Q: We are four ladies going to Iceland on mid-May for almost a week. One in our group wants to rent a camper van or something similar for us to make the most of our trip (counting that we can all sleep there). None of us have information about this and I’m a bit concerned about the facilities that the camper may have or lack! (Are we going to be able to rest properly? Toilet? Etc.) We are not planning on camping as we don’t want to bring any equipment from the U.S. or rent it there. Has anyone rented a camper in Iceland recently?
A: I am a big fan of campers. You get the wheels, meals and lodging for often a better value than a la carte. And you get much more independence. (Europeans love this mode of travel.)
Unless you rent a motorhome, you won’t have a bathroom. But if you stay at campsites, you will have full bathroom facilities. Many operators have campsite suggestions, or can you lead to good sources of information. When researching camper companies, ask about the vehicle, bed types (pop-up or roof tent?) and what’s included in the price, especially the daily mileage allotment. And know that a camper can be a tight fit, so pack light and embrace the adventure!
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Q: I want to do a long weekend trip in Texas, but I’m not sure where to go. If you had to pick between Austin, San Antonio or Dallas, where would you go?
A: Anywhere but Dallas. Sorry, not my favorite city to visit. But Austin is fantastic. I spent four nights there last month and can’t say enough good things. The restaurants, nightlife and outdoor activities are great. Tour of State Capitol is a must. I’ve also heard good things about San Antonio.
Q: I fly very, very regularly but am starting not to be able to keep track of what “extras” are already included (based on ticket fare code, airline status, credit card, etc.). And I’m now absolutely certain that my usual airline of choice tried to sell me some “extras” when I bought a ticket online that I definitely already had included. It’s one thing to read a reasonable amount of fine print; it’s another when you are being “upsold” something you already have! Is this issue of transparency in fares something that is being looked at in the current round of hearings, or are those just focused on seat size? Looks to me like an unfair trade practice.
A: You’re not alone. Many passengers are concerned about “unbundling” which removed essential attributes of a ticket, such as a reservation and an ability to carry a bag, and started charging extra for them (almost always without lowering fares). To them, this seemed deceptive and over time, it’s made air travel more expensive but led to record airline industry profits. Between the next Department of Transportation rulemaking for airlines (expected this summer) and the FAA Reauthorization bill, momentum is building to fix this problem. And not a moment too soon, say consumer advocates.
Q: My mother and I are looking to do a getaway this Christmas, since it’ll just be the two of us (my father and grandmother have passed away in the past couple years, and my sister will be with her husband’s family). She’s retired and I have the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. My mom is leaning warmer; I have no preference. Money isn’t a huge issue, and my mom prefers slightly more upscale places. Any advice?
A: I am not sure of if you wanted to stay domestic or travel abroad, but how about New Orleans? There are lots of elegant hotels, such as the Roosevelt, the Ritz and Hotel Le Marais. And the city does Christmas and New Year’s Eve right (well, sometimes a bit too boozy!)
For international, I recommend Morocco, which has lovely riads.
Q: I will be in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, for a wedding in August. I have not been before, but is there anything nearby that I should visit if there’s any down time to be had? And do you think it will be miserably hot, seeing as it’s along the Blue Ridge Parkway?
A: If you like the outdoors, you’re in luck, as there are miles of nearby hiking trails. I don’t think it’ll be too hot. The average high in August is about 80 degrees, and the average low about 57.
Q: I am going to Istanbul in a couple of weeks and planning a visit the spice market. I went there two years ago and it was a nice experience but so difficult to determine which place I could get the freshest and real spices. I am particularly looking for raw unfiltered honey, real pomegranate molasses, urfa pepper, cinnamon (powdered & bark), pistachios and local tea leaves. Any experience on where are the best shops? (All of them looked full!)
A: If you want real expertise, you might want to hire a guide or take a culinary walking tour. Or check with a local spice store that imports, such as the spice shop in Union Market.
Also, make sure you pack any liquid-y items in checked bags and that your spices are permitted by Customs and Border Patrol.
Q: We are traveling to the Turks in April – wondering about the weather and hurricane season (any risk?). Also, we are hoping to get on the tennis courts but will be staying on the North Caicos Island. Anyone know of any courts on that Island (resort or otherwise)?
A: Hurricane season is June 1 to November 30. Most Caribbean resorts have courts. Hotels list their amenities on their Web sites. You might also contact the T&C Island Tennis Foundation at TennisClub@tcitf.org for ideas.