Ask T+L: Caribbean in the Winter, Foreign Currency and More
Ask an Expert: Laura Begley Bloom, Deputy Editor
Q: We’d like to head to the Caribbean this winter. What are you mostexcited about? —Jules Dixon, Pittsburgh, Pa.
A: There’s a lot happening on St. John, including an outpost of NewYork’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 ourradar: the island’s new Eco Serendib Villa & Spa (215/830-8300; from $2,000 a night for two), a sustainability-focused retreat that willgrow your choice of organic vegetables before you arrive. On Dominica, we love the cliff-topSecretBay (767/445-4444; doubles from $252), with its villas on stilts overlookingthe 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 reopensnext 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-Listagent Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg. “Not only do they provide up-to-the-moment rates, but theytake little to no conversion fees.” (Before you depart, check to see what your bank chargesfor ATM withdrawals abroad. Many tack on an extra 3 percent to your total.) Download Oanda’sCurrency Converter App (free; iPhone,iPad); it will keep you posted on more than 190 rates. Lastly, don’t forget the power ofplastic: CapitalOne (800/955-7070) and our parent company’s American ExpressPlatinum 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 GalápagosIslands? —Kate Procyshyn, Boston, Mass.
A: Thanks to the archipelago’s recent removal from the Unesco World Heritage endangered list, more visitors than ever are visitingDarwin 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 insheltered, crystalline lagoons. Austin-Lehman Adventures (eight days from $3,016per person, double) has a mostly land-based excursion—think hiking to 20-foot lavatunnels 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 perperson, double) offers access to the ultimate trifecta of Galápagos encounters: 800-poundtortoises, 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 ratesnext summer. And with some 5.5 million visitors arriving, navigating traffic will be key. TheLondon 2012 Spectator Journey Planner plots routes to game venues onpublic transportation and predicts the journey time from anywhere in Great Britain (Games ticketholders get a complimentary Travelcard, a pass for the city’s extensive rail and busservices). Have downtime between events? Don’t miss the London 2012Festival (June 21–September 9), with events ranging from a Tino Sehgalcommission at the Tate Modern to the world’s largest dance party.