Talk about Travel

Jul 23, 2012

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

Hello, fellow travelers. Thanks for taking some time to chat with us this Monday afternoon. Hope you caught our great U.K. issue this weekend, with features on boating the canals of London, London's beer revolution and a tour of Edinburgh and Islay in Scotland. All of us were pretty surprised that you could navigate your way right through the heart of London. What have your memorable boating experiences been? Best answer gets the prize.

Here we go!

My brother-in-law and family just got transferred to a Royal Air Force base in Harrogate (outside of Leeds), UK, and my husband and I are going to visit sometime next summer between late June and early August. We plan to use miles for at least one ticket - thus planning to get tickets in the next month or so. We've never been before so during these 9 or so days we'd also like to visit London, and parts of Scotland and/or Ireland. Which airport(s) might offer the best fares Manchester/London/Dublin/Glasgow? Somewhere else? Are we better off with a round-trip ticket or one that arrives into one city and departs from another? Finally, since we're open to locations beyond Harrogate/Leeds and London, can you recommend a good resource to start researching possible locations and narrowing down our plans? Thanks in advance.

Your best bet for scoring a reasonable fare would probably be London. Plenty of competition and nonstop flights to choose from. You'd have to price out round-trip vs. multi-city based on where else you decide to go.

Resources? Obviously, there are tons. I like to grab a pile of those old-fashioned things called guidebooks. But we've also had many U.K./Ireland stories of late, including this week's (see links in the intro). Others:

Wordsworth's Lake District, 200 years on

The Jurassic Coast, England’s Riviera

Belfast, Northern Ireland, embraces its Titanic connection at last

In its libraries, Dublin’s literary reputation shines

Falling in love with St. Andrews, Scotland

We're heading to Honolulu in October for a family get-together. Our 7-year-old will travel fine, but the long trip with the 2-year-old will be tougher. Our flight options are two 5 1/2 hour flights, or one 3 hour flight and one 8 hour flight. The little guy isn't any louder or more active than any other child his age, and he loves watching Dora, so he will spend some time glued to the DVD player, but I was wondering if anyone had recent experience and/or advice with a similar situation.

You don't mention your departure city, but from the Washington region, I'd recommend flying to a West Coast city, such as Los Angeles, which is about a 5 1/2 hour flight, and then flying on to Honolulu from there (again, about 5/12 hours).  Maybe I'm not thinking of all the angles, but what cities would result in an 8-hour/3-hour split? United also has a nonstop from Dulles to Honolulu, which is about 9 1/2 hours. Flight there leaves at 8 p.m., so maybe he would sleep? 


Looking for the best beach for a week long vacation for the cheapest price (accommodations and travel costs). Will be either for my wife and I's one year anniversary (one year from this past June) or potentially this winter (sometime around New Years). Ideally, in the US and within driving distance of Virginia. However, if we can find cheap flights we're open to a flight or leaving the US, for any country except Mexico (we honeymooned in Mexico and my wife has still yet to fully recover from the illness she picked up there).

I was totally charmed by my recent trip to the Eastern Shore, both in Virginia and Maryland. You could probably spend most of a week working your way along the coast there. Maybe spend a few days on the Maryland end, staying in charming Berlin, Md., and checking out Assateague. A little further south there's Chincoteague. In Virginia, check out Onancock and then set up camp in Cape Charles, where you can spend some time at Kiptopeke State Park and some of the other wildlife refuges down that way.

There's also always something like the Outer Banks orHilton Head. And if you're going over New Year's, any of the other local beaches would be extremely reasonable too.

My family went on a cruise during hurricane season. We stopped in St. Lucia and despite a hurricane being further south had spectacular weather. We took a taxi across the island and then a small ferry to Marigot Bay. On the way back we opted for a local boat guide to take us back to port via the ocean (which was much quicker) in a small boat. The hurricane caused much greater waves than normal. We literally had to hang out for our lives. When we got to port the guide was extremely apologetic...even he didn't expect it to be that rough! My arms were sore for day!

That sounds... rough.

Best boat trip that didn't involve an injury was taking a day trip to Lanai (now Larry Ellison Island) from Maui and having a humpback whale and her calf go under the boat. Talk about putting a perspective on "we're going to need a bigger boat." The best with an injury occurred when the gondolier misjudged a bridge in Venice. Made for a short trip, but it's not something you see every day!


My fiance and I will be spending a week at an all-inclusive resort in Quintana Roo. We plan on going to Cozumel, but any tips or tricks? Anything we need to definitely do, or avoid (other than the water, haha)?

I really enjoy the snorkeling on Cozumel. Definitely worth a day trip. If you're into ruins, you could make the trip to Tulum, but I'd recommend taking a private cab instead of doing an all-day tour -- that will allow you to get going early in the morning before the crowds descend. I also enjoyed snorkeling in the cenotes (caves) -- did a tour with a group called Alltournative, which was very good. 

My daughter's class trip to DC this spring was cut short when a number of the students got sick. We are planning to stay in DC for a couple of days in August so that she can go to the sites that they missed. Do you have any suggestions for keeping cool? Is there some sort of transport that offers on/off privileges at the most popular sites? Should I buy tickets in advance? I don't necessarily mind walking, but I also don't want to melt in the heat and humidity. Thanks!

Well, there is always the Metro. You'd have to price it out, but you might want to look into getting a day pass. The Circulator is also a good option. Open Top buses have a hop-on, hop-off option (you can save a bit if you buy online in advance). Old Town Trolley Tours is a similar possibility.

This isn't on topic for the chat, but the website has been buggy all weekend- it keeps locking me out of stories unless I "sign in", but when I try to sign in it just refreshes to the same "sign in" page. I've tried on 3 different computers and even gone through the "forgot your password" path, setting a new one, all to no avail. This is not me- this is your site. You staff are great- writers & techs, but this website is so riddled with problems it's ridiculous. Can't take it anymore- changing my default online news source to NYT.

I hear you. Our Web site is in the process of being improved and is frequently getting upgraded. It's possible you signed in at a time when the tech types were working on the site. But we'll definitely pass along your report, and thanks for weighing in -- and sincere apologies for the inconvenience.

I put myself in a somewhat tight position in flying to Calgary since I want to get downtown to go on to Lake Louise. I have the bus I need to get downtown, but I wanted to know if getting through customs and around the Calgary airport was fairly easy. Thanks.

Haven't been to Calgary. Anyone?

close by you have Ocean City/DE beaches and virginia Beach, the outer banks,,,a little farther you have Jersey shore and hilton head/Myrtle beach. If you are looking at new yrs then you need to push south to south padre or tampa or Miami. Holiday in carribean will be expensive. that is a high travel arent going to find deals unless someplace gets hit with a major hurricane.

In only a week, I probably wouldn't recommend driving to Miami, but it's a good thought, if the chatter doesn't mind springing for airfare.

Hi there. Any idea what is going on with United's airfares? On Friday, 7/20, at 6:30 am, United's website had a round trip ticket - National to Houston, leaving 10/4, returning 10/8 - for $391. Went back at 8:30 pm and price dropped to $254 (so i bought the ticket). Went back to the website at 9 pm to check something, and price had gone up to $504. Don't think I have ever seen a fare increase like that before! any ideas........

I'm more surprised by the short-lived drop in price than the big increase. I am guessing that another airline announced a sale and they matched it at the $254 price, but then sold out most of the tickets, so upped the fare for the few remaining seats. And that's why you need to act quickly when the fares go down! Good job. 

We were invited to join family members on a chartered barge in the Burgundy region of France. We had our own chef and tour guide, as well as staff to drive the barge and keep it tidy. I've never felt so spoiled in my life. The Burgundy canals are completely charming, with towpaths alongside them, making it easy to hop off the barge and ride your bike for a while. We visited several great towns with our guide. And of course there was plenty of time to sit on the barge with a book and watch the world go by. The company was Afloat in France, and they are beyond amazing.


What are your best tricks for getting the best possible deal on a rental car?

Costco, if you're a member. I always do very well with them. Hotwire is good too, if you do it far enough in advance.

Is there any good way of assesing how rainy London might be this September?

Not this September specifically, but you can check historical data. I would go, rain or shine.

The implied thing was they would need to fly if they want to go to a beach in December....otherwise the water is too cold.

I am planning a three month vacation in about two years, in the meantime I am hoping to take advantage of credit cards which offer points for flying, etc. that I could use down the road... Any suggestions?

I have a Capital One card, and I like it because I can either buy travel with my points, or apply those points after the fact to travel purchases. Any chatters have favorite cards? 

Long story short, some "friends" bailed on me and I will be traveling alone to Paris for 5 days towards the end of August. I went a couple years back and I'm fairly familiar with the city but I'm worried I'll just stick to the more familiar sights (many of which I saw the last time) and not really venture out since I'll be by myself. I've really been looking forward to this so any tips (tours, guides, etc.) you can suggest to help me make the most of this trip would be a big help.

Perhaps you'd like a little self-guided tour a la "Midnight in Paris." I'm also going to channel Zofia and recommend Malmaison.

Other tips for this solo traveler, friends?

In Leeds, definitely see the Royal Armouries Museum, opened several years ago, and with all the weapons/armour formerly in storage at the Tower of London. Kirkstall Abbey, a few miles west of town is also well worth the trip.

As a young teen at summer camp, most of the time was in cabins, with one or two real overnights "camping out." Our age group of girls won the coveted location of an island in the middle of the lake -- except the counselors clearly weren't checking the forecast. We packed our gear (just sleeping bags under the stars) an canoed out for the night, but around midnight a derecho-level storm hit. With metal canoes, though, we couldn't flee for safety back across the water, so we spent three hours screaming in the torrential rain as our sleeping bags soaked straight through, the temp dropped and lightning and thunder raged. Only at about 4am did it clear enough to row our way back, where the rest of camp had been dry and warm back in their cabins, listening to our shouts from across the water!

Oh my. Well, at least now you have a good story to tell.

We're planning to leave this Friday night from Northern Virginia driving to Florida. What time should we leave to avoid south bound traffic jam on I-95? Thanks!

I'll probably be heading out the same time. I plan on leaving between 7:30 and 8. You might still hit a few slow spots -- and summer weekend traffic is always a bit of a crapshoot anyway -- but at least the thick of rush hour will have passed by then.

Just starting to plan for a trip (2 adults, 13 yo, 9 yo) to Orlando from Baltimore, over Easter weekend (Friday - Wednesday) next year. Trying to decide between flying, driving and Auto Train (which seems pretty expensive). Will need a car once in Orlando. Thoughts / suggestions from you or chatters appreciated!Thanks!

It takes about 13 hours to drive to Orlando, so you could do it in one day with a couple of drivers, but I'd probably break it up by staying overnight along the road. It would definitely be cheapest, even with hotel room, as airfares over Easter are running about $300 per person. The AutoTrain, with four coach seats, will run about $1,100.  

Hi folks, I was hoping to visit Iceland in September, on a US passport that will expire in November. The State Dept says that the passport "should" be valid for 3 months beyond my return date... does that mean that it "must" be valid for 3 months after my return date, meaning I cannot go this year? Thank you so much!

Why guess? There's still time to renew your passport if you act now. The State Department's Web site has info on how to do it. Processing times right now are four to six weeks (from the time they receive your application) for routine service, and two to three weeks for expedited service, which includes overnight door-to-door delivery.  To be safe, I'd choose the expedited service. Have fun in Iceland!

Any tips for a family vacation to Isle of Palms? Luxurious hotels or food in Charleston you might recommend? Lastly, is there a noticeable difference in the beaches of Wild Dunes versus Isle of Palms?

I'm drawing a blank on the Isle of Palms. Charleston -- eat at FIG, Husk, Hominy Grill and the adorable Macaroon Boutique on John Street. Here's one hotel idea.

Anyone have insight on those beaches?

I haven't been to Paris alone, but when I travel solo I like to find quirky walking tours. I learn things and I get some social interaction.

If you've been to Paris recently, as you say, take a day and take the train down to Giverny and see Monet's gardens. How lovely to wander around all those beautiful flowers.

Loved the article about narrowboating in London. We spent a week on a narrowboat on the Liverpool-Leeds canal years ago with our then-preteen kids. It was so much fun--like camping in a different place every night, but with a shower and kitchen. Operating the locks was a blast. This was the best boat trip ever! The worst boat trip was our "honeymoon," spent on a beautiful but very leaky Chesapeake bugeye. We had the front cabin--fortunately we were smaller then--and no privacy. It rained every day and stormed the last two days--so badly that the rest of the passengers bailed out and rented cars to go home. We had no more money, so stayed aboard to help the captain and mate take the boat back to Annapolis. I could have kissed the ground when we got there.

My most memorable boating experience was of attempting to take our family's "Sunfish" (very small sailboat) out on the lake at our northern Wisconsin cabin. for the first time, with no adults (just a younger cousin). Suffice to say, we weren't quite ready for the effort and had to be towed back to shore by some very handsome neighbors from down the shoreline who had watched our struggles with a too-strong wind blowing us further and further from shore.


As new empty nesters, we just realized we can take vacations for 2! We would like to see the Grand Canyon, but not make that the whole vacation. I understand the GC is a day trip from both Las Vegas and Sedona but I am getting a little overwhelmed with the choices. Any ideas for seeing a little bit of the country in mid September?

Do you mean around the Grand Canyon or elsewhere? If you like the idea of a city-nature combo, I'm thinking the Pacific Northwest would be cool. Say, Portland and Cannon Beach, or Seattle and the San Juan Islands or Vancouver Island (in Canada, I realize).

I guess I have a travel-related question. Does anyone know where I can find Sicilian pottery locally? Looking for a wedding present for friends who honeymooned there.

Try inquiring with Bella Itlaia.

In southern area of Quintana Roo is the Chacchoben Mayan ruins. Fabulous and fascinating, though probably not as tall as pyramids as Tulum. Also not as crowded as Tulum. If you can find a day trip from nearby, go!

I did the same trip a few years ago visiting my husband on short term assignment and really enjoyed Harrogate. A lot of people do this trip so your brother should be able to hook you up with travel resources. I flew into Manchester which is about an hour and a half by car and cost about 60 pounds each way. I spent five days just in the area and we found plenty to do. York is a 45 minute direct train ride from Harrogate and you can easily spent all day there visiting the cathedral and walking around town. There is also Castle Howard and Fountains Abbey which are both great. Our best day, though, was driving through the remote one lane (stone walls on both sides) roads in the high hills of the Yorkshire dales where we ended up at the Wensleydale Creamery for a cheese making tour and some cheese eating. I don't know that I'd go to London with only nine days because London is a lot easier to get to again where this might be your only chance to see Yorkshire and the northern countryside. You will definitely need a car to do it so if you don't want to drive that's a big consideration. But if nothing else, you must stop at Betty's for the best scones ever.

Good recommendations. Here's our recent story on York.

For the family members traveling to Harrogate, have a great time! My dad was stationed there as well a couple of years ago and I (adult child) visited him several times. We took day trips to Leeds, Manchester and York (we had been stationed in London when I was a child too), but Harrogate is such a great little town. The weather will be nice so you'll be able to enjoy days on the Stray and outdoor seating at some of the pubs (the Slug and Lettuce is great and for a younger (20s) crowd, the Alexandria).

I agree wholeheartedly with the previous poster who recommended walking tours for the solo Paris traveler. I've had good luck with this group: The tours themselves are well done, and they're all conducted in English.

More advice coming in for you, Paris solo traveler!

I went to Paris alone (40 year old woman) a few years back. I had a blast. I'm not very social, so I kept to myself, but I didn't let being alone stop me from doing anything I wanted. I got a Navigo pass and had unlimited use of buses and the metro for the week and I used the heck out of it. I also got a two day museum pass, not so much for the discounts, but for the ability to jump to the head of the line, which saved me time in lots of places. It also allowed me to pop in and out of places I would have felt compelled to spend more time in because I had bought a ticket. I could do whatever I wanted on a whim. Take advantage of the time alone to indulge those whims. Enjoy yourself!

I've never been to Paris before, but I traveled solo in Europe for a bit. It's a great way to see really random things that you find interesting. Do some research ahead of time to get ideas of off-the-beaten-path things you want to see/do. For me, the hardest part of the day was the time after dinner. It felt weird hitting up nightlife alone, and as a single woman, I was a little hesitant to wander the streets without a destination. I recommend trying to find a play or art exhibit or something to fill those after-dinner hours. Nighttime tours are also really neat. Totally different view into the city.

Get thee to the blog at Haven in Paris (, all in English)! I came across it two years ago when planning my own near-solo trip, a couple of years after I had studied abroad there, to try and seek out the new and happening places I wanted to try. Plenty of great tips (and photos), reviews of restaurants, shops, blogs to inspire you to seek out some neighborhood locales

My car insurance does not cover me abroad. Should I rely on the credit card coverage, or take the coverage (expensive) offered by the rental car agency abroad? Is there some other, better, choice? Criteria are cost and hassle-free. Thanks

Your credit card probably offers secondary insurance, which may not cover you adequately. You'll either want to find a travel insurance policy that covers you or go with the insurance offered by your car rental company .

I'm down at Isle of Palms 1-2 times a year, and it is a wonderful place to visit. We have a house on the Isle of Palms side, but close to Wild Dunes, and I don't think there's a huge difference in the beaches - just make sure you're closer to the beach side of the island than the other side. The island is 20-30 minutes from the Market district in Charleston, so its not hard to get in to the great shopping, historic areas, and restaurants. The island itself is nice and quiet and relaxing, and the beach itself is not overrun with people. If you want food closer to Isle of Palms, there are quite a few options. In Mt. Pleasant, there are lots of your familiar chain restaurants (both fast food and regular retaurants), along with some nicer places (blanking on the names, but a couple of our favorites are in the Piggly Wiggly/Target shopping center). On Sullivan's Island, you have to go try the burger at Poe's - great food and a fun atmosphere. There's also a great barbeque place across the street from Poe's that has good food and is popular with the locals.

Super. You all are such a helpful bunch.

At a Disney resort in Florida as a 12 year old I decided I was going to take one of their small sailing boats out on a very calm lake. My dad didn't think it was a great idea to send me by myself so he went with me. I ended up clinging to the boat to tan while he tried to remember the very basic sailing skills he acquired as a child with his father - we still joke about the time I wanted to learn to sail!

My favorite time (now) was when we went fishing with my uncle who lives in Alaska. We headed from a bay down a large river that was running high, through morning fog. If we'd gone in the wrong direction, we'd have ended up in the ocean! I was miserable at the time because we'd had to get up early and it was cold, but now all I remember is facing backwards on the boat and getting a great view of everything we passed, like a swimming moose. Having float planes (which had the right-of-way on the river) land nearby was also interesting. I don't actually remember the fishing that much, just the trip up and down the river.

I am trying to get information about US Airways' flight schedules for the fall. Based on putting in dates for specific flight dates, it seems that the usual DCA-FLL mid-day flight (10:30 am) is being discontinued for a number of weeks and maybe permanently. Is there some site where I can find future flight schedules for all airlines, and not just on specific dates? Thanks.

OAG is a good resource, but it's not free. Anyone have a favorite free site? 

I grew up in the East Bay in the 1940s-'50s, and a few times a year we'd drive to visit one of my sets of grandparents, who lived in California's coast redwoods region. This was before the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was constructed, so we'd have to take the auto-ferry that ran between Point Richmond and Marin County. We'd try to get there to catch the first ferry of the morning, which as I recall loaded in time to depart the East Bay a bit before 6 AM (really early!). As a kid I was absolutely fascinated to get to see San Quentin Prison up close as we disembarked from the ferry on the west side of the ferry run. This all ended ca. 1954 with the completion of a bridge spanning the route (much more efficient, but not nearly as romantic).

Hello, I am married to the world's pickiest eater (sweets, meat, french fries, ketchup; that's it), and we are going to Paris. I already quake in fear of the French waiters' reaction to our orders. Do you have any restaurant suggestions for the timid? (I should note that I love all types of food but am a vegetarian.) Thank you.

For you, here's a list of vegetarian restaurants in Paris. The list was created in 2008 but has been updated since then. Still, won't hurt to do some Googling to see if the places are still in business, or ask at your hotel.

For your husband -- can't you just drop him off at a McDonald's? That would be my inclination. But I suppose you can't do that. So, okay, make reservations at a few French restaurants in our area, and see what your husband likes to eat. Or cook some French dishes yourself, ones that have "safe" ingredients. Though I think it would be a terrible shame if, in one of the great food cities of the world, your husband can't see his way toward trying to expand his narrow culinary horizons.

You might also want to center a few meals around some markets. Pick what you like.

Have you seen the new car commercial for people contemplating their next vacation? Since they have such a great new car, the commercial makes the point that they would feel completely trapped on a cruise. I agree. Please explain why anyone would want to be trapped on a boat for a week and only let off in towns with 5000 other tourists? Is the lure of unlimited food that wonderful? I honestly don't understand how the cruise industry flourishes.

And some others would think that a long car trip would be hellish. Cruises allow travelers to visit several places without packing and unpacking. They also remove the stress of decision making -- dining and entertainment are right there.  If you're traveling with a large group (think family reunion), everyone can be together, yet do their own thing. But cruises -- and car trips -- are not for everyone. To each his/her own. 

A few years ago $200 round trip was the best fare I could ever get for flying out west. It required me buying months in advance and being flexible with dates, but it could be done. What is the new price you would consider a great deal for coast to coast travel? $300? For a family of four, the difference is huge. Thanks.

$300 is a very good round-trip fare for nonstop flights. Fares, even sale fares, are typically higher than that. Look at connecting flights and flights into lesser-known airports, such as Burbank, Long Beach and Oakland.  

1) plan ahead 2) look at deals through the airline you flew on 3) if you are set on your travel times use hotwire 4) through other sites such as Kayak some car companies list certain promotional adds that you click on could give you a better rate 5) Look at off airport rental locations. For example right now I back in my home town for the weekend and at the airport a basic rental was nearly $60/day + tax but I used an off airport one that is usually located near car dealerships/car repair facilities and got a similar one for around $25/day 6) also when pricing look at adjusting your rental times...sometimes some deal rate can pop up...instead of renting at 4pm you rent instread at 7pm then you have a better deal. With some airports they may have a special cheaper rate where your rental is less than 4 days but they charge higher if you are greater than 4 days.

All great advice. Thanks.

I've been pricing tickets for an international trip and keep flights keep popping up with one hour layovers. That sounds dangerous to me. But, let's say I throw caution to the wind and buy one of those tickets, what happens if I miss my conneection? What do I do? Do I have to pay for another flight even if it's not my fault? In all my years of flying I have never missed a flight or connection. I've even had an airline call me to the front to deboard first and then shuttle me to my connecting flight gate so that I wouldn't miss a flight (and I didn't ask for this, they just did it, thanks BritishAirways).

If the reservation is made through a legitimate travel agency, online travel agency, or through an airline website, it must comply with the minimum connect time rules, which are written into the system. If you miss the connection, the airline will automatically put you on the next available flight and cover your hotel and meal expenses while you wait, under most circumstances. If you got the DIY route -- which is to say, you book two itineraries separately with a one-hour connect time, then you're on your own.

I travel quite often and usually depart from BWI or National. Yesterday morning (July 21st) I had the unfortunate experience of leaving from Dules Airport. I arrived at the airport a bit before 7am (after checking in on-line & carryon only) only to be greeted by a line of several hundred other passengers at the West side secuity gate and only about 5 security screening lines open. It was a total disorganized mess. I wait in line for an hour before getting to the boarding pass screener and totally missed my flight. I expressed my worry to a TSA agent and she just told me to go the gate anyway because "you never know what will happen." What?? All other flights on United were sold out so I ended up coming back home and totally missing my trip. How could this happen at one of the world's largest international airports and what can I do if this ever happens again?

And that's why I try to avoid Dulles. In the future, scope out other security entry points. There is another one on the opposite side on the main level and then there are some entry points behind baggage claim. Also, the TSA estimates wait times on its site, although the link seems to be broken right now. 

Here is the official word on wait times posted on the Dulles Web site: 

Advice for passengers about wait times in the Main Terminal Please arrive early for your flight: 2 hours for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights, especially during these busiest times in the Main Terminal: 5:30am - 8:00am, 11:00am - 1:00pm & 3:30pm - 5:30pm.

Interesting. We heard from another reader who said it was downright terrible Friday.

I've been in nail-biter lines before. When my departure time starts looming, I go to the front of the line and plead for indulgence from my fellow travelers. No one has ever said No, you can't jump the line, I don't care if you miss your flight.

Have you heard anything about is this service worth using?

It has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, but it also has had 309 complaints filed with the bureau in last three years. I don't know how that stacks up percentage-wise, but it sounds like a lot. 

I was on a United San Fran to Shanghai flight at the end of May and ended getting hurt as a direct result of actions by one of the flight attendants. The bins were full but a passenger ahead of me refused to put her small, heavy, duty free items contained in slippery plastic bags below the seat. When the attendant placed them on top of larger bags in the bin I pointed out that wasn't a good idea. She responded that I would just have to be careful when I opened the bin. Apparently my seatmates didn't get the message and when it was opened I got bonked in the nose with a bottle of perfume. It broke my glasses and for awhile I thought that my nose was broken. I complained the head attendant and she assured me that a customer service rep would meet me when I disembarked to take a report. When the plane landed she again assured me that someone was waiting for me at the end of the jetway. Needless to say, no one in Shanghai with United was the least interested in taking a report of the incident or showed the least concern for my situation. I haven't heard from them since in spite of forcing personal information and a description of the incident on a UA employee plane-side. I'm headed back to the US after two months and I'm wondering if there is any organization to whom I should send my complaint. This crosses the line from poor customer service to endangering passengers. AIso, do you know of any Members of Congress who are interested in repealing the fly America act? It's an idea that's time has come.

You should have been able to file an incident report when you landed. You should give United a chance to address this by sending a brief, polite email to the airline, asking it to address your concerns. Here are a few United Airlines executive contacts. If United doesn't address this situation, then you can and should take this to the Transportation Department, which regulates US-based airlines. If you need any help, please contact me directly.

Costco is right!! We got a full size car in LA from Avis for 14 days for $240!!! This was way, way, cheaper than anywhere else, including Priceline, where I had been bidding up a dollar every day for a week! I had no idea and will go to them from now on.

Yeah, even if you don't shop at the warehouse, the membership fee can easily pay for itself in travel discounts.

On lake Titicaca (funny already!) took an excursion from Puno, in a small 10-passenger boat with some French-Canadians and Swedes to the floating islands of the Uros tribes. They harvest reeds and build islands the size of football fields, and avoided conquest by the Incas living in isolation on the lake, and maintain their traditions to this day. On the way back, the engine konks out. The boat captain opens the hatch where the engine is and peers in to see gasoline spraying from a split hose; the Canadian with cigarette in hand, decides to take to look-see also. I practically tackle the guy to throw the cigarette overboard before we all go ka-boom. We improvise a MacGyver repair with twist ties and plastic bags and get the engine restarted after about a half hour of drifting. The smoker, in broken English and Spanish had to defend himself against our collective scowls for nearly getting us all killed.

Where can I find detailed maps for the states of the Yucatan? (Especially interested in Quintana Roo, the Mayan Riviera.)

Here are some. You could also buy one from, say, National Geographic.

London is a rainy, rainy place pretty much regardless of the time of year. Pack your brolly and enjoy yourself.

We were spending a few days around Tadoussac Quebec and decided to take a whale watching trip. There is a deep fjord there where whales come during the summer. We didn't have high hopes, though, because every whale watching trip I'd ever taken had resulted in exactly zero whale sightings. So we set out in this little zodiac in the bright yellow ponchos they've provided. It's gray and not too hot so it's really pleasant at first. Right off the bat we see a beluga whale which was totally amazing. And then it starts to rain. A lot. Then we realize that my and my husband's ponchos are the only two without hoods. We spend the next hour or so (felt like 3) trying to stay warm while at the same time trying to take pictures in the rain of all the harbor seals and minke whales that are everywhere. There were so many whales is felt like our boat was in a tank at Seaworld - it was unbelievable. The best part was as the boat was motoring back for shore at top speed and the rain was coming in sideways like little needles in our faces. That said, I would totally do it again.

Hey, I must have been on that boat with you! Had the same experience. Whale watching in Tadoussac was great, as was the fjord, except for the weather. After I came back home from that trip, I learned that my grandfather and grandmother had taken the same trip to the fjord on their honeymoon.

This topic is so timely! We literally were just talking about this yesterday on the beach. It was New Year's Eve Day two years ago and 8 of us decided to rent a house in St. John for the holiday week. We had chartered a private Yacht for the day of NYE so we could spend the day/night in Jost Van Dyke. The seas were rough! The weather was not idylic. 3 of us stayed up top and 5 went below. Well those of us on top may have been wet and tossed about but we had a great time!! It was so much fun! Those below, they were green until vacation was over. They were hot and not happy campers. It was a great trip and great time with lots of laughs! Moral, if the seas are rough, go up top, get outside. The fresh air will do you a world of good!

Several days camping in rainy Olympic National Park, followed by a night in a Port Angeles motel in order to get cleaned up and have a decent meal. Next morning it was drizzly, but we took the ferry across to Vancouver Island, BC., anyway -- and about 2/3 of the way across the sun started coming out. Believe me, Victoria never looked so good!

United has been offering fares from BOS to PDX as low as $252! Many of them at reasonable times of day too. The book into the [G] fare code.

I had family in town a few weeks ago and we did the Open Top bus, it was great. Totally worth the $49 (online deal for 2 days). It took you to every hot spot, includes a boat trip from Georgetown, and the Upper northwest tour is a good way to see parts od DC that most tourists miss, while cooling off and relaxing.

trip plan to do.... (1) fly into Vegas.....(2) go to Zion......(3) go to bryce......(4) escalante....(5) page, AZ..(6) Grand Canyon ....(7) Grand Canyon...(8) Sedona...(9) travel back to Vegas.....(10) day in vegas For the into either Seattle or Portland where you can do a loop trip....say Settle for the ske of argument...(1) fly into Seattle...(2) seattle...(3) Mt Rinier for the day then drive over to Yakima (4) Yakima and rattlesnake wine country in the AM then drive to Hood River and see Mt hood in the PM..(5) then in the am drive the columbia gorge into Portland...(6) Portland) (7) drive to Cannon Beach.....(8) either drive up 101 along the Forks (9) Olympic national park....(10) Olympic national park (or day trip to Victoria)....then return to seattle.

The solo traveler should read David Liebovitz's a "Sweet Life in Paris". He talks about so so so many places and I believe offers food tours as well. Can I come?

How long are the backups? We'd like to leave at 3 from NoVa and get as far as Rocky Mount by 8. Doable?

Um, maybe. That only gives you an hour of traffic slowdowns, and I'm afraid with summer weekend travel, you might hit more than that. Sorry.

Do you have any itinerary recommendations to see the "best of Wyoming" in 7 days? A friend and I are planning a road trip through Wyoming during the third week of August. We have 9 days total -- 7 days for fun to fill as we'd like and 2 anticipated travel days to drive to/from Denver (we have roundtrip airfare from Denver to DCA). We'd like to visit Cheyenne, Jackson, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone at a minimum. Given the long driving distances, we're hoping to get ideas for how long to stay at each place and top sights we shouldn't miss. Thanks!

Well, you can drive it in a few hours each way, but that won't leave much time for actual sightseeing at the Grand Canyon, unless you're just looking to check another destination off your bucket list. IMHO you'd want to stay at least one night at the South Rim, at a minimum, in order to get the Grand Canyon experience. (Also, have you considered a detour to Page, AZ., to see the dam that forms Lake Powell?).

Hi, I'm taking some time off after Labor Day, and am looking for suggestions for good hiking areas within a day's drive. Have done a lot of hiking at Shenandoah, so something other than that.

Have you hiked in Lost River State Park? I think the highest elevation is just 3,200 feet but the views are great. Here's a trail map.

Every year, my friends and I used to take a daylong canoe trip. One year, the water level was incredibly low. I - way smaller than most people - was in the front, and my friend - the opposite - was in the back. Needless to say, we kept getting stuck on the bottom. I felt terrible.

My favorite boating experience was an educational and adventurous whale watching trip when we were in British Columbia, on the western side of Vancouver Island (tiny town of Tofino). We went on a whale watching trip in a boat with the coast guard (in one of their inflatable fast boats). We started in the sound on this fairly small boat, and were watching a few beautiful grey whales breaching from the water. Most awesome though was getting to see a calf and its mom super close as they came near the boat (little scary, too, but amazingly beautiful). Afterwards, the captain took the boat out on the open ocean, and we were able to have a fun bouncing the boat off waves. I'll never forget the gracefulness and majesty of the whales, and the fun we got to have afterwards on the open ocean.

Re the "friends who bailed on you, go and have a great time in Paris on your own, and just remember the saying that "Living well is the best revenge"!


In the summer you have to plan ahead to find $300 RT. In the fall-spring (not holiday times) you can find a fare for around $250

Yup, I was seeing that recently.

On Cozumel, eat at the small cafe on the 2nd floor of the island's museum, on a balcony overlooking the water - good food & gorgeous views. If you've never been before, and have any interest in history/ruins, go to Tulum and Chichen Itza. They'll be busy, but just because they're "touristy" doesn't mean they're not worth doing. If you've been to those before, and want something less crowded and more out of the way, try Ek Balam (where you can climb the main pyramid) and San Gervasio (on Cozumel).

I second Tulum and Chichen Itza. One caveat: If you're sensitive to heat, take an umbrella and water. The temp that time of year should be just below 90, but there's little to no shade and it feels much hotter. I loved Chichen Itza but couldn't hold out for long there and had to take refuge back in the tour bus.

A friend just flew non-stop, but I can't find anything non-stop on Kayak. Do you know what she could have flown and why it wouldn't be on Kayak? Thanks!

Because US Airways operates nonstop service seasonally. My guess is you're looking outside the service dates. 

My favorite is always the Musee Marmatton Monet. Its out of the way, up in the 16th, and a decent walk from the metro, but I LOVE it, and the walk is nice. Also, I highly recommend Bugsy's Bar, near the ministry of Interior, for drinks (everyone speaks English, and it has a nice neighborhood feel, not to mention the cool Prohibition-era decor). For eating, find a random cafe with sidewalk seating and just observe - people watching in Paris is AMAZING. Of course, I also love the freedom of being able to do what I want when I want, so I love the idea of going solo :)

We spend a lovely week in late August last year at Wild Dunes. We stayed in a condo on the north end of the resort and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Quiet week (got busier as Labor Day weekend approached). The beaches were gorgeous - we found many sand dollars (even live ones). It's a bit of a drive to Charleston, but no traffic that time of year. We preferred staying at WD - the amenities were nice and convenient. As far as places to eat, Poe's Tavern on Sullivan's Island is a great "local" spot, as is Buddy Roe's Shrimp Shack right across the bridge in Mount Pleasant. Be sure to take a day to go to Charleston and do a house tour in the Battery.

Hello, I was able to score a one-way mileage ticket to Flores, Guatemala and will spend a few days visiting Tikal. I will have about five days to spend in Belize. I am not a diver. what are the highlights? I enjoy nature, architecture, trying new food.

I really enjoyed my visit to a small island off the coast of Belize  called Caye Caulker.  It's very  laid back. No cars -- everyone gets around via bike, feet or golf cart -- and there's a nice nature preserve.   You can take a ferry from Belize City. The island also has a small airport. 

Regarding the story yesterday about the traveler who had a heart attack during a cruise: I think the cruise industry deserves a lot of criticism for a lot of things, but in this case I'm not sure what else they could do. On a Caribbean cruise, where can they take a sick passenger except a hospital on a Caribbean island? The choice is either the nearest hospital, or a potentially lengthy delay until they can get to some other hospital that might or might not be better. Suppose the patient died while they were steaming to a "better" place? And I don't think it's reasonable to expect a cardiac surgeon to be on every cruise. But why did it take five days for the couple to be evacuated from St. Kitts? If you have travel insurance with evacuation coverage, how long should it take to get help? Could the embassy or consulate have intervened with either hospital officials or their government bosses to get better care? (I've always heard that whenever you're in trouble abroad, you should always call the embassy.) Could a better doctor have been brought in from somewhere else, even Miami? And should someone from the cruise ship have accompanied the couple to the hospital, or does the cruise line just wash its hands as soon as they unload their problem? I can't help but think that, in this particular case, there's plenty of blame to go around.

Good questions. I don't know if anyone has the answers, but I think we can all agree that there has to be a better way to deal with sick passengers than dropping them off in a hospital that could make them even sicker.

Love the Costco deals (which also often include additional freebies like no charge for an extra driver)! Another good one is USAA, though I think they only have discounts through Hertz, Budget, and Avis.

This is the 3rd year in a row I'm flying into a major southwest US city for a 10 day vacation. This year, the rental car rates at the airport are double what I paid last year (at all the companies, not just the one I like) - even Priceline wouldn't save me THAT much. I know rates are cheaper at off-airport locations, but I had been able to avoid that hassle the last 2 years. What's going on? Is this just a cash grab by the rental car companies from a (relatively) captive audience?

Rental cars have been a bargain for years (and the industry's profit margins have been ridiculously small). Now that there's been some consolidation -- in other words, fewer players -- rates are starting to go up. That's particularly true when demand is high. I would expect prices to fall again as the summer winds down, but that's too late for most folks taking a summer vacation.

There is a whole blogosphere dedicated to the question of travel credit cards and miles/points. Check out for comprehensive coverage as well as and forums like The "best" card depends on a lot of things like which airlines or alliances serve your local airport(s) best. The programs that offer flexibility are among the best. I really like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. You can transfer the points to several airlines and hotel programs or you can use the points to book travel directly at 1 cent per point. Last year was a real boon year for credit card signup bonuses but this year has been a good bit quieter. However there have been some good offers out there.

Yes, the world of miles/points is complex and vast. Flyertalk is one of the better sites.  Web Flyer is another. 

This may not seem so memorable to everyone else, but it meant the world to my sister and me. A little more than a year after our mom passed away, we were planning a group cruise for a friend's special birthday. We decided it would be a good thing to take Dad, since he had been grieving the loss of his wife of 60 years. When we told him we were taking him, he balked and stated that he and Mom had traveled much in their life together and it wasn't necessary to travel anymore. He even came right out and told us he did not want to go, but we told him we had already made the deposit so it was too late. Well, we all went on the cruise and Dad had such a good time that once, when sis and I returned from a shore excursion, we were looking all over for him. Found him talking to the purser about getting a job on board! Of course, when he realized he would be away from home & his beloved dog for 4 months at a time, he changed his mind but that cruise was a turning point for him in his grieving. It made the cruise the best one I've ever taken for that reason alone! Five years later, Dad still keeps a photo of the three of us taken on board on his night stand!

Almost too long ago to think about: In summer 1967, we joined family friends who had a big enough boat for 4 adults and 4 kids on a trip across Lake Ontario, through the Thousand Islands, ending in Montreal for Expo 67. We kids were high school/middle school ages, so we enjoyed getting out at our stops in small towns along the river (Alexandria Bay, Ogdensburg, Massena, etc.), playing with the local kids, going through the locks, and just enjoying the gorgeous scenery from the water. Expo 67 was fun but far less memorable than the voyage (though we did glimpse Liberace in the crowd). We returned via the Rideau Canal through Ottawa, a beautiful city.

Does the poster realize that Glacier is not in Wyoming, but rather the far north of Montana? I would not keep that in the itinerary.

Totally glossed over that. Thanks for the good eye!

We did a day trip to the GC from Las Vegas a few years ago. You have to fly from a small airport located just outside LV to the Grand Canyon airport. There are several companies that can arrange for the flight, the tour at the GC, and also transportation from your hotel. The hotel concierge should be able to give the names of several companies.

I am very impressed with your knowledge of travel and even more impressed with the number of questions you take in a chat. I just want to say thanks!

We try. Thanks for saying thanks. :)

that someone mentioned the Infinity commercial. Does anyone know where that bridge is in the location they decide on?

No clue. Anyone know? 

We will be in the Montreal area for a few days but need to plan activities around (1) the fact that we will have a 2-year old with us and (2) our teenage daughter will have a limited ability to walk around due to recent foot surgery (yes, the timing could have been better, but we didn't have much choice). Any suggestions or recommendations?

This is pegged more to people with disabilities, but you might find this accessible Montreal travel info useful.

I am getting married in a little less than a year and I really want to book a 5 star hotel for our wedding night. Do prices tend to fluctuate much for this type of hotel? We are trying to figure out how early to book.

I'd familiarize myself with the going rates of the hotel(s) and then keep checking to see if rates fluctuate. Sign up for the hotels' social media sites and for sale notifications. And if you can't find the rate you want, try calling the hotel directly -- you may get a reservationist who likes honeymooners.   

We've taken several cruises and done lots of boating over the years, but probably the most memorable is the rafting trip in Alaska, on the Chilkat River. Our guides told us they refer to the river as "a mile wide and an inch deep" just based on appearances. Even though I'm sure it's deeper than that, we did have times where we got caught on the flats, had to get out and pull the rafts into deeper waters! But surrounded by all those fantastic eagles, other wildlife, and beautiful mountains, we really didn't mind!

7 day trip..... If you want to do looooonnnggg day of driving from Denver to Great Falls. could stop over at custers last stand. day 2....explore the east side of the glacier national park stay 3 drive through the park then in the AM then drive down to 4....from bozeman drive through yellowstone...explore the geyse....then look to stay in Tower/cooke city 5 down to stay in 6....explore grand teton in the AM....then start driving back to Denver...stoping in 7 cheyenne, then drive down to Denver

American stops in Dallas on the way to Honolulu. It's about 3 1/2 hours there, then another 8 from Dallas to Hawaii.

I was thinking Chicago, but yes, that would work also. 

I flew with my little dog last Christmas on Delta. I was able to book her a spot to go along with my reservation and paid the pet fee at the airport. Now, I'm flying US Air in August and was told when I called that they wouldn't take a pet reservation. That I'll just pay the fee at the airport and get on. When I asked what happens if there are other pet owners planning on traveling on the same flight, I was told that I shouldn't worry, that there should be room. Well, I do worry. The last thing I want to do is get to the airport and there are more pets than are allowed on the plane.

You might try calling again to confirm that information, but I'm looking at the US Airways Web page on pets and it says nothing about a limit on the number of pets (dog, cat or bird) that can be on each flight -- just that there can be only one per passenger. However, it does say that if you're on a codeshare flight, you'll have to check with that airline to see what their policies are. As to there being room or not, since the pet carrier is supposed to be stashed under the seat in front of you, just don't carry on anything else that needs to be stowed there and it seems like you should be fine.

On my first cruise, one of my traveling companions got very sick. The ship's onboard doctor saw to her immediately. As a lawyer, I find it hard to believe any cruise company would expose themselves to liability by NOT having competent medical personnel onboard and a method of getting people to shore for treatment quickly if necessary.

What an hour! Fun as always. Thanks for all your great tips on solo Paris travel and everything else. We couldn't do it without you. I think today's winner is going to have to be the traveler in Titicaca who was worried about their boat blowing up. Please send your name and address to

We'll be back next week. Hope you will be too! Until then...

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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