20 Tips

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Tips you send in. This month: how to curb funky rental-car smells, work your way to free theater tickets, upgrade your luggage wheels, and more.

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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. Smell the coffee I recently rented a car in Florida, and it came with a host of funky smells that assaulted me every morning when I got in. I took one of the free coffee-filter packs from my hotel room and placed it inside the car. Not only did it absorb the bad odors in a day or so, but it also made the car smell like a warm, inviting coffeehouse! Theresa Drummond, Austin, Tex.

2. Stay Toe-stee I went camping recently, and the weather was unexpectedly freezing. To stay warm at night, my friends and I placed rocks around the campfire for a few hours, and when it was time for bed, we wrapped the hot rocks in towels and each put one at the bottom of our sleeping bags. The rocks kept us toasty warm until the next morning! Lea Bishop, San Diego, Calif.

3. Drive-in theater If you're going on a road trip and you have a DVD player in your car, sign up with Redbox (redbox.com). You can rent and return movies at more than 9,000 locations around the country, including many McDonald's and Wal-Mart stores. This way, you don't have to bother packing loads of DVDs for your trip, and you'll have new movies to watch the whole way. Becky Welton, St. Louis, Mo.

4. A new set of wheels The first thing I do when I buy a new piece of luggage is remove the cheap plastic wheels and replace them with rubber Rollerblade wheels. I've found that plastic wheels break easily, but rubber is more durable, so the wheels are better at surviving the wear and tear of traveling. You can find Rollerblade wheels at most sports stores. Jan Julian, Melbourne, Fla.

5. Wipe on, wipe off Always take some Pledge Wipes with you when you travel—they're great for last-minute touch-ups on leather shoes. Just go over the leather with the wipes, and your shoes will look freshly polished. Cherry Graham, Anderson, S.C.

6. Live like a local If you own a time-share and pay property taxes on it, you probably qualify for a local library card. Just bring a photo ID and a copy of your property-tax receipt to the library. While you're on vacation, you'll be able to use the library to check out books, of course, but also DVDs and CDs. Joe and Kathleen Weber, Missoula, Mont.

7. See for yourself To get a feel for a potential travel destination, I check youtube.com. Lots of people post videos from their trips, and you can learn about specific things you're interested in rather than just the general overview most travel books offer. For example, when I was researching a surf spot in Peru, I found some great footage of the break. Rhonda Hingle, San Diego, Calif.

8. Put a cap on it If you mount your GPS unit on the windshield or dashboard, it will leave a circular mark when you remove it. Thieves know to look for this telltale sign. To be safe, my partner and I mount our GPS unit on the steering column, where it's just as easy to see. When we park the car, we simply put a baseball cap on top of the unit to hide it. Gary J. Kessler, Avondale, Ariz.

9. Don't get upset I'm a flight attendant, and my route includes several mountain towns. The flights can get bumpy, so I carry a tin of strong peppermints with me and hand them out to passengers who are looking a little green at the gills. Peppermint oil, which is found in strong mints like Altoids, is one of Mother Nature's best cures for an upset tummy. S. Reiser, Aurora, Colo.

10. Down-Under deal I learned that the Australian Automobile Association is Australia's version of our AAA. If you're visiting Australia and you have your American AAA membership card on hand, you can often get maps for free and travel guides at discounted rates. Rick Ackerman, Columbia, S.C.

11. Contact solution I often forget my contact-lens case when I travel. To avoid the hassle of having to buy another case, I find two plastic spoons, fill them with contact solution, put my contacts in the spoons, and store them in a safe place for the night. Problem solved! Susannah Whitcomb, Toledo, Ohio

12. Plant a¿book Instead of returning home with the paperbacks you brought on your trip, register them with bookcrossing.com and leave them behind for other travelers. The BookCrossing website lets you track your books as they're passed from reader to reader and go on voyages of their own. Jo Ann Lynn, Germantown, Tenn.

13. It's the balm I always take a tube of natural-beeswax-based lip balm (SPF 15+) with me when I travel. It's almost like carrying a mini first-aid kit. It serves as a lip balm, of course, but also as an emergency sunscreen for my nose, a moisturizer around my eyes, and a blister preventer for my hands and feet. Jay Hammond, Gilbert, Ariz.

14. A taste of the world Instead of bringing back cheap souvenirs for my friends when I travel, I buy a cookbook with recipes native to the place I'm visiting. When I get home, I host a cultural dinner at which I share my pictures and cook some dishes from the cookbook. My friends and family tell me that they prefer the meals because, unlike throw-away souvenirs, the memories of the dinners last forever. Sarah J. Latchaw, Lawrenceville, Ga.

15. Coral relief I've found yet another use for antibacterial wipes. On a beach vacation in Ixtapa, Mexico, I cut my leg on some coral when I was snorkeling. I used the wipes to first treat the cut so it wouldn't get infected. Genny Goode-Chase, San Diego, Calif.

16. In the bag Save the bags when you buy loaves of store-bought bread—they're perfect for packing shoes. They're just the right oblong shape for shoes to slide in easily, and they keep your shoes covered, so the dirt on them won't get all over everything else in your suitcase. Melanie Martin, Huntsville, Ala.

17. Spa secret On most cruise lines, you have to pay for spa treatments, but on some ships, you can use the spa's showers and steam rooms for free. After my daughter and I work out and have a steam session on a cruise, we forgo the tiny showers in our staterooms for the spacious ones in the spa. Also, a lot of spas have relaxation rooms that are sometimes open to any cruiser who wants to get away from the action. April Icsman, Medina, Ohio

18. Sounding off To block out noise on a long flight or in a noisy hotel, I downloaded an 80-minute white-noise track from iTunes onto my iPod. I keep the track on repeat, and it works wonders. It was only $10—which is much cheaper than a sound machine or noise-canceling headphones—and since it's on my iPod, I don't have to pack anything extra. Kim Paschen, Philadelphia, Pa.

19. Work, then play If you love live theater and don't mind volunteering, you can often get free admission to productions when you travel. Contact the theaters in the city you'll be visiting and ask if you can be an usher in exchange for a ticket. I've done this in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Portland, Ore. Renee Silva, Waianae, Hawaii

20. Cool idea If you're planning a vacation and want to bring cold drinks to the beach with you, use a six-pack cooler as a toiletry bag. When you get to your destination and unload your toiletries in the bathroom, the bag can be used as a cooler for the rest of the trip. Kelly Sortino, San Francisco, Calif.

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