Talk about Travel: Train to Montreal, flights to Europe and more

Jan 13, 2014

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

Good afternoon, road warriors and jetsetters! Thanks for joining us. If you didn't get a chance yet to check out our stories this weekend, we had a good mix. We explored caves in Puerto Rico and took in the arts in Norfolk. And Andrea visited Turkey's capital, Ankara, instead of that other Turkish city you may have heard of, Istanbul. Spoiler: She loved it. What "second cities" have you visited and enjoyed as much or more than their more famous counterparts? Best answer gets a little prize.

Let the games begin!

We are going on a cruise shortly. We'll be using new lightweight hard shell luggage, but after using our previous hardshell luggage, the damage from misuse by airlines can make new pieces look old on the first trip. Are there any TSA friendly slipon covers that are available to protect this type of luggage?

The TSA has a specific definition of checkpoint-friendly luggage, but it refer to the style of luggage used to carry your laptop through the screening area and not the covers. I like covers such as the Luggage Sock, but it appears an agent would have to remove the sock in order to access the insides, which could lengthen your screening time. My advice? Carry your old, inconspicious luggage and use duct tape to mark it. No one will want to steal anything from it, and as long as the bag is intact, it should work fine. The TSA will probably do its thing, and I doubt a cover will protect it in a meaningful way, but that's just my opinon.

In mid-March my wife and I will be traveling from DC to Oxford (UK) to visit our daughter, who is studying there this semester. Do airlines commonly discount fares then? Do we need to worry about getting tickets far in advance? Thanks.

You should be looking to buy now. I believe both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are offering sale fares of under $1,000 round trip for nonstop flights. Or you could go cheaper via Icelandair, but with connections.  

My wife and I are scheduled to be in Bali in February and wondered if you'd have suggestions of things to do in the area of cultural, arts, and food experience. We're both in our mid-60s so am looking for more relaxing things to do. I'd also like to use this trip to acquire some Balinese art works.

We had a story on shopping in Bali a few years ago. Be sure you check out the accompanying details box for specifics on where to stay, eat and shop.

We have a family event in Memphis in August and are thinking about driving, but would need to divide the drive into two days each way. Can you recommend any places to stop with something for kids to do? Kids will be ages 6 and 2. Asheville doesn't look like it is too far out of the way.

Asheville is good, sure. You could also think about Roanoke. The kids might enjoy the Science Museum of Western Virginia, the Virginia Museum of Transportation (trains) and the zoo. North of Roanoke, there's also Natural Bridge.

Read the wine/TSA comments... when leaving Tel Aviv last month, the agent had me put my suitcase on a table. People all around me were opening their suitcases. I thought I was going to get a similar check. But the agent asked me three questions: How many bottles of wine did I buy? Where did I buy my Dead Sea mud? and Why did I buy a certain brand of fig honey? (She could tell by the shape of the container.) Wow! I answered the questions to her satisfaction and didn't have to open my suitcase.

Israeli airport security is widely acknowledged as the gold standard. Kind of makes you wonder -- it they don't need you to open your suitcase in Tel Aviv, why do the TSA agents insist on it when you get to the States? Hmm.

Am considering driving around the coast and western area of Lithuania in May for a couple of days (would be coming from Latvia). Has anyone been? Any suggestions welcome!


Love reading the chat, first time submitting! Headed to the Bahamas for a long weekend (cheapest/fastest escape to the Caribbean from DC) and wondering if there is anything recommended to see/do in Nassau? We are staying at an all inclusive resort, so we plan on lots of beach time, but will leave the resort if something sounds good. Is it worth going to see the Atlantis or anything else? Thanks!

You'll probably park yourself at the all-inclusive and find very little reason to leave. Atlantis is something to see, but you won't be able to avail yourself of its amenities unless you're staying there or you buy a day pass. The island also offers plenty of shopping and some day tours. But it's mostly about the beach and associated water sports. Check out the tourism site for options that might appeal to you. 

We are going to Orlando for 5 days next month and flying from BWI to Orlando. We are driving to the airport and were thinking of parking in the Express Parking Lot ($50 for 5 days). It seems like a good middle ground between the Long Term Parking ($40 for 5 days) and the Daily Garage ($60 for 5 days). We have a 1 year old. Does this seem like a good idea? Or should we just pay for the Daily Garage? Also on the BWI shuttle schedule site it says "On Demand" for Express Parking. We'll be getting to the airport at 5am. Is it REALLY on demand or is there a wait and if so how long?? Also, we didn't purchase a seat for our 1 year old so we don't have to bring a car seat but we will be driving at some point on the trip. Can I just rent a carseat from a car rental company? Thanks!

Yes, I'm a fan of that Express lot. It really is on-demand. The vans just circle the lot looking for passengers, and I don't think I've ever had to wait. I don't even think I've ever even had anyone else on the van with me. You should be able to rent a car seat, but it's worth checking with the agency before you show up.

I would strongly consider bringing the car seat. Airlines should not charge you for bringing it, and rental seats can be icky, at least according to my seven-year-old daughter.

Yeah, OK, can't argue with the kid there.

Last week someone asked about going to Thailand in May since it's the rainy season. My husband and I spent the last two weeks of May 2013 in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Krabi. We had some rain here and there, but it was definitely not a washout. Bangkok was hot mainly and it rained for a few hours on our last night, but was otherwise fine. Chiang Mai we had no rain at all, perfectly sunny and hot. In Krabi, it rained on the first night and we had a couple of short-lived passing showers one day, but it was still really nice. If you're worried about the weather for beaches in Thailand, I hear on the opposite side (like Koh Samui) it's not the rainy season at that time of year so you're more likely to have better weather. I wouldn't rule out the Phuket/Krabi area, though!

Thanks for the input!

I enjoyed the opera and the zoo and the water taxis and the beaches in Sydney. But Adelaide, while much smaller, had equivalent music events, has beaches - including some with penguins! - nearby, had a restaurant with haute "bush" cuisine that was not only fascinating but truly delicious, is an easy drive from exceptional wine areas (think San Francisco vis a vis Napa and Sonoma), and is a very short hop from Kangaroo Island, which contains all kinds of natural wonders, animals, and experiences.

You had me at "penguins."

My family of 4 (two adults and two kids under age 8) is considering taking Amtrak from Washington, DC to Montreal this summer. Traveling by train is much cheaper than flying and this would save us quite a bit of money. What are your thoughts on taking Amtrak to Montreal? Do you have any recommendations on family friendly places to stay in Montreal and Quebec City? Thanks!

We've been having an internal debate here about taking young kids on a 14-hour train trip, but I say do it! My boys loved the train when they were younger. It's much less confining than a plane, plus there's this great thing called the club car, where you can buy them food (c'mon, Mom, at least a bag of chips!). With today's world of hand-held devices, they can while away the time no problem (my kids actually read books). Plus there's that wonderful pastime of looking out the window.

For family-friendly accommodations, we'll have to ask the chatters. Suggestions, folks?

Stay abreast of Porter Airlines sales, for kicks. They often make flying into Canada (out of Dulles) quite reasonable, or more reasonable than other airlines anyway. Right now they have round-trips to Montreal for about $300. In case that tempts you.

The whole family, 8 adults, want to plan an all inclusive vacation to Puerto Rico this Christmas. I've done a few Google searches but I'm not getting the information I'm seeking. Can you help? We thought an all inclusive would contain costs, but we are open to all ideas. Many thanks.

Unlike Jamaica or the Dominican Republic or Riviera Maya, where all-inclusives are the norm, Puerto Rico is not known for this form of lodging. Some hotels, such as Copamarina, offer meal/beverage plans, but I don't believe there are any traditional all-inclusives. 

If we have a free week with no particular destination in mind, what is the best website for looking for good deals to, well, anywhere?

LOVED the Ankara article.

Why thank you! Will make sure to tell Andrea, who is, as so often, on the road this week.

I like Sydney well enough, but I loved Melbourne. Much more walkable. Lots of green space. The river through town is nice. The different neighborhoods are great for exploring.

Hi guys - love your chats! Apologies if this has been asked before, but I can't be the only one thinking it! I am in desperate need of a warm beach! Where can I travel from DC on a few-hour long nonstop flight for a long weekend in January or February that won't break the bank? I don't need it to be luxurious, just warm and sandy, and safe. Preferably easy to get around (from airport to beach, hotel). Either domestic or international works. Thanks so much!!!

Come on down to Orlando, which is less than two hours by plane, and is always affordable. We're less than an hour from the East Coast beaches and just over an hour from Tampa and St. Pete. Plus, we have ... theme parks!

PS, our high today is 79 degrees. (Disclaimer: I am based in Orlando. Don't hate me!)

One thing the chatter MUST do is visit the FISH FRY. It's a group of restaurants on the water where you can get authentic and fresh Bahamian food. I specifically recommend Twin Brothers or Johnny Gone Bananas. My mother is a native and tons of my family still lives there. I don't know on what part of the island she is staying, but it's a short walk from Downtown/Bay Street. Good luck!

My daughter's connecting flight from the Dominican Republic from Newark to National was cancelled Jan 2. They arranged for her and her friend to take Amtrak home, but wouldn't give them their luggage. Her friend's suitcase made it to National, but not my daughter's, although United says it was successfully delivered to DCA. She has filed a missing suitcase report and they have told her all she can do now is to file for reimbursement. I know it's sitting in a corner somewhere! Is there anything else she can do? Thanks so much.

You could send a brief, polite email to a United Airlines executive, asking them to not give up on your baggage. But normally, when luggage is declared lost, it's gone. You might find your property at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in a few weeks. I wish I could offer more hope.

Hello, I am looking at an SAS flight from Warsaw, Poland to Newark with a connection in Copenhagen. Unfortunately, the connection time in Copehagen is only 50 minutes. Is this connection feasible or is it cutting it too close? If I miss the connecting flight, what are the airline's obligations to me? Thanks!

The Copenhagen airport site indicates that 45 minutes is the minimum connection time, so if the planets align, you should be able to make it. The airline's obligation is to put you on their next flight, or, at their discretion, to put you on the next flight of another carrier. 

First, you must be reading my mind this week because 1. Norfolk is a favorite VA city of mine and I've been planning a getaway to include a first-time visit to the Hermitage. 2. I've been hoping to a language course in Turkey one day and had already been leaning more towards Ankara and am now sure. 3. Puerto Rico is also on my list of future travel destinations, albeit slightly further down the list. Next, how about a favorite THIRD city?! I recently returned from my second trip to Sweden. Stockholm is beautiful and Gothenburg funky but Malmo was my absolute favorite. It felt homey and down-to-earth as well as international with lots of art and culture and things to see and do. It's a convenient European travel hub and yet I could walk almost everywhere downtown. Copenhagen was just a 35 minute train ride over the Oresund Bridge and good for an outing but I found myself wanting to stay in Malmo for the majority of my week-long trip!

Well, you pretty much covered everything for this week. Nicely done, haha.

I'm heading to Cozumel in February for a few days for a diving trip. Is there anything I shouldn't miss while I'm there?

Cozumel is a laid-back destination where most visitors concentrate on snorkeling, diving and relaxing. I'm not a diver, but the snorkeling, even from the beach, is excellent. There are the usual tourist tours, such as jeep excursions and the Atlantis submarine, but I'd stick to diving & relaxing. Take a look at the tourism Web site for ideas. 

We have an overnight layover in Geneva June 13th. We arive at 3:30PM and leave at 11:45AM the next morning. What is the best use of our time and can you recommend a good place to get something to eat. We will be staying near the airport so we will be using public tranportation. 

With that tight of a timeline, you should try to eat somewhere right on Lake Geneva, I'd say. I'm no expert in the area, but if you're looking for something upscale, Restaurant Bayview in the Hotel President Wilson gets good reviews -- and it looks like the views are stunning. It's a mere 25-minute train ride/walk from the airport (the IR or IC train, looks like). Since you should have nice weather (highs in the mid-70s, lows in the mid-50s at that time of year typically), you could certainly stroll before or after dinner; the hotel is just south of Parc Moynier, which is supposed to have spectacular views, too. (And there's another restaurant on the water there, La Perle du Lac, that you might investigate). I'm a sucker for a good botanical garden, and you'd be just a 20-minute walk from Geneva's. Also near Parc Ariana, where the Musee Ariana shows a renowned ceramics collection.

Geneva is known for its parks, though, so if I were you I'd be reluctant to hole up inside for long.

Hi! Work is taking me to Pascagoula, Mississippi for the first time, in mid-March. That area has a reputation as very industrial...any suggestions for how to spend any free time I may have? Thanks!

You could check out some of the area's preserved natural beauty, such as the Gulf Islands National Seashore or Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge. If you're up for a road trip, you could visit Biloxi or funky Fairhope.

We are planning a trip to Russia in July with two children - age 12 and 14. We would be grateful for suggestions about where else to go in the Eastern Europe or Central Asia region. Our kids don't like to hike much and they don't want to spend all the time looking at historic places, so we were considering the coast of Turkey or perhaps staying in a yurt in Central Asia. It is obviously a large we would welcome suggestions about great places we should consider. Thank you!!

We made need some chatter input on this one. But it would help if you told us how much time you have. As you point out, it's a large region, so traveling will take some time. I like the yurt idea, although I don't have any specific recommendations for that. Or maybe you could consider a trip to Mongolia. That would be pretty fascinating, and there are some primitive resorts on Lake Hovsgol. Be sure to check out the details box with the story.  Chatters, if you have recommendations, please let's hear them!

Yes, do it!! I did it a few years ago sans children but there were many families on the train and the vibe chill. Changing trains in NYC was fine and the various delis and bakeries in the terminal made it fun even. The journey from NYC to Montreal was gorgeous in November and quite cozy. They seated the long-distance travelers together with a section with special seats so you could lie down and nap and little ones could wonder around. I'd just recommend bringing a lot of food for the trip and plenty of activities for the kids. It seriously felt like more of a moving living room than a commuter train.

Is the family with the young kids planning on overnighting in New York City in both directions? They might want to think about it, if they're determined to take the train. Otherwise, what godforsaken hour would they have to leave DC? That train departs New York at 8:15am, and there's only one train per day. The return leaves Montreal at 9:30am.

Something to consider. When I was searching on the Amtrak site, it looked like the options were 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Gulp.

Hello fellow Travelers, We are thinking about going to the Riviera Maya over our Spring Break, which is the week before Easter. I understand that week is a very big deal in Mexico and I am wondering if we would run into any attraction/restaurant closings or crazy crowds that might make us rethink the trip. Also looking for advice about the trip - planning to rent a villa near Tulum and travel by car to beaches, cenotes, and Mayan ruins (will have 3 elementary-age kids). Any suggestions for booking airline travel since fares are super high that week? Are we correct in believing the Yucatan Peninsula to be safe for travelers? Thanks for any and all thoughts!

Riviera Maya is geared toward tourists, so you won't see widespread closings. It will be crowded because people take vacations when their kids are out of school. Fares are going to be very high at this late date because of the demand. You could try going through a travel agent for a package deal, but that would most likely include an all-inclusive stay rather than a villa. And yes, the Yucatan is safe for tourists. 

The best thing we did in Bali was a trip to the Bali John Hardy studio & factory. We are lunch outdoors with the designers, shopped at their gorgeous open air pavilion situated over the rice paddies and toured the factory. Highly recommend. We also bought art from a local gallery and artist just along the main road through town. No need to search for art. It's everywhere in Ubud.

Hi travel gurus, Love these chats and need some travel advice. My husband and I are looking for somewhere to get away for a few days or a long weekend. We're open to anywhere/anything as long as it has lots of options of things to do, places to see/explore, etc. Here's the tricky part (and why we need your help): we need it to be within a 1 hour flying distance (not driving and no trains, must be an airplane and can't be much longer than a 1 hour flight). To make it a little easier, we can fly out of any DC/MD/VA airport or even Charlotte, NC. So far, the only place I have come up with that fits all the criteria is NY, but I'd like to visit a place I haven't yet been to. Any thoughts?

In about an hour by plane, I like these options: Providence, Cleveland and Greenville (S.C.). Slightly further afield would be Boston and Charleston. Those are all out of our three area airports.

If you can't dedicate a day for a visit to the Mayan ruins of Tulum or Chichen Itza on the mainland, the largest ruins on Cozumel, San Gervasio, are definitely worth a couple hours of your time. Also, eat breakfast or lunch at the Cozumel Museum's restaurant, on a balcony overlooking the water.

When is the best time to go to Napa Valley? Is May an option, or is there a better time to go? We plan to stay 4 days. I need information on which vineyards are the best ones to visit. We will need accommodations for 3 couples and 4 single ladies. We will be arriving from Nevada, Colorado, Delaware and three locations in California.

I love early spring and late fall in that area. The crowds tend to be a little thinner but the weather is pretty nice, normally. You have a lot of options when it comes to Napa's legendary wine scene. The official Napa page on wineries is a good place to start your research. 

Have booked a flight to Ireland for a 10 day vacation with rental car to go from Dublin to Galway via the Ring of Kerry. Any can't miss pubs in Dublin to check out for drinks and music? How about in Waterford, Cork, and/or Limerick?

Have never been to the Emerald Isle, alas, so let's ask the chatsters for their help on this one? Good pubs in Erin, folks?

The highlight of our trip to Bali was a guided bike tour through Bali Baik Bike. The ride was easy (flat or downhill) and ended with a meal cooked by the tour operators' family at their family home. Highly recommend!

To name but a few: Reno, NV. Medford-Ashland, OR. Tucson, AZ. Colorado Springs, CO. Santa Fe, NM. Lincoln, NE. KC, MO. Tulsa, OK. Austin and Dallas, TX. Pittsburgh, PA. Columbus and Cincinnati, OH. New Haven, CT. Buffalo, NY. Victoria, BC. Edmonton, AB. Hamilton, ON (for the Royal Botanical Gardens). Quebec, PQ. Bay of Fundy region of NB. And on and on...

Don't plan to rent a car-seat! Even if you request them ahead, the rental companies have a "limited supply", so you could well be stuck at an airport with the baby while you have someone else run to WalMart and buy a new car-seat. You can check them with the airline, usually for free.

We are currently planning a vacation to Spain (Galicia) and northern Portugal that just happens to overlap with Holy Week. Our main destinations are Santiago de Compostela and Porto. Hotels seem to be available, but we're wondering if we might face closures of museums and other sites of interest due to the holiday observances. Also, since we can't book transit between the cities yet (exceeding 30-day limit for buses, for example), we're not sure what impact there might be on us getting around. I'm trying to research via individual websites, but it's slow going. I was just wondering if anyone might have insight into how Holy Week activities and observations might impact a trip that is supposed to about more than Holy Week activities. I would appreciate any advice.

Chatters, can you help us out on this?

I'm looking for a nonstop flight to London from Dulles this fall. Although my dates are flexible, I'm not finding anything under about $ 1050.00. What gives? Any suggestions?

Yes, that is now the going rate to London for nonstop flights from Dulles. Once in a while, the fare dips under $1,000, but it rarely, if ever, goes below $900. I'd monitor United, British Airways and Virgin America, and buy when a sale hits. Or consider connecting flights -- they are often cheaper.  

We recently cruised on Royal Caribbean and have mixed feelings about the experience. Our cabin attendant was wonderful and provided us with ice every morning; she saw to it that our granddaughter had her own robe and provided us with free Evian. The food was amazing. However, I was dismayed that soda is no longer free and that internet access was very expensive--75 cents a minute! Also I was unable to access it in my stateroom and would have had to go to another floor to access it. The chairs in our room were very uncomfortable. The tv often went out due to "poor signal," and we saw Mortal Instruments at least four times! We had spent a few days at La Concha in Key West (a Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza hotel) prior to the cruise. It was appalling. No desk. I had nowhere to use my laptop or even do crossword puzzles. One very uncomfortable chair. No bathrooms in the lobby level. Constant construction because they were remodeling (during Christmas-New Years!). They said they had no robes but two mysteriously appeared. The only ice machine was on the 4th floor (we were on the second!). Construction caused the closing of the elevator on our side of the hotel. Really, really, really bad. It was the hotel from Hell. For a fairly prestigious hotel, it was a very bad experience. I'm writing from DisneyWorld's Contemporary. They did not give us ice (we have to get it ourselves) and no longer provide robes. Aren't those amenities we should be provided at an expensive resort?

I'm sorry to hear about the many disappointments you experienced on your cruise. You might consider taking the most egregious lapses and sending a brief, polite email to the cruise line. Here are a few Royal Caribbean executives to whom you can appeal. Be sure to only include the biggest problem or two, otherwise your missive will sound like a laundry list. Tell the company how it can make it up to you. I'd be curious to see the response.

What are the best times of year to visit Charleston? I'm hoping to get the right combination of nice weather, good time to do some sight-seeing and beach visiting, but also hit it at a time when it is perhaps not super crowded. Thanks in advance!

It was early October on my most recent visit to Charleston, and the weather was pretty much perfect. None of the humidity of summer but still warm enough for shorts and for a dip in the ocean. Tourists crowds were down, although it's a popular place so there are always visitors around. But with kids in school, there are fewer. Spring and fall are pretty much the best times for visiting down south. Chatters, agree or not?

Going to be spending a night in Budapest in April and looking for a hotel recommendation. We are looking for something close to sights. Any ideas?

Did you see our very recent Budapest story? It's a great read. The accompanying box has some promising hotel recommendations.

Hi! I'm planning a trip to France and the UK with my family for late July/August. We'd like to fly into Paris and out of London from/to home in the Southeast. Right now fares are almost $1900 for this itinerary. It's a little cheaper, $1700, to fly in and out of London or Paris but then we must pay for the return trip on the Eurostar and we'd also rather not eat up our time travelling back. Is this about right or could fares come down a bit?

If you are flexible with dates and/or connections, I'm seeing fares much cheaper than $1,900. Icelandair is offering fares of less than $1,200 round trip with a connection in Reykjavik for flights leaving midweek in late July and returning midweek in early August. And even nonstop flights are less than $1,500.  

Can you reschedule for the week after Easter? We're going to Lisbon and the Azores then, precisely BECAUSE we wanted to avoid any problems connected with Holy Week (including people going there then for the Easter observances).

Not to give away my secret but fly into Burlington. At $200 roundtrip its a steal compared to the $550 typical into Dorval.

No secret -- we (and other chatters) have mentioned this many times. It's a great option, yes.

Gang... What do you suggest in close by old town Frederick that would keep two couples entertained on a winter weekend and who mostly want to chat and catch up with each other? We plan to have lunch/brunch as well at someplace that's not Volt. Any ideas?

If you like home design and/or shopping, check out this neighborhood guide of Frederick that our Local Living colleague Jura Koncius did last year. On top of her recommendations of places to eat, you could check out the Wine Kitchen.

If you like history, drop in on the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. Fascinating.

We will have an 8 hour layover in Paris. If we want to leave the airport and do some sightseeing during that time what is the process for leaving and re-entering for our flight home? Do we go through customs if we choose to leave the airport for that short time? our main luggage will be on the plane but we will have a personal backpack with us.

Yes, you have to go through passport/ immigration when you leave the airport, so factor that into your time, and remember that you'll have to go through security again when you arrive back at the airport for your flight.

Going to Beaver Creek this weekend. Any suggestions on restaurants in the Vail/Beaver Creek/etc area? We aren't budget travelers, but would rather not break the bank either. Also, tips for saving money on ski rentals/etc?

A couple of Web sites have popped up offering discounted ski lift tickets, etc. Try Liftopia and GetSkiTickets.  We save lots at expensive ski resorts by eating breakfast at the condo and packing lunches. There are reasonably priced eateries in that region, including Loaded Joe's and Pazzo's Pizzeria.  

Hi. My inlaws, who live in Ft. Lauderdale, will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this spring. To celebrate, they'd like the entire family (10 adults, 2 13-year-olds, and an 8-year-old) to go with them on a short cruise sometime between May and July. However, time is limited for the younger people who work, and we only have a 4-day weekend timeframe available (Friday-Monday). What can we do in four days that includes travel time for those of us who live in various parts of the country (northern VA, Rochester NY, Wilmington NC)? How do we find out what sorts of options are open to us? Those who are to do the planning have never been on a cruise before and don't know where to start.

I'd start by doing a search on Cruise Critic. You can specify various paramaters, including cruise length and departure point.

Are you a member of any hotel rewards programs? Some of them offer promotional hotel deals when they open a new resort. I just booked 4 days, 3 nights in Orlando (at a 5 star resort) for a total of $150 (plus 10,000 reward points and a $200 rebate for a future stay - which I will use for a wedding in June). I've done this in Hawaii also. You have to pay for airfare/anything else and deal with a sales pitch to get you to buy in to their timeshare program - but it's really a great deal if you can get it.

Good thought, thanks!

Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Buffalo?

Cincinnati and Atlanta are a little closer to 2 hours.

The Red Cross building/museum is interesting, and public transportation is very easy throughout the city.

Good to know about the Red Cross building -- thanks!

Hi Crew - Tween daughter wants beach, parents want European city destination for mid-April spring break vacation. We have done Portugal's Algarve. Is there any other place for a 5-night trip that would be around 70 and sunny, with a little of both city & beach? Thanks!

Spain seems like a good option, if it's not too similar to Portugal for you. You could do Barcelona, Valencia or the Costa del Sol.

A comment, rather than a question: Your reader, if he and his wife are interested in history, might want to drive about 30 miles downstream from Quebec City to visit Grosse Isle, where the first "coffin ships" arrived in Canada. The ships bore thousands of Irish fleeing famine in the mid-18th century. Grosse Isle is now a monument to the thousands of Irish men, women, and children who died of disease and starvation on the ships and in Grosse Isle. Your writer and his wife might want, also, to read the story "Ship Fever," in a collection of short stories (SHIP FEVER) by Andrea Barrett.

Interesting, thanks.

Hi! I'm taking a trip to Europe next Fall, which requires flying into one city and out of another. Do you know of any websites that track airfares for muti-destination flights? The trackers I've seen, thus far, on sites like Kayak only seem to offer this for R/T flights.

I don't think it exists because flight alerts basically follow airline sales, and airlines typically offer international sales only on round-trip routes.  Any chatter know differently? 

Sydney is the "big deal" in Australia, but on a family visit in 1999 we went from our base of operations on the Gold Coast up to Brisbane for a day trip and had a blast. My kids, ages 8 and 10 at that time, loved the sand-bottom swimming pool essentially in the center of town. I don't think there was even an admission charge, nor do I remember having to pay to use the changing rooms. After exploring the city and taking a ride on the river ferries, we hit the pool, then lucked into an early dinner at Pier Nine (which may not still be in business), where we had absolutely the freshest seafood I've ever tasted. All four of us, even the kids, went nuts over the oyster sampler platters. Not that Sydney was exactly chopped liver, but Brisbane certainly did a good job of entertaining these four tourists!

Our family of four (two parents, two adult children) are considering renting a house for a weekend to celebrate our mother's birthday, somewhere on the Eastern Shore or Delaware in March, near the start of spring. What would you recommend? Will the weather be nice enough for some outdoor activities?

I spend a lot of time at my home on Sunset Island in Ocean City, Md., and the weather can flucuate wildly. Last St. Patrick's Day weekend, for example, which has become the unofficial kick-off of the return to the beach, we were in our shirt sleeves at the town's parade. Other years it has been raining and raw. Not sure what type of scene you are looking for, but Rehoboth Beach in Delaware has lots of nice restaurants and shops, Bethany Beach is quieter, and Ocean City has more nightlife & restaurants. On the Eastern Shore, St. Michaels is nice or you could look into the Hyatt resort in Cambridge.   

I really enjoyed the item in yesterday's Travel section about the reader who followed the path his uncle took through Europe as a paratrooper during World War II. My grandfather also fought in Europe. He arrived in France in late summer of 1944 as a forward artillery observer (the guys in front of the front) with Patton's Third Army and served through the end of the war. During a brief visit to Paris about three years ago, my wife and I took a daytrip to Fontainebleu. After touring the palace (highly recommended) and strolling around the town, we began walking back to the train station. Along the way, we happened across a small park with a monument to the US Army's 5th Infantry Division and its liberation of the town in 1944. This was my grandfather's unit, and I realized I was standing almost where he had as a young GI over 65 years before. Ever since that moment, I have dreamed of returning to follow his path just as your reader did.

Yes, those What a Trip pieces are nice, aren't they?

In Moab there are a few chain hotels that are Quinta, 2 best westerns, and a few others. The best westerns are right in the downtown part where you can just to the shops and restaurants. There are a bunch of camping locations that have tent sites or cabin/yurt rentals. With much of southern Utah outside of Moab and near Zion ( Kanab, Springdale) there isn't much chain lodging. It's mostly small motels and BnB with a few best westerns, choice hotels, and a few other lower level chains.

Would Marseille and surrounding coastal Provence (I ADORE Cassis!) be warm enough in mid-April?

For all those who want to know the climate at their travel destination for a particular month, check out, it has temperature as well as rainfall totals, and humidity and days of rain for locations that gather that kind of data. It helped me decide Phuket in March was a better bet than Bali for sunny weather. Many travel guides also have a "when to go" with advise for what weather to expect. Regarding the "what do I do with 6 hours in ABC airport" questions you field, I have two suggestions: 1) don't book tickets with unreasonble layovers; you can incorporate a stay in a mult-city itinerary if you must connect - I've done this with London stay on my way to Turkey or find a ticket with a really long connection - I had a 22-hour stop in LA and celebrated in Santa Monica then went to the Rose Parade one New Year's; or 2) look at the airport's web site to see if they have facilities to keep you comfortable for several hours (Singapore has a swimming pool, Seoul has a free shower and live classical music, Moscow Domodedovo doesn't even have enough seats in gate areas- you'll be sitting on the floor) so plan accordingly.

All great tips!

I am planning to take a river tour in Russia this September through Road Scholar. My wife and I will be arriving in St. Petersburg four days before the tour officially gathers. The hotel where we'll be staying (near the airport) is walking distance from a metro into the city. Is it permissible (and safe) for a tourist unaccompanied by a guide to take a Metro and wander about the shops, or should we hire a guide through the hotel concierge to accompany us (and even to join us for a meal at a restaurant)? Also, can we get away with a credit card for all expenses, or should we also take US dollars while wandering on our own?

It's certainly permissible for you to tour and shop on your own, and during the daytime it should be entirely safe, as long as you take the usual precautions of carrying your money/passport/credit cards in a hidden place. The problem you may have, though, is language. If you don't speak Russian, getting around might be a bit of challenge, especially as signs are in Cyrillic. But you could ask your hotel concierge to write out the name of your stop for you and also some simple Russian phrases. Some people will speak English, of course, but not necessarily fluently. I wouldn't count on using a credit card exclusively -- it's still very much a cash-based society. Not sure whether using dollars is still acceptable, but you should certainly carry some rubles. Chatters, anybody know more?

My fiance and I are traveling to Anguilla and St. Barth's for our Honeymoon. We've been to both places before, but only took a day trip to St. Barth' we KNOW how expensive it is. Do you know of any inexpensive (for St. Barth's, anyway) hotels there? Thanks!

I don't know of any inexpensive hotels on St. Barts. Have you considered a private villa rental? That could save money. 

We will be taking a family trip to Germany from DC in July. When is the best time to book tickets cost-wise, and would you recommend going through a private travel agent or a website? We are two adults and two small kids (aged 4 and 2). Wish us luck :) Thanks.

A travel agent will charge you for booking air tickets. You can do it yourself. It will not be cheap, especially if you want nonstops from Dulles to Munich or Frankfurt. Expect to pay at least $1,500 round trip per adult, and 75 percent of that for your children. If you are willing to connect, Turkish Airlines has summer fares into Munich as low as $1,100 through Istanbul. 

My wife and I are going to Hawaii (Oahu and Maui, a week each) in 2 weeks. I'm looking for mid-priced restaurant suggestions for those 2 islands. It's easy finding high end places (Roy's, Mama's Fish House, Lahaina Grill, etc.). If it helps we're staying in Ko Olina on Oahu and in Ka'anapali on Maui. Also, is the bike ride down Kaleakala, after the sunrise pretty safe?


I am taking a stopover in London on my way to Africa. I get into London 6am Saturday and leave 6pm Sunday. What happens to my checked bags? Do they keep them or do I need to collect them and re-check them in?

Assuming you're staying on the same carrier at least, your bag should be checked through to your final destination. But, really, you should be asking your airline instead of us! If you're really worried, go straight to the source.

As a native Philadlephian it kills me to say this, but when a trip to Kennywood amusement park required an overnight stay in Pittsburgh i was very impressed with the city, its restaurants, and its overall vibe.

Stay away frm hotels or popular purist spots and you will fnd reasonably priced places. Going where the locals go.

you don't get kids' discounts on the cheapest tickets (which are about $900 + taxes etc right now, so your $1500 estimate is pretty good)

for that will get your bags & need to re-check them in when you depart

I still think this is something worth directly contacting the airline about.

It's Haleakala, not Kaleakala., and it's safe as long as you realize you're on about a 15-mile downhill run and don't let the bike get away from you. That said, I seem to remember something about bike rides down Haleakala being sharply limited or entirely eliminated because of some safety-related incidents. If they are still doing them, and if you want to do the sunrise ride (which is pretty cool), remember that the top is around 10,000 feet, and it will be *cold* up there at 4 or 5 a.m.!

And our hour is up. Appreciate all your questions, stories and advice. Today's winner is a no-brainer: the chatter who hit on Norfolk, Puerto Rico and Malmo. Please send your name and mailing address to me at

Programming note: We (and we hope you!) will be off next Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. So come on back Jan. 27. Until then, happy travels.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column, clearing the way through the fog of consumer travel issues. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Recent Chats
  • Next: