Pure New Zealand

Cheers to Adam Sachs for his article. I agree that the only way to travel there is to have no plan at all. I spent six months in Christchurch in 2002 and discovered the rest of the country in this way. From the people to the food to the landscape, it was a life-changing experience, and Sachs captured it all perfectly. It’s refreshing to read an article that’s not about luxury hotels or jam-packed itineraries, but the real essence of a place. —Tara Deponte, Kailua, Hawaii

Style Counsel

I just received my first issue of T+L and was dismayed to see the rabbit-fur vest in “Best Travel Gifts 2009.” Surely you can be stylish in a faux fur. —Lynda Austin, Orange, Calif.

Drinking Up Australia

I hope Bruce Schoenfeld made it to Xanadu winery, near Margaret River, while reporting “The Ultimate Australian Wine Tour.” My husband and I went there during a trip to Australia last October. It has some of the oldest vineyards in the area—and fabulous Shiraz! —Barbara Stokey, Virginia Beach, Va.

Into the Wild

Peter Jon Lindberg’s “Social Media Revolution” story got it right. Recently, after an exhausting two-week business trip in Bangkok, I had a car pick me up from my hotel and drop me off at a bungalow near Khao Yai National Park, three hours north. There, I went on a guided hike through the jungle, where I saw elephants, tigers, and snakes. How did I arrange this? I didn’t use Google Maps or TripAdvisor; I didn’t even pick up my phone. I simply told the concierge that I wanted to go someplace quiet, get a bit of fresh air, and maybe see wildlife—and that I didn’t want to look at a brochure. It turned out to be the best little trip I’ve ever had. —Ed Bayron, Tokyo

Hot Topic: Travel Scams

Mark Orwoll’s December Smart Traveler column got a flood of responses from readers and users at Here, scams you’ve experienced—and your tips for avoiding them.

Southeast Asia: The Flat-Tire Fix

The Scam: Two guys on a scooter discreetly deflated one of my back tires at a stoplight; when it turned green they whizzed by, shouting that I had a flat. I pulled over to change it, leaving the windows open and the car unlocked. Meanwhile, the same two guys pulled up on the street side of the car and took everything inside. Advice: If you have to change your tire, shut your windows and lock your doors first. —Garland Wilson, Port Charlotte, Fla.

Paris: The Escalator Trip-Up

The Scam: We were nearing the top of an escalator at a crowded Métro stop when the man in front of me dropped something and bent over to pick it up. I fell over him and my wife over me, while one or two accomplices clambered over us, grabbing whatever they could. Advice: Keep your valuables in a safe place—and put a fake wallet where you might carry a real one. Also, keep your distance from others on the escalator! —Herb Falk, Hendersonville, N.C.

Italy: The Currency Change

The Scam: While boarding a Circumvesuviana train in Sorrento, I paid for my ticket with a 50 euro note and was “accidentally” given the wrong change. Advice: When using a foreign currency, it’s not immediately obvious that you’ve been ripped off—especially if you’re in a hurry to catch a train. Pay with the smallest denomination of bills possible. — member

Mark Orwoll adds: I used four different currencies on my last trip, so I know how easy it is to get confused. Try to figure out the approximate cost of your purchase beforehand—when you actually hand over cash you’ll know, at least roughly, how much change you should get back.

Reader’s Find: Italian Hideaway

My husband and I are just back from our annual vacation in Puglia, where we spent a week at our secret spot: Villa Magnolia (doubles from $174, including breakfast), a charming 18th-century villa amid olive and almond groves. The owners—husband and wife Ron and Lesley Simon—restored the property to its former splendor, with four antiques-filled rooms. Ron would get up extra early to clean the Roman-style saltwater pool before our morning swims, and to manicure the beautiful wildflower garden where we’d enjoy our breakfast (fresh fruit picked from the estate). One night he even taught us how to prepare pizza in their outdoor oven; when my husband mentioned that he likes his spicy, Lesley went out into her vegetable garden with a torch to get some hot peppers! We’ve traveled the world and the seven seas and, for us, this is the jewel in the crown. —Marlis Ritter, Bregenz, Austria

T+L Asks: What’s Your Worst Travel Nightmare?

Plane Ride to Paris—From Hell

I was en route to Paris for a three-week holiday. My first flight to Dallas from LAX was delayed an hour, then another hour, then finally cancelled. I was put on another flight—delayed! After pleading with customer service I was switched to a different flight. Missed the connecting one from Dallas so I had to stay overnight near the airport. Since my suitcase had already arrived in Paris, I had to buy my necessities at the local gas station—and I didn’t get reimbursed for anything! Finally made it to Paris a day late; luckily, my luggage was still waiting for me in baggage claim. —Glenn Castillo, West Hollywood, Calif.

Paper Chase

Lost my plane ticket home on Capri and had to travel to Rome and back in order to get a new one issued. Argh! —Yasmin Marinaro, via Facebook

Bedridden in the Big Apple

I started an around-the-world-trip in 2001. First call was New York City. Within 24 hours of arriving I was rushed to the hospital with meningitis, where I spent the next 15 nights in intensive care—I even died twice! I left with a $517,446 hospital care insurance claim. —Trevor Smith, Maidstone, England

No Way Home

After a two-week trip to New Zealand, we got to the airport and discovered that our travel agent had failed to include return tickets. We had to purchase new ones on the spot. —Jo Norris Palmore, via Facebook


Villa Magnolia

A charming 18th-century villa amid olive and almond groves. The owners— husband and wife Ron and Lesley Simon—restored the property to its former splendor, with four antiques-filled rooms.