Talk about Travel

Feb 25, 2013

Please note that Talk about Travel has now moved to 2 p.m. Mondays.
Have a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel section's editors and writers are at your service.

Happy Monday, travelers! We're glad to be back after a week off, and based on the number of questions we got in advance, we think you're pretty happy to see us too. We had a great mix of domestic stories this week, including on Baltimore, Grand Central Terminal and Fairbanks, Alaska. As a spin on that last story, tell us the best place you've gone to unwind, maybe even revel in solitude. Our favorite answer gets the prize.

Here we go!

We have two teenage girls who love learning about other countries and cultures, but have never been abroad. We'd love to travel this summer, but airfare alone is prohibitive. Any suggestions on an affordable international trip? Any bargains? We're open to anything!

I hear you -- summer airfares, especially to, say, Europe, can be brutal. I'm not seeing any brilliant deals at the moment anyway, although as we mention often, the Icelandair packages to Reykjavik and its environs can be reasonable. If you're up for Canada, perhaps a family road trip is in order. You could go the Quebecois route and visit Montreal and Quebec City. Or you could check out the Atlantic provinces, maybe New Brunswick/Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, if your girls are "Anne of Green Gables" fans (or even if they're not -- it's beautiful anyway).

American Airlines cancelled our flight to Miami at 6 am Friday morning and thus, our Girlfriend Getaway to Grand Cayman was ruined. Our (first class) AA connecting flight to Grand Cayman was scheduled to leave at 2:30 pm and we couldn't get out of BWI in time to make it. "Mechanical problems" from the previous evening was the explanation provided. We waited over 90 minutes in the first class line for the AA ticket agent to tell us that we could not get to Miami until the next day. This was not an option since we had only planned an extended weekend sojourn on the beach. I don't understand why AA couldn't find another plane to get a "completely booked" flight to Miami? Is AA under any legal obligation to provide compensation for our ruined excursion?

I'm sorry to hear about your cancellation. American's obligations are spelled out in its conditions of carriage, the legal agreement between you and the airline. It should have placed you on the next available flight, and failing that, it should refund your entire ticket. Unfortunately, airlines don't always have a spare aircraft available, but you're right -- finding a replacement aircraft would have been the ideal solution. I'm sure they would have done that if they could.

I'm planning a trip to Italy and Ibiza for late spring/early summer. What is the best way to get to Ibiza from Italy? Should I go to Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, etc.) first and then make my way to Ibiza. I did some preliminary searches and could not find flights direct to Ibiza from Rome. Thanks!

Several discount airlines offer service between Rome and Ibiza, although some, such as Blu-Express and Easyjet, offer seasonal flights that begin in late June/early July. Try Vueling or Ryanair

What's your reaction to the negative response to the article on Baltimore?

I think it's great that the piece generated so much discussion. Marc's ultimate point was to overcome his bias and to learn to love Baltimore's charms, which we were hoping he would do, so I'm happy with it. I think it's perfectly valid to object to his attitude and approach, but a lot of the feedback seemed to miss the point -- that it's a travel piece, and therefore not aimed at Baltimore residents.

I'm considering going to Salt Lake City in early June to do some genealogical research, and I could spend an extra week doing sightseeing. Which is the best direction to head in? I would be happy with desert, the Rockies, Yellowstone, whatever! I don't want to be too ambitious, though. Thanks!

One of my all-time favorite drives is through the southern part of the state, into Colorado via US 191 and I-70. The canyons and mountain ranges are nothing short of spectacular. If you have a day to spare, take a camera and take your time. Also, buy an annual National Parks pass, because you'll be using it. 

Our daughter will be starting a semester study abroad program in Cape Town in July. We'd like to travel there with her and spend about 2 weeks in South Africa prior to the beginning of her studies. There will be four of us. Can you offer suggestions on safaris, best way to travel around South Africa, and not-to-be missed sites? It will be the first time any of us have visited Africa and want to make the most of it without totally blowing the family budget.

South African Airways often has some good deals on airfares and vacation packages that include safaris. 

We would like to spend 3 days in West Virginia and do some hiking. Where would you suggest? We don't want expensive lodging, but we do love good food.

The New River Gorge area is spectacular. Better yet, you can see it all from almost 900 feet above the river bed on a tour of the New River Gorge Bridge, which I did the other year. In nearby Fayetteville, I recommend the Morris Harvey House. And you know what? There are some great food options in town too. I was impressed by Secret Sandwich Society. Sadly, the tapas place I liked there appears to be closed, but Pies & Pints seems to be popular.

new river gorge bridge

In the 2/4 column a traveler wondered how to complete air travel with ice packs. There are one time use packs that TSA allows because they are solid, like large salt crystals, until ready to use. The pack is activated, chills and can be discarded when done.

Thanks! Many backs will thank you.

The airlines lie about the causes of delays? I'm shocked, SHOCKED! Someone fetch me the fainting couch! People just need to learn to roll with the punches that the airlines give the flying public (and G*d knows how bad it will get once sequestration kicks in). Be prepared to sit and wait. Yes, it sucks. But be prepared. Break down and finally read "War and Peace." Do a book of crossword puzzles. Of couse, it would help if the waiting areas were a tad more comfortable. A few more plugs for recharging phones, plugging in laptops, etc. would be welcome additions.

You're absolutely right. In the end it doesn't really matter why you're delayed -- you'll get there when you get there. And you make a valid point: Most passengers don't really care about compensation; they just want to reach their destination safely. (Thank you, may I have another?)

This weekend I drove through Moorefield and Petersburg, WV, and was so impressed by the nature there. While the New River Gorge area looks even more exciting -- and I hope to go there myself soon, eastern WV seems to offer a lot, too, if they're looking for an escape closer to home.

True enough. Harpers Ferry is another option closer to Washington.

How could 900 passengers be on a cruise, i.e., Carnival Triumph, to Mexico without a passport per ABC and other news media? I thought a passcard or passport was even required for Mexico and Canada.

Passports are not required for Caribbean cruise passengers on closed-loop cruises that begin and end in the same U.S. port.  Cruise companies do strongly recommend that passengers have passports, but they are not mandated. 

Just wanted to give a belated thanks for running the list of drugstore items one of you carries on a trip. It matched ours and now I don't think we are hypocondriacs (sp?) for taking so much stuff especially on a cruise.

Ah, I think you're talking about my travel health kit story. You're welcome!

Without a doubt, Zion National Park was almost a spiritual awakening. The granite monoliths, the names: The Court of the Patriachs, Temple of Sinawava, Angels Landing. One of the most beautiful places in the US. Simply breathtaking, and awe-inspiring. I have been twice and want to go back. Puts your life in perspective.

I am preparing for my first trip to Broadway and would like to spend 3 days and 2 nights in NYC. Do you have any suggestions for safe and moderately priced hotels for this solo traveling woman?

I really liked my stay at the Chelsea Lodge. Great prices, good location - not right near Broadway, but not too far. (Besides, not staying in Times Square has its benefits, believe me.) Closer to Broadway, I had recent stays at both the Ace and the Room Mate Grace, and liked both, but they're a little pricier. Although sometimes you can hit on a deal. (I'll be writing about both soon.)

I'm recently back from an Incan ruins trip, and my mom keeps longingly saying she would love to do something like that (the same thing she said when I got back from Siem Reap). I would LOVE to figure out a way to take her on some sort of ruins trip! She's currently 64, and in okay - but not exceptional - shape. I think we need to stay in Central America for reasons of budget and time.... Where do you recommend? I was initially drawn to Tulum, Mexico, but I think we want a little more adventure than an all inclusive resort. Is there some sort of circuit in Mexico that's not horribly dangerous, but a little less luxury and a little more oriented to the backpacker set? (We're also enthusiastic eaters, so a trip that included the opportunity to eat delicious and new things would be great, too!)

Caravan Tours used to offer a Mexican ruins tour, but it's not on the schedule for 2013. There are several other companies that do offer it, but I am not familiar with any of them. Have you considered Machu Picchu? Many reputable tour operators, including Friendly Planet and Gate 1,  offer a Machu Picchu trip. 

In early November, my two Italian friends are planning to drive from New York City to Washington, DC via Pittsburgh, and since this will be their first visit to the US, they would like to see some scenery along the way, away from the Interstates. They will take two days to drive to Pittsburgh and when they leave there, they will take a day to drive to Washington. Any suggestions for sightseeing?

A lot of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which your friends should take from New York to Pittsburgh, is quite pretty. Bethlehem, Pa., is a nice place to visit. Perhaps they'd also be up for getting off the main road to take the historic Lincoln Highway. On the way to Washington, they could stop in Berkeley Springs, Antietam and old town Frederick.

I was the third car in the parking lot (in early March) @ the south rim of the grand canyon. Wandered over to the rim and didn't see another soul for an hour or so. Surreal not just because of the grandeur but by thinking about the first discoverers of such a magnificant sight.

I think it was about 2-3 years ago, right around this time of year, and I was suffering from the "winter blahs" (technical term alert) in a hard way. Finally, I'd had enough, and (with the help of my boss who could see I was approaching a break!) found a last-minute low-milage award to JAX for the following weekend. From there, I took a taxi over to Amelia Island, where I spent the weekend shopping and soaking up some sorely-needed Vitamin D. To this day one of my favorite trips!

Nice. I really like Amelia Island.

Several years ago, I was living in a large group house in Cape Town with about 10 other people. Needless to say, I needed to get away by myself. I headed up to Zambia to see Victoria Falls (amazing!) and then spent a few days on an island in the middle of the Zambeze river in Botswana. It was perfect!

Our family will be flying with (then) 8 and 9 year olds to San Francisco to visit family and want to make an adventure of it. After the city, Alcatraz, dinner at some fine restaurants, we'd like to head out of the city to ... where? We've got ten days. Thinking making Portland, Oregon final destination and flying back to DC from there ... too much? Better plan? many thanks.

I love the idea of driving along the coast -- it's supremely gorgeous -- and making an adventure of it. Portland is fantastic. Take the train, maybe? (A one-way car rental might kill your budget, in addition to that multi-city plane ticket.)

It may sound completely counter-intuitive, and I'm not traveling per se because it's so close to home (!) but I love going down to the Tidal Basin by myself when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. In the evenings, there aren't nearly as many tourists, and twilight makes the trees seem even more beautiful. Viewing the cherry blossoms is an annual pilgrimage of mine, and something that's often done with other people, but it's a place that can be wonderful to visit on one's own.

We have been looking for a 2 to 3 week tour to Brazil that includes Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, and other interesting cities, as well as Iguazu Falls and perhaps a nature preserve. None of the tour companies we are familiar with offers one. Could you suggest a reliable company that offers a comfortable, informative tour?

Chatters, have a recommendation?

Chris's last two columns are prime examples of why no one trusts travel companies. Enterprise screwed me over 20+ years ago and I still refuse to rent a car from them as a result. And airlines have done nothing to earn our trust with their draconian rules unswervingly applied to consumers but refusal to accept any responsibility when their errors or other failures cause us to lose money or time.

I'm truly sorry to hear about your experience. Believe it or not, I do try to keep things positive in my Navigator columns, but ultimately, I'm focused on finding solutions to commong travel problems. I am hopeful, as I've mentioned several times in my stories, that service will improve. But experience tells me it's going to be a long road.

I've never been to New Orleans, but now want to savor its seafood and carefree environment I don't have the slightest idea where to eat and where to stay. My wife and young teenage kids will come with me. We don't like to fly, either. Where to eat, where to stay, how to arrive there (besides plane), and when is a good time (before summer starts)? Thanks for taking my many questions.

Let's see -- you need a Nola primer, don't you? I'll do my best.

Timing: Spring and fall, for the best weather. March/April or October/November.

How to arrive: You don't say your originating point, but if it's DC, you can take the Crescent train, which takes about 24 hours and starts at $144 each way with enough advance purchase. Greyhound is a little cheaper, but not much, and the schedule is much more limited, looks like. And then there's driving, of course. Another thought: You can take a cruise from Nashville to New Orleans.

Where to stay: My favorite place is the Hotel Villa Convento. On the edge of the Quarter, so a little quieter but still centrally located (and across the street from one of my favorite bakeries). Very friendly owners, very good prices. No frills.

Where to eat: Cochon. Cochon Butcher. Patois. August. Stanley. Stella. Commander's Palace. So many more. (I'm overdue for a refresher weekend!)

I've put up with a lot from the airlines. I don't kvetch about the lack of food, screaming babies, or lack of room to get comfy. I just wish the airlines would not lie to us. Let's face it, the airlines will lie to the flying public BECAUSE THEY CAN. I recall going three rounds with this country's worst legacy carrier (begins with the letter "U") a few years ago, and they lied at every turn. Thank God I was able to document everything that happened on that trip. They coughed up the money I was asking for. It wasn't much, but I documented every LIE they told me

OK, I asked for it ...

I was there earlier this month. I'd recommend renting a car and driving around the Western Cape. There are numerous attractive beach towns near Cape Town. The penguins at Simon's Town are not to be missed, and from there, it's a very short trip to the Cape of Good Hope. The wine region -- especially Franschhoek -- is gorgeous, with many wineries to visit and top restaurants to try out. I drove along the Garden Route as far as Knysna and would recommend something similar. The scenery is very attractive, roads are good (though mostly 2-lane, with frequent passing lanes), with plenty of things to see along the way. If you're interested in a safari, look at the various offerings in and near Kruger.

You all always come through. Thank you!

For an offbeat place to enjoy solitude -- the Salton Sea. It is absolutely surreal, to see this enormous body of water in the middle of the desert, with a sort of ghost-town reflecting the failed plans to turn the location into Palm Springs Jr. Combined with the "interesting" smell and the numerous migratory birds, you feel like you've traveled to another planet.

I get that Baltimore residents were not the target audience of Fisher's piece, but who were? People who make their travel choices based on how cheap it is to park?


Hi Travel Gurus, Last weekend I had the pleasure of getting stuck in Charlotte due to snow and all the ridiculous delays/cancellations by USAirways. From my experiences, the flight crews were wonderful, but the service agents were TERRIBLE. Rude, unhelpful (to the point of causing me and several other passengers to miss already rebooked flights). Typically, I wouldn't care because I am an American person myself, but the recent merger has me concerned. Is this going to be the level of customer service we can expect? Is there any worth in highlighting this experience to the powers that be at American?

I think it is alway worth writing a letter or e-mail detailing the event and the people involved.  If we don't speak up, nothing will ever change.

Merger or not,  reservation and gate agents often are overwhelmed when massive delays and cancellations occur. And in their defense, often passengers are impatient and inconsiderate -- not that that means the airline worker should boomerang back the bad attitude.

The best way to handle the situation is to be as pleassant as punch and if the employee starts to raise his or her voice or ignore you, call the person out for the behavior--but again with a smile.

Can anyone recommend a good moderately priced hotel in Copenhagen? We will be there before a Norwegian Fjords cruise in mid-May and need a hotel for two nights.


Don't if this went through earlier. I've flown many times, but in May going to Rome w/2 others. Have NS-Rome from Dulles on United. This will be my longest and 1st overnight flight. Paid extra for economy plus and have window. Should I buy one of those neck pillows? Use ear plugs for noise? When I land in Rome it will be 8AM local time, body will feel like 2AM. should I attempt to nap? My co-travelers have flow to EU before and IF they can, they nap, but they've also stayed up. just need a few pointers for this 1st timer. Thanks so much. 

United's economy plus is basically just a few more inches of legroom, but it's well worth it for the relatively small extra cost. It differs from Virgin Atlantic's or British Airway's version, which is more expensive, but provides not only wider seats with more legroom, but also a better level of service.  I have an inflatable neck pillow that works quite well, and I would not travel without ear plugs and my iPod -- listening to restful music helps put me to sleep on long flights. Like your colleagues, I've tried it both ways: I've headed right to the hotel for an early check-in and gone to sleep, and I've powered through the day. I prefer sleeping as much as possible on the plane and spending my first day awake, but not all that active. 

From two weeks ago, just a couple things to add: 1) I went to London with my mother when I was in my late teens and loved the Pret-a-Portea at the Berkeley in Knightsbridge. The tea is fashion-themed, so the food changes every 6 months based on new designers' trends. As a bonus, when we were there, the (former?) Duchess of York, Fergie was dining next to us and we sat down with her! I think this tea is every fashion-loving teen girl's fantasy. 2) For the poster looking into Peru, if she only has 5 nights it may be tough to try an experience the food scene plus make it to the Sacred Valley. Machu Piccu takes at least a day and a lot of travel time, so if you're really primarily interested in food it may make sense to skip that part of a trip.

Thanks for circling back on these.

Several years ago I was living/working in Jordan and just needed to get away. So, I took a weekend and went to the Wadi Dana nature reserve, which at that time had just opened. (Wadi Dana is located on the edge of the Dead Sea rift valley, between Kerak and Ma'an.) It was me, the wind and the lizards, and it was just about perfect. The only thing that could have improved it would have been an ibex sighting, but it was the wrong season for them. Now, I fantasize about going to the white spaces on the Verizon cellular coverage map...

Very cool. We had a story about a year ago on the Dana Biosphere Reserve.

After working at a meeting for about 300 people for1 week in San Juan, I went on to Vieques and spend several quiet days reading, enjoying the quiet, eating local food, watching a gecko that would come and go on the patio, and loving one magic evening on Mosquito Bay where I enjoyed the luminescence while the sky was filled with fireworks from the local fiesta.

Check beforehand on the average daytime temperature and the availability of shade, if any, at each site. Then time your visits accordingly. When I went to Tulum, it was around midday and so blazingly, scorchingly hot I don't think I lasted an hour.

Hopefully, a good tour group will time it to avoid the heat of day. 

Joe, you were mentioned on North Country Public Radio this morning! (Food section related).

Yep, I was on Morning Edition today, microwaving things in mugs with David Greene. Now back to Travel!

During the last couple of chats, there have been a couple of questions/comments about taking the train from Edinburgh to London. We did this in 2011 and it was very easy. If you buy as soon as tickets go on sale - generally 11 or 12 weeks out, the fare is very cheap; we paid about 13 pounds each. Goes from Edinburgh Waverly to Kings Cross and takes just over 4 hours. I bought the tickets online in the US and picked them up at the ticket counter. Very relaxing trip and sit on the left side if you can.

Great, thanks for the info. Hope the original poster is still tuning in!

I really enjoyed the Ceremony of the Keys in the Tower of London. It's held after the Tower has closed for the night, and you have to get tickets in advance (probably before you leave for your trip). A friend and I also loved a biking tour we took in the city of London. The tour was given by the same company we rented the bikes from.

Thanks, but do you have the name of the bike company? :)

Can you suggest a lower priced hotel for a one or two night stay in July? My son and his lady friend have never been there and will likely hit the touristy spots; I have stayed in a lot of places from Market Street to the Wharf (on the company expense account) but don't know what's a good suggestion - $150 per night would probably be a lot for them.

The Hotel Tomo looks like an interesting option -- Japanese pop art decor, starts at $130 a night in mid March, and in Japantown, which is actually a pretty fun location. Another possibility, even cheaper, is the Good Hotel, in the artsy SOMA neighborhood. The strip it's on is a little desolate, but it's not far from fun stuff, and the rooms start at $109 in mid-March.

After being a full time grad student with a full time job and a part time job, I needed a vacation pretty badly and decided to visit my sister in Australia. I found that the ridiculously long plane trip to Australia (DCA->ORD->LAX->SYD->BNE) was my best time to unwind. I had no cell service, no email, and no one bugging me. Just a kindle of books I hadn't had time to read, free wine, and lots of sleep. I was nice and relaxed when it came time to see the kangaroos!

I like your attitude. I think traveling would be a lot more pleasant if everyone went into it with the same mindset.

I too was a victim of that AA flight cancellation, but my concern wasn't that they cancelled the flight, it wasn't even that the best that they could do was get me to Key West late Friday night (ruining the 1st day of my vacation), my issue with them was the lack of what I would call Good customer service. I work part time for a local theater and customer service is our lively-hood. When the fault is that of the provider, I would think that the airline would have gone out of their way to ensure that each and every customer impacted was as comfortable as possible. Instead you got agents on the phone with no compassion or understanding what so ever (the attitude of it is what it is and this is the best we can do). I did get a meal voucher, only after actually pressing the ticket agent. I would have thought that at a bare minimum they would have automatically offered something to compensate for the lost time. I more than understand that they aren't always able to accommodate patrons when these things happen, but the lack of a contingency plan imho is inexcusable, esp. for a customer driven industry. My fear is gone are the days of good customer service when it comes to the airlines. What can we as consumers do to let the airlines know that we will not accept the lack of customer service?

Oh, that's a good question. You can still take your business elswhere, at least for now. There are airlines that do understand customer service, and that want your business. I would put JetBlue and Southwest in that category. 

But that's not always an option. An unfettered free market has allowed an oligopoly of several dominant airlines to evolve, and that's at the core of the service problem. Airlines just aren't competitive when they're allowed to create so-called "fortress" hubs in places like Washington, Dallas, and Altanta. They have zero incentive to provide good service.

So we need to take up this problem at a higher level before all of our choices are gone. Maybe there ought to be a law ...

Are there any requirements for interstate bus companies to clean their vehicles between trips? Most of the time the buses I take are clean but when they're not, ewww! doesn't begin to express it.

Oh, I have been on one of those ewww! buses as well. It's hard to keep your nose closed for five hours, isn't it?

Most federal rules center on bus maintenance and condition and  safety, for both the passengers and driver (such as limiting the number of hours a driver can be behind the wheel). For Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration  guidelines, see  here. I don't think picking up the trash is a federal law, but it should be part of the company's rules. Tell the company what you saw and smelled. And next time, take a photo of the rolling junkyard and share it with the world!

My husband and I will be travelling to Charleston and would like to stay within walking distance (say a mile or so) of the central attractions. We don't want the level of interaction that a B&B entails, but we don't want an impersonal motel feel, either. Can you recommend anything? Anything under $150 a night? Thank you!

Bonnie Benwick, our deputy Food editor, liked the Fulton Lane Inn, but I doubt it fits your price limit. I think that might be tough in Charleston, honestly. But sometimes a hotel is the way to go. I stayed at the Hampton Inn -- was quite nice, great location and I didn't think it was impersonal. Even that can be expensive, though...

Beyond the obvious of Biltmore & Chimney Rock, any must see's or best bets in Asheville?

You'd get some good ideas from this piece we ran a couple years back...

I have a friend who just moved to a neighborhood near Stanford University in northern California. I'd visit her anywhere but her new location certainly is sweet! Do you have any advice for flights from DC (Dulles?) to the San Francisco area? I know there's SFO as well as the airports in San Jose and Oakland. Do you have any recommendations for routes or airlines or dates/times to travel as to maximize deals? Thank you!

JetBlue often has some good fares, especially if you willing to take the red-eye home. I'm seeing flights from Dulles to Oakland on JetBlue for as little as $307 round trip, and that's for nonstop flights. I'd also check out United and Virgin America from Dulles to San Francisco. Lots of airlines offer connecting flights, but I'd avoid them, as the fares are not usually that much cheaper. Flying on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday typically saves some money. 

We really enjoyed the Copenhagen Plaza, right by the train station and around the corner from Tivoli.

I am so stoked to see the article on Fairbanks. I just got back Wednesday from a trip to Bettles, Alaska which is 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle and it was so wonderful to be able to disconnect - no cell service, no wireless, one landline for the whole lodge. I'd submitted a question about ticket prices back in December to this chat and got good recommendations on photographing the Northern Lights which came in really handy. Thanks for the chat and the article!

You're welcome! Your comment is making us smile.

I would suggest Palenque in Chiapas, although it may involve some long bus rides. Also high on my list is Cacaxtla for its well preserved murals. This can be combined with a trip to the pyramid in Cholula, and the colonial cities of Puebla and Tlaxcala.

If they're not in a hurry, they could also take Rt. 30 through Ligonier instead of the Turnpike, all the way through Bedford and into Breezewood. Or wind south from Ligonier, stop at Fallingwater, then keep winding south and pick up Interstate 68 in MD.

Exactly -- 30 is the Lincoln Highway I mentioned.

Now that the Northwest/Delta, United/Continental, Southwest/Airtran, and soon American/USAir mergers are complete, how do the Feds ensure any amount of competition so that each base or hub doesn't become a monopoly? What do you see happening when this all settles out? I assume prices will go up, but for now I can't realistically accuse them of price gouging when they all seem to go bankrupt every 5 years or so.

When I was researching the American-US Airways merger story, one of my sources said we were just a merger or two away from having a national carrier. I think that's probably right, and if it happens, we will have a real monopoly.

Within five years? Maybe not. But in our lifetime, probably. I don't think the government will stop it from happening. It rubber-stamped almost every proposed airline merger since 9/11.  Where are those flying cars when you need them?

The article ends with a sentence along the lines of "Nice place to visit, wouldn't want to live there." If the author is about, might he say more about why he wouldn't want to live there? I thought it sounded like a nice place with -- no surprise -- some gritty areas.

Really, it's not about living there... Travel, baby, travel!

Next time - while waiting in line, call AA on your phone as you might get to speak to someone faster. Also, did you ask if you could be put on another airline to get to your destination? We've done that before and even got our original airline to give us the frequent flier miles even though we flew on another airline.

If you also want to do could do a loop trip driving up the coast to crescent city over 2-3 days, Oregon coast for 2 days, Portland for 2, then drive back to San Fran with a stop at crater lake for the day. With a stop makes this a 2 day drive. The other, possibly cheaper option is book you flight XXX-SFO, PDX-XXX then from SFO/ OAK fly to PDX on southwest or Alaska for around $70 pp.

Just returned from Italy, and am now convinced that the best jet lag avoiding is to try to sleep on the plane (mask and ear plugs for me), and then stay awake -- preferably by walking around and getting a lot of sunlight -- the whole first day but go to bed early. Opposite on the way home though, stay awake on the plane. For New Orleans -- Spring is a great time of year, but it's also very busy because of Jazz Fest (April 26 - May 5 this year). Of course that's a great time to go if you want to attend Jazz Fest, but otherwise can lead to jacked up hotel prices and harder restaurant reservations.

I travel solo a lot but the best solo trip was to Portugal in the fall of 2011. It really isn't that long of a plane ride and once I wandered and got lost in the winding streets of Lisbon stopping for a pastry of course. The next day I headed for the mountains of Sintra which are just beautiful and the last day I hit the beach. It was the perfect trip to explore an old city, eat great food, hike in the mountains and then lie on the beach under an umbrella. It was just 4 days but I definitely was able to return to the US relaxed.

"Stopping for a pastry of course." Story of my life.

To the son/daughter who wants to take Mom to ruins: Don't discount Tulum based on all-inclusives. The hotel zone is almost all small, boutique-y hotels, with great food a flat walk away. Swimming in a nearby cenote may be a nice diversion after a tour of ruins. All said, Tulum does get buggy though...

I do all my traveling alone, for the most part, and I LOVE it. So far the best solo trip was a drive from MD to FL with a family reunion, cousin visit, and various restaurant stop offs in between. I love to drive, and the barely highway drive with a fantastic playlist between Carolina Beach, NC and Charleston, SC, stopping at fruit stands and the world's largest frying pan, was super fun and relaxing. Add on a trip to a pirate themed restaurant in Savannah and watching troops of Girl Scouts swarm the Lowe house, my trip was fabulous.

Wow, that is ambitious! Nice that you got to break up the solitude a bit with some family time.

Option 1---- go to yellowstone up about 5 hrs, you could stop for night in Idaho falls. 2 days in Yellowstone night in Gardner or ooke city or west Yellowstone. After a day in yellowstone drive down to Jackson for the night. Next day in grand Teton. Leave at night to rock springs for the night. Then drive south to Moab for Canyonlands and arches for a few nights. You could use this or Monticello as a base to then do Mesa verde and monument valley if you extend this to 10 days. Drive back to SLC at night. Option 2....... Do Utah/Arizona. Go to Moab for a few days then after a morning in Moab drive down to monument valley for sunset, then night in page then do north rim, Zion, and Bryce then return to SLC.

Thank you. Excellent suggestions.

Hi I recently moved to Manhattan and I'm in need of some nature this weekend (hiking and such). Any suggestions for a place that's a short drive away to stay overnight Saturday. Just me, a single 30 year old lady. I have a free night at a Marriott property that expires in March, so if possible would like to choose a place where I can use that. Thanks!

Bear Mountain/Harriman state parks are a little more than an hour's drive from Manhattan. The area offers 200 miles of hiking trails, and it won't be crowded at this time of year. There are a couple of Marriotts within 10/12 miles, including the Courtyard Marriott in Mahwah, N.J. 

This is wonderful road trip. My sister and I did it a few years ago from DC. We took two weeks and stayed in Bed and Breakfast places.

Awesome! I've vowed to do this some day. (Early warning to my husband and dogs.)

Kruger (near Joberg) is the largest/most well known safari. If you are in Joberg and have time there is a great bike tour through Soweto. There are many local flights which are pretty cheap between Capetown and Joberg. Capetown is fabulous. Around the waterfront lots of restaurants etc. There are many wonderful wineries nearby and driving around the coast is great. Also, table mountain gives a spectacular view of the city.

We came across a great deal in Expedia for a motel over the president's weekend. It claimed an indoor pool in MA. We needed to go up there and envisioned a relaxing day at the pool and some catching up on reading. Well when we got there they said the pool was not open. The bulbs in the room were so dark we could not read (we replaced them with brighter bulbs during our stay). Finally they promised breakfast (which I don't usually do) but it was snowing so badly we did not want to go out. No breakfast not even coffee or hot water so we slipped and slided to a local diner. We did accomplish the business so it was not a total lose but I feel that the motel should have updated their website. If we decided not to stay after being told no pool how easy do you think it would have been to get a refund from expedia? Dinner folks told us about another motel that did have an indoor pool and did have a decent breakfast.

Did you complain to the hotel management about both these problems? I'm always curious how they react to people who booked through a third-party site. More importantly, since you did book through Expedia, you should complain to them. It's their job to make sure the property descriptions on their site are accurate.

Posting early as I will not be around for today's live chat. Really enjoyed your Discovering Cameroon article from two weeks ago. For anyone wanting a good read about the country, check out Dervla Murphy's 1989 book 'Cameroon with Egbert' on her adventures with her daughter and a horse called Egber. Please note, a French family was kidnapped at gunpoint on 20th February, 2013 in a park in northern Cameroon, near the border with Nigeria.  Hence, a US State Department warning advising travellers to avoid the far north of Cameroon.

Thanks for the info.

I'm a 20-something women planning to take a solo long weekend trip to Nashville sometime this spring. I'd love to get some ideas from you or the chatters about things to do in the city (I love country music and southern food), where I should stay to keep my costs down, etc. Thanks in advance!

Nashville is such an amazing town, and you will trip over so many music joints and dining spots. I recently visited the city with Kallie Khouri, who created the show, "Nashville."  In the article, she recommends a number of restaurants, attractions and neighborhoods to check out.  Among them: Bluebird to hear songwriters' perform, and  Loveless Cafe for breakfast.

Downtown properties can be expensive, especially if there is a special event that weekend. You might want to look in East Nashville or a few miles from the city center.  I would check the usual online suspects and grab a cheap chain. You won't need your room for more than a few hours of sleep.

Hi. We are planning to take Amtrak from DC to Chicago this Memorial Day Weekend. It will be on the Capitol Limited and my first time using Amtrak for sleeper accomodations. We got a roommette. We're two guys (one 5'11, the other 5'5) - do you think we will be comfortable in the roommette. I really don't want to splurge on a bigger room. Any other Capitol Limited suggestions? Thanks.

I haven't done it, but looks pretty good to me -- the bunk beds are plenty long enough to accommodate your heights, and it's pretty cool that it transitions from seats to beds so you can sit up, walk around, go to the dining car, etc., until it's time to sleep, then convert to the bunks and start snoozing. Obviously, the person on the bottom bunk will find it easier to get up and out in the middle of the night if you need to use the bathroom or just stretch your legs. Chatters, anybody done this trip and have other suggestions?

Twenty-one years ago, I had just confirmed that I was pregnant with my first child. A last-minute job crisis prevented my husband from joining our group's annual trip to Yosemite, but I traveled with friends. Although this pregnancy was very-much wanted, I knew that our lives were going to change drastically and permanently. I spent a lot of the weekend walking around the park. The awe-inspiring beauty and peace of Yosemite helped me to absorb these changes. (And my son is now an engaging 20-year old college student.)

I was on St. Croix for a work trip and extended my stay by a few days. I was in Christiansted and didn't have a car. Luckily, it's a very compact and pretty town. I have no idea if there is a nightlife, because that's not what I was looking for. I stayed at the Hotel on the Cay which has it's own beach and a breakfast and lunch restaurant. There were a couple of relatively inexpensive and really good restaurants right on the boardwalk. It may not be my first choice for Caribbean Islands, but it was lovely nonetheless. Except for the sunburn. That was wicked.

Sata airlines has good prices connecting from Boston through the Azores to Lisbon. Pousadas, converted castles and palaces, have reasonable prices for lodging in Portugal.

Copenhagen and inexpensive are two words rarely seen in the same sentence. An option I've used twice is staying in Malmo, Sweden, taking the train to and from Copenhagen central station. The train is pricey, but lodging in Copenhagen was so much higher that I saved money by staying in Sweden. There are a couple of Radisson/SAS hotels near the Malmo train station that you might want to look into.

Interesting thought.

Were just there and if you're not looking for anything fancy can attest that the Best Western Tuscan Inn down by Fisherman's Wharf (on the edge of North Beach) is a good deal at around $150 and convenient to all the tourist stuff. The wharf can be packed in the summer though so depends if you like being in that action or not - offseason is great though. We also stayed at the fancier Le Meridien in the financial district at the same price b/c the lobby is under construction (but it was not noisy or much incovenience unless you like hanging out in hotel lobbies).


After a particularly tiresome immigration experience recently at DFW, I am considering the 'global entry' program. Before I get into the online questions, I was wondering if you had been thru it? What level of detail on previous travel - I traveled for work in the 90's, but don't have a clue for dates, for example. How far back does travel info go? Do they want references for the background investigation part? Thanks!

I've spoken with numerous air travelers who have applied for Global Entry. The biggest complaint I get are that the interviews are in inconvenient places and can take a while to get. I haven't heard about intrusive questions, although many critics say they're going about it the wrong way. Instead of pre-clearing the low risk passengers, they should be identifying the ones that could cause harm to a flight. But I digress. If you run into any problems with your Global Entry application, please let me know. There's also an ombudsman who can assist.

I'm sure you are asked this all the time so I thank you in advance for taking my question. I'm going to visit my folks in June or July. I always get nervous about waiting for better prices but I don' t want to buy too early. Cheapest prices are around lower $400 range which seems good-normal. Would you wait for a sale?

I don't know that there's a dependable time for tickets to drop to LAX, but I think you should keep open the possibility of flying out of IAD, unless that just makes things too annoying (and, yes, it does add some expense depending on where you live in the DC area). Anyway, I see nonstop flights from IAD at $360 on United in June, and a smidge more for a layover flight from DCA on Delta -- so maybe you could swing DCA indeed. Bing's predictor is saying to wait because fares are dropping by $50 or more, but I'd keep a close eye, because I can't imagine that they'll get all that much cheaper than that.

Hi Travel gurus! I am trying to figure what kind of clothing I should bring to my 3 week trip in SE asia. It will be hot and humid, what kind of clothing is best for this? Would those exercise type "wick away" clothes work? What kinds of clothing are good for travel - light packing (no wrinkles) and breathable? I would like clothes that don't scream "grungy" or "workout" - was hoping for something that I could dress up too. Also - hats - what are some decent looking hats I can bring that is packable and will protect my face and neck? I looked online, but I am not much of a fan of those large hats with the big goofy fabric flap on the back. =/ Thank you!

I typically wear light cotton skirts and dresses with tanks or T-shirts. I never bring anything linen or heavy; for cool nights, I will pack a cotton sweater and a light jacket and a large scarf that covers half my torse. I never worry about wrinkling because, honestly, Southest Asia is not a buttoned-up kind of place.

Wick-away clothes are good, because they let your skin breath and don't hold onto sweaty scents. Check REI for options. I typically buy cheap skirts and dresses at Old Navy or the Gap. 

I usually wear a baseball hat, but if you want a dressier topper, buy a canvas hat (bucket or brimmed) that you can ball up. Mountain Hardwear  and Tilley have some cute options. If you worried about your neck burning in the sun, throw a bandana into your bag.

Also, leave room for new clothes. I bought ballet flats in China that lasted through the whole trip (they fell apart back in D.C.) and silk wraps in Vietnam that are still in great shape.

Combo answer! We have a flight booked from Dulles to San Fran, then driving to Portland, and flying back home. Airfare was $350 round trip on United (in June), I thought it was a great deal! We only have 7 days and deeper into planning I think 10 days would have been more perfect for site seeing between the two cities, there is so much natural beauty to check out. That said, zipping between the two cities makes our one way car rental only $250, to help people with the budgeting ideas.

Great to hear! Thanks much.

About six months after my baby was born, my husband and I (and baby) went to my parent's cabin in Quebec. My dad was with us, and he and my husband went to town one afternoon to buy some supplies for fixing the cabin. I stayed home with the baby and I think it was the first time we'd been absolutely alone together. There was no cell phone, no email, no cars, no people. Just me and my baby on a blanket, the breeze, warm sunshine, and dragonflies on the wildflowers.

We stayed there about 15 years ago when an airlines put us there on a two daya flight from Moscow to the US. It was very nice at the time. It still has a website and looks reasonable - no rating on TripAdivisor tho so I'm not sure what that means. It was small and perfect for our trip.

Yes the reply was the reason the rate was so inexpensive was because the pool was out of service.

Take your complaint to Expedia, pronto.

We are planning a two week trip to Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast this fall and I have been looking at places on-line that list short-term rentals. We hope to go with our two grown sons and their significant others. Do you know anything about these services? Are they trustworthy? Are there any you recommend? What kind of issues should I be aware of? 

There are hundreds of companies that offer short-term rentals. Some are agencies that represent owners, while others are Web sites that offer direct-from-owner rentals. I'd request current photos, ask for references and pay by credit card in case there is an issue. If it's an agency, ask how long they've been in business, and if they are U.S. based, look them up on the Better Business Bureau's site.  

Sometimes you don't want it...On a flight about 15 years ago, in a Thunderstorm, plane was struck, dropped several hundred feet in air, think airplane pothole. Flight attendants came down the aisle later telling us they weren't sure exactly what happened, but "pray to whatever God you believe in." Wasn't the best message, but I give them props for being politically correct.

I'm running the Paris Marathon April 7 and have built a little Vacation around it (depart 4/4 arrive Paris 4/5-4/9 then two days in London on the back end. That being said, the day after marathon 4/8 is probably going to be a limited mobility day (three other marathons experience). Any recommendations of fun things to do in the Marais that don't involve lots of steps and standing?

How about riding around on the L'Open Tour hop-on and -off bus, but never do the off part?

I love a good theater festival for solo travelling. Stratford and Shaw in Ontario are my favorites. You can be "on your own" without actually being completely alone. My only obligations are to be at the theaters on time for my shows (and I get GREAT seats when reserving a single) and other than that I can browse books stores, wander along the river (Stratford) or the lake (Shaw), put together picnics or whatever I want. Shopkeepers in tourist towns are great conversationalists when I want a little more interaction.

We stayed at the Best Western King Charles Inn right downtown a few years ago. It was newly remodeled at the time, and delightful. Service was excellent.

Thank you all so much!

We three sisters are exploring a trip to Kruger National Park in S. Africa. But one sister is terrified to do anything outside an escorted tour, fearing violence. What do you think?

I think that she is not being fair to South Africa. Though there are some areas requiring more street smarts than others (like the United States), you can tour solo without fear.

I wandered around Cape Town without any concerns. Just be smart and walk in populated areas during daylight or dining hours.

Thanks for another engaging hour. I'm going to close my eyes and think about all your wonderful tales of solitude while I'm on the Metro this evening. Today's winner is the traveler who drove from Maryland to Florida -- I admire your spirit! Please send your name and address to so I can send you your prize. 

We'll see you all next week -- same time, same place.

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