I'm trying to secure a room in Antigua, Guatemala, for the Easter festivities, but
all the top hotels are booked. Help!—M.T., Lowell, Mass.
Hotels like Casa Santo Domingo and Posada Del Angel do book up a year in advance, but there
are some last-minute options. T+L associate editor Hannah Wallace was just in Antigua and
found several small hotels that are more likely to have rooms available for Semana Santa,
or Holy Week. Once a private home, Quinta Maconda (5A Avda. Norte, No.
11; 502/7832-1480; www.quintamaconda.com ; doubles from $225; six-day minimum during Semana
Santa) is now an exquisite four-room inn. Well-connected owner John Heaton, an art collector
and world traveler, can arrange curator-led tours of the Museo Popol Vuh in Guatemala City
and private helicopter rides to remote highland villages. The new colonial-style Hotel
El Mesón de Maria (3A Calle Poniente, No. 8; 502/7832-6068; www.hotelmesondemaria.com ; doubles from $150; six-night minimum during Semana Santa), across the street
from La Fonda de La Calle Real restaurant (it's run by the same owners),
has 20 simple rooms. The rooftop solarium, a perfect perch from which to watch the Semana
Santa parades, has views of the city and Volcán Agua. Just four blocks from the cathedral
and Parque Central is Casa Encantada (9A Calle Poniente Esquina, No.
1; 866/837-8900 or 502/7832-7903; www.casaencantada-antigua.com ; doubles from $125; four-night
minimum during Semana Santa) , a 10-room boutique property decorated with wrought-iron
four-poster beds, antique huipils, and, in the rooftop suite, a fireplace. There's a small
plunge pool in the garden; wine and tapas are served every evening.
What are the best services for ordering official government-issued travel documents
such as passports and visas on the Internet?—D.T., Chicago,
We found a brand-new Web site—OfficialTravelDocuments.com —that is the first to
let you apply for or renew passports and visas at the same time. For visas, check the site
to see if the country you're traveling to requires one. To request documents, download and
fill out the necessary form, submit on-line, and choose standard, rush, or same-day processing.
The site can also provide a copy of your birth certificate, if necessary, through secure channels.
Another good place to look is PassportsAndVisas.com , which has been expediting applications
on-line for 10 years. This site offers guaranteed emergency passports within 24 hours; you
can sign up for free e-mail alerts that will keep you updated on the status of your application
and let you know if there's a problem.
Do any hotels make special accommodations for people with allergies?—T.F., St. Louis, Mo.
Many hotels have begun providing guests who suffer from allergies with everything from extra
air filtration to fragrance-free amenities. Call ahead to check the policy of the place where
you're staying. Upon request, the Ritz-Carlton Chicago (160 E. Pearson
St.; 800/819-5053 or 312/266-1000; www.fourseasons.com ; doubles from $475), will remove
all fragranced products such as sachets and toiletries from a room and clean the space with
allergy-sensitive products. The room is then stocked with special toiletries and outfitted
with mattress protectors, feather-free bedding, dust-capturing vent guards, and in-room air
purifiers. The Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica (Peninsula Papagayo; 800/819-
5053 or 011-506/696-0000; www.fourseasons.com ; doubles from $545) goes a step further:
at check-in, an aesthetician will determine your skin-care needs with attention to your known
allergies, after which all-natural products are placed in your bathroom. And the Fairmont
Vancouver Airport (3111 Grant McConachie Way; 800/441-1414 or 604/207-5200; www.fairmont.com ;
doubles from $225) is the first hotel to devote an entire floor to guests with allergies.
Forty-two rooms feature faux-down pillows and duvets (washed in hot water, without chlorine
bleach), special carbon water filters, and peanut-free snacks.