Talk about Travel

Apr 15, 2013

Talk about Travel is here to help at 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.

Hello, chatters! How do you feel about B&Bs? If you read the Travel section, you know how Joe and I feel. You also know why seemingly every hotel is full of white-shrouded beds, thanks to Becky's great story on hotel design. Hope you liked the stories on chain hotel breakfasts and a mother's love affair with Embassy Suites. Not to mention Andrea's Q&A with the collector of all those fabulous Do Not Disturb signs! Let's keep the hotel theme going today -- tell us about your best/worst B&B experience. Most intriguing story wins a multipack of doilies -- kidding! A litte something from our Travel treasure trove.

Let's chat!

Great travel section -- I enjoyed every article as each one was full of thought-provoking issues, such as the pros/cons of B&Bs. The hotel room design article did not address a pet peeve -- bathroom doors that open inwards, making it difficult to open/close the door while in the bathroom! Given the small bathroom size in many motels/cheaper hotels, one has to do an awkward dance to exit the bathroom, which could be avoided by the simple device of having the door open outwards...

A good point, although I suppose the other side might aruge an outward opening door could block the entryway, which the bathroom usually is on, and pose a safety concern.

Thanks for your thoughts. Looking at the comments on the story, I can see that despite hotels' research, we still have plenty of room pet peeves!

Hello - my husband and I are planning a 7-10 day trip to Greece this summer (June/July). We want a culturally-focused trip (visiting the ruins, the islands, etc.) and are a fairly active couple. However, we don't want to travel around too much, as I'll be about 5 months pregnant and want some time to take it easy as well. Do you have any suggestions for an itinerary, or can't-miss places? Thanks!!

Lucky you! I love Greece. Of course you must start in Athens, but after that, you really can't go too wrong no matter where you go. Have a look at a couple of articles on Greece that we've run in recent years. One is all about the mainland -- Athens, Delphi, Nafplio -- the other describes several islands. Oh, and we very recently ran this piece on the island of Ikaria. I'd probably do a tour of the mainland and then take the ferry to Crete or Rhodes for some R&R. Or fly to one of the Cyclades -- Naxos, Santorini, Mykonos -- which are very lovely. Chatters, your thoughts?

My famiy is going to England in July, to see crop circles in Wiltshire. Besides the obvious places, like Stonehenge and Highclere Castle, can you recommend other things we should see/do? We will have a rental car, but I'm wary of spending too much time on the narrow roads! Do you know of any sort of car service we could hire to get us to where we need to be from one day to the next? We'll be in Wiltshire for five days before going to London for the rest of our trip.

Crop circles! Sounds fun. I'd want to see Salisbury Cathedral and Salisbury in general. Wilton House is a beautiful old historic manor you can tour, just outside Salisbury. Castle Combe is a lovely little postcard English village; Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" was filmed there. Good pubs and restaurants. What else, chatters?  (Btw, Highclere Castle is actually in Hampshire, not Wiltshire.)

The worst was when I stayed in a B&B with very fickle plumbing. I didn't want to know who had to come plunge the toilet!

Eek. And ick.

Hi - I can't seem to find out how to search the WaPo travel section for articles on certain locations. The search box at the top returns articles for the entire site. Is there a way to just search the travel section??

No, although this has been something we've been talking about getting going again for, well, years. Our online folks have yet to find a way to do it. Honestly, the best way to find stories on a particular location may be to e-mail us! If there's something specific you'd like to find, shoot a note to travel@washpost.com. You can also pull up our old archives through the map here and links here.

Hi I'm interested in learning to sea kayak and am trying to find a 3-5 day beginner's course. But the multiday courses I'm finding with a quick google search are either in Baja or Alaska. I was hoping for something closer to DC or possibly NY. Thanks

I'd probably start by contacting Potomac Paddlesports in Rockville. They give lessons, and they may also be able to steer you to a longer multi-day course. 

I notice that Delta flights to Europe now offer, for a surcharge, economy "plus" seating. Roughly how much of a surcharge is it if you are not a frequent flyer, and is the extra charge commensurate with a dramatic increase in comfort? I know you will say it's in the eye of the beholder but I'd like a more balanced and objective and practical answer.

I just handled a complaint in which the passenger paid several hundred dollars extra per ticket for econonomy "plus" -- which is about what economy class seats were before airline deregualtion. It may be worth it if you're tall, and on long-haul routes, but within Europe, it's probably not worth the extra money.

My husband and I will be taking a land tour next July: Tallin, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland; St Petersburg, Russia. During our 4 days in St Petersburg, the tour includes many major sights, including the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Church on Spilled Blood, The Hermitage, the Catherine I palace in Pushkin, the Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad, St Isaac's Cathedral, the Russian Museum, and neighborhood walks. We will also have 2 free afternoons, during one of which we plan to to go to see the palace and fountains in Peteroff. We are planning to spend 4 more days after that in Russia, and can't decide whether to stay on in St Petersburg, or to go to Moscow. Can anyone tell us how complicated the train to Moscow might be, whether the day train or the overnight train is preferable, what sights might still be important to see in St Petersburg, and whether there are sights in Moscow that are worth the extra trip? (We do not speak Russian.)

Chatters, please help!

I like the concept, but not the reality. Too close with others, too close with the owner/operators, too....Dont' feel like I can come and go like with a hotel...

I really liked Mr. Elliott's article this Sunday which at least partially blamed the travelers for agreeing to a restrictive no cancellation policy and then complaining it when the hotel actually enforced it. Thanks for trying to see the business side of the dispute for once. But the traveler still has ultimate power over this policy. The last line of the article summed up it all. "Read the restrictive cancellation policy before making the reservation, and then book somewhere else."

Thank you.

Just wanted to say: Best. Travel. Section. Ever. Thanks!

You're welcome!!!

Hello, I am considering going to China in May and am wondering if this is a good idea with the bird flu issues. I would like to know your thoughts on this and if there are special types of travel insurance policies you recommend, or do most general policies cover these types of epidemics? Would a 2 week visit to Beijing and Shanghai be enough? If I can stay longer, where else in China (other than Hong Kong) do you recommend visiting? Thank you.

I haven't had any readers cancel or try to cancel upcoming China trips because of the bird flu outbreak. One of the best sources of information for travel-related bird flu questions is the State Department website. Here's the thing: The situation could change quickly, and if it does, you might want to consider canceling or postponing your trip. Travel insurance may or may not cover you in that event -- it really depends on the policy you buy. I might consider waiting a while to see what happens, if you can. 

I leave for my dream vacation to Italy in two days. *cue squeal heard round the world* Any last minute tips? We're going to Florence, Siena, Orvieto and Rome. I've prepared for months, but I'm still convinced I'm forgetting something....

Just relax and enjoy it!

Years ago I was at a friendly B&B with a few "couple" friends; I was a single guy and there was another single in the group as well. One day we all went out for activities all day long, and when we got back to the hotel, my key didn't work. I went to the front desk and they rekeyed it for me. I went to my room, then, opened the door ... and see someone else's things in my room! Turns out that, even though I'd requested a room with two double beds, the daytime attendant noticed I was a single guy. They were out of rooms with two doubles but had plenty of rooms with kings. Someone checked in that day that needed a room with two doubles, so they took the "liberty" of upgrading me to a room with a king and MOVING all my stuff without me knowing. Clothes, toiletries, stuff I'd put in the mini fridge, etc. Oh, and then failed to tell the night clerk, which led to her resetting my key. I'm just glad I didn't see anything I shouldn't have. One fun part to the story: The night clerk and I played a prank on the day clerk the next morning at shift change by telling her that I had $1,000 in cash under my pillow that didn't get transfered and that the new people in the room were claiming it wasn't there when they checked in. Man, you should have seen the panic on her face!

Interesting. Sounds more like a hotel that served breakfast than a B&B, though.

My B&B experience is both good and bad. My husband and I stayed at a lovely B&B near Gettysburg for one of our anniversaries. While the food, the room, the common areas of the B&B and the surrounding area were great, it had these super-perfumed lavendar soap bars in the bathrooms. After using it for a shower in the morning, 4 hours later my body was covered in hives. Hubby found a nearby drugstore and I spent the rest of the weekend slathered in aveeno oatmeal lotion and calamine. Not quite the romantic weekend we had planned. But we made the best of it, and it taught me to always bring my own soap from now on whenever I travel.

Oh dear, what a way to learn that lesson! You can laugh about it now, though, right?

I loved Crete, Naxos, and Santorini. All fascinating, all different. If you want to spend several days (or more) in one place, I would suggest getting an international drivers license so you can rent a car to do some exploring of the farther reaches of the islands. While pregnant, I think the car might be nicer than buses (especially if you tend to get carsick - which is 10x worse for me while pregnant). .

Thanks!

Lots of talk about "typical" travel destinations,but does anyone have any feelings or ideas about the middle of america?Where can one go to enjoy something nice, pleasant and not about upscale? kansas? missouri? no big cities.anyone been to the tallgrass prarie or hannibal missouri? fried chicken and easy days are something i miss.

Your question immediately brought this story on Kansas's Flint Hills area to mind. 

Chris, you were way wrong. Montreal Convention of 1999. Damage by delay of luggage. Article 19 - The carrier is liable for damage occasioned by delay in the carriage by air of passengers, baggage or cargo. The woman needs to call Lufthansa again and try and make a claim. She could try and claim under the EU rules but it would be easier for her to file a claim with her local small claims court, depending on how much her damages came to. Damages are limited to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights under Article 21 plus court costs and interest. She has 21 days to make a claim under Article 31.

Thanks for the additional information. 

Any tips for a mid-30s woman traveling alone in New Zealand in July? Hotels, must-sees, etc. Thank you.

It might help to new just where in New Zealand you're going.

Given the mess with TSA and slowdowns in processing, if I get hung up in their processing and miss my connection will the airline charge me a change fee? I will be doing international travelling late May, and have left a 3+ hour window, but do fear being held up. Thanks

Most airlines have something called a "flat tire" rule, which basically means that if you're delayed by extraordinary circumstances, they'll put you on the next flight at no extra charge. I wouldn't test this policy; get to the airport early if you can. The "flat tire" rule is unevenly applied and you may end up being asked to pay for a new ticket. Also, the next available flight might not leave until tomorrow.

Just wondering if you all saw this article and if so, do you agree or disagree that many of these places are just overhyped? I can't help but wonder how the comparison is made between Costa Rica and Hawaii... from what I know about Hawaii, as beautiful as it is, it is also extremely expensive whereas Costa Rica, I believe, is much mmore reasonably priced.

Interesting. There's no accounting for taste, in travel and life in general. I certainly wouldn't want to discourage anyone from visiting Chicago, San Francisco or Colorado (an entire state? really?), and we've heard from people who have enjoyed trips to probably most of the places on that list. So, yeah. Depends what you like, I guess.

At 8:20 AM the comments for Joe were 113, Zofia 41. As a non-morning person I'm firmly in Joe's camp. Two magic words:ensuite bath!

Lots of unhappy B&B owners and guests out there, I guess! The rants always attract more comments. ;-)

I liked Becky Krystal's article on how hotel chains design their rooms by studying their guests. If I could tell hotel chairs such as Double Tree or Starwood about their hotels' rooms, I would suggest the following: 1. Make their clock radio alarm setting controls easier to use--provide an instruction sheet in a nightstand drawer or in the hotel guide on TV. 2. Install disabled rods on walls for prevention of falls in the shower/tub, and non-slip surfaces in the shower/tub. 3. Install chargers for iPads and iPhones or other branded tablets and phones. 4. Increase the wattage of the reading lamps over the beds. 5. Please stop overcharging single guests for room rates. Thanks.

Glad you liked the article. Let's hope hotel research includes looking at online comments! The person I quoted from Cornell's hospitality school did say that hotels do try to monitor what's being said on social media.

This place in a small Scottish town was nothing special, a typical no-frills UK B&B. When we asked the owner how to find a laundromat in town, she frowned and had to admit there was no place that could help us. She was so ashamed that she took our cothes and washed them herself.

Wow, that was nice of her!

I have a combo submission By far our worst B&B experience was many years ago in the San Juan Islands. The owners (who were in the process of selling the property) were alpaca farmers. The wife had decided she always wanted to farm alpacas and the husband always wanted to own a bed and breakfast, so this was the result. Needless to say, the animals and their droppings met us, wherever we went on the property. We were also responsible for making sure they didn't escape while we were there. When we went to breakfast, we were served a good meal, but is was ruined by the husband and wife owners sitting down with us. this normally would have been fine, but they didnt eat with us. they just sat and looked at us while we ate. No conversation, just awkward staring. When we left the husband hugged my wife (hmmm.) and when we mentioned how much we loved the islands. We got a explanation of why we should buy their property. Awkward again. We swore never to stay at a B&B again, until 10 years later we booked time at a B&B on the west coast of Puerto Rico. When I booked, i didn't realize it was a B&B and it was too late to cancel when I realized my mistake. My wife threatened to let me go on the trip alone. She's so glad she didn't as it was the best lodging experience of our lives. 40 foot oceanfront balcony. Secluded beach. Fabulous breakfasts. Owners that made themselves scarce. In room massages. We have stayed there 2 times since. I don't know if I would chance another B&B though....

Good AND bad -- a two-fer! Thanks!

Worst B&B - staying with a boyfriend I had only been casually dating, for my 10th high school reunion, and there was no door on the en suite bathroom. We ended up each "wandering" out to the porch in order to give the other person some sense of privacy. Or the B&B where I ended up getting engaged and the owner tried to prostelytize for his church as we were trying to check out. Best B&B - getting back from a night out and not finding the dog in the room where we left her, then having her saunter downstairs with the owners who explained that they took her up to their room to watch tv and feed her treats.

Another two-fer. Thanks!

We are taking a big driving tour of the Northeast to visit colleges in late August. We wanted to add a few non-college stops to make it a vacation as well. While our kids are not interested in any schools north of Boston we were going to spend a few days in Maine just for fun. We like the outdoors, especially taking boat tours, whale watching, short hikes and good food but are not into camping. I was originally thinking of going to Portland followed by Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park but as more schools are added we only have 2 or 3 days in Maine. I am now worried that Bar Harbor is just too far and we would be better to find someplace further south but I not sure what that would be. I would love your opinion on how best to spend a few days in Maine before we leave to drive to Vermont. Thanks

As someone who visited just about every college in Massachusetts, only to have my daughter end up in a school in Missouri, I have done that trip. We had a great time. Western Massachusetts was beautiful and Boston was much fun. As for Maine, I would highly recommend Boothbay Harbor. It's just north of Portland, and offers lovely views, sightseeing, lobster, boating, etc. 

I love B&Bs. But my favorite experience was about a decade ago when I went to northern England with a group of three friends. We used a B&B that one of us had found as a base to visit Holy Isle, Durham, hike along Hadrian's Wall and see the excavation at Vindolanda. The beds were fine (bathrooms could have been a little more modern) but the breakfast part of B&B was incredible. The menu was like a small book. We picked out what we wanted the night before so the host could get up at the right time to cook for us. You could have anything on the menu or everything (we didn't even try this). I fell in love with bubble and squeak - who knew? And it meant that we didn't even have to think about food until tea time. No inconvinient lunches to drag with us or find on the road. Made it much easier to follow random signs to out of the way little ruins or lookouts. And we were sure to be hungry for the UK's other perfect meal. Also, we got to talk to the people hiking all of Hadian's Wall as they came through - this place was evidently well placed as one of the stopping points. Lots of fun conversations in the guest lounge at night. And locals thought it was very amusing that 4 young women from NYC were visiting their little corner of England.

Lover-ly! Thanks!

I'm going to Italy at the end of September into October for 2 and 1/2 weeks flying into Bologna and out of Rome from IAD or DCA. I have been watching flights continuously through Kayak and they have stayed the same price- about $1350 round trip. That seems expensive to me. When do flights go on sale for the fall and does it make sense for me to continue waiting to book the flight? Is it likely that the price would increase? The current price seems almost like summer rates. Thanks for your help!

That does seem to be the current going rate for flights with easy connections. I'd probably wait a bit longer and hope for some sales. The more flexible you are re: days of travel, airports, connections, etc., the better the chances you will get a cheaper flight. 

Great section on Sunday. I would like to see more about the bathrooms, especially fixtures, lighting, etc. Are there standards in the hospitality field? Also just as "suites" seem to have different definitions, that seems to be the case for handicapped/disabled accessible hotels. I would like to see the issue addressed. Are there no national standards? For example, the trend to higher and higher beds heights makes it difficult for me, able bodied but short to get in so I don't know how someone in a wheelchair or disabled can be expected to get in bed and get out without falling. SUVs are being used more frequently as taxis/vans but they are hard to get in if one is short or has a bum but they hard to get in. One motel produced a stool for me and then the man behind me was glad to use it as well but I think as a man he didn't ask.

Very thoughtful comments, thanks. To sort of answer your quesiton, no, I don't think there are national standards. My understanding is that brands do have them, and, of course, there are certain legals standards to be met (ADA, for one).

Per Nick Boulos article on the 25 mile walk of the amalfi coast, I'd like to know which travel company he used. sounds like I'd love the trip, but being 60 yrs. old, I need to know about hiking difficulty, & are there bathrooms in every hotel room! thanx

He lists the company, On Foot Holidays,  in his details box, here.

If you plan to visit the South Island, just keep in mind that July is the depths of winter there. On the plus side, there are glaciers there, and snow skiing, if you're interested!

Where can I find a map of the flight paths used by planes departing from National Airport? I thought that since 9-11 planes were restricted to flying over the river. This clearly isn't happening. Planes are flying inland over the Cathedral area and it's especially annoying at 6:00 AM when it's non-stop for close to an hour. Where do I send a nasty letter?

You may be experiencing something reported by our Local staff the other year -- flight paths changing due to airport runway construction. Here's a page with info from the airports authority.

I have quick connections (1 hour) in Munich (outbound) and Vienna (back to IAD). The connections are to/from outside the airport's country. Will I make my flights? I usually make sure I have 2-3 hours between flights, but I broke my rule here.

If you are coming from another  Schengen country (these are mostly European Union countries that honor the same Schengen visa) and you are on the same airline, and it's the same terminal, you should have no trouble. But if your connection is more complex, it could be tight. 

Both of our best and worst B&B experiences were in CA. Best B&B we stayed at: breakfast was served between 8 and 9, and you only signed up the day before indicating around the time you'd be there. You were able to sit at different 2-seated tables in the dining room, the large table in the center OR eat on the patio at little bistro tables. If you didn't feel up to eating in the dining room, you were able to request to have breakfast delivered to your sleeping room (you put in the request the day before) A gourmet, served breakfast would be served at your seat once you were seated. In the afternoon, they served local wines, with cheese and crackers in the dining room and patio. It was a relaxed, nice time to visit and talk to the other guests who were staying there. Worst B&B experience: we were instructed to be there at the breakfast table at 8:00, sharp. This was relatively easy when we first arrived from the east coast, but it got progressively harder, since we like to sleep in a little when on vacation and I'm not a 'morning person'. There was no later seating slots for breakfast (sometimes B&Bs have 2 seating times), no option to have breakfast delivered to the room (if notified the day before). Seating was assigned at various tables, and the managers made no effort to mix up the groups, which would have been nice, considering almost everyone was staying there for multiple nights. You couldn't just sit whereever you wanted. Not the assigned seating made a difference, the managers/hosts also seemed to go on auto-pilot re. serving breakfast at each plate: people who had requested or had allergies got whatever was being served regardless (lactose-intolerent or veggie? Too bad, you're getting what we're serving for the day anyway). We were also instructed to sign/write something in our guest book about our stay. The managers/hosts also seemed surprised that we would miss breakfast the last morning, even though when we made the reservations we clearly told them we wouldn't be able to stay for breakfast, due to a very early flight out. My husband and I stayed at many B&B over the years for vacation, and this one was the worst. We did ask questions prior to going there, but unfortunately would have stayed elsewhere had we asked very specific ones such as breakfast times and how, exactly breakfast was set up. We nicknamed this B&B the 'bootcamp B&B' since they were so rigid about the whole breakfast set up. To this day, when I talk to my husband about this B&B, I refer it to this name rather than the official name (which I've since forgotten).

Thanks!

After a Saturday night stay we will need to park a vehicle for a week in July. Do you have a suggestion of where to stay - to spend the least on safe parking and with a free shuttle available to pier 91. Also: on that Saturday night what restaurant is the do not miss suggestion?

Several hotels offer park/cruise packages. Try Best Western Airport Executel or Sutton Suites. Our esteemed food critic Tom Sietsema wrote a Postcard from Seattle a few years ago. I've not been there in quite some time, so will leave restaurant recommendations to my colleagues and to other chatters. 

For the poster who's going to Savannah this month: we loved the walking tour we did with Architectural Tours of Savannah. Packed with details about the city, its history and its architecture, delivered by a guide who clearly knows his stuff and enjoys his work. And go to Zunzi's for a casual lunch -- if you eat meat, the Conquistador sandwich is to die for. (If not, they have loads of veggie options.)

Thanks for the tip!

I love B&B's. I have stayed in B&B's in Montreal, Quebec City, Cashell in Ireland, Bayeux, France, and Dakar, Senegal. The best part is having breakfast with the owners and other guests from around the world and hearing their stories. A British high school teacher told me and my son about the college application process in England. The Quebec B&B owners were from Switzerland. One minor disappointment was that the Dakar B&B owner cooked American food instead of local food!

I am plannning a visit Chanticleer Garden outside of Philadelphia, and hope to make a weekend out of it (one overnight). Other than going into the city, what else is there to do nearby? I would be meeting friends from NJ, so I'm looking for sights close to Chanticleer rather than on the way to/from DC.

There's tons to do in this area. Valley Forge is right nearby, definitely someplace to see if you've never been. If you want to visit more gardens, Jenkins Arboretum is very close by, and Longwood Gardens and the Winterthur Museum and Gardens are each about 30 miles from Chanticleer. Chadds Ford, a little over 20 miles away, has the Brandywine River Museum and the Andrew Wyeth Studio. What else, chatters?

Add me to the list of someone who has had the B&B owner do my laundry in a village with no laundrette. It was a bit cringeworthy to find all of our unmentionables hanging on her clothesline when we got in after sightseeing, however. We had expected her to use an appliance-type dryer.

Who knew this was so common?

I'm a single guy and I want to get away, probably by myself, over Memorial Day weekend, possibly tacking on a few days the following week. Where should I go? I like cities, cultural stuff like museums and theater, and food. Beaches are good but I don't know how I feel about doing that by myself. Have already been to Montreal, Chicago, NYC, Seattle, Boston, LA, SF recently. I really want to go to Europe/abroad but fares are so high -- would like to keep it under $800 for airfare. Any ideas? Fun/friendly gay scene would be a plus.

Portland (Oregon)?

Am wondering if someone can recommend an inexpensive but safe hotel in Amsterdam.

Anyone?

I wonder if the Bed and Breakfast pro and con could be update concerning AirBnb. So many people are now renting out a spare bedroom, I wonder if their experiences would be any different than B&B owners. Personally, I prefer the anonymity of chain hotels over a personalized B&B experience.

We've written about AirBnB.

We are planning our summer trip to London, and will take a two day trip outside the city to visit Warwick Castle. Would it be better to return to London for a night before our flight, or travel directly from Warwick to Heathrow? It would be about thirty minutes more travel time to travel from Warwick than where we will stay in London (with friends). I'm just not sure about the reliability of transit from that region.

There is a National Express bus that goes from Warwick's Parkway rail station directly to Heathrow. It takes less than two hours, and it departs throughout the day.

It is not so bad as bad plumbing, but we went away for a weekend, expecting a lovely room with a balcony. Uh huh. The "balcony" was this raised dais that led to a small window inside the room. The walls were paper-thin, so we could hear everything blasting from the television next door. (Our room had no tv.) And, breakfast was cold cereal and some toast. We chatted with the owner as we checked out after only one night, and found out he had been in marketing before buying the B&B. Oh yeah. He was very adept at marketing.

Well, he marketed well enough to get you there, didn't he? ;-)

Last week I had asked in the chat about parking in Philly and you had recommended leaving in the car in a lot for the day. That is great advice and what I *should* have done but ended up driving around for the sake of flexibility and paying big bucks for parking. I'm glad to say that navigating the city by car was pretty easy but next time I'm definitely taking the bus or train! Then again, the hot buttered pretzels at the Reading Terminal Market *almost* made up for the hassle.

Listen to us! :-)

We were seated with two other couples at breakfast. Apparently one of them was contagious with influenza, because it was the only close contact I had with other people during that part of the trip. A few days later I came down with a bad case of the flu that had me laid up for a month. Flying home cross-country while really ill was pure misery.

Poor you!

".... Our online folks have yet to find a way to do it...." How hard could it be? How 'bout a search menu that would allow you to search for stories that appeared in a specified section in a specified date range? So a search for, say, "Travel Greece 2012" would bring up your stories about island cruises and historic sites that year, but not foreign desk stories about unemployment demonstrations or the banking crisis or old travel stories that are out of date. I would be willing to bet that everything in the Post's database has been coded in every way possible, or search wouldn't function at all; it shouldn't be hard for your technicians to make it easier for your readers, especially since you're about to drive them away in droves when you start your paywall.

I know. I will inquire again...

I recently drove, with my son who was relocating, out to Fort Collins, CO. I fell in love with the town, downtown area, walkability, bikeability, access to activites. I would like to find something similar on the east coast in preferably NC or SC. So far I've checked out Wilmington NC. Any suggestions? Thanks

I spent a very nice weekend in Winston-Salem last year. Very walkable, good restaurants, etc. 

I have been agonizing over whether I should buy 4 advance train tickets from Paris Gare de Lyon to Nimes for morning of June 18. We are picking up a car in Nimes and driving around Languedoc for a week. I want to get out of Paris early but don't want to make our schedule too rigid. Would rather not buy the more expensive rail tickets that allow you to make changes. Is this a route that fills up in June? I have my eye on an early train (TRV?) that is fast. Should I just make the call and buy em now? Any other reasons NOT to buy tickets early?

Anybody have advice for this traveler?

I found that connecting in Munich was fairly easy and efficient (being a new airport and German. Frankfurt, however....)

Do you all know of anyplace (tropical, perhaps?) that might be cheaper to visit over Fourth of July, simply because more people tend to stay in the U.S. of A? Or do such places not exist?

I'm one of the authors of the What's the Deal? column, and I've never received a press release from a foreign resort touting a deal for leaving the United States over the July 4th holiday. Some tropical destinations drop their prices because it's hot in July, so you may find a deal over the holiday weekend, but not one hooked to Independence Day. 

Hi! My husband and I are heading to the Meander Inn at the end of the week. Any local activities we should look into trying? We are travelling with our 2 bulldogs so no serious hiking for us. Thanks!

Awesome! I really enjoyed the place when I stayed there with my dogs. Here's their page on area activities. The innkeepers are quite friendly -- and dog owners -- so I bet you can get more advice if you give them a ring. Walking in the town of Orange shouldn't be too strenuous for the pups, and you all might enjoy visiting some of the battlefields.

That story makes my skin crawl. I have an array of detergent allergies, and it can be a bit of a crap-shoot what cleaners hotel staff use in the rooms. Like OP, I never travel without my own soap and shampoo, and if I don't have too much to pack, I sometimes even bring my own towel. Rather frustrating that they use so much industrial-strength detergents in rooms people stay in! I know, I know, germs and all, but the level of toxins/irritants in some hotel rooms is staggering.

Some years ago, my mother and I visited our English friend, who took us on a 2-week trip through northern England and Scotland. We stayed at a different B&B almost every night, and every last one was welcoming and clean. [BTW, Badgers Wood in Keswick, England where I stayed a few weeks ago was the absolute best!] The next year we hosted our friend on what we hoped would be a similarly memorable tour here in the mid-Atlantic. In Cape May we splurged on a B&B in a Victorian house instead of a chain motel. The place was pleasant enough, but the B&B owner was so afraid that guests would steal, that breakfast consisted of only finger foods -- no utensils! The rooms were full of "don't ..." signs. Small details, I suppose, but they sent a big message about what this owner thought about her guests, and we could only hope that foreign visitors would not assume that all Americans are like that. It was definitely not the welcoming experience we had hoped to give our English friend. The only other B&B I've tried in the US was a not-so-clean place in Ogunquit, Maine. Perhaps my US experiences were a fluke, but while a B&B is my first choice in England, in the US, I'll stick with a blah chain motel.

Interesting!

Cheap B&B in London. Three words sum it up: Spaghetti-Os for breakfast.

Yikes!

Love b & bs but will never forget the lovely little place in Vancouver whose Host creeped us out with his White Male Domination of wife. We truly feared that when no one was Around he could be dangerous. Couldn't get out fast enough.

Oh, dear.

I have tickets to England that I purchased using frequent flier miles on Delta. I upgraded to the Economy Plus seats mostly because they are forward of the wing and I tend toward airsickness. I paid $79 extra per flight segment, so only chose to upgrade on the long flights over the Atlantic.

My wife and I are planning a trip to Iceland in late September/early October. We picked this time because we heard it is a good time to catch the Northern lights. Out question/worry is, will this be a good time to go. The idea of less crowds appeals to me, but I worry many attractions may be closed or roads inaccessible. I'm also concerned about how the weather, might be. We are from Wisconsin, so can handle chills, but don't necessarily want to start winter early. Any thoughts on traveling there this time of year? Any suggestions of fall activities?

I wouldn't be terribly concerned. The weather shouldn't be too extreme yet, especially if you're talking about September. The Iceland tourism site is pretty comprehensive. Check it out.

Anyone have recommendations?

My Russia experience was with a school program, so slightly different, but I'd say research heading to Moscow for your extra four days! I spent the full summer in Petersburg, so I know there's certainly more to do, but it sounds like your tour is well-rounded. We did an overnight train to Moscow, and while the program handled the logistics, the train was very comfortable (not luxury, but I've had worse overnight train experiences in Italy). Our excursion to the capital was about three days and definitely worth it.

Here you go, Russia traveler!

For "Where to go for Memorial Day": Have you considered our fair city of Pittsburgh? Lots of cultural stuff, surprisingly good food, reasonable prices (compared to DC, NYC, or California), although not much in the way of beaches. What you save on airfare can either go toward your next trip somewhere, or you can really live it up in the Steel City!

This is Chef Vinod from Indique/Indique Heights. I was wondering if you could please let your chatters know about a culinary tour to South India which I am leading in October 2013. The dates are from October 16 - 28. Price - $ 3995/- Will be staying in all deluxe luxury hotels and several cooking demonstrations all along the tour. The tour is in collaboration with one of the best tour operators to India from the Americas - Indus Travels. More details on www.chefvinod.typepad.com or www.indus.travel. Thank you so much.

Worst B&B was probably the one in Inverness, Scotland where I emailed and confirmed a reservation, only to find out as we were driving to the place, that they were full and didn't have our reservation recorded. It turned out that they failed to record our reservation. Sent us to a neighbor, but had difficulty find the location due to the Scottish accent.. Also, the "fantastic" breakfast wasn't so fantastic. Best B&B, Carlisle, England. Introduction to the English breakfast, woke up to farmers moving their cows outside the window. Brown sauce was... brown.

It has been a few years, but we have fond memories of Hotel Nadia from our first visit to Amsterdam. Tiny rooms, of course, but good location and very affordable (by Amsterdam standards).

Loved the articles and I can identify with the views of both Joe and Zofia, both of whom were writing I'm sure with tongue firmly in cheek! You don't have to go to the countryside to enjoy the B&B experience, though. DC is home to two of the finest in the country, the Woodley Park Guest House and the Embassy Circle guest house. I can vouch for the fact that you get all of the conviviality of a good B&B with sophisticated settings, comfortable rooms and wonderful breakfasts. In all of our travels we've never found anywhere that measures up to them. Not an owner, just a very satisfied customer and repeat visitor.

My hotl pet peeve is that they give you that big hot duvet but no top sheet. So you either freeze or are boiling. Do the designers ever actually stay in these rooms?

Yes, you've hit on a sentiment expressed by several readers who e-mailed me this weekend. I seem to stay in places where there's a top sheet-duvet combo. Like I said in the story, though, I'm usually too warm with the duvet and too cold with only the top sheet. Had one interesting suggestion from a reader, who said she removes the duvet cover and uses that as her blanket instead of the heavy part. 

I hate B&Bs for the reasons you share. Another issue is the meat-heavy breakfasts, which, for a vegetarian, leave a lot to be desired. The few times we have been forced to stay at B&Bs, we go out and find a local coffee shop for breakfast and skip the afternoon sherry or whatever nonsense they offer. I also always feel as if we are teens sneaking home late when we come in at night--ugh. Our thing is to always stay in suites hotels or places that at least have a microwave and fridge. It is so nice to have the freedom to buy food for lunches, breakfasts, etc on your own.

Re sea kayaking, also check out Coastal Kayak in Fenwick Island. (www.coastalkayak.com) They are great. Despite it being October, they arranged for a private marsh tour for my 50th birthday in 2011. Reasonably priced and I checked that they do sea kayaking too.

I've gone on several kayaking  tours with them, and definitely agree that they are a good operation. Did not realize they also give lessons -- good to know!

I can recomend Columbia, Missouri. A bit of the Midwest and a bit of the South. College town, not far from the Ozarks, nice downtown. There are also some nice smaller towns around-- Fulton (go and see the section of the Berlin Wall), Herrmann. Sadly when I lived there I never got to Hannibal (which I have good things about) and also Mansfield (Laura Ingalls Wilder lived there.)

Thanks for the suggestions.

Have you gone online to have your mail held yet? Have you obtained enough Euro currency to get you through your first day or day (taxi, snacks, etc.)? Have you phoned your credit card companies to let them know that you'll be in Italy (so they aren't caught by surprise and refuse to honor a purchase you try to charge there?). Have you set your light timers so you can observe them on a trial run before you leave?

Well, here are some things I hadn't thought of!

probably OT as I'm sure things have changed in the past 25 years, but the one time we had to make a connection in Munich our flight was delayed and a Munich customs agent ran with us to our gate, checking our passports on the way!

Every time I think of B&Bs, I think of the Bob Newhart TV sitcom that was set in one in Vermont -- with his long-suffering wife, spoiled-rotten cleaning girl, handyman George, and the rustic locals (Larry, Darryl and Darryl).

Yes, loved that show!

Headed to Minneapolis next weekend---my first trip to the midwest. ANy must see sights?

My husband went to the Midtown Global Market a few times when he was there.

As a follow-up, I meant that I if I am delayed in my connecting flight - will the airline charge? I left a 3 hour window from landing to the connecting flight, hoping that would be enough time to do immigration, customs, etc. When I made the reservations, it seemed like plenty, but given the "sequestration" and reduced staffing, I'm wondering if I'd be charged. I can't get anywhere any earlier!

No, as long as your flights are on the same itinerary (usually, you would have the same record locator or reservation number) then you're OK. If you're delayed, you will be put on the next flight. But if you're already in the airport, you wouldn't have to go through TSA screening again.

What would be a good place to travel locally this summer (within say 2-3 hrs drive) with a baby? I know a lot of b&bs don't like babies, so specific hotel or b&b suggestions would be welcome.

Without knowing your budget or whether you prefer cities, mountains, beaches, etc., difficult to answer. If you like the water, take a look at Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay. If you like mountains, perhaps Shenandoah National Park 

I have visited Hannibal, MO and the Tallgrass Prairie and would recommend both. Spent the afternoon in Hannibal, which was enough to see the highlights of Mark Twain's life and watch the boats travel on the Mississippi River. I love the emptiness of the Tallgrass prairie and the quiet. And the GIANT grasshoppers. It's a very different ecosystem than what we are used to here.

I had an unplanned stop at a B&B very high in the Yorkshire Dales when I discovered my planned itinerary was too optimistic. But it was great - absolutely wonderful scenery, friendly owners, and it was so very, very quiet up there that it was almost painful to someone used to city noise. I slept with the windows open for the breeze. All was well until I woke up shortly after 5 am... couldn't quite identify a noise. Animal of some kind, but I was unsure what it was. Then there was another, and another, and within the course of 10 minutes the racket was indescribable. I went to the window - the pasture just the other side of the beautiful rose-covered stone wall was filled with hundreds (at least) of sheep. At breakfast I commented, and the innkeeper was a bit embarassed - yes, when they use that pasture, it can get a bit loud. Of course by 8 the sheep had all moved on, and it was blissfully silent again... just in time for me to get in the car and move along...

Baaa!

Economy Comfort are free for Platinum and Diamond passengers and at a discounted rate for Silver and Gold. I've flown them multiple times to Buenos Aires and Santiago. You'll get an extra few inches of legroom and some additional pitch in your seat. You also get free liquor (not just free beer and wine). I'd say that they are worth it for a trans-Atlantic trip but it is definitely not a better seat like the Air France Premium Voyageur seats.

Dying for a relaxing getaway, but due to various constraints, it'll probably have to be in the last two weeks of June. So the beaches are looking less enticing, and the Caribbean will be under hurricane watch anyway, right? Not really interested in Europe this time around. So where do we go to chill out and do nothing somewhere beautiful? Vancouver? Big Sur? Vermont?

Vermont in the summer is lovely. Vancouver would be nice and cool, too. If you really want to chill, though, let me put in a good word for Vancouver Island. I was there last fall for just a few quick days. Fantastic, gorgeous. Wish I'd stayed a week.

I'm staying at a B&B--my very first time!--in May and wonder about tipping. Is it required/expected? My family is taking over the entire house and the crowd will include someelderly rlatives who may need extra assistance. Should the owners be compensated over and above the cost of the lodging?

I would give a tip if your group does indeed call upon the owners to do a little extra above and beyond.

But then others of us think that the owners are what make B&Bs different from hotels and love friendly owners. I guess the best owners are the ones who can read their guests and make themselves either available or scarce depending on what the guests want.

Precisely!

If you like exploring back roads (especially by bike!), I'd recommend a summer break in Decorah, IA and some of the surrounding small towns in NE Iowa and SE Minnesota (such as as Lanesboro). There's surprisingly good food, a summer theater scene in Lanesboro, and lots of roads without too many crazy people.

More for the Middle America traveler.

Many airports near the airport and near the cruise place offer stay a night and cruise package just like hotels do park and fly packages. I know a few off the top of my head...clarion and comfort inn airport hotels on international blvd near airport. There is a few hotels near the space needle that do this ( I think one is a clarion or comfort suites)

Very true. Many hotels offer these packages at all different price points. 

What are you defining as B&B? Some small towns it may be more like a small hotel. I've stayed at a few f them over the years and have dne the opposite ends of them and for the most part they were fine. The worst one I can think off wasn't that is was bad and it wasn't n issue with me but others would have railed on it because it's breakfast was similar to what you may get at n econolodge ....the little muffins and cereal dispensers.

Paid $99 per comfort seat for night flight from Detroit to Amsterdam. Paid in november for april flight. In December delta made a schedule change that cancelled our seats--without notification or refund. Spent hours on this last week when I noticed we had no seats on our flight and of course comfort seats were sold out. A helpful agent finally resolved the issue to our satisfaction. Lesson learned: read every single detail of every change notification you get about flights. A plane change means you lost your seat.

A valuable lesson. Thank you for sharing that with us.

I will be visiting my sister in London for ten days at the end of this month. I have not done much international travel and I'm going to have to get myself from Heathrow into downtown London (with my suitcase) to meet her, due to her work schedule. Although I lived the first 30 years of my life with no cell phone, the idea of being on my own in a foreign land with no phone fills me with terror, but I have no idea if I have any options that won't cost me more than my plane ticket. I have an iPhone with AT&T, if that makes any difference. Any suggestions about what I can do before I go to lessen my anxiety? Once I get to her I'm sure I'll be fine but the "getting" part is keeping me up at nights.

Deep breath! Here's the international info from AT&T. Here are more options to consider. You should be fine to get into the city from Heathrow by train. Should be pretty straightforward. Good luck!

Moultrie County, Illinois, (Sullivan and environs), including Amish in surrounding communities (nearby Arthur is a bit touristy in that regard, but nowhere near as bad as Lancaster County, PA.). Dare I mention that Sullivan has a nice B&B? Also, it's been a while but there at least used to be (and still may be) summer stock theater in Sullivan.

Yes Last place we stayed the light was so low we went out and bought higher wattage bulbs so that we could read.

Wow!

For the traveler considering buying tickets in advance, I can't recommend Budget Europe Travel Service enough -- I've had great help from them in the past regarding options and schedules and pricing, too. They would probably be glad to give you their opinion on your situation -- for free -- and would likely have a good deal if you decide go go with them after all.

Thanks!

When I was in middle school my parents took us on a road trip from Maryland to Toronto, on the way my mom wanted to try out some B&Bs. Outside of Pittsburgh we stayed on a B&B that was also a farm. When we first arrived the resident flock of geese took a rather aggressive interest in us, but a few hollers from the owners and they left us alone. Until we were leaving and packing up the van when a goose charged me, I shrieked and my dad slid the door shut only to hear a *clunk,* so determined to ream me that goose was willing to sacrifice its noggin to the van door! I refused to help carry anything else to the car and let me dad dodge geese charges until we left.

Honk!

For the traveller to Mpls, check out Hell's Kitchen for breakfast and for sightseeing...go to Lock and Dam #1. Super cool and a great view of the Mississippi. Also Walker Sculpture Garden and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Wander around the U of MN Mpls campus which spans the river.

IMOHO you can not (or very rarely!) go wrong with Select Registry listed properties. Not cheap! but very carefully vetted....my GF loves them, to my dismay (I *am* cheap, and a hotel point collector junkie)

btw legal minimum connecting time: 35 minutes

I am traveling to LA May 3-5 and would like some recommendations for must sees.

Los Angeles is a geographically large city, so much depends on where you are staying and whether you will have a car. The Getty Center, the Getty Villa and Griffith Observatory are three of my favorites. And I enjoy hiking in Topanga Canyon, biking along the beach in Santa Monica/Venice and window shopping in Beverly Hills. 

My husband and I are heading to Charlottesville soon for a weekend babymoon. We are expecting our second child in a couple of months. We have dinner reservations at Glass Haus Kitchen (as recommended by WaPo's Tom S.), and Zinc; we are staying at Keswick Hall; and we have tickets for the Revolutionary Garden Tour at Monticello. Do you have any other recommendations for our time jointly away from baby number one while looking for some relaxation and romance before baby number 2?

Grab a picnic to enjoy in the pavilion gardens at U.Va.

I just went to China in November and spent 2 weeks there. We did Beijing for 5 days, Shanghai for 2.5, the Yellow Mountains for 2.5 and Hong Kong for 3 days. Personally, I wasn't a huge fan of Shanghai and felt 2.5 days was enough, but that's just me. Shanghai is a lot of shopping and I wasn't really interested in doing that since I could just go to NYC and do the same thing (although truth be told, I'm not much of a shopper). I do highly recommend heading to the Yellow Mountains -- very beautiful and relaxing and a nice break from the crazy travel time in all the cities.

Many thanks to the respondent. I'm leaning that way. Any recommendations for particular sights, churches, experiences in Moscow? We're interested in history, churches, the arts, good food, people-watching, and do a lot of walking.

You must see Red Square and the Kremlin, of course! Church of the Ascension and Novodevichy Convent are World Heritage Sites. Museon sculpture garden where all the statues of the old Soviet leaders have been put to rest. That should at least get you started!

My wife's vegan; I'm vegetarian. We love b&bs, and we've found that letting the innkeepers/owners know ahead of time what we eat takes care of things. We just had a lovely time at a b&b in Toledo with great breakfasts that took away the need to buy lunch!

Check guidebooks for individual tour guides. Also highly recommend company called Context Tours for Rome and Florence. Small tour groups, worth every penny: we've used them in several cities and the tours have always been great. Siena: try to find a guide who belongs to and will take you into a contrade (neighborhood, but much more complex), especially to show you the contrade's chapel and museum with their Paleo winning banners. Fascinating.

My husband needs to have a passport in hand by May 2 for a last minute travel opportunity we have with my new employer. Is this possible and how does he begin the process? Or do I just plan to travel alone this time? Thanks for your chats!

Expedited service might work for you. Also a tipster reader said he was able to walk in without an appointment on a Friday and had his passport by Tuesday. It may not be typical, but worth a shot if you get really desperate.

Minneapolis Art Institute, Walker Art Center, Swedish Institute, Mill City Museum, Mall of America-- just for Starters. Minneapolis is an absolute gem! And their Airport is the best in the US!

And that's it, folks! Thanks for chatting. Great one today -- you guys really love/hate your B&Bs! Lots of terrific stories, but I laughed most at the one from the traveler who had to watch the alpacas at the alpaca farm-cum-B&B. Send me your contact info at zofia.smardz@washpost.com, and I'll whisk of a prize! Thanks again everybody, and see you next Monday!

In This Chat
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
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.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
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