Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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Tablets are all the rage. From pre-K babes through great-great grannies, it seems like everyone totes one around. iPad was the be-all-to-end-all until others entered the scene.

Many of my friends are dispensing with their expensive cable bills and going to other newer technology.

Q. I’ve wondered over the years why you don’t write a column about pets. I’d like to have some tips to save money with my dog. — Dennis Disappointed

I’ve had a column topic on my mind for awhile.

Q: I know Angie’s List provides recommendations for local contractors, cleaning services, etc., but I’m not overly fond of paying a subscription fee. Do you have any ideas to find reliable businesses for free? — Rachel Research

With my 62-year-old “baby” sister having undergone major surgery in June and a stint in rehab thereafter (the latter miserable experience definitely a column for another occasion), my days and nights have been filled with medical research and advice to help all of us cope.

Now that readers know tips to help make a good vacation even better, don’t forget, statistically, that if anything can go wrong at your home, it’ll happen while you’re off having a great trip.

I wrote about cruising a couple of years ago.Because this type of vacation is at such an all-time high these days, a number of readers have asked me to revisit the topic.

Do you have any tips to conserve money safely while on a vacation? — Tom Traveler

As last week’s column concerned a question from a vacationing reader, I decided the next few summer columns should also feature travel news that readers can apply this season or stick aside to use for future vacations. This week concerns one of my least favorite before-trip chores: packing. Most of the following suggestions are commonplace, although sometimes we need a nudge to remember to follow them.

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