On-the-Road Travel Tips (part 3)

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 37 of the June 2020 issue.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes — architectural splendor on high in Lourdes, France. Photo by Randy Keck

It is truly heartening to have such an enthusiastic response to my request for readers’ favorite On-the-Road Travel Tips. This is the third part of this series. Keep those travel tips coming (limit, 125 words per submission; see contact info below), and we will print as many as possible (with my own comments added, where appropriate).

Lyndall Urquhart (Pembroke Pines, FL) — My travel tip is that I discarded my backpack for an across-the-body handbag. I still have both hands free, and I can take the bag into museums (many of which ban backpacks). I found I also could walk crouched down in the tunnels of Egyptian pyramids with the bag with no problem.

I use a Jack Georges (jackgeorges.com) leather bag with one interior zippered compartment and four exterior zippered compartments, one of which is concealed. The interior can carry a water bottle and guidebook or be closed with a magnetic clasp.

The bag is probably a bit too big (10½"x10"x3½") to be fashionable, but it still looks new despite a lot of travel. I purchased mine at a Costco travel kiosk.

Lyndall, your across-the-body-handbag tip can definitely be a good option for some. A quick visit to the Jack Georges website showed these bags available in many sizes and configurations. — RK

Dee Hornback (Los Altos, CA) — In 50 years of international travel, I have heard stories from travelers who were pickpocketed or had their backpacks slit, among other sorts of thieving. I always wear a money belt to hold my credit cards, passport and money. It is lightweight and cool, and getting into it when shopping or for other needs is no problem.

Money belts are tried and true, but many people have an aversion to wearing them, preferring to keep valuables in a pouch on a cord around their neck and under their clothing. In some locations, I do that myself.

When I am walking with my small, 15-liter day backpack and find myself in close quarters where thieves might be present, I pull the backpack around from my back to my chest, where it is more protected, until I feel comfortable enough to switch it back. I did this on several occasions in some of the medinas I visited in Morocco last year. I should add that I don’t carry valuables in that pack. — RK

Diane Ball (Austin, TX) — My top two travel tips of late are…

(1) The Timeshifter “beat jet lag” app (www.timeshifter.com) — This smartphone app is getting a lot of love in travel media, and now I know why! I tried Timeshifter on my December 2019 trip from Texas to the Middle East, a 10-hour time zone difference. I experienced almost no jet leg on arrival and nominal jet lag on the more challenging east-to-west trip home.

The first trip you use Timeshifter on, it’s free. After that, it’s $25 per year or $10 per trip.

(2) T-Mobile cellular service (www.t-mobile.com/travel-abroad-with-simple-global) — In the past, I’ve spent precious time and money before and during each international trip exploring my cell carrier’s add-on international plans and comparing/buying country-specific SIM cards. After all that, my data usage has still been limited by plan terms or the set number of minutes on a prepaid SIM card.

No more! Travel gurus have long hyped T-Mobile for US travelers because of its included (yes, free!) international coverage in 210-plus countries.

I finally took the plunge on my December trip to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. I had seamless cell service upon arrival in each country, including unlimited text messages and unlimited data, with no data-roaming charges and with calls at 25¢ a minute. My service at home is great, too, and my plan costs less than my former carrier charged. Try it!

Diane, thanks for the helpful tips about the Timeshifter app and T-Mobile. Many readers will likely follow up. — RK

Donna Loveland and Lee Kufchak (Keizer, OR) — We use roll-up-style compression bags (not ones requiring a vacuum cleaner) for packing clothes. Lying or sitting on the full bag is an easy way to compress out the air. This allows packing more in a smaller space, though it does not reduce the weight! In addition, the clear plastic helps to easily locate items.

For daily sightseeing, we use a cinch-style (drawstring) backpack; Adidas, among others, makes them. Unlike bulky backpacks, it packs flat and weighs ounces. It holds daily needs, or we use it for shopping. A padded grip can be added if the shoulder strings are a problem. It repacks flat for the journey home.

I used to use compression bags, but they never seemed to hold up very long, forcing me to become more skilled at packing less, especially clothes.

For increased security, I suggest using a backpack that has dual zippers on each compartment. When advisable, use a small snap clasp or twist tie to connect and secure the two zippers together, making it difficult for even a skilled pickpocket to break into. Backpack compartments that are visibly secured are a strong deterrent to bad guys, who prefer to seek easier prey. — RK

Carole Reagle (Waterloo, IA) — With a dual-voltage immersion heater coil, plus an adapter plug, you can have a hot beverage in three minutes.

Birkenstock EVA “Madrids” ($30, various colors) are comfy and incredibly useful as a second pair of shoes. Much better than flipflops.

I’ve found that a J. Peterman “Marie Antoinette Nightshirt” ($48, various colors) is more versatile and covers better than a robe, and it’s cute-cool.

Lastly, a retired judge friend, after a lifetime of solo tramps and cruises with minimal wardrobe, gave me this advice: “Take no whites.”

Good fashion tips, Carole. With all the groups I have led in the past five or so years, not wearing white seems to be virtually gospel. — RK

Beverly Dandurand (Prescott, AZ) Pack a round rubber drain stopper, available from hardware stores, to use in bathroom tubs and basins without stoppers.

This can be especially helpful in older hotels and other accommodations. I have carried and used a rubber stopper in many places, especially Cuba. Be careful not to leave your stopper behind when you depart, as I have done twice.

Beverly also mentioned that a golf ball can work as a stopper with some drains. She even advised another purpose for a golf ball, although I must encourage readers to go to great lengths to avoid such a necessity. She told how she and her husband spent a Saturday night in the wild Brazilian mining town of Oyapoque in a pension in which the ground-floor entry door to their room would not lock. They put a golf ball in a sock to use as an emergency swinging weapon (Whoa, Nellie!) should the need arise. Thankfully, it did not. — RK

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