20 Tips

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illustration by Jon Cannell

Tips you send in. This month: how to soothe a bee sting, credit card advice, and the magic of Vitamin C.

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1. Weigh your options After spending two weeks in Alaska--one week on land and one on a cruise--my husband and I had collected more souvenirs than we'd anticipated. Worried about overweight-luggage fees at the airport, we hauled our suitcases to the cruise ship's gym and weighed them on one of the scales. We kept rearranging the contents until each bag weighed less than 50 pounds (but barely!). Nancy Boehmer, Bridgeton, Mo.

2. Save some summer When I store my summer wardrobe at the end of the season, I always put a week's worth of warm-weather clothes in my suitcase. That way, I don't have to dig through the storage bins months later when I'm packing for a winter getaway to a balmy locale. Lorraine Seymour, Belchertown, Mass.

3. Do the math Google has a feature for some U.S. cities that performs an analysis to show whether it would cost less to drive to a destination or to take public transportation (google.com/transit). Keri Sprenger, Camas, Wash.

4. Sting operation My husband got stung by a bee while we were vacationing in Germany, and a local suggested putting toothpaste on the spot. It worked! The sting didn't swell, burn, or itch. Marie Braatz, Thorp, Wis.

5. Where talk is cheaper I've found an inexpensive way to phone the States from Europe: Many Internet cafés have call centers with phones you can use to make overseas calls, and there are a few that charge only 3¢ to 4¢ per minute. Linda Brunett, Rockville, Md.

6. Cheat sheet If you receive travel info from a college alumni association, keep it--even if you don't plan to join the trip. The literature usually includes details on the destinations, such as hotels and interesting excursions. You can use it as a guide when you plan your own trip later. Chris Barker, Kingsport, Tenn.

7. On the metro beat When I'm planning to visit a city that has a subway, I like to review a subway map in advance to familiarize myself with the system. Amadeus.net makes this easy. Click on Trip Tools for access to subway maps from virtually every city that has one. Alan Brill, Staten Island, N.Y.

8. Slippery business If you're traveling for business, bring several FedEx or DHL slips with your company's preprinted account number on them. If you end up with work-related items that are too heavy or cumbersome to fly with, you can mail them back to your office before you leave. Cindy Lin, New York, N.Y.

9. Earn extra credit Before you book a cruise, find out if the cruise line offers benefits for signing up for its credit card. For example, Carnival offers a card that lets you earn points that can be put toward cruises, resort stays, and air travel. Paula Prindle, Orient, Ohio

10. Get down In elevators, the international symbol for street level is the star or asterisk. Patricia A. Steinkuehler, Boynton Beach, Fla.

11. Collective memory I recently discovered journals from a 1927 trip my family took to Europe and Palestine. There were entries from three generations--it was fascinating to read each person's account. I now try to encourage every member of a group trip to contribute to a journal. Joan White, Dallas, Tex.

12. Rise and dine Hotels in many foreign countries serve only tea, coffee, and maybe a little bread for breakfast--and some don't serve anything at all. I like to have a more substantial breakfast than that, so I always bring packets of instant oatmeal. They're lightweight, they hardly take up any room, and with just a little hot water added in, they make a quick, easy breakfast. Christine Smith, Louisville, Ky.

13. Crash course If you choose not to purchase the car rental company's collision insurance and rely instead on the insurance that's provided by your credit card, you should make sure you have a backup card available. In the unhappy event that you crash the car, the rental company can charge your credit card for the damages--and if they're extensive, you could find yourself with a maxed-out credit card and no source of funds. George H. Giffen, York, Pa.

14. On the high C's Bring a few packets of Emergen-C powder with you on trips. Anytime you feel run-down from all the nonstop fun, mix a packet into a glass of water and drink up. The vitamin C keeps you healthy, and the other vitamins and minerals keep your energy from flagging. Andra Williams, South Amherst, Ohio

15. Homeward bound When you print driving directions from a website such as MapQuest, always print return directions, too. On our last trip, we assumed we could just reverse the directions for the ride home and found ourselves trying to go the wrong way on a one-way street. It took many extra (and aggravating) miles to make our way back. Diane Cavallaro, Westbury, N.Y.

16. She's crafty I had to give up my embroidery scissors when I went through security in the Toronto airport. Since then, I've found a way to cut yarn or thread while on an airplane: I use the metal cutter on a dental-floss container. Naomi Bryant, Penney Farms, Fla.

17. Out of your hair Slip a scrunchie or ponytail holder through the handle of your suitcase and pull one end through the other. The resulting loop is handy for holding an extra jacket or sweater, leaving your hands free as you make your way around the airport. Leonore Bourgeault, Belmar, N.J.

18. Books from abroad When researching a trip to another country, I visit the online booksellers native to the destination. Amazon.co.uk, for instance, carries a better selection of local-interest books for English towns and counties than Amazon.com does. And just like the American version, the site will deliver the books right to your doorstep. (Keep in mind that you'll have to pay international shipping costs.) Craig Comer, Woodland Hills, Calif.

19. The driving factor If you live a long way from the airport, it's often less expensive to rent a car near your home and drop it off at the airport (and vice versa) than to take a car or shuttle service. I've found this to be true when flying out of Reagan National and Dulles International airports in Virginia. Robert M. Pollock, Arnold, Md.

20. For the masses Check out masstimes.org if you want to attend a Catholic Mass while you're on vacation. The site has hundreds of listings for churches and Mass times all over the world. Some entries even include info on confession, adoration, and devotion times. Julie Gheen, Dearborn, Mich.

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