Talk about Travel

Sep 23, 2013

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

Hi chatters, we're here again! Did you love Joe's story about his Top Chef cruise as much as I did? And Andrea's cruise of Canada and New England sounded totally fab, too.

For our question today, let's hear either about the best themed cruise you've ever taken, or about your "dream theme" cruise -- i.e., if you could take a cruise featuring an activity or celebrities or TV show or whatnot, what would it be? Best story or cleverest dream theme wins a nifty, possibly cruise-themed prize (but not an actual cruise, sorry!).

Now let's talk travel.

 

My friend and I are thinking of celebrating my birthday over Columbus Day weekend with dinner at Rat's restaurant and sculpture garden in Hamilton Township, NJ. Are the food and experience there worth the driving time (which is?) and distance from DC? What else should we do/see between there and DC? Where should we stay that is fun, not boring, but also not wildly expensive?

I love the Grounds for Sculpture -- fantastic! -- and yes it's worth the drive from Washington, which would be about two and a half to three hours. We ate at Rat's and I'm sure it was good, but honestly I don't remember that specifically. I certainly know that we had no complaints. And we stayed with friends so I don't have a strong recommendation for places to stay. Princeton is not far away, and there are bound to be some nice places there. Here's Becky's Bed Check of the Peacock Inn. Where else, chatters?

Just returned from using the car sharing Flightcar at San Francisco airport. The cost was $60 total ( including the use of a Fast Track pass) for a 4 day rental. My rental car was a current model Maxda 3. Would definitely use them again, but next time I would allow a little more time for dropping off the car and getting their ride back to the airport. Other than that, car was clean, pick up in Town Car to their lot probably too about 10 additional minutes then renting from Avis, etc, but I saved over $ 150 !!!

So glad that you had a great sharing experience. My car share in San Fran was also worth it. Makes me think twice about going to back to the big brands.

Hi there, My passport expires in spring 2014. I'm just wondering what the best way to renew is, as well as the time frame; it sounds like a shutdown would delay the process of getting the new one. I'm in DC, but it doesn't sound like the office welcomes in-person visits unless it's an emergency. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

I think you have plenty of time to renew your passport via mail. Turnaround is now about four weeks. Shutdown might delay, but you have until next spring, so I would not worry. 

One day I will go on a cruise through Alaska's Inner Passage on one of the small- to mid-size ships that focus on Alaska's history, nature and culture. One day!

Me, too!

Submitting early because I won't be able to join the chat in real time. :( Just wanted to send a quick follow-up. My husband and I were originally seeing flights for $600 each (three flights total per person). We ended up shopping around and got three flights each (VA to GA, GA to FL, FL to VA) for $600 total. And thanks for the tips about the Express Pass! We haven't yet decided if we're going to spring for them. Weekdays in October seem to be pretty slow at Universal and Islands of Adventure.

Excellent, thanks for following up! Sometimes it pays to get creative in your flight planning.

Without question - The Rock Boat. Music all the time, bands who want to interact with their fans on vacation... it really is the best trip ever. It's also among, if not THE, first music cruise, started by Sister Hazel in 2001. February is number 14, and my 7th, and I'm ready to go now.

I just recently heard about this cruise, and yes, it sounds terrific!

What can you recommend that is worthwhile/unusual between DC and Rat's? Not the usual "sightseeing ... " We have three days for one dinner! Thanks.

Hmm. It's not the most fascinating trip between here and there, unless you want to detour into Philadelphia or maybe Wilmington. But Becky did like Trenton, which she found more interesting than its reputation. Princeton is always worth a visit, just for strolling down Nassau Street and around the campus. Chatters,  suggestions?

Best (and only) cruise I have ever been on was an expedition to Antarctica. A little pricey, and definitely not for those sensitive to seasickness, but definitely worth it!

Hope you saw some penguins!

We have moved from Norway to the Washington area for this year. We would like to find a Christmas holiday destination with direct flights from DC, and have the rest of the family join us from Norway (they would fly either via DC, or from Norway). Can you advise us of good destinations? Warm weather is key. Also important are fun things for teens, beach/pool, direct flights, and perhaps not too expensive? We could either find a hotel/flight package, or we can find them separately. Our travel days would be Dec 25th-Jan 5th.

You won't find anything cheap for that week -- everyone has those days off from work/school, so demand is high, which means prices are also high. Weather may be  cool in Florida, so you'll probably have to travel to the Caribbean or Mexico for promise of warm weather. Cancun has nonstop flights from Washington and many all-inclusives at different price points, so I'd look at that first.  

My parents generously want to treat our entire family to a big family trip sometime next year. Total budget is around $12K but could go up to $15K (not including flights, which we will all pick up ourselves.) There will be 7 adults and two toddlers. We were thinking the UK -- my dad is an avid golfer who would love to play St. Andrews with his son and son-in-laws, and we thought London plus one or two other towns could be good ideas for the mixed age group. My parents are both in good shape so no concerns there. Is the UK a good choice? Any suggestions for itineraries (or resources to plan one)? We're just starting the planning phase, so any other destination suggestions are welcome too. We're open to almost anything except cruises.

Your plan sounds like a good start, if that's what you're interested in. There's enough in London to please any audience. The wee ones will like the Eye, a river ride on the Thames, the Tower and perhaps the dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum (more on family-friendly London here). You can take the train to St. Andrews and/or Edinburgh. Here's a story we had on Scotland for families and another on the loveliness of St. Andrews

Planning with a friend for a trip to Europe in mid-late November to meet halfway between where we each currently live (DC and the Middle East). We're still working out airfare considerations, but all things being equal, where would you want to go among the following cities and why or why not (the list is generated on account of where we've each been previously and where we aren't keen on going for a host of reasons): Portugal Scandanavia (any of the countries) Vienna Bratislava Prague Barcelona Bucharest Croatia

I'd go to any of those places. There aren't really downsides to any of them, except perhaps cost -- Vienna and Scandinavia will be the most expensive, so if that's a factor, I'd cut out those two. All the other choices are reasonably priced and all are great destinations. If you want beach, go to either Portugal or Croatia. If you want city, any of your options would be fascinating. This is a choice you must make on your own, based on what your likes and interests are.

We are planning our honeymoon to Hawaii in April 2014. A Maui condo will be our home base for the 10 or so days that we'll be on the islands. We'd like to island hop to the Big Island and Oahu. In addition, to break up the flight we are considering booking a flight to Portland and spending a day in the city and another in Willamette Valley and then flying to Maui. If we booked a roundtrip flight from Washington to Kahului now, the ticket would cost $875 with one stop. Will flight prices drop as April nears? Would flying to either the Big Island or Honolulu be a more cost effective option? Any thoughts on must sees or dos?

I don't think prices will drop, but keep an eye on Hawaiian Airlines, which offers service from the West Coast, including Portland, to Hawaii. It may be cheaper to fly to Honololu, but if you're not going to stay overnight, may not make sense.  As for must-sees and dos, I have not been to Hawaii in a few years, but can recommend that you spend some time on the state's tourism Web site, which is quite good. 

Visit Lambertville, N.J.! It's just off 95 on the way north to Princeton. Terrifc galleries and interesting shops, good restaurants and you can take a stroll along the canal or walk across the bridge to New Hope, Pa. We do a weekend there once a year or so. I would even consider the Lambertville House or Inn at Lambertville Station to stay over. Both are nicer than the Peacock, in my experience.

Oh yes, Lambertville! So nice. Thanks for the reminder.

It would have designated talking zones, in which people would converse in a civilized murmur. All tables in restaurants would be four-tops or smaller. Exercise and yoga spaces would replace the casinos and discos. Spa staff to patron ratio, 1:4. Bigger and well-stocked libraries. And instead of the cheesy entertainment, the theater would nightly show classics like the Princess Bride, after issuing vinegar-filled squirt guns to use against talkers.

Very funny, love it! That would be my kind of cruise, too.

Another idea: Alaska Marine Highway. Taking the ferry may not be as luxurious as a cruise, but it allows for more flexibility in checking out stops along the way, and the ability to check out the Interior, as well. You can get a state room, and there is plenty of hot water for showers!

When we went on the London Eye, there was a school group with one child absolutely terrified of going on. The chaperones talked this child onto the Eye, only to have to reverse the wheel to take the child (and chaperone) off. It made our trip eventful (how many can say they've been on the Eye in reverse mode?) but be aware that the heights can get to kids (and adults).

Any advice on the best towns to stay in when visiting Northern CA wine country? We'll have 2 nights/3 days and are not wedded to either Sonoma or Napa or any particular winery. Just looking for a good central location in either area with easy access to wineries, restaurants, etc. There are so many wineries and towns, narrowing down a selection is proving to be challenging. Thanks for any insight you might have!

It's been a while since I was in Cali wine country. Chatters, can you help?

Best Friend and I were suddenly inspired to take an international trip before heading off to grad school and surrendering our excess disposable income. After some flight searching, we're leaning toward Istanbul in either late November (5-6 days there) or preferably late December (could swing 7+ days) to coincide with our work holidays. I've read it's cold and sometimes rainy then, but we're fine with that in order to save some money, as long as we wouldn't be totally miserable. Is this a feasible idea or is it a waste of money without staying longer? Are there any other places that we should consider? Flights to Western Europe were pricy around the holidays, but we also don't want to lose too much travel time to layovers.

It's never a waste of money to travel somewhere if you really want to go there. Five to six days is a good length for an international trip, let alone seven days or more. You can see plenty in that amount of time. You don't say what your plans are beyond Istanbul, but you could certainly do that city and, say, Ephesus, with ease. Istanbul is a fascinating city, with many, many points of interest, great food, a lively nightlife scene. You've chosen well, now go. Turkish Air offers well-priced (I'm currently seeing $750) nonstop flights from Dulles.

Istanbul is a very cheap airfare destination because Turkish Airlines now offers nonstop service there, and it is undercutting every other carrier's prices. You likely won't find another nonstop European destination at those prices. It will be likely be slightly warmer and less rainy in November -- average high temperature should be in high 40s or low 50s, and you they average about three inches of rain for the month. Sounds a lot like Washington's weather.   

Hello - we (family of 4 - 2 kids 10 & 12) trying to choose between Cyprus and Croatia in October. What would you choose? Any ideas would be appreciated!

I'd choose Croatia, only because I know it better. In fact, I don't know Cyprus at all. Although I'm sure it would be an inexpensive holiday and very interesting. Chatters, let's hear your thoughts.

I love the UK, but it is so expensive! My parents were unable to enjoy themselves when the visited due to the cost (despite budgeting for it). You would probably have a much more enjoyable time if you looked into other places-- Greece, Ireland, and Hungary are two that come to mind. If you do go, be sure to visit Oxford. It is a really cute town with lots to see.

It is expensive, so, yes, the key is budgeting. It might work if they're all picking up their airfare.

Thanks for the alternative suggestions.

You could probably combine Vienna with a day/night trip to Bratislava. I was thinking of doing this when I was in Vienna, because I believe there is a public train that takes only an hour or so between the two.

How do I find a travel agent to help me navigate the world of cruising? I am very comfortable planning air and land travel on my own, but I've never hit the seas before. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the choices as well as all the variations in pricing.

Even if you use a travel agent, a little self-education is a good idea. Spend some time on a cruising Web site, such as Cruise Critic, and read its reviews on the various lines. Those reviews will give you a good idea of the types 0f passengers it attracts, food, ambience, etc. We can't recommend a specific agency, but word-of-mouth is usually the best way to find a good agent.  You can also locate certified agents through Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group that represents many cruise lines. 

the Glass pier is not in the park but on an Indian reservation to the west of the park. a place worthwhile to go to...but end of March isnt the best season for it (its still cold) is to see the Havasu falls which is on the Havasupai reservation as an all day trip. The north rim of the Grand Canyon is closed at the end of March. The Grand Canyon can and likely will be much colder than Phoenix or Sedona because of the elevation. You can do a 3 day 2 night stay. In terms of trails its either a rim trail or into the canyon trail. The canyon trail is difficult. The south Rim roughly breaks up into 3 areas. East, Central, and West. The West part in the summer is only by bus access (unsure when the season starts), the central part where the lodging is has another bus system that goes through here and is easily walkable, and then the East part is a part you need to drive and explore each of the stops. You want to try and see the park around sunrise and sunset where the end of March sun rise is a little before 6am, and sets shortly after 6pm. Early/late sun brings out colors. Another place to explore is Page, AZ and Antelope Canyon. Then returning to Phoenix there are a bunch of national monuments (Ancient Puebloan settlements) and the crater from the Asteroid strike.

Thanks for the exhaustive info!

I understand that the Uffizi gallery is a must see. What about the Accademia gallery? Is the Statue of David inside the Accademia gallery, or outside? What other places should be seen in Florence or Pisa? We will be going on our cruise in that area on Nov 10 and Nov 11. Any suggestions for Palma de Mallorca, Spain?

The real David is inside the Accademia, which also has great paintings and sculpture by other artists. (There is a smaller copy of the David on the Piazza della Signoria, outside the Uffizi Gallery. It's not nearly as impressive as the real thing) You should buy timed tickets online, although November won't have as many tourists and lines won't be as long. But it's a good idea to have them in hand. Be sure to walk on the Ponte Vecchio, not necessarily to buy anything in the expensive shops that line it, but the "scene," which can be quite something. And of course you should see the Duomo, which is gorgeous. If you have time, the tour that takes you up to the top of the dome is fantastic. I also love the churches of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella. In Pisa, beyond the leaning tower, be sure to see the Duomo and the Campo Santo. Knights' Square with the Palazzo della Carovana is beautiful. And there are many gorgeous churches.

Afraid I have no suggestions for Palma de Mallorca. Folks?

Any suggestions on where to go for a holiday in Switzerland in April with young kids (ages 4 and 7)? We'd be interested in light hiking and nature activities and just experiencing the culture. Thanks!

I'd start by playing around with the "Family Trips" section of the Switzerland tourism site. Anyone have advice?

A number of years ago a friend and I went on an expedition-type "cruise" that circumnavigated Svalbard, a group of islands north of Norway. The draw was a total eclipse of the sun at 82 degrees north. The boat was an ex-USSR spy ship that was still not allowed in American waters. Russia uses it part of the year for scientific research and rents it out the rest of the year. Overall the weather was good (for that far north), although not so good on eclipse day. Our boat managed to get far enough north to see the eclipse, unlike some of the other more expensive expeditions that sailed from other ports! Happy us – we met some or=f their travelers on the way home and they weren't so happy! Apparently, making it around the top of Svalbard isn't often possible. After the eclipse, lunch was a BBQ on deck. We had a visitor, one very large polar bear who was hungry. He crouched down on his haunches and sized up the boaty. Guess the boat was too big for an attack regardless of the aroma because he slowly got up and lumbered awa. We had to leave in a hurry because the ice was closing in. We saw several other polar bears, including a mother and her cub. Unfortunately we found a dead cub on one of our land excursions, starvation. Overall quite a memorable trip.

Wow, thanks!

If you are female, go when it is cold! You will be expected to be covered anyway (even westerners were wearing 3/4 sleeve tops and full length dresses in August). You will be so much happier fully covered in cooler weather. We went for 4 days/3 nights and it was wonderful--we stayed in Istanbul and had plenty to do!

I enjoyed Chris Elliott's story about the Hertz gas charges for tenths of gallons. I rented at SFO (Hertz Gold) and looked in vain to find someone to tell that I was prepaying Golden Gate Bridge tolls. I later found a charge on my credit card for tolls from Hertz, with a surcharge, after both talking with them by phone about how to prepay and specifically telling the attendant to whom I returned the car that I had prepaid tolls. I will be having a conversation with Hertz about this charge. Are you aware of similar practices, or did I go about this wrong?

Chris isn't with us today, but I can tell you that you're not alone in running into problems with tolls for rental cars. He's written a few times about it -- here and here.

I still haven't found any good way to search all direct/non-stop flights from an airport. For example, I want to take a vacation leaving from DCA or IAD, but I don't have any particular destination in mind, I just want to have a direct or non-stop flight. There doesn't seem to be any easy way to see the available destinations. Do you know of any website that offers this feature?

I'm not aware of a meta tool that will capture this. Often, airport sites have this information. Here are domestic nonstop flight maps for Dulles and National, as well as a map of international flights out of Dulles. Individual airlines frequently have route maps on their sites that show nonstop flights. I like to explore with those too.

A friend and I were just discussing our longtime desire to get to an Olympics. Any idea whether we can still get tickets to Olympic events in Sochi? Also, would you recommend visiting the Olympics at their beginning or their end? Finally, if we can tack on some days for Moscow, how much time would you recommend to spend there?

CoSport is the authorized ticket source for United States Olympic Committee. You can purchase tixs and packages online. Tickets are still available, based on the sport and event.  For example, tickets to the men's ice hockey semi-final are going for $497; the closing ceremony is  $1,379.

I would try to secure tickets first and cluster the events, so that you don't have overly long gaps of non-sporting time. Once you know the dates of the events, then decide whether it makes more sense to arrive closer to the opening or to the  closing.

For Moscow, set aside at least three days for touring.

Good afternoon! We are headed to Lake Tahoe the beginning of November for our honeymoon. We have everything settled, save what not to miss while there. We have hiking already lined up and just general exploring, but neither of us has been to the area. Any suggestions?

Weather will be brisk there in early November, with below-freezing low temps and highs in the low 50s, so bring warm clothes. I'm sure you know there are casinos and clubs in South Lake Tahoe. But the big draw is the outdoors. There are so many hiking trails, you can hike all day and see hardly anyone. Here is a list of trails for North Lake Tahoe. Skiing may be an option if they get some early snowfall. The US Forest Service also publishes a good list of hiking trails.  I'd also take  a ride on the Heavenly ski resort's gondola.  

There may be way more skiing than hiking in April, depending on the snow!

So true!

Going to Austin with my sister and mother for a 3 day weekend. Do you have any recommendations for a place to get a really great massage?

Anyone?

Hi Crew, Wondering if you (or fellow chatters) have any recommendations for an Italian agriturrismo or B&B in the Tuscan or Emilia-Romagna region? Thanks so much!

Chatters, this is another one for you.

My husband and I are planning a trip to Charlottesville over Columbus Day (our last as a couple before our baby comes!) What BnB recommendations do you have for us?

My husband and I really enjoyed High Meadows Vineyard Inn, which is a little out of town but worth it. You could also splurge on Keswick Hall or the Boar's Head Inn.

I've been to both and would definately recommend Croatia. Cyrus was fine (most interesting for the roman ruins) but Croatia has much more diversity of experiences -- roman ruins in Split, slow-paced and lovely Dalmatian islands, old world Zagreb, lovely Dubrovnik.

The cruise that sets the standard for me was a trip with Lindblad Expeditions along the Pacific coast of Baja California in early Feb. a few years ago--prime time for mother gray whales to give birth. Several days we went out in rubber dinghies, holding about 12 people, in the area where the moms and babies hung out. The baby whales were intensely curious about humans, coming right up next to to dinghy and putting their heads up to be petted. (A couple also liked to bump the dinghy from underneath--a bit disconcerting in hundreds of feet of water, but exciting once you got used to it.) While the babies were getting their pats on the head, the mother whales would hang out about 10 feet from the dinghies, with their heads up out of the water so they could keep an eye on what these strangers were doing with their young'uns. All in all, one of the best memories of my life!

Awwwww!

Lake Austin Spa is my favorite place in the world and you can go there just for the day-great food, too.

Thanks!

Unless they are frozen into the 10 days in the Maui condo, it would a lot cheaper for them to island hop successively (Oahu-Maui-Big Island, say) rather than doing roundtrips to two islands from Maui. At least explore option of open jaw--fly into Maui, then end trip on Big Island and fly home from there. May not cost any more. Regarding what to do, the "Revealed" books from Wizard Publications (i.e., "Maui Revealed" etc.) I find to be by far the best guidebooks--even have actual pictures of the beaches, for example.

Any guidance on getting from the Barcelona airport to the Barri Gotic neighborhood? Seems like the train is do-able but a taxi may be easier...?

Taxi is easiest, of course, but also the most expensive (about $50). You may also have to suffer through traffic jams, depending on the time of day.  If you feel comfortable taking public transportation, consider the Aerobus or the RENFE train. Just ask beforehand if you need to transfer to the Metro.

Hello, I am going to Montreal for a weekend with my husband in October. We are staying in Old Montreal, but otherwise we don't have anything planned except to just enjoy the city. We are in our late twenties/early thirties -- any must-see attractions or great restaurants that you could share?

Joe's our Montreal expert and unfortunately not with us today. But have a look at this story and this one that he wrote about visits to Montreal. Both have great suggestions for where to eat, at least.  Chatters, what should this poster see?

I have the opportunity to ride with friends to Harrisburg, PA., for the day this Saturday (they're going to a conference). I've never been there, and am wondering if anyone knows how I could go about booking a guide/taxi driver there who could give me a guided tour of the capital city for a few hours. How much would it be likely to cost, and would there be very much open at the Capitol itself on a Saturday? What else is there worth seeing in Harrisburg (I'm an older adult)? Or should I just stay home, sleep late, and eat my favorite foods?

I can totally understand the appeal of sleeping in and eating favorite foods, but don't pass up the opportunity to see a new place! You can tour the state capitol. And this person offers tours of the city as well. You can take a riverboat ride too. Also in town: the State Museum of Pennsylvania. Seems like plenty to do to fill a day!

I've been meaning to visit a friend who moved to Chicago for the past two springs/summers but that's my busy time at work so it hasn't worked out. I can go this November; she says it may snow and it's not the best time to see the city, but it would still be fun to visit. What do you guys think? Do I run the risk of getting stranded in a blizzard or is it just going to be a little chilly? I really want to see museums, which can be done in any weather, but I have never been to Chicago as an adult, so I don't know what else I'm missing out on by going when it's cold.

Go! I'd be more worried in January or February, honestly. I mean, you always run the risk of something interrupting your travel, but you might as well try. Make your museum plans, bring warm clothes and have fun. It's a great city. I'll never forget the time I was there in March -- one day it was sunny and in the 70s. I didn't even wear a jacket. The next day it was snowing with wicked horizontal winds. It was kind of crazy but cool.

How do people actually pack light? I'm usually a business traveler and am going on a solo three week vacation that includes some smaller flights requiring a single bag under 40 lbs. I can't imagine that even being possible.

First lesson: Light packers are okay with wearing the same outfits three or four or 10 times.  You did not say where you are going or your gender, but for warmer climates, I typically pack light skirts (plus tights, in case it gets cold) and cotton shirts and sweaters that I can layer. I bring sneakers and flats and maybe flip-flops --that's it for shoes.

Other tips: Limit your toiletries to essentials, and assume that you can use the soap, shampoo, etc., at the hotel. (But bring your own toothpaste: Foreign toothpaste can be scary.) Buy an e-reader. Reduce your gadgets to one all-purpose item, such as a smartphone. Leave the accessories at home. And bring a baggie of detergent, for a few sink washing sessions (or find a cheap laundromat).

Kayak, under More, has a nonstop flight finder.

Whoa-M-G. Had no idea. Thanks so much!

Hi. My wife needs to make a one-way flight from the Bay Area to Philly next May (returning with family via train). She HATES to fly, so I thought it best to get her a non-stop, First Class ticket as a treat. US Airways has one at a good time for around $600, but for about $100 more they make it "fully refundable." That seems like it might be a good idea, given it's so far in advance. Do you know of any problems with fully refundable fares? Or with US Airways itself?

Any chatters recently fly first class on US Airways? We all fly economy around here, so we need outside help on this one. Read the fine print on the fully refundable ticket -- it should be available in the contract of carriage. 

No need to cover up in Istanbul - plenty of Turkish women wear sleeveless tops in Istanbul. You should not wear shorts to a mosque (or to a church in Italy, for that matter) and have a scarf to cover your head, but that's all.

1. find out how much and on which days St Andrews allows non members to golf the Old Course (and I assume you want the Old Course). Plan your trip around it. St Andrews is a lovely University town with a castle and a cathedral, both in ruins, and many stories--there is a tunnel between the town and the castle dug from solid rock by the invading French to undermine (!pun intended) the Scots beseiged in the castle. It can be very touristy. Consider other golf courses (many are near Edinburgh) and explore both availability and cost. London is a lot more expensive and the distances between attractions are daunting.

More for the family considering a U.K. trip. Although I found that zipping around on the Tube made navigating the city not too bad.

I was in Chicago for two weeks right after Thanksgiving. It was 70 degrees in early December and not at all cold the rest of the time, so you never know. Chicago is amazing. Go for it!

Hi, Going to France next summer (June). We have no idea when to buy tickets. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Beacause you are traveling during peak season, tickets will be expensive and in high demand. Set up fare alerts and search fares online every so often. When you see a price and flight times that you like, grab it.

I have a 12 hour layover in Copenhagen (7 am-7pm) later this month. Is there time to leave the airport and if so what do you suggest? Thanks, Scott

Sounds like enough time. The airport site says you can get between downtown Copenhagen and the airport on the Metro in 15 minutes. You might just want to focus on the city center, but chatters, please weigh in if you've been!

I'm assuming that if the government shuts down it will be at least for a week. Do you all have any advice on what to do/where to go during the government shutdown? I was thinking about doing something cheap, maybe camping, since I'll probably also be without paycheck, but then I realized that national parks would be closed as well. Little Talbot Island outside Jacksonville, FL looks nice, but would be a long drive. Any other ideas?

The Outer Banks are incredible during the off-season, and hotels and rentals usually reduce their rates after Labor Day weekend.

Chris Elliott's article Sunday about the flood-out river cruises made me nervous, since I'm going on a cruise on France's Rhone/Saone rivers over Thanksgiving this year. Is there a way of finding out in advance if a cruise line has had recent flooding problems (meaning, would they tell me the truth)?. Too late to cancel now, since it's all paid for, but at least I could mentally prepare myself if something like that is likely to happen...

By that time, most of the flooding should have abated some -- even Chris says the fall weather is much better and it's a better bet for cruising. But I would certainly call my cruise line and share your concerns. If they're a reputable line, they should tell you the truth.

If at all possible, don't miss the huge and diverse Botanical Garden, conveniently located on a subway stop (we loved the Japanese and Chinese Gardens especially). Check ahead of time online for cultural performances that weekend at the Place des Artes (also a Metro stop, right inside the center); we scored "rush" tickets for a Montreal Symphony concert! Rue St. Denis neighborhood is young and hip, with varied restaurants. Drive or ride up to the city's eponymous Mount Royal. So much to do there, we could spend weeks there.

I'm stretching the definition of "cruise", but the best boat trip I took was with my father, fishing, for his Father's Day present when I was aroaund 22. The trip was on a chartered boat, only me and him--no one else from my family--and the other people who fished. It was the first time I saw him as a person, not as my father. Wonderful.

Lovely, thanks!

For Flight Planning: Wikipedia's entry for every airport I've ever looked at contains all the direct flight to/from that airport, along with which airlines service those routes. For Italian agriturismo: We stayed at Tenuta di Sticciano. There is a lodge area and separate buildings with bigger apartments. Great location between Siena, Florence and San Gimignano and the people at the agriturismo were wonderful.

Hi! We're heading to France for a week and are trying to figure out how much time we should budget for the occasional nice sit-down restaurant (lunch and dinner). We totally embrace the meals-are-longer-in-France ideal, but we're also planners and want to be able to at least guesstimate how much time we should block off for, say, a 3-course meal. Thanks!

You can predetermine how much time you want to spend dining. You can spend 90 minutes or four hours. While the French do indulge in languid meals, you don't need to. You can order quickly and flag down the waiter for the check. Conversely, you can stretch out the meal and pick at your dessert.

To better manage your time, make reservations when possible and choose a restaurant near your sightseeing attractions. Also, choose non-peak dining times. And remember that a chunk of cheese, a baguette and a bottle of wine is just as French as a three- course dinner.

I booked four tickets on United from BWI to Belize City for a family Thanksgiving trip in April 2013. I selected my carrier and flights after comparing other airlines, etc. I wanted to leave early and get there efficiently. My flight was to leave at 5:45 am and arrive (via Houston) in Belize City at 11:35 am. Then we have to take a prop plane to San Pedro to start our week long vacation. So now United has changed the flights and pushed departure time back and added a longer layover in Houston. Our arrival in Belize City isn't until 4:45pm. We basically lose a day of vacation. I'm very upset and not sure what to do. United said they will refund the full fare, but I still need to get to Belize. Other airlines are showing flights with departures and arrival times similar to what I originally signed up for, but the prices have gone up. Do I dare get the refund and jump to another airline (and pay more) just to have the flights changed again??? I'm frustrated and annoyed. Should I call a travel agent? I have no clue. Please help!

As you've already figured out, you'd be taking a chance rebooking because the airlines make no promises to stick to the schedule as purchased. A travel agent isn't going to be able to promise that either. Have you looked at flights out of DCA or IAD on United? Or maybe they could put you on a late flight the night before? 

1. What is the good month or time to tour these two countries? 2. Is it safe to tour Turkey now? 3. What are the best tour agents you can recommend for this trip?

Spring and fall are lovely, as summers can be hot, humid and overcrowded, especially in Greece. Fares and hotel rates are also cheaper during off-peak times, though in the winter, some coastal resorts and restaurants may close for the season.

On Sept. 6, the State Department issued a travel warning, advising Americans to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. The warning does not mention Istanbul but warns visitors to avoid large crowds and demonstrations. Personally, I would still go, but my parents, who had planned to sail along the coast in October, canceled their trip last week.  Whether to go or avoid really depends on your own ease or unease during times of turmoil.

I can't recommend a travel agent, since so much depends on budget, independent or group travel, etc. Perhaps the chatters can help out.

Are you willing to hand-wash your undies, socks and shirts? I've even hand-washed washable slacks in the tub, then hung them up to dry on either a shower-curtain rod (or, once, by a belt loop from a chandelier in the room!).

The difference between first class and coach on USAirways is MUCH smaller than on other airlines, in my experience. She will board first and get a larger seat, and she will probably get more (not always edible) food, but that's it. Service is not better and the overall experience is not nicer. So you can weigh weather those factors make the higher fare worth it.

Check the wikipedia page for the airport. There is an box with all airlines and their destinations

Happy Monday! I've just booked a bucket-list trip to the Galapagos and Machu Pichu in November. I will have a few hours in Lima before my flight back to the US. I arrive from Cuzco at 6:20pm and fly out again on a 1am red-eye. Do I have time to leave the airport and enjoy a nice dinner etc.? Any suggestions? Can I check my luggage for my 1am flight when I arrive from Cuzco (I'm flying United back) so I am baggage-free in Lima? So many questions! I hope you can help.

Post food writer Tim Carman ate his away around Peru recently. For inspiration and dining leads,  here is his meal plan.

Lima can be dangerous at night, so be smart. Make sure you take a legit taxi and consider dining in the upscale neighborhoods of San Isidro or Miraflores. Just leave yourself a few hours to return to the airport, and don't overlook the possibility of traffic, even at that hour.

From experience, I would think that  you can check your bags to the States in Cuzco, as long as you are flying the same itinerary from start to finish. If you do need to collect them, you might be able to drop them off at United for the final leg home. Best to call United to confirm.

Additionally, travel forums say that the airport has lockers.

For females, you can dress up and vary the same basic outfits with lightweight scarves. Also, pack only solid colors, so you can mix/match garments to create new outfits. Stick with basic neutral-colored bottoms (skirts, slacks, etc.).

Not all National Parks close their camping - check Shenandoah and Catoctin, locally. Even if the camp grounds are closed, Shenandoah has lodges that aren't too pricey in the off season.

You could still go camping in STATE parks!

And that's all we have time for today, folks! Thanks for chatting. And our prizewinner is the introvert who wants to take an introvert's cruise -- I'm with you! Send your contact info to me -- Zofia.Smardz@washpost.com -- and I'll send off a little something. Thanks again all, and see you next week!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
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.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
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