4. Pinky Balls
Want to know how to feel like you've had a $100 massage for about 4 bucks? Pinky Balls! You can usually find these toys-turned-massage therapy tools in toy stores, but if you can't find them, tennis balls will suffice. When every muscle in my body aches after spending all day on my feet, I put the balls on the floor, lay my aching back on them, and push up with my knees so my weight is pressed down on the rosy rubber orbs. I then roll them down my back, under my legs and past my calves, slowly working out all the kinks and knots.
5. Comfy socks
As soon as I get on the plane, my shoes and socks come off (discreetly, so as not to send my seatmate running), and then on go the cuddly wuddlies! Your feet really do swell on a flight, so it's good to give them some breathing room. Of course, never walk into the cabin restroom without your shoes -— that bathroom floor is pretty gross.
6. A jar of peanut butter
For me this is survival food. I always seem to be arriving at a destination late, when restaurants are closed and there's no room service. But you can invariably find something that goes with peanut butter — and if you're really desperate, you can just eat stick your finger into the jar. The world outside the United States generally doesn't know about peanut butter, although I always seem to be able to find jelly. Funny story: When I was shooting my TV travel series in China and Peru and needed to break the ice with our mainly foreign crew, I made them all peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I told them that every American grows up eating PB&J sandwiches. At first they all thought the combination sounded disgusting, but once they ate it, they really liked it. Pretty soon we were all laughing and sharing stories of our favorite childhood treats. Who knew the lowly PB&J could be such a useful diplomatic tool?
7. A gift
When you travel, you often depend on the kindness of strangers. Sometimes you want to say thank you, but a tip just doesn't seem like the right gesture. For this purpose, I always bring a few gifts from home. I bring nothing too heavy or that takes up much room in my luggage: maybe a T-shirt or some regional candy. When I travel internationally, my gift of choice is an "I Love NY" T-shirt. It's a phrase known around the world, and, flying from New York, I can always pick up a few of these shirts at the airport.
Samantha Brown is AARP's travel ambassador.
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- Join the discussion: Would you rather live by the beach or in the mountains?
Visit the AARP home page for travel discounts, tips and more