How to Boston: The most read 2019 stories involved plane etiquette, books, saving money, and more

These are the tips readers read the most.

In this picture taken on September 15, 2018, a woman reads a book at Liyuan Library on the outskirts of Beijing. - Deep in the heart of a valley surrounded by rocky hills, a wooden library sits just over a creek on the outskirts of Beijing, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Every weekend, hundreds of bookworms flock to Liyuan Library in Jiaojiehe Village, a book sanctuary surrounded by chestnut, walnut and peach trees whose branches were used to decorate the building. (Photo by Fred DUFOUR / AFP) / TO GO WITH China-architecture-library, PHOTOESSAY by Fred DufourFRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
–Fred Dufour / AFP /Getty Images

If you’ve signed up for our How to Boston newsletter, which is delivered to your inbox every Tuesday, you’ve received tips this year on everything from plane etiquette to flu shots to recycling cardboard in the city.

In honor of the last day of 2019, here are the 10 most popular newsletter stories of the past year.

1. Flight attendants share 9 things you should never do on an airplane

American Airlines Flight
Do you kick off your shoes when flying? Do you clip your nails in your seat? —Alan Diaz/The Associated Press

Before you board your next flight at Logan International Airport, three American Airlines flight attendants who are members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, want you to know which behaviors you should avoid in the air.

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2. Are you paying too much for cable? 7 ways to save on your bill.

Are you paying too much for cable television? Here are expert tips for saving money on your cable bill. —Shutterstock / Sean Pavone

Do you think you’re paying too much for cable television?


There are steps you can take to shave dollars off your cable TV bill, according to the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable.

“Our office serves as a resource to help subscribers understand their monthly cable bills and their rights concerning cable billing practices,” Karen Charles Peterson, the department’s commissioner, said in a statement. “We encourage consumers to contact our office or visit our website at to obtain additional information about the responsibilities of cable providers.”

“It always pays to be a smart shopper, and that is as true of cable service as anything else,” Edward A. Palleschi, undersecretary for the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, said in a statement.

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3. How to trace your family’s ancestry, according to a local genealogist

Old photos at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. —New England Historic Genealogical Society

If you’re curious about your family’s ancestry, tracing your roots is not as hard as you may think, according to Rhonda McClure, a senior genealogist, author, and lecturer at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. McClure has traced her own family back to the 1400s and has helped other people go back several centuries as well.

“Basically, anybody can do it, especially now with so many things available on the web,” McClure said. “It’s much easier now. Generally speaking, if you’ve got family you can ask questions of, you can get started on your family history.”


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4. These are the 18 best books of 2019, according to local experts

There wasn’t a shortage of good books published in 2019.

So we turned to staff members at four local shops — Brookline BooksmithHarvard Book StorePorter Square Books, and Trident Booksellers and Café — to get their picks for the 2019 reads they couldn’t put down or stop thinking about even once they were done.

Whether you’re looking for the new titles you may have missed or, perhaps, looking for a book to give to a fellow reader as a gift, keep scrolling for the reads — from memoirs to re-vamped mythology and poetry — that local experts say were the best in 2019.

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5. 5G is coming to Boston. Here’s what that actually means.

Cellphone users stand beside a Verizon 5G display at the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo this past June in Los Angeles. —Frederic J. Brown / Getty Images

5G — the potentially transformative, if opaquely understood, new wave of network technology — is making inroads in Boston.

The nation’s two biggest wireless providers recently announced plans to expand “5G” services to Boston. In November, Verizon announced that its customers now have access to its 5G network in the Fenway neighborhood. AT&T quickly said it would be rolling out a “low-band” 5G network across eastern Massachusetts as well.

The dual expansions have key differences, but together will deliver a noticeable impact in the immediate future — at least for some.

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6. What to do if you get a sunburn, according to a local dermatologist

A sunbather relaxes at Carson Beach. —Suzanne Kreiter / The Boston Globe

Don’t let summer fun prevent you from preventing a sunburn on your skin, said Dr. Shinjita Das, a board certified dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays can pass through the clouds,” Das said. “So a big message that I want to pass along is wearing sunscreen every single day, rain or shine, throughout the summer season.”


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7. 5 questions about the flu shot, answered by a Mass. General Doctor

If you didn’t get a flu shot yet this year, it’s time, according to Dr. Ali Raja, executive vice chairman for the department of emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“The biggest change for this year is that we’re expecting the flu season to start earlier,” Raja said. “We’ve already seen cases around the country of patients with the flu. Normally, you can wait until November — even as late as Thanksgiving — to get the flu shot. But I’m telling patients that if you haven’t gotten yours already, you’re already behind the ball.”

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8. How to recycle your cardboard correctly in Boston

A large box leaning against a recycle bin on H Street in South Boston partially blocks the sidewalk. —John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

If you make purchases on, have your groceries delivered, or even do some occasional online shopping, chances are you have plenty of cardboard boxes at your house.

“We definitely are inundated with cardboard,” said Brian Coughlin, superintendent of waste reduction for the City of Boston. “It’s convenient to shop online, but it’s what happens after [shoppers] get the package that impacts the city the most.”

The city will dispose of 240,000 tons of waste this year, of which 40,000 will be recycled, Coughlin said. Between 13 and 16 percent of those 40,000 tons will be comprised of cardboard, he said. So it’s important to dispose of it properly.

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9. A local mom’s tips for traveling with kids

Jenn Mitchell and family in London
Jenn Mitchell and her family during a trip to London. —Courtesy of Jenn Mitchell

Traveling with kids can be tricky. Whether you’re trying to keep little ones occupied on a plane, or you want to save money when sightseeing with your brood, it helps to get tips from a parent who’s been there.

“I really enjoy traveling with my family,” said Jenn Mitchell, a mother of two who has trekked across Europe and the U.S. with her kids and husband, and has provided travel tips for parents via her website Comeback Momma, which she launched in 2013.

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10. How to improve your chances of avoiding a flight delay due to the weather

Logan Airport —Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe

When booking flights, it pays to pay close attention to the time of day to attempt to avoid delays, experts say.

Boston-based Delta Air Lines flight attendant Kristen Clary, who has been on the job for five years, said catching the first flight out reduces the chance of delays due to inclement weather.

“I’m not a morning bird, so I know that can be painful for some people,” Clary said.

But keep in mind that delayed flights due to bad weather can impact subsequent flights, she said.

“You’ll be less impacted by those storms if you get an early start,” Clary said.

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