20 Tips

0906_20tipsHard rock souvenir

Tips you send in. This month: souvenirs that make a rock garden, simplifying airport security, how to book the newest rental cars, and more.

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1. Hard rock souvenirs Many people collect mugs from the places they visit, but I've found that it's more fun—and affordable—to collect rocks. If I'm flying, I find stones that are about the size of my palm. If I'm driving, I choose larger ones to carry in the trunk. After labeling each souvenir, I put it in a rock garden with the writing facedown. My grandchildren enjoy picking up each one to see where I've traveled. John Falke, Sebastian, Fla.

2. Block the mail Even when you put a hold on your mail while on vacation, sometimes the postman doesn't get the notice in time. We place a small wooden block inside the mailbox with a note that reads: "Notice on file in the post office." That way, the box doesn't fill up, which would make it obvious that we're away. Judy Fenster, Sandy Springs, Ga.

3. All on the same page Before a trip, I print out an itinerary with all the hotel, airline, and embassy information to give to close family and friends. I also print out a Google map for each hotel, with directions from the train station or airport. Having all this is helpful if you're traveling in a place where you don't know the language—or if you're traveling with lots of people arriving at different times. Kim Mousseau, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

4. Beware of the bulkhead If you're taking longer flights with your children, don't pick seats near the bulkhead, which separates the plane into sections. These seats often have more legroom, but the armrests don't lift up, so your kids won't be able to recline on your lap. Judy A. Williams, Billings, Mont.

5. Cheers for Cheerios When we stayed at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando with our two young sons, we packed single-serving boxes of cereal and bought milk to store in the refrigerator. Every morning, we all ate breakfast in the comfort of our room before hitting the rides in the theme park. Not only did we save money, but we spent less time waiting in long lines for food. Joe Palmarozzo, Melrose, Mass.

6. Security savvy When going through airport security, place your laptop through the machine first and save your shoes for last. When you're in a rush, it's easy to forget some bags, but you'd never leave without your shoes. Adrienne Simmons, Portland, Ore.

7. Outsmart burglars Many people store their own addresses in their GPS units under the title "Home." But if the device is stolen, the thief can quickly use the info to find your house, break in, and loot it before you return. Storing those directions under a decoy, like your pet's name, can help prevent this. Don McGill, Oregon City, Ore.

8. Emergency phone In Germany, you can buy a prepaid cell phone from T-Mobile for about $40 and add extra minutes as needed. What most people don't know is that incoming calls are free; the person dialing the cell phone number is charged for the call, but the person on the receiving end doesn't have to pay anything. My husband always carries one of these phones in Europe, in case anyone needs to reach him in an emergency. Kristi Magee, Landstuhl, Germany

9. Jewel case The clear plastic box an iPod generally comes in is perfect for holding your necklaces and earrings when you travel. Unlike a fabric jewelry roll, it keeps your valuables from getting crushed. Eva Clarke, Richmond, Va.

10. Wine protector I recently picked up a great bottle of wine while visiting Ushuaia, Argentina. In order to prevent it from breaking and spilling in my checked luggage, I slipped the bottle into a tall thick sock for extra padding. Richelle Knoess, New York, N.Y.

11. The download on photos We always pack our laptop, but we accidentally left it at home on our last trip. Since we had nowhere to transfer the pictures from our camera's memory card, we visited the photo counter at a local drugstore. We burned a CD of the photos and then cleared the card to make room for more. Mindy Jensen, Monona, Wis.

12. Poster protector After buying some posters in Russia, I realized I didn't have a protective tube. I made one by cutting the ends off some empty water bottles and taping them together. Tom Ikeman, Middleton, Wis.

13. Safe solution Most hotel safes are tucked away in a closet where there's very little light, so it can be hard to see what's inside. To avoid leaving something behind, tear off a page from the hotel's stationery pad and place your passport, keys, watch, and jewelry on top. The white paper will make it much easier to spot all your valuables. Ray Dunlop, Sunrise, Fla.

14. Snack attack When I park my car at the airport, I leave myself a little snack pack for the drive home. A few bottles of water and some nonperishable food (nuts or granola bars) are handy in case I'm delayed or the airport food courts are closed by the time I make it back. Kristen Jacobson, Whitehouse Station, N.J.

15. A brand-new car! More car-rental companies, such as Dollar, National, and Thrifty, are letting customers in cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas pick from a group of vehicles on the lot. To make sure I get the best value, I've learned to look for an in-state license plate with a combination of the highest letters and numbers. In Vegas, for example, a plate that says 300 UVX is higher than 300 UVT. The Department of Motor Vehicles typically issues license plates sequentially, and the plates with higher letters and numbers tend to be on the newest cars, which usually have the lowest mileage. John Casey, Reno, Nev.

16. Closet expander Closets on river barges and trains can be very narrow. In order to fit more into the small space, I always pack cascading hangers with multiple hooks. Linda Reynolds, Centerville, Ohio

17. Pocket-size passport On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I found a great little shop that can make a mini black-and-white image of your passport and then laminate it so it fits in your wallet. I've since learned that most copy stores can do this, too. It's comforting to know I have my passport info with me at all times and that if I lose my real one, I have a backup. Eva Kriz, Brooklyn, N.Y.

18. Map saver When I get a map of a city, I fold it to show only the areas I'm planning to visit and then slip it inside a clear plastic sheet protector. That way, the map doesn't rip from being handled too much. Jay Edgeworth, Berwyn Heights, Md.

19. Pineapples on board If you want to bring home pineapples or leis from Hawaii, don't feel like you have to buy them from souvenir shops that use special labels and packaging to meet the state's agricultural regulations. Instead, get your own at a local store for a fraction of the price and have them inspected at the airport. Gloria Hasler, Palmdale, Calif.

20. Bonus beach day My husband and I often vacation in St. Maarten, and a fellow traveler gave us this tip: Get your boarding pass and check your luggage as soon as your airline counter opens. Some companies, like JetBlue and United, will help you at 10 a.m., even if you have a later departure. Once you get your seat, it's back to the beach—a five-minute walk away. Kathy Baker, Manakin-Sabot, Va.

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