| Talk About Travel |
Hosted by the Flight Crew
Monday, May 5, 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: If it's 2 p.m. Monday, this must be the travel chat. Hi, everyone, and welcome to our weekly travelpalooza. We're flying at nearly full capacity today, with most of our stalwarts on board: Cindy Loose, finally getting over her jetlag from her trip to Australia; our resident Southerner, Steve Hendrix, just back from romping with the B52s in Athens, Ga.; eco-man Gary Lee, newly returned from Boulder, Colo.; Andrea Sachs, sunburned and windblown from the Outer Banks; resident New Yawkah Anne McDonough, seemingly always just back from you know where; Carol Sottili, still raving about bird life in McAllen, Texas; and me, K.C. Summers, fresh from . . . the back yard! Yes, it's true, I took a week off and didn't go anywhere. That's a true vacation when you work for a travel section. But now that I'm back at work, I can't wait to hit the road again.
Which brings me to this week's question: Where are you going for your summer vacation, why'd you choose it, and how are you getting there? The winner (chosen randomly) wins a copy of "Ciao, America!" by Beppe Severgnini, an Italian journalist who lived for a time in the U.S. The book was called "wonderfully funny and perceptive" by The Post's Jonathan Yardley (it says here).
And now, on to your questions.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Flight Crew, do the responses to the chats and our questions to you, influence what you guys may write in print and in the SUNDAY TRAVEL section?
The Flight Crew: Why yes they do, Wash. We really value the chatters' input and get lots of story ideas and good info from you guys. Plus we also use you to settle our staff bets (like when we polled you a couple of weeks ago about whether you feel comfortable asking for toothbrushes from the hotel front desk). Now, was there something you wanted us to write about that we haven't? -- KC
Alexandria, Va.: I'll be in France in a few weeks. What's the best way to get into Paris from CDG? Rental car or mass transit?
The Flight Crew: Alexandria, don't you dare get caught up in French traffic by renting a car, says Gary Lee. One good way is to take the Air France bus to Gare du Nord or some other railway station and a subway or cab to your final destination. Or you can take the subway train (RER B) directly into the city. Either options costs around 11 euros. There are also blue vans but I find them cumbersome; you ahve to reserve them in advance, sometimes the drivers don't know the city streets well, etc. A taxi costs around 55 euros.
Poolesville, Md.: Hello Gang. This is an urgent question.
My husband and I are about to leave for a 1-week trip to Ireland this Wednesday. We will be staying with friends in Dublin, but we wanted to go for an overnight stay somewhere in the countryside. Do you know of a nice bed & breakfast were we could stay, that has interesting surroundings for us to see.
The Flight Crew: I'll have a better idea of this after my trip to Ireland next month, but meantime, we'll throw this one out to the chatters -- can anyone out there help Poolesville?
DC: Hola, feliz Cinco de Mayo! I want to go to Mexico, the southern tip of Baja (Los Cabos). All the flights I found were expensive and involved three plane changes -- any suggestions for finding a more direct and cheaper route? Also, do you think it would be crazy to go there in July when it is very hot? (We plan to spend a lot of time in the ocean.) Thanks for any suggestions ... and I really enjoy this discussion!
The Flight Crew: Have you tried to do it in two separate pieces? Such as cheap air to L.A. or Burbank (try Southwest or JetBlue), then another flight/airline from L.A. to Cabo? That's what I did, and paid about $200 or so for the first leg, then about $250 to Cabo--though sometimes if you can get a hand on an L.A. paper, you can find ads for cheap air down there. (I just did a Web search, and found $550 on America West; not bad.) Another option: Priceline. As for heat, as long as you always keep one foot in the ocean, you should be fine. --andrea
Gaithersburg, Md.: We purchased four Northwest Airlines tickets through our travel agent earlier this year. However, the sudden SARS epidemic in Beijing has forced us to cancel our travel plans. Northwest Airlines now allows its customers with existing bookings to change their travel plans through Dec. 15, 2003 without penalty. Unfortunately, that is not an option for my family and many other families. Summer is the only time we can travel to Beijing, not only because we have already made professional arrangements with our employers for the rest of the year, but also because we have school age children who can only make the trip over the long summer vacation. Furthermore, the purpose of our trip is purely to visit families and friends in China and changing travel destination is not a sensible solution. What can we do to get refunds for our tickets? Thanks.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Have you tried contacting Northwest's customer relations department? Phone # is 800-225-2525. I'd try that first. And don't hesitate to ask for a supervisor if you don't like the answer you get. If the flight was cancelled, they have to give you back your money. But if the flight is still going, it's a stickier question.
Arlington, Va.: Good afternoon!
I'm facing a looong (approx 20 hour) flight to the other side of the globe very soon. The longest flight I've ever taken thus far is just a few hours, and I was wondering if any "experienced" world fliers have any unique tips on how to maximize comfort and help the time go by? Any creative suggestions out there??
The Flight Crew: I only know of three things to eat 20 hours of flight time: movies, books and drugs. We recently had about 20 hours of air time. My husband refused to take anything to help him sleep, on the theory that he should be able to wake up and react in the face of disaster. I figure if disaster happens I might as well be groggy for it, so I took Tylenol P.M. and arrived at my destination feeling fairly rested.
Find out of the flight you're taking has individual video players on the back of each seat. Most planes for long flights have them these days, and if you can stomach three of the six or so movies offered that's six hours right there gone. Make sure you have plenty of books, and I find M&Ms cheer me up.
If you are traveling with someone close, you could spend the time working through any relationship problems you might have. If this doesn't amuse you, it may at least entertain people sitting around you.
Other than stuff like knitting, cards and game boards, anyone else have better ideas? (Cindy)
Mt. Rainier, Md.: Hi Travel Crew, of the three Mediterranean islands...Sardinia, Sicily, Cypress...which one makes the best travel/vacation destination?
The Flight Crew: Hey Mt. Rainier--
Full disclosure: haven't yet been to Sardinia or Sicily. But when I hear those three places in the same sentence, I can't help but push you in the direction of Cyprus. And then once you've hopefully decided to go there, there's another decision to be made: the northern, Turkish experience (think rustic, gorgeous ruins, not so much in the way of tourism but you will see the place that supposedly inspired Shakespeare's Othello, great food), or the southern Greek vacation (an established Mediterranean destination with all of the amenities, definitely more of a vacation). Now would be a fascinating time to go: when I was there in '97, there was no passage between the two parts of the island as Nicosia was divided much like Berlin was. But recently the border has been relaxed and Greek Cypriots are heading north to Famagusta to see the homes they fled in 1974, and the reverse is happening for Turkish Cypriots. I don't yet know what that means for tourists (the only direct passage to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is through Istanbul, and it at least used to be the best idea to have them stamp a loose page in your passport rather than the passport proper, if you had any idea of heading to Greece later on), but the thought of being there during the historic next few months is fascinating. Lawrence Durrel's "The Lemon Tree" and Christopher Hitchen's "Cyprus: Hostage to History" are two fascinating books that cover the history and culture of the island. Okay, I've blathered enough--anyone else want to weigh in on these three islands?
Rockville, Md.: How can I get to Charleston, SC for cheap and easy? Any recommendations for where to stay?
The Flight Crew: There were some cheap trains going to Charleston last time I looked, a couple weeks ago. Don't know where to stay, though, since it was a trip I was planning to make, not one I made. Anyone out there have favorite Charleston lodgings?
Washington, D.C.: what's the travel time to the outer banks? is it a do-able weekender from DC?
The Flight Crew: It depends on what part of the Outer Banks you want to travel to. The most southern region, Hatteras, is about 7 hours. To the north, in Duck, expect around five hours or more in summer traffic. The mid region of Kitty Hawk is about five to six hours. In short, not really a good spot for the weekend, unless you want to spend more time in the car than on the beach. To truly enjoy it, take off more time!--andrea (who just drove back last weekend from Hatteras and refuse to step foot in my car for another month)
Chicago, Ill.: Please, please, please answer my question! I am going on a trip to Italy tomorrow and all I can think about is the flight. I am five months pregnant and dreading being on the airplane for hours and hours. Any tips on flying while preggers? Even more important, what are the chances that I can get upgraded to business class because of my "delicate condition?"
The Flight Crew: Okay, none of us has been pregnant lately, but I suspect common sense still prevails: Ask for a bulkhead seat for the added leg room; try to keep your feet up if at all possible; get up and walk around at least every hour; drink lots of water; no coffee and alcohol (which you wouldn't drink anyway); take your doctor's contact info with you. Any more recently pregnant people got tips for Chicago? -- KC
Old Town Alexandria, Va.: Please help! I'm trying to get to Cleveland for Memorial Day weekend (family), leaving on either Friday night after work or Saturday morning. DCA or IAD are preferred. Last week there were flights for $180, now they are all $280. Will they go back down?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: It's possible the fares will go back down, but with your narrow time frame, I think you'd better book. BWI to Cleveland is $112 round trip on Continental. The cheap seats are sold out already on Southwest.
Rockville, Md.: Good Morning. This is a follow up question I had asked about using HotWire for car rentals. I am getting ready to reserve my car and just wanted to know if anybody had any bad experiences with them. My rate would be $70 lower than any discounted rate I can get somewhere else. I am going to Florida, where the taxes are outrageous! Thank you.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I've used Hotwire for car rentals several times and never had a problem.
20011: What I will do on my summer vacation:
I will go to Ireland and Northern Ireland for 2 weeks. While I am there, I will take a ferry boat and visit the Isle of Man for a few days. I will also take a ferry boat and visit the Aran Islands for at least one day. I will see many things, from prehistoric to modern. I will listen to traditional music at the Fleadh in Ennis. I will drink delicious stout. I will... I'm not sure yet what else is planned, but whatever it is. I'm sure we'll enjoy it.
Why Ireland? Because Aer Lingus had those great fares from Baltimore. Ireland is always on the list of great places to go, but $149 each way made it irresistable for this trip.
How? See above - by Aer Lingus, direct from BWI to Shannon.
I really can't wait. And I hope this is the only "What I did on my summer vacation" essay that I have to write about it.
The Flight Crew: Thanks 20011! You're in the running for the book. That Aer Lingus deal was hard to resist, wasn't it?
Dupont Circle: I wrote awhile ago when trying to decide between Corsica and Sardinia, and am now a week away from heading to Corsica. I've got basic plans in place, but I'm hoping for some "go here you'll love it" suggestions.
We'll (we being two mid-twenties women) be staying in Ajaccio the entire 5 days that we'll be there, so I figured a couple days to explore Ajaccio, and then maybe rent a car for a couple of day trips. Any ideas for good wineries or out of the way towns or beaches or not-too strenuous hikes?
Also, any great Ajaccio recommendations that haven't made it into the guide books? Thanks!
The Flight Crew: A couple of Corsica suggestions from Gary Lee, based on my trip there a couple of years back: the train from Ajaccio to Calvi or Bastia is fantastic fun and you get a discount if you take the trip and return on the same day. Take a bus excursion to Bonifacio, a wonderful cliffside town where ferries take off to Sardinia.
Ashburn, Va.: I just booked 3 nights over the 4th of July at the Venetian + airfare at $1200 using priceline.com. Is this a good deal?
The Flight Crew: I assume you mean the Venetian in Vegas? If so, uhhhh, if you've already spent the money, don't worry about it, just have a good time.
If anyone is still thinking about that deal, or any deal for that matter--take a minute to click online first to comparison shop by seeing what you'd pay for the hotel portion alone, and what you'd pay for a plane ticket on the dates you want. Then you know for sure if you have a good deal. Or not. Cindy
Charlotte, N.C.: Note from last week on use of debit cards abroad. I use mine extensively at home but was surprised to find that my bank (Bank of America) charged me a 2 percent exchange fee for each transaction when I used it in Canada last fall. That wasn't the case for use of my regular credit card. In the future, I may take my debit card but I'll use the credit card, except in case of emergencies.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tip, Char. Good point.
Summer Vacation: Andrea should know this place...you can get to it by car, by plane or train, but ultimately to GET THERE you need to take a boat. By boat, I mean North Carolina Ferry. Begina with an O and ends with the death of Blackbeard! It has 13 or so miles of pristine beach, enough peace and quiet to read your book or dolphin watch. The town is quaint and SO-NOT a tourist trap. Priced medium for a couple and okay for a family. I hope it remains a sceret...but seeing how it makes everyones BEACH LIST, looks like the cat is out of the bag. I'm talking OCRACOKE people...the one and only. Every year we go for a week and moved from DC to be closer to it.
The Flight Crew: Yes, we love the Outer Banks. Stay tuned for our big OBX guide coming June 1 in the print edition!
Del Ray, Alexandria, Va.: Looking to travel to New Orleans for Memorial Day weekend and would like to stay in a unique hotel -- any suggestions? How about a boutique hotel or inn? Thanks!
The Flight Crew: The best New Orleans hotel deal I've found recently are the Iberville Suites on Iberville. It's part of the Ritz-Carleton complex in the old Maison-Blanc department store, where the Ritz built three hotels, a classic Ritz-Carleton, the Iberville Suites (where you can get an excellent two-room suite for around $130 via Quickbook, more on peak weekends), and a posh (and pricey) boutique hotel called Maison Orleans. --Steve
RER B Captive Audience: We recently took the RER into Paris from CDG. Easy as pie. One caveat - our car was the recipient of festive gypsy music provided by a three-man band (accordian/concertina included). We were savvy, and didn't make eye-contact; however, other American tourists started filming and taking pictures, then seemed startled when asked (shook down) for money. The atmosphere went from festive to tense very quickly. AND we were all jet-lagged! My husband gave a euro to get the ball rolling, then the others followed suit. Ain't no such thing as a free lunch, even if it is busker music!
The Flight Crew: Thanks, says Gary. Good tip.
Cairo, Egypt: We have a great summer vacation planned that, unfortunatly requires 9 planes -- some transatlantic, some U.S. domestic. With three young children, getting the right seats can mean the difference between fun and misery, not just for our family but for the whole plane. Windows, of course, are a must, but other factors are helpful, like ability to see the movie screen, not being woken up in the middle of the night by people going to the bathroom. . . . Is there a website with the various planes and their configurations so we can ask our agent to give us specific seats?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Go to www.skyguide.net/reference/plane_config.html for some of the info. But your best bet is to go to the individual airline Web sites.
Going to Vegas: Do you know anything about the Sahara or Stratosphere hotels on the Vegas strip? They're the right price, but I don't have any idea what I'll find once I get there. Any better ideas? I'd like to spend about 80 a night (less would rock) and be around that area.
The Flight Crew: There is a reason those hotels are so cheap. My cheap hotel experience involved a mirrored ceiling and no Heavenly mattress (it was not at one of the properties you listed, though). If you don't mind sketchy digs, then go ahead. But for only a little more you can stay at the hip Palms or Hard Rock for about $119 (not weekends though), or Mandalay Bay for $89 (prices drop in the summer; check their Web sites). Another option is to stay downtown; prices are less and accommodations are better--but you won't have the excitement of the strip. Also, check Travel Zoo for frequent Vegas air/hotel packages. We just ran a fantastic one at the Bellagio for around $500!--andrea
Ballston, Va.: Summer Plans:
Well, I wiped out most of my leave for a two-week trip last month (France and Germany - coincided w/ business). However, by not taking any early Fridays or three-day weekends, I will have enough by mid-August for a week of camping in the Adirondaks on a lake, with husband, kids, and canoe. Also, reciprocating the hospitality of German friends (with whom we visited last month), if you call sleeping in a tent reciprocal to staying in a B&B on the Rhine. . . however, they seem thrilled!
The Flight Crew: Sounds like you got the better end of that deal! Thanks for the response.
Fairfax, Va.: We are planning on renting a car to visit Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Is there a problem with obtaining insurance due to the high rate of crime in these countries? Also, we were told some car rental companies will not allow you to go into Poland at all.
The Flight Crew: Some car companies won't let you drive into parts of Eastern Europe if you've rented from Western Europe. So if leaving from Western Europe, be sure to plan ahead before renting and make sure the company has no objections.
Insurance can be high---how much varies by company, so you'll have to check actual rates. First check to make sure you own car insurance doesn't cover rentals. Lots of people pay when they are already covered. It's worth asking your insurance company to give you a quote on what adding rental cars might add to your bill.
Reston, Va.: Re: Long flight. Lots of water, if you get dehydrated then you get headaches. Also walk around alot, the water helps for that too. As for being tired. Nap if you can. Key, avoid sleeping when you first arrive unless it is bedtime for the location. A one- or two-hour power nap is OK, but go to bed at bedtime. You'll be adjusted in day. Basis: 1,000,000 miles in six years East Coast to Europe.
The Flight Crew: Your million miles beat mine, and thanks for the reminder about drinking lots of water. And while it can be hard to force yourself to stay awake the first day you arrive, it's well worth the struggle for the long run. Thanks for the good suggestions. (cindy)
20-hour plane flight: On my regular trips to Australia, the prescription drug Ambien was amazingly good for knocking you out for eight hours at time with no hangover lethargy. Conversely, you might want to try modafinil, which they are giving to fighter pilots and narcoleptics to help them function properly without sleep. It apparently allows you to stay alert without sleep for 24 or 36 hours without any of the caffeine or speed jitters or addictiveness.
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
McLean, Va.: Response re: Charleston. I'm in Charleston right now, staying at the Lodge Alley Inn, on East Bay. It's a good location, although now turned into a time share condo, but it still rents by the night as available. Another good location downtown in the historic district is the King Charles Inn -- It's a Best Western property. There is a Days Inn, which I have never tried, but the location is good. A fairly new Embassy Suites is near the historic district, but not in it -- walkable to there, however. There are three small inns on King Street, run by Charming Inns of Charleston -- one is the Kings Courtyard Inn, another Victoria House, and can't remember the third one. All are nice, and the last time there still served sherry. There are also B&Bs, with some being rather idiosyncratic. We stayed in one on Wentworth Street where one of the two men who owned it was a bit difficult to deal with, but he did have some serious health problems. The property itself was very nice, but guests were restricted to their own bedroom, which turned me off a bit. You will pay for staying in the historic district. Motel rooms out of the central area can be had for considerably less money, but at a cost of convenience, and parking downtown is tight. By the way, on travel to Charleston, there is now competition from DCA. Both Delta Express and US Airways Express now offer jet service on regional jets at decent prices if you catch things just right. That is how we came down this time. Hope this helps.
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
Laurel, Md.: With New Hampshire's famous The Old Man in the Mountain crumbling over the weekend, it seems appropriate to ask what other famous tourist attractions are at risk of disappearing at any moment. In a sense, just about anything is at some risk of desturction (witness the World Trade Center). But what other famous sites are known to have structural defects or other immanent risks, that we should try to see before they're gone forever?
The Flight Crew: Hmmmm. Well, the William Bennett Tower of Morality seems to be a little shaky these days. Otherwise, I think they've got the Tower of Pisa pretty well stabilized. Cindy Loose points out that all of Venice seems periodically at risk of being swamped. Also, you might want to rush to see China's Three Gorges before they dam the Yangtze.
Anybody else know of any "see-it-quick" tourist imperatives?
Charleston, S.C. Hotel: I definitely recommend the Planters Inn in Charleston's Historic District (www.plantersinn.com). A four-star, boutique hotel, this is by far my most favorite place to stay in Charleston.
The Flight Crew: thanks
Dupont Circle: Inspired by the recent Travel section article, I'm planning a trip to Portugal for late October and need some advice on flights. Right now, I'm finding flights from Dulles-Lisbon for $686 roundtrip. Should I jump on this now or wait for a better fare? Also, would it be cheaper/better to fly to London then connect to Lisbon, or fly direct to Faro then train to Lisbon? Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Lisbon is usually more expensive than Paris/London/Amsterdam because there are fewer flights there and it's not a hub. So $686 is not totally out of line, although I found a $627 fare on Continental to Lisbon connecting in Newark for midweek travel in late October. I don't think you'll save enough money flying into another more inconvenient airport to make it worthwhile.
On a Budget, Pittsburgh, PA: My fiance and I might be taking advantage of a free stopover in Singapore en route to New Zealand....what do you know about Singapore on a budget? We hear its a pretty expensive place...do you have any advice on decent cheap hotels and restaurants? If you had 4-7 days, what would you make sure you saw?
The Flight Crew: Hey Budget,
There are a lot of cheap hotels/hostels are clustered around Bencoolen Street. Staying at Raffles might not be budget-friendly, but getting dressed up and heading there for drinks is a great way to soak up the atmosphere without emptying your wallet. An absolute must-see is the Night Safari: I hate zoos and so went there under duress, and within five minutes was having a blast. There are no cages or visible barriers between you and the animals, just deep ravines covered with leaves, so it looks like the lions could be by your side if they felt like it. As its name implies, it's only open at night, and the feeling of walking (or taking the little trolley) around in the dark with more than 1,000 animals lurking about...it's incredible. Any other tips from the clicksters?
Washington, DC: France Fare Follies? We need to go to Paris for a wedding the third week in September -- I checked in March and fares were around $600, so I grumped, that's too much to spend for the fall! and waited. Fares are now $900 for the same flights. What should I hope for and when should I buy?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I would have booked the $600 fare. Now I'd wait. Fares will go down at some point. Make sure you check every day so you don't miss a quick sale.
Silver Spring, Md.: I kill a lot of time in airports and on planes working on word puzzles. Books of them are available in most airports. One can only read so long!
The Flight Crew: I'm so bad at word puzzles, just one could take me an entire flight to China, and drive me crazy. But glad you enjoy them. (Cindy)
For Del Ray, Va.: Don't know what their rates are but the Dauphine Orleans is a great little hotel in the French Quarter -- it's on the relatively quiet side of the quarter, but still close to everything. The people are great, and the small hotel bar is a favorite hangout of locals who are happy to give advice or tell you a few tall tales about the city. Used to stay there all the time. Then we moved to New Orleans.
The Flight Crew: Thanks, N'awlins. We particularly value advice from tourist-turned-locals.
Washington, D.C.: Hi,
I'm attending a wedding in Detroit this summer. It's on a Saturday and I was planning to fly Friday and return Sunday, but would consider extending if there was anything fun to do there. I am really not interested in the history of the automobile so I am guessing that rules out about half the tourist-y stuff in Detroit, but is there anything there or nearby (within an hour or two drive) that would warrant an extra day or so for this solo traveller?
The Flight Crew: Gary Lee, who did a travel piece for the Post about the area, would suggest a couple of things that might interest you: First, the Detroit Institute of Art is a complex of five museums that has lots of wonderful stuff in them, including lots of Impressionists and a wonderful Diego Riviera mural. There is also a small but pretty nifty Motown museum. Dearborn, which is about a a half an hour by car, is well worth an outing especially for the concentration of wonderful middle east restaurants and cafes.
Arlington, VA: I just want to write in to help clear up a question that I have seen a lot in this chat--What clothing should I wear in Europe?
I am an Italian woman in my early 30's. I live in the US but mostly all my relatives live in Italy, so I go back 2 times a year. So i'm still very in touch with the culture.
Anyhow, let me start by saying this. American tourists are almost immediately recognizable, even when you're trying to blend in. So changing you're clothes isn't going to fool anyone. Best to be comfortable with who you are.
It always astounds me when people suggest that tourists wear all black. It's insane, and it will only draw attention to you. People just do not dress like that there. We do, however, tend to be a bit more dressed up on the average, than Americans.
But let me tell you, the people in my age group and younger all wear jeans. People in europe tend not to wear shorts, even in the summer, unless it is to play sports. But we expect that tourists will wear them, especially in the brutal heat and humidity of the summer in Rome. Especially if you are younger (mid 30's and younger), shorts are acceptable. Just make sure you look clean. Maybe pair them with a nicer shirt. And do not wear them to dinner!
I have heard good suggestions about wearing nice pants, but please--thsi all black thing is ridiculous. You'll melt in most places--it's a hot, humid place. Wear colors and fabrics that you are comfortable in. People look best (within reason) clothes they are comfortable in. That being said, Europeans/Italians don;t wear a lot of t-shirts with logos, so leave your Old Navy t-shirts at home. Buy some nicer shirts like polos, or some lighter blouses. Men, a shirt wiht a collar and shorts or khakis will work.
As for shoes--we all wear sneakers when it is appropriate. Yes, I am serious. Nice ones, not old smelly ones, but we do wear them. So feel free to also wear them, too. Just not to dinner!
Please leave the fanny packs at home. They look ridiculous. And they provide an immediate target for pickpockets. I've carried a purse for years in Rome, and never had a problem. I think a good rule of thumb in any city is to not carry everything in one bag. So women, carry a purse, just do not put all your credit cards and cash in that one bag. Leave some at the hotel, put some in a pocket, etc.
OK, that's it! Buon Viaggio!
The Flight Crew: We thought we'd have a moratorium on European clothing quesions, but we can't resist posting this one. Thank you, Arl, for this horse's mouth report and for confirming a lot of what we've said in the chats. We do beg to differ about the black issue (we also like gray) -- it's a great urban look, very practical for travelers, and it works in virtually any city (okay, maybe not Honolulu). Also, we've had Europeans tell us that khakis are strictly an American thing.
But tell us -- what is it, in your opinion, that makes us stand out as Americans, if it isn't our clothes/maps/ cameras/sneakers? Even those of us who don't talk real loudly?
For the person going from CDG to Paris: Another option is the Roissy Bus. We just used it last week. The bus will take you to Place de l'Opera on the Right Bank. There is also a Roissy bus from CDG to the Left Bank. Info is clearly posted on the freestanding sign directories at baggage claim. Cost is 8 euros. For us, time frame of the ride during rush hour was about an hour and 15 minutes. Paris was beautiful in late April. Have a wonderful time!
The Flight Crew: Thanks, says Gary, for the extra tips.
Silver Spring, Md.: Summer vacation? Alaska. Using a free ticket to get to Seattle, got a deal on the cruise through my mom's timeshare--so why not? Hopefully it'll be one of those killer summers and the reprieve in August will be fun!
The Flight Crew: Thanks SS -- why not indeed? Sounds great.
Alexandria, Va.: My husband is a self-proclaimed beer geek. I'm thinking of taking him to Belgium this summer to do a mini beer tour. Have any of you been or do you have ideas for resources idenitfying places he might want to go? I know most of the beers he likes are made at monestaries. Do they offer tours?
The Flight Crew: You're in luck, Alex. Our own Don Oldenburg is also a self-proclaimed beer geek (and then some). He did an Escapes trip to Belgium's brew scene. Stand by for a link...
re: going to vegas: To defend the Sahara a bit, it's NOT that bad! Think your standard holiday inn. No glitz, no glam, just a regular room, a plain bathroom, clean and quiet. And dollar tables downstairs. If you're just looking for a place to crash it's not a bad deal!
The Flight Crew: Thanks for checking it out for us. You never know with these places, and you have to wonder about a $19 room. But then again, if you win at nickel slots, you can upgrade to the $22 room.
Charlotte, N.C.: The Maine article was timed perfectly! My wife and I decided this weekend to take a trip to Maine this summer with two other couples. We'd like to rent a house -- not too far north -- where we can get the quintessential "little coastal Maine town" thing. We want a place that's close enough for day trips to see other sights, but that also has its own character. I'm overwhelmed by the information I'm finding online. Any suggestions?
The Flight Crew: Camden didn't do it for you, huh? Anyone got a good Maine town for Charlotte?
Arlington, Va.: So I recently got a call from one of those "travel planning" places saying that if I sit through an hour lecture on their travel planning services, I get a three-day/two-night free vacation to Jamaica, Cancun, Las Vegas or San Francisco. I am tempted to go, but I cannot shake the feeling that I am somehow being scammed. I have talked to them about 20 times, and they say there are no hidden costs, etc., what are my chances of this being a good experience? Will it be worth it or will I kick myself later? And do any of you know anything about the Montego Bay Club in MoBay?
The Flight Crew: You will be subjected to a long and high pressure sales pitch; I'd be amazed if you would get out scott free after just an hour. Odd you should ask, but an hour ago I got a phone call that I'd been chosen to stay at a resort where time shares are being sold. I did that once years ago, and would never do it again. If it's your only way to get somewhere, and you really have a big need to go, do it, but remember that they will suck up as much of your time there as possbile, and you will be subjected to a hard sell. I've even heard of cases where they bus you somewhere for the presentation, and you can't leave until the bus goes. Cindy
Centreville, Va.: Hi crew! Two questions. First, I am flying out of BWI. Where is the best place to park for long term parking? Second question. How do you guys carry your passport and money -- around your neck? Around your belt? Just wondering what the best method is when I go abroad
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I like Preflight (www.preflightparking.com) because their buses come quite frequently and they pick you up right at your car. Basic rate is $9 a day, but print off a coupon from the Web site For $2 off a day or a free day.
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: I was the author of the question regard check cards. I e-mailed my bank's (Washington Mutual) customer service department. They told me that there would be a International fee if I used an ATM abroad. They also told me that there wouldn't be a fee if I used the card as a credit card anywhere visa was accepted. That was my biggest fear. I wasn't sure if those visa check cards were as readily accepted aboard. Hated to get over there and be stuck.
Thanks for all of your help and the help of the readers.
The Flight Crew: You're welcome.
Reston Va.: Re: Rental Cars. I always take the insurance when renting overseas even though I am covered. It is worth not having the hassle and spoiling a trip. It is cheap when you figure out it is only a week or two. The rules are definitely different for overseas rentals.
The Flight Crew: Depends---in Mexico recently, I turned down insurance priced at $30 a day--or more than the car. Cindy
Arlington, Va.: My planned summer vacation is a trip to Buenos Aires and Montevideo. I hate D.C. summers, so I want to go somewhere almost guaranteed to be cooler -- the southern hemisphere!
For the person looking for B&Bs in Ireland, they're everywhere and the hospitality is superb. If you want a little idea of what is available, I would suggest the Karen Brown Guide to Ireland, which includes listings for many B&Bs, as well as very useful driving directions.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tip, Arl, and your vacation sounds awesome.
Silver Spring, Md.: My wife and I flew to Baja from L.A. about five years ago. We found it less expensive to fly to La Paz, up the gulf coast, than into Cabo itself. We took Aero California. There was one stop, in Hermosillo, where we went through immigration. We both enjoyed tranquil La Paz more than the touristy, very American Cabo, though the latter does have a spectacular setting (we rented a car and drove to Cabo for a night). We stayed in a very nice, older hotel in La Paz. Engelbert Humderdinck (your parents might remember this singer) owns a hotel there, too.
The Flight Crew: Good advice for our Cabo bound. Thanks!
washingtonpost.com: Room With a Brew: Two Thirsty Guys, One Cheap Flight and All the Beer in Belgium (Post, Feb. 7, 2001)
The Flight Crew: Here's the link about beer travels in Belgium. Thanks Kim.
Denver, Colo.: Hello! I am going to Germany soon, and I'm having difficulty figuring out how much time I want to spend driving the "Romantic Road" from Wurzburg to Fussen, Germany. Do you or any of your readers have any suggestions for where to stop along the way, and how many days to allot for that portion of my trip? I was planning on 2-3, but is that too much or too few? Thank you.
The Flight Crew: Sorry, Denver, we're not familiar with this one -- can anyone help??
Manassas, Va.: Where I am going for my summer vacation.
My family and I (and that includes extended family) are going for seven days to Deep Creek Lake, located in McHenry, Md., at the end of July. Why Deep Creek you ask? It has been our family's summer vacation destination for over 30 years now. It is always relaxing, fun, and just far enough away to make you feel like you've been away, without having to fly somewhere. The family can spend quality time together, and its not as commercial as places like Ocean City or Myrtle Beach. How are we getting there? We are all traveling by car (that's one of Deep Creek's biggest selling points for us). It's about a three-and-a-half-hour drive (just long enough). I am counting down the days until I can lay on the dock and relax with a good book. That's my idea of a vacation.
The Flight Crew: Thanks Manassas -- I think a lot of folks are thinking along the same lines these days.
Upper Marlboro, Md.: Hi,
I wonder if you could suggest a nice tropical island, not too far in an airplane, that would be laid back and family oriented without being too expensive. We have small kids through preteen to occupy.
The Flight Crew: Bahamas and Nassau often have frequent, low-cost family packages. Check Apple Vacations or Grand Bahama Vacations. Also, try US Airways Vacations for Caribbean deals, and United Vacations--both have frequent sales on air and/or packages, and price should drop as the weather warms here. Some of the easier islands to reach are the aforementioned, Jamaica (though your kids can't really run free there, so it is best to stay at a resort; i suggest Negril or Ocho Rios), St. Thomas, Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Also check Fare Deals for some good Carib sales.--andrea
Washington, D.C.: For a truly unique boutique hotel in New Orleans, try Loft 523. It's expensive, but the rooms are huge 600-700 square feet. It's like being in a super-modern loft in Soho in New York. It's a refreshing change from the usual traditional New Orleans hotels. It's conveniently located in the Central Business District. There's also the International House (owned by the same people) nearby, which is also modern.
The Flight Crew: Two good one, WDC. The Loa bar at International House is very hip.
Re: Stratosphere: We stayed at the Riviera, walking distance to the Strat. It was fine, nothing glam. The strat is actually in a somewhat questionable slew of blocks, we got accosted quite a bit by very very aggressive and scary panhandlers. The Strato ride is OK. I think we gambled all night at the Sahara, I think. Is that the one by Circus Circus (whoa, Fear and Loathing flashbacks)? If so, then Sahara was nice. That entire area is much better than the new glam Venetian/New York New York area, cos gambling is CHEAP. Dollar blackjack tables/dollar craps.
Just my incoherent 0.02
The Flight Crew: that was more like 1.05 worth. Thanks.
Washington, D.C.: What can we do about the clothes American tourists wear in D.C.? Is anyone else sick of the shorts and tacky T-shirts (or tank tops on those for whom it's a definite no)? I don't think people in Washington wear shorts except for sports, too. Worldwide, I think shorts are pretty inapproriate except for sports or hanging out in the outdoors. When's the last time you saw someone walk into Zaytinya in shorts?
The Flight Crew: Not sure we can "do" anything about this one, Wash. I personally think the tourists here look really cute -- it's like they all got the same memo on what to wear. (White running shoes with socks pulled up, check. Logo T-shirt, check. Camera dangling at proper angle, check. One bored teenager and energetic preteen per couple, check.) They look so clean and wholesome. I dunno -- lots of things get on my nerves, but not tourists in D.C. -- KC
Olney, Md.: I'm attending a family reunion in West Yellowstone in early August. We plan to fly into Bozeman, Mont., because it seems to be the closest (and it's where my roots are) and drive down. The flights we're finding are around $420. Do you know if this is as good as it's going to get? Any other airports that are perhaps closer or cheaper? (Butte is just as expensive and Billings is two more hours by car.)
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I find a fare of $396 on United out of Dulles to Bozeman (connects thru Denver) for midweek travel in early August. Salt Lake City, which is a five-hour drive from West Yellowstone, has cheaper fares (about $232), but only on connecting flights from BWI - nonstops are about $360. I'd pay the extra money and go to Bozeman.
Washington, D.C.: My fiance and I are planning our honeymoon. We've gotten as far as deciding that we're going to hawaii and are now working on hotels. My question is this: our travel agent suggested that we stay at the Priceville Resort on Kauai, which sounds fantastic. But, it looks like it's on the north side of the island. What is the weather going to be like there the first week in November? I've heard that the north side of any island can get windy and want to be sure to stay someplace where we can sunbathe, snorkel and sail without getting cold! We're also spending a few days on Oahu (Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa)and several more on Maui (Rennaisance Wailea). Any comments on our other hotels or any must-sees for any of these islands? Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says: the Princeville is grand and lovely and that part of the island has wonderful scenery, says Gary. But it's true that the weather can be vlustery, espcially on that part of the island. If I were you, I would probably opt for the Hyatt, which has a wonderful beach right next to it, great shopping, and so on. I also greatly recommend an excursion to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens.
For the person going to Detroit: Check out Greenfield Village in Dearborn. Henry Ford had a bunch of historic homes and buildings (such as Edison's lab) transported there and constructed a sort of historical village. It's not about automobiles and it's really quite impressive. The ajoining Henry Ford museum is about automobiles, but also about all sorts of other inventions of every kind imaginable.
The Flight Crew: That's a good point, says Gary. Thanks.
Washington, D.C.: Hi all --
The husband and I each have about 110,000 miles on United. We will be fetching adoptive baby from China next spring. We want to go on one blowout vacation for two weeks (over Christmas?) before baby comes. Are we better off using miles to business class it to China when the time comes (will only have four weeks notice, so seat availability an issue) or using miles for vacation (was thinking Australia or New Zealand for two weeks, but those seats all gone already). Any ideas for that big trip -- we love hiking, nature, outdoorsy, but like staying in comfy hotels. Money not so much of an object, within reason.
The Flight Crew: Congratulations on your impending parenthood!
With only four weeks notice, you might have a hard time getting frequent flyer tickets. I can't predict the future, but I'd use my miles for a last hurrah. If this is your first child, trust the people who tell you how live-changing a child will be for you as a couple, and get time together while you can.
Check one more time for free tickets to Aus. or New Zealand, and play with dates as much as your ultimate flexibility allows. Those two destinations sound like a terrific match for your desires. Does it have to be over Christmas?
But there are so many other places that include the interests you mention--the remaining options are so numerous I can't single out just one. Cindy
Laurel, Md.: Re: Pre-flight Parking at BWI
I took your advice and used that lot on my last plane trip. When we got back, we found my battery had died. They offer jump-starts, but you have to sign a damage waiver.
Well, they guy hooked up the terminals backwards and fried my electrical system for $2,500 and they're not liable because of the waiver.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: That hurts. I guess that's why they made you sign the waiver.
Alexandria, Va.: I lived in Europe, and am moving back soon, and I'm not sure why it's easy to recognize Americans in Europe. But then it's also easy for me to recognize the English or Germans traveling in America. Yes, it can be the clothes, but there really is just a "look" for each country.
I'll never understand why adults are so concerned with "fitting in" when they're tourists. And don't give me the "I'll be a target for pickpockets" excuse. If you're aware and plan ahead, there's no way you'll be target for thieves.
The Flight Crew: Well, yeah, to some extent. But there's also the security/terrorist issue. Whether it's a terrorist or pickpocket, you're a sitting duck if you've got the map and guidebook and camera out. Why tempt fate?
Re: Maine Towns: York, Maine is right over the New Hampshire border. It has great beaches, a beautiful lighthouse, and a cute downtown. Nearby Kittery has great outlet shopping for rainy days and Portsmouth, N.H., just over the border, has a lot of history.
The Flight Crew: There you go.
"Free trip": I just did that last weekend! I'm sure it's the same company -- I had the same prize options.
Here's the scoop. Go to a two-and-a-half-hour sales mid- to high-pressure sales pitch (wasn't really a problem for me because I had no intention of giving them any money anyway) in Columbia, Md., (that WAS a pain, given that I have no car) and at the end you get a redeemable cert for a trip to any of the places you mentioned. The fine print says you have to give at least 60 days notice before your trip, and it's only good for departures on Tuesday and Wednesday. I haven't found out anything else yet because I haven't sent mine in yet.
The real deal? Depends on your perspective. I ain't rich, and I didn't have anything better to do that Saturday anyway. Now I'm planning to go to Jamaica for free this winter.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the personal experience/insight. Cindy
Re: Maine Towns: All of my relatives live in Maine and I've been going there almost every year all my life. While coastal Maine is nice, I would also suggest going "inland." There are MANY small towns and villages that offer the "typical" New England feel. You can also check out Mt. Katahdin and Moosehead Lake in the North-central part of the state. Maine has a lot to offer, including the coastal places. But if you want to get away from the tourists and see the real Maine, head inland.
The Flight Crew: Thanks!
www.seatguru.com: Is a good source for seat maps on many of the planes that six major domestic airlines fly. Of course, without some frequent flier priority, it seems the best seats are never available to we hoi polloi.
The Flight Crew: Thanks. I find that I get great seats when I get my boarding pass online the day of the flight.
"Summer" Vacation: Seven to 10 days on the Outer Cape (Wellfleet, Truro, Provincetown) in September. Reading or walking on the beach with breaks for visits to the nature preserves and shopping/people watching in Provincetown. Doesn't matter what the weather's like (although it's usually gorgeous). Can't wait!
The Flight Crew: Ooh, nice. Thanks!
Manassas, Va.: Re: Charleston. Stayed at the Vendue Inn for my honeymoon. Small and romantic, you'll love it. You can Google to find it. It is listed on the Web.
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
Alexandria, Va.: Are there any DIRECT flights to the Caribbean from any of the Washington, D.C. airports (DCA, IAD, or BWI)?
The Flight Crew: Yeah, we did a roundup of those a few months ago. Lots to be said for not having to change planes. Link coming up...
Re: European car rental: I just got back from Eastern Europe and would really suggest not renting a car and instead using the train. It's cheaper, sometimes faster, and you always know where you're going. Especially good in countries where you don't speak the language and can't read the road signs.
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
washingtonpost.com: Quick Caribbean Hits: Nonstop Flight From Washington
The Flight Crew: Here's the link to the direct flights from DC to the Caribbean. Thanks, Kim.
Re: Charleston, S.C. and Need Help: Charleston has some really great inns downtown and on the islands. Someone else mentioned this earlier, but the Embassy Suites downtown is nice and somewhat charming, with the original brickwork from years ago with holes for the old guns. The Mills House is downtown and quite quaint, plus there is a Renaissance Charleston Hotel right near the market.
I need help too though! Anyone been to Nova Scotia lately? Thinking of going for a few days to relax and unwind, but not sure what to do there. Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
Deep Valley, USA: Summer vacation plans, just firmed up:
Take a week-long cruise to New England and Canada. Combines lots of at-sea relaxation after a tough year with that fascinating bargain country, Canada.
The Flight Crew: Yeah, Canada needs us now. Thanks DV.
Washington, D.C.: I've looked everywhere online and can't find the answer to my question -- you guys are my last best hope! I'm leaving next week for a mini-European tour and need to find the best way to get from Avignon to Amsterdam on Saturday, May 24. Looking at my handy-dandy Eurail timetable tells me that I would need to travel through Paris. Trains from Avignon arrive in either the Lyon or Charles De Gaulle stations in Paris, but to continue on to Amsterdam, I would need to catch a train at the Nord station! Is there connecting shuttle or metro from either CDG or Lyon to Nord, and how much time should I budget for the transfer? Thanks for any advice -- I speak very little French and am worried about going over there and getting lost!
The Flight Crew: Francophile Gary Lee says: you can get from Charles de Gaulle to the Gare du Nord station very easily on the RER B subway train. It takes about 30-45 minutes and is pretty easy to negotiate. There is a subway information office at CDG and the folks there tend to be helpful and to speak English.
Washington, D.C.: Re: "see it quick before it's gone": There's some talk in Philadelphia of moving the Barnes Collection into the city. Now, there are many legal and ethical questions involved in such a major departure from Dr. Barnes's wishes, and it may never happen, but so much of the charm of the collection is in its setting that I would try to see it where it now resides in the suburbs (I forget which one).
The Flight Crew: Good one, WDC. It's in Merion, not far at all from downtown. As far as I can tell, there's no ambiguity at all in the conditions Barnes set for the display of his collection. Here's hoping the art stays where it is.
What makes Americans stand out: In all honesty, Americans tend to be "bigger" than locals in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter). "Bigger" is my gentle euphemism for being overweight but not necessarily.
In my case, I'm a size 8-10 female, 140 lbs -- when I tried to go shopping in Hong Kong I couldn't fit into the largest women's sizes there. Physically, I'm just BIGGER than those teeny Asian women (and men) even though I'm considered normal here in the U.S.
The Flight Crew: Good point, What. Thanks.
dc tourist attire: When I see tourists on metro during rush hour in their tres casual and comfortable clothes - I only think of one thing - ENVY!!!!
I wish I could go to work in shorts and a t-shirt and comfy walking shoes....
The Flight Crew: Well, we might draw the line at the fanny packs, but yeah, they do look comfy.
Koff, koff: I have allergies and periodically (at least once a year) get a sinus thing that results in long coughing fits. I used to joke that while I have one of those things, coughing is the only aerobic exercise I get. What if I, or someone similarly afflicted, should need to fly during one of those things? I am usually not greatly sick, just hideously uncomfortable until it either runs its course or my meds work. I have never had a fever with coughing. This could also be an issue for asthmatics, who spend time coughing as well.
The Flight Crew: I surely wouldn't go with a cough to the countries that are putting such folks into hospital prisons just now. Generally, though, I would mention the source of my condition to those in my immediate vicinity on a plane. A guy who sat next to me last week said, just after sitting, "I'll be coughing, but don't worry, I'm getting over bronchitis, have been taking antibiotics and am not contageous. I appreciated the input. Cindy
Washington, DC: Dear Flight Crew -
I always try to take mini-summer vacations all through the summer so that I can have some relaxation each month. For Memorial Day weekend, I'm flying to Paris for a friend's wedding. I also get to spend a day in London (my most favorite city) because I found a daytrip on the Eurostar for 82 Euros. Too good to pass up. In June, I get to go to Naples, Florida for a long weekend to do the beach thing. In July, I'm going to Portland, Oregon to visit family for a few days as well as get in some hiking along the coast. As for August, no plans yet. I've always wanted to go to Nova Scotia. What do you think?
The Flight Crew: Hell yes. Man, you travel more than we do!
Chicago IL: Hi. My two cents on two questions out there:
How to survive a 20-hour flight: bring lots of books, movies, etc., but the more mindless the better. Also, bring some kind of snack (like M&Ms, as you say, or I like thin mints) and stretch them out, like having a couple every hour. Also, definitely medicate yourself. And move around, including going for a stroll around the plane every couple of hours. (Aviod those DVTs!) Finally, do yourself a favor and get on destination time as soon as you get on the plane, and try to time your sleeping accordingly. Then when you arrive do a full day (don't sleep) and just tell yourself you've had a bad night. Helps for jet lag.
Vacation prize-winning/time-share things: We did one a few years ago, when our budget was alot smaller, and I would NEVER do it again. The hard sell on the time-share is fascinating to watch, but you really are held hostage (they did indeed bus us somewhere, and the "30 minute" presentation because 2.5 hours) and it's totally not worth the money.
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
WashDC: My comments about the clothes of tourists in DC was in jest -- the point is that people in Washington more or less dress like people in the cities of Europe. People here don't wear shorts to restaurants. Doesn't happen. Tourists from small towns do. They want to be comfortable fine. But why does someone from Italy need to be telling a bunch of Washingtonians on a travel chat how to dress in Europe?
The Flight Crew: 'Cause we've gotten lots of anxious postings from Washingtonians asking how to fit in while in Europe, and who'd know better than a gen-u-wine European?
Re: Knitting on airplanes: Do they let knitting needles through security now? I'd love to work on my knitting, but don't want to bother if they confiscate the needles.
The Flight Crew: Yep, they can be carried on. So, knit away.--andrea
Tacky Tourists: "Washington, DC" should lighten up and worry about more important things. Even better, when I have out of town guests visiting, we intentionally do the pulled-up-white-socks, plaid shorts, I'm With Stupid T-shirt, and camera bag ensemble when we go to the mall museums. It's fun to join the crowd and go in disguise once in a while. It helps get the DC pretentiousness out of my system.
The Flight Crew: Hoot.
Silver Spring, Maryland: Re: Nova Scotia. Went there two years ago and had a great time. Get in touch with the tourist board there (I forget the web site) and they will send you tons of information. They also have the province divided into 4 or 5 "routes" which help you on your way. The scenery is beautiful!
The Flight Crew: Yep, it's on our list too. Thanks SS.
Times have changed. . .: When my mother was a little girl in D.C., girls (and women) -never- went downtown without a hat and white gloves.
The Flight Crew: Take that!
Fairfax, Va.: I no longer use credit cards and only have a VISA debit card. Can I still rent a car?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: The major car rental agencies, such as Avis and Hertz, require that you own a credit card, although they'll accept a debit card for payment. I don't know if any of the small mom-and-pop agencies would allow it, but I doubt that.
Washington, D.C.: I am making a trip to San Francisco over Thanksgiving. I'd like to use Hotwire or Priceline to find a hotel, but am not sure what neighborhoods I should be favoring. Any suggestions? I'd like to be in walking distance to most things, or at least public transit options. Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Gary says: my favorite neighborhoods in San Francisco would be either Cathedral Hill or Union Square, East or West.
Re: See it quick; Dublin trip: I think the QE2s last sailings are this year.
For the Dublin bound -- I'd suggest picking the site of interest (New Grange? Castlemaine?) and then checking for a recommended guesthouse or B&B nearby -- after many trips, I think it is hard to go wrong.
The Flight Crew: That's a good one, too. Although, the QEII is just nearing the end of it's transatlantic career. It will still be in service around the Caribbean and other waters. (And in fact, the Cunard website shows NY to Southhampton crossigns all the way into December, 04.)
Washington, D.C.: Hi, just wondering who in the Flight Crew is fluent in other languages?
The Flight Crew: Gary speaks German, Russian, French and Spanish.
Anne speaks Mandarin and French.
Steve speaks Spanish and Sponge Bob.
Andrea speaks English quite well, and French when she's drunk.
Cindy speaks fluent Pennsylvanian.
Carol understands German but her grammar is awful.
I (KC) speak French. Oh who am I kidding, I speak guidebook French.
New Orleans -- Re: Accomodations: The person looking for interesting accomodations in New Orleans should consider B&Bs. There are lots in all areas of the city: some are very plush and others funky and fun (including the French Quarter). All provide a cool experience and a great way to tap into the local knowledge base. Also, if you don't want to pay Quarter prices, check out locations in the Marigny Triangle (between Esplenade and Elysian Fields, Rampart and the River) a very up-and-coming funky/cool neighborhood downriver/adjacent to the Quarter.
The Flight Crew: New Orleans really is a great hotel town. Keeps 'em cheap, too. Thanks.
Laurel, Md.: I'm going this summer to Winter Park,Colo. Winter Park is 20 miles from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, about 30 from Mount Evans (highest paved road in the U.S. at 14,200) and about 50 from Denver, so it's easy and fairly inexpensive to fly into. It's also not Winter Park's high season in summer.
It's probably 80 percent as good as going to Yellowstone and about 20 percent as hard.
The Flight Crew: 100% good reasoning, Laurel. Thanks.
Vienna, Va.: I am planning my honeymoon for October this year. I want the whole trip to be a suprise for the bride. Heck, she is doing everything else, so I do not want her to worry about another thing.
Is there any way I can get our seats upgraded if we fly United using her miles without her knowing? All of my miles are with Southwest and will use them if possible, but if not we can use hers.
Secondly, is this right in the middle of hurricane season in the Caribbean?
The Flight Crew: That is the middle of the hurricane season...you may or may not get one, but that's the season. I suppose you could arrange an upgrade with her miles if you have access to her milage acct. info, but that doesn't seem quite right to me. If I were the bride I'd feel like I was losing some of my rights and individuality if my groom dipped into any of my accounts, even if it were to please me. Cindy
In-land Maine: I concur with leaving the coast! We spent a week in Rangely, Maine, noted for being equidistant from both the Equator and the North Pole. Lovely lake, near the Appalachian Trail, nice eateries, all-in-all a great experience!
The Flight Crew: Another Maine suggestion.
Vienna, VA: For the person going to Ireland they had better book the B&B before they get there. It gets really packed there in the summer and very difficult to get last minute reservations at the better B&Bs. Also, it makes a difference on which airport you are flying into. It tends to be easier to finds rooms around Shannon compared to Dublin.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tip.
Re: Credit and debit cards and foreign fees: To the traveler who thought he'd avoid fees by using a credit card: Be very careful. Most large credit card issuers now charge a 2 percent fee on all international credit card purchases, on top of the 1 percent fee Visa and MasterCard charge everyone. Before a recent trip, I checked and found that my credit union didn't charge any extras, so I used my debit card instead of my credit card that came from a large bank.
If you're going to be spending more than a few hundred dollars, it's worth checking with your card issuers. If you're going to be spending more than a few thousand, it might even be worth getting a new card to save the 2 percent.
(There's a list of fees by company here: http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cc/20010416b.asp, but it's a few years old.)
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
Somewhere, USA: The hotel next to the Circus Circus is the Stardust. Sahara is across the street and down a bit. If you're a low roller and/or retired, that's always the town of Laughlin, on the Colorado River. Growing pretty quickly.
The Flight Crew: Man, you guys really know your gambling. So, who's gonna win the Kentucky Derby? Oh wait, too late for that one.
Falls Church, Va.: Re: Belgian beer
I went to the Westvlettern Trappist Brewery in 2001 and it was great. Be careful though, there are no convienient restaurants, and they only serve hor d'oeurves to eat. Way too easy to drink too much and not be able to drive.
The Flight Crew: They better get "hopping," eh, Falls Church. Bwahahahahahaha!
For Cleveland: I doubt your fare will go back down. Cleveland's my hometown but I've lived in D.C. for over six years and am therefore somewhat of an expert on the airfares. Agree that your best bet is BWI but by the time you drive there from Alexandria, park, check-in, fly, etc. the 6 hour drive may look appealing. Also, Continental used to have great e-savers to Cleveland but those have been a distant memory since Sept. 11, 2001.
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
rental cars: You can use just your debit card (with a Visa symbol) with Budget, I did it just this past weekend.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tip!
rockville, md: Per your query... This summer is suddenly full of trips. Tomorrow I am leaving for Seoul Korea for a week. I am going with a friend from work who had a free companion voucher that she was itching to use to go see her dad (I couldn’t pass it up).
In June I am meeting up with my brothers and their lady friends in Sanibel Is, FL for a little r&r.
July 4th weekend I am headed to San Diego to see some college friends and to use up some united miles that I am too nervous to hold onto. Lastly, in late August I am headed to Walloon Lake, MI for a family reunion and some fishing.
I don’t think I have ever had a summer this busy. Each vacation will have its own unique flavor that I am looking forward to and each will be accomplished at budget prices since I am an underpaid government worker that enjoys his vacation time immensely.
The Flight Crew: Walloon Lake -- now there's somewhere we haven't been. Sounds nice.
Washington, D.C.: Okay, I admit this weekend's CoGo about Toronto is very tempting. I'm trying to convince my friends to head up for Memorial Day weekend. It seems that downtown; near the theatres/shopping would be the place to stay. Any suggestions for lodging? Also, has anyone taken a day trip to Niagara Falls? I heard rumors about buses/trains that go there from the city.
The Flight Crew: I'll post a story on Toronto that includes hotel recommendations. Generally, there are lots of great hotels near the theaters and shopping, so also go online to have a look.
Personally, if I had just a three-day weekend to go to Toronto, I would just stay in Toronto, but if you want a Niagara Falls sidetrip, that can be done. If you're paying for your own airfare, and want to see Niagara, I'd fly to Buffalo on Southwest (buffo cheap) and rent a car to drive to Toronto. But my first choice would just be spending the time in Toronto. Cindy
Burke, Va.: I am planning a summer vacation in the Canaan Valley area of West Virginia. I want to rent a secluded but not overly expensive (i.e., less than $800 for the week) cabin. Any tips of finding a good place?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: A good source for cabins is www.canaanvalley.org. I like Canaan Valley Resort State Park, but it's not secluded.
Re: Princeville Resort Kauai: We went to Kauai for our honeymoon too, and l-o-v-e-d it! The Princeville is an absolutely fantastic hotel in one of the most beautiful settings I've ever seen, but if you're planning to get out and do a lot of activities, you'd be better suited to stay on the south shore. The Hyatt is fantastic for that. From the south shore you will have access to diving, snorkeling, Waimea Canyon, NaPali coast, etc. Do, however, make the trip to the north shore for dinner at one of the two Princeville Hotel restaurants. They have stables up there too, and we really enjoyed our trail ride one day. Have a wonderful time!
The Flight Crew: Thanks, says Gary. We seem to concur!
On an Island in My Dreams...: ...and definitely not stuck in this cubicle.
Anyway, my husband and my summer
vacations are short and simple, but just
what we wanted:
- a long Memorial weekend in the
- a few days in NYC
- visiting friends and my new goddaughter
out in California
How are we getting there? Fly fly fly, of
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Island!
For the Adopting Parents: Just an addition to your answer...Most airlines now offer "Adoption Fares" to places like China and Russia. Sort of similar to bereavment fares -- they recognize that you have short notice.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tip! Cindy
Summer breeze: I'm flying to San Fransisco, then renting a car to head up to Napa (through the redwoods). The we're going over to Yosemite for lots of hiking and camping, and then back to San Francisco, with perhaps a stop in Berkley and Walnut Creek. Never been to any of these places before, but they sound great.
The Flight Crew: Oh, nice. Thanks for posting.
One night outisde Dublin: Try the Tudor Lodge (www.tudorlodgeireland.com) in Laragh. It's not all that far outside Dublin. Laragh is in along the Wicklow Way (an 80-mile marked trail) in the Wicklow Mountain, and you're about next door to Glendalough.
The B&B's nice -- a step up from your typical B&B. There's even a menu for breakfast. It's at the edge of the town, but still a five-minute (or less) walk into the middle of Laragh (which isn't very big to begin with).
The Flight Crew: Great tip, thanks.
For November Kauai Honeymooners: If you're going to Kauai in November, do not expect much time to sunbathe. I would highly recommend it for the sheer beauty and variety of the island - plus it is very relaxing and the omnipresent rainbows over the mountains are simply gorgeous. And, the passing showers give a good excuse to stay inside! But - even in the usually sunny Poipu area, my husband and I got very few hours on the beach when we were there in November of last year. Kauai was wonderful, but for what it offers off of the beach.
If sun is your only priority, stick to Maui.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for pointing that out, says Gary.
Re: Credit Cards: When I used my visa from US Bank, I was charged a conversion fee EVERY TIME I charged something to it. You might want to double check your card issuer first.
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
New York, N.Y.: My summer vacation plans: I checked for nonstops to the Caribbean for June that I could get with my frequent flier miles and found an availability for St. Maarten. So that's where we're going. Combined with a $85 a night room at a small inn (including the taxes and service charge) and a $22 a day rental car, it should even leave us some cash to spend on the great restaurants.
The Flight Crew: Wow, what a deal. Lucky you.
20515: Wanted your views on a travel-related imbroglio that took place last week. A week ago Saturday, Kellogg's sent out an e-mail to participants in its 25,000 miles a day sweepstakes saying I had won said frequent flyer miles on American Airlines. Problem is, they sent out the e-mail to every person who entered that day, likely numbering into the thousands. A few days later, Kellogg's sent out another e-mail apologizing for the "technical malfunction," and offering everyone affected 500 miles as a consolation prize/apology.
Other online chats have run the gamut of reactions, from angry tirades talking of a class-action suit against Kellogg's to "You should be thankful you're getting 500 miles out of the mess." The legal jargon in the sweepstakes rules appears to give Kellogg's some wiggle room, but I'm interested in your views, from a legal as well as a moral (not to mention a PR) perspective. Airlines have accepted $1 fares booked online due to server problems; do you think this is equivalent? What would YOU do?
The Flight Crew: They made a mistake; I think this society is too quick to sue. Unless you quit your job already to take advantage of the miles you didn't get, just move on with life. Cindy
Re: Mexico: Andrea, Thanks for responding to my question about flights to Baja. I thought I had to fly to La Paz. When I tried Cabo (per your suggestion) I instantly found much cheaper and faster flights, around $550 with only one transfer in Houston. Gracias!
The Flight Crew: My pleasure. Glad I could help! Have a great time, and don't go nuts on the margaritas.
Burke, Va.: I am looking into renting a cabin in West Virginia's Canaan Valley (or nearby) for a summer vacation for my wife and myself. Any suggestions on a nice, secluded but not overly expensive place to rent?
The Flight Crew: Burke, try www.westvirginiacabins.com
washingtonpost.com: Toronto at Play: Canada's revitalized theater scene is getting a standing ovation. But it's the city itself that's stealing the show. (Post, May 6, 2001)
The Flight Crew: Thanks Kim.
The Flight Crew: Whew, out of time again. Thanks for the great posts and responses, and sorry if we didn't get to your question -- please try again next week. This week's prize goes to Arlington, who's going to B.A. and Montevideo, and who very kindly recommended the B&B guide to Ireland. Arl, if you send your contact info to email@example.com, we'll get the book right out to you. Thanks for chatting, and see you all next week.
© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company