We used to dream of where we could go, but now our dreams come with a postscript.
Explore California, the West and beyond with the weekly Escapes newsletter from travel editor Catharine Hamm.
For the last few years, travel writer Christopher Reynolds has studied, sorted and fretted over a year-opener list of places he thinks will tickle our readers’ fancies. But increasingly, we also think readers should know that some of their fantasies come with fantastic downsides.
My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. My colleagues and I offer our suggestions of places to consider and places to reconsider or put off for a while, and we offer the backstory on making those decisions. We also tell you how to travel like the 1 percenters, even if you’re a 99 percenter, and we share a celebration of Julia Child and discounts at Disneyland.
We also toast some new craft-beer places in Las Vegas and — you might want a drink before you read this — reveal a new problem in the Real ID process. And in the End paper, which comes, not surprisingly, at the end, I applaud my new community of kindred spirits who wrote to share some of their most doofus-y travel mistakes.
For your consideration
Choosing destinations we think you’ll love involves a little more than opening an atlas and saying, “Hey, whaddya think about this place?” Christopher Reynolds’ list is always a model of thoughtfulness infused with a spirit of adventure. That one is sort of fun to do.
But increasingly, we find places that are being loved to death. We want to see the Louvre, lay eyes on Santorini and glory in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Just not right now.
“Choosing for our ‘reconsider’ list was tough, in part because there’s such a mix of objective and subjective measures involved when thinking about ‘overtourism,’ and in part because so many destinations seem to qualify, one way or another,” Reynolds said in an email. Dubbing something overtouristed is tricky, he said, “because there’s no widely respected international entity measuring overtourism in a consistent way.”
Joining the upper classes
I always glance longingly at the first- and business-class seats as I’m headed to cattle, um, I mean coach class. But George Hobica, the founder of Airfarewatchdog who loves to travel and save money (and help others do the same), shares his best tips on how to elevate yourself to first or biz without spending a fortune.
Take a train instead
Amtrak is having a two-for-one sale that ends Jan. 12, Mary Forgione writes. On select routes, including the Coast Starlight between L.A. and Seattle, and the Southwest Chief, between L.A. and Chicago, you can take a trip and your pal can travel for free (or you can do the fair thing and split the cost of the ticket).
Celebrating life’s pleasures in Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara Culinary Experience isn’t until March 13-15, but tickets go on sale Jan. 21 and usually sell out quickly. The event pays homage to chef Julia Child, a Pasadena native who spent her last years in the American Riviera. She wasn’t above an In-n-Out burger, Mary Forgione writes, or a stop at the Costco food court or helping us learn to make the perfect coq au vin, which is why she will always be America’s chef.
A little glitch in the Real ID process
If you don’t know this already, I love our readers. You help us help everyone when you share your stories.
That’s what happened when Marsha Wilson wrote to us to say her passport wouldn’t scan when she went to apply for her Real ID, the federally compliant driver’s license that you’ll need to board domestic flights starting Oct. 1. (You can also use a passport or certain other documents, but a driver’s license is pretty convenient to carry.) Read what the California DMV said and how that differs from what the State Department told us.
A discounted Disneyland experience? Yes!
SoCal residents, and some from neighboring Baja, California, can get in for just $67 — can you believe it? Well, it’s true, mostly, if you buy a pack of three park tickets for separate visits for $199 between now and May 21. If you bought them separately, they’d cost as much as $149, Mary Forgione writes. Saving money in the happiest place on earth? That makes us even happier.
Good times brewing in Vegas
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The Arts District in Las Vegas is home to some craft-beer places that take your suds well beyond the “just-get me-a-cold-one” experience, David Klein reports. It’s also a quieter experience, which, after a few hours or more in Vegas, is often welcome. I’d go for the Shower Sour and stay for the Golden Knight, which just happens to share a name with the Cinderella Vegas hockey team.
What we’re reading
And I thought journalists, who eat stress for breakfast, were tough. But that’s nothing compared with Castillo de San Marcos, a national monument that still stands in St. Augustine, Fla., more than three centuries after it was built, Lina Zeldovich writes for Atlas Obscura. In 1702, the Spanish still ruled the area; the English wanted it for their own, so they began to bombard the fort with cannon fire. Instead of destroying the walls, the balls appeared to be “eaten” by the walls. Turns out the walls were made of coquina, “sedimentary rock formed from compressed shells of dead marine organisms,” Zeldovich explains. It has foamlike qualities that let the walls absorb but not crack.
A Marriott in Portland, Ore., is being sued because an African American guest was required to sign a policy acknowledging “no parties” while white guests were not, the Associated Press reported. Felicia Gonzales is suing for $300,000 and may later ask for $1 million in punitive damages. Marriott said it does not comment on pending litigation.
Are airports the new mall? Possibly. We know about the incredible Changi Airport in Singapore, a destination unto itself. And we’ve seen how many airports are capitalizing on being home to second locations of popular local restaurants, including some establishments so popular that while you may not be able to get a reservation in the city, you often can at the airport. That has led several airports to let people who aren’t flying go beyond the gate — including, Harriet Baskas writes, Detroit. Laura Ash, writing for Simple Flying, talks about airports that are home to cultural festivals (Hong Kong and Amsterdam’s Schiphol), a dentist office and an aquarium (Vancouver) and more. There’s nothing like a captive audience.
Your new year’s reading list
You don’t have to compile a reading list; we’ve done it for you! Here’s what we hope you’ll be reading:
•This newsletter and others, which you can receive free of charge in a host of flavors and topics.
•The L.A. Times. Like a custom-tailored outfit, it’s a perfect fit, but it won’t cost you anywhere near what you’d pay for clothing that so reflects your tastes and needs. The L.A. Times is made for you. Give it a try.
•Your email to us. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, then reread it. (If you’re annoyed, maybe wait a few minutes before the reread.) But do let us know how we can serve you better. We thank you.
As the old year closed and the new year opened, I wrote a recap of some of the more spectacular miscues of my 2019 travels. In return, readers shared some of their mistakes. You’ll see some of them online Saturday and in print on L2 on Sunday. Until then, I want to share a bit more and one other important thing.
One traveler and her family landed in the Dominican Republic after a flight delay. It was dark. They were in an unfamiliar car on unfamiliar roads — and there was no cell service, so the GPS wasn’t working. (Oh, and apparently rental cars in the Dominican Republic don’t come with full tanks of gas … or any gas, for that matter.)
Asking strangers for directions turned out to be ineffective because, as many of us have learned over the years, direction givers are like witnesses to a crime: not always reliable, except maybe the one who told them they shouldn’t be asking for locations on dark roads.
From a hotel lobby (not theirs), the woman — we’ll call her Penny, because that’s her name — got a Wi-Fi signal and sent a message to the hotel where they were supposed to be. “Urgent,” it said. “We are totally lost.” With a combination of Wi-Fi and gut instinct, the hotel owner tracked them down. Penny was lucky and also frustrated that she hadn’t printed a copy of the directions to the hotel before she left home.
Many readers who responded emphasized the importance of paper — for schedules, directions, reservations, etc. I told reader Larry Ishii I like to think of myself as a digital dynamo but am pretty sure I’m not. He assured me that anyone can lose track of a reservation (which I had) and recommended paper as a primary info source. “It really works for me,” he said. “I always know where my info is.” Use technology, he said, as a backup.
Dr. James Mitchell has traveled to “the far corners of the Earth,” he said, and has made almost every mistake outlined in that column. “I have learned from them,” he wrote. “Nonetheless, for me, the reminder to be vigilant is appreciated. For the novice traveler, it is essential.”
Laura Newman has a secret weapon: a turquoise zippered travel document case in which she keeps everything. The color makes it easy to see. She also has copies of “passports, itinerary and flights, etc., that go into our luggage,” she wrote. Another of her suggestions: Take screenshots of websites you need to remember.
And so much more. Here’s what was remarkable about these notes: Many tried to reassure me that I wasn’t alone and didn’t need to be placed in a home for the criminally stupid. One reader said it was brave to expose my weaknesses; some felt guilty, I think, about laughing at them (but I didn’t mind a bit).
Here’s the best lesson I learned: Yes, I humiliated myself. But I am among friends.
Thank you, readers, for your ongoing support as we make our way through the world.
And besides my ongoing thanks for your kind attention and intentions, I want to wish you safe and carefree travels and to promise you that we will always be here to welcome you home.