Travel Q & A
Hitting Vegas with the Kids
Q: Las Vegas with kids: Is that a good idea? They are 7 and 10. I can find some good deals, but let's say we stay at Circus Circus: It seems like there are few things to do there. What about other hotels? I suppose I'd rent a car and go to the Hoover Dam; that's one day. Is three nights a good amount of time?
A: Las Vegas tried marketing itself as a family destination a number of years ago, and it fell flat. The city simply isn't geared toward children. Adventuredome at Circus Circus is the biggest draw for kids. There's also an aquarium and mermaid show at the Silverton Hotel. Two nights is about as long as I can spend in Las Vegas, but I'm not a gambler. I think three nights works for those who like to hit the tables.
— Carol Sottili
Best time for cheaper flights
Q: What are the best times of year to catch cheaper airfares? Are there non-peak travel times? I can never seem to find great airfares anymore.
A: Fares typically are lower when demand tapers off, which happens just after January 1. But there's no guarantee that prices will fall, so just follow the tried-and-true advice: Book at least two weeks in advance, and if you see a fare you can afford, buy it and don't look back.
— Christopher Elliott
Is pickpocketing a problem in Paris?
Q: I've been told there's a bad problem with pickpockets in Paris. Aside from the usual precautions wallet in front pants pocket under a long coat, spread cards and cash in different pockets, carry as little as possible is there anything else I should do or watch out for?
A: I've been to Paris twice in the past three years and had absolutely no problem with pickpockets and I carry a big purse. But if you're worried about it, it sounds as though you've got all the right ideas. Just be cautious and alert, especially on crowded streets or in large gatherings. Women should keep their purses close at all times. My other thought is to keep your hands in your pockets; if yours are there, a pickpocket won't try to put his/hers in!
— Zofia Smardz
A driving break with family
Q: I'm looking ahead to the K-12 spring break this year and trying to come up with an idea for a family trip (including two boys, 15 and 10) that's high-impact but relatively low-cost. We like national parks, but it's early for a lot of parks, and the teenager has requested less focus on hiking this time. Yet we don't want to just sit on the beach, and no theme parks, please. One idea I had was to drive some portion of the Pacific Coast, but I'm not sure whether the weather would be favourable. Ideas?
A: At that time of year, I'd probably head south instead of north. The drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Highway 1 is remarkable; LA to San Diego is nice, too, but you don't get the same dramatic cliffs, and you miss Hearst Castle. If you love national parks, you have to check out Crater Lake in Oregon. But bundle up. It's gonna be a little chilly.
— Christopher Elliott
Booking hotels by phone
Q: I normally book my hotel rooms online, but for an upcoming convention, I had to book directly by calling the hotel. While they took my reservation, I must say that I really miss having the email confirmation, link to the hotel for directions and other benefits that come from booking online. Why is there such a disconnect between the two types of reservation? They could have easily asked for my e-mail address.
A: Then again, you could also have asked them to e-mail you directions and a confirmation, and I bet they would have done that. You can't expect them to read your mind.
Unlike you, I almost always reserve over the phone I find the email reservation system for so many hotels these days frustrating, with days blocked off for "checkout only." Also, even when a hotel's site is telling me that I can't book the dates I want, it happens often enough that if I call, I can actually get a room after all.
— Zofia Smardz
Flying to New Orleans
Q: I'm planning a trip to New Orleans at the end of March. I've been monitoring airfare for a while, and so far, $310 round trip is the lowest I've seen. Should I continue to wait? Any idea what a good price would be?
A: If that fare is for nonstop flights, I'd buy. Easter is March 31, and spring break vacations are often around that time.
— Carol Sottili
Caribbean breakaway in January
Q: I'm trying to figure out where to find a comprehensive list of direct flights to the Caribbean from the three Washington airports. All my boyfriend and I really care about is that the location be far enough to the south that we'll be able to swim and sun in mid-January, and we don't want to spend a day on each end of our trip in travel. Any suggested resources?
A: You could try nsflight.com. The airports' websites also list nonstops.
— Becky Krystal
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