On-the-Road Travel Tips (part 2)

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 24 of the May 2020 issue.

Last month, I presented the first batch of the On-the-Road Travel Tips (and my own comments, where appropriate) from readers responding to a request in my January 2020 column. In the spirit of continued sharing of travel wisdom, I invite you to keep them coming.

Applying to anything that makes your travel experience work better for you while actually traveling, your travel tip (in 125 words or fewer) can involve luggage, clothing, electronic devices, transportation, accommodation, dining, etc. See my email or address at the end of this column.

Nili Olay (Naples, FL)
1. When staying in a hotel, my husband and I like to have a nightlight in the bathroom and a clock to tell us the time when we inevitably get up during the night. Our solution — we put our iPad on the clock setting, program it not to turn off and place it in the bathroom.

2. To keep our money from being pilfered from the hotel safe, we put it in a packing cube with a double zipper, which we lock. We learned the hard way that the hotel staff have keys for the safe and at times some bills disappear. (Hard to prove, but we knew it had happened.) Now they have to either take the whole cube or leave our money alone.

Great security idea, Nili. Maybe add a stick-on sign on the packing cube that says, “You are being photographed!” — RK

Fran Basso (Jamestown, RI) — My neighbor Fran advised that when she flies, she uses a swab of Vaseline inside her nostrils to maintain moisture and boost her body’s ability to deal with incoming airborne germs. Using a nasal solution or nasal mist can also be helpful in this regard.

I am now using Fran’s Vaseline tip. Also, while no one prefers to wear a face mask on an airplane, it can be a valuable protective device in these days of heavy flu and coronavirus concerns, particularly on a long-haul flight (or on any flight where you’re seated near someone who may not be well). — RK

Bobbi Benson (Burlingame, CA) — Here are some “travel light” tips:

Don’t check luggage. Go no bigger than an 18-inch, expandable, soft suitcase with two wheels.

Prior to the trip, buy an iPhone. Put your itinerary and boarding pass on it (less paper). Read on it (no bulky books). Use the GPS and map (don’t get lost). Use its camera, and send photos during your trip (postcards are hard to find and mail). Its flashlight is handy. The alarm clock auto-sets to the correct time anywhere. Call/FaceTime/Skype home from anywhere to share your trip in real time.

Get a 10-foot charging cord and an extra charger.

Buy a tiny container for enough daily pills, and have your pharmacist put the Rx labels on it.

If you have a hearing aid, a stripped wire tie from the grocery store works great for cleaning it. 

Take envelopes for tips, and take baggies for used, leaky Wet Wipes.

Use thin socks, and wear comfy shoes with hard soles and good tread for cobblestones. Take an all-weather jacket with a hood plus a tie-on soft hat.

Get there a day early.

I’ll be 80 on my next birthday, have traveled half the countries in the world and, sadly, have lost travel buddies. So in my last years of travel, I go business class and I don’t share a hotel room.

I travel with a 17-inch piece that usually weighs 11-14 pounds packed. I check the airlines’ limits and weigh everything, only checking luggage on the way home (sometimes).

I wash clothes daily, using the hair dryer for anything damp.

I also take a light scarf, glove liners rather than gloves, and a hiking stick (which folds to 13 inches and weighs 10 ounces).

Regarding Bobbi’s tip about not checking luggage, it is ultra-important to be aware of the carry-on bag size and weight limits of all air carriers being used on your trip. Some carriers now have very restrictive carry-on bag limits which are strictly enforced. Qantas’ domestic flights and the Australian domestic carrier Jetstar Airways are good examples, each having a 7kg (15 lb) weight limit for carry-on bags. — RK

Toni Smith (Harlem, New York City, NY) — My backpack has been my savior. I have osteoporosis, and my days of climbing onto the aisle seat to stow my Hartmann carry-on in the overhead compartment are over. I use a 2-compartment Columbia backpack that has served me well for at least the past 15 to 20 years.

The front zippered compartment holds my Wet Wipes, tissues, toothbrush, toothpaste and travel toilet paper in a half-gallon zip-lock plastic bag.

The inside compartment holds at least 12 Time magazines (I stockpile them to read, disposing of them when done), camera, travel umbrella, vitamins/meds, sunglasses and reading glasses (at least two pairs). I also manage to squeeze souvenirs in at the end of the trip.

I can get the backpack into the overhead compartment with ease, although it does become too heavy (but still manageable) at times. I have never mastered the art of “carry-on only” travel, so I still check a 24-inch Pullman. (I have never lost a bag.)

Thanks, Toni. Several years ago, I weaned myself down to a 22-inch check-in bag, which felt quite freeing. Now I use a 24-inch only if I’m leading a longer group tour, where I must carry extra materials, or taking a trip that requires a lot of heavy cold-weather gear. — RK

Dave Irving (Medina, PA) — Under the topic of “connecting” with the local populace on a foreign trip, the following approaches have always succeeded in “breaking the ice” with the locals and building positive PR as visitors from the United States.

1. If a tour itinerary includes a visit to a school, quite often it means the students sing or dance for the tourists in a rather self-conscious encounter. Then what? To break the ice, I will have packed several plastic frisbees (adding a sticky decal to each identifying “USA,” the Stars and Stripes, the Statue of Liberty, etc.).

I approach the school principal or the adult in charge beforehand and ask if they would be willing to have a short frisbee demonstration followed by the kids and teachers trying out their skills with this newfound toy. We always leave the frisbees behind as gifts for the teacher to distribute.

My wife and I have had fun and heartwarming experiences with this in Costa Rica, Panama, South Africa, Russia and Italy.

2. If the tour includes a meal home-cooked by locals to demonstrate their cuisine, at the end of the meal, in thanks for their hospitality, I make a presentation to our hosts of “USA” T-shirts that I purchased beforehand for $10-$15. Often, there are kitchen helpers who actually prepare the meal, and we invite them to come out front before our dining group and give them USA T-shirts too, thanking them for their meal-preparation efforts.

I have heard that some bragged about this to their friends afterward. One woman kitchen worker even broke down and cried.

Modest in price and easy to pack, both the frisbees and the T-shirts leave a positive impression of American visitors and add to the fun for all.

Sharing can be the best part of a travel experience. With precious packing space in mind for some destinations, I order crossed-flag friendship pins, with a USA flag on the left and the flag of the country being visited on the right (or in the reverse order). In small lots, these pins generally range from $2.50 to $3.50 each; contact PinMart (www.pinmart.com) or Flags N Gadgets (www.flagsngadgets.com). These crossed-flag pins are always appreciated and are often received with great joy, particularly in Cuba, where almost all yearn for good relations with the USA. — RK

Contact Randy at 80 America Way, Jamestown, RI 02835; 401/560-0350, randykeck@yahoo.com.