Talk about Travel: Kansas, flying cheap on Spirit and the fruits of Florida

Feb 27, 2012

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.

Good Monday, everyone. After a week off, we're happy to be back chatting with you, albeit in slightly depleted numbers. Zofia, Andrea and Carol are on the road, but the rest of us will do our best to help you. I hope you've had a chance to check out our stories from this weekend, including a tasty trip to Florida's Redlands agricultural area, Andrea's quest to avoid fees on Spirit and Annie Gowen's lovely account of returning home to Kansas. Spinning off of Annie's story, tell us about how you reconnect with your roots when you go home. Best answer gets the prize. Let the games begin!

Over the years while visiting Florida's Gulf coast I have seen fenced off areas on the beach protecting turtles' nests. I would love to one day witness the hatching and journey to the water of the baby turtles. Do you have any idea how I can plan to do this?

The Gulf Coast is a great place to see turtles hatching. I've done it on the Treasure Coast of Florida. Here's a story on the Visit Florida site with information about tours. It's an amazing experience, and I highly recommend it.

Hi Gurus! Are there still non-stop flights from DC to Cancun? I'm hoping to go there over NYE with some friends, but my searches are pulling up no non-stops. Perhaps is it just too far out? Many thanks!

Looks like Continental/United flies nonstop out of Dulles.

A friend and I are traveling to moscow and st Petersburg this summer. We like to travel independently but we've been told it's not so easy in Russia and we should consider travel agency to plan our trip--helping book hotels, train travel, day tours,etc. Do you agree or can we easily do it ourselves? Any recommended agencies who specialize in Russia travel if we go that "route"? Thanks!

I would go with an agent if it's your first trip. You can find one who specializes in Russia on the ASTA website. Look for a destination specialist certification like one offered through the Travel Institute.

Virginia's best train vacation is Roanoke, an 1882 backwater that railroads transformed from "Big Lick" into the city constructing the world's most powerful steam engines and still fabricating freight cars. A Roanoke Train Vacation could include travel via Amtrak and connecting bus, a meal or stay at the railroad-built and still elegant 130 year old Hotel Roanoke, views of freight trains from an enclosed pedestrian overpass, an unforgettable tour of Virginia's Official Transportation Museum ( with rare behemoth steam engines, and a visit to the unique O. Link Museum ( with its large collection of steam train era portraits. All venues are within walking distance. Total cost, each way is $33: $29 (Amtrak, NE Lynchburg Regional only, 14 day fare) and $4 cash (the wildly popular Smart Way Amtrak Connector Bus) started only last July. Google "Roanoke Train Vacation" for more information.

What a thoughtful recommendation for the chatter the other week looking for a train trip into Virginia out of D.C. Thanks!

I've tasked my husband with finding a hotel or B&B to stay in for one (maybe two) weekend nights in March. It doesn't matter if it is in the city or out, but we would prefer it to be no more than a 1.5 hour drive (we live in Arlington). Hot tubs are out but a big soaking tub would be okay. Any ideas on if we could possible get a great deal on a hotel in DC or maybe a nice B&B (nothing Victorian in nature though) for a little break before the baby comes? Thanks.

Go to the Inn at Willow Grove. It's in a lovely part of Virginia. They'll certainly pamper you -- beignets delivered in the morning, dessert delivered in the evening -- and you can pamper yourself in the huge soaking tub in their Carriage House West suite, where I stayed.

Hello everyone, The article about the difficulty of redeeming reward points for tickets added yet another level of confusion to an issue I'm wrestling with. I want to take my family of 5 (3 kids 11 and under) to Italy next summer and airfare is the budget killer. Since we do not travel for work and have no loyalty points to use, I want to figure out now the smartest way to accumulate miles. It seems like British Airways might be our best bet since they offer a child discount, even though they don't necessarily fly to the exact cities we wanted to arrive and depart from (Florence and Naples). Can you offer any advice for the best credit card choices for accumulating and redeeming miles to Europe? Between business and personal expenses we have over $10,000 per month in purchases. Thank you!!

I'm sorry to have added to the confusion. I can't recommend any affinity cards, although you might check a site like InsideFlyer or for ideas. I think you'd probably be better off looking for an inexpensive airfare, even one that doesn't let you collect miles. (Remember, many miles actually have a negative value, because they cost more to collect than they give back.)

When I go home to southern Connecticut, I always take my kids to the pond behind the house where I grew up. All the neighborhood kids skated on the pond for most of the winter (as long as the nearest neighbor Mr. Miko had tested the ice and said it was okay for skating). The boys played "chicken," skating over the thinnest ice until sometimes, someone fell in and had to be pulled out of freezing water, we always had a fire that the oldest kids made and tended so warm our feet, and almost everyone was out there after school every day -- homework never seemed to interfere. To my kids who (sadly) spend their weekday afternoons on the computer doing homework, it seems like another planet.

When I go home to Connecticut, I always make a special trip to Wooster Square for New Haven style pizza. Pete's in DC is great but it's not the same.

Yum! I was just at Pete's last night. I'll be in Connecticut this summer, so maybe a trip to New Haven is in order.

We are cruising in Alaska early Sept., heard that the weather and visibility might be a problem , whats your take on this?

That's correct. I cruised to Alaska in September, and we encountered some rough conditions in the Pacific. Even the crew got seasick. If you cruise in September,  go early in the month.

I am very new to the area and have a young friend (age 19) visiting over the weekend of March 17/18. He's never been here. What shall we do? He arrives Saturday evening to National Airport & departs late Sunday from Union Station.

Where to start? Here's a great story from our Weekend section/Going Out Guide colleagues on how to live it up with your under-21 relatives. They have a ton more ideas in a bunch of their neighborhood guides. It really wouldn't be a trip to D.C. without one Smithsonian museum -- pick the one that appeals most to his interests. Just walk around all the monuments. The cherry blossoms may be making an appearance by then.

My wife and I are renting a 2 BR house in southern France for a week and a studio apartment in Paris for another week. In our communication with prospective landlords in France, it appears that France requires the renter to take out insurance for the property for the rental period. Is that correct? Any suggestions of where to go for that?

I'm unaware of any legal requirement (chatters, if you know otherwise, please chime in). Some landlords may require that you buy insurance, though. I would check to see if your existing travel insurance or homeowners or rental insurance offers some coverage.

I'll be in London on business for a week in April, but will have a free Saturday to be a tourist on my own time. As I'll be able to see all the major sites in the afternoons/evenings, I'd like to head out of London for a day trip but am torn between heading up to Edinburgh or crossing the Channel to Paris. None of the tour companies run trips on Saturdays, so I'm on my own. What would you recommend for a female traveler with only a camera in tow?

I think both are fine for a female traveler. You can't go wrong with either, really. But I'd give the slight edge to Paris, because, hey, it's Paris!

When's the best time to head down to Florida to see the turtles hatching?

May through October. We went in June and it was quite a scene at the beach.

Heading to St. Lucia this week! Any "can't miss" sites or restaurants from the Flight Crew or the chatters?


Hometown: Buffalo, NY. Method of Reconnecting: Eating! I try to keep a strict itinerary (meal-wise) when I'm home, so I can be sure to hit all of my favorite spots: chicken wings and grilled cheese at Duff's; pizza at Bocce's; roast beef on 'weck at Anderson's; Ted's for hot dogs; tacos at Ziggy's; and, of course, homemade ravioli at Grandma's. I only make it home about once a year, so I usually start building a caloric deficit about two weeks in advance of the trip! The best part is that, because Bflo is a small-ish town, no matter where I dine, I'm sure to run into a cousin or someone from middle school or high school...killing two birds with one delicious stone! :)

I'm lucky, because home for me is New Orleans. I always go home for Mardi Gras (best holiday of the year) and get immersed in South Louisiana culture. Popeye's, king cake, parades, po boys, crawfish, Abita, marching bands... it was only last week but I'm already homesick again!

Paris has another edge on my favorite city--Edinburgh. The Eurostar from St Pancras to Gare du Nord is FAST. No time wasted getting to/from Heathrow and to/from Edinbugh (add at least an hour to the travel time plus waiting time for security). The train ride from Kings Cross to Waverley is beautiful but takes about 6 hours each way, so there isn't much time for Edinburgh itself.

Recently booked a trip to Berlin, Germany from Dulles on KLM through Amesterdam in April for $1005. Soon after I received an email with the intinerary confirmation and breakdown of charges. It shows the airfare as $300+ and then taxes are listed as almost $700. Is this right? The taxes are twice the airfare? Something seems off about this.

That's probably correct. Taxes are ridiculous on some European fares. I may write something about this soon -- would you mind sending me a quick note?

Is an international driver's license required for renting a car in France?

Not required, but recommended according to the French Embassy.

Per BWI's website, Airtran offers a nonstop from BWI to Cancun.

Yes, they do. Thanks!

wanted to apologize to Chris Elliott for thinking he was on the first Virgin America flight into Palm Springs. It was a Chris Mc'"something" from San Francisco.

No need to apologize. That probably would have been Chris McGinnis, a terrific journalist who specializes in business travel.

Hi. Heading to Charlottesville from DC this weekend. Any ideas for off-the-beaten-path excursions? Any wineries that are particularly good? We're interested in outdoor activities, art/culture, architecture, good food. Thanks!

Haha, I think we just need to have a stock answer for Charlottesville since so many people ask! Lots of good wineries, but about a half hour away is the highly regarded Barboursville Winery. Good architecture can be found, of course, at U.Va. Food: Mas, Peter Chang's China Grill and more. That's just a start!

will they be early this year of a mild weather?

Good question. The experts with the National Park Service will weigh in Thursday.

Hi Travel Gurus, My husband and I recently booked flights on United from BWI to LAX for a trip we're taking in May. We also paid for the Economy Plus upgrade each way, which is about 5 inches of extra leg room, for an extra $196. Today, I received a voicemail from United, telling me that our flight times have changed, and to check our reservations online. The flight times were actually better, so initially I had no problem with it. When I looked at our reservations, however, I saw that we had no assigned seats - problematic because we had paid for the upgrade. The website would not allow me to view the seats, and the prompt told me to call United. After being on hold for more than a half hour, the customer service rep told me that the flights have been moved to Continental aircrafts, which were not equipped with Economy Plus seating, and that I had to submit an email for a refund. I have to submit for the refund? What kind of a policy is that? Through no fault of my own, the seats are not available, and I have to take the extra step to ask for a refund, and then hope someone follows through on it? Is this typical? Why isn't this automatic? Shouldn't their system recognize that the seats I paid for are no longer available and automatically credit the card I used? I think this is an outrageous policy, as I don't think the onus should be on the customer to ask for a refund. I have sent an email because I didn't want to waste time, but do I have any other options here? Thank you!

The Continental - United merger, which is now in its final throes - has been an unqualified IT disaster, according to some employees and customers. I'm not surprised they're asking you to submit a request for a refund, even though the change was initiated by United. If you run into trouble with it, please send me an email and I'll do what I can to help.


Can you start giving your prize to contributors with the most helpful suggestion? I am looking for travel info when I read this. I really don't want to read 30 submissions about blizzard or cruises or whatever the topic is. I'm sure there are others out there who enjoy reading these. But they seem to overpower the chat and sometimes I rarely walk away with useful info. Maybe you can go halfsies and do that half of the time only.

Interesting idea. We do this in the Food chat. Will run it by our fearless leader, Zofia, who is off today.

How do the rest of you all feel?

Whenever I go home to the "auld sod" in the Philly and other areas in the North, I try to reconnect with my family and friends who live in that neck of the woods. I did that recently, back in April 2011, when my mother's family held a reunion outside Boston. I discovered relatives I didn't even know about because I had never seen them at family Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and weddings. I also heard about family tales I had never heard because they were seldom spoken about, and I saw some places where my Mother's family lived while growing up. It was a great time to reconnect, and a time to learn about one's family roots. I hope to do this again in the near future, and perhaps learn more about my Dad's side of the family.

When I go home to Omaha, I reconnect with my roots via food. There's a lot of restaurants in Omaha (where I grew up) that are either single locations there or chains that haven't made it out to DC/Baltimore yet. My favorite places are the Bohemian Cafe and the Lithuanian Cafe -- places I grew up with. Sometimes I'm glad there's no where serving great Eastern Europe food out here (or at least that I've found) because it keeps those places even more special to me.

A lot of these are food-related, and I love it.

After retirement, I am contemplating a round the world trip. What blogs, articles or infomation are available? What costs should be considered? Can trips be very flexible, stay somewhere longer than planned etc?

Here's former Post editor Maryann Haggerty's story from the other year on her 'round-the-world trip. You can also check out her blog for more ideas. Costs? I suppose there's lots to consider -- everything from plane tickets to insurance and what you plan to do with your house and household goods when you're gone. There are companies that specialize in selling plane tickets for these kinds of trips, and I think they do allow for flexibility.

We're taking my mom, age 90, to New York for a few days in late March. She is an amazing woman--she loves the city and can easily walk long distances. Her one physical failing is her hearing. We want to go to some type of show, but plays are difficult. Last time we saw Blue Man group which she loved. SHe also enjoyed Stomp and Cirque du Soleil. Any other ideas where hearing dialogue is not essential?

Check out the Web site of a group called My HIP Lifestyle (don't let that name turn you off; HIP stands for Hearing Is Precious). It has a list of venues nationwide that can provide assistive listening devices to patrons. In NYC, it mentions the Ambassador Theater, Friedman Theater, Foxwood Theater and Gershwin Theater, plus several museums.  Here's a link.

If you're going to be near Castries, check out the Coal Pot, which is in kind of an out-of-the-way location, but it's a great restaurant. Obviously, seafood would be the best choice there. I believe the owners and operators are a French couple, and you're very likely to be greeted in French as you enter. We made two visits for dinner and found the food and service to be excellent both times. M. Ribot was very helpful in selecting a wine, steering us on one occasion to a less expensive choice that proved to be delicious.

Hello, I have a rather specific question for you. I am disabled in a wheelchair and will be in South Africa in April. I am interested in going on a Safari. Do you have any tips for planning a safari being disabled? Do you know anything about local support? Thanks!

I would recommend the services of a travel agent who has some experience booking trips for clients with mobility issues. You can find a list at the Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality site

Hi there: We're heading to Egypt at the end of April, and -- although it's been a little difficult persuading friends and family that this is a good thing -- we are very excited! My question is, at that time of year (which I understand is that end of spring, verrrrrry beginning of summer), and in the current political climate, what sort of clothing should we bring? We will be doing a Nile cruise, so we will be somewhat separated from the country for much of the trip, but we still want to behave appropriately. For women, will wide-leg black linen/rayon pants work? Or will they be too hot? Zip-off REI "adventure" pants? Three-quarters-sleeved button-down shirts? How about for men -- will black pants be ok, or should we go for khaki? We've never been to a desert like this before, or hiked through tombs. There is a pretty strict weight limit -- 40 pounds TOTAL, for all luggage -- so we have to be very, very thoughtful about what we're bringing. Thanks for any help!

Here's what the Egypt tourism folks say:

In April and May temperatures are generally mild and this is an ideal time to visit any destination in Egypt.

Anyone else have advice?

I'll be traveling solo to Chicago for a weekend in late April. I'm planning on going to the theater one night, and to the Field Museum and Chicago Art Museum one day, but is there anything I shouldn't miss that I don't need a car to get to?

Cliche, yes, but check out the Navy Pier. You'll want to linger and enjoy the sunshine if it's a lovely day. The ferris wheel is nice. You might also like the architecture tours by train and boat that our on-leave boss Joe Yonan wrote about.

Dear travel editors: We are trying to organize a mini-family reunion for July 4-8, 2012. We have 12 people coming various parts of the US -- DC, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, and Fargo ND. We were hoping to rent a 6-bedroom beach house in Delaware or thereabouts, but are realizing that most beach houses require a Saturday check-in and check-out (and we'll be available on a Wednesday through a Sunday). Because it's a busy holiday weekend, we know that availability may be low, wherever we go. Can you recommend a fun place (ideally near a beach or some body of water) and ideally near a relatively major airport (so that, for example, we don't have to have people trying to fly to a smaller airport like Norfolk and driving to the Outer Banks.) Florida sounds hot, but we can consider it -- perhaps a resort since we only have 4 nights. Our budget is flexible, but we'd like to avoid spending an overly large sum of money. Thank you.

A tall order indeed! 12 people on a holiday weekend is quite a challenge. Since you're willing to consider Florida, try checking out Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach and environs. An easy drive from Jacksonville airport, which is "relatively major."  I just checked out the Amelia Island Web site and found about 30 possibilities based on your dates. Chatters, other ideas?

Hey Travelers! Could you recommend one or two Caribbean island destinations for a group of girls in our early 30s. Our inaugural Girls' Trip was to Aruba last year and we were somewhat disappointed in the "scene," which was more commercial than we expected. This year, we want to go somewhere that has more of a local culture scene: fewer big resorts and cheesy club chains; more locally owned restaurants, shops, hotels, etc. Thanks!!

I'll point you to two stories we had in recent years on islands you might like: Curacao and Barbados.

I flew on Copa Airlines in December, and they lost my bag; I eventually got it back (the day after we returned to the US), but I was without it for the duration of a 12-day cruise, so I had to buy some clothes in Brazil. The Copa rep at Dulles agreed that they would reimburse me for the expense (about $200), and that it should take 3-4 weeks. However, that was almost 7 weeks ago and I have had no response other than "we're checking and will let you know." Of course, I can never talk to a live person, so I always have to leave voice-mails, and my last two calls haven't even been returned. Does anyone on staff have any additional contact information so I can get hold of someone who might get the situation resolved? (I already sent this inquiry as a regular e-mail to travel (at) washpost (dot) com, but I don't know if I had the address right. Thanks!

Email addresses at Copa follow the convention first So CEO Pedro Heilbron's address would be Might be worth sending him a brief, polite email.

I bet most of us reconnect through food! I don't get back to the old stomping grounds very often - that would be the Adirondacks - but when I do there is one particular farmstand I HAVE TO stop at: Rulf's Orchards in Peru, NY. Fresh cider and warm sugared cider donuts are the tastes of my childhood. If I'm not there during cider season, they always have great produce and homemade pies. If I get up there in the early Spring, I also go to Parker's Sugar House in Altona, NY, and buy maple syrup. When I can't get up there at all, Parker's ships UPS and I make do with cider from a downstate orchard selling at one of NYC's greenmarkets, but it's not the same.

Every year growing up, we rented cabins at Silver Lake Sand Dunes in Michigan. The cabins aren't fancy - they're about one step up from a camper - but my aunts/uncles/cousins/grandparents were renting all of the cabins around us so we could run freely between the cabins for the whole week. I had twins about a year and a half ago - this summer will be the second year we're renting our own cabin - in the same group of cabins, close enough to the cabins my parents and aunts/uncles/cousins rent that my girls should be able to run down to Grandma's cabin on their own. We're going back to the place that have my best memories growing up, and making new memories with them.

Both Edinburgh and Paris are quite far from London for a day trip. I would recommend heading to Bath, York, Cambridge or Oxford for a day trip. If you are comfortable driving, Longleat, outside of Bath, is the home of the Marquess of Bath and with lovely grounds a palace. Bath has great restaurants and shopping. If you head to Edinburgh for a day, that's 8 hours of travel. Heading to Paris is over 6 hours of travel. Factor in getting to the area you want to be in both cities and you don't have a ton of time.

The train ride from London to Edinburgh is a solid 5 hours, which makes it kind of a long trip for a day trip (though it's a beautiful ride and Edinburgh is a great city to walk around in for a day). I can't remember the exact time, but the EuroStar from London to Paris is quicker, I believe. Plus, yeah, it's Paris!

I know Chris believes it isn't worth accumulating miles, but I continue to travel extensively on mine. I have a conference in Switzerland this spring, so work is paying for that flight, but I am adding a few weeks of vacation and all of the intra-European travel will be through my miles. You have to be a little flexible about dates and flight times, but I almost always get what I want w/ a good itinerary. It has saved me a fortune. Note I am traveling alone...were I seeking more than a single ticket it would be more challenging. But it's worked really well for me.

Right you are. By the way, I've always said that some travelers can benefit from miles -- you're obviously one of them.

What is a passenger to do when forced to stay on a plane, fly to 4 destinations instead of the original 2, denied food, sleep, sanitary conditions and arrives without luggage more than 10 hours later than the promised arrival? Apparently our USAirways jet arrived on the island Saturday afternoon (2-18-12) with only enough fuel to make it to St. Maarten despite the knowledge of a "fuel strike" issue. We boarded the plane for our 5:50 take off only to learn that there was no fuel to go anywhere. The crew seemed blindsided and as annoyed as we were. (USAirWays apparently was aware of the issue). We finally siphoned fuel from another jet to get us to Puerto Rico where we were told we'd go through customs and TSA and grab another flight home. Arriving in PR just 30 minutes later - around 9 pm a man with a gun greeted the plane on the jet way and we were denied entry. Customs and TSA had gone home. We waited on the plane for a bit while a new plan was devised. More fuel was obtained and we had to fly to Miami since the crew had already flown too long. After a 3.5 hour flight we landed in Miami during the immigration shift change - yet another long wait. While we were on the ground in PR USAirways promised us dinner once we made it to the states. (We had not had access to any food since boarding the plane in St. Maarten.) Several times in route I asked if once we cleared customs if I could be rerouted to my final destination. I was assured that USAirways always looks at a passengers final destination and adjusts their schedule to accommodate the passenger when "things" happen. In Miami I asked to stay in the airport and take the next plane home to DC rather than getting on yet another plane for 3 hours to Philly. I was told rather nastily "not at this late date" and herded through security and onto the plane. At the head of the jet way there was a cardboard box with small snacks such as nuts, cookies, cheese as people reached in to grab a couple the USAirways person kept yelling that we could only take one. Then we were told it was open seating on a smaller plane. Mind you I had paid for an upgraded seat. We were kept on the tarmac until 2:30 am and were told the luggage conveyor belt had broken. Once on the plane I was repeatedly kicked in the back of the seat by the belligerent man behind me. I asked if there was a problem and was yelled at and told he had no room (he was about 5'9"). I asked him to stop kicking me and he refused and continued. Pushing the call button didn't seem to work so I got up and went to the back of the plane to ask the flight attendants for assistance. Reluctantly they came up and spoke to him. He continued to kick. I went to the front of the plane for those attendants who were also reluctant, but came back and talked to him. There solution was to have me move to the back of the plane in a center seat which I refused. A woman in is row moved so he could have two seats. Then he began kicking the man in the window seat in my row, shouting profanity and really just out of control. The attendants gave him a beer. On deplaning in Philly, we were assigned a new plane - mine a prop jet leaving at 9:11 am - we arrived at 5:30 am. BTW we were also promised hotel rooms which didn't happen. I inquired about my luggage and was assured it was booked through to DC. We landed and there was no luggage. it was later delivered to my home. On a leg of the trip I had called USAirways for help and for assistance getting off the plane in Miami. I was told reservations couldn't help me and there was not a number for complaints or issues. I was given an email address. I sent an email while waiting in Miami and updated it when I arrived home. I asked for a phone call. They called late one night, sent an email asking when they could call within a 48 - 72 hour window. I gave them huge windows of opportunity to call. They called during the time I told them I wasn't available. They have sent me an email giving me a voucher for another USAirways flight for $125 that I can't use on the internet making the offer virtually worthless. I paid for services I didn't obtain - luggage and seat, was kept a prisoner, denied food, sleep and sanitary conditions and subjected to an assault. What recourse do I have?

What a mess! I would narrow down your list of complaints to the most significant ones and maybe send an appeal to one of the following US Airways executive contacts

Back in 1990, The Post travel section recommended guided walking trips in England offered by The English Wanderer. Because the featured Cornwall outing was sold out, I joined their Wensleydale trip -- it was great! Sadly, the English Wanderer went out of business some years ago. I still want to go to Cornwall, and someday I really will do the Coast to Coast! Who would you recommend for walking trips now? I'm looking for modest accommodations for a modest price.

We can't offer first-person recommendations on these, but you could look into the Sierra Club, Country Walkers, the Wayfarers and HF Holidays. Anyone have other suggestions?

That's a good suggestion. Maybe you could print only the five best entries at the end of the chat and then announce the winner. Or, each challenge could require a informative travel suggestion - you've done this sometimes, like ways to entertain yourself while traveling, etc.

I definitely agree that the Travel Chats have often been inundated with stories about personal travel (to win a prize) rather than helpful information to answer travel questions. I would go so far as to suggest that all the weekly prizes be for helpful suggestions and to eliminate the personal stories all together. (OK, maybe have them once a month--I don't want to appear to be an ogre.)

We want to take our teens on a quick (and affordable) getaway during the last week of March. We're open to just about any destination that is a direct flight away from DC, hopefully not too expensive. Is there a website that searches for this kind of thing (in other words, without requiring the input of a specific destination?) Any suggestions for specific places?

Try Wanderfly, Kayak Explore and Expedia Trip Explorer. Places you can typically get cheaper direct flights from D.C. include Chicago, Boston and a variety of Florida destinations.

Edinburgh is gorgeous and it is much easier to figure out what to do in just one day. Tour the castle, jump though the main museum, walk up the high street. Save Paris for a time when you have at least three days or you will end up having no idea where to start. But how are you going to get there? I took an overnight train to get back to London. It takes a while.

I'm flying to London from San Diego in a few weeks on BA. I've flown to London from the west coast many times, but never on BA. Imagine my surprise when I found that seat selection costs $38 per person, each way, for a regular seat and $75 for an exit row. On principle, I don't want to pay, but experience has taught me that leaving your seat choice to the airline can be a gamble, and I don't want to spend 10 hours lamenting my cheap-ness. I've also never flown on this airline so I can't use past experience to inform my decision. Is it worth it to pay to select, or should I take my chances and wait until 24 hours before check-in?

I just wrote about British Airways' seat selection policy. It's a troubling way to generate revenue, as far as many customers are concerned. If you don't mind suffering for a few hours in economy class (and let's face it, we're all suffering back there to some extent) then don't pay. If you absolutely must have a seat assingment, then you may have to pony up the cash. I wish I had better news.

Eurostar does get you to Paris quickly, but it's very, very pricey. Using any other mode of transportation and yes, you're looking at 6-8 hours' travel time. I would recommend a day trip to York instead. It's a beautiful medieval city, full of history, a gorgeous cathedral (York Minster), and a wicked fun/funny ghost hunting tour at night. Bath, Canterbury, and Brighton are also worth seeing.

Here's our story from the other year on York. It does sound great.

Unless you're flying to Edinburgh or Paris, they both seem quite far away for a single-day excursion, and your mention of the Channel for Paris makes it seem that you're not flying. I love both cities but would hate to have to "do" them on such a schedule. There are so many destinations that would allow you much more time: Oxford/Stonehenge/Blenheim Palace, for instance, or Stratford-upon-Avon including a play, or Bath, or any of many other itineraries.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this, but I plan an extra vacation day for the day after I get home, so I can sleep in and have time to unpack and relax and get ready for work.

Do you think it will go down in the next few weeks? Looking to travel the last week in March.

Depends on what you're finding. seems to think they'll go down or remain steady, but if you're happy with the price now, take it.

I was critical of US AIrways for downgrading me after I used some miles for free travel even though I had enough miles to still be a preferred customer. I thought, perhaps correctly, they were punishing me (us, as I presume this happens to others) for using the program for what it is advertised for. Anyway, I am glad to report that US Airways reinstated me to the previous preference level. I appreciate their doing that. They even upgraded me to first class on a flight. Of course, my flight was delayed and I missed the flight with the upgrade. But, at least I do appreciate their returning me to preferred status.

So nice to hear a positive story about an airline, for a change. Way to go, US Airways.

Yeah, I hate to criticize, but the one thing I really dislike about this chat is the "theme"--how do you X, tell us about a time when you Y. I just don't, uh, frankly care about the random memories of a bunch of anonymous strangers. (Sorry.)

OK, this is good to know!

I totally agree with the suggestion for prizes to the most useful travel advice. I love the chat but don't really care about how someone was stranded in a snowstorm

In a Muslim or conservative country it is best to avoid shorts. (Eve in a large Mexican city, a friend of mine was turned away from a church because he was wearing shorts.) Women should also cover their shoulders and upper arms...avoid sleeveless or capped sleeve shirts. Always carry a large, light scarf so you can cover your head when entering a mosque. Black generally absorbs heat instead of reflecting it, but lightweight fabrics help. Near big resorts and large cities standards are relaxed, but in more rural areas best to be as modest as possible.

Wear light colors and cotton! Or synthetics that you know for certain will breathe. Cairo is temperate, but Upper Egypt will be certifiably hot by the end of April. And the tombs are remarkably hot and stuffy at any time of year. Pants should be full-length and not skin-tight, but honestly the women might be more comfortable in long skirts and close-toed sandals (hose are not necessary). Tops should be loose, but can be short-sleeved, just not sleeveless. Have a great trip!

There's an awesome free walking tour of the architecture in the Loop - you can pick up the guide book at the tourism center (also in the Loop). Millennium Park can be fun on a nice day too. If you're into history, I found that reading Devil in the White City right before visiting tied in nicely.

I spent an afternoon back in the fall just wandering around downtown. Walk along the river to the Lake. There's a really cool park over by the Art Institute that has this big sculpture that is curved with a mirror finish. It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Every angle is a little different view of the buildings and sky reflected. It really draws a crowd for all the right reasons. It's one of the best pieces of public art I have ever seen. If I'd had the time I also would have gone to the Museum of Science and Industry which was my favorite place to visit on our infrequent trips to the Big City when I was a small child. It's the only remaining building from the world's fair.

Yes, that would be Cloud Gate (a.ka. "the Bean") in Millennium Park.

Dress conservatively, but don't wear black--the sun is scorching, and dark colors just make it exponentially worse. And there's no need to "dress up" because you're going to be trudging around the dirt and dust. Khakis, tee shirts, and other casual wear are fine.

in NY? I get as many bagels and pizzas as I can stand for the time that I am back there. It's never the same anywhere else. And lox. And I love going to real diners, where the waitresses are rude, etc.

Hi Flight Crew! I'm planning a trip to HK (with additional stops in Singapore and Thailand as well) and wondered if you had any tips for tracking airfare - I already have a Kayak price alert set, but not sure if there's more I could be doing. Thanks!

Carol, our airfare queen, is not joining us today, so instead of trying to channel her, I'm just going to quote from her story she had the other year on ticket strategy:

Track the sales. Various travel Web sites, including,,,, and, offer fare sale notifications. But also do your own check every day or so on at least one third-party booking site, such as, and Also, find out what airlines fly to your destination (flight guides are available for National and Dulles at, and for BWI at, and check directly with the airline sites.

I'm the original questioner on non-touristy Montreal places. Turns out I've been to some of those places already. Jean-Talon market is a great spot and the Oratory is a wonderful place as well. I haven't tried the Botanical Gardens, though I have done the Biodome. Like I said, I'll be mostly eating, but wanted good places to walk the pounds off. Merci/Thanks again.

Hurrah for crowd-sourcing. Enjoy the trip!

After a recent health scare in my family, I've started obsessing about a long-overdue family vacation. My sisters have four kids among them: one ten-year old, and three under age 5. My dad has talked about how fun it would be to take them all to Disney World and, although I've heard these probably aren't the best ages for Disney World, this trip can't wait another four years. Do you or the chatters have any recs for doing Disney? Resort hotel vs non-affiliated hotel, activities other than the parks for kids who might not want to wait in long lines for rides, etc. Many thanks!

With three kids under five, you're probably talking Magic Kingdom and maybe a day at Animal Kingdom if your children like animals. I'd stay on property, maybe make the reservation through a travel agent who can handle groups. You can land in Orlando, take the Magic Express and have an immersive Disney exerience. That's how I'd do it. Chatters, what say you?

I wrote in a few weeks ago saying that my parents were concerned about an upcoming trip to Tunisia. I just wanted to write in and say that I spent a wonderful week in Tunis and encourage people to visit. Yes it is still a country in transition, but I found everyone I met to be very friendly, open and wanting to talk politics. I never felt unsafe walking around by myself or in smaller groups, the beachfront is beautiful, and there are some great restaurants. The country's biggest resource is tourism and it could use our help!

Wonderful to hear. Thanks for the report.

My family of three is heading for Bavaria and Southern Austria later this year. We are debating whether or not to rent a car for any or all of the trip. We plan on spending 10 days hopping around the region - a couple days in Munich, a few in Salzburg, a few in Garmisch, etc. We want to do a little bit of day hiking and visiting castles, museums, cafes, beer gardens and the like. We're planning to stay at B&Bs or local hotels for the most part. We're not opposed to the rental car, but would rather save the money and hassle if it isn't necessary. Our initial plan was to rely on trains and local buses, but we get conflicting opinions on from friends who have traveled in that area. Any advice?

Rent a car. Although mass transit is excellent, your itinerary calls for more flexibility. I would check AutoEurope for rates.

Hi! A few friends and I want to head down to Charleston, SC for a long girls weekend in April. We want to spend some time on the beach and some time exploring the town. We haven't done much reseacrch yet, but do you have sny suggestions of where to stay and what to see while we are there? Thanks!

Our Food section colleague Bonnie Benwick liked the Fulton Lane Inn when she was recently there. If you're looking for a value at a nice price and location, I recommend the Hampton Inn, which is where I stayed. I was able to not feel so bad spending more on food!

Things to see: Fort Sumter, the Aiken-Rhett and Nathaniel Russell houses and the Charleston City Market, among many other things. For eating, look at Husk, FIG, Hominy Grill and the adorable French Macaroon Boutique.

If you like gardening/flowers/landscaping, you'll like  Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. It won't be in full flower then, but there'll be enough to look at, and it's a lovely, peaceful spot.

My husband and I were thinking about taking a trip to Phoenix around Labor Day weekend. I've done some quick searches for flights just to see what was available, and found a couple of flights from BWI that are significantly less expensive than other flights from any airport. How "safe" is it to book this far in advance? I kind of think we should jump on the less-expensive tickets before the airline catches on and raises fares, but we've never booked this far in advance before. We're a little concerned about schedule changes, flight cancellations, health issues, etc., although I realize that stuff can happen at any time. So, do we wait or buy tickets for Labor Day weekend at the end of February? Thanks!

Hey, if you like the price, I say buy it. As you say, something could come up regardless of when you throw down the cash. My husband and I were contemplating some tickets to Seattle for the fall (as a kind of on-a-whim trip) that came in at less than $300. We didn't get them, and we may come to regret that!

Oh, also, clothing-wise--even if the weather outside is mild, the tombs can be hot and stifling and sweaty.

A lot of people could save money on checked bags if they pack thoughtfully. I just returned from a 2 ½ week trip through 2 African countries, including two large cities and two smaller towns, one with dirt roads. I had one small duffel bag as my carry-on, plus a shoulder bag with my critical items (passport, wallet, camera). I planned my packing list carefully because I knew I would literally be carrying this bag on & off planes, trains, on the back of motorcycle taxis, and on foot. I left my wheeled carry-on bag at home. It weighs 7 lbs empty, and it won't roll on lumpy dirt roads. My duffel bag weighed 15 lbs full. Other than the clothes I wore, I packed one extra pair of pants, 4 shirts, and five sets of underwear. All the shirts and pants were nylon, specifically made as travel clothing, very lightweight, versatile, and they dry quickly. I washed clothes (in a sink) twice during the trip. I brought plastic hangers and clothespins with me. I bought travel size toiletries, which are usually about 1 oz, rather than the 3.4 oz maximum. So everything I needed fit in my 1-quart Ziploc bag of liquids. That included sunscreen, bug repellent, and hand sanitizer along with the usual toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant. By the way, I'm a middle-aged woman, and I was visiting my son who's in the Peace Corps.

You sound like a pro. Can I hire you for my next big trip?

I always bring decaf tea bags on a flight since most airlines don't have them. I ask for a cup of hot water and a cup of ice and I make fresh-brewed decaf iced tea. The hot tea is soothing and keeps me hydrated.

Someone getting an early jump on a possible switch to prizes for travel tips? ;)

Maybe consider Avalon, Stone Harbor, or Cape May in NJ. There are lodgings (not houses) that can be rented for just 4 days, and the drive is about 1-1.5 hours from Phila airport.

Just starting to do wedding planning and I decided to have a destination wedding in Tahiti and invite 200 people. Just kidding! It will be in the DC area, and I'm wondering how much of a heads up to give people. I'm seeing 6-8 weeks, but that doesn't seem like enough time. Suggestions? Are flights into DCA/IAD/BWI relatively cheap/consistent compared to the rest of the country? Thanks!

I agree that 6-8 weeks for a heads-up when airfares need to be bought is not enough time. Aren't many couples these days sending out "save the date" cards well in advance of the actual wedding, and then official invitations go out later? That's been the case for the last 2 weddings I was invited to, at any rate.

I am a female heading to Borneo in April. In particular the Bako Rain Forest Area. What type of clothing do you think I should pack? Should I be worried about leeches and if so, do the almighty travel gurus have a defense strategy for keeping leeches away?

OK, we've done Egypt. Anyone have suggestions for Borneo?

One delightful attraction at Navy Pier is the Stained Glass Museum - the collection is gorgeous and, unless things have changed, it's free.

I would like to travel from D.C. to San Francisco. My problem is I want to travel via Amtrak. What a nightmare for me to schedule the trip, even tho I am flexible. Should I be concerned?

Hold this thought for one more week. One of our intrepid freelancers took this very trip, and her story is scheduled to run next Sunday.

Someone in the last chat was looking for something to do north of the Bay Area. My husband and I went to Bodega Bay and Mendocino for New Year's. It's about 3 hours north of here. We stopped at Point Reyes for some whale watching along the way. The drive is amazing and we stayed at the Bodega Bay Lodge and the Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino. Both of which I'd highly recommend. Stop at Healdsburg on your way back. It's a cute little town worth checking out.

Thanks for following up.

Hello, We are planning a trip to Hawaii next summer. We would like to go for 10 days-2 weeks (its a trip we've been wanting to go on a long time). We've already been to the Big Island several years ago, so we're hoping to see some of the other islands. We have two kids. One is multiply-disabled (wheelchair) and would be 6 next summer. The other will be 2.5 years. I have been looking on frommers and fodors but would love your ideas as well. Which are the must-see places? Also, we'd be flying from NY. How bad would jet lag be? Thank you so much!

Both Oahu and Maui have plenty to do for families with young children. Here's a story I wrote last year about visiting Maui with kids. If I could, I'd choose both places. Jetlag really wiped us out for the first few days. (It's a five-hour time difference.) I found that the kids adjusted faster than the adults.

Take her to se the bigger musicals, Anything Goes is still playing (although I believe Sutton Foster is leaving the show soon), but all the tapping and dancing will be loud enough. Also check out Mamma Mia, Sister Act, & Evita. Off Broadway Million Dollar Quartet has great music. She may enjoy a dance company performace more than a true broadway show, as the movement is capturing and the sound secondary.

if you book well in advance (up to 4 months in advance is allowed) and you book through the Eurostar UK site, not the US site. Plus, it takes only 2 hrs. 15 mins., much less time than to get to Edinburgh. Couldn't disagree more with the poster who gave a thumbs down to Paris because you wouldn't know which sights to start with. Uh, ever heard of a guidebook?!

For many years I would visit the folks, and go to the Indy 500 race. There is a certain hassle factor with getting to/from the track which I have grown tired of dealing with, but Indianapolis is a great sports town, and I have fun going to Colts football, Pacers or Butler Bulldogs basketball game with the enthusiastic fans with all their civic pride.

Take a look at a package from Costco Travel. We got a great deal from them last month.

For real. I get killer car rental deals through them all the time.

Someone else wrote: "I found that reading Devil in the White City right before visiting tied in nicely. " True - but only if you don't mind really gruesome facts. I had to stop reading. There's a good video (can't recall the name at the moment) about the Chicago Exposition (late 1800's) that helped me and hubby get in the mood for our first Chicago vacation (which we enjoyed WAY more than we imagined).

For an upcoming trip in early September, we have booked ourselves a flight with a layover in Chicago (O'Hare) from 9am to 7pm. We have never been and are excited to do a quick whirlwind visit! Any advice for the top things to see during our very abbreviated stay! Also since we're pressed for time, should we just go ahead and pay for a taxi to get us to and from the airport? Thanks!

Yes to the cab, since it's O'Hare and not Midway. If the weather is nice, you must see Millennium Park. The museums and galleries there are wonderful, as you probably know, but if you want to get more of a feel for the city, consider one of the hop-on, hop-off bus tours. See something you like, get off the bus, wait for the next bus to come along when you're ready to go.

Hope all of the other Chicago comments today will help you as well!

We went to Egypt in early April a few years ago. It was quite warm--not "mild" as the Egyptian tourism folks say. Wear ligthweight clothing--khaki and "zip offs" are great. No need for a long sleeve or a 3/4 length sleeve--a short sleeved shirt is fine. Be sure to take a hat for the sun and plenty of sunscreen as you will need it. Egypt is an amazing country. You'll have a great time!

I'm in a wedding at Port Canaveral and I'm going to stay a few extra days over Memorial Weekend. Any recommendations on places to either get away from the crowds with in a few hours drive? Or alternatively, embrace it and enjoy it in Daytona? I'm willing to drive a few hours to get away.

Memorial Day weekend will be busy anywhere you go, but I might head up to historic St. Augustine if you have the time, or down to the Treasure Coast, which will be a little quieter. Daytona is nice, but today's the day to be there.

I desperately want to practice in aviation law. During law school, I couldn't find an internships for attorneys at any of the airlines, Boeing, etc. Any suggestions? I've applied to McGill for the Aviation Law LLM, but I'm not certain I can afford it. Thanks.

Probably not a question for us, but you never know what the chatters know.

TOTALLY agree about the memories of strangers. Don't really care. What I do love is your advice though!!

Anything you can recommend that is fairly close by to Mobile, maybe in Florida?

Plenty of options. You can stay in Alabama and check out its Gulf Coast. Or in Florida, there's, well, a ton more on the Gulf. Fort Walton, Pensacola, etc.

I agree that prizes shoudl be offered for the most helpful submission, not just for stories. Frankly, I often skip through the stories as they are rarely relevant to me, whereas travel may be useful even if I don't plan to travel to that particular destination. My 2 cents....

Noted. Thanks for the feedback.

call your congresscritter RIGHT NOW and get as many tickets to tour the White House as you can. I had family from out of town come to my wedding, and it was a great treat!

A really good idea!

Call ahead and ask if they have "ALDs" which are assistive listening devices that amplify the dialogue.

If you have only one day for a day trip from London, I'd recommend Windsor Castle or Hampton Court (home of Henry VIII) over anywhere else.

The restaurant at Ladera is divine - and if you're not staying there, it will make you wish you had. Make sure you go to both kinds of beaches - they have black sands beaches (natural) and white beaches (man-made). I loved the black sands one - it was mostly deserted so we had it to ourselves, and there is a guy there who will rent snorkeling equipment for $10/hour. My husband did the snorkeling and had a great experience.

We'd like to rent a house for a weeklong family vacation. The destination has to be an easy plane ride or car trip from the DC area, it has to include a beach of some kind, and it also has to include activities other than beach (fancy theme parks are not necessary; just diversions other than sitting on the beach). The Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Carolinas beaches have already been rules out. A tall order, but any suggestion?

Does it have to be an ocean beach, or could it be a lake? There are several lake resorts areas nearby, including Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.

The Bean sculpture at Millennium park is awesome and there's a new art installation there that apparently makes it even moreso.

Think twice about asking for ice. Apparently the ice on airplanes is not the cleanest. Do a little research on that.

When I visit Seattle, I get to see my relatives and go to some of our/my favorite places, like taking a ferry trip to the Main Street Ale House in Kingston (on the Olympic Peninsula). I also drive to Capital Hill to pick up my 96 year old great aunt, and we drive around her neighborhood. She can't walk very far any more, and she likes to see what's going on. If my partner is traveling with me, I give her a tour of the Seattle neighborhoods: downtown, Capital Hill, Queen Anne hill, Ballard, the U District, Mt. Baker, Madison Park, and many more. I also love the floating bridges, so if there isn't a lot of traffic, I like to drive over one of them and then come right back over the bridge. The last time we were there, we went online to find some new restaurants that I didn't know about (or weren't there) when I lived there, and we found a wonderful place called Kingfish Cafe on the Lake Washington side of Capitol Hill.

i was recently on a bulkhead row seat next to a woman and a baby. After the baby groped me for the first five minutes of flight with no reaction from me, i heard the woman complaining to the flight attendant that bulkhead rows were reserved for people with babies like her, presumably not me. He didn't agree with her but i've wondered if someone has a baby, do they get that row?

An airline might, as a matter of policy, hold those seats for people with special needs, like mobility problems or if they're traveling with kids. But they are not required to. The only restrictions I'm aware of apply to exit-row seats; no kids allowed there. Bulkhead seats are also some of the most desirable economy class seats, and people who are in the know request them because of their additional legroom. In other words, your seatmate was right -- and wrong.

My family hates driving through western Kansas, but I've always found the space and sky, and the ever so gradually rising terrain, to be impressive. If you get out there, don't miss Monument Rocks, just north of Scott City. They're a striking and abrupt rock formation jutting up out of the plains. No cost, no crowds, pretty eerie. Sunset there was fantastic.

It sounds amazing. I think Annie's story is going to inspire some poeple to head that way.

I just wanted to thank Christopher for his excellent column this week. It was about time a travel columnist asked about the value of TSA. Thank you, Christopher!

Uh, thanks. That one was for the Huffington Post, not the Washington Post. (I get around.)

The person asking about credit card should check out as well as some of the many FF blogs such as who you interviewed in your story or TheFrugalTravelGuy There are some issues with doing BA including the amount of taxes and fees you will end up paying connecting via LHR. If I were in the questioner's shoes I would probably go for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Current bonus is 50k points after $3000 spend. But FlyerTalk and the blogs will have plenty of good advice. But even with $10K in spend per month they won't have enough miles for 5 people...even if they could find 5 available award seats on a flight. Using points for hotels may work out to be a better idea under the circumstances. Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to Hyatt or Marriott. Or the Starwood Amex card is a favorite of many frequent travelers as well because the points offer a lot of flexibility in addition to being useful for Starwood Hotels (Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, etc). One nice feature of their program is the ability at many hotels to use points and cash for your room which can offer significant savings.

Thank you!

I grew up in Gaithersburg,and now live in Laurel. They built the ICC just for Mom and I to visit.


You must go to Abbott's Lobster in Noak, CT just outside of Msytic! It's byob if you want some alcohol. 

Thanks for the rec!

Whenever I return to the Lehigh Valley (PA) I usually drive by our old houses and my old schools. And always make sure to stop off at Josh Early Candies for some incredible chocolates. The wonderful scent of chocolate is very intoxicating.

I spent a week staying at Ladera, but never left the resort. However, I can at least recommend a trip to the restaurant there (Dasheene) for an amazing view and very good food.

Hometown: Small town, TX. When I'm home, I try to squeeze in a trip to the ranch with my grandfather. Growing up, he would pick me up every Saturday morning and I would ride with him out to the ranch and look at the cows. On the way home, we'd always stop by Wal-Mart for a treat. Now that I'm 30, the trips mean a lot more. Driving through the open fields is such a treat after living in the city, and the time spent with my grandfather (now 82) is even more valuable.

Not so much a question as a comment. My parents live in Boston and I had bought advance tickets to visit them with my small child last weekend. In the meantime, my mother fell seriously ill and I had to make an emergency trip to go see her. Since I had bought the original tickets with insurance, and the terms of the insurance listed "change of terms due to illness" I was shocked to find out that simply changing the name on one of the tickets was not one of the things that they would cover. (What I wanted to do was simply stay up in Boston, change the name on one of the original tickets and have my husband fly up with my daughter and then we'd all fly home together). Basically, they told me they would go ahead and cancel the tickets (and therefore lose $500), but nope... no name change. As for the emergency flight, I booked the tickets at like 2 PM thinking I might not make it to the airport before 7:30. When I arrived in time for the 5:30 flight I was told I would have to pay $50 if I wanted to fly earlier since it was a non-refundable fare. Seriously? THey had just gouged me well over $500 for ONE TICKET booked just a few hours earlier, but were unwilling to put me on an earlier flight despite having paid more for my seat than a normal first class ticket. And they wonder why people HATE them? Why are things so inflexible now? Why are the airlines establishing rules that make no sense and serve to alienate customers? I will never fly USAirways again. (Don't get me started about the time there was a medical emergency on a flight I was on, and my husband who is an MD helped the flight attendants save someone's life.... 30 minutes later they had the unmitigated gall to charge him $7 for a snack pack!!!)

A big ¡ muchas gracias ! for Mr. Heilbron's address. I will e-mail him today and see what happens.

While I LOVE the food of my home, Brooklyn, NY and always stop in at West End Bakery and Spumoni Gardens to bring home pastries and a pie, the way I truly reconnect is just walking. As a kid I would walk to Carvel or the corner store or out for a slice and I still love the hustle of my little neighborhood. My family lived in (what is now refered to as) Midwood. Filled with Orthodox Jews, the streets are all abustle on Sundays as everyone prepares for the week ahead having rested and spent time with family on Shabbat. Weaving in and out of moms towing their kids & strollers is slightly annoying, but always brings me back to when I was little and spending time with my grandmother. Walking up and down her street and chatting with neighbors on the stoop.

I am also from the New Haven area and there is nothing like a white clam pizza. Also Jimmies of Savin Rock although I remember it when it was just a clam shack.

My folks no longer live in my hometown of Philadelphia, so when I go back I normally drag my husband around to "notable" places and retell him all the same stories - Ben Franklin's house, where I played hooky from school for the first time; Headhouse Square, where I asked passers-by one summer night who they thought shot JR; the Liberty Bell, where I went when I ran away from home (for 2 hours). He's very well humored about it all.

I moved years ago from NC and have been judgemental about all barbecue that isn't from Lexington, to the point that I don't eat it from anywhere but there. Nothing lets me reconnect to my roots like going home and having hush puppies, sweet tea and barbecue-- the way it was supposed to be made!

Chris, I am a Amex/Delta frequent flyer, and I've never had a problem redeeming my miles. I've only used my miles twice (to the west coast and last summer to Europe). When I booked the trip to Europe, it was EXACTLY 330 days to my scheduled return. I know people like to gripe about the programs, but count me as someone who won't go overseas or to the west coast without them!

On the other hand, I LOVE the personal stories of travel experiences, including mishaps. Sometimes they're even more informative than the mere "helpful hints" comments.

One defender.

Unless the chatters are telling a travel story in relation to giving advice about a destination, they are BORING. I too skim through them, and I'm willing to bet lots of others do, too.

I hope I get this in on time. Egypt will be superhot in April/May. Regardless of the heat, however, women should wear long skits and shirts with sleeves. I'd also recommend a hat or headscarf. I've never experienced harassment like that visited upon me in Cairo and on my Nile cruise - and I've lived for years in other Muslim and conservative countries. Pants and shorts are OUT for women!

I wouldn't rule out Epcot at Disney either - the first time I went, I was 4 and my sister was 1, and I definitely have fond memories of it. If you take advantage of FastPasses and are willing to do a little planning ahead, you can avoid a lot of the lines. There are some great services online to help with this - I've found the unofficial guide touring plans and RideMax to work well if you build in the breaks / flexibility your group needs. We went last August (peak season) with a family of 5 and never waited more than 15 minutes because of advance planning. is another great resource for these questions.

Hello, I bought flight tickets from Delta for my son to come home for Spring break but now he and I just found out he does not have Spring Break (He's a 2nd year medical student at Harvard). What options do I have for his tickets? Thank you very much for your help.

He can cancel before his flight and get a credit, usable for a year from the date of the purchase, and a change fee.

Yeah I've heard of guidebooks...I actually write them. If you've never been to Paris before and are spending 5 hours of your time on a train and another 1 hour or so getting to/from the train, it's not really an ideal day trip. Paris is big. If you devised an hour by hour plan, perhaps it could be successful, but figuring out where to go, where to wander how to use their metro...again, it's not an ideal day trip.

Please eliminate all of the personal stories -- they really overwhelm the chat. Only post questions that you answer!

the architecture tour along the river. Very interesting and you get a boat trip to boot!

Yes, that's what Joe did (link above). It does sound fun.

Thanks for another lively hour! And thank you for your feedback on our "question of day." It's definitely given us something to think about. For now, though, the prize goes to the chatter who takes their kids to visit the pond behind their Connecticut home. Send your name and mailing address to

Come back next week. Until then, happy traveling.

In This Chat
Jane Touzalin
Jane Touzalin is acting deputy Travel editor.
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.
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