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Travel veterans offer essential tips to ease trips

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Travel tips. If you want to know the best way to do something, ask an expert. People who travel for a living know all the ins and outs, and here is a list of essential tips compiled by professional travelers at a recent meeting of travel writers.

?Before you travel, read thoroughly about your destination. Ask your travel agent any questions you have. If they don't have the answer, they know where to get it.

?Pack a small plastic bottle of concentrated detergent for washing clothes, In a pinch, you can use shampoo.

?Pack plastic bags of different sizes to hold soiled laundry, wet bathing suits, purchases, etc.

?Buy paperbacks at garage sales, thrift shops or used bookstores. When you are through with them, leave them behind for the next traveler. This leaves extra space for souvenirs.

?For an extended trip, save old socks, underwear, shirts, etc. Leave them behind after use. Start out with a full suitcase that gets lighter as you travel.

?For a long-haul flight, arrive in better condition by breaking up your trip with an overnight stay, or even a one- or two-day stop en route. For example, on a trip from Boston to Hawaii, plan a weekend in San Francisco.

?Get out and walk. It's one of the best ways to get to know a city and its people.

?Take big envelopes and tape. Mail home books, papers, maps, etc. These things can become very heavy.

?When packing, don't put all men's clothing in one suitcase and all women's in another. Put some of each in both, just in case one piece gets lost.

?Go light. Too much luggage is a burden. Wear the same clothes more than once, and make sure you have comfortable shoes.

?Fly with your own bottles of water. At 30,000 feet, the air is very dry and you will dehydrate. Drink lots of water and avoid alcohol.

Downtown Disney Resort Hotels. If you're looking for a place to stay that's close to Walt Disney theme parks and offers exciting nightlife, reserve a room at one of the seven hotels in the Downtown Disney Resort area in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Downtown Disney, which includes Disney's Marketplace, Pleasure Island and West Side, are a short stroll from the Downtown Disney Resort hotels.

The Downtown Disney Resort area hotels offer comfortable, spacious accommodations and special benefits available only to guests staying at any of the seven official hotels in the Walt Disney World Resort. Guests can take advantage of complimentary, scheduled transportation to the Disney theme parks, access to the five championship Disney golf courses, as well as priority seating at selected Walt Disney World restaurants and dinner shows.

Downtown Disney's new West Side includes Bongo's Cuban Cafe, the House of Blues, Wolfgang Puck Caf?, the Virgin Records Megastore, AMC 24 Theatres Complex and Planet Hollywood.

Downtown Disney's Pleasure Island, Disney's adult nighttime entertainment complex, features six high-energy nightclubs, trendy shops and live outdoor entertainment.

The Downtown Disney Marketplace, a lakeside enclave of shopping and dining, includes the all-new Lego Imagination Center and the World of Disney, the world's largest character merchandise emporium.

In addition to the convenience of staying inside the Walt Disney World Resort, each of the Downtown Disney Resort area hotels offer their own individual amenities and special guest features.

All guests staying at the Downtown Disney Resort area hotels receive a special Value Passport that offers discounts and preferential treatment for selected dining, shopping and recreation.

A room on Wall Street. Regent International Hotels says that its planned New York property, the Regent Wall Street, will be the first hotel ever to have an address on that famous street.

Tentatively scheduled to open this August, the hotel will occupy the former Merchant's Exchange, built in 1842.

The site was originally being developed as a hotel by the Cipriani family, which operates the Cipriani Wall Street restaurant in the same building.

That restaurant will relocate, however, as Regent will be opening its own venue, serving Mediterranean cuisine.

The 140-room hotel will also house the building's 34,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, which has such features as an elliptical dome decorated with 16 Wedgwood panels and a 2,700-pound chandelier. The hotel will also feature a 4,000-square-foot spa.

(Marvin McDaniel, CTC, is president of Carlson Wagonlit Travel/Carlson Travel Network.)

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