Talk about Travel

May 20, 2013

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

Happy Monday, travelers! Hope you got to see our jam-packed travel guide this weekend, which included practical info on chip-and-PIN credit cards, premium economy airline seats, the debate over electronic devices on planes and so much more. Andrea and I also had fun in our guidebook vs. apps challenge in Atlanta. What are your favorite tools for gathering travel advice -- specific books, apps or anything else. Best tip gets the prize.

Let's start!

Yesterday's helpful WP article about local airports indicates that they have WiFi...but recent experience of my traveling sister says that she couldn't use her Kindle to access Wifi at BWI (also not in Phoenix or Cincinnati). Do most airports have FREE wifi, or only an option to pay for Wifi?

No, most airports do not have free WiFi. A majority of airports ask their patrons to pay by the hour or day for access to their wireless network. What's more, even the so-called "free" options are often so slow that they're impractical to use for anything but checking email. If you want a more reliable signal, I would suggest tethering your cell phone to your PC, if possible. If your wireless carrier allows it.

BWI does have a free Wifi option. I'm guessing your sister might not have been able to use it because it requires that you watch an ad first -- you can probably do it on a Kindle Fire, but I know I haven't been able to use those kinds of Wifi systems on my basic Kindle.

I'm a single traveler (age 40+) looking to join an escorted group for a 8 or 9 day trip to Turkey or Egypt, starting on Nov. 23 or 24. My budget is around $2k to 3k for the land portion. So far I can only find trips at Abercrombie & Kent (too expensive) and Contiki (age limitation).

Lots of companies offer these type tours. I'd start by going to the United States Tour Operator's Web site and doing a search by your desired destinations. Gate 1 Travel, for example, does affordable tours to Turkey, and Cosmos has well-priced trips to Egypt.  

Heading to Rome for a long weekend at the end of June/beginning of July. (Dates aren't fixed yet.) I'm more interested in the Christian side of Rome than the, well, Roman side of Rome. Anything special I should keep in mind while visiting? Any tips on cheap but safe places to stay? (Hostels would be fine.)

Well, apart from the obvious -- the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Catacombs -- be sure to see the Mamertine Prison, where Peter and Paul were both imprisoned;  the Tres Fontane Abbey, where Paul was martyered; and the Church of St. Paul Outside the Wall, where he's  buried.

Afraid I can't help on the cheap lodgings, so let's ask the chatters for their suggestions? Folks, any cheap hotels or hostels you can recommend?

For us, we find that google maps is probably the most helpful tool for planning travels. We can use street view to gauge the sketchiness of the area, figure out exactly how far away the place is from public transportation (and when transport runs), and how close bars and restaurants are to our hotel. This is especially helpful when you are going to a place with a foreign alphabet and you don't speak the language-- you can figure out what your hostel looks like before you leave!

Yes, I can't live without Google Maps.

Besides you guys, I tend to ask friends for advice. I spent years working in international development so my friends have covered every continent. My other favorite tool is my open table app. Like Joe, I tend to eat my way across cities and it can tell me what's good and available nearby

My husband and I are looking for a Florida vacation.....there seem to be so many locations & resorts to choose from? Any particular places and/or resorts that you or the chatters recommend? Thanks so much!

If you've never been to Sanibel Island on Florida's west coast, it's definitely worth a visit. It's really quiet during the summer, the beaches are gorgeous and you can find all kinds of amazing shells. Sanibel has a small-town feel, with no huge condo developments or high-rises.

Do you know if there is a way to travel between DC and Annapolis on the weekend? I'm looking to do a day trip from DC using public transportation. I'm not wedded to Annapolis, so I would welcome any other destination ideas.

Looks like the most straightforward way between Washington and Annapolis is the Greyhound bus. You'd get to Annapolis around 12:30 p.m. and leave around 8:40 p.m. Other possibilities: Baltimore, Fredericksburg, even Philadelphia.

Hello--we'll be visiting for four nights over the Memorial weekend. I have some plans already, but if you have any great suggestions on things to do, please do! I have been before, but my friend has not. We want to take a boat ride down the Potomac, among many things. I really want to go out to Annapolis, but we don't want to rent a car for a day, and it looks like there isn't a bus or train that goes there from DC? Any advice on that would be appreciated.

See above -- Greyhound will get you to Annapolis for the day.

Some of my favorite D.C. things to see: National Zoo, National Gallery of Art and just walking the Mall. The Library of Congress is really cool too.

I have used Lonely Planet's thorntree website to get answers to FAQs on particular questions and to solicit information from locals and other travelers. It can be useful, especially for trips to places that are really off the beaten path.

I traveled this past week with my very small one year old. He had his own seat and I took the infant car seat with the snap n go stroller. He's about to grow out of the infant seat, and I am left with the dilemma of what to do with him now. He's too small for the Cares harness, plus I believe in safety and think that he should have his own seat and sit in a car seat. Have you ever seen anyone carrying a big kid car seat on a plane? And then how do I lug it through the airport much less down the aisle of a tiny regional jet? Any help, tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Yes, I've seen it. As the parent of three, I've carried a car seat on a plane, too. We needed the seat for the rental car, anyway. An airline should check your stroller and car seat at the gate at no extra cost.

We are trying to plan a family trip for grandparents, parents, a very active 3 yr old, an infant, and young couple with no kids for this Spring. Anywhere in the world, but must be as easy as possible with the kids. Any ideas? I was thinking maybe some kind of resort, maybe in Arizona?

Maybe a dude ranch would be a good choice. Several umbrella groups can give you recommendations, including the Dude Ranchers' Association.  It lists eight member ranches in Arizona alone. 

Hands down, was the greatest asset in planning my cross-country move. It allowed me to plot a course, find places to stop, things to see. The site also has an app so I could access my course from all across the country, enter the destination into my more practical Tomtom and hit the road. Much easier than trying to add a bunch of stops into google maps, or have to print a bunch of stuff out.

Cool. I'll have to check that out.

Do you think its necessary/worth it for a 10 trip to Italy? The tour and flight cost about $5K. Do you recommend any specific carrier? Thanks

It's really difficult to answer that question without knowing more about your circumstances. But at that price, the answer is probably "yes." If you send me an email, I'll shoot over a draft of a chapter about travel insurance from my new book. Just tell me if you see any typos, OK? Here's my email address.

How likely is it that DC will really stop Uber from operating in the city? Why is it that we can't have an easy, clean, and pleasant (albeit expensive) taxi option?

On the former, it's hard to say, but this piece on Friday by Mike DeBonis indicated that there are officials in the city who are hoping to work things out with Uber. The latter question is a much, much more complicated one. I'm looking forward to the introduction of the credit-card payments and personally hoping that Uber gets to stay around.

I believe Navy is graduating and Obama is speaking. (I think it is on Friday) but this could have an impact on Annapolis.

It does not have the best schedule but there is a shuttle from New Carrollton. I have ridden it and it is okay. 

Good to know. I was trying to avoid too many connections, especially for a day trip, but it's worth considering.

I am looking for a solo scenic mountain vacation somewhere on the eastern half of the U.S. for a few days in the early fall (late September - early October). I have been to Shenandoah and Canaan Valley many times so do not want to go there. I am thinking on somewhere in New England but have no idea where specifically to go. I want a place that has lodging -- does not require many many hours in the car to get to from DC/airport but is not totally overrun with tourists if that is possible.

I really, really loved the area around Catskill, New York, when I was there for a story the other year. You can see why the area was so inspirational for the painters of the Hudson River School. Very easy to get there if you fly to Albany, although the train will work too.

I am thinking about taking a European river cruise this fall. What companies would you recommend that I consider? I have taken large cruises but a river cruise seems a more intimate way to see European cities. Any other advice?

I took a Viking River Cruise several years ago in Germany and Austria, and it was a great experience. Also, as a consumer advocate, I can say that Viking takes feedback from its customers seriously, so if something happens, you would be in good hands.

I have a bit of a unique way, I think, of getting travel advice. Sometimes I'll look into what major events/conferences are taking place in a city, and then I'll check out the website of the organization holding the event. They're trying their best to convince people to attend the event, so it's in their best interest to highlight fun and interesting things to do. Best of all, it's often focused on things right near the hotel district, too. I picked up on this trick by actually working for one of those organizations a few years ago and having to coordinate all our blog posts about fun stuff for attendees to do in the event city.

That is smart thinking.

Good afternoon all, I and my family will be traveling to San Francisco and staying for one week in July. We're planning on a day trips to include the cheese trail, aquarium at San Jose, a couple of days in SF (found some kid friendly things online), and a day trip to Sonoma. Is there anything missing or would be a better fit for a pre-school child? Is a day trip to visit the redwoods worth the travel time from SF?

Coincidentally, we'll be in the area a few weeks later with our kids, who are not much older than yours. Last year when we were in the Bay Area, the children really enjoyed the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They say the best place to see redwoods is in Humboldt County, along Highway 101, which is probably too far a drive. You might consider a day trip to Yosemite National Park, for a real nature experience.

I am looking forward to visiting Bavaria this summer. Would you recommend staying in Munich and making day trips to other towns or staying in a few other places? I am interested in the Alps region and some preserved old towns and castles. Also should we rent a car or take trains and buses?

You could stay in Munich  and do day-trips to Neuschwanstein (King Ludwig II's fairy-tale castle); Berchtesgaden (Hitler's Bavarian hideway); the Wieskirche near Steingaden (fabulous rococo church in the middle of a meadow), the Ettal Abbey (Benedictine monastery that makes a green liqueur -- buy a bottle), the Linderhof (Ludwig's other castle) and Oberammergau. You could probably take buses to most of these, but I would rent a car for ease and convenience. You could also make most of these same trips from, say, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a beautiful little Alpine village that I highly recommend. I'd probably do that -- visit Munich while staying in Munich, then move on to Garmisch and do the rounds of these other lovely towns and sites. Chatters, what do you think?

When my wife and I visisted Yellowstone and Grand Tetons last year, we paid for a travel guide (Fodor's, I think) on our Kindle Fire. However, this was only moderately useful, and the maps were somewhat low resolution. I recently discovered that the National Park Service has apps for different parks. This would be just as useful, and best of all, free. However, the app requires internet, and at most parks, internet (and even cell reception) is hard to come by. I'd suggest looking at articles/maps/guides before hand, and saving them to your device using Evernote or Pocket (my preference) before you go. Hi res maps of the parks are usually available on the NPS website, so you can download them and use them on your trip.

Great tips.

For the chatter looking for hostels, etc. in Rome: a female friend of mine ( a solo traveler) stayed in a convent a few years ago and loved the experience. You can find lots of options on (it used to be called "Bed and Blessings"). Looks relatively inexpensive, too.

For the Rome traveler who is interested in the "Christian" side of Rome, and finding cheap lodgings, many years ago I stayed in a convent that provided hospitality to women travlers as its ministry. It was such a great experience that I did that in Padua as well. I don't know the name of any offhand, but I got the idea from reading Fodor's, so I would guess that guidebooks dealing with Rome would address this. And staying in a convent? Well, you can't get much more Christian than that!

Yes, see the previous comment!

I have taken our car seat on planes several times - my advice is get the seat dimensions (from the airline or and measure your car seat. I had a friends whose seat was an inch more narrow and I would borrow hers to fly. Be prepared to ask a stranger to hold your child, to break a nail, and maybe swear a little. And get the seat belt expander from the flight attendant, you'll need it! Good luck.

Thanks for the additional information.

My favorite tool for gathering travel advice? The Washington Post Travel Section, of course!!!

It was only a matter of time before someone said this. But thanks. You get the gold star for flattery. :)

You mentioned the Iberostar Cozumel in last week's chat. I am not affiliated in any way with the resort. I stayed there last February. It was lovely - the grounds are meticulously maintained, peafowl and iguanas wander everywhere. The rooms and buildings are very nice, although without dressers which was an issue. The food, while not 5 star, was plentiful, well presented and very tasty. Lots of fruit, salads, breads, cheeses. There was a definite European influence, as the chef staff all had German/Austrian accents. I would recommend staying there. It is a 30 minute taxi ride into town, for about $21 one way for up to 3 people. I would happily stay there again!

Thanks for the first-hand account. It's so helpful to hear from you all!

Do you recommend that I purchase some euros in the US before going to Europe? I prepaid for a car to take me to my hotel, so I don't need much money before I get into the city (Paris). I know the exchange rate in the US is terrible? Should I get some euros at an ATM in the airport when I arrive or wait and find a bank near my hotel when I arrive?

I would get some before you go -- a little "just in case" stash. Then you can go to an ATM. Here's our story from the other year comparing various ways to exchange money.

I'm not sure if there will be a difference between rates charged at the airport versus at a branch in the city, though I'd probably lean toward an off-airport site.

Your article in yesterday's paper was so timely! My husband and I are headed on our (slightly postponed but finally happening) honeymoon in June. We are going on a 12 day cruise to Norway. After reading the article, I am not sure what we should do for money on this trip. We do not have a chip and pin card. Should we try and get one? (not much time!) Or do you think we can use our regular cards? The other option would be to carry cash. We could get it here before we leave or we could do what we usually do in Europe, hit up an ATM when we arrive and get local currency. Do you have any suggestions?

Glad to be able to help. Your trip sounds great. I wouldn't worry too much about your credit cards. Especially since you're going to be on a cruise, I can't see too many instances where you'd be left on your own at a kiosk with no one to swipe your American credit card. If you think you're going to be traveling abroad more in the future, it might be worth considering a new card -- but I'm not about to advocate for everyone getting additional plastic to get a chip card or avoid foreign transaction fees for the kind of trip they may only take once a year or once every few years. Plus, soon, more American cards will be offering chips.

But, yes, it never hurts to have a little extra cash. I like to have some with me before I go just for emergencies and then get additional funds at a local ATM (see the above question).

A cheaper way to take a boat ride on the Potomac is to take the water taxi between National Harbor and Old Town. Plus, Old Town is a neat place to visit/eat for the out-of-towners.

My boyfriend and I are looking for a great city or charming town to spend 4 days or so in July. We love the arts and sightseeing, and we're big foodies. We'd like to relax and just enjoy a new town. Can you recommend a couple of place to fly within 2-4 hours along the East Coast or Midwest?

Wow -- that's a huge net to cast. Off the top of my head: Chicago, Charleston (might be hot, but still!), Portland (Maine), Boston, Montreal...

Considering temperature, ease of travel, crowds, and expenses, when are the best times during the year to travel to the United Kingdom?

For cheaper prices, I'd go in March, as long as dates don't coincide with Easter. Average high temp in low 50s, and rain not as likely as in autumn. 

I'm in Canada and I love my chip and PIN card. For purchases under $50, I just tap the card to the screen of the card reader and MAGIC!. For purchases over $50, I have to insert the card and then enter my PIN.

Interesting. I hadn't heard of that combination before.

I've had great luck with Yelp on the road. A super breakfast spot near the hotel in New Orleans, some amazing Indian fare just off the NJ Turnpike. These wouldn't be in guidebooks, but we could view location, reviews, menus...

Thinking about a 3 week trip in Central Europe next year. Some combination of Berlin, Prague, Budapest, and maybe Vienna. A couple of questions: How many days would it be appropriate to devote to Vienna? Our time is not unlimited, but we don't want to give the city short shrift. How safe is Budapest? We will be meeting a friend there, so we should be OK, but was wondering if we need to act differently than in other cities in the region. (If it wasn't for the friend, we probably wouldn't go at all). What's the "Gallery Row" in Berlin? Is it Auguststrasse in Mitte? Is it worth it to stop in Dresden for an afternoon to see the Frauenkirche and the palace?

I would give Vienna at least four to five days. There's a lot to do and see there-- the Imperial Palace and the art history museum, the many parks, the heurigen (wine taverns) in Grinzing, the kellers (wine cellars) in town, the Vienna Woods, Schonbrunn Palace (the emperors' summer palace), St. Stephens Cathedral and the Pauluskirche, the giant Ferris wheel in the Prater amuseument park, Freud's apartment, and on and on. You see what I mean. As to Budapest, unless there's something going on that I don't know about, I'm a little surprised at your question. Why would you think it's unsafe? It's a large, cosmopolitan city not that far from Vienna or Prague, and sharing many of their characteristics. It's as safe as any big city in Europe -- and you should definitely go, friend or no friend! It's well worth a visit. In Berlin, Auguststrasse has definitely established itself as a gallery and nightlife district. It's hopping! And Dresden -- yes, stop for an afternoon!

Would I be crazy to drive to Tyson's Corner this Friday afternoon from the southern part of the Shenandoah Valley? I see some good rates at nearby hotels, so I'm pondering a quick shopping getaway. I'm thinking that by driving toward DC, I'll be going against all the Memorial Day traffic and it won't be so bad.

I don't think it's crazy. I-81 will probably be fine, I-66 closer in might be busier. Before I moved here, I'd also drive in from the Valley (though from the northern end at Winchester) on Friday afternoons and even during the day I could still get stuck in traffic. I imagine there will be more on the holiday weekend, though I don't think it should deter you from a trip for yourself!

Two of my travel buddies and I are going to Portland ME for a long weekend at the end of June. We are flying into Boston and driving to Portland because it was more cost effective. I understand there are some cool places to see and eat between the two cities. Do you know of any pitstops along the way where we could see sights, eat seafood and do/see anything else fun?!

I'm partial to the areas just north of Portland (Boothbay Harbor, Damariscotta, Monhegan Island). If you're into the great outdoors, there are some nice natural areas along the way, including the Parker River Natural Wildlife Refuge and the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve.  Stop for ice cream in Kennebunkport at Rococo Artisan Ice Cream

Like a poster from last week, i want to take a trip to celebrate a big birthday in December (I'm a little older-turning 60). I am considering one of the following: Egypt; Israel/Jordan; India; southern Africa; Morocco. I will travel on a tour. My birthday is December 20. I can look up the weather but could use the travel crew's advice on choosing among these choices based on the travel nuances--effect of holidays, safety, bad weather, seasonal closures of tourist sights, etc. given those issues, where would you travel in December? Thanks!

Personally, I'd head for Israel/Jordan. It seems like the place to go, given that little holiday that happens in December. It's a good time for tourists. Chatters, your picks?

My husband and I are looking for a local B&B for our first vacation away since we had a kid. We'd like to stay within a 90 minute drive of Arlington--- and we'd love to stay somewhere with a pool. Ideas?

The Goodstone Inn and Restaurant in Middleburg has a pool. So does L’Auberge Provencale in White Post.

Any recommendations from you or the chatters on what to do at Cape Cod this summer? I've got a week and a reservation around Barnstable.

I'm more versed in the Truro/Wellfleet/Ptown part of the Cape, but you might find some inspiration in the Details box we ran with a Barnstable-centered story from a few years back.

About 15 years ago I stayed at the Fawlty Towers hostel. It's right by the train station, the staff was friendly and it was clean and comfortable. The owner even came and chased away the neighborhood flasher for us. :)

Now that's service!

There are so many great cities, towns and villages in Bavaria! Staying someplace other than Munich (which is lovely, but still a big city) for at least a couple of nights would definitely be a good change of pace. I found Bamberg to be surprisingly wonderful, for example, and have always wanted to visit Passau and Regensburg because the photos I've seen just make them seem so picturesque. Highly recommend looking through some guidebooks for more ideas (I've always been a fan of Rick Steve's).

Is my sister-in-law. Seriously. She is amazing with on-line information. Always seems to know the place to get information on a particular destination. Since my particular resource isn't available to everyone, I suggest talking to your friends and family who are great travelers. They know you best and know what sort of information you really need and value. Information about the best expensive restaurants is useless to people who would rather eat street food. Information about the best museums is useless to people who want to spend their entire vacation outside. So ask around.

favorite Memorial Day activity is the Marine Corps Band concert at Wolftrap followed by fireworks. Leave early. The track work on the Orange Line will make the bus to Wolftrap (from West Falls Church) a little time consuming.

I still cling to my trusty hard copy of the Rand-McNally Road Atlas (and no, I have no connection to them).

I've taken a fairly large (Britax Marathon) car seat on the plane many times. To lug through the airport we use a Go Go Wheely which attaches to the carseat so you can drag it through the airport easily, its just like another wheeled carry on. Getting it on the plane can be a pain (lifting over the seats) and then you secure the seat and put the wheeled cart under the seat in front of you. Its not the easiest option but my child is always safely secured in his own seat.

Thank you. I'm sure this is really helpful for our original chatter.

Christmas in Bavaria is fantastic - I went a couple years ago and loved visiting Munich and other Bavarian towns. If you're interested in Christmas markets I definitely recommend a day trip out to Nuremberg. Rothenburg is another great town to visit at Christmastime. It doesn't get much better than wandering through the markets with a warm mug of mulled wine, taking in stall upon stall of beautifully handmade German crafts. Enjoy!

another idea someone gave me re: conferences...they call a hotel they want to stay at - and ask if there are any conferences there the weekend they want to stay - because they don't like conferences, they are so noisy. Then they call back and say they want the rate for the conference. :)


Is it possible to see the major sights in Vienna in 3 days? 4? I gather it's a rather compact city.

Yes, but it'll be a busy four days. The main attractions are located within the Ringstrasse, so in that sense, it's pretty compact. Mass transit in Vienna is absolutely world class. You'll also need to pick and choose between the most significant museums, monuments and cultural attractions like the various theaters or opera. Don't forget to take some time for a visit to one of the legendary cafes. 

is there a "bad" time to visit Costa Rica? I tend to travel in the fall due to work arrangements. How does Oct/Nov sound to you?

Well, it gets pretty rainy in September and October -- that's the height of the rainy season, which ends mid-November. You might try pushing into November if possible, and make sure you check the weather in the particular regions you're visiting, because there are some major differences.

I have the opportunity to travel to Jaipur, Delhi , Agra and Kathmandu in late June and early July this year. Although the trip would be fascinating, I am concerned about the heat in the region during this time of year . Our hotel and car will be air conditioned but we will be outside touring many sites. Does anyone have any experience they can share traveling to India during this time of year? Thanks!

All I know is that it does get hot in India! Chatters, has anyone actually been there at this time of year?

...from a non-driver: 6pm international flight out of Dulles, coming from Arlington. What time should I leave for the airport? thanks!

Depends how you go and where in Arlington you're coming from. Aim to get to the airport by 3. You could take the 5A bus from Rosslyn (45+ minutes), which is, of course, subject to traffic. The other option is the Washington Flyer bus, which goes from the West Falls Church Metro (25 minute-ride) -- also subject to traffic, though the bus should be able to just hop on the Dulles Toll Road airport access lanes. So, um... Does that help?

Thanks for the article about Chip-and-PIN cards. Although I'm not too keen on getting another credit card in the near future, it's too bad the Travelex Card has been discontinued, because it was a great way to carry Euros. I'm headed to Europe in a few months, and would like to know whether is another, safer method for carrying Euros on a debit card other than buying a wad of them. Thanks in advance for the reply.

Sure, you can get a prepaid card from any number of sources. Here, for example, is info on products from Visa and American Express.

Perhaps it is time for summer refresher to save others from our fate in Italy! We were there in late February early March and have just been notified by Avis of a ZTL transgression in Mestre. We knew to be aware of ZTLs in Bologna and other places and are shocked to have received a ticket in Mestre. We drove from Bologna to Venice on our way to the Tronchetto parking garage, on toll roads and divided highways with ramps, and never went into the city. It seems that there are two other types of ZTL penalties near Venice -- bus lanes and truck lanes? We may have taken one wrong turn, near the parking garage and quickly changed lanes. There was no traffic, being March 1st! I'm suspecting there's no good way to fight this. But maybe you can write an article to "save" others from this fate?

Oh, I hear you. I wrote about this issue back in 2010. Unfortunately, nothing has changed.

Please tell Ms. Sachs "Thanks for fulfilling my prize claim for the late March chat session." I've received the prizes this past weekend. There's no further need to pester you about this subject.

Andrea isn't here, but glad everything got worked out.

We'll be visiting Mt Rainier in August. Has anyone been there? Can we see the area in 2 days or so? And any thoughts on great hotels? We have an infant so need a family friendly place!

Need your help again, chatsters!

Your article doesn't make clear the fact that there are almost no chip-and-PIN credit cards issued by US banks. A very few chip-and-signature cards are available. Even to affluent customer. For example the Amex Platinum card is available with a chip if you ask for it, but it's just chip-and-sig. Likewise the Chase Hyatt visa and Marriott visa are chip-and-sig only. It's unfortunate that US banks seem to have no incentive to push chip-and-PIN cards even though they are more secure and would reduce fraud to an extent.

I think we'll be seeing more chip-and-PIN cards in the future as we start to catch up on the infrastructure.

til they're two - take advantage of not having to buy a ticket, the child will be fine. and twice on a plane we took car seats/boosters and were told they were not 'approved' for flights, so the kid couldn't sit in them. which was fine by us - we just brought it because as mentioned we needed it for the rental car...but it was annoying.

I appreciate the feedback. I'm sure it will be very helpful.

For the traveler with the older infant, be sure that any car seat purchased is approved for onboard use as the airlines often check for this. A little research will allow you to determine which carseats these are. We had a Graco Sport model 3 years ago that fit the bill. It's a pain to lug the car seat on and off the plane with a 1 year old, but it's worth it to know your child is safely buckeled up during the flight (plus our daughter never complained during flights because she was in her familiar car seat) and often slept.

That's good advice. Thank you.

What's the best route to fly from BWI to Bellingham, WA? I've flown to SeaTac, taken the Airporter Shuttle to the GuestHouse Inn in Bellingham. There's a small airport in Bellingham, served by a couple of airlines. Would prefer fewest total hours in flight and in airports.

Can you leave out of Reagan National? Because Alaska Airlines has good connections from DCA to Bellingham via Seattle. 

If you don't want to travel all the way up to Humboldt Co. to see the Redwoods (250+ miles), consider Muir Woods in Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

Yes, I can vouch for Muir Woods. Beautiful!

Do it's a top 2 in the country along with the one in Baltmore.

With respect to San Jose, I agree. Monterey's aquarium is pretty spectacular.

I'll be taking an international flight out of Dulles later this summer. Despite living in the DC area my whole life, I'd successfully avoided flying out of Dulles until now. With the extra sequester-related security delays, am I silly to try to get to the airport 4 hours before my mid-afternoon flight? Are there any potential problems (other than boredom) from checking in so early?

I think that might be overkill, especially since there isn't much to do at Dulles. But if you would be home worrying the entire time, perhaps it's a good idea for you.  You shouldn't have any trouble checking in for your flight then. Another option is to check security wait times before you go. Right now, for example, Dulles is reporting 24-minute wait time at its east checkpoint and 13 minutes at the west end. 

Being at the airport three hours in advance should be plenty. When we flew to London from Dulles the other week, we left our house in Arlington at about 5:30 for our 9:30 flight. By the time we drove, parked, took the shuttle, checked our bags, got through security, took the aero-train, walked to our gate and bought beverages, we had about an hour until we started boarding (which they seem to give you a longer window for than on domestic flights).

Would it be too far out of your way to go to Freeport, Maine, or Brunswick (home of Bowdoin College) or Popham Beach (a state park, I believ)?

For the traveler who wants to take her big kid car seat on the plane, there are little fold-down cart type things that you attach the seat to and roll it behind you like luggage -- with or without the child inside. Britax makes a frame that fits our Britax car seat. You can then either planeside-check the car seat or use it on the plane, whichever floats your boat, and the frame (it's not much more than a handle and wheels) folds up to go in the overhead. Happy toddler traveling!

Thank you!

Hi, I have some free time now and I was contemplating a cross country trip to San Francisco. I need to be there by June 8th. Is it too late to start planing? any tips on car rentals are greatly appreciated. Ideally I would like to take a scenic route and get there in 3 to 4 days. Any ideas? Thanks again for all your great sessions on a weekly basis.

I don't think it's too late to start planning, no -- and sounds like fun! Three or four days, IMHO, is pretty quick, given that you'd need to be driving 10-11 hours a day, but then again, I don't really like driving that long in one day, so I might be the wrong person to ask! Google Maps is your friend here. I just spent a few minutes playing around with a four-day itinerary, and if you took I-80 most of the way, you could do it like this:

Day one: DC to Chicago, 11 hours.

Day two: Chicago to North Platte, NE, just under 11 hours.

Day three: North Platte to Salt Lake City, Utah, 9.5-10 hours.

Day four: Salt Lake to San Francisco, just under 11 hours.


My husband and I have decided to do a driving vacation this summer. A few places we will stay with friends but we really want to explore on our own. Need help on the second leg of the trip (probably more legs as we get there). We are stopping in Dayton and then traveling to Co Springs. We want to break that up. About half way looks like Kanasa City. Any recomemndations on where to stay and not to be missed sights. Only there one night. Thanks

Haven't been to KC myself, but take a look at this story we ran on the city (and be sure to check the details box). Hope it gives you some good ideas!

I have a business trip to Frankfurt the second week in Sept and would like to extend the trip (before/after) for a beach getaway. I will be traveling on my own and would like to mix beach with historical and other 'touristy" activities. I have been to Greece and some islands (Rhodes, Santorini, Mykynos, Crete) on a cruise and not adverse to going back there is that is your recommendation.

Ooh, how about Italy's Maremma region?

My favorite travel app is Roadside America. It's an amusing quirky guide to random stuff in all 50 states. Super fun when on a road trip, just open the app and see what's nearby, a submarine in a ditch in New Hamshire, a full-size chocolate moose in Maine. Makes even the most boring road trips a little fun.

Check out Hyannis...lots of cute shops. Also, if you have kids check out the Stony Brook Grist Mill and Museum in Brewster...I loved it as a kid.

This app is great for navigating public transport in big confusing cities - indispensable in NYC, especially when trying to figure out busses to the airports, or subways served by multiple lines. I spent $25 on my Metrocard for a whole weekend, which is less than one taxi from LGA.

and honestly I searched WaPo but I am looking for the best "best flight price" websites and am getting overwhelmed. Is there one best site to find flight prices. Looking for flights to San Francisco from DC - is $390/pp non-stop worth grabbing for mid-Fall flights or should we wait? Humbly request chat searching be made easier. Thank you!

Sorry not easier to search. $390 nonstop between here and San Francisco is a pretty good price. I'd buy it. It could go lower, but unless you are flexible with dates, I would not chance it. 

One night in Ann Arbor, MI over Memorial Day weekend.... about 4-6 20somethings. Where would you dine? Luckily, no picky eaters in the bunch and we are looking for something a bit more refined than college town casual.

Any Ann Arborites out there to help with this?

My boyfriend are saving up for a vacation, but I'd like to take advantage of a last minute deal. We're going to set aside the time, get our passports ready, and then look for a last minute package. Can you recommend a couple of good sites to watch? We'd like airfaire/hotels to be included but aren't interested in doing an organized tour. Looking for Europe/North Africa/Middle East. Thanks!

I've yet to find a Web site that does a comprehensive list of last-minute package deals by origination city. Bookit is the closest, but it doesn't offer exotic locales.  Airfarewatchdog lists discounted airfares, but not packages. Anyone have a site they like? 

The best source for last-minute deals is one of the "opaque" sites like Priceline or Hotwire, which airlines often turn to in order to get rid of leftover inventory. If you don't care about the airline or your connections, it might be a good place to turn.

My mother will be spending a few days in Amsterdam this fall. She is in her seventies, in good health (but not unlimited energy), and pretty sophisticated in her cultural tastes. Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House seem the most obvious choices. She would want to stay far, far, far away from the marijuana / prostitution / frat-boy scene. Do you have any suggestions as to additional places for her to visit?

Would she be up for a canal boat tour? They are really interesting and pleasurable. I'd hit the Van Gogh Museum in addition to the Rijks, and maybe the Stedelijk if she likes modern art. Also the Rembrandt House! And the Jewish Historical Museum. What else, chatters?

What's a "ZTL?

They're limited traffic zones that non-locals can be fined for driving into.

I think I read somewhere that using your Chip + PIN (I just got a new one from Citi) abroad was akin to taking a cash advance, with those fees & interest. Is that true?

Not in my understanding. Obviously, check the terms of your credit card agreement or call Citi. You may be charged a foreign transaction fee, though.

Love you all, and all the great content you provide, but the Travel section still has lots of issues. Yesterday, I was looking for Florida info by going to United States>Southeast region, and the page was completely blank. And I know you have tons of great articles on Florida!

Thanks for the reminder. That page has been buggy. I'll try to have someone in IT look at it.

Assuming the chatter's in the DC area (or somewhere along the East Coast) -- you DO realize that it's upwards of 3,000 miles cross-country, don't you? You're proposing something like 750 miles/day WITH sightseeing? Overly ambitious, methinks.

Sava's (casual), Zingerman's (original Deli or BBQ Roadhouse), Grange (upscale), Chop House, Pacific Rim, Blue Tractor (BBQ), Mani, Isalita, and many, many others

Thank you!!!

Just have to comment - we just returned from an Eastern Europe trip where we had to deal with four currencies: Euro, Zloty, Krona, and Forint. We took no currencies with us and just withdrew from the first off-airport ATM we found and used our Capital One card for as lodging and meals (no chip and pin, but no problem with that, though I feared there might be). We had some Dollars with us in case of emergency (venders at any international airport will take Dollars) but we never had to use them. Perhaps we're more casual than most, but we really had no problem. Eastern Europe turned out to be a much more pleasant and easy experience than we expected!

I do like Fodor's and Frommer's for books, but the best comes from someone who lives or has lived in the area. I also love asking you all. The three tactics combined have always led to great trips for me!

You can d the park in 2 day n sunrise and other n paradise. For hotels look at the gateway towns near Ashland and pack wood for no name lodging. The loosest chan hotels are in Puyallup with a BW, HI, and Fairfield...45-60 min drve. Snny weekends are very busy. They have a shuttle bus from Ashland. No shuttles fr sunrise.

Thanks for the article on premium economy. I travel al ot but have never paid for those seats (though I have occasionally been seated in them). My impression is that premium seats got extra space by making economy seats have even less space than usual (or historical). Any idea if my impression is right? If airlines want to treat economy passengers like cattle more and more, will I get a discount if I brand myself with the airline's logo?

Well, that's been suggested, but the airlines would never admit that! And yes, joining an airline's loyalty program will get you discounts in some cases, as indicated in the chart.

I am flying to Lisbon tomorrow and have not been overseas in roughly 10 years. I have one week to make it count. Could you please give me your "must do's"? Thank you!

Must-dos in Lisbon, chatters?

Maybe next week!

Well, thanks for joining us. Loved all the travel planning tips -- I'm going to have some new things to look at for my next road trip. It's hard to choose a winner, but I'll award the prize to the chatter who suggested looking at conference Web sites to find things to do in a city. Please send your name and mailing address to

We're off next Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Hope you have some fun travel plans for then. We'll see you in two weeks!

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