Going Into Orbitz
ONLY TALMUDIC scholars and Orbitz's spokesperson could reasonably argue about the semantic distinction between a "purchase confirmation" and a "ticket confirmation" [Coming and Going, Oct. 13]. For the rest of us, receiving a "purchase confirmation" by e-mail means that something, in this case an airplane ticket, was actually purchased.
CoGo was far too easy on Orbitz; since Orbitz is now charging $5 per ticket above and beyond what the airlines charge, it needs to provide more value, not less. Since Orbitz ostensibly confirmed the ticket, despite their later denial and backtracking, they should have made good on it.
Glenn Dale, Md.
TRAVELERS SHOULD should never book a flight on Orbitz. Orbitz is excellent for determining which airlines serve the route you're interested in and what fares are available. But it is smarter to then go to that airline's own Web site to make a reservation, because airlines don't charge a service fee for reservations booked at their sites; many give Internet discounts and additional frequent-flier points on the Web; and, most important, travelers get an instant confirmation number.
Use Orbitz to search, not to buy.
Josephine L. Ursini
YOUR ORBITZ story gave one more reason to use a real, live travel agent instead of an online one. I've never had a client leave my office with a ticket that came back later as unconfirmed. Flight numbers, times and schedules may change, but flights are not unconfirmed after being ticketed.
In the future, please distinguish between online travel agents and traditional travel agents. Your statement that "Reservation systems that travel agents use can be outdated by minutes or even hours" is misleading. It should read "online travel agents." As stated, if that ticket had been purchased at a travel agency, it would have come back unconfirmed before it was ticketed (paid for and processed).
Vicki W. Briggs
Manassas Travel Inc.
When All Bets Are Off
I ENJOYED the article on Las Vegas ["No Dice," Oct. 13]. Having been to Vegas many times, I want to point out another place travelers can go besides a casino: the Lake Mead marina where the tourist boat trip leaves from.
Since it is a protected area, no fishing can take place at the marina, so there's a swarm of fish (carp or bugle-mouth bass) in the water. The store sells popcorn to feed the fish (they can see the people on the dock and go into a feeding frenzy). It's a blast and lovely at sunset -- and it only costs a bag of popcorn.
YOU COULD have mentioned Zion National Park in your story. Like Death Valley, it's also within a 2 1/2-hour drive and has a greater variety of scenery and things to do.
I'M SURPRISED you didn't at least mention the free shows available from the sidewalk of the Las Vegas Strip. During an auto pass down the boulevard, we missed the sinking of the pirate ship at Treasure Island, but as we crept past the Bellagio resort, we were treated to a delightful display of changing waterspouts and twirls coordinated to music.
A Bus Too Loud?
YOUR STORY on the two buses that travel from Washington to New York [Face-Off, Oct. 13] was useful and informative. The Washington Deluxe bus sounded like a terrific deal -- until I got to the part about the two movies shown on each trip. The article doesn't specify whether audio for the movies is heard through headphones or over loudspeakers. I apologize for being a curmudgeon, but I prefer sleeping or reading to being forced to watch someone else's movie selections. It turns a potentially useful block of time to one that is much more likely to be a waste of time.
Alas, the movies are broadcast over loudspeakers, but the author reports that she's never had a problem catching a nap -- and suggests you ask the bus driver to turn the sound down if it's too loud.
Traveling With Pests
REGARDING the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new policy on pest control [Coming and Going, Oct. 6], their actions do not match their words. I came into the United States from Australia at San Francisco three weeks ago and checked the box for "I am bringing food, or I have been on a farm" (it's a combined question). I expected to be referred to a USDA agent, but the "checker" just asked what was in the plastic bag on top of my luggage, then waved me past. The only priorities I saw were security-related. They don't seem to care about the agriculture aspect any longer.
Airline Meals, Cont'd
IN RESPONSE to the letter on airline meals [Message Center, Oct. 6], I recently traveled on Midwest Express from San Francisco to National Airport. Lunch consisted of a large sandwich, salad and a dessert. Dinner was a hot dish of several choices, salad, roll and dessert. Both meals were served on real china, with actual glassware and silverware (except for a plastic knife). There was a choice of wine at no extra cost. The seating was also exceptional -- only two seats across, giving you ample side room and foot space. Service was as in the "days of old." We were treated as humans, not cattle. Thank you, Midwest Express!
Mabel F. Painter
Indian Head, Md.
Plastic 'Money Cards'
I LOOK forward to that new "plastic money card" [Coming and Going, Oct. 6], but in the meantime, here's a tip for your readers who might think, like me, that the euro conversion had equalized the ATM-vs.-traveler's-check debate.
I frequently travel overseas and for years have relied exclusively on ATMs for foreign cash, but on a recent trip to Italy I loaded up beforehand on euro traveler's checks: I was visiting places where ATMs might be hard to find, and I also thought that if I was paying in euros I wouldn't be hit with costly exchange fees.
I was wrong! I found only one merchant who was willing to accept the euro checks without a "handling" fee. Italian banks also assessed the fee (which was as high as 5 percent) and even my five-star hotel in Rome, which billed me in euros, refused to take my euro traveler checks without first assessing a fee.
The explanation for all this was hinted at by one of the banks that was literally taking my money: Each check's number had to be typed into a computer and checked (I was told) to see if it had been reported stolen. Maybe that's the explanation, but for now it's back to ATMs for me.
I RECENTLY went to Italy and had been assured by Bank of America that I could use my ATM card at any ATM showing the Plus logo. During my 10 days in Italy, I found only one ATM machine I could access. Apparently, Plus is not widespread in Italy. Fortunately, I had brought euros and traveler's checks with me.
WHILE THE AAA card could be of use to travelers who do not have ATM accounts, I thought your article had some errors, or at least misleading information and omissions.
You said one big advantage is that it can be used at so many ATMs, but so can most standard bank cards that are on Plus or Cirrus networks. When I travel, I carry traveler's checks as a backup to ATM cards because on almost every trip I have taken, there have been times when ATMs refused my card, were out of money, or were broken or unavailable. Buying a card that also relies on ATM technology and availability does not provide an alternative method of getting cash as a backup plan.
You did not ask exactly what the exchange rate is when you use it. This [card] is tied to Visa, which typically takes a 3 percent cut on foreign currency charges on its credit cards. I think you owe your readers a follow-up.
Visa spokeswoman Janet Yang said there is no currency exchange charge when a customer uses the money card. But a follow-up on the various ways to get cash and exchange currency abroad is a good idea. Watch for it.
MY WIFE and I were Peace Corps volunteers in Thailand in the early '60s, and we loved your article on Thailand ["Thailand Like a Local," Sept. 29. Thailand is a place where one can live like a local without great concern. How much people miss when they never venture beyond the luxury hotels. We are planning an extended trip to Southeast Asia in 2003, and I've clipped your article as a reminder of what we can do. I hope you inspire others -- i.e., someone other than youthful backpackers -- to be a little more adventuresome!
Write us: The Washington Post Travel section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071; via fax, 202-334-1069; or e-mail, travel@ washpost.com. Include your name and daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.