Talk about travel: Long weekend trips, Turkey, Hawaii, girlfriend getaways, what's your city oasis?

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Flight Crew
Monday, August 2, 2010; 2:00 PM

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Joe Yonan: Hi, travelers -- Welcome to today's chat! In addition to all manner of q's I'm sure you have for us, here's your assignment for the day: In light of yesterday's city parks theme (with stories about London's hidden gardens, Seattle's mountain bike park under a highway, and a roundup of spots in St. Louis, Detroit and Houston), tell us about your favorite urban oasis -- park, hideaway, green space -- and why it's so special.In the meantime, what else is on your mind?

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30 hour travel: Can someone survive two 15 hour flights? How do you cope? I am thinking of going to Sydney, Australia by Emirates- WAS-JFK-Dubai-Sydney. There is only few hours in between the flights onward. I will stop for a couple of days while returning, so that is not a problem.

Nancy Trejos: bring some snacks. You might also want to spring for a slightly bigger seat. Try to get an emergency exit row. Andrea wrote a piece a while back that gave good tips on sleeping on planes. I think this will be useful to you.

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Rental cars: About 2 months ago I reserved a car for a trip to California in October. I got what appears now to be a great rate on a convertible for 9 days for under $600. Lately I noticed that the same car from the same rental company has increased to around $900. Can I assume that the rental company will have to honor the price they gave me back in May or June? I have the confirmation information that I'm planning on bringing with me.Thanx

Christopher Elliott: If you have a confirmed reservation, then the car rental company must honor it. If it doesn't, let me know. You can email me or call me from the car rental counter. I can be reached at (202) 370-7934.

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Middle east travel: Thanks for taking my question. Has it become more difficult to travel between Turkey and Israel since the Gaza blockade? I'll be in Turkey in September and am thinking of also briefly visiting a friend in Israel. Can I fly between the two countries? Other advice? Love the travel chat.

Nancy Trejos:

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Long weekend ideas: Looking for a good spot within about a 3 hour drive of the DC area for a long weekend with my spouse (but not the kids) in October where there might be both fishing and horseback riding available. Any suggestions? Thanks

Andrea Sachs: I would recommend Virginia's Shenandoah Valley area, Deep Creek Lake in Maryland or Canaan Valley in West Virginia. All three are great for the outdoors. In Deep Creek, I would definitely stay at Savage River Lodge--you will feel like a happy gnome tucked away in the forest.

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London evenings: Hi travel gurus! I'm a longtime fan of the chat and have a question of my own. I'm heading to England next week with some friends on a self-planned Jane Austen themed trip. We're spending five days in London with day trips planned, and will be back in the city for the evenings. Do you or the chatters have any recommendations for places to go for sight-seeing in the evenings and good dinner locations?

Becky Krystal: kind of trip. I'll let others take care of the sight-seeing suggestions (though I think the Eye would be fun at night), but Tom Sietsema just got back from London and wrote a Postcard about the dining options.

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Norfolk, VA: Help - didn't get to my question last week -we want to visit St Lucia - is it cheapest to fly to Barbados and then catch a ferry? When should we start shopping for airfare for a January trip (or would a package deal be better?) What would be a good fare?thanks!

Carol Sottili:

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Bravo to Spirit Airlines: I think their new policy of charging for big carryons is brilliant! I wish more airlines would charge more for the overhead stuffers than they do for checked luggage, and hope that this markedly increases ontime departures and gets people off their planes so much faster that the big five will overthrow their Sen. Schumer promise and start charging for carryons, too.

Christopher Elliott: Spirit's new policy went into effect yesterday. And you know, I was just thinking about how the new rule might play itself out, and as much as I can't stand fees, I do like the idea of a faster boarding process. I think we should check back in a month and see how Spirit's carry-on fee is going over.

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Arlington, VA: Hi Crew! Two questions - first, last week I purchased two tickets to Holland and today I noticed that the prices have decreased significantly. I contacted the airline to see if there was any way to get a price adjustment (I know, wishful thinking) but is there anything else I could try?Second, do you have recommendations for the can't miss sites in Holland in September? We'll spend a couple days in Amsterdam and have our itinerary planned. However, I'm not sure what to do with our other 4 days. We'll have access to a car and a train station. Is the Hague worth a trip? How about the Keukenhof Gardens even if the flowers won't be in bloom? Thanks!

Christopher Elliott: Let me answer the first part of your question. If the fare drops, some airlines will offer you either a refund or credit, but they'll also charge a change fee of about $150. That normally negates the savings. You're usually better off not looking back when you buy an airline ticket, because, as my old journalism professor used to say, "Down that road lies madness."

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Manchester NH eats?: Any suggestions where to eat in Manchester, NH? I'm there for lunch and dinner in a few weeks.

Andrea Sachs: Wish our N.H. expert were here today--Zofia. But since she is out today, any chatsters have dining faves in Manchester? (Cotton, by the way, gets raves, but we've never dined there.)

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Washington, DC: Hello. I'm planning a trip to Rome for next year, but I"m a bit overwhelmed as to where to begin concerning hotels. There will be three of us (adults) and we are trying to stay as close to the city center as possible, but without spending 300 euros a night. Can you give some advice as to what are good, legitimate, hotels somewhere in the 100 (or under) to 150 euro per night range. Are there helpful websites that could lead us in the right direction? Should we go to a travel agent?Also, what is the best time to go. Does an "off season" exist in Rome? We were thinking March or April. Thank you for all of your help!

Joe Yonan: I'd start by looking at these hotels listed on Budget Travel's site. As for off-season, indeed I think early spring would be safe, absolutely.

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Williamsburg, VA: We're planning a trip to W'burg at the end of August. Other than Colonial W'burg, Busch Gardens, ad the water park, are there attractions that would interest elementary school-age children?

Becky Krystal: How about giant heads of the presidents? There's also a Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum and Great Wolf Lodge, home to an indoor water park.

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Travel: We are going to be in Boston in a couple of weeks for three days. Arriving on Monday noon at airport, staying downtown and departing on Wed around 6:00 pm. We would like to do the Freedom Trail, Whale Watch Tour and Salem. What schedule would you recommend since some of these have set times?

Joe Yonan: Actually, that's just two days. The reason I point this out is simple: I think you should skip Salem. Unless you've already been to Boston so many times you don't feel like you need to enjoy it, trying to fit Salem in, IMHO, is folly. I'd think about something like this: Monday afternoon, Freedom Trail (self-paced, which is the beauty) leading into the North End and dinner (think about traditional at Artu, or fab oysters at Neptune).Tuesday: Cambridge for Harvard Square (have you seen the glass flowers?), possibly Mount Auburn Cemetery. Think about dinner at Oleana or Craigie on Main.Wednesday: More tooling around Boston, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, lunch at Sportello, then getting ready to fly out.That's what I'd do, anyhow.

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turkey: literally just bought my tix to Istanbul this morning, going in October. Any quick tips/ideas off the top of your heads? Other than booking the flight, absolutely nothing is planned yet!

Nancy Trejos: It has stunning views of the Bosphorous, a beautiful mosque, and tons of restaurants. It is often used as the background when TV reporters do stories out of Istanbul. Go up to the Galata Tower for a nice view of Istanbul. In fact, there are lots of restaurants and bars that offer great views of the city. Lebiderya, 360 and the Goethe Institute are a few that come to mind. The food isn't great at some of those spots but the view, drinks and atmosphere are. But don't worry. Great food is all over Istanbul. For restaurant tips, I would suggest you go to IstanbulEats.com.

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Hawaii package deals: Hi gang: I was planning a 10-day package deal to Maui and have been seeing a ton of sale flights there this fall. The thing is, I was wanting to go in the spring. Would it be better to book now bright and early, or to wait closer in hoping for a price drop. Any chance that the deals might continue in the spring based on your knowledge of the state of travel? (I don't imagine you are actually psychic, but if there are any trends you are aware of...)

Carol Sottili: Sorry, no trends other than fewer and fewer airfare sales. Seems to be based on load factors. If the flights are not booking quickly enough, sales are announced. Most sales to Hawaii have been out of the West Coast, most commonly Los Angeles. So it may be cheaper to book separately, here to West Coast and then West Coast to Maui. As for when to book - and yes, I know I am repeating myself - start tracking fares now and strike when iron is hot.

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Urban Oasis: US Botanic Garden! US Botanic Garden! I love spending December 24th wandering around the Mall and seeing the Capitol Christmas Tree, but it's always an extra-special treat to go into the pleasantly humid USBG and see its train sets and landmarks made out of organic materials.If you want to do something overseas, Singapore's Botanic Gardens are gorgeous - the orchid garden costs a nominal fee, but everything that you see is amazing.

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Possible British airport strike and travel insurance: I will be traveling to Great Britain later this month. I understand that the union operating Heathrow, Edinburgh, and most other major airports there is voting right now on a potential strike. The earliest day that the strike might occur is the 19th--the day I fly there, and the most likely time for the strike is the August Bank Holiday weekend, when I am due to fly back! I have had travel insurance on this trip for months, but cannot tell if this would be considered a "forseeable" strike, and thus not covered, since the voting closes on the 12th. I'm confused!

Christopher Elliott: The only way to find out for certain if a strike would be covered is to call your insurance company. I would do that now. In terms of the work stoppage, we won't know what will happen until Aug. 12, when the strike vote closes, according to reports.

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Girlfriend Getway location: Am looking for a girlfriend getaway location for my sister and I. Somewhere not too far to drive - mostly we'd like to just relax by a pool and one activity a day. We've been to Charlottesville which we loved. Any other ideas would be great.

Becky Krystal: OK, not a pool, but how does a Roman bath and/or mineral bath sound? That would be in Berkeley Springs.

Andrea Sachs: How about Cape May? And in addition to pool, you can hit the beach, shop, take a tour of the Victorian homes, see the lighthouse and take the ferry over to Lewes, Del. --plus eat till you pop.

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Prague travel aps: I am heading to Prague for a week and was looking for suggestions for good travel aps for Prague. Other advice is also welcome. Thanks!

Becky Krystal: I don't know about Prague-specific apps, but here's an article we had about iPhone apps. And I just read a pretty wide-ranging feature in Travel + Leisure about their favorite travel apps.Anyone have Prague-centric suggestions?

Joe Yonan:

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Finding last minute hotel deals in Philadelphia/NYC: We're planning an end of summer family trip to Philadelphia and New York. Any suggestions for good boutique hotels that wouldn't mind 5 year old guests in either city?

Becky Krystal: I'm guessing Kimpton's Hotel Palomar in Philly would be fun for kids. And the little one might like the mini-tour of the city in the neighborhood-themed Distrikt Hotel.

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Random Travel Plans: Is there are site or a search engine that would allow me to plug in the DC-Area airports and find all the last minute travel deals? All of the sites I've found ,I have to know my destination.

Becky Krystal: Airfare Watchdog gives you deals from a particular city. Bing and Expedia can too.

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Inner Circle, Regent's Park: I worked and lived at a school in the middle of Regent's Park in London. Even though it's not the prettiest of the London parks, it is still one of my most favorite places on earth. Every Sunday morning after breakfast I would get an extra roll and go feed the ducks, geese, swans in the pond by the entrance. Once, I was walking through the park with a friend and we stopped by the pond to watch the swans. I felt something on the back of my leg, only to turn around to find a goose pecking at me. My friend decided it had recognized me and was wondering where it's breakfast was.

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Favorite park: I love St. Stephen's Green in Dublin, but I do have to admit that when I lived in Massachusetts and had to go into Boston, I always spent a little time walking through the Common and the Public Gardens. A quiet respite in the city.

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Suggestions, please: We're five former roommates in our 50's/60's interested in a long weekend somewhere interesting. We'd be coming from the DC area, NYC and Chicago, and, realistically, given our schedules, this probably won't happen until late September, early October at the earliest. We've already thought of Charleston, Savannah, Philadelphia, Toronto, Montreal, Cape May - can you think of anyplace else?

Andrea Sachs: You hit on some great spots, and I am hesitant to add more ideas because I think you should pick one and go! But since you asked . . . Portland, Maine; and Boston, both great places for the fall.

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Sonoma/Napa in September: Hello. My boyfriend and I will be spending two days in the Sonoma Valley in mid-September. Do you have any tips/advice for two people who are interested in wine but don't really know anything at all and don't want to feel intimidated or out of place? We are staying in Kenwood in Sonoma Valley but are open to exploring the region, including Napa. Would also appreciate any restaurant recommendations. We're feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the options. Thanks!

Joe Yonan: My favorite spot when I was in Sonoma was Sunce Winery. Lovely little family-owned place that sells only through its wine club. My friends and I were so charmed by it (and the wine) that we all ended up buying lots of club membership gifts for wedding presents and the like over the next several years. Every single recipient was so grateful. As for eats, in Sonoma look up Dry Creek Kitchen and Cyrus in Healdsburg. I have more recent experience with the Napa side. You should try to hit Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller's bistro, in Yountville. If you're a taco (or burrito fan), get thee to La Luna Taqueria in Rutherford.

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Carrying on a printer: Crazy question for the Crew - I want to take my extra printer home for my sister to use for school. It's not big and it's very lightweight - can I bring it on the plane in my carry-on? I can take the ink cartridges out, so that's not a problem - but will TSA allow me to bring the printer itself through? Thanks!

Becky Krystal: I can't find any regulation that would prevent you from bringing it. Read the TSA's rules on prohibited items and other special items, and make the call yourself. I guess you can also try contacting the agency if you really want to make sure.

Andrea Sachs: As long as there are no liquids or jiggly ingredients involved, you are fine (your printer is not made of jam, is it?). More important, make sure the printer fits within the airline's carry-on policy. It may have to be one of your two permitted pieces of onboard luggage.

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DC to Memphis: I need to get down to Memphis, Tennessee for the week before Thanksgiving. Have an infant who hates riding in the car so thinking of flying or taking the train. Right now, I'm seeing plane tickets in the $450 range and Amtrak around $350 per person. Dates could be flexible on either end. Is this around what I should expect to pay? (Also, any other suggestions for traveling to Memphis with a kid who hates being strapped to a car seat would be appreciated). Around when would the costs start increasing for plane/train tickets as Thanksgiving approaches?

Carol Sottili: The earlier you can book Thanksgiving period, the better. There are sometimes last-minute sales, but can't bank on that.

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Sunday's Navigator column: Chris - interesting write-up on the use - and possible misuse of personal information by the airlines, but I'm confused at how you got along without giving Southwest your birtdate before this year. I always understood that it was required with their frequent flyer program so they knew whether to send you drink coupons with your awards; in any case, I've been getting birthday cards since at least '98 - long before Secure Flight or even TSA. Wasn't there a better hook you could have used to get to the issue?

Christopher Elliott: That's a good question. Being a frequent flier skeptic, I never really participated in its loyalty program enough to be taken seriously by the airline. That may be one reason they never asked for my birthday. But I take your point, which is that Southwest may have asked passengers for this information long before Secure Flight. That doesn't reassure me, though.

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Christmas Flights: Of course I want you to predict the future and tell me exactly when I should buy my tickets to SLC for Christmas. I've been watching prices and they seem to be around $300. This kills me because I used to be able to get them for $200. If that's where they are now, will they likely come down between now and Christmas? Thanks!

Carol Sottili: $300 round trip at Christmas, especially if flights are nonstop, sounds very good to me. Days of $200 round-trip flights seem to be over.

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Roosevelt Island!: Roosevelt Island is a great little oasis of nature that is free and I don't even need a car to get to. It seems to get overlooked, except as a spot to park the car for a bike ride down the GW Parkway. Within minutes you are surrounded by everything nature has to offer, there are trails to walk along, you can sit on the rocks and watch the boats on the Potomac and get away from it all without ever leaving town. It's one of my favorite places to go when I need a little break.

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My City Oasis: Lake Merced, San Francisco, CA: Of course, Golden Gate Park is the one that everyone thinks about when they think of San Francisco parks, but Lake Merced is my own little slice of heaven. It was just off campus from SFSU (where I finished my degree) and had a great 4.5 mile trail/path around for jogging or walking. Spring semester, senior year, my best friend and I decided we wanted to get in shape for graduation and pledged that we'd be able to run the whole trail without stopping by commencement. It didn't happen, but the times we spent running and walking and chatting about school, work, and life are still some of my favorite memories from college.

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New York Urban Getaway: For arts lovers, a good getaway to relax is to go the Roof Garden while at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There are a few large art pieces on the roof as well as a cafe, if one wishes. What is also there is several benches along with views of New York City and Central Park. So if one wants to relax by looking at skyscrapers, or at trees, or at art, all at the same time, that is an escape I recommend,

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London Evenings: Hi, the Jane Austen themed London-bound traveler here. Becky, I read Tom's article, and while the places described sounded good, they also sounded a little pricey for three gals on a budget! So if any of the chatters know of some cheaper maybe hole in the wall places...that would be perfect. And the London Eye at night is a great (or I should say "brilliant") idea! Thanks.

Becky Krystal: How about places to chow down on the traditional pies and mash?

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Shore dining: Any good beach dining tips for Rehobeth/Bethany Beach? Any DelMarVa finds would be appreciated!

Carol Sottili:

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Language Schools: Hi all! I have a few months off next spring between work and starting grad school, and I want to do something more than backpack around an area. I'm thinking about either volunteering abroad or going to a language school to improve my Chinese. Any suggestions on great programs or reputable schools would be fantastic!

Nancy Trejos: I did a voluntourism trip to Mexico late last year. I didn't have the best experience, but there are good programs. My story ran with a couple of side stories you can link to with information on how to find a good program. I don't know as much about language schools. I've never done one. Any chatters out there have experiences with good schools?

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Nova girl seeking cool(er) climate : I'm craving a trip to somewhere cool- and for some reason keep thinking about Vermont or Maine. Any long weekend suggestions you would recommend?Thanks!

Joe Yonan: Go with your Maine thought and hit Portland! Love it there.

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spirit carryon fees: Agree that you should check back to see how it's going, but you should also see if their claim that they've lowered their base fare holds water. I've tried to price out a couple of test claims, and I'm not sure if I'm seeing how their fare + the carryon fee comes out cheaper than a competitor + free carryon.

Christopher Elliott: I'm on the case. Look for a follow-up column and update soon.

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Charging for carryons: I've been an elite status flyer for 15 years and I would never, ever fly an airline that charged for carryons. Unless, of course, the airline could promise me two things -- 1) that nothing would ever be stolen out of my checked bag, and 2) that my checked bag would be there waiting for me as I got off the plane. Since that's never happening, I'm going to continue avoiding second-rate airlines like Spirit like the plague.

Christopher Elliott: Good point. I've always said you shouldn't check anything you aren't prepared to lose. If airlines could guarantee their checked luggage, they'd be as successful (and perhaps even as profitable) as UPS and FedEx.

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eloping in italy: Would love some feedback from the readers on a great spot to elope in italy. Just the two of us and we picture it on a balcony overlooking water/hill town etc. Even better would be in close proximity to some legitimately excellent restaurants where we can do a food/meal crawl afterwards (instead of a traditional recpetion, again its just the two of us). I have looked on line but all the suggested "venues" are for full blown weddings!

Joe Yonan: Very Elizabeth Gilbert of you. Chatters?

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A Spot of Paradise in Dublin's City Center: When I was studying abroad in Ireland, I spent a lot of time near St. Stephen's Green (near downtown Dublin). Each time, I would head the same direction: hop off the train and turn right. On my very last weekend, I decide to avoid all the tourists on the main shopping street, and I turned left instead. After walking about five minutes down a fairly empty road and a garbage-filled alleyway, I found the gates to a beautiful park: Iveagh Gardens. Full of beautiful fountains and giant Victorian and ancient Greek statues, it was literally paradise in the city center. It felt like my own private garden, with no more than 10 people or so in the entire place. After weeks of travelling across Europe staying in dingy hostels, being jostled on rickety buses, and shoving my way through mobs of tourists, I honestly had never been so happy as my hour in this little urban oasis.

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Domestic travel: I plan to travel to Vegas this winter and continue on to Los Angeles to visit family, then return to DC. Is it cheaper to book one-way tickets from DC to Vegas, Vegas to LA & LA to DC, or get a round-trip from DC to Vegas, then book round trips from Vegas to LA? The latter involves more time at airports, but is it worth it? Thanks, CW

Carol Sottili: Have you tried pricing it out both ways? Because there is no one right answer to this - depends on dates, times, connecting vs. nonstop, current sales, etc. Open-jaw tickets (involving three cities) are typically more expensive, but not always. Go to a couple of the third-party or aggregator booking sites (such as Travelocity, Kayak or Bing.com/travel) and give both a try.

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Vacation! : I'm planning a much needed break from work, family and DC - semi-flexible with the dates, November is out and I may be disowned if I go over Christmas, but other than that, I can travel mid-week, off-season and am going by myself since no one else is quite as flexible. On the short list are Vienna, Prague and Vancouver. I can get tickets with miles to all 3 cities (and more), do you, or the chatters have ideas? If it changes things, I'm 30, female, speak/understand conversational German and don't like being hot. Prefer exploring places to sitting on a beach, have the cash on hand for 2 weeks, but probably can only go for one.

Nancy Trejos: Sounds like you have a lot of options. I'm not sure where you've already been to so I might be suggesting places that you've already scratched off your list. And I'm not sure what your miles will cover. But as a thirtysomething who has traveled alone, I can tell you where I've enjoyed going and where I've felt comfortable roaming alone: Istanbul, Paris, London, Edinburgh, Tel Aviv, Antigua in Guatemala, Quito and Toronto. If you speak German and haven't been yet, I hear Berlin is amazing. I don't think you'd go wrong with any of the three options you are already considering either. Any other solo female travelers want to weigh in?

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Weekend adventure: I have a weekend home alone in a few weeks and want to go on an adventure. I am able to leave early Saturday morning and return late Sunday night. I can fly, drive, bus, train, etc. I like to eat, sightsee, take pictures, see museums and just generally wander around. I'd like to avoid Philly, WVa (recent travel), NYC (upcoming travel), and Williamsburg/Richmond (William&Mary grad so I've been there often).What would be your top 3-5 suggestions?

Becky Krystal: OK, I'm going to put a plug in for my former town of Winchester, Va. Less than two hours drive away. Some highlights: Marker Miller Orchards for killer apple cider doughnuts and pick your own produce; Museum of the Shenandoah Valley for some really neat exhibits and beautiful gardens; the downtown mall for shopping and al fresco dining; and tons of Civil War battlefields. Might be fun to stay at the George Washington Hotel.I'm going to let other folks weigh in with more suggestions, but maybe also consider Annapolis.

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re Portland, Maine: If you are at all into food or gardening, while in Portland, visit Rabelais Books on Middle Street. That's all they do and the selection is incredible.

Joe Yonan: Love Rabelais. Really nice owners, fantastic selection. Plus, they're right near Duck Fat (for panini and duck-fat fries) and Micucci ("luna bread," amazing pizza-by-the-slice).

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Visititing the shore: Hi Travel Crew,I am making a break for it and hitting OC, MD, right after Labor Day. In looking at condo prices, it seems like it's not much better than peak season prices, but I'm hoping it won't be as crowded. Are there any places that you would recommend for a couple of nice dinners? Or would you have a story or guide somewhere? Thanks!

Carol Sottili: Galaxy 66 Bar & Grille, to name a few. Here is story I wrote a couple of years ago on dining in winter to give you an idea of other restaurants. As for finding a condo, two of the bigger rental companies are CB Vacations and Shoreline Properties.

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Dupont Circle: Hi Travel Gurus. I got a new job (yeah!) and I'll be traveling for work. I'm looking for a (1) carry-on for shorter trips (2) a larger bag I can check for longer trips. Do you or the chatters have recommendations? No Tumi please I can't afford it. Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: Congrats! Since this is luggage for work, I would recommend something subtle and sophisticated --you don't want some crazy pattern like poodles in berets. I would go with a classic: Samsonite. The Hardside Spinner is a winner, and it comes in bright yet not overly vacation-y colors. Check Samsonite and ebags.com for styles and sales. Eagle Creek also has nice pieces; a bit sportier, but still sleek.

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Urban Oasis: I moved away from DC three years ago, but I still remember the moment I "discovered" Malcolm X/Meridian Hill park. I found it when I had moved to Columbia Heights, and the park (between 15th and 16th, and W and Euclid) was this huge, gorgeous, diverse oasis that covered a hill. The view of the city from the top was stunning, and I was mystified and intrigued by the tai chi practicers there. Stroll down to the bottom of the park, and the elaborate water fall/fountain, which looked like something from Moorish Spain, was just beautiful. Throw in trees, wedding photos, tightrope walkers, soccer games, and ducks and geese, and this is my favorite place.

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Best Parks - HI: One of THE best parks I've ever visited was on the Big Island of Hawaii. I was astonished to find so many beautiful parks that were state-supported and free to visit and enjoy. The Wailoa River State Park was special to me because I was going through a feng shui decorating phase and all of the pavilions were arranged to maximize the feng shui experience. It was extremely relaxing. Now, I make a point to visit state parks in all of the states I visit. I respect where my tax money is going when I see how these recreational areas are maintained for our collective enjoyment.

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Restaurant recommendation for Sonoma/Napa in September: Last September we had a spectacular nouvelle-Portuguese meal with friends at LaSalette in downtown Sonoma.It's located down a walking street of shops, just off Sonoma's downtown central square, and is open 7 days a week, although the owner-chef is off Mondays (but we had great meals there anyhow, with a vegetarian entree option, and desserts to die for!). Website homepage (with links to menus) is at:http://www.lasalette-restaurant.comBecause the weather was warm and mild, we chose to dine outdoors under a huge umbrella (no bugs).

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eloping in Italy: I suggest you call the Italian embassy and the Italian Government Tourist Office. I personally would recommend Lake Como, Laggo di Guarda, and Rapallo on the Italian Riviera.

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Favorite Urban Oasis: Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney. It has spectacular views of the harbour, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House

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Re: 30 Hour Travel: I would recommend the traveler heading to Sydney look into flying the opposite way and connect on the west coast. That would limit the amount of time on planes overall, and if he or she is going to the Emirates afterwards anyway they have a story about how they literally flew around the world.

Nancy Trejos: Good tip. Thanks!

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Spirit's New Fees: So, the new fees for carry-on baggage go into effect today for Spirit. Do they also charge for checked baggage? If so, how can they justify the carry-on fee as well? Do they expect to only cater to folks that don't change clothes? I can understand charging for checked baggage but not carry on, because that makes responsible to pack wisely enough to get everything into an appropriate sized bag. I can understand charging for carry-on, but not checked, because that makes me responsible for getting to the airport in time to check bags and get through security. But charging for both seems to be penalizing the customer just for flying. How does Spirit expect anyone to travel without anything but a backpack/briefcase/purse?

Christopher Elliott: I interviewed Spirit's CEO shortly after he announced the new policy. He addresses a lot of your questions in it. Here it is. I found the comments to be really interesting, too.

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Gaithersburg, MD: A friend and I did a weekend in NYC back at the end of March. It was cool and breezy out, but I still wanted to check out this place called "The High Line". It's an amazing public park/space built on top of an old train track. What a beautiful little oasis, with some unique views of the lower west side and the river. It was really relaxing - I could have spent hours there, and I bet it's even nicer (though probably more crowded) in the spring and summer.

Joe Yonan: Absolutely. Love the HL.

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Spring Break 2011 Airfares: I know this is tantamount to asking what the crystal ball says, but do airlines generally do any spring sales? We're looking at fares to Europe, and since our dates are immovable, we're thinking of just buying the tix and not looking back.

Carol Sottili: I did that recently flying my daughter from Los Angeles to New York. Paid $450 round trip, which is crazy, but I was going crazy checking every day for the sale that never came. One I bought it, I couldn't help but keep checking, but fare never did go lower. There may be spring sales if the flights aren't selling, but planes to Europe have been going out pretty full. Airlines have trimmed their flight schedules, which means fewer flights, fewer seats and higher load factors.

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Overweight bags, redux: Two weeks ago, I had asked about the 50-lb weight limit on overseas baggage as my son paid $150 for a bag that weighed 62-lb. Now that he's back, I have learned a little more about the situation and would like to know if it's too late for recourse. My son had, within that bag, a smaller suitcase that he was taking in order to bring back souvenirs. When he was told the suitcase was overweight, he asked for it back so he could divide his belongings into 2 checked bags. The woman told him it was too late (the suitcase was next to her, had not been put on the conveyor belt or gone through security, but she had taken it off the scale). This seems to me, at least, rather unethical but I would like to know if there is some sort of TSA regulation not allowing the ticketing agent to give the baggage back to the passenger. If not, do you think a letter to Delta would help my son get some of that $150 back? Thanks for your help. By the way, I love the new format of the chat so nice to see the photos and not to have to constantly refresh!

Christopher Elliott: I don't think it was too late, and it isn't too late to let Delta know how you feel about its baggage fee. I would send a brief, polite email to one of the following at the airline. Please let me know how it goes. Here's my email address.

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Beach dining: Some recent favorites: Blue Coast, Northeast, and DiFebo's in Bethany; Pearl and Cafe del Sol in Rehoboth. Excellent food and good service!

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Native Berkeleyan: My favorite retreats in my hometown are the Redwood Grove and Faculty Glade (upper campus) and Eucalyptus Grove (lower campus) at the University of California-Berkeley.

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Boston: Thanks for taking my question about Boston. However we are pretty set on the Whale Watch Tours and Salem, that being said along with Freedom Trail what would you reccomend when? Thanks

Joe Yonan: Then do Salem instead of Cambridge in my suggested itinerary... It'll take up much of the day, so I'd do it on the full day you'll be in town, not one of the ones where you're traveling in or out.

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London evenings: If you're not too zonked from day trips/activities, there are a number of evening London Walks. I've been on several both at night and during the day, and they're great. If about 5 pm counts as "evening" enough, go to Evensong at St Paul's Cathedral. If you like theatre, go to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square and see what tickets you can get for cheap.For food, La Chapelle is to die for; it's expensive, but so worth it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are any number of pubs. Check out St. Katharine's Docks (on the Thames, right at the Tower of London) for some decent restaurants too--especially worth it if you can manage to get tickets for the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London.

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Philly last minute deals: The person looking for hotel deals in Philly might want to check www.gophila.com which has lots of tourist info including discounts on all sorts of stuff.

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Hawaii: My husband and I want to travel to Hawaii for two weeks in late Spring 2011, but we are overwhelmed with the choices. We'd like to limit our travel to no more than two islands. We're not "high adventure" people, but we like nature, gardens, hikes, restaurants and beaches. Can you point us toward books or guides that can help us make our decision? Your ideas are appreciated. Thanks.

Andrea Sachs: If you get overwhelmed with information, call the tourism office; they are extremely helpful and can find the right islands for your tastes.For inter-island flights, Hawaiian Airlines the best way to fly.

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Munich layover: I submitted a similar question last week, but I think it was too late. Anyway, on my way to Asia in October I have an 11-12 hour layover in Munich. I arrive around 10 AM and my onward flight is at 21:50. I see that the S-bahn train from the airport into the center of town takes about 40 minutes and an all-day ticket costs something like 10 euros. I have never been to Munich so I am looking for some things to do. Since I am flying first class (thank you Aeroplan award ticket) I will have access to the Lufthansa F lounge when i arrive so I am thinking I will take a quick shower at the airport and then head into town. So that should put me into the city around lunch time and I won't need to be back at the airport until 7 or 8 PM at the earliest. I like history so am inclined towards museums and so forth.I see on the airport's website that they have left luggage areas in their terminal service centers so I plan to ditch most of my luggage there. Anyone done that at Munich? It seems like Germany would be very efficient about that sort of thing. I may also be able to leave my luggage in the lounge but I have found that luggage storage in lounges is usually not secured.

Nancy Trejos: Sounds like you've got most everything planned. For things to do, go to the three Pinakothek Museums for art. For history, go to the Monument to the White Rose Movement in honor of the students who resisted Nazi rule during WWII. Check out Nymphenburg Palace. Also go to Odeonsplatz square, which has a lot of history. The Kath Pfarramt St Kajetan Theatinerkirche church is supposed to be beautiful. Other chatters have ideas?

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last minute cheap flights to Europe: I was unable to plan ahead a trip to Europe for this July or August. However, when the time arrived I found I had the time to get away, but had no luck finding a reasonably priced ticket at the last moment to anywhere in Europe. Are there not some empty seats that airlines have to Europe in the summer and, if so, is there some internet site that would offer such seats at a discount if one is willing to fly at a moment's notice?

Carol Sottili: Try the individual airline sites. Some foreign carriers, such as Iberia and Aer Lingus, sometimes offer Web-only discounts. But most don't.

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Basquing: I have plane tix into Barcelona and out of Madrid for 11 nights and I'd like to spend the time in between taking a road trip through the Basque region focusing on food and drink. Does anyone have a good route for this? Particularly one that takes us up near the Pyrenees?

Joe Yonan: Spend a few days in Barcelona, then make sure to hit Girona, Bilbao (for the Guggenheim, natch) and San Sebastian (for all the tapas bars). You'll see some other places mentioned in this recent Food story about DC restaurateurs who went to Spain before opening a Spanish place here.

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Eoping in Italy: Maybe George Clooney would invite you to get hitched at his villa?

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urban oasis: The botanical gardens in Christ Church. Lots of beautiful walking, and a good cafe to boot.

Becky Krystal: We had this story last year on Christchurch that made it sound pretty awesome.

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Best urban oasis...: Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia...Beautiful green space, fantastic walking and biking trails, huge open green spaces and picnics, with wine, are encouraged! The views over the harbour with glimpses of the bridge and the opera house are unparalleled and it's essentially in the heart of the city. Absolutely beautiful...I'm counting down to my return trip down under.

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Napa Suggestions: Just got back from a few days in Napa, and I definitely second the recommendation for Ad Hoc (great way to celebrate a birthday!) Also good: Schramsberg vineyards near St. Helena - they make sparkling wine, and clearly explained how the process works without "dumbing it down" or exposing our lack of wine knowledge! If you have time, eat at Pearl in downtown Napa (and get the flank steak tacos. Yum!)

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RE: Memphis at Thanksgiving - flying into LR: Please don't fly in to Little Rock to go to Memphis. By the time you rent a car, the cheaper ticket to Little Rock vs Memphis won't mean as much. Plus, if you have a kid who hates being in a car, the drive between the two cities will be miserable. It's miserable for adults who like driving, especially when you add thanksgiving week traffic in.

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For the Sydney traveller:: I've flown to Sydney before (in 2005) and am doing the trip again in September. Save yourself the arduous journey and just fly IAD to LAX or SFO and then on to Sydney. Sign up at tripadvisor.com to get good rates. We were able to get two round-trip tickets for less than $2,400 all on United (United is the only U.S. domestic carrier that flies to Australia and I like the idea of flying one carrier to *hopefully* minimize the possibility of lost baggage, etc.).Of course, the route you describe is perfect if you want to spend some time touring other cities but, if you're just passing through, don't put yourself through the trouble.You didn't ask but, once you get there, you'll be glad you endured the flight. Sydney is my favorite city and I've traveled extensively.

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Flight to Sydney : I have taken the flight from DC to LA then Sydney. The trip to LA was 6hrs and then it was 16hrs non-stop to Sydney. Either way via Dubai or LA is the same. The only good thing about the route I took was that the flight was a Quantas flight - they have really good service, enough legroom & wider seats, good airline food, many movies. The choice of airline made the difference but boy is it a loooooong trip!

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Portland, OR: Any tips for someone with two days to kill in Portland? Will have a car but appreciate walking/public transportation options as well. Thanks!

Becky Krystal: This Going Our Way has some Portland tips.

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favorite urban oasis: Central Park: It's not very original, but a trip to NYC is not complete for me without a trip to Central Park. I like to take the subway to the north end of the park and spend hours strolling down the paths. I think what makes it so peaceful is that you don't feel like you're in the city, it's so quiet! I've made the trek in all sorts of weather - snow, 100 degree heat and everything in between - and it always ends up being the highlight of my visit to the city. A bonus? Grabbing a bench and day dreaming up a story about the person whose name is on the plaque :)

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Parks: I guess technically not a park, but the Necropolis in Glasgow is a nice urban oasis, though a bit creepy when the sun starts to set...

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Urban Oasis: Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario (west end of the city). You'd never believe you were in an industrial, shipping and steel town!

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London evenings: If you're willing to splurge for dinner, go to the Oxo Tower restaurant. Good food, great view of the City of London.For evening sightseeing, since the sun sets at around 9:00-9:30 in the summer, you can walk along the south bank of the Thames, or, on the north side, the Tower of London and St. Katharine Docks (I'd have recommended the Ceremony of the Keys, but you are going to London next week). Also, some museums are open late on various weeknights, so check your guidebook or get a copy of the weekly TimeOut London magazine.Check to see if there's a play at Shakespeare's Globe or a BBC Proms classical concert at Royal Albert Hall. And, of course, there's always the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for half-price theatre tickets.

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Favorite Park: In San Francisco, there is a little park in North Beach whose name I can't remember (or won't divulge). From there, one can get a great view of downtown to the south, Oakland to the east, and (most spectacularly) the Golden Gate to the northwest. Despite its fantastic view, not many people seem to know about it, leaving it empty each time I've been. I love going and just soaking in the scenery.

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Urban Getaway: Isola Tiberina in Rome at night!

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Luggage: Don't overlook Tumi because of the price. I did a lot of traveling for work and since have done some more for retirement and my 22-inch rolling Tumi has gone the distance and come out totally unscathed. (Of course, it was a gift. which also made it especially attractive.)

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Delta overweight baggage fees: I had a similar problem with Delta: they took my bag, weighed it and sent it down the conveyor belt, THEN told me I was over the limit by 5 pounds and would need to pay a huge fee, and go stand in ANOTHER line to do so. If they'd told me before they sent the bag down, I would have divided the bag into two (had a duffle inside, and no other checked bags), no problem. I had to spend over half an hour waiting at the other counter to pay before I could finally speak with a manager. I ultimately got the fee waived, but only because I was persistant and escalated. And I was flying on a $6K business class ticket for work. Seems like Delta has a cash crunch and is looking to make $$$ off these fees... I won't be flying them anytime soon after that experience.

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Traveling to China with a 2-year old: Thanks for the discussion. My wife is planning on traveling to China with our two-year old to meet her family. She's thinking about going with just her and our son, but I'm worried what will happen in Beijing. She has to transfer to another flight there and she will have the suitcases and a lively 2-year old to manage. I'm wondering if there are resources available in the Beijing airport that can help her deal with everything. Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: In this scenario, the airline should be able to help. Before she goes, contact the airline and let them know a solo mom with infant is traveling, and give them the flight info. When your wife checks in, she should also remind the agent that she needs assistance in Beijing. They should be able to arrange an escort to the next flight. The airport's Passenger Service Center also provides escorts. Your wife should ask the agent at the airport to help her flag one down if the airline can't escort her.

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NYC Hotels: Hello! Could you provide a hotel recommendation for NYC? My ambitious list includes: near Chelsea/Greenwich, funk/funky hotel, rooms with 2 queen beds and around $250 for a Saturday night.

Nancy Trejos: not stayed there, but Eventi is a new hotel in Chelsea that has low promotional rates right now. If you want to venture out of those neighborhoods, we recently did Bed Checks on the Distrikt Hotel and the Andaz Hotel in Wall Street.

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Rome hotels: I stayed at the Hotel Alexandra on Via Veneto in December 2007. Great location (short cab ride from Termini train station, 5-minute walk to the Spanish Steps, 10-minute walk to the Trevi fountain and 15-minute walk to the Pantheon), very safe, and reasonably priced.

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Urban Oasis: Just got back from Kyoto. Aside from the obviously beautiful gardens in the various temples, our oasis was the "Path of Philosophy," a lovely green space running along a canal. It was bordered by cherry trees and the canal was well stocked with koi. It was a lovely respite from the bustle of the city, and free, to boot!

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beach weekend: I would like to take my husband and 3 year old to the beach in September or October. Being new to this area, we are unfamiliar with options on the East Coast. Can you recommend a beach town that is not too far of a drive and might also have activities for a toddler, when he has grown tired of the ocean?

Carol Sottili:

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Single Female Traveler: Flight Crew,I need your help. I've traveled a TON (I'm 30 and have been to 35 countries) but never on my own. I have some time this fall or winter to take a trip but am not sure if I can round up anyone to go with me. So I want to branch out on my own. Any suggestions for a good first place? I'm not timid but for some reason have been wary about taking this step. I was thinking of Paris (because I've been there and loved it) but would also like to try someplace new. Or even beachy. I'm thinking 4-5 days. Help!

Nancy Trejos: I also once did a tour of California alone. I rented a convertible and drove up and down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco. It was beautiful. You might need a few more days for that, though, or you can just do the L.A. to S.F. part or L.A. to S.D. part.

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Cancelling a reservation through Travelocity: Thanks for the Travel insight you provide week after week....much appreciatedI have booked an Oceanfront room in a popular hotel chain in Virginia Beach for late August through Travelocity. I have also booked an activity that was offered as a package deal through Travelocity.My Plans changed and I tried to cancel it online (with 35+ days in advance) and much to my surprise, there is a huge fine that Travelocity is passing from the Hotel as cancellation Fee... In fact, I would be getting $0 if I cancelled. I called Travelocity and the agent said that if I book an activity along with the Hotel, there is nothing they can do with the Cancellation fee... Had I not booked an activity (which was just like $50), they I could get the entire refund...I didn't want to lose the money and am going for it but Is there anything else that can be done? Has anyone run into this before?

Joe Yonan: It's getting late in the chat to fully address this, but can you send an email about this to travel@washpost.com, with a note in the subject line that says "FOR CHRIS ELLIOTT"? We'll make sure he gets it.

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Travel to Thailand: Hello - love your chats. I apologize if you've covered this recently but I've missed the last month's discussions because I was studying abroad! I decided last fall to go to Thailand this Nov. but changed plans (Cambodia and Vietnam instead) due to the conflict in Bangkok. I've heard recently about people traveling to Bangkok without problems. Do you think it's feasible to plan a trip there for the fall? I know circumstances can change rapidly but I intend to spend about 2 days in Bangkok and then visit some of the islands, and to go to Cambodia. Thank you!!

Andrea Sachs: be good to go. Just follow the news and check the State Department's advisories.

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italy Elopement: I would suggest the Villa Scacciapensiere in Siena, which fits your bill perfectly. However, you do know that Italy makes it kinda difficult for foreigners to get married there, right? Tons of paperwork and you need witnesses. You will probably have to hire a compnay there to take care of the details or you run the risk of having an invalid marriage.

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Rome's offseason: March or April may not be off-season depending on when Easter falls. Its proximity to Vatican City lends Rome to countless Easter parades and Lenten events that can clog streets and increase prices for all the additional tourists. We went in the fall (October) and it was perfect. Lovely weather, less expensive.As for hotels, try travel guides (Rick Steves does pretty decent ones). We stayed at:Hotel GerberVia degli Scipioni, 24100192 Roma-ItaliaTelephone: 0632-16485 Website: www.hotelgerber.it Loved the location--the room was great and it was off on a little side street. Only a 15 minute walk to the Vatican and very easily accessible to the public transportiation (buses and metro).Not only is breakfast included but they've got a lovely little pup that really makes the accomodations feel like home.

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For Boston traveler: If you have 2 1/2 days in Boston and want to do Salem, a whale watch, and the Freedom trail....something has got to give. Maybe try to do a whale watch out of Salem itself, or walk the Freedom trail in the evening. But you seem to want to cover a LOT in little time. Note you can take a commuter train from Boston to Salem...there used to be a ferry but I'm not sure it still runs.

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Great Parks: Stanley Park in Vancouver is gorgeous and has multiple attractions, including an aquarium with amusing otters and a killer whale show. Could have spent another day there on the way home from Alaska...

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FedX or other: Attending wedding in SFO in late September and absolutely can't have airline lose my luggage. Am thinking of shipping FedX (or other company) which I can do in advance for delivery to hotel when I arrive. It's pricey (but not too) and I'm wondering if I'm being paranoid. Has anyone else used FedX/other to ship luggage?

Nancy Trejos: be cheaper.

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Joe Yonan: The captain has turned on the seat-belt sign, meaning it's no longer safe to walk around the cabin.Now, for our prizewinner this week: It's the chatter whose favorite urban oasis is one in North Beach, San Fran, because I got a kick out of the coy resistance to divulging the secret. Send your mailing address to travel@washpost.com, and we'll send you something cool.Until next week, happy travels!


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