When it comes to travel tips, there is a list for just about everything. Best this. Best that. Worst this and worst that. And more and more lists and tips are popping up devoted strictly to technologic travel gizmos — phones, netbooks, apps, games — but sometimes you need plain old-fashioned travel tips. With the fall and holiday travel season flying into full mode soon, try these few tips for passport perfect smooth sailing.
The number one rule of travel is to ditch the heavy suitcase. Unless you're riding at the front of the plane in those bigger, nicer seats that allow 70 pounds per bag, then you're in last class where I sit and where we're allowed only a miserly 50 pounds per bag.
First thing you should do is weigh your suitcase, as you may be surprised at how heavy it weighs. I bought a stylish set several years ago, but was astonished when I realized the largest piece, the one I travel with the most, was a hefty 15 pounds. After deducting the 30 pounds or so for my super-duper high maintenance beauty and hair products, only 5 pounds were left for clothes and shoes. No, ma'am, that wouldn't do at all.
After much shopping around and research, I traded in the Model-T behemoth for the snazzier and affordable Sausalito Superlights collection from Ricardo of Beverly Hills (www.RicardoBeverlyHills.com). Named to National Geographic's Ten Best of Everything, the Ricardo brand carries extremely lightweight luggage. The Sausalito Superlights is expandable and has a four-wheel spinner, and best of all the biggest 28-inch upright weighs less than 10 pounds, ideal for high-maintenance heavyweights like me.
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Always travel with an alarm clock and flashlight. Since I don't own a watch, I've had a small battery-powered Timex Indiglo (www.TimexAudio.com) travel alarm clock for years that I bought on sale for a mere $5. Not all hotels have clocks, especially those overseas, and wake-up calls can be unpredictable. Plus, I can't count the number of times I've been in hotel power outages and have been grateful for my tiny travel flashlight. Now the Indiglo comes with a built-in flashlight, so for less than $20, you get both in one convenient battery-operated package. Without the extra weight of a separate flashlight, you can score yet another pound for more makeup if you're a lady or Adam Lambert.
Too many times I've heard horror stories about liquids exploding in luggage. One friend related how a bottle of olive oil that she was bringing back from Italy burst open in her suitcase and ruined everything. For another friend, it was wine. A bottle of shampoo exploded in my carryon and the gooey mess actually dripped out of the overhead bin and onto my head. So, then, after that fiasco I learned to stuff plastic storage and grocery bags into the suitcase. Anything that can leak or spill, like shampoo or olive oil, goes into the bags. But you can use them for any number of things, including storing wet clothes, dirty socks, and other unmentionables.
An all-purpose small first-aid kit is good, too. Pack it with aspirin, bandages, sinus medicine, anti-itch cream, antibiotic ointment, and insect repellant. At least you'll be prepared in case you're attacked by a swarm of hungry mosquitoes, a grumpy orangutan, or if you fly, a cranky seatmate who apparently has yet to have his morning coffee. If you're going into a foreign country, like Kenya, Mexico, or Newark and accidentally drink the water, an anti-diarrhea medicine can spare you much anguish and embarrassment caused by nasty water parasites.
Other items I put inside my checked luggage include a copy of my passport just in case I'm bopped on the head and my purse is stolen, a collapsible corkscrew when a bottle of wine is appropriate, and a sewing kit complete with safety pins because buttons pop off, seams rip, and sweaters unravel — and that's just in a Lady Gaga video.
My purse is filled with packets of tissues, a Tide Stick, Shout wipes, and Wet Ones single use antibacterial wipes. Some smaller airports don't have jetways, which means running for the plane in rain, so it's a good idea to carry a small collapsible umbrella and rain poncho.
You're more likely to spot George Clooney than a washcloth in a European hotel. Take one or two with you, and if it's not dry by checkout time, stuff it into one of those handy plastic grocery-store bags you've brought along. Also pack a small roll of duct tape. Luggage handles and zippers break, and duct tape is a quick fix. And if you wear glasses, an eyeglasses repair kit is an essential item. Keep an older pair in your luggage in case of major breakage.
Ladies and Adam Lambert, this paragraph is just for you. Throw in a couple of pashminas, wraps, or scarves. They weigh practically nothing and can jazz up an outfit from casual to classy in two seconds flat. For those bad hair days, either a baseball cap or a soft collapsible hat works wonders to hide unmanageable locks.
If you travel overseas and become sick because of those parasites, get bitten by cobra, or trampled by an elephant, your health insurance probably won't cover those costs. That's why you need travel insurance. There are several excellent companies like TravelEx and On Call International.
Here's the rundown of the invaluable coverage you can get for just a couple of hundred dollars. On Call International (www.OnCallInternational.com), for example, helps travelers and their families, including missionaries, students, faculty and others, more than 50 miles away from home in emergency situations. Their Global Response Center is available anytime, day or night, from anywhere in the world. Depending on your plan, they help with emergency medical services and evacuation, lost or stolen document, translation services, and lost luggage. Additionally, On Call International has a 24/7 nurse helpline staffed by U.S.-licensed nurses to provide medical advice.
One last thing. If you're traveling to a Third World country where poverty abounds, take older clothes that you can leave behind. Believe me, they will go to good use. I once left a pair of shoes at a hotel in Uganda because I had accidentally stepped in rhino poo at a wildlife sanctuary. When I checked out of the hotel, I saw a young man taking them out of the trash and smiling as if he had stumbled upon a million dollars. When I started to protest that they were practically worthless, I was assured by the hotel clerk that someone desperately needed those ratty, smelly shoes and wouldn't have to go barefoot any longer. That takes the adage of someone's trash is someone's treasure to an entirely new level.