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Flight Crew
Monday, October 18, 2010; 12:00 PM

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Joe Yonan: Hi, everybody -- are you ready to get on the road for this week's chat? Today we've got pooches (and kitties, and other pets) on the brain. Did my piece about Pet Airways give you any ideas about the best (and worst) ways to travel with your four-legged friend? Or did the tales from Becky and me from six dog-friendly hotels and inns make you think you should pack up the pooch for the weekend? After reading Andrea's piece from behind the scenes at a Kimpton hotel, I was mostly jealous of the staffers whose dogs get selected to be director of pet services: They get to bring their pet to work every day! (Mister Red would be excellent as director of pet services at the Post, although I'm not sure what his duties would be...)To help us answer pet-related questions today will be Jerry Hatfield of PetTravel.com.Here's your assignment for today: Tell us your funniest tale of a pet on the road. (Either yours or somebody else's.) Our favorite will win this week's prize.Time to chat!

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Trip Insurance: I see this referenced all the time, but don't know how to purchase. How do I insure my trip and make sure all aspects are covered? For example, if I will be flying, staying 1 night in a hotel, then joining a cruise. Thank you.

Carol Sottili: Price it out on one of the Web sites that specialize in travel insurance comparisons. They include InsureMyTrip, QuoteWright and SquareMouth.

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Travel with pets: Loved the pet articles! It would be great to see more articles about pet-friendly travel options. As people who like to bring our dog with us when we go away, it's always good to see what options are out there. I have to say I was surprised and dissapointed to see the hotel in Alexandria was a let down. Alexandria is so dog friendly, I would have expected a hotel advertising itself as being dog friendly to be a REALLY great place to bring one.One of the best plaes we have found for dogs is the Outer Banks, where dogs are allowed on the beach year-round (as opposed to VA Beach where there are restrictions during peak summer months), and although it can sometimes be expensive getting a pet-friendly room, we've also found some very reasonably priced places, and have never had a problem finding a hotel, motel, or campground down there that allows dogs.

Becky Krystal: Glad you liked the pet package. I too was a bit bummed by the "meh" experience for the pooches at the Hotel Monaco Alexandria. The hotel just didn't live up to the canine vibe I got once I started roaming Old Town.Good to know about the Outer Banks. I haven't yet taken Leo and Hobbes to the beach, but I have a feeling seeing them romping in the sand would be pretty amusing.

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New Years Getaway: My boyfriend and I are looking to take a weeklong trip over the New Years holiday. We were thinking outside the US, but trying to be cost-conscious at the same time. We like history, good food, and off the beaten path. Any ideas?

Becky Krystal: The Azores?

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Hawaii Christmas trip?: My son and I are considering a Christmas trip to Hawaii - are there packages that include air/hotel/car? Not an experienced traveler here. Need some guidance. THANKS

Carol Sottili: Yes, packages are available, but always compare the price to what it would cost to purchase the components individually. Pleasant Holidays is one company that specializes in Hawaii packages. Also, Hawaii has a really good tourism site that includes info on companies offering travel deals.

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Australia: Where would one go for emergency medical treatment when traveling in Australia? What would be the cost?

Joe Yonan: You are planning on an emergency? Or have you fallen and can't get up, but are able to use your smartphone to log onto our chat? Maybe you should call out for help!

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Air flight is often frustrating: Augh! I know that problems of air travel are very infrequent, yet, I keep asking myself, why don't I personally see the statistics that are posted? I fly roundtrip about eight times a year. About a third of the time, a flight is delayed enough that I miss a connecting flight, and about a third of time, my baggage arrives late. I have never lost any luggage, and I have always eventually made my destinations, so these are never tremendous problems. Yet, I can't believe the airlines states these problems happen less than 5% of the time, when it seems about two thirds of the times I fly, I experience these problems.

Christopher Elliott:

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Travel insurance?: Hi Crew, I'm sure you get this question a lot, so I apologize in advance. Do you recommend getting travel insurance for long trips? My wife and I are planning 10 days in France and are in relatively good health (knock on wood). We are flying a US-based airline (American). Is it worth it? And if so, what kind of insurance should we get--medical, accident, evacuation, or a package? Thank you for your help.

Christopher Elliott: It depends. If it's an expensive vacation that you can't afford to lose, then I'd definitely look into insurance policies for your trip. However, as I noted in a recent column, the travel insurance industry has a tendency to oversell its products. A reputable travel agent can help you make an informed purchase. I'd consult an agent for more information.

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Minneapolis Hotel Story: I am a big baseball fan and try to see games throughout the country. Last month I traveled to Minneapolis to see the Twins play in their new park. One of the reason I chose my hotel was that it offered a "free shuttle to Target Field." Turns out that's what they meant, literally: they took you TO the park, but did not bring y ou back! And they seemed surprised that I (and other shuttle passengers) were surprised by that. I've taken numerous free hotel shuttles to various places over the years and always got returned to the hotel. But apparetly you need to check, just to be sure. Return trips were bout a $10 taxi ride, so not too bad, but still it was an irritant.

Zofia Smardz: How bizarre! Shuttles do generally operate two ways, but thanks for the heads up. So be sure to double-check with your hotel, Minneapolis travelers, when you head out for that double-header.

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Chicago or San Fran: I'm looking to do a solo trip to either of these cities before it gets too cold. I've never been to either, but have always wanted to visit. I'd like to avoid a guided tour, but explore the city on my own. Which would be best for a young woman venturing out? Thanks!

Becky Krystal: I've been to both cities fairly recently, and while I loved San Francisco, I think Chicago might be a bit more manageable based on scale. So easy to get around on the train and by foot and/or bike -- it's way flatter! Plus, Chicago will obviously get colder sooner and for longer than San Francisco. Best to get that one done first if you think you can swing both this season.

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Europe for Thanksgiving?: Good morning, travel gurus! Work takes me to Germany this month, and I can take a few extra days over Thanksgiving. Any suggestions? I like good food, art museums, historical places. I don't like sitting on a beach or partying until 2am. I was thinking maybe Italy, but I'm a single woman travelling alone.

Andrea Sachs: great idea (Florence is bellissimo, or try the Chianti region if you like wine), and you will feel comfortable traveling solo. Or how about Slovenia for the spas? And of course, Paris is none too far. As a single female, travel by day. Also, stay in a hotel that is near a busy commercial district. For example, in Paris, I love the Marais district or the Latin Quarter.

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winter getaway package: Hey Travel Team! The SO and I are looking to go somewhere warm this winter, preferably January when it seems prices will be cheaper. Are there any good flight/hotel/car packages going on right now? We'd look to stay maybe 4 days, preferably under $500 per person. Anywhere warm! (Key West, Cancun, San Diego, Miami, etc.) Thanks!

Carol Sottili: That's a really tight budget. But give it a try at a tour operator such as Apple Vacations or Vacation Express. Or find an air sale (Virgin America and JetBlue sometimes offers good sales to San Diego) and then you can work on cheap hotels (San Diego's tourism site often lists good hotel deals). P.S. May not be all that warm in San Diego in January.

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archives: I thank you for having your past stories available. I am no longer able to access the travel archives map, because my computer does not have updated software (and I cannot download new software). Is there another way to find your travel archives? could I search for "Germany" and "Travel" in the WP search box, for example?

Becky Krystal: Sorry you can't use the map -- it is rather handy. But you can get to the same stories below the map through links to the various destinations. So on the world map, for example, just scroll down and you'll see links for each country. Same for the United States. Does that make sense?Sadly, I'm pretty sure our site search isn't refined or deep enough for your suggestion to work.

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Trip to Argentina - Housing Rental : Hi. I am interested in taking a two week trip to South America next summer. I definitely plan to spend a week in Buenos Aires, Argentina and would prefer not to stay in a hotel. I want to truly experience the culture of Argentineans while visiting. What are some legitimate websites that offer apartment rentals to foreigners in major international cities?

Becky Krystal: Try VRBO.com or HomeAway. But first, maybe read Brigid Schulte's buyer beware story on vacation rentals.

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Istanbul: How's the weather in Istanbul in mid-March? Weather.com says that the average high is mid-50s, and I'm reading some comments about it being too cold to enjoy, but I will gladly trade peak crowds and prices for wearing layers!

Andrea Sachs: It's getting warm. Spring-like. Possibly windy and variable. The sun can be hot, so bring suntan lotion. Layers are the best, but don't forget this is a conservative country, so keep those shoulders covered.

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Driving South Travels between Christmas and New Years: I live in Alexandria, VA and will have a friend from England visiting me from Dec 23-Jan this coming holiday. We were thinking of driving south between Chrismas and New Years, but not sure where. Can you recommend any good places to go visit between DC and maybe Daytona, FL? Also, do you know of any towns that would have live pop/rock type music during that time? Thanks!

Carol Sottili: but it's a neat town with a pretty good rock scene (check out NashvilleRock for details).

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Trip Insurance: It's not just how healthy you or your carrier is--think of the folks who planned to be in France this week with the industrial action closing the fuel depots--so no fuel for cars, trucks, airplanes. This week's trips are not going to go as planned! Also, we had a cruise planned and the company went bankrupt. The IATA paid back the cost--our trip insurance didn't cover it! We made certain for the replacement trip that company bankrupcy was covered.

Christopher Elliott: That's a great point. I've run into situations where claims for work stoppages were not honored, so you really have to study to policy carefully before buying. But I do agree with you, travel insurance would be nice to have if you're visiting France. Even better, a travel insurance policy that covers you.

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My first pet travel experience: The very first time we took our dog to a hotel, it was in Montreal. We saw them hand write on our reservation that we had a "pet". Later, we left the dog in our room, went out to dinner, and returned to find a cot had been wheeled in the room. Our dog was fine staying by herself, but would completely accost intruders by licking them and jumping up on them relentlessly. We couldn't help but feel sorry for whomever had innocently brought in the spare bed, and wondered what had been lost in translation.

Joe Yonan: Funny. Just that type of situation is why some hotels have cards you hang on the outside doorknob that indicate a pet is alone inside, just so the housekeeping staff isn't surprised!

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Visiting Vancouver: My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Alaska next May. We are taking a cruise from Vancouver to Seattle but we want to spend a few days in Canada before we leave. Do you have any suggestions for a good, but not too pricey (ie no more than about $150 per night) hotel in Vancouver?

Andrea Sachs: B&Bs, and many fall in your budget. Check out www.bedandbreakfast.com/vancouver-british-columbia.html for some ideas. Vancouver Tourism also lists special hotel deals on its Web site.

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Europe around Christmas?: Hi Flight Crew! My husband and I are currently grad students in the UK and are looking for somewhere new and fun to go for Christmas. While I'm tempted to escape the cold and go South, I kind of like the idea of doing a real Christmas. We've explored most of Western Europe, but haven't been to East/Central Europe or Northern Europe. We're not looking for Christmasmarkets, etc, just cool cities (we're mostly city people) that will have a fun vibe - not really into partying, mostly exploring cool neighborhoods, eating good food (!) and getting to know a new country. We're considering Prague, Budapest, Vienna. Which of those (or others?) would you recommend and why?Thanks much!

Zofia Smardz: I recommend Prague, Budapest and Vienna, because they're cool cities with a fun vibe. Seriously, you would love any one of those places. They're all beautiful, hip and offer tons to see and do. And even the food is good these days! I lean toward Vienna because I once lived there, but Prague is truly gorgeous. Another thought: Berlin. It gets dressed up for Christmas, and yes, there are Christmas markets. And it's not really south. But talk about cool! Berlin's making a major comeback as a center of all that is hip and trendy. Fabulous restaurants, much more diverse than in the past.Chatters, your thoughts?

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Dallas: Hey guys - going to a wedding outside of Dallas next month and have a few hours to kill in Dallas before the ceremony. I've never been to Texas before, any must-eat or must-see places you can recommend (besides the book depository?)

Becky Krystal: Try checking out the city's art district.

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SouthWestern Odyssey : Hey Crew, I'm trying to please everyone with our next family trip, thus we'll be flying to Disneyland, then taking a short flight Phoenix, AZ to stay at the Grand Canyon South Rim for a week, and finally ending with a couple of days in Las Vegas. Does it make sense to rent a car in Phoenix for our time in the Grand Canyon and the drive to Las Vegas or are we better off taking some sort of transport (train? bus) from the Phoenix airport to the Grand Canyon and then from the Grand Canyon to Vegas? I know one way rentals with other state drop offs get pricey, but I don't know of a good way to get around that area otherwise. Any advice?

Carol Sottili: I'd just rent car - it'll be much easier than trying to figure out bus service. There used to be scheduled bus service from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon by way of Flagstaff (Nava-Hopi Tours), but I can't find a Web site for that company. Don't know of any scheduled buses from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas (other than the tours that are expensive, and operate from Las Vegas). You could take a bus from the Grand Canyon to Williams, Ariz., and then an Amtrak train to Las Vegas, but again, it's cumbersome and expensive. Driving is easiest.

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Ole's: My friend drove picked me up in Colorado on the way to her graduation in Nebraska, which meant a lot of time in the car with her new kitten, Mr. Moo. At the graduation party, about everyone there told us we simply had to eat at Ole's on the return trip. Ole, apparently, was a big game hunter, and the bar & grill that bears his name in Paxton, NE is a shrine to his prowess. Anything to break up the monotony of I-80 was fine by me. They were right, it is pretty amazing - polar bears, giraffes (from the neck up), crouching jaguars, kudu busts - a veritable palace of taxidermy. But we weren't allowed to bring a caged Mr. Moo inside with us. We asked if it would be OK if he just sat still on a shelf while we ate. They were not amused, and we got our food to go.

Joe Yonan: hunting!

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Doggie beds: I'm probably going to get torn apart by the dog lovers, but after reading the article about traveling with dogs, I would definitely avoid any hotel that allows them. The idea of sleeping on a bed that a dog slept on repels me. I don't allow my own dogs on my bed; they've been trained to stay off the beds and the couches and use their own beds and blankets. I don't see how the smell wouldn't get into the mattress itself, and most hotels don't launder the bedspreads as often as they should. Now I know to be on the alert for "no pet" hotels.

Joe Yonan: To each his own, absolutely, but it was obvious to me from my recent experience that the hotels that allow dogs are very careful about cleaning. (That's why so many of them charge extra.) Have you noticed a dog smell at previous hotels you've been to? I don't really see how such a smell is going to get through all that bedding into the mattress itself.

Becky Krystal: Also, if you like to think people are honorable in general, you can take solace in the fact that some hotels and inns specifically restrict pets from the beds. Honestly, I'd worry more about some of the people in hotels than the dogs. :) But maybe that's my pet-owner bias speaking!

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San Francisco: Actually the time for generally the warmest high temperatures in in early november for san fran and the coastal areas. I would say do San Francisco because the weather is more likely to be decent and hold Chicago for the spring. In November the weather is too dicey.

Joe Yonan: I love Chi-town, but I can't get enough of SF.

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Leaf-peeping in New Hampshire: I'm off to Lake Sunapee, NH, on Wednesday for a week of relaxation and leaf-peeping. I know the foliage will be on the way out, but having never been to the state, what are some other fun things to do in that area this time of year? Also, any restaurant recommendations for that region?

Zofia Smardz: You should still catch some good foliage, but even without it, the scenery will be beautiful. And you won't lack for things to do, if being active is your desire. There are lots of cute towns around, covered bridges! (including the Cornish-Windsor bridge, the longest two-span covered bridge in the world), historic areas and museums, state parks, and Dartmouth College. Check out this Web site for some ideas. And I'm sure the chatters will have more!

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warm lakes: Thanksgiving. Looking for suggestions to go to a lake that would be warm enough to swim in for Thanksgiving break. We missed our summer vacation and would like to make it up by going to a nice lake in the south. Maine just won't do!

Andrea Sachs: Or try an indoor water park. Great Wolf Lodges have outposts around the country, including Williamsburg.

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Amtrak: Hi - I would love to do a multi-city vacation up the east coast with the final destination being Maine (leaving out of DC.) Is this outrageously expensive to do traveling on Amtrak? Or am I better off driving?

Carol Sottili: about five hours. You can't judge when there will be traffic - one accident or construction and all bets are off. It's not that expensive to travel on Amtrak to Maine ($215 round trip to Portland, for example), but you would have to take the train to Boston, and then the bus to Maine - there is also a train to Maine, but you need to change stations in Boston.

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Pets on the road: Our dogs proved Pavlov right during a move from Maine to Louisiana. Many of the toll booths--which are numerous in New England--provided dog biscuits to canine travelling companions. By the time we hit Connecticut, every time the car started to slow down, both dogs would wake up and stand patiently at the driver's side window in the backseat to ensure that they'd get their treats.

Joe Yonan: That is a beautiful thing.

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Pet travel tale: The beach is my dog's favorite place in the world, because he gets to combine his two favorite things -- water and fetching -- with another one of his loves: writhing around in and eating the sand. Even though we live close to VA Beach, he most loves any of the beaches in the Outer Banks. It's always funny driving there, and as soon as cross the bridge and get into Kitty Hawk, he starts pacing around in the back seat, sticking his head out the windows, and whining. He won't stop until we let him out to play, even if it's only for a few minutes. It's always the funniest thing, and it's so cool how he can distinguish the smell of the OBX beaches to the VA beaches. I think he loves going to there as much, if not more, than we do!

Joe Yonan: Some pooches just can't get enough beach. Mister Red isn't QUITE one of them -- he likes to trot around in the surf, but isn't one of those dogs who makes a beeline for the water. He loves running pretty much anywhere, though.

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pet travel: I was so happy to see your recent articles about traveling with pets. I hope you will do more! Is there any way to gauge how pet friendly a hotel REALLY is? I look at websites like gopetfriendly and bringfido but the information is not always accurate and there doesn't seem to be any way of knowing how pet friendly a place really is without reading a first-hand account like the ones in your article. Thanks!

Becky Krystal: Good question. Really, the best thing you can do is contact the place you're interested in staying. Definitely check out the Web site, as places that are proud of being pet-friendly will likely say so. Also give them a call. I got great vibes about how welcome my dogs would be just by chatting with staff at the Savage River Lodge and Inn at Meander Plantation.

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European travel: My wife and I just got back from Istanbul, had a lovely time though it was a little wet. I was though once agian struck by how bad US airlines are next to the European ones. We flew Turkish Airlines, Luftansa, and United. The food was quite good on Turkish Airlines and Luftansa, in economy, plus the booze was free. While on United we had to pay for booze adn the food was only so so. This really has once agian reminded me if you can't get upgrades flighing internationally on a domestic career you are better off on one of the foreign ones. It is just a sad state for US airlines.

Christopher Elliott: It's a shame, because American carriers used to set the standards in customer service. As an industry, they now score lower than the IRS, when it comes to customer satisfaction. Maybe I need to write a column about this.

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Best value out of round trip ticket: I bumped myself to get a free round trip ticket on AirTran. They fly direct to Cancun, Montego Bay and San Juan from Baltimore. I'm thinking of going to one of these spots in January or Febuary. Which do you think will get me my most bang for my buck? I'd like to do a long weekend for under $500.

Carol Sottili: all-inclusives in San Juan, so unless eating/drinking aren't a high priority, it'll cost more.

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Dog lover, DC: I enjoyed the articles about travel with pets, especially about Pet Airways, which I would try if I need to fly my dog somewhere. I travelled with my dog several times in-cabin on United several years ago. On the return leg from LA, they made me buy a kennel and ship him in cargo, with no preparation. United in Dulles had let me take him in the cabin in his sherpa. United LA said he couldn't stand in it. I pleaded with them to let me take him home in-cabin but they wouldn't budge. Had to buy the kennel right there.As far as pet friendly hotels, althought I didn't have my dog with me, I loved that the Hotel Monaco that I was staying at allowed dogs at the happy hour in the lobby. Got to get in a few doggy moments on a business trip even though my dog was at home.

Joe Yonan: your dog handle the cargo time OK?

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dog friendly Rehoboth Beach: Does anyone have any suggestions for a dog-friendly hotel near Rehoboth? Thanks!

Becky Krystal: Bewitched, which Andrea did a Bed Check on a few months ago, allows pets up to 4o pounds. Its sister property, BEDazzled, bumps it up to 7o pounds.

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Italy: I am headed to Florence and Rome at the end of December. If you had time for one day trip while in Italy, where would you go?

Andrea Sachs: Another idea: Pompeii.

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Pets and travel: Loved your section on travelling with your pets. We seek out places that allow us to bring our dog, and we seek out chains that allow them, like Red Roof Inns and Westin Hotels. Because our dog has a fear of fireworks, we've found that the best place for us on Independence Day is at the Westin Annapolis, where the rooms are well soundproofed from the fireworks around town. And Annapolis is fantastically dog-friendly.

Joe Yonan: I have heard this about Annapolis; Red and I have it on our list.

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Short foreign excursion?: Every year since college, I've scraped together the money and vacation days for an annual trip to a new country. The destination didn't matter as much as the act of doing it -- seeing new cultures, eating new food, adding a new pushpin on the map. When my husband and I got married a few years ago, it became a shared tradition.Now, for the first time in eight years, it looks like we might not squeeze it in -- 2010 has been packed with family obligations and friend weddings that have taken up most of our vacation time. I'd be really disappointed to miss out entirely, so we're trying to find a destination that can be accessed over a long weekend, say four days, in November or December.Here are the countries we've been to so far: Canada, Mexico, Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Jamaica and the Netherlands.The only rule is that it be a new country, not just a new city (I know, I know -- seeing Toronto and Vancouver is not the same as seeing Montreal, but those are the rules. Brand new country.)Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Joe Yonan: If I were working with your list, I would head to Italy or Spain.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: Thank you for taking my question. We will be traveling to London for a wedding in March 2011 and would like to add a few days to travel to Edinburgh. Right now we are thinking of flying in and out of London, renting a car and driving up to Edinburgh (with a day-long stop in Oxford). Does this itinerary make sense? We would love to see the Scottish countryside but I'm thinking that because it's March it will be too cold to do much outdoors (like hiking) and we will only have 2-3 days in Scotland, total. Is there enough to do in Edinburgh to fill that time, or a day trip from Edinburgh that makes sense in late March?

Becky Krystal: I don't know why it sticks out in my mind, but I particularly remember an episode of "Rick Steves' Europe" that really sold me on having to visit Edinburgh some day. You can find his itinerary (and the show transcript!) here.You can also browse our Scotland page for ideas.

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Tuscany: Hi Travel Crew, I am leaving next month for a too short 2 week trip to Italy (I think you need 2 months to really explore!). We are spending 4 days in Florence and I would like to take one of those days to visit a neighboring town in Tuscany. So far the options are Sienna, Pisa and Bologna. It would be a day trip and we would be taking the train or bus. Which would you recommend for a couple that likes art, history, and walking/exploring?Thanks!

Zofia Smardz: I'm partial to beautiful Siena. Gorgeous cathedral, terrific art, dripping with medieval history and architecture, and you can walk anywhere. What do you think, chatters?

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Driving with Pickwick: I spent my childhood driving from Northern Virginia to Ottawa to visit friends and relatives (my mother was Canadian and my parents owned a farm in Quebec). Our English Cocker, Pickwick, loved to climb up onto the backboard (that shelf behind the back seat), stretch out, and snooze in the sun. We always got a lot of amused looks from our fellow drivers.

Joe Yonan: I bet!

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French Strikes -- Gah!: So is my United flight going to go to Paris on Wednesday? The news this weekend is that they have enough fuel at CDG to last till tomorrow. Once I'm there, the French are welcome to disrupt air traffic, I'll make the sacrifice and stay longer if I must, I just want to get there!

Carol Sottili: My crystal ball says you may be in trouble. The French government has asked airlines to voluntarily cut flights. I'd keep checking with United and hope for the best.

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Dog-friendly near Rehoboth:: The Fenwick Inn on Fenwick Island, while not exactly in Rehoboth, allows pets (you're restricted to the seventh floor, if I remember correctly).

Joe Yonan: Thanks!

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Universal: Going to Florida next month, want to drop two teenagers off for a day at Harry Potter World while we head for Kennedy Space Center. While everyone else in the family thinks this is a good idea, I'm a little hesitant...whta do you think??

Andrea Sachs: It all depends on how responsible they are, and if they handle crowds well. If you have left them wander a mall at Christmas alone, then they should be fine. Just be sure you have charged phones. However, I do think the best compromise is that you all go to the space center and then to Harry Potter. Both are wonderful worlds.

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RE: SW Odyssey: First off I would tell them to just fly in and out of LA or Vegas and rent a car and drive a loop trip.The time it take you to travel from LA to phx and then drive to the gran canyon is longer than it would be for you to just drive.There is transportation you could take from the South Rim to Vegas but because its one way it will be expensive.There is more of a shuttle system between LA and Vegas that you could take where you go to disney and then drive a rental to GC and return and then take a bus to Vegas and fly home from there.

Carol Sottili: More ideas for our LA/Phoenix/Grand Canyon/Vegas traveler.

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Pet travel: We took our puppy on Independence Air less than three weeks after we adopted him--we'd already made travel plans before we got him and figured it was worth a try, especially since that dear departed airline only charged $25 for in-cabin pets at the time. Our flight was delayed by not one, but two hurricane systems. The little guy spent his first airport experience having his soft-sided carrier poked by a number of restless children in the terminal.On another note, we had to take the dog out of the carrier, remove his leash and collar, and carry him through the metal detector. I was a little nervous about taking off the leash and collar--he was little and squirmy; what if he'd gotten away?--but the TSA agent said that was better than one woman who tried to convince them to let her put the cat carrier through the x-ray machine with the cat in it, because "he liked it." How did she know? Did the cat tell her?

Joe Yonan: Oh, boy.

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Christmas in London: We have the opportunity to travel to London over the Christmas Holiday. We will be staying in a London hotel. I am concerned, however, that all of the major attractions, as well as restaurants, will be closed on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Any recommendations as to what we can do over those two days would be appreciated.

Zofia Smardz: Have a look at this Web site about Christmas in London. Some ideas, at least. (I especially like the Crisis at Christmas idea.) And there are a few more here. Beyond that, we must consult the chatters!

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French strikes: Hi, I'm traveling to Paris on Thursday for an urgent business meeting, so I can't postpone it. Any advice on how to deal with the strike situation? Thanks!

Zofia Smardz: I don't, but maybe the chatters do?

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French flights: My brother and his son are scheduled to fly next Tuesday from France to Florida for our parents' 60th wedding anniversary. Should we worried about the possibility of a strike that would prevent them from leaving? That would truly be a disaster, given the amount of the planning we've done and the fact that it's a 60th wedding anniversary!

Carol Sottili: Difficult to figure out now what the situation will be by next Tuesday. Pay close attention, and if the situation further deteriorates, try to figure out if there's another route they can take. Maybe a train to a city in adjacent country. But, should their flight from France not be canceled, and your relatives have made the decision to be safe rather than sorry, it could wind up costing them a fortune to buy last-minute tickets. In other words, the airline has to go along with the flight change in order for it to be affordable. And it won't do that unless the flight is canceled.

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Pets on planes: I don't really feel bad for someone who's pet can't fly in the cabin. I love animals, I really do, despite being allergic to most of them. But, my health trumps your pet's ability to fly comfortably. Every time. Sorry.

Joe Yonan: So sorry that you're allergic! Have you had reactions on planes? (How close do you need to be for it to affect you?) I'm imagining that you could inquire with the airline in advance and make sure you're not near anybody with a pet, especially since they limit the number allowed in the cabin.

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Dog travel in the DC area: Hi, I write a blog for DC-area dog owners: http://twodogtales.wordpress.com, where I write about dog-friendly events, news and day trips. One of my biggest frustrations is the lack of dog-friendly facilities at the interstate rest stops, especially in the summer where you can't leave the dogs in the car for even a nanosecond to take a break yourself. Do you know of any rest facilities on the East Coast that are dog-friendly? Thanks so much for devoting just about the entire front page of the travel section to pets!

Joe Yonan: Interesting question -- I can't recall any specifically dog-friendly rest areas, although I seem to be able to find some patch of green, however small, at most of the ones I've taken Red to. Wouldn't it be great if some had dog runs?

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Doggie hotels: Thanks for the article on traveling with dogs. I wanted to add La Quinta to the chains of dog friendly hotels. We've never had a problem.

Joe Yonan: Yes, I've heard about this -- Thanks!

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Re: Tuscany: I'd go for Siena. It's a beautiful city and well worth seeing.

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re: Edinburgh, Scotland: Gas is VERY expensive in the UK and road construction and ice can both be an issue in March; you might be better off enjoying the train instead of driving.

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For the one new country a year couple: How would Aruba sound? Beautiful weather, easy flight, and with everything you've done this year you could use a few relaxing days!

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Short foreign trip: How about the Bahamas or somewhere else in the Caribbean? Shorter flights mean you can do more with your time there. Might even be able to visit a few different countries if you don't mind spending only a day or so in each place.

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Short Foreign Excursion: It sounds like a short getaway to Iceland would be great. If you had more time I would suggest Estonia or Croatia.

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Egypt in November: I'm going to Egypt next month and I'm wondering what the weather will really be like. I've read a ton of info on travel sites but it all seems pretty vague and it's making packing difficult. I'm assuming I should plan to layer and that I should expect temps in the 70s but I'm curious if anyone has been there and can offer insight. Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: It all depends on where you are going in the country. Cairo will be warm, with cool nights. As you go further south down the Nile, the temperatures grow warmer. So, yes, bring layers, preferably cottons and light wools. But in general, the sun is very hot.

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Pet On Vacation: I took my puppy to Montreal with me this past summer and we had a great time. I had so many people come up to me and ask directions. I was obviously not able to give them directions since I had just arrived. I was glad to learn that the puppy made me look like a local and not a tourist.

Joe Yonan: That's great! I love looking like a local no matter where I am; it's a point of pride.

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Pets on planes: Allergic enough that I can tell a person has a cat, even if the cat is nowhere around. I once had the misfortune of sitting next to a dog, the same dog, to and from a destination on three hour flight...talk about fun! Next time I'll be sure to inquire.

Joe Yonan: Absolutely; I hope that helps in the future. Does medication help at all, or are your allergies beyond that?

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Pets on the road: I traveled with a friend upstate so she could take the LSAT (all of the seats were taken in NYC locations). After we checked in to the EconoLodge, we wanted to take a dry run of driving over to the testing location and finding the room, so she wouldn't be late the next morning. When we got to the parking lot, I noticed that the car next to ours had a huge cage in the backseat with two beautiful Siamese cats in it. I yelled to my friend that there were beautiful cats in the next car, and I stood there admiring the kitties and talking to and meowing at them. It was only then that I realized the front windows were down, and there was a woman sitting in the passenger seat! Boy was I embarrassed! I guess she was used to it, or perhaps she appreciated that I thought her kitties were so beautiful. In any case, she was very gracious, and we talked for a minute about traveling with the cats.

Joe Yonan: Love it!

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Pittsburgh: Am accompanying spouse who's attending a weekend conference in Manassas, VA. next month. Will have a few free hours each on Saturday morning and afternoon. Is the Civil War battlefield open to tourists, and if so, can one tour it adequately in 2-3 hours? What else is worth seeing in Manassas in mid-November, of historical or cultural interest?

Zofia Smardz: Of course the battlefield is open to tourists! It's one of the biggest and if you're even mildly interested in the Civil War, not to be missed. Two-three hours is enough time to do it justice, though you may want to come back sometime in the future.

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New Years in the Carribean: Looking for somewhere to go 12/27-1/4 that's not going to be an exorbitantly priced or too crowded with tourists. We've eliminated Puerto Rico, but that still leaves a lot of islands and a ton of airports.

Andrea Sachs: That is a toughie, because New Year's is high season, meaning more tourists and higher prices. Here are some suggestions, though you might have to hunt around for sales: Belize, Panama, Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. And though you opted out of PR, how about Vieques or Culebra, or both!!?!?

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Portugal: Hi--Looking to go to Portugal next summer to celebrate a "big" birthday--any examples of good itineraries out that that will take us to both the beach and towns? We'll have just a week. Thanks!

Becky Krystal: Check out Frommer's Portugal-in-a-week itinerary.

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For the cancun airtran traveler: Don't forget you can also drive down to Tulum from Cancun, and the little eco-hotels down there can be quite inexpensive if you don't require total luxury. I went for a long weekend last winter and it was perfect -- I can recommend Nueva Vida de Ramiro -- http://tulumnv.com -- but there are many others. Also, try to get to the airport early. If there are 1st class seats available, AirTran lets you upgrade for $99, which includes drinks and your checked bag fee. Well worth it!

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St. Andrews: St. Andrews is a wonderful day trip from Edinburgh. A small university town with great history, etc, and a fairly nice micro-climate that should still be ok in March. Also, there is an excellent restaurant (The Peat Inn) nearby, which is accessible by car and has killer lunch deals.

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If the poster goes to Chicago...: ...the one thing I would definitely recommend is taking the architectural tour conducted by boat on the Chicago River. You learn so much about how the city came to be what it is. For example, in the late 19th Century, politicians wanted to sell the lakefront property to developers, despite the fact that it was forbidden by the city charter. It would have gone through except for Montgomery Ward, who fought it with all the wealth gained from his stores and catalog. The stores are gone, but the lakefront is still open to the public and gorgeous, thanks to him.

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Dog-friendly hotels: The Drury Inn chain is also dog-friendly. A few years ago I stayed at one in the St. Louis suburbs with hundreds of dogs (and their humans) who were in town for a dog show.

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Santa Barbara!: My husband and I are going to Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley (wine tasting) next week for a few days. Do you have any suggestions for things to do in Santa Barbara besides visits to the Court House and and Mission?

Carol Sottili: Walking the beautiful beach there is one of my favorites. The Museum of Art is highly regarded. And, if you're into plants, the Botanical Garden is nice.

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Wizarding World: For the parent trying to decide whether or not to drop of the teens at Wizarding World: I visited the park for opening weekend, and was surprised at how small and self-contained it was. It's tucked away from the rest of the theme park, and probably could fit inside a mall (Well, maybe the Mall of America). In any case, if your teens are responsible and you instruct them to stay within the Wizarding World, they should be fine. Plus, lots of helpful park employees -- not to mention moms with their own kids -- abound.

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Maui: I've got a morning to kill in Maui. Single woman, staying in Wailuku, won't have a rental car but I'm not afraid of figuring out the public bus system. I'm doing a hike to the Iao Needle park the day before. Any recommendations?

Andrea Sachs: There is also a pretty park where you can chill out and look for whales.If you don't mind hiking twice in two days, check out Haleakala National Park. Your resort might have transportation options.

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Trip insurance: This fall, my father had scheduled an Elderhostel trip to Mexico (Copper Canyon and a pottery place), but ended up with some heart problems and his cardiologist nixed the trip. (Not a lot of cardiologists in the Copper Canyon region.) Luckily, dad had taken out travel insurance (mostly because he thought the trip might get canceled because of the political situation in Mexico). That, plus a letter from his doctor, helped him recoup the cost of the trip. So when considering trip insurance, consider your health and where you're going--do sort of a mini risk assessment.

Carol Sottili: And read the fine print before you purchase! Make sure that it covers pre-existing conditions.

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Scotland in March: I've been to Scotland the first week of March. It was milder than DC normally is at that time (although that year, it was 80 in DC the day I left...), at least along the northeastern coast (between Aberdeen and Inverness). The northwestern mountains were snow-covered, but the Grampians were mostly green. (From Culloden Moor, they're both visible--it's like viewing the Rockies and the Appalachians from the same place.) About the same amount of daylight, too. Just be sure to bring wind gear--something with a hood--in case of a gale. But their weather doesn't usually last as long as ours; it blows in and out over night.

Becky Krystal: Seems like a trip to Scotland should include at least one gale, no?

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1.449 - 1.469. And that's per liter, not gallon (about 3.97 liters per gallon).

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More on Edinburgh: I went to London & Edinburgh in August, so I can't speak to the March weather, but there is definitely enough to do in Edinburgh to fill a day or two. I took the train, rather than drive, and it was a lovely journey (London-Oxford by train is also a snap). Glasgow is probably also worth a day trip (lots of trains daily between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it is about a 50 minute journey). Edinburgh is unbelieveably compact and you don't need a car there. I do think that the daylight hours will be VERY short in March, however. There are some tour companies(Rabbie's was one I've looked at, but not yet used) that have a variety of single or multi- day trips out of Edinburgh into the countryside.

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Joe Yonan: Thanks, all, for your great q's today; hope our a's helped! The prize today goes to the chatter who wrote about taking a pooch in-cabin one way but having to put the dog in cargo on the way back. You'll get a Brugo travel mug: not pet related, but very cool. Just send your mailing info to travel@washpost.com to claim you prize, and we'll get it to you!Until next time, happy travels!


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