We want to see the ‘real’ America

A family holiday in the US without Disneyland; a big house near a UK airport; a singles hotel on Rhodes; no compensation for flight delay

Q We are a family of four with children aged ten and eight and are trying to book a holiday to the US next year to celebrate a special birthday. We would love to see some of the real America, avoiding Disney and theme parks. We would like to see some sights, enjoy being outdoors and our budget is about £7,000.
The Whitaker family, via email

A How about a couple of days’ sightseeing in Washington DC, followed by a few days in Shenandoah National Park and a visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as having a go at riding, kayaking and tubing? From here you could head to Virginia Beach for hydro-biking and the Virginia Aquarium, which offers dolphin and whale-spotting excursions. The final stop could be the living museum that is Williamsburg, which also has a treetop adventure park within easy reach. American Sky (01342 889127, americansky.co.uk) could offer this 11-night itinerary from about £6,500 for a family of four next year including flights, SUV hire (excluding Washington DC) and hotel stays on a room-only basis for two adults and two children sharing. Alternatively, you could book a fly-drive from Boston along the New England coastline to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, stopping at Plimoth Plantation, another living-history museum, that tells the story of the Mayflower settlers. Prices start at £449pp, excluding flights but including car hire, accommodation and ferry crossings through American Affair (020 3424 6514, americanaffair.com).

Q I shall be 80 next year and would like to celebrate with my family: 19 people aged from 88 to 6. Some will be coming from New Zealand and Canada, as well as from the UK. I should like to take them all for a weekend in early September to a hotel or a large house with staff to do the cooking. Golf near by, a pool for the little ones and something to entertain the teenagers would be good. I hope to get away with less than £5,000.
Judith Eiloart, via email

A If some of the family are flying in from the other side of the world, it would make sense to base your celebrations not too far from an airport. Ridge Farm (thebigdomain.com) is a beautiful 16th-century house near Dorking in Surrey (20 minutes from Gatwick) that used to be a recording studio. It sleeps up to 24 in 12 bedrooms and has a swimming pool, hot tub and tennis court as well as plenty of golf on the doorstep. Catering can easily be arranged and two nights in September costs £3,750. Or you might consider the Runnymede-on-Thames hotel (runnymedehotel.com) near Heathrow, which has a great location on the banks of the Thames (plus boats for hire for picnics or parties), indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, tennis courts and golf near by. Double rooms start at about £145, half-board.

Q I have just spent a week at a hotel in Crete, which was exclusively for single people. It was perfect. I loved the freedom to do whatever I wanted during the day and the guaranteed company of other guests for an evening drink and dinner. Do other singles hotels exist? I would love to visit a warm Aegean or Mediterranean coastal location.
Jennifer Renshaw, via email

A Try Friendship Travel (0844 8002770, friendshiptravel.com), which runs house parties where it books all, or the vast majority, of rooms in a hotel for single travellers and employs a host to ensure that no one feels left out. Caesar’s Gardens near Lindos on Rhodes is one of its most popular house-party spots and it has a pool, mature gardens and an outdoor spa. A week this summer starts at £920pp, including flights, daily breakfast and afternoon tea, five dinners and a barbecue lunch.

Don’t put up with this: No compensation for flight delay

My husband and I went to South America for a two-week holiday booked with Saga Holidays. We arrived at Heathrow to be told that our onward flight from Sao Paulo to Santiago had been cancelled and there would be a five-hour wait in Sao Paulo. Another flight was cancelled en route to Iguazu Falls; the delay was for three hours; the Saga tour manager obtained lunch for the group and vouchers to the value of $75 (£58) each from LAN Airlines. We were unable to cash them in South America so on our return I contacted customer services and was told that our account would be credited with $150 (£116) within two weeks. It wasn’t. I asked Saga to help but it said it couldn’t — although it offered a £75 discount off a future holiday.
Delia Ricketts, via email

Saga told me that airlines will deal only with claims from passengers, not tour operators on their behalf. It did, however, try to contact LAN. “We were disappointed that we were unable to help. The Ricketts have accepted a goodwill cash payment of £150,” said a spokesman, who added: “We are also reviewing our contacts with LAN to ensure smoother communications so that issues are resolved quickly.”

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