Talk about Travel: The beach issue

Jul 16, 2012

Have a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel section's editors and writers are at your service.

Good Monday afternoon, everyone. Hope you're making it through this already steamy day. If it's going to be this hot, we might as well be at the beach, right? Which is just what Andrea and I recently did. She went to New Jersey and Delaware, and I went to Virginia and Maryland. We both found some real gems. Care to share your favorite, maybe somewhat under-the-radar beaches? Best answer gets the prize.

Let's get started.

Island Beach State Park, N.J.

We will be departing Dulles for a long trip just two days before our friends arrive in Dulles from Paris. We want to leave our car for them to pick up at or near the airport but we can't figure out the logistics. (They are doing the same for us in Paris, but they will just park at the airport (CDG) and leave their key and parking lot ticket/info with the airport's "deposit service" for us to pick-up upon arrival .) Can we do something similar at Dulles? Or, do you know if we can park our car at a nearby hotel that offers "airport parking" and then leave the key for our friends with the front desk? Other options we might be missing here? Of course, it is too late to just mail them an extra key.., Thanks!

I would have suggested mailing the key but since that's out... Dulles does not have a deposit service. However, you can arrange the hand-off through the airport's valet parking. It's pricier, but I'm not sure what other options you have. I would go ahead and call them at 703-572-4540 to find out what the procedure would be. You might be able to set up something now, even before you leave. Better to familiarize yourself with what you might need to do ASAP.

I'm really not sure about the hotel parking thing. You might just want to try calling a few places to inquire.

I'm going to Cozumel in a couple of weeks, and read on-line that they routinely accept US Dollars. Would it be prudent to have some pesos just in case? Thx

I was in Cozumel two years ago and had no trouble using dollars. 

My friend and I are trying to figure out how best to handle cell phones & texting during our upcoming trip to France. We each have AT&T iphones (not unlocked), and would like to be able to text each other in France to confirm meet-up locations, etc. We won't need many voice calls, but would like to be able to make a call or two (within France) if necessary. After researching online, we've read lots of horror stories and are scared that even if we activate international voice/data/text capabilities with AT&T and are careful, we'll still manage to return home with an unexpected $1000 phone bill. Any advice re: managing costs? Or is it worth it to purchase cheap phones in France? Since our phones are locked, I don't think we can purchase SIM cards? And, we leave Thursday, so have limited time to figure this out! Thanks!

First, have a look at our two guides we've run recently, on calling and using the Internet abroad. Given the time crunch you're in now, you may just need to concede to activating an international plan with AT&T. You can probably be careful. If you're only texting/calling, turn off your phone's data roaming capabilities to avoid racking up charges there. You may also be able to get them to unlock your phone, and then you could purchase a SIM card in France.

But, yeah, if you are confident enough in your French and tech abilities, you could try getting phones abroad. Me, I hate leaving such things to chane and the last minute!

this morning I heard the new of a flight from Aruba that hit turbulance out of the blue, and threw people around in the cabin. When you drive, you leave your seatbelt on. Why are you allowed to take it off after takeoff? Seems like a no brainer to me to leave the belt on.

Here are a few details on that incident. You're right, passengers should keep their seatbelts on at all times, but there are times when you would have a legitimate reason to leave your seat. I'm unaware of any rule or regulation that would require you to remain seated at all times. I'm not sure if that would be practical -- flight attendants would have to remain in their seats for the duration of the flight.

Probably too late for lat week's questioner but I have family in Ocean Pine who live there year round so we make this trip a lot. We've found the best way to go is RT 50 to 404 and then to take 113 south. Seems to save 20-30 minutes over RT 50-90, which can back way up as you approach Ocean Pines on Fridays/Saturdays.

I've tried both routes (I'm in Ocean City right now), and I think it's six-of-one-half-dozen-0f-the-other. If you get stuck behind a slow truck in the narrower sections of Route 404, it can add lots of time to the trip. Timing is everything. Leave before noon on Friday or by 6 a.m. Saturday, and don't hit the road  home at checkout time on Sunday. 

Thanks for taking my question! My fiance and I are getting married in October and are pushing back a large vacation due to work timing. However, we'd like to take a short trip (couple days/a week) and go somewhere warm. We don't mind beaches, but we'd like more activities and towns to explore. Ideally the location is outside the U.S., romantic, but not full of inclusive resorts. We're mindful of timing and price but don't have definite restrictions. Any ideas?

Trying to reconcile the fact that you don't want a large vacation but still want to go outside the country. Would Puerto Rico work for you? If you're being mindful of price, you can score pretty cheap flights from DCA to San Juan on JetBlue (nonstop from $129 each way).

If you don't need to go outside the States, it seems like a trip through the Florida Keys would make a great little honeymoon.

One of the main reasons I went with an Iphone 4S from Verizon versus AT&T is that Verizon will unlock your phone by request (enabling you to get a SIM card from whatever country your visiting), whereas AT&T would not. Worth checking to see if they've changed their policy.

For last week's chatter who had a 45 minute layover in either Minneapolis or Narita - I have connected through both many many times. 45 minutes is tight in MSP if you are coming from far away (A, B gates) but if there are no weather issues you should be okay. Every flight I have taken to Narita has left from the low G gates, close to the main corridor of the airport. In Narita, unlike what the other chatter wrote, she WILL NOT have to go through customs or immigration. She will have to go through transit security. You do not remove shoes/laptops/etc. for that, and the line is very clear and obvious. The majority of Delta flights within Asia leave after the MSP-NRT flight arrives, and they make it very easy for you to connect from one to the other. I had a 1 hour connection that turned into a 25 minute connection with a toddler and a preschooler and had zero problems. The Delta staff at NRT is awesome and I wouldn't stress out about this too much. I think you are likely to run into more problems in MSP than in NRT - especially because if you miss the flight to SIN, you can catch another (Singapore Airlines, connect in HKG using Cathay, etc.). If you miss the flight to NRT you are stuck for 24 more hours, unless you can catch a connection via LAX or DTW.

Thanks so much for this wealth of info.

I'm interested in visiting Fiji for a big vacation but have never been there. Part of my travel considerations include an assessment of how difficult it is to get there from the midwest where I live. So.....for any lucky travelers from the midwest who already have been to Fiji, could you opine on how long it takes and generally how you got there?

Best bet is to get to Los Angeles and fly nonstop on Air Pacific. Flight from LAX is about 11 hours each way.  

Hi guys! My girlfriend and I are heading to Cape Cod for the first time for a long weekend in early August (Thursday through Sunday). We got a really good deal on a place in Hyannis, which I know isn't necessarily the "beach" epicenter. Was wondering if you or your readers may have suggestions about where we should focus our time given that we'll only have about 3 full days to wander around. We both love the beach and would love to see the National Seashore - but are there great places closer that may be a better use of our time? Also, if you have time - we'd love to visit the Vineyard for a day and a $70 roundtrip "fast" ferry leaves from Hyannis, opposed to an hour's drive away to Oak Hollow for the slower, but more economical boat. What do you think about spending one of our full days to ferry over the Vineyard for the day? If it's a go, what should we check out? Thanks!

I doubt you'll regret taking a trip to Martha's Vineyard. Here's a story we had the other year on the presidential-pleasing island. I also think you should see the Seashore (say that five times fast) if you can. It won't even take you an hour to get there from Hyannis. I honeymooned in Chatham and can recommend that as well.

Sounds awful, doesn't it? But it's wonderful!

Hey, this is perfect for the Hyannis traveler too. Thanks!

My husband and I finally have the opportunity to take our much delayed honeymoon. We're headed to St. Thomas in mid-Jan. We're seeing airfare around $450-500. Is this a good price or do you think prices will go down?

I think that's a good price. 

Couple, ages 65&72, contemplating a Fall trip to the Grand Canyon. North rim or South rim? Best flight destination(s) from VA airports or BWI? Other must-see places to visit or things to do while out there for approx. 1 week? Really neat places to stay? Our priorities are outdoor experiences and to see the incredible landscape. (Might consider 1 or 2 nights in Vegas.) We're moderately active, no heavy hiking. Thanks!

The facilities at the South Rim are excellent, and the views are incredible. I was just there in May with my family. I hadn't been there since 1986 (way too long, I know). Lots of changes -- infrastructure improvements, a new visitors center. But the North Rim is on my bucket list. I've never been. Bear in mind that it's open seasonally, and can be difficult to get to. Here's a little more information. If you go to the North Rim, you'll want to fly into Salt Lake City or Las Vegas. If you're doing the South Rim, I would fly into Phoenix.

I think there are whale-watching tours from one of the Cape towns, too!

Hands down it's Corolla, NC. I collect sand from beaches all over the US and world (volcanic sand from El Salvador!) and the sand I have from Corolla is the softest, finest sand in my whole collection.

Why not just hide the key somewhere on the car?

That would make me quite nervous, but you never know.

We are going to Orlando in Nov-Dec. Tickets were around 266 nonstop and 220 for a stop. Do we wait or buy now?

Are you coming from the D.C. area? If so, try looking around some more. Nonstops to Orlando are routinely under $200, which is what I'm seeing now. Fares do seem to be a bit higher around Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Am planning a 2 week trip to the Mediterranean for next summer for our family (w adults, 2 teen boys). We like the itinerary/ports on NCL cruise, but have heard some negative feedback on the line. Other options are Celebrity and RC, which we've been on before and liked (kids don't care about a lot of teen activities).. Which should rule our decision - the ports/itinerary or the cruise line?

For a Mediterranean cruise, I think the ports are  important, as they are all very different. It's not like going on a Caribbean cruise, where many of the shore excursions are the same from island to island. I've not been on an NCL cruise in many years. I know its fans are very loyal to the line's "freestyle" dining policy. Celebrity has a very good reputation for families, as does Royal Caribbean. Also consider the age of the boat and/or the last major renovation - that's as important as the line and the ports. 

This might not be the best time for has a large population of seals at the moment, and they both give off an unpleasant odor on the beach and have attracted some great white sharks. Unless the seals and sharks go away, go somewhere else on the Cape. The National Seashore is fantastic and the Vineyard is worth the trip.

Yipes! Well, Chatham the town is nice anyway. Thanks for the input.

The beaches we most enjoy are those where a river meets the ocean. We had a fantastic visit at Jenner Beach, watching the Russian River crash into the waves, seals and pelicans diving in the water just feet from us. Monestary Beach, south of Carmel is calmer, but has lovely driftwood and just gorgeous water. And Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands is one of the best places to have a family picnic on a beach close to the Bay Area.

I am looking to rent a 6 bedroom house on or close to the beach. I have done this for the past few years at the Outerbanks, N. C. and would like to try somewhere else such as Delaware, Maryland or New Jersey. Any suggestions.

This leaves you with a lot of options. Check out our Va./Md. and N.J./Del. beach stories from this weekend to see if any of those locations appeal to you.

Are these last mintue travel deals as good as they seem and are they true to their description? Are they really good deals? Can you recommend some of these last minute travel sites that include transportation?

Intrepid Post reporter Rick Maese fell for a last-minute-getaway deal this year and filed this report. Overall, he decided it was a smart buy. He bought the trip (to Kenya) from Living Social and it included airfare.

Can you leave a duplicate car-key with a local friend (to whom you email or text the car's location, once you've parked at the airport) who would be willing to meet your French friends at Dulles Airport (holding up a sign with their name on it) and give the key to them?

Another good option. You all are a creative bunch.

Please run an update about Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. The Magazine had an article maybe 5 years ago by someone from the DC area who bought a house right on the lake and was sure he'd found paradise (he used a phrase like "bathtub of the gods"). But recently I read that the lake has risen 17 feet and keeps going up, so I wonder if it's still good to visit -- and also if the writer's house is under water!

Oh, interesting. Occasionally the Magazine does little follow-up stories. This may be perfect for that. I'll let them know.

I'm planning on taking my daughter to England (Durham, York, Lancaster) to look at universities around Thanksgiving. We will be flying out of Dulles and are flexible about which day we leave. What tips do you have for getting the best rates? When is the best time to book the flights? Which airport would be the most cost effective to fly into? Any and all recommendations are welcome.

Flying  into London Heathrow will most likely be cheapest, as there is competition on that route. United, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic all offer nonstop flights from Dulles. British Airways also flies nonstop from BWI. Also look into United's nonstop from Dulles to Manchester, which is located closer to your destinations. Flying midweek is typically cheaper than flying on/around weekends, but international flights sometimes buck this trend. Start looking at prices now on the airlines' Web sites and on sites such as Kayak and Bing Travel, and buy when you see a dip. I'm assuming you will rent a car when you're in England, but you may also be able to do at least part of the trip via train. Take a look at the Virgin Trains schedules.  

I'm a now-former Washingtonian posting from my Florida beach retirement home alongside Highway A1A about 25 miles south of Cape Canaveral. I'd like to suggest a beach that's about a dozen miles north of here. Cocoa Beach has excellent and well guarded beaches, accommodations that range from rental cottages and small independent motels through upscale major chain hotels, dining and nightlife from high-end seafood restaurants to divey beachside blues bars, shopping that includes the L.L. Bean of Surfing, as in a Ron Jon store that's open 24/7 should you need a boogie board at 3am...and an attitude that's pretty well summed up by a bumper sticker you'll find down here: "Cocoa Beach. It's like Mayberry -- on Acid."

I obviously live a sheltered life (maybe because I only fly 5 - 10 times/year) but I not only never knew there were so many airport parking options, I never knew that there was an online reservations system for the past 12 years. In that respect, maybe going social will help the company but my question actually regards the parking lots themselves. First, the ones I looked at all seem to charge LESS for valet than self-parking. Is this so the company has access to your keys and can then move your car as needed? What insurance is there that the car will not be used by an unscrupulous valet if you are gone for several weeks? With an online reservation, do you pay when you make the reservation or do you pay at the lot when you leave? If you pay upon making the reservation, what happens if your flight (either outbound or inbound) is canceled or delayed? As an old-time 'park at the airport' type person, I find this rather interesting and am considering changing my ways on my next flight, but only if I can be guaranteed (well, as much as any lot will guarantee) that my car will be pretty well taken care of. I have never had problems at any airport lot. Thanks.

Thanks for your question. Just to bring everyone else up to speed, we had a conversation on Twitter this morning, and you decided to ask this in the chat. Good call, because my answer is longer than 140 characters. The site I had mentioned, Airport Parking, lets you reserve a parking spot near an airport. The standard terms would apply. There's a limit to a lot owner's liability, but since they operate near an airport, they know that flights can be late, and if you notify them, they will leave your car where it is. Pricing can be peculiar. Sometimes, you're better off negotiating a rate as part of an overnight stay; other times, it costs less to just park it yourself, or to valet park. That's why it's so important to shop around for the best rate.

The poster who wanted to let friends take their should have exchanged keys before your trip. The other option.....look at the off airport parking lots. Some offer service while you are gone...instead talk to the GM with your situation. I run into this with my Gf..she had to travel this week while I'd do it next weekend. My flight departures shortly before hers arrives.

Not on the east coast, but that's mainly because nothing quite compares with the greatest of the Great Lakes. My favorite beaches may be those along Michigan's Upper Peninsula between Ontanogan and Porcupine Mountain state park. If you see a promising spot on the shoreline, you can just pull your car over, walk across the sand, and jump in. Granted, Lake Superior is about the coldest water I've been in that doesn't have ice over it, but it's extraordinarily refreshing! Plus, there are lots of places where there is a gentle enough slope that you can wade in and be comfortable for a while, quick dive into the cold water, and race back to shore.

Nice. I've been interested in getting up that way some day.

Crane Beach in Ipswich MA. Amazing. Perfect. No boardwalk, no "Las Vegas at the Beach" nonsense. Simple snack shack, lovely sand and dunes. After your long day at the beach head out for some fried clams and homemade ice cream in lovely New England flavors like maple walnut and black raspberry.

No way around this, I just really, really dislike sand. Really! Give me a coastline instead, any day, but preferably in Maine or along the West Coast.

Fair enough!

WHAT TO DO WITH A WEEK IN GERMANY OR SCANDINAVINIA Our threesome plus 9 month old will be flying into our son's home in Stuttgart and then heading to Munich for Oktoberfest 11/4-8. We have friends who may be home (if they haven't moved to Dallas) in Stockholm whom we all would like to visit. Our return flight is from Stuttgart 11/15. We are now in a circle debate as to what to do with the week between 11/8-14. My daughter, with the baby, doesn't want to do anything that wastes too much time (like waiting at airports) or is too disruptive to travel with baby. Is there land or water travel from Stuttgart to Stockholm that would make good use of the time? Alternately she could remain in Stuttgart and join us wherever. Our son and his girlfriend will join us on the weekend wherever we choose. Stuttgart has a fall festival as well so we would like to catch that but it's not essential.

The baby is going to Oktoberfest? Be prepared, as it gets crowded and rowdy, especially at night. There are no nonstop flights between Stuttgart and Stockholm, and no ferry service. Your best bet is to take a nonstop flight from Munich. I believe Norwegian, a discount airline, flies that route. 

I am planning a trip for my adult children that focuses on Italian food, its selection and preparation. I would appreciate your recommendations about companies that organize and lead such tours or private companies that have experience in leading such a trip.

Check Faith Willinger's Web site. She is the author of "Eating in Italy" and leads trips/tours to various cities/regions. Also look into agriturismo trips: farm and country holidays throughout Italy. Chatters, other ideas?

Within the US: how about visiting somewhere like Bryce or Zion National Park? I think that would be incredible, and they can spend time at the parks and then go somewhere nearby for a little bit of *town* time. That's a trip that could be as short or long as they want it to be.

For the poster going to the Grand Canyon, please skip the Skywalk, the transparent structure operated by one of the local Indian tribes. It is VERY expensive and you cannot bring your own cameras and smart phones. Everything has to locked up -- at a cost -- and they go through your bags and pockets to make sure you don't bring any "contraband." If your group includes a few people, you'll be paying triple digits for a short trip that cannot memorialize.

Oh, that's good to know. I didn't do the Skywalk when I was there. I can't believe they wouldn't allow cameras. What are they thinking?

I spent Dec 31, 1999 through Jan 1 2000 camping at the western most point of the contiguous 48 states, Cape Alava, which happens to be a beach in Olympic National Park. It was lovely...and not crowded. Although I'm sure that had more to do with time of year than anything.

How bad is? Say around 4 pm. Is it 10 MPH bad? Or 30 MPH bad?

Ugh. Yeah, I think you can definitely hit stretches of 10 mph bad. But to me 30 mph bad is bad enough!

I am planning a trip to get away over the Christmas holidays, and am toying with the idea of heading north for a chance to see the aurora borealis. But, from what I can tell so far, a lot of places in Europe, Alaska, etc seem to shut down over the holidays. Do you have any knowledge or experience with this sort of trip over the holidays? Along those lines...would leisure travel in general be inadvisable during this time of year? My family is mostly local and I have never traveled far over the holidays, but for various reasons this year I just need to get away for a break! Is that a bad idea? Many thanks for your help...

On the contrary, the Christmas holidays are probably one of the busiest travel times. I know a lot of places take a break around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I don't think that should deter you. Have you looked at Iceland? Reasonable fares, and the Northern Lights are a big attraction over there.

Consider combining a trip to the North Rim with Zion and Bryce National Parks. Incredible scenery.

Don't overlook La Posada in Winslow, AZ! Restored "Harvey House" hotel, masterpiece of the architect who designed a lot of the Grand Canyon buildings. Could combine with loop through Navajo country (Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest, Hubbell Trading Post, etc). You need a couple of nights to get into the feel of the place, although not a lot else to do in Winslow.

I hate to mention this but Onset Beach in Onset MA. is great. Nice sandy beach, warm smooth bay and best of all it is FREE. That brings up another issue. Why are there so few public beaches on the Chesapeake but so many public beaches on Cape Cod? Is it the greed of the people around the DC area?

A lot of Massachusetts beaches coming in!

My then-girlfriend (now wife) and I were in St. John and walked from town down a path. We suddenly saw a sign that said "Honeymoon Beach." We went down there and couldn't see anyone as far as we could see. That, with the perfect sand and water that had more shades of blue then I thought existed made for a perfect little romantic beach. And very aptly named as well.


Well, for starters there's bathroom visits; even on a short flight, a passenger might experience an emergency. Then there are folks at risk for DVTs, who really do need to get up and walk about the cabin every hour or so, to reduce the danger of a fatal blood clot. Sometimes there are cranky babies (especially susceptible to ear pain from changes in air pressure) who need to be comforted by being carried up and down the aisle till calm.

Yes, absolutely. All legit reasons to get up and walk around the cabin.

Hi -- we have had great meals over the years at several of the SoDel restaurants - -Fish On! in Lewes, Lupo Di Mare in Rehoboth, the now-closed Betty's American. This year we will be in Bethany, so we plan to try one of their restaurants down there - -Matt's Fish Camp, Northeast Seafood Kitchen, or Bluecoast. Any thoughts? Bluecoast looks like it might be just a bit better than the other two.

Have not been to Bluecoast, but we had a very nice meal at Off the Hook. The three restaurants you mention are all part of Matt Haly's SoDel Concepts restaurant group, so, while the menus are different, there are similarities. Went last  night to Catch 54, another SoCal restaurant, a little farther down the coast in Fenwick -- it was rebuilt after fire last year, and we had a great meal  in a really nice atmosphere. 

i'm going to columbus, OH for a few days in Sept mainly to visit friends. Is there anything i "must see" in columbus? it does not strike me as the most dynamic place but i would to hear from the hosts and guests thx

Eat at Jeni's! I cannot emphasize this enough. Here's a fun food-centric story our former Food staff writer Jane Black had on Columbus.

I think that Cannon beach in Oregon is one of the most pictoresque beaches in this country. Granted it's not a sunny, warm and tropical experience but it's so vast and peaceful (even when crowded) that I think it deserves a mention.

Definitely. Here's Andrea's report from the other year.

Leaving a key with a stranger would make me nervous. Do you have other friends who could meet the travelers at Dulles and hand off the car in person?

For the couple going to the Grand Canyon -- definitely try to stay in the park itself, especially if you will be there for a week. The closest town is a schlep, and you will also get parking free if you stay in the park. Otherwise, parking is tough to find because most of the roads along the South rim are closed to traffic other than the park buses (which are excellent). This is all South rim advice, BTW, have not been to the North rim.

Thanks, that's excellent advice. It does get a little busy during peak season, which is right about now. My parents live in Prescott, and they are regulars up at the Canyon. They say winter is the best time to go. No one is there, and the snow on the canyon is an amazing sight. 

Hello - About 8 years ago, the WP posted an article that discussed many different ways to find the best price on a cruise vacation. This article listed different things like travel agents, websites that would have companies quote you their lowest bids. Has there ever been an update done on this article? Could you link the most current article? I used it last time to get a great deal and i am now looking again for another cruise deal. Thanks.

Not sure whether we've done anything similar in recent years, but the Web site that you recall is CruiseCompete, which is still going strong. 

Fir te travelers to te Grand Canyon....stay at the South Rim. There is more there and you have more hotel options. North Rim is closed in the winter but I dont recall when they close for the season. Its possible they stay up say to mid November but the hotel closes over Columbus Day weekend (I dont know though) thus no lodging. At the South Rim you have numerous hotels plus a Best Western and Holiday Inn Express just outside the gates. As for depends on what else you like to do....the best options are Phoenix and Las Vegas (Southwet from BWI flies direct to both--united from Dulles).Vegas is about 5 hr drive and Phoenix is about 4 hour drive. I would suggest flying into Vegas and then going to Zion and Bryce Canyon. If you travel around Columbus Day or a little adter you could be seeing fall colors from the Aspens. There is also Sedona, Page (Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon). You could easily do a loop trip. Fly into Vegs then drive up to Springdale, day do Zion. Then drive to Bryce...then next day do to Kanab or Page for the night then do Page for the day..then to the South Rim for a few nights before returning to Vegas for 2 nights.

Thanks for the additional information.

The beaches on the north shore of Prince Edward Island are incredible: red sand; thanks to the gulf stream, some of the warmest water on the eastern seaboard; and if you go at night, the most incredible stargazing imaginable; and never any crowds! Incredibly cheap prices on lobster, and of course mussels also add to the island's charms. We went for our honeymoon nine years ago and are dying to return!

I want to go to PEI so bad it's not even funny.

They are thinking that you will miss your camera and want to memorialize your trip so will pay exorbitant amounts for pictures taken with their camera.

Oh, of course!

I am not a beach person. I'd prefer an hour by the pool over a day at the beach any time. But saying that, I was very taken by Horseshoe Bay Beach in Bermuda. Beautiful water (not that warm, though) and soft sand. It really is one of the few places (not only beaches) that I'd like to return to...and I don't say that about many places!

Not the OP - but I have fond memories of summers at Onset Beach while young . . . . ah - to be young again!

Former airline employee here: Of course it's a no-brainer to leave your seatbelt fastened even when the sign isn't on; the airlines routinely announce this. If you're out of your seat when the seatbelt sign goes on, return to your seat as quickly as possible and buckle in. In an extreme situation you may be told to take the nearest seat. If you're up and about in the cabin while the sign is on, I believe you're on your own if you get thrown around and injured; it wouldn't surprise me if you would be liable for injuries you might cause to another passenger as you flail about the cabin.

Thank you for the additional perspective on this. 

Former airline employee again: Oops, I forgot to address the rules question. There is a requirement in the Federal Air Regulations that passengers comply with all instructions from cockpit and cabin crew members. It's probably buried somewhere in 14 CFR Part 121 -- don't have time to dig it up right now, but if you're up wandering around when the captain has turned on the seat belt sign and the lead F/A has made the standard "return to your seats" announcement, you're disregarding instructions from crew members.

Wow, I had the exact opposite experience of Narita transfers--twice. Luckily I had extremely long layovers, so I didn't miss my flights, but it's a good thing I had plenty of time. No, you don't have to go through customs or take off your shoes, but the lines for the security check were massive, and the whole process took easily a half an hour. At the same time, I arrived at one gate and departed from a gate literally on the other side of the airport. I'd say don't count your chickens...

Good to know the range of experiences. Thanks.

Franklin Park conservatory. Thurber House. OSU.

I currently own the United Airlines credit card; I got it mostly because of the 40,000 extra miles that they give you since I needed them for a trip; in fact I already used the miles. I haven't used this credit card again; I don't even carry it with me. I do travel with United but not frequently in fact I travel a lot but can’t always travel with the same airline so I have miles with several airlines, but not enough miles for a trip and can't consolidate these miles either. I only use my Capital One for all my transactions so I can get use of those miles in any airline, but right now I have many miles in American Airlines, Delta and Us Airways but again, not enough for a trip. What will be the downside of applying to an extra airline credit card just for the benefit of getting the extra miles? I realize that to get those miles you have to spent some $ but for some of them is not that much. Also I'm very strict with the usage of credit card and have no balance on my capital one credit card which is the only credit card that I use. I foresee a lot of international travel in the next 12 months mostly to Asia and South America and Im looking for ways to minimize air costs, that's the reason I'm considering getting one of these airlines credit cards. Your advice will be appreciated!

You knew I was going to answer this one, didn't you? Don't do it! Collecting miles may seem harmless, but there's a hidden cost. You might pay higher fees or an annual fee for the "privilege" of collecting miles or points. But over time, your purchasing patterns may change in order to maximize your miles -- miles that don't even belong to you, according to the fine print in the program rules. I wouldn't do it. Just say no.

I enjoyed your best beaches article and perhaps I missed it but the camp sites at Assateague get booked months in advance. i wish you all had discussed what places are good and how far in advance you need to get in on it.

Thanks for bringing this up. There wasn't really a great place to shoehorn that in the story, especially as I wasn't really focusing on camping. The ranger I talked to at Assateague said May and September are better times to be able to camp. I think the whole summer is already taken.

Don't know about Alaska, but anywhere in Europe both Christmas day and Boxing Day (Dec. 26th) are public holidays. The only restaurants open are in hotels, there are no movies or museums. Places shut down tight. Yes, people travel there then, but usually to be with family, not to enjoy sites...until the holidays are over. Be prepared.

For years my family went to the Outer Banks like everyone else in this region it seems. Parents started going to Duck in the 1970s as college students in NC and brought us along when we were born in the early 80s. But it has become way overdeveloped, as anyone can gauge by the number of minivans with OBX stickers driving around. So we discovered there are many, many beaches further south -- Emerald Isle along the Crystal Coast is where we normally head, but also Topsail island, Wrightsville Beach, etc. It's where all the North Carolinians actually go to the beach. It's a slightly longer drive than the Outer Banks from the DC region, but you'll be rewarded with smaller crowds, a more authentic feel, and the same warm NC waters thanks to the gulf stream.

Several good reasons to get up, many of which have been mentioned. But I do think that more people should do what the airline personnel say and keep their seatbelts on whenever they're sitting. One less thing to worry about--especially for someone like me, who sleeps a lot on flights. I don't have to be woken up to get the belt on.

Absolutely. And make sure your seatbelt is visible, so that they don't have to wake you up. I like being awoken by the bump of the tires on the runway, instead.

Hi, My wife, our best friend couple, and our combined 4 kids under 5 will be sharing a beach house at Nags Head. We are going down Friday and coming back friday. Do you or other commenters have any suggestions for activities for that age group? We were planning on leaving from Maryland around 10AM Friday to miss rush hour around DC. Is that the best time to leave?

One  of the benefits of traveling with  small children is that they are easily entertained. Just give them a shovel and a pail and most will be happy building sand castles with mom and dad. No clamoring for a boardwalk!  I think the water park in Nags Head may have closed down, but they may be too young for this anyway. Jockey's Ridge State Park is a fun place to hike the dunes, but again, they are little. My children used to love doing the nature programs at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

When I was growing up in the 60s, I lived in the Philly suburbs. I recall going first to Beach Haven on Long Beach Island at the Jersey Shore for one summer ('66). The next 3 summers were spent at Harvey Cedars on LBI primarily because we had a good deal on a place we rented--a 2 BR apartment in a duplex cheek-by-jowl to the beach. Next door were family friends or neighbors from home. For amusements, we would go to Barnegat Light, Loveladies Harbor, Ship Bottom, Beach Haven, etc. Later, during the mid-70s and just after casino gambling entered the picture, during college in PA and grad school in DC, my folks bought a place in Ventnor, near Atlantic City. I've been going there ever since, especially on the train to 30th St. station in Philly, then by AC Express to AC. But I do miss the odd-sounding names of Harvey Cedars, Loveladies Harbor, and Ship Bottom from my youth! Re: Med cruises: I think deciding factors for choosing which cruise to go on are: lines, ships, itinerary (not in that order). I've been going on RCL and Celebrity for the past 2 years and I know what ports I want to visit and which places at those ports I want to avoid. If the OPs teens have never been to Europe, they'll like Barcelona as a departure point because this city has a sky ride (to Montjuic Park), weird scuptures made by Gaudi at Park Guell, the Gaudi apartment buildings. and lots of shops and activities on the Ramblas. As for other cities such as Monte Carlo, Nice, Livorno, Naples, Dubronik, etc., shore excursions depend on what teen boys like. Shipboard activities also depend on what they like: sports, swimming, FlowRider (on RCCL's Freedom Class ships), etc. Happy cruising!

When we were in Europe this year, one of the ladies in our group had her wallet lifted as she was shopping. The thieves got away with a small amount of cash and nothing else. From that story, I made myself more aware of my surroundings and then came up with an idea that has worked for me. I always use one of the 'safety' travel purses with lots of inside and outside pockets. In the main pocket I put my wallet with 10 Euros in it and nothing else. The cash for the day and 2 credit cards go into one of the hidden pouches. This way if I lose my wallet I will have only lost 10 Euros (or less).

Carrying a decoy wallet or pocketbook is a great idea.  I know a lot of experienced travelers who have a "fake" to hand over to thieves if they're ever held up. Good advice.

Our favorite beaches in the US are Frisco, in the Outer Banks--once you get south of the Hatteras light, the island takes a more southern exposure, resulting in wider beaches (great for walking!) and less vigorous surf. Way less developed than the northern OBX beaches, which for us is a plus. The other beach which we've fallen in love with very recently is on Cape Cod, in Dennis Mass. When the tide goes out, the beach is at least a third of a mile wide; great for walking, and swimming when the tide's in. Simply amazing.

I will be traveling to Niagra Falls, Canada next month. Is it cheaper to pay for hotel/parking/food expenses in Canadian dollars than in US dollars?

The Niagara Falls tourism people say:

Currently, the U.S. dollar remains somewhat on par with the Canadian dollar. It is recommended that visitors to Niagara use Canadian funds. The rates for currency exchange vary in different establishments and there are no laws that enforce these rates of exchange. It is recommended to change your money at a bank or at a Currency Exchange Center.

Flying kites at Jockey's Ridge; if there is a rainy day or you just need a break from the beach, head over to the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo (if you are a FONZ member admission for 2 adults and 2 children is free); tour the Wright Brothers Memorial - it will be a bit over their heads but it is still memorable.

I have a cell phone with AT&T service, and I called them before my trip to Africa in February and told them I wanted to unlock the phone. The Customer Service guy gave me the instructions and the password with no hassle at all.

Columbus has a fabulous science museum - COSI. If you're a football fan and your friends can find tickets in September, Ohio State Football enthusiasm puts the Redskins to shame and that's saying a lot. German Village, the Ohio Theater, Polaris Amphitheater, drive by the headquarters of Longaberger baskets just to see the building that is built like a basket. Columbus is a great city.

Definitely have done this before. Brother-in-law drives from Richmond to IAD for a long trip. I go to the airport to pick up his car to park at my house (so he won't have to pay the high parking costs). If we can't exchange keys beforehand, he leaves the keys at the car. Just creative use of duct-tape, and no-one could see it unless they're specifically looking (underneath the car, at the jack stand lift point is a good place). Also, I'd suggest parking in the garage - more secure, and less change of rain/wind dislodging the keys.

Thanks for the suggestions! I said outside the U.S. because we've done most of the traditional domestic warm weather spots already, though we are considering New Orleans. We're looking for a completely new culture to experience - we spend most of our vacations eating/drinking/hanging out with a bit of sightseeing thrown in.

Happy to help. Other options include places like the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

But one of my best friends went to New Orleans for her honeymoon. She loved it.

For the chatter in Stuttgart, Munich and possibly Stockholm: First: I assume you mean 10/4-10/8 (not 11). Oktoberfest ends on Oct. 7 this year. Second, to give you an idea of the land route: The train from Munich or Stuttgart to Stockholm will take 21 + hours. So, yes, either fly to Stockholm or bop around in beautiful southern Germany for a week. To my knowledge, Ryanair flies to Stockholm from Frankfurt/Hahn. If you're deadset on Stockholm, you might look into that. But really, southern Germany has enough to offer for the time you'll be there.


I want to do a quick weekend beach trip to Dewey/Rehoboth beach in August (with husband and toddler). I've never been to either. Any recommendations for hotels on the beach? Is it mostly rentals/timeshares? I ask because Expedia seems to show hotels in Ocean City, MD, for the most part, with very few in DE.

There are far more hotels in Ocean City than Dewey or Rehoboth, which is why you're being sent there. I'd recommend Rehoboth over Dewey for a family trip. And I'd also look into Bethany and  Fenwick. In Rehoboth, there is a Hampton Inn and a Holiday Inn Express. Avenue Inn gets good ratings. 

Although flights would be more expensive than to large hubs like Phoenix and Vegas, airports in Flagstaff (South Rim) and Page AZ (North Rim) are both much closer. For some, the shorter drive times are worth the higher-priced flights. Monument Valley is not very close to the Canyon (3.5 hours from South Rim), but is certainly iconic and doable if it's something they really want to visit.

Thanks, you're right. Those airport would be serviced by regional jets, and would be more expensive, but far more convenient. If you can afford the extra money, go for it. But you will miss a scenic drive to and from Phoenix or Salt Lake City.

I am searching for flights to Cairo and most of the cheapest fares include long layovers in cities I have either visited and would love to stop in again for a little bit or cities I've never seen and wouldn't mind taking a peek at for a little bit. I've never had a layover long enough that I could leave the airport and I'm wondering about my luggage. I always check bags.

If you're on one ticket and the layover is included as part of the itinerary, your bags will be transferred to the next flight, so you won't have to worry about your luggage. 

It depends on the Tide and if you include or exclude islands it a matter of feet between CapreFlattery (the NW corner) and Cape Alava and being the western most point in the USA.

Take Amtrak to Flagstaff, then take the bus to Grand Canyon National Park.

I'm not totally surprised that cameras are not allowed on the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Although I have not gone on it, I would guess that the rule is due to "Dollars and Danger". "Dollars" so they can sell you photos of you on the Skywalk and "Danger" because you don't want folks dropping things in the canyon or on people in the canyon. (E.g. you can't take anything with you on the Sydney Bridge Climb for similar reasons.)

Is Dulles serviced by parking options like EconoPark (at BWI)? Would they do something like this for you?

I'd like to plan a "mystery" trip for my wife to Barcelona and the Costa Brava of Spain, rent a car and drive up the coast to Cadaques and maybe into southern France. Can you recommend a good travel agent who specializes in that part of Spain and could help me find good deals on hotels? Thanks.

There's at least one Spain specialist on this list from Conde Nast Traveler.

Our experience has been that Currency Exchange Centers in Canada charge a higher rate than banks do. In any event, we used credit cards as much as we possibly can, because of favorable conversion rate, lower fees.

I'm from Columbus. There are many places much LESS dynamic. Stroll around the campus of Ohio State University. Spend an evening walking through the Short North district, visiting the many independent art galleries and restaurants (there is a Jeni's ice cream there). The zoo is also famous (remember longtime zookeepter Jack Hanna?). And there are sports in Columbus too! You'll find plenty of things to see.

When we were in southern Ontario (bird watching) in May, everywhere we went - Provincial Parks, accommodation restaurants and so on all accepted US dollars as there was little or no difference between the currencies. More recently, July? my friend traveled to Toronto and the same held true.

And if you make it to Corporation Beach, you must, must MUST stop at Captain Frosty's on Route 6A in Dennis to pick up fabulous lobster rolls, clam rolls, and oh YES, milkshakes!

Driving South on 95 on a Friday How bad is? Say around 4 pm. Is it 10 MPH bad? Or 30 MPH bad? BAD: Listen to WTOP 103.5 FM (traffic on the 8's) or WNEW 99.1 (traffic on the 1's). Also, access the new VDOT 511 (, real time traffic.

Ah, 511. I used to get into shouting matches with that automated woman. Although I think the system was recently updated.

The OP didn't ask, but... I loved visiting England (London and Cambridge) over Thanksgiving a few years ago. The weather, of course, is chlly and damp, but that meant there weren't too many tourisits. And, plan to spend some time in London, if you can. It was already decorated for the holidays over Thanksgiving, which was something we hadn't thought about - a nice treat to see department stores decked out, lights in trees, etc.!

Thanks for your help in answering my question. My family and I are planning to travel on Princess Cruise Line for a trip to South America. We have heard story about difficulties when going around Cape Horn. How safe is travel there during the month of January...Our curise starts on January 4th...

Rough seas can be an issue around Cape Horn, but I'd take the chance. Take a look at Cruise Critic's message board on the topic. 

If the waves get to rough for them on the ocean side, you can take them to a sound-side beach. No waves, warm water, and it's only a foot deep for yards and yards out. I know of one just south of Salvo on Hatteras Island, and you can stop and watch the fishing boats coming in to Oregon Inlet on the way back to Nags Head.

Thanks for the tip. Waves can get  high in Nags Head. 

You fly direct into SLC, LV, or PHX and then have to transfer there to connecting flights...for example Flagstaff is 2 hrs from Phoenix....the time it takes you to land in Phoenix and drive to flagstaff you will beat if you flew to flagstaff.

Just booked a last minute weekend trip to Nashville for this coming weekend. Any recommendations for food and entertainment? Our weekend is a bit of a blank slate!

It's been a while since we wrote about Nashville, but the focus there has been, and still is, on music.  Our most recent articles are about the music to be found there: Jedd Ferris wrote about how to find great bluegrass; Cindy Loose wrote about the Grand Ole Opry.

You will pay ALOT more for rental cars. You may be able to fet say a car at $25/day in LV or PHX but pay $75/day at the smaller airports

Lucrative mileage bonuses are great if you have good credit and pay your bill off every month. As long as you are disciplined there is little downside as far as I am concerned. And the first class trips that I have taken and have scheduled as a result speak for themselves. If you are worried about fees, most mileage cards waive the fee for the first year. And around the anniversary you just call them up and cancel the card. Typically it has been my experience that they want to keep you as a cardholder even if you don't use the card much and will offer statement credits to cover the fee.

Wow, that went by fast! Really enjoyed all your beach tips. Because they happened into a great recommendation for a fellow chatter, today's winner is the poster who originally suggested Corporation Beach on Cape Cod. Send your name and mailing address to

Thanks again for stopping by. Come back next week!

In This Chat
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
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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