Talk about Travel

Aug 11, 2014

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
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Past Talk about Travel chats

Hello, Travelers.

Thanks for joining us today to chit-chat about Travel. Hope you enjoyed the Supermoon last night. One day, hopefully, we can all catch a Virgin Trek flight there!

For today's topic, let's go back in time. In Sunday's section, writer Becky Krystal returned to Mountain Lake Lodge, her family's summer vacation spot from long ago. Tell us about a place you returned to and the experience -- was it better or worse or just different? Best answer wins something nostalgic, or whatever I can find under my desk and fits in an envelope.

Bought an extremely well priced ticket for the wife and myself to Europe for the spring and for the first time ever bought trip insurance. Lo and behold, we found out the wife is pregnant and her due date will be right around the time of the trip if not shortly before. How easy (or difficult) will it be to cancel the trip and recover my airfare? Thanks.

Hard to say without reading the fine print of the policy. But generally, it should be covered. although it might get a little complicated if it's not clear that you purchased the travel insurance before you knew of the pregnancy. You may have to supply medical records. 

For the chatter last week looking for new things to do in the Riviera Maya: If you like ruins, try Ek Balam, with a gorgeous stucco frieze 2/3 of the way up the main pyramid. You can climb the pyramid, like at Coba, but the ruins are much more compact and much less crowded. Also, Cozumel does make a good day trip from the RM. In addition to beach/snorkeling/shopping, you can visit the medium-sized ruins of San Gervasio via a short taxi ride. For lunch, eat at the Cozumel Museum's cafe, on a second floor balcony overlooking the water - amazing view.

Thanks for the ideas!

I've been invited to visit friends in Denver next month. I've noticed they have a whole new industry of "pot tours" and wondered what you think of them and whether you have any suggestions on how to navigate this new cannabis friendly town.

I "sampled" the state's pot tourism in February (here's the piece) and had such a trippy (not literally) time. You can certainly pick a dispensary in Denver, buy the allotted amount and smoke or eat it back at your friend's place.  For locations, check Weedmaps.com. Whether you try the product or not, I definitely recommend going for the experience. Even though it's legal to buy, it still feels so daring!

For a broader understanding of the culture, I recommend a tour. You visit a few places and learn about the industry, and don't have to worry about transportation. Just be careful with your consumption, especially with the edibles. Try a bite of chocolate, wait an hour, then repeat if necessary.

I'm flying from Washington Dulles to Edinburgh (through Heathrow) on 9/24. British Air Flight arrives at Heathrow 9/25 at 0640; onward British AIr flight to Edinburgh leaves at 0800. Is that sufficient time to clear Customs, etc. accounting for any delay? There is another BA flight leaving for Edinburgh at 0945 that I can choose.

That's cutting it a little close, but I think you'll be fine. Airlines have minimum connect times that are built into the reservation system, which account for transit time through customs. If for some reason you miss the connection. British Airways will put you on the next available flight.

I can plan a 9 hour layover in London as I return to the US on a Sunday. I reviewed the Heathrow web-page that states I should allow 3 hours for security check in. I am familiar with navigating the Tube and connections to and from the airport. Is this enough time to explore or should I choose a 5 hour layover and stay at the airport?

Absolutely, nine hours is plenty of time for some fun in London, even if you plan to get back 3 hours before departure. After all, it's just 15 minutes on the Heathrow Express to Paddington. You can even store your baggage at Excess Baggage Company -- and one of its locations is in Terminal 1, on the arrivals level, right next to the lifts for Heathrow Express.

Thanks very much to Chris E. for the helpful list of the (few!) credit card issuers that have chip/pin cards. An important caveat -- at least two of these issuers require that you or a family member be a federal employee, or belong to an organization affiliated with the credit union. After finding that out, I then got a card from a private-sector issuer on your list. Not everybody here works for the feds!

Thank you. I appreciate the additional information, and I will mention that in my follow up column. I have a feeling this chip-and-PIN issue will be with us for a long time.

Hi...we will be flying British Airways to Milan with a 5 hour layover at Heathrow. We're in our late 60's and in pretty decent shape, but we'd like to use that time for some rest. Are there hotels nearby where we could rest? We are not members of any frequent flyer programs. Do any airlines have one-day memberships to their frequent flyer lounges? Thank you.

You have options at Heathrow. There are airport lounges in Terminals 1 & 3 that are open to the public: Cost is about $60 for two people. There is also a Traveller Lounge & Spa in terminal 3 that offers bedrooms for short stays: Five hours would cost about $250. And finally, on the other side of security, there is a Yotel, with a room for five hours costing about $105. 

Planning a vacation in Hawaii in January and would like to break up the flight(s) with a layover of 36-48 hours both going and coming. Just recently visited Las Vegas, so would rather not overnight there. What are the best bets for a mid-journey layover, keeping January in mind? Which airline(s) dominates the Honolulu route?

Most of the carriers stop in their hub cities -- Atlanta, Chicago, Houston. Not ideal layover cities. In addition, the layovers are only for a few hours, not a day or two.

I would suggest breaking up the trip on the West Coast, in  Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco or Portland. You should book two trips -- to the West, then West to Hawaii. Hawaiian Air often has specials to the islands.

Hi Travelers - If I rent a car in France, can I drive it into Belgium and back again? We will be in north-western France and I would like to spend a couple of nights in Bruges while we are nearby. In general, what specific pitfalls should I consider when renting a car in France?

Yes, you can usually drive the car anywhere in the EU, or at least in western Europe. But I would ask your car rental company before you leave. In terms of pitfalls, most of the vehicles are automatic and from my own experience driving in France, the cars are not exactly intuitive (try putting it in "reverse" if you want to know what I mean). Also, there are lots of tolls and they don't always accept your American credit card, so carry enough cash. And one more thing: Paris during rush hour can make LA look tame. Those roundabouts. Yikes!

My aunt and uncle had a farm in the Catskills, and I went there often on vacation as a child. They both passed when I was about 12, and I begged my cousins to not sell the farm, saying I wanted to live there when I grew up. (They sold anyway; would you listen to a 12 year-old?) It was so bucolic -- down a dirt road, stream meandering along one border, beautiful hills, no visible neighbors. In my late 20s, I stopped by and knocked on the door of the new owners, explained my history with the place, and they gave me a tour. The house was about half the size that I remembered, the chicken coop was gone, same old snake hole near the barn entrance (throw a rock at the ground before entering!) and I still would have lived there!

How lovely that your love of this place never changed!

My dad's family has been vacationing at Silver Lake Sand Dunes in western Michigan for something like 60 years now. One week at the lake in the same set of rental cabins. Over the years the cabins have been upgraded (outhouses removed/filled in, bathrooms added, showers (finally) added about 20 years ago) and our family has grown, but every Father's Day we all end up at the lake. After missing a few years in high school and college, I go back every year and now bring my own kids with. The biggest difference now is probably cell phones - the cabins still don't have phones but we all bring our own so we're no longer disconnected for our week at the lake. Two years ago my husband and I began getting a hotel room about 10 minutes away from the cabins where we can "have our own space" at the end of the day (and escape the family's snorers - the walls don't extend all the way to the roof of the cabin and there's no ceiling, so it's one big divided room). But we still spend the week with family at the lake, with my kids doing many of the things my cousins and I used to do. This year my three year old twins discovered their four year old cousin and had a blast - so we're looking forward to many more years together!

Keeping it in the family!

I have a Visa issued through Citibank and they recently issued me a "Chip and Signature" card. What is the reasoning behind this and will it do me any good in Europe?? Why does the U.S. always have to do things differently?!

A chip-and-signature card is considered an intermediate step toward a chip-and-PIN card. The "chip" part will mean that it is accepted at more places than a swipe-and-sign card.

Given the spate of accidents, illnesses, policies that make cruisers hostages rather than customers, and now Christopher's article about the death of immediate family member being used as a callous means to up-sell by cruise companies, why on earth would anyone go on a cruise? It was never my thing, but seemed an option for my handicapped mother at one point. Now? I could not imagine encouraging anyone to go, particularly in the absence of rescue insurance, like what climbers have to get plucked off of mountains when things go horribly wrong.

Cruising is not for everyone, but it can be a good deal, when compared with the price of a comparable land vacation. I write stories about cruise line refund policies because passengers need to be aware of the risks. If you cancel a few days before your sailing, you could lose everything -- unless you have insurance.

I have an overnight layover in LA on my way to Australia in a couple of months. I'm planning to stay at an airport hotel, but would like to be able to visit the Getty Museum during the day I am in LA. The flight to Sydney leaves at 11:55 PM, therefore I have plenty of time for my visit. At this point, I have not found a tour I can pick up at an airport hotel that includes the Getty or even one that just visits interesting spots in the downtown area on the itinerary. During past visits to the area I have seen a number of the typical tourist destinations. Can you advise me?

During a long layover in LA, we simply took a cab to the Getty Center. It was definitely worth it, despite our jetlag. You can also take a bus, or ask your hotel if they have a free shuttle that drops off within a certain mileage.

At the museum, you can take a tour (garden, collection highlights, etc.). So check the schedule in advance.

Thanks for the warning about the tolls. I have NO intention of driving in Paris. We are planning to pick up the car in Caen, travel north, and then return it in Lille, to take the train back to the city. (I think you meant to say "most cars are NOT automatic" but I am happily going to pay extra to reserve one.)

I went to the battlefield as a kid and was bored silly. I went as an adult after studying the war, reading books about it and getting to know a lot of people in the military, and was incredibly moved and awed.

Glad that you gave it a second chance!

United stops in Phoenix on the Hawaii trip from IAD

Another good option.  Thanks!

and some place else for a year from October (yes, I know, but I tend to procrastinate on vacation planning if I don't pick my dates and decide to stick to them no matter what). What resources would you recommend for planning for tickets when the time comes. Are there any websites that collect the information as the theaters announce their seasons? I know that the information right now would be for 2014, not 2015, but I'd like to know where to look and when they start to put things on sale. Yes, I'll leave a few slots open for just grabbing a Time Out and going to an off-off B'way equivalent, but I enjoy the planning process. Also, other than Paris, what other destinations would be a good second (third?) destination in October. Not interested in Octoberfest.

For theatre (note that I'm spelling it the British way!), I'd look at london.theatre.co.uk , which looks comprehensive and easy for searching, planning and buying tickets. As for a second or third destination in October, why not Barcelona, after Paris, using high-speed rail? I wrote about doing that all in one day, as a fun experiment, but you could certainly spread them out. Not sure how long you're going for, but you could spend a few days in each city, easy. Or a week in one and split a week between the other two. Or lots of other possibilities depending on how much time you're spending.

Apparently it once used to be hard to find pet-friendly accommodations. Now not so much. As I learned the hard way last week even those that do not mention this on their website may accept dogs. I am a light sleeper so hearing barking all night can be challenging. Moral: always call before booking if this is important to you.

Great advice. Actually, if you have any special needs, you'll want to phone ahead to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Is it a good strategy to make airline, hotel, or other travel reservations at the earliest possible date, i.e., when reservations for your dates open months in advance? The goal is to ensure that you get just what you want, e.g., prime room or location, more comfortable seating, airline seats using miles, etc. What are the benefits and liabilities of this strategy?  

You already noted some of the benefits. It's imperative to book way in advance when trying to use frequent flier miles to book flights (ticketing is generally available about 330 days before flight date). Airfare paid with money is not as easy to pin down. Some studies have shown that fares are cheaper, especially when traveling domestically, just six weeks or so in advance of the trip, but you run some risk of flights selling out and fares going up by waiting too long. I am most apt to wait when it comes to hotels, especially if I am not fixated on a specific property.  Take a look at the Hotel Tonight app for last-minute bookings.  

We're traveling to France next month and would like your suggestions for changing dollars to euros. We'll be arriving at Charles de Gaulle on a Saturday morning, although our time might be limited on arrival as we're connecting to train.

The airport and train station will be the most expensive places to exchange your currency. You can buy euros from your bank before you leave or use your ATM when you arrive in France. But I'd stay away from those currency exchange booths.

Recommendations for mid range hotel in the old city in Quebec?

Sure thing! Becky, our Quebec City devotee, is on vacation this week, but I know she loved the Hotel Le Germain-Dominion, right in the Old Port. Check it out!

Between the ages of 9 and 13 I attended a summer camp that was part of a larger ethnic resort. The boys cabins were right near the dining lodge, but the girls' cabins were up a hill and then down a seriously long road that was especially scary at night - the main camp area was decently lit as was the circle of cabins, but the road in between had only one light, and there was all sorts of rustling in the woods on either side. I just visited the resort some 30 years later and for the first time since age 12 made the hike down that road. Which was about the length of a city block; maybe a wee bit more. It seemed neverending back in the day! (At least the hill was as I remembered it. Possibly even steeper.)

How funny! Our sense of distance is so skewed when we are little. I went to camp a half-hour from my home. I cried big fat tears. Now I realize, I could've caught a cab home.

To break up the trip look at San Diego, LA, San Fran, Portland, or Seattle. From all the cities there are non stop flights to the islands. Alaska and Haawaiian offer non stops from all., You can find some cheaper fares if you look at Alaska from OAK or SJC instead of flying from SFO on United. You can easily book a flight to SFO and stay there for 48 hrs then fly to a Hawaiian island direct then return through SEA/PDX for 48 hrs then fly home.

Thanks for the great tips!

The crucial point is that you booked both legs of the journey on the SAME airline, so if you miss your connection they're obliged to put you on their next available flight. BTW, Flight Crew, is an airline obliged to put such a passenger on a flight on another airline if they don't have a substitute flight available anytime soon? It used to be that way, but I wonder if it is any more.

Yes, thanks for pointing that out. Your reservation must be connected. I'm unaware of any obligation that the airline put you on the next available flight on any airline, but it can't hurt to ask. Normally, they fly you on the next available flight they have.

In addition to free checked baggage, it is physically easier to check a bag with JetBlue than with any other airline--because their baggage scale is almost level with the floor and you can just drag or roll it on. The scale for other airlines is about 6" above floor level, which means travelers have to lift and hoist it forward through the narrow space, and agents need to lift the bag down on the other side--which given how often they have to do this is creates an injury risk for agents who have to continually lift bags down. A simple design change to make the scale level with the floor for all airlines would benefit both travelers and airline employees--why don't other airlines follow JetBlue's example? FYI, I don't work for JetBlue, just fly a lot between Boston and Washington and really notice this difference.

Such interesting observations. Hope others catch on.

I don't know if you like opera, but most opera seasons start in October. Vienna might be a nice trip for you.

Great idea!

I have a wedding in Plymouth Ma. next month and am wondering if I should fly into Boston or Providence, and then rent a car. Anyone know pros and cons of each location?

Lots of folks swear by flying into TF Green Airport just south of Providence (that's PVD for you code-users), because it's less hassle, etc.

Things to consider: It's about an hour drive from Green to Plymouth, a little longer than it is from Logan, but the latter is only under an hour if there's no traffic, which is pretty rare. So not sure that the driving distance would be all that different, in case you're considering.

To me, the decision would probably come down to price and availability of the flights: I'm not sure where you're flying from, so can't check prices for you, but there are far fewer airlines and flights in/out of Green. For instance, if you're leaving from Washington, you can fly nonstop from National only on US Airways/American; from Dulles on United; and from BWI on Southwest. But comparing fares in mid-September, National nonstops to Boston on JetBlue are about the same price ($165) as US Air to Providence ($163).

If you find a decent fare to Green at a time that works for you, I'd probably lean that way, if only for the higher odds that traffic getting in and out of town will be better than from Boston -- especially if you're doing a long weekend. Even next month will be Cape Cod season, with lots of traffic going south from Boston toward the Cape that on a Friday evening or Saturday morning could make you unhappy.

I am a single 50 year old female and would like to travel to Paris alone. Is this a city that's generally safe for a woman traveling alone who takes common sense precautions? If not, do you have any alternative recommendations?

Absolutely! Paris is wonderful for a female solo traveler.  Just be sure to follow typical safety precautions regarding walking alone and carrying valuables. And always know where you are going, carry a map and stick to well-populated areas. Journeywoman.com has some great tips.

You can also sign up for day tours to break up your solo-hood. But you will probably love the Me Time walking around the different neighborhoods, wandering in and out of shops and museums, tipping your beret at tout le monde.

What happens if you try to pay for one leg of a trip with frequent flyer miles? Do you then have to pay for the other half (most likely) as half the ticket's price or do you have to pay the one way price on that fare (which, from what I understand, could be more than the cost of the round trip ticket)?

You will buy one ticket with the miles and a second ticket for the other leg as a one-way ticket. A United rep, however, recommends checking the one-way fare against the round-trip price, to make sure it's worth it to use your miles. Also, if you have some miles but no enough for a return leg, you can buy the needed miles to make up the difference. But again, do the math first!

Hello. We returned this weekend from a trip planned by a travel agent. The promise for one of the excursions leaving our hotel and "Head out in to the country for a unique wilderness experience. Take in the fresh mountain air and scenic landscapes surrounding .... on horseback, in a kayak, on a mountain bike or on foot. Enjoy the rugged wilderness and spot the local wildlife before lunch in the lodge's stunning and historic log structure". The reality - we were picked up in a limo, told it was a two hour drive there and a two hour drive back and we only had one hour to be a the facility. Anything we did in that hour was at an additional cost. I feel like we were cheated and of course we were extremely disappointed in the activity. Do we have any recourse? Thank you.

Sounds like a real disappointment. I would start with a brief, polite email to your travel agent. Let that person know you are unhappy and suggest a specific remedy, like a partial refund or a credit. You can also appeal directly to the operator and may be able to get something, although I would advise you to keep your expectations realistic. You got a tour, just not exactly what you'd expected. It would be unusual to receive a full refund.

It depends 100% on where you are going for the hotels. If you are thinking of going to FL during spring training time or spring break time, you are too late already to get a lot of the nicer places. Same with a lot of areas near popular national parks in the summer. We just got locked out of places near Jackson, WY (the nice ones left are insanely high priced). One option in a lot of places, however, is VRBO.com or homeaway.com. You can find nice apartments and condos and houses in a surprising number of places (but they sell out, too, so be aware).

Thanks for sharing your hard-earned lessons.

It's not everyone's cup of tea but it is a good way to sample several different stops. You unpack once. You know your room and food are taken care of. You get suggestions of what to see in each port and can pick and choose. You can use vetted excursion guides. If you really like one stop - you can go back for a more in-depth visit.

I concur with Chris Elliott's argument that cruises are not for everyone but they are for me for a very good reason: they offer me a bigger bang for my travel dollar than do escorted tours. For example, when comparing tours versus cruises, I notice the number of meals included. After making the comparison, my reaction is exasperation: tours omit many lunches in favor of more dinners, while cruise ships offer all three meals. As a 50-something passenger, I'm not fond of finding where lunch can be found especially in port cities I'm not familiar with. Another item to look at is the option selling--yes, cruise ships do this too, with shore excursions, but for folks who like to do their own thing, they don't have to listen to the siren song of these options. Travel companies apparently use options as revenue enhancers. Overall, after over 30 cruises, I have decided that I prefer cruises over escorted tours, but I'm willing to make an exception if I can find a good tour offered by a great company, e.g., a river cruise operated by a tour company might be the ticket for next year or the year afterward.

I am also not into cruising, but have friends who enjoy it regularly. In terms of the risks, there is risk involved in pretty much everything, including of course traveling by plane (not to mention the incubator for germs that is an airplane cabin...) And driving? Probably the riskiest of all. I think different people are just comfortable with different types of risks.

Great assessment!

You do realize that not everyone grew up wealthy enough to spend "summers at the lake," or even part of a summer doing something like that regularly?

Of course.

People have had all sorts of travel experiences, some of them cheap and some of them less-so. But really, I think if you looked into it in more detail you'd have to admit that by and large, our stories are aimed at pretty regular travelers, not the super wealthy. In this case, for instance, the rooms in the lodge that Becky's family stayed at start at $120 a night during the summer and $75 a night during the off-season. Our Bed Check inns are mostly under $200 a night. And the other story we had on the front this week is about camping on Cape Hatteras, which is -- well, it's about the cheapest kind of vacation you can have.

Auberge St. Antoine. Might be upper end of mid-range but it was wonderful and only a block or two to the funicular.

Thanks!

For the Paris traveler - you will find ATM's in Charles DeGaulle Airport, but they are know as DAB - Distributeur automatique de billets. Just look for the signs in the arrivals area.

Actually it's not true that you must book 330 days ahead to get frequent flier seats. Many airlines now release award seats at all sorts of times based on their models. And often they will release seats last minute if they have a lot of unsold inventory. Particularly first and business class seats are released a couple of weeks out. I booked a trip to Europe last summer about 2 or 3 months before using miles.

Good to know. Thanks!

Hello! I'm looking for a place to stop on the drive home from my late September wedding (we're getting married in Boston but live in DC). I'd love something right around the halfway point, or a little bit before, that feels special for a one or two night respite after the craziness of the wedding--New York City is a bit too bustling for the tone we're seeking. Bonus points if it's dog friendly, although I know that's not likely!

Well, it's not halfway -- more like a pretty big detour, but I can't resist recommending the Berkshires. So beautiful, and would be just lovely in late September. The big tourist season will be past, but there will still be things going on. Some fall color should be showing at that point (it will be a little early, but I love that mix of green with the oranges, yellows and reds), and you could stay at the top of Mount Greylock in Bascom Lodge.

Or in Lenox, you could do something MUCH different and stay at Canyon Ranch, or Kripalu.

Another possibility that comes to mind: The Hudson Valley of New York. Now, this is a little more on the way to DC, isn't it? Almost halfway, too -- and yet not the bustle of NYC. You could sample hard cider, stay in a great hotel in Tarrytown, eat at Blue Hill.

Oh -- dog friendliness! Almost forgot to factor that in. OK, in the Berkshires there's the Birchwood Inn (haven't stayed there, but you should check it out). And in the Hudson Valley, there's Audrey's Farmhouse (also haven't stayed there).

Just landed here for a business trip after which I'll get a couple days of sight seeing time. What shouldn't I miss (sights, or even food-wise)? Is it far enough south that the water is warm enough for swimming? Always heard the Pacific is too chilly for that.

Ocean is definitely colder in Southern California than our local beaches, although, according to my daughter who frequents the beach up the coast in Malibu,  it's swimmable this summer. Expect temps in the high 60s. If you haven't been to the zoo and Balboa Park, do that. Renting a bike in Pacific Beach and doing the beach/bay loop around Mission Beach and Mission Bay is great fun. La Jolla is a lovely place to stroll and shop.  If they are home, take in a Padres game at Petco Park. As for food, the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego has an abundance of restaurants, including well-reviewed ones such as Allure. I'm partial to Cucina Urbana in the Banker's Hill area.  Little Italy is also a great place to eat and shop: take a look at this story we published a couple of weeks ago. 

We haven't been able to get away for a vacation this summer, so are planning a quick overnight within an hour or two drive for later this month. I am tempted to use one of those "secret" deals on hotwire or priceline where you get a steep discount but don't discover the identity of the hotel until after you've paid. Seems to me that as long as it's guaranteed to be a 4-star hotel it should be fine, right? I don't want to get stuck in a terrible motel! Do you all have experience with this?

I've used those type sites for hotels in New York City, and I've never been excited by the hotels they pick, but I've also  never been sorely disappointed. If you're flexible and you don't mind chain hotels, it'll probably work.  

We visited Québec province in the early '70s and hated it, probably in the main part because neither of us knew a word of French. Fast forward 20 years and I'd studied basic French and knew my way around my pocket-sized Berlitz phrasebook, although I was hardly fluent -- and we had a grand time there! I'm convinced it's worth the effort to learn at least a bit of the language when visiting any place where one's language isn't the principal one.

A great lesson. Merci buttercups!

Hi, I'm spending the coming year (Sept. to July) working in India, and my itinerary is a bit complicated -- flying in and out of different cities, flying back for the holidays in the middle of everything, etc. -- so I'm looking to work with an agent to coordinate bookings. Who would you recommend as the most knowledgeable and cost-efficient travel agencies for going to India? Thanks so much for your help!

I don't have any specific names for you. Maybe the chatters do?

But I recommend using the search tool for ASTA, the travel agents association. You can find an agent that specializes in India.

How about Delaware in a B&B around Winterthur? It will be lovely in autumn.

Lovely idea!

I'll have a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt Germany after a overnight flight from JFK (and before another overnight flight to Africa). Any suggestions on things that I would have to do in Germany? I'd rather wander and eat than go to a museum. Also- what would you do with 2 days by Victoria Falls in Africa? It's the only time I'll be alone while on a safari.

Will leave the Victoria Falls question to others, but seven hours isn't a long time in Frankfurt. It's a massive airport and getting through security frequently takes at least two hours. But the city center is just a 15-minute train ride from the airport, so it is doable. I did a walking tour, but there's also a wine trolley tour that looked like fun. 

Can you recommend a B&B or hotel in VA wine country that provides transportation to and from the local vineyards? Or a tour company that partners with a B&B? I've seen some places that offer limo service and a fancy picnic with a corresponding price tag, but I'm really just looking for a shuttle type service and somewhere to stay so we can make a weekend of it. I haven't had much luck looking on my own. Thanks!

Check out this list that the Charlottesville tourism folks have put together of such tour companies. It's getting late in our hour, and off the top of my head, I don't know of a B&B/limo partnership per se, but this should be a good starting point.

Trip and insurance were purchased in May. We just found out so the discrepancy should be self evident. Thanks.

Read the fine print of your travel insurance policy and give them a call. Should be fairly easy. 

I disagree strongly with the commenter's premise. Indeed for many families in WV a "summer at the lake" - probably two weeks - meant renting a cabin in a state park and packing as many family members as possible into it, cooking all of your own meals and enjoying free activities like swimming in the lake, fishing and hiking. No hotels, restaurants, or pricey excursions - just real family time.

Yes, thanks! It's really not an expensive way to go. Appreciate this.

My family always vacationed in lovely Fernandina Beach, FL. We watched as it morphed into being called "Amelia Island", and the addition of places like the Ritz Carlton and high end restaurants (vs. the Blue Seas, an old dive we loved). Still all told, the beach itself is the same as it always was, and we love going down there whenever we can!!

We just went last year and I'd love to go back in 20 years to see how it's not changed!

Summers at the lake--my family and most of the folks in our little town were mill and factory workers but at that time, and at that salary, many could afford a small "camp" at the beach or at one of the little ponds nearby. Sometimes it was just for a week or two, sometimes they owned the place outright. But you couldn't have gotten more blue-collar than us!

Right! Thanks.

Just wanted to jump in and say that last year my family stayed at the Birchwood Inn with our dog and we all loved it! Great location and the accommodations and breakfast were lovely.

So glad to hear!

I'm planning a trip to London for sometime in the next year or two. I know its possible to do a day trip to Paris via the high speed train. Are day trips to other European cities like Amsterdam, Brussels or Bruges feasible from London, or does the train make Paris uniquely accessible?

Yep. Go to the Rail Europe web site, which lets you play around with destinations and planning pretty easily. Brussels is about 2 hours from London by train, Bruges another hour, for instances.

Is Hyde Park, NY., too close to Boston to be considered part-way? Have a memorable meal or two at the student-run restaurants at the Other CIA (Culinary Institute of America). Visit FDR's and Eleanor's homes, the Vanderbilt mansion, etc. Just enjoy the scenery along the Hudson.

There goes the hour again! So fleeting!

Thanks for joining us, and come back next week.

Today's winner is the traveler who returned to Quebec and loved it the second time around. Email me at andrea.sachs@washpost.com with your contact info.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
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.
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