Southern California beach communities beckon

The Washington Post /

Adapted from the Flight Crew chat conducted weekly by the Travel staff of The Washington Post:

Q: I’m looking for a nice small town in Southern California where I can rent a beach house. I’m thinking of something like the Outer Banks.

A: There’s nothing like the sparsely populated Outer Banks in Southern California. OBX is a seasonal destination dominated by tourists in the summer and relatively empty during winter; most people in Southern California call it home year-round. Take a look at the beach communities north of San Diego, including Leucadia and Cardiff-by-the-Sea in Encinitas.

— Carol Sottili

Q: How early is too early to plan a trip to Disney? We’re looking at November or December 2014. If we book a hotel, we’d need a suite for my immediate family, and my in-laws do love the Disney hotels. What about renting a house?

A: I’m never of the opinion that it’s too early to plan. I don’t think you need to book just yet, although you may want to do it sooner rather than later if you’re going around Thanksgiving or Christmas. I recently stayed at a resort property for the first time, and it was pretty great. I appreciated the complimentary transportation to and from the parks and the airport. The extra hours for resort guests are nice, too. Look into the available Disney villas. Several resorts have two-room options.

— Becky Krystal

Q: After years of taking unenthusiastic children to cities with amazing art museums, I’ve been forced to admit that they just don’t enjoy painting and sculpture. Can you recommend any barbecue tours? Bonus points if there’s a baseball or science museum, or if we could travel part of the route by train.

A: Go to Memphis. See a Redbirds game. Eat at Three Little Pigs, Leonard’s, Tom’s, Payne’s, Central, Cozy Corner, Charlie Vergo’s — so many more. You’ll have your pick of science museums at the Pink Palace Family of Museums: Sharpe Planetarium, Coon Creek Science Center, Lichterman Nature Center.

As for traveling part of the route by train: Fly to Chicago or New Orleans, spend a night or two, and then take the City of New Orleans Amtrak to Memphis. Do an open-jaw plane ticket and fly back from Memphis, or get back on the train.

— Joe Yonan

Q: We’re considering traveling to Cancun but are concerned because of stories about drug trafficking and a group of women tourists getting raped. How risky is travel to a Mexican resort?

A: Go, and don’t worry. The rapes occurred in Acapulco, 1,200 miles from Cancun. Use your common sense, and don’t hang out in seedy bars or neighborhoods. If you stay in the main resort areas, you’ll be safe.

— Carol Sottili

Q: I’ll be passing through Tokyo for a few days. What shouldn’t I miss?

A: Go to Tsukiji Fish Market early one morning to see the auction and all the crazy seafood, then have sushi for breakfast at one of the attached places — it’s the freshest I’ve ever had.

— Joe Yonan

Q: Do you have any off-the-beaten-path suggestions for a couple of days in San Francisco in early April?

A: Get your hands on my favorite guidebook to the city, “Stairway Walks in San Francisco.” I was so charmed by it, I ended up spending the day with the author, Adah Bakalinsky, walking some of the hundreds of public stairways that connect various streets and alleys in this oh-so-hilly city. You end up seeing things you would never have seen.

— Joe Yonan

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