Talk About Travel: Travel Staffers Help You Plan Great Escapes
Monday, July 27, 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, July 27, at 2 p.m.
You may also browse an archive of previous live travel discussions.
Andrea Sachs: Hey travelers. This is our first chat without Scott Vogel, who has moved over to Style to cover arts. All together now: Bon voyage, Scott. But Zofia, Christina and I are here to answer your questions -- so don't hold back.
For our special question of the day: Do you have any tricks for sleeping on planes? Best answer wins a four-poster bed that folds into your carry-on. Kidding. But you will win something!
Richmond, Va.: Do you, the fine Flight Crew, have any suggestions for a road-trip accessible, four-day, laid back weekend that won't bust the budget (no spas or resorts) that are bicycle friendly, and have great food? My husband and I are thinking Charleston or Savannah because of their proximity to beaches, history, food, and flat roads. Are we missing a great (closer) location? Thank you!
Zofia Smardz: I think Charleston's a great choice. Definitely laid-back, great food and loads of history. Ditto Savannah. You wouldn't go wrong with either one. But if bicycling's your thing, how about the Outer Banks? Nag's Head has beaches, great food and history, too! And it's closer.
Other thoughts, chatters?
Ashburn, Va.: So I haven't been on a plane in a couple of years - I'm going to Vegas in a couple of weeks where I'm going to need sunscreen. I looked on TSA's site but can't figure out if that has to adhere to their 3-1-1 policy. I'm doing carry-on only. Can someone help?
Christina Talcott: Good thing you asked! Yes, if you're packing sunscreen in your carry-on, it has to be in a container that's 3 ounces or smaller. You can either buy small tubes of sunscreen or you can squeeze the sunscreen you have into appropriately-sized bottles (buy at any drug store), then make sure they fit in your one-quart baggie. Be sure to keep the bag handy so you can whip it out of your bag and put it in the bin when you go through security. If you need more tips about airport security rules, go here.
Jersey Shore bound: Hi Crew,
My family and I are getting ready for our annual trek to the Jersey shore. We're considering taking the ferry this year from Lewes, Del., to Cape May, N.J. Do you have any recommendations on places to stop for lunch on the way to Lewes or in Lewes? We like to stop at local, mom and pop type places that have some character.
Christina Talcott: Lewes has a bunch of cute, locally-owned places to eat. A few of them: Cafe Azafran has a nice selection of Mediterranean-flavored sandwiches, salads and spreads; the Buttery is a more upscale, sit-down place that serves lunch and dinner; right next door to the Beacon Motel is a deli with great sandwiches; check out this roundup of what to do and where to eat in Lewes (but call beforehand for hours, etc.). Anyone else have suggestions for lunch in Lewes?
State College, Pa.: Your chats are the highlight of my Mondays! My husband and I have a week of vacation to use by the end of the year and we're planning on going to Rome. What time is better to go - mid-October or mid-December? And what would be a good airfare to Rome? I'm seeing fares from $650-750 out of New York and Philly? Should I book or wait! Many thanks!
Zofia Smardz: Here's what a Post colleague who's spent lived and spent a lot of time in Italy says:
I recommend mid-October because so much of what you'll want to do in Rome is outside, and it can get pretty cold in December. October may or may not be rainy, but December will definitely be cold.
And for the fares, $650 is an excellent price, especially if that includes taxes. $750 is good enough but not a steal; you can probably do better.
Zofia Smardz: And by the way, thanks so much for the kind words about our chats! Glad you enjoy them!
Woodbrdige, Va.: Hello and Good Day,
Here is my "trip" situation: My mother is coming to visit with me from Pa. in mid-August; staying for approximately one week. She would like to go to the beach, just for one day. Leave early in the morn (6:00 a.m.) and return same day getting back to Woodbridge approx midnight. The closet beach (I think) is Sandy Point in Md. Problem is (if it is one) neither one of us wants to drive! Would rather relax and go by bus. I have heard of the "VOLT" bus - do not know much about it. Is there a one-day trip to any of the beaches in the tri-state area going by bus? If not, could I get some alternatives? Your assistance is very much appreciated - From two who just want to have fun in the sun and surf!
Zofia Smardz: This is a toughie. Public transportation from Washington to the beaches is sorely limited. You can take Greyhound to Ocean City, Md., but it's a 5-hour trip. Here's a recent Travel Q&A that describes the process. You can also take Amtrak to Wilmington, Del., then catch the DART bus to Rehoboth Beach, as described in yesterday's column . Either way, sounds like a fairy grueling trip. Any travel chatters out there have better ideas? Let's hear them!
Alexandria, Va.: I am going to Hawaii in October. Visiting the islands of Oahu, Kauai and Maui. Can anyone recommend a good zip line tour? Would like to "zip and dip" (go swimming).
Andrea Sachs: Funny you should ask: Princeville Ranch Adventures on Kauai offers a Zip N' Dip adventure and claims to have the island's longest zip line. Just Live also just started a full moon zip tour, also on Kauai. Skyline Eco-Adventures has two locations on Maui, including the first zip line course in the United States. From what I can tell, Oahu does not offer zip line tours. But please correct me if I am wrong!
Arlington, Va.: I'm thinking about a Hawaiian vacation next year, but I'm daunted by the long flight. I'm willing to pay more to be comfortable, but I'm pretty sure I can't afford business or first class prices. Do any airlines on that route have more spacious seating, or affordable upgrade options? And since I'm going to be stuck somewhere, what's the best airport between here and there for a layover?
Zofia Smardz: A Post colleague who flies to Hawaii annually to visit family says that the best layover is somewhere on the West coast, because that's about halfway through the flight. "You do not want to fly to atlanta and then fly to hawaii," she says. "It's brutal. We once had a very long layover in Minneapolis and used the time to take the kids to the Mall of America; it was a lot of fun. Also, if you book early, you can try to get the bulkhead seats, which give you a little room to stretch out."
Anybody else have advice on this?
Arlington, Va.: Good afternoon! After a hot weekend in the city, I was wondering if there was a reliable public transit option to the shore (Delaware, Maryland, Va.)? I know that Greyhound and Amtrak really don't have any direct options, but does the crew have any ideas? Thanks!
Zofia Smardz: Hey, this seems to be the question of the week! See my previous answer to the chatter from Woodbridge who wants to take her mom to the beach. And still hoping some other chatters will have ideas.
Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Crew: I know this isn't very glamorous, but I'm thinking about renting a cabin in the Virginia mountains for a week for vacation in the fall. Any recommendations on Web sites to find a place? I've done some searches, but there are so many listings it's hard to know what's the best.
Christina Talcott: What could be more glamorous than a cabin getaway? I'd start with our chart of Virginia and Maryland state parks that rent cabins. For more ideas, the second item here is all about cabin rental Web sites. For bare-bones but reliable quality, I'd go with state, national or local parks, but you can find some quirky delights if you rent from private owners. Make sure, overall, that you bring plenty of matches.
N.Y.: Hey gang! How would you spend 8-10 days in Switzerland? Would you drive it, train it, or both? Might you be tempted southward to Italy after a few days in the Alps? Thanks!
Zofia Smardz: Absolutely! It's one of the most gorgeous places on earth. And where else can you travel within one country and encounter three different languages and cultures? A trip through Switzerland is like a trip through France, Italy and Germany/Austria rolled into one. There are tons of beautiful spots, from Zermatt in the Alps to the lovely city of Basel to my favorite lakeside town, Monteux. There's day life and nightlife and wildlife galore. What are you waiting for?
I've usually driven because I think it's the best way to see the out of the way places, but this is Switzerland, so the trains are sure to run on time! Anybody had experience taking the trains?
Lunch en route to Lewes: You absolutely MUST STOP at Jimmy's Grille in Bridgeville, Del. Wonderful homemade cooking, and pies like you have NEVER had before. Don't bother with the hordes of tourists crowding the little Lewes sandwich places.
Christina Talcott: Nice tip. Thanks!
Washington, D.C. via Hawaii: Any recommendations for beaches within the D.C. area that can be reached via bus or train for someone who lives in D.C. but doesn't have a car (or want to rent a car) but would LOVE to have a day trip to the beach?
Zofia Smardz: Yup, this is definitely the question of the day. See my earlier answer. Also hoping that travel chatters can help.
Christina Talcott: This is a good time to ask: Has anyone taken the train to Philly or New Jersey (Newark or Elizabeth, maybe?) and taken New Jersey Transit to Atlantic City or the Jersey Shore? Or what about Greyhound to Ocean City or Virginia Beach? My guess is those trips are too long for just a day at the beach...
Washington, D.C.: Am planning a day trip to the Annapolis area for this weekend. We've never done the thing where you eat crabs by hitting them with mallets, and are dying to try--where's the best place to have that experience? Thanks!
Christina Talcott: Ooh boy, this could be the start of a serious debate, but I'll offer up two places just outside Annapolis for some genuine crab picking (and hammering): Jimmy Cantler's Riverside Inn and Mike's Crab House. Anyone want to chime in with an Annapolis crab shack fave?
Flying to Hawaii: Some airlines, such as Unite, have an "economy plus" option, but you do pay more than for regular economy. The flight from LAX to Hawaii is about the same as coast to coast. There are also non-stop flights from other locations, including Atlanta and Houston. If one really wants to spend the night on the West Coast on the way, that will surely up the coast of the flights, but you can find inexpensive hotels near many airports. We paid about $65 for the Sheraton Gateway at LAX by bidding through Priceline.
Zofia Smardz: Thanks so much for this info!
Atlanta: re: article on airbnb.com...
It sounds like a great concept, and well, I have an extra guest room no one uses. I'm just concerned... What are your thoughts on safety, etc?
Andrea Sachs: So glad you enjoyed the article. Channeling my mother, I certainly had concerns about safety, but I made sure to only book with a host who had a complete profile, including bio and photos of him/herself and the apartment. After numerous conversations with the co-founder, plus some of the hosts, I felt that this is a community that really watches out for one other. Brian Chesky told me that the biggest "drama" Airbnb has experienced so far was when a guest accidently took home a host's towel; it was promptly returned. Knowing that the company holds the money for 24-48 hours was also comforting, as was their 24-hour call center. From a host's POV, you can charge the guest a security deposit if you feel more comfortable doing that. And according my hosts, the Rad brothers, they have had no incidents, only good experiences. I am a big fan and will definitely use Airbnb on my future travels, though I would probably opt for the entire abode. As for becoming a host, though I'd love the extra cash, I hate to clean. So, most likely I will always be a guest.
D.C.-Iowa: When is the best time to book Thanksgiving travel? Will the prices go down at any point before then? I'm going to Iowa, not a popular destination, does that affect anything? Would it be cheaper to fly Thursday morning?
Andrea Sachs: It's never to early to book Thanksgiving Day travel. If you see a good fare, grab it. It used be that you could fly cheaper on the day-of, but no more. Now the morning before the dinner is just as busy. Flights in the late afternoon, however, are lower, but then you might miss the appetizers.
Keeping all of that in mind, the lower fares will probably fall on Tuesday (departure) and Friday or Monday evening/Tuesday for the return.
State College, Pa.: Trick for sleeping on plane: those blow-up pillows that go around your neck. The one thing that keeps me from sleeping is my head falling over--that always wakes me up. Since I bought one of these pillows, I sleep fine.
For nursing moms out there, these pillows will work as a travel Boppy, too. (For the uninitiated, a Boppy is a curved pillow that fits around your waist; the baby rests on the pillow while nursing.)
Andrea Sachs: I love dual-purpose products. Thanks!
Gaithersburg, Md.: For the chatter last week who wanted to know if they should do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, I would say absolutely yes, do it! It's a terrific experience that is unlike anything else, and the view from the top is breathtaking.
Andrea Sachs: I double that! I climbed it at night with my sister. Such a blast.
Car rental question: I'm going to Zion and Bryce in the fall and flying in and out of Las Vegas. I started looking at rental car rates about a month or so ago and they seem to be steadily rising. Do you think this trend will continue and that I should make my reservations now, or wait to see if they drop? Hotwire is about $100 less than the other on-line sites. As I get nearer to my departure date, do you think Hotwire will drop, too? Thanks
Andrea Sachs: Sadly, the trend is rising car rental costs. You could wait for a sale, but then again, a sale might never come. I am a big fan of naming my own price on Priceline, since I don't care about the car company--I just need four wheels and a radio.
Sleeping on planes: Booze! Seriously, I almost never drink, but especially when flying to Europe I find a glass of wine is very helpful.
In the US, I usually fly Southwest, which has open seating. Unless it's a completely full flight, I always sit towards the back. That improves the chances of having a free middle seat.
Also take your own small pillow, since these are no longer provided.
Andrea Sachs: So, you are recommending, er, passing out? Kidding. Yes, a glass of wine can make you sleepy and more limber. Thanks for the tips!
Bethesda, Md.: Why did you folks cut back on the What's the Deal section? That is really the best feature of the whole Travel section, and I simply don't see how Post budget cuts would inhibit you from searching all the secret sites you guys know about and sharing the best deals.
Zofia Smardz: Alas, Post budget cuts, as you may have heard or read, mean that what's also getting cut is staff, via voluntary buyouts. And this year, our fabulous longtime Deals reporter, Carol Sottili, took a buyout offer. As of a week and a half ago, she is no longer with The Post. It was a big loss, and with a bare-bones staff at the moment, we don't have anybody who can simply step right in and take over. The rest of us will pick up the slack for the time being, but it's necessarily, because of time and workload constraints, going to be a pared-back column. We really appreciate the feedback, however. It's good to know what features people most like/don't like and how what we do is affecting our readers. We have some exciting new ideas for consumer features that you'll be seeing in the coming weeks, so please bear with us. And everybody, let us hear any other thoughts on Deals or other features/stories you like or don't like. We're all ears!
Beach by train/bus: Not sure you could do it in a day... But how about take the bus to NYC (love those $1 or $5 deals) then take the LIRR to Freeport and the bus to Jones Beach. Even if it was an overnight, you could probably score a cheap hotel in Freeport.
Zofia Smardz: Mmm... Doesn't really sound like a day trip to me, but thanks for the idea!
Autumn in Budapest: I'm considering a trip to Budapest this fall. Is autumn a good time to go? How much should I expect to pay for airfare? And how far in advance do you think I would need to buy tickets to get a good price?
Christina Talcott: November-April are the cheapest months to fly to Budapest, though fares from DC rarely go below $700; go there May-October for warmer weather. I was there once in February and it was cold, but not Chicago-cold - boots and a heavy wool coat were enough.
You should be fine booking a month out, but if you want to book earlier, make sure to go with an airline or online travel site like Orbitz that will refund you the difference if the price drops. Or you could sign up for price alerts, like on FareCompare.com.
D.C.: Spent summer 2008 in Suisse. Definitely go with trains - the mountains are a bear on vehicles and can be windy and narrow. And yes...that's a reference to Berne. Lausanne, Berne, Ticino - all must sees, must dos! And the Montreux Jazz Festival is already done for 2009 :(
Zofia Smardz: Thanks for backing my endorsement of Switzerland!
Almost Heaven: Instead of a private cabin in Maryland, use the excellent West Virginia state park system, which offers cabins at many locales close and not-so-close to D.C. I like Pipestem, with indoor pool, quilts on display and tons of outdoor recreation. they have live bluegrass sometimes in the amphitheater. Dirt cheap... No slimy landlord to gyp you, just nice state park employees.
Christina Talcott: Good call on WV state parks - they're really well-maintained and generally gorgeous.
Jimmy's in Bridgeville: A strong second endorsement for Jimmy's Grill. Great home-style country cooking (love the fried chicken), and if they serve lemon meringue pie in Heaven it's catered by Jimmy.
Christina Talcott: Haha, there'd BETTER be lemon meringue pie in Heaven!
Washington, D.C.: Re: sunscreen. The sunscreen in stick form may also work for you, although it'll take you some time to apply it! If you have the room, take a 3 oz bottle of lotion and a sunscreen stick. Good luck!
Christina Talcott: Good point on the sunscreen stick. Thanks!
Italy and Greece: Four of us are thinking of going to Rome for two weeks/10 days and are hoping to go to the southern coast (Amalfi, Pompeii, Naples, etc.) and then possibly taking a flight to Athens where we would spend one day and then go to one of the islands. Return flight would be from Athens. A few questions: Is this a good itinerary for first time European trip? How do we find a flight from Naples or Rome to Athens? Which island in Greece would you recommend? And finally, is it better to rent a car from Rome to Naples or should we take trains/buses?
Christina Talcott: Wow, that sounds like a terrific trip! Let's start with your first question: flying from Italy to Athens. I went to the Athens airport site and clicked on their European route map, and it looks like Olympic Airlines has lots of scheduled flights to Athens, whereas Air One has only a limited schedule from Naples.
I'm skipping your islands question because I'm woefully ignorant of Greek islands (though Greece is on my Must See list), but maybe chatters can offer advice.
As for getting around, I'd stick with the trains, which run frequently, quickly and fairly cheaply between Rome, Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento on the Amalfi peninsula. To visit Amalfi itself and other towns on the Amalfi peninsula, you could take the bus or rent a car from Naples or Sorrento, since train travel there is limited. In the warmer months, ferries go to the Amalfi coast and islands, so that's another possibility. While you're there, you could also visit a newly uncovered Vesuvius victim, the seaside resort villas of Stabiae. For more ideas about Italian travel, including s driving/food tour of the Amalfi coast, check out our archive of Italy stories. Ditto our Greece section, including last month's Vacation in Lights pick, Nancy Lasner's Greece trip
Alexandria, Va.: Thanks for taking my question! A good friend of mine has a four hour layover at Dulles this Saturday afternoon. I was thinking about driving out and meeting him for coffee, but I didn't know if four hours was enough time, given Dulles's famously long security lines? Is there really any place to eat/drink/socialize before you have to go through security? Thanks for any help you might be able to provide!
Christina Talcott: There are a few places you can get a coffee or a snack at Dulles outside security. Harry's Tap Room (call 703.572.4699) for hours and Cinnabon are on the upper Departures level, and Starbucks and Guava & Java are on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim level (see a map and list here. If your friend's an experienced traveler, he or she might be able to use the Dulles Diamond Checkpoint on the Arrivals level, speeding up getting through security, which, as you note, is usually a chaotic mess at Dulles.
Great Falls, Va.: Hi Flight Crew -- A couple of years ago I asked you a question about staying in ryokans wondering if I would have to deal with traditional toilets. We stayed in a ryokan Sapporo with western style bathroom and loved it. Now we are going back in the Fall and last week a poster from D.C. recommended Hoshinoya (by the way, the Web site is amazing!). As it is quite expensive, I wanted to ask the poster what the area is like. Poster mentioned an outlet mall at the train stop -- not quite what we were looking for. I guess my basic question is about the area. Is it rural or more like the outlet mall? Thank you.
Zofia Smardz: Here's hoping that poster is with us again today. Hello out there? Can you help with this?
Herndon, Va.: I have a 6:50 a.m. flight out of Dulles to SF on Thursday. How early do I really need to be there given when the United counter will be open?
Christina Talcott: Here's the info on when those counters are open, via United's Web site: "Ticket counter hours: 4:15am-9:45pm. Customers with checked baggage should arrive 90 minutes before flight departure (2 hours if traveling internationally)." For a flight to SFO, you should be there by 5:20 if you want to check any bags. Remember that you can check in, print your boarding passes and pay for checked luggage before you leave for the airport at www.united.com; it's cheaper that way, too.
Toddlers take Manhattan?: We're thinking of taking our 13 month old twins to NYC for a long weekend. Are we insane? Any suggestions on whether we should take the train or the shuttle into LaGuardia? Is pushing a side-by-side stroller through Manhattan impossible? What are some can't miss kiddie attractions? I've gone to New York more times than I can count, but never had to consider whether it's toddler friendly. Suggestions from you or the chatters are appreciated!
Andrea Sachs: I would chose the train, so the twins have more freedom and few restrictions (aka TSA security). And what kid doesn't love to see the landscape whizzing by? In some of the more crowded areas, such as Times Square, the sidewalks might be a tight squeeze, but just be aggressive and you will get through. For more open space, hit Central Park, which in addition to green space has oodles of kiddie activities, including the carousel and the zoo. The city as a whole is wonderful for children. You have the Children's Museum of the Arts and Children's Museum of Manhattan, the stuffed critters at the Natural History Museum, puppet theater, the aquarium, the exciting elevator ride to the top of the Empire State Building, the ferry ride and visit to the Statue of Liberty, etc.
Rental cars in Las Vegas: To the person going to Zion and Bryce. I went to Yosemite this Spring from Las Vegas, and used a group code AND a coupon code from www.momsview.com for Avis and got an AMAZING deal. It was $150 off a 9-day SUV rental.
Andrea Sachs: Great tip! Thanks!
Arlington, Va.: Re: Sunscreen. Last I checked, Vegas sold the stuff, too! Probably easier to find and buy there than worrying about what can and can not be taken as checked or carry-on luggage.
Christina Talcott: What fun is that?! You're right, lots of people don't even travel with toothpaste anymore thanks to the 3-1-1 rules. Me, I love the challenge of cramming my entire beauty regimen in a tiny baggie. Others, not so much.
Bel Air, Md.: My wife and I and kids (9 and 6) are taking our first cruise in 2 weeks, aboard the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore. We are visiting Nassau, Grand Turk, and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas. Do you or any chatters have any words of wisdom for first time cruisers? Thanks !!
Christina Talcott: Hey there, it looks like you hit the jackpot with your choice: Reviewers on CruiseCritic.com rate Carnival Pride very high on the "Family and Kids" scale. Scroll through the reviews on that site to get an idea of what to do/what to avoid on your trip, and also for general first time-cruiser hints. Any chatters have tips to share?
Seattle: Flying to Hawaii from the west coast. You can fly there direct from Seattle, Portland, San Fran, and LAX are you best options.
From Seattle you can fly direct to Hawaii on Northwest or Alaska., from San Fan on United, and from LAX on numerous airlines.
Also for airfare issues, be alert to booking separate travel where you fly to the west coast on one airline and then to Hawaii on another. Sometime you can get cheaper prices that way. If you do that try to do an overnight stay at the airport you are flying to. Portland, and San Francisco and Seattle (in January) are light rail friendly where you can easily go downtown on light rail.
This past year in January-March there were some 10 year low prices to Hawaii from the west coast with fares $300 or less. Airlines had incentives on people who booked during certain periods.
Zofia Smardz: More on flying to Hawaii. Thank you!
Owasso, Okla.: Regarding Swiss Trains: It's a travel experience in itself, and we've done it multiple times with our kids. One of my favorite travel memories is watching that scenery flash by as we had a picnic of baguettes and chocolate or played cards. One thing to check out are the special excursions. We did the Golden Pass from Montreaux to Interlaken and sat in the nose of the front car. A great help is the Swiss rail schedule Web site www.sbb.ch. In English you can plot your travels. It's all very organized and easy. If you get way out in the country a car might be easier and get you to more secluded places, but I figure we drive enough here. I'm ready for something vastly different on a vacation.
Zofia Smardz: All you need to know about train travel in Switzerland. Thanks!
Arlington, Va.: Do you have any recommendations on places to get information on travel medical insurance (helicopter evacuation, etc.)? Planning on going far off the beaten path, and I'd like to ensure that I'm okay.
Re: Zipline in Hawaii: I'm the one who posted about sunscreen before - thanks!
To pay it back on my honeymoon we ziplined in Kipu Falls in Kauai - used http:/
Christina Talcott: Ooh, that sounds terrific. Thanks for the recommendation!
Arlington, Va.: Hawaii again - so, which west coast airport would you recommend to spend a few layover hours in? LAX? SFO? LAS? Something else entirely?
Andrea Sachs: I would go first by price, but if they are the same, I would chose Los Angeles, because I love to look for celebrities and the food court there has good Japanese eats. Also, a few years ago, you could take a shuttle near the airport to Manhattan Beach. I was so relaxed before I got back on the plane. (Not sure if they still offer this service, but the folks manning the info center will know.) Of course, SFO has good eats at the airport and you can catch the BART from the airport.
swdc: On Hawaii - agree that West Coast is the logical place to stop if you're worried about length of trip. Since you can price out pretty good one-way rates on those routes (DC-Calif/Calif.-Hawaii), you could even build in a day stop-off in different cities - e.g. LA on the outbound and Bay Area on the return - without too much trouble. That would break up the trip nicely.
Sleeping on the plane - as goofy as I feel it makes me look, the traditional eyeshade that blocks out light - the ones they used to give you in onboard amenity packs - still works best for me.
Andrea Sachs: Yes, indeed, Hawaii is much farther away than one expects and a layover on the West Coast is a nice break, especially after the long flight from the East Coast.
I am a big fan of eyeshades, too. And I am sure that if I could see myself in a mirror, I look pretty stylish.
Seattle: Have to agree that October is a great time to visit Italy - this is true in Venice and Florence as well as in Rome - and even early October is nice in the lake country around Milan - I recommend visiting Sirmione on Lake Garda instead of just doing Lake Como.
Are there any air fare specials to Italy around that time?
Andrea Sachs: Fares should begin to drop after the summer rush and before the holiday season cranks up. Keep your eyes peeled.
Springfield, Va.: Two things. Definitely bring back What's the Deal if/when you can. It was the first thing I read when the new week's travel section was posted online.
Second, trick for sleeping on the plane, noise canceling headphones. Seriously, they are definitely expensive, but well worth it when you can drown out the chit chat on the plane and zone out. They're much more affective with music playing, but still work well without. I always forget how loud planes are until I have to turn them off!
Andrea Sachs: Thank you for your input (on Deals) and your advice (on sleep).
Prague by motorcycle?: European friends are currently en route to Prague by motorcycle, and keeping in touch via blog. What can you or the chatters recommend they not miss while in Prague?
Zofia Smardz: Prague was virtually untouched in WWII and is a living, breathing gem of history in the heart of central Europe. A truly beautiful city. Be sure to see the Old Town, the New Town and Wenceslas Square, the Charles Bridge. Prague Castle, the largest in the world. St. Vitus Cathedral, the Golden Lane. Josefov, the old Jewish quarter, with the Jewish Cemetery and the synagogue. The graffiti-covered Lennon Wall is fun, and reminds you of the underground dissent of Communist days. There are wonderful museums, too, and beautiful architecture all around. Tips from other Prague-lovers?
Train to the Beach...Sort of!: Amtrak runs a bus from BWI to Ocean City. Takes about 3 hours, plus the 30-45 minutes on the train to BWI. Costs about $100, but well worth not having to drive...of course you can still get caught in traffic!
Zofia Smardz: Great tip, thank you!!
Arlington, Va.: I've been traveling a lot of distances for work of late and my best tips for sleeping on a plane include:
1. Upgrade to business class (so vital especially for overseas). The upside of all my business travel is LOTS of FF points to use for those upgrades (who can afford them otherwise?).
2. Loose comfy clothing. No, not PJs! But a cotton shirt (think golf shirt) and cotton khaki's go a long way. Paired with a blue blazer and you're definitely business casual!
3. Pillow - and not the airline supplied pillow! Something small like a collapsible camping pillow from Dick's. Rolls into its own bag and costs about $12!
4. Hydrate hydrate hydrate! Water helps. The air in planes is dry dry dry! Of course you don't want to drink so much that you're sleep is interrupted by... er... calls of nature! Avoid alcohol too!
5. Flight times - try to fly afternoon (2 p.m.) or evenings. Amazing how circadian rhythms conspire to put you to sleep at those times. Best of all, your fellow travelers are likely to be asleep too!
6. Drugs - lastly, for really long flights, I do have a prescription for Ambien from my doctor. Not something I recommend regularly, but every now and then, when you fly from D.C. to Tokyo, it helps!
Andrea Sachs: Great list. I especially like No. 1!
Bethesda, Md.: In response to the questions about the beach, I did recently see an advertisement for Bus To Beach or something like that. It dropped off at Bethany, I think, once a day Saturday and Sunday from D.C. Maybe that's an idea.
Zofia Smardz: It is an idea, thank you! We'll look into this!
Switzerland traveler: My husband and I just got back from a trip to Switzerland in June. What a beautiful place. We would highly recommend spending time in Lucern and the Alps. We stayed in a small town called Murren in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
We usually drive on our European trips but had heard so many wonderful things about the transportation system over there we decided to get a Swiss Saver Pass and relied completely on public transportation. It really is fantastic and we never had to wait more than 10 min for a train. The pass also covers some lifts in the Alps and boats tours on Lake Lucern and Lake Geneva. Well worth the money in my mind to just sit back and enjoy the views. If you do head to the Alps try to catch one of the scenic trains. We took the Golden Pass from Lucern to Interlaken and had terrific views in the panoramic cars. That train is also covered by the Swiss Pass so no extra money spent there.
Enjoy your trip and make sure to bring home lots of chocolate. They make it so well there.
Zofia Smardz: Thanks! Makes me want to take the train next time.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz: It sounds like the most horribly uncomfortable way to catch some shut-eye on a flight but, for me, a stomach sleeper, I've found the best way to sleep on planes. Fold the tray table down, rest my pillow on top, lay my head down on it to the side and cross my arms in front of my body or across the tray table.
It's a bit like sleeping in class but it's stable, gives me the same sensation of sleeping on my tummy and, when I'm not traveling with my husband or a loved one, it also prevents the dreaded slump onto my seatmates that afflicts those who sleep sitting up. Last, I don't have to recline my seat to do it, making the flight for the passenger MUCH more pleasant! It's a win-win all around.
Andrea Sachs: I always wondered how that worked, having spent many flights marveling at passengers sleeping on their trays. I have to try it next time.
Silver Spring, Md.: Tickets to London for late Oct to early Nov are around $650 to $700. Should I wait for a better deal? Dates are flexible.
Andrea Sachs: Not bad, but if you can wait, you might be able to save $100 or so.
Charlottesville, Va.: My trick to sleeping on long flights is to take a Nyquil an hour or so before take-off. When I reach my seat, I trade my sandals for a pair of thick socks. I also bring my own pillowcase to put over the scratchy airline pillows. I try to chose a movie I've already seen, or listen to the classical station.
Andrea Sachs: That sounds so cozy.
Arlington, Va.: I am heading to Bethany Beach, Del., tonight. Anything I should be sure not to miss in terms of nightlife? I prefer classy fun instead of the often found trashy fun.
Christina Talcott: Rehoboth's got more in the way of "classy" than Bethany, in my experience, but maybe there's a new place or two I haven't discovered. Any tips, chatters?
For Sleeping on Planes: This trick works for international flights - take a Benedryl (which is the exact same thing as a sleeping pill) right when you get on the plane. The first meal is served as soon as the flight takes off and by the time you have finished eating the medicine has kicked in. Some earplugs and an eyemask and it's bedtime. I can get four or five hours of sleep even in coach.
Andrea Sachs: Nice set-up, plus you won't sneeze through the night.
West Ffx County: To the Italy/Greece traveler: Athens has a very good quality subway that you can easily take to Piraeus, the port city (cabs and buses also available). If you only have a day or not much more to visit an island, it's possible to take a hydrofoil from Piraeus to one of the Saronic Gulf islands; Aegina, Hydra, and Spetses are all about an hour or less away via hydrofil, and each is beautiful, charming, and has sightseeing, activities, restaurants, and accommodations. Piraeus gets very busy on the weekends, but the hydrofoil is quite reasonably priced. We liked to ride in the open-air section in the back, feel the spray, and look at the scenery.
Christina Talcott: Great, thanks for the tips!
Tampa: For the parent considering taking her 13-month old toddlers to NYC. If the reason you are going is just to take the kids there, don't do it. Sure, you can cart them to all the great museums and things, but they won't remember it at all, and trust me, while it is possible to travel with very young kids in NYC, it's not easy - sidewalks are crowded, it's very noisy, etc. etc. I would wait until the kids are older, able to walk around on their own, and be able to experience the city and remember it.
I give the same advice to parents who want to take their 2 year olds to Disney World. Wait until the child is at least 4 years old. It will be a much better experience for both of you (no having to haul diapers, baby food, etc. and the child will get more out of the trip).
As the mother of a 7-year old, I can attest. My husband and I just got back from a week-long stay in NYC. Dear daughter visited with Grandma. A great time was had by all. Will I take her to NYC? Absolutely. In about another year or so.
Andrea Sachs: Thanks for your honest mom opinion. That is crucial!
Minneapolis: For the person going to Italy and Greece: 10 days/2 weeks is probably not enough time to do Rome, Naples area (Pompeii is a must see), Athens AND a Greek Island. Flights from Rome to Athens on Olympic Air are easy, but once in Athens there is a lot to see. Coordinating ferry rides to a Greek Island with flights from Italy might cost a day lost in transit. It might be better to skip Greece or just stay in the Athens area for the highlights of the city.
Christina Talcott: Thanks for weighing in. So sad to have too-short vacations!
Bronx, N.Y.: For the family with twin toddlers who want to come to NYC for a long weekend: take the train!!! Don't worry about the sidewalks - we're used to the stroller brigades. I second everything mentioned above, except to note that the Aquarium is out on Coney Island, and while it's worth the trip, you might decide that your kids are a little young yet. (Or maybe your kids would like Coney Island in all its wackiness, plus there's the beach.) My only suggestion is that if you're going to self-cater breakfast and lunch, try to leave the kids with one parent while the other parent hits the grocery or a deli: our supermarket aisles definitely -won't- accommodate a double stroller. Definitely come up, and have a great trip!
Andrea Sachs: And now a word from a New Yorker . . .
Arlington, Va.: For sleeping on planes, I find it best to use an eye mask and earplugs. Last international trip I took I had to use two eye masks to get full darkness since they had the lights on ultra bright most of the flight. I also find that it helps to bring my dinner on board, that way I am not waiting 2 hours for dinner before trying to go to sleep. Also...getting a window seat allows for me to zonk out without worrying about someone needing to get up to go to the bathroom.
Andrea Sachs: Wow, you really build a cave for yourself.
Falls Church, Va.: Hi. Hoping you or the chatters may have some advice to share. My husband and I are stopping in New York City for a couple of days on our way to New England. We wanted to avoid the high parking rates in the city, so we were thinking of parking in New Jersey (maybe Hoboken?) and taking the PATH train into the city. However, parking rates near train stations in New Jersey are almost as high as they are in New York City. Is there another tactic we should consider? Thanks!
Christina Talcott: You could consider taking the ferry to Manhattan from New Jersey. Scroll down to the bottom for ideas here. I'm assuming you're staying in New York, right? Otherwise, you could always find a hotel with reasonable parking in NJ...
UK Train Travel: I have a wedding in Edinburgh coming up and was thinking about flying into London and then heading up to Edinburgh by train with the idea of seeing the English countryside along the way. The total trip will likely take 5+ hours. Is this a bad idea? Will we mostly likely see the inside of tunnels rather than rolling hills and countryside?
Zofia Smardz: Haven't ever trained up to Edinburgh. Any chatters out there who can describe the trip?
For the chatters looking to do the beach by bus: What about taking the bus to Atlantic City and doing the beach there? Didn't greyhound used to do day trips to AC and back?
Christina Talcott: Here's one idea for the beach-bound...
Washington, D.C.: I've spent a good deal of time in Switzerland and indeed the trains are fine. Not just the normal Swiss Federal Trains, but there are various local, private trains that climb into the high country, even up the Jungfrau to ca. 12,000 feet. I always remember that you can take a lake boat from Lucerne, a cog railway up Mt. Pilatus, a ski lift down the other side and a bus or train (I forget which) back to Lucerne -- all on one ticket.
Zofia Smardz: Fantastic, thank you!
Harrisburg, Pa.: RE: Sleeping on planes
It's really hard and the sleep is seldom restful, but here's what I do: 1. Get a window seat (so I can lean against the wall of the plane). 2. Use a sleep mask and ear plugs and an inflatable neck pillow. 3. Place the airline pillow behind my back and wrap the blanket UNDERNEATH my seat belt (so the flight attendant doesn't wake me up to remind me to fasten it). 4. Don't drink caffeinated or carbonated beverages for several hours before planning to sleep. (The caffeine is obvious, the gas from the carbonation will expand in flight and can cause distress, which can interfere with sleep). 5. Wear comfortable clothing when traveling and remove my shoes before trying to sleep.
Andrea Sachs: Solid advice, thanks!
Arlington, Va.: Last week, someone asked about doing the Sydney Bridge Climb. My husband did it a few years ago. For some people, it is the highlight of their trip to Sydney, but while my husband enjoyed the climb, it was not the highlight of his visit. The Bridge Climb costs around 200 Australian dollars now, but there are cheaper alternatives. You can climb up into one of the pylons for a view and an exhibit about the building of the bridge. This costs 9.50 Australian dollars. You can also walk on the pedestrian walkway across the Harbour Bridge. This is what I did and I got great views (and great photos) of the Opera House and harbor. Doing this is FREE.
Christina Talcott: Thanks for chiming in!
Baltimore: Getting cash at UK ATMs: A friend of mine who banks with Bank of America, as I do, told me that B of A has a reciprocal agreement with Barclay's Bank--no ATM fees or surcharges by either bank when using the other's ATM. Just tried it on a 2-week trip to England and it's true. My online statement showed the amounts withdrawn (in US dollars) but no service charges. This makes using cash a much better deal than credit cards, where I have occasionally found a nasty $8 or $10 dollar foreign currency conversion fee charged when I finally got my bill.
Zofia Smardz: Great advice, thanks!
Arlington, Va.: For sleeping on planes:
1. Watch "Twilight" and count all the plot holes.
2. If your flight is leaving at 5, don't decide to stay up all night. At 1:30 a.m., you'll "rest your eyes" for twenty minutes and wake up at 4:45.
Andrea Sachs: Twilight kept me up, most notably for the apres-movie discussion with my seatmate.
Washington, D.C.: I don't have any useful tips for sleeping on airplanes, but I just wanted to kvetch that my boyfriend manages to fall asleep before the plane takes off, and often stays that way until we land.
I don't know how he does it and I hate him for it.
Zofia Smardz: Yes, some guys can fall asleep anywhere at the drop of a hat, can't they?
Philadelphia, Pa.: Some friends and I had rented a cabin in the Catskills this week and weekend, but it unfortunately fell through last-minute. My boyfriend and I would still like to get away this weekend, but the great part about this cabin is that it was going to come to about $20 per person per night. Is there a way to find something that cheap elsewhere? I've used Priceline for hotels and stuff, but do you know how I might find cabins or B and Bs for a low rate?
Christina Talcott: Hi Philly, see my earlier answer about cabin rentals. You should be able to come up with something, though you'll probably have to call around...
Washington, D.C.: For the traveler looking for deals on rental cars: I had in the past found deals with Hotwire, but this time I cleaned the clock of all the travel websites with a deal through my union. If your questioner is a union-member, I suggest visiting unionplus.org for coupon codes and discount rates. I had a full size in Florida over July 4th for under $200 for 4 days.
Andrea Sachs: Wonderful tip! Thanks.
Sydney Harbour Bridge, Climb: I didn't get a chance to respond last week to the chatter who was going to Sydney and wanted to know if they should do the Bridge Climb. ABSOLUTELY YES! It is an experience that you cannot get anywhere else. I've done it twice and would absolutely do it again.
Christina Talcott: Another Bridge Climb opinion. Thanks!
Personally I liked no. 6: Think of all the Ambien "moments" you may have on a plane.
Andrea Sachs: One day, we will all share our Ambien stories. They probably are as good as tequila stories.
New York, N.Y.: My best trick for getting sleep on a plane is sweet talking someone into upgrading me to first class-- reclining seats make better beds! Other than that, I bring my own pillow, don't drink anything besides water, and skip the meal service on flights less than 8 hours. Between the waiting and the eating and the cleaning up and the digesting, if I accept meal service I'm getting interrupted every few minutes. Headphones and having work that I'm procrastinating on to do help, too.
Andrea Sachs: You must be really sweet, because I have yet to snag an upgrade.
Silver Spring Mom: I just have to chirp up. I was so disappointed in the section this weekend -- who exactly is your audience? Sushi in Canada? A stranger's house in New York City (odd story in and of itself)? Greenland? Last week it was Liberia. You're quickly losing another reader here -- I'm a mom of two and can't relate to a single thing.
Zofia Smardz: I'm so sorry to hear that! Funny, some people really liked those same stories. We do have a very large, very varied audience, and it's hard to hit all the notes that will please everyone every week! I hope you'll stick with us, we have some really intriguing stories coming up. In the meantime, let us know what kinds of things moms like you would like to see more of! E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and put "travel suggestions" in the subject line. Look forward to hearing from you!
Andrea Sachs: Well, that was a fast hour. Thanks for the questions and especially the sleep tips. For the chatster who enlightened us about sleeping on your tray table, please email me at email@example.com for your gift, which is sadly not a free back massage. See you next Monday.
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