The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, March 31, 2008 2:00 PM
Got a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel Section Flight Crew is at your service.
On the itinerary this week: a visit to a Swedish seaside town; a desert expedition in Twentynine Palms, California; fishing in New York City's Hudson River (really!) and vegetarian restaurants in Buenos Aires (again, really!).
All other travel topics are open as well. If you have insights, ideas or information to add to the discussion, just press the call button above your seat and we'll get to you as soon as we can. 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.
A transcript follows.
KC Summers: Hi, everyone, and welcome to the travel chat. Got your summer vacation all planned? No? Well, no worries, the Flight Crew is here to help you figure out where to go, how to get there and how to get the most out of your vacation buck. Joining me today: staffers John Deiner, Christina Talcott, Scott Vogel, Cindy Loose and Carol Sottili.
On a personal note, this is a sad day for me and Cindy -- it's our last chat, as we're both leaving the paper at the end of the month. So let's have a blowout giveaway and clean out my office at the same time. Quick, email and say why you want any one of the following items, and it's yours:
* Fodor's book of "1,001 Smart Travel Tips"
* Anthony Bourdain's book, "No Reservations"
* A chef's apron from Annie's Kitchen in Provence
* The Beer Drinker's Guide to Colorado (a handy map)
* A pop-up map of Barcelona
* A "CelebriDuck" rubber ducky from Nashville's Peabody Hotel
* "A Stingray Bit My Nipple: True Stories From Real Travelers," from those tasteful folks at Budget Travel
* and a Knee Defender, one of those little plastic devices that prevents the guy sitting in front of you from reclining his seat, because I'll never have the nerve to use it.
And we're off....
Arlington, Va.: I submitted the question below a few weeks ago, and you all posted it, but no one had any advice. I figured I'd try to resubmit it given that Sweden was on the front cover of the travel section! Thanks so much for all the advice.
"Arlington, Va.: I'm flying into Stockholm this summer and am horrified by the hotel prices. It seems that even a hostel would cost $100 for two adults - and that is without all the extras like bedding. We've been considering two options: 1. Waiting and going to a hotel placement agency once we arrive and seeing if we can get a place at a pension or a last minute cheap hotel price or 2. Leaving Stockholm and spending the night in a cheaper city - Uppsala perhaps? Do you all have any advice about whether it is worth it to stay in Stockholm? And if so, how to do it cheaply. Thanks!
Cindy Loose: Sweden overall is a pricey place, which is why we don't cover it as often as we'd like. Any advice from you guys?"
washingtonpost.com: Here's a piece from our Post Company cousins at Budget Travel: Europe on the Quick: A Long Weekend in Stockholm (Budget Travel, Feb. 2006)
Cindy Loose: Let's try again, earlier in the chat, to see is anyone has advice about how to handle horrendous hotel prices in Stockholm.....See question as posted last week, late in the game.
Heslington, UK: Probably because Yorkshire is now my home, I felt the need to respond to York as too touristy, from last week's chat.
Though I would deffinately not recommend as a day trip from London, it's a two hour train journey. I'd say it's a great weekend trip (just book your tickets as far in advance as possible to get the best prices, then pick up your tickets at the station. Last time I bought a full price return it was around ¿80. It's possible to get singles for under ¿12).
If tourist stops are not your thing, just relax and enjoy the city with all its twisty-turny ways. Spend an evening in one (or a few) of the local pubs, or see what bands are on that night at Fibbers. Or walk the walls, or check the race schedule at the race course and take a short bus ride there.
KC Summers: Thanks for chiming in, Heslington. You had me with "twisty-turny ways."
Chicago, Ill.: I am SO GLAD you put the case of the imprisoned Italian tourist on your blog site today, because it's a shocking story. We got on this topic a couple chats ago and you guys sort of demurred, noting that you write more about travel per se and leave the politics of customs and immigration to other reporters. But I would encourage you again to look at this subject in more depth, because it's really going to affect how tourism develops around the world. I mean, how many incidents like this before the Europeans start retaliating? At what point will Americans find themselves shunted into "special" lines when arriving overseas that take twice as long as everyone else's? Our policies invite reciprocal treatment. If we're making it so unpleasant and arduous for foreigners to come here, how soon before we're no longer welcome there, especially if our dollar isn't worth squat anyway? Thanks.
washingtonpost.com: The Monday Rant: Detaining Foreign Visitors (Travel Log blog, May 19)
Christina Talcott: I'm glad you appreciated my post this morning. Scott pointed out the story to me, and I found it really outrageous. We think and read and talk a lot among ourselves about how travel changes with current events, and we're always trying to pass on info about any actual trends and changes. I for one still have a lot to learn about all the rules and regs coming out of DHS/FAA/etc. While I'm dismayed and nervous when I hear stories like Salerno's, it's hard to speculate about what might happen in other countries as a result. Whenever we hear anything concrete, we'll be sure to blog about it to let you know. In them meantime, do you think there's anything we can do as individuals/travelers to ameliorate the situation, besides being good guests wherever we go outside the States?
Sunny Isles Beach, Florida: An article entitled "top 10 travel tips" was written by the Post about a year ago which identified Kleinert's underarm disposable dress shields as a great travel product. Can you please tell me how to get a copy of this article.
washingtonpost.com: Travel Aids You Can Buy Or Fashion for Yourself (Post Travel Section, Nov, 5, 2006)
KC Summers: Ask and ye shall receive, SIB. Thanks for the link, Elizabeth!
D.C.: We will be spending the end of our honeymoon in Costa Rica in the middle of December. Only have 2 days and we have to end in San Jose. Any ideas about what to see for people who love national parks/museums/beaches?
washingtonpost.com: Costa Rica Travel Stories (Ppst Travel Section Archives)
KC Summers: Elizabeth, you are the best. DC, here are some handy links for you. And chatters, feel free to jump in with suggestions for DC.
day trip from London: Hi, Flight Crew!
Last week, a chatter asked about ideas for a day trip from London.
Although I missed the chat, here are a couple of suggestions.
Their first choice, if they haven't been there before, should be Windsor Castle.
Second would be Oxford (mentioned by someone else last week) and Blenheim Palace (where Churchill spent a lot of time growing up), which is close by.
Third would be Hampton Court, the home of Henry VIII.
I hope that helps!
KC Summers: This was a popular thread last week. I don't think we had mentioned Hampton Court, so thanks much.
Baltimore, Md.: Rather impulsively, my fiancee and I bid on a two-week stay at a 500-year-old house in France at a charity auction. We didn't know the house's exact location until after we won. Turns out, it's in the Rhone Valley, in a little town called Charmes sur Rhone. We plan to go there on our honeymoon in August. Now, I'm researching the area, planning day trips. We want to see the sights, museums, historical buildings, eat in good restaurants. But I'm having some trouble coming up with places to do and things to see. Can anyone point me in the right direction??
Christina Talcott: That sounds like an amazing trip! You'll be a few miles outside Valence, which is an hour or less by train from Marseille, Avignon, Lyon and other amazing French cities. From the train station in Marseille, head south along the JFK Corniche to rocky Mediterranean beaches, grab some bouillabaisse and Pastis on a patio in Vieux Port, hop the ferry to Chateau d'If (the island prison from "The Count of Monte Cristo"), visit the fashion museum and wander the hilly streets of Old Town. In Avignon, visit the walled city, papal palace and lush parks; July-August are the Avignon Festival, with free street performances, music and art on every corner. Lyon I'm not familiar with other than its reputation for excellent cuisine. Can anyone help out Baltimore on Lyon and other places to visit in Provence?
Washington: KC, what has been your all-time favorite assignment from the Post?
KC Summers: That's a tough one. Usually it's been whatever my last assignment was -- I can honestly say I've never had a bad trip. But if I had to choose, it would be my hacienda/market tour of Ecuador last year. It was the perfect combination of discovery and relaxation. And shopping.
Headed to Barcelona: KC and Cindy - I can't believe you're leaving. We're going to miss you a lot!
I see one of your items up for grabs is the pop-up Barcelona map. I'd love to inherit that gem as I'm headed there next week. I'm very behind in my planning and could really use a map - especially a pretty pop-up one.
Good luck to both of you!
KC Summers: You got it. Send your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get it out to you. (And thanks!)
former D.C.: I'd LOVE the chef's apron from Annie's Kitchen!
KC Summers: But you have to tell us why!
Fairfax, Va.: Love the chats and learn an awful lot to put to personal use!
Here's a question that may be too narrowly focused for the chatters; however:
My husband recently had a colonostomy and is having trouble with the appliance (bag) consistently adhering to his skin. I do most of the emptying and changing of the pouch. We're hopeful that a trip to Austria and Germany in mid-2009 can still occur, but are concerned about dealing with our new situation. We don't recall seeing family restrooms in those countries in public spaces and worry about dealiing with emergencies that may arise. Are our worries founded? Do you know of any chat rooms for travelers with this condition to share information?
Many thanks for your feedback.
Scott Vogel: Interesting question, and am throwing this out to our very knowledgeable readership in hopes of some good answers. One place to start is the Ostomyland Web site (www.ostomyland.com), which appears to have a chat room where you might post questions on this subject. Good luck!
Western N.Y.: Anthony Bourdain's book, "No Reservations"
Because I frequently violently disagree with his assessments and figure the only way to give him an fair chance is to read the book!
And I'm going to be very sorry to see you ladies go. Very sorry. I've found you to be level-headed, open-minded, and calm (the last of which is more and more rare in the world of travel)!
KC Summers: Why thank you (she said calmly). The book is yours -- send your info to me at address above.
Nashville, Tenn.: Hey gang! Former Postie Eric Brace here... I just got back from an acoustic tour of Holland and Germany, playing little clubs for people who seem to care about U.S. folk/country/rock! What a blast!
My question is one you've surely answered before: Changing money here in the States.
I gave most of the money I earned to a friend in Holland who used her PayPal account to send me the money (to -my- PayPal account), saying that PayPal gave the best exchange rate. All good.
Then, to my surprise, I just found in my suitcase another 500 Euros that I'd socked away from CD sales!! With the dollar still so low, I feel I should exchange the euros now, rather than hold onto them for my next trip, preferring to take the good rate and have the dollars now.
Where does one go here in the States for the best currency exchange??
Hope all's well in Travel-land!
Christina Talcott: Hey Eric! Nice to hear from you! Hmm, I'm not sure where you can exchange those Euros that'll give you the best rate; my fellow Travel-ers say they usually just pop down to TravelEx on K Street for convenience's sake. Do any chatters have particular places/ways to exchange Euros for dollars in the States in general, or in Nashville in particular? Any advice for my pal Eric on getting the best rate?
Oakton, Va.: Cindy,
We will miss you both. We would love the pop-up map of Barcelona. My wife and I just booked a European cruise next year for her pants and us to help them celebrate their 50th anniversary.
washingtonpost.com: (I usually correct typos but this one is just too good - Elizabeth)
KC Summers: Sorry, Oakton, somebody beat you to it, but how about a book on European cruise ports? I'm in a good mood today.
SW D.C.: Flighters - What options are best for finding airfare that is not $490 from DC to Toronto the first week in July? That's the cheapest I could find. I've tried flying out June 29 to July 2, and coming back July 5 to July 8, but it's still around $500 round trip on Air Canada/United/Delta, etc. I thought about flying Porter Airlines from Newark to Toronto (read about it in in NYT), but is it worth it when I have to take a train from here to Newark and then transfer to the skyrail to get to the airport? Would it be better to book a flight to Newark and transfer? Or should I just skip this trip because it's an awful lot of money for a flight that is 90 minutes? Am I missing other alternatives? Driving or taking the bus is definitely not an option though.
Cindy Loose: Air Canada has so much dominance that the fares to Toronto are ridiculous, given how cheap it is. I wouldn't go to New York to get a cheaper fare, but I would consider flying from the D.C. area to Buffalo from Baltimore on SW and then renting a car to drive to Toronto. If you don't drive, then I'm stumped, unless there are buses from Buffalo to Toronto--something you could check with Greyhound. Otherwise, there are often last minute prices a weekend or two out, but then there is no guarantee you can get there.
Sarasota, Fla. -- Need tips!: I'm retiring June 1 and plan to spend as much time (and as little money) as possible traveling. Would love to have the 1001 Travel Tips book to get me started!
KC Summers: You've got it. Send info and out it goes.
Sarasota, Fla.: My NYC sister and I are rendezvousing for a long weekend in Niagara Falls in July (she's never been, I was there for a day trip 20 years ago). We've both heard the Canadian side is a more interesting place to stay... is that true? Any suggestions for hotels/motels or restaurants there? And how much of a hassle is going from the US side to the Canadian side and back in these days of way-heightened security?
washingtonpost.com: Both Sides Now (Post Travel Section, Sept. 18, 2005)
John Deiner: Hey, Sarasota. The Canadian side certainly seems to have a lot more going on, that's for sure. Tons of tourist-trappy activities and souvenir stands. That's the side I've been on the past two times I visited, and it's pretty easy to avoid the kitsch and concentrate on the falls. Lots of hotels, chain restaurants, up-close-and-personal falls encounters -- and the surrounding towns and countryside is lovely. You won't be bored.
As far as getting over the border, just remember to have your passport on hand (don't pack it like we did), as it'll speed you through. On our last trip, we had to wait in a good deal of traffic at the border during both crossings.
former D.C.: Why I want the apron -- many more years ago than I plan to tell you, I spent my entire junior year of college in Aix-en-Provence. It was a year that changed my life in many, many ways, all positive. Provence will always be a place dear to me. And for the honeymoon couple staying in the chateau near Valance, do go to Aix for a day and have a coupe de marron for me at La Rotonde!
KC Summers: I'm so sorry but someone beat you to it. Want something else French? How about Travel & Leisure's "Unexpected France" (a hardback)? If so,email me.
Bowie, Md.: KC AND Cindy leaving at the SAME time??? Oh the horrors... you'll be missed! Well, being 6'2", I darn well could use that Knee Defender cause I'm TIRED of limping off a flight when some inconsiderate SOB slams their seat back with NO warning!
Also, here's something for you all to ponder... why is it, when the fuel prices go up, airlines just raise the ticket price, yet cruise lines tack on that tacky per person daily fuel surcharge?
KC Summers: The Knee Defender is yours, Bowie, just email me at the address above. Re fuel surcharges, who the heck knows. We're all victims of the oil companies' greed.
the apron!!!: I'd love the apron.
Also found info about fairly close balloon rides. Have not actually done it.
Here is the url.
KC Summers: I don't have the apron but I do have a wooden spoon from the Trump Taj Mahal....
Dupont Circle: I am considering visiting a friend in Scottsdale, Ariz. over the third weekend in June, but am hesitating because of the weather. Any first-hand experience on what Ariz. is really like in mid-June? Also, would it be nuts to go to the Grand Canyon this time of year? A mostly free vacation (plus seeing old friends) sounds great, but suffering in 100+ temps during my vacation is making me reconsider! I don't want to have stay inside the whole time but I can give up the Grand Canyon if it's going to be miserable. My friend says it's "not so bad" but I think she may be unduly biased!
John Deiner: Hey, Dupont. Just checked Weather.com, and according to its historical data, the South Rim has an average high of 84 in mid-summer. Not bad, right? You're not going to hit horribly hot temperatures on the South Rim, but head to the North Rim if you really want pleasant weather. Be advised though that if you go want to hike a bit down into the canyon, that's when you'll hit the horrible heat. So spare yourself and look over the edge, and enjoy!
As far as the rest of Arizona? Hmmm. I'm guessing hot, hot, hot. Anyone care to share?
Fortaleza, Brazil (formelry Silver Spring): Too bad you're leaving. What will you do next? Do any of you know anything about the Lake Huron ferry (Tobermory to South Baymouth)? We hope to take it at the end of September. Too late for Fall colors that far north?
Oh, I would love the Colorado beer map. The beer down here is not great (just too weak), but we will be in Colorado (Winter Park) next year for an event. We took the Durango-Silverton train last year and loved the Silverton Brewery restaurant.
KC Summers: The beer map is yours, Fort, just email me. Cindy and I are busy reconfiguring our careers... but nothing could possibly top the great experience we've had here in the Travel section.
Re the Lake Huron ferry, can anyone help?
Oakton, Va.: KC,
My wife's PARENTS would love that book. Her pants could care less.
KC Summers: From our pants to yours -- it's theirs. Just email me.
Paris!: My boyfriend and I are heading to Paris in two weeks and given the euro situation, we are decided to have casual lunches (picnics in parks and sandwiches by the Seine) but we would like to have a couple of tasty dinners. Any recommendations for delicious and inexpensive places? We will be staying in the 6th but are up to heading to any part of town.
washingtonpost.com: In Paris, Living Large for Less (Post Travel Section, May 8, 2005)
Tom Sietsema's Postcard from Paris (Post Travel Section, Aug, 5, 2007)
Scott Vogel: Hope the above two links help you narrow down your choices. And bon voyage....
Potomac Falls, Va.: What do you recommend as "must-see's" in and around Boston? I'll be there 7-10 days, staying in Needham, and will not have a car.
washingtonpost.com: You¿ve Done This: Now Try This (Post Travel Section, May 11)
Scott Vogel: Glad you asked. As you'll see, we just explored this topic intensively in a recent feature.
Alexandria, Va.: I'm getting married. Weddings are fun, but you know what's more fun? Honeymoons.
We have never been anywhere tropical, or stayed anywhere especially nice, so this trip is a big deal to us.
Questions: We'll be going on our honeymoon in mid-October, which is still hurricane season. This seems to rule out so many places! I know Aruba is outside of the hurricane belt; any other suggestions?
Also, how realistic are we in wanting a two-week honeymoon, possibly at an all-inclusive, for $4,000? Do-able?
And, last but not least, do you think we should go to a travel agency for guidance?
washingtonpost.com: Island Finder: Your Spot in the Caribbean Sun (Post Travel Section, March 4, 2007)
Cindy Loose: Congrats! We've included below a story on various islands. Besides that: Oct is pretty near the end of hurricane season, but you are right to be concerned, cause even a small chance of having such a special trip ruined is a chance you don't want to take. The islands outside the hurricane belt are the ABC's=Aruba, Bonaire and Curasao. Check them out carefully, though, cause B and C are small and might not fill your wishes. Aruba is not the most expensive island, but not the cheapest either.
As to $4,000 for two weeks--since airfare is the biggest expense staying longer doesn't necessarily add a huge price difference. If you do go all-inclusive, I'd suggest you not stay in the same resort,or the same part of an island, for the entire two weeks. I'd suggest you do a week all inclusive, to see what that's like, and a week that allows you to go where you want to eat.
Another thing to consider: Is it critical that you take the honeymoon right after the wedding? I'd argue for waiting until Nov., when your hurricane free options open exponentially. Aruba is more expensive than many options, and you'll get more for your money in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cancun in Mexico, maybe Jamaica, etc.
I'd also say see a travel agent for a special trip, esp. if you haven't been to a region and you don't want to mess up with ill informed decisions. You can feel free to call and ask how many trips they book to the Carib and what islands they've been too before asking the advice they're paid to provide. If you have a knowlegeable person, they can help you alot. After you've ascertained they have some expertise, you should see what they ask you: They should ask you about you, what your likes and dislikes are, what's most important to you, what you see yourself doing. No one place fits all travelers, and the Caribbean is a large category. If they start offering trips without finding out who you are, they're not doing it right and try again.
Rockville: Trying to put together a trip to Europe for the end of the summer with a few friends. We wanted to go in July to do the Benicassim Festival in Spain but seems a little late to do that now. Any other ideas for festivals that may be going on in August, and no it doesn't necessarily have to be music-related - though it would be a bonus.
Christina Talcott: Here are some other major music festivals going on in August: Budapest's Sziget Festival (Aug 12-18, www.sziget.hu/festival_english); Belgium's Pukkelpop (Aug. 14-16, http://pukkelpop.be/pp/nl); Notting Hill Carnival in London (Aug. 23-25). Anyone know of others?
McLean, Va.: A I correct in guessing that K.C. and Cindy will be taking a several-month breather from the fun of air travel before undertaking the next stage of their career lives?
Meanwhile, cue Roy Rogers and Dale Evans:
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.
KC Summers: Awww. Thanks, McLean. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a good way for me to avoid air travel over the next few months -- much as I would love to.
Minneapolis, Minn.: I went to law school at Vanderbilt which is in Nashville, Tenn. The Peabody is in Memphis. I want the ducky!
KC Summers: You've got it. Email me with your address and i'll send it out.
Provence tips: Places I love in Provence are:
Arles with its Roman amphitheater and baths
Aix en Provenxe (Beautiful hill town)
St. Remy where Van Gogh painted
Orange with its Roman ruins
Pont du Gard (well preserved Roman aquaduct)
Visit wineries. I loved Gigondas.
Christina Talcott: Wonderful suggestions for the honeymooners in Charmes-sur-Rhone! Thanks!
Minneapolis, Minn. : A great day trip from London for anyone who is interested in Roman history but doesn't have time to visit Bath is to hop on a train at St. Pancras station and head up to St. Albans (20 minutes). The town was built by the Romans who called it Verulamium. You can visit the ruins of a Roman villa and see the original hypocaust (hot water bath). There's a museum of Roman history, a Cathedral and an Abbey Church, and, nearby, the deHavilland Aircraft Heritage museum. Lots of nice pubs and restaurants for lunch, too.
KC Summers: Wonderful suggestion, Minn, thanks much.
wooden spoon would be super.: I am an avid cook and collector of Kitsch. I'd love the wooden spoon from the Trump Taj Mahal....
KC Summers: It's yours -- just email me.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Flight Crew,
My boyfriend and I are going to spend my birthday in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.. We've never been before so are looking for things to do for 2 days. I'd like to check out a winery or two while we're there. Any suggestions? Thanks!
washingtonpost.com: Thank You For Soaking (Post Travel Section, May 28, 2006)
John Deiner: Hey, DC. Never been to a winery near Berkeley Springs, but maybe our friends in e-land can help us.
Check out www.berkeleysprings.com for a whole bunch of things to do. During my visits, I've generally been pampered at spas and have eaten a lot at the town's restaurants. The bathhouse in the state park is pretty cool, and the surrounding countryside is lovely. Nearby Cacapon State Park has lots of trails and a lake, or you can shop around town (lots of artsy places).
Rockville, Md.: I read in your CoGo section about the person that received the offer of two round tickets anywhere in the US just by calling a toll free number¿ well just a couple of minutes ago, I received a call from Global Vacations in Alexandria Va. telling me that only by making an appointment to see their resort they will give me two round tickets for free¿ when I asked her if she could send me all the information by email she said that before that I need to reserve for next weekend. I didn¿t reserve so she said she was going to give my tickets to another person, bla bla bla¿ What¿s all this about? Does anyone know about this Global Vacations in Alexandria?
All I know is what I wrote on Sunday. For me, the different names was enough to convince me I wouldn't lay out thousandsof dollars to buy a lifetime of travel. Who knows where they'll be in your lifetime. Anyway, if you undergo a 90 minute presentation you'll probably get the free tickets. I'm willing to bet that if you call back now, they'll still offer them to you if you come next weekend. I'm also betting that if you call again next week, you'll be invited to come the following weekend.
Fairfax, Va.: I am planning a short trip to Albuquerque, NM next month. I got a one-way fare to ABQ on Delta for $158 and a one-way return on United for $168. Much cheaper than RT on either airlines. Any problems with booking this way? Purchased tickets on line from airline web-site.
Carol Sottili: I don't see any problem with this. It's unusual that one-way tickets are cheaper than a round trip, but it does happen. You may be scrutinized a bit more by security, but maybe not.
Bethesda Mom: Hi Travel Gurus:
No question today, but I want to say "thank you" to both KC and Cindy for wonderful stories and reporting over the years. The Washington Post Travel section is heads and shoulders above the competition (including the Gray Lady) and it's due to great writers like yourselves. Happy travels in the future!!
And, while I'm too broke to travel myself, I'd love to get the pop-up map of Barcelona for my college student who will be studying abroad there this summer (a direct correlation to why I have no money to travel myself, but he's a good kid and has been working himself to pay for some of it).
KC Summers: Thanks for the kind words, Beth. Unfortunately we've given the Barcelona map away, but email me and I'll find something else Barcelona-related to send your son.
Md.: Just because you are allowed to travel from Italy without securing a visa in advance doesn't mean you CAN'T. And the US didn't do anything to the guy that other countries don't already impose upon us. I dated a fellow in the UK for 5 years, and after my 5th or 6th trip was told by UK immigration that I needed to secure visas ahead of time in the future or risk being rejected entry, because (wait for it) they believed I was trying to determine a way to stay in the country (i.e., overstay to eventually get married). Guess what - if you are visiting the US with the intention of getting married, you no longer are considered a tourist and thus do not qualify for the Visa stamp upon entry. If you don't like the laws, lobby to have them changed, but they are what they are AND they already mirror the laws of most other westernized nation in that regard.
Christina Talcott: Thanks for weighing in. Here's another take on visa-waiver citizens' scrutiny at Customs. I'm curious, though, to hear about Americans detained in Europe or other countries that don't require us to have visas to visit. Can you elaborate?
Capitol Hill: Guys, I need the "A Stingray Bit My Nipple" book. My sister was bitten on the nipple by a woman in a Seoul bath house... no joke. The woman was mentally unbalanced and didn't like that my sister was foreign. So now, needless to say "bit my nipple" is a running joke in our family.
Please help me continue the joke!!
KC Summers: God, that's hilarious. You've got it -- email me your info.
Follow up to Lyon answer...: ...I meant to add one little Lyon tip to my answer. Right near the funicular up to ND de F, there are public bathrooms that have friendly, clean, and free services. Good to know!
Christina Talcott: Nice! Thanks!
D.C.: I was briefly in Lyon two weeks ago and definitely recommend taking the funicular up the hill to Notre Dame de Fourviere. It's a beautiful church and has an amazing view of Lyon from the top.
Christina Talcott: Sorry, posted the follow-up before the original about Notre Dane de Fourviere in Lyon...
Christina Talcott: Um, Notre DaMe. Je m'excuse!
Goodies: Ooh, ooh! I want the Fodor's Guide, so I don't look like an ugly American when I go abroad. (Although that wouldn't have helped me with the mean ticket guy who was very unhelpful when I wanted to buy tickets to Versailles - there's two Versailles stops!) Or that rubber duck thing, just cause I like rubber ducks!
KC and Cindy - I'm sad you're leaving! Always appreciated your great advice on my trips, and the ideas that popped into my head for other trips while reading these chats. Thanks, and good luck!
KC Summers: Thanks for the nice thoughts. I think I have another one of those Fodor's guides around, but if not, I'll send you some other kind of tip book, okay? Email me your address.
Fairfax, Va.: I know it's early, but can you tell me the best time to book flights for travel during the Christmas holidays? We know we are going to California this coming Christmas, and we know the exact dates we want to travel. Last year, flights we wanted were booked by October.
I checked online for flights for this year and airfare seems to have gone up an average of $150/per person for round trip fares. Also, there aren't many flights available -- on our preferred airline (JetBlue) I only found 1 nonstop flight and it leaves at 6 a.m. I'm assuming more flights will be added, right? Are airfares likely to drop at all in the next 4-5 months from what is now advertised? When is the best time to book flights for the holidays?
Carol Sottili: I'm not convinced there will be more flights added. Airlines don't add flights for holidays - they don't have spare jets that they can assign like that. Much depends on how flexible you are. If you want to fly nonstop on a find exactly what you want. Consider flying out of BWI to save money - Southwest is always a good bet. Take a look at www.virginamerica.com, although it is a small airline that doesn't offer a great variety of flights.
Minnesota, where it's almost spring!: For the honeymooners in France, if they're going to be in Lyon, check out the silk factories...beautiful handmade scarves, and interesting to watch the fabric dyeing process. Also, there are buildings throughout the city with painted trompe l'oeil scenes...you'll be amazed! If you go further west, you will get to some towns which have earned the designation of "Prettiest Villages in France" -- and they are...Sarlat has been the site of films set in medieval times, Salers and Conques are charming as well.
If no one claims it, I would love the Fodor's book...thanks!
Christina Talcott: Great advice, thank you!
Orlando in August -- am I nuts?: There's a fabulous bellydance conference planned for Orlando this August and I'm thinking about going. Fares should be not-so-crazy, right, but am I crazy for making the trip when DC summers are just about at the limits of my tolerance for heat and mugginess? Anything else to do there besides swelter? I am SO not into Disney.
Scott Vogel: The short answer to your question: yes, you ARE nuts. But that doesn't mean there aren't compensations. Yes, the airfare will be a steal (relatively) and so will accommodations. Also, John here informs me that the week before Labor Day, most of the parks will be empty (again relatively), so you might reconsider being not into Disney, particularly if the heat starts making you woozy. Definitely look into the water parks, particularly Sea World's new Aquatica, which I recently enjoyed, and the Orlando Museum of Art, which should be a cool cultural option when it's sweltering. Other air-conditioned suggestions welcome!
Arlington: If you were going to spend 11 days in Israel (not counting travel time -- actual time in country), your itinerary would include...?
I am not particularly religious but enjoy historical/archaeological stuff as well as typical sight-seeing, beach-going vacation activities.
KC Summers: Arl, we're gonna throw this one out to the chatters. But do keep an eye out for our upcoming piece on Israeli B&Bs -- it's really interesting. It's scheduled for June 1. (My last issue! Sniff.)
Alexandria, Va.: Happy Monday, Flight Crew!
My husband and I plan to take a delayed honeymoon later this year. Our timing is fairly flexible and we expect to spend up to two weeks away. We are strongly leaning toward a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Could you give some advice as to: the best time of year to visit; the best airport to fly into; where to stay; and whether we should consider expanding our trip to the surrounding area (we've been told Zion NP is also wonderful). Also, we've heard of full moon hikes at Bryce Canyon but know nothing about them -- could you provide any information?
washingtonpost.com: Utah Travel Stories (Post travel Section Archives)
Cindy Loose: I think Bryce is a great choice, and with two weeks I would expand my horizons. Zion is very pleasant. I adore Lake Powell--renting a houseboat is outragesously expensive but I've done that once and would love to go back and stay in the lodge and rent a small boat for exploring the water surrounded by towering cliffs.
Summers can be hot and crowded, still okay, but if it were me I'd head there in September. Check temp charts just be googling the name of a town and weather, which I just don't hav etime to do now, but I'm pretty sure you'll find good weather and water still warm enough to swim.
You can fly into Bryce (code BCE) but I'm guessing that's expensive. Personally I'd look for a cheap flight into Las Vegas and plan a driving trip. The national park lodges are great choices if you can get it. Go to www.nps.gov to search Bryce, Zion and Lake Powell. Also check out www.brycecanyon.com.
McLean, Va.: If Potomac Falls is a cyclist, he or she might like to rent a bike and take part in one of the recurring rides of the Charles River Wheelmen.
I've taken one of the recurring routes from Needham and can tell you that it's a great ride.
Scott Vogel: Another great idea for the Boston-bound.
former d.c.: I'd love Unexpected France! How to send you my info??
KC Summers: Email me at email@example.com. Boy I hope I can keep all you guys straight. Be sure to mention which prize you're claiming.
Washington, D.C.: I'm looking into going to Anchorage, Alaska this July. What is the typical average price for a round trip flight out of a DC area airport? I'm seeing $600-$650 for roundtrip right now and that looks pretty good. Will those tickets get any cheaper?
Carol Sottili: That's not a bad price. I've seen it go as low as $450, but that was before the recent jet fuel price surge. If you're flexible, you can track fares for a while. Go to www.farecast.com, www.farecompare.com, www.priceline.com (scroll down to insidetrack) to see where fares are heading.
Arlington, Va.: So I went through BWI this weekend, Terminal C. The TSA screening area has a very strong, distinct feet smell. It's quite horrific, actually. It appears to be an enclosed space with little ventilation (note the industrial size fans). It's bad enough going through there when the line is short, I can't imagine having to wait a long time in that horrible stench, let alone work there. Can't they do something about it? You can even smell it on the return trip when you pass by the area.
John Deiner: Ah, the smell of feet as you depart on vacation. What could be better?
That's disgusting, Arl. I haven't flown out of C in a while, so I'm not aware of the odor. Anyone else familiar with this scent?
Want something else French?: How about a 2000 bottle of Grand Cru Nuits Saint Georges?
KC Summers: Heh heh.
Washington, D.C.: So, my husband is using up all his vacation time on an interesting, educational, and horizon-broadening trip this fall which has zero appeal for me. I want to use my vacation time to lie very still on a warm beach, preferably with nearby shopping. Any suggestions?
Cindy Loose: The way I'm reading this question, you both have already decided you'll do separate vacations, and you want a warm beach. If I'm wrong about that, let me know.
Fall is hurricane season, so buy insurance. If you're going in early fall, I'd suggest checking out the Bahamas, which are close and cheap to get to. By late fall that's a little chilly for swimming, for my taste, except in pools.
Otherwise, you'll have to let us know how much you're thinking of spending and what does fall mean. Sept. is lovely for beach time just about anywhere in North America, Oct. not. If you're thinking duty free shopping, like alcohol and jewelry, and crafts, then you have dozens of Caribbean options, but again, in hurricane season. If you mean shopping like nice designer clothes, Caribbean isn't so good.
Bethesda, Md.: Scott, you said you were throwing it out to readers for comments, so here goes. In response to the wife of the traveler with the ostomy, you may want to suggest to your husband that he try a two-piece pouching system. It consists of a flat mounting plate that is attached for several days and a disposable snap-off pouch that he may be able to do himself. Therefore, you would not need a family restroom to assist him.
One thing to keep in mind is that when flying, an airplane's cabin pressure may have an expanding affect on the pouch which can be shocking the first time it happens. You may want to consider pouches with a carbon-filtered vent, or add a vent to each pouch in advance of fitting them. Before I used vents, I found this out the hard way, but fortunately the cabin pressure was adjusted before anything serious happened. Good luck on your trips.
Scott Vogel: Thanks so much for chiming in with such valuable information for travelers with colostomy bags.
Boston: I am horrified at the treatment of the Italian gentleman referenced in today's blog post. But the Times' treatment of the story left an odd taste in my mouth. As much as all visitors to our country deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, the vast majority of them do not have the connections necessary to contact a major newspaper when they're mistreated. That does make these kinds of violations even more egregious. But, the story was very obviously a product of the American family trying to get publicity, and it didn't seem like the Times researched all of the angles as well as they should have. This quote from the girlfriend's father jumped out at me: "They were pretty shocked that the government could do this sort of thing, because it doesn¿t happen that often, except to people you never hear about, like Haitians and Guatemalans."
Christina Talcott: Yeah, the "Haitian and Guatemalans" comment grated on me, too. The article also made me wonder whether the family (locals, from Alexandria) contacted the Post, too, since I don't recall hearing about this before I saw it in the Times. Also, the Times story raised the possibility that the Italian guy might have indeed mentioned asylum, perhaps to avoid getting sent back to Italy. It's hard to know what the real story is, but hearing how these policies affect people - whether well-connected or not - is important and useful, IMHO.
Arlington, Va.: Does the zone or group system for boarding planes make the boarding process go smoother, or does it stretch out the process? I'm asking because the boarding by zones appears to slow the boarding rather than make it smoother: take a look at what happens if you're in a low number zone, such as 1,2, or 3, there's lots of space remaining in the overhead bins to put your larger items, but when you're in a higher number zone, there's little or no more space to put yourself, with the result of lots of people moving up and down the aisles to find space in the overhead bins, and clogging the aisles for other folks who have to find their rows and seats.
Here's a possible solution: Post a seating chart at the gate to show people where their seats are, which zones cover which seats, and how the plane and seats are oriented when they board. Also, show the status of the availability of overhead bin space: empty, full, available, etc.
John Deiner: Hey, Arl. I have to admit it: I like Southwest's new boarding procedure, when you get numbers and you line up accordingly. There's still some requisite pushing and shoving, and why do people stand on line so far in advance when their spot is assured?
That aside, it works for me. I think your notes on the zone/group system make perfect sense. I don't see how it gets us into the plane any sooner, and with boarders scattered all over the place, seems to be a drag on the process. But the seating chart idea? I dunno. I'm thinking it would just confuse people. I miss the days when we boarded from the back of the plane and cleared the front for those heading toward the back.
Philly: Oh no! I'm a long time reader originally from Fairfax. It seems like the whole old gang is being replaced. Not that we don't love the new writers...but it's so sad. I miss Gary Lee and Anne and the guy who wrote about Vegas and his house in Central America...so sorry to see KC and Cindy leaving too. Best wishes for you both in the next phase of your lives. Your stories will be missed!
Cindy Loose: Thank you. The guy who wrote about his house in Guatemala is Steve Hendrix, who is still with the paper, and who knows what section he might turn up writing for in future. We think of John Deiner as our Vegas guy, and he's staying in travel.
I'm sorry to leave, but figure I'll write stories during each of my four vacation weeks per year, and maybe a weekend here and there too.
Thanks for your good wishes.
Grand Canyon temp: I was at the Grand Canyon in late April, not June, but I can tell you the temp at the South Rim was pretty chilly then. A lot of people arriving in shorts and t-shirts and having to immediately buy sweatshirts at the gift shop! So I imagine June will be warm but nice (and remember, it's dry heat in Arizona).
If you go South, like the Route 66 area, it will be pretty HOT.
John Deiner: Good points. I think a lot of folks assume it's a hot place to be when it frequently is not. And dry heat? Ack. Once it hits 105, it all feels the same to me!
Rockville, Md.: Sziget festival, Budapest. This was going to be my recommendation as well! Right after the end of that festival will also be the handicraft fair at the Buda castle, and the "foundation of the state" holiday celebration. (And I promise I am not with the Chamber of Commerce, just have been there several times and cannot say enough good things about Hungary and Budapest, and Hungarians. Who seem to still like Americans....)
Christina Talcott: That's great to know. I haven't been to Hungary since 2000 so I'm glad to hear from someone who's been there lately. Thanks!
Arlington, Va.: re: changing Euros. If Eric doesn't need the money now and can afford to hang onto those Euros until his next trip he probably should. The dollar is likely to continue its downward slide for the foreseeable future. If it was me and I knew I was going back to Europe at some point I would hold onto those cash Euros.
Christina Talcott: Ok, I'll tell him: Eric, maybe you should hang on to those Euros, you hear?
London: I just read that post about the guy from Italy thrown in jail. Believe me, that's the reason I don't travel to the States anymore. The fear of being taken to jail or being detained has really affected me and my friends. We refuse to go to the States.
Christina Talcott: Really? Wow. Had you made that decision before you heard about the Italian guy? Where are you going instead of the U.S., out of curiosity?
For Dupont Circle: We were in Arizona/Grand Canyon last June. It is hot, but dry hot, not humid like here. You need to drink a lot. But we found that it was OK. We planned the days so that we mostly were driving in the mid afternoons, and hiking and sightseeing in the early mornings and late afternoons. Stargazing was wonderful, next time I want to do the nightime program at Kitt's Peak Observatory in Tuscon.
John Deiner: There ya go...sounds like a dreamy trip, and good advice on how to schedule your trip. Thanks for the assistance!
Springfield, Va.: Hi Crew,
I'm planning on going to Croatia and London this summer to visit friends and am having trouble figuring out the best way of booking flights. Basically I need to go from DC to Dubrovnik, then Dubrovnik to London, and finally London back to DC. Would it be cheapest to book a roundtrip into London, then try to find a discount flight between London and Dubrovnik, or just to book it as an open jaw type flight?
Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
KC Summers: Hi Springfield. Usually when people try to put together an open-jaw itinerary we recommend using a travel agent, but in your case, it's worth at least pricing out a round-trip flight to London and then a round trip to Dubrovnik from there on a discounter. For info on European discount airlines, try www.lowcostairlines.org or www.euroflights.info. Also www.flybudget.com and www.whichbudget.com.
BWI: Try gate B next time (aren't they are connected someway anyway?). It's much better now that it's been redone (have they all or just gate B?). The line for A was horrible, so I walked over to B and zoomed through with the new system.
John Deiner: Pretty sure B and A are connected (it's Southwestville), and C is all by its lonesome. And it really pays to watch the lines in the Southwest terminal, btw. I find that heading to the security line to the left of the main ticketing area is always shorter. Or at least it looks that way.
D.C.: What's the most efficient (meaning cheapest) way to book a multi-stop flight? I am interested in booking some flights in Europe where I will also be traveling by train. A round-trip flight between two cities is fairly cheap, and so is an open-jaw trip. A one-way ticket between two cities, which I would need to connect with one of the other flights, is also fairly cheap. But as far as I can tell, trying to buy one ticket through Expedia or Travelocity that includes all three flights on one ticket basically turns them into three one-way flights and nearly quadruples the price. There has to be a better way to do it, right?
Carol Sottili: Why is it important to have everything on one itinerary? You could book your international ticket as either a round trip or open jaw, depending on your plans, directly through the airline. And then book the one-way flights separately directly through the discount carrier. For a list of discount carriers in Europe and the cities they serve, go to www.euroflights.com or www.lowcostairlines.org. But pay careful attention to the details on those discount flights re: extra charges for luggage, water, etc.
Knees, Please!: The Knee Defender!!!
I am close to 5'10 and have an abnormally short torso and legs til next Tuesday.
I am normally a very polite and even shy woman, even in stressful travel situations. This all changes when jerk-os who are 5'3 (it's always the short guys) choose to kick their seat ALL the way back on transatlantic flights. I very nearly got into a screaming match with a guy on a flight to Germany last summer. Turns out he was an Air Marshal!!
Please, PLEASE save me from air rage and the potential of being zip-tie handcuffed to my seat on my next long haul.
KC Summers: Sorry, I sent it out to a tall guy! You're very persuasive though.
London: Although I've never been, Festival in Edinburgh (through basically all of August) is HUGE. I believe the Military Tattoo is sold out, although if you call there might still be overseas tickets available, but Fringe goes on at the same time (www.edfringe.com). I know people who plan their summers around it - sure, they do the usual North African/Middle Eastern/European vacations everyone else does over here (I should note I'm from North America), but everything is planned around Festival.
Personally, I found Notting Hill Carnival disappointing, but I've only gone to the day parades. I wouldn't plan a trip to London around it, unless you're big into DJs, based on what I know of it. (I'm not big into DJs and so hoped I'd get to see the steel drum bands and things in the parade. Well, I saw them, but they weren't actually playing...)
Christina Talcott: How could I have forgotten about the original Fringe Festival?! I actually included Carnival because I saw it on Teletubbies yesterday. Don't even ask.
Anyway, thanks for the report!
Scottsdale, Ariz.: Re. Weather in Scottsdale, Ariz. in June: to be honest, it's usually VERY hot since summer here goes from May-October. Temps probably well over 100 degrees most days. It's bearable to be outside in the early morning and later evening hours. Other than that, we tend to do indoor activities or those involving water. Great deals on hotels though sounds like she'd be staying with a friend so maybe that's not really a factor. On the plus side, it's a "dry heat" so it's not sticky and humid but it is hot enough to burn your hands on the steering wheel if you don't find a shady space for your car.
John Deiner: There's that dry heat argument again. I just need to buck up and deal with it next time I'm out there (last time I was in Vegas in the summer, it was 115, and that was just plain horrible). But thanks for the heads-up on Scottsdale -- sounds as if you have to be prepared for a pretty hot time.
Falls Church, Va.: I want the Bourdain book because from 1988 to 1993 I spent my summers as a dishwasher, then line cook, then sous chef at restaurants on Martha's Vineyard. It was a great experience, but I learned quickly how rough that life can be. Bourdain is one of the only people who accurately depicts that side of the food world. As for visiting the Vineyard, never go during the summer, and fly there from New Bedford on Cape Air for $80 r/t to avoid the hated Steamship Authority.
KC Summers: Hi there, I'm sorry we've already got a taker for the book, but thanks for the Vineyard tip!
Airfare and "cookies": I checked an airfare at US Airway's website from my work computer a couple of weeks ago, but when I went to purchase it from my home computer 3 days later, the fare had doubled (and remained so even when I cleared my cookies). I was pleasantly surprised when 2 days later I again checked from work--and the fare was back to the affordable fare! I hopped on it that time, but can you explain this???
Cindy Loose: Airlines are very sophisticated in setting their prices, and are constantly responding to the latest news. It's possible a competitor with US Airways had a sale, so US Airways matched it, and when the competitor ran out of sale seats, US Airways upped its price.
Just an example.
Besides paying close attention to competitor prices, the airlines also keep careful records of inventory, and when things aren't selling at the rate they expect, or selling faster than expected based on past history, then they'll drop or raise prices.
Plus sometimes they have only a few seats at a discount price, and those are sold so you see the higher prices listed. Then they might drop again because they've added some cheap seats due to inventory or competitor reasons, or maybe a group with cheap seats changed their plans. In the end it won't seem to make any sense, but there is method in the madness.
Just returned from 12 days in Israel: So, not to miss (in no particular order):
1. Jerusalem and the Old City
2. Knesset tour (check on times for English tours)
3. Caesaria - ruins, on the Mediterranean, gorgeous
4. Masada/Dead Sea/Ein Gedi
5. Rosh Hanikra
7. Sea of Galilee/Tiberias
8. Mt. Bental
9. Eilat (if you can get that far south)
Have a great time!!!
KC Summers: Lovely. Thanks much.
for the Niagara Falls sisters: Try to make a trip over to Niagara on the Lake -- the town that is about 15 minutes down the lovely Niagara Parkway (and right on Lake Ontario). The Shaw Festival is there (fabulous theater) and 17 wineries (Ontario is known for their ice wine). The town is lovely -- the falls can get so touristy and tacky (of course they must be seen -- gorgeous) but I'd stay in Niagara on the Lake instead. Great B and B's.
John Deiner: Jolly good show. And it's amazing how tacky those falls can be, isn't it?
Berkeley Springs and wine: While the immediate Berkeley Springs area may not have a lot of wineries, you can sure make a day out of visiting wineries on the way there. A couple of my favorite places on the way to Berkeley Springs are Loudoun and Breaux.
John Deiner: Excellent stuff...thanks for sharing.
1,001 Smart Travel Tips: I need that book because even after 33 yrs of traveling, and 9 yrs of reading the Post travel section, I still have lots to learn!
KC Summers: Don't we all, but unfortunately the book(s) are gone. Keep reading the section and these chats for more tips!
Arlington, Va.: re: Orlando in August. As some one who spent 4 years in Florida going to college I can say that Florida weather is no worse than D.C. weather in the summer. Sometimes I think it is worse here. At least in Florida you can pretty much expect a nice thunderstorm every afternoon. It doesn't cool things down for long and all the moisture just goes back into the air, but it is pretty reliable.
Scott Vogel: Okay, there ya go. at worst you'll be equally miserable, not more so.
Lake Huron ferry: The Lake Huron ferry is the Chi-Cheemaun. I remember taking that ferry in August of 1987 on the way home from Isle Royale in Michigan (went up via the Lower Peninsula, came home via Ontario). Nice alternative to driving all the way around Georgian Bay, and I recall there being some nice towns on the Bruce Peninsula, which is the spit of land on which Tobermory (southern ferry port) is located. The beach at Sauble Beach was nice, as was Sauble Falls Provincial Park (I recall swimming in the namesake waterfalls, which flowed in such a way that you were able to let the current carry you down the falls).
Unfortunately, after 21 years I don't remember all that much else, but it's certainly worth riding that ferry if you're in the area.
KC Summers: That's extremely helpful. Thanks much.
Washington D.C.: Hi Crew - My 40th Birthday is this Sunday and I am thinking of inviting some friends to the beach for the weekend. Only problem is I haven't yet rented a place. Can you tell me how I can find a rental house just for the weekend at either the MD or DE shore? Thanks.
Carol Sottili: Try www.cbvacations.com or www.shorepro.com. And you can always try to rent directly from owner via Craig's List, or through such sites as www.cyberrentals.com or www.vrbo.com.
re Israel: It's a tiny country so you can hit a lot of places in 11 days. There is also an extensive bus system to get you around. Top of the list, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Eilat. Also add Haifa and Masada. I covered this territory 20 years ago in less than 11 days (with a backpack and starving!)
KC Summers: More tips for the Israel-bound. Thanks a lot.
Boston to San Diego: Which airlines would be good bets for flying from Boston to San Diego in August? I need to arrive Wednesday, August 20th or Thursday, August 21st. I can return any day starting Sunday through August 26th or 27th. I have a $50 gift card through JetBlue, but not sure if that will really help much or not. Help!
Cindy Loose: Hi--We keep fairly good track of airfares out of the D.C. area, but not out of Boston. What I can tell you though is that JetBlue is a good carrier, or as good as carriers are these days, so I'd check out what they have to offer. I'd do the following: check prices by going to www.orbiz.com and www.travelocity.com and jet blue and southwest, whose flights are at the big sites.
Bryce follow-up: Just wanted to say thanks so much for answering my question! I really appreciate the help.
Good luck to Cindy and KC!
Cindy Loose: Thanks. Hard to go, but I've had a great nine years in the travel section and couldn't pass up the buyout money. However, as I mentioned, I hope to still write for the paper as often as I can.
Arlington, Va.: I'm so used to booking my own travel on the Internet that I don't even know how one finds a travel agent these days - any suggestions on where to find a good agent and how to know that he or she is the right one for you?
KC Summers: It's like choosing a doctor -- a recommendation from a friend or colleague is the best. Barring that, you can try to find an agent on the American Society of Travel Agents' site, www.travelsense.org. Their members adhere to a strict code of ethics.
N.Y.: Hi Crew! We're thinking Rome (or some other "intense" European cities that can keep you solidly occupied for a week) and surrounding area for about 2 weeks all together, flight time included. What is a reasonable itinerary given that window - Rome and Venice? Rome and Naples (and the coast)? And what's best to fly into and out of?
Cindy Loose: With two weeks, Rome and Venice would work. I wouldn't plan on spending too much time in Naples, but would consider traveling down the coast to see the towns close to Naples, including the ruins at Pompeii, the towns hanging to cliffs like Positano, then on other towns to the south of that.
Native New Jerseyan: Last week there was some discussion of ground transport from CDG to inner Paris. Can I take the Air France bus to the 4th, near the Ecole Militaire Metro stop - the Rue Clere area?
Christina Talcott: As far as I can tell, the Air France bus only stops in Porte Maillot, Etoile, Gare de Lyon and Gare Montparnasse. Your best bet might be taking the bus to Gare Montparnasse and either catching the #6 Metro or a cab to that area.
Caribbean Honeymooner: Years ago, I had an October wedding then honeymooned in Grenada. Our experience was perfect - the weather was great and the island lovely. (They're generally outside of the hurricane zone, except for that storm a few years ago. Wars are another matter...) We stayed at a place called Twelve Degrees North, owned by two expat-Americans. Very hospitable!
Cindy Loose: Thanks. In fact the chances of a hurricane hitting you, in Oct. aren't huge, but they still exist. If they don't want to delay until Nov., they should at least buy hurricane insurance and study the policy carefully.
For Provence Honeymoners: If you do wine tasting in the Rhone, stop by Chateau la Nerthe. It's excellent wine and the staff is super-friendly. There is also a fabulous hotel/restaurant next to the Chateau that has a wonderful patio overlooking the vineyards. It is a wonderful place to sit, look at the fines and have a well-prepared meal (and glass of wine!) Sadly, I can't remember the name of it, but the good folks at the Chateau can help you out.
Christina Talcott: More tips for the Rhone-bound honeymooners. You chatters are amazing. Seriously.
Bethesda, Md.: I desperately want my aged grandmother to get to see Ireland, her life's dream, before the end of her life. She is 80, overweight, not very mobile, so we'd need a wheelchair or electric cart or something. Does anyone have any advice or suggestions?
KC Summers: Let's throw this out to the chatters (real fast, guys, we only have five minutes), but I'd also recommend contacting some or all of these companies that specialize in disabled travel: International Centre for Disability Resources on the Internet, www.icdri.org; Accessible Europe, www.accessibleeurope.com; Accessible Journeys, www.disabilitytravel.com.
Darn! I wanted Stingray: I e-mailed you already. Didn't know we were supposed to post in the chat. Sounds like the other guy had a better story than me, though. I guess I will have to go BUY the book.
Good luck in whatever you 2 decide to do next!
KC Summers: Thanks -- that other guy's story was indeed hard to top!
London: For anyone interested in Roman history who happens to be passing through London: a few years ago, they discovered the Roman amphitheatre. It's basically in the basement of the Guildhall. Anyone interested in seeing it should visit the Guildhall Art Gallery (itself quite interesting) - the ticket price (I think ¿2.5) includes admission to the actual Roman amphitheatre. They didn't excavate it all, but you can walk down the gladiatorial entrance.
Visits are free on Fridays, and there also are free guided tours on Friday afternoons. Plus, very few locals know about - my company transferred me here about a year ago, and no one in my office, including someone who'd majored in Roman history, even knew there was an amphitheatre. It's a very easy walk from St. Paul's, although off-hand I don't remember the exact street names to get to it.
KC Summers: What a great tip! Thanks!
Arlington, Va.: re: border treatment. I think this is one of the most scandalous stories we never read about. ICE officers appear to have unlimited powers when it comes to the treatment of people entering or leaving any country. The Post had a story a couple of months ago about people having their computers searched and their companies' confidential information being compromised. I understand the need for security, but give some people the power to do whatever they want and they will use it to make others miserable whether they are guilty of wrongdoing or not. And then there is also the issue of the interminable waits to get thru passport control at places like Dulles where the government seems to not care about staffing sufficient levels to make the process go smoothly.
Christina Talcott: So who's to blame, and what's the recourse? That's what I want to know. Of course, sometimes it all starts with getting informed and getting angry, right?
Cruise question: Hi there,
Family (2 adults, 1 8 year old) interested in cruising to Alaska next spring/summer.
Want to go in luxury, first class all the way. Looked at Regent, but I'm confused, as there are many ships, and all itineraries seem to be only one way. How do you get back from Alaska???
Can you give me some guidance on what to look for in a type of ship? We would love superb food quality, dining whenever/wherever/with whomever we want and top notch service.
Oh, and did I mention I'm prone to motion sickness?
So many thanks . . .
Carol Sottili: Regent Seven Seas is one of the luxury cruise lines, as is Silversea, Crystal and Seabourn. And there are also other smaller lines, such as SeaDream Yacht Club.
As for which offer Alaska itineraries during spring/summer, Regent and Silversea are your choices. They both have excellent reps. They also both offer frequent specials, including free economy air to and from cruise beginning/end. Go to the Web sites and click on specials: www.silversea.com, www.rssc.com. For views on differences, go to reviews and blogs on such sites as www.cruisecritic.com.
Montreal Flight: Nonstop flight to Montreal for $600 per person in late September. Is this a good deal?
Cindy Loose: Not a good deal, but it might be the best you'll get, given the fuel surcharges and fears that jet fuel will go even higher. I wouldn't be like--oh, what a deal, I'm going to stop shopping around right now. For that amount or less you can often fly to California, which is much further away. But as I mentioned before, flights to Toronto, Montreal and Quebec are to my mind overpriced generally.
If you have the time, have you considered taking the train? Nice way to go.
Oviedo, Fla.: Two WashPost travel types are leaving? Why? What's up?
KC Summers: The Post has made a voluntary retirement offer that's too good to refuse. About 100 reporters and editors will be leaving the newsroom in two weeks.
Baltimore again: Thanks for the great suggestions so far for ideas to visit around Charmes sur Rhone! I love it.
With the exchange rate so bad, what's the best way to pay for things over there? Exchange lots of money here? Credit cards? Travelers checks? Thanks for the help.
Christina Talcott: Hey Balt! I'd take out cash along the way once you get there and keep track of your spending. Paying cash - and paying attention - can help cut down on costs, I've found. Have a fabulous time!
re: Toronto bound: I just checked fares out of Richmond to YYZ - as low as $345 w/ connection, $433 direct. Not sure what taxes might get added. We're only 90 miles or so south, and to have somebody come down here to fly would make up for all those early mornings I've driven to IAD, DCA and BWI ...
Cindy Loose: Richmond has some good fares to a few places. Thanks for the tip. But do check to see if taxes, fees and fuel surcharge is included. Those two items are not little things--they can add up to more than the base fare.
Brit immigration: I think the difference is that, unlike the Italian, you were told what the law was instead of summarily being thrown in prison for ten days.
Christina Talcott: Good point. Helps that everyone in that case spoke English...
Swedish island article -- "I had a great stay, but don't stay there!": I enjoyed the Swedish archipelago article very much, but one thing really bugged me:
Author's article focuses on staying in the small town, hanging out, visiting the bakery, enjoying his brother's waterfront rental. Makes me want to do all these things. Then you get to "getting there," and the advice is: lodging are scarce, best stay in Stockholm and take day trips! Isn't this inconsistent?
I appreciate the two lodging tips mentioned, but wouldn't it have been helpful to at least provide one lead on longer-term vacation rentals, not just the youth hostel and a higher-end hotel? I felt the omission turned the piece from "this was my great experience, you should try it" to "this was my great experience, too bad you can't have it." I'm sure that's not what you intended.
KC Summers: Good question -- I just checked with writer Erica Johnston. Her response:
Sorry, I didn't intend to send that message at all; I just thought that most visitors would center a trip around Stockholm.
To my knowledge, there are two hotels in Dalaro proper: Dalaro Strand Hotel http://www.dalarostrandhotel.se/
and Dalaro Hotel Bellevue www.hoteldalaro.com
Both sites appear to be only in Swedish, but phone numbers are provided, and it's a near guarantee that you'll be able to speak to someone in English.
As for longer-term vacation rentals, I honestly have not looked. I would search online if I were you; you might start by Googling "vacation rentals" "Stockholm archipelago." At the very least, you'd come across the name of an agent you could get in touch with for a better search. He or she will almost surely speak fluent English. The fastest of searches came up with this: http://www.accommodationguide.com/sweden.htm Scroll down to the Stockholm section. There's then a listing that begins "A paradise in the archipelago".
Provence: The honeymooners should make an effort to visit the markets. These move around every day of the week, so they should be able to find a good sized example somewhere close to them. Excellent place to see the sights, pick up a cheap picnic lunch, and buy souvenirs. One purchase to think about is fabric: we found that most markets had fabric stalls with hundreds of bolts of characteristically french fabric. We now have bedroom curtains and draping that remind us of our trip to Provence.
Also look for restaurants with prix-fixe lunches. Not all are great, but most are very satisfactory, and you can really stretch your dollar by enjoying a 3 course lunch for 10-15 euros, and having lighter meals the rest of the day.
Christina Talcott: More advice for the Rhone honeymooners...
Columbia, Md.: Sorry, as another soon-to-clear-out-office person (retirement! yay!) I cannot acquire anymore stuff...
In fact, I've got a rainbow colored plastic slinky sitting on my desk looking for a home. It goes to the first Post travel writer who responds and tells me their most memorable experience at Heathrow Airport.
Christina Talcott: Well, I spent the night on the floor of a hallway once, along with dozens of other people on an overnight layover. Besides the bright lights and what seemed like constant vacuuming, it was a great night's sleep.
Needham, Ma: To person staying in Needham - you are right on the commuter rail that goes directly into Boston. First trains are at 6:00 am or so, last train out of the city is about 10:40 pm. You won't need a car. NO trains on Sundays.
KC Summers: Thanks much for the info.
Virginian who went to Sweden: I used Starwood points to stay 5 free nights in Stockholm at the Sheraton, right next to the main train station and a short wark to Gamla Stan. Look at the different Hotel programs like Hilton, Starwood and Marriott and consider getting a credit card from one. They all have a generous sign-up bonus, usually enough for at least one free night at one of their hotels, even in a city like Stockholm.
KC Summers: Great advice, thanks.
Montreal or Quebec City?: If you had to choose a place to spend a first-year wedding anniversary?
Cindy Loose: Personally, I prefer Quebec City by a lot. Others disagree with me, however. Why I prefer Quebec City---it has a more foreign feel. I love the old walled part of the city. It's not as big or bustling as Montreal, so if you like big and bustling you might disagree. However, I find it has plenty to do, and plenty of great places to eat, and I love the old world ambiance in the old part of the city and I like the fact that the Chateau Frontenac, the wall and the river give me a sense of direction I don't otherwise have inately so I never feel disoriented or lost there. I also like the history and the surrounding countryside, which is just a short drive away, including a nearby island kept in it's rural state.
Marrakech, Morocco: Hi,
Any tips on what not to miss during a three day trip to Marrakech? Thanks!
washingtonpost.com: Morocco Travel Stories (Post Travel Section archives)
KC Summers: Elizabeth to the rescue once again. Here's what we've done on Morocco.
Washington, DC: My girlfriend and I are headed to Antigua for Memorial Day weekend (Thurs-Tues). I've reviewed the article the Travel Section has on line. Aside from beach lounging, are there any activities you can recommend for two 32-year-old culture vultures who also love to dance and hear live music?
Cindy Loose: Hey--That changes weekly---I'd suggest checking it out once you get there
KC Summers: So, that's it for today, folks. Thanks for the great questions and tips, and sorry if we weren't able to get to your question -- we were inundated. We'll be off for Memorial Day next Monday, but we'll see you back here in two weeks. Or rather, THEY'LL see you back here in two weeks. Happy trails, everyone.