Feb 07, 2011

The Post Travel section's editors and writers answer your questions about coupons and other money-saving strategies, the TSA's more aggressive pat-downs, holiday trip planning, and more.

Hi, Travelers. Welcome to the Monday chat. Hope you had a relaxing weekend, reading the Sunday Travel section by the fire, a hot toddy in one hand, a loyal dog resting at your feet.

But now, back to business. Send us your questions, concerns and outright observations on travel. Also, for today's talking point: Our very own Blackberry-addicted Nancy Trejos turned off her gadgets during a recent trip to Chicago; tell us about your own experience of losing all forms of communication -- by accident or purpose. Best story wins a week of silence, or something close to that.

Hi, we picked up the Airtran Bermuda sale fare for early April. Any recommendations on reasonable lodging? Thanks.

Fortunately, rates will be a bit more moderate than later in the spring and summer. Here are some suggestions:

Royal Palms Hotel, Granaway Guest House, Clairfont Apartments, Salt Kettle House, Grape Bay Beach Hotel,  Grotto Bay Beach Resort, Aunt Nea's Inn.

Also, check for specials on the Bermuda tourism's Web site. For example, the site currently shows a promo for a third free night at a variety of hotels (including some mentioned above). The deal is over in March 15, but most likely, new ones will be posted.

Is there a list of airports that require you to go thru security (even though you have not left a secure area) for connecting flights? This can be a real pain.

I wish! I'm not aware of any comprehensive list of airport maps that have that level of detail. There's an online directory of terminal maps, but you have to open each map to view the terminal layout, and it's not always immediately clear where the security checkpoints are.

I've been living in Italy for the past four years and am planning to make the move back to the States permanently (!) this summer. The 1-piece of checked baggage rule (which didn't exist when I came over here) will make this a real treat! But here's the thing--I have a cat. The cat will be coming with me--we adopted him as an adult cat and he is so slavishly, almost pathetically devoted to us that giving him away is out of the question. So he will be flying as well! I had initially reluctantly planned on checking him as baggage, but a recent article about checked-luggage animal deaths has me freaked out. I know most animals make it, but July has been a *real* scorcher here in Europe these past few years, the layover is three hours (also unavoidable), and while I know (I hope) the airline will do its best to take care of him, Frankfurt/Paris are big, chaotic airports, stuff happens, and I'm afraid that an accidental hour or three on the tarmac or in an un-airconditioned storage room in that kind of heat could kill him in short order. As both airlines allow animals in the cabin if reserved in advance, I'm planning on taking him onboard with me. I know. I'm sorry. I know nobody wants to be on a plane with a cat. I'm thinking of bringing chocolates to offer to my rowmates? Earplugs? (hopefully not necessary; every cat I've ever seen in the cabin has been fast asleep.) Offer to buy them a drink? Which seat for me would inconvenience the others the least? And has anyone here done this before? Obviously I will ask right away about allergies; I imagine the airline would be brisk about moving an allergic seatmate away from a cat. Thanks for any advice from you or the chatters!

Thoughtful people like you give us pet owners a good name! I would think sitting at the back of the plan would inconvenience the fewest amount of people. Nice of you to consider offering things to your rowmates, but at least at first, I would just be friendly about mentioning it to the people immediately around you. Keep a sense of humor, and hopefully they'll be understanding. You can also trying calling your airline -- which you'll probably have to do anyway so you can make your pet reservation and pay the additional fee -- and consulting with them. Good luck!

I am going to the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota for a couple days later this month. I'd be completely content to stay on the property the whole time unless there is anything worth seeing in the area. What do you think?

Sarasota has some of the most picturesque beaches in the continental United States, and a surprising number of cultural attractions, like the Ringling Museum of Art. The Ritz-Carlton is a terrific property, but I think you owe it to yourself to experience this great destination if you have the time.

I'm looking at traveling to France in mid- to late April. The lowest fares for that time frame are about $1,000 round-trip (with fees included), is it likely there will be any discounts between now and then or should I just assume that is the best price I will get?

Sale is always possible. You could put off buying for a couple of weeks and keep checking Air France and United. You may also save some money if you're willing to connect (I don't think it's worth it to save $150, but that's a judgment call).

I've been looking for flights to Las Vegas for my birthday weekend in April on a lark. But I cannot find any reasonably priced flights no matter how flexible I am. Is Easter weekend really that big of a travel weekend or is this just the result of fewer flights from the airlines?

It's a mix of high demand, restricted supply. Have you looked into packages? There are some really good ones to Vegas that include lodging and discounted air. Southwest Vacations has some specials right now, including three nights or more at the MGM Grand. I also see some on Travelocity.

If you need only air, though, look at off-peak times and undesirable days, such as a mid-week early flight or a red-eye return.

Hello travel gurus. My husband and I want to take a long-weekend away before our first baby arrives this summer. We'd like to go away the end of April for our anniversary, and keep the drive to around 4 - 5 hours from Baltimore. We have no idea where to go. We were hoping for someplace that could be warm (or warmer than here). Any suggestions of a last hooray before baby? I'll be 6 months pregnant when we go.

Well, you can't get to Miami in four or five hours. I  don't think that kind of distance will get you to a much warmer place. For example, average high temp for April in Baltimore is 68 degrees - in Nags Head, which is six hours south, it's 69 degrees.  Look at Chincoteague, Va. - it's about 3.5 hours, and it's near beach with  a small-town feel. But, because it's near the water, could be cool. Any chatters have ideas?

There are recent news reports about TSA changing the radiation scanners to make images more neutral but what most people I know are concerned about is the radiation. Do you think the TSA will back off using these devices because of the radiation danger to frequent flyers?

TSA is testing new software on its scanners that obscures our shape, presumably offering us a little more privacy. Here are a few details via the TSA site. The agency shows no signs of backing away from using the scanners, which they claim are totally safe but some fear may expose passengers to harmful radiation. I don't think they will stop using the scanners until this ends up in court -- which it almost certainly will.

Happy Monday! Headed to Puerto Rico for a long weekend in the sun. I have read the Post articles, but am looking for some more restaurant/bar (all price points) recommendations (have days planned out). Will not have a car so will be in the Carolina/Old San Juan area. Thanks!

I liked Ajili Mojili in Condado. I had the best mofongo at Raices in Old San Juan. Che's Restaurante Argentino was great for churrasco. I emailed a friend who is from San Juan and here are his suggestions: Budatai in Carolina, Dragonfly, Parrot Club and Toro Salao in Old San Juan. Other places I've heard good things about: Pamela's, La Mallorquina, Marmalade, and Pura Vida Bistro Criollo y Vegetariano. Anyone else want to add their favorite Puerto Rico restaurants?

Have any of you visited one or the other? Which would you choose for 8-9 days?

I would choose Vietnam for the culture, history, heart-tugging attractions, food and amazing shopping. It's a country, I think, that everyone needs to see and experience and feel.

I am trying to book a flight for work from Boston to Brazil. Air Canada seems to be my best bet, but then it requires me to fly into Canada. If I fly from US to Canada and then Brazil, am I going to have to go through customs in Canada before I fly to Brazil? And on the way back would I have to through Canadian customs before I get on my US flight? or is it just a matter of where my terminal is located? My layover in canada is 2.5 hours and I'm worried I won't necessarily have enough time to get through customs, go through security again and get to my gate. I get a little panicky when im rushing while traveling, so I really need to have some cushion room not to panic. thanks!

If you booked your tickets at the same time (and it looks as if you did) then you should be fine. Reservation systems have what are called minimum connect times, which are based on average transit times through the terminal. So if you could book it, you should be OK. However, if you run into trouble and your airline or travel agent can't or won't help you, contact me. Here's my email address.

When's the best time of year to schedule an eastern Mediterranean/Greek Islands cruise? I understand summer is really too hot for comfort. October/November? March?

You also need to look at precipitation. For Greek Isles, I think the best combo of little rain, somewhat cooler temps is in September. But April and May also look good.

Dear Travel Wizards, My British pen pal and her husband are coming to the US for their first visit in October. They already have a tour booked for New England and then will come to DC. Besides the usual "mall-type" outings, could you suggest several must-see trips in the DC are - well maybe an overnight trip or two also? They'll be here for 5-6 weeks so I have to find some longer trips as well, but for now, how about within 2-3 hours of the metro area. Many thanks.

I'm not sure how much their New England plans center around foliage, but I don't think you could go wrong with a trip to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. If they're not bitter about that whole declaring independence thing, Philadelphia would be fun too. Fall is still a nice time for the beach, so maybe they'd enjoy a trip to the Maryland or Delaware shores. If Civil War history is of interest, consider Gettysburg or Richmond.

Chatters, any other ideas for showing a couple of Brits the best of the region?

Hi - I'm going to NYC in late February with my two little boys. Can you recommend a moderately priced hotel with suites somewhere in the vicinity of Times Square? We've stayed at the Bedford in Murray Hill, but that's a bit farther than we'd like to be. Thanks!

Standard rooms, much less suites, are rarely moderately priced in Times Square. It is one of the most expensive areas in the city. You can check the city's tourism Web site for deals. But I would suggest looking for an apartment through AirBnb. Your kids might get a kick out of being true New Yorkers (perhaps with a doorman) for the weekend.

The major flight information sites -- Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity etc. -- often return different flights and prices for the same search made at the same time. Sometimes they quote different prices for identical flights. Even the "search the searchers" sites like Kayak and Vayama will often produce differing results. I don't understand this. Do these sites get their information from different sources? Do they accept payments to give priority to some airlines over others? As complex as the airline industry is, the fact is that on any given day there are a finite number of practical ways to take any particular trip (by "practical" I mean that you wouldn't ordinarily fly from, say, D.C. to Detroit by connecting through Istanbul). Why don't these search engines return similar results for similar searches? And do travel agents have access to tools that consumers can't use?

Yes, some sites will give priority to certain companies in their displays, but usually the difference can be explained in the way the reservations systems handle ticket inventory through the sites. With a limited supply of tickets or rooms, and with technology that uses "caching" -- or storing results online instead of querying the systems in real-time -- you can have tickets that expire before they're booked, or don't show up on certain systems while they do on others. It's hit or miss, in other words. It would take a whole column to explain this adequately. I'll work on something for a future Navigator.

I know that if you travel a lot you can have extra visa pages added to your U.S. passport (for a fee, of course). Question: How do they do it? Do they open up the stitching and rebind it? Or just glue them into the back? Do they take out any existing pages (with stamps, visas etc.)? Does the passport wind up looking like it's been tampered with (which might cause real problems in some countries)?

I had extra pages added to my passport, and the book just looks a bit fatter than normal. The pages are attached at the seam, almost like they were stitched in. (I am staring at my passport as I write this.) No pages are removed and no countries should question the sanctity of your passport. Just get it done soon; I almost missed a trip to Brazil because of a shortage of pages.

We will be taking a very early flight out of Charles DeGaulle Airport and want to stay as close as possible the night before. We'd also like to keep the cost down. We just need a place to crash and repack our stuff. Can you make any recommendations, please?

Have never stayed at the airport or nearby, but perhaps a chatter or two has?

I'm just starting to plan a month-long trip to Africa this summer, to visit my son who's in the Peace Corp in Cameroon. I'll fly to Paris or Zurich, spend a few days and then fly to Cameroon. I also want to fly from Cameroon to Kenya or South Africa for a safari trip. Should stay away from African-based airlines for safety reasons? Is there a travel website to help me plan a Europe to Africa round trip? Travelocity and Expedia apparently don't do Africa.

It sounds like you might want to use a travel agent for this trip --especially with the complex routes and unfamiliar countries. Or, you could pay a small fee for advice, then do the booking yourself.

Basically, if an airline has flying rights to the United States and Europe, it is considered safe, because of governmental oversight. For airlines deemed safe, check the lists complied by the FAA and the European Union's International Air Transport Association.

Going on a tour of Amalfi coast in Sept. Will fly into Naples to meet up with tour group but have to make a connecting flight in Europe. as there are no direct DC-Naples flights. As I'd like to extend my trip when the tour ends, what are good options? Stay a few extra days in Amalfi area, connect via Paris and stayover there? Any suggestions would be welcome. I often fly Lufthansa to Europe but don't want to spend my extra days in Germany. Have been to Rome several times already. Prefer flying to Europe on a European airline. Thanks.

I like your idea to stay for a few extra days in Amalfi area and then fly out of Paris. London is also an option. Or maybe Reykjavik? I'd go to the Dulles Web site and look at all the cities in Europe that offer nonstop flights and go from there.

I have a ticket from United for volunteering to be bumped that expires soon (maybe first of April). Its only for the 48. Any suggestions? Dont want to do the obvious ie a major city but would rather do interesting or unique but I am on a budget for accomodations and transportation. Thinking something like Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, yosemite, tahoe, rocky mountains,etc.

I'd double-check that voucher. Airlines are pretty strict about expiring vouchers. But to answer your question -- try Northern California. I just got back from speaking at a conference at Heavenly (near Lake Tahoe) and it you've never been, you owe it to yourself. 

I have to say, I did not love the article. I count on the Travel section to inform me about places, not about someone's attempt to shed their device addiction for a few days. Sorry!

Well, thank you for the very honest response. We will definitely keep that in mind for future stories.

One of my best friends is thinking about getting married in India this year (possibly an arranged marriage hence the sudden notice). No word on dates, but do you have any ideas as to how expensive it can be to get to India from TX? And any other ideas of cost while I'm there? I'm trying to budget ahead with very limited information!

Sorry but that is impossible to answer if you don't know the time of year or arrival city. Most flights to India are in the $1,000 range. Hotels can be super cheap or really expensive, depending on your location and comfort level. You can, however, eat for nickels and dimes.

Just a guess, but I think if you budget $2,200 or so, you should be okay.

Hi there! We are planning a trip to Costa Rica (yay!) in March. We're somewhat limited on time and likely will only have 5-7 days. We are a bit overwhelmed with all of the possibilities so I was hoping you could help narrow down what areas to spend our time in. Definitely want to go zip lining, see the jungle, etc., but also would like to spend time in a Costa Rican town or two. We are planning to fly into San Jose, but are unsure where to go after that (thinking of renting a car -- is that an okay idea?). I did some research, and Manuel Antonio National Park sounds like it has a lot of the things we'd be interested in doing, but I also read that it's very, very touristy. Would prefer it to be less touristy, but then again our Spanish isn't great. Any guidance you have is MUCH appreciated!!

When I went to Costa Rica, I did a birding tour, which would not appeal to most. But I stayed at a couple of nice places:  Selva Verde Lodge and Hotel Bougainvillea. The story about my trip may give you some other ideas.

Hi Crew - I will be staying at a Lake Tahoe timeshare for a week in August, and wanted to do a day trip to Yosemite. Is this possible? Any idea on how long a drive that might be and the condition of the roads? Any other tips on day trips from Tahoe?

It'll take at least five hours to drive to Yosemite. There's so much to do and see in Lake Tahoe. The lake itself takes  several hours to drive around. And there's lots of little communities, hiking, boating, casinos, etc.  You won't get bored in a week.

Having flown repeatedly since the backscatter radiation scans started, I have not seen any TSA employee wearing a radiation badge, a routine safety precaution to measure exposure followed in every medical facility that operates X-ray equipment. Moreover, TSA personnel, who are not medically trained, are able to vary the intensity of the radiation emitted by the machine, meaning the cumulative exposure of frequent fliers on a day-by-day basis may vary significantly from airport to airport. Further, TSA's machines concentrate radiation at skin level, unlike hospital equipment. No one knows what the effects on skin cancer will be. Do you know if Congress is prepared to act on these concerns?

I share your concerns about the radiation from these machines. And so do some members of congress. Last August, Rush Holt, a congressman from New Jersey, proposed freezing funds for buying new machines until some basic questions about the devices could be answered. It isn't immediately clear if he's made any progress. I will look into it for a future column.

Thanks for all the great tips you give each week! Normally, I can plan a trip with some research on my own, but I am stumped as to what to do in Miami. Any ideas for things to see and do, aside from the beach, shopping, and clubbing? We will be there for four days over Presidents Day weekend and will be staying in South Beach at one of the old Neon hotels. We will not have a car. Many thanks!

Hmm, what to do in Miami besides sunbathing, shopping and clubbing? Well, South Beach is the perfect spot to explore the the Art Deco District, which has more than 800 buildings from the 1930s and '40s. Great architecture. You can go to the Art Deco District Welcome Center for a self-guided audio tour. Stroll through  Little Havana. The Vizcaya Musem and Gardens on the Biscayne Bay is a beautiful spot. One of our writers visited, and loved, the Design District. And here's something different: The Fruit and Spice Park.  It's a 30-acre park with more than 500 varieties of fruits, spices, herbs, nuts, vegetables, and more. Any chatters have other ideas?

If you had one Friday afternoon to spend in Portland, OR in March, what would you do and where would you eat (preferably without blowing a hole in one's budget)? I want to get a feel for the lifestyle that N'westerners covet so much, but clearly I have limited time to do so and would appreciate your help! Thanks.

My idea of a very Portland afternoon would be biking all around the city and then eating at one (or more) of its many food trucks.

Hi guys, thinking about a week to 10 days in the Fall for a trip to Europe. We are interesting in Prague, Crakow, Budapest, but would prefer to pick one and really explore the place, instead of exhausting ourselves going from one place to the other. What is your recommendation ? a day trip or two would be good too. Our travel tend to lean toward cultural and historical stuff and experience great local food. Thanks for any info and recommendation.

I feel as though I just answered this question last week, or a couple of weeks ago, anyway. You may as well toss a coin to decide among these three cities, all of which are beautiful and loaded with history and culture. If you have 10 days, I'd recommend splitting your time between two. There are frequent daily trains between Prague and Budapest, and they're often paired in travel itineraries (but then so are Prague and Krakow; Prague is about equidistant from both). Keep in mind that these are highly touristed cities, so you won't be alone, but there's plenty to do and lots to see in each one; both have stunning castle hills that are obvious must-sees, along with great museums and nowadays, lots of restaurants serving good local food. Krakow is also fascinating and yes, it too has a castle hill. Obvious day trip from there is the Auschwitz concentration camp, a sobering but essential historical reminder.

Bottom line, we can't choose for you. Do a little research and see what appeals most to your tastes. We can ask the chatters for their recommendations, too. Let's hear from you, guys.

Good morning! I am starting to think about a week-long trip for my husband and me in August, and I am so overwhelmed with all the places I want to see in my lifetime! We really want to go to a place with incredible natural beauty, and we were leaning towards Costa Rica. As far as beautiful places go, what tops your list? (We went to Kenya and Tanzania last year and that vacation will be hard to beat!)

This is a hard one. I hope my colleagues and the chatters chime in, but I would really love to see the southwest coast of England. Or Alaska. Or New Zealand. Or... tons of other places.

We're planning on traveling to Cancun and Playa del Carmen. We're worried about safety. Do you have insight on current events, travel tips, etc.? Should we change plans?

I think you'll fine in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Drug violence isn't an issue in the resorts there. Just be smart. Don't trust people you don't know, don't go to bars outside the resort and get drunk, etc. - common-sense stuff. 

Hi, my 40th birthday is coming up this spring and I'd like to plan a getaway with friends. I like the idea of a Canyon Ranch Spa weekend, but the prices are a bit steep. Any ideas for similar experiences? Thanks!

Give the Tennessee Fitness Spa a look. Or maybe Deerfield Spa in Pennsylvania.

Hi Travel Crew. I know you get questions about airfares frequently, but I just feel like this is a bit high. I'm looking to fly to Frankfurt over Memorial Day week. Because I only have 9 days, I would like to maximize my time on the ground and am willing to pay to get flights that help me do so. Is $1200 for non-stop flights from IAD to FRA reasonable? I'm looking to fly Friday, May 27 to Monday, June 6. Do you think this would go down? I was hoping to pay around $900. I think that may be a dream dating back to 2008 at this point though . . . .

Nonstop flights to Europe are selling at a premium. Not enough competition. Fewer airlines and fewer seats on desired flights = more expensive fares. You could keep checking United and Lufthansa over the next few weeks to see if fares move, but I wouldn't hold my breath. If you're willing to connect, Icelandair has some well-priced flights from IAD to Frankfurt.

Hello from James Lewis of the Forest History Society. Thanks to Andrea for the informative article in the Weekend section about the eastern national forests and the Weeks Act. I just wanted to share that the Pisgah National Forest, in the mountains of western North Carolina, is about 8 hours from DC, just right for a long weekend like the upcoming Presidents Day weekend. There are tremendous hiking trails--many of which lead to waterfalls--throughout the national forest. The push to create the eastern national forests started in Asheville, a very cool city in the heart of the Pisgah. Asheville is also home to the Cradle of Forestry and Biltmore Estate, where forestry began in America. Both a great, family-friendly places to visit and both can be seen in a single day.

Thanks, James, for your recommendation. We all need more communing with nature!

For a fictional account of someone losing all forms of communication and unable to speak the local language see the chapter "The East" in Daniel Kehlmann's "Fame".

I would consider getting a tranquilizer by prescription for the cat, to keep him/her calm. I tranq'ed my cats up for a move via car cross-country, and it was much more pleasant than simple trips to the vet were, since the cat was pharmaceutically relaxed. It's good for the cat, since it relaxes them and reduces their stress intake, and will be good for your seatmates, since the cat will most likely be quieter.

Thanks for the advice. But first, make sure you get the okay from your vet.

I hope you end up next to a bunch of cat lovers. There are more of us around than people would think. Good luck to you both!

Berkeley Springs is nice during the fall and the Apple Butter festival is Columbus Day weekend. Also, Harper's Ferry is beautiful in the fall.

I am planning to travel to Germany and England in June. Are the fares in February historically about as low as they will go, barring a catastophe, or should I wait to buy?

As we always say, there is no way to know. Sign up for flight alerts, and if you see a fare that fits your budget, grab it.

The poster asking about moderately prices suites might want to check out the Milburn on W 76th and Broadway, or the Wellington on 7th at 55th (next block from Carnegie Hall). I know they're not in Times Square, but the Wellington is close and the Milburn is only a couple of blocks from the 1 Train that goes directly to TS. I've had great luck at both places, especially in the winter.

On my first journey to India, solo I might add, I was careful to bring my cellphone with me and made sure ahead of time that it would work there. Since the flight arrived at like 1 AM I went straight to bed without contacting anyone at home to tell them I was alright. But I had turned on my cell phone in case they called me to check in. When I woke up there was a power cut that lasted more than a day, and my phone was out of batteries. I spent that first day wandering around the neighborhood near my hotel seeking out a place to charge my phone or an STD phone booth... no luck. It was a good 48 hours before I could call my family to tell them I was OK, and it forced me to get out and find things on my own because I had no way of contacting the acquaintances who were to show me around the city!

That was a true test of your of travel smarts!

I had extra pages added to mine at the Brussels embassy - it does not look stitched in. They added them in with packing tape, but with an official note saying the pages were added under seal at the embassy. If possible I recommend doing it at an embassy - it took 10 minutes and I didn't have to mail it in! I haven't had any issues using it since then.

But if you are in the States, I would assume you need to go to the State Department, since a foreign embassy would not give a US passport extra pages.

We enjoyed a inexpensive pizza and wine outside sitting at the park across the street from Budatia, I forget the name of the place but it was fun to just relax, drink and people watch. We also enjoy tapas at Tantra (Indian fusion) for lunch in September, we were the only ones there as it is more of a late night place wih hooka's going at night.

Walk around downtown, then spend a LOT of time at Powells Books. No other bookstore like it.

Just wanted to say thanks for answering the very open-ended question. I really don't know any more than I told you (he is from Delhi, but says she lives somewhere else, I could stay with his parents, no date has been set etc. etc.) and you gave me a great ballpark to shoot for.

If you are considering the tranquilizers, you may want to try it once or twice at home before the trip. Just in case kitty has a bad reaction. Not saying this is common but how bad would that be if it happened on the plane?

For "Day trip to Yosemite from Lake Tahoe" chatter: Skip some of the casinos etc. at Tahoe and schedule an OVERNIGHT trip to Yosemite. It's even more spectacularly beautiful in person than any photo or video can ever convey -- the experience of a lifetime, really, and in August you can get to see both the Valley and the High Country (e.g., Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows).

You're right, depends on time. During high travel season (summer and Christmas holidays), you can pay 1500-1600 each way. Unlikely to get a flight below 1100 even in "low season" these days. I paid $1200 in Nov/Dec, after much searching and waiting. Also -- we spent 10 days completely e-mail free (actually, power-free) in the Indian Himalayas in Sikkim. Did not miss e-mail or internet at all -- what I really missed was heat and running water!

We are thinking of going to Vietnam & Japan late this summer. I know that when you fly to Vietnam via a Japanese airline we have to make a stop for a few hours in say, Tokyo. Is there a way to make this stop longer (a week) without buying multi-city ticket? Thanks Travel Crew!

Yes, it's possible. This is one of those tickets that you'll want to book through a travel agent. A skilled travel professional can find the right tickets and plan your itinerary so that you don't have to incur any extra expenses.

Going to NYC this weekend with the bf! Any restaurant recommendations- interesting and delicious food but decent prices? I've already looked at Tom's latest NYC postcard. Also any suggestions on cool exhibits going on or overlooked attractions would be great! Thanks!

For exhibits and events, I always check Time Out New York. The site also has the best picks for new eats.

I recommend Cape Breton (the northern part of Nova Scotia) for the chatter looking for the August getaway. And I want to know where the chatter went in Kenya and Tanzania - please write in next week! I'm the person going to Africa and looking at safari tours.

My British side of the family always enjoyed Baltimore Inner Harbor area (and the Walters definitely!) as well as Annapolis. If they are into Civil War (which my family oddly is), Manassas is a good place for history and walks, etc.

Show yer Brits the real America!

My husband and I are looking for a second honeymoon destination in Europe. Possibly Venice - we would prefer direct flights from Washington - any thoughts?

Don't know what you  mean by direct flights, but direct generally means a stop with no change of plane, while nonstop means from point A to B with no stops. You'll have to connect to get to Venice. If you mean nonstop, look at the Dulles flight guide to find nonstop flights.  London, Paris and Vienna are just a few of the choices.

Maybe combine a trip to Philadelphia with a tour of Amish country? Also, I second the Vietnam suggestion over Taiwan -- especially if you have 8-9 days. If you can arrange to travel from HCMC to Hanoi, stopping at Hue and other places on the way, that would probably be a do-able and wonderful trip.

What about a Baltimore based cruise? You didn't say how much time you were looking to take, but there are usually a variety of itineraries. No driving, but still a getaway.

A possibility.

I live in Sarasota, and while the Ritz is certainly very nice, I certainly wouldn't spend an entire stay there. Just a few other things to do: *Eat dinner at the Bijou Cafe--within walking distance of the Ritz and a great spot in a (well-) renovated gas station. *If you're here on Saturday, don't miss our Farmer's Market from early morning till 1 pm. Great people- and dog-watching, several spots to sit and have coffee. *the beaches...what more need I say? *Ringling Art Museum complex is worth a visit for sure. *Just wander along Main St. downtown...lots of interesting shops and restaurants...and again, walkable from the Ritz.

Yes, you will have to clear Canadian customs when you arrive at the Canadian airport (both going to Brazil and coming back), and then go through security again when you make your way to your connecting flight. I've found that it generally takes about an hour to do it all, especially if you've got checked bags that you have to wait for. I'm assuming that you're either connecting through Pearson in Toronto or Trudeau in Montreal, and in both places wear comfortable shoes, because you'll be doing some walking.

If the reader was worried about radiation from the TSA screening they should take the Amtrac or a boat. The increase in radiation from flying at 30,000 feet makes whatever TSA throws at you look embarrassingly small.

I've not done the Outer Banks during that time of year, but if the temps are similar to what we have around here, I would definitely go there as well, the wright brothers national park and birth of flight. I'd also make sure to get out to Dulles to the Udvar Hazy Center as well.

If possible, get tickets for Congress in session plus lunch at a restaurant frequented by power brokers. Are they gardeners? The Arboretum, the Botannic Gardens, Hillwood, Dunbarton Oaks, and the Georgetown gardens around the Peters house. Also, Mt Vernon with the gardens, and possibly Hard Bargain Farm across the Potomac for a working farm using old methods. A circuit across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Cape May Ferry, or other direction to the Bridge Tunnel and back via Williamsburg. Always include shopping time--our prices are less. Remember to warn them that DVDs are on a different system, so don't buy electronics that are voltage/cycle dependent .

I was just in PR in December. Jam Bistro (sister restaurant of Marmalade) was wonderful and 50% off on Monday night. Call ahead to confirm. Don Tello in Cantana was less expensive for excellent Puerto rican food. It is located directly accross the street from the Cantana ferry terminal. This is the ferry from Old San Juan to Bacardi. I do not recommend the Bacardi tour. It was just a long sales pitch. I also second the comment on Aijillo Mojillo. Their monfongo and fritters were excellent. i did not like Raices. It felt too touristy. All in all, we really enjoyed Puerto Rico.

Colonial Williamsburg with excellent dining, golfing, museums, and that Declaring Independence Thing, is always a pleasure. And you've got Jamestown and Yorktown (oops, that Independence thing again) in close proximity. Richmond is an hour away with Civil War Museum at Tredegar and the Museum of the Confederacy. Monticello and the Shenandoah Valley is lovely. Staunton with the American Shakespeare Center, fine dining, and the Frontier Culture Museum is another destination possibility. Or a tour of Virginia wineries?

I stayed at the Ibis Hotel near the airport in 2006. It was clean, reasonable (I think around 80 euros), and at the time there was a shuttle to the airport.

They may enjoy a trip to Jamestown, Williamsburg (going up old route 5 to see the plantations), and ending in Richmond. It could easily be done in three days and is not a long drive from DC. Historic, good restaurants and interesting inns/hotels available.

Like the person traveling to Paris - I am looking at flights for the third week in April to from DC to LAX. Right now they are close to $400. Given that is the week before Easter, do you think there is any change these prices will go down in the next few weeks? Thanks!

There are frequent sales to Los Angeles. Hang in there and keep checking. But very rare to see those $219 round-trip sales that were once so common. $300 is more like it. Check Virgin America frequently.

Made a mistake in my first response. On the way to Brazil via Canada you'll need about an hour for Canadian customs another round of security, and to make your way to your connecting flight. On the way back to Boston, you'll have Canadian customs, US preclearance (customs) and security, so make it about an hour and a half.

I had great luck taking my British guests to Mount Vernon (day trip) and Williamsburg (overnight). We were also going to go Monticello, but couldn't fit it in. My friends loved learning about the early years of America.

Consider taking them to a vineyard or two in Virginia...leaf foliage and supporting an up and coming industry. Also, there's Skyline and Luray Caverns. If the Nats or O's are home, there could be the possibility of late season baseball. If they like to experience outstanding cooking, there's dinner at the Inn of Little Washington, Volt and Charleston in Maryland, and the like. St Michael's perhaps for some shopping and relaxing.

Look for an all-inclusive resort. The price of restaurant food there is a killer.

Consider taking them to a vineyard or two in Virginia...leaf foliage and supporting an up and coming industry. Also, there's Skyline and Luray Caverns. If the Nats or O's are home, there could be the possibility of late season baseball. If they like to experience outstanding cooking, there's dinner at the Inn of Little Washington, Volt and Charleston in Maryland, and the like. St Michael's perhaps for some shopping and relaxing.

After my first semester of law school, my husband and I went to the Caribbean for a week. Our blackberries didn't work, no internet and no tv. It was grand. The return home, not so much. I got back to discover that the administration had lost one of my exams and was threatened with possible honor code violations. It all worked out and the exam was found. We still go back to the Caribbean every year.

A happy ending!

Could I ask if anyone has been to Denbighshire, and if they like it? We are planning to go there since my husbands family traces to that area.

 I have not been, but chatters, think about this and come back next week with some suggestions!

Consult a vet before you leave about medicating the cat so he's a bit zoned out and not antsy. You may have to re-treat at the lay over.

In 2008 I was flying from Albany through OHare to STL. I didn't bring a laptop, and I only had a prepaid cell phone. When I got to O'Hare they evacuated out the terminal for a tornado warning (imagine a 5000 person security line at 10pm...). I spent the night on the phone with my grandma (in Albany), parents (in Richmond), inlaws (in St. Louis) and husband (in the middle of Illinois). I had no weather updates, was trying desperately to figure out whether to stay or go find a friend to stay with in Chicago, and all they kept doing was delaying my flight. It finally got off the ground at 3am. I was terrified since I hate tornados anyway and I had no idea what was going on. I was also 4 days from turning 25 so I couldn't rent a car to get home. My parents decided to remedy the situation when I got home and bought me an iPhone and the service contract for it. So I will never get in that situation again!

That sounds like the plot to to a movie!

If they are here during the end of the month, try to get them to a Halloween party. Or bundle up and walk around Georgetown or Embassy Row.

Just want to point out that when you fly to Tokyo, the airport is actually in Narita, not Tokyo and you would need to take a ~ 2 hour bus ride or a shorter train ride to get to Tokyo. So your plan to do a day or two layover in Tokyo would be a better plan if you want to see the city. Then you have to plan for enough time to return to Narita airport for your remaining leg.

I've had much luck booking directly through the airlines for my Asian travel - most of the airlines allow a stop-over in their hub, and an open jaw for the same price as a round-trip. Just do your research online, then call the airline and say - I want 3 days in Hong Kong instead of a 7-hour layover, or return from Kuala Lumpur instead of Saigon. There may be a $25 booking fee, but you won't be paying to check your bags! The customer service for most Asia-based airlines is top-notch.

What can I expect from the weather in Rome, Italy around November 1st?

The weather turns unpredictable around then. You could get mild temps, or cold heavy rains. Hard to know. Just bring many seasons of clothing.

I may not want to be the person next to you, but I appreciate that you are a pet owner who is considerate both of your critter and your seat-mates. I'm sure you'll talk to your vet about your upcoming travels and address your pet's needs before take-off time. As your possible seat-mate, please understand that I will try to accommodate you, but I am not in love with your pet and I really don't want to hear mewing or whimpering or the tossing-up of hairballs or pet food or a constant stream of your talky reassurances to your pet carrier. Let's work together to make our flight calm and quiet for all of us.

When we go to the family cabin in Quebec, we abandon all our electronics because there is no electricity at the cabin. Also, our cell phones don't work there because Quebec requires you to have a Quebec cell phone and plan. It's fabulous and very freeing.

Try to find some fall festivals for your friends to attend; those would be fun and really representative of local communities. Also, make sure they do a "Washington Monuments by Moonlight" tour (either with you or an organized tour). We've done that with all our visitors and they've all been impressed.

And the poster could check on various cat forums (catsite.com to name one) about how to travel with a cat on a plane for hints on how to keep said Cat friendly and quiet. (Don't even think about opening the cat carrier.) I say this as a cat lover myself.

Thanks everyone for participating in today's chat. We are so thankful that we are indeed connected --no digital-free for us.

The winner of today's chat question is the tornado-phobe who had no way to check the weather report. Please send me your address at sachsa@washpost.com.

See you next week!

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The Washington Post Travel section is your source for narrative tales and practical advice about journeys far and wide -- from weekend trips to the Eastern Shore, to two-week jaunts to the Far East -- plus consumer news, penny-pinching strategies and deals galore.
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