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January 14, 2013

2:02
P.M.

Talk about Travel

Total Responses: 89

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Joe Yonan

Joe Yonan

Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Host: Zofia Smardz

Zofia Smardz

Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Host: Andrea Sachs

Andrea Sachs

Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Host: Becky Krystal

Becky Krystal

Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Host: Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column, clearing the way through the fog of consumer travel issues. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.

About the topic

Please note that Talk about Travel has now moved to 2 p.m. Mondays.
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.
Q.

Andrea Sachs :

Hello and welcome back to the best hour of the day, if not the week.

For those of you plotting trips for 2013, we are here to help with the plans. For those you still dreaming, we will push you closer to reality.

For today's question: Fess up and 1. admit that you are skipping town for inauguration and 2. tell us where you are escaping to. We half-promise not to follow you there.

Q.

Another weekend destination!

I've been saying I was going to do this - but then wondering if I really wanted to tell everyone about this sweet little town. But for those looking for a not-very-commercial and fun getaway, I have a suggestion (also good for those who like me prefer freshwater to saltwater). For a long weekend or a week's vacation: try Clarksville, in southern Virginia. Clarksville is the only town on that huge freshwater lake (Buggs Island Lake to a Virginian, Lake Kerr to a North Carolinian) at the southern edge of the state. Great state parks, with very nice cabins or camping, local home rentals, and all sorts of water recreation (and boat rentals, too). Fun small town, with usual smalltown shopping, museum, and a great B&B with restaurant, and only 2 stop lights. And about 30 minutes away in South Boston and Halifax are a couple of restaurants that will blow your mind (Bistro 1888 and Molasses Grill). Lakefest is a blowout in the third weekend of July, but it's just as much fun any other time. And the last time I left the Triangle, VA area, I was in Clarksville in 3 hours. I95 to I85 to 4-lane US58. Easy! Disclaimer: I'm a Richmonder who grew up going to Buggs Island and am now happy to be a resident of the area. And lots of other folks who check out the lake do end up here.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks for the reminder! I went to a family reunion in Clarksville some years ago, and it's been on my Escapes list ever since-- just have to get around to going back!

– January 14, 2013 2:02 PM
Q.

Last minute deal tips?

Hi, my husband and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. We have an offer from one of the grandmothers to stay with our 3 kids for a few days so we can have a little time away and we are trying to figure out what we should do. Finances are such that a return trip to our honeymoon spot of Nevis is not in the cards (maybe for the 25th!). So we were thinking about just choosing a time, scheduling the Nana, and seeing what great deal we could find at the last minute and just go where we can find. We could do something from a nice B&B in decent driving distance to hopping a plane to Rekyavik. Our anniversary is in late February, but we are open to going at a time when we can get a really good deal on something. Any suggestions on where we might be able to find a great winter deal, or websites we should monitor, or even nearby places that might be a nice place to spend a few days away from the kids? Thanks for your help!
A.
Becky Krystal :

You're not going to make this easy for us, are you? If only you weren't game for so much!

The Icelandair packages to Reykjavik can be a bargain, and winter would be a good time to go so you can see the Northern Lights. Airfarewatchdog is good for looking at flight deals. Of course, be sure you read our weekly What's the Deal column! If you want to drive somewhere and splurge on a luxurious stay, consider the Inn at Willow Grove, the Greenbrier, Keswick Hall or the Homestead.

– January 14, 2013 2:02 PM
Q.

Experiences with the Napa Card?

Have you or any other chatters ever purchased the Napa Card? Is the access it provides worth the expense? I'm in the very early stages of planning a two or three day trip to Sonoma/Napa in October and am not familiar with which wineries are on the do-not-miss list, but it's on sale with Travelzoo right now and would like to jump on it if it's a good deal. Thanks!

A.
Becky Krystal :

Chatters?

– January 14, 2013 2:03 PM
Q.

"Blurred" full body scan?

During a recent commercial flight, we passed through security at Milwaukee airport. Full body scanner in use. I went through, followed by my 17-year-old son. My 20-year-old daughter told me later that when she went through, the agent performed the scan twice, saying he "blurred" the first one. She had not moved or done anything during the first scan. I've filed a complaint on the TSA website--and had I witnessed this firsthand I would've questioned the agent. We know we're able to opt out, and she normally does this. She certainly will in the future. Have Christopher and the other travel writers heard that an image can be "blurred"? It just seemed too coincidental that a young lady would have to be scanned twice when no such scan was necessary for a middle-aged woman and a teen-aged male.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

TSA doesn't say much about how it handles the images from full-body scans, although one former agent is raising eyebrows with his account of working inside the room in which the scans are viewed. Based on that story, I would not be surprised if someone wanted to take another look at your daughter. 

– January 14, 2013 2:03 PM
Q.

Germany tip

After spending all of my vacation time in Asia for the last several years I have decided to go to Germany for a couple of weeks this summer. First time in Europe in several years. I am very excited about it. Business class frequent flier ticket for $150 in taxes (sorry Chris). I think I enjoy the planning process almost as much as taking the trip itself. One tip I have is that the city tourism office websites often times have good package deals available. I will be staying 3 nights for the price of 2 at the Sofitel in Hamburg for example. Of course you have to check for other possible specials directly with the hotel and other channels to compare. But in this case it is a very good deal and includes breakfast and all taxes plus the Hamburg Card is thrown into it as well. The only catch is that it is prepaid at the time of booking. So, just a plug to check out those offices while you are doing your planning. In the rest of my planning it seems that these prepaid rates with big discounts are all the rage in the hotel world these days. Are they using that as a hedge against speculative bookers?
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Oh, no worries. If I could fly in business class for $150, I would jump at the chance, too. Hamburg is a great town (I used to live there in the 90s). It's possible they are trying to safeguard against speculative bookers, but then again, I don't know of any travel business that doesn't want your money sooner, as opposed to later. I would speculate that the hotel also has some significant restrictions on refunds. I'm seeing a lot more of that. Enjoy your trip!

– January 14, 2013 2:10 PM
Q.

Help with Winter Travel

Hello, I'm a regular reader of this Q&A and the Travel section of the Post, but I'm feeling a bit paralyzed at the moment. I'd like to take a week-long winter vacation to someplace warm. I'm an early 40s woman travelling alone, so I don't want it to be too spring-breaky, and it needs to be someplace safe. I'd like someplace with a non-stop flight from any of the 3 DC-area airports. I really don't want Florida, so I'm thinking Caribbean, but there are so many choices. I want some combination of being able to lie around on the beach, do some interesting culteral tings, and eat good meals, preferably without having to rent a car. Is such a vacation possible? Thanks for thoughts from you and from the other readers.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Most Caribbean islands require a connection. If, however, you are willing to transfer, I would recommend Barbados, which has a good mix of beaches and culture. I am also a big fan of Grenada; the island smells like a spice shop.

For nonstops, you can fly to the Bahamas or Jamaica. Montego Bay has some lovely properties that aren't spring breaky. For both destinations,  avoid mainstream all-inclusives and look for more exclusive guesthouses.

– January 14, 2013 2:10 PM
Q.

Sweden

Any advice for first-timers to Stockholm? Visiting in June - in time for the summer solstice.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Have a look at our Sweden archive, in addition to our more recent stories on Fjallbacka (if you're up for a side trip) and planning a detective-themed journey. Skansen, the open-air museum, seems like a must, as does exploring the archipelago. Other Stockholm tips?

– January 14, 2013 2:14 PM
Q.

Zofia - "The Shimmer"

Not a question, but a comment. I just finished reading "The Shimmer", by David Morrell, and I thought it was really cool that the book was inspired by an article about the mysterious lights in Marfa, TX, written by Zofia Smardz of The Washington Post. Awesome!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Wow! I did not know that my story had inspired a book. I'm awed, and that's awesome! That was one of my favorite stories, ever. Thanks for sharing. Made my day. :-)

– January 14, 2013 2:14 PM
Q.

One Day in Tokyo

Hello, I have an 11 hour layover in Tokyo. I'm interested in seeing the oldest architecture in the city. I'll be there next week so it will be cold. Which areas have old architecture of interest? I figure I have time to visit 1-2 areas.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Because of your limited time, you might want to go to the experts for advice or even a tour.  You don't want to accidently see the second-oldest architecture. For example, you might want to hit up Japan Architecture Tours for some ideas. The Japan National Tourism Organization has a brochure of contemporary architecture, but I would give them a shout to see if they have any advice on older areas.  For walking tours that include some architectural site, the tourism office created this guide.

– January 14, 2013 2:17 PM
Q.

Cancun

I will be travelling to Cancun shortly and would like to take a tour to Chichen Itza and possibly Tulum. However, the one time I took a tour (from a cruise ship) in that area, I wound up on a bus where the tour guide encouraged "enthusiasm" (he had everyone yell cheerful Spanish-language phrases until the volume satisfied him) and told corny jokes for nearly two hours, but did not have very much information to impart. This just wasn't my style at all. Do you have any suggestions for finding a low-key, fact-based tour, both in general and for Chichen Itza specifically?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Viator offers private tours from Cancun to Chichen Itza starting at $87 per person. 

– January 14, 2013 2:17 PM
Q.

President Weekend Getaways

I just realized I have a Monday meeting at the same time as your chat so I'm submitting way in advance. :) 2 friends and myself would like to go somewhere within driving distance of the DC area (we are fine with driving up to 4, maximum 5 hours). However since it's February we're not sure what places might be interesting. We want something where there are different things to do in the daytime. Nightlife is optional. Thanks so much!
A.
Becky Krystal :

So many options. Here's one idea: Gettysburg. My husband and I did that one Presidents' Day and really enjoyed it. Winter is a good time to go -- smaller crowds, and the thin foliage makes it great for being able to see the lay of the land so you can understand the battle. You can also visit a number of wineries in the area.

And since it will be February, have you considered going to a ski resort? Check out our regional map. I'm partial to the Homestead for its elegance and Snowshoe for its many activities and excellent slopes.

– January 14, 2013 2:18 PM
Q.

Early March Vacation

Looking to take a vacation, early March, has to be in the continental US. Boyfriend and I would like to go somewhere warm with great beaches, nothing too expensive. Where in Florida or anywhere else can you recommend?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I really love the islands off  Florida's Gulf Coast. The sand is sugar white and the vibe is very Old Florida. You can find cheap accommodations during slower times. Take a peek at the offerings on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Here is my article on the islands.

Another option:  St. Petersburg, which is just across the bridge from Tampa, so you can hop between the two destinations. I see flights on Delta for less than $200 -- a steal. 

– January 14, 2013 2:20 PM
Q.

24 hours in Istanbul (X2)

Hi there. We have layovers in Istanbul on our way to and from our end destination. Each layover is just short of 24 hours. I don't believe we'll be eligible for the Turkish Airlines deal where they give you a hotel room or city tour for layovers of 10+ hours because we're not on the 1st flight to our final destination (I e-mailed the airline to confirm either way, and haven't received a response yet). Anyway, we're a bit worried about how to handle this, especially because we'll have a 3 year-old with us, and we may not know until we get to the airport whether they're going to put us up, or if we'll be on our own. What would you recommend? Also, do you know how hard it is to get to and from the airport to some of Istanbul's sights, and how long check-ins, customs, etc. take at the airport? Thanks!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

That is an answer you definitely need to know before you continue your planning, especially if you have a little one on your arm. Call the airline at 800-874-8875; don't wait around for a return e-mail. 

Unfortunately, I have not yet been to Istanbul, so I can't answer the second half of the query.

Chatters???

– January 14, 2013 2:22 PM
Q.

Question about travel to Santorini

My husband and I are attending a family wedding in Santorini in Sept. We want to make the most of this trip to this amazing area, we will be spending 8 to 10 days.We are flying into Athens and taking a tour other than that we are open to suggestions. Cruise, maybe? Thanks for any ideas.
A.
Joe Yonan :

The only cruise I've ever taken was an amazing trip on the Star Clippers line, a 175-passenger cruise from Istanbul to Athens, through the Greek and Turkish islands. They do it in reverse, too, of course. I doubt that the timing on this particular one would work here, because I see only a 7-day cruise, and the last sailing this year is Aug. 31. Windstar has more options, so that might be worth checking out, but I still see a week for that Athens-to-Istanbul itinerary.

A better idea might be a short cruise: Check out this one, which  leaves from Santorini and takes in a volcano and hot springs. That seems ideal. Also, you could spend lots of time just luxuriating on Santorini, with little trips here and there to some of the other islands in the Cyclades.

 

– January 14, 2013 2:22 PM
Q.

Trinidad at non-Carnival time

I'm going to Trinidad this weekend, staying at the Hilton in Port of Spain. I didn't realize before I booked the trip that Trinidad is not really a tourist destination, and the beaches aren't that great. Any suggestions for things to do, other than going over to Tobago, where the beaches are nicer? Particularly, what to do in the evening, other than drinking/dancing?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Who says Trinidad's not a tourist destination? The European Council on Tourism and Trade named double-island Trinidad and Tobago the World's Best Tourist Destnation last year, and I doubt they were focusing only on Tobago. Check out this short piece we had on Trinidad and Tobago in our Caribbean issue last year; the Asa Wright Nature Center sounds interesting, if you're into birding and wildlife. Sounds as though Trinidad's the place for hiking and history, but there are definitely beaches there as well, particularly on the North Coast. Unfortunately, you'll be there too early for Carnival -- the country has one of the most famous in the world. In the evening, there are some good clubs in Port of Spain, but since you're not into drinking and dancing, and if you're traveling alone,  I'd stick close to the hotel. Parts of the city can be very unsafe. 

Chatters, other recommendations for this traveler?

– January 14, 2013 2:25 PM
Q.

Greek Island Hopping

I am planning my honeymoon to Greece and we would like to Island hop for about 4 days starting and ending in Athens. Are there specific islands you or the chatters can recommend (we were hoping to get to at least 3) Neither of us have been to Greece and we are fairly well traveled. We are more into culture, history, and food than sitting on the beach. Less expensive and less touristy places are preferable.
A.
Becky Krystal :

To start, here's the "The Great Greek Island Finder" from Conde Nast Traveler. Also check out our relatively recent Greece story. Favorite islands, folks?

– January 14, 2013 2:25 PM
Q.

family cruise

Trying to plan a cruise for myself, husband and 3 of his siblings and their families (kids ranging from 2 - 16). Short (3-5 days) leaving from a port in Florida around the July 4th week. Cost is an important factor since all of the couples (except us) have anywhere from 2 - 4 kids each. Because of that, they have suggested Carnival - but I have heard some bad things about that line. Would love to hear your thoughts (and other chatters) on Carnival in general as well as options for other lines and suggestions for itineraries. Thanks!
A.
Christopher Elliott :

My family of five has cruised on Disney and NCL, and both were great experiences. Carnival has a reputation as more of a budget cruise line and is not really known for family travel, but I wouldn't write it off. I think a lot depends on what you expect from the cruise and where your family's interests lie.

– January 14, 2013 2:31 PM
Q.

Brazil

My brother is leaving next month for a two week trip all over Brazil. When I asked him for a copy of his itinerary, he scoffed, asking why I needed it. No amount of convincing has resulted in him giving in. I'd like it for safety reasons in case we need to get in touch with him for emergency reasons, or worse. Can you give me some help in providing reasoning behind asking for his itinerary? Thanks!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

You are absolutely right to want his itinerary for safety reasons.  Someone on the Mother Ship (or in this case the Sibling Ship) should have a copy of  his whereabouts. If anything happens -- illness, theft, worse -- you will know where to send help. 

I would push the "love you, man," strategy more, but if he resists,  tell him that if a reservation falls through, you can play travel agent and help rebook. If desperate, throw out crime stats. At the very least, encourage him to register his trip with the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Maybe he will share with Uncle Sam.

– January 14, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

First time cruising

My wife and I are thinking about cruise later this year, our first one. What are some good resources to look at to understand the basics. We're late 50s but very active.
A.
Carol Sottili :

I like the Cruise Critic Web site, although it has so much information, it can be a bit overwhelming. Most cruise lines offer excursions that appeal to active, outdoorsy types. Bigger issues include deciding on ship size, budget, itinerary. 

– January 14, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Did they hear the TSA guy correctly?

Not sure I understand the issue with the "blurred" scan. Did they think he meant that she moved during the scan and so the image wasn't useable? From the sounds of it I'd bet what the TSA guy was actually saying was "don't worry about the repeat image -- the images are blurred so we're not pervs and doing this for any untoward reason." But maybe I'm just naive.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Maybe you're right. I hope you're right.

– January 14, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Driving cross-country

Looking to drive from D.C. to San Francisco with my son this summer. We will take about a week. What are my choices when it comes to vehicles, if I don't want to take my own? Nothing but rentals or do they still have drive-aways?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Drive-aways do still exist. They're not as common as they were, but they're around. Check out Auto Driveaway. I just talked to their Baltimore office, and they say that they use a combination of hired employees and regular folks to transport cars across country. Right now, for instance, the Philly office is looking for someone to transport a car to California, he said, so you might give them a call. You have to be over 23, with a clean driving record and references, and you put down a deposit. But it would certainly be cheaper than a one-way rental.

– January 14, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Tuscany Hill Towns

We will have 3 days in Siena in April. What nearby towns should we hit? We won't have a car so they have to be accessable by bus.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I'd definitely hit Montepulciano and San Gimignano, if you have time -- Siena itself is gorgeous and you could easily spend three days there. Everything's bus-accessible in Italy.

– January 14, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Glacier National Park

Hi, I am looking for general information about Glacier National Park, including whether early July is a reasonable time to go (primarily interested in day hiking), and also places to stay. Any input on the Swiftcurrent Motel within the park is appreciated. Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

We ran this story on Glacier just a couple of years ago. The author had to wait well into July before she was able to schedule a trip, so it really depends on what the weather there has been like. Parts of the Going to the Sun Road can stay closed well into summer, so keep an eye on this Park Service Web page to keep you updated. Our author recommends Grouse Mountain Lodge and Lake McDonald Lodge. Chatters, can anybody offer input on Swiftcurrent Motel?

– January 14, 2013 2:37 PM
Q.

Iberian ham

Hi travel gurus! A friend was traveling back from Barcelona and was hoping to bring back some Iberian ham. He emailed a friend that he had some in his bag to bring back. However, his wife and he were pulled aside and the agents asked him right away where the ham was. The only way we think they could have known is by the email that he sent, that they were somehow able to see it and flagged it. Is this possible?

A.
Andrea Sachs :

Customs agents are extremely wise to what people try to sneak into the U.S. They are tipped off by answers to questions about the individual's travels, by expressions on faces, by bulges in bags, by produce-sniffing dogs, etc. When I spent the day with the agents, they found luggage filled with African bush meat. They did not need a friend's e-mail to find that stinky, gristly pile of meat.

– January 14, 2013 2:38 PM
Q.

Must See/Do in San Diego

My husband and I along with my brother and sister-in-law will be traveling to San Diego early July to visit an uncle. We will be there for about 5 days. Since none of us have ever been to San Diego, I'd like some advice on must see places to see/things to do during our trip as well any other helpful tips about visiting San Diego. We are all in our early 30s, enjoy art/museums, live music, sports, wine/restaurants, local shopping (farmers markets, etc.) and the beach. Thank you!
A.
Carol Sottili :

With your interests, I think you'll love San Diego. Balboa Park is a must -- interesting museums, gardens and the zoo located there. If the Padres are home, take in a game at Petco Park (they're taking the walls in for the 2013 season, so maybe you'll see a  home run). La Jolla is superb for shopping and strolling. Great farmer's market every Saturday in Little Italy. Cocktails & appetizers beachfront at the Hotel Del.  Biking along the ocean in Mission Beach/Pacific Beach. I could go on and on. Take a look at the city's tourism Web site for other ideas. 

– January 14, 2013 2:38 PM
Q.

summer vacation ideas?

We've been to Disney World 7 of the past 8 summers. The other year we went to Costa Rica. We're looking for a place to go with our 2 girls (9 and 4) this summer that is NOT Disney World. Our requirements are warm (hot is okay), a pool (a great pool is even better), lots of activities (on our short fall breaks we've been to Colonial Williamsburg-which the older daughter loved, Great Wolf Lodge, and Charlottesville-again the older daughter likes history and they both like children's museums), and not too long a flight/drive. Oh, and somewhere where kids are welcome. This is why we keep winding up at Disney World, by the way. We are wondering about San Diego. Or maybe a cruise. Or really we're open to suggestions. Thanks.
A.
Becky Krystal :

If the older daughter likes history, maybe consider flying/driving down to Charleston. Do the city for a few days and then unwind at a beach resort, maybe in Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach or somewhere a bit closer to the city.

A cruise could work too. If you all like Disney, the Mouse, of course, has a cruise line that families love.

– January 14, 2013 2:39 PM
Q.

Istanbul layover

If you're laying over in Istanbul, you will probably need a visa to leave the airport. Visas are available at the airport; there is a desk before you go through customs, and credit cards are accepted. Whether there is a long line is a crapshoot, though. Getting to downtown can take a while. There are a lot of yellow cabs at the airport, but they are very small, and traffic is absolutely horrendous. (This from a former NYC cabbie who wouldn't drive in Istanbul at gunpoint!) Inside the terminal, near the baggage claim area, is a desk offering limo rides into town for about US$15 per person; we used it when we were there in September, and it was terrific. But it took well over an hour to go from IST to the Conrad Hotel. You might want to look into a private tour in a limo or van. We did that for our group of 4 (all adults, though) and were very pleased. Of course, I can't remember the name of the tour operator; I believe it was something like Istanbul Tours. There is a related company called Ephesus Tours (ephesustours.biz), which we used for a tour of Ephesus, also with good results. I will see if I can find the name tonight and e-mail it to the travel staff.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Amazing answers. Thanks much!

– January 14, 2013 2:39 PM
Q.

Stockholm

Plan on a day long walk around the old city - Gamla Stan. The Rick Steves book has a good walking tour. Another day take the boat trip up waterway to Drottningholm Palace or a boat down the waterway towards the sea and gawk at the wonderful waterfront homes. The bus tour is a good way to cover a lot of ground in one go and get an overall tour of the city - it's widespread. Oh, and climb the town hall tower for amazing views. Damn, now I want to go back.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the suggestions.

– January 14, 2013 2:40 PM
Q.

Skipping Town

I am in fact leaving town for inaguration. I had a chance to visit an old friend from college in Seattle for the three day weekend, and I grabbed it. I've never been and the weather is looking pretty good so I think I made the right decision!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I think you did, too.  And you will still be in Washington (drop the D.C.).

– January 14, 2013 2:41 PM
Q.

Inauguration get-away. Not!

I'm off to Playa del Carmen for 2 nights to get away from the Chicago cold. I just realized my return flights are connecting through Dulles on Inauguration evening. Will the revellers be at the balls or the airport between 8:09 pm and 9:57 pm Monday? I have Global Entry and will carry-on only - will I make my connection?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I don't think you'll have any problems. The balls run late on Monday, so I don't think that will be an issue, and people who have come from afar for other things that weekend and are leaving Monday could cause some longer lines at security, I suppose, but you'll already be inside that zone.

– January 14, 2013 2:42 PM
Q.

Paris for the slightly less abled

Do you have any suggestions for ways to see Paris when you can't walk long distances? My mom is joining me on a trip there this spring, but since she's recovering from an ankle injury, lots of walking makes her sad. She can handle stairs, doesn't need a wheelchair or cane or anything, but she moves at a strolling pace and has to stop frequently to rest. I've never been to Paris, but everyone I know who has talks about how they walked and walked and walked the entire time they were there. That's the one thing my mom can't do! I can find information about which buildings are wheelchair-friendly. What I really want, though, is a web site/guide book/set of hints for attractions that are fairly compact, or for walking tours that cover small areas. Any ideas? Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Look at the city tourism page on access for disabled people. I think that will have some useful info for you. Anyone have tips?

– January 14, 2013 2:42 PM
Q.

Inauguration weekend getaway

Happy Monday! We went to inauguration last time around but are considering getting out of Dodge this year, particularly since it falls on MLK weekend. We're just a bit stumped on where to go! Four hours driving max. We had considered cross-country skiing out in WV but the snow forecast looks to be a bust with the warms temps/rain (they don't make snow there). We were also considering somewhere else in the mountains or the Eastern shore or Rehobeth, but weren't really sure what there is to DO at the latter two this time of year or if many restaurants are open. We generally like outdoor activities which are obviously a bit limited this time of year, but being there during the off-season sounds appealing too. We'd consider Colonial Williamsburg but are meeting family there later this spring. Any advice would be appreciated, thanks!

A.
Becky Krystal :

If you like the idea of Colonial Williamsburg, how about Harpers Ferry? Historic area, nice place for outdoors activities, weather-depending. Relatively close to Winchester, Va., which has a pretty old town and world-class exhibitions at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. You could also hit up Antietam in that region.

Eastern Shore/Rehoboth would be fine, I think. Eat, look for historic houses or museums to visit, maybe shop a bit. And relax!

– January 14, 2013 2:42 PM
Q.

Alaska Inside Passage Small Cruise Boats

Late July or August, my family of four wants to cruise inside the Inside Passage. We want to avoid the huge cruise boats and are looking for small boats that can make their way into the sheltered areas for an up close look at (hopefully) animals and glaciers. Since we are all vertically challenged (+6 feet tall), we need adequate cabin space for each family member. If necessary, we could book two cabins. We have looked at the Alaska Marine Highway System, but that option doesn't look very relaxing due to the need to change ferrys frequently and to look for local tours at each stop. We are thinking of a 7-day cruise. We have already toured Anchorage to Fairbanks and back by RV during a 3-week vacation. We all enjoy good food, so that would be a plus for any small cruise boats specializing in quality meals. 

A.
Carol Sottili :

Take a look at Alaska Dream Cruises, American Cruise Lines and Un-Cruise Adventures. Depending on your budget, you may also want to look into a luxury line, such as Silversea

– January 14, 2013 2:42 PM
Q.

TSA and ostomy bags

I have recently developed a need to wear a colostomy bag, have not flown for a while, but will be traveling again in the near future. I have seen what TSA says on their website about external medical devices, but would really like to hear from real people with experience about how this process works in practice. Your Q&A sessions always include useful information, and your audience seems to have an incredible fund of knowledge.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Here's the link to external medical devices on the TSA site. Does anyone have any experiences with TSA they can share?

– January 14, 2013 2:43 PM
Q.

A vacation from travel

Hi Travel crew, I have decided not to travel for leisure this year. My job does not require me to travel, therefore I will likely not be traveling at all this year. The reason for my self-imposed embargo is twofold: one is the expense of tickets, hotel, etc., and the second is the hassle of airline travel in this country. (Alas, to get to another country that may be hassle-free one still must experience the hassle in this country and I need a break from that hassle.) I am fortunate enough to be a single person living in DC and feel that I can enjoy my vacation time without leaving the area. I would be interested to know whether anyone else has taken a break from travel and, if so, how did they feel about it?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Not me. I understand the hassles and the cost, but for me it is worth it. I feel like I'd only be punishing myself by eliminating the possibility of going anywhere. I budget what I can and figure whatever other difficulties I may encounter will be outweighed by the experience. Life is too short to stay put!

– January 14, 2013 2:43 PM
Q.

Cruises, Passports, & Travel Insurance

My husband and are planning on taking a cruise in early November for our 5th wedding anniversary to the Caribbean. We both have passports even though they aren't required for our trip. We plan on going on shore excursions/exploring the area when the ship reaches each port of call. Should we leave our passports in the stateroom safe when we leave the ship so we don't risk losing them? Also we were thinking of purchasing travel insurance to protect ourselves since our cruise would be in the midst of hurricane season. Is it better to purchase this from the cruise line or purchase it from a private company and what is a reasonable amount of coverage for the insurance? Thank you!
A.
Carol Sottili :

I always leave my passport in the safe, but I carry a copy of it and my ship ID card. You may also want to carry another form of photo ID, especially if you want to do some shopping and your credit card does not have your photo on it. The only reason I see for carrying your passport is if you are chronically late and have a decent chance of getting left behind by the ship (and yes, this does happen). Can't answer the question re: how much travel insurance should cost because that depends on price of trip. I'd price it out both through the ship and through a Web site such as InsureMyTrip.  But it likely won't cover you unless flights are canceled. Ships just move out of the way and change ports of call when a hurricane hits. 

– January 14, 2013 2:43 PM
Q.

RE: Tokyo layover

For the person with the 11-hour layover - look carefully at info on getting from airport (I assume Narita) into Tokyo & back. This is more complicated than you might expect & takes a while (an hour-ish one way). Narita is a separate town outside Tokyo and you could be facing two lengthy, expensive train rides with not much time to explore. If you haven't traveled in Japan before, add a language barrier & potential jet lag, and this may be more stress than you want to deal with. Not trying to be negative, I just went to Japan last summer & LOVED it, but I personally feel like the layover excursion is a lot to take on.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks so much for that warning. It's true that Narita is a haul from Tokyo.

– January 14, 2013 2:44 PM
Q.

Escaping Inauguration

We live in Capitol Hill and are excited to be leaving the area for Jackson Hole. Just praying to the snow gods now!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

We will send you some snow prayers as well.

– January 14, 2013 2:45 PM
Q.

For brother in Brazil

Try this: you need to be able to get in touch with him in case of emergency at home. If he has his own place, mention fire, broken water pipes, etc. If you have a family story about not being able to reach someone, bring it up.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Ooh, that's a good ploy.

– January 14, 2013 2:45 PM
Q.

Greek islands

For the honeymooners -- a lot depends on the time of year. I'd say Santorini is an absolute must, but if you go in the summer it will be an anthill. Even in mid-September, we were swamped by what seemed to be about 15,000 tourists off cruise ships, swarming Oia about 5:30 p.m. in anticipation of the sunset. I've heard that Mykonos might be a good one to skip (lots of -- shall we say -- less refined travelers from northern Europe on the cheapest package tours they could find). Aside from that, Crete and Rhodes are both excellent choices. From Rhodes Town you can take a day trip across to Marmaris, Turkey, no visa required.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Thanks for the tips!

– January 14, 2013 2:46 PM
Q.

jEWISH HISTORY NEAR BARCELONA

we will be in Barcelona for 5 days mid february and would like to take a short tour of Jewish heritage sites in the area. Can you give us some suggestions and/or a reputable tour company to contact? Also, do you have a suggestion as to the best part of the city to stay in? Thanks much.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Chatters, help us out here. I see any number of tour companies online offering Jewish heritage tours in Barcelona, but I'm not personally familiar with any of them. Has anyone taken one of these tours? The Eixample neighborhood is popular to stay in, as well as the Old Town or Ciutat Vella. Have a look at this Barcelona story we ran for some ideas.

– January 14, 2013 2:46 PM
Q.

Sorting through train/bus options in England?

First, I loved the article on Quito; I was there a year ago; now I want to go back again! In the meantime, I'm planning an Easter trip to England that will require a point-to-point (not round trip) train/bus connections beginning and ending in Manchester. But the fractured train system with multiple companies and websites makes it very difficult to determine the most efficient and least expensive route. Sources beyond the websites offer conflicting advice. To get to Keswick, for example, the B&B I've reserved recommends the train to Penrith then a bus to Keswick, but a guidebook says to take the train to Windermere, then a bus. Which is best depends, I'm sure, on where you're coming from and where you're headed after. Then the sites are vague on the logistics of ticketing (at least in the intial steps). Do I just get a confirmation number so I can pick up tickets before boarding as I would for Amtrak, or do I have to pray that my printer will work at the moment I book? I've already spent several hours on this (so I know the trip is doable) but the number of possible combinations is overwhelming. Any advice on how to approach this? I might even consider a travel agent, but the agency we use for business travel doesn't do local train reservations. Are there agencies that specialize in this for a reasonable fee?

A.
Carol Sottili :

 If you only have to get to Keswick, cheapest and easiest way is probably to take the TransPennine Express train to Penrith and then the bus from there to Keswick.  I don't know of any travel agencies that specialize in local train reservations. 

– January 14, 2013 2:46 PM
Q.

Frontier Airlines -- looking for feedback

Frontier Airlines is moving to a small airport in NJ. The prices seem good, for flights to Florida, but before I book anything I wanted to know if you have any feedback on the airline. It looks like one drawback is the small number of scheduled flights. Are there any other drawbacks?
A.
Christopher Elliott :

I don't get a lot of complaints about Frontier. But with a small number of scheduled flights, there are obvious risks. If your flight is canceled, the next avaiable flight might be days later. I can't think of any other drawbacks. Chatters, what say you?

– January 14, 2013 2:46 PM
Q.

B'More Cat and Travel Lover

Hello Travel Team! I have two questions for you. I had a great travel year in 2012 (Iceland, Maine, Chicago, Turkey, and Savannah), with the appropriate expenditure level. For 2013, I am looking for a couple of travel ideas for under $1,000 - either domestic or foreign - including airfare and hotel. I'm open to just about anything, but am always up for adding a new state and I haven't been to the Southwest or the Gulf Coast (AL or FL). For my second question, I want to take a cruise to Antarctica in early 2014. When's the best time to book such a trip? Can I wait till the fall and hope for a better deal? This has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I figure I need to go now while I can still get in and out of a zodiac and a kayak, etc. Thank you!
A.
Joe Yonan :

I'll take the first part of your question. Cross the Southwest and the Gulf Coast off your list by booking trips to Austin and New Orleans. You could do a several-day trip to both for under a grand. And they're both amazing.

Wait, did you mean you've been to other parts of the Gulf Coast, but not AL or FL? If that's the case, head to Birmingham or Miami! Boom!

– January 14, 2013 2:47 PM
Q.

Washington, DC

Not directly a travel question, but I'm starting a travel-based business. Any thoughts or tips on how to connect with community-based charities overseas to partner? Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Oh dear, I'm afraid you're in the wrong section. We are Travel, not Business!

I fear I can't help you, but maybe some entrepreneurial chatter can!

– January 14, 2013 2:47 PM
Q.

Escaping the Inauguration in New York

Does it count if I cheat a little bit and watch the swearing-in on tv, perhaps on Fifth Avenue!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

It definitely counts. You get the event without the masses of people (unless they are NYC shoppers).

– January 14, 2013 2:49 PM
Q.

Stockholm things to do

Everything on Gamla Stan, Modern Art Museum, Nobel Museum and Staadt House - where Nobel Dinner & Awards Ceremony is held. City Market for a great lunch, outdoor restaurants everywhere. Take a river trip to summer home of the Royals, walk everywhere. Great time to go in June and we thoroughly enjoyed our 6 days there.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Here you go, Stockholm first-timer.

– January 14, 2013 2:49 PM
Q.

Two days in Ireland

Hi..We'll be in Dublin in early March and have two days (Friday and Saturday) to leave the city..need to be back at the airport by noonish on Sunday. We're willing to rent a car if needed. Where should we go, where should we stay?
A.
Joe Yonan :

How bout the Dingle Peninsula, about a 5-hour drive?

– January 14, 2013 2:49 PM
Q.

Denver what-to-dos?

Hi, my wife may be able to ask to be reassigned to Denver this spring or summer. We're thinking about taking a trip out there once it's consistently warm enough to make the possibility of winter weather canceling the trip unlikely. We will spend part of the 2-3 days we're there driving around some neighborhoods in an attempt to get an idea of what they're like, but we'll also want to see some of Denver's sights. Any suggestions on a few part-day activities to take in during a trip out there?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Talk about a story tailor-made for you. Here's a Going Our Way on Denver we ran the other year for a family that was considering moving there.

– January 14, 2013 2:49 PM
Q.

European travel with kids

We are looking to take our sons (age 9 and 6) on their first trip to Europe this summer for 10 days. We are on a budget (hoping to spend less than $4000 on airfare), are open to Ireland, England, Italy, Spain, France and can travel late June through mid August. Any recommendations for an affordable trip where we can still see a lot of things? We'd prefer to be based in only 1 or 2 cities and then do days trips.
A.
Carol Sottili :

You may have a difficult time getting airfare for four during high season for less than $4,000. A sale could happen, but you'd have to be super flexible about timing. If you can get to New York's JFK, Aer Lingus has round-trip fares for less than $1,000 to Dublin in late June. 

– January 14, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Europe summer airfare

We want to spend about 6 weeks in Europe this summer. Main stops will be Barcelona, Paris, all of Ireland, and possibly London. Where would the best airfares roundtrip to Washington airports be and what should I expect to pay for economy fares? Our dates are flexible as is where we land and start the trip. Suggestions??
A.
Carol Sottili :

Depends on your flexibility. Best nonstop fares will likely be to London, and I'd expect to pay about $1,200-$1,300 round trip. If you're willing to fly to Istanbul (Turkish Airlines) or Reykjavik (Icelandair), you might do better, but you'd have to then pay for connecting flights. You could also price fares out of Philadelphia or Newark/JFK, but again, you have to get there.  

– January 14, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Warm Relaxing 3 Day weekend

I hope you can help me find someone to spend a three day weekend in March or April. I want warm, relaxing, quiet and as much luxury as possible for about $2000 total. Direct flights from DCA or IAD. I am pregnant and we will be leaving our toddler at home. My fantasy is to read a book by a pool while drinking a fruity non-alcoholic drink. Please help!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Do you realize you asked us to help you find "someone," not somewhere? I'm sure that was a Freudian slip! Anyway, now to your question: I'd think about San Juan; you could get a package deal from IAD direct that includes flights and nice hotel from around 2 grand. (I checked Travelocity for packages 3/14-18 and saw a tempting one that includes nonstop flight on United and a stay at the Conrad for right around $1,000 apiece for two people.)

I'm sure chatters will want to weigh in on this, though.

– January 14, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Travel Wizard

I'm looking for ideas where to go and hoping you can help: - Last major trip (we assume) before the baby comes, so looking in the 2nd trimester (February-April) -Places we've traveled and loved: New Zealand (beauty, adventure, once-in-a-lifetime trip), Italy, specifically Florence (was on a cruise so only was there for 3 hours but it was amazing, the history, the food/gelato, the architecture), Chicago (fun, the food, baseball, architecture, parks, tours), Greece (same cruise as above, the history, food, amazing views, history), Portland, OR (culture, food, friendliness, easy of getting around); Hawaii (weather, outdoor activities, first time I had a purple potato!). -Places we've been that didn't impress us: Savannah (It's beautiful, but very slow, relaxing yes, but not our idea of vacation); San Francisco (my husband likes it there, I don't. Dirty, touristy, in my opinion.) - Time - Up to 2 weeks - Budget - TBD Because of the time of year, we're kicking around Central America, and while we like to be active, I'd rather not base the whole trip on that, just since we don't know how I'll be feeling. I'm not opposed to a cruise either. Thanks in advance! I always look learning about new ideas and new places. Keep up the amazing work!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Well, it's not quite Central America, but Quito sounds great, based on our story from this weekend. And sorry for sounding obvious, but how about Paris? At that time of year, prices won't be too terrible.

– January 14, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Seattle in Late March

Spring Break with the kids, 10 and 12. I'm expecting cool and grey and hoping for no major Pacific storms. For indoor activities, I've listed the Living Computer Museum, the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center (though online reviews suggest it needs an upgrade) and doing an overnight to Victoria for the Butchart Gardens (hoping again we don't face a howling gale). Am I nuts?
A.
Becky Krystal :

No, you're not crazy. When I was there in October, the weather was spectacular, but now I know I would have had fun regardless of it! Just pack the proper gear and enjoy yourselves. By the way, we had a bunch of Seattle tips in last week's chat.

– January 14, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

travel to london

I have a great opportunity to visit London for several days and the luxury of flexibility of when I go. What time is the best time to go, especially in terms of tickets. What I've been seeing has been on the higher end and am eager to spend my money on fun when there rather than all on airfare. Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Best, best time for tickets would be off-season, as in winter. Shoulder seasons -- early spring and fall -- are good too. Early March right now has nonstops from Dulles for around $800. If you're itching to go soon, that's not bad!

– January 14, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

"Babymoon" near DC?

Hi! I'm expecting my first baby in late June, which is a bit of a surprise for me and my husband, who are both 41 and recently married. We were saving for a wedding and a house for so long that neither of us took "real" vacations for our first three years together, and due to finances we kept our honeymoon last fall very simple - just 5 days in a mountain cabin, 4 of which were pouring rain. We had planned to take a 2-week vacation to Europe this coming summer, but apparently all that rain on our honeymoon had one upside...it gave us time to conceive! I'm delighted with the surprise pregnancy but find myself a bit sad that our European vacation plans may have to be put off...probably for years. But I still crave some extended time with my new husband away from the pressures of work before the baby comes in June. I have a week off work in late March, which may be too late to fly, plus we need to conserve money for the baby. Could you please suggest some ideas for a "babymoon" that would be within driving distance of DC? We both enjoy biking, though I may be a bit big by March for much extended riding, and I find the beach and swimming relaxing, but it will be too cold around here for beach swims in March. Ideas?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Congrats! I think you'd have some quality away time at a reasonable price in places such as Berkeley Springs, Harpers Ferry, the Eastern Shore, Deep Creek Lake and the Brandywine Valley, to name a few.

– January 14, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Airport security and radiation

I've been meaning to write in about this since Thanksgiving, when I had a long chat with one of the TSA guys ad Logan Airport about the x-ray machines. Many people avoid them out of concern for radiation exposure. The machines at Logan don't use high-frequency x-ray technology...they use non-ionizing radio waves like an MRI. There is much, much less risk to this type of radiation exposure then in the old-style e-ray machines. According to the very helpful and informative TSA agent I spoke with, this new technology has been in place for a while yet people are still very concerned about the risk of radiation exposure. It's much less then you think...certainly much less then you face from a dental or other x-ray. Note this conversation took place before an early morning flight when the airport was not at all crowded...we didn't hold anyone up by talking and I learned a lot. Thank you.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

It's nice to hear about a friendly, helpful TSA agent. I know there are more than a few out there. I always opt out of the machines. I'm still waiting to see the results of a credible independent test of the millimeter wave scanner. If the radiation is negligible, then the TSA and the manufacturer should welcome such a test.

– January 14, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Re Help with Winter Travel

For the early 40s solo traveler -- Unless you really don't want to rent a car, San Diego fits your criteria.
Q.

rainy season in South America

I'm thinking of taking a "grand tour" guided group tour through South America in May or June of this year. The tour will include 2-3 days trip on the Amazon River. Are mid May -June a good time weather-wise to travel in South America? What is the "rainy season" in South America? This will probably be my one trip ever to South America so I want to make it a great one! Thanks.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

The weather varies so much in South America by country and then within the country. For a weather report, you need to specify the country and region.

– January 14, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

must- see in Stockholm

For the visitor to Stockholm - definitely go to the Vasa Museum. It's built around a ship that sank in the harbor in the 1600's, on its maiden voyage. It was raised from the water only in the late 20th century. It's beautifully preserved and the exhibits are wonderful.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Yes, good tip. That's buried in one of those Stockholm articles in our archive.

– January 14, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

Paris - Use the bus

We were in Paris for a few days with a 1 year old and found the buses to be a great way to get around quickly and easily, especially with a stroller, without the stair climbing of the Metro. And, not just in Paris, we used buses quite a bit in Barcelona and Madrid this summer, too.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Good thinking. Public transport is one way to make it easier. Plus, you can see sights without being on your feet.

– January 14, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

Ex-Maryland suburbs

When we lived in the DC area, we'd stock up on groceries and just hunker down at home as much as possible (other than work commutes) during the Inauguration period each 4 years.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

A Stayauguration.

– January 14, 2013 2:54 PM
Q.

Inauguration

Yes, I definitely will be skipping town for the Inauguration. I volunteered at two -- Clinton in 1997 and Bush in 2001 -- as a Girl Scout growing up and remember how incredibly bitterly cold it was in DC. I really shouldn't complain though because I'm sure many Americans would have loved to have been in my shoes. (Well, that is if theirs were warmer than mine had been!) I plan to do a scenic drive along Route 50 through West Virginia. The little town of Wardensville is my end goal: I've never been there but I've heard it's very pretty. However, earlier this weekend I'll be in town to eat Domku. The recent Post food article and chat about Polish cusine gave me the suggestion!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

You have the true All-American spirit of exploration and discovery.

– January 14, 2013 2:54 PM
Q.

Carnival Cruise for Families

I've been on 3 short (4-day) cruises on Carnival during the past couple of years and I've seen plenty of families on these cruises. They have a Camp Carnival for the kids and everything I have read about this camp on Cruise Critic points to it being a well-run program and popular with the kids. My sister (who is my cruising buddy) had gone on lots of Carnival cruises with her husband and his extended family--similar to what the poster is doing. She said they were great cruises for everyone in the family.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Thank you. That's good to know.

– January 14, 2013 2:54 PM
Q.

More things to do in San Diego

Wander around Coronado; tour the Midway; drive out to the zoo's Wild Animal Park; have lunch at the Karl Strauss brewery and dinner at the Stone Brewery.
A.
Carol Sottili :

So much to choose from. 

– January 14, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

Old Tokyo (Edo) Architecture

As the poster probably already knows, between earthquakes, fires, and war there is not a lot of old architecture in Tokyo (or Edo, its previous name). Check out the Edo-Tokyo Museum and the Edo-Tokyo Open Air museum. Some of what they have is reconstructuion but I believe the have some original structures too.

A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks!

– January 14, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

Tokyo layover

Don't forget that getting from and back to the airport will eat up a substantial part of your layover, and do make sure that the places you want to visit will be open the day you're there.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Good points, both.

– January 14, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

Reykjavik

A few years ago, I scheduled a 24-hour layover in Reykjavik (Icelandair's website made it easy to do that) and didn't need a rental car. I took a bus from the airport to Reykjavik and stayed in a lovely B&B called Guesthouse Anna that was right across the street from the bus station. I took a day-long tour bus tour to waterfalls and geysers (the Golden Circle) from the same bus station. I walked around downtown Reykjavik in the evening. If I'd had another day I would have gone to the Blue Lagoon. It is really easy to take a short vacation in Iceland, plus everyone speaks excellent English! As the B&B owner told me, "The rest of the world does not speak Icelandic, so we learn English starting in 1st grade".
A.
Becky Krystal :

More praise for Iceland.

– January 14, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

Blurred scan

This is the original poster. She was scanned twice--the second time because the agent said it "blurred." He was not reassuring her that it is blurry, and therefore anonymous.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Thank you for clarifying.

– January 14, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

VRBO

We found a great London apartment on VRBO that we wanted to rent. When we made the inquiry, we were sent to a different website to make the booking. Is this normal? The website seems fine and I've done a few searches on it and have found no complaints. They take credit card which was one of my rules and link up to tripadvisor. Is it normal to list on VRBO and then link to a different website?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Absolutely, a lot of websites for not just VRBO's but even for B&B's link to a different booking website. Here's an article about how to tell if the website you're on is secure.

– January 14, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

Bus/Train in the UK

It is very easy to buy train tickets once you are there. The trains are so frequent; there's no need to book ahead. That said, the Manchester bus depot is a miserable place. Bill Bryson sums it up perfectly in his book about the UK. I read his book after a horrid experience trying to make a connection there (they were so unhelpful that we missed our connection and had to wait three hours for the next bus), and it made me laugh so hard I cried.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– January 14, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

Warm Relaxing 3 Day weekend

Whoops! You are right, I have the "someone" I just need the some WHERE. Puerto Rico sounds good, I'll check ou thte Conrad.
Q.

Info on Glacier National Park/Swiftcurrent Motel

I recommend that the poster read reviews of the Swiftcurrent Motel on Trip Advisor. (Yes, I know they are controversial, but I read them with a critical eye and have never been steered wrong.) What reviews I have read have generally been quite positive. I had hoped to stay there on our trip to GNP but my spouse overruled me and we stayed at the Many Glacier Lodge--a big mistake. It's way too expensive for what you get. When we were there, the GTTS road opened in late June, but apparently that was unusually early.
Q.

For "A vacation from travel"

Necessity compelled us to stay put for several years, so I understand. Perhaps you can do what we did, namely plan a few day-trips within the area by car, train or bus -- the longest we took was a 3-hour drive each way that necessitated leaving home at 6 AM and not arriving home till midnight -- but at least it gave us a respite from the same-old same-old.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Well said.

– January 14, 2013 2:56 PM
Q.

La France vs. Italia??

Hi Gurus, I have a really fun dilemma! I'm trying to decide between France & Italy for a "big" birthday trip with my boyfriend in the summer of 2014. We both like outdoorsy stuff (beaches & hiking), good food, and history. I enjoy museums, shopping & cultural activities but his tolerance for "city" surroundings is much lower than mine, so the trip needs to include some countryside/small town time. We'll probably have 10 - 14 days, and not looking to break the bank. Which country/cities/regions??? Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

I'd go to Sicily. Has everything you both want. And you can save money by staying at an Agriturismo guest house. 

– January 14, 2013 2:56 PM
Q.

Bermuda

I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a trip to Bermuda sometime this spring/summer. I've traveled to the Caribbean numerous times but this will be the first trip to Bermuda. I'm looking for a vacation where I can pretty much veg out on a beach, with maybe a few fun things to do in the area, but really the beach is of the most importance. I'm thinking a cruise might be a good idea since I'm really not looking to have to do much work planning, but wonder if Bermuda is so small that it makes more sense to fly and stay in a resort? Also suggestions of things to do on the island? I'm interested in architecture and history among other things. Thanks!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

To save money, the cruise could be your best option. Lodging and food are very expensive on the island. With a cruise, you can truly veg out either at the pool or on the pink sand.  The activities desk will have a list of attractions or check the tourism office's site at www.gotobermuda.com.

– January 14, 2013 2:59 PM
Q.

Inaguration

I'm getting out of here for the inaguration too. I once got to sit on the platform and figure I'll never top that again anyways. I'm headed home to southern VA about 4 hours SW. There will be no traffic there, but there will be Mom's homecooked food!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

The best of so many worlds.

– January 14, 2013 2:59 PM
Q.

Glacier National Park

In most years the park is fine come June in terms of roads being open. The past two years were La Nina years which means much more snowfall there. The going to the sun road---the main cross park road---is undergoing reconstruction. If weather allows the road will be closed in May and after Labor Day for intense construction. During the summer the road is still being worked on but there are places its only one lane wide. There is decent bus service that will take you to different parts of the park. The swiftcurrent motel is a place to sleep. Glacier has two parts of the park.....the west side and the east side. On the east side you have 3 different entrances plus access tot he canadian part of the park...but there isnt much in terms of hotels outside of park hotels or other resorts. Browning has a few motels. In St Marys there is a KOa where you can rent a cabin. This part of the park is difficult to get to from the west side for day trips since it will take about 2 hrs just to get to the other side. In planning you should split time between the two places. On the east side there are farther away places you can find lodfing like cut bank, charbaneau or great falls. On the West side of the park there are many more hotel options. The towns of Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and Whitefish are basically one large area where you have numerous lodging options. From Kalispell into the park its about 30-45 min drive. Columbia Falls is closer.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Wow, you know your Glacier! Thanks for the info!

– January 14, 2013 2:59 PM
Q.

mobility questions in Paris

There is a hop on, hop off bus tour in Paris that we found perfect for traveling with my 85 year old father in law that uses a walker now and then. Some Metro stations are handicap accessible with escalators or elevators. Taxis came in handy for a few trips. Choose your hotel wisely for how close it is to the metro. We found the K + K Cayre well located (metro across the street) and had the most helpful staff I've encountered in any of my European travels (which are many). They were especially eager to help with advice for getting around with my father in law. That made the trip "magnifique!"
Q.

inauguration weekend

Team: I wish I could say that I'm getting out of town this year, which I've done in the past. But on Jan 24th, I'm having a full left knee replacement and intend to spend my last weekend being a bit mobile getting things done around the house since I'll be out of commission for 5-6 weeks. But once my knee heals, I've got to plan something sweet, as my 35th anniversary comes up in early April. Done the Inn at LW and beautiful local inns and such over the years so wonder if you have any unusual 35th anniversary suggestions that might work? Thanks!!
A.
Becky Krystal :

This is the way my brain leans, but for an anniversary trip, I think going somewhere you take some cooking classes together would be different -- not to mention fun. King Arthur's Baking Education Center has many offerings, and it's in pretty Vermont to boot. Blackberry Farm also has culinary activities. For more regional ideas, here's a recent story on classes you can take on the Eastern Shore.

– January 14, 2013 2:59 PM
Q.

For We plan on going on shore excursions/exploring the area when the ship reaches each port of call

Can you get a security pouch to wear around your neck inside your clothing, so you can carry your passport on your person?
A.
Carol Sottili :

I still wouldn't bother, especially if you're going to the beach. If swimming, you'd have to get one of those waterproof things that you never quite trust. 

– January 14, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Icelandair summer fare to London

I see fare for $446 + taxes etc.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Round trip? I don't see that anywhere. 

– January 14, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

skipping town

Headed to St. Pete, FL to see my parents for inauguration week. I always go down around the MLK holiday because it is less busy travel-wise than Xmas.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Have fun!

– January 14, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Tip for Early 40's solo traveler woman

I took the most amazing solo vacation of my life a few years ago to St. Croix. I spent most of the week in a hammock on a perfect beach with book after book, but the island had just enough exploration possibilities to make it interesting - historical sites, a rainforest, a cute town. I did choose to rent a car, because I liked the freedom of shopping for my own meals rather than eating hotel food all week, and because I enjoy driving in new places, but it wasn't necessary. I stayed at the Carambola Beach Resort (now Renaissance St. Croix Carambola run by Marriott) and my suite was newly renovated with a lovely kitchenette. I had no problems as a single woman and felt quite safe.
Q.

Two Days in Ireland in Early March

I would suggest staying in the eastern half of Ireland, instead of the long trip to Dingle in the south west. Check out Dublin itself and neighboring Co Wicklow to the south (Glendalough; perfect). Or, look at a visit to Newgrange (Bru na Boinne) older than Stonehenge in Co Meath, north and west of Dublin. Carlingford in Co Louth, north of Dublin another option even as a day trip from Dublin. Hours of daylight short in March. Safe Dingle and southwest for May or June.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– January 14, 2013 3:01 PM
Q.

For brother in Brazil

Sometimes travelers just like to be spontaneous about where they go and where they stay along the way. So maybe the brother really doesn't KNOW where he'll be staying. Back in the olden days before email, we'd take off camping in the US and Canada for weeks at a time with no contact info for the relatives, and it all worked out fine.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Are you secretly the brother?

– January 14, 2013 3:01 PM
Q.

Family to Europe

The family of 4 going to Europe may want to consider Icelandair. They usually have some good sales and cheaper fares than most airlines. You can add in a free stopover in Iceland as part of the trip.
A.
Carol Sottili :

One readers says he sees fare of less than $500 round trip on Icelandair for summer travel to London, but I can't find it. Fares are typically a little cheaper, but not often super cheap for summer travel. And staying in Iceland can set you back: hotels and food are expensive. 

– January 14, 2013 3:01 PM
Q.

Dingle Peninsula????

Why would you recommend driving 5 hours to the Dingle Peninsula when there are plenty of incredible sites much nearer to Dublin? If the poster only had 2 days and wants to see sites outside of the city, I'd recommend Trim, Newgrange, or Glendalough. If they want to go just a bit further, in 2 hours or less they can be in Kilkenny or even Belfast, which is an incredible city!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Great suggestions. Thanks!

– January 14, 2013 3:02 PM
Q.

For the Dublin-bound

Why not take the train up to Belfast for a couple of days? You can either take a package tour to visit the Antrim Coast, Giants Causeway, and the Bushmills distillery for a day, or just hang out and tour Belfast City. It's on my list of next time in Ireland places to visit.
Q.

Andrea Sachs :

The end is here. Back to the grind.

Thanks for the lively hour. We are off next week for MLK Day, but come back y'all to chat on Jan. 28.

And for today's winner: The traveler who is going to W.Va. like a true pioneer. E-mail me your address at sachsa@washpost.com for a prize.

Have a great week and holiday!

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