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Talk About Travel: Travel Staffers Help You Plan Great Escapes

The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, September 21, 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, September 21 at 2 p.m.

Browse an archive of previous live travel Q&As.

The next Travel chat will be on Monday, Sept. 28.

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Andrea Sachs: Hello everyone, and goodbye, summer. Yep, it's the last day of flip-flops, golden tans and gin and tonics on the veranda. Sigh. But to distract us from the oncoming cool temps, we are expecting a guest today, Lee Gutkind, who wrote about biking and hiking Kilimanjaro in Sunday's Travel. So toss him all of your questions, as well as a world of others that we will do our best to answer.

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Timonium, Md.: Good afternoon, Flight Crew:

Re: Cuba

How rigid are the State Department's travel rules when an intern and freelance journalist are permitted to visit the country? What is to prevent John Q Public from proclaiming that he is a freelancer and making the trip?

Thanks

Joe Yonan: Read that Details box again. Emma & Co. didn't go on a journalist visa but flew through a third country, which Americans can do -- but risk penalty.

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Rockville, Md.: I thought I'd actually make my Thanksgiving plans on time this year for a change, only to discover that AirTran has stopped flying to my destination. So, instead of Baltimore, I have to choose between National and Dulles. I'd want to drive and park to Dulles, but is it possible? Because of work, I have to leave on Wednesday. Do the long term parking lots fill up? Will I be stuck getting there hours before my flight just to be sure of a space? I think I am going to miss all those private lots around BWI with the shuttle busses that follow you to your spot, help you with your luggage and take you right to the airport even if the bus isn't full.

Oh, and the ticket is going to cost over $400. I swear I'd take Amtrak if it weren't a 12 hour train trip vs. a 1 1/2 hour flight.

Andrea Sachs: If possible, I would take Metro to Reagan National. Or if you choose Dulles, you can take Washington Flyer from the Metro West Falls Church Station or Metro bus 5A from a number of pick-up stops in the D.C. area. As for driving, I would not drive to National, since spaces are short. However, I have never had a problem with Dulles, because it has many extra long-term lots--and I always depart on the holiday. The airports also have parking updates on their Web sites, so check before you go. Just leave yourself some time, to battle traffic and search for a spot.

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NYC : Hello, I am looking for recommendations for a Caribbean honeymoon in June. My (future) husband and I will have 4 days and $3k. We are looking for a beautiful, low-key, and secluded location if possible--no Sandals-type places, no inebriated college contingent. Thanks much!

Zofia Smardz: Several Post colleagues rave about the Bahama House Inn on Harbour Island in the Bahamas. They're so high on it that I've put it on my list of must go-to places. Beautiful, low-key, secluded -- it's all three.

But there are lots of other places out there. Chime in, Flight Crew and chatters!

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Ashburn, Va.: I am traveling out of IAD on Friday afternoon. Do you have any idea what, if any, longer than normal delays have been going on there with the new security on the lower level?

Andrea Sachs: When the new area opened, there were reports that security was crowded. But as people are getting acquainted with the new location, the chaos is easing up. If you are flying in the early morning or afternoon, give yourself some additional time. But you are already one step ahead: You know that the lines have moved!

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Falls Church, Va.: In late June 2010 we will celebrate our 50th anniversary. We'd like to take our family on a week vacation together--this includes a 17-yr old boy & his 13-yr old brother, and their cousin, an 8-yr old girl. We would like an all-inclusive vacation so as to avoid any unwelcome surprises. We've talked about a week at a resort in Mexico or a cruise of some kind. What would your experts suggest?

Christina Talcott: A rental is a good idea for a group. Check out this story on a family reunion in Mexico, which had some nice suggestions.

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Washington, DC: My husband and I are looking to get away for the long Columbus Day weekend in October. Do you have recommendations for a 2-3 day trip within a three-hour drive? Friends have suggested Virginia wine country, hunt country, Shenandoah, Harpers Ferry, Hot Springs, etc but the options seem endless and I am hoping for some specific recommendations. Thanks!

Christina Talcott: Well, what are you interested in doing? Do like like rural retreats more than small towns? Want to hike vs. shop? Like fine dining, spas, nature walks, historic houses? And, not unimportantly, what's your budget like?

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First time to Boston: Off to Boston for the first time ever this week. My research says I should spend most of my time in Cambridge, North End, and a bit in Fenway. But am I missing something golden in other neighborhoods? And are there places to stay away from?

I'm a male in my early 40s traveling alone if that helps.

Joe Yonan: You're missing a lot, but then again, I don't know what you're into! How bout the restaurants and art galleries of the warehouse district of the South End? And Cambridge is b-i-g. Which parts are you hitting? Check out last week's transcript for a book of ideas from me...

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Arlington, Va.: Hi guys! I'm planning to fly to Frankfurt in November to visit my boyfriend, who will be working overseas for a few weeks. I'm seeing a round-trip fare of $547 through United/Lufthansa-- think I should jump on it?

Also, it doesn't seem like there's a whole lot to do/see in Frankfurt-- any recommendations for must-sees I might be missing (or places to visit not too far from the city)? Thanks!

Zofia Smardz: That $547 fare sounds good to me -- I say go for it.

As for Frankfurt, it's true. It's not the *most* scintillating travel destination in Germany, but that doesn't mean it's a total sterile bore, either. It's Germany's most thoroughly modern city, with more skyscrapers than almost anywhere else in Europe (I think London might have a few more), and the view from the top of the Main Tower is stunning and worth a look.

There are also great museums -- the Stadelsches Kunstinstitut is one of the country's best art museums (check out the German Expressionist section), and the Museumufer houses 14 museums in restored villas on the banks of the Main River. And of course there are churches -- St. Bartholomeus Cathedral, St. Paul's, St. Katharine's, St. Nicholas.

Grab a coffee in the Hauptwache, an old Baroque-style guard house that's now a cafe. And take a stroll to the Roemerberg, the town hall square of rebuilt medieval buildings. Finally, there's great shopping on the Zeil, the pedestrian shopping street that's one of the busiest in Germany.

If you want to venture beyond Hamburg, the old spa town of Bad Homburg is nearby to the north and beautiful, as is Wiesbaden, also a spa town, and Konigstein, with its castle ruins and historic Old Town, is a must-see.

Any other suggestions, chatters?

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Montclair, Va.: My wife and I are planning on a 4-night trip to Vegas in January with our 22-year old daughter and will-turn-21-year-old-during-the-weekend son. Ideally, a 3 bedroom condo would fit the bill, but I don't see any online. Any suggestions on finding the most cost effective accommodations?

Andrea Sachs: Vegas is so cheap these day, you should not have a problem getting a good rate. Rentals are not that common, but check such sites as www.vacationrentals.com and www.findvacationrentals.com, or call a local realtor. I would, however, suggest staying on the Strip, especially with two kids in tow. You could get a suite or adjoining rooms, so everyone has a bit of privacy. The Venetian has very spacious suites, and the Wynn has been eager to fill rooms, cutting rates. See Vegas.com for current deals.

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Washington, DC: Hello, a friend and I are heading to Boston for Columbus Day weekend. Any ideas for affordable accommodations in Boston? Thanks.

Joe Yonan: It's been a few years since I reviewed it, but I really liked the Charlesmark, which has a great location (Copley Square), small but very stylish and well-appointed rooms. I'm seeing a $209 rate for that weekend, which isn't bad given that that's a VERY popular tourism weekend in Boston, as it's traditional peak leaf-peeping time, and I would imagine prices would be higher. Boston also has several Kimpton hotels, and I like that chain: Check out the Onyx near North Station and the Marlowe in Cambridge (right near the Science Museum). I haven't checked availability or rates that weekend, but they usually have decent prices, and allow pets.

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MD: Any of you been to Belgrade or Sarejevo? Got any suggested activities or easy day trip ideas?

Zofia Smardz: Belgrade is actually one of Europe's most historic cities. But alas, it's also been at the crossroads of major conflicts and conflagrations, so a great deal of its history has been routinely destroyed. Nevertheless, there's plenty to see there. The Kalemegdan Fortress and park is the oldest part of the city and features beautiful promenades and vistas as well as gorgeous historical architecture. Skadarlija is the Belgrade Montmartre, a colorful bohemian street with eateries, cafes, art galleries, shops. Anyone who was anyone in Serbian or Yugoslav letters once visited here. Prince Michael Street is the main pedestrian zone, lined with beautiful renaissance and baroque buildings.

The White Palace, or Beli Dvor, home of the former Serbian royals, is open to visitors and houses a good art collection.

And Belgrade's nightlife is pretty hopping, with lots of clubs and bars. Be sure to partake.

I have not been to Sarjevo, but I'm sure someone out there has been, so speak up!

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Washington, DC: I have a question that mixes travel with work objectives. This morning I read the following: "... American Mikala Reasbeck smiles at a recruiting office in Beijing, China. When the best job Reasbeck could find after college in Boston was counting pills part-time in a drugstore for $7 an hour, she took the drastic step of jumping on a plane to Beijing in February to look for work."

I wouldn't mind the experience of spending a few years teaching in China myself. However, I never knew it was as simple as going to a job fair in Beijing.

Are passports and visas still needed to go to China? If so, does that paperwork consider work and travel as the same thing?

Andrea Sachs: Yes, passports and visas are required for China, and the country is very particular about the type of visa it issues. For example, the required documents and prices vary according to the type of visa you request--tourist, work, journalist, etc. Before flying off, it might be wise to work with a placement company that can faciliate the process and pair you with a school or institution in need of an English-speaking teacher. Companies include www.transitionsabroad.com, www.chineseculturecenter.org, journeyeast.org, etc. I would not recommend just showing up in China and knocking on school doors for work.

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Washington, DC: I'm trying to put together a trip to Paris and Morocco in February. Round-trip from here to Paris in February seems to be about $700-800. Is that a decent price? Should I buy now or wait?

Andrea Sachs: That sounds a tad high for off-season travel. I am finding fares of $600 for early Feb. Keep on looking. It's still early enough.

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Going to Morocco: Probably, at least. I've been looking into trekking tours through eastern Morocco - the Atlas Mountains and edge of the Sahara. I'm a single woman (30) and would be traveling by myself. I was all excited to go, but then a friend pointed out that if the rest of my tour group sucks, then I'll be essentially hiking by myself with a bunch of strangers. Any thoughts?

Lee Gutkind: We had one single woman and one single man on our Surf to Summit trek in Tanzania. Luckily, everyone got along, but the single people were always lower on the priority list when it came to accommodations, choices of what to do, etc. The woman especially needed to be very strong and be ready to battle for here particular choices of rooms, activities, etc. The group was chock full of independent thinkers and experienced travelers-

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Mid Oct in Harper's Ferry: For the folks celebrating their wedding anniversary...mid October also marks the 150th anniversary of John Brown's raid on the national arsenal there. It's a big deal.

The commemorative weekend is Oct 16-18. So depending on your interest and tolerance of crowds and historic reenactments, you may wish to avoid the area or this might be the place to be.

Zofia Smardz: good pointers, thanks!

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Ireland bound: Great article on Kilimanjaro; definitely on my life to-do list!

But before I get there, I am heading to Ireland with a friend. We got a good deal for flights, 5 nights in a hotel in Dublin and a rental car. But we don't think we'll want to just do Dublin, and since we'll have a car, we plan to do some day trips.

If we decide to extend a day trip to an over night adventure, would we face any problems with our hotel in Dublin? What if we just stayed there the first night and the last night? Would there be a chance of us losing our (pre-paid) room?

Joe Yonan: I think as long as you don't try to get your money back for those nights you should be fine. But to be safe, you should double-check with the hotel.

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Married to a Grad Student: Hubby is graduating in January. We have an 18-month-old at home. I am thinking February trip to Florida to escape the gray DC winter, to celebrate his success, and to have a much needed holiday as a family (and not to a relative's house).

When is the best time to look about tickets? And while my daughter does not need a ticket bought for her, she would do better in her own seat...is it a safe bet to book and we would get any spares, or should I go ahead and get her her own seat?

Thx.

Andrea Sachs: If you are traveling during spring break in February, start looking now. It's not a bad idea, anyway, just to see what prices are running. (You did not mention where in Florida you are considering, but most major Florida cities fall in the $200 range, if not less.)

If you want a seat for your child, buy one. Flights are so full these days, there are few open seats. In addition, even if a seat is open, you are basically taking it without paying. That is different than just moving to a better seat. Also remember to bring her car seat for the flight, which will also come in handy on the trip.

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Arlington, Va.: The person considering teaching in China should definitely do a lot of research beforehand. I have read all sorts of stories about people teaching English in Thailand and it is not all it's cracked up to be. You work long hours for minimal pay (just like teaching in the USA). Depending on the school you end up in your students may be good or not good. The education systems in Asia are very different from what we are used to here. It may sound like a great adventure but make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.

Andrea Sachs: Great advice. Thanks!

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Phoenix in early November: What to do, where to stay/eat?

Already done the Grand Canyon. We want to experience the southwest.

Recommendations?

Joe Yonan: I'll tackle where to eat. And really, isn't that the best thing to do? If I were going to Phoenix, I'd head to Pizzeria Bianco, whose pies have gotten nationwide acclaim (especially among the pizza-obsessed). Here are some other eating ideas from a Smart Mouth column we ran in 2007.

Chatters, more suggestions on non-food activities and lodging?

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Washington, DC: I had the good fortune of traveling a lot this summer within the US and Canada. I enjoyed my experience so much I want to make this a regular part of my life. I've also developed a taste for photography. I would love to just drop off my stuff at my hotel and walk around taking pictures for the rest of the day. Are there such things as photography tours for the amateur photographer?

Joe Yonan: There sure are -- lots of them. One outfit with a good reputation is Strabo Photo Tour Collection.

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London on a long weekend?: Four-day trip too short to see London? I was hoping I can catch a flight out of IAD on Friday and come back Monday night?

Andrea Sachs: Not at all. Just be concise with your plans, so you don't waste anytime. In other words, don't try to do too much.

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re: Caribbean honeymoon: Low key? Head to Virgin Gorda! It can be that sort of island where you'll see more chickens on the beach or goats on the road than other tourists.

Whatever you do, just don't go to an island that big cruise ships visit!

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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Arlington, Va.- For Frankfurt traveler: Be sure to go to Heidelberg. Its only 45 miles south of Frankfurt.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks!

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Virginia: Hello! My fiancé and I are trying to decide between 2 weeks in Italy or 2 weeks in Greece. I have been to both, he has been to neither. Any knee-jerk reactions? Thanks.

Zofia Smardz: Oh, wow, that's a tough one! I'd say the only way to choose would be to flip a coin. You couldn't go wrong either way. Why don't you split it -- one week in Italy, one week in Greece?

But seriously, it would help to know more about you to make a considered recommendation. If you want a knee-jerk reaction, though, I guess I'd go with Italy. More actual fascinating towns to visit and fantastic art everywhere you turn.

Let's let others weigh in. Folks?

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Georgetown: I'm planning a trip for March 2010, and of course my passport expires in Feb 2010. What is the latest info on how long it takes to get a renewed passport?

Zofia Smardz: It takes FOREVER. If I were you, I'd get that renewal ball rolling now. Here's the info from the State Department on the procedure. They say routine mail-in service is taking about 4-6 weeks, while expedited service, for which you pay an additional $60 fee (on top of the $95 renewal and whatever it costs you to send your old passport out overnight), is about 2-3. You could also wait until 14 days out from your trip and then make an appointment to get a passport in person, which would obviously take less time, but might be more nerve-wracking and would again cost you a substantial amount. The basic rule, though, is that the more you pay, the faster you get your passport.

Anyone have experience renewing recently?

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Dulles security?: This is the first I've heard of changes at Dulles. Perhaps you could give us a brief explanation?

Andrea Sachs: We reported on it in CoGo two Sundays ago: The security screening area has been moved to the mezzanine level in the Main Terminal.

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Travel packing: I'm headed on a month-long international work trip that's going to involve temperatures ranging from 40 degrees to 95 degrees. Any idea of how to pack for such extreme temperatures? I can do some layering under work suits, but what about coats or casual clothes? I'm only planning on bringing one suitcase.

Christina Talcott: Check out OneBag.com for packing tips, especially for business travelers. Basically, coordinate outfits, bring layers, arrange for laundering at the hotel(s) for dress shirts and launder everything else by hand in your room. If you're bringing a winter coat, consider plastic compression bags, which you can get at Target or anyplace that sells travel gear. They'll shrink the puffiest coats into thin little packages.

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Arlington, Va.: Regarding the piece on biking in Cuba: it simply infuriates me to read a travel article on "how an "intern for the Washington Post" and a "freelance journalist" spent our vacation in a place none of you readers can legally go." Whether one supports the embargo or not (I don't), and whether your intern flouted US law or the Post sponsors its interns to get Treasury licenses to go biking in Cuba (the article isn't clear on this point), of all the places in the world to write about, how about one of the thousands of other ones where a bike trip is actually legal, next time?

Joe Yonan: We did include articles on some of those thousands of other places: Tanzania, LA, Holland...

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Cleveland Park, DC: I have been wanting to go to Peru for a very long time to see Machu Picchu, and it looks like this year I'll finally get to do so. Thing is, December is the best time for my boyfriend and I, but we've read it's rainy season in the highlands. Is it worth nixing this trip because of the potential for rain or is it worth going anyway, in spite of some showers?

Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: I would never let rain keep me away. While the rains are heavier and more frequent in December, the sun does break through. In addition, this is the best time for river rafting!

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Caribbean honeymoon: We went to Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands and stayed at the Little Dix resort fifteen years ago. Its off season and quite beautiful and romantic. Not sure about airfares these days though.... I checked the Little Dix website - they have specials for the fall of $325/night. Not sure about late next spring.

Zofia Smardz: Thanks for this!

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Central Cal: I enjoyed Lee's piece. Would that I were younger... Here's a question: I am dating a teacher, which almost seems to preclude any travel deals. Their time off is high-season it seems. And I am used to getting good deals going whenever. Ok teachers. I know there must be some tricks. I'd appreciate them. And yes, she's worth it to pay extra....

Christina Talcott: I have the same problem, I mean, the privilege of dating a teacher, so I feel your pain! But I can't say the schedule's put much of a damper on our travel.

One key is close-to-home road trips and short flights on weekends, which can be much more economical than trips farther away, and booking discounted rooms on sites like Priceline, Orbitz, Hotels.com, etc., plus snagging fare sales on airline tickets whenever possible.

A real advantage to a teacher's schedule is those longer winter, spring and summer breaks. Spring break is an especially good time to travel because school systems in different parts of the country/world have different schedules, so you can still find deals and fewer crowds even in touristy places. This year, for example, we found flight deals to San Francisco, and it was a week or two before locals got their vacation, so we found hotel deals and fewer crowds, not to mention lower prices on mid-week hotels.

The rest of the year, I bet your sweetie would give up one of her precious few personal days for a three-day getaway with you. Substitute teachers need work, too!

Anyone have other suggestions?

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More on Pittsburgh: As the parent of a student at the University of Pittsburgh, I enjoyed reading Sunday's article on visiting Pittsburgh. The author mentioned the Cathedral of Learning on the Pitt campus, but failed to mention the highlight of that building, the Nationality Rooms.

As this building was being built, the university chancellor invited representatives of the many ethnic groups in Pittsburgh to create a room in the Cathedral of Learning that represented their heritage. There are now over 25 such rooms in the building which are used as classrooms but are also open for guided and self-guided tours.

The rooms run the gamut from an African village to the British Parliament to the German room with its stained glass windows of Grimm's fairy tales. The rooms are especially worth a visit during the Christmas holidays when they are suitably decorated.

I highly recommend touring these rooms if you visit Pittsburgh.

washingtonpost.com: Pittsburgh, Three Ways (Post, Sept. 20)

Lee Gutkind: Having taught at Pitt for many years (I am now teaching at Arizona State) I can second that suggestion. They are stunning. But you should also try to get to the 40th floor--the view is outstanding and the room is wonderful, as well. What is interesting also is the fact that the nationality rooms are also classrooms; students and professors work together there. The professors often avoided teaching in those rooms however because we were closely monitored. Moving chairs, drinking coffee was not allowed. There are campus monitors who watch the classes through peepholes in the doors-

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Washington DC: I thought the idea of a biking issue was terrific but that this was poorly executed. Why would you make one of your (only) two stories about a place that most Americans won't visit until the rules change? That's not practical or helpful at all.

In the future, I think asking a simple question -- "Would the majority of our readers have to break the law to have this experience?" -- would yield more useful articles.

Joe Yonan: Thanks for your thoughts. I think there's great value, though, in armchair travel. And we did have a very practically minded piece about setting up your own group tour, another one by Christina on folding bikes, sharing, rentals and other tips, plus an online-only piece on biking in L.A. So I think it was good for the mix, and an interesting tale.

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50th wedding anniversary: On the recommendation of the Flight Crew, we went on an all inclusive trip to the Divi in Aruba. Took teenagers. Never had to worry about the kids wandering off, beautiful place, great drinks, great food - you do need to make dinner reservations in advance at the nicer restaurants.

Andrea Sachs: Glad it went well and you had a special 50th!

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Washington, DC: For the honeymoon question - check out the Nisbet Plantation in Nevis - a beautiful place with great service - very romantic. There are several other plantations - but this is the only one on the beach.

For Frankfurt - Food Shopping at the Kleinmarkthalle (great produce, cheeses etc); designer stores on Goethe Strasse, love the Museum fuer Moderne Kunst; outside of Frankfurt - Wiesbaden has a great little Opera Company in a beautiful old Opera House (Hessisches Staatstheater)- it pays to take box seats, you can go gambling afterwards at the casino, have dinner before at Kaefer's. Try the Kurbad in Koenigstein for outdoor winter swimming with a great view of a castle from the jacuzzi.

Zofia Smardz: Thanks for these ideas!

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Bethesda, Md: $547 to Frankfurt. Wow. That's what I paid this morning per person for a nonstop RT on Jet Blue, IAD - OAK for Christmas. (Tho' cheaper was available if I was willing to connect or fly the redeye--but since I want my husband to still love me, those weren't options.) It's true, I could see family at a cheaper time, but everyone's gathering, and there's going to be a new 4-week-old great niece or nephew to meet. You pay what ya gotta pay sometimes.

Zofia Smardz: See, Frankfurt traveler, everything's relative! Thanks for writing in, Bethesda!

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Travel Staff. For those of you who are dog owners, what arrangements do you make for them when you're away on travel? I recently adopted a dog. I'm not a frequent traveler, but am planning for those times when I do travel. I know about boarding facilities, but that can get expensive quickly. I can't consider family since they're cat owners, and my dog loves cats for snacking. So, I thought I'd ask you...

Joe Yonan: I just got back from a trip to Southwest Virginia with Mister Red, my big goofy Doberman, so travel with pets is on my mind. More and more hotels and inns are catering to dog lovers, so I'd say that first and foremost, consider taking your new pooch with you when you go somewhere. (Read Melanie Kaplan's piece on her cross-country drive with her beagle, Darwin, for inspiration.) If that's not an option, try to cultivate situations with friends. Are you near a dog park? It's a great way to meet other dog owners, and to get to know their dogs, too. Maybe you could switch off -- taking care of one of their pooches once and seeing if they'd return the favor later.

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Atlanta: To Washington DC:

Also, you can look into the au pair program. There's one that places Americans in Europe (perhaps other places, but mostly Europe). Here's the thing: You only NEED to speak English AND you only have to work 30 hours a week. I found it when I was looking into getting our au pair (and it worked out so well). Had I only known when I graduated from college...that woulda been my first job outta college!

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the great idea.

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Durham, N.C.: Do you know why airfares from RDU - Memphis would jump in mid August from low $200s up to $300+ ? No advance purchase bargains seem to be available now. Does this have to do with the Memphis airport being a smaller air market, thus higher prices??

Andrea Sachs: Airfares are in part based on supply and demand. If suddenly seats started filling up for the times you wanted to fly, the prices spike. Also, because there is not a high volume of traffic in Memphis, fares are higher than, say, Atlanta. But hold tight: They might drop again.

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Passport: I cannot believe that renewing a passport would take too long. I applied for a passport for the first time in May and received it three weeks later. At the time, the State Dept was saying 4-6 turn around. No additional charges were paid.

Andrea Sachs: Love that State Department!

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Phoenix bound?: I stayed at the Sanctuary on Camelback (plus a .com and you have the website) and it was fantastic. Had a great breakfast and spa treatment deal when we stayed last march. Wherever you stay, eat at the Barrio Cafe, you can't find better Mexican, but go early, everyone else knows how good it is too.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks so much for the suggestions.

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Rockville again....: I can drive to Dulles in less than 30 minutes without traffic (yes of course there will be traffic, but I'll be going against it for most of the trip and then in the airport only lanes). Taking red line to orange line and then to bus to Dulles would take at least triple that (probably more) and the round trip bus is only $20 less than parking for 4 days. And I'll have two suitcases as I'll have to bring my office computer with me.

Does that have any effect on your answer? If you really think I'll have no issue parking at Dulles, that is probably the best choice.

I wouldn't even dream of driving to National. Never in a million years....

Andrea Sachs: Of course I can't say anything for sure. But Dulles does have a lot of parking spaces and I personally have never had a problem. I would drive it, but I can't make any promises.

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Wonderful inn in Phoenix: The Hermosa Inn. But not cheap... sort of between Scottsdale and Phoenix. We just loved it. You can sometimes score an Internet deal at the last minute, especially for weekdays. http://www.hermosainn.com/

Andrea Sachs: Thanks!

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Capitol Hill:: Now that they've moved security at Dulles, when is the Air Train coming??? I am ready to move on from the slooow people movers..

Andrea Sachs: Check the Dulles Web site for updates. No firm date is set as of yet.

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Phoenix: Do: Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright property), Cosanti/Arcosanti (experimental urban design/art/architecture/green living project - very hippie), Heard Museum, Desert Botanical Garden

Eat: Barrio Cafe (no reservations but totally worth the wait)

Stay: No clue, I always stay with family.

The Arizona Republic (azcentral.com) has a good restaurant guide.

Lee Gutkind: Also the Biltmore Resort and the campus of Arizona State in Tempe-very nice. The Tempe Arts Center always hosts provocative speakers and the Wright-designed Gammage Theatre is magnificent. House of Tricks and Cafe Boa have great wine lists--and food.

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For Machu Picchu-bound travel: Make sure you check out the months when the trail leading up to the ruins is open. They close during certain months of the year (when I was down there it was either January or February), and it would be awful to get there and discover that you can't go!

Andrea Sachs: Excellent point!

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Arlington, Va.: I appreciate the advice that you and your readers offer on this forum. I am interested in knowing if any of you has taken the RER train from CDG into Paris. Part of me wants to do this for convenience sake, the other part things it is crazy to do this with luggage, being that there are only stairs and no escalator.

Christina Talcott: I'd go for it. It depends on where your final destination is, but I think lugging bags up a flight or two of stairs is totally worth the savings and convenience of the RER. Just remember, when you're going through the turnstile, push your bags through first so they don't get snagged.

And you know I was going to say this: Pack lighter! I heard a good tip recently, that when you're packing for a trip, find the longest staircase you can and practice hauling your bag to the top. If you can't make it somewhat comfortably, unpack your bag till you can manage those stairs.

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Capitol Hill: My wife and I will be driving to Burlington, Vt., to see relatives over Christmas. We want to split up the drive there over two days. Any cool, perhaps romantic places along the way where we can stop for a night and still find things to do? Obviously, we're trying to avoid simply stopping at a Ramada along the highway.

Zofia Smardz: Stop in Tarrytown, N.Y., and see some of the Hudson Valley mansions the next day -- Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center is a nice play to stay, or the Castle on the Hudson, if you can get a room is quite romantic -- or perhaps better yet, head to Stockbridge, Mass., and get a room at the Red Lion Inn. They do up Christmas beautifully, and it's only a tiny squib of a bit out of your way. And if there's snow, there's no place more romantic than Norman Rockwell's home town.

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For Boston: There is a 24 hour bakery in the the north end called Bova's. Super cheap and the food is to die for.

Joe Yonan: Well, I wouldn't say to die for (I used to live right around the corner from it), but it's fun to check out, sure.

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Mount Pleasant, Mich.: For the person visiting Phoenix. We spend Christmases there every year with our son, who lives in Tempe. A very nice resort in Tempe is the the Buttes, a Marriott resort. It is very quiet, but very close to freeways, etc. Also the Tapatio Cliffs Hilton is a nice resort. As for restaurants, we love Aunt Chilada's, and my son says the Lucille's is a good place for barbecue.

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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Carribean honeymoon: I second the recommendation of Virgin Gorda - just back from the Rosewood Little Dix, which would definitely fit the bill for a secluded, beautiful honeymoon spot. Plus, it's easy to get to - fly into Tortola (we went via San Juan PR) and then a short 20 min private boat ride to the resort (and they check you in while you're on the boat!). My favorite part was snorkeling in the very peaceful bay at the resort, and the free boat drops to other, even more secluded beaches around the island.

Andrea Sachs: Great to hear. Thanks!

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Bethesda, Md.: So flights to LA for Christmas are $354 from Baltimore, but over $500 from the DC-area airports, unless you are willing to fly back on the redeye, which we aren't crazy about (and then it's not a major savings). Think these fares will go down?

Andrea Sachs: For the holidays, that's not a bad fare. One never knows how the fares will go, but usually for the holidays, it's always up.

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Italy or Greece?: Two weeks in Italy or two weeks in Greece? Boy, I wish I had those problems!

A lot depends on what you want out of the trip. For history and architecture, I call it a tie, though we found more museums were open in Italy when we wanted to visit. Italy has the Vatican, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, all of Florence, ... Greece has the Parthenon, the Acropolis, Rhodes, ...

For friendly locals, it's also a tie, particularly if you speak a little of the local language. (You get more points for Greek, and honestly, it's quite a bit more difficult than Italian.)

For food, it depends on whether you want haute cuisine or just good, fresh food. You'll find more haute cuisine in Italy, but in both places the food is excellent, made with fresh ingredients. Phenomenal seafood in both countries. Just stay out of the places where the menu is out front in 14 languages.

As I said, I wish I had problems like that. I like the suggestion of one week in each destination. But one week isn't enough.

Zofia Smardz: Thanks! What a dilemma, huh?

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Photo Tours: If you look in some of the photography magazines you can see there are a ton of photography tours done throughout the country and world focusing on certain areas.

Select a location that you would really want to go to.

Many of these locations have day trip photo tours as opposed to week long adventures.

In Yosemite they have pro photographers as part of Ansel Adams Museum that have few hour free morning sessions and well as other events.

Joe Yonan: Thanks -- indeed, there are no shortage of photo tours. Appreciate the thoughts.

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Dogs while away: Dogsitting is your answer. Reliable neighbor or friend. Cheaper than kennel, more fun for the dog.

Emphasis on RELIABLE.

Andrea Sachs: Dogs around the world thank you.

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"Doing the Southwest" : First of all, if the poster has only been to the South Rim of the GC (like 90% of visitors), they haven't "done" the GC. The North Rim is completely different-- higher, cooler, greener, and quieter. And there are tons of other parks one could do, though a bit further from Phoenix than is the South Rim of the GC, including Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly and Navajo National Monument. Years of things to see. Some love Sedona (I found it beautiful but very touristy, with lots of art boutiques and New Age shops).

Joe Yonan: I would second the North Rim idea. Have heard this from many people.

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Virgin Gorda: FYI to the poster who recommended Virgin Gorda, lots of cruise ship tourists visit the Virgin Gorda! (the cruise ships may not actually stop there, but the tourists from Tortola make their way over on excursions)

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the input.

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Phoenix November Suggestion: Catch an Arizona Fall League baseball game! It's a six-team league made up of top minor league prospects from each MLB club (the Nationals are sending supposed-savior Steven Strasburg among others), all the games are played in spring training ballparks around Phoenix, it's a very relaxed atmosphere and tickets are $6. Details are at: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/winterleagues/tickets/?league=afl

Andrea Sachs: Fun idea. Thanks!

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Italy: I just came back Saturday from a twelve day Italy/Greece trip. We spent three nights in Rome, four nights in Sorrento, two nights in Santorini and two nights in Athens. Unless you want to go to one of the Greek islands to relax a bit, definitely go to Italy. It's the best sights, the best food and the best gelato! You can definitely split it up the way we did but be ready to lose one or two days in transit (which was uncomfortable and a pain). I would go back to Italy in a heart beat and I could be easily convinced to go back to Santorini. But Athens was mostly just for the Acropolis and the Museum (i.e. not enough to justify the cost).

Zofia Smardz: Another perspective, from someone who's done it. Thanks for your advice!

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50th Anniversary Family Trip: For the couple celebrating their 50th anniversary--we, too, took our teenagers to Aruba for a week. We stayed at the Tamarijn, the sister property to the Divi, and it was wonderful! Our teens could snorkel, bike, kayak, take a windsurfing lesson, etc. But their favorite thing--going down to the late night pizzeria for pizza after we'd gone to bed! Either the Divi or Tamarijn would be a great choice for a family reunion.

Andrea Sachs: Great idea. Thanks!

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Italy or Greece: Where does his family history lie? If he has relatives from Italy then go with there.

Zofia Smardz: Interesting thought. Thanks!

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Dog Travel: When we can't take our dog with us, we pay our son's babysitter $40 a day to stay at our house. The dog stays where she is comfy, the house is looked after, everyone is happy. It does add up though on those longer breaks, but so would boarding.

Christina Talcott: Sounds like a great deal! If you have a bulletin board or newsletter at work you can post an "ISO Dog-sitter" notice. There might be some young people in your office who'd be happy to stay at your house and spend time with your furry creature, and you can gauge their interest/responsibility level by meeting them at work. Another idea: Neighborhood teens or coworkers' kids can be great for dog-walking/light house-sitting duties if you don't have too demanding a pooch.

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Philadelphia: Lee Gutkind: What were your experiences previously on bicycling such steep inclines and how long did it take it to get to where you are now, and where did you go previous to this?

Lee Gutkind: I am embarrassed to say, but we had limited biking experience. We were in good shape; we're runners, have done marathons. But we weren't bikers. The iBike guy, David Mozer, said that we seemed fit enough. The Web site describes the trip as "moderate" in toughness. I gotta say, all of the other folks on the trip were quite taken aback by how hard it was--and they were experienced bikers. I think I would not recommend it to novice bikers unless they have very good bikes and have time to train and train-

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Depending on your views: You either love it or hate it...but get used to it.....the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln campaign and the Civil War related sites beginning in 2011. When that is nearing its conclusion you will have 50th anniversary of 60s events. And 75th anniversaries of Pearl Harbor and D-Day. On top of that you have the 100th anniversaries from World War 1.

Zofia Smardz: So many anniversaries, so little time! Thanks!

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Andrea Sachs: Well, the hour is up. Thanks so much for joining us. We only made a little dent in the questions, so come back next Monday and we can try and tackle the world one question at a time. Now, go out and enjoy that last day of summer!

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