Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Aug 14, 2017

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, we explored much of what Milwaukee has to offer. Do you have a favorite destination in the Badger State? Tell us about it below. Most compelling answer gets a copy of Yasmin Newman's "The Desserts of New York, and How to Eat Them All." On to your questions!

Sometime ago—I think it was within the last 6-8 months, one of your reporters wrote an article about a trip/vacation through Alaska. Would you please direct me to that article if I can access it online.

Sure, I think you mean this piece from February.

Please tell us the name of the vendor used by the writer of "What a Trip" from July 30.

Send your request and contact information to travel@washpost.com, and we will pass it on to the reader who sent in that "What a trip" column.

I'd like to take a Disney cruise in 2018 with my mom (will be 80) and son (will be 6) and was thinking February for our birthday month. Does anyone know the best way to book this cruise, suggested destinations and the ideal time of year to go? I was considering using AAA to plan but I'm open to all suggestions.

Disney offers a variety of cruises in February, which is a fine time of year to go. You could opt for three, four, five or seven nights; destinations include the Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean or the Bahamas.  Most leave out of either Port Canaveral, Fla., or Miami. I'd look at pricing on the Disney Web site and compare it to prices offered by AAA, Costco Travel. Liberty Travel, etc. Or you could put your desired itinerary on CruiseCompete to get bids from multiple travel agencies. 

Planning our first ever trip to Savannah later this week. We'll be there for 3 nights. What are the must see things while there? We're then headed to SC for the eclipse!

If you've never been there, you'll want to hit all the popular tourist spots. I'd likely start with a walking tour of the historic district. There's also a hop-on, hop-off bus that may give you a good overview. Highlights include Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Bonaventure Cemetery, Old Fort Jackson and River Street. Hope you don't get caught in an eclipse traffic jam! 

I'm taking the bus from DC to NYC over Labor Day Weekend, as it was cheaper than the train and I don't have a car. I decided to go with the Peter Pan bus company since it drops off right at Port Authority in Midtown Manhattan. I've heard mixed reviews from people and was hoping to see if you've had any experience with the company.

Peter Pan is one of the granddaddies of bus transport. My grandmother used to take it to visit us in Massachusetts. The DC-NY express bus lines are pretty comparable these days. I prefer Washington Deluxe, because it picks up in Dupont Circle and drops off at Penn Station. In fact, most of the newer bus lines drop off at Penn Station, which I think is a better starting point than Port Authority.  Most of the Next Gen bus riders take Bolt, which has the route down to a science.

Here's a handy Post comparison of the D.C. to New York bus lines.

I'm cowbell-girl from last week. I emailed travel@washpost.com and got no response.

Check your spam folder, cowbell-girl; we were in touch last week per your mailing address!

Last Christmas, I pre-paid a Budget rental car online using my Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer Visa card, which covers car insurance. In addition, I have regular car insurance (for the exact same model). I of course refused to buy additional insurance at the Budget counter at Denver airport when I picked my car. To my surprise, I was charged $1019 for insurance for a 10-day rental! I disputed the charge with my credit card company (I used my Capital One Visa for incidentals when I picked my car) and Capital One took the charge off. Now, I have gotten mails and phone calls from debt collecting people. I already wasted my time on disputing the charge (calling, providing document etc.). I have been ignoring these people. This is annoying. What can I do to make this go away (without paying this outrageous $1019 insurance)? I doubt I am the only one out there victimized by the Budget Rental Car in Denver airport. How can this kind of outrageous behavior towards customers go on? Super Annoyed Former Budget Customer

If you refused insurance, this should be an open-and-shut case. Before you go any further, I would review your contract to see if you didn't inadvertently sign up for insurance. If you did, you may be at a dead end. I would appeal this to the Budget executive contacts I list on my consumer advocacy site. But if that doesn't work, please let me know. Here's how to contact me for consumer help.

Chatters recommend Wisconsin destinations:

St. Croix Falls, on the western border, across the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls, Minnesota. As lovely as the Hudson River Valley, only wilder and less populous. Just an hour's drive from the Twin Cities.

For me it is Circus World in Baraboo. I went there almost 50 years ago when I was about 10 and again had the opportunity to take my family there about 6 years ago. Much of it had not changed, but there was still the excitement my daughter had of seeing the old circus wagons, the show, and other fun things. It brought back memories of my time there with my parents.

Taliesin, of course. Gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright property - actually his home and studio. Not as close as Falling Water, but if you are in the area it is definitely worth it. And much more than one building. It really takes the whole day.

Love visiting Devil's Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Bonus, after a long day of hiking or camping, you can visit the Wollersheim Winery for a tour/taste. 

Vamoose and Tripper go from Bethesda and drop off right at a bagel place two blocks (one block?) south of the front of Penn Station. Vamoose also picks up/drops off in Arlington and Lorton. Not sure about Tripper. If you aren't in DC proper, getting a bus from the suburbs saves a lot of time: your time getting into the city and time on the bus driving through city traffic to get to the highway.

Great point -- being able to board in Northern Virginia was a game-changer for me.

We're interested in an escorted tour of English Gardens. None of us want to drive, and many of the gardens are difficult to reach by train or public coach. Do you know of any guided tours that visit the more famous sites? Land only, needed, not a total package with air. Thanks!

I'd start with the Royal Horticultural Society. You may also want to look at private tour operators, such as Coopersmith's or Lynott Tours

Hello, I'm looking for recommendations for 2 adults traveling in February. Starting point is Boise, ID. We are looking for nice weather - a nearby beach would be nice but optional, great food, with history - walking tours, etc. I'm thinking New Orleans, my spouse's first thought was Corpus Christi, but we're open to about anything. Would also consider an all-inclusive type resort. No cruises please. Thank you.

If beach is a priority, Corpus Christi. But New Orleans fits the rest of your requirements. Best destinations for all-inclusives are Jamaica, Cancun region and Dominican Republic, but you'll need to figure out how difficult it will be to get from Boise to any of those places. 

American Express (AmEx) automatically charged us for rental car insurance when we booked a rental car with AutoEurope. We proceeded on our trip to Italy, like many times before, believing we had insurance for the car. We even declined the rental company's insurance relying on the fact that AmEx had us covered. Lo and behold, when there was slight damage to the car we were surprised to learn that AmEx does not cover car rentals in Italy (along with 5 other countries). From the time we first reserved the car and were automatically billed by AmEx for insurance, there were almost 3 weeks in which they could notify us to explain that Italy was not covered. They have argued that there is a notice on their website explaining the countries that are not covered. However, there would not be any reason for us to check the website, particularly after seeing the automatic insurance charge on our statement. Knowing we were going to Europe, it seems it should incumbent on AmEx to first ensure we were not going to a country they did not cover before billing us for the insurance.

I'm sorry this happened to you, but something isn't right about your story. I don't understand how Amex could automatically charge you for insurance. Shouldn't that be optional? If they forced you to pay for insurance, they should at least cover you. Please send me the details and I'll look into this. Or you could try appealing to American Express via its executive contacts directly.

my husband and I are taking a VRC from Nuremburg to Budapest in November. We had planned to visit friends in Germany before the cruise, but they'll be in Sardinia. Looking for a recommended add-on before or after the cruise. Do you recommend Slovenia?

I've not been to Slovenia, so can't opine on that option. But I can recommend a trip to Salzburg and to the Austrian Lake District. 

We're going to be in Manassas the last week of August visiting family. We'll have our 1-year-old and 3-year-old with us and will need to get out of the house daily. We used to live in DC, so we are familiar with the DC options, but is there anything in or closer to Manassas that we should keep in mind? Thanks!

Manassas National Battlefield Park has wide open spaces for kids to run and is interesting for adults. There are a couple of water parks within easy driving distance. If you are willing to drive a bit, Leesburg Animal Park is fun for kids. 

Today's code is TT2066. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating. 

 

Is it possible to have luggage sent to a cruise ship from home? Federal Express or similar? Is the cost prohibitive for one large bag? How will I know that it gets to the ship and is waiting for me?

Yes, you can use a service like Luggage Forward to send your bags to a cruise ship. Here are a few details. (Warning: It's not cheap.)

I have an upcoming international trip on Delta. They recently informed me that the first leg of the trip (DCA to JFK) is now on something called GoJet Airlines. Do I still check in at the Delta desk? To confuse things even further, both legs actually have Virgin Atlantic flight numbers, but are "operated through GoJet/Delta".

You will check in at Delta. GoJet is just their regional partner; you won't have to deal with them at all except to board their plane.

I'm going to Fiji in the next few weeks, to the Waidroka area for 3 days. Are there customs or such I should be aware of, "do's and don'ts" , is the food and water safe? Thanks

Fijians are pretty laid back but there are some customs you should keep in mind. For example, when visiting the villages, dress a little more conservatively. Women should cover their shoulders and both genders should wear longer bottoms  that cover their knees. Also, remove hats and sunglasses as a form of respect.

As for safety issues and other concerns: Don't hike alone; hire a guide as trails are not always well-marked or maintained. Don't buy any wildlife, including seashells; they could be endangered. Beware of sword sellers, who will ask your name and engrave the sword without your permission -- then guilt you into buying it. Discuss the fare with the cab driver before entering the car. (Ask the hotel staff for an idea of the cost.) Stay in touristed areas and be careful walking around at night. Be aware that if a store invites you inside for a drink of kava, they expect you to buy something. Watch out for dangerous sea life, such as jellyfish, fire coral and sea snakes.

For water, I suggest drinking bottled water. For other medical and health concerns, check out the CDC's overview of Fiji.

Anyone out there have any recent experience with Colonial Williamsburg? A long time ago I took my young family there on a quiet Tuesday and it seemed that most of the "attractions" (e.g. blacksmith, printer & binder, etc.) seemed to be completely unmanned. After spending that much money on a family of four, we were really disappointed and haven't been back in almost 10 years. Other than only going on a peak holiday weekend, anyone out there know how to avoid the dreaded "come back tomorrow" signs.

When you arrive, go to the visitors center and ask for a schedule of events. This way, you can know in advance which living history demos/site are open at which specific hours.

Joe Straw, public relations manager with CW, recommends the free Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app. The app has "site schedules and a wayfinding functionality that offers push notifications when a guest nears a site or program of interest. With our new “Meet” functionality, guests can track character interpreters (like Thomas Jefferson, et al) to actually find them in the Historic Area. Without that, such meetings were a matter of chance."

For hours: The Historic Area is open 365 days a year. Primary historic sites are open 7 days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Other historic sites (including some trade shops) are open 5 days a week, but the majority are open daily.  Coach and livestock rides run daily except in extreme weather. 

Hi! We're thinking about a safari for a family vacation in a couple of years, but I don't know where to even start the planning process. Can you point me to some places to start my research on itineraries, cost, etc? Thanks!

Safaris run the gamut from bare bones to ultra-luxurious, so I'd start by trying to figure out a budget. South Africa is usually less expensive and easier to get to, so you may want to look there first. Bostwana is more expensive, but offers a wide variety of wildlife. Look at companies that specialize in safaris, such as Lion World Travel. And try generalists, such as Friendly Planet and South African Airways Vacations. And you could always ask around for a good travel agent. 

It is Vamoose that drops off/picks up at the bagel place in NYC. Not sure where Tripper is on the NYC end. I usually use Vamoose. And I have had a good experience with their website and customer service people on the phone when things get too complicated for the website. I had to cancel a trip in May pretty close to the travel date and they suspended the tickets for me indefinitely. I'll probably use it in September. No charge for the change.

Both are also very good companies. (Tripper drops off by Penn Station.) I like supporting the smaller businesses, too.

Tripper picks up and drops off by the Panera in Bethesda, across from a public parking lot. Very convenient, never had a problem. They also go from Arlington. But check Amtrak--they often offer $49 fares each way, and the extra few bucks are worth it for me.

Great advice. I would always choose Amtrak over bus.

Senior Discovery Tours in Canada runs a Stately Homes and Gardens of Southern England Tour every May.  The 2018 tour will be advertised soon and they'll let you take just the land portion. Great company!

Thanks for the tip. 

Help! I'm going on a ten day Holy Land tour next spring. I've never been further than Canada, and that was before 9/11. What to pack, how to dress, cultural tips, must haves, should nots, tips only learned through experience? Where would I look for comprehensive information geared to the travel-naive? Thank you!

My answer would take up a whole book. Oh, wait. It did! All kidding aside, I'd be happy to send you a copy of How To Be The World's Smartest Traveler. Just send me an email. Here's how to reach me.

Are there any legitimate parking alternatives rather than paying economy or garage parking rates at DCA airport for our weeklong trip?

I will always recommend Metro, taxi or Uber over parking at DCA. These are the cheapest and most straightforward modes of transportation to the airport.  You can try third-party parking sites, such as AirportParkingReservations.com or Spot Hero, which list alternative spots, such as garages and hotel lots. But you will have to factor in shuttle time and still pay more than the cost of metro or cab/Uber.

They have cool underground caves that could be worth exploring. I did a day trip to Slovenia from Italy and it was definitely a very cool experience.

Thanks!

Why should it be incumbent on AmEx to make sure you've read the terms and conditions? When I rent a car with Costco, there's a note that says "geographic restrictions," I ALWAYS click on it, even when it's from a car rental company and location I've used before. It sounds like the poster didn't use due diligence, and expects to be compensated for that.

No, the charge was automatic. That's why I did a double-take. That should not be an automatic charge, ever.

Hi, looking at Smithsonian, Road Scholar, etc. for a 2-week trip for first timers there. Ages late-60's, but fit. Don't want to drive, so the organized trips seems appealing. Any recommendations?

I think you're already looking at some reputable tour companies that will give you a good experience. I'd also look at Down Under Answers, Trafalgar,  Globus and Intrepid

I actually like Peter Pan because it drops off inside the Port Authority, especially once the weather turns colder. Megabus and Bolt Bus all require you to line up on the street to wait and hope for a bus to appear.

I have the opportunity to travel to Turkey in March. Would you go to Turkey, given the current political climate in that country? I honestly think we will be at war and it will be a moot point but interested in your opinion(s) Thank you...love this chat!

I would go, but whenever I am asked this type of question, I always throw in this caveat: It all depends on your risk tolerance. At the moment, tour operators are still offering trips to Turkey, but the State Department's language from March is pretty strong:  "U.S. citizens are warned of increased threats from terrorist groups in Turkey. Carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time, and avoid travel to southeast Turkey due to the persistent threat of terrorism."

If you decide to go, purchase travel insurance, in case you need to cancel due to political or safety concerns. Also, share your itinerary with friends and family and decide in advance how you will stay in touch with them: Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc.

Now that was a sentence I didn't think I'd read today. Or ever!

You never know what you are going to see on our Travel chats!

This summer, I'd say Port Authority is probably a safer bet than Penn Station, since they're still doing a lot of emergency work on the Amtrak lines. Port Authority is right next to the Times Square subway stop, which has the local and express stops of three lines and the 7 line out to Queens.

Thanks for the input!

It's beautiful, friendly and much less crowded than other European destinations.

It's been years since I've been there, but I love Copper Falls near Mellen, WI. The first time I saw it, I was about 4. The falls looked like a river of root beer to me, and I wanted to jump in and get a drink! As an adult, it still looked like root beer. :-)

One last Wisconsin recommendation before we sign off!

Looks like our hour is up -- thanks for chatting, everyone. Taliesin fan, please drop us a line at travel@washpost.com to claim your prize -- and join us here again next week!

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: