Talk about Travel

Oct 29, 2012

Please note that Talk about Travel has now moved to 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.

Hello Friends of Sandy.

It looks like we are all stuck here together. With the oncoming storm,  walking the dog is as much of an adventure as traveling to India. But let's turn that 100-mile-long gray cloud into an endless rainbow and use this downtime to talk about travel.

As for the question of day: So obvious. Tell us harrowing or happy tales of surviving a natural calamity while far from home. Best story wins a prize that does not start with "S."


1). I have to take medication(dramamine) for plane flight, and bus ride. Do you think I can go on river cruise in Europe? 2). Any suggestions about finding lodge for about one month stay in Kyoto, Japan? Thank you very much!

I can answer the first question. A river boat cruise is no problem for someone with motion sickness. I get seasick in a bathtub and when I did a Viking River cruise a few years ago, in Germany and Austria, I had no issues at all.

For a stay that long, I would recommend contacting the Japan National Tourism Organization. The tourism experts might have some ideas for apartment rentals or extended-stay hotels.

My boyfriend and I are looking to go somewhere with a beach for good snorkeling, preferably somewhere that does not require a passport in late March. Is there any all inclusive you recommend on USVI, Puerto Rico or Florida?

I would actually suggest going to St. John in USVI. The island, accessible by ferry from St. Thomas, has the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, 12,708 acres of protected underwater area, in addition to tons of secluded beaches and hikig. Plus, the island is so charming. You can stay in any range of lodging, from high-end Caneel Bay, created by John D. Rockefeller's grandson, to the rustic cabins at Maho Bay Camps and Concordia Eco-Resort.

My son who is attending university in Dublin, Ireland wants to go to Budapest, Hungary with his pals for New Year's Eve (also his 21st birthday). Of course he is hopeless on this planning. Just wondering what tips you might provide?

Not sure what kinds of tips you're looking for? What to do in Budapest? It'll be pretty clear to your son once he gets there -- Budapest is a beautiful city, now full of great restaurants, cafes, etc. New Year's is a great time to be there -- they do firewords over the Danube and it's spectacular. Lots of restaurants and bars hold New Year's Eve parties; often you have to book well in advance, but it's also possible to get into places just by showing up early. There's free outdoor entertainment at a number of squares and plazas around town, so if you can't get into the restaurants, just join the street party! And it's even possible that someone will just invite you to their home for New Year's Eve -- hospitality is a big thing in Budapest . For more info, check out this helpful Web site. And of course, if there are any chatters out there at all today, we welcome your suggestions/advice.

Pls address a round-the-world ticket, how to plan such a long trip, etc. I'm an empty-nester between opportunities and planning to rent my house and hit the road. Want to focus on India, China, south Pacific. Maybe east Africa. No Europeor south America. Middle class, middle aged: need safe not fancy lodging. Religious sites key: Ganges, etc. Have 3+ months: $25-k. Ideas? (Online sites cued to 20-somethings or rich seniors.)

Former Post editor Maryann Haggerty wrote a story for us a few years ago about her around-the-world trip. That's a good start, anyway. This may also be the kind of trip that would benefit from the assistance of a good travel agent.

My question concerns airline baggage fees. In general (I realize there could be exceptions) when your trip (say across country) involves 2 or more flights/legs, and one is able to check bags once all the way through to final destination (assuming this is still possible), does one pay one fee (for the whole trip, I guess to the first carrier) or multiple (a fee per flight/leg, and how is that done) baggage fees, and does it vary by: 1. All flights same carrier 2. All flights same carrier and its regional carrier (e.g. Delta and Delta Connection) 3. All flights different carriers (e.g. United and American).

When you check your bags to your final destination, you pay that airline once. That's it. You don't have to pay per leg or pony up any money to the other carriers, unless you are stringing together a number of individual reservations.

In fact, you might not have to pay at all, if you are flying internationally.

Regarding the LW's question on 10/22 about day trips from Rome, I second the idea of going to Ostia. It is easy to do via train or metro. Just ask at the information center in the train station for specifics. Ostia is fantastic! Bring a picnic lunch! Pompeii can be done from Rome as a day trip, but it is a VERY long day. It requires taking the train from Rome and transferring to a local train line called Circumvesuviana in Naples. Be sure that you head to Pompeii (two i's) and not Pompei (one i). I believe the destination is actually listed as Pompeii Scave. For the person who needed to pay for an apartment rental up front: I recently needed to have 1000 Euro in hand when checking in at a B&B in northern Germany. I brought U.S. dollars in a money pouch under my clothing and changed at a Travelex at the Amsterdam airport. Because I was changing more than $1,000 dollars, the commission was waived! Also, for 1.95 Euro, Travelex sold me a coupon, which entitled me to change back my leftover Euros at the end of the trip to dollars, also without a commission. I can't guarantee these deals are still available, but this seemed pretty reasonable to me. Beware of relying on withdrawing a whole bunch of Euros from an ATM. Your bank limits your daily withdrawals and purchases; you could end up in trouble if you withdraw 850+ Euros in cash. I ended up nearly penniless in Sicily for a day because of bank limits. Ah, I love an unexpected adventure!

Thanks for the input!

I have, for the past 5 weeks, emailed Wrenbury Mill (in Cheshire England) to hire a canal boat for a May 2013 cruise. I have even asked the propriitor of a local hotel to help determine why Wrenbury Mill is un-responsive. I get no Deamon error, and my hotel friend say's Wrenbury Mill is inhabited. Can you pass on a working email address?

This is what I found on the company's Web site. You would add 011-44 to the phone numbers and take off the first 0. 

Please contact us if you have any questions at all. 

Telephone: 01270 780 544
Fax: 01270 780 146

Hey Travelers! I am considering having some cosmetic surgery over the holidays. I thought it would be great to combine it with a trip to an exotic or tropical location like Costa Rica where I can also recuperate. I recently came upon a few websites that have package deals that include all medical, insurance, transportation (air, ground, hotel to hospital, etc.), and hotels. Have you done any articles on medical tourism? Do you know anything about medical tourism? Any advice on places to avoid? Thanks!

The only medical tourism article we've run is this one about medical care in Tijuana, Mexico. And I'm afraid that I don't really know much more about medical tourism than that it's a growing segment of the tourism industry. Let's toss this question out to our chatters and see whether anyone can offer more information. Folks?

I won the Flight Crew's prize recently, and received some really great loot as my prize! I encourage everyone to submit their anecdotes for the weekly topic, because besides contributing to our travel community you might also win a nice present.

Thanks for the boost. We are so glad you appreciate the well-thought-out gifts we find in the bottom of our drawers.

I'm sure mine will be the only question on this topic. I was scheduled to fly out yesterday evening from Newport News on Frontier. I received no notice from the airline, but happened to see the cancellation in late morning. At that time, I was able to get through on the phone but was not rebooked and was told I couldn't fly from another airport without paying the difference. For possible hotel vouchers, I was told to go to the airport. I did, but there was no agent there, I was told to call the number. Hours later, I reached an agent who rebooked me on the same flight for Tuesday (which may or may not be able to leave). My friend, flying on Delta, was able to leave this morning from Richmond with very little hassle. I'm extraordinarily frustrated with Frontier--is there anything I can do?

I'm not sure if Frontier is following its own rules regarding storm cancellations -- you can read them here. Certainly, if there's an available flight, you should be able to make the change. I would contact Frontier after reviewing its storm policy, and if you continue to be frustrated, please let me know. I'll do whatever I can to help. Here's my email address.

Thanks for taking my question. I am flying out of Dulles Airport on Saturday at 6 pm (on United first to Los Angeles and then to Aukland, NZ. ) Can you please tell me how early I need to get to the airport? Two hours in advance or three? Thank you.

Two hours should be fine on a Saturday evening, but you can always get there early and relax with a glass of wine or a good book. Have fun in New Zealand!

I am looking at flights for February - some of the best prices are with American. Do you have info on their status? Is it safe to make reservations? Also, I think a 1 hour layover is too little, esp in winter in case of delays? Agree? Why would airlines even have that as an option?

I wouldn't have any problem booking on American. Its bankruptcy and restructuring efforts are moving along, although they haven't been without a few hiccups. One hour might be cutting it close on a stopover, particularly if it's an international flight.

I jumped on a cheap ticket on United from BWI to John Wayne (southern Cal) through Expedia during the December holidays. Unfortunately, it's now dawning on me that my layover in Chicago is only 40 minutes and I'll be traveling with two young kids. What can I do to be prepared for this? if I call the airline, will they rebook to a more reasonable flight? What are my rights if we miss the connection. Any advice would be appreciated!

I'm guessing the airline will not change your reservations without charging the hefty change fees. If your flight is delayed, and you don't make your connection, they'll put you on the next available flight without charge. But the key word is "available." Around the holidays, planes go out full. To be better prepared, get seats in the front of the plane, check your bags (even though this will cost you) and find out the connecting gate and plot how to get there before you go. Good luck.   

I will be visiting several cities in Australia next month. Is getting to Ayers Rock/Uluru worth the extra time and expense? If so, any tips on having the best experience? (Everybody seems to recommend watching the colors change during sunset.)

If you have the chance to go to Uluru, go for it. Yes, it's worth the extra time and expense. I haven't been, but everyone I know who has says it's mind-bending and awe-inspiring. Yes, it's supposed to be most awesome at sunset, but you can also hike the six-mile track around the base and get a good look at its formations and crevices. It's considered a sacred site and climbing up it is discouraged, though people do it anyway. Check out this story on the outback that we ran a couple of years ago for a little more insight. And chatters, what do you think?

I'm heading to Germany Thursday. You or the chatters have any experience with AutoEurope?

I have very few complaints about AutoEurope. Just remember that it is essentially an intermediary between you and a European-based car rental company, so if you have any issues with the rental company, you can always turn to AutoEurope for help in resolving it (or to me -- here's my email address).

This guy probably already has it all planned out and just hasn't told mom. If my mom said stuff like "of course he is hopeless..." about me, I'd stop sharing info with her.

Now, now. She means it lovingly. And if my sons are any indication, she's probably right!

I just survived Hurricane Sandy a few days ago, down here in Jamaica, where I am currently working. It was my first hurricane/tropical storm experience, since I've spent nearly my whole life in the D.C. area ... but I made it through the storm with no problems (aside from a wet carpet or two), and I'm sure the D.C. area will do the same! (Tip: Don't forget to download a book or two to your Kindle/iPad before the power goes out!)

So glad to hear that you made it through Sandy.  Great tip! Nothing more romantic than reading your Kindle by flashlight.

I hope you are all safe during Sandystorm. We just booked a Uniworld River cruise on the Danube (YAY!) and are soon booking airline tickets. We will depart from IAD to Budapest on the way there, and from Prague to IAD on the return. Is two hours enough time to go through passport control/etc. in Frankfort, Vienna, Heathrow and/or Munich? I am kind of nervous about less than 3 hours, but the travel agent I used to book the cruise says two hours should be fine. Any advice?

Two hours should be fine, but you can never really tell. I'd  probably steer clear of Heathrow and Frankfurt if possible, as they are busier airports. Heathrow did get better this summer after receiving some awful press about its lines. Don't know whether that will last.  

Just wanted to add a thought to make this traveler feel a bit better... the airlines always overestimate the flight time (I guess so they have better "on time" averages and tell everyone they are landing early). So if the first flight into Chicago is on time, they should have enough time to get to the second flight. Of course, it is winter in Chicago, which is a whole other story! Good luck.

Great point. The airlines do fudge the flight time a bit. But Chicago winters are no joke!

I was visiting a friend in Philadelphia when a blizzard was predicted to move up the east coast. I was driving back to Massachusetts and thought I could stay ahead of the storm. Unfortunately it hit when I reached Connecticut. Luckily my parents lived in Connecticut so I was able to reach their house and ride out the storm safely.

That sounds like a Hollywood flick: Look Ma, I'm Racing the Blizzard.

Earlier this month I booked through a reservation website some B&Bs for a trip I'm taking next year. I got confirmation emails for all of the bookings, and although I looked at each of them, I evidently didn't look close enough because I didn't see that one of my bookings somehow was made for a week ago. I didn't realize the mistake until I got an email from the booking site saying I had missed my reservation and because I hadn't canceled, I would be charged about $100. I wrote the company and explained what happened, telling them that obviously I wasn't planning in being in this other country until next year, when all my other bookings were made. I didn't hear anything for the rest of the day, and the next morning I woke up to an extremely nasty email from the owner of the B&B, calling me a horrible person who purposefully disrespects the work of others, saying I'm probably horrible to everyone, etc. I obviously was extremely upset and wrote back telling them what had happened, that although I had planned on making a new booking with them for when I would actually be in that company, I would no longer do so and would also write up their response on several review sites. Well, about an hour later I finally heard back from the booking company saying that the B&B had "graciously" agreed to give back the missed booking charge. So now here I am. I do understand that missed reservations hurt businesses. I also understand how frustrating it must be for them and truly appreciate that the B&B agreed to refund the money (although I wonder how voluntary it was on their part, considering the email.) But at the same time, I really find their response to me absolutely unacceptable. So here's where I see myself - I feel I do owe the business something and think my original plan of making up the missed booking by making a new booking for when I will be there is the best way to do so, although who knows if they would even take another reservation from me. But I just can't fathom staying with a person for two days who was so out-right rude to me. Right now my best compromise is not write bad reviews of the place. What do you guys think?

I'm sure this one will get lots of different responses from our chatters. I would not be inclined to publically trash the innkeeper.  The booking company ran interference for you and got your money back. And maybe he/she was having a bad day. But I would never stay there. Several years ago, we stayed at an inn at Cape May, N.J. and the woman who ran it was just plain awful. She hated her job and her guests. We had lots of fun imitating her: "I am sorry, but there will be breakfast for you as it is now 9:01 and I told you breakfast ended at 9." But we always wondered why anyone would run an inn who doesn't enjoy that sort of work. 

On his first trip visiting and staying with good friends in Scotland over New Years 1995-1996, my boyfriend (now husband) had to try the various beers and whiskeys and of course the deep-fried pizza. They had such a cold snap that our friends' pipes froze (as did the River Clyde and parts of the Irish Sea). With the inability to flush the single toilet in the house, the rest of the story should need no explanation. He was happy to get out of there the next morning.

Ugh. Next time that happens, you need to fast. Or bring a port-a-potty.

Besides the usual tours (Golden Circle, Northern Lights, Winter Snorkeling) and foods, what's goes on in and around Reykjavik in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday? Any recommendations on good Christmas markets, shopping, and sites?

Here's our recent story on Reykjavik's hot design scene. You can also check out the city's list of holiday events for 2011 -- I imagine much of the same will be happening this year.

GO if you have time. It's worth it and there are several levels of accomodation available. Also, bus tours with special suspensions able to handle the roads are worth doing. (and they know the roads!). We did all of this over 3 days and were the only ones watching the sunrise over Ayers Rock (much more moving than the sunset). Everyone else seems to have arrived in the afternoon, done the sunset which is very crowded, slept, and gone away the following afternoon. We were there in a wet spring, so flowers that hadn't bloomed in years were all over. Magical.

Thanks for the input!

Do it! I urge you to consider what is more valuable, your time or your money, as you decide how to get there. I did it by bus as a young(er) backpacker, and it is a terribly long bus trip. I'd go again only by plane.

Right, thanks!

Please answer this generally and not exactly specific to today's storm. Once my outbound flight is cancelled, can I cancel the whole trip and get a refund? How late of a flight can they still force me to take the trip? In other words, if they want to put me on a flight 12 hours late, can I still decline and get a refund? Thanks.

Yes, you can get a complete refund. Airline rules vary re: how many hours difference the flight must be, but 12 hours qualifies.  

Long ago (when we were young), we were camping at Mt. Rainier National Park, and one day began hiking along the side of a glacier (either Emmons or Frying Pan, can't recall which any more) on the mountain, in lovely weather. Then the skies turned gray, the winds whipped up, and before we could even take shelter under a nearby tree we experienced an onslaught of grit that not only permeated our scalps, but even under our clothes and inside our underwear! Luckily it was our last day at the Park, so we spent the night at a motel where we could take showers/shampoos and completely change clothes.

That sounds harrowing. Bet you clogged the shower drain with grit.

If your son is old enough to go to Budapest on his own, he is old enough to plan the trip on his own. Let him grow up and act like an adult. If he wants to go he can make it happen. I'm not all that far out of college and I would never have expected that sort of help from my parents. I traveled plenty when is school, paid for and planned it all by myself.

There's nothing wrong with a mom asking for a few tips to pass along to her son. And we are happy to help! Is the storm making everyone a little crabby today?

My friends and I will be traveling to Barcelona and Madrid this April and since we have decided to hop back on the train in Madrid and see a little bit of southern Spain. Particuarly the Malaga/Costa del Sol area. We are only going to be there 2 days before heading back home so besides going to the beach and eating more tapas what else should we do?

Chatters, we need your help on this.

Anyone been there, done that in Costa del Sol/Malaga?

A retired single, I'm renting a VRBO cottage in Savannah's historic district for the week encompassing Christmas this year. I'm taking my dog along, which of course will limit my dining options (most likely will be too cold for outdoor dining to be widely available). Do you or any chatters know of any restaurants in Savannah that allow doggie diners indoors, or maybe some with heated patios where Dog and I won't be too uncomfortable in late December? (I'm writing this today from Florida, where it's sunny and warm, though a bit breezy--good luck to you all in the Northeast!)

Chatters, have a thought? Here's a list of dog-friendly restaurants from Those are probably almost all outside, though. I'm not sure health codes allow for indoor pet dining. You might also try calling the Savannah tourism office for advice: 1-877-SAVANNAH.

We were scheduled to drive from DC to the Midwest for a job interview in June 1972, and due to Hurricane Agnes decided to delay our departure a day, since the storm was forecast to head northeast toward Long Island. Instead, Agnes surprised everyone by turning inland to the Northwest, and followed us all the way along the Pennsylvania Turnpike (terrible hydroplaning, and splashing by 18-wheelers) and on I-70 across Ohio. We didn't reach sunshine till the next day in western Indiana!

I bet you kissed Indiana when you arrived!

My family (husband, two children ages 12 and 17, and myself) would like to spend about 10 days in the Oaxaca and Chiapas regions next summer. We are particularly interested in Oaxaca city, San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, and the beach villages along the coast. We would rather not join a tour. Is it safe to rent a car and travel to these regions on our own? Will the hot weather be a deterrent?

Gangs and drugs aren't a big issue in these regions. There are occasional political demonstrations, but I would rent a car there. It will be hot and humid. But it's hot and humid here in July. 

Hi, My husband and I really want to go to the Nationals spring training camp this winter - late February or early March. Do you have recommendations about places to stay or where to eat or anything in or near Viera? Is it beach weather down there that time of year? Thank you so much.

That sounds like a great time of year to be in Florida. Highs will be in the 70s. Shouldn't be terribly rainy either. I don't know much about Viera specifically, but nearby are places such as Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach and, of course, all the Orlando theme parks.

I'm going to Lexington next week for a few days + the weekend. I've already got a trip to a horse park and a distillery tour planned. I still have one afternoon and evening to plan. Do you think it would be worth checking out Keeneland even though there's no live racing?

Personally, I don't know why you'd ever head to a racetrack if there's no live racing. It'll just be like being in a big casino with everybody glued to the TV, watching simulcasts. Bo-ring. Check out this story we just ran on Lexington's Cheapside Park. It might be more fun than Keeneland.

 They buffer the schedule to give better ontime arrivals. If you miss your flight, you are covered. They will rebook you on a different flight.

When I was on a study abroad in europe, well, there was no internet or anything like that. we jumped on trains (we had a eurail pass) and we went places. Mom - just let your son alone. He'll either get there or he won't. He'll either get to the places he wants to go, or he won't. So - either way, it's a learning experience, and, well, just leave son alone. He'll be fine.

My, my, we *are* piling on to the poor mom today.  Is this the son writing in?

Some airlines may only opt to give you a refund while others will rebook you on your flight. If you are open to do this trip next weekend, you could get hammered on airfare. If you look to rebook over Thanksgiving the airlines may not cooperate.

Yes, before doing any rebooking, check the carrier's rules. They are very specific about which flights they will waive the change fee on.

How about Valencia? Have a friend who moved there, and loves it. Beautiful city.


and the more I'm grateful for my mom's help!

Moms everywhere will appreciate your saying that!

Gosh, I didn't know everyone has to be like you, so advanced and independent. Maybe you need a few more years to learn compassion and that you are not the standard that other people need to compare themselves to when it comes to how they live their lives. Meow!

Now, now, people. Really, it was an innocent, harmless question!

I left NY in my car, and was on my way to Chapel Hill, NC. There was a huge snowstorm all the way home. I left about 8 in the AM, hoping to get in before 5 or so. Well, I ended up outside DC (in VA) about, oh, 11 PM. I wandered into a Denny's - where, clearly, they didn't realize everyone else would be there. They had, I think, one waitress and one cook on duty. And the place was PACKED (I maybe even had to wait for a table). I thought: um, I could try to get a hotel and get some sleep, OR I could just keep going. I wasn't tired, so I just kept going, thinking staying awake in a hotel wasn't really very helpful. So I loaded up on some coffee, and went on my way. Got into Chapel Hill, oh, I don't know when - 4 AM? Maybe later? Who knows. At least I had a day or so to rest before heading down to Jacksonville for the bowl game. No problems getting down there!

That's quite a journey. Hope your team won!

Me too. I stayed at a place once that put signs up in the bathroom that you'd be charged for the cost of new towels if you got makeup on them. Same sign in regard to the bed linens. Also notes on the radios telling guests not to change the station. One thing about bad reviews, they can be quite helpful. Had I bothered to read reviews of the place ahead of time I would never have made a reservation there. Most reviews were about unpleasant experiences such as mine. If there are only a few bad ones out of many, I take them with a grain of salt. But when over half the reviews are bad and cite specific experiences, I take it quite seriously.

So true. Trust your fellow travelers. (I stayed at an inn in Philly where the innkeeper told us we had to leave before checkout because she had a yoga class.)

Sorry, I don't have any dog-friendly recommendations, but it would be interesting to have a chat about the most dog-friendly cities in the USA. And--why the ban on dogs in restaurants? In France and Germany, one often sees small dogs in restaurants and people don't seem to be getting food poisoning or whatever. In fact, as a medical writer, I'd be hard-pressed to identify any disease that would be readily transmitted from dogs to people in a restaurant setting. Probably shouldn't allow cats due to toxoplasmosis and the danger it poses to pregnant women...

As an owner of two dogs, I am all in favor of more talk about pets! We did do a dog-friendly hotel roundup a few years ago, but maybe the time has come for some more pet-related coverage.

I guess most people who bring their dogs to restaurants have faith in the animals' ability to behave, but more than any disease-related concerns, I'd just be worried about other chaos. Barking, waiters tripping, that kind of thing.

I was a studying abroad during college--it was a four-week, whirlwind tour of Western and Central Europe. After many days and many miles, we were ready to head back to the States. We were on our plane on the runway in Geneva, ready to take off, and a snowstorm hit. We deplaned and learned the entire airport was closed. Our professors kept their cool, made a few calls, and shepherded our group of 40 to yet another hotel overnight. We were able to fly to Heathrow the next day and after a 12 hour layover, we very happily took off for D.C. Most of us missed other (separately ticketed) flights home from Dulles, plus there was an ice storm along the East Coast. What a mess! We were thankful to be back home delayed but safe.

That sounds like quite a learning experience -- on the perils of air travel.

I was travelling through Costa Rica with a friend one October, allegedly on the edge of rainy season. When driving from Arenal to Monteverde we ran into a major traffic jam. Upon further inspection, we found the bridge on the main road to be washed out. Speaking only high school French and Latin, we followed two lovely couples from Spain on a "detour" through the Costa Rican country side (AKA five hours of driving through pasture land). HOURS later, we all made it to Monteverde in one piece with beautiful photographs from along the way. Fast forward two days to the leg of our trip from Monteverde back to San Jose. We approached an eerily familiar traffic jam. However, instead of a bridge outage, we found a mudslide covering the road. With no detour option, we pulled out a deck of cards and waited for the road to clear. Who should walk by an hour later? Our favorite travelers from Spain. Everyone had a great laugh and we left the country with wonderful stories.

Now that's definitely turning a broken bridge into a lovely rainbow.

A trip back from Boston to LA - late December. We'd survived the surprise Christmas blizzard, allowed extra time to get from the Cape to BOS, then our plane took a mechanical in Chicago. So we sat around until they found us another plane. We left BOS 5 hours late, and hit incredible headwinds on the flight. Around Denver, the pilot announced we were going to hit some bumpy weather, so he had the flight attendants do the prelanding check (seats up, electronics off) then, two hours from LA (!), so the flight attendants could be strapped in for the remainder of the flight. He was not exaggerating the bumps, it was bad. We came in over the ocean to land (only happens in storms) and my husband tries to cheer me up by saying, "look, honey, the runway!" only to have the pilot pull up about 200 feet above it, scaring the cr*p out of me. We had to circle and come back for an over-land landing as the wind had changed. We finally, finally land right about the time my heartrate returned to normal, taxi for a bit, then stop. I look out the window and have no idea where we are - turns out we're way out at the end of a taxiway, because with the weather and the wind direction change, all the gates are full, all the departing planes need to taxi to the other end of the runway, so we sit. After another hour, we finally get to the gate, at 3 am, 8 hours later than scheduled. At this point I've been up for 24 hours and am feeling it! It was the day I accepted the wisdom of what I'd thought as a "luxury" previously, car service, because they were right there at the curb to take us home.


Glad you had a sweet ride to help you forget the scary ride.

Well, except that she put down her son in her question.

I do not believe that she meant it as a putdown. At all.

I think what's bugging people is the Mom referring to her son as "hopeless." Traveling in Europe on the spur of the moment with minimal (if any) planning is one of the great joys of life.

Agreed about the joys of spur-of-the-moment traveling. But really, the mom referring to her son as hopeless -- am I the only one who hears the slightly-exasperated-but-entirely-loving (and realistic) tone in which that word is meant? I have two early-20-something boys. And in many things, I would say they are hopeless. Even though I know, of course, that if forced to do something, they'd be far from it and thoroughly competent! Perhaps the word she really means is, um, lazy?

On the Elara (Las Vegas strip) - thanks for the positive rec. Just stayed, and wanted to report back: Plus - great location, good price, doesn't have the worn-out casino hotel feel, and awesome views. Downside - early checkout (10 am) and having trouble getting Hilton points to post. Positives way outweigh the negs. Also glad you were able to note La Posada and Turquoise Room on the Petrified Forest "Fall Foliage" story - the hotel is one of my favorites, and it's been great to watch them bring it back to life.

So glad you liked the hotel. I would definitely stay there again. Ditto for La Posada. That place blew my mind!

For people with allergies to dogs, it's not a happy circumstance when canines are allowed into public accommodations.

That too. And perhaps that is all we need to say on the matter -- we've gone down this tangent before. :)

True. If cats were allowed in restaurants and one were at a table next to me, I'd have to leave. So although I have a dog and think he behaves perfectly well  in public, I can get why others wouldn't want to share restaurant space with  him.

Happy you could post my story. Please exclude me from prize consideration, I won one about two years ago. Thanks!

You are so kind. Hope you are not declining a prize because we sent you a dirty sock.

This is random, but to the person who is working in Jamaica: are you a US citizen? I ask because I am interested in permanently moving to Jamaica and working from home (with my current job). Do you need a work visa? Any tips you have are appreciated. Thanks!

Let's see if that person is still online. Hellllllooooooo .  . .

One year, all the members of my family (sister, mother and father) had surgery in NC in the month of December. Mom and sister were the same day and I had returned home to see my kids for a week before heading back down for dad's surgery and to visit the ailing women. There was a HUGE (for NC) storm and the roads were a disaster. What would have been a 4 hour trip to Chapel Hill became a nearly 8 hour trip. I arrived at the hospital and went to see my dad. My sister said ... aren't you glad to see that your other daughter arrived safe and sound. He (still doped up) said: "Not particularly!" He later claimed to have not said that...but my sister and I know the truth. Pretty sure, we had a nice cocktail and a good laugh at dinner that night.

Doped up Dads say the funniest things!

Do you have any tips for renting cars abroad and avoiding unnecessary fees? In particular, does the renter's own car insurance cover damage to the rental car, as it usually does for U.S. rentals? Do practices vary dramatically from country to country?

You need to contact your own car insurance company to get a good answer to this question, as policies vary. Car rental companies in many foreign countries require you to buy auto insurance. 

Maybe because it's Breeder's Cup weekend and most of the tracks do something special on major race days even if they do not have live racing.

Well, I suppose if you're really an avid race fan and want to check that sort of thing out, then fine. I'd still think there are other, possibly better, things to do in Lexington.

Oh, they never do. It's still a put down. Kid will never grow up if mom does all the work for him and belittles his ability.

What can I say? I wish we'd all just lighten up a little here. I hardly think she's really doing all the work for him. Think I'll go watch the storm for a while. :-)

I really don't think she was trying to be insulting. My younger brother has 2 college degrees and a job with a fancy title. He's one of the smartest people I know. And when we planned a trip to Iceland this summer, he asked what countries it was attached to. People have strengths and weaknesses. Maybe the son's just not a planner. Mom would know...

Right, thanks for the defense!

Thanks, loyal stormtroopers, for joining us in these stormy times.

Come back next Monday when we can assess the damage from Sandy and decide whether to hold off on that AC or OBX vacation for bit.

Today's winner was the optimistic adventurer in Costa Rica who really made the most out of a mudpie. Message me at and send me your address.

Be safe, and use this indoor time to plan that next vacation.

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.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Jane Touzalin
Jane Touzalin is acting deputy Travel editor.
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