Your wisdom from the field. This month: why to ask a mom to take your photo, which soap product can be used four ways, how to preorder subway passes, and more.
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1. Instant trail map I'm an avid hiker but don't always have the time to pick up a map of every trail. So before I set off, I take a digital photo of the map that's posted at the trailhead. Zooming in for more detail has saved me from getting lost on several occasions. Steve Bailey, Pennington, N.J.
2. Blend in To avoid looking like a foreigner, buy a local sports team's jersey. On a recent trip to South Africa, I bought a shirt with the logo of the national rugby team. Each time I wore my Springbok jersey, everyone greeted me like an old friend or teammate. Dave Johnson, University Place, Wash.
3. Passport decoder Juggling five passports on family vacations can be a pain. To keep things simple when we go through security, customs, and immigration, I put labels on the back covers with each name in a different color. Officials haven't yet objected to the extra decoration. Catherine Lee, Thornhill, Ont.
4. Airplane boredom beater After leafing through the airline's in-flight magazine three times during a recent flight over the California desert, I pulled out my binoculars to peer at the landscape below. My seatmates ended up begging to borrow them. Now I always make it a point to reserve a window seat and pack my binoculars. Doug Temkin, San Jose, Calif.
5. Postcard gift tags When buying gifts in faraway places, I also pick up postcards. Back home, I write a note on a card, put the recipient's name on the address line, punch a hole in the corner, and tie it to their gift with ribbon. My friends and family enjoy their presents all the more because they get to see where I went. Jean Sokolinski, Sequim, Wash.
6. Easy security measures To streamline the airport security process, I put my change, watch, and wallet in my jacket pocket. I then fold my jacket in half with the collar on top, so nothing falls out. John L. Kizer, San Marcos, Calif.
7. In mothers we trust I often travel by myself, and when I want to get my photo taken, I always look for a mom. Not only do I feel much safer handing over my camera, but I find that they usually have lots of experience snapping great shots. Abigail Widynski, Madison, Ohio
8. Best baby seat The greatest invention in the history of family travel? The bulkhead bassinet, an amenity some European and Asian airlines offer free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. We discovered this on an Air France flight from San Francisco to Paris with our 14-month-old daughter when a flight attendant snapped a canvas cot onto the wall in front of us. Not only could our baby sit up and happily gaze out, she also snoozed while my husband and I ate dinner uninterrupted for the first time in 14 months! Andrea Gemmet, Menlo Park, Calif.
9. E-mail for cruisers Checking your e-mail on a cruise line's computer can get very expensive. To limit my costs on board, I always bring my laptop and type out e-mails to friends and family in a Word document first. When I'm ready to send the e-mails, I log on to my e-mail service and then cut and paste the text. This way, I get to write my e-mails without feeling rushed by the mounting fees, and I spend less time on my vacation going online. Jon Faulkner, Chula Vista, Calif.
10. Beach towel benefits For family vacations, we pack matching beach towels, which serve as pillows, blankets, or seat cushions on the plane. If we arrive before our hotel room is ready, we can also dive right into the pool or ocean. And since the bright towels match, it's easy to spot each other in a crowd. Calli Berg, Coloma, Mich.
11. Save paper plane tickets If you redeem frequent-flier miles and the airline issues you a paper ticket, make sure to keep the stub until after the trip. I learned this the hard way when my wife used our American Airlines miles for a trip that she later canceled. I assumed that the miles would be restored automatically, so I tossed the paper—big mistake. I had to pay the $100 lost-ticket fee before we got back the miles. Marvin Engel, Piedmont, Calif.