Talk about Travel

Apr 28, 2014

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.
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Greetings, all, and welcome to today's Travel chat! Hope you enjoyed this week's section, between Charles Lane's tale of a trip to the Chilean Andes, Simon Willis's day of playing cowboy in Colombia, and Melanie Kaplan's escape to a Pennsylvania dog park.

In honor of the fact that there were so many animals in this week's section: flamingoes and horses and doggies and more -- here is my request to you: Tell us about a trip you took in which animals, of the wild or domesticated type, played a starring role. Our favorite story will get a little prize.

Let's go!

My boyfriend and I are planning a two week trip to Nicaragua in July. Our only plan so far is to go to either Big or Small Corn Island but we do plan to visit other areas. We would welcome ANY advice you or your readers could give us.

Here's our story on the Corn Islands to get you started. Folks, please chime in with more.

We are an American family living in The Netherlands and are moving back to the US this summer. We have one last trip to take at the end of June. Give me your bucket list of places to see. We've travelled throughout Western Europe, been to Egypt and Greece but we are looking to go out with a bang. Family of 4 - girls are 10 and 13 and up for any adventure. Thanks for helping us with our travels over the last 5 years!

My bucket is very big. If you just skim that top, you'd find Sri Lanka, Namibia, Cyrpus, Malta, Scandinavia, Antarctica.

I think Namibia might be great as a family vacation -- with wildlife, ghost mining towns, dunes, etc. I also loved Morocco, for the mix of attrations, landscapes and amazing food.

I'm inspired by your dog park article in this week's section. Do you know any good stop between here and Ohio (on Rt 70) where we could have a fun break with the kids, but also have our dog? We used to stay at Rocky Gap, but they don't take dogs anymore.

I assume you mean I-70, right? The Omni Bedford Springs Resort accepts pets. If you detour or take a more southerly route, there's also Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

My family (with teenagers) is interested in a water activity oriented resort with water skiing for the late summer. However, we've ruled out the Caribbean because that's just too hot plus the potential for hurricanes. So, I'm wondering about a lake resort. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

I'm a big of fan of Lake Tahoe in California. Good variety of water sports plus beautiful scenery, hiking trails and even casinos. South Lake Tahoe has larger resorts and water-skiing facilities. 

We will be taking an 8 day train/road trip to western Canada in the fall to view the Canadian rockies. Hotel accommodations are part of the tour as is food while on the train. During the non-rail portion of the tour we are either on our own or may pay $1,009 per head for breakfasts and dinners in the hotels where we will be staying. The hotels are all Fairmonts so we expect there will be a variety of nice places to eat in the hotels, but is this food plan likely to be worth $2,018 for the two of us?

That works out to $126 a day for those two meals, and there are a couple different ways to look at it. I'm sure that you could spend that, and more, eating in Fairmont hotels every day, sure. But ... do you want to? Are there no other food options in and around the locations where you're staying? I'd want the flexibility to get out and about.

Hi. My husband and I have decided to try our luck with last minute deals for a vacation this summer. What websites are there for finding deals? The sites I have found want to know where you want to fly to, but we don't have a destination in mind. We'd like to view deals available for the week we want to travel and pick the one that is most appealing to us. We are open to driving or flying. Thanks.

We answered this question several times last week!

Lucky me -- got the chance to study in Beijing this summer! BUT I have no idea about airfares -- is $1800 RT from east coast good for travel at end of May (returning late July)? Should I wait or grab this?

That's not an awful fare for flights with good connections. You can find cheaper, but you'd have to connect twice and suffer long layovers. It's also usually more expensive for long stays, as many of the cheapest fares have one-month maximum stay requirements. 

Recently returned from a trip to Spain and Portugal. At every occasion of withdrawing money from an ATM, I was provided the option to have the transaction post in dollars or euros. Remembering prior discussion on this forum concerning this situation with credit card transactions, I chose for the transaction to be conducted in euros in every case. I made a note of the pre-converted dollar amounts offered and compared to what ultimately posted to my checking account here at home. Had I taken up the banks, the exhange rate would have been 2% higher. Mind you, I saved just $2 on a withdrawal equivalent to $100, but why should I hand over any more money to a bank than I have to? So, not a question - just a "thank you" to this discussion forum for saving me a few bucks. I figured it's beneficial to reinforce previous lessons learned.

Way to be a head's up traveler. What you speak of is called dynamic currency conversion, which Chris warned us about in a column last year, at least in the context of credit cards.

Which of the Hawaiian islands has the best/most accessible snorkeling? I would like to be able to stay beach side and slip out for daily snorkels from shore. Do you recommend one island over another? I am under the impression all snorkeling deteriorates in the afternoon as the winds pick up-is that the case on every island?

Hmm. I haven't had the privilege of snorkeling in Hawaii, but here's a website devoted to the issue. Looks pretty informative, no?

Next weekend is my birthday and I'm taking the Friday off. I would like to be able to take off somewhere starting Friday afternoon (we have a morning commitment) to return on Sunday to get away, just my wife and I. Parameters, must be within a reasonable drive (4 hours or so), somewhere that I don't have to do a whole lot of walking due to issues with my knees, but where there are interesting places to visit, good restaurants, and one hopes interesting small shops etc. to explore. We are tired of going to the shore and grew up in the Tidewater area so don't want to go to the Williamsburg/Jamestown/Yorktown area. We recently did the Brandywine Valley and visit Philadelphia often since we have family there. Suggestions?

I lived in Winchester, Va., for a few years. I think that might be a good fit. The core downtown area is not too big, and you can pop in and out of shops and restaurants along the walking mall, which makes for an easy stroll. The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and Glen Burnie Gardens are very nice. There are other historic attractions sprinkled around downtown.

We are getting ready for a trip to Clearwater Beach, FL in a couple weeks and just discovered all the baby equipment rental companies that are available. Do you have any recommendations? We mainly want to rent a stroller so that we don't need to bring it with us. Thanks!

I don't -chatters, do you?

But if I were doing the research, I would choose a company that offers delievery and pick-up service, and rents strollers with all of the bells and whistles. Also important: a price that makes sense with my budget. (As you know, airlines don't charge extra for strollers.)

I traveled with my daughter in '95 in Scotland and England. Finding/making reservations in b&back worked well then, even on Skye. Would you advise depending on this method now in the subject destinations?

Chatters, thoughts? Seems like it could work. I know this is how some of those self-drive tours work. But I guess much depends on where exactly you'll be and what the inventory is like, as well as when you'll be going.

We're hoping to take a family trip to the Mayan Riviera - 2 adventurous parents in their 60s, 5 adult children/spouses, no little ones. We're after our own house/condo, tons of beach time, day trips to some of the ruins, a chance to eat great food off the beaten path a bit, and a not-too-resorty feel to the trip. Two questions: any recommendations on which town or part of the peninsula we should use as home base? And any recommendations on day-trips that will take us off the most touristed track and give us a chance to see some quieter towns and eat some more authentic food? (We have pretty good Spanish - short of fluency, but certainly good.)

Riviera Maya is touristy. It's known for its all-inclusive resorts. To get away from that, you'd need to go farther south. Tulum comes to mind -- it's not quite as resorty. P laces to see include the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve and the nearby Muyil ruins and the village of Coba. Cenote snorkeling is a fun excursion. Ideas chatters? 

Options for good snorkeling in Caribbean without large crowds or large resorts. Privacy would be good.

Take a look at Bonaire: it's known for its diving and snorkeling, and is not a glitzy, high-rise sort of island. 

I know there are restriction on the size of containers holding liquid in carry-on baggage, but are there restrictions for checked baggage? I can't remember the last time I checked baggage, but I will be doing so for my next trip and wanted to know if there were size restrictions for checked baggage as well. Thanks.

No, there are no liquid restrictions for your checked bag. Although I wouldn't go overboard, only because you don't want your bag to be overweight -- a pricey mistake. Also better to keep things smaller in case of a liquid breach -- less mess! Put liquids in zip-top bags to be safe. I also prefer to put mine in one of my suitcase's outside pockets.

Yet again, my carefully selected flights were summarily changed, I suspect by a computer program 'thinking' 1 hour is enough time in Miami Int'l to change planes, and have my luggage accompany me. When I called the airline, I didn't get an answer as to "why" anyone might think 1 hour is enough time, but by being polite and grateful, did get a longer layover. Like I told the res lady, 'five minutes here, ten minutes there, and I've missed my connecting flight'. So many things can happen that can delay any flight, thus ensure missing the next flight, and ramping up anxiety. My advice to everyone when this happens - -call immediately and politely but firmly insist on a realistic timeframe to change planes. Would a letter campaign to the airlines have any positive effect? Why on earth do they insist on such short time frames?

Good for you! And no, I don't think the airlines will change their planning ways, even if you send a note on perfumed stationery and throw in some chocolate. Airlines certainly won't book you on a flight with as little as 10 minutes to make the connection, and in many cases, an hour should be enough time. These days, it falls on the astute traveler to choose flights that make the most sense.

My husband and I are on a 7AM Saturday flight to Mexico from National. What time should we arrive to the airport?

5:30?

Our family of three, including a three year-old, have two family events to attend on consecutive weekends in August, the first in Syracuse, NY and the second in Amherst, MA. We're looking for a nice place to relax and poke around for the Tues-Thurs in between. We'd like to stay in one central lodging place for the period. Any suggestions?

Saratoga Springs would be a good choice, although I think it's geared more to adults than kids. You're also not far from the southern portion of the Adirondacks. The Great Sacandaga Lake wouldn't be too far afield. 

I have one afternoon free in San Diego...staying on the bay near Gaslamp District. Thinking of walking to Balboa Park....any suggestions?

Spending an afternoon in Balboa Park is a great idea, but I wouldn't recommend that walk. It's not far -- would probably take about 40 minutes --  but the route is not very pleasant. Instead, either drive there or take the bus. I believe the 7 bus goes between the two places and takes about 15 minutes. Another idea is to just walk the waterfront and then go up the hill to Little Italy

I spent a good deal of time in Europe and traveled as often as possible. It was a great place to hop from and besides the longer vacation allotments, I completely understand why Europeans travel so often! I would first look at various destinations in Africa (Kenya, South Africa, etc.) that require almost no adjustment in terms of time zone and the flights are half the time from the States. You can get a mix of culture and nature - and who doesn't want to do a safari?? If nothing fit the bill, then look towards Asia. The time zone adjustments aren't as severe from Europe and the connections through the Middle East are pretty great. Personally, I would hit up Australia/ New Zealand, which are equally hard to get to from the US and Europe!

Great advice!  Thanks.

I'll be in Marseille Sept 12-18 for a marathon. Any must see/must do activities in the region that can be accomplished by public transportation? Keeping in mind one day will be race day and another will be recovery.

Not sure any of us is well-versed enough in Marseille public transportation to give you recommendations. Here's our story on the city from the other year. 

Just wanted to thank you for recommending Alltournative as a source for outings in the Riviera Maya area. We were staying for six days at an all-inclusive resort and before we left I booked their excursion called "Jungle Maya." All of us (two adults, two boys ages 10 and 12) agreed it was the highlight of the trip. We went rappelling, zip-lining and snorkeling in the amazing underground rivers. And the lunch, cooked by Mayan women, was better by far than the options at the al-inclusive resort.

Great to hear! Sounds fantastic.

I will be in Omaha on business, and have nearly a full day on my own. What shouldn't I miss?

Funny, I was just reseaerching attractions there last night.

What I discovered: the Heartland of America Park, the Old Market warehouse district (shops, restaurants, etc.), the zoo (check out the orangutan forest!) and the Durham Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate. That should fill up your day--plus some.

Hi, travel crew: I'm starting to make plans for a girls' trip sometime in late summer or early fall. We are 3 women turning 40 (two on the same day in August, and one in September) and are craving a relaxing trip to celebrate the occassion. Two of us live in the DC area and the third is in California. What are your recommendations for somewhere in the middle with characteristics such a spa, great food, culture, etc. A beach would be fine, but we're not planning to spend the whole time sunning. Food and relaxation are key. Thanks!!

Does it have to be in the exact middle? Santa Fe and Sedona come immediately to mind. (Early fall would probably be better for both of those.) 

For five days over Memorial Day weekend my husband and I are joining my in-laws in Park City, UT. I've never been there and haven't heard about much beyond its reputation as a fabulous winter destination. Any ideas for activities he and I could slip away and do together an afternoon or two? We like hiking, good beer, and good food, but are open to most anything.

Here's a piece we had a few  years back that illuminated the drinking possibilities! That could occupy you, for sure...

Long time lurker, first time asker! Planning a road trip from Savannah to Boston this summer. Would appreciate your ideas on places to stop and things to do in the Chesapeake Bay area. We're a young couple with no kids and would love to see some cute towns on the coast and explore places with history. Thanks!

I imagine you'll be doing the I-95 route, so keep in mind that almost any Bay destination will take you to the east of your route. How much you are game for detouring I don't know. Annapolis is a very nice place to stop and wouldn't take you too far off your route. If you really have the time, you can cross the Bay and check out a place such as Kent Island/Stevensville and Chestertown, Md. From there, you can head north on 301 and hook back up with I-95 in Delaware.

I found a great fare on Kayak last night for a route that I have been watching (Dulles to Narita) for a September trip. So I jumped on it. The process for buying the ticket seemed streamlined (for example, no seat selections, questions about baggage, or passport info). I realized afterwards that the purchase was through airfare.com. I later received an email - from a travel agency - with a confirmation number with which I can access the airline's website (Singapore Airlines). But the airline's website says that the flight will be operated by a partner airline (ANA) and that I "might not be able to perform certain online transactions associated with this booking" like seat assignments. It says to return to the "source of [my] booking." What does that mean? ANA's website doesn't recognize my confirmation number. I'm starting to get a bad feeling about this. Did I make a mistake by not confirming that I was buying the ticket through the airline's official website? Who should I be dealing with - kayak? airfare.com? the travel agency that sent the confirmation email? Singapore Airlines? ANA? - for seat assignments, meals, baggage, etc? Thanks for any insight you can provide.

Kayak is just the aggregator. It rounds up the prices and then you choose the site you want to book on. Apparently, you booked through Airfare.com. The company's Web site has a Q&A section that answers many of your questions.

For example: "Our booking engine allows you to request the type of seat you would like to have during the booking process. However, we cannot guarantee that the seat type will be available. We pass your request to the airline and the airline assigns your seat. You can view your seat assignment on the check your reservation link on our website. Also, you can call the airline directly to make any changes to your seat assignment."

I typically book on third-party sites. Once I have my reservation number, I rely on the airline for my specific needs. I check-in online through the carrier's site and select my seats. On the day of the flight, I input the flight number to make sure the plane is leaving on time. At this point in the transaction, all you care about is that the airline knows that you are flying with them.

In a couple of weeks my husband and I are driving down to Hilton Head from DC. We were hoping to stop at some point along the way for lunch, to stretch our legs etc. Besides the depressing "South of the Border" rest area is there anywhere else folks can recommend? Would love to stop in a quaint town even if it means diverting from 95 for a bit. I have been looking at places in Fayetteville but open to anything. Thanks!

It adds about an hour total to your trip, but how about Chapel Hill? Other thoughts?

Our beach vacations are all about animals! We go to the Outer Banks a few times a year, and go there specifically because it is so dog-friendly. Fetching and swimming, and sand are our dog's 3 favorite things, so it's the perfect place to go for a vacation. One of my favorite parts is driving to Carova Beach to check out the wild horses. A few times we have had to drive way back to see any, but we have never been disappointed, especially last year when we got to see a foal--awesome in itself, but s/he was being silly and running crazy circles around its mom. Best wild horse viewing yet! :)

How fun! Do you have dog-friendly accommodations you want to recommend?

I never paid much attention to the Travel section because we didn't have room in our budget for travel. But I've really wanted to travel for some time, and I'm now realizing that we can use credit cards to get points for miles and hotels (and that might make more sense than cash back rewards). Can you recommend where I can find out more information about these various credit cards? We want to go to Philly in the summer and we have to be in St. Louis in the fall, and I'd like to get the credit cards set up now so that we can use the points for our upcoming trips. Thanks!

Some good resources are The Points Guy and NerdWallet.

Anyone have a favorite to recommend?

Hi there. We've never been to Annapolis and are planning on spending a day there shortly. Any suggestions for fun things to see and do? Thanks!

I recently spent a weekend in Annapolis and fell in love with the place. The Naval Academy is lovely: Do a tour. We also ran along the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail, which was quite pleasant, and spent much of our time shopping and eating in downtown Annapolis. Had a couple of cold beers in the historic Rams Head Tavern, ate delicious sushi at Tsunami, great breakfast at Miss Shirley's Cafe & a  nice dinner at Level. We stayed at the Westin, which was fine. Loews is closer to the action. 

St John's, USVI, has nice beaches & snorkeling, is quiet, and even has eco-tourism.

Thanks!

I'm flying into Heathrow (T4) on Tuesday morning and am reading news of a Tube strike. I have 7 hours to catch a connecting flight out of Luton. I'd originally planned to go into the city and walk around for a bit, but now I'm wondering if I ought to just take a bus straight to Luton and not even bother trying to get into and then out of central London. Would appreciate any advice!

Tough call. Fastest way to get in from Heathrow is, of course, the Heathrow Express. It is reducing service from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes, also due to strike action. Not bad. Here's a rundown of what Tube service will and won't be running. It might work, because conceivably you could do this all without even getting on the Tube. From Paddingdon, you could explore the Hyde Park and Marylebone area or swing by the British Museum, before making your way to St. Pancras Station, where you can hop on First Capital Connect to ride to Luton. (It also operates from London Bridge, if you get down that way.) The line will be minimally affected.

 

Then again, it seems like a lot of hassle and more than a little risk for such a relatively short connection. I'm cautious, especially when it comes to international travel, so I'd be inclined to pass on London this time and head straight to Luton. Good luck!

I have May until September 1st off of work -- a self-imposed sabbatical between jobs. I am really interested in South America. None of my friends can take an extended trip right now so I am wondering if you can recommend any travel companies that I should check out as a single female traveler (age 40). I am active in sea kayaking and hiking so something that had a bit of hiking would be great. Or for that matter any other countries someone who has a lot of time should check out. Thanks!

I don't know of any travel agents who can help with such an ambitious trip. Chatters--any names you can suggest?

However I do think that you need to have a stronger sense of your trip before you approach an agent. One idea is to rent an apartment for a few months in, say, Buenos Aires or Cartagena, and then plan side trips and excursions to surrounding countries and cities. Or, by an air pass through one of the Latin American carriers, such as TAM.

 

While living in Asia for the past few years, we enjoyed taking our children to some out-of-the way places. In Thailand, we took 3 different styles of Elephant rides, but the best was getting a chance to bathe our elephant. We rode her bare-back out into a river and got to scrub her and be splashed by her, It was really one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives! On a separate trip, in outer Mongolia, there were herds of both cattle and yaks around our yurt (called "gers" in Mongolia) camp. Our kids love animals, and had an absolute blast herding the yaks around, and chasing them out from between the yurts where they weren't supposed to be.

Yurts and yaks and elephants, oh, my!

While in Marseille, you definitely want to take a cruise to the CALANQUES (fjords), to the Island of Monte Cristo, the port of Cassis, Sanary, Porquerolles.

Much obliged!

A group of my girlfriends (6-8) want to travel to one of the islands in October. Places we have found are large, luxurious fully staffed and equipped houses with great water views on the ocean or Caribbean. I say there must be the equivalent in the US. I know an ocean property might be difficult to find, but can you suggest a place that has at least 5 bedrooms, is luxurious, quiet, but has nice restaurants and/or entetainment nearby. It also must have warm weather in October or March. Want to consider places like Florida, Texas, Arizona, or Vegas.

Sorry, I don't think we have a specific house to recommend. You might want to start with a search on a site such as VRBO

Lake George, NY is really nice. We used to go canoeing there pretty regularly when I lived near Amherst. Depending where on the lake you're going, it's about 3 hours from Amherst and from Syracuse.

Thanks!

IF the family enjoys camping, KOA typically has small dog parks at their facilities. Combined with pools (again, usually), and other fun stuff for kids and families to do, it can be a great way to have fun with kids and dogs. And who doesn't love camping? (And, for those that are tent-averse, KOA offers RV hookups but also cabins, in most cases).

Thanks for the thought.

Or more specifically, Japanese macaques. We traveled from Tokyo to Nikko by train, then took a bus up the mountain to visit Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls. It was December, there was snow, there was a terrifying bus ride down the mountain on a hairpin-twisting road (the driver was sure confident of his skills), and there were macaques, hanging out in the trees, and running through the town. I've always thought of monkeys as tropical beasts, so it was fun to see them in the snow.

Fantastic.

The person who bought the ticket to Tokyo should be fine. I am guessing that since SQ issued the ticket you only got their record locator. Unfortunately for reasons that make absolutely zero sense to me, that is not a universal number. Each airline has its own record locator for the same ticket. So the SQ record locator won't make sense to ANA's website. But you should be able to contact ANA directly by phone or email and tell them your flight number, date, and name and they can find you in their system. They can then give their record locator for future reference. You can ask about seat assignments when you talk to them, but it is possible depending on the fare class that they may or may not allow advanced seat selection. Or they may not allow seat selection until closer to departure.

Appreciate the tips!

I had a relative who worked at the American Embassy in Managua and she took me to some great places in Nicaragua when I visited her. My recommendations would be Viejo Leon, a World Heritage site; Selva Negra, a German-run coffee plantation/resort near Matagalpa, the colonial city of Granada, Masaya volcano (and any other volcanoes), and for a nice beach respite, the Barcelo Montilimar. I hope the person posing the question is fluent in Spanish since I found English not widely spoken in many of these places that we visited.

Here you go, Nicaragua traveler!

Nothing exotic, but when I went to England for the first time (mostly London, but with enough time to include a day trip), I insisted that I wanted to see rolling green fields and sheep. (I'm not sure why -- too many Austen and Bronte novels and movies?) So my friend and I planned a day hike on part of the Cotswold Way near Bath. And we did see plenty of sheep along the way, including one that yelled at us until we were out of his sight. The trail also took us right through the middle of a herd of very large cows. I probably spent as much time watching my step as looking at scenery (and got extra scrutiny for my muddy hiking boots at US Customs). But I got my wish!

That sheep obviously thought you were baaaaaaaaad. Sorry.

There's been a lot of positive talk in these chats lately about Malta, and since I'm finally participating live, I just wanted to put in my two-cents worth. Malta is a place I had always heard about, and was really looking forward to going there, but of all the places we've been, it was probably the biggest disappointment. That was a few years ago now, so of course things could've changed, but beyond the "Saint Paul stood right here!" awe, and the great swimming, we really didn't enjoy it there. Some of the beaches were quite nice, but otherwise it's not a place we'd recommend.

I am going to post this and then prepare for the defenders to emerge!

How about San Antonio?

Good idea -- plus, there's an attraction there I'm always trying not to forget. Old place, sight of some battle? Hmm, if only I could remember!

I heartily second the recommendation of Bonaire! Just got back from there on Friday. The island is very quiet; everyone is either a snorkeler, diver, or windsurfer. A nice compact downtown and tons of nice (though pricey) restaurants and good self-catering options. Definitely no resorts. And best snorkeling in the whole Caribbean, in my expert (local) opinion.

It's famous among snorkelers for a reason, eh?

1 hour is great, if that is the 'on ground' time. But, it is based on wheels-down, not taxi-ing around for an open gate, does not take into 'wheels-up' delays, or anything else. I had this happen last year, and if I had taken the airline's change to 1.5 hours in Charlotte, where we sat on the runway for 45 minutes, then it took 1 hour to immigrate, then we had to get luggage, go thru customs, redo security and dash to the gate - I'd have missed the flight by quite a while! But, I politely insisted on the original time frame, and had time for dinner and had far less anxiety.

A word to the wise.

it is a diver's paradise, but you can see many many fish just with your face below the surface. They know the reef is their bread & butter, so are very active in protecting it, with great results! and yes, very small, unpretentious, friendly place.

Loud and clear!

What's there to do in Palm Springs? I'll be there for two nights in June with a friend. We're 30-something gay dudes, not really the outdoorsy type, but I feel like we'll get bored (and sunburnt) just lounging by a pool all day. Also, any suggestions of not-crazy-expensive places to stay there?

Well, the art museum is supposed to be mighty nice. As for places to stay, the Ace would be at the top of my list -- not too too expensive, but not cheap cheap either, but very hip and fun. In mid-June the weekend rates are in the low- to mid-$200s.

My fiance and I are itching to get away one weekend to de-stress, and we love a good tiki bar. The thing is, we'd love if we could unwind but at the same time bring out our small computer and look up things to do on our honeymoon and start making the travel plans. I know it's an odd search, but does anyone know of one? We tend to head down to Solomon's Island or Deale, MD.

A tiki bar with WiFi -- some could argue the two do not go together. But here are some choices: Macoritaville Tiki Bar & Grill in St. Michaels, Md. has WiFi, and there are nearby places to stay.  Harpoon Hanna's in Fenwick Island, DL also has the two, although it's pretty noisy there; again, lots of nearby places to stay. 

Loved the chat for a long time, but first time posting questions here. We're thinking of taking a vacation in Las Vegas and Grand Canyon before Christmas - flying to Vegas from this area on 12/19 and back on 12/24. The airfare available now looks reasonable. But I feel it is too early to commit. When should be the latest good time to buy the tickets? The 2nd question is about which lodges in Gran Canyon to choose. Based on my research, Bright Angle Lodge should be a good choice for our family - the middle-aged parents, a young adult niece and 2 daughters aged 10 and 12. Your thoughts? And when should we book the room? I heard those lodges can be booked up pretty quickly. Thanks a lot!

Thanks so much for the kind words!

If you see a great fare, I say grab it, unless it causes you anxiety. (I don't do well planning more than a few weeks' in advance, but then I worry about the fare increasing!). You are traveling during the holiday season, so prices could spike. Or check Southwest's fares, so you can change your reservation without penalty. If you are worried about having to possibly cancel your trip, buy trip insurance.

The North Rim closes during the winter season, but most of the facilities on the South Rim stay open year-round. Winter is slow season, but it never hurts to book in advance. You can cancel up to at least two days in advance without penalty.

Bright Angel is a good choice, though you might also consider one of its historic cabins.

We made our reservations/searches at info centers in towns we visited.

Great idea. Thanks!

OK, I will defend Malta. I really enjoyed the history. Wandering around old Valletta was very cool. The megalithic temples are astounding. Mdina is fantastic. Lots of great water views. Gozo is an interesting day trip since it is quieter. It is VERY densely populated though. That did take me a little by surprise. I guess maybe it depends a bit on your expectations and what you are looking to do. I remember it was very hot when I was there in October. I would imagine that summer is unbearable.

I knew you would come!

For the seriously-budget conscious: (Kill Devil Hills) Cavalier Motel--cheap 2 & 3 bedroom "cottages." Far from fancy, but clean, close to the beach, and pet-friendly. (Buxton) Cape Pines Motel-similar to above, although smaller facilities. More expensive (but also nicer) in Nags Head or Kill Devil Hills: Travelodge, Comfort Inn, and Ramada Plaza. For the even more budget-conscious, the National Park Service has campgrounds in Ocracoke, Hatteras, Frisco, and Bodie Island. They are super minimal (no electric or sewer for RVs), but great for tents. They have running water (cold), so there are toilets and showers and water at each site. There are also small grills at each site. At only $20 per night, it can't be beat!

Great to know -- thanks!

My wife and I (both in our 60's) are considering a trip to French Polynesia and would like to spend 10 - 12 days. We are thinking of Tahiti for awhile and then over to Moorea. If you were going and looking for the most beautiful/fun island/s where would you choose ?

 I have only visited French Polynesia in my dreams (and through the Kardashians -and that was more of a nightmare).

Chatters, can ya help?

Unsure how many days between you have.... 1. Lake George area 2. andorondack Mts/Lake Placid 3. thousand Islands 2 hrs north of syracuse along the canadian border 4. Plattsburg/Burlington Vermont/Montreal. 5, Catskills/Hudson Valley area of NY.

All good ideas, although I was trying to minimize their driving times, as they have a toddler on board. 

I took as a child a trip that involved not one, but three animal attacks. We visited a friend my parents met before I was born. She lived in El Paso and we did a southwest road trip from there. Her parents invited us over for dinner when we arrived and their hyperactive dog bit me (actually broke the skin and bled on the carpet a bit). At a restaurant later in the trip, I got too close to a goose patroling the front porch and had to run away. Later, we were visiting with some horses and one nipped at my underarm. I was nine and started to get paranoid as the trip progressed. I think my parents told me that I was so sweet the animals couldn't help themselves. Didn't buy it then. Still don't buy it now.

Wow! I hope the (emotional and physical) scars healed quickly.

I know it's early, but I'm already dreaming of spending some days on the beach over Christmas. I'd like to go some place with character that isn't going to break the bank, but will be a nice retreat from the cold. I was thinking the Florida keys, but am open to suggestions if other people have them. It will likely just be my and my husband, but we're going to open it up to the in laws and siblings, so it may be up to 10 people.

If you're looking for serious beach time, you'll have to head at least as far as Miami, and the even-farther-south Florida Keys are a better bet. Much of Florida can be cool in late December. The Caribbean is another option, but that will likely be pricier. Maybe a cruise from Miami? 

I think I've finally got my family's itinerary set for seeing sights outside of London, but it includes renting a car so we can spend time at locations how WE want to rather than how the tour directors want us to. Does anyone have any thoughts to share about first timers driving on the "wrong" side for 5 days?

My trick is to always drive behind another car and follow their every move, especially in roundabouts. Also elect someone as lookout, who can shout when you start driving on the incorrect side. Also, try to rent an automatic.

Also, try not to overthink the experience. I discovered that when I started focusing on how odd the driving was, I would forget which wrong side I was supposed to be on. Don't think, just drive!

During an ultra-marathon (100 km) in Hong Kong last year, a monkey tried to mug my husband of a candybar. He yelled and waved at the monkey to scare him off, and finally stuck the candy in his mouth and the wrapped in his shirt to get the temptation out of the monkey's sight.

There are CRUCIAL words missing here!

I don't have a specific animal story, other than the absolute joy I experienced while on safari in Botswana, visiting a cheetah sanctuary that also had a 24 year old brown hyena, seeing zebra on Cape Point in South Africa and more. When we saw the zebra, even our guide was excited--he said he hadn't seen them in about 2 years. There are 3 things, though, that we seem to encounter on almost every vacation: weddings, cats and donkeys. It's not like we go looking for them, we just happen upon them. From Paris to Swaziland, and many places in between. It's actually kind of freaky when you think about it! But I have pictures of cats, donkeys, brides and grooms from all over the world.

This sounds like one of those situations where, once you are tuned into something in particular, you can't see anything ELSE, know what I mean?

The trickiest part is in making turns, as your natural tendency is to keep to the right when you should be keeping left. Just think LEFT LEFT LEFT until you're through the turn and you'll be OK.

Charlottesville is also very nice!

Round abouts - stay LEFT, turn LEFT (mantra)

Left, indeed.

Also, remember that you are always close to the median/line on the road (this time it will just be on your right side instead of your left), so use that as your guide to stay in your lane!

Well, we're coming in for a landing! Thanks for joining us today, but we're out of time.

Now, for our little prize announcement: The chatter who wrote in about the Japanese monkeys will get the booty! (Don't get your hopes up too high; it'll be something small.) Send your mailing information to Becky.Krystal@washpost.com, and she'll get it to you!

Until next time, happy travels!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
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