On-the-Road Travel Tips (part 6)

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 28 of the September 2020 issue.
Randy Keck (at right) enjoying the good life with a fellow passenger from Australia, barging on the Canal du Midi in southwest France in spring 2015.

In presenting part six (!) in this series on On-the-Road Travel Tips, I find it heartening that so many readers have taken a moment to share bits of advice that may be helpful to other travelers. (I’ve added my own comments after each.) ITN readers will have a lot of tips to try out when these times of pandemic-dictated virtual travel are over!

If you know of anything that makes the travel experience work better for you while actually traveling, tell us about it in no more than 125 words; see the end of this column for where to write to.

Bethany Graves (Willard, MO) My parents traveled extensively when I was growing up, and my father was a dentist. One item that saved us more than once was braces wax. It came in a small and easily packed square case and was used in the event of a broken crown or tooth. Cover the damaged tooth with the wax, and you can still eat while keeping the area free from debris, hopefully resulting in limited pain plus a finished vacation. 

• Another item I always travel with is a butterfly clamp for hair. I can use it to put my hair up or hold curtains closed, as a clamp to dry a light item of clothing or as a potato chip bag clip. I once used it to hold a broken purse together!

Thanks for informing us about the tooth-saving wax, Bethany. And who knew that a butterfly clamp could have so many uses while traveling? Inventive! — RK

Gary Rahn (Carrollton, TX) — One reader wrote that when he and his wife are packing, they each put about a third of their clothes in the other’s bag, in case one of their bags temporarily goes missing (July ’20, pg. 30).

My wife and I have always jointly packed. We don’t have his/her suitcases at all. We get everything together that we want to take, then half of each of our stuff goes into each suitcase. All “extra” (i.e., non-clothes) items are also split. Once packed, we weigh the bags to be sure they’re fairly even, moving things back and forth to even out.

On some one-night stays along the trip, we only need to open one of the two bags.

Wow, Gary, you and your wife take cross-packing to a whole new level. This can work for some couples, while others might find it too invasive. Warning: Readers should not confuse cross-packing with cross-dressing. Entirely different concepts! (OK, my apologies for a weird attempt at humor.) — RK

A Command™ Brand hook ready for use. Photo by Marcia Reynolds

Marcia Reynolds (Orange, CA) — My husband wears hiking-style travel shirts and likes to wash that day’s out at night. If I have something to wash also, there often aren’t enough places to hang things so they drip into the tub or shower. We have a twisted clothesline, but the hiking shirts are too heavy for that.

So we take a large Command™ Brand hook and several of the plastic strips used to hang it. A large hook will hold a wet hiking shirt.

In the morning, to remove the hook from the wall, you pull down on the tab at the bottom, and the strip peels down from under the hook. Once used, a strip is not reusable, but it leaves no mark on the wall. 

With several strips, we can use the hook over and over. (I also use these hooks at home to hang all sorts of things, and at Christmastime.)

We also take a couple of folding plastic hangers.

Thanks for sending a photo of the hook on a wall, Marcia. I wondered how it looked. — RK

Jack Grill (Kirkland, WA) — My travel partner and I have deplaned in at least 60 different airports around the world. A few have had someone spot-checking claim checks with bag numbers, but only one (Hanoi’s airport) had a single gate that everyone had to go through, with someone checking every bag. 

To avoid having our bags stolen from many long, multisided and very crowded baggage carousels, we buy colored bags (no black) and wrap them with several different brightly colored straps (available in all travel stores). The base color and bright straps make the bags easy to spot on the belt and deter anyone looking to snatch a bag.

I continue to get bolder myself regarding this issue of bag colors and visual ID markings. I have now gravitated to a red bag with a unique tie attached. I can absolutely see this bag coming from a long way off. — RK

Erin Pepus (Bozeman, MT) — My husband and I never leave the country without copies of our marriage license and medical directives.

None of us likes to think of a tragedy while on vacation, but it can happen, and countries have different policies concerning cremation, end-of-life decisions, etc. A driver’s license or passport often is not enough proof of a marriage, especially if the spouses have different last names as we do.

A sudden illness or death is stressful and painful enough without the added layer of bureaucracy.

Well, Erin, my best guess is that only a small percentage of our well-traveled readers take either of these documents, let alone both, in their stash of travel papers. Of course, there is every common-sense reason to do so and no apparent downside. — RK

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