No, you can't take even a sealed bottle of water through airport security checkpoints. But you don't have to pay $3 for a bottle of Dasani on the other side of the metal detector. You are permitted to carry an empty bottle . . . which you then refill at a water fountain or in the restroom. Carrying a refillable bottle is a lot greener than buying one plastic bottle after another that you just throw away. And considering that airlines are now charging for beverages, including water, you might be glad to BYO. You can always carry a Propel Powder Packet or other water flavor packs to give plain water a flavor boost.
New laptop bags are available
Speaking of getting through security: Those new laptop cases we mentioned recently in this column — the ones your laptop can stay in during screening — are on the market earlier than anticipated. Officials first expected that manufacturers would have the bags available in mid September. But Aerovation Products is already selling checkpoint-friendly bags ($130 at aerovation.com). Watch for competitors to enter the market in the months ahead.
Make your own postcards
If you don't like the postcard selection at your travel destination, make and send your own online at www.zoomandgo.com. Zoom and Go makes print postcards and sends them for you: $1.99 (United States and Canada) or $2.99 (international). Delivery takes five to seven days for domestic orders and seven to nine days for global destinations. Twenty cents of every postcard sale is donated to charity (select from seven organizations, including Kiva, Doctors Without Borders, and Rethink Breast Cancer).
Overseas travel savvy
Ten tips for those embarking on their first trip to Europe (or fifth, or 10th; and to Asia, or South America, or wherever):
1 It's okay to dress like an American. Just don't act like an ugly American. If you were the first American a European ever met, what impression would you make?
2 Keep your voice down. Americans talk much louder than people from other countries.
3 Anti-American sentiment is not about you. It's aimed at the Bush administration.
4 Europe is overrun with old stuff: castles, museums, cathedrals, ruins. You can't see it all. Stop and relax before you hit overload.
5 Build some time into each day for wandering aimlessly in neighborhoods off the tourist grid. Sit down at a cafe, watch, listen, chat.
6 Seek out and talk to ordinary Europeans, as opposed to those employed in the tourism industry.
7 Be wary of pickpockets, especially on subways and buses. Carry just a small amount of cash in your wallet or purse, and stash the rest in your dorky-but-necessary money belt or neck pouch.
8 Restaurant bills in Italy will have a charge for panne e coperto. That's for bread and service, even if you didn't eat any bread and the service wasn't up to snuff. Just pay it.
9 If you're offered water with or without "gas" (bubbles), you'll pay for it. It's like ordering a bottle of water at home. If you want just tap water — no charge — gesture as if you're turning on a tap and filling a glass. The waiter will understand you.
10 Italian gelato: There's nothing like it in the world. Have some at least once every day — twice if you can.
Offline agents make inroads
Not long ago, the advent of online travel — allowing travelers to research and book their trips with a few clicks of a mouse — was thought to be a death knell for traditional travel agents. But faced with the increasing cost and unpredictability of travel today, vacationers seem to be returning to the fold. Twenty-three percent of online leisure travelers in the United States say they would use a good offline agent if they could find one, according to Forrester Research.
Gold Key for Peabody Orlando
The Peabody Orlando has just been awarded a Gold Key award for the 19th consecutive year by Meetings & Conventions magazine. The magazine's readers are some 70,000 corporate, incentive and association meeting planners, who vote for the hotels that surpassed their expectations in all aspects of the meeting planning process during the year.
Compiled from Times wires