Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Jun 17, 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 month our featured "You're going where?" city was Reno, Nev. If you, too, have a Nevada destination to recommend -- casnio, desert or in-between -- tell us about it below! Most compelling answer gets a copy of Ann Marie Brown's "150 Nature Hot Spots in California: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places." On to your questions...

If you think your kids are up for it, do it! Traveling is just another skill we teach our kids. I've done over a dozen cross country trips with my 3 yr old and 1 1/2 yr old here are my tips....Lower your expectations and then lower them again; you are not going to be able to go from sun up to sun down so plan lots of breaks in; research where the playgrounds or kids museums are near your hotel most major cities will have a kids museum, have a plan A and a plan B for each day and be ready to downgrade if kids are tired/crabby; it's amazing how snacks refresh small kids, forget 3 meals a day and try to snack every 2 hrs; kids feed off your mood so stay as positive and relaxed as possible. And it helps to think of these early trips as laying the groundwork to enjoy travel with your kids in a few years after they've had more practice.

Thank you for sharing your advice.

A few weeks ago, you asked people to email someone concerning travel scams that they encountered. I did, and the person called back and talked to me about a scam we had encountered in Paris. She said it might be on a podcast, but I don't know what that podcast is called or how to access it. I realize I might not have been included, but still, I would like to listen to the podcast. Do you have a link to it? Thanks for any help.

Thanks for reaching out! We asked for reader submissions for The Washington Post's daily podcast, "Post Reports."Andrea appeared a couple weeks ago on this episode to chat about the scams story

Are there any 12-14 day inter-island cruises for Hawaii besides Norwegian, and the lengthy ones that add several days at sea to each end of a cruise from the mainland? They need to be affordable and do most if not all of the major islands. Anything I have found is either too active or too expensive.

Sorry, but Norwegian is the only cruise line offering that itinerary. 

I recently flew southwest and took advantage of the opportunity for a free checked bag - normally I’m a carry-on only person. I arrived at BWI after 1 AM (due to an involuntary itinerary change resulting from the Max-8 issue) and it took a full hour after landing for my luggage to arrive in baggage claim. Am I right to think this is unreasonable, or was I just sleep deprived and cranky?

You have every right to be upset. But there are not guarantees that your luggage will arrive when you do, even if you pay a checked luggage fee. Had your luggage been delayed any longer, you might have asked the airline to deliver it to you. They still do that.

Thanks for these helpful chats! I applied for Global Entry and was sent an email offering enrollment on arrival - where you are conditionally approved for global entry and then are given an interview while clearing customs on return from an international trip. We had to put off our next international trip and now do not know when we will be traveling internationally. Does this entry on arrival interview option apply for a long period of time or should (and can) we just make interview appointments? Thanks.

I'm not familiar with this offer. Does it have an expiration date on it? Chatters, have you heard anything about this "on arrival" interview option? 

I will be visiting the Easton MD area in a few weeks and seeking recommendations for a scenic seafood lunch!

Easton's restaurants are mostly located in the downtown area and they don't offer water views, if that's one of your requirements. If you want something upscale near Easton, the restaurant at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels is a good choice. Chatters? 

What are your thoughts on the recent deaths in the Dominican Republic? I'm planning to vacation there in November (staying at a regular resort, not all-inclusive) and I feel like there are dangerous situations in every country in the world and that perhaps they are all coincidence and we should keep our plans?But maybe I'm just being naive! At what point would you cancel a vacation?

I agree with your assessment. I would cancel your vacation when the State Department warns against travel to a destination. That hasn't happened -- yet.

Andrea wrote about the situation last week: Is It Safe to Travel to the Dominican Republic?

I just booked a Munich/Salzburg/Vienna tour for my mother and with Rick Steve. I would love to see if other readers have gone on a similar tour and have any tips for us. Thanks!

I have been to all three of those cities multiple times, but I have not done a Rick Steves tour because I typically travel independently. Any chatters have experience doing one of these type trips? 

You have a year from when you are conditionally-approved to complete the interview - which can be "upon entry" or a scheduled interview. I recommend just scheduling an interview, as many of the different centers are booking far out due to staffing issues.

Thanks!

Not a destination, just an overnight camping stopover: Ruby Dome. It was late summer, not as hot as elsewhere, a nice creek nearby, and the aspens were quaking. Would go back if we had the chance.

Really hard to narrow down to one Nevada off-the-beaten-track destination, so hope you'll take this - instead of doing the traditional Salt Lake to Vegas Utah National Parks trip, did the eastern side of Nevada - West from Salt Lake to the stunningly beautiful Ruby Mountains and the Lamoille Valley (try a Ruby Mountain beer while you're in the area), down to remoter-than-remote Ely (Nevada Northern Railway, a working time capsule, garnet hunting on BLM land, and the historic Hotel Nevada), Great Basin National Park (hiking! caves! ancient - I mean really ancient - trees!), south to the very cool eroded landscape of Cathedral Gorge state park and then Caliente (which closes up early - bad memories of nothing but a gas station burrito for dinner) - winding up in Las Vegas. Really, any or all qualify as great places (except be forewarned about food options in Caliente).

Valley of Fire State Park less than an hour and easy drive north of Las Vegas is stunning with colorful canyons, an area that looks like the much sought after Wave hike in UT/AZ, petroglyphs, and more. The park is small but with plenty of well labeled trails. I went on a Sunday afternoon and it was not particularly busy and I only met travelers from other countries.

Does anyone have experience with getting from Heathrow to Gatwick? My flight from BWI arrives at Heathrow at 8:30 a.m., and I leave from Gatwick at 3:35 p.m. for Spain. Is this enough time to get through customs, pick up my baggage, find the bus, make the trip to Gatwick, and check in there? Any tips? Thank you.

It's about a 1 1/2 hour train ride -- give or take -- from Heathrow to Gatwick. I've made that trip several times. I think you'll be fine.

The differences come from the things you do that would not be very accessible from the port. Split most of your time between Maui and the Big Island and two days (or three if you want to shop) on Oahu. That will get you most of what you need to see. I liked Kauai too, but that is for hiking and if my assumption (possibly wrong) is that someone looking only at a cruise has at least one member of the party with limited mobility. It really is not that hard to fly between islands and rent cars. I did it with my brother when I had no time to spend planning and he wasn't even old enough to drive the rental car.

I think some people like cruises because they have to unpack only once. 

Today's code is TT7790. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating.

Hi! I was the St Louis questioner from last week, and appreciate all the great help - keep them coming! Also, I drove for 15 days in France a few years ago, and getting around is no problem. We used the regular GPS program in an Iphone, and it was flawless! Please be aware that the French roads are as good or better than ours, but they have these sneaky speed catching machines, so watch your speed. Also, stay to the right or you will get a gentle reminder from a local who is on your bumper!

Thanks!

Thanks for the informative chats! I'll be staying a night or two in Las Vegas in July, by myself. Not really into gambling but would like to eat some good food and experience the Strip. I'm totally overwhelmed by hotel choices on the Strip and am wondering if you have any hotel recommendations -- looking to spend around $100/night (including resort fees).

Vegas.com is a good place to do research and book deals. I liked the Palazzo, but not sure you can get it for $100 a night, even in July. Chatters have a favorite hotel? 

I'm starting to plan a trip to Paris this November (yay!), and am somewhat confused about what type of fare to choose. I've flown to Europe more than a dozen times, always in an Economy seat (unless my company paid for Business). Now I'm retired, so I'm paying. I'm finding roundtrip Economy fares from where I live for under $1000; Premium Economy goes for about $2100. Quite a difference, I know, but I need to consider that I've never gotten decent sleep on an overnight flight (1-2 hrs if I'm lucky), so I'm usually a zombie my first day or two in Europe. So, do you think Premium Economy offers enough added comfort (and possibly sleep) to make it worth paying double? I could really use an expert's perspective...

If the airline you are flying offers a true premium economy product --  and by that I mean a dedicated cabin, dedicated flight attendants, priority boarding, better food, drinks and wider seats with more leg room -- you may want to spring for it.  I typically fly premium economy, and not all airlines are created equal. And the set-up also depends on the aircraft. What I like most about it is that when I'm flying overnight to Europe with a friend or relative, the premium cabin typically has a two, four, two configuration, so if you and your partner can nab a two-seater, you won't have a stranger falling asleep on you.

I’m contemplating a road trip out to Colorado this summer and am trying to figure out stopping points and routes. I’ve done the most direct route via I70 and have been looking at taking a southern route this time passing thru Asheville, Nashville, Memphis, Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico. Along this route, which spots seem like worthwhile stopovers? I’ve been to Asheville and Nashville but the rest of the route would be new. Thanks!

I'm making that same drive, too. We're planning to make one stop in St. Louis, so I'm probably not the guy to ask. Chatters, what are your favorite road stops between Washington and Colorado?

Hello - We are heading to the Galapagos this summer and have a full day in Quito to enjoy before the adventure really begins. Any suggestions for must do activities? Better to just wander the city, or are there don't-miss sites/activities to take in?

I haven't been, but Andrea wrote about Quito in February; check out her story here. Any suggestions, chatters?

Hi all! On my way back home to DC, I'm flying from Amsterdam into Dublin and currently have a 3 hour layover. However, I'm hoping to extend it so I can get out of the airport and to actually see something. My flight lands about 2 pm and I'm hoping to get an early morning layover the next day or even just stretch it to 8 hours or so so I can go see the city a bit. I was reading that many airlines are fine with this, do you have any tips or is this just going to be an expensive pain? Thanks!

I would call and ask. The airline might grant a change, especially if you're a good customer. But in my experience, airlines require you to pay a change fee and a fare differential for even a small change, which would make a day trip in Amsterdam too expensive. 

Hoping either the travel team or fellow travelers who have recent experience with FCO can help me. I'll be travelling to Italy in late June and my return flight from Rome is in the early afternoon - where I have a connection in Munich before heading back to the US. I wont be in Rome the night before and I am planning to take a bus that will arrive 2 hours before take off at FCO. Is this enough time to make an internal EU flight (I'm assuming I won't go through customs at this stage of my flight)? My only other alternative is to wake up too early to take a bus in the middle of the night (staying in Rome the day before is not an option). Thanks for any advice!

I think arriving at FCO two hours in advance of your flight is fine, but the bigger concern I would have is the bus being delayed.

When connecting via Seattle, there would be no reason for a passport for flying from DC to Alaska, right?

The only reason you'd need a passport is if you are flying after Oct. 1, 2020 and you don't have a Real ID. But Alaska is one of ours. 

everyone gets the same email - it's not a targeted offer. It does expire if you don't complete the interview - as does your entire application - either on arrival or via an appointment by the deadline date which I think is one year after conditional approval is granted. (BTW I'm surprised you have never heard of enrollment on arrival!)

Thank you for clarifying. Yes, ironically, I wrote a detailed story about Global Entry but I don't actually have a card. And while I'm making confessions, here's another one: My passport has expired.

I spent a day and a half in Las Vegas four years ago. I just looked at my notes, I stayed at the Mardis Gras Hotel & Casino. Not on the Strip, but they had a shuttle bus to take you to the Strip, and also to the airport. I spent a day wandering the strip and took the Las Vegas monorail back to the hotel. I see that they have rooms for as little as $42 a night. No frills, but very nice and clean.

Thanks for the recommendation. 

We visited the new glass museum "Imagine" in April. Different than (and better) than Chihuly.

Thanks for the recommendation!

Last week there was a question about using Viator, particularly asking if their prices are competitive. Carol suggested using a hotel's concierge. We recently used Viator twice in Bangkok, both very successfully. In both cases I initially requested a quote from the Hilton's concierge; both were much (much) higher than the middleman-included price from Viator. #1: Evening pick-up from BKK airport to Hilton. Concierge quote: THB1800 (about US$58). Viator price: US$33. #2: Day-trip for 2 adults to Khao Kheow Open Zoo (about 100km / 2 hours one-way from hotel). Concierge quote: THB1800 per hour, 4-hour minimum (actual time needed: 8 hours), so about $450+. Viator (for up to 350km and 12 hours): $113. Drivers were courteous and spoke English. Would certainly consider Viator again!

I think Viator is uneven. It doesn't actually run the trips. So some of the tours are great, while others aren't.  Glad you had a good experience. 

I read Chris's article about people being disappointed when a cruise turns into a bus tour. While I agree that one should always remain flexible when traveling, and bus travel is part of the river cruise experience, replacing the cruise part entirely with buses negates the main advantage of a cruise - not having to pack and move from night to night. With a river cruise you travel between destinations while sleeping, and never have to re-pack until the cruise is over. When you switch part or all of the itinerary to a bus trip, you miss sightseeing days to travel between locations, and have to keep packing and moving. It's just not the same experience, and I would be quite disappointed if this happened to me.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of disappointed passengers when a cruise becomes a bus tour. The point of the story is to take it in stride. Mother Nature can be unpredictable.

I'm heading there for four days of vacation with friends (in a converted farmhouse on nine acres with no TV - heaven!) and am wondering if there's anywhere nearby where we can get wet. Swimming hole? Lake? Short hike in Shenandoah to either? I know there are river rafting opportunities nearby.

I think there are several wineries near Crozet, including King Family

Experience is that Southwest is especially slow in getting bags out (I guess a trade off for no bag fees?) - especially at bigger airports, like BWI. Guessing there was limited staff left at that hour - not that that's a good excuse. My general rule for BWI is that if your flight is continuing on, they have greater motivation to get your bags out fast so the plane can go on. If it's tying up there for the night - well, good luck.

I'm not aware of any evidence that Southwest, which includes the cost of two checked bags in its fares, is any slower than the other airlines when it comes to delivering luggage. 

Do you have any favorite podcasts about travel? I'm open to travel tips or travelogues or anything really. I love travel, but don't have as much time as I'd like.

 I used to listen to Postcards from the Road, but nothing lately. Chatters have favorites? 

Yes your writer has more than enough time, but I suggest they take the National Express coach rather than the train as it's direct airport to airport and does not need you to change from train to tube to train and is cheaper.

Thanks. Good tip.

Haha - I know it is one of ours. I still recall the Post article some years ago where the writer went as far as he could without a passport. I think he ended up on an island somewhere in the Pacific. Inspiring and impressive. Back to my point - I am more worried about an accidental diversion to British Columbia.

Don't worry about that. But I typically carry my passport when traveling even domestically and put it in a different place than my license. 

The answer to the chatter about carrying a passport for traveling to Alaska made me want to weigh in.....my husband and I carry our passports every time we fly. A few years ago we were stuck in Boston during a snowstorm trying to get back home to Oregon. After three days at the airport Marriott we were able to get home, only because we had our passports and could connect through Canada. Shockingly we both had them and were able to get home---would have been at least a day or two more without them. Passports are on our permanent travel list now!

And here I told the chatter not to worry about being diverted to BC. Guess I was wrong!

The OP didn't say where they are traveling from. I find that flights to Europe from the east coast are too short to really get much sleep even in business class. It also depends on whether you can sleep sitting up. While you may have a bit more space in premium economy it's not like you will have a flat bed.

Yes, but it is far more civilized than economy. Just the idea of having two seats instead of three in the same amount of space is a game changer for me. 

I've flown everything from economy, premium economy, and business class within the US, over to Europe, and to Australia. My experience is I can rarely sleep on any of them. If you are not a fall-asleep-anywhere person, I would suggest that what you will get out of premium economy is a more comfortable, bigger seat with more leg room. And better plates and cutlery. A drink before taking off. I try only to fly premium economy now, but still cannot sleep. Going to Australia premium economy in February, and UGH!!!

I'm not good at sleeping on planes either, but I still feel much better when arriving after an overnight trip when I don't have to fly economy. 

We took the NCL cruise when it had to go to Fanning Island. The excursions on the various islands were great. Not especially thrilled with Norwegian as the ship had an engine problem that cost us a day at Maui. NCL gave a credit to "make up" but found out later the same engine problem was on the cruise just before us so NCL knew about the problem and should have fixed it. We took the cruise for only one reason that was to visit several islands and it was worth it.

My cousin did this cruise and also enjoyed it. 

Our kids are grown now, but my wife had an unpleasant experience crossing the US border into Canada. All of us plus my mother had done an Alaska cruise out of Seattle for a week. Upon returning from the cruise, I had to fly home to get back to work but my wife, my mom, and our two kids took a scenic train to Vancouver to spend a few days there before returning to Seattle for a flight home. The train stopped at the Canadian border going north, and the border guard was very upset that my wife didn't have some kind of a notarized authorization from me to travel with our kids into Canada. They were ultimately permitted to continue with the trip, but it was a very unpleasant experience for my wife. It's worth looking into this if the parents aren't together when crossing a border.

That's not an isolated incident. It's definitely worth a story. Thanks for suggesting it.

I also have not participated in one of these tours, for one primary reason: You need to be physically fit to do so because the hotels he chooses tend not to have elevators, and you have to hoist your own bag up several flights of stairs. Expanding on the primary reason, Rick Steves states in his guidebooks that his tours are for physically active travelers and feature lots of walking. Bottom line up front: If you're straggler and/or use a walker to help getting around, don't bother booking a Rick Steves tour.

Yes, this is what is stated on the Rick Steves Web site: Our tours are physically active! Expect to be on your feet, walking and standing, for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, and in all weather conditions. You'll also need to carry your own luggage, often up several flights of stairs.

I think a bus between Heathrow and Gatwick is going to be a lot easier than by train: National Express has direct (no-change) buses whereas by train involves (a) the Heathrow Express to Paddington + (b) Tube to Victoria Station + (c) Gatwick Express. In terms of Immigration: we arrived into Heathrow last night and discovered that US Passports can be used at automated gates (no need to see an immigration officer). To see the exact bus schedules (be sure to put in your exact arrival terminal at LHR and departure terminal at LGW) go to nationalexpress.co.uk. The main issue, of course, is if the flight into LHR is delayed….

Another great option. Thank you.

Using your phone as GPS in France is tricky, depending on where you are going. In SW France, for example, where we spend a lot of time, cellular reception is very spotty. It can come and go. We always have a car GPS, either built in or portable. Reception in the countryside is not as reliable as around the big cities.

Thanks

An earlier post mentioned about baggage delay on SWA at the BWI Airport. It has been my experience that it is a problem at that airport. For airport not that big, the bags arriving at the claim area are slow. I even heard the guys from a Baltimore radio station complaining about it just last week.

Thank you. That's good to know.

I have stayed at Luxor 3 times. It's near the lower end of the amenities scale, but it's clean and relatively quite. Have also stayed at Flamingo twice. That's definitely older, but more centrally located. (Out the side entrance, The Linq Promenade has some excellent breakfast options.)

Thanks for the recommendations.

We have done this on Aer Lingus.

Good to know, thanks!

Mono Lake and environs east of the Sierras is a fascinating place.

Great Basin National Park is a gem of the National Parks system. We spent a day there and would go back in a heartbeat. Wheeler Peak has great hiking (and snow, even in September, so be prepared!). The Lehman Cave tour was excellent: the ranger was well informed and did not rush our group. And the night sky is phenomenal. Try to time a trip when there is a new moon. As they say, half the park is after dark.

Looks like our time is up -- thanks for chatting today, everyone. Eastern Nevada fan, please drop us a line at travel@washpost.com 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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