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Talk About Travel: Day Trips from D.C., Cheapest Flights to Vancouver, Cheap Lodgings in N.Y.C. and More

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The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, April 13, 2009; 2:00 PM

Have a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel Section Flight Crew is at your service. They were online Monday, April 13 at 2 p.m. On the itinerary this week: herding sheep and cattle on the high plains in Kazakhstan, visiting the WPA murals in New Jersey, a trip to the Chinqua Penn Plantation in North Carolina, and more.

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Browse an archive of previous live travel Q&As.

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Scott Vogel: Afternoon, everybody. It's that time again. Hope everyone is having a good Monday and in the mood to talk travel. We've got Carol Sottili, Nancy McKeon and yours truly on the line to answer your queries and field requests -- so fire when ready.

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DC: Hi all. Planning a week in Martha's Vineyard over the 4th of July holiday without a car. Is the public transportation there sufficient that a car won't be missed?

Scott Vogel: Kinda depends on where you're staying on the Vineyard. If you'll be in either Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs, having a car may well be more hassle than it's worth. Remember, too, that there's an extensive bus system throughout the island that's good for trips to, say, Edgartown and South Beach.

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Washington, D.C.: I just want to say I loved the Kazakhstan article -- you guys are at your best when going beyond the London/Paris/Rome articles.

washingtonpost.com: Steppe Cowboys: Kazakhstan's Big Country Hosts a Breed of Hard-Riding, Hard-Drinking Drovers (The Washington Post, April 12, 2009)

Scott Vogel: Thanks!

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Rockville, Md.: Hi Crew. I would like to visit Buenos Aires and am seeing airfare for $3,000. That seems extremely high! What time of year should I visit for cheaper fares, and what would those fares be? Thanks!

Carol Sottili: I don't know when you're searching, but that's way too high. I'm seeing airfares of $860 or so. Do a search on www.kayak.com. As for when to go, April-August is usually cheaper.

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New York, N.Y.: No questions but I do want to add a couple of things (to last week's discussion about travel cliches): I first visited NYC in 1964, college graduation gift from my mother -- grew up in D.C. Wasn't at all impressed with NY until I took the Circle Line boat ride -- I fell in love and moved here in 1967 and still love it. Just don't believe all the commentary!

Second, I've just visited Venice for the first time -- liked it but didn't LOVE it. Cliche: I had lunch at Cafe Florian and a few days later had lunch where Hepburn chatted with Brazzi in St. Marks Plaza. But I guess everything you do in Venice is a cliche.

Scott Vogel: Better late than never, thanks!

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D.C.: Thanks for taking my question -- hopefully your answer will break my travel paralysis. My husband and I are flying to London over Labor Day Weekend. We're leaving Friday, returning Monday (unfortunately, given our jobs and the fact that we're going for a wedding, the travel dates are non-negotiable). Right now, I'm seeing fares at $664 for a non-stop from Dulles. Good fare?

Carol Sottili: If it includes all your taxes/fees, that's a fair fare.

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Martha's Vineyard/Cape Cod: My husband and I are thinking of going up to Martha's Vineyard/Cape Cod over Memorial Day weekend. We've never been, and are looking for an affordable place to stay. Any suggestions from you or the chatters?

Scott Vogel: Gee, lots of people thinking about the Vineyard today! My family has stayed at the Wesley, which has lots of rooms and is in a very convenient location in Oak Bluffs. Rooms for that time period are currently running about $140 a night to start. Certainly should be other deals during that time frame, however, as high season won't have officially started. Other ideas?

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Vienna, Va.: I have had several very good experiences flying Southwest Airlines and even better experiences in changing travel plans easily and painlessly without additional fees. SW is said to be one of the few profitable airlines, so it would seem reasonable for others to use their business practices. I wonder why other airlines do not follow the SW model?

Nancy McKeon: The Southwest business model involves a heckuva lot more than fees. It's not one of the "legacy" airlines, with the longstanding pension responsibilities and salary structures (being chipped away at, to be sure) and major hub-and-spoke configurations of the big guys. It just doesn't have the infrastructure or the history of in-flight perks that burdening large carriers. The fee-happy behavior of the legacy carriers may seem, and may be, counterproductive, but they seem to think it's necessary, at least for short-term profitability.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I am planning on going with four family members to the Winter 2010 Olympics in Vancouver (five of us total). We will all be traveling from Philadelphia into Vancouver. Since the end of March, I have been trying to track fares from PHL to Vancouver using farecast.com. Unfortunately, farecast doesn't have data to tell me if the price is going to rise or fall or when I should buy or wait.

I've been getting weekly emails from farecast with the lowest fare from farecast. Two Sundays ago the price was $618/person. This past Sunday the price was $676/person.

Do you suggest I should try to get the tickets as early as possible (i.e. now), and just assume that the price from PHL to Vancouver will keep rising as we approach February 2010? I can't tell what is a reasonable cost to fly to a city that will be holding a large event like the Olympics.

Thanks so much for your advice!

Carol Sottili: Vancouver rarely goes below $550 or so round trip, at least from Washington, even when fares are discounted. I'm guessing that you may see a few sales in next couple of months, but no deep discounts because seats will be in demand. If you have some flexibility as far as dates are concerned, I'd keep tracking and wait. But if you need to arrive/depart on specific dates, I'd probably just buy. Expand your search to other sites - www.farecompare.com, www.priceline.com, www.kayak.com, www.orbitz.com are just a few.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Why did you highlight the WPA murals in New Jersey? There are WPA murals in the D.C. area (specifically, the Tobacco Cutters, done for the WPA Post Office in Upper Marlboro which is now the library). Some of us who grew up here know the scene is North Carolina Burley -- not Maryland Type 32 that's being harvested (different harvesting methods).

Nancy McKeon: We know there are New Deal murals (the Post Office paintings are, technically, NOT part of the Works Progress Administration commissions) all over the place. We just selected a group that might interest people looking at a Travel section looking for some cool places to stop by when they're traveling. There are also major murals right downtown. The Web site we pointed you to gives a pretty complete list around the whole country.

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Silver Spring: On this chat I've seen positive marks for Hotwire regarding renting cars. What is your opinion in general about getting hotel rooms through Hotwire and Priceline? I've used Priceline just once, for a flight (not bidding), and have never used Hotwire. How does one ensure that the service has actually lined up the hotel room as promised, so there are no surprises? Thanks!

Scott Vogel: If Hotwire promises you a room at a particular hotel, I think you can be very certain that the designated hotel will have a room for you. On the other hand, if you have special requests (which in this case includes such things as 2 double beds versus a king), there is a chance you will not get what you want. The biggest wild card, of course, is that you won't know what hotel you're getting until you actually contract for it, which is why I always tell people to do some prior research at sites like Better Bidding (www.betterbidding.com).

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Fairfax, Va.: I honestly do not understand the fee for checked bags! Just flew on US Airways and paid $17 for the privilege of checking a bag curbside. Then waited in the long security line while people with pull aboards had their bags/baggies screened. Then waited on the plane while people and flight attendants tried to find overhead space for all the bags carried on. Sigh! I think those of us who check our bags deserve a DISCOUNT for speeding the boarding/deplaning process along.

Scott Vogel: I hear you. The whole process is in desperate need of rethinking.

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Flights to Italy in August: Posting early. Any suggestions for getting a good airfare from Boston to Italy in October? Hoping to arrive in Florence and depart from Rome. What is a good price to expect? How to anticipate potential sales? And what are the best websites to check? Thank you!

Carol Sottili: I'd expect a fare of between $700 and $800, including all taxes. Keep checking on different Web sites - airline sites, third-party booking sites (www.expedia.com, www.travelocity.com, etc.) and metasearch sites (www.farecast.com, www.farecompare.com). Some well-known Web sites have also recently launched airfare search sites - try www.tripadvisor.com/flights and www.fly.com.

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Arlingtonian: That was an interesting piece on the Post Office murals of northern New Jersey. But in case a reader wants to see closer examples to decide if they want to make the drive to New Jersey, there are similar murals in far-away Arlington, Va. You can see pictures of the pictures here.

washingtonpost.com: Art Gallery or Post Office? You Can Have Both. (The Washington Post, April 12, 2009)

Scott Vogel: Great input, thanks.

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Pennsylvania: What, no request for travel stories this week?

Scott Vogel: Sorry, guys. Due to some scheduling conflicts, we're working with a bit of a skeleton staff today. But never fear -- we'll be back with another Travel chat contest next week.

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Rockville, Md.: Hi all! I have 9 days to spend in the Benelux countries in late June. My travel style could be described as meandering: like to wander around cities, go to museums or not as the mood strikes, and love Gothic architecture and water. Itinerary suggestions and recommendations are welcome. Thanks.

Nancy McKeon: I'm about to head that way myself and haven't been to some places in 30 years. Ghent is a good place to stop; apparently the whole inner area is pedestrian-only now. Jan van Eyck's "Mystical Lamb" polyptych is in St. Bavo's cathedral. Bruges, with its canals and atmospheric canal houses, is charming (maybe you could rent the comic-thriller In Bruges before going). Brussels has some great art nouveau buildings, in addition to the very impressive Grand' Place. In the Netherlands, in the middle of a huge national park near Otterlo, is the Kroller-Muller museum with the second-largest collection of Van Goghs (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) and a sculpture garden with a vivid and goofy Jean Dubuffet. In Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum is under renovation, but the essentials are still on view. Don't forget the Anne Frank house. And do walk along the Heerengracht, the one-time Park Avenue of Amsterdam with its canal houses. We're thinking about World War II battlefields (maybe going to Bastogne) and Flanders Field for WWI. There's some kind of neat castle driving itinerary that takes you into Luxembourg, but I'm still a bit fuzzy on that.

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Maryland: I'm interested in traveling to Chile in November. I've been keeping tabs on airfare for a few months, but the cheapest I can find is around $900 round trip. Out of curiosity, tickets to Peru (both out of IAD) can be found for $400 round trip. Why is there such a large price difference? Am I better off waiting or going to Chile another time?

Carol Sottili: No rationale behind airfares. Competition plays a part. My guess is that there are more flights from here to Lima than from here to Santiago. May have something to do with seasons -- June, July & August are low season in Santiago.

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Exception to non-refundable airfare?: I was a scheduled speaker at a series of conferences in California next week. I was told it was so definite that I went ahead and booked the cheapest available non-refundable, non-transferable airfares I could find well in advance. Then, just last week, the meetings were canceled, and now I'm stuck with e-ticketing for flights I won't be taking. Fortunately for me, the organization running the conferences will reimburse me for my airfare -- but I'm wondering, under such extreme circumstances, whether US Airways would be willing to give me a refund, which I could then remit to the conference organizers. (I only paid ca. $90 each way, so fear that with a punitive refund charge, it would work out about the same as just "eating" the tickets).

Nancy McKeon: I suspect US Airways would not consider a canceled conference "extreme circumstances." Be glad the tix were so cheap and that the organizer will reimburse you. (Gee, at that price, I'd be tempted to go anyway!)

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New York: Just paid taxes and am feeling poor. But am excited about an upcoming wedding in New York. It will be over Memorial Day and husband and I get to go sans kid. First vacation in awhile. So I know you have a listing of affordable NY hotels, can you post the link to that article? Do you have any recommendations for shows to see? The Tony noms don't come out till May 13th and by then those tickets will be snatched up. Is Billy Elliot a good bet? Thanks so much.

washingtonpost.com: Learning How to Share, One Manhattan Bathroom at a Time (The Washington Post, November 18, 2007)

Scott Vogel: Here's a link to that story. "Billy Elliot" is a great bet, at least if the reviews are to be believed. "Hair" got surprisingly good notices lately too. And then there's Angela Lansbury in "Blithe Spirit"...

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re: Southwest: If the rest of the airlines go to the Southwest business model, I may never fly again. I know they say their seating model saves time, but I have never been on a SW flight were people didn't have to give up good seats to let a family that didn't plan ahead sit together. And their planes are downright uncomfortable!

Nancy McKeon: Well, another view of Southwest. Thanks.

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Hotwire: I've vowed to stop using Hotwire for hotels. The hotels themselves have always been fine, but I swear, regardless of how busy the hotel is, I've been put in the worst possible room in the hotel every time I book through Hotwire.

For example, I used it for a stay in Austin, Texas about a year ago. They were in the process of putting in new mattresses in all of the rooms (which we didn't know when we arrived). When the guy came to replace ours as we were leaving, he made a comment that we were about the last room to be replaced and they'd started well before our arrival. The tiny room also had a single double bed, a view of the third floor roof and was smaller than most European hotel rooms I've stayed in, although it was an Intercontinental.

Scott Vogel: re: Hotwire hotels question earlier. Good to know. Thanks for your input.

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Owasso, Okla.: Would love to have advice on teenager-friendly sightseeing in St. Petersburg during a two-day cruise stop. We're using one of the local companies who offer a typical schedule of Hermitage, the Peterhof, metro, hydrofoil ride, etc. but would love to hear from someone whose done it. As a family of six, we've learned that less is more, especially when it comes to being herded through hot, crowded places in July. Thanks.

Scott Vogel: Can anyone help a fellow chatter with this one?

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Arlington, Va.: My family would like to travel to Germany in August to visit relatives. Are there any online services that offer flexible searches, like Orbitz does for domestic tickets? We are very flexible about when we travel -- and would prefer to adjust our travel dates to the cheapest times to travel (within the August window, of course.)

By the way, we love "What's the Deal" on Sunday. Thanks!

Carol Sottili: I believe Orbitz also does flexible searches for international travel. I tried it for Munich, and it worked. Kayak shows a calendar of fares. Also, try www.farecast.com.

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$3,000 to Buenos Aires: Unless the poster is looking to travel within the next few days, or is flying Business Class, or flying from some small airport on the far West Coast, or maybe Alaska or Hawaii, this is an unbelievable fare. Even over Christmas holidays, one should be able to get a fare of less than $1,500. You could fly via Europe for that cost. There are many carriers flying this route, so one can get quite a choice, especially if willing to fly with a change of planes. One could even fly with a stop in Brazil, though that could up the cost.

Carol Sottili: That's what I said.

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Glover Park, D.C.: My husband and I just returned from a wonderful two week honeymoon in Hawaii. While there, we stayed at three different 5-star resorts. Despite the economy, these resorts haven't reduced their room rates (which I think is typical of the top resorts, although I think there may have been a resort credit at one, and a "stay four nights, get the fifth free" at another). To book, we used a travel agent recommended in a travel magazine as a "Hawaii expert."

At each place, we were upgraded to a much nicer room (we tend to book the next-to-last cheapest; the upgrades weren't to the Presidential suites on anything, but the price difference was quite large). I'm wondering if you have a hunch as to what caused the upgrade? The TA who does a lot of high-end Hawaii business, the fact that it was our honeymoon, or the fact that Hawaii tourism is low? I ask because if it was the TA, I'd probably use one again, but if not, I'll likely just stick to DIY. Thanks!

Nancy McKeon: I would say it was a combination of all those factors (low occupancy, using a specialist travel agent and being on your honeymoon) that added up to those upgrades. (Plus the credits you cited and the "fifth free" do allow the resorts to effectively cut prices without losing face.) Travel agents who specialize know all sorts of things that we dabblers can only stumble across; they're usually worth it.

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Washington, D.C.: As a big fan of Southwest Airlines, for the folks looking to go to Vancouver why don't they fly to Seattle and drive from there to Vancouver? It is not that long of a drive and it is beautiful!

Carol Sottili: That's a thought, but most people just want to fly to where they're going. A three-hour drive at the end of a long flight doesn't appeal to everyone.

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Fortaleza, Brazil: Someone is worried about reimbursement of a $99 fare across the country? I agree with you -- go anyway! We are 1500 miles north of Rio, but would be hard pressed to find a roundtrip fare for under $400-600. Air fares in the U.S. are a bargain!

Nancy McKeon: Air fares in the U.S. are what we traveling Americans have made them into. They're bargains on routes where airlines compete and not so cheap where passengers are at one airline's mercy, which I guess is your situation. On the other hand, I'm also guessing that "1500 miles north of Rio" is pretty special, and it would probably take ME about $1500 to get there!

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Arlington, Va.: Only 9 days for the Benelux is barely time to scratch the surface. It is three countries, after all. All three will have plenty to keep you occupied. Amsterdam is great for wandering around. And it is easy to take quick day trips by train to the little cities in the Netherlands. I enjoyed spending time in Haarlem but there are many, many more. Luxembourg city is very interesting. I spent a few days there several years ago. There is plenty of wandering to be done and some interesting sites including a very cool city museum with a room-sized elevator. And they have the Casemates where the people holed up to hide from invaders and bombings. I would probably just pick one country and focus on it. I have not been to Belgium but I assume there is plenty to keep you busy for 9 days.

Nancy McKeon: You make me glad I'll be wandering around for three weeks! The chatter who's spending 9 days seems flexible enough that he/she can decide to stick to one country if that seems the thing to do. And I certainly agree with you that there's plenty to do. (And, yes, Belgium has plenty of stuff too.)

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Old Town Alexandria: I echo the earlier poster re: Southwest. I flew SW once many years ago. That whole cattle call seating arrangement was a once in a lifetime experience that I vowed never to repeat and haven't. I do not fly SW under any circumstances.

Nancy McKeon: Okay, more on Southwest.

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Wedding in New York: If the travelers have time to stand in line, the Tickets Booth in Times Square may offer them lots of Broadway show opportunities at half price. They can check on line and see what tickets were available at the booth the week before just to see what's not selling out.

Scott Vogel: Absolutely -- you can get some great deals that way.

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Needing to cancel non-everything tickets: I've had great luck with getting an airline credit. Most airlines will credit the money for another trip with them.

Nancy McKeon: A vote for trying to get a flight credit.

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NYC: To the Hawaii honeymoon -- what hotels were your favorites? I'm planning my October honeymoon for Hawaii! Thanks!

Nancy McKeon: Maybe our Hawaiian honeymooners will check back in?

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Cap Hill: Happy Monday! I am going to Europe for a cruise in early October (leaves from Rome, ends in Malaga, Spain). Thus far, airfares for the trip haven't really gone down and are still about $700.00. Do you recommend waiting much longer to buy my ticket? Any suggestions for airline or departure airport that goes direct?

Carol Sottili: $700 round trip to Europe in early October, including taxes, is a good fare. You're not going to find a nonstop flight from Malaga, so I'd go for decent connections and best fares.

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Arlington, Va.: I am submitting my question because I have a doctor's appointment at 1 p.m. Please help!

I am planning my honeymoon in the first week of this coming September. I want to go to Rome and Florence/Venice. Could you please suggest a hotel in Rome that is convenient (close to cafes and good pizzerias) and also central to the tourist attractions? I am willing to pay about $150/night. Thank you so much for taking my question.

Carol Sottili: Try www.enjoyrome.com. They represent decent properties that aren't super expensive.

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For Benelux traveler: Go to Leuven in Belgium -- a great university town. Be sure to visit the Grand Beguinage there. Beautiful buildings and easy walking.

Nancy McKeon: A big yes to Leuven (also known as Louvain, but Flemish-speaking now). University dates to 1425, was a bastion of culture and learning in the Middle Ages.

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MD or NJ Beaches: Hello. Instead of a week-long vacation to the beach this summer, we are looking into doing a couple long weekends at either Ocean City, Maryland or New Jersey. The rates for hotels seem really, really expensive (I was expecting much less considering the economy) and some of the cheaper condo rentals have a week long requirement. Any ideas on finding cheap digs near these beaches for a long weekend? Thanks!

Carol Sottili: Is you're willing to wait until the last minute, you might luck out at one of the rent-from-owner sites, such as www.rentalo.com, www.zonder.com, www.vrbo.com, www.cyberrentals.com. Or try calling the hotels directly for deals.

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Philadelphia, Pa. (again): I had considered booking our flights from PHL-SEA and then driving the 3 hours, but because it will be during the Olympics, I thought logistically, it would be easier to fly right into Vancouver.

Do you (or others) think it would worth the possible hassle of renting a car and probably waiting in long lines of traffic at the border for a cheaper flight into Seattle? I'm imagining a zoo at the border, as well at car rental place since that's what everyone else is thinking.

Carol Sottili: I'm lazy -- I'd pay the extra money to fly to Vancouver. Others would feel quite differently. Your call.

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Pre-Summer Nearby Escape Help!: Thanks so much for taking my question. We are expecting our first child in early July, and are quickly running out of time to take a weekend away by ourselves somewhere. Here's the rub: we need to stay close by (less than an hour drive) and not be too rural just in case the baby decides in favor of an early arrival. Also, we need to have easy walking access to everything once we're there (we can get a ride somewhere but will be without a car). We're active and healthy and would love some time outdoors. We were thinking of Annapolis, but it didn't really seem so exciting. Any recommendations?

Nancy McKeon: Everything that comes to mind that has stuff you can walk around to and is interesting (St. Michaels, Philadelphia, Charlottesville, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg) is more than an hour away. Heck, it can take an hour to get to Fairfax on a bad commuting day! Anybody have any fresh ideas?

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affordable NY accommodation: You can check out airbedandbreakfast.com. I host in D.C. and it's a blast. NYC has tons of options -- if you like that kind of thing, it's a great way to go.

Scott Vogel: btw: That's a site that connects travelers with homeowners who rent out beds or private rooms in their homes or apartments. Thanks for the tip!

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D.C.: I would like to take my parents to Ireland, preferably on some type of packaged deal. They have never left the U.S. Do you think it would be easier to find a reasonably priced pre-packaged deal or try to plan this on my own? Having them leave the U.S. is a BIG deal! Thanks so much!

Carol Sottili: There are many companies that offer good, cheap escorted tours or independent tours to Ireland. Try www.cietours.com, www.sceptretours.com, www.dooleyvacations.com or www.isleinntours.com.

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for cruiser: Hey, I'm on that same October cruise! I'm seeing around $700 on British Airways as well, which is about $200 cheaper than it was a few weeks ago.

Carol Sottili: Fair fare.

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Bethesda, MD: I'm hoping to spend a couple of nights at a bed and breakfast in Northern Michigan in the week before Memorial Day weekend. Given the state of the economy, would it be worth it for me to try to haggle over the price of a room? Or given the fact that B&B owners are small business owners who may be hurting more than others, should I not bother?

Nancy McKeon: You're talking about an ethical dilemma. The fact that you see it in those terms suggests to me that you understand that this particular transaction would wind up with a winner and a loser. Of course, it's possible that getting a reduced rate for a room would results in two winners. It may well be, though, that small B&Bs in that area are being booked up by people shunning trips farther a field. So competition may take the opportunity for a bargain away from you. Why not simply ask (pretend you haven't read all the information on the Web site!) if there are discounts for "preseason" weekends? Open the door and see what comes through. Neither one of you has to lose face.

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Washington, D.C.: So the big news today is Obama easing the Cuba travel restrictions. But no story I have read provides details on what "easing" will mean. Does this mean me, regular old-Joe Schmoe, will be able to buy a ticket to Cuba for a wedding anniversary this October? (How cool would that be?) Or will the new travel rule apply only to Cuban Americans? Or does nobody really have any idea yet?

Scott Vogel: It does appear, at least for the time being, that the "easing" you're referring to will only apply to Cuban-Americans, but for the definite word, watch for a White House announcement later this afternoon.

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Glover Park Honeymooner: We stayed at Four Seasons Wailea -- great rooms, excellent beach, great frozen drinks, resort food was expensive and mediocre, grounds weren't very large; Fairmont Orchid (Big Island) -- beautiful grounds, very good resort food, beach area good for kids (and fine for adults), rooms were nice, but not as nice as Four Seasons properties; and Four Seasons Lodge at Koehle -- beautiful, very peaceful, full access to Four Seasons Manele which was more typical Hawaii, and much more crowded. We visited Fairmont Wailea and were unimpressed, and Four Seasons Big Island (Kohala) and were VERY impressed (will probably stay there next time).

Enjoy!

Nancy McKeon: Thanks, to the honeymooners!

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For the couple looking for a close escape: Baltimore is perfect -- lots of nice hotels, plenty to do, very walkable -- and you can get there from D.C. by train in 1/2 hour.

Less accessible, but still close, is Leesburg, Va.

Nancy McKeon: Now why didn't I think of Balto!? Tons to do. (Leesburg, lovely but less to do.)

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Phila., Pa.: I'm trying to price out airline fares for a trip sometime next year and I keep getting different prices depending on the number of tickets being bought. Why would the price per ticket vary based on the number of tickets I want?

Carol Sottili: I blogged about this a while back. Each flight has a certain number of seats at a set price. So, let's say there are only two seats left at the cheapest price. If you need four seats, search software automatically bumps all four seats up to the higher price. I get around it by buying one ticket at a time, but it's a pain to get everyone seated together.

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NW DC: Headed to Brussels and Amsterdam in late July for the big 3-0. Flights are still around $900. Do you think that will drop at all?

Any recco's for breweries to tour in Belgium?

Thanks so much!

Carol Sottili: I'd wait a couple of weeks -- fare may come down. Have you tried Continental? It's the only airline that has been offering summer sale fares. Sorry, can't help with breweries, although www.visitbelgium.com may have a list.

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re: Annapolis for a pre-baby getaway: Two friends of mine recently spent a few days of their Spring Break in Annapolis. (Seems weird to say Spring Break as they're in their late 20's/early 30's, but are in grad school/academia.)

Anyway, they loved it. Stayed in one of the historic B&Bs downtown, went to multiple pubs (which can be fun even if you're not drinking). There are lots of cute little stores and great people-watching if you're just sitting by the docks.

I don't know how boats and pregnancy mix, but if it's not a bad combination and it's a nice day, there are some nice tours and the pace is very gentle.

Scott Vogel: Thanks for your input re earlier question.

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Rome honeymooners: For the Rome honeymooners, try looking at Venere.com -- they have a pretty comprehensive list of hotels (at least the ones that have instant booking availability), plus they are mapped into groups by neighborhood location, so you can at least compare apples to apples, geographically speaking. You can't go wrong with the area between the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona, but try to stay away from the area around the main train station -- yes, that is where the cheaper hotels are but that is also an area that I wouldn't feel comfortable wandering around at night.

Scott Vogel: More input, thanks!

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Italy - Amalfi coast: Would love to go next May with hubby and 9-year old daughter.

Lived in Italy in college, but never made it to Amalfi. Is it doable, say, for two weeks to do Amalfi and Pompeii? Where else (other than Rome) can/should we go? Can we day-trip from Amalfi?

Nancy McKeon: Amalfi and Pompeii are eminently doable in less than 2 weeks. For that you can throw in Herculaneum and Stabiae as well!. Then there's an incredible monastery on the side of a mountain on the drive back up to Rome (wish I could think of the name). I'd like to get down a little farther south, to the land of real honest-to-goodness fresh mozzarella (made with buffalo's milk, not cow's milk, which the Italians call fior di latte) -- whole other experience. And goodness, don't overlook Naples!!!! It has incredible museums, shopping galleries, collections of 18th-century creche figures (terracotta and textile) that a 9-year-old would love, churches with little-seen treasures, and long walks along the bay. Sigh.

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Native New Jerseyan: For the impending parents, I'd suggest the Hyatt resort in Cambridge, Md. -- take a look at their website -- WOW!

For the person looking for beaches at a bargain, try www.capemay.com; the Camelot has a decent 2 room with kitchenette for less than $300 most nights in July/Aug. The Victorian Motel is a favorite, and although not a beach view, nice room and a decent price, if you look on TripAdvisor.

Scott Vogel: Thanks!

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Scott Vogel: That's it for today, everybody. Sorry we couldn't get to more of your questions, but we'll be back next week with a full slate of Flight Crew members. Look forward to seeing you then!

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