Talk about Travel

Jul 01, 2013

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
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Greetings, all, and welcome to your travel chat! Zofia is on vacation this week, and Andrea is on assignment, but Becky, Chris, Carol and I are here to help. So fire away!

But first, let me pose a question to you: In honor of Mike Ives' piece on hunting for wildflowers in China, where have you gone where you have experienced stunning natural beauty? Tell us where, when and why flora (or fauna) jumped out to grab your eye. Our favorite story will get a little prize.

 

If anyone can help me with this perplexing request- it is you all. My good friend is moving to London and we want to plan a last hurrah mini vaca for the two of us (has to be just a 3 day weekend as im starting a new job soon). Here is the kicker- needs to be cheap <500 per person total if possible, and in Ohio. My friend hails from Bulgaria and has always wanted to go to what she considers the most "American" state. My mother hails from Dayton so I have been there many times. I was thinking Columbus as I have heard great things, but is there anywhere you can recommend that is on the Lake? We would love to relax by the beach ("beach"?) and eat good food. Not sure of the beach situation in Cleveland. She will be coming from Princeton and me from DC. Thanks!! (Non-Ohio suggestions also welcome if they would be easy to get to from both places and not too expensive)!

Columbus would be cool. Great food town. Believe it or not, there are beaches in Cleveland. East of Cleveland is Headlands Beach State Park, with a mile-long beach. West of Cleveland, you can explore the shore around Sandusky and even some of the islands in the lake.

So, it's not the most cultural of vacations, but my family (me+wife+7 year old) and my wife's sister's family and my mother-in-law are headed to Atlantis for a week over Christmas. Other than the resort water activities, is there anything you or other readers woud recommend for must-do? Or, anything we should avoid?

You found Atlantis?! Well, I'll be! I think the must-do is obvious: to photograph everything you see, and take videos, and write extensive notes so that you can tell the scientists and the news crews in detail what you saw. And be careful -- it could disappear again while you're there!

Oh, wait -- I'm being told that you are speaking of a resort in the Bahamas?

Never mind. Chatters, any help?

*RIP, Emily Litella

My husband, 6 month old daughter and I are headed to Block Island for the July 4th long weekend. We are staying at the Spring House Hotel. Any suggestions on must-do activities or places to eat/hang out? Thanks so much!

Thanks for coming back. Andrea is hard at work on this week's cover story, but here are her recommendations:

Head to the “Baby Beach,” aka State Beach, the closest beach to town. There are concessions and bathrooms.

Ice Cream Place – best ice cream on the island. 

Bike or drive to Sachem Pond, and walk to the North Light lighthouse.

See and feed the animals (camels, llamas, sheep, goats and emus) at the Manisses Animal Farm; also buy fresh veggies from the farm.

Ride around in water taxi in New Harbor. Sit down at a picnic table and enjoy a drink and snack at the Oar.

Visit the farmer’s market on Saturdays in Negus Park

Buy beeswax candles and honey at Littlefield Bee Farm

Walk in circles around the Labyrinth, a peaceful maze with great views of North Light. 

Grab a seat at the National and watch the ferries come in and out, and be thankful that you are not yet on it.

can you recommend a reputable company from which to buy travel insurance (such as travel cancellation), especially one for travel to Cuba? Thanks.

Go through your tour operator. Many of the traditional companies don't offer travel insurance to Cuba. And you will need medical insurance to travel there.

While on a United flight last week, my boyfriend left his iPad in the seat back pocket. He realized his mistake within hours and followed all the steps required by the airline (basically, filling out a form). Now, apparently, he has to wait for them to get around to searching their warehouse in Houston (or whatever centralized location to which they transport all found items) and if they find it, they notify him. If not, he'll never hear anything. Is there any way to at least get a status report?

If your boyfriend had his name and contact information on the iPad, then United will return the iPad eventually. (I have a Navigator column on lost and found items next Sunday that will fill in a few of the details.) If you're having trouble contacting the airline, try these United Airlines executive emails.

We want to break up the drive from Pittstown, MA, to FallingWater (PA). Is there a town along the way that you think would be a nice place to spend an evening? For extra credit, where would you stay near Falling Water? Thanks.

Pittstown, MA? I know the one in NJ and the one in NY, and I know Pittsfield, MA, but I don't know Pittstown, MA. Can you give me more details -- where is it?

For some reason, searching the web I can't find any Atlantic City day-trip bus rides (the kind that cost about $30 with most of that back in coin) departing from the I-95 or BW Pkwy corridors in northern Prince Georges County (Greenbelt, College Park, Laurel). Do those still run?

Well, the Greyhound Lucky Streak bus operates daily between Washington or downtown Baltimore and Atlantic City. I haven't been able to dig anything else up. Other suggestions?

Hi I am coming to DC with my family. Any suggestions for must see besides what's on the national mall. Is the pentagon memorial open to the public? Thanks

The Pentagon Memorial is open to the public. There is obviously a ton to see here, but other possibilities are the National Zoo, Library of Congress, Eastern Market and the National Archives. Walking around Old Town Alexandria is nice too.

My husband and I have about 5 days to explore Nova Scotia after a birding expedition on Grand Mannan Island late July. I'm guessing that we probably need advance reservations. Are there one or two towns you could suggest that we could use as a base to tour sections of NS without spending all of our time in the car? Any must see sights?

If you are interested in birding in Nova Scotia, go to Cape Breton Island. But if you want to do more of the tourism thing there, Halifax is the center of things. Maybe split time between the two. And yes, it is advisable to make advance reservations in July. 

IF WE HAVE ONLY 5 DAYS TO SPEND SHOULD WE TAKE THE TIME TO GO UP TO CAPE BRETON OR SPEND 5 DAYS EXPLORING THE SOUTHERN COASTAL TOWNS. WE PREFER TIME SPENT OUT WALKING INSTEAD OF FULL DAYS IN TH CAR.

WHY ARE WE YELLING?

And ... if you're short on time, walk the coast, indeed! Gorgeous countryside.

Looking for some day trips for a family with middle/elementary boys. Anything unusual within a day drive or a single overnight?

Ooh, I bet they'd like the fairly new Field Station: Dinosaurs in Seacaucus, New Jersey.

We are picking up two of our children in Burlington, VT mid August and are looking for a place within a few hours of there to spend a few days (with all four of our children). The kids love to swim--lakes or a resort with pools would be great, and we all like to hike, bike, etc. Any suggestions?

Vermont ski resorts are a good value in the off season. Take a look at Smugglers' Notch Resort.  It's less than an hour from Burlington.

I am interested in taking a solo vacation in the fall. Both Sanibel and Saint Augustine seem like good destinations to me. Any suggestions or ideas of how to make the choice? I would love to go to Savannah but the airfare is ridiculous! I am looking for a quiet time with good food and something interesting to do during the day. The beach is a great thing but not necessary. Thank you~

If you like history, you'll want to do St. Augustine. It is one of the oldest cities in North America. But if you're into nature, Sanibel would be my choice. It has some of the best beaches, shelling and fishing in Florida.

Submitting early due to a meeting. 4 now-40-something college friends (mixed genders, if it matters) want to get the "old gang" back together next summer (2014). Current locations of the 4 of us are New Mexico, Las Vegas, Seattle, and DC...We are looking for a good destination to make this happen. We are more outdoorsy (beach, mountain, hiking, national parks, etc) types than big city types, although don't mind metropolitan areas. DC person (me) figures I'm going to have to fly no matter what, so being further west is no problem for me. As for the others, the Las Vegas friend is a teacher so has summers off/has the most time available. The Seattle friend probably has the most constraints (both time & money considerations). Any suggestions of the ideal location to hold this reunion, or at least a good place we should look into? Thanks!

I'd help out your Seattle friend and head that way, if not to Washington state then maybe Oregon? How bout Portland, with side/day trips?

playing Scrabble with my two pre-teen kids on a stone table in Lumpini Park in central Bangkok...see movement out of the corner of my eye...out of nowhere, a humongous (at least 3 ft long) lizard comes galumphing along and slides happily into the lake. Glad he/she wasn't interested in snacking on us! Not the "urban wildlife" we would see here in the US...

I don't think even the carnivorous varieties of lizards like to eat anything bigger than a bug! But fun scene.

My wife and I have a wonderful travel opportunity coming in mid-September. Through some good fortune, budget is not the limiting factor. We'll have 4 days, maybe 5 if we can work it. We normally are adventurous, but this time looking more for private cozy luxury beachfront, no sprawling resorts or casinos. Mid-Sept has hurricane risk, and however small, we've decided not to chance it. That eliminates a bunch of Caribbean options, so we've been checking out Costa Rica, Belize, Aruba. But with many of these options just getting there from DC takes some serious effort-- connecting flights, local transfers, long ground trips, even by boat. We hate to lose the better part of two days for travel. Thoughts?

Are you set on heading out of the country? If not, you could definitely get the most out of your time by traveling domestically. Laid-back options include Amelia Island, Hilton Head, Sanibel and some of the beaches around Charleston.

This is a totally random question, but I love the Puerto Rican specialty mofongo and was wondering whether you knew of any places in the airport that sell it. I have an hour long layover in SJU next week and would love to find some mofongo! The last time I was at SJU I went to every restaurant but couldn't find any (I also had hours and hours on my hands, so it was a good way to waste some time). If you have any leads I would appreciate them! Thank you!

I'm not sure how long it's been since you were there, but I would venture to say that given your experience you might know more about what restaurants are serving in SJU than anybody else -- certainly more so than any of us! But you never know what our chatters might know -- so I'm throwing it out there to them.

Do you know if this travel insurance company is as bad as the comments on Yelp indicate? AAA works with them and i would think they would try to choose a higher quality company. Thanks.

Allianz is one of the largest travel insurance companies, so that's one reason why you will see so many complaints about the company. Most travel insurance grievances are the result of too-high expectations, and a claim being made when an event isn't covered. I'd be happy to email you the travel insurance chapter from my upcoming book, How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). Just send me an email. Here's my address.

We want to tour Ireland, after seeing Dublin, we want a week seeing the countryside. We no longer have the nerve to drive; is there a way to get out into the country and along the seaside without tying up with a group?

Sure, you can travel by train or bus.

Missed last week's chat, but for the chatter going to Burgundy / Loire Valley - according to the US customs website, you can bring a small amount of wine back in your luggage (something like a liter per person), but definitely not large quantities. This may be helpful if you happen upon a particularly rare bottle or small producer that does not have a distributor in the States. Keep in mind that the restrictions are also subject to those of the state in which you clear customs. When my husband and I moved back to the US from 3 years in Europe, we brought a couple of rare/sentimental bottles with no issue. Just make sure to declare it on your customs card and pack it well!

Thanks!

On August 22 we are flying from Dulles for a 21 day trip to Russia. We are planning to drive to Dulles and leave our car for the entire time. What is the best parking option?

I would just do the long-term parking at Dulles. Frequent shuttles, $10 a day.

The only thing I see that's much cheaper is a hotel; on bestparking.com, the Hilton and SpringHill Suites both come up as offering price of $147 for 3 weeks in July. Not sure how often their shuttles run, and how much more time to leave, but could be worth checking out.

My BIL is having his destination wedding in Cancun in April. As I will be flying with three kids under the age of 5, I need a non-stop flight. So far, prices are around $650. Can I expect this to change? We can't afford that!

United is the only game in town for nonstop flights, so I'm guessing that price will not go down by much -- no competition means high prices.  Plus April 20 is Easter, which means that kids have breaks around that time -- more demand means high prices. I'd just hang tight and keep tracking it. Or just send a nice gift and stay home!

Can't the boyfriend use Find My iThing?

Good point. Wonder if it's possible to track the device.

I've been to so many places of natural beauty. If you look closely enough you can find it most anywhere. My most recent big trip was to Taiwan which has some really amazing landscapes including this place called Yehliu Geopark that has cool sandstone formations along the NE coast of the island. And there's Taroko Gorge with it's many waterfalls and moutainscapes. I think it's a very under-rated tourist destination and I am happy to be headed back over there later this year.

Thanks for the response. The tour company price includes medical insurance in Cuba but the company through which it offers trip cancellation, etc., doesn't cover illness/death of family members who aren't traveling, which is my main concern and reason for looking for other companies.

Cuba travel is not covered by all travel insurance companies. Take a look at Travel Insured. But read the fine print to make sure your situation would be covered. I have often told the story about how my mother took out travel insurance because my aunt was very ill, but it did would not cover her when she needed to get home because my aunt was her sister-in-law rather than sister.

Back in the early 80s I went out to Lake Tahoe the first weekend in May to do some late-season skiing. I flew into Reno and drove to Tahoe, arriving at my motel very late at night, probably close to 3:30 a.m. East Coast time. The motel was on the western shore of the lake, but when I arrived it was pitch-black, and in any case I was way too tired to even think about scenery. The next morning, when I left my room and went out to the car to head for the ski area, I was stopped in my tracks by the absolutely stunning view of Lake Tahoe directly in front of me. Not a couple of miles away -- maybe 100 feet to the edge of the cliff surrounding the lake. Needless to say, my departure for the ski area got delayed for a few minutes.

Depending on what route you take there's Corning, New York (the glass capital of the US), the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania (ywa, really!) near Wellsboro, the Little League HQ in Williamsport, PA.

For other options besides the good ones offered by Becky you might consider the Lincoln Cottage (the Lincoln's spent a lot of time there during the Presidency and he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation there), neighborhood walking tours (follow the signs for a free, self guided tour of all kinds of history including the African American musical history (Duke Ellington) of U Street), and Roosevelt Island (for a nature walk and learning a little more about Teddy).

We're visiting our daughter who is doing an internship in Seattle. We'd like to stay in a hotel room that has a sleeper couch in case she wants to join us one night. Suggestions of a nice place? Also, we're getting in after 8PM - thoughts on a good place to grab a late dinner? Lastly, must do's while we're there? Thanks a lot!

I stayed at the Inn at the Market last year and really liked it. You can book a suite there, which will have a sleeper sofa. You can't go wrong with any of the Tom Douglas restaurants, but I can recommend the pizza at Serious Pie. Things to see: Pike Place Market, Chihuly Garden and Glass, take a cruise, do the Theo Chocolate factory tour, go up the Space Needle or Columbia Center (much cheaper and higher than the Space Needle).

When we took a cruise in the caribbean we went to st thomas. my friends REALLY wanted to go to st john because they heard it was fabulous. So we took a little boat over to there. My friends and I took a little walk/hike up a path -- and it was just stunning. Beautiful. Like we were in the middle of nowhere, just looking out over the water, looking out to the mountain (most of the island is federal land, I believe). I'm not sure I can explain it - but it was just a lovely view.

My wife and I were staying at a hotel in Puerto Rico, toward the east end of the island. On one of our first days we were lounging by the pool when, without warning, a large iguana dove maybe 25 feet from a tree branch into the pool, scaring the bejasus out of a number of ladies poolside. It turned out that iguana repeated the trick several times a day: it would climb the tree, stretch out on that branch for a while, then suddenly dive into the pool. Once we knew what was going on, it was kind of fun to watch the reactions of people who weren't paying attention. One of the iguanas, possibly the same one, came up to my lounge chair and stared at me for the longest time, then climbed up onto my lap for a couple of minutes. Totally strange experience! It wasn't aggressive at all, probably just curious. For the record, iguanas have sharp claws (though it didn't do any damage). Again, the reactions were priceless. I sat completely still -- what else was I going to do? -- but everyone around me was freaking out.

That's a mischievous iguana! Love the spirit.

For me, some of the most breathtaking views and natural beauty I've experienced was while hiking the Kalalau Trail in Kauai. I was only able to do the first two miles, but it was an experience that I will never forget. Took so many photos, I think I filled up my camera's memory card!

No real water to speak of, but Columbus is a great little vacation spot. North Market, Jeni's Ice Cream, Columbus Zoo, Clippers baseball (our AA baseball stadium is right downtown). Way too much delicious food, Yelp can guide you there. Have fun!

Help! I am trying to get to Cleveland, Ohio, for a long weekend w family. I thought I'd hop a plane, or even a train, to avoid the drive. Airfare is unbelievable, and Amtrak says they will arrive at 3:30 a.m. regardless of when you board or where. Am I to go by Greyhound?

Have you checked out fares from BWI on Southwest? Probably the cheapest you'll find. That's what I've done for the past few years, although this year we've decided to bite the bullet and just drive.

I would like advice on the most informative day tour of the Panama Canal in July or august. I cannot find one that is during the week or one that I'd informative about the expansion of the canal. Thank you

Hmm. No direct experience here, so I have shot a note to the Panama tourism bureau to see if they can help. They might not get back to us in time for this week's chat, but if I get an answer after we're done I'll post it next week.

But one of our chatters might have an idea in the meantime...

I don't know where you are in relation to Dulles, but we are 100 miles away. Our international flights generally leave in the evening, and/or return late in the day. As a result, we always do a 'park & fly' and/or a 'reverse park & fly' with a nearby hotel. That way we are well rested either before or immediately after a long journey. Often the total cost is about the same as if we had stayed at the long term lot. We do the same if we are flying out of National or BWI.

yes, i vote portland. it is awesome. i just moved here a year ago - there is plenty to do, and if you want 'non' city things to do --there is plenty (the columbia gorge, for one, hood city is a cute town on the river).

Presque Isle, Pennsylvania, just east of Ohio along the Lake Erie shore.

Good suggestion. We had a winter-focused story on Presque Isle not too long ago.

For a short time, I lived on a hill overlooking Mission Bay in San Diego. The view was just amazing, but my favorite part was watching the color of the water in the bay change throughout the day. The best was in the early morning, when it was just such a rich blue. Of course the sunsets were amazing as well. I felt very lucky to live there, even though it was for a short time.

There are a number of websites that aggregate hotel parking near airports and give discounted rates. I've used book2park.com for parking at a hotel near Dulles (with an airport shuttle) for $8 a day.

We will be in Ottawa for 24 hours beginning around noon on July 26. Our hotel is near the Canadian Parliament. We've never been to Ottawa before, and enjoy history, politics, art, culture. Shopping is very low on our list. What would you recommend we go see?

Check out the story we had on Ottawa a few years ago. That might help.

My husband and I have taken several Viking Cruises which we loved since we could unpack once and also because of the small (under 200 passenger) crowd we tavelled with. We would like to travel to Isanbul and Ephesus, Athens and the Greek Isles in 2014 (beginning of season, March, April, or May). Can you make some recommendations? Should we go to a travel agent this time even though we have booked previous trips through Viking? Thank you for your help.

A travel agent would be able to give you a list of all the companies that offer this itinerary. For example, Seabourn offers a cruise that hits your high points, but don't think it is available in spring.

Just yesterday I was on I-68, eastbound through Maryland. And the blue-green tree-covered hills and mountains, sometimes with no sign of civilization other than the highway I was on, were breathtaking. We live in a great area!

We're planning a trip to Venice next July, but want to spend a few days in Siena at the end of the trip. Should we rent a car to drive to Siena or take the train?

I love train travel, so if you're planning to stay in Siena I'd go that way. If you want to be driving around Tuscany, of course, you might as well drive from Venice, IMO, rather than train and then rent. (Although there are buses and taxis in Siena.)

This one isn't big and amazing, but small and poignant - traveling by train in France in June, wherever you are (or at least where we were), there are fields and fields of red poppies blooming - everywhere. I spent my train time with "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae running through my head.

Did the poppies make you sleep? And then were you awakened by snowfall? ;-)

when i graduated from college i was a counselor for a cross country teen tour - it was so fabulous. we went to the southwest (utah, arizona, colorado) and that was the most beautiful place - even with a bunch of teens. sure, they were more interested in california, but they appreciated it too. we had a great time - and just saw all these national parks that were so amazing and beautiful. and even though it was summer - it never seemed so crowded -- we felt we had the place to ourselves.

The straw market in Nassau has always been a lot of fun. Don't forget to bargain before you pay.

My family (2 daughters ages 7 & 10, my husband and myself) are driving to Bass Harbor Maine this August. We are not making the 12 hour trip in one day, and have been thinking of where to stop - a little further than midway - any thoughts? Also, any tips for the drive or what we shouldn't miss once we are in the Bass Harbor area? I'd be so grateful for any tips you have to help me stop dreading this very long drive there and back!

Boston would be an option for a stop more than halfway. The biggest draw around Bass Harbor, of course, is Acadia National Park. So explore that and Bar Harbor. Other recommendations for that area?

The most stunning sight I've ever seen on all my travels was lava flowing into the ocean on Hawaii's Big Island from Kilauea volcano. It literally took my breath away--and I do mean that literally...because the intense smell of sulfphor. We were so close we could hear the lava sizzling as it crept toward the ocean. The heat felt like a live creature. The white billows of steam as the lava hit the water went up for what seemed like miles. An incredible experience--a beautiful example of Mother Nature's power.

Wow! That reference to sizzling lava gave me goosebumps!

I travel often enough internationally, but I've never left the airport during a layover. I'm headed to Egypt again this fall and aside from being cheaper, flights with long layovers are in cities I've either been to and wouldn't mind spending a day in again OR cities I haven't been to and wouldn't mind getting a short taste of via layover. Aside from making sure I get back in time to clear security and make my connecting flight is there anything else I should know? Do I need to check with my airline or anything before leaving the airport?

Andrea wrote a great piece about the escape-the-airport-during-the-layover strategy a couple years back. Here's her most pertinent piece of advice:

To plan your layover getaway, work backward. Take your total time (preferably a minimum of four hours) and subtract at least 90 minutes for security. For a foreign country, factor in immigration. Add more time if you need to retrieve bags from a locker or promised your mother a bottle of duty-free gin. Calculate how much time you have left over. Take that figure over to the airport’s information desk and ask the expert behind the counter how long it takes to travel round-trip from the airport to the city (or wherever you wish to go). Now set your watch and flee.

A friend and I are planning to drive one way from DC to Los Angeles in August. We only have about a week to do it. This is the itinerary we have come up with so far: Day 1, DC to Indianapolis; Day 2, Indianapolis to St. Louis; Day 3, St. Louis to Kansas City; Day 3, Kansas City to Denver; Day 4, Denver to Arches National Park (Utah); Day 5, Arches to Zion National Park; Day 6, Zion to Las Vegas; Day 7, Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Does this sound doable/realistic to you? We're envisioning two days of heavy driving with minimal stopping (DC to Indy and Kansas City to Denver) while taking a slightly more leisurely pace the rest of the time. And we want to have ample time to see the national parks in Utah. What do you think? Anything you'd change/add? Any particular can't-miss spots along that route? Thanks!

I haven't done the cross-country trip in many moons, so will ask our chatters to help with this one. It seems as if you've given this careful thought, and I'm guessing there is some method here. For example, is there a reason you want to stop in Indianapolis, because I prefer taking the southern route via Louisville to St. Louis. 

One of the loveliest views is of the San Francisco Bay Area, from Berkeley's hills above the University of California campus, on a clear day.

Go to the Museum of Civilization for a potted history of Canada in one stop. Try the National Gallery. Walk along the Canal. The Museum of Nature. The Museum of Science and Technology. Walk around the Parliament Buildings.

We would like to visit Australia and New Zealand in Feb 2014 but don't want to do the 40-people-on-a-bus thing. After emailing a highly regarded McLean travel agency, which did not respond, and perusing the internet, I'm stuck. Lots of agents for family vacations and cruises, not many for ground based A&NZ. We'd like to spend at least 3 weeks because of the distance, and we'd like to see mostly NZ and eastern Australia. We do not have to see Ayres Rock or the west coast unless it's a great, good deal. We are experienced travelers, older but in excellent health, and do not particularly want to drive in A&NZ because of the wrong side of the road thing, which precludes wine or beer with lunch for us. We love luxury but don't want to pay for it, so call us 3 to 4 star travelers. Suggestions? BTW, your recommendation for Morocco with Journey Beyond Travel several years ago was superb. Wonderful, wonderful agency; spectacular service; great trip. Now can you do it again with A&NZ? Many thanks, and keep up the great work.

Chatters, anyone have a recommendation?

trying again this week, any advice on top summer activities or restaurants in lake placid ny area?

Activities: Olympic-related stuff, like the Winter Olympic Museum and the ski jump complex. Lots of nature (Mount Jo) and history (John Brown Farm). For restaurants, I  haven't been to these, but people say nice things about Brown Dog Cafe, Ashley's, Good Bite Kitchen and more.

Chatters, what say you?

We are taking the Amtrak's Vermonter this fall. We have rented a cabin on one the Lake Champlain Islands. We will need to rent a car upon arrival in Vermont. I have researched this on-line but was wondering if anyone had any experience doing this. Seems that we may be able to have a cab or the rental car company come fetch us but I would love to hear from someone who has made this work.

I guess that would depend where you're getting off, right? Or maybe I'm missing something. Has anyone done this? I'd just look up whatever car rental agencies are near your destination and call around to see who might be able to pick you up.

Right, I thought the same thing -- I'm assuming you're getting off at Essex Junction? But maybe not.

i vote for the peninnsula and islands near Sandusky. Lakeside or Marblehead are great, relaxing spots on the lake, and you can catch ferries to Kelley's Island (more laid back) or Put-in-Bay (gets rowdy at night). Also, you're very close to Cedar Point, one of the world's best amusement parks - what's more American than that?! I also highly recommend Cleveland if you want a mix of beach and city life. There's a new casino downtown and amazing restaurants (Lola, Hodge's, Greenhouse Tavern, Pura Vida), a world class orchestra and art museum - just a ton to do and see. And the beaches to the east are very nice!

We are planning a trip to Guatemala (husband and I and 24 year old son who speaks Spanish) and would love to get your input- We are debating between going Xmas week, Feb/March or later in April during Easter week. Any thoughts on best time to travel there and any thoughts on a 1 week itinerary. We definitely want to go to Antiqua! Thanks

Guidebooks are great for these kinds of questions. Here's the Frommer's advice on when to go and itineraries.

Is there any reason why you are opposed to planning it yourself? I didn't rent a car and had no problem. We flew into Sydney and the public transport was great. We also flew to Brisbane and Carnes and had no problem. We arranged tours in Carnes to the rainforest and it was really, really easy. Greyhound also works really well for traveling inland. It was much cheaper and easier to plan myself (just remember to fill out the visa form ahead of your trip)

but just moved here last year. i am constantly looking out when it's a clear day and i'm going over the bridges to see mt hood and mt st helen's. They never get old. In fact, they are covered in snow NOW. They are just so breathtaking and lovely. When it's a clear day (more than you think here!!!) - it's amazing. They are just breathtaking and lovely. And I have to remind myself I am driving on a bridge and try not to fall off! (so it's nicer when I go up to another mountain and look at them without driving :). They are just stunning.

Go to Whiteface Mountain and take the gondola u p& down the mountain. The High Peaks of the Adirondacks are lovely and not crazy cold & icy like it is when sking down it!

My husband and I will be going on our honeymoon to Aruba the first week in September. Any must-dos while we're there?

Enjoy each other, the weather, the beaches, the water! Relax and take it all in.

I want to plan a family vacation in Puerto Rico where we can rent an apartment for a week in some place centrally-located, very close to (or on) a good beach, convenient to a restaurant or two, driveable to other interesting spots (San Juan, El Yunque, Vieques). We are two adults and two teenagers who enjoy spending a lot of time together, and want a relaxing vacation for this year's winter break. Is there any such place in Puerto Rico? Is there another warm place we should be considering instead?

I vote for Vieques. It's so beautiful there, great beaches and more... Bioluminescence!

I will be taking a night train later this summer from Venice to Munich arriving around 6 am. I have heard that the train staff will take your passport in the evening and return it to you in the morning so that he/she doesn't have to wake you up at the border crossing. Is this true? I am uncomfortable with not having my passport in my possession. Thanks.

I've taken a night train in Europe several times, and they took my passport. They always returned it. You'll be fine.

My husband and I are going to the Phillippines for a conference in September. The conference is in Silang and we have planned 5 days afterwards to travel . Where should we go and what should we do?

Take a -- yes! -- five-day boat trip through the Palawan Islands.

Been debating for 40 minutes whether to send this in but more than 30 years ago, we traveled to Cartagena (then, it was not the big tourist destination it is now) and stayed at a beautiful hotel with large gardens and lots of birds and animals walking around (peacocks, monkeys, iguanas). But nothing stopped us dead-in-the-tracks like the sloth that veeerrrryyyyy slowly made his way down the sidewalk to the outdoor cafe for breakfast! To get an idea of how the term slothful gets its meaning, we managed to get back to our room at the end of the hotel and on the second floor, retrieve our camera & return to the location to photograph this strange-looking animal that only moved about a foot further than it had been. Amazing!

My grandparents live in rural northern Minnesota, and there is always some amazing flora and fauna up there. However, I will always remember the year we were up there and were driving home from a day of swimming at a nearby lake,--it was early evening, and in the field near their house was a huge male moose. It was so close to us, and we sat and watched it for a long time (in the car to make sure we stayed safe), and it was just awesome. It's the only time I've ever seen a moose up there (or anywhere in a natural habitat), and so it is especially memorable to me.

I forgot to mention the new fantastic War Museum.

Any suggestions/highlights for a few days in September to Quebec City?

One of my favorites. So yes! Walk around the old town (Place Royale), visit Les Musees de la Civilisation, eat crepes, tour the Citadelle, eat your way through the city market... If you have a car, definitely visit Montmorency Falls and the Ile d'Orleans. Looking for a place to stay? I highly recommend the Hotel Le Germain-Dominion.

We are off to Bermuda this weekend for 4 days. We are staying at a hotel near Hamilton. Any suggestions for best places to eat, things to see, best beach? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Many thanks

It's been a few years since I was in Bermuda, but Elbow Beach was my favorite. Warwick Long Bay also isn't all that far from Hamilton. I'd try Tom Moore's Tavern in Hamilton. As for what to see, I spent my days on beach, so will leave that to chatters.

My friend recently had a change of heart and booked a last minute destination wedding in Hawaii. We've already booked our flights and will be in Maui for 6 days and Kauai for 3 days. Can you guys help me find previous articles about the best things to do on each island? Thanks!!

We don't have an island-by-island breakdown, but here's our Hawaii archive with our older stories.

A bit out of the way (but not much)...Mystic Seaport is fun for kids that age.

the only time they took our passport was when we rented a sleeping cabin...otherwise, we went across the borders fine (like when the train split in the middle of the night from france to spain and we ended up in the north part of spain and not the south)

My husband and I are planning a trip to Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia. We are thinking about splitting up for one or two full days as he is much more active than I am. Any suggestions for an operator that would take me by myself for some exploring (hikes up to about six miles) are totally great.

None of us have hired an operator to do this sort of trip, but Walk Patagonia is a trekking company with good reviews -- not sure it would provide what you are after.

Olympic Sites Passport - for $32 you can see it all!

It will be hard to do much of anything given you have just 7 days. 3 days driving you can get you pSt Denver to grand junction, CO. Day 4 arches day, then drive to hankville at night Day 5 UT 12 and Bryce n evening, night in Kanab Day 6 North rm GC stay in Springdale Day 7 am early pm in Zion then 6 hr drive to LA.

When in Bermuda we always eat at the Hog Penny Pub in Hamilton. It's just a short walk up from Front Street. Atmosphere is great and be sure to get the Bermuda Fish Chowder. The server will ask if you want a shot of dark rum and pepper sauce in the chowder -- you do! It's great!

Friendly Planet offers a wide variety of moderately-priced group tours to Europe, Asia and South America. What do you know about them, good or bad?

Friendly Planet has a good rep and has been around since 1981.

Depending on where you're coming from, it might make more sense (both in terms of money and security) to leave the car at home and take a cab or shuttle.

Brilliant reference Joe! RIP indeed.

We've reached our destination, in just an hour! Thanks for the questions today, folks -- hope you found our answers (or those of our chatters) helpful or just plain entertaining, or maybe even both.

Now for our prize giveaway, to the chatter with our favorite story of seeing nature: It goes to the one who wrote about the diving iguana in Puerto Rico. Priceless! Send your mailing info to Becky at becky.krystal@washpost.com, and she'll get you a little something.

Until next time, happy travels!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
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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