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June 10, 2013

2
P.M.

Talk about Travel

Total Responses: 126

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Joe Yonan

Joe Yonan

Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Host: Zofia Smardz

Zofia Smardz

Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Host: Andrea Sachs

Andrea Sachs

Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Host: Becky Krystal

Becky Krystal

Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Host: Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column, clearing the way through the fog of consumer travel issues. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
Host: Carol Sottili

Carol Sottili

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

About the topic

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.
Q.

Joe Yonan :

Bienvenue. Welcome to your Travel chat. This week's section featured ex-Postie John Deiner's tale of his Vegas Sesquicentennial (that's three people turning 50) celebration.

So in addition to your queries about where to go, and how to get there, and why airfares are so expensive, we have a request: Tell us a tale of a trip you took to celebrate your or somebody else's birthday. Make it fun, and you might win a prize from us. (We wish we could say it would be a Vegas 50 shirt, but alas, no can do.)

Let's do this!

Q.

Curacao

We've settled on a wonderful rental in Curacao for a week in January, but there doesn't seem to be a convenient way to get from here to there. In order to arrive in Willemstad before 10 PM (and thus, leave the airport before 11:30 PM), you have to take a 6 AM flight from DCI or BWI (going through Miami). Isn't there a better way? preferably from BWI?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Curacao is not as popular as some other Caribbean destinations, such as Jamaica and Puerto Rico, so you won't find as many flights or desirable times.

American flies from BWI, with a connection in Miami. There is a 9 a.m. flight that arrives at around 7 p.m., but you have to make two connections, and also a noon departure that arrives at  8 p.m.

You might  want to check the flights over the next few months to see if there are any changes in itineraries. Or consider flying to Miami the night before, then catch an early flight to the island the next day.

– June 10, 2013 2:00 PM
Q.

Things to do between DC and Huntington WV

Our son is off to Marshall University in Huntington WV and we anticipate many trips back and forth. Can you give us suggestions for things to do along the way and while in Huntington? We are not at all familiar with that area but know its on the boarder of KY and OH so it seems there should be lots of exploring to do.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Oh, too bad you're not asking this question a couple of weeks from now! Andrea's about to head off on an extended West Virginia trip for a story. I'm sure she'll come back with millions of recommendations for stops along the way. Meanwhile, though, we'll do what we can. There are of course several different routes you could take to get to Huntington, which is just past Charleston, the W. Va. capital. If you take I-69 through western Maryland and then I-79 south, you could stop in Cumberland, Md., and have a look at some fun museums; Morgantown, W.Va., which is a neat city and college town with some history; Holly River State Park, the state's second largest, for some great hiking; and Charleston for a look at the state's biggest city.

If you take I-79 the whole way, you'll go through Strasburg, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley; Elkins, a very cool, artsy W. Va. town -- Blackwater Falls State Park is not far away and another great hiking place.

Or you can take the most southerly route, down I-81 through Virigina -- lots of neat towns along the way, including Strasburg, Harrisonburg and Staunton -- then I-64 across West Virginia, through areas like Hawks Nest State Park along the New River Gorge National River, great for hiking, rafting, birding, etc.

Sounds as though Huntington itself has a lot to recommend it -- several historic districts; some good museums (art and railroads); the university, of course.

Chatters, your input?

– June 10, 2013 2:00 PM
Q.

Nova Scotia

My husband has to spend a day looking at some property in Nova Scotia. Can you suggest some other things we should do there? We have 9 days. Is it possible to go to PEI in this time? Is there a ferry from Maine. Thank you

A.
Becky Krystal :

There is no more ferry service between Maine and Nova Scotia. You can definitely get to Prince Edward Island (although you don't say where in Nova Scotia you'll be -- it's big), by ferry or by car. We had a story the other year with suggestions for a week in Nova Scotia, so check that out. Who else has thoughts?

– June 10, 2013 2:01 PM
Q.

question RE: Grenada

My SO & i are looking to take a trip in Jan/Feb 2014 to celebrate a significant milestone. Neither of us have been to Caribbean - mostly because the thoughts of all-inclusive tacky debauchery or throngs of children send us into a panic. Researching the area, however, i came across the island of Grenada - which sounds like it has nice beaches, interesting culture, good food - and not too tacky touristy. Have you been there? or are there other Caribbean islands that have a similar vibe that may be easier to get to from DC area?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I've been to Grenada! It was lovely, very laid back -- but that was long ago, before Hurricane Ivan did some major damage in 2004. I've read, though, that the tourism industry has been effectively rebuilt since then, so I think you'd have a good time on the Spice Isle. (Bring me back some nutmeg, please? Ivan destroyed most of the nutmeg trees, but new trees are maturing and producing fruit.)

The other Carib isle I might recommend is Les Saintes, a little set of islands off Guadeloupe. I had an amazing time there -- and have wanted ever since to head back. Maybe this next winter I'll finally get there.

– June 10, 2013 2:01 PM
Q.

Restaurants in Venice

I will be in Venice mid June for about a week. I've heard/read tales of a plethora of tourist restaurants with lousy food. Any suggestions for local "slow food", not too expensive, restaurants in Venice?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Let's throw this one right out to the chatters. Anyone been to Venice recently?

– June 10, 2013 2:04 PM
Q.

Business Class To Asia

I would like to vist Japan-Taiwan in September. The idea of business class appeals to me but I do not want to pay the required prices. Any ideas as to discount business travel sources ??
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Every so often an airline will offer a sale on business class seats. I have seen it on Europe and South American flights. Check the airlines for sales. Or consider using frequent-flier miles for the bump in class. Begging, I have learned, does not work.

– June 10, 2013 2:04 PM
Q.

Weekend trip to Detriot

Hi Travel gurus! I am flying out to Detroit to meet the hubby there (he is on a business trip) and we'll be staying there Sat/Sun. After doing some searchs online, I'm still left wondering what there is to do in Detroit. Husband's been out there several times already, it will be my first time. We will probably skip the Ford/car museums and art museums. What are some must-see's and do's? Are there foods we shouldn't miss? We will have a car, so are flexible and willing to drive a few hours. We were looking at crossing the border, but looks like there isn't much nearby besides a Caesar's at Windsor. Toronto is a bit too far away. Are there any good places we can walk around and take the sights? I was thinking of doing the RiverWalk and was hoping there was some place downtown where we could just walk around, but not sure what else. Also are there cool parks & hiking trails?
A.
Becky Krystal :

We had an Impulsive Traveler on Detroit a few years ago, and I think that has some good suggestions. Belle Isle, with a conservatory, golf center and even a beach, sounds like a great place to spend a few hours. I'd also recommend jumping in the car to check out Ann Arbor, a great college town with a very big food attraction in Zingerman's.

– June 10, 2013 2:04 PM
Q.

Las Vegas

I really enjoyed the story this weekend on the 50th birthday. I'm trying to plan something similar in Vegas for my husband's 40th. Is there any way to ask the writer some questions?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Sure. How about you send me your questions via e-mail (becky.krystal@washpost.com) and I'll forward your note to John.

– June 10, 2013 2:04 PM
Q.

Singapore in August

I have to travel to Singapore for work in August (mid-August). I am a very, very experienced domestic flyer but rarely travel overseas. My experience with domestic flights is that prices don't vary all that much as long as it is at least a week or two out. However, do you think that I should go ahead and book Singapore now or wait until a month or so out?
A.
Carol Sottili :

I'd book it now. Not much of a chance for a significant sale on airfares from Washington to Singapore between now and then. If you are flying Aug. 18 or later, you can save at least $500 by flying on Singapore Air out of New York -- sale fare starts at $999 round trip. 

– June 10, 2013 2:06 PM
Q.

Falling Water

Hello, I'm working during the chat so I am submitting early. My husband and I are planning a mini vacation to go see Falling Water later this summer. Do you know of any other interesting sites to see in that general area? Within an hour or two would be ok. We are in our 30s from the DC are if that makes any difference. Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

You could visit the Flight 93 National Memorial, about an hour away. There are also two other Frank Lloyd Wright houses nearby, Kentuck Knob and Polymath Park. And back in Maryland, you could check out the Spruce Forest Artisan Village.

– June 10, 2013 2:07 PM
Q.

Birthday trip

I went to Paris for my 30th. It was great - it was always a city I never really cared to visit, but did it anyway and loved it! I didn't get to take a trip for the 35th due to financial reasons, but hope to do another big one for the 40th, preferably a week in Vietnam and Cambodia.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Glad to hear it!

– June 10, 2013 2:09 PM
Q.

Venice restaurants

Everything is expensive in Venice. Everything. There is no such thing as a not-too-expensive high-quality restaurant.
A.
Joe Yonan :

This sounds very much like the Voice of Experience!

– June 10, 2013 2:09 PM
Q.

European river Cruise Advice

Planning a 2014 early summer European River Cruise - overwhelmed by the choices (Cruise Lines/Rivers). Travel agents seem to have their own "favorites". We are open to your and your listener's suggestions, advice, and experiences (the good and the bad). Thank You.
A.
Carol Sottili :

There are several excellent river cruise lines, including Avalon, Uniworld and Viking. As far as rivers, base your decision on what countries you are interested in visiting. A cruise on the Volga is going to be a very different experience than cruising on the Mekong. If you've not traveled much, and want to start conservatively, the Rhine or Danube would be a good choice. Keep in mind that river levels (either low or flooding) can impact a trip; several lines have had to cancel departures in recent days due to the flooding in Central Europe. 

– June 10, 2013 2:12 PM
Q.

FRANCE RENTAL CAR

I'm renting a car in San Sebastian, Spain and plan to travel into France. Avis advised me that drivers are required to have a breathalyzer in the car if driving in France. 11 euro fine if you don't. I tried researching and it seems like France did have such law but has delayed implementing/enforcing it. Is anyone familiar with this issue? I'll probably risk a fine rather than buy a breathalyzer.

A.
Zofia Smardz :

This does appear to be the case. The law went into effect last July, but enforcement was delayed until November. Now it's in full force.  Some rental car companies, are apparently providing the breathalyzers free of charge in all rental cars. That's if you're renting in France, though. In your case, I guess you'd have to provide your own. If you're not going to drink when you drive, you may be able to get away without having one. But I don't encourage being a scofflaw. The kits are apparently super-cheap, so I'd get one just to be on the right side of the law, silly as we may think it is. 

– June 10, 2013 2:12 PM
Q.

Houston-Austin in late summer

My husband and I (mid-60s) are going to a family wedding in Houston in late August. We are thinking about driving up to Austin Sunday afternoon, and staying for one or two nights to take in some music and sight-seeing. Back to Houston probably on Tuesday. Question: a) are Sunday and Monday nights likely to have much on offer in Austin? b) considering traffic, is such a side-trip worth doing? According to Google, it should be a three-hour trip. Is that about right? Or would we be better off staying in Houston, and if so, what sights would you suggest? I have only been to the area once, years ago, on a business trip so didn't see much of the city; my husband has never been. Wedding is on a Saturday, so it's only Sunday and Monday that we would have for any extra travel or sight-seeing. Any one there have any expertise on that part of Texas?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I'm totally biased, but I say, yes, get thee to Austin. So much fun there. One of my favorite cities in the world, honestly. I mean, I've been meaning to eat around Houston, too, because I haven't been there in many years -- but that's because I can never leave Austin!

In Austin, you can occupy yourself with the quirky sites like I did a couple years ago, and you can certainly hit some honkytonks like Melanie D.G. Kaplan did more recently: Head to the Broken Spoke. The Details boxes on both stories give you  ideas for lodging, eats.

– June 10, 2013 2:12 PM
Q.

National Park Trip in late September

My husband and adult son are thinking of doing a one-week trip out west in late September to see a couple of National Parks. They've seen the Grand Canyon already. They are open to going anywhere they can see at least 2 parks in the space of the week. Any suggestions as to which two parks would be easy to drive between and see in the course of a week in late September?
A.
Becky Krystal :

How about the Grand Teton-Yellow Stone duo in Wyoming? Or Yosemite-Kings Canyon-Sequoia in California? Those are just a few possibilities. Just go to Google Maps and look at all the green blobs that are near each other! I'd recommend you expand your definition a bit to include National Forests, if you haven't already.

– June 10, 2013 2:12 PM
Q.

Hotels to stay at in Florence, Italy

Do you have good recommendation for hotel in Venice near city center, mid range? Also key thing to see there
A.
Zofia Smardz :

You say Florence in your header, Venice in your question. Which is  it? :-)

– June 10, 2013 2:13 PM
Q.

Paywall

Do you think fewer people will participate in this chat once the paywall goes up?
A.
Joe Yonan :

We sure hope not, because we put a lot of work into them. (Work that's worth paying for, I have to say.) That said, it's still unclear just how the paywall will affect the chats -- indeed, how it will even work with them. Stay tuned.

– June 10, 2013 2:13 PM
Q.

Dublin Hotel

I'm looking for hotel recommendations for Dublin. Not looking for budget - we can afford some luxuries, but not necessarily top of the line.
A.
Becky Krystal :

We had a story on Dublin's libraries the other year, so check out the details box for a few lodging recommendations.

– June 10, 2013 2:13 PM
Q.

Leaf Peeping

My wife and I want to visit Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for a week of leaf peeping in the fall. We will drive from DC and will be bringing the family pooch. Any tips on when to go, not too miss places, or general planning tips. Thanks in advance.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Fun! New England is glorious in the fall. Some of my favorite places: Portland, Maine (great eating); Mount Monadnock and surrounds, N.H. (great hiking); St. Johnsbury, Vt. (great for pooches).

Generally, I'd caution you away from Columbus Day weekend if possible. That's the traditional leaf-peeping holiday, so everybody and their dog -- like you! -- will be out then, and things get wicked crowded, to use a Yankeeism. I tend to prefer going on the early side, when there's still a little green in the mix of colors -- partly because I love the way it looks but partly to avoid those crowds.

– June 10, 2013 2:15 PM
Q.

River cruising -- a nice alternative to ocean cruising!

We recently completed a river cruise on AMA WATERWAYS from Budapest to Prague and enjoyed the experience completely! The staff, food, wine, local tours and especially the cruise manager were way beyond our expectations. We have enjoyed luxury ocean cruising around the world, but this was unique and wonderful.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Yes, AmaWaterways is another well-regarded cruise line.  

– June 10, 2013 2:16 PM
Q.

Desmond Tutu Center Hotel in Chelsea

Help! I want to stay at the hotel, but I went back to your article, and the link doesn't work, and I can't seem to get to a legitimate site. Can you get me to the right place? Much thanks.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Mystery solved: It's now the High Line Hotel, www.thehighlinehotel.com.

– June 10, 2013 2:16 PM
Q.

Venice

Actually, not to be a jerk but there *is* inexpensive food in Venice, but you have to be willing to go to places that don't cater to tourists and probably don't speak English. The food will be authentic and gorgeous, but it will not be a ristorante. Ask around, seek out small trattorias, and stay away from places in main piazzas (especially St. Marks). Wander around the neighborhoods and you're bound to find something wonderful. Buon viaggio!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks much!

– June 10, 2013 2:16 PM
Q.

40th in NYC

For my husband's 40th, I took him to NYC for the weekend. We drove up on a Saturday and took Monday (his actual birthday) off. We took walks in Central Park, had coffee in the village and just enjoyed hanging out. The highlight was a birthday dinner at Le Bernadin (before Eric Ripert was on Top Chef and sommelier Aldo Sohm had joined a month before). My husband had casually mentioned it sounding interesting when reading Zagat New York a few months before and I managed to snag reservations. He still talks about the scallop (yes, singualar) he had that night and we had a nice conversation with Aldo about Armagnac. The challenging part was driving home after dinner to get back to work. I was too tired to drive but my husband hadn't renewed his driver's license yet and it expired at midnight. He drove and we just hoped he didn't get pulled over.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Nice! Yes, LB is a fabulous thing to do for a birthday dinner. I've done that myself! And just to be clear, it was on the radar of many a food lover long before TC was even a glimmer in Bravo's eye.

– June 10, 2013 2:18 PM
Q.

Birthday Trips

My birthday is around Labor Day, so my present each year is usually a solo trip. It is a great way to relax and get recharged and ready for fall. It has ranged from a weekend in Boston or Savannah to a week traveling around Cape Cod. The best was my 35th when I went to Portugal. Portugal has it all, great beaches, beautiful mountains, history arts and the pastries of Belem!
A.
Joe Yonan :

I'm a fan of the solo trip. Love traveling with others, but also can't deny how wonderful it is to travel in the company of M, M, and I.

– June 10, 2013 2:18 PM
Q.

Grenada and Detroit

For the writer interested in Grenada: If such travel intrigues you, consider a sailing cruise. Island Windjammers has small boats (about 12 passengers), leaves from Grenada, and stops at smaller, less touristy islands. My sister and brother-in-law did this a few years ago and loved it. They hiked over some of the islands, met some locals, socialized to whatever extent they felt like it. For Detroit: The Motown Museum, downtown. Detroit also has great baseball and opera (opera house next to the ballpark).
A.
Joe Yonan :

Appreciate it!

– June 10, 2013 2:19 PM
Q.

Between DC and Marshall University

Check out the spas in Berkeley Springs WV...You got him off to college...you deserve it!
Q.

Airlines in the former Soviet Union

My wife and I will be visiting our son in the Peace Corps in Kyegyzstan next year. Big price difference between flights going through Turkey to Bishkek and those going through Moscow. Just how bad (safety and service) are the airlines of the former USSR, especially Aeroflot?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Pack those ancient stereotypes in mothballs! The Aeroflot of today is not your daddy's Aeroflot. The airline has improved tremendously, buying Western aircraft and improving all its services and its safety record. I'd venture to say that its standards are as good as those of any Western airline these days -- and it's cheaper!

That said, though, my brother, who lives in Bishkek, always flies Turkish Air on home leave. Fwiw.

– June 10, 2013 2:19 PM
Q.

Okinawa for geezers

Two questions: My husband and I hope to travel to Okinawa to visit our son and family. Given the length, we'd like to break up the flight. Do you have any suggestions as to a good place to stop over? We also plan to stay at least a month to justify the air fares and would like to get to China. We know that the weather will be quite different. Is there any time to go that will give us the best of both worlds? Thanks!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Most of the flights to Okinawa connect in Tokyo, but I am sure you will want a break from flying before then. I would consider stopping in Hawaii for a night or two. The beach will do you good! Also, check with the airline to see if a stopover is included in the fare.

Weather-wise, China cranks up the heat in the summer and cools off in the winter. I suggest visiting in the fall or spring. And if possible, aim to be in Japan for the cherry blossoms season.

– June 10, 2013 2:19 PM
Q.

Airfare to Europe in September

Will there likely be a sale soon? Seems the only cheap fares are on Turkish and Aeroflot. Thinking of going to Italy but seems costly to pay $3K for the two of us.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Turkish Airlines has a good rep, but connections to Italy are not very convenient. Fares to Europe are very high this summer, and since there aren't a lot of empty seats, I don't think there will be signficant sales. Take a look at Air Europa out of New York, although cost of getting the JFK will likely erase any savings. 

– June 10, 2013 2:19 PM
Q.

chip and PIN cards

Hi. I've seen you advise getting chip and PIN cards for traveling abroad, but where do you get them? I asked my bank (Citi) and they couldn't help me at all.
A.
Becky Krystal :

First, read my primer on chip-and-PIN cards. We also don't necessarily recommend that people take out a new line of credit for the occasional trip abroad. Funny that Citi couldn't help you because they do offer chip technology. Here's a list of other chip cards. It depends on where you're going and what you're doing, but you may be just fine with your regular magnetic strip cards.

– June 10, 2013 2:20 PM
Q.

40th in Costa Rica!

We celebrated my now-husband's 40th birthday with an amazing weeklong trip to Costa Rica. Totally amazing (volcano! monkeys! snakes! zip lines!), but the real learning process took place in the planning phases: given that he'd been talking about The Trip to "somewhere" for at least 6 months before his birthday, I fully expected that he'd have somewhere picked. But...6 weeks before his birthday, he was still talking about the mythical trip, with no particular destination in mind or vacation time booked - just that he wanted to be "there" for his birthday and that I was going with. We finally picked a place based on a hot airfare deal, put together a plan based on some lonely planet and friend's recommendations and went for it. Thankfully, my boss was understanding re the vacation time!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Phew.

– June 10, 2013 2:20 PM
Q.

For the Detroit visitor

Take a tour of the Cranbrook campus - the modern art and design school. You need to reserve a spot for the guided tour. 

A.
Becky Krystal :

You and a fellow chatter are on the same page with this. Thanks!

– June 10, 2013 2:20 PM
Q.

Paywall

Because this keeps coming up...Good journalism is worth paying for and I will pay to keep enjoying the Washington Post online. They have set a very reasonable price, compared to other papers that have launched paywalls.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Bless you.

– June 10, 2013 2:24 PM
Q.

Last minute getaway

Husband and I are looking to take a last minute weekend getaway; location doesn't matter but price does and we want to go cheap. Are there websites you can recommend where we could put in our starting location, and get last minute deals to a variety of destinations? So far, sites I've found require a destination as well as our starting point. Thank you.
A.
Carol Sottili :
– June 10, 2013 2:24 PM
Q.

Bedbugs in Vegas

Friends and I have a trip planned in July for Vegas. Against my better judgement, we decided to book our hotel through Hotwire. Once we found where we were staying, I found several recent reviews about bedbugs, along with other reviews talking about the lack of cleanliness and rude customer service. Is there any way that we can change this reservation, whether its for another hotel through them or a refund based on these findings? (especially the bedbugs part) Or is this just part of the risk you take using Hotwire? I'm about to just pay my part for the room and let them go on without me, the thought of bedbugs and the risk of bringing them home terrifies me. By the way, the hotel is the Palazzo.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Part of the deal with Hotwire is that you get a cheap price in exchange for a non-cancellation reservation. However, it does not hurt to contact customer relations and share your concerns with the rep. Also, call the Palazzo and share your findings with them. You can't always trust reviews. Also, hotels pay attention to consumer comments and may have addressed the problem. If you decide to stay there, keep your luggage away from the bed and couches and check the room for bugs. If you find any evidence, ask for a new room.

For more info on bed bugs, check out this piece I wrote about the annoying buggers.

– June 10, 2013 2:24 PM
Q.

Visa to Australia

Hi, I'm planning to book 3 tickets to Australia for my Parents and my Aunt. I will be booking on Qantas, but through a 3rd party website (Kayak). Interestingly, the flights I wanted are not on the Qantas website, and their prices are higher. Two questions: What's the best way to get the appropriate visas for this trip? Currently, prices between IAD and SYD are running about $1600. Does that seem on par with what you've been seeing? Thanks.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Kayak doesn't sell tickets -- it is an aggregator that connects you with a booking site. My guess is that it is connecting you to Vayama to buy your ticket, which is a Web site that specializes in international airfares. Vayama sometimes offers substantial savings, although I prefer booking directly with the airline in case there are problems/issues with ticket. When two parties are involved, they often point fingers at one another when things go wrong. I think $1,600 is a decent price.  An electronic travel authority visa, which is linked to your passport and can be applied for online, is the easiest. 

– June 10, 2013 2:25 PM
Q.

Big Family Looking for a Christmas Reunion Location

My big family (9 siblings and spouses, ages 63 to 76) have been getting together for our family Christmas reunion since 1964. We take turns hosting the three-day gathering in our hometowns, scattered around the country. Hosting has become a little too taxing, as we are all getting older. As 5 of us are located in the IA, IL, WI, tri-state area, we would like to know if there is some location/resort/vacation spot that the tri-staters could drive to and the rest of us fly to, where we could get a good hotel, with a reunion party room, some "pleasant and fun activities," and reasonably decent weather, during Veteran's Day weekend, as that has been established as the Christmas Reunion date that is most convenient for all of us getting together.
A.
Joe Yonan :

I have the city, and the headline for the party invite: Meet us in St. Louis!

5 hours south of Dubuque (capital of the Tri-State area, no?), and easy to fly into from all round. And lots of hotel options: One possibility for that: the Knight Center at Washington University, has many options for event rooms.

Also, the weather that time of year is decent, with average lows in the low 40s and average highs in the high 50s.

– June 10, 2013 2:25 PM
Q.

Brussels layover

Any ideas for a 24-hour layover in Brussels in early August?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Hm, I would probably just gorge on chocolate but... the Brussels tourism folks have a handy "classic walk" that covers what they say are the must-sees. There's a nice map you can print for it.

– June 10, 2013 2:27 PM
Q.

Carrying on food

I'm heading to Italy for vacation in a week and, while I can't wait for all the delicious food when I get there, I am dreading plane food. No matter what airline, the combination of the food and the stale air on long flights always seems to put my stomach off for a couple days. Any recommendations for something filling to eat that TSA will let me carry on? I was thinking jerky but I know they can be touchy about meat products.
A.
Joe Yonan :

If you buy it beyond the security checkpoint, you can carry anything on. I tend to stock up on nuts and dried fruit -- and bars made up of such. (Like those Kind bars.)

– June 10, 2013 2:27 PM
Q.

Weekend Suggestions

We unexpectedly have the entire weekend off from Friday-Sunday and would love to get out of town with our 18 month old. We are not big beach people, but enjoy lakes, mountains and big cities. We went to Lancaster this spring and liked it. Do you have any suggestions of a locale within a 3 hour drive of the beltway? We would prefer somewhere relatively affordable and in MD/VA/PA/WV. Thanks!!!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Browse our Escapes archive for a slew of regional stories. Not sure I can think of something nearby that would combine lakes, mountains and big cities, but other thoughts: Charlottesville, Harpers Ferry, Winchester, Berkeley Springs, Deep Creek Lake and Cumberland.

– June 10, 2013 2:27 PM
Q.

birthday

I went to Madagascar last year for my birthday. I'd wanted to go for over 15 years and decided it was time to go - travel companions or not. My sister and a friend decided to come along, but I arrived in Antananarivo 2 days before them, so was alone on my bday itself. But it was perfect. I got a tour of the old city, and the owner of the tour company I had planned the trip with came to my hotel with his wife and we shared wine and foie gras overlooking the city and discussing life in Madagascar. Later, the hotel set up a table especially for me to have dinner, with another free glass of wine. The next day, my guide told me he didn't realize it was my birthday and we should have done something special to celebrate during the day tour. I told him that taking my long dreamed of trip to Madagascar was certainly a more than special way to celebrate. (of course, having him sing happy birthday to me in Malagasy would have been quite a treat too...)
A.
Joe Yonan :

Alone, and then with friends. Love it. (And the guide sounds like a peach!)

– June 10, 2013 2:28 PM
Q.

Re: Airlines in the former Soviet Union

DO NOT TAKE AEROFLOT. I travel in the region for work and the difference between their flights to Western destinations and those within the former Soviet Union are STAGGERING. For your own safety, please take Turkish. If pressed, Air Astana is also safe.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Just the kind of thing we need to know. Thanks!

– June 10, 2013 2:28 PM
Q.

Birthday trip

I went to San Francisco - solo - for my 40th birthday. It was my first visit ever to that lovely city. I had a great time exploring the city on foot, appreciating the beauty of its architecture and the diversity of its people. I took great side trips to Alcatraz, Sausalito and Muir Woods. And the food was as divine as I had expected. Plus, as an uptight east-coaster, I appreciated the laid-back vibe. Ahhh, what a great trip that was......now I'm lost in a dream......
A.
Joe Yonan :

I never tire of visiting there.

– June 10, 2013 2:29 PM
Q.

Birthday Celebration

For my twin sister's birthday, I took to the sky, literally: hot air ballooning. She had mentioned years ago that she wish she could take a ride io one. The sister that I am, I remembered, and made it so. Beautiful experience. I guess that made it my birthday celebration, too!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Well, yes, I guess it did! Funny!

– June 10, 2013 2:29 PM
Q.

Carry on food

There should be no problem getting a home-made sandwich (or two) through security. Granola bars are also a good portable snack to have on hand.
Q.

Aeroflot

Regarding the safety of Aeroflot, please consider that the U.S.-Moscow flight is a different animal from the Moscow-Bishkek flight. Flights to/from the U.S. must meet the standards sete forth in 14 CFR 129 (foreign carriers operating in the U.S.); Aeroflot's service from Moscow to Bishkek does not, and I haven't heard great things about aviation safety in the former USSR. I'd go with Turkish Air!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Another vote for Turkish! Now I see why that's what my brother flies.

– June 10, 2013 2:29 PM
Q.

Nova Scotia Destination

Lunenberg is worthwile. Lovely town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Good music & food. Mellow. Sailing, which I've not done much of, but could be convinced to with more time there. A prohibition-era rum-running schooner that's under renovation (or was a couple of years ago).
A.
Becky Krystal :

Cool, thanks. Would love to explore that area at some point.

– June 10, 2013 2:29 PM
Q.

How about you send me your questions via e-mail (becky.krystal@washpost.com) and I'll forward your note to John.

I already sent him an email at "John Deiner" travel@washpost.com -- will he get it at that address?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Hm, I haven't seen any e-mails like that come in to that address. Go ahead and send it to me too.

– June 10, 2013 2:29 PM
Q.

West TX

Thanks for the Austin link, Joe. I skimmed the article and noticed you are from West Texas. I'm planning a trip to Big Bend with a side trip to Marfa in early October. Any lodging/ food recommendations? Esp vegetarian food?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I haven't been to Marfa since well before it was the hip Beyonce-attracting place we know today. But friends in the know tell me the Thunderbird is a pretty cool place to stay. And eats? Food Shark, baby.

– June 10, 2013 2:29 PM
Q.

Memorable birthdays

For my late-September 25th birthday, we were the only ones camping at the farthest-north campground accessible by automobile on Vancouver Island. For my 30th we the only campers at a campground on Campobello Island (home of the FDR "cottage"), just across the border from Maine. Husband's 35th birthday (October) we car-camped on Cape Hatteras (mostly only folks there for the fishing, so pretty quiet). OTOH, for my 23 rd birthday we stayed home because I'd just had a pair of impacted wisdom teeth extracted (OK, so it was a relief to be rid of them once the pain of the surgery subsided a few days later).
A.
Joe Yonan :

Peace and quiet. Sounds nice. (Well, except the teeth-extraction part.)

– June 10, 2013 2:30 PM
Q.

Walking tour vacations

My husband and I are interested in walking tours in Europe this summer. Have heard good things about tours in Wales and having seen "The Way" are intrigued by doing a portion of the pilgrim's trail in Northern Spain. Any experience with walking tours?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Let's throw this back out to the chatters. Anyone?

– June 10, 2013 2:31 PM
Q.

WV

I grew up not too far from Huntington. For starters, do not even think about taking 70 to 68 to 79 if there is snow (going through MD near the panhandles of WV). The highway has some steep grades and the snow can get bad. I've gotten caught on that when they shut down 68 - you're on your own in that case. You can divert at Mo-town where WVU is and take a side trip to Pittsburgh (an hour or so north). If you go 66 to 81 to 64 through VA, note that you will have to pay tolls on the WV turnpike. But going that way is less boring - more traffic (81 is truckers alley), but more options. Tamarack is a center at the travel plaza in Beckley featuring WV hand-crafted items, food, art, etc. Makes for a nice pit stop. You could also take a side trip and go whitewater rafting on the New or Gauley Rivers, see the New River Bridge, or go hiking/climbing. Charleston is less than an hour outside of Huntington and you can always stop there on the way. There's a casino between the two cities of you're into that kind of thing. If you're brave and take back roads, you can see some Hatfield-McCoy historical sites south of Huntington towards Logan and KY.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks for this wealth of info! Andrea is doing a Hatfield-McCoy thing, so be sure to look for her story  June 23.

– June 10, 2013 2:31 PM
A.
Becky Krystal :

I second your recommendation of the New River Gorge Bridge. If they travelers are brave, they can walk across it.

– June 10, 2013 2:31 PM
Q.

Paywall

Also will be paying... it's been nice getting this all for free, but now it's time to ante up.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Word.

– June 10, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

weekend trip to Detroit

Don't forget Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills just north of Detroit. There is an Art Museum, tremendous gardens and a science Center. All are displayed in gorgeous Saarinen splendor.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Detroit traveler, sounds like you'll have plenty to do for a weekend.

– June 10, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Huntington and Marshall

On I-64 stop at the Greenbriar Hotel for lunch or Lewisburg ( neat town). Near Beckley go to Tamarack which has a wonderful collection of WV crafts, arts, etc..There is also an exhibition coal mine and museum near Beckley.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

So much to do in wild and wonderful West Virginia!

– June 10, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Another Nova Scotia Suggestion

The farmers' market in Halifax is fantastic. They have their own dedicated space, great restaurants and unimaginable items for sale, some funky, some highly traditional along Scottish lines but still inventive. Along with the standard farmers' market fare, of course.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Sounds like my kind of place.

– June 10, 2013 2:32 PM
Q.

Breathalyzer

Wow, I had no idea France was now requiring alcohol testers in cars! (Hint to travel editors: that would be a great follow-up piece.) In that connection, it's worth noting that the legal limit for DUI in most if not all of the European Union is 0.05, not the 0.08 we're used to here. As one who has been breath-tested by the French police, I'd buy the device AND USE IT; a fine of 11 euros isn't a lot, but why take the chance? (BTW, I blew 0.00, and the police couldn't have been nicer, but I think they would have been a lot less nice if my reading had been 0.04.)
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Right you are, thanks!

– June 10, 2013 2:33 PM
Q.

50th Birthday

My husband and I both turn 50 this year, and we had been thinking about a Grand Trip, maybe hiking in New Zealand. Until the sequester hit ... so we've scaled back and decided to take a couple of short, inexpensive trips instead. For example, we just spent a lovely couple of days bicycling on the Eastern Shore -- and I have to say I felt very, very grateful to be hitting 50 and still able to bike 30 miles per day!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Good for you!

– June 10, 2013 2:33 PM
Q.

Within an hour or two of Fallingwater

Pittsburgh! So much to see/do here. Museums, music, food, the 3 rivers...
A.
Becky Krystal :

Of course!

– June 10, 2013 2:33 PM
Q.

Guided hiking trips?

Hi Crew, I'm looking for an active vacation to celebrate a significant birthday, and the hiking tours offered through REI look pretty spectacular. The combination of beautiful destinations (Grand Canyon, Scotland, Cinque Terre, etc), hiking that's geared to different fitness levels, and the ease of having lodging, food, and luggage transfer all taken care of seems perfect. Plus, the REI name gives me a level of comfort that the trip would be handled well. Have any of the Crew ever traveled with REI? Do you have other tour companies you'd recommend that have similar trips? FWIW, I'm not interested at all in cycling, just hiking. Also the reason I haven't just signed up already is that the prices are on the higher side so I'd be interested in comparison shopping with other reputable outfitters. Thank you!
A.
Becky Krystal :

I don't think any of us have done the REI trip thing. Chatters? And are there other walking tour companies out there you all can recommend? We ran a story recently on walking the Amalfi Coast, and the company that offered that trip was On Foot Holidays.

– June 10, 2013 2:33 PM
Q.

Flight Changes by Delta

We are returning from Paris on Sat., Oct 12 , CDG to JFK to MCI? Delta just changed our flight and connection at JFK reducing connection time to 1 hr, 13 mins. That just doesnt seem enough time for customs, etc, and there is no later flight into MCI. Will Delta work with us to reschedule, or are we stuck? Thanks for your opinions, Gurus. All of your advice on this chat has been invaluable in planning our trip.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Delta is responsible for getting you home, since they made the change in the itinerary. However, you should also take the intiative. Check code-share partners for later flights, so that the Delta agent can put you on the next flight out.  Also, when the plane lands, have all of your belongings and paperwork ready to go. Tell the flight attendant about your tight connection, so he or she can inform other passengers, who may step aside for you. Just in case, make sure you have all of your essentials in your carry-on bag, in case you have to spend the night in New York.

Good luck! We are cheering for you.

– June 10, 2013 2:33 PM
Q.

Incorrect Name

My daughter recently flew Qatar airways to Delhi. When she checked in at IAD she was informed that the name on the ticket, which she purchased on line did not match her passport. The name on the ticket was her last name followed by her last name again. (For example Smith Smith) In other words her first name was not on the ticket. No explanation of how this happened. She was advised that she would have to buy a new ticket but she could request a refund of her original ticket. She bought a new ticket for a few hundred dollars more than the original and submitted a refund request after completing her travel. Qatar agreed to refund the price of the original only and also charged her a $350 change fee. Does this sound reasonable to you folks? Any suggestions on next steps?
A.
Carol Sottili :

No, it doesn't sound reasonable. But the refund/cancellation policies of just about every airline strike me as unreasonable. I would try the usual step of filing complaint with customer service (tell-us@qatarairways.com.qa)  but you may be more successful going through the airline's Twitter or Facebook page. And always carefully examine your tickeet as soon as it is issued.

– June 10, 2013 2:33 PM
Q.

Nova Scotia

If you are in southern part Nova Scotia, the Digby area and Brier Island are wonderful for whale watching. My husband and I also did a several vineyard tours, most are in the Annapolis Valley. We got some great ice wine, too. There is a chance that the ferry between Maine and Yarmouth, NS will be back up and running by next year. We're keeping a close eye on the negotiations here in Maine, because it is the most relaxing way to get to Nova Scotia.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Nova Scotia traveler, here you are.

– June 10, 2013 2:33 PM
Q.

Leaf peeping

The NE states have websites with updates on the status of the fall leaves -- worth checking since it varies from year to year. And yes, I would avoid Columbus Day if possible.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yes, absolutely. And Yankee mag has this great foliage page with links/info, too. (And an app!)

– June 10, 2013 2:34 PM
Q.

West National Parks

I'd suggest Yosemite and Pinnacles (the newest national park!), for completely different landscapes. It would be about a four hour drive between the two.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Good tip.

– June 10, 2013 2:34 PM
Q.

re huntington wv

I know you have to type fast in this chat but it's I-68 thru western MD:)
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Correct -- thanks for the correction! (Fingers moving too quickly.) :-)

– June 10, 2013 2:35 PM
Q.

National Park Trip in late September

Lassen and Redwoods National Parks, in far northern California. OR Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks in Washington (we were there in mid-September one year, still nice weather).
A.
Becky Krystal :

More good ideas.

– June 10, 2013 2:35 PM
Q.

Venice restos

Here are a few I have enjoyed over the years. You can google them for locations. La Zucca. Our favorite Osteria San Marco. Near St. Mark's square. Our second favorite until we discovered La Zucca. Trattoria Sempione Trattoria alla Rivetta Trattoria da Remigio Ae Oche (pizza) Taverna San Trovaso (best sgroppino, go for that reason alone - although it's all good). There are more but their names escape me right now...
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks for this! Venice traveler, some ideas for you.

– June 10, 2013 2:35 PM
Q.

FOR "Big Family Looking for a Christmas Reunion Location"

A little farther south of IA-IL-WI but warmer: Memphis, or even New Orleans.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Sure -- but the OP said driveable from IA-IL-WI. I kept that to mean under 5-6 hours, but absolutely, if you're up for a 10-hour drive, Memphis would be fun. New Orleans is a two-day drive.

– June 10, 2013 2:36 PM
Q.

Advance deposits on car rentals

I am a serious traveller, and thought I knew most of the pitfalls, but recently, on a 2 week trek in Iceland, I encountered a $2000 euro "advance deposit" required by Sixt rental car. Is this customary? I was appalled that it was not in the fine print at the time of making the reservation, nor anywhere on any confirmation, reservation, or website, but posted at the rental counter.They note that an advance deposit is required, and on occasion I have paid between $200-300, but I feel that a $3000 hold is excessive, and that the customer should be forewarned. Obviously, neither Sixt nor Carrentals.com feel the same, as they have chided me for my ignorance. I have rented cars from Timbuktu to Quito, and never encountered an advance deposit in excess of $3000, whereas they seem to think this is normal. What's your experience?
A.
Carol Sottili :

I'm guessing they put a hold on your credit car in that amount. I looked on its Web site, and here is what is stated in the fine print: "A deposit of up to three times the hire price is charged to the chosen means of payment as a security. The deposit for high-value vehicles may differ. The exact deposit is determined on collection since the amount is dependent on the vehicle." I am with you -- I think this is excessive.  You did get it all back, right? 

– June 10, 2013 2:36 PM
Q.

must-see sights in european port cities

Hi, Joe, my name is ella & we're cruising to Rome, Genoa, Marseilles, Barcelona, Palma De Mallorca & Valencia in August, , with a full day in each port; any must-see sights and any other information we should know, i.e, cost of tours, etc? Thanks for your response
A.
Becky Krystal :

Oh my goodness, tons to see in all those places. Start narrowing it down by looking at CruiseCritic's page on European ports.

– June 10, 2013 2:37 PM
Q.

Hostess/Thank You Gift

I will be spending two weeks in Thailand this summer and will be staying with a Thai family for half of it (adult woman, her school-age son, her parents). Any ideas on what kind of hostess / thank you gift I can take with me to give to them?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Pick up something unique to your home city or state, so that you can share your home life with them. Example: puzzle, picture book, postcards or a tote bag. You can also bring foods such as chocolate, jam, cookies, pralines or tea. Or maybe bring cake or muffin mix that you can bake together.

– June 10, 2013 2:37 PM
Q.

Nova Scotia / PEI

It's really easy to get to PEI from Nova Scotia - there's a ferry from Pictou to Wood Island that runs multiple times a day. And you should go - PEI is gorgeous and a great place to visit.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Exactly.

– June 10, 2013 2:37 PM
Q.

Birthday on the Beach!

To celebrate my 50th birthday, I took a solo trip to Mykonos, Santorini and Athens. On my actual birthday, on Mykonos, I got up early and went to a beach. After enjoying some time in the water, I went into the adjacent open-air cafe for an early lunch. I asked two 30-ish American women at a nearby table about what they had ordered, and we continued chatting after I ordered my lunch. When they found out it was my birthday, they summoned the waiter and ordered champagne and baklava to celebrate with me. We had a wonderful little party at the beach, including the sexy?? dance performed by the middle-aged waiter. I think it was the first time I'd ever had champagne before noon, and it was a great way to start my trip!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Perfect.

– June 10, 2013 2:37 PM
Q.

Nova Scotia

My bias is obviously towards historical sites, but in Nova Scotia I recommend the drive out to Cape Breton Island. The Cabot Trail is a scenic trip around the northern end of the peninsula, Fortress Louisburg is a massive historical restoration of an 18th-century French outpost, and there's an Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck. Back on the mainland, Halifax is a great city--the waterfront, Pier 21 Immigration Museum, the Citadel, the Public Gardens--and out west are Grand Pre, Annapolis Royal, and Port Royal.
A.
Becky Krystal :

More good Nova Scotia tips. I think the traveler could pretty much fill up her nine days just based on what we've shared today.

– June 10, 2013 2:38 PM
Q.

Nova Scotia

Our family did a road trip to Nova Scotia a few years ago. The Province is bigger than I thought so we did a lot of driving. But it was totally worth it. If you are the least bit adventuresome definitely do not miss tidal bore rafting on the Shubenacadie River. The UNESCO World Heritage site Lunenburg was well worth the drive. PEI is an easy day trip either by ferry or using the bridge. I would also recommend going anywhere where you can view the Bay of Fundy. Go see it at high tide and either hang out for hours or come back and view at low tide. The difference is astonishing. Walking along the ocean floor is an experience that should not be missed!
A.
Becky Krystal :

You all have a lot of Nova Scotia knowledge. Thanks!

– June 10, 2013 2:38 PM
Q.

Visas to Australia

Assuming the writer and all the travelers are U.S. citizens, they will need an ETA (electronic travel authority) to enter Australia, as Carol stated. You may find websites that offer to obtain these ETAs for you, but you should go to the official website of the Australian Government to obtain your ETA. The website Is: www.immi.gov.au and the cost will be AUD 20.00.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Yes, as stated.

– June 10, 2013 2:38 PM
Q.

On another matter, Joe...

Saw your cheese episode of "Pati's Mexican Table" this weekend. (MPT) Thanks for the cheese education as well!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Funny. That's the TV appearance that keeps on appearing!

– June 10, 2013 2:39 PM
Q.

ATMs in Europe

Any suggestions about using ATMs in Europe? My son cannot get his card to work there and his bank in the US is not helpful. He's doing cash on the credit card but this is not a good solution for three months. The machine takes his card but when he puts in the amount of money he wants they spit it out. He does have plenty of money in the account. He has a 6 digit pin and he is working on changing it to a four digit. Is that really crucial anymore?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

What country is he in? Is he trying various ATMs? The same thing happened to me a couple of times in Florence, until I found a specific currency exchange ATM that finally worked for me. He might consider looking for one of those, or going inside the bank and asking what gives. He might also look for ATMs at train stations or airports, which might work better. Chatters, anybody know more about this?

– June 10, 2013 2:41 PM
Q.

travel

When is the best time of the year to visit Peru and Australia?
A.
Joe Yonan :

September.

– June 10, 2013 2:41 PM
Q.

Places to Stay, Eat in West Texas

We did a trip to Big Bend and the environs just over a year ago. We prefer "comfort" to "cool", so we stayed at the new Hampton Inn in Alpine. We also ate dinner at the Buffalo Rose (recommended by the front desk clerk), which turned out to be a real cowboy bar/restaurant with very good food. In addition to stopping to see the Marfa lights (which were very neat), I would recommend going to the McDonald Observatory and historic Ft. Davis. If you go there, I'd recommend staying at Indian Lodge which is located in Davis Mountains State Park. It's a CCC-constructed hotel and a real gem.
A.
Joe Yonan :

I'm filing this away. Appreciate it.

– June 10, 2013 2:43 PM
Q.

SF for my 30th

I spent my 30th birthday with friends in San Francisco. It's my favorite city in the US and since I was feeling a bit stressed about the big 3-0, it was nice to get away from home and not really think too much about it. The weather was warm and sunny (a surprise in August) and we spent most of the weekend doing non-touristy things like shopping on Union street and walking the Lyon street stairs. It was perfect.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Gorge.

– June 10, 2013 2:43 PM
Q.

REI

My mom has done several of the REI trips (more for biking than hiking, but I imagine they're run in similar fashion) and she loves them - makes it really easy to enjoy the activity/scenery of traveling without having to plan food, stops, etc. If I could afford them (hopefully by the time I'm my mom's age, I'll be able to!), I'd definitely do it!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Thanks!

– June 10, 2013 2:44 PM
Q.

Venice restaurant

La Zucca! http://www.lazucca.it/ It means "the Pumpkin" and it is practically the only vegetarian-friendly (but not solely vegetarian) restaurant in Venice. My DH and I ate there on our First Anniversary-moon (1-year delayed honeymoon) in September 2011. I'm veg, my DH is not. We made reservations in advance. It was fabulous. Fresh produce, interesting dishes that weren't too frou-frou and not pasta-y. We met another couple on their honeymoon there who had eaten there twice in 3 days. Unfortunately that website is only in Italian, but google it and all sorts of reviews come up. Be warned it is not inexpensive like pizza, but it is not mind-staggeringly expensive, either, and we both thought that for the quality of the meal the price was worth it. It's on a side street and you have to know about it to find it. Definitely not in a tourist area.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Again, I'm filing this one away. Cool.

– June 10, 2013 2:44 PM
Q.

Madagascar bday--what tour company

Could the Madabascar poster say which tour guide s/he used? Any other suggestions re travel there? I am considering such a trip for my 50th birthday in a few months. Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Let's ask the poster. Meanwhile, check out our Madagascar story from just last week -- lots of good info for you, I think.

– June 10, 2013 2:44 PM
Q.

Deep Creek lake, MD

I'm trying to plan a small family vacation for a weekend to Deep Creek Lake, MD, with myself, my husband, the in laws and my SIL. Unfortunately we can really only do a weekend, and I'm finding a lot of places to be week minimums during the summer, or really expensive. Do you have any tips, or any ideas for places to stay there? Do you know what we could expect to pay for a Friday and Saturday night? We were hoping to get a house with three bedrooms. I've looked up a couple realtors but am finding dead ends.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Have you tried looking at accommodations at the Maryland state parks in the area? Here's an info page. You might also try looking at accommodations at Wisp. Afraid I can't pull a price off the top of my head.

– June 10, 2013 2:45 PM
Q.

55 in Paris

We scored a fabulous airfare ($750 r/t from Los Angeles!) so went to Paris to celebrate my 55th birthday in January. Rented an apartment on Ile St. Louis, planned on walking and dining and hitting the soldes. What we didn't plan on was record snow! It wasn't a problem getting around since we were using the Metro, and it made a beautiful city even more gorgeous. I will always remember throwing snowballs into the Seine - best birthday ever.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Isn't the ISP the most fantastic place to stay? I did that a few years back, and now it's hard to imagine staying anywhere else. (Although I have.) How great, the snow!

– June 10, 2013 2:45 PM
Q.

Joe's comment on St. Johnsbury

Joe, Dog Mountain might not be around forever. Stephen Huneck's wife Gwen followed his suicide and took her life last week. Tragic story here in Vermont.
A.
Joe Yonan :

I know, I did read about that just last week; I'm on the email list for Dog Mountain and got a notice about her death. It's so sad, but I'm hoping others can keep Stephen and Gwen's vision alive. Going there was a profound experience for me, and has been for so many other animal lovers; it would be such a shame if the tragedy around their deaths caused all that good they did to be lost.

– June 10, 2013 2:47 PM
Q.

bear watching

when is the best time for a cruise and land tour to Alaska for a chance to see bears?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Alaska cruises sail  May through September. You can see bears throughout the season, but they really come out during the salmon  runs in July and August. Check with the cruise line about offshore excursions that focus on wildlife viewing, or plan your own exursion but make sure you are back way before the ship leaves, or you will be sleeping with the bears.

– June 10, 2013 2:47 PM
Q.

Paywall and travel tips

Hi Travel Gurus, I really enjoy these chats and I hope that you can pass along to the powers that be that I would gladly pay the paywall IF they can improve the search functionality of the travel section. It is so awful and you all have so much great advice. I tried searching these chats for something recently and it kept kicking me to other discussions (not even travel!). It is actually easier to use a search engine with the terms and WaPo's url then it is to search this website.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yep, use good old Google site search. Type in site:washingtonpost.com before your search terms, and it limits the searches to our site. Or ... just come on the chat and ask us to find it!

– June 10, 2013 2:48 PM
Q.

Birthday trip

Before I moved to DC from Oklahoma, I came out for my 40th birthday to visit my brother and sister. A year or two earlier, while site-seeing in DC in the August heat, I said that the next time I came to visit, I wanted a limo that would take me anywhere I wanted to go. So for my birthday, my sister rented a limo. She had friends of mine located at monuments around town who surprised me (some came from as far away as Utah). We picked everyone up in the limo and then went back to the house where other friends were waiting for the big party. My favorite stop was to pick up my cousin who was "picketing" by the White House with a sign that said "Gray hair is unfair, my cousin is forty." Before I finally saw her, I heard someone say, boy they will picket anything here - that woman is against gray hair." It was a very fun 40th birthday...and I got to see DC in an air conditioned limo - even if it was March!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Your sister is a brilliant party planner. Fantastic idea.

– June 10, 2013 2:49 PM
Q.

Walking Tour Vacations

My wife and I have been doing such walks for 20-some years. Two companies that offer huge variety of guided and independent walks are Sherpa (sherpa-walking-holidays.co.uk) and Breakaway (breakaway-adventures.com). Sherpa does parts of the Camino de Santiago, but not in Spain. We used Breakaway--wonderful accommodations, great food, and helpful staff. Both Web sites offer ample detailed information.

A.
Becky Krystal :

Excellent, thanks.

– June 10, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Birthday trip

Every year for my husband's birthday (mid-October) we go to the Outer Banks--we've been doing this since we moved to Virginia over 10 years ago. It's our favorite time of year to go, it's so uncrowded but still usually warm, and we get to bring the "kids" (dogs) who adore it there too. Even though we go other times of the year, our October trip is usually longer, we tend to splurge a little more, but the main reason we do it then is to spend more time together and celebrate my husband's special day. With less people around, we get to spend more time together taking the dogs boogie boarding, playing fetch in the water, walking on the beach, going out to restaurants, and for my husband--surfing with fewer people. A few times, my in-laws have joined us to celebrate, which has been nice, but usually it's just the two of us and the dogs. I find that the time we spend there for his birthday gives us our best quality time as a family, so even though we go there throughout the year, the October birthday trip is always the most special.
A.
Joe Yonan :

I adore fall in tourist places like the OB. My favorite time to visit Cape Cod, too.

– June 10, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Birthday Trip

For my mother's 70th birthday, she and I did a long weekend in Dublin. She had always wanted to go to Ireland because her grandparents were Irish. I found a great deal with Aer Lingus that included airfare, hotel and theater tickets to the Abbey. It was the first trip for both of us that required a passport. We wandered around the city and had a great time exploring on our own. At one point, she said, "Everyone is so nice. But of course they are, they're Irish!"
A.
Joe Yonan :

:-)

– June 10, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Houston to Austin

Go a bit out of your way on the one of the drives to go through Lockhart to get some amazing BBQ. Also, make sure the car has good A/C!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Yes! Lockhart, and Luling, and Llano, and Lexington. Among other places.

– June 10, 2013 2:50 PM
Q.

Guided Hiking

If you are willing to stay stateside, consider Yosemite. They have guided High Sierra Loop tours. We did one last year. You carry only your personal belongings and sleep sack. The food is at the camps and there are tent cabins with cots. There is a lottery and you enter around Labor Day for the next year. Once in a lifetime experience.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Sounds promising!

– June 10, 2013 2:51 PM
Q.

Eating in Venice

Our best value dining experiences were doing the Venetian version of a pub crawl. A snack (cicchetti) and a glass of either spritz or wine would only set you back a couple of Euro. I think we mostly followed recommendations from Rick Steves, which led us to a good mix of localish (mostly locals, but friendly enough to tourists) place.
Q.

Birthday Trip

Celebrated my 30th in Paris with my mother, sisters and niece. Spent a long weekend walking around the city, taking in the sights, visiting all the cute French parks for my niece and tasting all the amazing French pastries.
Q.

Dublin Hotels

These are central (and not in the more noisy Temple Bar area), as well as being reasonably priced: http://www.buswells.ie http://www.ocallaghanhotels.com The Shelbourne is at the top end in terms of pricing; beautiful location on St Stephen's Green and good for Afternoon Tea or a drink, even if you don't stay there: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dubbr-the-shelbourne-dublin-a-renaissance-hotel/

Q.

Trip to celebrate my 60th

I turned 60 in March, and my dream was to wake up in London on that day. My two daughters were game, but we had to go the week before my birthday because my elder couldn't be off work. It was fine...The weather was awful but we had a blast! I got a vacation through US Airways for the flight and 7 nights in Bayswater for $1381 per person, which we considered a good deal. We were a bit crowded in our triple but it didn't matter because we weren't there much. We got a 6-day London pass and Tube ticket so we got in all the places we wanted to see. Our favorite was Windsor Castle, but we also saw the Banqueting House, the Churchill War Rooms, the Tower, Greenwich, Harrods, the Globe Theatre, Borough Market, Westminster Abbey...We definitely got our money's worth out of the pass. The food we found was really good, such a surprise. Of course it helps to ask; we were in one of the shops at Windsor and asked the staff for a lunch recommendation. They were right on target. So, the cold and windy weather really didn't matter, we enjoyed ourselves anyway. I'm ready to go back...
Q.

Venice restaurant

Plenty of good food in Venice. Both of our trips there were spent largely wandering around the city trying to decide where to have dinner each night, a perfect vacation for us. We particularly loved La Bitta, in the Dorsoduro section. It's a tiny place, they've got the Slow Food flag in the window, and everything we've had on two visits there was delicious. For a nice change of pace in Venice, they do not serve seafood.
Q.

Celebrating 50th

I turned the big 50 first and we started a tradition of celebrating 50 days of 50. It was a lot of fun and everywhere when we mentioned what we were doing people got a big kick out of it. Most of the time it was a small treat like a glass of champagne on Wednesday evening, a card tucked into my briefcase, or tea in bed. One of my "trips" was to stay downtown and play tourist - which was a fun way to take a fresh look at our city. However, when my husband turned 50 two years later he had lots of time to think about how he wanted to celebrate for fifty days... and we managed to fit a lot of things in those days. Including a 3 day Caribbean cruise, a long weekend in Napa (coinciding with Schramsberg's 150th - or sesquicentennial - anniversary), and ended with a trip to NYC to hear Woody Allen play at the Carlisle. Hmm, 60 days of 60 - and I'm first!!!
Q.

Things to Do Near Fallingwater

Here's two ideas for places to go in the vicinity of Fallingwater: 1) Pittsburgh is just over an hour's drive. Lots of great shopping, dining and museums. A hidden treasure are the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning. 2) Ohiopyle State Park is just down the road from Fallingwater--10 to 15 minute drive at most. It's well-known for whitewater rafting, but you can just admire the scenery if you prefer.
Q.

For the Detroit Traveler

Start you day at the Eastern Market in downtown and get swept away by the hustle and bustle of the city with hundreds of farmers bring in their goods for market. Make sure you head to Russel Street Deli which has the most amazing soups and is right across the street from the Eastern Market. Visit the DIA and learn about the history of auto making in the Diego Rivera murals or take in a Tiger's game. Learn more about the Ford Family and visit the Edsel and Eleanor Ford home in Grosse Pointe and grab lunch at Jumps afterwards. If you choose to make the quick drive to Ann Arbor, walk the campus which is quite with students out for the summer, grab sangria at Dominics right behind the law quad, wander the cute shops on Main Street, hike the arboretum or rent a canoe for the day.
Q.

Venice restos, also hiking

Venice resto tipper here, with some hiking tips too. In addition to the 5-6 I just gave, also try: Acquapazza (crazy water?) Vini da Gigio Osteria Bancogiro (related to Osteria San Marco, beautiful views over the canal, near Rialto Bridge but not touristy). Hiking: Backroads all the way, baby! I've gone on two with them so far and can't speak highly enough.
Q.

Huntington, WV

Having gone to the University of Kentucky (UK), I have to put in a plug for a visit to Lexington, KY. Of course not on the *way* to Huntington, but you might want a diversion while visiting your son - and having worked retail in Lexington, it seemed many of the college kids in Huntington shopped in Lexington. Talking to the students at UK that grew up in Huntington, Lexington seemed to be the closest "big city" to where they grew up. Lexington is about two hours west of Huntington. Keeneland race track (in season), Kentucky Horse Park, and just a change of pace from school for you (and maybe your son). Of course, at that point you'd be near the Bourbon Trail as well, if you're into that kind of thing.
Q.

Driving a Rental car into Canada

My husband and I will be in Glacier National Park this fall. Our automobile insurance company said we would not be covered in Canada. Is there a way to buy insurance for driving in Canada in a US rental car?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Hm. Check to see what kind of coverage you may have through the credit card you book the rental on; otherwise you may want to inquire about the insurance the rental agency offers.

– June 10, 2013 2:52 PM
Q.

My Kindle Fire on a flight

How can they (airlines/whoever) still think that my Kindle Fire can bring down a plane? Having to turn it off for the last 20 minutes of a flight seems ridiculous.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Your gadget emits radioactive waves that could potentially interfere with the pilots' avionics. However, the FAA is studying its power-off rule.  Read all about the issue here.

– June 10, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

honeymoon destinations

Hi Crew, I'm hoping you can help. We are looking at honeymoon options for late this summer, and are coming up empty. Affordability is a big factor for us right now, and we were wondering if there are places that you would go- preferrably near a beach, or somewhere "exotic"?- that wouldn't break the bank. We're not cruise people, and we don't need anything all-inclusive (plus, we're not big drinkers) that leans towards the bacchanal. We've gotten superb advice from you in the past, and are hoping you (and the peanut gallery) could weigh in on good places. Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

Maybe some upscale tent camping would fit the bill, although more popular locations may already be booked. Take a look at Concordia Eco-Resort on St.  John. 

– June 10, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

Turkey in August

I have a trip planned for Turkey (Istanbul and the Aegean coast) for the first week of August. I've been paying attention to the news coming from their, obviously, but do you have any thoughts on travel to the area in this situation? Should I take the trip as planned, skip Istanbul, or just cancel entirely? I'd love to hear your opinions.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

It all depends on your level of comfort. My parents, for example, are supposed to go in September and are still planning on going. I would do the same (if I were invited; thanks, mom). I would just be careful about avoiding areas with protests and keep my eye on State Department warnings. Of course, if you can't enjoy yourself, don't go now. Wait for calmer times.

– June 10, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

Hawaii travel logistics

2 questions really. First, considering two weeks in Hawaii in January. Will it be too rainy in Oahu and Maui? Second, if I'm trying to use my UA FF miles, what would be a good strategy if I'm leaving from WAS and then spend a week at one island and the second week at the other island? Would I need to depart from the first island for the return trip? I could also split the trip with a CA stopover if that would make it easier to use the FF miles.
A.
Carol Sottili :

I'd research different combinations to see which works best. There are reasonable island-to-island flights that you could buy separately. As for rain, it rarely rains all day -- I'd go. 

– June 10, 2013 2:53 PM
Q.

England

A friend and I will be traveling to England the first week in September. We are spending four days in London and want to spend the remaining time (about a week) in the general Cotswolds area. How easy is it to travel within the Cotswolds since we will not be renting a car: buses, trains, etc.?
A.
Becky Krystal :

You could try buses and trains. Check out this page on seeing the area by public transport.

– June 10, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

Berkshire vacation

Vacationing in the Berkshires in the first week in October looking for interesting things for senior persons to enjoy -- sightseeing, events, comfortable dining, local crafts, etc. Any suggestions?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

You'll love the Berkshires -- such beautiful country. I love the Norman Rockwell town of Stockbridge. You can visit the Rockwell museum, have lunch or dinner at the lovely old Red Lion Inn, take a short drive out to see Edith Wharton's home, The Mount, as well as the Museum of the Gilden Age at Ventfort Hall, both in nearby Lenox. There's lots more. Chatters, your favorites spots?

– June 10, 2013 2:55 PM
Q.

San Fran

Hello! I seem to remember some suggestions from the Travel Crew about under-the-radar but cool places to stay in San Fran. We're two late 20/early 30-somethings considering a San Fran/wine country trip for our first anniversary. Any suggestions?
A.
Joe Yonan :

I had a nice stay recently at the Good Hotel. Check it out.

– June 10, 2013 2:57 PM
Q.

Deep Creek Lake weekend

Call a rental agency direct - try TalyorMade or Railey and speak to the people on the reservation desk yourself. If they have an open house they may give you a weekend rather than not renting it at all.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Worth a shot, thanks.

– June 10, 2013 2:57 PM
Q.

Multiple National Parks

For the chatter asking about hitting a few parks on one trip - go to southern Utah. Zion, Bryce, Arches and Canyonlands are strung along a few hours from one to the next, and there are other places like Escalante along the way. You could happily spend a couple days in each and even though they're all in roughly the same landscape they're also remarkably diverse.
Q.

Vegas

I had a few questions for John too -- I think I want to do the same thing in Vegas. Story was fabulous, but I was wondering why he chose the Vdara, which I've been to and is nothing special.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I was a party-goer at the Deinerganza and I was duly impressed with the suite at Vdara; it was spacious and elegant and fit all of us, including Elvis. It also had a full kitchen and enough counter space for the whiskey sour fountain.

The resort is casino-free, so we could focus on the celebration and not have to deal with the usual hubbub.

(I just asked John for his reason, but he may not answer in time.)

– June 10, 2013 2:58 PM
Q.

National Parks out west in late September

Zion-Bryce?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Sure.

– June 10, 2013 2:58 PM
Q.

Since you mentioned Biskek, Zofia~

Might you (or your brother) know the status of the Qolma pass into China? I fantasize daily about doing a land crossing over the Pamir to the Sunday market in Kashgar. Theoretically, it's open to foreigners (a few days a week, a few hours a day - you guess which!), but I haven't found anyone yet who's done it. Pointers welcome...
A.
Zofia Smardz :

So sorry -- that's outside my scope, and I don't think my brother's done that crossing, either. Chatters, have any of you?

– June 10, 2013 2:58 PM
Q.

business class to Asia

The poster looking for discount tix to Japan or Taiwan can also check out some consolidators. There are a number of travel agencies online that offer discount business class tickets. I have used AccessFares.com in the past and like them. Cook Travel is another one that I get emails from but have never actually used so I can't vouch for them but apparently they've been around for 40 years.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Great advice. Thanks!

– June 10, 2013 2:58 PM
Q.

Upgrade....denied!

We have been planning an African safari for a while now for this summer, and we had booked "Economy Comfort" seats on KLM (for over $2,500 pp) to make sure we had enough legroom on the long flight. I very recently have been given a lot of Delta SkyMiles, and since KLM is a partner, I thought maybe I could upgrade those tickets to Business class. The Delta rep said that basically we didn't pay enough for the tickets, so they are non-upgradable. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I think I mumbled "OK, thanks anyway" before I hung up. Sorry for the long story, but I need to know: is there any appeal or chance that contacting some other customer service number might let me use those miles to upgrade those tickets?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Many economy tickets, even economy comfort, are not eligible for upgrades. Using miles for upgrades and/or tickets is getting increasingly complex and difficult. And I think your chances of getting the airline to change its policy for you are slim to none, but try the social media route. 

– June 10, 2013 2:58 PM
Q.

Hotels to stay at in Florence, Italy

Sorry for confusion, we are going to both, just Florence. THX
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Okay, chatters, need your help pinpointing a good hotel -- reasonably priced, I assume? -- hotel in Florence. I stayed privately on my last trip, so can't vouch for anyplace.

– June 10, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

For the Brussels traveler

There's plenty to keep you busy! After a walk around the Grand'Place, you might enjoy a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum. On paying the admission fee, you'll be issued a set of headphones. As you proceed through the museum, you'll see sighs with headphones; when you stand in the right spot, you'll hear the instrument you're viewing being played. It's pretty interesting. Nearby is the 3-part Royal Fine Arts Museum - Old Masters (think Memling, Bosch, Bruegel, Rubens, Van Dyck, and Jordaens), Modern, and Magritte. After a turn there, you can take a tour of the foundations of the Coudenberg former Royal Palace, then head to the Place du Sablon for hot chocolate. There's a lot more, but this should be a decent start.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Mmm, hot chocolate. :)

– June 10, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Yellowstone in September

Warning: We were at Grand Teton in early September one year, and when we tried to drive up to Yellowstone, the road was closed due to an early major SNOW storm up there! We had to wait nearly a week till the road was cleared and reopened. IIRC, Glacier National Park was already closed for the season.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Good thing to keep in mind, thanks.

– June 10, 2013 3:00 PM
Q.

Madagascar tour company

I planned my whole trip with Asisten Travel. They are Malagasy owned but very reputable and reliable, while being much cheaper than any of the UK or US tour companies (who all contract with locals anyway). They can do a custom tour and work with you on budget, level of accommodations, etc. The co-owner Njaka is or was one of the leaders of the Madagascar Tourism Association and he speaks very good english and french. My guide for most of the trip was Zina (through Asisten). I highly recommend a day tour of the old city in Antananarivo. We also went to Andasibe (awesome park close-ish to Tana), Ankarafantsika (northwest, for the coquerel's sifakas and birds), Mahajanga (not amazing but was city closest to Ankaranfantsika), and up north to Diego Suarez (absolutely gorgeous beaches with a cute city) and Ankarana (tsingy near Diego that are more accessible than the tsingy in the west).
Q.

Joe Yonan :

Buckle up, because we're coming in for a landing.

That's all we have time for today -- thanks for the great q's! Now, for our giveaway prize: It goes to the chatter who moved to DC from Oklahoma, but before that had that fabulous-sounding limo-picking-up-friends party arranged by her sister. Send your mailing information to Becky at becky.krystal@washpost.com, and she'll get you a little something.

Until next time, happy travels!

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