Trip Coach: October 17, 2006

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Budget Travel Editors answered your questions

BT Editors: Thanks for joining us. Let's get to your questions.

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Everett, WA: I've wanted to go to Mardi Gras forever! The stars have aligned perfectly to allow me to go in 2007, and I figure it might be a good year, as much will been rebuilt after Katrina, and maybe not as "crazy" in the past due, also, to Katrina. I can leave on the 18th of Feb and can stay as long as the 24th. Probably 2-4 of us will go. Can you tell me how to put together a trip that will get me the best of Mardi Gras, post Katrina, at good prices, and point me in the right direction for the "must-see's" and good places to stay, best deals, etc etc? I"m sure others will be interested in ways to maximize post Katrina Mardi Gras visits, too! Thanks, Valerie

BT Editors: We've compiled a handy list of New Orleans resources on affordable places to stay, classic Cajun and French restaurants, and volunteer organizations.

For a taste of the post-Katrina Mardi Gras experience, read the account of a Budget Travel editor who made the trip last year. Let the good times roll!

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Milwaukee, WI: My sister and I (both age 26) have the goal of visiting every continent. Next on our list is Africa. We would like to travel for about 10 days total (give or take a few days). We are most interested in the Kenya/Tanzania areas. Obviously, we would like to do this trip on a budget, but feel that "doing it on our own" would be complicated, so we have decided to go the tour route. What are some reputable companies that could provide a budget minded tour? We are interested in both animals and culture, though no certain animal in particular. Also, time of year is not of concern; we are willing to go during shoulder seasons or off season. Thank you.

BT Editors: Here are some reliable and affordable tour operators that we recommend: 2Afrika; Lion World Travel; and Swain Tours. We recently ran a Real Deal for airfare, nine nights in Tanzania, safaris, and meals and .
Good luck meeting your goal!

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oakland, new jersey: how much more do airline tickets cost if you fly into one european city ie. zurich and fly out of another ie. rome as compared to in and out of the same city.
Thank you .
rjn

BT Editors: As multicity routes have become more common, they've become less expensive. Depending on your destinations and dates of travel, the price difference may be negligible and can save you time and hassle. You can compare different types of fares on websites such as kayak.com. For example, we found multicity flights for New York/Zurich and Rome/New York for $517 in early November.

In comparison, the lowest round-trip fare we found between New York and Rome over the same dates is actually slightly more expensive¿$531.

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Charlestown, MA: My wife and I need a hotel in Rome for 4 nights, May 22-25,07. How to decide what area to stay: walking/safety are factors for us. Suggestions? Many thanks, Paul

BT Editors: Our Rome Snap Guide makes a great place to start your search. It's full of affordable suggestions for hotels as well as restaurants and shops and it outlines the city's varied neighborhoods.

Rome, like most big cities, is best seen on foot. If you want to stay in the heart of the centro storico (historic center), try the Albergo del Sole al Biscione or the Hotel Navona. To be near the Vatican and Sant'Angelo, opt for the Hotel Adriatic.

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Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Hi, We are travelling to Las Vegas Nov 30 thru Dec 8. I am wanting to experience it without feeling like one of 'gauking hordes' overwhelmed by the 'largeness' of it all. To achieve this I was thinking that forearmed is pre-planned is the best approach - especially when we have enough time to actually see well beyond the gambling and neon. Suggestions? bg

BT Editors: Las Vegas can definitely be overwhelming! Before you go, check out our recent article on how to maximize your time in Las Vegas.
We've included a handy walking map to the Strip (you'll need Adobe Acrobat, a free--and easy--plug-in to download the map.

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Annapolis, MD: I am taking my son and a friend to Hawaii in late August. I need help in finding the best island to go to, because my son and friend want to bike/hike/mountain climb and I want to RELAX on a beautiful beach. Is there a happy medium?

BT Editors: Look no further than Kauai, hardly a hidden gem, but everything you'd imagine Hawaii would be: beautiful beaches, verdant coastlines, and vast expanses of land all ready to be explored by foot, boat, helicopter, you name it. Remember those beautiful scenes in Jurassic Park? That was Kauai standing in for Dinosaur Island. And the opener in King Kong when the camera cuts to a profile of Kong's face on a cliff? Kauai. Hollywood knows all about this lazy Hawaiian island and it's time you found out too.

As for your happy medium, it's up on the island's north shore, smack dab on the Na Pali Coast. It's called Ke'e Beach--if you're a subscriber, you might remember it from our November cover (the one with the guy on it). The beach is perfect: crashing waves, fabulous snorkeling, trees for shade, and a seemingly endless stretch of sand that's great for long walks. Plus your son will be happy because it's where you can begin one of three invigorating hikes along the Na Pali Coast (there's a 4,8, and 22 mile route). It's called the Kalalau Trail and the four-mile version is an easy to moderate cliff-hugging hike that ends up at stunning Hanakapiai Beach.

As for a place to stay, consider renting a condo. Not only is it a great way to save money, but you'll have an authentically Hawaiian experience. Try Regency Pacific Realty with great properties in Princeville and Hanalei (800/826-7782, regencypacificrealty.com). And here's a link to our November 2005 cover story on Kauai.  

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Los Angeles, California: I'd like to go to Washington DC. for 1 week. How could I go with air fare and Hotel, economically and safe? Kind of like a tour trip. I am 61 yrs, old.

BT Editors: Try booking your airfare and lodging together for the best possible price. Site59.com specializes in discounted last-minute weekend getaways. Or, check aggregator sites, such as Cheapflights.com, SideStep.com, or kayak.com.

Washington, D.C. is a relatively safe big city, and it's packed with stuff to see and do. For more, check out the travel section of the washingtonpost.com, our partner site, or its recently relaunched City Guide.

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Bend, OR: We would like to go to Puerto Rico, February 2007. Is there a good area to base ourselves out of, or do we need to move around to see the island? We will only have a week and would like to see Old San Juan, El Yunque, some of the south coast and a bioluminescent bay. Should we spend a couple of nights on Vieques? We don't need 5 star lodging. We'll give up a few stars to stay oceanfront. We favor smaller, local flavor places. Thank-you, Lori

BT Editors: If you've only got one week--and you're planning to do some exploring¿it's best to stay near San Juan where you're never more than a couple hours drive to almost anywhere on the island (including El Yunque Forest Reserve). Skip the high-rise hotels and opt for something more intimate, like The Gallery Inn in Old San Juan. The hotel was once an 18th century home and in addition to its hidden courtyards and abundant tropical foliage, it's got 22 uniquely decorated rooms, some with private balconies overlooking the Atlantic (thegalleryinn.com, from $145).

As for Vieques, get there before the big hotels do¿next year, Starwood will open a W there and will all but ruin it's low-key laid-back vibe. For a list of stylish and unpretentious guesthouses, check out our story on the island's secret hotels.

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Indian Hills CO: We are looking for a house to rent in Provence for a month in June and July - preferrably withing walking distance of a charming small town. Do you have any suggestions as to how to proceed?

BT Editors: Large realty companies like Barclay International Group (800/845-6636, barclayweb.com) and Rentvillas.com (800/726-6702) are good resources because they work with huge selections of rental homes, villas, and apartments around the world.

But you may want to go with a specialist that really knows the lay of the land. At Home In France rents 350 privately owned homes and apartments all over the country, including dozens in Provence (541/488-9467, athomeinfrance.com).

While looking over the options, tell your broker what you want to experience, and ask lots of questions: Is electricity included in the quoted price? How about maid service? Who do you call if the roof leaks, a toilet breaks, or some other problem occurs? Request photos of the interior, exterior, and views in every direction, and ask when the shots were taken.

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Smithfield, RI : I am starting to plan a trip to Montreal for June/July when the Jazz Festival is there. I tried a few hotels, but they are already booked. Any ideas for a very reasonably priced hotel or B&B that is in a safe neighborhood for two people? Where else could we travel to from Montreal for a few days? I have already been to Quebec City, so another location would be better.

BT Editors: Accommodations can be scarce in Montreal during the city's Festival International de Jazz de Montréal aka Jazz Fest (June 28--July 8) and Formula One Grand Prix (June 8--10), but affordable hotels and B&Bs are still available.

The first place to check is Montreal's official tourism site (tourisme-montreal.org), which has a good database of hotels, B&Bs, hostels, and motels. Other networks, like Bed&Breakfast - A Downtown Network (bbmontreal.qc.ca) and bedandbreakfast.com/montreal-quebec.html, both list dozens of B&B properties in downtown Montreal that have room during the Jazz Fest, along with photographs and rates. But expect slightly higher rates: double rooms with private baths that regularly range from C$125--C$135 start at C$145 during those 10 days of concerts. Nearby Montreal, the Laurentian Mountains, Eastern Townships, and Gaspé Peninsula all have great scenery and cute villages to recommend them.

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Prospect, Kentucky: My husband and I have a trip planned for Maui, HI. We leave on Nov 2 return Nov 11, 2006. Should we cancel our trip. How are things in Hawaii right now? Thank You

BT Editors: Don't cancel your trip. Though the October 15th earthquake caused power outages on islands including Oahu and Maui, most of the impact of the earthquake was felt only on the Big Island. Within two days of the earthquake, Maui and Oahu got their lights back, and flights returned to normal schedules.

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BT Editors: Thanks again for all of your great questions. Next week, Rob Hodel will answer your questions on Costa Rica. See you next week!

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