Here are recent travel questions actually posed by readers, and our attempt to answer them. Have we responded correctly? Or are different answers possible?
Q. Is it safe to travel in Turkey? Safe to travel in Jordan?
A. Despite the recent street demonstrations against the Turkish government of Prime Minister Erdogan, and the proximity of serious fighting in Syria to Jordan, both countries are currently regarded as safe for tourism, although the situation could change at any moment. Careful watching is advised.
Q. We live in the New York area, have 7-to-11 days for a summer motoring vacation, and are thinking about Nova Scotia. Where and how shall we go?
A. To reach Nova Scotia will take you two days of heavy driving each way. Extend your vacation to two weeks. Head for the Canadian border, cross over to the Trans-Canada Highway, and follow that route to a causeway taking you to Cape Breton Island and the 175-mile Cabot Trail, one of the world's most spectacular road trips. You'll pass countless historic fishing villages with top-quality food (mussels, lobster), and from Cape Breton you can then drive to the important city of Halifax for a two-night stay, then home.
Q. I'm booked on a tour to Costa Rica, but have also heard about superb snorkeling at Bocas del Toro in nearby Panama. It will cost me about $400 to fly round-trip from Costa Rica to Panama, plus the cost of a hotel and snorkeling assistance from a tour company in Panama. Should I take on this added expense, or seek alternative snorkeling opportunities?
A. A major added expense just to go snorkeling? Good snorkeling--floating on the surface of the sea and gazing at the sea life beneath--is available almost anywhere you go in the tropics, and shouldn't be the reason for major added expense. Visit a sporting goods store, buy a snorkel mask, and then use it when your tour of Costa Rica takes you to a beach.
Q. I am looking to rent a car in the Seattle area for one week. Can you recommend a reliable source of inexpensive car rentals?
A. Breezenet.com seems to be the major survivor among the several earlier websites that used to specialize in obtaining lower-than-usual prices for car rentals. In the case of another aggressive discounter, we've had mixed reactions to CarRental8.com and don't yet feel comfortable in recommending it. Breezenet.com it is.
Q. Ever heard of Alaska Tour and Travel?
A. Sure have. It's been in business since 1995, and has apparently successfullly handled the trips within Alaska of tens of thousands of tourists.
Q. We are planning a summer trip to Italy. I am thinking of bringing sundresses and capris, and my husband will be wearing shorts. Should we?
A. Don't. You will stand out as tourists. Italians dress rather formally, even in the hottest months, and the idea of dressing as if you were on a Caribbean island is totally at odds with a serious approach to the history, culture and lifestyle of that ancient European nation.
Q. You are constantly suggesting apartment rentals in place of hotels on a holiday stay. But where can we obtain such rentals?
A. Dozens of companies claim to assist, but among the best-known of the nationwide (and international) firms are: Homeaway.com, airbnb.com, rentalo.com, vrbo.com, flipkey.com, and evrentals.com. And then there are the local firms, probably more knowledgeable about the quality and value of particular properties, which you discover by going first to the destination on any search engine, and then looking for the local rental firms.
Q. Do you know of a travel agency that specializes in cruises for visually-impaired people?
A. A company called Flying Wheels Travel, in Owatonna, Minnsota, serves the travel needs of persons with various disabilities, and sends them on both group tours and cruises as well as on individual arrangements. That's www.flyingwheelstravel.com.
Q. I'd like to take a river cruise of the Danube in September. Do you recommend [name omitted of a well-known river cruiseline] or [name omitted] or [name omitted]?
A. On a recent cruise of the Rhine, I had the opportunity to walk aboard river cruiseships of several well-known companies all moored to the same dock where we were stopping, and--so help me--I could not discern a dime's worth of difference between them, though each catered to a different price level. All serve excellent cuisine prepared by European chefs, all cruise the same rivers, and let you off to sightsee in exactly the same cities. Flip a coin.
Q. On a forthcoming ocean cruise of the Black Sea and the Aegean, we will be stopping in Nessebur, Bulgaria; Constanta, Roumania; Odessa, Ukraine; Sevastopol, Ukraine; Trabzon, Turkey; and Mykonos, Greece; among others. Shall I book a land cruise operated by the ship in each port city?
A. When in doubt, don't. Each one of these port stops is so small a city (except for the two in Ukraine), that a stroll on your own, stopping to eat in a local restaurant, surveying the local scene from a sidewalk table, seems both wise and cost-conscious.