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The Little Book of Travel Wisdom

»In Transit 

18. Music to Travel By
A great way to chew up idle hours in the air is to soak up the sounds of your next destination. Used to be you had to lug around a CD player and a bulky cache of CDs. But now an MP3 player allows you to fit an entire world of music in a shirt pocket. Get the 40-gigabyte version of Apple's nifty iPod ($399) and you can bring along up to 10,000 songs, bought easily online from iTunes. It's also a snap to copy a CD you own onto an MP3 player. And the best place to find music from all corners of the globe? Check out RoughGuides.com. The site sells thousands of selections that will please the most eclectic listener—from salsa and Sri Lankan tunes to music from Macedonia and Malawi.

19. Food on the Fly
Since many airlines stopped serving meals on domestic flights and decided a turkey sandwich was worth $8, packing food for plane or car trips has become essential. Carbs, particularly refined, such as sugar and white flour, give you quick energy and then a crash, so you crave more—a "vicious circle," says David Goldbeck, co-author of Healthy Highways. Start with a good breakfast and carry snacks, such as nuts, dried fruit, and cheese cubes. The fruit gives you a quick energy boost and the nuts provide protein to sustain you.

20. Car Rental Rates and Fees
If you need to rent a car for more than four days, it's usually cheaper to rent for the entire week. Reserve your car early—there's no penalty to cancel, but there is usually a discount for renting in advance. And don't go straight for an economy car thinking it's the cheapest; sometimes midsize car costs are just as low. Ask if the rental agency will upgrade your car for the same price.

21. Airline Dos and Don'ts
To avoid catching a cold or flu on an airline flight, request a seat as far up front as possible—where the air is cleanest. To lessen the effects of turbulence, try sitting in the center of the plane where motion is usually not as strong as in other areas. Seats in front are quieter because engines are in the rear or over the wing. They also allow for a quick departure if you need to make a flight connection. Avoid the seats in the last row, which do not recline and have no window.

22. Luggage Logic
"The best packing question a traveler can ask is: Do people where I'm headed live without this item?" says Doug Dyment, whose website, One Bag, offers packing tips. In brief, you'll be better off with less. Additional tips: Never check luggage containing valuables (cash, credit cards, cameras, jewelry); fragile items (eyeglasses, bottles); or critical items (medicine, keys, travel vouchers). This advice is even more important lately, with checked luggage now subject to routine hand searches and increased opportunity for theft. Stick a copy of your travel itinerary in an outside pocket of your luggage so that if it's lost the airline has a better chance of tracking you down while you're traveling. To insure your luggage, ask for "excess valuation."  With this you can bump up the liability to as high as $5,000. The cost: about $1 per $100 of coverage. Additionally, this gives the airline more incentive not to lose your luggage.

23. Leave Jet Lag Behind
Jet lag happens when the body's inner clock falls out of sync with daily cycles of light, meals, and rest. Some medical experts estimate that travelers require a day of recovery for every time zone crossed—but who can wait that long? Minimize the effects by getting several good nights of sleep before your trip. Set your watch to your destination time when you board the plane, and adjust sleep and meals accordingly. During the flight, do isometric exercises, eat light meals, and keep hydrated, but avoid sugary, alcoholic, or caffeinated drinks. On arrival, shower and throw yourself into your new schedule—avoid naps. No-Jet-Lag ($10 for 32 tablets) is a homeopathic supplement that eases transitions to new time zones.

24. Expedite the X-ray
Navigate airport security checkpoints and speed through the boarding process with these quick tips: While waiting in the airport security line, pack a small zippered bag with your watch, jewelry, keys, change, cell phone, and belt. This will keep your valuables together and enable you to reassemble in peace—not in public. Have your boarding pass and driver's license ready for security personnel. Wear metal-free shoes. Pack your laptop so that it can easily be removed from your bags—and label it with your name, phone number, and e-mail address. Pack prohibited items (pocketknives, scissors, etc.) and most metallic or sharp objects in your checked baggage. Don't overstuff carry-on baggage, and consider stowing personal belongings in clear plastic bags to reduce the chance that screeners will have to handle them. To avoid having to unwrap a gift at a security checkpoint, wrap it after you arrive at your destination.


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