Q: My husband is interested in science of all types: astronomy, nature, chemistry, geology, etc. Do you have any suggestions for a trip that would include substantial science? Bonus points if it includes culture and history for me. For example, a favorite trip for the two of us was to Iceland where he could enjoy geology, glaciers, etc. while I got a small European capital city.
A: How about an “academic” trip? Check science-y organizations, institutions and educational centers, which often offer tours with a side of culture. The Archaeological Institute of America, for instance, offers science-meets-culture trips, such as the Pyramids and Temples of the Yucatan and Trade Routes of Coastal Iberia. Many tour operators organize astronomy tours in Chile, or closer to home: Astronomy Adventures has star-gazing tours in Santa Fe, a great city even when the stars are hiding.
Q: When is the best time of year to visit Alaska? I heard a lot of activities shut down in the wintertime.
A: The state quiets down during the dark winter months. Most people visit in the summer, but I prefer the shoulder seasons (spring/fall) because there are fewer crowds (mainly the cruising hordes). I traveled in late September and had some rain and some sun, and tons of wildlife (my visit overlapped with the salmon spawn, which brings out such local diners as bears and eagles).
Q: My nephew is getting married in August and is asked for my help planning his honeymoon to the Caribbean. He’s asked me to find an all-inclusive deal at an adults-only resort. He’s looking to spend $2,000 to $2,500 for five to seven days. My travel agent is recommending Cancun, but I was hoping for more options. Any suggestions?
A: The Yucatan Peninsula, which includes Cancun, is a good choice. But I’d head a little farther south from Cancun to Playa del Carmen or even Tulum. Prices are reasonable, and it’s not quite as busy as Cancun. Your travel agent is likely recommending Mexico because it’s typically cheaper to fly there than to Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, islands that also have a good selection of all-inclusive resorts.
Q: I will be traveling to Canada and will be getting cash. Is it best to do it at the airport or a branch on arrival or before leaving the U.S.? I have a U.S. TD account and plan to use Canadian TD ATMs or branch while there. It seems this should be easy to answer, but I’ve been getting conflicting information.
A: Here’s how I’d do it in order of preference: 1) When you’re in Canada, using your ATM; 2) At your bank; 3) At the airport. The exchange rate at the airport will probably be the least competitive, followed by your bank at home. But you make need a few Loonies before you travel, so that’s fine. When we crossed Canada earlier this fall, we waited until we were in the country before buying currency.
Q: How do you make the best of travel when you’re sick? There is a joke in my family about my wife getting sick any time we travel abroad. Usually, it’s just a cold and cough. She refuses to cancel the trip and usually spends the first 1-3 days in a medicine fog, but then gets better and the rest of the trip is fine. Obviously, if you’re planning several months in advance, there’s no way of knowing that a person will be sick. But when it happens do you think it’s better to cancel (we always get trip insurance) or to forge ahead and deal with it?
A: Whether you cancel or go depends on the severity of your illness and your destination. Obviously, if you are in pain or contagious, you should cancel. If you simply have a cold or ate something funny that will pass in 24 hours, you should consider going. Of course, if your trip is, say, hiking and camping in Patagonia, you will need to be in good health. So you might want to postpone. If you are just lounging on a Caribbean beach, the sun and water might dry up those sniffles. Just remember to bring any antibiotics or meds with you, so that you don’t have to run around a foreign city looking for a pharmacy.