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Published July 23, 2013, 12:52 PM

If you've got cabin fever, Virginia's the place

Q: I have a week off in August and would like to drive up into the mountains and rent a cabin (not too rustic) for at least part of the time. Can you offer any advice to help me start my search?

By: Washington Post, INFORUM

Q: I have a week off in August and would like to drive up into the mountains and rent a cabin (not too rustic) for at least part of the time. Can you offer any advice to help me start my search?

A: Take a look at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Va. It's always been a popular place for woodsy vacationing. The Virginia state parks (www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/) also have a good system of cabins and lodging.

_ Zofia Smardz

Q: Four adults and three kids (ages 6-9) are looking for a fun trip to celebrate a 75th birthday. Any great suggestions? Disney is too far and expensive, and Williamsburg has been done.

A: Wintergreen is a nice four-season resort with lots of activities for kids.

_ Carol Sottili

Q: We'll be visiting family mid-August in western Massachusetts. We have a 2-year-old and would like to find a one-night stopover to extend our trip a bit.

A: If your little one is at all familiar with “Sesame Street,” then Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa., would be the stop for you! It's a chance for your youngster to meet all those wonderful “Sesame Street” characters in person. And if you love Big Bird and Oscar and Cookie Monster as much as, ahem, some adults do, you may have a grand time, too.

_ Zofia Smardz

Q: I bought Allianz insurance for the air for a trip to India. The trip was canceled because the weather and seas for a portion of it were dangerous. I expected Allianz to honor this reason, but it wasn't a named peril in the insurance agreement, so the company didn't. Be aware that except for death, medical emergencies and similar issues, many of the general things that can go wrong aren't covered.

A: Thank you for the warning. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common problem. Travel insurance usually has to say that something is covered (a so-called “named peril”) in order for it to work. But you can also buy a “cancel for any reason” policy that pays a percentage of the cost of the trip.

_ Christopher Elliott

Q: My wife and I are considering driving to various national parks in the West and Southwest for 10 days. My wife is ambulatory but unable to hike. Which parks would you suggest for late September or early October?

A: Unless you want to spend a lot of time driving, you should probably limit yourself to one or two parks. The Grand Canyon is a good choice for those with mobility issues. Yellowstone also has many accessible attractions, and it's close to Grand Teton National Park and the town of Jackson, Wyo.

_ Carol Sottili

Q: How does “loss of use” work with rental cars? I understand that if the car is damaged, the company can charge you full rental fees while it's out of service. But if the company has unused cars sitting on its lots, having one in the shop isn't costing it any revenue. What prevents the company from pulling a car out of service for as long as possible? Open-ended “loss of use” seems like an invitation to fraud.

A: I've had long arguments with car rental companies over “loss of use.” Basically, rental companies believe that they can charge you for the days a car was in the repair shop, as if it was rented. This assumes that the car would have been rented the entire time, and they don't need to prove it. The good news: If you protest a loss-of-use charge, a company will almost always remove it from your bill.

_ Christopher Elliott

Q: What type of bag or wallet do you guys use to carry your money and valuables when traveling? I like the convenience of fanny packs but always shy away from them because I feel as if one makes me even more of a target for thieves. I've seen the belt wallet, too, which doesn't seem friendly for women, and bra wallets don't look that convenient, either.

A: I've spoken with security experts who tell me (as a guy) that I can significantly reduce my chances of being pickpocketed by carrying my wallet in my front pocket. The back pocket is called the “sucker” pocket. I've also seen various kinds of money belts, neckwear and undergarments that purport to protect your valuables. There are two problems. First, access. Do you have to remove your clothes to get your money or credit cards? Second, if you're being held at gunpoint, the bad guy will find a way to remove your valuables. One tip I like is carrying a “dummy” wallet or purse, with a little cash and expired credit cards. If it'sstolen, no great loss.

_ Christopher Elliott

Q: We're coming up on the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism. Are there any East European sites connected to these events that you would recommend visiting?

A: Head to Berlin and the site of Checkpoint Charlie — the former crossing point between East and West Berlin — which is now a museum of the Wall and its ultimate fall. There's a replica of the American guardhouse, the original of which is now at the Allied Museum in Dahlem, also worth a visit for its exhibits on the Cold War. There's also the DDR Museum in the former East German government district, and the Stasi Museum, in the former headquarters of the East German secret police. In Poland, the Gdansk Shipyard is still a working yard, but the gate that Lech Walesa scaled to set off the Solidarity movement is a place of pilgrimage. So is the Lennon Wall in Prague, the site of dissident activities under the communists in the former Czechoslovakia.

_ Zofia Smardz

Q: After Labor Day, are any of the regular summer features (e.g. Jacob's Pillow) still operating in the Berkshires?

A: Post-Labor Day is an excellent time to visit the Berkshires, as the crowds have lessened and the weather is gorgeous. But the incomparable Jacob's Pillow is a seasonal dance festival, and this year it runs through the weekend of Aug. 24-25. Tanglewood wraps up Sept. 1. And the Williamstown Theatre Festival runs through Aug. 18. But there's lots more to do there than just the summer performing-arts festivals.

_ Joe Yonan

Q: My family and I (which includes two boys, 5 and 2) will be in Montreal next month. Any suggestions for things to do with the little ones?

A: You can't beat the Espace Pour la Vie (Space for Life) museums for entertaining the little ones: Insectarium, Biodome, Planetarium, Botanical Garden. Walking around the Old Port area can be fun with kids: There are usually face painters, musicians, magicians, etc. If the kiddos have tons of energy, you might take everybody up to the glorious Mount Royal park for outdoor fun and great views.

_ Joe Yonan

Q: Mom, Dad and tweenage daughter are going to Dallas in mid-August. Our schedule is set for the first two days, and we'll extend for an additional three. Mom wants to go to San Antonio, Dad wants to go to Austin. The tweenager is happy either way. Can we visit both cities, or should we pick one?

A: I'd go to Austin, staying there for the whole extension, but taking a day trip to San Antonio.

_ Joe Yonan

Q: My stepsister's wedding is in Phoenix over Veterans Day weekend. What fare should I be looking for?

A: Weekends that include federal holidays are often more expensive. If you want to fly nonstop, it'll be even more expensive — plan on at least $400 round trip, but probably higher.

_ Carol Sottili

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