Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Apr 23, 2018

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Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel. In this week's Travel section, a longtime fan takes a walking tour of David Bowie's New York. Have you ever visited a site because of its connection to rock history? Tell us about your pilgrimage below. Most compelling answer gets a copy of Paul Theroux's "Figures in a Landscape: People & Places." On to your questions! 

Hi - planning a trip to Germany in early July. I'm worried that I've snoozed and now will loose - over the past few days, I've watched fares steadily inch upward - we're now in the $1,450 range for a non-stop RT to Munich out of IAD. Frankfurt is higher. Do you think we'll see a sale in the next few weeks? I prefer to fly United. Danke!

If you want to fly nonstop on a preferred airline on specific dates, fares are not likely to go down. Look at your flights to see how many seats are left, and I'm guessing that many of the seats are filled, which means prices are going up. BTW, Lufthansa operates the nonstop flights to Munich from IAD, so try pricing through them. If you're willing to go on a discount carrier, look at Condor Airlines out of BWI to Frankfurt. 

Going international in July. Slightly complicated itinerary. Already had one change that would have left me running thru DFW to get the connecting flight, although in Airline terms, a "valid" connection. Only works if preceding flight leaves on time, doesn't circle the airport 10 times, etc. That glitch got fixed, but I later found out it was changed meantime... Found out last week when checking flights that the online system "can't display details" - this went on for a couple of days. I decided to call. Their caller ID took me directly to a reservation agent (!), who basically said the flights had been changed to such an extent, it was totally unmanageable. Now I'm leaving IAD 6 hours earlier than before, and have a 16 hour "connection time" in LAX... My alternatives were a 45 minute connection in Charlotte, or a late evening flight that would be anybody's guess if it actually went. But, maybe I'll get there to catch my flight overseas. So now I'm looking at LA city tours, and access to an airline club for some of those 16 hours. Silver lining I guess - quality time in LA?? And I hear from friends who were going to the Caribbean in the fall that the same thing is happening to their flights - wholesale cancellations, reroutings, etc. And it matters because they are leaving on a boat, which will not wait for late arrivals. Yes, both are on a major US carrier, not some fly-by-night podunk carrier. Gotta love deregulation! So thanks for listening. Venting helps. SIgh...

No problem. Thanks for venting. LA is not a bad place to get stuck in.

Maybe you should do a story on how to be prepared for travel emergencies?! The SW flight last week -- a lot of passengers were shown in the photographs holding the oxygen mask only over their mouth, not their nose; some didn't even put the elastic strap over their head (so one hand had to hold the mask to their face), and others kept their ear buds in place so they couldn't readily hear crew instructions! Guidelines could include "always wear sensible walking shoes" in case you need to jump down a slide or run away from the plane -- no high heels, flip-flops, wedge or platform shoes, or open-back shoes, when on an airplane. Also, how about "always keep your keys, wallet, cell phone and passport (if traveling international) on your person at all times" -- yes, that means wearing clothing with pockets. You may not have time to retrieve your purse or shoulder bag in an emergency. I have started thinking about staying in hotels, and about keeping my "stuff" in the pants pockets, so if I need to run out for a fire or other emergency, I can just pull on my pants, then my shoes, and everything I need is already in place.

I agree. I'll bet most of those passengers didn't pay attention to the in-flight safety briefing. That's a great story idea. I'll add it to the lineup.

Yes for Rock History! Went to Mono Lake to see the geological "tuff" formations in the middle of the lake, to Craters of the Moon (Idaho) to see the ancient lava formations, to Mauna Kea to see the fresh lava going into the ocean, to Mt. St Helens a few years after the blast to see the desolation and recovery. Oh wait -- you mean rock *music* history?! Oh well, am I still in the running?!

Hahahaha -- also, no.

I was recently invited to an August wedding in Glen Cove, New York, which is on Long Island, and am trying to figure out the easiest way to get there from D.C. I don't own a car, so I'm thinking one option is to fly to JFK, then Uber to the location, though the Uber would be pretty expensive. Another option is to take Amtrak to Penn Station and then transfer to the Long Island Railroad, but the train schedules might not match up. Or should I bite the bullet and just rent a car? Can you offer any insight?

This is a trip I do every six weeks or so to visit my mother in Massapequa, which is on the south shore of Long Island. I've tried it all, including Southwest from BWI, Amtrak and Bolt Bus. Several years ago, I hit on a winning combination. I take JetBlue or Delta nonstop from IAD to JFK (I live close to IAD, but there are also nonstops to JFK from BWI and DCA on American and Delta). I then take the AirTrain to Jamaica station and then take the LIRR to Massapequa Park. The LIRR takes about 40 minutes to get to Glen Cove, and it will cost between $7 and $9.50 each way depending on time of day. Download the MTA and TrainTime apps, buy your tickets ahead of time and you'll be all set.  

Hi--I am actually writing while in Italy. My husband and I are supposed to get on a plane back to the U.S. tomorrow morning. I was able to check in online but my husband wasn't. When he tries to check in (for a Delta flight), we get an advisory that says: "We can't check you in online, because government regulations require that you check in at the airport." Should we be concerned? Should we get to the airport earlier? What does this mean?

No, I've had the same notification and it's no cause for concern. I would recommend showing up a few minutes early. The airline probably just needs to verify some of your travel documents. Fellow chatters, have you received this notification in the past? What did it mean for your flight?

I just booked a week in LA at the end of August to visit a friend and hang out in the city. Would it be crazy to tack on a few days in Palm Springs, or will the heat be insufferable? I have been there during the summer before, but not in late August. I love spending time there/by the pool but curious what others think.

The average daytime high temperature in Palm Springs is a toasty 107 degrees, but as they say in Southern California, it's a dry heat. I would not hesitate to visit. I'd maybe restrict your activities to early morning and late evening or head up to the mountain on the Aerial Tram.  On the positive side, hotel rates should be pretty reasonable at that time of year.

For the traveler with the (new) 16-hour layover: I suggest researching the best-case itinerary currently available. Then call the airline and request that the reservation be rebooked that way. It's easier if the same airline; if not, airline needs to endorse ticket to alternative carrier. Keep repeating, "It's an involuntary change and you need to accommodate me. Give me your supervisor" until successful.

Great advice. Thank you.

I've had this happen in the US, not just overseas. Who knows why, and I don't know that it matters. I had heard that if you check in early (24 hours), it means less likely to get bumped, and that if you use the outbound ticket the airline "knows" you'll use the return ticket so it doesn't matter... In any case, don't sweat it, get there a tad early, and enjoy the charming airport ambiance.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

My daughter will be traveling to London in mid-August for a college course but will be staying over for a few days before returning to US. Wants to stay in Bloomsbury area. Should we look for a hotel with air-conditioning or what is the usual? Needs to be near British Museum. A few years ago we were in Paris in July and moved to an air conditioned hotel mid trip due to extreme heat. Thanks.

London has heat waves -- two days ago, it hit 75 degrees -- but unless your daughter has health issues, should be fine to get a place without air-conditioning. My daughter lived in a dorm room in London without air conditioning for a few months in late summer/fall, and, while she did complain a couple of times, she got by with a fan. Chatters have thoughts on this? 

I'm way ahead of you. My packing list is already arranged with all essentials - passport, pills, money, money belt, keys, travel arrangements, etc - on me. At night, they are all in a baggie on my night stand. If the fire alarm goes off, I'm out of bed, into my shoes and coat, grab the baggie and I'm out of there. Think smart, people and be prepared.

Thank you.

Today's code is TT8085. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating.

Usually means they want to check your passport and nothing more. I’ve has this several times over the years and that’s all it meant.

That's what happened to me. It was pretty routine. Thanks for the information.

More of a local travel question but here goes. I love my little house but unfortunately it does not include access to a pool as a perk, and I will need to get wet this summer. So where in the area can I go to beat the heat? I'm out in Woodbridge VA, so DC would be a bit of a hike to hang out with a bunch of hipsters at a crowded hotel pool (no offense, I'm just a bit old for that scene). I'd actually prefer local lake or river spots that I could pop into maybe after a hike nearby. I know there's a lake with a beach in Catoctin Mtn. park and Lake Anna has one and there's Sandy Point state park, but are there more I'm not aware of? I'd take an outdoor hotel pool in NoVA if the cost to get in isn't ridiculous.

I'd start by reading this Washington Post story about area pools. Most are in D.C., but some are in the suburbs. There are also local water parks, but they attract lots of kids. A long while back, I wrote about a guy who maintained a Web site about swimming holes. Seems as if the Web site is still operating, although I have not vetted it. Any chatters have a favorite spot?

A month ago, a Travel & Leisure magazine online came to my email box, and one of the articles was about having a special Go Bag to hold passport, boarding passes, wallet, keys, etc. I agree w/the poster about the necessity of having these items on your person. Another way to hold these things is to wear one of those Travel Vests that have lots of pockets so that you board the plane wearing the vest and all of your necessities. With respect to the To Go Bag, it can be placed under the seat in front of you so that if you need to evacuate the aircraft via the the slides, you grab that bag and the life jacket when you exit the plane. I like carrying a cross-body bag that contains my stuff, but my backpack usually has my keys and the passport wallet. I might have to re-think how to re-pack the To Go Bag w/those items.

Thanks for the information.

Almost all homes in the UK don't have air conditioning. It can be unpleasant but it is extremely unusual for it to be more than that. If she ends up not have air conditioning it's nothing to worry about.

I agree. 

My husband got this on our return trip from Budapest to Chicago. We had a connecting flight in Vienna. He was pulled aside in the gate area in Vienna, taken to a separate room, and put through "enhanced screening." He had to completely empty his carry on bag and even had to take his tablet out of the case. He had to rush to repack everything to make the connection. They told us it was U.S. agents who decide who to screen.

Oh, that's interesting. Thank you for passing that along. In that case, I'd definitely give yourself a little extra time at the airport.

 

Went to Montreux, Switzerland to see the location of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water (casino burned there in the early 1970's)" and, Freddie Mercury statue. Lake Geneva any time is nice, but adding in rock history is icing on the cake!

We wrote about doing just that in Montreux a while back: Read the piece here

I'm from father east on LI - Stony Brook. My preferred method is the train - Amtrak gets into Penn Station and then LIRR goes from Penn Station. Even if you have a long layover at Penn Station you can get a coffee. It's so much less stressful than flying. And driving is usually hellish - both on the Turnpike and on LI.

I find the exact opposite, but it's because I don't live in Washington. Getting to Union Station takes a long while from 40 miles out. 

to Glen Cove. They go fairly frequently. You have to change trains at Jamaica, but it isn't a hard transfer. Most of the time, it is right across the platform if you exit the train on the correct side (announced). I'm a cheapskate, so I usually take one of the buses from Bethesda and then the train to Glenn Cove. My friends' house is walking distance from the station, but you might want to think about the very last leg of your journey. Will someone pick you up? Also, if you are getting picked up, trains are more frequent to stations that aren't that much further away - maybe an extra 20 minutes by car.

It's very dependent on where the chatter lives. If she's near Union Station, Amtrak or bus is an option. But if she's in the suburbs and closer to Dulles or BWI, flying makes sense. 

I do agree with your early/late suggestions, as well as the Aerial Tram, but do be aware that August is "monsoon season" in the desert, and this Southern Cal gal has noticed a marked uptick in humidity over the last few years, so it may not be as dry as you might wish. Still, cheap hotels, and the bacon flight at Cheeky's make up for a lot!

Thanks for the additional perspective. I didn't know Palm Springs had a Monsoon season. I lived in Southern California for six years and did two newspaper internships in the Inland Valley. It was always bone dry during the summer. But Palm Springs is a drive from Ontario and San Bernardino. 

My mom in AZ and me here in DC would like to go somewhere cooler this summer, we're not necessarily looking for a touristy area - I'll be working remotely. Looking for somewhere that is cooler and where we could find a 2 bedroom vacation rental for under $3000 for a month. Preferably some place where we don't have to rent a car. Does such a place exist?

Probably, but I think you need to narrow it down a little more. Do you want a big city? A smaller town? Nonstop flights or cheap airfares? 

I think that some percentage of flyers MUST go through additional document verification and/or security screening. Possibly spouse has been selected. More generally, Delta states: "The recommended arrival time at the airport prior to departure of international flights is 3 hours." Without a boarding pass in-hand I'd certainly recommend doing so!

As far as I can tell, the selection is random. But it's hard to know since TSA and other agencies that handle airport security don't generally answer direct questions about their screening procedures. 

Hi Chatters! I'm planning a trip to Germany in the fall. We'll begin in Munich for the end of Oktoberfest and will then have another 4-5 days to travel in Bavaria. Any tips for a group that will probably want to spend approximately equals amounts of time exploring the natural scenery and enjoying the local beer/food - ideally combining the two pursuits whenever possible! We'd prefer to stick to trains as opposed to renting a car. I've only briefly visited Munich once before, so I'm having trouble deciding what places/activities deserve a space on our short agenda. Thanks!

I'm going to open this question up to my fellow chatters in a moment. But first, as someone who grew up in Germany and Austria, let me put in a good word for the Bavarian Alps. Berchtesgaden is beautiful and at that time of year, you might even have a little snow in the mountains. The hiking is second to none. Highly recommend it. Over to you, chatters.

A few minutes' research on Expedia + TripAdvisor led me to the Staunton Hotel in Bloomsbury. It's near the British Museum and has A/C. Prices (and reviews) seem reasonable. Haven't stayed there myself, however. 

Thanks for doing the research. 

I did a college course in London during July/August about 10 years ago. I stayed in student housing for about a month where the temperature ranged from the 60/70s to the 80s. I think it will be fine since it cools down at night when you're sleeping. I could also open the window. If I'm in London, I don't plan on being in my room much during the day! I think she'll be fine!

My daughter also lived to tell the tale. 

London in August can be sweltering, especially for Americans who are accustomed to A/C, and many public places are not cooled, meaning you can be damp from humidity all day. For a stay of a few days, spend a little more for A/C. And there are several large tourist hotels around Russell Square.

Again, depends on age and fortitude of the person. I'm old, so I'd go for air conditioning. But when my daughter was in college, it wasn't a huge hardship. 

We (my, husband, and 2 kids) are on a 5:30 am flight out of Dulles next month. Based on the 2 hour early rule of thumb, we need to check in by 3:30am. My husband swears nothing will be open that early, and we should get there around 4:30. What time do we actually need to get to the airport? What about if we need to park? We usually fly out of BWI, and have never had a flight this early, so we feel a bit flummoxed. We did check with a few Park and Fly hotels that serve Dulles, but haven't found one that starts their shuttle that early in the A.M.

No, you don't need to be there at 3:30. If you are not checking luggage, print your boarding passes ahead of time and are in the TSA security line by 4:30, you should be fine. If you're parking in the economy lot, be waiting for the bus by 4:15. That said, if you are flying on a holiday weekend, add extra time. 

More tales of rock-related travel:

Athens, GA, for all the history associated with REM and the B-52's. Didn't see any of them wandering around town, tho we did eat at a restaurant co-owned by Michael Stipe.

Seeing with Bowie - a while back mum and I went to a fantastic Bowie exhibit at the V&A. A really interesting part was that you go headphones and they tuned into where you were in the exhibit - so you might be listening to a TV interview with Bowie, then move over and hear him singing in concert. It really made for a full sensory experience. My husband was terribly jealous and when I returned home to DC was positively rude.

A few years ago, my wife and I were in Stuttgart to visit her uncle, who lives in a nearby town. We stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn on Mercedesstraße, which is located between two large arenas. One night my wife opened the window in our hotel room because it was a bit too warm inside -- and realized that a concert by Supertramp was going on at the arena next door. So she got to listen to the entire concert for free, and I (who barely even know what Supertramp is) didn't have to have my ears assaulted -- I slept through it with no problem!

When we travel, hubby and I make a list of our top sites to visit. When we visited Dublin a few years back, number one on his wish list of sites to see in Dublin was the Phil Lynott statue just off Grafton Street. My reaction: Phil who??? For those like me who don't know, bassist of Thin Lizzy...(The Boys are Back in Town). Well, hubby got his photo with the statue, of course, which is a good thing, as I read last year that the statue had disappeared!

When we happened to be in London post-cruise and we spend one day (out of two and a half!) doing a Beatles walking tour of the city. I have to admit though, it was VERY well done and a great way to see parts of the city we likely would not have otherwise seen.

Relatively minor, but on our 1st trip to Paris husband wanted to pay homage at 42 Rue Saint Jacques, immortalized in the 10cc song, Un Nuit in Paris. It was a giggle in itself, but we discovered on the same block a charming Tibetan Buddhist store, where we drank yak butter tea with the owner, AND later discovered that this is the route out of Paris if one is starting the Camino de Santiago (in French, Chemin St. Jacques) in Paris. I've added it to my total of Camino segments, and all because of a 10cc song.

About 15 years ago we'd gone to the Rock 'n' Roll McDonalds in Chicago and thought it was fun. We took our kids two years ago to the rebuilt restaurant, and didn't find it nearly as charming. Ah well.

I am not a kid......but I love the flowrider on Royal Caribbean. It is my understanding that no other cruise line has it. Is that true? Do you know of any US hotels/resorts which carry it?

FlowRider, a surf simulator, is patented by Royal Caribbean, so, yes, it is exclusive to that line. But there are other surf simulators. For example, Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Galveston has something called a Boogie Bahn, which is similar. 

As a former Queens girl, I second the suggestion of Amtrak to Penn Station/LIRR to Glen Cove or someplace else out on the Island. And, there's no need to go to Union Station to get the train - - most of them stop at New Carrollton or BWI (and there's a big parking garage at the BWI station.)

If you live in the outer burbs of Virginia, not all that easy, but an option for those who dwell in some areas of Maryland. 

There are quite a few lovely bed and breakfasts in the Bloomsbury area. Not sure about their a/c situations, but definitely worth checking out beyond the usual hotel options. London School of Economics also rents out its dorms during the summer months. The one I lived in during my time there, High Holborn, is right on the border between Bloomsbury and Covent Garden. I'm pretty sure it had a/c, and if it didn't, I don't remember being uncomfortable (and I'm pretty sensitive to that kind of thing). I'm guessing if your daughter wants to stay in Bloomsbury, she'll be at UCL. I used their gym and made the walk from my dorm several times a week, no problem. I also recall there being a Travelodge around the corner where many parents stayed when they came to visit. Also technically Covent Garden, but very close to Bloomsbury.

Thanks for the ideas. 

My husband and I had this issue on a British Airways flight from London to Dulles. When we got to the airport (3 hours early like responsible travelers) they told us it was because the aircraft had changed and our pre-purchased seat reservations needed to be reassigned. Ok, no problem. Until we go to board 2.5 hours later and find out that the new plane was 40 seats smaller and I had been bumped (I used United miles to book on BA, so I was essentially their least-valued customer). No indication this would happen until I scanned my seemingly-valid ticket (with a seat number) at the jet bridge and was denied boarding. They didn't even ask for volunteers to give up their seats, just bumped people that the computer rejected. Due to very customer-friendly policies in Europe, my husband and I ended up receiving over $1000 in mandated damages, but it was still a mess. It doesn't sound like this is the case for the Italy travelers, but a word of caution that international airlines may operate differently.

That's a new one. Thank you for sharing!

I have used this database to find pools for lap swimming - I found a pool in London once where I could do lap swimming. There were a couple of listings for Woodbridge. 

Thanks!

Perhaps a college town in the northern US (or even Canada) where it doesn't get too hot, PLUS lots of the students are away from campus over the summer? Maybe some faculty member would have a house to rent for the summer.

Worth exploring. 

As long as my husband's job keeps us living in the South, I will continue to take the kids and flee north the day school lets out for the summer. Our best time was in Toronto, one of my favorite cities in the world, with excellent public transportation, plenty to do, and lots of apartments available on VRBO, etc.

Good idea. 

My mother and I spent a memory-filled 10 days together using the family-owned Morgan Hotel behind the British Museum as our base. My mom had found the hotel in a guide book that said it was a frequent spot that researchers chose because of the proximity to the museum.

Thanks!

Been there, done this. If the airline has an early flight, their counters will be open. TSA pre-check is NOT, however. You have to do the security with the rest of the unwashed masses as that doesn't open until 4:30. No coffee either; nothing opens until 5 or later...

I've taken several very early flights out of Dulles in recent months, and had no issues getting through security. Maybe I've been lucky. 

Looks like our time is up -- thanks for chatting today! 10cc pilgrims, drop us a line at travel@washpost.com to claim your prize. And join us 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.
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