Talk about Travel

Jun 03, 2013

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

Welcome to the first chat in June.

Yay summer, and boo-hiss D.C heat.

For today's chat, let's talk cute or so-ugly-they-are-adorable critters, based on Sunday's feature on looking for lemurs in Madagascar. Tell us about your most interesting encounter with a non-homo sapien being during your travels. Best answer --we are partial to penguins and pandas, no pressure -- wins a prize.

We are planning a trip to the Outer Banks and would like to stop over for a night on the way. Can you recommend an interesting place to visit, and a good hotel and restaurant?

If you're driving from the metro Washington area, you may want to rethink that. With normal traffic, which granted does not happen often, it shouldn't take more than five hours. But if you just want to do some more exploring, I'd probably go a little out of the way and backtrack across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel to the Virginia Eastern Shore. Cape Charles is a nice small town -- Cape Charles House is a lovely bed-and-breakfast inn there.  

Hello. We will be driving to QC to enjoy a late Friday lunch through an early Saturday dinner, staying at Hotel Acadia on Rue St. Ursule. What is an efficient way to see the city walking around our hotel? Do you have recommended restaurants close by? Thank you!

You're going to have a lovely -- if brief! -- visit. What a great city. When my husband and I were there, we got everywhere we wanted to go by foot. We only cheated once when I was really tired one evening and we took the incline/funicular to dinner. So do take the upper/lower town split into account when you're planning your days.

If you're looking for a very traditional Quebecois experience, Aux Anciens Canadiens Restaurant is just down the street from your hotel (their daily early bird prix fixe menu available until 5:45 is a great deal). We had excellent crepes at Casse-Crepe Breton, also not far from your hotel. And you'll drool over the array of sweets at Paillard.

I'm ready to go back now!

I love Washington. Planning a trip there sometime this fall. Looking at hotels, do you have advice on what areas may be cheaper? I've been told that Northern VA is more affordable than hotels in the city...

So much depends on what is happening in the city at that time. Rates soar during, say, holidays, spring break and special events.

My parents typically stay at the Key Bridge Marriott, just over the bridge from Georgetown. You can also check hotels in Crystal City, but make sure you are near a Metro stop. Driving into the city can be a bear. You might also want to consider some less traditional lodgings, such as the Adam's Inn in Adam's Morgan.

Honestly, I would search for a three- or four-star property on Hotwire and let price dictate my choose.

How would you recommend traveling from the mid-Rhine region to Switzerland, by train, bus, car? We are interested in scenery, especially the Black Forest. Any other highlights along the way? Can you get a car in Koblenz and drop it in Basel, for example?

It depends on how quickly you want to get there, or whether you want to meander and stop in places along the way. You could certainly make this trip by train -- Europe has a fantastic rail system and you can get almost anywhere by train. For this trip, you'd probably have to switch in Mannheim, I believe. But this is a beautiful route, with gorgeous scenery and some great towns on the route, so I personally would drive and make stops in maybe Heidelberg (beautiful old university town), Baden-Baden (spa resort with grand old casinos), Strasbourg (it puts you in France for a bit), possibly Freiburg (another lovely university town). Yes, you can rent a car in one city/country and drop off in another. It will cost you more, but for the experience, I think it'd be worth it.  (Just be prepared -- Europeans drive fast! ) The alternative would be to pick up in Koblenz and maybe drop off in Freiburg, which would cost less because it's all in one country, then take the train the last leg.

Pandas and penguins are pretty cute - but I fell in love with a 6 week old leopard at Selinda camp in Botswana last September. He had such a tough guy expression - as long as he was safely tucked behind his mom. Tracked mother and son for more than an hour - priceless

Okay, in the hierarchy of cute animals, a baby leopard trumps a penguin or panda.

I am interested in the Barbados package mentioned in the "What's the Deal" column on Sunday, but it sounds too good to be true! Do you check these deals to be sure that we are not required to go to a time-share presentation or something similar?

We definitely check and recheck and drill the outfitter about each and every deal. There is no time-share presentation required to get this deal. The reality is they just need some warm bodies to fill their empty rooms.

Hello! We want to meet friends at a lakehouse/mountain cabin somewhere between Chicago and DC for a weekend in August. Can you think of any spots that would be easy to fly to from both cities?

I sent someone looking for camping/hiking to Vermont, and I stand by that idea for this Chicago/DC combination. Burlington (right on the gorgeous Lake Champlain) is a 2-hour flight from Chicago, just 90 minutes from DCA. Looking at Bing for 8/10 flights, it's much cheaper from here ($200 vs. $460 from Chicago), but looks like fares are dropping for the latter.

I'll be visiting from the US from Europe in a few weeks. My cell phone won't work in the United States. Is it possible to buy a cheap phone with prepaid card? (In the reverse situation a visitor to Europe would be able to buy a phone for 15-200 Euros including 5-10 Euros of credit.) If not, is there any other way to get cell phone access economically and temporarily?

Sure, there are a number of prepaid phone plans out there. Options include TracFone, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile.

OK, so I don't have a chip-and-pin card and I won't be getting one before my trip to Spain & France in July. I also don't like carrying around a ton of cash all the time. I was planning to get about $500 in Euros to take with me and then use my debit card in ATMs for more and either Visa or AMEX to pay hotel bills and make other purchases. What's the best way to minimize foreign exchange fees, both here (getting Euros to take with me) and overseas (getting Euros out of ATMs and using credit cards)?

First I'll plug my recent chip-and-pin primer in case you haven't seen it. Since it sounds like you're an AmEx cardholder, I'd recommend doing your initial currency exchange at an AmEx office. That's what I did before heading to London. They waive fees for cardholers so you just pay for the money. Once you're in Europe, it will be hard to totally avoid fees, because you'll either be paying extra to withdraw money at the ATM or the foreign transaction fee with your credit card (unless yours doesn't have one).

But whatever you do, always say no if a vendor asks whether you want to pay in dollars. Pay in Euros!

We see lots of people posting about having difficulty using credit cards in Europe. We are taking a 3-week cruise around South America later this year. Any advice about magnetic strip vs. chip-and-pin for that area of the world?

It may depend on where you're going. The Smart Card Alliance claims that "Mexico and Brazil [are] already well on their way to full migration" of the chip-and-pin system. But I'm not really sure my advice would be any different from what we've been telling Europe-bound travelers, which I included in my chip-and-pin article the other week: Have a little extra cash and be ready to gently insist that vendors use the strip on your card. And inquire with your current cards as to whether a chip card is available. If you plan to be doing a lot of foreign travel, getting a new card might be worth it. Here's a list of chip cards, curated by NerdWallet. That page also has worldwide rates for how many terminals have chip, a.k.a. EMV, technology.

Anyone else have advice?

The Galapagos are rife with animal encounters, including the only penguins that live north of the equator; but I think the most enjoyable was snorkeling with sea lions. The young ones will play with snorkelers, swimming past, doing flips, and blowing bubbles. One had a game with me where it swam under me, blowing bubbles, and waited for me to dive down and blow bubbles out of my snorkel.

Oh I love the sea lions, too.  Sorry, penguins.

While visiting Manual Antonio National Park I watched a Capuchin monkey check all of the zipper compartments in a backpack someone had placed on a picnic table. Our guide warned us not to approach the monkeys, so I wasn't able to stop the little guy from stealing and eating somebody's granola bars, but I did get some great photos.

Silly monkey!

Being furloughed for 11 days to be taken by Sept 30. Any suggestions on where to go - not too croweded or too expensive.

Can you be more specific, such as domestic or international? Mountains or ocean, city or country?

How about Canada? Vancouver and Victoria Island, or Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. 

 

will be renting a car in the Baltics (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia). If I buy a SIM chip for my phone, will GPS service be available through my phone? I presume it would be based on carrier. Or does it make more sense to rent a GPS with the car? Are maps passe?

SIM cards are only for communication, such as calling or sending a text.  For access to your map apps, you need WiFi service, which could be patchy depending on the destination and expensive depending on your plan. 

To be safe, I would rent a GPS unit from the car agency, and get maps, which are only passe if they are based on 19th-century routes.

Thank you Zofia for the lovely article and picture gallery from last week's Jane Austen's England. A small group of friends from here in Mid Michigan are visiting Bath (day tour by bus from London), ahead of an August Cruise round the British Isles and Ireland. They were delighted to read the article and loved the pictures. One quick question: Was Bath really busy? Is it a walkable city? Would it be a hassle getting around for someone with some mobility issues? Many thanks.

Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed the article -- I enjoyed writing it. And of course researching it even more! :-)

At the time we were there, in late April, Bath was somewhat busy but hardly overrun. I can imagine that there'll be many more tourists at the time you're going, as it's high season then, but I think the city -- and you --  can handle it. It's a place that's meant for walking -- you'll want to stroll around looking at the beautiful buildings on Queen Square and the Circus and the Royal Crescent, then down to the pedestrian area around Bath Abbey and the Pump Room and the Roman Baths. That said, it is quite hilly, so keep that in mind. I don't know what kind of mobility issues you refer to, but my advice is to take it easy and take your time -- stroll, don't hike. Stop in at the Jane Austen Centre or the Pump Room and have some tea in between sights! It was my favorite thing to do!

At the end of weeks' worth of work in Zambia, two of the locals I was working with took me to a Wildlife Sanctuary just outside Lusaka. It wasn't quite a zoo because the animals had some free range beyind our zoos' cages and glass and wasn't quite a game preserve because there was fencing. We were walking and talking somewhat casually when we got to the enclosure with 2 lionesses who were (so it seemed) sleeping in tall grass about 50 yards away from us behind a fence of about 10 feet or so. We stood looking at them for a few minutes when suddenly, before we even knew what happened, one of the lionesses went from totally still to right in our face with a roar then started pacing back and forth behind the fence. She was on us before we even knew she was awake. We stayed a few minutes in silence, then walked away without saying anything until about 2 minutes later, one of my Zambian friends finally said "My heart is still pounding!". It really was an awesome display of pure power and now I can legitimately say I've been charged by a lion and lived to tell about it.

My heart is pounding, too.

Hi Gurus. I am interested in a visit to the Jackson, WY area in August. I envision spending 3 or 4 nights in a resort in Jackson itself. Any recommendations or advice? That is a little easier to figure out on my own, but any personal input would be appreciated. I need more help with the second part, and attempts at searching the web have not been too helpful (I can sort of find what I am looking for, but can't necessarily get good reviews). For 3 or 4 days I would like to stay in a cabin - within an hour or so of Jackson. I would prefer someplace remote (would be happy to cook and clean myself) - the type of place where we could walk out the door and go on hikes, go fishing, or sit on a porch and do nothing. Someplace like this - bigtroutranch.com. Any advice or suggestions or even places to research (have tried yelp, tripadvisor, etc.) would be much appreciated.

In Jackson, the Wyoming Inn of Jackson Hole is a good choice. As for a remote cabin within an hour of Jackson, you might try a rent-from-owner site such as Homeaway or VRBO. (Just make sure you do your homework, and never wire money). The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce also provides a list of cabin rentals. I can recommend Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, but it's not rustic or isolated. And Chico Hot Springs Resort in Pray, Mt., is worth the trip, but you won't be alone there. 

Headed to Rehoboth next week for a family vacation that includes grandparents, toddlers, teens, and menopausal moms. Besides the usual (Funland, fries, etc.) anything new worth seeing or doing? Some subset of us likes art, nature, offbeat shopping, pampering, and good eating.

Lots to see/do in Rehoboth. A lot of buzz about new Cuban restaurant Modern Mixture.  For finer dining, take a look at Jam Bistro.  The Clear Space Theatre Company puts on some interesting shows. Coastal Kayak is a very good outfitter that rents kayaks, etc., and offers guided eco-tours.  Have not experiences any spa services in Rehoboth. Chatters? 

I have an 11.5 hour layover in Las Vegas during the day in August. Do you have ideas on how to make the most of this time (or at least not lose my mind of boredom)? Is it easy/cheap to get in to town? Is the airport equipped with little sleep pods a la Singapore? I have a long flight afterwards, so my only caveat is that I'd rather not reek of smoke for the rest of my flights. Thanks so much for any advice!

The airport has gambling, of course, but you don't want to play slots for 11 hours, do you? (Please say you don't.)

It's easy to catch a shuttle to the Strip ($13 round trip). Once there, you can fill your hours with a solid meal (splurge or buffet), a show (check out half-price shows at Tix4Tonight), a rollercoaster ride (New York New York) and some exercise (the Strip is about 4.2 miles). If you want some rest and a pool, you can book a hotel for pretty cheap; the Luxor, where I stayed a few weekends ago,has rates from $39.

We are flying into Vancouver a day before an Alaskan cruise. We are looking for a moderate priced hotel that is close to where the ship docks and give us a half day of sightseeing before going to the ship.

I haven't stayed there, but Blue Horizon looks worth checking out: Oyster.com rated it a good value, and sure enough it's right downtown, a 15-minute walk from the port, and rooms start at $115.

I have a conference in a couple weeks near O'Hare Airport. Since I'll be driving back I need only a one-way ticket. The only airline w/halfway reasonable one-way fares is Southwest, which flies into Midway. I've taken the CTA from Midway to O'Hare numerous times, but now I'm on crutches so this is going to be challenging. I think there used to be a shuttle between the two but this seems to have ended. A taxi, of course, would be prohibitive. Does anyone have any suggestions? I should not be surprised by this as I volunteered at the BWI Information Desk for many years before this program was IMO foolishly ended. Each shift we had travelers looking for the BWI-Dulles Shuttle and, of course, there isn't any. Many ended up renting a car and driving to Dulles which, even with the drop fee, was much cheaper than a cab. However, driving around Chicago is not my cup of tea. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Hmm. Are you sure you don't want to fly to O'Hare? Seems like since you're on crutches, it might be worth the extra fare $. But now that I'm mentioning fare, what day are you looking at? I picked Friday, 6/21, just to check and see one-way fare of $204 from IAD to ORD (with one stop).

But if you want to make the transfer, there are some options: shared-ride taxi is $35 (if there are enough people who want to do this), and the shuttle is still operating for $45. (I checked their Web site and called the number and got a message to call a DIFFERENT number for the shuttle, which I called to verify that it's still operating: It's 888-284-3826.) But looks to me like the cheapest thing is $23 for the bus operated by Tri State/United.

I am interested in going to China and travel to various regions and learn to cook traditional dishes for each region. Any suggestions on sites that could set this up or contacts for cooking classes in China. (I have been there 6 times in the past 25 years so I'm not interesed in you "standard" tourist type package tour.)

I love the idea! What an ambitious trip to plan. I've heard good things about this Hutong cooking school, but for help setting up various regions, I'd have to recommend a travel agent. Travel and Leisure's short list of recommended agents that specialize in China includes Mei Zhang at Wild China in Bethesda. You might drop her a line to see if she can help. (She does specialize in luxury travel, btw.)

We just returned from the "Enchanting Danube" cruise on the River Beatrice of the Uniworld line. For anyone considering such a cruise, do consider Uniworld. It was a first rate experience. Beautiful ship, gracious and helpful staff, great food...and pricey. But worth every penny. Don't expect big shows like on the large ocean ships. It's also not at all suited for kids. It's a small ship, 160 people, so it feels pretty clubby and friendly. It's great if you enjoy meeting new people over a leisurely dinner or while on a tour, as people are outgoing. You can be as active or as relaxed as you like. There is ZERO pressure to do any included or optional activity. You get a "taste" of each city, snd in larger places like Vienna it can be overwhelming to decide how to,spend a free half-day I know folks on this chat have asked before about River cruises, so I hope this rcommendation is helpful.

Thanks for the report. People have been asking about these lately, so it's good to have your testimonial.

I went on an Avalon Waterways cruise and had a very similar experience. Viking also has a very good reputation. River cruising has exploded in popularity for all the reasons you mention. 

Hi all, I'm going to be in Newport RI for a wedding this June. I have two days to explore. Any suggestions of what to do? I've been (but it's been a long time). Thanks!

Surely you know about the Cliff Walk? If not, it's worth checking out: beautiful water views on one side and Gilded Age mansions on the other. Actually, Newport can be all about those mansions and that water if you want. (And why wouldn't you?) Ocean Drive is a great place to bike for more great water views.

And you can certainly tour some of those mansions, such as The Breakers (to see what the Vanderbilts defined as a summer "cottage").

For more Gilded Age glory, you might try the National Museum of American Illustration inside Vernon Court, an 1898 mansion modeled after an 18th-century French chateau. Inside is the world's largest collection of illustration art (art made for books, mags, ads), including works by Rockwell, Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, and the likes.

I am a senior...have just gotten a non contract smart phone with Virgin Mobile. Will I be able to use this in Europe. I plan to be in Prague and Vienna in the Fall....will I able to access Apps about these cities. I do not plan to use my android as a phone

It's a bit hard for me to answer this without knowing what kind of phone you have. Generally, U.S. phones are not compatible with the European system. If yours is, you'll probably need to get a SIM card to be able to use the data networks over there. For a little more insight, check out Andrea's phone piece from the other year and mine on using the Internet abroad

I have been advised that the least expensive way to get from YUL to my hotel (LaCitadelle) is via bus but my flight does not get in until after midnight and I doubt the buses will be running then. Do you know of any other way to handle this trip? Is there any way I can find out ahead of time what the expense of a cab would be so I can make sure I have Canadian funds for the trip? Thanks for any assistance you can offer.

The 747 Express Airport Bus to downtown Montreal  runs every day, 24 hours a day, so you actually should have no problem. It should cost around $8 one way, and takes you to Montreal's Central Bus Station. From there, you may have to cab it to your hotel.  If you'd prefer to take a cab the whole way, there's a fixed fee of $40 from the airport to downtown Montreal. You'll also need to factor in a 10 to 20 percent tip, so $50 should do it.

Hi! Was wondering if you had any recommendations for a nice, interesting meal in either Brussels or Antwerp. Am thinking along the lines of something new and innovative to try, cost not an issue. Thanks!

Chatters, can you help?

This is the 1st time I have ever booked a hotel throught a 3rd party. I always use the hotels website but Boston hotels were outrageous in August. Does this automatically mean I will get the worse room in the hotel?

Definitely not. Hotels do not punish people for booking through a third-party site. I have received some great rooms, and even upgrades. In addition, if you are unhappy with your accommodations, you have every right--same as those who booked directly through the hotel -- to ask for a different room.

I think my favorite encounter may have been on my most recent trip to Thailand. The Siam Insect Zoo near Chiang Mai has a large collection of insects and includes a large butterfly enclosure. Might have been the best 200 baht (about $7) I have spent in Thailand. So many butterflies it was like shooting fish in a barrel (with my camera). I could have stayed there all day but my guide was getting a little antsy to move on.

Wow, that sounds beautiful.

Have a cup of coffee/tea/soda in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac

That could work. We went in, though, just to take a look and I found it a bit too crowded for my taste!

Is it worth it to get a pre-paid credit card for an overseas trip? We have saved up all the money we need for our upcoming trip, but I hate the idea of carrying our bank-linked ATM cards and risking access to all our accounts. If we get a pre-paid card, can we transfer money to it gradually online?

I guess it may be worth it if you are concerned. Here, for example, is info on a VISA-branded prepaid debit card from AAA. Sounds like you can reload it as needed. Do keep in mind that your bank and credit cards should offer you plenty of protection in the event of some kind of fraud. I wasn't too worried in Europe, but maybe that's just me. Folks, agree or disagree?

If Metro is doing work on the yellow or blue lines, though, it's a huge hassle to get into and out of the city from VA. They don't publish work schedules very far in advance, as far as I know, so you'd be taking a big risk.

So true! I honestly would suggest paying a little more to be in DC so that you can walk or take short cab rides.

They feel like footballs! I got to hold one years ago on a visit to a cousin who is a zookeeper.

They do? I hope you weren't tempted to throw one!

I saw them paint at the Indianapolis Aoo. But we weren't allowed the hold the winged Picassos.

Has anyone used this service to rent a home in London? We are planning to go in December and were curious about anyone's personal experience.

Anyone?

When do sales to Europe for fall flights historically occur? Are we too late already? I ask because I have been tracking flights to Italy for September and October for months now and I can't seem to catch a break. Even worse, the flights all just jumped up at least $100 to the ridiculous price of $1350. I was hoping for a sale to make the price more reasonable. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks!

Sales are few and far between. And even when they occur, limitations often make them unusable to those without lots of flexibility. Sorry to repeat myself here, but it's supply and demand. According to a recent MIT study, number of seats out of large hubs is down more than seven percent (small airports fared even worse). But demand is still strong, so the seats are selling at higher prices. There are ways to save money, but they are often inconvenient. Some smaller airlines, such as Aer Lingus and Icelandair, sometimes have good fares, but connections can be lengthy. Flying into London is often cheaper than other cities because there is more competition, but then you have to get from Heathrow to Stansted or some other airport in the region that is served by discount carriers. Also, look into flights out of the Philadelphia and New York airports. 

Crazy, I know, but it's for a wedding in Spartanburg. Two questions--what's good to do down there, and since we're driving from DC, any good place to stop somewhat midway? We've found Henderson, NC, which is dead in the middle, about 240 miles from DC and 240 from Spartanburg, and on the Interstate. But it's not exactly a hopping town, it seems. Any suggestions in the area?

Loved Spartanburg. Check out my story from the other year for ideas of what to do there. If you go a little more than half-way, you can stop in Durham or Chapel Hill, where there's plenty to see.

I really enjoyed the articles this week about Africa! It was my favorite travel section in a long time. The articles about Ouagadogo and Cape Town were especially enjoyable, very evocatively written!

Thanks so much! Glad we found your soft spot!

St John is crawling with mongoose (mongeese?), invasives originally brought to solve the rat problem on the island. My sister, who loved the book Rikki Tikki Tavi as a kid, wanted to pet one but they are mean little things! One got between us and our water bottle, and if we wouldn't have felt so guilty about littering in a national park, we might have just let him keep it.

Good to know about the anti-social critters!

Take maps. Mom got lost and lost GPS on trip. Out major dollars. Comp has benefits and needs no battery. Earth powered! What's not to like? Use film cameras. If it is obsolete it works.

Such wisdom. Thanks!

When I was a kid we took an open Jeep into an animal park in Spain. Against express instructions, my parents left the top off explaining that we would see the animals better that way. As soon as we got close to the monkeys, a whole barrel of them swooped down on the car, stole all of the food and my Dad's binoculars, which I swear they used to watch us the rest of time. Of course we stayed in the park, top down, and saw all of the other animals. Why waste the entry fee?

Monkeys: Point 1

Parents:  Zero

Getting a new credit card just to get a chip-and-pin card is kind of stupid. Your credit score will take a hit for the inquiry and then you'll end up having to either do a balance transfer or close a long-term account if you don't want to have a bunch of open credit cards (like a lot of people, I use just one card, which I've had for ages) - why would anyone do that?

That's generally my feeling too, thanks. That's why it's a good idea to check with your current card companies to see what might be available. More are offering chip cards these days.

on tour in a nature reserve...not supposed to get out of the vehicle but our guide said "hey, let's walk over here" -- so we did. Was lovely to track a rhino. Until the wind shifted. And then mom shifted to reveal a baby next to her. We were about 25 feet away and started praying heavily about that wind....luckily it shifted and we only had to wait about 30 min for mom and baby to amble off.....

If only you had your rhino cologne on.

I went to Madagascar in September and the first lemurs we encountered were just outside the gate of Ankarafantsika National Park in the northwest. We noticed a couple of policemen staring and pointing up into the trees and our guide stopped our truck. We were so excited to catch our first glimpse! And apparently, despite patrolling the towns surrounding the park and living in Madagascar their whole lives, this was the first time these two policemen had seen lemurs in person as well. They were amazed and giddy with excitement. It was both exciting, sad and profound to realize the policemen were also having their first experience with one of their national treasures, and that many other locals had never seen them either. Goes to show you that sometimes the coolest things are just in our backyard.

 I am now going to learn to appreciate the squirrels of D.C.--which aren't nearly as cute as lemurs.

Don't do it. It's not a short distance even without traffic. With traffic or using public transport with crutches and luggage, it will be downright miserable. If you're really unlucky it may be hot and humid, too. That would definitely have you wishing you just flew direct into ORD.

Yep, I'm with you.

Visitors from Europe with a tri-band phone should be able to roam on T-Mobile (but not AT&T) while visiting the U.S. They will need to ask their European carrier if they have a roaming agreement with T-Mobile USA. Or they can unlock their phone and buy a SIM card from T-Mobile or Simple Mobile.

Thanks for the additional details.

About 30 minutes from Jackson is Moose WY, where you can rent cabins at Dornans. The cabin sites are actually within the Teton park limits, and when I was there a couple years ago there were 2 moose who kept wandering through. Dornans also has a restaurant and an extremely well stocked wine shop (seriously! great wines in hard to find vintages) not far from the cabins.

What a great mix of everything: moose, wine, Teton, moose.

I have Virgin Mobile. I can' t use my phone to talk or text in foreign countries, but I can use the internet and apps if Wi-Fi is available.

Right. If you have access to WiFi, you can use the Internet on pretty much any smartphone.

For the traveller coming to Montreal, the 747 airport bus now costs $9, but that ticket serves as an unlimited transit pass for the day. From the Central Bus station, s/he could take the metro to the McGill station, which is the closest to that hotel.

Thanks!

Hi - I'm thinking about a trip to Marco Island, Florida next April with the family. Will the Gulf of Mexico be warm enough for kids to swim? Also, how walkable is the community? Are shops/restaurants close together? I'm hoping this is a kid friendly area but am fearing it is a retirement haven. Thanks in advance!

The weather in Florida should be lovely in April -- air temps in the 80s, water in the Gulf in the upper 70s. We'll have to ask the chatters about the rest of your concerns, though, since I haven't been to Marco Island specifically. Chatters, what's it like down there?

Need to take a train from Venice to Milan on Sunday, Sept. 15. Didn't know if I should buy a train ticket now or buy in Venice a few days before the 15th. The Venice Biennale will be going on and I'm not sure if train will be crowded with Milanese and others who spent weekend in Venice and are returning home since it's a Sunday. Thanks. And I always learn something from the travel chats. Nancy in Springfield

I always think that getting as much reserved in advance frees you up for more adventures on the ground. So if you can get your tickets, especially during that busy weekend, do it!

We are recent retirees and spending 2 nights at a B&B in Cape May in early June. Our first trip there. I hear the lighthouse is interesting. What other activities should we try to fit in?

If you like shopping, you're in luck, as the town is filled with quaint boutiques and antique stores. Outdoor enthusiasts can find lots to do --  kayaking trips and regular nature walks and birding outings.  We also enjoyed doing the guided trolley tour of the town's historic district. Any chatters have other favorite things to do in Cape May? 

My husband, two kids, and I are scheduled to leave for Istanbul in two and a half weeks. None of us have ever been there, and it's the kids' first trip abroad (ages 9 and 11). However, with the protest/police actions taking place there now, we're no longer looking forward to the trip out of safety concerns. It's a trip to visit family that lives there (also probably going to Antalya for a couple days), and we will not be traveling around the city unaccompanied - one of them will always be with us. Nonetheless, we're uneasy. My husband wants to call Turkish Air and get as much as a refund/credit as we can and wait until another time to go, saying he fears this could become another Egypt. I'm having a hard time arguing against that idea, since the govt there has limited news reports (also very concerning). We plan to skype with my relatives next weekend and hope to have a better understanding/comfort level then, but everything about the situation there is making me nervous. If you were in my shoes, what would you do? Go ahead, or postpone? Thank you for any insight/suggestions you may have.

This is such a personal decision, but none of us wishes to enter into a dangerous situation.

  On May 31, the State Department issued this warning: U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Turkey should be alert to the potential for violence, avoid those areas where disturbances have occurred, and avoid demonstrations and large gatherings. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if in the vicinity of any demonstrations.

The agency has not encouraged American to avoid travel to Turkey, but it is carefully watching events unfold.

I would check with your family in Turkey, who have the best information to offer.  What are they advising?

But really what matters is your comfort level. You want to enjoy this trip, from beginning to end. It is not worth the risk or the stress -- that is not why we travel.

I'll be in St Petersburg for 2 days in late August as part of a Baltic cruise. What are the "must sees" in St Petersburg? Thanks.

The Hermitage Museum, of course. The Catherine Palace, a.k.a. Tsarskoye Selo, with the famous Amber Room, lined, yes, entirely in amber. The Cathedral or Sts. Peter and Paul, where the murdered Nicholas !! and his family are now entombed, and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood with its fabulous mosaics. And really, that's just scratching the surface. Take a look at this story on St. Petersburg that we ran last year.

Hi Travel Gurus: I always enjoy reading your chat, but this is my first question submitted. We are looking for a two-night getaway on the back end of 4th of July weekend (Sunday and Monday nights away). We'd like to go within 2.5 hours driving distance of DC to a beach where we can actually get in the water (as opposed to someplace like St. Michaels where there's water but you don't actually get in it). And if you have a recommendation of a bed and breakfast at the destination, that would be even better!

If you put the pedal to the metal and you leave in the middle of the night, you might be able to get from DC to a beach with waves in 2.5 hours, but not likely that weekend. Up the driving time to three hours, and you can get to any number of beaches from Rehoboth to Ocean City. If you like being part of the action, Inn on the Ocean is right on the oceanfront boardwalk in Ocean City.  If you like contemporary with beautiful sunsets, take a look at the Edge in Ocean City. Quieter and also oceanfront is the Addy Sea in Bethany Beach. Rehoboth has many B&Bs, but I've not stayed at any. Chatters? 

I'm going to be furloughed for multiple four day weekends between July and September, and I'd like to take advantage of the time to do some traveling - with the caveat, of course, that with unpaid days, I'm not interested in breaking the bank. What are some of the best cities for solo travel in the Eastern/Midwest part of the U.S. (suited to long weekends) that might end up having some good deals available at that time of year? I'm up for all different sorts of adventures.

Consider St. Louis. Lots of short, nonstop flights are offered from our area's airports. Good restaurants, a fantastic city park with zoo, great architecture, fun Budweiser tour, lots of museums, etc.  

Debating on when to go to Paris this fall or winter, does anyone feel strongly about going in November over January, or vice versa? FWIW I've been before (in the summer) and the plan for this trip is mostly wandering the streets eating and drinking things and sitting in cafes.

Paris is worth it any time of the year. I suppose I have a slight preference between these two choices for November, because the weather might be a little more pleasant, but the difference is nothing that wardrobe adjustments can't handle. Think about it like this: If you get there and find it too chilly for wandering the streets, that's just an excuse to shop for a new scarf or hat. Or for spending more time sitting in those cafes and restaurants.

We are going to Disney with a large group (extended family and friends). The Disney part is all planned. Our youngest son is a HUGE Transformer fan and I know that Universal has them at its park. How much of a hassle would it be to get from Disney to Universal for a day? Would it be easiest to rent a car to drive there and back?

If you are staying at a Disney property, the hotel might offer a shuttle. If not, rent a car, especially if you are transporting a whole troupe of people.

We're heading to Asheville for a week during the 4th of July and was wondering if you can recommend some things to do in that area? We've been many times before, so we've done a lot of the touristy things (walked Downtown Asheville, been to the Biltmore, and been to a lot of art galleries). We're looking for something new to do. We don't mind driving anywhere within an hour of Asheville and I'm considering a side trip to Boone or Hickory. Any recommendations would be helpful, especially if it's dog friendly.

We drove down to Chimney Rock and hiked the mountain (it's where "The Last of the Mohicans" with Daniel Day-Lewis was filmed). It's just 25 miles south of Asheville and makes for a great day trip. Your dog would probably love it!

I haven't been, but they say that Hickory has great barbecue, if you're into that.

Chatters, other ideas?

When an airline has an oversold condition and offers X dollars credit for future flights, do the volunteers automatically get a seat on the next available flight? Or are they essentially flying standby for the remainder of their travel to their destination?

Getting a seat on the next flight is not automatic. Read the U.S. DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement Fly-Rights  for more details.  

Use traveler checks.

Not sure I'd jump back on that bandwagon. It's getting harder to use those these days.

if we all keep asking the credit card companies about it - will they eventually get the message?

I think they're getting it. It is a massive system to overhaul. We should see the pace really pick up over the next couple of years as credit card companies start issuing more chip-and-pin cards and begin holding merchants more liable for fraud if they're not using chip technology terminals.

FWIW, you won't be alone anywhere in August. Seriously, that is the busiest time of the year there.

if you are an amex card holder, same rules apply in europe. get money from an amex office - they are all over the place.

Good to know, thanks.

Hi, do you have any recommended reading on staying healthy while traveling a fair amount for business? (2x/month, 3-7 days at a time) I have done some searching and the advice seems to just be: eat well, get exercise, sleep. Ok, great, but what if you do that and otherwise feel fine, but the travel still seems to wear on your body? Thanks for any suggestions.

Most experts suggest that travelers stick to their routines at home, including similar diets, excercise and sleep regiments. If that is still not working, perhaps your body is not adjusting to the time change. If that is the case, you might need to realign your circadian rhythms, such as light therapy or melatonin.  You might want to consult with a professional or read a book that addresses jet lag, such as "The Cure for Jet Leg."


While in French Polynesia we went on a whale-watching tour with a marine biologist. We spotted a humpback calf and mother, and the calf was so curious that it kept swimming right up to the boat and staring at us! Then at one point it rolled on its side and slapped the water with its side flipper....I swear it was trying to splash us or something! But it gets better. The biologist got into the water with a net to try to collect skin samples that might have sloughed off, and he let the tour get in the water in groups of two or three, and we got within feet of the mother and calf!

That tops the cute critter scale, for sure.

visiting the beach just south of Cape Town, you have to share it with the penguins and they have right of way! More than a few times I had to stop and allow the penguin to pass me on the stairs. Biggest surprise, though, was walking along a path, hearing/seeing a bush rattle and....well...two penguins eventually come out.....

Make way for penguins!

My case is just the opposite. I've tried and tried to see a moose in the wild, to no avail. I've visited Glacier National Park in Montana, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota/Western Ontario, the Algonquians and Laurentides in Canada, as well as New Brunswick and Maine -- but NOT ONCE have I seen a moose. For me they're as elusive (and un-real) as Sasquatch!

If it weren't for the chatter who said he saw moose in Moose in Wyoming, I would agree with you. Unless that person is just feeding the myth!

Love this chat! I have a trip coming up to Europe and on my return I will have a 6-hour layover in London. Is that enough time to leave the airport and do a little sightseeing? If yes, any recommendations?

Depends how dangerously you want to live. You might be able to squeeze in one attraction if you're efficient about it and take the Heathrow Express. But I don't think I'd risk it.

Hi travel gurus! My group of four friends would like to plan a week-long vacation for early August; however, we may not be able to nail down the logistics (location and lodging) until early or mid July. Can you recommend locations within a six-hour drive of DC in which there's a good chance that lodging would still be available, even at the last minute? We're interested more in cabins/camping/AirBnB than resorts, and mountains/city versus the beach. I know this is a broad question but you guys have provided such great help in the past that I thought it was worth a shot!

Maybe think about West Virginia. I have to think there's a ton of inventory out there. Areas to consider are Canaan Valley, around Snowshoe and New River Gorge.

We're planning a trip to Hawaii. I've been looking at flights with short layovers on the west coast. Someone mentioned they look for flights with the longest layover and get a room so they can get some rest between flights. What do you think of this idea? Maybe a flight out to the west coast that leaves here around 5 to 7 pm. Spend the night at the layover in a hotel, then a flight the next morning to Hawaii.

I think that might be even more discombobulating. Let's say you land on the West Coast at 9 p.m., which would be midnight our time, and then the connecting flight leaves at 7 a.m. (10 a.m. east coast time), which is typical. You'd really only sleep a few hours. I'd just power through it or stay for a couple of days on the West Coast. 

Many years ago on a trip to Italy, I rented a villa in a hilltop village during a particularly hot summer season. The villa had no A/C and required me to have the windows open to cool down the interior, but unfortunately, it also let in the bugs! To my rescue was a small, orange-colored gecko who patrolled the area above my door every night and did his fair share to reduce the army of bugs that would bother me during my sleep. To my little orange buddie, I say "grazie!"

And he burps a "you are welcome" in return.

I was waiting for my wife in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York (legit, I swear). I was meeting her in NY--I had gotten there a day before--and she was coming in by bus from a convention in the Catskills. As I was waiting in a forlorn corner on an upper floor, across the tiled floor comes a New York pigeon, missing one of his webbed feet. He hobbled on one foot and one stump, leaning over as he walked. I was torn between adopting him and nursing him back to health, and moving far away because God knows what diseases he had. He was a tough old bird in the highest sense.

Oh that is tragic, poor guy.

I am driving to Maine from DC this summer, and I know an EZ Pass would make my trip a lot faster with the tolls, but I don't have one, and don't need one in general life. Is there any reason why I shouldn't get one beforehand, and then cancel it after my trip? I don't want to pay the monthly $1.50 and keep it.

Sounds like a plan to me. I don't see anything in the rules that says you can't do it.

Chicago taxis charge a surcharge if you are going outside the city limits. The conference-goer is headed to a conference near O'Hare (which is right at the Chicago city limits). If their hotel is outside Chicago, they can save money by calling a company like 303 Taxi, which offers flat rates from Midway. Should be about $50 plus tip.

Thanks for the thought!

We were in Japan one December and took the train to Nikko, and then a bus up the mountain to snowy Kegon Falls. Coming back down a scary windy switchback road (the bus driver was very experienced, but he went fast!) we were fortunately distracted by wild monkeys hanging out in the trees. Since I'd always thought of monkeys as tropical creatures, it was quite a surprise.

In September, we'll be flying from Dulles to Athens with a 4-1/2 hour layover in Geneva. Will we have time for some sightseeing? If so, do you have any recommendations?

Honestly, I would stay put. That's pretty tight.

I have always been a huge fan of penguins, so I was thrilled to meet some in person in South Australia. It was during the season that the penguins nest, and sometimes they do so in residential areas - and the residents are strictly prohibited from disturbing the penguins, wherever they may decide to nest. We were walking through a neighborhood and started talking to a woman who asked "Do you want to see something?" and took us over to her garage. We all got down on hands and knees, and there under a car was a nesting penguin. The woman told us that her daughter was the one who had forgotten to close the garage door over a weekend, and thus it was she who was carless until hatching.

That is my dream scenario!

Best wildlife sighting was sea birds in Newfoundland a few years ago, The bad part about visiting in early summer: the black flies. The great part: seabirds are nesting! On a kayak trip near St. John's, we were surrounded by hundreds of colorful puffins zooming overhead. At Cape St. Mary's, we saw tens of thousands of terns nesting on rocky outcrops. They were packed together like subway riders at rush hour. It was spectacular, and we forgot about the black flies for a while.

That sounds truly amazing. If only puffins ate black flies!

I was in Northern India in October taking a tour of a temple. I commented on the large number of monkeys running around. They weren't being aggressive, but the guide told me "Do not make eye contact with the monkeys. They monkeys are very naughty." Not a life or death moment, but the thought of "naughty monkeys" still makes me chuckle.

They are related to cheeky monkeys.

My friend and I are looking to take a trip this coming fall for about a week, but having a tough time narrowing down a location; we are interested in either international or west coast. Any suggestions for a reasonably priced trip?

That's pretty broad and since I don't know what you want to do, a bit tricky. West Coast has obviously a ton of options -- San Francisco/Napa, San Diego, Portland, Seattle... Even more options internationally. The Icelandair package deals can be a bargain, but a lot of other European destinations should be more affordable then too.

I love snorkeling--the most relaxing thing in the world--and have had some wonderful experiences. But the unexpected one came at a bay on the west side of Oahu: My two friends plus a guy from Honolulu had the bay to ourselves, just swimming around, and three pods of dolphins came over to swim with us. It was lovely to watch them circle, dive, and play, and they seemed to want to be close to us, without bumping us. They even stayed with us when a couple of dolphin-watching boats came by. A beautiful afternoon!

At least two years ago, the Montreal bus made about 7 or 8 stops downtown along the main route near some of the big hotels. I had no longer than a two block walk from one of these stops and didn't have to go near the main depot/take a cab to my hotel.

Thanks, good to know!

As an anniversary present a couple years back my husband adopted me a baby sloth at the Aviarios Del Caribe Sloth Sanctuary. The next year we made a point to go visit her on our trip to Costa Rica. We spent the day in the jungle touring their facilities, learning all kinds of sloth facts, and interacting with the animals. At the end of the tour we had the special opportunity to handle, play with, and even feed them. Hibiscus flowers are to sloths what chocolate is to humans; they go crazy for it! The sloths were as gentle to hold as you'd expect and surprisingly soft and fluffy. Their big eyes and permanent smiles make them irresistibly cute, and it's hard not to love the closest thing to a living teddy bear whose default behavior is hugging you all day!

You make my sloth eyes water with that tale!

In Glacier National park, we were hiking a very skinny path along the side of the mountain. I was in front and my husband behind me. All the sudden he says "look up" so of course I looked up towards the top of the mountain. Again he said "no,look up". Eventually, I got the message to look straight ahead and there is a GIANT goat walking right towards me. I quickly scaled the near-vertical side of the mountain to my right to let him past me, as it was quite clear that the goat was going to get the right of way. My husband also climbed up off the path. And happily we both proceeded to document the goats passing so close by us with our cameras and video phones.

Last summer, while in Ireland, I was on a walk on a lovely small road in western Ireland. All of a sudden, I turned a bend and a herd of cows were coming toward me (slowly). I was excited and a little scared because there were a lot of them and they were taking the whole road (and there were calves with protective moms). Anyway, the young boys herding/walking them told me to stand up on the hill to the side of the road and I would be fine. Sure enough, they all walked past me (awfully close, though). The calves were so cute and the moms were huge, it was just such an awesome sight to see.

You are always allowed to 'prepay' on a regular credit card.

or hendersonville? Hendersonville is an awesome little town with a bunch of stuff to do and some nice b and bs. if it's henderson, I have no idea.

For that chatter, you might consider going to Lewes, DE. You can get there a little shorter than going to the other beaches. Savannah Inn is a Great B&B there. And you are close enough to Rehobeth Beach from there.

St. Louis is literally an oven in the summer... I'd say Milwaukee, at least you get get hammered at one of the microbreweries or go to the lake. Or the domes. Or shuttle down to Chicago. Or take the ferry across Lake Michigan to Ludington.

Read your review and was curious if the construction was finished when you were there.

It was, though the hotel plans to build a new event/banquet center, so more construction could be on the way.

Get one from NJ - there's no monthly fee. I rarely use mine, but its been great for when I need it!

I was there last January, they had record snows, and it was even more beautiful than Paris is normally. I'd vote for January over November for the soldes alone, but really, just for the chance of snow, I'd recommend it. We got spectacular pictures, threw snowballs into the Seine, walked and drank chocolat chaud - it was a dream!

My fiance and I have traveled all over to all sorts of places, and Milwaukee was by far our favorite unexpected vacation. Rent a car and you have Green Bay, the breweries, the zoo, great places to run, and great food. We did it all for super cheap and were surprised at how much fun we had.

Thanks so much for coming on this ride with us. It was an inspiring journey, covering so many destinations.

For today's winner: the couple who adopted the sloth. You saw an off-the-charts adorable creature, but also contributed to its care and hibiscus flower habit. Please email me your contact info at andrea.sachs@washpost.com.

See everyone next Monday!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Recent Chats
  • Next: