Packing more seats onto planes -- Talk about Travel

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Flight Crew
Monday, September 20, 2010; 12:00 PM

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Andrea Sachs: Happy Monday, travelers. Lots to cover today, from our cruising issue to solo travel, squished airplane seats to whatever else is on your mind. We have a full crew today, so send us your questions, suggestions and opinions. Tell us about your most Gilligan cruising experience.

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Babymoon: Hi, My husband and I are expecting a baby in early April and would love to get away alone before that. My second trimester when they recommend vacation (Oct., Nov, and Dec.) will likely be too busy for us to get away, unfortunately. So I'm thinking about January. I'm thinking the Caribbean for some warmth; we're not big beach people but we love nature. I hear St. John USVI has a natural setting. Do you have any other recommendations? And isn't January a high season for the Caribbean? Will prices be insane? Thanks,

Andrea Sachs: January is high season, but if you go after the holidays, you will see lower rates before they pick up again in February. I call it the Hangover Period. I love St. John. It is so natural and low-key. You can fly to St. Thomas and take the ferry over. I would also consider Puerto Rico, which has so many different eco-systems: the rain forest, coffee plantations, the surfing beaches of the west coast, the undeveloped beaches of Vieques.

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train in Italy: I am headed to Rome and Florence in a few months. My thought was to take the train to Florence right after landing in Rome. Is that crazy? A few people have questioned that idea, but my flight arrives at 7:45 a.m. and I don't want to unpack more times than necessary.

Zofia Smardz: It doesn't sound entirely crazy to me. You can nap on the train. What do you think, chatters?

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washington, DC: i think the temptation to put more seats on planes is just irresistible, as when they take them out to make room, they lose money. the best we can do is hope for a newer generation of planes that will use wide bodies for our wider bodies.

Zofia Smardz: Ain't it the truth.

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Sardine Seats: I saw a photo of these Sardine Seats. They have to be very dangerous in high turbulence or a crash. The FAA should not allow them anywhere in the USA.

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Biking near DC: What are good rides near DC (or sources describing) including:-Driving (with bikes on car) less than 60 min to destination;-Easy ride 10,15,20 miles and -2-3 star restaurant to eat/relax with tables outside before driving back-(5 hours total)

Becky Krystal: Check out BikeWashington.org, particularly the Urban Escapes page. On the Oxford Loop (which, OK, is more like 90 minutes away), for instance, you could have a meal at the Bartlett Pear Inn.

Andrea Sachs: Also check out the Rails to Trails netword. See www.railstotrails.org for routes.

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Slightly Irrational fear of bedbug infestation: So, I'm going to New York next week, and I have developed this kind of irrational (I hope) fear of bedbugs. I'm staying at the Hilton in midtown, and someone on Yelp (I hope just someone who hates the Hilton) said something about bedbugs, and now I can't shake the fear that I'm going to take home a brand new pest in my suitcase. Can you talk off me this ledge, or at least put my fear in context? Thanks!

Carol Sottili:

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Bethesda: Frequent flyer here totally against smaller saddle seats, but would most definitely favor non-reclineable seats--not to make for more seats but ability to control the sparse amount of space one gets already.

Zofia Smardz: Agree with you on this one!

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Jordan in Oct: Hi, thank you for taking my question. Do you know if $1100 is a good price for a flight from IAD to Jordan? Any other ways to get over there for less than that, possibly by flying into another country first? And once there is Jordan an expensive place to vacation?

Andrea Sachs: For the Middle East, that sounds about right. If you can fly ou of New York or Newark, however, you can find fares for under a grand. I see United flies from Newark to Amman for $967.According to Lonely Planet, Jordan isn't the cheapest destination, but you can enjoy yourself on a budget. Stay in moderate lodging (save more by sharing in a hostel), eat tasty falafel off the street and ride public transportation. Save up for Petra, though.Any chatsters have money saving tips for Jordan?

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More seats: I bet there are ways to increase the capacity of seats on planes without cutting back on the amount of personal space. It might take someone to think outside the box or may require some changes to the access to planes at the airport. A self storage area for carry-on luggage like found on airport shuttle buses would reduce the need for overhead bins. Airlines could go to a double decker layout and utilize some of the cargo space for additional seats.

Joe Yonan: Interesting. Not sure they'd be willing to spend the money to retrofit older planes, but I wouldn't be surprised if thoughts like these are among those being thrown around by those exploring new designs.

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Thank God for DeRegulation: Isn't it great what the free market brings you ? Before deregulation, flying was a pleasant experience and the fee structure made sense. Most people paid the same amount and flights that went farther cost more.You did get cheaper DC to LA flights but God Forbid if you want to fly from Raleigh to Des Moines.

Christopher Elliott: As an advocate for passengers, I think deregulation has been a mixed blessing. Yes, it gave us lower airfares, but it also commoditized airline seats and led to unprecedented service cuts. Somehow, I don't think this is what the lawmakers who deregulated the industry had in mind, nor do I think this is what the airlines though would happen. But it is what it is. The question is: What now? Is the situation so bad that the government needs to step in and re-regulate, or can the industry pull back, and restore some dignity, service (and perhaps some pricing) to the equation?

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Checked Baggage Fees: I'm thinking the big travel sites (Orbitz, Travelocity) could have a fairly simple way to reduce the airlines' incentive to "hide" costs in checked-bag fees.All they'd need to do is modify the search form so that next to the origin/destination and date selection fields is a "number of checked bags" selector, and then incorporate checked bag fees into the quoted prices that result from the search. Ideally this selector should default to one or two bags, so that the only way to get quoted a no-checked-bag baseline price is to explicitly request it by selecting zero bags.

Christopher Elliott: It would be relatively easy to do this. A few years ago, all of the major online agencies began featuring an "all in" price for rental cars. One reason why I believe some travel agents -- online and offline -- are resisting this kind of pricing is that it would make their tickets look more expensive. They're afraid you'll go to a competitor to book your flights.

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New idea for the airlines: They should try and hang some seats from the cabin ceiling.

Andrea Sachs: Great idea. Maybe hang up hammocks and serve tropical drinks.

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Not exactly a cruise, but it was Gilligan-esque!: Years ago, when I was about ten, my grandparents and my family went camping at Lake Powell in Arizona. My grandparents brought their small motor boat, and the six of us, plus their dog, set off to explore the lake. The lake twists and turns through interesting rock formations, and we got lost. Then it got dark, and we ran into the shoreline. As my grandfather and dad worked to free the boat from the sand, I started flashing the flashlight in the opposite direction. My dad admonished me to stop wasting the battery, but just then, and light started flashing back. Just yards away in the opposite direction was a huge rock formation, where a houseboat had tied up for the night. They guided us over with their voices, and we tied up next to them. It was an uncomfortable night, sleeping on the floor of the tiny boat, but at least we were safe!

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'Round the World: Anyone ever done a RTW trip? I was browsing the Star Alliance and oneWorld RTW trip planners on their websites and they are actually pretty cool tools. RTW trips seem to be much cheaper than buying individual tickets. I wonder if there is a rule of thumb with respect to how many segments or how much time is needed to really maximize such a trip. I am thinking about maybe taking a month or so next year to do one, but it's still a very embryonic plan.

Joe Yonan: Maryann Haggerty wrote about her monthlong trip here. She didn't get into pricing much, but learned some lessons worth reading about.

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Nooooo on non-reclinable seats: With my slipped disc it's impossible to sit upright for more than a few minutes. Noooo on non-reclinable seats.

Joe Yonan: Ouch.

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re: st john: Definitely there will be sales. there are tons of sales now on the cruises, so I would think that the same goes for the islands...and if there are sales NOW there will definitely be sales in Jan...good luck.

Andrea Sachs: For deals, check the Web site of the U.S.V.I, which lists specials.

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Washington, DC: Three of us are thinking of going to London and Paris for a week (like 2,3 nights in each city) for late April. Can you suggest what we do for buying airfare in terms of waiting, or buying now etc? Right now the prices seem very high, but we've been to Europe before and know it's expensive to fly so we are debating whether to wait to see if prices go down, or if we should suck it up and buy now. Can you suggest certain websites (other than the airlines site) to take a look to try and find deals? Thank you!

Carol Sottili: Or you could try pricing flying into London and then flying a discount airline from London to Paris (you'll need to change airports, but if you're staying in London for a few days, that shouldn't be a big issue). Check Euroflights for discount carriers.

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Traveling with Kids: This topic has been done to death lately, but just wanted to relate my recent experience. . . my husband and I flew to California (and back) recently with our 13 month old. While he wasn't perfect, we did our best to keep him entertained and happy the entire trip. We were extremely grateful when we landed at Dulles, to have the couples sitting in the seats nearest to us say that he (the baby) had done really well, but that Mom and Dad must be exhausted. We really appreciated the positive feedback after much effort exerted to keep our little guy happy.

Becky Krystal: Yeah, this topic does sort of bring out strong opinions on both sides. But I think (hope?) there's a silent, understanding majority out there who realize kids are kids and you do have to travel with them sometimes. We've all been there in one way or another.

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visiting DC: Hi, Asking early because I'll be at work this afternoon. My husband and I will be in DC on Wed and Thurs for pleasure this week and am wondering if there is anything we shouldn't miss. We are members of the Smithsonian and are planning a visit to the American Indian museum, as I've never been there. Anything else?

Nancy Trejos: I don't know if you've been here before but I never get tired of just walking around the Mall and seeing the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II memorial, etc. Other than that, the National Portrait Gallery in Chinatown is quite nice as is the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle. If it's nice out, the National Arboretum is also quite lovely. Shopping in Georgetown is always fun. And there are tons of new great restaurants now. Check out the 14th Street or the U Street corridors. Enjoy!

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Honeymood planning: Hello Gurus! My friends are getting married next month, but due to time constraints will not be planning a honeymoon. As a surprise, my friends and I want to plan a quick weekend getaway for them to serve as a mini-honeymoon, preferably within a couple hours drive of the DC metro area. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!!!

Becky Krystal: How about the Savage River Lodge? It's about 3 hours from here and extremely peaceful. They'd have a luxury cabin all to themselves. Great food, beautiful scenery. Really perfect if they're more of the outdoorsy type.

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Belize City: I'll have about 7-8 daylight hours to spend in Belize City in between Mayan ruins in Mexico (Chichen Itza) and Guatemala (Tikal). Any recommendations for two adults, other than going to a beach? I know it's not exactly a tourist hot-spot, but there must be something worth seeing/doing...

Nancy Trejos: Rather than lounge on the beach, why don't you try something active like cave tubing or ziplining? There are lots of tour companies offering that. The Museum of Belize also has some great Mayan artifacts. Also check out St. John's Cathedral, the oldest Anglican church in Central America. And the Orchid Garden Eco-Village Museum is supposed to be beautiful.

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Rome: Why leave straight to Florence? You might want have a look see around what was once the heart of the mighty Roman empire. Besides after an intercontinental flight and a train ride you'll be too tired to do anything but sleep when you get to Flo.

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More seats: Hi,Since I've been flying more in 2010, I've caught myself giving people ratings. I'll be on the metro, walking down the street, or at the store. I'll eyeball an overweight person and in my head, say yes, no, maybe, not on my life. More seats means more headaches and stress. i sound like a size elitist but I'm a normal sized person who fits nicely in a seat, any seat. Thanks and have a good Monday.

Christopher Elliott: I think as the airline industry moves forward with new seating options, that's a question that will have to be resolved. Maybe they'll start rating -- or weighing -- us before we board.

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Kansas airports: Hi,This may be an odd question but do you have any experience flying into Topeka or Witchita, KS, and if so, is there one airport you prefer? I will need to pick up a rental car and won't be staying long in either city. Thank you.

Andrea Sachs: I believe Witchita has more commercial flights, and therefore more amenities and lower fares.

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Bedbugs: Just got back from Asia but have not brought my luggage into the house yet. Instead, am leaving it in the car and leaving the car parked in full sun. I hope several days of this will kill any unwanted hitchhikers I might have brought back.

Joe Yonan: Will it get above 113 inside that suitcase? That's one number I've seen tossed around in terms of a temperature that will kill bedbugs.

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Cruise Industry: I saew this article through a different syndication by Chris Elliott on the cruise industry and the contract issue that limit lawsuits. These rules need to be revamped as part of the passenger bill of rights that the cruise line must follow if they operate in/out of US ports. Sort of like the EU rule that covers air passengers in europe even on US carriers.

Christopher Elliott: Congress is slowly addressing the issue of passenger rights for cruise passengers, as I wrote in a recent column. But there's more work to be done. As one of the experts I spoke with said in that story, more laws are needed to address legal jurisdiction when a crime is committed at sea.

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Coffin Cabins: The new and future travel plan to maximize the number of passengers on the plane. Imagine visiting the city morgue. You will maximize the number of passengers. The other option is the roller coaster-dry cleaner design where you would go into a standing roller coaster set up and then it rotates as they load passengers so you could fit 2 levels of passengers. If anybody need to go to the bathroom they push a button and the chairs rotate to an exit point where they can get out and use the bathroom..then strap back in. Of course by this time there would be no pilot. Everything would be remote controlled where you dual train the flight attendants. Maybe this will occur in 1984 + 50 years.

Joe Yonan: Now I'm going to have nightmares.

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Bermuda: I am currently scheduled to fly to Bermuda later this week to visit friends. With the passage of Igor, it looks like we will need to re-schedule. Thankfully there are no major injuries or deaths reported, but widespread power outages (which may not be restored for a couple of weeks). I find US Airways current travel advisory rather perplexing -- if you were traveling during the days leading up to the storm, you could change flights without penalty, but only if you re-scheduled the flight in a seven day window. Obviously the moral of the story is to take out travel insurance during hurricane season (although to be honest, the reason I didn't was because I found the policy rather vague as to what conditions it covered), but do I have any sort of bargaining power when I call to re-schedule my itinerary? In the grand scheme of things, a change fee is not the end of the world and I'm just thankful the storm was not worse than it was, but I'm just surprised USAir isn't more flexible -- this isn't really the time to take unnecessary travel there.

Carol Sottili: if the power stays out. I'd wait for now, but make sure you call them before your flight date. If the policy isn't changed, I don't think you will have much bargaining power. Check with the government of Bermuda for updates. Re: hurricane insurance, you can always shop around at a site such as Insuremytrip.

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Australia/New Zealand travel: Whenever planning a trip there you need to buffer your travel by a day or more just for adjustment. From LAX to Sydney your flight would leave say on Monday night and you would arrive early on Wednesday morning (Tuesday was lost). You will make up for this on your return flight. The time difference from the West Coast is ... April-October -7 hrs + day ..... November-February -5hrs + day .... for a brief period in March/April and October/November it is- 6 hrs difference plus a day (when both on daylight savings time). When booking you may find cheaper flights if you opt to travel to Sydney and return from Auckland...or visa versa. Also it may be cheaper if you book your flight to the west coast separately (LAX, San Fran, Vancouver)

Carol Sottili: that was published in Sunday's travel section. I did mention the date changes re: travel from the United States to Australia. Typically, I think flying into Sydney and out of Auckland is more expensive, although there could always be a special sale fare. And yes, it is sometimes cheaper to book two tickets - one into California and then one from there to Australia - but for the trip I was discussing, that was not the case. Always worth checking, however.

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My thought was to take the train to Florence right after landing in Rome: I did this after flying into Dublin, we then jumped on a train to Galway. I don't remember why we did it that way, but it was kind of a pain to do, and was a 3 hr train ride. Rome to Florence might be shorter though.

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Sisters' Getaway: My sister (in Texas) and I (in D.C.) would like to take a 3-5 day trip together sometime from mid-January to early February. I'd like to go someplace warmer than D.C., so ski vacations are out. We'd like to keep costs under $700-$800 per person, including transportation.A short cruise would probably be a perfect choice for us, but we did that on our last getaway a couple years ago. A package trip to an all-inclusive might work, but they seem to require us to depart from the same airport, which would be doable, but not optimal. (Can we get a package where one flies from D.C. and the other from Dallas?) I also think some sort of active vacation (hiking or biking) might be fun.Any suggestions for a couple of sisters who want some fun, a little sun and no hassles.? Thanks!

Joe Yonan: Hmm. Don't know of packages that allow different points of departure, and your budget is pretty small, but here's a thought: Why don't you fly to meet your sister and then take a road trip from there? Not sure where she is in TX, and Lord knows it's a big state, but you could do something in New Mexico if she's toward the west, or Louisiana if she's in the east, or you could just go southwest and hit something like Marfa, which is a hoot.

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what ever happened to air travelers bill of rights?: More seats and less leg room means greater health risk for passengers via leg clots, syncope, etc. What ever happened to the air travelers bill of rights, wasn't this supposed to protect us from these kind of cost cutting moves that compromise basic health?

Christopher Elliott: There have been numerous attempts at an air travelers "bill of rights" but to my knowledge, none of them would have addressed leg room, or even the health of passengers. I think those kinds of issues are difficult to legislate, but that shouldn't stop us from trying

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flying around British Isles: Hi - next May we are flying to London and then will be visiting Dublin and Edinburgh. We have our air tickets to London but was wondering when the best time would be to buy tickets between London/Dublin, Dublin/Edinburgh and Edinburgh/London? Also which airline is the best? It looks like (depending on route) that the choices are Aer Lingus, Ryanair, and British Midlands (bmi)

Carol Sottili: Also, look at easyJet for London Gatwick/Edinburgh.

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Know your seat: There's a site (http://www.seatguru.com) that has seating information about every seat on every plane on what must be every airline. You move the mouse over the seat and a popup tells you everything about it - the pitch and the leg room, if it doesn't recline because it's in front of an exit row, if the window isn't aligned with the seat, if it's near the engine and therefor louder. It's very useful now that a lot of airlines will let you choose your own seat online.

Nancy Trejos: I've seen that website. Useful indeed. Thanks for the tip!

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Reclining Seats: I flew to and from London last week on United. When the guy in front of me reclined his seat, the amount of personal space I had was completely inhumane. I kicked the back of his seat a few times, and then he apologized and pushed his seat back up again.

Becky Krystal: I understand your discomfort here, but we in the Travel section advocate a little more diplomacy. Maybe just politely ask the person next time?

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Open question: I have a lovely dilemma: I, unexpectedly, am going to have to take a week of vacation in the near future. I'm single and well-traveled, and have no restrictions other than that it only last one week and that it not cost an arm and a leg. My mind is spinning with options, ranging from staying in town and rediscovering DC to heading up to Acadia National Park to going diving off Santorini.So I ask all of you: what would you do with the gift of a week?

Zofia Smardz: I would do whatever I most wanted to do, and you should do the same.

Joe Yonan: Today I feel like Mexico City, but tomorrow I might say Barcelona. Or Bangkok. Or Tokyo. Or Montreal. Or perhaps NYC. It's a big world out there, and I always waffle between returning to one of my favorite places and exploring a new one.

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Re: Train to Florence: We did that and I think it's a good idea. Our plane got in at 8:30 am and we were in Florence by 1:30. We took the Eurostar bullet train, which runs every hour. It's easy to buy the tickets right at the airport train station, board the Leonardo Express and head to Rome's Termini, where you catch the Eurostar.

Zofia Smardz: Thanks for the details!

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PS on train to Florence: In response to the other person: it was much better to do Florence first and then Rome. That way you're not stressing out at the end of your vacation. Sit in the train, watch the countryside go by, have a long lunch in a lovely Florence piazza, walk around its lovely streets and go to bed early, eager and ready in the a.m.

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More seats on planes: Flying is already so uncomfortable and unpleasant that I may seriously stop flying altogether if airlines start forcing more seats into the same space. I already feel like a sardine on the rare occasions I fly, and I can't imagine how anyone could think this is a good idea.

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train from Rome to Florence: A few years ago, I took the train from Rome to Florence just after I got off the plane from the US. It worked fine - but as I remember, it was two trains; one from the airport into Rome, and one from Rome to Florence. I had one large bag and a carry-on, and had no problem finding space to put my luggage.

Zofia Smardz: See, it can be done!

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Pet-friendly weekend trip: I am thinking about taking a road trip on Columbus Day weekend with my small dog (Pomeranian). My inclination is to go to Ocean City and stay at one of the pet-friendly hotels there since leashed dogs will be allowed on the beach in October (I think!) but are there any other destinations within a three- or so - hour drive that you could recommend? Thanks!

Becky Krystal: Yes! The aforementioned Savage River Lodge near Frostburg, Md., is extremely pet-friendly. They even host a yappy hour every Saturday for dogs staying there.Also, look into the Inn at Meander Plantation. It's a gracious 18th century manor near the cute town of Culpeper, Va.And I've been really interested in heading to Gloucester, Va., to stay at the Inn at Warner Hall.Carol, our resident Ocean City expert, says dogs are allowed on the beach as of Oct. 1.

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New York City in the Winter: I have a trip to New York with two friends booked for late December. This will be my very first time in New York, and it's something I've always wanted to do, especially in the Winter. Though, I know it gets very cold in New York in the Winter. Any advice on what we should do in a beautiful, cold New York this December?

Nancy Trejos:

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RE: Wichita: I don't believe that Topeka has regularly scheduled air service any more. If you're headed somewhere in Northeastern Kansas, it is far easier to fly into Kansas City International and drive from there. Wichita (where I'm from) has plenty of flights, though none direct from DC. I prefer Delta through Memphis or American through Dallas. I avoid flying through Atlanta or Chicago at all costs, and though I try not to fly through them, you can connect in Minneapolis or Detroit.

Andrea Sachs: Great advice. Thanks!

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More seats in planes: They might try at first to offer cheaper fares but then all the airlines will put them in and fares will go up. Win for airlines, loss for customers.

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More NO to non-reclinable seats: On longer flights especially, seats need to be able to recline. I was stuck in a non-reclinable seat on a flight to London this summer and could not get a wink of sleep.

Christopher Elliott: You're not supposed to sleep in those seats. That's what the lie-flat seats in business class are for -- you know, the ones that cost thousands of dollars.

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Reclining Seats: While I feel sorry for the person with the slipped disc, at the same time no one is forcing you onto the plane. However, what is being forced upon me is the person who has decided to put their seatback under my chin. What would probably help everyone is a seat that a) doesn't recline but b) doesn't have to because it is actually ergonomically designed so it doesn't hurt to sit in it. The seat currently in use is essentially the same one used in the late 60's, early 70s. The pressure points are all wrong, your legs are unsupported, there is no place for your arms, the seat trays, armrests and seatback holders are all poorly shaped and placed. A more ergonomic design with a footrest, lumbar support, adjustable arm rests and adjustable headrests would go along way towards making flights more comfortable.

Joe Yonan: I agree with your more general point about seat design, but also think that the person with a slipped disc may indeed need (and deserve) to fly. Perhaps not forced, but still.

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Boat Ride: A couple of times when my sister came to visit me in Seattle we were on boats... The first trip was on a whale watching trip in early June. So we are crossing the Strait of Juan De Fuca. which is about the width of the Chesapeake bay but it's ocean water. Even though it was a partly cloudy day the water was rough and choopy for this rather small boat (30 feet in length). The trip is a boat ride watching for orcas and then sailing around the San Juan islands and stopping a few hours at Friday Harbor. Quite a few people got seasick on the boat. It happened one person was traveling to pick up a friend and come back (this boat is also the only transportation between the two locations). She knew of a few friends who did charter flights, so given the rough seas she called about setting up a charter flight. A few of the other passangers were like "we'll split the costs with you," so about 4 other passangers chipped in and paid for the return flight. Me and my sister were fine. The other time she visited we took a ferry over to Victoria from Port Angeles. The way to was using a car ferry, which is a much larger boat. Ride was fine. The return was on a passenger-only boat that is much smaller. So the seawater made it choppy...think of being on a speed boat breaking another boats waves. We were fine...but others not so....good thing they had barf bags (or the sea water on the side).

Andrea Sachs: You have some strong sea legs-- and sea stomach.

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washington DC: most gilligan: at Mount Vernon in april or may, boat is leaving with passengers and instead of putting it into reverse, mysteriously boat moves forward crashing into the dock, leaving a mark on the boat and passengers asking for refunds.

Becky Krystal: Oops.

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for the biking couple: Leesburg to Purcellville on the W&O- 12-13 miles ( I think), and there's Magnolia's to greet you at the end.

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Those saddle seats...: I can't imagine an entire plane full of them. For starters, I don't think they're ADA compliant - how do you balance yourself in them if you're paraplegic, for example? And what do you do if, like me, you're so short your feet wouldn't reach the floor when you're seated? What do you do if you have a lap baby? I can see these being a super-economy section, but even the cheapest discounter would have to have some regular seats. Fat people, too, (and I'm also one of them - I will refrain from sharing my thoughts on entitled skinny people) would probably prefer a regular seat with a tad more room.

Nancy Trejos: All good questions, probably some that the Federal Aviation Administration will be asking. The seats would have to meet FAA regulations before making it on any U.S. planes.

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Virgin Atlantic: Has anyone flown in Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic? Is it worth the extra $300 to upgrade from Coach on the flight to London?Thanks.

Christopher Elliott:

Carol Sottili: I've flown Virgin Atlantic at least six times in premium economy and loved it. Worth every penny.

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New York City in the Winter: Go to Chinatown to Joe's Shanghai and warm up with some delicious soup dumplings.

Joe Yonan: Or to Ippudo for fantastic ramen.

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thai islands: hey travel staffers! i'd like to go to thailand in november and have my heart set on exploring ko phi phi. what do you think would be the easiest way to get there from bangkok and do you recommend anyplace to stay that's not too expensive?

Joe Yonan: I've never done it, but I see 1.5-hour flights starting at $260 from Bangkok to Phuket, and then a ferry from Phuket to the Phi Phi isles. Any chatters better versed in this part of the world?

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Ergonomic reclining seats: For the poster who talks about decent, ergonomically designed seats that have lumbar support/adjustable armrests/footrests/headrests: Sir, may I show you to your First Class seat? Here, let me stow your bag for you. Would you care for a beverage before departure?

Joe Yonan: LOL

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Rome/Florence: When I went to Italy, I did the exact same thing -- landed in Rome, went straight to the train and arrived in Florence a few hours later. Worked great.

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RE: Reclining Seats: I fly United usually, and lately, I've opted to pay the extra $X to get an Economy Plus seat with more legroom. I'll bet this is a popular program for them -- they took out a few rows, but get to charge more for the seats. The good thing is that if the guy in front of me does recline, it's not terrible. In fact, I can't recall the last time it annoyed me. But, when I'm stuck in the back, a reclining seat is really annoying, and I'm only 5 feet tall. I can only imagine how the 95% people taller than me feel. So, show people what the extra room costs and let them choose. United will install more Economy Plus seats if it makes them more money.

Joe Yonan: I've splurged on this, too, and for long flights it's been worth it.

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the person who has decided to put their seatback under my chin.: I'm sorry, but it irks me when people think I shouldn't be allowed to put my seat back in a position it was designed to be in. Particularly when I prefer to recline than to sit bolt upright. This isn't like putting one's feet in someone else's leg room. You can complain to the airplane builders not to make the seats recline (though I imagine most people wouldn't like that). But to complain about someone reclining their seat as it was designed to is incredible selfish and self-centered, and borderline neurotic.

Joe Yonan: I've been afraid to say so, possibly because we're not anonymous as you are, but here goes: I agree.

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Re: Expecting vacationers: I was in my 3rd trimester in January before my daughter was born. We flew to the Bahamas (Grand Bahama Island). Two flights - 50 minutes to SC and 1 1/2 hrs (I believe to the island). I felt this was the best option because I wouldn't be in the air for long and allowed me to get some circulation between flights.

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DVT: My husband is the lucky survivor of deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, so from this perspective I see even the current close-packed coach seats as a threat to the circulatory health of all but the smallest airline passengers. At what point does a regulatory agency say "enough" to the seat-cramming, in the interests of public health?

Andrea Sachs: You make a great point. This is not just a comfort/discomfort issue, but one with more profound implications. Congressfolk, are listening?

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More seats?: Wow. I flew United's economy to London three weeks ago, and Economy plus coming back two weeks ago. That extra 69 dollars was worth it! I am small (5 feet and 110 pounds), but even I am cramped and uncomfortable. My heart goes out to anyone bigger than me (most people).

Carol Sottili: better drinks/food/etc.

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Short person vs. airline seats: I am 5'2" tall. When I'm flying, legroom isn't a problem, but dangling feet are. It is VERY uncomfortable to sit for several hours with no footrest. Also, the bulge in the headrest tends to hit me at the top of my head, pushing it forward, rather than at the back of my neck which would give me neck support. Unless airline seats are infinitely adjustable, you're not going to please me and please the tall people too.

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I, unexpectedly, am going to have to take a week of vacation in the near future: Have you visited Portugal's Azores islands yet? The weather's generally lovely in the fall (we were there last October, had only one really rainy day, showers on a few other days, but comfortable temperatures the whole time). Non-stop flights via SATA to/from Boston. Check out the Post article re visiting the Azores for a week in the off-season: spectacular scenery, fresh seafood, fresh air, friendly locals, interesting history and culture, no tourist crowds. Considerable English spoken there, in case that's an issue (and a pocket-size phrase-book will cover most of your basic Portuguese language needs).

Joe Yonan: Here's that off-season Azores story.

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Deregulation: Is a fact of life. While some may wish for more regulation to return, politically that would be a non-starter these days. I can just hear at least one commentator saying this is what Hitler did. Might as well just enjoy the lower rates and tell yourself the flight isn't that long.

Christopher Elliott: You may be right. But I'm hearing that reregulation is being seriously considered. Maybe not turning the clock back to 1978, but at least doing something to stop the downward spiral of service. I think this is an issue that has lawmakers' attention. I'm curious to see what will happen next.

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Does charging for bags delay planes? : I recently flew and for the first time encountered having to pay for checked bags (back to Jet Blue or SW for me). And not surprisingly everyone lining up to board the plane had a suitcase with them. I've always liked checking my bags - I don't mind waiting at the baggage claim after the flight if it means I can walk around unencumbered before I board - I hate bringing a suitcase into the toilet. But it must really slow down the boarding process if more people bring carry ons. Has there been any studies into whether this has delayed takeoffs?

Nancy Trejos: I've not seen any studies showing whether this has delayed takeoffs but anecdotally, I've heard complaints that it has. Interestingly, Spirit Airlines now charges for carry-on bags. But other airlines have indicated they won't follow suit.

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RE: seats: What's wrong with a more diversified set of seating? Why do airlines only have first, business and economy? Why not have four or five sets: first, busines, economy, cattle car and standing-room only? For the record, in the unlikely event of an emergency/miracle I am concerned about the emergency exiting procedures with extra people aboard. Also, I understand that airlines give preferred seating to their best customers, but it still drives me crazy when I'm the tallest person on board and am denied the extra leg room of bulkhead seating. Instead I see some shorter-than-average business man sprawled out up there, while I'm forced to push my knees into the seat in front of me, making two people uncomfortable for the price of one.

Zofia Smardz: I like your idea!

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Sort-of cruise: I was 15, and my parents sat through a Time Share presentation to get an all-day cruise of snorkeling, horseback-riding, food and drinks in Puerto Vallarta for our family of 5. Our small cruise included a lot of 20-somethings. Who drank...a lot. As a big cruise boat passed by, 6 of the drunk 20-somethings got in a line, turned around, and flashed the passing cruiseship. THAT is going native.

Andrea Sachs: That must have been terrifying to your innocent eyes.

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leaning seat back: If you're going to do it (and be indignant about it), I would appreciate a warning. I used to sleep with my head on the lap tray and practically choked when the person in front of me leaned their seat back all the way. At least turn around and try to check with them.

Joe Yonan: I'm not indignant about it. Very gentle. Have you seen that device that PREVENTS the person ahead of you from reclining?

Andrea Sachs: Maybe seats should be installed with the beep-beep you hear when large trucks are backing up.

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To Biking Near DC: Check out www.bikepptc.org and look at cue sheets. It's a little longer but I highly recommend the 3 Covered Bridges route out of Frederick, MD and there are routes in VA that go by the Inn at Little Washington.

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Is Honduras a Gilligan Island?: We took a group cruise to the Western Caribbean in honor of a friend's 85th birthday. When we docked in Honduras, we decided to search for a tour of the island on our own - a minivan would be fine for the group of us. A woman at the docks told us she had just the thing for us and hooked us up with a driver. Unfortunately, the minivan also had mini-air conditioning... it could only be felt in the front seat. Although we all agreed the 85-yr-old should take that seat, it quickly changed when motion sickness started setting in toward the back. We "rotated." The woman also failed to tell us that our driver, who had previously been a cab driver in NYC (we thought that was a plus - figured he could drive through anything and make sure we got back to the ship on time) did not know how to drive a stick shift, which the van had. Every time we had to make it up a hill, he had to turn of the a/c (too much power draining his engine) and have the person sitting in the passenger seat step on the gas pedal while he used the clutch. Due to rains that morning, the roads were pretty slick, which was magnified by the fact that his tires were apparently bald. While we were all looking at an overturned van on the other side of the street at the bottom of a hill, our driver was trying to get us to the top. We slid backwards down the hill four times before sliding into a ditch. At that time, we were asked to get out of the van ("too much weight"), walk to the top of the hill (yes, 85-yr-old, too) and wait for people to help push our van out of the ditch & get him up to the top of the hill. How we made it back to the ship alive, we will never know, but thankfully, we are all safe and sound!

Andrea Sachs: Happy ending!

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Ko Phi Phi: Yes, definitely go. My wife and I went to Thailand two years ago and it was our favorite spot! There are no cars on the island so it is much more relaxing than Phuket or Bangkok. Bit of a pain to get to though with taking the ferry (which can be quite rough) from Phukettown early in the morning. Most people spend the night at a hotel there after an afternoon flight from Bangkok. You can spend more and charter a speedboat if time is an issue.There are a lot of things to see on/around the island. Climb the mountain to lookout point for a great view, take a boat tour to "the Beach," charter a longtail to neighboring Bamboo Island which is a national park and feels like you are on a deserted beach.

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"Kicking" a reclined seat?: Really, are we in third grade?

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Don't prop yourself up with another's seat: Can I use this forum to implore airline passengers that when they stand up to use their own arm rests to push up, not the back of the seat in front of you to pull you up. And when walking down the aisle please use the overhead compartments to brace yourself, not the seatbacks of everyone between you and the lavatory. Thank you.

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Going from Edinburgh to London : Instead of flying, you might want to consider taking a bus. I have traveled on the CityLink bus service in Scotland and it is very comfortable and inexpensive. Yes, it takes longer but if you have the time, you will actually see the countryside, which is a nice bonuse.

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Reclining Seats: I'm taking a trip with my 16 month old in a few weeks. We'll be in economy. Should I just ask the person in front of me to be mindful of the fact I have a lap child, and that if he or she reclines, that will make it hard on all three of us? Seriously, a reclined seat + a lap child do not mix well!

Andrea Sachs: Of course you can ask. But also remember they have every right to decline. You can also ask the flight attendent if you can sit behind an empty seat, if one exists.

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Andrea Sachs: Thanks everyone for joining our noon Travel escape. Makes me want to jump on a plane and have someone recline in my lap. The winner of the Gilligan question: The then-teen boater who had to see so many moons. Please send your address to me at sachsa@washpost.com.See ya next Monday!


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