Trip Coach: November 21, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel
Budget Travel editors: Welcome to this week's Trip Coach. Let's get to your questions!
Bloomsburg, PA: What can you do if you have something stolen from your checked baggage? Who do you contact and what recourse do you have? Thank you.
Budget Travel editors: Although each airline carrier's policy is a little different (many exclude coverage of jewelry, camera equipment, and medications), file a damage report with the airline within 24 hours of arrival, or your claim could be dismissed. If you think the item went missing or was stolen at a TSA passenger screening or baggage checkpoint, you should also file a claim report with the TSA (tsaclaims.org). If you have travel insurance (and you do, right?), file a claim with your insurance company within 24 hours.
In the future, if you are traveling with special items that you can't place in carry-on luggage, buy a TSA-approved lock for your checked baggage.
Read our recent article, "What to Do in a Travel Emergency." And before you go, download our handy list of airline phone numbers (PDF)
Richardson, TX: This probably isn't quite what you're looking for, but here goes: My daughter is interested in making college visits the week of March 11th, 2007 to Olympia and Walla Walla, Washington, and to Portland and Salem, Oregon. How we effectively make this trip in 4-5 days on a budget?
Budget Travel editors: Here's a suggested itinerary: Fly into Seattle, Wash., which is the largest centrally-located city between the cities you mentioned. Rent a car from one of the many car rental agencies near (but not inside of) the airport -- most offer a free shuttle to and from the airport (find the full list at http://www.portseattle.org/seatac/ground/rentalcars.shtml).
Since you won't be spending much time in the city, stay at a hotel south of Seattle or near the airport, since you'll be driving south and southeast of Seattle. If your looking for deals, check out Seattle Super Saver, a discount hotel booking website operated by the Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau (search for hotels in the "downtown", "south Seattle" or "airport" locations). For example, rates at the Clarion Hotel Seatac start at $84/night.
On your first day, tackle Olympia, Wash., which about a two hour drive from Seattle (traffic permitting!). On your second day, hop on Interstate 90 and drive southeast to Walla Walla, about a five hours from Seattle. You could either stay overnight in Walla Walla or drive back to Seattle, depending on your schedule. On your third (or fourth) day, drive to Portland, Ore., about a five hours' drive from Seattle. Salem is about an hour south of Portland, so after visiting colleges in Portland and Salem, you probably would want to stay overnight in Portland, and return to Seattle the next day. Check out Portland's official tourism website, travelportland.com, for hotel deals.
Make sure you bring your umbrella, as Seattle can be cool and chilly in March. Good luck!
Cary, NC: My college girlfriends and I are thinking about planning a quick four-day weekend getaway to either Nashville or Memphis next year. Which city is best? We are all 42 years old and we live in different states (NC, NJ, FL, CO), so air travel is a consideration.
Budget Travel editors: The choice of destination for a long weekend getaway with your girlfriends isn't determined by absolutes, but rather what is most convenient and appeals more to the friends involved. It helps to get a feel for what each city has to offer in terms of activities, restaurants, neighborhoods, and cultural events--and search for the best air fare. Nashville and Memphis have comparable-sized airports; where Southwest Airlines uses Nashville as a hub, Northwest Airlines has its third largest hub in Memphis. Budget Travel's Girlfriend Getaways special issue last May devoted an entire feature highlighting and describing cities that were great for, well, girlfriend getaways. Search BudgetTravelOnline.com's archives to read about those eight cities--in addition to three more cities (including Memphis) that are only available on the website.