Talk about Travel: Annual photo contest

Aug 27, 2012

Please note that Talk about Travel has now moved to 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.

Hello, everyone. Thanks again for finding us at our new 2 p.m. time slot. We really hope you enjoyed our photo contest issue this weekend, which, of course, had the winners as well as other useful shutterbug stories. Check out the gallery to see our top 15 and other noteworthy entries. We'd love to hear your best travel photo advice -- whether it be on equipment, strategies, apps, subjects, whatever. Best tip gets the prize.

Here we go!

Judy Bonderman photo contest winner

Hi gurus, I just booked a trip to London in November on Virgin Atlantic. They are doing no seat assignments for flights after Nov 2 because they are upgrading their system. What on earth? As though air travel weren't stressful enough, the one thing a person had some semblance of control over is not there. I am feeling really annoyed about this. Am I overreacting? Thanks.

Even without the system upgrade excuse, airlines sometimes don't offer seat assignments in advance. They like to hold on to the selection so they can offer seats to those who pay more as flight time gets closer. Did they give you any indication of when they would allow you to book seats? I'd probably just keep trying every few days. 

I know this is an unsual question, but we've can't come up with any good answers. My husband and I are visiting Paris and will be meeting our European relatives for the first time. We'd like to bring some "DC" themed gifts for the kids, but don't want to show up with tacky American t-shirts. What are some acceptable and lightweight souvenirs from DC that we can take abroad?

In the past, I've taken White House Christmas ornaments as gifts to European relatives, and they've been pretty well received. Of course, some years they're prettier than others. They're not specifically for kids, per se, but even the kids have liked them. This year's ornament is of an old model-T that kids might like. Or you could get a White House puzzle, or some coloring books or sticker books; kids still like puzzles and coloring books, right? All these things are available at the White House Historical Association shop or online.

Another possibility is to get something at one of the Smithsonian museum gift shops -- maybe a model from the Air and Space museum, or a puzzle, again, from the Natural History Museum.

But I frankly don't think there's anything wrong with bringing T-shirts or sweatshirts if you want to -- some of the designs these days are pretty nice and you can find some good quality shirts.

Chatters, let's hear your ideas.

My family of four (Including a 4- and 1-year-old), would like to take an extended weekend trip at the beginning of November. I was thinking the beach because (1) we could actually afford it in November and (2) my boys don't like water, they just want the sand. But do you have any other suggestions? We don't want a long drive and are in Montgomery County. Thanks!

You're in a good position for pretty much anywhere on the Delmarva coast. Have you considered the Eastern Shore? Assateague is lovely, and perhaps the kids would enjoy seeing the horses. Funland will be closed, but I think Rehoboth would still be a family-friendly destination. Check out our Beach Guide for more ideas.

I would like to take my adult children and theirspouses on a long weekend vacation to an all-inclusive warm weather resort this winter. They will be flying from Chcago and Boston, have limited travel time and will want to relax on the beach, eat at the resort, no driving, no hassle, just total vacation from the frozen north. Suggestions?

Destinations that offer the biggest selection of all-inclusives include Jamaica, Dominican Republic and the Cancun area. Antigua also has a decent selection. Jamaica or Cancun would probably be the easiest flights. I'd recommend the Playa del Carmen area south of Cancun -- it offers lots of properties at different price points. 

I'm planning a trip to the Benelux countries and have not been able to find current Michilin green guides, which I used to use on all my trips to Europe. Have they stopped publishing them? Or have they restricted where they are sold?

Are you looking for a current Green Guide? As best I understand it, the Green Guides, which list information on the sights in various countries, are updated only every 5 years or so. You can get a 2009 Green Guide for Belgium, for instance, on Amazon, and a 2007 guide for the Netherlands. The Red Guides, which list more frequently changing hotel and restaurant information, are updated annually. You can also find all the information about the countries you want to visit in the online Green Guides at the  Michelin travel Web site.

I missed last week's chat, so I didn't get to respond to the person asking about national parks that a non-driver can get to. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore might not be as majestic as Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but it's been recognized several times as being one of the best urban national parks in the country and even having some of the best beaches of all the national parks. Best of all? The South Shore Line train will take you from Chicago to the park (well, you'll have about half a mile walk, but it's not bad, I promise.) You should check it out!

A few more answers coming for last week's chatter.

regarding last week's question re public transportation in national parks: there is a bus that runs from Merced to Yosemite Valley (called the YARTS, I believe, for Yosemite Area Rapid Transit Ssytem), and buses that run from the Valley to other parts of the park. Furthermore, there are free local shuttles in the Valley and in the Tuolomne Area. One popular option is to hike from Tuolomne to the Valley (downhill; shortest route, about 12 miles) and then take the bus back up to Tuolomne. In terms of what you can see based on public transportation, Yosemite is about as good as it gets. The only problem is getting to Merced to pick up the YARTS bus, but, as was pointed out, you can do that using Amtrak.

Thanks for this.

I was really surprised by your choice for third place, considering it was digitally altered by an app and that it's not really all that impressive anyway. Can you illuminate your decision-making process?

It's a decision by committee. That photo got a lot of votes. I hope you understand that judging is always subjective.

Great story about breastfeeding while traveling. But, who can believe the US Airways spokesman when he (not a she!) claimed that they would provide BLANKETS to breastfeeding passengers so they could have privacy. Last I checked, blankets were nowhere to be found on domestic flights. Even on many transoceanic flights, blankets are now limited to first and business class, not economy. (I did enjoy the duvets on Virgin Atlantic, but those were limited to the Upper Class seats). Sadly, people need to travel with their own blankets on most flights.

Thanks for the comment. That's a good point. If a flight doesn't have blankets, how can you offer one?

Two friends and I want to drive to Kentucky's Bourbon Trail region this Oct. 30 - Nov. 4. We're thinking of spending the first night in Cincinnati, then staying in Louisville, in Lexington, and in Berea, from which we'll depart for home. We want to sample a few bourbons, but also check out arts & crafts, horses, scenic views, local color. Any suggestions for things we must do (or must avoid)?

Well, what do you know, here's our story from a few years ago on the Bourbon Trail.

My wife and I have done three European cruises and loved the experience, but became frustrated at the short stays in port cities. Most of the time we got only 6-8 hours before we had to be back on board to sail away. This is an especially frustrating experience when you get no night time for attending local performances or pub and bar crawling. So, my question is this: do you--or any of the Chatters know of a way to tour several cities by sea that allows you to stay a night or two and then get on a boat to the next port? If there are no cruise companies that do it, has anyone done this sort of thing taking local ferries or small boats?

Some countries, such as Italy and Greece, do have ferry services that go from city to city. Ferrylines  is a good Web site that offers info on which ferries go where. I'd also consider a river cruise. They tend to stop for longer periods, athough big cities are not often part of the itinerary. I'm partial to Avalon Waterways. Uniworld and Viking also have great reputations. 

For the chatter last week who asked about what areas (or "sestieri") to stay in Venice to get farther from the tourists: I spent a lovely week renting an apartment (through VRBO, I think) in San Polo, which was a quiet and pirturesque neighborhood full of Venetians going about their daily lives, but easy walking distance to the Grand Canal and its vaporetti. Dorsoduro is another quiet and well-located area. An advantage of renting an apartment with a kitchen is that you can save money by not having to eat all of your meals out. If you like to cook, a visit to the outdoor market near to the Rialto Bridge is a must in the morning. How often can you buy your fruit and vegetables and fish in a place that's been a market for more than 600 years! Between the local seafood and the local wine, my wife cooked up a shrimp scampi that I still dream about. And if you stay in Venice, make sure to leave a day or two to take a ferry to some of the outer islands in the lagoon, such as Murano (glass workshops), Burano (lacemaking and houses painted in Caribbean colors), and Torcello (the original settlement in the lagoon and home to the oldest church in Venice).

Thanks for the thorough info. And chatters please note, we'll be having a story on Venice's lagoon islands in just a few weeks, so keep an eye out!

For the question from last week's chat, I'd recommend Gam-Gam, a kosher restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto. The food is amazing, and a nice break from pizza and pasta. It's got a lovely view along the canal, and while you're there, don't miss the Jewish Museum.

Thanks much!

With regard to a question from last week: our experience with Venetian restaurants during the several weeks we stayed there was that there are no decent restaurants with views and that all of the restaurants with views are lousy. We were unable to find any exceptions to these rules. We found some very good restaurants but they invariably were tucked away in a back street (far away from any canal) or located in a basement. The views are all reserved for restaurants that cater to the tourist trade, with the accompanying mediocre cuisine. Another point: the good restaurants were all crowded late into the night, while the poor, tourist-orientated restaurants were crowded early in the evening and then empty later on: the Venetians eat very late. Finally, much of the best Venetian cuisine is seafood-based and if you don't eat seafood you won't find much in the better restaurants apart from salad. Even vegetarian pastas were few and far between. Unfortunately, a non-seafood vegetarian will not have much to eat beyond pizza, and yoou can get that in the cheaper tourist places. There is, of course, a lot to enjoy in Venice besides the food and some people will tell you that Venice is one of the last places you should go to eat well.

Oh dear. Sorry you had such a dreary experience. But you know, in my book, pizza is always a good alternative!

I have had the same issue with early flights out of DCA 6:00AM; can't use Metro (too early) and Super Shuttle/taxi undependable. I have found one solution. Depends on the time of year and day of week. Often you can get a deal on one of the hotels near DCA, works well around holidays (no government contractors in town). rate is cheaper than taxi, can take Metro day before, and hotels have shuttles to airport) (check first ).

Worth considering, thanks.

Hi. We are leaving next week, flying from JFK to Madrid to Athens on Iberian, then from Athens to Santorini on Aegean. Where do we have to claim our luggage and go through customs and/or passport control? Thanks!

You should go through passport control in the first EU country you land in, so that would be Madrid. If your bags are checked through all the way to Santorini, you won't pick them up till you land on the island, when you'll also go through customs.

Last summer, I was at the Grand Canyon and woke up early so I decided to go on the "sunrise" tour. This was fine, except that we'd forgotten to take my camera out of the trunk when we arrived at the hotel that night (after dark). I didn't realize it wasn't in the room until I tried to find it in the pre-dawn hours. I couldn't find the car keys, either. And couldn't turn on the lights for fear of awakening my (not morning people) companions. So I ended up going without the camera. So many cool sunrise shots and pics of wildlife I missed...

I will add don't leave your camera on top of the car. That happened to my family when I was a kid.

When traveling solo, if I see someone posing a group, or their companion, in front of monuments, beaches, sunsets, etc., I will offer to take the photo, so they can all be in the picture together. They are always happy to take a photo of me in return. Another suggestion, have your photo taken with local people, shopkeepers, restaurant owners, tour guides, fellow tourists. It makes the photos more personal and memorable than those with just you and inanimate objects.

I like the travel photos that have people in them, rather than just landscapes. But while traveling in a couple of African countries earlier this year, we found that the local people demanded money if we took their picture. A few times we did pay them the equivalent of 50 cents or a dollar.

My advice is to not take too many pictures! I recall seeing people at the Grand Canyon at sunset with their eyeball locked behind a lens waiting for that great shot, rather than enjoying the beauty and enormity of the view. Enjoy the experience first, and take a couple of pictures if you must.

To clarify, Virgin Atlantic is letting NO ONE select a seat at booking time for flights departing after Nov. 2. Doesn't matter how much you paid.

If that's the case, at least everyone is starting from the same position. But even if they are telling you that no one can book a seat until 24 hours prior to flying, I'd still keep trying. 

We will be visiting Sunderland the week of Thanksgiving. We have never been to the United Kingdom and welcome recommendations on what to do, where to go and eat, and where to stay. Thanks!!

Have not been to Sunderland, so I won't even attempt to offer any suggestions. Instead, we'll go straight to the chatsters. Your help, people?

Last week a person wrote in about a connection at JFK that was delayed because of weather on their trip home from London to BWI. They found out at 1am that Delta wouldn't pay for hotel, meals, or taxi and they had to get to LGA to get their re-booked connection the next day. I recommend to anyone who is stuck in New York and trying to get back to any place along the eastern seaboard to consider skipping the plane and taking the train, or even a bus. My connection at JFK was cancelled on a trip home from the Carribbean a few years back, and I was stuck at midnight with a cold, larangytis, and no hotels available. So I hopped in a cab and took it to Penn Station, took at 3am train back to BWI, and arrived at 6:30am! So much easier and convenient than trying to get another flight out of New York!

The only problem with that being when Amtrak is delayed!

Family is visiting Istanbul next spring for the first time and are very excited. Found an $774 economy R/T from IAD on Turkish Airlines A340 plane(two class). Never flown with them before and the reviews on the Internet are pretty awful(small seats, unfriendly FAs, etc), but they are the only non-stop flight. Anyone flown with TA internationally? What is April like weather wise and do you have any other tips regarding Istanbul? Thanks Travel Gurus!

I haven't personally flown Turkish Airlines, but my brother flies them all the time when coming home for visits with his family (wife and 7-year-old twins) from his posting in Kyrgyzstan. And as he said on just this last summer visit, "I love Turkish Airlines." For what it's worth. Chatters, feel free to chime in.

April is springtime in Turkey, just as it is here. There may be some rain, but the temperatures should be relatively mild.

Hi. My husband and I are taking a 2 day getaway (without our toddler) to Richmond in a couple of months. We want to see music, be able to walk to bars/restaurants, and do some sightseeing. What neighborhood would you recommend we stay in? Any tips on hotel deals? We have been scouring the many daily deal websites for the past few weeks, but with no luck. Thanks!

Two neighborhood recommendations: first, Shockoe Slip. It's a historic area along the James River that was revived about 30 years ago and  has morphed into a shopping and dining district. There's night life, and lots of hotels. I prefer Carytown, which is a sort of funky neighborhood of shops and restaurants that's west of downtown. It's close to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Prices there probably will be lower than in Shockoe Slip, and parking there is easier. Chatters, any other recommendations?

Planning a family trip to London and France next June. It's been a long time since I've been overseas. Should I get a travel agent to help plan this trip? We would fly into London and out of Paris, and I don't know how to book that cost efficiently on two airlines. Plus we'll need tickets on the chunnel train and probably some train to tickets to Provenance. Also hotels. We have not traveled to France before but have been to London several times. What do you think?

Yes, I would use an agent, and for several reasons. A travel agent will make sure you book the right tickets and have the correct documentation. A competent agent can handle international hotel reservations that might be a little tricky for you. Mostly, though, you'll get some peace of mind, that there's someone you can turn to when you have a question. 

Travelzoo emailed me a deal from Icelandic Air and I wondered what your thoughts are. Basically for less than $800pp, a 3 night trip includes airfare, hotel, 1 dinner, admission to a spa, and a tour of the Northern Lights (obviously sightings not guaranteed). We checked out airfare for the same time and it's around $1,000. It seems like a good deal, so just curious if a quick trip there is a good idea..price seems good..and really, how cold is cold over there?? Lots of on your own time and I don't do well in the cold, however an experience like this might be worth considering a little frost bite (Speaking of, any recommendations for gloves that actually work in the lowest of temps? I bought what were supposed to be waterproof gloves from EMS before a trip to New Zealand and the misty rain on top of a glacier did not stop me from going numb. Poor blood circulation but that's another story!).

We've heard from a few chatters who have taken these Icelandair trips and enjoyed them. Anyone want to offer a testimony? Iceland toursim says winters are "fairly mild." Have a look at these averages from Highs in the upper 30s, lows in the upper 20s or low 30s. If you want to see the Northern Lights, that seems doable to me!

....for the third time, hoping you could post my request to your and your readers for suggestions/tips for destinations, restaurants, etc. for an upcoming trip to Prague and eastern Slovakia. Will three times be the charm?

Well, Prague will be easily. The whole city is one giant tourist must-see, from Wenceslas Square to Hradcany Castle on the hill, from Golden Lane where the alchemists once worked to the Charles Bridge of photography fame, from the Old Town to the New, the Kafka Museum to the Old Jewish Cemetery, from the astronomical clock on Old Town Square to the Mucha museum with his fabulous Art Nouveau paintings. Really, it's impossible to list everything. Just wander around and it will all hit you in the face. Afraid I can't recommend any restaurants because it's been too long since I was there, so let's ask the chatters. Recommendations, folks?

As for eastern Slovakia, the spa town of Bardejov, with its intact medieval town center, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and worth a visit. Kosice is Slovakia's second-largest city with a fabulous Gothic cathederal and other interesting churches and palaces. Depending on how much time you have, you'll want to head into the High Tatras for some hiking and to check out the highland village of Zdiar.

Other thoughts, chatters?


I am sure you'll get a lot of these questions over the coming months, but I'm looking to book my flights for Christmas this week and am wondering if I have anything to gain by holding out. I'm seeing $800-$900 roundtrip from here to PHX, one direct and one one-stop flight, which seems a little high. Any reason to think I shouldn't just bite the bullet and buy these now?

Maybe. My advice -- at the risk of repeating myself -- is that if you see a fare you can afford, book it. Don't look back. Your fare may go down, but it might also go up, and you don't want to have to pay more for it.

Buy tix now or wait until after Labor Day? Would be leaving from IAD.

If you're not yet familiar with the going fare, start researching now. Get an idea of whether fares will go up or down at a site such as Bing Travel. I'd guess that you need to buy sooner rather than later, as everyone wants to travel around Thanksgiving. 

My wife and I are planning a trip to the west coast in 2013. Flying from BWI and renting a car in LA or San Francisco. I will be turning 70 that January and a friend told me that renting a car will now become a hassle and more expensive. Is that true and are there any things of which we should be aware when looking to rent a car?

Most of the age discrimination on the higher end is happening overseas, from what I can tell. I don't think you're going to have any trouble renting a car in LA. A better question is: Do you really want to drive in LA?

So many times I forget my camera and then remember - my phone. It takes excellent pictures and I don't miss "moments".

Great. And here are some apps we recommend.

Tell us some of the behind-the-scenes. How many photos did you receive? Was the first cut based on "gut feel," the second cut based on professional standards, and the final ranking on gut again? Was it purely emotional responses you wanted from us, the readers, did you want us to think, as travelers, "I want to go there," or did you want us to be inspired as photographers?

As we said in the paper (and online) we received about 1,400 entries. The first couple of cuts was based really on quality of the photos. Many photos fall away quickly in the first round, because they're not that good or interesting, or they're very cliched shots of the usual sights. The second round is a bit tougher, but it's still possible to narrow down to just the very best/most interesting shots. The final selections are made by committee -- we bring in our visuals editor and our director of photography and vote on everyone's favorites. It's very democratic! As to what we want from the readers -- we want both things. We want you to agree that the shots are beautiful and to feel inspired to take better photos yourselves, but we also want you to respond to the photos as scenes that will transport you to a faraway place and inspire you to go there.

Lonsdale Quay market or Granville Island market for great eats and a fun experience in Vancouver? What are absolute must-see or dos if you only have 2 1/2 days there? We love active stuff, culture, and just soaking in the scene. Also favorite local restaurant, American fare? Thanks!!

Chatters, this one's for you. Your votes?

A bunch of Vancouver stories in here too.

I was in Reykyavik in March a few years ago, and it wasn't THAT cold, although it was sort of a damp cold. Also, for cold hands, mittens are much better than gloves.

Any recommendations of where to eat and shop on a day trip to Annapolis? Also, is parking a problem during the week?

Here's the Annapolis Neighborhood Guide from our friends at the Going Out Guide. Not sure about parking. Chatters, do you know? You could also just call the tourism folks at 888-302-2852.

I have always wanted to see the Pacific NW and may finally get a chance during my week-long winter break to visit Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, and Olympia. However, I wonder if I should wait until summer because I've heard people complain about dreary winters. Are they reall that bad there?

Oh, if only you had been here last week, when we were talking about the Pacific Northwest in the fall! I'm sure some of those folks are here again. So, winter? What say you all?

I am sure I will get beaten up for this by La Leche Leaguers out there, but seriously -- can't you just take a decent-sized cloth with you and cover yourself up while nursing in public? We're talking pretty close quarters on an airplane. Geez.

You better not let the lactivists out there hear you saying that. ;-)

Hey all. Silly question but is it okay for a guy jog in Turkey? I'm going on vacation to Antalya, Bodrum and Istanbul this week but the week after I return I'll have a run to participate in so I'll need to train. I don't want to do something that may give me dirty looks or land myself in a Turkish prison. Also, I plan to drive from in Turkey, are there any rules or tips I should be aware of?

These seem more like questions for someone with Turkey expertise. Try calling the country's D.C. office at 202-612-6800.

How about broadening your scope to include Virginia peanuts? A DVD set of Ken Burn's National Parks: America's Best Idea? Old Bay seasoning?

Good ideas!

Depending on the age of the kids, astronaut ice cream from Air and Space is always fun. Plus, it's not "stuff."

How about a selection of quarters featuring U.S. States? Or a DC-themed calendar? Depending on the age of the kid, you could also do a "Witness Protection Program: You don't recognize me" t-shirt" or (representing Maryland), a "Don't bother me, I'm crabby" t-shirt.

Having just hosting our 18 year old cousin from Paris for a month, here's what she bought: Anything Ambercrombie and Fitch. I know it's not DC, but they will love you. Peanutbutter M&Ms (can't get them in France) DC United shirts (it's DC and soccer) Levi's jeans

The best "DC" travel gift I bought, ever, was a "packable" kite from the Air and Space museum for a young cousin in Germany. Super hit, I felt like the coolest person, ever!

My Irish cousins still talk about the T-shirts my parents used to bring them 30 years ago. For children, such gifts probably won't seem tacky at all.

To clarify, VA is redoing its reservations system, and once that is worked out, people will be able to book seats in advance of the flight, although there may be some hierarchy based on ticket prices, etc. (like British Airways).

That sounds right. 

I'm sure the pics were stunning. I just can't enjoy them since my Sunday paper was delivered sans Style and Travel sections! On a related note did any one see the nbc story about people paying pro photographers $500-1000 to document their vacation! Talk about money to burn!

Oh, that is a bummer. Did you call customer service (202-334-6100)? They might have been able to redeliver day of. But you can look at the gallery online, or you can let us make it up to you and we can mail you a copy of the section. Send your info to

Did not see that story. Interesting. I think I might pay to NOT have a stranger following me around on vacation.

great tip about taking photos with locals (shop owners etc.), I did this when I went to Japan a few years ago, and one of my most memorable photos for me was the picture I took with a school group (group of teenage girls wearing their Kimonos) at a local temple. They were tickled to take the picture with me and we both got some memorable shots.

When I travel, I often take small things to give contacts like "DC" playing cards (some of the souvenir shops downtown sell them). I agree with Christmas ornaments, and also suggest t-shirts (could be just USA ones, or ones from sports teams - yes, you can have cheesey ones, but...). Coffee table books (small ones!) can be neat - I think Barnes and Nobles downtown may still stock ones in foreign languages - but the larger postcard books can also be cool. I'd also think about taking a game or two as a gift - especially something that can be played without having much of a common language (think Jenga or UNO).

I totally recommend a visit to Maymont in Richmond if the chatters like gardens and/or historic homes. Admission to the gardens are free and they do not disappoint! I also liked the Jackson Ward when I visited earlier this year for the history, restaurants, galleries, and shops.

Stay at the Jefferson - sort of midway between Carytown and the Slip/Bottom. Beautiful hotel, great restaurants in-house. Not a better hotel option in Richmond.

Your seat assignment shouldn't matter much. Assuming you're in coach, you'll be in a miserably small seat no matter where you are. I swore off Virgin Atlantic years ago.

The economy seating on Virgin Atlantic's A330-300 planes is pretty much standard, and, yes, not that comfortable. Premium economy is much more comfortable, but it'll cost you about $350 more round trip. 

My friend just transferred to the Azores at Terceira Island. I would like to visit but the airport is only open during certain month. Lajes Field is the airport on the island and I am having trouble finding the cheapest and easiest way to get there from BWI or National or Dulles. I would prefer BWI. My friend flew military transport so no help there.

It's not cheap or easy to get to Terceira. Try looking at Sata, but BWI may be a problem. 

I'm going to Kennebunkport for Labor Day and am looking for recommendations for hikes and nature-oriented experiences apart from the tourist-filled beaches and lobster shacks! Thanks in advance.

If you're staying at a hotel, I'm sure they'll be able to point you in right direction. The Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge is a good place to start. 

I was there a couple of months ago. Nice variety of retail stores, wonderful food market, lots of gelato places. We had a nice lunch at the most-recommended restaurant (forgot it's name --it's toward the end of a set of buildings, upstairs). Also, walk around the Olympic Village and take the AquaBus for a fun ride.

They said they don't want a long drive. Assateague is about as long as it gets from Montgomery County. Besides, Eastern Shore means the eastern edge of the bay, not the seashore.

I guess it depends on your definition of long. From, say, Rockville to Assateague it's less than 4 hours.

Leaving for OBX on Friday and coming back Tuesday. I've heard Route 17 has alot of cops - any other alternative routes you can recommend?

Well, first I will says cops won't be a problem if you're not, you know, speeding. :)

Second, I will point you to the getaway guide from our colleague Dr. Gridlock, complete with map.

Has anyone taken them? Any comments on the airline or the airport they fly into? And I signed up for their frequent flyer miles program and seem to be getting an e-mail once a week for a discount, but it is only good for the weekend and Monday (once, also Tuesday). Are the tickets more expensive during these days to offset the discount, or are their fare pretty stable? Thanks for the help.

Porter has a good reputation. Take a look at reviews on SkyTrax. Fares are not any higher on promotion days. It's offering a promo now that I believe applies to all travel days.

Following a business meeting near Miami, my husband and I would like to scooch down to Key West for a weekend. There will be eating, drinking and Hemingway touring, and at night we'd like to stay someplace centrally located, but QUIET. Is that possible, given the town's reputation for nightlife? Can you recommend a hotel or small inn where we can walk back from dinner and not find someone singing "Margaritaville" under our window? Many thanks!

Yes, you can find any number of quiet places to stay that don't require you drive to the next island. As a general rule, Duval Street, the main thoroughfare is livelier. If you're about two blocks away from Duval (bonus points for being at a bed and breakfast, which tends to not attract rowdy guests) you should be absolutely fine. I've stayed at the Garden House a time or two, and it was fairly quiet.

I can no longer find the spot in the online Travel section that allows you to look for all past stories on a particular destination (my current need is Costa Rica). I can eventually navigate to the map that implies if I select a region of the world, I'll be taken to those stories. But in reality, it take me to news which is entirely different than travel. Help!

Yes, that whole feature has been a thorn in our side since our new site launched, and we haven't made much headway with our online people in reviving it. In the mean time, here's the link for our older Cost Rica stories.

Hi gang--any ideas for a labor day get away no more than 2 hours from DC? Anywhere on the Eastern Shore? St Michaels? Or will things be packed? It's hit me only now that this is a holiday weekend ...yikes

Eh, I'd probably head away from the beach. How about the Shenandoah Valley? Start in Winchester, work your way down historic Route 11 through Civil War battlefields and pretty small towns. Orange, Va., is also nice -- Montpelier, Barboursville wine and the fabulous Inn at Willow Grove

Gettysburg might be a good option too. Or Berkeley Springs or Harpers Ferry.

My search for world cruises is in its infant stages, but hoping to cruise in 2014. I'm looking for stops in Norway, Russia, Latvia, etc. Have any readers been on a world cruise or know of anyone who as taken one? Do I need to apply for my visas or is it done by the cruise company? Which cruise company is most recommended? Any little tidbits I should know? Thank-you and I appreciate any and all information.

World cruises are offered by the more upscale lines, such a Princess, Holland America and Cunard, and luxury lines, including Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Seabourn. Take a look at Cruise Critic's story on the topic. 

Hi Travel Crew! My husband and I are planning to take our 16-month-old to Williamsburg 9/12-9/15. Do you have any recommendations for toddler-friendly hotels in the area? Ideally we'd like a suite so that we don't have to go to sleep when he does. The Williamsburg tourist office seems to have some nice packages, but I'm not familiar with the area and whether there are better options out there. Thanks for any help you can offer!

There are plenty of hotels with suites around. Anyone have one to recommend? I haven't stayed at the one in Williamsburg, but I am a fan of Embassy Suites, where you get a two-room suite, free breakfast and free drinks and snacks in the evening.

(submitting early b/c picking a friend up from surgery ;-( I've been asked to submit a proposal to teach a class in California. Must include my cost of travel and the various times of year I will go there. How can I approach this? Is flying to SF in Nov very different from March or July? many thanks! Love these chats!!!

Expedia's Trend Tracker is very useful for this. You can see historical data for a specific route.

Soliciting any suggestions on what I should do while in Panama City this weekend. I think time at the beach is a given, but any other activities work sites worth seeing down there? Bonus points for places to eat and drink.

Depending on where Isaac hits, you might have some trouble getting to Panama City this weekend. Right now, the storm is aiming to the west. You might want to monitor flights and check with your hotel to make sure it's still open.

I need help with some last minute Labor Day planning. Are there any decent/clean places to stay in Atlantic City on a Saturday night without dealing with the weekend inflated prices? I'm thinking about going this weekend and don't have to stay on the main strip. But, I don't want to drive more than 30 - 45 minutes away from the casinos just to get a room that is $200 or less.

Hmm. Once again, let's ask the chatters. Maybe there's an AC chatter out there who can give us some tips.

Let me admit upfront that I'm a bit of a technology laggard. I do not have a smartphone (gasp). Just this year I got an iPad 4G LTE (Verizon). My question is: how well does it travel to the UK? Do the roaming charges kill you? I would love to hear from the Travel Gurus or other chatters. Thank you.

Check out Verizon's international page. This trip planner is quite useful to play with as well. The charges won't necessarily kill you if you plan in advance and get set up with a global plan for the time you're going to be there. There are other options you could explore, including just sticking to regular old WiFi. You can also rent equipment from a number of companies so you can be your own hotspot. Check out my internet abroad story from a few months ago.

Do you wear a cover when you're eating? Apparently, that's about how my daughter feels about it. She HATES being covered (and I understand--it gets hot under there!), and fights the cover, making nursing in public an ordeal. I wear clothing that allows me to discretely nurse without revealing anything unless someone is staring at us, and if they are, that's their problem.

I don't think any of my kids enjoyed being under a cover, either. But we thought it was preferable to bottle-feeding them.

I'm considering a trip to Puerto Rico this winter and was wondering about the best way to get to the island of Vieques? Can I rent a car and take a car ferry over there? Will I need or can I drive a rental car on Vieques? Other forms of transportation to get there? I'm a big fan of being able to get out and explore, so I'd prefer taking a rental car over, I may stay a couple of days elsewhere on the main island too. Any ideas?

Yes, fly to San Juan, rent a car and take the ferry. That's how I got there.

Hi, I'm traveling to Rome in September with a 3-year-old. Do you have any suggestions for books or websites that might be helpful in planning a kid-friendly trip? Thanks!

There are a lot of Web sites and books out there to help you plan a kid-friendly tip. Delicious Baby offers 32 things to do with kids in Rome; check it out.  Frommer's has guides for travel with kids, also. Chatters, what are your suggestions?

Advice received from a former colleague who never took her camera on vacations: Don't take any photos of things you can get a postcard of. Your amazing sunset over the Grand Canyon (or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, etc.) will never look as good as when the professionals so it, so free yourself from that time, energy, and worry. I only wish all of the tourists at the art museum in Paris had heard of this advice; I could barely even look at the paintings without someone getting up close to take a photo of the same painting that they could get a postcard of in the gift shop.

This is why I ALWAYS travel with a small flashlight, so I can look for stuff (or make a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night) without waking any others!

I'd like to say that having a travel agent when you're traveling to foreign countries is more than peace of mind. Two years ago, British Airways decided to have a one-day strike on the day of our return. Our travel agent handled all of the rebooking for us (2 different destinations), and faxed the information to our hotel. It was wonderful!

Yes, travel agents definitely come in handy in those crisis situations!

When I had to fly with my infant son, I was lucky enough to be seated next to grandmothers both times and noone made me feel uncomfortable about nursing my son. Where we ran into problems was with TSA; Baltimore did not blink an eye at the pumped milk I carried on, but Albuquerque insisted on testing it (making us so late we almost missed our flight). I don't know why people in this country have such a problem with breastfeeding. On a plane, it's really a boon because the sucking can help an infant's ears with the changes in air pressure; also, it keeps them occupied and quiet!

Thanks for the comments. I'm glad you've had such positive experiences.

We'll be visiting DC near the end of September and I'm trying to finalize what to pack! Will it still be warm enough for this Florida girl to wear sandals or should I plan on shoes and stockings?

I wear sandals all the way through October most years! And you definitely won't need stockings. We can have heat waves well into October, and considering how hot it's been here this season, there's no reason to believe it'll be any different when you come.

Yes, Turkish Airlines is luxe, definitely when compared to how US-based airlines treat passengers. Spring will be a lovely time there. Istanbul is surrounded by water, so tends to be pretty temperate. One of my favorite cities.

Thanks for confirming!

I seem to recall that US DVDs don't play on European players. Didn't the President have a problem with that with some gifts a few years ago? CDs work there, though.

Yes, there is that problem. Thanks for the reminder.

Here's the scoop... we've got a reputation for having dreary winters, but that's only if you have to live through rainy day after rainy day. Keep in mind that *should* you chance upon snow in Portland or Seattle, the cities will shut down. For an inch or two of snow. It's not that we don't know how to drive in it, it's that these cities are HILLY and it's a mess with slick streets.

Not necessarily. Sometimes there are sobriety check-points (especially on summer vacation and holiday weekends) that can really slow down a trip.

OK, fair enough.

Wait till mid July to mid august

You can't get the best photo if you watch your whole vacation through the screen. Put away the phone and the camera and make memories. Then pull out the camera to record a few of those memories or something that can retrigger the memory. Also, remember that this is your vacation, not your job.

For the Kennebunkport traveler, by all means, get yourself to the Clam Shack. I went on a lobster roll tour of Maine a few years ago and the Clam Shack's was the best one I ate. It's not a formal restaurant (I ate my lobster roll sitting on a park bench outside) but it was well worth it! It's been on some "best of" lists I've seen, so it's not just me.

I flew Turkish Air last May to Vienna for a trip to Slovakia. Airline was really nice. Great selection of movies and pretty decent food. As for the visitor to Slovakia. Stop in the Tatra Mountains and visit Spis Hrad (great castle in Levoca). Also visit Dukla to see the open air museum. Kosice also has a great church - St. Elizabeth's. The Tokej wine region is also nice and has great wine tastings.

Thanks for all the tips!

I lived in Prague for a year, and it is one of my favorite places. I wrote up "my" guidebook for a friend a while back, but it's mostly still relevant. It's long, but hope it helps! Things you have to see/do in Prague: *Prague Castle (Prazky Hrad) -St Vitus Cathedral -Golden Lane *Old Town Square (Stare Mesto) -Clocktower-the tower has a little show every hour as it strikes the hour. It is more humorous and interesting to go and watch the tourists staring up at the clock, than it is to actually watch the clock strike. This attraction has been voted the #2 most overrated tourist attraction in Europe and I tend to agree. -Take a few mins and enjoy the the square, I liked to sit there and have lunch and people watch. There are always amusing things going on and lots of vendors selling things. Depending on when you are there you might catch a festival/mart on the square. There are big ones around Christmas and Easter and other times of year. -The restaurant Kozycka (the Little Goat) is right off this square on Kozi Street. This was our favorite restaurant in Prague. It has good food, good beer and is not too touristy, though they do have an English menu. The bar gets pretty busy on weekend nights, but we generally just went for the food. *Charles Bridge (Karluv Most) -I'm sure the bridge will be packed with tourists and vendors, but it is still fun to walk across. It is a pedestrian bridge so you will only be fighting your way across with people, no cars. There are always musicians playing music along the bridge. One of my favorite things to do was stroll across the bridge and stop and listen to the musicians. Look for The Bridge Band--they were my favorites, especially the guy playing trumpet while holding a lit cigarette. *Wenceslas Square (Vaclavski Namesti) -This is a more modern square in the heart of downtown, lots of shops, restaurants, and offices etc. -At the top of the square is a statue of St Wenceslas (a historic location for the many protests and uprisings that have occurred on this square). After Sept 11, a huge memorial sprang up around the statue with hundreds of flowers, candles burning, American flags and signs in sympathy for the US. It was very moving for this expat. *Jewish quarter (Josefov) -If you buy a ticket to the Jewish Museum you will get entrance into 4-5 different synagogues in the Jewish quarter and entrance into the Old Jewish Cemetery. This cemetery is really amazing as it has graves from as early as the 1400s and is packed with gravestones throughout the years.

Things to know about Prague: -Eat fried cheese (smazeny syr) and potato pancakes (bramborovky). The best smazeny syr is found in sandwich form from the street vendors on Wenceslas Square. They will serve it with mayo unless you request not to, I always liked it with ketchup instead. You can get this fried cheese in almost every restaurant, even the high end places, but the street vendors always seemed better. Potato pancakes are also everywhere. Every restaurant has their own version--try them all! Buy amber or garnet jewelry, or Bohemian crystal--these are the CRs most common exports, and you will find shops everywhere. Prices are usually good by American standards, especially if you get off the main tourist squares. -Pickpocketing is rampant in Prague. Keep a good eye on your bags/backpacks at all times, especially on the metro/trams and in areas with lots of tourists. I never got robbed, but know people who did--the pickpockets are very good at what they do. Just make yourself a harder target than the person next to you. Put your backpack on your front on the metro, hold your bag in your hands, not on your shoulder etc etc. These are petty thieves looking for an easy crime. They are (almost) never armed and will (almost) never make a scene. If it is not an easy pick, they will just get someone else. -The water is safe and street vendor food is fine. I pretty much ate my way through Prague and never had any trouble with food/water. There is bottled water everywhere, but the tap water is fine also. When buying bottled water, make sure you get know neperliva (without bubbles) or perliva (with bubbles). -Beer is cheaper than bottled water or soda, and is everywhere. Czechs are the worlds biggest beer drinkersand for good reason. The original Pilsner beer was created in Plzen (Pilsen), in the CR. -Prague is a very safe city, by big city standards. We always referred to it as our little big city b/c it has the feel of a big city, without all the crime and problems that go with it. I frequently walked around by myself and even at night I never felt unsafe. Be alert and aware, but don't be afraid. FYI there are prostitutes that come out at night, especially around Wenceslas Square. Just be aware, they are pretty aggressive towards the men sometimes. -Many people speak English, and love to practice their English with Americans. In the rare case that there is not an English-speaker, smiles and body language will get you far. -There are ATMs (or Bancomats) all over the city. Also, many of the nicer places take credit cards. Be aware that the smaller shops/vendors do not like to receive big bills (ie 1000, 2000 Kc) in payment and may grumble. We always tried to break our bigger bills at big stores or chains that have more traffic. Most importantly, Prague is an amazing city. Drink the beer, eat some fried cheese and potato pancakes, enjoy the incredible architecture that was not damaged in WWII and you will have a blast. Oh, and wear comfortable shoes--the cobblestones will get to you after awhile if you don't!

Whew! Thanks.

Among better restaurants in Prague are the one at Duplex, which is a restaurant by day and club by night on Vaclavske namesti, Kampa off to the side of Karluv most with great views, and Noi on Ujezd between Malostranske namesti and the tram up Petrin, for Thai. In Eastern Slovakia, there's also Levoca, a little jewel box of a town, below Spissky hrad (castle), which is also worth a visit I hear. There is a whole region with historic wooden churches. And to the south, Slovensky raj (Slovak paradise) is supposed to be good for hikers (have not been to any but Levoca myself).

Please don't take stuff from Abercrombie and Fitch as gifts to young folks in other countries. Talk about representing the worst of the US... (LL Bean might be a better choice, in terms of political correctness).

Mount Agamenticus in York has all sorts of hiking trails. Also, it is very fun to say.

It is indeed!

The only company that used to do what you're referencing seems to no longer do cruises. The owner of easyJet in Europe for a short period of time ( a couple of years), had cruises that stayed in port for upwards of 24 hours. Me and a couple of buddies did the French and Italian Riviera that way and yes it was fantastic. We got to tour the city during the day, and experience local nightlife and culture. I suspect that the companies don't stay for longer periods of time because of port charges, but wish there were one or two who did. I hear you on the length of stay issue.

You are referring to easyCruise. It now offers itineraries only in the Greek Islands. 

On his radio show, Rick Steves recently interviewed a Prague tour guide about things to see on a walking tour. It made me want to visit Prague. You can get the podcast on his Web site.


The Photographer's Ephemeris app let's you see sun and moon angles and where they will be relative to terrain and angle. It also will show if terrain will block your view.

Go to the fabulous Sansho. I ate there last summer and am still dreaming about going back. It's owned by Paul Day who used to be the sous chef at Nobu in London.

Any must sees while on the Cape? Any good restaurant recommendations? We'll be staying in two towns from Friday-Tuesday in the middle of the Cape. Thanks!!!

Ah, we're just wrapping up, but I'll say definitely check out the national seashore. Provincetown is fun too. My husband and I had a memorable honeymoon dinner at Chillingsworth in Brewster.

I bring what we're best known for - junk food. Some of the really iconic stuff is well received, as well as things with odd names. Such as Cracker Jack, Fiddle faddle, Goobers, Jiffy Pop, etc. Peanut butter candies are surprisingly better received in Europe than they used to be. Also children in France and Germany were asking me for chewing gum when they found out I was an American.

Go! It's great for a short trip (since the flight isn't too long). Just don't have your heart set on any one outdoor activity. Glacier hike and northern lights tours were canceled when we went (and of course seeing the northern lights is never guaranteed even if the tour does go out). Blue lagoon is touristy, but SOOOOO worth it! There's an option to add a stop en route to or from the airport.

For the person looking for a quiet place to stay in Key West... There are several guest houses on Simonton (2 blocks off of Duval) that will be wonderfully quiet, plus it will get you the real Key West guest house experience -- a very different atmosphere from a regular hotel or from a B&B.

Take the photo, don't hesitate, and don't assume you're returning to that place to take it later.

For cool souvenirs from anywhere, shop in your local museum gift shops. Depending on the age of these kids, the Spy Museum might be really cool, Newseum, etc. You can likely do it all online.Find out what they are into and buy accordingly. And don't forget the parents, they appreciate something too! Have fun!

Don't take DVDs as presents for people who live overseas! Because of the region codes, they won't be able to watch American DVDs in their players.

Just found out in June that my wife is pregnant with our first child - we're so excited! We usually take a vacation in the summer, but decided to wait until the first trimester passed in case she was having morning sickness, fatigue, food aversions, etc. So we're now thinking of traveling in early November to coincide with our 5-year anniversary. We'd like to go somewhere warm with a beach where we can have one last relaxing couple of days. Any ideas for islands that have direct flights from Dulles or National that time of year and won't break the bank? We need to start saving for the college fund! Thanks!

Lucky you, JetBlue has just launched nonstop flights from Reagan National to Puerto Rico. And the fares aren't bad. They'll also be having some sales to promote the flights, so sign up for the fare alerts. PR should be nice in November. :-)

Not true. Lajes Airport on the island of Terceira in the Azores is open year-round.

Yes, should have corrected the chatter on that point. When I looked at different ways of getting there at different times of year, always worked. 

Get out to the University of BC to the Museum of Biodiversity and the Museum of Anthropology. Expect it to take most of the day. They are beyond stunning. And my favorite new animal is the bone eating snot flower worm.

You might go to the Native American museum shop and find t-shirts or other items with interesting tribal designs on them there. That would be different from the sports stuff or Abercrombie and Fitch. Beaded earrings for the girls/women would be good.

Well, it's time for this party to come to a close. Thanks for chatting with us. The winner of the prize today is the person who submitted the tip titled "travel photo advice for solos." Please send your name and mailing address to

We're off next week for the Labor Day holiday, but please do come back Monday, Sept. 10. Until then, happy traveling!

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