Advice From Our Favorite Experts


Your wisdom from the field. This month: a shoe-in strategy for going through airport security, a cheat sheet for currency conversions, a quickie umbrella cover, and more.

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A shoe-in strategy
To avoid leaving your valuables behind at airport security, place your watch, wallet, cell phone, and pocket change in your shoes before you pass everything through the X-ray machine. There's no way you'll be able to walk away without retrieving your goods. David Kenward, Kernersville, N.C.

Big-box savings
If you're a member, check Costco's website for discount tickets to theme parks. You'll find more park options on the Web than in your local store. Have the tickets mailed to your house—just be sure to allow at least a week for them to arrive. Kati Knudsen, Lake Oswego, Ore.

Bag of tricks
Keeping my three young kids entertained on airplanes can be a challenge, so before we leave, I go to the local dollar store and stock up on small toys. I pack them in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and bring them out as needed. A constant supply of new toys keeps everyone happy. Monica Dalberg, Vernon, N.J.

Quickie umbrella cover
I like to store a plastic newspaper bag in a pill bottle and keep it in my backpack or purse. If it rains, I can put my wet umbrella in the bag and keep everything else dry. Elva Craig, Iowa City, Iowa

Kruse control
My family and I rented a Kruse—a New Zealand audio guide that's triggered by a GPS system when you reach specific coordinates—to use in our car during a three-week road trip through the country. The device gives the history of the area, info on Maori legends, and directions to off-the-beaten-path finds. For $6.50 a day, our vacation turned into an interactive adventure. (Editor's note: Kruse will be available in Hawaii in 2010.) Stephanie Berry, Winter Garden, Fla.

Ship it
Now that most airlines charge a fee to check even one bag, we pack a box with our bulkiest items and send it to the destination a week before our trip. If the box is going to a hotel or a time-share, we attach a note asking the front desk to hold it for us until we arrive. Jane Scott, Beverly, Mass.

Mini emergency kit
My husband and I spent five days hiking, and I wanted to be prepared for rashes and bites. To avoid taking full tubes of medications, I decided to store antibiotic ointment and cortisone cream in the two sides of a contact lens case. I labeled the lids with permanent marker. Kara Erickson, Kansas City, Kans.

List lover
I make packing lists on index cards for every type of vacation I take: I have lists for cruises, weekends at the beach, bike trips, getaways to the mountains, and so on. I also have a card for the things I need to do the day before I leave, such as water the plants, turn down the A/C, and go to the bank. All I have to do before a trip is pull the right card and pack. Marlene Popkins, Kearneysville, W.Va.

Conversions made easy
Instead of doing a mental calculation every time you buy something in a foreign country, print out a currency-conversion cheat sheet at A quick glance at the sheet will help you understand how much you're spending right away. Cindy Derr, St. Charles, Mo.

Souvenir stubs
After a trip to Egypt, I ended up with a collection of beautiful ticket stubs from all the attractions I had visited. Instead of throwing them away, I had an office supply store laminate the pretty pieces of paper. They make nice bookmarks, and each one evokes a different memory. Susan Johnson, Amarillo, Tex.

Day of rest
I learned the hard way that you should never plan to visit Christian sites on Sundays. Since there are often services, visitor access can be restricted. In England, our tour group was turned away from the chapel at Windsor Castle and St. Paul's Cathedral. Don Thomann, Bel Air, Md.

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