Talk about Travel

Aug 01, 2011

Have a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel section's editors and writers are at your service. Today's topics: cool ways to beat the heat from water parks to mountain hikes and cave tours.

Hello all, and happy Monday! We hope you enjoyed our section yesterday. We took you on a fun "Midnight in Paris" tour. And we had a very provocative piece on timeshares, written by our colleague Marilyn Thompson, who is joining our chat today. Let's keep that discussion going. Please share with us any experiences you've had with timeshares, both good and bad. Best story wins a prize. Now let's chat!

Wow. Ms. Thompson knows she's a sucker for fast-talking salespeople, but she still goes o a time-share presentation? At a time when thousands of time-share oners are trying to give away or even pay people to take them off their hands, she signs up for another week? For years my partner and I enjoyed great vacations every year, thnks to time shares and other resort communities. Once we even took a free cruise! (Do they stll have time-share cruises?) The ads would say something like, 4 days/3nights FREE if you sat through a short presentation. Somtimes they even threw in lugage, which always turned out to be plastic. We always sat through the presentation politely - no reading or knitting. Then we said, politely but firmly, "No thank you. We are not interested." We repeated this as many times as was necessary until they finally left us alone. We used to wonder if we weren't on some sort of a "do not offer these people a free stay" list, but we were never turned down. We never went back to the same resort twice but had lovely stays ranging from Maine to Florida to Lake Tahoe. It seems the recession has now put a dent in these offerings, but our memories remain good ones. BTW, for those who are seriously inerested -- the more you say no, the lower the price becomes. Some friends who knew our story kept saying no to what started out to be a $20,000 time share and got it for under $3000. They still go there everyear and enjoy it. So some of these stories work out well.

Hi. Marilyn here. Thanks for your insights. Yes, as I say in the article, I get a bit overwhelmed in these situations and because I now own, I find myself in them all too often. I've heard from people with good stories to tell and a few bad ones. A great anecdote from one reader about free steaks and charcoal grill, with meat that was too tough to eat!  

Hi! I'm planning a girls-weekend trip to Las Vegas (we are in our mid-20s) and am hoping you can offer some advice. Is there a cheaper time of year to visit Vegas? Is buying an air+hotel package usually the best deal? How long is a good stay in Vegas (3 days, 4 days, etc.)? Thanks!

I just spent 5 days in Vegas and I have to say, that was a little too long. Four days is the max I would recommend. I wouldn't say that getting the air plus hotel package is always the best deal. A lot of the hotels often offer specials on their web sites, so you might be better off getting your air fare and searching the hotel web sites for breaks (often, you'll find resort credits if you spend a certain number of nights there, or a discount on a third night). July/August and Januaru/February are the off seasons in Vegas, so you'd probably get better deals around then.

Hey crew - I think you've answered this question before, but I forget the answer. Is there a website where I can just plug in some dates and/or a price range and see fares for those dates for various destinations? I want to get away, but don't really care where as long as it's cheap. Thanks!

Check out Kayak Explore. You can narrow it down by month to see what fares other travelers have found. I'm also a big fan of Airfare Watchdog, but you need to be somewhat flexible on dates to use it to its full advantage. Wanderfly is also cool, because you put in where you're coming from, what your interests are, how much you want to spend and how long you want to be away -- and voila! You have vacation suggestions, including accommodations.

Hi, Travel Crew, I was recently on a nighttime cross-country flight. I was seated among a big block of people who were traveling together, possibly on a retreat or to attend a conference. For the last hour of the flight, one of those travelers played a video (with borderline inappropriate content) on his computer without headphones. I had on earplugs, noise-canceling earphones, and music, and I could still hear every word of the video. Flight attendants passed up and down the cabin multiple times and even interacted with the man with the computer (asking for his trash, I think). The airline's written regulations don't permit using electronic equipment like that without headphones, but they didn't tell him to stop. I seemed to be in the only person in that block who wasn't part of the group. (They had matching t-shirts.) I wish I had said something when it first started, but I didn't expect it to continue, and I felt intimidated. Why didn't the flight attendants say anything? Should I email the airline to let them know what was going on?

Perhaps the flight attendant thought you were part of the group and that you didn't mind. If no one complains, authorities might assume everyone is fine with it. I would have gotten up, walked to the back of the plane and then quietly told a flight attendant that the noise was bothersome. I'm sure they would have done something about it. Emailing the airline may make you feel better, but it's not going to change anything. The best time to complain about anything is when you are in the moment, especially when it comes to travel complaints.

I've recently read about hoteliers paying people to write favorable reviews and post them on various travel websites. How can I find a reliable review?

Yes, they do, and no you can't. There's no such thing as a reliable user-generated hotel review, and there probably never was. Everyone is suspect. The only thing you can do is to "average" all the reviews, and use that as a rough guide for selecting a hotel. This is a great topic, and I will do a Navigator on it soon.

I would like to plan a trip for my husband and me for a week during Thanksgiving - 11/19-11/26 somewhere relatively warm. We've been to the Carribean and South America. I was thinking along the lines of Mexico, Costa Rica or maybe Portugal? The kicker - I don not want to spend more than $2000-$2500 on airline and lodging (we'll take care of spending money later). We tend to use vacationrentals.com and rent a house or condo - way cheaper and more comfortable, so we'll probably stick with that. I know very little about any of these placed other than what I read in travel magazines. I've heard Puerto Vallarta, Punta del Mita, Isla Mujeres are all good in mexico and there are certainly cheap house rentals there. Don't know about decent vacation lodging in Costa Rica/Portugal A little about what we're looking for: Good beaches to lounge and swim, lively nightlife (not drunken cancun), good food, relaxing atmosphere, easy to get around without a car (available taxis, buses, etc). Hope you can give me some insight of where might be a good week-long vacation for an overworked couple without spending 5 paychecks. Thanks!

Here's a story on Isla Mujeres we had a while back; it sounds idyllic. (Also hear that Isla Holbox, a small island off the north coast of the Yucatan, is beautiful as well.)  And Carol wrote a Going Our Way planning a trip to Costa Rica for a couple just a few weeks ago. Both might be helpful to you and give you some good ideas. Puerto Vallarta, of course, is also beautiful. Portugal is bound to be more pricey than either Mexico or Costa Rica, just because of airfare alone. Flights could cost you around $1,000 apiece, which blasts a big hole in your airfare and lodging budget. Let's ask the chatters for the input. People?

Posted last week without success -- hoping this will make it. Single female looking to vacation, likes to hike / walk, explore museums, culture, food, etc. The catch is my vacation is the last two weeks in November -- so where can I hike / walk alone safely at that time of year? In September I would visit Italy...the Cinque Terre, Florence, etc., but November is rainy there and much in Cinque Terre would be closed from what I understand. Can you please suggest a few locations? Probably not the US to avoid Thanksgiving travel hassles. I'd love Europe but the weather may not cooperate. South America? Note I have miles for the air ticket(s), and don't want to drive, so other travel should be feasible by train or bus. Any suggestions from you or readers are appreciated. Thank you.

Yes, Europe might  be a little too cold in November. I personally don't mind going to Europe when it's chilly, but that may not be your cup of tea.  I'm always a huge proponent of South America. Maybe you can do Machu Picchu and hop over to Ecuador after. Or you can do the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Or you can combine Ecuador and Colombia. Good hiking in both places. Other options: Argentina or Chile. I hear amazing things about Buenos Aires and Santiago. Anyone else have suggestions?

Hi, I'm traveling to Spain this summer. Is it more advantageous to exchange currency in the US, or to use ATMs while overseas?

Any new recommendations for Costa Rica this winter? Particularly interested in mid-range lodging recommendations and a suggested 6-day (ish) itinerary. We like to hike and look at history and wildlife, and would like to travel at the beginning of December. Should we expect deals and packages, or is it too near high season? Hopeful that CR has recovered nicely from last year's landslides. Thank you!

Here is a Going Our Way that we recently published about Costa Rica. Also, if you're interested in wildlife, I'd recommend Selva Verde Lodge. If you like birding, there is a great bird route in Costa Rica. Costa  Rica is not very expensive compared to other places. Airfare is often as low as $400 round trip. There are still some rural areas dealing with earthquake-related damage, but the country is fine.

I had previously call United Airlines and chosen our seats for a codeshare flight on Aer Lingus to Madrid. I was looking at my trips on United.com and our seats no longer show up in my booked trips. Could United/Aer Lingus take our seats away? There are still plenty of good seats (I have to have a window to sleep). Should I call United and confirm our seats? Thanks for any suggestions.

You're not alone. I had another reader with a seat reassignment problem on United. Apparently, they're having some issues with the merger with Continental. I would call as soon as possible to get another seat. If you can't, then show up to the airport early and ask for a non-middle-seat. Otherwise, you could very well end up in one.

Hello, I need to get my passport renewed for the first time. I was wondering if they assign the same number to the renewed passport, or do you get a new number? Just debating if I should delay purchasing a ticket untilI get my passport back.

You're not going to get the same passport number. But you don't have to wait to buy your ticket, especially if you're buying well in advance. You can give the airline your new passport number once you receive it. Just has to be within a couple of weeks of when you're traveling, I believe.

Hi gurus! I am looking to plan a trip to Antigua in November or December and I am finding fares @$825 (from Atlanta). We are pretty flexible in our travel (and can even push it to next year) so I am wondering if there is a cheaper time to travel to Antigua, or if flights tend to be that high. Thanks!

November and December are fairly popular times to travel. Hurricanes are no longer an issue (usually) and it's getting colder here. And when you get around the holildays, forget it - that's when prices skyrocket. Antigua is expensive because there isn't much competition there - none of the usual discount airlines serve it. I took a quick look at www.bing.com/travel and found cheaper fares, but with long connections. 

Hi Crew, My wife and I just got a puppy a couple of months I'm trying to find some dog friendly day trips I can do around the area. Now that he's fully immunized, he can go anywhere with us (that will take him) and I feel bad leaving the puppy at home during the weekend and want to incorporate him into our weekend plans. Outside of the obvious things like hiking, what other good day trips can we take?

Congrats on the new addition. Annapolis likes to bill itself as pet-friendly, so you might enjoy walking around there -- and even taking the pooch for a boat ride. Speaking of boat rides, locally you can look into a canine cruise in Alexandria. And I've been meaning to get to Barrel Oak Winery, a dog-friendly establishment in Delaplane, Va.

Hi travel gurus! Looks like the hubby and I have decided to visit London for the first time this September, then hopefully go to Scotland for a few days also. Any suggestions as to what area to stay in London? Also, we're thinking about 4-5 days in London, then 2 in Edinburgh. Does that sound good? Thanks!

London Central would be convenient. That would include Knightsbridge and High Street Kensington. It's an easy Tube ride to several touristy places like Covent Gardens.  Actually, Covent Gardens would be a fun place to stay. Good shopping and lots of restaurants. Really, anywhere you stay would be fine. I find London very easy to get around. The Tube is super easy to figure out. I think the number of days you have budgeted for each city is perfect.

Heading to Ocean City with my husband and two well-behaved dogs in a few weeks. Neither boardwalk nor the beach allow dogs, which is disappointing. Any suggestions on activities for us and/or the pooches? We're just there for the weekend - a quick inexpensive getaway to tide us over until a big European vacation in the fall. We're into food/wine/beer, art/culture (yes, I know OC is probably not the best choice for art/culture!), and strolling around neat areas. Thanks!

Responding from Ocean City, where I am living this summer. Dog-friendly venues include Northside Park and Assateague Island - dogs have to be on leash, but nice for walking. Nearby Berlin offers art galleries and antique shops. Ocean City has a nice selection of excellent restaurants and bars. My best bets include the Hobbit (new chef and menu this year), Liquid Assets, Fresco's, Galaxy 66, Fager's Island and Antipasti.  In Berlin, try the Globe and Atlantic Hotel.

I'm coming back from California on a red eye and hopping in a car for a quick trip to Pennsylvania. Are there any shower facilities at Dulles?

Not any open to the general public that I can find. Your best bet is probably in one of the airline lounges.

Have you guys done a review of noise-cancelling headphones? I have this vague recollection that you did many years ago. Regardless, I'd love a recommendation: I'm travel by plane probably 2-3 times per year most years; sometimes as often as every other month. Given that, do you recommend the big dollar headphones, or would I be just as well off with something a little less expensive? I hear the Bose model recommended frequently, of course..."especially if you travel a lot." But I don't travel a LOT. I travel some. So what's a good option for me?

Andrea reviewed a pair from Able Planet last year. Maybe those would work?

I'm going solo to Paris, and I'd like to stay within walking distance of some of the major tourist attractions, to minimize transit time. Can you recommend a particular area/neighborhood, or better yet, a specific hotel? I don't need a lot of amenities, I just need it to be clean and safe. Thanks!

Here's the details box from yesterday's story on Paris (do hope you saw it; if not, give it a look, it's lovely). The two hotels recommended are central and reasonably priced, especially the Henri IV. Chatters, I'm sure you have some recommendations, too!

I also love the Montmartre neighborhood. Great shopping and cafes. And you can walk to the Sacre Coeur.

Hi, I'm not the chatter from the past two weeks, but I posted sometime in the spring asking anxiously about my upcoming move with my cat from Italy to the US. I'd like to report that it went relatively painlessly, and everyone around me was marvelous. (I had the luck of being seated next to a 5-year-old girl--the little girl was thrilled to be next to a kitty, and her parents, who were shepherding another toddler and baby, just seemed grateful that there was one more entertainment option available to her.) Although the cat complained during take-off and landing, he was quiet at cruising altitude, and I was relieved to hear from my neighbors at the end of the flight that they had had no idea that he was even there. The airplane engines are quite loud, as it turns out. What I've learned: - During the layover he refused the Happy Traveler herbal calming herbs that I tried to give him via a piece of ham--for anyone else, I would recommend Rescue Remedy for pets, which comes in drop form that I think would be easier to administer. I didn't sedate him because the vet didn't recommend it, as the altitude can mess with their inner ear and temperature regulation (especially important for animals in cargo--being unable to control body temperature can be seriously dangerous). Herbal calming medicines are better--think melatonin equivalent, not Valium equivalent. - Bringing lots of absorbent stuff to put in the carrier and then take out and throw away in the airport bathroom is key. - Traveling by car and by plane are NOT comparable at all--my cat was exponentially more unhappy and frightened during the two *car* trips involved than he was at any point in the airports or airplanes. - A harness is important, as it allows you to keep a good grip on the animal during security, when you have to take it out of the bag. - Sherpa soft-sided bags are TOTALLY worth the price. Amazing. All in all, everyone was friendly about it, and he was kind of a rock star at the gate when people noticed he was there. I had more friendly chats with other passengers than ever before, which was kind of fun. So if anyone who flew from Munich to Dulles on June 29 is reading this--THANK YOU for your patience and understanding! (But the one thing that surprised me is that people would ask me if I was on vacation! WHY on earth would anyone want to take a cat on a plane voluntarily?! Only another move that involves another ocean would EVER compel me to do that again, despite the fact that it went well.)

Very comprehensive. Thanks for reporting back.

We have been to China, Africa, and 2 trips to Europe. Getting older, need to priortize. How would you rate my remaining places? Russia, India, Machu Picchu, Churchill Wild for Polar Bears? Something I have left out entirely?? Thank you for your help.

Gosh, this is quite subjective. You'll get many different answers from different people. I personally have not been to all those places. But I can tell  you that Machu Picchu is high on my list. I'd love to go to Russia but keep in mind, it's super expensive. India has some amazing places, but it can be crowded and overwhelming. I don't know much about Churchill Wild. Anyone out there want to share his/her opinion on these destinations?

To the single female looking for a late-November destination good for hiking and culture, I'd strongly suggest either New Zealand or Australia. It'll be late spring, the countries are very safe and friendly, and there's tons of stuff to do.

Thanks for the input!

I'm thinking about traveling alone to eastern Europe. I can't decide between Poland or Austria? Costs are important, but I would like to spend a week and immerse myself in one of these cultures as much as possible. If u had to pick one......?

Oh, dear. Two of my most favorite countries in the world. How to choose? Toss a coin? There we go. Poland will be decidedly cheaper than Austria, which is super expensive, especially Vienna, so if costs are important, that's an easy way to decide. Plus you should really love it. The people are wonderful, and there's so much energy in the country, which is one of the former communist bloc's biggest success stories. I'm itching to go back myself.

Chatters, your pick?

 

I really enjoyed both the Timeshares & Midnight in Paris articles (have forwarded them both to several people). However, at the end of the Midnight in Paris article, you state that Marge Hammond "co-author of "Between the Covers: The Book Babes' Guide to a Woman's Reading Pleasures" (DaCapo Press), teaches memoir-writing workshops and blogs at ." Can you please tell me where she teaches her workshops and how I can find her blog? Thanks.

Sorry about that! Coding abnormalities, but we'll fix. Anyway, her site is creativelatebloomers.blogspot.com.

Hi Gurus - My husband and I are going to Vieques this weekend, for just 2 short days. We're staying at the W hotel. What are the 1 or 2 not to miss things to do/see/eat/enjoy while we're there? We're open to pretty much anything!

 

I visited the island years ago before any of the big hotels were built and when the Navy was still using the island for target practice. It's one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. You have to take a swim in Bio Bay (Puerto Mosquito) at night and try a drift dive (if you're a scuba diver) off the coast of Vieques. 

I like to read them, but I try to get a more reliable rating by using the technique employed in figuring skating: drop out the highest and lowest scores and take an average. Overall I've found most places are consistent with the mid-range reviews.

Good strategy!

For any other chatters out there, I wanted to offer my two cents on Jetsetter. I booked a hotel room there in Montreal recently, and was fairly disappointed. Jetsetter is a marketing site, so I guess this should be expected, but I found their pictures and marketing to be misleading. The room was fine, but it wasn't worth the money. I booked through Jetsetter thinking that the place had been "vetted" but it really didn't seem Jetsetter did much more than accept a check. I would caution people against using it in the future.

Interesting. Anyone else have any Jetsetter experiences they want to share?

Do you know what Clemson, SC is like? Any sketchy areas? If I took Amtrak there and had to kill a couple of hours, would there be anything to do?

Clemson is a college town that's cominated by Clemson University. I don't remember any bad areas, but I haven't been there in years. Any chatters familiar? I just walked the university, but again, any other ideas? 

Hi! I will be in San Francisco for the first time with my fiance at the end of September for a wedding. We will have a full day to explore the city (a Sunday) and are looking for any suggestions on "must do's" or places to eat. What would you all do with one day in SF? Thanks!

I hope it's not too cliche, but I don't see how you can go to San Francisco and not take a boat ride by the Golden Gate! Also try to hop on a cable car at some point. Explore and eat your way through the Ferry Building, or sample food at some highlights from Tom Sietsema's Postcard from 2009.

I enjoyed the Cuban travel article two weeks ago, but was wondering how meaningful would these trips be if one does not speak or understand Spanish? Somehow, it is unlikely that many Cubans are fluent in English, and the nature of these tours, which require constant contact with the locals, makes me skeptical of how it would work for those of us who, for whatever reason, cannot communicate in Spanish. Spending a day listening to a translator would be awkward, not to mention exhausting for the translator.

Yes, it can be awkward, but I'm of the frame of mind that any new place is worth exploring even if I don't know the language. I don't speak Arabic and I've had many worthwhile, even life-changing trips to places like Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, etc. I don't speak French but I've enjoyed every trip to Paris I've ever taken. I think Cuba would be meaningful even with the language barrier.

There were some questions/comments recently about chip and pin cards. I was able to buy chip and pin debit cards from a DC Travelex store in both euros and pounds. The only problem was I was not able to add funds to them while overseas. The website has reloadable feature but when you go to use it, the site informs you that it isn't active yet. When I went a Travelex store in London, they told me since I didn't buy it in the UK, I couldn't add money to it even though I had my passport with me. However, using the cards was great, especially at the train stations. Although trying to remember my pin after a couple of pints at the pub was tricky. The server assured me it is a common problem. I think the next time I go to England, I will get a chip and pin card at the Travelex place in Heathrow. If you have leftover cash, Travelex will buy the money back.

Useful information. Thanks for sharing.

I have a pair from Audio-Technica and they're great.

I have used several and have posted many reviews to one site (they were posted without alteration). I think it's true that you need to take the reviews with a grain of salt, especially when it comes to small hotels/inns/B&Bs, where the owner might have more of an incentive to write their own review (I've found them pretty easy to spot-- e.g., mentions the owner's name over and over), but I would not simply disregard them. Even if you weed out the superlatives, pro or con (competitors can also submit reviews), you can often find useful info about the hotel, neighborhood, etc. And even professional reviewers can have their own biases.

Hello! I'm the reader that asked for recommendations for accomodations in Frederick, MD a few weeks ago. We stayed at the Hollerstown Hill B&B in town and were very happy with the experience. The B&B was spotless and was priced reasonably, our room was comfortable, and the owners were very nice. Plus, they had a pool table. Volt, our restaurant destination and reason for going to Frederick, was excellent as well. Thank you for all of your suggestions.

Thanks for reporting back! We'll put this B&B on our approved list. :-) Glad you enjoyed Volt, too!

Hi! I just got invited to a wedding in Thailand in February and wanted to get a jump start on tickets. I set up a price alert on Kayak, but the prices I'm seeing are around $1400 a pop. What's a "good" price for this route (Washington to Bangkok to Koh Samui)? Thanks, Crew.

$1,400 doesn't sound too bad. Airfares are very high to most destinations, especially those that include stops in a couple of places. In addition to signing up for notifications, do manual checks every few days. You'll quickly get a feel for the going rate, and then you'll be in a better position to buy when fare drops. But don't wait too long. I recently got burned to the tune of $300 per ticket ($1,200 total) because I waited too long.

Agra/Taj Mahal from Delhi in one day is a bit of a stretch. We rented a chaffeur-driven limo for the return trip, well, a limo by Indian standards. It was enjoyable for the most part, except when the driver had to stop every half hour or so to crank up the A/C, not to mention very close 'cattle calls' and other traffic obstructions along the way. Since it doesn't take that long to do the Taj Mahal, and there is nothing else in the vicinity worth exploring, we made it back and forth in one day, but next time I would stay for the night at one of the three upscale hotels near the Taj.

Thanks for sharing!

I will be traveling to the Great Barrier Reef in Oct. I would like to know what are the best towns/beaches along the reef to relax and get scuba diving boat trips. I plan to spend about 3 days at the reef. Thanks.

Chatters?

Anyone been to the Dreams resort in Punta Cana, DR? Considering going there, but have been getting mixed reviews from some travel sites I've seen.

I'm not familiar with Dreams, but just got back from Punta Cana, where I stayed at another all-inclusive resort. You'll get mixed reviews because all-inclusives are not for everyone. Food is plentiful, but not above average. Drinks flow, but the booze is not top shelf. Entertainment is fun, but not sophisticated. So you'll get reviews from both sides of the coin. As all-inclusives go, Dreams is one of the better ones. Also, one thing Punta Cana offers is absolutely  beautiful beaches with that soft, fine sand, and turquoise waters. Lovely.

I will be going to Morocco in October. Will be visiting Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, Marrakesh and El Jedida. I always pack to carry on but plan to check bags on the way home...what would you say are THE items I should purchase while there?

Whenever I go to that part of the world, I can't keep myself from buying jewelry. But Morocco also has great rugs and copperwork, especially their round platters. Oh, and of course, their spices. 

Going to spend two nights in Quebec City in September. Have time for a short driving trip. Acadia or Gaspier? Can't do both....

Lucky you! I just last week returned from five days there. Gaspe, which we had a story on last year, is definitely not a short drive -- 9.5 hours or so to the tip. And neither is Acadia, if you're referring to that region of the Eastern Provinces. With only two nights in Quebec, you could easily spend the whole time there. But if you're determined to get out for a drive, you should check out Parc de la Chute-Montmorency and its spectacular falls, paired with a trip to the idyllic Ile d'Orleans. You can circle the entire island, stopping at vineyards, old churches, a wonderful chocolate shop and this delightful boulangerie near the water and a cemetery. The island and falls are less than 30 minutes away... Can I go back now?

Vote for Poland--Austria really isn't Eastern Europe anyway. I'd also throw out a vote for Hungary. Lived there for four months and LOVED it. It is cheap like the East but modern like the West and will get you some serious travel cred!

Thanks for your vote! And for pointing out that Austria isn't really eastern Europe. We've been having a lively internal discussion about that; some Austrophiles have bristled. . .  :-)

I'm going on my honeymoon in early October - yay! I usually love local, non-touristy places when I travel. However, just this once, we want an all-inclusive resort so we can be beach bums with our biggest concern being what drink we should order next. We are mainly looking at Punta Cana but are still open to options. We'd love to find a place with a fairly nice room, adults only is preferred (or at least not a place aimed to attract famiilies), and a resort where the fun doesn't all shut down at 10 pm. Any suggestions? We are in our late 20's if that helps. Thanks!

Here's a Going Our Way from the other year that might help. Anyone have additional thoughts?

I'm surprised to hear you say Vienna is super expensive. I was there last summer and a nice hotel was around $70/night - a price that would be hard to find in a city in the states!

And I'm surprised to hear that price! Where was the hotel? Would be great to recommend to others.

Be in Paris, France from 9/811 to9/15/11 then to Marseille and return to Paris 9/15/11 and return to DC 9/21/11. Have accommodations but would like your advise regarding places and things not to miss in Paris. We plan on doing day trips to the Provence area from Marseille. Is this a good idea? If not, what do you suggest? We also would like to take a day trip to the Riviera area. Our dates and hotels are set for Paris and Marseille. Please advise of highlights not to miss. If you care to outline an itinerary I would be very appreciative. We also plan on taking the train from Paris to Marseille and renting a car. Thank you for any assistance.

For Paris, be sure you read our story from this weekend spun off of the movie "Midnight in Paris." There are probably so many other things not to miss, I'm not even sure where to start... 

I'm afraid we don't have the resources to create a schedule for you, but the lovely folks at Conde Nast Traveler took a crack at it in "Seven Perfect Days in Provence." We also had a story in December on Marseille. Don't miss out exploring that city!

I was on an American Airlines flight Saturday from Chicago to National. And the pilot or first officer came on the PA to tell us that due to security regulations we all had to stay in our seats for the last 30 minutes of the flight. I know that this "rule" was discontinued many years ago so I was surprised they used it as the reason to make us all stay seated. I realize the pilot can make us do whatever he wants, but lying to us seems to be a bad way to get what they want.

I was on an international flight yesterday, and they said there was a "new" rule about groups congregating on the plane any time. I'd be willing to bet our friends at the TSA have issued a new security directive based on some unspecific threat. I'll see what I can find out.

I send this advice based on recent experience. I know some Nationals fans have been thinking of traveling to Harrisburg to see Bryce Harper play for the minor league team there. If you want to go see him, then that is fine. We saw his hustle well, taking first after a passed third strike, and he stole a base. He was trying real hard. But don't go if you are expecting to get his autograph. We were fooled by an article online from their local newspaper, the Harrisburg Patriot, which seemed designed to attract fans to the local stadium by claiming how easy it was to get his autograph. The article flat out lied. Sure, he signs autographs, but only to some lucky 100 people before the game. Nowhere on the website could we find how you get to one of the lucky people. We asked a Senators official and he said the agreement with the Nationals limits them to 100 autographs. We then stayed after the game in hopes of getting Bryce Harper's autograph. Whlle the rest of the team was friendly and met with fans, Harper just walked past everyone and signed nothing and allowed no photographs. So, if you are looking for a photograph or an autograph with Bryce Harper, stay home, unless you have some inside with the Nationals to be one of the lucky 100.

I question whether the local newspaper lied to get people to come to the stadium. On some days he has more time/inclination to sign, and there have been occasions when he has stayed on to sign. I would just be happy watching him play. Autographs have become a touchy thing with some players because so many people just turn around and sell them. I have a brother-in-law who does that, and it's a business. Harper's autograph is already commanding big bucks, and I think the Nats want to limit it.

My wife is what I refer to as a timeshare maven. My takeaway is that timeshares are great if 1) you know what you're doing, 2) timeshares match your family's vacation needs, and 3) you never, ever buy from the developer -- always on the secondary market. We have had some great timeshare vacations, including a week on a narrowboat in England. But my wife's crowning achievement is that she bought a car using timeshare points. Someone she met through the timeshare user's group had an old beater, and my son needed a car. She asked her friend if he would trade the car for timeshare points equating to its blue book value, and he said yes. Today, when timeshare salespeople try to convince her that she needs to attend this or that "owners' update," she makes a deal: If she can convince them she knows her stuff, they'll stop pestering her. She then tells them that story, and once they pick their jaw up from the floor, they agree she doesn't need to attend the update.

What a great story! Thanks for sharing it. Please advise which timeshare users' service you use.

I have a severe fear of lizards - little tiny ones and giant ones. I was miserable in Old San Juan, an otherwise charming and beautiful place, due to the presence of my "little friends." I love Cape Cod because it's too cold there for any species to flourish. Is there anyplace tropical and beachy that doesn't have lots of lizards? I'm thinking about Thanksgiving travel and would like to be able to RELAX without worrying about crawly things.

The all-inclusive I stayed in in Punta Cana had no living things on the premises because every morning just at dawn an army of guys went around with spray bottles of pesticides. I'll take lizards any day.  I don't know of any tropical places that I would recommend that aren't home to lizards. Anyone?

I have trouble falling asleep on planes... What's the easiest and safest way to knock yourself out for hours at a time without getting too sleepy? Over-the-counter sleeping meds? A prescription? A series of tequila shots?

You must read Andrea's story with tips on sleeping in flight!

I stayed at Dreams in Punta Cana back in 2009 and had an incredible time! Drinks were great, the staff was so friendly, and the food was actually pretty good! Lots of choices (different restaurants) and a HUGE breakfast buffet every morning. It was a gorgeous resort with tons of pools and a gorgeous beach. Highly recommend!

I highly recommend the Celtic Hotel, near Russell Square. It is a family-run hotel, and includes a full English breakfast for a reasonable price. It is an easy walk to Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Trafalgar, etc. We also stayed at the Columbia Hotel, near Lancaster Gate. It was not quite so homey, but has a breakfast room that looks out on Hyde Park (and is walking distance to Paddington Station). Breakfast is also included there.

One thing you can do is evaluate the literacy level of the review. This is usually good for a few laughs -- for example, a review that starts out "me and my hubby stayed at xyz resort last week and it was totaly awsome we got their and our room was readyand we went upstares and it was totally awsom..." is probably one you can discard. Also look for reviews that point out both good and bad things. My gut feel is that if the review is literate and contains both pluses and minuses, it's probably fairly honest.

Another tactic for evaluating travel reviews is to look at the reasons people gave low reviews. If it's "I got there at 9 am and they wouldn't let me check in" or "I didn't notice they charge for parking and they wouldn't take it off my bill," I figure I can deal with that. But if it's "there were loud parties in the rooms every night" or "our room had bedbugs and they wouldn't move us," then it's time to look elsewhere.

Lots of good tips coming in. Thanks!

Just got back from Vegas myself -- and I agree, four days is about right. Wherever you stay, you'll want to check the hotel website regularly. I saved $40 a night by catching a new sale after I'd already made a reservation. I took a look at the hotel/airfare packages, and for Vegas I didn't see much difference in price, maybe $20 or so. I think you're better off getting airfare when you can (see http://matrix.itasoftware.com and use the calendar option to find when rates are cheapest in a given 30-day time period) and then searching Vegas.com for hotel sales.

The Taj Mahal is definitely doable from Delhi in one day by train. I took an early train to Agra, which was much cheaper than a car service, much faster, and sitting in first class, perfectly comfortable. Does it compare to US travel standards? No. But it was fine. Taking the train allows you enough time for a side trip to Fatehpur Sikri, which was built to be the capital but only was populated for a couple of years because it ran out of water. Really fantastic architecture worth seeing. Having done the train, I just don't see why people would waste time and money on a car service.

Thanks for the input!

My parents had a week in the Poconos. They would use it for two years and trade out the third to go to Orlando, New Orleans, Puerto Rico, etc. It was perfect for them. They like to travel, but the liked familiar. Both my brother and i have very different approaches to travel (what's down that rooad? ) and never used it. After my parents died it took us five years to get rid of it and we had to pay someone to take it off our hands.

I am hearing from a lot of people about the inherited timeshare issue, which I had never really considered. I had no idea until I wrote the article that these could be a burden for surviving family. Thanks for your comment.

1. cable cars 2. the pier 3. Lombard 4. Alcatraz 5. Chinatown

I am heading to Lisbon soon for a few days. What one or two small towns outside of Lisbon should I put on my itenerary?

The article is a bit old, but I'm sure the places mentioned are still around.

I would suggest if you are considering them pick a place you can see yourself going to periodically (every other year, every 3rd year) for the time of year you would normally go. In the long haul it will likely be cheaper than you staying and paying for hotels. If you have a family...even more so because you would likely have a kitchen to cook food instead of buying food. Dont purchase one just for the exchange possibility. The better option is the idea of just purchasing points instead of ownership which would allow you to use the points and stay at different locations.

Thanks for your comments. I agree with you,. which may be one reason I purchased in Florida in the beginning of this adventure. It is a really nice place, and we love the beach. I am still not sure about the points system but am learning.

I think you can usually get a pretty good idea about a place from online reviews. Especially if there a lot of reviews that are all generally alike. If there are only a few reviews you probably have to be a little more discerning. When I write reviews I like to mentions cons as well as pros. The things I liked and didn't like about a place. Reviews with some balance to them feel more reliable to me. Of course reviews that do nothing but complain about trivial things can be discounted. And the ones that just say everything was great can be a bit suspect as well.

Thanks for the input!

I booked on Expedia several months in advance, so maybe that was why they were cheap. I recall there being a number of decent hotels in the 70-90/night price range.

Still curious as to where in town it was located?

It's also important to keep in mind when reading reviews what the poster is complaining about vs. what bothers you. For instance, a hotel in Chicago received bad reviews from a few posters because of the noise out the window cause by traffic. The hotel was on a very busy street. This did not bother me at all having been raised in NYC and now living in DC. So don't just look at how many stars it gets, even in the average, but read the content of what reviewers are complaining about or praising.

I recommend everyone add Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Petra in Jordan to their bucket list. The former is very hot, friendly and with acceptable tourism infrastructure. Jordan is comfortable in our winter months and has great tourism infrastructure. Plenty else to see in both countries.

I have not been to Cambodia but I have been to Jordan a couple of times. Agree with you on Petra. It was spectacular. And there are plenty of other great places to explore in Jordan. I spent a night at the Dead Sea there.

This may be a little outside the scope of the chat, but - we were recently at a nice hotel in Providence RI (well recommended by Trip Advisor in answer to a previous chatters "trust reviews" question). We left the room early one morning and returned back at 5p.m. to an unmade room. The desk informed us that checked out rooms were cleaned first, then the room of staying guests.... Odd order to me. I always tip the cleaning person when we check out of the room, usually a couple of bucks a day. Although the room was cleaned when we checked in, I never felt the room was well cleaned when we stayed there. Is that the fault of the cleaning person or the policies of the hotel? Would you tip in that circumstance? I left $5 for three nights and felt bad about it but the room was not really cleaned. Thanks for any thoughts.

I don't think we'd be able to speculate on whose fault it is. But I think your tip wasn't unreasonable considering the circumstances. Might have been worth mentioning upon checkout, though.

It's me again, answering your question, or trying to. My wife does all the timeshare-related heavy lifting; I'm just the driver and translator. But I'm pretty sure she uses RCI, I.I., and Fairfield (if that still exists); also Hilton Grand Vacations Club and SFX. The last one is a pretty new firm out of San Francisco. Other than that, as I said, I'm just the driver and translator.

My goodness. She is a maven! But I am glad it has been a good experience for you.

I was on a USAir flight last month from Vegas to Nat'l and the flight attendants announced we had to stay seated the last HOUR of the flight. Then shortly before the hour, the pilot came on and announced we closing in on the last hour and to use the restroom then if you needed. Drives me CRAZY. And it worries me about what else they're not up-to-date on!

We should have been told about this new requirement, not broadsided with it. I'll find out what I can.

The lowest airfares I'm seeing online for Pittsburgh - Winnipeg round-trip on Labor Day weekend are two-stop flights for just over $700 apiece, and one-stop flights at ca. $780 apiece. Is it just my imagination, or is that kind of pricey? Can you suggest a more economical alternative, like flying to a nearby US city (are there any?) then renting a car? Thanks!

It's expensive to fly into/out of Winnipeg. No discount carriers serve it from the United States, and it's not a very popular destination. Cleveland might be a little bit cheaper, but it's not around the corner from Pittsburgh. And Labor Day weekend is always more expensive.

Don't discount every glowing review...I posted a rave review of a little hotel in Istanbul, and meant every word. I'm much more likely to post a positive review than a negative one.

Another viewpoint. Thanks!

I've only had one experience with a time share sales presentation. My girlfriend and I were visiting Provincetown, MA, and we were offered a free dinner if we attended the presentation. The presentation went on for about two hours, we didn't buy a time share, and we enjoyed our very nice, free dinner in a nice restaurant. The dinner was great, but I probably wouldn't do it again - it was too much time spent on our vacation away from the beach, shopping, etc.

Glad you got a good meal out of it!

An earlier chatter made an excellent point about looking at what people are complaining about. My wife and I stayed in a hotel in Reims that got one highly negative review on tripadvisor. The problem? The reviewer was highly incensed that the hotelkeeper and his wife spoke only French. Only French, imagine that !

Funny!

Thought I'd get your opinion on this. Southwest now offers the "ability" to pay $10 a ticket for priority check-in -- front of the line after their club members. I did this for my last Southwest flight. However, after we all boarded they discovered a mechanical problem and had us deplane and then reboard another aircraft. Result: a free-for-all in boarding, based on how quickly one rushed to the new gate. As such, my priority boarding wasn't a priority any more. Is this due a refund, or am I likely SOL?

You're due a refund. Here's who to ask at Southwest Airlines. Let me know if that doesn't work.

Will be visiting the Loire Valley in late August for a few short days--any suggestions?

Haven't been. Any chatter have suggestions?

I'm hoping to fly direct to Ft. Myers, Fl from any of the three airports here in the DC area in December and am trying to trying to figure out what airlines will get me there w/out any stops? Would you happen to know?

Any of the major online travel agencies (Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity) can tell you which airlines fly to Ft. Myers nonstop. But that's no guarantee your flight will actually be a nonstop, since schedules change frequently. Remember, when an airline changes its schedule, you have a right to a full refund or a flight of its choosing.

On our last cross-country flight, a family behind us enjoyed a video on their computer without using headseats. I was tempted to offer them my head-set splitter jack, which would have allowed the two kids to watch with headsets, but then it became apparent that Mom was watching too. I was also surprised no flight attendants asked them to turn it off. It made me glad my two year old is content to watch video with no sound, since he won't keep a headset on right now! A couple years ago, my sister, a friend and I did a timeshare presentation to get free lodging in Tahoe for the weekend. We thought we'd be staying at the timeshare facility, but they put us up in nasty little cabins that barely had heat (this was in January). The first cabin we entered had a poopy diaper in the bathroom, the smell of which permeated the entire cabin as soon as we opened the bathroom door. Not the best way to lure clients to a timeshare!

Oof. Sorry about that. Not a fun experience.

For the first time in about 25 years, and the first time as head of my own family, we're going to Ocean City for the weekend. I see lots of advice about when to leave, but little about when to head back. Should we come back at checkout time (11am) on Sunday, or can we hang out a few more hours? When is traffic coming back across the Bay bridge the worst, or is it always bad?

I tell friends/relatives staying with me here in OC  to either get up early and leave on Sunday, or to stay until dinner time or later. Leaving between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. means you will hit traffic. The bridge isn't always the problem - it's getting through Cambridge and Easton. You can call 877-BAYSPAN to get real time traffic updates.

My husband flew Continental/United last week and on the return trip home, his reservation had disappeared completely! They had no record of his reservation. The United agent said this has been happening a lot, due to the merger, so I would arrive early and call prior to your trip to confirm (more than once). Luckily, his flight was not crowded, so they just put him back on the flight, but I can't imagine what would have happened if there were no seats available.

Good advice! There are bound to be some merger-related hiccups along the way. Let me know if I can help.

Don't call it San Fran here! I think Herb Caen had a piece on that. I'd say avoid Pier 39. It is a cheap touristy mess. The Ferry Building is great, and yes on a cable car ride. But for less money and no wait, skip the Powell Street turnaround, and hop on the California line. Different views of the bay (it runs between Market and Van Ness Streets), but just as fun. Or take the F Market Muni Metro train, which goes all the way from the Castro down around to Pier 39. Good views, and you can hop on and off the Muni within 2 hours without having to pay a new fare (just make sure you get a transfer ticket). As for other sights, I recommend getting to one of the neighborhoods in the city. Many people don't realize that there are great "pocket" neighborhoods, like Cole Valley, the Fillmore, etc. Each one has fantastic restaurants, too.

Thanks!

If you don't mind not having air-conditioning, you might wish to consider the hotels where we stayed in Paris this May: Hotel La Louisiane (6th Arr., Latin Quarter) and Hotel Bellevue & du Chariot d'Or (yes, quite a mouthful) (3rd Arr., Le Marais). Both include continental breakfast. Excellent locations, neighborhoods felt safe, and La Louisiane is only a few blocks from the Seine River for strolling the Pont Neuf, and down to the Louvre, Tuileries, etc.

Thanks!

They mentioned a side trip to the Riviera - but I if they have an interest in art, I would also venture to Nice - 2 hours away from Marseille. See the Russian Orthodox church that served the wintering Russian nobility, and wonderful museums - also Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence about 30 minutes outside of Nice also has a great 20th century collection, and beautiful wooded grounds.

Thanks for the tips.

IFor the London bound traveler, I recommend looking on the website, VRBO. I was in London recently and used them for the first time to rent a flat. The flat, an English basement, was great and so incredibly inexpensive for London. It was located in Chelsea, between Sloan Square and Kensington tube stations. Lots of buses nearby which proved to be good tour buses. The unit we rented was # 287870.

Another idea to consider, many of the universities in London offer rooms during the summer, I think I stayed at the LSE and have also stayed in rooms at colleges in Oxford where you usually get a breakfast in the Harry Potter-like dining halls.

Nice idea. Although the great hall does get sort of trashed in the last movie, which I saw this weekend. :)

Hello! I am taking the train from DC to Atlantic City this weekend. It has me going through Philly and changing to an NJ Transit line. On the way there, its only 12 minutes between my arrival via Amtrak and depature via NJT. Is that enough time to find my way and should I be considered about delays? Thanks!

Ooh, 12 minutes is not a lot of time, and I hate to say it, but Amtrak is often delayed. And the walk from Amtrak to the NJT will take you a few minutes. You can try it. Worse comes to worse, you just hop on the next train.

Hello! Just wondering if anyone has any suggestions on fun stuff to do/good places to eat in Portland. I am a fan of anything outside and I also like good beer. Thanks!

Seems as though we've been getting a lot of Portland questions of late. Almost every chat. You might want to go back 2-3 weeks in our archives to see the previous answers. Joe, our Portland maven, is away this week. But I can steer you to this Tom Sietsema Portland restaurant review. And of course, we must as the chatters for their thoughts.

I am planning on flying into Paris in March (from the DC area). Flights have been running around $820. My guess was that prices would drop. Am I wrong?

I'm not convinced they will drop.  There could be a sale, but not a given. Since you have some time, continue to track. And make sure you check directly with the airlines that cover your route (Air France and United are the two biggies). 

Do you speak either German or Polish?

We used Jetsetter to book dinner at theTown House Restaurant and a room at their companion promperty, the Riverstead. Talking to the other couple who were staying there, we thought that we got a pretty good deal from Jetsetter. BTW, the Town House was written up both in the WaPo and the NY Times.

Thanks for sharing!

I went four years ago. Sunny and cool/warm week. Mostly light jacket weather although in the sun and walking around a T shirt was enough. I was in Coimbra (chillier) and Lisbon (perfect).

My wife and I went to Paradisus Playa Conchal in Costa Rica, and I very highly recommend it. Make sure you get the Royal service, too -- that puts you in an adults-only section with access to an adults-only pool, too. Top-notch.

Great, thanks!

I have left numerous reviews about hotels and places we rented and have never been paid, was not offered pay, nor did I expect to be ! I see the reviews as valuable tools.

We adored Cassis when we were in Provence this past May! It's where some of the early scenes in "The French Connection" were filmed ca. 40 years ago, and looks remarkably unchanged -- still not very tourist-y (yay!).

I am heading to Boston for a few days later this month. Any suggestions on what to see, do, eat, etc? I like history and would like to see some of the Revolutionary War sites. Is the subway system easy to understand? Thanks.

I had a great dinner at Clio the last time I was there. I also had awesome drinks at a place called Drink in Fort Point. Here are a few other things I did while I was up there. Any chatters have other recommendations?

I'll take the lizards any day! Spraying pesticides every morning? How awful, not only for the lizards, but for the guests and the poor guy stuck with that poison every day!

I saw lizards at the hotel I stayed at in Key Largo a few months ago. I was way excited.

My feelings exactly. We were not pleased watching guys with hazmat masks walking around spraying everything in site. The only thing we could think of is that malaria is an issue in the DR, and this is their response.

I've done very well with tripadvisor. By my count, I've had 11 good hotels and one bad one. One important factor is how many reviews someone has posted. If an individual has posted just on review, and one only, and it is a rave, that is reason to be suspicious. And if a particular hotel has multiple reviews that are all from people who've posted once and only once, that is a hotel to steer clear of.

I've generally had my experiences line up with what I've found on TripAdvisor too. Also don't forget reviews from the pros, such as Oyster.com. And, of course, us in our weekly Bed Check feature!

Can you recommend a place for a Thursday - Monday getaway over Presidents Day weekend for a few women celebrating their 30th birthdays? We were hoping for the beach and probably all-inclusive. I would love to hear your suggestions! -Thanks

I keep suggesting this but it's so easy to get to, and fun as well. How about Puerto Rico? Lots of all-inclusives there.  Miami is also a fun girls weekend but you won't find the all-inclusives there. I'll throw this out to the chatters.

Mayfair. Central and beautiful. Use Priceline for 5 star hotels. I got Grosvenor House for $150 last April and Intercontinental for $175 last week.

I travelled to Madrid in february on the United / Aer Lingus codeshare flight and clled Aer Lingus for seat selection. They were very accomadating, described the difference in layout and put the two of us into exit seats with extra legroom going and coming. United service is not bad but it can take awhile to get through the voicemail system. Just go streight to Aer Lingus.

Good to know. Thanks!

Two nights is fine if you only do Edinburgh and no daytrips. There's a lot to see so you will have to narrow down your choices.

Agreed.

I can't remember the exact location and can't find any confirmation emails, but it was near a lot of other hotels, a couple casinos, the opera house, restaurants, etc.

St. Germain is central and charming. There are tons of options on line in that area.

Thanks!

To the traveler going to Morocco- do your shopping in Fez! I was in Morocco several years ago and visited Marrakesh before going to Fez, and found the prices for the same items to be incredibly marked up in Marrakesh. it made sense, being the tourist capital, but I bought a hand-made tajine in Fez for about $3 and the same thing was selling in Marrakesh for about $30. Things to look for would be pottery, lamps, and rugs that are all beautiful and all made in Morocco. And be sure to check out the tannery in Fez- even if you don't buy anything, the view from the store overlooking the tannery is amazing!

Great. Thanks!

Is easy enough to understand but not all cars are air conditioned. Can be really uncomfortable this time of year.

For the person wanting to know where to stay in London, we were there in May. We stayed in a hotel called Lancaster London which is outside Hyde Park's Lancaster Gate on the north side. The hotel is clean and moderately expensive. Best of all, the hotel is literally right on top of Lancaster Gate tube station. 50 yards down the street on Bayswater Road is a 200-yr old pub, The Swan with excellent and very moderately priced pub-grub (they say the phrase "one for the road" originated in this pub). And after dinner, you can stroll in Hyde Park. Pretty nice. And Kensington Palace, where Princess Diana lived, is a 15-min walk.

Love Hyde Park. Thank you!

Can you please tell me - what is a reasonable tip to leave for the hotel cleaning person? I never know if I am being too generous or stiffing them!

I've always thought the general rule of thumb was a couple of dollars per night. But as it happens, Andrea (who's traveling today) is working on an upcoming story on tipping, so keep your eyes peeled for that in our section. Should run toward the end of August.

I don't think this is something "new, Chris. It's either a case that these flight crews are misinformed or they are just using the old rule as a pretense to keep us all seated for the last part of the flight unnecessarily. If everyone who encounters this complains to the airline it might stand a chance of getting fixed.

I checked with TSA, and it says there's nothing new. But I was on an inbound international flight yesterday, and they claimed there was a new rule. Maybe it isn't TSA? I'll see what I can discover and report back.

Late in last week's chat, someone asked if it was safe to hike alone in the Azores in the autumn. If the chatter meant in terms of crime, then yes, it's safe to hike (or do just about anything else) there any time, because the Azores have a remarkably low crime rate (part of the nature of island culture, where everyone knows everyone!). My main concern for the chatter is instead of a general nature, not specifically related to the Azores, namely that in case of possible injury or sudden illness it's better to have a hiking companion along who can seek help should you become too disabled to call the local Bombeiros Voluntarios (volunteer firefighters and rescue squad) on your cell-phone. BTW, the Bombeiros (my cousin is one, which is how I know this!) even train on rappeling down cliffs to rescue people who have either ventured too close to the edge and fallen or wrecked their boats on the rocks below.

Yes, hiking with a buddy is always a good idea!

Hi, My family loves to travel. We have however lately been limited in our options because our youngest son (3.5) is disabled - he cannot walk and is pretty heavy. We have heard Disney is a good place to go with disabled children, but I personally don't enjoy the crowds and the heat in August. Is there any place that would be fun for him and us to go where his wheelchair can navigate most surfaces? We can fly but at this point driving is a bit easier. Thank you for any input!

I would probably do research on the many Web sites that cater to disabled travel. They include Access-Able and Open Doors. I've also heard good things about Royal Caribbean, so mabe a cruise would be a good idea.

Greetings Travel Bunch! I will be traveling to Armenia on Wednesday and will be flying through Moscow--I have a 1.5 hour layover (on Wednesday) and a 4 hour one coming back. I've been told by our airline gurus I wont need a transit visa because my lay over is less than 12 hours and I can just stay in the International terminal, but am still horribly nervous (not only can Russia's visa rules change at any time but I have been told everyone coming off a flight gets dumped out of the int'l terminal to get their luggage.) Has anyone flown through Domodedovo recently who can speak to the truthfulness of this? Second, any recommendations for Armenia. I am already planning to go to Zvartnots, Vernisage market, Garni, Geghard, Khor Virap, Saghmosavank, Armenian Alphabet Monument, Amberd, Karmravor, Oshakan, Lake Sevan, Noratous, Hayravank, Sevanavank. I can't possibly be missing anything, right? (I have 6 days there...based out of Yerevan.) Thanks!!

HAve not done this flight myself, but perhaps some chatter has. And for what to do in Armenia, check out this story.

I appreciate all the fear about pesticides, but if you have a debilitating fear of something it doesn't help to be told that other are not bothered by it! I have awful nightmares about lizards...being at a resort that is crawling with them is horrible for me. I realize not everyone feels the same!

OK, fair enough!

We have always done well with TripAdvisor, doing what several others have recommended, read all the reviews and see what people complain about. I have found the reviews to be useful, so I have started writing my own to help others make their decision. All you get for this is the satisfaction of giving something back to other travelers, and an thank you email from TripAdvisor.

I too was on a Vegas-DCA flight last month on US Airways and got the spiel about the FAA rule requiring us to stay in our seats for the last hour of flight. A week before that, though, I was on a United flight ORD-DCA, and they didn't say ANYTHING about such a rule. I'd love to know if these flight crews are making it up, misinformed, or they've really brought back the "sit down into National" rule....

Chris is on it and will report back!

If you can't take a shower, you can wash up in a bathroom stall with a bottle of water, a washcloth and a towel. I don't want to dip the washcloth in the toilet! Second best choice: clean up with some wet wipes.

Thanks for the lively chat. We covered lots of topics today. I'm sorry if we couldn't get to everyone's questions, but please join us next week, and we will give it another try. Same place, same time. And the winner of today's challenge question is the person whose wife managed to score a car with her timeshare points. Please email me at trejosn@washpost.com and I will send you a prize. Safe travels all!

In This Chat
Flight Crew
The Washington Post Travel section is your source for narrative tales and practical advice about journeys far and wide -- from weekend trips to the Eastern Shore, to two-week jaunts to the Far East -- plus consumer news, penny-pinching strategies and deals galore.
Recent Chats
  • Next: