| Talk About Travel|
The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, June 09, 2003; 2:00 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.
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: Well if it's Monday afternoon, it must be time to throw another chat on the barbie. Welcome, fellow travelers. Despite the long-awaited sunny day outside, we're poised in our cubicles, heads down, glued to our keyboards (and you know what, it's really hard to type that way). This is K.C. Summers, your captain du jour, along with Travel section regulars John Deiner, Cindy Loose, Steve Hendrix, Andrea Sachs, Carol Sottili, Gary Lee and Anne McDonough.
Cindy's fab Australia piece ran yesterday in the print edition and graces the front of the Post Web site today. Her story is fair dinkum, not bodgy at all, so if you have any questions for her, have a go. (Yeah, I'm sure I didn't use those right, so feel free to let me have it.)
Can it possibly be true that Vermont was once its own country, with its own money? That's what it says here in the Rand McNally Kids' Road Atlas, which is this week's giveaway. This is a cute, child-size version of the popular grownups' atlas, with games, puzzles and real road maps of all 50 states. To win it, just chime in on the subject of the day, which is (shudder) driving on the left. Where and when have you done it, how did you do, got any good survival tips, etc. The prize goes to the best tip or most reassuring post.
And we're off!
Washington, D.C.: Must post early as I just finished reading Sunday's Travel section cover to cover. Kudos on a GREAT job! The Vermont and Australia articles were wonderful; both are on my "must see" list and your write-ups just reinforced that for me. Your section is definitely my favorite part of the Sunday Post.
The Flight Crew: So you didn't like the BMW story?!? Just kidding, Wash -- thanks for the comp.
G'day from Fairfax, Va., mate!: Loved Cindy’s article on her Australia trip. Having, seemingly, just returned from two weeks there in April, her story convinced me even more that I have to go back. I spent a week in Melbourne, a city I highly recommend, and a week in Sydney. First let me say that a week in Sydney is nowhere near enough time for that bustling place. In planning my next trip there (yes I am going back despite the long flight), I am hoping to spend another week there and then hit Brisbane, the GBR, Alice Springs and Uluru.
I’d also like to recommend another place to stay in Sydney. I had a wonderful experience at Simpsons of Potts Point, a boutique hotel/B&B occupying a converted 1890’s mansion. It is very convenient to Circular Quay by bus (about 15 minutes and the bus stops a block away), by cab (about a 5 minute ride) or by foot (about 30 minutes via Wooloomooloo Bay and the Royal Botanic Gardens). It's in Potts Point just down the road from King’s Cross. Both areas are awash in an eclectic mix of excellent restaurants, interesting clubs and backpacker hostels. I paid $145 ($AUD) per night, single, and that included breakfast.
Again, thanks for stirring up memories with your story.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the affirmation, and the hotel suggestion. Hope you have a great time. Cindy
Leesburg, Va.: I am planning a trip to Japan over Christmas and New Years (about two weeks). I have been following the fares and WAS-NRT tends to float at about $1,100. Can I expect these to fall at all?
Also is there a Web site for Japanese trains? I plan on taking a few to visit Hiroshima and Kyoto during my time.
Thanks so much!
The Flight Crew: Leesburg: Christmas to Japan is high season but those fares should slide down a bit, says Gary. For train travel, try hyperdia.com. It allows you to put in your starting point and destination and gives you a few intineraries to choose from.
Arlington, Va.: I will be taking a 4-day weekend over the 4th of July. Based on some airfare deals, I am thinking about traveling to either Quebec City or Portland, OR. Which would you choose? I enjoy good music/arts, ethnic food and hiking. If it's any help, I have visited "nearby" cities as Seattle and Montreal, and enjoyed both. Thanks...
The Flight Crew: Personally, I'd do Quebec City, assuming there's not a huge difference in the plane fares you can pin down. Portland is a good choice of course, but you don't get the Canadian dollar deal, and I like the foreign feeling of Quebec, and that French food too. Cindy
Washington, D.C. flight novice: Hello all. My boyfriend and I are desperately trying to get from here to Austin sometime before August or September (we're moving in together and I haven't met his family there yet. Aaack.) We need to make it a long weekend trip. Flight prices on the usual suspencts -- Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity -- are ridiculous at about $360 a pop, roundtrip. Is there anything we can do now to score tickets at less than $270 or so? Or should we just wait and see if the airlines throw out a few summer-special bones?
The Flight Crew: I just found $256 to Austin in Sept. on Orbitz on a range of carriers. The lesson: Keep on plugging in dates. Southwest has similar fares for those time periods. Also, check SW's frequent fare sales.--andrea
Exotic Alexandria, Va.: So, now that the article's been published, does this mean the BMW is deductible as research?
The Flight Crew: Wouldn't that be nice...
Rosslyn, Va.: Could you please post a link to your article about the best headphones for airline travel? I'm flying to Japan, and I want something better than the airline headphones.
washingtonpost.com: Noise Canceling Headphones
The Flight Crew:
Thanks for the link, Kim. Welcome home from Africa.
I love my headphones, Ross. But I usually forget to take them.
Washington, D.C.: My question regards 'suspicious' items in checked baggage when flying. On 2 recent trips, I had an alarm clock and a cheap digital watch packed in my checked baggage. When I got home, I noticed that the item was not there. There was no note or sticker that my bag was searched. These items are not on the 'prohibited' list, but do you know if they might be taken anyways? Would having one in your luggage increase your chances of having your bag checked? Maybe you've heard stories from other travelers. In the future I probably will keep these with me on the plane. Thanks.
The Flight Crew: Clocks and watches are not prohibited. It seems you were robbed, rather than security checked. If screeners open your bag, they must leave a note, and there is no legal reason for them to confiscate your time pieces. Cindy
Pendleton, Ore.: Dear Flight Crew: I travel to Russia several times a year to do research. I've become increasingly frustrated with the phone situation there -- everyone has a cell -- but have been put off by the high cost of GSM phones. Is there a way to buy a GSM phone without having to buy a year contract, a pay-as-you-go plan? I don't need it all the time, as a businessperson might. I'd just like to be able to phone people in Moscow and also the folks at home when I am there. Any recommendations/advice would be welcome.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Try www.t-mobile.com; www.intouchusa.com; www.travelcell.com; www.roadpost.com.
Silver Spring, Md.: Hiya -
I purchased a travel package from Expedia and opted to not get the travel insurance. Now I wish I had, but it's too late. Do you know of any reputable companies that sell travel insurance for people who didn't get it when they had the chance and now they're sorry?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Go to www.insuremytrip.com for a list of companies.
Silver Spring, Md.: Great piece on Oz! I'm planning to go in Oct for 6 months. Two questions:
1. Any consolidators you know of? Seems like RTW tix could rival DC-OZ.
2. Any tips for getting a six month visa? My job will be finished and I'm selling my home...I assume applying for a 6 monther is better than taking the 3 with hopes of renewing.
good on ya'
The Flight Crew: I didn't try consolidators, and can't vouch for any, but they do advertise in the yellow pages and in our section. If anyone has had excellent experience with one, let us know.
As to the visa--sorry, I don't have any great insights there. But if you want to stay six months, I'd go for the six months visa rather than getting there and finding you can't stay as long as planned. As long as you don't plan on working, can't see why they wouldn't want to have you spend your money for six months. Cindy
Ashburn, Va.: I am organizing a mini reunion for some college friends next August, and we are looking for a beautiful place with 3-4 not too rustic cabins for a group of 10 adults and 11 children (1-4 years old) by or near water in the Virgina, North Carolina, West Virginia area. Hoping to book early to get the best place around.
The Flight Crew: Hi, Ash. I've said it before, I'll say it again: The cabins at Herrington Manor STate Park are great....many sleep more than 6, and they're relatively inexpensive. All have kitchens, porches, indoor plumbing. There's a nice lake nearby, and Deep Creek Lake is right down the road. The W.Va. line isn't too far away. Could be that they're a bit out of your area of choice, though. You can Google "Herrington Manor State Park" to find it on the Web.
Other ideas out there?
Charlottesville, Va.: So what the heck is going on with airfares? I checked prices over the weekend for two different routes which I fly fairly often in the U.S. and almost fell out of my chair. Both trips are much later in the summer so I'm not looking at any late booking hikes yet, thus, I was more than a little surprised to see rates at least three times what I would normally pay. Please tell me there's hope for a decline in prices sometime soon.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Don't be put off by short-term airfare hikes. If the destination is served by a discount carrier, it will most likely go on sale. But the key is to stay vigilant. You have to be ready to strike when a sale is announced - they often only last for a few days at a time.
Rockville, Md.: Cindy, your Australia report delighted my husband and I since we got married at American River, Kangaroo Island, in March 2001! When was your trip? Our marriage was the follow-up to my husband's business meeting in Sydney and just one of our stops including Heron Island and Tasmania! Looking forward to hearing some more about our beloved Australia!
The Flight Crew: We traveled over the Easter holiday. And I agree, the travel section needs more of Australia. Keep reminding my boss, and I'll be off. Really wanted to see Tasmania, among a million other things. Hope you can return for a wedding anniversary. Cindy
Arlington, Va.: Hello Crew!
What are the rules for travelling internationally with food? I have trips planned to France and Bermuda for later on this year. I would like to bring basic snack food -- like prezels, peanut butter and crackers. Will this be allowed?
The Flight Crew: Packaged snacks are okay. Most forbidden foods are in the live animal/vegetable category, such as no fresh salad or steak tartare. Check with the countries' customs departments for specifics (you can find that info online, at their tourism office or embassy sites). I am not quite sure of your question, whether you mean to bring the foods on the plane (anything can be eaten inflight, you just may have to gorge before landing) or traveling around the countries. If it's the latter, just a word of advice: France and Bermuda foods are much tastier than Snyder pretzels. --andrea
Washington, D.C.: I plan to take my grandmother to the Macy's day parade on Thanksgiving. Due to the weather and her age, I would like a hotel overlooking the parade route, or any other suggestions. Thanks.
The Flight Crew: Hey DC--
The parade starts at 77th and Central Park West, and travels south of CPW until Columbus Circle, when it heads west to Broadway. Then it follows Broadway down to 34th St., to finish in front of Macy's. Now, if you don't have a friend living in the Dakota (John Lennon's old building has an absolutely perfect view of the festivities along CPW), the NY Convention and Visitors Bureau at 212-484-1222 might be able to help with specific hotels that overlook the parade route. They directed me to www.nycvisit.com, which has a list of hotels aong the route, and a suggestion that you ask for a room on an upper floor for maximum viewing.
Also, the day before Thanksgiving an even cooler sight to be seen is the balloons being blown up, usually by the Museum of Natural History, in the later afternoon into the evening. For more info, the Macy's Hotline for the Parade is 212-494-4495.
-Anne (who only missed one out of the past 24 parades)
Fairfax, Va.: If you had three days to visit Rome for the first time, what would you see; where in the city would you stay? We enjoy seeing some tourist sites, but we like food, wine, and people-watching better.
The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says: For a first timer, I would suggest basing yourself in either the Spanish Steps or the Trastevere areas. The former is a bit more pricey, the latter a very romantic neighborhood with some good budget places. There is so much in Rome to see, you will do well to pack in just the top spots in three days. I suggest: the Vatican (including the Sistine chapel) the Colloseo, and the Pantheon. The Spanish steps area is great for shopping. I would suggest that on your very first day you take a city tour. After that make a point by point schedule, based on your tour, of how you'd like to divide the next two and a half days.
LaPlata, Md.: Loved the Australia article! I have to ask, though, what would be the best place to visit for exploring Australia's terrestrial wildlife?
The Flight Crew: Kangaroo Island has its fair share, but there are probably loads of options. Can one of our Australia experts out there share other good wildlife spots? Is Tasmania a good choice? Cindy
Japan trains info: Japan Rail Web site: www.japanrail.com
Rail passes: http://www.japanrail.com/3_passes/ (passes are recommended if you're taking more than a couple of train trips). I think some places, such as Kyoto and Sapporo, get crowded over the holidays (Kyoto for its New Years festivals).
The Flight Crew: Thanks much, says Gary.
Washington, D.C.: Cindy, only glanced at your Australia article front page. I'll sit down and give it a thorough read today. But if you were in the Melbourne area there's a bit of flight history. This being the centennial year of flight. The magician Houdini flew the first 'aeroplane' in Australia in Melbourne in March 1910 at a place called Digger's Rest. Maybe it still exists and just wanted to know if you might have been there? There are some excellent pics of this historic Australia event on Bob King's Houdini tribute page: www.geocities.com/~houdinitribute/
The Flight Crew: Thanks. I didn't get to Melbourne, but maybe next time.
Chevy Chase, Md.: My family, which includes my husband, my 20-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, are going to Ireland in August for about nine days. I found tickets to Ireland for $400 + taxes which seemed pretty good. We fly into Shannon, plan to rent a car and then just stay in B&B's. I don't want this to be a whirlwind trip but rather one where we can stay at a couple of places more than one day. What would you suggest? Where should I rent a car? Here or there? I have checked with the the major car renters and the weekly cost seems pretty high. Any B&B you suggest? Any particular sights that you think we should try to work in. We are a pretty active family and would not be opposed to a bike trip or some hiking? Any suggestions on that? I have been told that I should wait until we arrive at a town to make our B&B reservations. Does that seem like a good idea? We were thinking that we would try to just explore the west side of the country. I am not oppose to staying one night at someplace really special like a castle or maybe a really nice B&B. On We would really appreciate any help/suggestions you might have. Thanks for your help.
The Flight Crew: Chevy, I'm (KC) doing your exact trip next week and am doing pretty much what you are -- hence my plea for driving-on-the-left anecdotes! I'm staying in the west, renting a car and waiting till I get there to find B&Bs. I'm not worried about finding places, although I did make reservations for a couple of days at one inn that is well-known and a bit of a splurge (even reserving a month in advance, I just barely got in). I'm taking B&B names with me for various towns but expect to just wing it, mostly 'cause I don't know I'll be from night to night.
Hiking (or just walking) and biking opportunities abound in this area of Ireland. Don't miss the Burren, with its weird, rocky landscape, and the amazing Cliffs of Moher. Bike-riding is great in the Aran Islands. As for renting a car, definitely take care of that on this end, it's much cheaper. Have fun and let us know how it went.
Westover, Va.: Driving on the left survival tips:
As a native Aussie who learned to drive in the States, here's how I drive when I go back home.
1. I don't. At least not in the cities. With public transport, you just don't need to. In Sydney you can take buses, trains, taxis, ferries, hydrofoils, or rivercats to get you where you need to go. Or you can walk.
2. When you do "have" to drive--just keep thinking to yourself: I should be close to the center line (rather than the footpath).
And quit writing about Port Douglas. People keep going there. But do keep telling people who go to take the Quiksilver - that monstrosity keeps many tourists away from the smaller boats, where the experience is heaps better.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tips, and we'll see what we can do about ignoring Port D.
Springfield, Va.: Cindy Loose's Australian story was marvelous -- we want to go. The two of us are in our 70s, prefer wildlife to nightlife, and have more time than funds. Where would you suggest we start planning (prefer traveling by ourselves and are used to European jaunts)?
The Flight Crew: If you call the 800 number at the bottom of the details box, they will refer you to a local travel agency that specializes in Aussie travel. Such a big country, I think planning calls our for travel agent help. Alternatively, you can ask the tourism council for help at the same number. Cindy
Driving on the left-Ireland: When driving on the left, as you do in Ireland, keep your eyes on the far left side of the road and hug close to it. Rent a small car for all the narrow and curvy roads.
Also, if its a stick shift car, have your front seat passenger shift for you, because then the gear shift would be in the natural position for US drivers, and its easier to shift properly.
Remember you can always slow down and pull over to the left shoulder when a car seems to be coming too close.
The Flight Crew: Great tips, thanks!
Going to Brazil: Hi! I am lucky enough to be spending all of August in Brazil with a Brazilian friend. Here's our itinerary: Five days in Rio, off to Moro de Sao Paulo island, then five days in Manaus before I head to Salvador to take two weeks of language courses. Here's the question. We want to do an overnight trip of 3 or 4 days up the Amazon from Manaus. Do we need four days? Which of the hotel combo packages are best? I have looked at the Ariau towers 4-day package. Includes boat to from Manaus, day trips, lodging and food for $400 a person. IS this good? We are two 26-year-old gay men, if that matters. One professional, one grad student. Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says: I don't know the hotel combo packages well enough to advise. But I strongly feel that four days is needed for the trip. Also, $400 sounds like a decent price off the top of my head.
Wedding help please!!!: My finace and I would like an island wedding and we settled on Negril, Jamiaca as being both economical and beautiful and the hotel we'd like to use has steps down the cliff to the beach! Have any of you been to Negril? We've never been to the Carribean and we are inviting close friends and paying for our parents. We know the wedding laws/ procedures. Any advice? We have not made any reservations or bought tickets. What's a good price for airfare these days?
The Flight Crew: Negril has very splendid beaches. Jamaica is among those islands that makes getting married there easy. I don't have the Jamaican tourism office number handy, but you could get the details of marriage rules at the Caribbean Tourism Org, 212 635 9530, or better yet, do a google search for the Jamaica tourism, which should have an 800 number.
Boston, Mass.: Hi -- love these chats! I have a biz trip to Salt Lake City in August. Afterward, I want to take 4 or 5 days and either head north to Wyoming or east to Colorado (more driving, I realize) I'm looking to see some stuff we don't see out East and to relax with hiking, rafting and eating. Which way to head, and are there any must-sees? Thanks
The Flight Crew: No need to even leave Utah. Why not go south and check out Zion National Park, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands or Moab (my favorite, especially for biking). --andrea
Washington, D.C.: LEFT HAND DRIVE!!!!
The very first time I had the opportunity to drive on the left hand side was in Cheltenham(Cotswalds) in 1992. It was a 1938 Bugatti 12 litre, with the gear shifter on the outside of the car. Not only did I have to worry about driving on the opposite side of the road but also shifting gears outside the car!
To make a long story short, my Uncle and I were driving down a very narrow country lane and went through a "fjord" a small stream that crosses over the roadway. He had two French photographers there to take a picture for a book they were doing, they liked the water splashing up on the sides of the car so much, they asked me to reverse up so they could shoot another picture. DISASTER!!! As I reversed back througth the fjord, the water went into the exhaust pipe and flooded the spark plugs, car would not start for hours!!!!!!
The Flight Crew: Great, now I want to stay home!
Fairfax, Va: Answers to a couple of questions:
If you want to stay beyond 3 months on a tourist VISA, you can't get the electronic VISA (ETA). You'll actually have to get a VISA from the Australian embassy.
As for wildlife, most of it's nocturnal, so seeing it in the wild is dicey. There are a lot of great wild animal parks associated with the zoos in. Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria outside Melbourne and Western Plains Zoo in NSW are a couple of winners.
The Flight Crew: Thanks, although I must add that I saw lots of daytime wildlife on Kangaroo Island, but true, only a small percentage of all the species that live there.
Rockville, Md.: I am interested in visiting the top four German Christmas markets in December -- where could I find information about this?
The Flight Crew: Go to www.visit-to-germany.com for links that describe lots of the major markets, or call 212 661 7200. Cindy
Blown Away in Bowie: Part II-wrote to you last week about the $25 a night rate in Philly....well, the hotel and I have been playing phone tag, but I can guess what it's about (the rate)...my question is...should Orbitz be the one the hotel should fight with and NOT me...and yes, I do have a confirmed reservation through Orbitz....
and btw...when driving in the British countryside on the left...BREATH IN when you see a "lorry" (truck) coming towards you on the WRONG side of the road...I swear, I NEVER think he could go by without blowing me off the road.....so I inhale deeply and truely believe it sucks the car just a millimeter narrower....
The Flight Crew: Gotcha. Thanks!
Falls Church, Va.: Driving on the left: A few years ago my wife and I arrived around 8:00 AM at Shannon Airport in mid-August. We rented a nondescript Fiat Punto which we drove that day through the west of Ireland into Northern Ireland by Enniskellen. The road through the lakes in that part of the world is beautiful; we saw more of it largely because I had to pull over every 15 minutes to keep from falling asleep! That we made it to Belfast in one piece still amazes me. We stayed for a few days at John Delorean's house nearby in Dunmurry, now a small inn. We then drove all the way around the other side of the island to west Cork, nearly completing the circuit. The car had a CD player, so my wife bought a U2 CD in Belfast. Incidentally, that weekend was that band's big concert at Slade Castle on the Boyne River. All of Ireland seemed to be going to it.
The Flight Crew: Thanks, I'm not sure what the tips are here but it sounds like a great trip! did you make it to the concert?
Arlington, Va.: Cindy -- I loved your article about Australia! I lived there from 1999-2002 and said I would go back again someday. Well, I couldn't wait more than a year and I'm going back in three weeks! So, I believe you will go back again someday too.
You visited two of my favorite spots in Australia, Kangaroo Island and Port Douglas. I went to Port Douglas every winter (July) that I lived there and plan to go again this July. While Quicksilver is clearly the largest and most popular reef company, I would suggest visitors check out smaller companies for a more personal experience. My favorite is Wavelength (www.wavelength-reef.com.au), which takes no more than 30 people at a time and visits three different reefs during the day. This is a snorkeling-only tour, so there's not the bother and delay of scuba tanks and gear. There is a marine biologist on board as well who takes you on a guided snorkeling tour of the second reef. The current rate for a full-day reef tour is about U.S.$90 per adult. (I went with them each of the three times that visited P.D.)
P.S. Did you eat Mexican food at Chief's in Port Douglas? I love their shredded beef enchiladas.
The Flight Crew: I felt as if Quicksilver offered the best of both worlds by having a huge, fast boat that gets you far out quick, but once you arrive you can get the small boat experience too. Good to know, though, of your experience as well. Sorry I didn't get to try the Mexican food of Port Douglas. We were traveling so fast that there wasn't always time to eat, I'm afraid. Cindy
King Farm: Assume, of your own free will, you have decided to relocate to another state. What would you recommend as the top 5 things you should consider about the new location?
The Flight Crew: 1. weather
3. housing prices
4. housing prices
Morgantown, W. Va.: I would like to take an "inn-to-inn" hiking trip with my two dogs this summer somewhere in the New England or mid-Atlantic region. Are there any groups that organize such hiking trips? (I thought of this reading your article today about the inn-to-inn biking trips. I'd like the same thing, though on foot with dogs. Is it impossible?)
The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says: for starters, check out the website adventureguidesvt.com. Aside from that do any other clicksters have experience with inn to inn hikes in New England?
driving in the right brain . . . : lived in/around london for a year, and went back and forth for several years prior. If you must drive on the left, here are a few tips:
1. stay alert. when you are tired, you revert to instinctive driving, which for us is on the right. remember the accident a few years ago when Matthew Broderick seriously injured (perhaps killed?) some people in Irelan - he attributed it to being severely overtired.
2. Look twice, move once. So they toot at you from behind - big deal - you won't kill anyone by being MORE cautious (left-handed driving isn't as predominent in places like Italy and the middle east where it WILL get you killed if you are too cautious)
3. Driving a stick shift is easier (really, I swear) than an automatic - you HAVE to be more decision-conscious and think about your driving.
4. roundabouts - remember to ALWAYS yield to the oncoming traffic - and if you have to go around the circle more than once, it is ok. the locals sometimes do it too. And remember traffic moves clockwise
5. Enlist your passengers - no fair snoozing in this kind of roadtrip unless the driver is really comfy with it.
6. Harken back to our own basic driving skills. Be courteous. Be patient. ALWAYS use your turn signals. Yield to faster traffic, though in this case slower traffic goes to the left, not the right.
The Flight Crew: Gulp. Thanks. It all makes sense, except for the part about the stick-shift.
Chevy Chase, Md.: crew:
I'm heading to Vancouver in a little over a month. I've been there before, but not in the summertime. What will the temperatures be like? Is going to Kitsilano beach worth it? I remember the article by Cindy Loose -- it sounds like she had a lot of fun.
The Flight Crew: Don't have a weather chart handy, and unfortunately don't know that particular beach despite a trip there this year. Can Vancouverities help?
Alexandria, Va.: A friend is getting married in Fiji in late August and I am seriously thinking of going for about 2 weeks. A quick search for airfares found some around $1000/$1100 out of Los Angeles, and I figure I can find a ticket to LA for around $200. So my first question is, is this reasonable?
And my second question is, any tips on what I simply must see? Any info at all is appreciated.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: You can often get better deals to places like Fiji and Tahiti if you book a package that includes hotel. Go to www.bulafiji.com for a list of deals - Breandan Worldwide Vacations, for example, as an $1,100 package that includes airfare and five nights' accommodations.
to Ireland bound: Just returned last week from Shannon. As a heads-up, there is some issue about not being able to waive the CDW insurance if you are paying with a VISA.
Moral: know your options and read the fine-print on the car rental reservation BEFORE arriving and trying to deal with rental cars people after a sleepless night on an airplane. I didn't, and ended up paying for the insurance which after 12 days, adds up. No regrets though, as it was a wonderful trip. Like KC says, hiking and biking opportunities abound.
Recommendation: Drumcreehy House (www.druncreehyhouse.com) in Ballyvaughn if you visit the Burren.
The Flight Crew: Thanks a lot -- haven't heard that about insurance & Visa cards.
London, England: I know this is a perennial question, but how are the lines at Dulles these days? I am coming back to the mother country for a wedding in a couple of weeks, and have an 8 a.m. (yay!) flight back to London. I shudder to think about getting up before five in order to get from Rockville to Dulles three hours before my flight. Is that still the rule, even for early morning departures?
Also, anyone coming to London this summer should check out the Travelex 10-pound season at the National Theatre; fab shows for peanuts! Also, of course, there are the proms... and the RSC at Stratford, and the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. How I love this city! As an added bonus, we seem to have switched climates with D.C. this spring, it's been so sunny!
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the suggestions. As to getting to the airport three hours early: two should be fine, but you really should ask the particular airline you are flying. Make clear when you call that you're on the first flight out, and ask specifically what time they open their desks. No use being there before they are. Cindy
Arlington, Va.: Thanks for taking this one. I searched the archives and couldn't find anything on Portland (OR). I'm heading there for a wedding August 7-10. I'll primarily be in Hood River but I have about a day and a half in Portland by myself. What should I definitely see? Also, can you recommend a hotel in the city (preferably one safe for a girl traveling alone)?
washingtonpost.com: Previous Oregon Travel stories, some of which are about Portland
The Flight Crew: Here's one.
Driving on the left: I've driven on the left a smattering of times (and it is truly freaky), but always in places with one-lane roads--which helps in that you don't stress about which lane you are in and which is the "slow" lane. The hardest thing to remember is to pull into the correct side of the road when making a turn (right or left), or worse, when turning into a parking lot. Most of my close calls have come exactly in that scenario. (One tends to be more alert when driving in moving traffic on "real" roads than in parking lots).
Best piece of advice, keep second guessing yourself--you will piss off other drivers, but you are more likely to arrive at your destination in one piece.
p.s. The place(s) I've driven on the left are the Virgin Islands--hence the limited traffic and one lane roads.
The Flight Crew: Got it. Turns. Thanks.
Arlington, Va.: Can you suggest some travel services and websites that may offer student discounts for Transatlantic trips?
The Flight Crew: try www.studentuniverse.com
Washington, D.C.: Howdy:
I travel about once a week for work, and I have more FF miles and hotel stays than I think I know what to do with. I have tried to use miles to get free tickets in the past, but it is always a pain in the can. My question is, has all this pain and agony I have been dealing with for the past 7 years been worth it? Will I ever be able to use my miles and hotel points at the same time in the same trip, or will it always be a pain? Also, who really has the best FF and hotel programs?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I'm with you. I know many people who always seem to be getting free flights and upgrades with their frequent flyer miles, and every time I try to use mine, there are no seats left. Maybe we're traveling too spur of the moment, or to popular destinations in peak season. Or maybe we're unlucky. I just can't be bothered with it anymore. As for who has the best, people have written books on the topic. A good resource for all things FF is www.webflyer.com.
Arlington, Va.: Driving on the LEFT for prize:
I've driven on the left in two places...the
UK and in the British Virgin Islands. In
the UK it is much easier than the B.V.I.s
because at least in the UK the steering
wheel is on the right of the car, allowing
your vision to be at the center of the road
(like how our cars are on the left side so
we can see to the center). In the B.V.I.s
the cars are American (left hand steering
wheel) and left driving. That is
craziness!!! My word of advice is to have
your passenger be your extra eyes at the
center. Your eyes alone are not enough
as they are too far from the center of the
road to make a difference.
I think those who have driven on the left
should agree with me that after an hour or
so, the body's adjustment is made, and it
starts to feel natural.
Hope that helps, esp. in crazy driving
situations like the B.V.I.s!
The Flight Crew: Passengers. Right. Thanks.
Chevy Chase, Md.: Hey, KC thanks for the tips on Ireland. I will let you know about my trip but since you are going before me, will you let me/us know about your trip?
The Flight Crew: Yes I will, the story's running July 13 so stay tuned.
Falls Church, Va.: Shannon-Belfast-Cork, again. No, we didn't make it to the concert (Slane Castle, I think it was). As for actual tips for driving: it really isn't that bad. Just be very conscious of each turn you make so you don't wind up on the wrong side of the road. It is also essential to have a good navigator.
The Flight Crew: Turns. Right. Thanks.
driving on the wild side: clearly the fjord story takes the proverbial cake.....my Brit boss always used to change which wrist she wore her watch on when driving on the other side--left side for UK, right side for US. Helped her focus on that side more.
The Flight Crew: Oh I love that tip!! Thanks!
Arlington, Va.: I've been waiting for the report on Australia, and it was an interesting read. Since I've been to Australia on family trips, though, I had a few comments.
First off, I suspect the "flea market" you referred to in Brisbane was the Riverside Markets that occur every Sunday. I think the Riverside Markets are more like a weekly arts and crafts fair rather than a flea market. A "flea market" to me suggests white tube socks on sale for $1/dozen or other really cheap merchandise.
Second, the "water taxi" in Brisbane is the City Cat, a catamaran service that goes up and down the Brisbane River according to a specific schedule. Sydney, on the other hand, has actual water taxis which you can call and a small boat will get you and take you where you need to go.
Third, another hotel in downtown Brisbane is the Stamford Plaza. There are two outstanding restaurants in it, Siggi's and a teppanyaki place, Kabuki. The Stamford Plaza is right next to the Botanical Gardens, which are lovely. You can rent bikes nearby and bike through the gardens.
Fourth, I can't believe you missed the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast! The best beaches in Australia are located there. You must go back to experience these.
Finally, since you were in search of wildlife, another great place is Lamington National Park. The wonderful thing about Australia is that it is so sparsely populated, so its parks are not crowded. My husband and I took a long hike at Lamington (18 km), and I think we saw just 7 other people.
I've been to Brisbane now four times and have yet to hit the Koala Sanctuary. It sounds like we should try to make the side trip this year, although the beach is beckoning. We did go to see the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin of Crocodile Hunter fame's park), and that was an interesting experience. We're going to see the Reef and South Australia when our kids (both under 3) get older. Kangaroo Island sounds like a great bet.
Finally, for those families intrepid enough to go to Australia with small children (small enough to be in carseats on the plane or using strollers), be ready for some difficulties when flying within Australia. Strollers must be checked at the front desk and they are not delivered at the gate, but must be picked up in baggage claim. Call ahead just before your flight to let them know you have a carseat for your flight. Check in early, because there will be mixups -- some agents insist on an engineer being present to install the seat -- and even though you called ahead, the engineer won't show. Agents will move you to the last row of seats on some planes because that's where the tether bolt is -- so don't waste your frequent flier miles to move up to the front of the plane -- you'll get bumped to the back. Finally, expect a lot of stares from people and flight attendants. They are simply not used to seeing little ones on the plane. Yes, this was Qantas. We are flying Virgin Blue this Christmas (Star Alliance), but after that Qantas experience last time, we are fully expecting a hard time later this year.
Oh, this applies to everyone: Carry on regs in Australia are much more strict than U.S. airlines. Bags really can't be much bigger than a briefcase or diaper bag, and these rules are enforced very strictly. So, if you plan to fly a lot within Australia, make sure that you are ready to check your U.S.-sized carry on, or bring a small carry on to use throughout the trip.
The Flight Crew: THose looking for wildlife in Australia---reader has suggestion embedded in this entry. Thanks for the tips. I actually thought about calling the market an arts and crafts market, but there were so many other things that weren't arts or crafts, including clothes. But you are right, this is not a tube socks type market. Cindy
Ireland BandB: Hi, I used to live in Ireland, and can reccomend a small B+B in Annagry in Donegal (near Crolly the birthplace of Enya -- her dad still owns a small pub there, and is the nicest man. He showed me baby pictures of Enya when I mentioned I liked her music). I stayed at the B+B in Annagry owned by Ms. Margaret Bonner. I stayed an extra night just to sit on her front porch and watch the sunset while she told me stories one more time. Not the most luxurious place, but the hospitality was great!
The Flight Crew: Great, thanks much.
Baltimore, Md.: Good afternoon, flight crew. I'm considering a trip to Buenos Aires to take advantage of the great travel deals there. I've heard conflicting information about the safety of Argentina during this economic crisis. What are your thoughts re the advisability of a woman travelling alone to Buenos Aires and other destinations in Argentina this year? Thanks.
The Flight Crew: Baltimore, our latest reports suggest that you can handle BA and have a good time if you are really careful, says Gary Lee. With the economic woes there, there is still a lot of pickpocketing and mugging, which would dictate STRONGLY against being out on the streets at night alone. But we have heard from several Americans who have visited lately that as long as you don't wear flashy jewelry, etc., and you watch your p's and q's, you'll be okay.
Driving on the left: I drove from Brussels to Scotland and back in an American car shipped over there (I was working in Brussels). Toughest part for me driving on the left was right turns-- while I could remember what to do on straight-aways, when I turned right I instinctively wanted to stay to the right after the turn. Fortunately, northern Scotland had several single lane roads with turn-outs for one car to pull over if another approached from the other direction. Several times, I pulled over and flashed my lights for the oncoming car to continue. More often than not, they then flashed their lights to signal, "No, YOU go first." Imagine that in DC!!
The Flight Crew: Okay. Turns. Thanks.
Clifton, Va.: My girlfriend and I are thinking about going to the beach. I know Virginia Beach has rules about the thongs. Do you know if Ocean City, Rehobeth, Bethany, Fenwick, Dewey or N.C. beaches do? At 42 years old my girlfriend still causes jaws to drop when she wears thong bikini.
The Flight Crew: If she's cheeky enough to do it, Clifton, more power to her. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
No one here knows of any restrictions in the Maryland or Del. beaches. But your right about Virginia Beach: thongs forbidden, no ifs, ands or ..... BWAHAHAHAHA!
20011: Driving on the left! I got back last week from a trip where I had to drive on the left for 2 and a half weeks. Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man.
Ok, I have an advantage, in that I drive a car with a manual transmission here. So, I have shifting skills. Still, sitting on the other side of the car, shifting with the other hand, while driving on the other side of the road, going the other way around circles, and to top it all off, driving on the NARROWEST roads in the UNIVERSE is quite the experience.
Tips? None, really. Just THINK while you're driving. And it really doesn't sound stupid when you spend the first day chanting "Drive on the left. Drive on the left." no matter how much your husband laughs. "Drive on the left. I'm turning right, but I'm staying left..." When I came home, I had to chant "Drive right. Drive right!"
How did I do? Um, I didn't hit anything? I never went the wrong way into a circle?
Seriously, learning to look right THEN left before crossing a street was harder. Oh, though there was that bit about which shoulder to look over when parallel parking. And reaching up with the OTHER hand for the seatbelt.
Survival tips? Start out slow. THINK. Have a navigator with you, or have your route pre-planned for the initial bit. It really becomes less stressful fairly quickly. Just remember that everything is different. Driving, parking, turning, circles.
The Flight Crew: Pre-planned route. Navigator. Right. Thanks.
Herndon, Va.: My wife and I head for a weekend at Solomon's Island pretty soon - she to attend an artists' workshop and me to hang out. Anything there on the "can't miss" list?
The Flight Crew: Hey, Herndon. Solomons is a neat little area, with lots of shops and restaurants and the Calvert Marine Museum, which is definitely worth a stop. You're not too far from the Calvert Cliffs, which you can hike to from a parking area. Check out www.solomons-island.com for more ideas.
20011: I have to argue with the person who suggested getting the passenger to shift. No. You'll damage the car. And you'll add another unneeded variable to the situation. If you don't think you can drive, find another person in your party to do the driving. Don't take those kind of senseless risks.
The Flight Crew: Fine, it didn't matter anyway because per some other advice I've gotten, I'm renting an automatic. Not that this is all about me.
20011: You can't waive the CDW anywhere in Ireland with a Visa card any more. However, you can still waive it with a MasterCard.
The Flight Crew: Okay, thanks.
Silver Spring, Md.: We are traveling with our two children, ages 16 months and 4, to Bangkok, Thailand at the end of the summer. I'm not so worried about the 4-year-old, but I would appreciate any advice for keeping a busy toddler happy or at least reasonably occupied for some portion of the long trip. Also, any experience with flying west through Toyko rather than east through London or Frankfurt?
The Flight Crew: I went through Tokyo--no diff really that I could see. AS to keeping a 16 month old busy: First, don't discount the need to keep the four-year-old busy.
Both should have new toys to play with. These should be things they've never seen before, and they should be wrapped, and they shouldn't be offered until the child is on a breaking point (there will be more than one of these of course, so have a few new things.) The gifts need not be expensive: When I took a four-year-old to Tokyo and beyond I went first to Barton's Child's Play on Conn. Ave and got suggestions--of course any store that gives personalized service is the one you need. They came up with really good ideas, like scratch art, and waxy sticks you can bend into different shapes.
Also, lots of snacks. This is not a time to worry about nutrition: bring whatever makes them shut up. Cross your fingers and hope they sleep a big part of the way. A tape recorder with kids songs and stories could be a lifesaver. Cindy
Kensington, Md.: Re the excess frequent flyer miles, some airlines have programs in which you can donate your excess miles to charities. Employees of the charities then can fly for free. You might even be able to do it without the airline as intermediary, if you are willing to make the reservations for the charity. An easy way to benefit a good cause, and no money out of pocket to you!
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Yes, it's a good idea for those who can't use their miles.
Boston, Mass.: I'm looking to take a trip abroad in September by myself. I was thinking of doing an art history trip or some other type of organized tour. I'm 28 (female) and don't really want to do Europe, an old fuddy duddy tour, or a bike trip. Any suggestions of a reputable tour company specializes in off the beaten path trips and caters to younger adults? Thx!
The Flight Crew: Art history, but not fuddy-duddy? Unless it's body painting at Hedonism, I don't know where else to send you. Contiki caters to the younger set, and they have some unusual options (just pick through the heavy Europe mix), like following the Iditarod route in Alaska. Backroads also has a young following (but lots of biking, sorry), and you can explore the Costa Rican rainforest or snorkel in Bali. For more academic trips, check with major colleges, which sometimes offer international trips for non-students. Indeed, your own college may have alum trips, with a professor/tour guide. Or you could, say, take a class at Oxford and mingle among the young brains. One source: www.arthistoryabroad.com. Finally, Intrepid Traveler is also an option.--andrea
car insurance, foreign rentals, VISA, et al: former car rental agent here:
many VISA cards (and Amex, Diners Club, etc) give you the option of waiving CDW when you use their card to rent the vehicle. Sometimes applies overseas, sometimes not (ie: did it in Caymen, couldn't do it in Mexico).
pros: cheaper per day, obviously
cons: if you damage the car, they CHARGE THE ENTIRE COST TO YOUR CARD while it is being investigated. if it is determined that you did something which negates coverage, you have one heck of a bill. and they are so picky, it usually means they won't pay (ie: you drove outside of the area allowed, you let someone not on the contract drive, you parked illegally, etc).
rule of thumb: if you can afford to travel overseas, you can afford to spring for the rental coverage. the peace of mind alone is worth it. And CDW isn't even the half of it - do you really want to drive around without any type of liability insurance, even if they'd let you? I wouldn't do it here, so I sure wouldn't do it elsewhere.
The Flight Crew: Okay, getting two messages here re waiving CDW on Visa, wonder who's right?
Tassie versus NZ: Though my Australian wife will make me sleep on the couch for saying so, I've got to say that the South Island of New Zealand blows Tasmania away in terms of scenic beauty. If you're in Melbourne it's one thing to fly to Tasmania, but if you're in Sydney, it's almost the same amount of flying time including layovers compared with a direct Sydney-Christchurch flight, so I'd recommend a week in Sydney with a week in the South Island. (Then again, as Cindy points out in her article, you've got to be Zen-like in accepting that you just can't go everywhere during your trip.)
Still, Tasmania is beautiful. I just made the mistake of going to the Remarkables mountains in NZ first followed by a direct flight to Tasmania and it really--sadly--paled in comparison.
The Flight Crew: Interesting. Thanks. I've always wanted to see New Zealand, and it hurt to fly right over without stopping. I'll keep your comment in mind as a selling point with my editor.
Australian Visa: Having been the American vice consul in Canberra listening to tales of woe from Americans about to be deported for violating their Australian visas, I'd recommend that the person planning a six month trip Down Under get a visa in his or her passport, rather than the Electronic Travel Authority, which the Government of Australia allows airlines and travel agencies to issue after running your name through their database. Many airlines still don't understand that the ETA is good only for 90 days. It's not worth the hassle to get an additional 90 days stay while you're trying to travel around and have fun. If you don't do everything correctly in requesting your extension, then you could be considered to have violated your visa. Further information can be found at www.immi.gov.au
The Flight Crew: Thanks much. We have amazing experts in our midst each week.
For Negril Couple: We honeymooned at Couples Negril, an all-inclusive resort. The beaches are spectacular, the resort staff was attentive, and the extras (bonfire parties on the night at the beach) were fun. Each day we were there we saw another U.S. couple get married. Check into them at couples.com. One drawback: the food was mediocre. But everything else was great.
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Cindy, your article made me travel-sick for my junior year abroad in Melbourne. I hope you got a chance to go along the Great Ocean Road between Adelaide & Melbourne.
Driving on the left...I've done it 3 times, in Australia (Perth), the UK (London to Wales to Bath and back), and South Africa (around Cape Town). The bizarre thing is that they were all standard transmissions -- I drive an automatic here, and my attempts to drive standard in the US have been miserable for all parties involved. I learned how to drive stick for the first time in Australia in 1995 and I guess that's what's stuck with me. The nicest thing about driving on the left? Well, it's not really left-specific. But in Perth, Australia I stayed with a man who was a friend of my friend's sister's friend. He went away on business and loaned us his car to get around for a few days. We left before he returned, gassed up and freshly washed. Fast forward 5 years when I'm in graduate school, and a man walks up to me saying "I think you stayed in my house in Perth." Just a random happening I would never think would happen.
The Flight Crew: Awww. Nice story.
Lovettsville, Va.: For the student: Check out statravel.com in addition to student universe. They seem to have contracts with different airlines so sometimes I (I am a student as well) find a lower fare there, but you have to have an ISIC card to book (sta is run by the same people-I think-that issue the International Student Identity Card). For a note: sta also offers great around the world tickets for students!
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
Washington, D.C. & Portland, Ore.: My daughter and I are talking about taking a trip to Iceland. I know you had an article about Iceland but I can't find it -- could you please provide a link? Thanks a lot!
washingtonpost.com: Previous Iceland Travel stories
The Flight Crew: Here you go.
Vienna, Va.: Considering a week-long trip to Lac Morency, St., Hippolyte, Quebec in Laurentian Mountains. LOVED Montreal last year and never got up to the Laurentians. Anyone been up there? Tips, advice, must-sees? Please.
Thanks, love the chat, although 90% of the time I can't get my questions through b/c I get that error page when I hit submit. I can almost guarantee that when you get this, it will be literally the 15th time I've attempted this question, so PLEASE answer. thanks!
The Flight Crew: HELP PLEASE: The Laurentian Mountains are fab, but having been there only in winter, don't think I have the best advise. We've had incredible help from readers this week---who can help with this?
Arlington, Va.: Your Australia article/box mentioned using QANTAS to get around the country. A usually cheaper alternative is Virgin Blue airlines. I flew Melbourne to Sydeny last fall for about US$50 one way. Decent service, nearly new planes, but their terminal at Sydney was very cramped and not cut out for their passenger volume. They were negotiating to use Ansett's old terminal but had not been able to reach a deal with the airport authority yet at that time. Perhaps things have improved since then. But there are alternative to QANTAS in Australia.
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
Fairfax, Va.: Have any of you used Travelzoo? I like the prices but it seems too good to be true. I've never done a package or consolidator before.
The Flight Crew: I use Travelzoo to scout for deals, but the packages listed on the Zoo are not really related to the site; it is just a hub of offers, then you must go directly to the seller. They do, however, have some rules about who they post, though nothing is guaranteed. Pose all your questions and concerns to the outfitter, who is booking the trip and taking your hard-earned cash.--andrea
First Time Leaving the Country...: Got my passport...check! Um, what else? I'm headed to Aruba, which everyone says is America lite, but it's still a foreign land. I know I'm a bit naive, but I don't know what else I may have to do? What is duty free? What do I have to claim? Help?
The Flight Crew: There's a link to our latest Aruba article coming up, from this past February, which should give you a taste of what to look forward to. According to the official Aruba tourism web site (www.aruba.com), Aruba's not officially a duty free port. Hmm, things to think about... leaving a copy of your itinerary with someone at home, making sure you have a couple options in terms of money sources (we're not partial to traveler's cheques, but having a debit card and two credit cards is a good idea), guarding your passport with your life (I assume you'll be hitting the beach, so perhaps leaving it with the front desk in their safe would be an option). Any other ideas out there for a first timer leaving the country?
washingtonpost.com: Aruba: Windy and Gusty with a Chance of Gusts, (Post, Feb. 23, 2003)
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Kim!
Sterling, Va.: Hi!
This year we want to travel to Scotland and ride the West Highlands Rail. Two adults and a toddler would love your recommendations. We are both foodies, in addition, dad is a history sponge and mom is a woolen and knitting fool. Villages, gardens, and walks are appealing. Packing along the child is no problem as we are both, thankfully, strong and energetic. Also want to purchase jackets for him and clothes for babe. We can stay about a week. I'm so excited about this trip-I can hardly wait to see your recommendations! Many thanks!
The Flight Crew: Sorry Sterling, we haven't done this -- anybody out there know the West Highlands Rail? Quick quick.
car rental agent, again: don't know about ireland specifically anymore, but I do know that the waiver program generally is a benefit of a particular card, not MC or VISA in general. Not all VISA cards have this as a bene.
Final decision: call your credit card and ask. AND get it in writing. AND bring that with you. And don't assume it will be allowed.
As I said, just pay the darn fee. If you are involved in an accident and there is any possibility that you are responsible, odds are the police will take your passport away until there is some sort of decision made. And if won't be yours to make.
The Flight Crew: Great advice, especially to get it in writing. Thanks.
Left-Side Follies: After spending time in London, best advice is: if you don't have to drive on the left, DON'T. Motorway driving is fine, and country lanes may be OK, but urban streets seem impossible to navigate -- there's no grid patterns, and you're weaving in and out of parked cars. Britain and most of Europe have great public transport links -- I didn't miss a car -- and prohibitively high petrol duties, so I'd use a car only as/when absolutely necessary, or rent a bike for scenic excursions (a la your Vermont article). Just my two cents/pence.
The Flight Crew: Absolutely right, for London. Thanks.
Re: Rome and people watching: A great place to people watch is the Spanish Steps, especially in the evening since it's when the locals come out. Also, the Trevi Fountain is great during the evenings. I loved Rome! Have fun!
The Flight Crew: Gary says: these are of course both great must-sees! Thanks.
Kensington, Md.: In Cindy Loose's article on Australia yesterday, she raved about Kangaroo Island. I'm going to Australia in August, and was advised that the weather on Kangaroo Island then could be pretty miserable. During what time of year did you go there? And did you elect not to go to Ayers Rock/Alice Springs because there's not as much wildlife there?
The Flight Crew: I visited K.I. in the spring, over easter to be specific. August is late winter, and K.I. could be foggy and cold then. As I noted in the box, not only are seasons reversed, but north is warmer than the south. With KI being as far south as you can go, going in the coldest month of the year probably isn't the best idea. The only reason I didn't go to Uluru and Alice Springs was time---they certainly are popular destinations. Once I was sold on KI, and refusing to give up Great Barrier Reef, I just couldn't fit in the middle of the country too. I'm sure you'll have a great time in Alice Springs, too. That will be my plan next time. Cindy
Arlington, Va.: Re: the topic of the day, I've driven on the left in Great Britain, Ireland, and Australia, most recently last month in Ireland. I'm left-handed and actually find it easier to drive when I'm sitting on the right-hand side of the car, since I actually get to shift with my dominant hand for a change.
I've heard many tips in the past about driving on the other side of the road, including wearing your watch on the opposite hand, and making sure you as the driver are next to the center line (only works when there is one), but haven't relied on anything so spectacular.
I find the two biggest challenges to be right hand turns, where I make sure to use my turn indicators and silently remind myself to "turn wide", and roundabouts, where I try to head for the center lane and am not ashamed to go around twice. Using turn indicators every time you make a turn (and not the windshield wipers as I have done more than I care to admit) is a small way of reminding yourself to think about turning.
The Flight Crew: Great tips. Thanks much.
Rockville, Md.: Hi, What's the most economical way to plan for an Alaskan cruise for 4 people for late summer? Could you recommend travel agents who specialize in cruise deals? Thanks so much!
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: You could either go through a local travel agent or a cruise discounter, such as www.cruiseweb.com, www.cruise.com, www.cruiseone.com or www.mytravel.com. Before you book, check out the company with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) and make sure you get a complete breakdown of all costs, including port charges and taxes. Also, many of the curise lines are offering "hot deals" on thier Web sites. And just about all of them are offering Alaska itineraries, so there are bound to be deals. If you want to try something different, go to www.smallshipcruises.com for a list of companies that do off-beaty cruising.
Help for the First timer: I have always taken a copy of my Drivers permit and Passport and kept it somewhere safe.
The Flight Crew: Excellent suggestions. Thanks!
Driving on the left in So. Africa: It took a little while to get used to shifting with the
wrong hand and keeping to the left, but it went
well. The most wonderful part was the courtesy of
the road - if we came up behind someone going
slower, they pulled over onto the wide shoulder
and let us past. This seemed to be the usual thing
for everyone. What a courteous place!
The Flight Crew: Thanks, let's hope the same holds true in Ireland.
Alexandria, Va.: Hey all, asked this question last week and didn't get a response. I'm going to be driving through the Mississippi Delta later this month on a road trip from Memphis to New Orleans. Any suggestions or ideas on things to see or places to stop on the way? I'd really like to avoid all the casinos on the Mississippi. Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Probably we didn't answer cause we don't know anything about that drive. Can someone help, but quickly?
Washington, D.C.: Driving on the other side -
I've done it several times in England, Australia and New Zealand and while it is rather much at times if possible try to spend a day or two in the city before you drive. That way you learn how the traffic flows while walking (ie you need to look right left right to cross the street). That becomes second nature and then it is easier to remember where the cars are coming from (hopefully)...
Good luck - stay out of the big cities and take your time - you'll never regret it!
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the vote of confidence!
re: first time traveling: Congrats! Get a money belt for your money while your traveling and your passport (except the day you have to show it). Check Rick Steves site.
Photocopy your passport and leave one copy with friends/family back home. Keep another copy hidden but with you.
Trust your instincts about people approaching you and enjoy yourself!!
The Flight Crew: More advice...
student tix: after being a lowly paid volunteer overseas, I went to grad school. My program was one intense year, but my student ID is good for five years. Ethics aside (hey--I lived in a mud hut with no electricity or water for three years serving OUR gov't), if I get a student ticket using my ID, even though I'm not currently enrolled in a school, what consequences am I looking at?
The Flight Crew: Ethics aside, I've never heard of prison terms or fines for buying student tickets after graduation. Cindy
AustinTraveler: For the couple going to Austin, consider going into San Antonio about a 1 hr drive from Austin - sometimes the fares will be cheaper
The Flight Crew: Good advice, but then of course there is the rental car to consider.
Bethesda, Md.: Hi, I am new to the area and my parents are visiting - so I thought I'd use this opportunity as an excuse to see bit more of Maryland. I am planning on driving down to St. Michaels for the day later this week. As I have yet to leave the DC metro-area since my move - I need some help! What is the drive like? Are there any must-sees along the way? Also, once in St. Michaels - what are some good places to eat? I would appreciate any suggestions from you guys and/or the clicksters, thanks!
The Flight Crew: Well, it's not that long of a drive from DC. I've never found a compelling reason to stop, except for the clusters of outlet stores (and I really don't think they're that much of a bargain). In St. Michaels, I LOVED 208 Talbot, a charming, low-key restaurant with great crab cakes at, you guessed it, 208 Talbot St. The Bistro St. Michaels is also good. And make sure to stop for ice cream at Justine's. It's worth the wait to get in. -- KC
Alice Springs, Australia: Wildlife in the Alice
The Flight Crew: Thanks.
For the person going to Portland, OR...: Must-sees:
Powell's Books on Burnside, the most
amazing bookstore you've ever seen
(trust me!). New and used, an entire city
block and three floors. It's outstanding.
The rose garden (free) and the Japanese
garden (admission charge) in
Washington Park up in the West Hills; not
only are both gardens beautiful by
themselves but they offer a spectacular
view of the city and Mount Hood, Mount St.
Spend a few hours (or a day!) wandering
the shops and restaurants on NW 23rd
Street, SE Hawthorne Street, or both.
Great stores, great food, great
The Flight Crew: Thanks, on the Portland choice.
More Utah Sites: For hiking, there are more than 100 hiking opportunities in the Wasatch Mountains to the east of SLC. There's rafting on the Green River over near Moab. If you like fossils, Dinosaur National Monument is 3 hours east. The north rim of the Grand Canyon is only 2 hours from Zion (and I bet you've never been there before). Of course, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands/Arches/Moab, Capital Reef are all 3+ hours from SLC.
The Flight Crew: Excellent! Another reason (or reasons) to stay in Utah.
6 weeks to summer vacation, MD!: Can anyone reccomend some B&B's in the Ithaca, NY area
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I've driven past Ithaca plenty on my way to college (and, okay, that was a long time ago), but I've never stayed at a bed-and-breakfast there. Anyone out there know of one? A good resource is www.bbithaca.com/. Brookton Hollow Farm B&B "an organic horse-powered vegetable farm" (www.brooktonhollowfarm.com) sounds intriguing.
Hope it's not too late!: To the Russia-cell phone poster. T-mobile has great Europe service. Just call their service number before going (or do it at one of their overseas stores). The rates aren't that bad and it's so convenient.
The Flight Crew: Yes, I've heard good things about T-mobile service.
Rosslyn, Va.: Flight Crew,
In July for my 40th BB I will be riding a train to New York. Have never been on a train or to New York. I will be there for 3 days and will see a show on Broadway. Any other suggestions for site seeing? I pray the rain will stop by then. Thanks!
The Flight Crew: Gosh, it depends on what you like to do. I like to go to museums, drink coffee, have nice dinners and shop, but if it's your first time there you might want to do more of the "sights," e.g. the Statue of Liberty, United Nations and such. I'd definitely make time for a boat trip Ellis Island. And one really fun thing to do is ride "The Beast," this really fast speedboat, through NY Harbor. Or take the more sedate Circle Line for a spin around the tip of the island. Check out our recent NYC special issue for tips to keep you busy on the Upper East Side. Link coming up...
South African driving. . .: Disciplined, yes, but courteous? If you're driving down the highway, you'll often see a car practically on your rear bumper, flashing their lights. You're expected to pull over, as you drive, into the emergency lane (no time to look for a wide spot). As the other car passes you, they will flash their lights again to say "Thanks." More courteous than some other countries, but they aren't relaxed in driving. Accident rate is tremendously high.
The Flight Crew: Yikes. Thanks.
Arlington, Va.: I am looking for the cheapest business
class travel to India -- economy seats for
20+ hours of travel are a little hard to
recover from. Do you have any
The Flight Crew: Well, Arl, according to Orbitz, Northwest offers the cheapest Biz Class seat to Bombay, a svelt $5,979 for July travel. (Take heart; that's round trip).
Do you have freq flyer miles to cash in for an upgrade?
Ayers Rock not KI in the Winter: Tell Kensington to save Kangaroo Island for another trip. The Red Centre is not to be missed during the winter. The temperatures are moderate. A magical time of year. There's a wonderful company that operates out of Ayers Rock that will take you and your party out into the bush for a four course meal on tables with linen and silver with champagne and chamber music, all this underneath the beautiful stars, accompanied by a cosmologist who will talk about the various stars you're staring up at. You've never seen a night sky like that, away from all the pollution and city lights of the U.S. east coast. Amazing.
The Flight Crew: Sounds right to me. Thanks.
VISA card carrier: This is the Ireland traveler again.
All I know is, the rental car agent told me that you cannot waive CDW in Ireland when paying with a VISA card, but you CAN waive it with using a Mastercard. (Six of one, half a dozen of the other, but who am I to say?) She also told me that particualr policy remains in force in Israel and Jamaica as well.
Additionally, some personal insurance carriers here in the States will cover you for rentals overseas, and THAT is why I choose to waive CDW when I travel...NOT because I want to get by as cheaply as possible. Of course I can afford it, but that's not the point.
By the time I figured out the real issue of the insurance, (the moment I produced by driver's license and VISA, the agent told me I could not use the VISA, leading me to believe I could not use it, even for the rental), I had signed for not only the rental, but the insurance as well. I'll take the blame, but after a sleepless night on the airplane, I'm not at the top of my form. Future travelors should be aware.
The Flight Crew: Thanks. It gets complicated doesn't it?
Driving on the left in Scotland: My husband & I honeymooned in Scotland and rented a car for the trip. I had the task of negotiating the car out of the airport & to our first hotel the day we landed -- I can sure recommend teeth-clenching fear as a way to keep jetlag at bay! Actually, one technique I found particularly helpful was to keep my left hand at all times on the gear shift & my right on the wheel; this kept me from blindly flailing around with my right hand when shifting gears.
The Flight Crew: Thanks!
RE: florence from last week's chat: Someone in last week's chat emntioned that a particular hotel's bathroom was really stinky. I just wanted to let them know that Florence is famous for having this horrible smell that eminates from their drains--it happens every summer starting when it starts to get warm. You have to remember, some of their plumbing is hundreds of years old--and when it gets hot certain fungi and things grow--AND STINK. My cousins live there, and the first time I smelled it, I thought something died in his bathroom. But he told me that it's very common and the florentines cover all their drains (tub, sink, etc.) with stoppers for most of the summer to keep the smell out.
The Flight Crew: Ahhh. The smell of Florence in the summer. Just like Newark in the spring.
washingtonpost.com: New York Issue 2003
The Flight Crew: Here's a bunch of NYC tips. Thanks .com!
For those Portland-bound:: In Portland, do not miss: Powell's bookstore (also called Powell's City of Books). It is huge and wonderful, a full city block filled with new and used books on every subject.
Washington Park: a beautiful public park on a hill on the west side of the city with a gorgeouse view of downtown, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens. Within the park are the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Gardens, and a Japanese Garden.
Close to the waterfront (the Willamette): visit Portland's classical Chinese Garden (gotta love the west: we have both a Japanese and Chinese public garden!), Saturday Market, a very touching memorial to Japanese-Americans interned during WWII and the lovely Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
Hotel recommendations: beautiful and on the pricey side are the historic Benson Hotel or Governor Hotel. More reasonable is The Mallory. Great bargains are the youth hostels--there is one in NW Portland and another in SE. Both are in great, strollable, vibrant neighborhoods.
Also worth a look if you will be in Hood River is the gorgeous, entertaining McMenamins Edgefield. This is a 35-acre estate in the Columbia River Gorge (closer to Pdx than Hood River--stop for a meal or stay there on your way into town). It is on the National Register of Historic Places and includes such unusual amenities as a working winery and vineyard, movie theatre, and the studios of working artists. Here's a link: http://www.mcmenamins.com/Edge/index.html
It's a fabulous town. Enjoy!
The Flight Crew: Thank you for that!
The Flight Crew: Thanks for all the great responses -- unfortunately we're all out of time. This week's prize goes to Driving on the Wild Side, who recommended switching your watch to the opposite arm when driving on the "wrong" side. If you'll send your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org, we'll get the prize out to you. Thanks, and stay tuned for this week's print edition, with stories about a father-son cruise that didn't work out quite as planned, and a look at the tiny country of Malta. Cheers!
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