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August 13, 2012

12
P.M.

Talk about Travel

Total Responses: 60

About the hosts

About the host

Carol Sottili

Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.

Andrea Sachs

Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.

Zofia Smardz

Zofia Smardz is the acting editor of Travel.

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.

Jane Touzalin

Jane Touzalin is acting deputy Travel editor.

About the topic

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.
Q.

Andrea Sachs :

Hello y'all. Welcome to Travel's Monday chat.

First, big news:  Starting next Monday, we are moving our chat time to 2 p.m. Use those extra two hours wisely!

Second, for today's question: Did the Olympics inspire you to visit any of the competing countries or confirm your love of a certain nation. For example, I am now intrigued by Latvia and want to go there to play some hard-knocking volleyball. Best answer wins a gold medal (or some knockoff prize of sorts).

Q.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed that you recommended the Majestic Elegance more than once as a great all-inclusive place to stay in Punta Cana, DR. I could not disagree more. My wife and I stayed there in June for her cousin's wedding, and our experience with the hotel was sub-par. Our room reeked of mildew; we were never given a full set of towels and washcloths; many of the wedding guests had jacuzzis that didn't work or only ran cold water (ours worked great); and one night we ordered room service that never came despite repeated follow-up calls. I would recommend that anyone headed to Punta Cana skip the Majestic and stay someplace else.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Don't know if this makes a difference, but we stayed in the adults-only part of the resort, and it was fine. It's a typical all-inclusive, which means that food is not gourmet and service is sometimes spotty. It's not a five-star experience. But for the price -- I believe we paid about $600 for two for three nights, and that included food and booze -- I thought it was a decent value. I've stayed at lot of all-inclusives and this one compared favorably. 

– August 13, 2012 12:01 PM
Q.

Asia

Just wanted to say thanks for the focus on SE Asia. It's my favorite part of the world.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thank you, so glad you liked the issue! It is definitely a fantastic part of the world.

– August 13, 2012 12:01 PM
Q.

Puerto Rico!!

I am lucky enough to be going to San Juan, Puerto Rico in December. Any beaches, sites or activities that I should be sure not to miss? We love good food and drink and fun, adventurous activities. Thanks so much!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I love Vieques, an island accessible by ferry or island-hopper plane. Also the west coast has amazing beaches with a cool surfer vibe, and the central area is lush with coffee plantations. Closer to the city, check out the shops and restaurants of Old San Juan, which is a tad touristy but still enjoyable. Save time for its myriad museums, including Museo del Arte de Puerto Rico and Pablo Casals Museum, and forts.

El Yunque rainforest is definitely worth a side trip, as is a kayak excursion to the bioluminescent bay.  For beaches with the best scenes, try Isla Verde and Condado.

– August 13, 2012 12:10 PM
Q.

Christmas in Germany

Hello! I am hoping to spend my week-long winter break in Germany this year if I can find a ticket that's cheap enough. The dates are somewhat flexible -- I'm fine with spending the actual holidays en route. Any advice on when to buy or airlines to keep in mind because right now even the 'cheapest' tickets are too expensive. I'd grab anything around $700 or under!
A.
Carol Sottili :

I don't think you'll find a ticket from Washington to Germany for under $700 including taxes, especially around the holidays. You may save some money flying on Christmas and New Years, but it won't be dramatic. You'll likely get the cheapest fares out of New York to Berlin. 

– August 13, 2012 12:10 PM
Q.

Re Chip and Pin Credit Cards

I never get to catch the convos live, but I wanted to chime in because this keeps coming up. Just returned from 2 months traveling across Europe. We have the normal Capital One credit card with no foreign transaction fees (a MUST!). Make sure to find out your pin before you leave and you're golden. Every time we encountered a "chip and pin" ATM or toll booth, we just entered the pin. Our card is normally a "signature" card, but if you know the pin, the chip and pin system works. Just a suggestion, since it worked for us.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks for this. I, too, had no trouble in Europe using my regular Capital One credit card.

– August 13, 2012 12:11 PM
Q.

Chichen Itza

I'll be in Cancun next and would like to visit Chichen Itza. Trying to decide between renting a car, taking the public bus, or (my least favorite option) taking a tour. Any recommendations?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Rent a car. The road between Cancun and Chichen Itza is well maintained and easy to drive. It'd be a long day on a tour, since the drive alone is more than two hours each way. Leave early and try to get back before dark. 

– August 13, 2012 12:15 PM
Q.

checking bags

I'm traveling to Chicago to take in a ballgame, and due to schedule changes I dont have time to go to the hotel before the game. My son and I plan on going directly to the ballpark from the airport and then to the hotel after the game. My question is what do I do with my bags (a carry on each for me and my son) during the game. Can I put them on a taxi to the hotel? Do you have another strategy?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Stadiums can be tough with bags, banning certain sizes. And I doubt a cab would deliver your bags unless you were there to hand them over to the bellhop.

I would honestly forgo the opening inning and dash to the hotel, drop the bags off (you can just leave them with the bellhop), then grab a cab to the game. You will be much happier without the extra weight of your bags.

– August 13, 2012 12:20 PM
Q.

Trip for five 50-year-old guys

A bunch of high school friends (all men) scattered up and down the East Coast are all turning 50 next year and want to plan a trip. A few days of golf somewhere during spring or summer PLUS other options (like fishing, sailing or other outdoor activities). Open to ideas about events or other attractions....Cost should be moderate--nothing shabby or extravagant.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

We ran this story last year about a group of guys who sound a lot like you and your friends getting together for some golfing in North Carolina. Of course, it sounds as though all they did was golf and eat. If I were you, I'd head for Florida, where golf and fishing often go hand in hand. In fact, at the Ritz Carlton in Orlando, you can do some fly-fishing right on the golf course itself, with a guide to help you keep an eye out for gators and snakes.

Chatters, your suggestions for these guys?

– August 13, 2012 12:20 PM
Q.

New Zealand Working Holiday

The busybodies saying OP's daughter can't work in New Zealand should make use of their search engines and check their facts before piping up. New Zealand has "unlimited places available annually under this [United States of America Working Holiday] scheme to young citizens of the United States of America for a stay of 12 months" (from the NZ Immigration Dept.'s web site). That's exactly what OP was describing. They should also read more carefully: The backpacking part of the trip will be over before the young woman gets to New Zealand; she will be living and working in there for a year. As for sending packages, sending padded envelopes is much cheaper than priority mail boxes, and they come in enormous sizes.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the input.

– August 13, 2012 12:20 PM
Q.

Small Caribbean Villas

Hi! I'm in desperate need of a vacation but I'm having problems finding a place perfect for us to go. We love the ocean so that's a must and prefer somewhere in the Caribbean simply because we don't want to spend the first day of our vacation on a really long flight but we definitely want to get out of the US. We've been to Mexico enough though. We loved Ti Kaye on St. Lucia when we went there a few years ago and would prefer a place similar again. A small, quiet resort with individual villas, not gigantic hotel type place, the less people the better. If we could snorkel off the resort property that would be ideal. Walkable to restaurants and shopping would be great but not a deal breaker as Ti Kaye was nowhere near anything! Under $250 a night would be perfect. We've been looking at Curacao and Barbados to keep us as far away from the hurricane prone areas as possible since we would like to go this fall. Any ideas? I hope I'm not being too picky! Thanks!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Here a few of my favorite Caribbean places that might match your criteria:

St. Barths, St. John's and Grenada. Bardados is more mainstream but still lovely, espeically with the Brit culture. You can also find cute villa rentals in Belize.

– August 13, 2012 12:26 PM
Q.

Rio in 2016

Okay, I'm now determined to get to the Olympics after two weeks of late nights watching...my question is how do you arrange it? Is it through dedicated travel sites or on your own? I heard some real horror stories on the news about ticket problems to the various arenas in London.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

A friend and colleague just got back from London, and reports that she booked all her own tickets on the official Olympics ticketseller Web site. She managed to score some great ones, including for gymnastics and track and field. Of course, she was up at 1 a.m. working the Web site, but it was worth it!

– August 13, 2012 12:26 PM
Q.

Oslo to Bergen

For the person last week who was interested in renting a car to travel from Oslo to Bergen--they should instead consider the "Norway in a Nutshell" trip that starts from Oslo, travels by train to Myrdal (the train takes you along mountains above the tree line, and even stops in Finse, the location used to film the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back), then a very steep train from Myrdal into the valley at Flam (passing gorgeous scenery and dropping into a town so picturesque that you expect the citizens to break into song and dance at any minute) where you continue your journey by boat through the fjiord. At the end of the cruise, a bus takes you back up to the main train line (again with hairpin turns, beautiful waterfalls, and interesting views of a lot of ski jumps) where you continue by train to Bergen. The whole trip, one-way, takes about 12 hours and is well worth the time and money (it can also be done in reverse, from Bergen back to Oslo). When we did the trip a few years ago, it ended up taking a LOT longer than it should have--it was so hot in Norway (in the 90's every day) that the tracks, which were designed for bitter cold, were in danger of buckling so the trains had to crawl along very slowly!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the info!

– August 13, 2012 12:27 PM
Q.

Local trips?

My husband, 85, has limited mobility (walker, wheelchair). I am 72 and the driver these days. We have always loved to travel, and promised each other that we would take small 2-3 day trips locally to see and do what we can. We love fishing villages (just discovered Md.'s Rock Hall in Kent County. Would love to know more places like that. B&B's are wonderful - but more expensive and usually involve stairs. (As you can imagine, after his nursing home experience our budget is limited.) He is a retired ornithologist, and I am an illustrator - so pretty spots rather than touristy are appealing. I wouldn't even mind a place with a porch overlooking the beach, if it were not too expensive (~ 100'/night or so). Saved the article about Cape Charles, maybe that's the next one, but it is a four hour drive. Any suggestions? BTW - love reading Andrea Sach's, and Zofia's articles - always lively!!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Here are some getaways  that you might enjoy:

Cape May (lots of lodging options, many by the beach, and a wonderful spot in the off-season)

Easton (I love Bartlett Pear Inn, though as I recall all of the rooms are upstairs. You can still go for dinner however.)

Oxford ( added bonus: take the ferry over to St. Michaels)

Anything in Bucks County, Pa., which is particularly pretty in the fall, when the leaves change and the pumpkins pop up. You might enjoy the Golden Plough Inn, which has a variety rooms in a complex of shops and restaurants. Here is my review.

When booking, ask for a senior rate and request a ground-level floor or a room near the elevator.

And so glad that you enjoy our pieces!

 

– August 13, 2012 12:35 PM
Q.

Rehobeth beach rental

Any suggestions for a Sept. 14-17 Rehobeth Beach rental for 7 mature adults? Thanks, Betsy
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I would check with the rental agents in town -- Jack Lingo or Coldwell Banker. They're reliable and handle hundreds of great rentals. I've rented from them many times and never had a problem.

– August 13, 2012 12:35 PM
Q.

Travel from London

Buses are much cheaper than trains, follow the same routes, generally take about the same amount of time, and you see more of the country. (Caveat: Check on whether there's still a super saver train fare, not good for travel on Fridays, that allows you to break the return journey as much as you like during the following 30 days. If that scheme still exists, it might change the calculation.) Local bus lines have also been online since the 1990s, allowing you to plan routes that are much more off the beaten track. (Whether you use train or bus to get to the "local" area.) For the poster asking how easy it is to get to Scotland, it's easy to do but it's a long trip. If you want to go directly there, with some advance planning you can get a discount airfare that's cheaper than train or bus and be there in a couple of hours.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks for the input!

– August 13, 2012 12:35 PM
Q.

All-Inclusive Resorts

My boyfriend and I are planning to escape DC over the week of New Year's (Dec 28-Jan 3) for an all-inclusive resort. I don't have any experience researching or planning these types of trips, so I figured I'd turn to the all-knowing travel gurus. We're looking for a much-needed relaxing week, with an ideal of waking up, finding food, laying by the pool/beach, maybe going out on an excursion, and drinking. Originally we were thinking Dominican Republic or Costa Rica, but we're pretty open to anywhere that there would be some fun excursions, warm weather, and a relaxing time. We're working with a budget of about $6000 for airfare and lodging/food/drink, and figuring on excursions adding to the cost from there. Any recommendations on great all-inclusive resorts or good places to start researching? Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

All-inclusives come in all flavors, from bare-bones to fairly exclusive. Destinations known for having a wide array of all-inclusives include DR, Jamaica and Cancun (including areas south of Cancun such as Playa del Carmen). Costa Rica also has a nice assortment of all-inclusive. I'd take a look at Web sites such as WhereToStay and TripAdvisor to get a general feel for the destinations first. And then you can price out packages at sites such as Vacation Express or Apple Vacations.  I've heard good things about the Dreams and Secrets resorts. 

– August 13, 2012 12:36 PM
Q.

Travel agents

I've never used a travel agent before, but I'm wondering if working with one might help me in planning a trip next year to either Italy or France. I've planned lots of trips myself, including one last year to Ireland and one five years ago to Cancun. I also already have a good idea of where I want to go in Italy and France. It's more help getting airfare, hotel reservations and ground transportation that I'm looking for. I feel pretty confident I can do this on my own, but I've heard travel agents can help you save money. I'm also not sure how they work - do I pay them a fee for their work, or do they make their money through the partnering airlines and hotels? Do you think using one would be worth any extra money we spend? Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

I think a good travel agent can definitely help, especially with complicated itineraries. But the key is finding a good one. If you want just airfare, you will pay a fee. But if you are looking for a trip with hotel & transport included, the agent will typically get commissions from those companies. 

– August 13, 2012 12:36 PM
Q.

RE: Majestic Punta Cana

I stayed at the Majestic Colonial (sister property to Elegance) back in 2006 and had a great time. Never had a problem with the room, property, service... I highly recommend it.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for sharing.

– August 13, 2012 12:37 PM
Q.

Re: Mancation

Regarding the 50-year-old man's group: I'd forgo a long trip to Florida if they're "scattered" around the East Coast. How about Charleston and its golf-rich environs like Kiawah island? More centrally located, and downtown Charleston can be a blast. Or Myrtle Beach...
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Great idea, thanks!

– August 13, 2012 12:37 PM
Q.

Chicago Ball Game

Though I'll get grief for this, I hope you are going to a Sox game. I would mail your stuff to the hotel. Take a small bag (book, meds and bottle of water) on the plane and to the game and have everything else meet you at the hotel.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

We'd never give you grief! Good to think out of the box!

– August 13, 2012 12:38 PM
Q.

Last Week's Olso Traveller

Before you head out, make sure that places are open! I found out the hard way that tourist season sometimes ends early in Norway (I visited both Oslo and Bergen and couldn't go on any fjord tours because they had all shut down for the season.) Re: Getting to Bergen. SAS flies nonstop, every hour from Oslo to Bergen and the flight is one hour long. Renting a car would certainly take a lot more time and from the air it looked a lot like snowcapped mountains below as scenery. Keep in mind too that Norway is extremely expensive. Food and drinks were especially expensive. About 5-6 times what I was used to. It IS an amazingly beautiful country though!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the insights.

– August 13, 2012 12:38 PM
Q.

"Make sure to find out your pin before you leave"

How does one do that? I assume that for security reasons you can't just call the credit card company and they'll tell you over the phone.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Contact the credit card company. They should help you select a new number if you have forgotten the existing one.

– August 13, 2012 12:41 PM
Q.

re: Baseball checked bags

Please search around the stadium, as sometimes local businesses have bag check services.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Interesting idea.

– August 13, 2012 12:42 PM
Q.

SE Asia

Loved the features this weekend. My husband and I visited all three countries several years ago and are dying to go back. We particularly loved Cambodia but I would warn western travelers that it is still very scarred from its history and even in more "developed" places like Siem Reap, you will see the remnants. It was a very difficult part of the trip. I'm a very experienced traveler and found myself moved to tears on several occasions.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thank you for sharing that.

– August 13, 2012 12:42 PM
Q.

even more on chip/pin cards

just to let you know - I just called called Capital One about their chip and pin cards, after I read the earlier comment about using one in Europe; they said that their cards with a pin are only good at ATM's - otherwise, it's the same old signature card. Very frustrating.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for sharing this info.

– August 13, 2012 12:42 PM
Q.

Capital One Credit Card

In response to the reader who recommended entering the PIN for the credit card in an ATM, I would never, ever use a credit card to get cash from an ATM unless it was a dire emergency, since this is considered a cash advance, for which you generally get charged double-digit interest rates.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Indeed, check with the credit card company before you go about surcharges for ATM withdrawals.

– August 13, 2012 12:43 PM
Q.

Travel from London

NEVER EVER buy tickets in the US for British trains. They give you the full fare. Use the local websites once you get there. Lots of discounts, supersavers, etc. remember that there are several train companies now, so find out which one serves your destination and go to its site. MUCH better deals, much better information.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!  You scared us into never ever buying tickets from the States.

– August 13, 2012 12:44 PM
Q.

Olympics...

I want to go back to London (it has been over a decade). Seriously, the music is great, they have giant glowy octopi, Eric Idle gets people to sing happy but ironic songs, plus there are all those flying Mary Poppins' around and maybe electric doves on bicycles. What's not to love?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

We love that you love London (we love it, too).

You are so right: What's not to love?

– August 13, 2012 12:44 PM
Q.

Maine for 'foodies'?

Next week I'm off to Maine for 8 days, including 3 days in Portland. I hear Portland has become quite the 'foodie' destination. Do the Post travel writers--or any fellow Chatters--have recommendations for restaurants there, or in the Boothbay Harbor area? Of course I'll be eating lobster rolls and loving them, but I don't think I can handle a lobster-only diet for 8 straight days.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I've heard good things about Street and Co., a trendy seafood restaurant with an open kitchen. Chatters, fill us in on Portland, Me.

– August 13, 2012 12:46 PM
Q.

DC Staycation suggestions

Hi, I have leave I need to use up this year and am planning a staycation for the first two weeks of September. It's usually a lovely time of year in the area, and I'm looking for suggestions of things to do, particularly nice drives or destinations within a 60-90 minute drive. I'll generally be solo, since my spouse is unable to take time off, and I don't want to fritter away the time doing errands or cleaning out the basement (although I should probably do some of that!). Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Whoa, where to begin! There's so much in this area, as you know, and it depends on what kinds of things you like to do. If you're looking for pretty towns to visit, I love Fredericksburg, Va., and Frederick, Md. New Castle, Del., sounds nice, too, and probably less crowded with tourists. My husband and I did a great tour of local Civil War sites that I wrote about last year -- perhaps the story will give you some ideas of nice drives you might take. And of course, for nice drives, there's always Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah. That area is beautiful; you might want to visit Luray and Front Royal, too.  I suggest that you comb through our Escapes archive online. Lots of terrific ideas in there!

Chatters, we welcome some thoughts from you!

– August 13, 2012 12:46 PM
Q.

Last Minute Labor Day Plans

Hi all! I've been a slacker and not made any plans for Labor Day. The boyfriend and I would like to do something that is fairly easy to get to (either via plane or car), allows us to enjoy some outdoors fun (i.e., hiking, etc), and will have cooler weather. Any recommendations?
A.
Carol Sottili :

You can get good deals at ski resorts in the off season, and they often have good hiking & biking trails and are situated in areas that offer easy access to public lands. I quite like the area around Mad River Glen and Sugarbush in Vermont, which is not far from Burlington. Be prepared to pay up for airfare around Labor Day. If you'd rather drive, head out to West Virginia -- take a look at Snowshoe or Canaan Valley.  

– August 13, 2012 12:47 PM
Q.

Olympics

Not really your answer, but I took a vacation to Alaska two weeks ago and found the Olympics playing in the background in airports, cafes, and hotels to be kind of surreal. It was also kind of interesting to see the rowing competition on TV a day after hearing one person who hunted whales in Barrow talk about how he had the role of paddling on his hunting party's boat. I did find it kind of cool and amazing that I live in a country as diverse where, despite all our differences, lots of people turn into the Olympics to all root for the US.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

You answer is fascinating, and shows how the Olympics really brings us together.

– August 13, 2012 12:49 PM
Q.

Ballgame w/ luggage

A friend once joined me for a Red Sox game just off the plane from Canada. He has everything he needed for overnight in a small backpack, which was allowed in the park. No problem. A larger bag may not be allowed, but the equivalent of a handbag size should be OK.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Great points. Thanks!

– August 13, 2012 12:49 PM
Q.

Travelling with daughters to celebrate

I am celebrating by 60th birthday in January and would like go with my daughters (late 20's and early 30's) away for about 4-5 days- possibly over Presidents weekend. Do you think Key West Florida would be a good idea? What's fun to do?
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Key West is fun even when you aren't doing anything but standing around. It just has that crazy, kooky vibe. There are lots of activities, such as Hemingway's house, Mallory Square, galleries and gardens,  Jimmy Buffett tours, etc. Check the tourism office's Web site for activities.

Some other ideas: New Orleans or Charleston.

– August 13, 2012 12:55 PM
Q.

Moved to tears in Camodia

I agree with the previous poster about this. I was born in and spent much time during childhood in a third world country, and I too was moved to tears in Cambodia at times. The war was not so long ago that its effects are not visible.
Q.

October travel to Scotland

I have the chance to visit Scotland in late October. What is the typical weather? Any must-sees? Was thinking of flying to London and taking the train to sight-see along the way, but would that be wasting time? Many thanks! Love your discussions!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

The weather in Scotland is always iffy, and in October it's only more so. The high temps average in the low 50s, lows are about 10 degrees less than that. It rains about half the month, so bring your brolly and galoshes. It's a long train ride from London, so I would fly if I were you. As for must-sees, why you must see the castle and the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.  You could do a castle tour around the country, in fact. Or a whisky tour. Check out this story we did recently on Edinburgh and a whisky tour on the Isle of Islay.

– August 13, 2012 12:55 PM
Q.

For Puerto Rico

We enjoyed going to Arecibo Observatory. Great drive through the countryside and an interesting tour of the observatory. I think a Bond film and parts of the movie Contact were filmed there.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks!

– August 13, 2012 12:56 PM
Q.

I'll tell you want I want

....What I really really want....would be to take a trip to see the competitors in the mens water polo final...Italy and Croatia. Ill throuw a few other countries to see such as Slovenia, Switzerland, and Austria
A.
Andrea Sachs :

It's hard to pick one, isn't it?

– August 13, 2012 12:56 PM
Q.

Latvia

Was just in Riga, Latvia as part of a 12-Baltic Sea cruise & stay! Yes, I noticed how active the folks there are - walking, riiding bikes ( to/from work also), and many volleyball courts in yards, apt recreation areas and at the worksites. No wonder the people there appear to be in good shape and physically fit!
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Now I am even more intrigued!

– August 13, 2012 12:57 PM
Q.

Travel Insurance for Cruises

When researching insurance for cruises, I usually include only the cruise fare and any pre-booked excursions (and not the taxes and port fees). My reason being if I am unable to cruise (as was the case twice before), the cruise line automatically refunded the taxes and port charges within a few weeks as a credit on the charge card I'd previously used. Also, I seldom buy the cruise line insurance protection as I think its pricey many times. Instead, I research rates on my own using the site: www.insuremytrip.com. Your thoughts and what to look out for?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Sounds as if you are an educated consumer - taxes and port charges can't be collected if you don't take the cruise. Other sites for researching travel insurance include QuoteWright and SquareMouth

– August 13, 2012 12:57 PM
Q.

Other countries??

You mean there were other countries competing other than the United States. I couldn;t tell.....thanks to NBC.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

I was in Canada for some of the Olmypics and it was a nice dose of reality: Yes, other countries were indeed competing.

– August 13, 2012 12:58 PM
Q.

Boothbay Harbor

I cannot for the life of me remember the place, and while I'm pretty sure its still there I can't say for sure, but there's this little candlepin bowling alley that has fantastic pizza. Candlepin bowling, from what I gather, is a New England thing, and it could be a fun break from the lobster. For the standard Maine fare, though, Lobster Dock, Lobsterman's Co-op, or, for a slightly nicer (and varied) meal, you can check out the Rocktide or the Spruce Point Inn.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the fun suggestions.

– August 13, 2012 12:58 PM
Q.

Driving in Italy?

I will soon be in Italy on our honeymoon and we are undecided about driving. We will spend about two weeks there -- one week in Tuscany and one week in the Sorrento/Amalfi/Naples area. My initial thinking is that we would have a car and drive around the villages in Tuscany, but ditch the car for Southern Italy. If we do that, how do we get around down there? I hear it may be difficult. And yes, I drive a stick! Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

Yes, driving in that area of Italy isn't for the faint of heart. For example, take a look at YouTube videos that depict driving along the Amalfi Coast to get an  idea of what you'll experience. Parking is also a bear. There is a decent ferry system

– August 13, 2012 12:59 PM
Q.

Not looking for advocacy or mediation, but...

My son & his roommate recently moved to Orlando for graduate school. Since they are there, they purchased annual passes at WDW. This weekend, they & a visiting friend were stranded on Splash Mountain when the ride broke down. After 20 minutes, they were finally evacuated and had to walk the remainder of the course. I asked if the resort compensated them in any way, especially in light of the expense of admission prices there. They were each given a 'FastPass' that could be used only one *night* at the Magic Kingdom, and only through this Tuesday. Since their friend left the day after the incident, he was, in essence, not compensated at all. I think that the resort could have done more... personally, I can't imagine sitting in one of those log flume seats for 20 minutes without moving only to have to walk through the catwalks to get out. He said that the team members were nice, albeit rather clueless. They spent quite a bit of time contemplating how to evacuate the people stuck next to a wall and at the top of the mountain. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Did his friend explain that he would be unable to use the FastPass? Maybe they would have refunded his money.  It's difficult to say what the company should have done. I've been stuck on ferris wheels for 10 minutes or so, but haven't had to crawl down a catwalk. And I've been stuck on Metro for even longer, but again, no catwalk. 

– August 13, 2012 12:59 PM
Q.

Flight changes

A few weeks ago, I booked tickets on United round trip from Newark Airport to Ireland from Dec. 12-25 because I got a really great fare. On Saturday, in the mail, I received notification that the flight had been changed to 24 hours prior, leaving now at 9 am on Dec 24. It seems that this is because the airports in Ireland are entirely closed on Christmas Day, but I'm irritated that now I'll have to leave a day earlier, am I entitled to any remuneration or upgrades in this case? This is clearly an error on United's part, since they never should have allowed the booking in the first place.
A.
Carol Sottili :

No, you're not entitled to any discounts or upgrades. The airlines reserve the right to change schedules. But you can get a full refund if you choose not to take the trip. 

– August 13, 2012 12:59 PM
Q.

Jerusalem & Israeli Breakfast

I enjoyed the article about Israeli breakfast (I do live in Israel after all, and the breakfast spreads in cafes and hotels are both amazing). However, can you explain why Mamilla Mall was referred to as being in "Israeli-occupied Jerusalem"? I realize the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is complex, but every place mentioned in the article has been in Israeli control since 1948 or was in the no-man's land that existed between East and West Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967 and subsequently passed to Israeli control following the 1967 war. It is also one of many places where Arabs and Israelis rub shoulders each day in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a great place to visit, but the politics injected at the end of the piece, in my opinion, detracted greatly from the article and did no justice to Jerusalem or its cuisine.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Glad you enjoyed the story for the most part, though I'm sorry that the ending spoiled it for you.

– August 13, 2012 1:00 PM
Q.

Scotland

Edinburgh-specific... 1. Edinburgh Castle is amazing. I was disappointed by the Abbey and Holyroodhouse. 2. The Scotch Whiskey Experience is very close to Edinburgh Castle and is very enjoyable. 3. Take a day to wander around Edinburgh, which is very pedestrian-friendly and compact. 4. Get out in the countryside if you can (bearing in mind warnings about the cold and rain) - it's gorgeous. 5. Climb Arthur's Seat (a hilltop near Edinburgh) - great views and lots of fun.
Q.

Scotland in October

We were there in September a few years ago and it was definitely chilly and rainy. We love going to see Stirling--one of our favorite cities. It was like a miniature Edinburgh. We generally stayed at B&Bs, but splurged one night and stayed in an actual castle--lots of fun.
Q.

Olympic togetherness

It really is amazing to know that people in countries near and far really are watching the exact same thing on TV that you are.
A.
Andrea Sachs :

So true. If only we could have that we're-all-watching-this-together sensation for more than two weeks every four years.

– August 13, 2012 1:03 PM
Q.

Working Vacation in Japan

All the talk about Japan last chat renewed my long-term goal of experiencing the country firsthand. While I could just spend a week or two visiting as a tourist, I'd really like to do a 'working vacation' where I teach English or work as a camp counselor for a month or so. (I'm a foreign language teacher in the US with ten weeks off in the summer. Unfortunately, I don't know Japanese -- yet!) I'm not looking to earn money but I'd like to have transportation costs and my accommodations covered. Do any such short-term programs exist? If so, do you have any recommendations? Domo arigato!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I don't know of such a program for Japan, but perhaps a chatter does?

– August 13, 2012 1:03 PM
Q.

Response from last week on contract of carriage

I wrote in last week because I had experience a flight cancellation. I did read US Airways contract of carriage, which is quite detailed on some areas and quite deficient in others. Since this was a "code share" situation, they are off the hook for pretty much everything, which would seem to encourage use of codesharing in as many situations as possible. In any case, I did get a reply from their online customer service folks with $100 vouchers for future travel. I have yet to hear from Travelocity, other than being told I should call the .com group, not the .ca group, although their own email gave me the .ca number... I sent an actual paper letter to their president/ceo, and have no expections of ever hearing back from them. Doesn't matter, as I have no expectation of ever using Travelocity again.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks for the update. Chris is on the road today so not able to respond. But I'm glad that the airline, at least, came through with some compensation for you.

– August 13, 2012 1:03 PM
Q.

Portland food

Head to Cape Elizabeth and eat seaside at The Lobster Shack at the end of Two Lights Road. It's awesome.
Q.

Maine recommendation

In Camden, ME - The Waterfront - my dad was a notorious tightwad (Depression era college student) and he loved this place so much, he wanted to go back. Great menu, right on the water, a top 10 for me.
Q.

Local Trip Suggestion

Try the Kennett Square area...Longwood Gardens can keep you busy for a full day and it's mostly accessible. There are lots of hotels that are accessible in the area and the Homewood Suites off Wilmington Pike backs up to a horse farm. I love just sitting by the river near there too (and it has a flat parking lot at the river edge so is pretty accessible).
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the great suggestions.

– August 13, 2012 1:05 PM
Q.

Native New Jerseyan

I'd like to second the Cape May NJ suggestion for the retired ornithologist. There is a bird sanctuary there and one up in Stone Harbor, I think. It's on the Atlantic flyway, and while it is a tourist destination, it also is a real town, and has great restaurants, a theatre and other summertime diversions, as well as a great beach, and lots of hotels with elevators.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Yes, I do love Cape May, too.

– August 13, 2012 1:05 PM
Q.

Chicago ball game

From Cubs site: Luggage/Bag/Stroller Check: Items may be checked for the duration of the game at the Fan Services booth located behind home plate on the main concourse at no charge. (But I'd call to be sure)
A.
Andrea Sachs :

Thanks for the good detective work (though I was not sure if the traveler was going to see a Cubs or Sox game).

– August 13, 2012 1:06 PM
Q.

To "Maine for 'foodies'?"

Back in the pre-Internet era, we were planning a trip to see Bowdoin College so, living in the DC area, I just phoned up the offices of one of Maine's Senators and asked if anyone on the staff could recommend a favorite restaurant there, and it turned out one of the staffers was Bowdoin alum, who recommended the best place in town -- where it turned out we had a superb lunch! (And we weren't even his boss's constituents).
Q.

All-inclusives

I really enjoy the Couples all-inclusives in Jamaica. I'm sure you could stay at any of them with your budget, with all the excursions included. Only downside is that they are all about a 90 minute drive from the airport (though the transportation is included).
Q.

Re: missing London

Watching the Olympics made me realize that I need another vacation in London and miss the city. While tourists may be scarse now, I think the city will experience another tourist influx soon.
Q.

Storing bags

Call hotels that are near the ballpark - I was able to check a bag at a hotel once for a small fee when I was in Anchorage for part of day while in between legs of my trip.
Q.

Andrea Sachs :

Thanks everyone for joining us today. Apologies to the chatters whose questions we did not have time to answer. But please come back at 2 p.m. on Monday (yes, don't forget -- 2 p.m.) and we can hopefully answer them before the hour runs out.

The today's winner  is the person who experienced the Olympics in Alaska. I loved your We Are the World sentiment. Please message me at sachsa@washpost.com with your address and name.

See everyone -- say it together now -- at 2 p.m. on Monday.

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Host: