Talk about Travel (Oct. 21)

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Oct 21, 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. In this week's issue we ventured to a remote island in the Outer Hebrides that's home to a unique ecosystem. Do you have an island travel story to share? Tell us where you went and why below. Most compelling answer gets a copy of "Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders." On to your questions!

Going to a 5 star all inclusive in Punta Cana DR in December. The hotel website's FAQs says: Can I drink local water? We recommend not to drink faucet/tap water, the resort will provide filtered and bottled water at all time. Water and ice cubes served at all resort venues are always filtered and safe to drink. Certified by third party auditors, our resort is compliant to the highest level in industry sanitation standards & best practices. I assume this means that I can drink the bottled water, use the ice, and that i should use bottled water for brushing my teeth. Do you think I should worry about the eating salad or fruit like grapes or apples that are washed? Thanks.

If you want to be extra careful, you may want to avoid salads and washed fruits. I've never gotten sick eating such foods in DR, but it could happen. 

Chris wrote about water safety this week; read the column here.

I’m struggling with a recent hotel problem and would welcome Chris’ advice. I flew from India to Zurich and was scheduled to arrive at 6 am, and booked and pre-paid for a king bed hotel room through I booked – and pre-paid - from the night before so I could check in and go straight to bed without delay, and emailed the hotel to explain I would not arrive until early the following morning. When I arrived, the room had twin beds and I was told this was the only room available until the normal check in time. I noted that this was not what I had reserved, and that I had paid for the previous night – thus an appropriate room should have been saved for me. The clerk offered to send a housekeeper to convert the beds to a king. This should have taken 15 minutes at most, but the housekeeper didn’t come to my room for an hour and a half – despite repeated calls to the front desk and reassurances that she would be there any minute. I don’t feel like I got what I had reserved and paid for, and this was not an inexpensive hotel. What recourse do I have? I did note the problem at the hotel, but since I booked and paid through a third party there was no resolution on-site. I could potentially challenge the credit card charge. A credit towards a future stay wouldn’t help, as I am rarely in Zurich and even if I were I’m not inclined to return to this hotel after this experience. I think a partial refund or percentage off would be fair. Appreciate your advice. Also, this should be a cautionary note to those who think booking from the night before guarantees the room on arrival. Apparently if you haven’t checked in, they don’t hold your room – even when you pay in advance. Thank you.

I'm sorry to hear about this. I would not start with a credit card dispute. That's what advocates refer to as the "nuclear option" because, short of a lawsuit, it's the last step in the resolution process. The bank's decision is often final. Plus, it could land you on the hotel or online travel agency's blacklist even if you win. Instead, I would consider sending a brief, polite email to the hotel and asking for a reasonable adjustment of your rate. You clearly didn't get the room you booked. The process may take some time, but if nothing else you should get a sincere apology from the hotel.

My wife and I are looking at a "double" in 2020. Is mid to late May too early, and does it make any difference which one is first? We won't be doing much hiking, and are thinking of flying to Denver and driving from there.

Not sure how long the trip will be, but that's a lot of driving. Would take something like 19 hours round trip to drive that route. I'd also look into flying to Jackson Hole airport, unless time is no problem. May is early, and some hotels in Yellowstone, for example, don't even open until the later part of the month. I'd go as late as possible in May or maybe even shoot for early June. When we flew into Jackson, we drove to Yellowstone and then headed back through Grand Teton, but that's totally arbitrary. If you are going to fly to Denver, Grand Teton NP is closer to that airport. 

Any suggestions on where to stay in the Los Angeles area? We will be there over Veterans Day. No particular agenda or confirmed sites we want to see, other than definitely no theme parks but possibly dinner with a relative near Anaheim.

That will depend on a few things: Are you renting a car or do you plan to take mostly Uber/Lyft/Via? You might want to check out the Los Angeles city guide from our colleagues at By The Way that went up today. There are some hotel recommendations there. Also, I have to second one of their food recommendations: When I was a student at USC, I couldn't get enough of the tacos at Revolutionario. L.A. is a taco town and they serve some of the best. Anaheim -- read Travel's recent outside-the-park guide here -- is a good hour away from L.A., and don't forget to factor in traffic! 

I visit Los Angeles several times annually, and I've tried staying in the city proper, but I always wind up going back to Santa Monica. I love the walking/biking trail along the ocean there, the shops, the sea and the general atmosphere. But hotels there are expensive. I have gotten good sale deals at Shore Hotel, the Georgian Hotel and the Ambrose Hotel. I love the Fairmont, but it hasn't offered a decent sale in several years. In Hollywood, I like Kimpton Everly

I'm in LA. Let me put in a good word for West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. These are some of the most walkable cities in California, with nearby cultural attractions, shopping, a farmers market and lots of cool neighborhoods. When I'm finished with our chat today, I'll probably walk down to the Beverly Center to check out the Museum of Dream Space, a new digital museum. 

On the one hand, there's first-class uberluxury "seats" (can you still call them seats if they're really more like rooms?) and on the other hand, there's seats that make my stubby short-for-5'5" knees ache. While there's always been luxe and cattle class flying, it's gotten markedly worse and more over the top. Do you see any end in sight? Even the difference between business class and economy is mindboggling.

That's a great question. And actually, I'm working on a Navigator about that topic. Some say there should be minimum standards in air travel. Everyone needs a seat, a checked bag, legroom, and on longer flights, a meal. Let the first class passengers have their private cabins, but at least treat us with dignity. But others disagree and they argue that mandating customer service would interfere with a free market. Chatters, what do you think?

Another caveat about drinking only bottled water: make sure the bottle is factory sealed. I visited Senegal and Cameroon a few years ago, and there are street vendors everywhere. Many of them refill the water bottles and sell them.

Yes, thank you. I should have mentioned that in my story. 

How about an island of an island? An island squared, so to speak. Pinel Island is a small island located off the north shore of the French side of St. Maarten. There's a place there you can eat lobster caught right off the beach. It's a small, isolated getaway from a getaway.

When I was 13 and my brothers were 11, 9, and 4, my parents took us on an adventure to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness (no motorized anything, just our parents + us + 2 canoes and our gear). One of the nights, we camped on a rocky little island in the lakes with massive moss covered boulders and a rocky shoreline. I remember climbing in and around the rocks, looking into (deep) water to watch some massive fish (northern pikes and bass, probably) and spending an entire day exploring what was probably only half an acre. We called the island Narnia, because we couldn't imagine a much more magical place.

Our two best trips have been to the Azores (on Azores Air) and Martinique (back when Norwegian had direct flights from BWI). Both places had very, very few Americans, and felt like something between Europe (Portugal/France, respectively) and the Caribbean or even Hawaii. Completely recommend both places to get away from the package tours and experience islands that feel "real."

I live in DC and often travel to a NYC family thanksgiving. However, each year I stress about how to get there. Love the train but it adds up. What is your thinking about weather that time of year........should I be ok w the bus?

I'm always agonizing over the best way to get to New York, as my family also lives there, so I need to go fairly frequently. No method is perfect. In your case, I wouldn't be worried about weather, I'd worry about traffic. The roads between here and New York are jammed over that weekend, and a journey that should take five hours can easily morph into an eight-hour nightmare. I'd cut costs elsewhere and take the train. 

If the shady vendors "reseal" their bottles by melting the cap with a lighter, it can be hard to spot. Carbonated water is a safer bet. The carbonation process kills bacteria, and it can't be counterfeited. You can always let it go flat if you don't like bubbles.

If you go to a really good all-inclusive, the chances of that happening are very slim. Of course, bad things can always happen, but I wouldn't not drink bottled water. 

Do you have any trip recommendations for Dec. 11 to Dec. 15? My friend and I have some sudden availability in our schedules to travel these dates. We enjoy rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, eating but don't have to do all of those activities. Not as into museums. Prefer to keep flights under $500, not as worried about finding lodging.

Can't answer this without knowing your point of departure!

Single female, mid 30's, trying to figure out a one week vacation for next year. Options include: Baltics, Singapore/Angkor Wat, Amazon river cruise, Galapagos, and Panama. Previous trips have included: Galapagos (the other half), Antarctica, Alaska, Hawaii, Paris, African safari, and Australia. I really like to see wildlife and take pictures of animals and landscapes. I also live in the southwest, so Europe is a much longer flight and Tokyo is almost the same distance as London. Any suggestions? Where would you go?

For one week, I would not go as far as Singapore or Cambodia or Tokyo. You need more time. I don't know what the other half of Galapagos is, but if you want wildlife, consider Brazil or Costa Rica. I am also a big fan of Colombia, which has gorgeous scenery from the Andes to the Amazon, plus amazing cities like Cartagena and Bogota.

Just returned from a 9 day visit to Northern NJ (NY metro area) that included a class reunion and then exploration of the area. I grew up there but hadn't been back in 50 years. A casual friend (book club member) had asked beforehand where I was going and when I said New Jersey she wrinkled her nose and said "I'm sorry" or some such. I was offended then and even more so now. There were plenty of interesting things to do and see. Paterson NJ was the first industrial city in the nation, founded by Alexander Hamilton (who knew?). There are impressive waterfalls there and a small museum. West Orange has Thomas Edison's lab and also his beautiful mansion. Montclair is a beautiful town with a suburban/urban vibe (and a charming Carnegie library with librarians delighted to have us pop in). Jersey City Liberty Park afforded us great, uncrowded access to the ferry to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty. The Met Cloisters museum, though in NY, was also very easy access from Northern NJ. (Great little cafe on the grounds there by the way.) Storm King art center (beautiful outdoor sculpture garden) was also a quick trip (less than an hour). (True it's in NY.) And it was intriguing to find that Rutherford (where I went to school) is a "dry town" though the waiter at the "Sonoma Cafe" said we could have brought our own wine (we didn't care whether we had anything to drink but that wasn't the point). I wrote to you a couple of weeks ago asking if the driving would be a headache. You said it would be; you were right (especially whenever we had to cross the Geo. Wash. bridge). But we managed it. (I got a NY state EZ pass ahead of time and I want to encourage people to get one... it was free to obtain and made all the toll plazas much easier to manage.)  Anyway, three cheers for Northern Jersey and fie fit on people who diss it.

Thanks for the NJ report! My husband was born in Paterson, and grew up in Bergen County, so I know this area well, and I'm in agreement. 

Love your stuff, travel team! We did the Tetons/Yellowstone trip last year and even in early June, it was cold, there was some snow and some roads were still closed, so traveler should be prepared. Your recommendation to fly into Jackson is spot on.

The downside of traveling when you're assured of no snow is that you're there with everyone else. It's fine if you're a hiker, because once you get off the main roads and onto the trails, it gets so much quieter. 

If you have Global Entry, is Clear worth the additional monthly fee? How much does it really speed up your processing?

Clear is available in more than 60 airports, stadiums and other venues around the country. With Clear, you might hop a few places ahead of passengers in the PreCheck line but you still have to go through the same screening lane. For $179 a year, I would just stick with Global Entry and PreCheck.

We were there this past June and flew into Salt Lake. You can likely get a nonstop from the East coast, and it's not too long a drive. Plus, there are things to see on the way up.

SLC is closer than Denver, but it's still 14 hours of driving round trip. Some people love driving and visiting new places along the way, but others would rather just be there. Much depends on whether you have enough time to do it all. 

Well, yeah, but the original commenter was talking about the street vendors he saw "everywhere" in third-world countries. Not everybody spends all their travel time in a "really good all-inclusive."

I was responding to the chatter who was staying in a five-star all-inclusive. 

2019 has not been my best year so I'm thinking of doing my own thing for Christmas and going to Santa Fe. I've booked a place on Airbnb and now I'm looking at flights. I've found a flight to Santa Fe for $620 or Albuquerque for $650. Should I pull the trigger on Santa Fe? I'd be willing to drive from Albuquerque if you think I could get a flight closer to $500/$550. Thanks!

Did you say Santa Fe for $620 and Albuquerque for $650? That's a no-brainer -- fly to Santa Fe. It's cheaper and closer to your rental. If you meant to say $550, I would still go for the Santa Fe flight. I've run into some rough weather on I-25 at that time of year, and would have probably flown if I could.

There should absolutely be mandated minimum standards for service on a plane. What you've laid out is sensible but leaves out seat width. Also, as an unrepentant recliner, there should be room for me to recline my seat without giving the person behind me bruises. If I am flying 5-8 hours overnight or at the crack of dawn it's not unreasonable to recline my seat to sleep. Treating people who recline as the villain rather than saying this is another way to cram more seats onto the plane is a bit much.

Thank you. Another interesting perspective. This is going to be a great column, I can tell!

Airlines have a strong argument that their unbundling of features and services are a reaction to passenger complaints that they were paying for things they didn't want or need and that includes checked baggage and food. One of the purposes of airline deregulation was to end the 'everyone must be the same' and enabled new players to enter the market offering cheaper prices and the opportunity to pay for the features you want.

Thank you. That's an interesting perspective. Curiously, I never heard from anyone who asked for this kind of unbundling. Passengers always assumed things like seat assignments and paper tickets and the ability to carry a bag on the plane, came with the ticket.

Yes, of course it interferes. It would make the cost per passenger in economy higher for the airlines because they would have to take out a few rows. decent chance that changes the cost of the fare. But it also means you don't have to risk being horribly uncomfortable if you can't afford to upgrade. And tensions might go down on the planes because leg room plus slightly wider seats will mean fewer people just don't fit in the space provided. Toddlers won't be able to reach the seat in front of them for kicking. A person reclining won't up the blood pressure of the person behind him by 10 points. It also might create a ceiling on the space provided as well as a floor, but at this point, I don't care. I'm flying for Thanksgiving, but it is less than 2 hours in the air. I can handle being uncomfortable for that long. Longer trips have to REALLY be worth it.

Thanks for the feedback.

That story reminds me of my trip to BWCA way back when. Went with a bunch of my cousins who'd been there before, a couple in their mid 20s like I was although I was a newbie and just there to paddle and lug gear, and several in the 10-15 range. We camped at one spot on an island and I led the younger bunch on a trek around the perimeter because it didn't look that big on the map. After a couple hours of me reassuring them that we couldn't be lost because we were on an island and would end up where we started, my older cousins showed up in the canoes to rescue the kids and get them back to the campsite. I still hear about it from them.

I went to mid-town Manhattan and saw a Broadway show recently. Manhattan is an island...

Back in our sailing days, we used to sail to South Manitou Island, 18 miles off the coast of Leeland, Michigan. It is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes national park and has no permanent residents, but rather a lot of deserted farmhouses, a school house, and a lot of nature. There is a ferry to the island daily, and hiking and camping abound. The Lake Michigan water up there is as blue as the Caribbean, and South Manitou has 20 miles of shoreline and a fantastic dune, atop which you can look down onto a shipwrecked freighter. While overnighting at anchor in the sailboat one year, we were treated to the most fantastic display of northern lights, in various colors. At first we joked that it must have been search lights from a Toyota dealership in Sheboygan, Wisc. We didn't get much sleep that night as we spent so much of the time in the cockpit enjoying the show.

i have the opportunity to go to Hong Kong, and a couple of other cities in China. Is it safe? We have to fly in and out of Hong Kong airport. thanks!

The State Dept. issued a travel advisory on Oct. 7, warning of ongoing protests and unrest. Of course, you could visit the city and be fine, as long as you avoid crossing paths with the police and protestors. But you could also stumble into an area of conflict and have to seek safety. It is a personal choice. I would go, but many people would hold off until the protests are over and they could more freely explore an amazing destination.


I would like to surprise my parents with a trip to Poland. Problem is my dad cannot walk very far as he is in his 70's and a tad overweight. We would also travel with our children (ages two and four). Are there any reputable companies that could coordinate travel arrangements in Poland (I can book the flights and hotels easily enough) that could accommodate our situation? Bonus points if train travel could be added! Thanks for any assistance you can provide!

I have the perfect person for you! I just rode Amtrak's Auto Train with Sylvia Longmire, a world traveler (and former Air Force officer) who uses a wheelchair. She helps plan trips for travelers with mobility issues. Her company is called Spin the Globe

HI there, I'm a pretty experienced traveler, but I'm getting a little antsy about my trip to Tokyo this week. I fly into Narita and get that limo bus to the center of the city, fine, I've done that before. But it doesn't stop at my hotel like it did last time; I have to get off at the Hilton and then walk to my hotel. And then, the next day, I have to walk from my hotel to a meeting center. Will googlemaps help me? Especially unhappy about walking around when I first get off the flight (and 2-hour bus ride). I guess I just need a pep talk.

What is the cause of your anxiety? Getting lost or robbed or so exhausted you can't move another step? To ease your anxiety, make sure you have all of your maps and walking directions at your fingertips. (Download them in advance if you don't have international data.) If you are attending a conference, ask around and see if anyone else is walking over and join them. Also write down the addresses, in case you lose your way. You can ask another pedestrian or find a hotel or police officer. Keep Google Translate handy, just in case. And if this helps you feel better, grab an old-fashioned map and highlight the route.

As for safety, Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. In fact, you can leave your wallet on a bench and come back, it will likely still be there!

For exhaustion, pack snacks and water.

I walked around Tokyo myself and got lost -- and loved every minute of the serendipitous exploration. 

As a Christmas gift this year, my brother and I are putting together a trip for my 81-year-old (but still quite physically active!) father in Florida. It would be for about 5 days, and include a spring training baseball game as well as a day at WDW Magic Kingdom. As the base of operations will be Orlando, I'm looking for interesting, off the beaten path attractions and activities that are non-theme park related. Preferably within an hour or two of the city. Any suggestions?

You should consider checking out Kennedy Space Center while you're in town. They've added a lot of new exhibits and there's a sense of excitement with SpaceX and other private companies now on the complex. I'm also a fan of nearby Cocoa Beach and the Space Coast. It might make a nice day trip.

Check out these recent Travel stories on things to do and places to eat in Orlando.

Chris, a reminder that Mexico is part of North America, and the CDC Traveler's Health information advises against drinking tap or untreated water in Mexico.

Thank you.

My husbanad wants to go to Chile in Jan/Feb 2020, but not spend much time in Santiago - head directly out to Patagonia and elsewhere to see the Penguins. He's been emailing w/ several tour operators - although we typically do our own arrangements, one of them has a tour that has just about everything he wants. Any recs for tour operators we should be considering? Classic Journeys has the itin he likes best.

I would also check out Natural Habitat Adventures and G Adventures. Both are great tour operators that are very mindful of sustainable travel.

Best areas for day hikes in England? Will have car and nine days for hiking in May 2020. Web links appreciated, thanks. 

Could you give a little more detail about what kind of hikes you're looking for? Something strenuous, scenic etc? In the meantime, we've written several stories about walking tours through England that might spark some ideas; see this story about walking among the green meadows and rolling hills in the Cotswalds and this one about exploring Ashdown Forest in southern England -- the home of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh. Not in England, but we also have a couple of stories that detail walks/hikes in Scotland: this week's cover story about Adrian's birding and wildflower trek in the Outer Hebrides and another on hillwalking around the lochs in southern Scotland. Will try to look for more stories as you share more details! 

Even on Thanksgiving day itself, I once spend over 8 hours getting from Rockville to Jericho Long Island. And cutting across Staten Island was horrible, but actually faster than going further north on the Devil's Highway (also called 95). The previous day would have been worse. Take the bus if you can travel Tuesday and return really early Saturday. Otherwise, take the train.

Agreed! It took me 4 hours to get from the Goethels Bridge to Massapequa Park one Thanksgiving Eve. Never again. 

Are there any sites where you can plug in your 1) starting point, 2) intermediate city stop for X number of days each, and 3) duration of road trip? Thanks! You guys and gals are the best!

Sorry I am not understanding your objective and why you need the days in between each legs. To eyeball the distances, I use Bing Directions for multiple stops.

Best areas for day hikes in England? Will have car and nine days for hiking in May, 2020. Web links appreciated. Thanks

Could you give a little more detail about what kind of hikes you're looking for? Something strenuous, scenic etc? In the meantime, we've written several stories about walking tours through England that might spark some ideas; see this story about walking among the green meadows and rolling hills in the Cotswalds and this one about exploring Ashdown Forest in southern England -- the home of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh. Not in England, but we also have a couple of stories that detail walks/hikes in Scotland: this week's cover story about Adrian's birding and wildflower trek in the Outer Hebrides and another on hillwalking around the lochs in southern Scotland. Will try to look for more stories as you share more details! 

I've been wanting to travel alone lately and have been thinking about doing a day or weekend trip or two to ease myself into it. What kinds of activities are good for solo travel? What are some safety best practices? Thanks!

I just did a lovely day trip to Harper's Ferry. Drove there through country roads, hiked on several trails, visited the National Park, had lunch in one of the town's neat little restaurants with a view and stopped at a winery on the way home. You can even take the train from Union Station, but you'll need to stay overnight, which is an option. 

I will also add that the locals in Tokyo are extremely kind and helpful to tourists in need of directions. You will be fine.

Excellent point!

The first time we went to Tokyo, we took the bus from the airport to Shinjuku. Even though we knew we were likely walking distance from our hotel, we took a taxi the short distance. Far less stressful than navigating unfamiliar streets with luggage while jetlagged. Cost of taxi was under $5, well worth it. Maybe a solution for chatter with anxiety?

Thanks for the suggestion.

My husband and I are taking a long weekend - without kids - to Paris in late April. I went once, as a teenager (decades ago); he has never been. What are our must-sees? We are the kind of travelers who would like to simply walk past the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower but spend time visiting something "lesser known." (e.g. We took the kids to the Cutty Sark and not the Tower of London.)

I enjoyed the Picasso Museum and walking to the top of Sacre-Coueur. Chatters? 

I have been told to always buy 'fizzy' water. They have to be sealed, so no street refilling. Doesn't help with quality, but does remove one level of concern.

That would, technically.

I'd suggest the Cleveland Way and the Hadrian's Wall walk (which crosses the country) Check out the National Trails website  and also the Ramblers Association for ideas and resources. 

These sound great! Thanks for the tips! 

For the person who was asking about Merida last week… you said “aside from the beach.” I do hope you realize Merida is a 45 minute drive from the closest beach (in Progreso and it’s not all the nice). In Merida: Visit the local markets for lunch, snacks, and/or shopping; there are many great, and often free, museums…do some research to figure out what suits your interests; make dinner reservations at Apoala; and eat tacos at Wayan’e. Dzibilchaltun ruins (just out of town, bring mosquito spray!) Day trips: Uxmal ruins (an hour drive from Merida); the town of Izamal; visit a historic hacienda (again, do some research to see what meets your interests).

Thanks for the suggestions!

Another option for flying into the two NP's: Bozeman, MT. But we had a condo in Big Sky, MT. Airfare may be "meh" btwn Boze and Jackson H. Just throwing it out there. The two parks are almost indescribable with their beauty.

Yes, it's another option. Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP are so huge, that it depends where you're staying. For example, Mammoth Hot Springs is a two-hour drive from Grant Village, and they're both in Yellowstone. 

Long distance travel I read that an airline has been investigating a non-stop flight from NYC to Australia. That is a nineteen hour flight, according to them. How can a human being endure so long in coach? It is impossible to sleep on a long distance flight, unless you buy a business/first class seat. Maybe there are ONLY first class seats on th is flight. It reminds me of the Concorde days, when, for 30 times the average price of a ticket, you could cut your time in the air in half. Is this service intended for the ultra-rich? I read that it takes four pilots and several shifts of stewards to properly "man" the flight. When today's airlines are limiting or cutting back customer services at every turn, how could a flight like this be economic for the airline?

Qantas flew a Dreamliner from JFK to Sydney. It took just over 19 hours. It was a test (one of several), and all passengers flew business. The purpose was to provide faster service by cutting out layovers and additional take-offs and landings.

I think my longest flight was 14 hours in coach. I break the flight into two segments: sleep and movies. If I can get at least five or six of each, I can make it. And in the defense of airlines: Most carriers offer very good service on long-haul flights. I often eat more in the air than I do on the ground.

It's not clear from the on-line description whether the water test kit mentioned in the water story is for one-time use only, as for your home, or whether it is suitable for multiple uses in different places. Do you know? 

The user manual seems to indicate that it's only good for one test.

Thank you all! I'm nervous about getting lost. Thank you for the Google translate suggestion - just downloaded that. And I may take a cab if I'm really feeling exhausted.

So glad we could all help! You are going to do great.

Headed to Ashville in a few weeks for the long weekend. Any off the beaten track places to check out while I'm there? Thanks!

Check out Travel's recent Asheville coverage here, here and here.

Is the poster's anxiety about Tokyo perhaps related to the extensive flooding they just experienced? Is there any reason to think that will be the cause of disruption?

The traveler did not make any mention of typhoons or flooding. I think the traveler was just nervous about getting lost and overwhelmed.

A friend and I are planning a trip to the Carolinas in 2020 and we've started doing our research. Asheville, Charlotte, Savannah and Charleston on our list, but we're looking for other possible stops or visits during out 14 day trip. We will likely fly in and out of Atlanta to avoid one-way drop fees on our rental car. Any suggestions for other stops and visits? Oh, and we'd like to go before it gets hot and humid. Would April be a good time for our trip?

We're running out of time here, but I think April would be fine. But the weather in Asheville is going to be very different from Savannah (and I'm sure you realize that city is in Georgia, but it's right on the border of SC). I'd look into flying into Charlotte instead of Atlanta. And you may want to add Myrtle Beach to the mix. 

Last year we went to Rarotonga (the Cook Islands). It was amazing -- no buildings taller than the palm trees, no chain businesses, total population of a few thousand. The snorkeling was fabulous, the water was warm, and it was just peaceful.

Way back in the early 1970s, we went to a friend's wedding in Rio de Janeiro. Obviously, we made a full vacation of it and because our friends were Brasilian VIPs from a couple of different fields, we were treated royally. Once, we took a yacht from the yacht club to visit two islands on a full day trip. We visited Paquetá, which is a lovely auto-free island so we did our traveling via horse-drawn carriage. It was so beautiful and such a quiet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Rio! The second island we visited that day was the governor's private island and other than the grounds- and house-keepers, we were there only ones there. The opulence of the mansion was unbelievable! The bathroom fixtures were all marble and gold, the tubs were the size of small pools and the beach had the clearest water I had ever seen. There were tiny fish that would come right up to you while you were swimming. I remember my dad looking through the guest book we signed when we first arrived and reciting the names of international dignitaries and movie stars who had been there before us. It was quite a trip for a young 20-something, and one I will never forget!

Several times in the past few years I have flown from the East Coast to the middle of Australia (6 hours to LAX; 14 hours to Brisbane; 2-3 hours onward). I would WELOME skipping the stop in LA. And let's face it, 19 hours really isn't that much more than the 16-hour JFK to Hong Kong flight I took, in Coach, in May. Just sayin'.


I speak and read Japanese and I still get lost in Tokyo (and I manage to do that in Arlington too even though I've lived there for years). Expect it. Embrace it! I have discovered some really cool shops every time I get lost. And, as another person wrote, the locals are extremely kind about helping lost foreigners.

So true! Getting lost has some amazing benefits.

I'll be in San Francisco for work and only have from noon to the evening to explore on my own. Any must-dos in my limited time? I will be staying in Union Square and do not mind walking and/or taxi-ing anywhere.

There are so many must-do's! Super close to you are the Yerba Buena Gardens and SFMOMA. In between go to Samovar, a tea room and cafe, for a bite and beautiful views of the greenery and flowers. It's kind of a hike from Union Square, but personally love the Presidio and if you've never been, there are so many beautiful views. One of my favorites places in the world is the California Academy of Sciences. You could also just grab something good to eat and head to Golden Gate Park, where there are endless wonderful things to do.

I would rather take a 14-hour international trip than a 4- hour domestic. The planes are way bigger and like you said, the service is terrific. I've found that non-US airlines are in fact even better. A co-worker gave me a tip: fly internationally, stay domestic (as in, take an international carrier but stay in a Hilton or the like).

Agree! The worst flight on my around-the-world trip was the last leg from JFK to DC.

I've been to Paris seven times and I'd recommend Musee D'Orsay over the Louvre anyway. Also, check out Église Saint-Sulpice, and Saint-Chapelle for churches. If you enjoy history, go to La Conciergerie. If you like less crowded parks, visit Parc Monceau. My favorite part of the city is the Latin Quarter and I could spend hours going through shops and sitting at tiny sidewalk cafes.

Thanks for these tips! One of our writers has a guide to some of the beautiful churches in Paris that are worth a visit, and she recommended both Église Saint-Sulpice and Saint-Chapelle.

Has me wondering....we are flying to Japan next year. I had assumed the nonstop 13-hour option would be better than the 20-hour one stop option. Would you disagree based on your experience in very long haul flights? Longest I've ever gone is 10 hours.

I would rather just get there and remove any risk for a delay. Plus, frequent takeoffs/landings is worse for the environment than non-stops.

QANTAS already flies a non stop fliht from Perth to London. Apparently it is very popular and has high load factors from people who don't want to do it with connections along the route

The airline is testing Heathrow to Sydney next.

Thanks Helen. More information: Probably will hike 4-8 hours a day. Emphasis on scenic, but can range from easy to strenuous as long as no "technical"climbing and no overnight camping. Again, thanks.

Thanks OP! We have another chatter who gave some recs above: "I'd suggest the Cleveland Way and the Hadrian's Wall walk (which crosses the country) Check out the National Trails website and also the Ramblers Association for ideas and resources. " Please report back on your trip! 

I've seen the Eiffel Tower, Arche de Triomphe, Louvre... my next visit, I want to take a tour of the Paris Catacombes.

Thanks for sharing. The Catacombes are on my list, and if you go please let us know what you think.

Looks like our time is up -- thanks for chatting today, everyone! Narnia visitor, please 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.
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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