Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Aug 13, 2018

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
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Past Talk about Travel chats

Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel. In this week's section, we explored Northern Italy's Piedmont region, with an assist from HomeExchange. Have an underexposed Italian destination to recommend? Tell us about it below. Most compelling answer gets a copy of Elizabeth Minchilli's "Eating My Way Through Italy." On to your questions!

This morning I tried booking a late December flight from DC to Buenons Aires on Cheapoair. The price seemed too good to be true and, apparently, it was. I put in my credit information and clicked to pay only to find the seat was gone but, of course, there were much more expensive seats still available! Is this common for such sites or just bad luck on my part today? Thanks!

Yes, low rates disappear all the time, especially on third-party sites.

I'm headed to an all inclusive in the Caribbean in a couple weeks. First time doing an all inclusive. Anything I need to know before I go? Special things I need to pack, best ways to take full advantage? This was a last minute decision because I just didn't have time to think about planning anything, but now I'm worried I'm going to forget something because I haven't planned.

You'll likely spend most, if not all, of your time on the grounds of the resort, although some all-inclusives are situated in areas that offer outside golf, cave-snorkeling, etc. Almost all are very casual, so no need for dressy clothes. You may want to bring collared shirts/sundresses for dinners at a specialty restaurant. As soon as you get there, book specialty dining, if available, and any outside tours you may want to take through the resort.  Sign up early for any special events that may be offered: For example, some resorts have talent shows for guests that offer prizes. Some resorts hide the better booze for those who ask and tip well. Expect the pool areas to be crowded and plan accordingly. I typically hang at the beach, although some Caribbean islands have been inundated with sargassum seaweed this summer. 

Hi, planning a trip to Bali in April, and was wondering what city would be the best for an extended stopover?

I would recommend Hong Kong or Seoul. Some airlines offer free layovers (sometimes with hotel included), so check with the airline before you book.

about my favorite Italian destination--because then it would not be my favorite. I kid actually, as all one needs to do is avoid the most famous places. You often do not even have to go far---the other towns on the Italian Riviera are just as pretty as le Cinque Terre, but they are not overrun. Similarly, you can toss a dart and find a Tuscan village with stunning scenery and art treasures. The sheer abundance makes it easy to find an alternative to crowds, selfie-sticks, and lines. You don't always even need to rent a car, though that certainly helps. Of course I want to see Rome, Florence, and Venice one day, but for now I am happy to explore the country's villages and smaller but not "lesser" towns.

Great advice, thank you!

With Primera Air entering the DC-to-London fray, what's your take on the airline and Stansted Airport? Is it worth it to fly with them, factoring in the most-used add-ons (checked bag, food and drink, reserved seat, etc.) and travel time between Stansted and London? Will it affect the fares of the other airlines (British Airways, United, Virgin Atlantic), which all fly into Heathrow?

Stansted is about 36 miles northeast of London, while Heathrow is about 14 miles west. Both have express trains. Takes about 15 minutes to get to London from LHR and 45 minutes from Stansted. As for whether it's worth it, easy enough to figure that out online. Most of the so-called legacy carriers, such as the other airlines you mention, now offer fares that don't include checked bags, food, seat assignments, etc., and they are typically similar to the discount carrier fares. 

I flew recently with WOW Air and realized I'd booked a checked bag when I really needed a carry-on. I contacted WOW through Twitter (wasn't having luck with the phone center) and they said they'd be able to downgrade my luggage, just not reimburse me for the difference. Okay, cool. I get to the airport and ask them to downgrade the luggage, they say no can do. I show them the Twitter exchange and everything, but no dice. Now what? My partner told me I should just pay and get them to refund it. So I did—he's usually right. Not this time. WOW says baggage fees are always nonrefundable and they're hanging on to my 50 bucks—even though I had already paid for that luggage as a checked bag (which cost more!) I asked a couple of times on Twitter and email for them to honor our agreement and refund the second charge, but they basically showed me the door and said they'd rather lose me as a customer than make that refund. Feeling completely helpless and also really annoyed. Fifty bucks isn't a lot for them, but it is for me. I feel cheated. Any options for me?

Yes, you might contact one of these WOW executives. If they can't help, please let me know and I will.

Does EU 261 apply to flights to/from territories of EU member nations (like Caribbean islands), or just to/from EU nations themselves?

EU 261 applies to all EU airspace, including French Guiana and Martinique, Mayotte, Guadeloupe and La Reunion, Saint-Martin, Madeira and the Azores, and the Canary Islands. Here's more information about EU 261.

I'm looking for help finding a beach front house for Thanksgiving for eight people, within driving distance of the DMV, preferably in a town with things to do and some Christmas events, tree farms nearby. Thanks!

Not sure about tree farms, as beaches typically aren't near forests, although I think I have seen one in Delmar, Md., which isn't all that far from the beach. Fenwick Island in Delaware has nice beach houses and is close to Ocean City, which puts on a really neat Winterfest of Lights. 

I am looking to take a vacation toward the end of September or early October. I would like to go to Newfoundland and possibly St. Pierre and Miquelon. My dilemma is getting there without breaking the bank. Airfares from Norfolk (where I live now) are in the $650+ range. Are there any other solutions that you can suggest? Even though I don't live in the D.C. area any longer, I still keep up with the chat each week for the great tips.

When I posed the question via live chat to the Newfoundland/Labrador tourism office, the expert said "drive." But with creeping gas prices, plus road-trip expenses like accommodations, I am not sure driving is the cheapest form of travel. In addition, the drive will take at least 40 hours.

 I would suggest biting the bullet and paying for the airfare, then cut costs elsewhere, on lodging and food. This way you will have more time enjoying the province than getting there and having to turn around to head south.

I'll be in Italy next month and I'm confused about what kind of electrical adapter or converter I might need. I'll have the standard electronics (iphone, tablet, camera charger, fitbit) with me and will need to be able to charge them. I think I need a converter and not just an adapter, right? Any particular brand I should look for, or are they pretty much the same? Also, any suggestions on where to stay in Rome? We're looking for something convenient, affordable, and safe. Thanks for the advice on all fronts!

Thank you for asking this question. I'm working on a Navigator column about chargers and adapters. Here's a helpful page on Italy adapters. Any of the world adapter products available from the major online e-tailers should work, but avoid the cheap ones you might be able to buy in Italy. (In other words, get them before you leave.) I will have details soon.

I have a question regarding having a passport vs a passport card. I understand the importance of a passport but what does having a passport card get me (other than $35 bucks poorer)? Thanks

Great question. A passport card, while cheaper, only works when entering the United States at land-border crossings and via ports of entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. It can’t be used for international air travel. I have details in this Navigator column.

Planning a weekend trip to St. Louis in the coming weeks. Anything (besides The Arch) that I shouldn't miss? Restaurant recommendations in downtown area?

You've come to the right place: Check out this "You're going where?" package about St. Louis that ran in June.

If driving up, where's the best place to park and take the train into the city?

I have parked at Metropark and taken Amtrak into the city, but not in a long while. Chatters? 

While you can take the train in from both, their London mainline destination sations are literally across central London. Heathrow to Paddington and Stanstead to Liverpool street. This makes a huge difference depending on where you're staying.

Yes, that needs to be considered when making the decision. 

How about disputing WOW's baggage fee with your credit card, and providing the Twitter exchange as verification for your claim?

That might work. But I would save the dispute as a last resort.

Have some international travel coming up. The stores sell converters, but they have disclaimers that they are not adapters. Is that a problem, or are most/all countries all on 110 or 120 volts? Also, can I plug my iPhone into a USB outlet without worrying about voltage? Thanks!

Generally, yes, you can use your devices with an adapter. I just answered a similar question. I'll have a more detailed answer soon.

I have avoided Dulles in past years just because it can take so long to get through security even on a good day, never mind that Wednesday. How much time would you recommend leaving to get there by public transportation and getting through security. I'm considering doing a "basic" flight which means bringing only one item that can fit under the seat since I managed with nothing but a backpack last year (when I was on crutches), so I would skip any lines to drop off a bag.

Do you have TSA PreCheck? Worth it if you travel more than a few times each year, although even that line will be long on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Any way you can leave Tuesday evening? Can't even guess how long it will take for transportation without knowing more details, but Dulles is not anywhere near as accessible as DCA or BWI. Traveling light may be easier, but the other people on the security line won't be doing the same, so that helps only in that you won't have a checked bag to drop off.  If I lived in DC and could get a nonstop out of DCA on Thanksgiving weekend, I'd be willing to pay extra. 

Today's code is TT9449. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating.

I read the article about the prepaid rate on the rental car, but I couldn't remember ever seeing one. Maybe I just don't look in the places where they are offered. Regardless, I never, ever, take a prepaid rate - they're common on hotel rooms. To me, the discount isn't enough against the risk of having to forfeit the entire amount. I figure if I'm at risk of having to cancel a trip, the less I have to worry about losing the better.

Smart move. Most of the major car rental companies have special prepaid rates now. You have to be really careful about them because they are generally nonrefundable. Be sure to click on the terms of your rental before you book.

Hi, I am lost with options for a few nights Maui. I'd like to stay at a place with good food, decent pool/beach chairs with shade, and not too many children. I also do not want to spend $700+/night, more like the $450-500/night range. Any ideas? Thanks!

There are tons of places that match your needs. In fact, unless you are traveling during high season or over holidays, you can stick to your budget  -- and even go under it. Also, to  avoid kids and families, travel during the school year.

Some of the most popular resorts include Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria hotel; Andaz Maui; Lumeria Maui; and Montage Kapalua Bay.

Chatters, any fave Maui hotels?

In my experience, most things are fine unless they would have one of those safety switches on the plug -- definitely don't use a hair dryer without a converter (really, really don't), and I always plug in my straightener until it's hot, and then unplug while I style since I'm not sure if that could overheat or blow a fuse. But I've never had a problem with usual things like laptop and cell phone chargers.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

I just read the FAQ you linked to and you state "Until the U.K. “brexits” — which it hasn’t done yet — Britain is still part of the European regulatory framework. EU 261 will continue to apply" EU261 will still apply AFTER Brexit as it is part of current UK law and will remain law and in effect until it is activly repealed. What could happen is that if the EU made a change to the regulation it would not automatically apply to the UK unless the UK Parliament change the law. This is the same situation as Switzerland.

Thank you for mentioning that. I'll fix it.

San Vito lo Capo at the extreme northwest corner of Sicily. I chose it just because of the location and was not disappointed. Great food, beach, scenery - a bit like Diamond Head in Waikiki. But we were almost the only Americans there. Rented a 2 story villa for a fabulous price. Would LOVE to go back!

It looks beautiful -- thanks for sharing!

My husband and I would like to celebrate our 10 year anniversary with a four-to-five day trip this fall, but can’t decide on a destination. Any suggestions? Somewhere romantic — we’re leaving the kids at home!

I would suggest Charleston or Savannah, or, to the north, Quebec City. If you aren't nervous about hurricanes, I would also throw in St. Croix, which has cleaned up really well since last year's storms and has some very charming areas and gorgeous beaches.

Please recommend several great places within 250 miles of DC for a couple to spend an enjoyable, but affordable, 50th wedding anniversary.

Not sure what you would consider affordable. I was driving the backroads on the way back from Raleigh, NC yesterday and passed by a lovely place called the Inn at Willow Grove in Orange, Va. that may be a nice choice. Chatters have ideas? To save money, especially in areas that don't cater to business travelers, consider going during the week. 

Hi, Besides the fees that go with checked bags, do you all generally do both carry on or checked for ~8 day trips to Europe? Considering trying to go only carry on, but concerned that I might find some great thing (specialty jam, etc.) that could only go on checked bag and would not be able to bring it home. Really on the fence with this, and travelling 8/23, so it is becoming real. Thanks

It's typically cheaper to do carry-on, plus you can then just download a boarding pass and head right to the security line. And you don't have to worry about the airline losing your luggage. But there is something very freeing about boarding an aircraft with just a small purse. Many airlines now also charge for carry-on bags for the cheaper fares, so that may not always be a consideration. But I'd likely go with the carry-on and then either not purchase anything liquid or ship it home separately. 

I have a great little bag. I have never encountered an airline seat it doesn't fit under except in a plane that would have had a hard time taking a large purse in that space. Plus it has Kermit the Frog all over it. Would that count as a personal item if I really didn't have anything else at all that didn't fit inside it for boarding?

On commercial carriers, the official definition of  a personal item is (according to United): "The maximum dimensions for your personal item that fits under the seat in front of you, such as a shoulder bag, purse, laptop bag or other small item, are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm)."

The airlines don't care about style or design or what you are carrying inside of it. They judge a personal item by its measurements. (I use an LL Bean tote as my personal item. My personal rule-of-thumb is that as long as it fits under the seat, it qualifies.)

It appears as though there are a number of what I would consider EU territories that are *not* covered by EU 261. I'm not sure I understand the difference between, say, Saint-Martin and BVI. But according to the European Commission website: The "Annex II" countries & territories [which are not covered by EU 261]: Greenland, New Caledonia and Dependencies, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Territories, Wallis and Futuna Islands, Mayotte, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten), Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena and Dependencies, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda.

Thank you for the clarification.

Just remember that places that don't get a lot of tourists won't have made accommodations for tourists. For example, everything will be closed mid-day. Also less English will be spoken. Still well worth it; you just have to plan accordingly. My favorite: Le Marche. Renaissance cities and Adriatic beach towns.

Good point, thanks!

The most fun I’ve ever had in Italy was a truffle hunt, arranged by our hotel in La Morra (in the Piedmont). Early October. Can’t remember the truffle hunter’s name but vividly remember Dina, the truffle dog. When he said “Dai Dina” (Go Dina) she would start digging furiously. He’d stop her when she got close to a truffle and then use a tiny pick to finish the job so she wouldn’t accidently damage the truffle. She was rewarded with a chunk of parmigiano every time she found one.

The International White Truffle Festival in Alba. On a trip to Italy in 2008, my husband and I planned a stopover in Alba on our way from Torino to Vicenza because I wanted to check out the festival. When we arrived, we realized there was also an option for a regional wine tasting. We paid 10 euros each which entitled us to a wine glass and all the free tastings we could handle at a wide selection of booths set up around town. This is the region of Barolo and Barbaresco ... all we could drink for 10 euros! Why, oh why were we on a day trip with a several hours drive to Vicenza ahead of us?! We have vowed to someday go back and ensure we have a hotel booked in town. The only problem is, I have yet to figure out if the wine tasting happens for only 1 weekend of the festival and which one.

Beth Chang, a Post editor who visits Hawaii frequently, has another Maui suggestion: "The Sheraton at Black Rock, on gorgeous Kaanapali Beach, is lovely and understated, and has great snorkeling around Black Rock and a beautiful pool."

Hi, we recently visited Cuba and are trying to ship a package of miscellaneous things back to friends. With the renewed embargo, we haven't been able to identify a company that will ship our package. We checked the usual suspects (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.) and Delta cargo (we flew Delta). Does anyone have any recommendations? We're trying to send some clothes and other common items that aren't available in Cuba. We can wire money via Western Union, but if items aren't available, then our friends are out of luck. Thanks in advance

I would reach out to a humanitarian organization and ask for advice. You don't want your goods to be returned for improper documentation. I would start with the Red Cross. Along the same lines, you could also donate to a charity that will deliver the goods for you.

I'm going to be visiting Washington shortly and am hoping to try Dungeness crabs while there. I know it's out of season, but are there any places where it might still be a possibility?

I would skip the crabs this year and indulge in another local specialty, like salmon, oysters or apples. The  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed two crabbing areas this season, due to harvest declines of 88 to 90 percent. Maybe we should give the crabs a year off?

Hamilton Station, in Hamilton NJ, is a great place to jump on Jersey transit. This will take you directly to Penn Station in NYC. Jersey transit is less expensive than Amtrak and has excellent Senior and child discounts. My sister lived in NYC for a decade and we have gotten there every way possible. This was one of the cheaper methods (family of four and kids were small). Still a long drive from DC but not as long as NYC, parking was reasonable. For total convenience and price not being an issue. Hop on Amtrak and away you go! When it was just me, this is what I did.

Make sure you check out the parking regulations and costs beforehand. 

Is there a best cruise line/ship for a three-generation extended family with at least 5 under-6yo kids for Alaska destination cruises? And is Ketchikan a special place to dock that's vastly different form Juneau/Skagway? Thanks.

Juneau is a much bigger city than Skagway or Ketchikan. I enjoyed Ketchikan the most out of those three ports -- lovely totem p0les. As for cruise lines/ships, with that sort of crowd, I'd probably go with a larger and/or newer vessel that caters to children. Look at the Norwegian Bliss, Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas and Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam to start. 

I think there's some confusion regarding "converters" and "adaptors." "Converters" change the voltage (example: 110 to 240). "Adaptors" fit between plugs of different size (US to UK) but do not change the voltage delivered. So they can be easily sold worldwide, electronic items such as laptops and phones are manufactured to be "dual voltage." I routinely travel overseas. I carry an adaptor but haven't needed a converter since the early 1990s.

Thanks for pointing that out. I've fixed that reference.

They have the 'adapter' built in so the 'power surge' from going to europe will be fine. Not for your hair dryer tho.

Yes, I've been getting some emails from people with overheating devices. I'll make sure I nail that advice so that it won't happen to any of our readers.

Check out Napili Kai Beach Resort -- big beautiful rooms when we stayed there 2 years ago.

Thanks!

Stayed at the Andaz Maui and it was wonderful. Not a lot of kids. Got a great deal through Costo Travel.

Thanks!

Carry on for the way there, then check on the way home. That way you can buy liquids, and even if your luggage is delayed, who cares? You will be home and they will deliver it to you there eventually.

I like the way you think. 

If you can otherwise travel without checking a bag, it can't be worth checking merely on the chance you might find a specialty jam that would requiring checking on the return flight. The jam, after all, could be mailed back, or for that matter may turn out to be available online at a reasonable price.

Yes, agree. 

I would absolutely check a bag so I can load it with Fanta for the return trip. Man, I wish I could buy it over here. Ditto for pretty much all the food.

I'm more into that delicious cheap Spanish wine, but I get it. 

I'm looking to get in a couple of days of beach time next weekend, but the location and length of stay could depend on traffic. I live in VA and know that traffic southbound on 95 typically backs up early on Saturday mornings by 9:00 am so if I head to VA Beach, I would have to be up and out early, or drive down the night before, while traffic coming back Sunday would be terrible so I'd head back Monday morning, But how is traffic on the way to the DE beaches?

For Delaware beaches, get across the Bay Bridge no later than 8 a.m. and you should be OK on Saturday. On Sunday, head home after 6 p.m., and you'll be fine. 

It's actually more likely that the "stores" (if you mean physical stores) sell adapters, not converters. Converters (which you can buy online, incl. at Amazon), convert voltage from 110-120 to 220-240 voltage. You need a converter if you want to take your hairdryer or your electric toothbrush or electric shaver. If you are taking any type of laptop, tablet, phone, those have dual voltage, so you don't need a converter. You just need an adapter, which is the little thing about 1 1/2 in. square that allows your device (laptop) to plug into the wall. Make it easy on yourself and get a travel power strip surge protector with some usb charging ports (Upwade makes a good one and is on Amazon), and get 1 or 2 adapters to take instead of a separate adapter for each device. We have 1 of the Upwade ones for each person. It fits in a pocket of a laptop sleeve. Even if you get a converter, there is a good chance that your hair dryer, hair curler, etc. is going to get fried or will never work the same when you bring it home So leave those at home. Your electronics, including battery chargers, should be fine with just an adapter.

Thank you! This is really helpful advice. 

Please come visit us in Pittsburgh! So much to do here, lots of museums, great dining, views. Out-of-town (en route) is Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater (although check their website re reservations).

Great suggestion, thanks! Check it out here.

I would like to second parking at Metropark and taking the train in; also, Secaucus Junction, although that's further up the turnpike, but closer to the city, and more traffic.

Thanks! I did Metropark because it allowed overnight parking and was cheap. 

Iceland works for a long weekend also (assuming you are starting near an airport with direct flights to Reykjavik, like BWI), and you can often get a good package from Iceland Air that includes hotel and a day tour.

Great suggestion, thanks! You can get some sense of the place from this 2015 Travel piece.

I second the advice to "bite the bullet." Went to Ste. Pierre 50 years ago as a child. Have wanted to return ever since. Checking the air fares, I find that you can fly to Paris cheaper than there. Don't know if Air Ste. Pierre still exists, but we flew that (an old DC 3) from Sydney, about a 45 minute flight. My ears are still ringing.

Thanks for the second opinion!

Part of the cost may be that it's originating in Norfolk (small airport with limited service). Can you make your own way to the DC area? Check fares departing from all 3 DC airports. Separately, since you'll have to transit through Toronto or Montreal, consider whether it's cost-effective to have one international ticket (DC to Canada) + one separate domestic ticket (to St Johns). St Pierre most likely needs to be purchased separately anyway.

Always good advice: Fly out out of a major airport. You always pay more at smaller facilities.

I agree that you're probably better off flying than driving. And you'll likely spend at least 3 days enroute (each way), which will also include a ferry ride (more expense for you and your car). Not to say that the road trip is bad. We've done it a few times and had fun. But flying will be MUCH faster and give you more time to explore Newfoundland. Note that if you decide to visit Saint Pierre, that's another short flight or 5-hour drive from St John's plus a ferry ride.

Great to know that driving there is doable, just looooooooong.

My husband and I get to do one of these trips every few years. About the same number of days and we live in the DC area. Some highlights have been, Golden Isles of GA, Santa Fe, Iceland and New Orleans. If you are really used to always having kiddos along even the flights are relaxing. When the kids were small and we went to Santa Fe, reading a book uninterrupted on the flight was such a treat. So the longer flight was not a deterrent.

If you're responding to the chatter looking for a 50th anniversary destination, they wanted something affordable, so I didn't mention destinations that required flights. But definitely an option for some. 

Does the chatter know anyone in Canada to whom s/he could ship the items, and then that Canadian could ship the items to Cuba? Slow and costly, I realize, but if it's something really important, that work-around might succeed.

Another interesting option . . .

Most European hotel bathrooms include a hair-dryer.

True.

For the OP who asked about carry on v. checked when flying to Europe. When going over, I do carry-on. If there is a fee, I just scratch it up to the cost of going. I don't want to lose valuable travel and vacation time waiting around for bags to appear. I almost always check bags on the way home, at that point I just don't want to bothered with them anymore. And if it's a direct flight, a delay doesn't matter that much.

Another vote for splitting. 

I see something called Fanta on Amazon.

Hope the chatter who loves Fanta sees this. 

Gee, I would've said "AND we were almost the only Americans there"!

Ha, indeed.

The Azores? Non-stop flights in/out of Boston's Logan Airport.

My bro-in-law took my sister there for a surprise birthday gift. She loved it! But it all depends on the season.

Can you really do this if you are flying internationally? I thought you had a to get in line and have your passport checked by an airline employee before heading to security but I don't fly internationally very often. I may be doing this wrong.

I have gone straight to security for international flights. When you check in online, you just have to type in your passport info. The gate agents will check your passport before boarding.

Thanks all! Had never thought of "splitting": carry on over, checked on the way home. Brilliant!

You're welcome -- annnd, that's a wrap.

Looks like our time is up -- thanks for chatting today. San Vito lo Capo fan, drop us a line at travel@washpost.org 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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