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plane on tarmacLast weekend, hundreds of passengers were stranded on the tarmac at Hartford’s Bradley International Airport for more than seven hours. The Associated Press reports that three JetBlue planes and one American Airlines plane, which were originally bound for New York, were diverted to Connecticut and then left on the tarmac for the better part of the day on Saturday.

A JetBlue spokesperson told the AP that the planes were kept on the tarmac due to a series of complications, including equipment failure and low visibility in New York. When the passengers eventually deplaned after an interminable wait, they had to look for spur-of-the-moment accommodations in Connecticut. Many fliers spent the night curled up in an airport terminal.

But here’s the scary part: Toilets were jammed and provisions were low onboard the stranded planes. One passenger told the Hartford Courant, “‘We ran out of water. The bathrooms are all clogged up and disgusting. The power would go off every 45 minutes or so for five minutes or so, and that would freak people out. … I’ve heard about these kind of stories.'”

We’ve heard stories like this too. This unfathomable ordeal would make fine fodder for Airplane Horror Stories, our collection of disturbing-but-true tales from the skies. So what’s the worst headache a person can endure when traveling by plane? You decide:

– written by Caroline Costello

Harbor House Bed and BreakfastHere’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog.

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $199 per night. Nancy James, who was the first person to guess correctly, has won an IndependentTraveler.com neck pillow.

The room pictured was the Sea Cloud Room at the Harbor House Bed and Breakfast in Georgetown, South Carolina. This historic 18th-century inn sits on a bluff overlooking Winyah Bay — and several rooms have pretty water views. Read more about the Harbor House B&B in Myrtle Beach 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.

What’s the price of a stay in a Southern B&B near the water? 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 travel neck pillow. Here’s the room:



Here are three little hints to help you win:

-This historic inn, which was built in the 18th century, overlooks Winyah Bay.

-This room features a king-size bed, a sitting area and a view of the bay. A complimentary breakfast is included in the rates.

-This property is located in one of the oldest cities in South Carolina.

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, October 30, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time to win. We’ll contact the winner and reveal the answer on Monday.

– written by Caroline Costello

computer criminalThink twice about revealing travel plans to your Facebook friends; some might be more interested in your vacant home than your vacation photos.

A New Jersey man reportedly used information posted on the Internet to carry out a home burglary against one of his Facebook friends. According to the Express-Times in Lehigh Valley, PA, 36-year-old Steven Pieczynski is accused of breaking into a Newtown, Pennsylvania home on September 27 while the homeowners were traveling. He was arrested yesterday at his place of employment.

Pieczynski, who is Facebook friends with the victims, learned of their upcoming vacation plans over the social networking site. When he found out that his home-owning Internet chums were going out of town, he took the opportunity to strike.

As the break-in was taking place, watchful neighbors noticed a suspicious-looking vehicle parked near the victims’ home. Neighbors recorded the license plate number of the strange car and gave the information to police after learning about the burglary; this led to Pieczynski’s arrest, ultimately proving that a few good neighbors trump several hundred online acquaintances any day of the week.

In a press release issued by the Office of the Hunterdon County Prosecutor, the New Jersey prosecutor handling the case, Anthony P. Kearns, warns travelers to refrain from advertising their vacation plans on Facebook. Says Kearns, “I commend the neighbors who were vigilant and recorded the vehicle information leading to the arrest of the defendant. At the same time, I want to take this opportunity to remind people to never post their vacation plans on any Internet Web site.”

We second that. In Keep Your Home Safe on Vacation, we impart the following tip: “Think twice about posting your detailed vacation plans on Twitter or Facebook — especially if that information is visible to Internet users other than your friends and family (and it probably is). Be careful what you say on your answering machine or voice mail too. Callers don’t need to know that you’re not home — they just need to know that you can’t come to the phone right now.”

If you must share your travel plans on Facebook, put the site’s privacy controls to good use. Manage who views your posts by sorting your Facebook friends into customized groups. For example, you can create a “Family” group of relatives and close buddies in the Privacy Settings section of your Facebook account. Then, when posting a status update on your wall, use the audience-selector dropdown menu to choose the Family group. Only those whom you’ve pegged as family will be able to see what you’ve posted.

– written by Caroline Costello

 Jack the CatJack, the fluffy orange feline that disappeared in John F. Kennedy International Airport about two months ago, has finally surfaced.

On August 25, Jack escaped from his pet carrier in the baggage area of JFK. The cat’s owner, Karen Pascoe, had checked Jack and a second cat for an American Airlines flight to California. Shortly after turning over her two pets, Pasco received an alarming call. An airline employee informed Pasco that one of her cats had somehow gotten out of his carrier. Jack had been unaccounted for until yesterday.

A note on the American Airlines Facebook page reports, “Jack was found in the customs room and was immediately taken by team members to a local veterinarian. American’s priority was advising Jack’s owner, Ms Pascoe, which occurred immediately after he was identified. Now we are also happy to advise all other Friends of Jack of this news.”

The “Friends of Jack” to whom American refers include more than 17,000 Facebook followers — many of whom have expressed growing anger toward the airline over the past nine weeks. Supporters declared October 15 and 22 “Jack the Cat Awareness Day,” and volunteers gathered at JFK to pass out flyers and search for the missing pet.

According to the official Jack the Cat Facebook page, Jack is currently receiving medical care at a veterinarian’s office in Queens, New York. The cat has been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, a severe illness that can occur as a result of malnourishment.

Jack’s journey is far from over. Upon recovery, the cat will fly to California to be reunited with his owner. American Airlines has offered to fly Jack home for free. But something tells us Jack might prefer a different carrier.

Traveling with a pet can have its pitfalls, and Jack’s dramatic story certainly serves as a cautionary tale to travelers thinking about checking an animal on a flight. For useful tips on hitting the road with a furry companion, read Traveling with Pets.

– written by Caroline Costello

tip coins restaurantEvery 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 or signing up for our newsletter.

One of the most enduring travel conundrums is figuring out whom to tip and how much. Should you tell your Moroccan cabbie to keep the change, or tack an extra 10 percent onto your New Zealand restaurant bill? (The answers, in case you’re keeping score at home: yes and no.)

If you’re feeling clueless in a new country, it may seem only logical to ask whether a tip is appropriate. Resist the urge, writes Caroline Costello in Tips for Tipping Abroad:

“A common mistake made by travelers is asking their service person if he or she requires a tip. Not only does this present a conflict of interest to a cash-strapped service person who doesn’t normally take tips, but in countries where saying what you mean is not the social norm, a clueless traveler may end up stiffing a polite waiter or bellhop. For example, in India, a service person whose income is mostly generated by tips may say that he or she requires no gratuity out of modesty and good manners. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tip if it’s the acceptable practice in your destination!”

A good guidebook will always offer advice on how much to tip and under which circumstances; you can also find this sort of information on sites like the Magellan’s Worldwide Tipping Guide. But if you’ve arrived in your destination unprepared, you can ask about tipping norms, as long as you don’t ask your waiter. The staff at the local visitor center or your hotel front desk should be able to assist you.

For more help, see our guides to Hotel Tipping and Tipping Etiquette.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

breakfastEvery 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 or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: This Veterans Day, hundreds of B&B’s across the U.S. and Canada are honoring servicemen and servicewomen with free accommodations. Properties that have signed up for the B&B’s for Vets program are offering complimentary one-night stays for active military and veterans as well as their companions for the night of Thursday, November 10. The icing on the pancake? Veterans can start their mornings with a plate of home-cooked eggs or French toast at properties that offer breakfast on the house.

The Catch: More than 500 American B&B’s have signed up for the program in addition to more than 215 Canadian B&B’s. But rooms are filling up fast, so it’s best to book your stay as soon as possible. According to a press release from the B&B’s for Vets program, “While some [inns] have already filled, new inns and B&B’s are being added daily.”

The Competition: There are other Veterans Day deals to be found next month. Many chain restaurants, including Applebee’s and Chili’s, will offer free meals and other discounts to active military and veterans on November 11. Here’s one of our favorite Veterans Day perks: Everyone — even those who didn’t serve in the military — can get free admission at more than 100 U.S. national parks the weekend of Veterans Day, from November 11 through 13.

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

– written by Caroline Costello

Long shadows flickered before me as I walked through the dank, subterranean passages of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. During my recent two-hour Historic Tour, I crouched and twisted my way through the cramped alleys of Fat Man’s Misery, checked out a massive block of rock aptly dubbed Giant’s Coffin, and faced the gaping maw known as the Bottomless Pit.

mammoth cave


With more than 365 miles of discovered passageways, Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest cave system, and geologists believe there could be hundreds of miles yet to discover. Compared with caves I’d visited previously, Mammoth felt a little different — and not just because of its size. “It feels like walking through a big salt mine,” said my travel companion after we’d hiked more than an hour without seeing a single stalactite or hearing the trickle of water seeping down the limestone walls.

But this is a good thing, our National Park Service guide told us, at least for the future longevity of the cave. Mammoth does have some water-carved formations such as stalagmites and stalactites, but much of the cave system is actually sheltered from water by a “roof” of sandstone, which keeps it dry and protected.

historic entrance mammoth cave


Mammoth may not have the exquisitely colored formations that draw visitors to other caves, but it does have a fascinating history. Back in the 1800’s, African-American slaves were among Mammoth’s first tour guides and explorers. (Visit the cave’s Web site, NPS.gov/maca, to learn more.) I was particularly drawn to the story of Stephen Bishop, who began guiding visitors at age 17 and later was the first person to cross the Bottomless Pit and chart the previously undiscovered passageways beyond. After nearly two decades in the caves, Bishop was given his freedom — but he died the following year.

mammoth cave national park fall foliage trees


After you emerge, squinting, from the cool darkness underground, don’t forget to enjoy the other half of Mammoth’s ecosystem. Visitors can soak up some sun and fresh air on a network of wooded hiking trails.

The 10 Best National Parks

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Victorian HotelHere’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog.

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $99 CAD. Dorinda, who got the answer right on the nose, has won an IndependentTraveler.com T-shirt.

The room pictured was an economy guestroom with one double bed at the Victorian Hotel in downtown Vancouver. This boutique property is just a few minutes’ walk from lots of popular Vancouver attractions, including the Convention Centre, the Robson Shopping District and Rogers Sports Arena. While the hotel offers budget accommodations with rooms starting at $99 CAD per night (about $98 as of this posting), luxury guestrooms featuring pillow-top beds and marble bathrooms are also available (prices range from $139 CAD to $189 CAD per night). Read more about the Victorian Hotel in Vancouver Essentials.

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.

What’s the price of a night in a coastal Canadian metropolis? Enter your guess in Canadian dollars 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 little hints to help you win:

-This room has one double bed, hardwood floors, free Wi-Fi, an iPod docking station and a private bathroom.

-This historic hotel dates back to the 19th century.

-This property is centrally located in Canada’s third most populous city.

We’re looking for the maximum nightly price in CAD for two people as listed on the property’s Web site, excluding holidays, coupon codes or package rates. Enter your answer by Sunday night, October 23, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time to win. We’ll contact the winner and reveal the answer on Monday.

– written by Caroline Costello