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This week’s puzzle is a country shapes quiz! Take a look at the silhouette and below and tell us which country you think it is.

mystery country


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, March 27, 2017, 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.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Looking to pack lighter? You can save some space in your suitcase by storing your stuff in the clothes you wear. SCOTTeVEST offers a line of vests, jackets, pants and other clothing specifically designed with tons of pockets to help you stow gadgets and other essential items on your person instead of in a purse or backpack.

scottevest quest vest


I tested out the SCOTTeVEST Q.U.E.S.T., a vest that boasts a whopping 42 pockets, to see what it offers for travelers. Here’s what I discovered.

What We Liked
It’s cleverly designed. The designers clearly put a lot of thought into the layout of the Q.U.E.S.T., with pockets specifically meant for items such as cell phones, passports, tablets, glasses and pens. (Most of these compartments are labeled with little graphics so you can tell what’s supposed to go where.) Then there are dozens of catch-all pockets for everything else. Some are more useful than others — I’m not sure exactly what you’d want to put in the large back compartment, given that most items wouldn’t be all that comfortable to lean back on when you sit down — but there are plenty of pockets to customize in any way you see fit.

It’s attractive and well made. The vest feels well crafted and has a sleek, attractive look.

It’s water-resistant. When I poured water on both the hood and the body of the vest, it beaded up and ran right off.

There are tons of little surprises. Open the RFID-blocking pocket, and you’ll find a little document pouch that you can remove and then Velcro back in. The glasses pocket offers a soft cloth for wiping your lenses. There are holes and loops throughout to thread cords for earbuds or chargers.

It’s not just good for travel. Sure, the vest can save you space on vacation, but it’s also useful at home for day hikers who don’t want to carry a backpack or women who want to go shopping without lugging a heavy purse.

scottevest quest vest


What We Didn’t Like
It gets bulky. Realistically most travelers won’t use all 42 pockets; once you start putting in things like a full-size water bottle or multiple gadgets, the vest starts looking bulky and less flattering. If you do plan to use most of the pockets, you might want to order a size larger than you normally would to give yourself a little more space.

You may lose track of some of your things. There are so many pockets so close to each other — some divided only by a thin layer of fabric — that I sometimes forgot where I’d put certain items. In one case I could feel that there was a bottle of antibacterial hand gel in a certain quadrant of the vest, but I had to try about three different zippers before I could access the pocket I needed.

There’s only one color option. Other vests from SCOTTeVEST come in hues like blue, white and red, but the Q.U.E.S.T. is currently only available in black for women. (Men can buy the Q.U.E.S.T. in black or beige.)

It’s not cheap. The Q.U.E.S.T. is currently on sale for $175 at the SCOTTeVEST website and at Amazon. (To buy the men’s version, see the SCOTTeVEST website or Amazon.)

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— written by Sarah Schlichter

Editorial Disclosure: Some products are sent to us free of charge to be considered for review. We choose products to review based on their relevance and usefulness to our readers. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not promise any editorial coverage, particularly positive reviews.

Coping with a mental illness like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression can sometimes be so difficult that it prevents you from traveling. At other times, the illness is managed well enough that you can travel, but the challenging feelings still tag along like an unwanted companion. A day at the beach, for instance, feels like anything but.

illustration of traveling with depression


“Traveling feels like you’re making a huge mistake,” says writer Lauren Juliff, who suffers from severe anxiety. “Everyone says to trust your intuition when you travel, but I had to learn to silence the voice in my head that was always telling me that something was going to go seriously wrong.”

Juliff, who has been traveling steadily since 2011 and writes about her experiences on her website Never Ending Footsteps, is among those featured in an online collection of illustrations that show what it’s like to travel while suffering from symptoms of a mental illness.

The images drive home how isolating it can be to travel when you aren’t feeling at your peak. If you’re traveling for pleasure, you’re supposed to be happy and having fun. If you’re traveling for work, you’re supposed to be sharp and at your best.

illustration of traveling with anxiety


English artist Loren Conner took on the project because it touched her in personal ways. She has dealt with anxiety and depression since her teens, and people close to her have also coped with a variety of mental illnesses. Her illustrations were featured in a Staysure article on traveling with mental illness.

“I am aware of the difficulties and struggles people suffering can go through in their day-to-day life,” said Conner, who lives outside of London. “I knew I had to portray and translate all these feelings as best as I could for people to connect and understand them and realize they’re not alone in their experiences.”

Having such struggles doesn’t mean you need to just stay home. You still can travel, but you need to prepare yourself for what you might encounter.

illustration of traveling with ptsd


“For me planning is key. This carries across to when I’m actually on holiday, so I can mentally prepare for any tricky situations that could arise,” says 18-year-old Ellen White, who writes about obsessive-compulsive disorder at Ellen’s OCD Blog.

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Do you have similar challenges? Share your tips in the comments below.

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

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.” Multi-word cities or countries are scrambled into one word, so “San Juan” might appear as SJAANUN. (Hint: This week there are no multi-word cities or countries.) Identify all four mystery cities to win.

OKOTY, AJANP

ILHAONMT, UDAMERB

TUQIO, ARUOCED

RAZGEB, ACOTARI


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, March 20, 2017, 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 Jill Gsell, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.

TOKYO, JAPAN

HAMILTON, BERMUDA

QUITO, ECUADOR

ZAGREB, CROATIA


— created by Sarah Schlichter

Travelers who spend a lot of time exploring cities and riding public transportation have natural concerns about pickpockets. While the best way to protect your valuables is to stow them in a money belt hidden under your clothes, you don’t want to expose it each time you need to pay for a coffee or buy a souvenir — and that’s where the Rogue Front Pocket Wallet comes in.

rogue front pocket wallet


Because front pockets tend to be deeper, they’re considered a safer spot to stow your wallet than back pockets if you’re looking to deter thieves. The Rogue Front Pocket Wallet is designed with a curved shape so it fits more naturally into a front pocket; you are supposed to put the pointy end down and the curved part out. How does it work? I asked my husband and frequent travel partner to give it a try.

What We Liked
It feels well made. The wallet is constructed of real leather and appears sturdy and well stitched.

It fits comfortably. My husband used the wallet in several different pairs of pants and didn’t have any issues with how it fit.

It blocks RFID skimming. Although experts disagree on just how much of a threat RFID skimming actually is, this is still a nice security feature just in case.

It’s made in Maine. Americans sick of seeing “made in China” on every product can support a homegrown business with this purchase.

What We Didn’t Like
There’s some wasted space. The way the wallet is stitched means that the pocket for bills and receipts isn’t as wide as it looks, with what feels like a couple of inches of space sealed off. While U.S. bills fit fine, my husband had to fold quite a few longer receipts instead of sliding them in flat, making the wallet bulk up quickly.

rogue front pocket wallet


It takes up more space than many other wallets. Because of the curved design, the Rogue wallet is taller (5 inches) than a lot of standard men’s wallets. My husband’s old trifold wallet fit just as well in his front pocket (where he’s worn it for years), and because it was smaller he was able to get it deeper into the pocket — which might be an even better hedge against theft.

It has adequate but not plentiful storage. There are three slots that hold up to six cards, plus a see-through ID pocket, another pocket for miscellaneous items, and a larger compartment for bills and receipts. There’s plenty of room for the basics, but men who carry a lot of cards might prefer a few more slots.

Rogue Industries offers a variety of front pocket wallets as well as money clips, women’s bags, women’s clutches and more. The classic front pocket wallet that we tested retails for $45 at the Rogue website or $40 at Amazon.

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Editorial Disclosure: Some products are sent to us free of charge to be considered for review. We choose products to review based on their relevance and usefulness to our readers. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not promise any editorial coverage, particularly positive reviews.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Making a travel bucket list — even if it’s not realistic to visit all the places on the list — invokes a sense of hope, gives people something to look forward to and even inspires them to get into better shape, according to a new study by the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S.

senior travelers


Two out of every five Americans over the age of 50 say they have a travel bucket list, and nearly 70 percent of them expect to visit the next destination on the list, according the AARP Travel Bucket List Survey. While they hope to visit 80 percent of the places on the list, most people consider it a success to hit just 65 percent of them.

“You get a sense of accomplishment and contentment when you finally get to experience something you have wanted to do for a long time,” one survey respondent said.

Simply making a list has positive benefits: It gives people something to look forward to, inspires them to make the most the most of their lives and experience new things and convinces them, as one respondent said, that “my dreams can really happen.”

Traveling is one of the top aspirational activities of people 50 years and up. Most no longer have children at home, and they often have more money and time to travel than when they were younger. Around two-thirds say they’ll travel with a significant other or spouse; 18 percent say their next trip will be solo.

They are saving money for their bucket list trips and even getting in better shape to prepare for the rigors of travel, the survey found. More than one-third of those surveyed say they’ve already started saving money for their next bucket list trip, and half of baby boomers say they’re taking steps to improve their health so they can enjoy their travels more.

But at the same time, money can be a limiting factor. Forty-five percent of those surveyed say that money holds them back from visiting more of their bucket list destinations.

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Boomers have an average of eight places on their bucket lists. (Compare that to less-traveled gen Xers, who average 12 places, and millennials, who average 15.)

The most common bucket list destinations are Hawaii, Alaska, California and Arizona in the United States and Australia, Italy, Ireland/U.K. and France internationally.

Which destinations are on your bucket list?

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— 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 ruin was used as a “Star Wars” filming site.

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, March 13, 2017, 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 Kirsten Hubbard, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was Tikal, Guatemala. Kirsten 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

Gird yourself: TSA security officers may get even more up close and personal with you on your next trip.

airport security


According to a report from Bloomberg, the TSA has consolidated five different pat-down options into a single method that’s more “comprehensive” and “more intrusive.”

The TSA is famously reluctant to offer details about security procedures. But one major change, Bloomberg noted in a subsequent report, is that screeners can now use the front of their hands, rather than just the back, on “sensitive areas of the body” such as the breasts, buttocks and genitals.

Travelers can elect to have their pat-down in public or private, with or without a witness. Screenings are performed by same-gender security officers.

According to Bloomberg, the new procedure is partly in response to a critical 2015 audit of the TSA’s screening procedures, which revealed that security officers had failed to find guns and other weapons.

Most travelers pass through security without having to undergo a pat-down. You may be subject to a pat-down if you opt out of a trip through the full-body scanner, or if the security officer decides you need additional screening for any reason.

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— written by Sarah Schlichter

If T-shirts are among the souvenirs you’ve collected over your years of traveling, chances are you have a plentiful stock of vintage, too-small, faded or out-of-fashion tops cluttering your dresser drawers or storage room. But you can repurpose them into useful household items, home decor and new wearables without losing their charm.

t-shirts


1. Kids’ Clothes: An Alaskan mom named Natasha fashioned a baby onesie out of a vintage St. Thomas beach resort T-shirt and it couldn’t be cooler. Check out the tutorial on Knit Nat. You can make other children’s clothes too, including this adorable Savannah-themed sundress for a little girl from the blog Pretty Prudent.

2. Quilts: We’ve seen plenty of sports jerseys, cheerleading T-shirts and runners’ bibs fashioned into fleece-back quilts, so why not do the same with your travel T-shirts? Project Repat will snip and sew quilts using 16 to 64 T-shirts. The company takes a socially and environmentally conscious approach too, collaborating with manufacturers committed to providing jobs in the United States and using backing made from recycled fleece. If you have sewing skills, you could make your own quilt following these WikiHow instructions.

3. Tote Bags: In fewer than 15 minutes, you could turn an old T-shirt into a reusable tote bag — and you don’t even have to sew to do it. The small totes are sized right for trips to the grocery store. Here are instructions from Instructables.com for a no-sew tote. Apartment Therapy teaches you how to make T-shirt-based produce bags.

4. Pillowcases: How cute would it be to have a travel-themed sitting room decorated with your favorite photos and souvenirs on the walls and travel T-shirt pillows on the furniture? Snap Guide shows you how to make small pillows from T-shirts.

5. Artwork: With a square canvas and a staple gun, the image on an old T-shirt can become a work of art for your walls. Lifehacker provides simple instructions.

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— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

This week’s puzzle is a country shapes quiz! Take a look at the silhouette and below and tell us which country you think it is.

mystery country


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, March 6, 2017, 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 Barbara Sampson, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery country was Cuba. Barbara has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

— written by Sarah Schlichter