Trip Coach: Feb. 28, 2006

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Susan Stellin answered your questions about planning and booking travel.

Susan Stellin: Hi, this is Susan Stellin--thanks for joining me. I'll try to answer some of your questions about planning and booking travel!

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Syracuse, New York: We are looking for a flight from Syr-YVR May 26 with a return Anc-Syr June 8. Is this a good time to purchase tickets or do you foresee the price decreasing in the future?

Susan Stellin: Since your travel dates are pretty specific and include a holiday (Memorial Day weekend), I'd buy tickets now. It's unlikely that prices will drop on those routes for that time period, so the sooner you book, the more likely you'll get a discounted fare.

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Cape Vincent, NY: My husband and I are planning a trip to Seattle/Vancouver for our 25th anniversary. I am very excited about seeing this part of the country . The other day I was reading a novel that was set in the san juan islands and it spoke of 2 1/2 hour waits for the ferries . Is this common in Seattle in the end of June?

Susan Stellin: I think your best bet is to call the ferry company and ask what the typical wait is for the time you plan to travel -- I'm sure it varies between a Friday afternoon and a Wednesday morning. But 2 1/2 hours sounds like the exception rather than the rule.

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NYC, NY: We plan to visit San Fransisco area (including wine countries and Yosemite NP and Big Sur) in last week of March (1 week) to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We want to rent a car for going to places but it seems difficult to get an economical hotel in downtown SF with parking facilities. Can you advise which hotels would combine economy, convenience and parking? We can spend only about $100 a night.

Also if you can advise on how to divide one week between SF, Yosemite, wine countries and Santa Cruz/Carmel areas we will be extremely grateful. Mahen

Susan Stellin: Very few hotels in San Francisco include free parking in their rates, so you should definitely ask about parking fees before you book. Another option is to park your car in one of the municipal lots in the city -- I think the parking lot at 5th and Mission St. has pretty reasonable rates. You might also consider waiting to rent a car until you're ready to leave the city. As for your itinerary, you may not have time to see all the places on your list in one week -- unless you don't mind spending your entire vacation on the highway! You can definitely visit the wine country as a day trip from San Francisco, but you really need at least a couple days to see Yosemite (including driving time from San Francisco). And it would be pushing it to visit both Santa Cruz and Carmel as a day trip, especially if you want to drive along the coast and take time to stop along the way. So I'd suggest picking fewer places to see if you only have a week.

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Mishawaka, Indiana: I will be taking my 15 yr. old granddaughter to Europe this summer. We want to fly into Rome (from Chicago) and fly home to U.S. from Paris (to Chicago). I am trying to arrange trip myself online, but I can't figure out how to use 2 airports. How would I do this, and is it just too prohibitative in cost to do it this way? Thank you in advance, Judy

Susan Stellin: You can definitely book a ticket from Chicago to Rome and then back to the U.S. from Paris. If you're looking up prices online, you may have to choose the "advanced search" option in order to enter this type of itinerary. And you may find you get better prices if you consider flying into Milan (and then taking the train to Rome), since some airlines have more flights to Milan.

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Philadelphia, Pa: Where should I start to look for a last min. deal (within a month) from Phl to AZ (anywhere but PHX) w/air, car, hotel? I want to do this for my parents, they both had colds and need to dry out!

Susan Stellin: A few Web sites that specialize in last-minute packages are Site59.com, Go-Today.com, 11thhourvacations.com and LastMinuteTravel.com, though some of these sites only book trips for departure within the next few weeks. I'd also check what's available from Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity, as well as some of the airlines that fly out of Philadelphia (like usairwaysvacations.com and swavacations.com).

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Philadelphia, PA: I plan on traveling around the world soon, but I don't have very much money. I haven't been able to find any "poor man's travel guides." Where can I find information on how to travel the world on pennies?

Susan Stellin: Two guidebooks that cover traveling around the world are "First-Time Around the World" (published by Rough Guides) and "The Practical Nomad: How To Travel Around the World" (by Edward Hasbrouck, published by Avalon Travel). I'm not sure if either book can tell you how to travel the world on *pennies,* but they both address budget travel!

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Hoosick Falls, New York: I am traveling to Italy this summer. When I went to my credit union to inquire about opening up an ATM account specifically to have easy access to money while I was there they said that usage of ATM machines in Italy was almost non existant because of so much fraud. Do you know anything about this? Thank you

Susan Stellin: That's odd. I've never had a problem finding or using an ATM in Italy. I'd try calling your credit union again and see if you get the same response.

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Muskegon, Michigan: I'm taking my wife to Naples Italy for 6 days in early November. I already have flights and hotel scheduled with airmiles and hotel points. How can I best spend my time exploring the Amalfi Coast? Should I rent a car or take the train to places along the coast?

Susan Stellin: I'd recommend renting a car if you really want to see the Amalfi Coast, since you can't access the entire peninsula by train. It's not a very long drive from Naples, but if you want to take your time I'd plan to spend one night, maybe in Sorrento, which is a little easier to navigate by car than Positano (and it's closer to Naples). But make sure you have a good map!

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Quakertown, PA: Hi was just wondering if $550 a person is a good price for flying out of Philadelphia to St. Marteen in August. Everywhere I look, i get the same price. I'm not sure if i should wait to see if prices come down or book now. I thought maybe since August is hurricane season that prices could drop as time goes by but i don't want to wait and have prices rise.

Susan Stellin: That sounds like a pretty good fare to me. Unless you're the gambling type, I'd book it now. If the price drops later (for the same carrier/itinerary), you can always try calling the airline and asking them to refund the difference. No guarantees they'll do it, but it's worth asking.

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Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin: What is the best way to keep your passport safe in London? Do you need to carry it with you all the time? We are a family of four (two adults and two teenage daughters) who will be renting anapartment there.

Susan Stellin: I wouldn't recommend carrying your passports with you. Instead, carry a photocopy of the page with your photo and leave your passports in the apartment. They're much less likely to get lost or stolen if they're not in your bag on a busy street or subway!

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Pittsburg, California: I am married and my husband does not like to travel. I am the complete opposite and love to go anywhere - but I have one problem and that is how to feel safe as a solo traveler....basicly what I've been doing is calling a hotel and asking if it is enclosed....I really wish there was more stuff out there for solo travelers. Do you know of any? any motorcoach trips in california maybe? Also why do they almost double the prices if one travels alone....any help on solo travel would be much appreciated....

Susan Stellin: A good book that lists lots of resources for solo travelers is "Traveling Solo," by Eleanor Berman. It will point you to lots of groups, travel agencies and Web sites that cater to people traveling on their own; another source you might want to check out is the Women's Travel Club (womenstravelclub.com). As for your other question, the reason many companies charge a "single supplement" is that cruises and group trips are generally priced based on two people traveling together (and sharing a room), so if you're on your own, you have to cover the entire cost of lodging.

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Fayetteville, NC: Please advise the best way to see the most of Alaska in ten days; the best glaciers, parks, must see places, most cost effective way to max out on ten days of Alaska summer? Thank you, Barbara

Susan Stellin: I'd consider doing a 7-day cruise along Alaska's Inside Passage, which can be an affordable (and efficient!) way to see a lot of places along the coast. Then you might want to continue on to Denali National Park, either booking a group trip through the cruise line or on your own. CruiseMates.com and CruiseCritic.com are both good resources to research cruise options and get advice about booking a trip.

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Kerrville, Texas: My husband and I are flying from Paris to Naples May 8. We would like to see Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and train to Venice for 2 days and then have at least 2 days in Rome before flying back home May 16. Are there high speed trains from Naples to Venice and Venice to Rome that will allow us the time to see all.

Susan Stellin: That itinerary sounds pretty feasible to me, but you can check train schedules online at Trenitalia.com. You can look up schedules for the route and dates you plan to travel. The Web site will indicate which options are high-speed trains. Just be sure to double-check times when you arrive in Italy to make sure the schedule hasn't changed!

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Dryden, MI: Three friends and I have travelled quite extensively throughout Europe on escorted, group trips. We want to go to Eastern Europe in the fall of 2007. However, we are thinking of making our own arrangements instead of travelling with another group. Air fare and hotels seem easy enough to arrange but ground transportation has us a bit stymied. Train travel between Vienna and Budapest is easy enough but other cities are only served by overnight trains. We did that in France and it was not a pleasant experience. We are considering renting a car. Is it worth the hassle? We are four women with four large suit cases and four carry-on bags. Is a European car even large enough for us to use? Are there companies that will transport luggage between cities for us thereby negating the need for a larger car? Thank you for taking the time to consider my question. Mary

Susan Stellin: A couple companies that specialize in car rentals in Europe are Auto Europe (autoeurope.com) and Europe By Car (europebycar.com). They can probably give you advice on whether it makes sense to rent a car for the itinerary you're planning -- and help you find a car that can accommodate all of your luggage! Another option worth investigating is flying between the cities you want to visit. Since there are so many low-fare carriers operating in Europe, you may find air travel more economical. Try Openjet.com, Applefares.com or Skyscanner.net to find prices on European discount carriers.

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Prescott, AZ: My husband and I are traveling to Italy for 2 weeks in May for the first. Should we book all hotels accomodations ahead or just book a few nights - such as arrival in Rome, departure night in Rome, first night in Venice, Florence, etc then 'pot luck' the rest of the nights? We are the type of travelers that love flexibility and spontaneity but hear hotels can be difficult to secure that time of year. Any ideas would be appreciated! Thank you!

Susan Stellin: I'd try to book your hotels ahead of time. Not only is it a busy time of year, but you can waste a lot of your precious vacation time trying to find a place to stay if you wait until after you arrive!

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St Joseph, Mo: We have booked land travel on a Globus trip to Eastern Europe originating in Munich, Germany leaving 06/4/2006. Whats the best strategy for receiving the best air accommodations and price to Munich approx. June 1?

Susan Stellin: I'd book those tickets soon -- and if possible, try different dates around June 1 to see when you can get the best fare. A good source to check is ITASoftware.com. You can't buy tickets through this Web site, but it generally lists many more flight options than other travel Web sites. (The only catch is, you have to recreate the itinerary you find at another Web site in order to book your ticket, or call the airline or a travel agent.)

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Susan Stellin: Thanks for all your great questions.

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