Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Aug 21, 2017

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Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel on this outside-the-path-of-totality Monday. On the off chance that you're indoors, send us your travel questions! In this week's section a pair of overworked almost-empty-nesters make time for a long weekend in Cape Cod. Do you have a favorite couples getaway destination? Tell us about it below. Most compelling answer gets a copy of Fiona McCarthy's "London precincts: A curated guide to the city's best shops, eateries, bars and other hangouts." On to your questions!  

My sister and I are planning a last minute end of the summer trip (9/1-9/3) for my niece, 13 and nephew, 18. We have considered Ocean City or Outer Banks. We think we may have waited too long to secure a hotel room at these locations. Any other suggestions no more than 2-3 hours by car that will offer fun, a chance to get some walking in, and be educational. Both have been to Philadelphia.

Have you tried booking a hotel in either place? Labor Day is popular, but kids are back in school in many places, so it's not as busy as earlier in summer. Take a look at Ocean City tourism and Outer Banks tourism, which both offer a list of accommodations. Both are fun, OC has a boardwalk for walking and both have beachfront strolling, but unless you are into nature, the educational component may be on the light side. 

This past weekend I had occasion to need to find out something prior to my next flight about what could go in packed vs carry-on luggage. After some googling and looking around, I found that TSA is available via Facebook Messenger or Twitter. I sent in my question, and within less than an hour, had an answer and link to more info. Try "AskTSA", or check out the site. No, I'm not 'one of them', but a passenger with a question. And admit to being impressed!

Thanks for the recommendation. Here's a link to TSA's Facebook page and Twitter account.

Check out this feature Travel did in May about the folks who man the TSA's Twitter account.

We are hoping to travel internationally with our infant in the next six months. Where would you recommend that's baby/toddler friendly?

Italy is a good place for bambini. Rent a child-friendly place in Tuscany and do day trips. Chatters have other thoughts on this one? 

I saw that Travel and Leisure magazine rated the Inn the #9 best hotel in the world. I've never heard of the hotel until I read about it in the magazine. Have you been? What makes it one of the best in the world?

Take a look at our story about the inn, which was published in 2011. 

I'm not sure if this is pertinent to last week's question but Amex does have an option for "Premium Car Rental Protection". When a cardholder enrolls in this program Amex automatically charges a flat fee for any rental. Vehicles, however, are not covered in Italy. If this was the case they probably never should have charged the cardholder.

Thanks for the information.

I flew Spirit last month, there was an incident on my plane and they gave everyone two $50 vouchers as compensation. I went to book with them; turns out the vouchers only cover the "flight" part of a fare. That seemed reasonable; even when you buy with miles/vouchers on other airlines you have to pay the security fee yourself, and I could see why it might not cover bags or seat upgrades. But it turns out that even the "flight" part of Spirit's non-government tax/fee fare is split into 3 pieces: flight, unintended consequences of DOT regulations, and passenger usage charge. And at least for the flights I was looking at, most of the fare is loaded onto the passenger usage charge, for which a voucher cannot apply. For the $104 flight I was looking at, only $21.41 was payable by voucher. I understand they're Spirit's vouchers and they can make whatever rules they want, but this really changed my opinion of Spirit from a budget airline to a sleazy budget airline.

Sigh. Spirit Airlines. What can I say?

I am turning 40 next year and normally for a milestone birthday I'd go to the Caribbean but with Zika everywhere I'd normally go to, what are other places I should consider for March/April? My son will be almost four by then and we'd go away for no more than a week. I brought up China but my husband is against it so I was thinking somewhere in Europe. I've been to most European countries so would the Canary Islands be good, or Portugal or somewhere else I'm not thinking of? I also have a timeshare with weeks that need to be used (I'm sick of paying fees to extend them each year) so hopefully all the stars will align. Thanks!

China for a week with a three-year-old is a tall order.  Take a look at the Azores. Bermuda is another option. 

Maybe a bit too much drive for a weekend (~~9+hr~~) but Burlington VT is sweet. We went a few falls back, rented a cute house on a pond very inexpensively through Flipkey. The town/city is cute, there is a lake walk, and nearby you have hiking, Ben & Jerry's plant. We had rowing on our little pond. Very Nice.

Great suggestion! (Also a popular "babymoon" destination, it turns out.) 

Today's code is TT8118. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating. 

Would like to take a day trip around Chestertown, Md., in September or October. Any events happening in that area that would be fun to see or do? Thanks for your time!

I believe they do a studio arts tour in Chestertown the last week in October.  And it's a neat town for strolling, shopping and dining. 

After the recent Barcelona van attack, what can Europe's visitors do to ensure that they're more alert to the possibility of other possible attacks in other European cities? I'm asking because I'm going across the Pond next month, and I want to ensure I'm safe from those attacks. Thanks.

That's the topic of my next Navigator. Here's a little preview: You can't predict the next terrorist attack, but you should consider developing a plan for contacting friends and family, letting the State Department know your whereabouts (consider enrolling for STEP) and ensuring you know what you'll do if your destination is affected by a terrorist attack. Tune in to my next column for the details.

Hi all, can you suggest a domestic destination for the week after Christmas? Are there bargains to be had for travelers during this time?

The week between Christmas and New Years is one of the most traveled of the year. If you're flying, look at destinations that aren't top ski/sun spots, and that offer frequent flights on different carriers. Chicago comes to mind. 

I agree with the article about airports. I was there a couple of years ago. It struck me as a high-end shopping mall that oh-by-the-way has airplanes. Have not been to the others, but now I want to.

If you missed the story, check it out here. (Two words: therapy pig.)

I was able to get augmentin over the counter in Greece a few years ago. Does anyone know whether antibiotics are available over the counter in France?

I am fairly certain that you need a prescription to get antibiotics in France. 

Unlike your featured couple who wanted to get away from it all, my husband and I want to get right in the middle of everything! We'll come from the deep deep South to spend a week or so in Washington DC and just revel in the cultural opportunities--quality theater, ballet, museums, art, restaurants and more!--that we just can't get at home. While we may go home with lighter wallets, we leave with our heads stuffed with beauty and our imaginations fully engaged. We hope to return soon!

Thanks -- too many of us take our hometown for granted, myself included!

Probably not what they had in mind, but there is a "Chesapeake storytelling festival" in Wye Mills September 16, 2017.

Hey, you never know -- thanks for the suggestion!

My wife and I recently returned from a week-long trip to Europe where we were based in London but spent time in Paris and Brussels. Although we are exhausted from the whirlwind of it all, we thoroughly enjoyed each city. It was the first time abroad for us both and we saw, ate, and did a great deal. Specifically, as African-Americans, it was refreshing to see so many people of color living, working, and simply existing in each city. We found it comforting and discovered that it produced an unexpected sense of freedom. One of the anxieties we both have about traveling is that doing so while black can be a tricky endeavor to navigate. I was happy that this experience was different. We are always looking for suggestions for our next destination. Do you have any to share?

You could opt for a continent-by-continent approach and tackle South America next: check out our recent stories here, here and here.  

What's a good long-weekend destination for fall -- leaf-viewing, apple-picking, etc. -- that also has appealing lodging and food? Easy driveability from Northern Virginia a plus.

Shenandoah National Park is the most popular, closest spot for  these autumn activities, but it's also crowded, especially on weekends. The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts are farther away, but worth considering. 

Closer to home, the Ashby Inn in tiny Paris, Va., makes for a great couples' getaway -- get a room with a wood-burning fireplace!

Great suggestion, thanks!

As someone originally from that area, yes there are a lot of flights to and from the city, but even in non-holiday travel, they tend to be heavily booked, and a bad storm could easily cause a cascade of cancellations that will cost you potentially days of your planned vacation. Also, it's cold. Really, really cold.

Ha, all good points -- thanks!

Not a question, just a comment--while my dad was being moved from home, to assisted living, to hospital, to nursing home, to hospice before dying a month ago, I made several trips to visit him on Delta. I also booked trips, changed my dates, canceled trips, made last minute trips, all depending on what was going on with my dad and his health situation. Not only were the Delta agents extremely accommodating, they were understanding and very kind, and in every situation, waived change fees, gave me credit for unused flights, and just made a stressful situation less so. I am a Delta customer for life! (And no, I am not an elite passenger nor do I work for them!)

Glad to hear a positive air-travel story!

This concludes Talk About Travel, Eclipse Edition. Burlington fan, drop us a line at to claim your prize. Thatks for chatting, everyone -- 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.
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