20 Tips

0902_20tipsCalm your canine

Tips you send in. This month: How to keep dogs calm on the road, a clever tip for parking near cruise terminals, a charitable use for leftover foreign currency, and more.

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1. Calm your canine My husband and I like to bring our three dogs on trips, but sometimes they bark at sounds from outside the hotel room. As a solution, we uploaded a recording of ocean waves to our iPod. At the hotel, we hook up the iPod to our mini speakers and play the waves, on repeat. The soothing sounds mask noises, so the pups don't yap. Jennifer Beach, Alexandria, Va.

2. Right on track Taking trains in a country where you don't know the language can be tricky, but when my wife and I were in Italy this year, I stumbled upon a way to make it easier. Find the train's schedule (every station posts these) and snap a digital photo of it. You'll have it with you on the ride to check the stops and know where to get off. Ed Lewis, Manassas, Va.

3. Dodge road fines If you rent a car in London, be sure to ask for a map outlining the city's Congestion Charging zones. Enter these areas—even accidentally—and you'll receive a $10 fine; the longer it takes you to pay, the more you'll be charged. My family and I happened into one of the zones, and our car was captured on camera. We found out when we got home that we owed $240. Joan Hortin, Chattanooga, Tenn.

4. Shoot your passport We all know that when traveling abroad, you should keep copies of your passport in a safe place. I always carry my cell phone with me, so I use it to take pictures of my passport's important pages as backup. When I need to fill out forms, I get my passport number by looking at the photos. John C. Giel, Leesburg, Fla.

5. Go in the know Driving in an unfamiliar area is never easy, which is why I always enter my hotel and other destinations in my GPS before my trip. That way, I can review the recent search history to access directions instead of having to program everything while I'm on the road. Jodi Green, Jacksonville, Fla.

6. Sponge trumps terry Hotels don't always provide washcloths. I used to bring one from home and keep it in a Ziploc bag as I traveled from place to place, but it never dried completely and would smell mildewy after a few days. Now I carry a kitchen sponge instead and have found that it stays fresher longer. Marilyn Silvey, Reston, Va.

7. Use your antenna Finding your rental car in a large parking lot can seem impossible, so my husband and I bring along an antenna topper for our rental. We can always spot the car right away. Beverly Moyer, Sinking Spring, Pa.

8. Shake and wake To sleep soundly when I travel, I wear earplugs, but they make most alarm clocks ineffective. My sister, who is deaf, gave me a great gift: a vibrating-alarm wristwatch that she ordered from vibewatches.com. You can set it to send alerts with a vibration, a beep, or both. I use the watch to wake up and as a reminder to take my medications. Carolyn Falk, Somerville, Mass.

9. Charitable change When you're stuck with extra foreign currency at the end of a trip—not enough to buy much of anything but too much to toss—there's a way to unload it with a good conscience. Many airlines take part in fund-raising programs for good causes and will accept donations in any currency on flights to the U.S. You can lighten your load and help out someone in need. Eugenia Lazaris, Upland, Calif.

10. Almost like washing Those little bars of soap in hotel rooms are good for more than baths. Put a bar or two in your laundry bag, and the clothes won't smell up your suitcase. Brenda Lyons, Christiansburg, Va.

11. Double vision Anytime I buy new eyeglasses, I store the old ones in my carry-on luggage. While I was on a European cruise, I sat on my good pair and couldn't get them repaired. It was a relief to have a backup for the rest of the trip. Nancy R. Wingfield, Roanoke, Va.

12. Plan B banking Like a lot of people, I depend heavily on credit cards when I travel, which means that a lost or stolen card could put me in a bind. For insurance, I deposit some of my vacation funds into a free checking account that comes with a debit card. I keep that card separate from my wallet. If I lose my wallet and can't access my main account, I still have a ready source of funds. James Gruber, Oviedo, Fla.

13. Family baggage When our son and daughter were younger, we bought wheeled nylon duffel bags from L.L.Bean—a different color for everyone in the family. The colors make it easy to do a last-minute check to see that everyone's bag is loaded into the back of the car. The duffels are reasonably priced, come in a variety of sizes, and are really tough. In fact, they still look new some 10 years later. Angie Matkins, Monroe, La.

14. Save Saturday for Brugge If you're on vacation in Brussels and want to take a train to nearby Brugge or Ghent, wait until the weekend. On Saturdays and Sundays, the tickets are half price. April Brown, North Wales, Pa.

15. Port-free parking Cruise terminals typically offer long-term parking for passengers, but the rates can be expensive. My husband and I have found an alternative: Many hotels near ports let cruise guests leave their cars there for free while they're at sea. The only requirement is that you stay at the hotel at least one night before you set sail. Sharon Jones, Waverly, Minn.

16. Lighter fluid not required A friend told me to bring a bottle of activated-charcoal capsules on my trip abroad. When my stomach started going south, I took a few capsules and felt much better within hours. You can buy them at GNC and other vitamin stores. Stephanie Denman, Walnut Creek, Calif.

17. She's got scents Most of my favorite perfume bottles are over the TSA size limit for carry-on liquids, so I can't take them on the plane with me. Before I go on a vacation, I douse a cotton ball with my favorite fragrance and put it in a Ziploc bag. Anytime I want to smell nice, I just dab my wrists. Karen Checki, New Berlin, Wis.

18. Staterooms get roomy My husband and I love going on cruises, but we don't love the cramped cabins. We've discovered that if we use rolling duffel bags instead of traditional suitcases we can collapse and store them under the beds after we unpack. The bags no longer hog our valuable space. Carole Sondike, Deerfield Beach, Fla.

19. Big-box wheels Check out costco.com when you want to book a car rental. It's generally cheaper than going through the major rental companies, and Alamo and National waive the additional-driver fee for Costco members. Junji Takeshita, Honolulu, Hawaii

20. BYO water The last time we went to Disney World, we had two 24-count cases of bottled water delivered to the hotel's front desk before we arrived. Instead of shelling out $2 or $3 per bottle in the parks, we paid a total of $12 for both cases. You can order them from chain stores such as Staples. Patricia Spillane, Warwick, R.I.

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