Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel
Budget Travel editors: Welcome to this week's Trip Coach. Let's get to your questions!
Minneapolis, MN: Five girlfriends are going to San Diego in January. Any recommendations for us?
Budget Travel editors: Yes! Head straight to the happening Gaslamp Quarter for cute boutiques, restored Victorian buildings, and many of the city's best and trendiest restaurants. You'll find sophisticated Mexican dishes at Candelas and Moroccan lamb skewers and Mediterranean fusion at the Solamar Hotel's Jsix. The nearby W Hotel doubles as a bona fide nightclub, with a velvet rope and a swinging scene on the second floor terrace beach bar--complete with a sand-covered floor. Explore Little Italy and Balboa Park, home of the world-class San Diego Zoo, a cluster of museums, a lily pond, and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, where you can catch a free concert on Sunday afternoons. The sprawling red-roofed Hotel del Coronado, made famous in Gene Wilder's Some Like It Hot, is just a short ride across the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. A trolley tour can take you there, too. The city's downtown is easily walkable and cabs, including popular pedi-cabs, are common; a car rental isn't necessary unless you want to venture off to places such as La Jolla. For more tips on how to make the most of your trip, check out our special Girlfriend Getaways magazine.
Chicago, IL: Three of my best girl friends and myself have decided to spend New Years Eve in London, England. We arrive on 12/29 and stay until 1/6/07. Besides ringing in the New Year, how do we find out what else is happening in London that week? We plan on visiting the usual tourist stops, but we would like to venture off the beaten path. Any suggestions?
Budget Travel editors: When I was in London my friends and I relied on Time Out London. Every Wednesday a new edition of the exhaustive listing magazine goes on sale for £2.50. Also check out our London snap guides for information on where to eat, drink, sleep and play. As for off the beaten path, I enjoyed strolling through St. Katharine Docks and gawking at the expensive yachts I'd never be able to afford. The area's tree-lined streets are filled with places to eat and shop and its one place you can escape bustling, tourist-ridden London.
Dallas, TX: What is the best time of year to visit England and Ireland?
Budget Travel editors: That totally depends on your definition of "best." If you're looking to save money, avoid the summer months of June, July, and August, when transatlantic airfares, car rental rates, and hotel prices across Europe are at their highest--plus popular destinations like London, Dublin, and the Ring of Kerry will be mobbed with tourist hordes. Stick to the shoulder seasons of April through May and mid-September through October when you'll most likely luck out with prices, weather, and crowds.
Oak Park, IL: I will be in London the last week of December. I noticed that there are some great day trips to Paris via train/chunnel. I just found out that the chunnel will be closed that week. Is their another reasonable way to get to Paris for a day?
Budget Travel editors: With an ever-increasing number of low-cost carriers popping up throughout Europe, there's no reason why you can't fly easily--and affordably--around the continent. On easyJet, for example, flights from London's Luton airport to Charles de Gaulle in Paris start at $32 each way, departing on December 26, with one-way flights around the holidays rarely exceeding $55. For more information, visit easyjet.com.
Riverdale, MD: My wife and I are both in (electric) power wheelchairs...Do you have any information about accessible vacations?
Budget Travel editors: There are a number of tour operators that specialize in accessible travel throughout the world. Depending on your ability and interest, one of these specialists just might have the right trip for you: Epic Enabled (011-27/21-782-9575, epic-enabled.com) runs wheelchair accessible safaris in South Africa; Jubilee Sailing Trust (011-44/23-8044-9108, jst.org.uk) operates sailing excursions in the Caribbean, U.S., and Europe on ships designed with wide decks; Wilderness Inquiry (612/676-9400, wildernessinquiry.org) books adventurous outdoor vacations, like canoeing the Florida Everglades; Colorado Discover Ability's Integrated Outdoor Adventures (970/268-5700, cdaioa.com) offers skiing trips for amputees in Colorado; and Handicapped Scuba Association International (949/498-4540, hsascuba.com) runs diving trips in the Caribbean.
Stoughton, WI: How to find a moderate price, safe, clean hotel in NYC (4/12/07 thru 4/15/07) for Self, wife, daughter and two teen-aged grandaughters?
Budget Travel editors: Since there are five of you, look into a short-term apartment rental. New York Habitat or and CitySonnet have a good selection of apartments. Note that New York Habitat has a minimum stay of three nights; CitySonnet four nights.
Or, try looking in the financial district, where hotels frequently offer weekend discounts (weekends are considered off-peak). The Exchange Hotel near South Street Seaport has undergone a complete and quite stylish renovation. Spring rates start at $259/night; suites are available from $329.
Lastly, try HotelConxions, a New York City-based agency, which we recently wrote about here. HotelConxions recently announced that it would promise "exclusive deals" to customers who book over the phone through the end of the year (800/522-9991, hotelconxions.com). Although we found mixed results, it only reinforces that you need to shop around to ensure you're truly getting a deal.