Talk Travel: Things to see in Aruba and other travel questions answered

  • The Washington Post
6:00 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 Travel

The Washington Post's Travel section writers and editors recently discussed stories, questions, gripes and more. Here are edited excerpts: 

Q: My husband and I are heading to Aruba at the end of the month! Any recommendations for off-resort activities? We have reservations at Carte Blanche but no other set plans. Is there anything superior to just sitting on the beach/at the pool and relaxing?  

A: Yes, by all means leave the resort! Eagle and Arashi beaches are stunning, and you should absolutely take a Jeep tour to really get a sense of the island (warning: these can be a little rough-and-tumble, so make sure you know what you're signing up for). If you are animal-lovers, you should visit the island's Donkey Sanctuary, which was an unexpected delight. We also had dinner at one of the touristy table-on-the-beach restaurants (there are several), which was wall-to-wall Instagrammers but fun anyway. Oh, and make sure to eat Dutch pancakes.  

- Nicole Arthur  

Q: We are looking to fly somewhere fun for a long weekend at the end of June. However, our budget is limited to only $1,000. We hit Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, last year.  

A: I suggest New Orleans or Nashville. Both are quick flights from Washington, and fares are often lower in the summertime. In both cities, you won't have to spend a lot to soak in the culture, especially the music, which spills out of open doors and can be heard on the street.  

- Andrea Sachs  

Q: When I recently booked a fare on American Airlines, I saw that their "basic" level did not include use of the overhead bin. But how is this enforced? I've never seen an agent or flight attendant check someone's document or boarding pass (or where is this information even stated) to confirm that they've paid for it. I purchased the regular level, but really, what's to stop someone from taking advantage of this?  

A: The "basic" passengers are usually the last to board, so the overhead bins are full by then. But I've also heard of flight attendants and gate agents enforcing the rules by forcing passengers to gate-check their bags.  

- Christopher Elliott  

Q: Would it really kill the airlines if they served a hot meal for flights 3.5 hours or more? Between the narrow seats, no leg room, dirty airplanes and travel life itself, why wouldn't they want to build loyalty, not only through miles, but also through awesome meals? I know, I am in fantasy land.  

A: No, it would not hurt them. It might hurt their ability to make money, though, which is why the "free" meals were cut after 9/11 and replaced with entrees that cost extra. On certain transcontinental routes, there's a mini-trend going the other way, thanks to United Airlines. Let's see if it catches on. 

 - C.E.  

Q: Can you please suggest somewhere warm and not crazy expensive that doesn't have Zika? We love snorkeling and nature. Usually we do Puerto Rico in February and get a cheap Airbnb. Someone suggested Guadeloupe or Martinique, though we're pushing it with zero advance planning. The Florida Keys also came to mind, but they seem quite expensive.  

A: I would not worry about Zika unless you are pregnant or planning to have kids. Just wear bug repellent. However, if Zika is a real concern, consider the Bahamas, which does not have any reported cases, according to the CDC. You can find good packages to the island, and if you want fewer people, consider a few nights on the Out Islands. The tourism office has a current special on free flights/cruise for two from Nassau to the islands.  

- A.S.  

Q: I've been looking for air tickets (for five) to Italy in May. There doesn't seem to be anything for less than $2,000 through the airlines which just seems exorbitant. If I look on Kayak or Momondo, several of the exact same flights can be found for less than half the price. I guess I don't understand the huge price disparity and whether it's really "safe" to book through these 3rd party sites. Can you shed any light on this? Thanks!  

A: It is safe to use the reputable sites, such as the ones you mentioned. The sites have relationships with the airlines to list their flights. Sometimes they also mix and match carriers or airports, which brings the rate down. Once you book, call the airline to confirm.  

- A.S.  

Q: My daughter will be going on a school trip to Italy at the end of the month (not that I am jealous or anything). She will need money for some meals, and odds and ends. I was thinking of giving her a pre-paid debit card. Any suggestions whether it would be better to give her one in dollars or euros?  

A: I would suggest euros, to avoid currency exchange fees. And as much as we all want our kids to excel at math, maybe give her a break on this trip and let her skip the calculations from dollars to euros.  

- A.S.