Home

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

childSometimes my mind wanders back to the haze of that careless week in the Caribbean. Floating through the hotel pool (my pink visor, my white tiger bathing suit). Throwing breakfast’s crumbs from the balcony to the birds in the bushes below. Posing near a hibiscus as big as my head. I spent part of my time with a vacationing Brit at the same hotel, and part of it with a local boy. I don’t quite remember either of their names, but the Brit spent most of his days in his underwear (the pictures are starting to fade, with curled-up edges, but they still make me smile).

Memories can be a trip of their own, especially first memories. My first memory was a travel memory — I was about 2 1/2 when my parents took me to Barbados.

Because I was an only child, my younger years were well documented. Paging through the photo albums, my memory has certainly been jogged (the school events, the neon bows). But from the best that I can judge, the clips that come to me from Barbados are the real thing, not a rendering. Surprisingly, my near-drowning experience in the hotel pool left less of an impression than the sweet, melting consolation of the Haagen-Dazs ice cream bar I was offered afterward. The only other sense I connect to this first international (and conscious) experience is the sound of steel drums. I can’t hear that light distinctive chime without being carried back. For many, it’s a call back to the tropical, the paradisiacal, the exotic; and for me, they are all of that melded with my first mysterious impressions of this earth.

Get Inspired: Around the World in 8 Amazing Videos

I’m sure it wasn’t my parents’ overarching plan to instill a lifelong wanderlust in me from 31 months, but it’s them I have to thank for exposing me to the world from such a young age, and continuing to support that plunge into the unknown. Whether the unknown is life or a new country, for me it all seems to meet at the same place in my memories.

What was your first travel memory? Don’t feel the need to stretch back to diapers! Crammed inside a hot car on a family roadtrip? Flying for a school competition? Shake up those reminiscences and share them in the comments below.

– written by Brittany Chrusciel

world travel‘Tis the season for travel shows! If you’re interested in getting first-hand recommendations from destination experts, checking out cultural performances and cooking demonstrations, listening to talks by travel celebs like Rick Steves or Pauline Frommer, or even winning a free trip, you might want to consider attending one of these upcoming travel trade shows around the U.S. and Canada.

Before you go, be sure to read our 9 Tips to Get the Most from a Travel Show.

New York City: New York Times Travel Show (January 19 – 20)

Philadelphia: Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show (January 26 – 27)

Chicago: Chicago Travel & Adventure Show (January 26 – 27)

Calgary: Travel Expo (January 26)

Toronto: Travel Expo (February 2)

Boston: Boston Globe Travel Show (February 8 – 10)

Seattle: Seattle Golf & Travel Show (February 8 – 10)

Vancouver: Travel Expo (February 9)

Santa Clara: Bay Area Travel & Adventure Show (February 16 – 17)

Los Angeles: Los Angeles Times Travel Show (February 23 – 24)

Denver: Colorado RV, Sports, Boat & Travel Show (February 28 – March 3)

Washington D.C.: Travel & Adventure Show (March 9 – 10)

10 Things Not to Wear When Traveling Abroad

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Suffering from the Monday doldrums? For everyone out there facing the beginning of another work week, here’s a little jolt of wanderlust to brighten up your morning. Each Monday, we offer a photo of a spectacular place to spark ideas for your future travels.

Today’s shot was snapped at spectacular Halong Bay in Vietnam.

halong bay vietnam


Vietnam Trip Reviews

Send us your best travel shot! E-mail your most beautiful or captivating travel photo to feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put Monday Inspiration in the subject line.)

Escape the Cold: 8 Warm Weather Winter Vacations

– written by Sarah Schlichter

retired couple seniors viewI recently watched “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a film about the mishaps of a group of Brits who retire to a less-luxurious-than-advertised hotel in India. My own retirement is still several decades away, but the movie got me thinking — would I be brave enough to spent my golden years living abroad in an unfamiliar place?

When I think of the possibilities, it seems awfully appealing. I can easily picture myself whiling away my afternoons at a sunny cafe in Barcelona, living near a beach in Belize or browsing colorful vegetable markets in Thailand for my dinner every night. Sure, there’d be some drawbacks — distance from family, logistical hassles — but for those of us who love experiencing new cultures and places, it could be one last great adventure.

12 Ways to Feel at Home in a Foreign Place

Would you want to retire in a foreign country, and if so, where would you choose?

– written by Sarah Schlichter

nassau bahamas jamaican food jerk chickenNod your head if you think there’s nothing more to Nassau than its proximity to the Atlantis Resort and Casino and a plethora of straw markets and high-end shops. I’d be willing to bet just about everyone reading this is nodding their head right now. I know that until recently, that’s what I thought. And because of that, Nassau was fairly low on my list of must-visit destinations.

But on a recent cruise visit to this port city, I learned there’s so much more than meets the eye.

I learned, for instance, that within just a few years of Christopher Columbus “discovering” the Bahamas, all the indigenous people had been wiped out and that technically everyone who today hails from there comes from immigrant ancestors.

I also learned that the Bahamas are a unique blend of British and American culture and influences. Though “founded” by the British in the early 1700’s and still a part of the Commonwealth, the Bahamian islands also played a role in the American Revolution and the Civil War, and were a hotbed of rum-running activity during Prohibition. In fact, some of Nassau’s architecture is classic American colonial, a vestige of its days as a home-in-exile for American loyalists after their side lost the Revolutionary War.

Nassau Hotels

And for seafood lovers, I learned that conch (pronounced conk) isn’t just used for fritters and chowder. Because the conch shell is incredibly hard and durable, it’s often ground into dust and added to construction materials. A good many of the buildings in downtown Nassau are partly made of conch shell.

All of these facts and more were imparted to me by Alanna Rodgers, a young Bahamian entrepreneur whose Tru Bahamian Food Tours launched just two months ago. At least once a day Rodgers leads tourists on the three-hour Bites of Nassau Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour, giving participants the chance to try a variety of local foods and learn a great deal about the Bahamas from culture to history, architecture to government, and religion to pirates.

12 International Foods to Try Before You Die

The tour was the high point of my seven-day Bahamas cruise and offered a truly fascinating look at a country and port that is too often dismissed for its three S’s (sun, sand and shopping).

Among the culinary highlights of the tour were:

Baked macaroni and cheese at Bahamian Cookin’, the first stop on our tasting tour. While everyone else got conch fritters (I don’t eat shellfish), I had a yummy macaroni and cheese dish at this small restaurant, which is owned and operated by three generations of Nassau women.

Jamaican jerk chicken that didn’t burn going down. Turns out there are some 10,000 Jamaicans in the Bahamas, making up a significant subset of the population. At the hole-in-the-wall Pepper Pot Grill, the menu is pretty much whatever the chef decides to cook, but there are usually a couple of choices, and the jerk chicken was delicious without being overly spicy.

An invitation to the Governor General’s house for tea. Okay, so the Governor General didn’t actually invite me personally, but as part of the country’s People to People project all tourists are invited to a special one-hour tea party (4 – 5 p.m.) on the last Friday of every month (except December). During the event visitors can chat with the Governor General’s wife, sample local bush teas, watch a Bahamian fashion show and enjoy live music.

Chocolate. There’s nothing particularly Bahamian about the Graycliff Chocolatier, though the Italian family that owns it has lived in the Bahamas for many years. But for this chocoholic, stopping by for a freshly made caramel salted dark chocolate was divine. Many local ingredients are used in the chocolates, like coconut and pineapple, and the company is hoping to develop a local cocoa plantation.

Greek salad. The Greek salad itself was less of a highlight than learning that Greeks make up a significant part of the Bahamian merchant class, that they own most of the jewelry stores on Bay Street (downtown’s main street), and that the son’s owner is married to a former Miss Bahamas. Oh, and many Bahamian politicians stop by there for lunch – the Secretary of Foreign Affairs was there when we were.

How to Save Money on Food When You Travel


– written by Dori Saltzman

airlines behaving badlyThis post is part of our “Airlines Behaving Badly” series, which chronicles the oft-wicked ways of the air travel industry.

Remember United Breaks Guitars, the song that became a social media sensation after a country musician had his instrument destroyed at the hands of an airline? Well, it turns out Delta breaks guitars too.

Dave Schneider, a musician with the band the LeeVees, was carrying a vintage 1965 Gibson ES-335 guitar — worth about $10,000 — on a flight from Buffalo to Detroit last month, reports Yahoo! News. On trips for past gigs, Schneider had always carried the valuable instrument onto the plane with him, but this time Delta employees at the gate wouldn’t allow it. “They said it was their policy,” Schneider told IndependentTraveler.com. “They had let me carry the guitar on [our previous Delta flight] from Portland to Philly, so why not here in Buffalo?”

Schneider reluctantly gate-checked the guitar, even though he told us that there were empty seats on the plane where he could have put the instrument, and that it would also have fit into an overhead bin. (On its Web site, Delta says, “Guitars and other smaller musical instruments, such as violins, will be accepted as your free carry-on baggage item on Delta and Delta Connection carriers flights. These items must easily fit in the overhead bin or other approved storage location in the cabin, based on available space at the time of boarding. Musical instruments may be gate claimed at the discretion of the passenger and as a result of limited overhead space.”)

After the plane touched down in Detroit, Schneider waited at the gate for his instrument to be returned, only to hear a screech from the elevator — where the guitar case was caught between it and a rail on the loading dock. Here’s how it looked when it was finally freed an hour later:



The guitar was damaged to the tune of $1,980 — more than the $1,000 Delta initially offered as compensation. After a whirlwind of media coverage, including an appearance on CNN, Schneider told us that he and Delta finally settled the issue yesterday. “They’re paying for the repairs and more,” he said.

What Not to Do at the Airport

The story has an even happier ending: Gibson, the maker of the damaged guitar, recently reached out to Schneider. The company offered him “a brand new 1963 50th Anniversary Cherry Red ES-335 due to the incident with Delta Airlines,” Schneider wrote on his Facebook page. “THANK YOU GIBSON!”

But what happens the next time Schneider needs to fly? “I might start just using ukeleles,” Schneider joked. “I really don’t know what to do. A lot of people ship their guitars, so that is a good option. But even that makes me nervous. It shouldn’t be that hard. I would pay a $50 fee to bring an instrument on the plane. I think that’s a great idea.”

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Last week, we highlighted some of the most humorous or bizarre signs that we’d seen in our travels, and invited our readers to submit their own. We were delighted by the photos you sent in — and while we got too many to publish all of them, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites below.

toilet sign

Reader Becky Crawford said of this sign, “I don’t know if this sign qualifies as weird or funny. It was in a restaurant in Bled, Slovenia, outside the restroom. I laughed out loud … and looked up!” We’ll never feel safe in a public toilet again.


please use door

Reader Nancy James simply called this “good advice.” Indeed.


weight watchers

Writes reader Colin Laraway, “[This sign] appealed to my twisted sense of humour. It seemed that Weight Watchers (Canada) needed a bigger building, just like I needed bigger pants!”


forbidden prohibited

This shot was submitted by reader MJ, taken “at the entrance to a park outside Beijing, China.” Some of these are easy enough to interpret — no picking flowers, no fires — but is that one image telling us, “No walking on blood”?


go slow

Readers Bob and Donna shared this gem from Caye Caulker, Belize, where “[the] main transportation is bicycles and golf carts.”


gladly and bright to service

We close with this from reader Ian J., who said, “This van signage made me smile in Hiroshima, Japan.” Would that we were all “gladly and bright to service”!

16 Signs You’re Addicted to Travel

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Suffering from the Monday doldrums? For everyone out there facing the beginning of another work week, here’s a little jolt of wanderlust to brighten up your morning. Each Monday, we offer a photo of a spectacular place to spark ideas for your future travels.

Today’s colorful shot was snapped at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.

istanbul grand bazaar turkey market colorful


Our Favorite Istanbul Hotels

Send us your best travel shot! E-mail your most beautiful or captivating travel photo to feedback@independenttraveler.com. (Please put Monday Inspiration in the subject line.)

20 Ways to Blend In with the Locals

– written by Sarah Schlichter

baggage claim airportAs a experienced traveler, I know all the right things to do when it comes to making sure you go home with your own luggage. I have a very distinctive red Rimowa suitcase (I’ve never encountered one quite like it), I’ve tied colored ribbons around one handle, and there are some flight and hotel labels stuck on it — so it’s hard to miss.

But last year, after a 10-hour flight from Helsinki and a 1.5-hour wait at Newark’s border control, I was tired and distracted, and when a red suitcase came around the belt, I grabbed it and set off. The wheels were wobbly, which I chucked up to yet another annoyance in an annoying day. Literally 10 steps past the customs agent, I bent down to check out what had happened to the wheels, and that was the moment I knew: this was not my suitcase. It was an absolutely identical model, but there were no ribbons, no decals.

What to Do if an Airline Loses Your Luggage

I immediately went back to the customs agent to ask if I could swap the suitcase, but he said, “No can do” (which was understandable). He called an agent from my airline, who told me that I’d eventually get my suitcase back — but because I had cleared customs it would take three or four hours. Hanging around wasn’t a palatable solution, so I anted up about $82 to have it delivered the next day.

I consider the whole affair an $82 learning experience. And I felt badly for the person whose suitcase it really was (and hope she’ll get those wheels fixed someday).

What’s the silliest travel mistake you made in 2012?

– written by Carolyn Spencer Brown

ozzy osbourneHow would you like to touch down at Ozzy Osbourne International?

One music exec is calling for this to become a reality, according to the Birmingham Mail. Liverpool is currently home to John Lennon Airport, so why shouldn’t Birmingham, Osbourne’s home town, be renamed after the Black Sabbath rocker? The proposal comes from Jim Simpson of Big Bear Music, who discovered the band.

“The message that would carry is instantly international, confident, powerful, unforgettable and says ‘Hey World, we are proud of our own,'” said Simpson in the Birmingham Mail.

“Ozzy might not always have been a paragon of virtue, but he is a genuine flesh and blood Brummie.”

Best Airports for Layovers

Whether this will come to fruition is anyone’s guess — but, of course, it got us thinking about other airports that could carry a musical moniker. How about adding Bruce Springsteen’s name to New Jersey’s Newark Airport? Or giving Elvis Presley top billing at Memphis International? Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, so surely we could leave his name on the airport. And with all due respect to Prime Minister Trudeau, perhaps Montreal‘s airport could be renamed after Celine Dion.

Which airports and musicians do you think would make a good duo?

– written by Sarah Schlichter