20 Tips

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1. You don't have to be the outdoorsy type to benefit from rock-climbing equipment. Buy a couple of large carabiners--the kind mountain climbers use--and attach them to the handle of your wheeled suitcase. You can clip purses, cameras, and shopping bags to your suitcase, giving your hands and shoulders a rest while you're walking around the airport. --Kathryn Murphy, Satellite Beach, Fla.

2. Get everyone involved in the planning. Once we know where we're going, my girlfriends and I divide up the list of things we'd like to do on our trip and put someone in charge of each item on the list. Then that person does the legwork ahead of time by finding directions and prices, making reservations (if necessary), and researching nearby places to stop for a snack or a meal. Our method means no one person is doing all the planning. --Carol J. Leisch, Normal, Ill.

3. The uses for a sarong are endless. Lightweight, washable, and multifunctional, a cotton sarong is a practical addition to every traveler's don't-leave-home-without-it bag! I've used mine as a swimsuit cover-up, a picnic blanket on the grounds of a château in the Loire Valley, a temporary skirt (over my shorts) in a Bangkok temple, and an extra pillow while hiking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It's also handy as an emergency towel, airplane blanket, or tablecloth. --Nicole Serafica, Langhorne, Pa.

4. Pool money for group expenses. When I travel with friends, we all contribute to a kitty and use that money to pay for things like taxis and meals. It saves us from figuring out each person's share at every stop. At the end of the trip we split whatever remains. --Carol Moran, Chesterfield, Mo.

5. Dry-cleaning bags stop clothes from wrinkling. Slide each garment into its own bag (leave the hanger at home) and place them flat on your bed, one on top of another. Then carefully fold the entire stack to fit it in your suitcase. Once you get to your hotel, hang everything up as soon as you reasonably can. If you use this little trick, you'll never unpack a suitcase of wrinkled clothes again. --Claudette Christman, Colonial Heights, Va.

6. The perfect toiletries bag does exist! I've finally discovered one that's just right: a soft-sided lunchbox. It has an outer zipped pocket with compartments perfect for often-used items like a toothbrush and toothpaste. There's a removable zipper pouch inside (meant for an ice pack) for those smaller, hard-to-find items like nail files and pill bottles. The remaining space inside is just the right size for larger things like shampoo and hand lotion. Other helpful features include both a small handle and shoulder strap, and a waterproof, easy-to-clean interior. As an elementary school teacher, I know firsthand that it will last, having been designed to withstand daily use by kids! --Jennifer Minton, Glencoe, Calif.

7. Bring a laundry kit. Pack a one-gallon Ziploc bag and a travel-size shampoo container refilled with detergent. These 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 partway 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 the open end tightly. --Erika Kumada, Mount Prospect, Ill.

8. Share the luggage load. When I travel with friends, we decide ahead of time who's going to bring what. If we're sharing a suite or have adjoining rooms, we don't need multiple hair dryers and umpteen bottles of shampoo. With the strict weight limits on baggage, we'll need the extra space in our suitcases for souvenirs! --Haley Christensen Henderson, Nev.

9. Make the most of pedicure money. I save the pedicure flip-flops that I get at my nail salon. They make great shower shoes when I travel. (Five-star hotel or not, I always hear my mother's voice in my head about showering in my bare feet somewhere other than my own home.) They're lightweight, they dry quickly, and I can throw them away at the end of my trip. --Carmen Shirkey, Fairfax, Va.

10. Don't get charged for overweight suitcases. I pack a small duffel in the side pocket of my suitcase. If I've exceeded the luggage weight limit at the airport, I can pull out the extra bag, empty heavier items from my suitcase into it, and check both. --Kathy Effley, Bradenton, Fla.

11. Put your old contact lens cases to work. Do you hate the idea of wasting that last bit of lipstick or concealer that always seems to get stuck in the bottom of the tube? Scoop it out and put it into a clean contact lens case. The case is watertight, holds enough for a weekend trip, and fits easily in any purse or toiletries bag. --Ronda P. Martinez, Philadelphia, Pa.

12. Discuss a meeting spot before you leave the hotel. Pick a central place at which to meet in case you become separated from your traveling companion or group. Having a plan can save both precious time and needless anxiety. --Marian Moss, Stone Mountain, Ga.

13. Forget expensive video equipment. My daughter and I bought a few disposable digital camcorders at a CVS pharmacy before heading to Europe. It was a nice way to document our trip--each camera stored about 20 minutes of video and had a small color screen so we could play back and edit footage as we went along. Once home, we dropped the cameras off at the pharmacy, and the next day our DVD was ready. We were very pleased with the quality and the cost: $30 for the camera and $12.95 for each DVD. --Maria B. Murad, Apple Valley, Minn.

14. Rejuvenate after an overnight flight. Put a clean, dry washcloth in a Ziploc bag and pack it in your carry-on. Right before landing, ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot (not boiling) water. Very carefully pour the water into the Ziploc bag, and then wipe your face and hands with the steaming cloth. It's almost like having a portable sauna! --Henrietta Scarlett Ober, Rexford, N.Y.

15. Treat yourself to a golf-ball foot massage. During a long flight, or afterward in your hotel room, take off your shoes, put a golf ball on the floor, and roll it under your foot. It's a great stress reliever. Practice a bit before you try it on a plane, so that your ball doesn't go rolling down the cabin, tripping other passengers. --Dawn Yadlosky, Centerville, Ohio

16. Accidentally reformat a camera's memory card? As long as you don't overwrite the disk by taking more photos, those original pictures are still stored there. Buy another card to use in the meantime, and then, when you get home, either purchase a file-recovery software program at a computer store (about $35) or take the card to a camera shop and see if they can help. --Julie Mancini, Dunnellon, Fla.

17. A Frisbee makes a wonderful cosmetics tray. You'll be able to quickly and easily move frequently used makeup items from the hotel bedroom dresser to the bathroom vanity and back again. It sure beats digging around in a cosmetics bag for that lipstick which always seems to be hiding at the bottom. --Brenda Riggins, Dunedin, Fla.

18. Keep your accessories organized. When I go on a trip that requires me to accessorize a number of outfits, I buy sandwich-size Ziploc bags and place the appropriate jewelry/scarf/ panty hose in each one. 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.

19. Pamper yourself on long flights. Create your own comfort kit--the kind that a few international airlines still give their first- and business-class passengers. Fill a Ziploc bag with some lip balm, a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, a small bottle of hand lotion, a sleep mask, a pair of socks, and some eyedrops. Don't forget to bring a bottle of water, too. --Carolyn Whitman, Gulf Breeze, Fla.

20. Banish those stale hotel-room odors. I always pack several tea lights, a small vial of essential oils, and some matches. Tea lights (when set in a water glass for extra safety) will get rid of any unpleasant smells in hotel rooms. The essential oils work wonders when a drop is placed on a warm lightbulb. --Stephanie Hartselle, Chicago, Ill.

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