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Talk About Travel
Hosted by the Flight Crew
Monday, April 1, 2002; 2 p.m. EST

While some things have returned to normal, there remains great uncertainty in the travel industry.

Whether you have logistical questions, general observations, or first-hand travel stories to share, the staff of the Travel section invites you to submit your questions and comments in this forum.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

The Flight Crew: Hey there fellow travelers! We’re almost a full crew today, after being scattered to the winds in recent weeks. Only Cindy Loose is away this week, testing the early spring of Iceland. Otherwise John Deiner is back from Turkey, Gary Lee is in from Lower Manhattan, Andrea Sachs from her tour of QVC studios in Pennsylvania, K.C. Summers with a review of Mamma Mia—which will be no doubt by playing in a city near you—Carol Sotilli with skis still wet from Keystone, Colorado and me—Steve Hendrix, your chat commander for the day—back from Istanbul last week and Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Pa., last weekend.

With beach rental season nearly upon us, we call on you here—as we did in yesterday’s Travel section—to your favorite beach…and defend your choice. The two most useful suggestions will win a) a roll up grass tanning mat and b) a Barney beach video and pair of Mickey Mouse ears.

Here we go….

Dear Travel People: Just to let you know, I called that Swiss airline number you gave out yesterday for the free companion tickets if you charge on MasterCard. First of all, it didn't work, so I used the number I found on their website. When I called that, I was told the offer didn't go into effect until October.

Thought you'd like to know.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the note: We've gotten lots of response to that booboo. The correct number is 800-221-4750. Also, I just called the airline and was told you can book that deal right now. The Web address is www.swiss.com.

New Orleans, La.: Not a question, just a comment. Just returned from Hawaii and had a wonderful experience on the Big Island. Rented a boat for a half day from Kona Boat Charters and had a wonderful, private day going up and down the Kona-Kailua coast. Very reasonable rates, easy boats to operate and the opportunity to do some great snorkeling and dolphin watching offshore in relative privacy. I highly recommend that those travelling to the Big Island consider this. The marina is just South of the Kona-Kailua airport about seven miles from "downtown" Kona.

The Flight Crew: New Orleans: thanks for the tip, says Gary Lee. Having just been in Hawaii, I appreciate yours as a novel way of seeing the sites there.

Silver Spring, Md.: My folks live in Philly and are interested in flying on National Airlines to Las Vegas? Is this airlines run by a casino? What's the skinny on them with regards to customer satisfaction and/or complaints? Thanks.

P.S. This is my first time submitting a question and I have always wanted to give you my personal traveling tips. #1 Use small spice jars and bottles to fill with toiletries such as lotion, powder, mouthwash, toothpaste, etc., becuase they are more compact than trial sizes of the same items, less costly and can be reused/recycled. #2 When staying in states with water conservation rules (like when I recently stayed at the Hotel Blue in Albuquerque, N.M.) in place for even toilets with bowls that barely have any water in them for flushing water, waste, etc., mix the hotel room complementary trail sizes of shampoo and or conditioner with water in the courtesy cups and poor about 8-16 ounces of the mixture into the toilet. Presto! Instant toilet bowl cleaner when no air freshiner is around!

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I believe National Airlines was founded by one of the America West owners - don't think it has any relation to the casinos, although it is based in Las Vegas. I haven't flown them, but hear the experience is good. Any readers out there have first-hand knowledge??

Maryland: I'm female, mid-30s, experienced solo traveler. However, I'm considering vacationing in either central Europe, or Spain-Portugal-Morocco, and I'd rather go with a group. My concern about organized tours is that the crowd tends to be more my parents' contemporaries. I also don't want to see the sights from a bus on an if-it's-Tuesday-this-must-be-Belgium kind of itinerary. Can anyone recommend a tour operator (or some other alternative) that would be appropriate?

The Flight Crew: Hi, Md.

Just returned from a group tour of western Turkey and had some of the same concerns you shared. Turns out my Pacha Tours group was small (only 5 others) and decidedly older than myself--I was the youngest by 15 years. That said, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I found the folks energetic and endlessly fascinating. Lots of hugs and email exchanging by the end of the tour.

If you decide on a group, you should do your research. My 7-day tour concentrated on relatively few things, so we never felt rushed and we always knew where we are. Make sure the itinerary you pick doesn't look too crowded with activities, because it'll probably be even worse once you start the trip. Some packagers, like mine, prefer to concentrate on the historical/archaeological aspects of things, which by nature takes a bit longer to explore.

Anyone out there have other ideas? Or good packagers to consider?


Washington, D.C.: Any ideas for a resort/spa that accepts dogs? Something on the lines of Coolfont in West Virginia? -- a place with walking/hiking trails, where you can get a massage or scruband about three or four hours of D.C.


The Flight Crew: Well, DC we went to an expert on this. Style reporter Don Oldenburg has done the heavy research on traveling and day tripping with pets in this area(for two books on the subject). He hasn't come across any resorts that allow dogs. "I don't think they like to get hair in the whirlpool," he says, that wag.

Maybe dog owning clicksters know better. Clicksters?

Ugent question in DC... pick me!! pls, pick me!!: OK. Got 4 connecting flights in one day... from Santorini to Athens to London to NYC. First 2 on Olympic, second 2 on BA.

Can I check my luggage all the way through?? If so, what are the odds of seeing it again?!

Also, any experiences on using Expedia for rental cars in London? Seem to recall some bad reports, but not sure...

Thanks so much, any helpf would be really useful.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Olympic will take care of first two flights and British Air the second two flights, but you may have to schlep the bags from Olympic to British Air. Did you book these flights yourself? I don't believe the two airlines have any type of operating agreement. Call and ask before you go. As for Expedia and cars in London, price it, but try other sources - go to the March 10 edition of our own travel section for an article about renting cars in Europe.

Camping: Hello,

I want to take a camping trip through New England this summer. Is there anyplace I can find camping/park info that deals with New England as a whole, and not individual states? Thanks.

The Flight Crew: A good place to start is www.visitnewengland.com or www.gonewengland.org, which offers links to all sorts of New Englandy outdoor activities, including hiking and camping. From there, you can home in on your ideal vacation. Another good one is www.outdoornewengland.com, with links to hiking and camping. For books, check Foghorn Outdoors's New England camping series as well as Woodall's guides. For assocations, try AAA and Applachain Trail Conference. Hope that puts you on the right path. --Andrea

Alexandria, Va.: Swissair offer. You can book seats now. I called and got a quote for 2 RT tickets to Athens in August. The problem is that seats are (were) very limited, I had a hard time getting within 2-3 days of my preferred dates, and when they quoted the fare ($1916 for two), it was the same as their cheapest fare on orbitz (on the days I preferred to travel). So check the current fares before booking, the 2 for 1 deal may not be that great.

The Flight Crew: Good to know, Al. Thanks--as we like to remind folks, it's always best to look around before pouncing on a deal that may not be such a deal.

Fairfax, Va.: As a native Miamian, I can tell you that the beaches here suck. The best beach in inland Florida would be Destin. Torquoise agua, not too packed with people, and CLEAN. But the BEST beach I have ever been to are the beaches at Dry Tortugas National Park. They are immaculate, the water is this amazing blue/green and the only way humans can get there is by way of a 70-mile ferry ride. Have I mentioned that it is the quietest place on earth?

Go there.

The Flight Crew: Now that sounds like a tip. Thanks, Fairfax.

Charter flights?: I'm considering booking an air/car deal from Oakland to Honolulu through SunTrips, which is flying a charterd flight on Ryan International Airlines on the dates I need to go. Any advice you could give on the pros/cons of flying on a chartered flight?

Thanks so much, you guys do a great job each week.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Ryan has a good reputation for its charter flights. Pros - cheaper. Cons - if the plane breaks down, there's not another one to take its place, and if you miss the flight, you're out of luck.

Please answer this!: It seems like every week you answer someone else's San Francisco question! So now I'm begging. Please!

I'm flying to LAX in late May to spend a week with a friend. While there, we will fly to San Francisco (Oakland, actually) to spend two days/one night. I am looking for a recommendation for a B&B or inn that is located in San Francisco, Sausalito, or Mill Valley (day two will consist of waking up bright and early to go to Muir Woods). $130 or less is my price range.

I have done some preliminary research on the Internet but would really prefer to get a recommendation from someone who stayed someplace they thought was great.

Thank you!

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee, who writes about lodging for the section, says I like the Petite Auberge, modelled on an English country cottage. It's in downtown San Franccisco but you wouldn't know it from the pretty large rooms and quiet mood.

Any other clicksters have favorite lodging places in the Bay area?

Severna Park, Md.: My family is spending ten days in Italy this June. Can you recommend two other winning sites for my wife and three teens to take in, in addition to Florence, Rome, and Venice? We're thinking Cinqueterre and Pompeii, but your aces may have another nugget or two. Thanks.

The Flight Crew: KC here. Have you considered the hill towns of Tuscany, such as San Gimignano, with its incredible views, cathedral and architecture, which we wrote about in yesterday's print edition? Or Lucca with its medieval and romanesque architecture, which we wrote about in our Europe villa issue on March 10? Anyone else have recommendations for SP?

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Hello Crew,

My mother is visiting from overseas. Unfortunately, I have no vacation time left, so she is on her own during the day. I have directed her to the Capitol, Library of Congress, the Mall, cherry blossoms, walk around Georgetown, and the zoo. Do you have any favorite places, which would be suitable for a person who speaks only little English and does not drive?

Thanks much.

The Flight Crew: If it were my mom, I would send her to the musuems, says Gary Lee, particularly the Phillips Collection or the National Gallery. They have some of the best art in the world and need no language skills to tour.

Arlington, Va.: I am about to purchase airline tickets for an overseas trip and have a question - I recently got married and my passport is still in my maiden name. My driver's license, however, is in my married name. I have one credit card with my old name, and one with my new name.

What name should I tell the airline to put on my ticket? My instinct says use the name on my passport, but I wanted to double check.

The Flight Crew: Arl, go with the Passport name. You will absolutely be required to show your passport (and if you have that it's probably the only one you'll show).

Somewhere, USA: Okay, how early do you REALLY need to be at the airport these days? I have a flight from Dulles to LAX (connecting to Kauai), which leaves at 9:15 on a Monday morning. If I'm at the airport by 7ish, is that early enough? Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Greetings, Somewhere. Sooooo hard to tell when you should be at the airport these days, but seems to us that you're giving yourself more than enough time if you're there 7ish. Plus you'll miss the rush hour traffic.

12th Floor Metro Center: I just got the happy news that I'm being sent to Des Moines, Iowa next month on business. Oh joy. I'll be there for a week. Is there anything to do in Iowa?

The Flight Crew: KC here, opening up the floodgates. I'll just say that any state that hosts the country's premier writers' workshop can't be all bad. Then there's the Pella window factory. (Isn't that in Iowa?)

But don't listen to ME -- here's what the Iowa tourism office has to say: "Iowa sightseeing ranges from historic frontier forts to culturally rich cities, from authentic American farms to Old World charm in places such as Pella and the Amana Colonies to world-famous movie sites, including Field of Dreams and The Bridges of Madison County."

www.traveliowa.com will tell you more.

Simple question: Is there archive page for the CoGo column? I often want to check past columns and have a hard time finding them.
Also, have you thought about making the archives of this discussion searchable...

Finally, my favorite beach has got to be Wrightsville Beach, NC (the locals will hate me for suggesting it-- sorry). It's a beautiful island with lots of home-grown, local stuff to make it fun for the older ones and the little ones, and loads of night life for those of us in between. The beach is relatively quiet (compared to up North) and you can take a boat to Masonboro if it gets too crowded for you. Just up the road is Wilmington, a great little city with culture, history and Dawson's Creek. Something for everyone!

washingtonpost.com: here's the link for the CoGo archive page. It's found on the left hand side of the Travel section front, under "Columns."

The Flight Crew: Thanks, .com.

Chevy Chase, Md.: Steve--I'm glad to see you've just come back from Turkey--hope to see some good reports in the Sunday section soon. My Proglem: I've booked a tour to Turkey with a a side trip on a gulet. The side trip requires a flight from Istanbul to Antalya, but the tour group says only that we are waitlisted for a seat on Turkish Air for the internal flight. Should I go ahead and let the tour group be responsbile for my flight (they offer no reassurance that seats will become available) or should I book my own seats through a discounter or other travel agent? The tour group has changed the flight # and time of departure once already and I would like to know my plans are set. It's not an option to change my travel dates. Thanks.

The Flight Crew: I'd be patient, CC. I flew Turkish air three domestically times while I was there, and each time the flight was nominally booked and I was stand-by, and each time the ticket agent booked me right on. A local person told that was common, that flights are commonly completely booked and no-shows are rampant and expected. Let the tour group work it out, and even if there is a problem you should have no trouble gettting a last minute flight from Istan. to Antalya. It will cost you about $85. Turkey, by the way, is fabulous. John Deiner and I both agree.

Washington, D.C.: Crew:

I have to go to a wedding in Iowa/illinois border in August. The game plan is to fly into O'Hare and rent a car. I have seen fares for $210 -- should I buy or do you think the fares will go lower?


The Flight Crew: Sottili here: O'Hare is more expensive than Midway because Southwest flies to Midway. The Southwest fare often goes as low as $150, but $210 to O'Hare sounds good, especially if its out of Dulles or Reagan National (BWI is cheaper).

Washington, D.C.: Hello All:

A question about passports - for a package I have booked, there was a note saying that passports must be valid for six months or more to travel (i.e. You cant travel on a trip in April if your passport is set to expire in June). Is this correct? I have looked on the State Dept. site for any mention of this and cant see anything. I always assumed it is good for 10 years until the date it expires, after all, your driver's liscense is still good on December 31 if it expires on January 1st!

The Flight Crew: Some countries require that cushion of time (but it is from their end, not ours or the State Department's) or it might be a policy unique to that outfitter. Ask them again for specifics and the reasoning. Perhaps they are concerned that if something happens and forces them to lengthen the trip, they don't want any of the travelers to get stuck abroad with an expired passport--thus making a hasty retreat home difficult. A valid concern--and perhaps it would be a good rule of thumb for all of us to follow.--Andrea

Traveling with one's dog: I beleive the Inn at Perry Cabin allows dogs. Also, the Tides Inn used to, before they changed management, have a block of rooms for guests with dogs.It's wonderful to be able to bring one's furry friend along on a vacation.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, TWOD.

The Flight Crew: KC here, interrupting this chat with a followup to the question on Netherlands convent accommodations raised by a reader last week.

Reader Martin Rudy reports that he and his family stayed in a monastery in Rolduc, the Netherlands (maybe 2 minutes from the German border). "Big with traveling college teams in the summertime," he says, "but we were quite comfortable there with our 3 kids in August. Here's a link to some extra info from a group that was holding a conference there - http://www.esf.org/esf_venue.php?site=175. They have a website, www.rolduc.com, but it was down when I checked today. E-mail: s.buth@rolduc.com , or by phone at (31) 45 546 6888. Easy to make reservations in English on the phone- we only called about 2 days in advance."

And the wonderful Brigitta of the Holland Tourist Office sent us this list of convents offering lodging. It's important to reserve in advance. Note that when phoning Holland, you dial 011-31-city code without the "0". So, for the first number listed below, you'd dial 011-31-346-562146.

The list:

- Priorij Emmaus, Diependaalsedijk 17, 3601 GH Maarssen,
tel. 0346 562146, fax 0346 553642

- St. Benedictusabdij Achelse Kluis, Abdijweg 50, 5556 VE
Valkenswaard, tel. 040 2069955, fax 040 2069783, e-mail:

- Abdij Onze Lieve Vrouw van Koningshoeven, Eindhovenseweg 3,
5056 RP Berkel-Enschot, tel. 013 5408508, fax 013 5443678

- Abdij Onze Lieve Vrouw ter Duinen, O.L. Vrouw ter duinenlaan 199,
4641 RM Ossendrecht, tel. 0164 672546, fax 0164 674420

- Abdijhuis, Abdijstraat 49, 5473 AD Heeswijk
tel. 0413 293145, fax 0413 293747, e-mail: info@abdijhuis.nl

Arlington, Va.: Here's the deal: I've snagged two hotel reservations for Spolito in Charleston and I can't decide between them. The Embassy Suites Historic at $179 per night and the Rennaissance (Marriott property) downtown at $99 per night. Like the idea of suite room because we're hauling our 7-month-old baby with us. Also REALLY LIKE the idea of saving $$$. Any thoughts on how to choose? BTW: LOVE this forum (not just sucking up).

The Flight Crew: Arlington: Gary Lee, who writes about lodging for the travel section has a thought: if it weren't for the little one, I would say save the $$$ and stay at the Renaissance. However, with a child I think you'll be glad for the extra space and the nice kitchen area that comes with the Embassy suite. My tip would be to bite that particular bullet.

Best Beach: I vote for Dubrovnik Croatia because of the steel blue water, the charming walled city, the local restaurants with excellent seafood, the accomodating and friendly people, and the absence of tourist traps. Of course, it takes some effort to get there, but it is definitely worth it!

The Flight Crew: Ho hum, another vote for Croatia. That's just toooooo common. Thanks, best.

Washington, D.C.: Hey guys-

Is it true that French ATM's limit withdrawals to your checking account?

The Flight Crew: Not in my (KC) experience -- I've used ATMs in France to make withdrawals from my regular credit cards as well as my bank card. Is that what you mean?

Sterling, Va.: My favorite beach: Corporation Beach or Mayflower, East Dennis, MA. Actually, most beaches on the bay side. I love Cape Cod but the Bay Side of the has the best beaches. It's nice and clean and the best part about it is the tides. When the tide goes out, you can walk for about a mile on the sandbars to reach the water. People pack the sandbars instead of the beaches during the daytime low tides. It's beautiful. Plus the sunsets are absolutely gorgeous.

The Flight Crew: A vote for the Cape, but Bay Side. Good.

Washington, D.C.: My boyfriend and I want to use our frequent flyer miles to go somewhere in South America. We want to go sometime this year, and we both speak a little bit of Spanish. Other than that, we're completely open. Where would you guys suggest?

The Flight Crew: Gosh, if Argentina weren't such a mess, I'd vote for Buenos Aires. Same for Peru. Brazil is on many travelers' list of favorites. I am partial to Chile and Patagonia though. So fond, I wish I could go again. If I asked my parents, they would vote for Ecuador and the Galapogas Islands. Does that help any?--Andrea

Re: Capitol Hill's Mom: Call ahead to sites around the area. Many have multi-lingual tour guides on staff, and can arrange to have someone there they day she visits.

The Flight Crew: Good idea, says Gary. Also, you might give a ring to the embassy of whatever country she's coming from. I'm sure that they will have thoughts.

Re: Camping: This camper can also check the Northeast Campground Association http://www.campnca.com

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the suggestion.

Washington, D.C.: Crew:

Scanning the Web for fares to Sydney from the West coast -- Expedia quotes a fare from SFO to Sydney for $920 in early May. While Quantas Web site listed a flight for 799 rt, but when I click to book the cheapest flight for the days I wanted were over $1,000 (with the flight listed at 900 before the taxes). Do you know what the rules are for Quantas -- or was it a typo?

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: $920 from SFO to Sydney in May is a good deal. The $799 is a sale fare - it's not available on every flight, and can sell out quickly. You have to be flexible to get the best deals. And that fare will go to at least $900 with taxes.

re: Somewhere USA: My family recently took a 9:30 AM flight out of Dulles. We were there 2 hours before and did curbside check-in. By the time we got through security and people movers, we had just enough time to eat some quick breakfast before boarding. It might take you longer if you check-in your bags at the agents ... lines were very long.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the report, Somewhere.

Georgetown: I'm planning a long weekend to Mexico City to see the Aztec ruins -- there're a lot of good flight deals on United right now. I vaguely recall you doing an article on this -- is it available online? Otherwise, any good pointers/heads-up?

washingtonpost.com: Here's the link to a previous story on Mexico City.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, .com. Georgetown, here's a piece by our married foreign correspondents, Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson. They were covering Mexico, but are now in Istanbul.

To Arlington re: passport: I was also recently married and needed to change my passport. First, if you are traveling within the next few weeks you can make an appointment to get it changed. If you are not traveling in the immediate future, you have to mail it in for the name change. I had to do the latter and it took three months for me to get the passport back, and all they had done was type to lines on the amendment page saying that I had a legal name change. On the upside, it was free.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, passport stranger.

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: My favorite beach:
Jimbaran in Bali

Great swimming, colorful fishing boats nearby, very quiet, great and extremely inexpensive restaurants, no hawkers, a small town is close where one gets an exposure to the local culture, and the weather is always great.
No snorkeling, though - I guess you can't have it all in one place.

The Flight Crew: Bali, Croatia. Does anyone go to Rehobeth anymore?

Chicago, Ill.: My favorite beach: Miacomet Pond and Surfside Beach on Natucket. First, let me just admit that I love natucket in general; my family went there every summer when I was little, before it was so fancy and I have so many happy memories of swimming in the ocean, eating fresh donuts from the Orange Street Bakery, getting sandwiches from Something Natural, Something Else, I could go on and on. But this beach is great because on one side of the dunes is a huge pond blanketed by reeds which is great for little kids (no tide, no waves, no scariness) and floating away on a raft and on the other side of the dunes is a great ocean beach for older kids and those who love to ride the waves. It's perfect!

I'm off to Hawaii for the first time in a few weeks (my honeymoon!) so perhaps I will have a new favorite beach then! PS - Sure could use that grass mat!

The Flight Crew: Another Massachusettes fan.

re: wedding on Iowa/Ill. border: Airtran flies from Dulles to Moline, IL and may be a better deal. www.airtran.com

The Flight Crew: Thanks! Northwest and American Trans Air also fly to Moline - round-trip fare is about $205, but you have to connect.

Downtown Washington, D.C.: When I was in Turkey a year ago, I needed to fly Turkish Air from Istanbul to Izmir and back, but I wasn't sure of my dates and times. So I just walked up to the ticket window, asked for an economy seat in the next outgoing flight, and was onboard in about 20 minutes, paying (per mile) about the same as I'd pay here with a highly restricted reservation. If Turkish Air can do it, why can't the American airlines do it?

The Flight Crew: That was my experience, too DC (Steve here). It should made getting around easy.

Boston, Mass.: Hi Flight Crew,

I'm coming to DC next week... is the White
House really open again? I'd love to stop
by and see it, but I thought with terrorist
threats and all, it would be off limits. The
kids rolling their eggs reminded me to
ask, since they look so safe.

Thank you

The Flight Crew: According to the White House tour hot line, the Big House is open to school groups only. For info, call 202-456-7041 or check www.whitehouse.gov/history/tours for updates. But thankfully you can still peek through the iron gates and see the flowers, green lawn and white pillars.

Washington, D.C.: Alright, this is the last or next to last time I'll get to ask this before my vacation: Anybody on the Travel crew have any thoughts or recommendations for things to do in the caribbean isla of St. Martin?

The Flight Crew: KC here. Wash, we ran the definitive story on St. Martin on 10/29/2000. The author, an unabashed Francophile, said it wasn't as French as some of the other French dependencies but she still loved its combination of Caribbean and Gallic flair. Raved about the shopping and the wine, as I recall. Maybe our friends at .com will send us a link...

re: French ATMs: When I was in Paris, I couldn't access my savings account which is linked to checking on the same ATM card -- it didn't give me the option, rather it automatically took $$ out of my checking. Either move money before you go, or make sure your bank allows for online transfers at an Internet cafe.

The Flight Crew: That's the problem, two different cards/accounts are best. I (KC) always take a couple of different cards with me when I travel in case one doesn't work.

Orange, Va.: Favorite beach is by far Tybee Island in Georgia. About 20 miles (at most) east of Savannah, Tybee is amazingly devoid of typical beach space grabbers like golf courses and high rises. And not that many fast food haunts either. In other words, lots of sand, stellar views, and local eats. What's not to like?

The Flight Crew: Ahhhhh. You're just saying because you know my family is from Savannah and I love Tybee (Hendrix here). Linton Weeks of Style also used to live on Tybee. Okay, you win BOTH prizes. Just kidding. I'll let an impartial judge pick the winners. But Tybee is great.

Arlington, Va.: Can I take the BART from both the San Francisco Airport and the Oakland Airport to downtown SF? If not, what are my low cost options for getting downtown?


The Flight Crew: Gary Lee responds: my recollection is that the Bart doesn't go to the airport in San Francisco but it does go to the one in Oakland. In past visits I have taken the blue van from San Francisco airport into the city and found it pretty affordable.

Arlington, Va.: I don't know if American Airlines is still running this - but two weeks ago I got a $154 round-trip one stop airfare from Dulles to San Diego for mid June (nine day trip). I found it on Expedia and then back to American Airlines web page to see if the airfare was any less there which it was not. Just goes to show, you never know what you will find, unadvertised!

The Flight Crew: Hey, I saw that too and booked it. In fact, I waited a night (did not sleep well), and it was still there the next day. It was meant to be, so off I go. Good hunting, fellow traveler. I too wonder if it is still available. Might have to check it out after the chat. San Diego twice in one spring, why not?--Andrea

High Above International Square: Hey Travel Dudes!

Thanks you and all other chatters for the London advice 2 weeks ago. Just got back. And what a great time! 50 degrees and Sunny the whole week. Great Italian food. Great Indian Food! What a pleasant trip!

AS FAR AS FAVORITE BEACH - RACE POINT in Provincetown, MA. It is the tip of Cape Cod and one of the most beautiful places to watch the sunset that I have ever seen! Water on 3 sides! Rolling Dunes all around. Swimming is also nice. If you watch closely you can see the whales. Stellwagen feeding area is only about 9 miles out!

The Flight Crew: Glad you had a good time, HAIS. You were lucky indeed to have such weather in March.

You're vote for Race Point is noted.

Being Sean Connery: Anybody have a favorite pub in Edinburgh?

The Flight Crew: How about it guys?

Hoboken, N.J.: Fraud alert, or really good deal?

I just got a message on my answering machine from Mike Evans from "Direct Reservation Centers," saying that they've randomly selected me to "celebrate Disney's 100th anniversary" with a four-day, three-night vacation stay at a Ramada near Disneyworld along with two day passes for Disneyworld. Also there will be a three-day two-night stay in Ft. Lauderdale. They say it is $99 per person and is good for only 24 hours.

Should I run as fast as I can in the other direction, or do you know of Disney handing things like this out? Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: If it's too good to be true.....The American Society of Travel Agents has this to say about these so-called "deals" - "If you've been offered a great bargain on a cruise or resort vacation, but you can't seem to get all the details about it unless you pay the company, you may be dealing with a travel scam. Typically, scam operators won't give you full and complete information in writing
until after you've given them a credit card number, certified check or money order. Once you do get further information, there will be restrictions and conditions which make it more expensive, and even impossible, to take your trip."

Re: French ATMs: I think what the person meant was that they generally don't allow you to take money from your savings account. Most of the time it's just the checking account that they pull money from. Plus make sure that you have a 4 digit PIN. Talk to your bank just to make sure.

The Flight Crew: I think we understand now. Read and heed.

Orlando, Fla.: Favorite beach: Paradise Beach on Ko Samet, Thailand. THanks so much to the poster a month ago who suggested the island for my trip. Paradise Beach is the most perfect beach I've ever seen. It's expensive by thailand standards but cheap by any other (we were there on a holiday and the airconditioned rooms were still only $25/night). And they do a great job hiding the bungalos in the hills and trees so that when you're standing on white sand or in green water you can't even see them.

The Flight Crew: And you from Orlando. Okay, a vote for Thailand. Glad you found our little forum helpful.

RE: Turkish Air: You paid such a good price because the citizens and government of Turkey paid 20%-70% of your fare for you.

Granted, the US goverment helps the airline industry in many ways, but those subsidies wouldn't get you to 5% of your airfare.

The Flight Crew: Is that why the food was so bland?

Cap Hill again: My mom speaks only Finnish - the chance of finding a tour guide who speaks Finnish is extremely small. BTW, when I said the Mall, I meant the museums around it. She absolutely loved the National Gallery and plans to spend more time there.

The Flight Crew: Here's another thought from Gary: why not put her on a trolley tour through the city? Even though she won't be able to understand the guide, she can get on and off at every stop, including the National Cathedral, Union Station and the monuments, or just stay on a get a feel for what the city is like...

Washington, D.C.: Best beach is Oludeniz on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Gorgeous mountains on each side, warm clear water, wonderful food in the town.

The Flight Crew: One for good old Oludeniz.

RE: Rehobeth: Um, to answer your question, no. Why would anyone want to go to any of the East Coast beaches north of, say, North Carolina?

The water is brown, cold and generally unattractive. The beach towns are jam-apcked with DC, NY and Boston people "going to the coast" for the weekend, etc. (read: traffic, noise, congestion). And it's just not that expensive anymore to fly to a quality beach.

The Flight Crew: Um, because, Block Island has the most stellar beaches this side of the Atlantic. Um, because, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket insiders know where to escape the crowds and find their own patch of prime beach real estate. Because Montauk is delightful any time of the year, as is Watch Hill, and Sag Harbor, and .... need I go on. --Andrea

washingtonpost.com: Voila...Ze link to the St. Martin story.

The Flight Crew: Alors, merci!

ATM in France: Last time I was in France I couldn't access my bank account. Turns out ATM pins starting with "0" didn't work.

The Flight Crew: Yikes. One more thing to check.

Arlington, Va.: Ok, my favorite LOCAL beach is Delaware Shores State Park, just south of Rehobeth. Parking is/was just $6.00 for out-of-staters, they have a large beach house with changing rooms and showers, junk-food options, umbrella and boogie board rentals, life-guards, and, BEST OF ALL - you can always find a place to sit that is not right on top of your neighbors.

See - no mention of the Adriatic!

The Flight Crew: Bless you, Arl. You're in the running.

B-fares: Urban legend or fact: Bereavement fares are, well, dead.
I ask because two weeknds ago I tried to buy a fare to Miami and all the airlines said they were sold out of bereavement fares. I didn't know they reserve some seats as bereavement seats. I thought you could get a bereavement fare/seat any time because, well, a death is usually not expected.

Interestingly I asked how much the fares were anyway, and I was suprised to learn that b-fares on American, for example, were $338 while they were $550 on US Airways and $600 on Delta. All these were flights to MIA with connections, about the same times.

The Flight Crew: Interesting story, B-fares. We did a story on the fares recently, saying they were generally available and not subject to being sold out. I'm wondering if the flights were all sold out. Interesting to point out that often bereavement fares are no bargain, as you're getting a discount off the full base fare, which can be exorbitant. Thanks for the report.


Re: St. Martin: Ooh, I love St. Martin! The French side is sooo much nicer than the Dutch side. We only go to the Dutch side to gamble. Definitely check out Oriental Bay. It's a beautiful beach with a small island in the middle of the bay. You can jet-ski out to the island and snorkel. There's a nudist colony on one side, but it is easily avoided. Food wise, don't miss the charming multi-colored Piccolo Cafe. Great food and a lovely setting. Also, you cannot miss the seafood buffet Tuesday and Saturdays (I think) at the Mini Club. It's a huge deck overlooking the water with a tree growing through the middle of it. And a guitar player who actually sings a song about the line of people at the buffet ("Move the line/People in the front make up your mind/People in the back HUNGRY/Move the line!") It's too funny for words and all the spiny lobster tail you can eat. I go back every year and the place never changes!

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tips! Sounds great.

Rockville, Md.: Headed to Paris next month -- is the Marches aux Puces (flea market) worth the schlep and which day trip: Versaille or Chartres? Thank you!

Oh and my fave beach: the black sand beach on the north shore of the Big Island, Hawaii, long hike down but too cool for school

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says I have gotten some GREAT ART DECO and ART NOUVEAU lamps at the Puces market at the Cligancourt metro so yes, I would say it's worth the time it takes to get there. If possible go on a weekend, like Thursday when it's less crowded.

16th Street: Favorite Beach: White Head on Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine--if you call a bluff a couple of hundred feet above the ocean a "beach." There are wonderfully comfortable nooks and crannies in the rock for you to sit in and watch the cormorants and nesting gulls. There's nothing but ocean between you and Ireland at that point. But bring the sunscreen, even if it's cool!

The Flight Crew: Ahh, Maine. How many hours does their beach season last? Good tip, though. Thanks.

Washington, D.C.: Just discovered my trip to Sydney corresponds with the upcoming Gay Games. Should I expect Sydney to be one big party while I'm there? Will I be able to sleep at night?!

The Flight Crew: Sydney is big, so I am sure you can find some quiet corner to catch some zzzzzzs. Just find out where the hub of activity is and go the other way. Or stay on the other side of the harbour, or out in the burbs. Or, do a 180 and join in the raucous fun. It'll be quite a scene, I'm sure (ever see Pricilla, Queen of the Desert?) --Andrea

Re: Rehoboth: They just got written up in Amusement
Today...the beach's haunted house has
been rated on of the top ten by the Dark
Ride lovers of the world.... up with the
Haunted Mansion at Disney, among

The Flight Crew: Haunted House? Who knew.

Bowie, Md.: Would I be remiss in pointing out my LEAST favorite beach (among major ones) is Waikiki.

Waikiki is like ten Ocean Cities with an actual beach 1/10 as long and 1/4 as wide. Yeah, the view of Diamond Head is good. Otherwise it's just too many hotels, expensive restaurants and shopping plazas.

Give me the North Shore any time (except the Polynesian Cultural Center).

The Flight Crew: KC here to defend Waikiki. Maybe it comes from having NO expectations -- everybody loves to dis Waikiki -- but I found it a delightful urban beach, with none of the tackiness of Ocean City, some great little places to eat, gorgeous hotel lobbies to wander through, and the amazing view of Diamond Head looming all the while. I loved Honolulu, too. So there.

Falls Church, Va.: For the spa-dog. Check out the Five Gables Inn in St. Michaels, MD (www.fivegables.com). Not only do they allow dogs (I think it's $25 extra) but they have goodies and extra amenities for your pup, as well as a dog boutique of sorts they partner with in the town.
I'm going there in May (with my mom, not my dog!) but from their website and reviews I read online, it seems like a neat place. It's more like a B&B spa than a resort spa, however.

The Flight Crew: Excellent. Thanks Fall Church. A spa for dogs.

Herndon, Va.: My brother is taking my mom with him on a business trip to Argentina this week. She will be able to go on day trips with the other spouses/guests, but she is not very well-traveled internationally. Do you have any tips for her? She has a money belt, knows to beware in crowds for pickpocketers, etc. And is there anything she should take special care about, given the current situation there? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Your mom should be fine, especially if she is with an organized tour group. Just make sure she doeesn't join in any labor protests or wear a T-shirt that says, "I Break for Devaluation." --Andrea

Beaches in Oz: Bondi Beach in Sydney!
Also Fitzroy Island in the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns, Queensland.
I ave a picture of Fitzroy at my desk that I stare wistfully at all day. I was there, a year ago...

The Flight Crew: Maybe not so good for the weekend, though Mate!

Washington, D.C.: I am planning my honeymoon in October, and looking for a little insight or advice. Given that October is still huricane season, I had narrowed down my destinations to either Aruba, Curucao, or Puerto Vallarta. We are looking for a lot of relaxing beach time, and not necesarily a whole lot else, but would like a "real place" rather than just spend the week or two just on resort grounds.

Thanks for your help.

The Flight Crew: DC: if you want a real place, I would drop Puerta Vallarta from that list, says Gary. Although it has many charms it has become so overcrowded in recent years that it sometimes feels like a theme park. Between Aruba and Curucaco, it's pretty much a toss-up although the latter is probably more tranquil.

Favorite Beach: My favorite beach is Skaket Beach on Cape Cod. I love it most in the second week of September, after the crowds are gone but before the weather turns cold. Your time there seems precious and fleeting.

The Flight Crew: Cape Cod. Cape Cod. Cape Cod. Must be nice up there.

Washington, D.C.: Hello Flight Crew:

Question about the Easter travel to Italy article: Are there really direct flights to Venice from Dulles? The only ones I've come across are to Milan. I wish there were more direct flights to Europe, in general, since the demise of SpanAir at Dulles and Aer Lingus at BWI. To get to Rome, you have to go through Frankfurt, London, Paris or New York. So, direct flights to Venice would be most welcome. That one extra stop just makes the flying that much more tiresome.

The Flight Crew: KC here. No, there are no direct flights to Venice from DC, but you can fly direct from New York (Alitalia, Delta, American). Or you can connect in such cities as Frankfurt, Vienna, Paris, etc.

Vienna, Va.: to Orlando: You're very welcome! Ko Samet is also my favorite beach ANYWHERE. Glad to hear you had fun--and let's keep it our little secret!

The Flight Crew: Excuse us. No whispering during the chat.

Soccer City: Hello --

I would like to get my friends soccer tickets that they can use during their honeymoon in Europe. Do you know of any ways to order tickets for leagues in Germany or France? They are going at the end of April and staying through the first week of May.

Thank you!

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: A ticket broker can help, if the match is a sold-out type of event. Try Michael Cook - www.ticket-finder.com. Also, before you pay the premium prices, try contacting the tourist offices for both countries - Germany - wwww.germany-tourism.de and France - www.franceguide.com.

re: RE Rehobeth: and because it's only a 3-hour drive from Washington, DC ... and because it's got a very nice and friendly gay beach ... and because it's a very nice beach town ... and because I happen to like it.

The Flight Crew: You tell 'im, re: RE!

Re: Des Moines: I used to have to go to Des Moines every year for a week for work. I highly recommend eating at Stella's Blue Sky Diner. It's downtown, in one of the buildings connected by the skywalk system. They have great diner food, and they do this cool thing with their milkshakes where they serve it to you by having you put your empty glass on your head, and the server stands on a chair and pours the shake in. Just don't laugh, or you'll wiggle your glass and get doused with milkshake! It's been a few years since I've been there, so I'm not sure if it's still open, but if it is, it's worth checking out!

The Flight Crew: Here you go, something to do in Des Moines.

TA here USA: B-fares were probably not available due to the time they were traveling was "Spring Break". Almost impossible to find any fare during that time into Florida.

B-fares are good for those who don't know what kind of time frame they may have to be in the city they are going to. It is a valid ticket that can be changed without any penalty at all as many times as necessary. Sometimes in booking the lowerer penatley bereavement, it cost's them MORE money because they find they have to stay longer than anticipated. Good to check around or with a professional travel agent in the case of death, imminent death, or seriously ill and hospitalized family memebers.

The Flight Crew: Good points all. We also listed several agencies that help plan bereavement travel, including American Express Travel in Calif (www.bereavementair.com.

San Francisco accomodations:: Six years ago, I stayed at the Andrews Hotel downtown for $100 a night. The rooms were small, but it was clean and well-run. Had a decent restaurant downstairs, and breakfast (fruit, bread) delivered to your room. I also stayed at a nice b&b, but cannot for the life of me remember the name.

The Flight Crew: thanks for the tip, says Gary.

Frankfurt, Germany: For the car renter in London- do you really NEED a car? The traffic is hell on earth, and on the "wrong" side of the road. Trains go everywhere- take a look before you get the car.

And for Italy traveler- 10 days with 3 major cities that are not right next to each other is probably plenty. It's a 9-hour train trip to Venice from Rome (possibly a longer drive!), and about 3 hours from Rome to Pompeii. Your time is going to run out fast!

The Flight Crew: Good points.

Downtown Washington, D.C.: Another warning about ATM and credit card use abroad: A friend told me that on a trip to Turkey, his credit card was invalidated because the company assumed that, since he never used it outside of Washington, the Turkish charges meant it must have been stolen. So I call my credit card company and bank before I travel to let them know what's up. I don't know if that's why I've never had any problems, but it's a lot of peace of mind for a couple of short, free phone calls.

The Flight Crew: Yeah, we've given this warning before. I never do it myself -- always mean to, always forget -- and have never had a problem. -- KC.

Beach Rental Question:: I am avidly scanning the nominations for best beach. I'm interested in renting a cottage on the southern portion of the outer banks, NC area. It seems a lot cheaper down there than around the northern Corolla area, which as far as I can tell only has monstrous 10 bedroom, 2 pool-type places for rent. BUT--it looks like there are a lot of "4-wheel drive access" points on the southern outer banks beaches. Is Hatteras Island, etc., like Daytona, with a little mini-highway on the beach? (NOT what I want!) Any insight, specific recommendations of towns along the outer banks area? Thanks muchly!

The Flight Crew: Let the flood of Outer Banks advise begin. Clicksters?

ATMs: In my experience this summer in the Netherlands and Belgium, the ATMs are limited to your primary account, which is usually your checking account. However, in Brussels I ran across a ATM from an American bank that let you choose between your savings and checking. Also make sure that your code for the ATM is 4 digits. I had no problems getting money from any of the ATMs in these countries or the UK. BTW, they don't charge you a users fee.


The Flight Crew: Thanks, Steve.

A couple of replies and a question: Putting two into one:

- For the person who wants a tour group without the gray hairs (sorry!), try Contiki. They are for 21-35 years old only and have a lot more adventurous/outdoorsy stuff. Not sure if they are going to your spots, though.

- For the person with the BA and Olympics airline trip: Check your tickets to see which airports the flights are into/out of. I took an almost identical itinerary last year and had to switch airports to go from BA to Olympic---and of course, had to claim my luggage and recheck it.

- And a question: Any recommendations on where I can find an affordable lakeside cabin within 3 hours drive of DC to rent for a weekend?


The Flight Crew: Thanks for the help. As far as cabins go, my faves are the cabins at Herrington Manor State Park at Deep Creek Lake...beautiful, and pretty cheap.

Salem, Va.: OK, I've said it before, I'll say it again: Ocracoke Island is my favorite beach destination. You can only get there by ferry (30 minutes and free from Hatteras; 2 hours, 45 minutes and $15 or so from the mainland), so the crowds tend to be much smaller than you'd find a little further north, like at Nags Head. There are no condos or high-rise hotels built along the water. There are some great places to eat seafood. And there are wild ponies.

What more could you ask??

The Flight Crew: Free booze?

Thanks for the good tip.

Italy Ideas: For the Italy-bound, we like Siena and Tuscany in general, the Amalfi Coast and Milan. Rome was our overall favorite place - There is lots to do there and its very walkable. I would think kids would really like Rome too - parks, fountains, scooters, gellato, shops, pizza and lots of places to see and be seen. I haven't been to Pompeii but have heard its more of a day trip for many tour groups.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tips.

Alexandria, Va.: As someone who's traveled to Des Moines on business A LOT, I can tell you there's not much to do. But, the state capital building is actually quite lovely, and there is a living history farm exhibit less than a half hour from town. Unfortunately I can't remember the name, but I'm sure the tourist info sites will mention it. The town of Pella itself is pretty and not too far.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, Alex.

Washington, D.C.: Fave Beach: Brighton, England. What could be better than a pier that is also an amusement park? Much cooler than a typical boardwalk beach, and the beach is pebbles instead of sand, so no worries about an itchy bathing suit!

The Flight Crew: And no danger of getting sunburned as you'll probably never take your coat off! But I like Brighton, too.

Re: "Great Deals" to Florida: Also check out the Better Business Bureau - I keep getting faxes from one outfit, which offers a Disney vacation for >$100, but every time I get it, the name of the company has changed. According to the BBB, it's a timeshare scam, the company in question is facing prosecution, and hawks its wares under a list of names a mile long.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I received one today that offered me three nights in Orlando, three nights in the Bahamas and two nights in Daytona for $199. If the company does not have a name (my offer does not), you can look up by phone number or Web address - www.bbb.org.

Stafford, Va.: Hello,

Friends and I plan on travelling to Spain this fall. When is the best time to go and what cities are a must? We are planning a one week trip.

S. Drumond

The Flight Crew: Stafford: My favorites are Madrid and Sevilla, says Gary Lee, but lots of folks prefer Barcelona. In a week, you can't really expect to see more than these three properly.

AlexandriaFairfax: The latest info on getting to the BART from the Bay Area airports can be found at:


The Flight Crew: thanks for that link from Gary!

headed to Boston: Hi, planning to spend 2 days in Boston this summer on the way further north. What part of the city do you suggest we stay in for most convenience? We'll have a car and be doing the sights with 2 school age kids. Also, we haven't been there other than for business in 20 years, so what are the newer don't misses? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Staying by the wharf is nice, so you have a great view of the harbour and are near the Aquarium, Fanueil Hall, Boston Tea Party sites and Little Italy (what kid doesn't like spaghetti and meatballs). Some of the more popular areas, like Kenmore Square, can get a little hectic with the college crowd, and Copley is nice, but it might be too upscale shopping for the young 'uns. I really like Harvard, because you are just a T ride away from all the sights, but you can relax along the Charles River, stroll the square, pop into the Fogg Art Museum, etc. As for new sights, the Science and Children's museums always have something good going on, like the Bubbles exhibit (hula-hoop bubble tunnels--cool!). Check the city's web site for ideas at www.bostonusa.com. You can also get museum passes and great hotel deals online. --Andrea

Alexandria, Va.: Maybe it's trite, but I'm amazed no one has mentioned the Outer Banks. It's a five hour drive, fine for a three-day weekend. I love the area south of Nags Head, called "Whalebone." It's just about even with the bridge you cross over to go to Manteo. It's a bit quieter than Kitty Hawk, you can walk for miles, listen to the sea gulls, maybe see some dolphins at twilight if you're lucky. My favorite restaurant, while we're at it, is "Windmill Point" which has wonderful memorabilia of the SS United States, including the bar stools where Marilyn Monroe, President Eisenhower, and other notables sat (Umm, not at the same time, I hasten to add...)

The Flight Crew: Since you've posted, Alex, the Outer Banks has made an appearance. But YOU get extra points for details.

Washington, D.C.: Great chat. I've asked this question several weeks now and am anxious to learn the group's response. I need a credit card for work travel and am interested to see who you folks recommend. I'm leaning toward the Capitol One card with the ability to use the miles on any airline. Thoughts? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Capitol One is loved by some, reviled by others. The one complaint I hear is that it's difficult to get a human on the phone when you have a problem. Look for cards that allow you to use miles without blackout dates.

best beaches: Don't knock it- the Jersey shore can't be beat. Each town is so different w/r/t social scene/economics/boardwalk, and theyre all so close together.. It's got the best of everything: cheezy, ritzy, tiny little bay beaches, cheap good seafood....something for everyone!

The Flight Crew: Excellent choice, I dare say (since I was the one who dared to say that some of the best beaches are north of North Carolina. Oh, to the anti-Northeast Coast beacher, I forgot Maine's rocky beaches, Prince Edward Isle, Nova Scotia, etc. etc.) --Andrea

Alexandria, Va.: Argentina: Follow up to your comment on Argentina being a mess. I was in Argentina for a month, ending a couple of weeks ago. Everything still works fine there, the political and economic instability don't seem to have affected the ATMs, safety on the street, or anything else. There are the occasional protests. Most of the prices have not adjusted to the exchange rate change, so it's really a great bargain right now.

The Flight Crew: Great news. We will pass that along to Mom.

Orlando, Fla.: What are your opinions of Frontier Airlines and America West? I'm flying to Seattle in May and they both offer lower fares than anybody, but I've never flown them before nor do I know anyone who has. Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Frontier and America West are both budget carriers. America West has had financial problems, but the bailout has helped stabilize it. Since you're going in May, either will be fine.

Fav Beach: Dude, the most awesome beach has to be South Padre Island is Texas. I mean, not only does it have a beach where you can gaze out at oil rigs sitting off in the distance, but the water is the nicest color of mixed brown/blue. Plus you've got highly intoxicated kids running around, women wearing thong bikinis (who should be wearing mumus, not but floss), and tons of tacky, tacky tourist stuff.

I mean, what's not to like!

WOOHOO, South Padre, here I come. As soon as I sober up.

The Flight Crew: Isn't spring break over, son?

22202: Favorite Beach: St. George Island State Park, on the Florida Panhandle. This is just such a quiet, wonderful spot to scoop up seashells, spot dolphins, and listen to the wind and waves.

The Flight Crew: You're right 22202, St. George is a beauty spot.

Okay folks, you’ve wrung us dry again. Thanks for the great tips. If we traveled as much as you people we’d never get the Travel section put out.

Our beach winners are the poster from Miami who tipped us to the beaches at Dry Tortugas National Park, and Arlington for Delaware Shores State Park. Just send us your particulars to travel@washpost.com and we’ll send your prizes.

See you all next week!

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