Trip Coach: Dec. 13, 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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New York, New York: I am traveling to Belize on January 29, headed to Blancaneux Lodge for a week. I want to buy travel insurance which specifically covers any delays due to weather. Due to the price of the trip, missing one day (due to, for example, a snow delay) will result in my fiancee and I losing many hundreds of dollars. Can you recommend the best travel insurance for this purpose?

Budget Travel Editors: Just about every travel insurance policy protects the purchaser against bad weather. Go to a site such as insuremytrip.com or quotetravelinsurance.com to compare policies. Look under "Trip Cancellation" and "Trip Interruption" for specifics on what exactly is covered before paying for anything. If bad weather causes your trip to be delayed or cancelled entirely, the insurance company pays up in full. Along with medical emergencies, bad weather is one of the prime reasons folks buy travel insurance. The weather usually has to be bad enough for the flight to be cancelled, however. If it's a snowy day and the planes are flying, you've got to get yourself to the airport if possible and get on the plane. On the other hand, if the weather is bad enough for flights to be cancelled, the airlines involved generally allow passengers to cancel or change plans without penalty (on a case by case basis). Hotels handle things a little differently, but usually if a customer's flight is cancelled, a hotel will likewise allow the customer to change or cancel with little or no penalty.

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Robbinsdale, MN : I am planning a surprise trip to NYC for my wife immediately after Christmas. Knowing almost nothing about New York I was researching Gray Line tours...Is it worth $99 for three days transportation and entry to the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty observation deck? Or should we suck it up and learn to ride the subway like New York's other 8 million people?

Budget Travel Editors: Don't fret about the $99. In a city as big--and as intimidating--as New York, $99 for three days of transportation including informative tour guides, hop-on hop-off access, and entrance into two of the city's top attractions is definitely worth the splurge. But do yourself a favor and give New York's public transportation a try. One of the most thrilling rides for first-timers is aboard the Staten Island Ferry. It's totally free and departs hourly from lower Manhattan's newly refurbished Staten Island Ferry terminal (ferrytime.com). Along the way you'll be treated to first-class views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well photo-gobbling looks at the Manhattan skyline. As for the subway, have no fear. New Yorkers don't, so neither should you. In the meantime, be sure to download our New York Snap Guide on our homepage for more tips about the city.

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Lake San Marcos, California: Which car rental companies offer one-way rentals between Madrid and Barcelona? I would like to pick up a car in downtown Barcelona and return it at the Madrid airport in June 2006. Any suggestions?

Vivi Camacho

Budget Travel Editors: Most major car rental agencies offer one-way rentals. Our best advice would be to rent your car BEFORE you depart on your trip either directly through one of the major car rental agencies, such as Avis, or through AutoEurope.com (autoeurope.com). As in the US, you should expect to pay more for a one-way drop-off. If you'll be traveling in Spain for longer than two weeks, then we suggest looking into a short-term lease-you can save quite a bit of money by going this route. Be forewarned that you'll also pay considerably more for an automatic car. We also suggest saving money and booking a manual, if you're comfortable with that. And diesel cars are cheaper to fill too.

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New York City: How do I order theater tickets for March 24-25-26 on line???

Budget Travel Editors: Telecharge.com is the most well-known source for booking theater tickets online, however there are some smaller websites, such as TheaterMania.com (theatermania.com) and BroadwayBox.com (broadwaybox.com), that not only allow you to book, but they also offer discounts and promotional codes as well.

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Vineyard Haven, MA: I am planning a vacation to Africa for my son and myself in March of 06 and am thinking about a safari type of vacation. I am in my sixties and Sean is 19 and in college. It may be the last vacation we have with just the two of us and I would like it to be memorable! We are scheduling it for Sean's vacation from 11 Mar to 19 Mar. I am thinking about Kenya or possibly the Sarageti in Tanzania. My budet is limited.

We would like to see a lot of wild life and if possible I would like to have an opportunity to interact with some local people. We are not interested in luxurious accommodations - tenting may be fine except that I am concerned about the heat. Lodges would be fine but I would like to avoid standard hotels. It would be nice to include some time for hiking. We would like to visit several parks but I would like to avoid unneccesary vehicle time. I have the impression a lot of the tours are done in "safari" vehicles.

There appear to be a number of agencies that do safari trips with a wide range of prices. Should I look for a package that includes air fare from the US or am I better off being responsible for my own flight and looking for a package that includes only the time in Africa? Are there specifics that I should look to include or exclude? Do the packages generally fill up well in advance or can I wait until closer to the vacation time? Am I likely to save some by waiting on either the package in Africa or the air fare? Is there any association of tour operators that can tell me if the operator that I choose is likely to fullfill the promises of the tour as advertised?

Ant suggestion would be helpful.

Bill

Budget Travel Editors: If you're planning to go on safari to Kenya and Tanzania in March, be forewarned that you'll be traveling during the rainy season. We've been assured that rains generally fall only at night, yet the fast-growing foliage means spotting animals can be more challenging. The good news is that March falls within the low season for airfares (Jan. 11--May 31). Your best bet is to book your land and air together in the same package--and book as soon as you possibly can. Africa, and in particular these areas of East Africa, have never been so popular. As a result, packages for the Fall 06 are already selling out. A quick way to find reliable operators is to browse the names listed in good guide books or look for those who are members of the American Society of Travel Agents or the U.S. Tour Operators Association.

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Tuscaloosa,AL: : My fiance and I are planning a honeymoon to England for next May. We'd like to leave on May 21st or 22nd (the wedding is the 20th), and stay for a week. We'd prefer to stay in a Bed and Breakfast in or very near London, nothing too elaborate because we plan to make the most of our time sightseeing. The flight we've been eyeing to book leaves from ATL and lands at Gatwick. Are there any B&Bs that offer complementary or discounts on airport pickups? Our main goals are to see the big things :Natural History Museum, Madame Toussaud's, Big Ben, have English tea, walking tours, anything fun and not too expensive. We like anything historic and aren't into nightlife aside from dinner and maybe a glass of wine at a pub. Garden and house tours would be great. We'd like to get rail passes for the week so that we can explore the English countryside surrounding London, specifically day trips to Bath/Stonehenge, possibly Nottingham/Sherwood Forest, Cotswolds/Shakespeare's home and must see Suffolk (Woodbridge, Ipswich) because I spent three years there as a little girl. We're looking for advice on how to have a cozy, romantic honeymoon, making the most of our week without going broke!

Budget Travel Editors: Congratulations! It sounds like you have a wonderful, jam-packed trip ahead of you. Here are some tips for getting started. The low-key Jenkins Hotel, a Georgian town house in Bloomsbury, is decked in floral patterns and owned by an affable and knowledgeable native. Vancouver Studios in Bayswater has a lovely secluded garden in back and houses guests in apartments with full kitchens and antiques. Near Hyde Park, the dainty Rhodes Hotel is decorated with murals, old photographs and botanical prints and serves a choice of continental or classic English breakfast, the latter for a small surcharge . The Garden Court Hotel, a 10-minute walk from Portobello Market, offers 34 uniquely decorated rooms, flower arrangements and comfy leather sofas in the lobby and, naturally, a small garden. It's unlikely that you'll be able to find complimentary transfers from Gatwick, but you can save some pounds by hopping the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station (12 pounds per person, one-way, or 23.50 pounds, round-trip, gatwickexpress.com).
Anne Mark, a certified Blue Badge Guide and leader of Marksman Tours, will customize tours, including those of public and private gardens and of villas. In early May, check the latest itineraries from London Walks, a well-reputed and long-standing leader of historic city tours, and from Silver Cane Tours, which tends have a more offbeat selection (Bridget Jones and the Big Knickers, Oscar Wilde's West End). You can brush up on your teatime etiquette with our how-to guide. Consult BritRail for discounted train passes (a second class four-day adult pass is $209, railpass.com/new/). For more insider tips on how to making the most of your British honeymoon, download our free London Snap Guide and read about how to rent a country cottage.

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Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for all your great questions.
Next Tuesday, George Hobica will answer your airfare questions. George publishes a daily blog at airfarewatchdog.com and writes the weekly syndicated "Ask George" travel Q&A column for Copley News Service. and will answer your questions from noon to 1 p.m.

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