Talk about travel: Spring travel, your fantasy celebrity tour guides, the Met, Chichen Itza, spas within a two-hour drive, more

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The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, March 15, 2010; 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, March 15 at 2 p.m.

Don't forget to submit your vacation photos and photos of your pets on vacation to our photo galleries.

You may also browse an archive of previous live travel Q&As.

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Becky Krystal: Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us on this rather dreary Monday. But the promise of warmer weather is just around the corner, and based on the questions we've gotten already, we can tell a lot of you are rearing to go for spring travel. Perhaps you've set your sights on Sicily? Or France? Maybe your springtime trip to New York should include a detour to Hoboken, N.J., and in light of that delightful piece profiling TV baker Buddy Valastro, we ask you: If you could have a celebrity give you a tour of the place they were most intertwined with, who would that be and where? Best answer gets the prize. Let's go!

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DC: For my 30th birthday in October I had planned to be in Paris but found on that I will not have the original 3 weeks vacation time but 4 to 5 days. Where should I go to celebrate this milestone birthday that is just as fabulous? I enjoy anything cultural, arts and exhibits, as well as dining and outdoor activities.

Thanks for taking my question.

Zofia Smardz: Of course no place is as fabulous as Paris! But considering your massive reduction in vacation time, what about Montreal -- they speak French there, and you can do it in a long weekend.

Other thoughts, chatsters?

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Metropolitan Museum of Art: Love the chats!

I'm planning a weekend trip to NYC in mid-May. Would like to stay near the MMoA and visit there. Could an art lover spend something like 8 hours wandering around the museum, including lunch or dinner? Do you have experience with any of the museum's restaurants?

Joe Yonan: I get tired out after a mere two hours or so of looking at art, but there's certainly enough to keep you occupied for most of a day if you have more stamina than I. And the food: Wow. I haven't been to the terrace one, but Cafe 2 for lunch is just gorgeous, some of the best "museum food" I've ever had, really: beautiful charcuterie, fantastic salads. I had a bruschetta plate that was so memorable I took a pic of it with my iPhone and posted to Facebook asking followers if they could identify the museum I was eating in. And of course, there's the Modern, with its Alsatian touches. Make a rez for that one, now.

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Washington, DC: I am looking at flights to Russia for next fall. There are no direct flights to the cities I am looking at and have to change either in Western Europe or Russia. I am seeing that sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz are running an average of $200-$300 cheaper then booking directly through the airlines websites. Is there an advantage to booking directly with the airlines (and paying the higher price)?

Thanks.

Carol Sottili: Have you actually gotten all the way to putting in your credit card info on those sites? I sometimes see cheaper fares on third-party booking sites, but often when I go to the final booking page, the price has gone up. And many airlines now offer lowest fare guarantees.

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DC: Submitting early, in the hopes of getting other posters' input -- I am looking for a digital camera to take on a trip to Asia later this year. I would like to spend $150 or less, have a decent amount of memory, and be able to recharge the battery. I know nothing about digital cameras and am hoping for some recommendations -- thanks!

Becky Krystal: I recently bought a Canon Powershot A1100 and have found it to be pretty good. Most cameras don't come with huge amounts of memory, but that's easily remedied with a larger memory card -- I think I got a 2GB one for like $14. My camera takes regular AA batteries, but I bought a rechargeable set, which I find preferable to a lithium rechargeable one because they're easily swapped out in a pinch.

Be sure you check the weekly ads for Staples, Best Buy, et. al., which conveniently come in your weekend Post! You can often snag a good deal most any week.

Chatters, any other camera recommendations?

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Washington D.C.: Hi Flight Crew!

First timer here and I have a simple question. I'm flying from BWI tomorrow to Amsterdam. On my e-ticket the outbound flight is KLM but in parentheses it says (run by Delta Airlines) So which airline do I check in with? Why do they make it so confusing? I already hate flying as it is!!! Please help.

Thanks

Christopher Elliott: If the flight is operated by Delta, you check in with Delta.

Welcome to the wonderful world of codesharing!

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Travel to Clearwater Beach: Instead of going to Myrtle Beach a friend suggested taking our children to Clearwater Beach FL. We have young children who love the beach and water but I know nothing of the area. Would this be a good place to look into for family travel?

Nancy Trejos: Yes. The Clearwater/St. Petersburg area has lots of lovely beaches and activities for adults and children. Andrea and I recently included it in our list of warm, off the beaten path places to escape to this snowy winter. There are many beaches to choose from in Clearwater but Pier 60 is particularly nice and has a large playground, a long pier, and a daily sunset festival with street performers, artisans and face painting. You can also rent a boat or check out the Seabird Sanctuary. And not too long of a drive away is Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa Bay with its many fun rides. There's also the Clearwater Marine Aquariam and the Lowry Park Zoo. And it's easy to get to. Have fun!

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Capitol Hill: Thanks for doing these chats! They're a great break for a Monday.

My question - do you have a recommendation for a quiet resort in Jamaica? We like a white sand beach with no music. Entertainment not necessary, but one good restaurant is.

Thanks!

Joe Yonan: How bout breaking out of the gated resorts? Andrea recommended these places in her recent piece on meeting the people:

Strawberry Fields Together: Off the North Coast Highway in Robin's Bay, 876-994-0135 or 876-999-7169, strawberryfieldstogether.com/home.aspx#. Secluded cottages and villas with a private beach and on-site dining. Rates from $90, plus $27.50 for Jamaican breakfast and dinner, or $35 for three meals. As part of the owners' Village Inclusive Plan, guests can visit a local school and explore the coast and mountains by ATV or horse, among other tours.

Zion Country Beach Cabins: Long Road, Portland Parish, 876-993-0435 or 876-451-1737, www.zioncountry.com. Four charmingly rustic cabins set among tropical plants and steps from the water, where manatees live. Doubles cost $50 and include breakfast. Drinks and dinner (fish, chicken or vegetarian) also available for $7-$8. Ask Free-I, the Dutch owner, for bar and restaurant suggestions, as well as information on climbing nearby Reach Falls.

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Polkerris: 13 Corniche Rd., Montego Bay, 305-722-3567 or 876-877-7784

www.polvista.com. An elegant yet homey B&B overlooking the Caribbean and up the hill from Montego Bay's Hip Strip. Doubles cost $110, including a lavish breakfast.

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Washington, DC: I'm going to Germany in late May to visit a friend stationed in Stuttgart and to celebrate my 30th borthday. This will be my first trip to the country and I'm very excited to experience all that I can. In particular, I'd like to achieve one of my lifetime goals - a hot air balloon ride. Any thoughts on where I might find a reputable company? Any suggestions on what would be the most ideal German town to float above? Thanks for the advice!

Zofia Smardz: Oh, this is a toughie, because you wouldn't catch me unconscious in a hot air balloon! Well, actually I probably would be unconscious. Fear of heights and all that. Just searching the Web, I see dozens of hot air balloon companies in Germany, though. Let's throw this one out to the chatters?

Good German balloon companies? Best place to balloon?

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Panama City, not FL: Hello fellow travelers! I am going solo to Panama City this summer for 9 days (It's OK, I do well in heat). I have decided to stay in a condo in the city, but am debating whether or not I need a car. I tend to be a city person, but will want to see the beaches and rain forests outside of the city. Considering the cab fare to and from the airport is 1/2 of the price of the car rental for the whole trip, having a car seems a good idea. I speak good enough Spanish and have a lot of travel experience. However, I want a low stress trip, and if the driving in Panama is more say, like Mexico than like Spain, maybe I don't want to bother. Has anyone been on the ground there lately that could give me some insight? Also, I keep reading about the polluted smell off of the Malecon. Is it constant, or just every once in a while? I had wanted a sea view condo, but if it stinks I probably wouldn't use that balcony much! And of course, restaurant and sight must-sees are appreciated. TIA!

Becky Krystal: Any first-person Panama accounts?

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Downtown DC: Is there some consolidator or travel agent who handles simple vacations on the Outer Banks? I have few demands: A bed (not even necessarily a room) of my own. Air conditioning. Relatively easy access to a relatively uncrowded beach. (Meaning, it doesn't have to be right out the back door, or even walkable with a beach chair and cooler in hand, but not much of a drive, either.) But there are SO many realtors and SO many properties and SO many locations out there, I'm kind of overwhelmed. I'd like to put in the hands of somebody else and say, "Here. Find me something, and keep it cheap."

Carol Sottili: I don't know of a travel agent who would handle something like this without charging a fee. If anyone out there knows differently, please chime in. Re: relatively uncrowded beach, I'd head to beaches from Rodanthe south - Nags Head and areas north are pretty crowded in season. Rent-by-owner sites, such as VRBO and Cyberrentals sometimes offer better deals than real estate agents, but there are often minimum stay requirements, plus prices are not geared to singles because most places sleep more than one person. You may do well looking at bed and breakfast inns.

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Baltimore: I have been astonished at the differences in flight schedules and prices that the major search tools -- Kayak, Vayama, Expedia, Orbitz etc. -- and I was astonished at the differences in flight schedules and prices that each one produces. Some won't even allow multi-destination searches. Do some search tools have deals to promote particular airlines, or do some airlines give information only to some search tools? More broadly, is any one of them generally known for producing more comprehensive results? How do they compare for user friendliness, service charges, change fees, customer support etc? Are there less-well-known tools worth trying? When you guys book a flight, where do you turn first? (Or do you just tell your vast support staff "I wanna go here..."?)

Christopher Elliott: You're right, travel sites have preferred agreements with some airlines, while others are excluded completely (good luck finding a Southwest Airlines fare, for example).

I have two sites to recommend.

ITA Software

lets you search all available airlines and flights, but you can't book a ticket. Another site,

Expertflyer.com

, works almost the same way, but also allows you to search available frequent flier award seats. It's the closest thing to seeing every available fare, short of being a travel agent.

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Celebrity tour idea from Vienna, VA: Sadly my fantasy tour is not longer possible, but if we're talking fantasy that anything is far game right? I would love to be taken around Paris with Julia Child. She would be a most wonderful tour guide for finding all the gastronomical gems the city holds.

Becky Krystal: That's my kind of fantasy.

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Met, not MOMA: The chatter asked about the Met, but you answered with respect to the MOMA...

Joe Yonan: Oh, darnitalltoheck, I did, didn't I? Completely read past that one, and my latent dyslexia clearly fired up when I saw MMoA. Sorry! Maybe the problem was, I've never eaten at the Met... Certainly enough art to keep you busy, but when it comes to food, MOMA is far superior. So, I have to ask chatters to bail me out here!

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Flight Crew, My brother and I want to take a weeklong trip in mid-April or mid-May for under $1500 per person (for airfare and hotels), but we're having trouble coming up with the right destination. We want something with a good mix of entertainment and culture and are not that into beaches. For example, our last trip to Peru was perfect. We'd like to go outside of the U.S., but not to somewhere we've been before...which leaves out most of Western Europe, Peru and Argentina. Ideas I've had are a trip to Colombia (Bogota and Cartagena) but don't know much about it, or revisiting Switzerland and Germany by doing a road (or train) trip from Geneva to Munich, but that seems daunting to plan. Any suggestions?

Nancy Trejos: Can I cast my vote for Colombia? Full disclosure, my father is from Colombia, so I have a natural affinity to it. But it really is an amazing country that is up and coming as a tourist destination. People stayed away for years because of the war. But the security situation really is much improved. Bogota is a large city with wonderful museums and a great nightlife. I have not yet been to Cartagena but friends have and loved it. It's quaint and gorgeous. Also consider Barranquilla and Cali, two great cities.

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If you could have a celebrity give you a tour of the place they were most intertwined with, who would that be and where?: George Clooney, Lake Como. (OK, so George Clooney just about anywhere, but...)

Becky Krystal: Haha, I like this!

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re: german hot air balloons: I don't know about typical hot air balloons, but I believe there is a company that does zeppelin rides above the bodensee, which is a beautiful lake in southwestern Germany bordering Switzerland (not terribly far from Stuttgart).

Zofia Smardz: Nothing more German than a Zeppelin! And the Bodensee is indeed beautiful. Maybe a little Googling will turn this up for our Germany-bound traveler.

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Washington, DC: Wondering if this has ever happened to anyone else and what to do. Booked a flight on United and chose my seats online during the booking process. I'm neurotic about getting an aisle seat because I have to get up frequently, so I know for sure that I chose correctly.

Upon checking in online I noticed that the original seat assignments were no longer listed and when asked to choose again, the only seat left was the middle seat in the very last row. I spoke with numerous United agents who said there was nothing I could do and that seat assignments usually go to the people who pay higher prices for the flight. I know for a fact that I was able to choose at booking so why did they all of a sudden decided that I couldn't have my original seats...beyond frustrating because it was the same case for the return trip as well.

Christopher Elliott: You're not losing your mind. United probably switched planes -- an "equipment change" in airline parlance -- and arbitrarily reassigned everyone's seat. Happens all the time. I would arrive early at the airport and ask for a better seat.

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Alexandria, VA: Hi! I finally finished my master's, and I would like to get away to celebrate. I worked full time while in grad school, so nearly every moment I did not spend at work, I spent in class or doing research/working on projects with my classmates. While finishing, I decided I needed a solo getaway to recuperate, and had many a vision of sitting on a beach in Hawaii with a good book and some tropical fruit. Any suggestions for a 7-12 day domestic getaway? (I'm planning on using an airline voucher valid for travel to the 50 states.) Thanks!

Joe Yonan: This might sound obvious, but how about sitting on a beach in Hawaii with a good book and some tropical fruit? I'm a big believer in paying attention to your visions...

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Gaithersburg, MD: I would LOVE to have George Clooney show me around Lake Como. Imagine how great it would be in the summertime - and you'd be hanging out with Clooney!

Becky Krystal: Two for Clooney in Como!

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Arlington, VA: We'll be vacationing in Cancun next month (yeah!), and are interested in seeing the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. All of the tours there seem to take most or all of a day (leave about 8:00 AM and return 12 hours later) - is it worth that much time? Would you suggest that we rent a car & drive faster than the tour bus, and then hire a local guide at Chichen Itza in order to make a shorter day trip?

Carol Sottili: I'd rent a car. It'll take about 2.5 hours each way on the toll road. The tour buses take so long because so many people are involved, and they stop for shopping trips, bathroom breaks, etc.

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San Diego, CA: Does the Flight Crew have recommendations on the family resorts in Oregon for summer travel with children ranging from twelve to three years old? Specifically looking at Black Butte Ranch, Sunriver Lodge and Resort and Seventh Mountain Resort, but all suggestions are welcome. Diversity of activities would be good as it would be a 5-7 day trip.

Joe Yonan: It takes a village to answer a question: Chatland, any thoughts on this specific request?

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Central Cal: Celebrity Tour Guide: After visiting County Cork, Ireland, I think having Maureen O'Hara show me around this part of the Emerald Isle. "Mrs. Blair", as more than one of the locals referred to her, seemed to be held in very high esteem and with much affection. Now, of course, it's the younger Maureen O'Hara I'm talking about. Through the hills and glens with her, as with John Wayne in 'The Quiet Man', would be every man's dream.

Becky Krystal: I gotta be honest, you all are coming up with way more creative answers than I had envisioned when I posed the question.

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Betheda: Hi Crew -- Planning a trip to Utah in mid-July. After a few days at Alta for a wedding, we'll be heading south toward Arches and Canyonlands, then across via a few parks (maybe Bryce) to Las Vegas. Expect to have about 6 days for the parks portion of the trip. Any recommendations about what we absolutely shouldn't miss?

Nancy Trejos: I just drove from Las Vegas to Utah this past January. It's a gorgeous drive. I went to and wrote about Monument Valley , which was breathtaking. Bryce, Arches and Canyonlands are definitely worth going to. Also try to swing by Zion National Park and the Capitol Reef.

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Best Spa Within a 2 Hour Drive?: Hello - My boyfriend and I are planning a spa weekend and would like to go somewhere within a two hour driving distance. DO you have a good spa recommendation? We are interested in a four or five hour package and plan to go at the end of April. I have looked at Wintergreen as it seems a very good value, both with the room cost and spa prices but it is over three hours away. Any suggestions you have would be appreciated. Thanks!

Zofia Smardz: I haven't personally been (though planning to go), but a Post colleague repeatedly and highly recommends the Inn at Poplar Springs, outside Warrenton. It does look lovely. Also check out the Elk Forge Inn, in Elkton, Md., only a little over an hour away. Smaller, but very nice.

Other recommendations, folks?

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Arlington, VA: Thanks for taking my question. Do 'flights plus hotels' deals work out cheaper than airline tickets purchased and hotels booked separately? I am interested in domestic deals.

Carol Sottili: Sometimes, but no rule of thumb. I always price it out both ways. And it never hurts to call the hotel directly. I recently got a very good deal via phone at a luxury hotel in San Diego - the rate was not available online.

Zofia Smardz: I second the suggestion to call. I've gotten better rates at several hotels that way. And on a recent trip, the hotel clerk urged me to "always call" to check for special rates.

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Dupont Circle: My fantasy tour--Edinburgh with Sean Connery in a kilt. Need I say more?

Becky Krystal: No. Probably best that you not. Keep it G, kids.

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Washington, D.C.: For the camera questions, I like the Panasonic ZR1 which is tiny but has a great zoom range (25-200mm) and can be had for about $220. I used to want to have AA batteries, but now I can just pick up a second lithium pack, and the charger and voltage converter doesn't take up much room. Make sure you get something that can do wide-angle shots, otherwise you're standing in the middle of the road taking pictures of buildings or groups of friends, and that's not a smart thing to do in Asia.

Nancy Trejos: Thanks for the tip!

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Washington, D.C.: Sorry, I just recommended the Panasonic camera and it was too expensive. Try the Panasonic FH1 for only $160, with wide angle and image stabilization.

Becky Krystal: Thanks for the cheaper option.

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Bend, OR: As I mentioned in the chat last week, I'm headed to South Africa, including a visit of the prison at Robben Island. If you could get Nelson Mandela to give us a private tour, I'll send you a gift!

Becky Krystal: Nice thought, but we're not that omnipotent.

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re Paris: Just a comment to the first question - 4 or 5 days is definitely doable in Paris. I spent that many days there to celebrate my 30th, and I saw so much! I even made it out to Versailles for a morning. At the end, I could barely walk onto the plane, since I made it to so much of the city. Obviously some people may want to take it more leisurely, but if you want to go to Paris ... GO! Totally worth it, even for a short time!

Becky Krystal: A vote to not give up on Paris.

Zofia Smardz: But remember that two of those 4-5 days you'll be getting over jetlag/traveling. Of course, at 30, that jet lag thing may not be a hindrance!

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St. Joseph, Mich.: I see that some asian and south american airlines are showing a rise in profits and passengers. Could this be because they have NOT changed their policies about baggage fees and drink charges?

Christopher Elliott: That's an interesting observation. Have a look at Southwest Airlines' earnings here in the States, too. It is one of the few airlines (along with JetBlue) that doesn't charge for everything that isn't bolted down on the plane. You might argue that the success of these airlines are a powerful argument against the nickel-and-diming ways of the major carriers.

I go out of my way to fly on Southwest and JetBlue because of their luggage policies. I know a lot of travelers who do, too.

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Shots: Thank you for taking my question, Flight Crew; I am hoping that you can point me in the right direction. Is there a resource or site that you could recommend that would tell me what kind of vaccination I should take if I want to travel? Is State's website the best way to find out? What has been your experience with finding out what shots to get before taking a trip abroad. Thank you.

Nancy Trejos: I would go to the Centers for Disease Control's web site. They have a whole page where you can click on the country you're going to and find out what vaccinations are recommended. The site also has useful information on finding a travel medical clinic near you (I have one here in D.C. I go to before traveling abroad.)

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Washington, DC: Any ideas on visiting Tokyo in January? I'm finding wicked cheap flights for going to Bangkok from DC with four or five days in Tokyo on the way there, but I figure Tokyo will be cold while Thailand will be warm. I can get around the logistics of climate and clothing if Tokyo in January is worth a visit!

Joe Yonan: It's not that cold in Tokyo in January: average lows in upper 30s, average highs in lower 50s. If you are not going the first few days of the year, it's a good time to visit, because things won't be too crowded, and as I said the weather is mild. (If you're there for the New Year, though, lots of attractions are closed, and it'll be very crowded with Japanese tourists.)

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Dream tours: How about the Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace by Princes William and Harry? I'd love an in-depth look with someone who knows the history as well as day to day operations.

Becky Krystal: Some might say you'd get the royal treatment!

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Celebrity tour: Definitively a culinary tour in Asturias Spain with Chef Jose Andres!!!

Becky Krystal: Yummy.

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Ashburn, VA: I would want Mario Batali & Rachael Ray to go with me on a top to bottom tour of Italy. It would be great to go with Italians and even better to go with those who probably know the best off-the-beaten-path restaurants.

Becky Krystal: A bunch of you are thinking with your stomach. But I like that. :)

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NoVa: Some girlfriends are planning a trip to West Palm Beach in September. We want to take a side trip to Key West and visit Margaritaville (which will involve an overnight stay). Do you know of any other way to get there besides a rental car/driving? Are there any other interesting sights along the way?

Christopher Elliott: You can take a puddlejumper, but it's more expensive and far less interesting. As a six-year resident of the Keys, I can tell you there's a lot to see along the 106-mile Overseas Highway.

I covered the highlights

in this article

.

My advice would be to drive, but give yourself a full day. You'll be glad you didn't rush; it's one of the most scenic drives in the country.

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Bodensee: If you're googling in English, you might want to use Lake Constance, its English name

Zofia Smardz: Right-o, thanks!

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Capitol Hill, DC: I would love to be guided through Spain by Jose Andres; 1) Because I've always wanted to go to Spain 2) Because it would be a wonderful, food-focused vacation and he could get me into those amazing little vineyards and farms that make Iberico ham and Manchego cheese 3) He seems like a fun guy and we already have the DC thing in common:)

Becky Krystal: More for Jose!

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Houston, TX: I have heard that some airport hotels/motels will provide free (or reasonably priced) parking for a period of time (7-14 days) if one books a hotel/motel room on the evening immediately prior to departure. Are you aware of any source (web site) of information identifying such airport hotels/motels?

Christopher Elliott: Yes, and if you have an early morning flight, this is definitely an option worth considering.

The best known is a site called

ParkSleepFly.com

.

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Recommendation for Chichen Itza trip: The main part of the ruins is brutally unshaded. You can find shade around the perimeter, but you'll want to spend time where it's hot and sunny. Be prepared to deal with the hot, humid area, even during the winter. An umbrella for shade would not be a bad idea.

I lucked out and visited on a cloudy day so it wasn't too bad for me. Would have been miserable if the sun had been out.

Becky Krystal: For the Cancun traveler.

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Washington, DC: I recently read that there is a Dengue Fever outbreak in Puerto Rico, where we are supposed to travel in late March. As of late February they had diagnosed 250 cases. We are bringing our five-year-old on this trip. I really don't want to cancel the trip, but should I? I am reading up on the best ways to ward off mosquitoes.

Carol Sottili: Take a look at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention info on dengue fever to educate yourself. I think if you take recommended precautions and you're staying at a resort, you'll be fine. But there are no guarantees.

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Native New Jerseyan: I need the Crew's help and any chatsters that have visited or lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We're going out there in July, and I'd like to stay in either a funky, cool University neighborhood, or close in St. Paul's near St. Catherine's. All I've been finding is downtown (too expensive for one family) and out by the airport and that Big Mall, (I'm done with staying by airports). Any suggestions? $90 or less, if possible. And should I be booking on Priceline or Kayak or Travelocity? Thanks muchly!

Zofia Smardz: Need to throw this one out to the chatters. Folks?

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Sweaty clothes: When I'm staying at a hotel, I often use their gym or go for a run. Maybe I'm overthinking this, but where should I put my sweaty clothes when I'm back in the room? It seems wrong to dump them on the carpet, but there's no place in the bathroom that the cleaning staff won't have to deal with them.

Joe Yonan: Indeed, you're overthinking this! If you want to air out your clothes, the cleaning staff will have to deal with them no matter where you put them. But that's OK; this is what they're paid for. (Although if you feel guilty about it, that's what tips are for...)

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State College, PA: Celebrity Tour Guide: Georgia O'Keefe and Ghost Ranch/Taos area. I'd love to see northern New Mexico through her eyes.

Becky Krystal: Very nice.

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Bend, OR: Responding to the query for Central Oregon: You can't go wrong with any of those. Black Butte Ranch is a little more remote and closer to the Western-themed town of Sisters. Sunriver Lodge and Resort plenty to do onsite: shopping restaurants, bike and canoe trails, and you're very close to the absolutely gorgeous Cascade Lakes Highway, with endless hiking and canoeing opportunities. But could be a bit hot depending on when you come.

Inn at the Seventh Mountain Resort is closer to Bend and right next door to some fantastic mountain biking trails.

With kids, try the High Desert Museum, which is very well done.

Check out the visitor's guide at http://visitcentraloregon.com/

Becky Krystal: Much obliged, thanks.

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Charlotte, NC: Last week, there were lots of comments about using travel agents. My husband and I are going across the pond in June, and we used an agent to make reservations for a complicated itinerary: Home to London, London to Frankfort, Frankfort to home. My husband would usually do the reservations himself, but this one defeated our attempts to make the travel affordable. Her services were more than worth the modest fee!

In addition, she got us reservations at a good London hotel with my husband's points, so we're staying five nights in London free!

Question: We'll be in Leipzig for a trade show but will have some time to look around. What should we see?

Zofia Smardz: Thanks for this -- we're still researching the travel agent vs. no-travel agent story!

As to Leipzig, a lot was lost in the war, alas, though some of it has been rebuilt. We did a story last summer on eastern Germany that includes

Leipzig

and offers some sights to see. Others include the Old City; the Battle of the Nations monument, commemorating victory over Napoleon, the largest war monument in Europe; the old city hall; the botanical garden, which is the oldest in Europe. Other thoughts, chatters?

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Falls Church goes global: I will be traveling to Egypt in Jan 2010 for a 10-day package tour (Trafalgar Tours)and will have four days in Cairo. I was thinking of the Cairo Museum and Old Cairo. What else?

Also, do you have a recommendation for a tour company that does a Russian river cruise between St Petersburg & Moscow?

Thanks!

Nancy Trejos: Good for you. My visit to Egypt a few years ago was one of my favorite vacations. I actually spent about four days in Cairo as well and always had something to do. Of course, you have to go see the Pyramids and the Sphynx. Also go to the Egyptian Museum to see King Tut and the treasures recovered from his tomb. Take a walk around Islamic Cairo. In the heart of it is Khan Ali-Kalili, Cairo's biggest open air market, where you'll find rows of jewelry, spices and other souvenirs. You'll also find the Mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein, a sacred Islamic site. Check out the Citadel as well. I would also take a Nile Cruise. There's nothing like watching the sun set over the Nile while listening to the Call to Prayer. It almost brought me to tears. We also took a drive to the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, which was the first pyramid and is really an amazing sight. There you will also find the Museum Imhotep, who was the architect of the earliest Step Pyramid.

As for Russian River cruises, a travel agent would be able to arrange that or if you want to do it on your own, some useful web sites are

Cruise Russia

and the U.K.-based

Russiana

. Enjoy!

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Travel section: Is the travel section going to a different schedule? I hope not, but the March 7 version of the section is still posted on the Post website as the travel section link. Thanks

Joe Yonan: Count me as among the WaPo employees who wishes we would get rid of the ridiculous parallel "print edition" part of the Web site, which is what you're talking about here. I'm alerting our Web compatriots about this so they can update, but in the meantime can I convince you to instead be going to washingtonpost.com/travel? That's where not only our current week's section is located, but also where we have the resources for searching by location, and the archives for regular columns such as the Navigator and Going Our Way. From any page on the Web site, you can get there by hovering over Arts/Living in the navigational blue bar, then choosing Travel.

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From Minnesota: I'd even take George Clooney showing me around Lake Como in St. Paul!

Becky Krystal: Ha!

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Fairfax VA: We are taking the train to NYC. How early do we need to arrive at Union Station if we also need to pick up reserved tickets? Thanks!

Zofia Smardz: I think an hour in advance would do it.

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(dead) celebrity tour: If one's fantasy tour can involve a dead celebrity--and, hey, it's a fantasy, right?--my ideal would be to go diving/snorkeling with Jacques Cousteau. Many, many years ago his movie 'The Silent World' piqued my interest in scuba diving for the first; once I got certified, I was a huge fan of his TV shows. To be able to take a multi-dive boat trip with him--and I'd be happy to settle for his son Jean-Michel, who is still alive--and then discuss what we've seen over wine and dinner would be my idea of heaven!

Becky Krystal: Lovely.

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Annandale VA: Fanatasy? How about Phillipe Cousteau diving the Great Barrier Reef (before it goes away).

Becky Krystal: Another Cousteau vote.

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Vienna, VA: Thanks for taking my question. My friends and I (three total) are looking to go to the new Harry Potter World at Universal either late July or in October. Any tips on how to do this cheaply? We are all in grad school and so funds are limited. We would probably drive down and can't stay over a weekend.

Nancy Trejos: It's possible to do Orlando on a budget. Consider getting a GO Orlando Card. You have to buy it before your trip, and they can be from one to seven-day cards. They entitle you to free admission at several attractions. But this only helps if you plan on doing something other than Universal. Try not to eat in any of the theme parks. They are expensive. So have a large breakfast and dinner and eat something light for lunch. As for lodging, there are plenty of hotels where you can get decent rates. For instance, you can find a room at the four-star Monument Hotel on International Drive for less than $100. There are also cheap things to do like going to the Central Florida Zoo or the Audobon Center for Birds of Prey.

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New York: Anyone familiar with the Gaylord resort in suburban Maryland? Have a conference there in June and so far we are thinking this is a pretty bad choice of destinations.

Carol Sottili: I think it's kind of cool. It's huge with a massive atrium - balconied rooms overlook it. National Harbor, where it's located, has lots of shopping and restaurants and it's a boat ride from Old Town Alexandria. Not located in what I'd call suburban Maryland - it's right across the Potomac, and not far from Washington.

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Re: nearby spa: The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in Easton, MD is nice and a very easy drive from DC. An added bonus is you can stop for a meal and walk in Annapolis on the way there and/or back.

I hear Lansdowne in Leesburg is nice too, but I haven't been there.

Becky Krystal: Possible places to recharge.

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Chichen Itza: Went in October. We rented a car. Got there late in the afternoon, spent the night (Lodge at Chichen Itza I think), and saw the complex at 8am. Personal tour guide was well worth the fee, and seeing the ruins in the morning before the busses arrive is awesome. The hotel was comfortable enough, although the food was, um, not.

Becky Krystal: Thanks for the report.

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For Washington, D.C., looking for a weeklong trip with his/her brother to someplace they've never been before, for under $1,500 apiece: Even though you've been to most of Western Europe, I wonder if you've been to the Azores yet. In mid-April or mid-May the fares and accomodation rates are still semi-off-peak, but the weather's quite pleasant, and there are weeklong tour packages available. The Post had an article re visiting there in the off-season a few years agao, if you can link to it.

Becky Krystal: Good memory! Here it is.

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SFO: What is a good economical hotel in San Francisco?

Joe Yonan: I haven't stayed there, but have eyed the Hotel des Arts, decorated by artists and located right in Union Square. I see rooms in a couple weeks for only $100.

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Travel Camera: I bought a Sony Cybershot last Spring for a west coast road trip and it was AMAZING!!!! got it for $225 at Best Buy, but I'm sure the price has dropped now. It's got 12mp & 10x zoom. I highly recommend it.

Becky Krystal: Yeah, I do find that prices tend to drop on these.

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My fantasy...: I'd love to have my grandmother back to take me to her village in Austria -- to the farm where she visited HER grandmother, to the "fancy ladies' shop" where she was a dressmaker...and to get all those recipes she took with her.

Becky Krystal: OK, not a celebrity, but you get points for the sweet sentiment.

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Washington, D.C. re Panama: oh, also, I forgot, definitely take the ferry to Isla Taboga for the beach. It's a cute little town, and the ferry part of the trip is fun. You can take a cab to the ferry port also.

Becky Krystal: Thanks!

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Utah National Park trip: I just read a GREAT article in this months Town & Country magazine about a coupole that did Utah's Rt 12 and hit the 5 National Parks there. They gave great desciptions of exactly where in the park to enter and see the great vistas. Worth picking up a copy.

Becky Krystal: OK, we'll take your word for it!

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Northern Germany: You wouldn't catch me in a hot air balloon either, but I see a lot of them here in No. Germany where I live. How to find a reputable company - the chatter should ask his/her friend. What's the best city to balloon over? Depends on what you want, but ballooning seems to be done more in the countryside rather than over cities. You'l probably only see large cities in the distance. One quick google-search yielded www.sunshine- ballooning.de which offers trips near Stuttgart, one with an alpine panorama, one not quite so mountainous. The trips are at sunrise and at sunset - very early and fairly late at that time of year, but without at doubt spectacular! Times will be early and late in the day anywhere s/he chooses to balloon, I expect. Sorry I can't offer any more help

Zofia Smardz: Thanks for this. I found Sunshine ballooning when I Googled, too, but know nothing about them. Asking the friend who lives is Germany -- or Germans once you get there -- is probably the best way to go.

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RE: Celebrity: That's an easy one -- Elvis Presley and Graceland... oh, and if you want a living person, I'd say the Pope and the Vatican. It would take at least a week right there.

Becky Krystal: Good ones.

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Arlington, VA: The person looking for camera recommendations should go to Penn Camera and talk to the people who work there. You won't find more knowledgeable photo people.

Zofia Smardz: Thanks for the advice!

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Nosy Parker: I'd love for the Post's very own Divine Ms. Lisa de Moraes to give me a tour of Hollywood. Oh, the stories I imagine she could tell...

Becky Krystal: Paging Lisa, paging Lisa!

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Metropolitian Museum of Art: Remember the MET offers tours, lectures, concerts and films. Check out the online calendar in advance, or pick-up the daily schedule at the admissions desk. Last summer, I took an hour-long break to watch a film in the well air conditioned theater. It was nice to get off my feet for a little bit.

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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Washington, DC: I'm going to London next month, for the fourth time. I've already done many of the "tourist" things, and have tickets to see Wicked in the West End. What are some "off the beaten path" things to do in the city?? Any good restaurants you recommend? We're going on "student" budgets if that helps. THANKS!!

Becky Krystal: Have a look at our Great Britain page. I think you'll find some ideas there, especially in this Q&A about lesser-known sights in London.

Anything that the chatters would recommend?

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Family Travel: I would like to take a vacation with my husband and two young children (6 & 3) and in the past we have done the OBX and Myrtle Beach but I was looking for something that would be more like an all inclusive vacation (mom doesn't want to have to cook and get meals ready). The only problem I see is that we need more room to spread out than one hotel room. My children are usually asleep by 7:30 and I don't want to have to hit the hay at the same time. I did find one all inclusive place in Jamaica that has a 1 bedroom suite but I was just wondering if there were other option? Any suggestions? And it doesn't need to be out of the country but beach or water is preferable. Thanks

Carol Sottili: Two ideas: Club Med Sandpiper in Florida or the Franklyn D. Resort in Jamaica.

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Digital cameras and memory: Get extra memory cards. That way, if one fails (and we had one that wrote over the first week's worth of photos before we figured out it was failing), you have a back-up. Memory cards are available in most places, but finding them takes valuable vacation time and they may not be exactly compatible with your camera.

Becky Krystal: Good point. I usually travel with something like three!

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Washington, D.C. re Panama: I just went to Panama City in January and I loved it. We were there only 5 days, but we didn't rent a car. We toured an Embera indian village using a guide (Garceth - he's fantastic) and he picked us up a the hotel. I would imagine any other tours would do the same. Cabs in Panama City are cheap and easy to get. Just make sure to ask the fare in advance, as they don't use meters. We even took a cab to Miraflores to see the canal. So unless you want to do a lot outside the city, without a guide, I don't think you need a car.

Becky Krystal: For the Panama traveler. Thanks!

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We won't always have Paris: A bit harder to get to but I'd rate Quebec City as more picturesque and atmospheric than Montreal.

Becky Krystal: Yup, Quebec crossed my mind for that question too.

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NW DC: Hi, I missed your chat last week, but I wanted to thank you for your piece on the Caribbean -- filing it away for my someday-trip back to the tropics!

And I also have a question that I haven't been able to find a good answer to. Where in the Caribbean or Bahamas can I go to find that crystal-clear turquoise water you see in the catalogs? When I went to the Riviera Maya a few years ago, I was disappointed to see that the water, while bright blue, was pretty murky. Does the water clarity depend on time of year, climatic conditions, etc? Or are there beaches that I can go to where I am guaranteed to find clear blue water?

Many thanks!

washingtonpost.com: The Caribbean: What's the Deal? The best Caribbean travel deals by land, sea and air (Post, March 7)

Nancy Trejos: I was just in Barbados and the beaches were gorgeous. They had the clearest turquoise water I had ever seen. Tortola in the British Virgin Islands is also supposed to have clear water. We just ran a story on BVI. I haven't been but I hear Turks and Caicos, the Out Islands in Bahamas such as Eleuthera and Exumas, and Anguilla have clear water as well. Any chatters out there want to vote for other islands?

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Alexandria, VA : Hi there, Flight Crew,

Just wanted to tell you that my wife and I booked our trip to Ireland to see her family later this summer via Air Canada before we saw your tweet today about their sale ($566 each before taxes). We got a great, great price. And the best part? We leave from National, with a short layover in Toronto.

Carol Sottili: Glad you found a good sale.

The Air Canada sale we tweeted about today is from Washington Dulles to Frankfurt, Geneva and Munich. Sign up for our

Twitter

updates to keep up with travel deals.

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Fairfax, VA: Hi Flight Crew!

Heading to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and Kuala Lumpur in June. Any recommendations for places to stay in those cities? We're looking for nice, but not-too-expensive places accessible to the major tourist attractions. Thanks!

Zofia Smardz: In a recent Hong Kong story, the author highly recommends the local Y. Have a look and check the details box, too.

As to the other cities, we need the chatters to weigh in!

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Alexandria, Va.: Where can I go to cross-country ski yet this year? I intended to go to nordic trails for a lesson and rentals on the trails in the panhandles of Maryland or West Virginia. But blizzard entrapment and then aging parent issues came up, and now it's suddenly spring! Are there still snowy nordic trails and a lesson in New Hampshire or someplace?

Carol Sottili: White Grass in West Virginia's Canaan Valley is still open.

Becky Krystal: And Andrea is on her way back from California, where you can check out the winter activities at Lassen Volcanic National Park through May(?!).

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Boston, MA: Hi Flight Crew -

I'm headed with two colleagues to San Antonio for a conference. The conference is in June, but we've been trying to keep warm recently looking for fun things to do in the evenings or during the weekend preceding the conference. So far, we haven't come up with much beyond the Riverwalk area and the Alamo. We'd love any suggestions or recommendations, from places to visit, to eat, (to buy?). Thanks!

Zofia Smardz: Have not been to San Antone, but everything I hear about it is wonderful. We recently did a winter getaways story that includes San Antonio and a modicum of activities available there, so check it out. Yes, they go beyond Riverwalk.

For more info, we call upon the chatsters!

Joe Yonan: It's been far too long since I've been to S.A., but let me just say that the Riverwalk is great for, well, walking, but be forewarned that unless things have changed, the restaurants there were all tourist traps, certainly not the best. I'm a big fan of La Fogata for Mexican, but it's been years since I've been there.

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Washington, DC: Hi Flight Crew! I am thinking of taking a trip to Italy with my wife and two friends NEXT March. I know this is tough to say since we're not even sure where we are going - either Rome or up north to Florence - but when should we be looking to buy tickets and what would be a ballpark price per person for round trip flight to either Rome or Florence during that time of year from NYC (where my other two friends are from and I'm from originally)? Are we better off looking at another time to go that would have cheaper fares? Thanks for all of your advice.

Carol Sottili: Most airlines sell tickets 330 days out, so you can't start checking yet. About 35 days from now, start going to airline and third-party booking sites and keep checking. When a sale hits, buy. Sign up at sites such as Yapta and Kayak for sale notifications. A good fare to Rome for March is about $700 round trip. And if you hit it right, may go as cheap as $600. Florence is usually more expensive. Cheapest time is January/early February, after holidays.

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Baltimore, M.D.: Love the chats and hoping you can help!

I'm surprising my husband with a long weekend trip to Las Vegas for his birthday. Neither one of us have ever been there. Any tips? I'm especially looking for show recommendations. We're staying at the NY, NY - not my first choice, but I got a great flight/hotel package, so it is what it is. Our only plans so far are dinner for his birthday at Bartolotta at the Wynn and dinner the other night at Craftsteak in the MGM Grand (since we're both huge Top Chef fans).

Some potentially helpful tid-bits: We won't have a car. We'll be there Friday morning through Sunday afternoon. We're not huge gamblers, but are taking $50 each to have fun gambling with. We're not huge drinkers, but would love places to have a cocktail or a glass or wine after dinner.

Thanks!

Nancy Trejos: I was just in Vegas a couple of months ago. You'll have fun. I wrote a story about the new City Center there, which is pricey but worth checking out because it is the newest, most talked about property right now. There are good restaurants in there. I liked Sage, Silk Road and Julilan Serrano. As for restaurants outside of the City Center, our food critic Tom Sietsema wrote one of his postcards from Vegas last year. He's got some good dining recommendations in there. The Mandarin Oriental has one of the most amazing views of the Strip. It's a good place for a cocktail. Caramel in the Bellagio is also a nice place for a drink. Mist in Treasure Island is low-key and intimate. As for shows, I saw Cirque du Soleil's Viva Elvis, which was good. But any of the Cirque du Soleil shows would be worth going to, if anything just to say you did it once. The Blue Man Group is also very popular. I would consider going to a magic show. David Copperfield and Criss Angel are performing there now. You've got some famous singers there now too. Celine Deon, Donny and Marie Osmond, and Cher are among them. Comedy shows are aplenty as well. Rita Rudner and Carrot Top are performing right now. I wouldn't worry about not having a car. There are plenty of cabs. And NY, NY is right on the Strip so you'll be able to walk everywhere. Happy birthday to your husband!

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Sticker Shock: My mother-in-law lives in Tucson, and we live in the Boston area. We're searching for flights at the end of July so she can join us for a family reunion, and are shocked by how expensive fares are ($560-670 r.t.), considering that gas is still under $3 per gallon. Buy now, or wait, hoping fares go down? Also: what do you know about Sun Country Airlines? Another family member has booked flights on that airline, but a (Delta) pilot friend said "Sun Country might not be in business in July"! Between the high prices, instability and added fees, it's enough to make you just stay home!

Carol Sottili: Try Southwest. I just found a round-trip fare of $273 including all taxes for midweek flights at the end of the July between Tucson and Boston.

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Bologna, Italy: To the person who asked a question about where to stay in southern Italy at the end of last week's chat - go to Puglia!!!

It's -much- cheaper than Amalfi, which is beautiful but full of tourist traps and overpriced hotels, and the sea is just gorgeous. It's where all the Italians go for their vacations. Try the Gargano peninsula, with Peschici (think Greek-style whitewashed village perched on cliffs by the sea) and the Isole Tremiti, or Lecce (which still has a lovely historical center) and its surroundings. -Fantastic- food, too. There's also Calabria with a coast that's just breathtaking, though it may be a little less user-friendly than Puglia (i.e. less English spoken, less physically accessible, harder-to-understand local transportation systems, etc.) as foreign tourism has yet to take off - however, an adventure it certainly would be! And of course, as you mentioned, Sicily is a trip unto itself. I wouldn't try to combine it with anything else. In any case, all of the above are much more authentic experiences than Amalfi these days, IMHO.

Love the chats. I learn so much each time I tune in!

Carol Sottili: Good ideas. And for more about Sicily, take a look at the 3/14 travel section's Going Our Way and for a story about baroque architecture in Sicily's Noto Valley.

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NoVA: I'm travelling to England in May, and I'm looking into cell phones for the trip. I'm on Verizon, so taking my own phone isn't an option. It's a one-time trip, so I don't need a permanent solution.

Should I get something here or there? Do readers have suggestions on a brand or service?

Thanks!

Becky Krystal: See if this article on overseas cellphones gives you some insight. In the meantime, maybe some of your fellow travelers have recommendations.

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Herdnon, VA: I am thinking of going to Portugal/Spain - maybe both - in the fall. How do I get started ? A tour group would be fine. Or maybe plan the whole thing myself. Any suggestions or favorite places ?

Zofia Smardz: Here's a recent Going Our Way column on a potential trip to Spain -- self-planned -- that might answer some of your questions and definitely offers worthwhile suggestions and tips. It doesn't include Portugal, alas. Maybe the chatters have some suggestions for there?

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Washington, DC: Crew

I am going to Seattle for a long weekend next month-- part of it is to see if I could live there. What neighborhoods should I hang out in (FWIW, my hotel is in Belltown, which is close to Pike Place, etc)?

Thanks

Becky Krystal: Our March 1 and March 8 chats had a bunch of tips on Seattle.

Anything else to add from the chatterati?

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Places to see in Dallas: I was in Dallas for a business trip a few years ago and stumbled on this charming Asian art museum just because it was on my commute.

I also enjoyed driving around Fairpark to see the buildings, although I didn't get to any of the museums.

My other suggestion if time permits would be to visit the Fort Worth area.

Becky Krystal: Another person following up on a question from last week. You all are so awesome!

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Crystal City: I just read the transcript of last Monday's chat and wanted to chime in about Argentina for the person who is going to visit a friend for 7-9 days. My friend and I went last March for 8 days (with a travel day on each end) and had a great time. You should definitely take a boat tour from Tigre (right outside BA) to the islands where many portenos have summer homes if any are operating when you go (keep in mind May-June is toward the end of their fall). The tour we took through an Argentine travel agency had us take the scenic Tren de la Costa up to Tigre.

I definitely recommend a travel agent for taking a side trip in Argentina if a) you don't speak Spanish and b) your friend who lives in BA isn't going with you. My friend and I also went to El Calafate in Patagonia (Perito Moreno glacier) and Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego (PENGUINS), and we loved both places. We took flights to cut down on travel time and booked our tours through GAP Adventures, so it depends on how much time you're budgeting to spend in BA and how much money you have to spend, and none of the places you named are a short bus ride away, really (and can't imagine Ushuaia being too balmy in May). Just a note of caution, if you fly Aerolineas Argentinas, be prepared for potential headaches - they apparently fluctuate from being privately owned to state-owned, and we had a major issue flying back to the States (but made it after a few hour delay).

Becky Krystal: Great tips, thanks!

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Washington DC: I believe that I've read somewhere that the best time to book flights is about 5 weeks out (presumably because that's far enough away from the trip that the airlines know that you probably have some flexibility and they still have space but close enough that the airlines are able to gauge what demand will be, so they aren't just keeping them high assuming that if you're buying months early, that you're locked into those dates.) Is that true? I need to fly out to Seattle for a wedding in August for about a week; right now flights are hovering around $500, should I wait until we're closer to travel time (ie the magic 5 weeks) or should I buy now?

Christopher Elliott: The best time to book an airline ticket is when you see a price you can afford. I wouldn't wait too long -- air fares have a way of going up as the day of departure draws closer.

If you want to "play" the market a little, sign up for

Yapta

and track your city pairs, but I wouldn't wait too long. Even the experts -- the airfare analysts who help set the prices -- don't know what fares will do from one day to the next.

So if you see a ticket that look reasonable (the price, that is) then I'd buy it.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Flight Crew:

I am just beginning to make concrete plans for our honeymoon next year (been saving 5 years for it!) and have run into a difficult part, due largely to a lack of information on my part. My husband would like to take a trans-Canadian rail trip. He's most interested in the classic rail hotels. We'll be starting from Vancouver in mid-August, returning from some Alaskan adventures, and I can't find what I think he has in mind -- basically a cross- country rail tour of these fabulous hotels. Can you help me? If such a tour isn't available, I think he'd be pleased with a shorter trip on either coast with spectacular scenery, but he's really into the train idea, so it would have to be by rail.

Thanks!

Becky Krystal: Have you checked out the VIA Rail web site? If you want to stick with the hotel idea, your best bet might be to get a rail pass that lets you stop whenever and wherever you want. Or you can look into their packages. They also offer trips where you sleep on the train, an experience Scott Vogel wrote about the other year.

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Arlington, VA: Hi,

Are there any direct flights from the DC area to the Caribbean to places other than the Bahamas? I would love to get away for a weekend but hate the idea of a lengthy layover in Miami. And I really don't need to see Nassau again.

Thanks!

Carol Sottili: You can go to the airport Web sites to find nonstop flights. BWI Marshall lists all nonstop flights on a separate page - it offers nonstop flights to Montego Bay or Cancun (I know, not the Caribbean). For Washington Dulles and Reagan National, you'll need to go through the flight guides.

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Washington, D.C.: My husband and I want to take our two young kids to New York City in late April for a long weekend. We'll be visiting friends who live in Midtown, so ideally we'd like a hotel in that area. Are there any suite-type options that aren't outrageously expensive? Any other recommendations about where we could stay that's affordable? Thanks.

Zofia Smardz: New York is pricey, but you might be a candidate for airbnb, a service that matches you up with folks who have private rooms or apartments to rent or share. With a whole family, you'd probably want to rent someone's place while they're not there. Check out the story Andrea did some months back for tips and info.

And meanwhile, we'll cast a line out to the chattering universe. Any suggestions, folks?

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St. Louis: I'm going to be visiting Norfolk and Virginia Beach for a few weeks this summer. What should I plan on seeing in the cities/state? Any good restaurant/nightlife recommendations?

Nancy Trejos: I was just in Norfolk. It's a nice city. My story on Norfolk will be out in this week's weekend section. But here's a preview: Go to the Chrysler Museum of Art which has a large collection of contemporary art, historic works of art, photograpy and Tiffany glass. A special exhibit on female artists is scheduled to begin soon, and there is no admission fee now. The waterfront is really nice. The park there is newly renovated, and the Nauticus marine science museum is quite interesting. One fun activity is to tour the city on a segway. There are many other outdoor activities. Take a jog or walk on the Elizabeth River Trail. Got to the historic Ghent area, which has many restaurants, boutiques, cafes and shops. I went to a place called Bardo, which has very good Asian tapas. PETA is headquarted in Norfolk so many of the restaurants have vegan options, if that's something that appeals to you.

If you have enough time, I would also drive to Colonial williamsburg. It's only about 30 minutes away and it's definitely something you should see if you are in the area. It's very quaint. Also check out Jamestown and Yorktown. There's lots of interesting history in that area.

As for Virginia Beach, obviously hit the beaches: Chesapeake Bay, Resort area and Sandbridge. Also check out the Cape Henry Lighthouses and the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia. There's good golfing there too. This

story on Virginia Beach

is from last year but has some useful tips.

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Cincinnati, OH: I would like to visit the Getty Museum and Villa, along with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see their current exhibitions. I don't drive and I don't mind taking public transportation. What area of L.A. would you recommend I stay in to visit these museums. Thanks. Love your chat. I've collected loads of great information from them.

Joe Yonan: Hmm. This is not going to be super-easy, I'm sure you realize. I don't own a car and I'm a public transportation devotee, but I do drive (Zipcar, rentals, etc.), and if I were going to LA for this purpose (really any purpose), I'd go that way, because you'll be in for some long bus rides, I think. But if you don't drive, you don't drive, and I admire your persistence. (BTW, you should put the new Ben Stiller movie "Greenberg" on your radar, because he lives in LA w/out car...) Having said that, I'd look at Beverly Hills and at West LA as possible places to stay. Giant caveat here: This is based purely on my playing around with Google Maps, so if any Angelenos are reading this, please feel free to weigh in and correct me. If you're at the Beverly Hilton, for instance, you'd be just a 17-minute ride from LACMA but a 45-minute trek (on two buses) to the Getty. From there to the Villa, it would be three buses and another hour. And then back to the Hilton would be another two buses and another hour-plus ride on them.

If you stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in West LA, on the other hand, it would be perhaps a little more equalized: about 40 minutes and two buses to LACA, 45 minutes and one bus to Getty Museum, and an hour and two buses to the Villa.

Anybody have better suggestions?

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Bethesda, MD: I was in different states of planning 3 trips in the next 2 months. All 3 trips fell through for different reasons.

Now I want to plan a quick weekend golf trip with 3 others to the Pittsburgh area.

Pittsburgh is not really a hotbed of golf. Any ideas on how I can go about planning this? Got any other ideas for golf trips between here and Columbus?

Thanks.

Becky Krystal: How about western Maryland? Quite a few options out there, including Wisp.

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WDC: In the last couple of weeks, many have posted very negative comments regarding Iberia and how they canceled flights, etc. Maybe the posters experienced something that happened to us. Between the time we made our reservations and our flights, Iberia changed the days they offered non-stop service from IAD to MAD. Our flights weren't canceled - we were rebooked, so we had to adjust our entire itinerary by 1 day. We chose this option rather than take a route via Boston, since we wanted minimal stops en route. Was this an inconvenience? Sure. But was it a reason to never fly Iberia again? No. If I completely ceased flying with every carrier that had 'fallen down on the job,' I'd never go anywhere. Of course, having said that, the carriers really do need to step up their customer service game in general. In the example I mentioned previously, we were content with Iberia's efforts to help us modify our plans and wouldn't hesitate to book a ticket on Iberia again in the future (unless United's Madrid service takes off - then we have competitive options!).

Becky Krystal: This is a follow-up from a thread last week, for the traveler considering flying Iberia to Spain. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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Reston VA: Hi,

Planning a romantic vacation/roadtrip in August to Quebec City. We'd be starting/ending in NYC, going Sunday to Saturday. I have a hotel reserved thanks to hotel points program.

Looking for suggestions on routes to/from, ideas on how long to stay in Quebec vs. stops along the way in VT, NH, ME? Will likely spend the last night with friends in Boston. Would want to include some long walks/hikes during the week, too.

Thanks!

Joe Yonan: OK, here's what I'd do: New York to Saratoga Springs (stop for lunch, maybe a spa treatment) to Burlington, Vt. (stop for dinner, maybe an overnight, hike around Lake Champlain). Then onto Montreal for a couple of days (so much to do there), then to Quebec City. On the way back, stop in Montpelier, Vt., for lunch, then take a detour to Portland, Maine, stopping for dinner and overnight (or two), then Boston to see your friends, then home.

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Washington DC: For the spa weekend, check out Berkeley Springs. If it was good enough for George Washington...

Joe Yonan: Been there, done it, liked it.

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Maryland: I have a long weekend in a few weeks and I'd like to head out of town for a bit, but I'll be traveling solo. Can you suggest anything within, say, three hours that would be good for a female traveler? I know that's very broad-- I'm looking to recharge. I've already hit Berkeley Springs, but would love a similar-type location if that helps, that might be a bit bigger.

Nancy Trejos: How about Shepardstown, West Virginia? Lots of Civil War history and a really fun nightlife. Or Strasburg, Pa., which has lots of Amish Farms and a cute historic downtown with good antique shopping. If you're interested in a spa experience, you might consider the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa in Farmington, Pa. Or if you want more of a city feel, why don't you take the train to Philly?

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Becky Krystal: All right, that just about does it for this week's chat. In honor of a certain upcoming holiday, the winner of this week's prize is the person whose dream celebrity tour would be with Maureen O'Hara in Ireland. Send your info to travel@washpost.com. Until next week, happy travels!

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