Trip Coach: April 18, 2006

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Budget Travel Editors answered your questions

Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for joining us this week. Let's get to your questions!
 
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Houston, TX:
I will be going to Maui for the first time for a wedding in late June and plan to stay for 9 days. The wedding is in the touristy Kaanapali Beach area on the last days of my trip. What do you recommend for the 1st part of the trip?

BT Editors: There are too many options to name here, but if you want to check out cool, mellow areas that tourists rarely see, take a look at our feature on Maui in the May issue.
It was written by someone who grew up on the island and knows the place intimately. You won't find many of the places mentioned in the story in other magazine articles or guidebooks.
 
You might also want to check out a fairly recent Maui road trip featured in our magazine, which also mostly stayed away from the big touristy areas.

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San Antonio, TX: I am taking a road trip with my two daughters (ages 10 and 14) from San Antonio, Texas to Washington, DC begining on June 5. What are some really cool hidden adventures and great things to see along the way? Those Off-the-beaten-path sort of things that are part of what makes America so great.

BT Editors: In our magazine, we recently coached a couple driving from Boston to Los Angeles seeking similar kinds of off-the-beaten attractions. They wanted to drive the southern route to the West Coast and we sent them to cool places in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas, among other spots. Check it out here.

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Clarksville, TN: How can a family of three - 2 parents and a teen - take a (fairly) economical trip to Iceland? We're intrigued about seeing the natural wonders of Iceland, but worried about the prices we hear. Plus, because of school schedules, we can only go in the summer. We don't want to camp, but we don't mind small guesthouses, B&Bs in private homes; we don't have to have private baths.

BT Editors: Iceland has some of the planet's most spectacular (and unusual) natural scenery, not to mention it's the closest European country to the US, but it's expensive, which is why any trip to the Land of Fire & Ice requires careful planning. The most economical way to go is to book an air-hotel package through Icelandair Holidays. The vacation wing of Icelandair even allows you to "build your own package"....which enables flexibility on number of nights, activities, etc. Its spring/summer "midweek madness" packages start at $471 per person, which includes airfare and two nights' accommodation.
Should you want to forgo a package, then book your flight with Icelandair, and investigate staying at a guesthouse, which can be much more affordable than hotels, especially in Reykjavik. In summer, many working farms open their doors to visitors for overnight stays too. For listings, check out the Accommodations section of the tourism board's website: Visiticeland.com.
Since it's so easy to get around Iceland, we'd also suggest renting a car and exploring on your own, i.e. not spending the extra money for organized tours to places you can easily visit on your own. And don't miss out on the amazing community mineral pools and hot pots-they're inexpensive but you'll leave feeling like a million bucks.

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Cleveland, GA: We are traveling to Croatia Nov. 1st. Our plan is to rent a car and drive from Dubrovnik to Zagreb. Should we reserve a rental car before we go? We reserved a rented car in Lublijana Nov. 2005 and I believe we could have gotten 20% off had we just gotten the car when we arrived.

BT Editors: In general, we recommend visitors abroad, especially to Europe, rent their car BEFORE they go, since better rates can often be hand in advance. There are always exceptions, but a smart rule of thumb is to reserve your rental car from the US, from a reputable outfit that deals with all the major international agencies, such as AutoEurope.com. While you may find a cheaper rate on the ground, it's not likely to be from a major agency, and the quality/safety of rental vehicles cannot be guaranteed, nor are you guaranteed comprehensive coverage.

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Atlanta, GA: My friend and I are planning a 2-3 week trip to London in July. What are the best deals on airlines and do you know of the best budget places to stay for that length of trip? Maybe something similar to corporate apartments like they have in the US?

BT Editors: Our advice is to buy your tickets now. Do a search on SideStep.com to find the lowest price for the dates you're interested and make your purchase today. Once May arrives, prices of flights will skyrocket, when everyone starts to plan their summer travel. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways both have sales from the US to London right now. As for accommodations, there are numerous reputable apartment rental agencies, but you can get even better rates (and many of the same conveniences) by staying in a college or university dorm. Check out our article "Low-cost Dorm Stays in Central London."
 
Also, look into rates at any of the Thistle Hotels in the city; their rates are superb for such a pricey city. And, for a list of more cool budget accommodations (and other ideas for your trip) download our London Snap Guide.

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Orange, Texas: A friend and I are planning a trip to New York in September in hopes the weather will be cooler. Is that a good month? Also where should we stay--hotels or apartments? What is there to do as far as tours, etc.?

BT Editors: September in New York City is divine-one of the best months of the year to visit, so rest easy. We can't promise the Big Apple won't experience an Indian Summer, but temps in September are typically in the 70s, and rain is minimal.
 
In terms of affordable places to stay, check out the "Sleep" section of our New York City Snap Guide. You'll also find lots of other great ideas for your visit. Want a local's perspective and good insider tips? Read our article "My New York is Better Than Yours."

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Orlando, FL: My wife and I are planning a trip to Buenos Aires in late May (21-28) and it will be our first time in the country. We like to enjoy the culture and learn about the people and their every day life when we visit a foreign country. We will also try to go to Iguazu for a couple of days. Can you recommend what is a "must" in Buenos Aires so we make sure we don't miss the highlights? Thanks! Juan

BT Editors: First of all, take a look at our Snap Guide to Buenos Aires. You can print it out and take it with you. It's key that you find the right place to stay. We've written about two new affordable boutique hotels in the hip Palermo Viejo neighborhood recently: Home, and the Bobo Hotel.
 
Much of what's interesting about Buenos Aires today is what happens after the sun goes down. There's incredible food, fun tango halls, and elegant wine bars. Take a look at this article we ran recently, in which we wrote about some of the best after-dark activities.

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Livingston Manor, NY: Four adults leaving from Newark, NJ to Salzburg, Austria (3 days), Venice and Rome (3 days each) in September. What should we see?

BT Editors: You've chosen three gorgeous, distinctive European cultural capitals packed with things to explore. Salzburg is an especially timely choice. The city is celebrating the 250th birthday of its most famous resident-Mozart! There are countless concerts and events large and small on the program in Salzburg and throughout Austria. For a complete rundown, visit mozart2006.net. Salzburg's storied summer festival, Salzburger Festspiele, will have just wrapped up in late August, but you can still catch a show at the new theater, The House for Mozart, which is opening this summer, and visit the composer's birthplace, Mozart's Geburtshaus. The weather should be perfect for frolicking in the surrounding hills where Salzburg's other big claim to fame--Sound of Music--was filmed. Panorama Tours offers an afternoon bus tour with stops at major sites from the movie such as the Mirabell Gardens, Leopoldskron Castle, and Nonnberg Abbey. Also be sure to check out Salzburg's new Museum der Moderne perched above the city. The café has terrific views.
 
In picture-perfect Venice (La Serenissima, the most serene republic), you'll want to hit rightfully beloved tourist attractions like Piazza San Marco with its Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale, the Rialto Bridge, a gondola ride, and a ride to Murano, where you can watch artisans blow colored glass. The art-rich city is meant for walking and getting inevitably lost. Host of the Biennale, Venice's world-class museums include the Musei Civici Veneziani and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. And then there's the intimate opera house, Teatro La Fenice. For tips on where to eat, consult our article Eat Like a Local: Venice and Florence.
 
Be sure to save some energy for your last stop in the Eternal City! You can find insider tips on the best city sights on and off the beaten path in Live Like a Local: Rome. Its latest attraction is the Ara Pacis Museum; American architect Richard Meier designed this new home for the ancient Altar of Peace. For guided walking tours, our top pick is Context Travel's team of historians, archaeologists, and foodies. They can get you into underground tombs and other normally restricted sites. You can find more information about the city at its official tourism site. And check back this summer for our Rome Snap Guide, the latest edition to our growing collection of mini-guides to the world's top cities.

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Scotland: I am traveling to Scotland with two other female friends, from May 20-27. We have two nights already booked and planned for in Edinburgh. We know that that we want to travel north to the Loch Ness area, and then do the "whiskey" or "castle" trail back to Edinburgh. Is driving reasonable? How long will it take to drive from Edinburgh to the Loch Ness- Inverness area? Do you know of any reasonable lodging in that location? We are women ranging from 37-45 years of age. One person would like to travel on a hostel budget. Any cute lodging recommendations are extremely welcome.

BT Editors: Lucky you! Scotland in May should be lovely. Inverness is only about 160 miles from Edinburgh (approximately 3 hours by car), so driving from Edinburgh to Inverness is very reasonable--as long as you remember to drive on the left-hand side of the road!
 
There are many reasonably priced B&Bs and lodging in the Loch Ness and Inverness area. The Whinpark Guest House in Inverness is a family-run stone house close to the city center, and some rooms have views of the castle and River Ness. Doubles from $36 (£20), including breakfast. Or, if you prefer to room together, a family room (holds up to three people) also starts at $36 (£20)
If you'd like to stay at a B&B overlooking Loch Ness (and Nessie!), try Evergreen B&B, located on the south side of Loch Ness and a five-minute walk to the shore. Doubles from $50 (£28), including breakfast.
 
For more information, check out Scotland's informative website, visitscotland.com.

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St. George, Utah: We are planning an extensive trip to Turkey June 7th through July 27, 2006. Any suggestions of must see places -plus some very interesting out of they way places. As you can see we think we have budgeted enough time to see Turkey and its people in a detailed manner.

BT Editors: Turkey is an expansive country with a rich history spanning thousands of years and various cultural groups. It's got a fairly varied landscape as well, from deserts to mountains to beaches, so there's a lot to experience. Must-stop spots while there include the beautiful Cappadocia area in central Turkey, with its rock churches and "Fairy Chimneys" (cone-shaped rock formations), and, of course, Istanbul, which illustrates an evocative melding of new European sensibilities and old world Asian traditions. If you check out the ancient site of Troy, stop by the Assos, a peacefully quiet beach town not far away. If you'll be in the southeast, look into visiting the Mardin area (be sure to buy some locally made, silver filigree jewelry), Harran (with its interesting cone-shaped dwellings), and Hasankeyf (an architecturally and archaeologically rich town threatened with flooding due to a dam's construction). There is also Nemrut Dagi, or Nemrut Mountain, the southeast's biggest tourist attraction; it features giant head statues of several Roman gods and Antiochus I, who developed the site as his burial spot. Along the Aegean coast, worthwhile spots include: Foca, Ephesus, Pergamum (Bergama), Aphrodisias, Didim, Perge, and Cesme. For some arts and entertainment, head to the ancient Aspendos amphitheater on the Mediterranean coast near Antalya; operas, ballets, and musicals are performed here every year in June and July. In fact, the country has dozens of festivals held throughout the summer so you're sure to find something wherever you go.

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 Budget Travel Editors: Thanks again for all your great questions.
 
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