Trip Coach: Nov. 1, 2005

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Budget Travel editors answer your questions

Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for joining us. Let's get to your questions!

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Layton, UT: Do you have suggestions for areas, cities in Spain to visit. I do not like beaches. This trip is for cultural, historical and family reasons. I have never been to Spain. I want to go there to see where my family came from. Is spring a good time to go? I would like to see the northeast, because I believe that is where my family came from (around Burgos).

Budget Travel Editors: Burgos itself has a wealth of history, and especially if you're looking into the homeplace of your ancestors you'll want a full day to explore. Most likely you'll get started in Madrid, where you can get into the Spanish way of life with tapas in one of the older cave-like mesons around Plaza Mayor. You can visit the Palacio Real as well for a taste of royal life and luxury. Madrid has an absolute ton to explore, so if you'd like a bit more in depth knowledge about the different historical elements of the capital city, try a guided tour through the Tourism Office (descubremadrid.com). North of Madrid, on your way up to Burgos, Segovia is definitely worth a visit. Its most notable landmark, the Roman aqueduct, is largely believed to date back to the first century BC. The Alcázar in the old town is reputedly the inspiration for the castle at Disneyland (though it vies for this title against Neuschwanstein in Germany). The House Museum of Antonio Machado is also worth a visit if the early 20th century Spanish poet's life and work interests you. Moving further north you can also stop into Valladolid, a bustling university town now, it was at one point home to Cervantes, Spain's famed son who penned Don Quijote de la Mancha. On to Burgos, a city laid out around the Arlanzón River. It's easy to orient yourself in the city as the main cathedral is visible from most parts. I hope these suggestions get you started, but also look into spain.info for more in depth trip planning, and check out the podcasts on notesfromspain.com for historical and cultural insight into many different parts of the country. And as for your inquiry about spring travel, the capital city is mostly warm and sunny in April and May (temperatures in the 60s and not very rainy), but you can check temperatures in more detail on weather.com or wunderground.com.

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Fairfax, Va: I am taking a cruise at the end of April 2006 out of San Diego. I have never been to San Diego and thought I may go early and spend 2 nights there before getting on the ship. Any suggestions for a nice hotel which would be close by the port but still convenient for seeing the city?

Budget Travel Editors: A short walk from the Bay, the revitalized restaurant-heavy Gaslamp Quarter, and Little Italy, the W San Diego is a convenient jumping off point--if you're in the mood for an indulgent blow-out stay (with the $250+ nightly rates to match). The lobby doubles as a throbbing nightclub on weekend nights, there's an outdoor, tropical-themed bar dubbed the Beach for its sandy floor, plus a tiny pool with an open-air gym and a spa. For something more wallet-friendly, try the quaint Victorian Horton Grand Hotel, four-story European-style La Pensione, or the no-frills Comfort Inn, all reliable downtown options.

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Glendale, CA: What is the time difference between Vietnam and California?

Budget Travel Editors: There is a 15 hour time difference between California and Vietnam, (ie, when it is 8AM in California it is 11PM in Vietnam). The website timeanddate.com is a great, simple resource for figuring out time differences around the globe. Another great resource for making international phone calls across time zones is countrycallingcodes.com.

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Weehawken, NJ: What is the best online website for discounts on Cruise vacations?

Budget Travel Editors: By far one of the best websites for cruise deals is cruisecompete.com. Submit a ship name and sail date and travel agencies across the country will compete to offer you the best package for your vacation. You'll be contacted via email with a price quote for your trip, then simply contact the agency directly to book your cruise. There's no obligation to purchase a cruise once you're quoted a price, the service is totally free, and if you're flexible with your travel dates and itinerary, you'll get some of the best bargains around.

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New York, NY: My boyfriend's job requirements mean we usually only have about a one week notice to plan a trip. We would love to get away to someplace warm that isn't only about sitting on a beach. I'd love to have some ideas in my back pocket for where to go and the best way to find last minute getawaways for the next time we have a week to plan an escape.

Budget Travel Editors: The next time you're looking for ideas for a great last-minute vacation, be sure to check out Site 59 (site59.com). Named for the 59th minute, the website allows you to book up to three hours before takeoff and is packed with bargains. Search by destination (Europe, the Caribbean, South America), by lifestyle (sun & beach, food & wine, casino), or sign up for its Top Picks email where you'll receive notifications of its best deals right in your inbox.

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Los Angeles, CA: Is there a resource to compare the pertinent measurements, ie leg room, # of rows? , etc , etc in the Coach cabins of different airlines??

In otherwords, does the consumer have a resource to see which airlines have the best legroom in Coach?

Budget Travel Editors: Frequent Flyer's website has compiled seating charts for every airline: frequentflyer.oag.com/airlines_airports/seating.asp
Leg room (or "seat pitch") can vary from plane to plane, but here's a chart from cheapflights.com cheapflights.com/travel-tips/legroom.html

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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: I remember reading something about searching for the best airfare on some sites (I think airline sites) and then not being able to find the lower fare later. But the recommendation was to do something...eliminate history?...go in to eliminate cookies? and then the lower fares would come up again. Can you please tell me something about this. It might have been a situation where a flight was already booked and someone was trying to find a better fare. Thanks.

Budget Travel Editors: Your memory is correct. "Cookies" are small files that certain websites send to your computer while you are browsing their site. Each "cookie" is a record of your visit to that specific website, and includes information such as your login information, time of your visit, and any other information you give up willingly, like a password or e-mail address. The next time you visit that website, your computer "remembers" your preferences, password, and other information. It's similar to Caller ID for your telephone. Unfortunately, this saved information can also include the airfare prices you've previously searched on.
Try eliminating cookies from your web browser if you get the same search results from a website. Here's how: If you're using Internet Explorer, go to "Tools" and then "Internet Options". Click on "Delete Cookies" and then click "OK".

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Harwich, MA: Do I now need to have a passport to go to St. Maarten in Jan?

Budget Travel Editors: Not yet. The U.S. government postponed the implementation dates of its plan to require all travelers (including U.S. citizens) within the Americas, Caribbean, and Bermuda, to have a passport to enter or re-enter the United States by one year. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, as this plan is called, will now be put into effect December 31, 2006 for air and sea travel between Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The requirement will be extended to all land-border crossings on December 31, 2007. For updates and more information, go to the U.S. State Department website travel.state.gov.

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Charlotte, NC: How do I find out if there are any travel restrictions to Turkey from the USA? Also, If a person wanted to visit the USA from Turkey, what requirements would have to be met?

Budget Travel Editors: The best place to find out information on both topics is on the US State Department's website: travel.state.gov. The short answer is that U.S. citizens traveling to Turkey need a valid passport and visa. Tourists can buy a 90-day sticker visa at a port of entry to Turkey for $20 cash. For more information, contact the Turkish embassy at 202/612-6700 or check their website turkey.org. In general, the State Department posts travel warnings about specific countries; currently there are no travel warnings concerning Turkey. For more detailed information about individual countries, read the site's consular information sheets. To travel to the United States, Turkish citizens will need a non-immigrant visa. For specific details about the procedure (including application forms, fees and a mandatory interview) travelers should contact the closest US embassy or consulate to them (links to U.S. embassies and consulates around the world are also on the travel.state.gov website).

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Rye Brook, NY: I have booked tickets on Iberia Airlines and now I am concerned.

Many people I have mentioned the airline to say that it has the poorest safety record. True? Untrue? What do I do?

Budget Travel Editors: Your instinct to doublecheck an airline's safety ranking before getting on board is the right one, but unfortunately safety rankings don't mean quite as much as we might hope. According to a recent study prepared for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration): "While there may be apparent differences in carrier safety records at any particular time, due largely to the infrequent but catastrophic nature of an air accident, there is no evidence that such distinctions persist nor that they are predictive of future safety performance. Rankings of airlines based on past accident records therefore provide no information to consumers seeking to make safety-enhancing comparisons for current or future travel choices."
That said, I'd like to ease your mind a bit: I just returned (under a week ago) from a trip to Spain and Portugal. I took a total of four Iberia flights, and apart from the shaky television monitors (I'm not sure why they weren't more securely fastened) it was smooth sailing. And, they give you free socks.

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Menlo Park, CA: Why are so many hotel/resort prices quoted "per person" based on double occupancy? I'm single & don't understand why room cost depends on 2 users, not 1. I use less water/electricity/linens than 2 people would in a room, yet I have to pay a supplement. Please suggest sources for single cabin cruises or where i can book a 4 star resort without the penalty. And no, I don't want to be "matched" with potential roommates.

Budget Travel Editors: It's annoying, but the hotel and resort business is based on making the maximum amount per room. If they rent a room for two people at $200 and one person at $100, they're effectively losing out on $100 (minus whatever small amount of water, electricity, towels, etc. the second person would use up during the stay). It's not really a penalty if you look at it from their perspective. During shoulder seasons -- fall or late spring in the Caribbean for example -- some resorts are desperate for rooms and will charge singles half the price of a double room. But they offers are rare. Try the Real Deals on our website, as well as sites such as travelzoo.com and smartertravel.com, but don't get your hopes up.

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Roslyn, PA: i am flying on a "embraer jet" on USAIR.Do they have room for carry on luggage or does it have to be checked? We leave Nov.5th and
fly from Phila to BWI

Budget Travel Editors: Every commercial plane allows passengers to bring carry-on luggage. For the specifics of what's allowed and what's not on a given airline, call them up (800-371-4771) or visit their website. Here's a link to US Airway's baggage policy.

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Ferndale, MI: Any advice for parents travelling with two older teenagers to Prague. We are looking for activities that will stimulate them with culture, yet not be too overwhelming that they will be bored. We are travelling from November 20th through the 28th of this year.

Budget Travel Editors: Prague seems a natural choice for teen and child travelers: picture-perfect spires, towers and castles, a rich and tumultuous history, and foreboding winter weather suited to hearty meals and hot chocolate. As we wrote in a similar Trip Coach reply a few weeks ago, its Old Town Square is outfitted with a beautiful astronomical clock whose shuttered windows open to reveal figures that animate on the hour from 8 AM to 8 PM. At Prague Castle, be sure to stroll down adjacent Golden Lane, marked by brightly colored 15th century houses, some of which now showcase period armor and textiles. You can even learn to shoot a crossbow--it's heavier than you think. Next to the Old Jewish Cemetery, Ceremonial Hall depicts poignant sketches made by children at the Terezin concentration camp during World War II. For a more recent dose of history, you can scout out the Lennon Wall, a symbol of youthful resistance to Communism. Board a funicular for a ride up to Petrin Hill, topped by a mini replica of the Eiffel Tower. The park contains the Labyrinth, a mirror maze, and the Stefanik Observatory with a telescope for stargazing.

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Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for all of your great questions. See you next week!

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