When boarding a flight, passengers rarely think about the pilot being anything less than professional and skilled. After all, people are putting their lives in the pilot’s hands. But there are plenty of kooky pilots out there.

Pilots continue spilling their secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Pilot” written this week by CaptainRon. This the 3rd entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Tuesday.

1. The Neat Freak Pilot

Most pilots meet each other for the first time just before a flight (and then end up spending two or three days together — it’s as awkward as it sounds). So for this particular flight, the first thing I noticed about my copilot was that he was extremely well groomed. There wasn’t a hair out of place, and it looked as if his uniform hadn’t been worn before, it was so well pressed. After he went through his flight checklist he pulled out rubber latex gloves. He then opened up a Cheetos bag and started to eat, all the cheesiness staying on the gloves and turning them bright orange. When he was done snacking he whipped off the gloves in triumph and showed me his spotless hands. After takeoff, never mind flying the plane — the Neat Freak Pilot pulled out a toolkit with precision cleaning supplies and proceeded to give the cockpit a thorough scrubbing.

2. The Smelly Pilot

This guy is infamous — and everyone in the industry is afraid to fly with him. Because of a stomach issue, he has terrible flatulence. Stuck in the tiny cockpit with almost no ventilation, some of his copilots have actually gotten ill. When I first flew with him, the smelly pilot let one fly, so to speak, within the first few minutes. I knew I couldn’t take this odor for the entire flight, so I grabbed my oxygen mask and ended up wearing it until touchdown, Navy pilot style.

3. The Paranoid Pilot

When this pilot sat down in the cockpit, he pulled out a baseball cap — and proceeded to cover it in aluminum foil, which he had handy in his bag. He then donned this silver headpiece with pride. When I asked him why he encased his perfectly adequate hat in Reynolds Wrap, he replied, “Radiation protection.”

4. The Narcoleptic Pilot

Right after takeoff this guy dozed off, and he snored through the rest of the flight. (Good thing there were two of us flying the plane.) The Narcoleptic Pilot woke up during the final approach, seconds from landing. He cried out, “Wait, why are we so low?,” gave the plane a burst of power and then handed the controls back to me to finish landing.

5. The Speed Demon Pilot

There have been some legends when it comes to inappropriate pilot behavior. One such captain was the Speed Demon Pilot. (In the industry he was known as “Boss Hogg,” because he looked like the ’80s TV character from “Dukes of Hazzard.”) It was pre-9/11, and this pilot flew fast. All the time. Pretty much as fast as he could without incurring any structural damage to the plane. He also never wrote a takeoff checklist. Clearly he had buddies in important positions at the airline to keep his job secure.

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Virgin Atlantic announced this morning that Little Red, its domestic airline, will officially be closing next year. The statement noted that “Little Red has not been able to make a positive contribution” to the company. The airline just recently launched in March 2013.  Virgin stated that they will instead be focusing on their transatlantic routes in partnership with Delta and confirmed their expectation of turning a profit for the current year.  From Reuters:

Virgin Atlantic said the decision on Little Red followed a review of its network which has put a new emphasis on its transatlantic routes. The Little Red service did not provide enough feeder traffic onto Virgin’s transatlantic and other international routes, the airline said on Monday. Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive Craig Kreeger blamed the “inadequate” number of runway slots made available by regulators for Little Red’s failure. “While this challenged environment meant Little Red ultimately did not deliver the results we had hoped, this certainly will not dampen our enthusiasm to try new things in the future,” he said. Little Red will stop flying between Heathrow and Manchester in March next year with its Heathrow to Edinburgh and Aberdeen flights ceasing six months after that.

VA Little REd

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We fly blind. if you were allowed to visit the cockpit during a westbound flight late in the afternoon, you probably would see much of the windshield covered

Pilots continue spilling their secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Pilot” written this week by Captain Tom Bunn. Captain Tom is a former commercial airline pilot, who after retirement in the 90’s, went back to school to become a licensed therapist. Since then, he has counseled thousands of people across the globe who have a fear of flying through his program, SOAR. This the 2nd entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Tuesday.

1. We fly blind. if you were allowed to visit the cockpit during a westbound flight late in the afternoon, you probably would see much of the windshield covered. Pilots use whatever is at hand — papers, maps, or even tray liners — to block the sun. It just doesn’t make sense to sit there for hours staring at the sun.   Although it may be terrifying to see that the pilots are flying “blind,” rest assured that all planes are equipped with TCAS, which stands for Traffic Collision Avoidance System. Pilots can see all nearby airborne flights much better — and farther— on the TCAS radar screen than with the naked eye.

2. We take naps.  It’s not legal, but legal or not, naps are a necessity. On long night flights, the best way to make sure both pilots don’t fall asleep at the same time is for pilots to take turns taking a fifteen minute nap in order to shake their sleepiness. Though illegal for U.S. pilots, controlled naps are allowed in the United Kingdom. As aviation consultant Mark Weiss puts it, “I would rather have somebody take a nap during a cruise part of a flight so that pilot would be at peak performance during a high-traffic situation or a landing.”

3. We can’t dodge turbulence. When the plane starts to shake, do you ever wonder why your pilot doesn’t simply steer around it? Although your pilot will always try to give you the smoothest ride possible, clear air turbulence (CAT) can’t be predicted accurately enough for flights to be planned around it. The only reliable CAT advance notice comes from pilots ahead of you on the same route. If a pilot ahead reports CAT, your pilot will try to avoid it. It doesn’t help to go left or right. Circumnavigating CAT doesn’t work because it would mean flying a great distance off course. Sometimes, there just aren’t any smooth altitudes.

Storm clouds that cause turbulence are called cumulonimbus clouds, or CBs for short. CBs can be circumnavigated during cruise. But it becomes harder to do so when landing. As the plane gets closer to the airport, your pilot has less latitude about going off course. The plane has to be lined up with the runway when five miles from landing. Turns off course are not possible during the last five miles, so if a CB is in the way, landings are temporarily halted to allow the CB to drift away.

In any case, turbulence is not a problem for the plane. It is a problem, however, for anxious fliers. Even if you know it is safe, turbulence can still cause fear. When the plane drops, a part of the brain called the amygdala releases stress hormones. The amygdala reacts to feelings of falling and that’s a good. Think about it: If you are on a ladder painting the ceiling and start to fall, the amygdala is going to zap you with stress hormones. The hormones hijack your awareness. They force you to forget about the ceiling and look where you are headed —the floor.

When the plane drops again and again, the amygdala bombards you with one shot of stress hormones after another. It’s hard to stay convinced that you are safe. My free app at http://www.fearofflying.com/app helps. It measures the turbulence and proves that you are safe. And proof that you are safe can help.

Remember: Your pilot cannot get the cockpit on the ground without getting the cabin — where you are — on the ground. You care about self-preservation. So does your pilot. Your pilot’s self-preservation pretty much guarantees yours. It’s a much better deal that you get from our doctor or lawyer or used car salesperson. They are not in the same boat as you are.

4. Flight schedules are based on outdated pseudo-science.  Prior to 1978, each airline worked out schedules with its pilots to accommodate the routes the airline flew while protecting the pilots from undue fatigue. But after 1978’s deregulation, all that changed. Competition between airlines became so fierce that pilots were forced to fly more hours with less rest. Fatigue led to accidents. At the beginning of this year, new rules established by the FAA and supposedly based on scientific study, went into effect which gave pilots a reasonable amount of uninterrupted rest between days of flying, but increased the number of hours a two-pilot crew could fly per day from eight to nine hours!

Under these new pseudo-scientific rules, a pilot who reports for duty at 7 a.m. can be on duty for fourteen hours. That may sound reasonable until you consider that being at work at 7 a.m.  may mean getting up at 3 a.m., leaving home at 4 a.m., and driving two hours to the airport. That allows only twenty minutes for traffic and forty minutes to catch the bus from crew parking to the terminal. Your pilot can be forced to work until 9 p.m., eighteen hours after waking up — if lucky — from five to six hours of sleep.

According to research done in Australia, a person who has driven more than eight hours has the same ability to function as a person with a blood alcohol level of .05. The research also showed a person who has been awake for eighteen hours function like a person with a blood alcohol of .05. What does that say about your pilot who is landing the plane after flying nine hours or being up eighteen hours?

Pilots are stuck with the new rules, and no matter how fatigued a pilot may be, refusing to fly means big trouble. As a pilot, you don’t fly fatigued, you can’t keep your job. Don¹t expect things to get better. So, if you want a pilot who is fully awake after a full night’s sleep, don’t fly earlier than 10 a.m.. If you want to be sure your pilot’s performance
is better than a drunk driver, steer clear of short flights after 7 p.m. Longer domestic flights and international flights that depart after 7 p.m. are not a problem in this regard because on such flights pilots are usually beginning their work day.

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“Our caring room attendants enjoyed making your stay warm and comfortable. Please feel free to leave a gratuity to express your appreciation for their efforts.” That’s the message that appears on Marriott’s new in-room envelopes that launched this week as part of their “Envelope Please” campaign. The envelopes will appear in 160,000 rooms in the U.S. and Canada across the major Marriott brands including Marriott, Courtyard, JW, and Ritz Carlton. Each envelope will include the name of the housekeeper responsible for cleaning your room.

The program is actually being launched with Maria Shriver as part of her efforts to empower women. “There’s a huge education of the traveler that needs to occur,” she said. “If you tell them, they ask, ‘How do I do that?'” She said envelopes make it easy for guests to leave cash for the right person in a secure way.

The AP reports that Marriott’s CEO is even offering up advice on the appropriate amount to tip and that Marriott housekeepers are quite happy with the initiative:

CEO Arne Sorenson says $1 to $5 per night, depending on room rate, with more for a high-priced suite is recommended. Sorenson noted that housekeepers “are less frequently tipped” than other hotel workers because they do an “invisible task.” In contrast, workers who carry bags, hail cabs and park cars tend to get tipped because they “make a personal connection” with guests, he said. Rosario Rodriguez, who works as a housekeeper at Marriott’s Times Square hotel, says many guests don’t tip and she welcomes the envelope campaign as “a good idea. Jessica Lynn Strosky of DuBois, Pennsylvania, who earns $7.75 an hour cleaning rooms at a hotel that’s not a Marriott, says only 1 in 15 or 20 guests leaves a tip. When they do, it’s a dollar or two; she’s lucky to get $20 a week in tips. “I’ve talked to lots of people who say they don’t know they are supposed to tip,” she said. Unlike waitresses who earn less than minimum wage because tips are expected to raise their earnings, hotel housekeepers are paid minimum wage, and in expensive markets, substantially more. In Washington D.C., Sorenson said, Marriott housekeepers start in the mid-teens per hour.

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Marriott - Tip Please

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With the metal tongs we use to serve bread we moved the exposed body part back into his pants! He didn’t feel a thing.

Betty continues spilling her secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Fed-Up Flight Attendant” written by “Betty”.  Below is the 13th entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Monday.

Things We Just Can’t Do for You – One flight I was on had a particularly robust passenger. So robust, in fact, that he purchased three seats. He was nice enough and the flight went along smoothly, until he got up to use the restroom. Airplane bathrooms are small for average-sized people. If you are a person who needs three seats, that airplane bathroom will not be OK for you.  He managed to get in and shut the door. Five minutes later, the flight attendant call bell from inside the bathroom rang. A petite flight attendant responded to the call bell and asked if the passenger was OK. He opened the door a bit and said he needed help wiping because he couldn’t reach. This attendant frantically waved her hand in front of her mouth and said, “Oh, no, sir: We only do food and beverage …  only food and beverage!”

The Mouse Is Out of the House – On flights to Las Vegas, passengers get incredibly excited for the debauchery that lies ahead. This usually makes them drink too much. This one drunk guy went to the back of the airplane to use the restroom.  In his drunken state, he didn’t lock the door.  While he was in the restroom, he passed out, fell backward, and ended up lying flat on the galley floor. The flight attendants heard a thud and rushed to see what happened.  Because of what he was attempting to do in the bathroom, his fly was still down and his privates were exposed. The two flight attendants stood over him, discussing what to to. “Let him sleep it off,” one said.  “We can’t leave him exposed,” said another. “I’m not going to touch it!” said a third.  This went on for some time. They really needed to get back to the beverage service. They finally decided to get the long metal tongs that we use to serve bread in first class to  move the exposed body part back into his pants! He didn’t feel a thing.

An Unreasonable Solution – One day as I was walking down the aisle checking passengers, I noticed a very large woman traveling with her pet Chihuahua. The dog was out of the carrier and sitting on her lap. Rules are rules, so I told her that animals have to stay in their carriers. Without saying a word, she looked at me, then she looked at the dog, and then she picked up the Chihuahua and tucked the tiny dog into her very ample bosom. The dog fit there very nicely and seemed comfortable. So I looked at her and looked at the dog and said, “Well, I guess technically … that would qualify as a carrier.”

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Commercial air travel has long been a breeding ground for myths, urban legends, and plain old misunderstandings. Most of what people think they know about flying is wrong, and certain notions just never seem to die. Below are just a few of the most stubborn fallacies.

Patrick continues spilling his secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Pilot” written by Patrick Smith an airline pilot and the host of Askthepilot.com.  His book  Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel pulls back the curtain (literally) on the air travel industry.  Below is the 1st entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Tuesday.

1. Flying is expensive

Actually, when adjusted for inflation, the average cost of an airline ticket has declined about 50 percent over the past three decades. Fares have risen slightly over the past year or so, but they are still far below what they were 30 years ago.  And yes, this is after factoring in all of those add-on “unbundling” fees that airlines love and passengers so despise. This is lost on many Americans, younger people especially, who don’t seem to realize that in years past only a fraction of Americans could afford to fly at all. In my parents’ generation it cost several thousand dollars in today’s money to travel to Europe.  Even coast-to-coast trips were something relatively few people could afford.  Today the idea of flying as a form of mass transit, with college kids jetting home for a long weekend or to Mexico for spring break, is very new.

2. Flying is growing more dangerous

The events of the past several months, punctuated by the losses of Malaysia Airlines Flights 370 and 17, have given many people the idea that flying has become less safe.  In fact, it’s much safer than it used to be. Worldwide there are twice as many planes in the air as there were 25 years ago, yet the rate of fatal accidents, per miles flown, has been steadily falling. The International Civil Aviation Organization reports that for every million flights, the chance of a crash is one-sixth what it was in 1980. Globally, 2013 was the safest year in the history of modern commercial aviation. This year will be something of a correction, but we can’t expect every year to be the safest, and the overall trend shouldn’t be affected.

3. Modern commercial jets are so sophisticated that they essentially fly themselves.

This is the one that really gets my pulse racing — partly because we hear it so often, and because it’s so outrageously false. A comparison between flying and medicine is maybe the best one: Modern technology helps a pilot fly a plane the way it helps a surgeon perform an operation. A jetliner can no more “fly itself” than an operating room can remove a tumor or perform an organ transplant “by itself.”

Cockpit automation is not flying the plane.  The pilots are flying the plane through the automation.  We still need to tell it what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  There are, for example, no fewer than six ways that I can set up an “automatic” climb or descent on the Boeing that I fly, depending on circumstances. And you’d be surprised how busy a cockpit can become — to the point of task saturation even with the autopilot on.  Even the most routine flight is subject to countless contingencies and a tremendous amount of input from the crew. Meanwhile more than 99 percent of landings, and a full 100 percent of takeoffs, are performed the “old-fashioned” way — by hand.

4. The air on planes is full of germs  

Studies show that the air in a crowded cabin is less germ-laden than most other crowded spaces. Passengers and crew breathe a mixture of fresh and recirculated air.  Using this combination, rather than fresh air only, makes it easier to regulate temperature and helps maintain a bit of humidity.  The recirculated portion is run through hospital-quality filters that capture at least 95 percent of airborne microbes, and there’s a total changeover of air every two or three minutes — far more frequently than occurs in buildings.

For those people who do get sick from flying, it’s probably not from what they are breathing but from what they are touching. Lavatory door handles, contaminated trays and armrests, and so on are the germ vectors of concern, not the air.  A little hand sanitizer is a better safeguard than the masks I sometimes see travelers wearing.

This is my term for people’s tendency to exaggerate the sensations of flight. The altitudes, speeds, and angles you perceive often aren’t close to the real thing. During turbulence, for example, many people believe that an airplane is dropping hundreds of feet at a time, when in reality, even in relatively heavy turbulence, the displacement is seldom more than 20 feet or so — the slightest twitch on the altimeter. It’s similar with angles of bank and climb. A typical turn is around 15 degrees, and a steep one might be 25. A sharp climb is about 20 degrees nose-up, and even a rapid descent is usually no more severe than 5 – yes, 5 — degrees nose-down.

I can hear your comments already: You will tell me that I’m lying and that your flight was definitely climbing at 45 degrees and definitely banking at 60. You’re definitely wrong.  I wish that I could take you into a cockpit and demonstrate. I’d show you what a 45-degree climb would actually look like,. It would turn you green in the face.  In a 60-degree turn, the g-forces would be so strong that you’d hardly be able to lift your legs off the floor.

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Some good news for Americans this Labor Day, after decades of being labeled the “worst tourists”, several other countries are now taking or sharing in that honor! Mark from Yahoo! shares their list which was compiled by Paula Froelich, Editor in Chief, and a North American Travel Journalists Association Gold Medal award winner.

No, my friends, after traveling the world, I have decided that we Americans get a bad rap. Especially since there are other countries’ travelers who deserve attention for bad tourist behavior. And so I present the top five countries around the world whose tourists make us look good.

Below is the list with a brief snippet for each country, though be sure to check out the full article for full examples as to why each country qualified for the list.

  1. The Russians – Armed with rigid self-confidence and a boatload of rubles, traveling Russians just don’t give a damn.
  2. The Chinese – Chinese tourists’ behavior is so bad, even their own government has commented on it. Vice Premier Wang Yang has criticized the “uncivilized behavior” of certain Chinese tourists, saying, “They make a terrible racket in public places, scrawl their names on tourist sites, ignore red lights when crossing the road, and spit everywhere. This damages our national image and has a terrible effect.”
  3. The Germans – Why can this country not be like Germany? 
  4. The British – Ever since the sun set on the British Empire, the subjects of the queen have been going out, trying to recapture the glory. They show up in former colonies, pale (not their fault — the sun never shines in the U.K.) and ready to rock.  Many get drunk, some even get belligerent, and a few undress.
  5. The Saudis – Though the crown prince is not your normal tourist, Saudis traveling abroad almost all seem to be part of the ginormous royal family, and many hold diplomatic passports, which can allow them to get away with unacceptable tourist behavior.

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While hotels can be notorious for charging hidden fees, it’s the guests who come equipped with their own arsenal of sneaky, rule-breaking habits — ultimately proving that they’re the winners in the hotel hustle. Sure, these antics are frowned upon, but they’re de rigueur and wildly popular for getting the most out of a hotel stay on the sly.

The list was compiled by Thrillist and used with courtesy. I’m pretty sure (or hope) that our ethical BoardingArea reader community is at most guilty of numbers 6-8!

1. Refilling vodka bottle with water
Minibars are becoming extinct, and for good reason: people are stealing from them. And we’re not talking a pack of M&Ms, either — theft comes in the form of drinking any clear liquor, refilling the bottle with water, and re-shelving it as though never touched. 

2. Sneaking in a pet to dodge a fee
As pet-friendly travel becomes more popular, hotels are allowing man’s best friend (and cats!) to stay overnight for a fee (roughly $50 a night to $200 per stay). You won’t see a charge on your bill if you simply sneak Fido in, though. The most common scheme? Scoring a neon vest and dubious certificate for your “service” dog, which allows a free pass.

3. Not tipping housekeeping
Being nickel-and-dimed by a hotel is nothing new, and the last thing hotel guests want to do on their way out the door is pay more for their stay. That sentiment leaves the housekeeping staff… well, nothing. Housekeeping is the only traditionally tipped staff you never see (as opposed to the bellman, valet, or wait staff), so guests can escape without feeling cheap. Those sad little envelopes — which ultimately serve as a reminder to tip — are hardly ever used.

4. Smoking in a non-smoking room
Smoke-friendly hotel rooms these days are about as common as bath butlers, and when the nic fit hits, that walk to the ashtray outside the hotel lobby door is way too inconvenient. Smokers have gotten into the habit of blazing up in the room, using tricks like puffing out the window, running a steamy shower to mask the smoke, or straight up covering the smoke detector with a shower cap.

5. Charging your bill to someone else’s room 
When hotel guests get a random food and beverage charge on their bill, it’s more often than not an oversight. But not for some mischievous risk takers who believe the guy in Room 202 won’t mind picking up the tab. Room-charge robbery generally happens at the pool bar after one too many cocktails, or at a new hotel where there’s more room for error. Either way, the hotel ends up eating the costs.

6. Stealing from the housekeeping/minibar cart
Most housekeeping carts are generally equipped with all the necessities to replenish your room. But, for some guests, it’s basically a cart full of free stuff. Nabbing a towel here (one of the most stolen objects in a hotel) means that all the towels in the guest room are accounted for. The housekeeping cart often doubles up as the mini bar cart, too — who wants free soda?

7. Sneaking into the pool’s hot tub/pool after hours 
When hotel pools are closed, it usually means they’re being cleaned in the off hours — or that crazy folks do crazy stuff at night, which can be a liability for any hotel. This hasn’t stopped late-night revelers from slipping past the gate and taking their hotel party to the pool deck. And it’s not just hotel guests that “RSVP”. Non-patron pool crashers are regularly caught sneaking in to use the hotel’s pool facilities.

8. Lying about an anniversary or birthday to score an upgrade 
Guests who still book their rooms over the phone are sometimes asked how’s life in 1994whether they’ll be celebrating a special occasion during their stay, so the hotel can extend a gesture. Some people interpret this as, “oh, hey, free champagne or room upgrade? Count me in!”

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Pan American World Airways wasn’t merely a successful airline, it was THE aviation company that helped create what Time publisher Henry Luce called, “The American Century”. The life of this company encompasses not just the story of twentieth century commercial aviation, but America’s rise to world dominance.

Great as it was, Pan Am fell prey to unfair international tariffs, government interference, internal corporate blunders, and a 1988 terrorist bombing. The airline filed for bankruptcy in 1991. Today, we think of Pan Am’s trademark blue globe as a bold American symbol of traveling in style—the way we remember the legendary trans-Atlantic ocean liners, or the fabled railcars of the Orient Express.

We take a look at some of Pan Am’s most memorable moments. (Photos provided by- Pan Am: An Aviation Legend by Barnaby Conrad)

Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing this really cool look back at the majesty of Pan Am and the Golden Age of Travel. Check out their full awesome slideshow here.

PAA China Clipper PA 707 Jet Clipper Pan Am Worldport JFK

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Update 8/23 – An Emirates crew member provided a picture of their 777 CRCs…pretty pimp!  Check it out in a separate post here.

Crew Rest Compartments, or CRCs, vary in design from plane to plane but the newest B787 and A380s have CRCs that one might say rival business class beds! Check out the photos below and see the full post from core77 with more details here. 7 8 9 10 11 13 14

Update 8/23 – An Emirates crew member provided a picture of their 777 CRCs…pretty pimp!  Check it out in a separate post here.

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Distractify brings us “40 Genius Travel Tips That Will Change Your Life Forever”. I don’t know about changing your life, but some of these will surely make your travel experience easier. Check out the ten I was able to republish below or click the link above to see all 40!

1. Keep loose chargers and cables organized with a glasses case.

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2. Use straws to carry travel-size amounts of skin care products.

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3. Put a dryer sheet at the bottom of a suitcase to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

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4. Use a spring from an old pen to protect chargers from bending and breaking.

5. Use a binder clip to protect the head of shaving razors.

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6. If you forget your wall plug, charge devices through the USB slot on a TV.

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7. Roll clothes, instead of folding, to save tons of baggage space.

Roll clothes, instead of folding, to save tons of baggage space.

8. If you have clothes that need to be folded, use tissue paper to keep them from wrinkling.

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9. Keep your travel-size containers and refill them, instead of buying new each time.

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10. To use Google Maps offline, type “OK Maps,” and the visible area will save for future access.

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