Talk about Travel

Jul 21, 2014

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Hello, Travelers!

Welcome to our [insert large number here] installment of Travel Chat. Send us your questions, quandaries, enlightened comments.

Today's topic is New York City. In Sunday's special New York section, I wrote about my surprising adventures in Central Park. We also covered New York delis, hotels and a new luxury coach from Washington.

Share with us your best (or most outrageous) New York minute or moment. Best answer wins a Big Apple, or  something equally delicious.

I live in the DC area and for the past couple of years have been doing a girlfriend getaway meeting in Atlantic City with a friend coming from the Medford area of NJ - not for the gambling scene just as place with some stuff to do to meet. The ride to AC is about 3-1/2hours on my end and an hour on hers. Any ideas for a fun girlfriend getaway that would be closer to a half way point for us both? We are not big necessarily on shopping or nightlife scene (our night time scene more like going to a comedy club or show - something along those lines) Just somewhere kind of cool to see, catch up,hang out perhaps with some views and/or things to do and enjoy.

Havre de Grace is cute and at exactly the half-way point. Another option is the Brandywine Valley. Would be closer to your friend, but it's quite pretty there, with nice shopping and places to stay, plus all those gorgeous du Pont estates to visit. Are you "Downton Abbey" fans? If so, I definitely recommend that area so you can see the costume exhibit at Winterthur.

Our family has just moved back to the DC area after 6 years abroad. My girls (11 & 13) have never really travelled in the US. ANy recommendations for one to two day trips within a few hours of DC? Thanks!

Lots of options. New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia are all cities worth visiting. What about the beach? Usual suspects: Ocean City, Rehoboth, Lewes, Bethany. For outdoorsy stuff, consider Shenandoah National Park or Harpers Ferry. For history, Gettysburg. Those are just  a few to get you started.

Hi Crew, Just wanted to share that of our very recent vacation to Italy, my two "hot tips" are Lido and San Miniato. Lido is only one stop away from the main island of Venice on the vaporetto, but is soooooo much removed from the tourist crush!! It's a charming beach resort with beautiful art nouveau architecture, a quiet and walkable central area, and plenty of interesting people-watching along the beach. Yes it has cars, but they're outnumbered by the bikes (rent one for a day) and pedestrians. Lots of families. Extremely easy to get around the lagoon on the ACTV boats. After a day of fighting your way through the hordes at San Marco it was such a relief to have this to come back to. (seriously, Venice in July is not for the faint of heart) San Miniato in Tuscany is a gorgeous little hill town, very charming & walkable. There's an absolutely amazing agriturismo (Settesoldi) about 20 minutes away up in the hills of olive groves; just a magical region.

Thanks for sharing!

Hello Planning a trip to Hawaii in December. Is there one particular island that would more interesting for teens. They love the typical teen things, beach and amusement parks. Thanks.

I think Oahu is probably the safest bet, but if you have time, consider also taking them to the Big Island. Both places have great beaches, but Hawaii isn't exactly known for its amusement parks unless you count Waikiki as one (for shoppers, that is). Have fun in Hawaii.

Airfare from Santiago to Easter Island is running about $600 for travel next April. Since there is only one airline between the two locations, is that as good of a fare as I am going to see? I assume LAN doesn't need to run any specials to take business away from a competitor.

You paid attention in Econ 101, didn't you?

LAN owns that market to Easter Island and sets its price based on demand.  That $600 fare is about average, if not on the low side of the scale. Space is limited, so I'd grab it.

In high school, my choir was one of a few selected to perform John Rutter's Magnificat at Carnegie Hall, directed by John Rutter. My parents drove up for the weekend as well and the night before the performance, we went out to a Broadway show (Miss Saigon). After the show, we were walking back to the hotel and a limo pulled up next to us to offer a ride. Being 17, I had no idea this was a thing that limo drivers did to make cash while waiting for their original fare to go home. My dad negotiated a price and we all hopped in for the short journey back to our hotel. I'll never forget the look on my classmates' faces when my friend and I got out of the limo that had conspicuously pulled up in front of our temporary home - totally worth whatever my dad paid! We felt like rock stars!

That is a truly Swanky NY Moment!

Husband is from a tiny (population 2,000 back then) town in central Illinois, and graduated from high school in May 1960. His stepfather got him a temporary job as an extra with Collegiate Cap and Gown (where he worked full-time), chasing graduations around the NYC area in June 1960, where high schools had contracted to rent graduation regalia for their students from the company. One day husband said he and his stepdad were walking in Manhattan, and as they turned a corner who should they run into but a guy from his little hometown, who they had no idea was also in town. Talk about a surprise.

Even in the Big Apple, you run into your home seeds.

This is my first time posting a question without the word child/toddler/family/kids in it! This time (and it's been a long time coming!) hubby and I want a weekend away in Sept/October within a 3-hour drive of DC. Key words: ROMANTIC and GREAT VIEW FROM THE ROOM (think private balcony/deck). I would like to avoid anything described as Victorian, frilly or the like. Might consider a resort but not Nemacolin (love the place but have taken girl trips there and want something different). So. . . . any suggestions?

I'm going to point you to two places I've gone to with my husband and liked very much. At Savage River Lodge, you can get your own cabin with your own deck in the woods. Will be great in the fall. The Inn at Willow Grove has nice views, especially suites in the relatively new (though pricey) Overlook Cottage. Also, the Inverness Suite at the Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast has a fabulous porch across the front of the house -- you can see if it's too "frilly" for your tastes, but I loved the place.

Help me understand something. I was pricing tickets for my wife and me to fly to Quebec from BWI this October. The best price I could find was $397/ea with a stop in Philadelphia. So, I checked to see if it would be cheaper for us to drive to PHI and fly out of there with no stops. The price from PHI, taking the same flight I would connect with from BWI, is $487?!? How does this compute?

Airline ticket prices are set by sophisticated programs that calculate supply and demand. These so-called "yield management" systems projected that more passengers wanted to fly from Philadelphia to Quebec, and are willing to spend more, than want to fly from Baltimore. Distance doesn't matter. I know that probably doesn't make much sense to the average traveler. (It doesn't to me, either.)

Great cover photo of Central Park from the air -- worth framing! But, how was this put together -- combining Google Earth photos? Must have been a high-noon shot, for there are no shadows on the park itself.

Yes, wasn't it fabulous? It is a composite shot put together from a series of shots taken from a helicopter, as I understand it. It won an award for best amateur photo in the Epson International Pano Awards in 2012. 

While my wife and I cards are good for another 5 years, our children (7 & 13) will expire in January. Is it easy to renew for minors, or will we have to go through the entire process all over again?

To my understanding, you have to do it all over again (meaning you must apply in person).

According to the State Department: All minors age 15 and under who have or have not had a passport in the past must apply in person using form DS-11.

You might also consider applying for a passport not just the card when you visit the passport facility -- just in case you want to suddenly fly your kids to Paris for the weekend.

I am thinking about heading to Burma during the "rainy" season (Sept/Oct). Does anyone have any expereince about what it's like to travel during that time? It it going to be complete downpour and washed out roads or just rainy in some areas?

Though you are going during rainy season, you are missing the peak rains, and the wet season starts tapering off in October. You will likely experience daily rainfall, but not days and days of rain. According to one source, the annual rainfall  is less than 40 inches in central Burma and about 200 inches on the coast.

The roads in the major cities and around the tourist attractions are pretty well-developed, so you likely won't get stranded.

Chatters, any advice?


Chris Elliott, I would appreciate you addressing the following question. The FAA has has listed airspace restrictions and prohibitions for most US aircraft flying through potentially hostile airspace. Do airline partners of US airlines respect those restrictions?

I use as example a South African Air flight (partner of United Air) that my husband and I took to South Africa last year.

We connected through London Heathrow, before flying on to Jo'burg. Looking at map of Africa, it is possible that our flight crossed airspace of two countries where FAA has restricted overflights of US aircraft: Libya and Congo.

As partner to United, does South African Air honor the US flight restrictions over these countries? Thank you for clarifying this situation.

From what I can tell, foreign airlines aren't required to follow FAA advisories, unless they are over American airspace. US carriers knew about the FAAs restrictions over the Crimean Peninsula, not far from where MH 17 was shot down. You can read all of the FAA restrictions on its website. Airline codesharing is a marketing arrangement between two airlines, and while it must be approved by the US government because of competitive issues, I'm not aware of those contracts extending to a national carrier when it comes to observing FAA restrictions (unless, as I mentioned, they are in American airspace). Let's just say that after the incident, every airline is going to be much more vigilant about flying over a war zone. This is a fascinating topic, and I will try to answer it in more depth in an upcoming Navigator column.

Good afternoon! I'm heading to Tunisia at the end of the summer by myself (woman, thirties), planning to spend a few days relaxing at my hotel in Hammamet and a few days taking day tours to Tunis/Carthage/etc.. If I can find them. I'm having trouble getting information from my hotel on trip options, and the information online is surprisingly thin as well. I can't find any tourism books published since the Arab Spring. Do you have any suggestions for tour companies, web sites, etc. for getting out and about (preferably with an English-speaking guide, but French is OK)? I'd also appreciate guidance on specific restaurants or spas, particularly in Hammamet. Thanks!

Chatters, this is one that we must throw out to you. Can anyone help?

Does anyone have suggestions for Dublin, Kinsale and/or Galway restaurants?

A few recommendations from previous Dublin stories here and here. Ideas for the other locations, chatters?

When I was living in Brooklyn and working downtown, I had one perfect NYC weekend. It was late spring and the weather was supposed to be perfect (it was). I realized late Friday morning that I was going to be able to take the whole weekend off which was rare. I walked up to The Strand and bought what looked like a fun novel (it was). I went home Friday and slept for a full 8 hours after looking through the entertainment listings. Got up, grabbed my book and went to Central Park to laze and read. Walked to Zabars and bought a picnic to eat in the park and kept reading. Then I went to a concert of medieval and Renaissance a cappella music by a small male chorus in an Upper West Side Church. On Sunday I went back into the city to see a tiny off off Broadway production of The Trojan Women in Hells Kitchen. Finished up the weekend by walking over to an art house movie theater near Lincoln Center to see "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould." Everything was perfect. The book was a fun quick read. The concert was sublime. The show and the movie were both excellent. I never even got to a museum and Broadway was only for walking. I think the whole weekend cost about 60 bucks (not including my rent, of course). Other weekends were more filled with friends and flashier entertainment, but everyone else was busy that particular weekend. I decided that wasn't going to stop me. I am so glad I did.

That sounds like a perfect bonbon of NYC.

I'm going back to the Midwest for a reunion. Just off I-70 is something called the Zane Grey/National Road Museum. I've wondered about it, but they never seem to be open when I'm passing by. Is it worth a stop?

I'm having a vague recollection of this coming up before in the chat. Anyone?

Hi - we are planning a disney world trip in the fall, and I am overwhelmed with all the choices. Someone recommended to me an independent (free!) travel agent who only works with Disney. Are these types of agents a good deal? Will they help us find the lowest cost best fit for us? Are there any readers out there who have used an agent and been happy? Thanks!

We'll send this one out to our chatters for specific recommendations. Generally, travel agents are free to the consumer, as the hotels pay their commission.  (Airlines are an exception, as they no longer pay commissions, so if you book just air tickets through an agent, they will charge you a fee.) If someone has worked with this agent and is recommending him/her, that's a very positive sign. You can always compare the agent's recommendations to the price you could get booking the components independently.  

Going to London to celebrate our 10 year anniversary for 5 night/6 days (the longest amount we could go and leave kids) in October. We have our flights booked. Know we want to do the touristy stuff with the limited time we have and relax a bit too. Our biggest issue - WHERE to STAY? We want something very nice (no kids) and convenient to the tube to get around. Recommendations for location? Hotels? Thanks so much.

I'd think one of the posher hotels might get you away from most of the kids -- the Goring, Savoy, Lanesborough, Claridge's, Chesterfield Mayfair, etc. But, hey, it's London, so there will be all kinds of tourists everywhere! A few of those are in the Mayfair area, which is very Tube-convenient (as are a lot of places in the thick of the city). The other option would be renting a really nice flat on your own. That would keep your interactions with young ones pretty low, I'd think.

Cape May, NJ? Cape Henlopen/Rehoboth Beach, DE?

Definite possibilities! I am fans of both.

My family is planning a trip to Philadelphia and we are looking for hotel recommendations that are, ideally, within walking distance of the train station as well as some of the main attractions. We will be taking the train from DC and won't be bringing a car seat for our little one so we don't plan to take cabs. We're public transportation savvy, but just don't want to hop a bus initially with our luggage in tow too. Thanks for any suggestions!

The train station is not terribly centrally located, but about a mile walk or so from there will get you to a decent location in the city. I stayed at the Latham Hotel, which is about a 20-minute walk from the Amtrak station. It's not as close to the main attractions by foot (40-minute walk to Independence Hall, for example) but a quick bus or train ride will get you there. I'd lean toward a shorter walk from the train station if that's what you want to do. Will be easier to zip around the longer distances sans luggage. Other thoughts?

My wife and I are vacationing in Northeast Pennsylvania next month. Rented a cabin on the Lehigh River between the Poconos and Scranton in Blakeslee. We have done a bunch of research on things to do and see and have found a bunch of stuff that sounds pretty neat. I was wondering if anyone out there has vacationed in that area and ran into anything that really stood out. Attraction, restaurant, anything. Thanx.

We do a family reunion in that area every few years. Best part of the vacation for me is hiking, and there are plenty of trails in the area. We enjoyed doing a fairly demanding portion of the Appalachian TrailBushkill Falls has waterfalls and hiking trails, but there is an admission fee. Never did find a great restaurant in the region. Chatters have  recommendations?

My Californian 13 year old niece is visiting and wants to go to NYC. We are taking a day trip and will probably just walk around midtown. Any recommendations for a taste of NY lunch that will not break the budget.

Tavern on the Green isn't Midtown, but the historic restaurant on Central Park West that reopened last year is a place your niece will remember. The Carnegie Deli, which is located in Midtown, is another iconic New York restaurant that will make an impression. Definitely read yesterday's travel section, which was devoted to New York.   

Tunisia is beautiful. I spent several works in Tunis for work in the last year. You can easily use any local taxi. The driver probably won't speak very good English but you'll manage. Definitely go to the Medina and the Souk. Also the Bardo museum is really special. And make Sidi Bousaid a priority. They are all so close together you won't have any trouble filling up your time in Tunis. Tour guides don't seem to really be a thing there. I know a lot of cruise ships used to go there, so maybe google a website using Tunisia, and Cruise ships to see if you can get a tour operator to pop up? I go for work so my tourism tends to be at the last minute and very casual rather than organized. I've also increasingly learned the value of investing in a 3G sim card at the airport. Then if I have trouble communicating with my taxi driver I can google a picture and the problem is over. One last hint, make sure the taxi drivers turn on their meter!

Thank you!

My husband and I go down to New Orleans about once a year, and for the first time we're considering driving. Question 1: where would be a good place to stop overnight, maybe with some interesting sights/food of its own? Question 2: is this a daft idea in early January? I mean, we will be driving south but I feel like the weather has been so extreme lately.

It's hard to know what the weather will be like in January, but even the South has been having a lot of snow the last few winters. Still, I think I'd chance it -- why not live a little dangerously?! ;-) Depending on which route you take, you could stop overnight in Atlanta, or in Chattanooga, Tenn. Chattanooge might be a bit more manageable, since Atlanta is so huge.  There are some good museums -- e.g. the Hunter Museum of Modern Art -- caverns, railroad history, the Tenneessee Riverwalk. You could stay at the Delta Queen, a floating hotel docked at Coolidge Park. Chatters, what do you think?

for Chris: do you know what happens when you get to the end of your 5 year enrollment period with global entry? Do they need a current address?

Yes, you need to let GOES know where you've gone. Login to your account and click on the "Update Mail-To Address" link. Enter your new mailing address and submit the request. The address change will be applied to your GOES account immediately, according to Global Entry.

Looking to spend around $700pp for 3 or 4 nights during Labor Day weekend for an All Inclusive resort. Riviera Maya will be ideal but as expected prices are high. Are there other less popular but affordable All inclusive destinations in central America or the Caribbean? Priorities are: nice beach, good food, perhaps older crowd (quiet time is needed!)

Does your $700 per-person budget include airfare costs? If so,  I'd try a discount agent/tour operator, such as  Apple Vacations, Vacation Express or Costco Travel to find a package deal at that price. Riviera Maya & Cancun have more all-inclusives at all price points than just about any other destination.  

I would like to start planning to see the 2015 NYC 7/4 fireworks. Are there hotels in Manhattan or Brooklyn that would provide a good view from room or rooftops? What hotels in either borough would be most convenient for fireworks viewing? Thanks very much

Assuming that the fireworks stay on the East River and Brooklyn Bridge, here are some good viewing spots:  FDR Drive on Manhattan's East Side, Brooklyn Bridge Park (Piers 1-6) and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Or any unobstructed views of the lower East River.

I would look at hotels near South Street Seaport or Z NYC Hotel, which hosted a party this year on its rooftop.


There are so many -- it's my favorite US city to visit (except maybe San Francisco) -- but I'll go with the time I took a day trip (earliest Amtrak out, last one back) to see Christo's Gates display in Central Park. (2005, I think?) It was the perfect February-cabin-fever getaway, seeing the striking orange "gates" in the otherwise gray-and-brown winter setting.

You are so lucky! I meant to see the Gates, but missed my moment. Glad to hear that it was amazing.

I can't seem to find the information about that in the link you provided. Am I just overlooking it?

It was embedded in the story. Here you go.

A friend was working on a master's in art history when I visited a dozen+ years ago. She had many artsy friends, and got us comped tickets to a play in which Spike Lee's sister was performing. It was absolutely awful! Horrible plot, poor acting. The next day I was looking in the paper to find something else to see to help erase our memory of those terrible 2+ hours. We went to an off-off Broadway play (cost of ticket: $10) about the inhabitants of a group house in DC. I was living in a group house in the DC area at the time, so I loved it, but even my friend agreed the plot and acting were far superior to the other play.

A good lesson to learn: Sometimes the cheap fringe shows in NYC are better than the bold-name ones.

The Halal cart at 6th and 53rd, right outside the NY Hilton. I was there for a conference, and we came back from an evening of dancing at the Waldorf (publisher party) famished, so joined the 2 am loooong line, grabbed our food, went up to my room, opened a bottle of wine from the minibar, and had a picnic on the bed. A decade later it still makes me smile.

Makes me smile, too, and I wasn't even there!

Neither best nor particularly outrageous, but I went to NYC one year not realizing it was the weekend of the marathon and got stuck in Central Park for about an hour, completely unable to figure out how to get around the barricades to cross the street to my hotel on Broadway.

That sounds like a typical NYC moment. A D.C. one too for that matter.

Awesome! Thanks for the suggestions. Hadn't considered any of these places!

We aim to please, we really do. :)

In 1993, when my daughter was 8, my wife and I took her to my hometown, NYC, for a long Thanksgiving weekend. Did ALL the touristy stuff, Wall Street, Statue of Liberty, the Macy's Parade, a play, etc. etc. Stayed at a mid-town hotel right near Broadway. The last night, coming back from a huge deli dinner, we stood at the corner of Broadway and 48th just taking in all the sights and sounds. After a few minutes, my daughter looked back at us and with a huge smile on her face and her hands on her hips, loudly proclaimed, "Ya know, I could get used to this!!!" (P.S. She now lives across the river in Jersey. She found that she couldn't get used to the apartment costs in Manhattan.)

That sounds like a wonderful Family Moment, too.

I grew up in Queens, so maybe it's not fair to answer this, but: for my 10th birthday, my parents took me to my first Broadway show - My Fair Lady, with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. We had front row center seats in the mezzanine. I can still remember the scene at the Ascot Races, with the fabulous hats on all the women cast members. I've been a theater lover ever since.

What a classic!

One of my favorite moments was taking the train to NYC from DC, meeting my sister who'd come in from Boston, and seeing the Gates as a way to celebrate my 30th birthday. The concept was strange, but seeing them in person - that color in the gray of winter, and the number of people it drew to the park, was well worth it!

The Gates seemed so haunting. Hope they come back one day.

I stayed at the Burns Hotel in Earls Court last October and loved it. I had a single room, which was small, but adequate. It's two blocks from the Earls Court tube stop, which has the Piccadilly and District lines running through it (perfect from coming from Heathrow without changing lines when you're tired as well as getting around the City). The price was great (not more than 100GBP a night) and it was down a quiet street that made me feel like I was just walking home to my flat, instead of being a tourist. Ask for a room that overlooks Barkston Gardens for great views.

Thanks for the recommendation. Just to throw it out there, I really, really loved St. Ermin's Hotel. Near Westminster Abbey, very close to the Tube. Probably too many kids for the OP, though I didn't feel overwhelmed by them.

Can you or any chatters recommend (or have even heard of) some sort of lodging that has a private sauna in or with the room? Prefer southeast USA or in general east coast. Thank you!

I have not heard of any U.S. hotels with in-room saunas (you don't mean jacuzzi, do you?). I found some in Asia and Europe.

Chatters, can you help?

Hi! I will be going to Warsaw and Budapest this September with my 9mos old son. What are some great child-friendly things to do with him there? He may or may not be walking by then. Thanks!

Hmm. Your son will still be very young. Most kid-friendly activities in these cities -- water parks, playgrounds, museums, etc. -- will be aimed at slightly older children. When we went to Warsaw when my kids were very small, 3 and 5, we just took them around to all the places we wanted to see, and they were perfectly happy. But take a look at some Web sites that may help give you some ideas of kid-friendly places and activities in each city. Warsaw Tours has a section on Warsaw for Kids, and here's a link to a site for Budapest. And of course, chatters, we welcome your input.

Unless you are walking incredibly slowly or stopping a lot along the way (hello, Reading Terminal Market!), it definitely does not take 40 minutes to walk from the Latham to Independence Hall. 25 minutes. Maybe.

Yes, you're right! I was looking at walking directions on Google, and that was the total from the train station to the hotel to Independence Hall. Thanks for catching.

Just drop in at any NY-style pizza place for a slice or two (thin crust).

But they aren't all created equally. I've had bad pizza in Manhattan. In the Midtown area, I like Little Italy Pizza and Mariella Pizza. Any other favorite pizza joints to share?

What are some companies or sites that put together trips for single travelers without charging a single supplement?

Has Christo ever reprised any of his exhibitions? A friend in Bakersfield, CA., said that despite initial skepticism, many of the locals (including her) just loved his umbrella installation in the region, back ca. 1989-90, and it also made them feel culturally important for a change (because too often they're the butt of jokes).

Unfortunately, I think the ephemeral nature of their works is part of their artistic philosophy. So catch them while you can!

Having gone up to Philly on Amtrak I found that you can transfer to some of the light rail/subway lines at no cost by showing your Amtrak pass. Doing that will get you right down by Independence Hall with little effort. Look up SEPTA on the Internet for more info. We enjoyed staying at the Holiday Inn right around the corner from the US Mint and Ben Franklin's grave. Easy walking access to everything Hope that helps.

Nice tip, thanks.

Wait, didn't Tavern on the Green close? And also one of Manhattan's iconic delis (was it Carnegie, or the Stage Doo rDeli)?

It did close about three years ago, but it has reopened under new ownership/management. Also new decor -- you won't find those fabulously tacky colored-glass chandeliers anymore. :-(

Flew to Auckland and back from LA on Air New Zealand in April. I applied my United Mileage Plus account for the flight's mileage, as both are in the Star Alliance. I got no credit for the flight. I applied for missing credit, but United only applied it going one direction and not the other. I applied the missing segment a second time, but still no credit. Ever hear of this? It' s never happened to me before (last year I got credit for an equally long flight on Turkish Airlines immediately). It's almost 7,000 miles so I want to make sure I get them added to my account!

I'm sorry to hear about that. Your ticket might not have been eligible for frequent flier miles. That can happen on long flights where you're likely to collect lots of miles or where there are multiple carriers involved. Problem is, they don't tell you until it's too late. I would call your airline to find out if you were eligible for mileage credit in the first place.

I stayed in Knightsbridge, which I found a convenient location, at a boutique hotel called the Beaufort, which I think would suit the OP's needs.


I grew up in Chicago - the "Second City". In the actual city, not the suburbs, so I felt I knew what there was to know about life in the big city. Ha. I first visited New York when I was 21, and I was utterly shocked at how I stood in Manhattan and felt like a complete bumpkin. All the tall buildings, as far as the eye can see, nonstop bustle, nonstop noise, traffic beyond compare. It was magnitudes of big, tall, and loud beyond Chicago. I remember thinking I couldn't imagine how somebody from a smaller town, much less a rural area, could even deal with it when I was so overwhelmed. I recently talked to a NY native who has traveled the world about this - he says the only city in which he's gotten the same feeling has been Tokyo. Agreed. p.s. I felt better when I kicked a taxi. It deserved it.

You are so right. I feel like such a hayseed in NYC, until I grunt at someone. Then I feel like I belong.

I went to Tulane, and we always stopped halfway at Chattanooga, never Atlanta.


We are planning a driving vacation through some Western states that look pretty smoky right now. Do you have suggestions for how to find out on a day-by-day basis whether wildfires and smoke are on our route?

We've been out west driving with the family for the last few summers, often during the height of wildfire season. The local weather report served us well (you know, AM radio kind of local). You can see some of the hotspots on the site, too. The National Parks Service also maintains an online list of fires in the parks, which may be helpful if you're driving near one of the parks.

Fishy Fishy Café!!!


A comment -- if you're going as a family, don't mind spending all your time together in 1 or 2 rooms, and want to spend a fortune eating out all the time, stay on site in one of the Disney hotels. otherwise, book a condo in one of the many places available near the parks. We stayed in a 2 bedroom condo at a place called Orbit One and it was a short ride to the parks and could economize with regard to food.

Worth considering. The Art of Animation hotel on-site also has family suites which my clan will be checking out later this year.

The Homewood Suites is terrific. I stayed there for three nights for a conference. Clean, eco-friendly, huge rooms with kitchen. I stayed in Univ. City, but there is another. I imagine it is nice, too.

Yes, I meant sauna, in-room whirlpools aren't so hard to find!

Right. I was just checking.

I see that the presidential suite at the Crowne Plaza Orlando has one.

My wife and I are moving from Juneau, AK to Albany, NY. We’re shipping most of our stuff, and loading the dog and cat in our Honda Fit early next week to make the trip: 1.5 days on the ferry to Price Rupert, then we plan to drive Canada to Montana. My “must-see” as of right now is Glacier National Park, while hers is Jasper National Park (and Miett Hotsprings). We still have to do a dry run with the rooftop carrier (rackless) and packing, so that will dictate how much camping we’ll do. We do plan to mix in a few motels in select locations since it’s August and we can’t leave the pets in the car while we are gallivanting. Just wondering if any chatters had advice on: long trips with pets, areas of Canada/U.S. not to miss, or any other general advice?

Wow. That is epic. I've done some road trips with my dogs, but nothing quite like that! Some things I've learned: Bring lots of towels, of the paper and bath variety. Being stuck with a carsick pet and nothing to clean it up with = bad. I also use towels to cover up the seats, dog bed, etc. Don't forget garbage bags to throw anything yucky in. Stops are good, but not too often. Sometimes I find that the dogs get too worked up if we're constantly hauling them in and out of the car. Definitely do research on pet-friendly hotels before you leave. and are both good resources (DogFriendly also has a book you might find handy to buy).

As far as places not to miss, you'll be passing through/by some great cities -- Minneapolis, Chicago and Cleveland. Might be worth making some of those an overnight stop.

Other insight?

Instead of taking out a second mortgage on our house to pay for a quincenera like my other friends, my mom and I spent a weekend exploring New York City. We stayed at the Algonquin, went to a musical, saw the Rockettes, but the most New York moment was when we were walking through Greenwich Village and popped into a bookstore. Wandering the aisles, things seemed a little odd, maybe a bit too "adult" for a 15 year old. We eventually realized the place we were in was called the Oscar Wilde Bookstore, which I later learned is quite famous. Definitely a blush-worthy moment for my mother (especially since it took a little explaining from the clerk to put two and two together), though she did get herself a souvenir tote bag. You never know what you'll stumble upon in the Big Apple.

Exactly! Stumble away and you'll find the Best of NYC.

How about an Italian restaurant in Little Italy?

Little Italy is not as defined as it was once, and restaurants there are not any better than Italian eateries in other parts of New York. Had a nice meal at Via Della Pace a while back. 

I'm taking a roadtrip to Montreal in the next couple of weeks. The plan is to spend three days there and then snake back down to DC over the next few days. Other than a stop to Boston, I'm having trouble deciding what cities to visit. Thinking along the lines of New Hampshire and Vermont, but I'm certainly open to suggestions. Thanks!

Just in case someone else is tempted to point it out, a stop in Boston will definitely be a bit of a detour. But if that's your route home, make some time for Burlington and the Lake Champlain area of Vermont. You could also check out White River Junction, N.H.

In August our family is going to Paris. In the group will be a 14 year old boy who likes to play the games "Warhammer" and Risk. What would be interesting for him to see or do? He has been to Disney World in Florida.

Maybe the Catacombs?

Have you looked in Trip Advisor? Although you must always weigh the risks and be sensible I have done great private tours in Italy, Istanbul, Greece, China from the resources in

We've done it several times. We take three days to drive down. I 81 is a nice drive through the valley, not at all like I 95! First night in Bristol, VA (at VA.TN border). Plenty of motel rooms and restaurants. We use the free, throw-aways to find a motel room deal. You can then go on to Chattanooga for the second night, and on to NO. We took more days and saw some sights. Second night in Memphis, Had dinner on Beale Street and visited Graceland before heading down to NO through Mississippi. On another trip, from Bristol, went to Asheville NC (over the mountain range) to see the Biltmore. Then I 40 to Knoxville area for the next night, then on to NO.

Thanks for the tips!

Budapest seemed very child friendly. It is a great place to get out the stroller and go for a walk. He is probably too young for the thermal baths, but there are plenty of squares where he can run around. I would recommend getting an apartment downtown (We got one in Oktogon for $35 a night) and then walking everywhere. On the 4/6 line near Pest it is a little more family friendly and I saw plenty of parks and daycares. We won't think twice about bringing a kid back.

Appreciate the tips!

Am planning a road trip from New Orleans to Savannah or Charleston. Any recommendations for towns/stops along the way? I'm open to anything - great places to eat, historic small towns, or just beautiful roads to drive.

As with the other New Orleans road-tripper, it depends which route you take. You could take the southern route and go through Tallahasse, Fla., to Jacksonville and then up the coast to Savannah/Georgia, or you could head north to Montogomery, Ala., then over to Charleston (probably the least interesting route), or a third option is to keep going north through Montgomery to Atlanta, then over to Augusta and down to Charleston. Maybe you'd like to hit the Antebellum Trail in Georgia, a series of towns between Atlanta and Athens that were unscathed during the Civil War. They sound beautiful. Chatters, what else?

Does anyone have suggestions for a day trip from Kyoto (other than Nara)? Is Tokyo "doable" if the bullet train is taken? Any where else? Thank you so much!

We are running out of time, but I took the bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo. It was blurry fun.

Uh, don't strap the pet-carrier on the car's roof-top.

Very wise point.

I was in NYC last Sunday. I went for a very specific reason: to see our best friends' daughter sing the lead in The Barber of Seville as part of the Martina Arroyo Foundation's workshop. I went into the city early to see the new World Trade Center building, and then walked back up to Central Park to see the carriage horses. Then I listened to my friend sing like an angel for three hours, and got invited to the cast party at a nearby bistro with champagne and hors d'oeuvres!

How fun!

Can you stop at Tanglewood (summer home of the Boston Symphony) in western Massachusetts? Drive over to Hyde Park, NY (Culinary Institute of America, FDR and Eleanor's homes, Vanderbilt mansion, etc.)?

Well if you are staying across the northern parts here are some roadside attractions that ooze Americana (or for some not). Mt. Rushmore, Wall Drug Store, Badlands, MinuteMan National Historical Park, Sioux Falls, Jolly Green Giant (Blue Earth, MN), SPAM Museum, Red Wing, MN, Mall of America. And that just gets you to Minnesota. Enjoy.

So, was the Royal Sprinter worth the large price premium over regular buses? I guess it's really more like a limo service.

With the exception of the bounce (since fixed, according to the owners), I really enjoyed the ride. But I typically prefer to suffer a bit to save money, so I will likely ride Bolt et al next time. It all depends on your comfort needs.

Would it be too much of a detour to stop in Huntsville, AL., to see if there's any NASA-related stuff?

There goes the alarm: Time's up.

Thanks for spending the hour with us.

For today's winner (so many great responses, by the way!), the traveler who had the Halal food cart picnic in their hotel room. Message me your info at

See everyone next Monday!

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