Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Mar 19, 2018

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
Have a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel section's editors and writers are at your service.
Past Talk about Travel chats

Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel. In this week's section, Liz Langley recounts flying from Orlando to Philadelphia for the day -- because sometimes you just need to get out of town. What's the most impulsive travel decision you ever made? Tell us about it below. Most compelling answer gets a copy of "Galapagos: A Traveler's Introduction," by Wayne Lynch. On to your questions!

We're taking a cruise this summer, and the cruise line offers the option to prepay the recommended tips. How do you think this affects the service? If we don't prepay, will we get better service because there's still a chance to make us want to tip above the recommended amount? Or worse service because they think we're cheap and won't tip at all?

I don't think it matters. So many people prepay tips that you won't stand out. It's basically the norm. Remember, there are people who aren't included in this gratuity pot, such as shore excursion guides, kids' club employees, the guy who delivers room service, etc. And even if you prepay, you can always give extra if you feel service was above and beyond. 

Three nights in Las Vegas before a national parks vacation (staying in lodges in the parks, booked 13 months in advance). Never been to LV, and there are SO many places to choose from... We're usually happy enough at a Hampton Inn, but hey, this is Las Vegas... We're not gamblers, but want to soak in some of the atmosphere--the lights, good food, a show or two. Anyone have a favorite hotel to recommend--on or off the Strip? and we wonder if the north or south end of the strip is more convenient/interesting?

I stayed at the Venetian on the Strip last summer, and it was very nice. Luxurious room, not as crazy as some of the other Strip hotels. Got a good deal via I know that downtown Las Vegas is getting a lot of buzz, but if you've never been there before, you're probably better off staying right on the Strip. As for what end to stay on, there's a tram that connects things, so not that important. Chatters have favorite places to stay? 

Please help me find a good destination to spend 5 days vacation alone. Criteria: U.S. (not west coast) or Canada, good culture and arts, cute cafes and tasty restaurants, interesting buildings, walkable, mild in summer (max 82 high temp). Thank you!

I would recommend Montreal, Quebec City or Toronto. Also, the Thousand Islands area is delightful.

We're planning a car trip to Canada in late June (time off already scheduled and rooms already booked). My passport expires in mid-July, a few weeks AFTER we'll return to the U.S. According to a State Dept website, entry into Canada from the U.S. only requires that the passport be "Valid at time of entry." Since we only average one international trip a year (usually in the summer), I'd prefer to wait to renew it until later in the year so that the next one will hopefully carry me through an extra summer trip. Of course, who knows what will happen in 10 years. Am I correct in my assumptions, or is there some other reason I should renew it now rather than wait until later? Thanks!

Most countries require you to have a passport that's valid for anywhere from three to six months from the date of your arrival. As far as I can tell, Canada doesn't. But if you're flying back, you may have to show a valid passport on your return. It's not worth the risk. I would renew your passport now.

Our family of 5 (mom, dad and three children 18-24 yrs) are going on a cruise that begins and ends in Venice, Italy this fall for Thanksgiving. We will visit the Greek Islands. We want to extend our trip after the cruise and are looking for suggestions that are reasonable in cost. We have never been to Europe before. Two schools of thought: do we stay in Italy and discover it more thoroughly? Or try to see as much of Europe as possible? We will extend 5-7 days after the 7-day cruise. Thank you for your response.

You may not want to stay exclusively in Italy, but you definitely don't want to see as much of Europe as possible in less than one week. Maybe spend a night in Venice and then visit Florence and Rome before heading to a city outside Italy. My favorites include Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, London and Barcelona.   

Hi, Heading to London in May. Would like to take tour(s) of old, abandoned Tube stations. Do you know if this is possible? And if it is, do you have info to book? Many thanks!

It looks like "Hidden London" tours are available through the London Transport Museum -- check them out here

Some really bad press (and things) going on for United with all of the dog-handling issues they have had lately. Wondering if the airlines just ought to put animals on special flights in coach and treat them (Gasp!) just like people.

Pet Airways already exists. I think airlines are just trying to make sense of all the comfort animals that passengers are trying to bring into the main cabin. A pets-only airline makes some sense. Who knows, it might be more comfortable than economy class.

We're planning to go to Kenya in October, know what we want to do and where we want to stay. How reliable is booking directly with hotels versus using a travel agency, or a site like Trip Advisor?

If you're traveling to Kenya, I would consider using a travel agent. And not just any agent, but one who specializes in Africa. You can find a list of qualified agents on the American Society of Travel Agents site. An Africa expert can ensure you don't end up at the wrong hotel on the wrong side of town, which in a place like Kenya could really affect the quality of your vacation.

Six years ago my wife and I adopted an eight-year-old girl from New Delhi, India. This year, now that she’s 14, I would like to take my entire family including my 20-year-old son to India for three weeks. I have only been once before, when we traveled to pick up my daughter from her orphanage. That trip was exclusively about her. Now we want to go back and see that beautiful country, as much as we can in three weeks. I am interested in both north and south India. I am most interested in the cultural, spiritual and geographic features of the country. We must visit Delhi, as my daughter wants to search for her family. But it is not the only reason for our trip. I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to contact a travel agency unnecessarily, as I am concerned about being sold destinations and arrangements not in my best interest. Can you provide guidance on the best way to make arrangements, to learn more, and to plan our trip?

What a lovely family vacation! I'd likely start by boning up on basics about India via guide books and Web sites. One good place to start is the official tourism site. And don't automatically reject going through a travel agent. Chatters know of a good travel agent that specializes in India?

I could really use a couple/few days away just to relax and re-charge, but have no interest in spa stuff like massages and facials or in luxurious accommodations. I'd love to find someplace with meditation and yoga in the mountains or by the water or both. It could be local but I wouldn't mind a short (less than 3 hours?) flight if there were some decompression at the end of it.

I've not been to this place, but have heard good things. Check out the Retreat at Veritas in Afton, Va. 

Thank you Liz for a great article. "I live in Florida, a stupidly long peninsula which is harder to get out of than a wedding invitation — at least by car." Never have truer words been spoken. Signed, FL resident who spends way too much time in his car.

Glad you enjoyed the piece! If you missed it, read it here.

I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing you'd like - but consider Yogaville. It's beautiful ground, there's wonderful yoga etc., good vegetarian food. It is an ashram - so not luxurious. But if it's the sort of thing you like, I've spent time there and loved it.

Thanks for the recommendation! Here's a Travel piece on Yogaville from a while back.

When my Army unit finished a training exercise in 2007, we were told we'd get to take "max leave," a term no one had heard, if we qualified on our weapons. I did, so I found Puerto Vallarta package deal (hotel and air) and went for a long weekend. Two different friends have been there in the past month, and their pictures make me want to go back!

My impulses rarely take me far, but they take me regularly. The first one was when I was out buying cat food, shortly after moving to the DC area, I was on Leesburg Pike, and I saw a sign that said Leesburg 24 miles. And next thing I knew, I was checking out Leesburg. Now, every once in a while I just "let the car decide" where to go. In this way I've been to St Michaels, Lancaster, Luray, I've driven Skyline Drive, came across Sky Meadows, wound up touring Montpelier and Monticello. I had no idea Harpers Ferry was where it was until I meandered through it. Sometimes the trip isn't all that great (one time I drove for several hours, from one traffic jam to another - I wound up going home and taking a nap instead), but for the most part it's a great way to see things - and this area has so very much to see within just a few hours' drive!

...was to go down to Union Station, get a train ticket for Montreal leaving the next day, and then once in Canada got a VIA railpass. Spent the time hopping from one city to another on no particular schedule - just depended on how I felt in the morning for whether to stay wherever I was for another day, or decide to go somewhere else. Same for getting off the train - sometimes I got off the train at a station, just because. The Canadian Rockies by rail was specTACular!

My father used to love to surprise the family with trips and often, a cousin or two would be fortunate enough to be visiting at the time Dad decided to pick up and go. Two of my favorite memories are of a planned two-week trip to Virginia Beach, which ended up being a drive to Miami Beach for ten days (a last minute bet with Mom as we were nearing Virginia Beach as to how long it would take to drive down to Miami Beach ... Dad won!) and the time Dad gathered us all up in the car to go out for ice cream and ended up driving all the way to NYC. The desk clerk seemed a bit surprised to see two adults and four children requesting adjoining rooms with absolutely no luggage or toiletries! Thank goodness for a nearby drug store. And thanks, Dad, for instilling a sense of adventure in me.

Was at a professional conference in southern Germany, which had a day of "field trips" scheduled in the middle of the conference. I wasn't interested in the field trips, but did have a Eurail pass, so took the night train to Paris, and saw the Louvre -- the I.M. Pei pyramid had just opened the month before! Had a great time, and another night train back to southern Germany, where my fellow attendees were astonished and jealous... (of course, back then, I could fall asleep on night trains)

Today's code is TT5456. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating.

On a whim we just booked a weekend in Atlanta (what can I say, it was 15 degrees here last night). We get in late Friday night and leave Sunday afternoon, so really one full day on Saturday. Thoughts on the best use of our time? I'm a big museum and history buff. Extra points for weird history...Thanks!

Atlanta is packed with history, so you might want to focus on one period of history, such as Civil Rights. For this chapter in US history, I recommend the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the King Center, the MLK National Historic Park and his birth home. For a cultural break, check out the Goat Farm Arts Center, a visual and performing arts center. For creepy weirdness, I suggest the CDC Museum or the Doll's Head Trail.

My favorite hotel in Vegas on the strip is the Aria - modern, spacious rooms; amazing spa; nice enough pool (although sometimes slow service); and while you have to walk through the casino to get to your room, they have really high ceilings and a good air filtration system so you never smell cigarette smoke like some of the older hotels. We've never had trouble getting a taxi or uber to get to a show or dinner elsewhere on the strip. Also, if you don't have kids or can sneak away for an adults-only drink, go next door to the Mandarin's top floor bar for a gorgeous view of the strip at night.

Thanks for the insights.

We've stayed at Vdara the last four times we went to Las Vegas. The rooms are nice and include a full-size fridge. You can request a Bellagio fountain view. It's non-gaming and doesn't have any clubs so it offers a low-key experience and is also just steps from Aria and Bellagio.

Thanks for the info. If the chatter is looking for something even more low key than  Vdara, I also stayed at the Desert Rose Resort, which is  inexpensive timeshare spot just off the strip. It was simple, but clean. 

your poster will be fine - their passport expires once they are safely back in the US so absolutely no need for them to renew.

Thanks. I'm a little conservative when it comes to these things. If your trip lasts longer than expected, you might find yourself visiting an embassy or consulate and applying for a passport.

Sorry, Christopher, but I disagree with your recommendation that the OP renew her passport now for a trip to Canada. The OP stated that her passport was valid until July and the proposed trip to Canada was scheduled for June. Canada does not require passports be valid for any certain time after entry, so her passport will get her into Canada and back into the US. There is no reason that she needs to get a new passport before this trip if she doesn’t want to.

I appreciate the feedback. There's a lot of conflicting information about passport validity out there, and I think it's better to play it safe. 

I'm hoping to plan a long weekend somewhere warm this fall. It's a milestone birthday for both me and my mom! :) We've been thinking maybe 4 days at an all-inclusive, perhaps the Dominican Republic or somewhere similar (we're in the DC area). Any recommendations? We'd rather not do Mexico (already done) or Costa Rica (would prefer to have longer there so we can explore). Also, how much of a concern is zika? My husband and I are trying to conceive, so I don't know if we need to factor in zika or if it's mostly under control?

 I am going to be honest: I don't recommend an all-inclusive in DR. You might feel relaxed but you won't have a true cultural experience. If zika is a concern,  I recommend visiting one of the Out Islands in the Bahamas, which the CDC just removed from its list. Bermuda is also zika-free. However, if you are traveling during the fall, you need to be aware of hurricanes; the season runs from June-November.

You could also consider Carolina, Kure or Wrightsville beaches in N.C., which stay warm through the fall. Or rent a house on car-free Bald's Head Island. Or check out the Florida beaches along the Gulf Coast, such as St. Pete or the string of islands including Anna Maria Island and Siesta Key.

Perhaps fly over to Lisbon? It's not far from the Atlantic, so as a bonus you'd get to see another sea!

Another possibility

The poster asking about extending their cruise trip at a reasonable cost should look at visiting Slovenia. It is an easy drive from Venice, thus would eliminate the need for additional flights, trains, or open jaw transatlantic tickets. We found it less expensive than surrounding countries, yet with excellent food, wine, and welcoming people. Ljubljana has a nice castle, interesting architecture and fun cafe culture. Lake Bled is gorgeous and a great area for hiking. Just remember to buy a vignette for your rental car before you cross the border so you can legally drive on the highways!

An easy solution

I feel for pet owners, I honestly do. If the airlines are going to allow them on board, they need to treat them properly. That said, as a non-owner, there's got to be a better way. I haven't had to deal with the issue as I don't fly more than once or twice a year, but the idea of a plane full of people travelling with their pets is completely unappealing to me. As normal person with no disabilities (yet), no small children, no allergies, etc., I'm beginning to feel like the one who's being discriminated against.

The fastest way to start a fight in the comments section is to start talking about pets on planes. Here's what happened the last time I did that in the Navigator.

After a national parks trip, we ended in Vegas. We splurged on a fountain view room at the Bellagio, and joked that it was another fabulous "natural" water feature. They have plenty of pools, so you can find a spot as lively or as quiet as you like.

Bellagio is a nice place. 

Here is one in Nelson County

Serenity Ridge Retreat Center has an affiliation with the Bön Buddhist tradition of Tibet, but I don't know anything more about it. 

I was just typing that response. I was a bit skeptical since I got a very good deal via Groupon, but it was a great experience. I went by myself and did it as a silent retreat. Accommodations are definitely no-frills, but the single room I was in was clean and comfortable... even if getting up for 5 a.m. meditation wasn't very fun.

Another vote for Yogaville

This was my concern when I decided to make my first trip to visit my grandparents' homeland (in a remote part of Europe). I searched the internet for travel agencies claiming to specialize in the region, then sent each of the 20 most promising-sounding an individual email describing the itinerary I desired. Like the OP, I found that some tried to sell me "destinations and arrangements not in my best interest." However, one agency was an absolute standout, totally responsive to my wishes, and I was able to book a successful trip with them.

Travel agents are tricky. A good one can be worth his/her weight in gold, but there are some clunkers out there. Not sure whether India Tourism certifies travel agents that specialize in the country and have taken specific courses, etc. That would be one way to find a contender. Word of mouth also works well. 

Regular visitor here (going again on Friday!). I agree about staying on the strip for a first-time visit. I would recommend something in the center strip - Caesar's, Bellagio, Paris, Cosmopolitan, etc. Although there is the monorail, I find it a huge pain to use (plus walking the strip to see the various sites is my favorite part). My recommendation would also depend on the time of year. If you are going in the summer and like pools, then Flamingo and MGM are good less-expensive bets. My favorite place is the Nobu hotel within Caesar's because it feels decidedly NOT like a casino hotel, but is still within a giant casino/resort complex (and home to my favorite spa). Too spendy for my upcoming trip, but have scored good deals there in the past by booking directly on their website.

Who knew we had all these Vegas experts among our chatters? Thanks!

My extended family is looking to book a relaxing week in Colorado with great views, outdoor activities, and visiting some family that lives there. However, some of us have had trouble with altitude sickness in the past, so I'm trying to figure out where the lower elevation areas are. I know it's all pretty high, but I'd rather book a week in a 4-5,000 ft elevation area than an 8,000 ft elevation area. Any ideas?

I'm a big fan of Colorado Springs (elevation 6035 feet), which has lots of great hiking, museums, outdoor activities and the Air Force Academy. Chatters, any lower lying areas you'd recommend?

I would stay in Italy. You get off the boat in Venice in the morning - you want at least the whole day to explore. Florence and Rome are worth a couple of days each and could be reached by a half day train trip. If you really think you can see each city in a day then from Rome do a day trip to Pompeii. If you travel to another country you spend time in airports. Another thing to consider is you are now doing open-jaw flights. That is to say you fly from US to Venice and will be flying back from another city - could be costly.

I agree on some levels, but if you've never been to Europe and you want to maximize the trip, may be worth it to see a city outside Italy. But anyone could easily spend several weeks touring Italy and never get bored. It has so much to offer, from Sicily to the Amalfi Coast to the Dolomites -- I could go on. 

I would suggest Ottawa as well. There are plenty of museums to visit when it's raining, the architecture is interesting, there is the Gatineau Park and the Rideau Canal next door if you are an outdoor person and the Central Block on Parliament Hill (the Parliament of Canada) is open for the last time this summer before closing for major renovations for the next ten years. It's usually not too warm during the summer, but just to be sure I would suggest going in June-beginning of July rather than in September. Big plus, on July 1st, it's Canada Day and there is a lot of free activities going on.

Great suggestion. Thanks!

I second the suggestion of Montreal. It's walkable and easy to navigate, the museums are awesome, and it's full of excellent restaurants with super friendly employees. My favorites were le Vin Papillion, Cardinal tea room, and Larry's. One could easily spend a couple of days in the art museum alone!

Thanks for the additional ideas!

Halifax, Nova Scotia; Charlottetown, Prince Edward island.

All good picks!

I'm Indian so the few times we've used a travel agent, we've booked through one in India recommended by relatives. The chatter should give East-West Travel a call (202.833.6068). They specialize in India and we always use them for our airline tickets. They're very helpful. Three weeks to see a large part of India is probably not feasible. The country is so vast and is very inefficient. On the other hand, if the chatter is can figure out what they really want to see and is willing to spend $$, they can get 1st class treatment which will reduce many of the delays.

Thanks for the recommendation. 

Does anyone have any hotel recommendations in the Phoenix area for a family with two young teens? We’re visiting family in Mesa so we want to be able to drive to their place in 20-30 minutes, and we’d like a pool. Looking at online reviews has been overwhelming and we’re running out of time to make plans for spring break next month. Also looking for activities (besides Grand Canyon, which we’ll be visiting before Phoenix). Thanks, writers and travelers!

In Phoenix, I recommend the Musical Instrument Museum and the Desert Botanical Garden. I also wrote about neighboring Scottsdale last year, so here some ideas for your family.

Most PHX properties have pools because it's so gosh-darn hot. I am not sure of your budget, but here are some family-friendly suggestions: Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa (in Chandler),  Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort,  JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa or the Arizona Biltmore.

Also consider Boston! LOTS of history of course, plenty of arts & culture with all the universities/colleges and associated museums, some funky little neighborhoods and good restaurants, and it's close. Went to grad school there (native DC person) and was surprised how much it had to offer.

Another good idea. You can also spend a day or two on Cape Cod and visit the Edward Gorey museum, one of my favorite places.

I need to get to Austin from DC on a weekend in July. Tickets all appear to run me $440 to $550. My dates aren't flexible though the times are and if I am going to fly from anywhere other than DCA it needs to be enough less expensive to cover the shuttle cost. Am I just out of luck on the prices and it costs this much to got to TX? This seems absurd

Airfares are high to Austin, always. It's no cheaper to fly Southwest out of BWI or United out of Dulles. You can keep checking and hope for a sale -- JetBlue may come through with a cheaper fare -- but it's not a sure thing. 

How much do you like theater? How cute do the cafes have to be? I love Stratford, Ontario. The plays are fantastic. There are some very nice restaurants, though I have never gone to the really high end places. Plenty of mid-level places have sidewalk tables. You can get take away to picnic along the river and chuck bread at the swans. There are a few art galleries, but only one small museum (related to the festival). Several book stores to browse. House made candy shops. Basically it has everything that really works for me for a vacation alone, except the big museums you get in a real city. The town teenagers are hired to keep all the public spaces well manicured and the flowers blooming. Right time of year and you will see migrating Monarch butterflies. Pedal boats to rent. I find it wonderfully peaceful.

Sounds adorable!

I'm supposed to go to Austin, Tx, this weekend for a long weekend with a friend. Given the recent bombings there, we're wondering if we should cancel or go elsewhere, and we're wondering your thoughts on the matter?

I would go. I'm no statistician, but I'm guessing that the chances of you becoming a bombing victim in Austin are far less than the chances of you getting in a car accident in Washington. 

London Walks has some fabulous tours. I don't know if they have one of abandoned tube stations, but they do one of the Victorian tunnel under the Thames. It was fabulous. No need to book in advance. Just show up at the meeting place and pay cash. Easy peasy.

Great to know. Thanks!

We're headed to Maine this weekend for the first time and will be staying a few days each in Portland and Bar Harbor. Do you have any suggestions for activities or places to eat please? We'd like to spend some time outdoors but would also appreciate indoor suggestions, given the weather outlook may not be great and we might need something warm. Thanks for any advice!

I've been to Maine several times, but always in summer. Portland has a fairly sophisticated dining scene -- spot called Duckfat is a favorite. Not sure about restaurants in Bar Harbor. As far as what to do, can't really help, as I spent all my time outdoors. Getting a big late in chat for others to weigh in, but we can post any suggestions next week. 

Boulder is great! Lots of stuff to see & do, and with the university there, plenty of energy. Also not that far from Denver, but still in the (lower) mountains.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Hey there, Spring break plans fell through and now I have to find something to do with an 11 and 15 year old (girls) within a few days. I'll be going it alone since my spouse has to work. We were trying to decide between going for a few days to Philly or the Omni Homestead. Or - door number three if you have a better idea within a few hours drive for just a few days. Help!

I have girls the same ages, and we've done family trips to both places. If you're solo parenting it, the Homestead might be more relaxing, since once you get there your work is basically done; on the other hand Philadelphia is closer, which might be a factor since you're the only one driving. It also depends on your travel style -- do the kids appreciate downtime or expect more of a go-go-go experience? In terms of near proximity, I will say that we recently went to Baltimore for a super-quick family getaway and had a really nice time -- between the Baltimore Aquarium and the American Visionary Arts Museum, we had plenty to do.

For the 5-day solo vacationer. Temps not too hot, lots of plays at the Shaw Festival (which offers more than only Shaw plays), both fine and modest dining. And (duh!) it's on Lake Ontario.

We're going to Lima and Cusco/Machu Picchu in October. The Lima Airport site says that if you come without a yellow fever vaccination, you must get one in the airport before being allowed into the country. We'd prefer to avoid the hassle at that time. Everything else I read says that the immunization is not required for anywhere we're going. Any insights?

The State Department recommends the vaccination, but the CDC says: "Proof of yellow fever vaccination is not required for entry into Peru. Travelers who are limiting their itineraries to Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, and the Inca Trail do not need yellow fever vaccination."

I would reach out to the Peruvian consulate or embassy and go with whatever they say. (I don't entirely trust the airport Web site.) Yellow fever vaccination is limited at the moment, because the YF-Vax supply has run out and travel clinics are using an alternative. The shot will cost you about $250.

I made a land (well, river) crossing into Mexico a few years ago and was in the Mexican customs office with a man who did not realize that his U.S. passport had expired until after he was in Mexico. The return entry was an unmanned kiosk in a ranger station, and the guy was on the phone with El Paso for longer than the rest of us, but in the end they let him back in. (Don't see how they could have detained him anyway.) I do not recommend this, but it seems that CBP does realize that sometimes people make mistakes.

Thank you for sharing your story.

I live in Upstate NY and we are still mired in snow. I'm already starting to plan a warm getaway for next winter. I lived on the West Coast for many years so spent a lot of time in Hawaii, but that seems like too much of a trek for only a week. Can you recommend a good Caribbean destination for a first-timer? We love to hike and enjoy nature and peace and quiet. Something like Kauai would be fabulous! Thank you!

Before the hurricanes, I would have said Dominica, but no time right now to read up on its latest recovery efforts. Check out its Web site

I really liked Fort Collins when I lived in Colorado. They had lots of weekend festivals and the old town area is very walkable with shops, dining and entertainment. It depends on the time of year if the festivals are inside or outside. (Elevation about 5000 feet)

Thanks for the insights!

We used ATR - Africa Travel Resources for our trip a few years back - even if you don't use them, their web site has a list of every place they work with (lodges, etc) that you can review. We elected to get a private driver/guide, and that worked really well. We chose some upscale places and a few others that were good, but not too upscale, depending on location. They were great to work with - although they are based in the UK, so the exchange rate may play into your price. Get the trip insurance if you go!

Good to know. Thanks!

I stayed at the Embassy Suites right near the Biltmore. Nice pool and family-friendly since the rooms are two-room suites and include breakfast. Second the instrument museum and botanical garden - and of course the famous Pizzeria Bianco.

Thanks for the help. Much appreciated!

One thing about the Las Vegas strip hotels that's daunting is that in most, access to the rooms is a long way from the garages and often involves a lengthy walk through the casinos. That's not necessarily the way you want to start and end every day, especially if you're not there to gamble. There are perfectly comfortable off-strip motels, some with kitchenettes, that will still keep you in the heart of the city. I've had good luck with the Tuscany, about two blocks from the Paris and the Flamingo.

Great point. I have spent many scary moments lost inside casino-hotels.

A final trio of impulsive-travel tales for the road:

In the late 90's, while living in Nashville, a homesick Canadian friend and I were hanging out at a bar and talking about Tim Horton doughnuts, which in those days were not readily available in the United States. In fact, the closest place that you could get them was in Ohio. About 9 pm we decided a road trip was in order. We drove all night (taking turns sleeping), and called in sick to work the next morning, and rolled in about 11 am. After a doughnut feast we found a super cheap motel, sacked out for a few hours, and hit the road home, arriving just in time to drop me off at home so I could shower and change for work. I spent my lunch hour napping in a locked conference room. That was the longest work day of my life, but totally worth it.

When I was studying in Brussels, every Saturday morning, I was getting up, grabbing breakfast and heading up to the train station to book a ticket for the next coming train to spend the day in another city. In two months, I visited Bruges, Antwerp, Namur, Luxemburg, Lilles, Lieges, Leuven, Gent. Every time it was a brand new adventure and I loved entering the train station without knowing where I would be going next!

We were living in Salem, MA, headed across the NY Thruway to Cleveland to meet up with my BIL and his wife and see some art. Somewhere west of Rochester we saw a sign advising drivers going Niagara Falls to take a specific exit, and as my husband turned to me to ask, "Have you ever been?" I was already reaching into the back seat for the atlas (pre-smartphone days!). We took the detour, saw the falls, went to the Canadian side (pre-9/11 days as well! We weren't carrying our passports) and drove down to Buffalo before crossing back into the U.S. It meant getting into Cleveland *really* late, but it was totally worth it, and just one more time that my husband and I were totally on the same wavelength.

How about Richmond or Williamsburg, VA.?

Done both -- these are also great suggestions, thanks!

way back when the airlines would have you pay a small fee, then every monday you could call and find out what places you could travel to and the flights and times for the upcoming weekend. My friend lived in mexico city and she was going back for spring break (we were in Atlanta) -- and Mexico City came up. So I talked with her and then the plans were made for me to join her for the weekend. So much fun! so so much fun! just two days but I got a great flavor of the city and my friend's family was so wonderful.

One last impulsive travel tale (those were the days).

Looks like we're out of time -- thanks for chatting today, everyone! Child of impulsive-traveling dad, please drop us a line at to claim your prize. And join us here again next week for more Talk About Travel.

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