Talk about Travel

Jul 07, 2014

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
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.
Past Talk about Travel chats

Hi, all! Hope you had a nice holiday weekend. Did you get a chance to read about Andrea's epic Greyhound ride from Washington to Minnesota in honor of the company's 100th anniversary? Along those lines, let's hear about your most memorable bus trips, or your expert bus-riding tips. My favorite wins a little prize.

Now let's get started.

I've got it in my head that I could cruise one-way to somewhere in Scandinavia when we head over for a family wedding in Norway next summer. I think it would be so fun for the kids, but would only want to do it one of the directions from DC. What do you think, possible?

Not so sure about that. First, cruises don't leave from Washington. There are some from Baltimore but not, I think, transatlantic. I'm seeing those mostly leaving from New York/New Jersey or Florida. Some transatlantic trips I see include Norway, but it's hard to find one that ends in Norway -- and doesn't include a return trip. Some of those transatlantic cruises are pretty epic -- like two weeks. Can the kids and you handle that? Definitely search the cruise line sites and Cruise Critic. The best option I could find for you quickly is this Royal Caribbean 14-night cruise that begins in Norway and ends in New Jersey.

We are tired of the same old Myrtle Beach family vacations, and are considering Bethany and/or Rehobeth, as we hear that they are much closer, and also very nice. Any recommendations on great/fairly inexpensive places to stay (only 4 of us, so a hotel will do in a pinch, but we hear that the Sea Colony in Bethany has some nice places for a decent price)? Also, any recommendations on cool things for 19 & 15-year old kids to do when mom and dad aren't cool enough to hang around with? Thanks for your great help - I love the Travel chats and columns!

Both Bethany and Rehoboth are very nice beach towns. Sea Colony is a big development straddling the bay and ocean. It's popular with tennis players. Bethany is more family oriented -- lots of little kids. Rehoboth is more sophisticated with lots of shops and restaurants. Both have boardwalks. The teens would probably prefer Ocean City to either of these communities, as it has more going on. But it's also more densely populated.  

I recently tried to rent a car to be picked up in Vancouver, B.C., and dropped off two days later at the airport in Seattle. No dice! One car company told me it was illegal, and another one told me it was possible but would involve a really hefty (like, hundreds of dollars) extra fee because it was international. What's the true story?

It's true, car rental companies have restrictions on driving their cars across the border. It's almost impossible to find a rental company that will let you drive a vehicle into Mexico, and you'll often find restrictions on driving a car from central  Europe into one of the eastern European countries. They're just trying to protect their assets from being stolen and recycled for parts.

I know you likely can't advocate for one card or another, but I'm looking at getting a credit card that gets me travel points. I fly United and American (American mostly domestic, United mostly international), so I don't think I want to get a card tied to a specific carrier. How does one go about researching the best fit? Right now I'm looking at the Sapphire and Venture cards, but can't find any good head to head comparisons to make a decision. Thanks!

A number of web sites offer comparisons on travel cards, including NerdWallet, CardHub and the Points Guy.

Chatters, feel free to jump in with your preferred cards.

I'd like to add a quick warning on taking advice from these kind of sites. Often, these online resources extract sizeable commissions from card companies in exchange for a referral. So read the fine print carefully before signing up. It might be tainted advice.

Thanks, Chris.

My wife and I retire next year in April and wish to drive to see our daughter in San Diego. We estimate taking as long as four weeks to do this with seven to ten days in Ca. What resources are there to plan such a trip, (i.e. we only want to travel six hours a day) also would like to see sights along the way. Thank you.

What fun! Well, what I typically do when chatters ask about road trips is pull up good old Google Maps. Enter the starting and ending points, then zoom in closer to the beginning and estimate a few different stops, plug them in, and see what the drive time of that segment is. For instance: DC to Asheville? 7 hours. To Charlotte? 6. And then once I've broken it up I start scouting around all the stops seeing what there is to see/do/eat.

But there are other, more specific resources geared to what you're planning. I just started playing around with a website called Roadtrippers, and it looks pretty darn intuitive. You start the same way I did on Google Maps, but then you just enter a stopping point, and it automatically (and very quickly!) plots it in.

There's also a REALLY easy way to find attractions, lodging, dining, etc.: You choose from categories and hit a button, and places that fit that category AND that are on your route pop in, and you can go exploring to save the ones you want. I haven't done more than spend a few minutes on this site, but so far, so good.

Chatters, any other road-trip planning tools you'd like to recommend?

My family (3 adult intermediate skiers and one adult non-skier) would like to spend about 7 - 10 days in France over the Christmas holidays. The skiers want to try the Trois Vallees, probably skiing for 3 days and then spending time elsewhere. I'm overwhelmed by the options and need help. One will be coming from London, the rest from DC. Where to fly into? Where to go?

How about Venice? Its about a five-hour drive from Les Trois Vallées. You could even stop in the Italian Lake District for an overnight visit. If you want to start the vacation with ski portion, I believe Geneva is the closest major city. 

We will be in Cadiz, exploring Andalucía, with our 8- and 10-year-old sons for a little more than one week beginning July 24. Aside from the major tourist attractions in Granada, Seville and Toledo, what are the don't-miss, child-friendly, places to see or things to do in the Andalucía region? Is there a less-busy, kid-friend beach you recommend close to Cadiz? Lastly and to push my luck, the tour books say that there is essentially gridlock Aug 1 and 31 as locals leave major cities like Madrid. We need to drive back to Madrid in early Aug to make our Aug. 4 flight home. Do you think we will encounter terrible traffic going from Cadiz to Madrid Aug. 2? THANK YOU!

Um, that's a lot, and a lot we don't know about. Anyone? We just had a story on that region, but not sure it will help you that much. Might give you some inspiration, though.

I've been happy with Chase Sapphire for a few years. They don't add an extra fee or percentage for charges in a different currency, and the rewards site is easy to navigate. Plus, they've already introduced a chip and signature, and rumor is they'll have chip and pin coming this fall. I'm hoping it's available before my Europe trip in late September.

As soon as you get on the bus, check that the outlet is working. I've moved seats while others were still boarding - it makes a 4 plus hour journey better.


In early August, my mother & I are flying to Belfast, and plan to rent a car for a few daytrips before driving on towards Galway, Cork, the southern coast and Dublin over the course of about two weeks. She found out her car insurance doesn't cover her abroad, and while my Belgian car insurance would cover if I drove *my* car to Ireland, it doesn't cover rentals. Likewise, our US credit card companies clauses on rental insurance all exclude Ireland in the terms. Does this leave us with only the rental agency's daily fee, or is there another option to research that I'm overlooking? Also, should we expect any difficulty or high fees for picking up in Belfast (N. Ireland) and dropping off in Dublin (Ireland)? Laslty, any fun suggestions not to miss, sights or food-wise?? We're already planning counties Antrim & Down (Giant's Causeway, Causeway Coast, Castle Ward and Newcastle. Kylemore Abbey and stating a night at Ballyhanich Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, Cork, and likely Shannon or Limerick.

I can answer the first two questions. You may be able to find a travel insurance policy that covers an Ireland rental, but if you think you do, I would check with the car rental company to make sure it will be accepted. On the second question, yes, you should expect a hefty charge for dropping the car off at another location. That's fairly standard in the car rental business, and it covers the costs of transporting the vehicle back to its original rental location.

We love our Sapphire Preferred. We had the Sapphire, but did the math, and the annual fee was worth it to us to upgrade. Our Sapphire points are covering 10 nights of hotels in Europe.

I enjoyed yesterday's piece on Greyhound Bus Lines, but was surprised that there was no mention of Bob Dylan in the section about Hibbing itself.

Baby, stop cryin'. That mention went blowin' in the wind. Going, going, gone.

I'm going to have to break down and pay the big bucks for train or plane, or drive on my own when going to NYC from DC from now on! Took the megabus a couple weekends ago; it was delayed both directions, with the way home leaving us standing in the sun for almost 2 hours, and the bus staff boarding a later bus BEFORE our bus, claiming it was our fault that the bus was late. The group of us almost started a street brawl until they let us on. Total disorganization, terrible staff, late and broken down buses. The lost time, sunburn, and added stress are not worth the money I saved.

Our resident bus expert, Andrea, is away, but we will be sure to let her know about this.

Rather than put the family in a cabin for a fourteen day transAtlantic cruise just fly there. But if you have the time try to take at least one ferry trip. I thought the Hellesylt-Geiranger route was beautiful. It will take an hour but the views are breathtaking! If you're on the far west coast take a Bergen harbor cruise. Plus in Oslo you can take ferries to the different islands. Any of these will be a different experience for the kids and not break the bank. BTW for the person tired of Myrtle Beach we always took our kids to Sea Colony in Bethany. There are ocean front condos and single family homes back on the tennis/bay side. Plenty of pools and tennis courts. Shuttles run from the tennis community to the ocean front. You're within easy drive to OC for one day of the more frantic pace stuff but give me Bethany any time over OC.

We would like to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in a big way this year with a trip to Italy. Hubs does not want to go to Rome. What cities do you recommend for an 8 day trip? We can go in November or December. Thanks!

Congrats on the milestone. Even if you don't do Rome, you could hit the other two destinations in the standard trifecta: Florence and Venice. You could even throw Bologna into the mix with those two. Siena is also worth seeing.

I did exactly what you are suggesting about 5 years ago at a reasonable cost and no drop off fee. I think it was Hertz. I booked it online and there was no problem. Call around.

After attending an all night bachelor party in Manhattan, I went to Port Authority to get on a bus to NJ. No one would sit next to me in the waiting area. I then realized that after a night of debauchery and no change of clothes or shower, I was one of those guys at Port Authority I would have avoided myself. Glad to hear bus terminals have gotten better.

I often fly from Chicago to Mexico City, and after a day or two take the bus to Acapulco. It is a convenient five hour trip since you can take the metro to the Tasqueña bus terminal on the edge of Mexico City, and the bus goes to the heart of Acapulco for about $35. On one memorable trip, they played the movie "Something's Gotta Give" on the overhead TVs. Twice. Each way. At high volume. Dubbed in Spanish. The Diane Keaton character was voiced by a woman with a very, very annoying high-pitched laugh. You can't imagine how much Diane Keaton nervously laughs throughout this movie. Next time I'll bring ear plugs.

Wow, that is memorable.

Is the USAirways and American merger done, or somewhere along the process that they are essentially the same airline? My primary question is this: if I have a flight issue on one, will they rebook me on the other? I have a really really tight connection booked on USAirways in a few weeks, and wonder if, thru no fault of mine I miss the connecting flight, they will rebook me on an American flight going the same place? Or how might that work? Thanks

The merger is a work in progress, but as I understand it, you should be able to get booked on either a US Airways or an American flight. If you don't, please contact me and I'll do my best to get you through to the right person. You might also want to check with your travel agent or directly with the airline to find out what your options would be if you're delayed.

I am flying to Zagreb to meet up with a friend who lives there Aug 1-10. Trying to decide whether to go to Istria and Slovenia or to the south to Hvar, Mljet, Trogir, etc (not Dubrovnik as it will be too packed). Suggestions? We will have a car, and would be happy with a mix of pool or beach, small towns inland where we can wander, eat, and drink, etc. I am sure I will be back, so whichever area we don't do this time we will do next time (Dalmatian coast or Istria). I know August will be crowded, but looking for the less crowded options...


I'm planning a trip to South Africa in September. I'm thinking of flying into Jo'burg, having a safari planned, but otherwise just figuring it out from there. I'd be staying three weeks, so travelling around the country, but without any pre-set plans. How easy is that to do in South Africa? I've done that fairly easily most places, but not as familiar with South Africa. I tend to like to get to a location and get a feel for what I want to do rather than having a set itinerary before I get there. Thanks!

All right, another one for the peanut gallery.

Thanks for your article on the Greyhound! I usually drive these days as I no longer live along a Greyhound route but always enjoy my bus travels. I started taking the bus alone as a young teen -- I'm still surprised that my parents were OK with this?! -- and have always had a pleasant journey. I find the buses to be safe and clean, and I have always had interesting conversations with fellow passengers. (One time a former stranger-turned-acquaintance even gave me a ride to my next destination when I realized upon arrival that there were no taxis or even pay phones around, a kindness I'll never forget and hope to pay forward one day.) I know a lot of people will choose other firms for bus travel between DC and NYC to save a buck but I refuse to take any company other than Greyhound due to their safety and reliability. (And the rates are still great if you book far enough in advance.) The article has inspired me to consider taking Greyhound for a longer journey!

Hi! We're planning a trip soon to Wildwood Crest from Fairfax. We're weighing options of driving all the way vs. taking the ferry from Lewes. Any thoughts? We're going on a Saturday, and we have two very tiny kids so off hours travel is only possible to a certain extent. Thanks!

I've done both. The Cape May-Lewes ferry typically takes longer than driving, although with Saturday beach traffic, that may not be the case. It's also expensive, but I find it to be a nice respite. Make sure you have a reservation. 

One thing we've found in our research on the best credit card for international use and travel is the need to pay close attention to the exchange rate the card issuer uses. For example, we found some cards that offered no foreign transaction fee, but used a currency exchange rate anywhere from 1 to 2% higher than the interbank rate. As a result, the total fee for a foreign transaction would be higher than it would for a card that charges a 1% foreign transaction fee but uses the interbank rate as the exchange rate.

Great tip, thanks.

Venice is great that time of year but the chatters did mention spending 7-10 days in France. Plus, while not as bad as Florence, I think Venice would be more expensive to fly into, being a smaller airport. You would likely have to connect in Paris or Geneva (or Frankfurt?) anyway. There is a really nice lake town called Annecy not far from Trois Vallees. Paris is about 5.5 hours drive from Trois Valleees, says Google maps, and Lyons, which has a neat character and really good eating, is on the way. The chatters may not want to drive. THere is a TGV from Paris (or Lyons) to Grenoble, which is a lovely town in the valley where I studied abroad. You should be able to get local trains from there to Trois Vallees and Annecy.

Hi gang, I hope you and/or the chatters can help me: I haven't flown from JFK in over a decade, so I have no grasp on how long I should allow for transfer between a domestic flight landing at Terminal 5 to an international flight departing from Terminal 1. I figure 2.5 hours might be enough, but am I wildly off base? This will be on a Thursday evening in mid-August, with the international flight departing at 11pm. Thanks for any advice you can give!

You should be fine. The AirTrain connects those terminals, and it runs frequently. 

So, as luck would have it, I get to meet my mother for a girls' weekend in Paris in mid-July. We've both been to Paris several times, so rather than museums and sites, will likely focus on lots of walking, shopping and eating (and wine drinking!) Would love any suggestions for off-the-beaten path stuff to see, and which arrondissement we should stay in. Merci!

Woot! Luck indeed -- congrats! I highly recommend staying in the 9th, the neighborhood that I based myself for my recent Patricia Wells eating-up-Paris immersion. There are many ideas in there for shopping and eating!

Hello! We are seeking to plan a one- week family get-together in Florida in September. The group will be 9 adults ranging in ages from 23 to 75. We have narrowed our choices to Sanibel Island or the Florida Keys. The older folks are reasonably mobile. Overall though, except for one tennis player, this is a mostly sedentary group. Most do enjoy beach-walking. (Also most are vegans so any fishing is out.) Any thoughts on which location may work best for us? Thank you!

As partial as I am to the Florida Keys, I think Sanibel will be a better bet. It has superior beaches for walks and great tennis. Also, it's not as remote as the Keys.

ALL of the country is quite beautiful. I have always visited in May/June, when I could not tear myself away from the coast, but in August you are correct that Dubrovnik and Hvar will be intolerable, and much of the coast will be packed. I would not hesitate to enjoy the hinterland for some hiking, especially since you can go back later and enjoy the coast at a more ideal time. The country's tourism board is a great resource.

I'm looking for a trip for my family next year - 3 children - 18,22,25 - somewhere within 5-6 hours by plane. We have not been to Europe as a family so that might be a good. We are not looking for beach - but somewhere with many interesting things to see. I had considered Iceland because I would love to see the Northern Lights, but travel there in the winter months seemed like it might be difficult. Suggestions? Thanks!

What months are you thinking of traveling? How about South America -- like Buenos Aires? Gorgeous things to see there.

My husband and I would like to go to Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard for a long weekend in September or October. When is the best time to go in terms of weather and avoiding the crowds, and what is the best/easiest way to get there (to minimize travel time and stress)? Also, I'd like to hear your and chatters' opinions on which is the nicer destination in terms of scenery and good food. Suggestions for nice inns or B&Bs also welcome.

I'd go mid- to late September. The weather is usually glorious, most of the crowds are gone after Labor Day (although this is changing somewhat, as people have discovered the joys of post-LD here). There are so many travel options, it really depends on what you classify as easy! Flying is the fastest, and that's easy to do from Boston, while the ferries leave from other towns on the Cape, so we're talking a fly/drive/boat combination, which for a long weekend might not seem so efficient. It's been too long since I've stayed on either to recommend lodging, but traditionally Nantucket has had the better reputation for food (at least on the high end). Scenery on both is gorgeous.

If I don't want to drive in Ireland, how would I go about hiring a private driver? I've done this in the UK, but I can't remember how I ever got the reference. I wouldn't need round the clock coverage, but maybe just getting between towns that aren't well served by trains. The other option is bus, but there will be 4 of us, so may we may be willing to pool resources and splurge.

Are there hotels or B&Bs you're staying at that you can check with? They may have recommendations, as might local tourism councils. Or perhaps someone here has a suggestion!

For the chatter with the long layover in Frankfurt--we had a similar long layover in Vienna a few weeks ago due to a flight change. Our travel agent got us passes to the business class lounge. Best thing ever. We shopped a little, but then we retreated to the lounge for free drinks, snacks, reading material, and places to rest our travel-weary heads.

If you don't want to leave the airport, sounds like a plan. 

So, I have to be in Grand Rapids, Michigan in September for a family thing. It's not the cheapest flight in the world, and I was thinking about trying to extend what otherwise would be a quick weekend trip and get something cool out of the deal. But what the heck else can I roll into a Grand Rapids, Michigan trip? (I'd be traveling solo, if that matters)

How about heading north toward Traverse City? Pretty country up there, including lots of wineries.

I would like to take my college age children on our first trip to Asia. As we don't speak the language I would like to find a reputable English-speaking tour for about 7 to 10 days that would take us to both Beijing/Great Wall and Tokyo. Would you have any suggestions on tour companies that include both countries? Also, any thoughts on other cities in those countries one shouldn't miss on a short trip? Thank you.

We don't recommend individual tour companies, as we typically travel independently. But there are several tour groups that offer this itinerary, including G Adventures and Gate 1 Travel. Contact the United States Tour Operators Association for more choices.  

Sanibel definitely over the Keys. So much more to do in SWFL as a day trip. Enjoy Venice, Ft. Myers and Naples...even Tampa.

Hi there - What do you all recommend people bring with them in terms of first aid supplies. I have all my prescriptions, but besides band-aids, what else should I pack?

Good question, and good for you for thinking ahead. Last year I had a story on what to put in your travel health kit. Check it out.

We (two adults and two kids) would like to take a long weekend beach trip this summer to a beach within 3-4 hours. However, all of the lodging close to the beach seems to be week long rentals. Are there hotels in Maryland/Deleware/VA where you can go for 2 or 3 nights? Thanks!

I hear you. I think  hotels are largely the way to go. Virginia Beach is chock full of properties along the boardwalk. Also check out my beach itineraries from the other week. There are places to stay in there that don't require week-long commitments, such as the Pan American Hotel in Wildwood Crest, N.J.; Hotel Cape Charles in Cape Charles, Va.; and several chain properties in Ocean City.

Any favorites from the rest of the group?

Just a note to say that after its recent merger, American Airlines requirements for earned travel on FF miles went up humongously. We dropped our Visa that earns FF miles in favor of a Visa that gives cash back just because of this.

Not specifically about Ireland, but my experience in Europe has been that if one hires a driver for a one-way trip, there may be an additional charge (hopefully not great) if the driver has no reasonable prospect of finding a return-trip passenger (i.e., so has to drive back without a fare).

When I looked into a trip there, Buenos Aires was a 13-hour flight - though I would do it in a heartbeat, that's not within the reader's parameters.

You're so right! I skipped over that piece of the requirement, didn't I? OK, original poster, if you're still with us, I have an alternate suggestion: Mexico City. Amazing place.

Hi all, I have two nights available at the beginning of Oct after a stay in London and before four nights in Amsterdam. I want to visit an easily-reachable stop in between. I originally thought Brugges, but now I'm leaning toward Ghent cuz it sounds a little less touristy and a little more "real-life" like. Can anyone confirm that's a good choice, or give me other ideas?

Belgium advice, folks?

My son and his wife would like to take their 3 kids to Germany next summer, with us grandparents along to help (and speak high school German). The kids will be 4-10. One is a very picky eater, one somewhat picky, and the third not very picky. They have never been abroad before. The parents are thinking Romantic Road and Fairy Tale Road. Is this going to be doable?

Not sure how long you plan to be there, but these two routes cover a wide swath of Germany. The Romantic Road is generally in Bavaria (southern Germany), while the Fairy Tale Route heads north from Frankfurt. I'd probably opt for the Bavarian side for a first trip. As for the kids and what they'll eat, the "wursts" (sausages and hot dogs) will likely keep them happy. 

We are tasked with setting up a dinner near Washington convention center for ~ 20 attendees; some will be students, so need budget-friendly options (at least some entrees in the $20 or so range) and some will bring kids, so would prefer to avoid bars. What are your "local gems", please?

This might be a better question for the chat held on Wednesdays by our restaurant critic, Tom Sietsema. I'd look toward the Gallery Place neighborhood. Pi and Clyde's are among the places that might be able to accommodate your group.

On a recent visit to Ireland, I visited three of the places the OP mentioned. Kylemore Abbey -- That's a long drive through middle of nowhere to see a building that only looks nice from far away. It's pretty, but don't expect too much. If you're going to go, eat at the tea room near the gardens instead of the cafeteria in the main building. Same food, nicer atmosphere. Cliffs of Moher is a long drive through the middle of nowhere to see some amazing scenery, but DO NOT eat there. That was by far the worst food of our 10-day trip. Seriously, pack a Power Bar or stop somewhere else. Dublin has a huge long list of places you shouldn't miss, of course. My highlights were the Book of Kells at Trinity College and the Guinness stew at the Guinness factory. It may be touristy, but those Guinness folks really know what they're doing in terms of the attraction itself and the food and beer. The TripAdvisor app's "Restaurants Near Me" feature worked really well for me all over Ireland, especially since you can get a $10/day satellite wifi hotspot with car rentals. has reasonable flights around the country; trains can be cheap and while they take more time, it is a beautiful country. Check out trip advisor

I think this area is often overlooked. For the more adventurous there is amazing rafting on the rivers. The Bay of Fundy tides create a tidal bore effect that is unique and thrilling. Halifax is a modern city with history, botanical gardens, restaurants and friendly people. We went in the summer so took the ferry to Prince Edward Island for some beach time. I am partial to anything book related so loved the Anne of Green Gables tour. There is really a lot to do. It is off the beaten path and not overly run by crowds.

Yes, traffic is going to be crazy at the beg. of August, also every weekend of the summer. There are many beautiful beaches in Cadiz: Caños de la Meca, Bolonia, Barbate, Trafalgar, Vejer. Other cities that you can visit in Andalucia: Cordoba, Malaga, Mijas PS:Toledo is not in Andalucia, but an hour from Madrid.

I go to GR frequently due to having family there. It really depends on your interests and for how long you'd like to extend the trip. Meijer Gardens are gorgeous, and well worth a visit. GR has quite a few good coffee shops and breweries. The public museum is not bad at all - I was surprised. I love Traverse City, though, and Old Mission Peninsula (lovely scenery, wineries). Saugatuck is a cute artsy town on Lake Michigan that's good for a day trip, as well.

Please help - 2 adults from DC, one from the west coast, and 6 adults and 3 kids from the Midwest want to meet somewhere warm for Christmas or New Years. We've done Vegas before, all willing to fly domestic, and would prefer something that isn't a cruise.

How about New Orleans?

Our daughter will be starting college this fall in Paris (yes, France) (and yes, I am a bit jealous) and we would appreciate any tips or advice we can get on some practical things. For example, she will need to set up a bank account (preferably with easy transfers to/from our account in the US). She will also need mobile communications (she has an iPhone 5s with T-Mobile in the US). And there are a zillion other things that we probably won't even think of until they come up.

How about advice on plugging in all her electronics? She'll also want to familiarize herself with public transportation. I would think the school itself should have plenty of advice for foreign students. Study-abroad resources would be good too.

New to the area - Does a bus or train go to and from Ocean City from DC, VA or MD? Do not want to drive. Thanks!

Greyhound goes from Baltimore to Ocean City, with stops along the way. Trip, without traffic, takes four hours. The BayRunner shuttle is a van service to Ocean City from BWI. 

I just opened a citi AAdvantage credit card and noticed it has chip and signature technology. I seemed to remember way back when I was studying abroad and had a British bank account, most transactions requiring a chip and pin. Will the chip and signature actually be helpful versus my plain old credit card?

If you're traveling overseas, the card will work at most locations, but just not when a chip-and-PIN card is required. You may be able to request a chip-and-PIN card from your card company -- often, they send them to you if a customer requests one.

Nice article on the Greyhound anniversary and museum! But what the museum should do is offer free entry and a 10% discount at the gift shop to people who can show a Greyhound ticket used over the past month... Alas, I probably won't be riding Greyhound in the near future, as I still prefer Acela for my trips :)

Doesn't sound like an "alas" if you're happy!

Check out if Artprize will be going on while you're there. I"m from GR but never manage to get there during Artprize. It's an awesome outdoor (mostly) art festival/competition - only 3-4 years old but I would LOVE to see it in person. At the moment I enjoy it through others' facebook feeds. Outside GR - Holland and Saugatuck are closer than Traverse City (as is Grand Haven) and all have similar feels

Looking to travel to London next year to visit another family. We are interested in seeing the sites of the DDay invasion. Is it possible to do the trip over a long weekend, say 3 days? What do you recommend for lodging? We'll be traveling 8 total, four teenagers.

A D-Day trip from London is not all that easy. If you are taking public transit, probably most time-efficient method is to take the Eurostar to Paris and then hook up with a tour company there. Viator, for example, offers a two-day tour from Paris, but it's not cheap at $525 per person. 

I would like to take my wife on a 3-day anniversary weekend away. Preferably within a 3 to 4 hour drive of Baltimore-Washington. A resort that is mostly for adults and maybe with golf would be ideal. Think romantic and links (she is the golf addict, not me) Thanks

The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., is very romantic. Also consider the Omni Bedford Springs, Keswick Hall and Nemacolin.

My fiance and I are getting married in April and want to go to England for our honeymoon. How far in advance should we be booking flights?

Most airlines publish their schedules 330 days in advance, give or take. But they update their schedules quarterly, so I would not count on the exact flight times. If you can't wait to buy your tickets, you can do it now.

I loved both, but was surprised to like Ghent as much as I did. Definitely less touristy, yet lovely!

You have Lake Michigan! As well as much smaller lakes. If you go north - Sleeping Bear Dunes and Manistee National Forest are two of my favorites. If you want to go south, don't miss Ann Arbor!

Altough I've seen much of the rest of Europe, I've never been to Spain. Which would you recommend for a first time visit, Madrid or Barcelona? If it makes a difference, I'm a middle aged woman traveling alone.

Say it with me, and get your lisp on: "Barthelona."

Do not miss the Frederick Meijers Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park. This is truly a lovely place to spend time. The gardens and sculpture are intermixed throughout. There are several tours that looked very interesting. At the time we were traveling with our then 6 and 9 year olds so took the kids tour. Even that was terrific for the adults. You could really spend hours at this place.

New Holland Brewing, Founders, Arcadia, Bell's are all breweries within an hour or so from GR. Saugatuck is a beach town to the west on Lake Michigan. There's lots if they look into it.

I love Sea Colony and went there a lot as an older teen/young 20 something. Many of the condos are really nice and spacious. I would definitely stay in the ugly beach high rises instead of the pretty tennis village (it is right on the beach instead of across the high way-- there are shuttles, but it is much better on the beach) There is a fairly open beach and pools and it is about a mile (safe and easy walk) into a charming town with plenty of restaurants, mini golf, arcades, and ice cream. Not thrilling, but enough to do that you can have fun. If it rains, you can run across the street to the Redbox at CVS. If you have no problem letting your kids walk into town, they will love it. If they have to stay in Sea Colony, they may get pretty bored.

Thanks for the tips! And take a look at Becky's article on beach communities in case you didn't see it. 

Family going to Cleveland for two days as part of long trip next week. Besides the Rock and Roll HOF and the Indians, any ideas for a family?

West Side Market is a fun place to explore. Also, did you know there were beaches in Cleveland? There's also a zoo.

I have question. I am going to be traveling to Martha's Vineyard the first week of August. I'm having the worst time finding a car to rent. All of the agencies seem to have inflated the costs a great deal. I've checked with CostCo, AAA and American Express for discounts. Do you have any other suggestions?

Have you checked the opaque sites, such as Priceline and Hotwire?

My sister and I are thinking of going to Costa Rica around the holidays in December/early January. We'd love to do something with turtle conservation. Any recommendations? For two girls in their 20s, is it easy to do by ourselves or should we try to go with a tour?

Depends on your budget. Several nonprofit groups offer turtle tours in Costa Rica, and that would be my first choice. But they aren't cheap. EarthWatch Institute, for example, has one, but it costs about $2,900 per person plus airfare. 

We went to Belgium a couple of years ago and found Bruges (Brugge) to be charming. We toured the Half Moon brewery and got free samples. The town hasn't changed much in several hundred years, though, so if you're looking for modern, look elsewhere.

I'll be spending a day and night there at the end of the summer. Any must-sees? Special restaurants? I love window shopping, quaint cafes, museums, historic sites, strolling picturesque streets. Thanks.

It's been many years since I've been to Savannah (and I have no excuse, because I have family there!), but my favorite restaurant the last couple of visits has been Elizabeth on 37th.

You're in luck when it comes to strolling, because, really, that's what the city excels at: all those amazing squares, one more beautiful than the last. That will surely occupy an entire day, but you should also try to get to Bonaventure Cemetery.

Historic homes, some of them tourable, sit right on some of those squares, too. If you're going to do just one, make it Mercer Williams House Museum.

Any reaction to this recent article?

It's upsetting, isn't it?

My son recently got his visa for a short study abroad to China; his letter of invite said he should request a "F" visa. But when he picked it up it says "S2" on the category. Will this be a problem, does he have to wait all over again at the China visa office?

I'd call the company that's running the study abroad program and ask. A quick look at the China Embassy's Web site indicates that the F visa would be more appropriate, but, again, check. 

In 2009, my wife and I spent two months traveling around Guatemala, largely by public bus. Most of the buses there are recycled U.S. school buses (all made by the Blue Bird Body Company of Fort Valley, Georgia). They are invariably uncomfortable and rattly, with people crowded three to a seat, but they're wonderfully cheap and a great way to see a cross-section of Guatemalan life. Many of the drivers seem to be maniacs, however, who have no compunction about passing everything in their path, even when going uphill on blind curves. They make D.C. drivers look like models of patience. Along the way, we developed a few ground rules for bus travel in Guatemala: --If you get on a bus and the driver is an older man with white hair, you’re in luck. He’s survived that long in his profession by being careful. --A bus with too many religious icons on the dashboard and hanging from the mirror is probably in bad shape. After all, if your brakes are going bad, it’s cheaper to buy another saint medal and invoke divine protection than to get them replaced. --Likewise, no religious imagery at all—not a painted Bible verse above the driver’s seat or a picture of Jesus taped to the windshield—is a bad sign. We got the feeling that such drivers were nihilistic atheists who figured “what the heck?” --Guatemalan buses eventually lead you to adopt a certain fatalism. If your time has come, well, you’ve had a good and interesting life and you can’t complain. With such an attitude, you might even manage to doze on the buses, as all of the locals do. It’s either that or stare obsessively at every precipitous drop on the side of the road or oncoming truck for four hours. --In my opinion, every executive of the Blue Bird Body Company should be forced to spend a month traveling by public bus through Central America. Then we might see something resembling seat padding and a suspension system. --The worst job in Guatemala has to be the bus ayudante (helper). This young man has four main jobs: hanging out of the always open front door and calling the name of the destination to passersby in hopes of jamming a few more passengers on; walking up and down the aisle and over the people sitting there to collect the fare from each passenger (it really helps to be thin); being the driver’s spotter (or third-base coach) when passing on blind curves, which involves hanging out the door to watch traffic and calling “go, go, go, STOP”; and our favorite task, securing passengers’ luggage and market purchases on top of the bus with rope and untying them again when the passenger gets off. This job generally takes place while the bus is moving, preferably at high speed on twisty roads. The ayudante will disappear out the front door, stick a foot in the nearest window to climb on top of the bus, do his rope thing, and then come down the little ladder on the back and in through the back door. Those gunfighters in old Westerns who run along the tops of trains have nothing on these guys.

That sounds like... an adventure.

Hi there, I'm president of a small nonprofit organization which holds an annual conference for our members who are scattered around the country. We want to hold our 2015 conference in a Midwestern or south-central city which has good airport access with good deals on flights, and reasonably priced hotels near some nice tourist attractions. Most attendees have to keep their costs down. Which cities do you think we should consider? We always meet in October. Thank you!

Hmm. Off the top of my head, I'd suggest looking at Nashville, Austin, San Antonio, Little Rock, St. Louis.

Going to Colorado Springs in early Sept. for a wedding and have a few days to tour around. Any recommendations on things to do or see there? Can do light hiking but nothing strenuous. Thanks.

Cave of the Winds is a fun place to visit. Near there is the charming city of Manitou Springs, as well as the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Garden of the Gods is also popular.

Had a res. w/ Budget last week and was told at the counter (non airport location) that there is a major shortage of car rental this summer because of the GM recall. I had to cancel my trip to DC last minute as I did not want to wait till late afternoon to drive 8 hours. Any other experiences w/ this type of situation? I did call Budget's US based customer service and they offered me a $25 voucher for a future Budget car rental.

I would send Budget a brief, polite email, asking for specific compensation for the cancellation. Here are a few executive contacts at Budget. Please let me know if you run into trouble.

Triple AAA used to provide this kind of road trip design service to its members. I have no idea if they still do, but it's probably worth a phone call.

Our whole family would like to have a reunion next year some time. If everyone came, that would be 15 adults aged 30's to 70, and 9 kids aged 2-15. Someone suggested the Outer Banks, but that would be a long expensive haul for the 5 on the West Coast. So we are trying to find a location that wouldn't be too expensive to get to, and that would have something for everyone. Las Vegas has been suggested. Thoughts?

Well, Vegas isn't a bad idea, really. The place's infrastructure is really set up for such a thing. There's lots to do for old and young alike, and not only is it easy to get to, the accommodations can be pretty affordable. Accessibility is good, too, if any of the older folks need it. Lots of day trip possibilities. Good eats. Nightlife, of course: shows and gambling and drinking. Roller coasters and pools and zoo animals, too.

Rent a car at Logan Airport and book a reservation for you and the car on the ferry. Will probably be less $$ than renting on the island itself.

Hi, I'm wondering what gives with chip and pin. I went to the trouble (and it is a headache) of getting an Andrews Fed. CU chip and pin card and used it without mishap in UK and France. BUT except for once at the train station, I was never asked for a PIN. Even when the vendor used a machine where locals used PINS, the machine always spit out a receipt for my signature. I was a little disappointed ;-)

Thanks for sharing your experience. I think the one takeaway, as the author of the recent story on chip-and-PINs, is that the transition is far from complete and that even with the right cards, there's always a chance something can go wrong. I'm glad your card worked even without the need for the new technology.

Yes, go to Ghent or Antwerp rather then Brugge. If you're traveling by train from London to Amsterdam you'll pass through Antwerp anyway, if by car both are on the way. Ghent has some more medieval features - Brughes like - and has some good museums and churches to visit. Antwerp is my city, you're welcome to visit the cathedral, admire the townhall and visit the MAS museum. And look around the Central trainstation. It's a marvel in his own right.

Back in the 70's, when I was just a 16 year old hippie hopping around the country on a 6 month Greyhound pass, an unusual sort plopped into the seat next to me. He quickly pulled a huge bag of pot out his pack and asked me if I wanted some. I politely declined, leading him to walk up and down the aisle voicing the same offer to all the riders. Frustrated, he came back to where I was, sat down, and pulled out a huge hunting knife. He proceeded to bury the knife in the back of the seat ahead of him, and rip down to the bottom of the cushion. As we pulled into Bakersfield, he looked out the window, amazed at how many police cars were in the parking lot with their lights flashing. He was still incredulous as they cuffed him and took him away. Ah, youth...

That is a lot of people. How are you planning on traveling? European cars are TINY. Have you looked into a bus hire with a driver?

Or maybe those Guatemalan bus drivers logically figured they had to take responsibility for road safety themselves, instead of depending on a deity.

We did two, for my dad's 85th and my mom's 80th birthdays. We had side trips to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, lots of shopping and gambling. Everyone loved it! I highly recommend it.

Chicago and Orlando have always been the cheapest out of town conference for me (DC based). It may be outside of your geographic area, but we can normally get flights for about $100-50 to those locations and hotels are fairly affordable.

All right, that wraps it up for today. Thanks for joining us. I had to laugh at the poor bus rider in Mexico subjected to a dubbed Diane Keaton. Please send your name and mailing address to me at

Come back next week!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
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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