Talk about Travel: Touring on a tank of gas and by public transit, nature in New Jersey and more

Apr 30, 2012

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Hello, and good Monday afternoon, everyone. Hope you had a chance to check out our "gosh, gas is expensive" package -- Andrea rented an SUV(!) for a one-tank trip to West Virginia, and I sought to conquer Philadelphia by public transportation. While the prices at the pump are on a wee bit of a decline these days, we'd still love to hear your gas-saving or gas-avoiding travel strategies and plans. Best tip gets the prize. Here we go!

I was out of town at a convention last week. While there, my credit card company called my home number and left a message saying that my account had some unusual activity and my card was being suspended. I didn't find out until I tried to use my credit card a the airport to pay for my bag fees. I know is possible that my card was skimmed months ago and now while at the convention, but the timing couldn't have been worse. I would have suspected the taxi driver that drove me to the hotel from the airport, but he didn't have a credit card reader so I payed in cash instead. (I was glad I had enough cash on hand) I have never had reason to have more than one credit card, but now it seems like for safety while on travel, it is important. Also, it seems like it is important to have at least $100 in cash available for the unexpected.

I'm sorry that happened to you. That's a hard lesson learned. A similar thing happened to me last year, and it taught me to always carry at least one credit card, debit card, and a little cash when you're traveling. Otherwise you might have to abandon your luggage or do some negotiating to get the airline to accept your luggage without paying a fee.

Help! We are a group of 5 ranging in age from 5 to 81. We need a resort for a family vacation where the older folks can relax and the little guy can be amused. The catch: we can't go farther than 2 hours driving distance from New York City. Please help. Our summer depends on it!

As I've said before, my favorite resort outside NYC that's good for a multigenerational visit is Woodloch.It's pricey, but very nice. 

Considering that gas prices are rising, isn't the future of global tourism that countries will try to develop tourist destinations WITHIN THEIR BORDERS to keep money inside their country?

Most countries already pretty much do that -- to attract people from other countries to travel there and bring in money from outside. A side benefit, of course, is that locals can also partake. If you mean that countries will increasingly market to their own citizenry -- I don't know about that. I think smart countries already do both, and smart travelers, if they want to save money, will stick closer to home and get to know their own cultrural, historical and entertainment attractions.

Chatters, what do you think?

It doesn't take herculean efforts or sackcloth martyrdom to visit Philadelphia without relying on an automobile. All it takes--and what the author apparently didn't do--was a little bit of research. Find out when an attraction allows its last tour. Find out if an attraction is really just a boring office park. Find out if heading 25 miles northwest of the city is really a better use of time than visiting one of the many museums and attractions within walking distance downtown. Yes, SEPTA could be much improved--and yes, the experience with the tourist pass was ridiculous. But the heart of the author's frustrations didn't seem to come from anything innate in Philadelphia--rather, it came from her lack of planning and resourcefulness. Rather than saying the article was premised on the notion of traveling carless (what an exotic concept to the 36 percent of DC residents who live without a car!), the article should have been billed as traveling without thinking.

Ouch. Yes, things could have gone better on this trip, and you're right, with more planning it would have been smoother. But part of the idea was to throw me into the lion's den, as it were, and see what happened. I hope this will help others avoid the same mistakes I made. If nothing else, I won't make them again!

I am looking for a hotel on the water on the Eastern Shore that has boat slips. We would get there by boat, tie up for the night, and stay in the hotel. Also, we will have a baby with us, so it needs to be kid-friendly. All I can find is the Hyatt, which is often sold out and pretty expensive.

The Harbour Inn Marina & Spa in St. Michaels, Md., has boat slips, but I think it's also pricey. Anyone have a less expensive option? 

When I booked my tickets to Kansas City, the airport code was MCI. When I was going back to the airport at the end of my trip, the driver asked which terminal at KCI I needed. I had to ask if they were going to the right airport as I thought my flight was at MCI and NOT KCI. Why do they have two different ways to refer to the same airport. As someone not from the area, I found it quite confusing.

Airport codes can be really confusing. My hometown airport, Orlando, is MCO, but people often refer to it as OIA. Chicago's O'Hare is ORD. (Who knew?) And all of Canada's big airports start with Y. Why? Who knows!

Hi travel crews! Love your chat. I am planning a trip to New York in early July. But I can't decide how many days I should stay. Will 4 days be enough? I am flexible on time and can stay longer if needed. If I am staying longer (6-7 days), is there any good day trip from NY? I will be traveling alone. Thanks.

I like New York best in small bites, so four days sounds perfect to me. It's enough time to visit a few museums or other sights, see a couple of shows, try out some fun restaurants, do a little shopping. But that's me. Some people would find four days too little time. If you wanted to stay longer, you could head out of town to the beautiful Hudson Valley -- Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow are only a half-hour or so away, and there's lots to see there -- Kykuit, the Rockefeller mansion; Washington Irving's home, Sunnyside, and a couple of other great mansions; the Union Church of Pocantico Hills with its stained glass windows by Chagall and Matisse. Check out Historic Hudson Valley for more information. You can take Metro North Rail's Hudson Line to Tarrytown from Grand Central.

Chatters, happy to hear your thoughts, too.

Hi Just a note that there's great nature near Princeton - like boating in Lake Carnegie. I'm looking for suggestions for a day trip from NY (with some particpants come from DC) that is ideally public transportation acessible that involves some type of outdoor activity (but not serious hiking.) Had we not all been to Princeton, that would have been the logical choice. Hudson Valley suggestions would also be great. Thanks as always!

See my previous answer about the Hudson Valley. :-)

My wife and I hold Nexus cards and understand that we can use the Global Entry lines a many US Airports. I see there is another program called Pre Check and I wonder if holders of Nexus Cards can also use this program?

If you have a Nexus card, you automatically qualify for PreCheck.  Here are details on PreCheck.

Slow down! This can save 15-20% gas if you go 55 instead of your wife will stop yelling that you drive like a maniac!

Good advice, although we cannot guarantee marital accord.

Last week someone asked about experiences with Travel All Russia. My husband and college-aged daughter took a Moscow & St. Petersburg trip last spring arranged by that group. They were happy with the communication and the transportation, hotel, and dining arrangements and highly satisfied with the tour guides.

Thanks for weighing in. Russia traveler, this is for you.

Trying again this week - We arrive in the Iceland airport at 6:20 am. Our departing flight for Brussels isn't until 4pm. We'd like to tour the city as much as we can. Will our checked bags be checked through to Brussels, or will we need to retrieve them, go through customs, and schlep them around all day? Thanks!

If you are booked all the way through to Brussels  (meaning the same airline or a code-share airline), the agent at the departing airport will tag your checked bags to your final destination.  You won't have to deal with your bags till the final leg of the trip.

Regardless, to leave the airport, y0u will have to go through immigration and customs in Iceland. Also remember to leave time on the return to go through Customs again, plus security.

Thinking about a week in Turkey this summer-- besides a few days in Istanbul, what would you recommend? Looking to minimize internal travel time, but trying to get in the best sights! Any recommendations?

Cappadocia, for sure. I've also heard great things about Ephesus.

Our ten year anniversary is coming up next year and we'd like to take an awesome vacation. We're thinking probably Caribbean, so we don't have to deal with jet lag, and probably for about 10 days. I like the idea of an all-inclusive, or almost all-inclusive (we don't drink much). There must be a spa, and preferably no wicker furniture, somehow that doesn't convey the feeling of being pampered to me. We don't have kids, and would prefer somewhere where we won't be struggling to find a pool or beach chair somewhere quiet. We really have no idea where to even start looking for something like this, other than asking friends where they've been. Any suggestions?

If you don't drink much, don't do an all-inclusive. You'll basically be subsidizing the drinkers, plus all-inclusive resort food is typically not all that great. Instead, look for a nice boutique property, preferably on an island you can reach via nonstop flight. Maybe something like Graycliff Hotel in Nassau (this one is expensive) or  Catch a Falling Star in Jamaica. Where to Stay is a good Web resource. 

I recently received my renewed credit card and much to my relief, it has a chip. What do you know about chips on debit cards? I use ATMs exclusively in England and Europe and have an upcoming trip. My debit card does not have a chip. Will I have a problem? Thanks for all your good travel advice.

You shouldn't have any trouble using your card in Europe, but if you do, you should call your bank or your card company's global assistance line. If you have a Visa card, here's more on how to deal with a declined card. It's always a good idea to travel with a little currency, but since you have a chipped card as a backup, you are unlikely to have a problem.

My adult daughter and I just returned from several days in Iceland. I am 63, she is 34 and we love the outdoors and are in reasonably good shape, though not wilderness hikers. What a magnificent trip! We stayed at HotelBorg - found a greta rtae on Great choice in city center. We didn't do the Golden CIrcle - opting for less touristy sights and small group tours and we were rewarded. (If we had more time we'd have surely opted for GC eventually.) The big thing is do your homework and take the right clothes including waterproof pants and hiking boots. No real need for any fancy clothes but you can if you want to. Go with a camera or two - waterproof would be great, or prepare for wet weather. If it isn't water, it is ice. Except for around Reykjavik, Iceland is primitive, desolate and everything looks like from another planet. The scale is massive. Every few miles the scenery and weather changes and you can see the results of recent natural catastrophes and very old ones. We saw hundreds of waterfalls and numerous rainbows. I have to echo (*wink wink*) a chatter from last week who recommended GoEcco tours. We did 2 of them and they were fantastic - only 6 tourists in a comfortable van and one or 2 guides, one of which was the owner Jonas, the other his brother. Interesting guys. We had booked them about a month ago based on Trip Advisor reports and other research. They provide the lunch and snacks - your choice at the stops which were great. On the lagoon tour we tried the local lamb and root vegetable soup/stew. outstanding. On the Snaefellsnes peninsula tour we stopped at a remote coastal restaurant run by friends of Jonas - hippies in the best sense- for fresh lake trout soup (lake is across the road,), etc and we were astonished to see a golf course. Wind and water hazards big time. If I had to pick one I'd say go to Jokulsarlon, the glacial lagoon with icebergs. It is 12-14 hour trip but we took 16 hours. You pay a bit extra for a Zodiac trip on the lagoon and it was amazing, weird and spiritual. We also went to the Snaefellsnes peninsula which was also spectacular. Iceland is very casual and the restaurants in Reykjavik close by about 8 or 9. (don't know if this changes in the summer) Only a handful are open late so plan accordingly, although the limited downtown grocery 24 is open 24-7. They put paprika on pizza and pasta - everything. Pizza toppings include the standard but also cream cheese (?), bananas, eggs and corn. I recommend the organic Icelandic Fish and Chips on the harbor. Wonderful very fresh fish. Also "Tapas" - great food, drinks and atmosphere. Lots of locals eat at both. We had only one day of rain, and even then, we loved it because we had the right gear (some monied ladies traveling on the tour came in sneakers, jeans and a Louis Vuitton bag and got soaked. They ended up being good sports but asked us how we knew to wear waterproof pants and coat.) The nice weather was like a typical early to mid-March in my home in Pittsburgh - 32 to 45 degrees. The weather on the whale tour was clear and sunny, but bitter cold. We did see one or two minke whales which was great fun. The horse riding tour was OK but personally, I wouldn't do it again only because I like to look at horses, not ride. On the peninsula tour we saw a dead whale and fed some Icelandic horses along the road so that would have sufficed for our horse experience had we known. I am going to go back with my husband. If you love the outdoors, are a geology or weather geek like I am, or perhaps like to try exotic cuisine, Iceland is it.

Wow. What a report! I think this info is perfect for a fellow chatter today looking for Iceland advice.

So I couldn't resist the Icelandair offers and got a package that includes a visit to Thingvellir and Laugarvatn plus a Whale Watching tour. We will be there from Friday to Tuesday. Friday afternoon we will do Thingvellir and Laugarvatn, Saturday morning the Whale watching tour then we will have the rest of the time on our own. I'm thinking that we may rent a car and complete the Golden Circle Route on Sunday then explore Reykjavik on Monday. We depart around 5pm Tuesday and are planning to stop in the Blue lagoon on our way to the airport. Any suggestion that you or the chatters can provide on things we shouldn't miss or general tips when going to Iceland in late May? Best company to go back to the airport and do the Blue Lagoon? Best place to rent a car? Highlights on Reykjavik (we really want to see the Catholic Cathedral and the Lutheran church of Hallgrímur). Thanks!

See the above report from a recent Iceland traveler!

Any other tips?

I enjoyed your article on canoeing in the Pine Barrens. When I drive through them on the way to Cape May/Delaware, I've always wondered what sort of things are in there!

Thanks, glad you liked it!

What made you decide to visit the Philadelphia Navy Yard? It seems like a weird choice.

Yes, in retrospect it was a weird choice on my mass transit challenge. I was definitely intrigued by the promise of seeing some historic buildings and walking along the water. It also was open later than anything else I had on my list. Lastly, I knew that it was pretty much a straight shot on the subway, so there was little opportunity for me to get lost.

Best fares to Amsterdam in October?

Right now, about $900 for connecting flights and $1,100 for nonstops. I'd probably hold out and keep checking -- fares may go down a bit, especially for late October, midweek flights. 

Hi crew- I'm a solo female travel and I'll have a few hour layover in Riyadh later this summer. I want to avoid attention and offending anyone, how conservative should I be in my attire? I'm planning on pants and a long sleeved shirt, do I need to worry about wearing a head scarf? Thanks!

Riyadh is extremely conservative. What I'm finding is that you should wear loose-fitting (non-revealing) clothing and avoid showing any skin above the lower calf and elbows. Foreign women who aren't Muslim don't always wear scarves but might be asked to on the street, so it's a good idea to carry one with you, even if you might not have to wear it. Are there are some chatters out there who have been to Riyadh recently and can jump in?

Heading to Curacao this week. Wondering if anyone knew of must-see's/must eat's on the island, or which beaches are best for snorkeling (rather than diving, which seems to be what all the guides point out).

Here's a link my piece on Curacao from last year. There are tons of dining choices in the capital, with many Dutch treats and outdoor cafes. For specifics, check out Jaanchies, Asia de Cuba,  Bistro Le Clochard and Grasia di Dios.

For beaches, I recommend driving along the west coast, which is lined with easy-access beaches and good snorkeling opps.

I contact my credit card company before I travel, so that my activities will not trigger the unusual activity block. It is especially important to do, if you share a card with a partner, who will not be traveling with you.

Excellent advice. Thank you.

I travel a lot, so this happens to me a lot. Credit card companies always suggest that you call them before a trip and tell them where you'll be and for how long. Then they mark it down and you're good. I, however, always seem to forget to do that. But if it gets turned off, all you need to do is call the number on the back of the card and give them some security information and they'll turn it back on. Takes about 10 minutes.

Right you are. Thanks!

Last week after a wonderful trip to Italy to celebrate my 75th birthday, I flew out of Florence on Luftansa. The airline refused to let me take my carry-on, instead sending it 'at no cost to you'. My ticket was to fly from Zurich to Dulles, but I was diverted to Munich, upsetting my planned pick-up at Dulles. The carry-on arrived minus the $1,900.00 necklace that I had purchased the day before and my jewelry that I had brought with me. Lufthanse will not communicate other than email. A claim was submitted on Monday April 22 via email. Is there any organization that governs the airlines or is the passenger left at the mercy of the individual carrier?

It's true that airlines don't cover valuables in checked luggage. But if your bag was "forcibly" checked, then you could make an argument that the contract doesn't apply. Please send me your correspondence and I'll take a look. I can't promise anything, but I may be able to get Lufthansa to reconsider its decision. Here's my email address.

My boyfriend and I are going to St. Louis for a long weekend in a few weeks. So far on the itinerary: a Cardinals game, City Museum, Old Courthouse/Arch area, and the St. Louis Art Museum. Any other places we should hit up? People on all the travel websites seem to like the Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour, but my boyfriend is being all beer snobby about the idea... any other beer snobs go and like it? As I am sure you can tell, we like sightseeing, museums, sports... Also any restaurant recommendations? We love food and drink!! PS. I was only lukewarm on the idea of going to St. Louis until I read Tom Sietsema's Postcard with St. Louis restaurant recommendations!

I spent lots of time in St. Louis while my daughter was going to college there -- it's a great city. I loved the Budweiser tour. Even if your boyfriend is a beer snob, the tour is interesting, and you'll get to see the Clydesdale horses up close. You could also do a Shlafly Brewery tour. I also enjoyed Forest Park (great for hiking/biking/walking, plus several good museums & a zoo) and Grant's Farm. And Tom did a great job with his restaurant picks.

And here's some additional reading, an Impulsive Traveler we had on St. Louis the other year.

Hello: Whenever we travel internationally, it is always difficult to take enough money. The alternative of using credit cards (where you can use them) is always problematic because the credit card companies always charge a "transaction" or other fee for processing a foreign (non US) charge. It is chareged per transaction on top of the currency converted price, and can be as high as a percentage of the charged amount. Do you know of any credit cards that could be used intenationally WITHOUT having any kind of such fee and could be used without such a fee being added on? Thank you.

NerdWallet has a great post with a list of the cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees.

I am considering a Panama Canal cruise--any suggestions as to whether traveling east to west or the reverse would make a better cruise experience as long as it is a day time transit--thanks

I've not done this cruise, but I understand the west-to-east itinerary is more popular if you're doing the full transit. Anyone have an opinion? 

First, I loved the articles on Blackwater Falls on a tank of gas and Philadelphia on public transportation this week. Thanks! My question: Do you or the chatters have any suggestions for bargain motels in Hampton Roads? (I'm thinking $40-75 a night for two nights in mid-June, if that's even possible.) I know of many cheap and charming, off-the-beaten-track places in the Shenandoah Valley but have no clue where to start in VA Beach and it seems only the big chains have a web presence. Of course, the motel doesn't have to be fancy, just safe!

Glad you liked the stories. 

To pick up some of the smaller properties without a big web presence, you could check out the tourism sites for the various cities. Here, for example, are the budget accommodations listed for Virginia Beach. You might also be able to get a bit more bang for your buck on the Eastern Shore. Check out some of the options here.

Anyone have recommendations?

I'm going to have a 17-hour layover in Seoul for an upcoming trip--which I'm actually happy about both for the chance to stretch my legs between two really long flights and for the chance to see a new city. I'll be there from around 5pm-10am. Can you suggest a good place for dinner and nice area where I could wander around safely alone? Thanks!

Haven't been to Seoul, alas, but we did run this fun story about eating your way through town the way the Koreans do. Be sure to check out the details box -- the link is on the left under "More on this Story."

And chatters, if anyone has any tips, please let's hear them!

The reason O'Hare has the ORD code is that it stands for orchard. The airport was built on a former orchard. There is a reason for every single airport code.

Google is generally your friend when it comes to questions about airport codes. Apparently Kansas City was originally going to be called Mid-Continent International so they applied for the MCI code. Then right before the airport opened they decided that they should have the city's name in the airport's name, but it was too late to change the IATA code. The codes many times don't make a lot of sense. IAD anyone? As Christopher notes, the locals often refer to an airport by other initals rather than the IATA code. For example people in Tampa often call the airport TIA (Tampa International Airport) even though it's code is TPA. As for why the Y for Canadian airports, that question seems to be surprisingly murky to answer with several conflicting accounts.

Here is a blog that talks about the brief history and logic behind the airport codes.

Howdy. My husband and I are looking into a September trip to Spain (post-Labor Day), primarily Andalusia. Is this a good time to visit there? We are seeing nonstop fares to Madrid for around $1K. Should we jump on them now, or wait for fares to come down a bit?

Early September in Andalusia should be lovely. Early September is still considered close enough to high season. I wouldn't expect nonstop flights to go much lower than $1,000 round trip.  

We are going to England to spend a 12 days including 3 to 4 days in London with the rest of the time spent traveling around England and Scotland. We will arrive a few days after the Olympics end - after our teenagers get out of camp. Do you think it makes more sense to start in London or to start by going north and finish in London? Also if you have any recommendations for places to visit (besides the Lake District - my wife and I have already been) or for hotels in London those would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks

Friends, feel free to weigh in, but my inclination would be to start in London to better settle in rather than having to head out immediately after your flight in (assuming you're flying in to the city). Other sites worth checking out: York, St. Andrews, Bath and Edinburgh.

Seems obvious, but always rent economy/ compact cars rather than mid-size or larger.

Actually, before renting the car,  we compared the mileage on a variety of models, and the mid-size SUV did better than many of the tin-can compacts. We compared them using this tool.

Or your daughter will yell at you for driving like a snail and threaten to never go on a vacation with you again.


So now that the weather is getting nice, I'm thinking of doing a nice car ride/day trip with my fuzzy friend. He's not that big of a dog (he just thinks he is) so he can't do any hardcore hiking, but he can probably navigate a trail just fine. Any thoughts about where the fuzzball and I can go to get out in nature and stretch our legs?

You won't even need a day for this one: My dog and I like Prince William Forest Park, a large natural area (17,000 acres!) with 37 miles of mostly wooded trails. It's right off Interstate 95 in Triangle, so it's easy to get to. There's a $5-per-vehicle entrance fee. Check it out and get more info here.

Help! I have one Saturday from 9AM to 5AM to get the best of Madrid. 40 year old female traveling solo, good Spanish. What to do?

Visit the Prado (get your tickets online now); it's one of the greatest museums anywhere. Also the Thyssen-Bornemisza, a fabulous modern art museum. Matadero Madrid is a new contemporary arts center in a former slaughterhouse in the Arganzuela district. Take a break by sitting in a cafe, and head for a flamenco theater in the evening.

Other thoughts, chatters?

Sorry, but I probably would have taken the necklace out and worn it for the flight (or put it in my purse, assuming they let you carry that on). And same for as much of the rest of the jewelry as I could manage. I had the same experience once -- wouldn't let me board with my carry on, even though it was well within size limits. I insisted on opening it up and taking out stuff that I would need in case the bag got lost and stuffing it into my handbag.

Sometimes, in the rush to get checked in, you forget that you have valuables in your carry-on.

For the reader confused about airport codes - the taxi driver was probably referrring to the name of the airport (Kansas City International) as KCI, where the actual airport code is MCI. No, I don't know where they get all the codes but some are abbreviations from earlier names of the airports or the area they are located.

Thanks for clarifying that.

What is the best way to research local tour companies to find out if they are reliable, legit, etc.? I will be traveling to Africa in the fall and want to use a local tour company to cut costs and support the local economy, but it is a bit nervous since in theory, anybody can put up a website, post on tripadvisor, have a facebook account, etc.

Check with the country's tourism office, which might have a list accredited outfitters. You might also call the concierge of a reputable hotel and get his/her suggestions. Or check with a wildlife organization, national park or NGO, which might be affiliated with local tour operators as part of a program to foster small business entrepreneurs.

What was your reaction to the negative comments online regarding the Philadelphia article?

Hey, everyone's entitled to an opinion. Some could have been more nicely put, but that's the way it goes. I don't disagree it could have gone better -- we deliberately just sort of let things happen. Surely not every trip you all take turns out perfectly, and the same goes for us too. And just for the record, I did love the city! I plan to go back on my own some time, much better prepared.

Planning to go to South East Arizona to do some birdwatching. Which month would be best, February or September. Planning on doing two perhaps three bird walks. Besides taking in the sights in Tucson what else would you recommend nearby?

I'd opt for April, but February could be good for seeing certain target birds, such as LeConte's thrashers. Hummingbirds would probably be better in September. Take a look at the Tucson Audubon Society's Web page for birding tips and locations. If you're into astronomy, there are some great star-gazing locations. And don't miss the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

We are "bookended" with two events: one in Napa and one in Phoenix. Not too bad! We thought we'd drive down the CA coast. We have two full days to travel from Napa (leaving Sunday in the am) to Santa Barbara (have to depart SB Tuesday am for Phoenix). We were planning on stopping in Carmel for one night, then on to Santa Barbara. I know this is a tight trip. Any suggestions/changes to our itinerary?

I just covered much of the same drive yesterday. We went about 13 hours from Prescott, Ariz., to Carmel, Calif. I wouldn't recommend that drive to anyone in a single day, although it's really scenic.

I'd take at least three days for this road trip. Carmel is a great stop, Santa Barbara is good, and I might make a third stop in Palm Springs before you head out to Phoenix.

From there, it's a straight shot on the 10 to Phoenix, and you'll avoid wrestling with Southern California traffic in the morning.

I totally don't understand the question from the Lufthansa passenger who claimed their "forcibly checked" bag was lost, with their jewelry bag. Yes, airlines can force you to check your bag if there's no overhead bin space, but why in the world would you leave your jewelry in it? When I've had to gate-check my bag, I always take my valuables out first. You can't neglect that step and then claim it's the airline's fault!!

The jewelry was in her carry-on. It's my understanding that she was asked to check the bag, even though it was a legal carry-on bag. I think the overhead bins may have been full.

Most obvious is Hyatt in Cambridge. Also Great Oak Landing.  Just google MD Eastern Shore Marinas.

I had a layover on a return from Asia to Chicago, and since overnighting was unavoidable, I asked the airline to give me the maximum allowed - 23 hours. It was also New Year's eve. With a great deal of planning and ordering a grandstand ticket in advance I did the folllowing: Airport shuttle to airport hotel to drop luggage, showing I had a reservation at their sister property in Santa Monica. Walkd to LAX bus terminal a block behind the hotel. Bus to Santa Monica which was party-central for the Rose Bowl revellers. 5:30 am check-out and walk to the bus stop - off to downtown LA and the yellow line light rail to Pasadena by 8:30 AM to see the Rose Parade. Take my seat in grandstand. Parade is done by 11:00 am, back downtown, and then express bus from the train station to LAX - shuttle to the hotel for luggage, and back to the terminal for a 3:30 flight. LA has much better public transportation than they are given credit for - It does take careful planning, and I admit I hitched a ride on a hotel shuttle for a place I wasn't staying, but I saw much more and was way more relaxed than I would have been behind the wheel of a car.

Another place to look might be St Lucia. There are a number of nice places around Soufriere (quieter) or Castries (more touristy due to the cruise ships). We stayed in between the two, but visited both towns and really enjoyed the island!

Thanks for the idea. 

I travelled last week from Reagan airport to Charleston, SC on Delta. When I booked several months ago most of the seats were blocked for selection, so I had a very limited choice in seating and ended up in the row in front of the exit row, so my sear would not recline. I called the ariline and was told I could rebook 24 hours ahead of the flight when other seats would be relaeased. When I looked online 24 hours ahead there was a fee for all of the other open seats. I called Delta and the agent said I could book then and pay or wait until I got to the airport. However, since the flight had only about12 people with reservations I should wait and and could be reassigned when I checked in. But, in fact when I checked in at Delta they were still charging for the all the seats not yet occupied. When I asked the agent why she claimed it was because if they have to change aircraft that all those what had selected a seat would need to be reassigned to seats on the new aircraft. Wouldn't that be the case even if I had paid for a seat? So all 12 of us got on a mostly empty plane and picked the seat of our choice. How foolish it would have been to get take the bait and pay for a seat ahead of time. I feel this is greedy on the part of airlines. Is this the trend of the future of airline travel?

Yes, unfortunately it is. I've written about these fees in the past, and I'll do it again soon. It appears airlines have built their business model on these so-called "ancillary" fees, and others like it.

Hello. I'm sure you've heard this question before, but I have not been on this chat for quite some time. I will be flying in/out of Honolulu for a Hawaiian vacation, November 9-22. I will be traveling with my 70 year old parents to visit a few other islands. I'd like to actually stay overnight on a few other islands, but my mother mentioned doing an inter-island cruise. Do you have recommendations that would satisfy both of us? Thank you.

If your parents are fairly sedentary or would just prefer not having to change hotels and make flights, maybe a cruise would work. But it'll be a very different trip than staying on several islands for a few days at a time. NCL's Pride of America does a seven-night intraisland cruise. If you'd prefer a smaller ship, take a look at American Safari Cruises.  

We also found one of the great Icelandair packages last summer and went for a long weekend in October. I contacted Reykjavik Excursions, the company that runs the tours that are part of the Icelandair packages, and they allowed me to upgrade from the "Golden Circle" tour to a glacier hike tour by paying the difference between the two. We had also booked the Go Ecco tour to Snaefellsnes, but it was cancelled the morning we arrived due to a bad coastal storm. We were bummed about the cancellation, but ended up at a free concert and recognized our tour guide from a photo on the Go Ecco website. Jonas was fantastic and gave us lots of good information about what to see in the city, so I only imagine how wonderful his tours are!

Assuming the poster will be at the newer international airport at Inchon, and not the older Seoul airport, I believe there are tours of Inchon, focusing n the Korean War landing and battle. Not everyone's cup of tea, of course. We had a long layover (though not quite 17 hours) about 6 years ago and rested in the rather nice transit hotel inside the airport.


A group of six is interested in traveling to SE Asia in late December - possibly Cambodia, North Vietnam, Thailand. We would like to arrange guides and tours. Can anyone recommend a good travel agent/company with contacts in this region that can help us make these arrangements?

We had this story with these details about trekking tours in northern Vietnam that might be useful to you. Beyond that, let's throw it out to the chatters. Guys?

I am a single senior considering a Russian river cruise in 2013. There are many companies offering these but does any stand out offering smaller supplements or matching up roommates? Is it better to start (from DC) in Moscow or St. Petersburg? Should I book now or wait for better deals? These seem to sell out well in advance, but I also see "last minute deals". Thank you.

Several river cruise lines, including Uniworld and Avalon, sometimes offer promotions that waive single supplements, so sign up for their sale notifications. Also, Viking has dedicated single cabins on most of its ships. If you are super-flexible, you could hold out for a last-minute deal, but Russian river cruises often do sell out. 

Called Amtrak regarding travel to New Orleans from D.C., i quoted the price that was in the ad in the WP newspaper, and was told by the Amtrak agent that the price quoted changes on a daily basis. Nothing about that in the ad. Sound like something wrong here?

I haven't seen the ad you're talking about, but I suppose that's a viable explanation. Much like airfare, Amtrak tickets can fluctuate in price.

Wikipedia reveals all: Orchard Place, Illinois, was a small farming community in Cook County, Illinois, just west of Chicago. Settled by German immigrants in the 1840s, Orchard Place became a stop on the Wisconsin Central Railroad in 1887 and received its name at that time. In 1942, Orchard Place was selected as the site of a new air base and aircraft manufacturing facility, Orchard Place Airport/Douglas Field. After the Second World War, the city of Chicago bought the facility from the United States government and converted it into a commercial airport, Chicago Orchard Field, opened in 1946. The airport was renamed in 1949 to O'Hare International Airport and has grown into the Chicago metropolitan area's primary airport and a major North American transportation hub.

I was living in KC when the new airport opened. The old one, right by the Missouri River, was right by downtown KC, but way to small (the pilots were almost hitting the brakes before the planes landed.) Those living in south KC or the Kansas burbs used to refer to the new airport as "St. Joe International," as it was much closer to St. Joseph, Missouri than where they were. (and the grand opening is best forgotten, as VP Spiro Agnew was the guest of honor)

Can be bizarre, though there's a reason behind each one, even if not obvious. For example, SNA for Orange County (the airport's mailing address is Santa Ana). I'd have to say that THE best code is, in fact, THE: the code for Theresina, Brazil.

The travel section has done stories like this in the past -- such as a group of stories about the various options for getting to New York and how each mode of transportation affected the writer's weekend plans. But never have I read a travel article in which the writer seemed so clueless. The story had a lost in the woods feel that made little sense. I would think that someone who writes about traveling for a living would know that planning beforehand is key. And if you're thrown into the lion's den, stay there. Trekking out of town -- what were you thinking? This would have been better presented as a tongue-in-cheek piece about what happens when plans go awry.

Valley Forge is a site people often tack on to a Philly trip, so I wanted to see what the trip out there would be like.

On my last flight, United gave me the option of having my boarding pass sent to my smart phone instead of having to print it out. How well does this option work? Is there a way to save it to the phone incase cell coverage at the airport doesn't work. Also, what about the TSA screening. They always look at the tickets and stamp them. I don't think I want them to stamp the screen of my phone.

It works great. TSA agents are trained in how to deal with a cell phone boarding pass, and have never turned me away when I've used one. But please let me know if you experience a problem -- I'll do what I can to help. Here's my email address.

We can't pay $5,000 for a vacation. Is there something we could do for $2,000-$2,500 for lodging. I realize that adding in dining and activities will push up the cost but that isn't how the budgeting works around here!

I'm guessing you are referring to one of our previous answers. Help us out and tell us where you are going. 

It is HOT in July and August, except in the north. And check the calendar for can still travel then, but some restaurants will close during the day in smaller towns. (You'll be fine in Istanbul.)

My husband and I are trying to plan a quick (4 day) trip without our young kids to celebrate our anniversary. We'd like somewhere warm (in late May/early June), with nonstop flights, stuff to do outdoors, and a little luxurious. I'd love to go to Costa Rica, but the flight times were horrendous, and obviously not nonstop. Anything similar that's easier to get to?

Maybe the Tulum area of Mexico's Yucatan? It's not Costa Rica, but it is fairly easy to get to Cancun and then get a shuttle down to Tulum. 

Denver is another classic. Everyone calls it DIA, but the actualy code is DEN.

Visiting friends in Portland in early fall. We're hoping to also spend a few days exploring the Oregon Coast and wine country. I'm completely overwhelmed by options. Any suggestions for this area of the country or for planning a trip with little knowledge of the area?

I erred-- it's Teresina. But THE is still the code.

We booked a last minute trip, and fly to Spain in three weeks! We need to figure out how to get from Madrid to Barcelona mid-week. Train is fastest, but also most expensive. Bus and car rental seem to be the other two options. Has anyone done this, and do you recommend one method of transportation over another?

Chatters? I think the train is still the best way to go, but what say you?

I'm very happy to see all of the mentions of Iceland as a vacation destination. We went last year and loved it. Keep in mind that you do not need to do a complete guided tour to see the country. We took two weeks and a rental car around the periphery of the island. Yes, we did some day tours to hike on a glacier and take a boat to see puffins, but the country is easily navigated without a tour group.

I haven't done this yet, will have one during the day in an up coming trip. Many trips flying through ICH have long layovers and the airport is well set up for them. Also organized tours for various interests that can be booked directly at the airport. And easy transportation to Seoul if you want that. I looked at the day tours, not sure about what they suggest for night times.

OK, the notion that going 55 saves gas is a myth, and always get perpetuated without a challenge. Here are the real ways to save gas while driving: 1. Pack your car lightly, and take out unnecessary stuff out of the trunk (sports equipment, neighbor's kids, etc.) 2. Use cruise control (when safe and possible) on the highway. 3. Check tire pressure, and inflate them properly (see notes on car side door). 4. Take off roof racks, etc. if they're not being used. This creates a tremendous amount of drag. 5. Speaking of drag, it's more efficient to use AC than to have your windows down on the highway. Signed... car enthusiast and engineer.

Excellent tips. I am also a fan of the neutral descent. But not for student drivers!

Glacier National Park in depends greatly on when during the year and that years snowfall. Its about 2 hrs to get from the west side to the east side either by driving through the park or by following US 2. Staying strictly on the west side makes exploring the different parts of the East part and the canadian part much more difficult. On the west side you just have the main road but much more in the way of shops/restaurants/and hotels. On Seattle. Its about the same to drive to North Cascades or Olympic national parks. Mt Baker is farther.. On Rainier....not sure when you have been there but if you are going in August you have potential for the peak of wildflower season there.

Thanks for following up.

I am traveling to Rome and Venice with family in a couple weeks, and we want the option to occasionally reach each other if we end up separated. It seems to me like the best/cheapest method for this will be to turn off our cellular data service and pay the international roaming charges for any necessary text messages. (There is an iPhone 4s in each party, though on different carriers.) Does that sound like a reasonable plan? Anything else we should consider?

Roaming charges can be outrageous. So watch out. You might consider getting a local SIM card for all of your family member's phones  (available at the airport and many telecomm/newspaper kiosks). Because you are only using your phones for emergencies, you can get the lowest number of minutes and/or cheapest plan. Just check with your cell phone provider to be sure that your phone is unlocked (or ask them to do so if it is locked).

I'm going to Corolla (NC) May 9-11 for a friend's wedding (she decided to get married on a weekday for some reason). I've never been to the Outer Banks and need to find someplace inexpensive to stay (I make very little money these days, thanks to the economy). I could see staying in Elizabeth City, but not as far away as Virginia Beach. Where can I look up B&Bs and non-chain motels, or are they not any cheaper than chains?

You should be able to find something fairly cheap midweek in early May. Have you tried the Hampton Inn? Another option is to rent from an condo owner via Homeaway or VRBO (don't wire money or send cashier checks and talk to the owner). 

If you paid for the necklace with an American Express card the loss may be covered. Check other credit cards as well...and perhaps the credit card company can help you take this up with the airline.

I always called my credit card company (USAA) before international travel to make sure they knew my location. The last time I called, they told me I can now do it online. It's worth checking into to make sure you don't get canceled while traveling. And being able to do it online means it's quick, and I can do it on location if I forget before I leave.

If an airline advertised the final fare including all ancillary fees, they'd show as higher thanothers on grids such as on Expedia, Travelocity, etc. Soutwhest incudes baggage fees, though not the $10 early-bird check-in fee, but it doesn't allow pre-seleciton of seats and doesn't appear on those grids, anyway. Airlines are fighting the requirement to even show all taxes, etc. in order to keep the fares that appear low.

You're right, they are. It's a never-ending source of frustration for air travelers, and I'll write more about this issue soon, I promise.

Could we please stop with the critical comments of the person who had a necklace stolen from his / her forcibly checked 'carry on'? Sometimes you forget what is in a bag, especially when you had not planned to check it in the first place. And bad stuff can happen even when precautions are taken. A little compassion goes a long way.

I agree. I think this was just an unfortunate incident, and I don't blame the passenger for what happened.

I have used Purple Dragon tours several times for trips in SE Asia. They are based in Bangkok but have contacts all around the region. They organize private trips. In your case with 6 I am guessing you would get a minivan with guide and driver.


My wife and I spend a wonderful week at Yalakavic (close to the bigger city of Bodrum) on the Turkish coast. Gorgeous scenery, within driving range of many major tourist sites (such as Ephesis - misspelled, sorry). If you're not right in Bodrum you avoid much of the tourist "mobs" off the tour ships, but can always stop by to shop or eat. I can't imagine you'd go wrong staying anywhere in that area.

Turkey traveler, this is for you.

Is there a website where I can order tickets to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and I could choose the date and time for the entrance?

You can order e-tickets here, right on the Rijksmuseum Web site. They're not limited to any specific date or time; you can use them whenever. I don't know of any Web site that lets you pick date and time, but since you don't have to pick and can go anytime, not sure why you would want to.

Looking for something less expensive than the very pretty Woodloch within 2 hours or so of NYC for a family of 5.

I've stayed at several other cheaper Catskill and Pocono resorts, and I can't recommend them. Maybe look into renting a house/condo at the Jersey Shore or Long Island's North Fork? But those will also be expensive in summer. 

If you are doing this over three days...Sunday-Tuesday... Sunday drive from Napa to Crmel from the day then down farther south to stay for the night. Then spend the day along the central coast through Santa Barbara then staying that night in say LA area...then drive on Tuesday to Phoenix.

Great advice, thanks!

When do you think would be the least crowded time to go to Disney world? Obviously not summer or Spring break- is fall a good time?

Yeah, I think fall is good. Or even January or February after the Christmas hoopla has died down.

Hate to say it, but the Philly trip seemed like a good idea, but a total misfire. I've been to Philly many times. It's very walkable. If that was someone's blog post, I'd think that they just didn't do the proper homework and move on. But, this was a major paper's article about traveling carless. It was not a good representation of carless travel to Philly. Not much to take away, other than to do your homework. Perhaps a follow up trip, with recommendations on good centrally located hotels and restaurants, would be an option.

Appreciate the feedback.

Had the same issue last summer. We have iPhones thru AT&T. Call your cell company and ask about the international plans. We ended up with a plan where we spent a few more bucks during that period of time to cover international roaming, no data plan, .99/per minute for calls, and something like .25-.50/text message. We communicated only when needed and by text message. Worked fine. But make sure you contact your cell company! Otherwise you pay crazy roaming charges.

Most all US airport codes actually have a K first ie: KIAD. It's an FAA country/regional designator.

This is ridiculous if you can get a response when everyone else can't. You need to give us all honorary Washington Post travel writer status if they will only listen to famous travel writers.

I'm here to help -- and yes, I have access to some folks at an airline that other passengers might not. But a vast majority of complaints are resolved through normal channels, and I always check to make sure travelers go through those channels before I pull the press pass. It's a last resort, and I do it only when it's absolutely necessary.

We will be ending a cruise in Lima next February and would like to add on a trip to Machu Picchu. Cost is not an issue, but time is. My husband would like to spend one night in Machu Picchu. Based on my own research, we would need at least 3 nights to do this- one night in Cuzco on the way to and another night inCuzco on the way back to Lima. Is there any way to do this in a shorter amount of time without foregoing the night in Machu Picchu?

This is not the sort of trip you want to rush, for aesthetic and safety reasons. Most experts recommed spending a few days in Cuzco to acclimate to the altitude. That said, the quickest route is to fly to Cuzco, catch a train to Aguas Calientes, then a bus to the ruins -- or hike. There are a number of train options that vary in price, comfort and speed. But none takes  more than four hours. (Vistadome is the fastest.)  Reservations book fast, so advance planning is necessary. You also need a permit to hike the Inca Trail (the goverment also capped the number of daily visitors). And read the rules carefully before going.

The combination of Fridays off during the summer and driving a gas-sipping hybrid means I'll have plenty of time for day trips, without too much worry about gas prices. If you had six or eight Fridays to do with as you wished, where would you head for a few day-long local holidays?

Just off the top of my head -- Charlottesville, Richmond, Gettysburg, Baltimore... I'd avoid heading east so you can stay out of beach traffic.

Hello, we have a 2 day stop-over in Paris on our way to London. My husband has never been to Paris before. We plan to stay on the Ile de la Cite. What essential sites would you suggest we visit in this short time? Thanks.

Oh dear. There's so much. The Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Latin Quarter, the Musee d'Orsay, the Tuileries Gardens. The Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees. Sacre Coeur. That should keep you busy. :-)

We have a 6 am flight out of Dulles and live in Alexandria. We will be away for 10 days. I am having a tough time finding a hotel out there with a park and fly deal that does not have a lot of bedbug reports. Do you have any favorites? (i actually can park at Dulles if need be, I just want a decent hotel with no bugs)

I don't know where you're looking, but you should be aware that the Fairfax County Health Department has a very good reputation for aggressively pursuing bed bug reports and getting hotels to exterminate. Just because a hotel once had bedbugs doesn't mean it still does.

Just be aware that if your flight is delayed, and you've navigated away from the boarding pass on your phone, you won't be able to pull it up from the email link after the time the flight was originally supposed to depart. This happened to me a year ago on Continental out of BWI. The gate agent printed me a boarding pass, but that kind of defeated the purpose of going paperless.

Thanks for the additional perspective on electronic boarding passes. This is very helpful.

I disagree with the assessment that all-inclusives are not worth it if you do not drink. My SO and I are not big drinkers and prefer high-end all inclusives simply because everything is there. We don't have to go into town to find dinner (or eat at the same hotel restaurants for 10 days), snorkeling and the like are on premise, etc. We love Majestic Elegance in Punta Cana, Dr. Not too many kids, no young lushes, a huge pool (plus the beach) and 7 restaurants.

I stayed at Majestic Elegance last summer, and I thought there were plenty of heavy drinkers and kids, although there is an adults-only area. Food was OK. Beach was fantastic! So much of this is an individual decision. 

Boyfriend, born and raised in FL, says the absolute best time to go is betweenThanksgiving and Christmas, when nobody wants to take their kids out of school.

Not sure the legth of your trip..... Spend a couple days in Portland (especially on a weekend day because of SAturday market)..... from there drive to the cannon beach on south to newport.... then drive over to corvalis and then from there go up the willamette valley. You can take a second loop trip after you get back up to Portland and loop around Mt Hood passing thru the gorge the around the mountain.

For the traveler planning a trip to Turkey, the Lonely Planet for the country is the best possible resource, as the author fell in love with the country and (I believe) now lives in Cappadocia. Also, don't rush yourself in Istanbul - there is so much to see and do, and it's well worth spending an extra day to check out the "modern" city as well as all the historic attractions.

Car enthusiast again... I DON'T recommend neutral descents. It is dangerous to put your car on neutral (what if you have to speed up quickly to avoid something), and can heat up brakes quickly, which leads to brake fade and loss of stopping power. Better to put your car in a lower gear for descents, which allows for "engine braking" and put less strain on the brakes. Sorry for the long rant, but neutral descents can potentially be very dangerous.

I traveled to Italy last year and took the Capital One card that had no annual fees and no foreign transaction fee. They were also having a promotion that gave a good amount of cash back for using it for purchasing a relatively small amount ($300?). You could also personalize the card so I got a picture of the Colosseum which was appropriate. I paid it off as soon as I got home. Only drawback was that the use of credit cards was not everywhere, like it is here. Still had to have cash.

The Hard Rock in Punta Cana is all inclusive. Its large but has a lovely spa and lots of chairs available around 12 pools. The food, like our travel hosts said about all inclusives, is not always perfect. The ocean is beautiful, the spa is beautiful. Nice casino.

Heading to Seattle in August for a family reunion and will have a few days for day trips and maybe an overnight up to the San Juans. Any can't miss suggestions, places to stay, things to see or do, etc. Thanks.

I love the San Juan Islands (no offense Seattle). I would hop the ferry and spend a night on Orcas and a night in Friday Harbor.  Definitely take an orca watching cruise; you really do see the black and white critters!

It's not victim blaming re the expensive necklace. You have to consider the airline's point of view (and yes, I hate them too...). Anybody can claim they had an expensive item that went missing from a checked in bag. I'm sorry this person lost the jewelry, but the airlines can't just compensate everyone -- not everyone is going to be honest.

Don't miss the elephant seals at The Piedras Blancas rookery, on Highway 1 seven miles north of San Simeon on the California Central Coast. It's so great to see all of them lounging in the sun and playing.

If the Supreme Court lets the Arizona laws stay on the books, how do I need to prove I'm here legally? As a Hispanic U.S. citizen, do I have to carry a birth certificate? In other words, do you only have to carry your "papers" if you look or sound funny? Does my white wife need to worry about this? Or should I just skip the Grand Canyon this year?

I just drove through Arizona (I have family that lives there). There are several checkpoints along I-10 near the border as you drive west and an agricultural inspection checkpoint as you enter California, and they never asked us to prove our citizenship. They did, however, ask if we were citizens. Either way, a drivers' license should suffice, and I can't imagine that changing. (If it does, I'll have plenty to write about in my Navigator column.) I wouldn't cancel your plans to visit Arizona based on a law.

If you have an iPhone, you can pull up your electronic boarding pass before leaving home and take a screen shot to capture it in your photo album. Then you'll always have it.

Thanks for spending the hour with us. Today's prize winner is the car enthusiast/engineer who had some very good tips as everyone gears up for those summer road trips. Send your name and address to, and we'll get you your goods.

See you next week!

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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