Talk about Travel (August 19)

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Aug 19, 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. This week, our centerpiece story is about why you should visit the Hawkeye state's capital, Des Moines. There's a burgeoning cocktail and food scene beyond the famous state fair. Speaking of: What's the best thing you've ever eaten at a state fair? The most compelling answer gets a copy of "Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die" by Chris Santella (yes, we know Iowa is a landlocked state but summer is almost over and you can read about the beach from anywhere). Also in this week's issue are stories about the small town charms of Cape Charles, Va., an alternative to Ireland's crowded Cliffs of Moher, travelers who dress in historical period clothing at Venice's Carnival and a Navigator column on products for travelers concerned about safety. Now on to your questions!

Hi travel team, My husband I are headed to Luxembourg next April. I know they have good train service to and from many European cities - if we are looking to save money on the flights, would you recommend flying into a different city and then taking the train over rather than flying directly to Luxembourg? If so, which city? Thanks!

I'd start by looking at the airfares to Paris. But  take into consideration that you will be on an overnight flight, which can be exhausting, and there is a six-hour time difference. May work better if you want to spend a night or two in Paris. I believe trains to Luxembourg leave from the Gare de l’Est train station, which is about 40 minutes from the airport. The train trip takes about two hours. 

Hi Travel team! My passport expires in April. I had been thinking about a trip in early November- should I limit my destination to someplace with the three month rule and use the old passport one final time, or do you think there is enough time to get it renewed? The online resources I saw said 6-8 weeks, but I don’t know whether that accurate. Thanks for your thoughts!

You have enough time. Get it renewed ASAP!

OP from last week's question about getting a seat for a large 18 mo old. We just came back from our trip, and just like you said there were no problems with having a seat for the baby. Everyone, including nearby passengers, were absolutely wonderful to us. The man sitting in front of us actually told us if the baby had to kick his seat to stay happy, that he was ok with it, being a father of a little one himself! Luckily the baby slept most of the flight and screen time seemed to keep him occupied the rest of the time. Just wanted to share a happy flight experience, since it seems to be stressful so often. Thank you to the Travel Team and readers for answering my questions!

Happy to hear and thanks for writing in! Hope you had a wonderful trip. 

What can you do as a budget traveler to try to offset some of the environmental impacts of flying etc? I'm a young solo traveler who usually flies economy. Most of the suggestions I read seem to be suggestions that would be out of my price range. Is there an impactful way to offset this without being a millionaire?

Great question. Can you travel without leaving a carbon footprint? Short answer: no. Our colleagues at By The Way covered the flight shaming movement in Europe last month, which tries to move people off the planes and into trains and other, more environmentally friendly means of transportation. I would love to get some suggestion from our fellow chatters on this subject. How do you offset some of the environmental impacts of flying? 

On our last trip to Europe, we planned a two week self guided tour, renting a car and traveling where we wanted. We didn't care what city we flew into; we were looking for the cheapest fair. I had to search dozens of routes, a time consuming chore. (BTW, we ended up flying into Geneva). Just a month or so ago, I discovered Google Flights. You can enter your departure city, and simply put in "Europe" as a destination. It will show the price for flights to almost any city. You can search by specific dates for your travel or do a flexible time search. Not trying to promote Google Flights over other web sites, but if you're flexible about what city to fly into, it's a great tool. (Hint: It seems to work best using Google Chrome as your browser).

Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Chatters, any more tips for our Luxembourg-bound friend?

My husband and I want to splurge a little on a beach trip next summer, probably late June. We’re looking to stay under $2500 for a week rental that’s less than a 5 minute walk from the beach and also in walking distance of restaurants & shops. I was thinking Duck, but was wondering if there’s some place similar but less well-known that might have better prices.

Try Topsail Beach in North Carolina, although it's a lot farther down the coast. You could also look at communities closer to Duck, such as Hatteras or Ocracoke. But Duck is a lovely spot. 

I would also look into cities where major airports link to only ONE mainline train station that has direct service to Luxembourg . It can be annoying to have to change with your baggage. Also - don't discount buses from the airport to the train station.

Another great tip, thanks!

I would love any guidance on this! Royal Air Maroc lost 2 of my suitcases in transit in June. It's a long story, but first flight was delayed, I barely made the connection, and due to a ticket misprint the agent at check-in didn't give me my bag tag receipts (lesson learned for next time!). The airline's customer service is horrible but they finally told me (via automated email) that they won't compensate me because it would be 'against their policies'. No further information or way to appeal. I have already filed a complaint with the FAA but they don't really deal with individual consumer compensation. I am filing an insurance claim but other than making a stink on social media, do I have any recourse?

Royal Air Maroc should compensate you for your lost luggage you under the Montreal Convention. Have you filed a claim? If so, the airline should have given you a better explanation than "it's against our policy." I'd love to see your paperwork. Please send it to me and I'd be happy to take a look.

A couple of chats ago, I asked about purchasing tickets for each leg of a trip to Verona separately since buying them together would cost another $300, or $1,500. I kept on checking websites - which showed airfares fluctuating day by day - and finally found one on Momondo. I was redirected to Skybooker and bought a ticket for $917; this includes baggage. A shocker since this is at Christmastime. too. Persistence is key.

I am reluctant to book through third-party sites, as finger-pointing can occur if something goes awry, but I'm glad you got a good fare, and I hope it goes without a hitch. 

Hi! I grew up in Utah, so I skied a lot. However, my family (husband + two boys, ages 8 and 11) have never skied. I'd like to change this. One idea is to take advantage of my parents who live near Park City, and fly out there and stay with them, heading to one of the PC resorts each day (4 days-ish). The competing idea is to stay local to the DMV (thus avoiding plane fees, but incurring hotel) and spend a week at Wisp (or equivalent). Thoughts on these two? Thanks!

I think the family deserves a Western ski experience, plus the snow is more of a sure thing and the apres-ski scenes is more fun.

Having skied at all the Park City area resorts, go there!! Champagne powder rules. 

I'm thinking about doing a group tour in Costa Rica in January, but would travel insurance cover my trip if we get hit by a big snowstorm so my flight is delayed and I can't get there to meet the group in time? I doubt there's any way to catch up to them.

Yes, travel insurance typically covers trip delays. But read the fine print before purchasing. Several Web sites compare and sell travel insurance, such as InsureMyTrip

State fair eats:

Back in 2011, I had chocolate covered bacon for the first time at the New Mexico State Fair. (In fact, hearing a TV report about it made me go to the fair in the first place.) Who knew the world's two best foods went so well together? I go to the Maryland State Fair each year in part for the pit-roasted shaved lamb sandwich. I am very much looking forward to having it again this weekend.

Union Fair and Wild Blueberry Festival in Maine. The best fried clams in the world. I was expecting maybe some coleslaw and fries with my order, but they just handed me a paper plate loaded with fried clams. I asked for tartar sauce and the lady looked at me funny and offered me a lemon wedge. I think they must have been pulled out of the sea that morning. They are the standard by which all other fried clams are measured in my life.

I really hope there are enough people on-line to get a variety of answers. I'm pretty sure I've never been to an actual state fair - just county ones. But I haven't done a deep dive into the special fair food. I think I had strawberries with Nutella in Erie, PA once, but that wasn't very good. First of all, county fair season is WAY too late for Eastern strawberries so they weren't remotely local. And to keep the berries fresh, they had to be kept cold, which meant the chocolate was hard. Decent idea. Not well executed and perhaps not possible to execute well in a county fair situation.

Last week both you and a chatter recommended not going to see the Book of Kells. I'm going to Ireland in September, and I was wondering why you recommend skipping it? Thanks!

I said that because the lines to get in are typically very long, and I'm not all that fascinated by medieval manuscripts. But I am sure there are many who would vehemently disagree with me. 

Hello, We are traveling to Tulum later this week and have been hearing a lot about the algal bloom there clogging the beach and stinking up the place. I am wondering how much this will impact water activities such as snorkeling off the beach and Hobie cat sailing? 

NOAA has been tracking the bloom in the Gulf of Mexico but does not have specific info on Mexico. The organization has other good info on its site, including safety.

The tides change often (no pun intended), so for the most current information, I would rely on your hotel or tour guide. They can direct you to clean beaches.

My wife and I are taking a post-retirement trip to Europe beginning on September 20th. We'll be traveling from Paris to Bugge-Amsterdam-Nurnberg-Munich-Prague-Zurich-Venice-Pisa-Marseille and back to Paris. We are taking advantage of the Auto-Europe Auto Lease deal and will be driving the entire trip (except for some side trips). Anyway, we noticed when reserving an AirBNB place in Prague, that the Czech Republic requires proof of health insurance. I don't believe our current HMO will cover health insurance overseas. In researching health insurance for the 6 weeks, it seems that many cover trip cancellation due to health reasons and other situations that to me are not required. We are just seeking protections such as doctors or emergency hospitalization for any health related situations that crop up; and of course the proof of health insurance mentioned by the Czech Republic. Any guidance you could provide to steer us toward the type of insurance I have mentioned would be greatly appreciated.

I'm not quite understanding why you don't want travel insurance that would kick in should you get ill or have an accident before the trip, but you can research travel insurance options at sites such as InsureMyTrip, QuoteWright and SquareMouth

Hi, I booked a room at a Best Western in Smyrna, DE last November for a race weekend this October. When checking the address I found out it is now a Quality Inn. The reservation number is now showing as deactivated on the Best Western website. I never received any correspondence from Best Western or Quality Inn regarding this and when I reached out to customer service for both, Quality Inn put the blame on Best Western and vice versa. Best Western has offered to pay for a slight price increase, however since it is less than 2 months out most hotels are booked in the Dover/Smyrna area or well above the existing price I booked last November. What are my rights and which of the two companies is responsible for this error?

Your hotel got reflagged. The previous hotel (Best Western) should cover any increase in costs or offer a full refund. If they don't, please contact me

Planning mostly to lie on the beach, are there any activities we shouldn't miss?

I would not miss the Nature Center of Cape May and the Cape May Bird Observatory. There is also plenty of shopping opportunities, a trolley and historic houses to visit. 

Is it considered rude to tip a flight attendant? I was on a recent overnight flight from Dublin to IAD and saw someone try to give money to a flight attendant and she politely said it's not necessary but he kept kind of pushing it on her and she seemed really insulted and upset.

No, it's not considered rude. But I wouldn't do it. I wrote about tipping flight attendants recently. The consensus was: If it becomes a common practice, it could create another class of tip-dependent employees. And airlines would be able to lower their salaries, arguing that they would make up the difference in tips. Fellow chatters, what do you think? Have you ever tipped a flight attendant? 

We absolutely love Topsail -- it's our go-to beach spot. But if the OP is looking for a place with shops and restaurants within a five-minute walk, they might be disappointed. If you stay right in Surf City, close to the pier, you can walk to places. Or at the very south end of the island, at Topsail Beach, where there's a small village. But most of the island is non-commercial, which is why we love it so much.

Thanks for the tips!

So you don't use Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, etc.? Or do you use them to find flights, and then book directly with the airline? Do you get the same fares? Do you feel the same way about booking hotels through third-party sites?

No, I book directly with the airlines. I use Google Flights and Kayak to find options. And I also go to the airport sites for flight info. You can sometimes get better fares through third-party sites, but I don't like aggravation when I travel. I will also pay more for nonstops vs. connecting flights. As for hotels, yes, I typically go directly there, as most guarantee that they will match any cheaper rate. Most airlines and hotels have exerted much more control on pricing, so finding those great deals are not anywhere near as common as years past. 

I recently came into some money and would love to pay for my parents to take a vacation for the holidays. However, I don't want to seem gauche or make my other family members feel bad. What's the etiquette surrounding gifting trips to others? Would it be rude to just pay for tickets/accommodations for my parents and not the rest of my siblings?

I don't think it's rude. Are going all traveling together? If so, I typically just go to the front desk of the hotel and explain that I want my credit card to take care of their bill. And you can volunteer to make the air reservations and then send the info to your siblings so they can book, while paying for your parents with your credit card. If you want to send them on a trip alone, it's best to have an idea of where they want to go so you can get appropriate airline/hotel gift cards. (And if you won the $500 million PowerBall, you should definitely pay for everyone :)

I loved the Book of Kells, but the Chester Beatty Library was much more interesting. And the National Library of Ireland (current exhibition is still the Yeats one that I saw) is great. Kells is fine. Just get your tickets ahead of time and for early in the day to avoid the worst of the lines.

A vote for Book of Kells.

On tipping flight attendants:

What's next, tipping the pilot? This seems ridiculous. Flight attendants are unionized professionals. Tipping them is bizarre.

Yes, it's a little strange. I agree.

I wouldn't tip them, but I did once sit next to a guy who handed them a bag of Dove chocolates. They really liked that, and he told me he used to be a pilot and they appreciate treats. So if you want to give anything, I think something like that might be the way to go.

That's a sweet gesture. 

What do the clicksters think of Gate 1 Travel's tours. They look like a bargain. Has anyone been on one, and how was it? Mille Grazie.

I've not been on one, but it has a good reputation as a budget tour operator. Don't expect luxury, but the price is right. 

Is there anyway to determine what a hotel's policies are on the number of kids that can stay in a hotel room? My wife sometimes travels with our five kids (all under 12) and runs the risk of being charged for two rooms when she checks in. There's no way she can leave 2 or 3 kids in a hotel room for the night by themselves, so everyone ends up crashing in a single room with two king-size beds. It all works out fine, except we pay double to cover the cost of a room that no one uses. Any way to avoid that?

Usually, the quickest way to determine the maximum number of occupants is to try to make a reservation online. Use the pulldown menu to indicate the number of guests. If you go over, the system won't let you make a reservation or will automatically select a larger hotel, like an all-suite property. You can also call the hotel or your travel agent for guidance.

I don't offset. I don't fly that much. Travel is a treat for me. And I have to say that when the news is filled with celebrities and politicians that fly constantly including on private jets, it seems my contribution is so minor, that it is hard to get incensed about it. I am sharing the plane with a hundred of other people. The plane would go whether I was one of the people on board or not. I realize that from the perspective of the climate, this is specious. There are so many more of us who fly occasionally than there are visible people who fly a lot, that we, as a group, have a much bigger impact. And why would I compare myself to someone so much richer than me anyway? However, that seems to be where the psychology of it comes out. I live in an apartment, so my use of heat in the winter is much lower. I take public transportation to work. I often buy clothes at a thrift store. But that is just my life. When I travel, I take the best transportation available within my budget and time constraints.

I think most Americans feel that way, too.

If I apply this week, when will I get this back? I'm traveling October 22nd. Thanks.

No idea. Did you hear back about an interview?

Yesterday I was about to fly back to DC and called up a lyft to the airport. I gave the driver the airline and terminal, and he said that since I had chosen 'Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport' - which is what had come up in the app - he was taking me to the international terminal. I sorted it out and got to my flight, but people should be aware that the app is quirky - only in Atlanta, and yet another thing to hate about the Atlanta airport. In every other city in the U.S., you can call up the full name of the airport and get to the right gate. Grrr.

Thank you for the warning.

Is there an online resource that tracks/predicts where sargassum is/will be a big problem? The predicting part would be especially helpful when planning a Caribbean vacation.

Check out NOAA's forecast and other useful info here.  The island's environmental department or tourism office should also have info.

More favorite fair foods:

This is not a state fair, but a county one here in PA. There is a baked goods contest for pies, cakes, cookies, and so on. After the judging is over, the blue, red and white ribbon winners are auctioned off. I bid on a chocolate caramel cake and won! It was the best $15 I ever spent on a cake. Home-made and delicious, my family enjoyed every bite!

Thanks for sharing, sounds like money well spent!

The food item that lives in my household’s memory from the North Florida Fair during the 1990s is a ball of fried dough with a flavored custard-y filling, either chocolate or vanilla. My husband doesn’t much care for the fair itself. The livestock exhibits make him sneeze, the crafts bore him, and he refuses to go on any of the midway rides, even the tame ones, because he considers them unsafe. But just try to keep him away from a fat ball and a beer brat. There was talk of fat balls well in advance of when the fair rolled around in November. We’d go so I could look at the livestock and crafts (in 2000 my cross-stitched baby blanket for a grandchild took 1st place), and he could enjoy a fat ball served by the same couple year after year. Then one year the wife was running the stand by herself and explained that since her husband died she couldn’t do the fat balls no more. Very sad.

Thanks for writing in. 

good afternoon. I wrote in earlier to gauge your thoughts about my cruise leaving from PR to southern Caribbean being at risk. (you said: slim to none). My new q is about how you decide whether to do an excursion that is NOT offered by a cruise line.

Hello again! That sounds like my answer!

I base my decision on the cost, experience and reviews. You need to have a reliable tour operator who will promise to get you back to the ship on time. I also try to determine whether I can do the excursion myself or with other cruisers I have befriended -- such as visit a beach or a historic site. I would much prefer to take a cab there and hire a local guide.

We are a group of old friends looking to get together for a long weekend in early November. We will be flying from the Portland, Boston, and New York areas to a location that's not too far, but that will be warmer than where we're flying from! We like to be active, and we wouldn't mind some good food. We are not big on night life. We are considering Miami or Charleston. We've enjoyed Newport and Santa Barbara in the past.

I love New Orleans and Nashville. For a smaller city, consider Chattanooga or Birmingham.

The State Department has increased the warning level for Hong Kong to "exercise increased caution". I have a trip booked to mainland China the last two weeks of September, flying through Hong Kong. At the end of my trip, I am booked to spend a few days in Hong Kong. I've read the fine print on my trip insurance policy, and it doesn't seem to cover these circumstances. In fact, the recent airport closures probably wouldn't have been covered. Given the ongoing situation, would you travel either through or to Hong Kong? Trying to decide if I should eat my original tickets and book different flights to the mainland on another airline avoiding a Hong Kong connection and/or cancel time in Hong Kong altogether.

That is such a tough one. Clearly, the protests are still ongoing, and neither side seems to be rushing toward a resolution. Ask yourself this: If your plane can land, do you want to tootle around Hong Kong while the island is going through this crisis? If not, see if your airline is offering a waiver on change fees. If don't mind being in HK during a crisis, be flexible and patient with your travel plans, and avoid the protests at all cost.

If a property is listed on both sites, is there an advantage to one over the other?

Not really. The sites are very similar in terms of cost, fees and restrictions. The one big difference is that on AirBnB, you can rent rooms, whereas VRBO typically rents out the entire property.

More Dublin recs:

I got back from Dublin less than a week ago and did see the Book of Kells and the Trinity College Library Long Room because they were part of our escorted tour. Probably would have gone anyway, as I do love libraries and old manuscripts. But I agree if one had a very short time in Dublin, it wouldn't be at the top of my list because of the lines. It IS a beautiful exhibit though, as there are blown up pages of other illuminated manuscripts too. If you REALLY love old manuscripts, a much easier museum to navigate is the Chester Beatty, which is less than a ten minute walk from Kells and is free.

Thanks for the thoughts!

I got through the line in under 30 minutes, if I recall correctly. The exhibition was excellent and the book of Kells fascinating. But I studied literature.

Line was much longer when I last visited. Definitely worth a half hour!

I see someone else voted for Chester Beatty and also the Yeats exhibit at the National Library. In addition, there is a special exhibit put on by the National Library but located in a gorgeous Bank of Ireland building right across from one of the Trinity College entrances. It is an exhibit on the life and works of Nobel Prize winning Poet Seamus Heaney. We liked it so much we went back to see it twice. Free.

So much to see in Dublin. Thanks!

Hi Crew, I've had the opportunity to fly in business class more frequently lately as my employer was paying, and obviously I much prefer it. Sadly, my personal travel budget is more limited. I was wondering if it is permissible to buy an extra seat and not use it to provide that extra room -- and a buffer zone -- in coach class? I realize it means buying a fare that allows seat choice. Is this allowed? Can it be done online? Thx for any insight.

Yes, you can buy an extra seat for yourself on most airlines, although some reserve this option only for obese passengers. Check via phone with a reservation agent to get correct info for a specific airline. 

I bought my tickets as soon as my uncle confirmed the plan to have the family at his place this year. Also, I wonder why the direct flight is the cheapest? I'd have been willing to consider a connection (not at any of the NYC airports) if it saved significantly, but they all ranged from a little more expensive to a lot more expensive. And one was on the airline that shall not be named that won't even give access to the overhead bin for their cheapest flights.

Air fares are not logical. Airlines, for that matter, are not logical.

I just took a Gate 1 tour in eastern Europe. Loved it! It's a budget tour operator but the guide was fantastic and we had plenty of free time. I like tour companies so that I don't have to worry about logistics but YMMV. Gate 1 was very organized and had great customer service when one of our flights was cancelled for a mechanical issue. I'd definitely recommend them.

Thanks for the firsthand account. 

HOW would you do that? Over the course of a flight you might have been helped/served by several. Do you tip them all? Or just the one who smiled at you? Do you hand cash to each FA? Or just one, and say "This is for all of you?" Will a time come when the FAs will stand at the exit with baskets, like tour guides in some places? If this is actually happening the airlines should prohibit it.

That's a good question. I've never seen it happen. Chatters?

I traveled by train to Luxembourg when I was living in Brussels and I believe there was a train stop at Zaventem airport (my stop was after the airport though). One thing about the train from Brussels to Luxembourg is that not a fast train and the weather can be difficult (a lot of Eurocrats complain about the train service) If you are planning to go to Luxembourg, I would suggest looking for periods where the European Parliament is in session there, the members of the European Parliament and eurocrats are all looking to go to Luxembourg so there are usually more trains. Also, if you go during the weekends, the bus system in Luxembourg city is free (at least it was when I was there).

I recommended Paris only because there is more competition to that city among carriers, so flights may be cheaper. But yes, Brussels is another option. Thanks for the thoughts!

It's been many years since I visited but I liked it there very much. Quite hilly so just walking around is a good workout. I took a train to get there but I don't recall where from...maybe Cologne. I think I flew out and connected in CDG on the way home which I will never do again. That is such a godawful airport. I'd probably look at flying to Brussels and taking a train from there. Or maybe AMS.

Worth investigating. 

Years ago when visiting Brisbane Australia I went to the Queensland State Exposition - i.e., state fair. I don't recall the food but it was really fun to watch the sheepdog trials, pet a prize winning bull ("chuck him right here under his chin") and get the pitch for deer antler capsules.

Sounds like fun, thanks for writing in!

My sister travels both Viking river cruises and Gate 1 fairly frequently, and is quite happy with both. I think that says positive things for Gate 1.

Definitely two different levels of travel, but both have good reps. 

Hi all, I know it sounds early but my friends and I are graduating from college and we're trying to figure out what we can do for a post grad trip. We are thinking between 2 and 3 weeks and would like to use some company that can help us plan some activities, but we don't want to do an all-inclusive option like Contiki because we want to leave some room to improvise. We are thinking Thailand or Barcelona but also want to do something a little different. The main requirement is great food, safe for a group of women traveling together, good nightlife and the beach. Thanks all!

Did any of you take Spanish? I would definitely recommend Colombia. Or if you studied marsupials, you must go to Australia. You might want to consider Gate 1 Travel, which offers independent and partially escorted packages.

If you opt for Australia or New Zealand, consider renting a Jucy RV. They are a blast!

I'm trying to plan a trip for January - my only guidelines are that it be somewhere in Europe with a direct flight from a DC airport (open to Philly or Richmond as well). London, Dublin and Rome are out because I've traveled there recently. Looking online, Amsterdam and Paris are the most appealing (I'd love to go to Portugal but am wary of TAP). Would it be too cold in January for Amsterdam?

I don't think so. Temps are similar to ours. 

We have traveled on Gate 1 to Greece, Mykonos and Santorini and it was excellent. We opted for the upgraded rooms and we were not disappointed. We are trying our 2nd trip next week to southern Italy and we are hoping it meets the same expectations. Most people on these tours have used Gate 1 more than 3-4 times as has a friend of mine.

Thanks for the info!

The word I have from people who actually live in Hong Kong is that the protests are really still limited despite what you might see on TV. Also, they've instituted new security protocols at the airport which should preclude protesters from getting inside. You need your passport and proof of travel to get in. Obviously it's a fluid situation and if you're going to be there on a weekend you might want to avoid staying in Central where the really big protests (like yesterday's march) take place. I'm going to be there the first few days of November. I've starting thinking about potential options, but I will likely go unless there are Chinese tanks on the streets

Twice now over the past five or six years my gil has treated the immediate family (my husband's parents, siblings and family) to stay at the Woodstock Inn in VT. It was incredibly generous of her and she made a point of telling us now if you have drink at the bar or eat in the restaurant put it on your room. I am immensely fortunate in my in laws!

Cuba was always on my bucket list, but the new restrictions have closed a lot of options. Are there still group tours and cruises to Cuba?

No cruises but yes tours. Check out the tours offered by Friendly Planet Travel, G Adventures and Insight Cuba, among others. You can also travel independently under the Support the Cuban People category. Here is my piece about the new restrictions.

Another vote for the Chester Beatty library!

Very popular among our chatters today!

Before you book your flight/hotel, check out the websites of the places you want to see. It is likely they will be closed. We went to France and Belgium in February and places were still closed for their six-week winter break - like museums, for example.

Thanks for the tip!

I may have mentioned this previously, but I subscribe to Scott's Cheap Flights. I have seen ridiculously low fares to Europe, etc. Most don't last, but hey, it's fun to see. And I used the service once and saved some $$.

Good suggestion, thanks!

Looks like our time is up. Thanks so much everyone for your wonderful recommendations and questions. Sounds like we will have to check out the Chester Beatty Library! Thanks for all your stories about fair food, I'm sure I wasn't the only one getting hungry. Fried clam eater, please drop us a line at to claim your prize. Thanks everyone and see you here next week!

In This Chat
Nicole Arthur
Nicole Arthur is the Travel editor.
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.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Helen Carefoot
Helen Carefoot is Travel's editorial assistant.
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