Tripologist: the highlights of Hawaii for a family of five-O

We are a family of five (two adults, three teens) on our first trip to Hawaii and would like assistance with itinerary suggestions. We like to swim, snorkel, take road trips and hike on our holidays and we want to take advantage of the touristy offerings in Waikiki. Our preference is to stay in condos where possible. Budget is about $250 a night. Ideally we would like to see three islands (Oahu and two more) but not sure in what order, which islands and which airports to fly in and out of.
- M. Gilbert, Carlingford.

"I suggest that you check out Aston Hotels and Resorts," says Rebecca Wall of Hawaii Tourism Oceania. "They have condominium properties on the four main islands all for under $250 a night in low season. Outrigger Hotels and Resorts and Condominium Rentals Hawaii also have some great properties available."

Leave Oahu until last as you don't want to be carrying your shopping around with you. At least five nights on any of the islands will give you time to relax and explore. The islands of Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island are all so different, so you should go to the Hawaiian Islands website to find out which would suit you best.

On Kauai I would suggest Lihue Airport, on Maui, Kahului Airport and on Oahu, Honolulu Airport. For Hawaii Island, fly into Hilo Airport to explore the volcano for a day or two and then make your way over to the west side of the island for the remainder of your stay and fly out of Kona Airport. Except for Oahu, make sure that you hire a car.

Plane flights or train sights?

We are two couples and have booked a river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. We intend to fly into Venice and have a few days there before we travel to Budapest for the cruise. We would prefer not to fly but travel by train. Information we have is that it is an overnight trip for €190 ($220) a couple, first class, however any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.
- G. Hall, Bonnet Bay

I'm getting a price of $292 a person in a two-berth first-class sleeper on the overnight train from Venice to Budapest from Rail Plus.

This is about $90 more than the cheapest flight I can find between the two cities using Momondo but the train would be my choice because this is not a direct flight. With a flight time of more than eight hours, the 14-hour train ride is far preferable. The fastest direct flight, with Austrian Airlines, is priced at $601. The train will also save the cost of a night's accommodation.

The train departs at 9.05pm from Venice's Santa Lucia Station and gets to Vienna at 8.22am, where you have about 90 minutes before your next train for the 2½-hour journey to Budapest. You can purchase your tickets in advance either from the Rail Plus website or by phone on 1300 555 003.

Banking on internet safety in hotels and cafes

We are going to France for 10 weeks and we will be taking our laptop to access our bank accounts to make payments and cash transfers. Last year in France we could use the internet in the local libraries and internet cafes, but we are unsure how secure this is for banking. How can we access the internet - securely - in France and other European countries from our own computer?
- N. Niven, Forresters Beach

Ask any IT expert about this and they will tell you the horrors that lurk when you go online over a public access network to log into your bank account or check your email. This is like asking a policeman where it's safe to cross the road. Most of us break the rules, cross where we shouldn't, and mostly we manage to make it to the other side unscathed.

Complicated passwords and encrypted sites, such as those used by most banks, are just a couple of the strategies to help you to safeguard your data. However this is a big topic and there are plenty of articles on the internet that will tell you how to build a firewall around you when you are online and travelling. Most of them involve a fair degree of geek-speak but if you Google "kugler pcworld travel secure" you should find an article by Logan Kugler with several practical tips, written in plain English.

Probably the most obvious pitfall to avoid is any wi-fi service that does not require a password. Such open networks make it easy for anyone with malign intent to install malware on your computer that will record every keystroke. Any place where large numbers of people gather to use wi-fi internet, such as airports or popular cafes, are a logical feeding zone for anyone looking to harvest information from your laptop. Computers installed in an internet cafe should never be used to access any information that you do not want the world to see.

Based on my own recent travels in France, even most small and cheap hotels seem to offer wi-fi access, usually free of charge, and within the confines of your hotel room you are fairly secure.

Good time for Italy debut?

My husband and I, along with our two sons, aged 13 and 19, are planning a 20-day trip to Italy in late November, our first trip to Europe. We plan to fly to Rome for five days then catch a train to Naples, staying four to five days, then to Sicily for five days and finally to Malta for our last five days. Are we trying to do too much or not enough? We do not want to rush our first taste of Italy and thought it would be best to head south in November. We are independent travellers and enjoy doing our own thing. Any suggestions appreciated.
- S. Bracken, Kellyville.

Don't change a thing. You have a generous amount of time to take in the highlights of Rome and explore some of the capital's lesser-known wonders. In late November the city will be relatively tourist-free, hotels prices will be keen and the waiters polite.

Naples is a gorgeous city that far too many visitors overlook and you can catch ferries to explore Capri and the Amalfi coast. Sicily is a great idea. Spend a day at least in Taormina and climb Mount Etna if you possibly can. Malta is a jewel, although three days would be enough. You might spend an extra couple of days in Sicily, possibly visiting the Aeolian Islands.

A guidebook will help you sort out your sightseeing priorities and either Lonely Planet or Eyewitness would be a good choice. You'll need a hire car in Sicily. In Rome I'd recommend either Hotel Sonya, which is within walking distance of the Termini train station, or the Yes Hotel.


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