Talk about Travel

Jun 18, 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 world travelers. Thanks for joining us this drizzly Monday.  Send us your questions, comments and wanderlustful inspirations.

For today's subject:  TSA and confiscated items. An official recently took from my carry-on a small appetizer fork but allowed my bat-size whale carving through security. Tell us about the odder items you have gotten through security or the ones that did not get away. Most arbitrary story wins a prize. 


I'll be spending two days in Amsterdam in mid-August. I've never been there before and would love some hotel suggestions and "must-see" things to do. Thanks!

Visit the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House museum, and the Rembrand House museum; take a walk through the red-light district and a boat tour on the canals. As for hotels, let's ask the chatters. I assume you want something mid-range? Folks, any suggestions?

What about visiting Greece this summer?

Honestly, I don't think it should be a problem, especially given the results of yesterday's elections. Greece is hurting for the tourist dollars, and the Acropolis will continue to stand. But we are also not soothsayers, so keep your eye on the news.

Hi gurus! I am going on my first (extended) cruise next month, and was a bit concerned about motion sickness. I was on an overnight one once and got a bit sick, and also on a shorter boat ride. Some boat rides I have been fine. I have a doctor appointment for a physical in about a month so I thought I'd get suggestions prior to that if possible from seasoned cruisers about what works best. I have never tried anything before. Thank you!

I've taken many cruises and have gotten seasick on a couple, but not on most. Much depends on where you are heading. If you're in the open Atlantic or Pacific and a storm kicks up, better chance for seasickness than if cruising on the Caribbean during calm days. Worse time I had was cruising from Vancouver to Alaska, but there was a storm. Newer mega boats have stabilizers intended to minimize motion. Also, book an outside cabin in the middle of the ship. As for medications, some people get prescriptions for the scopolomine patch, but that's strong medicine. Bendryl works for some. And there are accupressure bands that are worn on the wrist - these did not work  for me. I know this sounds a little nutty, but if I feel that I may be on the verge of getting motion sickness, I drink a beer and that helps, but I have to do that before the sickness sets in.  

I'm planning a family trip on the late side of my current pregnancy. My doctor is currently quite supportive, but since anything can happen, I'd like to buy some trip insurance so that if my doctor says "you can't go" we can get our flight money back. The standard insurance offered when we bought plane tickets did not seem to cover pregnancy clearly enough for me to buy it then and there. Can you suggest some reputable agencies to explore?

Take a look at one of the online travel insurance sites to compare policies. I think that many would consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition. Some will cover pre-existing conditions if the insurance is purchased within a certain period of making the first deposit on the trip. And you could also purchase "cancel for any reason" insurance, although it's expensive, and you won't get all your money back. Sites to look at include InsureMyTrip, QuoteWright and Squaremouth.

While the article on Italian traffic tickets was written a long time ago, you linked to it a couple of chats ago, so I read it--and was somewhat horrified by how so many people seem to think that getting a traffic ticket in Italy somehow doesn't really count. Eesh. Talk about entitled. Do you also think that an Italian going 80 on a 55 MPH highway here shouldn't have to pay a fine if s/he gets pulled over? After all, in Italy, the speed limit is 81. Do your research before driving in a foreign country, people. Their cameras are very reliable, and you probably weren't paying attention. Don't speed on the highways. Always park well outside any given historical town--follow those parking signs, know where you're going (a GPS will usually not guide you into a restricted zone), and keep your eyes peeled for big signs with a big red circle and ZONA TRAFFICO LIMITATO (don't tell me you can't figure out what that means). Better yet, ditch the car and take the train. Those laws are there for a reason--if everyone were allowed to drive into central Florence, your picture-perfect tourist experience would be markedly more unpleasant, what with smog, accidents, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and honking. You're not above the law, even abroad. Pay up.

You make great points! No matter the country, we must always obey the laws.

Any traveler who's interested in this area of England must read the wonderful novel by Tracy Chevalier, "Remarkable Creatures." It's set in Lyme Regis in 1810, and is based on a woman, Mary Anning, who became one of the world's foremost authorities on the fossils found in that area. Fossils at the time were a matter of huge debate in the scientific community vs. the Church.

Interesting, thanks!

Just wanted to thank everyone for the tips on Montreal...we just got back yesterday and loved it! We flew on Porter out of Dulles through Toronto and it was great. Less than $400 a ticket, seats with lots of room, no baggage fees and free alcoholic drinks in flight and free drinks and snacks in Toronto. We bought Montreal Museum passes plus metro for $65 each and managed to squeeze in ten museums and historic sights and saw both a Canadian football and soccer game. Can't wait to go back!

So glad you had a fab trip.

Hi. I have enough Lufthansa FF miles to fly anywhere in the US, and I'd like to take a non-stop flight from National (DCA). I'd also like to get the best bang for my mileage buck. What are generally the most expensive non-stops from DC? I'm open location-wise as long as there's enough to interest someone for a long weekend. Thanks!

I don't know where Lufhansa flies to but typically flights to, say, Montana are high, because of low demand. However, sometimes flights only two hours away can be more expensive than flights across the country.

I would honestly pick a place you have always wanted to visit. Or get the list of cities, put on a blindfold and circle a destination. If I had that ticket I would go to San Fran or L.A., Seattle or  Portland, Ore. 

Last week you asked if anyone had any feedback on the trekking article you published on 6/10. Here's mine -- the paper a few towns to the north published a story on the same hike in 2010 -- and did a much better job in capturing what the writer experienced along the way. That story made we want to go, whereas the one you published let me know that the writer had a nice time.

I'm very sorry that you didn't like our story as much.

For the most convenient - there is the Hampton Inn Majestic on Monroe - in the same building as the Bank of America Theater. At street level it is just an elevator lobby, but it gets good reviews, especially since you get the breakfast included. For a more WOW experience, the Hotel Burnam and the Hotel Wit (Doubletree) have boutique hotel style.


So many times when I pass through security I hear another passenger bargaining with TSA about the 3 ounce limit. Last week in Phoenix, it was a bottle of Starbucks frapaccino. Drink it or toss it the TSA guy said. But the passenger wanted to just drink it down to 3 oz. Twice I've heard people claim there's less than 3 oz of toothpaste left in the tube. The TSA doesn't care and goes by the label, but I hear this bargaining all the time.

 Starbucks should come out with a cup that marks the three-ounce line. 

Thinking of going to Ireland mid to late Sept with a friend. Do you suggest a tour or go on our own; is weather cold enough to wear winter clothes?

Depends on your travel style. If you prefer to have someone guide you around and make all the decisions, take a tour. If you prefer your independence, go solo. You can also sign up for a package that books your hotels, rental car and air, then sign up for local tours once you are in the city.

Definitely bring a sweater and other warm togs. Ireland's weather is very unpredictable.

I have a knife--2 inches at most-- in the credit card size set I carry with me in my pocket--it also has a light, scissors, etc. I've forgotten to pack it twice. Both times TSA was really nice to me and my wife. Once I had to mail it back and was escorted to the mailing area; the second time, I was allowed to return to the checkin and Southwest got my baggage. I now write myself a note so I won't forget to pack it.

That is one lucky knife!

I turn 40 next summer and would like to take my family on a special vacation. The kids will be 5, 8, and 10. They are well-travelled. I am debating between Italy's Amalfi coast and a safari in Tanzania/Botswana. I have never been to either place, but both are on my dream vacation list. Which would you pick?

I would choose the safari; your children might be bit a too young to appreciate the beauty and history of the Amalfi Coast.  Howeve,r, you can't go wrong with animals, jeeps and kids.  One caveat:  It's a long trip, so make sure you prepere your little travelers.

Dramamine has a non-drowsy formula (over the counter) that works well. Coke (not diet, not Pepsi) or ginger ale work, too

More motion sickness tips.

Months ago someone mentioned wanting to stay in a castle in France. As I am in Europe with my kids this summer, I thought it a wonderful idea. There are SO many choices and we ended up with one in the Doubs section near Switzerland. I honestly cannot say how wonderful it was. I wish we could have spent all summer there. Everything was perfect. Beyond perfect. Even my 15yo daughter loved it. I would have never thought about it (and I am pretty familiar with Europe) without you and your peeps. THANK YOU!

Glad to hear it worked out! For those without total recall, a chatter asked about whether it was possible to find lodgings in a French castle. You can find lists of  castles for B&Bs or longer-term rentals on several Web sites, including Homelidays, AuChateau and   WebFrance International.

Hi! I am looking for a 3-4 day beach getaway. We would like a Bed and Breakfast and are looking at either Rehoboth Beach or St. Michael's. Do you have any recommendation for either one of them?

Rehoboth is very different than St. Michaels. It's a bustling oceanfront community with a boardwalk. St. Michaels is on the bay and is quieter, although it can get pretty mobbed on weekends in summer. Both have a good selection of B&Bs. I've heard good things about the Lighthouse Inn in Rehoboth, although I've not stayed there. St. Michaels has a great selection of upscale B&Bs -- the Cherry Street Inn is nice and reasonably priced. Chatters have other recommendations? Please share. 

About 15 years ago, I sent in a Travel Tip that WaPo published. At that time, you gave out t-shirts that, on the front, said "I'm a Great Tipper" and on the back said "The Washington Post Travel; If you don't get it, you don't get it." Wasn't sure if any of you were around then, but wanted you to know I still wear this!

Nice to hear! I don't believe we have those T-shirts anymore. Too bad.

We have two grand daughters 16 & 18, both wish to do a day trip to NY via MegaBus. We really need some direction on where to depart from the bus (bus stop) in NY close to or in the Garment District and any information regarding the days and hours that would be best to go. Given the parking issues in NY...MegaBus seems to be a great alternative. Please share your experiences and suggestions with us. We appreciate your input!! Thank you.

All the information (departure spots, times, booking, etc.) for MegaBus is online.  You might also consider taking Bolt, DC2NY or Washington Deluxe. All leave from downtown Washington and drop off near Penn Station. You can also take the train, but it's twice as much if not more.

The Garment District is nearby, at Fifth and Ninth avenues between 34th and 42nd streets.  

We will be traveling to Europe in late summer. Most of the trip will be in the Basque country and Ireland. With the euro exchange rate moving up and down, is there any advantage for the tourist?

Well, of course there's an advantage for the tourist if the rate goes down. Beyond that, not sure I understand your question.

Do the Gurus (or readers) have any recommendations on kayak rentals by Assateague Island? The company mentioned in the Ocean City guide is in Assawoman bay (north of OC). There are several companies and I'm not sure who to go with. Thanks!

If all you want to do is rent a kayak, I believe you can rent them at Assateague State Park. That would be most convenient. I think there's also a private ecotour company called SuperFun EcoTours that does guided nature tours via kayak of the Maryland side of Assateague. There are more choices in Chincoteague. 

We're thinking about using airbnb for the first time to rent an apartment in Istanbul. How legit is this site? It feels very official. Anyone had a positive or negative experience? There are no fixes if it turns out to be a scam, right?

I did a piece on AirBnB when the company was new and I had only good experiences. A few years ago, a woman on the West Coast claimed that a guest had vandalized her house. Since then, the company has tightened its security, for both renters and rentees.  The company does protect both sides of the equation.

Before you book, read the fine print and learn everything you can about the property. You will communicate with the owner, so ask all of your questions early in the process. Also, if you get a strange vibe, don't book. Instead, shop around till you find a good fit.

I don't have any plans for far-off travel this year but I would love to get out of town for a few days to somewhere near water and close-by, but not with super-crowds, which means most area beaches are out. I seem to recall the Post had a story a few years ago about a place to rent rustic cabins somewhere on the Chesapeake Bay but I can't find it. I think the fanciest dining there was a hamburger/hot dog stand.

You might be remembering our 2008 story about Camp Merryelande, a privately owned, family-oriented place in Piney Point, Md., with rental cabins and campgrounds. Rustic, you say? The Web site mentions "nice modern beach cottages," though I must say that four years ago our reporter noted the "weathered cabins." But there's a beach, fishing and nothing fancy within miles, looks like.

You should have told the person who wanted a day trip to a beach about Sandy Point State Park. 2 hours closer to DC and very nice- not any action at the beach but it's a quick shot into Annapolis for food and entertainment- and there's always nearby Cantler's RIverside Inn for great crabs.

Yes, though it's not an ocean beach. As it happens, we'll be doing an issue on nearby non-ocean beaches soon, so keep your eyes peeled. :-)

My best friends and I started an engagement tradition some years back - we give the bride-to-be an engraved sterling cake cutter from Tiffany's. So en route to my bridal shower, my girlfriend got stopped at security: "Ma'am, do you have a large knife in your carry on?" Luckily once she showed them what it was, they let her bring it on board and wished me a happy marriage :)

That's a very good omen!

My husband is very prone to motion sickeness and prior to our cruise, I got him ginger pills and the ear patch. Neither of which he ended up using (depends on how rough the seas is, but if the ship is moving constantly you may not even feel it). If you're still concerned about it, I highly suggest using ginger pills. Husband has been using them ever since (for airplanes, etc) and it works just as well as dramamine but w/out the side affects. There is also ginger gum you can chew (available at CVS and other pharmacy stores).

Thanks for the idea.

I was flying to Maine for a camping trip, and accidentally left my expensive Swiss Army Knife in my carry-on. When TSA found it, it was too late to put it in my checked bags. The TSA guy told me I could mail it to my home for $10 instead of throwing it away, and gave me a form to fill out. So some of the TSA employees are actually nice and helpful.

That is a great service. Wonder if all TSA security checkpoints have envelopes?

Last week someone asked for things to do in Cleveland while spending vacation at their in-laws house. No one mentioned, so I am now, a day trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Great spot if you love roller coasters.


Before the liquid ban I transported a pet fish in a water bottle on a flight from DC to Boston

Funny! Wonder if a fish could survive in 3 ounces of water?

The reason places such as Montana are more expensive has to do with the number of seats on the planes that fly in. Thus low supply. The flight into Montana come out of airport hubs and they are usually a small plane (<=50 seats). The whole airline pricing scheme is conoluted. Distance does not relate ro ptice.

So true!  The supply is low because the demand is low. Airlines don't want to fly empty plans. Econ 101.

in Peru in 2004, i bought a TUMI doll, which has a large appendage and the Peruvian screeners ran it through at least 4 times, thought it was funny.

Maybe they thought the doll was hiding tiny TUMIs inside.

My mom is turning 60 in September. We want to suprise her with a night away with the family for her birthday (a nice Saturday night dinner, brunch on Sunday, and something to keep us occupied for a few hours Saturday afternoon are the only requirements). Mom/Dad are located in northern NJ and have a car. My sisters are in New York City and would need to take the train or bus. My family is located in DC and can drive or take the train. Philadelphia and Baltimore have been suggested but we have done them before. Any suggestions on another location that would work for us? Or should we just stick with Philly or Baltimore?

What about someplace like Princeton, N.J.? A really lovely town, with some good restaurants, and the beautiful university campus. There's an excellent art museum on campus, plus it's just nice to walk around on. The main drag, Nassau Street, has some nice shops, or at least it did last time I was there. Also not too far away are Lambertville, NJ, and New Hope, Pa., artsy little towns that are fun to walk around/shop in as well.

Chatters, do you have other thoughts?

I'm trying to take the family on a Carnival cruise on July 1st, with stops at Grand Turk, and Half Moon Cay and Freeport in the Bahamas. Any recommendations from you or your readers on great shore excursions or fun things for the kids to do on the ship or shore? (The kids are 17 and 12, and are pretty adventurous). Also, is there a better alternative to parking at the port in Baltimore - are there any cheaper/better/safer places to park that are not too inconvenient? Thanks for all the great tips - I love the chat!

Re: parking, you may want to stay overnight in a nearby hotel that includes parking in its rates. Take a look at ParkSleepFly for options. Your kids will have a great time on the cruise - mine were about that age during one of our Carnival cruises and they took part in some of the organized activities and also enjoyed the pool, music, shows, etc. As for shore excursions, my kids enjoyed snuba, although it was pricey. Beach in Freeport is very nice. Not been to Half Moon Cay. Suggestions anyone?

Amsterdam hotels can be very expensive for what you get. We stayed at the Seven Bridges Inn last October. This is a small place in a historic building on a canal, centrally located. There was a tram stop around the corner, but we walked everywhere; the Central Station was about a 15-20 minute walk away. One warning - it doesn't have an elevator, and the staircase up to the rooms is very narrow. We didn't get the B&B rate, but I understand that the continental breakfasts (delivered to your room) are very ample.

More for the Amsterdam traveler. Thanks!

How easy would travel be in Argentina or Colombia for someone in a wheelchair? My father and I would like to make a South America trip, but he is older and requires a wheelchair for most of his getting around. If we stuck to the big cities, would we find it feasible to get around and see enough to make it worth our while?

I know that England, France and Australia are very wheelchair-friendly, but have not heard anything about Argentina or Colombia.

I found this great blog that might help answer your questions. Also check this resource: You might call a travel agency that specializes in this type of traveler; they should have a list of suggestions on hotels, transportation, etc. 

On a recent flight from Charlotte to Dulles, I was seated beside a young woman. She was very busy texting during the boarding time. After the announcement about turning electronic items off, she'd hide the phone to one side each time the flight attendant came by. I'm sure he saw her, as during the last pass thru, he said in an exasperated tone "just turn it off when you are done", which of course she never was, and never did. I kept my own thoughts to myself, but was gritting my teeth at bit. I don't believe that personal electronics cause any problems, but prefer to play along with the rules...There were also two people across the aisle who pretended to not speak English when asked to turn their Ipads off by the same flight attendant, but chatted just fine in English when he was gone. Ah, the games we play!

I've had the same experience. Thought briefly about "tattling," but it seemed pointless. How about you, chatters: Would you ever speak up, or just sit there and watch the texting?

Any recs for a family-friendly beach vacation in mid-August? Would the Keys or Caribbean be too risky given hurricane season?

Yes, you risk getting evacuated by an impending hurricane, but some resorts have hurricane guarantees and good travel insurance will cover you if it is a mandated evacuation. I'd probably play the odds and pick the place I want to visit. The earlier you can go in August, the better. We went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, another hurricane-prone place, for  the second week in August for 10 years, and were only evacuated once. Or you could go to a beach located farther north, such as Bethany Beach - less chance of a hurricane hitting there.   

We want to see the fall colors in fall of 2013, and thought a river cruise on the St. Lawrence River way would be fun. But, I'm not finding a lot of information on such tours. Do you know of any, or do you know of any tour companies that could help us create our own itinerary along that region?

I don[t have personal experience with this Web site but the trip offered by Travel Dynamics International sounds like exactly what you're looking for. Or you could try, which seems to be a sort of compendium of foliage cruises that lists several ports in Quebec province.

Hi, I will be going on a road trip this summer with my husband and 2 year old son. Starting out in DC and ending in St. Louis. I am looking for family friendly stops/attractions along the way. Any and all suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

We made this trip more times than I care to remember when my daughter was in college at Wash U in St. Louis, and I have to tell you, it's pretty deadly. We did both the I-70 and the I-64 route, and I would highly recommend the latter. At least you'll drive through lovely mountains in West Virginia. We liked stopping overnight in Louisville, Kentucky. Nice downtown area for strolling and a fun riverboat cruises.  Any other ideas chatters?

My boyfriend & I are going to Japan next month to visit family, and his sister-in-law has requested we bring a can of Ajax or Comet powder with us (yes, the cleaning products). To me this just sounds like it's gonna either burst in our luggage or tempt the TSA into searching/confiscating -- but this type of thing is not on the TSA "prohibited" list (closest category appears to be "dangerous chemicals"). I suppose the easy answer is to have boyfriend put it in his luggage, but do you have any hesitation with bringing it in the first place?

Hmmm, this is a very interesting question, and alas, Chris, our expert on such matters isn't with us today. But I would think one of those plastic containers of Comet would probably be fine in your luggage if it's still sealed. Or maybe you should try it in your carry-on. If it's going to be confiscated, it's going to be confiscated. You can just tell your boyfriend's sister-in-law, in good faith, that you tried but failed.

Chatters, what do you think?

Over the past year or so, I've noticed a trend in travel stories away from 'this was what we did and saw' to 'these were my feelings about the trip and how it affected me'. Away from the travel guide, towards the personal experience. I live outside the US and see this in our newspapers too. I find I am less likely to read them if they start out that way because I'd rather have information in a newspaper article. I want the facts, ma'am, just the facts!

I'm sorry to hear that, because our Travel section is decidedly more about the personal experience. If you want just the facts, well, that's what guidebooks are for. Our philosophy is that often, people are reading travel stories about places they'll never go to as a way of experiencing those places through the eyes of the traveler. Armchair traveling. Plus pleasant and pleasurable reading, which I hope is not becoming a lost pastime. Of course, we do also want our articles to be useful, and our stories do offer information on the places we're writing about. Plus we include the details boxes with practical tips on where to stay, what to do, etc.

I would think the main difference is that one cannot swim in St Michael's. I could not see a beach vacation without water access.

I'm with you!

re 6/17 article on old book--Europe on $5/d: Andrea Sachs asked about hotels still operating and Doug Mack replied they were still around but have "gone very, very upscale. They would have been far outside my price range." So, does his book Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day mention where he DID stay?

Doug does mention some of the hotels, but not in a guidebook format. His book is more  novel-esque. I can send you my copy if you wish. 

For the person deciding between Rehoboth and St. Michaels, be aware that St. Michaels has NO actual beaches! It's a fishing town. It's lovely and quaint and I loved every minute of our recent weekend trip there, but it is NOT a beach town.

Right. Rehoboth is on the ocean, not St. Michaels, although there are lovely water views there. 

Last spring, a work trip put me through Amsterdam just for the night. Used TripAdvisor for the hotel rec, and adored my night at The Toren. Very centrally located (about three blocks from the Anne Frank House museum, and I walked ALL over the city in my short time there); very lush rooms and lovely European breakfast buffet. A very interesting stay, and within the Government per diem.

Terrific, thanks for the tip!

More stuff to see - take a canal tour, the Van Gogh museum, Our Lord in the Attic (fascinating museum on a hidden Catholic church), wander around and just look at all the gorgeous scenery....


A year or two ago, at Dulles, an elderly lady in a wheelchair was ahead of me in security. The TSA person told her to remove her hat (large, straw) and put it in the bin. To do so, she had to remove a very long, large hat pin with a sharp point! Hat and hat pin went through the X-Ray, and she carefully put them back in place once she hobbled through the scanner. I was thinking that the hat pin, with its sharp point, and being about 8 inches long (with a ball-shape handle at the other end) would make a weapon in the hands of the wrong person.

Thankfully, it was in the wrinkled hands of an elderly fashionista.

My wife and I have an opportunity to spend a couple days in San Diego in September. This will be our first vacation without kids (who are now adults). I am aware of the San Diego Zoo and Sea World, but not much else. Are there any other sights worth seeing? Also, any recommendations on a hotel or perhaps should we be looking at a resort? Suggestions, please help.

Don't miss the zoo, even though you won't have kids with you. It's excellent. Also,  Balboa Park, where the zoo is located, is lovely. Nice gardens and museums. Where you stay has much to do with budget and the experience you want to have. I've stayed in hotels in Coronado, downtown San Diego, Pacific Beach and La Jolla, and they're all very different. You can get very reasonably priced lodging in Mission Valley, which is centrally located. My personal favorites include the U.S. Grant downtown and Glorietta Bay Inn (stay in a mansion room) across from the Hotel Del Coronado.  As for what else to do, depends on your interests, but I love strolling in La Jolla, hiking in Torrey Pines, biking in Mission Beach and shopping/eating in the downtown Gaslamp District. 

Hi - Years ago, and before 9/11, I carried a bucket of powdered laundry detergent in my carry on to my mom because she could no longer get it in her city. The agent made me open it and he stuck his hand in it to ensure there was nothing but detergent in it - even though the plastic security ring was still in place - but he let it go through and my mom was very happy!!

Luckily the agent didn't lick his hand. That'd be a soapy mouthful.

My favorite airport security article is "The Things He Carried" by Jeffrey Goldberg in "The Atlantic." You can read it on their Web site. It is extremely revealing and amusing in that dark fashion. Jeffrey Goldberg has written a lot on the subject.

Will check it out. Thanks!

The Portland Bill area and the south coast of England generally, is also excellent for birdwatching:  Enjoyed your article very much.

Thank you! We'll tell the author, if she isn't reading the chat right now!

The reader asked about using Lufthansa miles on DOMESTIC flights in this country, i.e., on code share flights (most likely would be United, although Lufthansa may have other code shares in this country). You responded "I don't know where Lufhansa [sic] flies..." That's not the answer the reader needs. Please try again. Thanks!

I know that they were flying code share, DCA is not an international airport and they said domestic. (Apologies for the type-o. We have lots of questions to get to and miss a letter every so often.) I only gave domestic answers.

If the chatter, however, was asking me for cities covered by his/her free ticket, I don't have that answer at my fingertips. Best to call the frequent flier desk and ask for the routes.

About a month ago, I wrote in wondering about weather in Yellowstone (and Grand Tetons) in late May, and whether I needed an SUV for my rental car. Your response was to check the weather, and upgrade to an SUV if necessary. Lo and behold, there was a snow storm Memorial Day weekend, and I was able to upgrade to an SUV. Driving through Grand Tetons while it was snowing was very surreal, and beautiful. Actually, I'd recommend upgrading to an SUV whenever going out there. It could snow anytime of the year, plus, the high ground clearance helps when you have to pull to the side of road to spot animals, etc. FYI, going to Yellowstone in late May/early June was fantastic. The crowds were relatively light, weather was nice (even with the snow), and we saw plenty of baby animals (bison, bears, mountain goats, elk, etc.).

Thanks for sharing!

How or where do I send you a funny travel photo? Are you still publishing those? Thanks.

If you mean the funny sign photos, yes, we are. We published one yesterday. We don't publish just funny photos per se; it has to be of a funn sign that you saw on your travels. Send them to

If you're worried about queasiness at sea, stay where there's plenty of fresh air, and where you can see outside. Focus on the horizon, not inside the stateroom or wherever you may be. If you still get queasy, try a shot of good brandy or single-malt scotch, straight. Those have worked for both me and my wife (not for seasickness, just for simple upset stomach, but it might very well work at sea as well). (Of course, you have to like the taste of brandy or scotch.)

I thought it was the bubbles in the beer that helped me, but maybe something about alcohol? I would think motion sickness would be worsened by drinking. And, of course, don't combine medicines with scotch!

Why not make it a weekend getaway thing instead of just an overnight? Could find a place in the Poconos or Catskills or the NW corner of NJ. Another option are the Jersey shore beach towns.

Right. I do love Cape May. That would also be an excellent choice -- restaurants galore, the beach, great shops, history, wine-tasting and more!

For the person looking for a nearby getaway and you mentioned Camp Merryeland, there is now a small hotel with an adjacent restaurant also on St. George Island/Piney Point. It is the Island Inn and Suites, and they usually have bikes and kayaks available. Disclaimer - I'm not involved with either place, I just live on the island.

Looks very nice! Good to know, thanks.

We had a great experience using Air B n B in Istanbul (and have used it in other cities). Be sure to read all of the reviews, communicate with the host and have all of your questions answered (how much street noise is there, are there stairs or elevators, etc), and consider whether the proximity to the mosques/calls to prayer will be disturb your sleep. If you search for "" or Sutanahmet Downtown, you'll find the apartment that we rented. Good luck!

Thanks for the encouraging note!

I'd say put it in two or three big ziploc bags, be really polite if you get questioned about it and if it gets confiscated oh well.

Great attitude.

London and Paris are not totally handicapped accesible. I was just in those cities last summer and while many of the tube stations in London have elevators or escalators not all do (I had to drag my suitcase up and down a flight of stairs at the station where my hotel was). And Paris had no curb cuts and many of the Metro stations had no access other than stairs- ditto for the museums-

Too true.

I would mail it ahead of the trip. It might be a bit pricey, but cans of that stuff are heavy, and they you don't have to worry about it in your checked luggage.

Good idea!

I almost did not get a tortilla press through. because it was a "dual use weapon". they even tested it for explosives residue before letting me board with it, as long as I promised to leave it in the box.

As a thank you, I hope you gave the agent a hot-of-the-press tortilla.

Planning a trip to Istanbul in mid- to late-October. We were thinking of trying to spend part of the time in Bulgaria. Any idea whether trains run from Istanbul to Bulgaria? Any recommendations for good parts of town to stay in Istanbul? Or other places nearby we should include on the trip? Thanks for any tips!

Yes, there's a daily train between Istanbul and Sofia that takes about 13 hours, so you'll lose a day to traveling. You don't say how long you have for your trip, but be sure to factor that in. If you have the time, Bulgaria is fabulous and definitely worth visiting.

As to Istanbul, I've never been, so once again we'll have to rely on the chatters for hotel recommendations. Folks?

I want to submit a photo but am a little confused by the requirements. I understand 240 dpi, but the 5 inches high/wide I do not. Is that the biggest dimension should be 5 inhces? The shorter side should be 5 inches? Or do you only want square images?

Our photo editor says that the longest side of the image -- whether it's horizontal or vertical -- should be 5 inches.

I would read the terms of the policy very carefully. I, too, was trying to find something that would cover a trip I was taking while pregnant and it wouldn't cover many pregnancy-related emergencies. For example, I would have been covered if I'd had a diabetic incident (had I had diabetes prior to buying the policy), but if I was at risk for miscarriage due to something that happened while on the trip, that wouldn't be covered - nor would a doctor telling me I shouldn't travel a week before the trip or something. They are very sneaky.

Yes, it really is important to read the fine print on any policy you buy. Insurance companies will pay, usually quite easily, unless the fine print says they don't have to pay. 

Are there any aggregator sites that list economy plus airfare options? We're heading to Europe in the fall, and I'm not sure which airlines even offer premium economy seats other than British Air.

Try Kayak. And I love Virgin Atlantic's premium economy seating. 

Hi, we are planning a hiking trip in the Great Smoky Mountains national park in July. Any suggestions for convenient lodging? We will be doing day hikes, so need a place close to a park entrance. Thanks!

Chatters, any advice on this?

I once had a TSA agent (at DCA) stop me because I was carrying a baby powder container. He told me I was limited to 3 ounces of baby powder, when I questioned that, he corrected himself and said that my container of baby powder (larger than a travel size, maybe 10 ounces) was too large. I said, no problem, you can take it. He said, well, there was some leniency, so I could keep it (it was clear he had no idea what the rules were). But he suggested in the future, I transfer the baby poweder from the manufacturer's container to a plastic bag. I replied, really, you are suggesting that travel with white powder in an unmarked plastic bag?? I said that did not sound wise to me, but if there was size limit on baby powder (in the manufacturer's container), I would certainly abide by it. He was clearly annoyed because I doubted his instructions and because he did not know the rules, and then said, well, I guess you need to go for further screening, including a pat down and that swab testing of luggage that they do (during the swab testing, he told me he was going to instruct a new employee on how to do it, so it would take a long time and trust me, he took his time). I had plenty of time so I did not care much other than someone that incompetent and vindictive is not a good candidate for a TSA job.

Good of you to educate TSA, because I have not heard of a ban on baby powder, unless it suddenly transforms into liquid form.

My story isn't about something that did or didn't get through TSA - it's about how one traveler avoided the issue! 2 years ago, I was on a flight and a young man sat down next to me. We chatted briefly, and then he confessed that he had borrowed his travel bag from another army buddy, and didn't realize until he got to the airport that the buddy still had his hunting knife in the bag! My seat mate said that he panicked and hid the knife in a potted plant at the airport. Not sure if he was more nervous about security finding it, or about it not still being there when he returned and having to explain to his buddy how he lost it!

 I have heard that!  Some people even drop the banned item off at lost and found, then reclaim it upon their return. 

I really need to get away for 5-7 days. I want to be on a beach, where the water is so clear that I can look down and see fish swimming around my feet. I'm a 50-ish female traveling solo. I'd considered a cruise to the Caribbean, but I worry about hurricane season. Any suggestions?

I love the beaches at Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Water is beautiful and sand like fine, white powder. 

I have enough miles to get me to London for free...YIPPEE!!! I am thinking of heading over in the fall. I am not a high maintenance person but as a female likely traveling alone, safety is a significant consideration. Walking is fine. I can and have figured out local transportation in a number of cities here and abroad so that doesn't bother me. I tend to be the person who wants to see the key sites but have a short attention span. There is no way I am going to spend hours in one museum. Can't do it. Plus I can be lured by the bright shiny light adventures. I'll caveat that last statement by stating I lived overseas (Middle East and Mediterranean) when I was much younger and had some adventures which, well, defied all manner of common sense. I am older, hopefully wiser, and not really eager to make the front page of any paper due to being involved in some international incident (we didn't have the internet "back then" thank goodness). I still want to have the flexibility to be not tied to a specific tour or "we're supposed to visit x, y, z today." Budget is, of course, a consideration. So, London, Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Wales...I have a week-10 days to soak up this trip. Suggestions???

Don't forget the Jurassic Coast!

Heading to France next April and want to spend 3-4 days somewhere in the south of France. We are definitely open to locations, but very overwhelmed with the options! Should we visit Lyon (which isn't that far south), or Avingon, or Nice, or somewhere else? We don't want to spend all our time on the train but would be open to staying in one place and taking day trips to nearby towns. Looking for museums, food, wine, culture. I appreciate your advice! Thanks for these chats :)

Have you considered Marseille? Although Nice is probably somewhat nicer. :-)

If you had to choose, would you visit the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock? Is it worth doing both?

Empire, because it's a classic. 

Before flying home from Puerto Rico, I searched in vain for a small paring knife I had bought while there, to use to peel and slice fruit. I bought it intending to use it there and then just leave it in the hotel room since I knew I couldn't take it through security. Couldn't find it and made it home fine. Next trip with the same suitcase -- TSA agent pulls my suitcase out of the line to search it based on something she saw in the x-ray. Looks and looks, but can't find what concerned her. Finally, she pulls out the paring knife, which had fallen behind the interior lining of the suitcase! I was mortified, and figured it must look awfully suspicious, as though I was purposely trying to hide the knife to get it through. Anyway, she was very nice about it as I frantically tried to explain what happened.

That's one sneaky paring knife.

Pack it in a ziplock bag in your chcked luggage.

Stay at the many hotels in Gatlinburg or in Sevierville. Gatlinburg is more convenient. Sevierville, TN may be cheaper. Also Maggie Valley, NC is a ski area that may be less expensive in the summer.

My sister, who is famously absentminded, tried to go through security with a boxed set of bone-handled steak knives. Very pretty set, and she was taking them as a gift to a relative. TSA said no, and she cried, "Oh, but they're antique!" and they said "OK." True!

Wish I had tried that with my fork incident.

Brandy/scotch suggester here -- I don't know why it works either. Logically it shouldn't, but it does. I discovered this during a trip to the former Yugoslavia many years ago; I was riding on a bus and felt absolutely awful for reasons unknown. When we made a rest stop I got a shot of Å¡ljivovica, figuring it would resolve the situation one way or another. Lo and behold, about 5 minutes after sipping the Å¡ljivovica, I felt absolutely fine.

Actually the person who is using LH miles to book domestic flights wouldn't necessarily be limited to code shares. They should be able to book any available award seat on a Star Alliance carrier. That's the whole point of the alliance. Not all alliance flights are code shares though. So, the LH miles ought to work on UA or US Airways flights. It's also worth checking the Miles & More program info to see if they have any non-alliance partners that could also work.

My mom brought some Montreal Steak Seasoning back from LGA to IAD and easily got through TSA. However, she forgot she had it in her jacket pocket and kept wondering to me why the person sitting next to her smelled of garlic. Turns out he was probably thinking the same thing.

Probably kept the vampire away too!

My sister and I were traveling home from Yosemite where she had purchased a small (like 2" diameter) snow globe for her young daughter as a souvenier. She was pulled from the security line, confronted w/the globe, and told to go check her back or toss out the little snow globe. Sigh. She threw it away.

Sad, sad, snow globe.

My sister was taking a trip from DC to Guatemala, then on to Atlanta to see her newborn grandson before returning to DC. She had an infant fork and spoon set for the baby that she carried on to Guatemala with no problem. Once in Guatemala, her friends surprised her with a special roasting pan since they know she loves to cook. Leaving the country, though, her roasting pan AND the infant fork & spoon set were both confiscated, never to be returned. Guess they thought she was a danger because she could terrorize the plane by feeding everyone to death... in very small bites!


I'm assuming you've got 30,000 miles - enough for anywhere in the North America Zone on theire partner, United. Why not go to Montreal or Quebec? Those are ususally expensive, but direct flights will allow more time on the ground during a long weekend. Try the United interactive destination map to see where they fly direct from DCA and IAD.

I travel frequently with a travel fishing rod, in a fabric-covered PVC tube, and a few hooks, weights, and a reel in my carryon bag. I've never had a problem. I could put a hell of a beat-down on someone with that rod tube. Why it's not a threat and your whale carving isn't a threat, but a fork is boggles the mind. We're looking for the wrong things at the checkpoint.

I carry a backpack that contains metal bars for support. These bars are long and heavy and could easily be used for a weapon. I've taken this backpack through security dozens of times and no one has cared. Then, when I tried to bring a 6-oz container of yogurt through security, they confiscated it!

Hats off to you for trying to show your kids the world! Trips to Italy and Tanzania/Botswana are expensive, but saving up for big vacations abroad instead of lots of short weekends at Disney or Ocean City will turn your children into production and concerned global citizens!

A jar of peanut butter got my friend's luggage broken into. Evidently, it looks like plastic explosive. Her expensive luggage had very good locks on it so they had to completely duct tape the entire suitcase back together after they got through with it.

I'd just veg out in Cassis! (Where parts of "The French Connection" were filmed -- as of last spring, it still looked pretty much the same). Magnificent blue waters, few tourists that time of year.

Lyon is not the "South of France" - First, you need to decide whether her you want to see the Riviera, with its coast line, beaches, etc.. or the Provence of beautiful villages, Roman ruins, vineyards, olive trees, lavender fields. Fort he first, visit St Raphael or Cannes; for the second stay in Avignon, or Aix en Provence. I was born and raised there.

Thanks everyone for your questions and lively conversation. A good start to the work week!

Today's winner is the traveler who carried a pet goldfish through security. I am feeling nostalgic for the pre-9/11 days and my childhood pets. Email me at with your address. 

See you next Monday!

In This Chat
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
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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