Friday, February 23, 2024

The next time you’re on a plane, if the person next to you doesn’t seem to own anything that isn’t bright red, it might be Celia Paerels. Kindle case, sweater, sunglasses, headphones, charging cord, everything in shocking scarlet: It’s how she avoids leaving anything behind in the seat or the seat pocket.

“Everybody clues into red,” said Ms. Paerels, 62, of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. “If you see a cardinal, you’ll know it’s a cardinal. You don’t notice a sparrow.”

Ms. Paerels is one of more than 180 New York Times readers who responded to our invitation in September to share their favorite travel hacks. A large number of the tips focused on packing (Ziploc bags), sleeping better in hotels (binder clips for the curtains) or eking out more space on planes (strategies abound for snagging empty seats). But a few ideas stood out as especially clever, or unusual.

Here, in addition to Ms. Paerels’s color-coded advice, are nine of the best.

  • Put the language where you can see it.

Technology has helped break language barriers. Translation programs abound, and travelers can always cram before the trip with a few Duolingo sessions. But inevitably, you’ll still end up accidentally wishing someone “Good night” over morning coffee as your brain struggles to retrieve the right words.

Derek Middleton, 42, of Dublin, has a solution in the palm of his hand. He takes a screen shot of common phrases like “Hello,” “Good morning/good evening,” “Please/thank you,” “Excuse me” and “Do you speak English?” and makes that image the lock screen on his cellphone, so every time he looks at his phone, he gets a language lesson and has the right terms handy at all times.

“I’ve found on my travels that if you put forth somewhat of an effort to speak the language, people are much more receptive,” Mr. Middleton said, “and it usually starts with a laugh at me butchering the words.”

  • Pack candy for the crew.

Good will goes a long way toward make flying smoother, particularly as planes get more cramped and the prospect of unruly passengers sours the mood for flight crews. Mary Anne Casey, 57, of Alcochete, Portugal, has a way to sweeten the experience: When she and her husband board a flight, they give the crew a bag of individually sealed bite-size chocolates to share.

She remembered once, as they were getting off a flight in Lisbon, “the lead flight attendant ran after us and started giving us small bottles of Port wine. She felt bad that she had forgotten to thank us for the chocolates during the flight.”

  • Avoid long lines with the U.S. Mobile Passport Control app.

You don’t see many happy faces standing in the seemingly endless line at immigration after an all-night flight. Sarah Miller, 62, Corvallis, Ore., recommends using the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mobile Passport Control app to shorten the wait.

“I could bypass a long line in Portland when I was returning from a trip to England last June,” she said. “The line for standard passport control was several hundred passengers, and no one was in the M.P.C. line. After I opened the app, I could snap a photo, answer a few questions (all done while I was walking over to the correct line), and I was done.”

The Global Entry program offers some similar benefits but costs $100, requires an in-person interview and currently has an application backlog of up to 11 months; the Mobile Passport Control app is free and available to use at 33 U.S. international airports without any wait time. “It’s a timesaving tool for those of us who don’t travel abroad often,” Ms. Miller said.

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