The Flight Crew: Welcome to this week's voyage with the Travel section Flight Crew. We have a smaller-than-usual Crew this week, but a well-rounded one nonetheless--on board are editor K.C. Summers and writers Carol Sottili, Andrea Sachs and Anne McDonough. I'm John Deiner, your captain this week, and we're looking forward to taking your questions.
Been hearing mixed reviews on our new Fly Buys-less section, and we want to know what you guys think: Thumbs up or thumbs down on the expanded "What's the Deal?" Please keep the diatribes short and the praise long.
The contest this week stems from our Sunday section's lead on the Greenbrier vs. the Homestead (I know EVERYONE has been to at least one of them . . .). Tell us what your favorite resort is and why--that secluded lodge in safari country? that spa in Fiji? the cool highrise in Ocean City with the two pools? (Mine is Mandalay Bay in Vegas, followed closely by the Kapalua Resort in Maui).
The clickster who makes us want to run to the phone and book his or her fave resort gets a foul-looking blue-and-orange bean bag critter named Raggs (okay, KC thinks he/she/it is adorable) and two CDs of music to chill by from Guinness and W hotels.
And away we go . . .
Alexandria, Va.: As an Ohio native, I loved the story on Columbus' German Village. And I have to plug my favorite German Village business: The Book Loft. I have no connection to the store, but it's a great independent bookstore housed in, literally, former houses. The books are arranged by subject in rooms that cover a block. You can spend hours wandering from room to room. (They actually give you a map when you walk in the store.)
You can check out the Web site at www.bookloft.com
The Flight Crew: Hey Alex,
We always love it when a native of a featured destination is in tune with the reporter's take on things. And now there's one more reason to head on over to Columbus.
Washington, D.C.: We would like to go to Tobago. Can you recommend the cheapest way to get there and things to see and do? Thanks for the chat!
The Flight Crew: Hey D.C.--here comes our most recent info on Tobago, by Gary Lee.
washingtonpost.com: Exploring Tobago's Wild Side,(Post, Feb. 23, 2003)
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Kim!
Washington, D.C.: I am planning a vacation to Bulgaria this fall and I find that buying tickets to Bulgaria are cheaper to buy there than buying here online. Why is it expensive for us while it is cheaper overseas for them? Any good suggestion to see in Bulgaria?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Make sure it's okay to buy tickets in Bulgaria. I know, for example, that, as a U.S. resident, you can't buy tickets in England that originate in the U.S. As for why they're cheaper, it's supply and demand, and what the market will bear. What I want to know is why gas is so much cheaper eight miles down the road from my house?
Ditto on Columbus!: Loved the BookLoft, and Katzinger's deli is a "must!"
The Flight Crew: Looks like another Ohio native lurking about!
Dulles, Va.: We're heading out to Yellowstone for vacation this summer, and we're considering flying into Jackson Hole. Does anyone have a ballpark idea of what airfares should run in August? I'm monitoring airfares, which are currently around $450, but I'd like to know what a good price would be so I can pounce on it when I see it!
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Airfare to Jackson Hole is almost always expensive. I paid close to that amount five years ago. It's a small airport, and it's not served by any discount carriers. I'd say that anything under $400 is cheap.
Washington, D.C.: I enjoyed the Greenbrier/Homestead chart yesterday. My family has reservations in August at the Homestead. Any suggestions for a family with a 4-year-old and an infant?
The resort seems very family friendly, so far. They supply full-size cribs. Plus, they lower their rates in August. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.
washingtonpost.com: Greenbrier vs. Homestead, (Post, April 20)
The Flight Crew: Hey Wash, glad you liked the piece. You'll find lots of company, family-wise -- I know the Homestead has had a big uptick in family travel and there's tons of stuff for kids to do. I thought one of the nicest touches was a special trout pond on the ground just for kids, with poles waiting on the banks. Plus there's bowling, a video arcade, those amazing pools, great hiking, horseback riding, and on and on. They also have a kids' program that looks really nice (had to trim that out of the chart for space), if you want to dump the kids and have some quiet time of your own. Have fun! -- KC.
Bermuda-bound: Hi everyone, I'm counting down to my trip to Bermuda (I'm leaving Saturday) and I'm VERY excited! Any tips for great restaurants or attractions/things to do that I absolutely shouldn't miss?? I've never been there, so any and all info is appreciated!
The Flight Crew: Hi, BB. You're in for a treat--just love Bermuda. My first tip is: Be prepared for weather that's not exactly summerlike. Check ahead and see what the weather is like--while it won't be cold, it may be in the 60s or low 70s so you'll want to dress accordingly.
As for attractions, there's not a tremendous amount of touristy stuff, which is one of the best things about the island. I love to snorkel--there are tons of spots on the island to do so, either right on the coast or off on a charter. Hamilton is a pretty little town, and the center of island life--you'll no doubt find yourself there at some point.
As for restaurants, there's a ton of 'em. It's a tourist trap, but the Swizzle Inn is still a hoot--and you can check out the national drink. I'm sure the clicksters can help you on that.
So, what do you say, guys? Hints for Bermuda?
Washington, D.C.: Happy Monday. Could you please tell me what is up with car rentals in FL. the prices are unbelieveable. any recommendations? I even checked Orbitz and so forth and they are expensive also. Thanks and have a great day
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Try www.hotwire.com or www.priceline.com. I always get cheap car rental deals using one of these companies. Travelocity.com also has decent deals, as does www.southwest.com.
Arlington, Va. : FAVE RESORT: Amen on the Columbus Bookloft, though it doesn't match Foyle's in London. Also, a gentle vote in favor of returning the flight prices. It was a great shorthand convenience, and much more user-friendly that Orbexpidicity (to coin a phrase.)
FAVE Resort: The tiny, very intimate and very beautiful Ti Kaye Village on St. Lucia. Look at www.tikaye.com and see if you don't agree. Isolated, peaceful, beautiful views, great beach, warm staff; what more could you want in the functional equvalent of your own private beach villa?
The Flight Crew: Thanks for your two cents, Arl (and we wish we'd thought of Orbexpidicity!).
Rockville, Md: If I read your article correctly, it looks like the Greenbrier wins. If so, I agree. We spent our honeymoon there many years ago. I then expected to waited on hand and foot forever.
The Flight Crew: No, actually we wanted to list the pros and cons of both resorts in an honest way, and to show that each its own charms, and that each has stuff the other doesn't. No winner or loser per se. For example, the Homestead may not have some of fancier trappings of the Greenbrier, but it's got that amazing 18th-century bathhouse where Thomas Jefferson once cavorted. Top that, Greenbrier! -- KC
The Flight Crew: Hey, no other than our very own Steve Hendrix just flew in. And boy are his arms tired. Ask away folks.
Please tell, K.C.: A few weeks ago I submitted this question, but you weren't there. Are you single?
The Flight Crew: Sorry, this isn't that sort of chat room!
Somewhere, USA: I apologize for belaboring the point but I haven’t been able to submit for the last few chats. Just to follow up on the tread of the use of the chat v. the Sunday section, I don’t know that one can say that the chats and the articles in the Sunday section are used the same way or meet the needs of the same audiences.
For instance I use the chats to get instant feedback on a small question that would have an answer that the Travel team would know off the top. The articles in the Sunday section that I have enjoyed the most are the ones that show me off beat places around the globe or interesting takes one familiar places. So it is possible that people use a similar resource in two entirely different ways.
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Somewhere.
For Bermuda: We took a cruise to Bermuda last fall and we had a great time! We loved the glass factory and the perfumery. We didn't realize that we could take glass blowing lessons until we got there and then it was too late. We're already planning to go back. One great site for planning is www.bermudatourism.com.
The Flight Crew: Thanks, FB. That is one excellent web site.
New Zealand in December?: Hi crew! Looks like we'll have 10-15 days for a real vacation in December. Is this a good time to go to New Zealand? What's good to see and do? What are plane fares like then? Any ideas about how to craft an itinerary or should I find a travel group? Can you recommend any resources to help us plan? We are mid 30ish and would like to be outdoors and active alot, but not exclusively. Thanks so much for your help!
The Flight Crew: December is the beginning of their summer, so it's a great time--though their temps are more like our spring. Not hot hot, like, say, Florida. More like San Fran. However, it is also their big holiday season, so you will be competing with other Kiwis for hotel rooms, hiking trails, etc. But the country is big and empty enough to accommodate everyone--and the 8 gazillion sheep. If you only have two weeks, best to pick an island. We did South Island and drove around, then swung by Auckland for the America's Cup.
Check Air New Zealand or Quantas Vacations for deals and packages, or the tourism office (www.newzealand.com) for travel ideas, maps and driving itineraries and more. Fares are about a grand or so, though they rise in December.
New Zealand is all about the outdoors. The whole country is like a giant hiking trail. Queenstown is best for high-adrenalin sports, like bungee jumping--but it also has a cute ski village feel. For sailing and big city, Auckland. For Scottish heritage and the wildlife-stuffed peninsula, Duneidin. Oh, the list goes on and on. I loved it there and can't wait to go back!--andrea
Washington, D.C.: Kudos on the "Choices, Choices" article -- you two did a fine job of comparing and contrasting Homestead and Greenbrier, and presenting the information in a way that allows each reader to draw his or her own conclusion as to what's best for that person. (Unfortunately, I still haven't made up my mind!). Here's a big question for me: Are the Jefferson Pools only open to guests at Homestead, or can anyone use them? Thanks.
The Flight Crew: No, anyone can use them, and they're only $15 an hour to boot. The only difference is that if you're a guest at the Homestead you can put it on your room bill. I was so impressed with how sensitively the Homestead runs the pools -- they could have really tarted them up but it's very low-key and non-glitzy, and a great change from the fancy spa stuff. -- KC
Washington, D.C.: Flight Crew,
I’m coming up against a transatlantic airfare ‘black hole’ just after Labor Day through October. In my particular case, I’m trying to plan a family trip to Italy (IAD/DCA/BWI to Rome/FCO) for the last week in September through the first week in October. My research (and I’ve done a lot of it) shows summer airfares through 3 September for around $600-$700… That’s about right and all the airlines seem to have similar fares – ALL up through 3 September. Between 4 September and 31 October, airfares to Rome are all registering in EXCESS of $1000! On 1 November – again, across ALL the airlines – airfares drop to the $500-$600 range. I thought maybe it was just the route, but to compare, I checked IAD-LHR (a well traveled route for me) and got similar results. On the IAD-LHR route, fares did seem to ease slightly on 29 September.
Sorry about the excruciating detail, but what’s going on here? Should I hold out hope that fares will drop? Is there something special I should know about September-October? I had always considered those months good for travel – kids are back in school, fares are (supposed to be) cheaper than the summer, and the weather is still okay. But there is this ‘black hole’ that is eerily consistent, beginning on 4 September across all the airlines. What gives?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I want to know where you are finding a $600/$700 round-trip fare from here to Rome for summer travel. I've come up with fares closer to $900. Back to your question - the fares you're seeing for fall travel are the standard economy fares for the fall shoulder travel period. As the date gets closer, pricing people will tweak the fares and they will probably go lower unless the planes are filled at these current levels. I'd wait.
Shepherdstown, West Va.: Good Day,
(I apologize if you received this 2x, had trouble submitting earlier).
Are there any couples only resorts within the U.S? I'm not looking for a club med type, but some place that just does not allow small children. I know Sandals resorts abound in the Caribbean, but I'd like to find something here in the U.S. I find it extremely hard to relax while listening to someone else's screeching children! My husband and I are in our late thirties (if that helps) and I have discovered that even if I pick an expensive resort, people have still dragged their kids along. I would prefer a beach location, but at this point, I'm not picky. Any place with nice amenities and good scenery or sightseeing activities (without children) will do.
Thank-you very much.
The Flight Crew: Hey, Shep. We've decided among us that there must be, but we're not sure what they are, either. I just got back from the Sanderling in the Outer Banks, and it sure seems to discourage children (only two people allowed per room unless you get management's okay, either twin beds or one king in each room, etc.).
Anyone out there have some spots for Shep?
Washington, D.C.: Two things - first, I liked the old "Fly Buys" graphic in the travel section.
And second, is there any discernible pattern to Amtrak's "Rail Sale" offers? For months, there have deals on something like Washington to Chicago for $16 or $32 or $64, and then that route won't be offered for a while.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Thanks for the feedback on Fly Buys. And fare sales are often offered on routes that are undersold, whether it be Amtrak or United Airlines.
Bermuda Alert!: FYI - the first tropical storm of the season is out in the Atlantic. I think Bermuda gov't is posting some sort of storm alert.
The Flight Crew: Hey, yer right! Just checked www.weather.com and it says it should pass far south of Bermuda, but the island is under a storm watch. Looks like our friend will be just fine.
Washington, D.C. : Favorite Resort has to be the Marriott Camelback Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. My fiancee had such a wonderful time exploring the resort, golfing, lounging by the pool. It will always be on our list of top resorts.
The Flight Crew: Nice choice, D.C. And I bet it's not raining there today, either.
Washington, D.C.: Fave Resort: Blue Lagoon in Iceland. Not only is it a beautiful country, but the Blue Lagoon, with it's geothermic water is so relaxing. Also has great golf! Go there on your way back from Europe. Iceland Air has many specials to stay one or two days in Iceland.
The Flight Crew: Man, I'd love to go there sometime...the pictures alone sell the place. Thanks for the input.
Dulles, Va.: Hi Crew:
Going to Europe in the middle of May. Specifically France, and I am really looking forward to it. I have a general question. What are your recommendations regarding renting cell phones in Europe (France too). I definitely need one while in Europe and have no clue how to get one, or how to find out if I am getting a good deal. Thanks so much.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: You must have been away when our everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know piece on international cell phones ran a couple of weeks ago. I'm posting it momentarily....
washingtonpost.com: Have Cell Phone, Will Travel, (Post, April 6, 2003)
The Flight Crew: Here's the cell phone article.
Please help!: Good afternoon! A few weeks ago I went on Onetravel.com to find a good fare to Europe for this fall. I found a good fare on Delta, and I immediately purchased it - I thought I did anyway. I received an e-mailed e-ticket (no paper tickets) confirmation from them. In my credit card bill, however, there was a charge for the fare, but also a credit for the fare. I haven't been charged again, so in essence I wasn't charged at all. I contacted Onetravel.com and have gotten a variety of answers from them about their odd billing practices - none of which make any sense to me. The fact is that all I have is a confirmation number, and I've checked their website using the number, and my reservation still comes up as valid. What should I do? Is there anyway to get a paper ticket now? Should I contact Delta to see if they have any record and ask why they charged and then credited my account, or am I required to deal with onetravel.com? I'm concerned because I don't want to get to the airport to find that I don't actually have a ticket. I'd appreciate your insight as I know you've all traveled extensively. Thank you.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Just call Delta and make sure you have a valid ticket.
Flowers, hair: Why is it so cheap to fly to San Francisco lately? It cost me about 40 dollars more to go there than it did to go to NYC. What gives? I checked for August too and it's the same price.. Are there any other cheap finds like this?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: It's cheap to fly to San Francisco because JetBlue and Southwest are locked in battle over Oakland market, and there is spillover. Look for cities that are served by discount carriers, especially if they are competing in same market, and for nearby cities to get deals.
Arlington, Va.: Many, many thanks, Crew, for your well-timed (in my little world, anyway) report on Museum Mile last weekend. My aunt, uncle and I read it as we were on the train to NYC to see the MOMA's Matisse-Picasso exhibit, and you rescued us from restaurant cluelessness. We ended up having dinner at Pesce Pasta, followed by coffee and dessert at DT-UT (NYC's answer to DC's Tryst, and my new fave recommendation for NYC visitors). Loved both, particularly the after-dinner Rice Krispie treats.
On another note, can you recommend any particular beaches in the Charleston area? A girlfriend and I are looking for a beach getaway this August and someone said we should check out the area.
The Flight Crew: Hey, thanks Arl. We had a ball putting that one together.
Glad you enjoyed the RK Treats.
As for that beach, we're not quite sure--I remember going to both nearby Isle of Palms and Folly Island for some sun and surf, but that was many moons ago (okay, a good number of moons).
Anyone out there know Charleston beaches?
For Shep: I haven't been there, but it's way up on my list of places to go--Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys. No kids under 16, and it looks fabulous, though pricey.
The Flight Crew: There ya go...great suggestion. Thanks--we'll have to look it up ourselves.
Single Traveler: I submitted this question before, but I didn't get a response, so I'm trying again. I'm a single guy in his early 30s. Are you aware of any companies that offer good singles trips to Italy or Ireland? I would like to go to one of the two this year but would like to be part of a group on my trip. Many thanks for any insight you can provide.
The Flight Crew: There are lots of single travel groups, but to be honest, they look college-drunk scary. I recommend, though, Backroads, an active travel group that has a solo traveler category (note the distinction: single vs. solo. Big difference!). They have almost 20 Italian trips, like biking Tuscany and hiking the Amalfi Coast, among others. I did not see any for Ireland, though. There are lots of books though that target solo travelers and give advice and tour group listings, such as Sharon B. Wingler's "108 Resources for Solo Travelers" (she also has a Web site) and Eleanor Berman's "Traveling Solo: Advice and Ideas for 250 Great Vacations." Also check such Web sites as www.cstn.org and www.goingsolotravel.com. --andrea
Re: Jackson Hole: Quick Tip. I went to Yellowstone a few years back, and instead of flying into Jackson Hole we flew to Salt Lake City and rented a car. Sure, the drive was long, but pretty. And it saved us about $600.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: If you have the time, that's a good option. But, in our case, we only a week and wanted to spend as much time as possible in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. The eternal question: what do you have more of, time or money? Seems like if you have one, you don't have the other.
Silver Spring, Md.: Hi. The New York article last week has inspired a friend and I to do NYC for less than $150, and visit a couple of museums. We plan on taking the Dragon Express bus up early one Sat. morning. Our question is, what do recommend we do between our arrival at 7:30 am, and check-in time at our hotel? Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Hey Silver,
Yay! We love to inspire, and love it even more when it's done on a budget! So, you're taking the 3:30 a.m. bus. I've never done that one (the 2 a.m. was the latest I could stand_. Be prepared to be rather groggy and in search of the East Broadway subway stop...some exits aren't open that early in the morning so just keep looking). Before we send you on an early morning chase around New York, let us know where your hotel is, and what the check-in time is. Then we'll work on the dawn itinerary...
Arlington, Va.: Hi Crew! As for fly buys vs. new format, I am in favor of the new format - who knew you could get to LAS and stay at the Bellagio for $477!?! Now for my question...I am planning on burning some UAL miles for a trip to Venice, Florence, Tuscany at the end of May - where can I find a good source for some cheap hotel deals in Venice and Florence? As someone who normally travels very off-season, I am shocked by some of the lodging prices. I'm open to B&Bs as well. Thanks and keep up the great work!
The Flight Crew: Hey, Arl....thanks for the kind words on both Deals and our great work. Modest, aren't we?
As for hotel deals, gonna throw this one out to the Clicksters, who know Italy better than we do (our Italy experts aren't sitting at their desks right now.
Arlington, Va.: The reason rental cars is so expensive in Florida is the insurance. My brother was on an extended business trip in Gainesville for about 6 months. During that time he was involved in 6 minor fender benders. He was not at fault in any of the accidents. The youngest driver was 77 yo and the oldest 87.
See the problem. The car rental company tried to collect from him because it was too much trouble to go through the insurance and charged his AMEX. He fought it and won.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Interesting theory.
Castle Shannon, Pa.: What's the dumbest travel question you've ever been asked?
The Flight Crew: No question about it, CS:
What is there to do in Paris?
(Come on...it's Paris!!)
Lexington, Va.: I really enjoyed the Greenbrier-Homestead comparison in yesterday's paper. I visited the Greenbrier for the first time (lunch only) just last week. My visiting mother had spent a memorable time there 49 years ago at a sorority convention and had always wanted to show it to me. It was all she remembered and more. A week at the Greenbrier is my new fantasy; now I just need to win the lottery.
When it comes right down to it, and price was no object, which place would you choose for a week's stay?
The Flight Crew: That's a good question -- I've been to both now and would really have a tough time picking. I'm feeling especially fond of the Homestead right now because of that great, aforementioned bathhouse. It's just so real -- you feel like you're taking the waters with all the ghosts who have ever gone there, in the same setting they've been doing it in for 200 years. On the other hand, I love the snazzier decorating and slightly more polished feel of the Greenbrier and would love to go back now to further explore the grounds (I was at the G in winter, H in spring).
We got a funny email today from a reader who said he always heard that the Homestead was the place you take your wife, but the Greenbrier was where you take your mistress. Does that help?! -- KC
Bethesda, Md.: Hi! Has anyone been to the new Hyatt - Chesapeake Bay? More specifically, how is the golf course and amenities? Worth the money??
The Flight Crew: We've been once, Beth, but we plan to go back for another look sometime. At Hyatt's invitation last year, Marc Fisher reviewed the resort when it first opened, for the Escapes column. He found it not-quite-ready for prime time, with a lot of not-surprising kinks to work out and some major elements (like the marina) not open at all. We'll go back when they've fully shaken things down. In the meantime, we've heard from several people who've been--several who liked it very much. The Financial recently reported that bookings there are way up as people vacation close to home. --Steve
Washington, D.C.: Hi Gurus,
Just wanted to comment on your "It Came in the Mail" piece. I'm a map person and I love the maps that you reviewed. I also wanted to point out that the same company makes another line called "Popout Maps" which are virtually identical except for it doesn't have the extras (pen, compass etc). But its smaller and cheaper and they have a much larger collection than the Insideout Guides that they sent you. Both are great - I just wanted to give people another option if they were interested.
washingtonpost.com: It Came In the Mail, (Post, April 20)
The Flight Crew: So glad you liked the map review, and yep, we saw the Popout maps as well, but, alas, no teeny compass and pen included (we are fond of doll house-like accoutrements). But if you want a more slender version of the Insideout, then the popouts are perfect. In fact, they aced our shirt pocket test, which trumps the jean's pocket test.--andrea
Falls Church, Va.: What's the Deal?
Personally I really like it a lot more than I thought I would. For instance, I was severely tempted by your blurb about the Austrian Airlines IAD-Vienna special in May! Airfares can fluctuate so wildly and each itinerary is seemingly uniquely priced, so while your chart for fares was somewhat helpful for keeping track of general fares, I doubt many people ever actually got the exact fares you published.
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Falls. That's just one of the ways we're hoping to mix good fares with other info about ways travelers can save money. And remember, there is still a bargain airfare component on the home page of our section.
Best Resort: Pinehurst in North Carolina hands-down.
First off, if you're a golfer, no further explanation is needed. I believe that Pinehurst has at least three, if not four, golf courses that make Golf Digest's top 100 list. But, even if you don't play golf, the brand new Spa is heavenly. There is also a cute downtown with interesting shopping/antiquing, etc. There is no better day then an early round of golf on the famed #2, a massage, followed by a special fruit smoothie by the pool, finished off with an incredible dinner at one of the many resort restaurants. One restaurant we ate at (I can't seem to remember its name) had a chocolate souffle with a Godiva white chocolate liquor sauce that was un-freakin-believable.
The Flight Crew: Great suggestion...thanks.
Silver Spring, Md.: Excuse me, I seem to be lost - I was looking for the travel chat for the middle income people, not the one for the Town and Country set. You think everyone's been to either the Greenbrier or the Homestead? Aaaragh! Not all of us are on expense accounts. Since I pay my Visa off every month, no, I have no favorite resorts, but I do like Bird in Hand Motel in Bird in Hand, PA. It has an indoor pool and grassy areas to play bocce.
The Flight Crew: Okay, that's what we get for joking around. Trust us, SS, high-rollers we're not. Since more and more Washington residents are looking for getaways closer to home, we think these sort of regional resorts are something that would interest a lot of readers -- and their proximity to Washington means that you have no expensive airfare costs and can put that money into a more expensive room. -- KC.
Rockville, Md.: For Bermuda-Bound
Do yourself a favor, rent a moped and go see the entire island. Let your senses direct you as to where you stop and what you do. And most of all, enjoy the Bermudians. They are some of the most cordial people that you will meet anywhere on earth. Oh yea, Bermuda is very, very expensive. But enjoy it.
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Rock. And it is expensive!
Deep Valley, USA: Favorite resort (in the extended sense): Saratoga Springs, New York. Lots of wonderful baths, including the old-style Lincoln and some more modern ones, all with plenty of personal attention and add-ons such as massage.
Several good restaurants in town, and a decent used bookstore or two.
Yaddo means there are sometimes interesting cultural events, and if you like racing you can have that in season.
AND you can get there by train from New York, including a lovely ride along the Hudson (once you clear Harlem).
The Flight Crew: Thanks, DV. That's a great neck o' the woods.
RE: Shepherdstown, West Va: Going to the Inn and Poland Springs in August. It's 18 and over. Although I expect my husband and I (early 20's) should be the youngest...
The Flight Crew: Wow...even included a web site! thanks much.
Washington, D.C.: Hi everyone. Was reading the Travel section online and Comings and Goings made a reference to a Vegas deal listed on What's the Deal. I tried to look it up online but was not able to find it. Could you please provide a link? Thank you.
The Flight Crew: Hi, sorry the new expanded deals column has not yet made it online. But here's the deal: $477 from BWI through AskAboutTravel.com, for three nights at the Bellagio. A bit more from Dulles. 800-644-7016.
Falls Church, Va.: My wife and I will be staying at the Century Plaza hotel in Los Angeles for a few days in August while I'm at a conference. The hotel charges a bit over $20 a day for parking. I still think it's worth getting a rental car for our trip; I had one during a short visit to LA a few years ago and could not imagine getting around without one. My wife, though, thinks we don't need one. Who's right?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: You win this one. I wouldn't go to LA without a car. I know the Century Plaza is in the Beverly Hills area - don't know, however, if there is neighborhood parking. But I stayed in Coronado near San Diego recently where parking was $20 a day, and I just parked on the street for free instead.
italian hotels: Finding a reasonably priced hotel in venice is like looking for a needle...well, you know the old cliche. Have you concidered maybe staying outside Venice in some place like Vicenza and doing day trips?
If you're going to be in Florence for more than a couple days, consider renting a flat. Or consider staying in smaller towns outside the city. There is a town called Sesto Fiorentino. It's about 10 minutes outside the city, and it's charming. Wonderful bars, restaurants, etc. And the bus into town is easy to find, and cheap cheap cheap.
The Flight Crew: Good stuff, and thanks for not finishing that cliche!
Arlington, Va.: The best resort I've ever been to was the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Three golf courses, spas, tennis, afternoon tea, etc. all nestled into spectacular views of the Colorado Rockies. First class treatment with plenty of things to do such as ice skating, going to the nearby zoo and the U.S. Olympic training center nearby. Or you could happily lounge the day away soaking in the gorgeous scenery all around you.
The Flight Crew: Colorado rocks. Thank, Arl.
Alexandria, Va.: Hey, I'm heading up to Montreal for a long weekend by myself soon. I know you've raved about it here, but are there any can't misses, tips, etc.? I am staying near McGill U and hope to walk around and sightsee and shop a lot. Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Okay, I'm cheating and going though prior chats to find what I've written about Montreal...so if this sounds familiar to any chatters, just remember I'm plagirizing myself!
It's such an incredible city, filled with jazz and wonderful restaurants and just an all-around great atmosphere. For my money, I'd explore the Latin Quarter, Gay Village and the Plateau Mont-Royal over hitting the touristy spots in Old Montreal (although walking down the rue de la Commune, along the river, is lovely, and there certainly are plenty of things to do in the area). I stayed in a delightful B&B right off Place St-Louis in the Plateau, and felt much more like a part of the city than I did when exporing Old Montreal, and was right over by the Sherbrooke metro stop so completely accessible.
The Latin Quarter and the Plateau Mont-Royal are incredibly fun and diverse areas. St.-Denis and St.-Laurent are lined with great restaurants and nightlife (Buonanotte on St.-Laurent fits both bills, with a DJ livening up the restaurant for late-night dinner and drinks; Salon de The O-Cha-I is a great place to warm up with a pot of chai, sometimes they have sushi lessons; Fondumentale, just a few doors down on St.-Denis, serves up wonderful romantic fondue, while Blu Nile, a little closer to the Latin Quarter, offers great Ethiopian). For late night snacks hit one of the ubiquitous falafel joints; even if you're not hungry you'll wolf them down. Old Montreal is rather touristy but does have some amazing hotels, like the Hotel Place D’Armes (with a great view of the Basilica of Notre Dame) and the Auberge du Vieux-Port (try for a room overlooking the river), and if you don't mind that the restaurant prices are a little elevated there are some good choices there (for seafood try Le Maree--the Rolling Stones are fans). Take a caleche (horse-drawn carriage) around the cobblestone streets; they congregate in front of the Basilica. If you’re outdoorsy, there’s nothing like seeing the city on a bike, and they make it easy for you with extensive bike paths (rue de la Commune, which runs along the Old Port, is just part of the city-wide system). Climb to the top of Mont-Royal for a great view of the city. For jazz, hit Biddle’s or Bistro a JoJo, or for an only-in-Quebec experience go to Les Deux Pierrots for French Canadian singing entertainment.
It's an incredibly friendly city, and easy to meet people. A good choice for a solo long weekend.
Hope this helps!
Arlington, Va.: I was considering planning a trip to the southwest over the summer, including renting a car and driving between Phoenix, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Sedona. Is this crazy to do over the summer in the desert?
The Flight Crew: Absolutely not--I love traveling around there in the summertime. It will be hot, sure...skin-blistering heat, actually, but take precautions and don't overexert yourself and you'll be fine. And remember, it's a dryyyyyyyy heat. (Really, now, 110 feels hot whether it's wet or dry!)
Washington, D.C.: My favorite resort is the Chalalan Ecolodge in Madidi National Park in Bolivia. The Park is in the Amazon basin and has AMAZING wildlife. Over 340 species of birds near the lodge! The Lodge is run by locals. The staff leads nature walks and canoe rides on the lake. On the night canoe trip you spot out caimans. During the late afternoon, you find dozens of monkeys. If you're lucky, like us, you will run into a viper snake on a night walk and a jaguar on a pre-dawn walk. It takes hours by boat to get here from Rurrenabaque, which is an hour flight from La Paz. It's a LOT cheaper than the equivalent in Peru and has at least as much to offer. We had a fabulous time last August. The area is absolutely fabulous. We went on a trek into the high Andes before flying down to the lodge. You can do a great 2 week vacation in Bolivia.
Check out "Back from Tuichi" by Yossi Ghinsberg for a great read and the background on how Chalalan got started after Ghinsberg's 1982 ill-fated adventure.
The Flight Crew: Okay, confess. You work for Conservation International, don't you? (That's the D.C. conservation group that helped a tiny Bolivian village start Chalalan a few years ago). Even if you are a C.I. plant, DC, I agree with you (Steve here). I happened across that story when I was in Bolivia in 1996 and have been back to Chalalan twice (once before it was completed) to write about for Internation Wildlife magazine and then for the Post. It's unique in the world as a place to experience the rainforest and native culture. You were there last year? Glad to hear it's going well.
Mount Vernon, Va.: Fave resort is Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It's a sleepy place in the middle of nowhere, but with all the modern conveniences in the rooms. You can tour the gardens, including a beautiful butterfly garden, or take a drive to Warm Springs to see FDR's vacation White House.
The Flight Crew: Yeah, that's a beaut. You ever been there during azalea season? Unbelievable!
Italy lodging: A couple of years ago I did the exact itinerary your poster is doing, so I have a few suggestions. One - go on Karen Brown's website (http://www.karenbrown.com) to find good pensions and B&B's - they tend to run a bit less than hotels. One place in particular that we loved in San Gimigniano in Tuscany was the Hotel Atlantico - a lovely place, and the town is definitely a great place to stay. It's a completely different place after dark when the tour buses leave. Although I don't have a good hotel recommendation in Florence, when you're there, you MUST dine at Il Latini for lunch or dinner. Venice is not inexpensive. I'm heading there myself this fall, and the rates have gone up. We stayed at Hotel Monaco, which was great, but it may be more expensive than your reader wants. Karen Brown's website had some suggestions that looked good, however. Ciao!
The Flight Crew: Perfect!! Great response, and thanks for bailing our clickster out.
washingtonpost.com: Lost and Found, (Post, Sept. 6, 1998)
The Flight Crew: Here's our story on the epic travel mishaps of Yossi Ghinsberg, the Isreali who was lost in the Bolivian jungle for three weeks and ended up founding a tourism phenomenon in upper Amazon basin.
Arlington, Va.: So, let me get this straight. You went to The Greenbrier and The Homestead, but apparently didn't sample any of the spectacular and historic golf courses? On The Post's "dime"? What's up with you people? Are you nuts?
Resort(s): Marriott's Ocean Pointe, Singer Island, Florida (West Palm Beach). Kingsmill, Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Flight Crew: They have golf???
Washington, D.C.: I'll bet a lot of people have thought about doing this: I'm a mid-level professional female in my early 30s who is considering making a major life change; leaving the rat race and moving to a more peaceful and tropical locale. I'm considering the Carribean Islands, the Mayan Riviera or other Central/South American country. I'm in the early planning stages but am wondering if you or any of your readers can offer some advice/suggestions. I'm planning a move in late autumn of this year. What do you think?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I can only tell you an anecdotal story about a bunch of 20s and 30s people from U.S. and Europe I met while in Playa del Carmen (Mayan Riviera) this spring. They were all working as tour guides for a company called Alltournative (www.alltournative.com) and had lived there for some time. I talked to a couple of them and they loved living there. All spoke at least two languages.
New York at Dawn: Wander around one of the way downtown neighborhoods and watch vendors and food stalls set up. Or just enjoy a people-free walk among some of the upper-crust architecture way uptown.
Or go up to the Cloisters - I think the grounds are open early.
The Flight Crew: The Cloisters is a great idea, a bit of medieval Europe on the northern top of Manhattan, and a ticket there included same-day admission to the Met (the Cloisters is part of that fantabulous museum). The grounds open at 9:30, so you'd have time to do wander around Chinatown before heading to the other tip of the island (directions to the Cloisters from their web site: M4 bus directly to the last stop (Fort Tryon Park–The Cloisters) or take A train to 190th Street, exit station by elevator, and walk north along Margaret Corbin Drive for approximately ten minutes; to avoid walking, transfer to M4 bus and ride one stop north.)
Great ideas, New York!
Culpeper, Va.: Want to take family (kids ages 4 & 1) to beach in Delaware this summer. Which of the towns would be best for their ages and do you have any suggestions for places to stay?
The Flight Crew: Culp, Bethany Beach is great for families -- it's the polar opposite of Ocean City, very family-oriented, with a big selection of cottages to rent, a nice low-key boardwalk and not too many disgusting T-shirt shops. Rehoboth is a notch up from that, but also family-friendly. Anyone out there have different recommendations? As for places to stay, I've always rented a cottage -- anyone got a good a hotel or B&B to recommend (quickly)? Kim, can we get a link to the Beach Bed & Breakfast package of a summer or two ago? -- KC
Renting a car in LA: Actually, we stayed in Beverly Hills a few years back and got along just fine with taxis, and egads, walking. Now granted, we were practically the only ones who actually walked more than two blocks to go anywhere in LA, but it didn't bother us none ... and we really didn't end up spending all that much on taxis either.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I guess if you're content with staying in Beverly Hills, but I'd want to get around and see the beach, Westwood, Hollywood, etc.
Clifton, Va.: As a huge Penn State fan, I was trying to read your article on Penn State -
The Nittany Gritty: From fine cheese to cheap beer, here's the dirt on State College, Pa. (Post, Feb. 12, 2003) but the link doesn't work. Could you please correct this. Thanks a bunch.
washingtonpost.com: Nittany Gritty: link is now working.
The Flight Crew: Behold.
Beautiful Bora Bora: No, I'm not there now but wish I was. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon and loved it. We stayed at the Moana Beach Parkroyal hotel on the main island. It was so peaceful and so remote - we felt like the only couple there. We had a bungalow with our own private beach and a wonderful deck to watch the sunrise. We enjoyed afternoon naps in their hammocks and snorkeling with all the tropical fish. They even had real vanilla plants growing in the bathroom.
A different type of resort but still great is the Sheraton Maui. You can't beat watching the sunset on top of Black Rock with Sea Turtles swimming below.
The Flight Crew: Ah, Bora Bora. An island so nice they named it twice. Thanks for the suggestions!
Ashburn, Va.: Because of my husband's limited vacation time, I sometimes travel with my kids without him. I plan on going to Italy next year and remembered you wrote several weeks ago that it is important to have a spouse's permission in writing and notarized when traveling with kids sans spouse. Can I have this done as a blanket letter, i.e., no specific date/place to visit so I can reuse the letter, or must it be done specifically as to location, date and time? Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I don't think you'd have a problem traveling to Italy, but if you want to be extra careful, get a notarized, open-ended type letter. If you're going to Mexico, however, you need a specific letter. And if you have a different last name, get a specific letter.
Arlington, Va.: Are there any travel books or websites that are specifically for single women traveling alone. I travel alone lots (petite under 30) and I'd like something that specifically says stuff like "avoid x, y, z after dark, but a,b,c are good if you're careful, etc." Sometimes a guidebook will have a chapter, but nothing more. So, just looking for guidance, other than trust my instincts and always "be careful" like my mom taught me. Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Lonely Planet has a candid chat room on the Thorn Tree for single female travelers. Also try www.journeywoman.com for tips. There are also a couple books on this topic, if you want browse and take note of handy tips, like never ask a sailor to come up and see you sometime.---andrea
Century Plaza response: Falls Church - I stayed at the Century Plaza a few months ago for a conference and didn't have a rental car. It was hard to get around but I didn't really have much free time to get out. The hotel is very close to Beverly Hills - you can walk to Wilshire Blvd and Rodeo Drive but that's about it. It seems like there are a lot of buses and cabs around if you want to try public transportation. As far as other parking options, the hotel is in the middle of a business district so most of the garage parking is probably only for the day time. There are some residential streets but not close enough to be convenient. If you really want to get a car I think you're stuck with the $20 fee.
Hope that helps!
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the input!
On an Island In My Dreams: For Shepherdstown, West Va:
I came across the Kona Kai Resort &
Gallery in Key Largo down in the Keys
and can't wait to stay there. Absolutely no
kids allowed. Private bungalows are right
on the bay, close enough to other water
activities in Key Largo, including John
The Flight Crew: Hey, Island. Nice to hear from you...and thanks for the suggestion.
For Bermuda: Do youself a favor and don't rent a moped. Instead buy a 3-day bus pass (or two) - the buses go everywhere and you avoid the danger of moped travel on the wrong side of the road!
The Flight Crew: Or rent a bike!
Re. New Zealand in December: I'd agree with Andrea about picking an island if you have two weeks, and I'd opt for South. I didn't make it to the farthest north part of the island (where I think the wineries are) but definitely would suggest whale-watching in Kaikoura, a day or two in the oh-so-English Christchurch, the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Graymouth, the Franz Josef Glacier and Queenstown. I needed a couple more days to do Milford Sound but I hear it's incredible.
The Flight Crew: Oh, too bad you missed Milford Sound. It was beautiful! Yes, everyone says South Island is the better of two great halves.--andrea
Cheap fun cruises to Bermuda: Can you tell me what are the fun,cheap
cruises to Bermuda from the DC area.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: On April 29, the Carnival Legend leaves Baltimore for a week-long cruise to Bermuda. Try www.carnival.com for last-minute deals, or try www.vacationstogo.com, which was offering a $689 deal a couple of weeks ago.
Journeywoman!!!!: Journeywoman.com is the site for women travelers. They have everything you could imagine.
The Flight Crew: Um, that's what I suggest, didn't I????
Resorts and kid-free relaxation: Hola Travel gurus. My $0.02 for best resort- two years ago my now-husband and I wandered thru Bavaria before indulging in the Oktoberfest in Munich. We found out about a special association of hotels called "Silence Hotels", or "Relais du Silence", that are sprinkled throughout Europe. These hotels are mostly beautiful, grand hotels that cater to people looking to get away from the noise and cookie-cutter nature of chains (and if I remember correctly do not allow for kids under 14), and we had one of the greatest resort experiences ever at the Silencehotel in Bayersoien. Picture a still, misty morning in the Bavarian countryside, where you can wander around a beautiful lake right across from the hotel, all morning, taking in more unusual flora and fauna than you expected, then wandering in to your hotel decked out in those glorious overflowing bavarian flower boxes and partaking in some fresh brochen, meats, and strong german coffee under huge wooden-beamed ceilings with ornate wood carving everywhere. You can then wander off again through the countryside cow paths, coming across anything from huge fields of hops to farmers letting you sample their cheese, then walk into the cute little town and have a moss or 2 at the local outdoor biergarten, wander back to have an incredibly cheap massage or mud pack, then have a five-course meal where they feature some of the local trout and more of the excellent local brew. And Ludwig's castle and some fun brewing monasteries are 30-40 minutes away. The quiet countryside, a gorgeously appointed room, everything within walking distance, strudel on the patio...Heaven.
The Flight Crew: Man, you paint a lovely picture. Thanks for the $0.02.
Beltsville, Md.: re hotels in Florence and Venice -
Just got back from both, stayed in Albergo Gueratto in Venice, which was E115 per night for cash, and Soggornio Battistero in Florence, which was E95 per night. Both are very small, very friendly, and well located. I got both listings from Rick Steves' guidebook. Both have websites. Just a note, nearly every hotel offers a 5% discount for cash in Italy. Don't know why...
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Belts.
Reston, Va.: Hello, my wife and I are going on a cruise in the near future to he western Carribean. We have just bought our first digital camera and would like to know what the best way to travel with this nifty equiptment. Is it safe to store such an expensive item in unlocked luggage? Would we have any problems with carrying on electronics like this at airport security? How do most of you handle camera when traveling?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: If you can fit it in a carryon, take your digital cameria onboard. It's safer. Digital film is fine going through carry-on security machines.
Washington, D.C.: I wish I worked for Conservation International -- alas, I'm a bored government lawyer spending my lunch doing your chat. But last August when I was at Chalalan it was doing quite well. The other American guests there were all with either USAID or the Peace Corps so I wouldn't say the lodge has gone mainstream yet. However, the accomodations were top notch -- with the exception of the cold shower. However, apparently to be eco-friendly, you have to have cold showers?!? If I recall, I think we paid $60/person a day and that included all local transport to the lodge, all meals and activities, and the accomodation.
The Flight Crew: Don't apologize. If it weren't for bored goverment lawyers, we'd have no audience at all.
Spousal Permission?: Wow - I just flew back from Germany with our third-grader. Granted, we flew over to meet spouse who was there on business, but flew home on separate flights. Noone, not a single authority figure on either side of the Atlantic (including Canada - we flew through Montreal), ever raised the issue of me flying with son alone.
However, nearly all who saw my son's passport then addressed him by name, welcoming him, which he thought was cool.
When would such documentation be needed?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: It's usually not needed, but people who want to be extra careful like to carry it. It is needed when you go to Mexico because they have had problems with non-custodial spouses taking children into that country.
Alexandria, Va.: Thanks so much for doing these chats. I have a few questions about Italy.
My fiancee and I are honeymooning in Italy (Rome, Florence, countryside in Tuscany) at the beginning of June. Our travel agent tells us we will need to negotiate cab fare from the Rome airport to our hotel in Rome. Approximately how much would be a reasonable fare? I wouldn't know if 20 or 200 Lira would be reasonable.
Also, a friend of ours recommended not carrying a bag or purse with a strap because thieves will pull it right off of your arm. At the same time, I've read that we should leave the fanny packs at home because they will make us stand out even more as tourists. How, praytell, should we carry our camera, map, sunscreen, sunglasses, passport, hotel key, water, and wallets without a bag of any kind? Is there a particular type of bag that is both safe and practical?
Also, I'd like to buy a few new outfits for my honeymoon. I understand Europeans dress up a bit more than we do. Since I'm shopping anyway, I'd like to buy things that would help me blend in a bit. What does the average Italian working girl wear around the city when she's not in professional garb? We will avoid t-shirts, tennis shoes, and baseball caps.
The Flight Crew: Alex, sorry we can't help you with the airport question (haven't flown into Rome, only Milan) -- can a clickster help out here? As for your other questions, definitely buy a money belt or neck pouch. I've often used both at the same time. This lets you put a llttle cash in your pockets for small purchases but the bulk of your money is out of sight. For larger stuff like sunscreen, guidebooks, maps, sunglasses etc, invest in a jacket with lots of pockets. Companies like Magellan's and TravelSmith have neat jackets with interior pockets where you can stash all kinds of stuff. I have a Barbour jacket from England with tons of pockets that works for three seasons. Also consider a backpack, although be warned those can be cut into from behind.
As for dressing, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you can't go wrong wearing black and variations thereof. Italian women look very chic and together-- effortlessly, maddeningly so. -- KC
Century Plaza: This is Falls Church's wife: thanks guys for all the car tips! My husband wins, we can get a car.
For those of you who replied you've stayed at the Century Plaza, how is it as a hotel just to lounge by the pool for an afternoon or two? You know, with a good book or glossy magazine...I'm looking forward to a couple days of just plain relaxation. Thanks chatters and Travel section people!
The Flight Crew: Can anyone help out CP realllllll quickly?
Parking at Century Plaza:: Yes, you want a car if you are staying at Century Plaza in LA because otherwise you might feel trapped. It is very easy to get around from Century City to anywhere else if you have the car. So just bite the bullet regarding parking fees; without a car you'd be spending a fortune on taxis anyway.
The Flight Crew: Good stuff...thanks.
Manassas, Va.: How safe is it to go to Bolivia? I heard that there was some kind of revolt a couple of months ago. Where can I get information about that country?
Thanks a bunch
The Flight Crew: There are chronic dangers in the coca regions, and general demonstrations in the cities, Manassas. But I don't think you should rule out a visit.
Check out the State Department's lastest advisory:
Clifton, Va.: Having stayed at both the Greebbrier and the Homestead my girlfreind and I prefer the Homestead. The food is much better as good as any of D.C.'s top restaurants with service that cant be beat. Normally detest breakfast buffets but the Homestead's is incredible. On our first visit to the Homestead the upgraded us for free to a suite on the 18th floor in the tower. Incredible room with breathtaking views.
The Flight Crew: The Homestead's breakfast buffet IS incredible -- I don't usually like buffets either, esp. breakfast, but this one was awesome, everything from omelets to pancakes to a zillion kinds of fresh fruit and amazing muffins and rolls. They have their own bakery and are known for their doughnuts -- better than Krispy Kreme, some say. -- KC
The Flight Crew: Well, that will do it for this week, gang. Thanks for making it go so quickly, and for all the assistance you doled out to travelers in need.
Let's toss Raggs & Co. to the Clickster who told us about the resorts of Bavaria. Just send your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org, and thanks to all of you who chimed in.
This week, look for Cindy Loose's report from Cuba, as well as a peek at the Basque country. And to all a good week....