Feb 28, 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.

Happy Monday travelers, and welcome to our weekly travel chat. The week started off well with an unusually warm February day. We hope we contributed to that good cheer with our Travel section this weekend. I’ve never stayed at a hostel myself, but I enjoyed reading about Tim’s experiences at a few bed bug-free hostels in New York. And I can’t wait to see those hidden treasures in Delhi myself. Speaking of which, have you ever stumbled upon a hidden gem during any of your travels? A monument that wasn’t on your map? A market you had never heard of? Tell us about a surprising find. Best one wins a prize. Now, let’s chat!  

Hello, I'm trying to buy tickets RT IAD-Guatemala this summer for my family (4 and 7 year old kids and two parents). The cheapest option has a 35 minute connection in San Salvador (showing 81% on time), the next best is a 57 minute layover in Houston ($200 more for four tix), any with a 90-min-4 hour layover will be at least another $400. Please offer your thoughts on the pain/$ ratio here...trying to avoid being stuck or mad dashing, but don't want to throw away money!

I'd probably go the middle route and opt for the 57-minute layover. I have connected in Houston for San Jose, Costa Rica with that type of layover and found it adequate. I'd do a little homework first and study the layout of the airport and where your flights typically arrive/depart. Is your connection on the way home also 57 minutes? This is the one that matters more, as you'll have to go through Customs.

Hi crew - Going to be in Cleveland for 4 days in April. Any must see attractions or tips? I'll be staying downtown. Also, any insight on the Ohio Amish country and opportunities to learn more about that culture? Thanks.

Here's our Impulsive Traveler on Cleveland (below) from September. I highly recommend the West Side Market. Progressive Field (home of the Indians) is a great place to catch a ballgame. I've  never been, but there are probably some people who would call the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a must-see.

I don't know much about the Amish country out that way. Chatters?

Hello- my sister in law and I are planning a weekend trip to Boston in April with an 8 month old. What sort of things do you think we can plan around the baby? Is there a central place you would recommend to find a hotel? Thanks!

What are you into? Shopping, history, art? Boston's VERY walkable, but of course your standards may change when you're pushing a stroller, right? For hotels, I'd encourage you to do the Back Bay thing, around Copley Square, because you're so close to Newbury Street (shop till you drop -- and head to The Closet, my favorite used-clothing store ever, anywhere), South End (eat till you drop), and not too far from the Fenway (hit the Fens and Victory Gardens, and the baseball park of course if you're into that), an easy stroll to the Public Garden and Common (swan boats if you're there after April 16 when they open for season), and onto the North End (eat till you drop again, and go to Modern Pastry not Mike's for cannoli).

As for hotels, it might be a SMIDGE small with an infant, but one of my favorites is the Charlesmark on Boylston Street. Great rates and very smart design.

My husband and I are avid travelers but we just had a baby a month ago, so I suspect the way we travel is going to change. When do you think it is OK to travel by plane with a baby? And what travel tips/suggested destinations do you have for new parents? Is it easier to travel when children are under a year because they are less mobile? Or a big headache b/c you have to bring the car seat, travel crib etc?

That first question sounds like something you need to ask your doctor. However, once you get the green light, I would recommend a country that has a clean bill of health (no vaccinations needed, clean drinking water, as bug-free as possible) and modern conveniences (stores with diapers, for instance).

Many parents say this is the easiest time to travel with children, because baby will sleep most of the time. Bring a baby Bjorn or other kind of carrier, and a car seat/stroller combo --and you will be fully mobile.

For example, in Europe, you can rent a villa or apartment (preferably with a washing machine) and spend your days hiking around the villages with baby straddled in. For longer distances, travel by train, so you can spread out. My sister took her little one to Italy and had a perfect time. She said the locals fawned over my niece, so I suggest picking a kid-friendly country. You also want to choose a destination with a nonstop flight and not too many in-air hours, for your own sanity. If you need to relax, consider Belize or Puerto Rico. Also, go during off-peak times, so you don't have to deal with crowds. And don't forget that baby needs a passport if you travel internationally.

Going to be in Paris this weekend for a quick visit. Staying in the heart of it all but won't have a car. Anything particularly Parisian in the city to not miss on a 45 degree day?

Only a weekend in Paris? That is a quick visit. There's so much to do. Where do I begin? I can tell you a few of my favorite things to do. I love the museums. The Louvre obviously is amazing. There's also the Musee d'Orsay if you are into impressionist painters. One of my favorite neighborhoods to stroll through is Montmartre. There is great shopping there, lovely cafes, the Moulin Rouge. You can walk up the hill to Sacre Coeur for a wonderful view of the city. Also check out the view at Restaurant Georges on top of the Pompidou Center. And simply sit at one of the many cafes and drink coffee or sip wine while people watching. Do a lot of walking. Paris is a wonderful walking city even in the cold. 

I recently flew United to Idaho to visit my ailing grandmother. I called United reservations to book my flight and was quoted the bereavement fare. Afterward, however, my credit card statement reflects that I was charged full price as well as a $25 booking fee for making my reservation via phone. My attempts to have United refund me the difference between the bereavement fare and the full price fare have been fruitless. Do you have any ideas for what I can do?

I'm sorry about your grandmother. United should have charged the fare it said it would. I would send a brief, polite email to one of the following executives at United. If that doesn't work, contact me. I can help.

I would also contact your credit card company and challenge that charge. Credit card companies can be great advocates.

I really enjoyed the article on Delhi this week. More like that, please.

Glad you liked it! Can you say more about what you mean by "like that," though?

Disney World has excellent facilities for the disabled. But the many good beaches east of the parks are a mixed bag for disabled travelers using wheelchairs, walkers or canes. I live near this free public park, which has shaded & paved beachfront cabanas and a promenade also under cover from hot sun. It's rare to find this much accessible oceanfront access, and your chatters might enjoy it. It's a little over an hour's drive from the theme parks: http://www.volusia.org/parks/27th.htm

Good to know. Thanks for the tips!

I am thinking of planning a trip to Peru this year. When is the best time to visit as far as nice weather? I would like to go in September but am not sure what the weather will be like then. Thanks for your help!

Anytime is a good time, as they say, but here's the breakdown:

Dry season runs May to November, so your time falls in the sweet zone.  June, July and August are the most popular months, so expect crowds. Wet season is December to April, so expect daily showers and very green surroundings. Shoulder seasons are April to June and September to November, so again, you picked a great time --lower prices, fewer crowds, drier weather.

Do you know anything about the package deals that are advertised in the Post as "Post Trips"? My father and I are considering taking one, but it seems a little odd for them to be affiliated with the Post.

It's through our marketing department, which undertook this relationship with Riviera Tours after seeing the situation work well elsewhere. It's an advertising product, not an editorial product, so I can't personally vouch for them, but Riviera does have a good reputation.

I love wandering neighborhoods of different cities I've visited and finding unexpected outdoor markets. My favorite was a several blocks long one in Paris that ran under the Metro. It was fantastic (even though I didn't buy anything)! I've also enjoyed a random market I found in Philadephia.

Sounds lovely. Do you remember which metro stop in Paris?

In mid-March, my husband and I (late 30s) are going to the Florida Keys, but are looking for more of nature experience, than a party vacation. We are renting a car and looking to hit most of the keys over 5 days. What do you recommend we not miss? Thank you!

Most of the natural attractions in the Keys are on the water. The fishing is absolutely spectacular. My favorite is the flats fishing on the Bay side, anywhere between Key Largo and Islamorada. Another great opportunity to interact with nature is by diving or snorkeling. Key Largo is the place for that, although there are great dive spots up and down the Keys, including some terrific wreck dives. For a more land-locked natural experience, you could try kayaking (I did it in the middle Keys, near Marathon, a few years ago). Hope this helps.

Hello Travel Gurus! My husband and I are planning a short (3-4 days) trip to Brittany/Bretagne in May. We'll be in Paris for work and are trying to sneak off for a few days to a part of France neither of us has seen. We're in our late 20s, looking for classic Brittany - a beautiful port town, gorgeous sea views, and of course all manner of delicious seafood. No need for nightlife/clubs - just a relaxing holiday in a place where we can walk, bike, and eat. I love travel planning, but am finding myself at a loss of where to start on this one! First I need to figure out which village/town to situate ourselves in - any suggestions? On the Northern part would be ideal, as we'll take the ferry back to our (temporary) home in the UK, but if there's a must-go-to village/town that hits all the marks we're definitely flexible. Thanks so much! Love your section (and the addition of Editor Joe)!

 I'm jealous. We ran an article on Brittany (above) about two years ago -- I think it has some great recommendations for you.

PS: Aw, shucks.

PPS: Tell us what you ended up doing, because I'm going to Brittany for a week for a wedding in August, and my planning is way behind...

What are our options for getting free parking at a hotel near BWI if we stay before we fly? We'll be gone 2 weeks, if that makes a difference. Thanks.

Check out this list. You can definitely try calling the hotels there, but I think you might have problems if you're going to be gone two weeks. One week seems like the limit for most of them. Perhaps your best bet is to skip the hotel stay (if that works) and cough up the money for parking at the airport or one of the off-site places. It might be cheaper or not much more than paying for a night at a hotel.

I wanted to thank the Sarasota resident who suggested the Bijou Cafe. I went for dinner over the weekend and really enjoyed it. I spent a lot of quality time on the beach and by the pool and will definitely be back. I loved it.

So glad you got a good tip from our chat!

Two weeks ago, somebody asked about the suitability of Buzios, Brazil, for a honeymoon. I visited a few years ago, and it would be a perfect honeymoon destination. Buzios is on a peninsula with a lot of small, intimate beaches. Most of the lodgings are "pousadas," inns with anywhere from four to 40 rooms. The range from larger B&Bs to small hotels. The town is about four blocks by two, perfect for strolling and dining. The pasuda where I stayed overlooked the harbor; the town and several beaches were within walking distance, so I didn't have to rent a car, motor bike or dune buggy. Buzios is about a three-hour drive east of Rio, and my travel agent arranged transportation. I was expecting a minibus but instead got my own car & driver. I wouldn't want to drive it myself. What makes Buzios a great honeymoon spot is what it's not: a long, crowded beach bracketed by high rises, like Rio (or Miami). Instead, it's quiet and intimate. Remember, though, that the seasons are the reverse of North America, so I think Buzios would be best if you got married when it was cold here. If I were having a summer wedding, I might choose Quebec City – but that's another post.

Good tips -- thanks!

I am going to the Tampa/St Pete Beach area from this Friday to next Wednesday with my mom, aunt, and my sister, my sister and I are both in our 20's. I am looking for some events/restaurants/bars to do that will entertain both generations. My sister and I have "older" interests and my mom and aunt can definitely "hang with the young kids", as they say. For example, we are going to a local winery on Saturday and then to a drag show at a burger place but we really don't have much else planned. Any suggestions?

You definitely have to check out Ybor city. There are tons of restaurants and good shopping there. It was apparently once the cigar capital of the  world. There are some interesting walking tours you can take there in addition to eating and shopping. The Tampa Museum of Art would also be a fun afternoon activity. If you like beer, a tour of the Yuengling Brewery would also be worth it. Anyone else have tips?

While traveling recently, I overheard some US Airways employees discussing some new boarding procedures that will begin in March and how disasterous these employees believe they will prove to be. They even were discussing how they were just going to let the procedures go ahead so everyone would see how bad they were. My question, and maybe you don't know the answer but perhaps you may find out: what are these new procedures, and are they really bad?

I asked US Airways about its new boarding procedures. One new initiative, which is being rolled out gradually this year, is a new electronic boarding pass program which issues a bar code from the USAirways.com site for your mobile phone. That allows you to go through the gates without a paper boarding pass. (I have a feeling that's not what they were talking about.) US Airways also has a new zoned boarding process that it recently implemented, where elite-level customers get to board first, and economy-class passenger board later. This replaces the rear-to-front boarding that US Airways used to have. "It's the added benefit of getting to board first and have room for your luggage in the overhead space," says spokesman Jim Olson.

By "like that" I mean interesting stories about history and culture of places we don't know much about. Especially in Asia. I prefer those articles to yet another one about food France or the UK or other Western Euro destinations that have been done to death.

Gotcha! We've done a lot of Asia, actually. Most recently, did you see our China canal town story (below), or the fun piece about a whirlwind trip through Asia?

Has anyone encountered any problems with ticket validation while riding trains in Europe?

I have not, though I am not quite sure what you mean by validation.

Anyone out there have any problems with validation?

We're leaving for Italy on Saturday for a wonderful 10 days, first in Venice, then Genoa/Sienna, and finally Rome. We're staying at the San Clemente Palace in Venice, but haven't selected hotels yet for Genoa or Rome - any recommendations? Since we're indulging in Venice, we're comfortable with less luxurious digs in the other cities (though we'd still like to be near the city center, especially in Rome). And yes, I do know that this is last minute - that's why your help is so urgently required!

Hmm. In Rome, I've heard good things about the Hotel Re Di Roma, though I haven't stayed there. Genoa, I got nothin'. Chatters?


I'm trying to fly to Paris from DC some time within the first two weeks of June (terrible timing, I know) but air fares are sky-high. Any tips or tricks? Any possibility that air fares will fall or go on sale between now and then? A friend suggested XL airlines, but it flies out of NYC and I don't think the timing would work...

Fares are insanely high to Paris in June - $1,400 and up round trip. I'd probably hold out for a few weeks just in case there is a sale, but I wouldn't count on it. High fares typically mean that the flights are already fairly full. Have you looked into OpenSkies? It's an all-business-class airline that flies IAD to Paris and it sometimes has fare sales that are similar to economy fares - you may as well be comfortable if you're going to pay that much.  I'd also seriously consider XL Airways (site is in French only) - you'll pay half as much for a round-trip ticket.

It was near the Dupleix Metro stop, where my hotel was. Great neighborhood - so close to the Eiffel Tower!

Good to know. I will have to check it out the next time I am in Paris. Thanks!

Hi gurus - What family-friendly hotels would you recommend for a young family of four (with an infant) coming to visit DC? We're hoping to spend a lot of time on the National Mall and in the museums so staying somewhere metro friendly and/or walking distance would be great. Thanks!

I'd look at the Hotel George. Not only is it several blocks from the Capitol and Mall, you could check out the Kimpton Kids program, which includes child-safety stuff for the room, high chairs for loan for in-room dining (and in the restaurants), lists of nearby kid-friendly activities, even special kid-sized robes, and more. Not sure what your dates are, but I see a AAA rate of $233 for a room with 2 queen-sized beds, April 8-10.

Has anyone boarded the wrong train in Europe because of information given at the train station?

I have not. Have any chatters had that experience?

Best place to shop for Vegas travel deals online?

Southwest Vacations. Vegas.com, TravelZoo, the Vegas tourism office, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Smarter Travel.

Need to head to Atlanta tonight, leaving the DC area around 5pm. Any ideas on the best way to go that would avoid traffic snarls? As we are traveling with an 85-year-old, we will not be going straight through - assuming we will stop in Raleigh-Durham area overnight.

Any way you can pack your bags and go sooner? Like now?

Seriously, though, I think it's nigh impossible to avoid traffic if you plan on leaving at 5. Rush hour on I-95 south can start at least an hour or two before that. If earlier isn't possible, please consider heading out closer to 7:30 or so. Sure you can leave around 5, but I really don't think it's worth the frustration. If you're traveling with 3 or more people, you might do better in the HOV lanes. But I'm really hesitant to recommend leaving right as the daily nightmare begins.

If any other road warriors have tips, we're happy to entertain them.

I think the Tampa Bay visitors need to let us know where they are actually staying. If they are staying St Pete Beach it is a LONG way from there to Ybor City in Tampa. Likewise if they are staying in Tampa then recommendations over in Pinellas might not be so convenient.

Okay Tampa visitors, where are you staying?

We want to go to the UK this summer. We'd like to fly into Edinburgh, rent a car, and return it to Heathrow. Internet reservations sites don't provide for this. How do I do it? (We lived there, I know the driving situation and I know where we want to stay.)

I just did a search on Kayak renting in Edinburgh and returning to London Heathrow. It came up with results from six car rental companies

Help folks and chatters please- Looking for a beach town to rent a house - ala Outer Banks, Route 12. Would like to be somewhere between Charleston and Savannah to see some sites. Do not want Myrtle Beach. TIA.

Kiawah? Edisto Beach? Hilton Head?

Chatters, feel free to jump in with your favorite S.C. beach town.

I'm turning 35 in July, so I want to treat myself to a trip to Paris. But that's high season, and airfare is $1100 from NYC. Do you think it will dip down in March/April? It seems airlines keep having sales and the "6-months-in-advance" rule is no longer the best timing for the cheapest flights. Should I risk it and wait? (Or...do I get a Continental credit card, take the 25,000 free bonus miles, and then pay $300 to buy extra miles that will cover the flight?!) Thanks!

Typically, fares to Europe during high season don't dip. You could consider flying into Orly, the secondary airport, though I am not sure  fares will be much cheaper. Sorry to say, but high season equals high prices. You could try the bonus mile route, but be warned: Frequent flier seats can be hard to come by, espccially during popular times.

If possible, I would delay my birthday celebration to September.

Travel gurus - please advise! My partner and I will be in Copenhagen for six days in early April. His sibling, who's been to Copenhangen before, told us that there's not that much to see in the city for that amt of time, and suggested we might combine our trip with another city. What would you suggest? We love art, architecture, and city life, but don't want to spend a boatload of money on this trip. Thanks!

Stockholm is  a train ride away and a beautiful city. Berlin is just a 40-minute flight away. Or you can stay within Denmark and take some side trips. Odense, for instance, is the birth place of Hans Christian Andersen.

Love your chats! Question regarding travel insurance - is there a good site where one can compare various policies (what's covered, costs, etc.)? We want to insure a trip to Mauritius in September. Also, our point-of-departure will be London (SO and I are London-based for a few months). Would we have to use a foreign insurer, or would a US travel insurer work even though the trip doesn't originate / end in the US? Thanks!

Here are three companies: SquareMouth, InsureMyTrip and QuoteWright. I don't think the point-of-departure will matter. 

Yes, I really enjoyed the China canal article. The whirlwind Asia trip I thought was kinda odd. But I like being in one place to soak it up rather than running to the airport every other day.

Yep, I heard you -- I tend to be one of those travelers, too, but I found it fun to read about somebody who travels differently than I do.

Is there an English-language website with information on France's high speed train system (routes, schedules, fares)? Is it true that it's possible to purchase the train tickets here in the US for less?

There sure is, and you sure can.

I am going to be traveling to LA for work (staying in the Santa Monica area). I was planning on spending a day in LA doing whatever on Saturday in mid May before returning on Sunday. I will not do Hollywood --dont care one bit for that. Same true for disney. I am debating on either driving up to Santa barbara area or taking an overnight to Catalina or a day trip to the Channel Islands. Anything youve done?

I haven't done the Channel Islands but hear it's a beautiful place. I have done Catalina and Santa Barbara. I loved them both. It depends on what you're in the mood for. Catalina might be a more relaxing side trip. Eating and maybe a boat trip are probably the most popular activities. There is a lot to do and see in Santa Barbara (wine country, good night life), so I think you'd be running around a lot more there.

The brand new Dali museum just opened in St Pete; biggest collection of Dali in the US and a gorgeous building. Nearby is a Chiluly gallery as well. And downtown St Pete has great restaurants and music venues along Central Ave and Beach drive. The Don Ce Sar hotel looks like a giant pink castle and a great beach.

Yes, indeed. Cue the plug for our recent Impulsive Traveler on St. Petersburg.

I second that. I just visited the Dali museum with my family, and it was lots of fun. 

Eight month olds are pretty portable, and if your baby has a good disposition will be happy doing anything with you. But there are some great child-focused options in Boston. The Public Garden is home to the duck pond made famous in the childrens' book 'Make Way for Ducklings', and also features bronze sculptures of all the ducks in the story. Read the book in advance, and take your baby there to see the statues, and maybe even ride on a swan boat. Great photo ops, even if the baby won't remember. And the Boston Children's Museum is one of the best, and has lots of activities for babies. They are open Friday nights in addition to usual daytime hours. Have a great trip.

Indeed on both! Thanks. The duckling statue is a classic, and the Children's Museum is fab. It's also not too far from there to the Institute of Contemporary Art.

I have the opportunity to go to China for school this summer, from mid June to beginning of July. The prof. estimated a flight cost of $1,800 roundtrip. I would be flying in and out of Beijing. Does this sound about what I should expect to pay? I did a few quick searches and that is fairly consistent with what I found, although I did find one fare for about $1,600. I won't be able to book until mid to late March, so the fares I am seeing now may not be around then. I am also trying to add in a trip to Tokyo -- either on the way to or from Beijing (I am leaning toward DC-Tokyo-Beijing-DC, but may still add Tokyo at the end of my trip). Aside from the usual places (Expedia, Kayak, etc.) are there any other good places to search for good fares to these destinations, and what would be considered a decent price for this? Or any place I should be checking out for specials? I'm really hoping to be able to do all the flights for around $1,800-1,900. Am I crazy to be hoping for this price? I know a few years ago I could have gone round trip for $1,000, so I am really hoping I can make this happen for less than $2,000.

I would sign up for fare alerts, such as FareCompare, AirfareWatch.com and the airlnes that fly to China. But also  check with a student travel company, such as STA Travel. They might be able to direct you to cheaper fare or offer ideas on student savings.

Hi there, Sorry that this is a rather specific question. I'll be heading to East Africa for one year for work, am on a very tight budget, and am trying to figure out the cheapest way to get there. So far, I am seeing that buying a round trip ticket won't really work -- it seems you can't buy a round trip if your return date is one year later. Is that accurate? If so, any tips for getting round-trip prices with two one-way tickets? Thanks!

Yes, that is accurate - if you're going for more than a year, can't book a round-trip ticket. It's sometimes cheaper to buy a round-trip ticket and then throw the second part away and do that again when you're ready to return, although many airlines prohibit this in the legal language attached to your ticket. You may also want to contact a travel agency that specializes in Africa, such as Go2Africa or Cape to Cairo.

Hi dream team! I am starting to plan a Cruisetour to Alaska in 2012. Can you tell me what are the top 5 LAND musts please? plus those ports that we should not miss. It's a vast territory to compress in 10-15 days! Thanks for your help.

I don't think I can give you everything you want, but when my parents did this, they really enjoyed Ketchikan and Skagway. Of course, you need to see if you can work in Denali National Park.

I disagree with some of the advice given. First off what I would look to do is fly into San Fran first and then drive down to San Diego. Reason one: you will be on the coast side near the water and will be easier to pull over and take pics of the water. Reason two: you can much more easily fly directly to SFO or OAK in the evening than to San Diego. For a trip I figure you look to fly out say on Friday night after work on a direct and then fly back on the following Sunday.


One thing to remember when coming back you should buffer a day because of jet lag. Another thing, fly a red eye back or not? I live on the west coast and travel for family or work to the east coast on a regular basis during the year. It's easier flying east to west than west to east. 


By flying into San Fran you can do stuff in San Fran without a car for a couple of days and then after you are done with San Fran you then go get your car and then drive south. San Fran you can get around on foot so you will pay the rental fee and the parking fees for the car for the 2 or 3 days.


Based on your directions you would have them drive through LA during morning rush hour: What fun. Instead.....change the drive pattern. If you start in San Diego don't do a third night; instead spend the day there and then drive up to the north part of LA and stay and then bypass morning rush hour traffic. If you drive south, you can spend the evening in Santa Barbara and then drive south through LA at night with a late arrival either someplace in between LA and San Diego or drive down to San Diego.


Also with air fares look at all airlines and all airport possibilities. You may find cheaper airfare flying into Oakland than SFO or cheaper flying out of Long Beach, LAX, or another SoCal airport than flying out of San Diego.


If I heard them planning such a thing I would tell them do a loop trip out of one airport and then drive back inland along I-5 or Rte 99, and if you can, fit in Yosemite Valley at this time because it will be at its peak for waterfalls.


I would suggest they fly into SF on Friday night. Spend all day Saturday and Sunday in SF. Monday morning rent a car for a week and drive down to Monterey and stay Monday and Tuesday night. Drive down Wednesday along the coast down to San Luis Obispo. Thursday do San Ynez Valley, Solvang, and Santa Barbara. Drive down for Thursday night in Irvine/Huntington Beach area. Friday drive down to San Diego and spend Friday, Saturday, and part/all of Sunday there and your return flight would be a redeye Sunday night.

I didn't write this Going Our Way, but I do write the column quite frequently, and  I can tell you that much of our advice is subjective.  Also, reading this particular column, it appears as if the person who sent in the question requested that the trip start in San Diego and end in San Francisco, which is probably why K.C. did it that way. But yes, for someone who just wants to make the trip with no reason for starting it in one city or another, your ideas are valid and make sense. Thanks for sharing.

I was on US Airways flights last month that were already using the zone boarding system. It's the same stupid system that United has been using for years. It really penalizes the aisle seat holders. Because by the time we get on the overheads are full. Loading back to front will always make the most sense. The zones mean that you have people blocking up the aisle as the window sitters at the front block those who are headed to the back while they heave their kitchen sinks up into the bins. They could still let the elites on first and then board back to front.

I asked US Airways about it, and the same spokesman says the airline knows, "We can't make everyone happy" when it comes to boarding. The boarding procedure I've heard the least complaints about is Southwest's, which is an orderly lineup followed by a free-for-all once you're on board. Sigh. If they could only make the overhead bins a little bigger, we'd probably eliminate half the complaints.

My brief experience there was in a hostel not a hotel, which was fine. But Genoa itself did not impress. Big, loud, crowded, dirty port city. If the ambience of a beautiful coastal town is what you're looking for, I'd pick a smaller town outside of Genoa.

You are not the first person I have heard this from.

On the last day of a white-water rafting trip in West Virginia, my travel companions and I decided to find a secluded river spot to fish, swim, and relax before our 4 hour drive home. We stopped at a gas station and asked the attendant if he knew of a good spot. A bus driver for a local white-water rafting tour group overheard us and volunteered to lead us to a great location. We drove behind him for what seemed an endless amount of time down tiny, winding roads alongside the river, wondering if we had somehow wandered into a "Deliverance" scenario... Finally, we arrived at a gorgeous clearing with a rock shelf jutting out over the river, a great little "diving rock" a short ways out, and plenty of space to grill, lay out, and enjoy the wonderful West Virginian views! Sometimes talking to strangers is a good thing!

What a great find! Thanks for sharing.

I'm having tickets held before I book tomorrow. Fly into London, out of Paris. They are about $1,400 a piece. I know they're too high, but shoudl I just go for it? Complicating matters is that I have a $1,250 credit with Delta, so I can't shop around for either competitors or different dates (due to work scheduling).

May is coming up fast. My crystal ball doesn't show any mega sales in the works, but can't promise that there won't be better fares in the next few weeks. Also can't promise that they won't go up. You have several constraints - flying into one city and out of another, and needing to go on Delta - so  I would probably book and not look back.

Depending on where in the metro area you are leaving from - you might want to consider heading south on I-81 - although I-66 is probably pretty congested at rush hour.

Yes, that idea crossed my mind too. But I agree, I-66 all the way out to Manassas at least can be rather unpleasant.

I also liked the piece on unusual sites in Delhi. However, I didn't understand the author's belief that one would normally not find Delhi very interesting. Perhaps when you do articles about sites off the beaten path, you could link to a previous story on more conventional sites in the same place...then we'd have more of a context. Thank you.

Well, I don't think she QUITE said that, did she? She said she arrived without great first impressions. But to your larger point, we do try to link to previous stories when we can, but will pay closer attention to that... Thanks!

The link to your chat on the WashPo front page says the chat starts at 1 p.m.

Sigh. Thanks -- we're having that fixed.

I nearly missed a train from Cambridge to London because all of the signs except the one at the correct track had the wrong track number posted. I was sort of pacing around waiting for the train and happened to glance at the correct track sign as the train was pulling in. I had to run but I made it.

Wow. Glad you made it!

We will be in Richmond in May. Any good restaurants we should know about? We like just about everything, except Cajun food...

Check out Tom Sietsema's fairly recent Postcard from Virginia's capital. One of my favorite places downtown is Bottom's Up Pizza. Yum.

I am from the area around Ohio's Amish County. It is about 1 1/2 south of Cleveland. It would be an all day trip. Most of it is in Wayne County. A trip to the amish area is a lot of drive up and down hills, watching out for buggies, and stores. Check out Ohio's visitors site for more information, as there are a few places designed for tourist.

The amish country is ohio is more along the I-70 corridor east of Columbus near Zanesville area. this will be about 2 hrs outside of Cleveland.

Could the person heading to Paris also perhaps fly to Brussels and then take the train to Paris? I think fares to Brussels are usually a good bit cheaper, no?

You can save a couple hundred flying into Brussels, but add the cost of the train and the hassle, and I don't think it's worth it.

We are staying at the Tradewinds Sandpiper Suites hotel but we are definitely willing to travel. My sister is at college at USF but has only been there for a while and doesn't know a lot about the area so we will be picking her up in Tampa some days. My mom also wants to try a trip to Sarasota.

The Tradewinds is in St. Pete right? Well if you are heading into Tampa anyway, like I said, Ybor City is worth a visit. If you are only there one weekend, though, I'm not sure you can fit in a trip to Sarasota. Becky linked to our Impulsive Traveler on St. Pete in an earlier question. And like Chris said, you should check out the new Dali museum.

Hi, I suggested that 5 of us girls who are high school friends do a get together in one of the cities somewhere in middle America to catch up. The only issue is they all said figure out and plan and we will be there :) Some of us are on the east coast and others are on west coast. So, I was thinking Santa Fe/Albuquerque/Chicago/New Orleans. Since we will only be meeting over the weekend with Friday being travel day our requirements are very basis. Site seeing, hang around, eat and talk. Las Vegas is an absolute no no. We will be going either in May or in September. Your input is highly appreciated. I am partial to New Mexico at this point, only b'coz none of us have ever been there.

New Mexico sounds cool, but I love, love, love Chicago. Great food town, easy to get around in a quick weekend. The weather in May or September will be lovely. And for people from all over the place, you shouldn't have problems finding good flight options at a fairly reasonable price. Check out our Illinois page for some Chicago stories.

I'd have to agree with Becky and cast my vote for Chicago. It is easy to get to and tons of fun. And it will be absolutely gorgeous that time of year.

For the travelers headed to Copenhagen, I would NOT go all the way to Stockholm. It's a very long train ride that would kill a whole day. However, some fun day trips out of Copenhagen include Malmo which is just across the Oresund bridge. The train ride take less than 30 mins IIRC. It's an interesting little city that is very walkable. I also took a day trip to Roskilde which has a giant cathedral where all the Danish royals are buried. It's a relatively short train ride out of Copenhagen. There are enough sites in Copenhagen to keep you busy for at least 3 days I would think.

Point taken on Stockholm. Thanks for the tips.

I lived in Ventura County. I looked at the Channel Islands every time I went out--and did a whale watching trip about this time of year (the whales migrate from Baja to Alaska). The Channel Islands are animal santuaries now, with controls on landing. Santa Barbara is a beautiful town, but full of Hollywood types and behaviors. I watched an Open Road episode which included Catalina, and I really want to go there. Apparently, Art Deco abounds.

Thanks for the input!

"It's sometimes cheaper to buy a round-trip ticket and then throw the second part away and do that again when you're ready to return, although many airlines prohibit this in the legal language attached to your ticket." Does this mean the airline would bill me the difference between a one-way and a round-trip ticket on my credit card? Or would I be billed the difference the next time I tried to book a ticket on their airline?

Airlines track this kind of buying behavior with fairly sophisticated software, and can either charge your travel agent the fare difference (what's called a debit memo) or charge you or arbitrarily deduct miles from your frequent flier account.

On Avenue Daumesnil in, I think, the 12th arrondissement, there's an old viaduct that used to transport trains. Now, for a couple of blocks, the arches below are enclosed with huge windows showing off lots of wonderful shops, and up above, where the tracks used to be, is a mile-long, albeit very narrow and very pretty park. (At least it was when I was there 3 years ago!)

Sounds lovely. Thank you!

I'm going to be in South America this summer for just more than a week. I'm meeting my husband in Argentina, and we'll spend the first few days in Buenos Aires. Then what? We were thinking about going to Mendoza and enjoying wine country, but that won't take up a whole week. It's a big continent, and I don't want to spend too much of our time traveling from place to place. Any ideas on where to go or anything that is a can't-miss? (I've been to Paraguay and Iguacu Falls before; he's spent time in Chile.)

Plenty of Argentina-bound travelers take the long drive (or flight) from BA to Bariloche, but if I were going, I'd also do Mendoza, and then just bulk up my Buenos Aires time to fill out the trip. But I'm a city guy.

Looking for a 6-day vacation in the Caribbean under $1100 with a friend. Do you think it's a realistic price range, flying out of the DC area? What island would you recommend for a balanced mix of diving/hiking/culture and beach time?

Is that for the two of you or per person? If it's per person, you can absolutely do a package to the Caribbean. But you will have to stick with islands that are often marketed to the D.C. area, such as Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, U.S.V.I. and Puerto Rico. Check the major online travel sites and specialized Caribbean travel sites (such as CheapCaribbean or Apple Vacations) for deals.

If you don't want to be tethered to the hotel, I would fly to Puerto Rico, rent a car and stay in paradores (family-run inns) around the country.

If that sum is for two people, trip planning will be tougher. You might be able to swing a short cruise to the Bahamas, departing from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

Is there an English-language website with info on the Paris Metro?

Of course. Several, actually, including this one.

And here's the system's English site specifically geared to tourists. I found that in other places on there, the little English flag doesn't always work!

The Tampa Bay area travelers could drive down to Sarasota without any trouble. It's only about 45 minutes from St Pete stright down I-275 over the Skyway bridge.

The Post ran a story called "9 Hotels for Roman Holidays," by Gary Lee, July 4, 2004.

Why, yes we did! That info is a little dated, but worth checking out. Thanks!

Between Key Largo and Islamorada, on the bay side, is a Wild Bird Sanctuary that rehabs injured birds. Go in the late afternoon (3-4ish) for feeding time. The pelicans put on quite a show. Also, from Islamorada, the Everglades is less than an hour and a half away. Totally worth a day if you have time. Catch the park ranger walk on the Anhinga Trail at 10 am, assuming the government hasn't closed down.

I'm getting married in the beginning of June, but my fiance and I aren't planning on taking our honeymoon until August (we're teachers and both doing grad school all summer). His brother has graciously offered to pay for our honeymoon - the only catch is that he wants it to be a surprise. He's been willing to take hints and suggestions, which leads to my question. We want a chill, beach place, most likely Caribbean, but not cliche/touristy. All Inclusive would be ideal. I've had my mind on Antigua for awhile, but have also heard St. John is amazing. Will the Caribbean be bombarded with rain in early August, or does the worst of the hurricane season happen later? If the Caribbean in August isn't a good idea, what other location would work, but still wouldn't be overly taking advantage of my future brother-in-law's generosity?

Hurricanes are a possibiity in August, but you should be OK, especially in early August. (Don't blame me if some rogue hurricane comes along - Hurricane Dennis in 2005, for example, hit in July). As to what island to go to, each has a personality. Dominica and St. John are good for nature lovers. Grand Cayman is nice for snorkeling. St. Barts offers luxury. As for touristy, most Caribbean islands cater to tourists, so you won't be the only people there. WhereToStay is a good site for familiarizing yourself with the island personalities and price points. As for other ideas, maybe the Florida Keys? Hawaii would be nice, but would cost more.

Hi - I hope I am not too late! My husband and I are traveling to China for two weeks at the end of April (our first trip to Asia together!). I have been following airfare, and thing seem to be stabilizing after an initial fuel price surge. I am now seeing roundtrips from Dulles at about $1300/person. Do you think this is a good price??? Thanks!

I am finding $1,110 (Korean Air, from Dulles), so keep searching the Web and sign up for fare alerts. If you find a fare for under a grand, you are my hero.

What heppens to the festival if we get a government shut down on March 18th or so and it lasts a few weeks? All cancelled? Isn't the tidal basin run by the Parks department?

Nah, not canceled. The festival is run by a nonprofit group that organizes all the events. While the Parks Department does maintain the grounds around the tidal basin, a spokesman for the festival assures me that in the case of a government shutdown, they don't expect the Parks Department to bar visitors from the area, which is really the only thing that would jeopardize the event.

I am traveling to Italy and wanted a recommendation for a woman's under-the-shirt passport holder. Any thoughts? Thanks

I have an older Travel 2000 product that goes around your neck, but I don't think it's made any longer. Take a look at these offerings on Amazon.

The trail to Machu Picchu closes for a month each year (sometimes February), so I'd check for that before making plans.

Thanks everyone for chatting with us. Please join us again next Monday at noon (not 1 p.m. as our Web site indicated. Error taken care of.) Until then, have a great week. And to the person who found the old viaduct in Paris, please email me at trejosn@washpost.com for your prize. Take care!

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