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This week’s puzzle is a word scramble. Below are the jumbled names of four major cities from around the world, followed by the country where they’re located. Your job is to unscramble them. For example, “IALM, EURP” would be “Lima, Peru.” Identify all four mystery cities to win.

INOAH, NMVITAE

IOIEAEJDNORR, IZBLRA

NSIOLB, TAPUGRLO

UNCACN, XOEICM


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, May 2, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

— created by Sarah Schlichter

Catch up on some of the more interesting travel news and features of the past week.

suitcase with tea kettle on top


Cheese, Miso and Tea Bags: The ‘Must-Pack’ Items Travelers Around the World Always Pack
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently revealed she never leaves home without hot sauce in her purse. She’s not the only one who refuses to travel without a favorite edible. A survey of 7,500 travelers from 29 countries showed that 56 percent of Japanese travelers bring miso soup with them, 38 percent of New Zealanders pack ketchup and nearly have of all Brits stash their favorite tea bags. The Daily Mail runs down the list of what other travelers won’t leave home without—food or otherwise.

Nepal Begins Reconstruction on Quake-Damaged Heritage Sites
A year after a massive earthquake in Nepal killed almost 9,000 people and destroyed a half-million homes, Nepal’s prime minister announced that key heritage sites around the capital will be reconstructed. More than 600 historic structures, including Buddhist temples, stupas and monasteries, were damaged or destroyed in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake last April 25, ABC News reports.

You Could Snag this Luxury Travel Internship
A Sydney-based luxe travel company is offering a dream internship, but there’s an important catch: You must be at least 60 years old to apply. The 10-day internship would require you to inspect five-star luxury hotels in Bali, go for spa treatments, sample exotic cocktails and take day trips, according to the Travel + Leisure article. Singles or couples may apply.

Travel Tips from Sportswriters: How to Play the Game
Who provides the best advice on traveling efficiently and inexpensively? Sportswriters, says The Wall Street Journal. You can glean great tips on using hotel loyalty programs, eating well in airports and packing light from the journalists who travel the most for their jobs. One of the best pieces of advice? Invest in a laptop with a longer battery life, because only half of all planes have power outlets, one sportswriter advises.

Check Out the 2016 Business Travel Award Winners
The May issue of Entrepreneur magazine runs down the winners of its annual Business Travel Awards, including best airlines, hotels, airports and luggage. Quantas, Hawaiian and Virgin Airlines take top nods for best airline food. JetBlue’s new Mint business-class service provides the top in-flight amenities, including posh toiletries and expanded television channels.

The Cheapest Days to Fly for Summer Travel
If you are planning a summer vacation and want to save the most amount of money, avoid flying in July, according to research by airfare search engine CheapAir. Airfares are the priciest then. This article from Lifehacker says that the least expensive days to fly this summer are June 1, July 26, August 31 and September 10. Check out the research for more tidbits on how to save money on summer flights.

Spain’s Cursed Village of Witches
Apparently, there’s a hilltop village of 62 souls in Spain that’s so cursed, only the Pope himself can lift it, the BBC reports. Trasmoz, in the province of Aragon, has a history of witchcraft dating back to the 13th century.

Video of the Week
What a scary, exhilarating, take-your-breath-away moment: Watch what happens to this paddle boarder in Southern California.


Five Worst Packing Problems
18 Best Airport Hacks

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

Each month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

woman riding elephant sri lanka


In this month’s winning review, a traveler has a life-changing volunteer experience at Sri Lanka’s Millennium Elephant Foundation. “It’s 7:00 in the morning,” writes TS Buchanan. “It’s 35 degrees [Celsius] already, the sweat is pouring off me and I’m shoveling crap. Literally … shovelling crap. But not just any crap, I’m shovelling elephant dung. And I’m having the time of my life!”

Read the rest of TS Buchanan’s review here: Anything for the Elephants! This reader has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag.

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review! Submit your review by May 11, and you could win a $50 Amazon gift card!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

I’m sure there are still plenty of people simply staring at their phones the whole time, or curled up on an uncomfortable bench trying to catch a snooze. But there are a lot more interesting things to do at airports these days during a long layover.

woman at airport gate


Learn CPR. Chicago O’Hare International is the latest airport to introduce free kiosks where you can learn CPR. The video arcade game-like tutorial shows you how to do hands-only CPR and practice on a rubber torso attached to the machine. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive,” the tutorial advises.

And if you ask one University of Dayton student, the tutorial is time well spent. He learned CPR during a three-hour at Dallas/Fort Worth international. The lesson took 15 minutes, and he ended up saving the life of a fellow student two days later.

Take a free city tour. A number of airports offer free city tours to airline passengers with layovers, writes Jennifer Dombrowski of Luxe Adventure Traveler in 5 Things to Do at an Airport During a Layover. Tokyo Narita, Singapore Changi and even Salt Lake International Airport are among those offering free tours.

Icelandair launched a new program called Stopover Buddies this winter to pair up travelers with airline employees who take you skiing, ice skating, out for a spectacular meal, horseback riding or for a dip in a thermal pool, among other activities. The sky’s the limit, depending on how much time you have. The Stopover Buddies program concludes on April 30, but I hope they continue it again later this year.

Get sporty. As this Lonely Planet article details, you can go to the gym at Changi Airport in Singapore, ice skate at Seoul Incheon International, go surfing — actual surfing, not on the web – at Munich International or do yoga in a studio at Dallas/Fort Worth International.

Hang out in a first-class lounge. You don’t have to be a first-class ticketholder to pass your layover in an airline lounge. According to the website Sleeping in Airports, more than 190 airports around the world have 300 lounges that you can access by prepurchasing a pass. Or check with the airport information desk to ask about lounges that allow you to purchase access. For more information, see 7 Ways to Score Airport Lounge Access.

Be a foodie. So many airports have specialty or themed dining options that you could design your own eating tour. Travel Pulse suggests a Latin food tour at Miami International by sampling Cuban and Venezuelan dishes at various eateries. Likewise, you could go on a wine tasting tour. Two dozen U.S. airports have outposts of the winebar Vino Volo.

Rent a day room. I’ve hit the age now where trying to nap in an airport has zero appeal. So I love the concept behind Hotels by Day, in which hotels offer unsold rooms for day use at lower rates. There are a number of airport hotel options if your layover doesn’t afford enough time to travel into a city but you still want a chance to shower, take a nap or watch television.

9 Ways to Make the Most of Your Layover
Best Airports for Layovers

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

This Friday’s challenge is a photo of an unidentified place somewhere in the world. Can you tell us where the photo was taken? Leave your guess in the comments below — and check back on Tuesday to see if you were right!

world destination


Hint: This precariously perched monastery is located in a country whose government measures “Gross National Happiness.”

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, April 25, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com prize. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Margot Cushing, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was the Taktsang Monastery in Bhutan. Paro Takstsang and Tiger’s Nest Monastery were also correct answers. Margot has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

See All “Where in the World?” Challenges

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out the travel stories you may have missed this week.

canyonlands national park hiker


National Parks: Ken Burns on Why They Were America’s Best Idea
With the 100th birthday of the U.S. National Parks coming up in August, USA Today sits down with filmmaker Ken Burns and his partner Dayton Duncan to discuss the importance of the parks — which Duncan calls “the Declaration of Independence expressed on the landscape.” They also reveal their favorite parks.

Visiting Museums Like the Louvre Is Terrible, and There’s No Fair Solution
A Washington Post columnist bemoans the crowds that mob the world’s great art museums, making it difficult to experience works such as the “Mona Lisa” and Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” without having to see past waving cell phones and cameras. (Our best solution: Travel during the off season and come early or late in the day.)

The Multi-City Flight Trick May Soon Be Ending
Conde Nast Traveler reports that American, Delta and United have closed a fare loophole that once saved crafty fliers some money. Before you could connect multiple nonstop tickets to create your own cheap connecting itinerary, but now you won’t be able to do that unless you purchase each ticket separately.

Update From Ecuador: What Travelers Should Know About Visiting Right Now
Following a strong earthquake in Ecuador last Saturday, Travel + Leisure reached out to the country’s Minister of Tourism to learn how its main tourist areas were faring. The Amazon and the Galapagos Islands were unscathed, while the port city of Guayaquil and other areas along the coast faced varying levels of damage.

10,000 People on the Waiting List to Try London’s New Naked Restaurant
Hmm, how appetizing does this sound? Lonely Planet profiles a London restaurant called Bunyadi, where you can dine naked in a “secret Pangea-like world” while perched on wooden stools. (Gowns are provided to put between your bare skin and any possible splinters. Whew!) The restaurant will only be open for three months this summer.

31 Secrets About Travel Insurance Only Insiders Know
Even we learned a few things from this GOBankingRates.com slideshow on travel insurance — like the fact that many plans come with concierge services, and that they also offer at least 10 days to cancel for free.

Where Marrying a Local Is Forbidden
BBC Travel profiles the remote Palmerston Atoll, a South Pacific island home to just 62 residents (all of whom are related). Foreign visitors are immediately adopted into a local family and can join the island’s daily volleyball game.

Speaking of the South Pacific, this video captures mesmerizing footage from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and more.


12 Great Museums You’ve Never Heard Of
Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare

— written by Sarah Schlichter

You’ve arrived at your destination, but your luggage hasn’t. It’s annoying enough to have to buy new clothes and toiletries to get by before your bag is delivered by the airline (if it comes at all). It’s even more annoying if you paid a nonrefundable fee of $25 or $30 for the privilege of checking that bag.

checked bags suitcases


The newest bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration includes language that would require airlines to refund baggage fees in cases when your checked suitcase is delayed, reports the New York Times.

You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but as the author of the Times piece notes, there are numerous barriers that currently keep you from getting your money back. First, many airlines, including United, Spirit and American, declare that their baggage fees are nonrefundable. (United’s Contract of Carriage does note that baggage fees will be refunded if your suitcase is lost — but makes no such comment in the case of delays.)

If you do get a refund from the airline, it may be in the form of a voucher to be used on a future flight, often with a one-year expiration date. For people who don’t fly often, such a voucher may be pretty much worthless.

No luck with the airline? You can try contacting your credit card company to dispute the charge — a strategy that is sometimes successful, but can take some persistence.

Travelers should cross their fingers for the Senate version of the reauthorization bill to pass; it would require airlines to give an automatic refund of baggage fees to anyone who hasn’t received their luggage within six hours of arrival on a domestic flight or within 12 hours of an international arrival. The House has a more lenient 24-hour deadline and would not mandate automatic refunds.

7 Smart Ways to Bypass Baggage Fees
10 Things Not to Do When Checking a Bag

Do you think it’s fair for airlines to charge a fee for a bag that’s delayed?

— written by Sarah Schlichter

The European Commission is threatening to suspend the program that allows tourists from the United States and two other countries to travel to Europe without visas.

european union flags


The so-called Schengen program allows Americans, Canadians, the citizens of 26 European countries and a smattering of other nations to travel between countries in Europe without obtaining a visa in advance. But the executive body of the European Union is considering ending the program for citizens of the United States, Canada and Brunei.

One of the principles of the Schengen program is visa waiver reciprocity — in other words, if a country permits your citizens to enter without a visa, then you should do the same for its citizens. But the United States, Canada and Brunei are still requiring the citizens of a handful of European Union countries to have visas. The three nations were given 24 months to comply with the reciprocity request, but the deadline passed last week.

“Full visa reciprocity will stay high on the agenda of our bilateral relations with these countries, and we will continue pursuing a balanced and fair outcome,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Union’s Home Affairs, Migration and Citizenship Commissioner, said in a statement.

The European Commission has had the Schengen program on its mind for a few months now. It released a report in March with recommendations for improvement in light of security concerns. And Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden temporarily reintroduced border controls earlier this year to deal with the refugee crisis and terrorism threats.

Still, eliminating the program for Americans and Canadians could result in the loss of millions of jobs, says Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tourism Association. Leisure travel plummets 30 percent when a visa regime is imposed, he told Forbes.

“The business of accommodating U.S. and Canadian visitors is an enormously important industry for Europe. We effectively sell them services worth approximately 50 billion euros,” Jenkins said, equating it in economic terms to the automobile industry.

According to a 2015 report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, 39 percent of the world’s population can travel for tourism without obtaining a visa in advance.

The European Commission is expected to announce its decision on July 12.

How to Get a Visa
Planning a Trip to Europe: Your 10-Step Guide

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

This week’s travel puzzle is part of our ongoing Flag Friday series of challenges. Can you identify which nation the following flag belongs to?


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, April 18, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Diana C., who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Brunei. Diana has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Catch up on some of the best travel reading of the week.

standing stones orkney


A Long Love Affair with the Scottish Isles, in Pictures
This post from National Geographic’s Proof photography blog captures the misty landscapes and unique culture of the Scottish Isles, including St. Kilda, Lewis and the Orkneys. (Our favorite? The shot of inquisitive Atlantic puffins.)

Thank You for Flying Trash Airlines
Need a laugh? Read this quick New Yorker piece, which is a series of text-message updates about a flight aboard an imaginary budget airline. Example: “Be advised that there are no seat assignments on $uper Air flights. To keep tickets cheap, we replaced all of the chairs with subway poles. Stand anywhere you like!”

Advice for Women on the Road
Mary Beth Bond, founder of Gutsy Traveler.com (a site for adventurous women travelers), shares her wisdom from decades of travel in this New York Times interview. “Don’t let fear keep you at home, but it is more important now than ever to do your homework,” Bond says. “There is never a perfect time. So don’t wait, go now.”

Around the World by Budget Airline
What’s it like to fly all the way around the world on nothing but low-cost carriers? This Telegraph writer found out, testing out 10 different airlines including JetBlue, EasyJet, Ryanair and AirAsia. He discovered that despite the low prices, not all LCCs are created equal.

How Hiking Changes Our Brains — and Makes Us Better Travelers
Conde Nast Traveler rounds up several recent studies that show the beneficial effects of hiking, including minimizing negative thoughts and improving memory. So go ahead — book that trip to a national park. Your brain will thank you.

5 Travel Tips for People with Anxiety
For those who struggle with anxiety in day-to-day life, the uncertainties of travel can be particularly stressful. Bustle offers five tips that can help, including writing yourself a letter to read when things get difficult and keeping some money aside for emergencies.

Fed Up with Uncomfortable Air Travel? Blame Yourself
This essay in the Boston Globe argues that we shouldn’t expect the government to protect us from shrinking airline seats and sneaky ancillary fees because travelers have more control over conditions in the skies than we think. Instead of always booking the lowest possible fare, we should vote with our wallets and travel with the airlines that offer the best in-flight experience.

Travel to Iran: Is It the Next Cuba?
Travel Pulse investigates the rising popularity of Iran as a travel destination, with tour operators expanding their offerings and more Western hotels opening across the country — despite continued warnings by the U.S. State Department that the country isn’t safe.

We love this short video shot in Venice, which beautifully captures the city’s quiet corners.


Photos: 10 Best Scotland Experiences
16 Signs You’re Addicted to Travel

— written by Sarah Schlichter