Home

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

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’s shot was taken at twilight on Phewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal.

phewa lake pokhara nepal boats


Photos: 9 Places You Haven’t Been — But Should

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.)

Been to Nepal? Tell Us About It!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie 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 three words and represents a famous natural attraction.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, September 16, 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 Alicia Gillmer, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Rock of Gibraltar.” Alicia has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

woman globe If you could pick one city in the world to live in for just one year where would it be?

Not surprisingly, when we asked this on IndependentTraveler.com’s Facebook page, we ended up with a fascinatingly eclectic list of cities located all over the world. But a few cities were a bit more popular than others.

Paris, for instance, rocked the list with 14 out of 65 poll respondents selecting the City of Lights as the number one city they’d love to explore for a year. Other cities in France that got a mention included Honfleur and Lyon.

12 Best France Experiences

London also ranked high on the list with six people selecting British capital as the place they’d like to spend a year. But London wasn’t the only U.K. city to see some love. Edinburgh got three votes and the small coastal town of Lyme Regis in West Dorset also got a vote, specifically for “all those fossils!”

13 Best England Experiences

Personally, I was happy to see Sydney appear five times, as the Down Under city is my choice for where I’d like to spend a year.

Surprisingly, no single Italian city got more than one vote, though many made it onto the list including Venice, Amalfi, Florence, Rome and Rimini.

11 Best Italy Experiences

Other cities to get more than one vote included Papeetee (Tahiti), Barcelona, Vienna, Bangkok and New York City.

Where would you like to spend a year? And why?

– by Dori Saltzman

suitcase boots Last Thursday I returned from my first trip to Alaska. Everything from the views to the food was fantastic. But part of what made my trip so enjoyable was that I was ready for just about anything, because I had read up on what I needed and had brought three specific must-pack items.

Layers: Having read many articles on how to prepare, I still struggled to find outfits that were suitable for both warm and cold weather without grossly overpacking. What I finally settled on were two pairs of jeans, several short- and long-sleeved shirts, a sweatshirt, a light jacket and a fleece jacket, with a pair of gloves and a headband to keep my ears warm. I kept an umbrella and poncho handy, too. “They” aren’t kidding when they say the weather can change at the drop of a hat. In Juneau, it was rainy and chilly, but not cold. In Skagway, it was cloudy and in the 40′s. In Ketchikan (which gets 13 feet of rain per year), it was sunny and in the 70′s.

Interactive Packing List

Proper Footwear: After my clothes, I tossed plenty of socks and three pairs of sturdy shoes into my suitcase, factoring in one pair for wet weather (waterproofed hiking boots), one pair for cold weather (sheepskin boots) and one pair for regular weather (sneakers or tennis shoes). Boy, were my feet happy.

How to Pack for a Galapagos Cruise

The Best Camera You Can Beg, Borrow or Buy: Sure, certain things in Alaska are overrated. (You can see similar mountains in several other places.) But you’ll want to snap some once-in-a-lifetime shots of what’s not so common elsewhere: grizzlies, dog-sled teams, Tlingit totems and, of course, glaciers, just to name a few. Most standard smartphones these days come with cameras that will do the trick just fine (and often better than any mainstream digital camera), so if you don’t own one, look into upgrading or borrowing one from a friend. You won’t regret it.

Best Local Spots to See Wildlife

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

naples italy Along with our slideshow of the 11 Best Italy Experiences, this post is part of an ongoing effort to help independent travelers make unique memories in both popular and undiscovered destinations around the world.

For Italian politicians, Naples sometimes seems like a problem that’s best left alone. It’s a tangled ball of social inequalities — a wriggling can of economic worms that, once opened, threatens to squirm out, all over one’s pristine Armani chinos.

For travelers, as well, Naples can seem like a place that’s better avoided than engaged with. Even we’re guilty of it. On IndependentTraveler.com’s recent roundup of 11 Unforgettable Italy Experiences, Naples lost out to neighbouring Sorrento, which offers a small slice of southern Italy without the bad attitude that Naples has (perhaps unfairly) become associated with.

But sometimes the most rewarding relationships are the ones that require the most work — and with this in mind, my travel companion and I set off for the south.

We boarded the high-speed train from Rome to Naples and sat down across from a surly-looking rail worker in mucky orange overalls who pretended to be asleep for most of the journey. We had plenty of time, while watching little terra cotta villages and impossible-to-reach green mountains fly past the window, to think about everything we knew about Naples.

Our guidebook was hysterical. Everyone we met in Naples, we were advised, was out to rob or shoot us. We should treat anyone approaching us as either a “hood” or a “swindler.” I think our guidebook had been written by a 1950′s cardsharp. I pictured him sweating in his zoot suit at the very thought of the mean Neapolitan streets, battering away at a typewriter in a dimly lit tenement building, waiting for the call from Bugsy.

Unfortunately, this seems to be where many people’s perceptions of Naples are stuck. But what else did I know about Naples?

It’s the third largest city in Italy — after Rome and Milan. It is also one of the poorest places in Europe, with an unemployment rate of almost 11 percent. Its Italian name, Napoli, is derived from the Latin Neapolis, meaning “New City.” Its historic city center, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, has long been renowned for its beauty, with generations of poets and artists coming from all over the world for inspiration. It also has an enduring and unfortunate association with organized crime.

Money Safety Tips for Travelers

One of my brother’s friends claims that upon visiting Naples for the first time, he witnessed a fatal shooting before he’d even left the train station.

This kind of thing has shaped Naples’ reputation — a reputation that gives visitors a kind of thrill. Naples has a sheen of danger that reassures travelers that here they are experiencing something real, something that hasn’t been laid on for them by the tourist board.

So what was Naples actually like?

The first thing we noticed was not the danger but the heat. Naples is definitely hotter than other major Italian cities like Rome. The streets seemed more humid, and despite the sun, there were fewer people wearing sunglasses. Everything, even the escalators, seemed to move at a slightly different pace.

We enjoyed the ramshackle mix of architecture and the blue sea in the bay. It is often said that Rome is Italy’s heart and that Naples is its soul. I can’t say whether you should be frightened of Naples or not, but I do know that you should visit it if you can. Keep an eye out, of course — as you would anywhere — but don’t go expecting trouble.

Trip Review: Naples

The guy in the orange overalls that had been sharing our table got his things together in a rucksack and made his way off the train into the crowded streets. He looked as though he was on his way home, along with the hundreds of other people who had made the hourlong commute from Rome. The city is eminently accessible — there really is no reason to be put off visiting.

Naples has a charm of its own, completely separate from that of bustling Rome and cosmopolitan Milan. Despite its distinct character, and despite what our guidebook may have had us believe, Naples is not so alien as to be impossible to negotiate. It is not, as it may sometimes feel when reading about it, a whole world apart.

For more trip ideas, see our 11 Best Italy Experiences.

– written by Josh Thomas

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’s shot was taken in Strasbourg, France.

strasbourg france


Photos: 12 Unforgettable France 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 Paris

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie 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 and represents a major tourist attraction in Europe.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, September 9, 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 Harry Baxter, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Sagrada Familia.” Harry has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

airplane seatsFor every long-legged traveler who’s sick of being pretzeled into increasingly small airplane seats, a new study offers insight into how to land yourself a few precious extra inches of legroom.

Routehappy.com surveyed U.S. airlines in search of “Roomier” seats — those with at least 32 inches of seat pitch — that travelers could find in regular economy class without having to pay extra. The carrier on which you’re most likely to find these is Southwest Airlines, which offers nearly 1,000 domestic flights a day with Roomier seats (this reflects 31 percent of all Southwest flights). Alaska Airlines came in second with 752 flights, or 96 percent of its daily offerings.

While those airlines win out due to the sheer number of flights they offer, it’s worth noting that a couple of smaller airlines, JetBlue and Virgin America, offer at least 32 inches of seat pitch on 100 percent of their planes. JetBlue’s A320 planes have a generous 34 inches of seat pitch, and they’re wider than average to boot. Virgin America’s seats are also wider than most, offer 32 inches of seat pitch, and have both Wi-Fi and power outlets — a combination that you won’t find fleetwide on any other airline, according to Routehappy.

In all, you can find more spacious seats for free on 13 percent of domestic flights.

Secrets of the World’s Best Airlines

If you’re willing to pay extra for more space, you have plenty of options. Routehappy reports that of the 22,000 domestic flights that take off each day in the U.S., 9,000 of them have more spacious economy-class seats available for purchase. (Delta and United have the most, followed by American and JetBlue.) On international flights, 47 percent of the 1,800 daily departures have Extra Legroom Economy or Premium Economy options.

You can download the full report at Routehappy.com. The site also offers fare searches with results ranked by “happiness score,” which takes seat size, airplane amenities, length of trip and flier ratings into account.

Check out our tips for How to Get the Best Airplane Seat.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

afraidIt never occurred to me that I’d love Cincinnati.

I was born on Staten Island, grew up visiting my grandparents in Queens, graduated from a Manhattan college and lived 11 years in Manhattan and Queens. Those experiences molded my definition of a city (read: a place I want to visit). It was only partly about population numbers; instead what made a city to me was a frenetic pace, too much too see and do in one lifetime, and a sense that life just might be better somewhere else quieter, slower, greener.

For many years the only other cities that met my stringent requirements were London and Paris. People would tell me to check out Boston, but while I might nod, inside I was thinking, “Boston? I think not. It’s too small, too clean, too slow.”

Then I visited Sydney and discovered that a city can be clean and peaceful. It can, in fact, be downright beautiful.

12 Great Museums You’ve Never Heard Of

But what I didn’t realize was that I was still biased. Only major metropolitan areas in what I deemed important countries or states in the U.S. qualified as cities. In the U.S. that meant cities along either the Eastern Seaboard or West Coast.

Recently, I sailed on an old-fashioned paddlewheel riverboat, the Queen of the Mississippi. Our itinerary ended in Cincinnati, Ohio. Before arriving, and even after researching places to see while I was there, I dismissed it because it was in Ohio, in the Midwest, and thus (I assumed) provincial and insignificant.

Wow, was I surprised!

I loved how the city was small enough to walk most of it, how it had green parks along the Ohio River, how you could stroll across the “Purple People Bridge” to get to Newport, Kentucky, how the “Great American Ballpark” was right there inside the city, and how there were so many cool things to see and do.

Slideshow: The Eight Best U.S. Road Trips

I didn’t get to explore much of the city — I only had three-quarters of a day there, and I spent most of my time at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center (one of the best museums I’ve ever visited, by the way). But what I saw of the city as I walked along the river’s edge and across the bridge back to my boat beckoned to me. I can’t wait to go back and explore the rest of the city’s museums, wander around its botanical garden and theater district, and even take in a ballgame.

Discovering Cincinnati was both exhilarating (yay, a new place to explore!) and humbling. Though I’m sure my bias will rear its ugly head again in the future, I hope I will be more aware of it and more open-minded on trips to come.

Have you ever pre-judged a place only to discover it was nothing like what you expected?

–written by Dori Saltzman

afraidBill Bryson may have been going for a tongue-in-cheek approach when he wrote about the various ways one might die in Australia (“In a Sunburned Country”) and along the Appalachian Trail (“A Walk in the Woods”), but he was more than just a little serious too.

If you’re going to visit Australia, the truth is you’d better watch out for saltwater crocodiles, sharks, stinging jellyfish and redback spiders. And bears in North America are nothing to laugh at (except when Bryson writes about them, that is).

But wildlife predators are not the only thing tourists need to be wary of when traveling if they want to get home in one piece. I’ve read too many tragic tales of travelers killed in helicopter tours (in Hawaii and in New York City, to name a few) to ever climb aboard one.

Drinking Water Safety

And, of course, there’s always the clich√© that rings a little too true about holding on for dear life when riding taxis in Rome, Paris or New York City.

Now, sadly, I may also have to worry about gondolas and water buses in Venice.

Earlier this month a German tourist was killed when the gondola he was on collided with a water bus in Venice’s Grand Canal. As it turns out, the gondolier tested positive for cocaine, but authorities also believe boat congestion on the Canal may have been a factor.

10 Things You Should Never Wear When Traveling Abroad

Will this incident stop me from taking a gondola ride when I finally get to Venice? Probably not. The truth is I have a better chance of being hit by a car on the way to work than dumped in the Grand Canal during my few days in Venice. So, no, fear is not going to stop me, but I’ll certainly be more vigilant. Just as I checked for spiders in my shoes in Australia, avoided taxis in Paris and eschew helicopters everywhere.

Do any destination’s specific dangers scare you? Do you take any precautions?

– written by Dori Saltzman