Travel Q&A: Don't exhaust yourselves on anniversary trip

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These questions are answered by travel experts at The Washington Post:

Q: My husband and I are taking a special trip to Europe for our fifth anniversary. We plan to spend about $10,000 and want to take in everything we can. How many cities are doable in two weeks? Do you think cruising is good for a couple of first-time-to-Europe travelers?

A: Cruising is the easiest way to see a chunk of Europe with minimal planning. The downside: You won't get substantial time in any city. For a land tour, choose one or two cities, such as Paris and London, and spend a few days in each and then arrange a few side trips to smaller towns. I strongly advise against visiting a new city every few days. You'll burn out and leave Europe exhausted.

Q: I'm contemplating a short getaway in early February. Is that a good time to go to New Orleans?

A: In terms of weather, it's a great time to be there; last February, the weekend of Feb. 8-10, for example, had highs of 67-80 and lows of 56-67. (Historically the averages are a little colder, of course -- mostly 50s-60s.)

Q: We'll be in the Tucson area for the month of January. What's our best option for renting a vehicle?

A: The major chains offer specials on monthlong rentals; call the company directly and you might get a better deal. If you're a loyalty member, work it. You could also try name-your-own-price sites as well as RelayRides, the car-sharing site. And if you have frequent-flier miles, check to see whether you can apply them to a rental.

Q: My wife is traveling alone with our infant son for the Christmas holidays. It would be helpful if I was able to go with her to the gate. Do you know who qualifies to get a gate pass?

A: When you get to the airport, go to the check-in desk and ask an agent. Airline reservation agents have become more willing to hand out these passes, but it's subject to change. If there has been a recent security breach or issue, they tend to get stricter. I've had no trouble getting passes to accompany my spry and with-it mom to the gate, but she does have gray hair.

Q: I just had a disappointing experience getting a hotel in midtown New York on Priceline. I saw some three-stars for less than $200 a night on Orbitz, so I bid $150 on a 31/2-star and got nothing. I went down to the three-star for $155 and got it. That hotel (a Holiday Inn) is going for $174 a night on Orbitz. I don't feel that I got much of a discount. Is there a strategy for Priceline, or is New York just a tough market?

A: I'm sorry to be the one to say this, but the star ratings used by opaque sites such as Priceline are relatively meaningless. They can change at a moment's notice, and no one really knows for certain what they're based on. Not to diss Priceline here; a lot of travelers do save up to 60 percent off a hotel's published "rack" rate. But please don't get me started on the stars.


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