Talk About Travel

Florida's Apalachicola has small-town charm and big-time seafood.
Florida's Apalachicola has small-town charm and big-time seafood. (© Richard Bickel/Corbis)
The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, September 8, 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: slurping oysters in Apalachicola, Florida; snacking in the markets of Mexico City and antiquing in Hudson, New York.

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.

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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Scott Vogel: Afternoon, everyone. It's chat time again. Here to answer your queries today are Christina Talcott, Carol Sottili and myself. Maybe it's because I'm a little cranky from jet lag today, but for today's prize, I'd like to hear your nominees for the most overrated destination in the world. The best printable skewering wins a nice gadget, a travel door alarm. Just the thing for that 1-star hotel on the highway you booked before reading about the blood-stained sheets on TripAdvisor. And away we go...

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Tokyo, Japan: I want to go to Japan. I am taking a introductory language course to prepare myself a little bit, but I want to know what's better for me: travel with a tour group or travel alone? I am open to a planned itinerary, and the safety issue is a concern (I am a single female in my mid-20s) but at the same time, the idea of doing whatever I want, whenever I want is also appealing. Is solo travel difficult for a woman in Japan? Thanks crew!

Christina Talcott: In my early twenties, I went to Japan by myself and had an amazing time. I met up with friends in Tokyo, but beforehand I spent time in Kyoto and Osaka. Kyoto especially is very visitor-friendly, with an easy-to-navigate bus system and English signs at most major tourist attractions. As a woman traveling alone, I'm pretty cautious in general, and while Japan is a very safe place overall, a few times I was surprised by the rowdiness of drunk businessmen in restaurants at night. That said, if you want to experience Tokyo's nightlife or just find travel buddies, you might consider staying in a hostel where you could meet other young people.

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McLean, VA: After five years without a vacation to ourselves (always have the kids) my husband and I are considering getting away, just the two of us. We want to go to the Caribbean. What is the status of passport requirements for Americans going to the Caribbean? Do we need passports or will driver's licenses do? Thanks!

Scott Vogel: It depends on when and where you go. If you travel to Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, a passport will not be needed. If you're going by air to a foreign country in the Caribbean, however, you'll need a passport to return to the United States (as well as enter most countries down there). As of now, passports are not required for visitors traveling by cruise ship to the Caribbean from the U.S., but please note that a passport or passport card will be required for cruisers too starting in June of next year.

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DC: Some while back (last year?) you ran a review of ear buds for travel and rated them on comfort as well as quality. Any chance you can find the link or the date? Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Was it this one? Giving Your Trip the Silent Treatment (Post Travel Section, Nov. 25, 2007)

Scott Vogel: Here you go.

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Carry-on help: Quick question for you- will be flying soon, can I bring my knitting needles in my carry-on or is it safer to check them? They are metal, but I have already started the project.

Thanks!

Carol Sottili: Here's the official answer:

Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage. However, there is a possibility that the needles can be perceived as a possible weapon by one of our Security Officers. Our Security Officers have the authority to determine if an item could be used as a weapon and may not allow said item to pass through security. We recommend the following when bring knitting needles on an airplane:

Circular knitting needles are recommended to be less than 31 inches in total length

We recommend that the needles be made of bamboo or plastic (Not Metal)

Scissors must have blunt points

In case a Security Officer does not allow your knitting tools through security it is recommended that you carry a self addressed envelope so that you can mail your tools back to yourself as opposed to surrendering them at the security check point.

As a precautionary measure we recommend that you carry a crochet hook with yarn to save the work you have already done in case your knitting tools are surrendered at the checkpoint

Most of the items needed to pursue a Needlepoint project are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage with the exception of circular thread cutters or any cutter with a blade contained inside. These items cannot be taken through a security checkpoint. They must go in your checked baggage.

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Waynesboro, VA: Traveling to St. John, U.S.V.I., the first week of March. Lowest air fares are currently between $450 and $500. Last year for the same time fares were as low as $325. Should I expect any reductions?

Carol Sottili: Airfares are generally higher this year. I'd probably track the fare for a while before buying, but expect it to be higher than $325.

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Breastfeeding, pumping, and traveling: Please help. I'm going on my first business trip this week as a breastfeeding/pumping mother. The breastfeeding and pumping part I have down (child #2). It's the traveling and flying part that are throwing me for a loop. I had already resigned myself that I was going to have to pump in weird places (a spare room in the hotel, since we arrive early in the morning before check-in time; an empty office at our destination, where I don't know anyone). But I really freaked out when I Googled the topic and learned that I probably won't be able to bring the milk that I have pumped back with me in my carry-on bag because of the liquid restrictions. I just read that, in order to bring breast-milk on board, you must be traveling with a baby. Is this true? Is it also true if the milk is frozen? Am I going to have to check my tiny little bag, which I just bought specifically so I wouldn't have to check it (it's just one night away)? Can I bring the breast pump on board in the first place (it's got all kinds of wires on it)? Can I get away with NOT checking my bag on the way there (when it will have a frozen ice pack in it, but no liquids), if I am prepared to check it on the way back, when it will have pumped breast milk in it? I know, too many questions, but I really need to figure this out! Thanks!

Christina Talcott: Here's what I was able to find out about this: You don't need to check a bag with milk or a pump; the TSA changed their regs to allow passengers to bring breast milk on board regardless of whether or not you're flying with a child (www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/formula.shtm). You must tell the screening agent when you get to security and hand them the containers (or freezer packs) for inspection. Ditto for the pump; as long as you tell the screener what it is, he or she should wave it through. You don't want to have to worry about it getting mishandled/lost if you check it. That said, I'm curious if any moms with recent experience flying and pumping have advice to share.

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San Antonio, TX: Sorry to deflate your, um, waffle, but Texas-shaped waffles are par for the course here. We had several, in Houston, Dallas and out on the panhandle while visiting colleges w/our college-bound daughter last spring. We also had Oklahoma-shaped waffles in OKC and Tulsa, and my sister tells me you can get Maine-shaped waffles in Bar Harbor. I imagine Maryland would be difficult, and it might be hard to distinguish between square or rectangular states. Another sister who runs a B-and-B in Amish Country, OH, is trying to special order an Ohio-shaped waffle iron. Who knows, maybe there will eventually be state-shaped waffle tours! I personally don't care what my waffle looks like, as long as it has pecans and I can have heated butter and syrup.

washingtonpost.com:1. Here's the item referred to: Coming and Going (Post Travel Section, Aug. 31) - the waffle photo is in the photo gallery.

2. This is reminding me of a kid I saw years ago on Letterman whose talent was biting American cheese squares into the shapes of the states.

3. Yum. - Elizabeth

Scott Vogel: Here's a waffle update.

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Md.: I will likely go to hell for this, but I was, um, underwhelmed by "The Last Supper."

The postcards look better than the real thing and you don't even have any atmosphere because it (literally) is very tightly controlled to stop the thing from fading away any further.

Scott Vogel: Selling your soul for a travel alarm. I like it!

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Anonymous: Hey Flight Crew,

I have an odd problem. I have an expensive plane ticket that expires in the next 3 months and I don't want to waste it. I would like to go to South America, as it's the only continent I have yet to visit (except Antarctica). The problem is I just don't know where the heck to go. Outside of Brazil (because of their visa requirements), do you (or the readers) have any suggestions on what's worth seeing in South America?

Thanks in advance!

washingtonpost.com: Central and South America Travel Stories

Christina Talcott: Funny you should ask, since we have a story about visiting Argentina and Uruguay in this coming Sunday's section. What are your interests? Do you like history, wildlife, adventure, beaches, nightlife, wilderness, food, wine, meeting locals...? Here are some quick ideas, and I'd love to hear from chatters with firsthand experience: I never hear anything but raves about Buenos Aires; Peru and Ecuador have amazing ancient sites; the winelands in Chile and Argentina sound stunning; you can see Antarctica-like scenery in Patagonia. Check out our list of stories on the region, and, chatters, if you have a can't miss destination in S. America, do tell!

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Charlottesville Weekend Getaway: Hi Crew, Planning a weekend getaway to Charlottesville for this weekend. We want to visit Monticello and the UVA campus, what else should we do while there? We aren't drinkers so will be skipping the vineyards. Also, looking for a moderately priced place to stay, what would you recommend? Thank you!

Christina Talcott: Check out the pedestrian mall in downtown Charlottesville for shopping, dining and people-watching, plus ice skating and free concerts Friday nights. I stayed near the university at the Budget Inn, which was fine and really cheap but a long walk from the restaurants and downtown sights. Check out www.pursuecharlottesville.com for a listing of accommodations and ideas about activities. Just north of Charlottesville is the town of Orange and Montpelier, the former home of James and Dolley Madison, which is well worth a visit. I also am fond of a pizza place on Route 29 just south of C'ville called Dr. Ho's Humble Pie. Anyone else have suggestions?

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Prince William, Va: Hello! I am headed to Disney World the last week of September and my question is: Should I prepare to be evacuated from there should a hurricane strike or is it relatively safe?? I'm freaking out, I don't want to postpone! Also,can anyone tell me how Southwest is about losing luggage/late departure/arrival? Never flown them before. Thanks!

Carol Sottili: I'd stay the course. Orlando isn't right on the coast. Just keep tuned to the weather channel before you go. Good thing about Southwest is that you are allowed to put value of ticket toward a future flight if you cancel. As for Southwest's track record, go to http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/reports/index.htm for government stats.

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Alexandria: Any opinions about flying Easy Jet in Europe? Thinking about flying to London and then flying somewhere (probably Central Europe) on Easy Jet in the spring.

Carol Sottili: I had no trouble flying easyJet from London to Alicante. They are a simple discount airline, but they got me there on time. And the plane was much more comfortable than Monarch, another discount airline I've flown in Europe. Anyone else have an opinion?

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Flight Crew,

I'm headed to Orlando for a conference in a couple weeks, and I'm looking for something - anything! - to do that isn't a theme park. I'd really like a cool neighborhood to wander around in the early evening. Is there any hope for me of dodging The Mouse?

Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Here's a good recent piece on Orlando from our Post Company cousins that has mostly non-theme park suggestions: 25 Reasons We Love Orlando (Budget Travel, May 2008)

Scott Vogel: I'll second this article, especially the mention of the Orlando Museum of Art.

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Reston, Va.: Quick question...your help will be much appreciated.

I plan to attend a wedding on December 27 in Chicago. Southwest fares look to be running around $270 right now...is there a chance this will go down? Or should I just buy now?

Thanks so much!

--Reston

Carol Sottili: Depends. Do you need to fly into Midway? Do you need to fly out of a specific airport here? Do you need specific times? If you're flexible, track the airfares online at a site such as www.farecompare.com or www.farecast.com for a bit before buying. $270 is steep to Chicago, but that is prime holiday traveling time.

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McLean, VA: Most Overrated=New Orleans. I really got tired of seeing drunk people in the streets at all times of the day.

Scott Vogel: Here's one vote for the Big Easy.

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Laurel: For Washingtonians, the most over-rated place I ever visited was Epcot Center. It was like visiting the Smithsonian while riding bumper cars.

Scott Vogel: Snap!

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Washington, D.C.: My family and I are planning a trip to Mexico in early December, and I noticed last night that my passport will expire in March 2009 (three months after our trip). I know some countries have a rule that your passport must be valid for at least six months at the time of entry; however, I don't know if Mexico is one of those. An internet search hasn't turned up an answer. Do you know?

p.s. If I do have to get a new passport, any idea how long the lead time is these days? We have about 10-11 weeks until our departure.

Christina Talcott: Hey there, no need to worry about that passport, since Mexico only requires that your passport be valid while you are there. That said, it might make sense to renew your passport since you have a little time. Turnaround's been very quick these days (a colleague recently got hers in three weeks without any expedited service), but I'd do it now to make sure you have it back in plenty of time.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Most overrated destination: Asbury Park. Sure, it was probably great when Bruce Springsteen played there, but he's no longer there. I stayed at a motel and, believe me, I would need that door alarm. I found a half eaten sandwich left under the bed. It is a famous destination, but there is not much there once you get there. There are much better beaches in Jersey.

Scott Vogel: Isn't there some old wives' tale about finding a half-eaten sandwich under your bed?

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Washington, DC: the most overrated? unfortunately I have to say Florence, even though of course it's beautiful and has the Uffizi and Duomo and all that. But it suffers from the peculiar curse of being too popular with tourists -- to wit: on my second trip to the city, I became tired of hearing American voices everywhere I went, so I decided to escape from downtown. I traveled to the edge of town, hoping to find a more authentic, less theme- park like Florence. I spotted a cozy trattoria for dinner and peeked inside, patting myself on the back for getting away from the masses. What do I hear, but Dean Martin playing over the stereo. Turns out I walked right into a place owned and operated by a Canadian! (I did stay and enjoy a wonderful meal, though.)

Scott Vogel: A victim of its popularity, it seems. thanks.

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most overrated destination in the world: My vote: Galway City and Dublin City. Not the surrounding area of Galway, just Galway city proper, I felt like I was in a hellish tourist trap which I could not get out of. Dublin is worth going to once: check out the history (Dublin Castle, Trinity College) but then that's it, otherwise it's just a smaller, dirtier NYC with the occasional accent. I love Ireland and have been there 11 times, including living there for 3 years for my master's, but by far Dublin and Galway are overrated. For my money I'd stick to the north of Ireland, Belfast City or down south to Cork city and the beautiful (but also touristy) southwest of Kerry.

Scott Vogel:"a smaller, dirtier NYC with the occasional accent" -- phrasemaker!

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Eye Street, DC: Hi Crew - I have found Key West totally overrated. The drive from Miami is a pain, the town is small and so self-consciously laid-back that everyone is trying to hard to look like they don't try at all. The restaurants are "meh" and really, I can make margaritas at home that are just as good. The oft-touted Bahia Honda State Park on one of the other keys has a small, frankly ugly beach and marginal snorkeling at best. I just think that for those looking for a Caribbean-esqe destination, they should travel to the real thing. Key West is a big yawn.

Scott Vogel: Okay, but share your recipe!

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Silver Spring, MD: Hi there,

A colleague and I will be in San Diego for work in a couple of weeks. We want to go to Tijuana for a few hours - any suggestions or advice? Do we need our passports?

Also, is there anything in San Diego we can do for a few hours before our red-eye on a Saturday night?

Thanks!

Carol Sottili: When I lived in San Diego, we used to hop down to Tijuana all the time to eat great seafood at cheap prices, shop, and watch jai alai. Ave Revolucion was our hangout. But times have changed. It's dangerous down there. Drug wars have done a serious number on tourism visits, which are down 70 percent since January, and lots of tourism-related shops/restaurants have closed. The mayor of Tijuana traveled to the United States a few months ago to try to convince tourists that it's safe. I'd go in daylight. You won't officially need a passport until next June, but I'd bring mine.

As for what to do in San Diego before a Red Eye, head to the Gaslamp Quarter, which is not far from the airport. Great restaurants, shopping and clubs.

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most overrated: I would say Disney, or maybe the entire state of Florida is most overrated. At least in my brain they are - so far I've managed to avoid them.

The most overrated place I have visited, would have to be Oahu, or specifically Waikiki. For the first time to Hawaii, I chose the old kitsch of Waikiki, the iconic Diamond Head and history of Pearl Harbor, but honestly, for a place with so much natural beauty, it fell way short.

Scott Vogel: So far, it's the sun and sand destinations that most often disappoint, it seems.

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PG County: I had a great flight on EasyJet from Stansted to Barcelona, would definitely recommend it. I posted on here about whether to pre-pay for the assigned seats, and ultimately we did not (I think it was nearly as much as the tickets themselves). Ended up getting a row to ourselves, and spent the money on cava instead.

Carol Sottili: I went for the reserved seats and our flight was full. Just the luck of the draw.

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Downtown: Hey Travel Crew - My vote for most overrated place has to be Key West FL. It is small, boring and overpriced. Unless you just have to see Hemingway's house, or where President Truman summered, I can't think of anything there that you can't get at any other coastal Florida locale without a three-hour drive. And by the way, if there is an accident on the road from Miami, you are screwed.

Scott Vogel: Put another notch in the Key West column.

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Arlington, VA: For the Reston poster traveling to Chicago for a wedding:

Have you considered Milwaukee? AirTran flies there nonstop from BWI. For a trip over Labor Day weekend, I booked in mid-July and paid $223, including all taxes and fees (they charge $6.00 for seat selection). BWI may not be your cup of tea from the location standpoint, but it's worth considering depending on where exactly the wedding is. (I was going to the north suburbs, so MKE wasn't a big problem.)

Carol Sottili: Depends on where they're going.

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Alexandria, VA: Most overrated city: Rome.

There's nothing like a grabby Italian man on a packed subway car during a Rome transit strike.

Scott Vogel: Memo to tourism board:

"Italy, because there's nothing like a grabby Italian man on a packed subway car during a Rome transit strike."

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Bethesda: Hi, I think Hawaii is very overrated, especially Oahu and Maui. It may be fine if you've never been outside the US, but if you've traveled in Asia and the Pacific there isn't that much to it, plus it is sooo expensive. Everything seems to be created for tourists, and have lost its genuinity... I'd rather fly a little longer and get to more exotic destinations where I can get more for about the third of the price. And if it rains when you are there, the activities become very limited (if you are not into shell shopping that is). I've been all around the world before and after my trip to Hawaii and that is the most overrated place in my opinion (Big Island, Kauai, and Molokai are different I hear)

Scott Vogel: Hawaii ties it up with Key West.

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Expat now repatriated: Most over rated: Disneyland (Anaheim), Disneyland (Paris). We went to Orlando and didn't go to the theme parks because we'd been so under whelmed by Anaheim and Paris...too many people, too much tat for sale, too long a line to wait for a very short ride (2 hours in line for a 5 minute ride? explain that to a 4 year old!!)

Scott Vogel: That's why Easy Pass is a godsend.

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Washington DC: To answer the inverse: the most underrated place I can think of right now is Bratislava. Coming back last week, even our customs guy at the airport looked at the form and asked us, "Really? Bratislava? Why?". How about because it was awesome! Great city with a thriving cafe culture, incredibly inexpensive, perfectly walkable, very pleasant people, great food, beautiful views, and stunning architecture of all styles. I was very impressed and hope to get back.

Scott Vogel: No travel door alarm for you! Seriously, though, sounds like a wonderful place.

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Vienna, VA: Most overrated: Turks and Caicos. We spent a week there. It wasn't particularly interesting. Yes, great beach, but no local color that we could find. Very, very bland. Maybe that is why it is so popular?

Scott Vogel: Also very hurricane-prone, at least this season.

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Leaning Tower of overrated-ness: I have to nominate Pisa for the "honor" of most overrated. There's a leaning tower, sure, and many people like to be able to say that they've seen it, but it has the highest tourist-to-local ratio I've seen outside of Disney World, and there are many many much more beautiful cathedrals/baptistries/cloisters/belltowers and towns more or less anywhere you look in Italy.

Scott Vogel: Say it ain't so...

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Hong Kong: Submitting early, because I'd likely fall asleep waiting for the live chat, which starts at 2 a.m. here. I've just moved to Hong Kong, and a yearly flight home would put me in a good position to gain elite status on American -- 17,160 miles round-trip. But reading through the stuff online, it seems that flying in the "deep-discount" economy seats only gets half credit (meaning I'd only get about 8,500 miles of the 25,000 needed for elite status). Is that right? I want to straighten everything out before I book a ticket home.

Carol Sottili: I don't think that's accurate, unless it's one of the new changes that is not yet reflected in American's fine print. Go to this link:

www.aa.com/aa/pubcontent/en_US/AAdvantage/partners/airlines/americanAirlines.jsp

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Overrated?: Paris. I think I set myself up for failure though, celebrating a milestone birthday while studying abroad. Just ended up fighting with friends and crying the whole time! I might need to go back to give it a fair shake with my French-speaking S.O.!

Scott Vogel: Okay, but you can't say it lacks for drama.

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Dupont Circle: Stop complaining about the drive to Key West and just fly there directly! They have an airport on the island. -Key West lover

Scott Vogel: It is a loooong drive, though wonderful. Once.

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Comments: Key West is a place that either you love it or hate it. If you were expecting beaches there you were misinformed because they don't have beaches.

Usually Southwest has sales around Columbus Day so I would tell them to just hold off until after Columbus Day weekend.

Scott Vogel: Absolutely -- at any rate, it definitely seems polarizing from the comments we've received today.

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most overrated destination: Yosemite. Just a bunch of boulders and trees and mountains 'n stuff.

Don't waste your time.

...just kidding. Maybe a few of you will stay away so I can see the wonderful sights without so many people blocking my sight lines.

Signed,

Ansel Adams

Scott Vogel: Ha!

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Fairfax, VA: I'll probably be making a very quick trip (3-5 days) to Paris in early October. It's my first time there, and I'm trying to figure out my must-sees (besides the Louvre). Any tips? I'd especially love something not quite in the middle of the tourist trail.

Plus, I'm going to have to keep my spending really minimal - any tips on super-cheap hotels? I'm willing to do the hostel thing if necessary.

washingtonpost.com: I have been to Paris many times. Favorite sites include the Rodin museum, Place des Vosges, Ile St. Louis, Cluny museum, Versailles, Luxembourg garden, Tuileries, Place de la Concorde. I'd better stop. - Elizabeth

Christina Talcott: Your cheapest lodging options are hostels. I'd recommend one called Young and Happy on the Left Bank, right in the middle of the Latin Quarter (www.youngandhappy.fr), south of the chaos of Rue St. Michel but an easy walk to Cluny, Notre Dame, Luxembourg Garden, Ile St. Louis, the Institut du

Monde Arabe museum and the Jardin des Plantes. In addition to Elizabeth's picks, I also like the Picasso museum in the Marais neighborhood and all the fun shops and restaurants there. As for must-sees, don't skip the Musee d'Orsay or the Louvre (pony up for a Louvre tour; Orsay is totally doable on your own). Visit Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame, and spend at least one afternoon spent people-watching at a cafe, whether a small neighborhood spot or a famous one like Deux Magots in St. Germain de Pres. One coffee can cost you $10 or so, but that buys you a table you can occupy for hours.

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Alexandria, VA: Hi Crew - Submitting early as I have a meeting - I'm headed to LA this weekend and was hoping for some recommendations. We are staying at LAX (but flying into Burbank, don't ask). Saturday is pretty booked up with a football game, but we're wondering what we can accomplish on a Friday night/Saturday morning/Sunday morning as far as things to do? Bonus points if it includes dining at fun, casual places. Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: California Travel Stories

Carol Sottili: Take a look at this link. I used to live in Ocean Park, between Santa Monica and Venice, and I think you'd be happy strolling the beach in Venice or shopping/eating in Santa Monica. They're not all that far from LAX.

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Arlington, VA: The worst tourist attraction is the Mannekin Pis in Brussels, the statue of the little boy urinating. I thought that it was a large statue in the middle of a fountain but it turned out to be a small thing in a niche in a wall, findable only by the gypsy children congregating to beg and steal from the tourists. I did like the city otherwise.

Scott Vogel: Yeah, I gotta agree with you on that one. I mean, for something that appears on millions of Belgian postcards....

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Falls Church, VA: can you all give me the link to your previously published Cruise guide? My in-laws are looking to go on an Alaska cruise next year, on a small-ish ship, and I have no idea how the various lines differ in amenities, crowds, service, etc. I remembered seeing your guides in issues past, but can't find them on the travel site....

Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Here's the most recent one: Cruising 2008- and see the pulldown menu for cruising guides from past years.

Carol Sottili: Here you go.

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Arlington: Flight Crew -- I am traveling to Cali for the first time this weekend for a wedding, Orange County to be exact. If you only had 24 hours in the area, like I do, what would you do as a first time visitor? Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: I went to an Orange County wedding last year and had a great time meeting up with old friends in Laguna Beach for lunch - great scenery, shopping and restaurants. - Elizabeth

Carol Sottili: I second the Laguna Beach idea. Great seaside town.

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Alexandria, VA: I go to Charlottesville all the time for football. A few thoughts for the prior questioner:

--UVA plays on the road in Hartford this weekend, so you won't have football traffic issues. However, note that the game is at 7:30 PM, meaning that the pubs will be crowded with people who don't get ESPNU at home who need to find a place to watch the game. (If you want late-night entertainment, and if the weather is nice, head out to the steps of the Rotunda overlooking the Lawn after the game ends. Sooner or later you'll encounter multiple students streaking.)

--The Corner is the name for the stretch of pubs and shops near the Rotunda. Some of the places are quite decent, but they will be crowded on Friday and Saturday night. If you don't want to deal with the student crowd, go to the Corner at lunchtime and stay away at dinnertime (note also prior comment about football). But if you want some fun, ask a local resident how long it took for the Bodo's Bagels to open. (Hint: I graduated in 1995 and the sign said "Coming soon." It had not yet opened when I went to my ten-year reunion.)

--The Red Roof Inn on the Corner is, in my view, to be avoided. Last time I stayed there the bathroom faucet came off in my hand.

--My favorite restaurant (which also is not overcrowded) is the Shebeen, a South African-themed pub downtown across the street from the Omni Hotel. Very good food.

--The cheapest lodging can typically be found on US-29 north of Charlottesville proper. Note that the Charlottesville area is becoming "Fairfaxed" in that US-29 has seen all sorts of sprawl to the north of the city limits. But if you want the easiest walk to the UVA Grounds (note, the term is "Grounds," never "campus," because Thomas Jefferson said "Grounds") you'll want to try to get into the Best Western Cavalier Inn at the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road.

--But I would say stay at the Omni if your budget allows. The reason is that everywhere else (except the aforementioned Red Roof Inn) requires that you drive everywhere. From the Omni you can walk to all of downtown. It's a 20-minute walk to Grounds; definitely do-able, but it might seem like a long walk. An alternative would be the Hampton Inn on Main Street (NOT the one on India Road, which is north of Charlottesville at a strip mall; the one on Main Street is about halfway between Grounds and downtown).

--When you go over to the University, pay the money to park in the Central Grounds Parking Garage on Emmet Street next to Mem Gym. The parking regulations at UVA are incomprehensible if you didn't go to school there and you'll inevitably get a ticket if you park on-Grounds in anything other than the pay garage because some lots are restricted only on weekdays from 7:30 to 5:00, whereas others are restricted at all times, and still others are restricted to "University Permits Only" at certain times. Don't risk the ticket--UVA is known for having cars towed, and they like to tow you to the most obnoxious out-of-the-way impound lot in Charlottesville. (I drove one of my roommates out there way too many times....)

--Go to Monticello in the morning when it's not as hot out. Afterwards, many people like to go to Ash Lawn, the home of James Monroe, which is located a short drive down the road from Monticello.

--Don't speed in Madison County if you take US-29 to Charlottesville. In particular, the long straightaway south of the turnoff for Stanardsville is a notorious speed trap. The speed limit is 60 mph for most of the way from Opal to Ruckersville.

Christina Talcott: Ooh, I really wanted to try Shebeen! Glad to hear it's as good as it sounds. And thanks for other the terrific suggestions!

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London on the CHEAP: I have a last minute business trip to Germany and I leave tomorrow. Thanks to the wonderful Ryan Air I am going over to London for three days on the weekend and will be staying with a friend who recently moved there. Because this is last minute, I don't have a 3-day London jaunt worked into my budget this month and need help on how to enjoy the city but spend as little as possible.

washingtonpost.com: Some good ideas here: A Londoner's London (Post Travel Section, June 15), and here: Euro Shock (Post Travel Section, April 1, 2007), and here: London Hotel Options, From Budget to Deluxe (Post Travel Section, April 1, 2007), and here: Pound for Pound, Bargains by London Standards (Post Travel Section, Dec. 17, 2006).

Carol Sottili: Start by reading these stories....

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Washington DC: Hello! I'm looking at going to Croatia next summer. Has anyone gone before, or have any recommendations?

washingtonpost.com: Croatia Travel Stories

Carol Sottili: Here's what we've written on the topic.

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Kingstowne, VA: Most overrated: New York City, at least Manhattan in any event. Perhaps it's because I've been there so many times over the years (relatives in Brooklyn and such), but I always find that it's noisy, crowded, and overly expensive, and the attitude that anything you find in New York is better than anywhere else (such as their outlook on pizza) starts to get on my nerves fairly quickly. I don't feel that there's anything so unique to New York as to warrant a trip there most of the time.

Scott Vogel: Wow, didn't think I'd hear that one...

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Pumping Mom: I took a business trip with a pump about a year ago from Chicago to Washington National and was very worried about the same thing (I even went out and bought mini ice packs that were under 3 oz). It ended up I was worried over nothing. I just told the security person what the pump, milk, ice packs, etc were and they barely even gave me/it a second look. Not sure if it's just the result of general discomfort over breastfeeding or what, but I've talked to others who have had the same experience.

Christina Talcott: Thanks for chiming in. I think you're right about the discomfort factor. Nice to know that squeamishness can actually be a boon sometimes.

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Rockville, MD: I'll pile on to Key West! We were there when it rained for two days and it was a dead zone. It really is pretty slow and public beach is crowded and a little seamy. I wouldn't return. But I remain a big ParrotHead!

Scott Vogel: Key West, the clue phone is ringing.

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Charlotte, NC: For the mom traveling with a breast pump --

I flew a number of times this spring with my pump and bottles of (unfrozen) milk without any problems. I told the security screeners what I had before I got to the x-ray machine, and they let me right through. I would recommend bringing an empty Ziploc bag that you can fill with ice on the other side of security to keep the milk cool while you're on the plane.

Christina Talcott: More on flying while breastfeeding...

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Washington, DC: Most overrated? The baths in Budapest. Every guidebook you read, every person you meet, tourist and local alike, raves about the baths as the not-to-be-missed attraction. If you haven't been to the baths then you haven't been to Budapest. I'm sure they are all different, but I went to one that is considered to be one of the best. Helga's customer service approach was what could only be described as Soviet-esque. Eastern Europeans are generally quite thin -- except at the baths. Which is fine, but when combined with paper-thin swimsuits with not a shred of elastic remaining...well, it's a bad combination. I won't even go into the Speedo situation. I will admit that the outdoor baths are truly fabulous, especially in January. But the water in the indoor baths are such a disturbing shade of green I thought it was fallout from Chernobyl. And the water had bits of...something floating in it. And then there was the Borat lookalike giving me the Hungarian equivalent of "how YOU doin?" I took a very long shower later that afternoon.

Scott Vogel: Yikes. That's all I can say. Yikes.

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Alexandria, VA: For those of you who think Key West is overrated, great! You all obviously don't get it. Nothing worse than being in that wonderful little place having to fight through all of the typical tourists on Duval St.! We love Key West. Got married there on a deck overlooking the Florida Strait in 1999. We have our own little places to visit -- the kids love the little aquarium, my husband and I have a few restaurants we never miss, we like the daily Mallory Square scene, I love the sculpture garden near Mallory Square. I'm glad Ike is missing one of my favorite places in the world!

Most overrated place for me has to be Myrtle Beach! Wings and Eagles T-shirt shops every block, chain restaurants, it's like Ocean City, MD on steroids! At least on my one and only trip there years back, we were staying in North Myrtle, which was a bit better.

Scott Vogel: A dissenting opinion, and don't miss the little Myrtle Beach swipe at the end.

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Judiciary Square: Hi gang,

I'm a little early in planning but I'd like to introduce my 3 yr. old to skiing this winter. I'd like someplace relatively close, say between NY and VA. As a teenager, we went to Seven Springs in PA, is it still nice, are there better options?

Thanks much!

Carol Sottili: I put both my son and daughter on skis at age 2. It's one of those life skills, like riding a bike or ice-skating, that's hardwired once you learn it, especially if you learn while you're young. My favorite local kids' ski schools are at Liberty Mountain (www.skiliberty.com) in Pennsylvania (just 90 minutes away) and Wintergreen (www.wintergreenresort.com) in Virginia.

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Arlington, VA: I gotta go with Key West for "most overrated." The sunset is pretty, but it's not THAT pretty; the restaurants are pretty decent, but not THAT good; and there are hordes of tourists who are so impressed with the idea of Key West that they're oblivious to the fact that they're in what amounts to a theme park.

As for getting there, the drive is a pain. My favorite way to get there is the way we went a few years ago: I rented a small plane in the Fort Lauderdale area and flew the family down for the day. The best part of the trip was looking down on all the poor slobs backed up on U.S. 1.

Scott Vogel: A flight like that and the place is still overrated?

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New York, NY : I'm heading to Paris for a week and am looking for some new ideas. I used to live there, so have seen all the major (and a lot of minor!) tourist destinations; I'm planning to hit new ones, like the Quai Branly, while I'm there. What I'm looking for are tips on any fun, affordable boutiques or bistros that people may have stumbled across, wine bars or other new places that may have opened in the last five years or so.

washingtonpost.com: Postcard from Tom: Paris (Aug, 5, 2007)

High Up in an Eclectic 'Hidden Paris' (Post Travel Section, June 24, 2007)

DavidLebovitz.com and ChocolateAndZucchini.com also are great for tips on restaurants and other foodie places.

Christina Talcott: Thanks for the links, Elizabeth! Sadly, I haven't been to Paris since 2004. Chatters, do you have hot Paris tips?

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Bailey's Crossroads: hi,

I have a trip planned for Fort Myers in Feb of next year. When is the best time to purchase the tickets? Closer til or now?

thanks!

Carol Sottili: Start tracking now at Web sites such as www.farecast.com, and strike when a sale hits.

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RE: Charlottesville Weekend Getaway: Saturday Farmers'/City Market downtown from 7AM-12PM - breakfast foods, coffee, produce and people watching.

Loads of LIVE MUSIC on Saturday - check the weekly papers (C-Ville Weekly and The Hook) for listings.

Downtown Visitor Center is on East End of the Mall across from music pavilion and City Hall!

Enjoy!

Christina Talcott: More Charlottesville tips. Keep 'em coming!

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Bowie: Overrated, No Surprise there: Branson, Mo

Bart Simpson: "What Las Vegas would be like if Ned Flanders ran it."

My Aunt: "Where old-time performers go to die."

Scott Vogel: I have an aunt just like that!

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Overrated: Cruises that stop at Grand Cayman Island.

The port is small, so they have to use tenders. Then, it's not the most cultural place to stop. Is off-shore banking your idea of vacation?

Scott Vogel: Yeah, but the water at Seven Mile Beach?

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Washington, DC: I may be in a category of one on this topic, but I found the Taj Mahal the most overrated tourist site I have visited. Sure, the Taj has great symmetry. But that great symmetry shows up tremendously well in photographs--so well, in fact, that seeing the Taj in person doesn't add to the experience. For all of you that have ever considered visiting the Taj, look at a photo. You're getting just as much out of it as anyone who's ever visited the site itself.

Scott Vogel: Are there any wonders of the world that we're missing in this survey?

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Alexandria, VA: Most overrated: The Outer Banks. Perhaps this is because I remember them the way they used to be in the late 1970s/early 1980s before they were "discovered." Ever since they became trendy, and since Nags Head became a series of strip malls on the road that used to be the bypass (US-158), I think it's been ruined, and I no longer go there. The ubiquitous "OBX" stickers on cars just heighten the absurdity, in my view.

Most underrated: Cape Breton Island.

Scott Vogel: They're coming fast and furious now...

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Most Overrated: Most overrated destination? Venice. So packed with tourists that it feels like Disney World, but with $200 gondola rides. San Marco square is covered with pigeons, and the tiny cups of cappuccino the cafes sell for $8 make Starbucks seem like a bargain.

For the posters who think Hawaii is overrated--you should have visited Kauai! Yes, Oahu is touristy, but Kauai is breathtaking.

Scott Vogel: Another popular place gets the shaft.

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NY: I'm sure many consider NYC restaurants a destination in and of themselves. Well, our $450 lunch at NYC's best, Per Se, was just about my least favorite meal of all time. I'm just about the 'hugest' gourmand I know, but that night I was seriously happier with my late-night eats in Chinatown. And the price had nothing to do with the quality.

Seriously, I don't want 6 waiters delivering my food. I don't want being tortured to death by: dessert course; 2nd dessert course; snack-like sweets; chocolate truffles; and more desserts. And the handmade chocolates sucked! I got much better ones outside the Whitney Museum!

Scott Vogel: Yup, and it'd be hard to live up to those prices under the best of circumstances.

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DC: I have a paid reservation for Parrot Cay on Turks and Caicos early next month. Did Ike take my trip away? Will I get a refund?

Carol Sottili: According to the tourist board there, no resorts have incurred significant damage. So you should be good to go.

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Bethesda, MD: Most overrated destination: the tidal bore in Nova Scotia. Yes, the river runs backwards for a few minutes, but the surge of water is only about two inches high. They don't call it a "bore" for nothing.

Scott Vogel: Ha -- set ya right up for that one.

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Washington, DC: I'm planning my honeymoon to Italy. I've never been and was planning on going to Rome and Florence... but now I'm having second thoughts after seeing some comments here. I'll probably still go to Rome for a few nights, but does anyone have any suggestions of another city or town to go to for a few days, probably 3 nights? Since Rome is so hectic I was thinking of a smaller city or town that would be more relaxing but not in the middle of nowhere or anything. Any ideas?

Christina Talcott: Siena and Bologna are great, less-touristy towns. As far as Rome goes, though, it was of course crowded by the Colisseum and the Forum, and in Vatican City on Sundays, but the city's spread out enough that you can explore neighborhoods and enjoy daily life in Rome in the company of stylish locals. Anyone have other suggestions for Italy honeymooners?

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Overrated Jamaica: Maybe I just had a bad trip, but I thought Jamaica was horrendously overrated, especially compared to other islands in the Caribbean. The people I met who lived on the island were not friendly at all, and I was literally chased down the street by people demanding money, demanding that they let them braid my hair, demanding that I buy their cheap junk. I was approached on the beach by drug dealers. The bus driver for my Dunn's River Falls trip spend part of the drive describing how disgruntled the employees are at the local bottling plant for an internationally-marketed beer that shall not be named here, deliberately spitting in the bottles and dropping in cigarette butts. The snorkeling guides kill sea urchins to lure fish over for the tourists, which everyone knows is an ecologically unsound practice. The coffee is great there, and that's about it. I had much better experiences in Puerto Rico and Antigua.

Scott Vogel: Well, Jamaica's certainly had its image problems in the areas you describe.

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Dupont Circle: Hi Flight Crew, I'll be in Arizona for work in a few weeks and thought I'd stay for the weekend and visit some family. Do you have any suggestions for what to do while we're together? We don't know each other too well, but it might be nice to visit. I'm interested in going to Taliesin West (the Frank Lloyd Wright place), but do you or the chatters have any other suggestions? Thanks so much!

washingtonpost.com: Arizona Travel Stories

Carol Sottili: No one here is an Arizona expert, but read these stories.

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Washington, DC: The other poster had it right - Pisa is without a doubt the most overrated. The town itself isn't much to look at, the whole complex is surrounded with shacks/stalls a half mile long selling nothing but junk. Even Rick Steves couldn't find much nice to say about in his book and he seems like a pretty nice man. On the flip side, I'd say that Disney World is underrated. I don't have children and took my niece there last year and I couldn't get over how clean it was, how helpful the staff is, and how good the nice restaurants are.

Scott Vogel: It's true. Rick Steves is a very nice man.

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Tulsa, OK: Our Easyjet experience, flying from Barcelona to Geneva, was efficient and comfortable, with a plane that looked brand new. However, boarding turned into a grumble fest when our family of six stepped up to preboard as directed. We started a stampede as the entire planeload tried to crowd the door and prevented a few lined up passengers from boarding first, who were vocal in their disapproval and unmoved by our apologetic glances. If doing it again, I'll try to understand more about their procedures. Obviously we got it wrong.

Carol Sottili: They don't do lines in many European countries. Anybody ever try to receive communion at a church in Italy? It's a stampede. Ski lift lines are even worse.

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Alexandria, VA: Stonehenge is overrated. It's just not spectacular to see a circle of stones from 200 feet away that don't appear physically imposing. Major major tourist trap.

Scott Vogel: Back to Merry Old England for this one.

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Tours, France: How can I find out where I go through Customs if I am traveling from Paris to Cleveland via JFK? I'm afraid that if I have to go through Customs in New York, I will miss my connecting flight to Cleveland.

Christina Talcott: I'm afraid you'll have to go through Customs at JFK. How long's your connection? Any way you can get a later flight to Cleveland?

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Re; Chicago: Try to fly on Christmas day and on the morning of the 1st if you can, those flights are generally not much in demand hence lower price

Carol Sottili: True.

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Alexandria, VA: Key West lover here again. How jaded are those of you who don't like the drive down US 1 to Key West? The part from Miami to Key Largo is incredibly boring, but once I cross that first bridge from Key Largo headed south and see the turquoise waters on each side of me, all stress just fades from my body and I'm so happy! The 7-mile-bridge (actually only 4. something miles, I think) is great! From then on it's watching the mile markers count down. Yeah, it's bad when you get stuck behind some slowpoke, but it's no worse than rush hour traffic around here, and hey, you're in the Keys!

Scott Vogel: Glad to have you back, Key West lover.

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San Francisco, CA: For the person who wanted to fly Easy Jet - I flew them to Marseille last year and found it a good experience for the money, but they do fly out of Gatwick, which takes longer to get to than Heathrow, and I found the airport experience (check in and boarding) to be a total free-for-all. Their gate agent even opened the wrong door and let deplaning passengers into the unsecured open terminal!

Carol Sottili: They also fly out of Luton and Stansted in the London area.

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London U.K.: I went to Stonehenge this year for the Summer Solstice, even though I know it's a burial ground and recent research suggests that if there were gatherings there for a solstice, it would have been for the Winter one. Still, I'm only here in the U.K. for a few years, it was a weekend, and I figured why not?

Sadly, that was my first time at Stonehenge, and while it was amazing, the thousands of drunken men taking advantage of being able to climb on rocks and drink as much alcohol as they wanted (think enthusiastic, but not hooligan, football supporters) ruined it somewhat, as did the mounds of litter than were left behind. I am glad I went, and the experience was for the most part wonderful (of course, "sunrise" was determined by watches because it was completely overcast and rained most of the time - which I actually normally enjoy, but...) there were aspects that were a huge letdown.

I wouldn't say it's overrated, though - the stones are open to everyone, and it's a pretty nice setup. I would just not recommend traveling over to the U.K. specifically for the Solstice at Stonehenge, if you've never been here before. (There are other stone circles and celebrations you can attend, anyway - you'd probably have a more meaningful experience elsewhere.)

Scott Vogel: We're in the homestretch, and look who's coming up on the outside: It's STONEHENGE!

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Falls Church: Overrated:

Chincoteague/Assateague

Lancaster, PA

Newport, RI

I can't really even muster anything notably bad -- these were just boring, boring places.

washingtonpost.com: I liked Chincoteague when I was a kid and had just read all those pony books... - Elizabeth

Scott Vogel: Yeah, did you read the pony books?

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Venice: Just got back from Venice last night. I was tempted to say overrated, but it was really nice. I was prepared to poohpooh the islands (I hate overly touristy areas. But that city has some real unique sights).

Stay away from the main tourist site during the mid-day and stroll the back neighborhoods during the night (and a quick trip to Lido to try to see some Hollywood during the film festival. Alas, no luck, but a lot of beautiful people).

Scott Vogel: Not so fast on Venice.

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Mickey Mouse hurricane: I live on the west coast of Florida and can tell you from much first-hand experience that it's EXTREMELY rare for a hurricane to have much impact on the Orlando area, other than maybe some rain.

And, less than two hours ago the forecast path of Ike was changed to the south/west so they've already canceled the planned evacuation of the Keys. Orlando should be totally safe barring another unexpected shift. So come on down--it's hot but gorgeous right now.

Carol Sottili: Danke!

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Re: EasyJet: Just be aware that there are often stiff prices for checked baggage. And always check what airport you're flying in and out of. EasyJet often flies out of more obscure airports not well connected to cities by public transportation.

Carol Sottili: They're not the only airline charging for checked baggage these days, but the European discount carriers were the first to go that route.

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College Park, MD: My first choices for overrated attractions has to be STONEHENGE. Yes, the rocks are old, they're arranged in a circle, but still, at the end of the day (which it almost what it takes up as a day trip from London) it's a bunch of rocks (behind a fence!). After 10 minutes, including the gift shop, I was ready to drive back.

Along the same lines: the SPANISH STEPS. OK, pretty nice as far as stairs go, but still, at the end of the day...

Scott Vogel: Here comes Stonehenge!

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Arlington, VA: what's the deal with car rental rates? I finally got around to booking my annual visit to my parents' in Florida over the Xmas holidays today. I managed to get a reasonable flight but then when I went to book the car they all wanted like $500 a week plus all the taxes and fees on top of that. And that was for a little economy car. I have never paid more than about $180/week. I ended up reserving a car at ACE Rent a Car for $175 a week. But I don't know how reputable they are.

Christina Talcott: Anyone used ACE? As for car rental cost, we ran a story last week breaking down all the fees and taxes on car rental, hotel, air and cruise bills, and I was surprised by how many extra charges there are on car rentals (link coming up). Make sure to check with ACE to see if the $175 includes taxes and fees.

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Native New Jerseyan: Overrated: Las Vegas, Disneyland (which is Las Vegas for kids). Vegas is my idea of hell - it has the heat, and it has the sinners.

Scott Vogel: Here are three Vegas detractors. 1.

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DC: OK, I'll pile on:

The most overrated place is Las Vegas; just a bunch of casinos and gamblers.

I don't know why people even go there.

Oh, wait...

Scott Vogel:2.

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Pittsburgh: Our most overrated city? Las Vegas.

We had to go there for a professional convention, but found it flashy, tasteless and boring for those who have no interest in gambling, drinking, shows, shopping, glitz, etc. Eventually some like-minded conventioneers discovered a pretty good Italian buffet restaurant in a mall far from the tourist area, where the locals eat but tourists don't generally go, so we had a decent meal there for a reasonable price.

But believe me, we couldn't WAIT to pick up our rental car the following week and get outta town to Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks, where we had a great time!

Scott Vogel:3.

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My backyard: For most overrated, I nominate Pigeon Forge-Gatlinburg, outside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (and about 40 miles from my house). It's where performers go who aren't good enough for Branson.

Scott Vogel: So if Branson is overrated, what does that make Pigeon Forge?

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Re: honeymoon in Italy: Don't go during peak time if you can. If you are getting married in the summer, pass the big cities and go to smaller places, but it's tough to come back from a honeymoon to Italy and say we haven't been to Rome, Venice, Florence...

Christina Talcott: Hmm, good point. I agree about off-season travel - summer crowds can be a real bummer.

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Washington, DC: Most overrated: Washington, DC. Endless "security" hassles, rude parking enforcement, hideous traffic, local residents who hate tourists, and poorly-designed mass transit.

Scott Vogel: I guess I shoulda seen this one coming.

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Arlington, VA: For the person heading to Paris next week: Try "Les Papilles" near the Luxembourg Gardens. Fantastic food in a little wine shop. It has a set menu each day (one option) but the big bonus is that you can pick any wine in the shop to have with your meal and it only costs 10 euros more than it would if you had bought it to take home. I went twice in 5 days last year.

Christina Talcott: Yum! Thanks!

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Alexandria, VA: I'll second Rome - upon seeing train cars and overpasses plastered with graffiti I felt like we could have been entering DC or any other big American city. This was only enhanced by the noise and hordes of people in a hurry to get everywhere unlike the other Italian cities we visited. Nothing wrong with that - it is the capital of the country after all, but I would have traded that leg of the trip for more time in Florence, Venice, or especially Siena.

Scott Vogel: Eternal City? Yeah, right.

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Italy honeymooners: Cinque Terre! Positano! Amalfi Coast!

Nothing better than a few days of beautiful coastlines and seaside villages after the hustle and bustle of Rome, which I don't think is overrated by the way. Everyone has to see the Coliseum and Vatican City at least once in their lives!

Christina Talcott: Great suggestions, thanks!

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Alexandria, VA: I too found Stonehenge underwhelming. I stopped there en route from Heathrow to Bristol and I'm glad I saw it, but it couldn't live up to all the hype. Quite frankly, I found the Magic Roundabout in Swindon to be far more interesting and exciting. (It consists of five mini-roundabouts arranged in a circle around a larger central roundabout in which traffic flows in the opposite direction from normal. Don't try this in DC!)

Scott Vogel: And Stonehenge takes the derby!

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washingtonpost.com: See How the Travel Fees Add Up (Post Travel Section, Aug. 31)

Christina Talcott: Here's the story about travel fees and taxes.

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Baton Rouge, LA: Cleaning up after the hurricane has me thinking about my next vacation. Have you heard anything about Gutsy Women Travel? They have tours to India and Morocco that look interesting--and I wouldn't feel comfortable traveling there as a single woman. Thanks!

Carol Sottili: The tour company is a division of Gate 1 Travel, a well-known discount tour operator that has been in business since 1981.

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Washington, D.C.: For the LA-bound...

I can only assume you'll be paying a visit to my lovely alma mater (and ignore the fact that you're probably rooting for the other team), and I recommend that before the game you wander the rose garden in Exposition Park. It's quite pretty, and there should still be roses. There are also quality museums in Expo Park, but I'm guessing by the time you make it over there you won't have much time. (Be forewarned that the parking will be horrendous.)

Carol Sottili: Thanks.

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Most Overrated Place In the World: Wait! Am I too late??? I have to warn travelers before they go! PLEASE do not waste your time in one of the most beautiful countries in the world by going to see the Blarney Stone in Ireland. It is by far the most boring place on the planet, the walk up to the "stone" (it's really a dirty, disgusting part of a wall at the top of the castle)is long and narrow and it's always packed. Brilliant tourist trap by the Irish, but I rather waste my time having a bit of craic over some Guinness instead. Do yourselves a favor and skip the Blarney stone.

PS- word is from the locals that they, um, relieve themselves on the stone after the tourists go home. Just an extra word of caution.

Scott Vogel: Nope, you're just in under the wire.

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Scott Vogel: Well, I've got to say, this race was a nail-biter to the end. Thanks for the exciting hour, guys, and the prize goes to the visitor to those baths in Hungary. Riveting as a train wreck. The winner should e-mail me at vogelsi@washpost.com. As for the rest of you, have an overrated week!

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