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Quick Tips for the Savvy Traveler

by Denise McCluggage

Herewith some observations on assorted matters of travel:

Pressing needs:
There stood I looking out my window to the sea at the Inn at Spanish Bay off Seventeen Mile Drive at Pebble Beach. I listened for the bagpipes that are an early evening tradition there. Such a lovely place to be.

What was wrong with this scene? My view was over an ironing board as I removed the wrinkles from clothes just removed from my suitcase. What was really wrong with this picture? The evening before I had stood over the same clothes on another ironing board at home.

Yes, of course, wrinkle resistant fabrics are excellent now (not all I pack is new) and packing tricks to lessen creasing are simple (extensive use of tissue paper or thin plastic dry cleaners' bags work very well.) But I had wrinkles. My solution for the future?

Pack the clothes straight from the dryer or the closet as they happen to be and use the iron only once - at the destination.
I can't think of a place - multi-starred resort or cheapie motel - that I have stayed in over the past two years that has not had either an iron and ironing board in the closet, one available with a call to housekeeping or one in a special laundry room nearby.

Actually I find ironing (or pressing) somehow relaxing. Soothing at the smoothing. But why duplicate effort? Pack 'em in creases and press 'em when you get there.

Radio-controlled time:
I love gadgetry and was probably the first on my block to go for the super-accurate radio-controlled clocks and watches. You must have seen them advertised. These timepieces are tuned to the government clock in Colorado, which is tuned to the stars or some such and is the nation's official time keeper.

Timepieces equipped to receive radio messages from this central clock are accurate to a fault. They work in any time zone and adjust automatically for daylight savings time.

What a boon, thought I, to have such a watch. Never wonder when you hit a new airport what the local time might be and is your next flight just 15 minutes away or an hour and 15 minutes.

I ordered an assortment - a wall clock, a small bedside clock and a wristwatch. I sent all back but the bedside clock. So the wall clock was simply faulty. But I discovered what the ads failed to make clear: yes, the time is accurate BUT the radio signal from Colorado goes out only once every 24 hours! Thus your "atomic" watch is no better than any other watch as you fly across time zones. Until that next early morning hour when the radio signal arrives you are back in the wind-up era.

And the timepieces are only good within 2000 miles of the Colorado source. That's good for all US times zones but nothing more distant. Farther out than 2000-miles there be dragons. The watch will still work but you have to set it and change it for time zones the old-fashioned way.

Be advised. But I love my stay-at-home clock. After power outages and at spring-ahead-fall-back times it is precise to the nanosecond.

TSA Takes Over:
Airport security is progressively moving from private contractors to the government's new Transportation Security Administration (TSA). If there's a smart red, white and blue "TSA" sleeve patch on the people who "wand" you as you stand in painted footprints then that airport has been converted.

In my experience the TSA personnel have clearly taken to heart any be-polite-to-the-public classes. Those in my experience are more pleasant and more consistent airport to airport than the previous crews manning the system. In general TSA makes the checkpoint experience more predictable and thus less tension.

Airports are getting the serpentine line routine down to a Disneyland efficiency in most cases. The first day or two after a switchover bottlenecks have lengthened the wait, but then the process smoothes out and flows quite nicely.

The same rules apply: fly early in the day and midweek for lighter traffic. Tack on another 30 to 60 minutes to the suggested time to get to the airport before departure if you are flying during rush hours (like Friday afternoon, deliver me!) Ask your airline for its recommended time allowance.