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

lion south africa


To enter, drop your wittiest one-liner (or two-liner, or three-liner…) in the comments by Sunday night, September 30, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. We’ll contact the winner and reveal our favorite caption on Monday. Remember, keep it clean; please be sure to abide by our community guidelines when commenting.

Today’s photo was snapped by reader Tracey Campbell in South Africa’s Kariega Game Reserve. 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

beerI’m a teetotaler. My husband is a beer aficionado. This makes for some interesting travel planning. He’d be content to tour every brewery and stop in every pub. Me, not so much. But I love that he loves to experience different beers when traveling, so I try to find beer-related places we can both visit and enjoy wherever we can go.

The best beer experience we’ve had so far – and I’m pretty sure I speak for both of us on this one – was a tour of the Guinness Brewery in Ireland. Some of the highlights included the museum of Guinness advertisements throughout the years, and a learn-to-pour-the-perfect-pint instructional session.

I’ve recently been told that the brewery tour experiences at Heineken in Amsterdam and Sam Adams in Boston also are a lot of fun, so I’m putting them on our list of possible vacation destinations.

Here are three other beer experiences I’d be up for if ever the chance arises.

Beer Bathing
Apparently, the very same hops that are used for making beer also are good for one’s skin, at least according to some dozen spas in Germany and the Czech Republic that tout the rejuvenating and anti-toxin benefits of beer bathing. Since it takes very little arm-twisting to get me to a spa, I’m thinking an overnight visit to, say the Chodovar Brewery in the Czech Republic could be a great vacation stop for the both of us. There we could soak in a water and beer bath for two, and afterward he can have a drink while I get a massage.

How to Save Money on Food When You Travel

Beer Trails
While neither my husband nor I are regular hikers, we both enjoy the occasional hike when traveling. I’d venture a guess that one of my husband’s favorite parts of the hike is the cold beer when it’s over, so being able to stop at different points along a hike to enjoy a frosty brew would probably be heaven for him. And I wouldn’t mind stopping every so often to relax and take in the scenery, especially if that scenery consists of castles. That’s why the 13-kilometer beer trail in Franconian Switzerland in Germany would be the ideal place for us. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this area, made up of the city triangle of Bamberg, Bayreuth and Nuremberg, has the highest density of small breweries in the world. Since the trail can stretched out over the course of a couple of days, we could easily – and happily – combine hikes with beer breaks and castle visits.

Beer Festivals
I’m not sure if I’d ever want to venture to Germany during Oktoberfest, but I certainly don’t mind giving smaller beer festivals a go. In fact, I enjoy choosing beers that have funny names or weird sounding ingredients and asking my husband to try them. We’ve been to a few local beer festivals as well as one in Brasov, Romania (where we used to live), so I’m definitely up for the idea of incorporating a beer festival into our travel plans. One that might be interesting to visit would be the San Diego International Beer Festival, which takes place at the end of June and claims to offer a greater variety of beer than any U.S. festival west of Denver. Another one I’d love to attend is the Nottingham Robin Hood Beer Festival in England held in mid-October.

– written by Dori Saltzman

secure-cell-phone-appPlane tickets, hotel reservations, copies of your passport and credit cards: Would you trust your most sensitive travel documents to a cell phone app? We were skeptical, so we tested it for ourselves.

We first checked out Web site www.personal.com, where we created an account and added “gems” — categories under which you can upload and save everything from contacts to bank statements. (For our purposes, we tested out the travel gem, where we stored passport copies, trip itineraries and flight information.)

Essential Travel Apps

Overall, we found the site a little tricky to use — there are still some pages we can’t figure out how to get back to — but the cell phone app, available for iPhone and Android, proved a bit easier to navigate. The app allows you to easily access your important information on the go, even while abroad, without incurring crazy international fees. The best part? It’s free to download.

So, how secure is it? Personal.com’s Web site promises all information is encrypted, and your account is also protected by a username-and-password login combination. There are ways to share gems, but much like Facebook, users have to request to share information with other users before it can be seen by others, and each user has the right to deny said requests.

As part of its newest software updates, Apple has released a program called Passbook, which, through various applications, offers functions similar to those afforded by Personal.com. We haven’t had much time to test it out, but it seems these sorts of paper-saving features are becoming more common.

Overall, we’re still unsure how safe these services are — especially if a phone containing sensitive documents were lost or stolen — but they sure do make traveling a lot more convenient.

Have you used applications like this? If not, would you consider it? If so, how was your experience? We welcome your comments below.

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

biking indianapolisBe you leisure or business traveler, you’ve probably been here: in a new city with a day to see it.

The best way to do it? Get on a bicycle.

The Dutch, Germans and Chinese might shrug at America’s urban bicycling “revolution,” but an increasing number of U.S. cities are introducing bike share programs, carving bike-only lanes from roads and generally promoting two-wheeled transportation. There’s even a political action committee, Bikes Belong, that supports bike-friendly candidates.

I’ll steer clear from politics, but will say this: There is no more efficient, invigorating way to see a city in a day.

At a recent Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) conference in Indianapolis, I cycled the city’s $60-odd million Cultural Trail, a 7.5-mile route that took our group on a leisurely tour past museums, canals, monuments, restaurants and purpose-built art installations. Having your own bike/pedestrian lane is something of a confidence booster. I got a better feel for Indy, a compact, accessible city (if not the stuff of bucket list day dreams), in five hours than I did in the other five days I was there. It was also good to get the heart pumping after so many SunKing IPAs.

Bike Tours and Trips

The city doesn’t yet have an automated bike share program, something found in Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Miami. This approach, however, generally places an emphasis on returning bikes to hubs within an allotted time period (or paying a surcharge). Mapping out a full-day route vis-a-vis bike hubs does require some planning. An app makes it easier.

Renting a bike for the day or a half day takes out some of the stress.

However you roll, be aware of the road rules and the reputation. The cohabitation of cars and bikes is a relatively new phenomenon in U.S. cities, and bike lanes aren’t a constant. You will have to share the road with wary drivers, and rules for cyclists vary by city. “I didn’t know” might not convince a police officer from handing out a citation.

Disclaimers aside, tell us: What’s the best city you’ve ever cycled in?

– written by Dan Askin

istanbul mosque birdsLast week I returned from a trip to Europe that involved visits to a couple of places in Italy as well as a stop in Turkey. “I’m worried about you going to Turkey,” my mom nervously told me over the phone before my plane took off. Because it’s near the Middle East, she had lumped it in with some of the less stable locations in that region and was concerned it was unsafe — even before the recent attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

Sadly, I’ve spoken with several others — granted, not frequent travelers — who expressed the same sense of alarm when I mentioned where I was going, and I’ve received more than one reader e-mail asking whether it’s wise to embark on cruise ship shore excursions in certain locations, such as Greece and South Africa, that I wouldn’t necessarily consider to be at risk.

Travel Warnings and Advisories

As a Turkey newbie, I had no preconceived ideas, but I was pleasantly surprised by how modern it is and how friendly and welcoming its residents proved to be. I felt no less safe than when I’ve traveled to other European countries — Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, etc. Even our tour guide told us the country gets a bad rap, despite the absence of U.S. State Department travel warnings there.

While I take basic precautions and trust my instincts when I travel, I try to avoid allowing fear to keep me from visiting the places on my bucket list.

Have you visited someplace about which others were wrongly concerned? Have you traveled to a supposedly questionable area and found the danger to be blown out of proportion? Leave your comments below.

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

I still remember the first time I saw the movie “Koyaanisqatsi” back in the 80’s. It was my first introduction to time-lapse film, and I found the combination of sped-up images and music to be moving in a way few things are.

Today time-lapse video is more common, and a quick search through YouTube turns up videos of flowers growing, children aging and buildings developing. But my favorite videos are those that show mountains, lakes, monuments or cities over the course of a day or week in just a minute’s worth of time.

Forget flipping through a picture book — I never want more to travel than after watching a day unfold somewhere in the world I haven’t yet been.

Here are a few time-lapse travel videos that will inspire you to travel.

Speeding Around The World in Under 5 Minutes

This time-lapse video spans 17 countries visited over the course of 343 days. Among the countries highlighted are England, France, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Thailand and Uruguay.



New York City
A great time-lapse glimpse at the city that never sleeps.



Around Paris
Some of Paris’ most iconic sights zip through time in this video.



Enjoyed these? Check out Get Inspired: Around the World in Eight Amazing Videos.

– written by Dori Saltzman

plane crashThose of us stuck in coach on every flight now have a silver lining to console us as we wedge ourselves into those cramped seats: we may be more likely than first-class passengers to survive a plane crash.

This was the primary takeaway from a recent safety study in which scientists crashed a Boeing 727 into a desert in Mexico, reports the U.K.’s Daily Mail. “During the $1.5 million experiment — which was arranged by Channel 4 and television production company Dragonfly — the first 11 rows of seats ripped out as the nose of the plane dipped and the front of the fuselage sheared off,” says the Daily Mail.

Because the front rows are where first-class passengers are normally seated, the scientists noted that no one in the more expensive cabin would have survived the crash. However, 78 percent of the remaining passengers would have survived — and the farther back in the plane they were, the better their chances.

Five Foods to Avoid Before Flying

The study also found that the “brace” position, in which passengers prepare for impact by bending forward to touch their heads to the seats in front, does offer meaningful protection in the event of a crash. The scientists included dummies in three positions during the experiment: one in the brace position and wearing a seatbelt, one sitting upright with a seatbelt fastened, and one not wearing a seatbelt. According to the Daily Mail, “The dummy in the brace position would have survived the impact, the one not in the brace would have suffered serious head injuries, and the dummy not wearing a [seatbelt] would have perished.”

While the success of the brace position has been corroborated by multiple researchers, the equation of “back of the plane = safer” is not quite as conclusive. One study by Popular Mechanics supports the idea that the rear of the plane is safer, while a British Civil Aviation Authority/Greenwich University study found that passengers near the front of the plane were more likely to escape a crash-induced fire. Boeing’s own Web site simply says, “One seat is as safe as another, especially if you stay buckled up.” Survival rates vary widely depending on the circumstances of each crash.

Best Airports for Layovers

So what’s a safety-minded traveler to do? Being in or near an exit row is generally a good idea, and fliers sitting in the aisle seats may be more easily able to escape than those who are in less accessible window seats. Wherever you’re sitting, read the safety card, know the location of your nearest exit, keep your seatbelt fastened and follow all crew instructions in the event of an emergency.

Would this study make you think twice about upgrading to first class?

– written by Sarah Schlichter

broken down carThanks to everyone who participated in last Friday’s photo caption contest. We received some great submissions, but our favorite was from
Lorraine, who wrote, “Should I tell him or let him figure it out himself? The trunk is in the rear!” Lorraine has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug.

Runners-up that we also loved:

“Praying over the engine won’t get us to Cheyenne. You’ll have to stop at a service station and purchase more gasoline!” — Diane C. Walters

“The Horse-power whisperer.” — Mike Marino

“Uh-oh. The squirrels are gone. So much for organic hybrids.” — Dan Wingo

To see all 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 funny travel pic and you could win an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug.

broken down car


To enter, drop your wittiest one-liner (or two-liner, or three-liner…) in the comments by Sunday night, September 16, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. We’ll contact the winner and reveal our favorite caption on Monday. Remember, keep it clean: please be sure to abide by our community guidelines when commenting.

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

van soye family 2003Most young American adults have a limited “understanding of the world beyond their country’s borders,” according to the National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literary Study.

Understanding geography is something travelers take for granted. It’s both a requirement and a side effect of travel. For Sandy and Darren Van Soye, it is a passion.

In 2003, the couple took their daughters, then ages 10 and 12, on a nearly five-month trip around the world. Through e-mails to their teachers, the family shared the voyage with the entire school. Classmates loved the missives from across the globe, and the experience changed the Van Soye daughters.

“Both girls came home understanding where places are and that much of the world lives differently than they do in California. They had more confidence and were also not afraid of interacting with adults,” said Sandy.

Years later, the couple read that 29 percent of U.S. 18- to 24-year-olds could not find the Pacific Ocean on an unlabeled map. “We decided then and there to find a way to give back as we travel, to hopefully get kids around the globe excited about geography,” said Darren.

van soyes 2012The couple saved for seven years to take a 14-month trip to 50 countries on six continents. Now 229 days into their trip, they have covered 36,000 miles, hiking to some of the most remote places on Earth between visits to cities and towns. Lest you think the extensive trip is just a scheme to acquire bounteous frequent flier miles, the Van Soyes stay “close to the ground” using local public transportation (bus, train, ferry) whenever possible. Their goal is to experience the world more closely and minimize their carbon footprint.

8 Ways Green Travel Can Save You Money

Far from being just a vacation, however, the Van Soyes are using their excursion as a “teaching moment” for 55,000+ schoolchildren across the globe. Some 850 educators from 20 countries are following the Van Soyes’ journey with their students on the couple’s Web site, Trekking the Planet. There are also 300 or more “armchair travelers,” many of whom are fellow cruisers (the Van Soyes, avid cruisers, have incorporated five Princess cruises into their itinerary so far).

The couple provides weekly newsletters with a country-specific educational module, an article or two and often a video. “The goal is to establish a two-way link with students where they can witness first-hand the world ‘out there’ and even pose and receive answers to their questions in near real time,” said Sandy. The materials are free and accessible via their Web site as well as Facebook (Facebook.com/TrekkingPlanet) and Twitter (@TrekkingPlanet).

They’ve visited schools in American Samoa, Thailand, Laos, Nepal and Latvia so far. “The schools in Laos were some of the most remote places we have visited – the buildings were made of bamboo and had dirt floors. But to see the kids’ faces as we talked about our journey made the trip worth it! During our visits, we always ask the students questions that we received from the classrooms that are following us,” said Sandy.

“Technology has changed so much since our last trip in 2003. Last time, we used a stylus-based Casio Cassiopeia to write our e-mails and resize our photos. We used Internet cafes to send the e-mails along with our photos. Now we can do the whole thing with our smartphones,” said Darren.

Traveling with a Smartphone: Cut Costs Overseas

The Van Soyes are doing their part — first for their children, now for the world’s children — to broaden the understanding of young people, helping them prepare for a future that is, as the Roper report says, increasingly global.

– written by Jodi Thompson