National Book Festival: Travel Guide Authors Arthur and Pauline Frommer
Tuesday, September 16, 2008; 10:00 AM
Nearly 70 authors will be on the National Mall Saturday, September 27 for the 2008 Library of Congress National Book Festival.
Among them will be Arthur and Pauline Frommer, the father and daughter behind the best-selling line of Frommer's Travel Guides. They were online Tuesday, September 16 to talk about their travel publishing empire, which started with Arthur's 1957 Europe on $5 a Day, and today offers some 350 titles in 14 different series, including the budget-oriented line of Pauline Frommer guides. They offered advice on all kinds of vacations, from inexpensive weekend trips to luxury international tours.
A transcript follows.
Pauline Frommer: Hello All!
Welcome to this live chat. We'll do our best to answer all your questions here, but if we don't get to them, come out and see us in person at the the National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington, DC on September 27 and we can have a looong chat about travel there!
Arthur Frommer: Good morning to everyone. Pauline and I value the chance to "chat" with you, and also look forward to meeting many of you in person at the National Book Festival on the 27th. Best--Arthur Frommer
Vienna, Virginia: Given the weak dollar and increasing airline prices, what are the best international travel destinations for a budget-conscious east coast traveller looking for culture and adventure?
Arthur Frommer: Dear Vienna, Virginia: From the east coast, the best international destinations are those of Central America (especially Nicaragua and Panama) and South America. Everyone has to see Rio at some point in their lives, and Buenos Aires is also an important (as well as an unusually cheap) city at the moment. Panama is on the brink of greatly increasing its incoming tourism--and is reasonably priced. Nicaragua is almost entirely undeveloped, a country that we wholly abandoned after defeating the Sandinista movement, a place of widespread poverty (most of the population lives on less than $2 a day) but perhaps important to visit for that very reason. (About the only thing they have going for them is tourism; economic development under Daniel Ortega, its president, is nil). Anyway, those are the chief international destinations for an east coaster. Bon Voyage ! Arthur Frommer
State College, PA: I would like to thank you for your books, which have really influenced our lives. My first encounter with one of your books was in 1990, when my husband and I honeymooned (on a budget) through Europe. Given the confidence to travel abroad and the insight into getting the most from our money, we went to 9 countries in 6 weeks. Since that time, we have continued to use your publications in our travel, even though we are on a less restrictive budget. Our children, ages 15 and 12, have been to Europe 5 times and Asia once. Thands to their travels, they have mature and inclusive views of the world, which are so important these days.
Arthur Frommer: Thanks very much for your kind comments. I am particularly impressed that you have encouraged your children to travel, and their early exposure to the world will do much for their future development. Keep traveling! Best--Arthur Frommer
Rockville, Md.: What's the best way to spend one full day in Lisbon? Where to go, where to eat, etc? thanks!
Pauline Frommer: Ah, I wish you had more than just one day. But with that short amount of time, you're going to want to make a beeline for the Alfama district to wander it and see the Cathedral. Then pop over to Belem for the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and if you have any time left, also take in the Torre de Belem and the National Coach Museum.
As for where to eat: that really depends on your budget. I hate to ring our own bell, but if you go to www.frommers.com and type in Lisbon, you'll find the complete chapter from our book on the Iberian peninsula (for free) with several dozen recommended restaurants listed there.
Fairfax, VA: I so appreciate your guidebooks before I travel (frequent international travel for business). Pauline - I'm still trying to find the perfect travel purse - one that securely holds a wallet, passport, camera, a few small essentials and one of your guidebooks. What do you use/recommend?
Pauline Frommer: Well, thanks for including my guidebook! To be honest with you, when I'm traveling I don't carry a purse. I sling a small backpack across my shoulders so that I have enough room for all the things you list (and because I often travel with my 5 and 9 year old daughters, I often will also have crayons, papers, etc. for them in there).
Alexandria, VA: Just a thank you - I discovered Frommer's back in 1970 when I went to Oxford University for the year, and traveled all over Europe. You had the best guide then, and still do. You're still the first book I buy for all my travels.
Arthur Frommer: Thanks for your kind comment. We work very hard on the books, and I am particularly proud that Pauline has now begun publishing her own line, as part of the Frommer series. I think you'll particularly enjoy her guides to New York and Las Vegas. For the latter, she stayed one night apiece in 40 consecutive Vegas hotels--and deserves a big medal.
Washington, D.C.: I love your books; thanks for doing this chat. I am headed to Grand Teton and Yellowstone next month for the first time. Any suggestions for not-to-be-missed sights, drives, hikes, that are out of the ordinary? We are staying outside of the parks but thinking of dining in the lodges; do you recommend that? Thanks!
Arthur Frommer: Simply driving around Yellowstone--going to all its major areas and not simply to Old Faithful--is the key point of a visit, and I really don't think you should concern yourself with where you will dine. Cuisine isn't the high point of our national parks. Yellowstone is a geological wonder, as well as a remarkable area of wildlife (bison, elks, wolves), and every American should visit it at some point in their lives. The dropoff in international visitors to the U.S. (resulting from our insane and ineffective visa requirements) has reduced traffic to the national parks, and it has never been easier to visit them. Have a good trip, Arthur Frommer
washington, DC: First let me thank you for all the help your books and website have been to me over the years. You really have made a difference in my life!
Maybe you can help me one more time, we are looking into going to Yellowstone Park late August of next summer. We are planning to stay about 3 days in the park but don't know what would be a good intinery for 2 weeks in the west including the park. The choices are so endless it is hard to make any decisions. We are a family of four with two middle schoolers. We want to do some hiking - as long as everyday ends in a bed with a private bath. My kids are used to exploring cities - so I was thinking of starting or ending with a couple of days in Denver but other than I'm not sure what else to do. One possible internary is Denver to Mt Rushmore to Yellowstone to Grand Teton to Salt Lake or Jackson but I'm not sure that that is enough for two weeks. Any thoughts of other or better places to go and things to see. Wyoming is so big there must be other things to do but I don't know where to start.
Thanks for any help you can provide.
Pauline Frommer: You're right, 3 days in Yellowstone is hard to plan, because it's simply not long enough. Yellowstone is a HUGE national park, it's the size of the state of Connecticut! And it's incredibly varied. If you can, add another day or two and do it as a road trip, spending a few days in the area of the geysers, a few days near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and a few days in the Lamar Valley (sorry, I don't have a map in front of me).
If that's not possible, I'd say, concentrate on the area around Old Faithful, staying at the Old Faithful Lodge (an experience in and of itself!!). You could easily spend two days just gaping at geysers, bubbling mud pots and fumaroles and the third hiking nearby. The park rangers often set up specific activities for kids, that sometimes include hikes (ask about the Junior Ranger programs).
Have fun! After Yellowstone, your kids are going to be begging to go back to another National Park (instead of the city).
McLean, Va.: I have 2 days in Bermuda next month, what should I do? Thanks!
Arthur Frommer: In only two days, you'll be able simply to give it a light once-over look, going to every major area. Keep in mind that Bermuda is a unique place whose economy and lifestyle can't be emulated anywhere else, and I'm not sure there are any great lessons, historical insights, cultural impressions, to take from it. It is an island of affluence in a world that generally doesn't enjoy its advantages. But you'll find it quite pleasant. Best--Arthur Frommer
Washington, DC: Thanks for a lifetime of good advice, although my first guidebook to Europe was a Fielding, you're the best source/resource. I wonder how you feel about smaller, cheaper guides, as the last couple I've picked up have been $11-12. Pauline, you're always willing to print my tips, so thanks.
Pauline Frommer: You're welcome. We always love to get helpful tips from readers (no travel writer can have gone everywhere!).
Washington, D.C.: I think the airlines are nuts to charge a separate fee for checking one bag -- it slows down the line for everyone and gets us started on our trip in a foul frame of mind. If they were just to raise the price of each ticket by $5-10, who would notice?
I took my first such trip last week and my bag didn't even arrive with me (United nonstop Dulles-SanFran and I checked the bag nearly 2 hours before scheduled departure). Great value for that $15, eh?
Should I ask for my $15 back? They did deliver the bag to my hotel some 8 hours later...
Arthur Frommer: You are absolutely right. The airlines would have done much better to charge for carry-ons brought into the plane, and not for luggage checked aboard. The one good thing from their new luggage fees is that they will encourage people to pack light--the key to enjoyable travel. We can all make do with far less than we normally carry aboard, and the person who limits themselves to a single, small case lightly packed almost always has a better trip. Best--Arthur Frommer
Washington, D.C.: What advice do you have for someone interested in travel writing as a career? How should one start?
Pauline Frommer: You need to write and then write and then write some more. The truth is, we're always looking for good authors to hire. The key is to build up a portfolio of published clips. Start small, perhaps submitting articles to your local paper based on your own trips. Take photos if you can (you're more likely to get published if you can supply photos to go with your articles). Since many newspaper travel sections are contracting right now, also pitch to European, Australian and New Zealand publications.
You won't make much money at first (or ever, probably. Like many "glamour" professions, travel writing isn't well paid in general), but you will have an adventurous life. And once you do get a number of clips together, send us a letter at the Frommer guides. We're always looking for talented folks to work on our guides!
Chinatown DC: Arthur--
I loved your cameo in Eurotrip! What was it like to have your books prominently featured in a feature film--and to appear on-screen?
Arthur Frommer: It was weird to see myself portrayed in Eurotrip. I was originally asked to perform the cameo myself, but then learned it would require hanging around the movie location in Rome and elsewhere for nearly three weeks to simply utter two lines. The British actor who played me is far better looking. Best--Arthur Frommer
Arlington, VA: I'll be visiting San Juan, PR soon prior to leaving on a cruise. Which Old San Juan restaurant had its chef featured on last season's Bravo Channel's Top Chef show? Also, which places in Old San Juan serve the dish "ropa vieja?" Note for readers: This dish is a soup whose main ingredient includes veggies and shredded chicken. The chicken appears in the soup as old rags, which is the literal translation of "ropa vieja:" old clothing. Thanks.
washingtonpost.com: Thanks to a little Googling, I can tell you the chef from Pikayo appeared on Top Chef's show in San Juan. As for other restaurants, I have never been myself...
Arthur Frommer: The top restaurant in Old San Juan, in my view, is La Mallorquina, which serves Ropa Vieja as well as all the other classic dishes of the Latin American cuisine. It is not especially expensive, and it serves a plate of rice-and-beans that will astonish you--a dish that tastes completely different from the simply-boiled combination of ingredients that we know in the U.S. The proprietress of La Mallorquina told me that every lunchtime, she has a plate of rice and beans--but would not give me the recipe! Best--Arthur Frommer
Manassas, VA: Hello Frommers,
When's the best time to make air reservations for the Holidays? Wayyy in advance or wait for specials closer to the time?
Pauline Frommer: There aren't going to be any specials this year. The airlines have already grounded almost 500 planes in an attempt to cut costs. By the end of 2009, the number of seats in the air will be rolled back to 1998 levels. If you can, book as soon as possible. I'll be very surprised if we see ANY specials around the holidays this year.
That being said to save money:
-travel on the holiday itself (if you can do so without your mother wringing your neck!)
-Look at alternate airports (near to where you're flying)
-Consider taking the train or bus if you're going less than 400 or so miles
-And look at itineraries with stops (as opposed to non-stop flights). You can literally save hundreds of dollars this way, though you do add considerable uncertainty as holiday travel takes place during snowstorm season!
Good luck to you!
Annapolis, MD: Arthur and Pauline,
Frequently, my wife will depart with the children for upwards of a week to visit her family a few states away. Usually it's work that keeps me from going too, but my wife is also understanding that I'd rather not spend what little vacation I have visiting my in-laws, who I do see a great deal of when they visit us (I swear they're lovely people).
My wife does these trips on short notice, sometimes less than a couple weeks out. I would like to seize upon one of my wife's excursions to do some traveling by myself. I would like to go somewhere, preferably abroad, on short notice with no real daily itinerary in mind, and simply play the trip day by day, perhaps with a copy of Frommer's in hand. You see, I used to be quite the adventurer, spending my summers as a youth in Europe with virtually no supervision and I was able to explore at will (and explore I did!).
Do any locales come to mind for a person with this sort of travel interest??? My only criteria are the ability to book flight to this location on relatively short notice, no pressing need for advanced planning, and a travel infrastructure allowing for easy transience. My spirit for adventure can take it from there (believe it or not, my wife has OKed this idea!!!).
Arthur Frommer: I am going to disappoint you by simply suggesting that you hop any flight to any major Canadian city. I recently spent more than two weeks in Canada and was immensely impressed by the development of that country, which has a far larger population--38 million--than most of us would have thought. I found its people serious and thoughtful, I found the level of its media (especially its newspapers) to be very high, I was astonished by the multi-ethnic composition of its population in many cities (one quarter of Vancouver is of Chinese descent), I was fascinated by its open attitude towards immigration (so very different from our own, ugly, Lou Dobbs/Michael Savage/Rush Limbaugh variety), and I found every moment of my touring to be of great fascination. You'll need a passport to visit Canada, but every time your wife goes on one of these trips to her family, you can just as quickly board a plane to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, many other locations. Best--Arthur Frommer
Arlington: We are planning a 10 day family trip (2 kids age 8 and 7) to Ireland at the beginning of April. We want to see Dublin, Galway and the South (Kerry?). Any advice on special things like staying in a castle or a lighthouse? Also concerned the pastoral beauty etc might be nice for a day or 2 but ultimately not engaging enough for the kids - any insight? What about car rental advice too?
Pauline Frommer: Book your car rental with a local company (much cheaper than the multi-national chains. Try Dan Dooley). And get ready to pay a big amount. Ireland and Italy have the highest car rental rates in Europe, mostly because they require renters to buy their insurance (you'll also need an International Drivers license).
As for lighthouse and other unusual stays: GREAT idea!! You can find these types of lodgings through the Irish Landmark Trust (www.irishlandmark.com). Also look into farmstays, where the kids might get to milk a cow, gather eggs or ride a horse. My kids LOVED doing farmstays in Ireland
I think with kids in tow, you're going to spend more time out in the country. I'd say skip Galway and add in time in the Burren and perhaps a place like the Dingle Peninsula. I think they'll find hiking in the countryside, seeking out dolmens, etc. quite fun and interesting (my children considered Ireland to be one of the best family vacations we've ever taken). I'm actually in the midst of editing Pauline Frommer's Ireland right now, so look for it. I think it should be out before your trip (I also forget our publication schedules).
Bethesda, Md.: My sisters and I are taking a sisters-only vacation in Tucson this fall. I somehow have a mental dream image of us having breakfast on the shaded patio of a cozy old adobe casa but am having some difficulty finding a rental that isn't a new condo located far out of town. Any ideas?
Arthur Frommer: Spend some time at Homeaway.com, which has now become the largest single source of vacation rentals and vacation apartments. And surprisingly enough, Craigslist is now a good source of the same, but is something to use with caution, making sure you get references for the apartments you rent through it. Best regards, Arthur Frommer
Philadelphia, Pa.: When are attendances at Disney World and Disneyland at their lowest?
Arthur Frommer: November and early December (prior to Christmas) is when attendance at the theme parks drops. Best--Arthur Frommer
Falls Church, Va.: I am traveling to London in June 09. Is there any price difference in choosing an international airline as opposed to our currently troubled US airlines? Thank you.
Pauline Frommer: I've found that Air India usually has the least expensive flights to London, followed by Virgin Atlantic. Both are fine airlines (with Virgin, you'll have more legroom than you get on most of our US-based airlines and more entertainment options; and I happen to like the curry meals on Air India). But because London's so pricey, I'd just go with whichever airline offers you the lowest fares. You want to have more to spend on theater, restaurants, etc when in London (happily a lot of the sightseeing in London--the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert, etc.--is free which helps, somewhat, in keeping costs in check)
Vienna, Va.: In October I'm going to be spending 6 days in Oregon, starting in Portland. What are your suggestions for "can't miss" things to do? We are touring by car.
Arthur Frommer: Simply head south along the coastal road, passing through Cannon Beach, and then stopping in the little town of Yachats, one of the undiscovered gems of America (many excellent restaurants, especially those serving Dungeness Crabs). The coast of Oregon is relatively undeveloped and a great joy. Eventually, you'll get to Ashland, where you can attend the year-around Shakespeare festival and other cultural events. Best regards--Arthur Frommer
Anonymous: I wonder why the airline industry is so clueless to human psychology. The real key when charging a large price for something is to offer low cost amenities so people think they are getting a good deal for something. Now, it may be economically fairer to only charge people for the amenities that they use, yet instead you now have a lot of people sending hundred and sometimes over a thousand dollars griping about $5 and $15 costs. It doesn't make any sense to lose customers over these small things.
Arthur Frommer: Interesting comment. Best--Arthur Frommer
Anonymous: Any thoughts on where a single gal could/should go in South America (other than Brazil)? I have a plane ticket that I need to use before it expires and I would like to use it to visit South America.
Thanks in advance.
Pauline Frommer: Yikes! South America is a huge and touristically rich continent to visit. Are you interested in fabulous shopping, sophisticated culture, great steak dinners and late nights of tango? Then consider Argentina (a country that also has superb skiing, wineries to tour, and shares Patagonia one of the top adventure travel destinations in the world). If you're interested in ancient cultures, head to Peru. I could go on and on. Have fun wherever you go (Brazil's great, too!!)
Arizona help?: Although we've been going to Mexico for the January break we may go west this year to visit the mother-in-law. We'd like to find a nice resort to relax in - one that is NOT golf centered. What is the Lake Havasu area like? We'd fly into Phoenix and drive to Sedona for MIL. We'd like to avoid long car rides and traveling too much - just pool side relaxing with one or two outings.
Arthur Frommer: Why not do something for yourself health-wise, and go to Tecate, Mexico, immediately south of San Diego, for a week's stay at Rancho La Puerta (where the daily, required exercise sessions are like a boot camp). Because its rates aren't nearly as hellishly expensive as at places like Canyon Ranch, Rancho la Puerta attracts an assortment of people of all ages and income ranges, and it's a fun spa, with a calorie-controlled meal plan. A fine place for a resort stay along the west coast. Best--Arthur Frommer
Washington, D.C.: I was hoping to get your ideas on a trip. I am going to SE Asia to celebrate my thirtieth birthday with a college friend at the end of October. We fly into Singapore and fly out of Bangkok. An entire week is currently unscripted in between. Our goals so far are: 1. don't get hung for something stupid (yes, we watched Brokedown Palace...) 2. Ride an elephant 3. Diving/snorkeling 4. Don't spend a ton, but not on the cheap either.
Can you help us figure out what in the world we should do!?!!?
Arthur Frommer: From Bangkok, fly or take a train northwards to Chiang Mai, and then proceed to Chiang Rai, lined with travel agencies that will assign a guide to you for an independent trip to visit the Hill Tribes in the "Golden Triangle" of northern Thailand. You'll live for two or three nights among people who lives as they did in the Stone Age (no plumbing, no electricity)and yet enjoy a very attractive communal life. I regard my own trip with my wife to visit with the Hill Tribes as among the highlights of our travels. And yes, you will get to ride an elephant for a portion of the trip there (but it's the most uncomfortable, slightly dangerous ride you will ever know, as the elephant occasionally goes stampeding away from a rabbit that crosses its path). Best--Arthur Frommer
Philadelphia, Pa.: I was shocked to see the sharp increase in hotel rates in Washington, D.C. and New York City over the past year, when I was making travel plans. I should think with gas prices up hotels would want to lower rates to attract travelers. What is going on with these sharp increased rates?
Pauline Frommer: It's called the value of the Euro. New York City and to a lesser extent Washington, DC have been inundated with European tourists in the past year (NY, in particular, had 46 million visitors in 2007, up 21%). It's a huge problem for American tourists.
In my book, Pauline Frommer's New York City (second edition just came out last month), I talk about a number of vacation rental companies (such as AffordableNewYorkCity.com and CitySonnet.com) which will place you either in your own apartment or in a room in a local's apartment for much less than you'd pay to stay in a hotel. There are also lovely guesthouses opening up in the outer boroughs of NYC. Some of my faves include the Sofia Inn and Honey's B&B in Brooklyn. Charming, welcoming places, 20-30 minutes from Manhattan on the subway, that go for half of what the Manhattan places are charging. Guesthouses are a good option in DC too. Try the Kalorama Guest house (the one that pops to mind first; there are others).
Westfield, NJ: I'm a woman heading for Cairo/the Nile in December and have heard mixed things about how women are expected to dress in public in Egypt. How restrictive is it, really? Meaning no sleeveless blouses, short skirts, etc.?
Arthur Frommer: Egypt isn't restrictive at all in its dress codes, as I recall it. It receives so many millions of tourists each year from around the world that it simply doesn't enforce the practices that you might find in other Muslim countries. I wouldn't wear shorts, and I'd be modestly and properly dressed on visits to Mosques, but otherwise I don't think that normal, casual, resort-like clothing will be out of place anywhere else in Cairo or Upper Egypt. Best--Arthur Frommer
I'm off to Bali for 10 days. After I recover from the 22 hour plane ride, how do you suggest I spend my time?
Pauline Frommer: Exploring the inland areas of Bali, primarily, which are much more culturally oriented than the beachside resorts (which can get overrun by party hearty Australians). Explore Ubud and the surrounding towns, visit temples, view the vibrant green rice paddies. You won't run out of things to do in Bali. It's an extraordinary destination and nowhere near as over-touristed as it was a decade ago thanks (unfortunately) to the tragic terrorist attacks it suffered.
Have a wonderful time! Pauline
For the person going to the Tetons...: I worked in the Tetons for a summer during college. I would recommend going to Hidden Falls. Take the ferry across Jenny's Lake and the falls are a short hike from the dock. But here's what most tourists miss: KEEP GOING (which is why I suggest skipping the hike around the lake)! Cascade Canyon is the most beautiful place on earth. It's not incredibly steep and follows the river. You'll get backside views of the Grand that just can't be beat. I'm crying thinking about it all.
Pauline Frommer: I'm going to publish this, so others can read it. Thanks for the tip!!
Philadelphia, Pa.: Where should a family of 7 (grown kids and parents) go for 5-7 days over Christmas? Ideally looking to rent a house in a city location that is not too hard to get to from various east coast cities. Thanks!
Arthur Frommer: The rental of a vacation home is a great idea for you, and one of the few financially-acceptable options you can choose. I mentioned earlier that Homeway.com had become the chief source of such rentals, but there is also EVRentals.com, Zonder.com, VRBO.com, and many others. And you'll have to forgive me if I mention that Pauline Frommer's Orlando has excellent listings of real estate agents in Central Florida that specialize in the cost-effective rental of vacation homes. Best wishes--Arthur Frommer
Midwest: Any tips for a warm destination in early November? Three moms are turning 40 and want to relax without kids, jobs, laundry...
Arthur Frommer: Why not go to the great Maho Bay on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is the remarkable ecological community of tented bungalows along a hillside overlooking a breathtaking view of the Caribbean and a superb beach below. Dinner--largely vegetarian, but not always--is $17, and your own bungalow is rented at that time (low, low season)for under $100 a night for the two of you. Interesting, thoughtful people are the clientele at Maho Bay, and the entire vacation is so restful and unpretentious, without the need to dress up or impress your neighbors, that it is a top vacation opportunity. Go to (I'm doing this from memory) Maho.org (or look it up in Google). Best regards. Arthur Frommer
Washington, D.C.: What are the must see sites in the Czech Republic -- Prague and surroundings? I have a flight to Amsterdam in late Nov and thought this might be a neat place to visit - HELP!!
Pauline Frommer: The Czech Republic will be mighty chilly in November, but that's also the time of the Christmas Markets making it a lovely time to visit. Yes, spend about three days (minimum) in Prague seeing the Castle (oldest in Europe and inspiration to Kafka), the old Jewish Quarter, and the other historic sights of the city. Then take day trips or over nights into Bohemia to sights like Teresin (Nazi concentration camp), Karlovy Vary (important spa town, it was featured in the last James Bond film though mis-identified in that film as being in Montenegro), Karlstejn Castle, I could type on and on, but I'd better move on to the next question!
Virginia: To the Yellowstone travelers - Be sure to get some Grizzly Berry ice cream. It's yummy!
Food - We ate at Old Faithful Inn one night. It was pretty good. It's also nice just to hang out for a while on one of the big benches overlooking the lobby.
Locales - At Mammoth Hot Springs, most of the springs have dried up, but there seems to be a new one forming, which is a cool thing to witness. The Black Pool at West Thumb is pretty hypnotic. It's clear and bright blue, and it's hard to stop staring at it! And keep your fingers crossed for a bison road crossing!
Arthur Frommer: I completely endorse your recommendation. Yellowstone is one of the great vacation visits. Best--Arthur Frommer
Pittsburgh: Vienna, Virginia, asked earlier about international travel destinations offering culture and adventure.
Have you ever been to Portugal's Azores Islands? I find them still a good bargain despite the strength of the Euro compared to the dollar, especially because they're only a 4.5 hour flight from Boston, so for starters it's a lot cheaper getting there than to Latin America. Azores airfares and lodging are lower in the fall, while the weather remains lovely (much like San Francisco).
The Azores offer breath-taking scenery in a still-pristine environment, the locals are friendly toward tourists (a good many speak at least some English), accomodations meet American expectations, food is fresh and reasonably priced, cultural offerings are available on all but the tiniest island, and street crime is nearly non-existent. BTW, last year National Geographic Traveler rated the Azores #2 out of 111 island vacations on sustainable tourism and destination stewardship criteria.
Arthur Frommer: Thank you for an excellent suggestion. I seem to remember--I may be wrong--that TNT Vacations of Boston runs low-cost flight to the Azores, but that may be only in the summer. Kindest regards. Arthur Frommer
Arlington VA: Planning a 7 day trip to Italy in 2009, and got somewhat lost in reading all the materials. At this moment, all I know is I want to spend 3 nights at least in Venice and I can skip Rome. Any advice or suggestions please? Thanks so much.
Pauline Frommer: Hmmm...I'm hoping that you're skipping Rome because you've already been there. If this is your first time in Italy, I'd include it in the itinerary.
If not, why not minimize your travel time and concentrate on the area around Venice, perhaps combining your time in Venice with time spent in the Veneto, specifically Verona, Padua and perhaps a day in Mantua. You want to plan it so you spend the least amount of time getting from place to place as your time is very limited.
Have fun! Pauline
Washington DC: Hi Frommers!
I'm going to London in early December, and plan to see the National Gallery, V and A, British Museum, Imperial war museum.
Lots of museums, I know. What should I balance them with? (Certain sights, shopping etc).
Thank you very much....
Arthur Frommer: Save time for an out-of-town excursion to Oxford and Cambridge, and stroll the "dreaming spires" of Oxford, the quads of both university cities. Make time for a number of provocative plays (never musicals, as mindless in London as in New York), for which you can obtain cut-rate tickets from the booth on Leicester Square. In London, the theatre is one of ideas, and subjects on the frontiers of political and psychological thought are playing in the West End throughout the year. Best wishes, Arthur Frommer
Bethesda, MD: I used a 2008 guidebook from a well-known publisher (not yours) in the Caribbean this summer, and was unable to make head or tails out of a map for a certain city. I eventually figured out that several streets to be found on the map were simply missing from the city itself: they had been erased to make way for a large government building (in fact the island's capital building). I asked a local if the building had been put up recently, and he said, oh no, it has been up for ten years. In your experience, is it common for guidebook publishers not to update their books on a regular basis?
Pauline Frommer: We at Frommers update many of our guidebooks yearly. It's every 3 years at Lonely Planet I believe and every year also at Fodors. I don't know about other series (I was just on a panel with other guidebook editors, which is how I know these pub schedules).
Boston, MA: I'd also like to rent a house over Christmas for my large family in a warm place. What Caribbean islands would you recommend that are relatively easy to get to?
Arthur Frommer: The easiest to reach of Caribbean islands are those enjoying non-stop flights from the U.S.: Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic. I seem to remember that a company called Unusual Villas is a good source of vacation homes capable of housing a fairly large family at holiday times in the Caribbean. You can find Unusual Villas in Google. Best--Arthur Frommer
Los Angeles, CA: If you had just $4,000 and three free weeks, where would you go? I have a three week break coming up next summer between graduation and a job and would love to do some significant international travel, especially since I've never been out of the US. Any ideas would be great!
Pauline Frommer: What a wonderful problem you have!! If I were you, I'd consider getting an air pass (try www.airtreks.com) and hopping around Asia a bit. Or you might simply want to spend the time exploring India--your money would go quite far there.
Since it may be a long time until you're this "fancy free" again, I'd go to the most exotic destinations possible. Places that you might be nervous about going to once you had kids (because of lack of good medical facilities) or that a spouse might not agree on.
Have a wonderful time wherever you go!
Dress in Cairo: I was in Egypt a few years ago at that same time of year. I wore pants and lightweight, long-sleeved blouses. You should try to cover and legs and arms. Harassment can be a little bit of an issue and the woman wearing less than I was attracted more attention than I did. I also brought a pashmina to throw over my shoulders or head when I felt it would be appropriate.
Pauline Frommer: Thanks for your tip. I'll publish it (and I agree).
Saratoga Springs, NY: My husband and I are planning a 9-day trip to Seattle, Victoria, and Vancouver, with a stop in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Is this too much to try to do in too little time and is it reasonable to attempt it without a car, using ferries and buses? Thanks!
Arthur Frommer: As I had the opportunity to experience this past summer, there is excellent bus and ferry service between all the locations you list in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, my wife and I made a day trip to visit friends living in Victoria, by bus and ferry from Vancouver. That was squeezing in too much in a single day (we had no other option), but with just a bit more time at your disposal, you can easily do it. A great many people who summer in Victoria get there by ferry from Seattle. Best wishes, Arthur Frommer
Wheaton: Hello! Would you recommend an area of Belize (close to or on the water) for a reasonably priced vacation? Thank you.
Arthur Frommer: Caye Caulker is the place, the less developed of the many "Cayes" off the coast of Belize, and far less expensive than the increasingly-popular Ambergris Caye. Best regards, Arthur Frommer
Saint Paul: My husband and I are looking to stay at an all inclusive resort. Where would you recommend for someone on a budget?
Pauline Frommer: The all-inclusive resorts of the Dominican Republic tend to be the most affordable on the market. Take a look at such websites as www.vacmart.com, www.libertytravel.com, www.cheapcaribbean.com and www.atlastravel.net for the best prices.
Global Traveler: Just a note of appreciation -- when I took my first trip to Europe in 1980, I was given a copy of 'Europe on $15 a Day.' The book was in tatters by the end of the trip, but I couldn't bear to part with it. The travel advice in your books has been so insightful and invaluable that taking one of your destination guides with me is as mandatory as taking my passport. Thanks for all the great trips you have helped make possible.
Pauline Frommer: Thanks Global Traveler. I'll publish to make sure my father sees your kind note as well.
VA: Oh! A St. John question! I'll check out Maho Bay, too. What else is there to do nearby? Is there a park or a garden or something nature-related that you'd recommend?
Arthur Frommer: Ninety percent of St. John is a U.S. National Park, the reason you go there. On all of St. John, there are really only three lodgings: Maho Bay, Caneel Bay (hideously expensive), and a standard hotel. You couldn't choose a better Caribbean island for nature and strolls. Best--Arthur Frommer
Lighthouse Point, Florida: Could some of your wonderful books be printed in larger print- all travel books seem to be printed in smaller than usual print- LJK
Pauline Frommer: You know, that's a question we struggle with. We have so much information that we want to impart and because of paper and shipping costs, the books can only be a certain length to be profitable. But I'll actually be in a design meeting this afternoon and will pass along your comments to the other editors here.
Best, Pauline Frommer
San Francisco, CA: I'm going to be in Europe next month, based in several cities, and I'm considering various daytrips: from Copenhagen, daytrip to Malmo and Lund; from Munich, daytrip to either Innsbruck or Salzburg; from Bern, daytrip to Lucerne.
Any suggestions or alternatives? Thanks!
Arthur Frommer: Some of your daytrips--like to Salzburg or Innsbruck from Munich--are too far to be properly accomplished in a single day. From Munich, it's best simply to make a daytrip to Oberammergau (where I was briefly stationed in the Army) or Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Consult a map and you'll quickly see that some of your "day trips" are too remote to be easily accomplished there and back in one day, especially if you are to have any time for explorations at the destination. Best--Arthur Frommer
Boston, Mass: Arthur, TNT does not have trips to the Azores, you have to call Azores Express, or sata.pt.
Arthur Frommer: Many thanks. Best--Arthur Frommer
Edgewater, Maryland: The Danube River cruise that visits Christmas markets is one of my favorite ideas for a family vacation. However, I don't think a cruise is appropriate or within our family budget with children. Is it possible to plan a one week vacation using alternative forms of transportation, and what cities would you suggest we include in our itinerary?
Pauline Frommer: I don't think a river cruise is a good idea with children. Quite honestly, that type of vacation attracts an older crowd (seniors mostly) as the pace of life on the boats is extremely slow and there aren't pools or other activity centers for kids. Why not consider simply renting an apartment in say, Stuttgart, which has Europe's oldest Xmas market, live like a local and make day trips from there.
I hope it works out, whatever you do. Best, Pauline Frommer
Washington D.C.: Arthur: I am one who travelled Europe in the 1960's, your book in hand, on about $10 a day. It was possible. Do you believe that young people still have a motivation to try such budget travel when an inexpensive day approaches $100?
Arthur Frommer: By making use of hostel accommodations, young people can continue to travel in Europe inexpensively. There have never been more hostels available to them than now--new hostels are springing up almost monthly--and you would be well advised to consult Hostelbookers.com, or Hostels.com, or Europeanhostels.com, for the surpringly numerous options available to the youthful traveler, usually for about $20 per person per day. Our own guidebooks, I should add, are careful to describe all the hostel opportunities in European cities. Best--Arthur Frommer
Costa Rica activities: I and two of my friends are going to Costa Rica in Nov for 6 days. I know we will go to the volcanoes and zip through the forest, but any other recommendations for where to go, what to see or where to eat? We're staying at a timeshare in Guanacaste if that helps. Should we rent a car for our trip?
Pauline Frommer: Guanacaste is more of a beach destination, than a volcano destination (in most areas). It's very hard for me to respond as I don't know where in Guanacaste you'll be and there are so many possible activities in Costa Rica to try. This is going to sound self-serving, but pick up a good guidebook so that you can narrow your choices.
McLean, VA: Hello,
I too am a strong fan of your guidebooks, particularly the ones on Europe. Due to the economy though, I am looking to make a short getaway in the US.
For a long weekend, 40-year-old woman by herself, could you recommend a spa or ranch that is reasonably priced, and has horseback riding?
Pauline Frommer: There's a wonderful website called HiddenTrails.com that offers information on a number of vacations involving horseback riding. I'd look there.
Have fun, Pauline
Two suggestions: For the person who has 3 weeks, if you haven't been to Europe I would go there. Start in Italy, check out France or Spain.
For the person going to the Dominican Republic, I stayed at the Majestic in Punta Cana. It was an all-inclusive, the food was great (and I normally think all inclusive food is terrible) and the place was amazing. I would go back there any time. Hope this helps!
Pauline Frommer: Thanks for your suggestions! I'll post 'em. Pauline
Richmond, VA: I'll be taking my 4 yr old to Paris for the first time. Any suggestions for sights that he will really enjoy?
Arthur Frommer: My daughter will vehemently disagree with my response on this one, but I don't think a 4-year-old has anything to gain from a trip to Europe. When my wife and I dragged Pauline with us to Europe when she was 4 and younger (we had no alternative; we earned our living by researching Europe), the only thing she wanted to do was go to playgrounds (indistinguishable in appearance or facilities from ours in the U.S.). And even now, when I say to Pauline, "do you remember such-and-such in Paris or Copenhagen which we visited when you were 4, she reponds with a blank look. When I receive letters from people asking whether they should travel with children under the age of 8, I get the juiciest felt pen I can lay my hands on and scrawl NO! across the letter and send it back.
That having been said, Pauline takes her 5-year-old and 9-year-old (my grand-daughters) to places ranging from Tokyo to Prague to Costa Rica, and swears the activity is an educational one!
UAE: What would be the minimum travel amount needed per day to travel any where in Asia, including Japan?
Pauline Frommer: I'd say a week, just because the jet lag is so extreme and the travel time from the US so great. I don't think it makes much sense to go for a shorter period than that. And outside of Japan and Korea, Asia is remarkably inexpensive. Once you've gotten the cost of an air ticket out of the way, you can vacation for a long time on a budget that would only suffice for a short period in the US or Europe.
Freising, Germany: Things have changed so quickly since the start of the Internet and the World Wide Web, with practically everywhere being connected. Where would you now go if you wanted to be Far from the Madding Crowd?
Pauline Frommer: Once you go there, you're adding to the crowd unfortunately. That being said, I found Molokai in the Hawaiian islands to be refreshingly uncrowded when I visited there last October. Best, Pauline
Silver Spring, MD: Your guide books are terrific, but do you have some specializing in Eastern Europe? Travel there is very affordable and it is a lovely place to visit. Do you have much for Poland, too??
Pauline Frommer: Yes, Frommer's has a complete guide to Eastern Europe. Check Amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com or your local bookstore.
College Park, MD: Mr. Frommer,
When is the last time you traveled and stayed somewhere up four flights of stairs, shared bath, and no A/C?
I only ask because I am approaching retirement age, making more than I used to, and find myself indulging in "softer" travel in recent years. Even it means going abroad two times a year instead of more often.
Is this an inevitable trend?
Long time fan
Arthur Frommer: I think it's a mistake to change your choices of accommodations in the manner you describe. As I grow older, I find the first class and deluxe hotels to be ever more similar and boring, and I enjoy myself best when I return to the guesthouses, pensiones, canalhouse hotels, and other four-flight-walkups. You travel better when you spend less. The less you spend the more you enjoy. Try it. And best regards, Arthur Frommer
Harrisburg, Pa.: Is there anywhere you haven't traveled to that you wish to?
Arthur Frommer: I so much regret not having gone to the Antarctic, but the thought of hazarding the Drake Passage and its seasickness-causing seas is too much for me to consider. Best--Arthur Frommer
Pauline Frommer: Thanks for all the great questions! Sorry we didn't get to them all, but as I said early on, we'll be happy to chat in person if you come out and see us at the National Book Fair on the Mall in Washington, DC on September 27. We'll be on stage at 11am sharp.
Happy Trails to All!!
Arthur Frommer: I have very much enjoyed responding to your comments and questions, and look forward to meeting some of you at the National Book Festival on the Mall on September 27 (I believe). In the meantime, thank you so much for your loyal support of the Frommer travel guides; we will always try to be worthy of you. Happy Trails, and Bon Voyage! Arthur Frommer
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