Hey, readers: You have great travel tips
Re "Before You Go," the article of readers' tips (Feb. 17): You were right. I've taken a bottle of aspirin so far, and my head still hurts from whacking it.
Keep those tips coming.
(Editor's note: We received so many great reader tips that we're starting a new weekly feature, called Your Tips, and will run it weekly as space permits. )
One of the reader tips suggested taking a familiar food to calm children on a plane, perhaps a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Please, leave the peanut butter sandwiches at home. You could end up killing another passenger who has life-threatening allergies.
Spend time in the real Austin
Regarding Christopher Reynolds' suggestions for Austin, Texas, in his article "10 Spots in '13: Now Go See Them for Yourself" (Feb. 17): Rather than staying at a pretend motor court attached to the Domain, a bland, chain-store-filled, open-air mall that has nothing of the uniqueness of Austin about it whatsoever, reserve instead at the Austin Motel (1220 S. Congress Ave.;  441-1157, http://www.austinmotel.com).
The Austin Motel is the real deal (it's been family owned and operated since 1938), is right in the heart of South Congress and is an easy walk across the river to downtown. We never stay anywhere else.
'Do Not Disturb' means just that
"Playing It Safe During Hotel Stay" by Judy Mandell was a great article with some good tips, but the tip to leave the "do not disturb" sign on the door when leaving your room may mean that housekeeping will not clean and service your room.
We learned this the hard way, and no one was available to do the service when we returned in the evening.
I left the tag on the door one time at a hotel in Portland, Ore., causing considerable inconvenience. We really needed a shower after a long, hot day of touring, but our towels were still wet. (In this hotel, the front desk was two buildings away, a major hike.)
Cruise directly to the cruise line
Although the article on using a travel agent to book a cruise "A Case for Travel Agents" (On the Spot by Catharine Hamm, Feb. 17) has good advice for people who have never cruised, my experience and advice are just the opposite.
For the 12 last cruises, I have made all arrangements directly with the cruise lines and have never regretted it. On the contrary. The one "poke in the eye" was when I did go through a travel agent and had to deal with their "cruise expert."
When you deal with the cruise lines directly, you can contact them any day, almost any time. With a travel agent you may be out of luck reaching the right person for days (as it was in my case). That person may also not be well informed and can give you incorrect information. This got so bad I finally had to cancel my arrangements and went directly with the cruise lines.
With a travel agent, you may encounter bias because some have strong relationships with certain cruise lines or have only limited experience. I will concede that you may also find a gem who has the experience you are looking for. But finding such a person may be more difficult or confusing than going to the source.
If you deal directly with the cruise lines, you can find out exactly which cabins are available, the locations, etc., before you make a decision. You don't have to wait for a travel agent to start "looking into it." The answers are given on the spot by the cruise line itself. There is so much information available through brochures and on the Internet that you can do a lot of shopping before zeroing in.
Pricing for the cabins is no different, although you may get a free bottle of wine from the travel agent.
My experience with the personnel at the cruise lines has been excellent. They have always been helpful, knowledgeable and personable.