Talk about Travel

May 06, 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.

Greetings, and welcome to today's chat. Hope you enjoyed Sunday's Travel section, including Valentina Pasquali's fun piece about immersing herself in Bologna's cooking schools and Anja Mutic's immersion of another kind -- into the music of Cape Verde.

Those pieces are prompting my question today for you chatters: Tell us about a time that you felt yourself deeply in tune with another country's culture, whether through music, art, architecture, or food. How did you reach that point? The source of our favorite story will win a little something...

Let's do this! What's on your mind?

I am in my early 20s and I love to travel. I also struggle to make ends meet, and I was wondering what tips you might have to fund traveling. I know there's been some talk about turning credit card use into air miles. I already work about 70 hours a week and am pursuing a master's degree part-time, so getting a second job is not possible for me right now. I already scrimp and save, so I'm hoping to hear any time-free tips you may have, like credit cards. I'm guessing there are more of those out there that I'm not aware of. Thanks so much!

I'm sure our chatters have lots of ideas for you, but generally, let me say that I'm so glad to hear that you're interested in traveling. Good for you!

Definitely, getting miles from a credit card is one way to go to help with airfare. I'd suggest something that lets you earn miles you can use on multiple airlines. My Amex card, for instance, collects points I can transfer to a few different programs -- or that I can use to just directly pay for tickets I buy through Amex Travel, which is really handy.

With such a busy job and the grad-school work, you probably don't have a lot of flexibility, but if you sometimes do, the other thing I'd suggest, of course, is to sign up for as many last-minute bargain-notification programs as you can, like the e-saver deals that airlines do.

For lodging, of course there's good old couchsurfing and AirBnb. And house exchange and VRBO.

Chatters, what else?

With the Ellis Island Museum not anticipated to be reopened in 2013, what is there to be seen on the island? Is it worth the expensive ferry trip?

The museum has always been the high point of that trip for me, and, you are correct, it is not scheduled to reopen in 2013. But the Statue of Liberty is scheduled to reopen July 4th now that post-Hurricane Sandy repairs have been made. If you've never been there, and your visits to New York are infrequent, seeing the Statue of Liberty up-close-and-personal is worth the trip. Tickets are not yet being sold, but you can keep up with the latest news on Statue Cruises Facebook page. Ferry costs $17. 

Thanks for the update on Jamestown. My husband and I were there on Wednesday morning, and I specifically asked at the front desk if there was anything new since we were at Jamestown four years previously. I guess the staff was kept in the dark about the cannibalism confirmation -- we didn't learn about it until we got back to our B&B (York River Inn is the BEST!).

I was just there too and did not learn of that meat-eating fact till I returned to D.C. Maybe they did not want to upset our appetite.

Hi! I am heading to SE Asia for two weeks, and am hoping to only bring a carry-on. The only thing getting in my way is the 3-1-1 liquid rule. I looked on the TSA website, and saw that medically necessary liquids are exempt from the rule. Does that include contact lens solution? What about something like sunscreen? Thanks!!

Generally, "medically necessary" means something with a prescription. If you need saline solution for a longer flight, I would buy a small container of it. Pack the sunscreen in a plastic bag and check it in. Otherwise, you could risk having it confiscated by a TSA agent.

Is anyone else experiencing sticker shock at international airfares? My husband and I travel to Germany a few times a year and therefore are familiar with the usual price range (and the variables, etc. I know it's not an exact science.) But searches for this July are resulting in prices four times the usual! I haven't heard of any possible reasons - have any of you? Any guidance in this annoying dance?

I'm not seeing that sort of price difference, but airfares are high this summer. Fewer seats, more demand = higher prices. You may save money by taking connecting flights, or departing from Philadelphia or New York. But expect to pay about $1,400 round trip. 

Thank you very much to the person who suggested I take the architectural walking tour in Savannah! The group was small (6), and the guide was pleasant, a good speaker, VERY knowledgeable, and had an interesting route worked out. And thank goodness, he did not find it necessary to keep patter running the whole time. I almost threw myself from a trolley between stops because of one of "those"! (And the city overall is marvelous - best destination I've visited in quite some time.)

So glad you had fun in Savannah. I do love the architecture there, and, if you're able, walking is the best way to experience it...

Dear travel gurus, I am a woman that will travel to Morocco for work. I have a day off and I would like to go sightseeing. I usually wear tank tops throughout the year because I get warm easily. For work I will wear suit jackets. What do I wear while I am sightseeing that won't make me sweat?

I would suggest shortsleeve cotton sundresses of modest length or maxi-dresses, and bring a shawl or large scarf to cover your arms in case you visit any sacred sights. You will also want to wear sandals that are more substantial than flip-flops. Keep the toe show to a minimum.

I wore this outfit when I was in Morocco and felt perfectly comfortable temp-wise and culturally.

my family is trying to find a place to go for a long weekend this summer. It needs to be within 2-3 hours drive from NY and not more than 5 from D.C. My adult siblings and I have varied financial budgets and our kids range in age from 8 to 23. I looked into Woodloch springs and it is very pricey. thanks for your help

We have been to a half dozen places in the Poconos for our family reunions, and I can't recommend any except Woodloch. But you are right -- it is very expensive. Maybe Pennsylvania Dutch Country? There are several decent hotels in Lancaster, and the place is geared to tourists. Don't know if the young adults will enjoy it much. 

My sister lives in Westchester, NY and I live in Northern Virginia. we are looking for a place to meet where we can visit. we have done Phili and New Hope/Lambertville already. I notice Delaware is in-between. Are there any cute towns like New Hope in Delaware where we can look at shops, see gardens, visit and get a good bite to eat?

New Castle is a possibility. Very quaint and historic. But if I were you, I'd do Cape May, N.J., instead. I don't know when this get-together is planned for, but if it's soon, you can head there before the summertime crowds. Lots of shops, restaurants, the beach to walk on, etc., old Victorian houses -- visit the Emlen Physick Estate for gardens.  It's also home to the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, which is the local tourist bureau. Chatters, what do you think?

I am a bit biased, being Latvian-American, and having visited Latvia a number of times, but the moments I've felt most immersed in the culture have been as a member of the audience during one of the country's enormous legendary song and dance festivals. I attended the final concert of the youth song and dance festival a number of years ago, and the love and appreciation the audience showed to the choir, to the conductors and musicians, even to composers/lyricists who were present was absolutely amazing. Everyone is happy, everyone is energetic, and in public transportation on the way back into the center of Riga, everyone - choir members, audience - sings beloved songs to which everyone knows the lyrics. Latvians LOVE to sing, and nowhere is it more evident than during these song festivals.

A nationwide singalong! I can hum that tune.

When we were in grad school, we and our friends used to go car-camping. There are a lot of nice places within 2-3 hours' drive of DC, starting with Shenandoah National Park, if you like mountains, and Assateague/Chincoteague on the DelMarVa peninsula, as well as state parks in the mountains of western Maryland and eastern West Virginia (eastern West -- that looks funny!). We'd take along our own food in a styrofoam ice chest, and cook on a Coleman stove (or over a fire, or with charcoal on a barbecue grill, if provided in the campground). Homemade pancakes for breakfast, lots of hiking and photography during the day, then a leisurely meal in the evening, sitting around the campfire swapping stories. Oh, to be young again...

We're coming into that season, aren't we? Thanks for the inspiration. (Although, I must say, doesn't even just writing about it make you want to ditch the "to be young again" sentiment and organize a car-camping trip with other oldies?)

Saline solution is on the exception list for carry ons. I've flown with a full bottle several times.

Always consider destinations where you know someone and with whom you could stay, thus saving considerable funds. A couple of years ago I visited a friend in Houston - definitely not a place high on my "must see" list, but it ended up being more interesting that I thought it would. Plus, it was warmer there than DC in February. Of course, I've been lucky enough to have friends in places like Brussels and Cairo, as well.

Give those couches a workout!

The new boy and I are looking for a B&B within 2-3 hours of NYC. We're thinking PA (New Hope?), CT, etc. His requirement is that he doesn't want to feel like he's right on top of other guests, particularly given how thin most walls are in older houses. (In other words, individual villas would be ideal, but I don't want to spend $400-500 a night.) Any recommendations for romantic, private B&Bs or inns that aren't paper-thin (or towns to try, other than New Hope)? Thanks!

I loved the Lambertville House in Lambertville, N.J., just across the river from New Hope. Lambertville has really gentrified, and I think it's nicer than New Hope in many ways. Chatters, let's hear your suggestions.

Is there a strategy for getting award seats? We have saved enough miles to take our family of four to Europe and were looking at next summer. If we are flexible with times/days/weeks, how should we approach this challenge?

Try ExpertFlyer, which allows you to find award seats based on your itinerary. There's a free version you can try.

Bought tickets to a soccer match in Madrid on the spur of the moment. Got to witness a minor riot afterwards, when the home team lost. It was a fairly mild riot in the sense that we did not fear for our safety, but there were police with those clear plastic shields out on the field, as well as a lot of items being thrown from the stands.

I'm glad that you were immersed and not crushed.

My husband's best friend was recently posted to an army base on Oahu, and we were thinking of visiting him as our vacation (which, due to work constraints, has to be in August this year). He just told us, however, that his company is subject to rolling deployments over the next six months, and he's not sure yet exactly when he'll be home. While Hawaii is lovely, I would not want to go all the way out there and end up not seeing him, so we have put off buying plane tickets and making hotel reservations until we know more about his deployment schedule. But it seems like it might be some time before we find out the details. How long is too long to wait before we risk having trouble getting decent flights and finding a nice (and reasonable) hotel? I'm sure August in Hawaii is very busy, and I worry about availability of nice options in our budget range...

Oahu has more than 30,000 hotel rooms, not including condo rental units and B&Bs/inns. You should not have a problem finding a room in August.

If you are worried, you can always book and cancel -- just be sure to check the cancellation policy before you give out your credit card number.

As for flights, as long as you are flexible, you should be fine. August is a popular time for families, but the tourist numbers drop off as the start of school nears.

Speaking generally, I (and a lot of friends) have felt deeply in tune with another country's culture when we visited the homelands from which our respective immigrant ancestors came. This is especially true for those of us who've been able to locate distant cousins in "the old country' to meet. I've been back to my ancestral homeland seven times already (most recently in March), and although I mangle the language a bit, enough of the natives speak English that I manage just fine, plus by now I know my way around geographically!

Yes, of course -- such a good strategy for travel (and more, of course). Where is your ancestral homeland, BTW?

Short of winning the lottery there aren't too many options. The credit card option CAN be a good one IF you have good credit AND you pay your bill off in full every month. In addition to the Amex Joe mentioned, one card that a lot of mileage junkies like is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. There's a decent bonus for new accounts if you can meet the spending requirements to get them. If you shop online much the UItimate Rewards mall is a great source of extra bonus miles. Chase UR points are transferrable to United which opens up lots of possibilities on Star Alliance. Sites like flyertalk.com or milepoint.com have lots of good info......Another option is to travel locally. Take day trips to interesting places nearby. I spent a good bit of my early 20s driving around Virginia going to a variety of historic sites. Now that I can afford to travel further afield I don't do that as much. But I am glad I did it when I did.

Think locally, travel ... locally! At least at first. Good point.

I am flying into Paris and out of London. Do you have an opinion as to the best option for transportation to Heathrow? I am staying in South Kensington. I can take the Heathrow Express for 68 pounds (2 adults, child is free if ticket purchased online) but I'd have to get a cab to Paddington Station. It appears that a taxi would cost about 60 pounds, plus tip, etc. I've found one private car for $150.00 US. Concerned about the traffic as well. My plane leaves at 10:15 am on a weekday.  Thanks.

I'd probably take the Piccadilly Line on the tube. It'll take you right from Earls' Court Station to Heathrow, and it should take about 50 minutes and cost about $8. But, if you have lots of luggage, be aware that it'll be a struggle. 

Hello Gurus. I'm in the early stages of planning a 2014 trip to London and Paris. I'd like to rent an apartment, rather than stay at a hotel, in each city. Can you or the chatters please recommend a couple of reliable, trustworthy websites that I can use for booking apartments in London and Paris? Thank you!

I can speak to Paris: I have used and liked Paris Vacation Apartments.

Chatters, any recs on London equivalent?

Hi! I've booked a trip from IAD to Fairbanks, through American Airlines. There are 3 flights involved, 1 is on American, the next 2 are on Alaska Air. I can't seem to reserve seats on the Alaska Air flights. Alaska Air doesn't recognize my reservation information, and their site says to go through the carrier that has the reservation. American Airlines doesn't mention anything about it; the seat selection just isn't allowed on those flights. Can I get seat assignments before I check in at the gate? I made the reservation myself on-line, using American Airlines frequent flyer miles, if that makes a difference.

Call the frequent-flier program at American and tell the agent you want to make a seat assignment. Your case (you used miles, you are flying two airlines) is somewhat complicated, and you need to talk to a live person.

You might find that the airline does not make the seats available till 24 hours before departure. So be sure to check-in online and grab your seats.

How about Corning, New York, home of the fabulous glass museum?

There is a direct flight available on United from Dulles to Honolulu. The flight leaves at 1pm and arrives in Hawaii at 5:30pm local time, a flight time of about 11 1/2 hours. We traveled to Hawaii in October on this flight with our kids, ages 2 and 7, and found that being cooped up on the plane for that time was preferable to having to get all their stuff off a plane and back on somewhere in between. The returning flight is a redeye, and lasts 10 1/2 hours, and we all watched tv or movies and then slept until we got back. In October, United had just taken the route over from Continental, and the main passenger cabin in the back was only about 1/2 full, which was great for an active, chatty 2-year-old. The direct flight was the same price as any of the other with layovers. If the OP is looking for summer travel, I'd expect that the plane would be more filled and the direct flight more costly. Even so, we would highly recommend it, and we'll definitely try to use it again if we ever go back.

Thanks for the account!

I really enjoy Thai indie music despite not understanding the lyrics. So I have attending a couple of big music festivals in Bangkok which were a lot of fun. Great people watching and music.

Every 5 years there is a huge song festival in Latvia. Imagine a choir of over 30 thousand voices. And even though there is seating for a hundred thousand people, tickets sell out within hours - meaning that those who didn't get tickets watch the event on live RV. There is no feeling like it when all of the participants, choir and audience alike, join in on the anthem or other songs...

Hi, this question is for Christopher Elliott. Has anyone from TSA followed up with you regarding your post (on your own website) about the way TSA treated you at Denver airport? (I think it was Denver.)

Not yet. And for those of you who don't know what we're talking about, here's a link to the original story. I don't think anyone will. The pat-down was perfectly legal, as was separating me from my family. If you ask me, it shouldn't be (but that's another topic).

I gave "Travel" a "review" of a trip to Paris my wife and I took a few weeks back and forgot to mention one item - basic, but worth noting. Allow plenty of extra time at the airport if you are getting a Value Added Tax refund. We made a couple of purchases which made it worth the time to stand in line - which took about 35 minutes at Charles de Gaulle. When you add that to 20 minutes checking in with United, and 45 minutes getting through security, you can see that even arriving two hours before your flight may make things a little tight. Of course, the flight ended up leaving about half an hour late, but you can't count on that happening every time.

Thanks for the follow-up thoughts!

One night while studying abroad in Madrid my host mom took me to a small bar in a working class neighborhood south of city center. Inside was a short counter where you could order beer or wine from a single attendant and then a hallway leading to a small room. The walls were lined with built in benches covered in Andalusian tile and the lighting dim. Two old men sat in the corner and began to play the most heart wrenching flamenco music I have ever heard; strumming, clapping, and rasping out words with their well aged voices. After a few songs I found myself clapping along to the complicated rhythms, completely immersed. As someone with little musical talent my sudden ability to anticipate the enunciated beats was magical to me. I will never forget that night!

Wow -- haunting and surreal. I can practically hear it. Magical, indeed.

I know this has probably been discussed to death but I need help! It has been a long time since I've traveled and stayed in a hotel as opposed to renting a house or apartment. So, I am not up to date with tipping norms. But I'm taking the kids to NYC in a couple of weeks and staying at the Marriott Marquis. Who do I tip? How much?

Basically anyone who assists you during your travels: cab drivers, bellhops (if they carry your luggage or hail you a cab), housekeeping, concierge (if he/she helps you plan an outing or make a reservation), hotel wait staff (but not the hostess). But don't tip if you feel that you have received sub-par service; let the manager know about the lapse in service.

Here are the recommended amounts care of Emily Post:

Skycap: $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag

Doorman: $1-$4 for carrying luggage

$1-$2 for hailing cab (add an extra $1 if it's raining)

$1-$4 beyond the call of duty

Bellhop: $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag;

$2-3 for each additional service, such as room delivery

Housekeeper: $2-$5 per day, left daily with a note marked "Housekeeping - Thank you"

Concierge: $5-$10 for tickets or restaurant reservations; $15 for hard-to-get tickets or reservations, or 10-20 percent of the ticket price

Cabbie: 15-20 percent of the fare, but minimally $1

$2 for the first bag, $1 for the second

 

My husband and I are thinking about doing a weekend getaway before I return to work (currently on maternity leave) with the baby (3 months old). We're leaning towards the Shenandoah Valley and are wondering if you have specific recommendations for bed and breakfasts or small cozy hotels that would not have a problem with us bringing along a small baby. I think this would require a place where the rooms have some privacy so a crying baby doesn't wake up other guests in the middle of the night, for example. Any suggestions?

Many, if not most, B&Bs don't take children for that very reason. It's not quite the Shenandoah Valley, but the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va., might meet your needs. It's a lovely hotel in a great setting on the Potomac River. Its small riverside chalets have only a few rooms each, so that might be your best bet. Where else, chatters?

Can you take more than one 3-ounce-or-less container of contact lens solution in your quart plastic bag? Can you buy sunscreen at your destination?

The TSA doesn't specifically address saline, but it recommends not taking more liquid than necessary. Here's the fine print. The rules may be unevenly enforced, so it's possible you'll be allowed through the checkpoint with 8 ounces. Then again, maybe not.

I have seen questions on the Viking cruises - does anyone know anything about the Uniworld cruises and are they comparable with the Viking cruise ships?

There are several luxury river cruise companies, and both Viking and Uniworld are among them. AMAWaterways and Avalon are two others geared to English speakers. They are all comparable, although each has its own personality. Avalon, for example, has sleek, urban-boutique-hotel type decor, while the decor on Uniworld is more upscale-formal. Check out the advance purchase rates and itineraries before deciding, but I don't think you can wrong with any of these lines. Remember, they cater to an older, more educated crowd, so if partying is your thing, go elsewhere.  

When I found out that hubby was going to be attending an international conference in Montreal, and that my schedule would permit me to come along, I checked an introductory French textbook and some tape cassettes (this was 25 years ago) out of our public library and started teaching myself a soupcon of French. I was amazed how just being able to say a few basic phrases -- bon jour, bon soir, merci, excusez-moi) and to read/order from a menu made me feel at ease there (even though in downtown Montreal most businesses have at least one person who speaks English fairly well, if not fluently).

Oui.

I got to spend 4 days in Beijing before my group arrived for a university trip. I met up with some friends a few days, but I also had plenty of time to spend on my own exploring. As much as Beijing has apparently "westernized" there are still a ton of places where no one speaks English, menus are only in Chinese characters, etc. My time with and without my Chinese friends allowed me to experience a part of China many foreigners (especially with groups) do not get to see. With my friends, I got to go to local, non-tourist, authentic restaurants (and learn how to order vegetarian food--something important when I ate by myself!). I got to see the interactions between people in restaurants (we would think it is rude to treat/talk to waiters like they do over there!), and also the interactions in regular daily life and between people. My time with my Chinese friends allowed me to have better insights into real life in China, that I could continue to see when I explored on my own. I definitely got to see and experience things differently than many people while I was there. I got to talk to local people and students at universities, ride the subway on my own to meet up with people, go to areas Americans don't normally go to because most people there don't speak English, ride a bike in and be driven in the crazy traffic there, and experience the heaviest rain they had had in 10 years (until last year which was worse), and eat several different kinds of authentic Chinese food while learning how the food differs from province to province. Once my group arrived, it was the very usual, tour-y atmosphere, eating in "Chinese restaurants" (but that were more westernized and catered to tourists). Our interactions were more limited to usually tour guides. While it was fun, and I enjoyed seeing the sights, I definitely got to see more of the real China and its people in my first 4 days there, and that was the highlight of my trip.

It's so true that if you know anyone (or even if you know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone), it can be so worth it to try to meet up when you're traveling. I did this with friends of friends in Japan and didn't regret it for a second.

When I was younger and poorer, I discovered airline employees get free or substantially discounted standby travel on their respective airlines. So I got a job working for one of the majors. That may not be feasible for the LW. It's also true that spouses, children, parents, and domestic companions are also included in the benefit (at least at the airline where I worked.

So if you can't get a job for one of the majors, marry somebody who already has one! (Or ask them to adopt you...)

At the risk of provoking a stampede: For the chatter looking at places to visit in DE, I'm partial to two beach communities- Rehobeth and Bethany Beach. They are not nearly as built-up as their neighbors to the south, and Bethany has a lot of cute shops and galleries. Like Cape May (my favorite Jersey beach- it's "The Shore", except it's not), they get packed in the summer, but if you go now, it should be good.

It looks like you want to pack lightly, which is great, but why not check a very small bag with liquids? You probably won't save much time with only a carry-on because you'll have to go through customs wiht everyone else.

Hi, all. My mom and I go on a trip together every year, and next year she'd like to go to an all-inclusive with a really nice beach. I've looked at Grand Velas, Amanyara, Petit St Vincent, etc. Can you recommend something that would give us an absolute premium in service with a high standard of food that isn't dominated by either honeymooning couples or kids?

You've already  identified three well-regarded all-inclusives that would fit the bill. Also look at Jumby Bay in Antigua and Nisbet Plantation Beach Club on Nevis. And if any chatters have recommendations, please share. 

At one time I read that contact lens solution was exempt. I've been traveling with full size bottles outside my 311 bag and never had problems. Maybe I'm just lucky.

Yes, there's some evidence that at one time, the TSA declared saline to be exempt from its 3-1-1 rules. But I can't find anything recent on saline. In dealing with TSA-related complaints, some involving medical liquids, the one consistency is the inconsistent way in which any rules or policies are applied. That's why I would recommend taking less saline, just in case you deal with a screener who takes a strict approach to the 3-1-1 rule.

Bad advice! 1015 Am departure on a workday? Tube? No way, not even with carryon bags. They will need to be at LHR at 8 AM at the very latest and 730 to be safe. Taxi is going to be closer to 80 pounds (120 bucks) but for three-four people that's a bargain. Door to door, no schlepping. Just Say No to public transportation when you have bags. Heathrow Express is the sole exception to that but if you need a cab to get there anyway just take it all the way.

I agree completely! No tube with bags! I just faced a similar situation in London, and our English friends suggested a mini-cab to Heathrow, rather than the standard London taxi. You order these over the phone, and they charge less, maybe only around 50-60 pounds. On a weekday, though, you'd still have to allow a lot of time, because traffic getting out of London can be bad. For a 10:15 flight, I'd order a cab for 6 a.m. at least.

I suppose this is to be expected, but I spent a semester in France when I was in college. It was awesome ( i had been dreaming of a trip to France since before I started taking 6th grade french). I hadn't had the language for a few years before my trip - so I was sure it would take a while to get up to speed. And I guess it did, but after my few months there, it was so easy to be swept up in everything, speak to people like a native (or so I thought, who knows) - hanging out with the french students. We had a great trip, and I loved it.

I am planning a late Sept-early Oct trip to Croatia & Montenegro. I will fly into Tivat (on the coast), rent a car and drive up the Dalmatian coast. Any suggestions for sights & hotels?

We had a piece recently about Vis -- maybe it will spark some ideas?

Your story about ID theft mentioned using prepaid debit cards. Do you have any recommendations? There are dozens of branded prepaid Mastercards and Visas, and according to the consumer sites the fees and other characteristics vary enormously. Some have extremely expensive fees and have other limitations. Any tips?

Nerdwallet publishes a pretty decent list of prepaid cards, along with their approximate costs. I would first check with your bank or credit union to see if they offer a prepaid card at a better rate.

I went to NYC for the weekend, and stayed at a Financial District hotel of a major chain where I have "preferred status" and had earned a free night. I asked them to call their mid-town property and arrange for me to store my luggage for the afternoon while I did some shopping, had lunch and then headed to LaGuardia for my 7:00 pm flight; avoiding lugging a 15 lb bag around, and back-tracking downtown which would take an hour. I was rebuffed by two hotels! One even said they were turning away their own guests from storing luggage because they were out of room. Was this too much to ask? The downtown hotel staff seemed baffled - they said they would have stored bags for any non-guest with a loyalty card, or a folio from a nearby hotel. I've done the same at airport hotels on the west coast - store my luggage while I shop, attend the theater and then catch a midnight overseas flight. I may stay in mid-town in the future, but the free night wasn't available for the weekend I wanted. What to do?

Next time, I would speak with an agent in the hotel's loyalty guest department and  confirm that you can leave your bags at the midtown hotel. Tell the agent which property you are considering. Then call the hotel and tell them your plan. If necessary, confirm with a manager, and get his/her name in case you come across any problems.

Be aware, though, that storage might be based on availabilty, so have a back-up plan ready.

How do I find out which destinations can be reached directly (on any airline) from a particular airport? I'm looking for direct flights from Venice, Italy to other destinations in the Mediterranean. Or how about the reverse? Finding out which destinations have direct return flights to Washington, DC?

I'm assuming you mean nonstop, rather than direct. You can do that on Kayak. Simply enter Venice in the "From" box and the other destination in the 'to'. When you get the results, click off the 2-stop and 1-stop categories on the lefthand side of the page so that you get nonstop flights only. If there are any. Do the same for your flights to Washington.

I'd recommend considering Winchester, Virginia, to the couple with the baby looking for a local getaway. There are numerous B&B downtown plus the grander George Washington Hotel as well as many local shops and eateries within walking distance and a few museums, too. (If you want recommendations for those, I can write more next chat. :-) The pedestrian zone is bustling during the day and then rather quiet at night. I'd suggest calling the hotel or B&Bs and asking about their baby accommodations because I am sure people would try to do their best to accommodate you and your family here in Winchester!

That's a good thought, too.

A few years ago, I spent Christmas with a boyfriend's family in Bedfordshire, England. The absolute highlight of the otherwise stressful visit was celebrating the 25th at the tiny village's main pub as a lock-in until the wee hours of morning. It was an amazing experience I wouldn't have had without that local connection. While the relationship didn't last, I'll always have those special memories!

Any memory that includes the phrase "wee hours" is usually one to be cherished.

In high school I traveled to Denmark for a work-wide GirlHuide jamboree. I spent a week there camping with a Danish troop, and spent another 2 1/2 weeks traveling throughout Denmark after. Part of my time was spent with my new Danish friends, and part on our own. What a great way to experience Denmark, the people, culture, food, and sights!

Remember that you do not have to stay in Honolulu. Look at resorts outside of town in the same direction as the base. We stayed on the western side in the Ko'Olina area, and used a rent car; it only took us about 20 minutes to get to Pearl Harbor. Distances just aren't that far on the island.

I've had saline confiscated (4 oz bottle) on more than one occasion, so rules are definitely applied differently!

I suggest you try Morningstar Inn Bed and Breakfast, 72 East Market Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018. I is a well-maintained, old building with thick walls and hospitable owners who will leave you alone if you want. Their web site is: http://www.morningstarinn.com/

Hello Music: 1993, solo backpack trip with a Eurail pass. Detour to Berlin to see U2 in concert at Berlin's Olympic Stadium. U2's Zooropa album was (mostly?) made in Berlin and the song Zoo Station is a Berlin train station (where I stored my backpack during this concert to retrieve later). Art: just about anywhere in Italy. Too many to count (just try, dare ya - you are utterly engulfed by art every single place you go in Italy) but I'd possibly say being mesmerized by the Sistine Chapel and knowing what Michelangelo went through to create it. Architecture: Has to be Florence, and climbing up to the top of the Duomo. How thrilling to be clambering around inside of a 600+ year old structure which at the time it was built was cutting edge, in fact a regaining of lost knowledge? Food: this is tough as I'm someone who, for so many years, just took food for granted. It was, what it was. Sure, I always enjoyed good food but I didn't spend much time pondering it. When did that change? Well, a few times: being in Ireland and having arguably fairly bad food (circa 2000) which consisted of lamb stew and biscuits most of the time (can't take food for granted anymore)... and contrasting it with very good food which started on a trip with a friend, to London, a year later.. she is a foodie and had our restaurants mapped out before we even got there. That was a revelation to me. You can plan for meals? They don't just magically occur three times a day? Previous to that, on trips, I'd just wander until I was ready to drop and then would eat at any restaurant that appeared before my eyes at that precise moment in time. Hits and misses. Now, it's inconceivable that I would go any place without paying attention to the food of the region and the choices of restaurants before I even left home.

I will be flying into the Fort Lauderdale airport and need to take a shuttle to meet a friend at Miami International Airport. Several days later I will be needing transportation from Miami back to Fort Lauderdale. I am having a hard time finding a shuttle service that provides this service. Do you have any suggestions on how this can be done? I know I can take a cab for $65 and that is not a problem, I'm just worried that the return trip may be a problem.

SuperShuttle offers transfers between these two airports for about $46 each way. There is also the Tri-Rail commuter train, but you'll have to take the free shuttle between Miami Airport and the train station. 

how can I find out what 311 rules exist abroad? I'll be flying from Russia to Lithuania. Have contact lens solution...thanks!

You can carry up to 100ml in your carry-on in Russia, according to our friends at Aeroflot. Sam thing goes for Lithuania, which operates under EU rules.

Hoping to take a trip either over Memorial Day, 4th of July, or Labor Day to somewhere that is not humid, has good hiking, and is within a 4 hour flight from D.C. Suggestions?

Vermont! Fly into Burlington and rent a car and drive an hour and a half to Mount Ascutney State Park. There are other great places to hike in VT, too, but this one came to mind first.

I am flying this week and am going to opt out of walking through the scanner for the first time. Do I just say I'd prefer a pat-down when the agent tells me to step into the machine?

Yes, I would tell them -- very politely -- that you would prefer not to be scanned. If they persist, ask the agent to "opt out" and you will receive an enhanced pat-down.

You have said that if something won't go through security at the airport, you can bring along an envelope - does it have to have postage or will TSA pay for that?

I do not believe that the TSA agent will mail the item back to you, even if you provide a self-addressed stamped envelope. Leaving a mystery package with an official is not really encouraged.

According to the agency, you have these choices:

1) Take the item to the ticket counter and check it in your baggage or a box provided by the airport.
2) Many airports have a US Postal Service or other shipping services area where boxes, stamps and envelopes can be bought so you can ship your items home.
3) If there is somebody seeing you off, you can hand the prohibited item to them.
4) If your car is parked outside, you can take the item to your car.

 

Last year, we had a flight out of Heathrow at ~10am and we took the tube from the Docklands area. Yes, we were out and about early, but it worked just fine. We travel with one medium sized bag each (the next size up from carry-on) and we each had a small carry-on (e.g., messenger bag). To us, it was worth it - but we also have an aversion to spending 60-80 pounds to get to an airport. That's outrageous (to me, anyway). Then, upon returning to Dulles, we took the 5A Metrobus home. Some people, like me, love and depend on public transport.

Yes, non-stop flights, but I want to know which destinations can be reached "non-stop". The method you've described requires me to know WHERE I want to go already. I want to see a non-stop flight ANYWHERE from Venice, as long as it's non-stop.

Ah, I see. Hmm. Let's throw this out to the chatters. Anyone know of a way?

There's this site for domestic flights. Often, you can find nonstop flights listed on an airport's own website. That appears to be true about Venice's -- check out this page on their site.

Oh my gosh! Two Latvia and one Lithuania reference in a single chat!

If you take a taxi to the Underground, ask the driver to take you to a station with elevators or escalators--not all of them do. You do not want to drag luggage up and down stairs.

No guarantees that you won't encounter stairs within the station.   Heathrow Express is popular not only for its quickness, but much easier for dealing with luggage. 

My husband and I went to spain on our honeymoon. I had taken french in high school, but my grandmother spoke spanish, sO I felt that hey, I knew enough. We had a phrase book and by the end, I felt like I was able to communicate (we were there for 10 days). We were in Madrid, and checked out the synagogues before we got there, and I got in touch with someone who invited us to a friend's apartment for friday night (shabbat) dinner. We went to services, and then walked to the person's apartment. There were at least 15-20 people there (small apartment!) . We had a great time, and dinner wasn't really started til 11 I think - very spanish!. The next evening after shabbat was over, they called us to go out ...and we did. At about 2 AM we called it a night! but the spanish were about to go to another club. It was funny...

The wee hours! See?

I have visited 20 of Mexico's 31 states. Many Mexicans I encounter tell me I know their country better than they do. It helps that I have Mexican-American friends in the US that want me to visit their home towns with them; but I have also ventured alone away from the beach resorts to places like Tlaxcala which feature archeological sites, or Ixtapan de la Sal which has natural hot springs and ancient temples.

Si.

If the museum at ellis island isn't open, one would think that the ferry wouldn't stop there (you don't get to choose - you go to liberty island, then ellis island, then back to 'shore' at least that was the way it was before sandy). When we were there a few weeks ago - the circle line guy (who was awesome) said that they keep being told it will open on july 4 - but that they JUST started work on it say, mid april, and they weren't sure that it would really be open on July 4. I suppose when they start selling tickets you might be closer to actuality.

Right, Ellis Island is not open and the Statue of Liberty is scheduled to open July 4. But, as we said, no tickets on sale yet. Meanwhile, taking a harbor tour is an alternative. 

Do you know what the airlines and TSA will allow in the way of small oxygen containers in carry on luggage? My wife and I will be travelling to Cuzco, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca this fall and worry about altitude sickness at the higher elevations.

The short answer: yes. But airlines also have policies on medical oxygen, and they can sometimes make it difficult to bring oxygen on board. Here's everything you ever needed to know about medical oxygen and TSA screening

My wife and I are traveling to Peru this September and are concerned about altitude sickness. I know that there are small personal oxygen breather systems available but are worried about getting them on the aircraft.

I am not sure of your  respiratory health, but I usually take altitude sickness medication, which has kept me free of any dizziness or nausea. Also, be sure to drink lots of fluids (not booze!) and take it easy on the exercise.

If you do feel it necessary to bring a personal oxygen device, you may need to ask the airline aboout its policy. Here are some helpful tips from the National Home Oxygen Patients Association.

The cruise lines mentioned were described as luxury. Any recommendations for a slight bit below luxury, i.e., nice --but not budget or luxury. Thank you.

The companies are mentioned are the big players. You might try Grand Circle for something a little more reasonable. But you can get different price points within each cruise lines based on the ship (older ships are often cheaper) and the season (late or early is cheaper).  

Another method is to use Wikipedia. Just type the airport's code (the three letter identifier) and wiki into your favorite search engine. It should pop up the wiki page devoted to the airport. And among the info there will be a list of airlines that serve the airport along with the direct flight destinations for each.

I found FlyHere.com, which lets you enter a departure city and shows all nonstop flights from that city. Unfortunately, according to the site, from Venice there are only three, to Paris, Amsterdam and Bremen, Germany.

For last week's chatter that was wondering if they should go back to Spain, I say go! I just came back a few weeks ago from Barcelona, Madrid and Costa del Sol and had a wonderful time. There were no signs of Spain's current financial troubles and the streets and sights were filled with lots of tourists.

Thanks for the report!

I always opt for them and here's what to do so you're not stranded from your wallet! Tell the agent you opt-out (that is the official term which must be used) Load your belongings into the trays BUT do NOT put them into the Xray machine. Wait until you see the gloved agent who will pat you approaching - THEN put your belongings into the Xray. My husband and I have both made the mistake of putting our belongings through before the agent was there and then they just sat - out of our view on some occasions - until an agent came.

Thanks for joining us today! We're coming in for a landing -- the hour flew by!

Now for our chat prize winner: It's the person who wrote about a trip to Madrid that included that haunting experience hearing the men play "heart wrenching flamenco" songs. Thanks for sharing! Send your mailing information to Becky at krystalb@washpost.com, and we'll get you your prize. (She's out for another week, so be patient.)

Until next time, happy travels!

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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