The best way to travel from Vladivostok to Tokyo

Sights around Sakaiminato, October sun, and a three-night break over Christmas with winter activities

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Q We will be taking a ferry from Vladivostok in Russia to Sakaiminato in Japan in November. We arrive at midday on a Thursday. Is it possible to travel to Tokyo by train later the same day, or would it be advisable to stay in Sakaiminato overnight and travel the next day?
Anita and John Lancaster, via email

A It’s a long train journey — about seven hours — but doable in the afternoon or evening. The journey would be split almost half and half between Japan Railways and the Bullet train, and in November you should be fine to turn up without a booking (check timetables on www.hyperdia.com). It would be a shame, however, to miss out on some great parts of Japan by skipping straight through. There are fantastic, rarely visited sites near Sakaiminato, such as Matsue Castle, one of only 12 medieval castles in Japan, about an hour away. Or if you wanted to travel part of the way in the right direction and stop off, you could visit the sand dunes in Tottori prefecture and ride a camel. You might also consider breaking the journey with an overnight stay in Kyoto at a ryokan with a hot spring.

Q We are looking for a holiday in October with our son, daughter-in-law and their girls, who will be eighteen months and five months. We would like somewhere warm enough for beach activities and with good accommodation. We had thought about Cyprus, but our main concern is guaranteed good weather and a flight time of no more than five hours.
Susie Braid, via email

A Cyprus (a 4½hr flight) is an excellent choice for October; it will still be warm, but not too hot for babies and toddlers. If you’re looking for pampering, the Anassa is the place to stay — book with Scott Dunn (scottdunn.co.uk) and you get access to its Explorers club, which offers childcare from four months and older. A week’s half-board, plus flights and transfers, would cost £10,665. If that is too eye-watering, you might consider Tenerife (four hours away and an average temperature of 23C in October) and the Roca Nivaria resort in Costa Adeje. It has two heated children’s pools, plus a kids’ club for children aged ten months and over. A week’s half-board in a sea-view junior suite and twin room, with flights and transfers, starts at £3,240 through Thomson (thomson.co.uk).

Q My husband and l would like a three-night break over Christmas somewhere with snow. Our budget is tiny — £250 each — and that has to include all meals and travel. A traditional hotel in an old town or village with one or two winter activities would be great.
Yvonne Clark, via email

A I couldn’t find an all-inclusive, snowy Christmas break for £250pp, but if you can stretch to £299pp, and will settle for scenic rather than snowy, National Holidays (0844 4779990, nationalholidays.com) has a four-night Moselle Christmas Celebration coach tour leaving on December 23 and based at Hotel Fuhrmann on the riverbank in Ellenz-Poltersdorf, Germany. The price includes half-board and lunch on Christmas Day. For £404pp you could sign up for Shearings’ (0844 8246351; shearings.com) six-night Austrian lakes coach tour, which would offer a better chance of a white Christmas. The first and last nights are spent in Liège (in Belgium) and you’d have four nights in St Georgen im Attergau, staying at the Attergauhof, a traditional, family-run hotel. Visits to Bad Ischl and Hallstatt are on the itinerary and you’d celebrate Christmas Day at the hotel. The price includes half-board and the excursions.

Don’t put up with this: Penalty to switch holiday from Turkey

We are a family of five and on July 13 booked a holiday through Travel Republic to Belek in Turkey with Thomson Airways. The failed coup happened a couple of days later. We told Travel Republic our concerns about the safety of a holiday in Turkey, especially for our severely disabled daughter. If anything happened, we couldn’t just get a car and go to the airport. We asked if our flights could be moved to another destination, such as Tenerife, and Thomson agreed, but the administration fee is 70 per cent of the cost of flights. The flights cost about £2,000.
Ian Talbot, via email

Travel companies are not obliged to offer free cancellation or a destination switch unless the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against travel; nevertheless, I would have hoped Thomson would have been more sympathetic. After my intervention, it reviewed your case and you have now been able to switch flights without a penalty. A Thomson spokesman said: “We are pleased to have been able to resolve this matter for the Talbot family, taking into account their exceptional circumstances.”

Contact us . . .
If you have a gripe, suggestion or question about holiday travel, write to Travel Doctor, The Times Travel Desk, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF, or email [email protected]. Please include contact details. If you have a dispute with a travel company, try to resolve it before contacting us. Do not send us original documents. Unfortunately we cannot reply to every inquiry.
Julia Brookes is the Travel Doctor

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