Ireland by train in the fall
Q: I am trying to decide the best month to fly to Ireland this fall. Is September or October a better month? Is the train a practical and enjoyable way to see the country? Does the rail system also include Northern Ireland?
A: Both September and October will offer lower airfares than peak summer, and Ireland is one of the cheapest airfare destinations in Europe. Irish Rail, with over 1,491 miles of track, does serve Northern Ireland, and certainly rail travel is more relaxing than driving. I will say that finding fare information on the Irish Rail site is quite baffling. They do offer tourist rail passes, however, which might be an option if you are planning on using the rail system extensively.
What's to do in Milano?
Q: I'll be visiting Milan this summer. Any suggestions of what to do and see, and the best places to stay?
A: TripAdvisor lists 943 things to do in Milan, and it's a 2013 "Travelers' Choice" Award winner, although having been there several times it would not be my first choice as a tourist destination. TripAdvisor has a useful "3 days in Milan" itinerary that hits all the top attractions, such as the Duomo Cathedral and the Brera Picture Gallery. It's also a good jumping off point to visit Lake Como. It is an amazing place to go shopping for fashion, however, with hundreds of outlet stores. Typically, the summer sales start the first Saturday in July, so if you're a shopaholic plan your visit for then. Milan is also a great culinary destination. TripAdvisor commenters' number one hotel in Milan is the Park Hyatt, although I was very impressed with the Four Seasons Milan on my last visit.
Connecting times at Munich Airport
Q: When traveling from Barcelona to the U.S. via Munich, must I pass through German Customs or Immigration before catching my connecting flight home? If so, how much time should I allow for the connection?
A: Minimum suggested connecting times at Munich Airport depend on whether you're changing terminals or not. Within Terminal 2, plan on 30 minutes; within Terminal 1, 35 minutes; and between 1 and 2, 45 minutes. But those are minimum times, and if your flight is late you could still miss the connection. I always like to leave at least two hours when connecting at an airport, even more if it's a big airport prone to delays, such as London Heathrow. Since you're flying within the European Union, you don't need to clear customs or immigration as long as you stay "airside."
A four-city tour of Europe
Q: We are planning a trip to four major European cities (Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Rome) leaving in late April and returning in early May. Cities could be in whichever order that would be the cheapest. Which days are cheapest to fly abroad?
Should we book one way tickets or can one get a round trip to one city and then fly home from a different city? We are in our seventies and also would like to book 3-4 star hotel rooms. Is it possible to book from the rail stations as I did in my younger days? This would allow us to stay longer if we have more to do and perhaps even skip a city. Wondering if the Eurail pass is the way to go or just get train tickets when we need them.
A: You should probably book an "open jaw" round-trip ticket rather than two one-ways. It doesn't much matter what arrival and departure cities you choose since the fares will be similar, but typically flying Monday to Thursday will be cheaper than weekend travel. As for hotels, since you're not traveling during the peak summer season you can probably book "on the fly" but I do recommend looking into Tingo.com, a hotel booking site similar to Hotels.com (the inventory is the same) but with the difference that if the hotel lowers your rate between the time you book and your arrival Tingo will refund the difference to your credit card. You can always cancel if you change your mind (just be sure to book a refundable rate). Seniors can often get discounted rail tickets in Europe and I would just buy point-to-point rail fares since you won't be taking very many train trips during your stay. However, the train from either Paris or Amsterdam to either Venice or Rome can take quite a while. Paris to Rome can take 11 hours, Paris to Venice 13 hours, and Amsterdam to Venice 18-19 hours, so you might consider flying unless you're die-hard rail fans.
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