Home

Home Travel Tips Travel Deals Destinations Trip Reviews Forums Blog
The IndependentTraveler.com Blog

Every Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog (top right) or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: JetBlue has slashed prices on select flights by as much as 40 percent. This extremely limited-time sale, which is only available through Thursday, offers competitive fares to destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. Prices are especially low for flights to and from New York, Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

The Catch: This sale works best for fliers with flexible calendars, as travel dates are quite limited. You may fly through April, but various destination-specific day-of-week restrictions apply for select city pairs. For example, travel from Washington D.C. to Cancun is only valid on Saturdays.

The Competition: Southwest Airlines just announced a domestic systemwide fare sale, which includes thousands of reduced routes to cities across the U.S. Although most of JetBlue’s prices beat Southwest on matching routes, the latter airline’s sale offers a wider range of travel dates, plus more U.S. departure and destination cities (however, Southwest’s current sale does not include any international destinations).

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Discount Air Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

trevi fountain rome italyIt’s traditional for visitors to Rome to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to guarantee that they will return someday to this most historic of Italian cities. But thanks to a new tax on Roman hotels, museums and other attractions, tourists will have to dig up a lot more than a single extra coin to pay for their next trip to the Eternal City.

As of January 1, 2011, non-residents must pay an additional tax when they stay in a hotel or pay an admission fee in Rome, CNN reports. For hotels, the tax varies based on what type of accommodation you choose. Here’s the breakdown:

Four- or five-star hotel: 3 euros ($3.89) per person, per night
One- to three-star hotels: 2 euros ($2.60) per person, per night
Campsites, bed and breakfasts: 1 euro ($1.30) per person, per night
Admission fees to museums and other attractions: 1 euro ($1.30) per person

Children under the age of 10 are exempt from the tax.

The city expects to rake in about 80 million euros ($103.6 million) a year from the new tax, which will be put toward improving cultural heritage and city infrastructure, according to CNN. But local hoteliers worry that the additional fees could deter potential tourists and business travelers.

Naturally, I’m not a fan of any tax that makes it more expensive to get up and go. But is it worth saying arrivederci to Rome over a few extra euros? Let us know what you think in the comments.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

fish skeletonI once examined a meal on the road as a scientist would an alien life form: with extreme care, a sense of awe and absolutely no intention of consuming it.

The setting was Moscow, 1997. Outside, old women who’d lost their pensions hawked cigarettes amid the Soviet gray of sky and concrete. We were in a “three-star” hotel dining room in a dingy, slightly bug-ridden hotel. Was there a menu? No, just a cast-iron skillet filled with lumpy white plasma.

The first taste was reminiscent of potatoes. A gooey, glue-like consistency left the food sticking to the roof of my mouth. With each bite, my oxygen intake was further diminished. (Was this an espionage tool to asphyxiate foreign dignitaries during State dinners?) The beverage to wash it down was a steaming carbonated liquid with an unidentifiable berry-like fruit on the label. The berry seemed to be glowing. Birds, which we all know can eat things humans can’t, were swarming the berry bush.

Thirteen years later, the acid-aftertaste still clings to the back of my tongue.

After a few bites, I could no longer swallow. So I explored with my fork, scalpeling through the membranous top layer and delicately separating glob from chunk. The consistency was creamy in places, milky in others. After some careful rooting, I exhumed … a fish skeleton. The whole thing struck me as a morbid version of the Kinder egg sold at the nearby souvenir kiosks. But instead of a plastic toy inside a chocolate egg, I got a rotting fish skeleton inside a noxious blob of potato-matter.

This was in the early days of digital photography, so no one thought to use their 35 mm or disposables on a food shot. Hopefully the prose picture was enough.

I’ve vomited up mine, so now it’s your turn: What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had while traveling?

– written by Dan Askin

beach couple happy vacationBlizzards, baggage fees, body scanners … you don’t have to look far to find bad travel news these days. But as we start the new year, we’d rather look on the brighter side. Why not celebrate what’s going right with travel — you know, all those things that keep us globetrotting in the first place?

We turned to our well-traveled colleagues, Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and asked them to tell us about a travel experience in 2010 that exceeded their expectations. They wrote in with stories of amazing animal encounters, heavenly hotels and in-depth experiences of local cultures. A few of them even had good things to say about the airlines!

We’ve collected a few of our favorite travel experiences below. Check ‘em out and then share your best 2010 travel story in the comments.

“For years, I was preparing for this first major overseas trip (dream destinations). I booked my tour and tickets a year in advance and on the week of my departure to Europe there was a strike on British Airways, not to mention the ash falls from Iceland, so it was all jittery. But overall my six-week journey in Europe and three weeks in North America were fantastic despite the initial dramas.” — Carla B., via Facebook

“Playing with lion cubs at the Lion Park in Johannesburg, and finding you really can tickle their bellies and survive!” — Jayne, @40before30 on Twitter

“Every single thing (except the red ant attack) about the Four Seasons Mauritus. It was by far the highlight of my year.” — Genevieve S. Brown, Travelocity

“Allegramente, a one-week Italian language course at Pintadera in Alghero, helped me to understand how fascinating Sardinia is.” — Sharon Blomfield, @sharonblomfield on Twitter

“My husband and I traveled from Oregon to New Zealand last January and had a fabulous trip. The weather was crummy even for summer down there, but everything else went like clockwork — even the airlines.” — Kathy M., via Facebook

“Stepping out of a cabin in Husavik, Iceland, expecting to just look at the stars and instead seeing the Northern Lights!” — Katie Hammel, @WhyGoIceland on Twitter

“On a long weekend getaway at Denver’s Ritz-Carlton, we were mildly annoyed by some very un-Ritz-like inconveniences by its housekeeping staff (forgetting to clean altogether then showing up at 1 a.m., and other assorted bug-a-boos). It wasn’t Armageddon but it did suck some energy out of the weekend, which was meant to be a relaxing one. And you certainly don’t expect that kind of problem at a Ritz-Carlton. But what transformed an annoyance into an unforgettable experience was the response from the hotel’s front desk manager. After a quick complaint after our first night’s stay, he monitored our in-room service and practically turned himself into a pretzel to make sure there was no relapse. When, alas, the next night offered up a new level of incompetency from housekeeping (there were clearly problems in this department), his response was so generous and caring and concerned that it made us feel like the most pampered people in the world. As editor of a consumer cruise Web site, I get so many letters from travelers whose minor complaints escalated into major ones because cruise lines just didn’t respond properly. This gent cared and we wound up extending our stay (there were no repeats of the housekeeping issue). He definitely made lemonade out of lemons on that one, and earned our loyalty, not just to that particular hotel but to the hotel company who had good enough sense to put him in a position of dealing with customers — and empowering him to solve problems in an appropriate way.” — Carolyn Spencer Brown, Cruise Critic

“Air Asia was super flexible in letting us change flights because of unrest in Bangkok in June.” — Corinne Levy, @corklevy on Twitter

“Took a multigenerational cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line. Liked it way better than we expected except for the kid pool stuck in Siberia.” — Eileen Gunn, @familiesgo on Twitter

“My husband and I traveled to Montego Bay, Jamaica in September and spent four FABULOUS days at the Riu all-inclusive resort. The food, the service and the Jamaican hospitality combined to make it a wonderful experience.” — Adrienne L., via Facebook

“Heavenly Spa at the Westin Mumbai, relaxing and effective. It was a standard massage, but a blissful one, and I’m not a spa gal.” Caroline Eden, @edentravels on Twitter

“The Atlantis resorts in Dumaguete and Puerto Galera, Philippines are the most fab places in the world! We returned to Dumaguete in March 2010 as well as spent a week on their liveaboard boat. The people at all three of these places spoiled us rotten. They were the friendliest and kindest people and took very good care of us. We spent most of our time scuba diving and they carried our gear to and from the boats, cleaned it, and always had it ready for the next dive. The food was absolutely to die for — in fact, I had the chef share some of his recipes as I shared my recipes for American cookies! They really made a big deal for our 35th anniversary by setting a romantic table near the ocean with flowers and candles and fixed us a special, amazing dinner, as well as a cake and serenaded us!!” — Deb B.C., via Facebook

“Staying in an apartment in Paris was awesome! I always knew that would be a wonderful thing to do — what I didn’t expect was how quickly I felt ‘like a local.'” — Catherine S., via Facebook

– written by Sarah Schlichter

great migration serengeti tanzania africa safari wildlife wildebeestEvery year, nearly two million wildebeest, zebras and other mammals migrate across the Serengeti plains in Tanzania, drawing thousands of visitors to watch one of the world’s most unique and impressive wildlife displays. But next year, construction is set to begin on a road that will cut through the park — and could irrevocably disrupt the famous Great Migration.

The Tanzanian government is seeking to build the road for economic reasons, NBC’s “Today Show” reports (see below to watch the full video). The proposed 33-mile gravel road would grant easier access to the Lake Victoria region, which is a key source of high-demand earth metals used to make cell phones and hybrid car batteries.

But environmentalists warn that the effects on the park’s wildlife could be disastrous. An increased volume of trucks driving through the park could make poaching easier, cause a spike in animal collisions and introduce invasive substances, such as seeds, that would disturb the existing ecosystem. In addition to ecological concerns, the disruption of the Great Migration could affect tourism — not only in Tanzania but also in neighboring Kenya (the animals migrate to the edge of that country’s Masai Mara reserve).

Opponents have proposed a longer alternate route for the road that would run south of the Serengeti.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Want to speak out against the road? There’s a Facebook page and a petition. And don’t miss our tips for planning an African safari.

–written by Sarah Schlichter