Talk about Travel (April 15)

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Apr 15, 2019

Join the Travel team then to discuss your travel-related questions, comments, suspicions, warnings, gripes, sad tales, etc!

Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel! In this week's section, Chris Santella spends some time knee-deep in Henrys Fork of the Snake River, one of the country's best loved trout streams. Do you have a favorite fishing destination? Tell us where and why below; bonus points for references to "the one that got away." Most compelling answer gets a copy of Santella's latest, "Fifty Places to Surf Before You Die." On to your questions!

I recently renewed my passport and wanted to update my Global Entry information. I understand that with my new passport my GE is still good until its expiration date. I found myself locked out of my GE account. The message said my password was no longer valid and something to the effect that my account was deactivated. There didn't seem to be information about setting a new password. And I can't seem to find information on the web. Everything I found was about applying for GE if you didn't already have it. I used GE to enter the US last September. Why is my GE account suddenly unavailable?

I don't know, but I can help you find out. Please contact me directly.

We will be leaving from the Frederick area during a week day in June. We can take 95 south and take the chance with traffic delays or go I-301, I-17 and I-64 into the Outer Banks. Is one route any better than the other? Thank you.

I'd Waze/Google Map the route before I left, as an accident or construction can change everything. But the I-95 route would likely be about an hour shorter. 

What’s the best use of 24 hours in Seattle if we’ve never been before? Thanks!

I'd head downtown, maybe take nice walk along the Seattle Waterfront, check out some of the incredible coffee shops, like Elm Coffee or Analog. If you have a car, head over to the Museum of Flight. Best aviation museum ever. Hey Chatters, if you're out there, what are your favorite Seattle activities?

On a trip to London last year, my husband and I together with my sister and our parents stayed in an AirBnB in the suburbs. In the kitchen, there was a n Alexa. "I wonder what they use that for?" my sister asked. "Maybe they're spying on us," I replied. Every once in awhile, a strange sound came from the living room. Sitting there, I determined that it was coming from the wall across the room, where collectibles were hung: a gigantic beaded necklace behind glass and a decorative thingamajig - pale brown, seemingly ceramic, with slits and holes. The sound came again. Was it a click? I decided to investigate and saw that behind one of the holes in the ceramic decoration was a little circle. A lens! "There's a camera in the living room!" I reported to my father. He took a look at it. "Hmm. The question now is where they might also have put cameras." I looked around a bit. Then my husband appeared. Same report to him. "That's not a lens, " he said, looking at the opening. Then he took the decoration off the wall - not ceramic, but plastic - and revealed a can of air freshener set to squirt every 30 minutes. Cameras in rentals are no joke. But in my case, paranoia got the better of me.

Thank you for sharing your story. You're right, spying on your guests is not a joke. 

I am flying to Germany in June, I booked by flights on Lufthansa which is actually United. It will not let me select seats, says I need to wait until I check in. Is there a way to reserve my seats ahead of time? I don't travel often, so I'm confused.

Have you tried calling them? Sometimes that works. I'd also keep checking. If it stays locked, you should be able to get seats 24 hours in advance. It's not unusual for airlines to limit advance seat reservations to those who pay more for their tickets. So if you booked the cheapest fare, that may be the issue. 

Would it be possible to purchase travel insurance that covers lodgings with a 30 day cancellation policy? I'm planning to travel to New Orleans in about three weeks. I'm not as concerned about flights since I am flying Southwest. Thanks.

I don't think so, as you're already within that 30 day cancellation window. 

I'm having problems focusing at work, all my thoughts are toward Notre Dame de Paris. I've been to Paris a couple of times and planning to go back this fall, I can't imagine Paris without Notre Dame. I'm so sad, it's like I lost a good old friend that was always there...

I know how you feel. We're getting quite a few comments about Notre Dame this afternoon. I remember visiting for the first time in 1985 and being overwhelmed by the cathedral's beauty . and scale. Chatters, please feel free to share your Paris/Notre Dame memories. 

No question, just -- oh, no, Notre Dame. I can't stand to watch the footage. How on earth do crews even battle a blaze like that?

I can't watch it either. It is a dark day for Paris.

Today's code is TT8711. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating.

I recently had a flight cancellation and then a bad delay on the alternate flight that left me getting home about 12 hours later than I had planned. It was handled poorly in the connecting airport, so when I got home I emailed the airline to ask for compensation. I asked for a voucher for one amount, and they replied and gave me half, which I thought was still fair. I know you all say you should ask for something concrete, not just ask for some form of ambiguous compensation. The issue is that I had just taken a guess at what was reasonable, because I don't have a frame of reference for this. It left me wondering, how much should one ask for? Is it a percentage of the ticket price or the amount of time it took or a combination of things? Where should you start?

Unless you're flying in Europe or your flight originates in Europe, it's all a negotiation. Airlines typically don't compensate for lost vacation time or work  time, but if you can make a compelling case for an airline to offer more compensation, it's worth trying. You can definitely come back after a counter-offer and ask for more -- politely.

I had this happen as well - - gave me heart failure. Problem was - I was on the wrong precise site. They sure don't make it obvious. Once I got it right, I tried to bookmark it, but couldn't for some weird reason. Likely you are NOT deactivated - just in the wrong place.

Thank you for the feedback. I think our OP might find that helpful and reassuring. I have a Navigator on GE renewals coming up soon.

Heading to San Diego for vacation next week. Any recommendations for favorite taco stands? Thank you!

There are many good ones, but I like El Comal in North Park and even though it's a chain now -- the Taco Stand. Chatters?

Hi there - any ideas for activities (low-cost are ideal) to do with a couple of ten-year old girls in Sarasota, Florida this summer? Thanks in advance!

You have to check out the beaches and the Ringling Museum. Chatters, do you have any favorite things to do in Sarasota?

This is driving me crazy. VRBO is running commercials where instead of pronouncing the letters Vee Ar Be Oh, they're making it a word "verboh". Who thought this was a good idea? (Yes yes, I know, I will now go chase the kids off my lawn.)

I talked to Vrbo -- sorry, verboh -- about this. They did a lot of test marketing and found that about half of their users already called it verboh.  Oh well.

They switched over systems a couple years ago from the "GOES" system to the "" system. So if you had registered with GOES and then not checked back in for several years (why would you?), you need to create a new account. It will recognize you once you provide your trusted traveler info - you'll just have a different login. I'm not sure if this was the chatter's problem but though I'd relay this as I ran into the issue recently.

Thanks for the insight.

I recently received an email about renewing in the Trusted Traveler program. It advised me that the GOES system had been replaced by a new and different system and instructed me on how to log in to the new system. That may be what the LW is running into.

It might be.  Thank you for sharing that information.

I recommend the OP contact both Lufthansa and United (as Carol suggests: by phone). It is likely that Lufthansa does not have access to United's seat map, and that United has a different record locator from the one generated by Lufthansa: with that in-hand, it may be possible to obtain a seat assignment from United's website.

It never hurts to pick up the phone. 

Have lunch by grazing your way through Pike Place Market.

Yes, of course! Can't miss that.

I liked the Market area, and the Pioneer District. Be careful however. During the day, it's all office buildings and workers, but when I was there, seemed to do a 180 in tone and denizens after traditional working hours. Watch yourself after work!

Thank you.

Feeling very sad for Paris right now.

Yes, the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral is just awful. The roof and spire have collapsed and it is not under control. Have not heard anything about injuries.
Early talk is that renovation work may be cause. So much history lost. 

I was sixteen when I went to Paris, and Notre Dame was a highlight. I absolutely loved it. I can't bear to look at the videos coming out now. But when I get home, I know I will dig out my pictures from back then.

Thank you.

If you have time for a fun museum, the Museum of Pop Culture, formerly known as the Experience, is an interesting one. Ongoing and special exhibits. Spend as little or as much time as you want. A fun place.

Great recommendation. Thank you.

Some of you are big cheerleaders for Airbnb. In the last couple weeks we've learned that hidden cameras have been discovered in a number of properties around the world, and in Washington a house was burglarized and wrecked by renters who apparently used a stolen credit card.. Any advice to customers on both sides of the deal?

Yes, I've always urged readers to be careful about sharing economy accommodations. And now more than ever. Fortunately, the cameras don't seem to be that widespread,  but I'm monitoring the situation. If we have a full-blown trend, it will become a Navigator column. Meanwhile, if you see anything that looks suspicious, talk to your host or Airbnb. If you don't like the answers, then leave and ask for a refund.

I'm just devastated about Notre-Dame. Paris is my favorite place in the world. On my last trip there in July, I didn't go into Notre-Dame, because both times I tried, the line was too long. I wish I had waited. I'm praying no one was injured or killed and that somehow, they can salvage some of the building.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

This is heartbreaking. I've been to Paris several times and am going back this December, and I always go to Notre Dame a couple of times while there. I'm not Catholic. I'm an atheist. But something about Notre Dame brings me peace, more than any cathedral I've ever visited.

Yes, thank you.

We are planning a mult-generational family Mediterranean cruise for June 2020 (16-85). I know it comes down to a personal preference, but what are the major differences in the type and style of experience between eastern, western or Greek cruise? We're trying to honor a bucket list wish that our mom didn't get to check off. Thanks.

Eastern Med cruises are typically more exotic in their port visits. Western Med cruises are more traditional, visiting more commonly touristed cities. Greek islands are more casual. 

I almost never get sick here at home, but on my last two trips abroad (Europe last June, South America the previous October) I caught a cold. In South America, I had to endure a two-hour flight with clogged ears and sinuses (which was painful) before I could get some cold medicine. This year, cold medicine is on my list of stuff to pack.

Thanks. I think that's great advice.

We didn't fish there, but after having camped in Grand Teton National Park just after Labor Day 1970, we camped in nearby Targhee National Forest for a few days while waiting out an early snow storm in Yellowstone that had blocked its entrance roads for a few days. After the weekend was over, we had one of the campgrounds to ourselves, and would hike down to get water out of the stream. Well, we DID have one notable companion: an owl we heard hooting each night. We were able to pick up KID-AM on our battery-operated portable radio, mainly to get the news, which is how we learned that the temperature was 20F each morning, so probably even cold where we were (thank goodness for our toasty goose-down-filled mummy bags!). Nearly 50 years later we're no longer physically able to tent-camp, but have fond memories (and color slides) of the spot.

Thanks for sharing!

Can you recommend a good place to rafting in WVA? Wanting to take a long weekend trip, family of 4. We've rafted in Colorado before and want to try out the more local venue. Thanks.

The upper Cheat River for big rapids in the spring. Lower Cheat is more family friendly. The Gauley River and New River are also good choices. 

Looks like the Post's Express had a piece that speaks to this point a few days ago.

Thanks for pointing that out!

I've been going to New Smyrna Beach, FL and fishing there since I was a kid. My dad would take me out and we'd fish on the beach or off the piers in the river. Around 2006, I bought a kayak and started fishing in the backwaters of the Mosquito Lagoon there. I've caught some redfish, I've caught more hardhead catfish and other trash fish, I've screwed up more casts than I can count, and sometimes I just like to go out and paddle in the mangrove and just get lost for a while. It's so nice to be so far away that all you hear is the slosh of water against the roots and the birds squawking. The beach is the shark bite capital of Florida, if not the world. So, don't wade out in the surf with bait in your pocket like I did. I didn't realize it was a bad idea until I saw the surfers nearby, and realized "Oh, this is where the sharkbites happen." Needless to say, I got out and unloaded my pockets.

It's nearby and simple, but I've always loved getting a charter boat out of the Happy Harbor Marina in Deale, MD, and going out on the Chesapeake. My first year out of college, my company chartered a couple boats as a team-building exercise, and I've been at least once a year since then. We get rockfish, bluefish, croakers, spotfish, and more. It's a laid-back experience, too, so it's a good hangout to reconnect with friends.

Thanks for sharing!

It was less than two miles from our house and the water was all of about three feet deep. The beach was shared among a bunch of the houses across the street. Grandpa had this weird way of putting a worm on the hook. I think he knew we were too little to actually watch the line properly so when we caught anything the fish was likely to have swallowed the hook and removing it would injure the fish too much for it to survive long. So he set the worms so that the fish could eat them without ever really getting close to the hook. We were mostly just feeding worms to the sunfish that would hang out under the pier. If he were still alive, he would be over 100 by now. God, I miss him.

Thank you for writing in and sharing your story.

My favorite memories are wandering the Pike Place Market - shopping at the colorful craft tables, inhaling the aromas of the freshly cut and unusual flowers and watching the fish being thrown around! Also on that same street there is (or used to be) a small Turkish restaurant. It was the best. They made the absolutely best Turkish Delight candies in flavors not to be found anywhere else. Lastly, we went on an underground historical tour of Seattle - immense fun. (That was Seattle, wasn't it?!)

Thanks for the tips -- and the memories.

The LWs are correct - the system changed over a couple of years ago. I did that, but there's still another system online that is separate from GE/Pre-check that you find first. That's where you try to log in, and think you've been deactivated. I just did this last fall, got caught up in the shut down, and recovered from heart failure thinking I'd been deactivated/deleted... The don't make it easy...

Thank you.

I've read some horror stories but never personally encountered any problems. However, be careful that your cold medicine doesn't contain any ingredients that are outlawed in the place you are visiting

Good point. Thank you.

In addition to Chris' great suggestions (BTW Uber and Lyft are everywhere - no need to rent a car to get to Museum of Flight), other things to consider depending on interests: 1. Space Needle (newly renovated) - you can ride the Monorail from downtown Seattle there to get a 60's WorldsFair Vibe 2. Seattle Art Museum 3. Museum of HIstory and Industry (MOHAI) - in S. Lake Union, home of Amazon 4. Chihuly Glass Museum (drive to Tacoma) - also LeMay Auto Museum there 5. International District for great Asian lunch 6. Lark on Capitol Hill for farm to table dinner 7. Scenic ferry ride to Bainbridge Island (30 minutes each way) - nice shopping in lunch within walking distance of terminal 7. Boeing Factory Tour (for this you'd also want to drive) and Flying Heritage Collection in Mukilteo, WA, about 45 minutes from downtown 8. Boat tours for the Sound, the Locks or Lake Washington 9. Steelhead Diner just near the Pike Place Market is a great locally owned spot for dining and nice view of the Sound 10. Mariners are actually watchable this year and the ballpark (TMobile Field) is well designed with a lot of interesting food options. In reading some of the other postings, would avoid Pioneer Square and Belltown neighborhoods in the evening. We do have panhandlers and you will certainly smell cannabis walking around downtown. Most of all bring layers and something with a hood for most of the year!

Thank you. These are great recommendations.

There's a super cool outdoor adventure place in Bradenton called Tree-umph, which is right near Myakka State Park, also very cool. Mote Marine has an aquarium with manatees and a program where you can feed the sharks. There are a number of outfitters that do guided kayak tours through the mangroves.

Thank you.

What is the best way to get from DC to the Canada side of the falls without a car? Family is visiting DC for the 10th time so they pretty much have seen most of DC that interest them, however they've never been to Niagara Falls. We will have 4-5 days in mid June and we are interested in seeing the falls and perhaps visiting a historic town. I visited the falls more than a decade ago and I tagged along with other people so I'm not familiar with the logistics. We are two adults and a senior interested in sightseen, good food and quaint historic towns (not much into museums).

Do you mean you don't want to rent a car? There are bus tours that leave from the Washington DC area. One that I've heard of is called Golden Bus Tours, but I don't know whether it's well regarded. 

My very first grownup trip, after I got a real job, was to Paris. I went to Notre Dame on a dreary November day when the crowds were low. It was an awesome experience that has lead me to visit wonderful old cathedrals in a number of other countries. A few blocks away, I bought an oil painting of Notre Dame off a street vendor. It hangs in my house and I look at it every single day.

Such a nice memory. I always remember seeing it for the first time as we took our first spin around Paris on one of those hop-on-hop-off buses. So lovely. 

Affordable River cruises in the US? Is theres a website where I can get good deals for both sea and river cruises?

Look at Cruise Critic, as it's the best site for seeing what cruises are available in your target area. Cruise Compete can come up with deals. And you may want to try talking to a travel agent. Agents often get better pricing from cruise lines, and they can sometimes offer bargain airfare. 

Loved the article about Snake River. But come on, do you really think people will reveal their favorite fishing destinations? They are guarded like state secrets!

Ha, point taken!

Answer to the chatter inquiring about Seattle: Pike Place Market is a must-- can easily spend hours there, lots of delicious fresh seafood. Visit Gasworks Park for breathtaking views of the city. If you have a car or even a quick (ish) depending on traffic-uber-ride, go visit Alki Beach across the West Seattle Bridge. Alki also has wonderful views of the city you can't get other places, and some wonderful restaurants. Drive up to Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill for the "Frasier" view, and tons of great restaurants in upper and lower Queen Anne.

Thank you.

Any good tips for Newport Beach? Will be with two kids, 14 and 12 - looking for fun places to eat or activities.

Take a walk in Crystal Cove and take them to the exhibits at Discovery Cube's OceanQuest.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has a nice kids area, and glorious gardens.

Looks like our time is up -- thanks for chatting today. Fishing with grandpa, drop us a line at to claim your prize. And join us next week for more Talk About Travel!

In This Chat
Nicole Arthur
Nicole Arthur is the Travel editor.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
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