Talk about travel

The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, June 7, 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, June 7 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.


Nancy Trejos: Good afternoon, and happy Monday! Thanks for spending a bit of your afternoon with us. We hope you enjoyed our section this weekend. I've been yearning for a beach weekend, which is why I particularly enjoyed Andrea's story about the new DC2NY bus to Rehoboth and Dewey Beaches. She had a couple of really entertaining rides (the guys playing Lady Gaga in the back of the bus were especially funny). Perhaps you too have come across some wacky characters or had adventures/misadventures while getting to the beach. Tell us about your most memorable journey to the beach, and we'll send a prize to the person with the best story. Okay, we're ready for your questions, comments, tips, etc. Let's chat!


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Given the current situation in Greece, would you feel comfortable planning a quick trip there in, say, August? On the pro side, protests have been pretty much limited to in front of Parliament for quite a while, and they could certainly use our money! On the con side, we're a little worried about the possibility of strikes making an itinerary difficult or impossible. What would you do?

Christopher Elliott: It's difficult to predict what the situation in Greece will be in August. The State Department hasn't issued a travel warning on Greece. It has, however, posted a fairly serious warden message to embassy staff in Athens.

"We remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence," it says. "American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. American citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

Personally, I wouldn't have a problem booking a vacation to Greece right now. I think it would be an adventure.


Bolivia rocks!: I just want to urge everyone to consider Bolivia as a destination! The most expensive thing is the flight to La Paz. After that, it's so cheap, so beautiful and the people are friendly and amazing.

I just returned from 12 days there -- with a 3-day sidetrip to Cusco, Peru and Machu Picchu (1 hour flight over Lago Titicaca).

Nancy Trejos: I have never been, but one of our writers recently wrote about the southern Bolivian highlands. It does sound like a great place to visit. Thanks for writing in!


Sterling, Va.: Hello, We(wife and I) have finally accumulated enough travel points with our credit card rewards program for two free airline tickets to Europe. Now the big question is "What European country do we visit?". Our budget is about $3k for the trip for sometime in September 2010. We am leaning towards the west coast of Ireland or the Snowdownia area of Wales. We enjoy rural settings and activities such as hiking, biking, and mountain climbing. However, we are open to all ideas and suggestions. Thanks for your help!

Becky Krystal: Get thee to England's Lake District. Seriously, this weekend's article -- and photos -- by Simon Akam will make you want to go.


Cambridge, Mass.: With fares so reasonable to Boston, my D.C. friends are asking what they should see new up here...and I always suggest a visit to Cambridge. Harvard Square will have free concerts outside Passim this summer, and there are new exhibits at the Harvard Museum of Natural History (as well as the ever-favorite Glass Flowers)..and a Secret Gardens of Cambridge to benefit the Public Library on June 13..And Longfellow's House, Mt. Auburn Cemetary, laid out by Olmsted. Cambridge is Boston's Left Bank, just the other side of the Charles River.

Joe Yonan: I heart Cambridge. Good eats on that side of the river, too, I must say: Craigie on Main is one of my favorites, now in Central Square, where there's also the excellent Rendezvous. And Oleana near Inman Square is a must-visit. If you go to Mount Auburn Cemetery, which I agree is a stunningly beautiful stop, you must stop at Oleana chef Ana Sortun's great bakery right near there, Sofra. (But no picknicking in the cemetery, I'm afraid.)


Washington, D.C.: Hello! My boyfriend and I are hoping to travel to Europe next spring (April or May) for two weeks. Prague is high on both of our lists, so we're thinking of devoting the first week to the Czech Republic (e.g., about 3 days in Prague, then day trips or overnights to surrounding area). However, we can't decide how to spend the second week -- our shortlist includes 1) Croatia, 2) Budapest, 3) another week in Czech. In an ideal world, Croatia would probably rank first, but I have a couple of reservations -- I've read that things on the coast tend to shut down for the winter and run on reduced schedules until the end of May or June. On one hand, the reduced number of tourists would be a big plus, but would we have trouble finding places to stay and catching ferries/buses that time of year? Also, two places we'd both want to visit (Dubrovnick and Plivence Lakes) are pretty far apart, so I worry we'd spend too much time running around with only a week. Budapest would be more convenient and manageable, I'm just not sure we want to devote so much of the trip to big cities. Our interests are pretty diverse- we love outdoor activities (e.g., hiking, kayaking), history and architecture, good food and drinks, beautiful scenery, and just walking around and getting lost in a city. We'll be on a budget, but both places should fit. This will be my first trip to the continent altogether, and while my bf has been to London and Italy, it will be his first time in central Europe. So I think we will have a good time wherever we go, but I was hoping to get some advice and feedback. Thanks!

Zofia Smardz: Lots of people pair Prague and Budapest, two must-see beautiful European cities, and it's easy to do because there are excellent train connections between them. I recommend it for the period when you want to travel, which won't really be the best beach weather yet. No need to worry about spending too much time in big cities -- you can go walking in the Buda hills, or take a short trip to Lake Balaton if you want to indulge in some outdoor activities. You might pop over to the city of Pecs, also, which is a European Cultural Capital for 2010 and has spruced up for tourism.
Croatia, however is of course gorgeous, and you can travel there and enjoy the scenery even if you can't hit the beaches. But it's a place where you want to relax, and not be dashing around all the time.
Chatters, what say you?


Harper's Ferry, W.Va.: Re: Higher airfares this summer

I am no conspiracy theorist, but somehow the across- the-board outrageous air fares make me think that the air carriers might be colluding or price fixing. In a normal, fair market, it would seem that one or two carriers would "go rogue" and drop their fares if only to eliminate some of their competitors, but I don't see that happening. I wonder if the Dept of Justice is studying the situation to search for antitrust violations. Have you heard about any such investigations?

Christopher Elliott: There's no DOJ investigation that I'm aware of, but your question is something that has vexed fare-watchers since airline deregulation.

Are airline colluding on prices? I can't answer that question in a chat (takes too long), but when an airline "goes rogue" it usually announces a fare sale, and then its competitors either match the price or not. Raising fares is another matter. Normally, an airline will selectively raise prices by a few dollars in select markets, and if its competitors don't follow, it will quietly lower them again.

Is there more going on behind the scenes? Maybe.


Trip Possibilities: Hi Crew! I'm trying to plan a short trip in August, to fill up my month off from school. Right now I've got a few ideas, but none are really demanding my attention, so it's been tough to choose. I want to spend two nights somewhere with a lot of history and things to see, and where I don't need a car. I've narrowed it down to Providence, RI, Portland, ME, or Charlotte, NC - any thoughts on which would best fit those criteria? Any other suggestions?

Becky Krystal: I second Providence. I was there for a couple of days earlier this year, and even in the dead of winter, I found I didn't need a car at all. Just catch a bus from the airport right to downtown. You will love it!


Hyattsville, Md.: Hi! Thanks for taking my question. I am looking for a short weekend getaway to do solo. I'm a single late-20s female, and I'm used to traveling a lot. I am looking for a vacation where I can get away, get lost in my own thoughts, and experience a new place. I've considered Seattle or Oregon (a bit far for a weekend), any Texas cities, Savannah, Yellowstone/something naturey, etc. Can you recommend a good city or attraction that's feasible to do in a 2-3 day weekend by a gal traveling solo? Thanks!

Nancy Trejos: Seattle and Oregon are probably too far for a two or three-day weekend. Texas would be do-able. Austin is a great city and Zofia just wrote about the adorable town of Bastrop, which is nearby. Asheville, N.C. is also supposed to be a great place. Andrea did a quick solo trip to Macon, Ga. recently and loved it. The Alleghenies in Pennsylvania would be great if you really want to have an outdoorsy vacation. Anyone else have ideas?


Boston, Mass.: We're planning a 10-day trip to Utah this fall (Moab, Bryce and Zion)and are debating between the first week in September or mid-October. We're worried it might be too hot in early September (we're planning on hiking and mountain biking), but that it might be too cold come mid-October. Thoughts? Thanks!

Joe Yonan: I see your dilemma, but between those I'd go for October. Just looking at Moab weather averages, first week in September is usually around 90 for a high and mid-50s for a low (although last year was hotter than that, getting up to 95 on one day that week). The middle of October strikes me as perfect outdoor-exercise weather, at least during the day: a high of the low 70s or high 60s. The lows, though, can dip into the high 30s. But I'm assuming (perhaps wrongly -- someone will surely correct me if so) that it doesn't get chilly until the sun goes down. So hike and bike during the day, and the pull on a sweater at night, right?


Visiting D.C.: I tried to visit Washington this weekend, driving and staying with friends in Virginia. I was unable to spend much time in actual D.C. because metro parking lots were all full. (And I was too far away to walk to the Metro.) Later, I learned that had I parked in those lots, I would have needed to pay with a special pre-paid card, which I had no way of knowing about.

Parking options in town were so limited I just couldn't do it. Lacking the budget for a downtown hotel, or friends to stay with right on the metro line, how the @#$% are people supposed to visit Washington? Don't they want tourists?

Very frustrating.

Becky Krystal: I hear ya. I live in Arlington, which is, of course, not far from D.C., and I still pretty much refuse to drive into the city. I steer clear of Metro lots, but there are places with easy access to the train where you can park. Pentagon City is one of my favorites, as it's only two stops on the Yellow line before you're in the city. There's also free parking on the weekends at county garages along the Orange line in Arlington very close to the Court House and Clarendon stations. Of course, you can also bus it in. Don't give up yet!


Washington, D.C.: Any recommendations on trips to Egypt? Is it better to sign up with a tour company and let them take you around for a week or two or just do it yourself?

Nancy Trejos: When I went to Egypt, I didn't use a tour company and I was fine. I have friends who have gone without using a tour company as well, and they were able to piece together a great trip. Definitely spend a couple of days in Cairo. Obviously go to the Pyramids. Go see King Tut at the Egyptian Museum. Walk around Islamic Cairo and visit some of the mosques. Shop at Cairo's biggest open air market, Khan Ali-Kalili. Check out the Citadel. I would also suggest exploring outside Cairo. Go to Luxor for the temples and the Valley of the Kings. Aswan is another interesting city. And if you have time, the journey to Mount Sinai is worth it. If this all sounds overwhelming, then you can most certainly let a tour company take care of it. But it's also do-able without one.


D.C.: Got any favorite Virginia Beach hotels/restaurants/activities?

Becky Krystal: I stayed at the Beach Spa Bed and Breakfast and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's been a long time since I've eaten at Pocahontas Pancake & Waffle Shop, but my mom continues to swear by it for breakfast. And as far as activities, I'd recommend hitting up the boardwalk -- it's a nice, long stretch great for walking, biking, rollerblading and people-watching.


Chicago, Ill.: Hey guys, I am facing some MAJOR indecision problems! My husband and I have always wanted to travel abroad, and we finally have the money to do so. The problem is that there are so many places I want to go I can't even begin to decide where we should go (my husband doesn't seem to care.)

Here's some info: Our budget for airfare and hotel is $3,000. I have been to Japan, and my husband has been to England and France, although he said he's fine going back. I love touring historical places, huge old homes, wineries, kayaking and big cities. I HATE mountains (I have what my husband calls an irrational fear of a car coming along, losing control and pushing me off the cliff.) My husband, basically, likes to go to beaches and relax on vacation, whereas I like to go do stuff. We both prefer warm weather.

We don't have to stay in awesome hotels, but my husband would prefer something better than a hostel.

Okay, with all that in mind, any suggestions? Ideally we'd like a one to two-week trip sometime next year, although the time of year doesn't matter. I've been thinking about Italy, Greece, Spain -- something Mediterranean. But then I think, what about France and the Loire Valley?! And then I get sidetracked by thinking about all the cool stuff in China or South America. And of course as a huge Austen fan, it would be amazing to travel England. I'm hopeless! Help, please!

Joe Yonan: For the money, I'd steer you toward South America. What about Buenos Aires, with a side trip to wine country?


Anonymous: Caution: Washington, D.C.

Be careful with what is in lugguage. My "carry-on" bag was taken from me at the start of my Dulles to Joburg flight. My meds were stolen (expensive) and the airline took no action to help me. Carry all valuables on your person. E.Wilson Pretoria for World Cup

Christopher Elliott: Excellent advice. Better yet, carry any medication on your person. Even carry-on luggage can get forcibly checked when the overhead bins get full. You don't want to get to your destination without your meds.


Chantilly, Va.: Hello, I was wondering how much time in general one should have before leaving the airport during a layover. Do you all think a 4-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur is enough time to leave the airport (the next flight would be to Taipei)? Thanks!

Joe Yonan: It depends on how far you are from the city you want to visit, how easy the transportation is to get there, and how much time you think you need to get back through security when you return. I haven't had a KLIA layover, but from some Googling it looks like the express train to town takes about 30 minutes, and there's one every 15 minutes. So that in and of itself could take you an hour and a half each way, without considering how long it takes to get from your gate to the train. So call it 2 hours to be safe. Then you probably want to be back at the airport, what, at least 1.5 hours before your departure to give time to get through security, right? That leaves you a grand total of 30 minutes in town. Even if you cut things much closer at the airport, which I wouldn't advise since it's another international flight, you'd hardly have time to slam down some lunch, let alone see much of anything.


Chincoteague: We're looking for a beach getaway for a long weekend. Is Chincoteague a viable option? Are there many decent places to eat in the area? Would a drive up to Ocean City for an evening on the boardwalk be a total pain?

Carol Sottili: Chincoteague area beaches are actually located on Assateague Island, which is connected to Chincoteague by bridge. It's a quiet family-oriented place with the usual family fare. Not known for fine cuisine. And yes, driving to Ocean City for an evening would be a pain in summer - it takes more than an hour without traffic.


Driving to Charleston: Hi Crew!

My fiance (will be husband on Saturday!) and are driving to Charleston for our honeymoon on Sunday. Any suggestions for good North Carolina bbq on the way down? Also, any ideas for thins to do when we get there?


Zofia Smardz: Steve Roberts, who recently wrote for us about South Carolina's Low Country, recommends Moore's Barbeque (pulled pork sandwiches) at exit 107 in Kenly, NC.

Other suggestions, chatters?


Memorable because it angered me so much!: When I was ten, I made a totally gorgeous (well, at least to eight-year-old me) sand turtle. It was huge and awesome and my best sand creation ever.

Then a 2-year-old that I didn't know came and DESTROYED IT. I was so mad.

Nancy Trejos: Oh no! What a terrible thing to do. Well, I hope you got to make many more sand turtles after that.


Washington, D.C.: I recently rented a car in Colorado from Thrifty. I was told that if I returned the car early, I would be charged extra. What? If I return the car early, it costs the rental car nothing more, and they may, in fact, be able to rent the car and make more money. If they don't want to have to deal with the car until my appointed return date, then just leave it in the lot. Do most car rental companies charge this type of fee? Why is such a charge even legal?

Christopher Elliott: A few years ago, car rental companies began "recalculating" the rate on early returns, charging you the difference.

For example, if you were offered a discounted weekly rate but only kept the car four days, the car rental company could recalculate your rate based on four days -- and then charge you more.

It sounds crazy. But I had a story on this back in 2007 and have mediated many similar cases since then.

I think this kind of creative repricing should be illegal. If your car rental company engages in this kind of behavior, you should find another company to rent from.


Springfield, Va.: Love these chats, thanks for doing them! Please help! My in-laws want to take a big family vacation to Hawaii in May. However, I can't get any information on airfare then, and my in-laws need to know asap if we can make it, as they are about to book a trip to Australia and will be making Hawaii their stopover but only if we can come. What will be a reasonable amount to expect to pay for a flight from DC to Hawaii (say to Honolulu, unless there's a better place to fly into?) in mid-May? My husband and I are also thinking of stopping in San Diego on the way to Hawaii for 2 or 3 days to see my brother; what would be the best and cheapest way to book that, and how much more should we expect to pay for adding that stop?

Carol Sottili: Most airlines post fares about 330 days in advance, so you may be able to get fares now/soon, depending on your dates. You need to plan on at least $800-$1,000 per person. There are frequent sales to Hawaii, and you may be able to do much better, but I wouldn't count on it. Honolulu is usually cheapest, although there are sometimes sales to other islands. As for stopping in San Diego, you will probably be better off ticketing separately, Price out your trip from here to San Diego, and then from San Diego to Hawaii. Los Angeles, which is about 2.5 hours north of San Diego, is often a cheaper launching point to Hawaii.


Harwood, Md.: Can I please vent? I've flown Southwest and had a SWA Visa card for years and years. When you earned a free flight, your choices were virtually unlimited. Any time, any place, with virtually no blackouts.

Fast forward to today. I have a rapid rewards voucher that has to be used by mid-August, more than 2 months away. I spent literally hours yesterday trying to book a flight, with flexible dates, to everywhere I want to go, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Albuquerque, Oregon, Denver, SLC, and even a few places I'm not so sure of (Boise, El Paso) -- and every last one was unavailable. Twice I could have booked a return flight, but would have had to pay hundreds of dollars for an outbound flight.

The only way to get pretty much unlimited travel, as before, is to acquire 2 rapid rewards vouchers! But I'm older, have health issues and no longer fly or spend as much as I used to. So I'm now looking for another credit card, that I have so many payments tied to the SWA Visa that this changeover is going to be a major undertaking.

Christopher Elliott: Glad to give you the opportunity to vent. Frequent flier programs are not for everyone, as I pointed out in a recent column. But among loyalty programs, Southwest's stands out as one of the best. If Southwest is imposing these new restrictions on your award ticket redemption, then what does that say about the value of airline loyalty programs? Not much, I'm afraid.


Alexandria, Va.: Perhaps more of a question for Dr. Gridlock, but do you have a sense of any plan for retrofitting any Metro train cars for service to/from Dulles? On any given day, one or two people will get on a train with a large-ish piece of luggage, and it's chaos (not complaining, just noting empathetically). I cannot imagine what would happen on those cars when that is scaled up. On other systems, there is at least a luggage rack, or space not taken by seats. Thanks!

Becky Krystal: I just got off the phone with Metro, and there aren't any plans for the kind of retrofitting of old cars that you're talking about. The money just isn't there. A bunch of new cars are being ordered for the Dulles extension, as our colleague Lisa Rein reported the other week, but don't expect anything designed specifically for luggage. But maybe the promised extra legroom and capacity will help accommodate bags better.


Bethesda, Md.: Flight Crew,

Can you suggest a good beach in either Delaware or New Jersey that is like Cape Cod (minimal crowds, no board walk, dunes, etc.)? We're planning a mid week get away later this month and are stumped as we're new to the beach scene here. We'd like to stay in a B&B rather than a motel. A few good restaurants would be nice, but we don't need much in terms of entertainment. Long Beach Island and Cape May were recommended by some friends but we thought we'd ask the experts! Thanks!

Zofia Smardz: You might like Bethany Beach, Del. Can't entirely promise no crowds in the summer, but it's a pretty beach town and quieter than Rehoboth or Dewey or Ocean City, Md.

I love Cape May and it has scores of wonderful B&Bs, good restaurants, plus a big wide beach that never really feels crowded.

Chatters, your thoughts?


Bowie, Md.: I am starting to research all-inclusive resorts on the Riviera Maya for a vacation with my parents in January. We've enjoyed two previous visits at an AI near Tulum, but want to stay further north this time, between Cancun and Puerto Aventuras. I've "narrowed" the list to 33 based on price and location, but they all seem to have almost identical descriptions, facilities, amenities, etc, and I don't know where to go from here in deciding where to stay.

Is there a good website for comparing all-inclusives? Should I talk to a travel agent? Or, am I stuck slogging through reviews on Tripadvisor (which I've not had good results with in the past)?

Carol Sottili: This is somewhat simplistic, but price is a good indicator of quality in this region. Dreams and Secrets properties have good reps. As for an objective Web site that rates the properties, I haven't found one that I would depend on. Apple Vacations does a rating system that may be worth a look.


Washington, D.C.: I'm planning a trip to Costa Rica in October this year which happens to be in the middle of their hurricane season. Should I be worried? Should I expect huge rain storms and gusty winds or just a few dark clouds?

Joe Yonan: Where in Costa Rica are you going? While September and October have the heaviest rains overall, there's a lot of variety even in such a small country. The Caribbean, for instance, is clearest in September and October, while the Central Valley is rainiest then. And the amount of rain, even in the rainiest season, varies widely, too. Check out this map for some more guidance. And chatters, of course, feel free to weigh in.


I know you hate FF miles but...: We have United Mileage Plus Visas and use them for everything (groceries, etc.). We have not paid for airline tickets in 8 years. We have gotten free trips to: Aruba, Belize, Costa Rica, California, St. Thomas, Colorado, Montana, Atlanta, Savannah, New York (x2), Wyoming. We had to pay about $50 for the non-US trips for taxes, but the US ones cost $10 per trip.

I am not sure how this is a bad thing.

Andrea Sachs: That s very very good thing.


Raleigh, N.C.: Do any domestic carriers have handicap toilets on flights yet?

Christopher Elliott: I'm unaware of any major domestic airlines offering handicapped-accessible toilets on their planes. Remember, many of the aircraft technically aren't even required to fly with a working lavatory -- let alone one that's handicapped-accessible. A sad oversight.


Washington, D.C.: What is the cheapest/easiest ways to make long-distance calls from Europe? We're taking our first extended trip away from our toddler this weekend, and we're trying to figure out how to call home to check in every day. Am thinking prepaid phone card since we really will only need to call three or four times, but would appreciate any insight. Thanks.

Becky Krystal: This primer, though a few years old, should be helpful. Any chatters have a favorite option?


Washington, D.C.: Could you cover traveling to Bucharest, Romania and then through the rest of Romania?

Zofia Smardz: Have a look at this Q&A we ran with the former ambassador to Romania and his wife, who've written a whole book on the country, Dracula is Dead, that you might want to check out on their Web site, too. They pretty much tell you everything there is to know.
Chatters if you have suggestions, chime away!


Re: Tour in Egypt: Split the difference and take a "tour" by booking a Nile river cruise (you stop at all of the major sites -- Luxor, Aswan, etc.) and have a guide (assigned to you through the cruise and he is your guide throughout the trip) teach you all about Egyptian history, art, culture, etc. Then spend a few days in Cairo at all of the major sites. My husband and I LOVED this way of traveling in Egypt and we aren't "tour" people. Something else that worked well for us is that I looked for a cruise that catered to Europeans and because we were on a boat with a lot of Italians, the English speaking group was nice and small (10 of us), which provided us with a lot of good interaction with our guide.

Becky Krystal: Thanks for the tips.


Great Falls, Va.: Can you recommend some reading for visiting Bucharest? I am very interested in learning some language and cultural norms. For instance could you discuss the protocol and customs for marriages? I would also be very interested in learn the protocol for business.

Zofia Smardz: Lots of Bucharest today. Get a copy of Dracula is Dead by Jim Rosapepe and Sheilah Kast. It should answer just about every question you'd think of asking.


From Last Chat: I was on vacation during the last chat and here are come comments from postings:

Yosemite reservation system: The systems opens up reservations for a months time 5 months prior. For those who looked to travel between mid May and Mid June you had to book reservations on January 15. The way the system work is like Christmas shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving where the doors open on the site at 10am ET and you book when you want to travel. The problem in the system open the door for speculation and scalping. The other problem is they don't allow refunds. Things can change dramatically 5-6 months from now. The option they may need to change to is for a lottery system that is conducted 3-4 months prior to staying. The system is broke and does need repair.

Colorado: You all need to really understand something that many do not appear to understand with the West is what the weather is like. Just because its summer in the East does not mean its summer out west.

Many national parks are limited to only the summer (from Memorial Day-end of September). Mt Rainier main visitor center of Paradis still has 5+ feet of snow on the ground (roads are plowed and cleared) and Rocky Mountain National Park high elevation (above 9,000 feet) is still snow covered. It is not all that uncommon in late May/early June to get snowfall (usually an overnight snow).

Nancy Trejos: Thanks for the tips. Very useful. And thanks for keeping up with the chats!


Meadville, Pa.: I have a little gripe -- nothing travel-industry related. I went on a trip to Milan a couple weeks ago with a friend who was unaware that our host, whom she had met once, two years ago, had romantic feelings for her. I pretty much never turn down a trip to Italy, but he was a little hostile towards me since I was getting in the way of their "romantic time."

We did manage to get away from him for a few hours here and there, and took a day trip to Venice and the rest of his family was wonderful. But as a warning to other travelers - make sure you know the intentions of the people you visit!

Joe Yonan: Maybe a pre-trip questionnaire?


Rockville, Md.: Thanks for these wonderful chats! My honey loves Caribbean cruises in January. I'm not a big fan of "what day is it? Where are we? Better rush out the door, we only have 5 hours for today's beach" -- I think part of what he loves is the great value and built in evening entertainment. Any ideas for an alternative? I've looked at "all inclusives" but they seem really expensive! BTW, we don't drink or gamble -- we're mid 40s and very outdoorsy, athletic. Thanks!

Carol Sottili: If you don't drink, an all-inclusive will probably not be a great value. You'll be subsiding the rest of the crowd, as alcohol is typically included in an all-inclusive, while it is not part of the cruise fare. Have you considered Costa Rica or Belize? They offer more active, outdoorsy activities than many Caribbean islands. Or you could even head to South America, although that's a long trip. Any other ideas chatters?


For Pittsburgh wanting to go to Greece: A friend is taking a group of students there next month for several weeks. I asked her how she and her colleagues felt about the current situation in Greece and she said everyone's comfortable with it. So book your trip and have a good time.

Nancy Trejos: Thanks for the input!


Chantilly, Va.: My sister, who's in poor health, has wanted for years to see the Hearst Castle. I'm a chicken -- about flying, don't like heights, and that brings me to the question: I'd like to drive out and see things along the way; I'll be on I-40 for most of the way, but am I going to be freaked out by any steep (really steep) dropoffs? Whimper.

Zofia Smardz: I doubt it, but let's throw this one out to the chatters. Anybody made this trip?


Washington, D.C.: I regularly fly to Boston and am often checking fares. Where are these reasonable fare that Cambridge writes of? I haven't seen any good fares in more than a year -- occasionally I'll find a 'not outrageous' fare, but nary a good one in sight.

Becky Krystal: I think for those good fares, you need to fly out of BWI. Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue are all competitive on that route. I'm seeing fares as low as $49 each way on Southwest and JetBlue (with free bags on both!).
Does the Boston-bound chatter have any other advice?

Nancy Trejos: Also, JetBlue will begin flying out of National Airport on November 1. Another option for you.


Greece and Bolivia: -Greece, Portugal, Spain, etc.: the exchange rates should be pretty favorable. -Bolivia: stunning scenery, especially in the mountains but if you're not staying in the lowlands you need to be prepared for altitude. La Paz's airport is at 13,000'. There are some drugs you can get in the U.S. to lessen problems. Many people there drink coca tea. You do NOT want to have any in your luggage when you clear Customs back in the U.S. Bolivia also has some real political problems now.

Zofia Smardz: Thanks. And our recent story on Bolivia seconds your comments.


for the person considering Providence, R.I., Portland, Maine or Charlotte, N.C.: don't do Charlotte. I find it impossible to do without a car. It's a sprawling mess of a city with very limited public transportation options. Speaking personally, I don't find it a particularly interesting place, either.

Becky Krystal: OK, one traveler's opinion for the car-free chatter.


Parking car in the 'burbs, taking Metro?: I'm going to be in D.C. in a couple of weeks for an overnight visit. I may drive from southwestern Virginia but sure don't want to drive into, or park in, the District. Is there a Metro station in the western Virginia suburbs where I can leave my car (safely) overnight, and take the Metro to and from the city? Thanks.

Carol Sottili: Metro doesn't go very far west - last stop is Vienna, Va., where overnight parking is not permitted. Driving into the District is not that scary. But parking is expensive. Have you considered driving to Lynchburg and taking Amtrak from there to Union Station? Tickets are as low as $29 each way.


For the Prague bound couple: Consider Krakow Poland. The city is great, and outside the city you can hike/bike/see castles and caves in Ojcow National Park, hike in Zakopane/Tatra mountains, and raft on the Dunajec river.

Nancy Trejos: Sounds lovely. Thanks for sharing!


Washington, D.C.: I'm traveling out west this summer to see a bunch of national parks. If I skip the Arizona portion of the trip, am I just hurting innocent people in the tourism industry, or will the Arizona governor and legislature actually take note of people like me who don't like their policies?

Joe Yonan: Ah, the old does-a-boycott-help question. Without getting into the political debate (if that's possible), I'd say that the way to make sure your message gets through is to actually send a message, not just boycott with no communication. That said, here's the form to email the governor, and here's the list of officials at the tourism department, with emails. If I were you, I'd estimate how much money you would've spent in Arizona, and spell that out.


Maryland, but flying out of Philly: We are flying Air Jamaica out of Philly on Saturday. Our flight departs at 6:30 a.m. I've always gone 2 hours before for international flights (never out of Philly before), but will anybody be working at the baggage check in at 4:30am? What time do you think we should be there by? Thanks.

Andrea Sachs: Personally, I would check-in online, then show up about an hour in advance. I would also go carry-on only. To be safe, though, call the airline and find out when the desk opens. When an airline has a flight that early, it typically staffs the desk for incoming passengers. If you have bags, give yourself 90 minutes.


Weighing in on Eastern Europe: I've spent a lot of time in EE and we vacation somewhere there every year. Here's my two cents: Prague and Budapest have a lot of similarities, so I'd say visit only one. Lake Balaton is a bust, imo. My HS-aged son just walked in the door, and I asked him what his favorite place in EE is, and he said Plitvice. We've been there twice, in May and in the summer, both times spectacular. As for lodging, you might consider staying in a nearby town, Slunj, which is a magical little place.

Zofia Smardz: Another view on Eastern Europe. Thanks much for this!


Parking in D.C.: I live in Alexandria and go into D.C. often on the weekends with family and friends. It's not so daunting and it's unfair to say that the parking situation keeps people away. I was downtown Memorial Day weekend and in Georgetown this past Saturday. Both times I found free, on-street parking. Other times, I've parked in garages for $10-15 per day, which is less than round trip metro fares from the Virginia suburbs for a family of 4.

I use the Metro to get to work during the week, and I support public transportation. But the slower metro trains on the weekends and the lack of lines to places I want to go means that I drive in to the city on weekends, and it's just not that big of a hassle.

Becky Krystal: Fair points all.


Utah september/October: If you travel by Columbus Day weather should be fine. I was in Moab last year in October.

I would suggest going in late September/early October because you will have the colors change on the trees around that time. When I was in Moab over Columbus weekend the trees were at peak. Higher elevation area will be past peak. Mesa Verde was at peak then too.

The weather in Moab was mid 70s then. There is a chance with weather patterns it could be cooler like in the mid 50s for highs and having overnight snowfall. Bryce is higher in elevation there is more of a likelihood of colder nights with a chance of snow. They got 4 inches of snow during the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend

Nancy Trejos: Good info here. Thanks!


Calls from Europe: Skype! If you are bringing a laptop then just download Skype and ensure that you have a working microphone. If not bringing a laptop, there are plenty of Internet cafes

Nancy Trejos: Oh yes! Skype is a great option. Thanks for pointing that out.


Oil spill and the Atlantic?: If the Gulf oil spill travels around the Florida peninsula into the Atlantic Ocean, how far is it likely to travel? All the way to Europe? If only part-way, how far? Would it be severe enough to affect ocean sailing or fishing? Any links to articles on this?

Christopher Elliott: It's headed up the East Coast and out into the Atlantic, according to a National Center for Atmospheric Research prediction. Here's the disturbing video.


Vienna, Va.: Best time to book late October flight to Europe? Aiming for mid/late October, fly to Paris, out of Amsterdam. Is the 3 months still the right time? When do fall airfare sales start? Thanks!

Carol Sottili: All rules of thumb seem to have gone haywire. Start tracking as soon as you get your dates and buy when the fare looks cheap. As for sales, there have been very few this year. Icelandair just announced some good fall fares, but out of Boston and New York.


Meadville, Pa.: For Hyattsville -- Austin is great! I used to be stationed at Fort Hood, about an hour north, but made a ton of solo day and night trips to Austin. There's a great mix of age groups (and characters in general) on Sixth Street, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is amazing and Zilker Park has outdoorsy stuff. And I have to recommend the Aquarium on Sixth, since the staff is very friendly and skilled.

Nancy Trejos: Another vote for Austin! Yes, I love that town.

Joe Yonan: Must go to Barton Springs. Must go to South Congress to hit food trucks (and cool indie shopping). Must hit Antone's for music. Must have breakfast tacos at any number of places. Must shop for records at Waterloo. Must, must, must.


Kuala Lumpur layover: Well, I guess I didn't expect to leave the airport with only four hours to spare, but it does seem like a long time to be stuck there. Wikipedia says there's a Malaysian rainforest in the middle of Terminal A -- does anyone have any suggestions on what to do for four hours in or very near the Kuala Lumpur airport? Thanks again!

Becky Krystal: Is there an experienced Kuala Lumpur traveler out there?


Luggage on Metro...and MARC trains : I have been riding MARC 5 days a week from Baltimore to Union Station and back. Because the train is so cheap relative to Amtrak, many Washingtonians will take it to BWI and, at holiday time especially, they will board with loads of luggage. The only problem is, MARC cars don't have room for large amounts of luggage -- the overhead racks are designed for coats and briefcases. For years, I have urged MARC to put something on their site pointing this out, but they have never done so.

Becky Krystal: Yes, this is also a problem we hear about on the express buses that head to the airports.


Bus to the beach: I am so glad a bus is being offered to the beach -- I just wish I had thought of the idea or had the means myself. Either way, I'm excited about this opportunity. It was great to read about it while I was at the beach yesterday. We drove to Dewey for the day but had we known, we may have taken the bus. I was pleased to hear that the bus was timely, especially on a holiday weekend to the beach. I was afraid traffic would be horrible -- do you think its because the bus leaves late enough that it misses traffic or could it get worse as the season continues?

Thanks for such a great article!

Andrea Sachs: The bus leaves D.C. Friday nights at 5:30 from Dupont and 6 from Union Station. Prime rush hour traffic. However, DC2NY's owners told me that they figured most people left for the beach a little earlier or much later, so the bus would miss the worst crunch. I am not sure if that is true, but I was amazed that we made such great time on a holiday weekend. For the other trips, there were patches of slowed traffic closer to the beach, but nothing that would make you pull your hair out--maybe because you aren't behind the wheel!
I am a big fan of the bus and would definitely recommend it. Just remember, if you are going for the day, pack light, because you don't have a trunk where you can stash your stuff.


K ST NW - First timer to Chicago: I'll have three days in Chicago this July. What should I make sure to do or see? I'll be staying at the Doubletree on Michigan Avenue. Is that a good place to start from? I've been lots of places but Chicago, isn't one of them. Thanks!

Nancy Trejos: That's a great starting point. Lots of great shopping and tons of restaurants on Michigan Ave. The Magnificent Mile is named that for a reason. I would recommend spending some time just taking in that scene. Chicago also has wonderful museums. The Museum Campus had the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium, both great. The Art Institute of Chicago is fantastic too. I would also go up the John Hancock Observatory or the Sears Tower for a great view of the city. Navy Pier is fun. And there are tons of great restaurants. You'll have a wonderful time. It's one of my favorite cities.

Becky Krystal: Having just been to the Windy City myself the other week, I'd also recommend a trip to Wrigley Field if the Cubs are in town. It's definitely an experience!


Calling Europe: The chatter should look into Skype. I have it on my laptop and iPhone, and you can call from anywhere with wifi for free(if the person you call is also on a computer) or you can buy minutes very cheaply to call a landline. My husband goes to Europe for business, and he can video chat with our toddlers here.

Nancy Trejos: Yes, someone else suggested Skype. It is a great, affordable way to communicate. Thanks for this.


Beijing : I'd love your advice on what to pack for sightseeing in the middle of July. I'm especially curious about suggestions for comfortable shoes. I have mostly heels and workout shoes, so I know I'll have to buy a pair to get me around. Thanks.

Carol Sottili: I love my Clarks Clarks and Aerosoles. Anyone else have favorites?


Silver Spring, Md.: Can anyone recommend an apartment booking service (other than, most have more expensive/weekly properties) I'm looking for a condo/apt in NYC, UWS for $200-250, without a week minimum. Thanks muchly!

Andrea Sachs: I would suggest AirBnB first, then check, or, for very cool digs, Hotel Toshi.


Bethesda, Md.: My memorable trip to the beach...about 12 years ago on Rt 50 headed to Dewey I was rear-ended. Since we were crawling there was no damage. Twenty minutes later I feel my car stalling and every light on the dashboard was lit up. I made it to the shoulder and white smoke started coming out from under the hood, so I got out and went behind the car, thinking it was overheating. The smoke turned gray, then black, then people going by were telling me do you know your car is on fire. My engine was on fire. Someone must have called the fire dept because they were there in 2 minutes. It was entertaining to hear the traffic reports coming from the cars going by and hearing "we have a car fire on Rt 50 by the Parole exit" and realizing hey, that's me. So even though not a good trip, definitely memorable!

Nancy Trejos: Oh no! That is memorable. I'm glad you were okay. I hope you found another way to get to the beach!


For Hearst Castle and I-40: We are just back from a cross-country. I-40 from Albuquerque to Barstow then I-210 and US 101. We found no steep drop offs. It's a constant climb to 7000 feet from Albuquerque to Williams, Ariz., then a gentle drop to Kingman, Ariz., at 2,500 feet. Plan to drive in daylight since it's pitch black from Williams to Kingman AZ and no lights but the reflectors on the road. Plan to drive about 400 miles per day. If you take US101 from L.A. to Hearst Castle, it hugs the coastline, but there are no cliffs like further north in Big Sur. US101 to SF is in a valley from San Luis to SF. Does the poster want to return I-40? the SF alternative is I-80, which is so boring we were counting the triple bottom trucks by type for 2 days in Nevada and Utah. The drive from Salt Lake to Park City is steep, as is the drive from Sacramento to Donner Pass.

Another suggestion which we found out but didn't need: make certain you reserve a handicapped room with a roll in shower if that is what you need: most hotels will have only one of these and will give it to the first requester, who may not need that sort of adaptation.

Nancy Trejos: Wow, lot's of useful information here. Many thanks!


Washington, D.C.: My husband and I want to take a last minute vacation next week. Since it's last minute, we're not picky on where to go. However, we're on a budget...about $600-700pp for flight and hotel. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

Becky Krystal: This is why we write our Impulsive Traveler stories! Recent entries include Bastrop, Texas; Monroeville, Ala.; Toronto; and Indianapolis.
There's some extraneous info, but you can browse more of them on a Google site search of our Web site.


Problems with Thrifty: Long story short...I didn't take the insurance because I used a Platinum Credit Card to cover the additional damage. The credit card insurance people have been great. Thrifty has sent demand letters to me before sending requested documents to the credit card company. The claims agent won't call me but sends nasty emails (and I'm an attorney). Long story with anyone but Dollar/Thrifty.

Christopher Elliott: Thanks for the insights. You should always ask for documentation when there's a claim by a car rental agency. If the car rental company refuses, then you and your insurance company have every reason to deny paying for "damages" to the car.


Traveling to Arizona: It isn't just the boycott issue, it's that people who are brown don't feel like getting stopped by police every 20 minutes and having to show their "papers."

Joe Yonan: Right. I understand, believe me. But the question was about the effectiveness of a boycott, whether doing so would get the message across, or not.


Delta Skymiles: That's not good news. I had a NWA Worldperks card for years and now with Delta and AmEx, I'm approaching 200K miles. I was hoping to save for the around-the-world ticket. Is it not worth my effort?

Christopher Elliott: That depends. I wouldn't hoard your miles, because they don't appreciate over time -- they actually lose value. If you think you're going to get enough miles for that RTW trip soon, then by all means, keep collecting. And then spend them. All of them.


Re: Visiting D.C.: I can't say I've ever had trouble parking downtown -- you just have to be willing to pay for it. There are lots and lots of garages, but the closer you are to the monuments the more it will be.

That said, it's cheap to park in Rosslyn on the weekend -- just about every office building plus the hotels have garages that are practically empty on Sat/Sun. Just use that as your base and you're one metro stop from the city.

Zofia Smardz: Good thinking, thanks!


Re: Utah in early Sept/mid Oct?: It really depends on what you plan on doing at night. I backpack, and it was still nice enough to camp out at night in late September. Also, there's fewer bugs. But by mid-October, the nights can be rather chilly. Doesn't matter if you're staying in a hotel, but if you camp out and want to sit by the fire and chit chat and not freeze your bum off (BTW most places don't allow fires!), it might not be as fun. Also, days will be shorter.

Nancy Trejos: Good to know. Thanks for the input.


About Hearst Castle: Just don't drive from the Monterey Peninsula down to the castle on Hwy 1. Nooooooooo!!!!

Zofia Smardz: That's true!


Trip suggestion: For the gal travelling solo, Canaan Valley/Dolly Sods in W.Va., would be a nice, relaxing, and relatively close trip for something naturey.

Nancy Trejos: Sounds lovely. Thank you!


New Jersey Beaches: For the chatter who wants a quiet New Jersey beach, I'd tell them to look into Stone Harbor, Avalon, Sea Isle City, or Strathmere. While there might be crowds on the holiday weekends, mid-week is usually pretty quiet, they are all pretty family-oriented with good B & Bs, decent restaurants, and small shops.

Becky Krystal: Thanks!


Drop-offs on the way to Hearst Castle: Never seen a precipitous dropoff from an interstate highway that a driver would be close to without pulling into a viewpoint. There are some dropoffs along beautiful Highway 1 in California, but several miles north of Hearst Castle. Another idea: take the train, at least to Los Angeles, or Sacramento or San Francisco, and rent a car to drive from there. The poster should definitely see "Citizen Kane" before they go, even if they've seen it already (the tour guides at the castle don't like it).

Zofia Smardz: Thanks!


Re: Hyattsville, Md: Try Montreal! It's a beautiful city with lots to do -- day or night, outside or in, hip, artsy, nature lover, whatever. I traveled there about 5 years ago as a single young 30s woman and found it very nice.

Joe Yonan: Love Montreal. Even in winter.


D.C. overnight trip: Another option is utilizing the VRE from Manassas or Fredericksburg and stay overnight in the city. This is only possible if you are not trying to travel on a weekend but planning a mid-week stay. If you are looking for a weekend stay then you need to travel to the metro stations of either Vienna or Springfield.

Becky Krystal: Yup. Good call.


Washington, D.C.: My husband and I want to take a last minute vacation next week. Since it's last minute, we're not picky on where to go. However, we're on a budget...about $600-700pp for flight and hotel. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

Becky Krystal: This is why we write our Impulsive Traveler stories! Recent entries include Bastrop, Texas; Monroeville, Ala.; Toronto; and Indianapolis.
There's some extraneous info, but you can browse more of them on a Google site search of our Web site.


American expat in Europe: I recently flew from Europe to the U.S. with one change of planes within the U.S. Checked my one piece of luggage per person (as opposed to the old two -- GRR to this change!) through from Europe to my final destination in the USA, picked up my bags for customs and put them back on, and no charges.

Flew back to Europe with the same amount of flights and got charged 20 dollars per bag. United claimed it was because there was a domestic arm of my flying.

Was I lucky to not be charged the first time or was United in the wrong to charge me these 60 dollars coming back to Europe???

And just my two cents worth- I think that Americans should run retail but Europeans should run airlines and airport security as my experiences with European airport security people as well as airline personnel were much more positive (not just about the luggage charge issue.)

Christopher Elliott: That's not an easy question to answer. Normally, the ticket rules that apply to your first segment are applied to the entire ticket. That would include the baggage rules, presumably. But if you do a little digging, you'll find there are different flavors of the rule. For example, Continental will try to charge you for baggage on a flight for which you aren't exempt from baggage rules, even if you are for other segments.

What's more, airline employees might interpret the rules differently, depending where you are. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that you might have overpaid for your luggage -- or not. It's very difficult to know for certain.


L.A.-bound: I'm heading out to L.A. in a few days. This will be my second time there. Last time I went to Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice and Manhattan Beach. Is there anything that should be on my "can't miss" list this time around?

Also, my favorite beach memory was riding all over Bermuda on the back of a moped while my boyfriend drove. We stopped upon Warwick Long Bay, which was mostly secluded minus a small beach wedding that was taking place a few dozen yards from us. After the wedding party left, we had the pink sandy beach and its coves to ourselves. We swam with tropical fish and had the most amazing afternoon.

Nancy Trejos: Have you been to the Getty Museum? It's a beautiful spot. The last time I was in L.A., I took the ferry over to Catalina Island. It was gorgeous. If you have time, I would consider doing that. Also, check out Malibu. It's very pretty.

And I love your Bermuda story! Thanks.


Adventures/misadventures while getting to the beach: There is the time that we were driving to Chincoteague beach across the causeway. I noticed that there was a turtle crossing the road up ahead. We stopped and my husband picked him (her?) up and put him on the other side of the road and we went on. On our way back across, we say a (the same) turtle crossing the opposite direction. Given that there were still a lot of cars still at the beach and we were on the way home to Maryland, and it was a Maryland terripin (my husand knows such things), we took him home with us and gave him to a rescue league.

Nancy Trejos: Cute story! Thanks for sharing!


Baltimore, Md.: I've been offered use of a beach house in Rehoboth this summer with my kids. We can go pretty much any time, any day of the week. What are the best travel days during the summer to avoid all the traffic?

Carol Sottili: Although our recent beach guide story was about Ocean City, the traffic tips are useful for a trip to Rehoboth.

Becky Krystal: I like to leave the D.C. area on Sunday. Has worked well a couple of times for me!


Costa Rica and rain: I lived there for a while, and rain isn't really an issue even in September. Sure it POURS for part of the day, but there should still be plenty of sun, it will be greener, and there will be many fewer tourists. I went to the beaches south of Puerto Viejo last September and it only rained once. If you're looking for solid sunshine the entire time maybe CR isn't for you... If you don't mind hiding out under an umbrella drinking micheladas for a few hours here and there then go for it.

Zofia Smardz: Doesn't sound so bad at all!


Disney-bound: We're finally doing a Disney vacation with extended family, so we'd like to rent a house with private pool that's not too far away. Also need flexiblity in booking, that is, extended long weekend, vs.. week-only rental. Does anyone have any advice, leads or good websites to search? How about pros and cons of a Disney-run property vs. a private rental?

Carol Sottili: I did a story about major hotel brand (Marriott, Hilton, etc.) time share properties around Disney some time ago, which you may find useful. You don't have to go through the spiel - you can pay and stay just like a regular hotel. If you have a car, you don't need to stay at a Disney property, but it's more convenient if you want to go back and forth all day, especially with more than a few family members involved. Also, if it's not high season, property owners who advertise on sites such as Homeaway may be willing to rent for shorter time periods.


Shoes for Beijing: Merrell Circuit. Can be worn right out of the box with pants or skirts. I can't say enough good things about them. Pricey, but your feet are worth it.

Becky Krystal: Yup, I've got a pair of Merrells that have taken me all over.


Calling from Europe: Check your cell provider -- some providers will give you a special deal if you're traveling to Europe so that you can continue to use your cell phone. AT and T Mobile come to mind. When I traveled to London to see friends, I was with Verizon. They rented me a phone for the week -- it was really convenient because we were coordinating visits with a bunch of people. Maybe it wouldn't be practical if you're only planning on making a few calls, but if you really want to keep in touch, it was well worth the price.

Nancy Trejos: Good to know. Thanks!


Beach story: Don't know what my last fave beach story was but I'm pretty sure my next one will be when I didn't have to drive to Dewey or Rehoboth! Thanks so much for the story!

Nancy Trejos: You're very welcome. Thanks for reading it!


Baltimore, Md.: For the chatter considering the visit to Hearst Castle, try to book the evening tour, if available. They use costumed guides in character, with other guides acting as "guests" at the house. You feel like you are a guest at a party being given a tour of the home.

Nancy Trejos: Thanks for this. Wish I had done that when I went to Hearst Castle a couple of years ago (I still had fun though!)


Memorable trip to beach: This was coming home from the beach, and probably not memorable in the way you imagine. In high school I belonged to an Explorer Post (affiliated with the Boy Scouts and they let girls participate). We went to Chincoteague one summer to camp out for the weekend. Naturally, we all stayed up too late and didn't get enough sleep.

My boyfriend was driving a group of us home in his dad's van. It was a million degrees, there were no radio stations, and the van had no air conditioning. We all fell asleep, including the driver. We were awakened when he drifted off the road into the median -- he hit a bump and we all woke up in time to see a several hundred foot drop off in front of us.

I've never heard teenaged boys scream like that. My boyfriend managed to get the van back on the road just in time. His parents were following in the car behind and I think it took a decade off their lives. My boyfriend's father took over driving the van and my boyfriend drove home with his mom. Haven't been back to Chincoteague since.

Nancy Trejos: Oh my goodness! That's scary. I'm glad you survived.


Arlington, Va.: I was just in Austin, and it's fun if you're into the music scene, bars, and food. After a few days of that though I started getting bored, and it's very hot... So nice to visit, but I probably wouldn't make it a point of going back - depends what you're into.

Joe Yonan: Isn't that true of everywhere? I find plenty in Austin to keep me interested, but then again, I lived there once and probably would again. There's also great outdoors activities, including bike trails and Town Lake, plus a great art scene. I think maybe you needed a better guide!


Overnight and weekend parking: The poster from SW Virginia may want to park at the mall in Ballston, which (unlike most Metro-owned lots) allows overnight parking. On evenings and weekends, the rates are surprisingly affordable.

For the other poster, Metro parking is free on weekends. I'm not sure what they're complaining about.

Many of the busiest stations in the suburbs have more than one lot. So if you can't find a space, why not park in a short-term space, get out of the car, and ask someone for help?

Zofia Smardz: Thanks for this!


For the KL traveler: I've flown in, out, and through KL several times. There's not much out by the airport, I'm afraid. The airport itself is divided between a smallish domestic terminal and a much larger international terminal. If you're flying internationally and have access, the Malaysian Airlines lounge and Thai lounge are both nice, offering free wireless and decent snacks.

If you did decide to go downtown, the airport express goes to KL Sentral Station, not the heart of old KL that is more interesting. There's really nothing worth seeing that's walkable from Sentral, and KL traffic is pretty bad. There are trains and an elevated system, but I don't think you'd have sufficient time.

Becky Krystal: I knew someone out there would have an answer. Thanks so much.


D.C.: Have you heard any early word about how the Shanghai Expo is going in its first month? Also, do you plan to do a story early enough that it will be useful to people who might want to go?

Andrea Sachs: I have not heard, though something tells me they are not seeing the numbers they had hoped for. I wrote about the countdown to the Expo last year. Here's the link: Shanghai Rising (Post, May 17, 2009)


Nancy Trejos: That was a lively chat. Thanks all for joining us! We got some scary beach stories, though they all had happy endings. My favorite ending was the one involving the rescued turtle. Will the chatter who wrote about rescuing the turtle on the way back from Chincoteague email me at

We are done for now. Please join us next week. Have a great week!


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