Talk about Travel

Jul 22, 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.

A good Monday afternoon to you all! Thanks for being here. Hope you got to check out our stories from this past weekend on Western Maryland, hiking in New Hampshire's White Mountains and biking around Vermont's Lake Champlain. It was enough to put me in a cooler state of mind during our recent heat wave. Now I'm just dreaming of a nice trip to somewhere in New England, thanks to the NH and VT articles. And since everyone is clearly here for for my personal amusement, tell us about your favorite New England destinations. Inspire us! Best answer gets the prize.

Here we go.

We will be travelling down from Acadia to NYC on a Sunday in a few weeks and want to break our trip somewhere. Where do you recommend? Affordable B&Bs strongly preferred. Thanks!

How about Newburyport? Lovely town on the coast of Massachusetts, and about halfway between Acadia and NYC. Zofia is the expert on the town, but she's a little swamped at the moment, so I'll just send you to this piece she wrote about it a couple years back. And I'll do even better: I checked with the two places to stay she recommended, and found that both indeed have openings for Sunday, Aug. 11, if that's indeed the date you'll be there. The Clark Currier Inn, an eight-bedroom inn in a 19th-century "square house," has just one room left that night, so you might want to act fast if you decide you'd want it; it's $165. The Essex Street Inn, just steps from downtown and the waterfront, has several rooms available, starting at $140. You might call each and ask about their child-friendliness just to be sure.

Hi Travel gurus, Where would you go if you had enough miles to go just about anywhere in the world - but wanted to really watch spending (mostly on accommodation) once you were there? Very adventurous travelers (loved Vietnam, India, Thailand), love to indulge in local foods, but spending a lot on a house right now, so need to watch expenses. Not taking a vacation is not an option! :-( Thank you!

I would choose Indonesia--once you get there, you can eat, sleep and tool around very cheaply!

We'll be flying this week on vacation. My husband wants to bring a laptop, but he wants to check it in our luggage (which, of course, can't be locked). The laptop doesn't have any of our personal data or pictures on it--we use it strictly for email and Internet access when travelling. I think this is a terrible idea and that we'll never see the laptop again. If it does get stolen, do we have any recourse through the airline for reimbursement? Thoughts?

Not a good idea. If your luggage is lost or pilfered, your airline will not reimburse you for the laptop. Don't do it!

What are your recommendations for an eastern Med cruise? Cruise line? Locations/stops? We're thinking about a seven day cruise. Thanks.

So much of this depends on your cruising style and what you want to see. I suggest you browse all the information on CruiseCritic to help you determine your priorities and compare cruise lines.

Is there a local travel agent who books trips to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)?

According to the ASTA website's "find a travel agent" function, there are six agents based in DC who list Africa as an area of expertise. (I didn't search Maryland and Virginia.) Go here and do the search!

Hi, Has anyone done this? How easy would it be to get to sites once in Paris? Any help would be so appreciated!

This has come up before in the chat, and the feedback we've gotten from readers has almost universally been to go for it. From Paris's Gare du Nord train station, you should be able to use the Metro to get wherever you might like to go.

My wife and I, who live in D.C., and are both in good physical shape, plan to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on December 3, 2013 with a 3-day stay, (December 2-4) at either The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA or The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. We want to make our anniversary celebration something special just for the two of us. For this trip, we are not interested in golf, tennis, horseback riding, skiing or snowmobiling. We are interested in tranquility, beautiful scenery, hiking on our own, romantic ambiance, fine dining and relaxing spa facilities. Which of the two, Homestead or Greenbrier would you recommend for us? Or, alternatively is there another resort, spa or hotel that you would recommend for us within a one-half day driving distance from NW Washington, D.C.?

I have not been to the Greenbrier in a very long time, but just spent a weekend at the Homestead, and, while it is lovely, it is crawling with kids. Didn't seem all that romantic to me, but there may be far fewer families there in early December when school is in session.  I'd also take a look at Nemocolin.  Any other thoughts chatters?

Omigosh! Where to start? It's pretty hard to go wrong anywhere in Northern New England especially. I've been blown away by the multitude of treasures at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA., the charm of old downtown Charlestown, MA., the soul-enriching scenery of Acadia National Park and points north, the bygone charm of White Mountain tourist attractions, and the candy kisses at the Goldenrod in York Beach, Maine. And I can't forget the history and activity of Portsmouth NH, the fabulous folk art at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, and Boston truly is the Hub of the Universe. Sure wish I lived up there! Hope to do it again someday.

Wonderful.

Not terribly original but Walden Pond in the summer. Perfect spot for open water swims. Hike around to the back and jump in.

Gurus: What happened? My wife and I spent a wonderful 10 days in Argentina a few years back, and I began preliminary planning for another trip. As far as I can figure out, there are NO non-stop flights to BA from Dulles, nor NYC or even Miami. Houston - yes. I can't believe no airline can make a profit with a flight from a major US city to BA, but that appears to be the case. What's going on?

Well, yes, you're out of luck from Washington. But I'm seeing nonstops on United from Newark and American/LAN out of JFK. American and LAN also seem to have nonstops out of Miami. Days are hit-or-miss, though, so use a flexible search on something like Kayak to see a calendar of a month at once.

I was recently flying from NY to Dubai through Atlanta on Delta, but missed my connection because my first flight was delayed. Delta rebooked me on the same flight to Dubai that left exactly two days later. I didn't mind that so much since I know the next flight was full, but when I asked about hotel accommodations, meal vouchers, etc. they flat out refused to give me anything, saying that the delay was due to weather and it wasn't their fault! So I was stuck in Atlanta for 48 hours on my own dime. Is this standard practice now?! Last time my flight was delayed by a few hours in Europe, the (European) airline apologized profusely and gave me meal vouchers even though it was only a few hour delay. I thought Delta would do more (the customer service rep didn't even apologize, stressing he can't control weather) especially since I'm a loyal frequent flyer. (That might change now.) Do I have any recourse?

Unfortunately, you don't have any recourse that I can see. Delta's contract of carriage, the legal contract between you and the airline, says it isn't responsible for weather-related delays. The airline's only responsibility is to book you on the next available flight, which it did. I wish I had better news for you.

spring for a tablet (iPad, iPad mini, Kindle Fire, etc.). Much lighter in the carryon and perfectly good for just emailing and web browsing.

Good thought. Perhaps the chatter and her husband already own one of these!

Thanks for the quick response. I submitted early because I wasn't sure I was going to make it. Those look like great options.

You may want to look into Keswick Hall - stayed last summer and found it to be a beautiful place. Nice restaurant and beautiful rooms (stayed on the first floor with our own enclosed patio - not sure how important that would be in the winter). Looks like there is a spa too. We did the package with the Jefferson in Richmond, which was a nice deal to sample both locations.

The Greenbrier is a decidedly older crowd than The Homestead. My husband and I (late-30s) were junior by a good 20+ years to most of the crowd in the main dining room. The accommodations are lovely, the food is fine (main dining room quite swanky and golf club dining nice enough) and the spa facilities, while 1920's sanitorium-like, offered lovely services. The surroundings are beautiful for hiking and walking but there is very little to do in the area otherwise unless you are into golf or horses. If you want to take a little side trip, the Watts Roost winery had some good wines and friendly owners. In short, for a quiet, romantic weekend with spectacular service, the Greenbrier should fit the bill.

We'd like to drive to Niagara Falls this autumn for 7-9 days including driving time and have lots of questions. We'd love to see some great foliage along the way and stay overnight in a few places to break up the drive. We have a two-year-old coming with us, so kid friendly destinations are a plus. Also, do you have any recommendations on hotels for Niagara Falls itself? Thanks so much.

Are you planning on staying on the U.S. side of falls, or going into Canada? There are plenty of chain hotels on Canada side, including a Marriott and Doubletree. On U.S. side, the Hampton Inn is family friendly. The direct driving route would take about 8 hours straight across Pennsylvania, but since you want to break it up, consider staying overnight in Gettysburg and perhaps Williamsport and then traveling from there to the Finger Lakes region of New York.

My fiance and I are thinking about locations for a honeymoon next year - 7 to 10 days around Memorial Day. I was inclined to go somewhere tropical, I had my heart set on an overwater bungalow in a location where could do lots of other activities in addition to lying on a beach like hiking, snorkeling exploring towns. My fiance was more interested in a European trip and not as interested in a tropical vacation since we will have a destination wedding in Mexico the month prior. We would like to go somewhere neither of us has been and we both have lived in and travelled all over Europe. It seems like the Azores is a good compromise - not too far for the limited time. I can give up the overwater bungalow idea and the Azores still could incorporate a little beach/swimming relaxation time with other hiking/biking activities. We were also thinking of two or three nights in Lisbon because Portugal is the only western European country neither of us has visited. Any suggestions for the Azores or other compromise locations we could consider.

The Azores sounds like a good compromise. Here's our story from a number of years back. As far as other places that combine Europe and islands, there's the Greek isles (we had a story recently on Santorini), Mallorca/Menorca and a bunch off the coast of Croatia (such as Vis, also featured recently).

I love Chester, CT, especially during their winter festival in February. Quintessential New England small town with the nicest people you'll ever meet.

traveling Finland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia ~ have Verizon smartphone at home. They will loan me an international (GSM) phone at no cost. I'm thinking I can download Skype and Google Hang Outs to keep in touch with hubby. I'll be on the road 5 weeks and with so many countries do NOT want to constantly change SIM cards. Does this sound like a reasonable approach? I figure there's Wifi everywhere nowadays....thanks!

Sounds reasonable as long as you'll be able to make phone calls and they won't be at an unreasonable rate should the need arise.

I need to purchase a one-way airline ticket for my daughter to go to England in September (she's going for a graduate program). What can you tell me about StudentUniverse.com? The online reviews are not very good, but they have a few flights at extremely good prices. (An ideal one in particular that no one else is even offering.) I almost bought a flight last week but, as now, it seemed like a "too good to be true" situation, so I didn't buy it. What are your thoughts?

I have never heard of that site (can anyone help with pros or cons?) and you certainly don't want to take the risk for such an important trip.

I would recommend  STA Travel, which caters to students and has a great reputation. The company has an outpost in D.C. (800 21st St. NW). Online, STA is advertising a one-way flight from Washington to London on British Airways from $388 if booked by July 25.

Hi, I have a 10 day trip planned for France (walking and trains once there). Any tips for packing in one carry on? My outfits coordinate, wash easily and dry fast, etc. Wondering what essentials any minimalists might recommend that might be forgotten. Thanks.

Folks?

As a native New Englander...Cape Cod's beaches, P-town's artists and fudge, New Haven's Wooster Square for pizza, Boston's historic sites, Newport's mansions and the Newport Creamery, Old Sturbridge Village, and Mystic Seaport are long time favorites. I have to say though that one of my favorite things is just to stop by the town green in whatever town and just people watch. You can do that almost anywhere in New England!

For the poster who wanted to tour Sonoma without renting a car - also consider hiring a driver for the day. Most of the wine tours are larger groups and are therefore limited to the more "corporate" wineries. While the wine is fine, there's no point in going to Sonoma and drinking wine that you can easily find in your local grocery store, IMHO. By hiring a driver, you can basically create your own tour and taste some great wine that may not be as widely distributed. This website lists all of the wineries in Sonoma (may be good to do some research to get tasting hours / fees / reservation policy). If you want to spend a day in Napa, the winery finder on this site is great.

Thanks for following up!

My husband's hometown. It's beautifully situated in the Pioneer Valley, yet because of its proximity to five colleges/universities, three of which are actually in Amherst, you also get the benefit of fantastic restaurants and shops and an international influence. And the BEST pizza anywhere at Antonio's (so good McD's closed up shop next door a few years back, lol!)

Nice. My dad went to grad school at Amherst, and we stopped there once so he could see a former professor. Alas, I don't think I was at an age to appreciate it as much as I would now!

OP, here. Yes, my husband does have a tablet and we both have smartphones, so I'm not even sure why we NEED the laptop...

Exactly. Just try to reason with him a bit more, I guess. Good luck!

We'll be travelling to New Mexico this week for a vacation. We're staying in Santa Fe with our 4-year old very active son. Do chatters have any recommendations on good activities for kids in Santa Fe and/or Albuquerque?

Here's are some Santa Fe ideas for the little one from the Santa Fe tourism folks. And here's what the Albuquerque CVB recommends. Any chatters want to share their two cents?

Hey Travel Team, I'm going to be in northern Italy (Lecco) for an event next August. My husband and I would like to travel by train up to Berlin. We'll have about twelve days for this trip. How many days should we spend in Berlin? Where should we stop along the way? We are willing to go off course a bit to visit interesting places. We love history, cities, good food, and also outdoorsy fun. We have a good budget but we are not high-maintenance. Thanks!

The Rail Europe Web site is down right now, so can't check those schedules for you, but I'm guessing you may have to take train to Milan and then from Milan to Berlin. Can't say where the train may stop along way, but Bodensee (Lake Constance) is lovely, and Nuremberg is also located between the two. Berlin is a very interesting city, and you can easily fill five-to-seven days there. Chatters have ideas?

I love Boston and Cape Cod, and have enjoyed many other NE places I've visited. But I particularly enjoyed one day out of a 4-day roadtrip that included stops at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (Amherst, MA) and the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden (Springfield, MA). As someone who has always loved children's books - and who almost became a kids' librarian - these were two places I'd been wanting to visit for a good while, and they were lots of fun.

Definitely stop somewhere in the Finger Lakes. Ithaca is a great place to base yourself for a couple days and my top pick, but if that's further east than you care to go you could try Watkins Glen, Canandaigua, or somewhere along one of the smaller lakes closer to Rochester.

flashlight, warm hat, gloves, scarf, mitts, pill container, toothbrush, scissors, tweezers, clippers, bandaids, cup, knife/fork/spoon set, ear plugs, sleep mask, passport, crackers-and-cheezwhiz packets, money, socks, shoes, hankie, t-shirts, two pairs jeans (one to wear, one as spare), jacket, watch

I did this a few years ago and packed dresses, black leggings, a black cardigan, and my 2 most trustworthy (and comfortable) black flats and it was perfect. I was able to wear the same outer layer if I got chilly with all of my outfits, and easily got by with 2-3 pairs of footless leggings for underneath dresses when it was a little cooler.

I've gotten most of my tips from you all (and I traveled for 2 weeks in Australia with no checked bags using this approach), but here's what I do: wear your heaviest/bulkiest pair of shoes and bring only one or two (at most) other pairs.Put as many socks and pairs of underwear that can fit into the shoes. Roll everything - that seems to help it be more compact. Wear your coat, and if possible go with one that has a removable lining (like L.L.Bean), so you have different levels of warmth. Bring a backpack or a larger sized purse (if you are a woman) as the "personal" item, and put your non-clothing items in it - things like chargers, electronics, makeup, etc. That leaves your suitcase available just for clothes. Downsize your wallet so you only have the essentials with you, which will give you more room in your backpack or purse. I'm a woman, so I usually put my purse into the backpack. And, finally, just resign yourself to the fact that you won't be a fashion plate while on vacation, since you are limiting your wardrobe options with this approach. You'll never see those people again, so who cares!

Walking up & down Canyon Road would probably tire out an active kid but you probably won't want to drag him into the galleries.

Thanks for your response last week. I didn't write back because I work during chat hours, so an unable to join you online. Summary of my question from last week: Want to travel internationally for one week in either August, November, or December. Very limited budget, enjoy both outdoor and cultural activities, couldn't care less about the dining scene. You asked me where I'm traveling from, and what my budget is. Well, I'm traveling from DC (but don't have a car) and my budget is definitely under $1500. I know that's low, but I'm young and am used to the CouchSurfing/hostelling/cheap travel methods. I have a friend moving to London in August who I'd be able to stay with if I traveled in November, but I've already been to London. (Not that I've seen everything there is to see; I'd just like to also visit somewhere new.) I haven't seen a lot of Europe, though. Is it easy/reasonable to be able to travel fairly cheaply from London? Also, would November be a poor time to visit rainy England/Ireland? Anywhere else you suggest that I look? Thanks so much!

If you get to London, you can fan out from there fairly cheaply by train or bus to see more of Great Britain. Or you can investigate some of the budget airlines to jet off elsewhere within Europe. You're more likely to get rainy days in November, but I wouldn't let that deter you. If the idea of Iceland intrigues you, Icelandair packages can be pretty budget-friendly.

Submitting early since I'll have to miss today's chat. I won a prize from a chat a few weeks ago, and never received anything--what should I do (I did e-mail my info at the time)?

Sometimes it takes us a little while to catch up on these. Send a note to travel@washpost.com, and let us know who you e-mailed previously and what day the chat was. Thanks!

I've locked in and am about to buy tickets to Israel for January for $644, an incredible fare. Seems like most major airlines are matching. I know sales are sales, but why would tickets drop more than $200 beginning a specific day? And it connects through Newark, and if you just go from Newark to Tel Aviv it's close to $900! I really don't understand pricing airline models--I just don't see any rhyme or reason.

That's because there is no rhyme or reason. Fares are largely controlled by computers who predict demand and set prices accordingly. That makes airfares incredibly unpredictable.

After watching the Tour de France every day for the past 3 weeks, I am wondering if there are tour groups that follow the race for each stage, including lodging and transportation.

Here's an article from Forbes that has some ideas that might work for you. A lot of what I'm finding tends to include tour-watching, which doesn't seem to be what you want. Has anyone taken a trip like this?

As an transplanted Upstate NY'er from DC I would not waste much time on the NY side. The Canadian side is much cleaner and interesting. Drive to Toronto! It's gorgeous and you'll really feel like you went on vacation.

Just back from 2 weeks in Germany and I had a great time. But the trains were late a lot more of the time than I expected. I guess that vaunted German efficiency doesn't apply to Deutsche Bahn. So if you're booking tickets make sure you leave yourself plenty of connection time.

Thanks so much for the links; I have made my list and I think we're all set now with a good mix of wildlife, history, science, and art.

After being able to fly with no problem for most of my youth, I seem to have developed this fear of flying over the past 3 years. Any suggestions on how to kick it? Hypnosis? I feel like I'm missing out on so many good trips! :)

You might appreciate this piece in which writer Paul Abercrombie describes his own ever-increasing FoF. And here's his sidebar on resources that can help.

I live in the midwest now, and rarely get back to New England in the peak seasons. But whenever I make my way east I always go to Hammonasset State Park. In the summer its a perfect swimming beach with lots of facilities and plenty of people watching. In the fall and winter it is quiet, and you can drive right up to the sand dunes to go for a long walk along the shore. The park is the perfect balm for a Midwesterner who misses the ocean.

Last year I spent my best Fourth of July ever while visiting a friend in the Berkshires. We went to a reading of the Declaration of Independence. The stage was filled with a line of people, each one representing a different signer of the Declaration. The festivities began by each individual rising to state his name and the area he was representing, as in "John Hancock, Massachusetts!" (In our current era, of course, some of the signers were represented by women). Then the Declaration was proclaimed by these same people, with each one rising to recite one or two sentences from the Declaration. These people take their Declaration and civic history seriously! It was incredibly stirring. As if that's not enough, there are theaters and musical venues galore, with Tanglewood being just one of the offerings; historical homes and literary sites; and the feeling of being totally surrounded by the endless greenery of the mountains. And of course, being in a cooler place than Washington, DC can't be beat.

Yes, definitely do it! We took nothing but backpacks on our three week honeymoon to SE Asia. The freedom and flexibility of being able to carry everything easily outweighted the minor inconvenience of having to do laundry. Compression bags work wonders and really do free up space. Other things I found helpful- a clothes line and a camp towel (can't tell you how many times it came in handy). Try not to take too many shoes and wear your heaviest pair on days you have to schlep. Don't overdo it on toiletries- you can always buy more over there if needed!

I'm planning a solo mid-week get-away in August for a couple of days - just to take a break. I don't want to drive for hours, so St. Michael's seems like a good place to go. Any B&B recommendations? Any other destinations within 2 hours of DC I should consider? Thanks.

I haven't been there, but I'd want to treat myself to a stay at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels. Zofia and I can also both vouch for the Inn at Willow Grove, and I enjoyed my stay at the Inn at Meander Plantation.

flying Iceland Air to Helsinki with a change in Iceland. Massively confused from their website....will I have to clear security again? I had to do this flying through Heathrow once and had my contact lens solution confiscated. I use a specialized solution and it took a trip to 5 pharmacies to replace. Do I need a transit visa? thanks!

You don't need a transit visa; Americans are exempt.

According to a rep from Icelandair, you will go through passport control but not security.  However, to be safe, you might want to stash your lens solution in your checked bag and carry the allowed amount in a separate container.

I'd like to take 4 1/2 yr old grandson and 8 yr old granddaughter for a weekend (one night) to stay on a working farm (feed the chickens, etc.) somewhere within 2 hours or so of Fairfax County? I have seen some, but 3-4 hours away. THANKS!

How about the Herds Inn at Hedgebrook Farm? It's in Winchester, so should fit your 2-hour limit perfectly. You'll have a two-room cabin to yourself -- one for you and one for the kids. Unfortunately, they have a two-night minimum (always worth inquiring about one night, though).

Two pairs of shoes, one for walking and one slightly dressier. Wear your most bulky clothing/shoes on the plane. If you are taking a guidebook, scan and copy the pages you need so that you don't have to bring the whole book. Only bring the bare essentials for skin care; get a moisturizer with sunblock so you don't have to bring two bottles. Go through your wallet and take out all nonessential stuff (library cards, grocery store cards, etc.). Have a great trip!

I just got back from a vacation to South Africa. I used South African Airways Vacations and was very pleased. They offer packages to most of southern African including Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls traveler, here you go!

Will be in San Fran, LA, San Diego, and Santa Barbara stops for a cruise.....husband loves anything related to trains....any suggestions?

The Web site Daytrippen covers train attractions  in SoCal. For ideas, see here. For San Diego, check out this site for trolleys and trains.  Also check out Trekaroo (good for kids, and husbands!).

If you are going to the Niagara area, be sure to drive a bit further to the little town of Niagara-On-the-Lake.......most beautiful town I have ever visited!....reminded me of a mini Williamsburg full of beautiful flower gardens, windowboxes, and streetside planters....sit for a while and enjoy the view!

The Berkshires are a great New England destination, but there is way more fun than the oft-mentioned Stockbridge and Tanglewood. Each small town has something interesting, there are hikes and water sports, fairs and festivals. Lots of spots for agritourism as well. Ski in winter, kayak in summer. Arts year 'round.

Bring large ziploc bags to group items together and so your dirty clothes don't get the rest of your clothes dirty. Also, buy a small container of all purpose soap so you won't have to pack enough socks etc for all of the days -- just wash in a sink. And I found one of those small quick dry towels, as well as hand sanitizer, useful on a recent trip where I wasn't sure what the quality of my accomodations was going to be.

I found the Museum of International Folk Art to be really colorful and interesting. There was a huge room dedicated to minature scenes from around the world (I think each culture calls them different things). The gift shop also contained some very ecclectic things.

There are so many places associated with American literary history in New England, but my favorite is the Old Manse, built by Ralph Waldo Emerson's grandfather. Nathaniel Hawthorne lived there with his wife Sophia during their newlywed years and etched love notes to each other in the windows with Sophia's diamond ring. The Hawthorne's were kicked out (lack of rent money and destruction of property!), but lucky for us the windows were too expensive to replace!

I love visiting the Azores dearly, as my grandparents emigrated from there and I still have cousins in the islands. HOWEVER, the couple considering the Azores as a honeymoon destination will need to do a bit of research to find where the best beaches are, because the Azores have more cliffs than sand, and swimming is frequently in coastal pools (very nice, though). The easternmost island of Santa Maria is reputed to have the best (and most) sand, while Praia da Vitoria (literally "beach of victory") on the island of Terceira is also a popular beach. Hope this won't dissuade the couple from visiting there, however.

Our Azores fan, is that you? :-) I was hoping you'd pop up.

I'm traveling to Brazil this fall and see conflicting info on the Brazilian Embassy's site and my tour group's site about immunizations. Do you have a good resource for verifying what's required? I'm going to multiple countries but it seems like Brazil's requirements are the most strict.

The CDC is a good resource. Here's its Brazil page.

My fiancee and I have been brainstorming places to take our honeymoon next June. We got engaged in the Caribbean and don't want to head back so soon. She's been to Rome, London and Paris. I have rarely gone overseas and am worried about language barriers and getting around. We've tossed around northern Italy, Belize and Tahiti. What are we missing?

I like your ideas, but Belize will remind you of Caribbean,  Tahiti is a long flight from here, and language issues will come into play in northern Italy. How about Hawaii? It's closer than Tahiti,  easy to get around and no language barrier.

It rained a lot when we were in Paris last month. But maybe the summer heat wave is keeping storms away now. Watch out for pickpockets and scammers.

I used it twice while I was in grad school - no problems just like booking a regular ticket through and online seller. Had to submit documentation online that I actually was a student. I also had posted the Azores question. I skimmed the article, still a possibility but not sold (nothing strikes me as 'overly romantic'). I've been to Greece and Croatia before. Any suggestions potential destinations in central or south america? Looking for a little beach time, I guess some city touring and hiking/biking. I liked the Azores because it seems small and manageable for a week.

Thanks for the input!

For your question, have you considered Nicaragua or Costa Rica? For Azores, just be sure you pick a warmer month. The islands take a nap during the winter.

Bring a small flashlight and your old underwear. Throw out your old underwear as you go along.

Flashlight -- yes. So many times I wish I had one on me.

I'm female, and really appreciate all of your tips! Especially the flashlight, wearing bulkiest items, non-clothing items in purse, camp towel,clothes line and scanning/copying guidebook pages... great!

Our chatters are a resourceful bunch, aren't they?

My niece loved Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, Bandelier National Monument near Sante Fe, and stopping in and out of a lot of historic and arty places on the Turquoise Trail, but she was quite a bit older (nine at the time). I'm not certain a four-year-old would have the same sense of history. Acoma Pueblo ("Sky City") is worth a visit, and Pueblo events may be found out www.indianpueblo.org.

All the love for Cape Cod has me thinking about a long weekend in the fall with the husband. Do any airlines fly directly from DCA? Also, what do you think is the best option for lodging?

Boston and Providence are really the gateways to Cape Cod. You might be able to find a sporadic nonstop to one of the islands here or there, but they'll be very expensive. I've flown JetBlue to Nantucket, connecting through Boston. Very easy. But flying to BOS or PVD and renting a car will give you the most flexibility to explore the Cape. And in the fall, you won't have to worry about traffic. I went on my honeymoon there in October a few years ago and loved it. No more crowds! As far as lodging, for a long weekend, I'd say find a nice inn or B&B and luxuriate.

Senior couple has 2 days to spend in SF in April before leaving on a cruise.....what to see, do, where to eat???????

If you've never been to San Francisco, you won't have to look very far to find something to do. Since we don't know whether you prefer hiking over museums, we'll just steer you to the San Francisco tourism folks for ideas. And, yes, Alcatraz is worth a visit. Restaurants to consider include Spruce and Absinthe.

There's so, so much to do/see/eat. I'd really need to know more about what you're into, yes, but if you're interested in food at all, you should try to hit the Ferry Building Marketplace, indeed. My favorite places to eat include Nopalito (Mexican), SPQR (Italian), Nojo (Japanese), Tartine (eastern European, kinda).

For the chatter stuck in Atlanta for two days -- a brief, polite note to someone at Delta (maybe the person in charge of their frequent flyer program) might shake something loose. It's correct that they are not responsible for weather delays, but particularly if the chatter is a SkyMiles member and flies Delta fairly frequently, they might do something. (Don't hold your breath, though.) A couple of years ago Delta changed our flight to St. Lucia in such a way that we had to spend the night in Atlanta, but to my utter astonishment they admitted it was a mechanical problem and paid for our hotel in Atlanta. (The hotel was pretty awful, but that's a different story.) They also indicated they would have paid for the night we had to cancel in St. Lucia, but it turned out the hotel in St. Lucia didn't give us a hard time.

Right. It never hurts to try with a note. Here's Chris's page with Delta contacts.

Hi! I've had a stressful couple months (work, school, family, etc.). I'd like to take a daytrip solo on a weekday from Laurel in August. Any suggestions for someplace within 2 hours' drive where I can relax but not be roasting in the heat (outdoor activities) or surrounded by tourists (i.e., DC)? Not really a fan of massages and looking to keep the costs down. I like both cities and nature. Thanks!

How about Harpers Ferry or Berkeley Springs? Or maybe St. Michaels?

Is there any other airfare website I should be checking besides Kayak to see if I can snag a last-minute, r/t cheap plane ticket from Boston to Fort Myers next week? I know it's a long shot.

I'd look at the airline Web sites, including Spirit, JetBlue and AirTran. But yes, it is a long shot.

Also Airfarewatchdog.

How about a B&B or resort-like hotel in Annapolis or St. Michael's? They both have some lovely properties and there's plenty to do!

They want to go in early December, so places where outside walking is a key to enjoyment may not be ideal. But we do love both Annapolis and St. Michaels.

A friend in New York wants to get away for one week in August. Her requirements: Noticeably cooler than NYC in August Not a big city Relaxing Relatively inexpensive Not too crowded She's already been to most of the obvious locales in New England and Upstate New York. I've suggested Atlantic Canada (PEI, Cape Breton) or maybe Quebec's Eastern Townships. Any other ideas?

I think your Canadian suggestions are spot-on!

Since we live at the northern end of 95, we enjoy the beauty of the New England summer all the time, but in Houlton, ME the fourth of July is especially nice. We have our agricultural fair and a parade where, instead of throwing candy, the local grocery store hands out watermelon slices and the local dairy hands out little cups of ice cream to all the spectators. It usually gets cool enough to need a sweater for the fireworks. Summer in Northern Maine is the most perfect thing I can imagine.

Flight Crew, or chatters: What's a good town to spend the night, while driving westbound on I-70 in Eastern Indiana? We'll need to stop somewhere between the Ohio state line and Indianapolis. Basic criteria: easy-off / easy-on access to I-70, a safe town with reasonably priced chain motels or hotels, and a place where we can get a good breakfast. A bit of local sightseeing Thursday morning would be a plus, but is not essential. Many thanks!

I don't know -- there doesn't look to be a lot on that stretch of road. It's only a bit more than an hour to get from the Ohio line to Indianapolis. I'd recommend you just make it to Indianapolis and decamp there. Here's Andrea's story on the city from the other year.

Here's a suggestion that may sound a little out-there and counterintuitive: Take flying lessons! In my late 20s I developed a fear of flying, which moderated somewhat but didn't go away entirely. Finally, at 50, I started taking flying lessons; it took me a long time to get my license, but my fear is essentially gone. (Warning: it's not a cheap fix.)

Now that I know what I'm doing in Santa Fe, I need to put all the minimalist packing tips to use. How's that for cross-thread pollination? ;)

Love it.

OP, please read Cockpit confidential by Patrick Smith, a pilot. Everything you need to know. I hope it will calm your fears.

We're looking for a location half way between Winchester, VA and Boston, MA for a one-week, multi-family vacation, three generations, 17 people. Ages are 1 year to 75. Ideal would be a lake with four, 2-bedroom cottages so each family could do it's own thing; lots of canoes, swimming, etc. and maybe even a cafeteria/restaurant where we could eat together at night. Please, no cheesy resorts with heart-shaped jacuzzis!

Woodloch is a beautiful, but pricey resort in the Pocono Mountains.

Is October a good time to visit London and Paris, weather-wise? Is it worth it to use a travel agent if the trip will involve a flight from BWI to London, [some transportation] to Paris, and a flight from Paris back home? When is the best time to purchase tickets? (Hopefully not six months ago! :) Thanks!!

The weather will definitely be cooler and perhaps a bit wet in London, but pleasant for sightseeing. And best of all: No summer crowds. Prices will also drop before rising for the holidays.

It's up to your level of comfort whether to use a  travel agent or book the trip yourself. I would book the trip myself, since air is easy to find, even with your itinerary. As for transporation to Paris, simply take the Eurostar. And there is no "best time" to book. Whenever you see a good fare, grab it!

Becky Krystal:"... I'd recommend you just make it to Indianapolis and decamp there." Um, no. "Decamp" means "to leave." Maybe "camp"? "Make camp"?

Yeah, oops. We all make mistakes.

Hi Travel Gurus! I'm a bit embarrassed, but I am a 'seasoned' domestic traveler that has never been out of the US. Funds finally allow for some international travel, but outside of getting my passport, I have no idea what other steps may be necessary (visas, money, etc.) Is there a 101 guide anywhere that will give me the basics or I can figure out what I need for each trip? Thanks in advance!

The State Department international travel page is a great resource. So are guidebooks. Many countries have their own tourism web sites with useful information such as tips on currency, visas, etc.

Definitely not Burlington. Nope, nothing to see here. Move along. Signed, Burlington resident.

Ha.

Even better than a flashlight- bring a headlamp! Can't believe I forgot that in my first response....

All right, time's up. So many great New England suggestions, as well as minimalist packing tips! The prize goes to the chatter who loves the Old Manse. Please send your name and mailing address to travel@washpost.com. We'll be back next Monday at 2 p.m. See you then!

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.
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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