Q: In February, my sister and I traveled as part to South Africa with Gate1. Our flight on SAA was delayed more than 10 hours leaving IAD, and we missed our first night in Cape Town. Gate1 said they had no liability because it was the airline’s fault. We purchased travel insurance, which says it covers common carrier delays due to “inclement weather, mechanical failure, or strikes.” The letter provided by SAA said the delay was due to “late arriving inbound aircraft,” so our claim was denied. On the plane, the pilot told us that it was due to a fuel gage problem. What are my best options here? Do I ask SAA for a more specific letter and try with insurance again? Is SAA responsible for any payment? (We were provided with hotel and meal vouchers for the length of the delay.)
A: I’ve seen airlines write letters on behalf of passengers filing insurance claims, so that’s probably your best option. Airlines often simplify the reason for a delay, which works for 99 percent of the passengers, except the ones filing insurance claims.
Q: What is the difference between a Bahama cruise and a Caribbean cruise?
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A: Bahama cruises are usually shorter because the Bahamas are closer to the U.S., and there may be fewer days at sea. As for the vibe, they’re very similar.
Q: My wife and I would like to visit Southern Italy. We have been to Europe several times (Italy twice) and usually rent a car and drive on our own. We usually spend 14 to 18 days. I’m concerned that the south wouldn’t have many places to see. Does it have the charm of Tuscany or the Venice region? Would we fly to Naples or Rome and then drive? Is Sicily a trip in itself? If we try Sicily for a week should we fly or boat to Sicily? Are credit cards commonly accepted?
A: I have a soft spot for Southern Italy (probably because my ancestors hail from that region). I’d spend maybe a week in Sicily, but not two weeks. Perhaps combine it with the Amalfi Coast? You could fly into Naples and then depart from Palermo. Driving the Amalfi Coast is not for the faint of heart. Go to YouTube and search the topic for a demonstration of why I say that. Public buses and private drivers are available. Driving in Sicily is easier. Ferries travel from many cities to Sicily, but most are not short rides: The ferry from Salerno, for example, takes at least 10 hours. Train may be a better idea and then rent a car once you get to Sicily.
Q: Please remind your readers that not all airlines participate in TSA PreCheck. I just returned from a trip on Frontier, which doesn’t participate, and my letter with my Known Traveler Number (KTN) was worthless. I had to wait in the regular lines. Meanwhile, three friends on the trip - none of whom have a KTN but all of whom were flying on a participating airline - had TSA PreCheck printed on their boarding passes. One of them said this happens to her quite often. If this is supposed to be a government program, why is it airlines arbitrarily deciding who is low risk, rather than the TSA vetting? And why wouldn’t an airline participate? This isn’t right.
A: The TSA tries to downplay the fact that PreCheck isn’t a guarantee you’ll zip through the security line. You’re correct, Frontier is not on board yet with PreCheck. It is scheduled to join in September. Even if you have a KTN, you may still be subjected to the normal screening procedures. There may also be technical reasons for your PreCheck problem.
Q: We are headed to Marco Island, Fla., with two kids (ages 6 and 3) mid-April 2017 for one week. Is it kid friendly? Is swimming, both in the pool and Gulf, an option? Any can’t miss attractions in the area?
A: Most of the hotels have pools and amenities, so I’d say it’s kid friendly. There are basically two beaches. The South Beach is easy to get to and offers parking. Tigertail Beach is wonderful, but probably not good for kids, as you have to wade across a small body of water to get to the ocean, and it can get deep. It does have a beach area before you wade across, but I didn’t find it all that attractive. I didn’t notice anyone swimming in Marco Bay. As for attractions, the kids may enjoy the nearby Rookery Bay Environmental Center, although they may be too young.
Q: I’d like to travel to Cabo, Mexico, for Christmas. Am I better off waiting for airline prices to go down, or book now? I’ve noticed that for Bahamas and Aruba, prices tend to go down in October/November. Is it the same for Cabo?
A: Very few destinations, especially in warmer environments, are a bargain over Christmas, and airfare sales are rare. Once in a while, we’ll see a last-minute sale if tickets haven’t sold well, but that only works for those who can wait-and-see. I’d book sooner rather than later for holidays.
Q: I had a life-threatening illness last year that put me in the hospital for three months. I have fully recovered and my wife and I are resuming our travels with a cruise shortly. We have discussed getting medical evacuation insurance, such as Medjet Assist. Anyone have any experiences with such firms, and any opinion as to its need?
A: I haven’t used Medjet yet (I hope I never have to) but I’ve interviewed plenty of people who have. They tell me it saved them a lot of money and got them the medical care they needed quickly.
Q: I’m on the fence about doing a Disney cruise this November. It’s so pricey! But everyone I know has raved about them. I’m not a cruise person. But I have two kids, a young teen and a tween. The choice is either the DCL or an all-inclusive somewhere. What do you think?
A: I’ve been on three Disney cruises with my family. Totally worth it!
Q: In mid-September, I’ll be in Edinburgh, Scotland, for a few days, courtesy of work. I’d like to extend the trip for a few days. Since any flights from Washington to Edinburgh require a connection along the way, I was thinking of using that to visit another city on the way back to D.C. Can one do that without increasing the airfare (much)? I was thinking of Amsterdam, Dublin or Reykjavík (none of which I’ve been to).
A: Icelandair offers free stopovers in Reykjavik and I believe Aer Lingus offers the same for Dublin.