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What’s going on in this photo? Come up with a clever caption for this adorable travel pic and you could win an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug.

little girl map


To enter, drop your wittiest one-liner (or two-liner, or three-liner…) in the comments by Sunday night, April 1, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. We’ll contact the winner and reveal our favorite caption on Monday.

Do you have a funny or bizarre photo that we could use for a future caption contest? Send it to us at feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put “Caption Contest” in the subject line.) If we feature your photo on our blog, we’ll send you a prize.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Every traveler I know has a must-visit list a mile long. Back in college, I actually wrote mine out on multiple pieces of paper, with destinations neatly separated by continent. (Yes, I’m a nerd. Why do you ask?)

Honestly, there are few places I wouldn’t go if given the chance. But there’s a handful of destinations, trips, experiences that I can’t seem to get out of my head. Some of them I can’t afford — yet. Others are just waiting for me to make them happen. For your inspiration (and mine!), here’s a sampling.

Tibet, for spectacular mountain vistas and a gentle Buddhist culture:

tibet lhasa



Uganda, to see gorillas in the wild:

gorilla



Jerusalem, for its rich culture and centuries of history:

jerusalem souk



Antarctica, for otherworldly landscapes and unique wildlife:

antarctica penguins



Prince Edward Island, Canada, to satisfy the young girl inside me that still loves the “Anne of Green Gables” books:

prince edward island beach boardwalk



9 Places You Haven’t Visited — But Should

I’ve shown you mine — now it’s your turn. Which places and experiences top your travel bucket list?

– written by Sarah Schlichter

As if we needed any confirmation — there isn’t an ounce of complacency left in fliers.

On Tuesday, passengers on a JetBlue flight from JFK to Vegas used their weight and two kinds of belts — seat and pant — to subdue an unhinged pilot who had what’s being described as a mid-flight meltdown.

After Clayton Osbon was locked out of the cockpit by a co-pilot who told FAA investigators that the captain was exhibiting “erratic behavior,” Osbon fumed and seethed about Iraq, Iran and Al Qaeda, beseeched passengers to pray, and said the plane was in immediate danger of being shot down. He called for a landing.

Osbon got his wish. With four passengers restraining the still-ranting captain, his colleagues, including an off-duty JetBlue pilot who was onboard, made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas.

While the fliers-turned-security detail — reportedly comprising a retired police sergeant, a security exec and two others — held Osbon down, another passenger filmed the chaos in the cabin with a cell phone. The grainy visual won’t win any awards for in-flight cinematography, but the audio offers a glimpse into the chaotic scene at 35,000 feet. Following that video is a short clip of Osbon being removed from the plane.





The Christian Science Monitor reported today that Osbon, a 12-year pilot for JetBlue, has been charged with “interfering with crew-member instructions.” A CBS report published before the formal charges were issued now rings bizarre but true — it said that Osban could become the “first airline pilot accused of interfering with his own flight.”

Pending an investigation, JetBlue has suspended Osban from flying. CBS reports that FBI investigators are waiting to listen to the cockpit conversation preceding the incident captured on the plane’s “black box.”

Airplane Horror Stories

JetBlue CEO Dave Barger, who appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” Wednesday, called the incident a “medical situation that turned into a security one,” said Reuters. Osbon, whom Barger called a consummate professional that he’s known for years, is in federal custody at a medical facility in Amarillo.

This latest incident comes less than three weeks after an American Airlines flight attendant was subdued by passengers and de-planed after ranting about September 11 and saying the plane was going to crash. The AA jet was on the ground at the time.

Do incidents like these make you more nervous about flying?

– written by Dan Askin

duct tape super heroWe all know one person who makes the yearly trek to, say, the Philadelphia Folk Festival or Burning Man. They wouldn’t miss the opportunity to pitch their tent in the Schwenksville mud or the Black Rock City dirt. It’s all about the music at Old Pool Farm or the — um — art in the Nevada desert.

However, we can’t quite wrap our heads around the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival in Ohio. Duct tape? Sure, it’s great for travel mishaps, such as securing a broken piece of luggage, and we’ve all used it around the house. We’ve even chuckled at the creativity of folks who fashion a wallet or dress out of the sticky stuff. But a three-day festival? Stick me to my seat! There’s even a parade that starts at the high school and ends at the cemetery. We might need a six-inch piece of the stuff to tape our mouths shut so we don’t scream.

The World’s Weirdest Museums

If celebrating duct tape is your thing, the ninth annual Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival will be held June 15 – 17 in Avon, Ohio, the home of Duck Tape brand duct tape. The Father’s Day weekend event claims to draw more than 40,000 duct tape enthusiasts, likely helped by its lack of admission or parking fees. The first 500 attendees will even receive a free roll. (We’re just a bit concerned how that roll might be used by the end of the day when festival goers get tired and cranky with each other.)

The theme this year is Duck Tape on Safari, so there will surely be liberal use of the company’s zebra- and leopard-patterned tapes on the parade floats and at the crafts table. There will be a free animal show (live animals, sans tape). And to make the festival even more irresistible, an artist will display his duct-tape portraits of Bob Dylan, Mother Teresa and other celebs. We can’t make this stuff up.

If you’re looking to add a few more quirky events to your calendar, consider these equally intriguing festivals. The SuperHero Street Fair is held in San Francisco in August. Just imagine donning your Spider-Man jammies and joining all the other boys and girls in their Batman codpieces and Super Woman bustiers. We certainly hope they secure all rooftop access doors to prevent overzealous leaping of tall buildings in a single bound.

No super powers? Visit the Gilroy Garlic Festival in nearby Gilroy, California, and you’ll be able to repel people in a single breath. Or try another natural repellent by waiting until October for the Alabama Butterbean Festival. Either may come in handy at the Great Texas Mosquito Festival in July.

16 Ways You Know You’re Addicted to Travel

How about you? Is there an annual festival you never miss? One you’ve always wanted to attend?

– written by Jodi Thompson

blue footed booby galapagosThanks to everyone who participated in last Friday’s photo caption contest. We received some great submissions, but our favorite was from Therese Lemay, who wrote, “Why am I the only one in the conga line?” Therese has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug!

Runners-up that we also loved:

“Look out, Louboutin! Blue is the new red!” — Donna

“Hot sand, hot sand!!!!” — Gary

“Uh, you were expecting penguins????” — Marlaine

To see the rest of the submissions, click here.

Do you have a funny or bizarre photo that we could use for a future caption contest? Send it to us at feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put “Caption Contest” in the subject line.) If we feature your photo on our blog, we’ll send you a prize.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

What’s going on in this photo? Come up with a clever caption for this zany travel pic and you could win an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug.

blue footed booby galapagos


To enter, drop your wittiest one-liner (or two-liner, or three-liner…) in the comments by Sunday night, March 25, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. We’ll contact the winner and reveal our favorite caption on Monday.

Do you have a funny or bizarre photo that we could use for a future caption contest? Send it to us at feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put “Caption Contest” in the subject line.) If we feature your photo on our blog, we’ll send you a prize.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

tingo.comWe all hate to pay more than we have to. So even when there’s nothing we can do about it, we might linger at the check-in desk in hopes of hearing the room rate that another customer is paying. If it’s less, we fume, sulk or worse. We want the best price possible!

The problem is that room rates go up and down every day. They may drop to fill last-minute vacancies. They may go up to reflect busier days or seasons. While trying to get the best deal you may find yourself walking the line between waiting to see if rates go down and wanting to book now to lock in a rate — or reserve the room.

How to Get the Best Hotel Rate

There’s a solution to this tightrope walk. Tingo, launched yesterday by our sister site Smarter Travel, makes certain that we don’t pay more than we should. The hotel booking site provides a worldwide hotel search powered by Expedia. When you book through Tingo, if the total price of your reservation drops by $1 or more, the site automatically rebooks you for free at the lower rate. After you check out, you’ll get a refund on your credit card within a few days — without having to lift a finger.

This may sound a bit like Orbitz’s policy of offering a refund if another customer books the same room on the same day at a lower price, but Tingo doesn’t require an actual booking at the lower rate in order for you to get a refund. The room must merely be offered at a lower rate.


According to the Web site, during the last 30 days prices have dropped on 467 hotels in Paris an average of $10.12, 270 hotels in London an average of $18.82 and 218 hotels in New York City an average of $49.44. We like the sound of that refund.

What Not to Do at Your Hotel

What we didn’t like:

-You must prepay the full cost of your stay when you book.

-The refund is offered only on select rooms and is limited by the hotel’s cancellation policy.

What we liked:

-We don’t have to do anything to get the refund.

– Web access will soon be complemented by an app for smartphones and tablets.

-We know we’re getting the best price.

-We’re not paying more than that other customer at the check-in desk.

– written by Jodi Thompson

holiday inn expressAs a traveler, I’m bewitched by B&B’s. Entranced by independent inns. Lured to local lodging like pensiones in Italy or ryokans in Japan. If it’s quirky, charming, intimate or unique, I want to stay there. I like getting a taste of local color, and putting my vacation dollars toward independently owned businesses instead of big international hotel corporations.

And yet, even though it goes against my independent traveler ethos, sometimes I just can’t resist staying in a chain hotel.

This happened most recently on a trip to Los Angeles, which I was attempting to explore without a car. If I didn’t want to spend a fortune on taxis, I had to find a hotel within walking distance of the Metro — preferably one that was clean and had positive reviews from previous travelers. And, naturally, I didn’t want to break the budget either.

I had to pass up a few intriguing B&B’s and boutique hotels because of inconvenient locations or high rates. But I finally struck gold at the Holiday Inn Express – Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was just a few blocks from the Metro and offered free Wi-Fi and hot breakfast. It wasn’t the most interesting place I’ve ever stayed, but the room was clean, the Internet was fast and the price was right ($160/night for a location near Hollywood’s most popular sights).

See More Los Angeles Hotels

Chain hotels often have other benefits as well, like loyalty programs, fitness centers and the simple security of knowing what to expect when you arrive (which can be reassuring when you’re thrown into a wholly unfamiliar place).

Which type of lodging do you prefer? Vote in the poll below or share your thoughts in the comments.

What Not to Do at a Hotel

– written by Sarah Schlichter

royce leather RFID passport walletAs if travelers didn’t have enough to worry about. In addition to money belts to help us hide passports and credit cards under our clothes, there’s now a whole new line of travel gear to protect the electronic data stored on those documents.

Take the Royce RFID-Blocking Passport Wallet. This attractive leather case, which retails for $34, is designed to protect travelers against identity theft.

Since 2007, all U.S. passports have been issued with a small electronic chip embedded in the back cover. The chip uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to store information, including all of the identifying data printed on the front page of your passport, as well as a biometric identifier — a digital image of the passport photograph that can be used for facial recognition technology when you cross international borders. The information in the chip is transmitted via radio waves when the passport is scanned by an RFID reader.

The Best Way to Carry Money Overseas

Your passport may not be the only document you carry that has an RFID chip; many newer credit cards have them as well. (If you’re not sure, look for the term “PayPass” printed on your MasterCard, “expresspay” on your AmEx or “payWave” on your Visa — or call your credit card company.)

The rise in RFID technology has raised concerns about just how securely these chips store our information. Anyone with an RFID reader who gets close enough to the chip would in theory be able to read the embedded data — including card numbers and expiration dates — even through clothing or a purse.

royce leather RFID passport walletDoes this mean you should race out and purchase an RFID-blocking wallet? Not necessarily. The U.S. State Department offers a detailed description of the security features of its electronic passports here, which explains that the passports themselves have RFID-blocking metal built into the cover — so the chip can’t be read unless the passport is opened.

I think a protective wallet would be more useful for credit cards, which seem to be at greater risk for data skimming. The cheapskates among us can also block RFID readers by wrapping their cards in aluminum foil — if you’re willing to lose a few style points.

Four Common Travel Disasters and How to Prevent Them

– written by Sarah Schlichter

hiker weird funny view jungleThanks to everyone who participated in last Friday’s photo caption contest. We received some great submissions, but our favorite was from Amber DeGrace, who wrote, “I don’t want to look, but there is something in my pants right now. Something with teeth. Please. Send. Help.” Amber has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug!

Runners-up that we also loved:

“I climbed all the way up here, only to find out, the battery in my camera is dead!” — Shelley Snider

“Jeff Probst didn’t tell me I couldn’t check the stock market here.” — Elaine

And the following caption came in on our brand-new Pinterest account. (Fellow pinners, please feel free to follow us!)

“I thought you said DO wipe with leaves of three!!” — Maria V on Pinterest

To see the rest of the submissions, click here.

Do you have a funny or bizarre photo that we could use for a future caption contest? Send it to us at feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put “Caption Contest” in the subject line.) If we feature your photo on our blog, we’ll send you a prize.

– written by Sarah Schlichter