Writer Joey Green, 58, has carved out a career as a dispenser of quirky tips that straddle the line between absurd and ingenious, all proven to work in a pinch. A former contributor to National Lampoon magazine who lives in greater Los Angeles, Green takes on the world of travel with his latest book, “Last-Minute Travel Secrets: 121 Ingenious Tips to Endure Cramped Planes, Car Trouble, Awful Hotels and Other Trips from Hell.” Following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Green.
Q. The suggestion that kicked off your tip-sharing expertise more than 20 years ago is a great one for travelers. What was it and how did that come to be?
A. I was working in advertising in New York at J. Walter Thompson and we had a meeting to look for alternative uses for Nestle products. I thought it was the dumbest thing. One account guy, an avid sailor, said he found relief from really bad sunburn by soaking in a tub of warm water and an entire jar of Nestea. It’s the tannin in the tea that does the trick. Right then and there, I thought, “This information belongs in a book.” That was the inspiration for “Polish Your Furniture with Pantyhose: And Hundreds of Offbeat Uses for Brand-Name Products” (in 1995).
Q. In your introduction to “Last-Minute Travel Secrets,” you write that you and your wife, Debbie, backpacked around the world for two years. That was a bold move three decades ago. Do you still travel much?
A. The thing about traveling around the world is that once you start, it’s easy to keep going. And most parts of the world are a lot less expensive than the U.S. We’re both adventurous and share a sense of wonder. Ten years ago, when our daughters were 11 and 16, we did a round-the-world-in-56-days trip. Before, we were really bare-bones and totally roughing it. With the kids, we had the Internet and planned out where we’d be staying the entire time. Now I travel a little bit for work, giving talks and doing media appearances.
Q. Where to hide money is a common question for travelers. What’s your advice?
A. When it’s on your body, I personally like hiding it in blue jeans. You actually put it in the hem behind the zipper — I show how in the book. I did that when I first went around the world. Even when crossing borders where they did thorough searches, it wasn’t found. My favorite way to hide money in a hotel room is in a tampon box, rolling up bills inside an applicator. Not only is it not a place someone would think to look, it’s something men won’t touch.
Q. Most of your tips involve practical household products. Where do you get your ideas?
A. Some things I invent and others come from readers. The best tips I get are from people in the military or emergency personnel, like firefighters. They have to make do with what they’ve got. Like, people in military always mention pantyhose. They use them to walk through swamps to prevent leeches, to buff their boots and clean their guns. They’re also great for tying things up.
Q. What are some things you always travel with?
A. Dental floss is great. You can repair backpacks and tents with it, and it’s more durable than thread. If there’s a dripping faucet where you’re staying, you can tie floss to the top, and water will go down the floss into the drain without a sound. You can also use a shoe lace, but then you have a wet shoelace.
Ziploc bags are really handy. I put my passport and important papers in them. That way they’re dry if anything leaks. And bags are great for tubes of toothpaste or anything that can explode or leak.
Q. What did you invent for this book?
A. Using a beach ball to sleep on a plane. You know how when you’re exhausted, you try to sleep with your head on the tray table? It just does not work. They sell devices now for that, but who’s going to carry that around? So for a dollar, I bought a beach ball. You can deflate it to the right size. It’s best with a sweatshirt over it so you don’t slide.
Q. The photos of you in the book are pretty funny, like where you’re using your beach ball on the tray table, or you’ve fashioned an eye mask with a maxi pad. Did you take all those photos on an actual flight? Did other passengers say anything?
A. I was in the window seat, with Debbie in the center and a woman in the aisle seat. She never looked our way, which was weird. Either she was lost in reading or it was just too weird for her.
Q. One of the more inventive, if not rule-breaking, tips you share is how to smuggle booze aboard a cruise ship.
A. I learned that from my father. He’s always snuck liquor onboard, though over the years it’s gotten harder and harder because they’re cracking down. He would just pour it into a bottle of Listerine, even though it wasn’t the same color. So I experimented for a few hours in the kitchen to create dyes that match mouthwashes, and you can just add a few drops to your liquor. For instance, Listerine Cool Mint is a liter of vodka or gin with three drops of blue coloring and one drop of green. The food coloring doesn’t mess up the taste or quality.
Q. You grew up in the Miami area and still visit family there. You’ve already covered sunburn, but what are some other tips for the Sunshine State?
A. First, let’s talk about love bugs, which can totally cover your car. Before you start a road trip, spray vegetable oil on the hood and grill. When you’re done for the day, just wipe and they’ll slide off. For mosquitoes, put a Bounce fabric softener sheet in your belt loop. The smell is a great repellent. It has to be the original Bounce, which is called “Outdoor Fresh.” That has oleander. If one sheet isn’t enough, you have all those other belt loops.
Daniel is a freelance writer based in the Netherlands. Her website is bydianedaniel.com.
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