Q: I have the vacation time at work and I have the money to take a trip, I just can’t decide where to go – so many places, so many options so I end up not doing anything. I just can’t seem to pick a destination (to help pick when) or a time (to help pick where) or even who (if anyone) to go with. Any suggestions on how to actually start making decisions to so I can take a trip somewhere soon?
A: You may be overthinking this. If you really are that stuck, you could always throw darts at a map. Or if that’s a little too risky, choose a theme (city, beach, mountains, etc.). Decide mode of travel (air, boat, car). Decide length of trip (weekend, week, etc.). Decide how far you want to go (local, East Coast, United States, North America, Europe, etc.). So let’s say you answered: City, air, a week, Europe. If you can’t decide from there, look at a map of countries you’d consider (let’s just say Spain, Italy, Austria and Croatia), write down a major city from each of those countries (Barcelona, Rome, Vienna and Dubrovnik) and throw the slips into a bucket. Pick one out (I just picked Vienna) and make your plans.
Q: How responsive do hotels tend to be if the odds are very much in favor of them as the source of bed bugs brought home but there’s no absolute proof? That is, didn’t find one in the room, and couldn’t figure out what was going on for a month after (who thinks “must be bed bugs?”), but now that we know it’s bed bugs, we’re pretty confident about the source (found prescription medication on the floor in the room and other evidence that housekeeping was lax, traveled literally nowhere else for the six months prior, etc.) Clearing this up has cost us nearly $10,000 on the pest control company, replacing mattresses and furniture, renting a storage unit for cleaned and sealed clothes, doctor’s appointments while we tried to track down the source of the “hives,” and on and on and on.
A: It is difficult to prove that a guest picked up bedbugs in a hotel. I’ve seen travelers with photographic evidence of a bedbug infestation and, in my opinion, a strong case. But the hotel would send a form response – a variation of the legendary bedbug letter – and the case fell apart. In order to prevail, you would have to prove that the bugs came from that hotel. I’m not sure how you would do that.
Q: My fiance and I are skipping the wedding to have an awesome honeymoon. But we’re at a loss for a good place – I’ve been to some of the typical honeymoon locations – Thailand, Italy, etc. and I’m looking for a place where the dollar will go far but won’t overwhelm with high numbers of tourists. The time of year is still negotiable and I want to avoid western Europe and the Caribbean.
A: The U.S. dollar is ridiculously strong in South Africa. You could combine a visit to Cape Town with a safari at Kruger National Park or one of the other parks. You might also consider Colombia, an emerging destination with some good deals. The dollar is also strong in Argentina, Peru and Uruguay. Of all the destinations, however, I would chose Australia and New Zealand. Choose your season wisely (such as no school vacations) and you can avoid tourist peak season.
Q: I wish the airlines would charge for carry-ons. If it has wheels, slap a $100 charge on it (maybe not for computer bags). No more charging for checked bags. If you want convenience, you should pay for it. After 30 years of flying, I’ve had bags get lost (once in Europe and our bag was found and delivered to us within 24 hours), but never for long, and delivered to where I was staying/home.
A: Some airlines already do. They include discount carriers such as Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit. They pretty much charge you for anything that isn’t nailed down. Some people love it, but most passengers would prefer the ability to carry a bag included in the price of your ticket.
Q: We recently traveled to Aruba on Southwest airlines. The tickets were bought in early February. We paid for EarlyBird registration. On our initial flight our boarding passes were in the “C” group at about C 45 which put us in approximately the 150th boarding spot. When we asked at the desk in the airport check-in and at the gate we were told purchasing the EarlyBird registration does not guarantee better seating. It was clearly on our ticket record that the purchase had been made. The gate person allowed us to board with young children after group A probably to just get rid of me. Seems to me that paying for early seating and not getting it is something of a scam. I was wondering if you all had any thoughts.
A: That seems very strange to me. If you pay for priority boarding then you should get a better boarding position and seat – no? When I fly Southwest, I check in as soon as the clock ticks 24 hours before my departure. I am typically in the B zone; I assumed early birders got the A worm.
According to Southwest: We’ll automatically check you in and assign your boarding position within 36 hours of your flight’s departure – that’s 12 hours before general boarding positions become available. While EarlyBird Check-In doesn’t guarantee an A boarding position, it improves your seat selection options to help you get your favorite seat.
You might consider writing a letter to the airline’s customer care department. You deserve a refund!
Q: When is the best time of the year to visit Quebec? I’ve heard it’s beautiful around Christmas time but the drive from Maryland could be affected by the weather.
A: That can be a beautiful time of year to visit, but if you don’t like the cold, you might choose late summer or early fall. The tourists are gone and the weather is still reasonably warm.
Q: I’m wondering what your views/experiences on car-sharing sites like Turo are? I’m considering using it for an upcoming West Coast trip because the cost seems significantly less than Hertz, etc. Would you recommend it for a family vacation or stick with something more “traditional”? Thanks.
A: I used a car share in San Francisco, and it worked out well because I just drove it around the city. Whenever I had a question (for instance, how to open the sunroof), I called the owner, who promptly answered my call. However, for longer drives, I would be inclined to use the national chains simply because of their emergency assistance and car replacement service. However, if you go with a car share, ask the company or owner about the what ifs: you get a flat, or in an accident, or the engine dies...