Andrea Sachs, Cindy Loose, Carol Sottili, Steve Hendrix. Seated in front: K.C. Summers, John Deiner. (Craig Cola/WPNI)
Talk: Travel message boards
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Talk About Travel
Hosted by the Flight Crew
Monday, Oct. 15, 2001; 2 p.m. EDT
While some things have returned to normal, there remains great uncertainty in the travel industry.
Whether you have logistical questions, general observations, or first-hand travel stories to share, the staff of the Travel section invites you to submit your questions and comments in this forum.
This week's Travel section reports that there are excellent deals this fall to Caribbean destinations, but also concerns about security in the islands.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Post Travel Section Staff: Good afternoon from travel chat captain Cindy Loose, and thanks for checking in. Weve been out and about trying to gather tips and scenes for next Sundays issue, and some of us rushed back just in time for the chat.
Andrea Sachs is recently returned from Las Vegas, where you could hear a quarter drop in some casinos. John Deiner, in Orlando over the weekend, who had to wait forever for the tea cups cause he was competing with preschoolers who seem to predominate now. Gary Lee is here after wining and dining in New Orleans at the finest establishments, while my Toyota van is still filled with crushed potato chips, sandwich crumbs and empty soda cans from my trip to Willliamsburg, Va. We also have with us our leader, editor K.C. Summers, who isnt saying what she did this weekend, and the woman who knows most anything you want to know about flying and skiing, Carol Sottili. And the wonderful Elissa Leibowitz, who just walked in from somewhere.
So ship us your questions, and read along as we go cause we might answer your question before you get a chance to ask it. Weve decided to give our prize today to the person who tells us a regional destination, within say four hours or so, that we didnt already know about. (Weve heard of Busch Gardens and the Chesapeake Bay, if that is useful as guidance.) The winner will be told during the chat, and should email email@example.com with an address and a choice of which book most appeals: Portrait of the Navaho Nation, Main Streets and Back Roads of New England or The Southwest.
Dog-friendly Florida Keys?!: Hello Flight Crew!
First, thanks so much for all of the valuable information in the section since Sept. 11. Your work is much appreciated!
Second, my family and I and our 110-lb. yellow lab are looking to rent a house in the Florida Keys over the Christmas holiday (we have visions of palm trees with Christmas lights)for a week. Could you please point me in the direction of where to start looking for such a rental? I've checked several travel websites which have not been much help. I'll be driving with the dog (staying with friends in Gainesville where I went to school) and they rest of my crew hope to fly. Should they fly to Miami?
Any help is much appreciated! Thanks,
Dreaming of a Sandy Christmas from Old Town
Post Travel Section Staff: Haven't had a chance to check this out for the keys, but I remember doing a coming and going item late last year about a new, and rare, house and condo rental agency. Check it out at www.Interhome.com, and if that doesn't fit your need, shoot a message and we'll see if readers can help. I know when I did the interhome item, a Broward County official said people are always surprised that there isn't more rental help in the area.
And if you are going to the keys, Miami is as close as you'll get on a big airliners. Ft. Lauderdale isn't that much further away, and is smaller.
Chicago, Ill.: I am flying into Dulles around dinner time, and going to a hotel on DuPont Circle. What are my options to get from Point A to Point B?
Post Travel Section Staff: Chicago, you have four different options that I can think of says Gary Lee: a taxi will cost about $50. It may get snarled in traffic at that hour, however. You can take a metro bus to the West Falls Church metro and then a subway to the Dupont Circle Station. Total cost will be about $10 but if you have lots of luggage may be a hassle. You can take a Washington Flyer bus to the convention center and a taxi from there. Or you can take a blue van directly from the airport to the hotel. The latter will probably have a few other passengers to drop off, too, so it may take a while.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Is it safe to travel to Hawaii with the current Dengue Fever outbreak? I have planned a trip to Maui with my two young children (3 and 5). Should I cancel or what precautions should I take?
Post Travel Section Staff: Check the center for disease control website at www.cdc.gov. (Cindy here.)
Washington, D.C.: We are hoping to take a quick New Year's trip to the Caribbean. What would be your suggestion for a good way to take advantage of the recent sales to an island over the New Year holiday?
Post Travel Section Staff: Package deals are really great bargains these days, and include air usually from Baltimore and often an all-inclusive hotel. Punta Cana is very low, especially via Apple Vacations. You can also find good prices for Jamaica holidays. Check our section from this Sunday on the Carib scene, including deals.
Rockville, Md.: During my travels yesterday, I noticed the Northwest Airlines kept overbooking their flights. This resulted in my seeing over 15 people being bumped or voluntarily leaving the plane. Yet, there are flights being cancelled left and right. There is an obvious need for these flights. Is this good PR during this time of financial uncertainty?
Post Travel Section Staff: It's not good p.r., but with lots of people cancelling last minute these days, it might temporarily make sense to the airlines. We'll keep an eye on this and report it if it seems widespread. When I last checked about two weeks ago, overbooking was the rare exception. (Cindy)
Virginia: Just a heads up ... my husband and I had a 6am flight on US Air out of Dulles. We were told that the airport opened at 4:30 am, and so we were there at 4:30. They had actually opened at 4am that Thursday morning because so many other people had arrived early and as a result there were already hundreds of people in line. At 5am they opened curbside check-in and we hopped out of the mammoth line we were in and went through that shorter line. It still took us the better part of an hour to get through security (our ids were checked at least three times and my suit-wearing husband was patted down after his moneyclip set off the metal detector). Apparently 4:30-8:30 am and 2-6pm are the busiest times for the airport.
Post Travel Section Staff: Sottili here: I'm posting this as a way to get into the question that so far seems to be our dominant theme (eight questions posted before we opened today from clicksters who want to know how early to get to the airport). I'll also add that my neighbor told me earlier today that she got to BWI three hours before her flight Wednesday evening, but missed it because she could not get through security in time. I believe that much depends on the time of your flight and the news of the day. If the FBI has just posted an alert that says we should expect terrorist attacks in the next few days, security will be tighter than ever. If you are flying at peak times (weekdays first thing in morning, or during evening rush), it's going to take longer. This is an evolving situation, and there's no ironclad answer. I was telling people two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight, but you may want to extend that if you're traveling at peak time just after the FBI has posted another warning. Bring a good book and chill.
Dupont Circle: Thanks for the piece on the Caribbean. My boyfriend would really like to go to a "clothing optional" resort-- we both enjoyed your article on Hedonism in Negril awhile back. Yesterday's article said Negril was pretty safe. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions?
Post Travel Section Staff: Gary Lee says that although there have been incidents in the past couple of months they have not affected Negril. However, if you go to Jamaica, it's very important to take all the regular precautions plus.
Sterling, Va.: Leaving Friday for Palm Desert. Can this excellent group give me some ideas for day trips? Would love your favorite restaurant as well. Many thanks.
Post Travel Section Staff: A couple of us thing there's nothing but desert, but we could be really wrong. Can anyone out there help? (Cindy)
Washington, D.C.: Gary Lee,
Would you be scooping yourself if you told us about any fabulous restaurants you ate at in N.O.??
Post Travel Section Staff: Gary reports that he dined very nicely at Galatoire's, a new place right off the French Quarter called August and a wonderful French place called Peristyle. For further details, like what desserts I savored, you'll have to read Sunday's section.
Alexandria, Va.: I'm going to London this week and am quite nervous about flying. I've always been a nervous traveller, but even more so since the most recent warnings.
This is my first international flight ever, and while I am excited to be going, I am still very apprehensive. Do you have any suggestions as to what a nervous traveler can do to calm down and not panic so much?
Post Travel Section Staff: KC here. Have you considered drugs? Seriously, if you have debilitating anxiety you might ask your doctor for a tranquilizer prescription. It also might be worth asking for something like Ambien which could help you sleep through a transatlantic flight.
You might also consider one of the fear-of-flying courses offered by places like SOAR, which, by the way, is taking the stance that flying is safer now because we are finally operating with the security we should've had all along. You might want to check out SOAR's fear-of-flying chat, held every Wednesday at 9 p.m. at www.fearofflying.com. A couple of other resources: Flying With Confidence, 888-UWILLFLY; Northwest Airlines Wings Freedom to Fly, 612-726-7733, www.nwa.com/services/bustrav/wings.shtml.
I'm not crazy about flying either and my own anti-fear technique involves not looking out the window, esp during takeoff and landing, and sticking my nose in a book the second I sit down and keeping it there till landing. Works for me.
Re: Dulles to DuPont: Note that the Wash Flyer no longer goes to the Convention Center. It provides service only to West Falls Church Metro ($8 one-way) or to National Aiport ($16 one-way).
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks for that info from Gary.
Dreaming of No-worry Locales: Cruise Question:
Having not taken a vacation all year, I'm looking to try something new. A cruise sounds nice, and have looked at Carnival. However, a lot of 3/4 day cruises are going for $450 and the 7 day are going for $750, both excluding airfare. I'm thinking 3/4 day and was wondering if any of you thought the price of cruises in general would come down or if they would rebound?
The cabin is the inside, by the elevator and heavy machinery, bunk beds which make my futon feel comfortable, my dorm room was 3x larger, room. But hey, for $450 I won't complain.
Thanks in advance.
Post Travel Section Staff: You didn't mention where you are going, so we cannot say if that is a good price or not. Though for a southern cruise, it seems to be in the right ballpark--though perhaps a tad high. In light of the recent tragedies, and the hardships of the cruise industry, now is probably the best time to snag a good rate. Some cruises depart out of closer ports, such as Baltimore or Philly, so you can save on airfare. Otherwise, with airfares in the lowish range these days, you can still fly to your departure port for not too much.
Make sure you check the cruise Web sites before you book. They have last minute deals for the winter season (such as seven nights in the western carib for $487 on www.cruise.com), and some offer cabins that are not like sleeping inside a factory.
Re: Jamaica: Unless you are planning on spending time in Kingston, you are not likely to experience any troubles in jamaica. I have heard from friends who spent a month there recently and a Jamaican colleague who was home to visit family not too long ago. Both were before 9/11, but they still had warnings at that time.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks for that advice, says Gary. That's pretty much what I've heard, too.
Fairfax, Va.: Hi, travel gurus. Looking for a nice, not too expensive ($150 or under), quaint place to stay near Lynchburg, Va., in the beginning on November. Somewhere within an hour of Lynchburg would be preferable. Any ideas?
Post Travel Section Staff: I'd try looking at the many B and B sites, such as www.bbonline.com, www.bedandbreakfast.com, bnbfinder.com. The B & B assocation for Va. is bbva.org. Meanwhile, maybe someone out there can write in and save you some research, but we haven't been to Lynchburg since Tammy Faye and Jim left.
Downtown DC: How can I find out about train ticket prices, particularly on international lines, on the web? I've found a couple of sites that direct me to the national railway sites, but, though I've found train schedules, I can't get any hard and fast cost estimates. Is it because I'm travelling in January and they don't know how much it will cost then, what with changing over to the Euro and all? (By the way, I'm trying to get the price, per person, for a sleeper between Venice and Vienna. Not that I'm asking you to find that for me......)
Post Travel Section Staff: Hi, DDC. JD here. First, why would we go and find the fares for you when it's so much fun discovering them on your own?
Actually, I just went to our source on the Web for that sort of info--www.raileurope.com--and came up with a several different fares and schedules. You can also buy them through the site. Just click on "rail" on the top of the home page, then "fares and schedules."
Arlington, Va.: For travel from Dulles Airport, don't forget the temporary Arlington-Dulles express, operated by Arlington County. Comfortable coaches leaving about every half hour from Door 7 at Arrivals level with service to Rosslyn, Pentagon City, Crystal City and King Street Metro stations. It is only $5 each way.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks.
Dupont Circle: Hi! I have never seen leaves change before since I am from the South. Will I miss out if I go to Skyline drive on Friday? What about Harper's Ferry some time this week? The leaves are beautiful in town, but I would like to get out of town and see some in a cluster. Thanks so much for your advice. By the way, went to NYC over the weekend and things seemed to be getting back to "normal." Some of the department stores were empty in Midtown, but there were many people in and around Central Park.
Post Travel Section Staff: Quick! Hurry! Here come the leaves, they're changing, they're changing, they're falling, falling, falling. Whoop! Done. Gone.
Actually, it doesn't work that way, but sometimes it feels like it. If you go to Skyline Drive on Friday, you're sure to see some gorgeous leaves changing. Typically, peak time for the area is Oct. 15-25. It's likely to be crowded with others who have the same idea, but I think you're smart to go on Friday and not on Saturday or Sunday, when the crowds will be at their peak, too.
You also can check with the U.S. Forest Service Fall Foliage Hotline (800-354-4595).
Travel from DC, and a question: As an exact opposite to the horror stories, my husband and I arrived 3 hours before our flight from Dulles last Tuesday, but found not a soulin front of us at check-in and only 4 people in front of us at security. We were in the airport and to the gate in under 25 minutes. Our flight departure was 1pm. We had it pretty easy coming back from Ft. Lauderdale too. So, it's not all rocky, but it's obviously unpredictable.
Now, my question is about travel to Denver. It seems like there are no non-stops and that everything is at least $300 a person for Wed-Sun trip in Feb. Is this a good rate or should I hold out?
Post Travel Section Staff: I think Frontier just announced nonstops from here to Denver--or maybe they're just requesting permission at this time. If they are flying soon enough for your trip, they should be cheap. And thanks for the report from the field. (Cindy)
Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Help! I'm a total stress ball, and I need reassurance from you wise travelers!
I leave Saturday morning from Dulles on a flight that leaves at 8 a.m., which means that I have to be there at 6 a.m., which means that I have to leave D.C. at 5 or 5:15 a.m. Do you know whether I'll have a hard time convincing a cab driver to take me all the way out there that early? I'm pretty sure I can flag one down (I live right in the middle of Adams Morgan), but I don't know about cabs' willingness to hoof it all the way out there at that godawful time of the day. I also don't want to have to rely on a shuttle service to get me there. Thanks for any good thoughts you can throw my way.
Post Travel Section Staff: From Gary, a fellow Adams Morgan dweller: Having been in your situation in the past, I can advise you to call one of the major cab companies beforehand -- like the niight before-- to order a taxi. I'm sure they will be able to locate someone who would go to Dulles in the early morning.
Vacationing with Dogs: http://dogsagogo.com/dogsagogo/index.html
Check out this website. Also look at
Gotta give love to those that travel with furry frieds!
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks for the suggestions. Now, stop chewing on my slippers. --Elissa
Nowhere, Really: Palm Desert day trip -- take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway from the desert up to Mt. San Jacinto. Especially good if it's outrageously hot in the desert, but not so good if you have a fear of heights. Alternatively, you can drive up to Lake Arrowhead or Big Bear fairly easily.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks. You know, I'm changing the rules in the middle of the game. I think suggesting something in Palm Desert deserves the prize. Email me later about what book you'd like. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Washington, D.C.: A destination to go to this weekend:
If you're a bicycling fan, go to Trxlertown, Pa. They are having their annual sale. Everything there is greatly reduced in prices. It is also in Ammish country, so you can enjoy the weekend riding your new bicycle around up there!
Post Travel Section Staff: Oh Michael, good suggestion. Sorry, if life were fair you'd have won, but it's not, and you didn't, cause I didn't see it in time. But things even out, so maybe you'll get something today you don't deserve.(Cindy)
Re: regional destination: Otter Creek Wilderness in West Virginia - exactly 4 hours from here. Unspoiled area
with wonderful hiking/camping and very few people.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks, sounds good.
Alexandria, Va.: Hi, Crew. I'd like to go skiing in western Canada early next year. Is Banff likely to be very crowded? Are there areas other than Vancouver and Calgary that I should be checking out?
For a regional destination, Lackawanna County, PA, is unexpectedly charming and close to some great mountains... (I'm ready for winter to start, can you tell?)
Post Travel Section Staff: Banff will never be as crowded as, say, Vail--but it is a top draw for North American skiers, so you might have to share the powder bowls with your fellow skiers. However, on the plus side, you won't feel like you are at an outdoor snow mall. Other top areas include: Blackcomb/Whistler, Marmot Basin in Jasper Park, and on a smaller scale, Cypress Bowl and Grouse Mountain, near Vancouver. Check out www.skimoguls.com for some of expert insight into skiing western Canada and for package deals.
Arlington, Va.: For European rail fares you can also go to www.railpass.com and click on thier point to point option. It will give you the cost but you can't buy directly there. They do have links however to the Deutsche Bahn's website via which you can buy tickets. They usually will not show the fare, but you can be pretty sure it will be at least close to what Railpass.com has shown you. It's better than buying through RailEurope because you don't have to pay their exhorbitant fees. Your tickets come in the mail a couple of days later. This far in adavance though they may or may not sell you a ticket. They usually set the fares a couple of months in advance and they really don't change much. So if you try the RailEurope site for fare info and they won't show you a fare because of the date you can always choose a closer date to now and be pretty confident there won't be much change. The switchover to Euro currency doesn't factor into it since all of the Euro Zone national currencies have been tied to the Euro value-wise for a couple of years now.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks, Arl.
Sterling, Va.: Now you're talking...since I'm the one going to Palm Desert on Friday and I can REALLY benefit from the suggestions. Just remember, PD is down the road from Palm Springs.
Post Travel Section Staff: Hi, Sterl...JD here. If memory serves me, Joshua Tree National Park is not far from that area. If you like deserts at all (and I do), it's a fascinating place. And it's probably cooled down considerably now.
Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C.: We're headed for Manhattan over Thanksgiving weekend and will be staying at an apartment -hotel on 50th Street. Question: We are planning to take Amtrak up there and were wondering if you think the new, high speed service (Acela?) is worth the premium over the regular Metroliner. Also, I don't wish to appear ghoulish, but is there a place where ordinary civilians like us can see "ground zero"? From what we've heard, you have to see it in person to appreciate fully the enormity of the disaster. Thanks.
Post Travel Section Staff: Chevy Chase: having taken the Acela and the Metroliner, I would say the 15 minutes faster rate on the Acela is not really worth all that reports Gary Lee. The important things are to have a reserved seat (which you'd have to on the Metroliner) and to get there early, particularly during Thanksgiving when trains are likely to be crowded. As for Ground Zero, sure, you can get up close to it as a ordinary tourist although you are certain to be daunted by the experience.
Columbia, Md.: My mother is going to be flying into BWI November from Mississippi and she's bringing my dog along with her in the cabin. I've traveled with the dog before and the dog and her carrier fit comfortably under the seat in front of you. I'm just worried with about all these new restrictions on carry-on baggage. She's flying on Delta who have assured me that for the time being dogs in the cabin are still allowed. My mother has never traveled with the dog before and I'm just worried and hoping this doesn't cause too much of a problem for her.
I've already advised her to go light on the checked luggage and carry-on nothing more than her purse and to make sure she has very little in it. Can you think of anything else she can do to make her trip any easier on her and my dog?
Post Travel Section Staff: A tranquilizer for everyone involved? Just kidding. You, mom and the pooch have nothing to worry about. Just make sure your mother checks with her vet before departure to be sure the dog will be calm enough to travel (if not, tranquilizers are no joke). Bring along a water dish and some treats for the flight. For your mother, make sure she packs light to make check-in goes smoothly. In fact, in these crazy times, a cute dog might be a nice distraction for other travelers!
New York City, N.Y.: Just a note that all is well here in New York City, the fall weather is beautiful. Please come for a visit.
On to my question, I'm planning a around the world in 2002, including a trip to Africa late next summer. Is this the right time to see game parks in sourthern/eastern Africa? Can you recommend any reliable, low-budget tour companies (camping OK) that go to/from South Africa to Victoria Falls?
Post Travel Section Staff: Late next summer is a very good time to be in those parts of Africa that you mentioned. Millions of wildebeests move en masse during these months from the Serengheti along the border of Tanzania and Kenya north to Kenya in search of green grass. Accompanying them are a cast of thousands, including zebras, antelopes, gazelles and lions. Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is the place to see this.
For more info on this, take a look at www.lonelyplanet.com, which is the resource I used for this info.
I can't recommend a specific tour company for you to use, because I've never done such a trip. I think your travel agent is better armed for that. There are travel agents in New York, I'm sure, who specialize in Africa. Try them.
Washington, D.C.: Hello Gurus-
I am planning a trip with my boyfriend to Quebec City in the beginning of November (3-10). Will any of the "cold weather" activities be open? We have heard that it is too early to ski, but would like to go tobogganing/dog sledding/ice skating, etc. What other activities are there to do in/near Quebec City? Since we have a week, we are considering a spending some time in Montreal--is this a good idea? What are the sites to see there? Thanks for your help (I got the original idea to go to Quebec City from a staff list of favorites!)
Post Travel Section Staff: I was the staffer in love with Quebec City. But it always scares me when people actually take my advise; promise not to hate me if you have an awful time. But I can't imagine that if the cold weather stuff is happening. Afraid I can't answer about weather, and it might be the time of year that is somewhat unpredictable. For best info, try a quebec city website. Sorry, couldn't find a name quickly, but something simple like quebec.org or .com should get you started. If not, look for nord bec, a dogsled place near the city, or just call the Chateau Frontenac, a hotel that could give you some quick insight.
I love Quebec City in winter, and summer. Don't know what to expect in Nov. But for those going later: A new ice hotel will be built at some point, and shouldn't be missed for at least a look. I'm not a big Montreal fan, but others are. To me it's like any nice northern U.S. city, but if you like big cities better than small, consider it.
20007: Any personal experience with the Cheat River Lodge in Elkins, WV? It's advertised on the back of the Travel Section.
Post Travel Section Staff: We haven't. Anyone else?
Arlington, Va.: Do we know yet what cities and airlines will be added at National and when? I have tickets to Toronto on Air Canada in early November. Should I just change to Dulles already and get it over with, or do you think there's any hope I will be able to fly from National?
Post Travel Section Staff: Sottili here: Canada agreed just yesterday to provide air marshals on flights to Reagan National.This was a sticking point because U.S. government had said no marshals, no flights and Canada had been reluctant to go that route. But still no word on when flights will resume.
non-stop to Denver and a non-horror story: To the would-be Denver traveler: Took a direct non-stop from BWI to Denver on Wednesday (3 Oct). No lines at the counter, and short security lines. Returning from Denver on Wednesday (10 Oct), we could check our luggage curbside (with an e-ticket much to my surprise) and had only a 40 minute wait through security. Where it applied, security people were also telling us where the lines were shorter as well. Fare was 200 per person, but we booked in July. Frontier was also good about rebooking us out of BWI after our departure from National was obviously a no-go. All in all, it was a good airport experience (I didn't have to park at BWI either, but that's another story).
About other direct flights, United goes non-stop direct from Dulles, and that's usually what I fly on.
Post Travel Section Staff: See, it can be okay to fly. And thanks for the good insights on price and airlines.
McLean, Va.: Dear Post Travel staff:
First a plug:
You guys deserve lots of praise for offering, timely, topical, suggestions during this crisis. Quite a contrast to the New York Times, which is providing all the regular travel stuff as if nothing has happened.
I'm booked on Swiss Air in the next couple of weeks, and I've been told they can't guarantee their schedule after Oct. 27th. That's doesn't inspire confidence. I guess I just answered my own question. If you were me, would you try to switch carriers, even though Swissair provides the only non-stop service from Washington Dulles?
Post Travel Section Staff: Hi, this is Andrea. I personally would switch to another airline, in light of Swissair's recent woes. The airline/travel industry is already in so much turmoil that if nothing else, you should fly a carrier that is more firmly grounded (no pun intended). Though a layover is an added hassle, at least you know you will eventually get to your destination, whereas we are not so sure about the future of Swissair.
College Park, Md.: Hi,
I'm going to a conference in Michigan, and a combination of incredibly expensive airfare and nerves made me decide to rent a car and drive. I'm picking up the car this afternoon, and I have a stupid question: I remember hearing once that paying by credit card and/or being a AAA member (I am) means that purchasing additional vehicle insurance isn't necessary? Is any of this true? Do I need to pay extra for insurance?
Post Travel Section Staff: The question isn't stupid, but the answer is personal to some degree. Some credit cards provide extra insurance, some don't, so you'll unfortuantely have to check. AAA, I don't know, does anyone else? Finally, if you own a car you might have rental coverage you don't know about. I'm afraid a few phone calls will be necessary.
Bethesda, Md.: Do you think it's too early to start planning my annual ski vacation? Should I wait a while to see if they start to really cut prices on things? I am thinking of going to Whistler and there are some packages for around a grand for a week of lodging, airfare, and lift tickets for five days.
But, I think I can do better on my own if I wait a while until they get really desperate. I was able to snag a $150 round trip fare from here to San Diego, and I think I can do something similar for Vancouver.
What's your advice?
Post Travel Section Staff: Sottili here: No, it's not too early to start planning. Whistler should be cheap this year.Depending on type of lodging,that deal sounds good.You usually can't get good fares to Vancouver from here - $400 and up is the norm. I've never seen the type of fares,such as $150 to San Diego,that we sometimes get to California.
Dulles, Va.: I'm looking for ideas for my honeymoon (far in advance). Do you know of any good sources of information about the U.S. Virgin islands?
Post Travel Section Staff: Dulles, two sources come to mind says Gary Lee. First, usvi.org is the official website and will fill you in on what's going on there. For a more subjective sense of the best places to go, etc., I would refer you to the Lonely Planet guide.
Herndon, Va. (on travel in Denver): My husband and I are spending 10 days in St. Thomas later this month and early next month. We know that St. John's is a 'must see' .. which other nearby islands are worth a day trip? Thanks!
Post Travel Section Staff: Off of St. Croix is a wonderful little uninhabited place called Buck Island. If you like to snorkel, you'll find the nation's only underwater national park. It's not hard scarey snorkeling cause it's just offshore, and there are floating boxes for resting. I personally wouldn't go anywhere near the U.S. Virgins without including Buck Island. (Cindy Loose)
Washington D.C.: Flight Crew:
Will be heading to Boston and Martha's Vineyard for a quick weekend getaway. Any ideas for things to do (on a cold November day), places to eat, etc? Thanks.
Post Travel Section Staff: Hi Wash, KC here. It kinda depends on what your interests are -- even if it's cold, I'd still bundle up and stroll Beacon Street, window-shop on Newbury Street, and tramp through the Public Garden. I would hit the museums, especially the Isabella Gardner and the Museum of Fine Arts. Also been intrigued by the Museum of Bad Art, so would check that out. And I would drive to nearby Concord and do the Transcendentalist thing -- see the houses of the Alcotts, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Emerson, etc.
Restaurants -- you got me. Any tips from the clicksters?
Los Angeles, Calif.: Hi from a recent DC to LA transplant, keeping up with DC from afar.
I have heard that Jet Blue's service from Long Beach to Dulles has been postponed until Spring, not surprisingly. But I am curious about this airline - any input as to its quality and where else it might be expanding to anytime in the next few years? Thanks.
Post Travel Section Staff: Jet Blue has a fab reputation. Thanks for reminding me I need to check on when Jet Blue plans to fly out of here to Long Beach.
Alexandria, Va.: Flew to Chicago on business for the weekend October 5-7 and saw a lot of odd things. I flew out of Dulles but talked my way onto a return flight into National as I live close to National.
I got to Dulles Friday at 9 am for an 11-ish flight. I was about 15th in a fairly fast-moving line. At 9:05 there were about 15 people behind me. By 9:15 there were at least 50.
On the return flight I was told at O'Hare -no way- was I getting to switch return airports without paying, I think it was a king's ransom (not sure), for the privilege, but I was welcome to stand in the purchases-transfers-changes line anyway and ask. This was a nice option as that line had some 10 people in it while the regular check-in line had--this is just a guess--hundreds. Either way I'd check in, right?
I had no problems changing my return to National. The security was awesome. A nice fellow came and walked my small checked luggage back to a special x-ray machine. At the gate there were several of Chicago's finest, a lovely bomb-sniffing black lab, and at least two women in plain clothes with employee hang tags and really intense gazes, in addition to the regular airline staff. The dog swept the gate, after which we were allowed to return. The thing about staying seated the last 30 minutes of the flight -is- enforced (forego that large Starbucks before boarding, I say).
It was lovely to come back to National.
Post Travel Section Staff: Sottili here: I bet you're a nice person who doesn't raise his/her voice and always smiles. It's amazing what you can get done with a friendly attitude. And a bit of luck.
For Fearful Flyer: I too struggle with nerves before and during plane trips. I obtained a prescription for Xanax from my doctor but try to avoid it unless absolutely necessary. I feel more secure just having it available. When I take it I usually do so 30 minutes before take-off and I half it (you don't want to be loopy when you land- especially in another time zone). Bring lots of reading material- and comfort snacks. Also, I have found that stewardesses are extremely nice and concerned when you let them know you are nervous. On my last overseas flight a stewardess presented me with a bottle of champagne for being such a good passenger. They also introduced me to the pilot who was extremely reassuring as well. (This was USAirways, btw). Hope this helps.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks for the tips, FFF, and lucky you to get champagne for your bravery. I'll have to start whimpering more.
Lynchburg native here:: Got a place within an hour of Lynchburg, you might consider actually staying in the city. There are some lovely bed and breakfasts there in some beautiful restored homes in the city. Check out http://www.discoverlynchburg.org/. You might also try the peaks of otter, a mountain hotel with a restaurant that's nice. It's within an easy drive of Lynchburg. Within an hour of the hill city, you have Appomattox and Roanoke, but that's about it for cities. I understand Amherst is nice, but I haven't been there in some time. I think there is a b and b in Amherst, also (north of Lynchburg on US 29).
and by the way, Jim and Tammy Faye never lived in Lynchburg. We have enough on our hands with Jerry. For your next giveaway, I would be happy to donate Jerry Fallwell to whoever will take him.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks so much. It is so easy to confuse Jim and Jerry, thanks for that clarification. I think it might have been Jerry who sent in that question about Hedonism in Negril. But we should both be careful not to give offense: our reader may be a dear friend of the man you'd like to give away, and is going there just to visit him. (Cindy)
Arlington, Va.: And if you do go up to Trexlertown you are in the Lehigh Valley which is home to Allentown. There are lots of interesting historical sites around town including the "Liberty Bell Shrine" in downtown Allentown which was the secret hiding place of the Liberty Bell during the revolution when it wasn't safe for it to stay in Philly (sorta like Dick Cheney). And there's Dorney Park, an amusement park with lots of rollercoasters and other rides. I think it's still opened on weekends this late in the season. I was just up there a couple of weeks ago for my HS reunion. Lots of decent motels too...I stayed in the brand new Wingate Inn right at the intersection of rts 222 and 78 for $69/night. Also be sure to stop at the Brass Rail for the best cheesesteaks anywhere and Josh Earley's for excellent chocolates.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks for the tips.
Fairfax, Va.: I am taking my fiance to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Are they any resturants we should try to check out? What about micro-breweries or brew pubs?
Post Travel Section Staff: Ooh, ooh, the Hockey Hall of Fame. Will you bring me back one of those little Flyers guy keychains? Mine broke.
There's one restaurant that I always go to when I'm in that part of Toronto. It's called Hothouse, and it's just a few blocks from the Hall of Fame. I like it because it's hip and slick inside, and the food is well-priced and really fresh. There are tons of tourist restaurants in that area, but I'd avoid them. If you want more posh (aka more moolah), go to Sassafraz in Yorkville. It's French/California cuisine, pricey, but all the celebs go there. Even for just a drink at the bar, it's worth the trip.
For pubs, take a look at the listings at www.bartowel.com, called "Toronto's Premier Beer Resource."
Regional Destination: Okay, so I've missed the prize. But, Point Lookout State Park is something not to miss in October. In Southern St. Mary's County, MD, about 2 hours south of DC. This was the site of a Civil War POW camp, and is supposedly the most haunted place on the East Coast. During October they sponsor Ghost Walks of the park. Very spooky.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks.
Boston, Mass.: Question on ski areas in January - My spouse and I are thinking of taking a trip to Stowe, Vermont in early January. Are ski towns like that typically crowded at that time, or not so much, coming right after the holidays (i.e. is it necessary to reserve a hotel far in advance)? Also, any non-skiing suggestions for Stowe in January? Thank you!
Post Travel Section Staff: Sottili here: Stowe will be busy in early January if the snow is good. But you'll enjoy it.I wouldn't worry about reserving very far in advance unless you're particular - there are plenty of B&Bs in the area. Stowe has the usual winter activities - snowshoeing, sleigh rides, etc.
Richmond, Va.: For the skittish London-bound flyer: If you're on British Airways, they have a "Well Being" channel on their audio program that plays soothing ocean sounds and the like. I'm not a nervous flyer, but it has helped me sleep and screen out disruptive sounds. Or you could take a portable CD or tape player with similar music.
Post Travel Section Staff: Soothing ocean sounds on a transatlantic flight -- I DON'T THINK SO! That channel would make me (KC) even more nervous. Good idea to bring your own tapes, though.
Southern Calif.: I guess I've been lucky-- I've flown twice since 9/11: Ontario (Calif.)-Denver-Dulles and back, then Ontario-Oakland and back. Both times I got to the airport WAY early and both times I got to see LOTS of the airports since I had no problem getting through security. The only problem I had was checking in with United at Ontario for the Dulles flight-- and that was only because (1) they didn't have curbside check-in yet (they do now) and (2) there was only ONE person working the ticket counter.
One thing I wanted to mention was the degree of overkill with confiscating personal items. The woman going through security ahead of me at Ontario had her nail clippers and tweezers confiscated (she protested loudly that they were $15 tweezers!). However, on the plane they gave us metal forks. What could you possibly do with tweezers that you couldn't do with a fork?
Now... as for Palm Desert-- I recommend the Rock Garden Cafe (actually in Palm Springs)for breakfast. Lovely outdoor setting.
Post Travel Section Staff: The FAA said last week it would stop taking such things, and with luck everyone will get the word. As for the difference about what you can do with tweezers you can't do with a fork: have you ever tried pulling out your eyebrows with a fork? Or eaten mashed potatoes with tweezers. (Cindy, I do understand what you mean.) and Thanks for the insights.
Herndon, Va.: So what's great within 4 hours of here? Anywhere there's a National Forest (the George Washington National Forest comes to mind) some hiking trails and campsites. It's not that hard, neophytes!! If you have to, rent a tent, take good hiking shoes, and, if you must, pre-mixed meals. For that matter, use any of the campgrounds along Sky Line Drive, where you can "car camp." This time of year the big crowds are gone, and there's nothing like snuggling in your sleeping bag or bed roll on a slightly chilly night. Try it, you'll love it!!
Post Travel Section Staff: Cindy doubts she'd love it, but others may. Thanks.
cc md: Greetings all. Just returned from a cruise on the maiden voyage on the Celebrity Summit. It was a terrific cruise vacation! The Coast Guard surrounded our ship while in Key West. Air security was tight, but random. My original flight out of National was changed 7 times. I was selected to be searched at 4 different airports checked bags, carry on and body search. On the connecting flight from Pittsburgh, the captain announced that during the last 30 minutes of a flight into National, no one was allowed out of his/her seat. Since the flight was only 30 minuets, he then told us to use the restrooms before takeoff!
Post Travel Section Staff: A report from the field. Thanks for traveling.
Takoma Park, Md.: My wife and I would like to take a family trip (one 6 year-old) around Christmas. We would like to go somewhere warm, but are concerned that prices will be prohibitively expensive. Do you have any suggestions or advice on traveling toward Key West or the Caribbean around the holidays?
Post Travel Section Staff: KC here. Did you see our Caribbean package yesterday? We listed dozens of deals from Washington -- some air, some hotel, some packages -- on various islands. As we reported, Caribbean hoteliers, like everywhere else, are hurting and there are lots of incentives out there, even for travel during holidays. Maybe washingtonpost.com can give us a link?
re: Boston restaurants: For anyone going to Boston, you must must must go to the East Coast Grill on Inman Square in Cambridge. Owned by chef Chris Schlesinger ("The Thrill of the Grill"), you can't go wrong. The lines are often very long on weekends, because it's hip and cool and they don't take reservations, but it's well worth it. And no, I don't work for him.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks, Re. We'll add it to our list.
London Apartment Rentals: My aunt and uncle are planning to rent an apartment in London for a month next April. There seem to be so many companies around on the Internet. I was wondering if you or the clicksters can recommend any companies or steer me away from any bad ones.
Post Travel Section Staff: Gary Lee, who writes about lodging for the travel section, says that Coach House rentals tends to be a good service, though a bit on the pricey side. Any other clickers out there have experience with London apartment rental services?
am I nutsy or gutsy, you decide...: Hi
I posted this last week but was much longer, you probably fell asleep reading it!
so I'll try to be brief, and, this may not fall into your area of expertise:
I recently took a layoff package at work. I have few/no commitments. No mortgage, no hubby/kids, just a few bills. I am gonna live the dream at least for a while - try to find a job overseas. Call it my 2002 adventure...
I've been networking like mad in my field (telecoms) but also am aware I might end up 'living off the land' to just make food/lodging money (which I am in a position to do, I have a low overhead right now...)
any tips? for the 'living off the land' part - have any of you backpacked around and done odd jobs in Europe, what would you say to someone with such a cockamamie scheme...
frequent traveler, also frequent poster/lurker, who shall remain nameless...
Post Travel Section Staff: Sorry, not a great time to be job hunting overseas, given what's just occurred. But does anyone have any ideas for a worthy idea?
USVI: Don't miss Jost Van Dyke. Which is beautiful and the soggy dollar bar (you have get there by boat and to swim to it with some bills tucked in your bikini) is great, but if you have too many drinks there you might not be able to swim back to your boat!
Post Travel Section Staff: Tks.
Washington, D.C.: I'm travelling overseas for the first time ever and want some black shoes that can walk miles yet double as evening wear. Any suggestions? Thanks much.
Post Travel Section Staff: KC here. We're glad to resurrect this variation on our ever-popular "wearing black in Europe" thread. A lot of us swear by Mephisto and Ecco walking shoes, which are stylish yet comfortable (also, sorry to say, pricey). I also like a Swedish brand called Bjorn.
Within 4 hours:Seneca Rocks, WVA: Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Hike, climb, rapel, horse back ride, tubing. LOVE it! It's beautiful.
Post Travel Section Staff: tks
washingtonpost.com: Here's the link to the story on Caribbean deals.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks, .com!
Cambridge, Mass.: What is the current state of the customs scrutiny at the Canada/U.S. border? I'm interested to know if wait times at auto crossings are heading back to normal. Thanks!
Post Travel Section Staff: Afraid it varies by location and time. Try calling the crossing area where you're headed for details.
Washington, D.C.: Can you give us an update on the Orlando attractions? We are headed down in Nov/Dec and wanted to get the lowdown since we have never been there.
Post Travel Section Staff: Hi, DC. JD here...everything is fine down in Orlando. Crowds are light but building, and everything is open. We'll have a full report on Sunday.
black walking shoes: Arche - French, with great squishy, but durable soles, something is done to the leather and they are machine washable (so I hear, I haven't tried mine yet). They are supremely comfortable as far as I am concerned. On the pricey side though $200 on up.
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks. And how about those tennis shoes with little wing tips you can velcro on?
travel insurance: What advice or information can you offer regarding travel insurance for those of us about to leave for long-planned, already purchased trips to England and Scotland? do most insurers exclude coverage for interupted service, extended hotel stays, or missed connections because of carrier shutdowns following attacks? one insurer I talked with, Travelguard.Com, said the attack had to occur in and disrupt travel in the same country. Thus if an attack occured in the U.S. but English carriers shut down we might not be covered for expenses incurred because of delays.
Post Travel Section Staff: Sottili here: After Sept.11, most companies reimbursed or offered alternate dates while the airports were closed.But once the airports were opened, many companies basically said,"Go or lose your money." The travel insurance companies weren't much better - very few offered coverage in this situation. Travelguard.com was one of the few who was fairly generous, although this is the first I've heard of them saying that they will only provide coverage in the attacked country. Every policy is different,so it's critical that you read the small print. Don't assume that just because the coverage is offered with the cruise or the tour that it is superior.And question the type of coverage your travel agent recommends - read the small print before signing. There are dozens of companies that offer travel insurance - do a search on the Internet, talk to your travel agent, etc. Get a list of a half dozen or so and start reading. And be aware that some companies are adding clauses that exempt coverage in the event of terrorist attacks.
Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Hello flight crew:
Help! My significant other was always a nervous flier, but after Sept. 11, she has become even more fearful and no statistics I rattle off or new security procedures will put her mind at ease. Our planned trip to Italy next spring may be in jeopardy.
Question: are there any "fear of flying"-type programs at local area airports or in the D.C. area in general? Can you recommend a specific book I can get her which will help her overcome this fear of flying? I looked at a couple of books, but none of them took hijacking into account -- might need a whole chapter on that issue, now.
Post Travel Section Staff: Good question! Let me look into that, unless someone knows right now.
Takoma Park, Md.: I'm on a flight to China from Dulles via SFO next Monday. The layover is about one and a half hours, and I have to go from the domestic to the international terminal, so must pass through security again.
My Dulles flight is the first of the day, so should not be too late I hope.
Do I have a hope of making the second flight? Can I ask the airline to let me fly into SFO the night before to make sure I get to China?
Post Travel Section Staff: The airline isn't obligated, but I'd try to change and arrive earlier, since it seems as if you really do need to make the China flight. That seems like it could be tight, and there is now way to know if it will be one of those slow times or not. (Cindy)
Durham, N.C.: I am trying to decide whether to fly or drive to Washington the second week of November. I am worried about delays, rather than my safety. The drive is about four and a half to five hourss. What are the delays like at Dulles? Will there even be direct flights from RDU to National by then? And if I do fly, is it better to carry on my bag (a garment bag) or check it?
Post Travel Section Staff: Sottili here: I'd drive. By the time you get to the airport two hours early and then take the flight, you could be here. No definite word on when service to Reagan will expand - I would think within next few weeks. As for luggage, if you can live without tweezers or scissors, take carry on.
For Boston: Do not miss Mike's Bakery in the North End. Simply the best cannoli ever!
Post Travel Section Staff: Thanks, FB.
DC: Just bought 2 tix for St. Thomas this AM for Thanksgiving week--non-stop from Dulles for an unheard-of $420 round trip!!
So the extended family will be getting together on St. John for the week--any suggestions for activities either with the fam or for a couple to go off on our own?
Post Travel Section Staff: KC here. Congrats on the fare. As for what to do, well, there are 39 beaches and bays in St. John -- need we say more?! St. John is eco-heaven and has some of the finest snorkeling destinations in the Caribbean.
If you want to get away from the family for a nice dinner, we've heard good things about Asolare, which serves Asian cuisine, and Paradiso, which focuses on nouvelle American, both in Cruz Bay. Chateau Bordeaux, on the island's highest point, has--naturally--the best view. Have a great trip!
Post Travel Section Staff: We have to get back to work, as do you I think. Thanks for joining us, and for great suggestions.
Just back from San Juan: Your article yesterday was timely. My wife and I just returned from a four-day weekend in San Juan, and it was wonderful. Their tourist business is way down (25 percent or less occupancy in most hotels), and as a result, in most places, it seemed staff outnumbered guests. They were all truly happy to see us, and we were treated like royalty. Don't know if Puerto Rico is always like this, but it was the friendliest island we have ever been to.
Post Travel Section Staff: And a final note about San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thanks!
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