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Readers share packing and money-saving travel tips

Thinking about going on a trip is exciting. For many of us, getting ready is not. • There is an avalanche of decisions to make. How many shirts and pairs of pants? Which shoes are the most comfortable? Checked baggage or carry-on? What kind of electronics to bring? How much money to take, and in what form should I get it? • Last month, we asked readers to share their travel tips, from ways to save money to packing suggestions. What a resourceful bunch you are — and sometimes picky and even a bit worried, especially about being ripped off. The reader who suggested that travelers should not go out at night lest they risk getting mugged, or worse, has had some terrible experiences, I am betting. • The suggestions reminded me of how differently we all look at preparing for a trip, and how what's important to one person might be left to chance by another. For instance, Anita Faye Glock of Tampa never travels without flip-flops to use as slippers in the hotel, as relief from walking shoes that give her blisters and for trudging through wet weather if it's not too cold. I only travel with flip-flops if I think I'm going to get a pedicure. Different strokes, as the saying goes. • Here's a selection of other reader tips, all of which obviously come from experience.

Janet K. Keeler, Times food and travel editor

What to bring

• An extra pair of reading glasses. In Greece, they were available only through a doctor, not at drugstores like here in the States.

Linda Borgia, St. Petersburg

• When it's warm at home but cold where I am headed, I use a carry-on-size parachute-nylon shoulder bag to store a coat. If you already have a carry-on, you can wait until you get to the security area to put on the coat, folding up the carry-on and stuffing it into something else, then vice versa for the return trip.

Mary Hunt, Seminole

• Blue, black or what? Choosing a dominant color for clothing on a trip can be a good idea. You can interchange the tops and bottoms easily. Sometimes I bring mostly black, other times blue or brown.

Barbara Van Weelden, Hudson

• I have found the perfect gift to give families that you might be visiting: the Publix Earth Day themed cloth grocery bag. It has pictures of flamingos, palm trees, alligators and sunshine. Plus it is easy to pack. A few years ago in Lithuania, during lunch with a local farm family, I presented the hostess with the bag, pointed to the word "Florida" and said, "Florida, no snow." In her limited English she pointed to the alligator and replied, "Lithuania, no crocodiles!"

Sandra Howsare, Brandon

Buy enough clothing for the trip from thrift stores. Discard clothing as it becomes dirty or donate it locally. This reduces laundry except for personal items. Voila! Empty suitcase for purchases.

Carolyn Fishback (Similar suggestion from Diane E. Jones, San Antonio)

Shawls/scarves — wool for cooler places, lighter fabrics for warmer places. I use them for warmth, for blankets on the plane, to make the same tops look different, and sometimes as pillows.

Joanne Farrell, Dunnellon

• I maintain a travel cosmetic/toiletry bag packed and ready. This includes items at or less than 3 ounces. When I select cosmetics for home use, I purchase two. This way, there is always a packed cosmetic/toiletry bag ready to go. This includes toothbrush, face cloths and scaled-down cosmetics. Select one, maybe two, neutral lipstick colors.

Ellen Buckley, Temple Terrace

• Pack tape and small flattened cardboard boxes of various sizes to protect souvenirs. I have also packed plastic containers for the same purpose. If not needed, leave them at the hotel.

Lorraine Spicer, Clearwater

Money issues

• Always get a little local currency before you leave home — especially small bills. Typically you will need to tip a bus or taxi driver before you reach the inner city and/or your hotel. Having smaller bills will prevent you from having to seek out a change machine in an airport you're not familiar with.

Anita Faye Glock, Tampa

Last-minute cruises are usually reduced by 50 percent and more. Alaska cruises seem to be one of the most frequently offered at lower prices as the departure date nears. Trans-Atlantic cruises in spring and fall are often priced well below a standard cruise that originates and returns to the same port.

Peggy Hammond, Spring Hill

• Do research before you go (driving or flying). Look to see if there are any hidden gems that don't cost a lot of money where you are going. National parks are some of the best deals out there. They hardly cost anything to enter, the sights are unbelievable, you don't have to be a hiker to appreciate them, and you will have killer pictures to show everyone. Sites like TripAdvisor are great resources since actual people leave the reviews.

Gina M. Miller, Zephyrhills

• For family travel, hotels with breakfast included either in the daily rate or as a rewards amenity have saved us a lot of money. Hotel breakfasts can be very pricey, and finding local spots to satisfy a family can be difficult and waste time when you want to start sightseeing.

Lynda Barack, Tampa

• Traveling alone can be expensive. To save money, I eat one big meal midday. Morning can be a muffin or granola bar; evening, a soup or salad. I also travel off-season to take advantage of the lower hotel and resort rates. If you do your homework, you can find tours that do not add a "single supplement" fee, which saves considerably.

Sheila Strassburger, Clearwater

• We walk most everywhere. And yes, you can wear tennis shoes — just get black ones. They look dressier and less obvious. (You are not trying to pass for a local; you are trying to quietly blend in.) Take the local transportation. It is often easier to use than here, and locals are eager to help you. Over the years numerous people have ridden with us beyond their own stop just to ensure we got off at the correct spot!

Diane Schick, Clearwater

Luggage

Roll up underwear, socks, etc., and tuck them into tight corners of your suitcase. They also work well inside shoes. Always wear the heaviest shoes for travel instead of adding weight to your suitcase. I do use fanny packs. My shoulders do not support handbags; nor do I enjoy carrying a handbag on my arm. I prefer having my hands and arms free. I really don't care what people think. I get to see more, and holding a heavy bag is not one experience I choose to have.

Charlotte Sleczkowski, Tampa

• Get rid of that soft-sided luggage. The new hard-sided bags are light and are easier to manage since you can pull or push them. They keep your clothes from slipping to one side or the other and getting all wrinkled.

Judith Cherry, St. Pete Beach

• Before leaving home, we always put a couple of dryer sheets in our luggage to keep our clothing smelling fresh. It's amazing how long the sheets last while traveling.

George Kloss, New Port Richey

• My husband and I split our clothes between our two suitcases. This not only saves lugging, unpacking and repacking, but if one suitcase is lost, we both still have clothes to wear.

Mary M. Boyer, Belleair

Logistics

• Your cellphone can save some extra packing! In addition to thousands of travel apps, remember all the other things it can do for you. It probably has an alarm clock. Many have clocks with dual settings that can show you what time it is in your home time zone as well as local time. Download a flashlight app. Download a white noise app to drown out sounds from other hotel rooms. Of course, it can carry your music, books, crossword puzzles or games. Plus travel guides!

Karen Lee, Tampa

• I always program my GPS before I travel since it saves time and arguments. If people don't have a smartphone with a GPS app on it, I would suggest buying a portable device. You can take it wherever you go (and rental car companies charge about $13 a day for one). I put addresses for hotels, restaurants and attractions in there so that when I land/arrive, I just tap "Go," and we are on our way without a hitch.

Gina M. Miller, Zephyrhills

• Scan the fronts and backs of all credit cards and other important documents you'll be taking with you (passport, driver's license, etc.) and print a hard copy or save it as a PDF on your cellphone. Or use your cellphone to take pictures of all your credit cards and documents. If anything gets lost or stolen, you'll know your account number and what telephone numbers to call to report the theft.

Also from Karen Lee, Tampa

• A great way to avoid lines is to check out online travel forums. We learned that if we booked an entrance ticket through a tour group we could avoid the very, very long line to get into the Vatican by going through the tour group line and then going off on our own. (This was the same price as a regular entrance ticket.) We did something similar to get into the Coliseum and avoided that line.

Risa Shapiro, Seminole

More novel ideas

• Some people have no problem drinking from the paper coffee cups offered at hotel breakfast rooms. I prefer to bring a ceramic coffee mug from home. We traveled (by train) to Alexandria, Va., last year for a fun trip in Washington. We stayed at a hotel across the street from that small train station, and many people commented when they saw us on the elevator with our own coffee cups on our way to breakfast. Several said they wished they had brought theirs on the trip. I also bring a couple of plastic wine glasses to use in the hotel.

Barbara Van Weelden, Hudson

Hotel shower caps make great covers to protect your shoes (in the suitcase).

Linda Borgia, St. Petersburg

• Remove the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper, then run over the roll with your car. The flattened roll is easy to pack, and if the paper is needed, it's priceless. If it is not needed, pack some fragile trinkets in the center for the trip home.

Sandra Howsare, Brandon, who takes a lot of trips with Overseas Adventure Travel (oattravel.com)

• I created a spreadsheet listing everything I could possibly want on any trip. At the bottom is a list of things that I need to do before leaving the house.

Joan Strednak, Palm Harbor

• Put all the clothes for each day in a plastic bag. Example: shirts, pants, underwear. You might put a number on each bag to correspond with the day of your trip.

Pat Seeley

Clear your wallet of nonessentials. Only take photo ID/passport, credit card, travel membership cards, AAA card and insurance card.

Ellen Buckley, Temple Terrace

About that underwear

Now we are going to mention unmentionables. In a word, underwear.

It's something travelers think about more than you'd think. Especially women. Multiple pairs take up precious space in luggage, they say. Dirty ones even more (unless you're a member of the Thong Generation).

A recent article in the New York Times travel section suggested that you pack no underwear at all and buy new undergarments on your trip. The company Exofficio (exofficio.com) markets a magic pair of undies, suggesting that just one might suffice for a long trip. One!

The package reads: "17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of underwear. (Okay, maybe two.)" Other positive properties include "packable, odor resistant, moisture wicking, durable, lightweight, quick drying and above all comfortable." Prices range from $18 to $22.

Practical underpants, rather than luxurious lingerie, seem to be more on the minds of Tampa Bay Times readers. At least a dozen readers shared their secrets about travel foundations.

Half a dozen readers said they do exactly what our mothers warned us against. They take their ratty underpants with holes and stretched-out elastic on the road and discard them as they go. (What if they get in a car accident?)

"Take all your sad-looking underwear and socks. Toss after wearing and fill up empty space with souvenirs," writes Emily Farrell of Media, Pa.

From Rosemarie Owen of New Port Richey: "I have left bikini (underwear) in ports-of-call in Mexico, the Bahamas and during two weeks' worth of travel through Europe."

You've got to wonder what the housekeeping staffs are thinking about Americans and their threadbare undies.

Diane Schick of Clearwater takes the opposite view.

"Bring all the socks and underwear you want. How much space does underwear take up? Shoes are the worst culprit."

When you're traveling, it's always something.

Janet K. Keeler

Readers share packing and money-saving travel tips 07/10/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2014 4:31pm]

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