Talk about Travel (March 18)

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Mar 18, 2019

Join the Travel team then to discuss your travel-related questions, comments, suspicions, warnings, gripes, sad tales, etc!

Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel. In this week's Travel section, a Parisian family gets an introduction to camping at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the U.S. Do you have a favorite among the country's now 61 national parks? Tell us which one and why below. Most compelling answer gets a copy of Brad Lyons' and Bruce Barkhauer's "America's Holy Ground: 60 Faithful Reflections on Our National Parks." On to your questions! 

Having never done any international travel, what airlines offer the best service/options for a May trip to Vancouver? Prefer National Airport.

Best bet out of DCA would be American Airlines. Out of Dulles, I'd opt for United. There are no nonstops to Vancouver. 

Do I have any recourse against Agoda for not being available, helpful or giving lowest price on a hotel, while in Thailand?

Yes, Agoda is legit. If you run into problems, you know where to find me.

I am flying on the 30th, on a Max 8, according still to my e-ticket. I am assuming that AA is not changing flight equipment this far out?

At this point in time, no travelers will fly on the Max 8. The airlines have grounded all of them, so American will rebook you on a different aircraft unless the issue is resolved before your departure date.

The airline has posted some good info about this issue on its Web site.

I’ve decided to go away this weekend for a little r & r before life gets really hectic for a few months. I guessing it is too late for a cheap flight somewhere sunny, so any suggestions within a 5-6 hour drive of dc? I’m more of a swimmer than a hiker, but open to new ideas.

Not sure how much $$ is too much, but if you leave Saturday and fly home Monday, it's about $400 round trip Dulles to Miami on United and $375 from BWI to Miami on American.  I think six hours of driving each way for a weekend trip is too much, but you can get to the southern coast of North Carolina (Wilmington area) in that time. It's a nice little town. 

My friend and I recently traveled from Paris to the Swiss and French Alps, returning to London, England, entirely by train - 17 trains in 7 days. It was an amazing trip and I would recommend the Glacier Express to anyone considering a train trip through the Alps. However, the first leg of our journey did not go so well. We took the train from Paris to Straussbourg, where we were supposed to get on the train to Lucerne. When we arrived at the station we went to the first digital board that we saw, as one does in Europe, and before long our train to Lucerne popped up on track 2. So, off we went. Train pulled up, we got on, settled in, and train pulled away - a few minutes early, which seemed odd. Also odd, there was no one else in our car. Train continued for a few minutes and then stopped. We waited for a while and then panicked. Yup, we were parked in a train yard, miles outside the city, in a train that had been retired. We ended up jumping off the train and hiking about a half mile with our luggage until an engineer from another train noticed us trying to get back to the station (which was still miles away). He poked his head out of his tiny window and spoke to us in French. After a few minutes of back and forth in several languages, we all realized that the original notification on the board was incorrect and that the train to Lucerne had left from Track 4, not 2, the train at Track 2 had been retired. Fortunately, the engineer in the yard happened to be on the next train to Lucerne. So, he hauled us up onto his train and let us hang out until it was ready to leave. And we eventually made it to Switzerland where the trains actually do run like clockwork! Still, has this ever happened to anyone, ever?!? And, regardless, my new rule is that I will never, ever, get on an empty train. Ever.

That is one of the strangest stories I've ever heard. Chatters, have you ever boarded a soon-to-be-parked train? On a related note, I'd love to write a Navigator about train mishaps, so if there are enough stories, I'm game.

I will be going to Ecuador, and although they use US Dollar as their currency, is it true that they only accept pristine bills? No marks, creases, etc? I ran into this in Fiji - the tiniest blemish meant refusal . . .Thanks

I was just in Ecuador and did not have any issues with my U.S. bills. The U.S. dollar is their main currency, so they really can't be picky about the condition. I also used my Visa card a lot, to avoid carrying around a lot of cash.

We'd like to use (a lot) of airlines miles for a direct flight from IAD to Narita, so we know we have to jump on it to get our choice of flights. United doesn't have their flight schedules for April 2020 yet; when can I expect them to publish that? thank you!

Most so-called legacy carriers, such as United, American, Delta and the like, publish their schedules about 331-337 days in advance. Start checking with United 337 days before your desired dates. 

Today's code is TT4061. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating.

Hi —my two sisters and I would like to have a sisters’ day out at a day spa. I’m in the DC area, my younger sister is in Newark, DE, and my older sister is in Devon, PA. I’ve had no luck researching a place with good reviews that would be relatively convenient for all of us (although I’m willing to drive the farthest). Any suggestions? Thanks!

Going to throw this one out to our chatters, as I am more familiar with resort spas than day spas. 

Dunno about favorite, but vivid memories of me 4 years old (half a century ago, ack!) in a car with parents in Yellowstone, when a bear came up and put its paw on a passenger window. I'm told I threw major tantrums at the suggestion it get cleaned off, so that paw print stayed on the window until we got home (to Chicago). Then, some 20 years later, I was on a cross-country trip with friends -we drove through/overnighted in Yellowstone, where I smooched under a gazillion stars with one of the friends, then the next morning opened my tent to find a bison looking back at me from a distance of about 10 feet. Which is very close when a bison is looking you in the eye. I zipped the tent back up and decided I didn't have to go anywhere after all. Fun fact: bisons can have a lot of flies buzzing about them. I did not know this until that fine June morning.

Fell in love with the opposite ends of the National Park spectrum over the last few years: we hiked through the Kilauea Iki crater in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island in 2013, completely smitten with the contrast between the lush forest and the steaming black-gray crater floor. And then last summer, on a return trip to Alaska, we got up close and personal with a glacier at Exit Glacier, in the Kenai Fjords National Park outside of Seward, Alaska. I hate to think that the glacier will have retreated back up and over the mountain top by the time we return to that area... but it's shocking to see how much smaller it is than even ten years ago. (Get out and see those parks now, folks!)

I've been to several national parks, and my favorite so far is Glacier. My Dad is a cancer patient, and my brother and I wanted to take him and my Mom on a quick trip to Glacier. We spent 4 days there, and my favorite memory is my Dad standing by one of the blue glacier fed rivers saying that there just couldn't be a prettier place than that. He is having surgery this week, and I know we will spend some of his recovery time talking about that beautiful place.

What's the best way to renew an expired passport? When I Googled that, numerous sites came up -- it's confusing which way to go. Thanks!

You can probably renew your passport by mail. Here's how to do that.

I wanted to report back that we received our air booking yesterday and had 7 days to make changes at $50 pp. The original booking was fine except for a very early departure the final day. We were able to change to a more favorable schedule easily and with no additional cost.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

I need to go to Mexico for research and when checking flights, I found one with American Airlines connecting through DFW. The flight was listed on Yapta and was about $300 less than other flights to the same destination, but was listed as being on a MAX 7. I thought those planes have been grounded in the US so should I book that flight and assume it will be on another type of aircraft? As a student, the price is important to me, but not worth risking my life on an unsafe plane.

The MAX is not flying anymore. If I had to guess, I'd say the reservation system just hasn't been updated.

What about flying non-stop to Seattle and making the ~3 hour drive to Vancouver - especially if you plan to visit other parts of BC.

An option if the chatter doesn't mind driving. 

So, In addition to the airlines treating us like cattle (unless one pays exorbitantly for business or first-class), and TSA's gross incompetence, we now have airplane manufacturers (both Boeing and Airbus have had similar automatic flight control issues) treating their planes and passengers as expendable with shoddy developmental processes. What will it take to rectify this intolerable scenario? Another half-dozen air disasters?

I hope not. Although air travel is remarkably safe in the United States, it only takes one air disaster to sour the public's mood about flying. I hope the airframe manufacturers change their ways, but if they don't, we should expect another incident-- and probably soon.

Hi travel crew, I was on an early cross-country flight a few days ago and a passenger was incredibly disruptive, talking very loudly with frequent cursing. The flight attendants asked him multiple times throughout the flight, up through the deplaning, to lower his voice, with no success. This wasn't a case of someone having fun and not realizing they were being a loud talker, this passenger was bragging about how he's almost been kicked off flights before, and told the attendants they would probably get multiple complaints about him. I sent a complaint to the airlines, and hopefully this person won't be on any of my future flights, but any recommendations of what could have/should have been done? I know the situation wasn't fun for the attendants either, but there must have been some other option besides dozens of other passengers being miserable on a 6 hour flight. Thank you for letting me vent :)

Great topic. I have a Navigator scheduled for next week about disruptive passengers. Most, but not all, disruptive passengers have had one drink too many. Your loud talker may have been the exception. I think the ideal solution would be to catch the disruptive passenger before takeoff and remove him from the flight. Once you're in the air, you're stuck. Chatters, what would you have done? What should the crew have done, in your opinion?

Agreed that 5-6 hours of driving seems like a lot for a weekend. Kayak Explore and Google Flights can both help with flight searches to beach destinations, direct flights, etc. If you didn't mind somewhere colder, a train to Philly or NYC might work.

I thought about recommending a trip to a nearby city, but the chatter indicated he/she wanted a relaxing spot to visit before entering a hectic phase, so crowded urban center may not be ideal. 

What about going out to Cape May (between 2-3 hours drive for each of you). It's lovely in the off season and Congress Hall has a nice spa.

Yes, but it'll be cold. 

I am taking Turkish Airlines from Washington to Tel Aviv, with a stopover in Istanbul. I just learned that there is a major airport shift from Ataturk Airport to the new Istanbul Airport, and it's happening the very day I will be transferring planes there, April 6. (It was supposed to happen earlier but was postponed.) After 2 pm that day, all Turkish Airline flights will cease using the old airport and begin using the new one. The equipment is also being moved from one airport to the other on April 5-6. This sounds like a recipe for chaos! I have already decided not to check a bag, in case the baggage operations aren't working properly. Is there anything else I can do? I can't change the date of my travel.

You're landing in Istanbul on the first day of the new airport. That'll definitely be an adventure. I think you're correct to be worried. Remember when they switched from Stapleton to DIA? I would avoid checking luggage if possible. The likelihood getting your baggage misplaced is probably a little higher.

Our son, his wife and young daughter are heading to the DR the last of May. Curious if anyone is familiar with the Catalonia La Molana resort near Bayahibe Beach. Seems to have some positive reviews.

I believe you are referring to Catalonia La Romana. I have not been to that specific resort, but it'll likely be similar to most all-inclusives in DR. Drinks will be cold, beach lovely and food filling. Any chatters stayed there? 

Here in Germany trains that are not going anywhere are usually marked "Do not board". Likewise the signs on the platforms will say "Do not board" and not list a destination. A sort of inverse situation happened to my husband in Berlin: The train was on the platform (originated in Berlin) and the doors wouldn't open. He kept waiting for the doors to be opened and the train left. Apparently they were not using all the cars and had left the doors locked. If they made an announcement to that effect, he missed it. We theorised that they were moving cars but didn't have the personnel to check tickets in all the cars.

Thanks for sharing your story. 

I have only visited 3 out of the 61 national parks in my 5 years in this country. Admired the winter wonderland beauty of Yosemite while celebrating our first anniversary. Felt so young in the presence of Grand Canyon after graduating from Masters. The most memorable was our trip to Haleakala. We are not celebrating anything per se. Some of our favorite memories: Hiking up the sand dunes. Standing above the clouds. Huddling under a blanket for spectacular sunset views. Chasing some almost extinct 'Nene' birds. Gazing at the vast expanse of volcanic landscape. And trekking up the Oheo Gulch falls on the other end of the park for a totally opposite tropical-type setting. There's so much to do, so much to see, for all levels of fitness.

Naturally (I think), my favorite national park is the first one I ever visited, with my parents when I was a child, partly because it was the first! It's Yosemite (I'm a native Northern Californian), and while I've been to many more over the decades, Yosemite -- both the Valley and the High Country -- hold a special place in my heart, for their beauty and the memories.

Besides the one the Nats play in, my favorite is Yellowstone. Aside from the obvious beauty, Im amazed at the sheer size of it. Drove through last summer, and after several hours of driving still had not come close to visiting all the sites we wanted to see. Also because I was the idiot who got our car a little to close to a bison and had the family screaming while he checked out our vehicle.

Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. I imagine it has to be one of the least visited, as I was there on a summer holiday weekend and felt like I had the place to myself (especially in the North Unit), which allowed me to feel like I was discovering something unchartered. I came to face to face with a bison (I did not ignore the "Do Not Approach the Wildlife" signs - he approached me!!), watched wild horses run, and watched the setting sun light up the Painted Canyon...what an amazing experience. I also love the small town of Medora just outside the South Unit entrance to the park, which features the Rough Riders hotel, the cutest (and friendliest) U.S. post office ever, and a delicious dinner service where your steak is placed on a pitch fork and then fried in a 5-gallon drum of boiling hot oil.

I booked Agoda in Thailand and after the Asiana crash, they let me out of a nonrefundable booking.

Thanks for letting us know. 

When there are no non-stop flights to a destination, do you think it's preferable to take a shorter flight to an airport with a connecting non-stop -- or a longer non-stop flight first to an airport much closer to the destination, then a connecting short flight -- or two medium-length connecting non-stop flights?

I don't look at flight lengths as much as other factors. If it's winter, I avoid connecting in cities such as Chicago, Minneapolis and Denver. That's not to say you won't hit storms in Dallas or Atlanta, but I play the odds. I also try to connect in a city that has lots of flights to my final destination, so if I miss my connection, there will be other available flights. If I'm traveling to Europe, I prefer getting across the Atlantic before connecting. 

I'd never been to Belgium, never been on a train. Was going to Brugges from Brussels. Thought the train that arrived was the one I wanted... When the conductor came thru after an hour or so, he took one look at my ticket, and in fragmented English let me know I was not on the right train. At the next station, he kindly escorted me thru the station, across the tracks, and made sure I knew to get on the next train, back to Brussels. So I had a couple hour tour of somewhere Belgium. Got the Brugges the next day...after figuring out how to find the right train.

Thank you for sharing your story. Now that's what I call customer service.

Hershey Spa?

Good thought!

The chatter looking to go to Tokyo might also consider using their miles to book on ANA - a much nicer experience than UA. I think UA's schedule is open 330 days ahead as noted. It's also a bit of myth that you must book immediately when the schedule opens. If you have some date flexibility especially you can find seats throughout the year. And booking last minute will typically given you the most options if you have the nerve for it.

I've not had much luck with booking mileage flights last minute, but I've not tried doing that to Tokyo. 

How does one enter the TT4061 to get the post points? I can't seem to find a link anwhere. Thanks.

The PostPoints interface is here.

Not my mishap, thank goodness, but I did have a friend who was traveling around Europe a couple summers ago and almost got on a train going in the opposite direction of where she wanted to go. Somehow someone managed to direct her to the correct track.

Oh, I've done that. Yep, the same guy who wrote "How To Be The World's Smartest Traveler." But I only made that mistake once, in my defense.

Re the earlier post, could the attendants have moved the guy somewhere, like to the rear corner window seat? Not a solution, but he'd at least be disturbing fewer people. And if the guy knew he was being objectionable and did it deliberately, could the airline have had the cops waiting at landing? Is there anything in aviation comparable to "disturbing the peace?"

Yes, they can do that if there are available seats. 

It's hard to beat the Yellowstone-Grand Tetons combo, but one of our favorites is Olympic National Park. It can be done as a circular route from Seattle Tacoma Airport, a couple of days in Seattle, followed by a ride over one of Seattle's wonderful ferries to make a circular (we went counter-clockwise) trip around the park and back to SeaTac. You get mountains with glaciers and beautiful summer wildflowers, wild beaches with fog and sea stacks, temperate rainforests with waterfalls, some of the country's largest trees, all sorts of hiking opportunities, great seafood, and more.

I've been to many national parks, but some of my fondest memories are of Big Bend National Park and Guadelupe National Park in Texas. Excellent for hiking and backpacking, spectacular scenery. Probably less interesting for the people who require hot showers and wear makeup in national parks.

Will always be the Everglades. One of the first I went to, and the last I went to with my father, before he died of cancer. He had so much fun that trip sloshing in the marsh (he was an ecologist!) and identifying snakes as I spotted them camouflaged in trees. We never traveled together again and now I try to go back whenever I'm down in that part of Florida, which is never often enough.

Hi - writing from California. I'd love to spend maybe a week in DC in May getting to the museums and gardens. Any recommendations on a nice hotel that would give us good access on foot to some of the best sites and perhaps also good access to the metro? Last trip to DC was in 1997 so I don't have my bearings.

We live here, so don't often stay in hotels. And I'm not sure about your budget. Hotels tend to be fairly expensive around the mall. I like the Kimpton properties, but they might not be as centrally located as others. The Hampton Inn is fairly inexpensive and well located. 

Am I the only one your do you all feel that Southwest has a monopoly at BWI now that it has driven out the competition? No matter how far I look out but I don't see cheaper fares to certain cities I like to go especially to Chicago. No bag fees are nice but Midway is not a preferred airport given and other DC airports aren't any better give our traffic. Thanks.

Southwest has a 69 percent market share at BWI. You're right, that's a little high.

I have personally seen an inebriated passenger prevented from boarding an aircraft (THANK YOU gate agent!). Once in the air, it is the lead flight attendant's and ultimately the pilot's responsibility to determine whether it is in the best interest of the passengers (and, let's be clear, the airline) to stay in the air or to request a diversion to another location en-route and off-load the passenger to local police (arguably more disruptive and certainly more expensive than one annoying noisemaker).

That was the right call. Thanks for sharing.

Good story from your colleagues on the FAA allowing airlines to self-certify their planes. This situation shows why a robust federal regulatory system is so important - when you let the fox guard the henhouse, bad things happen. And, an argument could be made that the Ethiopian Air crash is related to the government shutdown. Apparently Boeing's software update was delayed because the feds were not at work. And, because the FAA has been considered the gold standard, other countries defer to the FAA's guidance, thereby compounding any regulatory shortcomings in this country. (Having said that, flying is still super duper safe!)

Thank you. I think there's an attitude that, as long as no one is getting killed, we can do it this way. But it may not be the right way. Valid point.

Sadly, I fear this person may be someone he needs medical treatment, possibly after involuntary assessment in a hospital.

Yes, maybe.

I'm late to last week's discussion about LCC. I fly to Iceland 3-4 times a year and have been flying WOW since 2015. Particularly in spring and fall, I can get RT airfare for around $500. Also, I'm never trying to make a connection at KEF. A difference I noted is that tourists tend to fly with WOW, while Icelanders fly with Icelandair (brand loyalty). That said, WOW (like many LCCs) have had some financial difficulties. What advice do you have on dealing wiith such situations? If I'm flying within six months, can I "safely" book with a LCC? Thank you.

I know the fares are often super low on carriers such as WOW, but you do take a chance. It's no secret that the airline has been struggling financially. Last I heard, a private equity firm that specializes in low-cost carriers was considering buying it, but that's not a sure thing. Look at what happened with Primera Air: It left thousands stranded when it stopped operations. 

What about a spa at a fancy hotel in Philly or maybe Baltimore? Spafinder may also be helpful.

Resort/hotel spas may be an optioin, but they are often more expensive than local day spas. And yes, Spafinder might be useful. 

Out of curiosity, did the OP (or anyone sitting neaby) say to a Flight Attendant: "I'd like to know if local police will be meeting the flight at the gate, to escort off the disruptive passenger? If not, I'll be calling 911 as soon as we land. Which is better for the airline?"

Good question. OP?

My husband and I have about 10 days in August and would love a vacation. We've gone to Spain and Portugal for the past 4 summers and might be interested in something different. Direct, quick travel is ideal. I was thinking the Canary Islands or the Azores to continue our love affair with the people of the Iberian peninsula, but we're open to other ideas.

My sister went to the Azores for a significant birthday and loved the islands. For a closer destination, I would suggest the Thousands Islands, both the U.S. and Canada sides.

Is whichever I'm going to next!

The Grand Canyon! I grew up in Phoenix and it was a family tradition to go on a Canyon hike every couple of years. Family would hike local trails all year to train, and teenagers would get fitted out with their own backcountry gear and have to wear it in before the big Canyon trek. Havasupai Falls is especially gorgeous, and us kids looked forward to getting a soda at the tribal store on the reservation there in the canyon.

Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip - We flew out of IAD on September 22, 2001, 11 days after 9/11. There was so much uncertainty (will the planes even be flying), and so many people cancelled, that the airport was so quiet. The people in the park had a certain bond - they either made the trip as planned, or showed up w/out reservations, having cancelled a different trip (that involved flying). They had so many cancellations at Yellowstone that they were able to accommodate all the people who just showed up. No tvs anywhere was a magical environment for that time. Flying into West Yellowstone and walking out to see temporary barriers installed to keep vehicles away from the terminal was interesting. The beauty of the park and the wildlife though was the most amazing. The crowds were few, the people were exceptionally kind to each other.

Yes, everyone wants to name something far away and full of cool wildlife. But the National Mall is the life blood of American democracy. Free concerts buy the NSO on the 4th, Memorial Day, and Labor Day; access to the Smithsonians, Washington and Lincoln Memorials, MLK, FDR, Korean war, WW I and WW II memorials. All free, easy access. Kite flying, softball leagues, etc. We sometimes forget how great it is because it's always there for us.

Not a national park, but your point is well taken!

Hi, me again. Thanks, but I had already gotten to that web-site and logged in, but I didn't see anywhere to enter the code for the chat. I was looking for something like "enter chat code", but I didn't see anything to guide me to where I needed to go. Thanks.

Enter your code under the “Claim my Points” header. 

Good ol' Rock Creek Park! Take a nice hike and have some big city fine dining, all within a few miles.

Also not a national park, but recommendation accepted!

What type of air fare would you use to fly between these cities and is there an around the world fare that would work for this itinerary?

I would consider the South American airpass through LATAM.

Hi all - My grandmother's dream is to go on a safari in Africa (her favorite animal is the giraffe), however she's not fully fit. She's got some knee issues and diabetes, so she's mobile, but not for hours on end. I was looking at safaris through travel companies and they seem to require a base level of fitness. Do you or the chatters know of animal parks or other less strenuous where she could view giraffes in the wild? She is not interested in animal parks in the US. Thank you!

This suggestion falls somewhere between "travel" and "things to do in DC" - but I would like to suggest a roundup of festivals within, say, 3 hours of DC. Over the years I have had a wonderful time at various mud sales in the Lancaster area, the Annapolis Oyster Roast and Sock Burning, the Sheep and Wool Festival in Maryland, and the Rhubarb Festival (also in Lancaster county), to name a few. It would be great to see what the options are for a weekend excursion that falls somewhere between "take the Metro" and "an overnighter." Thank you!!

This is one for our colleagues at the Weekend section!

With your Visa card, did you run into their 19% (or maybe 14%) VAT? We are being encouraged to not use charge cards ,to avoid the VAT. I have seen where you can get the $$ back, but only if you buy from a 'member' shop. Thanks

I think the VAT is 14 percent and -- gulp --  I didn't really notice. I mainly purchased food and Uber, which was ridiculously cheap. I did not think that you could avoid the VAT by paying cash -- a tax is a tax -- but I would have to research the issue more.

I was in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in 2017. It's worthwhile to bring a bunch of smaller bills: $1, $5, and $10, because vendors don't want to change $20 bills. Also, they will give us $1 coins instead of $1 bills in change. If you've got any $1 Sacagawea or Susan B. Anthony coins at home, here's where you can spend them.

Great point! Small bills are always better and a large coin purse.

It might be smartest to stay in Arlington near a Metro station and plan to ride the Blue Line to the Smithsonian stop. Lotsa mid-level hotels close to Metro in Rosslyn and along Wilson Blvd.

Good point, thanks!

The Loge at Woodloch in PA

Thanks!

My husband and I misjudged how long it would take for us to walk to a train station in Paestum. We were supposed to get there on time for the last train of the night back to Salerno. Unfortunately, we ended up in such a rush that we couldn't figure out which of the two platforms was the right one, and the right train started pulling away. We were RUNNING for the train with our backpacks (didn't bring any large or checked bags, thankfully), as we would've been without transportation or lodging for the night. Thankfully, the conductor actually stopped the train so we could get on. In between gasps for air, I kept repeating "grazie mille"... to this day, I'm so grateful he stopped the train for us.

Aiiieeeee, thanks for sharing your story!

Hang on, this is from the Rock Creek National Park website, "Rock Creek Park is truly a gem in our nation's capital. This 1,754 acre city park was officially authorized in 1890, making it the third national park to be designated by the federal government." 

I was waiting to transfer at a local transit system bus-stop for my bus, when one came along early, with the sign indicating the route I wanted. The driver let me on, I sat near the front, the bus moved out, and I saw (smelled) three factory workers seated in the back, smoking. I complained to the driver, who told me the men worked hard and that he wasn't going to stop them. Toward the end of the trip the bus took a different route, and wound up several miles from where I was headed. Apparently the driver was dead-heading his bus back, and was in the habit of giving his buddies a lift. He also wouldn't let me see his badge, but I got the number of the bus itself. The next day I phoned the transit system to complain, but have no idea if the driver was disciplined.

I took a train from Frankfurt to Basel to visit a friend, and thought I was at my destination and got off the train, but no friend in sight, and very few people about. Turns out there were 2 train stations in the city, and I got off at the wrong one. Luckily I had an international calling plan and she got there quickly to retrieve me. Its been a few years, but I think I got off at Basel Badischer Banhoff, and I needed to be at Banhoff Basel SBB.

Isle Royale National Park -- it isn't easy to get there but is a very unique experience with wonderful hiking and very nice (albeit rustic) lodge and cabins for those like me who don't like to camp. I've been to many National Parks and loved all of them but Isle Royale is special!

Shenandoah National Park. The first time we went my one-year old son took his first steps on one of the trails. We have gone back often, as our kids became better hikers and could keep up with us to now when we can't keep up with them. We have been to many National Parks since then, but Shenandoah National Park is still our favorite.

Good luck to the father of the reader who wrote about Glacier National Park.

Thanks for this, I hope he/she is still reading!

During college, a friend and I took the train to West Berlin before the wall came down. We didn't get off at the proper spot, and accidentally ended up in East Berlin. The guards with machine guns should have been a clue, but we tried to go through the checkpoint anyway. The customs man kindly told us: Girls, get back on the train!

And on that note...we're signing off. Thanks, all, for bearing with us during our chat glitch today!

Looks like our hour is up -- thanks for chatting today, everyone. Reader who shared your Everglades National Park memories, drop us a line at travel@washpost.com to claim your prize. And join us 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.
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