Although the questions we receive from readers deal with their own specific travel concerns, they should be of value to others. So here are a recent batch:
Q. We have nine days we can spend in Italy. Would an itinerary going to Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice, and Milan be too hectic?
A. It certainly would be. In travel, a full day needs to be devoted to moving from one city to another: you pack and then check out of one hotel, travel to the train station or airport and take a train or plane to the next city, travel on arrival to the next hotel, check in and unpack, and all these steps consume a full day for each city you're visiting. This means that a travel day can never be a sightseeing day, and since you also have to devote a day to the arrival in your first city and the departure from the last one going home, you've managed to schedule six travel days into the nine days of your trip. Reduce the number of those cities to three!
Q. I've had a hip replacement which sets off the alarm every time I go to an airport and proceed through security; there follows a "pat down" that I find irksome and time-consuming. What can I do?
A. You can sign up for "T.S.A. Pre-Check" costing $85--a short security investigation and clearance which thereafter virtually guarantees that you'll go through a special line into a full-body scanner that isn't frightened by your hip replacement and checks you through in a few seconds, and without a "pat down". For the procedures to obtain a "T.S.A. Pre-Check", phone the T.S.A.'s information number, 866/289-9673; .
Q. A friend of mine from California has e-mailed me that the proposed high-speed rail line from San Diego all the way up the west coast to Sacramento is simply a "boondoggle". Why is it that you so ardently support this venture?
A. When the trans-continental railroad was built in the 1870s, there were undoubtedly professional nay-sayers who called it a "boondoggle". When communities built airports at the beginnng of the aviation age, they were undoubtedly accused of constructing "boondoggles". When Dwight Eisenhower built the interstate highways in the 1950s, there were those who called it a "boondoggle". These are the harsh words people use when they don't have factual arguments to express.
Q. Am I culturally backward? Am I technologically deficient? Whenever I take a flight, I use a paper boarding pass which I hand to the attendant at the boarding gate. But more and more, I see my fellow passengers using their cellphone as their boarding pass, and placing it atop a glass receptor at the boarding gate. What's the advantage of their doing that?
A. I share your embarrasment, as I too continue to use a paper boarding pass, an old fashioned scrap of paper which it takes all of 30 seconds to obtain at one of the kiosks in front of the check-in counters at the airport, Is it possible that I could save on that 30-second procedure by laboriously downloading a bar code into my cellphone, after first acquiring an airline-issued app allowing this to be done? Am I missing something?
Q. We are thinking of renting a car and driver for our trip to Ireland, because friends tell us it is difficult to drive a car there yourself.
A. Your friends are flatly wrong. Hundreds of thousands of visitors each year rent self-drive cars, and become reasonably proficient at a right-hand-drive vehicle after fifteen minutes of practice. A relaxed and unplanned car trip through Ireland is one of the most enjoyable of all vacation activities.
Q. Our daughter, 20 years old, is studying for the year in Tokyo, but now wants to tour key destinations in southeast Asia. If there a tour company for her?
A. Contiki Tours has been in business for many years, confining its passengers to persons between the ages of 18 and 35. Your daughter will enjoy their company, and yet will be reasonably chaperoned throughout the trip.