Talk about Travel

Aug 20, 2012

Please note that Talk about Travel has now moved to 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.

Hello, chatters, and welcome to our new time! Which is actually our old time -- until a couple of years ago, we used to chat at 2 p.m., so it's just like coming home, right? Why the shift, you ask? Apparently, it's all about traffic -- both the traffic we bring to the Post Web site, and the traffic advice doled out by Dr. Gridlock, with whom we were competing in the noon hour. I hope the change doesn't inconvenience too many of our regulars, and will hopefully draw some newbies into our discussion. Come on in and join us, folks!

Our question today plays off Valerie Strauss's fun story yesterday on visiting Miami in the summer. What's your favorite place to visit in the off-season, and why? Best answer earns the prize.

Now on to your questions!

Thanks to a flight sale to Orlando, I may go there for a solo trip during a long weekend this Fall. (First time since my first and only family trip to Disney World at age 14!) However, can one truly get around just on public transportation?

Orlando has a public bus sytem called LYNX that would theoretically take you wherever you need to go. You don't say where you're planning to stay or what you're planning to do, but if you're mostly just going to Disney World and Universal Studios and other tourist spots, you can use the I Ride Trolley, which goes up and down International Drive to all the points of interest.

I see that Alaska Airlines is shortly opening a non-stop route from National to Portland. So, is fall a silly time to visit Oregon? I imagine it's not the most ideal weather season ...

I hope not, because I am going to Seattle in October! In October, Portland's temperatures average 63 during the day and 48 at night. Average rainfall is 3.42 inches, higher than in the summer but much lower than January through March. Then again, my husband was there the other month and rarely saw the sun, so you just never know. I say go! Here's our recent "Portlandia"-inspired story.

Please please please tell the person who asked last week about how to travel in the Sorrento area that the local Circumvesuviana trains out of Naples are the absolutely the best and most convenient way to travel to and around that area. No, it's not luxurious, but Cicrumvesuviana is easy, cheap, and a genuine local experience. You do have to cross the train station in Naples and descend some steps to find the Circumvesuviana platform, but that wasn't a hardship for us. We used this local train for our day trip to Pompeii and to return to the vast museum in Naples with the Pompeii exhibit. To get to Positano, we took the local bus, which, again, was cheap and convenient. I wouldn't drive those cliff sides on a bet! We're in our 60s and love making our way around the local systems!

Even though it might take a little time to figure out schedules and station locations, trains and buses are often a better alternative than driving in unfamiliar places. I'm not familiar with the Circumvesuviana system, but definitely worth a look. 

Is it possible to rent a car in the U.S. with a driver's license that's less than a year old? Background: I've lived overseas for many years and didn't have my American license transferred when I came. I am now taking driver's ed in the country I live in and hope to visit the U.S. next summer and rent a car. One company I looked at specifically requires a license that's at least one year old. Is this a standard requirement?

I don't know of any restriction on the age of your license. It's the age of the driver that matters. It's possible that the company you were dealing with was confused. Most U.S. car rental companies will not rent to someone under 21 and impose a sucharge on anyone under 25. But if I lose my license and ask the DMV for a new one, or if I move to a new state and get a new license there, the car rental company should not care.

My favorite off-season vacation was Bermuda at Christmas time. Granted, many places were closed for Christmas and Boxing Day, but the rest of the island was all mine for exploring without hordes of tourists. Sure, the water was cold and swimming was out of the question, but there was a majestic beauty to the coral sand beaches with nary a tourist in socks and sandals to be found. It also made riding around the island on a scooter a lot safer with so little traffic.

Sounds idyllic. I do love Bermuda, any time of year!

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, in winter, if the forecast is for a sunny weekday (there are actually quite a few!). You have the town almost totally to yourself then! A nice way to start is with a morning drive from Monterey down 17-Mile Drive -- so as to be on the ocean-side of the road, as well as to avoid the sun's glare that occurs in the afternoon.

Beautiful!

Short institutional memories, perhaps? About 10 years ago, this forum moved from 2 pm to 12 noon precisely to allow more people to participate during their lunch hour -- a change that was widely welcomed by your readers. I wonder how long today's change will last.

Oh no, it was not 10 years ago. It was within my time here in Travel, and I've only been here three years. I'm not even sure that the chat has been around for 10 years, though close to it, no doubt.

My boyfriend and I are taking our first "real" vacation together and heading to Boston for 4 days at the end of August. Any good resources for figuring out what to do and where to eat? Or, better yet, suggestions?!

To start, have a look at our Massachusetts archive. Lots of Boston stories in there. And, of course, this weekend we hadan article on the refurbished Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. If it's your first time in Boston, you'll want to check out the Freedom Trail and Fenway Park. The Museum of Fine Arts recently opened their expanded galleries.

More suggestions, chatters?

Our fiftieth anniversary is next summer. When my wife and I turned seventy we took our children and grandchildren on a Disney Cruise which was great fun. We are wondering if there is a resort in the Caribbean that would be good for adults and five children 4, 8, 10, 11 and 13 years of age.

You might enjoy Atlantis in the Bahamas, although it's expensive. Also, take a look at the Beaches all-inclusive chain. 

It's hurricane season and kids are in school. The weather is beautiful and things aren't crowded. :)

Good points! Except that one about hurricane season. . .

Good morning crew- my uncle recently passed away and while arrangements are still being made, it looks like the memorial service will be held this weekend. I've heard that some airlines make special consideration for funeral travel. I'm planning to call US Airways tomorrow, but if you have any guidance on what to expect when I'm making reservations I would appreciate it. Thank you.

My condolences on your loss. I would call the airline right away and ask about a bereavement fare. Those can be significantly cheaper and have fewer restrictions than normal tickets booked at the last minute. Two tips: Don't wait until you get to the airport to ask, and be prepared to show evidence of your uncle's passing.

What's the current favorite in the crop of buses that travel from DC to NY?

I guess I should branch out and experiment, but I keep using Bolt. They're always on time (sometimes even arrive a little early), they're clean, the drivers are nice and, most important to me, the WiFi works!

This area, in August! We never take our vacation in August, because we want to stay here and take advantage of the blissfully-empty museums, movie theaters, restaurants, parks, and roads! It is actually cooler here in August most years than in July, and even if it is not, the lack of people makes up for any heat issues.

Smart cookie!

I don't know that I have a favorite place to travel in the off season, but I certainly have a place I wont go again in the off season. I went to Norway late November of 2007. All the fjord tours were closed, the weather was atrocious and the daylight lasted approximately 5.5 hours. That was NOT a well planned trip on my part, but I did get to reconnect with my ancestral homeland, I guess!

Oh dear. You'll have to go back!

If you are staying in Kissimmee, the 56 will take you right to the Transit Center of Disney World. Super easy and waaay cheaper than parking.

Heading to Lyon, France for a few days -- any recommended hotels? From what I can tell it's best to stay on the island between the two rivers, but would love any lodging/neighborhood tips. Thanks!

Can't really offer a specific recommendation. Chatters, can you?

I'm trying to plan a "Girls Reunion" for next summer. We're looking for a nice, although not expensive, "resort type" place that offers water, spas, shopping and other outdoor activities. Since everyone will be driving, the location needs to be somewhere equidistant from Pittsburgh and Long Island. Any ideas? Thanks!

All your parameters are making this a little tricky, as far as water goes, especially since your distance requirements put you somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania around Harrisburg. Have you thought about Hershey? Liberty Mountain Resort might be another option, although it's a bit closer to Pittsburgh.

Cape Cod, with basically just one main road, is so much easier to drive around in the offseason. Same great seafood, same beautiful ocean views, greatly-reduced hotel rates, and the charm of the hardy New Englanders who stay year-round.

Agreed!

Ok I need to rant about Dulles airport. I have done my road warrior routine this spring and summer, 72 passes through airports at 30 different airports in 15 countries in 6 months. I must report that 8 of my 10 passes through IAD are in the bottom 10 experiences I have had. How hard is it to do better than Dhaka or Ouagadougou? Even the American ghetto at Frankfurt is better than Dulles. Immigration on return is a joke. As a hobby I like to time how long it takes from plane door open to fresh air. I call my wife in Silver Spring when I land and she has to circle the airport before I get out. My 5 arrivals at IAD are the 5 slowest so far this year. You arrive at IAD between 3 and 5 PM, when there is are a lot of international arrivals and less than half the immigration lines are staffed. WTF?? Then let's talk about the people mover, twice it took over 15 minutes from bottom of escalator to push back. I ended up on a Beijing-ORD-DCA flight my last trip back from Beijing and door to door it took less time than the direct Beijing-IAD flight, and I got a beer in ORD waiting for the connection. Going out of Dulles is just as bad. Last trip I'm in the screening line at 6:15AM. There are 225 people in line and only 5 of 12 security lines open. One of the guys checking IDs and boarding passes average 1/6th the number of people as the line next to him. NO supervision obviously. Funny thing is that everyone seems to be trying but the planning sucks. You know that there will be a rush when the airport opens, and once the line builds to 225-250 people it will take hours to reduce it, how about a few more people at the start, After 8AM they keep up but they let the lines build up every day. Last year I flew Beijing to Urumqi 3 days after the hijack attempt. NO real lines, every security line open 8 people per line. They took EVERYTHING out of your carry on repacked it before you were done with your pat down. It ain't hard it just take a few brain cells rubbed against each other to do it.

Oh, dear. Perhaps someone at Dulles will read this.

I know you have dealt with problems with credit cards without a chip in Europe. I can tell you that I ran into the new machines everywhere. They had to run the card through instead of sticking it into the machine. The worst was the frustration of trying to start your day with a purchase, you don't have enough handy cash, and your regular American credit card isn't working properly. Eventually, we got a different machine to work, but I wanted to run to my bank and get a card with a chip in place. I was in Montreal in May and did not run into this problem.

I'm sorry this happened to you. The good news is that chip-and-pin technology is probably coming to a credit card near you by early next year. So by the time you visit Canada next year, this should be less of a problem (I hope). Check with your credit card provider to see if an upgrade is available, or might be soon.

The Outer Banks!! Hundreds of miles of beach practically to ourselves, typically nice weather in the shoulder season (and even not too bad in the middle of winter), great place to hang out with the husband and dog and relax! There are practically no tourists, so you get to meet more locals and find the really good places to hang out. We've also never been disappointed in our excursions, whether we drive through Carova Beach to see the horses, or go for a walk to see dolphins.

Bingo! My fave, too.

We were to spend our 5th wedding anniversary in Italy...Tropical Storm Lee flooded our home...so, no Italy. But, this year we are going (fingers crossed...no storms) and we'd love a recommendation for an elegant (not super expensive) restaurant with a great view, not touristy and good vegetarian choices ( I'm vegetarian, my husband is not) in Venice.

We will have to turn to the chatters for help on this one, not having been to Venice recently. Folks, your choices?

I will be in Scotland in late January. I know it is not ideal but I am not able to visit any other time. I would like to attend a Burns Night Dinner but have no idea how to go about finding or making reservations for one ,especially from the U.S. Is this even something a solo tourist can attend?Should I wait until I get there and hope for the best? I hope to stay in a guest house but don't have reservations yet. Do you have any recommendations or ideas for this trip? I am traveling alone and have never been to Scotland. Thank you so much!

You can look for Burns Night events on the Scotland tourism site. Going as a solo tourist to a dinner? Why not? I'm not sure we can answer whether you should wait until you get there. I like to plan things ahead, but that's me. For other ideas, see our recent Edinburgh story.

In late September, we're taking a direct flight from Dulles to Honolulu with our 7-year-old and our 2-year-old. The 7-year-old should be fine, but the 2-year-old, well...the flight leaves right after lunch so he should get a 3 hour nap. We're taking a dvd player and a Kindle with his favorite shows, and chargers for when they run down. Hopefully the other passengers won't mind us walking up and down the aisles for a bit. He likes being read to, but isn't yet interested in coloring or stickers. Any other suggestions? The 7-8 hours he'll be awake is a long time to spend on an airplane trying to keep an active (but not overwhelmingly so) toddler happy and relatively quiet.

I've made that flight with three kids, ages 3, 5 and 7, and you're doing all the right things. One tip to add: Bring plenty of snacks. You can never have enough snacks.

Comment: I liked your article about visiting Miami, Florida in the summertime. Note that not everything in Miami is South Beach, Seaquarium, Everglades or Coral Gables. For example, has the author visited Immigration Tower or Bay Front Marketplace, near the InterContinental Hotel. Has she been on the People Mover elevated train that runs in that neck of the woods? Has she been to Bar Harbor, to Wolfie's or Joe's Stone Crabs? I've been to many of these places over the years of visiting Miami, starting in 1972, primarily to visit my grandparents or on pre-or post-cruise stays in the city. Fave hotels for me include the Hyatt (near the aforementioned People Mover train), InterContinental (near the aforementioned Bay Front Marketplace) and the Fontainbleau Hotel on Miami Beach. Places I've yet to visit include the aforementioned Immigration Tower (always get a glimpse on the way to my cruise ship, but not doing a visit), Vizcaya, and South Beach. Have a great day

Thanks for the ideas!

I'm getting ready to travel to Europe for the first time in two weeks. SO SO excited! But since this is my first time traveling so far, I would love some advice about how to deal with the flight (7 hours, arriving at 8am local time) and the ensuing jet lag. How do people sleep on flights? Should I really try to start the day when I arrive and not nap? Will I want a change of clothes or toiletries in my carry on? Thank you so much!

If you're the type who finds it easy to sleep, eat dinner before you board the flight, get a window seat, put on some eyeshades & ear plugs and tell the flight attendant you don't want to be bothered with food & drinks. It is a little like being in a hospital, in that there is always noise and lights, especially initially, but you may be able to get five hours of sleep if you aren't too wired up. Some people take Ambien or some other sleep aid, but those medicines are designed to last for longer than five hours. I always try to get an early check-in and a nap when I arrive, but that's an individual decision. Some prefer  to hit the ground running. And always a good idea to bring a change of clothes and toiletries on the flight, not only to freshen up, but just in case your checked bag is lost.  

This may sound weird, but one of my favorite off season times to travel is early December to Las Vegas. I can usually do it super cheaply, and it's one of the few places I can go cheaply in December that is warm so I can escape the Midwest Winter. It's a much better way to experience Vegas. At all other times it is excessively hot or excessively crowded.

You're a smart cookie, too!

Hello - on a recent chat (about a month ago), a food tour was suggested for a solo traveler in a new city. I took that advice during a recent visit to San Francisco - my first time there. I took a look at Yelp, and found Avital Tours highly recommended. This tour was one of the highlights of my visit - Avital plans, schedules, and conducts the tours herself, and has established a great rapport with local restaurants. Our particular tour took place in the Mission District, and we sampled foods from various neighborhood restaurants - including meeting the restaurant proprietors and managers, and even some hands-on experience making empanadas! - as well as hearing some background on the neighborhood itself as we walked around. I can't recommend Avital tours highly enough - or taking a similar tour when traveling to another city. Thanks, Flight Crew, for a fantastic tip!

Glad you had such a good experience!

The best off-season trip I've ever taken was to the Grand Canyon in early April. Hardly any crowds and gorgeous hiking weather; in fact we were able to fit in much more hiking than we expected because the weather was so pleasant. There was still some snow just inside the rim so the descent was a bit dicey. I admit to falling down the trail twice- but it was so worth it.

Hope you didn't get hurt!

I don't know if this counts, but...when I was working for a company, they sent me to Amsterdam for a month - in Jan/Feb. It was COLD, but awfully sunny. There weren't any 'river' tours, but it was a fabulous city to explore. I was on expense (yeah!) so I could eat in nice places, and I had a hotel, but in the evenings and on weekends, it was so fabulous to explore. I would just walk around the city, with a vague idea of where to go (the big museums, anne frank house, etc ) but I had no where to go and no one to see, so I would just wander around and I definitely remember it very fondly. This was almost 20 years ago, so there were no smartphones, or even really a lot of internet research (I had done a tiny bit before I left on the company computers, and printed it out to have it, and I had a map from the tourist place, but that was about it - it's a tiny city, though). I had a great time.

Sounds lovely, despite the cold.

You noted a few weeks ago that the procedure to apply for a Russian visa was being streamlinied. From what I can tell the process looks worse than it used to be. I traveled to Russia in 2008, followed the instructions on the embassy web site and (unlike some people) had no problems. The new procedure puts an independent contractor between the applicant and the embassy, which still processes the visa. But the application is MORE intrusive than ever. You have to fill out the application on-line, then print it out and deliver the paperwork to the contractor. You are asked to supply information about EVERY place you have EVER worked, with contact information for supervisors. You are asked to list EVERY school you attended after high school, with course of study and contact information. You are asked questions about current and past illnesses. You are asked to name every organization you have ever belonged to or "cooperated with." Etc., etc. After you enter your current employment information, the web site asks, "Have you ever worked anywhere else?" and you MUST choose Yes or No. If you choose Yes, you will be asked to enter information about your previous employer, and when you have done so, it asks again "Have you ever worked anywhere else? Yes/No." There is no option to say "Not applicable" or just move on to the next window. If you answer "No" after you have entered, say, your first job after college, you are in effect lying if you fail to enter your time waiting tables or working a fast-food counter while you were in school. Unlike a paper form, where you can choose what to include or omit, there is no option to move on without answering Yes or No. The application also demands to know every place you plan to visit, with hotel confirmations and contact information. It also demands a list of every country you have visited in the past 10 years, with dates. You also have to make an appointment just to deliver your documents to the embassy. I have traveled to a number of countries with authoritarian governments, including China, and I've never seen anything like this. It's like applying for a job at the CIA. And I understand that the application Russians have to complete to come here is every bit as intrusive or more so. This has to be a relic of the Cold War, which ended -- let me check my watch -- around 25 years ago. Are there any plans to make it easier to visit Russia, and for Russians to come here?

No plans that I know of, alas.

You are not going to find an elegant restaurant that is NOT expensive in Venice. EVERYTHING is expensive in Venice. EVERYTHING.

Yes, this is true.

I will have one day and night in London between work commitments next month. I have been there before and done the usual sites. Is there anything special that I should see in the post-Olympics glow?

Well, maybe you should go see Olympic Park, now that it's empty. I know that the city was hoping that it would become a tourist attraction even after the Olympics were over. Especially the Orbit, the huge, twisted observation tower; a tour guide told Andrea, when she visited, that the city hoped it would become as well-known to visitors as the London Bridge or the London Eye. So go check it out!

There seems to be growing and persistent lack of cabs at Reagan National, especially on Sunday afternoons. Line was at least 50 meters long yesterday at 4:30 and wait was 1/2 hour. What gives? (unfortunately, metro wasn't an option for me)

That actually sounds pretty typical for a Sunday afternoon, when everyone seems to be coming back from out of town. I'm not aware of anything dramatically changing the situation. The airports authority said it's useful to remember that the airport has an open cab system, meaning it's up to the drivers to decide to come to the airport.

can't figure out what's going on with Global Entry, worked fine the first couple of years and now the kiosk takes an unauthorized photo of you, presumably so you are who they think you are, and you're "subject to verfiication" which i think means the officer looking at the receipt is making the judgments the system was devised to avoid. Lastly, they say global entry participants are eligible for TSA PRE but as i learned from a TSA agent, it's not "automatic." At least they should let you know whether you're in or out but they never seem to respond.

You're right, eligibility for Pre-Check for Global Entry members isn't automatic, at least according to the TSA site. But in conversations I've had with the agency, it has assured me that you're more or less a shoe-in for Pre-Check, since you've already undergone the necessary verification. If you're not waved through, you should check back with Global Entry; there might be a problem with your status that needs clarification.

How come both the editor and deputy editor of Travel are "acting?" Does the Post have big changes in store for Travel? Is somebody mad at you? Or what?

I'm "acting" because I'm filling in for Joe Yonan, the Post's Travel and Food editor, who's on a year-long book leave. He's due back Jan. 1, when I will revert to being fulltime deputy editor, and Jane, who has been on loan to both Travel and Food to act as deputy editor for both sections, will return to her regular job as a multiplatform editor. That's all. No big mystery. :-)

Hubby and I are going to London next week (our first trip out of the continent yay!). We will only be there for 4 days and are cramming in as much stuff as possible. We are planning on dedicating 2 days to walk/tour the city itself, 1 day to do a bus tour to Bath and Stonehenge. We are still trying to figure out what to do with the remaining day (it would be our first day there, we have a direct overnight flight and land in London at 7am!!). We can't check in our hotel until 2pm so we are trying to figure out what we can do to entertain ourselves. Would it be too ambitious of us to rent a car directly from the airport to drive to the White Cliffs of Dover for a day and return back to London that night? I am mainly worried about jet lag - and whether we'd be tired or not. The farthest I've been is California (3 hour time difference). Is there something else we can do? We are staying in SW6 of London Thank you so much!

Why are you cramming in as much stuff as possible? Sounds like a recipe for exhaustion. I don't think you'll sleep much on the flight, especially since you're not seasoned travelers and you'll be excited about the trip.  I would not do a long drive upon arrival --  you'll be tired, plus you're not used to driving on the opposite side of the road. Instead, ask the hotel if you can check in early, or at least leave your bags there. And then take a get acquainted bus tour or a cruise along the River Thames. 

 

Yes, there is the LYNX bus system, but if you aren't staying on or near the Disney properties, you can have long waits between buses - Orlandos is pretty spread out and public transit is no way near as quick and efficient as NY, Chicago, etc. Since you are going the in fall, it would probably be easier to just rent a car when rates will be lower than in the summer. And you will be free to see more than just Disney - downtown Winter Park is lovely and has lots of neat shops and restaurants, for example.

I agree that renting a car is probably the better way to go.

I just noticed that metro opens on Saturday at 7am and I have a flight in two weeks leaving at 8:45a from DCA. Im in White Flint and the metro rider tool says that I can get to DCA at 7:58am and the same if using a bus assuming there is no delay, but still is too risky. We can't afford taxi, and we had the most horrible experience with super shuttle (never showed up even though we called several times to see what was going on, then they told us to get a taxi that they will pay, we took a taxi, missed the flight, the airline couldn't accommodate us in another flight we waited till next day and HAD to pay extra because we missed the flight, then we contacted suppershuttle for them to reimburse the $100 taxi ride and after years of pursuing the dispute they don't want to pay). What can we do?!

Hm. Perhaps you have a really, really good friend who could give you a ride? I'm guessing you don't have a car to drive yourself in, right? I suppose Zipcar is an option, if you have a membership. You could probably drop it off around the Crystal City Metro and hop on the train for one stop, if you arrive after the system's open.

Other ideas?

Never been to NYC before but I'm heading there twice in the next couple weeks -- once for a job interview where I'll have an afternoon and evening to kill (hotel is in midtown Manhattan) and the second time for the US Open. I have tickets for two day sessions but have evenings and another two days free. What touristy things are must-see and what should be skipped?

You'll get a bunch of different answers depending on whom you ask. Me, I'd spend evenings going to Broadway (or off-Broadway) shows. Days, I'd explore Central Park if the weather cooperated. I'd go to at least one great museum, either MoMA or the Metropolitan. And since I'm a food person, I'd go to Eataly and Chelsea Market. I'd also take one of the many hop-on, hop-off bus tours so I could check out more of Manhattan.

The High Line is also really cool. Maybe people will disagree with me on this, but if you've never been to New York, I feel like you need to at least consider checking out the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building!

Hi, Travel Gurus. My favorite thing to do in the off-season is to do a European cruise, because at this time of year, there are smaller crowds, kids are in school, and lots more fun to enjoy yourself while the ship is moored at the wharf. Note: I said "smaller crowds," not "no crowds" or "fewer people." Many places in Europe, e.g., Rome, Florence, Venice, Barcelona, Madrid, and London are still receiving lots of visitors, especially London, post-2012 Summer Games. So far, I've cruise the Black Sea, the Aegean, Med, Adriatic, and the Baltic. I do more time on the Adriatic before I switch to someplace else. I also echo other chatters about hurricane season in the Caribbean. If you go cruising there during that season, try to avoid the islands in the hurricane belt by going with lines that visit Aruba and the other islands in the ABC chain.

Thanks!

May usually be relatively warm during the day but not always, and at night in can get cold and windy.

Heading to Philly for 2 nights to Bruuuuce on Labor Day weekend. We are staying at the Le Meridien hotel. Any good Indian restaurants around there or am I in the wrong chat? By the way, when I booked my hotel on line at their website, I was charged an amount that was near what I would be paying. I called Le Meridien and they said they don't bill until you arrive. I called the vendor at the number on the charge card statement and it was an outfit in El Salvador booking fraudulent travel. The phone no. was a Washington State no. They asked for an eleven digit reservation no. (Le Meridien's is 9 digits). I ended up cancelling that card and my bank took care of the fraudulent charge. I think I booked it through Starwood Points website. I did call them back and told them something had been hacked. Thanks.

I love Le Meridien in Philly! Glad you got that fraudulent charge taken care of.  To answer your restaurant question -- the hotel's not far from Rittenhouse Square, where you can find Indian Restaurant (yep, that's what it's called). Also not far away, on South Broad St., is Tashan, a Best of Philly2012 selection.

Chatters, other suggestions?

The whale watching tours are a lot of fun although they will take several hours of your time.

For the poster asking about vegetarian options in Venice -- I'm vegetarian, my husband is not. In Venice last September we ate a fabulous meal at La Zucca (means The Pumpkin).  It has a separate vegetarian menu. We had a reservation for the early seating and we had such a nice time. You really don't feel rushed, and both my husband and I loved our meals. In fact, we met another American couple there and they ate there twice in several days because it's really the only nicer vegetarian restaurant in the city. While it's not super-fancy, it's definitely a cut above normal tourist haunts. I brought a skirt specifically for this restaurant. Hope this helps.

Thanks for the tip!

Was there in mid-late December. The Sistine chapel was empty. The guards actually let us lie on the floor to get a better look and told me to take my time. Dirty coat, excellent view. Well worth it.

Fabulous!

Why not 11am or 1pm? Planning for that after lunch nap?

It's the time slot the digital power-that-be gave us.

About 5 years ago my husband and I spent a week in London, in January; we'd been there several times before, but always in early fall. It was great -not crowded, and cold but not freezing temperatures, so walking was pleasant. In the middle of the week, though, it snowed about an inch and a half; even DC handles snow better. No street clearing, and taxis had a lot of difficulty getting around. Luckily, it warmed up after a day, and everything melted away. On chip/pin credit cards - Bank of America has just started issuing them.

Thanks -- for both!

So how come, if the reason for moving the Travel chat to 2:00 on Mondays was to avoid conflict with Dr. Gridlock, there seems to be no Dr. Gridlock chat today? At least I can't find one, either in the sidebar to the right or by clicking the "Weekly Schedule" link.

You know, I can't figure that out, either. Maybe he's on vacation.

I like to go to the Stratford Festival in Canada on the "off season" (any time later than the end of August). I'm not really sure it is going to the festival in September that is the draw, though the area is beautiful as the fall starts and I find that the high schoolers in the matinees are sometimes better behaved than the people who go in the middle of the summer. I think it is going on vacation in September that is the great thing. I spent so many years of my life knowing that September is the time to get back to work because school was my work. Vacationing in September seems like a valid way to be a little naughty.

So true!

The best place to visit in the off-season is Maryland's Eastern Shore. Yeah, it's too cold to bike or boat, but seeing the ice on the marsh at Blackwater Refuge, enjoying a glass of wine in front of the huge outdoor fireplace at the Cambridge Hyatt, seeing the herons on the Tred Avon -- that's living.

Sounds like it!

I booked a residential "learn to surf" extravaganza a week before Christmas near Jaco. I was worried it would be packed - turned out the only two guests were me and a stock trader from New Jersey. He kept on talking about how he was debating leaving his wife and their two kids for his (and her) best friend and did a great job of being central casting for the nice guy who's entirely amoral once you get to know him. It would have been the perfect time to learn to surf with a great student ratio, but I wrenched my shoulder the first day and limped the rest of the time, only riding one wave in the tend. In between, I tore through most of the books in the camp's library, including The Road and a really interesting one on a sushi school in California.

Quite a trip!

I have been living in the US for 5 years and have been able to visit many states but only those with a dependable public transportation system as I don't drive, that said, I have been wanting to venture to some of the iconic US National Parks such as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, etc without success as I depend on public transportation that is not available at those places and big tours are not my idea of exploring a new place so I have to just venture to other countries or areas when I want to travel to the great outdoors. Do you have a recommendation on which National park in the US or Canada is possible to visit relying only on public transportation?

If you go to the NPS sites for individual parks, many will list public transportation options. In Yosemite, you can take a bus-train Amtrak combo or take Greyhound to the local bus system. Buses on various coach lines operate between Boston or Bangor and Acadia. Think of what parks you really want to go to, and then see what NPS has to say. For the record, here are your options for the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone

Hi, I want to recommend the National Cryptologic Museum, which I toured recently. On its website, it is claimed to be "the first and only public museum in the Intelligence Community". They have exhibits from the American Revolution, the American Civil War, and on up to present day.

Okay, great! We always love tips for new places to visit!

I'll be in Quintana Roo toward the end of October. I think that this is still technically in hurricane season--what do you think my chances are for hitting bad weather? Also, any advice on what sights/activities to see/do (or avoid!) would be much appreciated!

Chances are much better for no hurricane. But if you were there when Wilma struck in October 2005, you might disagree with me. I would go. Quintana Roo is a big place, so what to do depends on location. I like the snorkeling on Cozumel. And if you haven't done cave snorkeling, it's also lots of fun. Many like to go to ruins, but don't sign up for an all-day tour; take a cab and go early. 

Speaking of Portland, we are traveling there next month. We figured that a drive to Crater Lake would be good and then hit the Willamette Valley on the way Back to Portland. Any suggestions or must-see/do things in the Oregon wine country?

It's a little old at this point, but you might find some ideas in this story we had about the area's pinot noir.

Easily the best story today.

Well, thanks for your vote, but alas, it doesn't really count. :-)

Can you or chatters suggest neighborhoods to consider for lodging in Venice this winter? I'd prefer a less touristy area, somewhere where mostly locals live - we don't mind walking. Only real need is a short walk to the vaporetto for easy access to the train station. Thanks so much!

I'm not familiar enough with Venice to be able to offer anything useful, so let's ask the chatters. Guys?

Even if metro isn't an option to get to your final destination, it may be an option to get to a shorter cab line. Depending on where you're headed, maybe next time try metroing to Union Station or just about any end-of-line station. They always seem to have cabs, whereas at some of the others the cab lines can be less certain.

A very good point. I usually try to do the train-to-bus connection, but if that doesn't work, I like to head to King Street.

OP asking about Dr. Gridlock here. Maybe he's stuck in traffic.

There you go!

My husband and I would like to visit Greece within the next year or so. What is the best time to go? Also, do you have any suggestions as to how approach putting an itinerary together? We are looking to spend about 10-14 days in the country, probably starting off with Athens, but afterwards the island choices are endless. Help!

You might want to consider skipping the islands, a la this story we ran earlier this year. There's tons to do on the mainland, and believe it or not, it's less crowded than the islands. If you insist on going island-hopping, then I'd say Crete, Santorini and Naxos, at least. And go any time! Spring and summer are high tourist season, but the "best" time to go is probably when there are the fewest tourists, which would be winter. But don't worry, it's never really wintry in Greece. You may not be able to swim, but the days can still be sunny and quite warm. 

Hi, we're traveling to Cape Cod next week for vacation, and flying into Providence. Don't need a car while we're there and wonder if anyone has had experience with Peter Pan Bus service from the airport in Providence to Cape Cod, or if there are any other transportation services between these two points.

Anyone with an experience to share? Sounds like Peter Pan is your most direct option. Otherwise, you'd probably need to get up to the Boston area to connect to other systems.

okay, so i know nothing, given that i JUST moved here, but people tell me fall is lovely. it's winter that is supposedly depressing (how can that be? it's so wonderful now). Glad to hear there's a direct flight across the country, though! seriously, I am loving PDX

Glad you're happy with the move!

Just back from a first-time vacation in a lake house on Deep Creek Lake. The setting is lovely, but the rental accommodations, while spacious and modern, were just tad seedy. I assume this is the fault of the rental company. Dirty carpets, stains on the sheets and pillowcases (at least the best case scenario would be that they were stains that did not wash out), sinks that reeked of a backed up septic tank, thick dust on the window ledges and thread bare towels and blankets. Definitely not what I'm used to when renting a vacation home. Also, there wasn't a single lounge chair outdoors to sit, read, and enjoy the view. If they want to compete with other vacation spots, they really need to pay more attention to these details. It's not asking for much, especially given the rent they are asking. Does anyone know whether one company is better than another in that area?

Sorry you had a bad experience. Did you complain to the rental company? Chatters, do you know the answer to this person's question?

In response to a query in this column, the island (actually peninsula) between the 2 rivers (Rhone and Soane) in Lyon is called the "Presque Ile" which means "almost an island". There are lots of hotels there, but one I like is called the "Globe et Cecil" which is located near the large square named Place Bellecour. It is a small boutique hotel that is charming. WHen I go to Lyon, I actually stay in the 6th Arrondisement very near the Parc de la Tete D'Or which is beautiful. It has a lake, a complete zoo, eating, sitting, walking, etc. My favorite hotel there is La Reine Astrid on Bvld des Belges.

Merci!

trying to figure out the cheapest way to get from Virginia Beach to the Aguadilla side of Puerto Rico. Tried to use the JetBlue site, as they give a choice of Aguadilla to Richmond, but don't seem to list FROM Richmond. Is there any way to search who flies into Aguadilla? I realize that driving to Richmond or IAD might be my best best. Thanks!

JetBlue flies nonstop from Orlando, but the problem is that the flight to BQN leaves at 8:15 a.m., so you'd have to spend the night in Orlando to make the flight. The airline also offers flights from JFK, but again, leaves early. United also flies there, but out of New York. 

I'd skip Stonehenge and Bath because you only have four days in London. If you want to take a day trip or two, focus on Windsor Castle and Hampton Court (both easily accessible by train). The Tower of London, British Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, Speakers Corner in Hyde Park (if you'll be there on a Sunday), Trafalgar Square, the Changing of the Guard and everything else are too much for just two days.

Zipcar does not allow one-way trips, so that option is not viable for the chatter looking from how to get to White Flint to DCA early Saturday am.

Oh, dear, I stand corrected. Thank you!

I have to agree with the advice given - DO NOT rent a car to drive to Dover when you get there. You will have enough trouble crossing the streets, because you will be looking to your right (as you would in the States), when you should look to your left. In fact, on a lot of the crosswalks, there are signs telling you which way to look when crossing the street. Driving a stick shift car on the left side of the road (with jet lag) is an accident waiting to happen. Dover's interesting, but not worth it if you have that little time. Honestly, you can occupy your full 3 days in London - all of the museums are free (special exhibits are extra). Do a pub tour, go to Hyde Park, see Shakespeare at the Globe Theater. That should take care of your 3rd day.

I'm with you!

For the people on their first trip to London, something chill that doesn't use a lot of brain power may be a good choice for your first day. Like Harrod's, which is a neat experience and has food stalls and a cafe so you can plan to eat there too. Maybe find a pub near your hotel that has some local flavor, and get a good night's sleep for your big walking day ahead.

Hi, Love your column!! I have a quick question - I went to Atlantic City last month and saw a shoe store I would like to revisit again. Wonerful shoes and affordable prices! Bus or train? Where does the bus let you off at? Where is nearest hotel to stay that has military discount and is approx $120.00-$160.000 per nite - indoor pool and other amenaties? Would like to make a mini vacation out of it before it gets too chilly. Thanks for taking my question.

Bus is cheaper, train is nicer. I'm not sure where the bus drops you off, but perhaps some chatsters know. Andrea loved the Golden Nugget hotel, which appears to have great mid-week rates; don't know whether they have a military discount, but you could ask. Chatters, your thoughts?

My best off-season vacation was this past January when my boyfriend and I went to Italy, somewhere I've never been. The first day began in Rome and ended with a proposal in St. Peter's Basilica! (He gave me a fake ring because he didn't want to travel with the real one - he gave it to me when we got home. Good times!) From there we did a day in Pompeii (which, on a Sunday in January was really eerily quiet and void of any crowds), followed by jaunts in Florence and Venice. It wasn't cold in Rome and Pompeii, just got pretty chilly the farther north we went. We didn't care though - we stayed warm with fresh pasta and great bold red wines. Bonus: gelato doesn't melt in January. Even if I wasn't planning a wedding now it'd still be my favorite trip - we felt like we were the only ones hanging out in these beautiful cities for a week!

Love that line about the gelato!

I don't have a favorite place for off-season travel, but I will never go back to Marseilles in the winter again (we were there in December). Foul weather and everything was closed, including restaurants and grocery stores.

So sorry!

Does it still count as off-season in Europe if you visit there between September and April for the opera and soccer?

Yes, I would say that counts.

I wear a pressure sleeve because of lymphedema. Will this be a problem while going thru security check at the airport?

TSA has special procedures for passengers with disabilities and medical conditions. That said, it can't cover every scenario, and the agency sometimes falls short of its goal.

You might want to read this post on the TSA site. I would draw your attention to some of the comments. Bottom line: Even with the rhetoric about being more compassionate with their screening, the TSA's practices can leave something to be desired. I would show up early for your flight and if you're asked to do something you feel uncomfortable with, ask for a supervisor -- politely.

I've been to lots of places during the off season: Paris in November, Costa Rica in the rainy season, and yes, Greece in early April. We were on our honeymoon, and while many restaurants were closed, we were able to to see everything we really wanted, without the main-season crowds. We were actually the first guests of the season at one hotel on the island of Naxos, got the best room of the hotel (which we never would have been able to afford), and were served the most delicious breakfast I ever hope to eat - and had long conversations with the hotel owner and his family that really enhanced my understanding of the area. So lovely - and 8 of the 10 days of our vacation had perfect weather.

Cool!

I'm taking my first cruise in a few weeks to the Bahamas - one of those quick weekend things to a private island and Nassau. Any tips to make the best of a short trip? Best things to see/do in Nassau? Thanks!

Nassau offers all the usual shore excursion activities, including snorkeling, catamaran tour, etc. But I'd probably opt for a day pass to a resort. We took a cab and tried to just sit on a beach last time we  were there, but if you want access to amenities, best to get the day pass. The cruise line will offer these. Also, take a look at excursion to Blue Lagoon Island

An absolute must do is eat in the North End. Take a walk through the Common. Boston is very very walkable, hope for good weather!

In 2010, my husband and I went to Kenya and Tanzania in May for a safari. Because it was rainy season, the safari was about 1/2 the cost it was during the dry season. We had the parks and lodges to ourselves. Plus, the rain kept us cool but did not stop the animals from coming out. We saw lions, elephants, giraffees, etc. Because of the low attendance in the parks, we were able to get up close to a lion pride with their cubs, and see cheetahs up close. Those are things that would have been difficult with hundreds of other people in the parks.

Awesome!

Niagara Falls in winter Really!!!. We went once on the US Presidents' Day 3-day weekend (not a holiday in Canada!), and were wowed by all the ice in the falls -- the palest blue-green tinge you can possibly imagine. While you're in the area, also visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, a quaint little town, veddy English, as at least some of the businesses and eateries are open year-round.

Nice!

I am going for 4-5 days to Seattle in October. We have plenty of things planned to do, but what sort of weather should I expect? I am guessing rain, but what about temperature and humidity? Am from NC, so used to humidity, but going someplace without it would be nice. Need to decide what sort of clothing to pack. Thanks.

Here's temperature info from the Seattle tourism folks. I would bring clothing that you can easily layer. T-shirts for when it's warm, sweaters/fleece for when it's chilly, etc. If you want more specifics, call the visitor info line (866-732-2695). That's what they're there for!

Hi there! A few tips: Do NOT rely on a GPS if you are driving in the city. Look at a real map first, and then ask someone for directions. We are not a nice neat grid like DC or NYC. Good suggestions for food can be found on the Boston Phoenix's website and on the Boston Magazine's website (follow the link to "Best of Boston.") The best restaurant in town is Toscano on Charles Street and you should make reservations NOW. I'm not a seafood eater so have no recommendations there. Do the Freedom Trail, see Paul Revere's house, go out to Concord if you have the time. Harvard Square in Cambridge is fun. They give tours of Fenway Park if that interests you.

The Boston-bound couple thanks you.

My brother passed away suddenly and USAirways does nothing to help with fares. I had to pay the $10 fare for a premium seat just to get a seat assignment. Will try my best to avoid USAirways whenever I travel.

Good point. Some airlines either limit the availability of bereavement fares or have done away with them entirely.  If you have 24 hours before your flight, you may have more luck trying an opaque site like Hotwire or Priceline.

That other paper (cough, cough) has a jet lag article with many, many user comments about how to minimize your suffering.

(Cough, cough) thanks.

Fall is fine to visit Portland or for that matter Seattle. You can see fall colors but its variable based on elevation...where high elevation turn end of September and sea level turn end of October. in late September/early October is usually the warmest time of the year along the Pacific coast because the ocean temps are warmer. In the fall the weather pattern tends to be 1 out of 3/4 days you get rain...the other days its partly cloudy. From July-September is very clear and dry. November-early March it tend to be overcast with light showers and occasionally heavy rain. The spring it is similar to the fall.

You're making me feel better already. Although for the $230 round-trip ticket I got out of DCA to Seattle, I wasn't going to let any weather stop me.

Campobello Island, just across from Maine in New Brunswick, Canada. We went there in early October one year, the week before the Roosevelt cottage closes for the season. Had it, as well as the campground, pretty much to ourselves. Weather was autumny, but not freezing yet, judging by all the marigolds and other tender flowers still blooming in residents' yards.

Lovely!

Christmas on Cape Cod is wonderful!

I, too, had never heard of the Circumvesuviana trains -- sounds like a great idea. We drove the mountain roads from Pompeii down to Sorrento, across the peninsula to Positano and Amalfi, and onward, and while it was challenging, it wasn't awful. (I wouldn't want to try driving it in a bus, though!) FWIW, I'm in my 60s, so I guess it just depends on the person.

I know lots in their 60s who like the driving, while others in their 20s are not keen on getting behind wheel. Put me on a train with a good book or lovely landscape to view.

 

I read the WaPo travel chat at 2pm instead of noon. Oh wait, this isn't off season anymore!

Har, har. :-)

Have used many times, and it works well!

My husband and I are considering taking a small-boat charter cruise through the Greek isles for our vacation. It would be us and just two other couples for a week-long trip, departing from Corfu. Do you have any experience with trips like this? We've never done something so intimate that would require us to spend so much time in close quarters with strangers, and would appreciate any thoughts you had. And, of course, anything you could tell me about the Greek isles in general would be much appreciated.

Have not done a cruise of that nature. Chatsters, have any of you?

As for info on the isles, here's a story we did a couple of years ago that mentions a couple, Santorini and Kos. And here's a story on Crete.

DON'T plan on seeing Olympic Park unless it's after the Paralympic Games conclude (and check it out before you go). We traveled out there this past week, and NOTHING except for the shopping mall and a staircase where you can get an oblique view of the stadium were accessible. It's a long way out of the center of London for those "sights".

Good to know, thanks!

...hope this gets in. My husband and I ate at Antiche Carampane and loved the atmosphere and ambiance. It is off the beaten path (in terms of foot traffic), so no "view" (as the previous poster says, everything in Venice is expensive, but restaurants with a "view" are typically more expensive and mediocre). It was fun to get to because part of the charm in Venice is exploring its many twisting and confusing alleys and canals. Antiche Carampane is pretty traditional Venetian fare. It is pretty well-known, so reservations are a must. It was quaint and romantic. Unfortunately I am not sure about vegetarian fare, we ate a lot of the seafood offerings, and it had an excellent wine list.

and am SO excited to visit Hawaii. I see so many trips that combine islands. but when i lived on the east coast - it was so easy to get to the caribbean that we did. i know hawaii's further, but still... is it okay to visit just one island at a time? what if I never get back? i know, this isn't the most important question ever, but i've never been to hawaii, and i'm thinking that staying put for a week (or 5 days, or however long we go for) makes more sense than island hopping. we could go on a day trip to another island right? so, then, what is the 'best' island to start with?

If you have the time, take more than a week and visit at least two islands. Hawaii is a haul. My last trip to Maui took almost a full day and it felt like much longer once I factored in the jetlag. I would probably start with Oahu and if you had to do one other island, either Maui or the Big Island. I haven't explored every one of the islands, but I'm heading back later this year, and hope to hit a few I haven't visited yet. Give yourself at least five days per island, and more if you can afford to.

Atlantis is expensive. We traveled to the Divi Aruba several years ago. Its not high end, but its well kept and it is all inclusive including some water sports. The beach is exquisite there. The kids loved it, food available all day and they were allowed to sit at the beach bar and get a snack. It is a great place for a large group.

Thanks for the idea. 

We stayed in St. Elena area (the best western was perfectly fine/lovely, though not a luxury hotel) and really enjoyed it. 2 minutes from the vaporetto, quiet neighborhood with a few restaurants.

Hi, gurus, I'll be in NYC this weekend and have most of the trip booked solid. But to my friends' schedules and whatnot, I am on my own Sunday evening. Thoughts on a good place to dine solo? Would Eataly be fun by myself?

Eataly would definitely be fun by yourself. You can do a little progressive dinner thing. It would also be easy for you to slip into one of the more sit-down places by yourself, I would think.

My best friend is having his 40th Bday trip in Key West coming up in Feb. So I decided to make this a mini-vacation for myself. I expect the festivities to be over that weekend leaving me with Monday and Tuesday to visit the area. (I've been to Key West before so I am looking into renting a car on Monday and returning it on Tuesday before my flight the following evening). Since I've never been to any of the other Keys I want to know what I must not miss since I only have technically two days. My interest range from hiking and wildlife to just taking it easy and museums. Any advice on must do/see and which of the other keys I should get to, Thanks for taking my question.

If you're flying into Key West, you really have two choices -- either stay there and do everything on foot or bike, or rent a car and get off the island. If you like to fish or dive, and love old railroad bridges and gorgeous seascapes, you'll want to drive northeast to Big Pine and Marathon (Lower and Middle Keys). There's an excellent museum on Pigeon Key and the trip across the famous Seven-Mile Bridge is definitely worth it. But you don't have to go that far. Bahia Honda State Park has a nice beach and a nice view of the railroad bridge. And there's plenty of diving and fishing in the Lower Keys.

Will Costa del Sol be beach weather in early/mid Oct? I mean, normally. Before global warming :)

October is a changeable weather month in Spain's Costa del Sol. Afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon. Average daytime  high is about 72. A few tourists may be on the beach, but the season is over. 

For the traveler who is going to Portland and then to crater lake and up Willamette Valley. If you travel route 99 that goes through the heart of the wine country. Its about 90 miles from around Eugene up to Portland where you are passing through various towns. There is a concentrated area of them in the area of Newberg.

If you can, run him around the airport before getting on the plane. Literally. We did this with our toddler and it worked really well. Also, try boarding last so that he doesn't have to sit in his seat as long. Also, lots and lots of snacks. Throw nutrition out the window. I also read once that you should have a new toy/snack for every fifteen minutes (more or less), so that might help be a guide. Just something new to keep his attention. Good luck!

Hi Chris, On August 9, on a return flight from London aboard Delta, our connection in JFK to BWI was delayed over three hours due to a backup in planes that had been previously delayed by weather. (The key factoid here is that our particular plane did not have a weather delay.) After sitting on the tarmac for three hours, the pilot invoked the new FFA rule, returned to the gate... and then was relieved from his shift because he had exceeded the number of work hours for that day. All passengers were told to rebook their flights. By 1 am (six hours after the original departure time of my flight), I finally made it to the front of the Delta customer service line. There I was told that, because the delay was tangentially related to a weather delay, the airline would do nothing for me - no food, no hotel, no rebooking on a competitor's airline - but that they could rebook me on a DC flight leaving the following evening. Instead, my husband and I paid out-of-pocket for a hotel, a taxi to LGA, and a flight to DC in the morning. Do we have any way to recover this additional expense? Thanks.

I'm sorry this happened to you. Whenever there's a delay, and there are multiple reasons (air traffic, mechanical, weather, etc.) the airline will invoke the one that's the most advantageous. In your case, playing the weather card worked best, because under its contract of carriage, it could send you away and tell you to come back for the next flight. No meal vouchers, no hotels -- nothing.

I don't know the specifics of your situation, but I can tell you that airlines often play the weather card in this way. What's worse, no one is auditing the airlines to see if there was an actual weather delay; we have to take them at their word. I would send a brief, polite email to Delta through its website, explaining your circumstances. If you don't get the answer you want, you might consider appealing to the Transportation Department, which can force the airline to give it a straight answer about the cause of your flight's cancellation.

You can take the train or "T" from the Providence airport into downtown Boston. I'm not sure how you get the cape from Boston, but I am sure there are more options from downtown Boston than from the Providence airport or downtown Providence.

Yeah, we don't know whether the chatter is willing to connect through Boston, but if so, here are some options.

Are you about to start now?

We're about to stop!

Entering England at Heathrow is time consuming..Long lines and few workers. I recommend a nap upon arrival at the hotel, then out for a memorable dinner. If you can take time to visit the British Museum, you will discover that future trips to other countries will seem irrevelevant or at least repetitious.

Yes, British Museum is great, but I still like visiting those other countries. I'm with you re: taking it easy the first day. 

Maybe not as iconic as Yellowstone and the like, but Fort McHenry in Baltimore has transit running to it!

Expect 1 or 2 days of your trip to be cloudy with some showers. Look at the weather forecast before your trip. From October to January is the Pacific NW version of Hurricane season where reminents of old tropical storms off of Japan go up into Alaska and form very windy storms where coastal winds are over 100 mph and the interior valley it can easily top 60.

Ideas for things to see in/from Lower Manhattan: Staten Island Ferry, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Ground Zero.

Yes, yes, yes and yes.

How about Nemacolin Woods resort. My friends and I did this same thing in March a couple of years ago. We did not stay in the expensive lodge, but there are townhouses/condos on the property that entitle you to use all the resort amenities. They have great spas, restaurants, some shopping etc. The townhouses have full kitchens so you can save some money on eating out. It was a great weekend!

I like the Nemacolin Woodlands idea as long as you can get a decent rate. Until late November, looks like the townhouse rentals are $455 midweek and $509 weekends before taxes; there's also a daily resort fee. Nemacolin is a lot of fun, regardless of the season.

It is GORGEOUS here in the fall!! If it's not raining (and hey, it happens in the summer, too) the trees are perfect and the weather is crisp and can even be warm. Our summer lasts from just after the 4th of July through October. :)

I will be in Portland in late September with my family, and I can't wait. Thanks for the tip.

Yesterday's NYT travel section had a good and detailed article about how to deal with jet lag. My general practice is to set my watch to my destination as soon as the plane takes off, and try to sleep while it is nighttime there (and stay awake when it is not).

Going to most of Europe isn't too painful for jetlag, similar to going to the west coast US. I find that if I just push through that first day and don't go to sleep until I normally would if I lived there, I'm fine the next day and for the rest of the trip. It's when I oversleep that issues arise.

It was a very long time ago (over 10 years) and I was coming all the way from NYC, but the bus got me to my destination on Cape Cod.

I have a regular Capital One Visa that I use for all itnernational travel and purchases. I have no idea what my pin for the card is and don't want to know. Sometimes I can use it and sometimes the store will absolutely refuse it. What I have discovered is that sometimes it will be swiped and the I will be asked for a pin because that's what the credit card machine is asking for. "ENTER PIN" is on the screen. What it means is the security code on the back. Every time I enter those numbers, it goes through without any problem whatsoever.

We were in Portland in late October a couple of years ago and did have some cool, even occasionally wet, weather, but it was quite survivable. Did have to walk through mud and drizzle at one point, but that was at a corn maze before Halloween (just missed the famous downtown zombie walk). I love Edinburgh, but I'd rather be in Portland in October than eat haggas at a Robert Burns Night.

Besides the Museum of Fine Arts, I would also recommend the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The North End has great Italian food (and seafood- lobster is dirt cheap right now), but do some research on Yelp or another site to figure out which restaurants are worth the wait. Take a ferry out to the Harbor Islands when you need a break from the city.

You have to return zipcar to the parking space where you rented it so you can't just leave it in Crystal City.

Never nap the first day! And it's easy to have a cool museum when you just grab all the stuff from other countries that you liked. Their description on why they're not giving the Elgin Marbles back to Greece is amusing in its seriousness - I'd have preferred "come and take it from us!".

Bucks County, PA., around New Hope?

Yeah, I thought of this too. It's much closer to New York than Pittsburgh, though. But, hey, perhaps someone won't mind the extra distance.

Skip Stonehenge unless you REALLY want to see it - it's just stones. It's more important for what it represents (there's no place that those stones came from nearby, and the people carrying them didn't have much in the way of technology) than what it looks like. There's not a lot nearby, save for a nice cathedral. I would recommend Greenwich, which is cool and fun and has some cool science-nerd exhibits and a nice college.

For the poster last week that asked about driving in Tuscany / Southern Italy - Tuscany is very drivable, though I'd certainly recommend driving up to the small towns, but NOT drive into town. Most of the walled villages have parking lots outside - just do that and walk into town, as the walls are very narrow (our little Fiat barely made it through Montepulciano), and it's easy to get stuck. Southern Italy is a bit more chaotic - I'd recommend returning your rental in Tuscany and taking the train to get south (and proceed with ferry / bus from there).

 Yes, agree about driving in southern Italy being more chaotic. Sicily, however, was easier to drive than I thought it would be. 

In addition to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Freedom Trail, I'd include Harvard Square a whale watch through the New England Aquarium. As for where to eat, Union Oyster House is the oldest continuously-run restaurant in the U.S. (opened in 1826) and Pizzeria Regina in the North End has been around since 1926. Or just find some hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant in the North End -- but leave some room for cannolis from Mike's Pastry!

For the person looking for a quick flight, do check out the normal discounters as well. Several years ago, we needed a quick flight to Texas. It turned out cheaper to fly AirTran to DFW than to use a bereavement fare from any of the legacy carriers.

My husband and I have been promising my 9 year old daughter a trip to London for awhile and the Olympics have only made this more pressing. So we've decided for sometime next summer. Just to get an idea, I priced flights out as far as I could (around July 4, 2013) on a few airlines and thought the prices were reasonable. This makes me think that I should just book tickets now, get insurance of course, and then book hotels and tour information later on. Is this crazy? Is there anyway to know now what are good/bad times to be in London next summer?

No, it's not crazy. If the price is right, buy. Summer in London is fine. It can be rainy/cool, but you'll still enjoy it. 

I have never found bereavement fares to be significantly cheaper. Just FYI, usually when I've asked about this, the airlines has wanted to have the name/number of the funeral home or mortuary, so be prepared with that information.

in Edinburgh every night of the year. Or, at least, I went to one, in July a number of years ago. Also, I showed up at the train station with no hotel and no plans at all (except for a return train ticket to London in a few days). There is a trourist office a block or two from the station. They got me a discounted hotel room and lots of idea for what to do very quickly and easily. Might be a little harder if the hotels are getting rid of excess rooms on-line now, but I bet they still keep some for the tourist office.

May I also suggest downloading books to Kindle/IPod or bringing along books-on-CD? If mom doesn't want to physically read to 2yr old that's a nice alternative for kiddo and others surrounding kiddo (noise reduction). Just a thought.

I took Greyhound to AC last year (from DC). I just got off at the first hotel we came to, since they're all in a strip and it was only a few blocks from mine. But there is a bus station in AC right near the outlet mall. The bus also picks up from that station, BUT when I took it back it started at one of the casino hotels before it went to the station, and it pretty much filled up at the casino, so some people who waited at the station were out of luck and had to wait for the next one (since seats aren't reserved). So if you take the bus, find out where the first pick up is for the way back!

I've never taken a bus from Providence to the Cape, but have used buses between Falmouth and Boston Logan (including less than 2 weeks ago) and lots of other people do as well. I've not had any problems. Of course, on your return trip you want to be sure to leave plenty of wiggle room in your schedule, which would mean killing time at the airport just to be sure you get there on time and don't miss your flight in case traffic is crazy.

You can rent a car the day before at Hertz/Avis location near your home or office, and return it the next morning at DCA. There's an Exxon station near DCA if you're approaching the airport from Route 1. Hertz is usually cheaper, but Avis is usually pretty reasonable too. You can get discounts on your rental if you belong to AAA (Hertz) or Costco (Avis).

I admit it - the metro ads for West Virginia are working me. Any suggestions for a WVA getaway that would include beautiful scenery and some moderate hiking? I've never been and am pretty tempted. Thanks!

That pretty much covers the entire state! :) But there are a couple of areas I would recommend: Snowshoe, Canaan Valley and the spectacular New River Gorge (take the Bridge Walk!).

Because in the winter months of November through early March it tends to be overcast where you get mist/drizzle on most days. Its similar to some parts of the great lakes states on the downwind sides where they get persistent cloud cover due to the effect of being near the lakes and the temp contrast. In the grat lakes they get the annoying flurries of snow. In the Nw its cloud cover because of the jet stream and the mountains catch moisture causing the rain/drizzle.

And we have landed! Hey, not a bad maiden flight, I'd say, for our new time slot. Thanks all for joining in and sending in your questions, comments, tips and stories! There were a ton of good answers to my off-season question! Very hard to make a choice, so I made the easy one: The prize goes to the chatter who stays home in Washington in August. Of course! Send your contact info to me at smardzz@washpost.com, and I'll get you your prize forthwith.

Thanks again all, and see you next week, same time!

In This Chat
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
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.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Jane Touzalin
Jane Touzalin is acting deputy Travel editor.
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