Talk about Travel

Jun 16, 2014

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
Have a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel section's editors and writers are at your service.
Past Talk about Travel chats

Good Monday afternoon, travelers. It's finally starting to feel like your typical hot and humid D.C. summer here, so naturally we're happy to be sitting inside, dreaming about where else we can go. Did you catch our lead story this week on one writer's experience walking Japan's Nakasendo Way? Have you had a memorable walk, long or short, on your travels? Tell us about it. Best answer wins a little prize.

And now, let's get started asking and answering.

My fiance and I will be able to take a 7-9 day long honeymoon in early October. We initially were interested in British Columbia or the Isle of Skye, but because of our budget and time restrictions, are now considering combining a couple days in Quebec City with Nova Scotia. We would be leaving from Boston or New Hampshire. Do you think that combination of regions is doable in that time frame, or should we just focus on one region? Are there any places we've overlooked that we should consider? We are interested in good food, beautiful natural scenery, and some seclusion, but also are looking for ways to "treat ourselves" (ie, romantic accommodations, not camping). Thank you so much for any help/advice!

I would stick with one region or the other. You can't go wrong with either, especially in early fall. Of the two, I've only been to Quebec City, and I'd heartily endorse that as a honeymoon. Went with my husband a few summers ago and had such a nice time. Spend your days and evenings walking the historic streets and popping into shops and restaurants. Plenty of museums and sites to see as well. Take a day trip to Montmorency Falls and the pastoral Ile d'Orleans, or spend a night or two on the island, which is positively lovely. Everyone talks about the famous Chateau Frontenac as The Place to Stay, but I'm so glad I stayed at the smaller, less chaotic but no less romantic Hotel Le Germain-Dominion. It has a sweet patio for enjoying breakfast or a snack too.

If you want some ideas on Nova Scotia, here's one story and another.

Missed last week's chat, but just wanted to respond to the question about visiting San Diego without a car. I agree with you that a car would be helpful for most people, but we just returned from a great trip there without a car. We stayed downtown, so total cost of car rental and parking made us opt not to get one. Taxis were hard to get, so we used for Uber, water taxis, bike share, and our feet. Went to the Zoo, Balboa Park, Coronado, La Jolla, and Point Loma without any problems. Think we actually spent less money than we would have on a car and we got to visit lots of great bars and breweries without worrying about driving ourselves around! Long story short: depending on the kind of trip you want, going carless is totally possible and may even be more cost effective.

I give you a lot of credit. I lived there for 10 years, and I visit fairly frequently and I am car-dependent in San Diego. But if you are patient and willing to adopt various modes of transportation, it sounds as if going carless is an option. 

 

Thanks for the article on the hike in Japan. 25 years ago I ripped an article out of a travel magazine about the Kiso Valley in Japan. When I had the chance to visit the country 12 years ago I pulled that article out and my husband and I decided to add it to our itinerary. When we told a Japanese friend that we were adding it to our trip she was amazed -- didn't know non-Japanese had ever heard of it, much less wanted to visit. Like the author we stayed at a ryokan, which was one of the highlights of the trip. Also loved the old post towns with reinactors -- sort of a Japanese Colonial Williamsburg (but a bit more subtle). We just hiked around for a few days -- didn't walk the entire length -- and were smart enough to take the train up to the top of the trails and walk down, rather than walk up, as we saw some poor people struggling to do. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. (Pun intended.)

You're welcome! I thought it was a really nice piece, and your experience in Japan sounds equally intriguing.

In 1944, my father landed in France right after D-Day and was befriended by a French family in northern France. Our families stayed in touch and, when I was 19, I went to Paris to study for a year. Our friends took the train from their home and I waited for them. They were on one side of the Boulevard Jourdain, I was on the other. We smiled, waved, and I walked across that wide street into the arms of people who knew and loved my dad for so long. Our families have continued our friendship for 70 years.

I heartily endorse Canada as a honeymoon location (having taken ours in Montreal). Although I truly enjoyed Nova Scotia, having visited there in late September/early October, my fear for the newlyweds would be that there would not be much open in the way of seasonal tourist attractions (raft trips to the Bay of Fundy, for example). Quaint villages and excellent eating (I cannot say enough good things about the seafood in Nova Scotia!) will still abound. Consider the college town of Wolfville as a place to launch day trips from -- we enjoyed seeing a Canadian college football game one Friday night!

Hi folks, sure enjoy your column. Got my question in too late last week, so here it is again. We're headed for San Francisco in September, need to rent a car. We are in great health, no accidents ever, BUT we are both 82 years old. Does Hertz have a limit on how old they'll rent to? Can't get a straight answer from them.

Hertz' site lists minimum age requirements for certain vehicles, but not maximums. It varies by country, but in the United States, there doesn't appear to be a limit, according to the company site.

My husband has wanted to travel to Bologna ever since he learned the Italians consider it "Fat City." (That's a compliment.) We now plan to go in a few months, and we would love to know where to get the pasta bolognese of his dreams.

Chatters, any insights on where to eat in Bologna? If you want to take a cooking class, I bet you can learn to make your own at one of these places (read the full story we ran too).

I remember an article you ran years ago (10+) about somewhere in southern Germany that had palm trees and more of a warm vibe than most of Germany. I'm not talking about the amusement park that I found recently using Google, but more of the general area. Do you folks have any idea what I'm talking about?

I think I found exactly what you're looking for: "The Tropics of Germany" by Cindy Loose.

I will be traveling to Warsaw and Budapest in September with my 9mos old baby. Two questions: 1) How can I prepare for the flight? Is it possible to reserve a bulkhead seat? Are there things you would recommend to help me entertain him while flying? He has flown before but only for short distances. 2) To get between Warsaw and Budapest, would you recommend a night train or flying? Thanks!

It's possible that some airline may let you reserve the bulkhead seat if youcall and explain your situation, but generally speaking, airlines reserve those seats for the disabled or unaccompanied children, so it's a long shot at best. Are you buying a seat for your child's baby seat, or going to hold him in your lap? Either way, bring along any toys that he particularly likes to keep him occupied (preferably not noise-making ones) and lots of little snacks -- Cheerios, whatever else he likes -- which I always found distracted my children well on flights. It's tough with kids on a long-haul flight; there's only so much you can do.  Let's hope he's a good sleeper and the drone of the flights will have him nodding off quickly. (I'm assuming you have to make connections?)

As for travel between Warsaw and Budapest -- with a little one, I'd fly. The night train is 12 hours, and unless you buy a sleeper ticket or a couchette, it'll be like the flight over all over again, plus you'll get very little rest if the baby is fidgety. The flight is only a little over an hour, and not super-expensive. Chatters, your thoughts?

One of the nicest walks I took was through the Alfama area of Lisbon up to the Sao Jorge castle. On the way up the steep, winding, cobblestone steps, I stopped in the Lisbon Cathedral to light a candle. It was built in the 12th century and is one of the few buildings to survive the many devastating earthquakes. The view from the top at the Castle is just beautiful. You can see the red rooftops and the river. On the way back down the streets I stopped to listen to some Fado at a small cafe with an outdoor patio. It was lovely!

Renting a house with the family in Ocean Isle in August (near Wilmington). Any suggestions on things to do? Places to eat? Thanks!

Chatters?

My extended family is trying to find a place for a family reunion (about 20 people) that has swimming, picnic areas (tables are fine), and a playground. We would like it to be less than an hour's drive from Rockville, Annapolis, and Alexandria and affordable for those with kids (ideally they could pay by car load or less than $5 per child). Any ideas? I am sick of driving 2 1/2 hours each way to where we normally meet up!

Thoughts, anyone? I'd just call the parks departments of the various counties and cities, or check their web sites. You can often search for or sort parks by features.

I enjoyed the heck out of my freshman hiking trip. We got lost in an area where the trail wasn't well marked, but ended up walking through wild blackberry bushes to make up for it. Also, I ended up taking a bee sting for one of my companions who was allergic to bees (I sort of shooed it away and ended up stung, it wasn't a purposeful sacrifice). Three years later, I led the same trip and we got lost through the exact same black berry bushes. Thankfully I remembered them, and turned us around as soon as we found them. Other memorable moments were coming across a few cows in a clearing, and my friends coming out to our second night camping spot and pelting us with donuts at midnight. And the wonderful inscriptions in the old yankee cemetary along the route. No bees the second trip. Walking when you have time to stop and look around is a gift. We don't do it enough.

Honestly, if you can afford a seat for the baby, do it. The baby is used to falling asleep in the car seat, and will most likely do so on the flight. Most of my friends who opted to save money by flying with the baby in their laps to Europe regretted not buying the seat. Bring a couple of new toys, too; sometimes the novelty helps keep them occupied. And good luck!!

We took a sleeper car to Budapest and we found that it would have probably been cheaper to fly if you get a car with beds. We also found that agents would come in and check our tickets every country we passed through, so sound sleep wasn't possible even if we had beds. I would encourage flying.

Can you point me to any recent articles on Buenos Aires or do any of the chatters have recommendations for hotels/restaurants? We're also thinking of doing a side trip to Iguazu Falls. Thanks!

I think this story on the street art of the city is our most recent article, complete with dining and hotel recommendations.

Excited about taking kids and grandkids into DC tomorrow. Since there's a bunch of us, I'm thinking parking at Union Station & walking from there will be less expensive than getting metro tickets for all. BUT, does the retail parking lot fill up? Or can we pretty much count on getting a space?

I've never had any trouble parking at Union Station. I don't know how many of you there are, or where you're headed and how much you'd be riding the Metro, but just be aware that if you park for longer than five hours, it'll cost you $22.

Burke Lake Park! Reservable picnic areas, trail around the lake, even a carousel and small train to ride with kids. Picnic area A is right next to a nice playground area.

I suggest you buy the book Travels with Baby. It's just been revised. Not the author but someone who bought the book in anticipation of our own trip to Europe. And my suggestion is lots of snacks, and more snacks than toys.

For the person looking for a place around here for 20 people for a family reunion, contact the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. They run all sorts of parks, five which have swimming pools, and several that also have mini-golf and batting cages. They rent picnic kiosks too.

Next month, I'm doing a long distance Amtrak trip on the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles and am really looking forward to it. This isn't my first time doing this, I took the Capitol Limited and Empire Builder in 2007 and have traveled extensively by train in Europe. However, for the first time on such a trip, I am flying into Chicago the morning my train departs, getting in at about 10:30 AM to Midway from BWI. My train is at 3. It takes 30-60 minutes (depending on whether one takes a taxi or the L) to get from Midway to Union Station, so as I see it, only if there is a flight delay of 3 or more hours is my connection at risk, however, I still have that nagging "what if" that actually happens feeling. I can also get Amtrak evoucher credit if I need to cancel or change my plans before the train departs (I only lose the entire value if I'm a no show and don't cancel before departure), so this isn't exactly like a cruise booking, but Is there missed connection trip insurance that could cover me if the plane to Chicago was so late I miss the train? How should I go about looking for such a policy to cover me in that circumstance?

If your flight is late, and you have coverage for trip interruption and cancellation, then you could file a successful claim with your travel insurance company. I might have given yourself a little extra time when planning the trip, but since your itinerary is booked, you'll just have to hope for the best. I wouldn't delay a decision on insurance -- some policies require that you book it within a few days of reserving your trip. I list a few insurance sites on that U.S. News story I mentioned in a previous answer. For what it's worth, I think you'll be fine.

My husband and I absolutely loved Rome when we visited a few years ago. Now we're planning another overseas trip - is there a location that, in your minds, is similar in character to Rome?

Well, you can see Roman ruins in Spain.

Let's hear some other suggestions!

My husband and I walk lots (like 20 miles a day) while on vacation. The most memorable was in Prague-- we saw an American flag on the top of a hill in a park and we were intrigued. We were going to find out what it was. So we walked all the way up the hill and there was no sign and no entrance. We were undeterred, so we walked back down the hill and up the other side to the embassy where I went up to the door to ask what is was. The Czech security guard was a little confused by why I came to him to find out, but explained what it was (the ambassador's residence). We ended up having the most amazing views from the top of the hill and found a great winery that we would have never found if it weren't my desire to know why there was an American flag on the hill!

Be sure to choose a flight on a wide-body aircraft. Some airlines are using 757's which aren't very roomy at all. From Lufthansa's web site: "On Lufthansa long-haul flights special baby cots are available. Please be aware that the number of seats with cots is limited. The bassinets are suitable for babies up to 14 kg and up to 83 cm in length and are provided free of charge. Night flights are especially suitable for journeys with small children because children can then maintain their usual sleep pattern and get some rest."

Cunningham state park! Although, not so sure about the playground, but that stream is entertainment enough IMO.

Don't forget about the leaf peeping season in early October.

The first week of our freshman year at George Washington University my roommate and I decided to walk from 19th and F Streets across the bridge to look for my cousin's grave at Arlington National Cemetery. It didn't look too far and the weather was nice...it took a while but we got there. My cousin's grave is way at the other end of the cemetery...we never found it and we got totally lost. This was in 1968 so no cell phones, no metro, and no workers around to help. As we found our way to the front entrance it started to rain...and we were soaked and exhausted by the time we reached our dorm room!

Hi Travelers! I have an opportunity to visit Edinburgh this summer - for a number of reasons (including poor credit from a recent divorce) I don't have a credit card and don't plan to get one. Am I ok going with just a debit card? Will I have any problem using it to get cash and to pay for items? Planning to do all large purchases (train tickets, a hotel for an overnight getaway) in advanced from the states. Thanks for your thoughts!

It's not as ideal as having a credit card, but you should be okay with the debit card. Just be sure to let your financial institution know that you'll be traveling and using the card abroad, so that they don't freeze your funds. Also doublecheck with them that your PIN will work overseas (if it's four digits, you should be fine. If it's more than that, you may need to request a new PIN for use overseas, as many European banks don't accept five-digit PINs.  Also ask about currency transaction fees, just so you're aware if they're going to be especially high. Once in Scotland, you can use you card to withdraw cash at any bank or financial institution that displays the ATM network logos found on the back of your card, although I'd be safe and bring along a reasonable amount of cash to get you started. I'm not sure about the ease of using debit cards with merchants. Chatters, perhaps someone has had experience with that?

This isn't earth shattering, but was memorable for me: walking on a rocky, muddy path through a state park recently (one with some steep bits and lots of water crossings) I was passed by a guy on a unicycle, just pedaling away and enjoying the great outdoors. Who knew unicycles could manage a path like that?

In the early 90's, my sister and I (African American women from DC ) spent a few days at The Four Seasons Hotel in Palm Beach, FL. One day, we decided to take a long walk from the hotel to a shopping center many blocks away. During our walk, a police car seemed to be following us at a distance. It would turn off, and then return, repeatedly. We joked that they were waiting for us to faint from the heat or our huge breakfast, so they could give us a ride back. We finally arrived at the shopping center and soon realized it wasn't very interesting, so we turned around and started walking back to the hotel. Suddenly, the police car was there, and the officer pulled over and stopped beside us. He brusquely asked for our ID cards. We were puzzled, and asked if he wanted our driver's licenses. He said, "No, I mean your staff ID cards. You know you're not supposed to be walking around town." It started to dawn on us that he assumed we were hotel or restaurant workers, I guess because we couldn't possibly afford to stay in Palm Beach. It was okay as long as we were walking out of town, but when we turned around and headed back in, he decided to stop us. We showed him our room key from The Four Seasons, and he actually called the hotel to make sure it was real. He didn't apologize, he just got in his car and drove off. Looking back, we must have been suffering from vacation brain. We had forgotten that Florida was in the south.

Yeah, that sounds memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Several day walks while based in Chipping Camden. All great, except when we didn't manage time well and were still out on the trail at night. It was so dark and foggy that we were practically tripping over sheep and nearly ran into Broadway Tower.

Do you have a recommendation for a website that allows you to see deals for traveling on a certain day rather than a location. The list of places I would love to see is lengthy, so I would prefer to choose my next vacation location based on what would be the most affordable option for the week that I will be away.

May not be exactly what you want, but try Airfarewatchdog

Hi! A friend and I would like to embark on a Fall Foliage Tour this year. She lives in CA; I live in the D.C. area (Virginia). I've looked a a couple of 'tours' but they are limited to only a handful of locations (mostly in NY), and seem pricey. Alternatively, I think we could both fly to Maine, rent a car and travel back down to VA, starting in mid-October. Which do you suggest - a tour or independent travel? If independent, how many days should be allocate, and are there any 'must see' locations that you would recommend? Thanks! 

For a domestic trip like this, I would definitely go independent. You can go where you want when you want. How much time you allocate depends on how much time you have and where you want to go. A week would be nice. Are you set on driving back to Virginia from Maine? Parts of that drive will be nice, but you're not going to be hitting a ton of prime foliage along I-95. I might save your time and just fly home.

So much of Maine is scenic, but Acadia National Park is probably at the top of most people's lists.

Other locations to consider: New York's Finger Lakes region as well as a more local tour you can do starting in D.C. -- locales such as Shenandoah National Park, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (New River Gorge is spectacular) and the I-81/Route 11 corridor.

Hello All, I pray you take my question. I have been referring to your discussion lately because I would like to plan a vacation for myself. I am 55 years old and have NEVER taken a real vacation! Back and forth to the beach, that's about it. Then my health took a turn and I began to rethink my life. I would REALLY like to plan a trip to the Bahamas. It is always the one place I dreamed about going, and I am going! However, I have never planned a trip like this. I am really ignorant to the whole "planning a vacation" experience. Been on a plane once. Would not even know what to pack and what not to pack - I just know you can take so much to drink. My question is: Would it be better for me to go to a travel agent and have them plan a all inclusive trip (pay all taxes gratuities, fees, etc.) and do they charge a fee or book the flight and cruise myself thru on line assistance. Not really crazy about going thru a third party, but if the cost is significantly lower, I will. Would like to take a cruise (fly to where the ship sails) Florida? I hope I have not missed any details you need. Thank you for your discussion - it has already given me tons of information I did not know - considering I hardly know anything about planning a vacation. Thank you for taking the time to read this. From: I'm going.

You don't need a travel agent to plan a cruise, but it couldn't hurt. They get their commissions from the cruise lines, and if you book your vacation through a travel agent, they won't charge you any fee for the airfare. The price will be about the same as if you did it yourself.  I'd rely on word-of-mouth to find a good travel agent -- ask friends & family. It would also be a good idea to do some of your own research first. Cruise Critic is a good site for information on the various cruise lines. Also, if you are going alone, single supplements can get pricey. A good agent can steer you to ships and lines that offer single cabins or cheaper supplements. And finally, cruises to the Bahamas are often lively, noisy affairs, and few singles will be on board. Think that one through.  

My son has just been diagnosed with severe food allergies to cashews and is also allergic to peanuts and other food. How responsive are airlines to food allergies? Is it worth making a phone call? And what about meal service say on a flight to Europe. We are flying business class and the listed special meals fit none of his food allergies.

You should definitely let your airline know in advance, preferably in writing. Most airlines have special services desks that handle these types of requests, and they are usually very responsive. After all, they don't want a passenger having an allergic reaction halfway across the Atlantic.

I love to walk on vacations and have had many wonderful moments. Thinking back, most have been in the UK, where the long-distance hiking paths go through some marvelous areas, whether seashore or moors or villaged places. One adventure that sticks out is one that I came across without a clue that it was there - it happened when I saw an unofficial sign on one path in Cornwall that simply said "healing well." I had no idea what that was about, so I followed the sign, going off the groomed path. Along the way were a few more hand-lettered signs. I eventually wound up in a wooded area with a slight clearing and a spring - and all of the trees and bushes in that area had thousands and thousands of ribbons and snippets of cloth tied to them. The sunshine was filtering through, a breeze was stirring them - it was unearthly. Apparently the spring was reputed to have healing properties - I later learned that in such places are called "clootie wells". Just the feeling that I was all alone there, but the place had obviously seen so many people before me, was unique and powerful.

How does TravelPony compare to other hotel search engines? They claim to offer better deals than the others, but in my few searches I haven't seen much difference.

Haven't used TravelPony. Chatters, do you have any thoughts on this?

I'm expecting my first child in August and my husband and I are trying to plan a babymoon for July or August. We'd like to do something that we aren't likely to do with kids, since all vacations for the foreseeable future will have to be kid-friendly, and our first idea was to fly into SFO, stay a couple of days, then rent a car and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to LA, leaving from there. Have any of you done this trip (or the reverse)? If so, is there anything we should particularly keep in mind? Or if you have any other ideas, I'd love to hear them. We like good food, beautiful scenery, light hiking, and mountains more than beaches. We've got about a week to work with and we'd like to keep the cost under $2000 total if possible. Thanks for any suggestions!

Not sure about flying when you're nearly nine months pregnant. Some airlines and lots of doctors say no to flying about 30 days before due date. And sitting in the car for that length of time doesn't sound all that fun. I'd probably stick closer to home and head to a local mountain resort, such as the Homestead. Am I being too conservative chatters? 

Hello! At almost 72, I am thinking of a three week trip in late September. One week in each: Spain, Portugal and Morocco. I have travelled a good bit and am mainly curious about the Morocco section. Am considering using Intrepid Travel for that week; any opinions? Thanks! 

Opinions, anyone?

I will be driving to 6 or 7 national parks between Las Vegas and Durango later this summer. I have been using my Android phone's GPS app (and unlimited data-thanks T-Mobile) between Atlanta and Ontario with good results. Should I expect the same coverage out west or would it be better to use a "real" GPS?

Chatters with experience in this?

I'll be traveling inside the US to an area just as miserably hot and humid as DC in August. My hosts are wonderful people who don't have air-conditioning. They sleep in the coolest part of their house and are rarely home between sun-up an sun-down. I'll be there a week with a more leisurely schedule and the only room I can sleep in is the hottest one. Is there some sort of portable air-conditioning device I can buy or rig to keep me cool and focused on how happy I am to spend time with these lovely folks? I can't carry a window unit and it might blow their fuses anyway. Thanks "warmly" for your advice!

I don't know if they work, but I've seen a couple YouTube DIYs on making your own air conditioner that look super easy and pretty cheap, as long as you have some tools. Has anyone tried to make one?  There are also lots of small portable ones being marketed, but I've not tried any of them. Chatters?

 

Good Afternoon, I'll be traveling to St. Louis for about 10 days for work. The Cardinals will be on a west coast trip the entire time. Any suggestions of things to do weeknights/weekend? Thanks for your help.

Lots to do in St. Louis. The Anheuser Busch brewery tour, a day in Forest Park, a visit to the City Museum and the Gateway Arch, or gambling at one of the riverboat casinos are just a few ideas.   

If you have a car, hop over the border into Illinois and take a drive on a portion of the Great River Road. Nice scenery. I was there eagle-watching a few years ago.

Hello! I don't know how to define my topic; I am looking for a camp, tour or package that emphasizes physical activity and that has a set program. I will be traveling alone and in my experience some kind of enforced group activity tends to attract fellow solo travelers, giving people opportunity to meet and make new friends. As an example, I went to a surfing "school" in Costa Rica a few years ago, and loved the experience. Now I am thinking something like a yoga camp, a multiple-night kayaking trip, guided overnight hike or bike tour, etc. Bonus if it is geared toward the budget-minded. Any advice on where to look? I have tried various Google searches and come up short. I have some free time in July but cannot find my passport :( so something domestic would probably be best. Thank you!

How about an outdoor volunteer vacation? Check out options with the Appalachian Mountain Club, REI or the Sierra Club.

Winter 1977 was unusually snowy for the DC area, so we packed up our cross-country skis and headed to nearby Sligo Creek Park -- what a luxury, compared to having to drive a few hours up to the mountains for natural snow! -- in order to ski through the park. On a whim, we'd brought along our camera, and couldn't believe our eyes when after a while we spotted a woman driving a sled being pulled by two dogs. On her (and our) return trip we encountered one another again, and this time we were ready, and snapped a few shots of the approaching dogsled, as proof of something we never thought we'd see in the DC area!!

I waited for YEARS for there to be a flight from DCA to ISP but it was short lived unfortunately. Do you think any other airline will pick up that route? Thanks!

Hard to say, but if you're willing to go to BWI, Southwest flies nonstop to Islip.

I have a question about check-ins that a traveler can make 24 hours beforehand. What good are they? To me, a check-in means that the passenger is there, and ready to board. What good does a check-in do if I can still forget to set the alarm, get stuck in traffic, go to the wrong airport, get the time wrong, etc., etc., etc? Thanks!

I think checking in via your home computer is valuable as you can then skip the lines at the airline ticket counter, especially if you don't have checked luggage, and go directly to the security line. This can save lots of time. And if you're flying Southwest, checking in 24 hours in advance is one way to get a better seat. 

My daughter lives in the UK and arrived on British Air at JFK late Friday night (6/6/14). Apparently, Terminal 5 at Heathrow had a luggage system failure and none of the 300 passengers on her 747 flight had luggage. She came down to Baltimore as planned to visit for 6 days with me and then returned on Thursday to New York.Eventually and through a colleague going to JFK on her behalf she was able to get her luggage on Thursday. What can she expect to receive from British Airways to compensate for the shopping she had to do in order to have anything to wear while in the U.S. Can she get a refund on her ticket as well. I understand that the BA flight into Boston from Heathrow also arrived without any luggage. Thank you for your help with this. So far she has been referred to customer service which is understandably overwhelmed at this point.

It depends. If the luggage isn't found, she would be entitled to compensation under international conventions and EU laws. However, it the luggage is simply misplaced, most airlines will offer an allowance for passengers to buy clothing and toiletries. The British Airways site has some helpful information about lost property, but doesn't really specify the allowance. That's something you would have to negotiate with the airline, preferably in advance of spending. Don't forget to keep all your receipts; you may need them later, when you're asking to be reimbursed.

My sister and I and our husbands, all mid-60's are flying to Milan mid-July for a 10 day vacation. A family member has a residence where we will say in Milan and we have booked a half-day tour including "The Last Supper". Regretably, none of us speak Italian (but are working on it). We have 5 nights to plan outside Milan and want to go to Cinque Terre and maybe the lake region as well. We cannot do a lot of hiking the hills at Cinque Terre but do want to enjoy the Italian countryside (without car). Suggestions for where we should go ? My sister was considering a car but I think that would be a mistake.

If you're reluctant to rent a car, perhaps booking a tour would be the way to go. Viator, for example, has several multi-day tours from Milan that might fit the bill. Or you could take the train to Cinque Terre. Not sure you'd have the time to do that and the Lake District. 

My 13 year old son and I are going on a mother-son trip to Niagara Falls for three days and then spending a couple of days in Toronto. I know about all of the fun things to do in and see around the Falls, but what about things to do in Toronto aside from the CN Tower?

A few ideas from the Toronto tourism site.

Can we talk travel insurance... I'm about to go on an oversea trip. I purchase my flights with an American Express card which offers some kind of protection. Do I need additional travel insurance? Do you usually purchase travel insurance before your trips?

Yes, you may need additional insurance, depending on the kind of coverage you require. My friends at US News & World Report just published an extensive travel insurance story that you'll find helpful. I'd also be happy to send you the chapter on travel insurance from my latest book. Here's my email address. 

About 25 years ago, my husband and I were vacationing in Britain's Lake District. We had a book of day hikes, and decided to take one up to the Mortal Man, a pub above Ambleside - about 3 miles each way, acc'd to the book. We thought we were following directions, but got totally lost (maybe because the map was in metric) and ended up in a farmyard. Got lost on the way back, too, but made it down safely. About 5 years later, back in the Lake District, we decided to try the same hike again; we made it to the pub, finally, but got lost on the way back and had to ask directions from another hiker. He looked at the map from our hiking book and told us that the map was wrong - it would have led us significantly off-course. One of these days, I want to go back and try it for the third time, to see if we can get it right.

In the first week of November, we are attending a wedding 1 hr north of San Francisco in Winters, Ca . We would like to rent a car and drive to Oregon. What do you recommend seeing in Oregon and do you think it's a mistake given that it could be very cold that time of year? MANY THANKS.

Even in November, I'm sure you could still entertain yourselves plenty in Portland. We also had a cool story about Bend the other year. There's also the Willamette Valley wine region.

I'm traveling to Copenhagen, then taking a train to Stockholm, then flying back to the U.S. I plan to do a lot of shopping and would like to get VAT refunds where possible. But all the information I can find talks about having to process them at the airport. I can't find anything about getting this done at Central Station in Copenhagen before we take the train to Stockholm. Can you share any wisdom on this topic? Denmark is expensive enough; I'd like to save where I can.

Have a look at the VAT refund piece Andrea wrote for our Way to Go travel guide last month.

On a visit from Chicago to Philly to see the new Barnes Foundation museum I wasn't expecting Jay Z's "Made in America" concert to have taken over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. After a visit to the Barnes and Philadelphia Art Museum, I need to get back to the 30th St. Amtrak. With all the street closures, it looked like the best way was the new river walk. Asking directions - and if there were stairs up to the street level near the station (yes) I met a couple who had recently moved from Chicago. Instead of an inconvenience, the walk became a very pleasant end to beautiful visit.

I recently purchased my tickets for Christmas travel (I'm a FF on a legacy airline). On our last trip, there was a bit of a hiccup and we received 2 $50 travel vouchers. When I put in the relevant information, the cost was higher than I thought it should be. When I put in the relevant information WITHOUT the vouchers (and I could only use one of them), the cost was $100 less. I know the chat has covered this in the past, but I'm just adding my 2 cents that TRAVEL VOUCHERS ARE WORTHLESS!

Thank you. Stay tuned for a story about the worthlessness of travel vouchers, coming soon!

I keep trying to call Air Canada on their 1-888 number and the 1-514 alternate listed on their website to request a special meal. However, I always get a busy signal. Have tried on multiple days. Any advice or other contact numbers you know of?

I list a few alternate contact numbers and email addresses on my consumer advocacy site. If those don't work for you, please let me know, and I'll go digging for more.

Well of course I know that but who wants to travel to BWI?? Might as well continue driving (or taking the train, etc.).

Hey, was just putting the option out there. 

I think that's one of the most beautiful drives in the world! Especially since you won't be up for much activity that close to your due date, if you like the outdoors, it sounds like an absolutely splendid way to enjoy the coast. Would suggest: Day 1 - SFO to Santa Cruz. Day 2 - Santa Cruz to San Luis Obsibo (with plenty of time in Bug Sur!) Day 3 - SLO to LAX.

Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington!! Great waterpark and playgrounds, and it's very affordable.

May I suggest Jordan? The best roman ruins I have seen were in Jerash and Um Qais is nice to visit and Petra is spectacular-of 50+ countries this is the best man made feature I have seen. The desert air is kind towards these ancient structures. For the traveler with allergies-I suggest brining your own food. I have some issues and the special meal is not always loaded and I do not want to go hungry on a long flight.

That will do it for the hour. Thanks for being here. Today's prize goes to the chatter who discovered the clootie well in Cornwall. Please send your name and mailing address to me at becky.krystal@washpost.com.

Come back next week! Until then, happy travels.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column, clearing the way through the fog of consumer travel issues. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
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