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Travel Questions Frequently Asked Karen

TRAVEL QUESTIONS FOR KAREN:

Dear Travelers,

I hope you will understand that because of the overwhelming number of questions received each day it is impossible for me to answer every one. I will select questions to answer based on what I believe will benefit and interest the greatest number of travelers. Also, please make your questions as specific as possible and know that I do not have the luxury of time to plan or detail personalized travel itineraries.

If your question is not selected, I sincerely apologize, as given the time, I would answer them all. If your question is selected you will be informed that it is published on our website as well as receive the answer by email.

Kindest regards,
Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Hi Karen, My husband and I are planning a pretty ambitious trip to Burgundy and Benelux this fall ... we want to fly into and out of Amsterdam, rent a car there, drive down to Burgundy, spend a week there, then drive back to Amsterdam by way of Belgium and Luxembourg. Being childless and adventurous, we're prepared for long hours in the car, and I've found some good rates on AutoEurope (GREAT recommendation, thank you!) but I having trouble finding the answers to a few specific questions: 1. Besides passports, what kind of paperwork will we need at each of the border crossings? How much should we budget in fees for crossings and tolls? 2. Should we choose a car that uses unleaded gasoline or diesel? From past travels, it seems to me diesel is both cheaper and more readily available in Western Europe, but I don't know if that is still the case. 3. What questions should I be asking regarding car insurance- both from my own carrier and the rental company? Although I've traveled internationally most of my life, this is my first time driving overseas, so I'd appreciate any guidance you can give. Your guides have always been a great source of information, written by people who have clearly been-there-done-that. Thanks in advance! Kelly
Asked by Kelly Isenor [Apr 24, 2009]


Answer:
First I love Amsterdam and Burgundy - you have selected some of my favorite destinations and don't miss Brugge (outside Brussels) on your route back! To answer your questions: (1) If you are not staying longer than three months all you will need are your passports. No additional documentation is required at the crossings - nor are there fees. I would however, recommend getting an international driver's license (available through AAA-cast $15) since you will be doing so much driving and they are recognizable by authorities as legitimate permits. As far as tolls are concerned, there are no toll roads in the Netherlands. In France the tollroads are the Autoroutes (identified on signs and maps with a blue A) and they are pay as you go by distance covered. You can always bypass tollroads but they ARE efficient - especially when navigating around major cities. To determine charges since it will vary by the route you select, there is a wonderful French website (www.autoroutes.fr) which lets you calculate charges. It is also wonderful to note that you can now pay for tolls using a credit card - it used to be so hard always having enough change/money on hand! (2) I always request a diesel to save money. Unlike the United States, diesel is still readily available and I have also found a diesel car that is NOT automatic also costs less to rent. (3) Car insurance is always a concern and it is best to know your coverage options before you are standing at the rental counter. I will copy below AutoEurope's general guidelines for insurance. Depending on your credit card company - you may already have sufficient coverage (but you must use that card for payment). You need to call your credit card company and ask them directly. AutoEurope is also very upfront and honest - be sure to then ask them if what your credit card company offers is sufficient. That being said, if you have an accident while traveling, even though you have coverage, you sometimes have to pay for the damages upfront and then file for reimbursement. The paperwork can be a nightmare. I have heard many travelers say they wish they had simply gotten coverage with the car rental company. I have also found if I prepay with AutoEurope (insurance included) the rate is then guaranteed in US Dollars and less. Again, I have found the rental agents with AutoEurope are wonderful in taking the time to answer your questions. Thank you for using our recommendations - I hope my answers are of some help! Safe travels, Karen General Information from AUTOEUROPE Car rental insurance varies widely, so please review the information below prior to making your reservation. Regulations of the country where you rent the car will be in effect for the duration of your rental. All our car rental rates include fire and third party liability insurance. Our inclusive rates also provide collision and theft coverage at an advance purchase discount. You may elect to decline collision and theft coverage. If you plan to take advantage of coverage offered by your credit card, please contact your card issuer directly for details. Specific insurance information for your reservation will be printed on your confirmation voucher. The following guidelines apply to rentals commencing in the Netherlands Required Coverage Fire and third party liability insurance is mandatory and is included in all rentals. Third party liability insurance offers up to US$2,000,000 for coverage in case of damage or injury to people or property outside of the rental car. Optional Coverage Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and theft protection are included in our inclusive rates at a discount. CDW, if purchased at the rental counter, costs approximately US$19 - US$25 per day. Theft protection, if purchased at the rental counter, costs approximately US$5 - US$15 per day. CDW and theft coverage reduce the deductible (responsibility of the client) to US$550 - US$1400, depending on the vehicle type rented. Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) is available with some suppliers at the rental counter for approximately US$6 per day. Super CDW may be offered locally to reduce the deductible as low as zero. Optional insurance coverage is available with select suppliers only, rates subject to change without notice.

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Category: General

Question:
Last October I took a trip to France. I was treated poorly by one of the innkeepers and wrote you about this and the misinformation your book provided that caused this problem. I didn't hear from you and it has been six months. I often recommend your books to friends as I have used them many times in the past to plan my vacations. That stopped with your lack of response to my last correspondence. Don't you care?
Asked by Martha Lindt [Apr 22, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Ms. Lindt, The reality is we care very much and so greatly appreciate feedback from the people who use our guides. I sincerely apologize if we did not respond to your earlier complaint. I honestly cannot find record of any previous correspondence from you in our system. Can you please let me know how you contacted us so I can better investigate why you did not receive a reply? Although, our system (and we) is (are) not perfect, we do try to personally address any and all comments and, in the case of places we recommend, we forward the correspondence on to the properties for their feedback. Again, we care very much. We take great pride in our research and our recommendations but, we also cannot get back to revisit all properties every year and as a result, feedback is invaluable and also provides us with a different perspective-as everyone's experience is unique. I also want to thank you for recommending our guides. Our company has grown more through word of mouth than any marketing campaign and so please accept my sincere thanks and appreciation. I hope you will continue to use and recommend our guides. I am sorry that you had a bad experience and I would welcome knowing the details. Kindest regards, Karen

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Category: France

Question:
We are planning to be in Paris the nights of June 22 through June 25 (4 nights). We are traveling with our 5 children, ages 12-20. We would like a reasonable charming hotel on the left bank. Suggestions?
Asked by Pam Fleischer [Apr 21, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Pam, Sounds like a wonderful family adventure - Five teenagers in Paris!!! In terms of recommendations, I think the Hotel Grandes Ecoles offers some of the best values and they have a full range of rooms - one of which might be ideal to accommodate all five....but, my concern would be the lack of air conditioning in June. Another thought, on the left bank would be the Minerve - well priced, more of a traditional hotel (i.e. not overly charming but clean, well-priced and owned by a great family and they have air-conditioning) - but, I can't remember any rooms that would accommodate more than two or three so you would be looking to rent three plus rooms which adds up. A final thought, and although, not on the left bank, but just opposite the Louvre on the right bank so it is in close proximity to either bankswith a great location would be the Relais du Louvre. I love this small hotel and the manager, Sophie is wonderful. They also have a few family suites - I would recommend that you contact her directly and ask her about options based on her availability. Tell her I recommended you stay with her! Thank you for using our guides and enjoy Paris! Karen

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Category: Spain

Question:
Hi Karen, I noticed that there is only one Spanish Parador on your internet list for recommended hotels. Didn't you previously have several recommended? What happened? Steve
Asked by Stephen Linzenbold [Apr 21, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Steve, We actually recommend most of the Paradors in our guidebook. There is no charge to be in our guides as we don't want anything to influence our selection or editorial. However, we do have a nominal fee to cover administrative costs for a property to be featured on our website. Unfortunately, many of the Paradors do not take advantage of the exposure afforded by the internet audience. Premier or Business Class membership enables the visitor to our site to see everything we recommend. Thank you for using our guides and recommendations. Best, Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Category: IRELAND If you are on the west coast in the area of the Cliffs of Moher, and you must return to Dublin to fly out the next morning, which roadway is fastest - the N6 from Galway, or the N7 from Limerick?
Asked by Colleen Theriot [Apr 18, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Colleen, Thank you for your email. To give you the most accurate answer I went to the owners of the Drumcreehy House, a wonderful B&B located near the Cliffs of Moher, overlooking Ballyvaughan Bay. Their answer is "The N6 from Galway would be faster. You don't actually have to go all the way into Galway to get onto the N6 but yes, the N6 is the quickest route. I generally send people up as far as Clarenbridge and then they cross over a couple of miles to join the N6." I hope this helps with your planning. Thanks for using our recommendations and have a wonderful trip, Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Greetings from Austin. We are a family of 3 traveling to Ireland, and have planned a great 10-day trip concentrating on the southern half of the island only. We arrive in Dublin and must also leave from Dublin (unfortunately). If we are flying out of Dublin mid-morning on a Tuesday, must we spend that last night in Dublin, or is it doable to drive to the airport from a location in one of the counties west of Dublin? It's hard for me to get a handle on how long it takes to drive places on that little island. We will need to be returning a rental car as well. Do you recommend a particular area/hotel to spend the last night before flying home? Thank you very much.
Asked by Colleen Theriot [Apr 18, 2009]


Answer:
No you do not have to spend the last night in Dublin. In fact we do not recommend that you spend the last night in Dublin unless you want to spend several days there sightseeing prior to your departure. Roads in Ireland are much busier than they used to be and also of much better quality than in days gone by. It is quite manageable driving to the airport on the day of your flight from towns to the west. Choose where you fancy staying and correspond with the property on how long it takes to get to Dublin Airport (give them the time of your flight, plan on arriving 2 hours before at the airport to allow time for rental car drop off, traffic hold ups and check in). Be sure to have a good map. I always use the red Michelin map of Ireland. When you estimate distances in Ireland allow twice as long to get from place to place as you would in the USA.

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Category: Ireland

Question:
Hello Karen - My husband and I will be traveling to Ireland in July with my parents, who are both 80 years old (although very active/young for their age) as well as our two boys who are 2 and 6. Do you have any recommendations for us in regards to traveling with children (info on car seat laws, rentals etc.). Activities that would be fun for all ages. My husband and I went to Ireland 10 years ago and all we took was your guide. It proved to be the best thing we had!!!!! We would love your help!
Asked by Erin Horstmann [Apr 14, 2009]


Answer:
Erin: With 6 people ranging from two to eighty I recommend you do not try to do too much. By this I mean resist the temptation to cram in everything Ireland, do not change accommodation every night, do not try to do too much sightseeing into one day. I have consistently found that Auto Europe 1 800 223 5555 has the best deal in car rentals. Give them the Karen Brown ID# 99006187, it may get you an additional discount. Please ask them about car seat regulations in Ireland---my understanding is that they are similar, if not identical to the US. I think you will need a van to accommodate you all comfortably. Take clothing that can be layered...I have had endless days of hot sunshine and conversely trips that have been wet and foggy the entire time. In Ireland there is no such thing as bad weather just wrong clothes. Assuming that you have at least a week I would concentrate on the Southwest staying in Kenmare, Killarney and Dingle and exploring out from there. If you have extra time add on a trip to Blarney (stay in Kinsale) and or head on out to Clifden and spend as much time as you can exploring Connemara. All the best, June

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Category: General

Question:
The only thing you don't mention in your B&B books is the bathroom arrangements. Many B&B's have shared amenities which we would prefer to avoid. Could you please clarify this for me. Thank you.
Asked by Jacqueline Blatchford [Apr 10, 2009]


Answer:
As we publish in the introduction to our B&B guides, "Unless otherwise indicated in the bottom description details, all bedrooms have private bathrooms." In other words, we detail only when the rooms are NOT with private bath. However, it is always important to simply make sure the room you are reserving is with private bath when you make the reservation. Also, if having the bathroom ensuite is important, make sure your "private" bath is not located down the hall! Enjoy your travels and thank you for using our guides.

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Category: Italy

Question:
Hi Karen - My neighbor recommended you to me. My husband, Jeff and I have flight reservations arriving in Rome on 9/16/09 and returning from same on 10/6. We'd like to spend some time in Rome, on the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and in Umbria. We plan on renting a car and need help on traveling around these areas (how much time in each and in what order). We were thinking about renting a villa in Sorrento and in Sicily. Any and all suggestions are most appreciated. Thank you.
Asked by Cindy Byron [Apr 6, 2009]


Answer:
Please thank your neighbor for recommending Karen Brown's Guides! We really appreciate their referral. In terms of your travel plans - they sound wonderful and the fall is gorgeous in Italy and you are traveling late enough that most of the crowds will have waned. To help you with your pacing and travel, we detail regional countryside itineraries and three of them specifically address the areas you want to travel that detail recommended pacing and sightseeing recommendations: 1) Rome to Milan via the Italian Riviera 2) The Haunting Beauty of Umbria and 3) Exploring the Wonders of Sicily. The itineraries can be purchased individually on our website as downloadable PDF files ($8.50 each), but price wise you would be better off purchasing either our Hotel or B&B guide ($19.95) which includes all eight itineraries as well as descriptions of places we recommend to stay. To order a guide you can simply go to our website or place the order by phone (650 342-9117) and orders received by noon PST are shipped that same day. Thank you for your interest in our guides and recommendations. Enjoy your trip to Italy! Best, Karen

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Category: Italy

Question:
Hi Karen, I have stayed in your recommendations for years, sight-unseen, so confident am I in your suggestions. For this summer, we taking a 2 week trip from Dubrovnik to Bolzano, Italy with our 2 daughters (18 and 22), and I am wondering - since we will have a car the entire time - if you have a recommendation for a 3 night stop outside Venice, which might be a better choice for us than staying in Venice itself and having to deal with the car. Thanks for any insight.
Asked by Felice Soorenko [Apr 5, 2009]


Answer:
There are several places to stay in the countryside outside of Venice that are excellent. We feature the Romantik Villa Margherita and the Hotel Villa Franceschi in Mira. Both are lovely small hotels. Because you will really need 2 full days to see Venice, you might want to reconsider staying there with your daughters. We feature some wonderful hotels and B&Bs of all price ranges in the city. You can leave your car at the main parking lot just as you come into town and not fool with a car again until you leave. Happy travels with your family!

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