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Even if you're packing light, consider these small items, which may come in handy.
1. Laundry kit. Take a simple laundry kit-a sink stopper, clothesline, and packets of suds-so you can do quick washes.
2. Sound machine. A sound machine produces white noises that mask other noises around you so you can get a good night's sleep. Tossing some earplugs in your bag can't hurt either.
3. Flashlight. Always carry a small flashlight with you.
4. Baggies. Pack a few plastic bags (preferably the zip-top kind) for storing damp items such as laundry that hasn't dried yet, wet washcloths or towels, or wet shoes.
5. Hangers. Use folding or inflatable travel hangers to dry laundry in a hotel room.
6. Sewing kit. Pack a sewing kit so you can make quick repairs on the fly. Safety pins and rubber bands can be very useful as well.
7. Utensils. Include a set of lightweight eating utensils for picnics on the way or even dining in your hotel room.
8. Multipurpose tool. Be sure to pack some sort of compact multipurpose tool that includes a screwdriver, scissors, tweezers, and so on.
9. Toiletry bag. Use a toiletry bag designed for travel that has a hook so you can hang it up and mesh pockets so you can locate items easily.
10. Motion alarms. As a safety option, consider getting a motion sensor that alerts you if anyone tries to enter your room. Take a doorstop with you for hotel stays; some models even offer an alarm feature.
Source: Magellan's Travel Advice, http://www.magellans.com.
When you're driving long distances and start to feel sleepy, stop and take a break. According to a report from the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, taking a short nap of 15 to 20 minutes or drinking a caffeinated beverage (two cups of coffee or its equivalent) are proven ways to make a short-term difference in driving alertness. Some people try opening a window, listening to the radio, chewing gum, or eating crunchy foods such as baby carrots, but the effectiveness of these actions hasn't been proven.
Ever stymied about whether to tip or how much to tip? Tap into The Original Tipping Page (http://tipping.org/tips/TipsPage.shtml) for the scoop. Here's a sampling of the advice you'll find there for U.S. standards. (The site also lists tipping rates in many foreign countries.)
[check mark] Airports: Tip skycaps $1 or more a bag.
[check mark] Trains: Tip sleeping car attendant $3 to $5 a day per person; tip dining room or bar car waiters 15% of bill.
[check mark] Taxis: Tip driver 15% of fare.
[check mark] Hotels: Tip the maid $5 a night minimum, $7 to $9 a night for stays over a week long; tip the bellhop $10 for carrying your bags and taking you to your room.
[check mark] Restaurants: Tip waiter or waitress 15% to 20% of the pretax amount on the bill. For take-out orders, give staff 5% to 10% of the bill if they're courteous and helpful or offer extra help, such as carrying large orders out to your car.
[check mark] Parking garages: Give the attendant $1; $5 is customary if he helps with luggage or packages.
[check mark] Deliveries: Give a pizza delivery person $1 to $2 ($2 to $3 if coming from a distance), $5 or more for big deliveries. For deliveries of big items, such as furniture or appliances, $5 to $10 per person minimum; $20 if the item is heavy or the location difficult.
That term is relative, with prices soaring this summer. But to find out who's selling gas at the lowest prices in your region, tap into http://autos.msn.com. (Click Ownership/My Car, then look for a boxed item on local gas prices on the right-hand side of the page.) National highs and lows are displayed along with a box where you type in a zip code and get local highs and lows, plus maps of the area targeting stations with the lowest prices. Another option lets you search local traffic conditions, so you can check for areas to avoid before you hit the road.
When you're on the road, you can keep your food expenses down in many ways. Here are a few practical examples:
* Stock up on bottled water or other drinks at discount stores before you go.
* Pick up various snacks, such as trail mix, granola bars, or fresh fruit, or make up ziplock plastic bags with moderate servings of your favorite munchies. Pack some empty ziplock bags for peels and trash.
* Ask for water with restaurant meals rather than ordering soft drinks, which can add up.
* Eat where the locals do. Look for restaurant parking lots filling up with cars; you'll probably find casual dining, decent food, and moderate prices.
* Eat in ethnic neighborhoods.
* Want to splurge at a nice restaurant? Do it at lunchtime so you can sample their food at lower-than-dinnertime prices.
* If the weather is cooperative, grab some quick food at a local supermarket and have a picnic outside. Impressive scenery would be nice, but no matter where you sit down, you can enjoy the fresh air as you recharge and save money too.
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