20 Tips

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Tips you send in. This month: a creative use for an inflatable beach ball, a trick for remembering your parking spot, how to keep kids entertained at the museum, 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. Rest assured I always pack an inflatable beach ball in my carry-on for long flights. When I'm ready to sleep, I just blow it up, put it on my tray table, and curl over it to sleep. I don't have to worry about my head bobbing from side to side as I sleep, and I never have a sore neck when I wake up. Added bonus: The beach ball also makes a great footrest. Connie Race, Tooele, Utah

2. On the hunt When my husband and I visit museums with our children, we always ask the ticket agent if there are any organized treasure hunts. Some museums, like the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, have a list of specific works of art or facts that are interesting to kids. If we know in advance that the museum doesn't have this feature, we put together our own treasure hunt. Susan Weaver, Ghlin, Belgium

3. Trick up your sleeve I came up with a great way to keep from losing my scarf when I travel. As you take off your jacket or sweater, grab one end of the scarf and hold on to it. Once the garment is off, you'll find that the scarf has been threaded through the sleeve. Since the scarf isn't loose, it's less likely to fall off and get left behind. Chuck Collazzi, Las Vegas, Nev.

4. Beyond the books Before we travel, my husband and I download podcasts about our destination, and then we listen to them on the way there. I even bought an adapter for my iPod that allows both of us to listen at the same time. Janice Telstar, Ardmore, Pa.

5. Magnet memories I purchase magnets when I travel. When I get home, I write the month and year of the trip on the back of each one before I put it on our refrigerator. The magnets are great reminders of when I've traveled where, and they're handy when I go to give blood. I just look at them to see if I've traveled anywhere recently that would make me ineligible to donate. Julie McCauley, Eugene, Ore.

6. It's a wrap On a recent trip to Italy, my husband and I picked up an Italian newspaper to use as fun and inexpensive wrapping paper. We even matched the section of the paper with the recipient, using colorful photos of soccer players to wrap a gift for a soccer-playing relative. We found that family members took as much interest in the wrapping paper as they did in the gift! Ruth Schnur, Princeton, N.J.

7. Hike up your coverage If you're going to do any serious trekking, consider buying rescue insurance. While hiking in Aruba, I fell off a cliff and ended up in the emergency room; in Boulder, I saw someone get airlifted off a mountain. Regular health insurance doesn't always cover things like a helicopter rescue, but rescue insurance does. The American Alpine Club offers a rescue benefit to its members for as little as $40 per year. Amanda Chay, Tampa, Fla.

8. Journal on the fly When my husband and I travel, I buy a postcard and fill it with info about where we stay, eat, shop, and sightsee, and then I mail it home. I use the card as a record for our future trips—or advice for friends who are planning to go to the same place. Leslie Parker, San Clemente, Calif.

9. Lots to remember It's easy to get a little distracted while parking your car at the airport before a flight. So when my husband and I park, one of us always sends the other a text message with info about our car's location. We never have to wander the lot looking for our car after the trip. Caroline Mosey, Indianapolis, Ind.

10. Room for improvement It can be tough to figure out hotel-room arrangements if you're traveling with several people. Instead of choosing your room, ask the reservations clerk what he or she would recommend as the best deal for your situation. I always explain that we have six in our family, what the kids' ages are, and who can share a bed. We've been given great solutions: two double rooms with roll-aways, and a family room for five with a roll-away. Catherine Douglass, Tacoma, Wash.

11. The fine printI found a way to keep track of all my airline, car, hotel, and club memberships without having to carry the ID cards with me. On a wallet-size card, I listed the membership numbers and toll-free numbers for all the programs in tiny (but readable) print and then had the card laminated. Elizabeth A. Flanagan, Blacksburg, Va.

12. Plugged in When you travel with infants or toddlers, bring a Ziploc full of childproof outlet plugs. You're bound to need them, whether you're staying in a hotel or with friends or family. Melanie Freeman, Encinitas, Calif.

13. Sand-free solution Take a container of baby powder along the next time you go to the beach. Before you get back into your car, sprinkle the powder on your feet—the sand falls right off! Christine DeFrehn, Mercerville, N.J.

14. Picture this Before a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I went to flickr.com, a photo-sharing website, and searched for images of the island. Just going through people's pictures helped me decide what I wanted to do during my trip. When I arrived, it was fun to walk around and see the statues, parks, and places I'd seen in other people's shots. Debbie Morantes, San Antonio, Tex.

15. Grand savings Formula One fans should buy their Grand Prix tickets directly from the track's official website instead of from formula1.com, online ticket brokers, or scalpers. I've saved up to $80 per ticket by doing this. For the name of the track (and its website) where the race will be held, just do a Google search. Shelby Spiva, Clifton, N.J.

16. Double-duty dishes I often bring along sandwiches or snacks in disposable plastic containers on trips. Instead of throwing the containers away when I reach my destination, I save them. Rinsed out, they're perfect for protecting small breakable items in my carry-on. Judy Zdeb, Newington, Conn.

17. Easy seat I used to check my toddler's car seat on flights, but now that airlines charge for extra luggage, I keep it with me. Since the seat is so heavy and bulky, I bought a Tote a Tot (toteatot.com, $30). It's a strap that attaches the car seat to any small roller suitcase, so I don't have to lug the thing around by hand. Best of all, when I board, I can check the seat at the door for free. Cinzia Cervato, Ames, Iowa

18. Wipe out Once at a wedding I realized that my makeup had smeared onto my collar. In desperation, I used one of my baby granddaughter's wipes, and it took the stain right off. Now I never travel anywhere without baby wipes, whether I'm with a baby or not! Janey Mitchell, Scanlon, Minn.

19. Checkmate! A lot of travelers think there's only one security checkpoint to go through when departing from the South Terminal at London's Gatwick Airport. But when the airport gets crowded, a second—and, when it's really packed, a third—opens. I've always found the upstairs checkpoint to be much less crowded than the main one. Tom Reese, Memphis, Tenn.

20. Sounds of slumber I listen to music when I go to sleep, but it gets tricky when I travel and share a room with others. On a recent trip, I put my iPod next to my pillow, cranked the volume all the way up, and put the earbuds under the pillow. The music was just loud enough to help me fall asleep, but not too loud for my roommates. Denise Hendershot, Grand Rapids, Mich.

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