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Ask T+L: Himalayan Outfitter, Singles Travel, Bereavement Rates, Flier Miles, German Restaurants

Web Exclusive: May 16, 2006

I've heard of so-called bereavement rates on airline tickets in the event of the death of a loved one. How do they work?

While most major airline carriers, with the exception of Delta and US Airways have bereavement policies, they may not be worth the hassle. Each airline has its own set of rules depending on whether you are interrupting travel to change your ticket or need to purchase a new ticket. Continental will not wave any change fees and requests that passengers present a death certificate or hospital or funeral paperwork, all for a maximum discount of 10 percent. United offers flexibility by waiving change fees (which average $100) should you need to alter your plans, but will not provide a break on the ticket itself. On account of its leniency, American Airlines' policy may be the friendliest. Depending on a passenger's situation, American may provide a range of discounts without necessarily requiring proof of death or illness. All things considered, you're probably better off shopping for a discount fare instead during what is already a stressful time—walk-up fares, which are usually reduced, are often the most cost-effective way to purchase a last-minute ticket. Keep in mind that you'll have to pay any change fees on a discounted ticket, and in such times of crisis, flexibility may be more important than price.

May 2006

READER'S FIND

ITALY
My husband and I stayed at the Bellevue Syrene [5 Piazza Della Vittoria; 39-081/878-1024; www.bellevuesyrene.it ; doubles from $298], built on the cliffs above the Mediterranean in Sorrento with amazing views of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. The palatial 18th-century hotel is decorated with exquisite frescoes and English and Italian antiques. The best spot here is the expansive shaded terrace— I spent days outside with a book and a glass of wine, and I understand why Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired to write Agnes of Sorrento here. But with vistas like these to distract me, I wasn't quite so productive!
—Jennifer Miller, Los Angeles, Calif.

Enter T+L's Reader's Find sweepstakes .

I'm visiting Germany this spring, and I'm looking for authentic restaurants. Can you recommend some that serve the famous white asparagus? —Joseph Ellison, Boston, Mass.

From late April through the end of June, Germany is in the grip of Spargelmanie . The vegetable gets its delicate flavor and color from being grown under mounded loose soil, protected from the sunlight that would turn it green. For the traditional steamed asparagus with melted butter, smoked Holstein ham, and boiled potatoes, head to Hamburg and the thatched-roof Landhaus Flottbek (179 Baron Voght Strasse; 49-40/822-7410; dinner for two $83). If you're in Salzburg this summer for the Mozart festival, take a 35-minute side trip across the German border to Residenz Heinz Winkler (1 Kirchplatz, Aschau im Chiemgau; 49-8052/17990; dinner for two $212) , a tidy, rococo hotel and restaurant with amazing Spargel-stuffed puff pastry. At Berlin's newly opened Balthazar (160 Kurfürstendamm; 49-30/8940-8477; dinner for two $212) , chef Holger Zurbrüggen puts his own more urbane spin on the iconic spears: roasted asparagus salad tossed with chiles, mint, cilantro, and sesame oil.

What happens to frequent-flier miles when an airline goes bankrupt? If my carrier is in trouble, should I redeem them? —Mark Fischer, Salem, Oreg.

Airlines that go out of business aren't legally obligated to honor frequent-flier miles, says Paul Hudson of the Aviation Consumer Action Project, a nonprofit advocacy group. On the bright side, most airlines filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection eventually emerge from it, as US Airways and United recently did. And when another carrier absorbs a bankrupt one, it may offer that airline's customers the opportunity to transfer miles to its own program, as American Airlines did when it bought TWA in 2001. Tim Winship, editor of the Web site frequentflier.com , says it is likely that miles earned on Northwest and Delta—the two major domestic carriers under Chapter 11 at press time—will be picked up by another airline if those two fold. But the bottom line is that miles are never as valuable as actual tickets, so don't hoard them—redeem them as soon as you can, regardless of the financial status of the carrier.

Any suggestions for a single, divorced female who loves to travel and would like to meet others with a similar interest? —Martha Dixon, Chicago, Ill.

Solos Holidays (www.solosholidays.co.uk ; from $1,790), based in the United Kingdom, takes groups of lone travelers all over the world. On their two-week trip to the Watamu National Marine Park, off the coast of Kenya, you'll have time to explore bright coral reefs and to relax beachside— without paying extra for a single room. Camaraderie is the goal of All Singles Travel (800/717-3231; www.allsinglestravel.com ; trips from $2,400) . On their Peruvian itinerary, you'll tour ancient sites by day and sip cocktails by night with like-minded adventurers. For individual-travel updates from a variety of companies, register at the Connecting Solo Travel Network (www.cstn.org ; annual membership $30). The group publishes a 20-page bimonthly online newsletter with an extensive list of singles-friendly trips.

I want to explore the Himalayas. Can you suggest an outfitter and some exciting itineraries? —Daniel Bennett, Norfolk, Va.

The U.S. State Department is discouraging travel to Nepal, site of many of the highest Himalayan peaks, because of the volatile political situation. But Geographic Expeditions (800/777-8183; www.geoex.com ; tours from $2,950) offers an eight-day tour in neighboring Tibet, through scenery worthy of Shangri-la, and a 16-day trip to the Tibetan Plateau and the Tsangpo, the world's highest river. Bhutan is best seen on foot; Butterfield & Robinson (866/551-9090; www.butterfield.com ; tours from $7,295) has a walking tour through valleys and farmhouse villages that includes a blessing from a red-robed lama. Travcoa (866/591-0070; www.travcoa.com ; tours from $5,395) runs a two-week expedition covering Bhutan and Sikkim, India, with its many monasteries and fortresses.

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