Talk about Travel

Apr 07, 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.
Past Talk about Travel chats

Hello chatters, and a happy miserable rainy Monday (well, that's what it is here) to all. Hope you have lots of questions for us to answer (or try to) today. I'm going to play off Andrea's fun story about communicating your airline woes via Twitter and ask for your best tales of airline rebooking or complaint resolution -- happy, sad, successful, massively failed, whatever. Funnest story wins a little prize. 

Now, on to your questions!

Joe suggested seeing the Gibson House Museum and it was fantastic! Thanks so much for the recommendation. And the tour guide was tickled that a Washington Post travel writer had recommended it.

Ahem, it was not Joe, but I, who suggested the Gibson House. So glad you liked it. It's quite fabulous, isn't it? If you liked that, you should visit the Heurich House here in Washington, at Dupont Circle, another authentic, pretty much untouched gem.

I missed the chat. I lived in Edinburgh, near Newcastle, and north of London. This is what I suggest to break the journey along the A1M and A9 corridors: London north to Newcastle: York Minster, Durham Cathedral, Angel of the North (at Gateshead). North of Newcastle, the A1M turns into the A1, which means it isn't a motorway (and there is no motorway alternative): Alnwick Castle and Gardens, Dunstanburgh Castle ruins (only if you are looking for a hike), Bamburgh Castle, Holy Island with Lindisfarne (watch the tide schedule--the causeway closes with a fast moving tide that cuts the island off from the mainland), Berwick's train bridge across the Tweed. The Border Abbeys of Dryburgh, Jedburgh, and Melrose are off the A1, but worth the diversion. Be aware that all of these have winter and summer hours, so check with English Heritage and Historic Scotland (buy a membership in one, get half off at the other). Enroute to Edinburgh: Tantallon Castle. In Edinburgh: the Castle, walk down the Royal Mile to Holyrood House, and visit the Grassmarket, which is under the Castle. From Edinburgh to Inverness; Go one way via the Forth Road Bridge, which parallels the Forth Bridge, one of the engineering wonders of the world, stop at Dunkeld House hotel (Hilton now runs it, but it was the pre WW2 Duke of Atholl's fishing lodge). Go the other way via Stirling, for the castle and the Wallace Memorial (Braveheart). Going via Stirling makes the transition to the M8 to Glasgow and tbe M74 south to the M6 into the M40 and Heathrow. This takes you through the eastern edge of the Lake District and the Cotswolds (think Oxford, Father Brown filming locations). BUY A SUPER SIZED A-Z ROAD ATLAS IN THE AIRPORT BOOKSHOP BEFORE STARTING. (caps intended--very important) This helps if you get lost and allows you to plan ahead for stops. There is so much more to see (bird sanctuaries, the central Highlands, prehistoric rock carvings, other cathedrals and stately homes with wonderful gardens) that you could spend months doing this journey. When I last did it, I put over 1,000 miles on a rental car that I drove from Edinburgh to Heathrow (one way rental) in 3 weeks, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Well, this is one detailed itinerary! Thank you!

What airport do you suggest we fly into? Which are the best markets?

Getting an early jump on the holidays, are we? There are so many wonderful Christmas markets. A lot depends on how much time you have. If you flew into Munich, you can do that market, which is a biggie, then rent a car and head east to Innsburck, Salzburg, maybe Linz and Vienna. Alternatively, you could fly into Frankfurt, which also has a great market, then head to Nuremberg, possibly the most famous, then down to Munich. Those three biggies might do you. There are also tour operators who 'll arrange a whole itinerary for you. You might look into that. Chatters?

Have any of you - or any of the chatters - taken the Eurostar to and from London to Paris? It seems much less hassle - not to mention costs less money! - to take the train rather than try to fly. It'll be from Gatwick, if that makes any difference. Thanks!

Alas, Joe isn't with us today, but look for his story this Sunday about . . . taking the Eurostar from London to Paris, and the high-speed train from Paris to Barcelona. The Eurostar is a very efficient way of traveling between the British and French capitals. I haven't personally done it, though I'm determined to do so one day. Chatters, can you weigh in on the pros and cons?

Hi, I am looking to fly from the Washington area to Myrtle Beach, SC in September. It looks like the only direct flight is from BWI on Spirit Airlines. I can't find the on-time flight performance of the Spirit Airlines flight from BWI to Myrtle Beach. Can you help?

FlightStats tracks historical on-time performance of specific carriers and routes.  Consumer Reports ranked the airline at the bottom, but that was mainly for its nickel-and-dime fee structure. The Dept. of Transportation also documents on-time performance, but it does not break it down by destination.

You also have to take other factors into consideration, such as weather. But in September, you should hopefully have clear skies -- or least no snowstorms.

Hey there -- are there any definitive guides to Caribbean islands/resorts that are gay friendly? I know that there is a wide variety of reaction to same-sex couples (just back from Aruba which was very accepting). There is a lot of mixed information on the internet and I thought you might point me to a good, solid resource.

I'm not personally aware of any such specialized guides, but I can certainly imagine that they're out there (and if they're not, they should be!). Chatters, can you help?

Hello! Am planning a two week trip at beginning of May to include Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam. Have been to Paris before and have seen the typical tourist areas (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Napoleon's Tomb). What are some other areas to explore? Versailles? Is this an all day affair? Also, what off the beaten path/things to do are good for Brussels and Amsterdam? Am travelling with boyfriend and we are in our early 30s. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Versailles is definitely a must-do, and yes, you should allott most of a day to it, as it's worth it. I also love Malmaison, the lovely little palace that was the Empress Josephine's favorite. In Paris itself, have a look around the Marais and the Place des Vosges, a beautiful, untouched quarter of gorgeous homes. Many of the houses ringing the Place are now museums -- Museum of the City of Paris, Victor Hugo museum --  that can be lots of fun to explore. For an alternative church, visit Saint Germain des Pres, it's oldoldold and fantastic. For Brussels and Amsterdam, I mostly just know the on-the-beaten path things, so let's ask the chatters for suggestions. People?

we've taken it twice - not from Paris, but from Calais to London and also from Brussels to London. Very efficient and comfortable - I highly recommend it.

We did the Munich market--the main one and the satellite ones visible from the tram lines and thoroughly enjoyed it. They have lots of creche items as well as handmade glass ornaments. We went to Aachen a different year, found it so crowded that we couldn't stop to purchase anything as the crowd moved us along. Remember the gluwein and buy the mugs as reminders (there is a non alcoholic version as well).

Thanks!

I have been on many flights which were slightly delayed. On those flights, the flight attendants would request that people who had to make connections could get off early. On one flight back to the DC area, the flight attendants let a woman go to the bathroom just before take off after she protested enough. I was sitting near the bathrooms so I heard the exchange. While she promised to be quick, I timed her at 20 minutes. And then when this flight was close to landing, i asked the flight attendants if those trying to make connecting flights could debark first. She said no. After I got off the plane, I ran to the gate for my connecting flight. I watched the last passengers enter and the gate close. I was told once it closes, they will not open again. Fortunately after I told them of the bathroom incident which delayed the flight, they gave me room voutures, taxi vouchers, and meal vouchers. The airline was also able to get me on the first flight the next morning.

Woohoo! Glad they treated you well.

I've taken the Eurostar from London to Paris a few times, and my mom takes it every few months (she lives in London). It's really fast and comfortable, and you get right into Paris instead of out in the burbs. Total door to door time is much faster than flying, and there are decent views out the window as well.

Perfect, thanks!

I did Eurostar from London to Paris and back last spring. Significantly cheaper to fly to London Heathrow, then took the Tube to KIngs Cross/St. Pancras Station, boarded Eurostar and trained to Paris. I loved it, but there isn't really a lot to see tourism wise other than lots of Churches in France. Still its easy and fast from St. Pancras to Gare du Nord.

So sorry, Zofia! Thank YOU! I will definitely check out the Heurich House.

:-) You'll love it.

Years ago, I was traveling from NC via La Guardia to Amsterdam for a summer vacation. Early June, lines of thunderstorms rolling in and delays in NY meant that we had to circle in air for a while. Needless to say, we didn't take a direct hit, but equivalent energy de-charged on the plane like a lightening bolt strike, causing the plane to drop several thousand feet in air. Best part was the lovely flight attendant who, just as shocked as the rest of us that we weren't dead, suggested, "I'm not exactly sure what just happened, but pray to whatever God you believe in." Eventually, pilot says that we're running out of fuel, have to circle back to Philadelphia to land, causing me to miss connecting flight on KLM to Amsterdam, but not to worry, upon regaling the "Pray to whatever God you believe in" story to KLM customer service, they were so appalled that a flight attendant would invoke religion, they bumped me from coach to business at no charge. While it wasn't the response I would have preferred, I still give the flight attendant points for being politically correct.

Scary. You didn't like being bumped to business class?

I am traveling overseas and have a question about changing planes and connection times. What is enough time to make a connection? Is an hour not enough time? Is there a difference in connection time in the states as opposed to foreign countries? I am connecting in the  states on my outbound trip but in Tokyo on my return trip. Thanks.

For domestic trips, you can transfer with shorter times because you likely will stay in the secure area. Plus, no border patrol or customs. Smaller airports are also more manageable, so you can breeze to your next gate with enought time to stop for a coffee and bagel. For larger airports, like Heathrow and Narita, you will want more connection time.

An hour is doable but if your first flight is delayed, you could be scrambling. Ninety minutes to two hours is a more comfortable cushion of time for overseas connections.

 

It's rather perfect and fairly inexpensive if you buy early. My fiance and I did it a couple years ago, and it was smooth. You can get some pretty good food (and wine) on the train and before you know it, you're in the City of Light in about 2.5 hours. I left from St. Pancras, not Gatwick, but I doubt the experience getting on the train would differ. Once in Paris it's easy to catch a cab (even if you don't speak French, like me) or hop on the metro not too far from Nord train station. Good luck and enjoy!

I'm a bit puzzled about the Gatwick reference. Eurostar's London terminus is at St Pancras, and Gatwick trains come into Viictoria, so a cross-London cab ride will be needed or a tube trip with lots of walking in the Tube. If you are flying into Gatwick, going to Paris, consider flying (and having the hassle at the French end of getting into the capital by surface transportation) As it is, you will have to get into the center of either London or Paris--whichever you are most comfortable with.

Took it from Lille in the north of France to London, then London to Paris, and it was a clean, comfortable fast trip--think Amtrak on a very good day. Of course, the Gare du Nord train station in Paris is much nicer and memorable than Union or Penn Station, but St Pancras in London is a mall, really.

The best part of taking the Eurostar to Paris is that you end up in central Paris rather than out at the airport.

In the Sun. air deals SAS was mentioned as having $749 RT sales to Europe and that other airlines were matching them. Do you know which airlines?

If you do a search on Kayak, you can see the other airlines and the fares. It all depends on the day and route.

Re last week's question from the iPhone owner going to Lyon, here are 2 things to keep in mind: 1. Make sure you keep your phone turned off or in airplane mode when you are not using it to avoid inadvertently accumulating data fees (phone automatically checking for email, for example). 2. And for the same reason, keep your phone in airplane mode when you are connecting via Wifi.

Right, thanks!

We are planning a trip to Buenos Aires followed by Machu Picchu and Easter Island. Several groups offer such trips including Road Scholar. What kind of reputation do they have? we have heard that they utilize mostly basic accommodations. Thx

Road Scholar, which was formerly Elderhostel, generally has a very good reputation. I believe that they do try to keep costs fairly low and stay in affordable but comfortable accommodations -- though no longer hostels, as they used to. Chatters, has anyone done a Road Scholar trip?

My husband and I are thinking of turning a work trip to Europe into a vacation this June, traveling with our children (4 and 1). Our youngest will turn 2 while on the trip, and it seems from the quick research I've done that airline policies vary with respect to whether we'd need to purchase a ticket for his return (rather than fly with him as a lap child, as we'd intend to do on the way over). I know people will say we should get him his own seat for a transatlantic flight anyway, but this would save us some money, which would be nice.

I would call the airline to ask about their policy regarding a lap child who turns into a seat child mid-trip. You don't want the airline forcing you to buy a seat at the airport--that could be very expensive. Also, while on the phone with the agent, ask about discounts for infants. It never hurts to ask!

I would recommend a seat for your child, but I understand the issue of cost. Just remember, well-rested parents and baby make for happy travelers of all ages.

I have done the markets several times in Germany and elsewhere. My favorite is to begin in Frankfurt, then proceed on the Romantic Road, stopping in wonderful Regensburg and other small towns, continuing on to Munich with a side trip to Augsburg, time permitting. We finished on Christmas Eve in Munich, attended a Catholic midnight Mass with a Mozart program and exited into a snowstorm---pure magic.

Lovely, thanks!

Last week's reader who was planning to drive down the coast of Oregon (and visit a few other places like maybe Bend and Eugene) should purchase William L. Sullivan's "100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range" - lots of shorter and some longer hikes, well-described and with assessments of the ability level necessary.

Nice tip, thanks!

In Brussels, don't bother with Mannekin Pis, but do check out the museum of his costumes. Also Place du Grand Sablon and the area. It is gorgeous! In Amsterdam, a highlight for me was Our Lady in the Attic, a church that dates back to when Catholics could not practice religion. It's near the Red Light District. We stayed at a great B&B called Park 9-very fun and helpful with restaurants and things to do.

There you go, travelers! (But I love the Mannekin Pis.)

When I was 18 I was traveling with my parents and brother. My best friend had recently moved to the west coast and I was a freshman in college - so of course I was broke. The flight we were on was oversold and they asked for a single volunteer to rebook onto a first class seat on the next flight. Mind you, that flight would've gotten me there just a couple hours later. My parents wouldn't let me volunteer. Fast forward two hours and we boarded, had a plane problem, deboarded, and had to wait for another plane. The two flights ended up arriving within five minutes of one another at our final destination. As a teenager it was very hard to restrain myself from saying "I told you it would've been fine."

I can imagine!

It was to be a short flight from BWI to Cleveland. First we flew way north of the normal flight path due to a large storm to our south. Then, we swung south to get back on our flight plan. Approaching Cleveland, a thunderstorm was right over the airport so we were directed to fly south, heading towards Mansfield, and then we flew north, passing Cleveland to fly over Lake Erie. A woman around me looked out the window and said, Were flying over water! I explained that Lake Erie was just north of Cleveland and we were apparently just waiting for our turn to land. Finally we headed south, back to Cleveland. After landing, we had to wait on the plane for a while before we could get to a gate. The flight took almost twice the flight time.

Wow.

I don't think you can really go wrong here. Of course, I think it partially depends on what cities you have already visited (and liked) or which ones you would really like to visit. I was in Vienna at Xmas time about a decade ago, and the atmosphere there was wonderful. They have at least 4 different markets, all quite charming.

Yes, I love Vienna at Christmas!

I have a friend who is 70 years old. She is a widow and has gone on several of this group's trips by herself. She always feels comfortable and says the fellow travelers are friendly. She gets set up with roommates and has not had a bad one yet.

My friends have invited my husband and me to join them at the Iberostar Grand Bavara in Punta Cana in May. The resort looks lovely and is ranked at the top on several travel sites but we are afraid it will be stuffier than we are used to. We've been several times to Dreams and Secrets in Mexico and think vacation = shorts at dinner. Any thoughts?

Carol's our Punta Cana expert but is unfortunately unable to be with us today. Chatters, is anyone familiar with this resort? Stuffy or not?

I'm thinking of taking a trip this fall to the Cinque Terre (one week) and Tuscany, Umbria, or Piedmont (one week) at a farm/vineyard, where I also hope to go truffle hunting. Would you or other chatters have suggestions, including hikes, hotels, timing (thinking late September or October), destinations? Thanks!

Have a look at this great piece about a stay on an Umbrian olive farm. Not sure that truffle hunting's included, but it really looks fabulous. Chatters, chime in with your thoughts here!

My wife and I are considering a trip to Rome and Florence in August or September. Several guidebooks say that pickpocketing in Rome is common, and that many tourists fall victim. We've traveled throughout other European countries and never heard warnings about pickpockets in those countries. Is the emphasis on pickpockets in Rome correct or is it overstated?

Yes, there are pickpockets in Rome. But there are in Paris, too, as this story can attest. Be vigilant if you travel to Rome. I'd recommend carrying your cash and credit cards in a pouch inside your shirt or in a money belt that goes under your shirt instead of in your pants pocket. Leave major valuables in your hotel room, preferably in a safe. Be extra way and careful in large crowds -- in fact, try to stay away from them as much as you can. Chatters? Other thoughts?

I haven't been to the Punta Cana one but I went to the Puerta Plata one and it wasn't stuffy at all. Very casual. I'd assume the Punta Cana one is similar. I'm curious what makes you think it will be stuffy? Maybe read Trip Advisor reviews to see if you can get an idea from people who have been there, though.

Sorry, I really don't understand that story. First, why would anyone complain about a statement like that from a flight attendant who was probably freaked out by a close call? And second, if the poster complained, why is s/he giving the flight attendant "credit" for political correctness? On a side note, I think people in general complain about way too much stuff that really isn't that important in the long run. Just read the Post's weekly dining chat for examples of that. Of course, when travelling, there are bigger things that can go wrong, e.g., cancelled flights etc, but people really need to be kinder to flight attendants and airline staff in general.

Do it! It's so much easier. I've done it in and out of Paris, Brussels, and Calais. Plus there's a snack car. You do have to go through immigration and security, unlike with regular trains, so leave time for that. (an hour before the train is plenty).

Re the question in last week's Talk about Travel: I have used the Air France shuttle between CDG and the Gare de Lyon many times (haven't needed the other ones). The AF shuttles are very convenient for people flying into Terminal 2 (especially 2E) if they go to a destination that is convenient to you. (Google to see the various routes.) They are more convenient than taking the train into town (especially if you have a lot of luggage) and much cheaper than a taxi. Bear in mind that any ground transportation can get bogged down in rush hour traffic and so they may sometimes run a bit behind schedule.

I've taken a shuttle bus from the airport to the Arc de Triomphe. Don't think it was an Air France shuttle, but it was perfectly efficient. Thanks for your input.

Do you or the chatters have advice on good companies that offer long term (3-5 weeks) car rentals? I'll need a car for about a month this summer; the last time I did this I could have bought a decent used car for the $$$ I shelled out to a rental company! Thanks.

For a long-term rental, I might consider a car-sharing operation. For example, RelayRides lists available cars by day, week or month. A Toyta Prius in San Fran goes for less than $600 for the month.

The major companies, such as Avis, also have deals on long-term rentals, though many are for rentals of 60 days or longer. If you are a loyalty member of a rental car agency, perhaps you can apply your points to the rental. Or use your points collected through frequent flier programs.

My husband and I have done the agroturismo experience in both Tuscany and Umbria. The websites like "Umbria Villa Rental" or "Tuscany Now" or any of the other consolidator sites are wonderful resources. While we didn't go truffle hunting (but were interested in cooking classes) most of the villa descriptions note where they can arrange for all of those types of experiences. After finding top choices we would check reviews on Trip Advisor or other sites to understand others' experiences. There are so many options it's hard to give advise on where to stay. We decided which cities we would want to go to and then looked for places that made getting there easier for day trips.

The column this Sunday definitely resonated with me. I'm glad there are some pet owners who don't feel they need to have to take their pets everywhere. I was recently on a flight where I sat next to a woman who had a dog in some sort of under-seat container, but kept letting the dog partially out. She also asked me to hold the container closed every time she went to the restroom. The flight was full so not possible for me to move. So I have no problem with high fees for taking pets onboard flights.

I agree!

There was a question in last week's chat about where to get foreign currency before a trip, and banks and foreign ATMs were recommended because of better exchange rates. One advantage to a place like Travelex is being able to request specific denominations of currency. My parents bought Euros from their bank before a trip last year and ended up with nothing but high value bills they then had trouble spending in Europe.

That's interesting. Another possibility is American Express, if you're an Amex cardholder. They'll sell you some Euros, and I think at pretty reasonable rates.

I have the opportunity to travel to Ireland with a group tour next year. I'd love to go, but there's a good chance that by the time the trip comes around, I'll have an infant (still under the age of one). The group is fine with the idea, but I'm wondering if it's too crazy to consider. Any thoughts or advice?

I always feel that if opportunity knocks, you should open the door! If the tour group is fine with the idea of having a baby along, you should definitely go.

I second everything that Zofia advises. If you need to carry anything in an outer pocket, you can foil a pickpocket by keeping your hand in that pocket over the item.

Exactly. Until, of course, you have to reach for a handhold on the bus or subway. . .

If you do happen to be into seeing the Mannekin Pis, be sure to also check out the Jennekin Pis, a little girl squatting for the same purpose.

I have the same question, so was hoping someone else would answer. I have used the directory on IGLTA.org, but also just good old google.

While visiting the Louvre last year, it was a bit disconcerting to be in such a beautiful and special place yet hear the loudspeaker announcement every few minutes reminding people to beware of pickpockets. I can't image these criminals standing in line for hours to get in every day. It must be worth their while. But, I was cautious around the city and never felt like someone was trying to get my valuables.

Because about 20 per cent of Americans are agnostics or atheists.

Does the chatter recall how much it costs per person, and how often it runs?

All airports publish Minimum Connect Times. Many overseas airports operate very efficiently. I believe international to international connections at NRT can even be as little as 45 minutes. While you go have to go through transfer security there are typically several stations open. They make the schedules work. But as you say if your inbound is delayed you won't make it. I connected through NRT a couple of years ago from Bangkok with a 50 minute connection. But it definitely required a hustle. Sometimes you can request an escort or if you are traveling up front they will provide one which can speed you through security and also notify the gate that you are on the way.

Hi, Last week someone wrote in about activities outside of Cape Town and said they were un-interested in wine country. So was I. Until we went to the adorable town of Froenschook and had lunch (which can be totally dry) at the historically significant and beautiful Vergelegen. You can have a whole day in wine country and not drink a sip - it's just an incredible beautiful countryside!

Hi Travel Gurus! I turn 50 years old in two weeks and want to do something a little different. Our thought is to get the kids on the bus (we have a pair of second graders) and head up to Philadelphia. We'll have a sitter pick them up from school, so would have the day to ourselves. Any thoughts about what to do while up playing hooky?

What kinds of things do you like to do? The Philadelphia Museum of Art is fabulous. So is the new Barnes Foundation. In fact, you could do Museum Row for the day. Here's a story about some less well-known museums. If you haven't done Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, those are a must. You could have a great meal at any of the restaurants listed in this story. What else, chatters?

and will be different time connecting between same airline's flights, and from one airline to another. Munich & Duesseldort, legal minimum is 35 minutes, I think

AAA. If you're an Auto Club member, you can get foreign exchange currency, in a timely manner and with a decent exchange rate, AND fedexed to your house. Easy peasy.

How funny, we're planning to do a similar trip to Italy this fall ourselves (albeit with less time in Cinque Terre and adding a few days in Rome). Searching for an agriturismo can be a bit overwhelming- I found that it helped to define certain features that you want (for us, we narrowed down to a particular geographic region and then searched for something within a certain budget and close to a town for ease of dinner access). Since you want to go truffle hundting, I'd focus in on that. Besides the usual booking.com and tripadvisor, I found this Web site helpful. For Cinque Terre, we've read that the later in the fall you go, the higher risk that it will be rainy. Alas, we're not going till mid-October, but if you have the choice to go earlier it wouldn't hurt! Happy planning!

I agree with all your tips. Nothing in the back pockets. I was bumped from behind on an escalator and someone nabbed the pack of tissues from my back pocket, fortunately that was all! Also, be careful if you use any public transportation. Step into a cafe or shop if you need to consult your map or guidebook. Most importantly, WALK WITH CONFIDENCE!!!

It depends greatly on the airport and the airline(s) you fly. Are you flying all of it on one airline or is it a Code share? For exaple flying to Atlanta on Delta then flying Alaska airlines to the west coast? Does the airport have just one security check point thus you dont need to exit and re-enter the airport when changing terminals. In Boston you may need to change terminals if on different airlines, same true for LA. With Chicago ohare you wont need to if you are flying just on United but would if you booked a ticket through something like Orbitz where you booked your first leg in United then had to take an American flight With Layover times will depend on the airpor and its size, and the airline size at the airport. Flying into Dulles if you are arriving on a jet and you then connect to a crop duster you will need to change terminals which will take longer (but you dont have to exit security). Similar issue with United in Chicago or Newark.

So what if some people are atheists or agnostics? To be offended by that statement is ridiculous regardless of your religion or lack thereof. My husband is an atheist (and I am religious) and I know he would not be offended if someone said that to him. Another example of people being too quick to take offense.

There is an exchange student in a small town in Ohio about to return to Germany in a few weeks. He's concerned because he said his suitcase is stuffed and he is worried about getting his guitar back home. Is there an inexpensive way for him to ship it separately? Appreciate any suggestions

Some airlines may permit him to carry his guitar onboard. He should call the airline to ask. Also, if he has a hard case that he is not overly protective of (meaning, he doesn't mind a few bumps and scratches), he can send it through as checked luggage. He could also put the guitar in the case and the whole rig in a box. Or cover the case in clear protective wrap.

For international shipping, you will need to contact the major shipping companies, such as UPS and FedEx.  If there is a local music store in town, you could ask for their suggestions. Or call a bigger music store in a major city, such as Chicago or NYC, that might actually send its instruments around the world.

I sometimes carry a money belt for my valuable, but my favorite things in to buy pants and dresses that have zippered pockets that are part of the design. These make getting acess so much easier. It's always a bit awkward to fish inside your pants in a public place. I'll often keep a bit of cash and one credit card more accessible in these zippered pockets and then the others valuables in the money best.

This is true for many people, but for some who are in recovery from alcoholism it's really not safe to be faced with the temptation.

I found it entertaining that the attendant opted to say "Pray to "WHATEVER God YOU Believe in". I wasn't complaining about the upgrade, just would have preferred a non-religious reference to a scary moment, something akin to "is everyone ok?" But on a lighter note, I still find it comical picturing prayers to Jesus, Allah, Flying Spaghetti Monster et al.

Maybe I'm being thick here, but why is there an obsession with pickpockets when on vacation compared to being at home? At least for those of us who live in tourist-heavy cities like DC, we should already be vigilant about our personal belongings. What changes on vacation?

Because it can really ruin your vacation to be pickpocketed when traveling. :-)

Hello! My husband and I wanted to take a long weekend trip to celebrate our first anniversary at the beginning of August. We are going to Charleston and Scottsdale for weddings in the fall, have been to New York several times. Where else should we consider for a long weekend trip out of Chicago that would be good that time of year? We love cities with good food scenes, too. We thought about New Orleans, but would it be miserable that time of year? Thanks!

Yes, New Orleans would be miserable. What about Denver? Nashville is terrific, too, but will also be a bit on the hot side. Seattle or Portland, Ore., would be great, though a little far, perhaps.

After his most recent experience arriving at Dulles, my husband wants to enroll in TSA program. I'd like some feedback--is it really worth it?

I have heard positive remarks from travelers enrolled in Global Entry. What' s not to love about skipping the lines and the speedy kiosk process? Anyone can apply, though the program usually makes the most sense for travelers who often fly internationally. In addition, as a Global Entry member, you are automatically enrolled in PreCheck, a great perk for domestic travel.
Here is a piece on Global Entry we ran a few years ago.

I loved seeing Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly!

We'll be in Florida next week with our 3 kids (ages 10, 5, & 3) for spring break. We'll only have 2 days in the Orlando area. Which park(s) would you recommend? We tried Universal last time and the lines were insane - over an hour for most rides!

Alas, that's the nature of the parks. Universal is great, despite the lines -- have you done Harry Potter world? Disney will be no better. If you like animals, you could hit Sea World.

I will be traveling to Tanzania (both the Serengeti and Zanzibar), and Rwanda to see the gorillas this summer. Two questions: First, Are both countries safe to visit? They are not listed on the "do not travel" state department list. Second, do I need to be concerned about the Ebola virus? Thank you!

Both countries are generally safe, especially in the well-touristed areas. As long as you are traveling with a group and/or an expert guide, you should be fine.

I suggest reading the State Department's country overview, as well as Lonely Planet's guidebooks (they have great section on safety and security). For example, for Rwanda, the agency says: "The U.S. Embassy has been informed of several recent incidents involving aggressive animals in Akagera National Park.  Approaching large animals, even when in a vehicle, can result in injury or death."


For Ebola, consult with a travel medical clinic and/or the CDC.

YES YES YES. I'm so glad to see this article because I think it's a huge boon to travelers to have this outlet available when things go awry. I confess I never thought of it until I saw a couple of my friends tweeting airlines when cancellations, etc. happened to them; now, it's the first thing I think of. I had a great experience with Air Canada last year when a flight got delayed and then outright cancelled; within a matter of minutes, I was rebooked and reassured with a concrete plan. No waiting on hold, no waiting in line at the (closed, in any event!) airline desk, no hassle- my boyfriend has long gently teased me about being on Twitter in the first place, but even he confessed that day that he was glad I was able to use it to re-route us. I don't know how many people would join Twitter just to communicate with airlines - I imagine there's some outcry over us having an unfair advantage, maybe? - but I'd say it's indispensable.

Sounds like you had a tweeterfic experience!

Cleveland - they could drive from Chicago, lots to do!

And that's it for us folks! Sorry if we didn't manage to get to your question today -- it was just Andrea and I holding down the fort, or flying the plane, or whatever metaphor you prefer. Tough for just the two of us to get to everything. So come back next week!  Meanwhile, our prize winner today has to be the chatter who provoked so much discussion by quoting the attendant who asked everyone to pray on a bumpy flight. Send your contact info to me at zofia.smardz@washpost.com and I'll send off a little airline bible -- kidding! Thanks again all, and we'll chat again next week!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
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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