A pro packer airs a dirty trade se­cret

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL -

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.

— C.E.

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.

— C.S.

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.

— C.E.

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.

— C.S.

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.

— C.E.

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.

— C.E.

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