Q: Is it worth doing a day trip from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon? The map says it’s a 3 1/2 -hour drive, but I’m wondering whether it’s longer.
A: The Grand Canyon is phenomenal, but you don’t want to rush it. If you have only a day, I am not sure driving seven hours is worth it, especially if you want to explore both rims and hike around.
That said, the interstate can get pretty busy, so you might be in the car for an extra hour or two.
Q: We are thinking about going to Vienna, and I’ve been a little bummed about the cost and scheduling of flights. There are, of course, many more- and less-expensive flights to the “big” airports. Any ideas about coming into Germany and taking the train? Is it a big hassle? A long trip? Any other quick thoughts about other routings?
A: Vienna is a notoriously expensive airport. When I lived there, we flew out of Munich, Frankfurt and, if memory serves, Luxembourg. The train ride isn’t that bad, but you have to imagine yourself making the trip after a long international flight. You’re jet lagging. By the time you get to Vienna, you want to sleep for two days. But we saved a lot of money. Ah, memories!
Q: What destinations should I set flight alerts for to catch inexpensive, last-minute, international flights?
A: I don’t think there are specific destinations that are best for last-minute fares. But there are international destinations that offer traditionally lower fares. In Europe, that includes destinations served by discount carriers, such as Reykjavik, Iceland, and Istanbul. Cities in Central America, including San Jose, Costa Rica, and Guatemala City, are often fairly reasonable. South African Airways offers frequent sales to Johannesburg. Porter Airlines has cheap fares to Eastern Canada.
Q: Are there any Virginia parks other than Shenandoah that have lodges for overnight stays?
Several dozen Virginia state parks offer lodging, in addition to regional parks: Algonkian Regional Park, for example, has cabins. Prince William Forest Park, a national park located just down I-95, also offers lodging. Reserve America handles lodging reservations for Virginia state parks.
Q: I’m planning to spend about a month in both Africa and India. They are both so vast, and I’m having trouble figuring out where I want to go. A couple specific questions: Is India safe enough for a single female traveler to get around on her own, or should I do some sort of tour? And is there a way to narrow down where to go in Africa? I know I want to go to South Africa, but do you have any advice on what other countries to see?
A: Going solo vs. with a group all depends on your comfort level and familiarity with traveling in destinations where women may be targeted for harassment or at the very least intense stares. I traveled around Delhi by myself, but I signed up for a morning tour to get oriented. Per my hotel’s advice, I didn’t go out at night, even through the area around my hotel was filled with people. The moral of the story: You will have more freedoms with a tour. And you can always break away from the group for a bit of independent exploration once you know the cities better.
I would suggest adding Namibia to your list. I loved it! It is an easy flight from Johannesburg.
Q: What’s the minimum connection time you’d be comfortable with? I am traveling from Dulles to Miami. DCA has the bulk of non-stops, but Dulles works better for me for this trip. There are several one-stop flights with very short layover times of under one hour. For example, one connecting Delta flight with only 39 mins in Atlanta. Just because the airline lets me book it, is that a good idea?
A: Those are calculated by the airline and they are usually pretty reliable.
Q: Friends just got engaged and are considering a destination wedding to an all-inclusive. Any resort or even just island suggestions? They don’t know where to start!
A: That is a very personal choice, and couples often pick a place that they wish to honeymoon in as well. Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are popular destination wedding sites, but honestly they feel like I Do factories to me. I would consider a smaller island, such as St. John or Nevis. Your friends also need to research marriage requirements for foreigners, which an island wedding planner can help with. They should also consider their guests, who will have to pay for the air and hotel and will need a passport for non-US territories.
Q: Any thoughts on a warm destination for the summer that won’t carry significant Zika risk? For personal reasons, we’re not interested in Hawaii, and we’re hoping for something a little more exotic than Florida. Bermuda? The Galapagos? The Canary Islands?
A: Belize isn’t on the CDC’s list of affected countries nor is Cuba. The Galapagos Islands are amazing, of course, but summertime is crazy hot for all of these destinations.