Ask T+L: Caribbean in the Winter, Foreign Currency and More
Published: September 2011
Ask an Expert: Laura Begley Bloom, Deputy Editor
Q: We’d like to head to the Caribbean this winter. What are you most
excited about? —Jules Dixon, Pittsburgh, Pa.
A: There’s a lot happening on St. John, including an outpost of New
York’s Fatty Crab (Cruz Bay; 340/775-9951; dinner for two $58) that’s putting an Asian spin on Caribbean ingredients (conch, spiny lobster). Also on our
radar: the island’s new Eco Serendib Villa & Spa (215/830-8300; from $2,000 a night for two), a sustainability-focused retreat that will
grow your choice of organic vegetables before you arrive. On Dominica, we love the cliff-top
Bay (767/445-4444; doubles from $252), with its villas on stilts overlooking
the sea. To truly get off the grid, there’s Petit St. Vincent (800/654-9326;
doubles from $1,050). After a multimillion-dollar overhaul, the private-island resort reopens
next month with Balinese touches and a hillside spa.
Q: Should I purchase foreign currency before I travel? —Roy Thompson, St. Louis, Mo.
A: “ATM’s in your destination are the way to go,” says A-List
agent Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg. “Not only do they provide up-to-the-moment rates, but they
take little to no conversion fees.” (Before you depart, check to see what your bank charges
for ATM withdrawals abroad. Many tack on an extra 3 percent to your total.) Download Oanda’s
Currency Converter App (free; iPhone,
iPad); it will keep you posted on more than 190 rates. Lastly, don’t forget the power of
One (800/955-7070) and our parent company’s American Express
Platinum and Centurion cards (800/528-4800; americanexpress.com) waive all foreign-transaction fees.
Q: Which tour company would you recommend for a trip to the Galápagos
Islands? —Kate Procyshyn, Boston, Mass.
A: Thanks to the archipelago’s recent removal from the Unesco World Heritage endangered list, more visitors than ever are visiting
Darwin territory. On the new Grand Ecuador tour by Ker & Downey (nine days from $6,830 per person,
double) you’ll explore the Galápagos from a 16-passenger yacht that docks in
sheltered, crystalline lagoons. Austin-Lehman Adventures (eight days from $3,016
per person, double) has a mostly land-based excursion—think hiking to 20-foot lava
tunnels and tromping along the Sierra Negro volcano—as well as kayaking with sea lions.
Coming this January, the Española cruise by Sanctuary Retreats (seven nights from $5,150 per
person, double) offers access to the ultimate trifecta of Galápagos encounters: 800-pound
tortoises, courting albatross, and nesting blue-footed boobies.
Q: What do I need to know about going to the London Olympic Games? —Debbie Tufts, Portland, Ore.
A: Save up—rooms are projected to jump to 10 times their normal rates
next summer. And with some 5.5 million visitors arriving, navigating traffic will be key. The
London 2012 Spectator Journey Planner plots routes to game venues on
public transportation and predicts the journey time from anywhere in Great Britain (Games ticket
holders get a complimentary Travelcard, a pass for the city’s extensive rail and bus
services). Have downtime between events? Don’t miss the London 2012
Festival (June 21–September 9), with events ranging from a Tino Sehgal
commission at the Tate Modern to the world’s largest dance party.