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Kick off your weekend with another edition of our Friday Travel Puzzle! You can solve it by tying the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is two words (one per line) and represents a famous landmark.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, April 1, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Catherine Eck, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Brandenburg Gate.” Catherine has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

frommers guidebooksEditor’s Note: Since the publication of this post, Arthur Frommer has purchased his company back from Google, ensuring that Frommer’s guidebooks will continue to be printed. Learn more in 56 Years Later: Europe on 5 Dollars a Day.

I wasn’t yet alive, let alone traveling, when Arthur Frommer wrote his very first travel guide, “Europe on 5 Dollars a Day,” back in 1957. But after years of toting more recent Frommer’s publications around the globe, I found myself mourning just a little bit when I read that the company has ceased publication of print guidebooks.

The death knell was sounded last week by Skift.com, who reported that many of the authors contracted for 29 upcoming Frommer’s titles were told by editors that the books they were working on would not be published. Extensive destination information is still available online at Frommers.com, and a limited number of “Day by Day” guides can be purchased as e-editions on Inkling.com. Frommer’s was bought by Google in August 2012.

The 5 Worst Trip Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

On this very blog, we once asked, “Are guidebooks dying out?” I wrote then that I still used guidebooks — along with online resources — to plan every trip, and dozens of readers commented in agreement. Three years later, my position hasn’t changed: “The combination of maps, recommended itineraries, comprehensive reviews and historical context is something I haven’t found in any other single source, so I’ll continue to use guidebooks as long as they continue to be printed.”

Fortunately for those of us who wouldn’t plan a trip without them, other guidebook series such as Fodor’s, Lonely Planet and Eyewitness Guides can still be found on the shelves. But for how much longer?

– written by Sarah Schlichter

overweight air traveler passenger airplane obeseDo you weigh a lot? You could end up paying a lot (more) for flights if airlines take a new “pay as you weigh” proposal seriously. The essay, written by a professor at a university in Norway, proposes three options for charging overweight passengers more money, explaining that the heavier a passenger is, the higher the fuel cost for the airline to transport that person. The author argues that said changes would benefit not only the airlines, but also consumers, both in terms of in-flight comfort (passengers would sit in seats of appropriate sizes) and overall health (it could be an incentive to lose weight).

More Obese Fliers, Smaller Airplane Seats?

Option 1
This option would involve a straightforward per-pound model, where passengers pay a fixed price per pound. Skinnier and/or shorter passengers would obviously pay less than taller, heavier ones.

Option 2
Under this scenario, each passenger would pay a base fare, and adjustments would be made from there — heavier passengers would be charged more, or lighter passengers would be charged less.

Option 3
In this model, three separate fares would be offered, based on body weight: one fare for underweight passengers, one fare for average passengers and one fare for overweight passengers. For the sake of his argument, the author uses the following as ballpark figures, which include the total weight of both the passenger and his or her luggage: underweight = less than or equal to 75 kg (165 pounds), average weight = 76 – 125 kg (167.5 – 275.5 pounds) and overweight = 126 kg (278 pounds) or more.

Poll: Should Obese Passengers Be Required to Buy a Second Seat?

The proposal, which seems logistically impossible, is unlikely to be adopted by airlines anytime soon, but the essay does address several bones of contention that might arise if it’s put into practice in the future. Won’t it discriminate against overweight/muscular/tall/pregnant people? How will it be enforced? How will it affect things like check-in time if airline personnel have to weigh luggage AND passengers?

“Weigh in” with your thoughts below.

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

seattleIf I can offer you only one piece of advice for traveling to Seattle it would be this — dress in layers.

While never too cold or too warm, and, of course, famous for an almost daily drizzle, the weather in Seattle is nevertheless hard to predict, especially in late winter/early spring. And weather forecasts aren’t always helpful.

Prior to jetting off to Seattle for a recent four-night visit, I checked Weather.com to see what I should expect. Heavy rain storms and cool weather were predicted, so into the suitcase went several cold-weather items. But then my overpacking gene took over and, despite the ugly forecast, I threw a few warm-weather options in as well. Thank goodness I did.

As it turned out, three out of four days started out foggy and cold, but then turned warm and sunny, before ending crisp and cold again. Because I had thrown in some tees, a light sweater and a zip-up sweatshirt, I was able to put on and take off layers as needed.

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Packing

Care for a second piece of Seattle travel advice? Rent a house or apartment.

I was in Seattle for a cousin’s bat mitzvah; with me and my husband were my parents, and my sister and her family, including my 3-year-old niece. We looked at hotels at first, but the cheapest rates we could find (in a decent hotel) started at about $140. That wasn’t bad, but the necessity of eating out would add to the cost. Then my dad looked on VRBO.com for short-term rentals. Prices, when split three ways, were slightly less than the per-night hotel rates, plus we would all be together and could cook meals in the house and share grocery expenses.

Not only did renting a house bring down the overall trip price, but we got a great location right on Green Lake, within a 20-minute drive of everywhere we wanted to go.

The last tidbit I picked up during my short stay in Seattle involves parking near Pike Place Market. If you’re planning to drive to the Market, try and wait until Sunday. Parking on 1st and 2nd Avenues is free that day, though you’ve got to get there pretty early to snag a spot. Otherwise, don’t park in a lot within three or four blocks. The first lot we pulled into on 2nd Avenue would have cost about $40. A lot just two blocks farther away, on the corner of 3rd Avenue, cost $12.

Our 6 Favorite Seattle Hotels

– written by Dori Saltzman

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.

This week brings a shot of locals in Delhi, India, celebrating the Holi Festival, which marks the arrival of spring and involves the exuberant throwing of colored powder and water. This year’s festival will be held on March 27.

holi festival delhi india colorful


Read Trip Reviews About India

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.)

Our 5 Favorite Mumbai Hotels

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Kick off your weekend with another edition of our Friday Travel Puzzle! You can solve it by tying the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is two words (one per line) and represents a famous landmark.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, March 25, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Patti Merritt, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Sacre Coeur.” Patti has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

li river chinaEach month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

In this month’s featured review, reader Lara G writes about a half-day spent cruising along China‘s scenic Li River. “The 83-km-long waterway from Guilin to Yangshuo is like an artist’s masterpiece,” Lara wrote. “The landscape is decorated with rolling hills, steep cliffs, fantastic caves.

“Once in a while we [passed] by little villages, where women were washing clothes in the river; water buffalo wandered in the greenery; sometimes ducks — entire families with little baby ducks were gracefully crossing the river from the one bank to another; flocks of cormorant birds were resting (or fishing?) on the floating wooden pieces; little fishermen boats or bamboo rafts were scurrying around doing their business as usual…”

Read the rest of Lara’s review here: From Guilin to Yangshuo, The Li River Cruise – China. Lara has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

airplane seat The United Nations General Assembly may have had something a little bit more noble than hawking tours in mind when it declared March 20, 2013, the first ever International Day of Happiness. But that didn’t stop adventure tour operator G Adventures from sponsoring an International Day of Happiness “Happiness & Wanderlust” survey.

Perhaps the U.N. should take note, because it sure looks like the ability to travel has a real impact on people’s happiness. According to the survey, 83 percent of global respondents said travel is a very important component of what makes them happy.

For many respondents (a whopping 71 percent), traveling is more vital to their happiness than getting married, having a baby or even retiring. Travel even dominates many people’s daydreams, with exactly half of respondents admitting to dreaming about travel at work for at least one hour every day. Nineteen percent even said they daydream about travel for “a few hours” a day.

As an avid traveler myself, I can’t really say I’m surprised by the results. Survey respondents were members of G Adventures’ social media network (as well as actual friends and family), who, of course, are going to be more passionate about travel than the general population.

The Six Qualities of Highly Effective Travelers

As it does for these respondents, travel fulfills me in a way that few things do, whether I’m flying halfway around the world or driving out of state. Like 68 percent of respondents, having new experiences is the one aspect of travel that brings me the most happiness — though I must admit walking into a really nice hotel or cozy B&B for the first time also fills me with a childlike glee I find hard to contain.

Like 32 percent of survey takers, I am happiest when I am traveling with my partner. But others are happiest when traveling with friends (35 percent) or solo (25 percent). Traveling with family ranks at the bottom, with only 11 percent saying they find happiness in traveling with their family.

What do you think of the results? How important is travel to your happiness? And what about traveling excites you the most?

Poll: How Do You Feel After a Trip?

– written by Dori Saltzman

stonerito elizabeths new orleansNew Orleans. Bourbon Street. The two pretty much go hand in hand even outside of Mardi Gras season. However, despite a single walk-through for the “experience” during my recent first trip to NOLA, I found the dodgy vibe wasn’t for me.

Thankfully, a few local friends gave me every traveler’s sought-after inside scoop. They took me to a few touristy spots like Cafe du Monde, which my taste buds found to be worth its salt (well, sugar) — but they knew to visit in the wee hours (early morning or late night) in order to avoid the lines. My idea of drinking in the street was fulfilled by ordering their cafe au lait in a keepsake mug and taking the rest to go. If you too prefer the slightly offbeat, consider the following haunts I was introduced to, by the people who live there.

Bywater: As Local as It Gets
If you lived here, you’d be home by now. At least that’s the wisdom of the hand-painted wooden sign that greets you along the waterway into this charming Crescent City neighborhood, one of very few in the Ninth Ward affected little by Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Bob, a local folk artist known for his signs including “Be Nice or Leave” (a favorite displayed in many local bars and establishments), has set up his art gallery and studio headquarters along Chartres in Bywater, and the location is hard to miss. Serving as the neighborhood’s unofficial mascot, the colorful yet gritty aesthetic of Dr. Bob’s art is indicative of the entire area.

As I wandered from brunch spot to brunch spot (brunch is a way of life in New Orleans), I became acquainted with the rainbow of houses and eclectic storefronts featuring vintage, antique and found objects. For every one I would pass or step into, there were two more I didn’t have time to discover. I suggest taking a day, or at least a whole afternoon, to wander this area and see what you discover for yourself.

For foodies, I recommend eating at Elizabeth’s. Its motto is “Real food, done real good,” and after eating there, I would overwhelmingly agree. This local establishment boasts no frills with plastic, cherry-dappled tablecloths and painted signs promoting their praline bacon (yes, you read that correctly … and that’s just an appetizer!). I went with the daily special — a stonerito — composed of eggs, sausage and bacon (yes, more bacon) in a French toast-battered wrap doused with powdered sugar, plus a side of fried green tomatoes with remoulade.

Our 5 Favorite New Orleans Hotels

Frenchmen Street
Known by residents as the “locals’ Bourbon Street,” Frenchmen offers shopping, bars, restaurants, music and culture — without the beads and rows of daiquiri machines. If you get to talking with any local shop owners, at some point they’ll ask you if you “know about Frenchmen.” A relative secret to most tourists, some of the best jazz venues run along this rue, from the Spotted Cat and Snug Harbor to Maison and Apple Barrel; they’re even happening on a Monday night. Sip your hurricane from a cup, not a plastic monstrosity, and immerse yourself in the music. For late-night, post-drink snacking, I suggest getting the tachos (nachos made with tater tots) at 13, a restaurant/bar.

Antiquing and Supermarkets
A bit daunted by the high-end Shops at Canal Place, unimpressed with River Walk and fizzled out after the same booths row after row in the French Market, I found that my favorite places to shop in New Orleans were the ever-present antique emporiums, artists’ collectives and the local supermarket. Rare Finds, near the market in the French Quarter, had a distinctive selection of antiques and memorabilia from absinthe spoons to vintage coins that served as old call girl coupons. I found a beautifully aged fleur de lis hook from the 1960’s for around $20.

On Royal Street there’s plenty of art at a variety of price points, mostly by local artists. For a glass of wine, a chat and a look around, try the Great Artists’ Collective. Finally, for those souvenirs to bring home to the family, from sauces, spices and snacks to beads and masks, try a suburban supermarket such as Rouse’s. Though food specialties and decorations change seasonally, it’s a definite bet for reasonably priced condiments and local seasonings if you have a foodie at home. Pick up some groceries for yourself too, like a case of seasonal Abita beer or a bag of Voodoo chips to enjoy back at the hotel.

See Our Complete New Orleans Travel Guide

– written by Brittany Chrusciel

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 is of the cliff-side village of Manarola in Cinque Terre, Italy.

manarola cinque terre italy colorful


11 Unforgettable Italy Experiences

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.)

Our Favorite Hotels in Rome

– written by Sarah Schlichter