Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Mar 21, 2016

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, welcome to Talk About Travel. For many of us it's the first day of Spring Break. Got plans? Heading south to get a jump on summer or to higher altitudes for a last-chance snow angel? Tell us where and why below. Most compelling answer gets a colorful Travel-section beach ball -- it's practically summer, right? 

Hello Is there any cheaper alternative to get to Miami from Fort Lauderdale airport. The options on the airport website are very expensive for a party of 4. Thanks

You can take Tri-Rail from the Fort Lauderdale airport to Miami airport, if that's where you need to go. If you want to go to Miami Beach, you'd have to then take a bus.  

At the last chat, you mentioned that you'd check into the possibility that Jucy van RVs (or something similiar) are available for purchase. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

I have the answer, and I am tempted to buy one too!

We do sell our vehicles at the end of the season though we currently don’t have this advertised (coming soon). If anyone is interested they can call Jen on 424-456-4830 and we can organise more information and a test drive.

After choosing a flight through Spirit Airlines with Ultimate Rewards (UR), a message came up saying that flight was not available. I then booked a similar flight on Delta, paid extra because there weren't enough points and received a confirmation message. Three days later, I find that I DO have the flight on Spirit who will not return my points to UR. UR is taking no responsibility for what must have been their computer glitch. What can I do next? I have lost 20,400 points and $225. Thanks

That shouldn't have happened. I would try reaching out to one of these executive contacts at Spirit. If they can't help, please contact me directly.

I'm traveling to Turkey in two weeks from now. I have not consider canceling the trip but well, after so many attacks in such a short amount of time I'm starting to have second thoughts. I'm traveling with my mom and sister and my trip is a short one to Istanbul only. I already registered with the State Department...any thoughts?

I hear you. I postponed a recent trip to Turkey with my family because of the unrest. If you have travel insurance, you'll need to carefully review it to see what it says about terrorism. The language is specific and it may or may not apply to your situation. You can ask for a ticket credit, but you'll need to make that request before your flight leaves, and you'll probably have to pay a change fee plus a fare differential. 

Though the calendar says spring, I am already thinking Christmas! My husband and I are the parents of three young men, ages 25, 22, and 20. Vacationing together as a family has been nonexistent in the summer months the last couple of years due to their summer jobs, travel lacrosse, etc. We would like to try something we have never done before and that is take a short family vacation the one time we are all together - Christmas. Going someplace warm is essential and someplace within a two to three hour flight from BWI would be perfect. An all- inclusive that would include food and drink would be helpful (feeding three young men is expensive!). Activities such as fishing, snorkeling, paddle boarding or canoeing would also make the trip more fun. I work at a local elementary school so travel would have to take place between Christmas and New Years. I realize traveling at the time is more expensive, but we do have to be somewhat mindful of the cost. I have been looking around online but the more I look, the more overwhelmed I get. I read the Washington Post Travel column faithfully and would appreciate any suggestions that anyone at The Washington Post, might have. Thanks for your help! 

Go to Riviera Maya near Cancun. It's easy to get to and there are plenty of all-inclusives at all different price points. Price out a package with airfare via a tour operator, such as Apple Vacations or Vacation Express, or a travel agency, such as Liberty or Costco Travel, and then price out the components separately to make sure you are getting a good deal.  And if worry about health issues, make sure you first educate yourself on Zika virus. I am fairly certain there have been no cases reported in the Yucatan Peninsiula tourist areas, but keep current with that. 

While living in the San Francisco Bay Area in our early 20s, we thought we'd get a jump on summer by heading down to the desert over Spring Break. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at Joshua Tree (then a National Monument, but now a Park), where we discovered that high-elevation deserts were much cooler than the low-level ones, especially at night and in a tent! Learned a valuable lesson about researching trips well before driving off into the wild.

Ah, the proverbial Valuable Lesson -- this is a good one to keep in mind, thanks!

Any ideas for a close-by trip this weekend for 2 adults? Like to shop, eat, cultural activities... For example, if we drive to Hershey Park, Pa is there anything to do? If we take Amtrak to Philadelphia will we need a car? Thanks.

From my experience, the theme park is the main attraction, though you can also fill your weekend with visits to an automobile museum, caverns, wineries and outlets. For lodging, I highly recommend the Inn at Westwynd Farm (here is my review).

You can definitely get around Philly without a car -- it will be much more relaxing, too. The tourism office has a great overview of the different transportation options, including bike share and the PHLASH bus ($5 all-day pass).

Do you know of any good solo travel or singles type getaways? I know of things like contiki but looking for other suggestions. I'm 30 and in need of some R & R, and kinda anti-cruise.

If you're a woman, look at the trips offered by the Women's Travel Group, although my guess is the clientele is generally considerably older than 30. I'd also look at G Adventures and Friendly Planet. Chatters have suggestions? 

I booked a ticket with American Airlines to join my spouse on a business trip. The business trip got cancelled at the very last minute and I cancelled my ticket as well. At the time, and during a subsequent follow-up phone call, I was reassured by American Airlines that I could use the credit toward the purchase of a new ticket within one year, and that the new trip didn't have to be taken within one year, it only had to be booked within one year. Fast forward that year, and as I'm booking my new flight I am informed that I must take the trip within one year, except now the travel window is too small, so TOO BAD - I'm out the entire airline credit. I immediately submitted a request for the expiration date on the credit to be extended only to receive a generic rejection letter from American Airlines, even though their representative told me to submit the request. Is there any hope for me? I'm looking at a $1,000 loss.

Unfortunately, the industry standard is one year from the date of the reservation. So either the representative you spoke with misinformed you or you misunderstood. You might try contacting an American Airlines customer service manager to ask for an extension, but I have to warn you, they are rarely granted.

Hello! I've taken some great walking tours from non-profit student, cultural, and historic preservation groups in the US and overseas. I'm looking for something similar in Montreal - not a for-profit commercial tour, or a free tour based on tips, but something that benefits the community. Any ideas?

What a great and altruistic approach to walking tours!

Here a few suggestions: Heritage Montreal, which focuses on cultural preservation; L'Autre Montreal, which highlights less obvious sites and urban issues; and Local Montreal Food Tours, which supports local food purveyors. You might also contact museums and cultural centers to see if they arrange community tours.

The code is TT5305. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it each Monday to get credit for participating. 

There is a new book out -- The Solo Traveler's Handbook For Those Who Love and Those Who Long to Go Solo By Janice Waugh -- that readers might be interested in.

I don't think it's a new book, but may be worth a look. 

The poster should just bite the bullet and rent a car that can be returned in Miami. Factor that cost into comparing airfares as between Miami International airport and Ft. Lauderdale International.

Or take a cab, if time is more important than money. 

How about the Wilmington, DE., area? Dupont's Hagley Museum, Longwood Gardens, etc. What else?

Good idea! Or in the other direction, Charlottesville.

I wrote in several weeks ago about needing a hotel in Guam in a few months. I've been trying to contact the hotel, but the internet access out there must be occasional at best. Do you have suggestions about how to contact them? Thanks

Call, or try to book through a third-party site like Hotels.com? Though perhaps the hotel has closed. You have plenty of other choices. Just look for a hotel in Tamuning, near the airport. For example, I see a Days Inn and a Wyndham Garden for $75 on Hotels.com.

I'm going on an international trip for 4 months. I'm doing one thing that requires insurance, so I thought I'd try to find something that covers the entire trip. I am so lost. I've never had trip insurance before, so how do I start. Do I need to get it before I get my flights? What do I look for? What companies are reputable? Any advice would be very much appreciated!

Go to a Web site that specializes in comparing travel insurance policies. These include QuoteWright, SquareMouth and InsureMyTrip

I recently renewed my passport and got my old passport back. Is there any reason for me to keep my old passport. I don't care about keeping my country stamps.

I keep my old passport as a souvenir, so I remember where I went. But there's no reason to hold on to it, at least from a travel certification perspective.

We recently rented a car from a major national chain (that my husband has elite status at). Our final bill was more than 4 times its (already expensive) quoted price when we booked the car. No damage to the car, tank was totally full, etc. We didn't contest it at the time (in part because I don't think either of us could see straight at 4:30 a.m. -- and we had a crying toddler to boot!), but did immediately upon our return home. We still haven't gotten any news on it. Any recommendations on how to follow up effectively? I'm pretty annoyed.

There's no excuse for quadrupling your bill, unless you kept the car for an extra four weeks. You should consider a brief, polite appeal to the car rental company by email. If that doesn't work, please contact me and I'll do my best to help you personally.

My wife and I, with all sons in college (now all long-graduated, thank you) decided to head waaay south, and spent two weeks in Argentina. The only pitfall was a trip to Iguazu Falls - not that the falls weren't spectacular, but we (far old enough to know better), spent about 45 minutes at our hotel's pool mid-day. We both had enough sunburn that the ride to the airport and flight back to Buenos Aires was VERY uncomfortable, since a portion of our sunburn was on the rear part of our anatomy.

Once again proving the adage, "From bad times come good stories."

Traveling to New Hampshire this summer and finding fares out of BWI are almost half the cost of flying out of Dulles. Unfortunately I live 5 minutes from Dulles. Any suggestions on parking at BWI and easy transportation to the airport?

Lots of parking choices at BWI. It has plenty of long-term lots and there are also private lots, such as Econopark and PreFlight. There is also an airport-to-airport shuttle that can take you from Dulles to BWI. 

Would traveling on December 24 or 25 be feasible for you and your family? And returning on December 31 or January 1? Airfares are often cheaper on those less-desirable dates.

That used to be true, but not so much now. Planes are going out so full around that time of year that there are few discounts, even on the holidays. That said, you can sometimes find somewhat cheaper fares on flights that are in the air at midnight on New Year's Eve or that take up the entire day on Christmas. 

Our 10 year anniversary is this summer and while we can't take time off to do a long vacation, we are thinking of going to one of the relatively near-by retreats (such as Nemacolin, Homestead, Greenbriar, any I'm missing?). If you had the choice, where would you go? (No kids, like to golf - although doesn't have to be a golf trip, spa, good food)

If you don't mind children, any of these three would be fine. But kids abound during school holidays. I'd probably go to the Inn at Little Washington instead.  

I saw the fireworks over London to ring in 2017 and said to myself "Self, let's do this." Is there any value to booking things now? I understand some hotels/flights may fill up, but I doubt they'll run out of space entirely. I was thinking about waiting until September or so (not until December), unless sooner would be better.

If you're intent on going and you'll be very disappointed should flights not be available, book it sooner than later. But if you're flexible, start checking fares/hotel prices now and strike when the price looks right. If you want nonstop flights from Washington to London, there is limited availability. But if you're willing to connect, lots of options. As for hotels, you'll likely find something, even late in the game. 

I'm a woman who has traveled by myself a lot, and I've found that traveling to cities is the most comfortable, because there are lots of other people there on their own (either traveling for business or pleasure or are living there) and therefore I don't stand out, and there are lots of things to do in most cities to keep me occupied. Traveling alone also means that I can choose what I want to do without worrying about my travel companions, so if I want to spend an entire day just wandering the streets, I can. Some of my favorite solo cities are San Francisco, Seattle and New York.

Thanks for the thoughts. 

If the person asking is looking for a real solo trip, then the world is your oyster. If you don't like cruises you may not like an organized tour either. Go some place that fuels your passions. I travel solo all the time and love not having to adhere to anyone else's schedule.

But some people like being with like-minded travelers and having their itinerary mapped out. Depends on the person, the destination, etc. 

Interested in traveling to Anchorage Alaska in mid-June for the Mayors Marathon. Airfares are $700+ round trip. Did I miss the boat on inexpensive fares or is it just expensive traveling to Alaska out of the DC area?

Fares are typically high to Alaska, especially from the East Coast. Plus, you are traveling during high season. You might be able to shave $100 off the fare, if you strike it right. Sign up for fare alerts or combine one-way fares on Alaska, Sun Country or Delta.

We got around central Montréal well using brochures for self-guiding walking tours.

Yep, there are lots of self-guided walking tours. There's even an app.

Yikes - I didn't realize things were getting that problematic. But, we planned a 1 day and 2 night extended layover en route back from Israel, and unless things get even more perilous, I'm pretty sure we won't cancel. Other than Blue Mosque/Hagia Sophia, what else would you tuck into one day in Istanbul?

Don't forget the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. You can spend hours if not days there. Also: Topkapi Palace, the archaeology museums and the islamic arts museum. And for a soak, experience an Ottoman bathhouse, or hammam. Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam dates to the 16th century.

I recently traveled with Active Adventures. It's a tour group, but 1/2 of our small (12 ppl) group were solo travelers between 30 - 60. Very well run group - can't say enough good things about them.

Thanks! Active Adventures is based out of New Zealand. 

Am taking a trip in the near future to Aruba. The resort we're going to does not offer an all inclusive meal package. Any ideas on where to purchase one. Thanks in advance!

Not sure I fully understand your question, but I will take a stab it it.

You can't buy a meal plan at a hotel unless you are a guest there. If your hotel does not offer a meal plan option, then you are stuck with paying a la carte (also called the European Plan).

Such hotels as Divi Aruba, Occidental, Tamarijn and Riu Palace are all-inclusive.

So.... if you had a week to fill in May/June/July timeframe. Would you go to Cuba? Is it worth a week or maybe just a few days?

Cuba is hot, so you definitely want to go earlier in the season. Also, I would go for a week but spend most of your time outside Havana, in the countryside, visiting less-touristed towns.

Hi there -- If I need to change a United reservation I've made, I know I have to pay a change fee (typically $150 I think) plus the price difference for the new reservation. What happens if the original fare was paid for in MileagePlus miles? Do they make you forfeit miles? Do they charge you a fee? I suspect at some point I will encounter this issue and I'd like to know what to expect. Thanks!

You keep your miles but you might have to pay a restoration fee. Here is a chart explaining the different fees.

Hi, we are planning a trip to the UK in late April through early May. We are planning to stay in London for 4-5 days and I have a few questions I'm hoping you and the chatters can help with. (1) We'd like to rent an apartment (four people, two bedrooms). Any suggestions on websites other than airbnb and also neighborhoods to search in? (2) Some day trip recommendations from London? We are also planning to do a walking tour (self-guided), possibly in the Cotswalds. I am wondering if anyone has any experience with walking tour companies who will arrange accommodations and transport luggage. We are not looking to break the bank, and do not need luxury accommodations -- basic room is fine, shared bathroom is also OK, but not hostel-style sleeping. Thank you for any assistance you can provide!

Visit London offers a long list of apartment accommodations. And most of the rent-by-owner sites, such as Homeaway, that are popular in the United States also operate in London. As for neighborhoods,I typically stay in hotels in London, so not sure about best area for apartment deals. But I'd look at Bloomsbury, Victoria and Kensington. There are so many walking tour companies to choose from in England. Try Contours and Country Walkers

You should dispose of it securely, though. Shred it, maybe.

Good idea.

My mother-in-law is extremely well traveled, and she has taken a few solo trips with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). She has been very happy with them, and has made friends with other solo travelers with whom she has kept in touch after they returned home.

Yes, they are popular, but for an older crowd. 

I had the same thing happen to me. I thought I had booked a prepaid car via Hertz, and yes I am a Gold club member, but when I got the final bill it was significantly higher. The service folks I spoke to on the phone claimed that the prepaid amount doesn't cover the entire cost of the rental. Seemed like a total bait-and-switch to me. Buyer beware!!

That sounds like a bait-and-switch to me, too. Please contact me if you need help with your bill.

OK, but how do you safely dispose of old passports? The covers are too thick to put through most shredders.

You'll probably need to take a pair of scissors to it, at least to start.

If the original poster is trying to get to the Port of Miami or a downtown Miami hotel there are many shared shuttle operators who will make the trip for about $15 per passenger. Check the FLA departure boards on Cruise Critic.

The poster did not say where in Miami, so, yes, shared shuttle could work. 

I am travelling to Lourdes in April, accompanying a Catholic individual who is going there on a healing journey. What is there to see/do in Lourdes, other than the sanctuary/grotto? Any tips?

Chatters, any suggestions?

If you are planning one trip for your kids (ages 7 and 8), with money not an object, what would you do? Disney? Nickelodeon hotels (new one in Punta Cana)? Four Seasons with a kid's club? We are planning the trip for early November. Since we are only going to do once, we want to maximize our enjoyment!

Only you, as a parent, can decide what kind of vacation is best for your kids. If they love Disney, then Disney it is. If they love Disney and water, consider a Disney cruise. If they love wildlife and swimming, then they might enjoy Hawaii or Australia.

Just keep in mind the toils of travel, so you might want to keep the flight time short (there goes Australia ... ). Also, find a place with a mix of activities that also attracts families. I know that my niece and nephew are always happier when they have other kids to play with.

Janice Waugh has a blog solotravelerblog.com She shares experiences from other solo travelers. It is interesting reading and gives some hints on what tours do not charge a fee for solo travelers.

Thanks for the tip!

If you want a long haul trip, and a lot of adventure-- Japan: specifically Kyoto. I'm a woman who has traveled there twice, and met lots of interesting Japanese. It's generally a safe country, and an honest one-- Lost my cell phone in a restaurant, and there it was, at the hostess desk.

Thanks for the idea.

Looks like we're out of time -- thanks for joining us today! Dismayed Joshua Tree visitor, drop us a line at travel@washpost.com to claim your prize.

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: