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Travel tips from Los Angeles Times readers

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Go ahead — we dare you to read this list of travel tips and not clap your hand to your head and say, "Why didn't I think of that?" When we asked readers to contribute their best tips for travel, we were overwhelmed by the number and comsengen (a word we just coined that's short for "common sense genius") of the ideas. Do you always forget your phone charger in your hotel room? Do you wonder why, when your flight is canceled, you end up standing in long lines while others whisk off to their new flight? And how in the world do some people easily convert whatever the local currency is while you're standing there doing math in your head? Here are some of the hows and whys that can make your travel easier. So grab a cup of coffee and a couple of aspirin for the headache you'll get from smacking yourself on the head. And if you have a tip to contribute, send it to travel@latimes.com.

Packing

Develop and use a personalized travel-packing list. Keep your list up to date, handy and detailed. Store your list in your luggage or with your travel documents.

Standolyn Robertson

Los Feliz

Pack old underwear, socks, clothes, etc., and toss each pair as you go. Saves on laundry and leaves room for souvenirs as you travel.

Larry Blanton and Starr Sachs

Valencia

Be aware that some luxury hotels will send your discards back to you and bill you for the shipping, if you do not advise the front desk. Or arrange to donate serviceable items.

Mark Imber

Thousand Oaks

Or throw your old stuff in a street trash can.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

Take a small carry-on bag with needed prescriptions, eyeglasses, contact solution, etc., change of underwear, limited cosmetics and toiletries and an empty plastic water bottle that you can fill once through security. There are more delays and canceled flights than you might think.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

Cross-pack with your travel partner. I put a few clothing articles in my wife's carry-on and checked bag. She does the same in mine. It reduces the odds that a lost or delayed bag will disrupt your trip.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

Carry a folded-up plastic bag with zippers, handles and a luggage tag. Check it, or carry it on. Great for souvenirs.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

Put some bubble wrap or padded envelopes in the bottom of your suitcase for anything fragile. Likewise, a tube if you might get some art/posters.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

Also pack an empty day bag. My over-the-shoulder day bag is a great catchall for guidebooks, water bottle, travel umbrella, hand sanitizer, tissue, souvenirs, etc.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

Enclose your checked bag in a sweat shirt. I put the handle through the neck opening and close the drawstring around the bottom.

Shirley J. Lane

Santa Monica

Don't fill your 3-ounce carry-on liquids to the top because they'll leak. Squeeze slightly to simulate the compression during flight and cap securely. Voilà! No leaking!

Kay Brown

Laguna Hills

When traveling for business, pack each jacket/pants/dress in a plastic dry cleaners bag in the top of your suitcase. Clothes wrinkle less, are protected from moisture (suitcases can sit in the rain) and are fast to unpack. And always take an extra white T-shirt.

Kay Brown

Laguna Hills

Pack necklaces by threading them through a straw. Straws are an easy to come by at fast-food restaurants and coffeehouses.

Laura Lee Smith

Newport Beach

If undecided about checking luggage, organize liquids in a clear bag so you can retrieve the bag quickly for Transportation Security Administration inspection in case you opt to carry on the suitcase.

Bruce Bishop

Long Beach

Leave the travel books at home. They're essential but can be like having anvils in the luggage. Use an e-reader or tablet instead.

Greg and Charlotte Nelson

Mission Viejo

Fill in a blank calendar page — in pencil — with the dates and projected activities of your trip. Doing this ahead of time helps you budget your time and provides a record of what you ended up doing. I have done this for 20 years, and these easy-to-keep pages now are a great history of my travels.

Lynne Buckie Baker

Huntington Beach

You should always take

An extra passport-size photo and the contacts for the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

Custom ear plugs. They're useful for blocking out those late-night parties or all-night celebrations or weekend-long weddings or the honking chaos of some places. Before my trip to India last year I looked online for an audiology center and called to find out if they made them. They did. The plugs cost about $125 and took a week or so to make. I take them everywhere I travel.

Don Mankin

Venice

Bitters. I carry 3 ounces, which is excellent if you have flatulence on a plane.

Shirley J. Lane

Santa Monica

A wallet-size money conversion chart and a wallet-card flashlight.

Shirley J. Lane

Santa Monica

Magnets, especially on a cruise. They are very useful, especially on cruise ships, as most doors on staterooms are metal, and I can use the inside or outside of the door as a place to leave notes and schedules. They are also good for finding metal things I drop, such as earring backs.

Donna Mollan

Anderson Island, Wash.

Suction cups, the kind you can buy at a hardware store that can hold strings of Christmas lights. I stick one on the hotel mirror to hold my toothbrush, because the plastic cups often supplied just tip over. Sanitary and convenient.

Lynne Buckie Baker

Huntington Beach

A small candle in a can and a box of matches if traveling to India. Some hotel rooms have unpleasant odors. Light the candle while preparing for bed, and those odors will disappear. (Make sure to blow it out before you fall asleep.)

Jane Barack

Los Angeles

Cleansing wipes. In budget hotels throughout Europe, there were no washcloths and only very small bars of soap. Individual cleansing wipes that you wet as needed are easy to pack and come in handy.

Vicki Deaton

Ventura

A pair of old athletic socks in a plastic bag. These will be your socks to use when you visit temples where you have to remove your shoes. At least you won't be walking around barefoot. Dispose of these socks at the end of the trip.

Jane Barack

Los Angeles

You should never take

Nonessential cards, credit or otherwise. Leave them at home. I don't carry my driver's license overseas if I don't plan on renting a car.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

Liquids greater than 3 ounces in carry-on bags. I bought a bottle of truffle-flavored olive oil in Paris. Upon return to the U.S., I wanted to carry on my bag on the last leg of my flight. To save the oil, I had to check the bag, which cost me time and money. Big mistake.

Lydia Deems

Santa Barbara

Recreational drugs before the flight. Altitude intensifies the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

Never take for granted that breakfast is free. Some hotels imply that it's free, then hit you with a big bill.

Larry Blanton and Starr Sachs

Valencia

Your passport in a backpack while sightseeing.

Vicki Deaton

Ventura

Flying: security tips

Place your shoes in the last bin you put through security. This was a tip from a Transportation Security Administration staff person. If you have to take off belts, remove change from your pockets or put through anything, you will always scoop them up if they go before your shoes because one never walks away without their footwear.

Liz Parker

Costa Mesa

Join Global Entry to become a "trusted traveler" and breeze through security (usually). The same program can speed you through customs and immigration entry and gives you access to the PreCheck security program. If you don't qualify for PreCheck as a frequent flier, Global Entry gets you into PreCheck as a bonus prize. For $100, you get five years. Info: http://www.globalentry.gov

Arun Baheti

Los Angeles

Flying: choosing a seat

If you have a connecting flight, reserve a seat for the first flight as close to the front as possible in case your first flight is late and you need a quick exit from the plane.

Shoshana Brower

Westlake Village

Go to SeatGuru.com for valuable information about exceptionally good and bad seats on each aircraft. We learned that Row 40 on KLM's Boeing 777-200ER has more leg room than other economy section seats because of a bend in the fuselage. And that the A380 we flew to Australia has one seat in economy that has no seat in front of it because of an emergency hatch for the crew's quarters below. We got it.

Greg and Charlotte Nelson

Mission Viejo

When selecting a seat on a plane, pick one on the side that will be out of the sun. This way, I avoid the heat and bright, direct sunlight that can make flying uncomfortable.

Randy Kahn

Calabasas

If you're flying as a couple, book an aisle and a window seat instead of two seats together. The airlines fill middle seats last so it increases the chance you may have the row to themselves. If the middle seat is filled, that passenger will almost always trade for an aisle or window seat so the couple can sit together.

Julie A. Walker

Irvine

Flying: flight issues and changes

Sign up for flight alerts with the airline you are using so that info on flight delays, gate changes, etc., can be sent as a text to your phone or as an email to your smartphone.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

If your flight is delayed or canceled, instead of standing in line, use your cellphone to call your airline's 800 number and make new arrangements. It works.

B. Gaines

Santa Barbara

Get the local phone numbers for the airline you are using in the countries you'll be visiting so you can contact them easily when you're away. Likewise, enter the numbers of hotels, car companies, guides, travel agent, etc.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

Flying: your carry-on

Carry a small cloth bag with you when you fly. While I'm in the waiting area before boarding, I put my headphones, book, snacks, etc., in the bag. I find my seat, put the cloth bag on the seat, put my carry-on bag in the overhead and thus get out of the aisle quickly.

Terry Murphy

Pasadena

Flying: be nice to others and yourself

Be nice to your flight-crew members. They can make or break your flight. I know. I flew for a major air carrier for 40 years both, domestically and internationally.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

Arrive at the airport on time, and have all travel documents organized. Running for a flight is stressful. They don't call it cardiac corridor for nothing.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

If you are on standby for a flight, wear something noticeable (bright red scarf or jacket), check in and politely make sure the gate agent knows you are on standby. When it is time to board, stand near the boarding door to wait. Often a person will be called who is in the bar, restroom, etc., and not respond to their name. If you are near the door and instantly recognizable to the agent, you might get that last-minute seat.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

If you're standing up to get out of your seat, turn around and grab your own headrest, not the headrest in front of you, which unnecessarily disturbs the passenger in front of you. It works, and it's way nicer to your fellow travelers.

Larry Butler

Valley Village

Traveling with children

If you have children under 10, take a goody bag with new toys and puzzles they have never seen. Give half to them on the outbound flight, and save the other half for coming home. It might also be a good idea to take something familiar to eat (peanut butter and jelly sandwich). Kids don't really like airplane food.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

Buy inexpensive little toys, and wrap them like presents. Bring out the first present when they start to get antsy. Take out the next one about an hour later. Before you know it you've flown across the country with well-behaved, engaged kids.

Joe Franklin

Manhattan Beach

Pick up trinkets and baubles from booths at trade shows you attend, and have them at the ready in your carry-on bag. If I'm sitting near kids who are misbehaving, I ask the parents if I can give them to their kids. Peace ensues.

Joe Franklin

Manhattan Beach

Don't tell children not to worry about getting air sick. If you don't mention it to them, it probably won't cross their mind.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

Make sure children of all ages know how to fasten and unfasten their seat belts. In the unlikely occurrence of an accident, you might be unconscious.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

Make a game out of finding your way in a foreign country. I call this one "Get Us to the Train." At the Termini Station in Rome, for example, we would get out of the cab, and I would give the train tickets to my 10- and 11-year-olds and say, "Get us to the train." Chaos would ensue (we were always close by), but it taught the kids valuable lessons. I am confident they could find their way anywhere in the world.

Joe Franklin

Manhattan Beach

Documents

Scan your passport (main and endorsement pages and any visas), your birth certificate, airline tickets or vouchers, hotel and car booking confirmations. Email them to yourself and (likewise, your travel companion's too) for easy access in event of theft or other emergency.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

Copy your itinerary and contact numbers for each location you're visiting, and put it on top of your clothes inside your luggage. If your luggage misconnects, this could help. I have a luggage tag that is made to put an itinerary inside, which is even easier.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

Leave copies of your passport with trusted people at home in case yours get stolen or lost.

Vicki Deaton

Ventura

Think about getting another valid picture ID. Before you travel or leave home, apply for a California ID, not a second driver's license. I carry my driver's license in one place, my second ID tucked away in another.

Maria Karras

Pasadena

Communicating

Don't forget to contact your phone carrier and figure out the best plan for communicating when traveling. Sometimes it just means changing your plan temporarily (remember to change it when you get back) for a nominal fee, which can save you big bucks.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

Make a list of all your important numbers (contacts where you're going, your hotel, etc.), and email it to yourself.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

Create address labels if you plan to send postcards, and that way you don't have to search for addresses. Plus, you know when you've sent cards to everyone on your list.

Sheila Maynes

Beverly Hills

Information, please

I email all destination tourist offices and hotels, asking for brochures. [Editor's note: See the "foreign tourist office" and "state tourism office" entries at latimes.com/tripplanning.]

Shirley J. Lane

Santa Monica

Warding off trouble

If you book your airline ticket with a third-party site instead of directly with the airline, call the carrier directly after making the reservation to confirm the ticket and the seat assignment.

Arturo Gayod

Glendale

Be careful what you leave in your passport. My 25-year-old grandson was returning from a business trip to Japan, and upon entering the U.S., he handed the official his passport, forgetting he had placed the unused yen in the passport for safekeeping. The official assumed my grandson was trying to bribe him. He and his belongings were searched repeatedly. He was detained so long he missed his connecting flight.

Joyce Parkhurst

Long Beach

Never give customs or immigration attitude. Answer their questions politely, and do not challenge what they say. A bad attitude with these people could mean an abrupt interruption to you vacation. I've seen it happen. The same applies to airport security.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

Make sure the expiration date of your passport falls within the regulations of the country you're visiting. Some countries will not let you enter unless your passport has three and sometimes six months remaining or has a certain number of blank pages. Make sure you check entry requirements. We learned the hard way at LAX as we were getting ready to go to Costa Rica and couldn't get on the plane. [Editor's note: Check entry/exit requirements for foreign countries by going to the State Department website page for your destination: http://www.travel.state.gov.]

Cherrie Lakey

Long Beach

Always know how many rows of seats separate you from the nearest emergency exit on the plane. Your nearest exit could be behind you. Count the rows as soon as you board. When a plane fills with smoke, you can't see where you are going. If need be, get on you hands and knees to get to the exit. There are emergency lights on the floor to lead you to an exit.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

When making a hotel reservation in another country, always make sure it is made for the correct town. My friends and I wanted to meet in Málaga, Spain, which is what the website said. Turned out the hotel was in Marbella, an hour's bus ride from where we wanted to be. Lovely beach town, though.

Shoshana Brower

Westlake Village

If you travel by taxi in a foreign country (particularly Italy), never hand the fare to the driver if you expect change. Have him produce what is due you in return and then make an exchange. Example: If the fare is 32 euros and you give the driver two 20s, expecting 8 euros as change, he may pocket one of the 20s and replace it with a 10 and insist you owe him 2 more euros.

Jim Morrow

Culver City

When visiting places where they drive on the left, you'll live longer if you train yourself to look both ways before crossing streets. That's easier than trying to remember to look to the right.

Greg and Charlotte Nelson

Mission Viejo

Traveling abroad

Learn how to say "hello" and "thank you" in the language of whatever country you're visiting. It's easy to do on the Internet, and it makes a good first impression with locals, no matter how bad you mangle the pronunciation.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

Or ask a flight attendant on a foreign carrier to teach you three words. I like to know how to say please, thank you and "after you." These courtesy words go a long way. If you have them down already, try learning "it's great" — very useful after meals at restaurants and for kindly describing any hospitality you've received.

Adam Probolsky

Irvine

Remember when you are in another country that its government probably does things differently from ours. You are a guest and should behave like one.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

Don't be shy. Try to strike up conversations with everyone you meet. You never know where you'll find a connection.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

If you're buying your train ticket from a machine, learn the words for "platform," "car" and "seat." Your ticket will not be in English, and you may not know what the numbers correspond to.

Terri Currie

Walnut

If you plan on visiting must-see sites in Rome such as the Vatican, be aware that if you attempt to take a taxi back into the city during rush hour, drivers may either refuse your request or charge you a premium. Be prepared to walk.

Terri Currie

Walnut

Talk with your driver or another local and ask a few questions to understand what the nationals or locals are dealing with in terms of government, business and social issues. It's helpful to know that a former president has recently died or that its big telecom company was just bought by AT&T or that there is ethnic or religious strife between groups in the neighborhood where you are staying.

Adam Probolsky

Irvine

Being comfortable, staying healthy

Take a roll of toilet paper, pull out an arm's length and tear off. Repeat until the roll is done. Then roll each segment, which will be about the size of a cigarette. Stuffed the little rolls in a sandwich bag that can go in your carry-on. Whenever you are touring or exploring, take three or four with you. Replenish as needed

Meg Coulter

Los Feliz

For comfort, we take an egg crate mattress. We stuff a queen-size egg crate into a duffel bag because we don't find other beds comfortable. We do have to pay for an extra bag. The first time I brought along the egg crate my wife laughed at me. Not anymore.

Orrin Turbow

Oxnard

Always carry a variety of your favorite tea bags (in foil packets) in your carry-on bag and/or purse. If you arrive at your hotel and realize you are coming down with sniffles, you will be eternally grateful to have a comfort beverage at hand.

Catherine Cate

Santa Ana

Take along three or four battery-operated tea lights. When staying somewhere new, turn on a few of them when you go to bed and place them strategically. In the night the route to the bathroom will be illuminated well enough. They last and last.

Bev Feldman

La Cañada Flintridge

Don't try to cram too much into limited travel time, especially if you're going many time zones away. Rested travel is better. Seek quality over quantity, and prioritize pleasurable experiences over completing some checklist.

Harry and Jean Pope

Long Beach

Pack disposable masks for your protection and the protection of others when you're on a plane, train, bus or in any crowded place. Get a pack or two at the 99-cent store and carry three or four at a time.

Meg Coulter

Los Feliz

Take a saline nasal spray and moisturizing eye drops for you eyes (especially if you wear contacts or plan to sleep). That's because airplane air is dry, and you should be happy it is. Germs thrive in moist air.

Jo-Anne Collins

Fountain Valley

Carry a broad-spectrum antibiotic and something for diarrhea. You may never need them, but better to be prepared.

Dick Barnes and Diane Bever

Long Beach

Wear a MedicAlert ID chain if you have medical issues. I am 90 and always travel with one.

Shirley J. Lane

Santa Monica

Get the name of a doctor or clinic that's likely to treat Americans. Have someone write it down for you so you can just show a taxi driver if need be. [Editor's note: One organization that maintains lists of English-speaking doctors is the nonprofit International Assn. for Medical Assistance to Travelers. Membership is free for one year; a donation is requested after that. Info: (716) 754 4883, http://www.iamat.org.]

Deirdre Michalski

Irvine

Driving abroad?

Always inquire about freeway/highway stickers if you're driving. Many European countries require them for your auto travels. And know that many European rental cars are manual transmission.

Larry Blanton and Starr Sachs

Valencia

Get the best, most detailed maps you can. (I like the very detailed Michelin maps.) Otherwise, you will not know about the smaller roads, villages and even châteaux that are marked on the more detailed maps. Any map that covers a whole country is not detailed enough.

Harry and Jean Pope

Long Beach

Getting lost

Ask someone walking a dog for directions. They are locals, and even if there's a language issue, our dog's picture breaks the ice and the person we're asking is usually helpful.

Deirdre Michalski

Irvine

Stick the hotel brochure, address or pad of paper (if has the specific hotel on it versus a generic name), in your backpack or bag when heading out — just in case.

Deirdre Michalski

Irvine

Always carry the phone numbers of hotels so that when you initially try to find the hotel and you are lost, you can call them for directions.

Shoshana Brower

Westlake Village

If you get lost in China, look for a young couple. That's what our guide told us. He assured us the guy would be willing to help and therefore impress his girlfriend. The guide was spot-on. Not only did it work every time, but also one couple offered to walk my husband and me back to our hotel. We have used that handy tip in other countries as well.

Bobbie Sheret

Pasadena

travel@latimes.com

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