20 Tips


Your wisdom from the field. This month: how a bungee cord can help prevent bug bites, a way to improve the airplane bathroom experience, a website for finding local radio stations, and more.

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1. Bug off While traveling through the Amazon, I wrapped a short bungee cord around each of my pant cuffs. The inexpensive cords, which didn't take up much space in my bag, helped prevent mosquitoes and other pesky bugs from biting my legs. Maury Nichols, Denver, Colo.

2. Handy medical recorder Pick up an extra business card at your next visit to the doctor. List your medications on the back of the card and keep it in your wallet with the rest of your medical information. This will help ensure you get the proper treatment in an emergency. Linda Klocker, Belmont, N.C.

3. The power of pet owners Often when I've stopped strangers to ask for directions, they've said, "Sorry, I don't live here. I'm just visiting." Now I get directions from people who are walking their dog, since they usually know the area well. Ed Taylor, Venice, Fla.

4. Airport foodies When trying to decide where to eat at the airport, follow the flight crews. Because they spend so much time there, I trust they know which spots are best. Kyle Adams, Parowan, Utah

5. Street tweets Before I visit a destination, I sign up for Twitter feeds from some of the local news stations to get weather and traffic-delay updates. After a trip, I remove unnecessary sources so I'm never following too many tweets. Katherine Boury, Seattle, Wash.

6. Happy feet My husband and I love to explore cities by foot when we travel, but my 9-year-old and 6-year-old daughters hate to walk. On a recent trip, though, my youngest noticed my pedometer. She begged to wear it and promised to rack up lots of steps for me. For the rest of the trip, we walked all over without any complaints. Now, to entertain my kids on long walks, I always pack a pedometer. Carolyn Birnbaum, Providence, R.I.

7. Travel books to go I don't like to lug around an entire guidebook, so I remove the relevant sections, punch a hole at the top of the pages, and put a metal book ring through them. This lightens my load and makes it easy to flip to the pages that cover the area we're visiting. Noel Keller, Bonita, Calif.

8. The cutest camera case If your digital-camera bag is too bulky, slip an extra-wide tennis wristband over the camera lens and viewing screen instead. You can usually find a set of wristbands at a sporting goods store for under $10. The lightweight, stretchy bands help prevent scratches, so you can stuff your camera into a purse or a coat pocket and go. Jerry M. Neumann, Birchwood, Wis.

9. Techy translation help My wife and I wanted to book rooms in convents in Florence and Siena, Italy, but when we called, we ­could not find anyone who spoke English. So we went to Google's Translate site (translate.google.com), typed in our requests in English, and faxed the Italian versions to the convents. The staff then faxed back to us in Italian, and we translated their responses into English. Thanks to the handy tool, we were able to stay in two convents in great locations. Darby O'Neill, Aurora, Colo.

10. Dress sharp Flat irons aren't just for hair anymore. I use mine on a low setting to touch up the seams on my shirtsleeves and to iron the cuffs of my pants and shorts. Susan Whittaker, Beech Grove, Ind.

11. Laptop locator To avoid mixing up your computer with others at the airport security checkpoint, simply place your laptop in the bin upside down. You're less likely to mistake it for someone else's. Dawn Long, Sunnyvale, Calif.

12. Double-duty ice packs As a diabetic who loves to travel, I've learned how to keep my insulin cool: Carry a reusable ice pack, which also chills sandwiches, snacks, and beverages while sightseeing. Refreeze the pack in the hotel's mini fridge overnight to use the next day. Henry Heitmann, Fort Myers Beach, Fla.

13. Road-trip radio I enjoy tuning in to local radio stations during long car rides. When I'm planning my route, I always check radio-locator.com and plug in the cities that I'll pass along the way. I then print out the result, which organizes AM and FM stations by frequency and lists their genres. Satellite radio doesn't usually cover small-town weather or traffic, but AM stations often keep that local flavor. Dick Myers, California, Md.

14. No more splashes The faucets in airplane bathrooms always seem to splatter water on my clothes and the floor. To avoid making a mess, fill up one of the small cups intended for brushing your teeth and use it to rinse your hands or face. Florem Hill, Lake Elsinore, Calif.

15. Clutter-free rooms So I never forget anything in a hotel room, I place the brochures and room service menus in a dresser or desk drawer. Clearing off the nightstand and desk frees up all the surfaces for my own things, which I can keep tidy and quickly spot when I'm ready to pack up. By staying organized, I'm confident that I won't accidentally leave something behind. Barbara Wold, Balboa Island, Calif.

16. Avoid accident snafus If you rent a car and get into an accident in Europe, make sure you fill out the required accident- report form before returning the vehicle. When we were involved in a minor collision in Paris, we didn't have the proper paperwork and the other driver misstated his account of the accident. Fortunately, we had taken digital pictures and were able to show the police we weren't at fault. Without the photographic proof, the rental-car company could've charged us for the damage because we hadn't filled out the form. Ron Warner, Fountain Hills, Ariz.

17. Love letters I pack pre-addressed cards for all the birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and other special events that I'm going to miss while traveling. I mail the notes from wherever I am to let those people know how special they are to me—the stamps from different countries add to the surprise. Cindy Gardner, San Rafael, Calif.

18. Hats off to binder clips I always wear a hat when I travel, but I remove it whenever I'm indoors. To keep from losing the hat, I use a binder clip to attach the brim to the back of my belt or a strap on my backpack. This trick also keeps my hands free so I can snap pictures. Steve Levenberg, Sebastopol, Calif.

19. Double-check the safe I have a friend who's an airline pilot, and he once arrived at the Shanghai airport only to find that he had left his passport and pilot's license in the hotel safe. With 90 minutes before the plane was supposed to take off, a hotel staff member retrieved the items and rushed to the airport so my friend could fly the plane. Now as a reminder to empty the safe, my friend locks up one of the shoes that he plans to wear on the plane. The shoe has little value, but of course he won't leave the hotel wearing only one. John O'Hara, Auckland, New Zealand

20. Magnetic car finder I can never seem to remember what my rental car looks like or what the license plate number is. If I know I'll be renting a car, I bring a unique-looking magnet, such as one of my state flag. After picking up the rental, I place the quirky magnet on the car so I can spot it in a crowded parking lot. Arnold Huskins, Grovetown, Ga.

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