Talk about Travel

Apr 23, 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 day, chatters. How are you all feeling on this cloudy Monday? Wishing you could get away somewhere? Find some fabulous deal, snap it up and just go? Anywhere, no matter where? That's the idea behind flash sales, as you of course read in our section yesterday, right? Hope you enjoyed those stories, and I want to hear about your own best travel deals and spontaneous trips. Best story wins a prize. Now, let's talk!

I think I am too much of a "planner" to ever feel comfortable jumping at one of these short term things. I am really not into the idea of group tours either, so that would let out the safari thing.

Yes, I think you have to be comfortable with complete spontaneity to participate in flash sales. I'm not necessarily a big planner, but I worry that I'd buy a deal, and then something would come up that would preclude my taking the trip when the time came around for it. Which means that I definitely miss out on a lot of deals!

Not a question, but a comment. I see many questions about credit cards without chip technology not working in Europe. I live in the Netherlands, and travel extensively around western Europe. The only country, so far,that we have issues with is the Netherlands. They have switched to the chip, but if you push them, the standard credit card strip will work in their machines. They willl tell you that it's not possible, but it is. I was in a shop the other day and could only pay by credit card. Eventually,the merchant took off the paper covering the "swipe" area and swiped my card. The agreement merchants sign with visa, MasterCard,etc. Say they must be able to swipe cards. But in holland they don't want to. But, my advice is to get a card with a chip to be on the safe side.

How very interesting. Thanks for that information!

Do you have any reports on Travel - All Russia. I have not used an in-country agency and I wonder about their reliability. Trip Advisor had what appeared to be only opinions from the company.

Afraid nobody here knows anything about this particular company, so let's ask the chatters. Anybody familiar with them?

Back in the late 90's and early 2000's, airfare to Europe was often particularly low especially during the winter months. You could often find a RT fare for $200 between IAD and Rome. One blustury January Wednesday my cousin in Rome called me in tears because her boyfriend had dumped her. On a whim I checked the flights and was able to score one from Thurday to Sunday for $185. I called her back and told her, "would it make you feel better if I came to take you out to dinner?" She laughed but only until she got my email with the itinerary! Then she was so excited she nearly forgot about the breakup. For the next couple of years prices continued to be low so I made every excuse possible to visit my family: concerts in Rimini, truffle season, chestnut season, and I do believe once I was dismayed that I was unable to find a pair of shoes for a friend's wedding and hey! Why not look in Rome? When all you have to pay for is the airfare, going on a whim becomes so much easier!

*Very* spontaneous of you!

My extended family needs to have our reunion within a half hour of Cincinatti this summer. We would like to find a nice resort on a lake, with activities for a wide range of ages---from our parents mi their 70s, to a few teenagers, down to my very active children who are 4 and 6. (Some type of "beach" with swimming is a must.) We need stay in the Cincinatti area due to one of our siblings who lives there and will be unable to travel with a new baby. I would love a resort on a lake that is similar to The Greenbriar or The Homestead. Do you know of any of places like these in proximity to Cincy? We are happy with either Kentucky or Ohio as options. Thank you.

I'm researching like crazy and coming up empty. Chatters? Resort near Cincinnati?

I'd like to do a two day drive from Bozeman MT to Seattle WA. Is there a service or something that looks for drivers to deliver cars from place to place? I'd like to explore that option as opposed to a one way car rental.

You could try someplace like I don't actually know anything about this company, but it's a place for you to start looking. And perhaps some chatters can offer more tips.

We returned from the Dominican Republic on Saturday thru Miami on American Airlines. After we cleared US customs we were sent out into the airport near the ticket counters for American and had to go through security again. Is sending passengers through security at US airports after they arrive from other countries standard operating procedure?

It all depends on the airport, but often yes. At Dulles, for example, passengers who fly in from abroad have to exit the secure area, then re-enter security. The only ones exempt from this extra step are United pasengers, who have their own route within the secured area.

Lesson for travelers abroad: Leave extra time for your connections.

I do miss the days of airfare and bonus point wars between airlines. I scored a $99 flight between National and O'Hare and something like 12,000 bonus miles when I arranged to meet a friend in Chicago for a day on a whim. I did book it a couple of weeks in advance, but flew out on a Saturday just for the day, returning that same evening. Would not have done it had it not been for the price and mileage offer.

Ah yes, those were definitely the days!

Hi I don't think I can beat the Rome shoe shopper, but here goes: 1. Shortly after 911 my company underwent a lot of layoffs. My boss had to cut 6 people from her 12 person staff. I was one who was asked to stay. I was toying with finding a job in London and spent one sleepless night (including calling a friend of a friend in Germany, a recruiter) about whether to stay or go. I opted to stay and ended up spending 8 wonderful months jumping back and forth b/w Washington and London, searching. I also used the time to visit friends in Scotland over New Years, and when a conference in my field (but, the European version) opened up in Monte Carlo I thought "what a great place to meet people in my field, in Europe" and so I showed up with a lot of business cards and a great few weeks (starting and ending trip with visits to Paris, Burgundy, Provence and Nice). Never did get a job in London. 2. Jan 2011 was the huge Monet exhibit in Paris (Grand Palais). In early January I found out that the final weekend was advertised to run 24-7 for three days. I waffled, but two weeks out bought tickets for a two night stay in Paris. I hit up 6 museums over two days (well, one on Saturday and FIVE on Sunday) and generally only stopped to eat and sleep - in 48 hours. I also shopped the January soldes and came home with a lot of new winter clothes.

Wow. You are one impulsive traveler! :-)

I rented a chalet in Glacier National Park in the middle of May. Do you have any suggestions on things we might do there or any day trips we should take? We are the types that usually travel to an exotic beach or an international city so we are bit out of our league and would welcome any recommendations..

Check out this story from last year, plus this list of restaurants and things to do. Writer Nancy Trejos visited the park and talks about the breathtaking views and interesting hikes she found there.

Last June, I saw a fare to fly to Madrid for $350 roundtrip. I snapped it up for my fiance and I to travel there in December. It just was a no-brainer for us to go given that we'd wanted to go for years and it was so cheap. Fast forward a few months, we got married in October but didn't honeymoon directly after. We didn't realize until we were getting on the plane to head to Madrid that we had booked our honeymoon so cheap. We loved the city and can't wait to go back. Here's hoping for another fare sale (mistake?)!

That was fortuitous -- and cheap! I don't think we'll ever see fares like that to anywhere in Europe again.

Hi I may be going there in a few months. I found out there are no flights on Mondays. Would you happen to know why? Mildly concerned because I have a dormant medical issue that were it to rear its head in my 48 hours there, I'd need to be in a real hospital with real doctors, stat. It's very remote! Low probability of issues but having only one or two flights per day off the island and none on Monday is a little daunting to consider.

The island is very remote with low demand, so there is no need to have frequent air service. (Same situation occurs in small town U.S.A.) With medical concerns, I would seriously think hard about this trip and consult your doctor.

Hi there - we travel to Paris often, and have rented flats with no problems. Today I discovered (late, I know) Airbnb, which led me to discovering that short-term rentals in Paris are technically illegal. Any inside scoop? We're going back next month, and plan to rent through Airbnb unless there's a good reason not to. Thanks.

Yes, it's true, these short-term rentals are technically illegal, and yet there still seem to be plenty of Web sites promoting them. I'd read about a year ago that the authorities were going to start cracking down and enforcing the law, but I haven't heard whether that happened. Chatters, anybody have the scoop on that?

My wife and I just returned from a weekend in Providence, RI. Great city, but we got a ticket for parking our car on the street overnight. The parking meters and signs only say parking rules enforced Mon-Fri 8 to 5 PM, but nothing about overnight parking prohibited. Went to a police station and they were unhelpful and advised us to take it up with the courts. Other than never visiting Providence RI again, do we have any recourse? Seems like an unfair and predatory policy towards visitors to not update parking signs to reflect such a law.

Generally, where parking tickets are concerned, if you don't live anywhere near the area where you got the ticket, it ends up being easier and cheaper to just pay it. However, you might think about contacting the city visitors bureau, at, and talking to the highest-up person you can find there. They might have suggestions  for a remedy. It's in their best interest to keep tourists happy, after all. Can't hurt! And it might help.

The system apparently is acting up so I don't know if my comments about the article were received. I'm a Louisville native and although I'm glad to see the area on East Market being developed it is not the same as Bardstown or Frankfort areas which have places frequented by not only those from elsewhere in the city but by residences of the Highlands, an old established neighborhood in the midst of a renaissance. The area in the article is on East Market (the hotel mentioned is approximately 12-14 blocks away and although in the daytime the distance is walkable I would not think of walking the route at night even though Louisville has very good street lighting. In addition, anyone flying into Louisville should know that Southwest is a major carrier out of BWI with multiple flights including taxes and no baggage fees at approximately $293; Delta when I checked for mid-May had no specials and was approximately $493 with taxes. I think the Travel section should remind travel writers that there are three airports serving the DC area.

Thanks for sharing your information. And when we list flights, we list the cheapest we can find the week the story is running. We check flights from all the area airports. Fares change constantly, however, so that's why we say "fares currently starting at."

In April 2005 I met a great guy at the first ever Washington Nationals Game, he was in town from Cincinnati with some friends. We exchanged e-mails and spent the next two weeks writing our life stories to each other. Wednesday morning came and with it the airline sale e-mails. Less than $150 Cincy to DC. I e-mailed him the deal and he replied with his itinerary and arrival time. 7 years later I can still tell you exactly what I was wearing, the song that was playing on the way to the airport and every moment about that weekend. He moved here 2 months later. We're still together and every year we go to the Washington Nationals exhibition game on April 3rd.


I am heading out to San Diego tomorrow for a conference, and I'm super excited because I've never been to SD! I already have a bit of a plan - Tuesday I'm catching the Nats at Petco Park (yay!) and then checking out the Gaslamp Quarter. Wed-Fri I'll be up in Carlsbad, but I'm staying an extra day (Saturday) to see more of the sites. What do you recommend? Also, I want to pack a lunch for my 5 hr flight -- aside from limitations on liquids, is there anything else I should remember about taking food through security? Thanks, love the chats!

I could spend a full day plus some at Balboa Park, floating in and out its museums and gardens. The array is mind-boggling: the Mingei International Museum, the Museum of Photgraphic Arts, the Museum of Man, the Cactus Garden, the Native California Garden, the famous zoo and so much more.

The other option: Renti a bike and ride up to La Jolla or beyond.  San Diego has great bike trails along the ocean. Check the Web site of the San Diego Mountain Biking Assocation for a list of routes.

Can you post the link to the guide on traveling abroad and cell phones?

Is this what you're looking for?

My passport expires sometime next year (I think in July when my birthday is). How soon should I submit my passport for renewal? Also should I get one of the passport cards as well as the folio books?

The sooner the better, in case it slips your mind. (I waited and ended up paying more to expediate.) Summer gets very busy for the passport folks, so at the very least, submit your forms in the spring. Typical wait time is a few weeks.

If you have a passport, there is no need for a passport card, unless you don't like to carry around your book.  Plus the card is very limited.  It is only good for land and sea travel between the States and Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Mexico.

We are just starting to plan a trip to visit our son at Ramstein AFB this summer. Someone said that if we flew out of BWI or MDT (Harrisburg,PA), we'd have to get a connecting flight out of a major "hub" (like Atlanta or Chicago), and then would fly to Frankfurt. Is this true? And could we use a major credit card there for most purchases? And should we try to buy our flights about 6 weeks before departure? And would we need an "international driver's license" to drive a rental car there? Thanks We are just apprehensive parents in Lancaster, PA.....

I find connections through Philadelphia from both those airports, so not sure whom you're talking to. Connecting through Philly seems reasonable to me, especially from Harrisburg, which would probably be more convenient for you, no? Or you could drive to Philly and just take the nonstop from there. You will absolutely be able to use credit cards in Germany. You don't really need an international driver's license; you can rent the car using your U.S. license. That said, I often get an international license just to be on the safe side, although the chatters, I'm sure, will disagree with me. And finally, as to when to buy your tickets, there's no magic time anymore. Start looking at fares now -- I find $1024 on US Airways from Harrisburg. If you can afford that, I'd nab it, because as summer approaches, prices are only likely to go up. You should also sign up for sale alerts on Lufthansa and US Airways, which seem to be the big carriers to Frankfurt out of Philly. Chatters, please add your two cents.

The closest you're going to get to a lake vacation that close to Cincinnati is renting a houseboat.

Ah. Where would you put that houseboat? :-)

Taking the grandkids to Disney World this summer. Is it better to stay on the resort property or elsewhere?

If Chris were here (alas, he's traveling today), I'm sure he'd tell you to stay at a resort property. Not only are they really nice, but you get the full, true Disney experience by doing that.

What is the best credit card if trying to earn travel rewards? Thank you!

If you are not loyal to a specific airline or code-sharing program, then I suggest a more general travel awards card, such as Blue Sky Preferred from AmEx, Chase Sapphire or Capital One Venture Rewards.

Before signing up, though, read up on the benefits and check the annual fee to be sure it's worth the investment.

Csn anyone recommend B&B or small hotel in Kauai or Oahu? We'll be without the kids (woo hoo) so want to steer clear of resorts.

Chatters, need your help here!

If you ever do a FAQ, you might add this to the list. You have had many postings on this topic in these chats and multiple countries with issues have been reported, including France, Spain, and Germany (I think). For me, it was not an issue at shops, but at ticket kiosks in French rail stations--a not insignificant problem given the L-O-N-G lines to purchse tickets from a human. Travelers should be prepared that this may be an issue.

I really hope you can help.  We will be landing in Zurich for 3 days-beginning 6 AM May 23 and leaving at noon on May 26 th- on our way to India.  Any suggestions on "must sees" and how to get around?   We were thinking of 1 day in Zurich, then taking the train.  I'm not sure how long trips by rail take and if we need to book train tickets ahead. Would a straight shot to  Zermatt with an overnight stop  to see the Matterhorn be a good idea?  I've heard weather can make the photo op iffy and there is little else there if it's cloudy. Or maybe spending all our time in Luzern or Interlaken before we head back to catch our plane in Zurich to spend the night the 25th before our plane at noon on the 26th.   Since it's a quick visit, will the train get us where we can see the local sights? (we are photography nuts plus we don't want to always be on the run- we'd like time for local color too. ) Also, not wanting to break the bank, any suggestions on where to stay for comfortable hotels in the good areas of the cities you might suggest?  Many thanks Alberta Seith 703-400-9516 mobile message

I think you're trying to be much too ambitious in three days. If I were you, I'd stay put in Zurich, which is lovely and where there are many things to do -- wander around the old town, visit the cathedrals, the Museum of Art (one of the best in Europe) and the lovely Guild Houses near the river, go shopping, wander through the parks. Chatters, what do you think?

I had an absolutely amazing time in Iceland it was purely due to one tour company, though we did lots of day trips with different operators. I highly recommend Go Ecco for tours (especially by Ymir - we still keep in touch!). We did the Snaefellsness tour and our small group got to experience secret hot springs and lava fields while Ymir told us stories about growing up in Iceland with all its viking folklore. The day ended at a farmer's house where we grilled lamb, drank wine, and sat around a fire. Magical.

Thanks for the report from Iceland!

About 10 years ago when I was single and kidless, I was sitting at my desk one Friday before Labor Day and got one airline's weekly email of special weekend rates. They had one to Houston, so I decided to go for it. Left early the next morning and was able to surprise my mother (it was her birthday earlier that week). My father picked me up at the airport, giving my mother some fictitious reason why he had to be out at that hour of the morning, and dropped me off a half block away. When I rang the doorbell, he had to urge my mother to answer the door (she never did, assuming it was always salespeople). I could hear her screaming as she neared the door and saw who it was. It was a great surprise!


Between Cincinatti and Columbus is the area of Hocking Hills. Its similar, I believe, to Deep Creek Lake. If you search "Hocking Hills" on the internet several resorts come up. I have not been to them - friends own a cabin near a lake in Hocking Hills and love it there. Kentucky Lake is beautiful but probably too far.

Back in the early 2000s, I won two tickets to a hockey game in Phoenix. They were great seats, so I hated to give them late that Thursday night, I booked a trip on Hotwire for $500 (airfare and hotel for two) going out that Saturday morning. We enjoyed the trip and the game!

Good for you!

That is what the "rideshare" category on Craigslist is for. Try posting ads in both cities, Bozeman and Seattle. Maybe you can team up with the guy on the DC Craigslist rideshare who is perpetually looking for a car to drive from DC to Montana. The two of you could cooperate to offer car transport from DC to Seattle. There are a lot of flakeballs in the rideshare category, but mostly the flakeballs are the people wanting to drive/ride not the car owners, so look professional and you have a shot. Good luck.

One or two years ago, United was offering same-day return trips with their weekly e-fare offerings. I flew to New York from Chicago for about $139. - saw an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in the morning, and saw a Broadway show - grabbed a deli sandwich for the flight home that evening. It really is a thrill just to see the New York skyline. I also took day trip to visit a brother in Cincinnati who was getting chemo for cancer; took him to lunch as saw the Shepard Fairey (of Obama poster fame) exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center - itself a destination since it is by the architect Zaha Hadid. I'd wish they would bring back these day-trips - sometime 10 hour on the ground is enough, and since you don't have to get a hotel, it can make economic sense.

I'm with you, day-tripper!

Kentucky Lake

For the Easter Island traveler, why would you need to spend more than four or five days there? Fly in on a Tuesday, fly out Saturday or Sunday. Even most tour packages are less than a week. Possibly helpful:

You'll want to hike as much as you possibly can. Visit the lodges (perhaps going up to the Canada side to see the Prince of Wales Hotel). Also, I recommend eating at Serrano's in East Glacier Park (best Mexican food in the state, which admittedly seems like a low-bar, but was a great place to hang out with the locals and the food was surprisingly good). If bear spotting is on your list: there were tons of bears last year in the Many Glacier area of the park, try spotting them with a pair of binoculars from the lodge area.

we were in the Netherlands this past October, and the only place that absolutely wouldn't take cards w/out a chip were the train stations, even at the ticket booths. (forget about the automated kiosks). None of the hotels, shops or restaurants we went to had any problems with our cards, however. Getting a card WITH a chip in the US is difficult or expensive, however. We did get one at the airport before we left, just in case - but the purchase fees (and the fee for converting back when we returned) were really outrageous.

I've gotten an IDL a few times for trips abroad, but I've never had to show it in order to rent a car. My sense is that the only time it would be of much help is if you're traveling to a country that uses an alphabet different from ours -- say Greece or Russia. That said, though, be prepared for some confusion if you get into a situation where you have to show your U.S. license to a police officer who doesn't speak English. Much confusion results from the fact that we write our dates mm/dd/yyyy instead of dd/mm/yyyy or even yyyy-mm-dd. I had this experience in France, and had to spend a few minutes decoding my Virginia license for an officer.


stay on property. you will be SO glad you did. awesome experience, and you then don't feel like you need to leave. also get the dining plan. SO worth it.

Well, Zofia, you said someone would disagree with your suggestion to get an international driver's license for Germany and here I am! We have rented cars and driven all over Europe, portions of Southeast Asia and South Africa and have never been asked for an International Driver's License. This couple definitely will not need an International Driver's License in Germany, so there's no reason they should take the time and money to get one.

I knew you were out there! :-)

I recently flew on US Air and when I went to get a seat it showed only 4 choice sets left to choose from at $25 each. However when I was on the flight there were numerous empty non-choice seats -- I felt as though they had showed an inaccurate seating just to get me and others to spend $25 when free seats were still available. Have you heard other complaints about this practice? thank you

I've never run into that before. We could be magnanimous and assume that there was a computer glitch that day. But -- faced with nothing but pricey seats, would you have been able to proceed with the booking without choosing a seat and  getting the airline to pick  one for you? Or wait until you got to the airport to see if there were any free seats available?

It ain't the Greenbriar, but the Ohio State Parks operate several Lodge and Conference centers. The nearest to Cincinnati is Hueston Woods. Plenty for everyone of all ages to do, and cottages to accommodate families!

In the dear old days right after 9/11 United was nearly giving away seats on international flights. We took what amounted to an overnight trip to Milan for $350 for me and only 35,000 miles for my companion. It was unbelievably fun, though the length of the trip raised border control eyebrows.

I'll bet it did!

Years ago I spent some time wandering Portugal, which I can recommend to anybody. I stayed in a town for a couple of days, then went to the train station and took the first train that went someplace I hadn't been before. It was great.

That's the way to do it!

The parents might want to consider renting a stick-shift car if they know how to drive it. They are cheaper to rent than automatics in Europe.

Thanks for the tip!

Activities will be rather limited in Glacier National Park in mid-May. The Going-to-the-Sun Road will not be open that early and I'm not even sure too much of it will be plowed yet. Many of the trails will be closed, particularly those at high elevations, due to snow and ice. The boats, I believe, will be running so they could take a boat trip on one of the lakes in GNP. If they are on the west side of the park, they might enjoy a day trip down to the National Bison Range where they can drive by (or sometimes even through) herds of bison. There are also other wildlife there to see and the visitor's center has some excellent displays on the history of bison.

The last I heard there's a river called the Ohio.

Sorry. Obviously don't know my Ohio geography. :-)

Well. there IS a river nearby, so you could rent a houseboat there ; - )

So I've just been told! :-)

Two of us female 30-somethings are going to a smallish city near Nagoya, Japan for work in September-- first-ever visit to Asia for both. We would like to go about two days in advance to experience a bit of Japan. Tokyo would be a option, as would the Nagoya-Kyoto area. What would you and the chatters suggest if you had two days to see/experience something in Japan?

Tough call because  Tokyo and Kyoto are both phenomenal. However, if I had only two days,  I would chose Kyoto. There is so much to see (temples, gardens, museums,  malls-- best food courts ever!), but it is a much more manageable city, so you won't lose time scrambling around lost (I speak from experience). If possible, stay in a ryokan, a traditional guesthouse.

The lowest non-stop coach airfare I'm currently seeing online for PIT-EWR round-trip in late June is $304. Any chance it'll drop significantly, or should I grab this fare before it increases further?

That is outragous for an 80-minute flight. US Air has nonstops for less than $200.

Years ago, my mom, my sister and I had seen Hugh Jackman in The Boy from Oz where he was fantastic. When he appeared on Broadway this past fall in his one man show for a limited run, I bugged and bugged my mom about going. However, we could never figure out when we were both free to go. One night I received an email from my mom stating that she could go the next weekend, was I still interested? Of course! I called my sister and told her she had to decide that night if she wanted to go as well. I booked us airline tickets, bought exorbitant tickets to see Hugh Jackman that were worth every penny, booked a hotel room, and a week later we were in NYC for the weekend before Christmas and had an absolutely magical trip.

Lovely. And Hugh Jackman is definitely worth it. ;-)

My husband went to grad school at Brown, and that "no overnight parking on the streets" was a perpetual problem back then as well.

Some things never change....

Back in the late 90s, as chat rooms like AOL and online dating sites started making the scene I went on a blind date to Toronto. never saw the guys picture, and just decided hey why not since the airfare was so cheap. I had a wonderful time in Toronto, he wasn't a creep or anything like that, and got to see some great Egyptian antiquities.

Glad that turned out well. . .

Didn't the person want something very close to Cinn?

Yes, they wanted something within a half hour, so thanks for clarifying!

You can get one at the Traelex kiosk at Union Station. Loaded 100 euros on it, never had a problem with it.

I'm always very intrigued by the last minute airfare specials to South Africa and other far away places, but then wonder how long of a flight is really reasonable to endure for a short trip (perhaps 4 days/nights + travel time). Would a long weekend in Cape Town or somewhere equally far away really be doable, or would that be nuts?

It all depends on your threshold for pain and jet leg. If you are adventurous, do it (I fall in this camp). My philosophy: You can always sleep on the return flight. Just be sure to have a sense of what you want to do, so you won't waste your limited time. Also, a place like Cape Town is ideal, but there is so much at your fingertips -- no additional travel necessary.

Conversely, if you need your full eight hours of beauty sleep, wait for a deal that allows a longer stay. 

I'm looking for a Spanish language program, coupled with a home stay, somewhere in Central America. My plan is to participate with my two teenagers (we all have speak limited Spanish). Proximity to historical sites (Mayan sites, etc) a plus. Any ideas?

There are many, many choices out there. Most of them are run by schools based in the home/host countries. If you'd prefer to deal with a U.S. firm, check out Spanish Abroad Inc., a program based in Phoenix that has family Spanish immersion programs in Guatemala and Costa Rica. (There are also two locations in Mexico, which isn't Central America, but close!) Travel reporter Andrea Sachs used that company a few years ago, spending several days with a family in Mexico City.  Here's her report. First, of course, get references and reviews, as you'd do for any similar experience.

Hi gurus, Just last night was able to use United airline miles to book a trip to Florence and Vienna for 8 adults in December. We'll be in Vienna for Christmas week and have never visited before. We're staying in an apartment for the week so won't be traveling elsewhere overnight, but are looking for the best day trips from Vienna at that time of year. Do you have any suggestions?

Baden is pretty close and lovely. And you must see Melk with its beautiful Benedictine Abbey.

I will have a full day in Seattle in Aug. before a cruise. I have been to Mt Rainier twice. What other areas would you suggest for scenic photos? Mt St Helens or the Northern Cascades or another area. Within about a 2 hour drive. fred burke

Both of the places you mention are outside the two-hour limit. Mount St. Helens is more like 3 1/2 hours away, but in terms of jaw-dropping impact, you can't beat it. Scenic? Well, in a way. Even many years later, the evidence of the volcanic eruption is graphic and gripping. It is not beautiful, but it is awe-inspiring, as are the park rangers' descriptions of the phenomenon. You'll never forget it.

Thank you for taking my question. I am planning on taking a trip to Palau in July and Japan in October. I have heard conflicting advice on how early you should buy flight tickets. What is the best time frame to get the best deal on tickets for each trip? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

No matter the destination, we always have the same answer: Whenever you see a fare that comes close to your budget or expectations, grab it.

The fare system is so fluid, there is no metric to follow.  One exception: Avoid holidays and school vacation times. Watch the Web for sales and sign up for fare alerts. Then pounce when you see something you like.

That's happened to me before, on the seating chart the only available seats are upgrades that require an additional charge. I completed the reservation without selecting a seat. When I checked in the day of my flight, I was assigned one of the upgraded seats, no additional charge.

Thanks for the article on flash sales and last-minute travel! I've always wanted to do this but haven't yet. However, your article helped give me the confidence -- and resources ;-) -- to try it in the near future.

Let us know how it goes!

i don't know if this counts, but. At my company, they needed a consultant, but didn't really have one there (the office of one had to come back to the states for something). So I got picked. On a Wednesday. To be there Monday. I said: okay, if I can stop in NY (to see family) first. So, I had about a day and a half to get everything I needed together (good thing I always have a passport ready). This was before much internet access, so I didn't really have a lot of information. And friday, I flew up to NY. but my mom was overseas, so my sister 'took me in' and Sunday I flew to Amsterdam for a month. It was awesome, i even flew one weekend to visit a friend in London (buying those tickets Wed afternoon for a friday evening flight). Would do it again if asked in a heartbeat.

A little over 10 years ago, my wife and I booked a round-trip ticket to Paris for a seven-day European vacation. Other than the plane tickets, all we had was a 2-night reservation at a Paris hotel upon arrival, a one-week Eurorail pass, and a train schedule. Making it up as we went (and sleeping on the night train a few times), we were able to visit and explore Paris, Milan, Venice, and Munich, and had a particularly beautiful train ride through the Dolomite range of northern Italy through the Alps and into Bavaria.

In 2006, Travelzoo posted TNT Vacations deal for flights to Bermuda from JFK for $49 round trip for the month of March, $132 including all taxes and fees. It turned out to be the real deal, subsidized by the Bermuda tourism bureau. I convinced my husband that at that rate, we HAD to go with our kids, and we had a spontaneious 4-day weekend trip to the island that March. It was a bit nippy but sunny and we had a blast.

What a coup!

and I went to san francisco for a long weekend to visit. we left sat morning, got there, spent a day downtown with a friend from high school, sunday we went to wine country with friend and husband, and flew out sunday evening. that was when delta had those 'weekly' specials and you called monday evening to find out what was on the itinerary for that weekend. we had a blast. and he's my husband now. :)

Just so you know, I just got an offer from my Chase British Airways card to replace my card with a chip and pin card. I called last week and just got it in the mail over the weekend. So now I always have one in my wallet if I need it.

The family wants to head to Jamaica at the end of May. Can you give any tips on how to travel with one year olds. Will they need a passport? Will we need to buy a seat for them on the plane? should we check stroller and car seats? Any tips you have would be helpful.

Yes, baby needs a passport. If you are leaving at the end of May, you need to apply for a passport immediately. You can fly with your baby as a lap child, though many parents feel more comfortable buying the baby a seat and securing her in an FAA-approved car seat ( ask the flight crew for assistance in buckling the seat). You can check the stroller (and car seat if you don't use it onboard) at the gate, right before boarding.

Check with your doctor to make sure your baby has all of the necessary vaccinations. Also ask about any   foods/liquids to avoid. Bring lots of sunscreen, a sun hat, cover-ups, etc. If possible, stay at a resort with a pool and easy access to the beach, in case you need to run back to the room for a quick nap (for baby, not you).

To go to the airport in Atlanta - you most definitely have to go thru security AGAIN. And it's not just if you're connecting!!! If you're END is in Atlanta, you go thru security again (we found out coming home from DR that my 6 YO had put a 'contraband' water bottle in our luggage, and didn't know about it - but when we got to ATL, I took it out of my carryon and put it in our checked luggage, so we could take it home - I mean, why waste a good water bottle filled with water?). So yes, you have to go thru security AGAIN.


Afraid that's it for today, everyone. Thanks so much as ever for chatting and sorry if we didn't manage to get to your question/story  (we were a small band of only three today), but come back next week! It was tough picking a prize winner with all those spontaneous trips to choose from, but in the end, I'm going to go with the chatter who organized a trip to NY to see Hugh Jackman. I can't help it, I'm a fan. :-) Send your contact info to me at, and I'll send you your prize. Thanks again, chatters, see you next Monday!

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