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Online Trip Coach

January 23, 2007
Our travel experts answer your questions every Tuesday in a live chat. Here are past transcripts.

Trip Coach: January 13, 2009
Wendy Yanagihara, author of Lonely Planet Costa Rica, answered your questions on Costa Rica.

Trip Coach: January 6, 2009
Sean O'Neill, senior editor at BudgetTravel.com, answered your questions on Washington, D.C.

Trip Coach: December 16, 2008
Adam Karlin, the author of Lonely Planet Miami & the Keys and co-author of Lonely Planet Florida, answered your questions about Florida vacations.

Trip Coach: December 9, 2008
Jeanne Oliver, the author of Lonely Planet Croatia and editor at croatiatraveller.com, answered your questions.

Trip Coach: December 2, 2008
Alex Robinson, who's written extensively on Portugal and Lisbon for DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, answered your questions.

Trip Coach: November 25, 2008
Sheila Beal, editor of GoVisitHawaii.com, answered your questions on Hawaii.

Trip Coach: November 18, 2008
Chris Rowthorn, a Lonely Planet author and a private tour leader in Kyoto, answered your questions about Japan.

Trip Coach: November 11, 2008
Stephen Keeling, author of the first-edition Rough Guide to Puerto Rico, answered your questions about Puerto Rico.

Trip Coach: November 4, 2008
Eric Wechter, editor of the Fodor's guidebook to Boston, answered your questions about the city.

Trip Coach: October 28, 2008
Gregory Witt, author of Ultimate Adventures: A Rough Guide to Adventure Travel, answered your questions on adventure travel.

Trip Coach: October 21, 2008
Alexis Kelly, editor of the Fodor's guidebook to Tahiti and Polynesia, answered your questions about earthly paradise.

Trip Coach: October 14, 2008
Joanna Goddard, whose house-swapping experience has included stays in other people's homes in L.A., Paris, and Switzerland, answered your questions.

Trip Coach: October 7, 2008
Greg Benchwick, author of Lonely Planet: Cancùn, Cozumel & The Yucatán, answered your questions on trips to these Mexican destinations.

Trip Coach: September 30, 2008
Tracy York, general manager of Lake Austin Spa Resort, answered your questions about spa vacations, trends in treatments, and what happens behind the scenes at spas.

Trip Coach: September 23, 2008
Conner Gorry, author of Lonely Planet: Hawaii The Big Island, answered your questions about the Big Island.

Trip Coach: September 16, 2008
John Rambow, an editor and updater for Fodor's India, answered your questions about India's most famous destinations and offers advice for first-time visitors.

Trip Coach: September 9, 2008
Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com, answered your questions about the latest in cruise ships and booking strategies.

Trip Coach: August 26, 2008
Girlfriend Getaways editors answered your travel questions.

Trip Coach: August 19, 2008
Sara Benson, author of Lonely Planet Las Vegas, answered your questions about trips to Sin City.

Trip Coach: August 12, 2008
Roadfood experts Jane and Michael Stern answered your questions about roadside dining.

Trip Coach: August 5, 2008
Joshua Berman, freelance writer, trip leader, and co-author of Moon Handbooks Nicaragua, answered your questions on Nicaragua.

Trip Coach: July 29, 2008
Girlfriend Getaways editors answered your travel questions.

Trip Coach: July 15, 2008
Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, answered your questions about theme parks.

Trip Coach: July 8, 2008
Karla Zimmerman, the main author of Lonely Planet Chicago (2008), answered your questions on Chicago.

Trip Coach: July 1, 2008
Jeff Dickey, author of The Rough Guide to Seattle, answered your questions about Seattle.

Trip Coach: June 24, 2008
Rick Garman, author of Moon Handbooks Las Vegas and head writer for Vegas4Visitors.com, answered your questions on Las Vegas.

Trip Coach: June 17, 2008
Alexander Lobrano, author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City's 102 Best Restaurants, answered your questions about dining in Paris.

Trip Coach: June 10, 2008
Ericka Chickowski, author of Moon Handbooks San Diego, answered your questions about vacations in San Diego.

Trip Coach: June 3, 2008
Margaret Lyons, editor-in-chief of city info site Chicagoist, answered your questions about the Windy City.

Trip Coach: May 27, 2008
Girlfriend Getaways editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: May 20, 2008
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: May 13, 2008
Clotilde Dusoulier, author of Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris and Chocolate and Zucchini, answered your questions on Paris and food.

Trip Coach: May 6, 2008
Anto Howard, co-author of Fodor's Ireland 2009, answered your questions about Ireland.

Trip Coach: April 29, 2008
Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com, answered your questions about the latest in cruise ships and booking strategies.

Trip Coach: April 22, 2008
Brian Patton, co-author of the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, answered your questions on visiting the Canadian Rockies.

Trip Coach: April 15, 2008
Michael Luongo, author of Frommer's Buenos Aires, answered your questions on Buenos Aires.

Trip Coach: April 8, 2008
Kurt Repanshek, author of National Parks With Kids, answered your questions about vacations in the National Parks with (and without) children.

Trip Coach: April 1, 2008
Jeff Dickey, co-author of The Rough Guide to Washington, D.C., answered your questions about Washington, D.C.

Trip Coach: March 25, 2008
Nick Edwards, co-author of The Rough Guide to the USA, answered your questions about San Francisco and Northern California.

Trip Coach: March 18, 2008
Gayle Forman, who wrote our March feature story on Nova Scotia and who is the author of You Can't Get There From Here: A Year on the Fringes of a Shrinking World, answered your questions on Nova Scotia.

Trip Coach: March 11, 2008
Tim Leffel, co-author of Traveler's Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America, answered your questions on Mexico and Central America.

Trip Coach: March 4, 2008
Anne Hanley, author of Time Out Rome, winner of our guidebook smackdown for Rome, answered your questions on Rome.

Trip Coach: February 26, 2008
Maria Burwell, editor of Fodor's New York City 2009, answered your questions on the Big Apple.

Trip Coach: February 19, 2008
Robert Reid, from ReidOnTravel.com (the online free guidebook to Vietnam), answered your questions on Vietnam.

Trip Coach: February 12, 2008
Jennifer Paull, editor of Compass American Guides: California Wine Country, 5th edition, answered your questions on California wine country.

Trip Coach: February 5, 2008
Amy Langfield of NewYorkology.com, a blog about NYC activities and event-listings, answered your questions on New York City.

Trip Coach: January 29, 200
Peter Potterfield, author of Classic Hikes of the World, answered your questions on hiking.

Trip Coach: January 22, 2008
Andrew Hempstead, author of Moon Handbooks New Zealand, answered your questions on New Zealand.

Trip Coach: January 15, 2008
Ross Wehner, co-author of Moon Handbooks Peru, answered your questions on Peru.

Trip Coach: January 8, 2008
David Baird, co-author of Frommer's Mexico 2008, answered your questions about planning a trip to Mexico's colonial cities and off-the-beaten path locations in southern Mexico and the Yucatán.

Trip Coach: December 18, 2007
Maliha Masood, who wrote the travelogue Zaatar Days, Henna Nights and runs the zaatardays.com community, answered your questions on the Middle East, including advice for female travelers.

Trip Coach: December 11, 2007
Zora O'Neill, co-author of The Rough Guide to the Yucatán and owner of RovingGastronome.com, answered your questions on Yucatán.

Trip Coach: December 4, 2007
Tony Pierce, editor of LAist.com (a blog covering local news, events, food, and entertainment), answered your questions on Los Angeles.

Trip Coach: November 27, 2007
Mary Waring of mousesavers.com answered your questions on Disney vacations in Orlando and Anaheim.

Trip Coach: November 20, 2007
Nikki Goth Itoi, co-author of Moon Handbooks Cabo and Moon Handbooks Baja, answered your questions on these Mexican destinations.

Trip Coach: November 13, 2007
Richard Havers and Chris Tiffney, co-authors of Airline Confidential: Lifting the Lid on the Airline Industry, answered your questions about what goes on behind the scenes on airplanes.

Trip Coach: November 6, 2007
Al Argueta, author of Moon Handbooks Guatemala, answered your questions on Guatemala.

Trip Coach: October 30, 2007
Sheila Beal, editor of GoVisitHawaii.com, answered your questions on Hawaii.

Trip Coach: October 23, 2007
Sandra Gustafson, author of Great Sleeps Paris and Great Eats Paris, answered your questions on Paris.

Trip Coach: October 16, 2007
Joshua Berman, freelance writer, trip leader, and co-author of Moon Handbooks Nicaragua, answered your questions on Nicaragua.

Trip Coach: October 9, 2007
Sean McLachlan, author of Moon Handbooks London, answered your questions on London.

Trip Coach: October 2, 2007
Joseph Rosendo, consulting editor on Where to Go When: The Best Destinations All Year Round and host of the PBS show Travelscope, answered your questions on Germany for the holidays.

Trip Coach: September 25, 2007
Bob Sehlinger, author of The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas, answered your questions on Sin City.

Trip Coach: September 18, 2007
Charlie Suisman, editor of ManhattanUsersGuide.com, answered your questions on New York City.

Trip Coach: September 11, 2007
Peter E. Tarlow, a travel safety expert and president of the Tourism & More consulting company, answered your questions on airport security and general travel safety.

Trip Coach: August 28, 2007
Doug Kirby and Ken Smith, editors of the website RoadsideAmerica.com, answered your questions on roadside attractions.

Trip Coach: August 21, 2007
AnneLise Sorensen, writer for Rough Guides: Belize, answered your questions on Belize.

Trip Coach: August 14, 2007
Roadfood experts Jane and Michael Stern of roadfood.com, answered your questions on roadside dining.

Trip Coach: August 7, 2007
Robert Fisher, editor of Fodor's Vienna to Salzburg, answered your questions on Austria.

Trip Coach: July 31, 2007
Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die, answered your questions on North America.

Trip Coach: July 24, 2007
Beth Whitman, author of Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo, answered your questions on solo travel.

Trip Coach: July 17, 2007
Christopher Winner, editor of The American magazine in Rome, answered your questions on planning a trip to Italy.

Trip Coach: July 10, 2007
Liliane Opsomer and Bob Sehlinger, co-authors of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids, answered your questions on Orlando vacations.

Trip Coach: June 26, 2007
Wayne Bernhardson, author of the guidebook Moon Handbooks Chile (Including Easter Island), answered your questions on Chile.

Trip Coach: June 19, 2007
AnneLise Sorensen, author of DK Top Ten: Barcelona, answered your questions on Barcelona and Catalonia.

Trip Coach: June 12, 2007
Mark Smith, editor of England-based website Seat61.com, answered your questions on booking inter-city rail travel in Europe.

Trip Coach: June 5, 2007
Clotilde Dusoulier, author of the new book Chocolate and Zucchini, answered your questions about Paris and food.

Trip Coach: May 22, 2007
Kurt Repanshek, author of Frommer's National Parks with Kids, answered your questions about vacations in the National Parks.

Trip Coach: May 8, 2007
Lisa Ann Schreier, author of Surviving A Timeshare Presentation, answered your questions about timeshares.

Trip Coach: May 1, 2007
Eleni Gage, author of North of Ithaka, answered your questions about planning a trip to the Greek Isles.

Trip Coach: April 24, 2007
Sally Farhat Kassab, editor of Best Places Northwest, answered your questions on planning a trip to Seattle and Vancouver.

Trip Coach: April 10, 2007
Christopher Winner, editor of Rome-based website TheAmericanMag.com, answered your questions on planning a trip to Italy.

Trip Coach: April 3, 2007
Mark Pearson, editor of the anthology Spain From a Backpack, answered your questions about backpacking in Europe.

Trip Coach: March 27, 2007
Matthew Bennett, editor of FirstClassFlyer.com, answered your questions about airline upgrades.

Trip Coach: March 20, 2007
Avital Binshtock, author of the guidebook Napa & Sonoma Day by Day, answered your questions about California wine country.

Trip Coach: March 13, 2007
David LaHuta, Assistant Editor of Budget Travel, answered your questions about family camps.

Trip Coach: March 6, 2007
Budget Travel editors answered your general travel questions.

Trip Coach: February 27, 2007
Train expert Fred W. Frailey, who has ridden every scenic route in the U.S. and Canada, answered your questions about train travel.

Trip Coach: February 20, 2007
Suzanne Van Atten, author of Moon Puerto Rico, answered your questions about Puerto Rico.

Trip Coach: February 13, 2007
Luisa Frey Gaynor, family cruise editor for CruiseMates.com, answered your questions about family cruises.

Trip Coach: February 6, 2007
Paris Permenter & John Bigley, editors of Lovetripper.com, answered your questions about romantic getaways.

Trip Coach: January 30, 2007
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: January 23, 2007
Susanna Henighan, author of Moon Virgin Islands, answered your questions about the Virgin Islands.

Trip Coach: January 16, 2007
Diane Mehta, former editor of Fodor's India, answered your questions about India.

Trip Coach: January 9, 2007
Christine Karpinski, author of How To Rent Vacation Properties By Owner, answered your questions about vacation rentals.

Trip Coach: December 19, 2006
Ana Chavier Caamano, author of the new guidebook Moon Dominican Republic, answered your questions about the Dominican Republic.

Trip Coach: December 12, 2006
Tony Reeves, author of The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations, answered your questions about movie locations and how to visit them.

Trip Coach: December 5, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: November 28, 2006
Pamela Keech, author of The Curious Shopper's Guide to New York City, answered your questions about NYC shopping.

Trip Coach: November 21, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: November 14, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: November 7, 2006
Writer Ian Mount answered your questions about Buenos Aires.

Trip Coach: October 31, 2006
Nicola Corrigan, Cheapflights.com's "deal hunter," answered your questions about booking holiday airfares.

Trip Coach: October 24, 2006
Rob Hodel from Tico Travel answered your questions about Costa Rica.

Trip Coach: October 17, 2006
Budget Travel Editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: October 10, 2006
Ken Grunski, CEO of Telestial, answered your questions about using cellphones overseas.

Trip Coach: October 3, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: September 26, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: September 19, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: September 5, 2006
Roadfood experts Jane and Michael Stern answered your questions about roadside dining.

Trip Coach: August 29, 2006
Jennifer McKendree from Youth For Understanding (YFU) answered your questions about studying abroad.

Trip Coach: August 22, 2006
John Bigley and Paris Permenter, authors of The Destination Wedding Workbook, answered your questions about destination weddings.

Trip Coach: August 15, 2006
Christine Brown from AAA answered your questions about road trips and summer car travel.

Trip Coach: August 8, 2006
Lonely Planet guidebook writer Chris Rowthorn answered your questions about Japan.

Trip Coach: August 1, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: July 25, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: July 18, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions about travel.

Trip Coach: July 11, 2006
Dan Washburn, founding editor of the blog Shanghaiist.com, answered your questions about China.

Trip Coach: June 27, 2006
Kenneth Hieber, president of 2Afrika.com, answered your questions about booking an African safari.

Trip Coach: June 20, 2006
Christi Day from STA Travel answered your questions about Student Summer Travel.

Trip Coach: June 13, 2006
Pam Grout answered your questions about girlfriend getaways.

Trip Coach: June 6, 2006
Tim Leffel, author of The World's Cheapest Destinations, answered your travel questions.

Trip Coach: May 23, 2006
Lynne Walker McNees, President of the International SPA Association, answered your questions on spa vacations.

Trip Coach: May 16, 2006
Holly Morris, co-founder of "Adventure Divas, Inc.," answered your questions on Adventure Travel.

Trip Coach: May 9, 2006
Peter Laufer and Sheila Swan, authors of Safety and Security for Women Who Travel, answered your questions on Travel Safety.

Trip Coach: May 2, 2006
Richard Coon, president of RVIA (Recreation Vehicle Industry Association), answered your RV-related questions.

Trip Coach: April 25, 2006
Andrew Doughty, author of Maui Revealed, answered your Maui-related questions.

Trip Coach: April 18, 2006
Budget Travel Editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: April 11, 2006
Budget Travel Editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: April 4, 2006
Cruisestar.com travel expert Pat Webb answered your questions on cruising.

Trip Coach: March 28, 2006
Budget Travel Editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: March 21, 2006
Hugo Burge from Cheapflights.com answered your travel questions.

Trip Coach: March 14, 2006
Budget Travel Editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: March 7, 2006
Budget Travel Editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: Feb. 28, 2006
Susan Stellin answered your questions about planning and booking travel.

Trip Coach: Feb. 21, 2006
Budget Travel Editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: Feb. 14, 2006
Budget Travel Editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: Feb. 7, 2006
Budget Travel Editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: Jan. 31, 2006
Tim O'Keefe answered your questions on Caribbean vacations.

Trip Coach: Jan. 24, 2006
Paris Permenter answered your questions on romantic getaways.

Trip Coach: Jan. 17, 2006
Douglas Ward answered your questions on cruising.

Trip Coach: Jan. 10, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: Jan. 3, 2006
Budget Travel editors answered your questions.

Trip Coach: Dec. 20, 2005
George Hobica of airfarewatchdog.com answered your airfare questions.

Trip Coach: Dec. 13, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: Dec. 7 2005
Candyce Stapen answered your questions on family travel.

Trip Coach: Nov. 29, 2005
Joan Tapper answered your questions on the Caribbean.

Trip Coach: Nov. 22, 2005
Hugo Burge of Cheapflights.com answered your travel questions.

Trip Coach: Nov. 15, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: Nov. 8, 2005
Clarisse Douaud answered your questions on Buenos Aires.

Trip Coach: Nov. 1, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: Oct. 25, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: Oct. 18, 2005
Writer Josh Dean answers your questions on traveling to South Africa.

Trip Coach: October 11, 2005
Margie Rynn answers your questions on traveling to France.

Trip Coach: October 4, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: September 27, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: September 20, 2005
"Disney Dweebs" David Koening and Jim Hill answer your Disney questions.

Trip Coach: September 13, 2005
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher answers your questions on Ireland.

Trip Coach: September 6, 2005
Hugo Burge from Cheapflights.com answers your questions.

Trip Coach: August 23, 2005
George Hobica answers your questions on airfare.

Trip Coach: August 16, 2005
Benjamin Sutherland answered your questions about Paris.

Trip Coach: August 9, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: August 2, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: July 26, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: July 19, 2005
Reid Bramblett, who wrote "Secret Hotels of Tuscany" in the July/August issue, answered your questions on Italy.

Trip Coach: July 12, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: July 5, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: June 28, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: June 21, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: June 15, 2005
Budget Travel editors answer your questions.

Trip Coach: April 12, 2005
Writer Lim Li Min answered your travel questions on Singapore.

Trip Coach: April 5, 2005
Writer Pip Farquharson answered your travel questions on Amsterdam.

Trip Coach: March 29, 2005
Writer Gayle Forman answered your travel questions about traveling around the world.

Trip Coach: March 15, 2005
David LaHuta answered your questions about family camps.

Trip Coach: March 8, 2005
Budget Travel Editors answered your travel questions.

Trip Coach: March 1, 2005
Budget Travel Associate Editor Laurie Kuntz answered your questions about the best package vacations.

Trip Coach: January 11, 2005
Pauline Frommer answered your questions about planning an inexpensive, hassle free vacation.

Trip Coach: October 26, 2004
Writer Brad Tuttle answered your questions about ski vacations.

Trip Coach: October 19, 2004
Writer Matthew Link answered your questions on the Hawaiian islands.

Trip Coach: October 5, 2004
Writer Jason Cochran answered your questions about French Polynesia.

Trip Coach: September 7, 2004
Writer Ron Gluckman answered your questions on traveling to China and Hong Kong.

Trip Coach: August 31, 2004
Writer Matthew Link answered your questions on traveling to Southeast Asia.

Trip Coach: August 24, 2004
Reid Bramblett answered your questions on traveling to Italy.

Trip Coach: August 10, 2004
Writer Joan Heilman answered your questions on senior discounts.

Trip Coach: July 13, 2004
Bob Sehlinger answered your questions on Las Vegas and Orlando.

Trip Coach: July 06, 2004
Reid Bramblett and Jason Cochran answered your questions about traveling to Thailand.

Trip Coach: June 29, 2004
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher answered your questions about Ireland.

Trip Coach: June 22, 2004
Margie Rynn answered your questions about France.

Trip Coach: June 20, 2004
Cruise Critic editor Carolyn Spencer Brown answered your questions on cruising.

Trip Coach: June 08, 2004
Reid Bramblett answered your questions about vacationing in Europe.

Trip Coach: June 1, 2004
Hilary Nangle answered your questions about vacationing in Maine.

Trip Coach: March 16, 2004
Sharron Wood answered your questions on vacationing in San Francisco.

Trip Coach: February 10, 2004
Mike McCready answered your questions about traveling to Spain.

Trip Coach: January 27, 2004
Malia Boyd answered your questions about New Orleans.

Keep reading

Trip Coach: January 23, 2007

Susanna Henighan: Hi guys and welcome to today's chat. It is a beautiful sunny day here in the Virgin Islands, and I'm ready to answer your questions. So let's get started! _______________________ Durango, CO: We like to travel once a year with our best friends and we each have young teenage/preteen sons. Our trips usually revolve around snorkeling, hiking, and "easy" adventures (nothing too dangerous) for the kids and great beaches, but quiet locale for the grown-ups. We like to stay in condo-type hotels to save on meals and prefer places where we can experience local cultures rather than cookie-cutter, touristy, mega resorts. One of our favorite trips was Ambergris Caye, Belize, but we would like to find somewhere with better, "walk-in" beaches. Any suggestions in the Virgin Islands? Thanks, Mini Susanna Henighan: Dear Durango: Thanks for the questions. The island that comes to mind is St. John. Estate Concordia or Maho Bay Camps are two of my favorite places to stay. Both are within the Virgin Islands National Park and have facilities for you to self-cater. Kids will love the unique accommodations, and there are tons of activities available (hiking, snorkeling, kayaking are the most popular). The beaches on St. John are fantastic -- beautiful white sand, coconut trees, reefs to snorkel on. St. Croix might also be a good choice -- it has nice hiking, great scuba diving, and a lot of historic sites. The beaches are nice, but not as nice as those on St. John. You could check out Cottages by the Sea, which has some very cute little cottages right along the Frederiksted Beach. I hope that you guys have a great vacation. _______________________ Washington, DC: Are there any major advantages to visiting the British Virgin Islands as opposed to the U.S. Virgin Islands? Thanks in advance for any information you can provide. Susanna Henighan: Dear Washington, DC: The main advantage to visiting the BVI is that it is a little bit more off the beaten path, so you feel less like one of the crowd. That said, there are places in the USVI that are remote and peaceful, and places in the BVI that are crowded. If you are intersted in a charter yacht vacation, than the BVI is your choice -- it has the greatest choice of charters and is closest to the best cruising ground. The BVI has a reputation of being a little more upscale than the USVI, and the islands are less Americanized. I hope that helps. _______________________ Levittown, PA: Hi, my friends and I (early to mid thirties) are hoping to go on a vacation to one of the virgin islands in March. We are looking for an all inclusive that has a beautiful beach, good food, decent shopping, and above all--nice atmosphere! There are so many places to go and i was hoping you could tell me which you'd pick to go to. (i'm hoping to spend about $1500 or less per person). Any help or suggestions would be so appreciated. Thank you Susanna Henighan: Dear Levittown, Here are a few ideas that you could check out: The Sugar Mill on Tortola is a charming little hotel, with great food and a lovely small beach right across the road. It routinely wins awards for good service. Its atmosphere is laid-back, but clearly upscale. (There is very little shopping nearby, however). The Hotel on the Cay on St. Croix is located on a tiny island in Christiansted Harbour. There is a nice beach on the island, and tons of shopping is a VERY short ferry ride away. There is a restaurant too, but you might want to eat some of your meals at Christiansted's fabulous restaurants. The atmosphere is festive and welcoming. On St. Thomas try Marriot Frenchman's Reef (1-888-236-2427), which offers inclusive pacakages, has a nice beach, and is close to Charlotte Amalie's famous shopping. This is a large resort, but it offers some attractive package deals, and the air link to St. Thomas is very good. If you want something really unique, check out Cooper Island in the BVI. They have a handful of villas, a good beach, watersports centre, and restaurant. This is a real get-away. And, since you asked, I would choose The Sugar Mill simply because it is a small hotel, and the food is excellent. _______________________ Duarte, CA: Do they use american dollars there? Susanna Henighan: Dear Duarte, Thanks, this is an easy one! Yes, both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands use U.S. dollars. _______________________ Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands: Dear Susanna, how would you compare life on Anegada with life on Virgin Gorda, with respect to the welcoming of visitors? Also, where do you recommend staying on Anegada, for a week, with the advantage of a television? George Susanna Henighan: Dear George, Thanks for the question. I can't say that there would be a big difference in the welcome you would receive on Anegada and Virgin Gorda: both are very welcoming islands. Anegada's population is smaller, though, so by the end of a week there is a good chance you would know most of the residents. Regards a place to stay with television -- believe it or not, but there are not too many hotels on Anegada with TV. I stayed at the Sands Hotel, on the North Shore, (340/777-3217), which had television and is one of the best deals on the island. I recommend it. But a word to the wise: Anegada is not the place to come if you require a lot of diversions. Its main attraction is the peace and quiet. Thanks again for the question! _______________________ Munroe Falls, OH: We (a party of eight) will be traveling to St. John USVI on March 23, 2007. We are having trouble figuring out how to get our luggage from the airport in St. Thomas to our villa on St.John. We will be renting two jeeps (4 people to a jeep) and there is not enough room to transport our luggage. It doesn't matter if we get the jeeps in St. Thomas or in St. John, we face the same problem. Any suggestions? Kathryn Susanna Henighan: Dear Munroe Falls, The best thing to do would be to take a taxis. You can easily get a taxi from the airport on St. Thomas to the St. John ferry dock, which is located at Red Hook, St. Thomas. All the airport taxis are large passenger vans that will be able to accommodate you and all your luggage. If you want, explain to the taxi driver at the airport that you want a private taxi -- this means that he won't wait for every seat to fill up before driving off. You will pay more, but in some situations it is worth it. After you arrive on St. John, I recommend taking another taxi to your villa. Perhaps you could ask the driver to drop two members of your party off at the car rental agency to drive to the villa, or else you could go to the villa, get settled, and then deal with the rentals. If you call in advance, the rental agency might even agree to pick you up at your villa in the rentals. And just as a note: it is possible to rent a car on St. Thomas and transport it to St. John via one of the car ferries. This is a fairly major undertaking, however, and not advisable since in the event of car trouble, your rental agency is on another island. Have a great time! March is a wonderful time to visit the islands. _______________________ Washington, DC: I'm a US licensed private pilot. Are there any aircraft rental businesses in the BVI that will rent a light aircraft to me? If not, is there any way to fly around with a BVI pilot in a small plane? I'd like to check out some of the smaller islands that are off the beaten track. I'm also a huge fan of roti. What's the best roti in the BVI? Also, what can you recommend for day care in the BVI? I'd love to leave my 1-3 year-old with somebody for a few hours so that my wife and I can go SCUBA diving. Susanna Henighan: Dear Washington: Wow, these are some great questions. First of all, I have not been able to find a business in the BVI that rents aircraft. There are a number of air charter companies, and it is possible that you could negotiate with one of them to provide this service. It is certainly not the usual request, however. You could start with Fly BVI (284/495-1747). I should add that flying around the islands is a lot of fun, whether you're a pilot or not. I love the short flights between Tortola and Anegada, Tortola and Virgin Gorda, and St. Thomas and St. Croix. The scenery from up above is just spectacular. On the topic of Rotis, this is an easy one: the best roti in the BVI can be found at the Roti Palace on Main Street, next to the Post Office. Call ahead so Mrs. Leonard knows you are coming (284/494-4196). Finally, childcare: Some of the resorts offer this service; Little Dix Bay on Virgin Gorda has an entire programme for children. There are also a number of day care centres on the island, most in the Road Town area. As far as I know, however, none of them cater to visitors. I would recommend speaking with the proprietor of the inn or villa that you are staying with early -- preferably before you arrive. I am sure that they could arrange something for you. Have a great trip! _______________________ Newcastle, ME: Is St. Croix less expensive than St. John? We took our adult children and a grandchild to St. John, found the condo rentals reasonable, and car rentals expensive. Susanna Henighan: Dear Newcastle: You are correct that car rentals on St. John are expensive; in my experience they are the most expensive in the whole Virgin Islands. This is partly because none of the rental companies rent cars -- only SUVs -- due to the island's rough terrain. As a rule, St. Croix is probably less expensive as a vacation destination, although not dramatically so. Gas certainly is cheaper, and comparable accommodations will be less than those on St. John. Of course, in all things it depends on your standards and expectations: you can spend a fortune at a fancy resort on St. Croix, or be quite frugal at a campground on St. John. As a side note, I have had success getting good prices for rental cars by using one of the national rental brands and booking in advance. Thanks for the question! _______________________ Louisville, KY: My husband and I are considering a trip to the Virgin Islands. What is the best time to visit? We'd love to come when the crowds are small and the prices are low! Susanna Henighan: Dear Louisville, The tourist trade in the Virgin Islands is highly seasonal. The winter season, from December 1 to the end of March, is considered high season. This is when the prices will be at their peak, as well as the number of visitors. Low season is July to November, which is also the peak of the hurricane season and the hottest time of year. In between is the so-called "shoulder season", a good time for bargain hunters who still want to avoid the hottest time of year. Prices for hotel rooms can drop as much as 40 percent between high and low season, and air fares also typically decline, although not by quite as much. So planning a trip outside of high season is the best way to save some money. I hope you and your husband decide on a trip to the VI -- it is a great place to visit! _______________________ Boston, MA: We are taking our first trip to St. John in early March for one week. Two main questions for you: 1--Are there any secrets to making the St Thomas to St John ferry trip hassle-free, such as timelines, pre-trip arrangements, etc.? This trip will be our only vacation until Christmas, so we'd like to avoid time-eating travel mix-ups that we could've planned around. 2--We are staying in Caneel Bay and have rented a car for four days, but we're not sure how to take best advantage of seeing all corners of the island. Can you recommend an itinerary for the week, if we'd like to be fairly active and see all of the sights that we should before we leave? Thanks so much for taking our questions! Susanna Henighan: Dear Boston, You've made a great choice to visit St. John, and Caneel Bay is a beautiful property. Regarding ferries to St. John, Caneel Bay is one of the resorts that offers special airport transportation for its guests. I copied the next two paragraphs from the Caneel Bay website: "Upon arrival at the St. Thomas airport, please go to the baggage claim area and you will find our reception lounge on the right. We will assist with your luggage and escort you to our private ferry. The transfer fee is prepaid and will be applied against your advance deposit. "Cost for transfers which includes baggage handling, van transportation and unlimited use of the Caneel ferry between St. Thomas and St. John during your stay with us is $85 per adult roundtrip, $50 per adult one-way, $42.50 for children ages 5 to 12 years and complimentary for children 4 years or younger." So for ease and making the most of your time, this is probably your best choice. If you want to go on your own with the taxi/ferry/taxi option, my primary piece of advice is to remain patient -- frustration is the quickest route to starting your vacation out on the wrong foot. It takes a maximum of 30 minutes to drive from the airport to the ferry dock at Red Hook, and ferries to St. John leave Red Hook every hour on the hour (from 8 a.m. to midnight), so plan accordingly. Regarding your second question -- how to make the most of four days with a rental car on St. John -- I would suggest spending at least one day exploring the area around Coral Bay: Salt Pond Bay is a nice beach. If you are up for an adventure, drive the unpaved road to Lameshure Bay, which is past Salt Pond Bay and very remote and beautiful. You should also spend a day in the area of Anneburg. You can spend the morning at the Anneburg Sugar Mill Ruins and then spend the afternoon at Waterlemon Cay, just down the road. Finally, you could spend the day at one of the lovely North Shore beaches: Hawksnest or Trunk are the best. And remeber, just driving around St. John can be a lot of fun -- so plan on a self-guided island tour too. Under no circumstances should you drive into Cruz Bay, however. Traffic and parking are terrible, and you are much better off taking a taxi. Have a great trip! _______________________ Washington, DC: Another pilot question: Which islands in the BVI have a landing strip? Also, is there any sea plane service between the islands? Susanna Henighan: Hello again Washington, D.C.: There are airports on three of the islands in the BVI: Beef Island, which is connected to Tortola by a bridge; Anegada; and Virgin Gorda. The strips on Anegada and Beef Island are paved, and the strip on Virgin Gorda is dirt (and very exciting, thanks to strong winds and some nearby cliffs!)Several of the islands have helicopter landing pads. There is a seaplane company in the U.S. Virgin Islands -- Seaborne Airlines -- which has announced that it plans to start seaplane service between Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, and North Sound, Virgin Gorda, although this has not yet become a reality. Seaborne does, however, provide regular seaplane service between Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted, St. Croix, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Seaplanes are tons of fun, and very time efficient since you don't have to go to the airport. Thanks for the questions! _______________________ Seattle, WA: Hi! Is beach camping permitted in the Virgin Islands? If so, what kind of restrictions are in place? Are permits needed? Thanks! Abby Susanna Henighan: Dear Seattle, Ahh, camping on the beach. This is really one of the best ways to enjoy the Virgin Islands--one of my favorites, anyway. The specific rules may vary a little bit between the islands, but in general, you are not allowed to camp on the beach unless you are camping at a bonafide campground. Luckily there are several of these: Ivan's on Jost Van Dyke (284/495-9358) is fabulous, as is Cinnamon Bay on St. John. Vie's, also on St. John, is very bare-bones (340/693-5033). Brewer's Bay on Tortola is okay, and there is a simple campground on Anegada. All of these will allow you to either bring your own tent, or use one which they provide (a plus considering airline luggage limits). There aren't any campgrounds on St. Thomas, and St. Croix's lone campground is in the rainforest, not on the beach. A word of warning, camping on the beach is fabulous, but remember to pack some powerful bug spray and long sleeves/pants to protect against mosquitos and sand flies. Thanks for the question! _______________________ Philadelphia, PA: I'f I'm coming to the BVI in late July. Is there some way I can participate in the Festival parade or obtain a costume? Also, I am particularly interested in historical sites--are they pretty easy to find or should I hire a guide? If so, is there a particular company you'd recommend? Susanna Henighan: Dear Philly, Thanks for the question. It is great that you are planning to visit the BVI during Festival, which is a unique and really fun time to be in the islands. Besides the annual parade, there are a whole lot of other activities including food fairs, horse racing, beauty pageants, and tons of music -- reggae, calpyso, soca, and much more. The Festival reaches its peak during the first full week of August -- the first Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of August are the main holidays, and the parade takes place on Monday. So be sure to time your vacation accordingly. Regarding costumes, to be honest, most tourists do not take part in the parade itself, but that should not stop you. I would suggest contacting the BVI Tourist Board directly to find out if they can hook you up with a Festival troop. Be aware, however, that most troops rehearse for several weeks prior to the parade. Just coming out to watch the parade is a lot of fun. It usually starts around midday, and continues until sunset. The whole parade route is something like a street fair, and you should get there early to scope out a shady spot. On the topic of historic sites, I am not aware of anyone who offers tours of historic sites of the BVI. In my book, and many other guides, you will find a listing of the main historic sites, and if you are the least bit adventurous, the best way to visit them is to rent a car and find them on your own. The BVI Tourist Board has also published a pamphlet with information on historic sites -- you should be able to get it directly from them. As a rule, though, historic sites in the BVI are not particularly well-managed, marked or protected, so be prepared. _______________________ Takoma Park, MD: I know that crime is a problem on some Caribbean islands. But I never hear about any crime problems in the BVI. What's the deal with that? Are the BVI police just better? Susanna Henighan: Dear Takoma Park, Crime is something that worries many visitors to the Caribbean, and it's good to consider it. First of all, most all visitors to the Virgin Islands have absolutely no problems with crime. That said, it is important to remember that although you are on vacation, you should still practise basic common sense -- pay attention to your surroundings and do not leave valuables unattended. Don't even bring them with you -- there is no need for fine jewelry down here. And please, don't do anything that could see you on the wrong side of the law -- drugs are just as illegal in the VI as they are in the rest of the world. Regarding the different crime rates, it is true that the BVI's crime rate is one of the lowest in the Caribbean. I think that this is more likely due to the small and close-knit population than the police themselves. It also may have to do with the BVI's rule that basically makes all types of guns illegal. Thanks for the question, Takoma. _______________________ Susanna Henighan: I am afraid that our time is up, but thanks for all the questions. You really tested my knowledge on a few of them! I hope that my answers were helpful, and that you will all plan on coming down to the Virgin Islands soon. There are a lot of unique experiences waiting for you. Have a great afternoon, Susanna

You Can't Get There From Here

Hobbits on the Silk Road Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today, for they love peace and quiet and a good-tilled earth. . . . Even in ancient days they were, as a rule, shy of "the Big Folk," as they call us, and now they avoid us with dismay and are becoming hard to find. --J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings Tell me about it. I had been in Almaty, a cosmopolitan city in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan for five days, a stop on the yearlong trip I was taking with my husband, Nick. I was on a mission to find the mythical subculture of Tolkienists--Kazak kids who were so taken with the writer J. R. R. Tolkien's characters from Lord of the Rings that they frequently dressed as hobbits, wizards, dwarves, and other Gandalfian creatures, parading in full regalia through Almaty's tree-lined streets. I had prowled Zhibek Zholy and Tole Bi, the main pedestrian drags downtown, where I'd seen plenty of long-haired metal kids hanging out and drinking beer. I'd also seen a fair number of ashen-faced babushkas, begging bowls before them, beseeching a spare few coins. (Poverty is one of the unfortunate by-products of the demise of the Soviet Union; when state socialism collapsed, so did these grandmothers' pensions.) I had shopped among the nouveau riche as they spent their fresh-from-the-oil-fields cash on the latest electronic gadgets and imported French clothes at the bastion of emerging capitalism, the TsUM department store. But so, far I'd spotted no hobbits. My next stop had been to track down a 21-year-old writer named Erbol who worked for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and who had written an article about the Tolkienists that I'd seen on the Web. Erbol spoke no English, but, using an Internet-based translation program and sign language, we'd had a conversation of sorts. He'd told me he knew a guy named Ilya, a punk rocker--this communicated via an outstretched hand run alongside the length of his head to denote a mohawk--who was down with the Tolkien scene and who also spoke good English. I had returned to my hostel armed with Ilya's telephone number and a Russian Language Beginner's Guide, a necessity in a city where few speak English. Under the bemused glances of the three matrons who guarded the front desk, I had practiced saying in broken Russian "Mozhna pagavarit Ilya's telefonem?" a few times before dialing. After three days I had finally gotten ahold of Ilya, who'd turned out to be a tall, lanky blond fellow with a buzz cut and a baritone voice. He'd informed me that he was no longer a Tolkienist but a writer and poet--one who'd recently received an award as Kazakhstan's best young author, it turned out--but he was familiar enough with the movement to be able to track down some hobbits for me. Which was why that Saturday I had met Ilya at the bus stop at the southern end of downtown Almaty, a few tram stops from my hotel. There, along with dozens of Almaty-ites all dressed up for weekend hiking trips, we'd boarded a packed bus to Butakovka, a wilderness getaway in the foothills of the snowcapped Zailiyski Alatau Mountains. Six miles later, we had alighted at the end of the line and had begun hiking along a cold mountain stream, passing a couple of half-built mansions--part of the upscale urban sprawl spurred by Almaty's new class of oil gazillionaires--before making a turn straight up a steep mountainside. For the better part of an hour I'd trudged up the muddy path as best I could in flip-flops, pausing frequently to breathe deeply and drink water. Ilya had appraised my stumblings with a look of equal parts disgust and pity. At the top of the hill he'd guided us over the ridge and to a grassy clearing he'd kept referring to as the helicopter pad, where he'd promised me my hobbits. We didn't find any. No hobbits. Or elves. Or dwarves. Or orcs. Not even a human. Ilya shrugged. I sat down to pant. Tolkien was right: These hobbits were a bitch to find. There were a number of probable causes for the hobbits' elusiveness. It could be, as Tolkien described, the hobbitian temperament, shy of us "big folk." It could also be the Kazak one. More than ten years after the collapse of the USSR, much of Kazakhstan had yet to shake its totalitarian character. Its statues of Lenin and Marx had long been warehoused, but Almaty still felt vaguely Soviet, and not merely because of the city's Stalinist apartment blocks and ubiquitous Lada cars bucking for lane space with flashy new Mercedes. Politically, Kazakhstan, and indeed all of the former Central Asian Republics, which include Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, have not exactly had great success in democratizing. All of these states are ruled by former Soviet officials who fell into power when the Union collapsed, and these men run their nations with iron fists--more Khrushchev than Kennedy. Kazakhstan is the most progressive of the 'stans, but even here, journalists critical of the government have been arrested or beaten. Religious and ethnic minorities have also been tightly regulated, purportedly to keep tabs on Islamists, Uighur Muslim separatists, and nascent Christian groups. But because the KGB-era cops don't actually bother with subtle distinctions--say, between Baptists, Scientologists, and Tolkienists--the hobbits, elves, and wizards have found themselves branded as members of an unregistered religion and have suffered a good deal of harassment at the hands of Kazak police. They have had their swords confiscated. They've been beaten. They've even been jailed for staging alfresco jousts on the mall. So the Tolkienists had taken to the hills. But now Ilya and I were in the hills. Where were the Tolkienists? Ilya was perplexed. "They come here every weekend in warm weather," he told me. I stared at him, doing my best to replicate the disgust/pity look he'd given me on the trail up. Then I handed him my cell phone. "Why don't you call around?" Ilya did that and discovered where all the hobbits were hiding: under the covers, nursing hangovers. The night before, one Tolkienist had thrown a wild Friday-the-13th party that had gone on till sunrise. But the hobbits would be back in form the next day, the voice on the phone told Ilya, who gave me a no-problem smile. I gave him a yes-problem frown. I'd have to hike this monster mountain again. The next day I hiked the mountain again, in proper footwear this time, and met myself a hobbit, a mercenary, several sorceresses, and an army of warriors. It was the first of many meetings. Later on I'd try jousting, learn Elvish, and come to understand just why the Kazak kids were so Tolkien-obsessed. Reprinted from You Can't Get There From Here: A Year on the Fringes of a Shrinking World, by Gayle Forman. Copyright 2005 by Gayle Forman. Permission granted by Rodale Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735.

Four Sexy, Silly Hotels

Even Hotel Zamas's origins are sexy: Daniel McGettigan and Susan Bohlken were on their honeymoon in Mexico when they discovered a pristine beach south of Cancun; in 1993, they opened their dream hotel. Get laid (back, that is) in one of the thatched-roof bungalows, inspired by traditional Mayan architecture. Each has a private porch with a hammock, and out front on the beach are chairs under a palapa, or palm-thatched umbrella. Nearby is inspiration for anyone looking to monkey around--there is a spider-monkey habitat, not to mention lagoons, limestone wellsprings, and cave pools. Bring a flashlight, as there's no street lighting; walking around after dark (unless there's a full moon) is one of those activities that's definitely better with the lights on (zamas.com, rates start at $80 per night.) Bad boys get a sexy session of detention--if not an outright spanking--at the Kennedy School Hotel, in Portland, Ore. At this 1915 elementary school-turned-hotel, you can bring that fantasy to life in a former classroom outfitted with a bed and cloakroom (even the original blackboards are still intact). Sketch each other in chalk, then head down to the auditorium--now a movie theater--for a serious make-out session. The little girls' room has been converted into a grown-up brewery. Down the hallway, the teachers' lounge was demolished to make way for an outdoor soaking pool. No homework allowed. And don't forget to bring along a ruler, in case anyone gets naughty (kennedyschool.com, rates start at $99 per night). "Don't come a-knocking if the trailer's a-rocking" should be the motto of the Shady Dell, an authentic RV park in the former mining town of Bisbee, Ariz. Nine souped-up Airstream-style trailers--plus a tiki-themed bus and a glamorous yacht--are for rent. Lucy and Ricky wannabees will feel right at home in the 1950 Spartanette Tandem, which has a VCR for playing old movies on the black-and-white television. Pop over and visit Fred and Ethel in their 1951 Spartanette Royal Mansion, equipped with a cocktail lounge for late-night martini swilling. Sinful rates justify the drive an hour and a half south from Tucson (theshadydell.com, rates from $45 per night). Get it on like Rae Dawn Chong in Quest for Fire at the 45-year-old Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The 108 rooms are gaudily decorated; some of the kitschiest involve rock walls, like the Kona Coast (rock walls, rock bathroom) and the Caveman Room (rock everything). Or is your style more turn-of-the-century lady of the evening? Try the San Francisco room, with its bordello-red carpet and walls. Cloud Nine, meanwhile, has cherubs everywhere--decorating the bedspread, holding up the lamps, hanging from the ceiling--for anyone who thinks Cupid needs some inspiration (madonnainn.com, rates from $168 per night). Related links:   50 Totally Charming Hotels Under $150   Four Hotels We Wouldn't Be Caught Dead In

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