Talk About Travel: Travel Staffers Help You Plan Great Escapes

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, May 18, 2009; 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. They were online Monday, May 18 at 2 p.m.

Browse an archive of previous live travel Q&As.

____________________

Andrea Sachs: Welcome Travelers. We have summer on the brain (despite the fall-like weather), so we would love to hear about your childhood summer destinations, the place that sends you back to a time of catching fireflies, sipping lemonade on the cabin porch and swimming in lakes with mucky bottoms. We are running a Summer Memories article in a few weekends and would love your contributions (check next Sunday's section for more information on where/how to send in your submissions).

In addition, if you have any Shanghai (last Sunday's main story) questions, I am happy to talk shopping, dumplings and tall buildings, and Scott is on hand to talk about his upcoming piece on Slovenia.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Any tips on how to get a good deal on airfare for a multi-destination trip? Most of the ads I've seen are for roundtrips. I'd like to fly to Paris/Rome and then fly back from the Rome/Paris and take a train to make stops in between Paris in Rome (like in Venice, Florence, Pisa, etc...).

Andrea Sachs: One way is to book the international flight round trip (assuming you are your first arrival and final departure are the same place), then use low-fare airlines like Ryanair for the European legs. When I flew a crazy route involving Washington to China to Hawaii, back to D.C., I found a good fare using the Multiple Destination key on Kayak, which tracked down a great fare on Northwest. You could also try a travel agent, who are wizards with complicated flight routes.

_______________________

Photo competition: Is there a photo competition -- am I just not seeing the information in front of me?

Andrea Sachs: Yep, we are doing it again, for our 100th year (sorry, I have anniversary fever). It will run mid-August, so start looking for information on submissions a few weeks prior.

_______________________

Bowie, Md.: On the last chat, Scott mentioned taking EasyJet to Ljubljana, Slovenia. I'm planning a trip to Slovenia, and was wondering whether it's better to take a multistop flight from the U.S. to Slovenia (Air France, Lufthansa, etc.), or take a direct flight to a European hub and fly a budget airline from there?

Does Scott have an article on Slovenia coming out soon?

Scott Vogel: Hi there -- Yes, watch for our story on Ljubljana -- a really great place for a trip -- this Sunday. The most cost-saving way to do it, it seems to me, is to fly to London first, and then take Easyjet. Flights in June are running about $650 roundtrip to London, and flights from London's Stansted airport on Easyjet are around $150. The grand total is still a few hundred dollars cheaper than any other multi-stop itinerary I've found.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: It's been my experience that "open jaw" tickets like the one the first questioner is looking for are basically no less reasonably priced than round trips in and out of the same place. All of the big search engines allow you to look for fares into one city and out from another. I don't think there are any special tricks to it.

Andrea Sachs: Great point. Thanks, Arlington.

_______________________

Rental cars: Hi Flight Crew! First wanted to say thanks for your recommendation a month or so ago to check out rental cars on Hotwire; we got an amazing deal and a great car from Avis using Hotwire.

A question -- too late for this trip, but for future reference -- on rental cars in general. Are we (the customers) expected to wash the car before returning it if the car is particularly dirty? We drove a few dirt roads and a lot of freeways out west, and as such we returned the car pasted with bugs on the front and crusted with dust on the back. Avis didn't say anything at return about it, but we felt a little guilty leaving the car in that condition. My husband posited that they probably wash every car before re-renting it, regardless of how it was returned, so we shouldn't have to. But I'm curious ... can any of you speak to this?

Scott Vogel: Glad we were able to help. I've wondered about your question too, although I've never taken a rental to the car wash, though I've seriously considered it on a few occasions, and have never been punished for it. That said, I was in Kansas City recently, and there was a sign clearly posted at the Avis counter stating that renters would be charged a $25 cleaning fee if they returned an "excessively dirty" vehicle so it might be worth asking at the counter before you rent.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Is 55 minutes enough to change planes in Amsterdam? Arrive from Dublin, going to U.S.

Andrea Sachs: Seventy-five to 90 minutes would definitely take the pressure off, but you should have enough time, as long as your plane is not delayed. As you near the airport, ask the flight attendant if he/she knows the gate number of your connection, so you don't lose any time and can race right over.

_______________________

Penn Quarter: I'm traveling to London next month, for the first time. Our hotel (Base2Stay in Kensington) seems to be right on the Tube line from Heathrow. It is so tempting to save money and just take the Tube, but I know from going past National Airport every morning that getting on a subway with a big suitcase can be difficult or impossible during morning rush.

What do you think?

Scott Vogel: I would do it. You certainly won't be the only one on the train in the same predicament at that hour. But if you don't want to, maybe consider taking the Heathrow Express train to Paddington station, and then a taxi from there to your hotel.

_______________________

20002: I have 3 weeks to honeymoon in either South Africa or Argentina. Which would you choose?

Andrea Sachs: Scott says: Argentina.

Andrea says: Neither, I would go to India.

_______________________

Tenleytown, D.C.: What would be a good price for nonstop Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas air fare for late September? Thanks.

Andrea Sachs: Low $200s.

_______________________

Reston, Va.: Summer destination: Maine. My family would rent a house for a few weeks every summer, a different house each year. My favorite was the summer I was thirteen -- a big old farmhouse. My room had a window seat looking out over the water and a bookshelf full of Agatha Christie novels. I still get the urge to reread the "Tommy and Tuppence" books around August 1.

We had sun-warm raspberries on our cereal every morning from the huge bushes out back, and I was old enough to be allowed to ride my bike to the ice cream stand, the drugstore, and the beach. The trips always culminated with a stop for a cheeseburger near UConn on the way home to counteract a few weeks of nonstop lobster.

Andrea Sachs: I want your childhood, Reston. Be sure to submit this memory to our Summer Vacation call out (I will also give my email address before the end of the chat so you can send me your name and contact info, including the town in Maine).

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: How big was the hassle and expense of going from Heathrow (I assume) and Stansted though for the trip to Slovenia? How long did you leave between flights? I guess sometimes it is worth saving a little money but there are definitely times when the hassle and time spent makes it much less worthwhile.

Scott Vogel: I stopped off in London and stayed a few days there, so I can't really answer you on transferring airports. I do know that it took a good hour to get to Stansted from the central city, so no close connections are advisable.

_______________________

Rosslyn, Va.: One of many Memorial Day travel questions I'm sure you'll be getting: I am headed to the Eastern Shore of Virginia this Friday afternoon. I know that traffic will probably be terrible no matter which way I go. Am I better off going 50 East and taking the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and then going south down the Eastern Shore, or heading down 95 to Norfolk and taking the tunnel and then going north? Thank you!

Nancy McKeon: You're right: Traffic will be terrible either way. But I'd rather fight the Bay Bridge traffic than 95. Can you wait and head out late at night?

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: Hubby and I are looking to take a long weekend -- 3-4 days max trip somewhere. We're thinking about Seattle, San Antonio or maybe Portland. Farecast seems to show cheaper flights to Seattle, so we're thinking there. Is one place more doable in a short time span? I was told a few days in San Antonio is all you really need. And does travel over July 4 weekend go up as it does for other holidays? I think going some place else for July 4 might be neat, but we're somewhat flexible with weekends.

Scott Vogel: I think you can do any of those places in the time allotted, although each would repay a longer visit. The bigger consideration, it seems to me, is the length of the flight. A trip all the way across the country might be a bit of haul for a stay of that length. With that in mind, I'd say San Antonio. Just don't want you to meet yourself coming and going.

But then you have to deal with Texas in July, which could be broiling. The weather on the West Coast, on the other hand, will likely be stellar.

_______________________

Tube from Heathrow: Big suitcases and no sleep from an overnight flight plus stairs (the Picadilly Line is one of the oldest and has lots of stairs with no alternative lifts in some stations). This can color anyone's idea of London. Even Green Park and Kings Cross are full of stairs and people. Big suitcases will weigh a ton.

It's also a long walk from any terminal to the Tube station. Take a cab, especially if there 2 or more in your party.

Scott Vogel: Here's a vote for taking a cab from Heathrow. Thanks!

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: For the London traveler -- I've done the Tube with a large suitcase, and it wasn't fun. Take the Heathrow Express and then cab it. Well worth it, especially because you'll have to change Tube lines to get to Kensington.

(Incidentally, there's a great little tea shop called the Muffin Man just off the high street -- take a left out of the tube station, then another left onto Wrights Lane. It'll be about two short blocks down on the right. Have the Devon Cream Tea.)

Scott Vogel: And one for the Heathrow Express. Thanks too.

_______________________

Please Help, ME: This is my last chance! I'm going to Paris on Sunday, and I've never been. BUT: I only have 48 hours there, so I don't want to waste time standing in line to see the Mona Lisa, etc. What would you put on your to-do list if you only had 2 days/2 evenings? Any sample itinerary?! (I'm staying in Versailles.)

Thanks!!

Andrea Sachs: I would just roam mindlessly in some of my favorite neighborhoods and areas: Marais (great Picasso museum and Middle Eastern restaurants), along the Seine, Latin Quarter, Jardin du Luxembourg, Boulevard Haussman and Montemarte. I would not plan any activities, but just let serendipity take over.

_______________________

Amsterdam: 55 minutes for an international connection? I don't know. That airport is HUGE.

Nancy McKeon: A caution for you about Schiphol Airport.

_______________________

Heathrow to Stansted: National Express runs a coach service between Heathrow and Stansted.

Scott Vogel: And for our Slovenian travelers, here's another idea. See www.nationalexpress.com.

_______________________

Christmas in Paris: I've decided to spend Christmas-New Year's in France this year. So far the best fares I've found -- leaving Dec. 22, returning Jan. 2 -- are a little over $900 (I live in Sarasota, Fla., so have to fly via Atlanta).

Should I buy now? Or, are trans-Atlantic fares likely to go down over the next couple of months? I know the holiday season is usually top price, but I'd love to save another couple hundred bucks if at all possible...

Nancy McKeon: Forecasting is a fool's pastime, but I think you'll be able to do better than $900. That said, the dates you outline may fall within an airline's blackout dates for cheaper winter fares. But at any rate, I don't think you have to buy now.

_______________________

Native San Francisco Bay Arean in the Diaspora: Each summer when I was a child in the 1950s-60s my family drove up to my grandparents' remote ranch in the Coast Redwoods region of Northern California for a few weeks' stay (and, for me, some grandparental spoiling). After eating lunch outdoors, we'd all go take naps during the heat of the afternoon, and I'd often get the hammock on the back porch. My grandparents would stockpile their year's supply of Saturday Evening Posts (since our last visit) for us to read. There would always be a few with Norman Rockwell covers (how I wish we'd save those!), and the latest Perry Mason mystery serialized over several issues.

The location was so remote that normally the only sounds we could hear were of nature (mostly birds and, if breezy, the wind rustling through the redwoods and Douglas firs) -- and the aroma, so fresh! By late afternoon we'd get started on a few chores, then dinner preparation (also cooked outdoors), then sit around the fire afterwards talking and playing cribbage till maybe 9 or 10 p.m. by kerosene lantern light, when we'd head indoors. My father would bring along a huge battery-powered radio on our trips, on which at night we could pick up radio stations from as far away as Oregon, Idaho and the Bay Area, in order to catch some music and the day's news. My grandparents didn't have electricity yet, and never were able to have a phone. I don't suppose it's possible to be so detached from life's stresses and deadlines any more, but I sure wish I could recapture that sense of serenity once in a while still!

Andrea Sachs: The Timeless Summer. How lovely.

_______________________

Pet-sitters while you travel...: One more suggestion for a chatter from last week, who was new to the area and seeking a pet-sitter...

I found a great pet sitter by asking at my vet's office. They did not recommend, but had a listing of pet-related businesses on their bulletin board. I called and interviewed until I found one I and my pets were really comfortable with.

Also, ask the technicians and receptionists at your veterinary office. These people are animal lovers and often have little side businesses for pet sitting.

Good luck!

Scott Vogel: Better late than never -- thanks so much.

_______________________

Annandale, Va.: What's considered off peak for the UK? I was looking at September/October fares to London and they are running around $700. Do you think it will get much cheaper than that for those months or should I try something later (and colder)?

Nancy McKeon: Fares may come down a bit, but aiming at November would put you on the far side of shoulder season and make a lower fare more likely (and it isn't THAT cold).

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: My favorite summer getaway was overnight camp in the Poconos. It's the place I learned to boat, fish, shoot a bow and arrow (not successfully though), among a million other things. It made me realize I'd much prefer a cabin on a lake versus a beach house (wouldn't turn it down though!). Growing up, it became a safe haven from any family stresses and to this day, my favorite memory was sitting on a kayak, facing the trees at the far end of the lake and just zoning out. Some people picture an island when they need to escape, I picture that moment. The stillness of the water, being far enough out and away from everyone that I could be at peace with myself.

Andrea Sachs: Sounds like you learned a lesson more useful than how to shoot a bow and arrow, how to appreciate a beautiful, tranquil place.

_______________________

Quick Change in Amsterdam: When I fly through Canada to London even if I'm just transiting I still have to immigrate. I don't think this'll be the case for you in Amsterdam, but worth checking.

Andrea Sachs: So true. Best to check with your airline beforehand to see if you can just race to the gate or must go through immigration.

_______________________

Germany!: I'm planning a trip to Germany for a long weekend... I'm leaving Thursday (yea cheap fares!). Plan is to hit up Frankfurt and then Berlin. I haven't seen too much by the way of sites/cool things to do in Frankfurt. Any suggestions?

Andrea Sachs: We have not been to Frankfurt in ages, so if any chatsters can help out Germany! with suggestions. Please!

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: A good option for travel from Heathrow into London is the Dot 2 Dot shuttle service run by National Coach. I took it last year. They use nice spacious vans that hold 7-10 passengers maximum. I paid in advance on their website and I think it cost something like $40 round trip. I was traveling on my own though so it may not be as cost effective with more people.

Scott Vogel: Thanks.

_______________________

Sarasota, Fla.: Summer memory: When I was a kid in New Jersey, we spent two weeks every summer renting a beach-front house in Barnegat Light on Long Beach Island at the Jersey shore. (Want to know if someone grew up in N.J.? We always say we're going 'down the shore', even if we're headed north -- instead of 'to the shore' or 'to the beach'.)

Anyway, a highlight several times each visit was a trip to the small harbor at 4 p.m. as the charter fishing boats came in. You could buy beautiful, just-caught bluefish, a foot long or more, for $1 each right off the boats...and check out the other catch. To this day I'm the only person I know who actually loves bluefish, because it tastes like my childhood...

Andrea Sachs: I think my childhood tastes like tuna casserole. Much prefer yours.

_______________________

Paris: Rodin Museum -- the garden is filled with his sculptures.

If you like seeing a period home -- Musee Nissim du Camondo.

Nancy McKeon: Ideas for the Paris-bound. Also, be sure to check out advertisements/posters for the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais to see if there are any special exhibits on that interest you -- it's nice when the poster you tote home has dates on it so you can mark your trip with something that disappeared shortly afterward. I can understand wanting to avoid the Louvre, which could take days to see, but it's such a shame. At least get a hit of culture -- try the much quieter Musee Cluny, a mediaeval museum. And get up to the roof of Notre Dame -- it's amazing to be up there with the gargoyles. If the lines are too daunting, try the Sainte-Chapelle a short ways away, possibly less visited, and the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette waited out her last days.

_______________________

Slovenia: I would suggest Czech Airlines and their vacation packages to many cities in Eastern Europe. However, you have to get to NYC to leave, but the nice thing is that you connect via Prague, which is not a huge airport. You could also disembark at Prague and take a train to Ljubljana. Tatra Travel based in NYC is their vacation package arm, and they are most helpful (can do hotels, transfers, etc.).

Scott Vogel: This is another good idea -- front-loading the complexity of your trip -- and one that could produce savings.

_______________________

childhood: I have some relatively fresh memories with my mother passing away two weeks ago. We really didn't do much in terms of vacations. It was more of day trips.

Some of the vacations we had in the summer involved using the camper. One trip we went up to the Adirondacks and Lake Placid. I still have the image of whiteface mountain and going to the top.

I also recall one time driving up there where my dad, with a trailer camper, crossed over to pass cars -- nearly killing us a few times.

Andrea Sachs: All of those little trips add up to one, big, unforgettable life journey. Thanks so much for sharing!

_______________________

No San Antonio in the summer!: I was there last May and it was almost unbearably hot. I can't image it in the summer!

Scott Vogel: A vote for the West Coast.

_______________________

favorite summer: My favorite summer getaway ... was home. Endless days to laze in a tree, a bike ride from the beach and the Jack Russell terrier for adventures.

Even at the time, at ten or so years old, I realized I was blessed.

Andrea Sachs: Where did you live? Some people are so lucky to live in summer vacation destinations.

_______________________

Gaithersburg, Md.: My husband works for Enterprise Rent A Car. Excessively dirty cars are usually cars that are dirty in the interior of the vehicle. People that leave food and trash, smoke excessively, stain the upholstery, and excessive odors. The charge is to offset the cost of getting the vehicle detailed. And yes they do wash and clean the cars between customers.

Scott Vogel: That was my guess too.

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: Hi. My husband and I have found a cruise to England in July that we would like to do. But, it specifically does not include a flight back. So the question is, how do we find cheap one-way flights back to D.C.? How much do you think is reasonable? on FareCompare.com I could only find flights that were over $700/person. Doesn't that seem awfully high? Thanks.

Nancy McKeon: Why not ask the cruise line what it suggests? (And the dodge people have been using for years regarding high one-way tickets is to book it round trip and then throw the other half away. But I never told you that! -- it's also a little tricky to use the second half of the ticket without being found out.)

_______________________

San Francisco, Calif.: For the first-timer in Paris, I would choose one thing you simply must do for each day. If you're not a museum person, maybe a particular neighborhood is on your bucket list, or a specific restaurant. Make sure you do that one thing, and leave the rest of the day free to embrace the spontaneity of Paris.

Why are you staying in Versailles? It'll take you an hour each way to get to the city.

Andrea Sachs: Great advice. (I was wondering the same thing, about Versailles, but just figured they were guests of the Sun King.)

_______________________

Weekend getaway out west of San Antonio: The bigger issue you really should look at with flights is how long it takes to get from one point to the other.

Direct to Portland or Seattle is the same amount of time as a plane change to San Antonio.

I have my bias because I live in the Seattle/Portland area.

When traveling out west, the way to maximize your time would be to take a red eye back home.

When returning from west to east, there are three windows: 6-8 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and the red eye flights of 10 p.m.-1 a.m.

Scott Vogel: Thanks for the info re summer travel west.

_______________________

Reston, Va.: For the Paris traveler -- skip the Louvre in favor of the Musee d'Orsay. Lovely, and much more manageable. And even though they're really touristy, the bateaux-mouches are fun. And don't bother going all the way over to the Eiffel Tower. You can see it from all over the city; no real need to go stand under it unless you really want to.

Nancy McKeon: Good point about the Eiffel Tower and the bateaux-mouches. Thanks.

_______________________

Dublin to Amsterdam: My friend in Dublin said he would drive me to the airport at 4 a.m. if I would buy him a coffee. I now will have a 4 hour layover at Amsterdam!

Nancy McKeon: Better that than a missed flight! Three cheers for friendship. (I gave myself a seven-hour layover in Memphis last month just to avoid a too-tight connection -- but I could console myself by going to Graceland while I was there!)

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Re: Childhood summer destinations. Let's see: a stay in an Airstream trailer at the Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., in early 60s; visit to Hershey Park in '66; visits to Poconos in '66 and '70; summers at Long Beach Island, N.J. beaches (one summer in Beach Haven and three summers in Harvey Cedars), 66-69; summer camp in Poconos, '70-'73; young adult travel to Europe, '74; and young adult travel to New England and Canada, '75.

Andrea Sachs: You certainly never had the summertime blues.

_______________________

Anonymous: A few years ago, I accompanied my husband to Shanghai. I had read that to save money just hop on a bus in a city and ride the whole circuit. Make mental notes of any places of interest so you can return later. I tried that in Shanghai. Unfortunately my bus passed the Bund, continued across the river, out of Shanghai and eventually pulled into a bus garage in the suburbs. Needless to say I was afraid, since the driver spoke no English. Eventually a mother came along with a young son who spoke a little English. They walked me to another bus stop and accompanied me back to Shanghai city center, much to my relief. However, it was a scary two hours or so....

Andrea Sachs: Yes, Shanghai can be very intimidating. I found myself on a "short" bus ride that lasted six hours. When I got there, I still was not sure I was in the right place. (Fortunately, I was.) But that's all part of the adventure!

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I'm looking at booking a trip to Las Vegas next week (Memorial Day through Friday). Is $650 for a flight from DCA and 4 nights at the Mirage a good deal?

Nancy McKeon: I don't know if it's the absolute best thing out there, but it has hotels and your airfare. Sounds good enough to me.

_______________________

Pittsburgh: Driving up to Toronto next month for a long weekend. Will be leaving home in mid-afternoon, but wonder if by the time we reach Buffalo it will be too late to feel like risking a long line at the border. Should we instead consider spending the night on the U.S. side (perhaps at Niagara Falls?), then wait till the next morning to cross into Canada? Is the someplace cheaper between Buffalo and the Falls (we'd just be wanting a clean, quiet, safe place to bathe and sleep)? Likewise for returning to the U.S. four days later. Can any chatters report on how slow the lines are these days, whether some places are faster than others? Also, are we required to show U.S. passports nowadays? Thanks.

Nancy McKeon: Our most recent Canada traveler is off reporting today. Anyone out there have any advice to offer?

_______________________

honeymooner again: Thanks! India is out for various reasons -- but maybe some day. So Scott, what are can't-miss places in Argentina? I'm dying to see Patagonia and then obviously BA but what else must we see? Any way to do it without taking a ton of internal flights?

Andrea Sachs: Sorry, Scott had to leave for his honeymoon (kidding), so I am taking over for him. I have been to Patagonia and had one of the greatest experiences ever. We took a weeklong educational cruise and hiked glaciers, visited with penguins, etc. If I had had more time, I would have paired it with a week in the Patagonia mountains, then headed to BA for some hot, saucy fun. Another idea is to stay on a ranch. See the story here.

_______________________

Blessed childhood - again: I grew up in Belle Terre Long Island. That's one of the arms making Port Jefferson Harbor. It's real F. Scott Fitzgerald-type country. They used to have a horse show every summer in Old Field -- you could see the beach. It was like another era from the 1970s I'm talking about!

Andrea Sachs: I didn't think you grew up in Longmeadow, Mass. Now I get it.

_______________________

Re: long weekend in Germany: If you're only in Germany for a long-weekend, I'd skip Frankfurt and devote all the time to Berlin. Assuming you're flying into FRA, just hop on the train and go straight up to Berlin. The train station is right at the airport so it's super easy. (Side note -- fares to Germany are great right now! I just scored a flight to FRA for $525 total for mid-August.)

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the very honest advice.

_______________________

Dayton, Ohio: Folks, my girlfriend and I are planning a trip to visit some of her relatives in South Africa in September. A travel agent she's working with (one who deals with SA-related travel) advertised a fare of $650 plus add-ons from Dulles to Cape Town. Seems like a fairly good fare to me. Thoughts?

Andrea Sachs: Very good.

_______________________

Bowie, Md.: Summer Memory -- Every summer, we'd drive up from Brooklyn and rent a cabin just north of Lake George, N.Y. -- Schroon Lake. The cabin had a fridge and table, but for some reason no oven/stove -- we'd just bring our little electric hotplate to cook on. So imagine breaking the lakefront peacefulness with a loud 8 year old yelling, "Hey Dad, bring in the stove!". Great little town, though -- a local "Bijou" movie theatre, greasy spoon with the best hamburgers and milkshakes. I'd want to go back there someday, but I always think that the reality of today would mar the memories of yesterday.

Andrea Sachs: Our memory banks need to be filled. You must go back!

_______________________

Paris Girl: Thanks, everyone, for the great suggestions.

Andrea Sachs: So glad we could help, PG.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: I may be traveling to Guam, connecting through Tokyo (from the U.S.). If I am not leaving the airport in Tokyo, do I still have to go through customs, or can I just connect to my Guam flight like I would to a domestic flight in the U.S.? (And then I would have to go through customs in Guam, right?) My flight options are either a 1-hour layover, in which case I wouldn't leave the airport, or a 7-hour layover, in which case I would. Any tips on stuff to do in Tokyo with just a few hours?

Andrea Sachs: Narita airport is a distance from Tokyo. I recently had a seven-hour layover there, flying from China and to Hawaii. I spent my seven hours shopping and eating. I actually filled up the time effortlessly.

_______________________

Kaneohe, Hawaii: My husband and I are planning a vacation to Israel in September. We're going to base out of Tel Aviv, because my brother-in-law lives there. Do you recommend doing day trips to other sites (Jerusalem, etc.) or planning overnight stays outside of Tel Aviv? Second question: my brother-in-law is a young enlisted guy in the Israeli army and doesn't have the time/money to get out to nice restaurants. Is there a can't-miss/splurge restaurant that we can take him to?

Nancy McKeon: I would think it worth staying for a day or two in Jerusalem -- just so much to see, and you want to walk around, soak up the ancient atmosphere. Also, going up to Galilee (Kinneret now) is a nice trip, with wineries on the way and the Roman ruins at Zippori nearby. I didn't do any fancy dining anywhere in Israel but I was floored by the freshness and taste of the salads. Nice bar/restos on the beach in Tel Aviv too.

_______________________

Crossing to Canada: This is late, but: there is more than one bridge you can take. It's been a few years, but a bit further, I want to say east (towards the huge whirlpool, don't know the name) there is another bridge and the summer I lived in Buffalo, never a line. Good Luck!

Nancy McKeon: Good info!

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: For the person asking about London and pushing the trip back to November. You're right, it's not going to be that cold at all, but remember that London is farther north than we are, meaning it gets dark early. November, especially late November, is when it starts to get dark by late afternoon. Just something to keep in mind! That said, November is way better than January...

Nancy McKeon: For the London traveler . . .

_______________________

November weather: Not that cold

but damp

very damp

Nancy McKeon: also for London . . .

_______________________

Dublin-bound: Hi! I'm off to Ireland next week and will be traveling around and am in need of some good recommendations for restaurants in Dublin and Galway. I think Cathal Armstrong once gave some tips in one of Tom Seitsema's chats, but I can't find it!

Andrea Sachs: Could not find that piece, but we did dig up another story about food in Ireland. Hope this satisfies. (Link coming . ..)

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: Irish Cooking: A Culinary Quest (The Washington Post, March 16, 2008)

Andrea Sachs: Here is the link to Irish eats.

_______________________

Ideas for July/Aug: I'll have a month or two off in July-August. Time isn't really a limitation here (it's just a question of how many nights I can afford the hotels), so I'd like to do the kind of trip you can only really do with a nice long vacation. Have spent a fair amount of time in India, Argentina, and Spain and have traveled some through other parts of Western Europe. I'm in my 20s and like both nature (especially animals) and cultural sights, and I'm thinking somewhere international. Any ideas?

Nancy McKeon: Well, this all adds up over time, but New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam and Thailand are the names that come to mind when thinking of places you should go only when you really have time.

_______________________

Greater Green Bay, Wisc.: 1972, when our family took a road trip with stops in Toronto, Niagara Falls, Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame), Canton (Football HOF) and up through northern Michigan. What was cool was that 30 years later, my wife and I made pretty much the same trip, and it was fun to compare my memories with the way things look now.

Andrea Sachs: Probably less fighting in the backseat, huh?

_______________________

Tustin Ranch, Calif.: This might speak more to a bad economy, or good timing, but I've just been able to book 3 one-way legs (Orange County, Calif. to BWI, BWI to Tampa, Fla., and Tampa back to Orange County, and each only having one stopover) for $340, leaving 6/30, and coming back 7/14. So multi-trip jet travel can be done economically, even in the middle of summer. Just be a vigilant consumer.

Andrea Sachs: A story of hope. Thanks!

_______________________

Anonymous: Do any of the airlines offer adoption discounts? We are going to adopt a child from Russia and the prices for travel without a seven or fourteen day advance are quite expensive. Thank you so much.

Scott Vogel: Sorry, I ran out of time researching your very good questions. I know that there are airlines like Northwest out there which have taken this issue to heart and have adoption discounts. Unfortunately, I don't believe they fly to Russia. Have you looked into British Airways? All the information I'm getting suggests that airlines often do have adoption discounts but they don't tend to publicize it. I'd get on the phone with a few carriers and poll the reservations agents.

_______________________

For Old Town, Va., from last week, looking for a small getaway for a week in July: Hyde Park, N.Y., is a great little town up the Hudson River. Although I doubt the following attractions will let your dog in: FDR home, Eleanor's cottage Val-Kill, the student-staffed restaurants at the Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA), Vanderbilt mansion... But for just walking the dog, it's a lovely region.

Scott Vogel: Just made it into THIS week's chat. Thanks!

_______________________

Pasadena, Calif.: How easy is it to get around Shanghai without a guide -- layout of city, signs in English, etc.? I can manage to speak a few words of Mandarin but not much more.

Andrea Sachs: It was definitely doable, but tough sometimes. I loved the freedom of just stumbling upon attractions, but I lost a lot of time getting lost. I would recommend doing a half-day tour to get the lay of the land, then just plotting it out yourself, with perhaps the help of the hotel. The subway is very good, but taxi drivers can be difficult, getting lost or simply refusing to take you.

_______________________

For Argentina honeymoon couple: Patagonia is amazing (try the glaciers near El Calafate and/or the nature preserve at Peninsula Valdez -- elephant seals, whales, and sea lions all close up, but check which wildlife are in season). I've been in the Argentine winter and it was fine (not really any colder than N.Y. or D.C. in winter).

Also, I'd go to Iguazu Falls. Network of waterfalls in the rainforest, some of them small, some pretty spectacular. If you're lucky you might also see some of the wild animals from the rainforest preserve. It was all booked up when I visited, but I've heard great things about the Sheraton, which is actually inside the park.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for adding some love to the honeymoon.

_______________________

Woodley Park: Best summer memory: A tiny, electricity-free log cabin in the Laurentians (about an hour north of Montreal). There is indoor plumbing but no hot water (bathe in the lake), and a full kitchen that runs on propane. The only electronics are the battery-powered radio (Vermont Public Radio) and personal music, but you'd much rather listen to the birds and talk to your family. Or read. Or swim. Or play cards. Or canoe. Or hike. Or nap. There are 3 cabins on this lake, all owned by extended family and far away from civilization, or so it seems. This is the period of your year when you unplug, calm down, read some fiction, indulge in your hobbies, sit down to family dinners, and generally remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life.

I've missed two summers out of 28; I seem to remember being extraordinarily cranky to have not gotten my Canadian recharge. Will of course be going back this summer.

And teens are worried about not having access to Facebook for a week or two...hah.

Andrea Sachs: Keep the streak going.

_______________________

Going to Iceland: Hi Flight Crew,

A couple of months ago I asked about finding cheap flights to Iceland. Your suggestion was to book the continental portion and transatlantic portion independently which I did (sort of Mom is driving me to JFK). Anywho, I went to Iceland Air's website, found a super fare, and went to call the airline to see how many seats they had at this price for our group. Long story short, the airline representative didn't have the fare found on the website as being available. Needless to say I booked via the website and will be leaving for Iceland in 4 weeks to do some mountaineering!! YEEHAWW

Andrea Sachs: Yay! Have a blast (of cold air).

_______________________

Schroon Lake!: My grandmother rented a cabin there one year and the family came up in shifts. I got to stay the whole time. It was extremely quiet, but I was a quiet kid, so it was great for me. I got to go parasailing on the lake, mainly because my mom wasn't there to tell me I couldn't. Loved the milkshakes too!

Andrea Sachs: We all scream for milkshakes!

_______________________

Pittsburgh to Toronto: I am a Buffalo native....

The bridge can be difficult just like major interstates for beach travelers for weekend travel.

Friday evening will be bad as will a Sunday night or Monday morning return.

The other issue is drive time.

Pittsburgh to Buffalo/Niagara Falls is 3.5-4 hours. After the border it's two hours to Toronto.

There are four crossings you can choose from. Probably the easiest would be the Peace bridge in Buffalo or the Lewiston bridge at the end of I-190 in Niagara Falls.

If you are thinking of spending the night in Buffalo before going on to Toronto, I would suggest maybe staying in Niagara Falls. Another option is a Holiday Inn on Grand Island that is right along the Niagara river.

The other option is staying in Canada either in Niagara Falls or at Niagara on the lake.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the driving tips.

_______________________

re:July/Aug: go to Africa! you can use a lot of time, but staying there can be super cheap (cheap lodging and food, if you don't go luxury). I love South Africa (a little more expensive, though), Kenya, and Tanzania (esp. Zanzibar). I haven't been, but have heard fabulous things about Botswana.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks!

_______________________

Israel: Jerusalem is close enough to Tel Aviv that you can stay in either city and do both (your greatest concern is the Tel Aviv traffic).

For food, there's a recently decommissioned power station near Tel Aviv that has a variety of good restaurants. And hit Max Brenner there for great dessert.

Andrea Sachs: Good to know. Thanks.

_______________________

Heathrow to Kensington: Don't get the Heathrow Express and cab -- it's really expensive.

Get a bus to Victoria Station and take cab from there. Or alternatively South Ken tube station has only set of about seven stairs (and one escalator). You could get a cab from there.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks, bloke, for the tips.

_______________________

Re: Midway vacation question from last week: Someone asked about a spot between Chicago and central Pennslyvania -- I second everyone's suggestions for the Lake Erie Islands area, or the North Coast, as we like to call it. We have a family cottage in Lakeside, Ohio, and it's really a wholesome blast from the past -- it's called the "Chataqua on Lake Erie." Great for families.

Also search for Put-in-Bay, as I think was mentioned, but be warned that the restaurant/bar area can get pretty rowdy in the late evenings -- think bachelor party central. Even if you don't stay on Put-in-Bay, ferry over to see Perry's Memorial monument, a tribute to the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812 -- you can see Canada from the top.

Kelly's Island (state park with hiking) and Marblehead are other great options. Cedar Point is close to all of the above.

Try Mon Ami winery for a great Sunday brunch or wine tastings. And go to Netty's for equally yummy, albeit less sophisticated, chili dogs. And get up early to for some warm, fresh, Patio Donuts if you stay in Lakeside. Best. Donuts. Ever.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for coming back to share this. Much appreciated.

_______________________

Gaithersburg, Md.: I'm looking for flights from National to Montreal, Quebec this September. The cheapest options that I'm finding (around $360 round-trip) are on US Airways with very short connections in Philadelphia -- anywhere between 35 and 47 minutes. Is this enough time considering it's an international flight, or is it worth the extra $20 for the non-stop flight offered by Air Canada?

Andrea Sachs: Philly is supposed to be a dreadful connection. I would pay the extra money for nonstop.

_______________________

Andrea Sachs: Thanks everyone for your great questions and wonderful trips down summer-y memory lane. If you sent a summer vacation story, please send me your name and contact information, and identify which submission was yours. We are going to compile them for an upcoming section. My address is sachsa@washpost.com.

Have a great Memorial Day holiday. We are off Monday, but back for the start of June.

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

Discussion Archive

Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity