20 Tips

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illustration by Jon Cannell
Buzz off

Tips you send in. This month: clever uses for golf balls and bobby pins, and how kitty litter can revive a soggy cell phone.

What's your best travel tip? Send us your tips, and if we publish one, you'll get a one-year subscription (or a renewal) to Budget Travel. You can e-mail them to us at Tips@BudgetTravel.com.

1. Buzz off Before we travel in buggy or malarial areas, my husband and I treat all of our pants and shirts with Permethrin (available in a concentrate from travel-supply companies). We dilute it in a spray bottle, spritz it on the clothes, and let them dry. (Never spray it directly on your skin.) The treatment lasts through six washings. More than once, we remained bite-free at jungle locations while other guests were suffering. Marci Fuller, San Benito, Tex.

2. Switch your lid If you're packing a container that has a pump or a flip-top cap--like the bottles that hold lotion or sunscreen--replace the top with one from a 20-ounce soda bottle. It's almost always a perfect fit, and you won't have to worry about leaks. Emily Butler, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

3. Water, water anywhere I often notice travelers trying--without much success--to give their pets water from a cup or a plastic plate. The FlatOut bowl by Tupperware is a great solution. It's made from plastic with accordion-like ridges, so it collapses easily. Keep it flat while you're traveling, and expand it and fill it with water when your pet needs a drink. Sandra Mehl, Centennial, Colo.

4. Take your pick I use an empty Tic Tac box to carry a supply of toothpicks. It's exactly the right size and closes easily--and I can always find a toothpick when I need one on the go. Judy Woodward, Lebanon, Pa.

5. MacGyver would approve I bring a golf ball and a roll of duct tape when I travel. The golf ball can substitute as a drain plug for a sink or tub (check the size of the drain first!). The duct tape has a number of uses. If I don't have space in my suitcase for a whole roll, I cover the inside of the bag with strips of tape. Pamm McFadden, Boulder, Colo.

6. Put a cork on it When you pack scissors, stick the points into a cork. Dolores Calamari, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

7. No outlet Bring a pack of plastic electrical-outlet inserts if you're traveling with small kids. We used these in hotels, cabins, and non-baby-proofed houses when our daughter was young, and they brought us much peace of mind. Robin Hemenway, St. Paul, Minn.

8. Hot rod Since ships' cabins are notorious for having minimal closet space, we always pack a tension rod. We set it up between the TV stand and the wall by the porthole, window, or balcony door, and voilà--we have a second closet! Lisa Palumbo, West Orange, N.J.

9. Soothe with salt While I was in Colima, Mexico, I ate a hot chili and really enjoyed it, but my lips were burning afterward. The waiter told me to rub table salt across my lips. Sure enough, my lips were back to normal almost immediately. Larry Wilson, Anthem, Ariz.

10. Drier goods The next time you accidentally leave your cell phone in your pocket when you wash your pants or soak your iPod while you're jogging in the rain, don't open, start, or plug in the gadget. Instead, bury it in gel-type kitty litter for 24 hours. The litter will absorb all of the moisture and dry out the device. Barbara Dunn-Alfinito, Fishkill, N.Y.

11. Picasa at su casa My family and I used to struggle with our pictures being too bright or out of focus--especially when we were using our cheap camera--but now we edit them with Google's free Picasa software. When we transfer our pictures to a folder on the computer, Picasa automatically detects and displays them, and we use simple buttons to crop, sharpen, or adjust the lighting in the photos. The editing process is so simple that our kids often have it done before we unpack from the trip. Vic Singhal, Fords, N.J.

12. Lapel pins Bobby pins are perfect for keeping upturned cuffs or pressed-open lapels in place when you pack blouses. You can also use the pins to clip receipts or reminders on the clothing. Mary Meisenhelter, York, Pa.

13. Women and children last The early-boarding opportunities airlines offer to travelers with young children are great, but they can add as much as 30 minutes of confined time for our toddler. Now my husband boards at first call with all our carry-ons, and my daughter and I wait until final call. By the time she and I get to our seats, my husband has everything organized. My daughter and I just buckle in. Amanda Pekrul, Charlotte, N.C.

14. Fishing for info The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a great resource for environmental programs and outings throughout the U.S. (fws.gov/offices/statelinks.html). In southeast Tennessee, for example, you can join a freshwater biologist on an underwater fish-viewing excursion in the Conasauga River, and in Colorado you can take part in a wildlife watch workshop. Sherel Purcell, Toronto, Ont.

15. Handle with care When I'm staying in a hotel, I always wrap my cell phone charger cord around the handle of my suitcase and then put the suitcase near an electrical outlet. The bag serves as a stand for my phone while it's charging, and I never forget the charger since it's attached to the handle of the suitcase. David Rhoads, Derwood, Md.

16. Finders beepers An audible electronic key finder--the kind that emits a loud beep or a ring when activated--can be a godsend when you travel. Keep the small remote locator on you, and put the receiver disc in your luggage, handbag, camera case, etc. You can press the locator button to help thwart a thief trying to steal your bag. And, of course, the device can help you find your keys. James Pennington, Portland, Ore.

17. A safe bet in Vegas I never visit Las Vegas without the latest edition of the American Casino Guide. It has tons of two-for-one meal coupons, along with gaming and entertainment coupons and gambling tips. If you use it wisely, the book can pay for itself in a day. Mary Ellen Maille, Colchester, Vt.

18. Stop, look and listen Instead of spending money on guided tours in Rome, I registered online with SoundGuides and downloaded the self-guided tours onto my MP3 player (sound-guides.com). The company offers 39 tours of sites all over the city, as well as a historical overview and info on non-touristy areas. The website also has complete guides to Venice, Paris, and London. Monica J. Pileggi, Frederick, Md.

19. Easy rider If you're flying out of Reagan National Airport on an evening flight but have to check out of your hotel early, the Metro can help you to enjoy your last day in D.C. without the burden of lugging your bags around. Ride the subway to the airport in the morning, check your bags, and get your boarding pass. Then ride back into the city, spend your day seeing the sights, and return to the airport later on the Metro. Matthew Richard, Syracuse, N.Y.

20. Get cultured Traveling abroad often involves sampling unusual food, which can lead to stomach problems. Some types of yogurt have active live cultures that are believed to help digest food and prevent stomach infections. I eat some as soon as I arrive, and I've usually kept the demons at bay. Kevin McCalmon, Broomfield, Colo.

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