Talk about travel: Altitude sickness, Bolivia, baby moons, travel gifts, Israel, volcano fallout, Memorial Day weekend trips, more
Monday, May 10, 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, May 10 at 2 p.m.
You may also browse an archive of previous live travel Q&As.
Zofia Smardz: Hellooooo, chatters! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. And though I trust our fellow Washingtonians were out and about enjoying this fantastic weather we're having (though it is a bit nippy, don't you think?), I hope you still had time to peruse our great section yesterday. We had lots of stories for you and loads of variety. Doesn't Bolivia sound fascinating? All but the altitude sickness. I had a touch of that when I visited Santa Fe some years ago -- had the slightly feverish feeling, a little nausea for the first day or two. How about you all? Have you ever suffered from altitude sickness, or any other travel-related malady? Maybe, like Nancy's sister, you spent your honeymoon cruise in the bathroom, throwing up non-stop? I challenge you to come up with a better horror story than that. And if you do, you just may win a prize (I promise it won't be your own personal barf bag). Okay, let's roll!
Weekend getaway: Hello,
I want to plan a weekend getaway for either Memorial Day weekend or the weekend after that. My lovely wife is due with our third baby in October and I want to take her away for a couple days. She deserves some R&R. We have two types of trip possibilities.
One would be to fly away. Our (self-imposed) constraints would be 1) Must be 3 hours flying time or less, and 2) Be a walkable city as we want to avoid renting a car. We basically want to relax, take in some fun sights and eat some good food. Normally we would go for some adventurous activity, but my wife's pregnancy nixes that.
Saint Louis and Atlanta seem like they would fit the bill. Any other ideas? We are thinking of being spontaneous and getting one of those last-minute weekend fares, so we will need a couple ideas.
The other possibility is to drive to a spa in Pennsylvania. Any suggestions? We'd be willing to drive up to 4-5 hours, but 3 would be nicer.
Nancy Trejos: What a sweet gesture! Congrats on the baby .... You could easily get to Chicago, which has wonderful restaurants and a good public transportation system. Philadelphia is also a fun, walkable city with good restaurants, and it's just a train ride away. You could also do a weekend in New York.Providence has also been emerging as a fun, interesting city.
As for spas in Pennsylvania, the Woodlands Spa at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa in Farmington is supposed to be great, as is the spa at the Lodge in Woodloch in Hawley. People rave about the spa at the Hotel Hershey but others say it is too pricey. You might also want to consider the Deerfield Spa, a destination spa in East Stroudsburg. Enjoy!
Washington, DC: I'm thinking about heading up north during August to take advantage of a break in school. My plan was to fly up and take 5-6 days and drive through New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. My questions are: is August a busy season due to leaves turning (I would like to avoid that) and should I spend one or two days in Portland? I really love history and scenic beauty, and I kind of want to take some time and go whale watching (which I know eats up a lot of time) -- any advice on lighthouse viewings, too? Thanks!!
Zofia Smardz: Even up north the leaves don't really start turning until September, but August is a busy season in New England for the same reason it's a busy season everywhere else -- it's summer, the weather's fabulous and the kids are out of school. That's no reason not to go, though. New England is beautiful and you'll love it. If you can manage two days in Portland, definitely do that. It's a lovely town, and yes, you need at least one day for whale-watching and one day to get your history fix (be sure to go to the Longfellow museum). As to lighthouse viewings, I know less about that, but I'm sure the chatters will have loads of info. So let's ask them!
Washington DC: Good afternoon. I am looking for suggestions for a short (3-5 day) vacation, later this month or during the summer, with my three young adult children who enjoy a variety of outdoor adventure activities (especially water ones) within a 3-4 hour drive of the metro DC area. Also, we'd prefer to rent an apartment/condo rather than hotel rooms and don't know how to find reliable realty companies wherever we end up. Thank you.
Becky Krystal: For quite a few summers, my family rented a place at Deerfield Village in Canaan Valley, W.Va. It's close to Timberline Resort and all sorts of outdoor activities. Not to mention it's got lovely scenery all around.
Chatters, other ideas?
Washington, DC: Hello Flight Crew!
My partner and I would like to celebrate a special ocassion with a four day beach getaway, and are looking at Cancun. Can you tell us what the best all-inclusive options are in that part of the world but also why we might consider not going the all-inclusive route? We are in our early 30s and looking to relax.
Carol Sottili: Most resorts are all-inclusive in the Cancun region. Development seems to have evolved in that direction. That said, you can find places, from spartan to luxury, that are not all inclusive. Positives: You know what you're paying upfront. I think all-inclusives work best for people who have big appetites for eating, drinking and playing. Negatives: Food is often so-so. Not a good choice for those who want to spend most of their time off campus or those who disdain group activities. As far as the best all-inclusive options, there are so many to choose from at all price points. Go to Cancun Travel for choices.
Williamsburg: I've heard that passport fees are increasing dramatically later this year. Renewals are going from $75 to $110, for example. I'd like to renew ours before the increase but we will be traveling in Europe (Tour de France!) until mid-July so we will do so after we return. Any word on the timing of the fee increase?
Andrea Sachs: The State Department has not yet announced when it will raise fees. Could be this summer or next year -- I suggest renewing as soon as possible to avoid having to pay more. Thanks!
Baltimore, MD: My son booked a round-trip flight from Baltimore to Miami. Or so he thought. When he forwarded his itinerary to me, I asked, "Why are you flying back to Reagan National instead of BWI?" It was unintentional. The website (not sure which one) offering him a choice of return flights, some of them to different airports, and he didn't notice.
Nancy Trejos: I'm sorry to hear that. Yes, you must always review your itinerary carefully before booking a flight. Thanks for sharing the cautionary tale.
On Nashville: My brother and his family have lived in Nashville for 15 years so I am pushing my 50th visit there.
My brother lives near Vanderbilt where there still was some flooding. They got hurricane-style rainfall where they got 15 inches in a 12 hr period. The water had nowhere to go so many houses and places had basement or first floor flooding.
Something you forgot in your coming and going...Nashville has Fan Fest scheduled for June 10-13. Fan fest takes place in the music row area along Broadway, 1st, and 2nd ave with free concerts and paid concerts in the football stadium whose field was a swimming pool. ABC tapes segments and then does a 3 hr show of various artist performances in late August.
Around Vanderbilt there are hotels but not all that many and nothing really big like there is in the flooded downtown area.
washingtonpost.com: Coming & Going: Nashville floods, Arizona boycott, airline merger, RV rally
Zofia Smardz: Well, thanks so much for this info. Good to know. We'll try to keep folks updated as Nashville dries out. Hopefully some of those downtown hotels will be able to accept visitors by the time Fan Fest rolls around.
Washington D.C.: Hi travel gurus, I want to buy my husband an awesome travel-related gift for his birthday next week. We're taking a trip to Europe in a couple of weeks and we will be moving around a lot by train. We have pretty good suitcases, but one thing I was trying to think of is something that he/we could use to keep all of our maps and train tickets and other paperwork together. Do you have any suggestions for that or another good travel gift? Thanks!
Becky Krystal: Check out our holiday gift guide from last year to see if anything there is of interest. While designed for electronics, I actually think the Grid-It! Organizer we listed would work really well for securing papers, tickets, etc.
Jerusalem, Israel: Just a few pointers on your piece on travel in Israel that ran in yesterday's paper:
1. You are right to point out that Egged operates a comprehensive bus network throughout the entire country, including nearly all intercity service (though there are exceptions) as well as intracity service in the large cities of Jerusalem and Haifa, but most buses in Tel Aviv are operated by the Dan Bus Company (dan.co.il), not Egged.
2. The Beit Ben Yehuda Guest House is "conveniently" located to the Jerusalem sites you recommend in the article so long as you consider 40 minute walks (at a minimum to the Old City and the center of town) or trips by bus that require a transfer to most of the sites you recommended to be "convenient." Just a word of warning. However, Egged Route 99 does stop near the Guest House (at the Haas Promenade), and you can use the unofficial bus map at www.jlembusmap.com to determine how to get around Jerusalem by bus (neither Egged nor the municipality issues a bus map for Jerusalem).
3. Although it seems like a world away, Bethlehem is an easy half-day trip from Jerusalem, and very worthwhile to visit. From the Beit Ben Yehuda Guest House, one just needs to walk down to Derech Hevron, take a cab to the Bethlehem checkpoint, walk through (just bring your passport, you probably won't need to open it), and get a cab on the other side of the checkpoint to Manger Square (30 NIS at most, haggle if need be to get this price). Once finished with the sites in the center of town, hail another cab to go to Shepards Field (making sure you have the cab wait for you there, there aren't many cabs there waiting to take you back to the checkpoint, total should be 30-40 NIS for this second cab if you go to Shepards Field). People in Bethlehem are friendly and speak enough English that you can get by easily. Just don't take up any offer from a cab driver who offers to drive around with you for 100 NIS, you can do it with multiple cabs for far less.
washingtonpost.com: She'll be shelling out shekels by the seashore in Israel
Carol Sottili: Thanks for the tips.
Gaithersburg MD: Thanks for the great article on Uyuni today. I'm planning a trip to Bolivia next year and was wondering which tour company the author used. Finding a reputable company is difficult online; there are so many horror stories out there!
washingtonpost.com: Bolivia's southern highlands contain sights of rare beauty
Kenya: I am going to Kenya in October. I will be staying at Nairobi Safari Park Hotel, Serena Mountain Lodge, Mara Serena Safari Lodge, and Lake Navasha Sopa Resorts. Any advice for what not to miss in Nairobi? we will be visiting the Kiberu Slum as well as some of the orphanages. What to remember? What to leave behind? Thanks
Nancy Trejos: I was there years ago. Interesting place. Definitely go to the Karen Blixen House and Museum. It's not just for "Out of Africa" fans. The museum is great and the gardens are beautiful. You can also go to the coffee and tea plantations of Lumuru. Nairobi National Park is an unfenced park near the center of the city where you can see zebras, cheetahs and other animals. Within it is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where orphaned baby elephants are raised. If you want to see giraffes, go to the Langata Giraffe Centre run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. The National Museum is great if you want to learn more about Kenya. And if you want to try exotic meats, Carnivore is the restaurant to go to, though it is extremely touristy.
Sick but alive: Hi, folks,
Here's my travel-sickness story:
While flying on the first leg of a transatlantic trip from the United States to Scotland, I became violently ill--vomiting, fever, blackouts. When we touched down in London, I was rushed to the hospital and my stretcher was placed next to a bed hosting a cadaver. I was in the hospital for about 5 hours before I was released to continue my trip.
Good times, right? But I was having a much better day than my "roommate."
Zofia Smardz: Oh, creepy! But I'm glad you were able to keep things in perspective. :-)
Malaysia: This is gross but true. After being unable to do my stuff because I have issues using the bathroom when I travel I finally went to see a nurse in the resort I was staying in while in Malaysia. I had never heard about a suppository but was even more embarrassed when the nurse asked if I knew where to put it. She told me my friend should do it for me. Both of us were unhappy since I could figure out where to put it myself. Eventually we could laugh about it.
Zofia Smardz: Yes, a suppository is one of those things we'd all be glad if we never had to learn about. :-)
Arlington, VA: Just wanted to say thanks. I wrote a few weeks ago asking for advice about booking tours on a Caribbean cruise. I am happy to report that we got back yesterday and we had a wonderful time. We took your advice and simply asked taxi drivers to take us around the islands. Not only was it very cheap, but we saw a lot of fun local spots and got some great deals on souvenirs(and it was a lot better than the 1 ship sponsored excursion we did). We had no problems finding taxis right at the ship and often times we ended up in taxis with 3-5 other people on our ship so we really got to meet a variety of people. By far, the best way to see the islands.
Becky Krystal: Glad to hear it! Thanks for following up.
Downtown, DC: My plans to tack on a trip to India at the end of an overseas work trip have fallen through. So I'm looking at other options for a three week vacation in July.
Want to go somewhere with airfare that isn't too expensive and cheap when you get there, but at the same time is a bit out of the box (i.e. not Europe). Was thinking Peru or Ecuador. Am a late twenty-something looking for an adventure and maybe end with some relaxing beach time.
Becky Krystal: How about Thailand? We had a Going Our Way on the country, and K.C. Summers notes that while airfare isn't dirt cheap, "once you arrive, you can live like Thai royalty on a peasant's budget." And there are beaches. Enough outside of the box for you?
Nancy Trejos: Thailand is a good choice. I also like your Peru and Ecuador idea. You can do Machu Picchu. In Ecuador, you can visit Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca then head to the Galapagos Islands. Or you can go to Salinas, which is a great beach town. And if you're going to be down in that area, I would vote for a stop in Colombia. I got there easily from Quito. Bogota is great fun and emerging as a really vibrant tourist destination. Cartagena is a beautiful colonial town. Barranquilla is a fun city on the Caribbean coast. But then again, my parents are from Ecuador and Colombia, so I'm clearly biased!
Volcano contingency plan help: I have a flight to northern Italy late this month, and aside from hoping for the best, can anyone who has dealt with volcanic ash-related flight disruption offer some tips? I have travel insurance, but I want to take the vacation days I have allotted, so is there a reasonable expectation that the airline will put me on a flight elsewhere if I am flexible? Otherwise, what do I do???
Christopher Elliott: You can ask for a refund if your flight is canceled because of volcanic ash. And under most airline contracts, you should be able to get one. The problem would be finding a reasonably-priced ticket at the last minute. You'd have to go to Priceline.com or Hotwire.com to find one.
Bethesda, MD: Help! For once I'm trying to be pro-active! My husband turns 50 in JANUARY and I need to start saving now. Requirements: nonstop flight, not too far away (two young kids at home), sunny & warm, luxurious but only want to wear flip-flops AND oceanfront! Cost is not too much of an option but nothing too crazy! Thanks!
Zofia Smardz: I'd head straight for the Breakers in Palm Beach! Gorgeous, luxurious, oceanfront and they're having some specials. Other thoughts, chatters?
Washington, DC: We're going to Japan this summer, and we're trying to figure out whether it's worth buying a RailPass. Is there a website I can compare the costs of buying tickets individually vs. the pass? Or do I just need to go to the JTB office here in DC?
Andrea Sachs: I would definitely recommend the rail pass. It's economical, so easy to use and so nice to not have to struggle with buying tickets every time you want to take the train. It also left me with more time to mull the bento boxes in the station.
Available only to non-residents, you do have to purchase them before you go.
Because there are so many rail lines, it can be tricky to compare. I suggest calling the JNTO (www.jnto.go.jp) for guidance; the country's tourism office is wonderfully helpful.
Lighthouses for northern-bound in August: It's been too long since I was there but I think you can go into Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth (just south of Portland, ME.) Situated in a nice stare park and nice rocks and beach to hike along.
Zofia Smardz: Thanks!
New York, N.Y.: I received a recorded message from Amtrak that my train had been cancelled and that I had been rebooked onto another train. That was no problem. Yet, what the message should have added was that I needed to change my ticket. I did not know that. When I attempted to board the train, the attendant at the gate told me I had to get a new ticket. Of course, by the time one got through the line to get a new ticket, the train had long departed. What further got me was I was charged extra for the new ticket. So, for someone who had to pay extra for far worst service, I believe Antrak needs to do a better job at informing people what they need to do when they cancel a train, as this is not something I believe most people know about. I send this as a warning to others: if you get a message you have been rebooked by Amtrak to another train, change your ticket beforehand as well, as they will not honor your old ticket.
Zofia Smardz: Consider yourselves warned, folks.
Rochester, NY: Can I buy insurance that would reimburse me if I have to cancel a flight or reserved rooms because my airline can't fly or my destination airport is closed because of volcanic ash disruption? Is it worth buying? I am considering a vacation in Spain in late June.
Christopher Elliott: No. The volcano has to stop spewing ash before any underwriter will insure a trip against a volcano.
Gaithersburg, MD: I went on a trip to Mexico about 10 years ago. We flew into Mexico City and I felt TERRIBLE. Luckily we headed out to Acapulco the next morning, and I could feel myself getting better as we got further away from the city. Unfortunately, after a -gorgeous] week at sea level, we headed back to the city, and all that altitude sickness came back. No fun at all!
Zofia Smardz: No, it isn't fun. Thanks for writing!
Altitude Sickness: I was in La Paz on business some years ago, accompanied by a colleague who was male and much younger and fitter than I am. I felt perfectly well, while he was sick the entire time. It turns out that having a little body fat is good at that altitude. He was not best pleased.
Zofia Smardz: Body fat, eh? Who knew? So the trick is to gorge before you go. . .
Headed to Rehoboth Beach: Hi there! Headed to Rehoboth Beach this weekend (after your suggestion during this chat a month or so ago). Definitely going to the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton and the brewpub in Rehoboth, but looking for other suggestions of things to do since it might not be exactly beach weather, moderatly priced restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner and fun pubs/bars. We're a couple in our late 20s if that matters! And, we're staying on the North Boardwalk.
Becky Krystal: Check out last year's Beach Guide from the Weekend section. I think that will help you quite a bit. (Alas, you're a week too early for this year's!)
I have to admit that I'm totally addicted to skeeball at
. I've had a nice meal at
. Also, make sure you get a funnel cake from
. Mmmm. Can't wait for my trip in August!
Washington DC: Hi! I'm planning a week-long trip to Trinidad and Tobago in mid-September. When should I buy tickets in order to get the best fare? I'm not looking for a package, just the flight. I've tried fare casting websites, but none of them have predictions for Trinidad and Tobago. I appreciate any advice you have!
Andrea Sachs: Word is that airfares are only going to rise this year, due to the improving economy, fewer flights, more travelers, etc. I would book as soon as you find a good fare. And because T&T is not one of the "mainstream" islands, like the Bahamas or Jamaica, fares won't ever hit rock bottom. I am finding fares in the low $700s. High, but in the range.
Bowie, MD: Altitude...and Beer....Visited Estes Park, Colorado one summer..beautiful with an altitude of 7500 feet above sea level. Didn't follow a friend's advice that day to hydrate, hydrate and hydrate prior to our visit to the Estes Park Brewery & Restaurant. God, to this day, I still recall the most WICKED hangover the next morning and saying to myself "Why...I didn't drink all THAT much..."
Zofia Smardz: Ah yes, thin air and beer don't mix well.
Maybe stuck at home in Hartford: I racked up enough SWA points for a free trip, so I booked my flights and reserved a comfy-but-economical hotel room. But I'm absolutely floored by crazy-high weekly rental car rates.
Even with group discounts and a small car, a week's rental is too close to four figures for my comfort. It's almost enough for me to want to bag the entire trip and let my SW credits go (or pass them on.)
Do you have any suggestions for making rental cars more economical? I suppose I could decline the LDW, but I heard that most home/auto/credit card policies don't cover for Loss of Use, in case the car has to be out of action for repairs. Unless, of course, that Loss of Use issue is an empty threat to keep us buying the LDW?
Thanks for whatever advice you might offer.
Carol Sottili: I like Hotwire. Saves money, but you won't know which car rental company you'll get (only major ones are used) until after you pay. Only downsides I've found is that I usually now book a bigger car because I don't want to get stuck with a PT cruiser (I just don't like the car, but that's me), and, if I want my husband to be able to drive without incurring an extra fee, only some rental agencies allow this, so it's the luck of the draw. There's no one answer as to whether you should take the insurance - you need to know what your credit card/insurance will cover, and that varies.
Dupont Circle: Has anyone ever been to Fernando de Noronha in Brazil and if so do you have any tips?
Andrea Sachs: Never been.
Chatsters, got some tips for Mr/Ms Dupont Circle?
Worst Trip: My parents' vacation always end up either being weird or awful (or both). As a child, we went to Florence, SC so my dad could get dentures. Yep, there was a place 24/7 where they gave your dentures (and if you had some extra, they'd take care of that for you too).
So I remember Florence SC for their palmetto trees and people sitting in a parking lot with towels waiting for their dentures.
Becky Krystal: This is . . . unique.
Zofia Smardz: Hmm. Well, it's not exactly a travel malady, but not very pleasant, you're right.
Wash DC: Hi! I remember reading your interesting article about the body scanners at the airports, and the great detail that went into the "privacy" screens that were to be superimposed over the images.
Well, it seems that those "privacy" screens are not working, as a TSA screener himself was recently charged with felony assault for attacking his colleagues who made fun of him for, well, you know what, during the practice sessions at which the "privacy" screen either did not work, or was rendered inoperable.
How do we know that these same problems won't happen to real travelers? (not the assault, the privacy screen, I mean!)
washingtonpost.com: A reporter faces the naked truth about full-body airport scanners
Andrea Sachs: TSA set up a number of protections aimed at preserving our privacy, such as placing the screener at another site, deleting the image after the next passenger has entered the machine, etc. There will be flaws, of course, and bonehead screeners who act like horny teenagers around images that look more alien than Playboy. Hopefully, the agency will better screen its own employees for maturity, but short of that, let me tell you: Those images are hardly racy. A bikini is much more revealing.
Fairfax, Va: I've been fortunate enough to get $1,000 toward dissertation research travel expenses. Does it make more sense to plan trips and buy tickets now for later in the year, or should I wait and do 21-day advance/last-minute deals? I'd like to get as much bang for the buck as I can, especially since I don't want any one trip to be longer than a week, since I'll have to leave my little kids at home. I know I need to go to Massachusetts, Delaware, Williamsburg, and possibly Arizona to access archives.
Christopher Elliott: If you find a price that you can afford, buy now. Travel companies (and especially airlines) try to raise prices as you get closer to your departure date. Generally, there's a discount for advance purchases. But not always.
Shepherd Park, DC: This isn't about Bolivia, but close. We are going on a Galapagos cruise in October with National Geographic and we're excited! Now we have to book our flights to Guayaquil, Ecuador. The cheapest flights I've found that fit our itinerary are about $775. Should we book now or do you think there will be a better deal later?
Carol Sottili: That's about right. Fares do go about $100 cheaper, but days/dates will be restricted. You have specific requirements, so I'd probably buy. But first check Copa Airlines.
Biglerville,Pa: We are planning a trip to Poland this summer. Is English spoken there or do we need to speak Polish? What is train service like throught Poland. We plan to travel from Warsaw to Opole.
Zofia Smardz: My homeland! Well, my parents' homeland. English was not widely spoken there in the past, but since the end of communism, it has taken off -- many if not most Poles under 40 speak English, and of course, anyone who has contact with tourists will speak it. So you don't have to rely on your Polish (I'm assuming you have some)but you should use it anyway! It's a great way to brush up your language skills.
Train service is plentiful and fairly good, you shouldn't have trouble getting to Opole. I haven't taken the trains there in a while, though, so let's ask the chatters for their advice.
London and Paris: Hi Flight Crew,
My grandmother, my sister and I are going to Brampton, England, for my cousin's graduation in mid-June. Our preliminary plans are to spend one night in London and one night in Paris, hopefully giving us two days in each city. In London, I'm dead set on visiting the British Museum (though that may take some convincing for everyone else), we'd like to see the Tower of London, and maybe Windsor Castle or a brief river cruise. How doable is Windsor? I know it's a ways out of the city. I assume it would take the whole day? Is it worth it? Do any chatters have river tour suggestions? As for Paris, We all want to go to Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, and the catacombs. Last year my family went to the Louvre and Musee D'Orsay so they don't want to do those again, But I'd really like to hit those and the Orangerie. Is it possible to get all that in? If you had to chose between the Orangerie, Musee D'Orsay, and Musee Marmottan, which would you choose?
Thanks for the help!
Nancy Trejos: I loved Windsor Castle. It's definitely worth visiting but if you have just one day in London, and you also want to spend time at the British Museum and the Tower of London, I think Windsor might not be do-able. Even if you take the direct train from Waterloo, it will take you about 50 minutes to get there. And then you're going to want to spend a few hours at the castle and exploring the town, which is really cute. I would stay in London and maybe add another attraction, such as Kensington Palace, which you can pair with a walk through Hyde Park, which is beautiful.
As for Paris, I was able to do the Louvre, Notre Dame, shop a little, sit at a cafe for coffee than have a wonderful dinner all in one day (which happened to be my birthday!). You can pack in a lot because the public transportation is so good. Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle are close to each other, so you can do those two. But I'm not sure about trying to do that and fit in all those museums. You're going to want to spend a bit of time exploring the museums. I have not been to the Orangerie or Musee Marmottan, so I can't choose between the three. Any chatters have an opinion on that?
Philadelphia, Pa.: This isn't my story, but I have friends who went to a beach for their honeymoon. They rested up on the beach upon arrival and fell asleep and go so sunburned that they couldn't touch each other for the rest of their honeymoon. Not a good way to start things off, I hear.
Becky Krystal: Oh, yikes. Wonder how long they were asleep. I was sunscreen-shopping this weekend and was so please when I came across a bottle with 100 SPF. Maybe that would have helped this couple!
Baltimore, MD: Throwing myself on your tender mercy...I know I read, probably here, about an alternative to the Heathrow Express...an above-ground shuttle into central London...I gave the link to someone who used it (Sep-Oct '09)and said it was terrific....now I can't find the link or name, need it in three weeks - can you or a reader help me locate it? Many thanks...
Becky Krystal: Here's the comment I think you're talking about (thanks to our online Travel producer, Sarah):
Good afternoon, Flight Crew: During the last forum session, there was discussion about means of transportation from Heathrow to central London. I'd like to offer another option. The National Express offers a door to door shuttle bus service called dot2dot at a price comparable to the Express. Two benefits of the bus service are an opportunity to see London neighborhoods not seen from the Express or Underground and having someone else lug your suitcases. Last week, the time from the airport to Mayfair District was less than one hour. The buses hold no more than 10 passengers so there are not nearly the number of stops as a transit bus.
Annandale, VA: Can anyone recommend an Adirondack- or Thousand Islands-area version of Asheville, NC? My wife and I are looking for some peace and quiet amid beautiful scenery on or near the water, but we'd also like to be within a forty-five minute drive of an interesting town for a day trip or two and some good restaurants. Thanks for any help you can give us.
Zofia Smardz: Alexandria Bay is small but pretty, though not exactly Nashville. Your thoughts, chatters?
Zofia Smardz: Oops, I meant Asheville. It's not that, either.
Puerto Rico: I'm going to Puerto Rico for a week, staying near San Juan. Do I need to have a car for the entire week? The plan is to spend time in Old San Juan, and take a few day trips to the national park and beach. What are other can't misses?
Nancy Trejos: You don't need a car in Old San Juan. It's walkable, plus cabs are easy to get. You should be able to get one at your hotel, and they're usually easy to find in Old San Juan as well. Or you can take the bus. If you want to explore the island in depth, you should get a car rental. It's easy to drive on the island. The national park and the beaches are good choices. Go to El Yunque rainforest, Culebra and Vieques.
Dallas TX: Cancun all inclusive: for something really special (and food definitely --not-- so so), El Dorado Royale on the Riviera Maya. Went once on the company nickel, liked it so much I went back (& took my partner!) on my own. I can't think how anybody could be disappointed in this gem.
Carol Sottili: One thing I've learned is that expectations are so different when it comes to all inclusives. Everyone raved about one that I went to, and I thought it was just so-so. But the El Dorado Royale does have excellent reviews.
Washington, DC: A few weeks ago, I saw some flights out to the Big Island of Hawaii for around $600+ RT in Feb. 2011. I was debating on booking them but lost out, do you think they will go that low again? or was that a normal sale that will cycle again? Just bummed that I missed out. Thank you.
Andrea Sachs: You never know if they will go up or down, but Hawaii does go on sale pretty frequently. I would keep your eyes on the prize, and don't blink!
Altitude!!!: At an altitude around 3,300 m about 10,800 ft I was pretty scared when I first arrived to Cusco. My guide at the airport said "go to your hotel, drink some coca tea, do not eat heavy foods and rest during the afternoon. Well, I had the coca tea, but then I couldn't pass the grilled alpaca... everything was fine. I went to a couple of places in town and to my surprise there were oxygen tanks in many places including churches and of course many people making use of them. This was honestly quite scary. That night when I went back to the hotel, I was removing the sheets from the hotel bed and apparently I did that brusquely...whoa. I got dizzy and believe me I saw little twinkly stars, gotta love Machu Pichu!
Zofia Smardz: Doesn't sound too bad! Thanks for writing.
Altitude sickness: I am fine in places out west at 5000-6000 feet with no problem.
I have been above 10,00 feet quite a few times.
The last time I think it hit me. I was driving in Yellowstone from Red Lodge, MT along US 212 where you get up to mountain top level for a bit at around 11,000 feet before descending back down to around 6000-7000 feet. That hit me.
It didn't make me need a bag or anything but just got me a little queasy.
Zofia Smardz: Lucky that's all it did. Thanks!
Memorial Day travel suggestion: To the couple wanting to travel during Memorial Day. We enjoyed our trip to Savannah, GA. We loved it. Good food. River, parks, flowers makes one feel happy. Easy to walk around. It can be a very relaxed vacation with buggy rides etc. A day trip from Savannah(2 hours by Amtrak ) to Charleston is another additional possibility. Wonderful food. Lovely areas to walk around.
Nancy Trejos: Very good suggestions. Many thanks!
re: 'Babymoon': Isn't Montreal within 3 hours? I would love to go there.
Nancy Trejos: Yes, you are right. A direct flight is only about two hours. And if we're going to mention Canadian cities, let's throw out Toronto, also a quick direct flight (I was just there a few weeks ago. It was a lot of fun. Great food. Easy to get around by subway).
Arlington, VA: Maybe I have too much money, but in the grand scheme of things a $35 increase in passport renewal fess just doesn't seem like that big a deal. Especially when you consider how much you spend on everything in the course of international trip. Wouldn't it be better to use up your passport's validity first before getting a new one? Now, if your passport is expiring in a few months, by all mean renew now. But if it has a year or so to go I don't really see the point of renewing early.
Zofia Smardz: Sensible advice. I agree with you, but many people won't.
Georgetown: Hello travel experts!
I'm taking my mom out to a bed and breakfast in Harrisonburg Virginia in the Shenandoah's. It's a belated Mother's Day trip, so we're both looking forward to it. I was wondering if you knew of any must-see things out that way--especially wineries, but really anything that will make the weekend fun, memorable and enjoyable? We both like to explore and try new things.
Becky Krystal: Oh, I feel like I could answer this so many different ways, having lived in the Shenandoah Valley for a few years. Belle Grove Plantation would be a beautiful place to stop after about an hour in the car. Then maybe pop into Strasburg for a bite to eat and some antiquing. Not far south is North Mountain Vineyard and Winery, where I had a great girls' afternoon -- just hang out on their porch for awhile. There's tons of Civil War history, but try checking out the New Market Battlefield. Have fun!
At high altitude (really): Crew,
Which Hawaiian island is your favorite, and why?
We want the opportunity to relax on the beach but would also like to sightsee (ie, not be constrained to only relaxing on the beach).
Andrea Sachs: I hate to pick favorites, I really do. But if I must, I love Oahu, because you have the city sights but also the waves and laid-back lifestyle of the North Shore. I think that if you want some non-beach activities, you'd like Honolulu. It's nutty, but in a good way.
Alexandria, VA: For the reader with the pregnant wife, don't go to St. Louis. You'll need a car, and there's no metro there. Laclede's Landing is on the riverfront, the Busch brewery and Soulard Market are south of I-40, and the zoo, art museum, and other sites in Forest Park are definitely too far to walk to from any downtown hotel. I grew up in St. Louis so know the area. Do Chicago instead. Visited Chicago in March 2000 and was able to walk everywhere.
Nancy Trejos: Another vote for Chicago! Thank you.
Volcanic Ash follow-up: What I was trying to ask was if the airline would just put me on a different flight, even if they charge me a change fee--provided there is a seat to give me. Just for example, say Pisa airport is closed but Naples isn't.
Christopher Elliott: If there's a seat available, and the city your flying to doesn't change (just the routing) it should be no problem. But if you're asking if the airline must do it, contractually, I believe the answer is "no." As we've seen, EU 261, the EU consumer law for air travelers, can be interpreted in many different ways -- not all of them to our advantage. I think you would just have to be polite and persistent about getting on a plane back home.
Alexandria, VA: My husband's out of town on business, so I took my 2 kids (ages 9 and 6) downtown yesterday for lunch at Jaleo in Penn Quarter and then hit two of the museums. The Natural History museum was packed as usual. After that, we walked over to the National Gallery of Art. While we wandered around the ground floor at NGA, a male employee wished me a Happy Mother's Day. Another male employee did the same over by the Degas sculptures. Little gestures, but they made me smile. I don't know if NGA told their employees to do this for moms they saw yesterday, or if this was just out of the goodness of these guys' hearts, but great job! If I were a tourist, I'd be extra-pleased to see how kind DC can be.
Nancy Trejos: Oh, heart-warming story. Thanks for sharing. And it sounds like you had a lovely Mother's Day.
And by the way, an employee at my Safeway wished me a Happy Mother's Day yesterday, even though I had no kids with me (I don't have any!). It was funny.
Cubeland: Hi Crew,
I wrote a few weeks ago asking for a recommendation where a stressed out female traveling solo could go to get away for a few days in order to rejuvenate. You steered me to the Stoneridge Farm Country Inn in Bucks County, PA and I just wanted to say "Thanks!". It was exactly what I needed!
Going mid-week, I was the only guest there and it was heavenly! I set the time I wanted for breakfast and pretty much had the place to myself. I had a dog with me, which was the perfect ice breaker, so between that and the friendliness of a small town, I met lots of people, got lots of recommendations of things to do, places to visit, good restaurants, etc.
It may have been only a few days, but it was a world away. I (and my coworkers, I'm sure) thank you!
Zofia Smardz: So glad that worked out!
Scenic Williamsburg Community Hospital: When I was 9, my mom, dad, brother (7), aunt, uncle and two cousins (5 and 3) drove from Indianapolis to Williamsburg. My family made this trip every year, but it was the first time the others had come.
My uncle had been complaining about not feeling well the first day (my aunt kept accusing him of being hungover from the night before). We stopped midway and my parents watched the kids while aunt and uncle went to urgent care at a local hospital. They diagnosed him with indigestion and sent him on his way. At some point the next morning, it became apparent that something was very wrong. For some reason, the adults decided we should go on to Williamsburg - so we raced down 64 at about 85 mph straight to the hospital. They rushed my uncle into surgery - turns out he had appendicitis and his appendix had burst. He spent the rest of the week in the hospital. We did take him to a seafood buffet, which he didn't exactly appreciate...
(You would think that things couldn't get much worse from there, but the rest of the week was pretty eventful - my aunt ran over her stroller, one of my cousins fell off a cannon at Colonial Williamsburg, the other cousin hit me in the nose with a metal "crab cracker" he had managed to carry out of a restaurant...and that's only the first few days.)
They never came on that trip with us again and actually didn't go back to Virginia until I got married in Williamsburg 15 years later. I suggested we could all get elective appendectomies. Just in case.
Becky Krystal: Sounds like a memorable trip. Glad everyone made it out OK in the end.
Wracking my brain...: Please help with ideas for vacation. We only have 1 week so I think a trip out of the country would be a little too far. The problem? - - Sons ages 17 and 21. Where to go in August that they would enjoy and not be bored, other than to go girl-watching at the beach? Thanks for any and all ideas!
Andrea Sachs: I can think of so many places for one week that would entertain two boys: Long Beach Island and New York City, Montreal, San Diego/Los Angeles, Maine coast, Boston/Cape Cod, Providence/Block Island, Martha's Vineyard.
Jet Blue Deals: Jet Blue has $10 flights to and from select cities today only. They are trying to fill the seats on flights for the next 2 days it looks like. Too bad work keeps me from skipping down to Ft. Lauderdale for the next couple of days!
Carol Sottili: Yes, I tweeted about it earlier today. Seats were going fast.
Beach in June: Hi, what is the best way to find a beach rental for DE and/or MD beaches? Would like to go third or fourth week in June and be on the beach or a few blocks away. 2-6 people looking for quiet week away. Is the best way through a travel agent? Hotel? Craigs List? Any advice?
Zofia Smardz: Go through a real estate agent. In Rehoboth Beach, for instance, contact Jack Lingo. Coldwell Banker does rentals in all the Delaware beaches, I think, plus Ocean City.
Arlington, VA: Is there a shuttle service from DC to LaGuardia airport? Something like the Super Shuttle. I have not been able to find anything online? Thanks.
Becky Krystal: Sorry, not quite sure what you're getting at. You can take the train, the bus or, of course, a short connector flight.
Alexandria, VA: I went to France back in July 1998 with my now-husband to visit some of his family. All of the meat we were served for 2 weeks was pork-based. I seldom ate pork back then and my stomach couldn't handle it. I switched to salads for the 2nd week of the trip. We're planning on going again this summer with our 2 children. I'm prepping my stomach ahead of time this year.
Becky Krystal: Good luck!
Arlington, VA: re: Israel
I noticed in your itinerary you mentioned the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi, but not Masada. No trip to that part of Israel -- and, arguably, no trip to Israel in general -- is complete without going to the fortress where the Jews made their last stand against the Romans and committed suicide rather than being captured and enslaved.
If their schedule permits, they should get to Masada very early in the morning and walk up to it in time to see the sunrise. Truly magical. Then, they can spend the rest of the afternoon floating in the Dead Sea and enjoying Ein Gedi.
Carol Sottili: Thanks!
Chicago: It's too close to lunch time here in the Midwest to share a really gross travel illness story. I did however, suffer a stopped up ear for several days after snorkeling in Lombok, Indonesia. After fruitless visits searching at the home and clinic of a doctor a friend of mine knew, I ended up at the public hospital. They flushed my ear with an enormous plunger that looked like a prop from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. He gave the diagnosis to my friend in Bahasa Indonesian, who then rolled on the floor laughing. Translation: "cheese in his ear." The bill was $1.79 - so I was relieved to get it cleared up, and the only thing sore was my ego.
Zofia Smardz: It's so annoying when you get cheese in your ear!
Thanks for writing.
Arlington, VA: Travel sickness story: When I was a college student in Houston, I worked as a summer camp counselor on the Lake of the Ozarks. The camp had a number of kids from Texas, and, excited to see my friends, I volunteered to be the plane counselor who flew home with them. We had to take a bus to St. Louis, and the infirmary staff handed us a cup of dramamine as we got on to give to any kids who requested it. All of the kids turned it down, until about 15 minutes after we left, when one kid asked if he could have a dramamine and a cup of ... (vomiting). Well, this led to a chain reaction of about 10 kids vomiting on the bus. The bus counselors refused to deal with it so the bus driver had to stop the bus and clean, and I basically force fed dramamine to entire busload of kids. (Well, they pretty much all wanted it after that). Actually, the rest of the trip wasn't too bad. I had heard that our campers had been banned by TWA after the previous summer, but maybe the residual effects of the dramamine made everyone calmer, as I got all kids of compliments about how well behaved my charges were.
Zofia Smardz: A busload of sick kids! Not pretty.
Weekend getaway : Cities that you do not need a rental car and can get easy access around town....Boston, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco. Within a 3 hr drive or so you have various Beaches and the mountains of Pennsylvania and WV. Holiday weekend will be expensive to travel since you now are under 2 weeks time.
For adult kids looking for fun: In West Virginia there are some day rafting trips you can do on a few rivers. It depends on when you are looking to go because some are spring and others are fall.
Becky Krystal: A two-fer. Thanks.
Arlington, VA: Flight crew - any ideas for a single gal for a solo vacaton? somewhere warm, where I can relax, sip on fruity drinks and not be viewed as strange because I am travelling solo. Thank you!
Nancy Trejos: My best friend went to Belize solo last year and felt totally comfortable alone and had an incredible time. I think you would be fine in Puerto Rico as well. Or you can always go to Florida. Miami is a favorite spot of mine.
Alexandria, VA: Passport renewal update - I mailed my husband's expired passport w/the proper forms to the Philadelphia address on Apr. 14. Got the new passport in the mail on May 5. Did not ask for expedited service.
Andrea Sachs: Nice! Good work, State Department!
New Orleans: Hello,
I spent the weekend in New Orleans and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a quick weekend trip. The people, the food, the music, the dancing and the architecture keep it interesting and fun. Its very easy to support local business down there since there are so few chains in the historic districts.
Nancy Trejos: Good one!
Kid + Baby Vacation: Hi there, I'm looking for a good kid and baby vacation option for the summer. Preference is for small-scale, so that it is easier to manage the baby's multi-nap schedule, and within a few hours drive of Northern VA. There needs to be enough activity to keep the preschooler happy, but not so strenuous that my broken ankle doesn't have time to finish recovering. Suggestions?
Andrea Sachs: I would suggest Cape May or St. Michaels.
Alexandria, VA: For Rehoboth-bound -- get some sushi at the Cultured Pearl and stop by the jewelry shop on the ground floor by the Cultured Pearl stairs. I believe it's called Studio S. I love their jewelry!
Nancy Trejos: Great tip. Thank you!
re: Weekend Getaways: I'd also consider Portland, ME. It's around 1 hour away by plane, and there are non-stop options at BWI and IAD (not sure about DCA). But Portland, ME has the great food, walkable city, plus ferries if you want to go to the nearby islands.
Becky Krystal: Like it!
Pasadena: Belize in late June, combination of beach and interior eco-resort. Will it be too rainy, and should we wait until we can travel in the dry season? Does it rain all day, or just 2 hours every afternoon/night?
Nancy Trejos: You still get pleasant temperatures between June and November, but you're right, it is the rainy season. But the severe rains are in the southernmost rainforests. In other parts of the island, you can expect wet afternoons or brief thundershowers over the hills. There are also plenty of dry days.
Bahamas: High School: 1999 graduation (I know I am old!) I went to the Bahamas with 4 of my girlfriends and suddenly felt itchy. I couldn't get off the couch while my friends were swimming in the ocean and having fun. I guess I was allergic to the sun/humidity but I had rashes all over my body and couldn't enjoy what was supposed to be a celebration. It was a bad week for me but still cool flying in and out and looking at the pretty water.
Becky Krystal: Way to find the silver lining.
Dupont Circle: Hey, I'm headed to Tulum, Mexico with my family next week and I'm curious what your thoughts are on those places that let you swim with dolphins. Fun? Exploitative? Do certain places treat the animals better? (And do you know which places those are?) Thanks!
Andrea Sachs: That's a tricky question because there are so many strong opinions about dolphin adventures. My take: None is good because the dolphins are in captivity rather than the wild and are being forced to perform when probably they'd prefer to be swimming freely in the ocean. That said, if you decide to sign up for one of these programs, go with an accredited organization, one that promotes education and conservation. For example, Dolphin Discovery has a number of certifications.
Of course, the best way to experience the dolphins is swimming with them in the wild.
For Annandale: Kingston, Ontario! Great dining, lots of live music, pretty and walkable, easy to get to from many on-water vacation rentals in the 1000 Islands.
Nancy Trejos: Thank you for the tip!
Capitol Hill, DC: I have weeks and weeks of leave available at my job; my wife has no vacation with her academic fellowship. Thus, if I want to travel anywhere soon, it must be a solo trip--and just for a few days since wife will be home with the baby.
I am thinking a Tuesday-Friday trip (May 25-28). I am 34, male, have traveled extensively (40 plus countries), and reasonably fit. Budget less than $1500. Crazy ideas?
Nancy Trejos: Hmmm, do you want to run around a big city or lie out on a beach?
Some thoughts without really knowing all your criteria: Montreal, Toronto, New York, Chicago, Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, San Juan, Vegas.
Any other chatters with ideas?
Arlington, VA: re: London and Paris
Two days in London doesn't leave enough time to go to Windsor Castle. That's a day trip in itself (because you would want to walk around the grounds, the town and Eton College as well). Another couple of suggestions to go along with Kensington Palace are Speakers Corner (if it's a Sunday), the V&A and Harrods food halls in all their Georgian glory.
As for Paris, the Orangerie won't take long to visit. The highlights are the huge Monet water lilies paintings. I'd choose the Musee d'Orsay over it, though, but you wrote that you went there last time. Another suggestion would be the Rodin Museum if you have time. And, remember, you can get a 2-day Paris Museum Pass. The Notre Dame tower walk, Sainte-Chapelle, Orangerie, Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Rodin and others are all included. I don't think the Catacombs are anymore, though, but they're definitely worth seeing nonetheless.
Becky Krystal: Thanks!
Annandale VA: For the person from Baltimore who asked about Dot2Dot from Heathrow into London, Both Dot2Dot and it's successor went belly up. There was a third one that crept up but I wouldn't trust that one either.
Becky Krystal: Oh, gosh. Thanks for the update!
Washington, DC: I'm heading to the Grand Canyon/Sedona area later this month. Is it worth the drive out to see the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert?
Granted, Petrified Forest isn't that far from Flagstaff isn't that far, but I'm wondering if it would be time better spent seeing more of the Grand Canyon or Sedona.
Nancy Trejos: It really depends on how much time you have to take in the Grand Canyon and Sedona. If you have enough time, I would take a drive over there. It's supposed to be beautiful and doesn't take too long to take in. But I'm the type of traveler who likes to pack in as much as possible in a short amount of time.
Reston, Va: Any great places to use for long-term car rentals that will cost less than the usual rental car companies? We're talking six weeks or so. Thanks!
Andrea Sachs: For that amount of time, I feel like you should buy a used car and resell it. All of the major companies offer monthly and long-term rentals.
Hostel sick: I spent a semester abroad in college. After the semester ended, my roommate and I traveled for three weeks. While in Rome, we stayed at a fairly gross hostel. My poor roommate got sick (fun vomit-type sick) while we were there. We dreaded the thought of spending the day in the hostel, but it got worse when we realized the hostel was closed every day from 10-2. We ended up spending the day in the train station where you had to pay to use the restrooms. As my poor roommate said at the time, I just spent .75 euros to throw up.
Becky Krystal: At least your roommate wasn't alone. Being sick by yourself is no fun, especially abroad, I'd imagine.
Washington, DC: Submitting my question early: I am planning to take my mother (who is in her 70s and loves to travel) on vacation during the last week and a half of June. I said she could pick the destination and she chose Belize -- to visit the rainforest for birdwatching/hiking and the beach in the same trip. Any insight on how much the rain would ruin such a trip? Will it really rain every day? I have read that there is more rain further south, so I was thinking about spending half the trip inland in the San Ignacio area and the other half on Ambergris Caye, as opposed to Placencia. Is there a comparable destination you might recommend instead (other than Costa Rica, as she has already been there)? Thank you!
Nancy Trejos: You're right, most of the rain is in the rainforests on the southernmost part of the island. Up north, you usually just get afternoon showers or evening showers that roll through quickly. I would suggest the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico as comparable destinations, but they'll be hitting their rainy seasons too. But remember, even during rainy season, there are often dry days with pleasant temperatures.
Vienna, VA: I'm looking for suggestions on places to stay on the northern Jersey Shore--Bradley Beach/Asbury Park area. We have family in the area but their house will be packed to the rafters when we visit for Grandpa's 90th birthday. We really only want to stay a Sat night so a beach house rental is out. Are there actual hotels??
Zofia Smardz: Thanks all for hitting the road again with us this week. Afraid we've reached the end of it. Thanks for all the questions, suggestions, etc., and be sure to come back next week. And will the poor person who had to spend 5 hours in a hospital room with a cadaver contact me at email@example.com? You really take the prize!
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