You may have noticed I've been on my coffee break a little longer than usual. I stepped out to take a vacation, but I brought back some useful tips for yours.

1. Planning Your Trip

Seth Kugler, A.K.A. "The Frugal Traveler" for The New York Times, tested out a number of popular travel sites and he came to the conclusion that the trick is finding the site that best fits your specific travel needs. "Each has different strengths and offered through different interfaces that use different functions and produce different results." Check out his article, "How to Choose an Air Travel Search Site", here to read his analysis.

Or maybe you feel that this sort of task is better left to the pros. Do you take advantage of your American Express card services? Their "travel insiders" are travel agents who will plan your trip for free, provided that you're a card-carrying member and that, of course, you use your American Express for your travel expenses.

2. Have You Considered Purchasing Travel Insurance?

"The Frugal Traveler" answers these questions thoughtfully in his New York Times article, Should You Buy Travel Insurance?

3.Download A Packing Checklist App.

Aren't you tickled pink to live in the App Age? One of my favs is the $2 Essential Travel Checklist app, which offers a variety of pre-defined checklists that can be easily customized for your needs. It's handy having it on your phone, readily available to update as your remember items to add.

Orange is the New Black. House of Cards. Mad Men. I usually do my binge-watching on Netflix, often forgetting that as an Amazon Prime member, I can upload a video on Amazon as well. (Which came in handy with Season 3 of my last obsession: Call a Midwife. Amazon Prime had it, Netflix didn't.

5. Remember To Hold Your Mail.

Here is the United Post Office link where you can request a hold on your mail. You're quite welcome.

6. If You Don't Already Know, Remember To Investigate Your Phone Plan's Hotspot Availability.

When I was on vacation, the Wi-Fi coverage stopped working. As my heart started racing and weakness and chills set in, I remembered my earlier report which highlighted how to use your phone's personal hotspot in such a jam and - whew - panic attack averted. It worked like a charm. If your phone plan covers such a neat trick, it can save you in a time of need -- or at least a Call the Midwife need.

7. And This Just In: New TSA Rules

If you are traveling abroad, be aware of the new TSA rules that dictate that travelers on direct flights from some overseas airports (which aren't specified) must be able to power up their devices when they go through airport security. And if the devices don't power up, they will be confiscated. Here's the TSA press release and more from The New York Times.

8. Don't Forget A Host/Hostess Gift!

Of course, your presence day and night is surely enough of a gift, but you should think about packing a little something that says thank-you-for-putting-clean-sheets-on-my-bed.

a. How about a super snazzy portable phone charger? South Moon Under sells the compact 3"H, 1 1/2"W power bank online (free shipping) and in their store in a variety of patterns for $30.

b. Maybe an Apples to Apples game set? It's been repeatedly awarded "Game of the Year" and it's appealing and fun for anyone over age 12. There's also a Junior version for kids under 12. $22 for the family game, $12 for the junior game at

c. Don't you adore a honeysuckle scented candle even more when it is in a gorgeous re-usable embossed silver distress tumbler and only $15 from