Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Oct 12, 2020

Join us to discuss your travel-related questions, comments, suspicions, warnings, gripes, sad tales, etc.!

Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel! This week, Andrea wrote about learning how to drive an RV. Have you ever traveled in an RV? Tell us about it below. Most compelling tale wins a handsome Washington Post mug. 

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Let's get going with your questions!

Is there anywhere (other than the dc-area boathouses) within a few hours of dc to go kayaking? I’m looking both for places to rent on the water for a short weekend, but also good day trip spots when you can just park and boat for the day (lakes and calm rivers mostly). I may be getting a kayak soon from a friend and want to be prepared.

Lots of kayaking options within a couple of hours of DC, including Annapolis, Kent Island, Wye Island and St. Michaels. Closer to home, the Potomac River, although it can get a bit difficult when going against the tide: I like putting in at Point of Rocks in Maryland. Chatters have favorite kayaking spots? 

My husband and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in late December. Since travel options are limited, we are wondering if there’s anything within two hours of Annapolis? We enjoy hiking, exploring bookstores and local shops, tea and coffee shops, and sitting by a fire sipping hot cider. Any suggestions?

Take a look at Chestertown and St. Michaels, both in Maryland. Chatters have ideas? 

I understand planes are very well ventilated as long as the ventilation is on but how well ventilated are airport terminals — and how do you find out? Hesitant to fly at all but trying to decide between a trip that involves 3 planes and 4 terminals or 2 planes but an hour long taxi. Which is the safest? 

I covered this in a recent Navigator column. Each airport has its own cleaning regimen (here's Reagan National Airport's, for example). Unfortunately, they don't go into a lot of detail about ventilation. If you're transiting through an airport, you don't really have much choice.

What's the usual tip that travelers leave for housekeeping at the end of a hotel stay? (And is this a U.S.-only thing?)

Ask 10 people, and you'll get 10 answers. It's probably more a regional thing than a U.S. thing (I tip on the high side because I'm from New York - just call me Al Czervik). I think $5 per day for upscale properties is the most common answer and $2-$3 for motels. Just make sure you tip every day, as the cleaning staff changes. 

I'm trying to think of something to get my travel-loving wife for Christmas this year, in the hopes that our travels will resume in 2021 (knock on wood). Is there anything you or the chatters can suggest? She prefers practical gifts.

Stay tuned for our annual holiday gift guide, which publishes online Tuesday, Oct. 27 -- we have plenty of practical travel gifts for you to consider! 

Hi travel experts. I have the opportunity to work remotely this fall, and I'm wondering if there is a beach destination within relatively close driving distance of the District that has reasonably priced rental houses. Not looking for anything fancy, just near the water. Thanks!

Relatively close means different things to different folks. Chincoteague is probably less expensive, but it's not as close as Maryland and Delaware beaches. I'd look into Lewes in Delaware, and if you're not married to the idea of being within walking distance of the beach, you could try Ocean Pines near Ocean City. OC is also an option, although it stays busy in fall, as do the more popular Delaware beach areas, including Fenwick, Bethany, Dewey and Rehoboth. I'm also assuming that by beach, you mean the ocean.  

Is the poster really having an hour long taxi between the plane landing and getting to a gate? Seems to me that would be unusual during normal times but even less so now when airports are less busy because of the reduced number of flights.

Yes, that seems a little long. OP, are you still there? Can you clarify?

It's a quiet spot in Prince George's County. I think it's the Anacostia River. On one side is the Kenilworth Gardens and other side is the National Arboretum. Calm waters lots of water birds, eagles, herons, egrets, etc.

Thanks for the idea. 

A a visitor to the US from the UK I always tip at the end of the stay rather than daily on the basis that I thought the housekeeping staff pooled their tips Do I need to change my policy? Though I do recall once leaving something on one day because I dropped a cup of coffee which broke and I thought cleaning that up merited something there and then

Most housekeeping staffs don't pool their tips in the United States. 

Andrea Sachs' article on RV School was just terrific. Although tempting, I can't see it in our personal future, if I was decades younger, I would sign up for such a course in a heartbeat! And do what you did - practice these skills for a day or two nearby. It is terrifying that people are driving these huge vehicles with precious little knowledge. Thank you for this article and for the chats. Even if travel is more virtual that we would like right now, you continue to educate us all.

So glad you enjoyed the piece, and we are so glad you are enjoying the chats, even if you can't travel at the moment. Agree on the terrifying part. I was so grateful for Freddy, though I worried him with some of my moves. But c'mon, that deer was SO cute.

Husband is Canadian and we are thinking about going to see family in Victoria BC (which has almost no Covid)for 8 weeks in early November -- we have a free place to quarantine -- What is the safest way to fly? DC to Seattle is non stop but we'd have to fly from there to Vancouver and then Victoria (2 more airport terminals!) or take a puddle jumper from a small airport 45 minutes away that is actually allowed to fly to Victoria but that means taking a taxi there.(We looked into DC Toronto Victoria but Air Canada does not leave middle seat free and the city of Toronto has high positivity.) Also what days in early to mid November would you think would be the least crowded? Thank you.

It seems as if you've covered all the possibilities. Typically, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are less crowded days to fly. You could rent a car and drive from Seattle, but you'd be exposed in other ways by doing that.  And the ferry isn't running. 

This is an oddly specific question, but do any of you know of any hotels in the DMV area that have fireplaces in the rooms? We're looking for peak coziness. Love the chats!

I could use a fireplace -- and hot toddy -- right now!

Try the Jefferson Hotel, Swann House, Morrison-Clark, Inn Mayflower Hotel and the Presidential Suite at the Watergate Hotel.

Chatters, any hotels with fireplaces you could recommend?

Hi. We're planning a vacation to about as socially distanced place as I can think of: southeastern Arizona. I've got us booked on a nonstop flight, and the two of us will be sitting on an exit row with only two seats, so that makes it easier to keep our distance. But I can't solve two steps in our trip: getting from the remote parking lots at PHL to the terminal, and taking the rental-car shuttle at PHX. What's the best way to stay safe on those small, cramped buses? I'm thinking about just paying extra to park at the terminal at PHL, but I've got no ideas for avoiding the rental-car shuttle. Any ideas?

I just wrote a story about airport parking. The airport shuttles are blocking off seats so that people don't sit too close together. But they're also running less frequently, so you may have to wait for your ride.

Any general suggestions for how to approach holiday travel this year? Is it already too late to start booking?

No, it's not too late. I just finished researching a story on this topic. Prices are between 10 to 30 percent lower during the holidays and many travelers are booking at the last minute. There's still time to plan a nice getaway.

I take it to mean that the poster can get a direct flight at an airport that is farther away either from the poster's home or the destination. The closer airport will require changing planes.

Thank you.

State or regional parks in VA are pretty good -- Mason Neck, Pohick Bay, Occoquan, Leesylvania, and Fountainhead are nice, especially if you're trying to practice. Just obviously check in advance to make sure they're still renting out at this point in the season.

Yes, for those who need to rent kayaks, definitely have to plan in advance. 

Hello Travel experts! We're excited to find out that Virginia is now off the restriction list by NY State. But we know that can change week from week, so we'd like to get your advice on how to plan for a trip to NYC. We're hoping to visit the Big Apple the Friday - the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It seems that NY State updates the restricted state list every Tuesday. So if Virginia is not on the restricted list when it's updated on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we should be good to go, correct? We're booking the hotel now with the free cancellation option. But how late can we wait before we buy the tickets to the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Given it's during the holiday break and there is limited capacity due to distancing, we're worried it would be too late to buy the tickets only 3 or 4 days before the visit. That's the No.1 place that our teenage daughters would like to see in this NYC trip (we've been to NYC a few years ago). Maybe it worth the risk of losing the money to buy the tickets sooner even if we know we may not be able to take the trip? Any other tip for visiting NYC in such special time will be greatly appreciated!

You are correct about the list, though that could always change. But as of now, officials update the states on Tuesdays, so those restrictions/allowances are valid till the following Tuesday.

With limited capacity, you would be wise to book in advance, especially over the  holiday. The Met says no refunds, but I would hope that they would be more lenient if  you could not visit because of the pandemic or health reasons. (Check with your credit card company about coverage or consider Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance.) The tourism office has a list of open attractions as well as some great deals.

 

I assume OP meant taxi cab, as in an hour cab drive to one airport instead of a closer airport that adds another flight leg.

OK, thank you.

I'd like to gift my parents with a gift certificate or something travel-related to use on a nice trip when we can travel with less worry about getting sick (they're seniors). However, I worry about the financial outlook of these tour companies and airlines. I don't want to buy something and then not be able to get refunded if the company goes under. What's the best way to do this without financial risk?

I would just write them a check and maybe give them the name of your travel advisor, who can help them book the trip they want. Unfortunately, there's no way to completely protect your trip. But a "cancel for any reason" travel insurance policy will protect part of it (you get between 50 and 75 percent back).

For her next story how 'bout sending Andrea to learn how to drive an F250 pulling a 30-foot Airstream? An awful lot of people on the road with those things look like they could use some tips.

I am game for it! I think I am ready for AP RV Class.

Has anyone heard anything about the safety of going on Megabus or one of those other beater bus companies? I miss the days of cheap trips from DC to Philly and NYC, but can't find a ton of information about how safe it is to use these and I'm curious because I've never been on a trip that wasn't packed to the gills. Budget travelers like me wonder I'm sure

Megabus and other bus companies have instituted extra safety precautions. But we have no clue as to whether the measures are effective. 

That assumes you have your room cleaned each day. I haven't traveled in months, but even pre-COVID unless we were staying more than 3 or 4 nights, I opted to NOT have housekeeping tidy up the room during our stay. Save them some time and I had no problems hanging towels to dry and re-use.

Yes, that's an option, although you would have to make that clear to the staff. 

We take a long (2-3 week) trip with our kids in our pop-up camper almost every summer. Three summers ago, we traveled out to Yellowstone. In summer 2019, we went to the Grand Canyon via the Rockies. Everywhere we camp, I make a point of snapping some pictures of our camper in its new environment, to document our travels. Our camper is practically a member of the family. I have pics of it with resting alongside streams, spying on the Badlands, hiding among evergreens and bear boxes in the Rockies, sweltering along the shore of Lake Powell and basking as the sun set at the Great Stand Dunes. At 19 feet long, it's not an easy haul, and it's far from luxury. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Sounds like you have a wonderful and much-loved family member!

Looks like our time is up -- thanks for chatting today, everyone! Pop-up camper, drop us a line at travel@washpost.com to claim your prize. And join us again next week for more Talk About Travel.

In This Chat
Nicole Arthur
Nicole Arthur is the Travel editor.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column. 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.
Helen Carefoot
Helen Carefoot is Travel's editorial assistant.
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