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Every Friday, we’ll feature a photo of an unidentified hotel here, on our blog, and we want you to guess how much it costs to stay there. Leave your guess in the comments below, and you could win a prize. Get the answer in your inbox by subscribing to our blog (top right).

You could be our next T-shirt winner, just by guessing the maximum standard nightly rate of the hotel room pictured below! Enter your guess in the comments, and be sure to include a valid e-mail address (so we can contact you in case you win). The first person to guess closest to the price of the room without going over wins an IndependentTraveler.com T-shirt. Here’s the room:



A few hints to help you win that T-shirt:

-The room is one of five in a small inn originally built in 1810.

-The inn is located in a residential neighborhood in the British Isles’ most visited city.

-In-room Wi-Fi is free for guests, but breakfast in the attached pub costs an additional fee.

We’re looking for the maximum nightly price for two people as listed on the property’s Web site, excluding holidays, coupon codes or package rates. Enter your answer by Sunday night, July 31, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time to win. We’ll contact the winner and reveal the answer on Monday.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

parisLast weekend, a hankering for popcorn and the urge to escape 90-degree temperatures drew me to the movie theater. Previews flashed, the protagonist triumphed, credits rolled and suddenly I found myself planning a trip to Paris.

The movie was “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen’s latest romantic comedy. It’s a love story about an American traveler and his devotion to Paris — more specifically, Paris in the rain … during the 1920′s. Aside from the fantastical time traveling bits of the movie, most of “Midnight in Paris” could pass for a film sponsored by the French tourism board. Allen highlights the city with heaps of gorgeous Parisian imagery: miles of sidewalk cafes, street vendors selling relics of the past, impossibly thin women in elegant clothes, the Eiffel Tower glittering in the night. Even Carla Bruni makes an appearance.

I haven’t been to Paris. It was on my places-to-see-in-the-next-decade list, somewhere behind Yosemite National Park and Mongolia. But now? Paris has edged past Mongolia, and soon I’ll be drawing disapproving stares with my lapsed college French and biting into baguettes alongside Carla Bruni.

I can think of a few other movies that tend to have a transformative effect on the hearts and travel plans of audiences. Here are some of my favorites:

“Lost in Translation”
Romance grows from a shared case of culture shock in Sofia Coppola’s Japanese gem. Tokyo, the star of this film, comes across as a mysterious, moody, otherworldly destination, and the movie is rich with beautiful footage of the city.

“Under the Tuscan Sun”
Long before Julia Roberts patched an on-screen split with a trio of trips in “Eat, Pray, Love,” Diane Lane played a divorcee who took a two-week tour of Tuscany and, on a whim, decided to drop everything and move to the Boot. Sure, “Under the Tuscan Sun” is an unabashed feel-good “chick flick” (if that term makes you cringe, I’m with you), but the shots of dazzling Tuscan landscapes and charming but crumbling Italian villas make this movie worth the two hours.

“Roman Holiday”
The movie that kicked off Audrey Hepburn’s dynamo career is, in my opinion, the quintessential traveler’s flick. In “Roman Holiday,” Hepburn plays Princess Anne, who breaks from the royal life on tour of Rome and stumbles into an unexpected romance. Although the movie came out in 1953, a traveler in Rome today will find that few of the ancient sites featured in film have changed since “Roman Holiday” was in theaters.

“Solaris”
In all seriousness, if that crazy planet were real, I’d want to travel there (but on a less creepy space station). Fun fact: The futuristic earth city featured in the movie is actually Tokyo.

What are your favorite travel movies? Share your picks in the comments.

– written by Caroline Costello

blog birthdayIt’s our blog’s birthday! A year ago today, we kicked this thing off by blogging about the TSA’s take on turkey and mashed potatoes. Today, we’re looking back on a year of seatback debates, saddle seats and embarrassing travel gear, and marking our blogiversary with some marvelous prizes.

In honor of this momentous occasion, one blog subscriber picked at random will win a fabulous travel prize pack. Here’s what’s in the bundle:

- A Train Reaction Luggage Stabilizing Device

-A Powerstick USB-powered portable charger

-A travel toiletry organizer

-An IndependentTraveler.com travel neck pillow

-An IndependentTraveler.com logo T-shirt

If you haven’t subscribed to our blog yet, there’s still time. Enter your e-mail here or in the top-right corner of this page before Tuesday, August 2 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time for a chance to win. (We never share reader e-mail addresses. Read our Privacy Policy for more information. You may unsubscribe at any time if you decide our blog mailings are not right for you.)

Need more motivation to become a subscriber? Here are three fantastic reasons to subscribe to our blog:

1. Prizes! Loot! Spoils! In celebration of our birthday, one lucky subscriber’s going to win that big fat travel prize pack. But every week we shower even more material goods on our faithful readers. Win prizes by playing our weekly How Much Is This Hotel? contest. Stay tuned to this and other blog contests and giveaways by signing up.

2. Deals, Steals and Free Meals. Subscribers also receive our top Travel Deal of the Week in their inboxes. Recent money-saving offers we’ve unearthed include Tahiti flights for $980 roundtrip and a free $500 resort credit at Hyatt hotels.

3. Travel Tips Galore. We frequently reveal priceless little tips for traveling well on our blog. Need an easy tip for cutting gas costs this summer? Wondering how to pack necklaces without getting them all tangled up? Get our Travel Tip of the Week directly in your inbox by subscribing.

– written by Caroline Costello

family plane airplane sleep parents childEvery Wednesday, we’ll feature one practical travel tip here, on our blog. Get our clever weekly tips and other travel resources in your inbox by subscribing to our blog (top right) or signing up for our newsletter.

Between the lack of legroom, the desert-like air and that annoying little kid practicing his soccer kick against the back of your seat, it’s tough to get comfortable on a plane. And being too hot or too cold only makes things worse. In Five Things You Shouldn’t Wear on a Plane, Caroline Costello writes:

“Fliers must brave a multitude of temperature changes throughout their journeys. There’s the sweat-inducing jog through the sunny airport terminal, the warm 20 minutes while the plane sits on the tarmac pre-take-off and that in-flight arctic chill (against which paper-thin airline blankets do nothing). Layers are a traveler’s best weapon against such varying conditions. Furthermore, the more apparel you tie around your waist or throw over your shoulders, the fewer clothing items you need to ball up and stuff into your suitcase.”

With airplane blankets going the way of the dodo (especially on domestic flights), bringing an extra layer is vital for travelers who tend to get chilly as soon as the plane takes off. Just remember that some of these layers, such as coats or suit jackets, will need to be taken off when you go through airport security.

A scarf is another must-pack item for many travelers. Not only can it help keep you warm in a chilly airplane cabin, but it can also serve a number of other purposes, according to reader Pat Van Alstyne: “It can be a pillow if rolled up … it can be placed over your eyes [and] it can ward off foul odors if held under the nose. … (I also place a small dab of perfume on scarf to help with foul smells. One little dab does it!)”

See what else you should — and shouldn’t — wear on a plane.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

French PolynesiaEvery 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: Air Tahiti Nui is currently offering discounted fares from the West Coast to Papeete for as little as $980 roundtrip plus taxes and fees — a savings of 30 percent. The extra fees generally amount to just $92.60 roundtrip, bringing your total lowest possible roundtrip fare to $1,072.60. But, as this is an early-bird sale, travel isn’t valid until this fall, between November 1 and December 14.

Tahiti’s wet season starts in November and lasts through April, so if you take advantage of this deal you’ll be hitting the islands during low season. But not to worry — Tahiti’s like Hawaii. There’s not really a bad time to visit. Conditions will likely be humid and occasionally rainy, but crowds will be fewer and you’ll have a better shot at snapping up the more sought-after hotel rooms.

The Catch: Your tickets must be booked a whopping 120 days in advance, which shaves some time off that November 1 to December 14 travel period. According to my calculations, November 23 is 120 days from today’s date. The longer you wait before booking, the smaller your window of available travel dates becomes.

The Competition: We haven’t spotted a published fare from another airline that beats this price. But Air Tahiti Nui is offering another similar deal with a wider range of travel dates: fly from Los Angeles to Tahiti for just $965 roundtrip plus taxes and fees from November through May (with the exception of some blackout dates). The catch? Your trip must be quick. Travelers who book this deal may stay in Tahiti for no longer than five nights.

– written by Caroline Costello

airplanes travel planes sad suitcasesFrom the moment you book your plane ticket (want to select your seat in advance? That’ll be $10, please) to the day you roll up to the check-in counter and shell out $50 for your checked bags, the airlines leave no fee unturned. And this past weekend, most major U.S. airlines found yet another way to line their pockets at the expense of the flying public.

On Friday, Congress failed to pass legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. As of Saturday, FAA-funded construction projects have been put on hold, all non-essential employees have been furloughed and — most importantly for fliers — the agency has lost the ability to collect various taxes that normally go along with the purchase of a plane ticket.

Hurray! Cheaper airfare for everyone, right?

Well, no. Instead of passing the tax savings on to travelers, most major airlines are raising their fares to offset the cost of the taxes — and pocketing the difference. The Associated Press reports that American, United, Continental, Delta, US Airways, Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue have all increased their fares, typically by about 7.5 percent.

According to an earlier AP report, “Passengers who bought tickets before this weekend but travel during the FAA shutdown could be entitled to a refund of the taxes that they paid, said Treasury Department spokeswoman Sandra Salstrom. She said it’s unclear whether the government can keep taxes for travel at a time when it doesn’t have authority to collect the money.”

Editor’s Note: On August 5, the IRS announced that passengers will not be getting refunds for taxes paid during the FAA shutdown after all. You can read the IRS statement here.

There are a few airlines out there that are giving travelers a break, including Virgin America, Frontier, Alaska and Spirit. Yes, that’s the same Spirit we wrote about a couple of weeks ago as one of the ugliest airlines in the industry. But hey, we can give credit where it’s due. It’s nice to see Spirit making the customer-friendly choice for once.

As for the big guys, shame on them. Really, it’s no wonder we hate the airlines.



– written by Sarah Schlichter

atlantis house Here’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog (top right).

We have a winner. The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $275 per night. Justin, whose guess was spot on, has won an IndependentTraveler.com T-shirt.

The room pictured was the Master Suite at the Atlantis House, a Key West inn set just steps from the beach. Prices for the Master Suite range from $199 to $275 per night for two people. The Atlantis House is surrounded by tropical gardens, and offers a private pool, bike rentals, four-course “fresh catch” dinners and home-cooked key lime pie. Read more about the Atlantis House in Key West Weekend Getaways.

Check back this Friday for another shot at winning a prize.

– written by Caroline Costello

Every Friday, we’ll feature a photo of an unidentified hotel here, on our blog, and we want you to guess how much it costs to stay there. Leave your guess in the comments below, and you could win a prize. Get the answer in your inbox by subscribing to our blog (top right).

Want a free T-shirt? Guess the maximum standard nightly rate of the hotel room pictured below. Enter your guess in the comments, and be sure to include a valid e-mail address (so we can contact you in case you win). The first person to guess closest to the price of the room without going over wins an IndependentTraveler.com T-shirt. Here’s the room:



Here are three hints:

-This 600-square-foot room has 17-foot vaulted ceilings, a wet bar, a king-size bed, a Jacuzzi tub and an iPod docking station.

-This hotel is located near the beach on the island that is home to the southernmost point in the Continental U.S.

-Rates are based on double occupancy and do not include breakfast.

We’re looking for the maximum nightly price for two people as listed on the property’s Web site, excluding holidays, coupon codes or package rates. Enter your answer by Sunday night, July 24, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time to win. We’ll contact the winner and reveal the answer on Monday.

– written by Caroline Costello

 The Great Seatback Debate Last month, we asked our readers a simple question and were hit with a flood of fiery feedback: Is it rude to recline on an airplane? Opinions on this matter are divided, but it seems that every traveler has something to say about seatback etiquette — and a good chunk of them spilled their sentiments on our blog. Here’s a sample of what our opinionated readers shared:

The Recliners

A number of readers claimed that all passengers should be able to recline wherever they want and on whomever they want. Wrote Doug, “Reclining any time is fine, the button is there for a reason. You want more room? Buy a better seat.”

Ava declared, “If you don’t want someone reclining on you, buy first class. If you can’t afford it then we all have to take what we get. They do not go back that much in the first place. Shish!”

And according to Andy Sutton, “If I have paid for a ticket and the seat allows me to recline then frankly I will do it when I want, to the extent I want.”

The Anti-Recliners

“Do unto others” appears to be the creed of the upright fliers’ brigade. Wrote Matt Leonard, “Recline on me and I’ll recline on someone else. Seems like good justification. Otherwise, I’ll stay upright. Oh, left off the fact that whoever reclines in front of me will have zero chance of sleeping as I will knee the seat, or play with the tray should I catch them trying to relax. Stay upright and I’ll let you sleep in front of me.”

Wilson shares Matt’s karmic views: “I hate when people recline on me, so I have NEVER reclined on the person behind me, even if they are 5 feet tall with plenty of space.”

Neutral Territory

Despite the apparent polarizing effect of the Great Seatback Debate, some travelers were willing to compromise. Said Scott – Quirky Travel Guy, “Reclining a few inches is ok. Going all the way back is not. That’s just common sense and common courtesy!”

Soliteyah wrote, “If it’s an overnight flight, the cabin lights are dimmed, no food is being served … then I think it’s totally fine to recline! But during mealtimes, or if I have a very tall person behind me, then I probably wouldn’t do it.”

Susieq made an interesting proposition: “I suggest that passengers divide their time equally on a flight between reclining and staying upright, saving the poor soul behind them from a reclined seat for the duration of a flight.”

Did you join the debate yet? We want to hear from you! Tell us where you stand in the comments.

– written by Caroline Costello

Guam? Really? Yup, the 212-square-mile island in the Philippine Sea about midway between Japan and Hawaii is sixth on the top 10 list of U.S. states/territories most favored by overseas visitors last year. In 2010, Guam had 1.3 million overseas visitors, according to a list compiled by the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries — which defines “overseas visitors” as tourists from beyond the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Tiny Guam beat out Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas and New Jersey, numbers 7 – 10 in the list. Not surprisingly, New York took the top spot with 8.6 million foreign visitors, followed by Florida, California, Nevada and Hawaii. Makes sense. But what about Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Alaska? Nowhere to be found. Yet there sits Guam, as smack in the middle of the list as it is in the ocean.

guam hotel resort coast



guam ruined church ruin historic



guam beach sunset palm tree tropical



Sure, it has year-round tropical weather, lovely beaches and hospitable people. Its Chamorro culture is a stew of Spanish, Micronesian, Asian and Western influences — a heady mix you can taste in the island’s unique cuisine. And of course you’ll also find all the water sports, golfing and hiking you’d expect on an island.

So who’s going to Guam? According to the Guam Visitors Bureau, most tourists come from nearby Japan and South Korea (each just a three- to five-hour flight away). But you can get there from the continental U.S. too — though you’ll have to spend more than half a day on a plane and make at least one connection, typically in Honolulu. Once you get there, you can relax at a big-name resort (such as the Outrigger or the Westin), or stay at a more intimate property like the Guam Garden Villa, a B&B homestay.

You can also get to Guam by cruise ship. It’s a popular port for world cruises, with Princess and P&O among the lines visiting this year.

Have you been to Guam?

– written by Jodi Thompson