20 Tips

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Illustration by Jon Cannell
Find your other half

Tips you send in. This month: solo travel tips, saving on airport cab fares, and even more uses for clear plastic bags!

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Best Tips Ever
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1. Find your other half I often travel alone, and I used to feel left out when I saw two-for-one coupons for museums and other attractions. Now I wait for another solo traveler or an odd-numbered group to arrive at the ticket line, and I offer to split the discount. I've never had to wait more than a couple of minutes, and people always appreciate the chance to save. Kathy Kralik, Fort Smith, Ark.

2. Don't get taken for a ride I work at a hotel in the Chicago suburbs, and I frequently meet travelers who've paid $75 for a cab ride from O'Hare or $120 for a ride from Midway. I can recommend at least three cab companies with flat rates that are half that much. It pays to call your hotel before getting in line at the airport taxi stand. Abi Gerber, Lincolnshire, Ill.

3. Almost in the same boat Anytime you're thinking of taking a boat tour, check to see if there's a ferry that follows a similar route. When we were in Australia, we rode a ferry through Sydney Harbour for just a few dollars instead of paying for an expensive boat tour. The photo ops were pretty much the same. Debbie Stearns, Lebanon, N.H.

4. Hidden treasure Before you turn in a disposable camera to get the film developed, take off the thin cardboard and remove the batteries. They can usually be used again. For example, all Kodak single-use cameras come with either AA or AAA batteries, which work in all kinds of electronic devices. Todd Daniels, Elyria, Ohio

5. Collect those stamps When traveling by regional train in Italy, don't forget to "day stamp" your ticket in one of the small boxes in the station before you board. Otherwise, you could be fined $73. During my recent trip, three American tourists sitting next to me on a train were fined. Umberto Bellini, Danville, Calif.

6. A sorted affair I hate having to rummage through my suitcase to find things, so I group similar items in clear plastic bags--all my socks in one bag, underwear in another, pajamas and whatever I'll need at night in yet another, and so on. It's like a filing system for my suitcase. Diana Graves, Crested Butte, Colo.

7. Help them help you Printing information from English-language websites for your travels is great, but make sure you also have native-language printouts with the names and locations of the places you want to visit. Locals will have an easier time showing you the way. Margaret Lavictoire, Ottawa, Ont.

8. What a bright ID Many pet stores have machines that engrave a small metal disk with your pet's name and your contact info. These disks can also serve as ID tags for luggage. Engrave your name and phone number on a tag, and pin or sew it to the lining inside your luggage. If the airline loses your bag and the outside tag is missing, your contact information will still be available. Kathleen Howe, Carrollton, Tex.

9. Back story My wife has a bad back and needs lumbar support, but many airlines no longer offer pillows. I pack Ziploc double-zip freezer bags (they're stronger than the regular ones) in my carry-on. After we're seated, I blow into the bag, close it partially, then blow in a little more air and close it all the way. It's so comfortable that I now use one for myself. Marv Blackburn, Toledo, Ohio

10. Charge card In some hotels in Europe, once you use the key card to enter your room, you need to slide it into a slot in the wall to power up the room's light switches and electrical outlets. This is a great energy-saving system, but it poses a problem if you're hoping to recharge your camera or laptop while you're out. Always ask for a second key card to power the outlets. Dennis Beck, Richmond Hill, Ont.

11. Agent secret Even though there's a fee, you might be better off booking frequent-flier tickets over the phone than online. When we checked American Airlines' website for a trip from Seattle to Santa Barbara, Calif., all the flights connected in Dallas/Fort Worth. When we called, an agent was able to book us on an Alaska Airlines flight to Los Angeles and an American Eagle flight to Santa Barbara--all with our miles. The $15 per ticket we paid for booking over the phone was worth the time we saved. Doug Rittenhouse, Port Angeles, Wash.

12. Ticket to ride Passengers who take Amtrak into Philadelphia can get a free ride on SEPTA, the regional rail line, into the city center. Just show your same-day Amtrak ticket to a conductor for either the SEPTA train going to Suburban Station, at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard, or the one bound for Market­ East Station, at 12th and Filbert streets. Both of these stations have access to trolleys, subways, and buses. Margaret Engel, Bethesda, Md.

13. Sweet relief I give my toddler a lollipop before takeoff and descent when we fly. The treat keeps her occupied, and all the swallowing tends to help prevent pressure from building up in her ears. Landings can be bumpy, so before you touch down, take the candy away--just to be on the safe side. Joanna Ghosh, Boothwyn, Pa.

14. Book guides For advice on family-friendly activities, go to a children's bookstore or the children's section of a large bookstore. We've found that "book people" generally know their community very well, and the staff--and often other customers--are always happy to help. Bill Rosberg, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

15. Holding your liquor Clerks at duty-free shops might assure you it's OK to bring alcohol purchased there onto the plane. This is generally true, but if you have a connection that requires you to change planes and exit the security area, be aware that you can't bring any liquids over three ounces--including those from duty-free--onto the flight. Bruna Riccobon, Oakmont, Pa.

16. Divide and conquer When my wife and I arrive at an airport, one of us immediately takes the shuttle to the car-rental company while the other picks up our luggage. The person with the bags is usually waiting curbside for the person in the rental car. It saves time and the hassle of schlepping our bags on the shuttle. Carl Russo, Chicago, Ill.

17. Pin case of emergency Safety pins are perfect for keeping a tear from being obvious, holding a broken zipper shut, or fastening a scarf in high wind. I attach them to the underside of suit-jacket lapels, and that way I can access them anytime. (It's a good idea to wait until after you arrive, so you don't get stuck in airport security.) Michael McCaffery, Marshfield, Wis.

18. Beachy clean When we go to the beach, we put a damp washcloth in a Ziploc bag and keep it in our cooler. It's an instant refresher, and it's great for removing sand and saltwater residue. Sharon McCormac, Richmond, Ind.

19. Don't just sit there Before a recent trip, I learned I was going to have a four-hour layover in Detroit around dinnertime. I googled "detroit airport" and found metroairport.com. The site lists the airport's restaurants, shops, and ATMs by terminal, and it notes which concourse they're in. A lot of other airports have similar sites, so it's worth checking online if you have a layover. Heather Doherty, Lake Ariel, Pa.

20. A gift that keeps giving As my nieces and nephews began to discard their plastic, brightly colored music-download gift cards this holiday season, I decided to put a white label with my contact information on the back of each one, punch a hole at the end, and attach it to my luggage as an ID tag. The colorful graphic designs make my suitcase stand out in a sea of look-alike bags. Philip Treu, St. Charles, Mo.

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