Talk about Travel

Jun 09, 2014

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
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Good afternoon, chatters! Looks like summer's really upon us now -- it's in the 80s and huuuumid here in DC today. So hunker down somewhere cool for our travel chat and tell us all about your summertime travel dreams. Doesn't the owl trail in Leeds sound, uh, cool? Love that story -- and would love to hear about your favorite themed tour of a place. Maybe you took a literary tour, or an architectural tour, or, say, a Jack the Ripper tour of London.  Whatever it was -- let's hear about it. Most enticing trail wins a little prize.

And let's chat!

Quick question, I recall reading an article in the Post a couple of years ago entitled "Roughing it: A Worrywart's guide to Turbulence." It was very informative. I have a sister with a fear of flying, and I wanted to share the article with her. I did a search on your website but can't find it. Do you have a link to it by any chance? Thank you kindly!

Here you go.

Tell your sister turbulence is just like riding waves on a surfboard, with air instead of water and a plane instead of a board.

Is there any logical way to fit the Normandy beaches, Mont St Michel, Paris, and Barcelona into one trip? It looks like we would have to fly into Paris, stay a few days, then take a train or bus northwest to Normandy and then Mont St Michel, then go back southeast through Paris to get to Barcelona? Maybe we are trying to cram too much into one trip!

It rather depends on how much time you have. That's an ambitious itinerary, though it's theoretically doable -- now that there's a new high-speed train between Paris and Barcelona --  if you have enough time. I think it'd require a minimum of 10 days -- actually on the ground. If you have less than that, I'd do either Paris and Normandy or Paris and Barcelona, but not both. Chatters, agree? 

TSA now allows passengers traveling internationally into the US with a connecting flight to carry liquids in their carry-on provided they were purchased in a duty free shop and are placed in a secure tamper evident bag. Do you know if there have been any problems with this? I am thinking I might want to buy a bottle of French wine on my way home from Europe (although the duty free price may be too high) and I will be in transit through JFK.

It's true, earlier this year the TSA changed its rules to allow passengers traveling internationally into the United States with a connecting flight to carry liquids in excess of 100 mL in their carry-on baggage, provided they're purchased in duty-free shops and placed in secure, tamper-evident bags. I'm not aware of any problems with bringing wine into the country. Just remember, those duty-free shops don't always have the best prices.

Not a question, just a thank you for answering my question last week about going to Paris for one day on the way to Barcelona for a cruise. My brain knew it was too much. My heart just wanted that little piece. Oh well, next trip!

Yes, something to look forward to!

How do you get a hotel/motel to commit to reserving two adjoining rooms when you are traveling with kids?

Call the front desk to confirm, and call again right before your departure. If you have any concerns, ask to speak with the manager.

Hi! First, I loved your story on Leeds. I spent a wonderful summer there five years ago and hope to go back in the near future! Second, do you have any advice for a first-time traveler to China? I'll be going in December. Thanks!

So glad you liked the Leeds story. I loved it, too. Alas, I haven't been to China, but I'm sure there are chatters who have been. Folks? Advice for this traveler?

I submitted this to Tom Siestema's chat on Wednesday, and I'm submitting it here in case the questioner missed it: there's a wonderful restaurant in Ghent called Bord'eau Brasserie. It is across the square from the Gravensteen (the Count's Castle). We were in Ghent three years ago -- we met some friends and they took us there for dinner.

Fabulous, thank you!

I have a short business trip to Colorado Springs this week. I'll have a few free hours on Thursday to enjoy the area. Any recommendations? I've visited the Air Force Academy before, and it was very interesting. Thank you!

There are so many ways to fill up an afternoon in Colorado Springs. Some suggestions: visit Garden of the Gods Park; take the cog rail or hike Pikes Peak; explore the grounds and grab a drink or bite at the Broadmoor Hotel; and/or visit the U.S. Olympic Training Center. For three totally Western museum experiences, check out the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy,  the Ghost Town Museum and  the Western Museum of Mining and Industry.

Are these really safe? I have never had a problem and have left my iPad, Bose head phones and even cash on occasion but I always worry. Soon off for weeks in SE Asia, some on a very small boat. Should I trust them? Lock things in my suitcase? I can't carry and don't need those things every day. Thanks

The in-room safes are probably safer than leaving the electronics out in the open, but for maximum safeness -- if you're traveling with expensive jewelry, for example -- you'll probably want to use the manager's safe. I think you'll probably be fine locking the valuables in your luggage and putting it in the closet.

Someone wrote in last week about going to either Chichen Itza or Tulum. I wanted to throw Coba into the ring. My husband and I went to Mexico last year for our honeymoon and took a trip to Coba. It was lovely...we walked through the forest to see the ruins and were able to climb one of the pyramids. The fact that we could climb a pyramid and be in a shaded forest more than made up for not going to "the wonder." Coba was also less crowded than I imagine Chichen Itza to be. We were able to take a bus from the hotel, but it there were only 5 or 6 of us on the bus, so it wasn't an all-day-frequent-stop situation.

You weren't the only chatter to recommend Coba. Definitely a viable alternative.



My sister is considering a trip to Iran with "Cross Cultural Journeys", whom she has traveled with before. The trip sounds great - but I am concerned about her traveling to Iran. I just read the State Department's warning on travel to Iran and then read a blog about a wonderful trip to Iran. Have any of you been there and what was your experience?

Chatters -- anybody braved a trip to Iran?

I am trying to book a flight for August from Washington to Minneapolis, Saint Paul. I am traveling with my two 5-year-old. Delta, the only carrier that flies non-stop to MSP, will not let me select 3 seats together, even though there are more than 50 empty seats on the flight. "Customer care" informed me that Delta "needs to keep seats open to move people around if necessary," so I can't select 3 seats together. Who wants to sit next to a 5-year old who is prone to air sickness? Is this stupid rule something new?

It's not a new rule, but more likely, Delta's desire to make more money. Airlines are selling seat assignments for some of the more desirable economy class seats, and passengers are willing to pay for an aisle row seat near the front of the cabin. That's the bad news. The good news? If you show up for the flight early and tell them you're with a five-year-old, they'll find a way for at least one of the parents to sit next to the child, and without charging you extra. You could also write to one of these executive contacts at Delta, and ask them to seat you together. 

We are going to Saratoga Springs the last weekend in June for a family reunion. The dinner is Friday evening, but we'll be there until Sunday. Then we'll spend one night in Albany before flying home on Monday. We'd love suggestions on sights to see, ways to enjoy the area. Thanks

The Saratoga area is lovely. The famous and historic racetrack, alas, won't be open during your visit, but there are other things to do -- lots of wineries, if you're into winetasting; Grant's Cottage (the house where U.S. Grant completed his famous memoir) and Rogers Island (important in the French and Indian Wars) for history; Ausable Chasm and lots of hiking areas if you're into the outdoors; Yaddo Gardens for nature. And lots more. Chatters, your suggestions?

We did pretty much that exact trip a few years back, in about 14 days. It was certainly doable. If you're just going to stick to Barcelona proper, I'd skip it. But if you can get into the mountains, it's worth adding. Normandy is easily 5 days, and Paris is, well, Paris. As one of my favorite authors said, you can never have enough time in Paris.

Bare minimum of 2.5-3 weeks to do it all-take the TGV in any case!

I second Garden of the Gods for the business traveler in Colorado Springs. It is amazing!

I was thinking about taking a Mediterranean cruise this fall probably in October. When I started searching airfares from Washington DC to places such as Barcelona, Rome, and Venice I was shocked at the prices. I was looking at one way fares since the cruises often start and end in different ports. I saw prices of about $ 3,000 per person for a one way fare. Is there any hope that prices may be reduced soon?

Don't look for one-way fares. Instead search for an "open-jaw" fare, flying into one city and out of another, but on the same ticket. This should significantly reduce the price of airfare. 

I'm looking at flights in Sept to take the kids to visit great grandparents cross country. I have US Air Companion passes I'm trying to use. On the flights are $312. On the same exact flights are $891. Now I realize they aren't merged yet, but that seems ridiculous, especially given they are now operating under the same parent. Any thoughts on what I should do?

That is ridiculous. I would go with the $312 flight, of course. Contact me if you run into trouble. This looks like a little glitch in their system. Ah, mergers. Don't you love 'em?

For a weekend at the Castleton Festival, what do you suggest in and around that area for daytime activities? We are not familiar with the area.

Castleton's in Rappahannock County, which is beautiful. You can do some wine-tasting along the Rappahannock Wine Trail, dine (if you're really willing to splurge) at the famous Inn and Little Washington and just stroll through that pretty town. Shenandoah National Park and Luray Caverns aren't far away. What else, chatters?

I did two themed tours in Dublin on my first visit. During the day, we did the Historical Walking Tour of Dublin which is different from other walking tours in that all of the guides have a history degree from one of the Dublin universities. Our guide was not only knowledgeable about Dublin's history, but quite the storyteller! He made history sound like a good book. In the evening we did the Traditional Musical Pub Crawl which, believe it or not, focuses on the music and not the pub crawling. While we visited 3 pubs in Temple Bar and had the option to buy drinks at each, at no time was anyone pressured to buy (and I didn't). The musicians were talented and in addition to singing, they played several different Irish instruments and told our group all about them. They, too, were excellent storytellers although I think their stories had more fiction than fact in them.

Those Irish -- the best storytellers!

Third on Garden of the Gods. Also, if the traveler doesn't have locked down hotel reservations, look into the Wyndham Mining Exchange Hotel downtown. I stayed there on a trip last year and thought it was charming! I was able to get it at government rate so they may have some luck if they have a specific price to stick to.

Are rates trending upward? I have an 8-day rental in October, in Burlington, VT, for about $300, inclusive of all taxes and fees. Is it gonna get any better?

Seems to me that rates vary by location, and I've always found car rentals at the Burlington airport to be high. Enterprise's locations in town are much cheaper. Might be worth pricing out getting a cab from the airport to an in-town rental office. 

Hi, My husband and I are celebrating a large anniversary with our first trip to Italy! We are very excited and leave in a couple of weeks. We are hitting the trifecta-with stops in Rome, Venice and Florence. Our longest period of time will be spent in Florence with lots of free time to explore. We also have some free time in Rome as well. Are there any great off-the beaten path sites you would recommend in either city? We are scheduled to see the main attractions. Any don't miss restaurants or not-to miss local events? All advice welcome! Thanks!!

Rome and Florence are both rather well-beaten paths, for a reason. They're fabulous cities, with many historic offerings. Even if you see the main sights, there are bound to be some things your guides won't have time to show you. I'm not sure what those would be, but in Florence, I'd recommend that ou see the church of Santa Maria di Novella, which may or may not be on a tour. In Rome, you might consider a Vespa tour, just for the fun of it. What else, chatters?

Look at Thrifty...just off the airport and their rates drop because of it. I have 4 days in September for just under $70.

I think you're going to have to forego Barcelona if you've only got 10 days. Paris and the Normandy coast are eminently doable - we did it a couple of years ago. Tip: take the TGV from Paris to Rouen and rent a car there. Local train service along the coast isn't great, so you'll be stuck on buses, which probably isn't how you want to see coastal France.

I have very fond memories of taking the ghost tour in Colonial Williamsburg on a school trip many years ago - I didn't pay attention to a word of the tour, but I think the guide probably deserved a prize for dealing with 20 5th graders up past their bedtime!


I traveled independently to Iran in 2011 for 3 weeks and had a great trip. I'm female and traveled alone. I never felt unsafe, even though I was carrying all my travel funds in cash (due to the US trade embargo). Iranians are incredibly helpful and hospitable. I would absolutely urge your sister to go. For the China traveler it all depends where you are going. General advice: always BYOTP as no guarantees this will be available.

Last August, we drove down the western side of Montana, from Glacier/Kalispell to West Yellowstone. We love old hotels, both for their charm and because they're usually in the center of town rather than out by the interstate. We flew into Kalispell (there's a direct flight from Arlanta in the summer!), staying at the KAlispell Grand hotel. That evening we walked around the downtown area, had an excellent meal nearby. Next day, drove to Glacier Park; stayat at the Belton Chalet, which is right outside the park--old railroad hotel, built efore any of the Glacier Park lodges. Comfortable and easy to get into the park. The restaurant attached to the hotel beats anything in the park. And on we went: Phillipsburg (gem mining!), Missoula (no old downtown hotel, but the old hotel building has a great restaurant), Jackson (old hot springs hotel), It was a great road trip--amazing landscapes, and charming little towns.

A hotel tour -- now that's different!

We'll be driving up to Maine (near Boothbay Harbor) at the end of July and want to split the trip into two days. Any suggestions about an overnight stop that's somewhere midway between here and there and has some interesting things to see/do (we'll have a 3-year-old with us, if that matters)? We've battted around the idea of getting a hotel near a NJ Transit stop and taking the train into NYC for a day. Or Mystic, Conn. Any other thoughts?

I think the coast of Connecticut along the Long Island Sound and nearby areas are lovely. Mystic, Old Lyme, Guilford, Stonington and Niantic are just some of the villages worth considering for an overnight stay. I'd choose that  instead of Manhattan, especially traveling with a toddler.  

What would there be to do post-Labor Day? Do restaurants stay open in the winter?

Summer does not end on Labor Day weekend. The Cape is still hopping in September, and a lot of businesses now stay open through October if not later, especially in towns with robust year-round populations (Hyannis, Yarmouth and Barnstable, for example). You will also find a number of festivals taking place this time of year, such as the Cranberry Harvest festival and the Wellfleet Oyster Fest, plus whale-watching. As for attractions, museums and historic homes may switch to slow-season hours (often weekends only), so call ahead. Your innkeeper or hotel should have more info on post-season openings and closings. Also check the Cape Cod tourism's Web site for events and other ideas.

Bryce Resort was a great suggestion. I learned to bike there - it's so small that it only had 1 main trail for biking and it's not as crowded as other places. There were a lot of other people learning. The same goes for their downhill skiing - only a few different runs at different levels, but short and not very crowded. We've since "graduated" to longer trails in the region, but still go back to Bryce for relaxed downhill.


I have an opportunity to go on the QM2 for a Southampton/New York crossing, something I've wanted to do for years. In looking at the airfares, a one-way fare to London from Dulles is about $400 more expensive than round trip. What prevents me from booking a round trip and not taking the flight back? Will TSA come looking for me?

 Most airlines prohibit it in the contract of carriage, a legal agreement you enter into when buying an airline ticket.  But realistically, the likelihood of the airline coming after you is slim to none. And TSA is not involved at all. Just make sure you don't ever ticket a trip with the intention of using only the return, as they will cancel the return flight if you're not on the first leg. 

Agreed. I would book the roundtrip and then not use the second half. It's called "throwaway" ticketing, and it's completely legal. Just make sure you don't ask a travel agent to do it, and use the first half, not the second half. It doesn't work the other way around, which is to say, if you don't show up for one flight, your whole ticket will be canceled and you'll be considered a "no show."

I went to Saratoga for the first time last August. The racing crowds made for a good bit of traffic. In addition to the places you mentioned the Saratoga Springs State Park was interesting. They have old spas there where you can still have a treatment. The battlefield is in a very pretty setting. The visitor's center to the battlefield park has some good info on the Revolutionary War battles in the area and they you take a self-guided driving tour through the park. Some nice views over the Hudson. Saratoga Lake is gorgeous and has some brilliant sunset views. The town itself has nice shops and restaurants along the main drag. We also visited Saratoga Tower (only open Fri-Sun) which was built in the late 1800s as a war memorial. You can climb to the top for views of the mountains. There's an old cemetery by the tower as well.

Yes, all great ideas, thanks!

Probably so high in Oct vs. Sept because of the leaf-peeping... high season.

Possibly a bit cornball and predictable, but I took The Sound of Music tour in Salburg. As an enormous fan of the movie (probably watch it a few times a year), it was very cool for me. I especially liked going outside of the city and seeing Mondsee, where the wedding was filmed. A beautiful altar, but they filmed and re-filmed the shot, so it looked like the altar was really much taller than it is. It was Christmas time, too, so all the little towns (and big cities) were beautifully decorated. A memory I will always cherish!

I have so many friends who are huge Sound of Music fans and have also taken this tour. I'll have to try it sometime!

I was on the Cape in October (over Columbus Day weekend) a few years ago, and it was great - most things were open, and there were people around, but it wasn't crazy like it is during the summer!

Heading on a cruise to Bermuda next Sunday - hoping that chatters can help me identify things that would be great to do while ashore yet not break the bank (even though this may be the only time we ever get there!). Looked around some websites, and have some ideas but would love further feedback. Thanks!

Haven't been to Bermuda in years and years. I did like shopping in Hamilton, but that may be too expensive nowadays! Also enjoyed tooling around on a motor scooter, on the 'wrong" side of the road. The Bermuda Aquarium might be fun to see. Also Fort St. Catherine. Chatters, what would you recommend here?

Hands down has to have been the Crypts and Catacombs of Parisian Churches. Many of them, oddly claimed to be the vaults that inspired Anne Rice's section about Armaund for Interview with a Vampire.

Aaaah, yessss.

My fiance and I are planning an April wedding and are looking for a honeymoon destination. We have narrowed the field down to the Caribbean, but are out of our depth in picking an island or area, since we've never traveled there and don't know anyone who has. We are looking for a combination of historic culture, beach time, active stuff (kayaking, snorkeling, hiking). Not sure on whether we want to go all-inclusive or not. Budget is low to mid-range. Can you help?

If you're social people who like meeting others and drinking a few cocktails, an all-inclusive may be a good bet. But if you're looking for a more private, quieter type of vacation, a regular hotel would be a better choice. As for islands, airfare takes up a lot of any vacation budget, so consider places with cheaper flights. Puerto Rico, Cancun (not the Caribbean, but similar vibe) and the Bahamas  typically offer less expensive flights. Most islands will offer the interest areas you've mentioned, although historic and cultural attractions are more  prevalent in some locations, including Puerto Rico and Cancun.  

My son is going to Brazil to be there during part of the World Cup. He will stay most of the time with a friend in Sao Paolo, and do some traveling to Rio and Bahia. He is not sure whether to bring his phone. I'd like for him to keep in contact occasionally. We've read warnings on the State Department web site about crime in Brazil, and I'm afraid that his phone might get stolen. Do you have any recommendations for what to do about phones and travel to Brazil? Should he buy a simple phone here and take it? Purchase one there?

Crime is an issue, especially when big crowds are involved, but as long as he keeps his valuables tight to his chest (no pulling out a cell in public), he should be okay. That said, he should not bring with him any valuables he truly cares about, in the off chance that a pickpocketing incident occurs. If he has access to a phone (pay or a friend's cell phone), he could buy a calling card at the airport and use it for international calls back home. If his friend has a computer or smartphone (or he bring one and leaves it as his lodging), you can chat for free via Skype or Viber. Or he can go to an Internet cafe.

If you buy a new phone here, he will need a SIM card to call home.

On my flight yesterday on UAL from Heathrow to IAD, the purser announced that any liquids over 3 oz. acquired at Heathrow or through duty-free would have to be placed in checked bags for connecting flights.

Thanks for the info. That's very helpful.

We are going to Glacier National Park on 9/13/2014 and are spending 3 nights in Coram and 3 more in St. Mary's. We have an idea about things to see inside the park but do you have any ideas for must see things to see/do outside the park?


Will they let you book the two outer seats in one row? I bet you won't have any trouble getting the middle seat assigned to your family once you put the two 5 year olds in their seats.

I've been to Rome many times and still find something new every visit. One of the highlights of that last visit was Le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini. It is the ancient ruins of a villa that they discovered during excavations for a government building and they covered in in glass, so that you can walk above it and learn about how people lived. They project lights on that walls and floors periodically to reproduce the frescoes and tiles work. You need to get tickets for the english tour in advance, be we got them the same day. It's near the "typewriter/wedding cake."


Daughter, 17-year-old grandson and I will be in NYC in late July for four days. Will be doing all the usual tourist things. Looking at purchasing NY Pass or NY City Pass. Is one better than the other for price/time we'll be there/things to do, etc.? How far in advance should we purchase? Any other suggestions would be helpful. Thanks!

My sense is that you will have greater flexibility with the New York Pass. Plus, the card is on sale through June 11. They don't sell out, so you can book as close to your departure date as you wish.

Many attractions have free days or time periods, so plan accordingly. (MoMa: Admission is free for all visitors during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, held every Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.). Also grab a copy of Time Out NY. The magazine (print or online) has reams of free or discounted ideas, plus info on festivals, flea markets, tours, etc..

3 years ago this month I did China with a friend (we were 58 and late 60's at the time, 2 women who are active and adventurous). We came in via the TransMongolian Railway from Mongolia and stayed in Beijing except for a day trip to The Great Wall, the Ming Tombs and the Sacred Road. We were not on a tour, we arranged and did everything on our own (except the Great Wall day)...rode the subway, took taxis, walked the Hutongs, climbed the towers, ate in restaurants, visited T. Square and Mao's Mausoleum, saw the Olympic Park (Ice Cube, etc), the Summer Palace, etc, etc. China is VERY safe for tourists...there are police and military everywhere and they are not about to let anything happen to 2 American women alone in their city. We had some adventures, walked the wrong way a couple times, stumbled on Dragon Boat races unexpectedly, were stared out by many Chinese children. I had read over and over on Trip Advisor that you CAN do China (at least Beijing) without a tour guide and we found it to be TRUE. You do have to do some advanced research and planning and be game for the excitement. You also need a $200 pp Visa which is a pain to acquire from the DC China Embassy. All in all, I'd repeat the trip in a minute!

Thanks for taking my question! I was looking at taking a trip to San Diego this fall for a long weekend. Is it possible to get around easily without renting a car there? Other than the obvious answers of the Zoo and the beaches, are there any things to see that shouldn't be missed by a first-timer?

You need a car in San Diego. Driving there is easy, and car rentals aren't awfully expensive. Balboa Park, where the zoo is located is lovely. La Jolla is fun for shopping and sea lion-viewing. Little Italy near downtown has great restaurants. Hiking at Torrey Pines is nice. Take a look at the San Diego Tourism Authority's site for other ideas.  

This winter I wrote in re our planned week on the island of Flores in the Azores this spring. Now that we're back, I wanted report that our flights went smoothly, and we had great weather on 6 out of 7 days (this had been a worry, since our visit was during the "shoulder" season). There were very few tourists on Flores then, save for a few hearty European hikers. The Hotel Servi-Flor, where we stayed for 5 days, is right in the main town of Santa Cruz (as opposed to out by the airport, where the larger hotels are located), and has an excellent restaurant with fresh local dishes cooked Azorean-style: my husband swore his grilled fish must’ve been caught the same day, as it had no “fishy” smell whatsoever. Before our trip I had emailed the same tour guide I'd had there several years ago, so we could arrange 3 half-day tours (not nearly as tiring as rushing to try to see the entire island in one very long day). Per my arrangement ahead of time with our guide, we stopped at cemeteries in villages from which cousins of mine and I had ancestors who’d emigrated, in order to photograph gravestones of people with the same surnames as our forebears. The high point was spending 2 nights in a self-catering cottage in the tiny settlement on the west coast of Flores in which my grandmother was born, where we could hike paths that my ancestors doubtless walked, enjoy the colorful sunsets, and hear the waterfalls crashing down from the high cliffs in back of the spit of land; it reminded me a bit of Yosemite Falls (except for the cliffs being basalt instead of granite). Our sole disappointment was not getting to take a day-trip boat ride over to the even tinier nearby island of Corvo, but that time of year the boat only runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and by the time we found this out, we'd already made plans for both days. Oh well, next time... BTW, our tour guide recommended September as a nice time to visit Flores, as the weather’s still nice but the summer crowds have subsided (and as in the spring, lodging rates are lower).

Glad you had such a great time!

I think the biggest thing to remember about China is not to panic about the fact that it's China...relax and enjoy yourself, and leave your passport in the hotel safe.

It all depends on the types of hotels you are staying at. I went to SE Asia last year and stayed at 3+ star hotels. There, even though I felt safe leaving thigns in a safe, I opted to keep it stored and locked up in our luggage. We purchased a large backpack with metal locks that had the option for you to secure it to something (i.e. the bed frame). Be careful if you are staying overnight at places like trains though, we've had friends who had their luggage/things stolen from underneath their noses while they were sleeping.

Thanks for the advice!

The beaches! Horseshoe Bay Beach for sure. Tobacco Bay Beach and Elbow Beach too. The Maritime Museum is fun.

Last summer I discovered the joys of waterfalls, so this summer I would like to (in the very little time I have given other travel plans and work) enjoy a few more of those natural beauties. Luckily, we have a number of them within relatively easy driving distance of the DC area.

Don't get too wet!

Is there any way of avoiding BA's seat selection fees? I booked through American, on a US Airways codeshare, connecting to a BA flight from Heathrow to Budapest. I have seats for the first two legs and the last two legs. Thanks.

Seat selection is free 24 hours before departure. You can also try calling the airline and hoping for a caring agent. Tell him/her that you have seating for all four legs and just wanted to fill in the blank seats. You never know . .. .

Definitely spend time in St. George's at the easternmost tip. It was founded in 1612 when a ship bound for the fledgling Virginia colony went aground to avoid a storm. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - make sure you go the World Heritage Museum, which is little tricky to find. It's small but gives a good overview of the island's history and there is a nice video, too. Also go to St. Peter's Church.

In August my husband and I are flying into Milwaukee and the driving to Madison to visit our daughter for a few days. Our plan is to stay a few extra days within 1-2 hours from the Milwaukee airport to celebrate our 40th anniversary. We would prefer to be near water, and enjoy music, theater, & historical areas. Any ideas?

Port Washington is a lovely town on the water, with two lighthouses, Pioneer Village (a living history museum), a fish smokehouse and more. You might also consider Racine, an artists' enclave with an art museum, Frank Lloyd Wright and a number of Danish bakeries. (Note: The kringle is the state's pastry, so be a good guest and eat 'em up.)

Thinking of renting a cottage/house in Europe or Canada for a week in December, for 4-6 adults. Not interested in skiing/winter sports. Looking for ideas of towns, cities, or villages that would be a fun place, with interesting things to do & see, preferably one where we could rely on walking/public transportation without having to drive. We don't mind bundling up in the cold.

I'd opt for Europe just to go to the Christmas markets. Check out this story we published about the city of Nuremberg's Christmas Market. I'd also consider the Austrian Lake District, although you may be better off with a car to explore that area. 

Booked a trip to Amsterdam and Belgium because of a great price, but its in December! Any tips on what to do (without freezing) besides Christmas markets and chocolate eating?

Maybe it'll be cold enough to go skating on the canals! This sounds like a good time to take in Amsterdam's many wonderful museums -- the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank house, Jewish history museum and more. Not sure where in Belgium you're going, but same applies there -- plus churches. Many beautiful churches.

If you are able to get to St. George, do walk up to The Unfinished Church. We also rode the local passenger ferry that goes to all parts of the island. I think it was about an hour or so to do the entire loop. There were only a few passengers (all locals) and the captain was great, pointing out all the highlights, celebrity homes, etc. The pink busses are also cheap and will do a loop around to take you to the Sensory Garden and other highlights.

Heading to Jamaica this July. Any great excursions that we should check out? Two kids, 7 and 9.

Jamaica is a big island. When we stayed in Ocho Rios, my kids enjoyed Dunn's River Falls. I was a fan of the Shaw Park Botanical Gardens. In Montego Bay, we went on a catamaran excursion that would have been fine for adults, but it was a little too raucous for my kids.  We all enjoyed the trip to Luminous Lagoon

I haven't been to Glacier in 10 years, but from what I recall, it is fairly isolated, so there isn't much around it to see and do that isn't part of the park.

We've decided our next big vacation will be a trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. The problem is, I have no idea where to get started in planning the Grand Canyon portion of the trip since I know very little about it. We will not be doing anything too active like hiking but I want to get the most out of our visit. How much time should we plan to visit the Grand Canyon? Should we fly into Vegas and do the 5 hour drive or is there a better alternative? What is there to do other than looking at a big hole in the ground? (Just joking .....sort of)

If you drive from Vegas (always a good time!) ,  you can stop at the Hoover Dam for a tour. To explore the canyon without moving a muscle, consider a helicopter tour. On the South Rim, you can visit the exhibits at the visitors centers, Yavapai Geology Museum,  Kolb Studio and Tusayan Museum. There is also surprisingly good shopping on the South Rim.

Should one not provide their frequent flier number if doing this?

No, don't give them your frequent flier number. That makes it easier for them to find you and charge you the fare difference.

In September a part of the main road will be closed from Logan Pass to near St Marys lake. In your stay you will need to focus on each side alone. On the west side its viewing Lake MacDonalad and avalanche falls and taking going up to Logan Pass. On the east side its St Marys Lake area, and spending a day in Many Glacier and then a half day in Two Medicine. On your visit you need to pay for boat ridea on the lakes.

I drove halfway across the United States last summer with my daughter who was moving out West. We both love the "Weird America" series of books and the "Roadtrip America" website, so we planned stops at such places as Foamhenge at Natural Bridge in Virginia, the grave of the real Dr. Pepper in Rural Retreat, Virginia, the All Aboard Cafe in Little Rock which brings your food via an overhead train, the Holy City (a huge Passion Play stage made from native rocks) in Oklahoma's Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reserve and, of course, the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo.

Fun! I love Weird America, too.

Is it just my imagination, or does it seem like nowadays no matter where one travels, there are local people who speak English? This has been my experience even in remote places -- and it sure makes travel a lot easier for us North Americans!

Yes, English has definitely become the universal language. Even if it's not fluent, you can generally find *somebody* nearly everyplace who knows a few words of our language.

And over and out! Thanks for joining us today for a fun chat. Not too many takers on my themed tour question, but I loved the hotel tour idea. Sounds right up my alley. So if you were the person who sent that in, send your contact info to be at, and I'll send you some hotel toiletries (kidding)! A little prize will wing its way to you forthwith. Thanks again everybody, and see you next week!

In This Chat
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
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.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
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