Travel Gems for July 12th – 16th

Each Monday through Friday, a Travel Gem of the Day will be posted at These Travel Gems are tips that will help a traveler travel smarter, safer, handle home issues, be prepared and enjoy their journeys.

Here are last week’s Travel Gems:

Monday – Don’t scream “no one is home” by leaving your mail go uncollected while you’re away. You can either ask someone to collect your mail for you or ask the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to hold your mail. The post office will hold your mail anywhere from 3 to 30 days. It’s easy to set up the USPS mail hold. Fill out the simple form located at Put Your Mail on Hold Online and your mail will be held during the requested days. Or you can do the old-fashioned paper form and complete the Authorization to Hold Mail form and drop this off with a clerk at the post office.

With the online USPS form, you will receive a confirmation number so you’ll know your request when through. If you had forgotten all about holding your mail and your trip is about to begin, as long as you do the online form before 2am central time, the mail will begin being held that day. If you request a mail hold in person, it needs to be submitted a minimum of 1 day in advance.

Upon your return home, you can collect your pile of mail at the post office (have a photo I.D. to show the clerk), or request that the letter carrier deliver everything into your mailbox (though if your mailbox is small, anything that doesn’t fit goes back to the post office for you to collect).

If your mail already goes to a post office box, I’ve been told by a post office clerk that there is no need to hold the mail. Once the box becomes full, the postal service will keep any overage aside until you come in to collect it.

Tuesday – Mist With Mineral Water to refresh makeup while traveling rather than putting on more foundation or blush. Use a mister of mineral water and add a dab of moisturizer.

Here’s an inexpensive spritz bottle that’s TSA-friendly. Find mineral water at your local grocery store (Perrier and San Pellegrino are two choices). This is also very refreshing when you’re out in the summer heat!

Wednesday – Looking to find hidden wireless access points in airports or hotels? Want to boost your wi-fi strength and connect to networks that may be just out of reach?

There are programs such as NetStumbler that can help find hidden networks. Not all routers broadcast their SSID, but with this program you can find some of the hidden ones that the airlines or hotels may be using internally.

When you want to pack an extra punch, think of getting a Long Range Wireless Adapter. There are a ton to choose from, and they can boost your signal dramatically, allowing you to connect to those networks that are a bit further away.

Thursday – Remember your plants while you’re away! Don’t leave your indoor plants starving for water while you’re galavanting around the world.

Chances are, if you’re away for just a week or two, most houseplants would survive if watered thoroughly right before you leave. They may be limp and wilted upon your return, but a good watering would probably revive them.

To be safe, and to not put your plants under this stress, there are things you can do to keep their thirst quenched while you’re gone.

One option is to ask a friend or neighbor to water your plants. Though for us frequent travelers, that can be a continual burden on someone. You may also not want the house entered multiple times while you’re away. But if someone is already coming in to take care of your pets, then you may want to ask that they water the plants as well. Bring them back a nice souvenir from your trip or perhaps give them a gift card to thank them.

Another option is to use watering bulbs which release water as the plant needs it, for up to two weeks. The Plant Nanny Watering Globe Set receives good reviews, are easy to fill and do not get clogged up with dirt when inserted into your plant. They also work with outdoor plants and hanging baskets.

Test them out long before your trip so you can judge how the bulb will dole out the water sufficiently. Large or extra-thirsty plants may require two bulbs.

Your plants will appreciate being taken care of while you’re away.

Friday – Common questions when searching for a hotel for a family include: Is there a pool? Do kids stay and/or eat free? Want a really great list of qualifying hotel criteria? Then check out this fabulous article onCascadia which has a very comprehensive list of questions you’ll want to ask when searching for your family’s next trip.

One question that I think is really important to a family who’s going to be bunking in one room for several days is to ask for a larger size room, such as author Lora Shinn’s question on “Can we get a larger hotel room, such as a corner room?”

Another way that I’ve found to ask questions and not get a direct “No” is to ask for their recommendation. For example, try asking a desk clerk “If you were my family and staying in a hotel for a week with two little kids who like to play, which room would you want?” This usually gets them looking at the room layout vs. giving you a flat-out No.

Another mom-important question in’s list: “Is there a bathtub?” This may seem like a silly question but many hotel rooms only have a shower stall. When the normal evening bath ritual doesn’t happen, your kids may not fall asleep as easily or you may not have a few precious minutes of free time while the bath.

Many of these questions may be on your own list of hotel criteria, whether you travel with kids or not! It’s good food for thought on identifying your all-important amenities for your next hotel stays to ensure that you’re having the best possible experience.

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