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                                  skateboarding dog, Manly Beach, Australia
Welcome to the online home of travel columnist Donald D. Groff, who has dispensed advice  and stories since 1988 in such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Newark Star-Ledger, The Kansas City Star, Newsday, Salon, Condé Nast Traveler, Consumer Reports Travel Letter, The Boston Globe, and Endless Vacation magazine.

Travel Questions
The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Travel Questions column as it has appeared in The Inquirer ended in the Sunday travel section of Jan. 30, 2005, after 775 installments, although the column continues at this site and elsewhere. 

To the sentiments below I add my thanks to the travel editors over those 16 years: Michael Shoup, who invited me to start the column in 1989; Jack Severson; Howard Shapiro; and Ashley Halsey. I also tip my hat to former features editor Bob Greenberg and the late Ron Patel, as well as Nancy Cooney, features editor in recent years, and Tom McNamara, current Sunday editor. Many thanks, too, to Bob Caughron and the features copy desk.

A long, rewarding journey draws to a close

By Donald D. Groff
Jan. 30, 2005

Sixteen years ago I embarked on a fascinating journey of sorts, a dialogue with the readers of The Inquirer travel section. Part of that long conversation comes to an end with today's Travel Questions column.

More on that later, but first, some history. In 1989, the travel section was running a questions column provided by a features service. The editors decided it would be better to have their own columnist who responded regularly to travel questions from their own readers.

The readers agreed, and over time thousands of you have written, and still write, telling me in letters and e-mail what travel concerns are on your mind. Some questions are simple requests about cruise ports and resorts. Others address airline and hotel problems or practical matters such as how to confront jet lag and overpacking. In recent years, the frustrations of post-9/11 travel loomed large.

But often the questions reflect the larger roles that travel plays in our lives - educational, therapeutic, inspirational - and how travel propels us toward our special interests, be they art or sport or cuisine. 

They mirror how travel helps us grow and have fun, and sometimes how it helps us survive. Often, the exposed edge of humanity shows itself in your questions, as with the reader from Cinnaminson who wanted to deliver her father's ashes to his ancestral cemetery in England but worried about traveling with an urn.

From Frazer: "I am a single, 30-something female planning on going alone [to Alaska]. I am interested in a tour that will have people near my age but I am not interested in a 'singles only' tour." 

From Doylestown: "My husband has cancer and would like to travel before he becomes sicker. He has expressed an interest in Italy or England." 

From Northeast Philadelphia: "My brother is paraplegic . . . we are looking for a real good fishing resort, as the men love to fish."

"I am very anxious to have any information you can give me about Lourdes, France," pleaded a parent from Collingdale, Pa. "I wish to take my daughter there in hopes of a possible cure."

"I'm a grandparent who remembers how tough the teenage years can be," wrote a King of Prussia man. "I'd like to do something to help make it easier for my grandchildren. … Where can I find information on camps that deal with making friends, taking risks, building self esteem, and other such problems teens struggle with?"

Not only have you asked questions, but you also have sent your own responses when a column touched a subject near to you, or when you disagreed. In offering comments and posing questions, many of you have invited me into your lives, and I have been honored and humbled by that. I thank you.

It is the nature of columns like this that you cannot respond to everyone - there are too many people asking too many questions, and not enough column space or time to answer them all. Sometimes, you just don't have an answer. To the unanswered, I'm sorry about that.

Over time, some questions arise again and again. How can we rent a villa in Tuscany? How far ahead should we book a flight to get the best deal? Where can I find out about freighter travel? What's the best way to get to Newark airport, or the cruise piers in New York? How can I avoid paying a single supplement?

Some questions follow trends, as when a popular movie's scenery grips imaginations and triggers a travel itch, be it the New Zealand of Lord of the Rings, the Galapagos of Master and Commander, or the Oxfordshire of Harry Potter. 

With this column, another trend comes to bear. Budget pressures on newspapers nationwide have led to many cutbacks, and contributors find themselves in the line of fire. The editors plan to replace this column with one from a news service, and I will continue to field questions at my Web site and in other publications.

It's been a colorful and rewarding 16 years in this space, and I hope to see you elsewhere on the road of travel. Bon voyage!

This column as it appeared in The Inquirer is here.


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          Last updated: 01/30/2005