Ruminating on laminating

While I was spending a month in Paris, May 5-June 4, ’04, my daughter visited me for eight days. Both of us paid attention to visitors of various nationalities and found a couple of things that would have helped them navigate the tortuous streets of this city.

My daughter was happy to have a compass to line up its arrow with the creases of the maps we were using.

Perhaps the very best thing I did was to follow the advice of a young lady and 6-year resident of Paris who waited on me in San Diego’s Le Travel Store prior to the trip. I purchased a copy of the “DK Eyewitness Travel Maps: PARIS MAP” (1999, Dorling Kindersley; visit ISBN 0789448580 — $8).

This is a 10-section laminated map produced so that no information is lost across the folds. It can be folded to your section of interest. I numbered the sections 1 to 10 with a black felt pen and covered each number with clear Quick-Start tape (available in various widths at Staples stores).

Paris had a lot of breeze and wind at that time and we were able to hold the map in our hands and navigate with it easily — quite in contrast to the experience of some visitors we saw.

The flip side of this map has a vast amount of well-organized information. I should mention that this map has incredibly small print for many of the streets — we found a 3-inch-diameter, plastic-mounted magnifying glass helpful.

The San Diego lady also sold me a second map of whose value at the time I was not at all sure. It is the booklet-style, 5½"x8½" “PARIS MAP GUIDE” by Michael Middle­ditch (2002, Penguin. ISBN 0141469048 — 64 pp., $10 paperback). It has too much information to detail here. Its greatest value for us was in locating Métro stops, each one of which is clearly shown in a red box with white print on all 29 maps.

In my ignorance, I failed to do what I strongly recommend: razor-blade out pages 2 and 3 and laminate them as separate sheets, not back to back. These pages show the Métro system in a format at least twice the size of the map you will be given in the Métro ticket offices. You’ll find this helpful at night in the low light of the little flashlight you will take with you!

Again, the lamination makes handling nondestructive and their storage easy, not to mention making them rainproof and windproof.

I used a sharp-pointed orange felt pen to dot in checkpoints as we passed them to avoid having to relocate our position. I also drew in an orange line along our path for later reference. The color from the pen was easily removed with a finger or tissue. We could still see street names through the orange color.

A caveat — test your colored highlighters. Mine marked the paper PARIS MAP GUIDE permanently but was easily removed from the laminated PARIS MAP.

I found these maps very easy to use, in part because they could be stored in the front pocket of the Tilley Endurable vest I always wear, leaving my hands free.

Lamination is helpful in other ways. I carry a number of sharp articles that must be put in my checked baggage. These items I keep in an Eagle Creek zippered plastic bag of appropriate size. I laminate a list and keep it in this bag at all times. When packing at the end of the trip, nothing will be inadvertently left on my person or in a carry-on just waiting to be confiscated by the ever-vigilant TSA.

I laminate a copy of my passport to be surrendered to hotel desk people. The first time it is left behind, you learn not to give up your original passport. It is wise to carry more than one laminated copy for this same reason.

Critical lists of information are easily laminated to be carried in your purse or wallet, and they will stand continuous handling. Staples, for example, has a laminate luggage tag (I was just told a larger size is in the works) in which you can insert your name and address. Airlines recommend that such identification be placed inside and outside all checked luggage. I use a cable tie to affix these tags permanently.

I have just started to laminate my airline itinerary for quick and easy reference in airports. You could do this for each leg of more complex trips.

If you travel with instructions for setting your watch, GPS device, bike cyclometer, calendar of the year, etc., lamination is a perfect way to make such information indestructible. You can trim the laminate very closely with scissors.

And do not forget, for the oldsters out there (just kidding), your computer can enlarge the print as much as you want to make for easier reading. Use this capability or take your material to a copy store and have it enlarged before lamination.

Lastly, I happen to keep an account with Bank of America from which I draw money on demand from international ATMs. There may be a 3% charge for this service, but Bank of America will give you a list of banks which will not charge this fee. They are Santander Serfin, Westpac, Deutsche Bank, Scotiabank, BNP Paribas, Barclays and, of course, Bank of America. The trick is to find ATMs with the name and logo. Laminate these seven names in a luggage tag for your wallet. Check with your bank to see if it has similar international agreements.

San Diego, CA

Note: FedEx Kinko’s copy shops can laminate pages up to at least 11"x17".