Travel talk: Family spring break; first-time cruisers


Q: I'm looking for a warm, beachy family spring break (March) destination in the Caribbean. Kids' ages are 12 and 5. Considering both all-inclusive type resorts (for the pools and convenient meals/drinks) and renting a house or condo. Trying to find a balance between over-commercialized/crowded and too sparse/nothing-to-do. We're mostly content hanging at the pool or beach, but do like going out to dinner a few times and seeing a couple nearby sites. For instance, I think a place like St. John could fit the bill. Any other ideas? Would love specific town names or resort recommendations - thanks!

 

A: Your family might really like Turks and Caicos, and the Beaches on Provo is very family friendly. If you don't want an all-inclusive, consider any of the resorts on Grace Bay. You can day trip to other islands via ferry or small plane, kayak around a mangrove and wander around an iguana sanctuary, visit a plantation, etc. I would also suggest spending the night on South Caicos, at the East Bay Resort. The island is beautiful, with little development but lots of water activities. 

 

- Andrea Sachs 

 

Q: My husband and I are going on our first cruise next week (NCL eastern Caribbean cruise). We have our excursions booked and I've thought to pack a mini-pharmacy (Bonine, Airborne, Pepto, etc.) as well as an air freshener for the room. What are some of the not-thought-of things? What do other cruisers wish they thought of (to pack, to do, whatever)? And the reverse: What should we NOT pack, do, etc.? 

 

A: Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on, specifically a bathing suit and cover-up, so you can head to the pool while others are still waiting for their luggage to get delivered to their cabins. If you drink, figure out the cruise line's policies re: bringing booze onboard -- could save you some money. Don't bring fancy outfits: Very few people get dressed up any longer, especially on NCL and similar lines. Sundresses for women and collared polos for men are fine for dinner. 

 

- Carol Sottili 

 

Q: Looking to escape some of this cold air at the end of January - any suggestions for a three-day weekend where two people can find some sun (not looking to go abroad)? NOLA came to mind, but airfare seems a bit high right now. 

 

A: You could drive down US 1 and visit the Keys, ending up in Key West (temps in the high 70s). Or consider Austin or San Diego. (Note: I am currently in Vegas, and it's not warm!) 

 

- A.S. 

 

Q: My husband and I are planning to drive in March down to Savannah and Charleston. Is it reasonable to stay in between and take day trips, and if so, any recommendations for where to stay? Or is it better to stay a couple of days in each. Of the two cities, which do you feel is worthy of more time? 

 

A: I've done it both ways. I've stayed in Hilton Head and made excursions to both Charleston and Savannah, and I've stayed in both towns. I prefer staying in town. Both are walking cities and it's difficult to explore them when you're just driving in for a few hours. You'll want to take walks in the morning and evening, which would probably be impractical if you're driving. I love both cities equally. 

 

- Christopher Elliott 

 

Q: I'm going to Florence this summer and it seems the cheapest flights are to any other city in Italy. Is the train from Venice/Milan/Rome to Florence easy to master? Is one of those cities a better bet for a flight than others? I know flights to Venice are cheap today but if it's a hassle to get to and from I'd book someplace else. 

 

A: I'm seeing cheap flights to Florence this summer. Have you tried Lufthansa? For example, departing July 7 and returning July 15, fare is $605 round trip from Dulles. If your dates are not flexible, and the cheap seats are sold out on the days you need to travel, train from any of those three cities are available, but I believe you'll need to get from the airports to the central trains stations for the shortest journey. Keep checking flights. 

 

- C.S. 

 

Q: I'm fed up to HERE with adult passengers who throw temper tantrums on flights. Most recently there was a man who went bonkers less than one hour into a long flight, because he was seated in a middle seat between a couple who had chosen to sit in a window and an aisle seat (in hopes that the middle seat might remain empty). Then there were the sisters flying home to see their dying father, who refused to follow flight attendants' instructions because they were upset. Back in the '90s I had to fly cross-country in coach (without benefit of updates on a cell-phone) when first one, then the other of my parents lay dying in the hospital, and I had no idea of whether they'd be dead by the time I arrived. Guess what? Despite my emotional distress, I managed to suck it up and behave properly on both flights, as well as on both flights home afterwards as I grieved each parent's death. 

 

A: Too often, our manners go on vacation with us. That should never happen. There's no excuse for blowing your top, especially in a pressurized aluminum tube, surrounded by a lot of other passengers. Shouldn't happen, ever. 

 

- C.E. 

 

Q: I've gathered over time that some of you think little of frequent flyer programs. I do it just "because," not because I think I'll ever accrue enough miles to actually get a "free" trip or even an upgrade. BUT, I keep getting come-ons from United about my miles expiring, and that I should use those miles to buy magazines. When I google this, I get both sides. Yes it's great, and no, it's a scam. Do you have any thoughts on this? I'm sure you've run into this miles for mags before?! 

 

A: I've redeemed my miles for magazines, and it works. So fortunately, it's not a scam. Mileage programs, on the other hand ... well, let's not go there! But one nice thing they do is keep your account active and prevent your miles from expiring, so if you're trying to prevent that, get a magazine. Why not? 

 

- C.E. 

 

Q: I travel fairly frequently and use Worldmate as my trip organizer and had it since I was a Blackberry user (now I am an iPhone user). Looks as if Worldmate is discontinuing effective March 2017 so I will need a replacement app. Any suggestions? Looking for something fairly simple and that will capture various parts of my trip including: flights, car rentals, lodging, ground transport, and others. Not a big fan of ads and I am willing to pay a nominal fee to avoid seeing ads. 

 

A: How about TripIt Pro or Google Trips? 

 

- A.S.


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