Trip Coach: March 22, 2005

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Budget Travel Editors answered your travel questions on Tuesday, March 22 at noon ET

Need help planning a trip? Have a question about your next vacation? The editors of Budget Travel magazine answered your travel questions Tuesday, March 22, at 12pm EST.

Budget Travel Editors: Welcome to our live chat - we're ready to answer your questions!

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Cooper City, FL: I will be traveling to the Netherlands this October. Any tips on how to find the best airfare? Should I book now, or wait? Thanks!

Budget Travel Editors: One of our favorite travel tools is a comparative search engine called SideStep.com. I recommend it regularly and suggest using this to price Netherland airfares for your selected travel dates. We did a sample search for October 13-17 and got a best price of $476 from United. KLM is also a good airline to start with, and we recommend not booking your trip too far in advance (before Sept. 1).

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Orange County, CA: I'm trying to arrange a company trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for about 80 people in February 2006. My travel agent has been trying with absolutely no success to get package rates for the last month or so. She has resorted to trying to get us quoted directly with resorts and airlines, which is maybe why the amount has shot through the roof. We haven't used an agency in a while, and of course, I have no way of knowing whether this is true or not. I've just fired off emails to a couple packagers, but do you have any suggestions? I really need to get this back in the budget originally quoted to me.

Budget Travel Editors: You have several options. Your travel agent's suggestion to go directly to the airlines and hotels in an excellent one if she can't accommodate you with an air-hotel package for 80. Chances are you can strike a deal with both an airline and with a hotel but it'll require a few more calls. Typically, 16 or more people is considered a group, and sometimes that number can be even smaller. I think you'll be surprised at the willingness of companies to work with you, if you can guarantee so many warm bodies. Another suggestion would be to use Groople.com--a travel booking engine for groups! It's still new and working out some kinks/adding new features, but the savings can be phenomena.

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Encinitas, CA: My wife and I are planning on taking 8-9 months and travel around the world. Can you suggest a good place to look for airfares for such a trip?

Budget Travel Editors: Airtreks specializes in RTW tickets, with a website that plans and prices any journey for free, 877/247-8735, airtreks.com
Go to our March issue, where Gayle Forman, author of You Can't Get There From Here, took a year-long trip around the world with her husband, and wrote about it in the magazine. She's chatting live next Tuesday at noon ET.

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Savannah, GA: I am guardian of a physically limited 57-year-old cousin. She cannot walk far. Mary would like to go on vacation, but has no ideas of what she would want to do, just get away for a few days. There is not much money available. Is there any options to a cruise? That is the only vacation idea I have had and am not sure that is a good one. Sorry for the vague details. Thank you for your ideas.

Budget Travel Editors: Fortunately, there are companies that cater to the mobility impaired and more and more companies are being formed to offer terrific vacations to this often under-recognized group of travelers. (It's about time because their 55 million strong!)Here are three excellent companies:
Flying Wheels Travel Service
Phone 507/451-5005
Web: flyingwheelstravel/


Accessible Journeys
Phone 610/521-0339, or 800/846-4537
Web: accessiblejourneys.com/
Wheelchair Getaways
Phone 800/536-5518
Web: wheelchair-getaways.com/

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St. Louis, MO: I want to plan a summer vacation with my family. Parents in their 40's, daughter 15, son, 10. We went to Cancun and stayed at an all-inclusive last year. We enjoyed it , but would like to be more adventurous this year. We are on a budget of $3000 total. Do you have any great ideas? I have searched the internet until I am exhausted. Need Help! Thanks for anything you can offer.

Budget Travel Editors: Why not check out the Riviera Maya, where you can still get a great value, and certainly stay within that budget. One particularly active all-inclusive resort is the Sunscape Tulum: sunscaperesorts.com. They have daily bike trips to the Tulum ruins. Check out the April issue for more information on this and other all-inclusives on the Riviera Maya.
Also, look into renting a house - for $3,000, you could get a great house - it may even come with a cook! Then you can save even more money by not eating out.

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New York, NY: I'm planning a trip to Puerto Rico in July for a friend's wedding. I have no idea where to start. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Budget Travel Editors: Let's start with airfare - since you're in NY, your best rate will probably end up being JetBlue, but why not comparison-shop at SideStep.com?
Don't know if you're staying at the wedding hotel, but if you're looking for lodging, the Puerto Rico tourism site has a terrific travel planner, where you can click on the map of Puerto Rico and find hotels in whatever city you'd like to stay: gotopuertorico.com

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Raleigh, NC: Do you know any last-minute vacations? Don't care where, within a 6 hour drive from Raleigh, or a flight for a budget of $100 per person

Budget Travel Editors: Unfortunately you're not alone, which makes planning a last minute vacation during the busy "spring break" season difficult. It'll be tough to find that $100 flight your looking for, but from Raleigh-Durham, a good place to start would be low-cost carriers Southwest (southwest.com), JetBlue (jetblue.com), and ATA (ata.com). If those don't pan out for you, the single best website to find last minute vacations is site59 (site59.com). Specializing in last minute deals, the website allows you to a book a vacation--including flights, hotel stays, and a car-- from 14 days to 3 hours from departure.

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Seattle, WA: Other than Mount Vernon, what places make a good day-trip for travelers without a car near Washington DC? 1 adult and 1 10-year old traveling.

Budget Travel Editors: Your 10-year-old will love the Inner Harbor in the heart of downtown Baltimore, plus it's well-serviced by commuter rail from Washington D.C. The one-hour train costs $14 roundtrip between D.C.'s Union Station and Camden Yards in Baltimore; for more information contact Maryland Transit (mtamaryland.com, 866/743-3682). When you arrive you'll be greeted by a picturesque harbor featuring The National Aquarium (410/576-3800, aqua.org) and a boardwalk packed with restaurants and shops. Learn more about Baltimore's Inner Harbor at harborplace.com.

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Stockton, CA: I will be traveling to India on May. However, my flight arrived to Singapore at 11 am of May 22 and depart next day at 7pm. I am would like to do something while there. What do you recomend? Is it safe?

Budget Travel Editors: You're in luck. We're running a feature article on Singapore in our April issue - page 120. It includes great restaurants, tours, and tips on how to get around - everything you'll need for that day in Singapore.

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Rye Brook, NY: Any suggestions for great inexpensive places to stay in Santa Fe with a pool. It is essential that the rooms are quiet and not on a busy road.

Budget Travel Editors: The Pecos Trail Inn (2239 Old Pecos Trail, 505/982-1943, pecostrailinn.com/) has a pool with terrific views and rooms from $79. Some other good, affordable lodging suggestions that come fully loaded with lots of character are: El Paradero (220 W. Manhattan Ave., 505/988-1177, elparadero.com/) which has rooms from $85); the Silver Saddle Motel (2810 Cereillos Rd., 505/471-7663, motelsantafe.com/) with room from $39; Hotel St. Francis (210 Don Gaspar Ave., 800/529-5700, hotelstfrancis.com/) with rooms from $80; El Rey Inn (1862 Cerrillos Rd., 800/521-1349, elreyinnsantafe.com/) with rooms from $72.

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Frankfort, IN: How you I find hotel rooms with softer beds than the rock-hard beds at most hotels? If I can't find more comfortable beds I won't be able to travel anymore. I have to line up the pillows on the bed and sleep on top of them since the beds are so rock hard. I have painful hip problems that these beds make worse.

Budget Travel Editors: The quest for the perfect mattress can last a lifetime, and it's certainly frustrating when you pay to stay somewhere and wake up with a crick in your neck. While more and more hotels are offering "pillow menus" to their guests, few have mattress menus. Our best advice would be to call ahead to confirm the firmness (or softness) of the mattress. Sometimes, they vary from room to room, so it's worth inquiring.

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East Syracuse, NY: We would like to trek a part of Italy that we've never seen. Please tell me if you think this is too much to do in just a long weekend: Leaving Cosenza (via train) on Friday morning, heading over to the Puglia area. Would like to spend a night in both Lecce and Locorotondo, overnighting in Matera on our return. We are looking for inexpensive but clean and safe hotels to stay. I'm not sure how expensive the Sassi Hotel is, but would you recommend it just for the experience? Also, is there an inexpensive trulli you can recommend in either Alberobello or Locorotondo? One more question, we will be heading to Genoa for a cruise, but would like to find an inexpensive villa in the Tuscany area for two days near a Tuscan cooking school. Any recommendations??? Thank you.

Budget Travel Editors: Read our article on Apulia, from the September 2004 issue

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Arlington, VA: Is there an all-inclusive place where our large family can vacation for 2 weeks in the summer? There are 16 of us, and the ages range from 8 months to 64 (healthy and active). Last year we went to a dude ranch...lots of fun for all, but expensive. We would be coming from California, Colorado, Texas, Florida and Virginia. Price is a consideration! Thank you.

Budget Travel Editors: The all-inclusive resorts on Mexico's Riviera Maya--it's just south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula--are great spots for families and large groups. Best of all with swim up bars, tons of activities, white sand, and warm water, they'll be no shortage of things to do. Five resorts that offer great values: Gala Beach Resort Playacar (877/888-4252, galaresorts.com.mx); Hotel Riu Playacar (888/666-8816, riu.com); Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar (888/923-2722, iberostar.com); Sunscape Tulum (866/786-7227, sunscaperesorts.com); and Barcelo Maya (800/227-2356, barcelo.com). And keep your eye out for our April feature story on Riviera Maya's all-inclusive resorts.

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El Cerrito, CA: My 30ish daughter in San Francisco wants a honeymoon trip to New Zealand from Dec 11-25 (can fly on Christmas). Any ideas on packages? They want 1/2 active 1/2 relax. Destination is not so important but warmth is VIP--not hot though, so no Tahiti, Moorea etc. With round trip air - $2000 each SF/Auckland - we need help!

Budget Travel Editors: A few companies (including Newmans Vacations and ATS Tours) offer packages with airfare, car rental, and vouchers for hotels, so your daughter and her new husband can plan things on their own. Their dates may be a problem, because like nearly everywhere else in the world, Christmas is a big travel time. We recommend they book something by around August at the latest. New Zealand is gorgeous and wonderful for road trips. There will be plenty of opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Since they want it to be warm, and to get the best price, they should stick to the North Island. The Bay of Islands area north of Auckland has beaches and romantic scenery. South of Auckland, there are rolling hills that are super, super green. Further south, there are a couple dormant volcanoes that make for great hiking. To the southeast, Roturua and its steaming mud pits and alien landscapes (NZ's Yellowstone). And at the southern tip of the South Island, Wellington, New Zealand's best, most fun city (it also happens to be the capital). The scenery on the South Island is even more amazing than its neighbor to the north, with jagged mountains and immense fjords, but they'd be pushing it to try to do everything on one trip.

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Huntington, WV: I'm looking for a website(s) that would list Charter flights that may be available, i..e to Europe, Hawaii, etc...

Budget Travel Editors: Unfortunately, there is no such site. Charter flights are abnormalities in the travel world, with flights and destinations and booking procedures that are never the same. No one has attempted at organizing them into an updated list of departures. So, to find out what's possible, you've got to go the old-fashioned route and contact a knowledgeable travel agent.

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Anonymous: Know anywhere where culture and beach mix? Thinking of Cannes...

Budget Travel Editors: Why don't you research Barcelona, Dalmation Coast, Greece and Turkey? Cyprus, Malta, or Tunisia also might be good choices.

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Las Vegas, NV: Having a very hard time finding a ticket for my daughter coming from Chicago to Las Vegas March 28 to April 2. Can you find me anything affordable? I tried Priceline but cannot get through to a human on their 800 number. I want to charge the ticket on my account with her name on the ticket so I need to talk to a human. Thank you.

Budget Travel Editors: Because it's in the middle of spring break, it probably won't be on sale. But try America West: 800-327-7810
Also, try SideStep.com. Find a price you like, then call the airline directly to book the trip.

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Cranston, RI: I will be driving up to Quebec City for a weekend in April. What are the most important things to see and do with my short time?

Budget Travel Editors: Auberge Saint Antoine is a fantastic hotel: saint-antoine.com. Or try Iled'Orleans: iledorleans.com/ang/k/k_index.html. Hike Mt. Saint Anne for a great day hike. Definitely do the organized city tour - it's very informative and takes about 2 hours. And while you're there, walk around, have a crepe, and enjoy the city.
Here's the tourism website: bonjourquebec.com/anglais/index.html

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Tigard, OR: I'll be disembarking a cruise ship in Copehagen in late June and wish to get to London. What's the best way and the cheapest way to get there? Thanks!

Budget Travel Editors: Check out Europebyair.com or cheapflights.com for the best airfare prices.

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San Francisco, CA: I am looking for a tour company that arranges trips for single people. I tend to travel with global exchange but I am not able to do their trips in April/May. Do you have any suggestions?

Budget Travel Editors: Take a look at Adventure Center, G.A.P Adventures, and Interpid Travel, and Contiki Holiday, all of which will pair you with a same-sex roommate so you can avoid the single supplement.

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Colorado Springs, CO: How can I get the lowest rate on a flight from Denver to Rome and back? What would that rate be? We would like to spend a few days in Rome possible going up to Florence before our cruise, which leave June 13 out of Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy returning at 8:00 AM June 24. Thank you.

Budget Travel Editors: Check out Sidestep.com for the lowest rates. Right now it's showing $1100 from Denver to Rome, but that price might go down.
Or, you might try booking a flight to Rome out of New York, and then book a low-cost ticket from Denver to New York.

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Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for all your great questions!

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