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March 4, 2013

2
P.M.

Talk about Travel

Total Responses: 108

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.
Host: Carol Sottili

Carol Sottili

Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.

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 :

 Welcome to the first chat in March, the month of leprechauns, madness and daylight savings.

Send us your questions and share your travel tales. We have an hour, so let's make the most of it.

For the Musing of the Day, tell us about a country or attraction that you visited that had a dark history or required some serious soul searching. For example, I felt good about my decision to travel to Burma (see Sunday's article), but I still regret spending the night at a so-called animal sanctuary in Northern California, where the animals lived in small cages lined in cement.

Best of the best answer wins a prize.

Q.

Cruising with Toddler

I was wondering if you had any recommendations for cruise lines with a toddler. My wife and I are thinking of taking a vacation next January and have liked the one cruise we were on (Royal Carribean's Oasis) Since then, we've added my son, who will be 17 months by then. Any recommendations for what cruise lines are best with kids that young? We want to be able to take him in the pool, but I hear some of the cruise lines don't let kids in the pools until they're potty trained.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Your best bets are Disney Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean. I am fairly certain they are the only two lines that allow babies who are not potty trained into some pool areas. 

– March 04, 2013 2:00 PM
Q.

West Coast

Does anyone know of a nice, small town in southern california where i can rent a beach house? i'm thinking of something like Outer Banks. Quiet, maybe a few diners, on the water? My sister's family will be coming from Phoenix and I live here in DC.
A.
Carol Sottili :

There is nothing like the more sparsely populated Outer Banks in Southern California. OBX is a seasonal destination dominated by tourists in the summer, and relatively empty during winter. Most people who are in Southern Calfornia call it home year-round, so it's a different kettle of fish. Take a look at the beach communities north of San Diego, including Leucadia, Cardiff-by-the-Sea and Encinitas

– March 04, 2013 2:00 PM
Q.

Can you help me, please?

I'm going on a 3 week international trip (to Bhutan) with a friend. The friend's iphone is international so we are going to use hers, I'm leaving mine at home. The problem is that I would like to call my husband after I clear customs. Does Dulles still have pay phones? Suggestions? Thanks!!!!

A.
Becky Krystal :

Yes, there are phones. Have a look at the terminal map.

– March 04, 2013 2:00 PM
Q.

Getting a GPS in Europe

I'm heading to Tuscany (via Florence) in mid-May and I'm torn between getting a GPS from the companies that send them to you before your trip (via mail) versus just getting one from the rental company once we are at the airport. Because of a promotion, I think the costs will be comparable. Any recommendations? Has anyone experienced issues with showing up at a rental desk in Europe and having the GPS's run out? That is a big fear.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Oh, my. What would you have done in the primitive prehistoric days before GPS? I don't share your fear on this score -- an old-fashioned road map does me just fine -- so I'm turning this one over to the chatters. Folks?

– March 04, 2013 2:01 PM
Q.

Ruins OP

I missed the chat last week, but thanks so much for taking my question! All the suggestions were so helpful. I think we've settled on flying into Cancun and doing a day or two near Tulum, then four days in a loop that goes as far as Palenque.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Sounds like a great itinerary.

– March 04, 2013 2:02 PM
Q.

car service to Dulles

Does any one have any recommendations for a car service that will do round trip to Dulles from DC? I keep seeing all these coupon deals but none of the companies seem all that great. its our honeymoon so I would rather use a reliable company if possible. Thanks so much
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I give five stars to Washington Flyer, but this is your honeymoon. So, I am sure you want to travel in style.

I have heard good reviews about Affordable Sedan Service. 

Any chatters have a favorite ride to the airport?

– March 04, 2013 2:08 PM
Q.

Girls get-away before the baby

Hello, I would like to plan a getaway with my mother, aunt, cousin, and best friend. We vary in ages from 32 to 60 but I have two concerns: (1) finding a location that would appeal to all ages and (2) picking a location that is no more than 4 hours by flight from the DC-MD-VA area. I'm due in September and am willing to travel anytime between May and August but would prefer a short direct flight home in case there are any emergencies. Any suggestions on a location during those months where we would find activities that may appeal to all? Everyone is healthy and mobile but my cousin and best friend would be up for jetskiing, parasailing, etc., whereas I would rather lie on a beach and read, and my mother and aunt would probably enjoy tours/sightseeing. Thanks for taking my question!!

A.
Becky Krystal :

I think Amelia Island would suit the varied interests of your party quite well.

– March 04, 2013 2:09 PM
Q.

Charleston--follow-up from last week

Many thanks to the chatter who recommended the Francis Marion hotel. I was able to get a room on Expedia for $130. This trip is a splurge to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Really looking forward to it!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Let us know how it goes!

– March 04, 2013 2:09 PM
Q.

Southeast Asia tour companies

Hello - I'm looking to book a tour to somewhere in Southeast Asia. Possible destinations are Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam...really - just about anywhere. We are a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids ages 9 &12). Any thoughts on reputable tour companies - or what destinations are better for kids. We are looking to take a more adventurous vacation where we can see some off the beaten track parts of whatever country we venture to. we will be travelling from March 31-April 7. Thanks!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

All of those countries are equally fascinating and require an exceedingly long plane ride. So stock up on the snacks and diversions.

Burma, which I just wrote about, is still developing, but you can still easily travel around the country by plane and private driver. Your kids, though, must love temples and giant Buddha sculptures.

Thailand might be best for first-timers and kids. Bangkok is crazy fun with its floating market, mega-malls, outdoor food vendors and temples.  You can mix into your trip island-hopping on the coast and the jungle in the north, where you can visit hill tribes and elephants.

Of course, Vietnam is also incredible, and your kids can learn about the war in the best classroom ever.

– March 04, 2013 2:16 PM
Q.

Heatmeister

Given the forecast I am desperate for some warm weather beach time ro recharge my batteries- ideally a long weekend with a direct flight from Reagan or Dulles. Florida airfares are insane - help!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

JetBlue flies direct from Reagan to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's cheaper if you fly on a Monday, though.

– March 04, 2013 2:16 PM
Q.

European biking and plane fares

A few questions. For may, we're planning a 2 week European trip, revisiting England, where we lived for 4 years and then a bike trip on the continent. First, any view on whether the DC-London route will have sale for late may (week before/after memorial day)--an economy ticket for most days is $1200-plus! Second, bike the Danube or Rhone river valley? Can't decide. (And curious about the bike and barge trips--anyone done that?)
A.
Andrea Sachs :

We never know when the airlines will surprise us with a sale. Just keeping on checking the carriers' Web sites or sign up for fare alerts. For example, Virgin Atlantic has a sale to London, though unfortunately the cheapest fares are through March 31 (the price bumps up to $601 one way for mid- to late May travel). To save money, you might consider an air and hotel package. Carol listed a BA deal in Sunday's section.

Unfortunately, I need helpfrom the chatters for the second half of your question. I have never biked those regions, but my parents did take a barge trip a few years ago and were--hate to say this-- bored.

– March 04, 2013 2:16 PM
Q.

First Time in Outer Banks

My boyfriend and I would like to spend a day at the Outer Banks on our way back to DC from a North Carolina wedding. We have never been before and are wondering- what's the best place to stay for first-timers? It seems as though cottage rentals require more than one night stay. What are activities we can do in one day, other than hanging out on the beach? Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

Not sure I would stop in the Outer Banks if I didn't want to go to the beach. There is an aquarium, a lighthouse, outlet malls, kayaking, Jockey Ridge State Park and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge -- go to the Outer Banks Visitors Center's Web site for details. But the beaches are the main attraction.  As for lodging, take a look at the Sanderling Resort in Duck or the First Colony Inn in Nags Head. 

– March 04, 2013 2:17 PM
Q.

Multiple flight carriers on one itinerary logistics

In April I'm taking a trip to South Africa! I booked my flights with my United Airlines frequent flier miles. My itinerary has me flying a US Airways operated flight from National to LaGuardia, a four hour layover and then a South African flight from JFK to Johannesburg. For these two flights I have separate confirmation numbers with the respective airlines. In fact they both appear as completely independant from my United Airlines return flights on my itinerary. Will I need to check-in for both the US Air and South African flight independently and pick up my bags to transfer in New York? Will US Airways charge me a checked bag fee because they won't "see" their flight segment as a part of the entire trip to Africa? Any advice on changing airports in New York? I'll land from the US Airways flight at 7am and then the South African flight leaves at 11:15am.

A.
Christopher Elliott :

If you have two separate record locators (which, by the way, you shouldn't) then you will most likely need to check in for both flights. I would consult with the travel agent through which you booked these flights. You really should have one record locator, and the flights should be connected. That way, if one flight is delayed, you won't be a "no show" for the second flight, and you may have to pay for the second one. Also, I wouldn't count on your bags transferring.

– March 04, 2013 2:17 PM
Q.

Direct flights DC to Spain?

Am I missing something, or are there no longer any direct flights from IAD or BWI to anywhere in Spain? I was trying to book something for June and came up completely empty. If so, what gives? Charlotte has directs to Madrid; Philadelphia, directs to Madrid and Barcelona.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Someone had a similar question a few weeks ago. Here's the answer I got from an airport spokesman, at least about Madrid:

After United’s merger with Continental, the airline made adjustments to its European schedule and now offers its Madrid service through Newark. Folks who used to take the direct flight from Dulles will remember the flights were booked through United, but operated using an Aer Lingus aircraft and crew. The flight was discontinued in October 2012. We are glad folks are interested in the direct flight, and we would like to offer it to our Dulles customers again soon. I’m not sure when exactly that might happen.

– March 04, 2013 2:17 PM
Q.

Barcelona

Is it just me, or is it ridiculously expensive to get to Barcelona? I'm looking to leave for a 10 day stay in April, and have been tracking the route for 8 months. I haven't seen anything below $800 from the WAS area yet! Any tips on how to get the cost down? Or is this just how it is?
A.
Carol Sottili :

If you can find an $800 airfare with good connections between Washington and Barcelona, grab it.  That's about as cheap as it gets. 

– March 04, 2013 2:18 PM
Q.

cruises

Just know that cruises with kid's clubs don't like to take kids who aren't potty trained - they may not accept your son. Also, I had been told it was international law re: not allowing kids in the pools who aren't potty trained...
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the info.

– March 04, 2013 2:19 PM
Q.

Soul searching

As a scuba diver, I have participated in "shark dives" where they either chum or feed the wild shark populations for the entertainment of the divers. After doing this a couple of time, though, I decided this violates the spirit of non-interference that I carry on all my other dives: don't touch anything, don't take anything, don't leave anything. I will not do it again, and I still feel guilty about the ones I did.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I hear ya. I agree that we should not manipulate the natural order for our entertainment. I will add shark diving to my Don't Wish list as well.

– March 04, 2013 2:21 PM
Q.

Haiti, New Year's Day 1980

Baby Doc was in power and wave after wave of diplomats in limousines drove up the winding driveway to the palace to present their best wishes for the new year. Outside reigned unbelievable poverty. Dinner that evening was at a pricey restaurant in Petionville where the meal cost more than most Haitian people made in a year. I still feel guilty about that.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for sharing; maybe it will help lift the guilt a little bit!

– March 04, 2013 2:25 PM
Q.

SE Asia for the family

I went to Borneo and Thailand last year with friendly planet and loved it. Could be great for a family if the kids like animals and are up for hiking a lot.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Great idea. Thanks!

– March 04, 2013 2:25 PM
Q.

RE: Ruins op

I missed the chat last week, but for the person thinking of doing a day or two in Tulum... I don't know if your schedule will allow it, but do check out Coba if you get the chance. I believe it's one of the few (if not the only) ruin you can still climb. A breathtaking view of treetops, separated only by the top of pyramids every now and then.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks so much for the suggestion.

– March 04, 2013 2:26 PM
Q.

DIsney 2014

How early is too early to plan a trip to Disney? We are looking at November or December 2014. It will be me and my husband and my daughter (who will at that time be a little over 3) and our yet to be born child (who will be a little over 1) plus my in laws and possibly my brother in law (and who knows - he may have a lady friend at that point, too). I married into a very Disney family and they have been dozens of times, although it has been a few years and I have never been with them. We will be realistic in what we can actually accomplish with a 1 and 3 year old, but what about where to stay and when to book? THis will be a "big deal" vacation so we can spend the needed money for convenience and fun. If we book a hotel we would need a suite of some sort for my immediate family and my in-laws do love the Disney hotels and their location. But what about renting a house? We may stay as long as a week and I am willing to pay extra to make it easier (I love being on vacation but I am the type who can get stressed getting settled and situated). My husband and I would fly with the kids out of DC or Dulles and my in-law like to drive. THank you!!!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Deep breaths. I'm never of the opinion that it's too early to plan -- too early to book, maybe, but I'm always planning. I don't think you need to jump quite yet to book for Disney, although you may want to do it sooner rather than later if you intend to go right around Thanksgiving or Christmas. Otherwise, that season is not peak and you'd probably be fine to wait to book until next year.

When I was in Disney, I stayed for the first time at a resort property, and I have to say, it was pretty great. I appreciated the complimentary transportation to/from the parks (and airport), which is important if you have a large party such as yours. People are going to be on different schedules. The extra hours for resort guests are nice too.

Look into the available Disney villas. Several resorts have two-room options.

Anyone have tips on renting a house?

– March 04, 2013 2:26 PM
Q.

Affording Pontofino

After watching Andrea Bocelli on PBS performing by the harbor in Pontofino Italy, I thought, "I must go to that place!" It's gorgeous, but is it affordable for a retired school teacher without breaking the budget?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I believe you mean Portofino, don't you? You're not the only one to be enchanted by the idea. Julia Fordham, one of my favorite singers, has a song, "Italy," whose lyrics include: "Can we move to Italy? Meet me by the church up high/ On the hill, please say you will /Way above the shore below/ Down in Portofino."

Anyway, I've never been there, but it's pretty ritzy. However, if you find the right place to stay, that might make it affordable rather than budget-busting. Lonely Planet recommends Hotel Argentina, and I see rates there starting at 100 Euros/night, or about $130 (though they vary by season).

Any chatters have personal experience there?

– March 04, 2013 2:26 PM
Q.

Solo trips - is it too late to contribute

Hi Travel gurus! Stuck in an all-day meeting, I missed last week's chat and, therefore, the opportunity to contribute a story about solo travel. If it's not too late, I'd like to share that solo travel is my preferred MO. I'm a 40-something female and obviously I go only to places where it's safe for me to do so. One of my favorite solo trips was to Paris, about 8 years ago. It was late February and the daytime temperatures were in the low 50s. I was on a tight budget, but that did not matter. Walking through the beautiful streets, people-watching everywhere I went, exploring the Musee d'Orsay, the Rodin Museum, the Picasso Museum, window-shopping, eating great food -- it was all so dreamy and lovely. If you're reading this and feeling sorry for me because Paris is a romantic city and I was alone -- please don't bother. Paris is, indeed, a romantic city. But it's also a generous city that shares its beauty and romance with anyone who's open to the experience, the thrill of discovery. I was, and I loved it. Now I'm saving up for a slightly more upscale trip next year, but I know my first visit to Paris will always be my favorite.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

It sounds like you had the best companion ever-- Paris herself.

– March 04, 2013 2:27 PM
Q.

Help finding a quiet beach

My girlfriend and I would love to take a trip together, but my work travel schedule won't allow it until June or July at the earliest. We'd love to find a beach, but we're looking for something quieter/relaxing where we dont' have to deal with hordes of people and don't require lots of bars/clubs/other entertainment options- just a place where we can sit and relax and catch up after an incredibly busy 2013. Is there anywhere, from Maine to Texas, that we can find a place like that that's affordable- at most $1500 for a week? (or heck, even in the Caribbean). Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

That's a lot of real estate to cover, but I'll throw out Pawleys Island, S.C., since we had a nice story about it the other year.

Maybe some chatters will spill their beach getaway secrets...

– March 04, 2013 2:28 PM
Q.

airport names

Why does the Post Travel section play the name game by referring to our local airport as "Reagan National" (it's official name is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport) while using the full name (Baltimore-Washington International Marshall) of the one up the road? It can't be a question of economy, as the latter, when fully spelled out, is clearly no easier on the keyboard. Ditto verbal ease-of-use, as neither rolls off the tongue all that smoothly. Recognition? Hardly, especially since RRWNA is still National Airport to most locals, and BWI Marshall is still BWI in most circles. A cynic might conclude that the decision to call it Reagan National was a concerted media move not long after the name change to curry favor with a certain segment of the political spectrum.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

It's simply our style -- Reagan National, BWI Marshall.  No nefarious political conspiracy at work, I assure you.

– March 04, 2013 2:28 PM
Q.

Dark History

You can't get much darker than the Nazi camps. I visited Dachau, a work camp outside Munich, and it was fascinating. I brought back a few pebbles, in the spirit of leaving a rock on the headstone of a Jewish gravestone, but my husband thought it was creepy.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

So true about the camps. And I think your gesture is inspirational.

– March 04, 2013 2:31 PM
Q.

How to carry medications of a domestic flight?

In April I have a scheduled flight. I have had a transplant so I use quite a bit of medication. I always travel with at least 2 weeks of meds in case something unforeseen happens but I have it in a medicine case not the original containers and I don't let this suitcase out of my sight. What are the requirements and regulations I need to follow to get this on my flight? Also, may I take sanitizing wipes and use a mask while in the terminal and on the plane?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Here is TSA's page with information on traveling with medications and other special conditions. I'm not aware of any reason why you couldn't have sanitizing wipes or a mask -- although you may want to make sure the TSA agent checking IDs can see your face, at least momentarily, when you go through security. It may be worth your while to call the TSA Cares hotline (1-855-787-2227) to get your specific concerns addressed.

– March 04, 2013 2:31 PM
Q.

For Global Entry from last week

Global Entry is one of the best things I've ever done, especially now that your approval for Global Entry gets you a known traveler designation for Pre-check. As I recall I went out to Dulles for an brief interview, submitted to finger-printing, and gave authorization for a criminal background check. Now when everyone turns left at Dulles, I turn right, walk up to a waiting machine, swipe my passport, and scan my fingerprints. I am through the border in under a minute.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

No doubt, for the passengers who can afford Global Entry or Pre-check, it's a great thing. And not to be the devil's advocate, but isn't that what they should be checking you for when you get a passport?

– March 04, 2013 2:31 PM
Q.

Dark history tourism

Auschwitz and Birkenau were very disturbing. It was hard to balance a desire (and curiousity) to see the camps first hand and still respect those who suffered so greatly and those who lost their lives. In the end, I was able to reconcile some of the conflicting feelings by treating the places with as much reverence as possible. This is history that some people refuse to believe happened, and that the best way to try to prevent a similar horror is to learn from the past and keep sites like this open.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Beautifully spoken (or written in this case)!

– March 04, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Puerto Rico

Going to PR at the end of the month and staying at a Hilton resort near the airport. Can you recommend any great restaurants in the area? Maybe something with a more lively scene. thanks
A.
Becky Krystal :
– March 04, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Cruising in diapers

Disney requires the kids to be potty trained. But the new ships have a splash park type attraction for little ones.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– March 04, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Re: Cruises

"...allow babies who are not potty trained into some pool areas." Puh-lease don't suggest that any baby not potty-trained be allwed into anything but the kiddee pool! The rest of us on the ship would appreciate it!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

We will spread the word: Potty train the wee (no pun intended) ones.

– March 04, 2013 2:33 PM
Q.

Soul Searching

The "Big E" Exposition in Springfield, MA or the "New England State Fair" as it is called. I hate seeing those fresh faced 4H kids walking their pigs around that these kids have raised since the pigs were piglets. Like the kids had pigs for pets. The fattest, most beautiful pig gets slaughtered and sold for the most money. Pork has never been the same. Neither have state fairs.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Oh my gosh, I grew up nearby and never, ever went to the Big E. The whole thing depressed me.

Save Wilbur!

– March 04, 2013 2:35 PM
Q.

Portofino

I found Portofino overpriced and full of day trippers, but in its vicinity are many lovely towns, all of which are affordable and not overrun.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks! What's your favorite nearby town, and what was your favorite thing you did there?

– March 04, 2013 2:35 PM
Q.

Sunday's Travel Expo

Have any of you been to it before? Can I expect to find good unadvertised deals there at the Convention Center?? THANKS!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I have been to the expo and I don't recall seeing any good deals.  From my experience, I seem to find more inspiration and ideas for trips, and lots of free candy and pens. But in this economy, maybe you can find bargains or talk to a travel planner about a special deal.

– March 04, 2013 2:37 PM
Q.

Parent-child bonding, via meat

After years of taking unenthusiastic children on trip to cities with amazing art museums, I have been forced to admit that they just don't enjoy painting and sculpture, so I'm reassessing. Can you or the chatters recommend barbecue tours? Bonus points if there is baseball (major or minor league) or a science museum involved, or if we could travel part of the route by train.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Go to Memphis. See a Redbirds game. Eat at Three Little Pigs, Leonard's, Tom's, Payne's, Central, Cozy Corner, Charlie Vergo's -- oh, my, so many more. (Go to the Southern BBQ Trail, a fantastic resource put together by the Southern Foodways Alliance, of which I am a proud member, to explore histories in the Tennessee section and map out a Memphis itinerary.) And you'll have your pick of science-y museums at the Pink Palace Family of Museums: Sharpe Planetarium, Coon Creek Science Center, Lichterman Nature Center, and more.

Did I get all my bonus points yet? Oh, wait -- traveling part of the route by train. Hmm... How bout this? Fly to either Chicago or New Orleans, spend a night or two, and then take the City of New Orleans Amtrak to Memphis. Either do an open-jaw plane ticket and fly back from Memphis, or get back on the train.

 

– March 04, 2013 2:37 PM
Q.

Central Fldorida

My family (2 adults, 2 teens) finally went on our first real family vacation a couple weeks ago to central Florida. Unfortunately on our first day there we were involved in an accident during a paid tour that pretty much ruined the rest of our time there (I hit my head, got stitches, and couldn't walk for more than a few steps for the first couple of days). We are hoping to plan another trip to Central Florida in a couple of months to have the vacation we were hoping to have in the first place. My daughter's (13 and 16) do not want to do Disney World again although we will go to a couple of the other parks. We are planning to have a couple "open" days, (no ptheme parks) what would you recommend filling those days with? We are hoping to spend some time at a beach (not sure which one) and have a general idea of where to find decent food but would love any suggestions! With my oldest going off to college this is likely the last chance we'll be able to do this for awhile. Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Spend a day in Winter Park, a pretty little town just north of Orlando. Good shopping and restaurants, some museums, take a boat ride on the lake. The nearest nice beach to Orlando is Cocoa Beach, a little over an hour away on the so-called Space Coast. The nearby Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral are worth a visit, too.

– March 04, 2013 2:38 PM
Q.

Paris in September

My husband and I want to hop over from London to see Paris for a few (3-4) days in September. We will have our just a year old daughter with us and are trying to decide what we would want to see/do while there. We aren't very into Museums and touring historical churches isn't our cup of tea. Are we wrong to try to do Paris, with a baby in tow?

A.
Zofia Smardz :

Baby shouldn't make that much difference to your enjoyment of Paris, although I do wonder what exactly you'd like to do there, if you're not into museums and churches! :-) I suppose you can go up the Eiffel Tower, head to Versailles (yes, you must, even if you're not into museums; the palace is spectacular and the grounds are gorgeous -- be sure to see Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon and Hameau as well), hang out in the Luxembourg Gardens and let your little one toddle around (if she's toddling, that is). Take a boat ride on the Seine. Visit the Latin Quarter and sit in some sidewalk cafes. What do you think, chatters?

– March 04, 2013 2:38 PM
Q.

Mid week get away

Need a solo "recharge" trip. Would love to take a few days off mid-week in early summer. Ideal location would be a nice non-urban hotel with great pool (and nice gardens if possible). I'm not a fan of B&Bs. Any recommendations? Thanks so much.
A.
Becky Krystal :

How about Keswick Hall near Charlottesville?

– March 04, 2013 2:39 PM
Q.

trip to israel

Taking a first time trip to Israel in Oct. but the flights seem to be in the $1400 range- is that correct or am i missing something?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Too high! I see flights on Air France, Turkish Airlines and Alitalia for $1,089-ish. El Al also has sales from New York.

– March 04, 2013 2:41 PM
Q.

The dictionary police

Could chatters please distinguish between a "direct flight" (meaning more than one leg, without change of plane) and a "non-stop flight" which means reaching your destination without any stops? Puh-lease???
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Yes, it is very important to make that distinction.  Direct and nonstop are different beasts.

– March 04, 2013 2:43 PM
Q.

Portofino

I stayed in a "hamlet"--not even a real town--on the edge of Portofino National Park and crosscrossed the park on foot (and on ferry). Hiking and eating were my favorite activities, but if you stay in a town on the train line you can do more exploring. The poster should research Camogli and Santa Margarita Ligure in the vicinity of Portofino, but she may also be interested in the Bay of Poets further south (Montemarcello National Park). Anything but Cinque Terre, which is too crowded also.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Many thanks. I love our chatters!

– March 04, 2013 2:44 PM
Q.

Dark places - Cambodia

I feel like a lot of SE Asia falls in here. I went to Cambodia a few years ago, primarily to see Siem Riep. But we got deeper and got out into the surrounding villages and took the time to get to know our guide and his story. It was just astounding what that small country has been through, and is still emerging from. I knew about Pol Pot, of course, but the poverty in the countryside was almost unbearable. As were the begging children. I was moved to tears several times on the trip and we came home determined to find ways to help.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

What a hard but important lesson to learn.

– March 04, 2013 2:45 PM
Q.

Portofino

I lived in Liguria for a year and highly recommend a visit. That said, there are a number of ways that you can manage the trip. I recommend staying somewhere else -- the train from Genoa to the southern end of the area Chiavari is only 1 hour. Any of the towns along the way - especially Santa Margarita and Rapallo would be less expensive and also charming. You can then train to Portofino in less than 20 minutes each way. There is not much to Portofino, so you also can get to Pisa, Lucca and Florence in very short times on the train. Genoa is a big(-ish) city so you can find all range of accommodations there. Go and have a great time!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks for the great info!

– March 04, 2013 2:45 PM
Q.

Cruise with toddlers

Disney has a splash park kind of area for the kids (and kids at heart!). You're able to get wet/squirted without actually being in a pool. A swim diaper under the bathing suit would be fine in those areas. Plus DCL has a nursery for kids under 3, but it's a separate cost and its limited (like using a babysitting service.). I would suggest looking at some YouTube videos of the pool/activity areas. Royal Caribbean has some morning programs for very young children, but it may not let mom and dad have much "alone time".
A.
Andrea Sachs :

You are a pro. Thanks!

– March 04, 2013 2:45 PM
Q.

Dark History/Soul Searching

An off the beaten path tour of a village outside Cartegena Columbia called Palenque. This village was founded by runaway slaves and to this day is inhabited by their descendants and they are largely left alone by the Columbian government. Similiar to how Native Americans have land in the US where their rules apply. They speak their own language, have their own schools, African traditions and have been able to retain their own customs with very few modern conveniences. It was a leap of faith off the beaten path to negotiate our ride and guide, but it was well worth it. I'll treasure the warm welcome we received as AFrican Americans, the tasty lunch we had, the beautiful children in the school who we took pictures with and always remember the women bathing in the river...just a great sense of community and pride in heritage.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Wow. I  have never heard of this community, but I am so glad that you shared your experience and hope more travelers experience it, too.

– March 04, 2013 2:47 PM
Q.

Disney cruise/toddlers

My family did a Disney cruise to Alaska with a 2 year old. He couldn't go in any pool, just a splash area and in Alaska it was too cold to do that, even in August. He enjoyed some stuff in the kids club, but could not be left there without one of us supervising him. He did fairly well with babysitting at the kids club as they put on he favorite movie (they asked) but that was one night. He couldn't go on the overwhelming majority of excursions because the operators didn't carry toddler safe life vests and probably for other insurance reasons. I'd stay on land for a vacation with a child that young.
Q.

Re the Israel airfare question

All the Jewish holidays wrap up in September of 2013 (not spilling into Oct.) so that should make Oct. prices more normal than they can be if they are coinciding with the holidays which is prime travel time (both incoming and outgoing)
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– March 04, 2013 2:47 PM
Q.

Sydney later this month...

On a business trip to Sydney later this month but will have a couple days free to explore. The Post hasn't written about this destination in a long time. Aside from the Opera House and a visit to Bondi, what are the "must see/must do" activities? Would also love to have a few suggestions on great places to eat/drink/hear some live local music. Thanks, Crew!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Maybe you'd like to climb the Harbor Bridge! That is actually done, a big tourist draw. Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens. There are some good museums -- the Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. What else, chatters -- and throw in some dining/music recommendations, which I, alas, cannot make.

– March 04, 2013 2:47 PM
Q.

Costa Rica

I've collected lots of info on Costa Rica and am planning a trip. Is there a "best" time of year? Anything I should not miss?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Weather patterns vary in Costa Rica. If you're going to the Pacific Coast, December through April is considered the dry season. On the Caribbean side, which is generally rainier, February/March or September/October would be considered high season. Most of the larger beach resorts are on the Pacific Coast. 

– March 04, 2013 2:48 PM
Q.

vatican tours

Have you ever taken the Vatican-sponsored tours of the museum, St. Peter's, etc.? I'm wondering if it's a good option for a first-time visitor. Thank you.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I have not taken the tour, and I wandered around the Vatican and its environs clueless.

I would suggest the tour, and booking a reservation in advance.

– March 04, 2013 2:51 PM
Q.

Northern California

I'll be in San Jose for work mid-April and would like to take 3-5 days afterward for a mini vacation. My SO and I like food and wine and beautiful nature. We did Napa in the fall a few years ago but wonder if it's worth doing again in the spring. We're also thinking about driving up to the redwoods. Any recommendations?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Santa Cruz seems to have everything you're looking for -- wine, redwoods and lovely scenery. That being said, if you liked Napa and want to go back, why not? Different season, different trip.

– March 04, 2013 2:51 PM
Q.

Compromise Trip?

My husband and will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary Memorial Day Weekend. We are trying to plan a four-day weekend trip from DC with our 8-year-old, and prefer to drive if at all possible. I long for a big city trip full of museums and shows, but my husband and daughter want something rural and nature-filled. Do you have any ideas about a compromise trip? I am stumped. Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Not sure how long of a drive you'd be up for, but it seems like Asheville could be a compromise. Or head to Philadelphia for a few days, then stop in the scenic Brandywine Valley for the nature part.

Who else has a creative idea?

– March 04, 2013 2:51 PM
Q.

Late Summer Europe Fares

My wife and I have the good fortune of potentially being able to afford business class tickets this year for our trip to Europe, currently scheduled for the last week of August and first week of September. We're seeing fares hovering around $3K for each ticket, IAD to LHR roundtrip. Is this the lowest it will be, and should we pull the trigger now? I've seen that in the past, airlines have offered summer sales for around $2K, but unsure as to whether that will be the case this year. Thank you!
A.
Carol Sottili :

I haven't seen any $2,000 business-class fares to Europe for travel during August/September. Even the early-bird sales were closer to $3,000 than $2,000. I'd buy sooner rather than later. 

– March 04, 2013 2:51 PM
Q.

Re: Central Florida

For beaches near Orlando, you can't beat New Smyrna Beach. It is just south of Daytona Beach, but has a much different vibe. It has some of that old Florida beach town feel left in it. You can drive on the beach, or you can park in one of the nearby lots. South of NSB there is Turtle Mound and part of the Canaveral National Seashore where there are completely undeveloped beaches. Just don't go all the way down to parking area five and walk south, unless you want to see a bunch of naked old men. The rest of the Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a worthwhile trip as well. It's down nearer to Titusville. Ask for directions for how to get to Bio-Lab Road, a shell road that goes through the refuge. I've seen lots of alligators, and a ton of wading birds down there.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks!

– March 04, 2013 2:51 PM
Q.

Paris in September

I spent a September in Paris, albeit loving the museums and churches. With a baby I'd recommend the gardens. Luxembourg, Tuileries, Place des Vosges - you can really see the city while going from park to park. For us, the weather was wonderful. Have lunch at the Galleries Lafeyette cafeteria and go to the roof for the amazing view and comfy seating. Never a bad time to be in Paris!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

So true!

– March 04, 2013 2:52 PM
Q.

South Asian Tour Companies

To the family looking to travel in Asia, my daughter (14) and I traveled to both Thailand and Vietnam. We both really enjoyed sailing down the Mekong river on a converted rice barge - they did a lot of shore exploring which was very informative. Keep in mind that if you go to some of the war museums, they can be very tough as an American - so I encourage you to have conversations with your kids before visiting. We were in Saigon and found the people to be warm and wonderful! Really nice trip. We also loved Thailand - Bangkok was a ton of fun and such rich opportunities for viewing Temples, etc. We then went to Phuket which was nice. Enjoy your trip! Your kids will likely have a ball!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the suggestions!

– March 04, 2013 2:52 PM
Q.

Soul searching

When I was growing up in California we were taught in public school about how wonderful it was that Spanish Father Junipero Serra came up from Mexico and built a whole chain of missions up and down the (future) state over the decades. We had school field trips to the nearest missions, and as a young adult I thought nothing of stopping off at other missions on short trips. But, once Serra's name came up for consideration for sainthood I started to read about those who object on grounds that he committed cultural genocide against the native population. Now I have very mixed feelings about all those missions I saw in my youth, and am not sure I could visit another one next time I visit my native California.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

What a fascinating change of heart you had.

– March 04, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

DCA >> ATL

It's been a long time since I flew regularly and I'm always shocked at how expensive it's gotten! What is a reasonable fare for this trip? The cheapest I'm seeing is $298 and Bing says it's likely to go down. If it gets to, say, $275, should I grab it?
A.
Joe Yonan :

If we had a frequent flier mile for every time we have heard the question, "What is a reasonable fare for this trip?" we would be members of the million-mile club. But that wouldn't get us much, as Chris has reported. Anyway, what is reasonable is what you feel like you can afford at any given time. Fares have become so hard to predict that this is really a gut decision on your part. Anything under $300 seems pretty good in this day and age, even for something as close as ATL, so you could always just keep monitoring Bing and pull the trigger when your finger gets super itchy.

– March 04, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

Traveling with Medication

I also have a fair amount of medication that I take on a daily basis, so I'm used to flying with it domestically. I have always flown with it in one of my carry-on bags. I have the medicine in a medicine case that's divided by days of the week, and I always put that in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag (in case one of the compartments comes open in my bag I don't have to sort out pills once I reach my destination - learned the hard way!). I've never had any issue with TSA/security traveling with my medicine on domestic flights this way - I think they're used to seeing it quite frequently.
A.
Becky Krystal :
– March 04, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

Ireland in the early fall?

Planning on two weeks and wondering if there are any must see's or tips.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Must see: Dublin.

– March 04, 2013 2:54 PM
Q.

Big E

I went there as a kid, and my wife (not a local) was a 4-H er. Those piggies, lambs, calves, etc., are raised to be slaughtered, and if a kid treats it like a pet while caring for it it probably has a better existence than the ones crammed into pens. They were bred to be slaughtered and I doubt their existence was poorer becasue of some kid's affection.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I know there are lots of different opinions about this topic. I am on the Save Wilbur side, while others are on the Sauce Up Wilbur team.

– March 04, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

SAFE TRAVELS TO MEXICO

We are considering traveling to Cancun, but are somewhat concerned about going to Mexico because of the stories about drug trafficking, the mafia, etc. And now this latest story about a group of women tourist getting raped! How risky is it to travel to a Mexican resort and enjoy a nice vacation?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Go, and don't worry. The rapes occurred in Acapulco, which is 1,200 miles from Cancun. Use your common sense, and don't hang out in seedy bars or neighborhoods. If you stay in the main resort areas, you'll be safe. 

– March 04, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

Vatican Tours

The only way to do the Vatican Museum is by tour. There are no legends, nothing, and you'll miss it without a good guide. I would look into the Vatican-sponsored one as well as the independent tour guides who you can book online. And before you go, you have to read Ross King's Michealeangelo and the Pope's ceiling. It gives you such a better sense of all of the art that you'll see on the tour, and how they are communicating together.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I agree on all points!

– March 04, 2013 2:56 PM
Q.

4-H Animals

May I say something in defense of 4-H kids and animals at state fairs who will then be slaughtered? If you're OK at all with the concept of meat and leather (and I realize not everybody is), then realize that 4-H animals get a much better life and more humane death than factory-farmed livestock. The animals don't suffer with a foreknowledge that their lives will end (unlike Wilbur in "Charlotte's Web"). Their young owners put in thousands of hours owning and training the animals, developing relationships with them. And yes, they come to terms young with the fact that eating meat requires the animals to die. But if we want to be responsible about our meat, we can at least insist that the animals we sacrifice have a good life and a humane death. Nonetheless, I realize state fairs are not everyone's cup of tea and that's fine. But if I had to anguish, I'd be more worried about the condition of the ponies in the pony rides.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

And petting zoos and those overfed goats!

– March 04, 2013 2:57 PM
Q.

not so much soul searching....

and not so much dark, but I went to the fort at Niagra-on-the-Lake in Ontario and the presentation (it was a film strip like the ones from elementary school) that showed all the battles from the War of 1812 with the US victories as defeats and the US defeats as victories was quite a nice double take. It was fairly early in my experience as an international traveler of any kind and I needed that reminder that not everyone who speaks English is an American. Good lesson.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Great lesson.

– March 04, 2013 2:57 PM
Q.

Nashville Eats

My husband and I will be in Nashville in April to run our first marathon (yea!), any suggestions on where to eat? We'll need lots of carbs the night before the race, but otherwise are fans of good old comfort food... Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Apparently Callie Khouri, writer-producer of "Nashville," loves the barbecue at Jack's Bar-B-Que. Other thoughts, chatters?

– March 04, 2013 2:57 PM
Q.

Not a Question - just follow up

To the person going to the Yucatan, we found the Tulum ruins to be the least inspiring of the ones we visited (Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum). We didn't get as far as Palenque. We stayed at the Villas Arqueologicas at both Chichen Itza and Coba. You can climb a partially "restored" pyramid at Coba for great views. To the person going to Bhutan - have fun! We went last year and really enjoyed it - even getting up at 3am for the final "day" of the Paro festival. I was always amazed that our guide's cell phone worked when we were in the middle of nowhere.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the input!

– March 04, 2013 2:58 PM
Q.

Dark tourist site

We chose not to go see the killing fields in Cambodia, which are a popular tourist site apparently. There is some discomfort among some Cambodian citizens about the fact that the site attracts tourists, although I suppose one could make the same argument about learning from the past etc. Frankly, I don't think one needs to make a tourist attraction out of a site of genocide to make the point that such atrocities are wrong.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Yes, often we can remember and honor the victims without actually seeing the site of the tragic event.

– March 04, 2013 2:59 PM
Q.

Southeast Asia - Borneo?

For the traveler with children who wants to go to SE Asia, I liked Borneo a lot, and the Post did an article a few years ago on travelling through Malaysian Borneo with children. There are some charming tourist attractions near Kuching, and some relatively safe national parks with jungle trails for hiking.
Q.

Car service

I have used Falcon Valet in the past and have been happy. The cost from Alexandria to Dulles was about the same as the taxi ride home.

A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks!

– March 04, 2013 2:59 PM
Q.

First Time in Outer Banks

Don't forget the Wright Bros. museum at Kill Devil Hills (Kitty Hawk), and Roanoke Island (the lost colony, where Virginia Dare was born) for a non-beach activities on the Outer Banks.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Been to both, and I second your recommendations. 

– March 04, 2013 2:59 PM
Q.

Tokyo Tips

Hi, Travel Crew! I'll be passing through Tokyo for a few days later on this month: what shouldn't I miss while I'm there? Since it's such a short stop, I want to make the most of it. Suggestions for free/cheap things to do, good eats, and/or fun walking tours of the city would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Oh, goodness, this is a big topic! Well, let's see: You should go to Tsukiji Fish Market early one morning to see the auction and all the crazy seafood -- and then you should have sushi for breakfast in one of the attached places: freshest I've ever had. Have a bowl of ramen, or many. We're running out of time, so check out this guide for first-time visitors.

– March 04, 2013 2:59 PM
Q.

Turks/Caicos

I'm supposed to be leaving on Wednesday for a very short vacation to Turks and Caicos. We're staying in a resort on Providenciales (Grace Bay area). Since we're only there for 1 day what is the 1 excursion you would do? None of us are scuba divers but we thought about snorkeling, shopping, whale watching etc. I don't like the excursions offered at the hotel so I've been looking elsewhere (trip adviser). I want to make the most of this vacation in the little bit of time I'm there. (fly in Wednesday afternoon, leave Friday afternoon).
A.
Carol Sottili :

I would opt for something active that you can't do at home. Island Vibes Tours gets good reviews on several Web sites. Maybe a half-day snorkeling tour would work, as it gives you time to shop or hang on the beach on your own. 

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

WDC

Any ideas for a weekend getaway outside of Chicago? I'm thinking about a place with comfortable lodgings, surrounded by nature, roughly 2-3 hours from the city. Many thanks.
A.
Becky Krystal :

My husband's family likes the Lake Michigan shore. Other suggestions?

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

San Francisco

Hello - do you have any off-the-beaten-path suggestions for a couple of days in San Francisco in early April? I've been to the city a couple of times, so I've seen the main tourist highlights, and now I'd like something a little different. Thanks so much.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Get your hands on my favorite guidebook to the city, "Stairway Walks in San Francisco." I was so charmed by it that I ended up spending the day with the author, Ada Bakalinsky, doing what she does best -- walking some of the hundreds of public stairways that connect various streets and alleys in this oh-so-hilly city. You end up seeing things you would NEVER have seen, and getting a truly unique perspective on the city. My favorite: the Mosaic Tile Stairway, which leads to Grand View Park (named for very good reason).

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Travel to Paris on May Day

My daughter is traveling to Paris for her first visit. She arrives the morning of May 1st, a French holiday. What would be closed? What should she expect?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Some museums and attractions will be closed, but the city hardly shuts down. She can use the day to get her bearings and relax. Sit in the park, or at a sidewalk cafe, and watch the world go by. The churches are always open. She could take a walking tour of the city. I believe that Versailles is open, so that may be a good day to head out there and do that must-see. Other thoughts, folks?

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Chip & PIN cards for European travel

The last time I was in Copenhagen (Oct 2009) was a shocker: instead of having access to every ATM and being able to buy anything imaginable -- including food -- with a credit card, I found that there were only a couple ATM's in the whole city that would accept any of my cards, and only the most upscale merchants would take an American credit card. They all wanted the European chip & PIN card. So now I'm less than 6 weeks from another European trip, and I haven't been able to get one of those cards anywhere. There are chip & signature cards, which people say work somewhat better, but not well enough to be worth the annual fees. Am I just stuck carrying cash and being unable to buy a train ticket at an unattended kiosk or rent a Velib bike?
A.
Christopher Elliott :

I just returned from a two-week trip to the Canadian Rockies, and many merchants laughed when I presented them with a non-chip-and-pin credit card. "You realize how dangerous those cards are?" a gas station attendant in Banff lectured to me.  (Thanks, Wells Fargo.) Anyway, to answer your question some American credit cards like Citi and Bank of America, offer chip-and-pin cards to select customers. You may want to ask your bank about getting one.

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Any word on Budget Travel magazine?

Hello Travel Team! As you might expect since I am here, I love to travel, read about travel, etc., etc. I always enjoy following Budget Travel magazine for good insights. Of course they are now having financial troubles and I've received no magazine since about, oh, October or so. I'm wondering if any of you know just what's going on, besides the message that's on their subscription line. Any hope of a print version resurgence from them? Or will it be going entirely online (I hope not, I'm a paper person!) Thanks much!
A.
Christopher Elliott :

You're not alone. I've fielded several inquiries from concerned subscribers during the last few weeks. Budget Travel was -- I should probably say, is -- a great resource for travelers, and I've always been a fan. I'm told that the magazine is changing owners and that print subscriptions will resume soon. If for some reason they don't, you may be able to file a dispute with your credit card company to get your money back. But I would be patient. I've been assured the magazine will be back.

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Global Entry

Just wanted to "second" Sunday's Travel Talk piece about Global Entry where Christopher Elliott said the biggest complaint is interviews are in inconvenient places and can take a while to get. I applied a few weeks ago; I was approved to schedule the interview. Now, I can see Dulles' control tower from my office building, so you'd think that'd be the most convenient place to go. Well... if you're patient. I'm not. When I checked, Dulles didn't have interview slots available until mid-June. So next week I'm going to Dulles to fly to another airport on the east coast to interview there and then fly back.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Thank you for letting us know about this. As I've said, I think our friends at the Department of Homeland Security have it all backward. They should be identifying the passengers who are likely to blow up a plane, not the ones that are not likely to do so. We ought to be innocent until proven guilty.

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

all inclusive mexico or bahamas

Any recommendations for a good value all-inclusive in Mexico or Bahamas? Hubby and I are looking for a relaxing vacation and are leaving our toddler at home with the grandparents. We don't need top of the line, but don't want to stay in a dump either. Thanks!

A.
Carol Sottili :

There are many more all-inclusive choices in the Cancun-Riviera Maya area than the Bahamas. The Secrets properties get pretty good reviews, and, while not cheap, they are not priced at the luxury level.  I'd also look at the Excellence resorts and the Dreams properties. 

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Madrid and Barcelona

So me and Mom are going to Madrid and Barcelona next week. We are not a part of a tour group and plan to just freestyle while there. Do you think we should plan for a half day city tour in each in advance? Or do you think we should just do own own city tour compiling suggestions in guidebooks? I just don't know if they are worth the $$, they can be $100 apiece or more! I've seen some on TripAdvisor that look interesting and have good reviews. What do you think? Do you recommend any specific tour companies for our cities?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I think it depends on how you feel about tours in general. I'm not a tour kind of person, myself, so I tend to wander on my own -- after taking in advice from books, friends, etc. Having said that, a good city tour can give you an overview that can help you strategize the rest of your visit.

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Russian trip and money matters

I'm going on a river cruise in Russia this summer. What credit cards are widely accepted? And, since travel checks are not accepted and ATM's may be limited should I travel with lots of small bills to pay tour operators, etc.? It's been a while since I've been out of the US. Thanks.
A.
Carol Sottili :

When I went on a river cruise in Europe a couple of years ago, I made the mistake of not bringing enough euros in small denominations. Could have used more for tips and to buy sundries along the way. And the ship was not able to exchange enough money for everyone in small bills. Major credit cards, such as Visa and MasterCard, are accepted at established restaurants, shops, etc., but you won't be able to use them to buy fresh strawberries at a farmers' market.  In Russia, locals are more apt to happily accept American currency, although it is technically illegal.  

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

So Cal beach house

For the poster's information -- much of the oceanfront in Encinitas consists of cliffs overlooking the ocean (i.e., not wide flat beachfront). If you are looking for an east-coast type beachfront home, you might need to go to the LA area.
A.
Carol Sottili :

That's true, although if you have a car, there are beaches not too far from Encinitas. Really difficult to find OBX type beach digs in Southern California. Newport Beach, for example, has more beach area, but it's pretty densely populated. 

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Sydney

Any suggestions for must see in Sydney Australia. I am traveling there in October. Thanks.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

See my earlier answer!

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Trip to St. Petersburg

Hello Crew, love your weekly chats, never miss and I live in Los Angeles! My boyfriend and I are both photographers, so our vacations usually are designed specifically to go and take photos. This year we are planning a two week trip to include Copenhagen, Prague, Budapest and St. Petersburg. We have heard that it is a good idea to get a guide for St. Petersburg to help us get around and in and out of museums, etc. easily. Do you have any recommendations? We have already researched the internet and found a few possibilities, but many seemed geared towards a generic city tour, which is not what we are looking for. (We have a shooting plan already created for our time there.) Thanks for any referrals. And keep up the great work!
A.
Becky Krystal :

You should read this story we had the other year on the VIP tour one of our Post colleagues took in St. Petersburg. The details box has contact info for the person he used.

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Dog Friendly Weekend Trips

What are some dog friendly weekend trips we could take from DC? Already thinking of Charlottesville, anywhere else that offers good food/drink, fresh air, and pet friendly accommodations?
A.
Becky Krystal :

I stayed at two -- Savage River Lodge and the Inn at Meander Plantation. I was also thrilled to hear that the Inn at Willow Grove, which Zofia and I adore, plans to open some pet-friendly suites this spring.

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Peru or Ecuador?

My husband and I are debating a Peruvian or Ecuadorian (or both!) vacation in July. The problem: he's much more adventurous than I and we're looking for a middle ground. Any suggestions?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Couldn't you do a little of both? Fly to Quito, spend time there and surrounds, road trip it to northern Peru?

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Re: Multiple Flight carriers

It's normal to have multiple record locator numbers when you're booked on a carrier in addition to United. Most other carriers' record locators are the same as Amadeus numbers; United's is not., so that may be why there are more than one RLNs. Don't worry; all of the flights will also show up under the United record locator. You will need to pick up your bags at LGA and transfer them yourself to JFK. Though US and South African do have an interline agreement, that generally doesn't apply when you're changing airports. You'll be arriving at LGA around rush hour so you might want to look into connecting by public transit (best if the public transit involves as much rail and as little roads as possible). Have a great trip.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Thanks for the additional insights. Much apreciated.

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Dude Ranch

Good afternoon, We're looking for a Dude (guest) ranch out West that also has a dinosaur dig nearby. We want to combine the two favorite subjects of our 7 yr old: horses and dinosaurs. Any suggestions? Thank you
A.
Carol Sottili :

I can't think of one off the top of my head (we're at the end of our hour here), but the Dude Ranchers' Association is a good resource. 

– March 04, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Re: Getting a GPS in Europe

We tried to get a GPS from the counter in Florence (in town) but you had to reserve them in advance. Did fine with a good Michelin map anyway, and didn't miss the GPS.
Q.

Re: Dark history places + "animal sanctuaries" in Northern California

Over nearly two decades of international cruising, I have participated in many shore excursions to countries that have dark histories involving Jews: St. Petersburg, Russia; Berlin, Germany; England (where Jews were expelled in the late 13th century), Spain (Inquisition and expulsion in 1492); Italy (where the word "ghetto" originated; Denmark (where 700 Jews were rescued from deportation to the death camps) and taken in by Sweden in 1943); Holland (Peter Stuyvesant vs. Amsterdam in 1654); France (where there were riots in the late 19th century); and Ukraine (can you say "pogroms?"). Regarding the "animal sanctuaries," in Northern California, has Mr. Elliott reported them to the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) or county animal welfare agency? Either organization might wish to investigate these operators and attempt shutting them down.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

That is quite a dark list!

I learned after my visit that the 'sanctuary" was under investigation. I expressed my discontent with the conditions during a tour and was told that the owners were planning to built natural environments for the animals. Hopefully, they have been relocated to greener pastures.

– March 04, 2013 3:04 PM
Q.

'dark' side?

When I was studying abroad in Europe, we lived in a dorm with the French students. And darned if the French hadn't learned that they WON world war II. Which wasn't quite the way we had learned it in the US. Everyone has to come to terms with their past in their own way, I suppose.
Q.

DCA >> ATL again

Thanks! I know you don't have a crystal ball but you all seem to research air fares more than the normal person. There was a response earlier along the lines of "I haven't seen a fare for that trip as low as $2000." That is the general kind of info I was looking for (and what I suspect other are looking for when they write in with such questions). We don't expect you to know the future; just taking advantange of your general familiarity. Thanks again!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yep, I know -- which is why I did say that under $300 is certainly in the ballpark for any domestic fare...

– March 04, 2013 3:06 PM
Q.

Family resorts near the D.C. area

Hi! Our family spent a lovely vacation last summer at Purity Springs in New Hampshire. We would like to have a similar experience again this summer, but much closer to home. Are there any family resorts like Purity Springs in, say, West Virginia? Ideally, the resort would include all activities, and provide good food with a meal plan. We have two boys ages 5 and 9, if that helps. Thanks for any suggestions!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Some suggestions:  Greenbrier, Homestead, Oglebay Resort, Stonewall Resort, Glade Springs.

– March 04, 2013 3:07 PM
Q.

CHIP AND PIN CARD

I got a chip and pin Visa credit card from Andrews Federal Credit Union before a European trip. It's their Globe Trekker card. No int'l fees and no annual fee. Glad I did - used it in a lot of ticket machines and some stores that only took such cards. The application process is cumbersome (not all online) but it was well worth it.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– March 04, 2013 3:07 PM
Q.

dachau

When I was studying abroad in france, the advice we got (which we followed) was to use our two month eurail pass - and start it during the last weekend of oktoberfest (which was either the last month in sept or the first month of oct). We went to Munich. It was incredibly awesome - and we had a zillion great stories from just that weekend. But I also wanted to visit one of the concentration camps. A couple of my classmates came with me. We took a bus from Munich to Dachau. It was really really weird - because at each stop, the bus driver was calling out the names of the stops. And one of the stops was Dachau. So it was creepy to me that people live and work at that area. So they could be on that bus every day and hearing that name. Which I had studied about and never gave me great feelings. That was just the start to our going to see the concentration camp. Which was huge. And incredible. And all of those crazy emotions. But the biggest thing that did strike me was just taking the bus, and having people live their lives, right next door to the concentration camp and also, I suppose, telling people they live in 'Dachau.' I suppose it's wonderful that Germany has embraced their history and all, but they did it so much that they didn't even change the names of any of the towns. And changing the names wouldn't have been the answer, but these realizations at that time were quite powerful.
Q.

RE: Getting a GPS in Europe

Realize that you need specific maps for the detailed views of streets, and you might be best off getting those in Europe. Are you going to be driving, or is this a unit that you will carry on walks through cities or bike rides? I carry my own Garmin hand-held unit (an outdated one that I can still buy new map chips for), but I have to get specific chips for the countries I visit.
Q.

compromise trip

philly and valley forge!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Good thought.

– March 04, 2013 3:08 PM
Q.

Dark history

I lived in Brussels, Belgium as a teenager; we were there for four years and visited many castles and chateaux throughout Europe and England. I will always remember the dungeons--they had an equal mix of fascination and horror for me, especially viewing the instruments of torture such as the rack and the Maiden. It is absolutely incredible what human beings can do to each other, in the name of justice, religion or what-have-you.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Creepyyyyyyyyyyyy.

– March 04, 2013 3:09 PM
Q.

Dark tourist site

I've read about guided favela tours in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -- World Cup and Olympics coming up there in the next few years -- and wonder whether it's really ethical to gawk at the poor just because they're poor.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Here is a piece we wrote about the favela tour. Though I heard that the country is cleaning up the hardest-hit areas for the events.

– March 04, 2013 3:11 PM
Q.

Dark tourist site

Being of the Vietnam War generation, it took a long time to work up the courage to visit the Wall.
Q.

Money in Russia

two things I found out the hard way: 1) You must make sure that your bank's ATM card will work there (my USAA one didn't, due high fraud potential) and 2) do not accept any paper money that is even slightly damaged--you won't be able to get rid of it.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– March 04, 2013 3:12 PM
Q.

September travel to Europe

I am taking a cruise in September for my 40th but won't be able to purchase the airfare until June. Is that too late?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

No. That's enough time. I have booked flights a few days before a trip. You just might not get ideal flight times and may have to fly in a day before. But at least your won't miss your cruise.

– March 04, 2013 3:13 PM
Q.

DARK HISTORY, part 2

Or that Maddame Tussad's in London had a wax figure torture room. This was 1987 and I was 11. That was creepy!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Yep, that is mega-creeepppy.

– March 04, 2013 3:13 PM
Q.

re: Vatican Museums

I've done a guided tour of the Vatican gardens, which I'd highly recommend. I believe you need to book in advance, but it was well worth it.
Q.

dark side of tourism

We are planning a trip to NYC soon enough, with the kids. I grew up in NY. 9/11 was a very harrowing day (I didn't live in NY at that time) trying to ensure I knew where everyone was and what they were going through and all. My husband is not from NY - and I asked him if he wanted to go to the memorial - and he said no. Which is my answer too. I guess I'm just not 'there' yet in ability to go. I also am not so sure that I want to see it as a 'touristy' site that one much 'experience.' I don't really have any desire to go...
A.
Andrea Sachs :

That is a tough one. Good to recognize what you can and can't handle.

– March 04, 2013 3:16 PM
Q.

GPS in europe

Ha! people used to use actual maps. When we were in Spain, we had a car, and were driving around, and we hit a detour. They do things differently there, so ALL the directions for the detour were in that one place where you detoured. In Spanish. We had our handy map that the car company gave us and we muddled through. It's so interesting how times have changed!
Q.

Andrea Sachs :

The hour (plus some) is up. Amazing questions and comments as usual.

Today's winner is the chatter who had a laundry list of dark places via cruise and offered some good advice about how to help ease the suffering of animals housed in tourist attractions. Please email me at andrea.sachs@washpost.com.

See y'all next Monday!

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