Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Jun 10, 2019

Join the Travel team to discuss your travel-related questions, comments, suspicions, warnings, gripes, sad tales, etc!

Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel. In this week's issue, we hiked Spain's gorgeous Camino dos Faros, along the Galican coast. Have you traveled to hike one of the world's many storied trails? Tell us about it below. Most compelling answer gets a copy of "Camp Sunset: A Modern Camper's Guide to the Great Outdoors." On to your questions!

Wise travel gurus, I could use your guidance. My parents want to take me and my partner on a vacation together and are looking to us for suggestions. While the gesture is very generous, I'm struggling to figure out a place that would actually be enjoyable for all because of our varied interests. Me and my partner like doing stuff on vacations: art museums, walking around the city, going on hikes, exploring fun restaurants and bars, etc. My mom is not mobile enough to do a lot of walking, city or otherwise. My dad wants to do stuff but doesn't like museums. They do like food and wine. Has to be in the lower 48 and not involve a lot of car driving for my own sanity. Suggestions?

There are lots of places that might work for you. I just spent a month in Scottsdale, Ariz., and before that, Santa Fe, N.M. Both have a lot of culture and culinary attractions. And don't even get me started on East Coast cities that fit the bill. Chatters, over to you. Where would you recommend?

We recently enjoyed the overnight BC Ferries trip from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. In some very nice ways it was reminiscent of the Athens to Crete ferry. We are not interested in cruise ships but can you recommend any similar overnight ferries or passenger ships?

The Alaska Marine Highway System is one.  Anyone else have a favorite?

Hi! We're traveling to Missouri for an exhibition. Must admit we've spent little time in the midwest. We'll first be in St Louis, and we want to go to Kansas City. We have a week of free travel time, and a car. Any suggestion on what not to miss?

These were my recommendations for St. Louis in a recent chat, and they still stand: Some of my favorite spots include Forest Park, which is great for walking, running, golfing, museums, zoo, etc.; the Budweiser tour, where you not only see how the beer is made, but you also get to meet the Clydesdales and get free beer; City Museum, a quirky place that appeals to kids and adults; Busch Stadium and adjoining Ballpark Village; and The Hill for all things Italian. As for Kansas City, I've only been there a couple of times, and what I remember best is the Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que.

I’m starting to plan my honeymoon for June or July 2020. We’d like to go to the Greek islands. I’d thought about a cruise, but then I saw that it’s possible to rent a sailboat with a skipper that will do the sailing. My fiancé and I are pretty low key and the idea of doing things at our own pace is appealing. Can you recommend any companies that will rent a boat that comes with a skipper? If not, is there a midrange cruiseline you recommend? We’re interested in historical sites but also doing some snorkeling and hanging out at the beach. Thanks.

I called my mom for this one. She recommends the Moorings. She and my dad sailed the Greek Islands twice.

I asked last week but no answers. I'm still looking for a recommendation for accommodation around this area, or any comment from anyone who has gone to see the Roquefort caves.

Anyone have suggestions?

I went to Southwest to see what was available for December to Arizona for senior fares and found everything listed as "sold out." All of the other categories had prices. What's going on?

It is high season for Arizona, and the state is a retirement destination. The airline might have a limited number of tickets in that fare category. I would check back over the upcoming weeks to see if they added more seats. Or call the airline and ask the agent for help.

Hello! I know trying to go on vacation around the Christmas holiday is supposed to be the worst, but it looks like its the only time we will be available. Tips on how to have a good trip and keep costs down? We are looking to go someplace warm to just relax for 4-5 days - beach and swim-up bar. A town to check out would be great, but not necessary. We are coming from the DC area. We can be flexible on specific dates but likely traveling between Dec 22-Dec 30. Thank you!

There  is no magic answer to finding a cheap deal to a nice place in a warm climate during that holiday period. I'd go to Liberty Travel, Vacation Express and Apple Vacations to see what they are offering. Pick a spot that offers nonstop flights. 

Hi! Any recs for a 2-3 day yoga/spa retreat within 3 hours of DC? Thanks!

Yogaville in Buckingham, Va., if you're looking for a real yoga retreat. 

Thinking about joining an alumni group on a trip to Morocco. Most of the activities will be in a group, but there will be some time on our own for exploring. How concerned should I (female) be to be on my own in Morocco? Is it the usual tips of "know where you're going" and "don't be an obvious tourist" or are there other considerations?

I traveled to Morocco with my family but set out on my own several times throughout the trip. I would say be "normal cautious." Not high alert, but very aware. It is very easy to get lost in the medinas, so be aware of your whereabouts. And tuck your valuables in tightly. Depending on where you are, you will get jostled. Also, be aware of the rug game, where the carpet seller invites you inside for tea and just "browsing," and then you feel guilty and end up with a five-figure rug. We ran a scams piece recently, so I suggest you familiarize yourself with some of these, especially cabbies.

Hello, we will have a brief stop at Paris en route to Lourdes. Where can we get not-made in China affordable souvenirs in the northern part of the 15-14 arrondisments? We are looking for chocolates, cards etc. Disclaimer: We have mobility issues so might not be able to venture too far, thus, the reason why we are being specific.

I don't know of any place in these arrondissements.  Chatters?

Hi, I have a 3-day weekend conference in August in Manassas. Rather than make the 2-hour round trip every day, I'm thinking of staying in the vicinity with my husband (he's a bit of a Civil War buff). Is there a nice (romantic?) place we could stay nearby? The Plains or another nearby location? Thanks!

Not in Manassas proper. There are a couple of bed & breakfast inns within a half hour or so -- Inn at Evergreen and Black Horse Inn. Everything else is farther away, with most of the nicer places in the Middleburg area. 

Hi. I am going on a two week tour of Turkey (Istanbul, Troy, Izmir, Pamukkale, Cappadocia, Ankara) in October and will have an extra week on my own before flying back to Washington. I initially thought I would spend extra time in Istanbul but a friend suggested I fly to Kiev and Odessa in Ukraine for a week. Any thoughts ?

I've never been to Ukraine and I'm sure it's lovely, but I  would personally remain in Turkey.  There are so many incredible sites in and around Istanbul and with a full week, you could see a lot of them and not be in a rush. The Prince's Islands are a short ferry ride from the city and make easy and scenic day trips, especially by bike. Bursa has many interesting historical sites from the Ottoman Empire, plus tons of green spaces, and is about two hours away from Istanbul by car. For breathtaking beaches, head further away from Istanbul and head to Kas, Bodrum and Izmir. Chatters, any suggestions for Turkey and Ukraine?

Hi, I'm headed to Italy in a few weeks. Maybe i'm getting older but my ear for language just isn't there anymore and i'm having a hard time picking up on any italian before the trip. How worried should i be in my every day interactions with locals? (especially ordering food!)

If you're traveling to the major cities, you should be OK. I found almost everyone has a command of basic English in Rome, Florence or Venice. But it wouldn't hurt to learn a few phrases. I'm brushing up on my French on Memrise and Babbel right now. I like them both.

I am about 11 months away from a much anticipated trip to Japan and the flight schedules have finally been posted! There is a huge fare difference in flying out of IAD vs either Newark or Philadelphia (with the latter two being much less expensive - like, thousands, not hundreds,of dollars). I know some hotels near the airport offer free parking for the duration of your trip (as a perk); are there any other benefits or pitfalls to keep in mind if selecting EWR or PHL? Obviously, we'll allow plenty of time for transit (or go the night before).

Not really. The only issue is the return. After a day on a plane, having to catch a train or drive a car back home -- that can be punishing.

My little sister turned me onto Bill Bryson years ago. I love his approach to travel: just go and figure it out along the way. Andrea Sachs appears to embrace this style of travel; I'm thinking about her Route 66 travel monologue. Among the staff, would you say you lean toward planned or ad hoc travel? And which do you end up enjoying more?

I'm a planner, but I think I'm in the minority among the staff. I always feel as if my travel time is so precious that I don't want to waste it, which is why I plan. I may feel differently when I have more time. 

My sister just realized her global entry expired, but finds herself in an infinite loop of links trying to figure out her next step. Reapply? Any links or information would be appreciated.

Chris wrote Global Entry in a recent column. Here is his advice. I think she has to reapply, similar to a passport. (I am trying to reach the CBP but am getting nowhere, too.)

I was just in Australia. Part of immigration is going thru a photo session, scanning your passport, and if the 2 don't match up to their satisfaction, you get pulled aside for further discussion. My travelling companion got pulled aside, as she had lost weight since the passport pic was taken! I didn't, which was odd, as I had had a facial drooping issue when the passport photo was taken, which is now gone. Not sure what I think of facial recognition in general, but it's in use to one extent or another in another democracy...

Thank you for sharing this with us. Have you seen Geoffrey Fowler's story on this topic yet?

St. Petersburg, Florida might fit. There's a lot of good food and museums, but also a variety of other fun things like live music. There's a great market downtown on Saturdays that has lots of music, craft vendors, and good food. There is also the beaches and lots of bike trails. St. Pete is also about 30-45 minutes by car from Tampa, so you can easily experience Tampa as well.

St. Petersburg is a terrific place. Thank you.

If you look for tours and day trips at just about any destination in the world, you will find extensive offerings from Viator. I understand that Viator is basically a booking agency for local tour operators, not an operator itself. Are they generally pretty reliable? Do they do a good job of screening their guides and tours, especially abroad? Are the prices competitive with what you might find from local sources when you get to the destination? Etc.

It's owned by TripAdvisor and gets mixed reviews. I would be more likely to go through my hotel concierge to arrange local tours. 

Interesting article about packing light and only traveling with a carry-on. But, is it realistic to be able to travel with prescription medicines not in their original bottles, but jumbled together into a single, smaller container? Would that work in Turkey, South Asia, or other places concerned with drug smuggling? Would the author and the editors feel comfortable traveling that way in those countries? Indeed, some countries ban certain categories of prescription medicines that are allowed in the USA. How about upon return to the USA and getting checked by Customs?

Agree. Some countries want to see the prescription and label.  Check the country's rules before you mix pills.

I know this may not be the first choice for some folks, but a situation like the adult child with parents with opposing tastes and mobility issues just shouts "cruise" to me. For an Alaskan cruise, you could fly into and cruise round-trip from/to Seattle. Cruise ships are pretty good at providing what's needed for folks with mobility issues. I've seen people with scooters and wheelchairs on cruise ships. And there are plenty of excursion options for hiking, etc. Several of the Inside Passage cruises have a day in Vancouver, which is a fun city for strolling. Think about it.

Oh, yes! Good point. Thank you.

For the poster who asked about St. Louis, my favorite thing there is the St. Louis Cathedral, AKA the Basilica. The mosaics are absolutely amazing!!!


What about the boats from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland? There are some overnights listed on the schedule on both the "short route" to Port aux Basques (southwest corner) or the "long route" to Argentia (near St John's).

Another option

We've been going there for 10 years around this time and have never encountered this. I'm confused because I thought Southwest didn't announce its six month's schedule until July. Did this change?

Southwest is currently accepting reservations through January.

Portland, OR? Good food, hiking, arts, etc

Great idea, but go in the summer, for the best odds at good weather.

Try summertime ferries between the westernmost islands in the Azores (Flores and Corvo) and the rest of the archipelago.

Another ferry idea.

Check out the charter company Sunsail. We bareboat chartered from them three times in the BVI, and they were wonderful. I see that they have skippered charters. Our experience was they were slightly less expensive than Moorings. But that was many moons ago--1990s. The fact that Sunsail and Moorings are still in business speaks well for them both.

Yes, Sunsail is great, too. We have used them in the BVIs and Bahamas.

If you do not mind a bit of extra driving, I highly recommend a trip up to Weston, MO, northwest of Kansas City. A charming town, full of shops and wineries, and tucked into the curves of the Missouri River. To the northeast of Kansas City proper lies Independence, MO - home of the Truman Library and Museum, as well the as the Frontier Trails Museum. Both are very much worth a visit if you are into history. BBQ places galore! Jack Stack's is my favorite, but Oklahoma Joe's is good. Also, Excelsior Springs is close by Kansas City, where they used to 'take the waters'.

Good recommendations!

They don't have this service anymore but when I was kid in the Seventies mum and I would often take the ferry from Swansea to Cork overnight with friends. We'd then stay at their home near Kinsale. One time, when their little girl and I were about five, mum and her mum put us to bed and went to get dinner. We weren't tired so we decided to make silly faces out of the porthole. Most people laughed and made faces back. Then the two mums came back in high dudgeon: someone had complained to the purser ... .

You never want mums in high dudgeon!

While you're at the Gateway Arch, don't miss the courthouse where the Dred Scott case was tried. Also, since you'll have a car, consider visiting across the river in Alton and East St. Louis while you're in the SL area.

Casinos are in Alton, right? 

I forgot there are ferries that run along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador that may be more suited to what the original chatter was looking for.

Definitely worth exploring. 

Are there brocantes (upscale flea markets) in the 14th & 15th arrondissements?

Very likely. Here's the list from the Paris tourism site.

With all due respect to your Joe's Kansas City BBQ, the more famous one, and one that shouldn't be missed, is the excellent Arthur Bryant BBQ. It's just a few blocks off of Rt 70, not much to look at, but you'll never forget it! In Kansas City, the Crown Center is a collection of touristy things such as a Legoland, ice rink, aquarium, restaurants, and Hallmark Card free tours.

Thank you. I was a tourist, not a local, so I was hoping we'd get some different KC BBQ recommendations. 

Um, you skipped the part about very aggressive sellers in Morocco who expect you to buy something and are borderline threatening if you don’t. It’s not pleasant.

I didn't think they were as bad as the sellers in Egypt. But sometimes you do have to walk away in a huff.

Today's code is TT7544. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating.


Another good ferry idea. 

I live near BWI airport, and out of curiosity, I search for Southwest fares from BWI to Phoenix on several different dates in December. There were plenty of "Wanna Get Away" fares available. I don't see any Senior fares - they were always more costly than the "Wanna Get Away" fares anyway. I don't know what airport the chatter want to use, but there should be flights to choose from.

Thanks for testing it out for the chatter. We have the kindest travel community!

I have had a wonderful time using the ferry system in Sydney, Australia. You can buy passes and go all over the harbor and river systems. Since it is one of the largest harbors in the world, there is lots to see and you can hop on and off at sites if you want. Also the ferry system/mail ships in Norway are supposed to by incredible.

Our chatters know their ferries.

Also, if you have a week, a car, and you like history and/or river towns, a detour north of St. Louis up to Hannibal, MO before heading west is a can't miss! Land of Mark Twain and an incredible place to tour.

Thanks for the thoughts.

My husband and I walked the West Highland Way in Scotland in the fall of 2015. It's almost 100 miles, starting in the suburbs of Glasgow and ending in Fort William in the Highlands. Walking through the Scottish countryside each day and spending the night in a cozy bed and breakfast or inn each night with a pint and hearty food was our type of hiking! The highlight was a 20-mile day through Rannoch Moor, a remote and stunning part of the Highlands. Another highlight that was unexpected for us was the camaraderie of the trail. We met people from all over the world and enjoyed sharing stories over Scottish ale with fellow hikers after the day's walk. We totally got the British walking bug and have since completed the Cotswold Way in England and plan to go back to Scotland for another walking vacation in the next year or two.

I've hiked sections of the Camino de Santiago 3 times, and this article makes me want to back to Galicia and tackle this next! (Kidding, it's Pamplona to Burgos next year). I'm sorry your writer didn't include a picture of the church of Nuestra Senora de la Barca i Muxia - it's a simple church out on the rocks at the end of a peninsula and one of the most beautiful places in the world. She was, on the other hand, perfectly correct about Finisterre!

I have walked small portions of the Southwest Coast Path and Cleveland Way in the UK. The former is 600 some miles of the southwest (surprise) corner of England, including Cornwall and Devon (Tintagel, St Ives, Penzance are examples of towns along the way), while the Cleveland Way is (partially) on the northeastern coast, is much shorter, but includes both coastal segments (including Scarborough, which DOES have a fair) and other segments in the Yorkshire moors. B&Bs and hostels and campgrounds cater to people hiking through, and you can also get your luggage forwarded to your next expected stop. I chose areas where I could walk for a day, then catch a bus to take me back to my car. The one time I had intended to do more than day hikes fell, alas, during the outbreak of hoof and mouth disease - since many of the trails go through otherwise private lands, segments in the vicinity of fields with sick livestock were closed off. But even without the ability to hike through, the scenery is amazing, the walks are safe (both condition and people-wise), and you can choose between levels of difficulty and levels of comforts needed at the end of the day. I look forward to returning!

My favorite vacations are hiking trails in the UK! I've done the Thames Path, Great Glen Way (Scotland), and hiked Hadrian's Wall just a few weeks ago. Scotland had the best scenery, but Hadrian's has several museums along the way explaining the history of the wall and the soldiers who lived there. Next up is the West Highland Way.

I believe there are ferries between the Scandinavian countries that are overnight trips with sleeping accommodations. I know we did and Stockhom/Helsinki trip. The Helsinki/Tallin run was a short day voyage.

I just signed up for a 24-hour cruise from Stockholm to Riga. The company offers quick trips to Finland and Estonia, as well. The boats aren't really ferry in the traditional sense, though. For day trips, I highly recommend the San Juan Island ferry system.

Not a question, but a word of encouragement to anyone wondering about travel to Cuba in light of the most recent restrictions: individual travel is still legal under the general license "Support for the Cuban People" which is intended to ensure that your money will benefit Cuban citizens rather than the government. Our family of four just returned from a five-day visit, and Airbnb was a great and easy source for private accommodations (rooms or apartments) and for local experiences (in our case, including fascinating history walks learning about the Cuban economy and also discovering Old Havana). We also used a local travel planner from Via Hero who ensured the trip met the requirements and made all other travel arrangements including guides and drivers, based on our interests. Day trips out of Havana are also easy to arrange. We will never forget the warmth of the Cuban people and the incredible beauty and history of Cuba.

Thanks for the encouraging report from Cuba. Here is our recent piece about Cuba and the travel restrictions.

Jeff de Bruges -- excellent chocolates!


Yogaville is a Satchidananda Ashram - with lots of visitors. I love it, but then I'm a vegetarian yoga teacher. It is in beautiful scenery. But it's a working Ashram. If you're looking for morning yoga by the pool and a massage in the afternoon it's not for you.

That's why I qualified that recommendation. The chatter did use the word "retreat."

To those of you who have completed long trails: would you feel safe walking such trails alone? I'm a middle-aged woman, and I'm not so much worried about crime, but more about twisting my knee and lying in the middle of the trail as the rains come in.

The Cardinal Rule in hiking is to never trek alone, for multiple reasons. (See Amanda Eller, Maui.)

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is not to be missed. Excellent museum and lovely grounds filled with massive Henry Moore sculptures. Nearby is Country Club Plaza, neat shopping and entertainment area. My favorite BBQ spot remains Gates--several locations in the metro area. Many many beautiful fountains throughout the city.

Thanks for the ideas. 

Hi Travelers, Where would you take an almost six year old and 14 month old for their first overseas trip in April 2020? I was thinking Amsterdam (to see the tulips, not other adult excursions), Portugal, Scotland or Ireland. I did read that it's not really feasible to do both Scotland and Ireland in one week but if you could go somewhere and maybe do a day trip to another country, what would you suggest? I've been to a lot of most known places in Europe (France, Germany, Italy, UK, Spain, etc) so curious what options you'd suggest/recommend. Thanks!

I would leave the kids at home, but that's because mine were crazy active and being on a plane for that long, dealing with jet lag and trying to handle all the logistics would have been way too much. By the time they were in school, we did take them to Europe. England (London, York and the Lake District) was our first trip and that worked out very well, although my son got bored by cathedrals and museums. Chatters? 

Is the fall season too late to go to Spain and/or Portugal if I'm hoping for mild, but still beach-favorable weather? Ideally hoping for 70s, but not sure if late September/early October will be too late. Also having trouble narrowing down 2(ish) cities to hone in on - Lisbon, Porto, Valencia, Madrid, Seville, San Sebastian, Barcelona, HELP!

Fall is a wonderful season; summer is rough, with the heat and crush of tourists.

I loved Madrid. Chatters, what would you recommend?

I often ride the Megabus and other than the "you get what you paid for" type problems of rude riders, never had a problem. However, last Tuesday, I was booked on a one-way trip from Durham, NC, to Union Station, with a departure time of 9:25am. When the bus never came, I called Megabus and was told there were mechanical problems and I should return for departure between 12:30p -1p. They also said I should have received an email from them alerting me of the problems. I checked and yes, I had been sent an email an hour and a half before scheduled departure but due to getting ready and needing to drive 30 minutes to get to the depot, I hadn't checked. The email stated that the new scheduled departure time would be between noon and 1:30p. However, the bus left before noon, and I missed it. When I called, to see where it was, I was told that I should have stayed at the depot rather than returning at the times they told me on the phone and in the email, and I could book another ticket at the new, higher price and, if I wanted to do it on the phone, there would also be an additional $7 booking fee. Instead, I booked a new ticket online on the next bus, paid more than twice what I originally paid, plus fees. I later received an email that they were going to give me a $15 credit on another trip during the next 12 months. The original ticket I purchased was $15 before taxes and fees. Should I accept that and most likely not use them anymore, or do you think there is a possibility I can get my second, more expensive ticket refunded?

I'm really sorry that happened to you. I'll try to help. Could you send me details on your trip, please? Here's how to reach me.

Check out Manassas Junction Bed and Breakfast. It is an easy walk to Old Town Manassas and the restaurants, shops and brew pub. There is a great board-game focused restaurant to wile away the evenings and relax. The owners have their own garden and use fresh veggies and herbs in their offerings.

Definitely worth investigating. 

Hi, We (my wife, three kids - 14, 12, 10, and I) are traveling this August to New Brunswick. We have the option of flying into Portland, renting a car and driving, or driving up from Silver Spring. We are going to a family reunion in Shediac from Wednesday to Wednesday (August 14-21), and are planning to leave on Saturday the 10th and returning on Sunday the 25th. So my question is: drive or fly? The con to driving is that we spend a lot of time in the car, but the biggest pro is that we have our car and can take more "stuff". Portland to NB is still a 9 hour drive, so we are really only knocking off about 18 hours of drive-time each way. Thoughts? Thanks!

I would fly and spend more time in Maine to New Brunswick. You can always buy supplies on the way. Or travel a la minimalist.

Sometimes it's no different than using an agency that might be getting a fee. I've had mixed results, even for something as simple as asking where I can get a great meal, as opposed to dinner. At the same time, when I asked one concierge which winery I should visit when I only had time to visit one, she gave me a great result. Turned out that wine was her thing. So you never know.

I've also had luck with hotel desk clerks and valets. They've steered me right from Los Angeles to Paris. 

For the global entry poster, you need to reapply and it can take a while for your card to get approved. Mine expired in April and I just got the new card this week. I didn't have to go in for an interview but depending on your situation you may need to. I do know that your current global entry card is valid for six months after it expires, provided you reapplied, so if you need to travel it should still let you go through TSA precheck. Good luck!

I think we need to start a Global Entry Support Group!

Aren't there historic places in and around Sedalia, MO. -- midway between SL and KC?

I believe it has a long list of buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places, but I've not been there.

Hurtigruten runs the coastal ferries, which are used for day/overnight passenger transpo and also as a low-key cruise line for passengers doing the whole coast. I don't know whether the short-hop passengers can book rooms or whether they just have to stretch out in the lounges.

Hurtigruten is more cruise line than ferry, but it is a way to see the coastline. 

In another month I can report back on the DFDS Ferry from Oslo to Copenhagen and the Silka Ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. Never been on a ferry or cruise before.

Let us know!

I've hiked the Great Glen Way and the Camino de Santiago. And various long walks in China and southeast Asia. Had wonderful experiences on all of them. I think the Camino and Great Glen Way type walks would be perfectly fine for a woman to hike alone. Most curious sighting on the Camino was a guy carrying a panda almost the size of him in a backpack. He said his girlfriend had given it to him--we said break up with her immediately!

In the late 90's I went to NZ with a friend and her son. They booked us on the Routeburn because the Milford wasn't available. Stayed the first night in the hostel type lodging on the trail. There were people who had RUN the last two days. The first day was a very pleasant hike. So no problem, I thought. That night we found out that the 2nd hut was closed so we had to go much farther the next day. Well it was a very steep climb. I figured I could have made it to the 2nd hut but not the next one so I turned around and went back to the parking lot to catch the bus after it dropped the next batch of hikers off. Good thing too. I heard tales later of having to hang onto a rope to keep from falling off the trail, helicopter rescues, and other such I found me a place to stay and took a bus tour to Milford Sound while they were hanging on the side of the mountain. Met up with them that night. Best decision I made. I would have been one of the heli rescued.

the UK's dense network of public footpaths is utterly incredible. A lot of them go through private property. My understanding is that if they're not used for a year they revert to the private landowner - and the local parish church will organize a day every year to 'beat the paths' so that every path in the parish has definitely been used. I remember this from when I live in Charlbury in the Cotswolds.

As a solo woman, I hiked this in September 2017 after the death of my father (many pilgrims do use the hike as a spiritual journey). I met a lot of people from all over the world, and each had his/her own reason for hiking. It was a long hike, and took me 39 days (I'm a little slower than average). I felt safe, and checked in every night with family when I reached the next destination. Blisters were my main concern, and I have never looked at clean, fresh socks in quite the same way again!

If you're in a city, don't overlook tourist bus tours. It's definitely not my first-choice way to see a place, but they are great for someone with mobility issues.

Great advice! Or consider free shuttles or street cars.

I took the Stockholm to Turku (Finland) ferry many years ago (20!). It was OK, but mostly lots of drunk Swedes buying cheap alcohol. Food was fine but not great. I think the reputation of those ferries is that they are basically party boats. I did get some sleep but we pulled into Turku pretty early in the morning.

I believe it may still have this reputation. 

Another hiking rule is to carry a way to communicate farther than your voice. Don't leave your cell in your car, and if you hike a lot get a Spot or other emergency beacon.

Thanks for the tips!

I agree with Carol. For a first trip overseas, I think, especially for children with reading skills, going to a place where they can read the street signs, museum plaques, etc., can help to keep them engaged and make it more fun for them, which definitely makes it more fun for the parents.

Definitely depends on the kids. 

I don't think a day trip to another country is really a thing, unless we're talking one of those teeny tiny ones, but OP could probably do several cities/towns in Scotland or Ireland if they don't like the idea of being in one place. Or go to London and then train up to Edinburgh or maybe combining Ireland and Northern Ireland? At six I could sit through 13 hour car trips and was flying by myself to spend the summer with my grandparents in Venezuela, so it depends on the kid.

Agreed. But remember there is also a 14-month-old in the mix. 

Maybe look at Tom Sietsima's list of Top 10 food cities from a few years ago. Most of the cities listed should have something for everyone. Does the father like baseball? There are several on Tom's list that have Major League teams where he, or all of you, could see a game.

Thanks for the suggestion!

My wife and I will be renting a car at CDG in August and driving to Normandy. Neither of us speak or read French so will signage be a problem and will our phone GPS be enough?

I just asked a friend who recently did that same drive, but she is not responding. I think with GPS or Google Maps you should be fine. I know she made it back home after the week of driving!

For the Japan traveler; I recently made the trip but programmed a stopover in LAX. I'd suggest checking out west coast cities and booking two separate tickets with a day of rest on both legs. In my case the price of both tickets was cheaper than buying a direct flight from IAD, or one that included a stop somewhere else.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

I did see the article, which is what prompted me to write in today. This seems like yet another time technology has gotten ahead of laws and ethics analyses.

I agree. It's a little troubling.

What about the Big Apple? There are a gazillion things to see and do, cabs are ubiquitous so Mom doesn't have to walk everywhere and you don't have to worry about parking, food is great, etc. We spent time with my in-laws in NYC several years ago, and saw a show and took a fancy dinner cruise on the river. With Mom's mobility issues, will she use a scooter or wheelchair to get around easier?

Yes, good one.

You definitely need to reapply if it expired. Mine expired during a trip to Martinique, fortunately customs has a special line to get back home. I immediately reapplied in Jan. Had to do an interview in May and got my card last week. Be patient and check the website often.


This is a booze cruise but not in the Carnival Cruise line sense. The ship stops at some remote island outside the EU for all of 5 minutes. That makes the store on the ship duty free - for alcohol. Because Sweden taxes alcohol at an huge rate, natives will go on the trip just to buy booze and return the next day. There I am, a recovering alcoholic just trying to buy a chocolate bar surrounded by people with grocery carts loaded up with booze!

Not my idea of the best ferry ride. 

For an overseas trip earlier this year, I was going to buy a pair of nylon travel pants from REI ($80) to replace some old ones. I went to Target first, and I bought two pair of nylon pants for about $50. Nylon clothing is great for travel: lightweight, rolls up real small, washes and dries quickly. You don't need the most expensive version.

Thanks. I agree.

I think it depends on the trail. I hiked the John Muir Trail by myself. It's a trail where there's enough foot traffic that if I had run into an issue (assuming it wasn't the one night where I didn't get to camp until after dark), eventually someone would have come by and helped out. Also when I was out there, after hiking 60 miles by myself, I made some friends on the trail that I hiked the last 160 miles with. I framed it to my overly concerned mother, that it's a community and even though I was going out there by myself, I wouldn't be hiking alone.

Good point, thanks!

For the chatter asking about hiking alone as a woman....I went with my husband but would have felt safe on the West Highland Way by myself. We ran into many women who were hiking alone. That's one of the more populated long trails in Britain, so you are very rarely by yourself on the trail (there are almost always people within eyesight), and we ended up hiking parts of each day with folks we met along the way,

Thanks for weighing in!

The OP didn't day how long they plan to spend. I did a 2 weeks trip to Spain a few years ago. Spent about a week in Madrid all together and the other week was split between Seville, Grenada and Cordoba. They were all pretty great. In general I think you'd enjoy wherever you choose so I wouldn't stress too much. Pick the ones with the easiest travel between them. I took the AVE train from Madrid to Seville which was very easy and quick. Then I took the "VIP" bus from Seville to Grenada and Grenada to Cordoba which was also quite easy. Then the AVE back from Cordoba to Madrid in the end. I had a fantastic time other than the 100 degree temps in early May. I guess Fall is likely cooler, but you never know these days.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

She just messaged back: Michelle said the route is well-marked. She recommends a little advance planning though. Jot down the highway routes and significant towns as a quick reference. Then you can catch yourself if you stray off course.

We were in Stockholm with family friends with kids from 3-7, and the city was very family friendly. Check out the Palace, changing of the guards, Junibacken, Vasa museum, Skansen, etc. More casual restaurants were quite child-friendly. Google Stockholm kids for more info. We rented an airbnb and used public transportation to easily get around. (But that toddler jet lag was no joke!)

Thanks for weighing in!

Looks like our hour is up! Thanks for chatting, everyone. West Highland Way trekker, please drop us a line at to claim your prize. And join us next week for more Talk About Travel!

In This Chat
Nicole Arthur
Nicole Arthur is the Travel editor.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
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