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September 17, 2012

2
P.M.

Talk about Travel

Total Responses: 83

About the hosts

About the host

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.

About the topic

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.
Q.

Zofia Smardz :

Hello again, chatters! It's a lovely, nearly autumnal pre-autumn day here in Washington. Hope you're all enjoying good weather wherever you are. I also hope that you enjoyed our lovely stories on Venice's lagoon islands and fabulous-sounding Hampi, India. For our question today, though, I'd like to reach a little farther back to Cara Kelly's fun story about traveling with her family as an adult. Let's hear your favorite family-travel tales -- funny, poignant, amazing, whatever. Most intriguing tale wins a prize.

Now without further ado, on to your questions!

Q.

US $$ to Euros

I will be leaving DC for a European cruise (and several pre-and post-cruise hotel days) next week, departing from Barcelona. Unfortunately I have had some last minute "emergencies" over the last several weeks and haven't devoted time to exchanging US $$ in advance. The cruise and hotel stays have been paid in full. I have a premier credit card (zero balance) issued by my worldwide credit union and a PIN and will notify them of my travel charge plans. I plan to charge my meals for the 4 non-cruise days and any big purchases, although I do not plan to shop much. Will need cash for the taxi from/to airport, hotel and pier, for postcards, small purchases, and 1-day sightseeing in Barcelona and tips. What's my best option at this time? Also, a general idea for tipping the tour guides on several cruiseline-sponsored tours I plan take.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Since you're not exchanging a large amount of money, you should be fine stopping at the Travelex at the airport. My last Europe cruise, I did several walking tours, and just tipped the guide with euros at the end: Most people gave a euro or two. 

– September 17, 2012 2:09 PM
Q.

Hampi

Loved the India story. Asia seems to be littered with the ruins of old empires. Hampi sounds pretty far off the beaten track though to be easily reached.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

It probably is a bit tricky to get to, but many places in India are. It's such a huge country!

– September 17, 2012 2:09 PM
Q.

DC to Milford

This might be too late for the person heading from DC to Milford, but the answer is to take Amtrak to Stamford, Bridgeport, or New Haven and switch to MetroNorth from there. Be sure to check the schedules because especially on weekends, the wait between trains can be long. But at one of those three stations the wait for MetroNorth should be fairly short.
A.
Becky Krystal :

More good advice. Hope that chatter saw it all!

– September 17, 2012 2:10 PM
Q.

Travel over Christmas

My husband and I would like to go on a trip from Dec. 21-27, somewhere warm rather than snowy, but not looking for a cruise or a Caribbean beach. At first we were thinking of the Greek Islands, but have since heard the weather is actually not generally very good and many things closed. Latest thought is perhaps Southern Italy, but concerned that there may not be enough time and wonder whether things will be closed for the holidays. Any other ideas? Or ideas about these ideas?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Have you considered the Canary Islands? The weather there is mild and spring/summer-like year-round. Nothing like mainland Europe. You don't have to worry about things being closed, because they're not. The islands are geared to the tourist trade, and there's plenty to do even at the holidays.

Other ideas, chatters?

– September 17, 2012 2:10 PM
Q.

Russian Visa

I'm travelling to Russia independently and I had just collected all of the documents needed to apply for a tourist visa when the visa rules changed on September 9. I cannot find what documents are now needed for the visa, and I can't manage to get through to the Russian consulate by phone. Do you know anything about this or have any advice on where to turn? I am leaving in three weeks (it's a rather sudden trip) and am starting to get nervous.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Oh, dear. Did you see our story about applying for a Russian visa? I'm afraid it probably won't settle your nerves. I wasn't aware that there had been yet another change in the visa rules, though looking at the Visa Application Center Web site (you no longer go directly through the Russian consulate), it appears that that change shouldn't really affect you in terms of what documents you need. They're just issuing multiple-entry visas for the first time. All the information you need for applying is on the Web site linked above, but as the story will tell you, be prepared for a bit of a slog. You're not likely to get through on the phone to the application office, either. Good luck!

– September 17, 2012 2:19 PM
Q.

World Cruise

I am interested in taking a world cruise. I am a single woman of 60, very active and no disabilities. I do not have a partner for the cruise so I am wondering where would I look to find a world cruise that would not charge me for a double room. Further, is there a site for singles to possibly match them with another single so i am not limited on my choice of cruises. I am an avid cruiser and love visiting other islands and countries.
A.
Carol Sottili :

A couple of ships have dedicated singles cabins including the Norwegian Epic and P&O Azura, but they don't do world cruises. I don't think any cruise line offers a solo matching service. There are singles' cruises that offer this, but that's not what you want.  Some luxury lines, such as Silversea and Crystal, offer sales that give breaks to solo travelers, but not sure they'd apply to a world cruise. 

– September 17, 2012 2:20 PM
Q.

Quiet weekend getaway

I'm looking for a quiet two or three day getaway with my fiance to do in November. We'll be getting married in October, but our birthdays are within two days of each other in November, and I think we'll both need a weekend without all of the crazy. Looking for something not too far away from the Centreville area--within a couple of hours' driving distance. Relatively inexpensive, and we aren't afraid to use our tent and sleeping bag! Pretty location is a must.
A.
Jane Touzalin :

We always like to recommend Charlottesville. You can stay there for a range of prices and at a variety of places: motels, inns, B&Bs. There's plenty to do there and lots to see. For a much quieter time, what about Luray? Lodging is inexpensive, the caverns are interesting and there's hiking in the area if you like the outdoors. There's also a *very* small "rescue zoo" that gets mixed reviews from visitors. (I haven't been.)   

– September 17, 2012 2:20 PM
Q.

Family Travels

Years back, I took a trip out to the California coast with my mother. We stopped just north of San Diego at a real scenic vista point that had a trail leading down to the beach. I talked her into hiking down the path to the beach below. Imagine our surprise when the beach turned out to be a "clothing optional" beach! After our long hike down the path, though, dearest mother needed some time to catch her breath. I can tell you that it's pretty awkward to hang out on a nude beach with your mother.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Ooh, I can just imagine!

– September 17, 2012 2:21 PM
Q.

Re: TRAVEL OVER CHRISTMAS

Winter here is summer in South America, so I'd recommend checking out somewhere south of the equator. Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Right!

– September 17, 2012 2:21 PM
Q.

Family Travel

During a family trip to Walt Disney World, we got stuck on Pirates of the Caribbean during a ride malfunction. Most boats had been evacuated, but we were in "deep water" and out of reach of the emergency exits. For TWO HOURS, we heard "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me". The only relief came when they TURNED OFF THE MUSIC and TURNED ON THE LIGHTS. The magic of Disney "fire" is really lost when you realize it's a sheet flapping in the wind with an orange light on it. I could go my whole life never hearing that song again...
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I love that song!

– September 17, 2012 2:21 PM
Q.

Family Travel Story

Oh so many stories, but they probably are only amusing to our family. One that we enjoy was our first overseas trip as a family. My little sister was about 4 (I was 13) and she still hadn't grasped the concept of geography. We went to England and she was constantly asking "Is America in England?" "Is England in Maryland?" "Is North America in England?" etc. etc. My 8-year-old brother couldn't stop laughing. Nothing like traveling with kids.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Cute!

– September 17, 2012 2:22 PM
Q.

Airfare for the DR in January

Hello travel gurus! A question on how far in advance (or not) to buy airfare. Along the lines of this week's adult-family-travel, my mother is generously funding a trip for our family (parents, myself, my brother and his wife) to Punta Cana next Jan. 19-26. She's covering the hotel and all costs except airfare. I'm seeing a wide variation in price, but around $625-675 for a workable itinerary from DC (when about 2 weeks ago, it was more like $550). I know you say buy when you feel comfortable with the price, but just because I *could* afford the price doesn't mean I prefer to if the price may be a short-term increase. Are we still too far at 4 months away to recommend buying? Should I wait it out another few weeks to keep an eye on fares?
A.
Carol Sottili :

I thought I was doing the right thing when I kept waiting  for fares to drop to Punta Cana last year. $550 is a reasonable  fare for good flights, and you should have grabbed it. If you can get anything around $600, buy it. I waited, and wound up paying more than $900 per ticket.  I should have paid more attention to is the number of seats left on the flights I wanted. The fewer the seats, the higher the prices will go. If the flights are still wide open, maybe there will still be a sale.  

– September 17, 2012 2:22 PM
Q.

Florida to where?

You all gave me a great suggestion for a tight West Coast itinerary earlier this year, so I'd love some help again! Any suggestions for a quick trip from West Palm (preferably) or Fort Lauderdale for a one or two night laid-back escape to some place beachy? (We've already visited Miami.) We love local cuisine, interesting accommodations, beach (or cool pool) and a little local shopping. Thanks!

A.
Becky Krystal :

How about Vero Beach? We have family down there, and they really like it. More peaceful than some other Florida beach scenes.

– September 17, 2012 2:23 PM
Q.

Panama?

Hello! My job is sending me to Panama City for a couple of brief trips. I can't find a lot of information about travel in Panama online. Any ideas, comments, suggestions? I'm wondering if it's worth it to take a day or two of leave for a mini-vacation after work. Thanks for any advice!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Check out this story we did just last year on Panama. Definitely sounds as though a couple of extra days would be worth it.

– September 17, 2012 2:25 PM
Q.

Visiting the Monterey-Carmel area as an adult with my parents

On a winter trip to California to visit my retired parents, the three of us drove to the Monterey-Carmel area during the middle of the week for an overnight stay. As my mother was weary from the trip, she stayed behind in our motel room for a long nap while my father and I took the 17-Mile Drive. Although the weather was perfect, there were few tourists midweek in winter, so we kept seeing the same few at each stop as we progressed down the coast. Most intriguing were two 20-something men, one Anglo-looking, the other Asian, but both speaking Japanese. As my father and I neared the end of the Drive, his curiosity got the better of him, so he approached the two young men and, to my utter amazement -- since, to my knowledge, he spoke no other language than English -- said something to them in Japanese, which prompted all three to crack up laughing. The four of us then chatted, and it developed that the American had worked in Japan for several years (hence his fluency), and just returned to the US in recent months; before he left, he'd extended an invitation to his Japanese friends to come visit him in California for vacation, and this was the first time one of them had taken him up on his offer. Afterwards, I timorously asked my father what he'd said in Japanese that was so hilarious, as well as how he knew any Japanese phrases. He replied that he'd learned several expressions from Japanese co-workers in machine shops where he'd worked, of which this was the only clean one: "I am a poor but honest working man"!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Funny! Honestly! Arigato!

– September 17, 2012 2:26 PM
Q.

Poignant Tale

The trips we took to Ocean City, New Jersey. It's where my mother went as a child, we went as children/teenagers, and now as adults with children of our own. Mom bought a summer home there, where one summer I experienced the joys of rafting while she was diligently recording the votes for the presidential nominee the Republic Convention (this was around 1968). Fast forward to about seven years ago. At the spur of the moment, I decided to join my brother, twin sister and mother for what was to be Mom's last trip to Ocean City; Alzheimer's and debilitating arthritis were making us the adults and her the child. We stayed in the same old rinky dink place she'd always stayed, the one she kind of knew. Two years ago my sister and my brother went back to Ocean City, New Jersey to see for the first time the bench I had bought in Mom's memory. It overlooks the Music Pier, next to the custard stand. She always got the mint flavor kind and ate it while listening to the music.

A.
Zofia Smardz :

Lovely. And very poignant.

– September 17, 2012 2:28 PM
Q.

SIM Card

Does anyone know if SIM cards (for Europe) are sold at Dulles? And are there any 'reverse' chargers at Dulles? The charger included only works with European style electrical outets. I am borrowing a cell phone, for which I will need a SIM card (and someone to install it) and to charge it. I'll have about two hours to spare before catching my plane and don't want to be *too* bored. Thanks.

A.
Becky Krystal :

Yes, you can buy SIM cards at several vending machines around Dulles, including one across from baggage claim 11. There aren't any European-style outlets -- you may need to get an adapter. Does the phone have a USB option? If so, you can plug in with that at some of the airport's charging stations.

– September 17, 2012 2:29 PM
Q.

December Hawaii Airfares

Travel crew, Thanks for taking this question. I am trying to fly to Hawaii from a small regional airport in North Carolina during the December holidays. Right now, a Kayak search shows only a small number of possible flights, with very little variety in terms of arrival/departure times. This is even with searching for flights +/- 3 days. Is this normal, and can I expect more flights later in the year?
A.
Carol Sottili :

I would not count on any flights begin added. Airlines are offering fewer flights from smaller airports. You might need to consider driving to a larger international airport in order to get a good deal. 

– September 17, 2012 2:29 PM
Q.

Post-christmas East Coast Travel with Teens

We like to travel between Christmas and New Years, as all my family is together and my husband's birthday falls then. We are looking this year to go to NYC, but it is proving to be pretty expensive, since we always require two hotel rooms wherever we go. I'm interested in hearing about less expensive alternatives within 5-6 hours of DC that will have plenty for our whole family to do. My kids are ages 19, 16, 14, and 9. Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

The 5-6 hours makes me think that you mean driving. But even though it's a little past your time limit, I'd recommend Charleston, S.C., especially if you've never been. It should be cheaper than New York, and it's beautiful, with tons to do -- visit lovely plantations, shop at the city market, tour historic homes and Fort Sumter.

Chatters, what do you recommend?

– September 17, 2012 2:32 PM
Q.

Hotel near the Louvre

It is expensive (what isn't in Paris!), but I love the Hotel Lotti between the Place Vendome and the Louvre. It is a former small palace with an interesting history.

A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks! And I love the, yes, Hotel du Louvre. It's also pricey, but historic, beautiful and right across the street.

– September 17, 2012 2:33 PM
Q.

Airlines not included in flight search engines

Around mid March I will be in Bangalore India and after finishing some work there I would like to go to Japan for a couple of weeks of vacation. I did a general search in Kayak to see prices and I noticed that there are no nonstop flights and to my surprise the ones with stops are not in major Indian cities (ie New Delhi). I know that flight search engines sometimes don't include all available airlines, so how can I verify if there are other airlines flying from Bangalore to Narita?

A.
Becky Krystal :

Check the flight schedules on the individual airport sites. I tried to look this up for you and couldn't find a direct flight between them. So you may need to connect. Try searching for yourself, though.

– September 17, 2012 2:33 PM
Q.

long weekend in November

I am looking to go away for a long weekend at the begining of November. We are considering Montreal, but also thought about London. Is there somewhere else I should be considering?
A.
Becky Krystal :

This is rather broad. Almost any major city would be feasible. What do you want to do? What kind of scene do you want?

– September 17, 2012 2:35 PM
Q.

Traveling with my family

For Thanksgiving my family and I will travel from DC to visit our family in VT in the Northeast Kingdom, which is an hour from the Canadian border. When I was 24 years old, my parents, my 16 year old brother, and my 80-something grandfather got into a mini-van and drove straight through to VT. All. 13. Hours. In a car and no where else to go. We hadn't even hit Frederick, MD when my brother got sick in the car so I knew this was going to be an even longer trip. Add to that, my grandfather was telling inappropriate stories from his youth and time in the war and my parents driving and not knowing which is the best route to take. Luckily I can sleep in the car. I love my family and we talk about that Thanksgiving often but that trip confirmed that I can't spend that much time with my family. The last time they drove up I took a plane.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Thanks! :-)

– September 17, 2012 2:36 PM
Q.

Airfare to Cancun

What is up with the air travel to Cancun lately? We used to be able to get a roundtrip ticket for $250; now I'm lucky if I can find one for $650. And non-stop is almost non-existant! I check BWI, PHL, IAD and DCA, and it's crazy. I know the airlines have reduced routes and are packing them in, but this seems out of whack with flying to other locales.
A.
Carol Sottili :

I'm still seeing nonstop flights for under $400 out of BWI on AirTran. 

– September 17, 2012 2:36 PM
Q.

Japan

Heading to Japan next week, I'd love any must sees/dos/eats in Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka from the gallery??
A.
Becky Krystal :
– September 17, 2012 2:37 PM
Q.

Favorite family-travel tale

The first family vacation I remember was a trip to California--and it sure was one for the record books. I was probably about 4, making this in the early '90s. I remember going to Disney Land vaguely, but not very well. What I do remember was the aftermath of an earthquake. My mom told me later she thought my younger brother and I were jumping on the bed, before she realized what was going on. I remember looking out of the hotel window and seeing a bridge that had collapsed. What I DON'T remember is the earthquake--I'd slept right through it!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

You must be a sound sleeper!

– September 17, 2012 2:37 PM
Q.

We are looking this year to go to NYC, but it is proving to be pretty expensive, since we always require two hotel rooms wherever we go

Could you save money by getting a hotel suite instead of two separate rooms?
Q.

Travel - South America

We are planning a cruise from Buenos Aires to Valpariso, Chile at the end of January 2013. Is this a fairly decent time to travel weather wise and would you recommend this itinerary...A Princess Cruise...What about travel around Cape Horn. THANK YOU
A.
Carol Sottili :

Princess is a nice line, and the ship I believe you'll sail on -- Star Princess - was renovated in 2008, so it's fairly modern. As for weather in January, it's summer there, so should be fine. Waters around Cape Horn are always rough. 

– September 17, 2012 2:38 PM
Q.

New York City with Mom

Hello, On Veterans' Day Weekend, my two sisters and I are taking our mother with us to New York City for a belated birthday celebration. Mom is a very active and well-traveled 70-year-old, but she has never spent time in the Big Apple. We have tickets to a show already, but we would like some suggestions of other things to do during our long weekend. Mom is not big on art galleries, but other museums would be okay. Thanks for any advice you can give me.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

You could always go up the Empire State Building. It's touristy, but I found it kind of exciting.  I love the New York Historical Society, if Mom's not into art galleries. The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side is also great. Fancy a trip out to Ellis Island?  The interior of  Lady Liberty is reopening to the public on Oct. 28 after a renovation project. You could also tour Ground Zero and Battery Park, where things are changing and reviving after the tragedy of Sept. 11. And of course, in New York, there's always shopping.

Chatters, let's hear your ideas.

 

– September 17, 2012 2:38 PM
Q.

Dubai

Has anyone here ever taken perscription medicine to Dubai? I take pain medicine for arthritis, but they aren't opiates. I also take thyroid medicine. I plan to contact my doctor to get a letter explaining why I am taking them, but is there anything else I should do? Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Seems like you need to carry a prescription too. Here's what the State Department has to say: 

Legislation enacted in January 1996 imposes the death sentence for convicted drug traffickers. Since January 2006, possession of even trace amounts of illegal drugs has resulted in sentences of four years imprisonment for foreign citizens transiting the UAE. Some drugs normally taken under a doctor's supervision in the United States, and even some over-the-counter U.S. drugs and medications, are classified as narcotics in the UAE and are illegal to possess. A doctor's prescription should be carried along with any medication that is brought into the country. A person may be subject to arrest and prosecution if possession of prescribed medicines (especially those containing codeine and similar narcotic-like ingredients) comes to the attention of local authorities. The U.S. Embassy’s website includes an unofficial list of such medicines, obtained from the UAE Ministry of Health. Most medications available in the United States are also available by doctors’ prescription through hospitals and pharmacies in the UAE.

– September 17, 2012 2:39 PM
Q.

DC to Seattle

Trying to take advantage of my husbands business trip to fly out to Seattle for a long weekend Oct 4-7th. Connecting flights don't seem worth the reduced fare for all the hassle and direct are at $590. Is this likely to be my best best at this time? I'm annoyed I already lost out on the $520 price last week.

A.
Becky Krystal :

Bing says it's 80 percent sure that fares are dropping by more than $50. But... at this point I'd hate for it to go up more. You decide what you're comfortable with. One-stop fares are more than $200 less than nonstop. That would be worth it to me! And it was. I'm actually going to be in Seattle at the same as you, and when I got one-stop round-trip tickets from DCA for $230, I felt like I'd be crazy not to buy it.

– September 17, 2012 2:39 PM
Q.

long layover options

Hi We have a 6-hour layover in Frankfurt in October before the next very long flight. We can't sleep on planes so are looking for Club options in Frankfurt. Flying economy class on United operated by Lufthansa. We have 200k+ miles on United and American and are willing to use some miles or $$ for a one-time Club access. Any suggestions?

A.
Becky Krystal :

Here's the list of lounges from the Frankfurt airport web site.

– September 17, 2012 2:41 PM
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Carol says: Don't believe you can buy into the Lufthansa lounge, but here are details on their program.

– September 17, 2012 2:41 PM
Q.

Stuck on Disney ride

Imagine if it'd been "It's A Small World" playing for two hours! I think the Simpsons had an episode involving that. My wife was one stuck on a steep lincline on Space Mountain for several minutes with my nephew. She said it seemed like hours.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

OMG not "It's a Small World"! :-)

– September 17, 2012 2:41 PM
Q.

for long weekend in November

Wherever you go, I suggest it be somewhere that you can take non-stop flights in both directions, in order to save time (and risk of missing connections, for various reasons including possible foul weather).
Q.

Warm Xmas

Recife, Brazil, perhaps?
Q.

Working while traveling internationally

Hi, I'm planning on traveling to London for a month for a few work events, working remotely, and then some personal travel for a few weeks. Six weeks in Europe in total. I checked the State Department site and it seems like I need a visa, but then I don't seem to be an official temporary worker. What's the best way to sort out if I need a visa or not? Also, any tips on finding a sublet? Airbnb looks promising, but I think people have recommended other sites before too. Thanks so much for any help!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Are you going to be working for an employer here in the United States, or for an employer in the UK? That will make a difference. The best place to check whether you need a visa or not is with the UK Border Agency web site, which lays it all out for you. They walk you through the process, including determining precisely what kind of visitor they would consider you to be (it seems to me that you might qualify as a "business visitor" ) and whether you need a visa or specific documents to enter.

Chatters, anyone have firsthand experience with this?

– September 17, 2012 2:42 PM
Q.

Christmas in Europe

My husband will celebrate his 50th birthday just after Christmas. I'd like to surprise him with a 5-day trip to somewhere in Europe where the magic of Christmas is celebrated in a big way (fairs, music, lots of decorations, etc). Do you have any suggestions where we could enjoy the holiday spirit between Christmas and New Years? Thank you.

A.
Becky Krystal :

We have a few resources for you. First, here's a roundup of Christmas markets we had the other year. Specifically, you could look into Hamburg and Dresden. Travel + Leisure last year also had a nice overview of where to spend the holidays, as well as a companion piece on Christmas in Venice.

Other ideas?

– September 17, 2012 2:43 PM
Q.

Copenhagen

Thanks to a long layover, my husband and I will get to spend half a day (the morning) exploring Copenhagen next spring. We've never been to Denmark, and I'm not really familiar with the city, so I'm not sure what we should do. I realize we probably have time for either one major thing or maybe two smaller things. Going with this, what would you suggest we do to get a good feel of the city? I'd heard you could do a canal tour, but I wasn't sure if this was worth it and if so, which tour group to go with. As far as the actual time constraints, we'll fly into Copenhagen late the night before, so I'm guessing we'll just get some hotel near to the airport. We'll then have the next morning open. Our flight leaves 3:30 p.m. that day, so I figure we should probably head for the airport around 12:30, 1 p.m., depending on how long it takes (or longer? I don't know). Also, this will come at the end of our trip in Italy, so I don't think jet lag should be a problem. Also, does anyone know if there's lockers or somewhere else we could store our luggage at the airport? Ideally, I would love to just throw a change of clothes into a backpack so we don't have to drag our suitcases into the city. Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

We just ran a story on Christiania, the hippie commune in the heart of Copenhagen. It's a big tourist attraction, but if you only have a few hours in the morning, I would take a canal tour of the city. Or head for Tivoli Gardens and Rosenborg Castle. And see the Little Mermaid statue.

Chatters, what do you think?

– September 17, 2012 2:46 PM
Q.

Cape Cod for Thanksgiving

Any tips on flying to the Cape for Thanksgiving? We are looking for a direct flight from either Baltimore, Reagan or Dulles to Providence or Boston . . . where are the best deals and any tips on specific airlines? Thanks!
A.
Becky Krystal :

You have a good number of options since it sounds like you can be flexible. Among the low-cost carriers, your best options will be AirTran out of BWI to Boston; JetBlue out of BWI, Dulles or National to Boston; and Southwest out of BWI to Providence or Boston. Depending on what days you'll be traveling, you can still find fares for less than $100 each way.

– September 17, 2012 2:46 PM
Q.

Croatia

I just got home from the Dalmatian Coast! Ask me anything!
Q.

Downtown

I am planning a honeymoon for the end of March and am considering the Maldives. I was wondering if you or the other chatters had any experience with the region? There are so many islands and resorts to pick from that we're having a hard time narrowing things down. it is also a VERY long trip to get there and wondering if it is worth the effort? Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Have not been to the Maldives, so let's ask the chatters!

– September 17, 2012 2:47 PM
Q.

Venetian Islands and Hampi articles

Talk about timely! I'll be going to Venice next month to both visit the city and to embark on a cruise. Question for author and Travel editor(s): Why no Details Box about hotels, restaurants and activities list in the side-bar? You had it for the equally terrific article about Hampi. I know about the Moghul Empire, primarily from the History Channel, but according to the Hampi writer, the Vijayanagar Empire is unknown to most of us history buffs. Have a great day!
A.
Becky Krystal :

Glad you liked the articles. Were you looking online? The link to the details box is in between the third and fourth paragraphs in the story, and then also on the last page. But here it is!

– September 17, 2012 2:48 PM
Q.

Xmas after Xnas

Please tell the birthday traveler that Xmas celebrations are most likely going to lead up to Xmas, not come after. They will have a nice time, but not a very Xmas-y time. I doubt the markets will be in full swing, for instance. What's the point, it's after Xmas.
Q.

Jackson Hole WY

I would love to spend some time in Jackson Hole next June but I'm having trouble finding reasonable lodging. Any suggestions?
A.
Carol Sottili :

Have you tried renting from an owner? Take a look at options at Homeaway and VRBO. And, if you decide to go this route, make sure the owner and the place are legit before you send money. Chris Elliot's has written several stories on rent-from-owner scams, including this one. But I've rented directly from owners many times, and never encountered a problem (but I also won't wire money).  

– September 17, 2012 2:48 PM
Q.

Help! Suggestions for getaway this weekend.

Hi Travel Crew, Please help. My husband and I have/had reservations for this coming weekend at a B&B in Virginia (about 3 hours away), near wineries. Unfortunately, they aren't responding to emails and phone calls regarding our upcoming reservation (despite having it confirmed back in Feb). I want to find an alternative so we can still enjoy getting out of DC and spending some quality time together. We don't need to stay in a B&B and we don't need to be near wineries but if they are nearby that's an added bonus. Are there some festivals going on this weekend or cute towns that have places to see or do? Should we just go to Frederick? We've been to Annapolis a couple times but where would you suggest we go that is no more than 2 hours away and (hopefully) won't break the bank? Thank you for your help in this last minute request.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

First, I'd be careful about just walking away from those reservations that you already have. B&Bs frequently have tough cancellation policies -- you may be charged even if you don't show up. Of course, if they're a place that doesn't take credit cards, then you wouldn't have to worry about that.

Frederick would be a lovely alternative -- it's a really charming town. I also love Gettysburg -- you could stay at the nearby Fairfield Inn, highly atmospheric. If you want wineries, though, you could head for the Inn at Willow Grove, near Orange, Va. It's really close to Barboursville Vineyards as well as Charlottesville. It's a bit pricey, but really lovely and relaxing.

Other thoughts, chatters?

 

– September 17, 2012 2:48 PM
Q.

Last minute fares to Paris

I may be traveling to Paris on business in the next month or two, and, depending on fares, my husband and one-year old might tag along. Any recommendations for finding the best fares? Ideally we would buy a seat for our baby too (and bring our FAA approved carseat onboard). Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

Check the usual Web sites, such as Kayak and Bing Travel. Check directly with the airlines (United and Air France for nonstops) for sales. Turkish Airlines often has good sales, but flights are connecting. 

– September 17, 2012 2:49 PM
Q.

Birthday trip!

Hi everyone! I need to enlist your help. I am trying to plan a birthday trip for my boyfriend and me. Our birthdays are within a few days of each other, a few days after Christmas. I work and he's in med school so we have limited time off and not a whole lot of money. I am itching to get out of the country but am hoping to spend around $600 or less each on the flight. Do any of you have suggestions of good places to look for deals to travel in the time period after Christmas till around January 1st?
A.
Becky Krystal :

Probably somewhere in the Carribbean or Central and South America will be your best bet. Think about Honduras, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, etc. You might need to be a little flexible on your dates, if you can, so you're not stuck with holiday fares.

– September 17, 2012 2:49 PM
Q.

flight info

Another good source for flight information for the person who wants to fly from Bangalore to Narita is wiki.It is usually pretty up to date and accurate. Just search the airport name or code and wiki and you should get to the airport's associated page. They all follow a similar format that includes a table of airlines that serve the airport and destinations they serve to/from that airport.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Good to know, thanks.

– September 17, 2012 2:49 PM
Q.

RE: Punta Cana in Jan

Thanks for your advice! Would've loved to lock in the lower fair, but while our dates were close to set, they weren't entirely locked down at the time that I could comfortably pull the trigger. With a better benchmark idea now, though, I feel comfortable going with what I find.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Buy, and don't look back! 

– September 17, 2012 2:50 PM
Q.

Favorite Airport Experience

Sorry I missed the chat last week! Just wanted to add a story. About 15 years ago I was flying from DC to Billings, MT with a change in Minneapolis - it was my first flight ever without husband & kid as I was going out to meet up with friends. The layover was 2 hours, and after exploring the airport I came back to hear they were offering $800 to be bumped to a flight 8 hours later. I didn't have to be in Billings really until the next day (my friends were still flying in as well), so I took the offer! Now what to do with my time? Customer service pointed out a bus that for a buck took me to the Mall of America. I went there and walked the entire thing, then rode the roller coaster in the middle. Came back to the airport and hung out, only to hear that they wanted more volunteers for bumping for my next flight - and this time they were offering $800 plus dinner & a room in a 4 star hotel in Minneapolis, plus first class to Billings the next morning. I took it! My luggage had obviously gone ahead and I had to buy a T-shirt out of the vending machine at the hotel, but who cares? I ate a great meal with the 15 others that took that same deal, enjoyed my hot towel in seat 1B, and was the first one off the plane (now THAT will likely never happen again to me!!) Turns out Billings was repaving their runway and overbooked flights. My $1600 in flight credits was used for 4 more trips, including one with my daughter. I will forever have fond memories of the Minneapolis airport...
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I'll bet you will! Thanks for the story!

– September 17, 2012 2:51 PM
Q.

Re: Maldives

I briefly looked into the Maldives for a honeymoon destination years ago. My plan involved a stopover in Europe (Greece or Italy) to break up the flight over a little bit. I don't really recall any specific island or resorts to recommend anything, though. It looks beautiful, I'd still love to go some day.
Q.

Buenos Aires

Hi! What are the must sees in Buenos Aires? We arrive in Buenos Aires around 11 AM mid week in December and depart 24 hours later on a cruise. Do you recommend going it alone or do you have tour recommendations? Thanks!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

Must-sees in Buenos Aires, folks?

– September 17, 2012 2:51 PM
Q.

Xmas celebrations are most likely going to lead up to Xmas, not come after

My impression is that in Europe the Natal season is more likely than in the US to observe all 12 days of Xmas. So please don't be discouraged.
Q.

Barcelona

My friend & I, both 60 yr old females, are spending a week in Barcelona in October. Should we rent a car for a day or more to travel outside of the city? If so, to where? Thanks.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Are you set on driving? Perhaps you'd be up for taking the train to Girona. Here's our story on the city. The ride is pretty cheap and quick.

– September 17, 2012 2:52 PM
Q.

Post Christmas East Coast with teens

Charleston, S.C. is a great idea. Also look into a VRBO instead of hotel - saves money and better accommadations.
Q.

LAX Layover - Make It Interesting?

Hi Flight Crew, Never been through LAX before (seems like it is in the only airport in the U.S. that I don't spend lots of time in!) and I've got two long layovers coming up there. Each is 4-5 hours. Do you have any great recommendations for a diversion while there? Any good restaurants in the airport? Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :
– September 17, 2012 2:53 PM
Q.

Copenhagen layover

Copenhagen is fairly compact with a good transit system. I would probably just head downtown and wander around. I think Rosenborg is a good suggestion. It's a nice walk from there to Amelienborg Castle where the Queen lives. And from there a short walk to the main area where the tourist boats are. With relatively limited time I would do that and not waste my time with the Little Mermaid. There's also the main pedestrian street Stroget which is good for a wander down to City Hall Square.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

There you go! But I'd still see the Little Mermaid. It can be quick, as she's, um, little. :-)

– September 17, 2012 2:54 PM
Q.

for Dalmatian Coast returnee

Okay, I'll bite: Did you drink travarica? It's so wonderful and seems to be unavailable in the US.
Q.

Driving on the wrong side...

I will be in Australia for a couple of weeks in November and will probably rent a car part of the time. It will be my first rental in a country where the locals insist on driving on the wrong side of the road, and I'm plenty nervous. I'm sure I'll start out fine, but at the first hint of an emergency I'm afraid my experience and instincts will kick in, which will be exactly the wrong thing to do. Do you have any advice? Do any D.C.-area driving schools offer right-hand training?
A.
Zofia Smardz :

My only advice is: Be very, very careful! I don't know of any schools that offer right-hand training, but that would be a great thing. Chatters, do you know of any?

– September 17, 2012 2:55 PM
Q.

Cruise to Bermuda

Will be cruising to Bermuda in June. We will be there for two days. There will be six of us...a middle-aged couple and two 30+ couples. We love hanging with the local people, eating local food, traveling around the island, and a good night life. Any suggestions on top places to visit in two days? Thanks.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

It's been years since I was in Bermuda. My memories are fading. . . You must visit Hamilton, of course. Beyond that, let's throw this out to the chatters. Folks?

– September 17, 2012 2:56 PM
Q.

Florence, Italy

Is something going on Columbus Day weekend in Florence? I have tickets to go there and am working on booking a place to stay, and am finding much less availability in apartments than I expected. VRBO has some things but a bit more than I expected and homelidays claims to have nothing for 5-9 October.
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I don't know of any particular activities in Florence that weekend. But October is high season in Florence -- it's when the weather is the loveliest, not so hot (the other big month is May), and I imagine it's just crowded with tourists, being one of the most popular destinations in the world.

– September 17, 2012 2:58 PM
Q.

Hampi -- getting there

Overnight train from Bangalore. Not that hard.
Q.

Buenos Aires

My first idea would be to download the chapter on B.A. form the Lonely Planet guide to Argentina (or the city guide itself), and check to see what they want to see. It'd only cost a few bucks. But if I had just one night, I'd first find which of the subway lines has the antique cdars, and take that, and see a performance at the historic opera house (at least get a tour). If they want to see tango, I'd try to find a tango school. I went to one of the many "tango shows," on the recommendation of my hotel, and IMHO it seemed morelike Las Vegas than Buenos Aires. Of course, one can eat well, especially beef.
Q.

Home from Dalmatian Coast

Travarica: we sure did! All sorts. Daily before lunch. The herbal one was too strong but I liked sour cherries...
Q.

For Cruise to Bermuda

Consider checking out the Hamilton, Bermuda, newspaper(s) online. Also, Bermuda has a substantial Portuguese community, so you might want to look for a Portuguese restaurant, for something different.
Q.

Closed captioning on airplanes?

It is great that Jet Blue, Virgin America, and some other airlines offer live TV on their flights from a range of cable and broadcast stations. Yet, they do not include the closed captioning! Why is that? I am unable to use the headphones or earjacks as they are incompatible with hearing aids, so would like to use closed captioning. Any recourse? Would the Dept. of Transportation or the FAA have any ability to address this? Thanks.
A.
Carol Sottili :

Simple answer: It's expensive. Continental is now offering captioning, but I believe it's the only airline to do so. Not sure about FAA or DOT jurisdiction here. But I think it would be a good idea to send letters to airlines. 

– September 17, 2012 3:01 PM
Q.

What merits assistance?

Thanks for taking my question! I had an emergency surgery about a week and a half ago. Recovery is going pretty well but I'm still a bit slow and creaky. Husband and I are flying west on Friday and have a tight (50 minute) layover in Dallas on the way out. American Airlines. I'm a little concerned about getting from one gate to the next in time. Is this something that I could call in advance about, to see if someone can help us get from one gate to the next (maybe via a cart or wheelchair)? I am torn because I'm not disabled and can walk fine, but I can't hustle like I may need to. Thanks!
A.
Carol Sottili :

Call American before you go and see if they can arrange for a wheelchair in advance. And make sure you know gate locations before you go, and their distances. If you have to get to another terminal, that will add time. Take a look at DFW map. 

– September 17, 2012 3:02 PM
Q.

For Bermuda-bound:

Also get over to St. George, and the Unfinished Church. We also cruised to Bermuda and after one afternoon out for lunch, decided to eat our meals on board for the entire trip--Bermuda is VERY expensive, and after all, you will have already paid for your food on board as part of the cost of the cruise!
Q.

airline seat assignments

Hi - the airline just contacted me to let me know there had been a change to my reservation (during the December holidays) - instead continuing on the same plane after a layover, we now have to change planes. Since I had already selected seats I was very concerned since I am traveling with two young children that we would not get seats together. Needless to say, we need to be together. The agent told me that no seats were ever guaranteed, and despite the fact that I had selected seats, I could be moved by the airline. He said he made a notation to my record, but also recommended a get there early to make sure to get seats with my kids. So - I guess I theoretically knew that seats were not guaranteed, but I thought if I had made a seat selection it would be honored. I live in fear that my kids will be forced to sit apart from me (it's a 5 hour flight to CA) which would benefit no one. What are my rights? I really don't want to depend on the kindness of strangers to switch with me - especially if I have a middle seat!
A.
Zofia Smardz :

I think if you just ask very nicely at the gate, the agents will try to seat you and your kids together. Most agents really do try to be helpful.

– September 17, 2012 3:08 PM
Q.

Bermuda

Not much to do other than hang out on the beach. Rent a moped if you are comfortable driving on the other side of the street and want to get around efficiently. There is a lighthouse (can't recall the name) from which you can see the entire island. Even Hamilton is, frankly, not that interesting. It's all about the natural beauty...
Q.

Driving on the wrong side...

I did this last summer in England. A few things to remember. . . (1) You, the driver, belong in the middle of the road; (2) tilt your side view mirror slightly down so that you can see the middle line on the road (it will keep you on the right side of the street; (3) download the driving instructions for taking the driving test (the signs are different from here) and (4) be prepared to be terrified for the first couple of days. I have never been so scared driving in my life. In fact, at one point I pulled off to the side and balled like a baby. After a few days though it wasn't too bad and by the end of the week I was fine.
Q.

Re: Copenhagen

You don't need a specific tour group to go on one of the boats offering tours of the canals--I did this on a sunny day, and it was delightful. You get the boats in Nyhavn. I also recommend the tomato soup at the Norden cafe on the Storget (a famous square)--best tomato soup of my life! The people-watching is great on the Storget, too!
Q.

NYC

I've liked Top of the Rock better than the Empire State Building- it's nice that you can see the ESB from the Rock! Also, I second the Tenement Museum, it's one of my favorite museums. There are some stairs to navigate though.
Q.

Birthdays in November question

We live in Charlottesville, and it's always a great place to be, but one of our favorite easy getaways is Staunton VA, especially if you like theater. Stay at the Stonewall Jackson hotel, see Shakespeare at the American Shakespeare center, dine at Zynodoa or one of the several other quite nice restaurants, visit wineries in the area, hike......A little less expensive than Charlottesville, and altogether very relaxing and interesting.
A.
Becky Krystal :

Good suggestion. Here's a story we had a few years ago about Staunton.

– September 17, 2012 3:08 PM
Q.

Purchasing Travel Insurance

Would you suggest purchasing travel insurance for a cruise trip to South America and if so, what would be the important things to make sure are covered. Thanks.
A.
Carol Sottili :

I buy insurance for expensive trips. There are different sorts of policies. I don't opt for "cancel for any reason" as it's expensive, and you don't get get a full refund. But most people are looking for policies that cover such things as breaking a leg the day before you go or missing the flight that gets you to the ship. Compare at a site such as InsureMyTrip

– September 17, 2012 3:08 PM
Q.

Weekend in November

My goal is to get out of D.C. and prefer to leave the country to see something new and interesting. I do not want to sit on a beach, but prefer to explore. Beyond that, I am open to any option that is possible in a long weekend.
A.
Becky Krystal :

I know some people do Europe for a long weekend, but I like your idea of Montreal. Other good Canadian options include Toronto and Quebec City. You'll maximize your time at one of those destinations, for sure. Puerto Rico could work too. Or Mexico City. If you're open to anything, go with the best deal you can find.

– September 17, 2012 3:09 PM
Q.

hawaii flights

There is a scheduling format airlines use because of logistics with the hub/spoke system. For example if you are flying from the west coast to the east coast there are three windows of travel... leaving 6am-8am leaving 11am-1pm leaving 10pm-12am Same thing when traveling to Hawaii but the idea is to arrive at certain times. This usually means a late morning(10am-1pm) arrival with an eraly morning departure or an evening arrival (7-9 pm)
A.
Carol Sottili :

Yes, and you can go to your airport's Web site and look at the flight schedule for a better idea of options. 

– September 17, 2012 3:09 PM
Q.

Curacao?

We're going on an impromptu trip to Curacao and having trouble benchmarking what off-season airfare we can expect. We're leaving at the end of October and seeing prices of about $550.
A.
Carol Sottili :

That airfare sounds reasonable. 

– September 17, 2012 3:09 PM
Q.

Barcelona

I'd like to take my Mom to Barcelona for 10 days. Do you think I'd have any leverage in negotiating a lower room rate with a high-end property because we'd be staying so many nights?
A.
Becky Krystal :

I don't know about negotiating, but some hotels will show deals on their site for extended stays. Make sure you check out their list of packages too.

– September 17, 2012 3:09 PM
Q.

Move to San Diego

Hi Travel Gurus, Our son is moving from the DC area to San Diego in December. What's the best way to transport his car without driving there? Amtrak's auto train does not appear to offer San Diego as an option. Any suggestions. Thanks.
A.
Carol Sottili :

The Auto Train travels between Lorton, Va., and Sanibel, Fla. To get a car to San Diego, you need to either drive it, have someone else drive it or put it on a transport truck. There are hundreds of vehicle transport companies. I'd Google search the terms driveaway and auto transport and then check reputations on Better Business Bureau. 

– September 17, 2012 3:10 PM
Q.

Barcelona

Was in Barcelona this spring. There's so much to see and do in the city - walking is great, waterfront, Parc Guell, the markets, great food etc. No need to go out of the city!
Q.

to Barcelona cruiser

Why don't you just use the ATM in the airport in Barcelona? We never exchange money before we get to Europe.
A.
Carol Sottili :

For a small amount of money, exchange rates are not so different that it matters. When I arrive in Europe, last thing I want to do is stand on line for currency. Why not just get it done while you're waiting to board?

– September 17, 2012 3:10 PM
Q.

I'm not disabled and can walk fine, but I can't hustle like I may need to

Neither can I, but I always request a wheelchair while making my airline reservations online. It's not worth the misery of exhausting yourself just in order to get through the airport. Be sure to tip your mobility attendant, of course: I generally tip $5.
Q.

Zofia Smardz :

And, we're back in for a landing! That wraps it up for today, folks. Thanks for the many good questions, suggestions, observations and, of course, tales of family travel. The winner today is the traveler who ended up at a nude beach with her(?) mom. Send you info to me at smardzz@washpost.com, and I will dispatch a prize.

Thanks once again, everybody, and come fly with us again next week!

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