Trip Coach: Nov. 15, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions
Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for joining us for this week's Trip Coach. Let's get to your questions!
Harrisburg, Oregon: Going to Florence in February..with car to Cortona for 3 days..any surefire tips on "driving in Italy"..Tammy G, Harrisburg, OR
Budget Travel Editors: There are several rules of thumb that apply to renting cars in Italy (and Europe in general). 1) You'll pay less if you rent before you go; try AutoEurope.com 2) If you're going for longer than two weeks, consider a short-term lease 3) Request a car that takes diesel, it's cheaper to fill up 4) Rent a manual, or "stick," if you can 5) Take full advantage of having a car, meaning get off the main ateries and travel to places not otherwise accessible-small towns and villages. Michelin (michelin.com) sells the best, most detailed road maps of Italy. Note: Italians drive fast, so don't feel compelled to keep up.
Stillwater, MN: My husband and I are planning a 2 to 2 1/2 week trip to New Zealand in February/March 2006. We're considering participating in a 2 week trip called the Rimu offered by Active New Zealand ... we're in our mid 50's to early 60's, but quite active and when we travel we love to get off the beaten path and see the country. Should we get one of those camper vans and "do the country" ourselves? Any input, suggestions of what NOT to miss, alternatives, would be MUCH APPRECIATED.
Budget Travel Editors: An ideal way to explore NZ is by camper van. While NZ is not an expensive country to visit (only to get to!), you can save a lot of money if your accommodations are taken care of. With only two weeks at your disposal however, I'd recommend sticking to one island. If you're looking for a more active experience and more dramatic scenery then I'd suggest the South Island for its mountains, glaciers, hiking paths, gorges, etc. Your very best trip-planning resource is the country's excellent official tourism website: newzealand.com. It includes driving routes. For example, here's a link to its Southern Scenic Route. There's even a pull-down menu to help you determine the weather and rainfall during the time you plan to visit. Keep in mind that they drive on the left hand side of the road in NZ, so you'll want to take it easy on the road. Go to airnz.com for flight and vacation package info. Go-Today.com has an 11-night South Island Fly-Drive package good for travel the end of February, late summer, for $1,439 per person.
Madison, IN: My husband and I (both age 29) are wanting to visit Acadia National Park in Maine along with our 12 year old girl. We would like to make this a road trip. We were wondering about the best places to stop along the way (definetely Niagra Falls) and still allow time to explore the park area adequately. We would like to spend some time in nature as well as some time spent in town. I can not find much literature an the National Park at all. What are the best sights to see? Sorry for rambling! Thank You.
Budget Travel Editors: A road trip from IN to ME sound like fun. You will most definitely want to stop in Niagara Falls. Here's a link to a story from our October issue you may find helpful. From there, I'd recommend travel across and down NY State to the Berkshires (visiting Mass MOCA in North Adams, Tanglewood in Lenox, Norman Rockwell Museum along the way), and then hopping on the Mass Turnpike to 495, 495 to 95, and 95 to 295 up the coast of Maine. In our July/August issue we published a road trip story on seeing mid-Coast Maine.
As for information about staying on Mt. Desert Island or visiting Acadia National Park, I'd recommend checking out these URLs: ; nps.gov/acad/; acadianationalpark.com.
Warning: If you intend to camp, be sure to make reservations ahead of time, and also let people know where you are. The cell phone reception in the area is notoriously bad.