On-the-Road Travel Tips (part 9)

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 27 of the December 2020 issue.

Due to the excellent response, we continue to share readers’ On-the-Road Travel Tips during this continuing period of international travel downtime. (Each is followed by my own comments.) It’s exciting to see just how creative travelers can be! In submitting your own suggestion for something that makes the travel experience work better for you while actually traveling, try to keep it to 125 words or fewer; my email is at the end of this column.

Sally Kevers (Roswell, GA) — Years ago, I liked to buy neat posters and/or local art while traveling. Getting these treasures home safely posed a problem. Not wanting to spend precious time (or money) trying to find suitable packing materials, I started using my empty plastic, one-liter water bottles.

The hotel usually had scissors at the desk which I could use to cut the top and bottom off, then stack together as many bottles as I needed for height to make a tube, securing them with masking tape (usually easy to find, or pack some in your suitcase).

This made an easy-to-carry, very lightweight protective carrier for my treasure. It usually fit in the airplane’s overhead compartment on top of all the suitcases, and, in my experience anyway, it didn’t count as a carry-on item.

Sally, you deserve the Travel Tip Creativity Award. Now you have me wondering if smaller, 500ml (16.9 oz.) water bottles would also work for smaller art/poster pieces, which might even fit in some checked or carry-on bags. — RK

Emanuela Allgood (Fremont, CA) — On every flight, domestic or overseas, I keep an inflatable beach ball in my carry-on. I inflate it to about two-thirds to three-fourths fullness and place it on the floor in front of me. This is my footrest. Even in first class or business on domestic flights, there are few or no footrests.

The ball I carry is 20 inches in diameter, but smaller balls fit better on the floor in economy class. My feet are softly cradled in the indentation of the partially inflated ball. It is so much better than the folding hard-plastic footrest or the inflatable small cube one gets from websites that cater to travelers.

I once offered a smaller ball (about 14") to a little girl sitting next to me in coach class who was unsuccessfully trying to sleep with her head bent uncomfortably down and forward on the tray table.

I put the partially inflated beach ball on the tray table, covered it with a soft scarf so it wouldn’t stick to her face and, voila!, she fell asleep almost instantly. Sitting pretty much upright, she was leaning just a little forward but not straining her neck.

Before landing, I deflate the ball and fold it into a tiny package just a little bigger than a pack of cards.

The beach ball costs only about $3. It lasts and lasts. I just replaced mine after about 10 years of biannual international travel.

Thanks for this in-flight-comfort tip especially useful on longer flights. I saw this application on a flight once and it seemed to work well. Emanuela, maybe it was you! Of course, especially these days, anything in contact with the floor needs to be wiped and disinfected before being repacked. — RK

Connie Martin (Prescott, AZ) — I have scanned all of my important documents and uploaded them in Google Drive so I have access to them anywhere in the world. Even if I lose my phone, if I can access a computer, I can access my Google Drive.  

Documents include copies of my passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate (my husband and I do not share the same last name), power of attorney, medications my husband and I take, copies of credit cards, driver’s license, etc.  

I got this idea when I read in ITN where another subscriber did something along the same lines. I made a list of all of the documents I might need on the road and started scanning. I feel more secure now that I have immediate access to them almost wherever I am.

Connie, both your logic and thoroughness are commended. I assume that access to your credit card scans and other sensitive information is thoroughly protected by passwords. — RK

Joyce Renee Lewis (Camano Island, WA) — Here are more tips I’ve collected (Oct. ’20, pg. 30) as a backpacker and adventure traveler.

• Clear tape will NEVER take the place of duct tape. (Don’t leave home without it!). To carry duct tape but also save space and weight, backpackers wind it around a tongue depressor.

• If you can find diaper pins, they are the BEST large safety pins. Once, on a flight on an old plane, I used my diaper pin to fix the magazine pocket back in place!

• Dental floss and the appropriate needle will sew almost anything together, no matter what the color.

It sounds like you’re handy to have around, Joyce! — RK

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