Talk about Travel

Sep 30, 2013

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

Hello, travs. Thanks for joining us on this lovely last day of September. Summer, it's like I never knew ya.

We are looking forward to an hour of travel chatting. And for today's topic: Inspired by the Oregon wine piece in Sunday's section, tell us about your booziest trip, whether it was a wine tour in Chile, a beer crawl in Dublin or a night with Senor Tequila in Cabo or Florida spring break. The most intoxicating (!) story wins a non-alcoholic prize.

I'll be arriving into BWI on a Saturday when the MARC train does not have service. I'm thinking the best thing to do is to take the Amtrak into DC instead. Any advice? Should I purchase my ticket in advance or wait until I arrive? Thanks!

You'll save money by purchasing in advance, so if you know for sure what time train you want, best to buy. Also that way if you're running short on time, you won't have to worry about purchasing when you get to BWI. Or you could hop on Metrobus B30, which will take you to the Greenbelt Metro station.

As an FYI, MARC begins weekend service between Baltimore and Washington on Dec. 7.

re: Napa vs. Sonoma, Sept. 23rd. Sonoma is much larger than Napa and doesn't have a central town for wine exploring. The nicest town to stay there is Healdsburg. Numerous wineries near there. In Napa, St. Helena (my town) is also walkable and fun. Napa City is on the upturn with new hotels, wine bars and restaurants. Calistoga is also fun in a different way - funkier, a tad less sophisticated. In sum, no single answer.

Thanks for following up!

I am curious about recent experiences readers may have with bereavement fares. I recently requested a bereavement fare (for the funeral of my Grandmother) from United Airlines to travel on a weeks notice from Los Angeles to Houston. First I was surprised that they instantly just offered me a 5 % discount on a fare over $1,000. I thought they would at least check with the funeral home to make sure my request was legitimate. Anyway 5 % resulted in a discount of just over $50 for my $1,000 ticket which frankly didn't seem like much. Then the customer service agent (I had decided to call than figuring out how to request a bereavement fare over the computer) said that I would be charged $25 for using the telephone vice computer. Only after insisting to talk to a supervisor was I granted a waiver. To compound matters the English language ability of the agent was not very good. Anyway it did not leave me with a very warm feeling toward United. Are some of the airlines using overseas call centers ?

My condolences on your loss. Yes, some airlines use offshort call centers, especially if you're not an elite-level traveler and calling on the regular "800" number. As for your discount, right again -- that's chicken scratch. United is charging you a full walk-up fare, which is priced for business travelers on an expense account. It can do better.

Just an FYI about my JetBlue flight this past Saturday.The A/C wasn't working and all of the TVs were out. I emailed JetBlue. They gave me a $15 credit for the TVs and $25 credit for the A/C. I fly this airline 4-5 times/year and always have a great experience. Are these credit amounts typical of most airlines?

Kinda sorta. Most vouchers are given in increments of $50, and, as I note in an upcoming Navigator column, they're almost impossible to redeem. So in the end, the amount is almost irrelevant.

Hi! Hope my question makes the chat. My boyfriend and I were looking to do a quick (relatively inexpensive) weekend getaway over the Columbus Day holiday ... driving distance to DC. We like outdoor activities, food, wine, music and exploring new places ... so we're open to any suggestions. What would you pick? We've done the PA circuit and have family in the Jersey area so we'd be looking to probably head to Maryland or head south (or West). Thanks!

If you want to head west, think about Berkeley Springs, Harpers Ferry or Winchester.

Hello! I would like to plan a trip to South America for next year, which sounds vague b/c I don't even know where to begin! I'm not travelled very much so I don't even know how to start to narrow into what I might find interesting. Any suggestions on where to start? Books? Advice from other travelers? I am in my 30s, like cities, historical sites, good food, although a few days at a beach are not bad. Thanks for the guidance!

Call me old-fashioned, but I love starting the trip-planning process with an armful of guidebooks (yes, we still have a guidebook closet here!). Although I've started checking some out on my Kindle from my local library.

Not to sound too self-promotional, but newspapers and magazines can also be inspirational. Admittedly, our archives are not all that friendly to browsing... but some of the magazine sites, such as Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler, have quite nice destination pages with ideas.

Places to consider: Quito, Lima and Buenos Aires.

I have a conference to attend in Seattle next summer and would like to extend the trip with my husband and 3 yr-old an additional 5+/- days. Ideally, we'd like to head toward the Oregon coast, drive down and then head inland to Portland. Looking for suggestions on family-friendly spots to stay and/or check out, especially along the coast.

That sounds like an amazing trip!

A few summers ago, I drove down a portion of the Oregon coast. Here's the piece.

I would definitely recommend Seaside, Cannon Beach, Lincoln City and Newport. For lodging, Surfsand Resort has a kids' club. And  Hallmark Resort Cannon Beach has heated pools (the ocean water is truly freezing).

For activities, buy a kite (you can get one in Seaside) and take a drive on the beach.

Hello! I know I'm late to the planning game, but was thinking about going to a beach over the long weekend. I love the beach in the fall, when it's less crowded. If I had about 5 days total, including driving, where would you recommend? Are the Outer Banks reasonable or is that too far to drive for such a short trip? Also, we'll have a dog with us, so suggestions for websites to look for dog friendly cottages or other accommodations would be helpful! Thanks,

If you have your heart set on the Outer Banks, I think that's doable in five days, if you don't mind about half of two days being devoted to travel. Closer to home I would also consider Rehoboth and the Eastern Shore. In Cape Charles, Va., I really loved the dog-friendly Hotel Cape Charles.

Resources for pet-friendly digs: BringFido and DogFriendly. And here's a page on what beaches in the Outer Banks you can bring your dog to.

We are 4 retirees cruising from Baltimore in February. What's our best choice for parking--at the port itself, or should we use one of the off-site parking lots that offer shuttle service and security? We haven't been able to find a daily rate for off-site parking.

For ease, I would suggest parking at the port. You can walk to the terminal from the secured lot; cost is $15 per cruise night. You can also park at BWI airport's long-term lot and take a shuttle and a taxi to the port -- a multi-part process that might not be worth the savings ($8 a day).

Some local hotels also offer Park-n-Cruise, such as Best Western Plus in Baltimore and Wingate by Wyndham near the airport. Rate includes parking for the duration of the cruise and shuttle to the port. For other packages, see Harbor Magic Hotels' Web site.

I don't know of any off-site parking lots, but you could always leave an hour early and scour the area for parking. Or check with the tourism office.

I'm seeing fares of $250+ nonstop for the specific dates we have to fly from IAD or DCA to Miami for a cruise in early December. It's crazy how expensive these fares have gotten! I know this is a question you're quite sick of, but do you think I should wait for any sales that may come along? Bing says wait but I have no idea how accurate they are.

Honestly, for nonstop fare in the winter, that's a good fare. I personally would grab it, especially if you have a cruise to catch.

I'm headed to Europe in the Spring and I am requesting recommendations (from the women) for shoes. I will be in multiple cities and doing a lot of sightseeing, city tours, etc. so I'd like something comfortable but a touch more refined than a sneaker/athletic shoe.Also, as part of this trip, I'll be on a river cruise, so a shoe that could double up with a nice pair of pants and sweater set/blouse would be great. Any brand suggestions? Thanks!

We ought to start a running file on this, because it seems to come up with some regularity! Keen and Merrell are both good brands for comfort combined with cuteness. You could also look into the Nike Air/Cole Haan collaboration shoes. And I've been getting pretty good mileage out of these L.L. Bean mocs.

Chatters, other foot favorites?

For years and with the help of the internet I've made my own travel arrangements. But now I'm planning to go to China and would feel more comfortable finding a travel agent to help me. But these days how do I find one? How do I know this agent is the best agent for a China trip?

Try ASTA's travel agent finder, which lists travel agents by area of expertise. A site called Tripology will also match you to an agent, based on your itinerary.

I want to visit a friend who is spending a year in Jakarta and the only time I have to go is two weeks in early January. Where should I visit in Indonesia during that time and are there any day tour companies you'd recommend?

Bali, bali, bali! And Java to see the mind-blowing Prambanan temple. And Lombok, for its rad surfing waves. And Rinca Island if you love fiery attraction, like volcanoes and Komodo dragons.

I don't have any day tour company suggestions, since most are local. You can find operators in town, especially Bali. Or ask your hotel for recommendations.

My husband and I would like to go, along with another couple, on a train ride through Canada. I've looked at websites, but they have not been a lot of help. We're looking for gorgeous scenery and the chance to get off the train for an hour or day here and there to see local attractions. Is there a specific company that does this well? If we don't want to spend more than 7-10 days on the journey (we also want to see the Willamette Valley featured in the Sunday Post) , should we start in the middle of the country and head west or can we start in the east? Recommendations?

You can look into packages offered through VIA Rail Canada. For example, it works with Rail Travel Tours to offer a nine-day, cross-country trip from Ottawa or Toronto to Vancouver. But if you wanted to shave some time, you could start in, say, Winnipeg.

It's another eight hours by train (direct or through Seattle) from Vancouver to Portland.

Just catching up on last week's chat. For the person wondering about Switzerland, we had a lovely week in Interlaken a few years back. Interlaken is well-placed to get to other towns easily. Buy a train pass before you go--we used ours daily and it was a huge help and savings. We stayed at the Hotel du Lac, a lovely place that has been family-owned for more than 50 years. Thun has a great castle for the kids. Bern has lots of fountains, so maybe the kids can have a scavenger hunt. Other things to do: Train through the mountain to Jungfraujoch; cable car to Piz Gloria, a revolving mountaintop restaurant; cable car up to Winteregg for a light hike through Gimmelwald/Murren to Lauterbrunnen Valley, where you can walk behind the waterfalls. I don't remember much, but I remember that, it was amazing! But be prepared with hats, gloves, etc. We were there in August and there was fresh snow on the mountains almost every morning.

Great info, thanks.

Pondering a southern California trip with the family in summer 2014. Is $358 a good deal for roundtrip from IAD to LAX? Seems like it but it also seems early to buy tickets for July.

Nonstop? Sounds pretty good to me. If you like the price, and it seems like you do, buy it. It's never too early, especially for peak summer travel season. I think you'd regret it more if it went up than if it went down (or at least that's my thinking).

If you could go just one place in Australia, what would it be? (Pls not GB Reef but anything else). We like outdoors and adventure but would like to keep costs manageable.

I know it's obvious, but . . . I love, love, love Sydney. It has the best mix of culture, fashion, food, arts, beach and crazy Aussie adventures (the BridgeClimb, for instance). For day trips, you can venture out into the Blue Mountains, explore the vineyards of Hunter Valley or poke around the capital of Canberra.

Hello - I'm going to Paris for a week in November. I've been before so done the big ones - what's the best off-the-beaten-track things to do? Is an overnight trip to wine country doable?

How about taking a cheese tour?

Going to a wine shop by day, wine bar by night?

Looking for avante-garde art?

As for an overnight trip to the wine country, the answer is: absolutely. The Loire Valley is within easy distance by car or train from Paris, and you can see the castles and/or taste wine at hundreds of wineries.


What happens if the Federal Government has a shutdown? Travel, especially by air, is heavly connected to the Federal Government including TSA, FAA, and Customs.

Have a look at The Post's interactive graphic on how agencies may be affected by the shutdown. Fingers crossed, travel would be OK -- both TSA and Customs (both under Department of Homeland Security), according to contingency plans from 2011, would be able to retain more than 80 percent of their workforce.

According to this AP story, the major impact to travelers would be the shutdown of the national parks and Smithsonian museums. In other related areas:


Federal air traffic controllers would remain on the job and airport screeners would keep funneling passengers through security checkpoints. Federal inspectors would continue enforcing safety rules.


The State Department would continue processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas would continue to provide services to American citizens.


The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country’s borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees would continue to process green card applications.

Oregon doesn't let you drive on the beach. Washington does, but I wouldn't recommend it, unless you really know what you are doing. Lots of people get stuck. And for travel/walking shoes, I love my Clarks.

Oregon actually does let you drive on the beach in some locations. I drove my rental car on Pacific City Beach. But I did not go very far!

Key West for New Years! No open container laws, Duval Street lined with bars (legit and make-shift), and a rental house just a few blocks from where Sushi (the drag queen) is dropped in a high heel.

That --hiccup --sounds like a blast.

Travel from DC to Roanoke and Blacksburg via Amtrak and Smart Way Connector Bus just got a lot easier. In Early August, the Connector Bus (transfer in Lynchburg) became part of Amtrak's National Reservation System so that travelers can now make just a single reservation ( or 1-800-USA-RAIL), instead of two reservation (Amtrak + Connector) and avoid having to pay the bus driver $4 in cash. The reason for this change is the success of both the Lynchburg Train (started Oct 2009) and the Connector (started July 2011) and the anticipated Amtrak service to Roanoke in 2016-17.

Thanks. Sounds like you work for Amtrak.

Munro (American-made) and Wolky (Dutch brand - so you can look like a European). Neither are cheap, but they are both well-made, and last forever. Munro shoes come in many widths. My wide feet were very comfortable in Wolky shoes, even though they don't officially come in wide widths.)

Here you go, European traveler! Feels very Cinderalla, I must say.

These might not be the super cutest shoes in the world, but they're cute enough and they feel like you're walking on pillows. (If you're in the DC area, they carry them at Comfort One Shoes.) 

Pillows are good.

My Dad recently passed away and my Mom would love to once again go back to Canada. She and my Dad went years ago and I believe it was called the Rocky mountaineer. I would love to plan this trip for both of us. Do you know where I would start in order to get the most reasonable deal? Which month would be the best? Thanks

It sounds like they visited the Canadian Rockies by train, a beautiful trip any season of the year. When you go all depends on what type of scenery you prefer (snow-covered, wildflower-festooned, foliage-burst) and activities (skiing, hiking, etc).

The Rocky Mountaineer offers several train trips, with hotel and cruise options. I would also consider a train trip on Via Rail Canada, which also arranges packages with hotel stays.

After you've followed Christopher Elliott's advice, may I recommend that you send a separate email to several promising candidates, describing what you'd like to see, your schedule, price range, etc., etc. You can then narrow the field using their responses. Hint: Some will try to sell you what they want to sell, rather than what you want; dump them. Hint #2: Others will explain (legitimately) why what you want isn't do-able, but will try to come as close as possible to your wishes; these are potential keepers.

Great advice! Also, I would be happy to send a draft chapter from my upcoming book to anyone who is interested. I have an entire chapter on finding a good travel agent. Here's my email address.

I am not a sneaker person except when walking for exercise. My go-to shoes for walking and being on my feet all day is Alegria brand. They are very comfortable and stylish.


Try - they have a large selection with good reviews. I'm looking for the same thing myself. Try Aetrex, Orthofeet, and sometimes Munro. Make sure the shoes have good arch support.

I'd like to go out of town for a few days over either Thanksgiving or Christmas. I have been to New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Williamsburg many times so I would prefer not to go to any of those places. Can you suggest somewhere within a radius of, say, 250-300 miles that would be nice as well as interesting to visit? I will be driving or possibly taking the train.

How about Pennsylvania/Delaware's Brandywine Valley? Or Richmond? 

Cannon Beach/Seaside---Seasid has more shops and larger chain hotels. Cannon Beach is more small hotels , B&B, and home rentals. Seaside has a kid friendly small aquarium where kids can do alot of touching. Tillamook--cheese factory. in the NW Tillamook is a big cheese/dairy producer. they do tours. the town is more of an industrial town than a beach town. Its located on an inland bay. Newport and Lincoln City are both typical main road beach drag towns where you have a bunch of motels and tourist trap stuff. Newport has a very good aquarium. much larger than the one in seaside. very kid friendly which many touch pools. Florence...near here is a well known and photographed lighthouse along the coast. Oregeon Dunes--operated by the Froest Service as a National Monument. Bandon--its similar to Cannon Beach but a little larger. Also similar to cannon beach it has the rocks off the beach which makes for interested sunset pictures. If you had south then you need to include the Redwoods National Park and State Parks area between crescent City and Eureka. On your return trip back to Portland you can either drive through Willamette Valley or cross the mountains and drive on the eastern side. If you go down to Crescent city...then drive back through Medford, then to crater lake, then the Bend then either by Mt Hood on US 26 or drive north and drive back through the columbia gorge into Portland. In terms of drive times.....Seattle to Astoria is about 3 hrs. Astoria-Seaside 20 min. Cannon Beach to Newport is about 2.5 hours Newport to Bandon is about 2 hrs driving. traffic heavily dependent. Unsure when your conference is....but you can have some problems making hotel reservations on friday and saturday nights along the coast because many places require 2 night stays and jack up the rates. Idealy if you could do the coast mid week and then return to Portland for the weekend would be best. In Portland on Saturday/Sunday there is Saturday Market which is similar to Pike Place Market in Seattle where you have a bunch of independent artistans selling their stuff.

Wow! This is all you need, Oregaon travelers-to-be. Thanks!

For me, if I could only go one place in Australia it would be Melbourne. I like Sydney OK but loved Melbourne. Cool neighborhoods. Easy to navigate. Excellent public transport. Lots of parks and green spaces in the city.

So true. And the Great Ocean Ride drive is amazing, if you have extra time.

A pair of black leather oxfords do the trick for me. Mine happen to be from New Balance (hey, they were on sale!), but there are lots of brands at a range of prices. I wear black knee-high stockings with mine for a slightly more sophisticated look (as opposed to, say, white bobby socks). I usually also wear black slacks while traveling, so the black shoes and stockings don't attract attention; I have a selection of solid-color tops and blazers to mix and match, and take along several patterned silk scarves in a range of colors, to liven up my wardrobe.

Shoe recommendations are rolling -- walking? -- in.

Okay, this dates me. It was the mid-80s, then boyfriend/now husband and I were in NYC for our first time together. We met a friend who took the train down from Larchmont for dinner at a Greek restaurant that used to be in the basement of the Citicorp Tower. My bf had been to Greece a couple of years before, and had developed a taste for retsina, so we drank retsina. A lot of retsina. We drank the restaurant out of retsina. Our waiters loved us (and why not? We were sharing the retsina with them) and when it was gone, the Crown Royal (favorite of Greek waiters the world over, apparently) came out. We eventually staggered out and down to Grand Central Terminal to pour our friend onto the last train back to Larchmont (she fell asleep and ended up in Rye, with a very expensive taxi home) and we staggered over to the subway to head back to our hotel. A shiny white subway care appeared and I thought I was seeing a pink elephant (this was the graffiti era of subway cars in NYC). Because God protects fools and drunks, we made it back to our hotel safely. I learned the next morning that our white subway car was not an alcohol-induced mirage, but that the MTA had rolled out new graffiti-proof subway cars that very night, and we were apparently on the very first one!

Hilarious, and historic!

You can drive to the beach. There are parks that allow people to drive on the beach either in their vehicles or in ATVs. One of note is Oregon Dunes. In washington State their arent many beaches. there really are only two beach areas....Long Beach near Astoria and the Columia river, and the area around aberdeen and Greys Harbor. North of there most of the beach area are tribal lands or owned by the park service. The only on beach lodging is at Kalaoch lodge by the park service allong the coastal stretch of 101 and on the Queylellute Reservation where they have a beachfront hotel/campground.

Thanks for the insights.

Last summer, three friends and I ate at a really nice Italian restaurant in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The owner noticed us four gringos, and chatted with us throughout our meal. When we finished, he insisted we try some grappa -- a new one for all of us. It reminded me of ouzo, and frankly, I don't have good ouzo memories. Anyhoo, as far as we can remember, we closed the restaurant, drank a couple of bottles of grappa -- which certainly puts hair on one's chest -- AND were presented with the bill for the bottles. We didn't have the money to pay, but the owner, who hailed a cab for us (and one of us -- NOT ME -- got sick in said cab), just said, Oh just pay it back tomorrow. And we actually did -- we scraped up the bolivianos we could manage and returned to pay our bill. The waiter who accepted the money was surprised to see us. I'd love to return to Cochabamba but I don't think I'd go back to that restaurant.

You should go back. They probably have a Wall of Fame and Shame with your picture on display!

How about talking to a travel agent about your South America. They know what questions to ask to help you figure out what you want, are very knowledgeable and can get you discounts.

Good suggestion.

For someone who likes "outdoors and adventure" I wouldn't recommend Sydney. Darwin and Kakadu, or Uluru and Alice Springs (including the fantastic Alice Springs Desert Park) would probably be a better choice. Not that Sydney isn't great, it's just an urban experience rather than what the poster was asking for.

Thanks for the recommendation.

For the traveller, try Dansko shoes. Also, look at stores like REI and The Walking Company, and online at

Good Afternoon!! We are travelling with an infant (as a lap child) for the first time on Thanksgiving. It's a small plan (4 seats to a row). I called US Airways and asked whether there would be an oxygen mask for my infant and at first the representative told me no. When I questioned whether they were required to have an oxygen mask for every person on the flight she put me on hold, came back, and told me that there would be an oxygen mask. So I, of course, asked whether every row had additional masks and she said yes. Should I be suspicious? Also, does a lap child generally get a baggage allowance? Any other advice for travelling with an infant. Thank you so much!!!

You can find the federal requirements for oxygen masks on aircraft right here. As a practical matter, every row usually has one extra oxygen mask for a lap child or crew member. Regarding baggage allowance, most airlines are generous when it comes to diaper bags and strollers, but I would call your airline to make sure it's OK.

My husband was told by his doctor to "travel now while the cancer is under control." He uses a walker and I can't sit for longer than 2 hours at a time. I was thinking a cruise might be the best shot but I'm frustrated trying to find something suitable on the internet. Any suggestions where to look? I'm grateful for any help you might give.

I'm sorry for your husband's illness. You can read this story to learn about the experience one of our freelance writers had while doing a river cruise with his elderly father. That's one option to consider. Make sure you go to the end of that article to see additional links to the other stories we had in our disability travel issue, including my piece on resources and tips. And here's CruiseCritic's page on disability cruising

Best of luck.

I realize there are more important ramifications to the possible government shutdown than my vacation, but since this is a travel chat...we're leaving on Friday to go to New England for a week. We fly into Manchester, NH and plan to spend one day in Vermont before driving up to Acadia (maybe) for two nights and then back down the coast (staying in Boothbay Harbor and Ogunquit). If Acadia is closed, what do you recommend for those two days? Going to Bar Harbor anyway? Time in VT or NH? Or just more time on the coast eating lobster?

I'd say add in a couple of days in Portland!

There was a question about leaving the Lima airport for dinner last week, and I wanted to jump in since I just returned from Peru last month. We had a 10pm flight out of Lima back to the U.S. and were told to leave for the airport no later than 7pm. I thought that was crazy (I tend to cut it close at airports...) but we ended up almost running to catch our plane. It takes at least 45 minutes to get between the airport and the city, so best case deduct 1.5 hours from your layover time, not including getting your bag from baggage claim and re-checking in for your flight back home. I am usually all in favor of leaving the airport (we left Miami on a hurried 2 hour layover to get real Cuban food) but in this case, I might not risk it. If you decide to chance it, the best meal we had in Lima was Astrid y Gaston, though it was a couple hour endeavor. Enjoy Peru!!

Thanks for the first-hand advice. We need that!

I appreciated Andrea's article on visiting the "wild ponies" on Assateague Island, but would really like information on her accommodations, if possible.

Thanks! I actually drove up and back in one day.

Can any chatters suggest a good place to stay?

par for the course--you can usually do much better with an internet search. Or, how about calling a travel agent, remember them? Maybe you will have to pay $25-50 for their services, but you may find it money well invested in professional help to get you the best deal.


I just wanted to thank both the Washington Post staff and the other chatters who a few weeks ago shared hints about how to handle a short transfer time with a disabled passenger. We called ahead to arrange as much as we could, and with the help of an SAS guide, we got through EU immigration and made the connection with time enough to spritz a few perfumes in the duty-free shop across from the departure gate! Your comments greatly cut down on the stress levels. Thanks.

So happy to hear that! Thanks for your thanks.

We will be in Paris in late January/early Februrary. Any recommendations for a destination from there that would have somewhat better weather - at least some sun and more moderate temperature?

How about Morocco?

Hi! My boyfriend and I are thinking about going to NYC over Columbys day wkd (we need to use bus tickets we postponed when our flight was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy) - any suggestions on hotels around $200/night?

NYC hotels I've stayed at for that amount (at least at the time -- I haven't checked availability or rates for the holiday weekend) include: Chelsea Lodge, Hotel Chandler, The Jane, and the Room Mate Grace.

Conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman's 4-storey tall rubber ducky is here in river city for three weeks, starting this past Friday -- first time in the US -- for anyone who's looking for an offbeat sight to see on an early-autumn weekend (inly about a 4-hour drive from DC/Balto.). Here's a view of Duckie in France a few years ago.


Five of us were visiting San Francisco and decided to spend a day touring Sonoma. The driver was (and still is) a serious wine buff, and I wanted to learn how to do proper wine tasting, so we were sniffing and swirling and spitting. The three in the back seat... not so much. By the fourth and fifth wineries, they were happily tumbling out of the back seat. Luckily they were jolly and not particularly loud... I doubt their furtive giggling disturbed many of the Sideways types.

Hope you kept the doors locked so no happy sippers escaped.

Hello, I'm going to Phoenix for a conference in a couple weeks and adding on a couple days for myself. I'll be staying at a resort but would like to get out and see some sites. What are the not-to-be-missed places? Thanks!

It depends on what you're into, of course, but there are some interesting options: Heard Museum for indigenous art (and more; there's an intriguing Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit up there now.) And if you like music, the Musical Instrument Museum could be fun. For outdoor stuff, I'd suggest the Desert Botanical Garden and/or the Japanese Friendship Garden.

My now ex-husband had never been much of a drinker, while I was a bit of a party girl. While in Cancun, we went to a lot of the tourist hot spots - Senor Frogs, Carlos and Charlies. Everytime we went, some drinking contest was going on. They had yards of beer (tall tubes a yard long) and you would go up against another person to see who could drink the yard the fastest. Winner would then go up against someone else. I made it 5 rounds, but my competitive non-drinking husband made it through 8 rounds. We staggered back to our hotel room - this was at 3PM in the afternoon - and fell into bed and slept until the next morning. What surprised me is that even though he had the hangover from hell, he had so much fun he wanted to do it again the next day - and did. But after the trip, he went back to his mostly non-drinking ways.

What happens in Cancun . .. ends up on our Travel chat!

Bereavement fares: I'm so sorry for your loss. And also jealous that you got some sort of discount with-out having the jump though flaming hoops. When I needed one last year, I had to send the airline a copy of the death certificate, which I have learned is nearly impossible to get, the announcement, and proof of the date of the memorial. Walking shoes - Clarks and Ecco are my go to's - I've done a week in Europe in both brands.

Thanks for the input.

My husband and I are looking for a great place to vacation next May with our will-be year and half old baby girl. We are looking to go somewhere for 4-5 days that is baby-friendly but somewhere that has delicious food and activities. We are very adventurous. Any good suggestions??

I would go way north or south, to Montreal or Puerto Rico.

That's what we call it when we discover that our vacation has suddenly become a tour of distilleries, wineries, and breweries. And yes, sometimes it just happens. Last year, we headed out for a 2 week road trip north, intending to spend most of the time in Quebec. On the way up - hey, who knew how many breweries there were around Cooperstown NY? And then, hey, who knew that Quebec, especially the Gaspe, is the micro-brew capital of Canada? And that there was a BIG and wonderful beer festival in Quebec City THAT exact weekend? Also, there's a lot of good cider, especially ice cider. And I was shocked to find out how good the strawberry wine is. And did you know that people make (delicious) wine and liqueur from maple syrup? And turns out, there's a lot of good beer being made in Maine too. When I unpacked the car back at home, it was pretty funny how many bottles had come home with us. We're still working our way through it.

You need to start a Booze Tourism company. You already have the material!

Ask around your friends for reccs - I have one to recommend (Beth Jenkins at McCabe World Travel). If she doesn't know she knows someone who does.

I just want to say that the chat is always so helpful, but today's input about shoes is one of the more valuable topics!

We aim for happy feet!

The right socks are important too. Pack some nylon-type knee highs even if you don't normally wear them. You might be glad you did.

There is a ton of stuff you can do. Farmington, Durango, or cortez are good bases to use to explore the areas where you do long day trips to explore the area. Mesa Verde----plan on 2 days. One day to do weathrill Mesa and the other day to do Chaplin Mesa area. You need to get tickets the day before. they are timed tour tickets. There is a colorado vistisot center in Cortez you can get tickets and recently they moved the Park visitor center to the roadside main entrance point (not deep in the park) so you can get tickets from there as well. Other day trips...Chaco Canyon, drive up CO 550 to Ouray and back, drive to Monument Valley, a drive to Canyon d'Chelley, spend a day in durango exploring the shops. Its a 2 hr drive to Needles, Island in the sky, and Arches from Cortez (add hr more from Durango or Famington). There area ton of smaller national monuments of various ruins dotted all around the area. some are well organized, others are remote. a good plus about Farmington Courtyard Marriott--its a decent hotel that only costs 10,000 points/night.

So helpful. Thanks!

At a convention we attended years ago in Toronto, there was a very boozy dinner at a location at some distance, so complimentary party buses were provided. As a souvenir, we were each given a small bottle of a maple liqueur. One of the drunker conventioneers had stowed his bottle in the back pocket of his pants, so on the bus ride back to the hotel, he sat down on it, the bottle broke and his derriere got badly cut (right through the pants and underwear fabric), causing him to bleed profusely. Pandemonium ensued as his pals tried to stabilize him till we got back to the hotel and an ambulance could be summoned (this was back in the '70s, before cell phones).

Ouch! Hopefully the booze numbed the pain.

Get thee to a travel agent. My friends had the best help from a travel agent on creating a seemless holidty with her partially handicapped husband.

Marseille and Provence? You can take the TGV from Gare de Lyon, ca. 3:20 ride. each way.


I lived in Australia for several years and visited every state and territory. If you are on a tight budget, it might make sense to just visit Sydney since that is likely where your flight will arrive. (This will save you the cost of any further flights.) It's a wonderful city with lots to do in and nearby. I also suggest you include a visit to Canberra (just a 3-hour drive away). It's a great place for outdoor activities because it abuts Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. And, I'll guarantee that you will see mobs of kangaroos in the wild and some Aboriginal rock drawings if you do the Yankee Hat Hike in Namadgi. Now, if you are looking for outdoor adventures but not in/around Sydney, I would suggest going to Darwin and the Top End of the Northern Territory if your trip is in the months of June, July or August. (It will be warm and dry during those months.) Be sure to go to Litchfield National Park, Kakadu National Park, Edith Falls National Park and Katherine Gorge National Park.

Amazing advice. Thanks!

The town of Sonoma has a lovely, historic central square -- including California's northernmost Mission. Several good places to eat there including (on a side-alley) La Salette with, improbably, given its French name, Portuguese cuisine!

More for the travelers the other week thinking about California wine country.

I often stay for work at the Comfort Inn Manhattan Bridge. It's a great location, very reasonable and last I checked had no bed bug alerts!

Pondering a trip to Mexico City for my b-day next January (airfares are cheap from LA!) and wondering if you or chatters have any advice/tips/must-sees to toss my way. We're looking at 5 days on the ground.

I have a few, yes! Stay at the Red Tree House. I've sent lots of folks there, and they never regret it. Great location, hospitality and advice.

Go to El Mercado de la Merced or one of the other big food markets.

Hit up El Bajio, a traditional restaurant, for the best mole ever.

Get to the Anthropology Museum.

See the Diego Rivera murals at the Ministry of Education.

Ride the boats along the canals at Xochimilco.

See the Frida Kahlo house.

I'm planning on going to Hawaii in April. Since I'm only responsible for my airfare, I'm splurging and flying first class. Out of the airlines offering lie-flat (total or otherwise) to Hawaii, which provides the best service when it comes to food, entertainment, and comfort? Delta, American, or United? I'll note that United is, by far, the most expensive of the three, either direct from IAD or connecting.

American seems to top many best first-class lists. (Wish I could tell you first-hand!)

I was on a Caribbean cruise a few years ago with a friend, and our Barbados excursion was on the Jolly Roger Booze Cruise. The "booze" was a rum punch, which was not unique in the Caribbean, but it was EXTREMELY rummy. That led to rope jumping into the water, cutting my foot on coral and not even really noticing until the next day, the rest of the day being pretty much a blur, and the following day being a recovery day on the beaches of Aruba for both of us. Tons of fun!

Booze = great medicine.

I submitted the Booze Tourism note. And I swear, I put paragraph breaks in. But the software doesn't leave them in, and so, it becomes a giant wall of text and nobody can read it. Seriously, is there a way to get paragraph breaks to post? It would make reading long submissions a lot easier. I used a double carriage return, but that does not seem to work.

Sorry, I don't know. I typically make space break like . . .


But I can ask for next week.

If you need to fly to/from the cruise port, you can request wheelchair service while booking your flight reservations.

they go together, after all ;-) Oz: either the three day camping trip from Darwin to Alice Springs and then a few days in Alice or, my personal fave, Daintree Rainforest. I truly have never seen anything like it and I'm well traveled. I did the 3 day down to Alice.....slept out at Devil's Marbles, which was glorious! There was also one town where my fuzzy memory says that we traveled all night or got up at some ungodly hour and then complied with the custom of beer for was actually a great way to start the day!

Almost every trip my husband and I take involves a trip to a local brewery/brewpub/distiller. We love getting a taste of being a local that way. The most serendipitous trip we had was to Victoria in British Columbia, when we happened to be there during the Great Canadian Beer Festival. We managed to buy tickets before the trip (sold out in less than a day) and enjoyed tasting beer from across Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest in a local Victoria baseball field!

Perfect timing for a perfect tasting.

We'd like to fly from SFO to Christchurch in February. I'm seeing fares around $1600/1700 right now. Is there any reason to think those might go down (or up)? I was hoping to find one for $1300 or so but don't want to miss out if this is a good fare. Thanks for any thoughts!

I never see sale fares to Christchurch, unfortunately. And you traveling during high season.

But keep an eye on any specials from Air New Zealand.

I spent Memorial Day on an army base in Bavaria trying to out drink some special forces guys with large quantities of weissbier. Wow did that end badly, spent 2 days in bed with my hosts providing the ginger ale. Still can't stand the sight of that special beverage.

Think of it as your patriotic duty.

For the past twelve years or so, me and my high school friends (I’m currently 35) have met up over the Fourth of July week for the Beer Olympics. The Beer Olympics comprises multiple drinking games, which vary by year, but must include Stump (Google it), Caps (Google it), and culminate in a death match of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The games have also included Putt-Putt, Go Karts, Beer Pong, croquet, waffle ball, and any other leisure sport you can imagine. Upon arrival, Opening Ceremonies are conducted, wherein names are drawn from a hat to see who your partner is for the week. Teams engage in all events, which are assessed point values for first, second, and third. Prior locales have included: Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Vieques, Puerto Rico, Corolla, NC, Breckenridge, CO, New Orleans, LA, Austin, TX, Lake Tahoe, NV and many others that slip my mind due to brain cell loss. Most importantly for the purpose of this chat, we use the Olympics as a way to escape the pressures of work/real life for a few days once every year and to keep in touch with old friends. The random partnering ensures that you will be attached at the hip with an old friend for a week to catch up/laugh about old times. I highly recommend to the younger readers to establish a yearly trip as a tradition with old friends right after graduation from college as it has become something that we look forward to every year (the bickering about next year’s locale usually starts around Thanksgiving). Oh yeah: Almost forgot to mention that there is a Beer Olympics trophy that the victors get to keep for the year. It is a large cup that the victors use for drinking beer and mocking competitors until the new champion is crowned.

Love this idea -- as long as no one is throwing a javelin.

As a recovering alcoholic, I now seek out the best desserts when I travel!

Just as decadent, and no hangover (unless you count the sugar).

We made the trek up north to Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo and loved it. Gorgeous, not tacky at all. Lots of crocs! The croc show is amazing (and they swim with snakes too!). Well worthwhile.

The poster who suggested Alice Springs and Daintree made it seem like they were close together. Either the booze really affected him/her or he/she needed to make it clear that he/she visited those places at very different times. Alice Springs and Daintree are about 1500 miles apart!

I was a solo-gal backpacker skipping through Ireland and stopped in Cork. I read in my guidebook that the Beamish Brewery offered tours only on Tuesdays in the summer. Well, it was summer and a Tuesday so I headed over. I ended up hanging around the outside with several other backpacker types until they let us in. The very apologetic Irishman informed us that the brewery was under construction so they could not offer us a tour, but that he could take us directly to the tasting room. Upon arriving there, he taught us each how to pour a perfect pint, turned us loose and informed us he'd be back at some point. There were about 10 of us who had our fill of the different Beamish beers. The gent eventually reappeared, collected a Euro (or "whatever seemed fair") from each of us and we all left satisfied customers. Best brewery tour ever, and so different than the Guinness factory!

The hour is up! Oh no. But thanks for joining us on this fine Monday. Come back next week --puhleaze.

For today's winner: the Booze Olympiad. Please email me your contact info at to collect your non-liquid gold medal.

Have a great week!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column, clearing the way through the fog of consumer travel issues. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
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