- The Washington Post
The Washington Post's Travel section writers and editors recently discussed stories, questions, gripes and more. Here are edited excerpts:
Q: When traveling around the world, is it better to get a package from an airline alliance or roll your own plan with better flexibility on destinations? Are more stops better than fewer and how long should layovers be to get at least a sample for each stop? What I'm getting at, is two weeks too short a time to do this, even if it is just for bragging rights?
A: I took an around-the-world trip in 2016. I spent 20 days in seven countries, but you can definitely circumnavigate the world in less time. I tried to book the trip myself, but for convenience and cost, ended up booking through AirTreks, which specializes in these kinds of trips.
If you are taking the trip just to say you did, then you don't need much time at each destination. But, honestly, that seems like a waste. I would pick, say, five places and spend anywhere from 24 to 72 hours in each place. Some carriers include a free layover, such as Icelandair, KLM, Japan Airlines and Tap Portugal, so that's an easy way to add in another stop.
- Andrea Sachs
Q: In late March is it really warm enough, even in Florida or places like Cancun, Mexico to spend time by the pool, in the water or on the beach?
A: Florida is a big state, and you may not find swimming-warm days in its northern cities in late March. I'd opt for places south of Fort Myers on the West Coast or south of West Palm on the East Coast. Cancun should be warm enough.
- Carol Sottili
Q: I am heading to Las Vegas with a group of friends mostly for climbing in Red Rocks. On non-climbing days we are planning on visiting Zion, Grand Canyon and Death Valley national parks. Are there any other must-see places/must-do activities within four hours of Las Vegas? We'll be there from March 7-16 and have a rental car.
A: Make room on your list for . . . Lake Mead, Mt. Charleston and Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Valley of Fire State Park and Hoover Dam. If you are a shoe or public art fan, take the Zappos campus or downtown tour.
Q: I've traveled recently on Air France and SAS, and I found that I had to pay extra - after ticket purchase - to choose seats in economy class. When I buy my tickets online through Kayak, for example, these additional costs are not included in the prices listed. Is this a new trend that will spread to all airlines?
A: It's not necessarily a new trend, but I think more airlines are doing it, and they're being more aggressive about it. I really wish they would find another way of making money.
- Christopher Elliott
Q: I've been tasked with finding a Christmas destination for my family of 22 somewhere warm. We have people coming from every time zone, so I'm aiming for one of the Mexico cities with lots of direct flights (Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun). We're considering an all-inclusive, but I'm having a hard time finding ones that have rooms to accommodate the families of five (two adults and three children). I see that Club Med has "family rooms" with a two-room set-up, but many all-inclusives have a max of four per room. The Club Med is likely out of our price range, so are there other properties or brands that offer larger rooms for families?
A: Very few all-inclusives will accommodate families of five, and they're going to be expensive around the Christmas holidays, plus many will be sold out by now. In the Cancun region, for example, look at Generations. You may want to talk with a travel agent or one of the tour operators, such as Apple Vacations or Vacation Express. Or consider renting a villa.
Q: What is the benefit of using a qualified travel agent rather than directly through the cruise line? I've done a couple cruises previously and had no issues booking through the cruise line, but now that I'm considering another one in April (to Cuba on Norwegian), I'm wondering if I should contact a travel agent instead.
A: A few reasons: A cruise specialist knows the industry well, has cruised many times, and can match you to the right sailing. Also, many cruise agents have access to exclusive prices that you may not find online. And finally, a good cruise agent can help you if something goes wrong on your vacation, arranging for transportation to the nearest port if you miss a connection, for example. But a word of warning: Agents take a generous commission from your cruise and are often incentivized to sell certain cruises. You should always do your own research and ask lots of questions.