Playing your cards right in Canada
The Washington Post
Question: Does Canada require chip-and-PIN credit cards, or will U.S. credit cards work? I'll be on an Alaska cruise in May that ends in Vancouver, where I plan to stay a few days.
Answer: You should be fine. I've been to Quebec City and Vancouver Island in recent years and used my American Express and Visa cards with no problem. Canadian merchants have been moving toward a chip-and-PIN system, but they'll still accept our dinky magnetic-strip cards.
-- Becky Krystal
Q: I went to Charles Town, W.Va., yesterday to see a play at the Old Opera House. It was a nice ride from Baltimore, much quicker than I expected. So I wonder what else there is to see there (besides the casino)? I wouldn't want to do any white-water rafting, but are there other activities that are fun and interesting?
A: If not the casino, how about the racetrack next door? You could also visit the old Jefferson County Courthouse, where John Brown was tried for the raid on Harpers Ferry, then check out the Jefferson County Museum. For that matter, you could head to Harpers Ferry, which is only a few miles away and offers a great history lesson. Then you can hike up the Maryland Heights just across the river.
-- Zofia Smardz
Q: I'd like to go somewhere warm in early April. I'm not in college anymore, so I'd like to avoid the spring-breaker crowd.
A: Stay away from modestly priced all-inclusives in Cancun and Punta Cana. Don't go to Panama City, Fla. Any island that's offering cheap nonstop flights will be more attractive to college students. If you go to a nice hotel on St. Barts, for example, you won't be bothered by college students. And if you want something closer to home, there won't be any spring breakers in Naples, Fla.
-- Carol Sottili
Q: My husband and I usually plan our vacations well in advance, but we then see all these great last-minute deals that we can't take advantage of. So we're thinking of taking off a random week and then scouring the deals as they come in and grabbing a good one. Is there a time of year for particularly good deals?
A: You can typically find the best deals during off-peak times and right after the holidays. You can often find deals in Florida and the Caribbean during the summer and hurricane season. Colorado is often cheaper in the spring and fall. Hawaii: late winter and early fall. Europe: after the summer rush and before the holiday slam. My advice: Pick a destination and then choose dates that don't overlap with holidays, school vacations or an activity such as skiing. Then check the Web and tourism offices for deals.
-- Andrea Sachs
Q: We're visiting France to see the Normandy beaches and D-Day locations. We plan to spend two days in Rouen. We still have two days to fill. Can you recommend anything that we shouldn't miss in that area?
A: Do see if you can get to Mont St. Michel. It's not much farther, and it's so worth a visit, especially if you spend a night on the island. It's positively haunting once most of the tourists leave and darkness descends. The abbey and church at the summit are lit up magnificently, and since there are no motor vehicles, you can almost feel yourself transported back to a distant time.
-- Zofia Smardz