Talk About Travel: Avoiding travel on holidays, what to do in London, cheap D.C. hotels and much more

The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, June 22, 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, June 22 at 2 p.m.

You may also browse an archive of previous live travel discussions.


Andrea Sachs: Welcome to a sunny (!!!) and happy (it is Travel chat day, after all) Monday. For today's chat, I am online to talk about campers in Hawaii (Sunday's lead story), Scott recently returned from a cruise in Canada, and Christina was in Chicago soaking up the arts and culture. Also, Carol is the pro on Ocean City (Md., though I was recently in N.J., if you prefer the other OC). Also, share with us your Fourth of July plans. So, let the fireworks flare!


Reston, Va.: I heard a news item that the state of Virginia is closing its highway rest stops because of budget problems? Is this correct? What happens to older drivers who have to use the facilities fairly frequently?

Scott Vogel: It's true. Nineteen of the state's 42 rest areas are scheduled to close as of July 1st, part of an overall attempt by the state to reduce costs. Apparently, some effort was made on the part of VDOT to close rest areas that already have commercial areas nearby (restaurants, hotels, etc.), so hopefully older drivers (not to mention families with small children) will be able to find facilities anyway.


Curacao: Hello travel gurus! I am going to take advantage of those great Curacao deals, and am thinking about going in the fall. Is November a good time to be there? I found airfare for just under $700, DCA-MIA-CUR, is that decent or should I wait? Thank you!

Carol Sottili: $700 is about average if you want to fly on weekends. You can get cheaper rates during the week - maybe $600 or so. It's never really rainy in Curacao, but November is one of the rainier months - 3.6 inches average. The island is located below the hurricane belt.


Washington, D.C.: Good afternoon. I would like to take my husband to the U.S. Tennis Open in New York to celebrate a big birthday. Can you suggest some nice (and reasonable) hotels in the city, preferably downtown near the Village? Many thanks!

Andrea Sachs: I recently stayed at the Smyth Hotel, a Thompson property in Tribeca. Very chic and a good rate. Anyone else have suggestions?


Wilkes Barre, Penn.: Submitting early since I will be sleeping. I will be in Chicago next weekend, and was only there once in 1990 for a convention. What would you do if you had 1 day to explore the town? I will have a transit pass. The evenings are taken care of, but options to hear live jazz/blues would be welcome. Thanks for any suggestions, food/art/architecture/history are all game.

Christina Talcott: I recently crammed so much into one day in Chicago by staying solely in the Loop. I visited the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute (totally worth the hefty $18 admission price), caught a matinee play at the nearby Goodman Theatre (one of several downtown theaters) and saw the Grant Park Orchestra perform for free that night. Food options are slightly more mainstream there than in other neighborhoods, but Miller's Pub is historic and atmospheric and grills a great (and giant) burger; Gage on Michigan Ave is supposed to be great; the Art Institute has a new Italian joint in the Modern Wing; and Millennium Park's Park Grill is nice, too. But if you're there next weekend, you're right in time for one of my all-time favorite Chicago events, Taste of Chicago, which has food samples and live music all day from June 26-July 5. (Skip if if you don't like crowds, though - it gets shoulder-to-shoulder.)

Also next weekend is the annual Soul Fest at Union Park on the West Side (anyone ever been?); another big event is Pride Festival, whose Sunday parade snarls traffic in and around Wrigleyville.

Try to squeeze in a 90-minute Architecture River Cruise ($28-$32 with the Chicago Architectural Foundation) or, if you don't like boats, try one of the organization's walking tours (see all their tours here). And you can always while away an hour or two at one of the city's great beaches.

And for live jazz/blues, the only daytime club event I've come across is the happy hour show (Friday from 5 to 8, free) at the Green Mill in Uptown. Anyone have a better suggestion about Chicago music for Wilkes Barre?


Oklahoma: I'm writing this way beforehand because I always forget. I want to take my 6 year old niece and maybe some other cousins to the Atlantic Ocean in September possibly. What beach towns in Maryland do you suggest? Thanks!

Christina Talcott: If you're wedded to Maryland, your choices are either Ocean City or Assateague Island. Ocean City has lots to do, with a three-mile-long boardwalk, two amusement parks and loads of restaurants, shops and nightlife choices for the grown-ups. The other option is Assateague Island National Seashore, which has only camping accommodations within the park. Would you consider Delaware? There are lots of beach resorts there, including quaint Bethany, fun Rehoboth (with rides and games at Funland), and quiet Lewes, which is near Cape Henlopen State Park.


Potomac, Md.: Hello,

This week, we are leaving for a three week vacation to UK and Switzerland. I am a little late to this, but I wanted to get your recommendations about where to rent a mobile phone (hey, I got to say it the way my family and friends do on this trip).

We are staying with family members in London upon arrival for a day and a half before we are off to Switzerland for six days. So I am sure we could visit a local place (or even get our family members) to pick something up. There is no need to get something at the airport if that is going to be more expensive.

What are your thoughts travel gurus? We will probably do very little calling but some texting.


Carol Sottili: I found the best prices at a place called Carphone Warehouse, with stores throughout London. Go to You can compare pricing online.


Fairfax Station, Va.: Thanks for the informative chats; I really enjoy reading them. I'm posting early as I won't be able to follow the chat live. My question is this: What is going on with rental car prices? Last fall I rented a very nice full size car (Chevy Malibu) for two days in LA for about $35 per day. I'm now planning a trip to Denver for four days in late July and the best price I can find on-line (going through Kayak) is about $60 for a sub-compact! Are the rental companies doing so well in this poor economy that they can charge what seems to me to be exorbitant prices?? Any tips you might have on tracking down lower prices would be very much appreciated.

Andrea Sachs: Rental car prices vary according to destination. If a destination has a high demand, prices will be competitive, like car-centric Los Angeles. For car rentals, I always name-my-own-price on Priceline (I usually score), since I don't care which rental car company I use. (Priceline features the major firms.) Also, to save money, consider reserving the car from a location other than the airport.


Canberra, Australia: Hi travel crew, I'm a North America novice and currently booking flights to come and visit. I will have to transit through LAX and change airlines. Can you suggest how long I should allow to fly into LA, collect bags, clear customs and immigration, and then check into my next flight? I'm thinking 4 hours? Too optimistic? Thanks for your help!

Carol Sottili: Four hours should be more than enough time.


Key West Bound!: I am going to Key West for a week over the 4th of July Holiday. Aside from the Hemingway House and other similar tourist sites, do you have any suggestions for what to see/eat/do? A friend mentioned a fantastic seafood place that was a bit of a hike, but totally worth it... pity she couldn't remember the name though!

Thanks in advance!

Scott Vogel: Anyone have an idea what place our chatter is talking about? My vote is for the Half Shell Raw Bar on Margaret Street, but surely there are other opinions out there...


Herndon, Va.: I have a comment. Last Thursday I had a guest, who lives overseas, traveling to Ottawa on a United flight from Dulles departing at about noon. He inquired from gate agent whether the flight was boarding at 11;45, 11:47 and 11:48 and was told each time that the gate was not open. He then stepped off the gate and returned about 3 minutes later to find that the gate was closed. No amount of pleading would budge the gate agent. My guest was put on a later flight. The gate agent had no explanation for his actions. Your thoughts?

Carol Sottili: I'm confused. The entire plane boarded in three minutes?


Tampa, Fla.: We will heading to D.C. on Thursday for a long weekend to visit some friends and my parents. We will have Saturday free, so I was thinking about taking our daughter, age 7, to the Museum of Natural History, but wanted to make sure it would be something that would hold her interest (she has a very short attention span). I'm also considering the Air and Space Museum. Any other options for keeping a child entertained and keeping the parents from getting frazzled? In addition, my parents will be with us on Saturday, and since they are both near 80 years old, I also have to consider that (spending a lot of time outdoors in the heat wouldn't be a great idea)

Andrea Sachs: Sticking around the Mall is a good idea, because when she tires of museums, you can go rent paddle boats or climb the steps to the Lincoln Memorial. Also, check the Smithsonian's Web site, which lists family activities. If she like animals (what kid doesn't?), take the Metro to the Woodley Park stop and visit the zoo.


TSA inconsistencies: I recently flew from Baltimore to Albuquerque and back. (Kudos to BWI for the fresh flowers in all the ladies' restrooms--that's a nice touch.)


I'm nursing and had bottled breast milk with me. Following the instructions, I told the BWI TSA agents about the bottled breast milk. They said it was fine and didn't have to be inspected. But on our way back in Albuquerque, TSA had me remove the breast milk from my diaper bag and did a vapor test on it. When I queried this, the agent said that it was the rule for breast milk. I told him that the agents in BWI said that breast milk was exempt from testing, and he replied that they hadn't done their jobs properly. He had to test two bottles of milk, one of water, and run the whole bag back through the X-ray.

Why can't TSA get all their agents on the same page about what needs to be done? The inconsistency is very frustrating. Plus, the Albuquerque agent was moving as slowly as molasses running uphill in January, which is maddening when you're trying to catch a flight. I know New Mexico is the land of manana, but that shouldn't apply in an airport!

Carol Sottili: The TSA statement on breast milk says:

Our Security Officers may test liquid exemptions (exempt items more than 3 ounces) for explosives.

The item also states that it usually won't do this, but it reserves the right.

Go to this link for the details.


Arlington, Va.: What is the situation like in Iceland? It was supposed to be cheap after the currency crashed, but since then it fell of the radar.

Christina Talcott: I have friends who went a few weeks ago and loved it, though I haven't talked to them about how much everything cost. The conversion rate is still really good for us, with $1 netting around 130 ISK. Check out packages through Iceland Air, which still seem pretty reasonable, even though summer is high season there (when I was there in November, their economy had just crashed AND it was the off-season). Anyone have recent experience traveling to and around Iceland?


Scott recently returned from a cruise in Canada: How long is the Toronto city employees' strike expected to last? I heard on the news that garbage isn't being picked up.

Scott Vogel: No word on how long the present stalemate will last, but yes, the strike began this morning and affects 24,000 municipal employees in Toronto. Garbage collection will be affected, as well as the availability of libraries and public swimming pools. It's a fluid situation but reportedly no settlement is expected immediately.


Alexandria: Key West - My husband and I loved Pepe's for cheap oysters and a beautiful garden and had a FANTASTIC dinner at Louie's Back Porch, which is a little pricier but is great for lunch with views out over the ocean.

Scott Vogel: Aha -- yes, I second those suggestions as well.


Bethesda: Do you need a passport to enter/exit Tijuana, Mexico?

Carol Sottili: Here's the URL for all info re: land travel to/from Mexico.


Herndon, Va.: Gurus: A reminder to all - When planning your vacations may sure you check for any events which might cause a problem. My wife and I are visiting Turkey for the first time this Sept/Oct. Just before we booked, friends in Istanbul told us to change our schedule, as we would have been traveling on the last day of Ramadan, and been in Istanbul during a World Bank conference, with the demonstrations, traffic problems, etc. We changed our schedule by a few days, to avoid all this. (If anyone has any tips for "have-to-dos" in Bodrum or Istanbul, I'd appreciate it)

Scott Vogel: Always good advice and happy to pass it on. Thanks.


For Key West Bound: One of the highlights of our trip in December 07 was a combo sail/snorkel/kayak trip, I think through Danger Cruises. We also enjoyed a drive back east to Bahia Honda one day. Do the Conch Train your first day for an overview and to get a sense of places you'd like to see in more detail. Key West is full of great restaurants; I don't think you'll have any trouble finding terrific meals. Blue Heaven is one that stands out.

Scott Vogel: More Key West ideas, thanks.


Scranton, Pa.: I asked this last week (without response), and I'm trying again: I was able to score a great hotel rate for Annapolis, MD for July 4th & 5th, and I've never visited before. So, a two-part question: 1) What is a "don't miss" when in Annapolis, and 2) Any special events happening on the 4th in Annapolis?

Andrea Sachs: Sorry, but we get loads of questions and do the best we can to answer as many as we can within the hour (but good to come back the next week). Some ideas for Annapolis: tour the Naval Academy and State House, take a sunset cruise on the Chesapeake, grab drinks and seafood along City Dock, shop for nautical items around town.

For the holiday, in addition to a concert and a canine parade, the town will host the Annapolis 4th of July Independence Day Celebration: The City of Annapolis presents an old fashioned July 4th Parade which precedes a patriotic band concert by the United States Naval Academy Band and a spectacular fireworks display on the Annapolis waterfront. It all begins at 6:30 p.m. Free. Check the town's Web site for other events over the weekend.


Washington, D.C.: My boyfriend and I are considering a beach trip some weekend this summer, somewhere within a few hours or so from DC, but have no idea where to go. Any suggestions as to what beaches we should visit? Somewhere without too many kids and maybe a cute downtown would be great. Thanks!

Carol Sottili: Rehoboth Beach, Del., may work. It's more adult oriented, and has nice restaurants/shops. Dewey Beach is a big hit with young adults - several good bars/clubs. Bethany is family oriented. Ocean City, Md. has a little bit of everything. I'm not all that familiar with Virginia Beach. Beaches in NJ and NC are farther away. But you'd probably like Duck in North Carolina's Outer Banks.


Been to the Zoo: For Tampa: if you do visit the zoo - they have these awesome sprinkler/fan setups going on hot days. Your 7 yr. old might enjoy the invertebrate house. Check the website for hands-on demos.

Also, do yourself a favor - if you go to the zoo get off at the Cleveland Park stop, not Woodley Park. You can walk south (flat to downhill) on Connecticut Ave., rather than a steep uphill to the zoo. It's maybe a block longer, but worth it to keep short legs from getting tired too quickly.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the suggestions. Little legs will appreciate it.


Tampa, Fla.: Rent paddle boats? My daughter would LOVE that! Where can you rent them?

Andrea Sachs: Down by the Tidal Basin.


Beach-bound: Dear Crew, My husband and I usually go to Rehoboth for a long weekend. This year, we would like to try Bethany Beach with our 1-year-old son. Is a Sea Colony rental the way to go? Should we expect a different experience than Rehoboth? Thanks for your help!

Christina Talcott: Sea Colony's a very popular option for Bethany vacations, and the one time I stayed there I enjoyed it. It's about a mile from the start of the boardwalk, a little farther from the main downtown of Bethany. Bethany's much smaller and quieter than Rehoboth, without the variety of bars, restaurants and shops, not to mention Funland, of Rehoboth. But the basics are all there - nice beach, lots of junk food, lots of families. You may even like it more, since it's a little more mellow.


4th of July: Nats day game, then fireworks from my high-rise office building in Rosslyn with a picnic on the office floor!

Andrea Sachs: Very cool (and A/C, too, I imagine).


Washington, D.C.: Our vacation plans this summer include a 3-day stop in Munich. We plan to spend at least one day doing a walking tour in the center of town (finishing off with supper at the Hofbrauhaus), but would like some suggestions for other activities in the area. We have 3 daughters ages 8 through 13.

One thought we had was to rent a car and drive to some of the castles in the region, but we don't really have a sense of which ones are "must-sees," the distances/times involved, etc.

Also, any hotel recommendations? (Especially anywhere that we can get all 5 of us into one room?) Our flight out is scheduled to leave at 9 AM, so should we plan on staying the last night near the airport or is there reliable enough traffic/transportation options from downtown?

Andrea Sachs: We've never been to Munich. Chatsters, can ya help out?


Washington, D.C.: Sorry for this so-basic question. I'm traveling to the UK this year, and I would like to take my laptop. Is this doable? Do I need to buy a converter for the power cord? I don't want to blow out my computer on the trip.

Also, I may go to Northern Ireland (which is technically UK) and the Republic of Ireland. What rules apply there, regarding electronics?

Scott Vogel: You certainly can take your computer but, yes, you will need a converter. My only advice there is that you do some comparison shopping online and elsewhere; don't wait to buy the converter in the airport, where prices tend to be much higher.


Reston, Va.: Are there any ferries (or something like that) between Nassau and other Bahama islands (like you find between St. Thomas and St. John)? I'd like to be able to fly to somewhere direct, but am not excited about Nassau and thought it might be fun to take a boat to another island. Thanks!

Carol Sottili: Try It offers service from Nassau to several islands.


Alexandria, Va.: I will be in Montpelier, Vermont, October 2-6 for a workshop and am thinking of spending a few days afterward within easy driving distance of Montpelier to do something fun. Will be flying in and out of Boston. Any suggestions?

Christina Talcott: Burlington is a great city, with beautiful views of Lake Champlain, well-groomed biking trails and good restaurants, shopping and entertainment, all with a classic crunchy feel. On the way to Boston, Hanover, NH, is home to Dartmouth and is on the other end of the preppy spectrum, and the school's lovely campus (with cool 1930s murals in the library) and quaint town are well worth a visit. Those are my picks - anyone else have ideas?


20002: Loved the Hawaii article! I'm thinking of heading to Hawaii for my honeymoon this fall and though I doubt we'll be driving around in a camper, we'd like to see places off the beaten path as well as having hotel relaxation time. What islands would you recommend for a 2-3 week trip? Any great non-huge but still luxurious hotels?

Andrea Sachs: So glad you liked the piece. I would divide my time between islands. My favorites are Oahu (love the North Shore), Maui and Kauai. However, the islands are very different and you should match your interests with their attributes. Best to check the state's Web site first, which provides great descriptions of each island. To be sure, all islands have beaches, natural beauty and some type of active adventure. But, for example, Maui is much more lust than the Big Island, which has great plains of volcanic rock.

I have never stayed in a luxe hotel, but some of the hotels most often mentioned among Hawaii vacationers are the Four Seasons in Lanai, Big Island and Maui; Halekulani in Honolulu; Princeville Resort in Kauai; and the Ritz on Maui.


Arlington, Va.: Help! My wife and I booked our honeymoon tickets last night on Al Italia for October. Their system wouldn't allow us to put in a hyphen for her last name, as it shows on her passport (the name is, on the reservation, one long name with all the correct letters, just no hyphen). When I called them to ask about this, they now say we also need to put our middle names on the ticket (which they do not have a field for), and in order to do so will have to cancel our non-refundable tickets. However, everything I read online says the TSA regulations for this don't go into effect for international flights until Dec.

Short question made long -- do we need to change our names, or are we good with the names the way they are?

Carol Sottili: If it were me, I'd just go with it. I wouldn't worry about the middle name - you would never have even known about this if you hadn't called - and, as long as the spelling on the ticket is the same as her passport, I think you'll be fine. That said, all it would take is one ticket agent to put you through the mill. Did you talk with a supervisor when you called Alitalia? You could try that.


Buying travel insurance: How do you go about getting travel insurance for trips you coordinate yourself - or do you need to go through a travel agent to get this? We are looking to book a two week vacation and would like to have some insurance in case something comes up.

Carol Sottili: Go to or or to compare travel insurance policies.


Woodbridge, Va.: Hello, My family of seven will arrive at Boston Logan Airport at 4 p.m. and have until the next morning to see Boston (with no car). Any ideas on what to do, where to stay? I think we want a hotel with an airport shuttle, but in a convenient location to historic area and affordable. I appreciate any assistance you can offer. Thanks.

Andrea Sachs: You can easily access the airport by subway, so no need to rely on an airport shuttle (you also can take a water taxi to Logan). I would stay near Copley Center, so you can stroll Newbury Street, then hop the L to see the art museum, the state capitol, etc. I also love Cambridge and pretending I am super-smart hanging around Harvard Yard and soaking up the scenes along the Charles River. For the latter, check out the Charles Hotel.


Anonymous: re Rental Cars ... look for coupons online (Hertz for example)... I just returned a car to DCA , had it three days = $45.00. Keep plugging in/Google Hertz Rate Codes, PC numbers, etc and the price WILL fall.

Andrea Sachs: Great advice. Thanks!


Munich: old town has the Glockenspiel which is cool, also nearby is a easy train ride to Dachau, which is a very good tour. 13 year old should be ok with it because it is not overly graphic.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for helping out our German-bound travelers.


20024: What website is best to locate any Monday (29 June) to Thursday (2 July) steals at the Mid Atlantic beaches?

Andrea Sachs: Check the beach town's Web site to find last-minute specials. Ocean City (NJ), for example, lists weekly specials.


Baltimore, Md.: My wife and I are visiting London for a few days for the first time in August and we were wondering where would be the best place to stay that's decently affordable.

We're planning on using the Tube/bus system exclusively when we're in London and would be willing to spend up to about $200 per night. Is there a good location we should look at?


Carol Sottili: I usually stay at Premier Inns, which are basic, clean, inexpensive hotels located throughout London. I like the Tower Bridge area, but that's because I know it very well. Try and for other ideas.


Washington, D.C. : Hello Flight Crew - A friend of a friend has asked me for information about hostels or other cheaper lodging options in the D.C. area (preferably in the city) for an extended stay (1 - 2 weeks). I have no idea - any places you could point me to? Thanks!

Christina Talcott: There are a number of hostels in and around D.C.: Hilltop Hostel in Takoma Park is right off the Metro; the Hostelling International location on 11th between K and L is in a great spot, close to downtown, Chinatown and several Metro stops; the Washington International Student Center is right in Adams-Morgan; DC Lofty is near Union Station. Any other suggestions?


For Munich: My kids were the ages yours are now when we went (my husband was working in Munich). They loved the Deutchmuseum (which has a lot of hands on stuff--like how much heavier an equal volume of lead is than aluminum) and a McDonalds nearby (remember that familiarity is often a good thing for kids). They also loved the clock performance at the Rathaus. There is a nude beach (really a meadow) near the park--so be aware. Many voyeurs visit--and that needs explanation in kid's terms. Also, take a trolley South to the end of the line for ice cream and a view of the city. Also the Munich Olympic village and the BMW works (all BMWs come from Munich).

Andrea Sachs: Thanks!


rental car bargains: I usually get unreal rates for rental cars either booking through Costco or USAA (if you are a member of either). I have frequently used Alamo's coupons on their website, but on my most recent rental was hit with a letter a month later saying I owed $200 in damage (oddly one call saying I didn't fixed that). I'm wondering if that's how they can offer deals like under $10 a day!

Andrea Sachs: Great to know. Thanks!


for VT Traveler: VT in October is beautiful - take some time to do some "leaf peeking" and just drive through - loads of books giving you good routes.

Also, Ben and Jerry's is up there near Montpelier. Worth the tour and the calories.

Christina Talcott: Ooh, great idea about Ben & Jerry's!


Oakton, Va.: For Munich bound.

You definitely want to see Neuschwanstein (Disney world is modeled after it) and King Ludwig II castle. Both are doable in one day, although I would recommend Neuschwanstein first. I have done it by car and by gray line tour, and I would recommend Gray Line as an excellent option. They pre-arrange the visit so you don't have to wait as long in line. If you do go by car, consider visiting the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen after the castles.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks, Oakton!


For Montpelier, VT in Oct: You will be up there at the height of the fall foliage. Rent a car and drive through northern Vermont (and, I gulp to say it, as a Vermonter), Smugglers Notch in NH on the way up. Get out the car and take some short walks. It is beautiful that time of the year. I think the Lake Champlain Ferries are still running from Burlington to Port Kent, NY (c. 2.5 hours round trip) - always a great, scenic ride. Do note that hotels, etc. will be pricy at that time of year (and full), so make reservations in advance.

Christina Talcott: Great point about hotels, and I'd love to try that ferry sometime!


Arlington, Va.: Please remind Canberra that a new US government regulation requires travelers from Canberra to bring something all US citizens something from Silo Bakery.

Andrea Sachs: We would never want to break the law, so . . .


Rental Cars: It's also worth looking for discounts through organizations like AAA, USAA, and your airline frequent flier program. I just got a weekly car rental with a USAA discount for $275. The "regular" rate was well over $380, with a 20% off coupon code!

Andrea Sachs: Wonderful tips, thanks!


Washington, D.C.: I was looking to rent a beach house in the Caribbean (island TBD) for my wedding week. Have you (or any of the chatters) have any experience with It looks like it has some great properties, but didn't really know much about it.


Carol Sottili: (Vacation Rentals By Owner) has been around a long time. It's basically a listing service - it's up to you to do the research. Call the owners and talk with them. Ask for up-to-date pictures. Ask for references.


US Open tennis: I don't have a specific hotel to recommend, but I would urge the couple that wants to go to the US Open in August/September to stay in Queens, not Manhattan, which will make their commute to and from Flushing Meadow a lot easier. Flushing is a interesting ethnic neighborhood -- the first time I stayed there, on our walk to the subway, we saw a Chinese butcher carrying an entire skinned pig on his shoulder. You don't usually see that in Tribeca.

Andrea Sachs: Great strategy. Thanks!


OK traveler: Why not NJ? You can fly into Philly and be at the beach in 1.5 hrs. I suggest Cape May, Avalon, Ocean City. All wonderful in September.

Andrea Sachs: Very good suggestions. Thanks!


Transiting LAX from overseas: A lot depends on the airlines involved. Assuming that the traveler has booked both flights together, and they already have their boarding pass for their onward domestic flight (and don't need to check in at the airline's counter), and the second flight is on the same airline or on one with an agreement with the one of the international leg, 3 hours should be enough, since even if they miss the connection they should be put on the next flight with available seats (obviously best if it's to a destination with lots of flights). LAX is a big airport, so traveler should check a terminal map to see distances involved, and to confirm with their airlines what they need to do. Hopefully they can check their bags onward at a transit desk outside of Customs.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the insights.


Laptop converter: This may be too obvious, but just a quick note to the chatter asking about a converter for a laptop. In general, almost all laptops need only an adapter to change the shape of the plug, not a voltage converter. The plug adapter by itself will be cheaper than a voltage converter. Hope that helps a little!

Scott Vogel: Thanks!


Blacksburg, Va.: We (couple) will be resident in England for 3 weeks in July. Since our cell phones won't work over there, we would like to rent or purchase phones over there, on the cheap. We will have e-mail and Skype to contact the US, and a land line as well, but would like just to be able to keep in touch with each other. A friend told me we could purchase disposable phones, cheaply, in a drugstore or grocery in the UK just for in-UK use. Is this true? On the internet I can only fine endless reference to very expensive cell phones that allow world-wide connections. Don't need those! Would be grateful for any help you can offer.

Carol Sottili: Answered a similar question earlier this session. Try


Bowie, Md.: 4th of July Plans - heading up to visit the daughter who lives in NJ, right across from NYC - Driving up on the 2nd, coming back on the 6th (to avoid some ridiculous traffic). Plans include catching a few Broadways plays that weekend, taking advantage of their special $59 orchestra ticket prices, getting a NYC street hotdog, getting a slice of Junior's Cheesecake (they have a place right on 45th and it's STILL great) and catching the Fireworks over the Hudson from the rooftop of my daughter's Condo. How all-American is that?

Andrea Sachs: So very American. I salute you!


Rockville, Md.: I'm looking for round-trip air tickets from D.C. to Toronto, Canada for the last weekend of July and the prices quoted by almost all websites are in the $400 range. Does this seem right or can I expect prices to fall further?

(I realize there are other cheaper ways to go to Canada-- like flying into Buffalo and driving in-- but for time and visa purposes, I need to fly in directly to Toronto)

Carol Sottili: Toronto is always expensive. I wouldn't expect it to go much lower than that.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, Flight Crew. I have a quick question about December travel. Specifically, travel over the Christmas week to a warm and beachy location. My family is planning a trip (the first time we've thought about having Christmas out of town) and we want to go someplace warm, that is a direct flight from one of the D.C. (including BWI) airports. We'll be traveling with a 7 and 4 year old, so are hoping for a not too long flight, and also for things to do in this warm and wonderful location other than just lie on the beach. Something historic, or kid-friendly, or adventurous. Any ideas? Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: I would suggest Puerto Rico. Loads of options, especially if you stay at a hotel in San Juan with a pool and kid's program.


Arlington, Va.: I am thinking about going up to NYC for the 4th of July weekend to see a concert. Thanks for the tip on the Smyth hotel. Looks like a very nice place at a much cheaper rate than even some low-grade chains are offering. The question is how to get there? Is the bus a bad idea with lots of traffic likely that weekend? I see Tripper bus is $50 roundtrip. Since I am in Arlington traveling from Rosslyn sounds like a good idea. I would take the train but is costs way too much.

Andrea Sachs: That is a tough one. Agree that train is the best way to avoid traffic, but whoa! it's expensive. I would suggest taking the bus, but just be clever about when you go--maybe late Thursday night or super early on Friday? Also, bring loads of reading material and just be thankful that you are not behind the driver's wheel.


Annapolis, Md.: My husband and I are thinking about going to Quebec City for a 4-night mini vacation. I was toying with the idea of flying into Montreal and then driving over, because the fares seem a little cheaper - is there anything to see along the way between the two cities? (we want to have a car anyway, because we want to get out into the countryside around Quebec - we've been to the city before, but never the surrounding area.

Christina Talcott: It's lovely countryside between QC and Montreal. Take the southern route through the Sherbrooke/Lac Brome area and stop in some of the little cideries and vineyards. The route along the St. Lawrence to the north looks nice, too, but I've never driven it. Anyone out there taken Route 40 between Montreal and Quebec City?


Chicago : re; Istanbul - Topkapi Palace was the highlight of my trip - and pay the extra to see the harem and the treasury. For shopping I liked Vakko an old-time department store, where I bought a wallet. I buy "useful" souvenirs and this was top quality leather which lasted for years.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the tip, Chi-Town.


Washington, D.C.: I am headed to Montego Bay at the end of July for a weekend wedding and have discovered that the flights are expensive!! Any chance the prices will come down? Any tricks for getting a better rate? Thank you!

Carol Sottili: Montego Bay has been expensive. I'd watch and wait for a couple more weeks. Keep tabs on sales on Air Jamaica and Spirit. But expect to pay upwards of $500.


Arlington, Va.: My sister and I are planning to spend a couple of days in July in Boston seeing the sights, and I've been stunned by the hotel rates, even on websites like Having comfortable lodging is an important part of a vacation to us, so there is a limit to how economical we want to be on quality. We also want to be able to cancel the hotel reservation if we have to, which lets out Priceline. Any hotel or website suggestions?

Christina Talcott: Would you consider a B&B? Innkeepers can be more flexible than corporate hotels, and you can get some decent rates. Try this list. Also, you could consider staying in a nearby suburb and taking the T into the city.


Mele Kalikimaka: When's the best time to buy plane tickets for a late-December/early-January trip to Hawaii? Right now I'm finding $707 fares from here to Honolulu. Should I buy now, or hang on a little longer?

Also, is it feasible to do Honolulu/Oahu for a few days without a car? Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: Prices are higher because of the high season, but you might want to wait a tad to see if they go down. But to be honest, that is a reasonable fare. I would rent a car, to be honest, because you must get shave ice on the North Shore!


Andrea Sachs: Oh, no, the hour (and seven minutes) are up. Thanks so much for joining us, sharing your travel plans, and inspiring us and hopefully the other chatsters. Apologies to those whose questions remained unanswered (we had loads this week), but please come back next Monday and we will try to get to them -- and more. Enjoy the sun!


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