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Best vacations start with planning: extra time at airport and gadgets to pass time

May 11, 2005 - Here are some practical and affordable ideas that can help you get more enjoyment out of your next vacation.

Give yourself extra time at the airport. While every airline is different, most will tell you to arrive at the airport from one to two hours before departure to check your bags and have ample time to proceed through increased security screening.

Please check your airline for suggestions. If you cut your time too close, neither you nor your bags will make the flight. For connecting flights, your bags should be checked through.

If you've booked separate tickets on separate airlines and you have to transport your own bags, make sure you have enough time to pick them up for re-screening, which could take an additional one to two hours.

These are all good reasons for carrying on if you can.

GPS and DVD devices can spell fun for travelers. Check out such things as Global Positioning System de-vices and Electronic Maps. The handheld GPS devices are sleek, compact, lightweight and sometimes even waterproof. They can usually tell you exactly where you are, even if you don't know.

Leading GPS technology uses satellite signals to pinpoint your location and even tell you how fast you're going.

Many contain detailed street maps and allow you to download additional maps, driving directions, restaurants and popular destinations that you might want to visit.

Also consider packing a portable DVD player. They're small, lightweight and the size of a thin hardback book, making them suitable for planes, trains and automobiles.

These can be a great way to keep the kids and adults entertained during long trips.

You can make that solo cruise more affordable. Consider sharing a room with another solo traveler of the same sex and pay only the per-person cabin rate.

These "guaranteed shared" programs are offered by many cruise lines. Usually, they also take into consideration such factors as age and smoking preference before they find you a roommate.

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