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Children's stories and fairy tales from Baby Bird Productions. Logo for a parents' free educational article on why reading is an important skill for children to master. A father reads to his child.
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Here are more articles I've written to
share ideas for keeping kids happy,
creative and involved in family life,
plus other topics of interest to me.
Sorry they're not indexed, but just
browse for topics that interest you.
- Barbara Freedman-De Vito
page 2

Ideas for Sharing Stories with Children ©2008

Storytelling must surely be one of the oldest forms of artistic expression in existence. Imagine
the earliest humans huddling around the warmth of a fire, finding safety in the confined space of a
cave and in each other's company, recounting tales of their day's adventures. The revolutionary
development of cave paintings and language allowed our forebearers to communicate factual
information that would enhance their ability to survive and would help them provide the food that
would nourish their families. It also allowed their imaginations to soar, providing the food for
thought that would nourish their souls, as well, and perhaps establishing humankind's very first
outlet for creativity and self-expression.

These ancient pioneers on the long journey towards civilization might have invented tales of
personal bravado, tales of real or imagined ancestors, the very first collections of myths and
legends, and the cautionary tales that would serve as lessons for young children and as guides
for adults on proper human conduct. All of these stories would have advanced the groupís
cohesiveness and provided respite from the dangers of daily life lived out in hostile environments.

Oral storytelling and the written word still serve much the same purposes today, although
technology has provided us with larger audiences and with an ever-expanding arsenal of outlets
for our urge to tell and to be told good stories. We are spoiled for choice, what with the easy
availability of printed books, magazines, films, television, live theatre, puppetry, the Internet
and more. 

Yet, despite a panoply of print and electronic media, purely oral forms of storytelling do still exist
and are in fact used every day by talented entertainers, by skillful teachers and librarians, and
by loving moms and dads quietly sharing good books with their children at bedtime. The purpose
of this article to suggest some variations on the concept of bedtime stories and to offer some
additional ways that parents and others can both share precious moments and create some
precious memories with their children.

1. While reading a picture book aloud, let your children take a good long look at each picture
before you read that pageís text. Give them some time to analyze each illustration and discuss
it. Coax your kids into trying to anticipate the events to come in the story. Encourage them to
observe small details and speculate on their roles in the unfolding story. Take the time to
appreciate the beauty, perhaps the delicacy, perhaps the humor of the illustratorís artwork.
Help your children develop a love of visual art and an eye for the variety of syles that may be
used in picture book illustration.

2. When you read aloud, try to use your voice to enhance the drama of the story. Let your
voice rise and fall to convey the natural rhythm of the text and to accentuate key passages.
Modulate the loudness or softness of your voice. Try to change your pitch, rhythm or accent
to bring charactersí voices to life, and donít be afraid to include a few dramatic pauses at the
appropriate moments. In other words, when you tell or read a bedtime story, give it your full
attention and give it your all. Never be afraid of sounding silly. Your children are absorbing
every new stimulus and are learning more than youíll ever realize from each new story theyíre
exposed to, and from the very act of hearing language come alive.

3. If your children are beginning to learn how to read on their own, let them read to you for a
part of the time. Perhaps you and your child can take turns, or your child can read a passage
first and then you can repeat it, because children can understand the overall meaning better
when they are not struggling to capture each word in isolation from the others on the page.
Older children who have become more confident readers can be encouraged to read aloud to
their younger brothers and sisters, making story time mutually beneficial for older and younger
children alike. They all share in the experience of absorbing new vocabulary and enjoying the
pleasing sounds of the words. They also thrill to the unfolding of the storyís plotline and sharpen
their critical thinking skills as they judge whether the storyís characters are making good or
bad decisions. In addition, the elder siblings are receiving valuable reading practice and gaining
confidence in their abilities to read aloud and to speak in front of others. They are also learning
to share family responsibilities and to take pride in the fact that they have something to
contribute. Hopefully,  sibling bonds are also strengthened, as the nature of this type of
interaction is wholly positive, unlike some daily activities that involve competitive angling for
parental attention or petty squabbling and tensions. 

4. Follow up story sessions, either directly after the story or on the following day, by encouraging
your kids to illustrate their favourite scenes from each story. This can range, for instance, from
simple pencil and paper sketches, to colored pencil or marker drawings, or to elaborate watercolor
paintings. It might involve sculpting story figures in aluminum foil or clay or any of a dozen
three-dimensional techniques. Discuss such creations with your children and express an interest
in everything they make. Let other peopleís creations - the authorsí stories - become a
springboard to tap into your childrenís own creativity.

5. Have your kids close their eyes and describe a single scene or a setting from the story. See
how much they can recall about such things as story events, illustrations of rooms or outdoor
environments, and of where each object was placed in a scene. Then let them enrich it by adding
extra details of their own making.

6. Let your kids develop their own versions of events that might occur after the printed story
ends. What could happen to the characters next ? What further adventures might they have ?
What happened to the characters before the story began ? How would the story be different
if it had been set in a different locale or time period ? Suppose your child was one of the
characters in the book. Which one would he or she choose ?
7. Expand on any creative possibilities that can help your children maximize their intellectual and imaginative powers. For example, follow up a story with a larger art project at a later date. Build a diorama of the story’s setting, or reconstruct the story’s setting utilizing ordinary objects found in your home. A sofa might represent a ship lost at sea, a throw rug could be a magic carpet, a kitchen table might be a stall at an outdoor market, laden with exotic merchandise.
8. Encourage kids to invent their own stories, or retellings of favorite fairy tales. This might be done orally and recorded on a computer or a tape recorder for posterity. Older children might write out their own stories and create fully illustrated books or web pages. Copies could even be made to distribute among family or friends. A few kids might work together to produce a group story in which each child in turn contributes the next element in the tale. Alternatively, each child might contribute one item to a collective work of short stories, or poetry, or jokes.
9. Use puppets to retell an old or a new story. Puppets add a remarkable zest to storytelling, charming both young and old alike. They bring stories to life and encourage kids to convert storylines into dialog, adding an exciting new twist to the development of your children’s verbal skills. Kids might dress up puppets or dolls that they already own or they may even construct their own puppets, costumes and sets. Take it one step further on occasion and write out a script, then perform it for other kids in the neighborhood.
10. Try out a simple, age-old, no fuss technique called ”Draw and Tell” stories. In these brief tales, you draw the elements of a simple story while telling it. For example, the story might make reference to two cookies and a leaf, amongst other things. By the time the story has finished your kids will be delighted to discover that those drawn bits have created one unified drawing that represents the subject of the story. Suddenly those two cookies function as a girl’s two eyes and that leaf appears to be the girl’s mouth and the ensemble of unrelated objects now look like a single simple drawing of a girl. Collections of such easy to use draw and tell stories are readily available from various sources, and no special preparation or materials are required, just a piece of paper and a marker.
11. After reading a book, help your children create their favorite characters in paper, cardboard, fabric scraps, bits of felt, or other materials. Paper plates and the cardboard tubes from used up rolls of toilet paper are two of my favorite craft materials. Kids can add further detailing with leftover bits of yarn, cotton balls, dry macaroni, spangles, crepe paper, and the like. These characters can then be proudly displayed in your child’s room as a monument to the child’s creativity and as jolly reminders of all the great books that have been read. Such figures can also be used to act out stories.
12. Keep a costume box full of odd items, such as old clothing, hats, scarves, other accessories, and jewelry. Add to it regularly, and draw from it whenever your children wish to play dress up and act out a new story. Make character masks, as well, using some paper plates or paper bags or poster board. Add to this treasure trove some relevant props, be they sceptors or swords, magic wands or baskets. Whether they’re homemade or store-bought, the financial investment is negligible. This growing prop box can then be used for everything from impromptu reenactments of new stories to full-blown amateur stage productions at home or at school. Add tamborines, toy drums and the like, and you can also introduce the element of music into such creative play sessions.
I hope that this collection of time-proven ideas for story enhancement will inspire you to revisit techniques you’ve used in the past and to expand your repertoire to other activities that may be new to you. There is so much that children can gain from reading, hearing and retelling stories. Stories help children develop languages skills such as vocabulary, oral comprehension, reading and writing. Furthermore, they help kids improve their critical thinking skills, their reasoning abilities and their imaginations. Some of the ideas listed above can also encourage children to appreciate art, to learn how to observe visual environments more closely, to overcome shyness, and to reach their own artistic and other forms of creative potentials. Give your children’s imaginations free reign and the rewards for both you and your children may surprise you.
There’s nothing quite like a cozy read at bedtime, just you and your child quietly sharing a story while enjoying a few precious minutes of time together at the end of a busy day. No other activities and no fancy props are required but, if you experiment with some of these suggested techniques now and then, you can keep the experience fresh and full of surprises. This, in turn, will keep your children forever enthralled by the magic of stories and of storytelling. Please click here to see some related products from our shops : DRAW AND TELL STORIES.
The Homefront in World War II Movies ©2008
Many a movie has been made about WWII, both during the war and in more recent years. Even in
a century full of horrifying calamities, WWII can stake its claim as one of the major disastrous
events of the 20th century. It killed millions of people, tore families apart, created floods of
refugees, and otherwise destroyed the lives of countless others. The war left its blood-stained
mark on everyone who lived through it. Its importance for both the collective memory of mankind,
and as a source of gripping stories that so many people could relate to, inspired filmmakers during
the war and has molded many filmmakers ever since.

WWII is a vast subject, and can include films on many different themes. Iím no fan of the blood
and guts type of movie ≠ of soldiers and battlefields and glory and tragic deaths. Films about the
Holocaust can be very powerful, while also being great works of art, but they can also be very
difficult to watch, as they speak about the most unspeakable of horrors. Other WWII movie themes
include romances in war-torn Europe and Asia, spy stories, life in Britain during the blitz, and many

My favorite WWII films, however, are those films that focus on the homefront and tell smaller, more
personal stories of how the war affected the lives of individuals, films that tell the warm quieter
tales of interpersonal relationships and the impact that the war had on them. I was a baby boomer,
born in the mid-fifties, so I never experienced the war directly and I only discovered these films a
good fifty years after the war had ended. Although Iím no expert on such films, I do have a few
favorites that Iíd like to share. 

Iíll begin by discussing a couple of very well-known works, films that have earned Oscars and justly
deserved rankings on lists of Hollywood classics. First,  "Mrs. Miniver," which won Oscars for Best
Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture,
and stars Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, and Teresa Wright. Second, "The Best Years of Our Lives,"
which won Oscars for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture, and features performances by
Fredric March, Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews. Then Iíd like to share a gem that I had never heard
of until I had the good fortune to stumble upon it in a video shop. It stars Ginger Rogers, one of my
favorite actresses, and Joseph Cotten, and is called "Iíll Be Seeing You."
"Mrs. Miniver" (1942), was made during the war. It boggles my mind to think about such films being
produced, even as the events of the war were unfolding, with neither cast nor audience knowing how
much worse the war could get, when  or how it would end, which side would win, and whether or not
theyíd ever get to see their loved ones again. "Mrs. Miniver" tells the story of a comfortable middle
class family living in southern England and how the start of the blitz shattered their cozy, pristine
world. Sure, the characters and sets are a bit too glamorous and picture-perfect to ring true but, as
the war escalates and its tragic events unfold, the reality of the war hits far too close to home. I donít
want to give away any more of the plot for those whoíd like to see the film, because itís well worth
seeking out.

While "Mrs. Miniver"ís final scene serves as a wake-up call for American audiences to mobilize to fight
the war, this film is not alone in using this tactic. I know that other films, such as Hitchcockís "Foreign
Correspondent", and Chaplinís "The Great Dictator," have received criticism for making dramatic speeches
at their ends, speeches which blatantly reflected the filmmakersí feelings. In my opinion, though,
theyíre all both understandable and forgiveable, given the desperate nature of world events at the
time and the need for Americaís involvement in the war. Watching these films now, I find them intriguing
because they remind me that these people were actually experiencing the war, living through the
horrible news that each new day brought and seeing the warís ever-expanding scope, even while making
the films.

"The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946), starring Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright,
tells the interwoven stories of three war veterans who return to small town life after the war. One is a
bank manager trying to find his place in a family that heís been away from for so long. His son and
daughter have literally grown up in his absence and his relationship with his wife is tentative and uneasy
at first. The second character is a handsome war hero. He was a hotshot in a plane during the war but
finds that he must now return to his own particular brand of reality, because in civilian life heís an
unskilled loser, saddled with a flamboyant wife who loses interest in him once heís out of uniform. The
filmís third male lead is a young man who has successfully adapted to the wartime loss of his hands,
but who doesnít believe that his loved ones can learn to deal with it. "The Best Years of Our Lives" is a
wonderful movie. Itís touching and tender, and deserving of the label "classic."

The final film that Iíd like to discuss is called "Iíll Be Seeing You" (1944). Ginger Rogers plays a woman on
leave from a womenís prison. Joseph Cotten is a soldier recovering from shellshock. These two damaged
people, both feeling isolated and out of sync with the hectic wartime world, find solace and strength in
each other. Itís a simple story, beautifully told, and the atmosphere in the home of Gingerís aunt and
uncle is warm and inviting. There are no villains here, itís simply a pleasant home full of nice people
trying to treat each other decently, although they donít always succeed in this. Actors Spring Byington
and Tom Tully bring a real warmth to the family scenes and youíll even find a teenage Shirley Temple here.

These and many other films made during or just after the war offer us a special glimpse into the era, as
they present scenes of life at that time. Watching them now, from a vantage point of more than sixty
years after the warís end, itís impossible to see them as they must have been seen at the time, because
members of the audience would have brought with them their own personal traumas, dramas and fears
for the future. Still, these movies offer us some heartfelt emotions, vicarious experiences and nostalgic
glimpses of the lives of our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents, and weíre all the richer for it.

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Travel Tips - Gathering Tourist Information for Your Trip ©2006

If you're a budget traveler who must carry or drag your luggage through airports, subway systems and
city streets, then you'll want to travel as lightly as you can. One area where you can really cut down on
both the size and the weight of what you carry on a trip, plus make yourself less of a target for street
criminals, is when it comes to packing travel information.

Before your trip, by all means, read all of the guidebooks about your intended destination that you can
get your hands on. Use them to help you plan your itinerary and to choose your personal must-see sites
for each city or region that you plan to travel to. Read them, but don't take them with you on your trip.
They can be extremely heavy and bulky and amount to dead weight. In addition, sitting in a big city
park or on a subway train reading a travel guidebook for that city marks you as a pigeon ripe for the
plucking. You may as well wear a big hat that says, "Tourist."

I use two alternative means of carrying critical trip information with me. First of all, as I read travel
guidebooks, I take old fashioned handwritten notes: from particularly interesting bits of historical
information, to the opening hours of shops and banks, to key foreign language phrases. I take notes
on each city or town, including specific monuments or buildings that I know I'll want to see due to my
personal taste in art and architecture, not just going by what the guidebooks say that everyone should
see. This way a few pages of lightweight handwritten notes allow me to distill key bits of information
without adding to the weight of my luggage.

I know that as I arrive in each town I can pick up a brochure that will include a town map and the opening
hours for each site of interest. This single brochure can stay right in my pocket where it can easily be
consulted as needed while I'm sightseeing, yet stay discretely out of sight the rest of the time. If I'm in
Prague, for instance, one slim combination map and brochure in my pocket is more easily consulted
than a big guidebook, plus it sure beats traipsing around Prague carrying a heavy travel guidebook that
covers all of Europe.

Today, with the advent of Internet, trip planning has become easier than ever. Although there are many
bogus travel sites on the net that are nothing but come-ons for overpriced hotels or excuses for online
ads, there are also many good ones. I particularly like going directly to the official websites of each
monument, city, region or country that I want to learn about. It can be a time-consuming process, but
there's a treasure trove of travel information, plus maps and photos, to be found. Via books and the net
I can learn about the major tourist attractions of each place, as well as find details about the quirkier
sites or the downright odd ones that might be of interest to me.

I can gather up train schedules for each leg of my journey, historical information, up-to-date prices, and
opening days and hours for each historical site and museum, plus plenty more. Patience during the
planning stages of a big trip can save infinite time and inconvenience during the trip. Anyway, learning
about places you've always dreamt of seeing is part of the fun.

Online I can seek out low cost hotels and chart them on city maps to determine which ones seem the
most conveniently located in relation to historic town centers, and I can then book rooms via email. If I
were to print out every single Internet page that is of interest to me, though, I'd soon end up with a mass
of papers as heavy as those inadvisable-to-lug-around traditional bulky travel guidebooks. Much of each
printout page would amount to wasted blank space or irrelevant banner ads and link lists, as well, so this
is what I do: I create a blank text document and each bit of information that I'll want to have with me
during a trip gets copied and pasted onto this one document. On it I can list a variety of train schedules,
hotel contact information and sightseeing information. I can freely combine bits of information gleaned
from many different sources so that, for example, all of the bits of information about a particular castle
are together in one subsection of my text document.

When I'm done gathering all my information I can eliminate any duplication of information and reduce
the size of the text font on the document before printing it out. That way I wind up with just a few sheets
of paper that are tightly packed with relevant information. I can even print on both sides of each sheet
of paper to further reduce the total number of pages. I can organize the text document anyway I like,
with hotel confirmation emails all on one sheet, or all train schedules on a single sheet, or travel phrases
all together or, if I've accumulated lots of details about historical sites to be visited, I can create separate
printouts for each city or country.

That way, as I visit each locale, I only need to carry that one page of information around with me during
my stay there - one piece of paper that can be folded up and carried in my pocket for easy consultation
or to supplement a travel brochure that I picked up locally. From Internet I can also print out a map for
each town on my route, so that I'll be able to find my way from a train station to a prebooked lodging
even if I can't immediately get my hands on a more detailed local map when I first arrive in a new town.

It is possible to have with you all the travel information and transportation schedules that you'll need
during your trip, yet not let it add to the burden that you must carry around as you travel from place to
place. A handful of condensed printouts in lieu of a big fat guidebook is one more means of traveling well
prepared even though you're traveling light. You can have your cake and eat it, too, so Bon Appetit !

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Travel Tips - Packing Light and Paring Down for a Carefree Trip ©2006

Travel tips in travel books and on travel websites often advise travelers to "pack light." In my experience,
these sources of travel information don't go far enough. If you're a budget traveler you're unlikely to be
relying on hotel porters, taxi drivers, or other people paid to drag your luggage around. You're more likely
to be dragging it yourself - through airports, through subway systems, on and off of buses and airport
shuttles, and through city streets.

It cannot be overstated that carrying too much weight around can be the difference between a fantastic,
exhilarating travel experience and an exhausting one that you can't wait to end. If your luggage is heavy,
your mind will be more on the thought that you can't bear to drag your luggage down one more street,
than it will be on the sights and sounds of that exotic locale.  My years of traveling around Europe,
primarily by plane, train, bus, subway system and on foot, have taught me several things. The lighter
your luggage, the lighter your heart.

Traveling light does not mean hoisting traditional suitcases. The suitcases themselves add extra weight,
and suitcases are difficult to carry. I find that holding a large object by its handle, its weight hanging
down off the end of my arm is the fastest route to a shoulder and backache. Traveling light also does
not mean pulling a suitcase that has tiny wheels on the bottom. Spend a few minutes watching tourists
attempting to keep control of that type of unstable suitcase, as they wobble and tip to one side, and
you'll see what I mean.

Traveling light does not mean carrying an oversized, bursting-at-the-seams backpack, either. Unless
you plan to do some serious wilderness hiking and camping in the rough, where you'll have zero access
to shops, forget the overloaded backpack. Why lug a heavy backpack through the wilds of London when
there are shops on every corner, where you can forage for everything you need  ?

So, what should savvy budget travelers carry, and how should they carry it ? My advice is that you carry
one small day-pack style backpack. It can be done, if you think before you pack, and if you make logical
decisions as to what you truly can and can't live without, and what you absolutely must transport to
your destination versus what you can easily pick up once you arrive.

For example, if you regularly use a prescription medication, obviously you'll need to carry an adequate
supply with you. Carry a spare as well, and keep it on you, so that you needn't panic if your pack gets
nabbed by a thief. Be sure to also carry the prescription itself, so that you can prove that you're really
transporting a prescription medicine, if you're stopped by customs or security personnel. It's even better
if you have a prescription that carries not only the commercial name of the medicine, but also its
chemical name, in case you need to show it to a pharmacist, doctor, or customs authority, in a country
where your own language isn't spoken.

If you're traveling to a hot, tropical location, by all means carry a bottle of sunscreen - but buy a bottle
that contains the amount you expect to need for the duration of the trip. Don't burden yourself with a
jumbo size container, two thirds of which will still be with you on the return trip. As a rule of thumb
for any type of toiletries, carry (or buy upon arrival) small tubes, bottles and boxes containing just
enough for the trip. Don't drag around weight that you'll ultimately drag back home with you, or you'll
only end up with a bottle of sunscreen that can boast to its neighbors on the medicine cabinet shelf
that it's been to Tahiti.

If two people are traveling together, whether they're part of one family or they're friends sharing the
adventure of a lifetime, take only one set of toiletries between you. Carry separate toothbrushes, of
course, but pack just one of items such as deoderant and soap and then share them. Half of your
toiletry weight will have been eliminated simply by not both carrying duplicate types of items and,
believe me, objects like these really contribute to the bulk and weight of your luggage.

Ask yourself if you can live without extras such as cosmetics, perfume and jewelry. Their combined
mass and weight can quickly add up. Try a more natural look during your trip. It will save you daily
time, as well as saving you daily strain on your arm and back muscles. As an added bonus, the less
stylish and flashy you look, the less likely you'll be to be the target of a mugger.

Forget about electrical appliances and electronic gadgets. You can live without a hairdryer or electric
shaver and save not only the weight of these appliances, but also the additional burden of adaptors to
suit overseas outlets and electrical currents. Carry, instead, a lightweight compact plastic razor, or
just let your beard grow. You may later decide that it suits you and decide to keep it ! If you plan to fly,
don't bother packing razor blades or manicure scissors. They are not allowed on planes anymore,
anyway, so should be bought locally, if needed, and then properly disposed of before you fly home. I
always find it practical to carry a little sewing kit for emergency repairs, but that doesn't mean an
entire kit full of colored spools of thread. It means a single needle plus one little spool of pale thread
and one of dark thread together in a little bag.

Keep clothing to an absolute minimum. Stick to one basic outfit that's comfortable, casual, and not
easily wrinkled. Supplement it with a couple of extra lightweight tops and a couple of pairs of socks
and underwear that can be repeatedly washed out in hotel rooms. A single sweater or sweatshirt for
cool evenings and a thin plastic rain poncho and you should be set.

By sticking to one small backpack per person there are additional advantages that you'll soon
appreciate. You need never check bags at the airport and risk having them lost, you don't need to
endlessly load and unload airport or train station trolleys and count your bags to be sure that none
have gone astray, plus everything is close at hand and easily accessible. By carrying just one backpack
each, you'll also look less like affluent tourists, and thus you'll be less likely to be targeted by a
pickpocket or purse snatcher as you move about city streets and in subway systems. Travel light and
you can put less of a burden on your muscles, leaving you with more energy and a bigger appetite to
truly experience the marvelous places that you are visiting. Travel light and you'll be more likely to
travel happy.

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Travel Tips - Packing Lists for a Carefree Trip ©2006

If you hope to travel light your packing should be done in a systematic manner. Don't just toss in this
and that. If you take a little time to be well organized you'll be able to more effectively keep what you
carry down to a minimum, yet not find yourself in a foreign country lacking some vital item that you
should have packed, but didn't. When you're preparing for a trip, draw up a packing list which itemizes
everything that you'll need.

Organize your packing list by categories, such as documents (passports, vaccination certificates, credit
cards, plane tickets, travelers checks), touring items (tourist brochures, maps, paper and pens, camera,
and sunglasses), clothing, and toiletries. If you're on a budget and want to save money by going to
supermarkets, add a food category for things like a can opener, a bottle of water, plastic spoons and
snack foods.

Once you've finished compiling your list, go over it carefully and cross off all the items that you may
depend on in everyday life, but could really live without for a week or two. Such things as jewelry,
cosmetics, and electrical devices can be eliminated. You may want to include a column for things that
you must remember to do before your trip, such as arranging for your pets to be cared for, or stopping
mail delivery. When you're finished, write out your final list and use it as a checklist while you're packing.
You might want to photocopy it, to have spares for use on future trips, or you may want to have variant
lists as well, such as a special packing list for camping trips.

You can reduce your packing list so that everything fits into one small easy-to-carry canvas backpack
per person. Advantages to this type of backpack include their sturdiness, they are lightweight, and
they're small enough to be carried onto airplanes and kept by your side or under your seat while on
planes and trains. Small backpacks also often have a variety of inner compartments and zippered outer
pockets that facilitate organization.

Items that you may need frequent access to, such as prescription medications, reading glasses, a few
band aids and a comb, can be stored in an outer pocket, while clothing and toiletries fill the main
compartments of the backpack. Always keep some paper and a pen at hand. You'll need them to jot
down information that you come across. They may also be useful for communications when you can't
speak the local language. If you want to buy a train ticket, but can't properly pronounce the name of
your destination, you can write it down and show it to the person at the ticket window. If you need
directions someone could draw you a simple map.

Identification documents like passports and other critical papers need to be kept together and ready
for quick access. You'd be amazed how many times you need to pull them out and show them to
authorities as you wend your way through airports or ferry customs offices, cross borders by train,
and even when you check into some hotels. When at airports and border crossings I may keep passports
and tickets inside a buttoned shirt pocket or a specific compartment of my backpack, but I find that
the best place to store vital documents is in a secret pocket within my clothing. First I choose a loose-
fitting comfortable pair of trousers. Before the trip I use some scrap cloth to create a large pocket and
I sew this secret pocket into the inside of my trousers (in effect behind the existing external front pocket)
and add a couple of snaps to keep it securely closed. There it is hidden from view, and I can use it to
store anything too precious to contemplate losing or having stolen. It means never having to leave such
valuables in a hotel room during the day, it is invisible to passers-by on the street, it is inaccessible to
pickpockets and, if my pack is stolen, I won't lose key documents that are difficult to replace. Knowing
that these objects are safely hidden under my clothing gives me more peace of mind when walking
unfamiliar streets, particularly if I inadvertently stray into a questionable neighborhood or deserted
area. I can be more relaxed and I can enjoy myself more. I always keep enough cash in a buttoned
outer pocket to use for purchases made during each day. That way, I do not reveal my hidden secret
pocket. Also, if I was mugged, hopefully a thief in a hurry would be satisfied with the amount of cash I
handed him and not suspect that I had more on me.

If you're using travelers checks, a copy of your check numbers should be kept separately from the
checks. If the checks are stolen you'll have the numbers to report, to be reimbursed for your loss. A
photocopy of your passport is a good idea, as well. It will help you with the authorities in case your
original is lost or stolen. There's always a balancing act between keeping such necessary papers
separate from the originals, without increasing the risk that one or the other gets stolen, as there'll
be two different locations to protect from vulnerability, perhaps via a second secret pocket in your
travel partner's clothing.

When you are loading your backpack before a big trip, forget about using special little cases such as
toiletry handbags or purses. They add unwelcomed weight and bulk. I always use regular plastic bags
to keep each type of item separate. It keeps everything well organized and easier to find, plus it
protects everything in case the backpack itself gets wet. Carry plenty of spare plastic bags to separate
clean from dirty laundry, opened from unopened packages of food, mealtime foods from desserts, and
to hold picnic trash until you come across an outdoor trash basket.

Try to be practical as you pack, but go ahead and allow yourself one or two personal extras that
mean something special to you. These might include photos of loved ones and pets to reduce your
homesickness and a travel journal to record your adventures.

With judicious planning, and by resisting the urge to pack everything you own, budget travel can be
carefree travel. You can pack lightly and compactly to minimize the risk of theft and the discomfort of
traveling in exotic places so weighed down that you can't properly enjoy them. Have a great trip !

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Travel Tips - Packing Clothing to Travel Light ©2006

What clothing should you pack when you must carry all of your luggage yourself and you want to
travel light ? Take a "bare" minimum of clothing with you. Dress comfortably and casually. Choose
your clothing for its practicality. In warm climates loose lightweight cotton clothing will feel better
against your skin than sticky synthetic fabrics and tight-fitting clothing. If you plan to visit tropical
regions you can protect your skin from too much exposure to strong sunlight and disease-carrying
mosquitos if you resist the urge to wear as little clothing as possible. You'll be far safer with long-
sleeved shirts, high necklined tops and long trousers. Just keep to light colored, lightweight natural
fabrics and loose-fitting clothes to maximize the comfort of your clothing.

Casual comfortable clothing, especially if you veer towards the sloppy, will also decrease your odds
of being marked as a wealthy target by local thieves who work the tourist spots. If you want to look
a bit more dressy for the evening, add a thin, weightless, colorful scarf to your simple neutral-colored
day clothes. Leave your jewelry at home. It's heavy, bulky and could attract thieves. If you're a
clothes horse, try to resist the urge to pack one set of clothing for casual daywear, a fancier set for
restaurants at dinnertime and a third set for an elegant evening out. You'll just wear yourself out
trying to be fashionable if you must drag all of these outfits around from locale to locale. Don't worry
about being seen in the same set of clothing two days in a row. No one but your travel partner (or
the hotel clerk) will see you more than once anyway and, if your partner is practical, he or she will
also be wearing one set of clothing throughout the trip.

As to clothing choices, in general I wear one comfortable, loose-fitting  pair of casual trousers and
assume that if I get caught in the rain, it won't kill me. I'll dry out soon enough. I pack no spares.
Extra pairs of pants or skirts can add considerably to your luggage load. Pick something in a neutral
color that will go with anything else you'll be wearing. Trousers with plenty of pocket space are a plus,
especially if you might be buying small odds and ends in souvenir shops, or a little junk food, as you
stroll around sightseeing each day.

To travel light, I just pack one or two spare tops that are lightweight, comfortable and can easily be
rolled up, as folding causes more creases than careful rolling. I pack just two pairs of underwear and
socks for an entire trip. It's easy enough to wash out underwear, socks and shirts in hotel rooms and
hang them up to dry for later reuse during the same trip. The choice is simple. For a two week trip
you can lug fourteen pairs of underwear everywhere you go, or you can lug just two and regularly
wash them out with soap and water in a hotel room sink. I suggest packing two pairs, not one, so
that there is still a fresh change on hand for days when you may arrive in a place one evening and
plan to move on to another town the very next morning, allowing for too little drying time. When you
hit a larger city like Paris or London or Rome, where you plan to stay put for at least a couple of days,
you can catch up on all your washing and know that clothing has plenty of time to dry, even if the air
is damp.

Pack thin, lightweight natural cotton underwear and socks that breathe and won't require as much
drying time as heavier cottons or other fabrics. In summer weather clothing can dry out very quickly.
In cooler damper months you might be running a radiator and that can double as a heat source for
drying. Just be careful not to put wet things directly against radiators or electrical appliances and be
careful, too, not to let wet items of clothing drip onto hotel room carpets. Wring clothes out well and
keep them hanging in the shower until they no longer drip. Don't use new brightly colored clothing
items that might drip colored dyes that can stain bathroom floors, floor mats or carpets in hotels.

Pack plenty of plastic bags. They take up little space, are weightless, and will be useful in a hundred
different ways, from storing opened packaged foods to keeping your laundry well organized. For
example, I'll use one bag for clean clothing such as underwear and socks, a separate bag for dirty
ones (if I have to move on before clothing can be washed and dried), plus a third for items of clothing
that have been washed, but are still damp when the time comes to vacate a hotel room and tackle
the next leg of a journey. At the next stop they can be hung up to finish drying. By the way, washing
clothes with ordinary soap eliminates the need to transport any additional type of cleaning agent.

If you'll need some sort of warmer clothing to wear on cooler days or on cool evenings, carry one
item only. It can be used whenever you need it. Keep it lightweight, nonwrinkling and non-fussy. For
example, a single cozy sweater or sweatshirt in a color that does not show off dirt is a very practical,
soft and warm choice, far more practical that a bulky jacket (unless you're doing some real cool
weather or winter traveling). When not in use, you can tie your sweater around your waist. That way
you can keep it with you while you sightsee on days when the temperature is variable. If it remains
tied around your waist you'll feel it less than if you add it to the weight of your backpack and it can
even double as a pillow on long, drowsy train rides.

If you're traveling at a time or to a place where you'll need rain gear, a thin fold-up plastic poncho
or rain coat is the least onerous thing to take with you. It can go right into your pocket and can easily
be whipped out in case of a sudden shower. For city travel it's very easy to duck under awnings or
into shops, making bulkier rain gear unnecessary. Sturdier rain gear or umbrellas are only needed for
places where you expect serious rain or a lack of quick access to shelter. 

Keep sleepwear light and minimal, as well, and if you absolutely must have slippers to wear while in
your hotel room buy a pair of cheap, thin, weightless fabric slippers that can be slid into your pack
without adding extra bulk.

Do not pack an extra pair of shoes. Shoes are the ultimate in unnecessary extra bulk and weight
when considering travel clothing. In the movies the leading man and leading lady who are off on a
journey appear in a different set of clothing and a new pair of shoes in every scene. Clearly, they
are not carrying their own luggage around with them and, in fact, their bags never look quite large
enough to even hold everything they wear. So much for the difference between movies and reality.
I never pack extra shoes. I take my chances and figure that if my shoes get wet, I'll find a way to
dry them out. I simply wear one pair of thoroughly broken in sneakers that offer good support in the
soles. Nothing could be less practical than tight shoes or high heels, and the toll that they take on
your feet may severely limit your enjoyment of a trip. How long can you walk around picturesque
towns or stand around in museums when your feet hurt ? Wear low-heeled sturdy, but presentable,
shoes with solid arch support. Wear shoes that have already been broken in and are comfortable
enough for hours of daily walking but - beware - even shoes that you are accustomed to walking in
daily can cause blisters when you're suddenly walking far more hours each day than normal. Keep
a few bandaids or callous pads handy. Be sure that the shoes you choose for the trip are lightweight.
Hold them in your hand and compare the various pairs of shoes that you're considering for the trip.
When you expect to take thousands and thousands of steps each day of a trip, plus carry a backpack
around each time you travel from one tourist destination to another, it's extremely counterproductive
to do it in a pair of shoes that themselves are heavy and require additional effort for every step that
you take.

Try out some of these tips for traveling light by packing very little clothing, and then see what you
think. You may never want to pack all sorts of stylish outfits again. You and your clothing can still
look nice, just focus on quality and not quantity. See your clothing more for its function than for its
fashion and you'll be free to enjoy the joys of traveling light.

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Travel Tips - Buying Travel Souvenirs ©2006

If you're a budget traveler and you want to travel light, what do you do about purchasing travel
souvenirs as you travel from exciting destination to destination ? As a budget traveler you're not
likely to be transporting any large, heavy, costly Ming Dynasty vases home with you, but you can
buy travel souvenirs for yourself or travel gifts for friends and family by keeping size and weight in
mind. Think small, but elegant trinkets. You can always find lovely items that are both lightweight
and compact, such as an elegant French scarf, a Spanish fan, a delicate piece of jewelry from
Portugal, or a small Czech jewelry box made of thin wooden panels. All of these are easy to transport,
yet make thoughtful souvenirs and gifts.

We like to collect refrigerator magnets from each country that we visit - yes, the three-dimensional
colored plaster fridge magnets that you'll find in souvenir shops most anywhere you travel. Although
some people might consider these to be tacky and unsophisticated, we think that they're cute and
fun to collect. They're cheap and they're small enough to carry in a pocket if bought during a busy
day of sightseeing. Their designs are varied and attractive and representative of sights seen in the
country visited. For example, we have architectural designs that show buildings typical of such
places as Amsterdam and Riga. We have others representing famous monuments such as Notre Dame
in Paris, France and the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain. We have little gargoyles from London and Paris,
a yellow submarine from the Beatles Museum in Liverpool, a model of a sailing ship from Lisbon and a
wooden giraffe head from Kenya. As these small magnets accumulate in our kitchen they create a
whimsical mosaic and a fun daily reminder of trips taken and places visited.

For transporting travel souvenirs, here's a tip to try out. When you travel light, pack a spare nylon
backpack or duffle bag. Nylon can be rolled up to take up almost no space and weighs next to nothing.
When we travel we keep this spare pack empty and stuff it down into the bottom of a sturdier canvas
pack. Then, during the trip, we may use it as a day pack. That way our clothing and toiletries can stay
in a canvas pack in the hotel room but we have a convenient way to carry around items that we want
with us while sightseeing, such as a small bottle of water or sunglasses, plus picnic foods to be bought
and eaten during the day. We can also use it for any souvenirs bought that day.

We may then resort to this pack at the end of the trip and use it as an additional piece of luggage on
the way home to transport extras, such as souvenirs and gifts bought during the trip. It provides a
little room for expansion, while adding no weight itself, and is easier to handle en route home than
open shopping bags would be. Since this pack has plastic zippers it can be securely closed, and is also
admissible at airports and train stations as an extra piece of legitimate luggage on the journey home.
By the time you're traveling home, the thought of an extra bag to carry won't seem like the big deal it
would've been if you'd had to lug it throughout your trip. After all, you're on your way home now anyway.

If you're suddenly seized by the uncontrollable urge to buy large objects during a trip, you may choose
to have them shipped to your home so that you needn't drag them along from country to country for
the remainder of your travels. Lastly, if you lack the time, money, or luggage space to buy all of the
travel souvenirs and gifts for friends and family that you'd like to, try some online shopping once you
get home from your trip. After your trip ends you can relive it as you visit online travel souvenir shops
to complete your souvenir and gift purchases and have them sent directly to your doorstep.

By only accumulating smaller and lighter weight souvenirs as you travel, or saving certain purchases
until you get back home, you can stay light throughout your trip. You'll be surprised at how your entire
outlook can be improved and how much more you'll be able to relax and enjoy your travels. Bon Voyage !

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Travel Tips - Reducing the Risk of Document Theft ©2006

As a budget traveler you're more likely to be getting around by subway, public bus, trolley car and foot
than by private cars and taxis. You're also more likely to be carrying your purchases around in a backpack
or shopping bag than to be followed down chic shopping streets by a line of fawning porters, so what's a
budget traveler to do ?

There are many steps that the average traveler or the budget traveler can take to decrease the risk of a
serious mugging, pickpocketing or purse-snatching. While this article does not claim to present scientifically
tested procedures, it does recount some simple techniques that my husband and I have been using for
many years and, thus far, we have never had any trouble either in the street or in a hotel. Some of these
ideas are just plain common sense, some originated in travel books we've read, and the rest are our own
ideas that evolved over many years of budget traveling.

First of all, there is obviously safety in numbers. Unfortunately, a woman traveling alone is the most
vulnerable, even today, and must take extra precautions concerning where it is safe to wander and where
it is not, particularly after dark and particularly in cultures where women's rights in society have made
few inroads in the past century. For your own safety, make it your business to learn about the places
where you'll be traveling and take to heart any advice about suggested modesty of dress and codes of

A woman traveling with a man is less vulnerable, but a single woman may prefer to travel with a friend of
either sex than to travel alone. Having a travel partner makes anyone a little safer, plus it provides a
friend to share exciting new experiences with and this in itself may add to your enjoyment of a trip.

Whether traveling alone, as part of a couple, with a few friends, or with a large tour group, if you're carrying
any vital documents on you we'd recommend that you keep them hidden on your person. Don't carry them
in an easily targetted handbag that can be grabbed and run off with by a casual thief. Don't put them into
a traditional wallet in your back pocket. That can easily be spotted and slid up out of your trouser pocket
by a skilled pickpocket, unbeknownst to you, while an accomplice diverts your attention or while you're
being jostled in a crowd.

We've tried money belts hidden beneath clothing but found them to be uncomfortable when holding rigid
items such as passports, plus the slippery straps can come undone and don't seem terribly secure. In
addition, if you're wearing a thin cotton shirt, the belt may create a visible outline and inside a trouser
waistline the belt feels stiff and uncomfortable.

We've solved the problem of where to stash such important documents as passports, credit cards, travelers
checks, keys and the like by creating a a cloth pouch, sized to suit the largest of the items that it must hold,
and sewing it into the inside of the trousers that one of us will be wearing throughout the trip. Choose a
loose comfortable pair of trousers or a skirt and sew this secret pocket into the inside, behind the spot
where a front exterior pocket generally exists. Be careful that the stitches are not visible from the outside
and add a couple of sewn-on snaps or buttons so that this pocket can be securely kept shut.

As it hangs inside the spot where pockets tend to be anyway, you'll find that objects can rest there without
causing discomfort. If it is only attached across the top, the pocket will hang inside your trousers like a
floppy pouch and you'll find that you can push it over towards your hip so that you don't feel its contents
when you're in a sitting position. As a crowning touch, I put tissues and such into my outer pocket, creating
a natural external pocket bulge so that the inner pocket contents create no discernible bulge of their own.

We can use this secret hidden pocket to store anything that's too precious to contemplate losing or having
stolen. We never have to leave important IDs or cash in a hotel room while we're out for the day, yet we
can feel pretty secure outdoors in the knowledge that our hiding place is invisible to strangers on the street.
This, plus the fact that the pocket is sealed shut and is on the inside of our clothing, makes valuable
documents inaccessible to nimble-fingered pickpockets. In addition, if our backpack or other belongings
were to be snatched by a street thief we would not lose large amounts of cash or important identification
and financial documents that could be used by criminals in credit card fraud or identity theft and that would
be a major headache to try to replace.

If you're traveling with travelers checks, you ought to make a list of your checks' numbers and store it
separately from the checks themselves so that if the checks get lost or stolen, you can report the check
numbers when seeking reimbursement. It's also a good idea to make a photocopy of your passport for use
with the authorities if your original should be stolen or lost. This means that you need two separate hiding
places, one for original documents and a second for your back-up copies. Consider keeping all originals for
both you and your traveling partner together in your hidden pocket, and have your partner use his or her
own hidden pocket for the duplicates.

Having such items safely hidden on us allows us a better sense of peace of mind when rambling down
unfamiliar streets in unfamiliar cities, especially if we should wander into an unsavory district by accident
or find ourselves suddenly alone on an empty quiet street. It gives us one less thing to fret about and
means that we don't need to be so paranoid about guarding any backpack that we might carry around
while out sightseeing. We can even feel less wary and more relaxed in crowds, where pickpockets are
most apt to be active.

We're always careful to start each day with a sufficient amount of cash in a buttoned-shut normal exterior
pants pocket to pay for any purchases made while out that day so that there is no need to reach into,
and thus reveal, our hiding place while out in public. Hopefully, if we were ever to be mugged, the thief
would find enough cash in this outer pocket to not suspect that we must have more on us and, hopefully,
he would not want to risk spending extra time searching us.

There are situations, however, when passports should not be stored in the hidden pocket. While crossing
borders from country to country and while going through airports or ferry customs and such, you must
repeatedly produce your passports for officials. Therefore, in these instances, we keep passports in a
buttoned-up shirt pocket so that we have easy access to them and we need not reveal our secret pocket,
yet we still have them on our bodies so they can't be stolen by a thief who grabs luggage and runs.

Other vital items, such as critical prescription medicines, should be kept on your person, as well. A
ventilator for asthma may be of no interest to a thief but, if it's kept in a pocketbook or backpack and you
are robbed you'll be in serious trouble, so keep it in a regular shirt or trouser pocket for safety.

This budget travel tips article discusses some basic techniques for reducing your chances of a serious
theft or mugging while on vacation and traveling anywhere from a neighboring town to an exotic locale
thousands of miles from your home. Please don't let it make you feel paranoid about traveling to unfamiliar
places. We have never experienced a hotel break-in or a street mugging or a backpack snatching. The
point is simply that by taking a few common sense precautions, such as keeping valuables hidden in a
secret pocket, you can reduce the need to constantly worry about and survey your belongings. The result
is that you can relax more and concentrate your energy on the fabulous new sights and sounds that each
new destination brings. Have a happy and a safe trip.

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Travel Tips - Reducing the Risk of Backpack Theft ©2006

When you're traveling, there are a few things that you'll probably want to have on you while you're out
sightseeing each day. If it's cool enough to be wearing a jacket, you may be able to fit all of these essentials
into your pockets, using hidden inside pockets for critical IDs and such and regular pockets for items such
as your camera, sunglasses and snack foods. If you do this, be sure that you never put that jacket down
anywhere where it could be stolen or rifled through. Keep it on you or tied around your waist at all times.

Whether in warm or cool weather, it's safest to hide critical IDs and cash in a secret pocket that you sew
into the inside of your trousers or skirt, as my husband and I always do. If you want to carry other additional
items around during the day, we would not recommend a women's pocketbook, as that's pretty easy to
steal. We find that a small backpack is more practical and easier to carry around all day but, even if your
day pack carries nothing more important than picnic food and souvenirs that you've just bought, you'd still
prefer, of course, not to have it stolen. Here are a few simple precautions you can take to reduce the risk
of theft.

Don't keep anything of any value in the outer pockets of your backpack, as those may be rifled through while
you're wearing the pack on a busy street. When you're in a crowded market or attending a crowded event,
you may want to wear the pack on your chest instead of on your back. You can also wear it so that the
zippered compartments are facing inwards towards your body and not outwards towards the crowd. You
could also carry it under your arm, zippers facing inwards, and keep the strap wrapped around your arm
twice so that it cannot be easily grabbed and pulled away from you.

If you stop to rest on a park bench or to eat in a cafe, keep your bag in sight. Don't put it on the floor beside
you or on the outer edge of the bench. It could easily disappear without your even noticing the theft. If you
place it on the ground, loop the strap around your ankle. If you place it on the bench, loop your arm through
the strap and keep the zippers facing inwards towards you, not towards the outside world, and place the
pack either on your lap or lying between you and your traveling companion.

If you're on a train and think that you might soon fall asleep, loop your arm through the straps, keep the
pack on your lap with the zippers facing inwards, and wrap your arms around the pack, to boot. That way,
even asleep, you can effectively protect your belongings from a hit-and-run sneak thief. No one could unzip
your bag to poke around in it and no one could take the bag from you without waking you up.

If you want to make yourself less of a target for thieves, it's a good idea to be low-key. Drag no expensive
luggage around city streets. Wear no flashy elegant clothes and absolutely no expensive glittering jewelry
to attract attention to yourself. It's also best not to have an expensive-looking camera dangling from your
neck all day. Take the camera out when you want to use it, but keep it out of sight the rest of the time.

If you don't mind looking a little sloppy, you can improve your odds of a theft-free trip by looking less like
a "rich American."  If you look a bit sloppy and very ordinary, you'll look less worth robbing. Someone in a
T-shirt, jeans and sneakers looks less likely to be carrying around great wads of cash and a wallet stuffed
with credit cards. Don't travel with objects that are so valuable (be they jewelry or electronic gadgets)
that you spend more time worrying about where they are than you do enjoying the scenes that surround
you. Try to look like a local who is out for the day, rather than like a tourist with money to blow on an exotic

Don't walk around with a guidebook sticking out of your pocket or backpack. In addition to forcing you to
carry extra weight and bulk around, it marks you as a tourist who is likely to be unfamiliar with your
surroundings and in possession of a certain amount of cash and other valuables. A single page of notes
or a single tourist brochure full of local information is far more practical and can be kept out of sight in a
pocket when not actively in use.

Don't walk around with a map in your hand, particularly after dark or on deserted streets, as it shouts
"tourist" and makes you an easy mark. If you're trying to get from point A to point B, just consult your
map periodically, preferably while on busy streets where there are plenty of people around. Unless you're
in a spot where everyone is obviously a tourist anyway and you wouldn't be there unless you were a
tourist, too, be discreet about it. Keep your map easily accessible in a pocket, but not visible.

When visiting new towns we love to get off the beaten track and wander aimlessly down twisting narrow
side streets and picturesque alleys. That's where we often find the best surprises and the most memorable
sights, but we try to use common sense as we meander. We try to be aware of our surroundings and of
the people who might be in those surroundings. If a spot seems uncomfortably deserted, very run down,
or too far away from livlier areas, it may not be the best place to hang around. After dark it's especially
important to exercise a little caution and avoid getting too lost too far from more trafficked areas.

Historic sites and medieval town centers often look even more appealingly timeless and atmospheric
after dark when they become an irresistible blend of dramatic lighting and moody shadows, so we'll often
revisit beautiful spots that we've already seen in daylight. But, if we'd been unable to find a reasonably priced
and available hotel right in the old town center and there's a bit of a walk between the lively old town
center and the hotel where we're staying, we will make a point of learning the route back to the hotel while
it's still daylight.

For example, as we first head out from our hotel towards the old town center we will consult a map, as
needed. Each time we must make a turn down a new road or choose a fork in the road, we will take a
moment to turn around and look at the route behind us. In this way we can see what the return trip will
look like at each juncture and we can make note of what shops or other landmarks there are to signal each
turn that we'll need to take at the end of the evening. Then, when we wend our way back to the hotel later
in the evening, the route will look familiar. We'll be more likely to be able to find our way back to the hotel
quickly and confidently and we'll be less apt to be standing around on spooky, deserted nighttime streets,
lost and studying maps and feeling like sitting ducks.

A bit of common sense can go a long way and, while these travel tips may not be scientifically proven
methods of improving your security while traveling, we have been using them for a long time and have
never been accosted or had a pack stolen while traveling. The point is not to feel paranoid when strolling
around in unfamiliar environs. It is simply to take a few precautions, such as looping backpack straps around
your arm or leg while seated on a bench or train and knowing the route back to your hotel in the dark, so
that you can think less about your safety and your belongings and think more about the exciting adventure
of traveling to new places that you've previously only dreamed of. Enjoy your trip.

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Travel Tips - Reducing the Risk of Hotel Room Theft ©2006

A budget traveler is more likely to be staying at a small hotel on a side street than in a grand hotel that
features uniformed doormen, bellboys and plenty of 24 hour-a-day security features. Being a serious
budget traveler sometimes means staying in cheap hotels or hostels where security is minimal and the
neighborhood may be questionable.

Sometimes, via Internet you can learn about the different parts of a big city and chart possible hotels on
a city map to eliminate those that seem to be in the most unsafe locations. Price, of course, can be some
indication but we've seen instances where two hotels, one on a very noisy seedy street and the other in
a less convenient but cleaner environment, had the same prices for rooms.

It's a trade-off, so decide which criteria are the most important to you ? Do you not mind rowdy late night
noise from both within and outside of the hotel and want a "colorful" neighborhood with plenty of nightlife
and bars ? Do you prefer to spend a bit more and do you want a quieter location where you can get some
sleep ? Unfortunately for the slightly more mature budget traveler, lower cost hotels tend to attract lots
of college students who like to stumble in drunk at 3AM and make noise till all hours. Cheap hotels have
thin walls, too. (Asking for a room at the back of the building, rather than on the street side, can
sometimes both reduce noise and increase security.)

You can try your best, using available guidebook and online information, to seek lodgings that might
possess a combination of virtues including reasonable prices, a safe quiet neighborhood, and a convenient
location for sightseeing, and then book a room in advance but, until you actually arrive at the hotel, you
can't be sure of what you'll get. If a hotel gives you an uneasy feeling or the room has windows too low to
the street level or faulty locks (or there are drug addicts hanging out in the hotel's doorway), look elsewhere.

Whatever type of hotel you end up staying in, obviously, you should never leave valuables or important
documents in your hotel room during the day. Hotel staff may or may not be trustworthy and room keys
often hang all day in a spot where an intruder might be able to nab them. For mundane items such as
clothing and toiletries, we take our chances and leave them in the room rather than lug them around on
our backs all day.

Nighttime security is another matter. Before you retire for the night, check window and door locks and keep
your room key in plain sight on a night table. That way you have instant access to it for a quick exit in case
of a fire or other emergency, but it's not left in the door for a thief to push out of the lock from the door's
opposite side, then slide under the door to use to gain entry to your room. (I don't know if they can really 
do that, but I've seen it in movies.)

At night we keep our valuable documents and cash in a secret interior pants pocket, figuring that a thief in
a hurry would be more inclined to grab a piece of luggage and run, than to rummage through a pile of old
clothing. We keep all of our belongings right next to the bed, on the far side of the room. In other words, the
bed lies between the door and our possessions.

A nighttime prowler would have to be pretty brave to risk creeping all the way into the room and right past
two sleeping people in order to reach anything possibly worth stealing. If you leave your pack right by the
door, you're making it far too easy for them. If the room has a window or balcony that might provide easy
access from the street or from another room, plan your strategy accordingly to keep things by your side
and away from entry points to the room. You can also leave a bit of petty cash out in full view on a dresser.
In case someone breaks in at night, they might be satisfied to just grab the visible cash and move on quickly.

If you're camping, keep IDs and cash in your pockets at night (you can create a pajama pocket that snaps
shut) or seal them in a bag or something and stick it far down inside your sleeping bag, down by your feet,
while you sleep. Just don't forget to recuperate it before walking away from your sleeping bag the next
morning, even if it's just to go to the toilet.

These travel tips can offer no guarantee that your stay will be a safe one, but they can let you relax a bit
more and worry about your possessions a bit less. In all our years of travel we've never had a hotel room
break-in, so enjoy your trip and don't waste too much time and energy anticipating the worst. Enjoy a safe

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Travel Tips - Savoring New Experiences While Traveling ©2006

Why do people like to travel : to say "I've seen London, I've seen France," to impress others with their
worldly sophistication, to broaden their horizons or experience new cultures ? Or is it to build bridges
between peoples in a world where ignorance makes it easy to brand people as "foreigners" or "the enemy,"
to see beautiful architecture and famous monuments that have stood for centuries and simply don't exist
back home, to attend concerts or museums or go on no holds barred shopping sprees ?

Whatever the motivation, foreign travel presents an opportunity to experience the world in a new way,
to fill your eyes and ears with exciting new sights and sounds: architecture, natural wonders, colorful
traditional costumes, music and dance. Then there are the new foods to taste, new ways of thinking and
living and playing. Everyone wants to think of themselves as a traveler and not a "tourist." Well, I'm not
ashamed to admit that if I'm traveling in a foreign country and visiting its famous sites and unique wonders,
uh, I guess that makes me a tourist.

Still, it is possible to be a tourist without being a "pushy, loud-mouthed American" and without looking
down on the local culture and people. You can travel on your own and set your own itinerary rather than
be part of a mob that descends from an air-conditioned tourist bus and swoops down on a historic site,
swiftly moving from famous building to famous building, never having the time or spirit of adventure to
follow their own individual paths.

To me, travel is one of the best things in life and something to be savored. Although time and money
constraints have kept my husband and I from seeing as much of the world as we'd have hoped to by this
point in our lives, we have certainly had some incredible adventures in Europe and Africa and plan to have
lots more around the world in the future. Unless we're traveling someplace where we really wouldn't feel
safe on our own, such as in a wildlife refuge in Kenya where lions and rhinos roam, we like to go it alone.

Travel with a spirit of openess to new experiences and you can have unforgettable moments that translate
into lifelong memories. The first rule for unique experiences in travel is - don't stick to the beaten path. On
so many occasions, my husband and I have walked down a very crowded famous street, such as Oxford
Street in London or Boulevard St. Germain in Paris or the main tourist street in Heidelberg, and found
ourselves surrounded by throngs of other tourists. We turn down a side street and suddenly find ourselves
alone and back in time.

Crowds make it difficult to really feel the age and history of a place, but we love small-scale architecture
and narrow winding alleys and that's where places come alive for us. The streets become more quaint and
varied, ancient chuch bells ring the hours and echo down ancient cobbled streets, local people go about
their business, tiny shops reveal tiny treasures and those throngs of tourists on the main drag have no
idea what they're missing. They may even come away from a place thinking, "That wasn't so hot. What's
the big deal ?"

Too many people push their way to the front of the line to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre,
apparently oblivious to the possibly more beautiful artwork that hangs neglected all around them. We once
rode on a scenic train in the Swiss Alps and couldn't help overhearing some Americans a few seats away.
They spent so much time discussing famous sites they'd just seen on their big European trip, that they
seemed to be totally missing the splendors that were rolling past the train windows at that very moment !

We always opt for the scenic routes, the side roads, the narrow alleys and the churches that we stumble
onto that we've never seen mentioned in the tourist guidebooks. That's not to say that we're snobs who
snub our noses at the famous sites - absolutely not ! The Eiffel Tower at night is extraordinary. The Tower
of London is incredible and every few years we take the guided tour of the tower yet again. I've stood by
Big Ben at night in anticipation of its ringing of the hours countless times, and it gives me chills every single
time. Riding at the top of a London double-decker bus is always a kick. The mosque in Cordova, Spain is
one of the most unbelievable sights I've ever seen.

National monuments that are very, very famous are usually famous for a good reason and nine times out
of ten they live up to their reputations. The tenth is often simply a matter of personal taste. For example,
the broad nineteenth century boulevards of Paris just aren't our style. We prefer the narrow old streets of
the Mouffetard and have discovered some fantastic medieval churches, such as St. Stephen's, in forgotten
corners of Paris's Left Bank. Prague has some beautiful sights in it and the Charles Bridge takes our breath
away, but the overall Baroque look of Prague isn't our favorite architectural style.

The top tourist sites are nearly always worth going out of your way to visit. Just don't schedule your trip
so tightly that they are all you get to see. Give yourself plenty of time to wander around aimlessly, to see
a variety of neighborhoods on foot. Take the tour of the Tower of London during the day, but return after
dark to experience the Tower and Tower Bridge with their nighttime lighting effects. If you go to Mont St.
Michel stay overnight because the place becomes magically medieval after dark, when the mobs of
sightseers vanish and you can have the place to yourself.  Wherever you go, also visit local parks and
follow nature trails. If transportation is available, go beyond the major cities and visit some smaller towns,
villages and the countryside. Stay in ordinary Bed and Breakfasts when you can, to see average middle
class homes and meet local people.

We particularly love medieval castles and small churches and historic cemeteries and will go far out of
our way to see them. In planning a trip we'll look for information beyond the most famous sites in a
particular city or country. Sometimes, as travel guides feel compelled to have something positive to say
about every town on the map, we journey to see a place that turns out to be disappointing. It's always a
risk, but it's not the general rule. The more you travel, the more clearly you can predict the type of places
that are most likely to appeal to your own interests and sensibilities.

Away from the crowds, where real life happens and neighborhoods go about their daily business, there
you may happen upon the scenes that will make the strongest impression on your memory. Surprises
may wait around every bend. While any seasoned traveler has his or her own storehouse of treasured
moments, here are just a few examples from our own experience to whet your appetite.

Cordova's famous mosque was spectacular but later, on a tiny street of whitewashed houses in Cordova,
we happened upon a stork nesting on a tiny chapel's roof. Both places made indelible impressions on us.
Grenada's Alhambra is everything that it's cracked up to be and worth the lines that you must first wait
in to enter it, but one of our most moving travel moments came when we climbed the hills of Grenada's
old city.

There we sat on a low wall. Behind us was a little church, beside us a tiny market square where street
hawkers sold trinkets and a busker sang songs, and in front of us were layer upon layer of distant hills,
with the fortress-like Alhambra directly across the void and snow-capped mountains further off in the
distance. The moment was pure magic.

Lisbon was interesting, but not really to our taste. We took a sidetrip train ride to the ancient royal town
of Sintra and were agog. The little town was lovely and picturesque and its castles were really unusual
and interesting, but even more lay in store. The ruins of the Moorish fortress running up and down the
hills that tower over the town defy description. We were there on a Sunday and the crowded tour bus
ride up the hill meant that we had to share the ruins with hordes of chattering people.

The crowds made it difficult to truly feel the age of this remarkable place, so we returned to Sintra on
the following day and had this mammoth historic monument nearly all to ourselves. Climbing among
the castle walls and looking out over its ramparts to the sea in the distance, as the Moors would have
done so many centuries ago, created one of those powerful moments that we'll never forget.

Amsterdam was nice, but our most personal memory there was of renting a bicycle-built-for-two and
riding it through a popular local park that was chock full of bicycle riders. It was all the more amusing
because I'd gone to Amsterdam on crutches. We left the crutches at the bicycle rental shop and my
husband did all of the pedaling through all of the hair-raising traffic so that we could get to the park
where earlier we'd admired all those bicycle riders.

Switzerland was gorgeous but one of our most magical moments there happened purely by accident.
We were seeking a small town where a local festival was being held (a small town fun fair with itinerant
amusement park rides temporarily set up for local people, not a festival to attract tourists). To get
there we had to take a small branch train line. The end car of the train was like an open-air cart, the
upper part of each side totally open to the surrounding countryside as the train chugged its way up the
side of a steep valley.

The surrounding hills and the increasingly distant valley floor were picture perfect, the air was brisk,
and we could actually hear the bells tinkling on the necks of the herds of cows that grazed on either side
of the tracks. We could even smell the silage. It was the type of magical experience that we couldn't
have planned. In fact, we tried to replicate it by traveling the same route a second time, but the open
carriage was not a part of the second train.

If you carry a still photo or video camera with you when you travel, don't be a slave to it. View everything
directly through your eyes, and not constantly though the distancing lens of your camera. Use the camera
judiciously for certain scenes that you experience directly, too, and don't confine your snapshots to
famous landmarks or shots of your family which read "Here we are at the Eiffel Tower."

Our most personal and memory-filled shots are frequently those of life's smaller scenes like the entrance
to a quaint alley, a riverbank, local children playing in a park, a wedding party emerging from an eight-
hundred-year-old church, a street performer juggling his heart out, or an old couple sitting on a bench in
a local square.

Often it's those intimate unexpected glimpses of another world that make your trip memorable and your
experiences uniquely your own. That's what the best of travel is all about, seeing both the big tourist
attractions and the small local ones, and wandering about in the more out-of-the-way places where
unexpected sights and unplannable experiences can be found. Happy traveling !

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Storytelling : From Cave Walls to Computer Websites ©2006

An elegant and courtly medieval lady dances blithely with a colorful court jester across the front of a
children's T-shirt, but why does the artwork on this T-shirt looks so unusual ? Is it a drawing ? No, it isn't.
Is it a painting ? No, it isn't. The areas of color have an unusual textured appearance to them. What
causes it ?

The story behind this artwork goes back many years to the telling of many other stories. Barbara
Freedman-De Vito spent many years as a children's librarian and then as a professional storyteller for
children. One of the many techniques that she used in her unique and lively storytelling performances
was the art of the flannelboard. This involves creating original artwork by cutting out pieces of felt
fabric to create a story's characters and piece together scenes. The figures are then placed and moved
about on a "flannelboard," usually a large black flannel-covered board about two feet across and one
and a half feet high, which rests on a slightly tilted back easel. The fabric fibers of the felt figures
naturally lightly adhere to the flannel fibers of the board.

It's a highly visual form of storytelling, often seen in public library storyhours in America, where simple
characters are generally drawn onto a single cut out piece of white felt. Possessing a background in
fine arts, Barbara experimented and developed figures of a far more elaborate nature than those
commonly used. Barbara was drawn to brightly colored felts and designed and cut each portion of each
character's body and clothing by hand from a different color felt, piecing and gluing the shapes together
like a jigsaw puzzle or a stained glass window. To make the figures better adhere to the flannelboard,
she put tiny bits of velcro onto the backs of each story element and told her stories during her free-lance
children's shows by placing her characters onto a large board covered with black velcro.

Over the course of several years Barbara created a large variety of images in colored felt, from jaunty
jesters and fairy tale characters to trains, castles, ships, animals and all sorts of objects to use in
performances of both traditional fairy tales and of her own original children's stories. For certain stories
she developed entire landscapes in felt. Now, years later, this "flannel art," traditionally manipulated by
hand as a story is told, is being brought to life in a new way, using new technology.

Barbara is now scanning her one-of-a-kind works of flannel art into her computer and creating stories in
which these same flannel characters become animated on the computer screen. Thus far, with her
husband, Bob, she has assembled twelve of her own fully illustrated stories, two in felt and ten using
traditional drawing techniques, into full-length virtual children's picture books. Several have animated bits
of illustrations and all are sold online as computer downloads through their company, Baby Bird Productions.

Says Barbara, "It's great to see my artwork take on a new life through a new medium. Storytelling is as
old as mankind itself and has always adapted to changing times, from the days of cave art to the present
day of wriiten books, puppet shows, films and more. It's been exciting to see my flannel art pictures take
shape and come to life on the computer screen. Also, my online stories can reach far more children than
I ever could through my live storytelling performances."

To go along with her stories, Barbara has also put some of her artwork onto fun clothing such as baby
creepers, T-shirts and sweatshirts and more for babies, kids and adults and onto gift items like mugs,
mouse pads, tote bags and throw pillows. For example, children can wear "The Lady and the Jester"
sweatshirts while watching the animated story of the same name, or wear a "Lady and the Jester"
T-shirt while watching "The Lady and the Jester" story on the computer screen and controlling it by
moving a mouse on a "Lady and the Jester" mouse pad. Entire families can dress in matching designs,
if they like.

The range of designs available in her online clothing and gift shop has now expanded far beyond her
initial story illustrations and felt character art, to include many other drawings and themes, as well. In
addition, many more stories are in the pipeline, for the future of both storytelling and the Internet
appear to be limitless. To see samples of Barbara's animated story pictures, plus her family clothing
and gift shop, please visit her site at Children's Clothing, Baby Clothes, Stories and Family Gifts from
Baby Bird Productions.

(Please note that, as of 2016, the stories are no longer available as downloads. Due to the changing nature of technology, the file formats have become obsolete. Her stories are now being published as fully illustrated paperback books, available through Amazon and jobbers, plus her flannel artwork is still available on clothing and gift items.)
Please click here to see a few samples of flannel art from our shops : THE LADY AND THE JESTER, THE PIGEON, THE RAINBOW BIRD, MARY, MARY, QUITE CONTRARY, THE CHRISTMAS TREE.

That's all for now ! Return to page 1 of the Egg Blog for more articles.

We hope you've enjoyed our articles and found them to be useful.
Children's stories and fairy tales from Baby Bird Productions. Logo of our pigeon mascot on a nest with a newly hatched chick.Children's stories and fairy tales from Baby Bird Productions. Logo of our pigeon mascot on a nest with a newly hatched chick.
If you'd like to know more about Baby Bird Productions, we offer
fun, colorful CHILDREN'S CLOTHING, plus cheerful family gifts
and clothing. We also publish longer, fully illustrated, childsafe,
Children's stories and fairy tales from Baby Bird Productions. Logo for children's free educational activity about fun with reading skills. A child reads a book.
To see a list of suggestions for reading-
related activities, CLICK HERE.
To go to the PARENTS' RESOURCES PAGE, if you'd like to see some
additional hints for helping your children do their best, CLICK HERE.
Thank you for taking the time to read our article for parents and educators on
the importance of children's reading skills development. It includes educational
information on all of the ways in which reading skills can enhance children's lives.
© Children's clothing, baby clothes and children's stories, plus clothing and unique gifts for the whole
family from Baby Bird Productions shops. Copyright: Barbara Freedman-De Vito, since 2003. This
site is protected by copyright internationally. All rights reserved.
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