Talk about Travel

Oct 01, 2012

Please note that Talk about Travel has now moved to 2 p.m. Mondays.
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Good afternoon, chatters! Welcome to October! It's hard to believe that it's already fall, although it's in many ways my favorite time of year so I'm always happy whenever it rolls around. The air is so crisp and clear, and the colors, of course, are so stunning. Did you like our twist-on-fall-color story in yesterday's issue? We did that because we just felt that we couldn't come up with a new angle on the traditional fall color stories. So now I'm going to ask you to help us out -- where's the best/most unusual place you can think of to enjoy the colors of fall? You can think large -- New England, the Midwest -- or small -- your grandfather's farm, a particular forest glen where you always go camping. Most intriguing tip gets the prize.

And now for your travel questions. 

My husband and I would like to take our 6 and 9 year old children to Yellowstone National Park in June 2013. Any suggestions on lodging, tours, horseback riding, or other things not to miss. A friend suggested we fly into Billings Montana. What do you think?

When we took our children there, we stayed in four different places. If I had to do it over again, I would limit it to no more than three. Places I would recommend for lodging include Chico Hot Springs Resort in Montana north of Yellowstone: great hiking, horseback riding, hot springs and food. We also loved Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park. (I would not visit Yellowstone without taking a detour to Grand Tetons.) We stayed in Yellowstone at Roosevelt Lodge -- it was well priced, but we wished we had paid up and stayed at   the Old Faithful Inn or Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Yellowstone offers lots of kid-friendly activities, including guided ranger walks. Mine loved the junior ranger program. By the way, watch your kids for altitude sickness. Our son had a bad headache and was moping around for a full day before we put it together. 

I was the OP who was stranded for 4 hours on a broken down Megabus in Delaware, while waiting for a replacement bus. I sent my complaint to Megabus customer service and they responded by refunding the cost of that leg of my trip and giving me a free roundtrip ticket. I appreciate the response, although I'm still not sure I want to risk riding with them again.

Sounds like you had a lemon of a ride. On the whole, Megabus is pretty reliable. My son rides them to Philadelphia routinely and rarely has a problem. Traffic is usually the issue if there is one, and there's nothing the bus company can do about that.

You have to admit, their response to your complaint was pretty good. Says a lot for the company, I think.

Here's a note of caution for those who plan to rent a car overseas: I recently rented a car in Germany and was told by the rental agent that their company does not recognize CDW/LDW coverage offered by VISA cards. He stated, in so many words, that I was required to buy coverage with a 600 € deductible, which I did at a total cost of about $120 incl. VAT. On returning home, I investigated the website from which I made the reservation, as well as the U.S. and German branches of the company from which I rented, and found that the agent in Frankfurt essentially lied to me -- and it wasn't a language problem, because even though we began our conversation in German, his statements to me about the CDW/LDW waiver purchase being compulsory were made in English. I am in the process of pursuing a refund through the third-party website, as well as the rental company; the reason that I'm not naming names is that the process is ongoing. Once I get a resolution, I will post more info including names of all companies involved. But let this be a warning -- check the fine print before leaving the U.S., and be ready to quote chapter and verse from the relevant "Terms and Conditions" page(s).

Misrepresenting car insurance requirements is a common problem, particularly for international rentals. You can get a refund for the insurance. Just send a brief, polite email to the rental company, and if that doesn't work, please contact me directly.

Just thought of this after your response about Yellowstone. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate -- that is the best way to avoid headaches after sudden increase in altitude.

Yes. Thanks!

My favorite place for fall colors (and in keeping with your article) is up at the Santa Fe Ski Basin where all the aspens turn bright yellow in the fall. It's so gorgeous up there when the mountains are bright gold. I now live on the east coast, but really miss my home state of New Mexico. My mother once painted a picture of those aspens; I wouldn't let her sell it and she gave it to me and now I enjoy them every day in my dining room.

Lovely! Yes, the aspens are gorgeous when they turn.

My husband and I need to get away. We would like to take a long weekend (Thurs - Sunday) in early November. We are looking for (hopefully) an all inclusive resort on the beach were we could drink and soak up the sun. Some culture or sights would be nice but not necessary. Oh yeah, like everyone else, we don't want to break the bank. Any suggestions?

Cheapest destinations for all-inclusive resorts include the greater Cancun area of Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Of the three, Cancun probably offers most off-site activities/attractions. You can find all-inclusives at all price points, but if you're fussy about quality of food/drink,  don't go for the cheapest deals. Take a look at a tour operator such as Apple Vacations or Vacation Express to get a better idea of what's available. 

Are you aware of anyone who has rented an apartment through for a week long trip to Spain? If so, how was the experience? And what generally should we look out for?

We will have to ask the chatters about this. Anyone done this?

Do you have experience getting from Cancun to Cozumel in the winter? I cannot find flights to Cozumel when I need, so going the Cancun route may have to do. Do you know the ferry schedule in what I'm guessing is low season for tourists? Also, any thoughts on weather temps in February? THANKS mucho.

You need to first get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. Cabs are plentiful and not too expensive. A couple of ferry companies offer service between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, including Ultramar and Mexico Water Jets. They run frequently. February isn't low season. Water will be warm -- probably around 80. 

Just to confirm, I'm not a cold-water person and I have had no trouble swimming/snorkeling in Cancun in February.

Two unrelated comments in response to the 9/24 chat in case they're of use next week: First, you said this about Puerto Rico: "Narco-related crime is on the rise, unfortunately, but not to the point where the U.S. government has warned mainlanders to avoid traveling to the island. (By comparison, the State Department reissued a travel warning for Mexico in February.)" That is comparing apples and oranges, because the U.S. Government does not issue travel warnings for domestic destinations like Puerto Rico, regardless how violent they might be. (some foreign countries might, however). Second, a reader asked whether it made sense to use part of a week in Istanbul to travel south for "sunnier weather". The answer was, that that would likely use up three days probably better spent in Istanbul. I agree that just the possibility of a warmer day or two doesn't seem to make it worthwhile, but it does appear to be quite feasible to take a day trip to see Ephesus from Istanbul, taking an early morning flight to nearby Izmir and a late afternoon flight back. Can't say yet how it will work out, but that's what we've planned for our Nov. trip, really wanting to see Ephesus without changing hotels or taking too much time away from Istanbul (as with poster, we jumped on a really good fare offer for just a one-week trip). It will be a long day but should work. Cost about $90 for RT domestic ticket on Turkish Airlines booked online, plus ground transport.

Thanks for your input!

I haven't used HostelWorld, but rented two places (one in Madrid and one in Barcelona) via Friendly Rentals.

Thanks. Good experiences?

I think you were referring to the security photo snapped at the beginning of the cruise for use on the machine only. The woman was referring to the to-be-purchased pictures taken upon entry and exit by the photographers. I have been on 20+ cruises and NEVER do any of these pictures. She should feel comfortable walking right past with a smile and a no. If she is hassled, she should mention it to the pursor. Celebrity is probably the best cruise line for honoring the "no thank you." Cathy A, Herndon VA

Right you are, Cathy. Those photos are just another money-making gimmick. They are by no means a requirement!

Early 30s married couple going on a cruise in May 2013 that leaves from Southampton, England. Cruise leaves on Saturday, we're flying into Heathrow on Wednesday AM and planning to explore London for a few days before the cruise. We'd like to do the usual touristy things, be near the Tube (but we don't mind walking a few blocks to the station), and in a safe neighborhood. Also don't want to spend a lot of money on hotel. Where in London is a good area to stay? Any specific recommendations for hotels? Is it a good idea to use Priceline or Hotwire to get a good rate?

I stay at a Premier Inn when I want to save money. It's a chain with locations throughout London. Pretty basic, but clean. I like the location near Tower Bridge, where prices, depending on day/date, can go as low as about $125 a night. 

My husband and I would like to take our six yr old grandson to NYC (after Thanksgiving but before Christmas) to see Santa at Macys. We would like to go by Amtrak and leave on a Friday and return on Saturday. Which day do you think is best to see Santa? We would also like to visit the Empire State Building and Rockerfeller Center. Where would be the best place to stay (NYC or NJ).

It's been a while since I stood in line to see Santa, but I'd guess that the wait will be shorter on Friday than on Saturday. As to where to stay, I just don't think you can beat the excitement of staying in Manhattan, but hotel space does tend to fill up between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when more tourists show up to watch holiday shows, look at the decorated store windows, etc. You should get started on your lodging now.

We will have 6 hours in San Diego before meeting friends for dinner. What do you recommend we do with that time? And do you have a favorite restaurant for dinner? Thanks.

I'd probably go to the San Diego Zoo and spend a few hours there and then stroll around Balboa Park, maybe taking in a museum or two.  As for restaurants, San Diego has lots of good ones. Take a look at Cucina Urbana, located near downtown San Diego. 

Do you know if any bars will be broadcasting the show live on Oct. 6th in D.C.? If so, please list the locations. Thank you. Jean

Um, I think you're in the wrong chat for this question. We're the Travel section, not the Going Out Guide. Sorry!

My favorite spot for fall colors is on 95 in northern Maine. We live right off the last exit before the Canadian border and when we're headed south there is a spot in Oakfield where all of a sudden you round a corner and Mount Katahdin appears over the lower tree covered hills. It takes my breath away every single time.

Sounds breathtaking! :-)

On a flight last month from Dulles to Brussels, I was happily seated in an aisle seat in Premium Economy, next to an empty middle seat, when a flight attendant approached me and asked if I would be willing to switch to a middle seat in Economy to accommodate a father who wanted to sit next to one of his children. I politely declined, whereupon she approached another woman traveling solo in Premium Economy and asked her the same question; that woman also declined. One thing that flabbergasted me was that there were quite a few men traveling by themselves (such as the man sitting one seat removed from me) whom the flight attendant definitely didn't approach. She only asked women to move! Another thing was that I'd paid extra to sit not only in PE, but an aisle seat in PE, and I was being asked to downgrade myself to a dreaded middle seat in Economy? All the more baffling because, later during the flight, I went back to Economy a few times, and there were quite a few empty seats, so I don't understand why she was asking people in PE to move. Do you know if there's a United policy to pick out only women to ask them to sacrifice better seats for worse, or was this just an aberrant flight attendant? After the fact, I wish I'd thought to get her name, because if it's not company policy, she seems in urgent need of retraining.

I'm not aware of any such policy. I would guess that the flight attendants made two incorrect assumptions: 1) That the women traveling solo were leisure travelers; 2) That the women were mothers and would therefore be likelier to give up their premium seat. But I'm just guessing. What do you think?

Hi Travel Crew! Thanks for providing so many useful travel ideas and tips through this chat. My former college roommate and I are looking for suggestions for a long weekend trip in somewhere in Latin America. Roommate lives in California and I live in the DC area, so our preference is somewhere that is accessible from both ends of the country with reasonable airfares. Thanks to you and the chatters for your suggestions!

Hmm. How about Honduras? It's up and coming as a tourist destination. Costa Rica, of course, already is one, but for good reason. Chatters, what would you recommend?

My one and only "cruise" was a Viking Line (overnight party boat pretty much) from Stockholm to Helsinki. My spouse and I posed politely for the photos and then when we went to see them hanging on the board, we realized that we were in the minority. Most of the Scandinavian regulars did silly poses with their travel companions, and had we thought to do that we might have actually bought the picture.

Smart Scandinavians!

I grew up in the Adirondacks, which sets a very high bar for fall colors! But my best color-viewing experience came after I had been away for a few years. I don't remember why I was home at that time of year, but I was, so the family took a trip to Whiteface Mountain and took the chair lift to the top. The view on the way up was spectacular!... until we were engulfed by clouds. The trip back down was less spectacular for vistas, but still great - the colors (and the mountains) look and feel different in clouds and in sun.

Yes, the Adirondacks are definitely a high bar!

We stayed part of the time in a motel in West Yellowstone, just outside of the park. Nice drive in and options for dinners plus walking around a town at night. My kids were about the same age and loved it. Do some ranger led short walks - nice explanation of springs/geysers. And try to set out early. We got to Old Faithful 8-9am and had a very sparse crowd. By 10am it's 6 people deep. Don't neglect the canyon - very different sites. Carry plenty of water! Respect the bison and stay away from them, don't try and earn a Darwin getting a close up pic.

I do this all the time, since Playa del Carmen is my favorite destination. There is a bus from the Cancun Airport called ADO, which is about $10 and runs every hour and takes just over an hour. The Playa del Carmen bus terminal is a short block to the ferry terminal, and here is the schedule.  If you are arriving in Cozumel and want to go to the mainland, take a collectivo (no taxis) from the airport to the ferry terminal or if traveling light, walk out to the street in front of the airport, and get the city bus. If you have to wait for the ferry, enjoy a drink in a waterfront restaurant.

Let me plug my home state - there are a myriad of hotels in Secacus, NJ, a 15 minute bus ride from Manhattan, and are half the price of staying in the city. Yes, you aren't in Manhattan, but you'll have a few hundred dollars left over to spend at Macy's, at the Holiday Market in Bryant Park and a fabulous dinner someplace. Here's a Hilton Garden Inn. The NJ Transit bus, $3.50 for adults, stops a block or so away. Great budget way to see the city during the holidays! (Doing NJ fist pump)

Go, Jersey!

I enjoy the contrast of green pastures, red/organge/yellow leaves, the purple of mountains, blue skies and white clouds. I get my fix of this by driving to Warrenton. VA, taking 211 west to Rappahannock county and then driving 231 south as it parallels sky line drive, but from the valley. This route takes me past Old Rag mountain. I always stop at one of the apple orchards and get some fresh apples and cider. I also like to see the livestock in the green fields, mostly cattle, but some horses, sheep and goats.

A lovely trip, indeed.

Also consider nearby Gallatin National Forest: Continental Divide, 1959 earthquake site with giant escarpment and old highway that's now a "boat ramp" into a lake created by the quake, and trumpeter swans on the Madison River.

A stroll around La Jolla is a good suggestion for the travelers with hours to spare before dinner. Many of the Balboa Park museums cost money, and are quite small (compared to what I'm used to with the Smithsonian, and museums in NY). La Jolla is "The Jewel" for a reason. Stunning views and the seals :)

My wife and I are thinking of taking a weekend get away before she goes back to work in December. We have a newborn, so it will be a drive trip somewhere in the area. Just looking for somewhere we can take it easy, maybe do a little hiking, maybe just hang out somesplace scenic. I realize it's kind of short notice, but a change of scene would be great!

West Virginia's state parks system has several very nice low-key resort-type places where you can stay either in a lodge or in a small cabin. All are kid-friendly. There are restaurants on site and various activities, depending on the park. Hiking is usually good. I've stayed at Blackwater Falls, Cacapon Resort, Canaan Valley and Pipestem, and liked all of them. Check out the State Parks Web site for info.

I was glad to see your article on Cesarea. I will be in Israel for two months in 2013 (May-June) I will be working but would definitely like to make the most of my weekends. I've been to the Middle East before but never in Israel. I will be living very close to Tiberias and possibly will be on my own to do all the exploring (female). Right now I haven't been able to check on all the great things that Israel offers its visitor and would like a recommendation on a guide book, or website that I could use to start preparing myself for my two month stay. Im planning to stay for two weeks after I finish working to visit Jerusalem and all the Holly sites and would love a recommendation on the best way to do this trip as well.

You could always start with the Israeli tourism Web site. There looks to be a wealth of information on it. You should have a fascinating two months.

I'd love to take my kids to NYC and spend the day doing super touristy stuff (Central Park, Staten Island Ferry etc). We live a short train ride from the city, but our one trip to midtown at Christmas time last year to see the store windows did not go so well (my little - but too big for a stroller- guy kept getting stepped on and whacked in the head with purses). I am kind of at a loss where to start. So: one day, public transport accessible, kid-pleasing touristy stuff. What's reasonable to do?

Ride the carousel in Central Park, go to the top of the Empire State building. The Statue of Liberty reopens to the public Oct. 28 (tickets on sale at the Web site now). Your little ones might enjoy going up inside the crown. The ferry ride is fun, too, but if you take the ferry out to Ellis Island, you'd have that covered. Not sure if this is too much for one day. Everything in NY is public-transit accessible, of course. What else, chatters?

I was not aware that HostelWorld offered apartment rentals. My college-aged kids have used HostelWorld to book hostels all over Europe--England, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Greece, etc. They were never disappointed in their stays--the hostels were just as they were described online.


- you read my mind! The summit of Old Rag is my favorite place to catch the fall colors, especially at sunrise. Yes, this means hiking at midnight, but the colors sweeping over the Blue Ridge valley below as the sun pokes its head over the horizon is stunning. You definitely miss the daytime crowds this way, too!

And we hate those crowds!

Go to Petra, in Jordan. Easy day trip from Eilat (you can stay in a beach resort and scuba-dive or just walk on the boardwalk). Of all the places I've been, it is in the top five if not number one.

Yessiree. Have a look at this story we recently did on Petra.

Hello! I'm starting to monitor airfare to Mexico City for a wedding at the end of January, but I have no idea what a reasonable fare is. I checked on Bing but apparently it doesn't cover Mexico. I know you also advise booking as soon as the fare looks affordable, but I need more guidance on what a reasonable fare looks like. Thanks!

Cheapest prices will likely be on connecting flights out of BWI. Expect to pay about $475 round trip. It's about $100 cheaper out of New York because discount carrier Interjet recently started service between the two places, but you'd have to get to New York. 

Last week I arrived from Europe on a connecting flight through Dulles airport in Washington DC. (IAD) As my daughter lives in DC, I decided to forgo the last leg of my trip, and get off in DC to say a few days with her. When exiting after Passport control in Dulles, there are two directions to follow: one for connections and one to leave the airport. But, because I had to retrieve a checked bag, I was told to go through the connection line. After I retrieved my bag, I told the airport agent (not airline) of my desire to exit. She informed me that I would have to pay a $250 fee to change my 'ticketing' position. I, along with some others in the same situation argued the point to no avail. Because I had a carrying on board sized bag, I was able to 'sneak' back through the connection process and then exit without paying the fee. The others left behind were getting out their credit cards as left. This seems patently unfair, not to mention, unadvertised. Are you aware of this rule?

Oh, that's interesting! First, would you mind sending me an email with the particulars. I'd like to look into this issue, and possibly write something. Second -- and to answer your question -- the airline was enforcing its "throwaway" ticket rule, essentially charging you for what a ticket to Dulles would have cost. It's quirky airline logic, but these rules do exist, and they often ensnare travel agents, who are sent debit memos for fare differences.

San Diegan here: Cucina Urbana is a good one, also consider Marine Room and George's of the Cove in La Jolla and Il Fornaio in Coronado (for the view alone!). A bit of a drive from the zoo/Balboa Park, though.

I didn't realize the Cancun airport was that distance from the ferry. Since I am probably going to be alone, with heavy luggage, I'm rethinking the trip. And the return trip will be difficult too, sounds like.

At the Cancun airport, you'll find scads of van and taxi drivers who'll be more than happy to deal with your luggage and take you to the ferry. The fare is pre-set in advance so you won't get dunned. It's really pretty painless.

On the drive from Taos to Durango, I hit what must have been the peak day for the changing of the Aspens. Gold landscaping for miles and miles. Surreal.


I used to fly to Santa Fe often, and I learned to avoid alcohol and caffeine on the flights, or I would get the whopper of a headache the first day. Keep the cokes away from the kids on the flight out and go light on coffee, beer and wine the first day, too.

Have any of you or the chatters been to the Ojo Caliente Spa in New Mexico? I'm thinking about going for a few days next year (a treat after spending this year in treatment for breast cancer) and was wondering if anyone had any thoughts about the place. Thanks!

Have not, but perhaps a chatter or two have been there. Anybody know about this spa?

You should rotate where you stay. Spend 2 nights in west yellowstone, a day in mammoth, try to target a night or two n tower junction. And spend two nights in grand Teton.

This weekend I was on a US Airways flight to Omaha from DCA. Outbound, Friday at mid-day, the flight was delayed about 20 minutes because of a problem in the aft lavatory. I don't know what the problem was, but it could not be fixed with the screw driver the tech had, so it was place out of commission for the flight. No problem, things happen. I returned from Omaha to DCA on Sunday evening. Same plane. And, wait for it, aft lavatory still not functioning. The flight was a regional jet, so the inconvenience wasn't massive, although being lectured by the flight attendants about congregating in the aisle was a bit much considering. This struck me as an appalling, but typical lack of service by Us Air. I have no desire for a voucher, and the crew was fine considering, but is there somewhere to complain, in the hopes that US Air is dinged on some list and its competitors are helped thereby? Thanks.

You should let the FAA know about this aircraft. Here's how to contact it. If anyone can "ding" US Airways, it's the feds.

We are going to Paris in a few months and we have our activities mostly figured out but haven't much ideas about what or where to eat. What are some of the good guides to Paris dining? We have read a few guide books but their suggestions all seem to be tailored to tourists. Thanks!

Oh, dining in Paris. Believe it or not, it can be problematic, unless you get specific recommendations. You can't necessarily count on just wandering in somewhere and getting a really good meal. That said, you ought to try Les Deux Magots on the Left Bank because it's famous -- a Hemingway, Fitzgerald, et al. hangout. Yes, touristy, but loads of French people eat there as well.  The food won't be fabulous but good enough and not an arm and a leg. Let's ask the chatters for their favorite Parisian eateries. Folks?

I was around 14 and I took this picture that had my parents silhouetted and a slew of colors across the alleghany river in allegheny state park in ny. I wish I still had the negative but it wasn't saved. A larger print of this was made but lost. I wanted to keep it and preserve it. I finally found it but it was faded significantly.

Oh, too bad!

I'm heading out of Reagan National on AA this Friday for my brother's wedding. How prepared do I have to be for my flight to be cancelled? I haven't flown in more than 3 years so I have no idea what to do if there's an issue. Should I just plan to drive the 12 hrs to St.Louis? Thanks!

You might want to have a plan "B" if you absolutely need to be in St. Louis. But the odds of you getting there on time are pretty good. I went over all the options in this Sunday's Navigator column. I also posted a short video about whether it's "safe" to fly on American. If you run into trouble, please contact me directly.

Get thyself to the Blue Ridge in North Carolina ASAP. Went hiking in the Shining Rock Wilderness area (part of the Pisgah National Forest this weekend), just off the Blue Ridge Parkway with a cousin and his young sons this weekend. The scenery and colors were already breathtaking on the west side of the parkway and the weather was nice enough to chase frogs in the wet areas in the valleys. You could get a hotel in Asheville or Brevard NC next weekend (take advantage of super cheap flights to Charlotte right now!) and hike and see fall color to your heart's content.

Thanks for the idea!

For the person who's rented Apartments via Friendly Rentals: What was your experience with that service? Did they deliver what was advertised? Thanks

In Northern California's wine country, the grape leaves turn almost purplish each fall, usually around Halloween. True, it's not the same as, say, traditional New England maples and oaks, but these are autumn-y in their own way.

Sounds different, anyway!

For vacation next summer I am considering the New York adirondacks area ... I have some vague concept of an idyllic lakeside resort with great food, lots of activities, and a place to read and relax. However, my internet research hasn't turned up anything. Suggestions?

Anyone out there have ideas to share?

Can you please suggest a couple of places near DC that I can drive to this weekend for a get-away? I like shopping, dining, and interesting sites. (This is a 3-day weekend for some of us). Thanks!

I just drove through Winchester, Va., over the weekend on my way to and from West Virginia. On the way back, we stopped in Winchester for dinner. I hadn't been there in years, and was struck at how pretty Old Town Winchester is. Beautiful buildings, a really nice pedestrian zone, lots of intriguing shops and good restaurants. And Civil War history. I'm going back for a closer look soon, but I think you'd like it. Other thoughts are Frederick, Md., and Fredericksburg, Va. We also often mention Charlottesville, Va., which would fit your bill nicely, too. And there's the Eastern Shore -- Easton and St. Michael's, Md., are both pretty, great for shopping and eating.

Chatters, other thoughts?

My son is biking in the Seagull Century this weekend and I was wondering what was in the Salisbury area to see or do? Internet research turned up a wildlife art museum-- anything else to add? Hidden gems, good restaurants?

Too bad it doesn't coincide with the Good Beer Festival, which will take place in Salisbury on Oct. 13 and 14. The Ward Museum of Wildlife Art is one of Salisbury's top attractions. There are also lots of hiking/biking trails, but he may not be up for more physical endeavors. Or drive 20 minutes to Berlin for antique shopping and good restaurants, including Drummer's Cafe at the Atlantic Hotel or the Globe. Ocean City is also within a half hour drive. Favorites there include Liquid Assets, which is very popular and does not take reservations; Fager's Island, a great place to watch the sunset; the Hobbit, which is upscale and does take reservations; Galaxy 66, with a great new Skye Bar that should still be open if weather is nice; Fresco's, for peace & quiet & great Italian food. 

How can I find a beachfront rental that will take my dog? We want to spend several weekdays in November, overlooking the Atlantic. But dog must be able to come with us.

Here's a web page of pet-friendly hotels and accommodations at the Delaware beaches. Andrea stayed at the Bewitched and Bedazzled B&B and really liked it. It's blocks away from the beach, though. Some of the others are closer. There's a link to a pet-friendly rental Web site also. Or you could just contact the local realtors and ask what they have in the way of pet-friendly accommodations. Jack Lingo and Coldwell Banker are the big ones. I believe ReMax is there now, too.

Do you have a preference as to which beach?The Outer Banks is a good bet for pet-friendly rentals -- we stayed at a house several years ago that allowed dogs, rented through Twiddy. You can check their Web site for pet-friendly houses.

And of course, let's not forget to ask the chatters for their recs? Folks?

Santa fe is my favorite qucik trip in the US. I always feel relaxed & refreshed after a qucik trip there. It has magical healing powers! A 30 minute drive out of Santa Fe will get you to Santuario de Chimayo. It's a healing place too!

We just did that this summer with our 9, 7, and 4YO kids. I would go to the Top of the Rock instead of the Empire State Buildling. The lines were shorter, the views were better, and the Lego and American Girls Stores were right there. They also enjoyed the astronomy movie at the Natural History museum, but not the museum itself (DC's is better).

Good tips, thanks!

The Monoprix. 1/2 lb of boiled ham, some cheese, and bread. Then you can splurge on dinner and not go completely broke.

So true!

My daughter and I were there in July. Jeanne A topped our list although it's a bit away from the central tourist hub. A great website is Paris by Mouth. It has restaurant reviews and gossip. As a side note, the food tours offered through the website are great!

Merci beaucoup!

Canobie Lake Park in NH. You can ride the rollercoasters and have a bird's eye view of the gorgeous changing colors! OK so it's a bit cheesy, but that adds to the charm!

I love Canobie Lake!

Great story on Southwest colors that's piqued our interest in road tripping from Vegas to Antelope Canyon onto Arches National Park/Moab (I know you didn't cover it but it's been on the bucket list). However for a lifelong urbanite who sometimes goes years without a car, should we rent an SUV and more importantly, how far apart are the gas stations? Due to commitments, we'd likely travel in early March.

I've done several roadtrips through the Southwest in the last year, and after almost running out of gas a few times, we have a rule that if we see a service station and we're at less than half a gas tank, we buy gas. No point in pushing our luck. The scariest roadsigns are the ones that say, "Next gas 100 miles" -- and we have seen several of those in our travels.

Try the Sagamore at Lake George.


Surely in this era of Photoshop there must be someway to scan and restore the photo to its former glory. If you lack the skills yourself, perhaps you know someone who could do it, or are there even photography stores that offer the service?

I will be spending a day in Curacao in a few weeks. Do you have any suggestions what to do/see there? I'm not particularly interested in water, beach, or shopping, because those are much the same on all Caribbean islands.

Here's a story Andrea wrote about Curacao last year. Apparently, there's lots of history on the island, so you won't lack for sites to visit and sights to see. Andrea recommends the Kura Hulanda Museum and the Tula Museum.  Take a tour of Willemstad, the capital. There are old "landhuizen," former slave owners' homes, that you can tour, if you like historic houses. There's a floating market. Tour the Blue Curacao factory.

Chatters, what else?

no specific recs but follow bloggers like David Lebovitz for current ideas, and Chocolate and Zucchini.

Yup, those are good ideas, too. Thanks!

Check with Elan Vacations. Easy to deal with.

Another vote for Lake George. The OP can also take day trips to the other little towns/lakes, and to Burlington, VT.

What are the trade-offs of making reservations for a cruise via a travel agent, i.e., AAA, or making the reservations online yourself if you already know what, how, and when you plan to travel and don't need expert guidance? How much differential is there in price, service, etc.? Does the agent have a commission added to the price but the price is generally the same?

I could write a whole column about that. Briefly, if you are uncomfortable booking online or are making a complex reservation (involving air, land and/or a tour) I would recommend using an agent. If it's a simple point-to-point trip, especially a flight, I would generally recommend doing it yourself. In terms of price, the difference is negligible. An agent is often slightly more expensive, but then again, you have a real person advocating for you when something goes wrong.

We will be in Italy for the 2 weeks surrounding Easter, spending 3-4 days in Rome. WIll it be more crowded ofr Holy Week or the week after Easter? Are plans are flexible so we can hit Rome either week.

It will probably be crowded both weeks -- Holy Week because of the runup to Easter, and the week after because that's spring break for a lot of people. I still think I'd choose that week, though. Chatters, your thoughts?

Two wonderful resources are Pudlo Paris (a resto guidebook aimed at locals) and Clothilde's Edible Adventures in Paris. WRT the reply that you can't wander at random into a Parisian restaurant and expect good food, I think that's true of any city, even great foodie destinations. It's always important to do your research. I would only go to Les Deux Magots for a drink, unless you adore mediocre and overpriced food.

I think I've hyped this blog before (and I don't write for them - just as a former Paris-dweller who always longs to go back, I'm minorly obsessed) but their blog frequently has cafe and restaurant reviews of restaurants that seem to be just general neighborhood gems. I've bookmarked many for wheneever I can get back again.

It was a stressful summer and we were hit with some unexpected bills in the fall. Would like to get away over Thanksgiving (T-S) and thinking of Cape May. However there do not seem to be any chains or cheap motels even in the off season. Any suggestions?

Cape May is such a lovely place that it seems a shame to opt for a chain motel over the inns and B&Bs that are housed inside grand old buildings. Some seem to be reasonably priced, and you'll get a nice breakfast. Search a Web site such as and you might find something. Or check out Vacation Rentals by Owner ( -- most properties rent by the week, but some are available for shorter periods.

Or: One of our travel writers likes the Camelot Motel, which describes itself as a "family-friendly motel overlooking the ocean." It isn't a chain, and the location is great. Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi Count me as someone who probably doesn't need the CDW while traveling abroad, but, I gladly pay the $$ per day for the complete and utter peace of mind. I have only needed it twice (once domestic) and both times were very light damage - but I dropped the car off and never heard from them again. And have rented from each again since - no issues. Would it be as pain free had I opted for credit card coverage (or my own insurance)? I do not know. What I do know is that it was completely hassle free, which is worth a little extra money to me.

You make a valid point. Even though by buying the insurance, you might have too much insurance, it's better than not having enough. You could end up buying a new car.

I know it's early, but I'm a manic planner ... we're looking at a two-week trip to Europe next summer, and airfare seems to be $200-300 higher than it was to travel this summer. Any thoughts on whether that trend will hold up?

Prices have been going up, and the airlines have been able to keep raising airfares because the seats are still filling. Will there come a tipping point where consumers will stop buying because it's too expensive? Probably not as long as the airlines keep reducing the number of seats. As airlines merge, there are fewer flights and fewer seats. The old supply and demand in action. Keep tracking via Web sites such as Kayak and Bing Travel, and buy when you see a sale. It's almost always cheaper to fly out of Newark or JFK, but you have to get there, which usually negates the savings. 

I spent a month in La Paz, Bolivia a couple of years ago, and the best advice regarding dealing with high altitude I heard was: 1) eat small portions and eat often; 2) sleep alone; and 3) stay well hydrated (as one other poster said). The Bolivians also take a pill, called a sorochi pill, which is actually just caffeine and aspirin. Both of those really do help a lot when feeling the effects of the altitude.

I just stayed at the Premier Inn near Tower Bridge. It is fine. While clean with decent beds i would rate it as no more that 2 stars. For example, they don't give you tissues and you get a couple of glasses but they don't put them on paper but just on the furniture which I think is gross. I mean would you kiss the table? More importantly while the tube is excellent you are off the beaten path with only 1 attraction - the Tower of London nearby. I would try to go along the axis of the British Museum to the Parliament for the being close to the tube but also the best spot for the most attractions.

One of our favorite things to do in Paris is to buy a fresh baguette or croissants from a bread bakery, cheeses and cooked meats from other merchants, fresh fruit from a produce vendor on the street, scrumptious pastries from a patisserie -- and have a picnic! Tip: We bring along plastic "cutlery" and paper napkins in our luggage from home.

I took the same approach years ago on a road trip through the French countryside. You can't beat it.

My son has been traveling around Europe for a couple of weeks. We are hockey fans who are saddened by the current NHL lockout. But I got a text message from my son, who was in Prague, saying "I'm at a hockey game watching (Washington Capitals goalie) Neuvirth play!" It can be fun to attend sports events in foreign countries, even if you don't speak the language. Best of all, he said the tickets were only $8 each.

My wife and I recently went to Yellowstone this past May (end of May and start of June). We flew into Bozeman, MT, which is a great little airport, and close to the park (about 90 miles from the north entrance). In Yellowstone, we stayed at Lake Hotel, which is fine, except it DOES NOT have internet, TV, or even cell phone reception (Verizon), which would be bad if you had kids. Also, only one relatively expensive restaurant was open, so the dining options were sparse. I'd recommend the Faithful Inn, but it does fill up quickly. In the Tetons, we had a great stay in Teton village, a ski resort just south of the park. The resorts there should have very good off-season rates in June. Plus, the Tram at the base of the village takes you to the top of the mountain range (~10,000 ft). We were there in late May, and there was 30" of snow up top. Overall, late May and early June is a great time to visit the park. Just make sure you stock up on some groceries because many of the dining places may not be open yet.

Our wedding anniversary is coming up and my husband and I are looking for a great day trip somewhere in Virginia - preferably 1-2 hours away. I know the go-to answer for this is typically visit a winery, but one of us can't drink, so that's no fun. We're thinking of leaving early Saturday morning, finding a cute city to explore, having a nice lunch, maybe stopping at a park or farm, then heading home before it gets dark. Any suggestions?

Two of the three places that come to mind aren't in Virginia, but they are within your desired driving distance. Take a look at Frederick, Md., and Harper's Ferry, W. Va.  Staunton, Va., is another neat town, but it's farther away. Maybe Leesburg

Try the Lake Placid Lodge, or Mirror Lake Inn. Or rent a cabin on a lake somewhere - has lots of places all over the Adirondacks.

If the National Capital Region would like to make the National Harbor more than a conference destination, the public transportation option between the National Harbor and Metro needs to be greatly improved. Last week I used public transportation to Metro to Bus (NH1) to get to the National Harbor for Cirque du Soliel. Transportation to the CdS was by Metro, long bus ride to National Harbor, then CdS shuttle to tent site. After CdS, attendents instructed my friend and I to walk to the "Kiss 'n Ride lot one block away." That walk was on a sidewalk that quickly ended, left us walking on a big road/highway in the rain, to a huge intersection with no crosswalk or light, to get to the obscure poorly designed Kiss 'n Ride lot with two dirty shelters. The trip was unpleasant an inconvenient. My point is, public transportation between National Harbor and the Metro needs to be cleaner, faster, and better, perhaps a bus to DC, in order for conference attendees at Gaylord to ever visit DC or I before I return to Naional Harbor as a weekend destination or for fun.

Yikes. Seems like if Question 7 is approved and National Harbor gets gambling, something will HAVE to be done. Right?

Bofinger in the Bastille area. Le bistrot d'Henri in St. Germain. Le Tastevin on Ile de la Cite has a good fixed price menus at different levels. Rick Steves also has good, reliable suggestions. Also consider hitting up a market and getting some cheese, meats, and wine and having a picnic along the Seine or in one of Paris' lovely parks. You'll have a great meal and not spend much money. Avoid eating in cafes near tourist spots-- the food won't be very good and you'll overpay.

If this gets in in time -- we put 5,000 miles on a rental car the other year going to parks throughout the West. It was a Toyota Corolla and no problem at all.

From someone who grew up in DC and lives in Upstate. It's rural up here but freindly. Not cushy. I would recommend Lake Placid or the Catskills if you need luxe ammenities.

Okay, that's it for us, folks! Now go out and enjoy the great weather. Our prize winner today is the person who wrote in about the grape vines in California turning purple in the fall. Send your contact info to me at, and I'll shoot off your prize.

Next week is Columbus Day, so we won't have a chat -- apologies in advance! I know you'll be disappointed. But we'll be back Oct. 15. Same time, same station. Till then, have a great one!

In This Chat
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.
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the acting editor of Travel.
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.
Jane Touzalin
Jane Touzalin is acting deputy Travel editor.
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