20 Tips


Tips you send in. This month: DIY car insurance, creative uses for hotel shoe mitts, a strategy for staying within luggage weight limits, and more.

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1. DIY car insurance I collect vinyl bumper stickers—the kind that peel off without leaving a mark—and put them on the bumper when I get a rental. With my car dressed up like it's local, I don't have to worry about thieves who target tourists. Chris Manos, Centennial, Colo.

2. Beat the competition On our last cruise to Hawaii, most of the passengers rented cars to get around. When we got off the ship, everyone else began loading onto the rental-car bus, but my wife and I hopped into a taxi and paid a small fare to get to the rental-car agency. We were the first to get a car. As we drove off to explore, we noticed a long line of people from our cruise waiting for their wheels. Gary Kessler, Avondale, Ariz.

3. Strap happy If the strap from your travel bag or camera is digging into your shoulder, put a padded seat-belt cover on it. You can find these at most auto-parts stores for less than $10. Gretchen Hord, Weatherford, Tex.

4. Museum markdown The Museum of Modern Art in New York shows films every day for $10. If you keep your ticket stub from the film, you have 30 days to apply its value toward the museum's $20 admission fee. Carli Entin, Hoboken, N.J.

5. Scents and sensibility To avoid the hassle of taking a perfume bottle with me on trips, I spray my accessories with the fragrance before I pack. Dori Pappas, Drexel Hill, Pa.

6. Coming clean You can't always count on public restrooms to have soap, so it's best to take your own when you travel. The mini shampoos from hotels work great as liquid soap. Ed Foster, Texarkana, Tex.

7. Wrap star My husband and I line our suitcases with bubble wrap and layer it between our clothes. It's a life-saver: The wrap lies flat against the sides, keeps our clothes wrinkle-free, is almost weightless, and comes in handy when we buy breakables that we want to carry home. Nanette Ruffner, Miami, Fla.

8. Sew clever On a recent vacation in Rome, my husband accidentally sat on his glasses. As we were trying to fix them, we lost one of the screws. We searched throughout the whole city for inexpensive reading glasses but found only designer glasses that cost hundreds of dollars. In desperation, I got out my sewing kit and stitched the glasses together with a needle and thread. They held perfectly! Sandy Davenport, Destin, Fla.

9. Child's play When my husband and I travel with our kids, we always plan to spend a day at a local zoo or amusement park about midway through the trip. For example, we've gone to Leofoo Village Theme Park near Taipei and to Parc Astérix, an amusement park north of Paris. The trips are a good break from museums and monuments, and we always learn a lot about the local culture. Gwen Gibbons, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

10. If the shoe mitts¿ The little shoe mitts that are part of some hotels' complimentary toiletries are great for dusting your computer monitor or wiping the lenses of your glasses or camera. Kimberly Button, Orlando, Fla.

11. Show and cell Asking for help in another country can be tricky, but traveling with a camera-phone has made my trips easier. I've created a photo album with pictures of basic necessities like a bottle of water, a toilet, a taxi, and stamps. Now when I'm traveling and I don't know the word for what I need, I just show a local a picture of it on my phone. Jena Persico, Arlington, Va.

12. Indulge early At some point between booking and boarding a cruise, I go to the cruise line's website and order myself a gift or two—usually gift certificates to the spa or the casino. Prepaying for these is my way of treating myself without feeling like I'm blowing my budget while I'm on the vacation. Shauna Neuhauser, Apple Valley, Minn.

13. Ham it up On a recent trip to Ireland, my girlfriends and I rented two cars. In the southwest part of the country, the road signs can be very confusing, so we used handheld short-distance radios to communicate. Being able to talk saved us many times from getting separated on tricky turns and roundabouts! Lisa Gault, Starke, Fla.

14. ID your ID We have four passports to keep track of when our family travels, and we used to waste time at security trying to figure out whose was whose. Finally, I put the label maker to use and stuck our first names onto the front of each passport. Mary-Jeanine Ibarguen, Altamonte Springs, Fla.

15. Drop some pounds To avoid going over luggage weight limits, I've switched to using a large duffle with wheels. My midsize suitcase weighs 14 pounds, but my duffel bag weighs in at a mere 7 pounds. Shelby Spiva, Clifton, N.J.

16. Check it twice Look closely at your boarding passes when you do curbside check-in. On a recent flight, I checked in curbside and got boarding passes for both legs of my flight. As I headed to security, I realized I had been given someone else's boarding pass for the second leg! Tracey Madden, Dover, N.H.

17. Duck the cover charge If you're looking for a place to eat in Italy, check to see if the restaurant has a coperto, or cover charge. If you want only a light breakfast or lunch, skip the sit-down places, buy a pastry or panini from a bakery, and do some sightseeing while you eat. You can save a lot of money by doing this! Blair Sechrest, Cary, N.C.

18. When in Rome... Next time you book a rental car at a busy airport in a foreign country, don't be afraid to use the smaller European companies. On a recent trip to Rome, my husband and I decided to skip the American options and rent from Auto Europa instead (autoeuropa.it). When we landed, exhausted from an overnight flight from Boston, we walked right up to the rental counter and were on our way in less than a half hour. Jen Kelley, Acton, Mass.

19. Cruise control Because of a late connecting flight, my family and I missed our cruise departure from Miami. The cruise line offered to fly us to the ship's first scheduled port stop so we could join our group a few days later. We didn't want to miss so much time at sea, though, so we came up with a better solution: We asked the cruise line if we could join a different cruise leaving from Miami the next day. The company obliged, and we had a wonderful trip. It never hurts to ask! Mary Myers, Erie, Colo.

20. Throw on the towel My wife and I always bring our own towels to lay across our lounge chairs when we go to a beach resort, to a hotel with a pool, or on a cruise. Because most of the other guests use the white towels supplied by the resort, our chairs are easy to spot. We use the resort's towels to dry off if we go into the water. Brian Metzler, Fair Lawn, N.J.

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