20 Tips

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Tips you send in. This month: a creative souvenir for kids, a warning to shell collectors, and a booking tip for obese fliers!

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Best Tips Ever
The cleverest tips we've ever run are in The Smart Traveler's Passport, a handy book available at Amazon.com and select bookstores. Send us a tip: If yours is one that we illustrate, we'll send you a free book (and a year's subscription to the magazine).

1. Art supply When we go to museums, we give each of our children a sketch pad and a pencil and have them draw something they like in each room. When they look back at their drawings, they discuss the sketches like they're art critics! Ashleigh Hodges, Hercules, Calif.

2. Sea through a different lens I knew I'd be snorkeling a lot in French Polynesia, so instead of buying several disposable underwater cameras, I bought a digital one on eBay for about $100. Unlike with disposable cameras, I know right away if I took a good or bad picture. I can delete the rejects, and I don't waste money developing crummy shots. Jennifer Robak, Hatfield, Pa.

3. Foot fault Don't get too comfy on train rides overseas. In Italy, a friend of mine was recently fined $78 for resting her feet on the seat located across from hers. Sara Trotta, Lockport, Ill.

4. Early-bird special When my wife and I fly with our young children, one of us preorders a special meal (kosher, gluten-free, etc.). These are almost always served at the beginning of the meal service, so one adult can eat while the other watches the children. When the rest of the meals are served, whoever has already eaten goes on kid duty. Scott Barber, Harpenden, U.K.

5. Place place mats Kid-oriented destinations, such as Legoland and SeaWorld, provide free paper maps of the parks. Instead of throwing them away, have them laminated to use as place mats or decorations in your child's room. Mike and Cindy Shields, Wellsville, Kans.

6. Gold star for Goldstar Go to goldstar.com for half-price tickets to shows and events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, and Orange County, Calif.; New York; Washington, D.C.; Chi­cago; and Boston. You buy your tickets online and pick them up at will call. I recently used the site to get half-price tickets to The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia! in Las Vegas. Kevin Lum, San Francisco, Calif.

7. Shell shock When we were in the Dominican Republic, we walked many miles collecting seashells, but someone told us we might not be able to take them home. We looked into it and learned that some Caribbean countries limit the number and type of shells you can take from the islands. Offenders can be delayed at the airport and get slapped with a fine. Donna Mercier, Stratham, N.H.

8.Pharmaceutical sales I'm a flight attendant, and I often use just a carry-on bag when I fly. The TSA allows liquids in three-ounce bottles, but I could only find travel containers in two- or four-ounce sizes. On my mom's suggestion, I asked the local pharmacy if it had three-ounce liquid-prescription bottles I could buy. They sold me four for just $1. Julie Childers, Dublin, Ga.

9. Secret agents I hoped a travel agent in my area could dig up deals for my trip to Hawaii, but the rates she quoted me were higher than the ones I had found on my own. Then I happened upon info about Panda Travel, in Hawaii. I did a search for a car and hotel package on pandaonline.com and pulled up the best deal I'd seen yet. From now on, I'll look for travel agents where I'm planning to go. Brianna Yamashita, Kew Gardens, N.Y.

10. Attached at the hip I bought my sons fanny packs to use as toiletry bags. When they need to brush their teeth or comb their hair, they just grab their packs. This tip is especially handy when you're at a campground. Debra Kushnick, Marietta, Ga.

11. Ye shall receive On a recent trip to Tucson, I asked the woman at the visitors information center if she had any two-for-one coupons for area attractions like our visitors center in Seattle does. She did even better than that, producing two free tickets to the next day's spring-training baseball game at Tucson Electric Park. Charlie Tiebout, Seattle, Wash.

12. Big-box bargains If you're on vacation in southern California, check out a local Costco for discount tickets to theme parks such as Universal Studios, Legoland, and the San Diego Zoo. Michele Sinclair, Playa del Rey, Calif.

13. The winning shot When our kids were younger, we gave them disposable cameras and held photo contests on family trips. We'd come up with different "best photo" categories—of a meal, a seashell, a sunset, etc.—and hand out awards at the end of the vacation. Wendy VanHatten, Sergeant Bluff, Iowa

14. Pass go If you fly to Singapore on Singapore Airlines, hold on to your boarding pass. It gets you a day pass on the airline's trolley, which goes through all of the city's major tourist zones, for only $2.20 (the regular price is $9). James C. Wernicke, Sandia Park, N.M.

15. Upon reflection A small table-top mirror would have been wonderful on my first cruise last year. I'm used to sitting down when I put on makeup and style my hair, but the mirror in our cabin was so far from the chair that I had to stand in order to see myself. I just bought the perfect mirror for my next cruise, in November, at a dollar store. Joanie Martin, Fox Island, Wash.

16. Big savings Southwest Airlines encourages large passengers to book two adjacent seats. If you do this and the flight isn't sold out, you can request a refund after the trip by calling Southwest Customer Relations (214/792-4223) or sending the airline your flight information. Dayle Cohoon, Tracy, Calif.

17. Watching time fly When our grandkids asked how long the drive from New Orleans to Dallas would take, we told them four movies (which was eight hours). They loved that they could fit in so many movies on the trip, and they didn't keep asking us how much longer we had to go. Now we always give them driving times in DVDs. Cyndy Nordyke, Hurst, Tex.

18. It's in the tag Magellan's Retriever Luggage Tags have a message in eight languages telling baggage agents to check the itinerary in the tag so they can forward a lost bag to you while you're still traveling (magellans.com). Nona Tyler, Winter Park, Colo.

19. Take a compliment I pack a box of thank-you cards when I travel. If I get great service from the hotel or cruise staff, I leave a card. Most people in the service industry receive feedback only when it's negative, so compliments are refreshing. Jen Keivel, Beavercreek, Ohio

20. A sap story While I was at a restaurant in Pompeii, some sap dripped in my hair. I tried soap and water, but it didn't come out. Then I remembered I had Purell in my purse. I rubbed it on my hair, and it removed the sap! Mary Peters, Del Mar, Calif.

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