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December 5, 2011

12
P.M.

Talk about Travel

Total Responses: 74

About the hosts

About the host

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.

About the topic

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. This week our holiday-themed issue celebrated Christmas in Disney and explored markets in Dresden and New York.
Q.

Andrea Sachs :

Happy Monday, citizens of the world. Glad you could join us for a lively hour of dream trippin'.

Today's question/topic touches on Steve Hendrix's lovely piece on Disney and the holidays. Tell us about your best holiday away from home (and it can't be anyplace where your in-laws aren't -- be more creative!).  Best tale wins something special in their stocking.

Q.

Cat sitting

Okay, I know this is not exactly related to travel itself, but is vaguely travel-related: I'm going away over new years and I need a pet sitter to look after my (kind of high maintenance) cat. Any recommendations for someone/a company in DC?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I've used Planet Pet for on-site pet boarding, and like them a lot, and they recommend Walk of the Town for home pet sitting.

– December 05, 2011 12:02 PM
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Also try Karing by Kristina. Though  based in Alexandria, they also watch pets in D.C.

– December 05, 2011 12:02 PM
Q.

Dive Resorts

Do you, or chatters, have experience with either "Sun Breezes Resort" In Belize, or "Sunset House" in the Caymans? I'd like direct experiences with either; I don't generally believe the online reviews - some are resort-paid, some are disgruntled...Thanks
A.
Carol Sottili :

I've not stayed at either place, so will throw this out to our chatters. Regarding online reviews, you can get a general idea, expecially if resort is on one extreme or the other of the quality scale. But, like you, I take reviews, especially those posted by anonymous reviewers, with a grain of salt. 

– December 05, 2011 12:02 PM
Q.

London Easter Premier League

Christmas travel plans are set, so now I'm looking toward the spring. I'd like to visit my daughter in London, but the best time for me is a week over the Easter holiday. Is everything shut down, or is this a reasonable time to go? And while I'm there, is there any easy way for a Yank to get Premier League tickets outside of an expensive ticket consolidator (and if not, who is trustworthy)?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Some tourist attractions, such as Windsor Castle and and Westminster Abbey, will be closed Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but the city does not shut down. You'll find plenty to do. As for getting tickets, I'd start by going to the official Premier League Web site. It has a list of games that have tickets available. And then I'd go to the site for the specific team that you're interested in seeing. 

– December 05, 2011 12:02 PM
Q.

Charleston

Travel Crew, I will be going to Charleston in two weeks for work, any recommendations on must see places to eat or things to do in the evenings?
A.
Joe Yonan :

For eats and drinks, you have to get to Fig, Husk, McCrady's and the Gin Joint. What else is there to do in the evenings other than eating and drinking? Heck if I know. Will leave that to others.

– December 05, 2011 12:02 PM
Q.

travel web site

As an actual paying subscriber receiving a paper Post, one of the first things I turn to is the Travel section. I am definitely not a fan, though, of your increasing habit of printing full pages (or nearly so) of cut-and-pasted six-day-old leftovers from the previous week's web chat, which I've already read.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Glad you like the section! On the chat excerpts (which have never been more than a half page), I'm glad you've read the chat already, but I'm afraid you're in the (extreme) minority. Our print circulation is many times larger than the audience for this chat, which we work very hard to make useful, so we are determined to share it with as many of our readers as possible!

– December 05, 2011 12:03 PM
Q.

Key West

Key West is like a 3 hour drive from Miami International Airport. Are there any faster options that aren't incredibly expensive? Thanks!
A.
Christopher Elliott :

The drive down the Overseas Highway is one of the most beautiful road trips in the country. You really don't want to miss it. But if you don't have the time, you could get a puddlejumper from Miami or catch the Key West Express from Tampa or Marco Island.

– December 05, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

Traveling with food

Hi, I'm traveling from continental Europe via UK to the US. I want to bring my Christmas cake with me (traditional English cake baked weeks before Christmas and fed weekly with brandy). It's quite dense (fruitcake) and smells of brandy of course. I don't know if it's wiser to bring it in my carried or checked baggage, as I'm worried the density will make it scan oddly or if I carry it on they'll have a problem with the alcohol content. I know the US govt site says that you can bring cakes on, I've just experienced such a wide range of protocols in different places and my heart would break if it were chucked out at an airport. What would you recommend?
A.
Christopher Elliott :

I would wrap it well and pack it in your checked luggage. I don't think customs agents will have a problem with the alcohol content, and TSA only gives baked goods a once-over if they're gelatenous and have the potential to be explosive. Here's more information.

– December 05, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

First time to Malaysia- help!

Hi Gurus- Always enjoy reading about other folks' plans in these chats, now at last planning a major trip of our own! Our daughter will be teaching in Malaysia (Kuantan, eastern side of peninsula) for one year, so we are using this opportunity to take our first trip to Asia, probably in August/Sept. This will be the most expensive flight we've ever booked, so though we have planned many vacations on our own, am feeling that an experienced travel agent might be helpful to find the best deals, plan travel within Malyasia and neighboring countries, and know which airlines have more roomy seats, etc. If anyone has a recommendation for an agent with this kind of expertise, that would be wonderful! Also, while browsing web flight sites a consolidator caught my eye- does anyone have experience with ASAP Tickets? All comments appreciated, thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Let's pass this right over to the chatters, as it asks for expertise that unfortunately doesn't fall within our ken. Malaysia tour specialists, folks? And anything you may know about ASAP Tickets.

– December 05, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

Side Trips from Paris

Last week, someone asked about side trips from Paris, calling out history and wine. Zofia managed to recommend one of the very few places in France without a wine tradition-Normandy. If I call out wine as an interest, I want to try regional wines, see vineyards, connect to the culture and people, etc. I love you Zofia, but boy did you miss the mark on that one! Beaune in Burgundy, or Alsace, or Champagne would have been great suggestions with both history and wine culture within easy reach of Paris. Any thoughts on the best quick and English-language accessible tour for travelers with the wine but but limited amounts of time?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Sorry about that. I obviously separated the history from the wine. :-)

– December 05, 2011 12:06 PM
Q.

AL and MS Gulf Coast

Hey there Crew! After seeing the advertisements from the southern states (AL, MS, LA, FL) to visit, I started thinking about the beaches in AL and MS. Never been - can anyone offer some insights? Pros and cons? I read that the Orange Coast in AL is really pretty. Thanks!!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I was surprised by how much I adored the beaches on the Gulf Coast -- some of the strands are as good as the Caribbean's.  I visited Pensacola, then drove west over the state line to Alabama, keeping the water in view as much as possible. 

I would maybe start in western Florda and venture west. Fairhope is also another great town, and you can pair it with a sidetrip to Biloxi (beaches AND casinos).

Considering the recent hardships (BP oil spill, Katrina, etc.), we really should give that coastal region our support.

– December 05, 2011 12:16 PM
Q.

First vacation in forever

My husband and I are finally able to take our first vacation as a married couple (we got married three years ago and didn't do a honeymoon!), but we're not sure where to go. We want to go in the middle of April for a week. We like beautiful landscapes and buildings, beaches (but must be more to do than sit on the beach), history, and good food. Budget is around $5,000. I would be grateful for any suggestions you have! Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

I'm sure there are lots of options that fit your criteria, but this article we had on Italy's Maremma region comes to mind. You could look into Spain's Costa del Sol. Or France's Riviera. In April, you could probably get some decent shoulder season prices in Europe. Then again, you could just do an awesome California road trip along the coast and be able to majorly splurge on places to stay and eat.

Any other ideas for these lovebirds?

– December 05, 2011 12:16 PM
Q.

great Family trip ---LEGOLand Florida & Carnival Cruise

If you're thinking of doing a family trip ....ours was awesome !! really! We went to LEGOLand over Veteran's Day weekend ....2,3,4,& 2-7 yr olds, parents, grandparents...and took a 5 day cruise on Carnival's Inspiration. Flew to Tampa...rented minivans and drove to Winter Haven...took about an hour. Open 10 - 5 pm...some of the adults thought it might be to much time...we could have stayed longer. The rides were great for all ages. Well worth the trip. The Pepsi promo listed is good until spring 2012 (I think May)... one full price adult gets you one free child...up to three. Can print tickets at home. Cruise was on the Inspiration ...an older ship - but it was a first cruise for our children and grandchildren.... thought it wouldn't be as overpowering for a first experience. 5 days seemed like enough time of togetherness. Adults had a great time....enjoyed the time in the Caymans and Cozumel and the ship experience. But the most important part was the kids. We were all extremely impressed with Camp Carnival. The staff was outstanding with the children....can't give higher praise than the fact that the kids all wanted to go there at night ...made friends they wanted to have dinner with. The vacation was a super success.

A.
Zofia Smardz :

Glad you found Legoland so much fun! Be sure to check out our very recent story on the place.

– December 05, 2011 12:16 PM
Q.

NYC

Just got home from a quickie NYC trip! Saturday early to Sunday mid-day. 5 meals, Broadway play (Alan Rickman in Seminar), La Liz jewel exhibit at Christie's... Daphne Guiness clothing exhibit at FIT... shopping, wandering. All in less than 36 hours. I am now addicted to glamour. How tough is it to attend a Christie's auction if all you want to do is watch?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Fun! Where were the meals? I'm jealous about that Liz Taylor exhibit -- was just looking at the catalog online. Wowee. Anyhow, I just asked the Christie's folks whether you can attend an auction without being a buyer, and you sure can. There are some restrictions on evening sales because they are crowded, but any of the daytime sales are doable, they say. Just check out the list on the website and show up. 

– December 05, 2011 12:16 PM
Q.

change fees for flights

My wife and I, living in South Amrica, will be in the U.S. early next yer for a number of reasons, including house-hunting and a medical check-up (for me). If the doctor recommends surgery, would that likely be a reason for foregoing (or lessening) fees for changing a non-refundable/non-changeable (except for a fee, plus any higher fares) airline fare? We're flying Biz Class on Continental.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Maybe, but probably not. Airines hardly ever waive their change fees anymore, even when you can show a doctor's note. But it's worth asking. Here are a few executive contacts at Continental. You might also consider a "cancel for any reason" travel insurance policy, which could cover the cost of rebooking (but read the policy very carefully before buying).

– December 05, 2011 12:16 PM
Q.

US Airways Never Again...

I flew out of National on Thanksgiving morning. The line for security was long. And a "traffic director" from US Airways stopped the line to let approx. 30 women from Georgetown's basketball team go ahead of everyone else. There were a lot of complaints from the people who were already in line. When I asked the traffic director what was going on, he told me "Its a basketball team." This team's flight was later than mine (and I assume a lot of other folks' flights). What gives?????
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Ticket agents have unusually broad power to let you cut in line (or, in some cases, send you to the back). There doesn't have to be any rhyme or reason to it, and they don't have to explain themselves, unfortunately.

– December 05, 2011 12:16 PM
A.
Joe Yonan :

This, btw, would infuriate me, too.

– December 05, 2011 12:16 PM
Q.

Warm weather trip

Hi, I am trying to plan ahead for a warm weather trip in mid February, by which time I will have had it with winter! I want to be somewhere warm enough to wear shorts and a t-shirt, preferably in the Continental US. I was thinking about San Diego, but the temps seem to be more in the 60s than in the 80s in Feb. Any recommendations? Only restriction is that we want to do outdoor activities that are NOT water-related (like hiking rather than swimming). Thanks!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Is Puerto Rico bending the rules too much (you don't need a passport)? Though PR is an island, there are still oodles of land activities, including hiking in the rainforest and wandering through the coffee plantations.

– December 05, 2011 12:20 PM
Q.

re: Disney for christmas

If you want to experience Christmas at Disney, but not at actual Christmastime, try going at Thanksgiving. We did this last year (family group of 9 people, ages ranging from 5 to 70) and it was a blast. Disney was decked out for the holidays already, and there really weren't bad crowds (honest!). We flew on Thanksgiving and stayed through Monday. Tip - we rented a house at nearby Reunion, which was perfect. The house had a pool and you get access to their amazing resort pool area and other amenities, like the gym.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks! Maybe we should do a Disney at Thanksgiving story. . . :-)

– December 05, 2011 12:20 PM
Q.

Driving routes south

Hi, travel gurus, I'm going to be driving to Myrtle Beach early on the morning of 12/23 (planning to leave Fairfax County around 4:00 a.m.). Are there any decent detours that let me avoid any of 95 South? I've got the 7100 to 123 one that lets me miss the jumble north of Potomac Mills, but other suggestions would be welcome. Thanks.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Actually, once you get past Richmond, the rest of the trip is a breeze. 95 in North and South Carolina is a fast, easy uncongested drive all the way to Myrtle Beach. It's amazing how much the traffic and character of the road changes once you get out of Virginia. That said, you might want some more detours in the Virginia portion, but I don't have any further suggestions beyond what you have. Chatters, do you?

– December 05, 2011 12:20 PM
Q.

Travel to Ireland

I want to travel to Dublin and then on to London for ten days in Late May and Early June as a graduation gift for my 22 year old daughter. I was told by a travel planner who works for a major European airline carrier that Ireland may not be the best idea because the economy is so depressed that strikes are inevitable. Do you think I plan something elsewhere?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Where aren't there strikes? In  recent weeks, there have been general strikes in London, Portugal, Northern Ireland, and -- what else is new? -- Greece. If she really wants to visit Dublin, I say go for it. Or plan a trip to Germany. 

– December 05, 2011 12:20 PM
Q.

Costa Rica

We're thinking about taking two teenagers to Costa Rica for a week in May 2012. Any can't-be-missed activities or sights that we should be taking into consideration?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Here are some ideas for you from a recent Going Our Way column on CR.

– December 05, 2011 12:21 PM
Q.

C-ville at Xmas

We are heading to Charlottesville for 3 days, 2 nights the week between Christmas and New Year's. Is there anything happening that we should check out, maybe holiday-related? Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

You MUST check out the lights decorating the historic Lawn at U.Va. I was a student there and I never could get enough of it, even after four years. It's beautiful.

You could also take a holiday evening tour of Monticello.

– December 05, 2011 12:21 PM
Q.

Alaska

My husband and I are planning a trip to Alaska for late spring or early summer 2012 before the season gets too busy. We would like to rent a car and visit Denali, Mt McKinley, and some of the out of the way villages. Prehaps also take a train ride. Do you have any ideas for about a 8-10 day trip that is moderately priced? Thanks. Lyn
A.
Carol Sottili :

Take a look at a Going Our Way I wrote a while back about visiting Denali. Trip was going to take place in fall rather than spring, but still relevant.  

– December 05, 2011 12:21 PM
Q.

Istanbul soccer game

Hi: I'm headed to Istanbul the week before Christmas and wanted to go to a soccer match. What's the best way to go about getting tickets? And yeah, I know I should be calling it football, but I feel like a pretentious American when I do that. Thanks!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Check the team's schedules for dates and venues.  The main ticket purveyor is Biletix, which also sells online as far as I can tell.

You can also go to the stadium (Fenerbahce Sukru Saracoglu, Galatasaray Ali Sami Yen, Besiktas Inonu Soccer)  and try to buy tickets. Or take advantage of your hotel's concierge services. He/she should be able to score you some tickets, or least point you in the right direction.

– December 05, 2011 12:28 PM
Q.

New Year's in Iceland

I'd love to go back to Reykjavik for New Year's. It's intense; the Icelanders pretty much set the city on fire. My wife and I started the evening with some late-night hot-tubbing in one of the giant municipal outdoor pool complexes. We headed back to our room and watched some incomprehensible but fascinating Icelandic sketch comedy on TV. Then there was a giant bonfire down by the beach, kids were shooting off rockets on their front lawns and in some cases in their hands, and at midnight there's a huge crowd and a massive fireworks show. After midnight you could basically just wander around drinking in public and talking to people - the typical Icelandic reserve seems to be on hold for the holiday. In the middle of a dark, dark winter, it's a party where everyone is welcome.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Nice! From what I've heard, though, that Icelandic reserve is also on hold every weekend night in the clubs. Lots of partying...

– December 05, 2011 12:28 PM
Q.

Christmas in the Mountains

Last year, as the youngest in a family of 4 whose siblings are older and are all married with children, I put my foot down. My nieces and nephews are in high school and college now so there's no more of that Christmas morning magic, and I was tired of sleeping in an uncomfortable bed and feeling like a hanger-on. My sister and I (also not married) convinced my parents to spend Christmas at our house In Colorado. My dad hates the cold and thought being there was going to be like being in a white prison. Instead it turned out magical. The weather was warm. My sister and I were able to ski every day we were there. On Christmas day, we arranged for the ski patrol to bring my parents up the mountain to a cute cabin via snowmobile where they were serving a fantastic lunch. My mom loved seeing the cabin and getting up on the mountain. That night we went out to a fabulous meal in town. No one had to do the dishes, it was just magical. The crisp mountain air and Crested Butte the cutest victorian mountain all gussied up for Christmas. It was the best.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Sweet!

– December 05, 2011 12:29 PM
Q.

Napa and Sonoma wineries

Heading to Napa and Sonoma in February. We will be staying in Sonoma and (weather permitting) renting bicycles to visit various wineries. Given the cost per winery visit and the limited ability to operate a bicycle after too many tastings, we're trying to narrow it down to 3-4 must-visit vineyards. Do you or the chatters have suggestions for what should be at the top of that list?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I trust my friends at the SF Chronicle Food section on these matters, and if you look at their Sonoma winery-visiting guide, four place get the top rating of 3 stars: 

Roessler Cellars

Nicholson Ranch

Gundlach Bundschu (aka Gun Bun)

Anaba

(They also listed Grange Sonoma, but GS has "ceased retail operations," according to its web site.)

I'm sure the 2 1/2-star places are no slouch, either, so dip into those if it makes sense geographically, since I'm not sure where exactly you'll be based.

– December 05, 2011 12:29 PM
Q.

Warm weather trip (again)

Hi, thanks for the Puerto Rico recommendation -- but we have actually been there a couple of years ago and would prefer to go somewhere we haven't been before! Not that PR wasn't lovely...
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Okay, let me try again. Key West is in the mid-70s, and there are many land attractions there, from museums to literary tours. If you are willing to drop your temperature threshold by, say, 10 degrees, you can try New Orleans, Phoenix or Miami. However, temps down there are variable.

For guaranteed heat, you unfortunately need to travel south of the border.

– December 05, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

Safari or Turkey and Israel in April

My husband and I celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary in April 2012 and he turns 65 in December 2012. We want to celebrate both events with trips. An African safari and a trip to Turkey are on our bucket list. Is April a good time for Safari? Do I have enough time to plan? We are active travelers, don't like big groups, and our budget is decent ($15k), excluding airfare. We also both work a lot so finding time to do the planning is difficult. Thanks!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Abercrombie and Kent runs an April safari (4/15-28) in East Africa for $6840 per person. A company like that plans everything, and specializes in small groups. As for the timing, this destination -- Kenya and Tanzania -- will be rainier in April and May than most other months of the year, it's true.

– December 05, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

Buenos Aires at Christmas

I'm going to be in Buenos Aires between Christmas and New Years, visiting friends, but I'm going to have some time without them as guides and want to know if there's anything beyond the obvious tourist sites that are not to be missed. (Female, early 20s, passable Spanish-speaking, fyi.) Also, any suggestions for day trips?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Have a look at this story about Buenos Aires street art. It might be a fun tour to take, and sounds like not the usual tourist thing. Chatters, do you have other suggestions?

– December 05, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

No, don't go to Disney on Thanksgiving unless...

you LOVE crowds, and crowds, and more crowds of people smooshed together. It was the worst theme park experience I've ever had on Thanksgiving Day. I expect crowds and lines, but nothing like that.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Another perspective, indeed!

– December 05, 2011 12:38 PM
Q.

Malaysia Traveller

Try Circle of Asia - they are a travel service specializing in Asia trips. Check out the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia for a living piece of their British colonial past. Also cheap flights to Thailand and Singapore can be found from Kuantan.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– December 05, 2011 12:39 PM
Q.

For First Vacation in Forever

The CA idea is a good one. We just did a week in San Diego/Palm Springs/Laguna Beach. It had it all - great beaches (go to Coronado in San Diego!!), great food, great architecture in Palm Springs, great hike in Joshua Park in Palm Springs, and fun shopping. Each city is about 2/2.5 hours from each other, so great triangle.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

The perfect triangle. Thanks!

– December 05, 2011 12:39 PM
Q.

Gulf Beaches

I went to Biloxi in October and there is NOTHING there. You can get good hotel deals, but the only places to eat are casinos and Waffle Houses. In addition, we walked out about 2 city blocks into the ocean and never got to water above our knees. Great to support blighted beaches, but don't really expect a whole lot in Biloxi.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Agree somewhat -- no good eats, but there is good history and museums, such as the Ohr O'Keefe Museum.

I think it's worth a sidetrip, especially if you tack on Ocean Springs, a darling town.

– December 05, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

Christmas Travel

Two great Christmas trips that are doable from DC that I do every year: 1. NYC-take a day the week before Christmas where the crowds *slightly* thin. During the daylight hours stroll thru the holiday markets. At dusk, hit the major department store windows and walk up and down 5th and Madison to take in the bright window displays. Low cost and lots of exercise to make up for the 7 hours you are sitting on the train round trip. Easy day trip. 2. PA/DE- Take a tour of decorated Winterthur during the day. Have lunch in Kennett Square. Mid afternoon head to Longwood to see the non lighted outdoor displays and conservatory. In the evening, see the outdloor lighted displays. HAve dinner at the game meat restaurant in Kennett Square. Drive home around 9 avoiding all the rush hour traffic! Easy and pleasant drive too! (tip, avoid Nemours-interesting tour but not very Christmasy)
A.
Becky Krystal :

Nice ideas.

– December 05, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

TSA

Reading about the women who had to undress and missed her plane this weekend had made more very fearful of flying in the future. I don't want to do a full body scan but they seem to really punish the people who opt out. What can be done to make flying comfortable again? What airports do not use the scan?
A.
Christopher Elliott :

I agree, these incidents are troubling, as I pointed out in a blog post about the JFK strip-searches over the weekend. I believe TSA needs to unplug the scanners and sell them on eBay, but in the meantime, you can avoid the machines by checking TSA Status.

– December 05, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

Vail

Two non-skiers going to Vail this weekend to attend a wedding. Any other activities in the area? (preferably non-sports related.) Thank you!
A.
Carol Sottili :

Vail is definitely oriented to the outdoors, but if you like to shop, there's plenty of that. There are also some wonderful spas: Try Sonnenalp

– December 05, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

C-ville again

Thanks so much for the tips. I got so excited about the evening holiday tour of Monticello, but $45 a person for an hour-long tour? That seems pretty steep.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Fair enough. Although there's definitely something to be said for taking a small-group tour. That place can be mobbed otherwise!

– December 05, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

Cat-sitting

Ask your local Humane Society. They may well know of people. I know that Cats Are Tops and the Feline Foundation of Greater Washigton are rescue organizations, but I believe some friends used them to find cat-sitters.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks!

– December 05, 2011 12:42 PM
Q.

Chat Excerpts

Are annoying and becoming more prevalent throughout the paper! Everything going on in this world and the Post is hurting for content? If I want to know what other readers think, I read the letters to the editor. Where people have to put a name with their opinion.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Our chat excerpts aren't focused on anonymous opinions -- we're publishing the questions in which readers ask our advice and we give them well-thought-out answers. It's not content we're hurting for -- it's a matter of better using our resources. We have SIX people answering questions for you for an hour, and I want to make sure as many of our readers as possible get the benefit of all that work.

– December 05, 2011 12:43 PM
Q.

re: driving routes south

Two things that you need to consider: the ONLY way to get through Quantico is by being on either I95 or Rt1....same about crossing the Rappahannock River....other routes still bring you back to these options.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– December 05, 2011 12:44 PM
Q.

Buenos Aires restaurants

Any suggestions for great Buenos Aires restaurants, maybe Italian? Non-touristy places... Staying in Recoletta.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Chatters, any suggestions?

– December 05, 2011 12:44 PM
Q.

RE: Napa

Domaine Carneros is my absolute favorite winery in Napa. They make my favorite sparkling wine, and they also serve some delicious munchies. Although, as it is located off of highway 121/12 it is probably not the easiest/safest to cycle to from Sonoma.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks! Indeed, I focused on just Sonoma wineries, given the biking thing...

– December 05, 2011 12:46 PM
Q.

Christmas in the Philippines

I spent Christmas 2005 in Manila and environs. I would normally never have considered spending the holidays anywhere but home (S.F. Bay Area) -- but my brother, who works for USAID, had recently been posted to the Philippines and my parents proposed that the 3 of us go visit him and his family. Turns out the Filipinos go crazy over Christmas; everywhere we went in Manila was music, decorations, banners, kids in Santa hats over their T-shirts advertising U.S. football teams, etc. We all (ages 6-70) went to a party at a fellow expat's house Christmas Eve, opened presents under the tree and had a very traditional holiday breakfast on the 25th, and at noon packed up the car for a couple of days at "Sonia's Secret Hideaway," a little resort up in the mountains that seemed a thousand miles away from the glitter and noise of Manila. We all spent Christmas Day getting massages and strolling the flower gardens and koi ponds while drinking calamansi limeade -- possibly the most delicious fruit juice I've ever tasted. Our Christmas dinner was suckling pig served at long tables in the garden under grass-thatch roofs. God bless us, every one. As a footnote, my flight home took off just before midnight on New Year's Eve. As we spiraled over Manila, the cityscape was lit up by flashes of gunfire -- just people shooting into the air to welcome the New Year, the pilot explained. I was glad we were too high to be hit!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Love it. I have a dear friend whose mother is Filipino, and I've been bugging her to take me on a trip back home. This is more ammunition.

– December 05, 2011 12:47 PM
Q.

Istanbul Soccer

I was there for the European Cup many years ago now, Liverpool vs. Milan. I can be vulgar in Italian now, and even picked up some English profanities I wouldn't have known otherwise. Fans of the respective teams were everywhere, making their allegiance known, and mini-riots erupted at regular intervals. Istanbul is amazing on its own - I don't know who's playing this time, but it will definitely add a cultural element to the chatters trip.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the fan report!

– December 05, 2011 12:47 PM
Q.

Re: Legoland

Rides for all ages? I must have gone to the wrong Legoland last New Year's Eve.
Q.

Fruitcake

Put it in your suitcase. Wrap well but not in foil. Fruitcakes are an issue every Christmas in Canada and I'd think other scanners would have the same problems. This is from Transport Canada last year "According to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, fruitcakes are being banned because they are notoriously difficult to identify on the X-ray scanners used to inspect air travellers' luggage." And this link to read more.

A.
Christopher Elliott :

Thanks for the helpful answer and link.

– December 05, 2011 12:50 PM
Q.

London Easter Premier League

An even better way. Join the American chapter of the supporters club for the team you support. (For Arsenal, for instance, it's Arsenal America.) They offer tickets at face value for almost all home and away games if you join the chapter, usually about $20. Much better than a consolidator or ticket broker. I used Arsenal America in 2007 when I was in London and got 66-pound tickets for...66 pounds, plus a very small fee.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Yes, I saw the English version of joining specific team clubs as a way to get better access to tickets when I was on the Premier League's Web site. Arsenal America is a good example of the U.S. version. 

– December 05, 2011 12:50 PM
Q.

"I don't want to do a full body scan"

I don't really understand the objections. If you refuse, then you're bringing any other hassles on yourself. Stop blaming others.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

You can find a line though without a body scanner, then beeline for it.

– December 05, 2011 12:52 PM
Q.

CHARLESTON

For the chatter who was looking for evening activities in Charleston - If you're in the Christmas mood, on James Island (5-10 min drive from downtown) they have an "Amazing Lights" show that is 3 miles of holiday lights (think everything from Santa to alligators and palm trees), as well as areas to stop and walk around exhibits and roast marshmallows. I was just down there at Thanksgiving, and this year's show was definitely worth the trip out there. Other than that, and maybe an evening at the rooftop bar at the Library in downtown Charleston (great view of the harbor), not many other evening activities I can think of.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Perfect. Given the amount I would be eating in C-ton if I were there for the holidays, I'd be grateful at the walk-around option here...

– December 05, 2011 12:52 PM
Q.

Cat Sitting

Ask your vet. A lot of the techs pet sit for extra cash, and you know they know how to take care of a pet.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Great idea!

– December 05, 2011 12:52 PM
Q.

BA Rest.

I've recommended this before -- a cab ride from Recoleta but the best restaurant we went to while there - and we went to a lot of good ones: www.tematareramirez.com. From Frommer's: www.frommers.com/destinations/buenosaires/D55886.html.

Q.

February getaway

With San Diego it rarely gets in the 80s in July because of it being along the coast. That area would be a good option because you can easily day trip it to the desert and Joshua tree national park. The desert then can be in the 80s easily. The other places in the continental us that can be warm like southern Texas , Phoenix, or Florida can get into a weird weather pattern where it can be only n the 60s when you go.

A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks!

– December 05, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

Sonoma Winery

A great winery we stumbled upon one day was Thomas George. It was some of the best wine we've had in the region, in a great setting with friendly people.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– December 05, 2011 12:54 PM
Q.

chats on paper

I'm also a dead tree subscriber to the Post and find the reprinted chat excerpts annoying. But I have to admit, when I am visiting another city and buy a copy of the paper paper there, and they have similar items, I read and enjoy. So fair's fair. I don't have to love every part of the paper... it's easy to skip what I don't like.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Appreciate it.

– December 05, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

Can't please everyone....

I like chat excepts...especially when I missed the chat.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks!

– December 05, 2011 12:55 PM
Q.

Full body scan

What are the objections? After all, the examiners have seen it all, more than we could ever imagine. They're not going to be shocked or titillated by you.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I am considering getting a secret tattoo of TSA surrounded by a heart. Maybe it'll make their day.

– December 05, 2011 12:56 PM
Q.

seat assignments

What can I do to make sure I'm sitting with my kids on the plane? The idea that they may seat me away from my 3 year old is crazy. Thanks.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

You're right, that's crazy. I would show up early for your flight and let the ticket agents know your seat assigments are not together. They will do everything in their power to find seats next to each other. If that doesn't work, appeal to the flight attendants on the plane, and if that doesn't work, ask a passenger to switch seats.

– December 05, 2011 12:56 PM
Q.

Malaysia

No need for travel agents. Try Korean Air, Asiana, JAL (though it's gotten expensive), Cathay, Singapore, ANA. Cameron Highlands, Penang, Perhetian Islands, Melacca, Tioman, etc... are the popular spots.
Q.

Priceline

Why is it that whenever I book a room on priceline even at finer hotels like Hilton the room is always below par?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Maybe you need to filter your selections more, like say you want a higher number of stars or a more central location. I have always had very good luck with Priceline and Hotwire.

– December 05, 2011 12:57 PM
Q.

Belize --in March

We are considering a trip to Belize in March. Will we be inundated with Spring Break college kids? I also heard that there is more crime there than some of the other islands??
A.
Carol Sottili :

Belize, which is a country in Central America,  has some crime, but chances are you'll travel from the airport to a resort and you won't be hanging out in Belize City. It's not a big destination for college kids on spring break. I really enjoyed Belize, especially this crazy little island we visited called Caye Caulker -- no cars. 

– December 05, 2011 12:57 PM
Q.

TSA and the elderly

I don't know any more about the elderly woman going to FLL who claims that she was strip-searched, but the last time I went through FLL security, the TSA agents were just brutal to some elderly passengers. They were a little confused to start with, but having people in uniforms yell at them made things go from bad to worse. One man, who wore hearing aids and must have been in his 90s, was close to tears and even more flustered and confused than at the start. When one passenger tried to reason with the TSA agents, pointing out that they weren't helping the elderly get through security, the agents told him to shut up or he'd be sorry. I think that the TSA needs to re-train its agents in how to effectively work with the elderly.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

There is absolutely no excuse for that. I agree with you.

– December 05, 2011 12:58 PM
Q.

Charleston, SC

Shrimp & grits at the Hominy Grill - do not miss it!
Q.

Alberta-bound

I would love to make a trip and see the best of Alberta in Canada: Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, the Canadian Rockies, and Edmonton. Am I better off flying in and renting a car? I thought about a tour bus that would hit those places, but I haven't really done tours of any kind before. What is the best, not-insanely-expensive way to go?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I would sooner die than be stuck on a tour bus, personally. If you haven't ever done tours, I don't know that I'd start with something like this. 

It is pretty pricey to fly into Calgary and Edmonton -- I'm searching in May, not knowing exactly when you're thinking. But it's a lot cheaper to fly into, say, Spokane, which would be an 8-hour drive to Edmonton. And since you're renting a car anyway...

– December 05, 2011 12:59 PM
Q.

How Christmas markets in Dresden compare with other German cities?

I read the Christmas markets in Dresden article with interest. How do they compare with those in other German cities such as Nuremberg, Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Munich?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

All the German Christmas markets are a big deal and a wonderful holiday experience. I think that in general, they're largely similar in setup, atmosphere and offerings, but many highlight the specialties of their region. So in Dresden, as Patrick Rogers tells me, it's Dresdner stollen and the almond flour cake for which the Striezelmarkt is named. Plus those fabulous Erzgebirge wood carvings. In Nuremberg, it's the spicy gingerbread or Lebkuchen and the Nuremberg plum people, little figures made from prunes; in Munich it's Bavarian crafts, and so on.  All in all, you can't go wrong with a German Christmas market. Have a little Gluhwein, stroll around and enjoy.

– December 05, 2011 12:59 PM
Q.

Reasonable geteway Christmas week?

Our plans have changed and we are suddenly seeking something reasonably priced to do between Christmas and New Year's. We have an almost 5 year old. I don't want to spend more than a $1,000 total and I'd like to get away for 2-4 days. I'm happy to drive up to 6-7 hours. Thanks!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

How about Bucks County, Pa.; lots to do for parents and little ones.  You can also mix in Sessame Place and Philly. Or go south, to Charlotte.

– December 05, 2011 1:00 PM
Q.

Re: Chat excerpts

Well, if I hadn't already read your chat I'd be happy to see it in the paper. So not everyone has problems with it! Geez.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Geez is right! Thanks for the support.

– December 05, 2011 1:01 PM
Q.

Pet Sitter

Checkbook, related to Consumer Reports but local to DC, recently had an article about pet sitters, which included ratings of pet sitters by real live people who used the services.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– December 05, 2011 1:01 PM
Q.

re: Priceline

why would the Hilton or any other nice hotel give their best rooms to people who paid the least? Wouldn't you save those for walk up & repeate customers?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

But if they are not filled . . .

Also, when you check in, you can ask for a specific room and see if they oblige.

– December 05, 2011 1:02 PM
Q.

Gulf Coast AL & MS

Ocean Springs MS is a lovely town- do visit the fascinating Walter Anderson museum in his former house. Pass Christian is also lovely. As for "nothing to do" there are little galleries and shops, and beautiful old homes in the small towns across the Gulf Coast. And the water is gorgeous. We are not golfers or deep sea fishermen, but we were charmed by the Gulf Coast. It's great for a laid back and relaxing vacation - then go to New Orleans for some night life and fantastic food.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

thanks!

– December 05, 2011 1:02 PM
Q.

Italy Feb 2012

I'm thinking about going to Italy to celebrate my 40th birthday next year. Is 7 days enough for Rome and Cinque Terre? I know the temps might be in the 50's but would Cinque Terre be too cool due to being right on the Mediterranean? Should I wait until the spring or fall...perhaps the euro would be more in the US favor... Thanks for your help!!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Is that 7 days on the ground, or does it include flying time? Either way, you should be able to squeeze both in, though you won't have a lot of down time. I think I might stick to Rome and do some closer trips -- Pompeii, Assisi, etc. But you could do both. Temps are in the 50s in Cinque Terre in winter, and it's very mild because of the mountains that protect the area from northern winds. Being right on the Mediterranean is not a problem!

– December 05, 2011 1:03 PM
Q.

RE seat assignments

I agree it's crazy not to seat a parent next to a little kid. But if you're going to ask someone to switch seats, remember it's not their fault and they very well may have paid extra for their seat. No one is obligated to switch seats with you, and it is likely people would say no to moving from a window/aisle to a middle. So you may be annoyed with the airline but don't that out on other passengers.
Q.

Priceline and Hotwire

www.betterbidding.com is good for finding what others have gotten, so the "bidding" is not quite so blind. And there are reviews, including some with the rumors of getting lower quality rooms if using such services. I have had no problem Omni even awards pointsin their program for users.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Great suggestion.

– December 05, 2011 1:04 PM
Q.

Best Holiday Away From Home

Volunteering with the Salvation Army over Christmas in NYC after 9-11.
Q.

Alberta

I've been twice. I'm not anti-tour bus in certain places, but in Alberta you definitely want a car to drive around on your own. It's the most beautiful place imaginable. Get the Moon guide. And there are some fantastic hotels...might be worth a splurge. I stayed at the Fairmount Lake Louise a few years ago and loved it. On the other hand, on my first trip I camped nearby and that was great too. Have a great trip.
Q.

Andrea Sachs :

Thanks all for joining us during our weekly Travel chat. It was a blast, and a blur.

The winner of the contest is the last-minute chatter who celebrated Christmas volunteering with Salvation Army in NYC. Your story captures the caring spirit of the holidays.  E-mail me your info at sachsa@washpost.com.

See you next Monday.

Q.

 

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Host: