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Talk About Travel
Hosted by the Flight Crew
Monday, June 26, 2000



    Travel Photo The Flight Crew: Standing, from left: Daniele Dolges, John Deiner, Roger Piantadosi, Carolyn Spencer Brown, and Gary Lee. Seated in front: Craig Stoltz and K.C. Summers. By Patrick Witty/WPNI

Every Monday at 2 p.m., 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.

A transcript of this week's discussion is below. You may also browse an archive of previous live travel discussions.


The Flight Crew: Greetings, and welcome to this week's voyage with the Flight Crew. I'm John Deiner, your captain for today's flight, which once again is a little lighter than usual, though not, of course, in enthusiasm. Helping push the cart through the aisles today will be Travel Editor K.C. Summers; writer Gary Lee, who's been just about everywhere in the world at least once (or has a ticket to get there soon); copy editor Andrea Sachs; and Our Fare Lady, Carol Sottili.

A word about our staff picture: Carolyn and Roger are not blue in the face because they're holding their breath. And, no, we're not introducing a scratch-and-sniff feature to the weekly chat (there's not technology for that, is there?). It's just our way of "saluting" our former colleagues--at least until we can get a new picture taken.

That said, let's go!




Tallahassee FL: Would you explain (and confirm my understanding of) the concept of faring out, e.g., a one-way airline ticket from point A to D, with stopovers in B and C, using more than one carrier (on foreign routes). It is my understanding that if the total mileage of the trip does not exceed the airline's mileage check, the ticket should price out at more than the one-way fare between A and D, but substantially less than three point-to-point tickets. My experience has been that this ticket must be fared out by the rate desk of the originating (or ticketing) airline and cannot be obtained from the computer. My current travel agent (in a small city) apparently does not understand this concept, and I have tried to explain it to her, but she insists you fare the ticket by using the fare the computer gives you, which is invariably higher and simply gives the sum of three point-to-point tickets. Since most airline rate desks will only provide fare quotes to travel agents, and not individual travelers, I am caught in a bind. Thank you for whatever assistance and explanation you can provide.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I'm with your travel agent as far as not understanding the intricacies of this "faring out" business. But I'm with you on the bigger issue - you don't get the cheapest fare by ticketing point-to-point on separate airlines when putting together a complex itinerary. I don't want you to be disloyal, but have you tried asking a more savy agency that specializes in around-the-world and circle-pacific ticketing? They run ads in the travel sections of major newspapers most every Sunday. One that comes to mind is www.ticketplanet.com. You can at least get a quote from them and then discuss it with your travel agent.Also, many airlines have now entered into alliances that issue code-share tickets; some have air passes that cost a certain set amount per segment and are good for travel throughout a continent or country (Ansett Australia, www.ansett.com, for example has a G'Day Pass for travel in Australia).


Arlington, VA: In response to the first question on last week's chat, the one thing I absolutely won't travel without is EARPLUGS. I can't tell you what a godsend they are. On planes, they block out the engine noise - thereby eliminating that buzzing in your ears that continues after you get off the plane. As an added bonus, you can still hear perfectly whatever's playing on headphones or over the announcement system. Just make sure you take them out before you find yourself yelling - or whispering - "orange juice, please" to the flight attendant.

More must-haves: ziploc bags in several sizes - you never know when your shampoo bottle will decide to spring a leak; flip-flops (to wear in showers that aren't so clean); and I like to bring multiple travel-size bottles of shampoo, deodorant, contact solution, etc, so when I finish one I throw it away and have that much more room in my toiletry kit by the end of the trip. Oh - and motion-sickness pills. For whatever mode of transport you're taking. You just never know when you're going to feel queasy ...

Happy trails!

The Flight Crew: Great ideas, Arlington....and what in the world would life--or travel--be like without Ziploc bags?!


DC: My dad is planning on taking me, my sister and his boyfriend someplace warm this winter for vacation. Any recommendations on a place that isn't homophobic, but also caters to more than just a gay crowd? Right now we're between Playa del Carmen and Belize. Other than warm, our only requirment is good snorkling.

Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee here with a couple of ideas. I've done a bit of travel about gay friendly destinations. Between the two that you mentioned, I would say that Belize is a better bet and probably a bit more fun. A couple of other possibilities that suit your criterion areVieques, which is a wonderful small island off the coast of Puerto Rico and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. For more in depth research you might look up outandabout.com. A gay travel newsletter they came out with a book about gay and gay friendly warm weather destinations a couple of years ago.



Columbia, Maryland: Now hereís an idiot travel question, but one Iíve never been able to figure out...the use of those money-belts or those things you wear around your neck. Really necessary? And really uncomfortable? It also seems that it would be so awkward when it comes time to pay the tab or purchase the item, one goes in their pants or in their shirt to get out the Visa card. Tell me travel gods, how to do this gracefully?

The Flight Crew: Hi Columbia, KC here. Yeah, those things are dorky, but good if you're the worrying kind, I guess. You look like a pervert fumbling around in your pants to get your money out -- not to mention defeating the whole purpose of its being a secret compartment. Plus they make you look fat. I don't think there's any solution to the fat part, but you can avoid the other problem by ducking into a bathroom or something and taking chunks of money out as you need it, so no one will catch on to the fact that you're loaded down.

I must say, I've gotten a lot more cavalier about wearing those things lately. Seems just as safe to divvy up my money and other stuff into various pockets.

What about everyone else? Do you all use those pouches, and why?


Northern VA: Well, I finally decided that I wanted to go to Belize for my vacation. I found a decent price for flights, got distracted by work, and now find that (since I want to leave in less than two weeks -- 13 days not including today) that the flights are now $500 more than they were on Friday.

So, I have a couple of questions:

1. Is there are reputable discount airline ticket vendor for people who want to fly in less than two weeks? Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place.

2. If I don't go to Belize, is there a reputable vendor of last minute vacations?

I really am trying to avoid the whole "tourist" thing. I haven't been on a vacation in a year. I'm stressed out. I'm at the end of my rope and I need to get the hell out of here. I'm locked into my dates because my family is watching my kids for me. I will be traveling alone (female).

Darn, I was so looking forward to renting a Jeep and driving to a jungle lodge for a few days and then relaxing in a beachside cabana for a few days more.

Help! Please...

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee, who can appreciate both your desire to go to Belize and can sympathize with your stress, with a thought: If you look at the Washington Post travel section last Sunday, you'll see several consolidators advertising air travel to Belize. It will be much worth your while to call a few of them. One or two might be able to get you there cheaply at short notice. It's worked for me in the past and could well work for you, too.




McLean, VA: I just have to plug a COGO item from yesterday's paper. The Aer Lingus $598 RT for two airfare to Ireland is incredible! That is the absolute lowest fare I've ever heard of, especially for non-winter travel. Anyone who has ever toyed with going to Ireland should jump on this one. I went in March when Ireland was chilly but blissfully tourist-free. I'm sure that September and October are milder weather-wise, and much better than the summer as far as crowds go.

The Flight Crew: Yes, McLean, that was an amazing deal wasn't it? Glad we could turn you on to it -- though we're hearing squawks from readers now that the ticket supply is exhausted, so lucky you. Let us know how your trip went when you get back.


Govtland, DC: I'm looking to fly to Denver and Albuquerque this summer and I wonder if the following is possible: Get a round-trip ticket to Albuquerque via Denver, but stay in Denver for a couple of days, then use the connecting flight to Alb., then stay a few days, then use the flight from Alb. to Denver to DC all in one trip. I hope I wasn't confusing with that. Will I be charged extra for something like this? I've perused Internet costs and found that a flight from DC to Denver was costing the same (about $340) as the trip between Denver and Albuquerque if purchased as separate trips!! A 3-hour flight in a jet compared to a 45-minute flight in a mini-jet?? How can this be?? Thanks for your help!

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Sorry, that's not going to work. The airlines don't allow stopovers of more than four hours (unless that's the closest connection). You'll have to book each separately. But, take a look at www.1travel.com. I just got a $160 round-trip fare on Mesa Airlines between Albuquerque and Denver.


Tyson's Corner: Husband and I are travelling to San Francisco for 5 days in early October. We'll be spending 2 days in Palo Alto (concert second night) and 3 nights in San Francisco. I have a lot of ideas for SF, but will welcome more. Also, what is in or around Palo Alto worth seeing? We're late 20's, enjoy walking, hiking, good food and wine, good music, etc.

Thanks in advance

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee here. If you don't already have accomodations, the Hotel California in Palo Alto, is a wonderfully funky and inexpensive place right in the middle of town. If you end up staying there, the couple who runs the place will have lot of ideas about what to do in the area. One low energy (and free!) idea is a stroll around Stanford University, which has some neat architecture.


Wash DC: For the traveler looking for a last minute flight to Belize -- try skyauction.com. The flights are usually valid beginning three days from the date of purchase. Tickets to Belize are frequently offered, apparently on Continental. The selling price isn't always much below the standard fare but is probably below the last minute fare. Also, one of the big airlines (don't remember which one) had (as of last week) Belize as the featured destination for special fares.

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee with thanks to DC for that additional Belize tip.


Silver Spring, Maryland: Hi. Our travel agent is trying to sell us a great deal to the 'New Caribbean'; Punta Cana in the Domincian Republic. We are hesitant because we know nothing about the place. We will be forced to stay at the hotel because of the area beyond its gates? Is the Barcelo Grand hotel as grand as the agent is making it out to be? How is the golf? Is this just a deal so that the agent can get a bonus? Any info on this new resort area would be appreciated.

Thank you.

The Flight Crew: Hi, ho, Silver. JD here. Punta Cana isn't really the "new Caribbean"--it's the new Cancun. But the deals are fabulous. If you're looking for more than just a lot of sun time, big meals and lounging around, Punta Cana may not be for you. There's not a whole lot outside the gates of the hotels, though tour groups do offer expeditions into the jungle and snorkeling trips. Be prepared to put out some serious dough.

The hotels are, for the most part, beautiful, and I understand that the golfing, while not great, is getting better. The Barcelo Grand was built specifically for American tourists, as most of the resorts in PC are geared toward Europeans-and even the older resorts are spectacular. So expect to feel right at home at the Grand--lots of air conditioning, a brewpub, no nudity on the beaches. I'd believe your agent when he/she says the Grand is grand.


Herndon VA: I'm looking for some ideas for a Honeymoon and I was hoping that you all could help me. My fiancee and I had saved over $3000 for our honeymoon that we were going to take this September. However, we just purchased a new house this weekend and now we are left with only $1000 to spend. I had a trip to the Greeek Isles all planed but we can't afford it now. Any suggestions on what we could do now that are funds have been greatly reduced?

The Flight Crew: Hi Herndon, KC here. Congrats on the wedding and house, and don't worry, you can have a fabulous honeymoon for $1,000. How do you feel about Atlantic City?

Joking...

You would be smart to think domestic, though. How about Sanibel Island, Fla. (fly into Fort Myers), or Amelia Island (fly into Jacksonville), or Miami's South Beach? Or a wonderfully romantic city like Charleston, Savannah or New Orleans?

Other suggestions from our clicksters?


Suitland, MD: Re: money pouches. Good idea for those people who feel the need to carry lots of currency and id, but I agree you should keep one credit card (know the account number in case you need to cancel it) and a small amount of cash in a pocket for purchases. Also, a reminder to not wear expensive jewelry (or jewelry that looks expensive). A friend of mine had her earrings ripped out of her ears and had to go to the hospital for stitches. High price for vanity!

The Flight Crew: Ouch. Where was that?


DC: Is there a reason behind the travel woes for those who are flying United recently? I have had some awful United experiences in the past month or so, and I know that they've had a lot of very angry customers. What's the deal?

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Yup, we're working on that one. I've both experiencing first-hand and heard from readers and friends about the horrors of flying United lately. I even had a friend whose elderly mother had to be hospitalized after she was delayed, delayed, delayed on her trip back to Hawaii. A quick answer - the pilots are staging their version of a work slowdown. It's not actually a work action - they are just not responding to requests to work any hours past their minimum requirements. I was told on a delayed flight from San Diego that the delay was caused by a crew that could not fly because it had not been on the ground for a certain number of hours, as required by law. What they didn't tell us is that, under normal circumstances, another crew would have been available.


Suitland, MD: Interesting idea with the blue heads in the picture to denote those who have left the travel staff. It sort of makes it looks like the others are laughing at them!

Is it just too difficult to get all the current staff together to take a new picture? You would think a newspaper would have plenty of photographers around!

The Flight Crew: Hi Suitland...we're not laughing at the Blue Heads, we're laughing with them! As far as getting another picture taken, we're working on it--just as soon as we get new faces to replace the blue ones.


Washington, D.C.: Need your help. Do you know of any tour companies that offer land packages for Tunisia?

The Flight Crew: There are lots of ways to see Tunisia, just pick your mode of travel. For wheels (the pedal kind), check out Bicycle Tour Africa, which besides setting the road-route itinerary also throws in food, lodging, museum fees, etc. You can reach them at 206-767-0848. Or, try any one of the many African safari tour operators, like Abercrombie and Kent (800-323-7308), which has an 11-day land trip that treats you like the King of the Jungle; Alterra Travel (202-296-3755); or Premier Tours (800-545-1910).


Arlington: re: money belts - I usually take a money belt with me. Mine is very flexible and not at all uncomfortable. I usually keep most of my money in it and take out however much I think I'll need for the day and put that money in my wallet. I generally travel in pretty safe places though, so I'm not sure how necessary it really is...

On another note, thanks a lot for telling everybody to go to Canada instead of Europe! Now it's impossible for me to find an inexpensive airfare or hotel room...but it was already that way before you blew my secret. Any chance we'll see fares to Canada drop anytime soon? US$248 to Toronto seems too high (those $218 fares are for very early morning flights). Air Canada and USAir sometimes have weekend fares around US$180 but they are awfully restrictive. The good thing is though that AC has a tie in with several hotel chains and often has rooms at the very nice and extremely well-located Delta Chelsea in Toronto for C$100 per night which is a real steal since the usual rate is about C$209.

The Flight Crew: KC here. Good tip about the Delta Chelsea, Arl, thanks. Re Toronto air fares, look for them to drop in early October when Southwest introduces cheap flights to Buffalo, right across the border.


WDC 20007: Hello blue dot-less ones. I'm going to Las Vegas for the 4th. I understand that there are day trips out to the Grand Canyon available. Do you recommend doing this, or is it too skimpy a trip to do justice to the Canyon. Happy 4th!

The Flight Crew: Hi, 20007. JD here. You didn't say how long you'll be in Vegas or how often you get out West. I think the Canyon's always worth looking into, no matter how little time you spend there. For some, half a day is more than enough. If you don't think you'll get out that way again for a long time, I'd go.


Arlington in Exile in Maine: I have a priceline ticket that got me to Maine and hopefully it will get me back. I did notice that priceline had me traveling after ten at night even though their instructions say we agree to travel from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. I know but if they meant start the trip, they would have said so.

But, more importantly, two very long wait telephone calls yesterday and an an e-mail today got nobody who is authorized to deal with the situation. In fact, although the e-mail instructions said to give as much information as possible, the response was almost a form response suggesting I call their customer service number.

I guess that the moral here is that you'd better save a lot on the tickets because priceline is as responsive to problems as the insurance company in The Rainmaker.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I had a situation with Priceline that I wrote about for Coming & Going a few weeks ago. I called their customer service number, explained the situation with the rep and he told me that a supervisor would call me back within 48 hours. I called them back 47 hours later and got a very helpful supervisor on the phone, who solved the problem. And I never mentioned that I worked for The Washington Post, so no strings were pulled. Have you tried asking for a supervisor?


Arlington, VA: Re:Honeymooners-

As a former Chicagoan, how about Chicago. Fabulous hotel, beautiful lakefront, museums, shopping! And the weather in September is still mild(from what I recall)!

The Flight Crew: Great idea, Arlington. And September is, indeed, a great time to visit the Windy City.


herdon va via bend, oregon: Just thought I'd enter a rave review for vacationing here. Bend is a city of about 50,000 in central Oregon. Temps this week in the 80s or 90s, but low, low humidity, and it's in the 50s at night. Too late to ski on Mt. Bachelor, but you can go to the top on the lift for a great view. There's fishing, river trips, rapids shooting, golf, horseback riding, various national monuments (there are lava flows, lava beds, etc.) a great "High Desert Museum," lots of good restaurants. THIS PLACE IS GREAT!! (and I'm not even getting paid to say this)

The Flight Crew: You wouldn't happen to have a spare bedroom, would you?


wdc:: Concerning the moneybelt/neck pouch question: I use them to keep passport, tickets, and extra travelers checks absolutely safe (especially in the pickpocket capitals of southern Europe), but put one credit card and a day's worth of cash in pockets for easy access.

The Flight Crew: KC here. Yes, WDC, it's wise to use them if you're in pickpocket territory. I guess we're all agreed that the point is to use them for keeping documents/money absolutely safe, not to dip into for daily expenses. So if you get pickpocketed you're out only a day's walking-around money.


wash, d.c.: Hi,

I am leaving on a trip to Antigua this friday for 10 days. Is it necessary for me to pick up some trip insurance just in case of rain?

Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee here. With so much rain delaying and cancelling flights in the last couple of weeks, I would think that snagging some insurance probably wouldn't hurt. If you do make it, don't miss the weekly Sunday afternoon/evening shindig on that takes place there around the ruins at Fort James in St. John's. It draws a good mix of locals and visitors. As night falls you'll be able to watch the lights going on on the islands all over the Caribbean. It's an awesome sight.


Warren Co. VA: How can we "check up" on a travel agency/ travel agent to find out if they are reliable and solvent ?! We are ready to hand over a lot of money for a vacation.
Thank you.

The Flight Crew: Check with the Better Business Bureau and ASTA in Virginia, the association for travel agencies. If this group you are interested in has gone amiss, ASTA will know (and will punish them accordingly). Also, always pay with a credit card--if they ask you for cash only, that's a bad, bad sign. If you have a friendly rapport with the agent, it never hurts to ask if you could perhaps talk to past travelers. Pretend its to find out about the country's weather and instead grill the person on the operator. Our final pearl of wisdom: If it sounds too good to be true, it, sob, usually is!


Native New Jerseyan: for the Herndon Honeymooners: Do the Charleston in September. Very romantic, great B & B's and restaurants and water is still swimmable then. Take a walk on the Battery at sundown and you'll see what I mean.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, NNJ, we agree!


New York Ave: Is there a website where I can find out visa requirements? I can't find anything on the Dept of State site and the country I want to go to does not have a website for the Embassy.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I'm looking at http://travel.state.gov and entry requirements are listed under each country's consular information sheet. The requirements are listed even for countries that don't have an embassy in the United States. Kiribati, for example, says "ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport and visa are required. Visa requirements include one application form, two photos and a $32 fee. There is no Embassy of Kiribati in the United States. For
information on entry requirements, contact the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Kiribati, Suite
503, 850 Richards Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, tel: 808-521-7703; fax: 808-521-8304."


Annapolis, MD: I've got a couple of questions relating to Disney area. I am planning on going to Orlando the week of Thanksgiving from the Saturday before till the Saturday afterward. When should I begin looking for airfare? I've been checking around and all the prices I get now are rather high, $270-$340. Normally, you can travel to Orlando for less than $200. Also, does anyone know how crowded Disney is for Thanksgiving? Is it like summertime crowds or Xmas crowds? TIA

The Flight Crew: Thanks for writing in, Ann. JD here. Carol Sottili, who reports that last year fares were running as low as $129 for that week, suggests that you try traveling on off days, such as Monday or Tuesday. Or giving it a little more time to see if there's a fare sale. The fares you report are extremely high. Also, did you try Tampa? It's only an hour away and you may have more luck getting a good fare.

As far as crowds....yeeeeeeeeeeeeikes! You're in for a mob scene, though the Saturday and Sunday after the holiday will be less crowded than the days flanking it.


ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND: I'm going to be traveling in the Pacific Nortwest/Canada later this summer. I want to be able to keep in touch with the family by phone but am frustrated by the high cost of phone calls from pay phones and hotel rooms. Any suggestions?

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee here. I usually buy a long distance card from local drugstores. These days they allow you to call anywhere across North America for no more than ten cents a minute.



Suitland, MD: It just came to me: my friend had her earrings ripped out in Ecuador, standing about 5 feet away from her tall, burly co-worker in the tourist area of the capital city, looking at a church. It has caused her to be hesitant about venturing out anywhere, particularly at night.

The Flight Crew: We'll never wear earrings again.


Boston with a gripe: Hi,

Just got back from Hawaii. Is it true that there's no point in going to any other islands, since I've now completely spoiled myself?

Forget about United. On American the "upgraded" planes apparently create legroom by removing seat padding (nice on a red-eye). And backed that up with a flight from a hellish scene at LAX followed by a flight on a malfunctioning plane with an inoperative movie/sound system, some sort of food substitute, and a planeload of kids going to camp. A delay on United might've been a wonderful alternative.

A question from my wife: Why do people in Cambridge seem to dress more provocatively than people on the beach in Maui? Is it me? And other than a trip to Disneyworld, is there any better way to experience Americans' national weight problem than to tourist-watch on Kaanapali Beach? Not that the environs don't more than make up for the ugly roomers, but still...

The Flight Crew: Boston, we'll post your comments without comment, except to say that you sound like our kinda guy.


Arlington, VA: For the honeymooners: What about Maine? You could fly into Portland, rent a car and explore Boothbay Harbor and Acadia National Park. There are a lot of activities there or you could just rent a cabin by the sea.
Congrats!!

The Flight Crew: Good advice, Arl. Honeymooners, let us know where you end up going!


Pittsburgh, PA: My wife and I love the Pacific Northwest. We've been to Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. I'd really like to go back next year to spend a couple of days at Crater Lake, which is in the one part of the area we haven't visited. Do you have any other suggestions for sightseeing destinations in Southern Oregon or far Northern California? Do you recommend flying to PDX or SFO and driving, or are there smaller, closer airports to fly into that won't break the bank?

The Flight Crew: Hi, Pitt. JD here. Here's what I'd do, since I was in the same quandary last year: Forget San Francisco and fly into Portland then drive down the coast. Lots of little towns to stop in. It's spectacular, the roads are great, the people friendly and the lodging costs relatively low (there's a wide range of B&Bs, big inns and chain hotels up and down the coast). Once you're in the far south of the state, head west toward Crater Lake then interstate it back to Portland.


Tysons Corner, VA: Hi! Love your chat.

1. Re: Money belts. This works for me: I wear my shirt untucked and wear the pouch over my pants, but under my shirt. This way, I don't have to dig in my pants for cash, but I have peace of mind. And I always, always keep my passport in there--especially when I doze off on trains, etc. I have never had anything stolen.

2. I'm planning a trip to Tokyo next year. I'm thinking spring. Is this a good time to visit? How do airfares in the spring compare with the rest of the year? And what should I not miss in Japan?

Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Good tip, Tysons.

As for Tokyo....Clicksters?


Somewhere Chilly: I'm looking for a travel outfitter for Central America that will do the basics -- arrange inexpensive lodging, find a guide or set up fishing or a ruins trip -- for a group of four. We don't want to hook up with a larger planned tour group, just have a little infrastructure to meet us in Costa Rica or Belize. Any ideas?

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee here with a thought: Try iexplore.com, a fairly new Chicag0-based internet company specializing in adventure travel. They've got a couple of good central America experts. They'd ideally like to book your trip for you for a commission but since they're new and making a name for themselves, they'd probably be willing to just give you some tips free of charge. If you don't get enough useful info from them on the web, call them up. They've got good operators standing by. Happy trails!



Stuck in Fairfax: Hate to whine, but I was nearly chattered yesterday to find my Sunday Travel Section chewed up, with double/blurred text, and some blank pages inside. It was almost bad enough to go buy another one, but like a true arm-chair travel devotee, I muttled through it! What was the deal?
O.K. real question....is it me, or are airfares starting to ease off a bit? I am looking at cross-country, and Europe...both seem to be falling a little. Do you think this will continue, as summer mid-summer approaches, and most (not me) people have their reservations made, and the demand falls?
thanks!

The Flight Crew: KC here. SiF, we're sorry about the rogue section. (Does your paperboy have it in for you?) Send your snail address to travel@washpost.com and we'll get a non-chewed section right off to you.

As for air fares, your guess is as good as ours. It does seem that fares have eased a bit in the last week or so, especially to Europe, but -- as we've said before -- you just never know. I believe the technical term is "crapshoot."


DC: Re: Punta Cana

I stayed at the Allegro Bravaro about a year ago. The beach was beautiful, and our room was nice, but the food really wasn't all that great. They also made us sit through a hard sell time share spiel.

The Flight Crew: Ewwwwww. But you say the beach was beautiful, eh? Nothing worse than having to share your vacation with time-share spielers.


Wash, DC (not a state): Some people think of Tahiti as the ultimate in island vacations. Well, my sister and her husband just got back from a cruise through the South Pacific, with three days in Papeete and elsewhere in Tahiti, and she said that three hours would have been enough. What a dive! (no pun intended) She recommends saving the money and going to St. Thomas, which she went to last year and loved.

The Flight Crew: Hmmm. St. Thomas vs. Tahiti -- doesn't seem like a fair comparison.


on an island in my dreams: ... and a former Orlando-ian.

For the people going to Disney at Thanksgiving time, it's going to be crowded. Packed. Unbelievable. But, that's Disney, right? One thing I'd recommend to take a break from it all is a trip to either coast. The west coast of Florida is closer from the Disney area, and the beaches are gorgeous. Time away might make the crowds more bearable.

Honeymooners - I second the idea of Maine. My fiance took me to Boothbay Harbor last year for my birthday and we loved it! If you like lobster, that's the place for you. Check out Robinson's Wharf (I think in Boothbay Harbor, or else right outside). Delicious, and you can't beat a $7 lobster with corn and a drink!

Enjoy wherever you go!

The Flight Crew: Thanks, OAIIMD. JD here. We actually did a story a few years ago on Disney at holiday time. I went for a few days after Thanksgiving, Craig Stoltz was there for Christmas. Needless to say, Craig wasn't whistling "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" when he got back in the office.


arlington, va: The Aer Lingus sale from BWI is over. They are sold out. I called the reservations number this morning and they have a recording saying they sold over 3,000 seats, no more are available, and that they are not keeping a waiting list. But they still have low fares starting at $588 round trip per person in September....sounds like a horrible deal after calling up to get a $598 for two.

The Flight Crew: Doesn't it, though? Yeah, this one was just too good not to sell out fast.


Bethesda: Hello Flight Crew. Four of us are taking a mini road trip in two weeks. We are heading to Indiana (specifically, just north of Indianapolis) for three nights of Phish shows. Wondering if there is anything worth while stopping at between DC and Indiana, and do you have any insight as to what there is to do out there during the day? I am a native New Englander, so this middle part of the US is foreign land to me. Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Hey, this is Andrea. I spent a bit (tiny bit) of time in Indiana on my way to Colorado and came across the cool little town of Columbus, IN, which is stuffed to the sky with buildings designed by the world's top contempory architects--a very surreal sight amid all those silos and wheat fields. However, that is south of Indianapolis. As for north, well, there is Chicago, if you want to catch some great blues after the show. Wheeling, WV, has some pleasant sights, like a suspension bridge over the Ohio River, Victorian Old Town, a toy and train museum. Otherwise, id say just get off the highway, hit the rural roads and take in the quirky charm of the midwest. You can also scour Bloomington for John Cougar's Pink House. Have a great ride, and jump one for us on the trampoline.


Reston (not by choice) VA: If the experience my wife had last week is any indication, the skies at United are anything BUT friendly.

Her flight from San Francisco to Dulles was cancelled, with the usual "equipment" (since when was the flight crew -- not THE Flight Crew -- characterized as "equipment"?) After an hour of waiting in line, the less than friendly gate agent booked her to Dulles through Newark?!?!?!! Geeze, United, don't you have any flights between your San Francisso and Dulles hubs? Then comes the insult: the gate agent tells my wife "Run! Run to the gate!"

My wife's reply to the gate agent cannot be quoted in this forum.

Mind you, she got this treatment on a full boat coach fare. Because she had electronic ticketing, she could not shop her ticket to other airlines.

My advice to the forum: Until -- if ever -- United straightens out its act, GET A PAPER TICKET, especially if you're travelling full fare. Then when UNited plays the cancellation game with you, you can shop your paper ticket to other airlines, who will be only too happy to have your business.

The Flight Crew: And on that happy note....

That does it for this week's flight, gang. Thanks for jumping onboard. For those of you who can't wait until Sunday, our section will be featuring Gary Lee's report on Salvador Bahia; a look at St. Louis; and a guide to making restaurant reservations on line. Plus: the coolest spot on the East Coast during D.C.'s hottest days.

And put a big X through next Monday on your calendar...we'll be taking the day off. We'll see you next on July 10. Until then, keep cool and have a great Fourth!



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