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Unwanted traveling companions

Dear Heloise: A month ago, my girlfriend and I went on a trip to a foreign country, and while we had a nice time, we noticed that on the way home, both of our heads seemed to itch. It didn't take long to discover that we had picked up head lice!

While telling friends about our unfortunate discovery, we found out that some of them had unexpectedly taken home spiders and even a scorpion in their luggage. I used to laugh at my grandmother, who would look all over a hotel/motel room, behind the curtains, pull back the covers on the bed, etc., but now I understand why she did what she did. It never hurts to examine a room with more care. -- Victor D., Hempstead, N.Y.

Victor, here are some suggestions for when you travel overseas:

• When you first get to a hotel, put your luggage (still packed) in the bathroom while you check your room.

• Don't forget to lift the mattress and look under there, and be sure to check for bugs, especially at the head of the bed.

• Check the sheets by pulling back the bedcovers.

• Place your luggage on a luggage rack, up off the floor. You might even want to pack those very large plastic bags and keep your luggage in those.

• When you finally return home, wash all whites in hot water with half a cup of bleach. Tumble everything in a hot dryer to make sure you kill any would-be travelers.

-- Heloise

Send a great hint to:

Heloise

P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 1-210-HELOISE

Email: Heloise@Heloise.com

Want to reduce stress?

Dear Heloise: I've been a travel agent for nearly 20 years, and I can tell you firsthand that the benefits of travel in reducing stress and making life more exciting are huge. Many of the benefits are intangible, but still are well worth the effort to take a trip somewhere new.

It's no secret that Americans take very little time off from work when compared with other countries, such as France, Finland and Spain. Life is short, and all of us need time to relax and rejuvenate. -- Helen M., Tulsa, Okla.

Helen, I agree. Time away from work gives us time to enjoy new sights and sounds, to try new foods and meet new people. It can be educational and even productive. Even if someone wants to do a few things around the home instead of traveling, it's still time away from the everyday routine.

-- Heloise

New use for paint chips

Dear Heloise: My husband and I did some remodeling around our home, which included repainting. I had several paint chips from the hardware store and didn't know what to do with them, so I used them as bookmarks for all the books I love to read. --Nancy E., Norfolk, Va.

Index cards

Dear Heloise: In my job, I have to make calls on clients in their homes, so I carry 4-by-6-inch index cards with me to leave messages for people to let them know I was there, and when and how to contact me. The index cards are cheap and have much more room than the back of a business card (which I also leave) so I can leave little messages. -- Corrine T., Muncie, Ind.