The Washington Post's Travel section writers and editors recently discussed stories, questions, gripes and more. Here are edited excerpts:
Q: While packing up my father's house for a move, we found some old Spanish pesetas from a vacation before the advent of the European Union. Can they be exchanged for dollars (or euros)? Or are they essentially worthless at this point?
A: Yes, you have until 2020 to exchange them, according to the European Central Bank.
- Christopher Elliott
Q: We have friends who live near Zurich, and we're considering visiting them during spring break. (We are a family of four, kids will be 13 and 6.) We'd like to also do one other city during the week, since it'll be our kids first time in Europe - preferably someplace that differs from Zurich, so they have two distinct experiences. We are open to traveling by train or inexpensive flight between the two, so proximity isn't a major limitation. We've considered the big ones: London, Paris, Amsterdam, maybe an Italian city. Scandinavia also intrigues me, but maybe too far (too cold in spring)? Any other suggestions?
A: I'd likely go at this by researching which cities are easiest to get to from Zurich. I believe you can fly nonstop on discount carriers to Rome, London and Amsterdam. Lisbon is another choice. You can get the high-speed train to Paris.
- Carol Sottili
Q: What are some of the best travel guides, especially for international travel, in your opinion? I'm partial to books but would be open to apps and websites. I'm new to travel and could use practical guides that spell out things like local customs, electrical outlets, tipping practices, local transportation, etc.
A: I am still a big fan of Lonely Planet and Frommer's.
Q: I was recently on a number of foreign flights (as well as two domestic ones), and on each one we were repeatedly reminded that "This is a non-smoking flight." This got me to wondering: Is there any airline or nation that still allows smoking in-flight? (I'd certainly want to avoid it.)
A: You're unlikely to fly on an airline that allows smoking. I've heard rumors that certain Inter-African flights and domestic flights in China still look the other way when passengers light up, but I can't find a reliable source to verify it.
Q: Having done both hotels and vacations rentals (I've yet to try Airbnb), I've always preferred the hotel option. To me, hotels are more secure, you get better service/hosts, and the daily cleaning is nice. We only do vacation rentals when the amenities we need (primarily multiple bedrooms and a kitchen) are not available in a hotel. What I find with vacation rentals is that the range in quality is so wide that it can easily ruin a trip if the accommodations are not adequate. Also, I've found that some hosts treat you like they are doing you a favor, or giving unsolicited opinions (regarding traveling together as an unmarried couple), than treating you as their guest.
A: I'm more of a hotel person, too, but it's often much, much cheaper to rent an apartment or house, especially when you're traveling with a family or larger group. The key is to talk to the owners before you book. Make sure the photos are current. Read the reviews. It's definitely more work than booking a hotel room, but worth the effort.
Q: If you had a week (with a day or two wiggle room) to spend in South America in January, where would you go and why? I am trying to plan a trip and I can't decide!
A: I loved Ecuador, for the mountains, markets, architecture and culture. But I might consider going to Colombia, as well. I have only been to Cartagena and definitely want to see more of the country.
Q: Once the passengers were seated and buckled up on a recent Delta flight to Boston, the attendant said "Welcome aboard flight [number] to Honolulu." I (age 72) gasped and grabbed my chest in shock and fright over the possibility that I'd somehow boarded the wrong flight in spite of myself. The attendant then said, "Just kidding." On the return flight a few weeks later, the same thing occurred, except this time the attendant said, "Welcome aboard flight [number] to Las Vegas," and I had the same reaction. She then said, "Just kidding." Is this some sort of Delta policy to be humorous? As we all know, you never ever joke about certain topics on a flight (or even in the airport), and this needs to be added to the list.
A: That's the oldest joke in the flight attendant manual, and it should be banned. I think crewmembers do that because they know we, their passengers, ignore the in-flight announcements, and they want us to perk up and pay attention. Problem is, that's one of the reasons we tune out the announcements. We don't believe what they're saying anymore.