A pro packer airs a dirty trade secret
On Mondays at 2 p.m., The Post’s travel writers and editors discuss your travel stories, questions, gripes and more at live.washingtonpost.com. Edited excerpts from a recent discussion:
You guys are professional travelers. I think it’s time for you to reveal your packing secrets. Do you check your luggage, or can you pack everything for a multi-week trip into a carry-on? How many changes of clothes do you take? What if you’re going to warm and cold places in the same trip? What do you do about laundry? Rick Steves claims that he spends months at a time in Europe with a carry-on-size backpack (one of which he’s happy to sell you). What’s your best advice?
It’s not really how you pack but what you pack. In my latest book, “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler,” I talk about the many packing methods. But there’s no real remedy for bulky clothes. I’ve found that a light, blended fabric that’s quick-dry (and at this time of year, has UV protection) works the best. You can take only two shirts and wash them in the sink, if necessary. I admit, I washed my shirts in a hotel bathtub last night. I’m on Day 15 of a trip. But I digress. You don’t have to buy a fancy carry-on. Just get the right clothes.
— Christopher Elliott
Any recommendations on safety while traveling by air with a toddler? We’ve always had her as a lap baby, but we bought a seat for her on this next trip. We’ll definitely have her buckled in for takeoff/ landing/any time we can rope her in, but would you recommend buying a CARES harness or bringing the car seat on board? It just seems like the car seat is going to be huge compared with the seats. It’s a whole new world for us (and we fly a decent amount).
As the father of three, two of whom were in car seats at the same time, I would strongly recommend bringing the car seat. Airlines don’t charge you for a car seat, and if you buy seats for your kids, it will keep them the safest. Also, you can use the seat later, when you rent a car.
Would love to take my elementary-aged boys to the ocean for a day trip from Arlington to celebrate the end of the school year. I’d really like to avoid the inlet at Ocean City because it’s always so filthy. We don’t need any of the “fun” diversions; we just want to play in the surf and sand. We’ll bring a picnic. Can you recommend a beach that’s clean and open to the public?
I spend most summer days at the beach in Ocean City, and I’ve never found it to be filthy. But I don’t go to the inlet beach. Perhaps you should try going a little farther north. Come in at the Route 90 bridge and go to the beach north of there. Parking can be a problem, but if you’re willing to park on the bay side and walk across, that would work. Bethany Beach is a familyoriented spot, but again, parking can be an issue. And if you really don’t want any amenities other than a bathroom, head to Assateague Island near Ocean City: It’s undeveloped public land with both a state park and a national park.
— Carol Sottili
I’m trying to decide whether to drive or fly to Nashville. The drive would be about seven hours, but I’m starting to think that spending a few extra dollars to fly would be better. I’m not sure how efficient public transportation is in the immediate area of Nashville, so I don’t know if I would need a car to get around they city. Any thoughts?
If you want to stick to downtown Nashville, you’ll be fine without a car. There’s the free Music City Circuit bus and a bike-share program. Nonstop flights to Nashville start at about $315. The flight takes about two hours: Make sure to add travel to/from airports and advance time in airport when comparing to drive time. And I don’t know where you live, but it takes about 10 hours to drive to Nashville from the District.
My parents are interested in renting a car internationally, but they have started to realize they may be too old (78 and 83). In general, do other countries impose age maximums for rental cars?
Yes, some countries have restrictions, and it can also vary by city and municipality. I outlined those in a recent Navigator column. I’ve found that Auto Europe publishes reliable countryspecific information on those limits and on any surcharges you might also encounter as the result of your age.
I bought Air France tickets for a flight to Italy from IAD, changing at CDG (Paris) but am now freaking out about making my connection. The ticket is for premium economy, which I was told would help. Is an 80-minute connection time totally unreasonable?
Figure out the arrival terminal in Paris and the departure terminal. The flight will probably arrive in Terminal 2F and if you are flying to Florence, Milan, Naples, Rome or Venice, the flight will probably be departing from the same terminal. If that’s the case, you should be okay.
I prefer to opt out of the fullbody scanners and recently did so at BWI. However, I had to wait quite a while — a full 10 or even 15 minutes — for a female officer to assist me, as almost none were working. Is this type of thing worth a complaint?
Yes, it’s worth complaining about. It’s called a “retaliatory” or “punitive” wait, and it’s meant to encourage you to go through the full-body scanner like the obedient passenger you’re supposed to be. I don’t fall for it, either, and I’m glad you didn’t.
Is there any rhyme or reason for who gets selected for TSA PreCheck? My husband and/or I are frequently selected but oftentimes not for the same flights, even though we’re traveling together. It’s slightly annoying (to the one of us not selected) when the other one gets to breeze through that line. Is there any secret for ensuring we’re both selected?
Non-PreCheck members can get access to PreCheck lines, but there’s no rhyme or reason to it. In fact, the device the TSA uses to determine who gets selected is called a “Randomizer.” It’s a customized iPad app. No kidding. I’ve watched them use it.