Talk about Travel: Apps, frequent flier miles, how to stay connected abroad and more from our annual Travel Guide

May 21, 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 travelers.  Thanks for joining us on this misty Monday.

Hope you enjoyed the jam-packed Way to Go section and that the issue answered your burning questions about travel. For the ones it did not, we're here to help. 

In addition, for today's question: What apps do you rely on when you travel? Has an app saved the day? Share and win a prize.

For those of us who remember when getting there was half the fun, what can be done to resurrect that status--the relative comfort, the value of service, and the feeling that you were someone special. Singapore Airlines still seems to have it. I suspect Cathay Pacific, Thai, and Virgin Atlantic in the US. Is it the decline of manners and the worst side of egalitarianism? Is it the numbers traveling? Is it the pressure of keeping prices low and thereby not hiring enough people, or not paying them enough?

I think two things need to happen: First, travelers need to reward businesses that offer the best customer service by staying, flying and cruising with them. They're out there, as you point out -- but they're few and far between.  

Second, we need government to allow these companies to succeed. Right now, there are rules, regulations and processes in place that protect legacy businesses from real competition -- and not just on the airline side, but also in the hotel, cruise and car rental industries. (When's the last time you heard of an entrepreneurial cruise line startup? Me neither.) One key to that is having a well-funded, organized and credible consumer advocacy group for all travelers in Washington. We don't have that yet.

My husband and I have a 2.5 hour layover in the Munich airport on June 28, and a 4.5 hour layover in the Montreal airport on July 9. Any ideas for what we can do to pass the time?

You do know we answered this last week, right? You won't really have much time to do anything other than grab a bite to eat and stretch your legs. Do some reading.

We live in Cairns Australia . We would like to go to Burma for Christmas and New Year. A boat trip would be ideal, but I hesitate about taking a plane over there. Any suggestions? Many thanks.

We're probably not the best people to ask about boats from Australia to Burma, since we're in the United States and, some people's impressions to the contrary, we're not really travel agents. :-) I do find online the cruise line Captain's Choice, with a cruise from Australia to Burma that looks very nice. But I have no personal knowledge of this company. Perhaps another Australia reader can help us out here?

Going to Nassau for 6 days starting on Thursday of this week. The weather looks a little dodgy for the first half though. After I've spent two days sleeping solidly, if I find myself rained in, are there any indoor activities I should check out, or just return to my slumber? I've been to Nassau a few times but always just done the beach thing. I'm not staying at Atlantis and not feeling like paying $200 for my wife and I to get in, so that's out...

Though most people flock to the beaches and Atlantis, Naussau is crammed with attractions that don't involve sand or large outlays of cash.

Here are some of my favorites:

Arawak Cay fish fry; Fort Charlotte;  Queen's Staircase; Government House;  National Art Gallery and the Doongalik Studios Art Gallery; and Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Center (the flamingo show is hysterical). I also rode the public bus for a buck or so and just soaked up the local scene.


I'll be in Rome in August and Barcelona in November, three days in each place. I have not been able to find a source of oxygen cylinders to use when touring around the cities. I carry my own portable oxygen concentrator but the batteries only last 55 minutes and each one weighs about 5 lbs - so I really need a portable tank. Can you help me find a supplier? 

Not really sure this is something we ought to try to answer. Can you ask your doctor or another medical or pharmaceutical professional you've seen?

My husband and I are going to take a cross-country road trip from DC to California this summer - are there any good websites that will help us plan this undertaking? I've tried TripIt, but it isn't that intuitive. We have specific waypoints where we want to stop already in mind, so we don't need a site just to find us the shortest route - we want something to help us plot those legs and show us interesting sights along the way.

Here's an article we had a few years ago about driving cross-country. Are you AAA members? They have lots of great resourcesRoad Trip USA, Roadside America and RoadTrip America can also help you.

I'm headed to Chicago this weekend for the first time! I've heard from numerous people that I should take an architecture tour by boat, but I've seen several companies offer these. Is one better than the others, or does it not matter? Any other Chicago suggestions? Thanks!

Check out the Chicago Architecture Foundation, as explored in Joe Yonan's article from the other year.

As to other Chicago suggestions, where to start? If you've never been, do check out the Navy Pier to at least ride the ferris wheel and visit the stained glass museum. Maybe check out the Ledge at the Willis Tower. Killer breakfasts to be had at Ann Sather. That's just scraping the surface!

that would be extremely helpful internationally, like the Google translate and currency converters, is that using them on the go is prohibitively expensive unless you've got WiFi or have bought an extended data plan!

Or took advantage of one of the other options I laid out in my Internet abroad article.

Hello! My son is fixated on the idea of a house on wheels and is dying for us to rent a camper (the fully equipped kind). I was thinking of using it at a campground in Wisconsin. Is it better to drive from here or drive our car there and pick up the camper closer to our destination? Also, how do I go about all this? I have zero experience with campers! Many thanks, Eileen

I rented a VW camper in Hawaii and loved the experience.  I felt like a giant self-sufficient turtle.

 For your trip, you need to keep time and budget in mind. If part of the trip is camping en route to Wisconsin, then rent here. However, it will be more expensive and much slower than driving your own car. I personally would rent in Wisconsin, to maximize the camper experience in a natural settings vs. the highway. Cruise America is a good source.  In Wisconsin, try Happy Trails RV Rentals.

Make sure the camper has sufficient water and propane tanks, and ask if it includes linens, plates, etc.

HopStop - the best thing since sliced bread for getting around in Manhattan by bus or subway. Just enter where you are, where you want to go, and method of transport and the directions pop up. Love it!

Good one. I played around with HopStop when I was in Philadelphia. Seemed pretty useful.

You often print questions like "I will have a 5-hour layover in (some city). Is it possible to leave the airport and visit the city?" Much of this information can be found by googling the airport name plus "Ground Transportation", to see how to get to the city center. I was able to walk around the old section of Brussels recently, during a 5-hour layover. But what I didn't have, and couldn't get at the airport, was a map of the city. I was paranoid about getting lost if I strayed too far from the train station in Brussels. If you're planning to wander about during a layover, purchase a city map ahead of time, e.g. from

Great advice.  Thanks!

Of course I have exhausted local resources such as my oxygen supplier here and my doctor - and I've tried the internet without success (unless I want to pay $800 for 6 cylinders of liquid oxygen in Barcelona). Maybe other readers have clues, I'm not asking for a recommendation, just a possible source. Thanks

Happy to throw out the question.

Chatters, can you help?

The Unofficial Guide to Disney's App is a lifesaver at the Mouse House. Real-time waiting times, guides to avoid crowds, character sightings, etc. It saved us hours of wandering around aimlessly!

Sounds like it will help parents avoid meltdowns, too.

Please I need all the help I can get. My niece have been accepted at the HHL-Leipzig Graduated School of Management. I promised her that I will accompany her on this trip. She will come from Peru to NY, stay there two or three days, and then she goes to Germany. I have 80 thousand miles with Delta, I hope those miles are enough to book this trip from Missoula, Montana, stay with my niece in NY for two or three days, travel to Leipzig, where I assume spend no more than a week, then come back to Missoula. Would you please suggest a hotel, nice but not expensive, with easy access to this Colloege, or to touristic attractions (this are for me since my niece will be busy getting acquainted with her new College). I would appreciate any advise, suggestions, you can give me. Thanks.

I'm afraid Leipzig is one eastern German city I never made it to. But perhaps our chatters can help with this one. Hotel suggestions, folks?

My parents will be visiting over the long weekend and I thought they would enjoy a day trip to Annapolis. What are the best places to see in a day and what is your recommendation for the best place for crab cakes? For things to do, I'm looking for a mix of history and strolling around the town.

Our friends at the Going Out Guide have this great neighborhood guide on Annapolis. That should pretty much cover it, but we'd love to hear from the chatters if they have suggestions.

What would you tour and where would you eat if you only had three days in Rome?

I'd see St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel plus the Vatican Museum; the Colosseum; the Roman Forum; the Catacombs; make a stop at the Trevi Fountain and at the Spanish Steps; do some shopping (mostly window) on the Via Condotti. And I'd eat anywhere. The food in Italy is pretty uniformly terrific, so you can hardly go wrong even just dropping randomly in someplace. But we can also ask the chatters for specific recommendations, if they have any. Folks?

My best friend & I (both female) turn 60 in October 2012 and want to celebrate with a big trip - maybe 10 days with some pampering & some adventure in the $4000.00 range for each of us. We have done Europe, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Hawaii and some Caribbean Islands. I have many Delta skymiles so may be able to get us airfares. Any suggestions? Thanks so much.

I would suggest Morocco: Hire a driver to take you around the country, to Fez, Rabat, Essaouira, the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara, etc.  (Personally, I would skip Marrakesh.) Or, consider Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Mix visits to Andes market villages with the wildlife adventure.

My boyfriend and I want to sneak away to the beach one weekend in June. We're not looking for anything more than some sand, waves, a little bit of a boardwalk, and maybe some night life. We've narrowed our choices down to (yes, uninspiring, but they fit the bill) Ocean City and/or Virginia Beach. Which would you choose? Also, can you give us the name of some ocean-front hotels? Wading through Priceline and Expedia is rather difficult, since we don't know either areas at all. Thanks!

I like Virginia Beach (disclaimer: I've never been to Ocean City, so take that into account!). Many chains are represented on the ocean there -- some good options are the Sheraton and the Hilton. Just look at Google Maps and you can see which hotels are adjacent to the boardwalk.

Dear Travel Gang -- Maybe I should be more impressed by the story, but to me it wasn't much more than a pretty good deal for airline miles, coupled with a "What I did on my summer vacation" story. The $300 in 'total costs" ignores the costs of trips taken, and possibly unneeded stuff bought to build up the stash of miles. Also the value of miles used in exchange for tickets is not zero, but in the range of 1 to 2 cents/mile, so for a strict accounting, another $1600 to $3200 should be included. I am certainly not anti-mileage programs, but I am too old to get excited about "free" economy class tickets.

You're right. There's no such thing as "free." Sooner or later, you're going to end up paying for it. Mark me down as a frequent flier skeptic. Here's a Navigator I wrote a few years ago on the subject.

In the next few weeks, I am getting married and going on my honeymoon--10 days in Kauai. The 2 first class tickets on American Airlines were paid for exclusively with American Airline miles. The 10 nights at the Kauai Marriott were paid for exclusively with Marriott points. (I am blessed with a very generous future father-in-law who has done some extensive traveling in the past few years!) Our dilemma is travel insurance. Ideally I would like to get some, but every place I've found wants me to tell them how much I paid for the trip. The "problem" (I realize it's a stretch to call this a problem), is that since we haven't paid anything yet (we will obviously pay for meals, activities, rental car once there) and the miles/points don't even belong to us, I don't know how purchase the insurance. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks!

Your frequent flier points should be covered under your policy. I would read it carefully, and unless it specifically excludes miles, then you should be able to get reimbursed, if you make a claim. I recently had a similar case on my consumer advocacy site -- a traveler paid with a voucher, but the insurance company wouldn't reimburse him -- and was able to get it resolved. If you run into any trouble, please let me know. Here's my email address.

We are going to the beach (Ocean City) with our baby this summer. My husband and I have gone several years now but this is our little one's first trip. She will have just turned one and I wanted your option about shade options on the beach. Should we invest in tent thing or just rent umbrellas? In the past without a baby we always seemed to drag too much to the beach, but its over a 1/2 mile from our place to the beach so popping back in to the house for something isn't an option. Thanks!

As someone who regularly lugs beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers, books, etc., across the hot sand, I vote for renting an umbrella that they set up for you on the beach. Just keep track of the moving sun to prevent exposure. If you thought you were dragging too much stuff before, then the baby and her accouterments will surely put you over the top! Full disclosure: I have no baby-at-the-beach experience! So maybe other chatters would like to offer their opinions.

I have the opportunity to fly to Dushanbe, Tajikistan on my job's dollar. Anyone out there gone to Dushanbe? Do you recommend it? I have heard most of the beautiful parts of Tajikistan are outside the capital city. For what it is worth, I do speak Russian, but not well. Thanks Travel Crew (and chatters!)

I  can't offer a smidgeon of advice for Dushanbe.

Chatters, it's up to you!

We're an older couple who's never had a cell-phone, pager, PDA, laptop computer, etc. Therefore we've never used apps for anything. Yet amazingly, we still manage to travel the world, and get home safe!

Whatever floats your boat! I get it, but I think you should change your mind about traveling with a cellphone. If anything goes wrong -- either in a big or a small way -- you'll be very glad to have it.

Probably not prize-worthy, but passing along: Google Maps has helped me get around numerous cities and is remarkably valuable - no one thinks about it, but it's great. It also keeps me from looking like a lost tourist while perusing a map. Lonely Planet's city guides are great and even available offline - their Paris, London, and Edinburgh guides were indispensable. AllSubway is also available offline and gives great maps of different subway lines all around the world. Facebook has been my default go-to for help for years - you never know when your old high school classmate has a great place to go in Des Moines....

A great assorment, and sometime the most obvious tools are the ones that save the day.

Go to the bookstore and see if they have a guidebook for handicap accessible Europe. That might have ideas as to where to get oxygen. My grandmother used one when she needed to find stuff to do and places to stay that were wheelchair acessible.


I'm a member of AAA, but don't take advantage of their travel offers. What exactly do they do? Offer discounts? Provide free travel agents?

Lots. They offer discounts on hotels, Amtrak tickets, theme parks, car rentals ,  etc. They can also help with trip planning, including road trips and cruises. Peruse AAA's Web site for recent offers.

Planning a trip for my 40th birthday in November. Originally I thought about the Caribbean but am now thinking I want something more active. Right now I'm looking at Spain (Madrid) or Portugal. We would only have 4-5 days as we have 3 young kids at home and that's about the longest our childcare (grandmas) will last. Would that be enough for either city/area? How would the weather be in November? I don't mind cool but I want to avoid cold. We're into good food and wine and would enjoy a bit of sightseeing. Any other suggestions I should look into (already been to Paris, Italy and London)?

Do the four to five days include flying days? That would probably give you only really four days in country, assuming that you'd fly overnight on the way over, but I think that's plenty and definitely still worth doing. The weather on the Iberian peninsula is generally mildish year-round, but not really warm in the late fall and winter -- I was there in February once and it was warm enough to sit on the beach with a coat on. :-) If you go to Madrid, it should be mostly dry and cool, high temps in the upper 50s, lows in the 40s, so bring a jacket at least for the evenings. And there could be a little rain -- not a lot -- that time of year, so bring an umbrella or a raincoat. Madrid is lovely, the food is delicious, I'd go for it.

Does anyone know if the Living Social Escapes are a real bargain, or just an venue to promote regular, advertized rates on hotels, packages, etc.?

Did you not see our story on a Living Social Escapes safari that one of our Post reporters took? You must read it. It will answer your question.

Every year for my birthday I take the day off and do something for myself. I also have a tradition of going to the theater to see one of the hottest new shows for my birthday as well (so I have that covered). This morning I got the brilliant idea to take a day trip somewhere that Southwest flies and tour a city I've never been. To help keep costs down I would rely on local transportation, which comes to my question what cities in additional to Atalanta, have great local transportation from the airport to the attractions. (New York is out, because I go there often). Boston maybe?? Thanks in advance.

Sure, Boston, but let me recommend its smaller neighbor, Providence. I loved that city when I was there the other year. There's a local bus that goes from the airport to the city, and once you're downtown, you can do everything by foot. It's a great food town -- here's Tom Sietsema's Postcard. So much historic stuff to see too.

I took a day trip to Milwaukee from Chicago yesterday to attend a matinee of the Florentine Opera - Mozart's Idomeneo. I had my mind set on going to a favorite German restaurant afterwards, but discovered too late it was closed on Sundays. We had no "Plan B," but I had the Open Table app on my phone. During intermission I looked at what was available. Bingo! We ate at Ryan Braun's Grafitto, just a few blocks away and had a really memorable dinner of made-from-scratch Italian creations. Yum! Without Open Table we may have ended up at one of the abundant chain restaurants, which is really not the way to experience a different city.

Apps to the rescue.

For the person traveling to Rome and Barcelona in November, try posting a question on the relevant Trip Advisor Forums for local input and recommendations.

Just wanted to thank you for printing a "pro" FF miles article this weekend. It was refreshing to see someone using their points in real life. It is possible if you're creative and flexible. I've earned enough miles this year alone to go to Europe for 12 days in July with 2 free stopovers...that was a great article too!

Glad you enjoyed the piece and are using your miles as well.

My parents and everyone we have taken really enjoyed Ft. McHenry in Baltimore. Is the Travel Section going to have a special section about the 1812 Bicentennial starting in June in Baltimore?

We have no plans for a special section on that subject. We may do a story or two in the course of the next several months. I imagine that the Weekend section may also have some coverage.

I'm looking to take a 5 or 6 day cruise from Baltimore this summer - late June or July. But options look pretty limited - like, one port of call in Bermuda. Is that basically what I have to choose from?

Carnival has summer trips to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. And Royal Caribbean sails to Bermuda, Boston and Newport in Rhode Island. Most last about a week.

My plan charges 35,000 miles for tickets $350 or less. Lately, I have been finding a lot of fares that are being prices between $352 and $360. Is this an attempt by the airlines to make customers use more of our miles or is this likely just a coincidence?

Airlines are constantly trying to reduce the number of miles outstanding, because they are a liability. So it would not surprise me if they are pricing their fares in a way that encourages people to burn their miles. Knowing what I do about the way fares are set, however, I would say it's unlikely.

This question is for Christopher Elliott. There have been recent revelations about the plot involving an underwear bomb that would have been impossible to detect using those full-body scanners. So, now that TSA has sunk bazillions of taxpayer dollars into this useless and intrusive technology, does TSA have egg on its face? Are we going to see a quiet phase-out of these dreadful machines? Thanks.

I asked that question last week on my site, where I do a review of  TSA news. Yes, TSA has egg on its face. Yes, the machines are going to go away. I think the real question is, when? I don't know.

Hi - we are planning to visit Costa Rica this summer in August but the fare hasn't done it's summer dip yet. Concerning summer travel - when will I see the best fares? I see the sales all running thru July but not yet into August.... Thanks.

There's no way to know when the airlines will put fares on sale, but check the What's the Deal? column this coming Sunday. I found a great Costa Rica package for $799, including air. (Caveat: I am not sure of the travel dates.)

Very interesting and worthwhile story on going around the world on frequent flyer miles. However, the article is slightly misleading in implying that the tickets cost "only" $300 in taxes and fees. In fact, the author also writes that he had to make several mileage runs (same day round trips) in order to build up the miles, and those mileage runs were not free -- he had to pay for those tickets, and there is also the opportunity cost of the lost time during those mileage runs. Still, he got a good deal, even if it actually cost around $1,000 or more, not $300, for the round the world tickets.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record -- yes, loyalty programs have a hidden cost. Your aren't getting anything for "free." Those mileage runs are expensive time-wasters, and in the end, they benefit the airline more than they do the passenger, even when you factor in the "free" flights and loyalty. The only folks who should be collecting miles and points (maybe) are people who have to travel, anyway. For all others, I believe it's a game that's rigged, and they will lose.

Flying, for example, was once only for those with lots of money. People want bargains now. If you want comfort and style, you need to pay for business class, at the least. Or find an airline that charges more and gives more (tough to do). The differences between airlines worldwide have been forced down by competition. For example, in Brazil where we spend a lot of time, one used to get a meal on even short flights. Then hot sandwiches. Now maybe chips and cookies.

I'm not sure if I agree with that. People have always wanted bargains, even before the ancient Phoenicians started trading coins. Of course, back then they didn't have airlines, but human nature remains the same -- we always want to pay the lower price. The difference is that airliens were regulated in the 70s, and today, they aren't.

We're a 40-something couple thinking about an extended trip in Europe -- truth be told, it might be our honeymoon. We'd like to do the sort of backpacking-style, seat-of-our-pants, go-where-we-want trip that we didn't get to do when we were younger. But we're a little too old to actually backpack or stay in hostels. We don't have enough money to stay in fancy hotels and still get to see all that we would like to see. Is there a good middle ground?

You can save on lodging by staying in budget hotels and guesthouses outside the city center. Also, check monastaries, farm stays and AirBnB, which rents out people's apartments. You can also try a blind booking site, such as Hotwire or Priceline; rates are often much less when you don't know the hotel's name before booking.

My wife and I will be traveling the Moselle and Rhine rivers on AMA Waterways. They have Paris fairly taken care of, but we end in Amsterdam, and they are only offering a canal boat tour. Any suggestions as to tours outside of the city? I'm thinking coach tours, as I don't plan on renting a car.

Before you head out of the city, be sure to visit the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum. Really, they're worth seeing. I love all those Dutch paintings. For day trips outside Amsterdam, I'd check Viator. They offer a whole host of possibilities, including a tour to Delt and The Hague, or one to lovely Bruges.

Chatters, other ideas?

I booked the cheaper of two flights to Israel even though it had a nasty return: Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Madrid, NY. Two weeks after I booked the flight the airline moved up the flight to Madrid, making it impossible for me to make the flight. The solution? They put me on the flight straight to Madrid, which I had originally wanted but was too expensive.

You lucked out!

Google Maps is the best for driving in a foreign country. They have amazingly detailed maps for random places (Armenia?!) that will get you from place to place!

I love Google Maps on my Droid. I don't love that it recently started crashing every time I open it.

Given the economic and political turmoil, are these still good travel destinations?

Absolutely. The economic situation may even work in travelers' favor.

Hands-down the best app is the map application, but that should be obvious and probably not the suggestion you are looking for. I grabbed some city-specific apps (Prague, Glasgow) before trips and they are helpful "at a glance" apps that showcased the highlights of a city and are generally produced by the local tourist boards. Otherwise language/translation apps are also helpful. So many other apps are indispensible when traveling, like the camera, or the memo (record the name of your hotel, or its street for example), or the weather apps, or the white noise apps for sleeping, or even books/music to pass away idle time.

Sounds like the Swiss Army knife of apps.

I suggest she contact her hotels...they can probably point her in the right direction.

Perhaps, though this seems like a very specific request that might even stump a concierge. Maybe check with a local hospital or health care  facility.

Maybe the person could try checking with Elderhostel?

Any tips or tricks for Las Vegas for New Years? I know its it not the optimal time to go (at least price wise) but do you have an estimate for the average price for a flight from the DC area or when i should book my ticket? So far prices are about $450 RT. Thanks

If you have some flexibility, I would pounce on the fare I just found -- $327 one-stop flights on United from BWI, 12/31-1/3. It does get you in at 7:50 p.m. on New Year's Eve, but that's not a bad price at all. Expedia has an awesome Trend Tracker that shows you historic airfare data. Prices shoot up to well past $500 in December according to what I'm seeing there, so if you can get anything less than that, you'll be ahead of the game.

Hello and Good Afternoon, Thank-you for taking the time to do this column; I am not an avid traveller, but I have found many enrertainment places you have recommended that I have enjoyed. I am writing to ask about charter fishing trips in the area. My broher is visiting from Colorado the first two weeks in July and enjoys charter fishing. What company/privately owned (I don't know!) would you recommend? Prefer to depart from the wharf or the Balt. Harbour in the morning and out in the water a couple of hours then return. Need a company that is kid friendly(8 year old girl) plus 3 adults. What would be an approx. cost? Do they include life jackets? Also do they include the fishing materials? I have looked at various websites but still wanted your opinion. Any information would be appreciated. And I do, indeed enjoy this column.

I'm afraid that nobody on our staff (we are four women) is really into charter fishing. :-) So let's throw a line out -- haha -- as ever, to the chatters. Can you help us out, people?

What would you tour and where would you eat if you only had three days in Barcelona?

We've had two recent stories on Barcelona: "Barcelona is an avant-garde design mecca" and "Can One Man Resist the Lure of Gaudí in Barcelona?" Those will help you plan. Don't miss La Sagrada Familia and La Boqueria.

Chatters, other favorites?

Christopher, I'm going to disagree with you. Airline regulations have little to do with why airlines suceed or fail. There have been plenty of start-up carriers that have gone splat, but so have many of the major carriers who if they were operating under the old pre-deregulation rules would have stayed in business. In fact, deregulation has allowed for many of the things that drive passengers nuts- illogical pricing structure, decreasing service, being packed in like sardines on a plane at the same time it has allowed companies like Southwest and JetBlue to flourish, while legacy carriers like Pan American and Trans World have gone the way of the dodo. If you want a more pleasant flight experience, their should be regulation that is meaningful to passengers. The FAA authorization bill that looks like its going to pass congress this week is a good start by handling tarmac delays, mass diversions, etc. However, things like regulating seat pitch and width would be a good next step so we aren't crammed in there as tight as possible. Regulations about airline fee charging and price honesty would be a big step. When airlines start charging for me to carry on a backpack that weighs 5 pounds under the grounds of fuel consumption it cries out for regulation. Meaningful legislation to improve the TSA experience would be a big help... security procedures seem to be made up on the spot, cannot be adequately explained and leave passengers frustrated as they are blindsided and without means of protest would be a big help. So this isn't an issue where the government is preventing anyone to suceed through regulations. Its an issue where the government is not acting to allow passengers to be treated with respect and dignity and to get services without being rediculously burdened by restrictive fees. We need more regulation, not less.

Thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful answer. I'm not sure if I disagree with you. For example, I think seat pitch needs to be regulated if airlines continue to reduce the amount of legroom we have on planes. It's not safe -- or humane. But the basic systems that are in place now favor the incumbent airlines. They have the fortress hubs, the de-facto oligopolies in many major cities, which makes it very difficult for new entrants. While I am at heart a laissez-faire with centrist leanings, at least when it comes to this issue, I think there's a time and place for the government to step in and protect the rights of all air travelers.

I often buy travel insurance mainly to cover medical evacuation if anything happens when I am in more remote or third world places. In the article yesterday I am a bit surprised the insurance company was so adamant about that 2.50. It was in their favor even. I know it is based on trip cost. But say I only wanted to insure part of the value of my costs, why wouldn't they allow that. Say I paid $1000 for my ticket but only want insurance for $500 or something like that. Why are they so set on requiring me to tell them the amount paid to the penny?

When you ask an insurance company on the record, they'll tell you that it's a policy requirement. But after writing the story, I also learned that there may be some fraud problems with "cancel for any reason" policies and claims. I don't want to go into details, because I don't want to make the problem worse. Let's just say the insurance company may have had another reason for denying the claim. The moral of the story is definitely make sure you have the full price, particularly on one of these "gold-plated" policies.

Hi! We need help in finding the ideal resort in the Caribbean for our honey moon for $6,000 or less in August or September of this year. We have done our research and cannot find a nice hotel (no bugs, including bedbugs(try to focus on new resorts assumption was less bugs), excellent food, excellent to good service and a friendly environment with lots to do. We are looking at staying 5 to 7 days. We would like an all-inclusive resort if possible but not a requirement. Please help.

Check the Knot for honeymoon ideas; they are in the biz after all. Other suggestions:  Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada, GoldenEye in Jamaica, EdenRock on St. Barts, and Sandals Grande Lucian Spa on St. Lucia.

About the bugs: You are in the tropics and bugs are a way of life.  Think of them as small birds.

Can't have it all. If you want Cathay Pacific level service, don't expect to pay Spirit Air prices. At some point, you get what you pay for.

So true.

Two quick questions, where does the flybus leaves you in the city? Best site to visit in the south coast? (we will have a car) Best dining experience in Reykjavik? Thanks!

Iceland travelers, we know you're out there. You may just need to contact Flybus, as I can't immediately find the drop-off location on their site.

In your first response, you said rules and regulations protect legacy carriers against newcomers. Please elaborate. It seems like "less regulation" has become a battlecry of one segment of the electorate in this election year, but everybody's a little vague on the specifics. I support regulations that protect my health and safety; others, along the lines of "do this because that's how we've always done it" make less sense. But starting a new airline, cruise line etc. requires a vast capital investment in a competitive environment, no matter what the regs are. So what specifically do you really mean?

Well, the hurdles are high to start any travel business, from a cost perspective -- whether you're building a new hotel and have to pay a franchise fee, starting an airline, or yes, a cruise line. Seriously, anyone know if there's been a new cruise line in the last decade? I can't think of one. The regulations and laws are not necessarily at the federal level, but certainly, getting FAA certification is no small task. I've seen startup airlines do a victory dance when they get certified. But then you have to move into a market that is probably being underserved by a legacy carrier. They have a lock on gates and the resources to engage in predatory pricing. And if you want to complain, you probably will not get far, because the legacies have some of the best lobbyists in Washington. I'm a little bit over the map on my response, but I think you get the idea. My belief is that the deck is stacked against travel companies that want to offer good service. They're often run out of town by their would-be competitors, or at least priced out of existence.

Don't overlook Chicago. Easy flights to get and plenty of transit to attractions. If staying a week, get the Go! card, which is expensive for two days, but over seven you can cost-effectively visit the museums. And you'll never want a car.


I live in Bethesda and am looking to get out of town for a day/night with my boyfriend. Somewhere w/in an hour to a three hour drive. Anywhere near the beach/eastern shore is out. Don't want to have to deal with beach traffic. Any good suggestions in Virginia or West Virginia. Thanks!

Harper's Ferry and Berkeley Springs are nice in West Virginia. You could also do a Route 11 road trip in Virginia. Start in Winchester and work your way down to New Market or Harrisonburg. Many, many historic sites along the way. Also farms and orchards.

The person looking for things to do outside Amsterdam should just take day trips on the train. The Netherlands is pretty small. Trains go everywhere. A few years ago I took the train to Haarlem on a Saturday. It's about 20 or 30 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal. I think I paid about $10 for the train ticket. There's a nice cathedral there where I got to hear the choir rehearsing which sounded great. There's a morning market with all sort of stuff. The town is small so it is easy to just walk around. Plenty of other places like that. I wouldn't bother looking for coach tours.

Thanks for the advice.

We are flying into Los Angeles, arriving around 10:30am. We can stay there till around 7-8pm when we need to leave for the 2 hour drive to our final destination. There looks to be so much to do it is hard to pick. I am looking for recommendations for what to do in LA for a day - not really interesting in Hollywood/movie star things or shopping.

It would be helpful to know what you *are* interested in. Perhaps you could visit the Getty Museum -- it's a very good one -- or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Do you like farmers markets? There's a good one at 6333 West Third. Or, if you prefer something more funky, there's the Santa Monica pier.

Chatters, your thoughts?

The person who wants to use her miles to get from Missoula to Leipzig in August is probably out of luck. There's a reason people call SkyMiles "SkyPesos" and that Delta comes in last when it comes to award redemptions. I don't know all of the ins and outs of Delta's program since I primarily fly Star Alliance. However, getting an award seat on short-ish notice in the highest of high season is very difficult unless you get lucky at the very last minute. From looking at Delta's award chart is looks like the "low" number of miles needed for a coach seat to Europe is 60K round trip and it goes up from there to 90K for the mid level. Of course there also have to be available flights on the carrier or its partners to the place you want to go. She should either just call Delta and ask about availability or try a forum like where the experts on all frequent travel programs hang out. She may be able to get from Missoula to NY. Not sure what Delta's stopover rules are but it may not be possible to do a 3 day stopover even if there was award seat availability all the way.

Thanks for the insights.

As an Annapolitan who has eaten at pretty much every restaurant in the city, the best crabcakes are at Dock Street Bar near Ego Alley--all lump meat, barely any filler and beautifully cooked. I just had one yesterday!

There you go, Annapolis day-tripper.

If you needed a hotel for one night in San Francisco on an otherwise random Thursday in early August, and where you primary consideration was low cost in a good location (i.e., less than $250), what would you do to find that hotel? Travel agent? Priceline? One of the other web services? Thanks.

I would go to Priceline or Hotwire, or check the San Fran tourism's Web site to see if there are any deals.

I'm going to columbus OH this weekend--any suggestions as to what to do (other than the zoo)? thanks!

Eat, eat, eat! It's a great food city, according to our former colleague Jane Black. You cannot leave town without going to Jeni's for amazing ice cream. In fact, you may need to go multiple times. It's that good.

As a gold elite on Delta and flyertalk regular, I enjoyed reading Jon Wile's article. However, the frequent flyer programs have dramatically changed in the last two years since Mr. Wile took his nearly-free trip. Redemption levels have gone way up, if you are able to find an available seat. I wonder: are the 200,000 miles currently in his account even enough for him to take a free domestic roundtrip?

I have flown round-trip domestic on 50,000 miles. I have yet to snag a flight for 25,000.  I am sure Jon can go far-ish (at least beyon the U.S. borders) on 200K.

Don't totally rule out hostels- many of them have private rooms, even with ensuite bathrooms, that are still far cheaper than most hotels. We travelled in a similar manner last year (we're a 30-something couple) we were not the youngest people staying at hostels. Just do your research and be on the lookout for newer "boutique" type hostels (which were slightly more expensive and consequently didn't seem to attract the rockbottom party types), guesthouses, and pensions. Have a great time!

Great point!

Yes, it exists! Check out the Viceroy Anguilla. I just returned from my honeymoon and we had the most relaxing time and our room was spotless, spacious and the food was fantastic (though not inclusive). We stayed in a pricier room, but next time we go, we're going to stay in a regular room at a much less expensive rate.

Great to know.  Thanks (and cograts).

If you're doing Disney right, you'll discover that wandering the world is half the fun. If you're going commando style, with a list of rides and a checklist, by all means, use the app, but you're going to miss a lot. Disney is perhaps the most deliberate entertainment venue in the world... but if it's just a checklist, you'll miss the model trains in the garden at the Germany pavilion, you'll miss playing checkers and people watching in Frontier Land, and you'll miss some really amazing details on Main Street USA. So take the camera out, slow down, put the app away, and enjoy the park. You'll be much less stressed out and enjoy the vacation more.

A nice reality check.  Thanks!

Don't miss the Thurber House, in the center of town!!! Check hours online.

I have to again disagree with Christopher with regard to who "should" participate in the frequent traveler programs. I do not fly a lot but do collect miles. Most of mine have come from lucrative credit card bonuses. I pay my bill off every month. Don't buy anything I would otherwise. I have been fortunate enough through my miles collection to fly first or business class to Asia for the last several years and have enough miles in the bank to do it a few more times. If you know what you are doing the game can be quite fun and rewarding.

That works for me. You have my permission to continue collecting.

The Mobility International USA web site on Oxygen and International Travel might help.

Thank you!

5 of us, grandma, mom & dad, 8 & 11 year old kids have 2 full days in London. No one has ever been, what should we do? Going in July before the Olympics. Thanks!

Taking a ride on The Eye, the huge ferris wheel on the Thames, is the No. 1 tourist thing to do in London these days, but I still recommend it. Spectacular views of the city, and fun for the kids. Then I'd see Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's, visit Shakespeare's Globe Theater, and hit the Tate. Or maybe better, take a hop-on-hop-off tour of the city.

And that's barely scratching the surface. You will obviously have to go back!

Not Frequent Enough Travelers? My wife and I bought tickets to Barcelona online at on January 19th for a trip starting May 24th. The reservation system allowed me to select seats for the legs from Dulles to Paris and from Paris to Dulles on the return. I chose seats together on one side of the plane. On May 3, I received emails from Air France notifying me that our seat assignments were being changed for both legs. The new seats were rows apart and in the middle of the back of the plane. I immediately called the phone number provided and was told that there was nothing that could be done until 30 hours before the flight and that we would in essence have to take our chances in finding two seats together. I completed the @assistance form on the reservation page on May 4 and received this response: “As previously noted to you, there are no seats open for pre-selection, you will need to complete the online check-in 30 hours before the departure of your flight and assign the seats together as long as they are available. We apologize for the inconvenience we had caused. I then completed the Customer Care form on the Air France website and received a response a few days later. The Delta airlines Corporate Customer Care Coordinator expressed sympathy in her response and gave me a phone number to call – which turned out to be Delta Airlines reservations. The Delta reservations agent at first thought that she could assign us two seats together in the last row of the plane, but then found that the system would not let her change the seats. I wrote back to the Delta Corporate Customer Care Coordinator informing her of the outcome, and she wrote back with the number of the Flying Blue frequent flyer reservations center. I called this number over a dozen times over the course of several days and was always greeted with a message stating that they were experiencing a high call volume and would I be so kind as to call back another time! It turned out that when I punched 0, I was connected to the Flying Blue reservation menu. Needless to say, when I did finally get a Flying Blue agent on the phone, she informed me that she could be of no assistance since my $2,500 ticket had not been purchased with miles. I have flown to Europe only a half dozen times in the last 10 years, but I have never had a problem of this sort with seat assignments. The sad irony for me is that I chose Air France because my wife and I love the French culture and language and will in fact be spending the better part of our trip cycling through Provence. Obviously the charming and romantic qualities of that culture are not flourishing in the Air France corporate culture. Ray Boedecker, PMP, INTJ Vice President savantage solutions

Go to the Big Ten Baseball Tournament! The weather is supposed to be great and you'll see all sorts of terrific college baseball!

Note that to see the Catacombs without waiting in a long long line, you really need a reservation. Same for the Vatican Museum. With only 3 days, you will need to minimize waits, plus I don't think you can see the Catacombs without a reservation. There is an excellent cafe right across the street from the Colosseum. It's right outside the subway stop. Get the bruschetta and a glass of wine. So delicious! The tea room that is adjacent to the Spanish Steps is fantastic but very expensive. A nice indulgence.

My husband and I took day trips to Delft and Haarlem by train out of Amsterdam when we were there last Fall - less than an hour away and very frequent service. You can also reach Ghent and Bruges, but that takes longer - better for an overnight stay, I think

When I was in Iceland in October, we paid an small additional fee on the flybus tickets that were purchased online and the bus took us to our hotel and dropped us off right out front. It might be worth checking online to purchase tickets in advance, since everyone arriving in Iceland takes the bus into Reykjavik and the wait could be awhile before the next round of buses leave.

Thanks everyone for joining us, and remember: Next Monday we are off for the Memorial Day holiday. So enjoy the long weekend.

As for the winner of today's prize: The Open Table app user who learned that technology can save the day. Please message me at sachsa@wahspost. com with your address.

Safe travels.

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.
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