Q: We’ve just returned from Norway and Sweden, and our U.S. credit cards worked fine except in one instance. We had trouble at the train station with the ticket machine. Are more U.S. companies offering chip-and-PIN cards for travelers?
A: Train stations and other automated terminals are a problem area for U.S. credit cards. We’re seeing more chip-and-PIN cards being offered by American banks, but they’re still relatively rare, and not all of them are worth carrying, because of high fees.
Q: Twice now my TSA-approved luggage locks have been removed, either by TSA or the airlines. Isn’t TSA supposed to replace the lock and put a notice in that they’ve opened the bag?
A: The TSA is most likely behind the missing locks, and it probably won’t replace them. If I had to guess, I’d say that the TSA screeners either didn’t know that these were TSA-approved locks, or they didn’t care. I’m not sure if there’s any way to retrieve the locks or to get a replacement, but it can’t hurt to file a claim.
Q: We’ll be spending a week on the beach in Yachats, Ore., with family, and then we have another five days free. Are there other coastal towns that we shouldn’t miss? Should we go to Portland?
A: Don’t pass up a chance to hit Portland for an overnight; it’s such a beautiful city. You could also go clam-digging on one of the beaches, and there are always the wineries of the Willamette Valley.
Q: I’m scheduled to take a cruise out of Barcelona in September. I’ve considered leaving a day early and flying into Paris for the day and taking the train to Barcelona. I wonder whether this plan is a daydream, or easily doable.
A: It sounds brutal to fly into Paris and leave on the train for Barcelona the same day. To get to Barcelona that night, you’d have to make a 2 p.m. train from Paris, leaving you very little time to see anything. You could spend all day in Paris and take an overnight train to Barcelona, but that sounds even worse — two red-eyes in a row. Either fly right into Barcelona or get to Paris at least another day earlier so that you could have an overnight in a hotel.
Q: I booked an airline ticket using frequent flier miles to Prague for New Year’s. I’m expecting it to be cold and snowy at that time of year. Do they take snow removal from sidewalks seriously (as in, New York serious), or should I expect treacherous conditions and therefore a new boot purchase?
A: It will surely be cold at New Year’s — temperatures hover around freezing then (i.e., 32 degrees) — but there’s no guarantee of snow. If there is snow, the east Europeans aren’t as obsessive about clearing things as New Yorkers, by any means, so be prepared. And whether there’s snow or not, use the trip as an excuse for a new pair of boots, definitely!
Q: We’re headed to Milan next week for several days of business but have been unable to get tickets to see the Last Supper. Our travel agent has tried various means, including the concierge at the hotel where we are staying. Any suggestions?
A: If you have time, you might consider signing up for a city tour with a company like Viator that includes a stop at the Last Supper. It would be pricier, but it might be worth it for the other sights that you’ll see.
Q: My family is going to Paris at the end of this month for the first time. Is it that expensive to add a day trip to London via the train? Should I buy the tickets in France or here ahead of time?
A: It’s pretty pricey to do the train, especially for just a day trip. You can buy the tickets through Rail Europe from the States, and it’s cheaper the earlier you buy. Looking at mid-August, for instance, I see fares of $116 each way per person. Seems as if for that kind of money you’d want to extend the trip for a few days in London.Oregon - Eugene - New York - Eastern Europe - Europe - France - Western Europe - Paris - Hungary - Budapest - Spain - Portland - Barcelona - Poughkeepsie