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August 25, 2014

2:01
P.M.

Talk about Travel

Total Responses: 78

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Joe Yonan

Joe Yonan

Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Host: Zofia Smardz

Zofia Smardz

Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Host: Becky Krystal

Becky Krystal

Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Host: Carol Sottili

Carol Sottili

Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Host: Christopher  Elliott

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.

About the topic

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
Have a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel section's editors and writers are at your service.
Past Talk about Travel chats
Q.

Zofia Smardz :

Hello chatsters! Ive been away for a while, so good to be back with you all again. I trust you didn't miss me too much. ;-)

How about that fabulous photo contest issue!? Hope you found the finalists as fascinating and beautiful as we did. Keeping to the photo theme, tell me about your favorite photo of your travels. I have one -- it's of a trip to West Texas where I'm sitting on a stone wall above a beautiful desert valley, with mountains in the background. A slight breeze is blowing my hair and the sun's rays are creating a halo effect around my head. I've never looked so good! But the reason I really love that photo is because every time I look at it, I'm whisked right back to that spot, one of my favorite on earth. Oh, and the photo is not a selfie. They hadn't been invented yet. ;-) My husband took it. What do you think about selfies? Best photo story or answer to that question wins a prize.

 

Okay now let's chat!

Q.

Recommendations for Place to Escape

I'm seeking a dog-friendly place to spend a few days to relax and rejuvenate. Nothing fancy but nothing primitive either. Within 2-hours of the beltway. Maybe a bed and breakfast place? Thanks.
A.
Becky Krystal :

We may have different definitions of fancy, but options include the Bartlett Pear Inn of Easton, Md. (call to confirm pet-friendly -- couldn't get anyone on the line at the moment), and the Inn at Meander Plantation in Orange, Va. A lot of parks have pet-friendly accommodations that vary from rustic to more filled out, so it's worth looking into that.

– August 25, 2014 2:04 PM
Q.

Hotel Room pictures

The idea of taking a series of pictures of my hotel room, in every shape and fashion and from every angle, is just exhausting. If I am on vacation I don't want to do that kind of work. I will report any damage I find to the front desk. How is that not a viable solution?
A.
Christopher Elliott :

That's a perfectly viable solution. The point of my column is that hotels and car rental companies are coming after travelers like you for any damages, even if you didn't do it. If you see something that looks out of place, you should take a picture and report the damage immediately. Don't wait until you check out to say something.

– August 25, 2014 2:05 PM
Q.

My favorite photo

Years ago I was in Key West and made it to Mallory Square for a Sunset Party. Before the sunset it was madness -- street performers, loud drunks, live music, etc. But as the sun slowly sank into the water, all became quieter ... and quieter ... and quieter ... until it was gone. And the crowd applauded. I have a photo of that sunset, with one of the clipper ships in the foreground, that I blew up to poster-size and have hanging on my wall in my office. It's a constant reminder that sometimes we have to push back the noisy day-to-day and appreciate the sublimely beautiful. And applaud.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Lovely. I applaud you.

– August 25, 2014 2:06 PM
Q.

photo contest

I was appalled that you bestowed "honorable mention" status to the photo of the starving children in your photo contest. That the photographer used the desperation of others to enter a contest is rather shocking to me. There's a time when you should put the camera down. I'd venture to guess that this photo was not taken with the permission of the subjects or their parents either. I will admit that I don't usually agree with your judges, but this one is beyond the pale for me.
A.
Joe Yonan :

I'm sorry that this upsets you, but we saw it as a moving, illuminating glimpse of a moment that, unfortunately, occurs all too often in some parts of the world. Granted, it's the antithesis of a pretty vista, and makes the viewer uncomfortable, like the best art does. That's what appealed to us about it. The photographer struck us, in both the image and the caption submitted, to be very sensitive about the children's plight.

 

The 2014 Travel photo contest: winners and finalists

– August 25, 2014 2:06 PM
Q.

Water Fountains and US Airport Regs

A question for Chris: Are there any laws or regulations that require access to free drinking water (e.g., water fountains) past security checkpoints in US airports? As someone who tends to dry out like old toast on flights, I need to stay well-hydrated before my flight but occasionally encounter airports (I'm looking at you, St Thomas, USVI airport) that don't offer water fountains past security. Since you can't carry liquids through screening anymore, that leaves me to choose between 1) dehydration, 2) paying through the nose for bottled water, or 3) trying to drink out of the bathroom sink (shudder). Is there any recourse for travelers in these situations? Thanks!
A.
Christopher Elliott :

Airport facilities are maintained by the cities and municipalities that built them and are subject to local laws and regulations, for the most part. I'm not aware of any federal laws that require a water fountain to be installed past a security checkpoint at the airport. But as a practical matter, there are plenty of restrooms in major airports in the United States, and the water in those restrooms would be the same water you'd have access to from a fountain. I don't recommend drinking out of a bathroom sink, but you could always carry your own empty cup or Thermos, or you could ask for a cup of ice from one of the airport vendors. Then fill up the cup in the bathroom. I do this all the time, and I'm still (relatively) healthy.

– August 25, 2014 2:07 PM
Q.

Best Travel Photo

1) You guys should totally replace your chat profile pictures with travel photos like the one you describe. That would be fun. 2) My favorite photo... first time in England, walking to Old Sarum. It's November, not too cold. I'm wearing a fisherman's sweater my mom knitted and going over a stile (so UK!). My friend took a photo. The goofy part? My mom liked the photo so much she did a water color painting based on it. I look like I'm 12. So, whenever we see it, we talk about how travel makes you young again.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

1) What a great idea! 2) Love it.

– August 25, 2014 2:08 PM
Q.

Leaving Baggage in CDG lockers

If asked whether you have any food in your luggage say no. No matter that it is in tins or bottles, they insisted we had to remove from luggage prior to leaving in the locker. As we were packed for traveling home and would have had to search through several pieces of luggage we declined leaving and stayed in the airport.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Ah. Good advice for any Paris travelers who are considering storing baggage on a long layover and heading into the city.

– August 25, 2014 2:08 PM
Q.

For the visitor to Copenhagen from last week

Take a harbor tour. You can "hop off" and back on a later boat at the Little Mermaid. From Nyhavn, where the tours begin and end, it's not far to Amalienborg, where the royal family resides. Changing of the guard is at midday, so you'll miss that, but it 's still fun to see the buildings. If you're interested in aerial views and handle heights well, go up the tower at Vorfrelserkirke (spiral staircase around the outside). If that's too airy for you, go up the Round Tower (Ronde Tårn). Carlsberg Brewery has an English-language tour in the afternoon. The park at Rosenborg Slot is a great place to people watch. There are quite a few restaurants along Nyhavn where you can sit outside and eat dinner (weather permitting) or grab a sandwich, smørrebrød or provisions from a supermarket and have a picnic along the harbor.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks for all this!

– August 25, 2014 2:09 PM
Q.

Midtown Manhattan Pre/Post Theatre Dining

We will be staying at the Iroquois Hotel in Midtown Veteran's Days weekend for our one-year wedding anniversary and catching an 8 p.m. show on Broadway. Any recommendations for good pre and/or post theatre meals relatively nearby that don't involve a tasting menu over $100 per person?

A.
Joe Yonan :

I'd look at the pre-theater pre-fixe menu at DB Bistro Moderne, one of Daniel Boulud's places. It's $48 for three courses, and they're VERY well-versed in getting you in and out in time for the show -- just make sure to tell them this before you book. (You could also go a la carte if you don't want to do the three courses.)

– August 25, 2014 2:09 PM
Q.

United delays and cancellations

Flying back from Detroit through EWR last week, my Weds eve flight was delayed due to 'air traffic control'. I opted not to wait for the possible 1:45 AM (!) departure, and switched to the 7:52 AM flight on Thurs. This flight was cancelled due to a maintenance issue, I was rebooked on the 12, which was delayed as they couldn't find a crew member (for an empty plane coming from DCA). I finally ended up taking the train, as a United rep had told me Amtrak honors their tickets - which was false. I was told at Amtrak I had to have a special voucher, but by that time I only had a few minutes to make the train, so I paid for the ticket. Do I have any recourse at all with United? I feel like this year they have been worse than ever - there's always at least one flight delay!
A.
Christopher Elliott :

If United canceled your flight, you're owed a refund on the unused portion of your ticket. I would also send a brief, polite email to United, letting it know that you feel misled, and seeing if they will cover the cost of your train ticket.

– August 25, 2014 2:10 PM
A.
Becky Krystal :

I feel your United pain. We were supposed to fly nonstop from Dulles to San Francisco the other week. It took about 5 hours of us being at the airport before our flight was canceled, following maintenance delays and then rules about crew shifts. Painful. Ended up on a delayed connecting flight. So, getting to SFO took us about 18 hours or so. Bad, bad, bad.

– August 25, 2014 2:10 PM
Q.

Cenote in Riviera Maya

How we can get to a cenote in Riviera Maya without joining a tour group? We will be staying in Puerto Aventuras which is sort of in between Tulum & Playa del Carmen. We are already planning to get to Coba using colectivo & Ado bus.
A.
Carol Sottili :

There are plenty of  privately owned cenotes off the main highway. As you drive from the airport, you will see the signs. I liked one named Chaak-Tun located in Playa del Carmen. These places don't have Web sites, so ask the concierge at your hotel for exact locations.  

– August 25, 2014 2:11 PM
Q.

Dog-friendly stops near Charlottesville

This is kind of a specific question but thought I would throw it out there in case anyone has done the same drive. We are driving to James River State Park (SW Virginia, in between Charlottesville and Lynchburg) and want to stop around Charlottesville for lunch. Are there any dog-friendly wineries or breweries in that area, or restaurants with dog-friendly patios? We are not tied to stopping in Charlottesville so if there is a better location to stop and break up the drive we would be all for it. Thank you!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Actually, a lot of wineries are dog-friendly. Here are 37 to consider. Last month when my husband, two dogs and I were on our way to and from Mountain Lake near Blacksburg, we had two nice al fresco meals with the dogs in Lexington, Va. The places were Blue Sky Bakery and Pure Eats.

– August 25, 2014 2:14 PM
Q.

in Playa del Carmen before going to the airport

Our flight from Cancun leaves at 10pm. We will be staying in Riviera Maya and wondering what’s the best way to spend our time after our 12pm checkout. We thought about getting to Playa del Carmen and spend some time there before taking the bus to the airport. Where in Playa del Carmen can we go with our backpacks and spend some good relax time before getting to the airport??
A.
Carol Sottili :

I'd first request a late check-out. Or buy a day pass. Most resorts in Riviera Maya offer that option. If you'd prefer leaving the resort, Playa del Carmen has several attractions worth visiting, including Parque Xplor

– August 25, 2014 2:14 PM
Q.

Cave Paintings

For the traveler who asked about cave paintings on 8/18. We were able to see the actual cave paintings in Grotte de Font de Gaume. It was extremely limited viewing (flashlights) but guided and in English. Also limited by once daily tour. No reservations, only 96 visitors per day. We read all the warnings and lined up at 5 a.m. No one else showed until 8:30 a.m. for 9:30 opening. We also went in early October -- not high vacation season. My thirty-something son and daughter-in-law also enjoyed this. We stayed on night in Sarlat and it was quite a charming mountain village. The other caves have been closed to visitors without special permits but there are copies of several available to the public viewing. We did not pursue those.

A.
Becky Krystal :

Thanks for following up with this info.

– August 25, 2014 2:14 PM
Q.

Italy

My sisters and I are planning a 12 day trip to Italy in mid March 2014. We are flying in and out of Rome and plan to stay in Rome for 3 days and then travel north for the remainder of the trip. We would like to rent an apartment or villa for a week. We are thinking maybe Parma but we don't have our hearts set on any particular city We want to definitely be on a major train route and we would like to be able to travel rather easily to and from Florence, Milan, Lake Como and Venice. It doesn't have to be a big city but one with natural beauty and a quaint shopping district. Does anyone have any suggestions?

A.
Zofia Smardz :

Bologna is really nice. But chatters, perhaps you have a better idea?

– August 25, 2014 2:14 PM
Q.

Photo

I travel most of the time on my own with an SLR so selfies are a bit difficult unless I put the camera timer and run to be in the picture…I have obtained all sorts of crazy pictures by doing this, last one was in Huanchaco Peru, I put my camera and run, when I looked towards the camera it was not there! It fell but took a very nice photo of me looking at the Pacific Ocean next to a Totora fishing boat….I will never forget the lovely and distant town of Huanchaco!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I'll bet not!

– August 25, 2014 2:15 PM
Q.

What about the rest of us?

What about airline food for the rest of us?

A.
Joe Yonan :

Oh, that ship sailed long ago, didn't it? (Or, should I say, that flight has taken off?)

– August 25, 2014 2:16 PM
Q.

from last week's chat - Netherlands trains and Rome hotel

One of the chatters last week asked about taking the train on a trip to Bruges, Amsterdam and the Hague - we did that a few years ago, and it worked very well. Just one caution - you can't pay for the train ticket by credit card unless you have a chip/pin card. Neither the ticket machines or the manned booths will accept a typical US card. Also, if you're going from Amsterdam to Bruges (or Ghent, which is a wonderful city as well), you'll have to change in Antwerp. Make sure you take a little time to see the main floor of the Antwerp station - it's all Art Nouveau, restored since WWII. A suggestion for Rome - we stayed at the Hotel Due Torri, near the Piazza Navona. It's at the end of what would be an alley here, and doesn't look very promising, but it's very nice; good breakfast, very helpful staff and in a quiet area with good restaurants.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Appreciate the tips, thanks.

– August 25, 2014 2:17 PM
Q.

Packing formal wear

Family of three going to a weekend wedding in Minnesota. We do not want to check luggage. Looking for some tips on how to pack our formal wear. We have a man's suit and two cocktail length formal dresses. How can I carry these items on the plane without them getting smushed or wrinkled in a carry-on? If I bring a garment bag can I stow it in the cabin?
A.
Joe Yonan :

You can sometimes sweet-talk attendants into letting you hang things in their closet, but that's usually reserved for first-class and for staff, so it's a roll of the dice. You're in need of a good carry-on garment bag, I'd say -- one that folds to double as a duffel or has wheels. Some quick Googling turns up this possibility for one with handles and this for one with wheels, but chatters may have better ideas.

– August 25, 2014 2:17 PM
Q.

favorite photo...

My brother lived in Hawaii for a 4 years. My parents visited him for two weeks towards the end of his time there and I joined the three of them for one week in Maui. We mostly did stuff together, but my brother and I wanted to do a snorkling trip and Mom, especially wasn't interested. Right before we left to walk down to the scuba shop where the company would pick us up, mom gave each of us a single use, waterproof, film camera (remember those?). We didn't expect much of the pictures, but what the heck. The first stop for fish viewing in pretty shallow water was great. I spent most of my time with a moray eel that was hiding under a rock shelf. Those pictures were pretty dark. Then it was off to "Turtle Town" where we were warned that the turtles didn't always come out to play and that we were absolutely not to touch, agressively pursue or surround them. I will never know how it happened, but I was not close to anyone else when a turtle came up from underneath me to breathe. I got a picture as it was ascending and just as it reached the surface. Then the amazing thing turned right towards me. I got two more shots as it faced me and then just as it turned further to swim away. I actually had to back up to keep it from getting too close. Great series of 4 shots. They are up in my kitchen.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Lucky you!

– August 25, 2014 2:18 PM
Q.

washington DC

I like taking ACELA first class because of food and to BWI same price as cab. Last month, a waiter who described himself as "60 and burned out" said since I wasn't going too far, there wasn't time to serve. Well, of course there was, and I got my Thai noodles but wanted to warn travelers, you may have to fight for food.

A.
Becky Krystal :

I was all set to ride the Acela for the first time last night from BWI to Union Station. That is, until someone was hit by a train somewhere else and no trains were heading to D.C. Amtrak did refund my ticket, though, which was nice. Still would have preferred the train to my somewhat shady cab ride. Better luck next time.

– August 25, 2014 2:19 PM
Q.

Wales!

We have a 2-week home exchange in Wales next summer, and are starting our planning. Besides Snowdonia and the castles, what else is not to be missed?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

You might want to take in some Dylan Thomas sites. The poet was the bard of Wales, and you can visit places associated with him and even have dinner in his childhood home. What else, chatters?

– August 25, 2014 2:21 PM
Q.

Northern Lights

Where would be the closest place to the DC area to view the Northern Lights? Thanks.
A.
Christopher Elliott :

The closer you are to the poles, the better your chances of seeing the Aurora. Here's a site that forecasts your viewing opportunities. Good luck!

– August 25, 2014 2:21 PM
Q.

Cape Town, SA

Other that the usual (Table Mtn, Penguins, Seals, etc.), what are your "different" suggestions for activities in Cape Town?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Chatters, can you help us out with this?

– August 25, 2014 2:22 PM
Q.

Re: Packing formal wear

I have a lot of experience flying to weddings with cocktail dresses, or flying for job interviews. What I've found works best is to use a nice garment bag that can be folded to fit under your seat. If you try to lay your clothes over suitcases in the overhead bin, inevitably someone rude will try to fit their stuff on top of us. This happened flying to NJ for a wedding--my dress ended up crumpled in the very back of the overhead bin.
A.
Joe Yonan :

Good advice, thanks!

– August 25, 2014 2:23 PM
Q.

Hi Crew

My wife and I are looking to travel to Florida (TPA most likely) in November, and are astounded by how high the fares are. Is there any chance that prices will go down, or should we prepare to pay $450 per person?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Yikes. From the D.C. area? I just did a flexible search on Kayak for flights to Tampa in November that's showing fares as low as $109 (!!!) round-trip. That's on Frontier out of Dulles. Most of the rest I'm seeing are well under $200.

– August 25, 2014 2:24 PM
Q.

Suitcase repair

I have a rolling suitcase where the protective plastic around the wheels has come off. Do you have suggestions for a good suitcase repair place? NoVa preferably. Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

I used Old Town Shoe & Luggage Repair to fix my Victorinox luggage, and they did a good job. Chatters have other suggestions? 

– August 25, 2014 2:26 PM
Q.

Boston hotel

Can you recommend a moderately priced hotel in Boston near the historical sites so we can walk? We would also like to visit the Gardner Museum and the Kennedy Library. Is there public transportation to those sites?
A.
Joe Yonan :

Two thoughts: I often recommend the Charlesmark, which is right on Boylston Street in Copley Square, so near such sites as Trinity Church and the Public Library and an easy walk to the Common, Public Garden and on to the North End. Another idea would be to stay right in the North End, the city's traditional Italian neighborhood, which is much more accessible now that the Rose Kennedy Greenway has bloomed so beautifully on the site of the former Big Dig. I stayed at an absolutely charming, very unassuming B&B there years ago, called La Cappella Suites. Very reasonable prices, great service, and stellar location.

Oh, and yes, the Gardner and JFK Library are both accessible via public transportation. (The Gardner would be an easy walk from the Charlesmark, while the JFK Library is just a little bit out, on the Red Line, right near my former workplace, the Boston Globe.)

– August 25, 2014 2:26 PM
Q.

For Wales-bound

Check out the Amman Valley Railway. Somewhere there must be a person who doesn't like trains, but I've yet to meet them!

A.
Zofia Smardz :

Me, too!

– August 25, 2014 2:26 PM
Q.

Alaska Cruise/Rail

Hello-My wife and I are thinking of our next big trip and are thinking of several places, including a trip to Alaska-we would like a trip including a cruise and rail. The trip won't be until 2015 (after our daughter's wedding in January). Any suggestions on trip providers, costs we should expect, and best itinerary's?
A.
Carol Sottili :

My husband and I did this trip with Holland America many years ago that started with a train trip out of Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada, included a cruise of the Inside Passage and ended in Vancouver. Most of the cruise companies offer rail-cruise combos, commonly called cruise-tours. I'd start with Princess and Holland America, two lines with a long history of providing this itinerary.  And I'd include a trip to Denali. Price depends a great deal on what type of cabin you require.   

– August 25, 2014 2:27 PM
Q.

Iceland in June?

We are going to a wedding in Norway in June and thinking of staying over in Iceland 4-5 days one of the ways. Do you think its better to just stay in Reykjavik and day-trip out or maybe make a loop and stay in different places? We'll be with sons 8 & 11, so natural wonder is our goal. How would you start researching such a trip?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Iceland travelers, we know you're out there. Pipe up, please. I'd start with a guidebook, or tourism brochure. The Iceland tourism site has a lot of info.

– August 25, 2014 2:27 PM
Q.

Northern Lights

While not close to DC physically, getting to Iceland from DC is convenient, and Icelandair has special packages during the height of aurora season.
Q.

RE: drinking in airports

I recently tested the HydroFlask. I loaded ice cubes into the flask and flew cross country. Three days later I still had ice! My recommendation would be load ice into one of these and then after security, transfer to a non-insulated bottle. Alternatively, I usually bring grapes or oranges to snack on -- lots of hydrating juices in those and TSA safe.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Good thoughts, thanks!

– August 25, 2014 2:29 PM
Q.

Other things TSA has never heard of...

Posting really early before I forget again to do this... The notes about TSA agents not recognizing Washington DC drivers licenses reminds me of various agencies not knowing that New Mexico is not a Mexican state, but one of ours... My story is about them not knowing what a RFID sleeve is. In more than one airport I have had the scanner agent mystified by my passport RFID sleeve. The last one looked at it like it was an alien beastie with dripping fangs...and they professed to have never heard of scanners being used to collect personal passport information. Ironically, my global entry card for Canada and Mexico came with one! A RFID sleeve, not an alien beastie...
A.
Joe Yonan :

Funny! I say, once it's at the Container Store, everyone should know about it. But that might reflect my own shopping habits more than anything else.

– August 25, 2014 2:29 PM
Q.

Europe @ thanksgiving

For the chatter from last week, think about Brussels. Belgium has the world's best chocolate. The culture is a cross between French and Dutch so lots of cafés to sit and drink coffee or beer or wine. Lots of people take the day trip to bruge or Ghent, but at that time of year you should also consider a day trip to Aachen, Germany, which is just over the border and an hour by train. Their Christmas market opens the last weekend in November and is really great. Not as big as Cologne but you can cover it in one day and it's a quality one in a beautiful setting.

Q.

Airline food

When we fed y'all, everybody joked about how bad it was....then we took it away, and people kvetched. Bottom line: people are going to kvetch no matter what we do or don't do. Do what I do, bring a sandwich from home, and if you don't like it, you know who you can kvetch at!
A.
Joe Yonan :

Funny, but can I point out that there is one glaring omission of an option in your historical recap. That is this: You could have served us GOOD FOOD. Instead, you've gone from bad to nothing.

– August 25, 2014 2:31 PM
Q.

photos

I just moved to the west coast (okay, 2 years ago) and this is such a beautiful place! I had no idea. I'm in Oregon. Pretty much all my photos seem to be postcard quality! It's so gorgeous here. I couldn't mess it up! I'm sure I couldn't. my favorite is probably the one of Crater Lake. Boy is it hard to get there. I understand why so many people who live here haven't BEEN there, it's in the middle of nowhere. But it's SO beautiful out there.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Like it there a little, do you? ;-)

– August 25, 2014 2:32 PM
Q.

Grand Canyon in November?

I will be taking a vacation in late October - early November, and I'm thinking about visiting the Grand Canyon and one or more of the National Parks in Utah (Zion, Canyonlands, Arches). What is the weather like in November? I see on the NPS website that facilities on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon close on Oct. 15th.
A.
Joe Yonan :

In early November, the temps at the Grand Canyon are usually highs in the mid-50s, lows in the mid-20s, and there's a pretty good (16%) chance of some precipitation at some point during the day: light rain, snow or thunderstorms. Sounds a little iffy to me, but with the right prep I'm sure you could do it.

– August 25, 2014 2:33 PM
Q.

How would you.....

divide up 7 or 8 days in Andalusia?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

You could try what the writer did in our recent story on that region. Skip Tangier, but Zahara de los Atunes, Vejer de la Frontera, Jerez de la Frontera (for the sherry) and Cadiz are all fabulous. Or chatters, what do you suggest?

– August 25, 2014 2:37 PM
Q.

Photo "Jumping" shots

We were lucky to take a big trip a few years back to several SE Asian locations (Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia..) with a close knit group of friends. I wanted to commemorate each stop with a group photo. First group photo was kind of boring, with us just standing there in the city. Second photo, I wanted everyone to do an "action" jumping photo. They all grudgingly did it after some begging from me. (They all felt too self-conscious of doing it with "witnesses" around). Eventually we did a jumping shot at each location with a fantastic background (i.e. Angkor Wat, Ha Long Bay) with help from our tour guides/random strangers. It took a few tries to get everyone to jump at the same time. Looking back now, it is funny to see the progression as you see everyone become much more comfortable, and come up with new poses. The one big thing we all learned - don't be afraid to be let loose and have fun, and make sure you tuck in your shirt unless you want to show your belly! It has now become a tradition, where any place we go, we do another jumping shot to add to our travel wall. =)
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Ah, so you're the one who started that fad. ;) I see people doing this all over the place nowadays.

– August 25, 2014 2:38 PM
Q.

Grand Canyon and one or more of the National Parks in Utah

I don't know about October-November, but Zion is lovely in mid-March, with daytime temps ca. 70F. Imagine the weather's similar when you'd be going.
Q.

Grand Canyon in November?

Just remember that it's a lot warmer at the bottom of the Canyon, should you decide to hike or ride a mule down there.
Q.

Lunch with your dog in Charlottesville

The downtown pedestrian mall has several restaurants with seating areas outside that allow dogs, so your best bet would be to go to the mall and stroll around until you find one that appeals to you.
Q.

Cenote

It looks like the traveler won't be renting a car (since going by ADO bus to Coba). I'd encourage them to take a day trip to Valladolid (1-1/2 hours past Coba) and from there a short taxi out of town to Cenote Dzitnup. There are two centotes at this site. The town itself is very charming, and connected by good transportation to Playa del Carmen/Cancun.
A.
Carol Sottili :

If they're looking for a day trip, this is an option. 

– August 25, 2014 2:40 PM
Q.

HydroFlask???

the poster claimed to have put ice cubes in a HydroFlask, and three days later (!), still had ice. Are we to take this seriously?
A.
Becky Krystal :

I haven't done the three-day ice test, but I did test out the HydroFlask myself and was impressed at how water was kept hot and cold for more than 24 hours.

– August 25, 2014 2:40 PM
A.
Christopher Elliott :

If that's true, then I want a HydroFlask for my next trip!

– August 25, 2014 2:40 PM
Q.

Places to stay and things to do in Scotland and England

Where should one stay and do if one could have a five -day stay each in Edinburgh in Scotland and Canterbury in England? Thank you
A.
Becky Krystal :

We've had a few stories covering Edinburgh of late: here, here and here. Canterbury, not so much. Obviously, the cathedral there is a must. You're not far from Dover either -- White Cliffs and such.

– August 25, 2014 2:41 PM
Q.

Using cellphone GPS in Hawaii

Happy Monday! We are heading to Kailua-Kona, HI and plan on driving all over.. I was planning on using my phone for navigating around the island.. but.. how good is the reception over there? Would using a cell be fine or should we rent a GPS while we are there? Thanks!!
A.
Christopher Elliott :

I used my AT&T iPhone on the Big Island, and it worked flawlessly. You'll be fine.

– August 25, 2014 2:41 PM
Q.

Stargazing at the Mauna Kea Summit - Hawaii

Hi Travel gurus! We are making our first trip to Hawaii (Big Island) ever, next week. We are trying to figure out our itinerary, and want to visit the Mauna Kea summit in the evening/night, from which I've heard can be very cold and very high up. I already know that we need to get a 4WD car to drive up there and wear warm clothes.. but other than that, does anyone have any advice as to whether it is better to go solo or go via a guided tour? Can we drive up the summit ourselves, or are there restrictions as to when we can go or who can go up? I am confused to the access. I was thinking of driving up around 3/4pm, watch the sun set, and wait for the night skies to clear up. Is driving solo easily doable? Just wondering if anyone had experience in this. Thanks!! =)
A.
Carol Sottili :

The Maunakea Visitors Information Center offers lots of valuable info, such as obtaining permission from the rental car company and  being aware of the possibilty of altitude sickness.  Any chatter made the journey? 

– August 25, 2014 2:41 PM
Q.

Favorite photo

Immediately after a trying time in my life I was traveling by myself on a somewhat remote part of Australia's coastline and found myself one cloudy day on a majestic cliff, with strong winds up on the top, huge waves below, a huge colony of birds wheeling about in the air. For the first time in over a year, my difficulties weren't topmost in my mind; the natural grandeur of the setting put it into perspective. The loss of the weight on my shoulders was very emotional, and I was crying from it - when another car stopped in the little clearing just off the road and the couple came out to take in the view. I hadn't seen another car on the road that morning, so it was very unexpected. I pulled myself together, answered their greeting, engaged in a bit of small talk - and then the woman asked if I would like her to take a picture of me with my camera. I said sure. The photo shows not only the awesome beauty of the area, but also documents the first moments after finding a quiet space in me and the beginning of getting my act together. (Thank you to her for the kind gesture - she couldn't have known the backstory.)
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I hope that photo gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling every time you look at it.

– August 25, 2014 2:43 PM
Q.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake is reasonably accessible (90 minute drive) from Ashland, OR, which is just off I-5. So plenty of Californians visiting the Shakespeare Festival take in some nature by heading up the Crater Lake for a day trip. And I agree; definitely easy to get postcard-quality pictures up there!
Q.

outdoor venture

I would like to go with my 3 grown sons on an adventure trip out west next summer - maybe a city slickers kind of adventure, outdoorsy stuff, for about 4 - 5 days, and then meet my wife and daughters in law on the weekend where we can all relax together. What would you suggest?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Washington Post reporter Dana Priest wrote about Bitterroot Ranch in Wyoming. How about that? Maybe the rest of the folks could meet you in Jackson Hole.

– August 25, 2014 2:43 PM
Q.

Norwegian Air International

Have you been following this about Norwegian Air International? They want to start flying into the US with extra-cheap fares -- but are being protested. Apparently in order to get the cheap fares they're creating a subsidiary in Ireland (cheaper taxes) and hiring Thai pilots through a temp agency in Singapore (cheaper labor, no oversight). Is this legal? Or will we see the $500 flights to the UK that they're promising any time soon?
A.
Christopher Elliott :

That's a great question. I've been following this issue, too. I haven't written anything about it yet, but it seems to be that Norwegian is trying to lower costs by outsourcing parts of its operations, which is fairly common in other industries. The major airlines, which control the lucrative transatlantic routes, and for a variety of reasons can't outsource their operations in the same way, feel threatened by that. I think the airline industry needs to decide if it wants government protection or if it wants to remain de-regulated. If it does want to operate in a less regulated market, the only sensible response to Norwegian is to let it fly. Something tells me those $500 flights will happen, eventually. But who really knows?

– August 25, 2014 2:43 PM
Q.

Where should one stay and do if one could have a five -day stay in Canterbury in England?

Who knows? But I'm sure you'll have some interesting tales to tell!
Q.

More Playa del Carmen Advice

You can safely store your luggage at the bus station and stroll Avenida Quinta, or hit a beach club a block away. Take the ferry across to Cozumel. The $12 bus to the airport leave every hour; but get your ticket in advance during busy season since they fill up.
Q.

Connecting Flights

I'm headed to Europe in a few weeks. I fly out of DCA to JFK for an international flight. Will I have to check my bags twice?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Your luggage will be checked through to your final destination as long as you're on one ticket. If you booked the flight to JFK separately on a different airline, you'll most likely have to collect your luggage there and check them with the international carrier. 

– August 25, 2014 2:45 PM
Q.

Poverty porn

I have to agree with the earlier poster about the photo of the children begging. It is exploitative to take photos of poor people, without their permission in this case apparently, or even with permission particularly in the case of children. Unless there is some journalistic purpose for the photo, let's call it what it is -- poverty porn.
A.
Joe Yonan :

I'd say there is a journalistic purpose here: to illuminate the realities of this particular place and time. But you know, I think there could be an argument for almost any photograph of a stranger being exploitative, don't you think? The mere act of capturing someone's image -- which is perfectly legal to do without their permission in a public place, by the way -- and then looking at the image later for any reason, or showing it to others, is a form of exploitation.

I think your use of "porn" is a little extreme, really. I mean, I love taking photos of people when I travel, and not just portraits: candid shots of strangers. I got a cool shot in NYC a few months ago of a guy strutting down the street wearing a bright red zoot suit, with his amazing dreadlocks hanging out of the bottom of an oversized red hat. Was I guilt of peddling suit porn? Red porn? Dreadlock porn?

When I took a photo of someone wearing a T-shirt that said, "I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain just so I could eat vegetables," and added the Instagram caption, "I did!" was I engaged in T-shirt porn? (Or maybe, moron porn?)

Moreover, I wonder this: Would travel photographs that showed only middle class and rich people be a fair representation of an experience that included moments like the one pictured in Vietnam?

– August 25, 2014 2:48 PM
Q.

Arizona/Utah in November

November is the transition month so weather is very unpredictable. Also elevation factors in too. Zion is going to be nicer because its at a lower elevation than Grand Canyon or Bryce. Ive been to the Grand canyon in late November and it was lows in the single digits and highs around 30. On the same trip I got snow in Zion and Bryce. If you want to do this trip I would really push to do this in early October. In Moab around mid-October is peak fall colors (great spot is near Newspaper Rock).

Q.

water at airport

I think it's a universal law that water must be available and you can't be charged for it. Some places can get away with charging you for a cup. Water and oxygen are primary components to living thus you cant charge for those items. Airlines not charging an oxygen fee???

Q.

just one photo?

Picking just 1 travel photo is pretty much impossible for me. But I have one that I really like from my trip to Myanmar. I flew to Sittwe in order to visit the little know town of Mrauk U which is sort of like Bagan but a couple hundred years newer. Lots of old temples all over the place. Very interesting town. On my way back to Yangon I had time to kill in Sittwe so my guide suggested that I go to this place called the Viewpoint which is a little point of land where the Bay of Bengal meets the Kaladan River. While my driver took a nap I just hung out reading. There was a group of university kids up in the observation tower and they noticed me sitting alone which I assume is a pretty unusual thing around there. A couple of the boys came down and invited me to join them. They wanted to practice their English. It was a group of 4 guys who were very sweet. One had a guitar and they sang a song or two which I thought was very cool. I have a photo of the group together with me. This was about 6 months before Sittwe exploded in sectarian violence. I've often wondered what happened to those guys.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Sounds like a special photo.

– August 25, 2014 2:51 PM
Q.

Cape Town

Recs for CT: The District 9 museum, a cooking class in Bo-Kaap, and a trip to visit one of the townships, like Khayelitsha ... and try to get to Robben Island.
Q.

home exchanges?

I'm curious about these, and would love to do one in the UK somewhere. How do I find a reputable site? If Wales-bound is still reading, what site did you use?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Here's a story we had on home exchanges a few years ago. Wales-bound traveler, care to share?

– August 25, 2014 2:52 PM
Q.

"creating a subsidiary in Ireland (cheaper taxes) and hiring Thai pilots through a temp agency in Singapore"

Would these flights be as safe as, say, a legacy carrier's? (Personally, I'd feel kind of nervous on such a budget airline).
A.
Christopher Elliott :

I think so. They'd still be subject to all regulations.

– August 25, 2014 2:53 PM
Q.

Big Island cell coverage

I have been there...if you are in the larger areas lika Kona or Hilo you will be fine. Outside of there coverage is very spotty or basic (no 3G or 4G)I cant recall if I was under Sprint or Verison when I went there. I think it was Sprint.
Q.

Best Photo Ever

Almost 40 years ago I was living in DC and working for a business magazine in NYC (don't ask about the commute...). A company in our industry with factories in Brazil flew 8 reporters for a visit to its Sao Paulo facility, then to Rio for the weekend to rest up. The night before we flew back to the US, we went out partying in Rio, till 6 am. Then, we all rushed back to our hotel on Copacabana beach, changed clothes, and raced to the beach for the sunrise. I have a picture of myself--younger, thinner, single--sitting cross-legged on the beach next to our very handsome Brazililan guide, with the biggest grin on my face I've ever seen...I still love that picture!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I can imagine why! :-)

– August 25, 2014 2:55 PM
Q.

Favorite Photo

My Favorite photo comes from when I worked at NGO and traveled with the Department of State to Russia. Over the weekend during that trip, I went to the Moscow circus. All around the perimeter of the building they had photo ops with some of the animals from the circus. I took a picture with one of the baby Chimps. I love that picture and it always brings back fond memories from that fantastic trip.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Fun!

– August 25, 2014 2:56 PM
Q.

mother daughter getaway

My daughter lives in Atlanta and I'm in D.C. We'd like to find a place about halfway where we could meet, and we want to drive. We'd like city or town with some historical/cultural attractions to explore and good restaurants. Any suggestions?
A.
Becky Krystal :

How about Chapel Hill?

– August 25, 2014 2:58 PM
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I say Charlotte. It's about halfway and is quite a fun city with some excellent museums and great restaurants.

– August 25, 2014 2:58 PM
Q.

for chatter re Italy visit

Siena would be nice and I think is in a good location.
Q.

Georgetown, Cayman Islands

We will take a Carribbean cruise in the Christmas week this year. The ship is scheduled to be in Georgetown at 8am - 4pm. We booked a one-hour morning tour (not from the cruiseline). To make the most out of what we paid for in the cruise fare, we plan to go back to the ship for lunch after the morning tour, and then take a taxi to the seven miles beach. Do you think this plan is doable? At Georgetown, we'll be tendered between the ship and the shore, so not sure how much time we need to budget for the tendering back and forth. Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

I remember the tendering process in Grand Cayman taking at least an hour.  Might be a little crazy to try to do the trip twice in one day along with everything else on your schedule. You also have to hope the seas are calm enough to tender, although in Grand Cayman there are two places ships can tender, so chances of being stuck on board there are slim. 

– August 25, 2014 2:58 PM
Q.

HydroFlask

but can you bring it filled with ice through security?
A.
Becky Krystal :

If it's just ice, yes. Then add water post-security.

– August 25, 2014 2:59 PM
Q.

Creater Lake

Photos arent as good this time of year when fire season is happening. I was there last year and the crater acted like a bowl and the winds traped the smoke thus you couldnt see across the lake. The better time to go is in late June.
Q.

unacceptable photos

No one is saying that you can only take pictures of "middle class people". Frankly I think it is disrespectful to take anyone's photo without their approval no matter what socio-economic situation they come from. Turning people into tourist attractions is objectionable to me. Taking a photo of some one out in public who is seeking attention by wearing an outlandish outfit is a completely different situation from little kids begging out of desperation.
Q.

Safety first ...

My understanding is that part of the fuss is that these might NOT be as safe -- the company is technically in Ireland, but doesn't fly in or out of Ireland. But Ireland is supposed to be in charge of safety inspections? And the BIGGEST part of a safe airplane is, of course, the pilot. Not sure I want a temp agency pilot in charge of my flight. "Regular" pilots have the authority to say "Whoa, something's wrong with the plane." Temps are too afraid to lose their job.
Q.

somewhat shady cab ride

Details please-what happened?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Oh, well, the guy was very pushy about the fact that he could take us straight to our houses rather than Union Station like the two other women in the cab and I had agreed on. To an awkward extent. Drove kind of recklessly, first thing he did after we got in was go get gas (his tank was practically empty!), kept taking calls while driving in D.C. (against the law), etc. Fun times.

– August 25, 2014 3:00 PM
Q.

On Norwegian Air

I just returned from a $600-roundtrip flight from JFK to Gatwick in London with Norwegian, and let me tell you, if you can catch one of those steeply discounted fares, DO IT. I confess I was a little nervous when I bought the tickets on an airline that was brand new and that I'd never heard of, but if you want to get to Europe cheaply and don't mind doing some legwork to get to New York, I highly recommend using Norwegian. Since it's a budget airline, sure, you get not much leg room unless you select your seat carefully, and you have to bring your own food, headphones, and warm clothes (they charge $5 for blankets), but you get one checked bag for free and you fly on the Boeing Dreamliner, which is an awesome plane from a gadget-lover's point of view. All of their long-haul flights are on Dreamliners, so if anyone's worried about rickety little planes bumbling across the Atlantic, don't be. Save British Airways, this trip was the smoothest and most pleasant I've ever had to the UK or Europe- and for half the price on any other airline! I don't work for Norwegian, but I am a happy customer of theirs now.
Q.

Treasured photo

In preparation for my first trip to meet distant cousins in "the old country," I discovered a young cousin who had his own website (back when that was still pretty rare -- this was long before blogs, Facebook, etc.). During my visit, this young cousin to me to meet, among others, the last surviving member of the family from his grandparents' generation. The old man was tall, thin, still quite handsome, wearing a nice sweater and slacks, and clearly had a toupee on his head. My cousin and I snapped pictures of one another with him. That evening at a family dinner with younger relatives i mentioned having met the old man, and they were astonished, because he was mainly bed-ridden, dying of cancer. In fact, he did die a few months later. Several years later, just before my aunt (in the US) died, she gave me a packet of old family letters addressed to her grandparents back in the early 20th century. I couldn't believe my eyes when I discovered that one of the letters to my great-grandfather was from the aforementioned old man's father, mentioning their mutual cousin who had visited my great-grandfather recently (1928) in the US!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

That is quite the story!

– August 25, 2014 3:06 PM
Q.

Unacceptable photos ...

I see both sides, but if someone pushes themselves into my bus, then I feel I can take their photo. Just ... I dunno, give 'em a buck or two. I was more disappointed to see that some of the photos were from professionals. I thought it was more an amateur contest.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Our contest rules state that no one who earns more than 50 percent of their income from photography can win or place in our contest. One of our honorable mentions listed his occupation as salesperson and freelance photographer, but he said that what he earns from photography is less than 20 percent of his income, so he qualified.

– August 25, 2014 3:09 PM
Q.

Mother/daughter

Asheville, NC?
Q.

Re: Norwegian

Just to clarify, the chatter flew on Norwegian Air SHUTTLE, not International. International is going to be a subsidiary of Shuttle that will be even cheaper, though through the questionable means explained earlier by another poster. International isn't flying into the US yet.
Q.

Zofia Smardz :

And that's it for today! Thanks all for chiming in on the chat, and describing your favorite travel photos. Lots of good stories, but I'm partial, for some reason, to the one from the chatter whose mother did a watercolor painting of a photo of her/him crossing a stile in the UK. Send your contact info to me at zofia.smardz@washpost.com and I'll get you a little prize.

Thanks again all, and see you in two weeks (we're taking a Labor Day holiday next week). Bye!

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