>Q: I have finally decided to fulfill one of my dreams and take a trip to Africa in May. After reading a few articles and Web sites, I am totally overwhelmed on where to even begin. I would like to do Victoria Falls, go on safari and hit up Cape Town. Any tips on how to start the daunting task of making this dream a reality?
A: This is a daunting task, and I think in your case, you might want to enlist the help of a travel agent or specialist in travel to Africa. For example, I think you might be doing too much trying to squeeze in Victoria Falls and Cape Town. Better to pick maybe just South Africa and hit Cape Town, a safari on an animal wildlife refuge, the wine country, etc. Another option is a combo tour of Kenya and Tanzania.
>Q. Considering a trip to Portugal in February or March, to the Algarve region, in particular. Air fares to Lisbon seem to be hovering around $700. Thoughts on whether that's the best to expect for that time of year to that destination?
A. That'd be a swell time to go, given that it's off-season so no crowds, and the weather is very mild: In March, Lisbon has average lows just under 50, and average highs in the low 60s.
>Q: Are all economy-class fares, including the 21- or 14-day advance purchase ones, eligible for upgrading to business or first class using frequent flyer (air) miles?
A: Theoretically, at least on most U.S.-based airlines, the answer is yes. But on other airlines, the answer is no. Airfarewatchdog has always maintained that one of the "highest value" ways to spend frequent flyer miles is to buy a super cheap economy class domestic fare and upgrade it (usually with 15,000 miles each way) to a super expensive business or first-class fare, rather than spending 25,000 or even 50,000 miles on a cheap economy-class seat. However, some airlines, most notably the world's largest, Delta, allow upgrades only from its most expensive economy-class fares, assuming there are even upgradeable seats available. United, American and Continental, however, allow upgrades from almost all economy-class fares, but they now require co-pays starting at $50 each way on domestic flights and up to $700 each way on international flights (Delta does not require co-pays). These hefty co-pays on international flights sometimes make upgrading with miles a bad bargain. Add the hassle factor of finding flights that have upgradeable seats, and it's no wonder that more consumers are using cash-back credit cards rather than cards that earn frequent flyer miles.
>Q: My husband and I try to take a five- to six-day vacation to a new country every year. For this winter, we'd like to invite our parents and siblings to come along. Do you have suggestions on what locations we might zero in on? Someplace warm would be nice, as would someplace where English is widely understood. We have never stayed at an all-inclusive before, but it seems like something along those lines might make sense with a larger group of people. Specific towns and hotels would be much appreciated.
A: English is spoken in several of the Caribbean islands. Barbados has some of the most gorgeous beaches I've ever been to. The Crane hotel has beautiful rooms overlooking the water, swimming pools, restaurants, shops and access to the beach. The Round House Inn and Restaurant is perfectly located on the East Coast of the island, which is more rugged, secluded. The food was delicious, too, and the dining area overlooks the ocean.