Aug 09, 2010

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 question is:

Good afternoon, chatters, and Happy Monday! Hope you're all in some well air-conditioned location and ready for another fun flight with the Travel crew. You'll notice that we're doing things a little differently today, posing a question in advance for you to vote on, something we'll be doing every week from here on out. Since Spirit finally introduced its much-anticipated carry-on baggage fees last week, we thought we'd get your thoughts on the subject. Don't be shy -- let us know how you really feel.  And let us know during the chat, too. We're all ears and looking for great checked luggage or carry-on horror stories. Best one wins a prize. Off we go!

Every time I sit on the planes and watch as people try to fit their enormous bags in the overhead, or get the game checked (no fee for gaming the system there, how nice!) and take forever to get off the plane because they have to get their bags down, I think, we have this backwards: there ought to be charges for carry-ons that don't fit under the seat. And make checked bags free!

I'm with you!

Frequent travelers, I have a conundrum for you! My husband and I will be doing a quick weekend trip with our infant son from BWI to SeaTac in two weeks for a family wedding. Unfortunately, the only plane departure time that worked out was leaving at 7 am Sunday morning. The problem comes in that we'll be staying on Bainbridge Island, and the first ferry back to the mainland leaves at 5:20 am. Then there's the drive to the airport, returning the rental, and actually catching our flight. We'll be flying light carry-on only, plan on checking in electronically the night before, and know how to pack to expedite security, even with an infant. My question is this: are we totally insane? Do we have even a slight chance of catching our departure flight on time, or will we have to spend the night on the mainland? Thanks in advance!!

Oh, man. I fear I'm now the cutting-it-close expert. Don't hold me responsible! How many disclaimers can I make?

OK, let's do the math. I haven't taken this ferry before, so I don't know how on time it runs, but for the purposes of this exercise let's say very. It's a 35-minute crossing and a 20-minute drive to the airport (counting on no traffic to speak of at that hour), so that puts you at the rental car return at 6:15. Now if you have one of those quick drop-off accounts at the rental car agency, and you've rented from one of the five agencies that has dropoff on the first floor of the garage across from the Main Terminal, I'm going to say this is theoretically doable.

The variables and questions, to recap, are: Is the ferry on time? Will there be no traffic? Can you quickly drop off your rental car at one of the on-site agencies? And then, of course, will there be a quick line through security?

If you think all those are "yes," then you've got a shot. If any one of them is a "no" or even a "maybe," well, do as I say and not as I do.

Hey crew, What a hot topic. I expect you'll get many heated responses. I would rather pay to carry bags on, because then the bin hogs who try to bring oversized bags that really should be checked, might actually check them. It is annoying to see someone come on board with three "carry-ons" for a single person travelling alone, and have that person take up the bin! Thanks for letting me rant.

I'm sending my son to visit his grandparents alone for the first time. He's 10 1/2 and we have him on the one direct flight between destinations. After booking the ticket I learned that Delta charges $100 each way for an unaccompanied minor - making his ticket over $600. Is this standard practice? It seems exhorbitant especially since there is no connection involved - merely getting a gate pass for his grandparents so they can meet him. My husband thinks we don't need to tell the airline next time and he can take care of himself - I think we'd wind up in jail but agree this is ridiculous. Thoughts?

As somebody who flew as an "unaccompanied minor" my entire childhood, back and forth to Chicago to stay with my dad every summer, I have to say, how times have changed. These fees, which are indeed common (see this 2008 chart from Airfare Watchdog), are so ridiculous. When I flew, the stewardesses (that's what we called them back then, remember?) took such joy in helping shepherd me and my sister on our way. I guess I could understand an extra charge if the kids have to be escorted to a connecting flight on a layover, but with a direct flight? Silly.

I'm with your husband -- I'd be tempted to not tell the airline next time. Your boy could surely make it fine from the gate to baggage or wherever the grandparents would meet him, I bet.

Immediately after the baggage check fees went into place, there was a noticeable difference in the number of people carrying on luggage and the volume they carried on. The checked-baggage fees create completely the wrong incentive. The more luggage people drag onto the plane, the longer it takes to get on and to get off. As someone who flies a lot, this causes planes to be late pushing off from the gate, and the ripple effect that goes along with that. I understand the desire to reduce costs, but aren't late flights, missed connections, etc. a bigger cost than putting bags on and taking bags off the plane? On most planes, there is plenty of room for one overhead carry-on item and one under the seat, yet, my meager sized carry-on back often gets checked at the gate because of greedy space hogs. Why not just create a property right in the space above apply to particular seats? I could do it with some sticky numbers , a ruler, and a magic marker.

Hi Team, love gleaning the chat for helpful tips. My sister and I are taking our 85 year old mother to Ireland in 2 weeks. Any advice on how to make her as comfy as possible on the overnight flight ?

Here's a story Andrea wrote about sleeping on planes. It might offer some helpful hints. Also, make sure your Mom hydrates a lot. And personally, I'd have her get up from time to time to stretch her legs. Other tips, chatters?

What is more efficient for the airlines, checked luggage or carry on luggage?

Neither. If the airlines had their way, I believe we would carry no luggage at all. In a sense, Spirit Air's new carry-on fee is rewarding the customers who bring the least amount of personal belongings on board.

Am looking to stay at a resort in Bedford, PA -any idea what activities the surrounding area has to offer. Thanks

We did a Bedford Escapes too many years back to provide a link for. But according to that story, among the things you shouldn't miss is Gravity Hill, where your car will roll UPhill when you take your foot off the brake. There's also the Fort Bedford Museum, a British-built fort from the 18th century and Old Bedford Village, a re-created colonial town. And lots of covered bridges. Plus hiking and biking and fishing. And Breezewood, the town of motels. 

 

I'll bet the chatters know a thing or two, too.

Loved the article! I fully admit I'm crazy about being on time [early] places - my father's fault, he was always late. But the times I've skated in just as boarding is called elates me. Though, I usually fly out of DCA, on the Shuttle whenever possible so I do cut it close. BWI? Never chanced it. Leaving from work, however, I go early, grab a beer and hang out. Also, last week you offered great recommendations for single traveler destinations, but also highlighted the problem I'm having: so many options, how to choose? But to give more detail, I have the miles to go really anywhere. Yes I burn miles frequently, I just travel for work often and accrue them faster than I can spend them.

Thanks! As I said in the piece, I know one day this will catch up with me, and maybe then I'll change my ways, but actually when I think about all the time I've saved not being at the airport two hours early, I could probably miss a flight every few years or so and still come out ahead!

As for where you should go, it's a mighty big world out there, isn't it? What are your interests? Where have you gone and want to go back? What's on your life list?

I'm thinking about taking the family on a cruise for a Dec./Christmas vacation. To save money, I'd like to leave from Norfolk but haven't been able to find any cruises leaving in December. Also, I'm completely overwhelmed at the idea of booking a cruise for 3 people (2 adults, 1 extremely bright 11yr old who thinks she's 30). A friend of mine recommended vacationstogo.com for their 90 ticker, so I've been using that a resource. But as a first timer, should I book though a travel agent or can I book a great cruise (at a great price) on my own?

Norfolk has very limited cruise service - nothing in December. You'd be better off driving up to BaltimoreCarnival, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity all offer departures from Baltimore in December.  I'd probably price through the cruise lines first, and then compare to travel agency. Also, try pricing at a site called Cruise Compete.

I think your question might be phrased wrong -- Personally, I would definitely rather pay a fee to check a bag, since I almost always pack in a small, compact carry on. But I wish everyone *else* had to pay a carry on fee. Most people do not seem to follow the appropriate size regulations, instead hauling on massive suitcases that either take up all of the available carry on space, or don't fit at all -- creating massive bottlenecking and time-wasting as the flight attendants try to figure out what to do with the behemoth luggage. If there was a fee for carry-ons, maybe they would stop trying to lug Mt. Rushmore onto the plane.

My husband and I are driving to Newport RI this fall. Can you reccomend an interesting town to stay in along the way so the drive is not so long? Maybe just north of New York?

Tarrytown is lovely. Lots to see and do -- Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate; Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving's home; and more. Would be a little out of your way, but not too much.

Other thoughts, chatters?

I've been reading some of the trade press about airline fees. The airlines seem to feel it's been a great success and they're eager to expand them (sodas, pillows, and even use of the bathroom have been mentioned as possibilities for future fees). They particularly like the fact that consumers can no longer get a true comparison of prices, since the fees differ by airline. I think we're stuck with the fees for a long time.

You may well be right.

Hi travel gurus! My husband's parents are traveling to Guatemala in December and have offered to pay for us to go with them. I don't really know anything about Guatemala so I was hoping you could help me out. What is there to do in Guatemala? Also, I've been reading that the crime is high there but that as long as you make smart decisions (i.e. don't wander around strange neighborhoods at night) you should be fine. Is that true?

Go to Antigua, a charming little town with beautiful colonial churches. Take the bus to Lago Atitlan (Aldous Huxley called it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world). And definitely check out the ruins of Tikal. As for the crime, your instinct is correct. Make smart decisions and you will be fine, which is the case no matter where you travel.

Here's an interesting tip I saw on a travel message board the other day. The author mentioned that on his trip to Bhutan he took along a Fuji Instax instant camera. He said it made interacting with the locals very easy and that everyone loved having their picture taken and then given to them. I thought this was a brilliant idea. I will be going mainly to shoot digital photos. But the idea of being able to hand the people a picture seems like it would make it much easier to ask them to pose for my as well. Although they may expect that any picture I take with any camera will produce a print for them to keep... The cameras are bulky out of necessity and the film packages only take 10 shots so they can be a bit expensive at around a dollar per exposure. Not to mention the bulk of hauling the film cartridges along. But I think I am going to get one and a decent amount of film even though it will take up a lot of space in my luggage.

Yep, this is a tried and true way of connecting with locals. Have a blast!

We had a last minute change of work plans and are now free to go on a beach vacation but our favorite place - Sea Colony is all booked. Ideally, we would like to find a place with ocean front (we could have a place off the beach but at a community with a beach) and pools, preferably some additional facilities. We would need to be within a one day drive - (Myrtle Beach is as far south as the kids can handle) the shorter the better. Any ideas would be welcome - we could really use some help! Thanks

Several possibilities: The Village at Nags Head, which is a golfing/beach community on the Outer Banks; The Currituck Club in Corolla on the Outer Banks; and Sunset Island in Ocean City.

Joe, my husband could have written that article. And I'm the exact opposite--I like to be at the airport a full two hours early and seated at the gate, whereas My Beloved Spouse prefers to sprint through the airport and bound onto the plane at the last possible minute so that he doesn't have to wait or sit a nanosecond more than necessary. We have had more marital moments over this than I care to think about. The worst was when we had to fly from Chicago to Albuquerque for my grandmother's funeral. My Beloved Spouse decided to work that day, and ended up getting home when we were supposed to already be at the airport. I was absolutely beside myself. We had to unload his pickup first, and then threw our bags in the car and made a mad dash for the airport. We were so late that we had to park in the nearest parking lot (which ended up costing us almost more than our tickets). We got through security, pelted down the concourse, and got to the gate just as they were closing the doors on the airplane. We made it by the skin of our teeth, but that's the problem! He.Always.Makes.It.

Oh, my, I feel your pain. I have to say that I try to be better about it when traveling with a companion, because I don't want someone else to have to suffer because of my way of doing things (which I often feel somewhat sheepish about, anyway). It reminds me of how differently I would drive, back when I had a car, when I was alone vs. when I had a passenger.

Just yesterday I had the following email exchange with a friend that illustrates this very issue:

Friend: The major takeaway for me: you and I could never travel together.

Me: I see two possibilities: separate cabs, or burden would be on you to keep me entertained during the wait.

While I wish airlines would just set a sufficient price and not bother with these fees, I do wish they'd enforce the carry-on sizes. More check-in fees will lead to more (obese) carry-on bags that don't fit in the overhead bins, or only do so if the flier crams it in. Enforce the size limits (all bags should fit under your seat), and the flights will board faster (no more standing in the aisle, cramming a bag into an overhead bin) and the doors will close sooner (no more waiting for a flight attendant to find that last space to cram that last bag into). The size of most carry-ons really is ridiculous.

Carry-on should be charged for. I despise flying anymore because of the cargo hold-like atmosphere. People drag on whatever they can, stuff it wherever they can, and have total disregard for their fellow passengers. Give a TRUE carry on allowance of say one briefcase/tote size and one handbag/purse/camera case. Beyond that, stick it to the carry-ons with exorbitant fees. As for fees, the airlines must think we are idiots. A $99 ticket that ends up being $199? Yeah, that'll get by the average customer. Call a spade a spade. Charge me the $199. I'll pay $250 for an on-time, orderly flight over a $99 (plus "fees" of course) cattle car any day. It's getting to where if Grayhound could get me there in a reasonable amount of time, I may try the bus on for size. A bit of an exaggeration ... but not by much.

a small group of us have hired a private guide while in Prague. We will be buying her lunch, but I assume we should also tip her at the end (if she is good). What is usual? This is a first for me and I want to do the right thing.

I would tip 20 percent of the cost of the tour. But I'm just guessing. Let's hear from other folks.

I seem to recall that a year or two ago the Post's Travel section had an article about VIA Rail's train service from either Montreal or Quebec City to Halifax, but I can't seem to find it when I search online. Is my memory serving me accurately? If so, would it be possible for you to post a link to the article? Thanks in advance.

The Rail Way (Nov. 2, 2008)

For the last few years, I've been an armchair traveler, but I have an opportunity to go to D.C. this week and I'm grabbing it. I haven't been in 10 years--anything I shouldn't miss in my 48 hours?

I don't know what you did the last time you were here, but you certainly would not have seen the WWII Memorial, which opened in 2004. You probably also didn't see the National Portrait Gallery, the Spy Museum, and the Newseum (at its new location downtown). But I never get tired of strolling down the Mall and seeing the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They're breathtaking.

The Museum of  the American Indian is also new. And I love smaller sites like the Phillips Collection, the Octagon House and the Decatur House. Hillwood, Marjorie Meriwether Post's former home, is worth a visit. And Woodlawn Plantation and Gunston Hall in Virginia are two of my favorites. Obviously, you're not going to get to all of them!

I was always confused by the overweight bag fees. If a bag is just a few pounds overweight, it is cheaper to pack a second bag and then add another 20 pounds of stuff in that bag. Doesn't the second bag just increase the weights... I heard someone say the fees were for employee safety to prevent them from getting hurt by lifting bags that are too heavy, but if money is no issue and I pay the fee, they are still left to lift my overweight bag.

I'm a Platinum frequent flyer with Delta, and even though I'm exempt from most of them, I deplore airline fees, too. But even for a non-stop flight, I'd be concerned about not designating my child as an unaccompanied minor. I travel a lot on business, and have had the experience of planes that get called back to the gate because of "mechanical" or weather problems. Would the family members dropping off the child be allowed through security to wait around at the gate if the child isn't a registered "unaccompanied minor"? I doubt that they'd be able to get a gate pass under those circumstances. Would the child have to navigate security alone? I don't know -- not matter how mature the child is, I'd hesitate.

You make some good points.

I was traveling to Afghanistan from Reagan National last year, which required a routing from National to Atlanta to Dubai for an overnight, then a separate airline (and ticket) on to Kabul. A thunderstorm caused the plane to sit on the tarmac at National for close to two hours. When I arrived in Atlanta I had to run to make my flight to Dubai and unfortunately my bag didn't make the sprint with me. I arrived in Dubai to find my name on a board and ended up trying to describe my bag to the Emirati agents as "black...with a zipper..." like everyone elses. I had no choice but to continue on to Afghanistan without my bag the next morning, hoping it made the adventure from Washington to Kabul without me. I got to Kabul without my bag or anything but the books in my carryon and a headscarf luckily. Imagine my delight when my favorite driver went to Kabul airport 3 days later (!) and returned with..........my black back with a zipper! I did a victory dance right there in the courtyard.

Glad you had a happy ending, fairly quickly!

Westport, Ct is beautiful. Not sure if there are inns/hotels there. Mystic, Ct is really nice but may be too close to Newport.

We were just there last weekend. If you play golf, the Bedford Springs resort golf course is a must-play, even with the slightly expensive greens fees. Lots of nice hiking trails in the hills around the resort, too. If you are coming from the DC area, I STRONGLY recommend not going via I-70 through Breezewood. I-70 is under construction between Hancock and Breezewood and on July 30 it ground to a halt (less than 5 mph) a few miles south of the Amaranth exit. Apparently they are rebuilding some overpasses. (I say "apparently" because I fiddled with my sat-nav and found a back road I could take from the Amaranth exit and we never saw what caused the backup.) I strongly recommend taking I-68 west and then US-220 north to Bedford. It's only about 20 miles north from Cumberland.

I can't believe how quick people are to jump at the airlines' self-serving solution of fees for carry-on bags. Does anyone remember those metal frames? If you bag didn't fit in it, you had to check it at the gate (and pay extra)? Why don't they just enforce that? That would drive up the checked bag revenue and stop all the whining about bin space.

I too am tired of seeing too many people with, let's face it, suitcases, trying to cram too much luggage into overhead compartments. Are airlines too afraid to say "No, you have to check that"? These fees are almost passive-aggressive, and as usual, will end up hurting those travelers who adhere to guidelines and follow the rules.

I just flew United this past weekend, and was pleased to see that the gate agents were stringently enforcing both the only two carry-on bags policy and the size restrictions on larger carry-on bags. So, at least United is attempting to follow its own rules. The passengers on the plane, however, were a different story. Putting small bags overhead, ignoring requests to turn off electronics, general rudeness to flight attendants, etc. Seems people are so disgruntled with the airlines they are taking it out on the employees and their fellow passengers. Sigh.

You can also hit Shawnee State Park nearby which has a large lake if you want to go swimming/boating/fishing/picnicing (you can rent rowboats). The resort itself is fantastic though and you could easily spend a day just hitting the spa, swimming in the pools, lounging around, golfing, etc. etc. The offered cooking classes with their chef last time I was there which was lots of fun (and champagne throughout).

I have found that when I travel by plane now, I use the luggage I bought for my kids - which are tiny rolly bags. They are GREAT and easy to put in the overhead bin, unlike MY rolly bag, which is bigger and gets heavier. We haven't flown in a while to anywhere for more than a weekend (thank you cruises!) or 3 or so days, so it's all fit. I try not to fly ANYWHERE anymore, since it's really annoying. we'll drive 10 hours rather than fly these days...

Bag fees are the least of my worries. Every time I have to get on a plane, my worry is, will it get there on time, if at all? Service has become so unpredictable and so truly lousy, look at the North East corridor - train travel up every quarter since Q4 2001. It is time to bring back FULL air travel regulation, with regulated rates and terms, and guaranteed no-flight and late-flight passenger protection, period.

I'm driving to Cape Cod from DC this weekend and am not due there until Monday. I am looking for places to stay either for 1 night on the way there or 2 nights. Also is there another place to stay for 1 night on the way back to DC. Scenic routes are a plus. Thanks!

My earlier answer to another chatter re Tarrytown applies to you, too.

I am fortunate to live close to BWI Marshall, which puts hundreds of Southwest flights near at hand. They still let you check two bags for free and, I have to admit, the airline has managed to keep its personality intact after years of success. On a flight to Albany, we were kept on the ground at BWI for an hour and a half because of thunderstorms and were given continual updates by the crew regarding the weather and how soon we could expect to leave. And because I bought tickets early, one leg of the flight was 48 bucks. Every time I fly another domestic carrier I compare them to Southwest and the comparison is never flattering.

Yes, they do seem to do many things right.

Hello! I'm submitting early because I won't be around for Monday's chat. I'm traveling to New Orleans with some girlfriends in October. We'd like to stay in a smaller hotel/inn in the French Quarter - something small, with character, and a nice courtyard. I've checked sites such as TripAdvisor as well as sites focused specifically on the French Quarter, but reviews seem all over the map. Does anyone know of such a place where we could stay for around (hopefully less than) $200 per night? We'd want to be within the French Quarter so we could walk to shopping, eating, nightlife, etc.

Well, it's a little above your price range, but I'd encourage you to look at Soniat House: It's just a delightful place, with truly stunning architecture and interior design, and the courtyard is spectacular. Rooms start at $245 online, but if you call you might be able to swing a better deal. Another thought, though: You really don't have to stay in the Quarter to have easy walking distance to shopping, eating, nightlife, even if all that is happening in the Quarter. I stayed in the International House in the Warehouse District, and it's just a few blocks from the Quarter; come to think of it, it's even closer to some of my favorite restaurants, such as Cochon, Herbsaint, and Emeril's, which are all in the Warehouse District.

Besides Soniat House, another place I really like that is indeed in the Quarter is the Villa Convento, which isn't as nicely appointed as the Soniat House, but it's very affordable (rooms start at just $89), clean and very well run, and some of the rooms ($125) have balconies. It also has a sweet courtyard. Plus, it's right across from Croissant D'Or, one of my favorite bakeries in the city.

There was some discussion last week about finding inexpensive airfares to Hawaii. I hesitate about revealing this but Alaska Airlines is an option that few people around here think about. Probably something to do with their name. I checked a randomly chosen October week this morning and Alaska will fly you from Washington National to Honolulu, Maui, Kauai or Kona on the Big Island for between $675 and $700 round-trip, with all taxes and fees included. Alaska flies nonstop from Washington National to Seattle and LAX, then from California or SEA to the islands. Personally, I've found Alaska's coach service a bit better than the bigger airlines, too. (Cute touch -- Alaska's tail logo is an Eskimo, and I'm told you can identify their planes which are equipped for the long over-water flights to Hawaii at a glance because on those jets the Eskimo is wearing a lei.)

Alaska Airlines is holding a sale to Hawaii right now, which is why the fares are good. Buy by Aug. 15. Even if the fare sale is advertised as out of cities on the West Coast, these sales often also wind up reducing fares from the East Coast.

I have a flight on Friday, the 27th. I'm going to the mid-east. I fly from DCA (5:30 flight) to PHL. The PHL flight leaves for Tel Aviv at 9:00. So, here is my question. What time do I have to arrive at DCA? Is it one hour ahead? or two? or three? thanks, "Alexandria"

Since your flight is to Philly, I'd say an hour. (Or less, of course, but that's just me, obviously.)

We brought the carryon bag fees on ourselves. People are bringing bigger bags on board, crowding out everyone from having enough space for their bags, and why would the airlines enforce the size rules when they could profit off it. I understand why people starting bringing more on board when the bag check fees started, but in the process we handed the airlines an opportunity to charge another fee.

There are so many fees that its crazy- soon you'll start seeing $10 airline tickets only to have loading and unloading fee, use of seatbelt fee, use of air fee, etc. I think the the carry on fee is a bit crazy because some people are responsible- and use it for real carry ons that take up almost no space. I think there should just be a fee for those that carry on bags larger than X. That way those of us that carry on brief cases, that can fit under our seat- no fee. But if you carry on one of those stupid rollers that you have invariably tripped somebody with- then you can pay for your laziness of not using your god-given ability to lift and walk with something in your hand.

Excellent point about size!

I'm planning on flying to London in November on either Air Canada or US Airways. Any reason to choose one over the other?

I don't think either are top-shelf. I'd look at what type of planes they fly on the route and go from there. But airlines do reserve the right to sub in different aircraft, so that's not a sure thing. Read reviews of the airlines at Skytrax.

We will be in Boston next flying into Logan, staying at Marriott Back Bay. I understand they do not have ap transportation, what shuttle would you reccomend for two and how long will it take to get there? We will arrive at noon. Thanks

It's only a 15-minute, $30 cab ride, which is what I would do, especially if you have bags, etc.

If you want something a little more special, though, you might look into a water taxi, which would take you from Logan across the harbor to downtown, and then you could cab or take the subway to the hotel. It'd take a good bit longer, but it's a great way to see Boston, actually.

I would love to see a carry on fee. My last trip was a 11 day 4 country SE Asia business trip, one carry on bag, total weight 22 lbs, that fits in a 737 overhead. I would love to see a carry-on fee, it would get the cheapskate's bags back in the belly of the plane. Personally I'd love to see a $0.50 per pound check fee and a $1.25/lbs for carry on. Why should I subsidize people who think they need to take 75 lbs of stuff on a one week trip. But then I fly 150,000 miles per year on Y-class tickets in coach, so I don't pay those fees. I can not stand someone who shopped for the CHEAPEST ticket whining about a bag fee. Spend $30,000 on tickets a year and then you have the right to complain, but by then the airlines will not be charging you.

We just returned from an amazing week spent on Dauphin Island. No oil. Empty beaches, except for the BP cleanup crews. We were able to rent a gulf front house for a big discount because most people canceled. If you have a week vacation and want a quiet beach week Dauphin Island is one place to go. The store owners welcome any business. We've been going there for years, live in Little Rock, gambled and it paid off. The only downside was the empty beaches and stores. One day we drove to Pensacola, stopped at a few places and again, no oil or visitors. Only BP clean up crews. And Pensacola has a Dunkin Donuts, something missing in the south central US. Thanks for the chats!

On a flight this past Saturday, an obese passenger basically sat on me for the one-hour wait on the runway and the two-hour flight. I don't know who was more uncomfortable, me, small-framed person who had to sit with her legs crossed the entire time, or this poor woman who clearly was aware that she needed two seats. I always exercise good manners, and felt that would have been rude to complain to the flight attendant in front of her. But I also felt like a squashed doormat for not speaking up. What is the proper way to handle this situation when you're the fit flyer?

If you're seated next to a passenger of size, I would speak up. I'd start by approaching the flight attendant privately and mentioning your concern.

Flight attendants are less worried about your comfort, particularly if you're sitting in economy class, but if you mention safety issues, they are more likely to take you seriously. Can a passenger of size safely evacuate the plane, should the need arise?

 

If the attendant doesn't see things your way, you could appeal to the chief purser or inflight service manager, and failing that, to the pilot.

Hello Crew, I am going to be in San Diego for one full day. I have never been there. What is the one place you would go for: a meal, a view or stroll on the beach and someplace else that I shouldn't miss.

Hard to say without knowing you.  Have a cocktail at the Hotel Del Coronado; ride a bike oceanfront from Pacific Beach to Mission Beach to Mission Bay; stroll La Jolla, stopping to see the sea lions; eat gelato and maybe have dinner at Buon Appetito in Little Italy; etc., etc.

From everything that I've read, airlines want a low fare to appear prominently in search results since they feel that the this fake price is what appeals to passengers. Has there been any movement requiring truth in pricing so that the real fare, including taxes and fees, appear prominently? Also clear words stating "Fare displayed does not include baggage charges or any other way we separate you from your money. The fare you see has not relationship to reality and is just a way to make you look."

Yes, the Consumer Travel Alliance (full disclosure: I volunteer as its consumer advocate) is pushing for an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill that would compel airlines to disclose any option fees at the time the fare is quoted, which would allow travelers to easily compare fares. Airlines would prefer to wait until just before you buy the ticket, in order to make their prices seem lower. 

I should add that there's a broad coalition of advocates and industry organizations (travel agents, online retailers) that support this rule.

Hi! I'm going to have three days by myself in the far north of France, along the Channel coast. I've already seen Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Lille, Dover, and Canterbury - any other recommendations for interesting things I've missed? I'll be traveling by train. Thanks!

Mont-Saint-Michel. The Normandy beaches. Of course, you don't say where along the Channel coast you'll be.

I'm not happy with paying any bag fees, but if I was King-for-a Day the first fee I would outlaw is the $150 fee (plus fare changes) to change a ticket. The cost for an airline employee to punch a few buttons is much closer to zero than $150! I'd like to see the airline forced to pay me $150 every time they cancel the flight I'm booked on and call to reschedule me to one hours earlier or later in the day.

If you did that, you'd deprive the airlines of one of their biggest and most promising new sources of revenue. Check out this chart from the Transportation Department showing first-quarter change fees. Impressive, huh?

I remember the good old days when the price of the airline ticket included your baggage, meals, beverages, pillows, etc., but have adjusted to the checked bag fees. However, since I usually travel with just 1 carry-on and my purse, that has been fairly simple. When I have had to check baggage and ended up finding it made several trips I had not, I decided I would not pay a fee for my suitcase to see the USA. Regardless, though, I think simple travel etiquette should prevail. For example, when I travel and am not making a quick connection, I let the other passengers disembark before I stand to grab my carry-on bag. Even though my bag meets all regulations (and fits in the compartment with the front end by the overhead door rather than sideways), I know that it takes me a little more time to reach up and grab the bag than it did when I was 20 (aging can be a pain). So, I have no reason to jump up before we hit the gate and then make everyone behind me wait while I retrieve my bag. I don't think it's necessarily the carry-on that creates the problem, but the attitude of the traveler. However, until every airline initiates a carry-on fee, I have no intention of paying one.

Thinking of going to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and the surrounding areas in October - any highlights that must be checked out?

I can speak for Santa Fe, partly because Tom Sietsema had his great Postcard from there recently, covering restaurants, but also because friends have told me great things about Ten Thousand Waves spa nearby and, depending on how you feel about such attractions, the Shrine of Chimayo.

Do you or the chatters have a recommendation for a good reading light, that shines on a whole page at a time, and is light-weight and compact? I am often in hotels without reading light, and occasionally they don't work on the airplane either. Thanks.

I have a little LED reading light that I love, but I have no idea what it's called, alas, having thrown out the packaging long ago. Let's see if any chatters can help you. Guys?

Joe - your piece brought back memories of family trips growing up. We took the train (Mom didn't fly), and always cut it way too close. I have multiple memories of arriving the (smaller town) station only to see the train pulling away - and flying down the road at 85-90 MPH to the next stop (sometimes pacing the train on the way) in an effort to beat it there. Somehow, we always made it onboard - eventually. As a result, I hate cutting it close at the airport. While I'm not one of the 3-hour types, I was getting a little anxious when reading your piece. Arriving at the airport parking lot an hour before flight time is right around my limit.

I'm planning a trip Aruba next June. I'm seeing airfares around $420-450. Is that a reasonable fare or should I wait a while before booking? There will be 4 of us so the difference could add up. Any of the WAS local airports are good for us to travel from.

That sounds very reasonable. Aruba isn't directly served from any of the Washington airports by a discount carrier, so there's little chance of a dirt cheap fare.  JetBlue flies nonstop to Aruba out of New York/Boston, so you could connect, but those fares don't look any cheaper.

I will be in DC next week for four or five days and have done everything over the years. Mt. Vernon, Manasses, Zoo, Smithsonian, Museums, Monuments, Occoquan and am looking for something different. I've also done Baltimore and Georgetown. What would you recommend?

We may already have answered your question above.

I'm booked on a one-way flight from Miami to Cancun next April on Mexicana. I booked the flight through Orbitz. Should I be worried? Should I try to cancel and rebook through a different airline, or wait and see? Probably, if they're going to cancel, it'll be soon, and not last minute, correct?

According to recent wire reports, Mexicana is in discussions with several possible buyers. But that's about the only good news. It has filed for creditor protection, halted all new ticket sales and suspended flights on 15 international routes. But yes, I think if it's going to go belly  up, you'll know sooner rather than later. April is a long way in the future. Hold tight for now.

I tried to get a one-way rental between NYC and Boston today (for next week). I've rented one-way between Boston and NYC several times this year, but there weren't any available this time. I assume they don't allow it in the summer months...? Since I had to return the car where I'm getting it, I shortened my trip and looked for a Friday - Sunday rate (picking up and returning at noon). It was around $280. Then, just for the heck of it, I tried Thursday at 4:00 P.M. - Sunday at 4:00 P.M., and it was around $230! I reserved it! Why do you think they (Budget) is charging less for one more day?

Ah, yet another example of a car rental company trying to be like an airline! Rental companies price their products based on demand. So your original rate was a weekend rate, which the system determined was in higher demand, and thus charged you $280. Pick it up a day earlier, and there's less demand -- and therefore, the rental is cheaper.

 

Whatever you do, don't return the car early. Budget could "readjust" your rate to the more expensive weekend rate. No, seriously. I wrote about it last year.

Good afternoon Travel crew: My first anniversary is coming up in October and my wife and I wanted to take a long weekend over Columbus day, however we are having trouble figuring out where to go. We are frequent campers in Shenandoah National Park, so something besides that would be good. I was envisioning somewhere we would have some dining options, some different choices of things to do during the day, and unlike many of our trips, not camping. Can you think of any good destinations within either a reasonable drive or an inexpensive flight that would fit the bill? Thanks!

You don't say how much you want to spend, but there's the Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., or the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Definitely not camping but lots of activities and dining options. Wintergreen Resort in Virginia is a bit less expensive and closer. Other thoughts, chatters?

I agree that checked-bag fees have made the problem worse, but the ground staff have some responsibility to enforce the size and quantity rules. On another topic, I think when airlines tell us about a fare, and it turns out to be a lot more due to taxes, fees, government charges, etc., they are essentially lying. OK, they are misleading us. Do any airlines give us an all-in bottom line price? Even Southwest, which quotes a fare including some taxes or fees, isn't complete.

Southwest and, to some extent JetBlue, are the best domestic airlines when it comes to quoting an "all in" price.  The worst? Pick any of the legacy carriers, for starters (American, Continental, Delta, United, US Airways) but for maximum shock value, check out Allegiant and Spirit, which are in my experience the worst offenders.

Of course airlines should quote a complete price. But short of legislation, the only way you'll see one is by using a site like InsideTrip or TruPrice.

I want Congress to wrap it in the price of the ticket or re-regulate all airlines immediately. They took our tax dollars after 9-11. They've never made a profit. Let's start calling them what they are...public transit.

I made the argument for nationalizing the US airlines -- particularly those that had received government aid after 9/11 -- but like many of my terrific ideas, the industry dismissed it. But I agree with you ... airlines have become de facto public transportation.

How hard would it be to take a red eye to Madrid and then immediately go and take a train to Barcelona? Also, how difficult is the train system in Spain and would we need to have reservations for the Madrid to Barcelona leg? I'd prefer not to since we may experience flight delays or get held up at the airport. All this because we are currently planning a Madrid/Seville/Barcelona adventure but due to flying in and out of Madrid I'm thinking of reversing the plans and going Barcelona/Seville/Madrid.

Not sure about that connection when you land, but we recently had a Going Our Way column on training in Spain that may be helpful.

I'm with the group that believes that checking baggage should be free and there should be a fee for carry-ons. On my flight back from SF last week, the TSA was making people use the sizing box to determine whether bags were small enough to fit in the overhead, but NOT counting up how many bags folks had. One family got on with 4 carryons, 2 strollers, and a car seat.

I guess if I traveled more often I might be inclined to the cutting it close of Joe's story. But frankly I kind of like airports and aviation. I don't mind being early and seeing all the planes and just being around it all....other than the stupid CNN Airport monitors blasting. But that's why we have earphones. It helps if you are spending time in a nice airport and not the ones that are glorified bus terminals too I suppose.

If we're talking about Spirit Airlines, Aren't they still charging checked baggage fees? I mean it has to be one or the other. Yes, some people take more than their fair share of carryons and then do not know the appropriate way of storing them in the over head bins (wheels first people), but to be carged for both is ridiculous.

Spirit is charging for both. Here are its prices.

I think I read somewhere that airline fees are taxed (by the government on the airlines) differently than ticket charges, that is, at a lower rate, if at all. Therefore it makes business sense for the airlines to charge as little as possible for the actual ticket, and soak us consumers for fees. Personally, I'd rather pay more for the ticket and get dependable service, happy employees and a reasonable expectation of seeing my checked bag at my destination. If I have to pay a baggage fee, I'll pay a for carry-on and keep my bag with me, because it'll be a very cold day you-know-where before we ever see an airline offer a checked-bag fee refund after they've lost the bag. But mostly, I'm working on moving my mother back across country so I don't have to fly any more to see her.

To sit in a section where the seats don't recline! People who recline their seats bother me MUCH more than anything else.

Guess I'm in denial...I don't want to pay for either! I'd like the airlines to enforce the carry on size and allow one checked bag. That seems reasonable for the average vacation. Maybe business travelers should pay for checked bags -- if they are traveling for more days than can fit in a carry-on...at least they get the business deduction. If we pay fees, does this mean airlines will be more liable for lost/damaged baggage? I wonder what would happen if I wore my week's worth of clothes to board the plane and then put it in a folded nylon bag that I had in a pocket? Can an airline deny boarding for someone who smells? Maybe I'll just wear the one set of clothes for a week.....

I understand that some people bring too much stuff on the airplane, but how on earth would you enforce payments for carry-ons without making the whole process much lengthier for everyone? These days, if you only have carry ons you can print your boarding pass and go straight through security and to the gate, Now everyone would have to have their carry ons counted and paid for. It is un-doable. I agree that some people carry on way more than they should, but the airlines just need to enforce their limits and make people gate check stuff if they brought over-sized bags to the boarding area. I am an experienced traveler and now only do carry-on luggage. I pack very efficiently and am a lot speedier than most stowing my stuff and getting in my seat. I have one small rolling bag that goes in the overboard and a small backpack that I put at my feet. My entire family of four travelled for 2 1/2 weeks through Europe this summer and we never checked a single bag. It saved us many, many hours at various airports and also allowed us to avoid missing a flight (there was insanity at the luggage check in at Milan airport). When we got back to JFK, we breezed out through customs in about 10 minutes, while the bags hadn't even started to arrive for those with checked luggage. The people who really slow things down on airplanes are inexperienced travelers and people who are breaking the already existing rules on carry ons.

Please, since older folks tend to run a higher risk of circulatory problems, have your 85-year-old mom get up and stretch her legs at least once an hour. Actually, all flyers should do this. (Remember young, seemingly healthy NBC correspondent David Bloom, who died of a DVT following a flight to Baghdad several years ago).

Exactly my thinking.

I'd also like to see some sort of standardized carry on size!

Is it fair to say that all of the rest of the airlines are eagerly watching how Spirit makes out with this new fee? Since we can't trust the airlines not to break, steal, or lose important or valuable items there are certain things that we simply must carry on. So they know we are stuck. Introducing these new fees seems terribly unfair. Although usually since I pick an aisle seat I end up in the last "zone" to board anyway so the chances of actually getting any overhead bin space are minimal once my fellow passengers fill them up before I even get on the plane.

We should watch what we wish for! everyone seems to agree carry-ons should be charged, but we need to be clear: in this case, CHECKED NEEDS TO BE FREE! We don't want all of the airlines going the way of Spirit. I'm with the other poster, too, who said just make the ticket price cover it. Stop nickle-and-diming me. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I hate that we get nickel-and-dimed with all these inane fees at all. Airlines as a whole should just raise the overall ticket prices a few bucks. Yes, some of us who only bring a loosely packed backpack will subsidize others' full use of their baggage allowance, but a few dollars a flight shouldn't be that big a deal. However, because it seems like we're stuck with them, I think the TSA should enforce carry-on bag size limits. Every passenger has to be there, so everyone will have the same treatment. And if someone's got ridiculous carry-ons, they can go back to the ticket desks to check their bags. For what it's worth, I fly far less frequently now than I did before baggage fees. And I will never fly Spirit.

New Haven, CT! Pizza, scenic campus, what more could you want.

...if it meant that airlines actually: a) stopped people who attempted to carry on bags that are too big before they got on the plane; b) stopped people from carrying on three (or more) bags; and/or c) prevented people who are sitting in the back from putting their carry-ons in the front of the plane, blocking the space for people who are actually sitting there. These are the things that make me - a frequent traveler who has bags that actually fit in the official "check your bag" station - absolutely annoyed about the baggage fees. Because people violate all those rules but no airline keeps people from breaking them. What's the point in having them then?

Isn't there a way to arrange to go through security and wait at the gate with the child? I know you usually need a ticket, but this would negate the need for an airport babysitter.

City Island--I was just talking about it with a friend at lunch today--is charming and interesting, just north of the city off I 95. Highly recommended by me. A nice B&B called Le Refuge (if it's still open) with a nice restaurant, but other choices too.

On a trip to Puerto Rico in February a few years ago, I had checked a favorite purple hard-sided rolling bag. After 6 hours of delays due to ice storms we finally arrived to find my suitcase with a fist-sized hole cracked into the top. United at the PR airport initially refused to take it to be repaired, but after I insisted - knowing if I tried to do it when I got back to DC they would say it was checked that way - they took it. Long story short, 4 months and 32 calls (I kept track!) to customer service later, they admitted they had lost the bag. They ended up sending me a new much more expensive hard-sided bag, and a voucher for $250 - which I promptly used on to go back to PR, with just a carry on of course.

Love it!

In October 2006 we flew to Europe and back. The liquids rules were new and everyone was jumpy about them. We were allowed very little on board...except what we bought after security and our handbags. Not worrying about our stuff was wonderful. It was a bigger than usual luggage trip, too, because we needed black tie for an event.

Yes, having your luggage with you can be such a hassle!

I've done this before - domestic connecting to an international - and the airline is going to treat this as an international flight, meaning you have to get there in the time guideline for international, not domestic. Just what someone who likes to cut things close doesn't want to hear. And as someone who generally arrives at the airport early or at worst, on time, I resent that latecomers get to cut in line sometimes at checkin and/or security because their flight is about to depart. Very self-centered on the part of the late arriver.

Depending on the route you take from DC, don't forget about the beautiful Berkshires and all that Western Massachusetts has to offer. You would probably take the Tapanzee bridge and go north on I-84 to I-91 north to catch Western Mass. Trip can be much faster to Boston and less stressful than I-95 thru NYC and beyond.

The only baggage fee I have ever paid was on Air Asia - they have a 16 kilo limit for free, then they charge by the kilo. I think I was over the limit because some beach clothes were still damp - would have been much lighter dry, and I also packed my winter coat away; lugging it through the tropics so I could wear it upon my return for the hour from O'Hare to my house in January. That gave me the idea that airlines could charge just for bringing STUPID stuff on board - Giant sombreros $30! Portable TV - $50! Entire case of disposable diapers $45! Enormous Japanese fan $40! Ugly framed painting $30! If you can buy it at Walmart or Pier 1, you don't need to bring it on board.

As the airlines find ways to nickel or dime us, or, more appropriately, five dollar or ten dollar us, I wonder if there will be a time when the industry will ever step aside and re-evalute what they are doing. All together, all these small headaches, thrown in with all the added security measures, are making air travel less attractive. Might there be a time when it would sense for the airline industry to actually make air travel less complicated and allow travelers to feel less "ripped off" by the many incidental charges? When they do, perhaps more people will then fly.

In your opinion what are the best sites for deals? Airlines used to send e-mails and not al of them do. I have my own business, can go on a whim but find myself spending time looking for good deals. Sometimes i just want to get out of town, there has to be a solution, no? I'm looking for all deals out of Washington for example.

Two  sites I like are Airfarewatchdog and Independent Traveler.

Simple. I got on, put my bag and jacket in the overhead. Guy got on late. He started dragging everyone's stuff out of the bins, cramming stuff back in, shoving it around. I objected. He told me that he was tired of everyone treating the bins as their personal closet space. Scuse me? You're the one throwing my jacket on the floor. Sounds like he thought it was his closet to me.

Certainly does!

.. Just another couple reasons why I LOVE Southwest. When I changed a return flight to a different one that was cheaper, I not only did it for free... I got the difference credited back to me for future use!

I live in a smaller city, we only have small airplanes that hop us to the larger markets, twice since the checked bag fee went into effect I have had to sit on the ground while the Flight Crew begged and pleaded for bags because the weight of the plane was so unabalanced we couldn't take off... 30 minutes later we were able to finally take off.

I don't think airline/airport officials wanted to fight with the people who complained that their bag was small enough to fit into the bins or under a seat, and tell someone that, despite their best efforts, they'd have to check a bag (maybe with breakable items) and pay more. They figure those who play by the rules will suffer in silence. And we all know people who brag that they never check bags. Planes simply are not designed to take the number and size of carry-on bags now being used.

Regarding the idea someone suggested to pay by the pound for your checked luggage...not bad....but I can see an airline executive some up with the bright idea to extend that idea to passengers.... One thing, though I'd love put into effect is that if your bags don't arrive when you do, since now you're wasting time filling out the requisite paperwork at the airline's baggage claim office, is for the airline to also reimburse you for the fee you paid for them to carry your luggage!

If you do go to Chimayo, the Ristorante de Chimayo is worth the trip from the east coast; the flan alone is worth that trip. Tons of things to see and do in and around Santa Fe; O'Keefe Museum, St Francis Cathedral and Basilica; Palace of the Governors museum; many restaurants; Bandalier National Monument; and on and on. Albuquerque has the wonderful hot-air ballon festival in October and during that time it's almost impossible to get a hotel room; it's worth seeing. Do get a book about NM and do some reading before you go.

I think you and the chatters are missing the point. The main cost to an airline is fuel and the main driver on how much fuel a plane uses is weight. Airlines should be charging you for weight brought on board the plane no matter WHERE it is. The idea that a 50lb bag put below the plane might cost $50 but it's free if I carry it on is ABSURD. I say, charge everyone for every bag they bring on board.

I've taken two trips this summer and on both occasions I've seen some very close calls with seated passengers almost getting whacked in the head with oversized carry on luggage as the owner either tries to wrangle it up into the compartment or bring it down after landing. Given the possibility of injury (and lawsuits) I'm surprised that the airlines don't make a bigger deal about that -- it's not just about space, it's safety as well.

One thing that has bothered me about the checked bag fees is that they result in much more luggage that should be checked-in to the hold of the plane instead being carried-on. This means more time with scanning/inspecting luggage in the security lines.

I like this one - it's bright, it breaks down into two pieces, and it doubles as a keyboard light.

I don't like them, but costs of airline tix have gone up slower than many other things. A lot slower than gasoline, for example. And airlines are losing money. For everyone who says they'd pay a higher fare to have everything included, there is another who says they don't want to pay for what they don't use.

Try the Hotel Montleone. Rooftop pool, one block from Bourbon. Also...Congress - please re-regulate the airline industry. Call it what it is...public transit.

If the poster is flying DCA to CUN via Miami it is actually a code share ticket - you will be flying on an AA flight, not one operated by Mexicana. Not sure how that will affect you if they go out of business.

Not sure what route the chatter was flying. I'm guessing American would honor the ticket.

I love my Mighty Bright! It's lightweight, with a flexible gooseneck, and has two LEDs to provide two levels of light.

To the person heading to northern France...if you are able to head more west (Normandy is actually not considered northern France by French people, btw, as I learned while living there)...I would hit Trouville-Deauville...described by some as the Monte Carlo on the English Channel.

I would recommend Edgewater Condos in Va Beach, www.edgewatervb.com; or Sandpiper Beach club in Cape May, NJ; or Seapointe Village in Wildwood, NJ. All three are in good spots and shoudl have some last minute availability.

Everyone complains about the fees, and I'll admit that they're not ideal. But everyone also knows that every airline (save for Southwest) charges for a checked bag. If airlines had charged all along, no one would care. However, everyone's getting upset that the airlines are being creative in making more money while those same people demand $200 transcontinental tickets. Everyone needs to lighten up and mentally build in the cost of checked bags into your vacation.

I've made that flight three times in the past 5 years and each time I've done a lot of research on airlines beforehand. And each time, I have wound up going on British Airways. I know they have one flight from BWI each day and I imagine there are several from Dulles. If going from Dulles, I would also consider Virgin Atlantic. Air Canada gets very poor reviews for transatlantic service on a number of travel web sites, and I've never been a big fan of US Air.

I've made the trip more than a few times in recent years, and I'm with you. I like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. I'm a big fan of premium economy seating on Virgin Atlantic - costs more, but when there is a sale, it can still be a good deal.

'I'm with your husband -- I'd be tempted to not tell the airline next time. Your boy could surely make it fine from the gate to baggage or wherever the grandparents would meet him, I bet." I think it's ironic that you would offer this terrible advice in a column full of people kvetchin about others not following the rules. UMs, you may recall, are signed into airline custody and out to the authorized picker-upper....can you imagine that there are some people in this world who might say to the child "your grandparents sent me, come with me and I'll take you to them"? Plus kis thru 14 are Required by Delta to fly as UMs, you think DL won't ask for proof of age? and if they should have to make emergency landing somewhere, no UM=the kid will not be in "the system" so that airline would know about and look after him/her? oh, and btw the term is "unbundling", where people pay for core service/product and extra $ for enhancements. If I just want a burger, I don't want to pay for someone else's fries, and if I"m just carrying on, I don"t want to subsidize your checked bag. Airlines should have done this years ago

Unless your son looks much older than his age, good luck trying to get him on the plane without a fee. My son flew back and forth between DCA and Hartford all the time (non stop flight) on US Air and up until he was 15 years old was cornered every time by the gate people. He is tall for his age but but only when he turned 15 (you're supposed to pay the fee until they are 16 on US Air) were we able to get him on the plane without any hassle and paying the fee.

This past March we flew Airtran to Florida. We used a roller duffel that we have flown with numerous times. We fully expected to pay to check it, however, we were not prepared to pay an additional fee ($65 each way) because they considered it "oversized." Yes, they actually pulled out a tape measure to measure the length, width and height to determine it was an inch to big, yes $65 for 1 inch! I have never seen this done before. Oh and on the way back they had a note in their system so nothing would get by them and they were sure to charges us again. Are other airlines doing this too? Since this incident we have vowed to never again fly Airtran. For the cost of this one piece of luggage we could have flown a much better airline or upgraded. It would have been cheaper for me to have bought my bag its own seat!

Yes, they are. Airlines see these fees as their route to profitability, and ticket agents are rewarded for the number of fees they collect. I've seen the memos. Study up on your airline's luggage requirements before you fly, and when it doubt, pack less. 

In September, I fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle and arrive at 7 a.m. I then take a TGV to Le Mans (meeting friends there), but there isn't a train until 3 p.m. Any suggestions as to how to cope with those hours in limbo? I really don't want to leave the airport, as that is where I take the train. I know I'll be pretty tired. Thanks.

I'd get a few spa treatments to while away the morning -- massage, facial, mani-pedi -- at this place, which has locations in several CDG terminals. You could practically sleep through them. Then it'd be time for lunch, which you could drag out in true Parisian style with a glass or two of wine; followed by a little shopping. Boom. Done.

 

We are interested in a chocolate tour in DC, what can you tell me about them. We are on a budget so not too pricey I hope. Thanks

Hmm: What I can tell you is that I didn't even know there was such a thing, at least not regular and organized. Although I could be wrong. I do see that this group is promising to start such a tour.

If I were arranging such a tour, I'd make sure Biagio Chocolate were on the tour and also CoCo Sala, ACKC, Chocolate Chocolate, maybe Truffles of Georgetown. Probably more, but those just off the top of my head.

The Diamond Lane at Dulles used to be for experienced travelers only. Now it seems as though all of the airlines are specifically taking their special needs passengers (passengers in wheelchairs, crutches, etc.) to that line. Is it no longer a Black Diamond lane?

The problem with the TSA's ski-slope designations is that there's often no one around to enforce who is in the lanes. It's actually kind of hard to know who belongs where. I know a lot of families with kids who can zip through the diamond line, and I've seen plenty of well-dressed tourists who should probably go in the slow line. But to your point: The lanes have lost their effectiveness. They probably weren't that effective in the first place. Sorry, TSA.

What regulations determine how airlines communicate flight delays? I have been flying on Easyjet quite a bit this summer and nearly all of my flights have been delayed, but the delays are announced at the last minute and in 15-20 minute increments. Last week my flight from Madrid to London was delayed by 4 hours and it was incredibly frustrating. Clearly, the plane was nowhere near Madrid the first 2-3 times they announced the delays. Same story again this weekend coming back to London. There have been ads saying that Air Zimbabwe has a better on time record than Easyjet and it makes me wonder if they manage the delays this way to improve their stats.

That would be EU 261, but unfortunately, it's kind of vague. Paragraph 20 reads, "Passengers should be fully informed of their rights in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, so that they can effectively exercise their rights." 

So what does "fully informed" mean? I think your airline might have a different definition that you would.

Travel Gurus, Our family (2 sons 28 & 22; husband) is going to Va Beach for the first time tomorrow. We like mini-golf, nice beaches, unpretentious seafood restaurants, and are not fans of honky-tonk --or at least the parents aren't. Any suggestions of places to eat or go? Thanks!

Here's a recent story Becky did on Virginia Beach that offers some suggestions (be sure to click on the accommodations link, too). And I'm sure the chatters can offer more!

How reliable are they as a carrier? They have the cheapest fares to Aruba but I'm concerned about reliability, say vs. United.

Forgot about Spirit. Fare is still more than $400 with connection in Florida, and they fly only on Saturdays.  And they are also charging for both checked and carry-on bags, so make sure you price all that out.

After spending my first week of vacation this year packing and moving, I'm in desperate need of a real vacation. At the same time, though, I need to keep costs down. I've got a week off scheduled for the third week of October and was thinking about hitting up Boston. I know there's lots of stuff for me to do (I love American Revolutionary War history and old houses!) but I'm not so sure about my husband, who's more into relaxing on beaches and doing physical stuff outside, like going on hikes and stuff. I know we could tour a few breweries, which he's also into, but what else is there for an active guy in his 20s? Also, could we find a hotel room for less than $75 a night? Mind you, I'm not asking for the Hilton. I'm OK with the el cheapo hotels, but I also don't want to have to stay an hour away from everything. What about the weather? I don't want to have to bring my coat with me. A jacket is fine, but if my nose starts running because it's so cold outside, no thank you! Thanks for any help, and any other suggestions about what to do in the Boston area!

Don't have much time here, but for your most crucial question, a hotel for less than $75 a night? Yikes! OK, I'm calming down now. Look at the Midtown Hotel; they're pretty cheap -- maybe not that cheap, but you might get close. Or maybe a hostel! There's plenty to keep you busy in Boston...

Joe I want to say I applaud you and hope you never miss a flight. All those people who commented that they hope you learn your lesson need to stay self satisfied with their early arrival. I also do not like waiting around at the airport and think is ridiculous to arrive at the airport 2 hours early so I can waste money buying overpriced snacks. I prefer to arrive right before boarding. I always carry on with the appropriate size bag so no I DO NOT want to pay extra because some people do not know how to use a carry on. Furthermore if someone wants to arrive that early and they are travelling with me then we can arrive separately.

...getting a day pass for an airline's VIP club? You might find your pre-boarding time at the airport less stressful when you are provided with comfy chairs, a quiet atmosphere, reading material, and club/gate agents who aren't dealing with the cattle call. (You can even ask the club agents to fill you in on when your flight is starting to board.) The provided snacks, drinks and WiFi can occasionally offset the cost....

And. . . th-th-that's all, folks! Thanks so much for flying with us today -- and for not holding back on your feelings about the baggage fees! Whew! If only the airlines realized how hot under the collar they make us. . . And would the person whose bag got damaged on a flight to PR send me your contact info at smardzz@washpost.com? When I get it, you'll get your prize. Have a great week, everybody, and stay cool!

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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.
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