Jet­ting to the beach be­fore baby lands

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL -

On Mon­days at 2 p.m., The Post’s travel writ­ers and ed­i­tors dis­cuss your travel sto­ries, ques­tions, gripes and more at live.wash­ing­ton­post.com. Edited ex­cerpts from a re­cent dis­cus­sion:

I am in des­per­ate need of a va­ca­tion. Had a Den­ver/New Or­leans trip planned in May, but I had to cancel once I found out I was preg­nant. I was pretty much un­able to fly any­where for the first trimester and am hop­ing the doc­tor will clear me for air travel on my next ap­point­ment. Baby is ex­pected in De­cem­ber, and I would love to have one big va­ca­tion be­fore the lit­tle nugget ar­rives. I am look­ing for some­place re­lax­ing with a beach that is not a party scene. Can you give me ideas, both within driv­ing dis­tance and fly­ing dis­tance? We’re look­ing for rel­a­tively short flights (if we do fly). I’ve al­ready done Hawaii, Ber­muda, Ja­maica and Can­cun. I was hop­ing to change it up a lit­tle this time.

If the heat doesn’t bother you, San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a short, non­stop flight from D.C. It’s a big is­land with a great va­ri­ety of lodg­ing choices. And if you’d pre­fer driv­ing, the Outer Banks in early Septem­ber when the kids are back in school would be a quiet choice.

— Carol Sot­tili

I am trav­el­ing to Spain for a seven-day cruise. I have heard many opin­ions about ex­chang­ing cur­rency. What is your take on the best way to get eu­ros?

I would use an ATM for with­draw­ing petty cash and keep the rest of your charges on a credit card that doesn’t charge for­eignex­change fees. Stay away from the ex­change booths at the air­port and train sta­tion — the ex­change rate is not fa­vor­able, gen­er­ally.

— Christo­pher El­liott

I’ll be trav­el­ing to Paris solo soon. I don’t speak French. What is the best way to make restau­rant reser­va­tions be­fore I go? Just call and wing it? (I’ve got “Do you speak English?” down.) Or should I wait and ask the front desk at my ho­tel, hop­ing I’ll be able to get a ta­ble on short no­tice? I’ll be in the city for three nights.

I was re­cently a non-French­s­peak­ing vis­i­tor to Paris, and I found that nearly ev­ery­one I had deal­ings with (and 100 per­cent in places like ho­tels, stores and restau­rants) spoke enough English to han­dle this kind of trans­ac­tion — af­ter all, Paris is the most-vis­ited city in the world. Al­ter­na­tively, yes, your ho­tel can usu­ally do it for you (in ad­vance if you ask), and some restau­rants al­low for on­line reser­va­tions.

— Ni­cole Arthur

I’m re­tired, and I’ve heard that if one is will­ing to leave at a mo­ment’s no­tice, one can ob­tain cheap pas­sage on cruises. How does one find out about such of­fers? Is this also true of land tours? Isn’t last-minute air travel re­ally ex­pen­sive?

Cruise ships with empty cab­ins used to give deep dis­counts to those who just showed up last-minute, but now they have to sub­mit pas­sen­ger man­i­fests at least a day in ad­vance. It’s worth call­ing a cou­ple of days be­fore­hand for deals, but un­less you live within driv­ing dis­tance, it’s not very prac­ti­cal. Tour com­pa­nies some­times have last-minute sales to fill slots, but it’s not com­mon­place. And yes, air fares are usu­ally more ex­pen­sive as the travel date grows closer. I’ve not found a Web site that does a great job of post­ing ex­cel­lent last-minute deals. I in­stead sign up for e-mail no­ti­fi­ca­tions via spe­cific travel com­pa­nies.

— C.S.

How im­por­tant is it to have a chip-and-pin credit card in Europe/Scan­di­navia?

It de­pends. I vis­ited Europe with my chip-and-pin­less credit cards last year and had no trou­ble. Only a few places (no­tably ticket vend­ing ma­chines at train sta­tions) didn’t like my card. If you can get one, con­sider it, but it won’t make or break your trip.

— C.E.

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