20 Tips

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1. Mail your souvenirs. Sending a flat-rate Priority Mail box costs $7.70, no matter how much it weighs or which state it's going to. After accumulating too much stuff to fit in my suitcase during a trip to Atlanta, I filled a box with laundry, souvenirs, and gifts for my grandchildren, and mailed it to my home address.--Eleanor Waterhouse, Kailua, Hawaii

2. Pack binoculars. To avoid walking around gawking at skyscrapers while sightseeing in cities like New York, I pack a small pair of binoculars. When I spot an interesting building, I step out of the flow of traffic on the sidewalk, back up to a wall, and enjoy the architectural details or read inscriptions with my binoculars.--Virginia Hendley, Rio Rancho, N.M.

3. Exercise before your trip. I always try to work out before heading to the airport. It usually gets me tuckered out enough that I can relax and sleep on the plane. If I don't have time for pre-travel exercise, I take a brisk walk through the terminal before boarding or find a quiet spot in an empty gate and practice a little yoga. --Kimberly Gilbert, Raleigh, N.C.

4. Create an instant washing machine. Pack a one-gallon Ziploc bag and a travel-size shampoo container refilled with detergent. They come in handy when you need to wash hosiery, bras, and other delicate undergarments. Put a few drops of detergent into the bag and fill it part way with water. Place the item you want to wash in the bag, close it up, and shake it around for a few minutes. Instant washing machine! For larger pieces of clothing, I've used the plastic laundry bags supplied at most hotels. Just hold on to the open end tightly.--Erika Kumada, Mount Prospect, Ill.

5. Find the best airfares. When looking for the lowest airfare, I've found that in some cases the best rates pop up when searching for one traveler instead of two. Recently, I wanted to buy one-way tickets from New York to Orlando for two people and came up with $87 per person. But when I selected one traveler, the fare dropped to $72. I went back and forth several times, but the results didn't change. If the best rate disappears during the process, delete all relevant cookies and try again.--Yoshi Matsuda, Rego Park, N.Y.

6. Take a tape recorder. During a visit to Mexico City, I was sitting in a plaza near a fountain, watching the locals stroll around in their Sunday best. Nearby, an older gentleman was playing a concertina; his music perfectly framed the scene. I took lots of pictures, but I didn't have a way to capture that music. Now, whenever I travel, I pack a small tape recorder along with my camera.--Kieran Sala, Pasadena, Calif.

7.Mix and match your wardrobe. Pack lightly by picking two colors to mix and match throughout your trip. You'll cut down on luggage and you won't have to bring a bunch of shoes to match an assortment of colors.--Lori Fields, Salisbury, Md.

8.Rebind your guidebook. Before setting off on one of my many backpacking excursions, I head to Kinko's to rebind my guidebook. I replace the cover with a plain black or navy one. It costs about $6 and allows me to blend in much better while traveling. People think of my new book as a journal or novel, not a travel guide that labels me a tourist.--Michelle Johnson, Mountain View, Calif.

9. Check your e-mail for free. I was in the international departure area of Tokyo's Narita Airport (Terminal 2, 3rd Floor) and found a great place to kill time before my flight home: the Yahoo Internet Café. You can check your e-mail and surf the Web for free. There's no time limit; just flash your passport to get in.--Ann Ruby, Honolulu, Hawaii

10. Pick up a Pariscope. When visiting Paris, make sure you pick up a copy of Pariscope at a local newsstand (50¢). It's a cheap little guide that'll clue you in to all the cultural events going on that week. There's an English-language section too, so you won't miss out on all the great tips if you don't speak French.--Mary Cheely, Chicago, Ill.

11. Stash away some traveler's checks. Some people think that traveler's checks aren't necessary anymore, but they really can be useful in a variety of situations. My ATM card wouldn't work on Easter Island, where most restaurants did not accept credit cards and wanted to be paid in pesos. Luckily, our hotel cashed my traveler's checks and gave me the pesos I needed. On Dominica, my purse was stolen. But because I had traveler's checks stashed away in my luggage, the vacation wasn't ruined. I always travel with what I call the "trusty four": American dollars (lots of ones and fives divided up and hidden in several locations), traveler's checks, an ATM card, and a credit card.--Jeanette Cantwell, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

12. Keep clothing fresh. Place a fabric softener sheet in your suitcase when packing. It'll absorb odors and dampness and keep clothing fresh. It's most beneficial in warm, humid climates and while at sea. I found this tip quite useful during my 23 years in the navy.--Edward Jewell, Washington, D.C.

13. Map your trip. Every summer, we drive out West from Pennsylvania with our two kids. In order to avoid that infamous road trip question ("Are we there yet?"), I give each child a map with our route highlighted on it. They can match up the town names with road signs and always know exactly where we are and how much further we have to go to get there. --Machell McCoy, Carlisle, Pa.

14. Keep track of your transportation. Have you ever lost your tour bus, van, or rental car in a crowded parking lot? Before setting off, take a photo of the vehicle and license plate with your digital camera. This strategy proved exceptionally practical for us in bustling Ho Chi Minh City.--J.L. Pasztor, Midland, Mich.

15. Bag your accessories. When I go on a trip that requires me to accessorize a number of outfits, I buy those little zip-top baggies and place the appropriate jewelry/scarf/panty hose in the bag. Then I punch a hole just big enough to slide the bag over the outfit's hanger. This way, my panty hose stay snag-free and my jewelry never gets lost.--Gina Beyer, New York, N.Y.

16. Save some water. When I was in China, the water shut off while I was taking a shower. It was only then I realized that the empty bucket in the bathtub was there for a reason. I should have filled it with water to prepare for just such an emergency.--Ned Clem, Carefree, Ariz.

17. Pack an extra Ziploc bag.  When carrying around my small umbrella, I put it in a Ziploc bag. After using it, I can put the umbrella back in the Ziploc and into my shoulder bag without getting everything else wet.--Sandy Sussman, Princeton, N.J.

18. Join South American Explorers. Planning a trip to South America? Join the nonprofit group South American Explorers (saexplorers.org) before you leave home. For $50, or $80 per couple, you'll get access to information on everything from volunteer opportunities to tour operators' deals, as well as a place to store luggage at offices in Quito, Lima, and Cuzco. Best of all, the discounts will easily cover the cost of membership. We were home free after the savings we received on our first reservation with an eco-lodge. The 10 percent we got off at our other hotels and some restaurants was gravy!--Molly Ogorzaly, Austin, Tex.

19. Ask a young person. While in Paris, I always asked for information from a young person because I found that most of the older Parisians were usually not interested in conversing in English. A few years ago, the French education requirements were changed to include a second language, and fortunately for us, the majority of students in the Paris area chose English. Even though my hotel was in a remote arrondissement where English speakers were quite rare, my strategy never failed.--Hal Turner, Sun City Center, Fla.

20. Make your own beach blanket. We pack a sheet to use as a beach blanket. I sewed loops made from a shoelace to each corner and use plastic tent stakes to anchor the sheet in the sand. It's easy to pack and takes up less space than those bulky beach towels.--Beverly Russo, N. Massapequa, N.Y.

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