Q: I am looking to book my family’s next vacation and are hoping you can help. We are a family of four – two adults and two kids ages 3 and 2. Last year, we went to an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. This worked well for us because everything was on the resort and we were never more than five minutes from our room. The convenience of the all-inclusive was great!
We are looking for something similar for our next trip. An all-inclusive, beach-focused, family-friendly resort, not too far away (we could barely handle the four-hour direct flight to Punta Cana), with plenty of fun water activities for toddlers. (Note that many resorts have water parks but have height limits so toddlers can’t use them.) We are looking at the Atlantis but that seems to be too chaotic, or Beaches Turks and Caicos, but there are no direct flights from here.
A: The easiest destination to get to that offers a wide variety of all-inclusives is Cancun, Mexico. I believe Gran Caribe Resort has a water park for kids.
Q: Is there an cheap way to buy foreign currency for a future trip? I’d like to lock in some of the cheaper currency for a trip in late fall, but short of prepaying for hotels, I can’t figure out how to do it. Most of the currency conversion shops charge so much in fees plus the buy/sell spread that it wouldn’t be worth it unless the euro suddenly shot up a great deal. Any ideas? Or is this something that can’t be done on a individual scale?
A: Yes, you can buy a prepaid, euro- or pound-denominated Visa or MasterCard, which will let you avoid some fees. But the savings are likely to be minimal. If you’re traveling this summer, you’re probably better off buying currency when you need it, instead of prepaying. You’re also far less likely to lose the card or the cash in a drawer.
Q: I recently used Homeaway in European locations (Spain and Italy). I booked after communicating with the owners, and it did not appear that I was charged a fee. I didn’t use Homeaway’s booking page to search for properties by entering dates and locations. I searched for properties first and then booked online. I wonder if that provides a workaround? Or was the fee simply embedded and I didn’t know it? Either way, the rates were very good – much better than a hotel. But I would have liked to know about the fees if in fact they were embedded.
A: The owners pay Homeaway for advertising on the site. That’s how the company makes money. It costs the owner between $349 and $499 per year.
Q: We’ve just booked a hotel for a six-day trip to London in September but have not yet booked a flight. Round-trip (nonstop) airfares from the D.C. area are running about $800-$900. Given the Brexit situation, should we book now or wait a bit to see if fares come down? Any predictions on the value of the dollar vs. the pound in September? Any other advice for travel in England during this slightly chaotic time?
A: If you’re finding that airfare on nonstop flights, I’d go ahead and book. There’s been chatter about airfares to Europe heading lower because of Brexit, but nonstops will always be the last to see steep discounts. If you don’t mind connecting, you may want to wait a bit to see which way fares head.
Q: I’ll be traveling to Thailand in August. Most of the trip was booked using miles and points, so I’m not out too much out of pocket, but I am concerned about getting injured during our trip. I might be renting scooters to get around the small island I’ll be staying on and will be participating in water sports. I’ll also be in an area where jellyfish stings and dengue aren’t uncommon. Is there a specific kind of travel insurance we should look into? Are there any plans that only cover health issues and emergency medical care? I don’t really care about the trip cancellation part.
A: You’re engaging in some risky activities that might not be covered by standard travel insurance. I go into more detail in my frequently asked questions on travel insurance. You’ll need to read the terms of your policy carefully and avoid activities that aren’t covered or that are specifically excluded. There are more expensive policies that cover certain types of “adventure” activities. Also, you might want to consider a medical evacuation policy.
Q: I can’t seem to find a clear answer to this question and am hoping you can answer or point me in the right direction. I had radioactive iodine therapy five months ago for cancer. I set off radiation detectors for about two months. I am flying on Friday and am worried about setting off the detectors at the airport. Are the radiation detectors at the airports more sensitive than those in other places? Can the detectors tell the difference between medical radiation and a dirty bomb? What do I do if I am stopped for radiation detection? What will TSA do if I set of the detectors?
A: I’m not a doctor (and I don’t play one on TV), but I don’t think you will set off radiation detectors five months after treatment. But, just in case, I’d get written proof from your doctor.
Q: For the last couple years I’ve had the goal of hiking in the UK in autumn 2018 for an important birthday. The plan is to spend a week on the Great Glen Way in Scotland, then go down to Hadrian’s Wall for a few days, and end with a couple days in London where I have friends. Now with the Brexit and Scotland threatening another independence referendum, do you think I should move up the trip to next year? Unfortunately, this autumn isn’t possible due to my work schedule.
A: I’ve been talking with travelers all morning about their UK travel plans, and I don’t see any compelling reason to cancel. Quite the opposite, actually. The favorable exchange rate means you can afford a nicer hotel or an extra meal or two at a nice restaurant. I would go, anyway.