Talk about Travel

Nov 25, 2013

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Greetings, all, and welcome to your travel chat! What's on your itinerary today? Traveling for the holidays, no doubt?

Ask away, and we'll do our best to provide helpful answers.

And now it's my turn to do some asking. Since today's section took a practical turn, with Andrea and Becky's story about TSA PreCheck and Jim Webster's piece on car rental supplemental insurance, and since we're about to enter the busiest travel days of the year, here's my question to you: What are your best, most tried-and-true tips for smooth travel during the holidays? Let us know, and you could win a little prize!

Let's get this thing of the ground.

Do you have recommendations for a relaxing 3-4 day winter break vacation within a 4-hour drive for a DC-area family of 4 (college and high school kids)? We would consider coastal or mountain scenery, historic sites, nature preserves, urban or rural settings. Something like Deep Creek Lake/Fallingwater. Thanks.

Cape May, N.J., has coastal scenery, historic sites *and* a nature preserve! Three in one. Plus, it's a beautiful little town, very relaxing, but with things to do as well. Be sure to hit Congress Hall for drinks in the Brown Room -- so much fun. Where else would you suggest, chatters?

I have tickets on an US Airways flight from Reagan in April. With the airline merger, it appears that some fligths will be going away. How long will it take for this to happen? Do I need to be worried about a flight in April? Thanks!

When airlines merge, they typically start consolidating routes and flights. You will undoubtedly see some cancellations and flight changes after the merger happens, but it takes some time. Your April flights might not change. I'm told that the merger won't happen until February, so it will still be early in the game. Remember, if a flight is canceled you have the right to a full and immediate refund.

I live in Atlanta and am looking to take a short (3-4 day) car trip between Christmas and New Year's (I know, I know, but it's when I have off). Is Savannah worth visiting in December? What about Jacksonville? Is there anything to do in those areas this time of year?

Savannah is worth visiting any time of year. It's a beautiful city and the weather should be fairly temperate that time of year, with highs in the low 60s. Lots of historic homes to visit. Charleston, S.C., is also beautiful and the two cities aren't that far apart, just about two hours by car. You could actually hit both. I'd choose that over Jacksonville which is not, shall we say, quite in the same league. Have a look at Andrea's recent story on Jacksonville to get a taste of what I mean. On the other hand, very nearby is Amelia Island, which is fabulous. So you could head there as an alternative. Now *that* would be a tough choice. I guess it depends on how far you want to drive. Charleston/Savannah are obviously much closer. I think that would be my pick, given how much (little) time you have.

I know this is early but I am a planner. I am looking for suggestions for a spring break trip (mid-April). There will be 2 adults and our 12-year-old daughter. My husband and I would enjoy warm weather and a beach, but our daughter's only requirement would be a pool. I would love for it to be within driving distance to save some money, but we would be willing to fly. We HAVE to stay domestic. Bonus points if we can drive AND take the dog and stay under $2000 total.

Not sure what you would consider within driving distance. In mid-April, you'd have to travel pretty far to get ocean-swimming weather. If your daughter would be content with an indoor pool, the field opens to resorts in colder climates. Myrtle Beach might work. Temperatures often go into the low 70s in April, there's a beach & many of the oceanfront hotels have indoor pools. Plus it's about a seven-hour drive, so that's doable. As for the dog, I'm sure you'd find a place that takes pets. Contact Myrtle Beach tourism for more info. 

Hi Travel Guru's, I hope you can help. I've just been told I'll be traveling to Warsaw early Jan for work. Couple questions. One, if I have only a few days to see the sights, what do you or the chatters recommend, because I''ve never been there before and probably won't get another opportunity to visit. Two, best tips for staying warm? I thought of buying a warmer hat, gloves, etc before I go but then thought it might be better to get the stuff while I'm there (great souvenir and probably better equiped to handle the cold than what we have in DC). Only problem is I may not have a ton of free time for shopping, so if there is a great market or store I can go to on a weekend, please let me know. Thanks for your help as I try to prepare for my upcoming trip!!

I love Warsaw, but it will be *cold* in January! Maybe even bitterly cold. I wouldn't wait to get there to buy warm outerwear -- you need to be prepared the moment you step off the plane. Buy what you need here -- it's not as if Poland's going to have better stuff than you can get through LL Bean or Land's End, trust me.

Now that we have you properly suited up, here's what you need to see: the Old Town and its square (a medieval/Baroque beauty totally rebuilt after WWII based on the original building plans); the Royal Palace, the Barbican and St. John's Cathedral; the Warsaw Uprising Museum; the Museum of Posters; the Chopin Museum; Holy Cross Church where Chopin's heart is buried; Lazienki Palace; the Warsaw Ghetto monument and the Umschlagplatz, where Jews were sent off on the transports. If you have time, I'd also visit Wilanow, Warsaw's mini-Versailles -- it's a little out of town but worth a look, as is Chopin's birthplace in Zelazowa Wola. Those are my picks!  Did I miss anything, chatters?

Three words: Silk long underwear. If you haven't tried it, now's the time.

It would be nice to see a profile of airport security outside the US, where the experience described in your article from this week is the rule, not the exception. Last week, I passed through airport security in Tel Aviv, Brussels, and Lisbon. I never had to take off my shoes or my belt. There were no body scanners. The agents weren't barking orders at passengers about taking laptops out of carryons. Instead, they made a point of asking each passenger "are you traveling with a laptop today?", which got the same result (a reminder to remove laptops) without being downright rude to the traveling public. Agents also assisted in putting items into the bins, and even reordered them on the belt so that jackets and sweaters would come out at the opposite end before backpacks and the like, which makes it easier to collect one's items. In short, the US has a lot to learn about how to do effective yet traveler friendly airport security.

Thanks for the idea. We'll think about this.

What are the best low-key places to experience natural hot springs within a few hours of DC?

I am thining of traveling to the Caribbean in February, with the pending merger to happen in December, am I safe to buy tickets now? Should I wait until after the merger? I am concerned that they will eliminate a lot of flights, so what happens to my tickets if I have already purchased and they have limited service capacity?

Yes, you're safe. I'm hearing the merger won't happen until early 2014. A February flight is unlikely to be affected by the merger. But there's always the weather ...

We are looking for a place to go for a long weekend in January. We would like to have access to a range of activities. It would be great if there was cross country skiing and skating, downhill is OK if it means there is tubing but we wont be hitting the slopes. We are looking at Wintergreen and Deep Creek Lake but are open to other suggestions. Are there significant differences between the experience at the two places? Is there a reason to go to one or the other? Many thanks

Wisp has a Nordic Center for cross country skiing, as well as tubing and skating. Wintergreen is only downhilll. So that seems to argue for Wisp, although I like Wintergreen a lot.

We live in Maryland and want to vacation in Montreal. I am of 2 thoughts. One is to drive to Montreal and spend a few days sightseeing and then come back home and see places in the US between NY and Canada's border. My husband would prefer to fly and stay in Montreal the entire time. What is the best time to visit Montreal in the summer? Thank you!

Have you thought about splitting the difference? My favorite way to go there is to fly to Burlington, Vt., and drive from there. Fares are usually cheaper to Burlington, and you get the pleasure of meandering a little bit on your way to an fro. As for the best time to visit, I'd steer you toward September. The weather's still nice but getting crisp (highs in the 60s), but the tourists are fewer and therefore hotels and more reasonable and restaurants easier to get into.

3 tips, never check a bag, never check a bag and never check a bag. Happy holidays.

Love it.

Good afternoon, Gurus: I realize you may get this question quite a bit, but I'm wondering if the constant flux airlines and fuel costs from year to year make a stock answer's shelf life expire. I'm wondering when the best time to buy airfare from Dulles to London (with an ultimate end in Bath, UK) for a week in June 2014 would be. Right now, BA's fares look to be around $1200-$1400 (before fees). Because I don't travel often enough to know the trends of when fares tend to go up or down, I would appreciate your advice. If it matters, there will be five of us traveling and we'd be traveling economy but would like an airline with a good reputation for safety, comfort (as much as as can be expected in economy), and reliability. I'd also like to know the best way for us to get from London to Bath. I thought the train, but I read somewhere that hiring a coach or something might be cheaper. We were planning on getting a rail pass for several days during the week so we could certainly go that way. Many thanks in advance for your help!

Unlikely you're going to get much cheaper fares than that for nonstop flights in June; fares are about $1,400 round trip with all taxes/fees included. If you're willing to do a connecting flight, I'm seeing fares of under $1,000 on Icelandair.  The experience probably won't be quite as nice as British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, but that's a savings of $2,000 for five tickets, which is a nice chunk of change.  Monitor the prices for a couple of weeks just to make sure they aren't fluctuating wildly and then buy.  As for getting from London to Bath, train is probably easiest. 

Hi, I am considering using airbnb to rent an apartment in February. However, they seem to have a very strict cancellation policy -- you essentially get only 50% of your total charge (not just a deposit) back, and to do that you have to cancel a week in advance. Are there any rental services that have more generous cancellation policies? I don't mind the week in advance, but I would like to get a full refund.

Actually, Airbnb has several cancellation policies, depending on the rental. You might try shopping around for a rental that has the policy with which you're comfortable.

I remember hearing about black friday deals for travel last year. I think there were some for airfare. Did this really happen and do you expect for it to happen again this week? We are looking at a week in Europe (maybe Barcelona, Madrid, or Paris) in April or May and we'd be happy to pounce if we see something worthwhile.

Much more likely to see Black Friday/Cyber Monday airfare deals for domestic travel. Can't remember any really sweet fares to Europe. 

I've just finished a LOOOONNNGGG year of assisting my elderly parents in selling their house of 50 yrs, renovating a new one, and moving. It has been fraught with every imaginable obstacle. I'm ready for a vacation that will involve travel somewhere I've not been, some culture, wine, and a fabulous spa. I'm toying with Australia, as the seasons are the opposite of ours and I could take a few weeks off in February-March. Any advice or other suggestions? Chances are, I'll be traveling alone or with one other friend (I'm a single woman, if that affects your recommendations). Thank you!

Hey, if you have the time and inclination for Australia, I say go for it. New Zealand is a similar option. You could also look into South America -- Peru, Argentina, Chile.

Hi all - I have "use or lose" government leave that I had intended to use visiting a friend just after the New Year. Unfortunately, that friend had to cancel - meaning that I have a week of unobligated time that I need to use by Jan 11. Any thoughts on a good trip for a late 20s, solo traveler to take? Not big into winter sports so was thinking someplace at least moderately warm/temperate with a mix of daytime culture/history, etc. as well as nightlife. Already have plans to visit Florida later in the year. One targeted city was Austin, Texas but I'm certainly willing to take others into consideration.

Other possibilities are San Diego, Key West and Atlanta, if that's not too cold for your notions.

another option could be the outer is frequently nice that time of year, VERY dog-friendly, shorter drive than myrtle beach.

For the chatter going to Montreal from Maryland: Flying into Burlington is likely to be quite a bit cheaper than flying straight to Montreal; in addition, I believe renting a car in Burlington will be cheaper than at a major city in Canada. We flew to Burlington a couple of years ago at Christmastime and drove from there to Montreal. It was a relatively easy drive, but only part of it was interstate. The part of Quebec that's right over the border from Vermont isn't exactly beautiful, but it isn't Elizabeth, NJ, either. Just be sure to allow time coming back across the border into the US. Entering Canada was a breeze, but coming back into the US we had quite a wait at the border (on Dec 27, as I recall).


My family would like to go for a long weekend ski trip in January or February, but I am not a skier. I wouldn't mind trying cross-country skiing, but I also wouldn't mind curling up next to a fire and reading while the rest of the crew is out skiing. Any suggestions within a few hours drive of DC?

Sure, you can get away with that at most resorts in the region. Ones to consider include the Homestead, Wintergreen, Wisp, Massanutten and Snowshoe.

So my GF and I are flying off to vacation in Roatan and have a flight out early Sunday morning. 5:30 am, from DCA. We were thinking we would need to get there at about 4 as we have to check our bags with dive equipment. However, given how early the flight is does these seem like to much time or is it reasonable? Since clearly with a flight that early we would like to get as much sleep as possible. Thanks.

I believe the check-in counters open at 4:15 a.m., which won't be too early if you have dive equipment and other bags to check. 

Hi, My husband and I are trying to arrange a 2 week Feb. trip to Argentina, specifically to Patagonia, and are overwhelmed! There are so many amazing places to see. We are active and want to get in a lot of hiking, so we're leaning toward a tour group, although I'd like some time where we can set our own schedule even for just a few days. Any suggestions on tour groups and/or how to best determine an itinerary?

Chatters? I know some of you have done this trip.

Can you recommend mid-price lodging in Vienna and Budapest that is within public transportation e.g. tram or bus, that does not charge exorbinant parking fees? I haven't found any. Swede in Virginia

Hmm. Throwing this out for crowd-sourcing. Chatters, can any of you help?

We're taking the whole family (6 adults and grandkids 12, 10 & 6) to Cape Town, South Africa, and on safari in July. We're all very excited but I need your help in buying airline tickets. My husband and I are going business and have already bought our tickets through a consolidator, but that leaves us with 7 economy seats to buy. Right now I see fares of around $2000, but last summer they were closer to $1200. I worry if I wait too long I might not be able to get 7 seats on the same flight. What would you do? (I'm also willing to pay a bit more for the shortest flights, like on South African Air.) Thanks gurus!

I'm guessing South African Airways will launch a sale, but may not happen for those dates until next spring. For example, right now the airline is offering sale fares from Washington of less than $1,100 round trip, but for travel December through February. I'd wait.

...don't travel during the holidays! :) I do try to travel just before or after holidays to make life easier, but when I need to be somewhere for Christmas or Thanksgiving or another busy travel time, I try to travel at weird times or not so usual days (applies for both driving and flying to destinations), to avoid busy and overpriced flights and tons of people on the road.

Absolutely. Sometimes you can't help it, but it's always a good idea to try.

Hello, I have spent the past 10 years out of the U.S. for Thanksgiving. I only have to take 8 days off work to have a two+ week trip. I arrange the travel dates so I avoid the busy days and high prices. It is a great time to spend many places as it is not a popular time to travel and is ideal weather in many locations. For the first time this year I am not going international and am heading on off travel days to state parks and slot canyons in Utah which should not be busy this time of year with pleasant daytime weather and cold nights.


I travel cross-country by plane with my two young sons (ages 7&9) every Christmas to see the grandparents. My tip is that I always pack their backpacks with a few small new toys, several new books, and some sweet treats. I have been doing this since they were toddlers and they look forward to their backpack surprises as much as Christmas itself. It keeps them occupied almost the whole trip, which is good for everyone on the plane. I go to discount stores, and used book stores so I can do it cheaply. It makes travel with kids so much easier!

What a fun idea!

We want to travel to Normandy, France from Berlin, preferable on an upscale train. Looking at the Eurorail website I think we might need to go through Paris. That's ok, but how can we do it in the most comfortable accommodations? Thank you. S. Farber

Both the German and the French train systems are fantastic. Whatever train(s) you take to get to your destination will be upscale and incredibly comfortable. You really can't go wrong on this one. The only hitch I'm finding is that there aren't necessarily daily trains that will get you from Berlin to Paris without a lot of changes. You may have to travel on a weekend, but even then the trains aren't direct; there's one change in Frankfurt. Still, gets you to Paris in a little over 7 hours. At least that's what I'm seeing. Chatters, anybody done this trip before?

So even if you get approved for Pre-Check, you still can't carry on more than 3 oz of liquids, is that right? Ugh. I'd strip down to my skivvies if in turn I'd be able to bring on more liquids. Sometimes I have to check just because of those.

Hang in there. Those long-promised scanners for liquids are coming soon, I'm told.

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In my intro? The link is working for me.

It's rare that an in-flight magazine actually inspires me, but I recently read about Hawk Walks at Ireland's Ashford Castle and decided I really want to go. I'd like to spend a couple of days in Dublin, but need at least another spot or two to round out the rest of a week-long trip. What else would you or the chatters recommend? We'll have a car to get from Dublin over to Cong, so ideally something that is not too far out of the way from either of those two destinations.

On the way to Cong, you could stop off in Galway. Other suggestions, Ireland travelers?

In addition to Deep Creek lake, New Germany state park in MD has x-country ski and snowshoe rentals, and nice trails.

Cool, thanks!

Hi there....What do you know about the Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos. Looks pricey. Is it worth it?

Anybody out there familiar with this resort?

My husband and I will be going to Ireland for the first time for 2 weeks in May. We will have a car - any suggestions for must see (and a bit off the beaten path) locations/attractions/restaurants? We are in our twenties. Thanks!

Here's a link to some of our older Ireland travel stories. And here's our most recent Dublin story, which may have some ideas for you, especially if you look at the details box.

Other suggestions?

I'm confused. One of you has previously complained about the intrusiveness of getting approved for TSA Precheck, including the fingerprinting, but yesterday, two of you gave a sky-high praise of this system. Is there still internal disagreement at the WaPo travel section about the value of TSA Precheck?

Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure Chris's thoughts on PreCheck and our story are mutually exclusive. Andrea and I were really just testing whether PreCheck is faster. We also wanted to see what travelers thought of it and whether they were even aware of it (a lot weren't). So now that our largely unscientific methods showed that, yes, PreCheck is faster, then travelers should start thinking about the questions Chris raises about privacy. It's something travelers need to decide for themselves. We weren't endorsing the program one way or the other.

It's true that some of the sources I consulted on the PreCheck story were skeptical about the system. But as I mentioned at the top of the story, it hadn't even launched yet -- so we weren't in a position to know. 

Try -- while it is a useful site in the US, it is amazing in Europe. I've consistetly gotten great hotels at great prices, and it's easy to seach using the map.

The one time I ventured out west for skiing I was hit by altitude sickness, so I'd prefer someplace not quite so high. Where (nearby) can an older gent go to learn to ski with his 12- and 16-year-old progeny?

If you don't mind a  five-hour drive, Snowshoe in West Virginia is a large ski resort. Seven Springs in Pennsylvania is a little closer, and it's also a big resort. Wintergreen is less than three hours from D.C., and, while it is a smaller venue, it's nice and has a good school.  Our family did the annual Western ski trip, but my kids first learned by taking day trips to  Liberty Mountain, which is just about an hour outside the Beltway. 

This is for driving - what's worked for us (and may not for much longer as hubby and I grow older...) is leaving very late in the evening after dinner and driving up to NY (kids love it because they can sleep and don't "get bored" ~ what about us adults?!). Have made it to northern Westchester Cty NY in 4 hours, and central LI in 5 hours this way. Of course, that's if there is no construction or anything impeding our route. We've left at different times and by far, the late nights are the best timewise, especially around the holidays. We'll be leaving early Thursday morning this year instead...

A good strategy, yes!

If you are flying, buy the tickets EARLY so you can choose a non-stop (if there is one) and choose your departure time. I bought my ticket to Vermont in June or July. Was it cheaper? No. But I am flying from National so I don't need to park a car or take transportation other than Metro. Also, I can be there with more than enough time to get through security and still have time to pack and do an errand or two in the morning before leaving my place around noon. That is the calmest I can make things when traveling the day before Thanksgiving. The other tip, of course, is to not travel during the holidays if you can possibly avoid it, but that isn't always possible. Oh, and try to make your arrival time convenient for your hosts. Always better to start holidays without a frazzled host.

Thanks! So glad to hear that you consider your host. That's rare.

This fall my husband and I took Amtrak's Vermonter to Burlington. It was a great experience. If you have the time it is a great option. We spent time in Vermont and Montreal. We also did some exploring in the Eastern Townships of Canada. We had a lovely meal, wandered around an Abbey where we attended vespers. Actual Monks and Gregorian chant, apple picking and some really excellent cheese. The drive was gorgeous in the fall but I am sure lovely in the summer as well. All in all we were glad that we did not just go to Montreal. The trade off was there are definitely some things we did not get a chance to do in Montreal that we would have done if we had spent more time there.

Thanks for the recommendation. I've always been tempted to do this. Officials are working to extend the line all the way to Montreal, by the way, and I believe it's on track (sorry) to happen within a few years. That will be amazing, and I will be the first in line.

I stayed in a hotel this weekend and our room was never touched by the cleaning service. We were out of our room by 6:30 AM and returned to shower and change at 3:30. We left again at 5:30 and return late in the evening. Someone knocked on our door at about 3:45 but we told them we needed to use the room and would be gone in a few hours. The next day when I asked about this because it was not a big enough deal to cause a fuss late at night. I was told that housekeeping at repeatedly knocked on the door all day and was denied entry. I was taken aback. We were definitely not there. I stated asking questions about what times, male or female voices etc. Kind of creeped me out to think someone was using our room all day. No one had answers at all. I called the hotel this morning and asked to speak to a manager but none was available and no one has called me back. Not sure if I pursue this or not. But yikes it would really bother me to think that other people somehow has access to our room and then we slept in there without having it cleaned.

Strange, but I would put money on the odds that nobody was in your room. I've stayed in hotels, though, where the rooms were close enough together and the walls thin enough that when the housekeeper knocked on the door of the room NEXT to mine I shouted out, "Can you come back later?" before realizing they weren't even at my door! That could have happened. Or, of course, perhaps the hotel is just trying to make excuses for ineffective housekeeping. But I seriously doubt there were intruders in your room. Concentrate your objection on the fact that your room wasn't cleaned, not on the idea that strangers impersonated you.

Does anyone have any advice for the annual Lilac Festival in Rochester? Places to stay, things to insight would be appreciated! Thanks

Hmm, not familiar with this festival. Chatters, are you?

I'd keep an eye on fares for a sale. Air Canada was running a sale the other day. I got a rt to Toronto for about $235 which is way cheaper than it's been in years (at least when I have looked). The deals to Montreal weren't as good. Personally I prefer to not have to deal with driving and parking in a place I am not familiar with. In a city like Montreal it is easy to get around by public transport. To me that's much less stress.

Porter also runs sales that make flying to Montreal tempting.

This is one place where the frequent renter programs really have proven useful. You can set up your profile to decline all the add-ons. Usually they have the contract material ready or you skip the counter entirely, which cuts out the opportunity for them to give you all the hard sells. Obviously, you need to be signed up with multiple companies so you can still go for the best price you find. And it doesn't work if you're doing Priceline or the like.

Thanks, very useful to know!

International flights -- fly Thanksgiving Day! You're likely to have the row to yourself and a very empty flight. Driving -- take the path less traveled. We drive from Virginia Beach to near Philly and going up the Eastern Shore is a little slow but NO TRAFFIC at all! Barely any cars when we hit the Delaware Bridge and by then we only have about 45 min to go

As the cook, I can NEVER do this, and I'm always jealous of those who can.

Even though declining rental insurance just required me saying 'no' a bunch, it always aggravated me. I signed up for Budget's Fastbreak program and that adds to my rental car profile that I don't want the insurance, GPS, and I think that it includes me filling up the gas. And now I don't get badgered at the rental counter.

Nice. I'm an Enterprise Plus member, and I need to remember to ask to see if they can add such information to my profile, too, because, like Jim Webster, I get so tired of having the same conversations every time.

For the "older gent" wanting to learn to ski, don't forget Whitetail. It's west of Hagerstown, off I-81, and about 15 minutes farther than driving to Liberty (longer distance, but more of it is on Interstate). Ski Liberty tends to get extremely crowded because it is perceived as the "closest," but Whitetail isn't really that much farther. For either area, it helps if you can go midweek. One final piece of advice: get a lesson, don't try it on your own!

Thanks for the tips!

recently returned from a Caribbean cruise. Had to go through customs, of course. Boyfriend was wearing a sweatshirt with a picture of Bob Marley on it....I sailed through and turned around to find him gone. Security told me he'd been taken for questioning! After 45 min he returned - with tales of the agent saying "I can smell pot on you, did you smoke marijuana while in Mexico?" Insane.....just wanted to careful what you wear - BF will never wear THAT sweatshirt on international travel. Although, he gets picked on for random airport checks often (as in, checks in the waiting area!) He happens to sport a shaved head and small tail, though looks like Gandhi when wearing his glasses - that sort of build an all.

Too funny. ("Smell" must be his euphemism for "suspect/profile/assume," right?)

Personally I love PreCheck. I already went through all of the security screening to get Global Entry which is also totally worth it to me. Global Entry allows you to skip the lines at US immigration. Once you get your "trusted traveler" number you put it into your frequently flyer profiles and you get precheck status where it's available. It's a lot less stressful not having to take off all your clothes and empty your bag going through "security". I already had to give up my fingerprints for my government job so that was no big deal to me. And I figure CBP already knows where I have been outside the country.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

I am longing for warm weather and a beach vacation for the holidays. Any recommendations for beaches that can be reached by car within a a couple of days?

Depends on how warm you want the weather. Northern Florida can get chilly in late December, but it's much closer than driving all the way to Miami or the Keys, where warm weather is more of a sure thing. If you're willing to take a chance, St. Augustine Beach is nice, and it's only about 11 hours from D.C. 

Did you happen to watch last night's Mark Twain Honors tribute to Carol Burnett? Among the classic skits they showed was one re a put-upon air passenger (played by Tim Conway) in budget class and the much lesser he treatment he received than (business-class?) passenger Harvey Korman, at the hands of flight attendant Carol Burnett. Considering that this sketch must've been at least 35 years old, it was quite prescient -- although it failed to include narrower seats with much shorter "pitches" between the rows in the cheapest class. Still, it was hilarious, especially when the pilot came on the intercom to advise of impending turbulence. Perhaps you can find it online to see, in case you missed it on PBS last night.

I remember that one! There's also the classic Seinfeld where Jerry is in first class and Elaine (of course) is in coach. He gets a restroom full of flowers and a seat  next to a model, and she gets, well, nothing of the sort.

have you never cooked a turkey on your car engine? ;-) (not sure if driving is the part you can never do)

Funny! A "Manifold Destiny" moment. I usually need to be helping cook the day or two before! This year, I'm staying in town rather than going to Maine, which I have been doing for at least a dozen years, because I need to be packing that weekend in preparation for moving across DC to my new place. Will miss the holiday in New England, but am honestly so happy to not be really traveling.

having my BF questioned for 45 min and accused of indulging in illegal drugs in a country we had not visiting on the trip is funny?!?! What am I missing? What are you smoking?

You're missing the fact that, well, between references to the Bob Marley T-shirt and the little ponytail, it was amusing to read about. My apologies if it was traumatic to live through!

The hawk walks at Ashford Castle are completely amazing amazing amazing. AMAZING! I know the magazine article the other poster was talking about, and my husband and I coincidentally got the exact two hawks featured: Aztec and Chico. Among the greatest things I've ever been lucky enough to experience. Ashford Castle itself is a beautiful place to stay, and they have boating, fly fishing and all kinds of other activities. The drive to Kylemere Abbey isn't too bad, and it's pretty close to Adare as well. I have more to say if I can write it up before the chat ends...

Something for the original poster to look forward to!

You listed Austin which really is fairly close to San Antonio. Between the two cities is the lovely Texas Hill Country. There are small towns, fabulous dance halls (the post did a story of these about a year ago), good food and diverse culture. The indy music scene in Austin, the Mexican/Spanish influence in San Antonio and the German influence in the Hill Country. There is quite a lot to see and do. I think it would be warm enough to feel different than DC if not warm enough to swim outdoors.

Of course! Thanks.

We have our own cross-country ski equipment, and have x-c skiied on the grounds at historic Fort Necessity, just over the line into Pennsylvania from New Germany et al.

Good to know, although it sounded like the person who asked the original question was looking for a resort experience.

I just went back and re-read the original post -- the poster never mentioned that she and BF had not been to Mexico, she just said they had been on a cruise. I suggest that she lighten up and take a breath. Sure, having your BF detained for 45 minutes is no fun, and sure, CBP (or ICE) can be jerks, but the reality is, nothing happened.

A Caribbean cruise, so Mexico might have been on the agenda, indeed. But your lighten-up point remains! Thanks.

Ok, so Cong itself is pretty charming - tiny, though. Cliffs of Moher are about 2 hours away. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is about 2 hours. The Burren's like an hour and a half. There is a ton to do out there. The drive from Dublin to Ashford Castle is really easy - a straight shot along the highway, but it's super long and boring. If the OP has at least 10 days total, I'd recommend a full loop clockwise around the Republic of Ireland, Dublin to Waterford to Kenmare to Dromoland/Bunratty Castle to the Burrn/Cliffs of Moher to Ashford for at least 2 days, then back to Dublin. That's the trip I did this year and it was phenomenal. Especially the hawks.


Glad to hear it was a good experience, and thanks for the other recommendations! Makes me even more excited to go. Perhaps we will also see the 20-something couple over there since we're planning on going early May as well. We'll be the 30-somethings walking around with hawks on our arms ;)

Go to the Louvre the Saturday before Christmas. To our utter delight, there were no lines and no crowds. OMG, what an amazing surprise that was.


We're out of time! Thanks for the questions today -- hope we helped provide some useful answers.

Now for the little prize: It goes to the chatter who packs his/her sons' backpacks with little finds to help ease long-distance travel. Love that idea. Send your name/mailing information to Becky at, and we'll get you a little something!

Until next week, happy travels!

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