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Travel Photo The Flight Crew, from left: John Deiner, Carol Sottili, Steve Hendrix, Anne McDonough, Gary Lee, K.C. Summers, Cindy Loose, Andrea Sachs. (Melissa Cannarozzi for The Post)
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Talk About Travel
Hosted by the Flight Crew
Monday, April 7, 2003; 2 p.m. ET

The Post's Travel Section Flight Crew – pictured at right – will take your comments, questions, suspicions, warnings, gripes, sad tales and happy endings springing from the world of... the world. Of course, the Flight Crew will be happy to answer your travel questions – but the best thing about this forum, we insist, is that it lets travelers exchange information with other travelers who've been there, done that or otherwise have insights, ideas and information to share. Different members of the Crew will rotate through the captain's chair every week, but the one constant is you, our valued passengers.

We know you have a choice in online travel forums, and speaking for the entire Flight Crew, we want to thank you for flying with us.

You may also browse an archive of previous live travel discussions and a list of frequently asked questions.

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:

The weather and general feel of Washington, D.C., today proves T.S. Eliott is right: April really is the cruelest month of the year. What a great time to plan a get-away.

Here to help you are an unknown number of people out in clickster land, plus, your captain today, Cindy Loose, who wishes she were in Cuba right now but will be in Australia soon enough.

Then there is Gary Lee, just back from Paris; John Deiner, just back from Malta; Steve Hendrix, heading to Bayou Country soon, and Andrea Sachs, who just finished hanging out with spring breaking college students in Europe.

From remote connection, we also have on board Carol Sottili, who knows more about airlines than the airlines, and in-house, Anne McDonough, who has just started a new feature on regional travel called "Nearly There." (The feature focuses on events and special attractions each week within a four hour drive of Washington, so if you know of something cool fitting that description, email the tip to Anne at Nearly@washpost.com.)

Our editor/enforcer K.C. Summers is on travel today, so we'll all be clearing out of here at 3 p.m. sharp. So let's get going--and by the way, the person with the best answer to a question we can't answer will win a set of eight Potty Toppers, to protect your bum no matter where your journey takes you. (Potty Toppers are also useful in your private home for those weeks you haven't had a chance to clean.)



Washington, D.C.: Just wanted to comment on your Sunday article about visiting Paris. My husband and I and our two kids (ages 11 and 15) were in Paris on vacation the same week you did your reporting. We had a wonderful time. Our flights over and back were full but the lines at the museums and exhibits were non existent. We did not experience anyone being rude to us. Rather had many people go out of their way to be helpful to us. We got caught up in the massive anti-war demonstration on Saturday March 29 along the Boulevard St. Germain but it was very peacful and no more anti-Bush than similar marches we have seen recently in D.C. It was obvious to those around us watching the march that we were Americans but no one bothered us. I would definitely recommend visiting Paris.

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says: Thanks for your comment. Sounds like we had similar experiences in Paris. I agree that anyone with second thoughts should go ahead and do it!


Philly on a budget challenge: A friend and I (both mid-20s) are considering meeting in Philly this weekend (my birthday, we haven't seen each other in a while), probably arriving 10-noon, staying overnight, and leaving after an early dinner on Sunday. Both of us are on tight budgets at the moment, and she has set the hotel limit at $50 max per person, but would love $40 or less (making most hotels.com or quikbook suggestions in our upper limit). No need for luxury, clean sheets and a bug free room are all we ask, but the less we have to drive around, the better. I'd like to set the spending-for-the-weekend limit at $100. What are some things the travel team might do to celebrate a little, but still make the money last? I'd especially love some accomodation suggestions. Have you or chatters heard of Antique Row B&B?

The Flight Crew: Don't know Antique's Row---anyone else? However, I do recall there is a good AYH hostel in or near Philly. Don't have my book handy right now, but go to their site. You can often get one room with just two beds, as opposed to a dorm room. I've stayed in hostels, and the good ones are much better than a cheap hotel, and cheaper too. Cindy


question for readers (and travel crew!): You land in a city you've never been to before. You get into a taxi and tell the driver the name of the hotel. He asks "how do you want to go?" or "Should we take the Blank highway or Unknown street?"

How do you respond?

I figure this is a way for the driver to see how much he can rip me off for. Recently I asked the hotel, when I made my reservation, what the fare should be. What I was told was almost double the correct fair.

The Flight Crew: I usually say something seemingly knowledgeable but noncommital, then turn the decision back to them. Like, "Well, they were doing construction on blank highway last week--has that cleared up yet?" Guaranteed there has been construction jamming the highway recently; it's a law in most cities I think.
Cindy


Bethesda, Md.: Good Afternoon. My husband and I are looking for a warm destination--perhaps the Gulf Coast of FL--for a 5 or 6 day trip at the end of May. Ideally, both golf and some spa services in an upscale atmosphere. Any suggestions? I visited at The Colony in Longboat Key about 9 years ago but do not know what it is like these days. Any information about quick trips to nice destinations would be appreciated. Many Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Hi, Beth, and congrats for going upscale! Some of the more hoity-toity spots down there are Naples, Sarasota and Sanibel Island, all perched at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico and all with resorts that offer what you're looking for. That said, since the places I usually stay at aren't exactly worthy of five stars (or four, or three), I'm not sure where to direct you.

Any clicksters have some suggestions for Bethesda?


Washington, D.C.: Hey y'all. I'm planning a trip to Florida in May, and am staying at my mother's condo in Boca. But would love to spend a couple of days someplace fabulous around miami/south beach. I would appreciate any recommendations you might offer. Thanks.

The Flight Crew: There's a wide range of places to choose from in South Beach, says Sobe fan Gary Lee. The range depends a lot on what your budget is. If you want to roll high, consider the Delano or, for something more intimate The Hotel (that's it's real name.) Believe it or not, the Marriott in Sobe also has a lot of pizazz to it. If you want to aim a little lower, we like the Hotel Kent.


Reston, Va.: To Carol: I enjoyed your article about cell phones but you mentioned that South and Central America don't have GSM, and I think that's not true. If I look at the link you offered on GSMWorld.com, I see there is GSM in Angigua, Argentina, Aruba, Barbados, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Replublic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico (technically, Mexico is in N. America I think) and the list goes on. In fact, it looks like GSM is just about everywhere in the world. Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say that these countries, like the United States, do not rely exclusively on GSM, while countries in Europe do. Argentina, for example, has something like five different technologies - one provider uses GSM. - Carol S.


Painted Post, N.Y.: Paris is wonderful, of course, but wouldn't a day trip to Chartres be a delightful complement?

The Flight Crew: Painted Post: Indeed we love Chartres, say Gary Lee, especially for the stained glass church there. But if we were only going to recommend one excursion out of the city, it would probably be Versailles.



Baltimore, Md.: My family and I are taking our first cruise in December 2003. Would you advise on purchasing airfare thru the cruiseline or on you own?

Also, I have a group of 20 that will by occupying 8 cabins. I am told that because this is a holiday sailing (Dec 26- 5 Jan) there are no group bookings. What advice can you give in obtaining perks for our group?

The Flight Crew: I'd suggest listening to what the cruise line is offering, then spending a few minutes checking a couple sites to see which is better. If your own search comes up with something better, take that savings times 20. However, if the difference is slight, go with the cruise-arranged, since if the flight is late or canceled, they'll feel a tad more responsibility for you.

Alternately, with 20 people, I'd call a travel agency to see if they can help you get a deal. If so, it's only fair to use the agency for everything. Cindy


Italy in May: My fiance and I are supposed to be honeymooning in Italy, May 19-May 31. Both sets of parents have expressed their desire for us to pick an alternative destination for safety reasons.

Our trip entails 6 days on the Amalfi Coast and 4 in Rome. Should we cancel the trip or stick with it.

I am interested in other people's opinions who have traveled recently. Did they feel unsafe or come into much Anti-American sentiment?

Thanks, I appreciate your help.

The Flight Crew: I was recently in Paris and London, had friends who went off to Rome, and Gary Lee was also in Paris. Our consensus: No worries, Europeans still love (or hate) us as much as they used to. Just like in the States, you will find some who are outspoken and rude about our nationality and current political position--and those who don't judge. But anti-Americanism is neither obvious nor oppressive, or even remotely scary. Just be wise: Keep your political opinions to yourself. Don't wear giant flags on your backs. Or don a Bush mask at, say, a Venetian Ball.
Though these are just our findings. Anyone out there just back from Italy? Please speak up!!--andrea


College Park, Md.: What are some wonderful, reasonably priced family resorts in the area? We have two preschoolers and are interested in lake swimming, boating, etc.

The Flight Crew: Here's two possibilities, and then we'll survey our audience: Bryce Mountain Resort is all-around Blue Ridge resort with lake swimming (www.bryceresort.com). Wintergreen Resort near Charlottesville is pricier, but has a lot of fans (and a lake) and seems to offer some dynamic package pricing.

Now, audience? What family resorts have you?


Springfield, Va.: My husband and three daughters (age 10-14) are traveling to Ireland this Aug. 10-25. We have our airfare booked, but need information on reasonably priced accomodations. I heard of a network of B&Bs that use vouchers, where you pay ahead of time, and then get a list of participating B&Bs, which makes travel easy when you're not exactly sure what your itinerary is. Have you heard about this? And where can I find out the information if it exists?

Thanks!

The Flight Crew: The Irish Tourism Council is one of the best gov.-operated sites, and if the thing you mention exists, I'd be surprised if they didn't know about it. They are at: www.irelandvacation.com, or call 212 418 0800. Cindy


Boston, Mass.: Help! Our reservations for a small, modern hotel in Barcelona have fallen through, and we leave in ten days! Can anyone recommend a small to medium-sized hotel in Barcelona's old city?

Thanks,

The Flight Crew: Boston: When things fall through for us in Spain, we always turn to Madridandbeyond.com. They recommend the Taber in Barcelona, among other places that would seem to fit your bill. Check out their website and if you have questions, contact Nigel Hack at their e-mail address. We used him lots and he's always been of great help without being pricey.


Arlington, Va.: I also was in Paris days after the Iraq war began, and, before I left, I had friends who expressed anxiety about my travelling there. However, I found only friendliness or typical Parisian indifference during my visit. More than one sales clerk and waiter tried out their English with me, and no one made any rude comments at all, even as anti-war and anti-American demonstrations were taking place around the city.

Like some of the tourists profiled in your article, I did have friends seriously ask why all Americans supported the war, as if 280 million people have the same view! Also, my flight back from Paris included a large French high school group clearly on a spring break trip, so not all of the French are disgusted and offended by the U.S.

For anyone hesitating about travelling to Paris, I say go and have a great time!

The Flight Crew: Glad things went well for you and that we agree, said Gary!


Central Asian Travel Consolidator?: Hi Flight Crew!

I am planning to travel to Almaty, Kazahkstan this summer to spend a month on an archaeological dig in the Tian Shen mountains.

So far I have have found the airfares from D.C. to Almaty to be a bit steep. The cheapest flight I've been able to find on my own was $1,900 dollars on KLM with all kinds of restrictions.

Are there any travel consolidators in the Washington, D.C. area who specialize in Central Asian travel that could get me a better deal?

Any insights from fellow travelers in the chat on living/working in Kazakhstan or other former Soviet republics are very much appreciated and welcome, too.

Thank you!

The Flight Crew: We could use help on this one; our Kasakhstan experience is limited to the point of being non-existent. Cindy


Richmond, Va.: Thanks for the story on Paris in yesterday's travel section. It gave me just the psychological boost I needed — we're leaving Saturday for Paris, and for some reason I just haven't been able to get excited about this trip. (It'll be our third.) We never even considered canceling our trip, and I know we'll have a wonderful time, but I think all the press lately about France — pro and con — has just worn me down. Can you offer any more words of encouragement?

The Flight Crew: Just revel in the beauty of Paris, and simply be happy. You are in one of the greatest cities on earth, and that is a special gift. (was that pep talk okay?)-andrea


Somewhere, USA: Is it true that airlines have discounts for people under 25 for flights from D.C. to New York? And if so, how do I find out about them?

The Flight Crew: Not sure about that route, but some airlines do have special deals for students. AirTran has something called X-fares for ages 18-22 - you can fly standby for $52 per segment - but they don't go to N.Y. Southwest has youth fares for ages 12-22; it flies from BWI to Long Island. Also, some travel agencies, such as www.studentuniverse.com and www.statravel.com, offer deals to students. - Carol S.


Vancouver Bound: Crew (I guess Cindy, really)

I booked a trip on United for myself on the July 4th weekend to Vancouver for a little over $300.

I am wondering about where to stay for four nights -- the Opus (mentioned in your article) or the Riviera (which is West End near the Pacific Palisades on Robson). I know the Opus is better, but it costs $50 a night more -- is it worth it? Is it worth splitting -- two nights each?

Do I need a car for Vancouver -- Riveria, the parking is free.

Thanks

The Flight Crew: I'd split up the time in two places if it were me. That's assuming that you like boutique hotels; they tend not to have the big facilities of a big hotel, but make up for it in ambiance, and that's very true at the Opus. Plus, the Opus is in Yaletown, and that has a different feel form downtown Robson St., so I'd do two nights per. Or, maybe save another $50 and just do one night in the Opus.

You don't need a car for Vancouver: things are pretty centrally located, you can take a water taxi to Granville Island. It would be cheaper and more convenient to do cabs within the city. But you might want to get out into the countryside one day; so consider taking a car for a day.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Have a great time. (P.S. I didn't get to do the nighttime kayak trip, cause it wasn't the right season, but that sounds cool.)


Arlington, Va.: What do y'all think of Priceline for hotel rooms? I'm contemplating trying them for New York, but wonder if that is a bad idea (friends and fam have conflicting opinions).

The Flight Crew: I've used Priceline.com for both hotel rooms and car rentals and always had a good experience. But make sure you're positive you're going on that weekend because there are no refunds if you change your mind. - Carol S.


Arlington, Va.: Hi! I'm desperately trying to find a reasonably priced ticket down to Miami the last weekend in June and everything seems to be over $300. This seems a bit high to me, considering it's Florida in the summertime and a Saturday night overstay to boot. Am I wrong or what's going on?

Thanks so much. You guys are gr-reat!

The Flight Crew: Gary says: try Jet Blue, which flies into Ft. Lauderdale regularly for $69 or so. It's a bit of hike into Miami but you still save a lot...


Annapolis, Md.: Comment re: Sunday France travel article.
My wife & I just returned yesterday from 10 days in France - 2 seeing Vieux Leon, a ski week at Val d'Isere, and a final 2 days in Paris (left bank). We saw and heard absolutely no (zero) anti-American sentiment. The restaurants competed for the chance to serve us and the people, as always, were friendly and helpful.

The Flight Crew: Lovely, Annapolis, says Gary. Glad all worked out for you.



Washington, D.C.: Thanks for yet ANOTHER story on Paris and its surrounds, eh-hem. What's it been, about two weeks since the last? Jeez, how about mixing it up a bit.

The Flight Crew: This one was obviously driven by events, WDC. A lot of our readers will be heading to Paris and other parts of Europe in the next few months, and how Americans are being received there during these extraordinary times is a big question.

On you're broader point, though, we're eager to hear what you think. Think we're too Euro-centric in our coverage? Judging from this chat--and from other ways readers communicate with us--there's an endless apetite for information about those countries.


Re: Philly: Why go to the youth hostel when Hotwire has a 3.5 star center city hotel for only $61? With fees and taxes it's $76, still within the $40 per person limit. The "user comments" say things like "The room was small, but well-appointed; a very 'clubby' atmosphere." (Only downside is that Hotwire can't GUARANTEE separate beds, so you might be stuck sharing or on a cot.)

The Flight Crew: That's a good suggestion too. But there budget seems really tight, so they still might consider a hostel so they have more to spend on other stuff, plus, memory serves me there is a Philly hostel in a former mansion. But sure, they should also check out the hotel sale prices--which apparently are good in Philly right now. Cindy


Arlington, Va.: Hi Crew,

I have a 5:55 a.m. flight on Delta out of Dulles on Friday morning. What early hour would you suggest I arrive at the airport? I thought I had heard once that the ticket counters don't open until 5 a.m.

Thanks!

The Flight Crew: I told a chatter several weeks ago not to get there too early because counters would be closed and she missed her flight. Yet my husband takes early flights out of Dulles fairly often and never gets there very early and has never had a problem. I think much depends on the weather, the day of week, whether it's a holiday period, etc. So if I were you, I'd get there when the airline tells me to. According to its Web site, the ticket counter opens at 4:30 a.m. at Dulles


Washington, D.C.: I saw the column talking about specials to Buenos Aires in last weekend's section. I've spent a good bit of time in BsAs. It's a spectacular city. But, just a few points. First of all, the widest avenue in the world is properly named "9 de Julio," not Julio Avenue. (The widest "avenue," by the way, actually consists of several.) The name commemorates the day of Argentine independence. Also, it might be worth mentioning why the promotional price is so low. Argentina is still amidst one of its worst economic crises ever. The peso's devaluation -- due to the crisis -- has made the place cheap. (A decade ago, it was one of the most expensive in the world.) As such, street crime has been on the rise. Times are tough for a lot of people yet. Finally, American travellers should also keep in mind that many Argentines tend to blame the United States -- along with Washington-based institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF -- for the country's predicament. As a result, anti-Americanism is a bit more fertile at the moment.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the catch on 9 de Julio (my fault for Americanizing the avenue). Also, it seems that compared to last year, Argentina is slowly making a come back and could use the tourism boost.--andrea


Summer Vacation with Teenagers: Where do we go, what do we do? They love history, hate museums. Will tolerate a beach but prefer a skatepark. Will play golf and kayak. We want to go somewhere in the Northwest, would like to see a part of Canada, maybe Vancouver and then over to Vancouver island. Any ideas?

The Flight Crew: Don't know what you look for in a skatepark, but the seawall and other paved trails in Vancouver are great for skating. Vancouver also has golf and kayaking right in the city, so that sounds like a great option. Can't think of anything better to fill your wish list right now---anyone else have ideas? Cindy


Arlington, Va.: Hey Flight Crew. Not a question but an observation. I returned this weekend following two weeks in Europe, the Netherlands and the Cote d'Azur. I did not run into any anti-American sentiments nor experience any hostility during my travels. Found Easy-jet and Easy-Car services are aptly named and a cheap way to get around. Flight from Amsterdam to Nice was less than 80 Euros roundtrip and the car came out to about 14 Euros a day. To those putting off travel due to the war, I recommend going ahead and enjoying what Europe has to offer. Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Thanks.


For Arlington: I used to be a Price-line junkie, but have switched to Hotwire. Prices are generally good for hotel rooms, plus you have a sense of what you're getting.

The Flight Crew: I've used both and like them for different reasons. I like the way Priceline divides New York's neighborhoods, for example, but prefer the way Hotwire divvies San Diego. So what I usually do is hit Hotwire first, get that quote, and then go to Priceline for a look-see. - Carol S.


Burtonsville, Md.: For our anniversary Easter weekend I have convinced my wife to leave our 6-month-old daughter with her grandparents so we can have a night in New York to ourselves.

I have booked a room with breakfast at the Waldorf-Astoria for $180. Should I have considered something else for that price (or less) such as the "W" or one of the Ian Schrager hotels?

The Flight Crew: Hi, Burt. Not to bust yer bubble, but you probably could have found a better room for that price. We hear mixed reports about the Waldorf, mostly centering on the complaint that the rooms are small and old. I just checked quikbook.com, and there are lots of good rooms available in top-o-the-line hotels for Easter weekend. The Bryant Park Hotel and 60 Thompson, two of the newest, most exclusive of the boutiques, are $179 a nite on the site. That said, it's New York, it's still the Waldorf and it's a big celebration, so enjoy.

-john


Washington, D.C.: Special shout out to Steve for his article on New Brunswick/Fundy Bay. Due to other committments I was too busy and was only able to read the Mar 30 Post yesterday. Sorry I had to miss last week's chats also. I had submitted something on Fundy Bay a few weeks ago but it didn't make the chats. Thanks again Steve for the nice article. I know you and your family enjoyed NB/FB just like I did back in '87. By the way how far does the dollar the dollar go up there, more or less?

(Oh yeah! that line about "the Fred MacMurray of Provinces." That's right on time.)

The Flight Crew: Thanks very much, WDC. I was enchanted by the place, and not just because the dollar goes so far there. One U.S. greenback will get you about $1.50 Canadian, and the face-value price of things in New Brunswick is cheaper than here. It's a real bargain up there right now, folks, a awful pretty to boot. --Steve


Washington, D.C.: My girlfriend and I will be traveling to Paris this spring, and she insists that I do everything in my power to not reveal myself as an American (no shorts, and no favorite T-shirt that says BOSTON on it, etc.). Are these extreme measures really necessary? I really love that T-shirt.

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says: we met a fellow in Paris last week who insisted on wearing his Celtics sweatshirt. The awful truth is that most people in Paris don't really care what you wear. It seems to make no difference in terms of how you're treated. But with so many folks over there swanky dressed, we always feel that we have to compete in some way and a t-shirt doesn't put us in the competition.


Silver Spring, Md.: For Bethesda, Md., I recommend the Registry Resort in Naples, Fla. It is upscale, and offers all of the services you are looking for. Look at the Naples Daily News online for other hotel ideas. I will be on Sanibel Island during the second week of May where I have a time share and go every year. There are nice resorts there as well, and lots of rental condos available. The weather is great, and it is off-season, so the crowds are gone!

The Flight Crew: Thanks Silver--and enjoy Sanibel. It's one of my fave spots in Florida.
-john


Airport Security: A few weeks ago a chatter complained of airport screeners separating her and her young child. I wanted to relate a commendable job by the screeners at BWI when my 4-year-old daughter and I travelled together recently.

Our carry-on bags were searched when we passed through the security checkpoint, and I was put through the usual search, including wanding, shoes and belt. My daughter was seated in a chair next to the table on which our bags were being checked, and I was searched directly opposite the table.

The security agents took great care to be sure that my daughter could see me at all times, to the point of being certain they weren't standing in a position that blocked her view of me. I was lucky that my daughter handled the whole experience quite well, but I greatly appreciated the obvious concern the agents had not to upset her unduly.

The Flight Crew: They're trying to get more sensitive about kids; one prototype in Denver has security agents with puppets on their wands. Thanks for the report from the road. Cindy


Italy in September: What fare should I expect for travel to Rome in September? I keep getting $1,000+ on travel websites, but did find a $600 flight recently. Should I grab it or wait for better?
I know you get this question all the time. But now that we are planning our Sept. honeymoon, I can't remember what you have recommended in the past! Sorry!

The Flight Crew: Take the $600 fare for early September. If you're traveling in late September, you might do better if you wait. But it's your honeymoon, so you don't want to wind up having to lose a day of travel in order to save a couple of dollars. I'd probably go ahead and firm it up now. - Carol S.


Re: Priceline: For the Priceline comtemplator: check out biddingfortravel.com first for advice and feedback on other bidders' experience with the same location and time. (I was looking for a place in Chicago with an indoor swimming pool over Christmas weekend. A biddingfortravel user had gotten the historic Palmer House for $50, and it has a pool. I bid as recommended, and got the same deal. Doesn't always work out so perfectly, but is almost always still a great deal.)

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tip.


B&B Novice: I've never stayed in a B&B before and have questions: I think I've read somewhere if it's family owned you don't tip for housekeeping. But otherwise, do you tip same as for hotels? What about meal service? Is it acceptable to come back to the B&B late at night (such as 2 or 3 a.m.)?

Thanks for advice.

The Flight Crew: You don't need to tip at a B&B. It is usually run by the owners or by people who care as much about the place as if it were their own. If you want to "tip," you could maybe bring them a bottle of wine or a thoughtful souvenir from one of your day outings. As for late night, though you are a paying guest, you should still be repectful that this is their home too, as well as for other guests. Be quiet when coming back late. And ask about their late-night policies, just to be sure. If you are late nighters, you might want to look into B&Bs that have a separate cottage with its own entry.--andrea


Bowie, Md.: While you were in Paris, did any locals discuss with you the "Freedom Fries" issue?

The Flight Crew: Gary says: Not much... One person did wonder outloud if they tasted any different if they are called Freedom Fries. Another pointed out that pommes frites are actually Belgian...


Boulder, Colo.: Suggestion for upscale Florida gulf coast resort: South Seas Resort on Captiva Island. To really break the bank, stay at one of the villas at Lands End on the north end of the resort.

The Flight Crew: That's a beaut, Boulder. Thanks.

-john


Washington, D.C.: I'm new to this chat and would appreciate any advice/insight you can provide. I've been planning a trip to Southeast Asia for this summer but have concerns about travel safety. I have checked out the State Department's website on travel warnings and advisories, and it doesn't have any listings for the particular country I plan to visit. Do you know of any other sources I should consult before making my travel arrangements? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: The State Department is pretty cautious, so my guess is that there really isn't a problem if they don't list it. If it's health concerns you're worried about, check center for disease control (www.cdc.gov). There are private travel security firms, and one of them I know about, IJet, will help a individual and even give email alerts while you're on the ground, for I think $25 per trip. Big companies use these guys mostly. You can probably find more by websearching a bit. Cindy


For philly:: check www.biddingfortravel.com and use their posts to try priceline. the downtown wyndham has gone for $33, and others have been in the $40-50 range. (add ~$10 for taxes and fees, and that's your final price.)

The Flight Crew: Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: I'm heading out to Greece this summer - Athens and the islands - it will be my first trip there. I haven't considered cancelling for a nanosecond - but many of my friends and family members are concerned. Any suggestions as to how I might ease their minds? Also, I would appreciate a link to any past features you might have done on Greece. Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: My Big Fat Greek Islands,(Post, Nov. 24, 2002)

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says: for one, based on my own trip in Greece last fall, the mood in the islands is so mellow you will have absolutely no worries. For another, except for a few protests, there have been no reported incidents there of any kind in the past few weeks. The link to my Greece piece is enclosed. Have a good time.


Washington, D.C.: Hi -- I am cruisin' from Barcelona in late June. I need to know the price range to settle on a flight? Right now tickets are $700-$800 and some higher -- should I buy now? Or wait, and if wai, how long? Should I opt to fly out of JFK instead of Wash airports?

Thanks!

The Flight Crew: The sales to Europe, as you've learned, end in mid-June. Seems the airlines are still holding on to the usual high summer travel fares and no huge sales have been announced, except for Aer Lingus to Ireland. Again, my rule of thumb - if you need to travel on specific dates and times and you're not flexible, you may just have to pay more to get exactly what you want. If you have flexible travel plans, wait. Going out of JFK will probably not save you enough to be worth the hassle. - Carol S.


Washington, D.C.: Our group of four adults will be in Costa Del Sol area in early June. We already book our lodging and will be renting a car. I did some researches and found a few places for day trip (Grenada, Jerez, Gilbratar). One place I want to visit is Seville and wonder if this is too far for a day trip and if it would be worthwhile to stay over one night. If so, should we book our Seville hotel now and we could just one when we get there.

The Flight Crew: Seville sounds pretty far for a day trip, but it's worth a visit. If you don't want to commit now to which day, I'd say you'd be okay finding a room later. (I'd say head to an internet cafe and book while you're in Costa, though, rather than showing up with nothing.) June is early for the season, lots of people are deferring Europe travel etc. Cindy


Arlington, Va.: Hi everyone,

Timely article about Paris. Currently, we're planning our June trip. Question for you, with eight people in our group, is it better to rent a van or take public transportation to places such as Versaille, Chateau de Montgouverne, island at La Mere Poulard, or Manoir de la Roche Tori? If renting, please point us to where the rate is reasonable. We checked and found some outrageous rates ($300, 400 a day for a minivan.) Thank you so much.

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says: I personally would take public transporation, which will get you to all those places pretty easily and cheaply. There are vans available but you'd have to deal with French driving which can be pretty hellish...


Washington, D.C.: OK, you New York mavens, help me out on a proposed trip for the 4th of July! Mom, dad, and two daughters [12 and 15] lucked into Yankees vs. Bosox tix on 7/5 and also want to see the Brooklyn Cyclones in their Coney Island stadium on 7/3. The New York MTA map shows the 'W' line running to the stadium. Is it smart to take it for a night game of should we drive there and to Yankee Stadium [day game]. Also, are there must-see museums/shows for the kids? [They're already demanding stops at FAO Schwartz and Macy's!] What about watching the fireworks on 7/4 on East River? Thanks and keep up the good work.

The Flight Crew: Hey DC--native New Yorker here. For the Cyclones, you can take the Q, W, F or N to Stillwell Ave/Coney Island. For Yankee Stadium, I'd take the B, D, or 4 trains to 161st St. It's part of the experience to travel with all of the other diehard fans (although on the way back it can get kind of rowdy). Some of the best July 4th fireworks that I've seen have been from Brooklyn, looking over to Manhattan. South Street Seaport might be another fun place to watch the extravaganza (although to be honest the only ones I've seen from there were on New Year's).

Next week's New York issue is focusing on Museum Mile, a swath of Fifth Avenue that has more culture per block than, well, lots of places, with the Met being one of nine museums that line the east side of Central Park. There will be plenty of ideas of things to do outside of museums, as well. On the other side of the Park, The Museum of Natural History is really amazing. Lower East Side: The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is tops.

Any other suggestions for these Big Apple-bound folks?

-Anne


Flights.com?: Does anyone on the flight crew or any chatters have any experience or knowledge about flights.com? So far they beat all the other travel sites in price -- significantly. Is there a caveat?

The Flight Crew: Flights.com is an online consolidator that's been in business for more than a few years. I haven't heard any complaints. Anyone out there bought tickets from them?
- Carol S.


Washington, D.C.: Not if but when:

Here's my dilemma, I'd be interested in your opinions. I have tickets to fly to Thailand May 1 through Japan for a vacation that I've been planning for months. The SARS situation has me concerned, not about catching SARS but about being quarantined in Thailand and my vacation being ruined. If you were me, would you go now or take advantage of United's SARS policy and reschedule the trip for the fall. The practical side of me says I should be fine becuase I'm not going to be in any high risk countries (as it stands now) -- but my gut keeps second guessing me which concerns me.

I'm interested in your thoughts!

Thanks!

The Flight Crew: There have been no cases in Japan, and I don't think any in Thailand. So I'd go, assuming you've not got stopovers in Hong Kong, China or Hanoi. Don't see why you'd have a bigger risk of quarantine in Thailand than anywhere else. I would however want to be sure where any stopovers would be, even if you don't have to change planes. Cindy


Bowie, Md.: About Paris,

One thing we hear sometimes about Europe, is how large (i.e. obese) Americans are compared to Europeans and what a meat- and fat-laden diet we eat.

Did you hear much over there about American's food preferences or about how big we are?

The Flight Crew: Bowie: Traditional French meals do not skimp on butter, cream or cheese and so we have not heard many complaints over there about the ingredients that go into a meal, says Gary. However, portions tend to be smaller in France and so some American travelers feel that they are getting shortchanged a bit.


Greensburg, Pa.: Please suggest a travel plan for starting in Boston and driving up the coast of Maine. Interests include: historic sites, biking, beaches, shopping, whale watches and a tour of Nova Scotia. Please suggest resonable priced family hotels and motels for two adults and two young teens.

The Flight Crew: You want us to fill up your car and cancel your paper for you, too, Greensburg? Just kidding. Here are some general ideas based on my own recent drive up to New Brunswick: Close to Boston, Old Sturbridge Village is a very well done living history park; the overnight ferry from Portland to Nova Scotia gets good reviews as an interesting--and relaxing--way to leapfrog into Canada, but if you drive the whole way Acadia National Park is good for bicylcing; And whale trips are easy to come by in N.S., but I especially enjoyed the one we did out of St. Andrews (on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy) on a square-rigged sailing ship. --Steve


Rockville, Md.: I have to go to Luxemborg in June for a business trip. I will have some down time. Any suggestions on what to do?

Thanks,

Phil

The Flight Crew: Vineyard-hopping (in the Moselle Valley) and strolling along the Chemin de la Corniche, a pedestrian strip, would be high on my list. It's too bad you're not going in August, when you could have see sheep taking to the street as part of the Schueberfouer festival. Any tips, clicksters?
-Anne


B&B tipping: Stayed in a B&B in Charleston, SC. They had obvious housekeeping staff. This staff only worked part time and were not a part of the family that owned it. So you really can't assume that the people shouldn't be tipped. Take a look at your housekeeper. It should be apparent what the right thing to do it.

The Flight Crew: Good tip, on tipping. I guess to be sure, ask the front desk what their policy is. Especially during the summer, when a lot of college kids work in B&Bs (at least in resort towns). Thanks for amending my answer.--andrea


Arlington, Va.: I am going out to Kansas the end of the month, Wichita to be exact. I haven't bought airfare yet, but what is a reasonable price to pay? Also, what is there to do in that part of Kansas?

The Flight Crew: Most of the major, and some minor, airlines go to Wichita. A good fare is about $210 round trip. - Carol S.


Washington, D.C.: My husband and I have never taken a vacation that was not related to work, conferences, or visiting friends and family. We are incredibly stressed out and have decided to go somewhere warm, on a beach where we can do nothing but sleep and lay on the beach with drinks with little umbrellas. A spa treatment would be nice too. Not interested in much sight-seeing or local attractions -- this is just to get away and veg.

We're not sure where to go, and can't afford to spend much more than $1000-$1200 for hotel and airfare for three nights. We're thinking about the Virgin Islands, but coworkers recommend the Bahamas or Barbados. My husband is in the military and although he's not in a position to be called up for deployment, we're a little hesitant to go anywhere that's to difficult to get in and out of. But we do want to get off the "mainland." We were thinking of the U.S. Virgin Islands because it's still the U.S., but are open to other "friendly" countries.

Since I've never done this before, do you recommend that I use a travel agent? Do you or readers have recommendations on where to go? Are our price limits reasonable? Finally, will we do better price-wise if we wait until the end of May?

The Flight Crew: Given your uncertainty of where to go and how much your budget will get you, I think you're a good candidate for a good travel agent.

Barbados is one of my favorite Carib islands, but it is further away. The Bahamas are the closest, so there's that to consider.

Personally, St. Thomas and St. Croix are not among my favorite islands, and don't feel any more American or have any advantage America-wise than islands with ties to the British, French, or wh-atever. So I don't think U.S. ties should figure into your decision. Think instead price and convenience. HAve a well deserved trip.

Cindy


re: youth discounts: Here is the info on USAir which has discounts on its shuttle flights 'tween DC and NYC and Boston for ages 2-25: http://www.usairways.com/about/corporate/shuttle/index.htm#Special%20Shuttle%20Fares

The Flight Crew: Danke!!


U-25 flights: delta and usair both used to have youth travel fares on the shuttles to NYC. i think delta did away with theirs, but usair may still have them. usually, they include restrictions like no "rush hour" travel.

The Flight Crew: More details on shuttle fare deals....


Philly Challenge again with under 25 ticket advice: Thanks for the hostel pointers. Cindy are you thinking of Chamounix? That's what I found on the AYH page and it does look very nice. Also one called Bank Street? Hotwire suggestion also much appreciated.

As for cheap tickets for people under 25 between DC and NY... I bought some about 3 years ago. USAirways used to sell something called a Youth Travel Pack for its DC-NY, and DC-BOS shuttles - it was 4 tickets, and I think to NY it was around $200 total (and Boston was closer to $300). You get 4 vouchers in the mail, valid for a year, and could buy the actual ticket at the airport (but I think you could also put a seat on 24-hour hold). You had to show proof of age, and the tickets had your name on them, so I'm pretty sure they weren't transferrable. The restrictions were that you had to fly weekdays, 10a.m.-2p.m. or after 7, but anytime on Sat. or Sun. I think Delta had a similar program too. No idea if these programs have gone by the wayside with bankrupcy, etc (they were never really advertised on the web - I found out by asking an agent on the phone), but if you are willing to fly at the last minute, it's worth looking into.

The Flight Crew: Chamounix is one I was thinking of. Not sure where those programs stand. Thanks.


Just Back From Italy, Va.: I just got back from Milan and found no anti-Americanism whatsoever. The people were lovely and very helpful. I stayed in the center of town right on the main piazza and the day I arrived there was a huge peace demonstration. It turned into a truly Italian event: no organization, lots of music, dancing, hugging, kissing, and laughing. No flag burning or anti-American signs in evidence. Everyone was v. polite to me. I'm told that the Milanese are quite reserved, so I attributed whatever coolness I might have received to that or the weariness that sophisticated city dwellers the world over feel toward tourists. I say go for it and have a great time.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the real(ish)-time news. Good to hear that all is safe in Italy.--andrea


Silver Spring, Md.: Seville Day Trip. I stayed in Costa Del Sol a couple of years ago and did a Seville day trip. Remember, people drive faster than the speed of light there, so travel time is shorter. There are a couple of cathedrals to see, then stop for dinner and head back. Drive carefully!

The Flight Crew: Thanks.


Arlington, Va.: Looking for a small quiet B&B somewhere between Monterey & SF for midweek at the end of this month. Ocean views a plus. Need not be inexpensive. Can you help?

The Flight Crew: I know Carmel is south of Monterery, but still an easy drive to SF. Check the Pine Inn if Carmel will do, and they have a big selection of BB there. Anyone know something that's actually between Monterey and SF? I love Palo Alto, but doubt there's anything cheap there. Cindy


Northern Virginia: HI! Is there any chance that I could find a fare to Australia for late June for $1250.00 or less? I know the airlines are running some specials now, but they expire in early June. I thought fares would be low that time of year because it would their winter, but the fares I'm finding now are $1500 or more. Do you think the airlines will have "new" specials once the current ones expire? Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Airlines are holding the line on summer fares (yes, I know it's not summer there, but fares are often based on season here). Whether there will be deeper discounts is anyone's guess. Much depends on how war goes and whether we stay free of terrorist attacks. Again, how flexible are you? If it doesn't matter exactly when you go, take a chance and wait. - Carol S.


Rockville, Md.: I'm so excited! I'm heading to Scottsdale, AZ for some rest and relaxation in May: spa, pool, yummy food....But, I don't want to stay at the resort all day, every day. Are there any fun or unusual tours I can take? I'm wondering if there is a horseback riding outfit, hot air ballooning....I'm up for anything as I have NO ONE else's preferences to worry about!!

The Flight Crew: Someone help with Scottsdale?


Alexandria, Va.: Do you know any web sites that provide driving directions but allow you to opt out of using Interstates. I'm looking for something that will plot out a scenic drive.

The Flight Crew: Not sure, but I think AAA will do that for you. Have you tried that? If anyone knows another resource, chime in.


South Amboy, NJ: I am the girlfriend of the guy who wants to, but won't be wearing the Boston tee-shirt. We are going to Paris next Monday and I was wondering if you can recommend good but not over-priced places to eat while we are there. We want to taste the local dishes, but not go broke doing so. Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Gary says, one place we like is La Mere Agitee, near the metro Raspail. Otherwise, suggest you check out patriciawells.com. She is a food critic over there and suggest places at every price level.


RE: Italy in May: My husband I just got back from Italy on March 31 and we had the BEST time, so my answer is "GO!". A lot of people thought that we were crazy to travel there right now-- but my general feeling is that as long as you stay away from anti-war protests you'll be fine. We encountered no anti-Americanism whatsoever and the only thing that even reminded us that there is a war going on were the rainbow colored "PACE" (PEACE in Italian) flags that are hanging from nearly every balcony in every city we went to.

I'd also like to add a general piece of travel advice for anyone who might be going to Europe or elsewhere. I bought a "Streetwise" plastic laminated fold-up map for each of the major cities that we visited (in our case that was Rome, Florence & Venice). These things are the best! They fit neatly into my purse and whenever I got lost I could distreetly pull it out and not have to worry about looking silly with some huge map (especially if it were rainy or windy). I think you can get them at most bookstores. I will definitely use them again next time I travel!

The Flight Crew: Thanks, says Gary, for your enthusiasm and your tip. We concur with both.


Down Under Tip, Va.: Just wanted to pass on my two cents for Cindy on her trip Down Under. I think one of the best Saturday or Sunday brunch things to do in Sydney is to hop on the ferry across to North Sydney to the Thomas Street Cafe. They have wonderful food, excellent coffee and a great courtyard for alfresco dining. Afterward you can a nice stroll through the harborside park just below the restaurant. Another great place for alfresco breakfast on one of Sydney's perpetually beautiful April autumnal mornings is at Watermark at Balmoral Beach. Had a truly memorable breakfast there two years with just me and my brother on my wedding day.

P.S. having lived in Cuba for two years I'm amazed that you'd want to be there, rather than Australia. The people are wonderful and the sun shines but being anywhere except the resorts for more than a week brings home the dreariness and desperation of living under communism.

The Flight Crew: Thanks so much for the tip---leaving in a few days but didn't have Sydney plans mapped out yet, and will take your advise.
Cuba was simply on my mind since I'd just read that the Bush Administration plans to cut out a travel category that half of U.S. travelers use to go there. Of course Australia is a better country, gov., etc, and I'm excited, but right now am thinking mostly of my dread of the long trip in the air. Thanks again. Cindy


Re: Luxemborg: If you are able to travel, Bastogne which is right across the border in Belgium has some nice sites including a great museum about the Battle of the Bulge

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tip!

Anne


Thailand traveler: Yes at least 2 people have reportedly died of SARS in Thailand. Come on FLIGHT CREW check your wash post facts! I just came back from Thailand and had no problems. No quarantine, really no public worries. I'd say go. This whole thing is goingto blow over.

The Flight Crew: Be nice---that's why I said I wasn't sure about Thailand. If I stopped to check every fact I wasn't sure about, we'd only answer one question an hour. Instead, if I'm not sure, I say I'm not, so double check. But at least we agree--go and have fun. Cindy


Baltimore, Md.: Regarding the questions about going to Europe at a time of heightened anti-Americanism: Since the Flight Crew and clicksters who have traveled to Europe recently seem to agree that the anti-Americanism is limited to the occasional comment rather than actual attacks on Americans, I would remind us all of the wisdom of "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Don't let fear of hearing an unkind word about America prevent you from exploring the world and enjoying your trip. Go, listen, learn, think. Hearing other points of view -- even those you find offensive -- is part of the revelation of travel.

The Flight Crew: Baltimore: we couldn't have put it better ourselves, says Gary. Thanks!


Native New Jerseyan: For the Washington DC family going to NYC over the 4th - your kids might like some of the sports/entertainment at Chelsea Piers, on the Hudson side of Manhattan. This will position you for some dining in Soho, Tribeca or the Village, (they REALLY need you)and the Intrepid, the aircraft carrier, if you have any strength left. Personally, I like the River Edge diner for it's pies, but that may be a little out of your area for a weekend.

The Flight Crew: Hey Native, good tips. The only thing about Chelsea Piers, which is pretty stellar, is that it's also pretty expensive if I remember correctly.

-Anne


Re: Travel to Thailand: Per the State Department:

This Public Announcement is being issued to clarify for U.S. citizens information about the Thai government’s response to the SARS epidemic. The Royal Thai Government has announced new measures for arriving travelers due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) situation. This Public Announcement expires on July 3, 2003.

The Royal Thai Government announced the following protective measures applicable as of April 3, 2003, to passengers arriving at Thai points-of-entry (including international airports in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai, and Ko Samui) from Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Vietnam. These measures apply to Thai nationals and foreigners and do not differentiate between persons originating from the five listed locations and those who merely transited those countries. Thai authorities, including health care professionals, will perform a quarantine inspection of all aircraft arriving from the listed countries. All disembarking passengers and crew are required to fill out a Health Control Document prior to proceeding to quarantine inspection. Passengers and crew transiting Bangkok who elect to remain on the aircraft are exempted from the quarantine inspection.

The Flight Crew: Thanks.


Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Taking a Cruise of Baja California in October, stopping in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Anything in particular we should be sure to catch? We'll want to spend some quality beach time...which port is best for the surf? Any help is much appreciated!

The Flight Crew: Surfers help needed.


Arlington, Va.: Long weekend, two parents, one 2 1/2-year-old, money is not much of an object. We'd prefer to drive

We were thinking of Philadelphia, and staying at the Rittenhouse. Comments? Advice? Cautionary tales from the clicksters?

The Flight Crew: Everyone here who has stayed at the Rittenhouse gives it high grades, Arl. And Philly is certainly becoming a fine visiting city, what with all the swell restaurants opening and the new Kimmel center. Whether you'll be allowed to take your toddler into Independence Hall seems to be changing by the day as the tug-of-war continues between the city government and the Department of Homeland Security.


Chicago (by way of Springfield, Va.): Hi! My husband and I are planning a "mountain vacation" for this summer. We had read an article on Aspen, and all of the activities it described appealed to us: hiking, rafting and fly fishing in the day and concerts and good meals in the evening. When we looked at prices in Apsen, though, our jaws dropped. (We probably should have been able to guess this, huh?) Anyway, can you think of some sort of western mountain idyll that has it all and is NOT a playground for the rich and famous but is hospitable to the necessarily budget-conscious?

Thanks! (And thanks for all of the great advice. I really look forward to these chats, even when I'm not planning a trip.)

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: In Colorado, take a look at Steamboat Springs. I also like Park City, Utah, and Jackson, Wyoming, in summer. I haven't been to Crested Butte area of Colorado, but here that's nice and not too pricey.


3000 miles west of you: About Almaty. I was there a couple of years ago. It's not exactly a competetive flight destination. What I did was get the cheapest possible flight to Istanbul, then fly to Almaty on Turkish Airlines. Even so, the Istanbul-Almaty flight cost as much as San Franciso-Istanbul. I'd suggest pricing the trip in two segments. DC to London, Paris, Frankfurt, Istanbul, etc. Then the second destination to ALmaty. One caution--the national airlines of the Stans very in reliability--as in maintenance & safety.

I'd suggest checking out the Central Asia section of Lonely Planet's message board. There are a lot of regulars there who know Kazahstan well and who could answer questions about current conditions. http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com/categories.cfm?catid=13

One thing I do remember was that traveler's checks were utterly useless. No one would cash them, not even banks. Dollars or (now)Euros, in cash. The only thing TCs were good for was, when hit up for a bribe by an official, one could look helpless and say "gosh, all I have are these traveler's checks." Really helps if you can speak Russian or Turkish--not many English-speakers around.

The Flight Crew: Thanks. If you'd like the potty covers, please email me your address at loosec@washpost.com


for Scottsdale-bound: There's Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio...

The Flight Crew: thanks.


re: Scottsdale: There is plenty to do. Drive to Sedona and take a Pink Jeep Tour up to the Red Rock Mountains, there are plenty of spas, CamelBack Resort, lots of shopping downtown and tons of yummy restaurants.

The Flight Crew: thanks.


Just Back from B.A.: I just got from a business trip to Buenos Aires and I'd take issue with a previous poster's characterization of the city. I found it to be remarkably well-kept and clean, especially since I was expecting just the opposite from all the press articles I'd read. I found not one jot of anti-Americanism, not one, just the contrary really.

The Flight Crew: Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: Just read the travel article from a few weeks ago on the Alaskan ferry system, I have one question - would seasickness be a problem? I've been on a ferry through the WA San Juan Islands and from England to France with no problems. But the ferry back from France to England was during stormy weather and I (and most of the other passengers) was seasick. Thank you.

The Flight Crew: I just tried to reach the author of the Alaska ferries article but looks like he's on assignment. I'd say hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and have lots of dramamine around.

Anne


For the Boston to Mainer:: Certainly don't miss two of my favorites: Newburyport Massachusetts and Portland Maine. Newburyport is a beautifully restored seaport village on the Merrimac River, straight up I-95 near the NH border. Wonderful downtown with great shops, dining, and views.
Portland has a fantastic preserved "Old Port", with wonderful islands in the Casco Bay for exploring. Grab a lobster roll and head out on one of Casco Bay Lines' ferries to Peaks Island or Long Island for some beach time or beautiful views. And don't miss Portland Head Light, one of the oldest and most photographed lighthouses in the country.
Enjoy!

The Flight Crew: Thanks, Bos to Maine.


Annapolis, Md.: My hubby and I would like to do a New England vacation for about 10-14 this Sept. We know we would like to do Boston for a couple of days but also want to do some beaching, more sunning than swimming, fishing, scenic hiking. Where would you recommend we go? I was thinking Cape Cod (never been), Martha's Vineyard? Is one better than the other for what we want or is there somewhere else we should look at like beaches in Maine or RI (do they have beaches)? Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Rhode Island has beaches, but they aren't the best. Maine beaches are nice, but cold for my blood. Personally I like the beaches of Martha's Vineyard, but can't argue too hard between that and Cape Cod.


home from Maui: Just wanted to say thanks for all the great stories in the Travel archive. We studied up before leaving and had a wonderful time snorkeling in Molokini, driving to Hana and taking a day trip to the Volcano National Park, all because of you. P.S. Few folks in maui -- felt like we had paradise to ourselves.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the kind words!


Arlington, Va.: I am going to Monterey, CA, for 7-10 days in late May, and am wondering if the Crew has any hotel or restaurant recommendations. Any must-sees? Thanks, and always enjoy the chat!

The Flight Crew: Stroll around nearby Carmel, and check out the beach there. The aquarium is great. With that much time in Monterey I'd take a day or even an overnight down to the Big Sur. If you need convincing, I could ask .com to provide a link to story we did a couple years ago. In fact, I'll just do that, since it has some Monterey stuff to, including restaurant and lodging. Cindy


Rosslyn, Va.: Between SF and Monterey I would recommend Half Moon Bay, a beautiful and calm beach community. It will probably be empty, except for a handful of surfers, midweek. The drive there is worth the trip.

Their chamber of commerce web site lists about a dozen B and Bs.

The Flight Crew: Hey, good idea.


To Philly-bound: If you want great desserts on a budget, go to Four Seasons hotel Saturday night after 8 p.m. They have an dessert buffet for $ 11 / person. If you have a light dinner, you can eat several dessert of amazing quality for little money.

The Flight Crew: Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: Hi FC,

My husband and I are traveling to Ireand in June for 10 days and would like to rent a car and travel around. We realize that automatic transmission cars are scarse and costly in Europe. Do you know of any place were we could learn to drive a manual transmission prior to the trip?

Thanks!

The Flight Crew: We don't know of any car classes for manual cars, except a friend who is very patient and hard of hearing (that grinding shift noise, ouch). However, have you check rates and car styles with Auto Europe? They have some very good Ireland air/car/hotel specials. Also check Sceptre Travel, which focuses on Ireland vacations, and perhaps they can outfit you with an automatic.--andrea


Alexandria, Va.: Eeeek. Hope this gets in. Is a late April trip to Cape May a good or bad idea? I am thinking of a relaxing weekend get-a-way. Thanks!

The Flight Crew: I think late April to Cape May might be truly splendid. It so depends on variable weather, though. Maybe you tentatively plan to go, but not get locked into reservations until a couple days before, when we have a weather report. Cindy


Just Curious: Hello Flight Crew -- happy Monday to you.

If you were stuck in a city that only offered the following dining choices: Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesday, which would you choose?

The Flight Crew: Ah, the toughest travel question of all. Where you vacationing, Silver Spring? We suggest making a progressive dinner of it...go for the fried cheese at Ruby Tuesday, then move to Red Lobster for the stuffed flounder and end it all with Olive Garden's tiramisu. Your mouth is watering now, isn't it? Bon appetit.


Arlington, Va.: The person going to Luxembourg should also check out the city museum in Lux City. It's very modern and cool and traces the history of the city and the country from the beginning. It's also worth wandering around the old casemates and city fortifications. It's hilly and can be a bit strenuous, but if the weather is nice just hiking in and around the city is fun. I enjoyed my 4 day stay there a couple of years ago.

The Flight Crew: And more advice--thanks, Arl.!


This one's for K.C.: A totally non-travel related question here. Are you single?

The Flight Crew: K.C.'s not here, so I can't answer for her. But if you are a gentleman of means, or good looks, or good sense of humor, or some other fine quality, why not give it a chance? (Cindy)


Bay State Native: Re Massachusetts beaches: From my childhood memories I'd say that the water on the south shore of the Cape will be warmer than on the north shore, and the Vineyard will be a tad warmer still. Try South Beach on the Vineyard. Never been to Nantucket but the ferry ride is much longer.

The Flight Crew: thanks.


Bowie, Md.: The Miami-Dade country Tri-Rail stops at both Ft. Lauderdale and Miami airports, takes 45 minutes and costs $4.

Schedules aren't great on weekends, though.

www.tri-rail.com

The Flight Crew: Thanks.


Family Resort: Oglebay is a great family spot in Wheeling, WV. It is a city-run resort that offers a myriad of things to do for the kids and great golf for the parents. There is a lake, but it only offers fishing and paddle boats. No big boats. Still, a great place for the price and a gorgeous location.

The Flight Crew: Thanks.


washingtonpost.com: Dear Sur, (Post, Oct. 28, 2001)

The Flight Crew: thanks, .com.


Downtown Washington, D.C.: Much to my amazement, three generations of my family are going to Switzerland on an Untour in July. We've all read up on where we're going and I've heard nothing but good about Untours, so I don't really have any questions about the fun part of the trip. I do have a couple of questions about the not-so-fun part. For instance, do you have any tips on how to help my eight-year-old niece handle the plane ride? We're all flying from Dulles to Munich, then my brother and sister-in-law are flying to Paris for a few days before joining the rest of us in Meiringen. What kind of paperwork do my parents and I need in regards to my niece during that time? And finally, do you know of any must-not-miss restaurants in Paris? Brother and sister-in-law want to have one extrodinary meal while they're there, but don't know where that should be.

I do have a travel tip I want to pass on. There's a kind of on-line book club called Bookcrossing (http://bookcrossing.com/). The premise is you take a book--usually and inexpensive paperback--and when you've finished with it, put a Bookcrossing label on in and pass it on, often by just leaving it in an accessable spot for a stranger to pick up. Each book label has a unique book registration number that you can take to the website and use to follow your book around the world, reading remarks from everybody who's read it along the way. It seems like a great way to lighten your travelling load a little: read your book and leave it in a Swiss train station when you're done, knowing that it won't just be thrown away.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: An eight-year-old should be fine on a plane ride. You'll be on an overnight flight, so she'll sleep. Bring books, games, cards, etc., for the couple of hours before it's lights out. On the way home, you can help her put together a journal of her trip. Get a notarized statement signed by both your brother and sister-in-law giving permission for you to travel with her - you may not need it, but it's good to have. I can't help about restaurants.
As for bookcrossings.com, I have heard of this and was thinking of doing an article on it. Thanks! - Carol S.


re: Western mountains: I'd recommend Estes Park, CO, which is on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park but only about a 2 hour drive from Denver. Much less chic than Aspen but a beautiful location with options from camping and cottages to something more upscale. Check out the historic Stanley Hotel on which Stephen King based "The Shining."

The Flight Crew: thanks.


Re: driving stick in Ireland: I know how to drive stick and driving manual transmission in Ireland with the steering wheel on the other side of the road, and driving on the other side of the road took some getting used to. Just my two cents on the subject, FWIW.

The Flight Crew: thanks.


Re: Scottsdale, Ariz.: I go to Scottsdale, AZ every august for a convention and usually go out a few days early to take some vacation. I know there's a company that runs tours of the area and the Grand Canyon that picks you up right at your hotel. I usually check with the consierge b/c I can never remember the name of the group. So far, I've seen the Grand Canyon, Sedona, done a tour of Phoenix and Scottsdale but I know they also have Jeep tours to some of the local places as well.

The Flight Crew: thanks.


Laurel, Md.: To this Christmas week cruisers:

Biggest difference between self-book and cruise-line is that in the former case if you're late, you're on your own to catch up with your ship. If the cruise line's arrangements don't work out, they'll be responsible for you.

Given your travel dates, I'd say book yourself IF YOU FLY ON THE 25TH (which is a terrificly light flying day.) If you fly on any other day, don't take they chance on holiday-time travel.

The Flight Crew: thanks, Laurel.


Washington, D.C.: For the person who wants to know what to tell the cab driver about the best route. When I'm travelling to an unknown city, I always check one of the online maps/direction sites to give me a general idea of what the route should be and roughly how long it will take.

The Flight Crew: Good idea, DC.


To the Ireland-bound family: There are hundreds of B&Bs across Ireland. Most of them participate in the voucher program that several travel services use (including Sceptre and CIE), but you don't have to buy vouchers to stay at them. In fact, I think it might be cheaper to pay as you go. You'll just want to get a B&B directory, which you can get from the Irish tourism Web site. Actually, there are two guides: one to town B&Bs and one to farmhouse B&Bs. They're free (or they were a year ago, when we went) and they're packed with photos and descriptions.

The Flight Crew: thanks.


Somewhere, USA: Yes, Almaty is erm, not a popular tourist
destination. Thanks for your advice--I will
definitely check out Lonely Planet.

I would love to travel through Istanbul, because I
am learning Turkish, but I'm a bit leery of traveling
through Turkey with the world situation being
what it is, and my Turkish not being as sharp as it
could be to help me handle sticky situations. In
KZ, however, I will be working with English
speakers who also speak Russian well. thank
goodness.

Does the Flight Crew think that Turkey is definitely
not a good place to travel to, or even through, this
summer? I have a Turkish friend who has offered
to let me stay at her home and tour around the
country for a week if I go through Turkey. But as
an American girl, I'm not sure if going is a good
idea.

The Flight Crew: Not what I'd plan right now. Who knows whether things calm down or heat up in coming months? Cindy


Arlington, Va.: In response to the cabbie question couldn't you just turn it back on them and say something like "Well, you've been driving out there today, which do you think will be fastest or cheapest?"

The Flight Crew: Great idea, Arl...we'll try that next time!


Re: Phill, Pa.: Just got back from a business trip there. Take advantage of the PHLASH bus. $4 all day, on and off as much as you like. It goes all over, though only runs during the day.

The Flight Crew: Thank ye.


Kensington, Md.: I am trying to use up some Northwest frequent flier miles and one of the few options I've been offered for a trip to Oakland is on Alaska Air. I know nothing about this airline. Would you recommend using them? In general, how can one find information about reliability and safety compliance on these smaller carriers?

The Flight Crew: Should be able to find something on www.faa.gov., but I can't site exact spot on their website.


Boston, Mass.: Can travelers to New Zealand in December of 2003 expect airfares to drop in the coming months? Is Continental Airlines still considering picking up the LAX to Auckland route dropped by United Airlines?

The Flight Crew: Airfares to that part of the world dropped for end of April, but even the airlines don't seem to be planning much past that. So no way to know. Sorry.


Wheaton, Md.: We'd like to go to Alaska this year, but the soonest we could go is October 1. Even if we stay within a couple of hundred miles of Anchorage (e.g., Prince William Sound, and maybe close enough to Denali to see the peak if not explore the park), is this too late in the season? I've read that temps would likely be in the 30s, with the possiblity of snow (which could make driving difficult; we live in D.C. so automatically panic when the first flake falls).

The Flight Crew: Well, you could certainly get around the cities (such as they are) with no problem in October, Wheaton, especially if next year is as mild as last year was. And you could probably get around the Kenai Peninsula. But I wouldn't count on too many backcountry experiences, unless you luck out on weather.


The Flight Crew: Thanks so much. See you next week. Cindy


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