Talk about Travel: Traveling with a toddler, ski resorts, girlfriend getaways

Jan 06, 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

Hello and Happy New Year, chatters! Hope it's off to a good start for all. Let's make it a great year, starting with this, our first Travel chat of 2014. In keeping with the spirit of our Zagreb story (I trust you also read Zimbabwe), tell me your best stories about going back to a place you'd visited before and finding it different/better/stranger/more beautiful, whatever, than you'd remembered it. I remember the first time I went back to Vienna after my junior year abroad there, probably about 10 years later, and finding that the city seemed to have flipped 180 degrees from the map I had of it in my mind. Streets seemed to run in the wrong direction, everything felt out of kilter. But meanwhile, the city had also been spruced and cleaned and seemed much brighter than it had before. That was a good thing!

Most intriguing story wins a prize.

Now, let's have your questions.

How cold / rainy should I expect it to be it be? If I do layers, can I get away with a light weight down parka? There will be much walking so, pack an umbrella? Advice would be welcome Thanks.

It can definitely be rainy in April, so yes, a compact umbrella is a must. And layers beneath a light down parka are also a good idea. The weather starts warming in April and can get up into the 50s, but probably not quite so early in the month. Expect something more in the 40s for the highs, and in the 30s for lows. On the other hand, if you're walking a lot, I do worry that a down parka, even a lightweight one, may get a little warm. I'd go for a lightweight pea coat, or maybe a lined raincoat, with layers beneath to keep you warm outdoors but that you can strip off when headed indoors somewhere. Chatters, what do you think?

My husband and I are going on a long delayed honeymoon and Kensington Tours was recommended to us. We were looking at their Croatia options, but have no experience with the company. Have you or any of your readers had any experience with this tour company?

Kensington Tours has a great reputation for organizing intimate luxury tours that don't break the bank. The company has received numerous awards, and I have used them as expert sources for past stories.

However, I have never traveled with them, so can any chatters provide first-person accounts?

My husband and I would like to take a July or August vacation with our son, who will be 2 1/2 then. We were originally thinking we might try a family-friendly cruise, but that was before I learned that children typically have to pay the same rate as adults, which seems a lot to pay for someone who won't remember the trip. And apparently non-toilet-trained children aren't usually allowed in the pools, even with swim diapers. Trying to keep my son out of tempting pools for 5 days doesn't sound very appealing. So it's back to the drawing board! We've been to most of the major US east coast cities but have never been to Montreal or Toronto. Would either of those cities be enjoyable with a toddler in tow? We also haven't done much exploring of the southeast, so maybe Charleston or somewhere in Georgia? Or other suggestions entirely? We'd like it to be somewhere that's an easy flight or at most a day's drive of 8 hours or so. Thanks so much!

I like the idea of Montreal, and not only because it will be a little cooler than here. Here's a list of ideas from the city's tourist site. If I had the choice, I'd avoid going too far south because of the heat. But everyone has their own limits, I guess! I think you could also do something pretty laid back, like a beach trip, if that's up your alley. We've been to Rehoboth a few times with my young nieces, and they had a blast doing typical beach stuff -- sand castles, ice cream, miniature golf, Funland.

I am going to have about 6 hours in Miami- 12-6pm on a weekday, between a cruise and a flight home. Do you have any suggestions on things to do? I have never been to Miami as a tourist before. Thanks!

So much depends on your interests, but since you've never been there, a trip to South Beach might be fun. Several companies offer walking tours, or you could just hit the beach. 

Heading for New Zealand for 3 weeks in February. Driving all over the North and South island. What do you recommend as the best way to have access to our mobile phones and iPad.

I would purchase an international SIM card, which will allow you free incoming calls and text messages (you pay for outgoing calls, but not much). I used OneSimCard when I was traveling in Mongolia and China, and my mother was delighted to hear from me at all hours of the day and night. Just be sure your phone is unlocked; you can ask your service provider for help.

If you have WiFi, you can also use the app Viber for free calls and texts (the person on the receiving end needs to download the app as well). Or use Skype.  For info on WiFI hotspots in NZ, click here.

For more info on different international calling options, see my article here.

Finally, be aware that New Zealand does not allow mobile phone usage while driving.

a comment- A few days ago I flew Marrakech to Amsterdam on Transavia- KLM's low cost airline- It was great!- yes there are extra fees, but they're not bad and the plane was nice. Better then EasyJet Ryan Air. I like to use my Delta SkyMiles to get <anywhere> in Europe, then add on with a low-cost ticket to the more exotic destinations. Morocco was excellent! I went to Fez, took the trains alone (single female). I speak no Arabic , about 20 words of French- it was fine. The Moroccans are very nice and helpful. Then I cycled with a small group tour in the valleys around the Atlas Mountains.

Thanks for sharing this info!

HNY Crew! Not sure if this response is in line with your remembrance request, but when I was in the NY Theatre District awhile back, I saw that a Junior's restaurant had opened on Shubert Alley. And they had a separate take-out. I grew up with Junior's cheesecake in Brooklyn and HAD to get two pieces to take back to the hotel where the wife and I were staying as a post-theatre snack. Sometimes some things, food especially, can't be as good as one remembers - THIS WAS EVEN BETTER! We fell asleep with visions of cheesecake dancing in our heads.....

So glad it met up with expectations!

To answer your question about going back to a place I've visited before, for me New Orleans is a place that's different *every* time I visit it. I like to tell people when they ask for food or music recommendations, "Walk around til you smell something good, then go eat it. Walk around til you hear something fun, then go listen." In five trips to New Orleans, I don't think I've seen the same New Orleans twice. Once was for a football game, so there was lots of Bourbon Street and booze. (Actually, two football games -- but stayed in different areas for both.) Another time was for a wedding, so the garden district was "home." A post-Katrina trip provided a stark look at the disaster that still remained. And a work trip provided a look up and down the waterfront. It's an awesome city, and I think I'll likely see a very different side of it the next time I go, too.

Fabulous, thanks!

Hi, my wife and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this summer. We plan on leaving the kids with family and getting away for 4 days or so by ourselves. We initially planned on a long weekend in Europe, but I have been unemployed since last spring. We live in northern MI, and we're now thinking of driving to Quebec City. My ancestors are from Quebec, and I speak some French (rather rusty now). Would folks recommend this or do you have other suggestions? We have traveled throughout the US, Europe, and parts of Latin America (we've also been to Montreal). thanks in advance

I recommend Quebec City 110 percent. We went in the summer a few years ago and had a spectacular time. Honestly, one of my favorite trips ever. It's a beautiful time to be there. We'd just walk for miles and miles around the city. Be sure you venture out of the city to Montmorency Falls and the Ile d'Orleans. For great views of the city, take the ferry to Levis and back -- while in Levis, you must hike a bit uphill to have the amazing chocolate-dipped ice cream at Les Chocolats Favoris.

My wife and daughter were delayed traveling this past weekend due to weather and computer issues. They were booked on flights from DC to Newark and then from newark to Santo Domingo. After several flight cancellations United eventually got them to Puerto Plata on the north coast of the DR where they had to take a bus to Santo Domingo. Since they booked flights to Santo Domingo originally is United obligated to pay their bus/shuttle fare from Puerto Plata to Santo Domingo?

I'm sorry to hear about this. When your wife and daughter accepted the new flights as a replacement for their canceled flights, United probably considered its contract with them -- getting them from point "A" to point "B" -- to be fulfilled. Your family would have had to negotiate for United to cover the bus fare to Santo Domingo before they took the new flight. They may want to reach out to one of these United Airlines executive contacts to ask it to cover their bus fare, but they may or may not do so. 

Mine was 2 1/2 this past summer. I really suggest the beach and a hotel with a pool. One with a toddler splash area is a real bonus. They love, love, love that stuff. They interests and needs are pretty simple at that age and surf and sand pretty much fill them.

We are looking for a warm place to go in March. We would like someplace that has a direct flight from Washington. We are thinking about either St John VI or Akumal area in Mexico. We want a ocean front room, hopefully with a kitchenette, and on or very near a nice beach. We are going for relaxation, snorkeling, and some quiet time. Can you recommend accommodation in these two locations or suggest locations we may have missed. Thanks.

Either place would fit the bill. I've not been to St. John in many years, so will let others opine about that. I have snorkeled near Akumal --  that area of the Yucatan Peninsula is known for its sea turtles.  I think the best snorkeling in that region is in Cozumel. To get to St. John, you'd fly to St. Thomas and then take a ferry. Akumal is about 65 miles from the Cancun airport. 

Thanks for your tips last month on getting a gate pass for my wife's flight with our 18-month-old. I explained the situation to the check-in agent, he asked me a few questions, and I received the pass. No, it wasn't a "necessity" for the trip, but it was good to be able to help keep him entertained for an hour before the flight took off and my wife had to keep him entertained in an enclosed space. Next up: a trip to San Fran just shy of his second birthday!

Glad that worked out!

We are visiting UVM in March. Any suggestions for places to stay?

I enjoyed at stay at the Essex Resort/Spa in nearby Essex a couple years ago. In Burlington proper, I've heard good things about Made Inn Vermont.

Remember that your child is still pretty portable, so enjoy this time! We've found that while it's not really necessary to do anything specifically for children, it's best to keep everything "kid friendly." We never drive more than 5 hours per day (I try to keep it to 4), and avoid changing hotels every night. See what you want (museums, etc) for a couple hours, then go out for ice cream and find a playground. Keep your mealtimes roughly the same as at home, and also roughly the same food (if you don't eat McD's 3 meals per day normally, don't do it on a trip). Plan grocery store runs and have lots of picnics. Relax and don't try to cram in too many things, just enjoy life as it comes, and if that means seeing only a fabulous school playground on this trip, remember that you are training baby to love travel as much as you are.


April is such a changeable season in central Europe - it could be in the 70s or in the 30s. I think Zofia's suggestion of layers is the way to go, and take a pair of gloves if you will be out late in the evening wandering the streets of Prague (and you should be). Umbrella is a must.

USAirways emailed me someone else's flight itinerary and receipt today. I tweeted at them... should I call the airline?

Yes, I would email them right away. Here are a few contacts that might be helpful. If the problem persists, please let me know. Here's my email address.

Hello, everyone- We are putting together a trip to the national parks this coming June and are looking for recommendations for lodging in Moab. We are a family of four-two parents and two teens-and are open to any suggestions. We'll be camping at our other stops so would probably prefer having a roof over our heads for a few days. Would love to have a recommendation from personal experience! Thanks!


I haven not been to Moab in a while, but based on memory, I would suggest the Red Cliffs Lodge, Aarchway Inn or the funky Gonzo Inn.

Not a question. A warning not to return to a place that was enchanting at one time. My return visits to Alexandria VA, Williamsburg VA, Southern CA., WashingtonD.C., Venice FL,, Stratford ONT, were all crushing disappointments..Over a period of years the increase in population and commercial enterprise ruined the charm found upon the first visit. Keep the memories intact.

Oh, that's sad. But you do have a point. There are always more people, more cars, etc. But the charm's still there, underneath it all!

We are planning a summer trip with our teenage daughters who are off to college in the fall. We are using long-accumulated AmEx points so airfare shouldn't be too burdensome. Any suggestions for destinations? (other than Italy, Spain and Ireland, where they have already traveled).

Hmm. This is a rather broad request. It would help to know what yuo and your girls like to do, what your interests are, whether you're looking to relax or to do a lot of sightseeing and soak in the culture, etc.

How much time do we need to properly visit London, the English countryside and Paris? And any suggestions for must -sees or places to stay? Thank you! Happy new year!

Well, you don't say how much time you have, so I'm just going to wing it. Four days in London, four days in Paris, two or three days focusing on a manageable portion of the English countryside since there's a lot of it. Not to say you can't do any of that in longer or shorter, but that's a start. I think you'll do just fine looking up must-sees in London and Paris (this chat from Dec. 16 had a lot of London tips). For English countryside, you could visit Bath and the scenic Cotswolds.

There are great hotels, with views and kitchens, on St. John; but, the best beaches are in the National Park and require either a hike or bus shuttle to get to them. Though beautiful, the beaches in the Cruz Bay area (right where the ferry comes in) really aren't for tourists, so make sure to get out of that immediate area.

Also a BIG vote for Quebec City. My husband and I went a few years ago, and it truly made us feel like we'd crossed the Atlantic. Four days is perfect. Can't remember what it was called, but we drove over to an island (?) and drove the perimeter. So, so quaint and picturesque. Just a lovely time!

Yes, that's the Ile d'Orleans! Magnificent.

Just curious, what do you think the chances are that Vienna wasn't really cleaner than you remembered, but more that you stayed in better/nicer places than you did as a poor college student?

I have to say that although staying in (much) nicer places may have been a big factor, the city was definitely cleaner. All that accumulated soot and acid rain that had made all the major buildings black when I lived there had been cleaned off -- I was shocked to see that the Rathaus (City Hall) and the Parliament building were actually not built of brownstone, but nearly white in color. Plus the main downtown streets had been turned into a pedestrian zone, so there was less traffic in the heart of the city. 

I spent a year abroad in Glasgow. I went back a few years ago (20 years on) and it was changed in so many ways. What was missing: small children smoking cigarettes and shouting 4-letter words at each other, broken glass and dog poo on the sidewalks, petty vandalism for the sake of destroying something, diesel bus fumes, smoky busses and elevators, the lard smell from the chip shops, vacant lots, little old ladies in rain bonnets and galoshes, and some of the things that really gave the city the identity I remembered. What was in their place: American chain restaurants, new urban shopping malls, gorgeous new buildings, cleaner air, a more sophisticated look and feel to the city, no smoking regulations, and lots and lots of CCTV cameras. Despite the city feeling alien and far less familiar, the Glaswegian sense of humor was still very much intact with the ever-present traffic cone atop the statue of the Duke of Wellington just as I had remembered it decades prior.

Big changes. Thanks!

I enjoyed my stay last fall at a B&B called "The Mayor's House."

We spent many happy summers in Bethany. Look into Sea Colony - lots of pools and near enough the main town to walk for ice cream in the evening. We always stayed ocean front in the high rises but the tennis community has plenty of houses with free shuttle to the beach. Take plenty of books for you, sand toys for the little one and enjoy a laid-back week. Bethany is much quieter than OC or Rehoboth.

The first time I visited SF I was really disappointed. I had so looked forward to going, but I just wasn't prepared for the weather, or everyone wearing black, or the grittiness of the city. On top of that, the friend that I stayed with wasn't a native and didn't really like SF. So he was a terrible tour guide! The next time I visited I was ready for the weather and the grittiness and I just fell in love. I've been fortunate enough to visit at least once a year for the past few years and it just grows on me more and more each time. I think it's the most unique city in the US and probably my favorite!

Love SF!

Four of us will be traveling to Amsterdam through Paris in late May. We arrive in Paris at 5:45 am, and have almost 7 hours before our flight to Amsterdam . where should we go in Paris, or should we just hang out in the airport?

You have time to get into town for a bit, so I'd certainly be tempted to do that. There's a service, Baggage du Monde, where you can leave your bags in Terminal 2 if that's convenient. According to Paris by Train, you can get from CDG to Gare du Nord in about 34 minutes on a regular train (22 minutes on an express train). You could get off at Gare du Nord in order to see Sacre Coeur/Montmartre; Chatelet les Halles for the Louvre; St. Michel-Notre Dame for, obviously, Notre Damne; and Luxembourg for the Luxembourg Gardens. Lots of other attractions in and around those, of course, as well.

Several friends and I are looking for a weekend driving getaway over the long weekend in February. We're thinking someplace in Pennsylvania, since we want friends from New York to meet us there, but we are open to other options. Ideally we are looking for a ski spot where people can hit the snow if they want to, but also we'd like there to be non-skiing things to do for those of us who aren't coordinated enough. Sitting by a fireplace playing board games would be just fine! Any suggestions of where we should look?

You can survey your options using our Ski Guide map. I really like Snowshoe in West Virginia because of its wide range of activities, but that would definitely be a stretch for your New York pals. How about Liberty Mountain? It's really close to Gettysburg, which might appeal to non-skiers.

Could you please suggest warm locations, all inclusive or not, for a family vacation for Christmas 2014? 4 - 5 nights for 8 adults and 3 children, under the age of 4. Only requirements are that it be a somewhat short flight from DC area and not break the bank! Thanks so much for any suggestions!!

That week is one of the most expensive weeks of the year to travel, so the piggy bank may incur some cracks. Cheapest way to go may be to rent a house with kitchen so you can do your own cooking. And it's usually cheaper to fly domestically instead of internationally, so a destination in southern Florida, such as Marco Island, may be a good bet.  Closest nonstop destination in the Caribbean is Nassau.  

Is there a simple way to get married in DC--we're seeing 3-5 day waiting periods and we just don't have the time available and DC is the closest place these 2 GA boys can get hitched.

This isn't really our area of expertise. Sure you didn't want the Dear Prudence chat or something?

Hello, My husband and I are thinking about going to Thailand in May to celebrate our 10 yr anniversary. However, we're concerned since it is the rainy season. What do you advise? Should we go somewhere else in Asia? Thank you very much!

I haven't been (yet), but according to Lonely Planet the rainy season doesn't really start until June or even July (and October is the wettest). Seems, too, like if you are sticking to the northern provinces or to the southern islands and beaches, May might be a good time to be there. As Lonely Planet says in its weather guide to Thailand, the north would be pretty moderate and the south, closer to the equator, would be milder, too. It's central and northeastern Thailand that you want to avoid March-May because of the sweltering heat.

Hi There, my wife and I have a dilemma that I'm sure many would love to have, and understand how fortunate we are. We had planned to take a big adventure trip over next Christmas break, and when we broke the news to my parents, they countered that they had planned a family vacation to Hawaii. We feel somewhat obligated to attend, but don't necessarily want to give up our big trip either (we have already extensively visited every island but Molokai). We were thinking about spending a few days with the family in Hawaii, and then moving on from there, but don't want to waste the precious days off we have flying somewhere else. We thought about perhaps New Zealand, or Japan, but we'll still lose a day or two in flight. Any great quick adventure trips from the Hawaiian islands you can think of that won't burn all our time off? Or is our best bet to just stick to the Hawaiian islands? Thanks for all your help!

Yes, your dilemma is one we would be willing to share! It's a relatively short (about six hours) nonstop flight to Papeete, Tahiti from Honolulu. 

Hotel Vermont looks amazing from the outside and from the local news stories, and the renowned Hen of the Wood opened its second location there. They loan out bikes if I recall correctly, and they have locally sourced many of the things they use in the rooms (toiletries, VT Teddy Bears), which of course they also try to sell to their guests. Downtown is also getting at least one hotel in the old armory on Main St and if I'm not mistaken, another newly constructed hotel on St Paul, just off Main Street.

My husband and I were married in Santa Fe NM in 1980 at the county office. When we returned in 2007, with friends, the building did not look at all familiar, either inside or out. We were told it had not been remodelled since the 60's! My husband spent the next several hours wondering if we were married after all. We have the paperwork to show we are, so the rest of us just took him for a margarita at the nearest bar.

Funny! Maybe you were just too dazed on your wedding day to really take in where you were. :-)

I've been going to SE Asia each year for the past several. I usually include some time in Bangkok in each trip partly because it's got good connections to everywhere else and partly because I just enjoy the insanity of the city. But my visit last year was a bit disappointing. It was hotter than ever and traffic seems to have finally reached a totally unsustainable level.

Aw, too bad!

I'm of Latvian descent and growing up had heard stories from my parents, who had fled the Soviet occupation as teens during WWII, about how beautiful the country was. I visited for the first time in 1994 and was horrified. I wasn't quite expecting a land of milk and honey, but instead of the land of my parents' tales, I found an unkempt country, seemingly populated with unfriendly - or at least very reticent - people, and all sorts of odd quirks that popped up in unexpected ways - for instance, the expectation that people using public restrooms should bring along their own toilet paper. My friends smirked at me and said that 1994 was already an improvement... I should have seen it during the Soviet times. I'm glad I hadn't. But since then, every time I go back I enjoy the country more and more. Riga's old town is a rehabbed gem, smaller towns also no longer look dingy and sad, restaurants ranging from country inns to molecular gastronomy havens serve exceptional food (I recently didn't have a bad meal in a whole week), customer service has improved beyond description, people don't seem so suspicious of strangers anymore - but at the same time, the country and the people have not lost that what makes them unique. They've just washed off much of the Soviet grime. Sometimes a few Soviet bureaucracy remnants do still pop up (the scary woman who collected my money on the bus, for instance, who berated me for not knowing the fare and then for picking out the right change too slowly), but they are now without a doubt the exception - and I now truly enjoy visiting Latvia.

This is a very familiar story to me. Just change the country (Poland, in my case).

First trip to Moscow, 1984: safe to walk the streets, restaurants and bars dirt cheap (though no selection), 5 hour line to see Lenin's Tomb. Moscow in 2012: dangerous to walk around at night, restaurants more expensive than NYC or Tokyo (though big selection), no line to see Lenin's Tomb.

Hmm. So not an improvement, you're saying?

My husband and I are planning to visit our daughter who lives and works in Llongwe around Easter this year. We will be in Malawi approximately April 19-28 and she will guide our travels there. We are concerned about the long flights there and back given our age (71 and 67) though we are both physically fit and in good health. We are seeking advice about best flights and possible layovers where we might stop over for a day or two en route.

No matter how you arrange this, the flights are going to be long. You can break it up, but then you need to buy two separate tickets, which will add considerable cost to the flights. If money is no object, you could fly nonstop to Dubai, stay there for a day or two, and then fly to Lilongwe. 

My family of four (two adults, two children ages 13 and 8) would like to travel to Heidelberg, Germany for 10-12 days in the latter half of August to celebrate my daughter's 13th birthday. (She was born in Heidelberg while my husband was posted there with the U.S. Army.) We would like to fly into Frankfurt, base ourselves in Heidelberg and do day trips throughout the region, including to LEGOLAND Germany and cities/towns like Rothenburg. We are open to one, or possibly two, move(s) to an additional location(s) within Germany so that our children can experience more of the country. Are you aware of family vacation packages or travel service providers who could arrange hotel and guided day trips from Heidelberg and additional location(s)? We would really like to have someone else handle all ground transportation and arrangements for day trips so that we simply can relax and enjoy Germany. The only family vacation package we have been able to find is Adventures by Disney but their trip schedule does not fit ours and is shorter than we would like.

Sounds like you could use a good travel agent. You can search for one through ASTA, or check out these options from Conde Naste Traveler and Travel + Leisure (Germany is on page 4).

This is so not my area of expertise, but if you're in Georgia, are you close to Atlanta? Since it's a hub, you could probably get decently priced airline tickets to somewhere with a shorter waiting period for the marriage license, or tack your honeymoon on. Just a thought. Congratulations!

Unfortunately, those two boys will be out of luck in Georgia, right?

Sorry, misread you -- reading comprehension difficulties today! Hmm... now thinking about somewhere with a short waiting period. Hold, please.

If budget isn't (too) much of a consideration, consider Nemacolin Woodlands! One of the best places to be snowed in, in my opinion! For more moderate budgets consider 7 Springs.

Good suggestions!

Husband and I were college students in Berkeley who married young (and poor), so drove down to Carmel for a brief honeymoon between terms. Stayed in the cheapest room at a motel near the beach, which didn't even have a TV (not that we needed one!). Fast forward 2 decades and we were living in the East, and decided to fly out to California for our 20th wedding anniversary. Couldn't find the name of the motel in Carmel anywhere, so drove our rental car around town till we spotted what we recalled was the same location as where we'd stayed half a lifetime ago. Husband went in and inquired, and learned that it was indeed the same place, but the name had been changed and the simple motel turned into an upscale B&B. We wound up staying in the best room in the place, complete with a fireplace (and TV, though we still didn't watch much!).


5 of my girlfriends get together about every two years. They come from DC /MD suburbs, eastern PA, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Denver. Looking for a house or condo to rent within driving distance for all but Denver where we can eat good food, take scenic walks and relax together.

How about the Hamptons? Or maybe the Hudson River Valley? Here's a story we had a few years ago on Beacon, N.Y. I visited that area the other year as well.

Four adults, three girls under 10 heading to Orlando at the end of the month. We're not big Disney folks (Granddad promises to treat us all to that in the years to come) -- we just wanted to go somewhere warm, and Orlando offered that plus an abundance of inexpensive homes with private pools (got our 5-bedroom/4 bath for $700 for 5 days!) and what seems like plenty to do in the area. So. . . looking for suggestions on alternatives to Disney & SeaWorld (boo!). Any hidden treasures? Have any favorities? Inexpensive outings in the area? Anyone want to chime in?

I hope that pool is heated! Orlando can be not-all-that-warm in late January/early February. Certainly an unheated pool might be a tad cool to swim in, and I don't really think it's warm enough for comfortable sunbathing, either. But, that said, there are things to do -- I'd take a drive up to Winter Park, about 30 minutes away, for a taste of cute Florida town charm. Lots of lovely shops and restaurants, art museums and galleries, etc. Okay, you don't want to do Sea World -- but don't miss Gatorland. It's kitschily fascinating -- so many alligators! (That's my secret favorite. Kids love it!) Are you against Universal Studios as well as Disney? Our kids always preferred it, so you might want to check it out. Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach are about 90 minutes away -- again, it may be too cool for sunbathing/swimming, but the Space Coast is a fun area to explore. Downtown Orlando has the pretty area around Lake Eola, and a Peabody Hotel  -- well, now it's a Hyatt Regency, but you can still watch the duck parade, just like at the Peabody in Memphis. What else, chatters?

How late can a Boston-DCA flight be before I can ask for my money back and take the train? Do I have to tell them that I am giving up and leaving the airport? Please answer generally (winter snowstorms, summer thunderstorms, etc.) and not just for this week.

The flight has to be canceled before you can get a refund. Being late doesn't count, unfortunately. It should.

Hi, and happy new year! My son is taking a friend to National tomorrow for a 6 am flight on Air Canada. I checked the airport's website, and it seems that security lines open at 4:30 am. Is that early enough to arrive for an international flight? Thanks!

Yep, if that's when the security lines open, then, um, yes, it's early enough. Or are you imagining that you need to camp out in advance, like someone waiting for the new iPhone? That early in the morning, you should be just fine.

In the Jan 5th, 2014 edition of the travel section, there was a question on what to do with an eight hour layover in the airport in Istanbul. You all suggested to just wait in the airport - However, I didn't notice that you mentioned the following. The Istanbul airport has great pay-to-use lounges - I paid $22 in November for 7 hours of use in a lounge with GOOD food, alchohol, coffee, tea, free Wi-Fi and most importantly very clean showers and bathrooms.

Great advice. Thanks!

Hello and happy new year! My husband and I are headed to South Africa at the end of February, and have a 9 hour layover in Munich on the way there. I've read that should be enough time to make it worth heading into the city for a few hours, but wanted to see if that sounded reasonable?? If so, if we only have a few hours in Munich, what should we do/see?? Thanks!

You must see the Marienplatz, the main square downtown, and have a beer at the Hofbrauhaus. Yes, it's somewhat kitschy, but it's also simply a must-do. If you have any time for museums after that, I'd swing through the Alte Pinakothek. Or alternatively, you could head up to Schwabing, the bohemian-ish quarter, full of restaurants and cafes and a lively sort of student life. Fun to see. What do you think, chatters?

Can you guys think of a good place that is somewhat halfway between Washington and Brisbane, Australia? We've done Japan and Argentina before, he's already been to most of Southeast Asia, and I've been to Hong Kong recently, so I'm trying to think outside of the box a bit. Thanks!

I don't know that it's outside of the box, but how about Hawaii?

Why would Dear Prudence know about the requirements to get married in DC? They want to travel to DC to get married.

Well, still -- our expertise is travel, not the ins/outs of DC red tape, I'm afraid. But here goes: The three-day waiting period is the law, so anybody who wants to come here to get married has to plan on that!

OK, for the GA boys wanting to get married: NYC has a 24-hour waiting period, and Vermont and NH have none. Get married in Burlington and then drive to Montreal for the honeymoon. Done.

4 couples and a single aged 72 (high school friends) want to go to Bermuda for a few days. When? Some golf; some don't. Some want to fly from Nashville, TN; some want to cruise. Can you suggest when to go, where to stay, what to do, where to eat?

If some of the friends want to cruise, then you will have to plan your trip around cruising season --April through early November. To make the most of the beaches and outdoors, go closer to summer, but I'd avoid peak season, when the island is overrun with visitors. Also, watch out for hurricane season later, or chose accommodations with a hurricane policy.

Bermuda is very expensive. To save some money, you might consider renting an apartment or cottage. The tourism office has a list of options. The office also has promotions on lodging, so check the site for deals.

Among the best attractions: the Maritime Museum, Royal Naval Dockyard, Historic St. George, the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art and the botanical gardens.

For restaurants:  Tom Moore's Tavern,  the Lobster Pot and Boat House Bar, and the Newport Room in the Fairmont (also a good lodging option).

Twelve women between the ages of 55 & 60 are celebrating being together as a group for 25 years. We are looking to go away for a long weekend within a 3 hour drive of DC. Any suggestions of a place that has enough variety (shopping, sightseeing, spa) to satisfy 12 different personalities. Any time of year would be OK.

How about Charlottesville? My favorite time there is the fall, but you really can't go wrong in any season. Lots to do in and around town -- shop the downtown mall, eat at all the wonderful restaurants, go wine tasting at the many area vineyards, splurge on a spa treatment at Keswick Hall or the Boar's Head Inn.

ISO new ideas! Always visit my mom in West Palm Beach in March. Often take a weekend in South Beach. Last year went to Sarasota. What else might be fun for 2-3 days - preferably beach and not too far of a drive? (Sarasota was too far!)

The Keys. Definitely the Keys! But also think about Port St. Lucie or Vero Beach.

A friend was talking about the wonders of Iceland, and I am considering it for a summer trip. I did a search for Iceland on your website and it came back with 1154 responses. Is there a way to narrow that down to just travel articles about Iceland, or maybe you can send me a link to an article you have written?

When I was a college student in Italy, catcalls from men were a major annoyance. When I went back several years later, I was pleasantly surprised by how much men's behavior had improved. But later still I was told by friends' daughters that it hadn't improved at all; it was just that, at the ripe old age of 28 or so, I was too old to be a target.

Oh, the irony!

We have tickets for World Cup soccer games in 5 Brazilian cities between June 14 and July 6. I think planning all the flying is beyond my ability. Can you recommend a Brazil-specific travel agent? Should I buy the tickets now?

Lucky you!

I would try a tour operator that specializes in World Cup and sports packages, such as Discover Brazil or Great Atlantic Sports Travel. Or if you only need help with booking air, you can really use any travel agent. You can find an agent by area or specialty through ASTA's search engine.

And yes, buy them now. You don't want to end up with bad flight times that might cause you to miss the matches.

I just went to the US and British Virgin Islands and was shocked to see that in the 6 years since my last visit, the reefs have dramatically bleached and the numbers of fish have dropped substantially... everywhere we went was mostly a dead zone (I'd say 80% gone). While I am grateful to have snorkeled in such a gorgeous part of the world - the islands are stunning - I had no idea things were that bad. Global warming, overfishing, pollutants? Could be all three. I first visited 30 years ago and the reefs looked right out of National Geographic, but it mostly seems gone now. :0(

I taught diving for many years, and saw some of the changes you're talking about firsthand. I think it's a little bit of everything -- damage to the reef by divers, pollution and warming. It's depressing. See it while you still can.

Husband has agreed to a Caribbean/Virgin Islands vacation in August. Many recommendations as to islands or where to stay? Have been to St. Thomas (not thrilled) and St. John, (better), but after last years trip to Hawaii feel like the island has to be pretty spectacular or we'll be unfavorably comparing it to Hawaii all week. Thanks!

The Caribbean is very different from Hawaii. Similarities pretty much end with the tropical climate, and even the weather is not without differences. You might like Aruba or St. Barts. Or how about Bermuda? Not the Caribbean, but it's an island. 

Really there isn't, but only one of you needs to be there. I went and did all of the paperwork for my husband (I just needed his photo ID). If one of you can come up a few weeks in advance, you may be able to get a proxy to pick it up for you.

For the person with 9 hours in Munich that should be plenty of time. The train station is right in the airport to the city. I planned to do it when I had a 12 hour layover but got sick on the way there (I literally felt myself catch cold at the Lufthansa lounge at IAD) so I just slept instead when I got to MUC. I think the train take about 30-40 minutes to get into the city. But that is easy to check.

Do they have any friends (really good ones) who can be their proxy? You can't get around the 3 day waiting period, but you don't have to apply or pick up in person. Some marriage officiants will include that as part of their cost.

My rule of thumb, when the kids were small, was to read a guidebook's suggested 1-day itinerary and then spread that over a week. Seriously. It was the best way to keep things manageable. And while the beach is nice, you shouldn't limit yourself if you want to see or do something different. We did Seattle and Victoria with our 1 year old (at the time), and it was great.

Right, right.

Go to PlayMobilland! It's geared for a bit younger than 13, obviously, but your 8 YO will love it, and if the 13 YO still likes playgrounds, it should be good.

I know it sounds boring but there is a Hilton across from beautiful Lake Champlain and within walking distance to quaint shops and close to UVM

Four women, late 50's, trying for a 3-4 day getaway within a 4 hour drive of DC. We like history, nature (good views and hiking trails), spa options and exploring scenic towns with good eating and shopping. Williamsburg has been suggested and rejected. Finances are an issue, but we're not looking for bargain basement. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

St. Michaels in Maryland is a relatively short drive from D.C. and fulfills most of your wish list. There are all sorts of levels of accommodations, some nice restaurants and shops, and it's on the water.  Annapolis is even closer, but may cost a bit more. 

We went to Akumal about 7-8 years ago. Rented a condo right on the beach at Half Moon Bay and loved it. Very nice for a laid-back trip. I highly recommend it.

Thanks for the recommendation. 

Roanoke. The New River Valley is beautiful, and Roanoke has REALLY stepped up its restaurants and arts scene. And there's history all over, including the Natural Bridge, plus hiking everywhere. And it's fairly inexpensive too.

I'm considering a trip to Vietnam this year, and due to my vacation schedule, can only really travel in August. I've been cautioned by a few people who have traveled to the country, but not in August, that it's likely to be extremely muggy and rainy. I'm okay with some rain, but not a complete washout. Any advice?

If that is the only time you can go, then go!

The weather varies so much depending on your location, so you won't get a complete soaking. The southern area is typically hot and humid with daily rain showers (but rarely all-day affairs). The central region is sunny and dry; the northern mountains are wet, and Hanoi can be a bit moist.

While my first trip to Mt Rushmore wasn't exactly a return trip, it felt that way after watching North by Northwest so many times! I was horribly disappointed to find that they've destroyed the awesome old 60's visitors center where the film was shot.

That is a shame!

How about New York? I love dining in the restaurants of the Culinary Institute of America there! Plus historic sites in/around town.

The airport is fairly close, why wouldn't you see something in Istanbul during an 8 hour layover?

I am going to give the floor over to another traveler, who messaged me this weekend about this topic. Here is what she said:

 Ataturk is a fairly modern airport with traffic coming and going all night. It is just a 30 minute drive on basically one/two good highway(s) to the foot of the bridge over the Bosphorous, which has a major taxi stand and is near the tram station, boat taxi stand, etc.  At this intersection the traveler can see the New Mosque (Yeni Cami) and walk right into the Spice Bazaar Souk, eat some of the best street food in the world and watch the epicenter of old and new Turkey. It is a short walk up hill to the Blue Mosque.  It is worth the 30-minute trip to stay 60 minutes or 5 hours.

  The traffic on this big road can get crowded but it is not really a problem. It is a cosmopolitan city so there are always taxis, and it is one of the safest parts of town.  You can get the card of the taxi driver from the airport and arrange pick up at the taxi stand, take any of the taxis there, or go to any of the major hotels for a taxi back to the airport.  


Try Seven Springs. MUCH bigger than Liberty of Roundtop.

And that's all she wrote! Thanks all for joining in our inaugural 2014 chat. So many good answers to my question, but I have to say that I'm partial to the chatter who wrote about Latvia (for obvious reasons). Send your contact info to me at, and I'll get you your prize.

And see everybody again next week!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for 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: