Talk about Travel (Dec.2)

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Dec 02, 2019

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

Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel! This week we headed to Slovenia, for a look at the scenery that figures in Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms," and sailed the Greek islands, following the path chronicled by Homer in "The Odyssey." Have you ever visited a destination of literary significance? Tell us which one and why below. Most compelling answer gets a copy of "Paris: A Curious Traveler's Guide," by Eleanor Aldridge. On to your questions!

On Thanksgiving Day I boarded a 9 hour United flight from Frankfurt to Dulles (right after a 7 hour flight from East Africa) and my aisle seat was occupied by a gentleman that was clearly too big to be in his assigned middle seat. After I informed the flight attendant, she asked him to move to his assigned seat, and he did it but clearly he was uncomfortable and needed to pull up the armrest to fit in, by doing that he ended up occupying half of my seat and his elbow was perpetually in my ribs. Half of my body was in the aisle. I immediately asked the flight attendants to help me out, but they indicated that the flight was full, and then later after, that they needed to wait for all people to board. I couldn’t sit any longer when the person fell asleep and ended up completely pushing me further. I tried to wake him up to no avail and ended up informing the flight attendant once more (in tears!). The flight attendants just said they couldn’t do anything and that I should send a message to United, which I’m planning to do, but as a result I had to stand up. I ended up in the back of the plane for about 6+ hours STRAIGHT without being able to sit in my assigned paid seat and without being able to have my meal. Only two hours before the flight arrival, due to turbulence, I had to go back to my seat which was occupied by the aforementioned person. I stayed seated for about 15 minutes, the duration of the turbulence, and as I only had available half of my seat, I had to raise the aisle armrest to be able to use the little space left, thus, half of my body was hanging during this turbulence which was totally unsafe. I had a fully refundable ticket and I had to stand up for about 90% of a 9 hour flight and I wasn’t able to eat my meal as I had no place to sit. During those long hours, tired, frustrated and praying that my herniated neck disks wouldn’t start hurting, I asked myself; Is this even real? I want to think that there were no first-class seats available but when I was disembarking, I saw seats in first class that didn’t seem to have been occupied at all (clean and with all travel kits intact). I always treated the person seated next to me with respect but having no options given from the flight attendants, I stood in the back of the plane for more than 6 hours very frustrated and upset and I suspect that if it were a different person it would have caused a ruckus and all this may have been ended in a different situation. What should I have done? And what should I do now besides sending a complaint to United?

Oh no. I'm so sorry that happened to you! Before I turn this over to my fellow chatters, let me say a few things. I've mediated several cases exactly like yours in the past. They either stood for the entire flight or tried to sit in the jump seat. (Neither is allowed.) I think you should have been upgraded to another available seat, even if it was in first class. At this point, you might want to reach out to the airline. I list the executive contacts at United Airlines on my advocacy site. Chatters, what say you?

Many thanks to comments on flying business class. It's a one-off for me as I cut back on long trips. Using amassed miles for a bit of pampering. As with one commenter, I am a non-drinking vegetarian, but booze and meat aren't reasons to pay more. Of all of the WaPo chats, this one is always most useful..

Thanks for the kind words regarding our chat. And yes, I said last week that I fly business-class whenever I can manage it, especially on overnight flights, because of the extra room. Getting a meal on a piece of china and a couple of glasses of free wine are not the driving factors. 

I need some vacation idea inspiration. I want to take a trip in February, thinking at least one week but open to longer if it made more sense. It would be for myself, my husband and my (very active) 2 year old. We are located in Boston so ideally somewhere warm (I keep going back and forth between warm enough to swim outside or just warn enough not to need a parka, hat, gloves, etc.)- last year we went to Jekyll Island in Georgia which was the latter and it was great). I want easy and relaxing. Want to stay somewhere with a kitchen and separate bedroom (somewhere to put the toddler to bed at 7 and another place for us to be with wine, etc. after she goes down). $5,000 budget but happy to stretch for the right idea. Any ideas? Thanks! I love these chats!

This is a great chance to break out our Vacation Finder! It's a quiz that draws on four years of our coverage to give you a list of worthy travel destinations. It doesn't cover the specific questions about type of lodging you mentioned, but it's a good start to pinpoint a general location. Once you have that, it'll be easier to find lodging within your specifications. Try it out and tell us what you get!

Checking in with an update on my colleague whose carry--on bag was take off the plane. The good news - he got it back. It was a case of mistaken bag identity as a similar bag was left in the opposite overhead bin, and the other bag owner noted the mistake and returned my colleague's bag. Several readers wrote in to suggest placing your bag in the overhead bin across the aisle, or only above your own seat. My colleague's bag was in the bin directly in front of his seat on the same side of the aisle - which was the only space available when we boarded. (We can't always choose the optimal location.) Note also that he had requested an aisle seat but got a window, and when everyone stood up at the end of the flight and started retrieving bags it was not possible to see. I was across the aisle and noticed his bag was missing before he did. All of which is to say, even when you take every precaution, and try to keep your bag close, and watch as people are departing - things happen, you can't see everything, and it wasn't his fault. My key take-away is to check my bag more often than not. (Especially for international flights for which there is no charge for checked bags.) I may have to wait a few minutes at the luggage carousel, but if it's missing I have a checked bag ticket and a clear procedure to follow - which is much less hassle than my colleague experienced. Thanks.

Thank you for letting us know.

Just a note to say I took the early morning Vamoose 'gold' bus to NYC on Thursday and the driver made perfect time! We arrived before noon. NYC street were filled with people but fortunately the trip up was easy.

Glad you managed to get into the city with all those closed streets. 

I had occasion recently to fly Qatar Airways. What a pleasant surprise! From check-in to return, it was so different from any US carrier I've flown. Pleasant agents at check-in. They have 'fragile' baggage service - who knows if it really does anything, but US carriers just snort "NO" when I ask. The boarding process is odd, but I got my seat and overhead space fine. The seats are way more comfortable, each seat gets an 'amenity' kit too. I always order a special meal, and mine was good and plentiful. On the way back my seat got changed for no apparent reason, but I asked the attendant at the door if I could change back, she checked on the tablet and said yes, and that my meal would follow me. And it did. The flight attendants check often with water and snacks, and collect trash regularly. If I could only fly Qatar, I sure would!

Qatar gets generally high marks, especially for its service. Thanks for the report. 

 

Here's a question we received from a reader in an email: I am African American. I love to travel. I’ve been to tons of places outside the United States. So many out of the way places in my own country I haven’t visited because I simply don’t know if the venue is safe and welcoming for people of color. Any other readers express this concern?

 

 

 I interviewed Eric Martin a few months ago. He co-founded a Web site called Black and Abroad for black travelers. The community is incredibly supportive and helpful with travel tips. I would definitely recommend you reach out to them and read about their experiences on the site.

I, too, have had this happen, most recently on a flight where English was not the second or third language, and my animated gestures and grimaces were met with shrugs. Any U.S. carrier could have, and should have, done better. I refused to raise the armrest, the person was quite angry, but had I done so, I would have been literally pushed into the aisle. As it was, s/he overflowed into my seat, taking fully half...

Thanks. I agree -- this is not your problem. It's theirs. And by "theirs" I mean the airline.

Looking for recommendations for our upcoming trip to Sedona for 5 nights -- 2 adults and 2 teenagers (15 and 17) over Christmas. Looking for "must do" activities and restaurant recommendations, including for Christmas Day.

Great choice! Sedona is one of my favorite places in America. You'll definitely want to go hiking while you're there. I could write a whole story about the best hikes in Sedona, but I'm the consumer columnist. For a real easy hike with awesome views, try the Teacup Trail (we were on it just last week). If you have a free day, check out the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The biking in Sedona is great, too. Chatters, over to you. What are the must-do activities in Sedona?

In 1999 I read the book "Under the Tuscan Sun," by Francis Mayes. At the time, my husband and I were sharing a computer, and he found half of Italy saved as favorites on our Mac. I had never been to Europe, but he went to high school in Switzerland. At our 30th anniversary dinner, he presented me with travel brochures to Italy, noting that I'd most likely want to plot this trip out on my own. We went to Cortona and found the house, Bramasole, the Roman road Francis would walk into town, and the restaurants and places she shopped. That was the start of many European trips I planned from reading memoirs. In fact, one of the memoirs led to a village in southwest France that we love so much we now have a "shackteau" of our own there.

I am working on an edition of an early 19th-century travelogue by an obscure German author. In addition to library research, I've retraced parts of the journey on the Rhine and in the Netherlands on my bike. In one city I walked from the Rhine up to her home following a route described in the text. She describes then continuing on up to a brook. I kept walking and found a parking lot where the brook should have been. Looking to my left I saw a sandstone cliff -- with a trickle of water running down. My husband and I also read the Apostle Paul's speech on Mars Hill and then gone walked up to the Areopagus, visited Ephesus, Bergama, Didyma and other sites in Turkey reading the appropriate texts by the pre-Socratic philosophers and from the New Testament. And Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, as the site of "Anne of Green Gables." Probably my first literary pilgrimage at age 13.

Paying homage to Walker Percy's "The Moviegoer," we got drinks at the Roosevelt Hotel bar in New Orleans. It was late morning on a weekday, and the bar was almost completely empty. We chatted with the bartender, who was very friendly and knowledgeable, and could mix a mean cocktail. It was a lovely, leisurely way to relax while sightseeing.

Going to a resort in Cap Cana, the CDC says there is a risk but it seems like tens thousands of people go all time and I don't get the sense that they are all on anti Malaria drugs. What is the actual risk of being there for a week in December?

Unless you're going into the countryside, you should be fine. The tourist resorts are big on spraying pesticides (wake up early enough and you'll see it happen), which probably has its own set of risks. 

I love it when people farther back put their bags up front, taking up space that isn't "theirs." What's with that?? Anyhow, I have very bright and obvious tags and hanging bits on my roller bag. If someone else takes it, it's either on purpose, or they are blitzed... So far, so good. I also made a "case" for a piece of luggage I used for scuba gear. I gave up dragging it on board, being bulky and heavy. We replaced toilets, and they came in very rigid but light cardboard. I line the roller bag with those, to make it more solid. So far, so good. I've been lucky with checked bags making it to the destination. Qatar airways puts special tags on bags with long layovers. Another reason to like them. U.S. carriers don't do that. Sigh. But they do whine about other carriers having unfair advantages....

Thank you for sharing your luggage strategies.

I don't fly frequently, but when I do, I like being a bit more comfortable than being in a cattle car. All the ticket websites I see are great for the lowest fare. How about us willing to pay a bit more (not business or first more) for a better experience? Do any sites cater to those like me? Signed, wishing Jet Blue went everywhere.

I like Hipmunk, which lets you sort flights by "agony."

If a person cannot physically fit in their seat shouldn't they have to buy two seats to fly? Shouldn't the flight attendants deal with this before take-off? I would have walked all through the plane and looked for empty seats and demanded to be assigned a new seat when I found one.

Yes, the attendants should have noticed the problem. Someone is going to get into trouble for this.

Hi, travel experts! I loved your column on the best travel websites. I've used ITA Matrix for years, but hadn't heard of several of the ones you suggested. Now, what sites would you recommend for packages? They don't have to be all-inclusive (meals, flights), but somewhat inclusive and pre-planned. We'd like to take our teens to some adventurous destinations (say, SE Asia or Africa), and will trade some flexibility for not having to plan an interesting itinerary ourselves. I'd really love your thoughts on a clearinghouse site or two where we could find discounted packages that reward people who don't need to plan months and months in advance. THANKS!

Oh, that's a great question. Many of the large online agencies (Expedia, Orbitz, Booking, etc.) offer packages. For a trip like yours, I might go with a travel agent, who can recommend the right tour for your family. 

What does it mean when some of your comments and responses are shaded in gray?

I believe that indicates that a moderator is answering the question.

I'm going to Kauai with 5 friends in May. We're staying the first two nights in rustic cabins in the Kokee State Park so we can do some hiking and are looking to stay at an Airbnb house for the other 6 nights of the trip. We'd like to stay in a beachy area where ideally we can walk to restaurants and shops but also can drive less than an hour to do some day hikes. Do you or the charters have any recommendations?

Chatters, any advice for Kauai?

I get that it's useful for health issues and travel delays, but another reason I could use it would be if something happened to one of my pets. Would anyone cover me for that? Or does it just cover health issues for me and my immediate family?

I'm unaware of any policy that covers a cancellation if your pet gets sick. There are some policies with limited pet coverage, but it's usually for if the policyholder falls ill.

As I've gotten older, I've gotten more vocal. You can confirm this with my husband. It would have turned into a real uncomfortable flight for way more than just me in his/her place. Zero percent chance that I would have stood for more than 15 minutes. (I suppose I could have ended up in jail at the end of the flight, too....)

Yes, I think a lot of passengers would have been vocal.

How often is every seat on an airliner filled? Every first-class seat? Every business-class seat? I would think seating problems would be so frequent that the airlines would need to be able to move people just to protect itself. Women are even suing airlines because seatmates molested them in flight, and the attendants wouldn't move them.

A lot of flights are totally full, but on this particular flight there were available seats.

Obviously the airline should have found a way to help her, and it should be called to account for its failure. But in the immediate circumstance, she might have traded seats with him, moved to the middle seat and put the armrest down, and let fat man ooze into the aisle.

That would have been one way to handle it. Did you just say "ooze"?

Has the concept of those needing two seats buying two seats been abandoned?? Just curious.

No, it's alive and well. Except at United, apparently.

It makes me sad that they recently pared down their direct flights from D.C. Lesson learned - use those points now instead of later because you may not want to fly to Charleston through Boston! Still the best flying experience ever. That channel with the map is heaven.

So true. I think air travel is ripe for disruption of some kind. Maybe a new airline or two, maybe even a new mode of transportation. Anything but this.

I usually book my trips far in advance with a low economy fare. The downside is that the low fare seems to make me one of the last passengers to be allowed to board. The last 6 flights I have taken, by the time "Group 8" is allowed to board, they insist on checking my carry-on bag because there is no space left in the bins. The only benefit is that they don't charge the standard checked luggage fee. But I understand why people take the first available overhead bin on the plane. By the time they get to their seat, there is a high probability that they will have lost the game of "musical bins" and will have no place left to put their luggage. This really shouldn't be this frustrating.

I pretty much always end up boarding last when I fly, so I totally feel your pain. 

Hello, I live locally with my husband and son. we are looking at a week of school vacation in February and are stumped in trying to come up with a place that we can fly directly to, won't break the bank, and will have some activities. Airfare seems especially high lately! Alternatively, is there a fun place we could drive to (and take our dog) that offers more fun than sitting in a cabin looking at each other?

Asheville (known as "Dog City USA") is about eight hours by car, so you might need to break up the trip. Or consider Raleigh, which is about five hours by car. Both destinations are dog-friendly and have a good mix of activities. You might also enjoy a vacation in Shepherdstown, W.Va., or Harper's Ferry, or for a more urban experience, Philadelphia.

Hi I will be in Amsterdam next spring for business. Thinking of tacking on a week afterwards to see some of Belgium, including Bruges, Ghent and the area of the Battle of the Bulge. Would it be the easiest to rent a car? Is this doable? Do you know of any resources for the Battle of the Bulge (I know the museum is in Bastogne). Thanks.

Renting a car is likely your best bet, as it will give you more freedom to come and go. It's a less-than-three-hour drive from Amsterdam to Bruges. and about a 2.5-hour drive from Bruges to Bastogne, with Ghent close to Bruges. The Bastogne War Museum is your best resource. 

Looking for suggestions for international towns/cities for a home base for two weeks where there will be sufficient activities to entertain adults and toddlers within a 2-3 hour drive/train trip. Doing Oxford this time around (London, Cotswolds, Bath, etc) but not sure where to go next. Thanks.

If you're interested in returning to Europe, perhaps Munich or Vienna would work. Chatters? 

Props to everyone who did the smart thing and drove home a day early, but did you really need to leave at the same time as when I had always planned to? My 6 hour drive becoming 11 hours was not ideal! How was everyone else's travel weekend?

Well that sounds awful! In my years of driving back and forth to Long Island for the holiday, I found the key is leaving before the sun comes up, regardless of which day you travel. No fun. 

Any update on the Punta Cana area? Has there been any conclusion as to what caused the tourist deaths last year? Would you recommend waiting to visit the area, or go for it?

The latest FBI report dates from October, which said the Americans died of natural causes -- no foul play involved. I am not sure if the agency plans to release more findings, but at the moment, the "natural causes" narrative is the main one. 

The spate of deaths from this summer has subsided. I would think that it is okay to go back (the country desperately needs visitors). Just stay attuned to your body. If you start to feel dizzy or sick, seek medical attention.

We are a family of city mice and country mice, ranging in age from 2 - 57. Some like the bustle of the cities, some like beaches and hiking. Some live in LA, but most of us are on the East Coast. We'd like to plan a trip together. Any suggestions?

For your two populations of mice, I would recommend Austin, Charleston, Asheville or Nashville.

I'm a smaller person so I would gladly sit next to a heavier person on a flight as I have room to spare. Yeah, I paid for X amount of space, but I don't need it all. I wish they could match us up that way, as long as I get a window.

It's nice people like you who make air travel bearable. You can sit next to me anytime. You can take the window seat.

While I'm fortunate that I haven't had this problem in spite of frequent travel, my husband has had a back problem for many years. We buy him extra seats (in coach) together so he can lie down when he gets uncomfortable. Someone who is too large to fit in a standard seat needs to buy a second one. It's not fair to the adjacent person to take up part of their seat that they paid for and are entitled to without encroachment.

I agree. Thank you for sharing your story.

Would you have been better off letting him have the aisle seat and putting down the middle seat arm rest so that he would have had to hang 50% in the actual aisle and you could have claimed at least one full seat at arm rest level (though there isn't much you can do above and below that).

That's a good question.

What about Brussels? I've heard there are many places one can get to bytrain in three hours.

Yes, another good idea. 

Since I am a fan of all types of historical fiction.  One of my favorites is Tracy Chevalier’s “Remarkable Creatures,” a novel about real-life Mary Anning, an English fossilist who lived in the early half of the 1800s. She was the inspiration for the tongue-twister “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” After reading the book I just had to visit Lyme Regis and see the site of her home (now a museum), the home of her sponsor, and of course, do my own fossil digging. Another favorite is "Year of Wonders," set in Eyam, England, which is about one village sequestering itself to survive the plague. I even got my husband to read it. We loved visiting the village and even met people who were in a survivors DNA study. Interesting conversation!

I freely admit that when I was choosing a place to hike two years ago, I did the Great Glen Way because I am an Outlander fan. When I hiked the Thames Path, I brought along "Two Men in a Boat" to read, though the book was not the inspiration for that trip.

Visited Alhambra twice in one visit Granada. Read Washington Irving's "Tales of Alhambra" before the second visit, and it made the palace come alive from Irving's descriptions of living and working there.

When my kids were young, we read about a Jewish immigrant family living in New York at the turn of the century in "All of a Kind Family" in the car on the way to New York City, where we took a tour of the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side. It really came to life for them.

I guess this makes me a horrible person, but as a writer myself I got more of a spiritual hit from staying at the Algonquin Hotel in New York and having dinner near the famous Round Table than visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The thing I don't understand is why JetBlue felt the need to wipe out everything but Boston from DCA. Every flight I took between here and Tampa was at least 85-90% full. Is running a shuttle service to BOS really more lucrative?

Guess so. The airline cut service to Hartford. Now I am stuck with American for trips home.

Help, please - I came back from a cruise with Eastern Caribbean currency and don't know where I can exchange it. The currency exchange in the airport wouldn't take it, nor would by bank. Any suggestions?

You could hang onto it for a future trip or ask around the neighborhood if anyone is going to the Carib and needs some money. You could also try to exchange it for another country's currency. (I do this with my leftover currencies. I bring them to the airport exchange booth, which I imagine has seen every kind of currency.) Or you could put the currency in your scrapbook!

I always just go directly to the airline's website. You see all of the options laid out there from basic economy on up. I recently booked some flights on Delta and chose their "main cabin" option over the basic option.

That's another way of doing it. Thank you.

Me too. It's a great aviation system we have here, where EVERYONE boards last!

Tell me about it. I'm the guy behind you!

How about Orleans - the Loire Valley is fabulous and it's a quick train trip to Paris and plenty of other good places. Orleans isn't anything particularly special - but wouldn't that be part of the charm? It's a lovely provincial French town.

Lovely provincial French town sounds special enough to me. 

Hi, sorry for another when to buy question. I don’t usually travel Memorial Day weekend, but am considering flying from DCA to Little Rock, Ark. A direct flight is under $500 on American . Buy now or later?? Thanks in advance!

Normally, I'd watch and wait for the next couple months. But if you need to travel on specific days during a holiday weekend on nonstop flights, you may want to move on it sooner rather than later. 

I'll be visiting Boston for 4-5 days early in May and am not sure what area to stay in. I'll rely on public transit to get around, so near bus/T stops. I'm hoping for a minimal-frills hotel for around $150; is that possible?

Look at Brookline. There is a Courtyard by Marriott there that will fit the bill. Any chatters have a recommendation? 

I will be in Birmingham AL and then Atlanta Ga for my granddaughter's softball tournaments in February 2020. I will have about 4 days between tournaments and would like to know what I should see. I've never been to Alabama and was looking at the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman and also The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. I would also like to visit some sights in Atlanta.

I covered B'ham  as one of our You're Going Where? cities. The piece dates from 2017, so check to make sure the places are still open. For Atlanta, visit the MLK Historic Site, Piedmont Park, the Goat Farm Arts Center, the Jimmy Carter museum and library and the aquarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. If you're up for a dip, you can swim with whale sharks, manta rays and other aquatic residents.

I totally sympathize with you. It was a terrible situation. But it makes me think, yet again, that airlines need to set aside a certain number of seats for people that don't fit in standard size seats. I don't care if you're 6' 7" or weigh 400 pounds, some people just don't fit in a standard seat. (And I'm 5' 4" and weigh 140 so fit anywhere). Please don't tell me that tall people can't help it but heavy people can because that is most definitely not the case if you know anything about the endocrine system and even then, so what? Set aside some long or wide seats, enforce who can use them, and I'll absorb the costs with my smaller self. If you need them but don't snag them before they sell out, then you have to buy two. (Won't work for tall people but sorry, I can't think of a fix.)

Thank you. I like the idea of setting aside some seats for XL passengers. I'm going to do some more research and add this to my Navigator lineup.

Do be careful around those sprayers! Likely those spraying don't know what they are spraying, and have little training in safe use. Remember the family, I think it was British Virgin Islands, who were killed or terribly injured by that? Any insecticide that will kill/injure insects will do the same to humans. Most will damage your nervous system .

That family poisoned by pesticides in 2015 were seriously injured and received a big settlement. The man who administered the banned pesticides to the resort condo complex was indicted. There has been speculation that pesticides may have been the cause of some unexplained deaths in DR. But when you think of how many visitors go to the Caribbean each year, probably not something to worry too much about. 

My son took the Megabus from Philly to D.C. and when he got off to get his luggage, it was gone. Seems like someone took it by accident but he never got it back. What are his options? He filed a claim and never heard anything.

Ugh. That is awful. Did your son have his name on  his bag? Was there a similar bag left behind that has an ID with contact information? (In the event that this was a Case of Mistaken Luggage.) I would file a claim with Megabus, which states, "Our maximum liability to you for any loss or damage to your luggage is US $250 per passenger for any such loss or damage to luggage, and megabus will only be responsible to reimburse passengers up to the maximum liability limit in the event of negligence on the part of megabus." If you have home insurance, his bag might be covered by your policy. Your son should also share his story on social media, so future riders can avoid a similar experience. Good luck!

The problem is that some flight crews threaten to play the "Lower your voice or I will declare a flight emergency and you will be on CNN and escorted to jail by the authorities" card. People with security clearances end up being the most polite people on the plane because speaking up too loudly risks their career if the flight crew has had a bad day.

Yes, some flight attendants have zero tolerance for complainers -- even when the complaints are justified. They could call authorities and we could have a sequel to the David Dao incident.

If airlines enforced such a rule, what standard would they apply? Weight? Waist size? Butt width? There would have to be some objective measure. Imagine the howls and lawsuits if passengers were required to sit in sample seats at the gates before boarding, and were told "You're too fat. No flight for you!"

I know that flight attendants receive training on how to assess an oversize passengers, and how to deal with that person. I'll see if I can get some details for the story.

As folks are giving ideas, I am back to the concept of what Chris alluded to earlier: THIS IS THE AIRLINE'S RESPONSIBILITY. This isn't singling heavy people for discrimination, despite what the fat acceptance community says. This is making it equally pleasant for all passengers. If you were on a smaller plane and the airline weighed you, and determined your seat based upon that, that would be the end of the convo

Thank you.

My husband, myself and college-age son will travel to New Orleans for a long weekend in January. Is there a neighborhood outside of the French Quarter to search for hotels? Will we need to rent a car to get around town?

On my last visit, I stayed at the Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery in the Central Business District and could walk to a ton of attractions. You could also try Uptown/Garden District, Midcity or Marigny/Bywater. I have rented and not rented and was honestly happier without a car. I got around by foot, bike, streetcar and shared car (just for the ride from/to the airport). Parking is a big ol' pain, and you experience more of the city by foot, bike or streetcar.

While researching cruises on Hurtigruten I noticed thousands of dollars difference in price between fares in USD on their United States website and fares in Norwegian Kroner, converted to USD, on their Norway website. Other than a little time spent on Google translate and a little currency risk, are there any other downsides? 

I'm not sure that the site would allow you to book from the United States, although it would be worth a try. Have you tried calling their reservation line? Perhaps they'll cut you a deal. 

I don't have children so I am clearly not an expert.......but I would look at a cruise. There are lots of activities for little ones (and places where they cannot go!) and you might get the opportunity to relax also.

Thanks!

I will have the good fortune of being able to visit a friend who is currently living in Amman, Jordan. It looks like I will be traveling there in January. I would like to combine this trip with a stop of 4-5 days somewhere in Europe. My current thinking is Lisbon and the surrounding area, but I'm not sure how the weather there (or most anywhere else) will be in mid-January. Any thoughts or other suggestions, that will make sense with flights connecting to/from Dulles and Amman.

To avoid adding another flight, I would pick a layover city, such as London, Amsterdam, Vienna or Paris. (The city varies by airline, and yes, the weather will be chilly but you can go indoors and drink a lot of hot beverages.) Some airlines even let you spend a few days in the layover city without an extra charge. If you can ignore current politics, you might want to fly Turkish Air and hang out in Istanbul for a few days.

How about our beloved nation's capital for literary sites? Oak Hill Cemetery for "Lincoln in the Bardo"; Tabard Inn for "Death Duty"; Georgetown University steps for "The Exorcist"; White House for "Absolute Power"; SE D.C. for anything Pelacanos.

And one (or five) more literary destination for good measure.

Looks like our time is up -- thanks for chatting today, everyone! Walker Percy fan, drop us a line at travel@washpost.com to claim your prize. And join us again next week for more Talk About Travel!

In This Chat
Nicole Arthur
Nicole Arthur is the Travel editor.
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.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Helen Carefoot
Helen Carefoot is Travel's editorial assistant.
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