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TRAVEL INSIDER : Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Flight Bag : Readers: A suitcase full of suggestions from faithful followers who wouldn't go anywhere without . . .

July 25, 1993|CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS | TIMES TRAVEL WRITER

Back on June 13, I asked a handful of prominent travelers for packing tips. You may recall that William F. Buckley endorsed earplugs, Consumer Reports editor Ed Perkins embraced spot remover and small screwdrivers, and National Geographic Society chairman Gilbert Grosvenor suggested beer-drinking as a recourse for those uncertain about water quality. Along the way, I mentioned that if readers found one of their own favorite strategies unmentioned, they might send in a note.

The notes are still coming.

But I can't wait any longer to pass along a sampling of advice received so far. There has been much acclaim for money belts, washcloths, sewing kits, folding umbrellas and plastic bags for laundry and potentially leaky toiletries. Owners of soft-sided carry-on bags have written to condemn the inconvenience of hard-sided luggage with wheels--and the other way around. (I've always counted myself among the rough-and-ready soft-sided people--but the idea of unstrained shoulders is more and more seductive.)

There also has been much bragging about just how far someone can go with how little. The winner in that last category appears to be David Churchman of Los Angeles, who boasts of six months' travel in climates from Helsinki to Calcutta, with only a single carry-on.

Meanwhile, the Air Transport Association--Washington lobbying group for the airline industry--has sent its own list of items not to pack for a trip. Fireworks, for instance. Also propane and butane gas tanks, flammable liquids, ammunition, signal flares, scuba tanks and matches. (Because of changes in temperature and air pressure during flight, the association says, travelers should keep any matches in the pockets of the clothes they're wearing.)

*

The tallest stack on my desk is proposals that might never have occurred to me. Those are the ones that dominate the suggestions gathered below. Some may win you over immediately. Others may inspire giggles. None should be adopted unless you're sure the idea is compatible with your health and destination.

"Fly swatter," offers Charlie Blenkhorn of Rancho Palos Verde. "For all unscreened hotel rooms (particularly Europe)." Blenkhorn also carries sticky tape and a large plastic bag--not for holding and sealing laundry, but for redirecting cold air from errantly placed hotel air-conditioning ducts.

Sheryl Ogilvie of Wrightwood packs heavily for her trips to England and Scotland every other year, then leaves clothing at each night's stop. "Most B&B's and inns know of a church or charity that would love to receive the castoffs," she counsels. At the end of her trip, she has more room for purchases.

Michael Diamant, a Santa Barbara anesthesiologist and far-flung traveler for more than 20 years, has developed "a system of packing"--a checklist that runs to 119 items, including pictures of his hometown and family, AA and AAA batteries, peanut butter and raisins. Here are highlights from the doctor's medication list: antibiotics, Immodium or Lomotil, medicated lotions, bandages, tape, gauze, sunblock, eye ointment, analgesics, insect repellant, antifungal ointment, insect bite ointment, antiseptic soap solution, isopropyl alcohol, water purification tablets, antacids, common cold remedies, anti-malarial drugs.

"Tabasco sauce," urges William Tomicki of Santa Barbara. "It can make airplane food edible." Tomicki also endorses duct tape, personal stationery and small American flags, which he uses as gifts in remote lands.

Harriet Barrat of Los Angeles finds duct tape essential, along with a cheap wrist watch ("no one will want it") and a large scarf, in case she finds herself visiting a place of worship where women maybe expected to cover their head or maybe arms.

Marge Gomme of Manhattan Beach, who tends to avoid luxury hotels and favor hostels and bed-and-breakfasts in her travels with her husband, saves toilet paper rolls. Instead of carrying an entire roll, she sets them aside at home when about a quarter of the original roll remains, then flattens them and stuffs them into otherwise wasted corners of her suitcase. She also follows "the four-B rule": When in doubt about food, eat bread, boiled eggs, bananas and beer. "And," she concludes, "we don't drink the water."

Sheldon Mars of Santa Monica suggests that photographers bring a Polaroid camera so that they can provide a photo subject with his or her own copy of a photo on the spot. (I've seen this strategy in action. Not only is it a great courtesy to the person being photographed, but it can spark cooperation and enthusiasm that may open further photo opportunities, especially in places where Polaroid technology is foreign.)

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