Vacations are a wonderful thing, but the getting there part can be exhausting. Snarled security lines, flight delays and squished seats can turn even the most serene traveler into a frantic bundle of nerves. So we turned to you, dear readers, for tips on ways to make those long hauls -- and short ones -- more comfortable. What, we asked, do you pack in your carry-on bag? What would you never leave home without?

Here's a sampling of responses from readers, including frequent fliers, a travel blogger and a 40-year veteran of the friendly, albeit crowded, skies, whose tips include ways to bypass or at least hasten those airport security lines. You'll find websites and other details in the parenthetical remarks, if you want to learn more.

-- Jackie Burrell, Staff

Pillows and prep

1. The best airport security tip is to get Global Entry, which will also get you TSA Precheck (a preapproved passenger status that zips you past the long lines when you return to the U.S.; find out more at www.cbp.gov/global-entry/about).

Then get Clear, which is increasing the number of airports where it can be used (Clear zips you past the lines and straight to the X-rays at San Francisco and San Jose international airports for a fee; www.clearme.com).


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2. Best of all: Buy a small down pillow. It squashes to a small size, is good for your back and/or your neck and is large enough to give you comfort in a strange hotel. I get mine -- I have left several on the airplane -- and a pillow cover to fit at Bloomingdale's.

3. I have never checked a bag. I can pack for however long in carry-on.

-- Margaret Newbold, San Jose, flight attendant for 40 years

Block the sound

We use Bose noise-canceling headphones. They help in three ways: First, they reduce the noise level that reaches our ears. Second, they signal others not to try to talk to us. And third, when connected to the plane's audio system or our iPod Nanos, they allow us to listen to audio at a reduced level, since we aren't trying to drown out the ambient noise.

-- Dick and Sandi Pantages, Fremont

Fuel up

My best airport and plane survival tips are for those on early morning flights. I pack instant oatmeal in a cup -- just add hot water and you have a healthy and protein-packed on-the-go breakfast or anytime snack! My go-to brands are Umpqua Oats and Quaker Real Medleys.

More healthy travel snacks: Almond butter, KIND bars and Cruncha Ma-Me, an edamame veggie snack that I found at Whole Foods Market.

-- Nancy Brown, Lafayette, What a Trip blogger

Do you have more travel tips to add? Send them via email to jburrell@bayareanewsgroup.com.