Jetting to the beach before baby lands
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.
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.