Tripologist: Smart money on Louisville

Horse-play ... punters at the Kentucky Derby.
Horse-play ... punters at the Kentucky Derby. Photo: AFP

I want to attend the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 4-5 next year. Accommodation prices are massively inflated. I would rather not stay in a Motel 6 or similar. What are my options? More importantly, what would you do in this situation?

B. Johnstone, Hamilton Island, Qld.

Hotels cash in on the Kentucky Derby by ramping up their room rates, so try private bed-and-breakfast-style accommodation. Go to Air BnB (airbnb.com), type ‘‘Kentucky Derby’’ into the search field and you’ll find close to 20 listings, mostly pretty decent, starting from $US40 ($36.80) a night.

The Downtown Penthouse Aerie from $US65 a night looks like a bargain to me – as long as you don’t mind the cat. If you want something a little more Gone with the Wind, take a look at the Louisville properties on bedandbreakfast.com . The neoclassical Columbine Bed & Breakfast – within walking distance of the derby and the Speed Art Museum – gets my vote.

For richer or poorer, a Siena stroll is a fine detour

My husband and I are planning a trip at the end of August/early September to visit our son in the US. We also plan to fly to Italy for a week to celebrate our anniversary. Would it be best to spend the whole time in Rome or only three to four days and try to see other parts of the country? Do you have suggestions of where else we could go, stay and what would be the best way of getting there? I have heard there are certain places in Europe that give discounts for those aged over 60.

S. Jacobs, Camden, NSW.

If your passions include history, architecture, religious art or sitting around in glamorous places watching beautifully dressed people stroll by, you could easily spend the entire week in Rome. On the other hand, it would be rewarding to vary your Roman diet with something a little different, in which case my pick would be Siena.

Built across three hills, this walled, mediaeval Tuscan city has a rich treasury of sights you can absorb just by strolling around. Among the most invigorating is the giant, scallop-shaped Piazza del Campo, pictured, one of the loveliest Italian squares and scene of the Palio, a lunatic bareback horse race that featured in the opening scenes of the James Bond film Quantum of Solace. The fastest trains make the journey from Rome to Siena in a little more than three hours.

Available to travellers over 60 from Trenitalia (the Italian national rail network), the Carta d’Argento costs €30 ($40) and entitles the holder to a discount of 10 per cent on sleepers and couchettes, 15 per cent on the base fares on all national trains and 25 per cent on international connections. Most museums offer discounted admission prices for visitors over 60 but only for EU citizens.

For accommodation, you might try Worldwide Accom (worldwide-accom.com), which is operated by former Melburnians and specialises in Roman apartment rentals at reasonable prices. You can contact them on (03) 9018 6632.

Power to all the people

We are a family of four travelling to England, France and Italy via Singapore in September. We will be taking an iPad, iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, cameras with rechargeable batteries, battery charger, hair dryer and probably more. What is the best way to power and charge these devices, bearing in mind the various plugs and voltages as well as limited luggage space? Would an Australian power board with plug adaptors work?

M. Edwards, Sydney

You can buy a single multi-adaptor at just about any airport and frequently from the duty-free catalogue on board international flights. This handy little device will allow you to charge an Australian-plugged device from a wall socket throughout Europe, Britain and in Singapore. An Australian powerboard will come in handy if you want to charge multiple devices simultaneously, and in your case I would recommend it.

If someone in your party can’t use the hair dryer because someone else is using the single socket of the adaptor to power up their iPhone, tantrums might ensue. You don’t need to worry about voltages but you might want to guard against unwanted data usage on those smartphones. It’s easy to get caught out and the costs are huge.

If in doubt, put your phone in flight mode and you can still use

Wi-Fi services without having to worry about receiving unwanted mobile and radio data signals. You may have to configure the iPhone and iPad by enabling Wi-Fi access in conjunction with flight mode.

See a broker if condition applies

I can afford travel insurance but I have been diagnosed with a terminal disease and am still undergoing chemotherapy. No one is interested in providing me with insurance. My specialist has given me approval to travel. I have paid for a trip to Hawaii in a few months’ time and I have tried 10 or more insurers online, but I am constantly knocked back because I don’t meet their guidelines. Do you have suggestions? Is there an insurer that will give people like me a fair go?

D. Knovac, Kurri Kurri, NSW.

You can obtain insurance to cover loss of baggage, personal liability and the other standard inclusions covered in a travel insurance policy but since your chemotherapy is continuing, obtaining cover for any claim that might arise from your pre-existing medical condition is going to be a problem.

Although there are many different travel insurance underwriters, they all use the same small pool of medical providers. It is these medical providers who assess whether you are eligible for cover, which is possibly the reason why you are getting the same answer from several different insurers.

You could try asking your travel agent to find an insurer or go to an insurance broker – it is their job to find insurance tailored to your specific needs. You can find a list of insurance brokers at NIBA’s needabroker page (niba.com.au /html/need-a-broker.cfm).

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