The Washington Post’s Travel section writers and editors recently discussed stories, questions, gripes and more. Here are edited excerpts:
Q: I recently traveled on American Airlines and experienced a mechanical delay of nearly four hours. I boarded and deboarded the original plane. The second plane pulled up to the gate but was also deemed unfit to fly. A third and final plane got us en route. The day after the flight, 3,000 miles was deposited into my frequent flier account as an apology. Is this appropriate? I asked for a $250 credit but they would not budge.
A: It depends. If you were flying to Europe, you would be covered by EU 261, the European airline consumer law. American would probably owe you some money, depending on the length of your delay. If you were flying in the States, it would owe you nothing under the law. So 3,000 miles would actually be more than it should have given you. I guess that’s what you get when you have a deregulated industry with almost zero competition.
- Christopher Elliott
Q: We are traveling to Spain in March and this will be our first trip. We are considering a 15-day Cosmos bus tour followed by seven to 10 days of “free travel” to areas we might wish to spend more time experiencing. Is this a reasonable plan or should we do otherwise?
A: If you want to immerse yourself in Spain, I think that’s a fine plan. The bus tour will likely take you to all the top tourist cities, and then you can go out and explore the places that weren’t covered. And by spring, perhaps the Barcelona demonstrations will be in the past. Don’t miss the Costa Blanca coast, which offer a string of nice fishing villages with good restaurants, old churches, beachfront boardwalks, etc.
- Carol Sottili
Q: I am off to Portland, Oregon this week for a long needed break. Are there any can’t miss inside activities in case the forcasted deluge happens? I like art, music and the like. Shopping? Not so much—books excluded of course.
A: Yes. Check out the Oregon Historical Society, which has a really impressive JFK exhibit that runs through Nov. 12.
Q: I will travel through Istanbul for an upcoming trip, as I have done many times. On one occasion, my connection was cancelled in Istanbul—Turkish Air provided a hotel room, I got a visa at the airport, spent the night and flew out the next day. At present, U.S. citizens cannot get a visa for Turkey from the United States, or through the Turkish e-visa program. If my upcoming connecting flight in Istanbul is delayed or cancelled, will I be able to get a visa at the airport so I can go to a hotel, or will I be trapped at the airport?
A: There is a transit hotel that you could stay in at the airport, if it’s not booked. But you won’t be able to leave the airport to go to a hotel.
Q: I’ve had Global Entry since 2012 and have loved it. However, for the last few months the process has changed to the point that I don’t see why I’m paying a fee. The last time I flew, upon entry I went to the machine, got my slip, and stood in a tremendously long line to have an immigration agent still demand to see my passport and ask questions about my trip. What’s the deal with this change? Have any of you experienced this yet? Why pay for Global Entry and submit to an intrusive background check if I’m still going to be questioned by an immigration agent?
A: That’s a great question. I’ve heard similar reports from people with TSA PreCheck. While most Global Entry and PreCheck lines move quickly, an increasing number don’t. That doesn’t seem to bother the Department of Homeland Security. It doesn’t care as much about your wait time as it does about security—and having your personal information that came from an extensive background check for which you paid.
Q: How do car rental agencies link a car model to a size? I am a tall individual looking for a rental in late fall and I see a Toyota Corolla listed as a full size car.
A: I just call the rental desk and ask what type of cars they have. I started doing that when I kept getting Chrysler PT Cruisers, which I could not stand. The rental sites list an example of what they offer in each category, but that can vary greatly.
Q: I’m traveling and driving a rental car this week. I’ve always taken a pass on getting the prepaid gas on rental cars, mainly because I didn’t know how much gas and how much range was left. However, with nearly all cars having a range monitor on the dash, I’m rethinking that strategy. We might pay a couple of extra dollars for the rental car company gas, but the convenience at the end of the trip would be worth it. I didn’t think about this when I picked up the car, so I’ll have to wait until my next trip to try it. What do you all think?
A: Prepaid gas can be incredibly convenient, but it only works to your advantage if you run your tank dry. If you leave a little gas in the car, you’re basically subsidizing the next renter’s fuel.
Q: My husband and I are going to Hawaii (Big Island and Oahu) in a few weeks. We’ve been to both before and wondering if you have suggestions on things to do/see that are a bit off the beaten path. We’d love to see more nature, culture, history, authentic food, etc.
A: Have you checked out Waimea Valley yet? It’s one of my favorite places on the North Shore of Oahu, and not terribly touristy. If you want to get out and hike and experience some local culture, I highly recommend it.