Talk About Travel
The Flight Crew: Standing, from left:
Andrea Sachs, Cindy Loose, Carol Sottili, Steve Hendrix. Seated in front: K.C. Summers, John Deiner.
By Craig Cola/WPNI
Hosted by the Flight Crew
Monday, June 4, 2001; 2 p.m. EDT
Every Monday at 2 p.m. EDT, 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.
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As always, our courteous editors are on hand to consider any travel-related query. If you're looking for ideas, see this week's Travel section.
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The Flight Crew: Welcome to travel chat from your captain today, Cindy Loose.
The bad news is that Gary Lee, flying somewhere over the Atlantic enroute to the West Indies, cannot be with us today. The good news is that our own Dear Abby, with a travel focus and a better hair do, will be on board. Keith Epstein’s new column, Relationtrips, debuted May 27, and will be found in the section each month.
Other staffers with us today include section editor K.C. Summers, John Deiner, Andrea Sachs, Carolyn Brown and --- as soon as she returns from an exotic school field trip—Carol Sottili. So throw us your questions, and your ideas.
Plus, the first person who can tell us the name of the new travel website that officially debuted today will receive a beach towel and bag (definitely not leather, maybe not even real plastic) from that new site. Let’s go.
Help! My fiancee and I have rescheduled our wedding from next May to the following December. We were originally planning to go to Ireland for the honeymoon. We don't know what to do now! We are both anti-beach people, so a cruise or trip to the islands is right out. However, we don't want to go somewhere and spend the whole time shivering under a blanket. I really had my heart set on Ireland, but I can't think it would be as beautiful in December as it is in May. I'd welcome any suggestions!
The Flight Crew:
First of all, there is no law that says your honeymoon trip has to take place immediately after the wedding. In fact, the wedding produces lots of excitement, so why not wait? I spent the night after my wedding in Sharon, Pa., and the following day visited the Rutherford B. Hayes museum. (We were their only honeymooning couple.) Months later, we did Hawaii as our honeymoon. So if you have your heart set on Ireland, wait til the weather's good.
However, that answer might not suit you, so how about considering going where the world is upside down, and winter is summer. Like Australia, New Zealand, Asia.
Good luck. If others have ideas for this couple in love, feel free to help Captain Cindy out.
North Bethesda, Md.:
I wanted to recommend a great little-known winery in Napa Valley, Van der Heyden. Their web site is at http://www.napanet.net/~vvwines/. Definitely try the Late Harvest Semillon and the Late Harvest Cabernet if they have them. They are both delicious.
On another note, where can I find the information that was printed a little while ago listing "reality" type tours such as a 12-day Survivor trip to Australia and a "Boot Camp" trip?
The Flight Crew: Hi, thanks for the Napa info. As for the reality tours, check the Travel section online at washingtonpost.com. They have a list of recently printed stories--hopefully that one was included. Or, if you have a specific question I can try to answer it as 1. I have the issue next to me, and 2. I wrote that little piece.
We are spending two nights in Vegas, and I've been put in charge of picking the restaurants for our dinner reservations. The problem is I keep reading about all these great restaurants, and I have to narrow it down to two spots. We are willing to splurge big time for the right place. An interesting space is nearly as important as great food. We want to stay on the Strip as we have tickets to O and Blue Man Group late shows, and will be going from dinner to theater. We do not want to have to "dress" for dinner beyond nice slacks and a collered shirt -- i.e., I'm not wearing a jacket and I don't want to be turned away or treated shabbily. So, with all that in mind, does anyone have any suggestions?
The Flight Crew: 'Afternoon, 22202. JD here. Love Vegas, not so crazy about dropping lots of cash on dinner there, though there are dozens of high-end restaurants to choose from. Coffee shops and buffets I know . . . classy joints, uh-uh.
So what about it clicksters? Any good suggestions for fine dining in Vegas for 22202?
Sore-footed in Silver Spring:
Orbitz, of course.
And it's been processing my simple RT request (BWI to YVR) for about eight minutes now... so I'm not exactly impressed with Orbitz just yet!
The Flight Crew: I think your the first to answer, and the first we know who've tried it out. Send me your address at the end of the chat--Loosec@washpost.com.
I usuallt read the post online (save a tree and all that) I seemed to have missed Keith Epstein’s new column, Relationtrips. Is there a link, or do I have to buy the paper paper instead of online to see it.
The debut column is available by following the link.
The Flight Crew: You can get it on line. But buy the paper anyway, I say. (Loose)
Hi! Planning a family reunion and wondering what you think about a cruise? People of all ages from 2 to 70 will be coming from east coast, west coast, in-between, Europe and Asia, and the thought was to do a West Coast based cruise next summer. Most prefer understated & charm over glitz & glamour. Any advice on cruise lines and destinations? Also, do groups get discounts and/or additional services? Thanks so much!
The Flight Crew: It's a great idea, Reston (Carolyn Brown here) but unless you go for higher-end ships your preference for "understated and charm over glitz and glamour" worries me. Alas, with the main, mass market lines you're pretty much a victim of glitz et al. Sorry to tell you!
For a West Coast based cruise, you pretty much have two choices. The Mexican Riviera (aka Acapulco et al) itinerary typically has you leaving from LA or San Diego and is a fun-in-the-sun kind of itinerary. On the other end of the scale, and only in summer (you didn't say when) is Alaska....
Cruise lines to try? Lines that I think do a good job with all ages include Princess, Holland America and Celebrity (Royal Caribbean and Carnival are pretty darn glitzy).
Re group discounts, good thinking, Reston. Usually cruise lines will offer a free cruise if you buy ten or some such thing. Ask your travel agent cause policies vary.
It's a good trip for a family destination cause you can spend as much time together or apart -- as you wish. Sounds like fun.
Crystal City, Va.:
Re: the May 21 question about Sandals. There are two Sandals resorts in St. Lucia. The bigger of the two is the one to stay at. My husband and I honeymooned there in November 1999. Upon arrival, we were upgraded to a suite with our own private plunge pool! The bigger Sandals has unlimited golf and tennis, plus all the water sports you'd want. Plus, since we stayed there, they've opened a whole new section with another pool and Italian (I think) restaurant. One night, we took the shuttle over to the smaller Sandals resort (the Halcyon) to have dinner in their Italian restaurant. It seemed like a regular hotel to us. Had fewer choices, restaurant-wise, though I think they had the same water sport choices. Alcohol is included at both resorts. As for age, I was 36 at the time (husband was 32) and we fit right in. We stayed for six nights, never left the resort (except for that one time), and had a great time. One note -- Web site photos and brochures are a bit misleading. They must have been taken when the resorts were brand-new. Still, we didn't feel the place was run-down or dingy. I'd bet the Bahamas and Antigua Sandals are equally as nice (if not nicer, if they're newer).
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Crystal City, for the terrific on-the-ground report.
Help. I'm sending this question in advance, as I'll be in a meeting (sigh) at 2 p.m. My boyfriend and I are of two different minds on when to book a late August trip to Spain. He says to keep looking for airfare deals, and has been known to book at the last minute possible. I say to book them very soon because it looks as if the rates are going higher, not lower, as the summer progresses. What do you guys think? Thanks very much.
The Flight Crew: Keith here. I get the sense from your question that there may be a little more going on here than simply a question of how to get the best deal to Spain. The stress of travel can certainly bring up issues between people, which is of course why the RelationTrips column exists. He wants to leave it until the last minute, you get nervous you're going to miss a great fare. Well, there's a chance you'll get it wrong either way! What would you say if you booked a great fare on Priceline now and then Iberia had some great sale in a month? When it comes to travel, sometimes you have to accept some risk and give it your best roll of the dice. I say try to find a reasonable price now, put in a lower bid on Priceline, try the new site that comes online today -- and then go about planning how you're going to make this August trip to Spain meet your needs together.
I saw your new column, relationtrips, and I was wondering -- my boyfriend and I are talking about taking our first trip together. I've been putting it off becaue I'm nervous aabout where this leads and the awkwardness of it. He wants to stay at a bed and breakfast near Rehobeth, but I don't know what to say about sleeping arrangements. Things have been going nice and slow and we haven't slept together yet.
The Flight Crew: It's Keith, and I'm here to try to tell you: Be direct. Perhaps it's too early in your RelationTrip to be going anywhere, given that you're concerned about this and you have enjoyed things being "nice and slow." But if you really want to go, by all means be direct with yourself about what YOUR expectations and hopes are for this trip, then communicate them directly with him. You can always try separate rooms. Or doing this another time. Perhaps he's even worried about the same thing. A nice bed and breakfast near Rehobeth, by the way, is Becky's County Inn (around $85 a night, 302-732-3953.) I think she'll give you one room -- or two.
Garrett Park, Md.:
Suggestions for a place to stay for a long weekend in the Carribean or Mexico. Prefer location that doesn't require changing planes from BWI, IAD, or DCA. Also want place that's fairly "barefoot" -- i.e., low key, thatched huts, but w/ good food and diving and/or "culture" (i.e., ruins) nearby. Oh, and did I say reasonably priced, too?
The Flight Crew: For a locale that doesn't involve a change of plane you're pretty limited to places like San Juan, Barbados, Jamaica. Trinidad. Having said that (Brown here), my first thought for a long weekend that's "fairly barefoot" I'd be inclined to check out the Turks and Caicos. There's no direct flight (you have to connect through Miami) but it's not a bad distance (about an hour from Miami by air). Friends who've been there say it's like the Bahamas, sort of, but the Bahamas of yore. There's good food (even swanky stuff if you go to one of the two upscale resorts -- Point Grace and Parrot Cay), excellent diving. No ruins.
Another place that's worth checking out, and again, and sorry, it's not a direct flight, is Belize. It has a great blend of ocean-type stuff (some of the best diving in the world) and yet, if you drive inland, there are fantastic Mayan ruins to explore as well as rainforests.
Clicksters? Chiming in?
I am off to see grand canyon and plan to be there for a week end of June. In addition to the canyon, what are the other major attractions in that area. I will be flying into Las Vegas. Thanks
The Flight Crew: "Hi" right back atcha, Hern. JD here. We get this questions pretty often, so I'm sure the clicksters can fill in any blanks.
Besides the canyon (which, really, will keep you more than occupied for at least two days or more if you decide to drive along the rim), there's Flagstaff, a neat little town about an hour or so from the rim. There's Meteor Crater, a too-cool-to-be-missed natural tourist trap east of Flagstaff. There's mystical Sedona and the red rock cliffs, with lots of posh resorts. If you want to see the canyon from a totally different perspective, drive around to the North Rim, which is a lot cooler and more forested than the South Rim. En route, you can stop through Monument Valley.
What else, folks?
To: 22202: Vegas Bound:
I was in Vegas late April and went to the Commanders' Palace at the Alladin and it was fabulous. Although I am not a bread pudding lover, my friend literally fell in love with it. The service was wonderful and the ambience of the restaurant was well worth. Back in Jan. Itried Emeril Seafood House or whatever it's called and it was good but more trendy since everyone seems to love his show. Also, did the Royal Star at the Venetian which had excellent food but not a relaxed atmosphere. So my suggestion is still the Commanders Palace. Hope that helps.
The Flight Crew: Sounds great. Thanks for heeding our SOS.
Montgomery County, Md.:
I have been hearing recently how wonderful northern Portugal is and I am seriously considering a trip there. However, I understand that tobacco smoke is ubiquitous in Europe. Having to breathe tobacco smoke will give me bronchitis and pneumonia so I have to be very careful to avoid it. A report came out recently that Europe intends to take the tobacco issue more seriously in the future. Just how serious do you think they are taking it? Should I just stay home and rent a video of Portugal instead and give up on trips to Europe altogether in this lifetime?
The Flight Crew: Smoking is common in Europe, no doubt about it. Soon smoking advertisements will be banned, which may help reduce the number of future smokers, but I've heard nothing about banning it in public places. However, all trains have separate compartments. You could probably choose restaraunts carefully. I have not seen much in the way of nonsmoking rooms, but if you can stand being a room where someone smoked in the past you should be okay and should give it a try. If being a room where someone once smoked is a problem, I'm not aware of any help.
Not really a question but a comment on the article about Seville on Sunday, May 27. On the front page of the Travel section was a picture of a man on a horse in a bullring. The caption read "a matador in repose."
At least get the fact right!
Actually the person pictured is called a Picador and his job is to sever the muscles in the bull's neck with the lances he holds. He does this before the Banderilleros and the Matador enter the ring to "do battle" with the crippled bull. I am not a crazed anti-bull fighting person but it is a very cruel sport. The bull has no chance and the horse pictured PLEASE NOTE is BLINDFOLDED (as all of them are). He would panic if he knew what was happening. Many times the horse is gored despite the padding and sometimes the Picador is unhorsed and the blinded horse crashes himself into obstacles until he must be put down.
A cruel "sport" (ha!) sadly supported by many American tourists seeking "local color" in Spain. I know you won't put this on the next chat but I hope you will apologize for the error.
The Flight Crew: Vienna, KC here. Of course you're right and we're idiots. Does it count that we're all rabidly anti-bullfight? No, we should have known the difference between matadors and picadors anyway. We will officially apologize in our next Letters to the Editor column.
For the record, let me state that Gary Lee, our Spain aficionado who wrote the story, had nothing to do with that caption. Reporters don't write their own headlines and captions.
Dinner in Vegas.
Before O, complete the water theme and go to Aqua. It's the same restaurant as the one in San Francisco where Zagat gave it one of the top 10 in SF. It's located in the Belagio.
Oh, and the Bellagio (and Mirage) just started a no-cigar policy. Real nice for the non-smokers (although cigarettes are still allowed)
The Flight Crew: Excellent option, and thanks for the word on the no-stogies policy at those two behemoths.
Camp Hill, Pa.:
A friend and I are interested in going to St. Bart's in July. We are interested in any ideas for finding affordable airfares and hotels/villas. Also are there any travel agents specializing in St.Bart vacations who would be willing to help average/middle income, non-celebrities like us? Thanks!
The Flight Crew: First suggestion: Go in summer, meaning the dead of summer, if you want a good deal on a villa. Airfare wise, because it's got such a small airport and only handles really really tiny planes (this is Brown) prices will never be cheap and $800 should be considered reasonable. One way to dodge that is to fly into St. Maarten and take a ferry over -- we see sale fares in the $350 plus range to St. Maarten. The ride's about an hour or so if I recall; the waters are kind of rough though, make sure you take the Bonine. Pretty ride.
Any travel agent will help you; St. Bart's isn't all glitter. It's actually quite a lovely, nice, peaceful (for the most part) place. I stayed in a charming hotel there last summer called the Village St. Jean and paid about $100 a night (and that included a little kitchenette).
I will be travelling to Vienna, Austria, the week of July 14-21. Do you have any idea how I can find out about special events (classical music concerts or festivals, for example) that will be happening while I'm there? Thanks a lot.
The Flight Crew: Unless someone out there has a better idea, Loose says contact the Austrian National Tourist Office, 212 944 6880, or email email@example.com, or www.anto.com.
Re: Grand Canyon:
I stopped for two nights in Sedona on my way from the Grand Canyon -- very artsy, interesting and amazing sunsets. There are lots of great B&Bs and cool restaurants too, including one with an incredible view (it's part of the resort/spa there in Sedona).
The Flight Crew: Yeah, you can go crazy with your checkbook there. Thanks for the info.
I would like to visit Texas this summer and I am curious if you have any suggestions. I would like to sort of "tour" the state. But, since it's so large, I can't just take a train from Houston to San Antonio to Austin. I would really like to see all three cities. Do you have any suggestions? Texas' own travel bureau www.traveltex.com doesn't even have tours of the state. HELP.
The Flight Crew: Have you tried the Texas Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau? (www.tacvb.com) They have a list of affiliated town/city bureaus, so you can piece together a road trip--if you don't mind driving (don't skimp on the A/C). It might be your best bet to take the wheel, so you can stop at cool little spots along the way and take in the true Longhorn character For other options, check Texastourism.com for packages and visitor info. Also look at Gorp.com, which has some interesting offerings in Texas.
I'm sure you're going to get several queries today on the Orbitz launch. I had a comment and question on that.
I just learned that I need to go to Finland in August for a wedding. Having been there previously, I know that cheapest way there is Icelandair out of BWI. Went on the site and got a quote for $1,300. Then I tried Expedia and they gave me the same Icelandair quote and then several other airlines that were closer to $2,000.
Then I went to Orbitz. I was quoted a fare of $875 through Continental. That sounds much more manageable, but can that be right? Why didn't Expedia return that quote? What is your comment and is Orbitz indeed viable?
The Flight Crew: If you see it, it should be right. If it's a mistake on the part of Orbitz, they should honor it anyway. So I'd say buy. You didn't mention what airline they're proposing at that price, and I have no idea why someone else didn't have it. But that should not be surprising: prices vary widely, which is why we recommend checking several sites before buying. Orbitz is backed by big airline bucks, so I wouldn't worry that they'll disappear in the night.
Sore-footed in Silver Spring:
(I bought a pair of Rockports - they're such good walking shoes that I'll have to change my moniker!)
Interesting... I've been running some queries on Orbitz, all for flights originating from BWI on September 11 and returning September 18. The site returns results quickly for domestic flights (and I rather like the chart that shows airlines and their lowest fares for the flight), but returns a "no flights found" error for the four different international destinations I tried.
So much for that romantic weekend tryst in Paris. <sniffle>
The Flight Crew: Keith here. It's entirely possible that even with advances online such as Orbitz, travelers will continue to have to do a great deal of e-walking. Since your goal seems to be a "romantic weekend tryst," I'd suggest that you keep hoofing it on the usual sites -- besides Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and the rest -- but also consider going to full distance. For when it comes to romantic trysts, is there anything quite as irresistable as spontaneity? These days, e-fares to exciting destinations pop up regularly (cheap last-minute flightrs from the DC area are posted on The Post's site Wednesdays). So how about going at the last minute?
Grand Canyon, North Rim: If you do that, swing by Turoweep Overlook. Best place to see the depth of the canyon. No railings, so you walk up to the edge and look 2000 feet or so -straight down-. It's off of the road between Kanab AZ and Hurricane UT. One warning, the road is unpaved so a vehicle with a reasonable ground clearance is recommended. You'd never get a Boxster down there.
The Flight Crew: Nice idea. And love the openess of the Canyon. I need to put a rail on my deck because it's more than 3 feet off the ground, but any Tom, Dick or Mary can walk to the edge of the Grand Canyon and stare into the abyss. Thanks for the suggestion.
I am having a really difficult time getting a ticket to Spain. It seems that there are discount fares offered to every place in Europe except Spain. I would like to stay 2 and 1/2 months, which might complicate things. At any rate, do you have any suggestions?
The Flight Crew: Hi 20012, KC here. Have you tried Spanair? I think it's safe to say they're about the cheapest airline from these parts to Spain. www.spanair.com. Another suggestion: Try calling Spain Plus, a local tour operator/travel agent that offers a lot of air/hotel packages. 703-522-4449.
At the end of the month, my wife is accompanying her sister to Russia. Of course they'll do Moscow but the'll also visit Stavropol (her sister adopted a boy from that area and they're going to visit his family). Question, is there anthing special to see or do in Stavropol? The only web site I was able to find suggested it not be a tourist stop-not because of any special danger, but because there's so many other better places to go in Russia.
The Flight Crew: Gary might know Stavropol, having lived in Russia, but he's not here and the rest of us would be lost in Stavropol. Any clicksters know more?
A good friend of mine from college is Venezuelan, and getting married Feb 2002. Her plan is to have the wedding at a resort on Margarita Island. I've done a couple of quick web searches (nothing too indepth yet) and haven't found a whole lot - seems like it's a tourist-y place for Venezuelans, but maybe not so popular with Americans? Can I throw this out to the whole gang for any impressions of Margarita Island? My friend says we should plan to come for a week and stay in the resort, and then I'm thinking we could take side trips, maybe fly to Angel Falls, do some hiking, outdoors stuff. Anyone have any good suggestions/hints/tips? Thanks!!
The Flight Crew: How about it gang -- who's been to Margarita Island?
Well after much procrastination. My boyfriend and I are finally going to Niagara Falls at the end of the month for two days, then we are driving to Toronto for two days. Do you think we should covert our money, or should we just use U.S.?
The Flight Crew:
You can use your credit card for all major purchases, but for the little stuff you'll need some Canadian money since not every store considers it interchangeable with U.S. currency.
Hello, Flight Crew. I am thinking about doing a driving tour of the Charleston, Savannah, Tybee Island areas in July. Can anyone recommend some neat places to stay in those areas? Do you think those places are overrun by tourists that time of year?
Also, do you think there will be another summer fare war anytime soon? TIA
The Flight Crew: TIA in Annapolis, Hendrix here, with strong roots in Savannah. There will people there in July, particularly--since it's hot as hell--at the beach. But spring and Fall are probably higher seasons there so crowds wont be your main problem (keeping hydrated will be). In Savannah, the Mulberry Inn downtown is a well located for both the historic district and Tybee (a 15-minute drive across the marshes). In Charleston, I've heard good things about the Battery Carriage House.
RE: Special events in Vienna.
I have found the Time Out website to be really useful for upcoming events in European cities. (www.timeout.com) Although it's tied in to the magazines and guidebooks, I've found great hotels, bars, etc. just using the website. Also a great section on "what's happening this month."
The Flight Crew: Another idea for our Austrian traveler.
My son graduated from college last month and is planning on working in London for six months under a special program for college students and recent graduates. (The program supplies the work visa.) He wants to leave in July and return in January. We haven't found any round trip fares less than $850. I was hoping he could fly for $350. Is that unreasonable? He's very flexible on departure dates.
The Flight Crew: $350 is mighty low, even in low season--which is not when your son wants to depart. If he is REALLY flexible, you can try Priceline and toss in your best offer to see if someone bites. However, $850 is on the higher end. Look for deals on Virgin Airlines, British Airways, etc., even e-saver flights (if he can bolt last minute). However, summer is high, so you might have to be patient and really shop around to find a sub-$800 fare.
Re: Vienna traveller:
There is a place called the National Opera House (or something like that--it's famous so you should have no trouble finding it). You can inquire at the ticket office there; there are performances nearly every day. My friend and I went one day and bought cheap seats for a ballet the next afternoon--for about $6. You can also take a tour of the building while you're at it.
The Flight Crew: More help for Austria. And let me second the cheap ticket thing--my husband saw the same opera as the people in the boxes, but by being willing to stand he paid only a few dollars.
My wife and I are thinking of doing the Carribean this August. Am I assuming correctly that it's much cheaper at that time? Also, is it way too hot to go during that month?
The Flight Crew: WDC, you are assuming correctly that the Caribbean is hot in August -- it's not steamy hot like Washington but the sun's pretty blistering. On the other hand, there's usually a coolish breeze (almost always) and it may, well, rain a lot. That's because August is pretty much primetime for hurricanes and tropical storms. That, along with the hotness, is why indeed the best prices of the year come about that time -- and through October. Your best bet is to stay somewhere that has a hurricane refund policy and find a travel insurance policy that will cover you for trip delay or interruption in the occurence.
On the other hand, it's actually a nice, peaceful, relatively tourist-free time to go. One other caveat, though: August and September are when a lot of small, owner-operated restaurants and shops close down (people tend to take a month's vacation once a year). They try to stagger with others on the island (last year in St. John, the USVI, in August, about half the restaurants closed and shops severely curtailed opening hours; same applied for September, when the other half closed and the first half reopened).
Just so you know!
Hello, Flight Crew.
I need a big favor from y'all. I'm looking at a week in Melbourne, Australia around Aug. 11-18. The round trip fare is $1,500.
Is it reasonable or should I wait a little bit more before reserving the ticket?
BTW: How would the weather be around August over in Australia?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here, sorry I'm late. Your fare sounds fair. Not great, but not bad either. August is low season because it's winter in Melbourne. Sometimes you can get good sales at this time of year - I've seen it go under $1,000 a couple of times to Sydney. But whether these sales will be offered this year is a crap shoot - the dollar is strong, so demand for Australia will be high. What you have to decide is how important it is for you to travel on certain dates and times and directly to Melbourne. Because if there is a sale, you may have to be flexible - sale could be to Sydney, or on days you don't want. Also, have you tried consolidators?
I will be switching planes for a few hours in Moscow. I read recently that Russia may now be requiring a transit visa even to switch planes in retaliation for the US imposing similar restrictions on Russian tourists. Any info?
The Flight Crew: Needing a visa for a connecting flight seems highly implausible, but better to be safe and be prepared. Your airline/travel agent you booked with should know, but to be sure, check with the Russian Embassy at www.russianembassy.org, 202-939-8907
I am heading for a five day road trip to Tenn, leaving the 4th of July. we are thinking of driving from here to pigeon forge the first day, staying over, going to dollywood, then drivind to Nashville and staying there the second night. Get up, do Nashville, leave for Memphis that afternoon, stay in Memphis, do Memphis on Day 4, and then start driving East, stay over somewhere along the way, adn spend day 5 driving back to DC. Any suggestions? We are 3 24 year olds looking for fun on the open road....
The Flight Crew: Well, Dollywood has a brand new splash park opening soon. Do the clicksters have suggestions?
Oak Hill, Va.:
Need info re. cruise ships. What is it like to have an inside stateroom? What is it like to have a room on lower deck of ship? Any info re. Sun Country airline going to Seattle?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here - Sun County has a good rep and also has cheap, direct flights to Seattle from Dulles (this means you stop, but don't change planes). As for cruise ships, I would always opt for an outside cabin - the inside cabins are cheap, but they're claustrophobic. As for lower vs. upper, I've heard that you're better off with a lower deck if you get seasick, but I'll leave that up one up to the experts.
Advice for Honeymooners:
I would take the Flight Crew's advice and delay the honeymoon. If you are determined to go to Ireland (it is absolutely gorgeous) then wait and go in the spring. If you want to mark the wedding in some way go to a fabulous B&B or spa (such as Hershey's). Even if you are having a small wedding you will need downtime! Rushing off to the airport is no fun and no way to spend a honeymoon. Don't force yourself into some location that isn't you.
The Flight Crew: Always glad when others agree with me. Don't let customs that arose for no clear reason to dictate.
For the person wanting to buy an airline ticket without knowing when he would return: yes, there IS such a thing as a round-trip ticket without a return date. It's called an "open return date." it costs more, but not as much as two one-way tickets.
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I shouldn't have said last week that there was no such thing as an open return - what I meant is that it's just not cost effective. I don't know that it always costs less than two one-way tickets - depends on circumstance.
Please Give Me Advice!!
I want to plan a trip for 6 to Las Vegas in late August. Two weeks ago, flights were $200 per person. Last week they were $230 per person. Now they are $300! (Except Delta which is still $230)
What can I do? I couldn't book because I didn't have a firm yes from everyone. Is there any chance of seeing $200 again? How long should I wait? Will they go up any further?
I know you all can't read the minds of the airlines, but I thought maybe you could throw some advice my way!
Assuming I can get everyone to Vegas, where is the best place to stay? MGM Grand, Paris, Bellisario, or Venetian? MGM is very cheap, does that mean it's not as nice a hotel? What is the best show to see?
The Flight Crew: Hi, Arl. JD here. I can't tell you one way or the other whether fares will go down again, though that's a real flexible market and the fares are always changing--though usually in the $200 to $300 range. I'd wait a little longer if you want to see if they go down again, though the most you're going to save by waiting is $30. The extra bucks may be worth it if the flights are right (lots of east-bound flights out of Vegas are red-eyes, which I always try to avoid.)
One thing you may be able to do is to book a package through America West. I'm not sure if this is still their policy, but the last time I booked a package with them, they lowered the price every time the fare went down (of course, I had to monitor it myself and call them when it went down). Saved 60 bucks.
As far as those four hotels go . . . Bellagio is one of the premier hotels in Vegas, and that's where I'd pick (if the budget allowed--it's way expensive). Then Venetian, Paris and MGM Grand, in that order. And, yes, MGM is not as nice a hotel as the others. Too big, kind of worn down, always crowded, icky pool.
And shows? Clicksters seem to be torn between "O" and "Blue Man Group." Again, if money is an object, go with "Blue."
um, since when does ANYONE consider the Candian $ to be interchangeable with the American $?
NEVER rely on the border stores which use both currencies - you'll always get a bad exchange rate.
Take $$ out an ATM once you get to Canada. Yon can get Traveler's cheques in Canadian $. Or use the credit card to get the per million Fx rate(note - if your bill doesn't go through immediately, you get the conversion rate which is applicable when the charge DOES do through, not necessarily the same as on the day you charged it)
The Flight Crew: Well, obviously the person who asked the question was under that impression. So? But thanks for the advise.
Re: rates to Australia: last week in our Wed. air fare column on the site, we wrote about a sale with Quantas, in conjunction with Travelocity. They were quoting rates from Dulles at about $1300, through September.
The Flight Crew: Thanks much .com!! Every $200 counts!
Good Afternoon Crew! The better-half (wife) just booked us for 4 days in August to Ocean City, Md. We're staying around 45th St. area, and I know the Boardwalk is roughly 15-20 blocks away. Any ideas for breakfast and dinner? Not looking to break the bank, but can't be too cheap or the better-half will get antsy. BTW, will have a 2-year-old with us as well.
Check out the beach guide on the site.
The Flight Crew: Reading, Hendrix here K.C. Summers screamed out "Thrashers Fries," when your question came in. That about sums up here epicurean standards. For MY taste, I avoid Phillip's Seafood as overcooked crab covered in cheese. I did have a good, moderately priced meal at one of the Fager Island Resort restaurants: a little more upscale, but still aware of their beach location (the 2-year-old will be fine). Now about the worse-half of your wife...
Need Caribbean help!!!:
Help! My husband and I are looking to go away for a week late this summer. We are preferably looking for an adults only place (we love our grandkids but need to get away) that would be of the all inclusive variety. We have been recommended to Sandals as well as a couple of non-chain resorts in Aruba. We are looking to get some of your opinions of places you have been to, as well as any opinions your readers may have. Price is not terribly important if the location is worth it.
The Flight Crew: If you're going away for a week this summer, I (oops, Brown here) would be inclined to say, "splurge" cause prices will be so low. Aruba's nice (and below the hurricane belt which is no small feat) but it's not the most interesting island I've ever been to. Curacao is charming and very Dutch. Another below-the-belt island worth checking out is Barbados -- in fact that would be a big recommendation. Neat place.
Where to stay? I'd look into Cobbler's Cove or the Colony Club Hotel...expensive but worth it.
If you're willing to risk a chance of a hurricane, head to the Eastern Caribbean islands of Anguilla (La Sirena, the Sonesta, Cuisinart), St. Kitts (the Golden Lemon is charming and has a great restaurant), St. John (Caneel Bay is a nice option), USVI. There's a neat place I wanted to check out in Tortola, the British Virgin Islands, called the Sugar Mill, great raves from friends. All the hotels/resorts in parentheses have charm and character....
Re Grand Canyon area trip: what about Walnut Canyon and Sunset Crater (close to Flagstaff), Museum of Northern AZ (definitely NOT touristy - right outside Flagstaff)
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Phoenix.
Is there a good or bad time to visit Hawaii? We want to go next spring for our 20th anniversary.
The Flight Crew: Keith (RelationTrips) here. I'm not sure there is ANY bad time to visit Hawaii, especially for a 20th anniversary!
In terms of weather, more than many places on the planet you can find extremes within a few miles of each other -- on Kauai, at its highest point, the island rises to about 5,000 feet, very near what forecasters call the "trade wind inversion height." It POURS up there. Lihue, on the eastern
shore, meanwhile, receives about 40 inches of rain per year, heaviest in the winter months. In summer, when trade winds are steadiest, Lihue averages about 2 inches per month and at the high elevation nearly 30 inches! But the rain on that mountain, in any given year, totals around 400 inches, making it among the wettest spots on earth.
So, like any good relationship, there are sunny days, and very rainy days. But mostly it's a great place to visit -- I would recommend Kauai, and specifically, a small bed and breakfast called Bed and Breakfast and Beach, in Hanalei, which is just a block or so from the beach where South Pacific was filmed, the perfect place for a RelationTrip.
You can have many enchanted evenings there, rain or shine!
I will be going to Seattle this summer, and have been often before. I'm wondering if any of the Washington State wineries are close enough to drive to, even if you have to spend a night or two. I'm not sure where the wine country is out there, and I'm looking for something different. Any ideas on a wine oriented trip?
The Flight Crew: Check out Washington Wine Commission's Web site at www.washingtonwine.org. They have an A to Z list of wineries, with addresses, events, trip hints, etc. The wineries are mostly in the west, near the Cascades and Puget Sound, and are anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours from downtown Seattle. The Web site lists other options as well, like wine stays down south and east.
For the Vegas dinner poster, a couple of options come to mind. For the night of the O show, try one of the dozen restaurants in Bellagio. If you can get an outside reservation at Olives (much better than the branch here) go for it. Otherwise, Sam's offers a theater prix fixe dinner special. For the night of the Blue Man Show, try Rum Jungle in Mandalay Bay next store to Luxor. It serves Brazillian food and has great fused, ice-cold rum drinks (banana, rum and pineapple). Commanders Palace has just opened a brnach in the Aladin, but can't couch whether it is as good as the one in Nawlins.
The Flight Crew: Thanks, NoVa.
for the person whose son is going to london - I assume they are going with CIEE for the work visa exchange thing (great program, I did it several years ago). USE THE TRAVEL AGENCY THAT CIEE RECOMMENDS! It is specifically for youth travelers. They know what they are doing. he needs (I think) to get an open ended return date, where you don't specify the actual date, but pay a minimal fee to set the date (up to a year later) later on . . . fyi - don't get a 1 way ticket . . . british officials won't let him in without a return ticket, even if he DOES already have a temporary work visa in his passport. I've seen that happen.
The Flight Crew: Richmond, thanks for the tip. Hendrix here; I agree. I had the same experience many years ago when I was doing the same thing. Neophyte traveler that I was, I waited until about a week before leaving. Someone at CIEE hooked me up w/ there prefered travel agent who managed to get me a not-ruinous ticket on People's Express. They're good.
Re: anti-beach honeymooners:
Take a cruise! My husband and I don't like beaches either - we've been on several cruises and have yet to spend any time on a beach. If you pick a good itinerary, there is a ton of stuff to see in each port.
The Flight Crew: This is a followup to the honeymooners who were planning a (brrrhhh) honeymoon in Ireland in December. Absolutely (Brown, the cruise enthusiast), a cruise is a great idea...that time of year you can go to Southeast Asia, Hawaii, Panama Canal, Africa, and...this might be really interesting -- Australia and New Zealand. All types of lines, price-wise, hit these destinations, from super luxe to extremely moderate.
When I looked last week, Virgin was offering mid-summer Dulles-to-London fares of $724 and Continental was about $30 higher (but through, ugh, Newark), both off their own websites. None of the travel sites (Expedia, etc.) found them. Not exactly $350, but it's better than $850.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the info. The son might also want to try Council Travel, since he is a student and is perhaps qualified for student discounts.
To Oak Hill, re: cruise ship rooms:
I've been told that if you get seasick you should choose one of the rooms that are next to the elevator banks because they provide the best stability and they are usually in the middle of the ship. I usually prefer an outside cabin but it depends on how much time you'll spend in the room and for how long a cruise it is. Hope that helps.
The Flight Crew: A suggestion from our fellow passengers:
Sore-footed in Silver Spring:
Very, very odd... I tried duplicating Arlington's flight search for Helsinki, and Orbitz claims there are no August flights out of any of the DC airports (or from NYC to London, for that matter, or from LA to Tokyo). Maybe the site just thinks I shouldn't leave the country? But I promise to dress like a proper European!
The Flight Crew: During at least part of the trial phase Orbitz wasn't doing international flights. They should have them by now. But watch next week's section--we plan to do some reporting and a story for Sunday.
RE: Son going to London:
You can probably get a ticket for around $500 thru Council Travel - the travel agency for students and teachers. You have to get an International Student ID Card from them, but you will be able to get many discounts in return. We got a ticket from them last year during the same time (my sister was doing a semester in London) for $480 on Virgin Atlantic.
The Flight Crew: Great, the fare is getting lower and lower as the chat gets later and later.
Saw the question in the archives from the College Park, MD student concerning her upcoming trip to Israel. I just got back from Israel about a month ago and I had a great time. It was my first time there and I felt completely safe. As an added bonus all of the tourist spots were completely empty and the shop owners were really willing to cut great deals. Of course, she needs to be careful, and listen to the warnings, no malls, niteclubs, bus stops, etc., but I wouldn't discourage anyone from going.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the first-hand observations, Hyattsville. Clearly a destination everyone needs to make thier own, informed decisions about.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada:
Where would you suggest a family of five (three children between 24 and 30) go for an unusual, warm holiday at Christmas time? Not TOO hot, but warm enough for swimming, snorkelling, etc. Would like a variety of things to do and see -- not JUST a beach holiday, and not a massive tourist compound where you don't feel as if you're a part of the local culture. Also not in the U.S. because of the U.S./Canadian exchange rate. Have been to Costa Rica and Jamaica and loved them. Found Eleuthera and Nassau boring. Since I am footing this bill, it needs to be about $10,000 U.S. for the five of us including airfare from Canada (possibility of everyone adding some of their own if the price goes a bit higher). This is probably the last time we can have a holiday of this kind with just the original family members together. Because of the difference in ages, stamina, abilities, and interests, we would like a place where some people could choose to go off on a more strenuous outing, while others choose to do something different. A nearby town with things to see and do and good food would be nice. If food isn't included in the hotel rate, then it would be necessary to know how expensive local food and restaurants would be. I understand that food in some of the smaller Caribbean islands can be horrendously expensive. Any suggestions you have as to what to look at would be appreciated. -- Martha
P.S. What do you know about Guadeloupe? I think there is a package tour with Air Canada going there. I suspect the package tours may be what we need in order to keep the price down, especially since four of us would probably need to fly from Winnipeg and Edmonton to Toronto to get to the departure point of most of the more interesting trips. What is your opinion of the relative value of package tours versus putting something together on your own?
The Flight Crew: Keith replies: You don't ask for much, do you Martha? Something affordable, something perfect for a large family not necessarily able to have a trip of this kind again (that really raises the stakes!), something that's not as "boring" as Nassau but with the range of activities available in Costa Rica or Jamaica. And of course given your own climate, somewhere warm and unusual.
Well, Martha, I'll try to address this in some detail in a future RelationTrips column -- it requires more thought. But for now, I would indeed suggest Guadeloupe, with its marvelous mix of West Indies and French culture, volcanoes, beaches, cuisine, village markets, and other activities.
As for package tours, sometimes they do work out cheaper -- and certainly less stressful. But someone else's planning doesn't necessarily meet your true underlying needs, and those of your travel companions -- so those goals are worth considering, too. So even if you pick a package operator, you should strive to make sure that their characteristics match your own.
For now, let me know more about what you're hoping to get from this trip as a family -- you mentioned it was a final outing of some kind. And I'll try to address it soon. You can reach me at keith at relationtrips.com.
Headed down there tomorrow - woohoo! Any must see/things to do? Crossing my fingers that MTV isn't literally down there all summer long....
The Flight Crew: Lucky dog. JD here....I spent a couple of days down there in January and loved it. And I thought MTV WAS down there right now . . . You may be spending time with a bunch of video-heads.
As far as I could tell, and we'll let the wisdom of the clicksters set me straight, even the cliches of Key West are great. Lots of bars to lounge around in, great places to shop, restaurants at every corner. We hit the water for the cliche sunset cruise and had a ball. Lots of gardens to explore, bikes to rent. Don't know if the Conch Train is worth the time...we just walked everywhere.
I will be in Copenhagen for 2 days and Stockholm for 3 days in the latter part of July. What are the most worthwhile things to do/sights to see in this very limited amount of time? I am particularly interested in staying in the city. All suggestions are welcomed.
Signed "Anxious to know Scandinavia"
The Flight Crew: Quick, quick -- anyone got suggestions for Wash?
Old Town, Alexandria:
My husband and I are going through some nasty family stuff right now and are dying for a vacation...we have enough miles on American to get tixx to the caribbean...sny suggestions on an island destination? (Just to give you a baseline we went to St. John last year and LOVED it while we HATED St. Thomas)...
Thanks! You guys are the bestest!!
The Flight Crew: Old Town, you don't say what, specifically, you're looking for but...if you liked St. John better than St. Thomas (Brown here, by the way), I'm inclined to think you want laid back. Since it's a frequent flier ticket you might as well go to someplace neat and hard to get to...I'd recommend Grenada, great beaches and watersports but also lovely hiking and forests and you can take a day trip to nearby Carricou. I stayed at LaSource, a spa/all-inclusive, and enjoyed it.
Another nice peaceful place is Anguilla. Great beaches, great restaurants, nothing much else to do (though you can do easy day trips to St. Martin/St. Maarten).
Also have heard lovely things about St. Kitts....
We (two people) want to take a two-week ski trip to Europe next January -- probably to Zermatt and St. Moritz. First of all, it seems to be difficult to get information on skiing in Europe. I've found one book and I have collected limited info on-line. I would like to fly into Zurich and travel by train to St Moritz. I would like to ski for five days and then take the Glacier Express to Zermatt and ski for five days. We could then depart from Geneva or Zurich. This would give us 10 days of skiing and four days to travel, etc.
The limited information I have gathered so far indicates that we "must" spend a full week in each place. That would push our two weeks closer to three weeks.
What advice can you give a first-time European skier?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: It's true that most of the nicer hotels in Europe do demand a week-long stay during high ski season. But you can probably find a guesthouse, or similar type lodging, that would take you for fewer days. Also, the best deals demand week-long packages, so it might cost you more to stay for fewer days. It actually can cost more to book your own independent ski vacation that to go with a company that packages the vacation, unless you're staying at lower end lodging. Start with contacting the country's tourism bureau - Switzerland's is www.switzerlandtourism.com. Also, www.ski-europe is a good resource. There are also books on the topic - go to Barnes and Noble or Borders or one of the specialty travel bookstores and you'll find them. And, if you want to compare prices of package deals, tour companies include Adventures on Skis, www.advonskis.com; Any Mountain Tours, www.anymtn.com; Central Holidays, www.centralholidays.com; and Lynx Ski & Golf Vacations, www.lynxskivacations.com.
Beth - Las Vegas Info:
I was watching the travel channel yesterday and they mentioned Picasso in Las Vegas, which has actual Picasso artwork on the walls - sounded pretty nice.
The Flight Crew: Neat. Thanks.
I would like to meet up with my boyfriend in Paris around the last wk of Aug. Fares I've seen are around $1,000 rt from DC area airports...Ouch! Any insight on how to get a cheaper fare? And have you heard about saving $ on tickets by being a courier? THANKS!
The Flight Crew: This is Keith, and if you're boyfriend's in Paris I can't blame you for wanting to go there. You can probably do better than $1,000, even for peak-season August, but your thoughts are running in better directions when you think courier. These, too, are in high demand, and you'll have to be very flexible -- both in terms of dates and probably on airports you fly from. More courier information can be found at www.courier.org, or by telephoning 561-582-8320.
The best flights are out of New York, but that really adds to your expense -- getting up there. From Washington, most courier flights have been to London, and the latest roundtrips I've seen quoted on courier trips were around $450.
As I suggested to the person seeking a romantic tryst earlier this hour, consider, if you can, going at the last moment -- and perhaps being flexible enough to meet your boyfriend in London or Frankfurt instead!
This is such a mundane question, but I haven't had any luck on my own. Is there a website that would tell me what airlines, if any, offer service between Boston, Mass., and Lexington, Ky.? Thanks. P.S. I love Monday's live on-line AND the print section, too. You all do a fine job.
The Flight Crew: You can just punch in a fictional trip on Travelocity or Expedia and you can glean from their answer who flies there. Example: AirTran, Northwest, Continental, etc. In fact, Boston and Lexington are both big destinations, so most large carriers go there--though not always direct.
Has anyone been to Morocco lately?
The Flight Crew: We haven't but---perhaps one of the chatsters has....
Been playing around on Orbitz for the last hour -- you can get fares for domestic flights but not international right now, not even Canada or Mexico.
The Flight Crew: We're not surprised, but sorry. We'll check into when Orbitz will get it's international act together, and let you all know Sunday.
Yes indeedy they DO have transit visas for US travelers (no less than $70 a pop!) . . . also checked the russian embassy site for the Aussies - they don't need a transit visa. They're just hitting us up for the cash - the moment . . .ahhhhhhhhhhh . . . the art of diplomacy!
The Flight Crew: Wow! That's an eye-opener. Thanks for the info.
Chevy Chase, Md.:
Quick question, I have some miles to get rid of and was thinking of using them for a trip to San Francisco -- but my question is, how has the power problems affected the city (will my room have lights?, will the elevator work) How rolling are the blackouts?
Should I take my free trip to Seattle -- and in a related question, is Vancouver, B.C. within driving distance?
The Flight Crew: Hello, Chevy Chase! Okay, first things first. Brown here, reporting from my desk in San Francisco (really!)...to say at this point the blackouts are pretty minimal and the power folks have pledged they'll give plenty of warning if it's necessary. Life really is going on as normal....
Seattle's cool. I mean it both literally and figuratively. If you haven't been, it's worth it to check it out. And yes, Vancouver is within driving distance -- even better you can take a ferry there.
I'm considering taking an all-inlcusive resort trip this summer for the first time. Has anyone been to any of the Barcelo resorts? Cancun seems to have so many deals but I don't want all the hype and touristy things that come along with that location. 2, 25 yr. old females looking for sun, relaxation, good food, fun, under 1,000 dollars for a week! Any help- thanks!
The Flight Crew: Hey, 20036. JD here. I stayed at the Barcelo resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and thought it was great. There are actually 5 different properties on the resort, ranging from dirt cheap to, uh, not dirt cheap. You should be able to fly down there on an Apple package in the summer for less than $1,000.
RE: Key West. Take the all-day excursion to Dry Tortugas National Park. I think the outfitter is called Yankee Fleet or something close to that. Awesome, Awesome experience. Great snorkling, facinating place. Can't say enough good things.
The Flight Crew: We'll take your word for it! Thanks.
RE: Russian Transit visa.
I do visas for a living. Get the transit visa. I just heard of a guy who went to SVO1 w/out a visa and he was sent back to the Ukraine.
The Flight Crew: Thanks for the info. How awful to get sent back after coming so far.
Response re: Savannah, Tybee, Charleston:
I would recommend the Charleston Inn-luxury hotel downtown with the sights right out your door. Summer rates are better, and their website (charlestoninn.com) lets you price out all of the different rates. We stayed in April with kids and it was tremendous. Mills House Inn seemed a little "worn" during my walkthrough.
The Flight Crew: Here's a thought re Georgia.
To Arlington, VA, re touring Texas: Although renting a car and driving the entire route is one option (and I'm afraid there's no escaping driving at least PART of the way), I'd suggest flying from Houston to either Austin or SA on Southwest. Then you can rent a car and travel between those two Central Texas cities...there's lots to enjoy in the small Hill Country towns, off the major highway (IH-35). You could return to DC from Austin or SA, wherever you end up.
I have to ask, though...have you considered coming down here at a different time of the year? Summer weather is really oppressively hot (even compared to DC's hazy/hot/humid days), and I'd hate for your trip (and your image of Texas) to be ruined by the heat.
The Flight Crew: When the locals suggest you not come in August, you should probably listen.
I'm thinking of planning a trip to Seville, Spain after reading last week's Travel section. What is the weather like there and on the Andalusian coast in mid-October? What should I expect to pay in airfare? How hard is it for a vegetarian to eat in that area?
The Flight Crew: Hi Wash, KC here, glad you liked the piece. It's 94 in the shade in Seville right now. In mid-October, temps should be in the high 60s/low 70s. That's considered the shoulder season, meaning the prices won't have gone down entirely from summer highs -- plan on paying around $500. But keep an eye on Spanair -- they have great sales.
Can't speak to the vegetarian question - anybody out there know?
Re: the Colony Club
I just got back from there, and I don't know if I am jaded or what, but the first room they put us into nearly made me cry. We asked when we booked if it was necessairy to book into something other than a garden room. I didn't want to be right on the beach (for the sake of privacy) but the first room was in a separate building fromt the rest of the resort, and it was horrible and bare. The bathroom had horrible screws in the tiles that were leaking rust, and the a/c didn't work. I was furious, and then they moved us to a very nice room. I just wanted to warn potential visitors that it is better to book a higher class of room than be miserable (which we would have been if we had to stay in the first room, even though I called the resort directly to make inquiries so this wouldn't happen).
The Flight Crew: Thanks, WDC, great report. You just have to wonder why a four-star -- or supposedly four star -- hotel would even try to play that kind of trick on a customer. I mean, really, how tacky.
But it's good proof that if you don't like your room, anywhere, particularly if you're paying a decent price and it's simply gross, fight it. Good job.
Re: Trip to Copenhagen and Stockholm ... I can help with the Stockholm part. First, the sun is up for almost 24 hours at that time of year and the city hops till at least midnight!! Swedes love the sun since they spend so much of the other half of the year in the dark. You must visit the museum that houses the Viking ship they hauled up in one piece from the bottom of Stockholm harbor (it sank in 1638 or something and was pulled out of the water in 1968); climb the tower at city hall for an unspoiled view of all the sections of the city; ride the Ferris Wheel in the "amusement park" for same view/different angle; watch the changing of the guard at the Swedish palace; and if you have time, take an afternoon cruise out into the archipelago -- those islands boast lilac bushes the size of small houses and you can smell them from a mile away. Enjoy! It's a clean, safe city, virtually everyone speaks English and is willing to help you out. Just WATCH OUT for the above-ground parts of the subway system -- the tracks run parallel to the roads and, if you're not careful, it would be easy to end up like a bug on a windshield!
The Flight Crew: Here's some help:
Ulan Batar, Mongolia (in July):
Any travel tips, sights to see, things to avoid for a trip to Mongolia? I'm going to visit my parents who recently moved there. Flying through Beijing (two day layover). Any ideas for either locale?
The Flight Crew: UBM in J! Our first Mongolia question! I've been waiting for this! Hendrix here. I had a wonderful trip to Mongolia two years ago and was enchanted. It's not always a pretty place (Soviet-style architecture and a Gobi moonscape doesn't make for precious scenery). But the Ulan Batar is a fascinating capital. I found good food, nice (if reserved) folks and a stunning bargain on hand-loomed carpets (a huge one of which I schlepped back as checked baggage). Try to get at least a day-trip down into the desert where the families set up their gers.
Spend some time in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, ideally out of the car and on any of their great trails. If you aren't a hiker, try the drive along Little River Road (they can give you a map and directions at the visitor center) and maybe a picnic at the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. It is just beautiful through there.
The Flight Crew: Busy listeners today. Thanks.
Thanks first for the fine dining suggestions in Vegas. Keep them coming!
Regarding smoking in Europe...It really bothered me on my trip over the drink (Paris) and I did come up with a couple strategies.
Outdoor cafes at least allow smoke to drift away quickly. If you sit on the edge of the outdoor tables you'll only have a smoker on one side of you, and you can pick the side upwind of the smokers. In France at least (don't know about Portugal) tearooms have gone non-smoking. Apparently, any place where they set food out on a table (like pies or cakes)doesn't have smoking because the food will absorb the smoke and that's not accepted. Finally, I know it sounds weird, but the ethnic places in Paris--Thai, sushi, Lebanese, all had seperate none-smoking, while the French restaurants did not.
The Flight Crew: For the non smoker person wondering if Portugal is a possibility.
About your response to the rescheduled honeymoon. Ummm, most of Asia is in the -Northern- Hemisphere, Winter here is winter there.
The Flight Crew: This is Keith. Yes, it's true that winter here is winter there, but you can go to the Himalayas, for example, and if you don't go too high in elevation (say above 8,000 feet), it can actually be very springlike in December and January. Where I was in Nepal last January, it was 94 degrees in the jungle, and though in the Annapurna Sancutary one morning we woke to heavy frost, the days were sunny, in the 70s, and there were wildflowers along the riverbanks.
That being said, unless you both absolutely crave trekking, I wouldn't go to Nepal for a honeymoon.
Now, as the writer of the RelationTrips column, I am tempted to ask -- it's been bugging me all afternoon -- why was your honeymoon rescheduled? And why do you have to go on a honeymoon right away, if what you want is something you can't have then? If this is a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime union, why not do exactly what you want?
We're going to South Korea next week. Will we do better on the exchange rate using credit cards or changing travellers' checks at the bank in Seoul?
The Flight Crew: The exchange rate is a volatile market, so there is no answer to your question. it's a gamble, so roll the dice.
For Annapolis on the SC tour. DON'T skip over Beaufort, SC! Pick any B&B along Bay St, and consider a short drive (15 miles) to Hunting Island state Park ... absolutely fantastic
The Flight Crew: Idea for S.C.
what is the airport designation for the turks and caicos? I gave up last year and ended up going to grand cayman instead because I couldn't figure out how to book the -Q$$#% flight there (it had been a tough day!)
if you put in T&C into travelocity, it wants to take you to Turkey!
The Flight Crew: Try PLS (just a guess from checking www.turksandcaicosairport.com). Or, call American, Delta or TransAir--all of which fly there.
Re Copenhagen--we were there for two days in February, so we didn't get to Tivoli because it was closed, but everyone raves about it. The area around Nyhavn is really interesting and "trendy." Don't bother with the Little Mermaid--way on the outskirts of town, not worth the trek, buy a postcard. Check to see what's playing at the Royal Theatre. Eat herring and drink aquavit.
The Flight Crew: Help for Copenhagen
My boyfriend and I are wanting to go to St. Croix in July for about 6-8 days but is there really anything to do. And where is a good area to stay for a middle income type of rate? Has anyone seen the Colony Beach Resort (or something like that)? It is suppose to be waterfront 2 bedroom suites. Alos, is summer really the dead time in the virgin islands?
The Flight Crew: There's definitely plenty to do in St. Croix, particularly if you like outdoor stuff, like hiking, cycling, horseback riding, beaches, snorkeling, diving. Christianstead is a charming, historic town with cool shops (Brown, by the way) and July isn't as dead as August and September -- and yet bargains really do abound.
Alas, haven't stayed at Colony Cove Beach Resort (or heard from anyone who has). Clicksters?
Lucky you, UB bound. Beijing two days -- Forbidden City and the Square and Temple of Heaven with a stroll through the Hutongs (alleys) along the way day 1, Summer Palace day 2, ride the bus for good measure. Or, if you're energetic, in place of Summer Palace, hire a car out to the Great Wall, Simitai if you have a full day. Eat a lot, too.
The Flight Crew: To UB bound:
Re: Russian Visas:
Actually, it's not the cash. We (the U.S.) have tightened visa restrictions on Russians entering the U.S. because of concerns about illegal immigration and organized crime. The transit visa thing is retaliation, pure and simple. It's got nothing to do with logic or money and everything to do with diplomacy. Kind of like a trade war only for travel.
The Flight Crew: Maybe there are lots of Americans sneaking into Russia hoping for a better future. Or maybe it is just retaliation.
For 20002.....I would agree that it really isn't worth it to spend tons of cash on food in Vegas. In March, I visited Vegas for the first time and the people I went with chose the restaurants; I probably would have challenged them had I know how pricey they would be. The first nite, we ate at "Prime" at the Bellagio. I did enjoy my meal very much, but $90 per person for just a porterhouse and some au gratin potatoes (everything is served a la carte, and I had bottled water to drink, no alcohol) was ridiculous for a city that is supposed to be notoriously cheap to dine in. It was also a very formal restaurant (though very beautiful), if you are concerned about attire. The second nite we ate at Spago, which was very good. Food was a lot less costly (though certainly not cheap), and every bit as good as Prime.
Even though I had two great meals, I wouldn't recommend spending all that money on food in Vegas, if money is a concern.
The Flight Crew: Hi, 20005. I'm with you, though I can understand why folks want to splurge on a good meal when they're on vacation. And there are so many choices now.
P.s. Vegas is NOT cheap, though you're right that that's what the city wants you to think.
My wife and I will be traveling to Italy this summer for a 12-day cruise and dread the thought of hauling our luggage around with us (we have a night on our own pre-cruise in Rome, plus one more after the cruise in Venice). Is there some (reasonably priced) service that would enable us to ship the majority of our luggage ahead to the cruise ship (Renissance) or the hotel in Rome (and maybe back) separately?
The Flight Crew: Good question, Ashton, we'll throw it out. A friend went on a long cruise on QE 2 and was able to ship his luggage to the ship (in NY) and then collect it in-cabin in Australia but that's pretty rare.
Clicksters, any thoughts?
I don't know, but it would seem to me that you don't need to take all that much stuff (Brown here) on a Renaissance cruise in the first place. The ships have laundry facilities and attire is casual, country club casual. I'd be inclined to pack light and just take my luggage with me. Spend the money you save on a new outfit or something....
RE Vegetarian in Spain
Two years ago - three friends and I spent 10 days in Spain. I don't eat red meat - and other meats/fishes sparingly. I was surprised (even in comparison to the rest of Europe) how meat-ey most meals were. That said, if you and the restaurant were willing to be flexible and like cheese - it was not a huge problem.
The Flight Crew: Thanks, Wash, for the first-hand report.
Wow, nothing on Margarita Island? Is it that horrible? Have any of you ever even heard ANYTHING about visiting? This is for a very dear friend's wedding but am starting to get a little nervous it seems so far off the beaten path for Americans!
The Flight Crew: I went to Margarita Island ages ago--and I hate to say it, but it was the pits (confirmed also by Steve). The beaches were dirty, the high rises shoddy, even the sunshine was weak. However, again, maybe it has cleaned up its act since then. Maybe someone out there in cyberspace had been there more recently??
Hi Flight Crew -
I'm in the process of planning a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in the fall (mid to late September).
I was wondering if you had any recommendations for lodging. I want to
make reservations as soon as possible, and am hoping I'm not too late already. Also any particular guide books you can recommend?
The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I stayed at four different properties in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons and the one I would go back to in a heartbeat is Signal Mountain Lodge www.foreverresorts.com/signal.html. Ask for a lakeside cabin.
My college-age daughter is spending seven weeks at the University of Valencia in Spain. What is the best/cheapest way for us to keep in contact with her? Someone suggested buying cell phone when she arrives. Any suggestions? Are ATMs a reliable source of funds?
The Flight Crew: Keith here. Unless you want to foot some pretty amazing bills (and some disappointments in coverage) for an "anywhere-in-the-world" cellphone, I would stick with email. In Spain, as in some of the world's most remote places, access to the Internet has become ubiquitous -- and extremely cheap. Even in Katmandu, it's possible to log on to one's Yahoo mail account for 1 rupee a minute - dirt cheap. Perhaps once she's over there she can make arrangements at the university so she can make telephone calls via the Internet as well.
Falls Church, Va.:
I hope one of you, or perhaps a fellow
reader can offer some advice: We are
flying into Shannon airport (Ireland) in the
morning, and then taking our rental car
and driving to Belfast immediately. Is
there a scenic route to take, or is it
advisable to stick to highways? Secondly,
a few days later, we will be driving from
Belfast to SW Ireland. Any ideas on the
road conditions? Are their motorways like
our interstates, or are they more like
The Flight Crew: Brown here...can speak to driving in Northern Island...mostly two lane highways, totally scenic, well paved and all...and pretty much the only way to get around. So stick to highways. But don't worry, they're not like ours!
Relationtrips is brilliant! Keep it coming!!
The Flight Crew: This is Keith - thanking you! It's great to be noticed in Hoboken!!
I don't know that HELP realizes what he's getting himself into. It's a long way from here to Pigeon Forge, like ten hours or so. And Tennessee, from northeast to southwest, like he's planning, is a big old state. He really ought to spend some more time in Nashville than one night.
Which ties into my question: Do any of you know a reliable website for getting driving times between different points? Mapquest only gives me the most prominent routes, and I'd like to get an idea of what backroad times would be like.
The Flight Crew: Hi DDC. Don't know of any Web sites, but you could go to AAA and they can help ya.
What is your take on these week/weekend deals where you can get a great deal on accommodations, but have to sit through the three-hour pitch on why you should buy one of their properties?
The Flight Crew: I did one (we ran a piece on timeshares recently that would be quite valuable to peruse) in Williamsburg and i have to stay, it was not worth it. It wasn't so much the three hours of hard selling--which wasn't intolerable, considering that i was getting free lodging and food. However, the place i stayed at was a dive (ants, broken elevator, etc). As for the pitch, if you just zone out, you will leave there unscathed and enjoy your free holiday. (I did meet some veteran time-share pitchees who stayed in great places but were berated by the salesman.)
The Flight Crew: Thanks for tuning in, but it's time you get back to work now. See you next week.
My friend and I, two women in our early thirties, are planning a trip to Italy this fall. It is a first trip for both of us - we want to see rome, florence and venice and plan to stay about two weeks. Other than this, our plans are compeletly flexable. Any advice about when to travel (we were thinking about the last two weeks of october), when to purchase tickets, and where to fly in and out of? Also hotels and must see atractions (we like art and wine)? Price is not the most important factor, but savings is always apreciated. Also, what one thing would you splurge on in each of these cities?
The Flight Crew: Keith here. I'd like to know more about your goals. I infer, somehow, that this is an important and special trip for the two of you.
Unfortunately, many people think of trips as destinations and activities first, and what exactly their goals and needs are second. Price, indeed, is not the most important factor, and what you want to splurge on depends on your personal -- and interpersonal goals.
Give me some idea of that -- by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org -- and I'll give you some practical and personal suggestions in an upcoming column.
That was our last question today. Thanks to everyone who joined the
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