The Tripologist

MY HUSBAND AND I (AGED 73 AND 74) ARE GOING TO EUROPE ON A RIVER CRUISE NEXT YEAR. IT IS AN ESCORTED TRIP FLYING BUSINESS CLASS. WE ARE BOTH IN GOOD HEALTH AND ARE VERY ACTIVE BUT TRAVEL INSURERS SEEM TO TREAT THE OVER 70S DIFFERENTLY. WHAT HAPPENED TO "70 IS THE NEW 50"?

V. DYBALL, MANNING POINT

It's true, travel insurers do put over 70s into a different category from younger travellers. The reason is people in this age group are more likely to make a claim, either for medical treatment while they're away or for a holiday cancellation due to health reasons.

However, insurers also recognise there is a wide divergence of health and fitness levels within this group. They will require a medical assessment that will most likely include a check-up from your GP.

Travellers who have a pre-existing medical condition might have to jump through a few more hoops and likely pay a higher premium, but if you're active, healthy and free from pre-existing medical conditions, the insurer should recognise that, and issue a policy at a competitive price. You might apply to several insurers simultaneously, there's no charge, and see who offers the best deal.

WE ARE A FAMILY OF FIVE (THE KIDS ARE SIX, FOUR AND TWO) TRAVELLING TO EAST BELGIUM IN AUGUST 2014. WE WOULD LIKE TO RENT A SELF-CATERING HOUSE IN NORTHERN FRANCE FOR ONE WEEK, SOMEWHERE ACCESSIBLE BY TRAIN FROM EAST BELGIUM AND ON TO PARIS/LONDON. IDEALLY, A QUIET, QUINTESSENTIAL FRENCH VILLAGE WITH PARKS AND GARDENS, WHERE WE CAN WALK TO THE MARKET AND THE PUBLIC POOL. DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS OF REGIONS, AND RECOMMENDED WEBSITES? DO WE NEED TO BE AWARE OF PITFALLS WHEN RENTING A PROPERTY IN FRANCE AT THIS TIME OF YEAR?

T. MORGAN, VALENTINE NSW

Sounds like Brittany is going to be the sweet spot but this is a tall order. France is the most visited nation on the planet and August is prime time. Most of these visitors are looking for somewhere quiet and quintessentially French, with parks, gardens and a market where a moustachioed, beret-wearing man called Jean-Claude sells cheese made from his family's goats. One website that does a great job finding accommodation in this region is Alastair Sawday's (sawdays.co.uk), which lists such tantalising properties as Le Toulinet, a painterly retreat right on the beach, or Tor ar Menez, a stone cottage in a lovely garden on the Crozon Peninsula. Chez Nous (cheznous.com) and French Country Cottages (fcc.net.au) are a couple of other sites worth investigating.

Self-contained accommodation within villages is scarce. You'll increase your chances of finding something suitable if you hire a car and you could easily do this from a major train station within the region. A vehicle will also make it a whole lot easier to transport the vin de pays, the baguettes, the saucisson and all the other stuff from the market, including Jean-Claude's cheese.

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WE ARE TRAVELLING TO TURKEY AND THE GREEK ISLANDS NEXT JULY, FLYING TO ISTANBUL AND GETTING BUSES DOWN THE WEST COAST OF TURKEY VIA GALLIPOLI, THEN FERRY FROM NEAR SAMOS TO MYKONOS, SANTORINI, CRETE THEN FLY TO ATHENS. WE WILL BOOK ACCOMMODATION ON THE GREEK ISLANDS NOW. ARE WE OK TO TAKE FERRIES AS WE GO? OR SHOULD WE BOOK THEM NOW, TOO? SHOULD WE ALSO BOOK ACCOMMODATION IN TURKEY NOW?

N. LLOYD, BRISBANE

Since you're planning to book your accommodation now, you might as well book your ferry travel. You're getting into peak season and these are very popular islands. As well as carrying large numbers of passengers, if ferry services are restricted and you don't have a booking, you could find yourself at the back end of a long queue. The faster services aboard catamarans and hydrofoils tend to be the first to fill during busy periods. You should be able to make bookings through Greece Ferries (greeceferries.com), although there are several other ferry booking sites on the internet. The same applies to accommodation in Turkey, book now.


CONVERSATION: OVER TO YOU ...

The question was, "What do you believe the seat-recline protocol should be when you fly?"

"I fly to Europe every year and the protocol I follow if seated in economy is to only recline once the food service has completely finished and trays collected," writes K. Brown. "If I am not sleeping I don't recline."

"Maybe the airlines could rejig," writes C. Jones. "Halve the incline limit or provide a bigger pitch - or sell seat wedges so passengers can elect to prevent the seat in front from reclining at all."

"I believe no one should recline their seat to the extent that the person behind them has difficulty moving in their seat or seeing their video screen," according to S. Painting. "For someone with claustrophobia this is extremely difficult. I am always relieved when the cabin staff tell them to put their seat upright at mealtimes."

D. Kemp writes " I must vote in favour of being able to control my chair except for take off, landing and during meal service. After two knee replacements and a multiple spinal fusion I cannot sit upright for any extended period of time. The seats do recline and therefore I feel justified in taking advantage of one of the few concessions to comfort that the airlines offer."

Next question: What was the highlight of your travels in 2013? Send a response, or your travel question, to tripologist@fairfaxmedia.com.au. All published responses will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.

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