Q: We have round-trip tickets for Thanksgiving, but now my wife will be flying directly from our Thanksgiving destination to a third city for work. Her work ticket is on another airline. Should I notify the original airline that she won't be using her return ticket, and if so, should I do so before or after we use the first leg of the tickets? I'm not expecting any refund for the unused leg. I just don't want to be charged a one-way fare.
A: I would just let that go, since it's the second leg of the trip that she won't be taking. Depending on the airline, buying a round-trip ticket and using only the first leg could be considered a breach of the contract of carriage, which is a legal agreement you enter into when buying an airline ticket. And they could, conceivably, charge you the one-way fare, which is often more expensive. Just don't ever try to use just the second leg of a round-trip ticket; your reservations are likely to be canceled.
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Q: We need a vacation but can't do anything until Feb. 8. Our thought had been Florence, which has always been on our to-do list, but in February? Are Florence, Chianti and Tuscany worth it in midwinter?
A: I'd say go for it, if that timing works for you. There won't be any crowds, so you'll have museums, etc., to yourselves, and the weather in Florence is pretty mild. In February, you'll see lows in the upper 30s and highs in the mid-50s, and it's not a particularly rainy month (unlike October, November and December).
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Q: We wonder how to get the best sense of the American Deep South. If you had five to seven days, what itinerary would you suggest?
A: This is a great question, and a tough one, with many answers depending on your interests and priorities. I think this is a 10-day venture, but my immediate thought is to fly into Charlotte, N.C., then drive to Knoxville, Tenn.; Nashville; Memphis; Jackson, Miss.; New Orleans; Mobile, Ala.; Montgomery, Ala.; Macon, Ga.; Savannah, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; and back to Charlotte. That's quite a trip, and you could cut it short by, say, leaving off Savannah and Charleston, but what a shame! Or, by starting in Birmingham, Ala., or Atlanta and leaving off the northern part of the loop (North Carolina and Tennessee).
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Q: Have you been to either of the (expensive) restaurants in the Eiffel Tower? Are they worth it?
A: I've been to Le Jules Verne, which Alain Ducasse's team took over a few years back and overhauled. I went at night, and it was really magical to be up there when the tower -- and the rest of Paris -- was twinkling. The food was good, very rich -- not particularly revelatory but luxurious. And, yes, expensive. As for whether it's worth it, well, it depends on what you value. I can't say that I need to go back, but I'm glad I went.
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Q: What advice do you have for gauging how safe a place really is to visit? Reading the State Department website is useful, but it's too broad in its descriptions. I say this because I live in a U.S. city that routinely makes the "most dangerous" list, but for most residents and visitors, our city is a perfectly safe place to enjoy. I'd hate to miss out on a country in, say, South America because of the attention-grabbing crime incidents that most people avoid.
A: I would read everything I could about the places you're interested in, well beyond the State Department site. Check the guidebooks. Talk to any people you know who have traveled to the country in question, then assess the risk.