Talk about Travel: Denver as the Capitol of "The Hunger Games," Tel Aviv and more

Apr 02, 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.

Hello, chatters, and happy Monday. I hope you loved our Travel section yesterday as much as I did, with Lucas Aykroyd's fun, fun story on searching for the "Hunger Games" Capitol in modern-day Denver, and JoAnn Greco's lovely piece on the Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv. In the spirit of Lucas's adventure, let's hear today about places you've visited because you were inspired by a book or movie that you loved. When I did my junior year abroad in Vienna (many years ago), so many of the girls in our group confessed that they'd chosen the Austrian capital because they'd fallen in love with "The Sound of Music" and wanted to travel to the country where that story took place. I was not one of those girls -- I was just a German major and wanted a Germanic place to work on my language skills -- but I was always struck by what they said. So, tell me about your fictional inspirations for places you've traveled to -- or still dream of traveling to one day! Now let's get started.

My wife and I are thinking of a trip to northern New Mexico in Sept. or Oct. Any suggestions for places like Questa and Red River? We enjoy taking daytrips from where we are staying. Thanks.

Not sure we've covered that particular area of the state, but here's our New Mexico archive.

Chatters, any ideas?

Where is a good place to scuba dive in the Caribbean?

As a former scuba diving instructor, I'm partial to the ABC islands -- Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

Hi crew, do you have any idea how maids are paid for cleaning hotel rooms? I feel like I don't need daily room cleaning so I usually keep the "do not disturb" sign up. But then I thought that leaves less work for maids, and possibly less pay. Any insight? Thanks!

Based on what I have learned from the hotel industry,  housekeeping (wink, wink, the correct term these days) is happy to see a Do Not Disturb sign. They are often given  many, many rooms on several floors that they must clean within a small window of time.  In other words: They are busy and crunched for time.

The only downside to skipping the daily clean: They rely on tips to supplement their modest salary. However, you could always leave an extra dollar or two. Think of it this way: When you finally do let them inside, they have twice the amount to clean up.

So sorry to stretch this out over multiple weeks; I rarely get to read the chat in real time. We used Safari Makers and were very happy. I mentioned LP in my original comment because they do a fairly good job of checking out safari companies at all budgets; if a company is listed in a recent copy of LP or another guidebook (Rough Guide is another geared toward lower-budget/backpacker travelers), chances are they're legit. LP also has an online discussion forum that's good for even more up-to-date info; Rough Guide might, too. TripAdvisor could be another resource, but I know for sure that LP and RG don't just cover the companies running luxury safaris.

Thanks for the follow-up!

Thinking of spending 6 months to a year in Ireland & interested in a home exchange for my row house in Old Town Alexandria. Looking for recommendations for companies that facilitate this or any other related suggestions/cautions. Thanks.

Here's our story on that subject from the other year. And check out the accompanying list of companies, as well as this cautionary tale on a related issue.

My cousin and I are planning to drive roundtrip from DC, up the New England Coast and take the ferry over to Nova Scotia in early July. We are both single women, mid-50's and plan to take about 9 days there and back. We are looking for suggestions for the best route, must see places to visit and eat, and charming but low-cost places to stay overnight. We both like beaches, national parks (Acadia is on the list of stopovers), hiking, art, local color and great seafood. We are considering our starting point to be Armonk, NY since we have family we will visit before heading out. I was also wondering if it might make sense to meander along the coastline going one direction and fast track it on the highway on the way there or back? Thanks for whatever suggestions you have.

Hmm, there are so many lovely places along the way, it'll be hard to choose. I definitely like your idea of meandering one way and fast-tracking the other. I think I'd meander on the way up. Although 9 days still doesn't give you much meandering time, if you're going all the way to Nova Scotia and want to spend some time there. I'm assuming the 9 days includes time there, and not just your travel time, yes? That said, I'd stop in Newport, R.I., to have a gander at the fabulous beach "cottages" of the millionaires. Then Marblehead, Mass., lovely old Victorian village by the sea. If you have time, swing up Cape Ann to Rockport, an adorable town as cute as anything on Cape Cod. Then heading northward, stop in Portsmouth for some culture, then at Ogunquit, Me., for the beach. Or Kennebunkport, less-visited these days than it used to be in the past. Farther north Rockland and Bar Harbor are lovely, too. Chatters, add your suggestions, please.

Last week, I asked: Q. Airfares--Are the seats selling? I typically travel to Europe in May, and I've always been able to find a deal well under $1000, but not this year. What I'm wondering is, do you have data from "the industry" that late spring and summer flights are actually filling up? There are only so many people who can afford $1000+ airfare, so (1) I am curious, and (2) I am wondering of my chances at eventually snagging a deal. You answered: A. Christopher Elliott : Airlines have been cutting capacity and raising fares in order to remain profitable, which they barely are. That may account for the shortage of inexpensive fares, particularly on those routes. The other issue you may be having is the fare display -- the Transportation Department required airlines to show an "all in" fare that includes taxes and mandatory fees, which may be making your ticket price look higher, at least at first. But I think you misunderstood my question--I was not saying I had search results of $1000 in the past. I just never paid over or even near 1000 in the past. Is there a way to find out the answer to my question, which is, are late spring and summer flights to Europe selling out?

So sorry for the roundabout answer. Airlines don't release any sales data in advance, in the way you describe it. So the only way we would know that they are not selling these $1,000 fares is if they have fare sales, as you get closer to your departure.

+1 for Ogunquit, Maine. I would also add Camden Maine.


Do you use ATMs and hurt those bank tellers? Do you drive a car and put out all those horses out of work? Relax, they are happy when they don't have to clean your room.

I would target early October because of fall colors. I know the southern part of Colorado peaks around Columbus weekend but higher elevations like 9000 ft or higher peak late September. About a 2 hr drive away is sand dunes national park due north of where you are looking to stay.

Depending on how far north you are planning on heading before you catch your ferry, the Roosevelt Campobello International Park just across the Canadian border from Lubec, ME is a beautiful vacation estate of FDR's. If you are planning on catching a ferry from Portland it's way out of your way, but if you were planning on driving to St John's in New Brunswick to get to Nove Scotia, then it probably worth the detour.

Taking my teenage daughters to NYC for two days this week. We'd like to see the Cindy Sherman exhibit at the MOMA and we'll stop by TKTS, but we have nothing else planned. Any must-dos in NYC at the moment? They like to shop, of course, and I'm not sure where to go with teenagers on a budget (Canal Jean? Century 21?) Thanks for any suggestions!

I think you all might have fun exploring the High Line.

My Dad is planning a trip to China. Is there anything special he should pack?

Unless he is going to a teeny, tiny village, he will be able to buy whatever he might have forgotten. The tour group probably has a packing list as well.

That said, if he has certain toilietries he likes, such a suntan lotion or toothpaste, bring them. Don't forget any medications, with extra dosage, in case he loses some pills.

I don't know the season of his trip, but summers can be hot and winters cold, so pack accordlingly. No matter what, bring a raincoat and some kind of fleece-y item.

Bring extra memory cards/batteries or whatever his camera and tech items need to stay charged. Also an adapter. I also recommend a flashlight, ziploc bags, tissues or a roll of toilet paper, and anti-bacterial wash. Also, lots of magazines and paperbacks, which he can give away when he is done reading them.


I don't think 9 days is enough time to include Nova Scotia. IMHO the prettiest part of Nova Scotia is Cape Breton Highlands, and that's really far away from Yarmouth, where the ferry lands. Save Nova Scotia for a separate vacation.

That's a thought, thanks!

My husband has a degenerative disease. We made plans for a 12+day cruise thinking we could do this. Now his condition has taken a downward turn and it would not be a good idea to take the cruise. How do we go about getting our money back for the airline tickets?

I'm sorry to hear about your husband's condition. If you had purchased a "cancel for any reason" travel insurance policy, you could have made a claim and received at least a partial refund. But airlines also sometimes make exceptions on their nonrefundability rule for serious illnesses. I would send a brief, polite email to the airline, requesting a refund as a one-time exception. Include any medical documents necessary to verify your claim. And please let me know if you need any help. Here's my email address.

Recently brought a one week time share in Aruba with a major hotel chain. I know it will not be an appreciating asset, but I look at it as pre-paying for a vacation and breaking even after about 7 years. We're not tied to a specific week, nor even a specific property (although Aruba would be our "home" property). Do you have an opinion about using timeshares and pre-paying these vacations?

Maybe you should have asked us before you bought it. Seriously, you may enjoy reading this article that we published last year about timeshares. I also wrote an article specifically about hotel timeshares several years ago. Basically, if you like Aruba and are willing to go there most years, it's probably not a bad deal. Not as easy to switch to a different property, especially if it's Vail in winter or Orlando over spring break or something equally desireable, unless you plan way in advance. And if you want to sell? That will be very tough. 

Totally inspired by "A Room with a View." :)

Ah yes! We went to Florence last summer, and I reread the book and rewatched the movie after our trip. So great.

During a recent trip to London, Paris, and Edinburgh, I brought my iPad along, hoping that the basic plot of Lady Antebellum's "Just a Kiss" would work out - I'd find some cutie traveling alone, and we'd have romantic adventures. I met no one, was accused of stealing a wallet, and fought dense fog that made trips to the Eiffel Tower and Sacre-Coeur oddly foreboding. Oh, and the Underground was closed one day I was there. Oh, and the one full day I had in Paris almost all the museums were closed. Oh, and I missed my flight home due to weather. In retrospect, this may have been the basis for a more traditional country song.

Funny! Sorry about all the misfires.

I loved the Heidi books when I was little. When I was about twelve, we moved to Europe (Belgium) and spent a lot of time visiting Switzerland. It was *exactly* as described in the books and such a delightful country to visit. Each year for four years, we went in September for a couple of weeks and spent time hiking in the Alps (we stayed in a town called Kandersteg). We were usually there in time for the locals to bring the cattle down from the mountains and we'd get awakened in the middle of the night by all the cattle being moved through town (lots of noisy bells). In the future, I'd love visit Prince Edward Island and the "Anne of Green Gables" house.

Lovely, thank! (And you're not alone on PEI and Anne.)

I've been a few times - of course, the LL Bean store; The Waterfront Restaurant in Camden ME, about an hour south of Bar Harbor - my dad proclaimed the best restaurant ever, Kennebunkport, and Boothbay Harbor were my favorites. But don't skip the Waterfront - well worth the stop. Camden has a lot of shops, hiking and great places to just enjoy the harbor.

Yes, someone else mentioned Camden, too.

Like many girls of my generation, I was an avid fan of the "Little House" books (long before they were corrupted by the TV series.) A few years ago, I visited a friend of mine in Minnesota and we took a driving trip that brought us to Pepin, Wisconsin, the town nearest "The Little House in the Big Woods". Located there is a replica of this little house. This was all a special surprise for me as my friend had never read the books nor had any interest in them as a young girl, but she knew how much I loved them. That's a true friend.

Sure is. Thanks!

We're traveling to Rome, Florence, Siena and Montelpuciano (in that order) in two weeks. We're picking up a rental car in Florence and driving it down to. Any suggestions on the driving part of it? I'm nervous that we may need a GPS. We were planning on just relying on maps, which I assume we can pick up at any gas station. But I've heard stories of automatic cameras and tickets for driving in the wrong parts or parking in the wrong area. If you or your readers have any helpful suggestions for driving or parking in Tuscany, we would greatly appreciate it.

I was in Florence last summer, and we'd toyed with the idea of renting a car, but didn't in the end, and we didn't miss having one, I assure you. Public transportation -- train or bus -- between all these cities is easy and, in the case of the train, really quick. I'd recommend baggging the car, it may be more of a headache than it's worth. And yes, you do get tickets for parking the wrong places -- usually the town centers -- so you may have to end up leaving your car on the outskirts of town, anyway. Read this Navigator column on the subject. But if you really want to go ahead with the car, let's ask the chatters for their advice. Guys?

September or October is a great time to visit. Warm temps and beautiful trees. For things to do, visit Abiqu (Georgia O'Keefe), eat a meal at Rancho de Chimayo, and consider riding the narrow gauge railroad, Cumbres and Toltec--a chance to see some wonderful, wild scenery.

I have to admit when my husband and I were in Denver and the Rockies in early March, he kept talking about the same thing -- that we were probably "in the Capitol."  So I thought this weekend's article was pretty funny. As a child, I read all of James Herriot's (Alfred Wight) books and loved them. He was a bit of a hero/role model for me, and growing up, I wanted nothing more to meet him and see the area he wrote about. Sadly, he died before that could ever happen, but on my second trip to England, I finally made it over to Yorkshire and the town and area where he lived/worked/wrote about. It was great for me to see the same area he had written about, and imagine what life would have been like for him. I also got to visit the set where the television show was filmed, which was also kind of neat.

Sounds great, thanks. Sorry you missed the author, though. (And glad you liked our Capitol article.)

Ever since I saw Ballykissangel on PBS I have wanted to go to Avoca. The villages, the hills, the 40 shades of green, the people...I hope to get up to that area when I go to Ireland in August.

Yes, sounds fabulous.

Chris - So what can a rental property owner do to protect herself? List with another company?

Home owners are in a difficult position because HomeAway and VRBO have a dominant market share. From what I can tell, FlipKey is not affected by this phishing scam. But I can't guarantee it will stay that way.

My niece just graduated from college and as a graduation present wanted to visit Virginia/D.C. She's 24, not much of a partier, likes good food/experiences, is somewhat adventurous (e.g., I'm planning on taking her to a rock climbing gym for a couple of hours) and will be here all day May 25-28. Any recommendations on how to fill her days/nights with Washington's/Virginia's best in the limited time we have? P.S. I have an extra bike and the appropriate vehicle/carrier if that's a recommendation as well. Any insights you could provide would be most appreciated.

You could do some or all of this bicycle loop in Virginia we wrote about a few years ago. You should also look at the visitors guide from our Going Out Guide.

We got a few e-mails with advice for the chatter last week who was going to drive between San Antonio and San Diego:

This drive can be very tedious, but there are possibilities.  I recommend turning north at Fort Stockton to Carlsbad, New Mexico.  Carlsbad Caverns are fabulous - in addition, in August you can witness the astounding evening bat flight, when hundreds of thousands of bats emerge for their nightly forage.  Also in Carlsbad is the charming Living Desert State Park, a compact tour of the plants and wildlife of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Route 180 west from Carlsbad winds through the Guadalupe Mountains - parts of this road are quite spectacular.  After crossing into Arizona, Tombstone, about as authentic a wild west town you can find,  is only about twenty miles south of Rte 10.   Tucson has many attractions, including the Sonoran Desert Museum and Pima Air and Space Museum.  Two sights very near each other yet completely different are the lovely San Xavier de Bac Mission and the only Titan Missile silo open for tours.
Still, there is a lot of open road on this route.  My recommendations - always have water and snacks, and fill your tank and empty your bladder at every opportunity. 
The response offered absolutely nothing, dismissing the route as "pretty much desert." But if this question is about Interstates 10 and 8, there are in fact a fair number of impressive National Park System sites not far from the road, including White Sands National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Saguaro National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park.

But remember, they wanted to do this in August. It's pretty darn hot along that route in August. At Joshua Tree, for example, the average daytime high is 101 degrees. 

After reading "Sarah's Key," a novel based on the real story of French Jews who were rounded up, arrested, and then deported to Auschwitz by the French government during WW II, my family, which has Jewish and French origins, took a tour of Paris, and the several camps in France where French Jews were imprisoned (including the one closest to Paris, Drancy, which now is a housing project) after being arrested. It made WWII come alive for the children and younger adults.

Incredible -- I just watched that movie over the weekend! It was great. Made me want to read the book. And see the places, like you.

Hi Travel Team, My family is planning on taking a family vacation for a week in August and I think revisiting the Orlando theme parks might be a wonderful trip. I hope to split our time between Disney World and Universal (especially for the Harry Potter land). My question is in terms of hotels is there a relatively nice hotel between the two parks or do we have to choose to stay at one or the other parks for the whole time?

I would recommend staying on property at both resorts -- in other words, doing three days at Universal and staying there, and then moving to a Disney property. (I live in Orlando and am a frequent visitor to both parks.) The reason isn't just convenience; you also have a better theme park experience, with benefits that can include early park admission and reduced ticket prices as part of a package. Also, you don't want to spend a good part of your vacation stuck in traffic on I-4!

This is for the writer who had turned in her gas guzzling SUV and was seeking to travel with her kids on the train.... AMTRAK can be horribly expensive ($180+ to NY) and adding on the cost of cabs, etc. can run up the bill. I would advise watching for rental car weekend deals for convenience. If she wants to use public transportation look at the buses, like Greyhound, Megabus, BOLT and Vamoose. Bus travel is much upgraded these days and deals are to be had.

You're right that Amtrak can be very expensive to go north to New York, but we were talking about sending her south to Kings Dominion, Williamsburg and Virginia Beach. That's much cheaper. You can get to any of those places for less than $100 round trip. But for a whole family, yes, a rental car or bus tickets could be economical too.

My teenager and I would like to take a short (2-3 hours) cooking class while in Paris next week. Suggestions for a reasonable priced class would be appreciated.

Hmmmm -- With one week's notice, finding a class with two openings might be a tad difficile. But here's a good resource for you. Cookbook author and blogger David Lebovitz compiled a list of Paris cooking classes here.  The list is a few years old and there's no telling whether he ever updated it, but it's a good place to start in any case. Hope you find the class of your dreams!

The husband and I are looking for a babymoon getaway in mid/late May and are hoping to go somewhere pleasantly warm with a beach. We initially thought of Puerto Rico, but it looks as though the rains begin in May. Are there any other spots in the Caribbean that you would recommend? We know Florida has lots of great possibilities too - any recs for somewhere low key that we can easily fly into (we don't want to rent a car). We're just looking to hang out on the beach and relax, with a town to browse shops and enjoy restaurants, no fancy resort needed. Hawaii is also a possibility if we see a sale sometime soon. Thanks for your help!

I would not worry to much about the rain in PR. The rain blows in and out, and is often embraced as a respite from to the heat.

For other options:  San Diego; St. Petersburg, Fla.;  Mexico's Riviera Maya; Cabo San Lucas; and  St. Johns (you can take the ferry over from St. Thomas). I also love the Gulf Islands, but you'll most likely need to rent a car to get around.

My husband and I are taking a four-day weekend to the Red River Gorge and the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky sometime this year (havent' actually settled when). I've got a list of things to do but would love if anyone has some tips on places to eat and/or stay and maybe the best companies to use for kayaking and ziplining at the gorge. Thanks for any help!

You stumped me on this.
Chatters, can you help!?!?!?

In the article you quote Christine Karpinski who says that "Vacation rental sites need to plaster their pages with warnings to never pay by wire transfer" - if that is true how do put down a deposit and pay for a owner rental, particularly in a foreign country? What can you do to ensure that you are communicating with the owner and not someone else? I will also add that this is not just a problem with vacation rentals. Over the weekend we had dinner with a friend who is getting ready to sell their house. Someone in the neighborhood came to talk to them about renting their house - based on a posting they had seen on the Internet. Sure enough, someone is fraudulently trying to rent this house with a email address that is based on the owner's name, but not the real owner's email.

I covered this advice in the last Navigator on phishing and vacation scams, but it's worth repeating.

1) Always call the homeowner before doing business. Phone numbers are difficult to hack.

2) Never wire money.

Even if the scammer manages to place a fake number on a site (unlikely) you wouldn't be able to get duped, because you would refuse to wire the money. 

Any news on a possible merger between American Airlines and US Airways? US Airways is currently in the Star Alliance. I assume they'd move to One World? And probably cut back flights, including international ones (we've taken them between the U.S. and Brazil and like the lie-flat seats in Envoy Class)? Is this merger even a possibility?

This isn't close to a done deal. US Airways is working behind the scenes to convince American's creditors that a merger would be a good thing. But American's officials have said they're not interested as they're going through Chapter 11. And to further complicate things, British Airways' parent company has expressed interest in investing in American.  If the merger occurs, there will likely be a reduction in the number of flights.  Not clear re: OneWorld vs. Star Alliance, but more likely that American would move. 

Thanks for the answer! I usually don't have my room cleaned and then leave a big tip when I checkout. But I often get worried calls from the front desk saying housekeeping hasn't been able to clean my room because of the do not disturb sign, so I've always wondered whether I was committing some kind of faux pas.

For my 50th birthday, my bosses gave me a trip to anywhere I wanted to go - and I could take my husband. I have never been to California, so I thought that would be fun. However, I was in the midst of reading all of Julia Child's books, many of which talked about their lives in Paris. She made every store, market, restaurant, and patisserie sound so wonderful that I fell in love and immediately changed my mind. My husband and I went to Paris instead and had a fabulous time. We went to E. Dehillerin, her favorite cooking supply store. Although when I came out, my husband was being chastised by the Paris police for taking pictures of the police on rollerblades...fortunately, they let us keep our camera. We also enjoyed the wonderful markets she talked about. I could just hear her voice the entire time we were there - it was wonderful and we cannot wait to go back! Thanks Julia!

Magnifique, thanks! (And my colleague want to know where you work! Great bosses you've got there.)

I was there two summers ago and staying off the beaten track so a car was a must. Definitely get the GPS; it will save the relationship you have with your traveling companions. The roads around there are windy and confusing and very difficult to navigate and the GPS add-on is not that costly. The rumors about tickets are absolutely true - my parents got one for entering a no-car zone (by accident) and then one two seconds later for leaving the no-car zone. I'm still paranoid I'll get some speeding tickets in the mail but they haven't found me yet. My recommendation would be to skip the car for the first half of the trip and consider driving from Florence to Tuscany. It will give you more options for exploring other Tuscan towns in the area.

A different view. Thanks!

While traveling to Amsterdam for work, I of course had to visit the Anne Frank house. While I have never read the Diary of Anne Frank, it was awe inspiring.

Yes, it is!

For me (and my unwitting wife) it was London and Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, which is about his love for the north London soccer team Arsenal. I managed to score tickets for my son and me at their new stadium, visited their old stadium nearby (which had been bombed in World War 2) and went to the Arsenal pub. She went to Marks and Spencer.

Fun, thanks!

Oh geez, I think most of my travel is because of that! For example, James Herriott = Yorkshire, as mentioned below. Probably the most enduring one, right now, comes from the movie "A Month by the Lake" based on Lake Como with Vanessa Redgrave and Uma Thurman. Late 1930s Italy, Lake Como, how can you go wrong? Trip number four coming up and each time I hope to become that person who spends a month each spring on Lake Como. Hasn't happened yet (although it's becoming a week almost every year, at least).

Loved that movie. And would love to spend a month at Lake Como, too!

When we were visiting Boston last year, my partner took me on a wonderful surprise trip to Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, MA. Wolf Hollow is a wolf preserve, and if you're at all interested in wolves, it is spellbinding. The owner gives a one-hour lecture about wolves while standing on the other side of a double fence, inside the area where the wolves live. After the lecture, you can see other wolves that live in other areas (they need to be separated for various reasons that are explained in the lecture). We were also lucky to get to see wolf puppies up close. We really enjoyed it. Their URL is Ipswich is on the coast, and while we didn't see a lot of the town or shore areas on this trip, we had an excellent seafood lunch at a roadside fish "shack."

Your story about phishing scams doesn't mention an obvious solution: These large international companies could accept credit cards. Instead of sending money directly to the property owner, the renter would charge the rental through the company, the company would process the payment and pay the property owner, and if there was a problem the renter would have all the consumer protections that credit cards afford. The company would charge processing fees and come out ahead. If the company didn't want to handle transactions themselves, maybe they could offer PayPal. Why would this be a problem?

The problem is that most of these rentals are owned by small businesses who don't want to spend the extra money on a Visa merchant account and are unwilling to pay for secure transactions offered by an online site like HomeAway. So in many cases, you have to wire cash to do business with them. The only way to change this is to refuse to do business with anyone who insists you wire money.

I am going to Santa Fe in about 2 weeks with my 4 year old. any suggestions beyond the obvious (museums, hiking)? We love the outdoors and eating so plan to do both of those.

As far as eating, have a look at Tom Sietsema's Postcard from the other year. It's a little old, but you might glean some tips from this story we ran.

I'm going there in a few weeks as part of a group tour and will be staying in decent hotels. Will I need converters/adaptors for charges for my iPhone? How about the water: do I need to be careful and drink only bottled water? Any other helpful tips that I should be aware of?

I think you'll be fine with the water, but if you have any qualms, just stick with bottled water. I drank tap water when I was there and had no trouble. You won't need converters, and, since you're staying at major hotels, probably won't need adapters either. Ask the tour company -- they'll know more about the outlets offered at your hotels. 

It's too hot in august to do the southern route. I'd suggest trekking up to Colorado, Utah, and the grand canyon, then on to LA. While it will be warm there too...due to elevation it will be much ooloer. Big difference between 115 and 90.

I remember awhile back that there was a bus service to either Dewey or Rehoboth during the that still around and if so could you link to it? Can't wait!

DC2NY is going to start seasonal service on Memorial Day weekend. 

"But I often get worried calls from the front desk saying housekeeping hasn't been able to clean my room because of the do not disturb sign, so I've always wondered whether I was committing some kind of faux pas." Hotel management is always concerned about the use of its rooms for suicides and illegal activities, and not allowing daily access to its rooms is something that security looks out for.

Good point.

Why do passengers think it is acceptable to rap on an F/A's arm, hip or derriere to get her attention?

Seriously? In what century?

My friends and I are trying to plan a birthday trip to the D.R. in June. Do you have any suggestions of where we should be looking? Or an alternative location we should be focusing on? Thanks!

I think you'll like the idea of the Dominican Republic even more after reading this great story we had a few months ago.

my 70 year old friend will travel solo next month; however, his doctor just notified him he has diabetes last week. I heard a lot of good things about the country he is visiting, so there is really no need to cancel the trip. But I am wondering what good insurance plan he can have... I remembered years ago someone told me there is an insurance that if anything wrong happened, they will fly you back to US. You know what the plan is? Thanks.

That's a medical evacuation service, and it can be part of an insurance policy or a standalone product. Try MedJetAssist or International SOS


Remember, if your friend buys travel insurance, he'll have to make sure it doesn't have a pre-existing conditions exclusion. If it does, and he develops complications related to diabetes, his claim will be unsuccessful.

My wife and I are going on our first trip to Yellowstone at the end of May. We'll be flying into Bozeman, then driving down to Jackson for 2 days at Teton, and drive back up through Yellowstone and staying there for 3 days. Any advice? How's the weather in late May through the Teton Pass? I heard they had a big snowstorm there last year during Mem. Day and had to close.

Yes, there can be snowstorms in Yellowstone in late May. As you mention, last year's storm dropped as much as two feet in some places. But that's unusual. The average low temp in late may is above freezing. Look at the 10-day forecase before you leave and rent an SUV if it looks bad. And if the Teton Pass is closed, you can get around it, but will take a lot longer. 

Growing up, I never got to travel anywhere, and really didn't want to. My freshman year of college, I went out with a bunch of girlfriends to see the movie "Love, Actually." Not a great movie, but I was completely taken in by the views of London, which is essentially a character in the movie. I had to go; it was almost like an epiphany. I decided to study abroad there for my junior year, and I made friends from all over the world. This all resulted in me getting bitten by the travel bug, which resulted in me traveling through half of Europe, and later visiting my friends in their home countries, and I just kept going. Nearly 10 years later, I'm a seasoned traveler who's hit nearly 30 countries on five continents. I married a man who loves travel as much as I do. We leave the country at least once per year. I know I would not be living this life had I not spent that year abroad. To think that watching one movie, which inspired me to visit one place, could have changed my life so dramatically :) Couldn't be more grateful about it.

Wow, talk about inspiration!

An airline can cancel a flight because of weather problems without any compensation. But sometimes, it seems that they just make this up so to avoid losing money on the flight. They always blame it on weather "somewhere" in the country where "your flight" is coming from. But, honestly, it seems like they are canceling flights when they are not full enough. Am I imagining this or has it happened to you also. Thanks.

It's not your imagination. Passengers have accused airlines of doing this for years, and it's very difficult to prove -- or disprove. Part of the problem is that airlines are on the honor system when they report a weather delay. There is no government auditor or forensic weather expert who verifies that the weather did, indeed, cause a delay. So we have to trust the airlines.

Hello I am heading to Dubrovnik in September and will fly home from Split. So far, for any one-connection flight, I am seeing 1500-1600 for airfare. For two connections (uck) it's around 1100-1200. I hate connections, so I plan to pay for the one connection flight to reduce the misery. Is 150-1600 a good price for Croatia, should I jump on it? Or can I do better in a few weeks or months? Thanks

$1,500 sounds high for September, especially late in the month. But the high fare is related to both  the one-stop issue and  flying into one city and leaving from another. I'd start tracking it now for a few weeks to see the trend. 

Can you recommend any public transportation options for getting to and from Duck, NC from DC? My family will be done there for a week in May and I have to come back midweek for a business meeting. I would prefer not to drive all of that distance by myself. Thank you!

From my experience, there is no easy way to OBX without a car.

You could take Greyhound to Elizabeth City, N.C., then have someone pick you up (it's about an hour's drive one way). 

Or try this company, which I found on the OBX Web site:

The Connection: Door-to-door van service by reservation between the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Norfolk, Virginia airport, bus station, and train station.

All of the Western Hemisphere uses the same outlet/voltage. Guidebooks always cover this in the "general information" in the back of the book. Always read that first!

I always wanted to take a boat down the Mississippi like in the movie Showboat. I finally asked a travel agent about it a couple years ago - she said I was about 50 years too young! :)

That is so funny! We're thinking of taking once of those cruises for a story -- this info is good to know. :-)

Here's a simple solution for the chatter worried about tap water: Drink beer instead!

on a micro level there are tools out there that can show you how many seats are available on a given flight in each fare class...sort of. But you'd have to check flight by flight. And if there are lots of seats available it will show a number like 9 which means there are at least 9 seats in that fare class. I use for a variety of things. It doesn't cover every airline though.

That's a good tip. I like ExpertFlyer, too, and have used it before. Combined with a service like Bing's airfare prediction service.

The Commonwealth has some of the best state lodgings in the country so try to stay at one of them--they fill up. Nothing is all that far--My Old Kentucky Home at Bardstown, the fort at Harrodsburg, Frankfort, Shakertown (good restaurant). Southern hospitality throughout the state with good interstate roads and rest areas. If you're driving from this area, especially Maryland, take the panhandle through WV, and to I 64. Beautiful scenery.

Depending on the interface, you can click "view seats." Of course you have to do that one flight at a time, but checking several should give you an idea of how fast seats are selling on that route in a particular timeframe.

Thanks. Yes, you could also do that.

Don't they have to keep on checking to see if you remove the DND sign though? It seems like it just breaks their routine. I believe they mark down which rooms were unavailable for cleaning and then some one has to check back later to see if the "please clean" sign is out or if there's no sign at all. I also don't quite agree that cleaning the next day means 2x the work. It's still just changing the sheets (no t more work) and changing the towels and cleaning up the bathroom, etc. Not nearly 2x the work.

I was actually kidding about the twice remark. I tend to keep my room fairly neat, so I often don't have housekeeping drop in until a few day's into my visit. Mainly so they don't start suspecting that I am repainting the room or building a submarine in the bathtub.

However, from my understanding, while they do mark the rooms on their clipboards, they can't enter if the sign is on the door. They might knock to be sure you are okay,  but they must respect your wishes.

Timeshares really should only be used for places you love to go to repeatedly every year. It could be looked at as prepaying for vacation. The hidden piece of this are property taxes you need to pay every year. You usually can find better deals on the second hand market. With the property exchanges many of these exchange services for properties also offer payment for just points used to reserve places so you have more demand than supply which makes exchanges very difficult.

I agree that it does not make sense to buy a timeshare with the thought that you'll be vacationing in a different place very year. As for property taxes, these are often covered under the yearly maintenance fees, but, yes, you still have to pay them. Not sure I follow your comment on property exchanges, but supply-and-demand always plays a part. 

Is Bandelier National Monument an "obvious"? If not, go! It is AMAZING!

To the theme park traveler, one of the hottest (and not in a good way) and muggiest places in the country in August. Stay on property so you can cool off in your room mid day. I'm breaking into a sweat just talking about it.

I am speaking in general, but when someone writes in to a travel column with a big travel problem (refund dispute, etc.), it always seems like the problem is solved in a moment because of the power of the press. (They don't want bad press.) I just wonder how you (again, in general) would solve these problems without mentioning that you are a travel writer for a major publication.

It's easy to get that impression because generally, we only publish the cases we solve.  A few years ago I started posting my mediation failures (and believe me, there are many) on my consumer advocacy blog.

Yes, we sometimes get special attention from a company when we bring a problem through media channels. But few companies just roll over and play dead. They push back, they tell their side of the story -- and often, they are right.

I try to take some of the lessons learned from a case and turn them into advice anyone can use. Otherwise, this kind of consumer advocacy is a meaningless exercise that shows what some companies will do when threatened with bad publicity. 

Truth is, you can often get the same treatment if you put your request in writing and are polite and reasonable. You'd be amazed at how few people do that.
I'm going to write something about this issue soon. Thanks for the column idea!

The smog is really quite bad unless they've had recent rain, so if you have any allergies/asthma (even just mild issues), make sure to bring an inhaler/antihistamines/nose spray/something. Every night I was stuffy and would have to clear black gunk out of my nose. I don't have asthma, but had just gotten over bronchitis when I went, and I was so glad I thought to bring my inhaler at the last minute!

Great advice. Thanks!

A suggestion I got (and followed) was to bring antibacterial wipes to wipe off the chopsticks in restaurants before use.

Good idea. They'd probably come in handy for plenty of other uses, too.

I have really wanted to try this!

I'm so glad you haven't gotten any inspired by "Jersey Shore" posts. :)

Ooh, not so far! Let's hope you don't "inspire" someone!

Second the High Line suggestion. Also almost anywhere in Central Park, but Columbus Circle side is busy crazy and always a great PEEPle watching spot (hmmm, diorama next year?). And depending on their interest in world affairs, mine loved the UN tour and we've done it more than once. If you take the first tour, you have a greater chance of being let into the Security Council or other chambers if they haven't convened yet for the day.

I have a hard time believing that a merged USAirways and AA would end up in Star Alliance. AA and BA have worked so closely for so long as the main airlines in OW. And US is more or less an also-ran in Star Alliance. Being a big wheel in OW has to be more useful to them. Also having the giant new UA and a giant US/AA all together in Star Alliance would pretty much kill OW since it would then have 0 US main lines.

Lots of conjecture here as to what could happen. You make some good points, but I think it's early days. 

What time does the TSA start screening at DCA? With the first flights out at 6:00am, do they start screening at 4:30, 5:00, or some other time? Thanks.

According to TSA, 4:30 or 5 a.m.

The high speed ferry no longer connects from NE to Nova Scotia - you'll have a lot more driving to do.

Looks like you might be right. Here's the ferry info on Nova Scotia.

To add on to the person who suggested this for China--bring these ANYTIME and ANYWHERE you travel. I used to always get sick after taking a trip. Now, I wipe down my airplane seat/tray table, hands after using the restroom (even after washing my hands in there), and carrying hand sanitizer. Haven't gotten sick while traveling since.

Sound advice, thanks!

Did that last September. We rented the smallest possible vehicle (Fiat Panda) and were happy we did so. Driving a full size vehicle through some of those towns would be a nightmare. Also makes parking much easier. We took a tablet PC with us that had a built in GPS and made sure to cache detailed maps of Tuscany on it before we left the US. Worked like a charm.

What's the proper pronounciation? And what's not to be missed when I vacation there next month?

An- GWILL-a. But for what to do, we must ask the chatters.

Is there such a thing as last minute cruises out of Baltimore? How does it work and what are the savings? Thanks

Carnival has "pack and go" promotions, but they're often no cheaper than the early saver deals. Royal Caribbean sometimes has last-minute deals, but they are offered to members of their frequent cruiser group. These cruises are going out fairly booked, so not many last-minute openings. 

Hi travel staff and chatters, Going to Puerto Rico and very nervous about driving there - I am not a very experienced driver. I am will be driving from El Yunque to either Ceiba airport or Isla Grande airport, and then from one of these to the international airport. Thoughts on which of the two airports will be easier to drive to? Thanks!

I have driven PR, and it can get hairy in and around San Juan. I drove to Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, and I turned around a lot.

I am not sure how those two airports compare, but if I had to guess, I might think that Ceiba is easier to drive to, since it is about an hour from San Juan, so you mind find less traffic.

Chatters I may be visiting Easter Island (during a trip to Chile) in June. Any tips? If I have four days total to devote to this excursion (from the time I leave Santiago until I return to Santiago), will that be enough? Thanks

Another one for the chatters. Anybody know?

Can you get snow end of may...yes. You can get snow in the entire area from yellowstone through salt lake city, to Bryce n late may and get snow. 2 yrs ago on a trip into sal lake city they got hit with around 6 inches luckily I arrived and got out before it hit the day before. It's more common to get overnight dusting to an inch or two snow that covers the ground but is gone during the day warm up. Which way are you driving in and out of the parks? Driving south from yellowstone to grand Teton there isn't a pass you go through. The passes will be coming from Bozeman into he owed NE and to Jackson from Idaho. I think the route is US 222 from red lodge into yellowstone which is a mountain top route that gets above 11000 could still be closed. For grand Teton you really need to be there in the mornings and spend afternoons and evenings in Jackson. For yellowstone you drive down route and come back another. I'd recommend staying in tower junction or Cooke city area for one night to see the valley there in early morning.

Thanks once again chatters for all your interesting questions, helpful suggestions and wry comments. And the great stories about book and/or movie inspired trips. So many great -- and classic -- ones, but I think I have to give the prize to the chatter who fell in love with London after seeing "Love, Actually" and has been an intrepid traveler ever since. Send your contact info to me at, and I'll ship off a prize soonest. And to all of you, have a great week and see you next Monday!

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