Hints and ideas to make your vacation more
pleasant and make your next business trip less stressful.Other Web Sites With Travel Tips
Carry Two Watches
Two is enough for most folks, three is enough
for the most paranoic.. So long as both/all watches are running and show the
same time you can be assured that you are not going to miss something
because a watch stopped or was inaccurate.
It is very very unlikely for
two watches to stop at or about the same time.
Your friend's or spouse's
watch can be the second watch so long as s/he is not offended by your asking for
the time while wearing your own watch.
Room Too Dark?
Take the lampshade off. Many lampshades absorb a lot of the light.
other travel tip web site recommends carrying your own 100 to 150 watt lamp
(light bulb). There are some disadvantages:
1. If your suitcase is really
tightly packed or is treated roughly by baggage handlers, the lamp might be
crushed, leaving broken glass all around inside your suitcase.
2. If you
forget to take out your lamp and put back the one the hotel provided, the maid
might pilfer (or confiscate) it.
Also if the smoke detector beeps because
of a nearly dead battery I ask the front desk clerk for a new battery. Meanwhile
I take a chance on fire safety and throw the old battery away immediately. I
cannot stand the periodic beeping which is a form of Chinese water torture.
Extra Large Carryon Baggage?
"Fly American Airlines, official
airline of the Boston Pops."
In September and October of 1998 American
Airlines prepared a number of radio and TV commercials featuring the Boston Pops
orchestra. In one scene the flight attendant was helping one of the musicians
strap a cello into a seat.
There is a catch. You must buy a ticket for the
large object since it must occupy a seat, not the overhead bin..
Internet travel forum a reader reported doing just that. One time the flight was
overbooked and the airline personnel still insisted that the large carryon (a
cello) be removed to the luggage compartment. It was also reported that tickets
bought for objects would not earn frequent flyer miles.
Airlines has a new reputation to uphold. From now on they are going to have a
hard time telling you to check luggage that sits in a seat for which you bought
a ticket. Otherwise they could be subjected to false advertising claims.
By the way, I suspect that extra insurance to cover checked baggage can be
bought for far less than a ticket to fly the object sitting in a seat.
Always pack items sturdily and ruggedly as if they will be checked into the
baggage hold. Failure to do this has lead to lots of arguments with flight
attendants. Musical instruments need to be put in hard cases.
Before You Leave Home
These tips are for short vacations. Closing
down your summer home for winter requires more complex preparation, descriptions
under construction on this web site. Also be careful not to choose the tips that
conflict with other plans, for example if someone is going to come and house
sit, you of course don't want to turn off the water.
off water heater. Caution: On some gas water heaters you turn the knob all the
way to the right to turn it off (unlike a radio or TV). Better yet, turn off the
circuit breaker or gas cock.
o Turn off wall faucets that feed
the washing machine hoses.
o If no one is coming to water the
lawn, turn off garden hose faucets using the inside shut off valves provided.
This prevents vandals from running up your water bill or causing other water
o Unplug appliances except refrigerators and
freezers. Also unplug lamps not part of a timer system. But is OK to leave
plugged in answering machine, clocks, and devices containing clocks such as
o If you don't have an answering machine or don't want
to leave one running, unplug all telephones.
o Turn off garage
door opener and lock all garage doors.
o Try to give away
o You can go to the post office and arrange
to have mail held or forwarded. But it is still desirable to have someone check
the mailbox for items that persons other than the postman stuffed in.
In winter open cabinet doors under sinks and washbasins, so warmer air in the
middle of the room will flow around pipes better.
o Send in at
least a minimum payment for every bill, especially credit card bills, that have
arrived. Some mortgage companies and finance companies treat early payments as
principal which does not relieve you of the obligation to send a payment closer
to the due date, but they may on request mark your file to take an early payment
as a payment. But try to avoid calling anyone to whom you send monthly payments
unless they have a toll free number.
o Also the usual, stop
newspaper and milk deliveries, etc., have someone come and walk around the yard,
pick up mail, mow the lawn or plow the driveway, have a few lights operated by
Optional Advanced Items:
o In spring,
summer, and fall, turn main water valve almost off. (Don't turn it completely
off unless water heater is turned off. Test it by running an upstairs (top
floor) faucet for two or three minutes, it should take that long to fill a
o In winter, drain plumbing and hot water
tank. Do this after all family members have used the bathroom for the last time.
(Be absolutely sure water heater fuel or power is turned off before starting
this task.) Leave a faucet on the lowest level (such as in a basement laundry
sink) open so just in case the main shutoff should be leaky the system won't
fill up again. If a friend or relative will visit the house to inspect it, let
him know the water is off.
o Pour a cupful of undiluted car
antifreeze in each toilet and bathtub, half a cupful in each sink drain. If your
home has master traps further on down the drain line, pour about a quart of
extra antifreeze down one washbasin (not a toilet) to make sure some antifreeze
reaches these traps.
o If your basement does not reach
freezing temperature in winter, take all canned and bottled unrefrigerated foods
down to the basement. This prevents freezing if the heating system fails.
Non-dry goods will be ruined if they freeze and then thaw. (Swollen cans may
spring tiny leaks that admit bacteria even if they aren't burst or leaking out.)
You can save freeze burst cans for a little while if you get home before they
warm up and you keep them in the 'fridge for a few weeks.
o Bring along checks and addresses and toll free information
numbers of credit card companies, electric company, etc. so you can pay bills
closer to the due dates and keep the money earning interest in your bank account
a bit longer.
New Airport Bomb Detectors Spoil Your
Before reaching the security check in:
Take all metal objects, coins, jackknife, etc. out of your pockets and put them
into your carry on suitcase. Put camera accessories, empty cameras, flash units,
light meters in the suitcase also.
2. Take the film cassettes or spools
out of the boxes, plastic cans, and wrappers and put just the bare cassetes and
spools in a plastic bag, preferably transparent. The cans can be put in your
suitcase, you may as well throw away the boxes except maybe keep one box of each
film speed if there are instructions inside.
3. Tape the cameras so they
can't be opened accidentally. Carry the loaded camera(s) separately or hang
their straps around your neck.
4. At the security checkpoint "empty your
pockets" by pulling out the plastic bags with the film and putting these in the
basket they provide. Don't pull out your wallet.
A long neck strap can
come in handy. The security person can examine the camera while the strap is
still around your neck. There is no danger of the camera falling on the floor if
it is accidentally dropped.
After going through security, open the
suitcase and take your keys, loose change, etc. and put that back into your
pockets. Put the cameras and film back into the suitcase.
So the airline
officials say the older style X-rays won't damage your film? Well they are both
right and wrong. A suitcase passing normally through the older machine (not the
newer bomb detector) probably won't get enough X-rays to damage the film. But
the operator may stop the conveyor belt to take a closer look and even discuss
things with the supervisor. All the while the suitcase sits under the X-rays for
ten, twenty times the X-ray dosage. This is certainly going to spoil the film.
Don't take out your wallet and put it in the basket they use to hold loose
objects. After showing it to the security officer if s/he asks, put it back into
Want the lowest
Yes you should wait until a sale (fare war).
A long time ago, airlines would refund to you the difference if they offered a
lower fare for the same trip after you bought your ticket. You did have to go
back to the travel agency or ticket counter and ask.
Nowadays you are
charged a fee for making a change to your super saver reservation and that
usually wiped out your savings. Also, they only give gift certificates, not cash
refunds. (A few airlines, I don't know which, will give you the benefit of the
lower fare without the change penalty if everything else on your trip stays the
Renting a Car -- In a nutshell
Renting a car is not easy, even the experts get stung. There are too many cases
when you arrive at your destination and the car rental agent is unable or
unwilling to give you the car for the price and terms you thought you had
arranged. Here are some hints.
1. Use a nationwide
well known company.
Easier to resolve disputes after
you return home.
2. Reserve in advance, preferably
at least a week.
Otherwise you may find only expensive
3. Learn the rules and policies before
Some companies demand you buy insurance.
Confirm the price for the entire rental.
In case weekdays
cost more than weekends.
4. Allow for late
Your car reservation might get
5. Use a credit card with collision coverage, if possible.
Then you can skip the expensive collision waiver.
Don't buy an entire tankful of gas.
Cheaper to refill
the tank yourself.
7. Inspect the car before leaving the rental lot.
Familiarize yourself with controls, verify scratches and dents.
Fill up the gas tank the night before you return the car.
Less last minute hassle, also top it off just before return.
9. Allow time
to get back to the airport and return the car.
rental lots are far from the airport.
Rental Cars - Gas
Most rental companies offer you
(1) Refill the tank just before returning the car
(2) Buy an entire tankfull and return the car unfilled,
(3) Don't pay for gas first and return the car unfilled anyway.
these choices, (1) is the cheapest. Check the wording, that may be confusing
and you might accidentally select (2).
About (2): When you pay for
a tankfull of gas, there is no refund for gas left behind when you return the
car. It is almost impossible to return a car absolutely empty, and it is a big
hassle and worry about running out of gas if you try. That is, you enjoy the
convenience of not having to fill the tank only when you come back with lots
of gas to spare. So the effective price per gallon you used is much higher
than the price they quote. Normally they sell you the tankfull up front for
the same or a few cents less than the local gas station.
When you don't buy a tankfull and return the car unfilled anyway, they charge
you to refill the tank at a price much higher (typically double) than the
local gas station. It's convenient but costly to use this choice.
actually suggest that you fill up somewhat in advance
of returning the car, and top it off just before returning it. Then, if a last
minute errand leaves you not enough time to fill up at return time, you are
forced into choice (3) but only charged for a few gallons at double price.
Also you might find a cheaper gas station some distance from the rental
Keep in mind that on most cars, the gas gauge reads above the
"F" mark when the tank is filled. If, when you take out the rental car, the
gas gauge moves as you drive, or is not above the "F" after driving fifteen
feet, you cannot be sure it is full.
- Name Brand Rentals
Unfortunately, small local car
rental companies are more likely to leave you with problems.
--- Car not available; sold out.
--- Shortchanging you on
--- Car itself not in good condition. I once found the front
license plate missing only after I had driven awhile.
rental firms are more likely to upgrade you if the car you ordered is not
You can take care of problems involving a nationwide car
rental firm after you get back home if they also have rental stations in your
state. Whereas dealing with a local firm has to be done in the state it is in.
Rental Cars - Pick up time should allow for delayed flight
If you don't pick up your car on time, your reservation might be cancelled. I
have had no problem telling the rental company I will pick up the car a few
hours after my plane should arrive and then come early. Some rental companies
will take down your flight number and then if the plane is delayed, they will
hold the car. You should ask. Rental car pickup may make it difficult for you
to volunteer to be bumped, if you like to do that.
Rental Cars - Reserving in advance
Always reserve in
advance, otherwise you may only find very expensive cars. We have observed
people going up to the rental counter at the airport and heard the rental
agent begin the conversation with "we only have full size cars left".
Rental Cars - Learn the policies and rules
Some companies require you to buy their collision insurance if you don't have
collision coverage on your own car back at home. This part of their rules can be
complicated, for example apply only to non-US citizens or persons under 25.
Some companies do not allow you to drive the car on certain roads, including for
example a popular dirt road up to a volcano scenic point in Hawaii.
Sometimes you are advised to contact the office of the location where you
will be renting. This may be enough hassle for you to select a different
Rental Cars - Allow time to return
ABC News has noticed that car rental lots are
being moved further and further away from airports, forcing you to ride a
shuttle bus. If time is short when returning home I go directly to the car
return lot. I do not go to the airport terminal first because that makes it
take longer to go return the car. However the others in the party
may immediately jump in the first shuttle from the rental lot and I'll take
the next shuttle after I check the car back in.
Avoiding Telephone Ripoffs In Hotels
Most hotels add a surcharge for calls made from
your room telephone and that may include 800/888/877 calls.
there is no surcharge, you pay more expensive operator assisted rates.
The easiest way to avoid surcharges is to go down and use the lobby phones.
Sometimes the hotel surcharge it is a percentage of what the phone company
charged you. Sometimes it is a flat fee per call. There is no charge for
Some hotels give you the first 20 minutes or so for a
flat rate (or free) and add a per minute surcharge after that.
1. A flat fee for each time you pick up
the phone handset until you hang up. (We won't elaborate on details how calling
within the hotel is not charged.)
2. A per minute charge while you are
making calls, sometimes including 800/888 toll free calls (Calls within the
hotel are free, and the outside call surcharge rate may vary for local versus
3. A percentage surcharge of what the phone company
charged the hotel when you bill the call to your room.
4. Some hotels'
systems block calls to selected numbers notably those of popular competing long
distance carriers such as 1-800-CALL-ATT.
5. For the convenience of
persons making short voice calls but to combat tying up lines for long periods
with personal computers, some hotels offer the first 20 minutes or so at a flat
rate or free and add a per minute surcharge for longer calls.
1. If you go down to the lobby and use the pay
phones there, you escape all of the hotel surcharges. (Unless method #4 is in
2. If you use a telephone credit card or prepaid calling card, you
escape surcharge method #3. Method #4 may prevent you from doing this.
If your calling card or long distance carrier lets you press the pound key to
let you make another call without hanging up, you can make several calls and pay
only one method #1 surcharge if it applies. You also escape method #3 surcharges
but not method #2 surcharges.
4. If your long distance carrier has a "call
me and I'll call you right back" option, you can escape almost all of the method
#2 and method #3 surcharges and pay just one method #1 surcharge for a batch of
calls. However certain hotel phone systems might be technologically unable to
route the call coming back to your room.
Useless Travel Certificates
hotel and car rental certificates are practically worthless.
Mini-vacation certificates are given away or even sold by the thousands and
most are never redeemed.
first time I saw a mini-vacation certificate was when I was in college and
someone advertised it on a bulletin board.
Three Days and Two
A Fabulous and Exciting Vacation
Choice of Las Vegas or Orlando
Only thirty dollars!
I went to see what he had to offer and
he showed me this cheap looking card with fine print on it. What caught my eye
were the words "meals and transportation not included". They made it sound nice,
"Since this package does not include meals or
transportation, you are free to come and go as you please and enjoy the many and
varied restaurants in the area"
So I was thinking, what was included?
Seems like only a hotel room, and probably from a limited selection of second
rate hotels. You had to reserve in advance and put down a deposit, too. I didn't
Also you don't get the three days they advertise. You can't check
in before 3 PM and you must check out by 11 AM, giving you just one and two
thirds days and two nights.
Then a few years later I joined a half price
hotel club and they threw in one of those certificates at no extra charge. I
never used it.
I belong to a frequent flyer club (United Mileage Plus) and
when I earned an award, they included a certificate for half off a hotel room
for two nights and half off a weekend day car rental. I never used these either.
Whenever I wanted to stay where a participating hotel was, there were other
hotels nearby whose everyday low rate was less than the participating hotel's
rate after 50% discount. Once a convention I was attending was held in one of
the participating hotels but that time my desired nights were blacked out.
The 50% discount is off the full weekday rate, called the rack rate. Most of the
participating hotels offer substantial discounts on weekends without the
The car rental certificate was useless too. If I were to use
it, my credit card, which offers collision insurance for rental cars, would not
cover that day. So I would have to pay an additional $15.00 for insurance and
that was nearly the entire savings the certificate offered.
earlier the same airline offered a completely free car rental day with their
frequent flyer award. I received and used that certificate where the final cost
including collision insurance came out to about half the normal cost of renting
I have been to many conventions over the years and each one
advertises a special room rate at the hosting hotel. Once I helped plan a
convention and I found out that if a banquet is held and enough attendees stay
at the hotel, the ballrooms and meeting rooms are provided at no extra charge.
If conventioneers get a special room rate, then does that mean the casual
vacationing traveler staying at the hotel helps subsidize all this?
Carry On Baggage Alert
carrying more than one carry-on sized suitcase worth of material for which you
may be held liable or accountable.
Use additional baggage insurance
offered by airlines.
Choose a seat behind the wings and not at a
Get to the airport early.
Have an emergency plan ready
before departure in case you have to check baggage.
Managers may accept
liability in writing and in absentia for parcels to allow travelers to carry
more on a trip.
On many flights, passengers are
not able to carry on as much baggage as they planned to.
Choose a seat
behind the wings. People sitting at the back of the plane board first and
therefore have more space available for carry on baggage.
Don't choose a
bulkhead seat. Then you are at least guaranteed space under the next seat for
Get to the airport early. If you don't, everybody else will
have boarded first and taken up all of the carry on baggage space. You may even
lose your seat selection.
If you want to board before your row is called,
get behind someone who is obviously carrying more baggage than allowed. The gate
agent will find it mighty difficult to let him board and refuse your boarding.
Consider extra insurance coverage. Arrange for its use and cost before
On business trips prior to departure, the manager should
specify the precise procedure in case there is no carry on space on the plane
and material has to become checked baggage. Arrangements for contingent costs,
such as changing to a different flight or staying an extra night, should also be
made before departure.
If you are not comfortable about the baggage
arrangements for your trip, don't take all of it. Let your manager choose what
you take. Have the folks at the other end prepare a laptop or other PC and you
just bring the diskettes. Government classified material cannot become checked
baggage. Courier services are a viable alternative to handle baggage.
Contrary to popular belief, custody of a parcel and responsibility for it are
separable. Nothing forbids a manager, even if not traveling, from accepting the
responsibility, accountability, and liability in absentia for the safe and
secure transport of company materials (except government classified materials).
Travelers should get this in writing.
Too Tight Lug
After you have wheel or brake work done, try to undo all of
the wheel lug nuts before leaving the service center. If any are too tight, have
the mechanics help you right away. You should be able to undo all of the lug
nuts without kicking or jumping hard on the wrench although it is OK to stand
on the wrench.
I used to find once in awhile, months later the wheel lug
nuts are so tight I cannot get them off to change a flat tire. This leads to
trip delay and inconvenience at best, or damage to the wheel or injury to a
person struggling with the lug wrench. The lug nut can get deformed to the point
that a welding torch is needed to get the wheel off.
Auto clubs like AAA
get a lot of unnecessary service calls because service stations, even those they
give their stamp of approval to, put the lug nuts on too tight.
change a tire yourself, use only your arms, not your feet, to tighten the lug
nuts. In fact, if you are a strong person, don't hold the lug wrench at the
extreme end when tightening. This leaves more leverage the next time you must
take the wheel off.
In one of the TV episodes of The Incredible Hulk,
David (played by the late Bill Bixby) was injured trying to take off a flat tire
and he changed into the hulk and pushed the car down a ravine.
A few other web sites with travel tips (Subject to availability
ABC News Travel
The DIS (Unofficial Disney World Discussion)
Healthy Flying (http://www.flyana.com)