Sum­mer in Paris, en­ter­tain­ing kids in New York, and more.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL -

Mon­days at 2 p.m., we an­swer reader ques­tions about all things travel at live.wash­ing­ton­ Ex­cerpts from our most re­cent dis­cus­sions:


of my wife’s and my work sched­ules, our sum­mer trav­els are pretty much re­stricted to the lat­ter half of July and the first half of Au­gust. This year we’d like to go to Paris. Yet I’ve al­ways heard that Parisians go on va­ca­tion in Au­gust and the city “some­what shuts down.” Is this true, and if so, what does it mean, prac­ti­cally, for trav­el­ers to Paris?


can as­sure you that Paris is still bustling and busy even in Au­gust. Yes, there are restau­rants and shops and other busi­nesses that close, but plenty are open, the ho­tels still cater fully to tourists, and all the mu­se­ums and ma­jor tourist sites are fully ac­ces­si­ble. The town is maybe a bit qui­eter, but in a good, laid­back and re­laxed kind of way. It can be hot, but what the heck. It’s Paris! Get an air-con­di­tioned ho­tel room, take a cruise on the Seine, have cock­tails in the ho­tel bars, have a pic­nic in the park. And drink lots of water. Go, and have a great time!

— Zofia Smardz

Any sug­ges­tions on where to take our ele­men­tary schoolaged kids on their first trip to the Big Ap­ple? I’m es­pe­cially in­ter­ested in some off-the-beaten path ideas.

So many things in New York are, of course, on the beaten path, and you should still see them — I’m think­ing of Cen­tral Park. You just can’t skip it. But here are a few other ideas: There’s a great pup­pet the­ater in Brook­lyn called Pup­pet­works. There’s the Mu­seum of the Mov­ing Im­age in Queens, with lots of cool in­ter­ac­tive stuff. (They can make a stop-mo­tion an­i­mated short film!) Cir­cle Line has kids’ cruises to the Statue of Lib­erty. In Bryant Park, Le Car­rousel is pretty nifty. The Cen­ter for Ar­chi­tec­ture hosts a fam­ily day one Satur­day a month; that in­cludes a fun-sound­ing build-it-your­self ses­sion.

— Joe Yo­nan

I want to take a Christ­mas va­ca­tion to Europe, and I’d love to use fre­quent-flier miles. When can I start book­ing?

You can book on most air­lines about 330 days in ad­vance. You’ll prob­a­bly find that non­stop flights to pop­u­lar cities will sell out first. Air­lines limit the num­ber of fre­quent-flier seats avail­able on each flight, and there are black­out dates.

— Carol Sot­tili

My wife (non-U.S. cit­i­zen) still has her maiden name on her pass­port. Her green card has her pic­ture, as does her pass­port. She has trav­eled overseas this way three times, un­til re­cently, when Amer­i­can Air­lines wouldn’t let her on the plane be­cause her name was dif­fer­ent. I had to call to get it changed. Of course, I had to can­cel this ticket (for a $200 fee) and buy a new one. We usu­ally fly United for the Chicago leg and never had this prob­lem. Has some­thing changed?

The name on your wife’s ticket must match her ID or pass­port. The ticket agent should have been able to make that change with­out a fee, since your wife showed that she was the same per­son. One other thing to keep in mind is the 24-hour rule, which would have al­lowed you to cor­rect the name, as long as the change was made within 24 hours of book­ing the ticket.

— Christo­pher El­liott

I’m think­ing of tak­ing a trip to Ecuador in late May. I plan to spend a week there, and due to time con­straints I don’t plan to visit the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands. Am I crazy to go down there but not visit the Gala­pa­gos?

I sup­port your de­ci­sion 100 per­cent. Ecuador is more than just the Gala­pa­gos. The mar­kets, moun­tains and in­dige­nous cul­tures are just as amaz­ing as the gi­ant tor­toises and sea lions. Plus, you are giv­ing the wildlife a break, which they se­ri­ously need.

— An­drea Sachs

My fam­ily is go­ing to Hawaii next year for a mile­stone birth­day. A friend in Cal­i­for­nia rec­om­mended that we split the trip into two sep­a­rate flights to take ad­van­tage of the deals of­fered from Cal­i­for­nia to Hawaii. Is this worth do­ing?

Un­less you can find sub­stan­tial sav­ings, I would stick to one ticket for the whole flight. It’s eas­ier to re­book if you miss a con­nec­tion, and you can check your lug­gage through. In ad­di­tion, you can of­ten find sales to Hawaii, es­pe­cially dur­ing off-sea­son and shoul­der sea­son.

— An­drea Sachs

The cur­rent fares of $1,200plus to Europe are too ex­pen­sive. Will there be any sales this spring?

Fares are su­per high for spring travel. I’m hope­ful that there will be some sales, but they’ll prob­a­bly be short-lived with re­stricted travel dates. You’ll need to be flex­i­ble to take ad­van­tage of them. If you can leave from New York, that might mean lower fares, as more dis­count car­ri­ers, such as Aer Lin­gus and Air Berlin, fly from there.

— Carol Sot­tili

My son, who loves trains, would like to take the Acela to Philadel­phia to see the Lib­erty Bell. Can this be a (long) one­day trip to see the sights or should we really make it two? This is a 7-year-old, if it mat­ters.

If what you mainly want to do is see the Lib­erty Bell and In­de­pen­dence Hall, then yes, it can def­i­nitely be done in a day. The his­toric area — In­de­pen­dence Na­tional His­toric Park — in Old City is quite com­pact.

— Zofia Smardz

What’s the best way to keep my credit cards and cash safe in Lon­don and Paris? What should I keep in the room safe? Should my hus­band have a money belt? Should I have two credit cards that I keep sep­a­rate?

Bring only one credit card and min­i­mal cash with you. It’s best to keep it in a bag or pouch that tucks away un­der your clothes. If you don’t have a money waist pouch, sling your bag over your shoul­der, then put on your top coat. Also have your hus­band hold some money (but not in his back pocket!). Keep your pass­port, ex­cess cash and spare credit card in the room safe. As a backup, stash a $20 note in your shoe.

— An­drea Sachs

My hus­band has an ex­pense­paid con­fer­ence in Ed­in­burgh; I’ll pay my air­fare and pig­gy­back on his ho­tel, but we want to see Lon­don as well. Is fly­ing into Ed­in­burgh and out of Lon­don cost-ef­fec­tive? Is the train be­tween the two set up to ac­com­mo­date our lug­gage? Any pref­er­ence be­tween Heathrow and Gatwick for leav­ing Lon­don?

Have you priced it out? That’s the best way to know whether it’s cost-ef­fec­tive. I can’t vouch for the train setup, but un­less you have an ob­scene amount of lug­gage, you should be fine. Again, Heathrow vs. Gatwick, price it. Most U.S. flights go in and out of Heathrow, so I imag­ine that’s what will shake out best for you.

— Becky Krys­tal

At what point in the whole ho­tel-reser­va­tions-to-check-in process does one men­tion any­thing in hopes of get­ting an up­grade? I’ve never done this and need some point­ers.

Up­grades hap­pen, gen­er­ally, be­cause there are un­sold rooms avail­able at the last minute. So that means that it hap­pens . . . at the last minute. When you check in, you can po­litely ask the clerk whether there are any rooms avail­able that you could be up­graded into. It’s best to do this at a prop­erty where you have a fre­quent-cus­tomer mem­ber­ship, if pos­si­ble. And you should be dressed nicely and be very well man­nered. It’s also best to be spe­cific: “If you have any un­sold water-view rooms, we would cer­tainly be avail­able for an up­grade.”

— Joe Yo­nan


Hot des­ti­na­tion: Paris can be warm in Au­gust, but you can cruise the Seine and see Notre Dame.

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