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Surprising, Smart Secrets Of Top Travel Pros

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Vintage suitcases in a heap.
Vintage suitcases in a heap.

2013-04-27-2013LauraManskeSecretsTravelProsHuffPost1ac.jpg

How to find more joy on your journey? I've interviewed dozens of on-the-go, globetrotting gurus to bring you practical and inspirational travel strategies. Some ideas are quirky-fun and wildly creative, too! Try these tips to add more vroom to your next vacay!

• Ask for the middle seat on an airplane. It doubles your chances of having an interesting conversation and learning something new.
-- Bob Payne, editor, bobcarrieson.com; travel editor, destinationw.com

• Click a pic with your phone camera of the location sign where you park your car at the airport as you depart. Lifesaver when you return!
• Make copies front and back of passport and credit cards, then scan the pdf and email it to yourself and a colleague, parent, or friend before traveling overseas.
• Pack two small condiment packets of Heinz yellow mustard, which, when eaten, can relieve leg cramps. (It contains turmeric acid.)
• Take the shade off a lamp and use the hot bulb to lightly smooth clothes' wrinkles, if no iron is available in your hotel room. (Wrap metal end in washcloth so you don't burn your hand.)
-- Lori Tucker, president, Tucker & Associates, tuckerpr.com

• Consider a satin pillowcase! Not only do I use one at home, I always pack one as well. It keeps my fine hair from tangling, eliminates "bed-head," and helps minimize wrinkles and morning facial creases.
-- Debbra Dunning Brouillette, travel journalist, wordjourneys.net

• Slip the Sephora Instant Depuffing Eye Mask (sephora.com) under your sleep mask on flights and you'll arrive looking fresh and rested!
-- Andria Mitsakos, president & CEO, AMPR, andriamitsakospr.com; founder, wanderlista.com

• Remember, men do not need to pack a pain-in-the-ass spray can of shaving lotion. Think about it: What's in the hotel amenity kit that does the same thing as a shaving lotion (i.e. soften hair)? You got it: hair conditioner.
-- Ed Wetschler, Caribbean editor, recommend.com; executive editor, tripatini.com

• Bring a scented mini travel candle. I am sensitive to odors and never sure what aromas might await me in a new destination. My favorite candles remind me of home, too. (Obviously, I'm very careful never to leave the candle burning when not in my hotel room!)
-- Suzanne Willis, travel marketing and public relations executive

• Plug in a PowerTrip portable charger with a 3-way tap to maximize hotel room and airport outlets (powerstick.com).
• Use a silk shoe bag, which can double as an evening purse.
• Pack flannel pajamas or a robe. I once had to escape a burning hotel in a negligee and it was super embarrassing! (Cold, too!)
-- Kyle McCarthy, editor, Family Travel Forum, myfamilytravels.com

• Get the Body Shop's Tea Tree Cleansing Wipes (thebodyshop-usa.com). These wipes are perfect for quick facial freshen up during your flight and upon landing. I've even used them as a hand-and-face wipe for my son when he was younger. Also, if you are like me and always carry on your luggage, then these are a no brainer; no fluids, no mess, and pack flat.
-- Nina Zapala, president, Zapala PR, zapalapr.com

• Wear Mountain HardWear's Nitrous Jacket, which folds into its own pocket, weighs nothing, and doubles as a pillow on a plane (mountainhardwear.com). My wilderness-loving kids and husband appreciate these jackets as well. (Patagonia makes one, too.)
• Carry a reusable water bottle. (I'm partial to aluminum ones.) At the airport, after passing through security, I fill it with water, patting myself on the back for traveling greener. Then I don't have to wait for a flight attendant to come around on the plane.
• Get quick-dry ExOfficio clothes (exofficio.com), especially helpful as lightweight adventure travel clothes.
-- Eileen Ogintz, travel journalist; book author, The Kid's Guide to Washington DC, The Kid's Guide to NYC, and The Kid's Guide to Orlando; founder, takingthekids.com

• Make a travel checklist. No matter how many times I had packed, I forgot something. Now I have a list. First thing on it is a thin tote bag, one that can be folded into almost nothing.
-- Kay Showker, travel journalist; book author, The 100 Best Resorts in the Caribbean, The Outdoor Traveler's Guide to the Caribbean, The Unofficial Guide to Cruises, and Caribbean Ports of Call

• Enjoy your good luck travel charms. I wear a little rope bracelet whenever I travel to South America. At my first travel conference in Lima, Peru, I missed a transfer and found myself across town from my destination with little prospect of getting a rush-hour taxi. Then, in the lobby of my hotel, I met an exhibitor at the same conference. Long story short, we found a shared cab to the conference, I practiced my Spanish with him, and he gave me the bracelet.
-- Brian Major, executive editor, travalliancemedia.com

• Rethink your travel-size toiletries. I've cleaned out a couple small, round, lidded containers that had cosmetics samples in them and now use them to hold more than a week's worth of toothpaste and shaving cream. The huge and more cost-effective tubes won't make it through airport security and the ready-made travel-size items are more expensive, especially if you're stuck and have to buy them at the airport.
-- Clint Brownfield, travel journalist

• Pack a sketchbook. It's my favorite thing. I have no artistic talent, but I love the discipline of sitting down and really looking at where I am, capturing it in a deeper way than a camera ever could.
-- Pam Grout, travel journalist; book author, The 100 Best Worldwide Vacations to Enrich Your Life, The 100 Best Volunteer Vacations to Enrich Your Life, Girlfriend Getaways: You Go Girl and I'll Go, Too!, You Know You're in Kansas When..., Kansas Curiosities, Colorado Curiosities; pamgrout.com; georgeclooneyslepthere.com

• Stash a supply of antibacterial wipes to sanitize armrests on an airplane. Armrests are the "bathroom doorknob" of the travel experience -- countless people resting their arms, books, snacks, and trash there for hours at a time. Do a quick swipe.
• Wear ThermaCare heat wraps (thermacare.com). I use them to minimize hurting my back and to reduce backaches on long flights.
-- Nancy J. Friedman, president, Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations, njfpr.com

• Carry a small water mist spray bottle -- to keep cool when traveling in warm climates.
• Tote a Mini Febreeze (febreeze.com). I love a clean-smelling hotel room.
-- Katie Riguzzi, director of public relations, Club Med, clubmed.com

• Understand what's really essential. For me, it's all about relaxing and knowing that I have the skills and equipment in order to make anything right. There are only two things that I absolutely must have while traveling: my ID and a credit card. Everything else is disposable and/or replaceable. Knowing that fact removes a ton of stress from traveling and somehow makes everything flow more smoothly. If I've forgotten anything, been robbed, lost my bag, missed my flight -- they can all be remedied.
-- Rob Klepper, vice president, Geiger & Associates, geigerpr.com

• Bring duct tape. It comes to the rescue if a sandal strap, purse handle, or backpack breaks.
• Use a rubber doorstopper. Regardless of the hotel ranking, many hotel room doors and inner-connecting rooms do not have security locks. Play it safe and kick that doorstopper under the door.
• Cherish something sentimental. I wear or carry a piece of my mother's jewelry. When I'm frustrated, lonely, or annoyed, I touch it and think, "How would Mother have handled this situation?" I know in most cases she would be more patient, friendly, and humble. She'd be grateful to be on a trip, regardless of the inconveniences.
• Take great photos with a 3-in-1 Fisheye, Macro, Wide-Angle lens (olloclip.com) for your iPhone or iPod touch. It fits in your pocket.
-- Marybeth Bond, travel journalist, National Geographic and CNN; book author, Gutsy Women, 50 Best Girlfriends Getaways in North America, A Woman's World, A Woman's Passion for Travel, Gutsy Mamas: Travel Tips and Wisdom for Mamas on the Road, A Mother's World: Journeys of the Heart, A Woman's Europe; gutsytraveler.com

• Keep warm. I always bring my cashmere travel blanket from Restoration Hardware (restorationhardware.com). Of better quality than most blankets you find in even business or first class, I use it on the plane, which is invariably cold, and it makes me feel pampered when I'm flying economy. Since it's in an off-white color with light gray trim, it does double duty as a shawl.
-- Karen Weiner Escalera, president, KWE Partners, kwegroup.com; editor, miamicurated.com

• Take care of your health especially the night before a plane trip. Drink lots of water to hydrate, workout, and sleep at least 7 to 8 hours.
• During a long flight, break mid-way to stand in the aisle and stretch your Achilles tendons and calf muscles.
• Do not fly hungry. Grab a banana, dried fruit, or instant oatmeal.
-- Hoyt H. Harper II, senior vice president, global brand leader, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, starwoodhotels.com/sheraton

• Get a Kipling Eldorado small cross-body travel bag (kipling-usa.com). It can carry cash, passport, keys, and more. Well made, with strong zippers and lots of compartments and in great colors, it looks terrific.
-- Phyllis Stoller, founder, The Women's Travel Group, thewomenstravelgroup.com

• Invest in a waterproof shell raincoat. I layer my GORE-TEX raincoat (gore-tex.com) with my EMS fleece (ems.com) when I am cold on a long bus ride or flight. It blocks the wind and blasting AC.
• Facilitate sleep anytime with earplugs. I'm not an earplug snob; 80 decibel-level pharmacy ones work great.
-- Nora Walsh, founder, patchworkcompass.com

• Roll a tennis ball under your feet to keep from getting stiff and sore on a flight. Sometimes I'll put it behind my back as well for a sort of massage. It's small, inexpensive, and easy to replace.
-- Brian Povinelli, senior vice president, global brand leader, Westin Hotels & Resorts and Le Mérdien, starwoodhotels.com/westin

• Walk! John Muir, the great naturalist and explorer once said, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." So anytime that I am away from home, I build in ample time to walk. Whether strolling beside a bucolic sheep-filled hillside in New Zealand or meandering along the River Seine in Paris, there's no better way to appreciate a locale. And if I'm on a long beach or path, pure bliss is listening to a good book on tape. In fact, I often say that as a writer, my best travel stories come to me, unfolding while I'm inhaling the scenery on two feet. In my book, My City, My New York: Famous New Yorkers Share Their Favorite Places, so many people talked about the joy of walking that I devoted an entire chapter to it. As Mayor Bloomberg told me, "What do I love to do in New York? Walking the streets." Walking is the ultimate way to explore. I never know what magic I will uncover.
-- Jeryl Brunner, journalist and book author, jerylbrunner.com

• Try Instagram (instagram.com). It combines the fun of photography with the limit of text and is very immediate. There's no editing like the way you do with blogs or articles. It's much more off-the-cuff and uses filters that are reminiscent of the past like a Polaroid. It's a fun way to connect on social media with friends and fellow travelers -- and keeps my eyes sharp for an image that works well within the confines of the small frame.
-- Waheeda Harris, travel journalist, about.me/waheedaharris

• Relax. I refuse to work on airplanes. I cherish the in-flight experience as much-needed "me time" -- drinking an extra glass of wine, watching silly movies, attempting to defeat Spider solitaire in my iPod. When I see hard-nosed road warriors working on their laptops six hours into a flight, I don't feel guilty; I feel pity.
-- Mark Orwoll, international editor, Travel & Leisure, travelandleisure.com

• Pack clothes that are wrapped in dry cleaning plastic. That way, if baggage handlers leave your luggage in the rain, no worries.
• Carry on the plane noise-cancelling headphones and nuts and raisins. Also, most important for me is the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine. If my flight is delayed for take-off and electronics are put away, I am guaranteed a good read for two hours!
• Download these two apps, which are on my iPad: FlightTrack (for gate numbers, delays, change in terminals; much faster and more accurate than anything posted at the airport) and The Weather Channel (for an up-to-date destination forecast).
• Bring an extra box of cough drops. When someone near me on the plane is hacking away, I give him or her the whole box -- seriously!
-- Laura Davidson, president, Laura Davidson Public Relations, ldpr.com

• Tuck into your carry-on bag something sentimental. Ten years ago, my sweet son gave me a wooden Christmas ornament that depicts San Cristobal, the patron saint of travelers. It has been in my camera bag ever since as I have traveled through more than 40 countries. It always brings a smile to my face and a sense of peace when I see it or run my hand across it.
• Maximize your camera's use. I can barely read my own handwriting, particularly when I scribble in a hurry, so I use my camera to "take notes." I snap a photo of my guestroom door, because few hotels put numbers on keys anymore. I also document restaurant names, menus, nametags, business cards, street and destination signs.
-- Lynn O'Rourke Hayes, travel journalist, familytravel.com

• Keep a packing list on your smart-phone. For different destinations, my iPhone Note page gets tweaked. Recently, I forgot to bring my sunglasses, which now have been added to that list.
• Ask the hotel staff for destination recommendations. At our Jamaican hotels, many of the staff will go out in the evenings. If you're a bit timid about going out on your own in a foreign shore, the people who work in hotels know all the fun things to do. At GoldenEye, many of our team love bringing guests out for a night on the town and showing them how great the island is. All you need to do is ask.
-- Rachel Harrison, chief marketing officer, Island Outpost, islandoutpost.com

• Bring a bulldog clip for those hotel rooms where the drapes don't quite close and the light floods in. It is invaluable!
-- Geoffrey Weill, president, Geoffrey Weill Public Relations and Marketing, geoffreyweill.com

• Keep a journal. I will not leave home without a small moleskin notebook and a pen I love. While I often take notes for professional reasons, I have one notebook that is used exclusively for personal thoughts and observations. Each morning on the road, I start the day by writing. It can be on any topic -- about the place I am, about missing home, any random feelings. It really centers me and gives me something to refer back to once home again.
-- Susan Farewell, travel journalist; founder, travel concierge firm -- Farewell Travels LLC, farewelltravels.com

• Tuck in a roll of Scotch tape. It comes in handy to close the lids of messy products like shampoo, creams, and perfume before popping them into my suitcase. Can also use tape to jury-rig all kinds of stuff on the road, from torn documents to dangling hems.
-- Heidi Sarna, travel journalist, heidisarna.com

• Stay safe at your destination by thinking outside the box, especially when traveling solo! When other travelers ask you what you do for a living and you're not sure if they can be trusted, tell them you're a policewoman on holiday. I do it all the time just to be on the safe side.
-- Evelyn Hannon, editor, journeywoman.com

• Be comfortable. I travel with my own down pillow. No matter how luxurious a hotel, I don't like to rest my head on an unknown pillow. This is a bit of an annoying habit, but one that gives me comfort and I simply can't kick. I don't even take the pillow on the plane; it's in my checked luggage.
-- Andrea Schnoor, president, Andrea Schnoor Communications, andreaschnoor.com

• Stash a roll-up backpack. Invariably, in my travels, I will need to carry something around or buy an item. A foldable pack is easy, safe, and convenient. It also offers a great carry-on option for souvenirs.
• Invest in a voltage converter, if you travel internationally. Choose a universal converter that has different prongs for anywhere in the world.
• Buy travel insurance. I value its security. You never know whether your trip will need to be canceled, your luggage will get lost, or you will get sick.
-- Jason Hedrick, American Express travel insider; general manager, Azumano Travel, azumano.com

• Exercise your way out of jet lag. My secret for overcoming jet lag and sleepless travel is forcing myself to do an afternoon or evening cardio workout (preferably ellipticals), which, after the first ten minutes, almost always makes me feel renewed.
-- Peter Knego, cruise journalist, maritimematters.com/category/ship-blogs

• Pack your curiosity! It's a quality that often eludes me in my day-to-day life where I walk around with a see no evil/hear no evil/speak no evil attitude. But when I'm on the road, I am open and eager for new experiences.
-- Sherry Amantenstein, travel journalist

• Take a little travel clock that shows multiple time zones at once. I set mine for where I am at the moment and the time at home. That stops me from arriving bleary-eyed from wherever and calling my family at some weird hour. My clock also comes with a little flashlight and an alarm.
• Consider a small digital picture frame loaded with favorite family photos. Setting it up in my hotel room makes me feel more connected while traveling.
• Tuck a small lavender sachet into your luggage. It makes my clothes smell good and keeps odors in dirty-clothes away. I have two daughters and they have their favorite sachet travel scents, too.
-- Nancy Schretter, managing editor, Family Travel Network, familytravelnetwork.com

• Evaluate your sporting equipment before traveling. Almost all equipment is more expensive to buy outside the U.S. If you're going to Britain, the Caribbean, or even Hawaii to play golf, for instance, note that golf balls are much more expensive away from the Continental U.S., so bring enough with you. Same with most other sports, and that goes for game-appropriate clothing, as well.
• Traveling to play golf? (I'll bet this tip applies to skiing, too.) If you will only be playing a round or two (so only skiing one day), consider leaving your clubs/skis at home and renting. Lugging equipment through airports and hotels, as well as dealing with airlines, can be easily avoided. Just figure out for yourself the threshold -- two or more rounds? more than a day of skiing? -- that makes sense to you for bringing your own gear.
-- James Frank, contributing editor, LINKS magazine, linksmagazine.com

• Never leave home without a good read. As travel is always unpredictable, I bring my iPad, a few magazines, and the New York Times Book Review section. This helps make time stuck on planes or at airports positive and pleasurable.
• Use the GateGuru app. It helps me track and organize my travels and sync with Tripit.com and Kayak.com.
-- Cheryl Andrews, president, Cheryl Andrews Marketing Communications, cam-pr.com

• Slip a small flashlight in your carry-on bag. It comes in handy checking nooks and crannies for dropped pens and whatnot.
-- Steve Larese, travel journalist, stevelarese.com

• Appreciate travel traditions. It never fails. Every time I start packing my brown Tumi duffel, my Havanese, named "Mojito," goes into doggie funk. He sulks out of the bedroom, lies down with his fuzzy head between his front paws, sad eyes cast upward revealing the pathetically adorable white rim of his little eyeballs. He knows the drill too well: Another trip for me. Fast-forward to my return and it's a euphoric ritual. I drag my bag through the door, and Mojito practically goes into convulsions. After frenzied thigh-high jumps on my leg, I whisk this squiggling 17-pound blur into my arms and exchange kisses and licks. When I put him down he pounces on my bag and furiously scratches at the zipper demanding my help, so he can bury his nose sniffing through the deliciously stale smells of a week's worth of laundry. Then he locates his prey: a new squeaky toy from a strange land that he can happily destroy. Mamma's home!
-- Valarie D'Elia, travel journalist, TV host/correspondent, NY1 News, travelwithval.com

• Carry Clif bars (clifbar.com), since there is a good chance of missing a meal.
• Load your iPod with podcasts, since there is a good chance of getting delayed.
• Bring a real book, not battery dependent, since finding a power outlet is luck, not a given, in most airports.
-- Everett Potter, editor-in-chief, Everett Potter's Travel Report, everettpotter.com

• Share daily experiences with a faraway loved one. My travel ritual that truly helps me enjoy each place I go even more? Everyday, I email what I've discovered and experienced, along with photographs, to my 97-year-old grandmother, who instilled in me my love of travel. She likes to hear about my adventures and always emails me back smart questions. It is a way to share the beauty of what I'm seeing with someone else when I so often travel alone for my work.
-- Karen Schaler, travel journalist, TV host/correspondent, Travel Therapy® TV and online video series; book author, Travel Therapy: Where Do You Need to Go?; traveltherapytrips.com; pix11.com/travel-therapy

• Carry on your luggage. How does a lady do it? Easy: I pick one color -- black, brown, blue -- then build the suitcase contents to match. Scarves, jewelry, shawls, sweaters add color. Every jacket has both a skirt and pants that compliment. Twin sweater sets mix and match. Keep shoes to a minimum, one low and one high heel should do it. Finally, a little hand wash detergent saves the day.
-- Lou Hammond, president, Lou Hammond & Associates Public Relations, louhammond.com

• Check your luggage. While you hear most frequent travelers talk about how they can squeeze everything for a week into a carry-on bag, I am the opposite. I spend half my life traveling and wouldn't enjoy it without my favorite things. My cosmetics bag has small-size versions of all the many products I use at home so I don't feel like I'm always in a strange place. It's worth it to me to check my luggage and make my travel life more comfortable.
• Select lightweight fabrics, so you can layer your clothes. They don't take up a lot of room in luggage. Also, I never feel like I'm wearing the same thing over and over.
-- Marcia Frost, travel journalist and content editor, cocktailsandjoints.com; wineandspiritstravel.com; marciafrost.com

Have to check a bag? If traveling with a companion, swap a day's worth of clothing into each other's luggage. My husband and I do this. That way if one of our bags goes AWOL, neither of us has to run to the gift shop for an emergency T-shirt.
-- Sally Kilbridge, editor-in-chief, destinationw.com

Finally, I leave you with my tried-and-true trip game-changers.
• Bring a lightweight electrical extension cord. I like to sleep with my iPhone on my nightstand (late-night emails, texts, twitter, music, photos, facebook, Huff Post news, and morning alarm), but hotels often don't have an available outlet near the bed. Plug in that twelve-feet-of-energy across the room and -- voilà! -- the world is near my pillow. Traveling as much as I do away from family and friends, this connectedness is much appreciated.
• Stash extra Zip-lock plastic bags in quart and gallon sizes. Perfect for carrying a delicious pain au chocolat and croissant that I didn't finish at breakfast, double-wrapping potential leaky toiletries, collecting colorful autumn leaves or beach seashells, and more.
• Snap a photo of your luggage (with your phone camera) when you have to check it. That way, if the bag gets lost, you'll have a timely pic to show the airline rep instead of trying to describe it.
• Carry your business cards everywhere. Never know who you're going to meet. It's then easy to have your contact info at the ready. Some of my cherished relationships started in unlikely far-flung places and were jumpstarted by my handing peeps my card.
• Smile. Yep, it sounds corny, but I see too many people wearing frowns. A smile is good for you, especially when traveling away from home. It's good for strangers who see you. It changes attitudes, turns a tricky situation around, and adds grace to the day. It opens hearts and doors. It doesn't cost anything and yet is priceless. It's the first thing I pack.