona Lisa's eyes, and said "au revoir" to our cab driver.

She truly gained so much from this trip! We are going to Israel as a family this May, and possibly Italy next year.

We are also getting a laminated world map so we can insert our push pins for places we've been and our wish list.

It is truly a memorable life experience. Not because anyone is spoiled or resume building.

Just my $.02

KC Summers: I love your approach, but it's kind of different from what I was complaining about. I was zeroing in on affluent high schoolers who traipse off to the world's exotic places, frequently unsupervised, and haven't really earned the right.

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Farragut North, Washington, DC: We went to Israel when our children were 7 & 11 and had a great time. Although we stayed with my sister-in-law outside Tel Aviv, we also stayed in Jerusalem at a great hotel, just outside the walls of the old city, with a wonderful swimming pool (not the King David, but the name totally escapes me now--sorry!) One thing our 7 year old particularly enjoyed was going to the Jerusalem Zoo where we were probably the only tourists there, it was filled with Israeli families and was quite fun. Our son still remembers the baby elephant who played soccer with a giant soccer beach ball!

One thing to beware of--it's quite dry as well as hot and you should make sure your child has a water bottle (you can buy the carriers there that you can wear around your neck and put .5 liter bottles in) and keeps drinking as it's easy to be dehydrated before you feel thirsty.

Glenn Kessler: Perhaps you are thinking of the David Citadel hotel? That's where I stay whe Secretary of State Rice goes to Israel. It is a nice hotel with a fine pool and just steps from the old city.

Your other tips are quite good.

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Towson, MD: I like to stay in Bed and Breakfasts when I travel to foreign countries - I've done this in Canada, Iceland, Ireland, and France. The owner of the house is usually happy to talk about what life is like in that town, and what are interesting things to see and do. I have also found it very interesting to talk to the other guests in the evening. They are often from other countries too! If you're staying in a hotel and visiting museums and other tourist attractions, you don't really get to interact with the locals.

Glenn Kessler: This is a very good point. We stayed in wonderful B&Bs in Mexico, Belgium and Ecuador, and your experience tracks ours.

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Hotel deposit: I've found a cute little B&B in the UK where my hubby and I would like to stay when we travel there this spring. The problem is that they don't accept credit cards, but are requesting a one-night deposit in cash or a "check guaranteed by a banker's card." Any thoughts on what this means? Should I be aware, or is this usual for smaller B&Bs? I've found it through the British Tourism Council, so I feel it's fairly legit. I am just stumped on how to get the payment to them. Thanks for your help!

KC Summers: We're not really sure what it means, but how about sending a traveler's check? Or could you try to pay electronically, either from your online bank account or through Paypal? (Anyone know if Paypal works internationally?) I would ordinarily worry about not paying by credit card, but since the place is vetted by the tourism folks, I wouldn't worry too much.

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Seattle, Wash: Some comments from some previous chats...

Whistler is a place for a ski vacation you really do not need a rental car. There are various shuttle buses from the airport to Whistler. The heart of the town is pedestrian with decent bus service to other places around town. Ski in/ski out lodges only work through the end of February or early March because in mid/late March the lower half of the mountain is not good skiing but the upper half is. What you can do is take the gondala down to town after finishing up skiing.

On airline schedules I believe DOT/FAA do have regulaions on a miniminum time to legally do transfers. It may be at 35 minutes. Each airline is free to decide what they set the layover at. One thing I noticed was Southwest system didnt allow a booking through Midway, even though it was a 35 minute layover. What to consider with layovers is what airport you are flying through and what planes you are flying out on. For exmple say you are flying on Delta through cincinati operated by comair, if you are also transfering on a comair flight the layover time isnt a big deal, but it is a bigger deal if your connection is on a bigger plane where you ned to take the shuttke t change concourses.

For the Vegas traveler in March who was looking to go to Kanab. Without knowing how many dates was planned for this trip its hard to guess. What is doable is to do a loop trip if you have enough time where you drive from Vegas to South Rim (5-6 hr drive)over Hoover Dam and then loop around the north to Kanab (3 hours) and then onto Vegas (3 hours) I have driven all these roads before. You could go down to Phoenix (4 hours from South Rim) If you return that way, then go through Sedona.

John Deiner: Thanks, Seattle. Better late than never, as we like to say here in the Travel section -- particularly when waiting for a plane to leave.

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Tom, Summit, NJ: I taught high school a few years back and after Spring break began by asking kids what they had done during the week off. The first one, a white boy said he had gone skiing in Banff, but the snow wasn't very good. The second one, an African American girl, said she hadn't gone anywhere, but had stayed in her room at the foster home. I guess the lesson for me was that while some kids go on fabulous trips even though they are in high school, plenty of other kids would be happy with the basics and maybe a hug.

KC Summers: Thanks for sharing that, Tom.

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Re: high school time abroad: I spent time abroad as a high school student. It seems to be more common now, but nowhere near as common as a semester in college. There are specific programs and scholarships geared towards high school students. My experience was completely different from a college one: I lived with a family, attended school and participated in every day life as part of the country. In college you just kind of get college, but in a different place.

KC Summers: That's so different from the sort of joyrides we were talking about. Sounds great. Thanks.

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Nova Scotia: I did a cruise to it and we hit Sydney and Halifax, I don't know about the beaches, but Halifax was great. Especially the maritime museum.

KC Summers: Great, thanks.

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Columbia,MD: High School trips abroad are eye opening. I took one when I was high school to France for 2 weeks. We traveled from Nice to Paris. We had plenty of chaperons, but they did not overcrowd us. We were able to experience France and French culture on "our own". This trip opened my eyes to new potential, and actually increased my interest in study abroad for semester. I, in fact, did study abroad, but ended up doing my whole undergraduate degree in Switzerland!

KC Summers: Nice trip, Columbia!

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Central Cal: Dear Crew

Six of us want to head to Peru and are not having much luck with reasonable flights to Lima from LAX. Flights to Cuzco seem to be no problem. Any help or suggestions about a week trip to Peru and the usual sight would be greatly appreciated by our travel bunch. And, would this be a good time for a travel agent?

Andrea Sachs: Of course, it is always good call up travel agents if you are getting nowhere online. My main Peru source is Vaya Adventures (www.vayaadventures.com), a South American specialist based in California. I am not sure what your bad luck with LAX-Lima flights is: high prices, bad times, booked flights? If you sign up for a package, the agency can help with the air. For a random date in the fall, however, I found loads of flight options, including nonstop service on LAN for $920 and connecting service on Avianca for $760.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: US Air has a two bag, 50 pound per bag policy on checked luggage. I was wondering why it would not make more sense to just have a 100 pound limit, since I understand it is the weight that they wish to control. I ask because I can simplify my luggage sometimes by putting one bag inside another, yet if the combined bag is over 50 pounds, I have to remove the bag. It is no big deal to me to remove the bag, but it just strikes me that it makes things more difficult for their baggage handlers without doing anything for their weight issue. I also watch people struggling at the gates moving things from one bag to another to get both bags under 50 pounds when one bag is over the limit, and this just strikes me as a silly policy that has no effect on the desired goal of lowering the weight of luggage.

John Deiner: Hey, Harrisburg. Interesting question, and my guess here is that it's supposed to help the baggage handlers of which you speak and -- okay, it's late and I'm just guessing (help me here folks!) --it's easier to distribute two 50-lb. bags on a flight than one 100-lb bag of cement. Or could it have something to do with the baggage carousel as well?

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Washington DC: my fiance and I are were thinking of going snowshoeing for the first time over the President's Day weekend. Would you recommend any place within a 5 hour drive of DC? We were thinking near Davis, West Virginia, but we've never been there before. Thanks!

Scott Vogel:"Eleven inches dropped this week" screams the Web site at Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia, which boasts 43 km of snowshoeing trails. And it's definitely within your 5-hour limit...

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McLean, Va: Concerning student trips, the thing that really irks me is the trip where the student solicits contributions from family and parents' friends to finance the little venture. I'm probably also a bad person, but this really just rubs me the wrong way. And don't think that your offer of a copy of your daily trip journal in exchange for the donation is all that enticing. I've suspected that the travel agency coordinating the trip has even supplied the little darlings with convenient form letters for their use. It's almost like they're selling the parents and kids on a new way to finance the vacations. I just say no.

KC Summers: God, I hate those things too. I mean, I can understand underwriting a band trip so that poor kids can compete abroad. But the rich do-gooders irk me. I mean, how can you say no to a form letter asking you to help someone's kid build a latrine in Costa Rica? You just can't. But are you saying that you've gotten request for non-do-gooder trips? That would be a new low.

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Girl Scout Travel: I am so envious. I always read about the troops that did all that fundraising to send everyone to one of the international camps. I seemed to be the only one in my troop interested. The camps looked so great in all the Girl Scout publications. There are girls from around the world who participate. And while I have traveled overseas as an adult it seems to be a completely different experience than being in a camp with all different people. I think these experiences are very different than mom and dad shipping their kid and a few friends on a tour.

KC Summers: Yes, it does sound like a m ore valuable experience.

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Anonymous: A suggestion for Alaskan cruise tourists; take the free tour of the Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau. Beer made with spruce tips and porter smoked with alder wood. Free samples, too!

Gift shop and Tour Hours:

May - September: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm, 7 days a week (Last tour is at 4:30 pm)

October - April: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm, Thurs. - Sun. (Last tour is at 4:30 pm)

www.alaskanbeer.com

Scott Vogel: Well, that's certainly a nice destination for Alaska cruisers to consider...

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Deep Valley, USA: Best moment in Savannah: listening to the volunteer docent at the historic synagogue (still in use) give us her opinions on all the presidents whose letters to the congregation were displayed in the attached museum.

She told us the precise moment when she changed her mind about Jimmy Carter, and called him a few names in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English.

Quite something from a 75-year-old 4ft 6in tall lady. And I do mean lady.

KC Summers: LOL!

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Re Northwest: Was there ever a time when it wasn't awful? In the mid-'90s, I lived somewhere where Northwest was just about the only option, so I flew it a number of times, and hated it with a passion. Though I've managed to avoid it since then, I can't imagine it could have gotten worse.

John Deiner: We salute you: In your quest to travel, you flew an airline you despised, repeatedly. You're our sort of traveler.

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Harrisburg, PA: Niagara On the Lake is between Toronto and the Falls. They have a George Bernard Shaw festival in the summer, a pharmacy museum, and it's really a nice, quaint little town.

John Deiner: Excellent stuff, Harrisburg. Thanks!

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Niagara Area: Niagara on the Lake has one of the best theater festivals in North America. Plus, it is a cute little town, full of cute places to stay and surrounded by wineries.

John Deiner: Wow. Two really quick votes for Niagara on the Lake . . . hmmm.

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Bethesda Mom: I will soon have a high schooler traveling to Nicaragua as part of a school-sponsored community service trip. Our son talked us into it, naming friends who were going. I knew the friends' mom and knew her to be very thorough, so without exhaustive research, said yes. Turns out the friends told their mother our son was going and she, thinking that I was usually on top of things, also said yes.

When she and I finally talked, and realized we'd already sent in our first check without doing the usual research, and after I looked on the CDC web site of possible diseases (malaria and dengue fever for a start), I had qualms but decided to go through with it.

However, this is far from a luxury trip as the kids are going to bring supplies and help out in a daycare center and an senior citizens center and their contact on the ground will be the head of the local Red Cross who is the grandmother of one of the students on the trip.

This is also a trip that will have chaperones and a purpose, I would not let a child in high school go off by himself to Cancun or anyother resort, or really do any significant amount of independent travel. I am bothered by spending a lot of money for him to do community service when there are plenty of community service opportunities in this area.

KC Summers: You make some excellent points. Thanks for your comments. Would you be willing to be interviewed for our upcoming story? If so, please email Cindy at loosec@washpost.com. This goes for everyone else with a traveling high-schooler. Based on the comments here, it should be a really interesting article!

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You're not alone, KC!: It rankles me when I see kids who have be privilege of jaunting off around the world and I worked so hard for every moment. They seem to get into trouble or just not care, whereas I remember a short sister exchange exchange (hard-earned!) that was amazing and the scrimping and saving to get abroad every 4 or 5 years since then. I just try to remind myself that this is the way life goes and gosh darn it, I'll appreciate what I can get! (And work to change that ugly American traveling stereotype.)

KC Summers: I hear ya.

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Nova Scotia: for the family expecting a beach vacation, Nova Scotia is beautiful, and fascinating and you will feel you are very far away. However, it's not rally a "beach" vacation. The water is much too cold for swimming. Even the brave do a quick run in and out before they turn numb. Kids may find that frustrating...so near and yet so far.

KC Summers: Thanks very much. Very helpful.

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Manitoba: To the poster looking for a recommendation--I went to Churchill to see the polar bears with a group called Great Bear Foundation. I loved the trip. But be warned--it's not a typical tour. The leader is a crumundgeonly long-time bear researcher--he's not going to give you the standard history and biology of the area. But I found his different approach refreshing. Also, it's relatively low-budget (you stay in dorm-like accomodations and take the train from up from Winnipeg or LaPas)--though not much in Churchill is cheap. If you go with great bear, take a day and do a buggy tour (they'll arrange it)--Chuck Jonkel the leader doesn't like it (he has legitimate gripes about the environmental impact) but you're probably not going to get back to see more bears (and I say take one assuming you do not share Chuck's view about the environmental impact).

KC Summers: Fantastic tips for the polar bear-bound. Thanks very much.

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Normandy: Im living/working in France this year and would love some recommendations on European ski destinations. I went to Bardonecchia, Italy (host of the 2006 snowboarding events at the Turin Olympics) and loved it...and just bought great sale train tickets to Modane, France, to visit Valfrejus. Does anyone know of any good, affordable places that aren't huge and overrun? I was thinking of maybe trying to visit Andorra in February.

John Deiner: Hey, Norm. We did a big feature on cool little ski resorts that no one really knows about in Europe. Following is a post to our winter archive -- the stories ran on Dec. 10, 2006.

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washingtonpost.com: Winter Sports Travel Archive

John Deiner: And here you are.

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Ex Brussels: My children went to the British School of Brussels. Each year, the entire year group went travelling--from year 4 (9 year olds) onwards. Year 6 went to Normandy for a week, stayed in a hostel above Omaha Beach, went to the markets, the American Cemetery, and other places. I never got to see these places. My father (my son's grandfather) landed on Omaha Beach on D Day plus 6.

KC Summers: This does sound neat. I hope they appreciated it. God I sound like an old coot today.

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Travel to Bali: Hi Crew,

I may have an occasion to travel to Bali this summer. Have started to read up on it and was wondering you thoughts on if it was safe? Also, any tips on getting there and things to do? Thank you!

Glenn Kessler: Bali is one of the great places to see in the world. If you have an opportunity to travel there, grab it. My wife and I have made two trips to Bali, and loved every minute of it. It attracts hordes of tourists, but if you just get a half-mile off the beaten path, you will find the Balinese culture remains untouched by the modern world.

I would avoid Kuta, which is the famous beach that was attacked some years ago. I would skip not because of terrorism but because it is nothing more than the Australian version of Ft. Lauderdale; it is not part of the real Bali anymore. Try to stay in quieter beach areas like Sanur or in the artistic village of Ubud. Certainly that would also enhance your safety, since the attack targeted a place populated by many tourists.

One travel tip: Find out what village is having a ceremony of some sort. (The Balinese have many celebration days.) It will be the highlight of your trip and I bet you won't find many tourists there; you'll get the show mostly to yourself. The recent bestseller, "Eat, Pray, Love," by Elizabeth Gilbert, has a great section on Bali and its customs.

We flew on Continental via Guam but I'm not sure if that flight still exists. Many carriers offer connections to Denpasar, the main city on Bali.

I'm getting envious of your potential trip as I write this....

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Anonymous: It may be too late for that daughter going with her mom to Thailand (and wondering whether Ankor Wat or an elephant ride was better.) She can have both! I just came back in early December from SE Asia (Thailand, Laos & Cambodia.) While in Ankor Wat, i saw several tourists riding an elephant at one of the outlying temple ruins (not the main Ankor Wat complex itself.)

KC Summers: Thai trip daughter? Are you reading this? Thanks, Anon.

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Baltimore, MD: I think high schoolers taking trips without parents is wonderful for two reasons. The first is that it makes them comfortable with travel on their own. I took several amazing trips with my parents when I was young but one of the reasons I didn't study abroad was because I didn't know if I would be comfortable for that long without my parents. My guess is these trips help the high schoolers with that. The other reason has to do with close-mindedness and ignorance. High schoolers and in fact many people can be ignorant about anything outside of their own little worlds. The key though is to make these trips accessible not just to those whose parents can afford it but to all those who would benefit from it.

KC Summers: Yes, of course you're right. The kids just need to be mature enough to handle it. And supervision can be key.

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Arlington, VA: Dear flight crew, I had a "less than satisfactory" experience on United this Christmas season. First, our bags were "delayed" at O'Hare (everyone's bags were "delayed" at O'Hare -- probably has something to do with not having enough baggage handlers so they can pay their CEO an extra $20 million this year.) Second, they moved our flight departure up three hours without informing us (they had our phone number -- i've got the flight confirmation e-mail). Needless to say, hubbie and I are PO'ed beyond all measure. And to everyone else who hates United, there's a great website called Untied.com, which chronicles everyone's personal nightmare with United. And while what happened to us was a pain (we did eventually get our clothes and we did eventually get home), United's lack of caring was astounding. I hope everyone who had a problem with United this Christmas submits their complaint to Untied.com, along with sending a letter of complaint to United. Ours is going out today, with relevant supporting documentation. NEVER FLY UNITED!

KC Summers: We can't let Northwest take all the brickbats....

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KC Summers: Okay, folks, we're out of time. Thanks for all the great questions and comments, and sorry if we didn't get to yours. Please try us again next week, or email our Travel Q&A column at travelqa@washpost.com. Special thanks to Glenn Kessler for taking the time to chat with us today. The Gourmet DVD goes out to Bethesda Mom for her thoughtful comments. Please email me at summersk@washpost.com and we'll get it right out to you. Thanks again, everyone, and keep an eye out for our Trip Planner issue next Monday, when we plan 2008 trips for six lucky readers. See you next Monday!

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