Each 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 winning review, a pair of retirees enjoy hiking along the South West Coast Path on the Jurassic Coast of England — powering through some occasionally iffy weather. “Once we arrived at the Old Harry Rocks, we were completely drenched,” writes Carolyn Boyle. “However, we needed to walk further along the path in the direction of Swanage to have better views of the cliffs, the rocks and other offshore chalk formations, such as the Pinnacles. Despite the deluge, the views were stunning.”
Read the rest of Carolyn’s review here: Hiking the South West Coast Path on the Jurassic Coast in England. This reader has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!
Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!
— written by Sarah Schlichter
For fliers who love to travel to exotic places but hate being stuck in a cramped coach-class seat for 10 or 12 or 16 hours at a time, an end just might be in sight. The Singapore-based Straits Times reports that Airbus has applied for a U.S. patent for a design involving “sleeping boxes” on long flights.
The boxes would be stacked in the rear of the plane, padded in case of turbulence and furnished with pillows, a reading light, a TV and an air conditioning vent. Check out the video below to get an idea of what they’d look like:
Passengers could remain in the boxes during take-off and landing, though they’d have to be strapped in. If you wanted a seat as well, you’d need to purchase it at extra cost. (The Strait Times suggests that a couple could purchase one seat and one box, and switch places as desired.)
It’s important to remember that this idea is still in the patent stage and might never make it onto an actual plane. An Airbus spokesperson told CNN, “Airbus applies for hundreds of patents every year in order to protect intellectual property. These patents are often based on R&D concepts and ideas in a very nascent stage of conceptualization, and not every patent progresses to becoming a fully realized technology or product.” In other words: Don’t hold your breath.
10 Ways to Survive a Long-Haul Flight
Would you book a spot in a sleeping box if the cost were reasonable?
— written by Sarah Schlichter
Chris Chesak is the executive director of the Family Travel Association, a new coalition that aims to simplify the sometimes dizzying complexities of planning a family trip, among other goals. Chesak has more than two decades of experience in the travel industry, including stints with the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the American Hiking Society and the American Alpine Club. As the father of two school-age daughters, he has now turned his career to focus on family vacations.
IndependentTraveler.com: Many grandparents talk of wanting to spend their money with their grandchildren, rather than leaving it all to them. Is this a trend you are seeing?
Chris Chesak: There is an overall trend within our population of people starting to shift their vision of personal wealth away from the acquisition of inanimate things to more experience-based wealth. Instead of purchasing more and more “stuff,” people are valuing experiences. And as older generations are entering the wealth distribution phase of their lives, they are using their wealth to facilitate creation of deep, lasting memories rather than just a larger pile of money to leave to the kids when the grandparents pass on.
IT: Have you ever traveled with grandparents?
CC: Just this summer I had the amazing opportunity to travel to China with my wife, 8- and 10-year-old daughters, and mother-in-law. What an incredible thrill to stand on the Great Wall of China. But standing on that icon with your kids and their grandmother? Absolutely amazing! And while we were able to take a gondola to about mid-mountain, we still had to then climb 299 steps to get to the wall itself. What a great achievement for our little girls and their grandmom to be able to do that, and do it together!
Traveling with Grandchildren
IT: Which destinations would you suggest for independent travel for family groups?
CC: My wife and I are outdoors people and there is so much for families locally with state parks, Forest Service land and national parks. We recently went to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and had a brilliant (and literally “cool”) time exploring the caves. Cities like Boston and Washington D.C. are iconic destinations with a wealth of museums and history for kids and adults alike, but also great lodging and food and shopping. For the adventurous, there is always big, beautiful Alaska. Quebec is excellent and readily accessible from the U.S. but a very European experience. For the more adventurous, I’d suggest Iceland and Namibia.
IT: What tips do you have for an independent multigenerational group to ensure a successful trip?
CC: Independent travel offers the greatest amount of flexibility and spontaneity, often at the best possible price. However, it does take quite a bit more time to research and plan. I would certainly do as much research as possible, leveraging some of the great family travel blogs out there like WanderingPod.com, MyFamilyTravels.com and CiaoBambino.com. (Editor’s Note: Our sister site, Family Vacation Critic, is another useful site to check out.) Also, the destination’s own websites can be great resources. Visit Costa Rica has a good example of this, with an entire page devoted to family travel. VisitMaine.com has some great search options for family travel too.
I will say, while I love independent travel, booking family travel with a small, independent tour operator can come in very handy, while still providing a true, authentic experience for small groups. We planned a trip to the interior of Costa Rica through JourneysInternational.com, which has been running family trips for more than 30 years and is family owned. The itinerary was perfectly balanced, with just enough activities to keep us all engaged, but also with the perfect amount of down time for naps, reading books and playing in the pool.
IT: How do you balance the travel needs and interests of younger generations with older ones? In other words, how to keep peace, so that, say, the teens get their screen time yet the grandparents get real face time too?
CC: During the trip, the key thing you need to do is respect the pace of your itinerary. You can’t run your grandparents or smaller children ragged with an aggressive, “let’s see it all” itinerary. While we generally like to limit time spent on devices with our kids, when we are in transit or in a hotel room, the kids can use the devices as much as they like. I will say that for long-haul flights, devices like iPads and the seatback entertainment systems are a godsend. Teens can be a bit more of a challenge, as they tend to be more aloof and get bored more easily. But the beauty of multi-generational travel is that it naturally brings about face time, forcing it actually. When you are stuck on a train or bus, there’s so much to watch, talk about, etc. that it naturally breaks down barriers and brings people together around their shared experience.
Top 10 Group Travel Survival Tips
IT: Where are you and your family planning to go next?
CC: We’re looking at Panama for early 2016 and starting to plan a trip to South Africa too. I can’t wait to take my girls on safari — it will blow their little minds!
Check out more travel interviews!
–interview conducted by Elissa Leibowitz Poma
This Friday’s challenge is a photo of an unidentified place somewhere in the world. Can you tell us where the photo was taken? Leave your guess in the comments below — and check back on Tuesday to see if you were right!
Hint: In addition to the contemporary cathedral pictured above (which was built in 2008), this city is home to a children’s “fairy land” and a square named after a famous author.
Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, September 28, 2015, 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 prize. 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 Jean Jonker, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was Oakland, California. Jean has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.
See All “Where in the World?” Challenges
— written by Sarah Schlichter
Starting next year, travelers from certain U.S. states may no longer be able to use their driver’s licenses to get through security checkpoints at the airport.
Time reports that the four states in question include New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Louisiana (as well as American Samoa), which currently issue driver’s licenses that do not meet the security requirements of the Real ID Act. This act was passed by Congress in 2005 in response to a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission; it sets minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and other identification cards.
Although implementation of parts of the act began last year, it will not affect air travelers until “no sooner than 2016,” says the Department of Homeland Security website; this is when the new standards will apply to travelers boarding any federally regulated commercial plane.
So what does this mean for you? If you’re a resident of one of the affected states, you’ll need to bring a passport or passport card to use as identification in order to board a domestic flight. For international flights, all U.S. citizens must continue to show their passports as usual.
How to Get a U.S. Passport
10 Things Not to Wear When Traveling Abroad
— written by Sarah Schlichter
All great vacations must come to an end sometime, but the feel-good aftermath of a trip doesn’t have to.
The New York Times’ Stephanie Rosenbloom suggested in a column this summer that surrounding yourself with tchotchkes, receipts and photos can help ensure your post-trip satisfaction lasts longer. My travel memory-extending tricks go beyond that:
Use a linen spray during your travels, then resurrect it when you’re home. I won a travel tip contest on Rick Steves’ website almost 20 years ago with this tidbit, and I still use it today. When I travel, I bring along a small bottle of scented linen spray, such as the five-ounce aromatherapy pillow mists that Bath & Body Works sells. I use it to spruce up two-day-old clothing, stale-smelling bed sheets and musty rooms.
When I get home, I tuck the bottle away for a couple of months — this is key, because the scent won’t hold trip-specific memories if you continue to use it on a daily basis. After time, I bring it out and give it a spray, and I’m suddenly taken back to my week on the beach on the Costa del Sol in Spain. I can even recall the breeze coming in my hostel window — smell memories are that powerful.
Mail yourself postcards. Okay, so postcards may be passe in the big bad Digital Age, but that doesn’t make them any less nice to receive. When I first arrive in a city, I buy a few and tuck them away in my bag. When I’m having a relaxed moment — one time, it was while polishing off a no-name red table wine in a side-street taverna in Rome — I take the time to jot a postcard.
Usually I’ll merely describe what I’m doing in that moment. At the time it might feel ordinary, but later it becomes a special memory, full of detail I might not otherwise remember — the weather, the people at nearby tables, how thankful I was to be wearing a dark sweater when I dribbled half a glass of wine on myself.
10 Things to Do When You Get Home from a Trip
Continue to follow the social media feeds of your destinations’ tourist boards. Before a recent trip to New Mexico, I started following the Facebook feeds for Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos’ tourism offices. The pages were useful for building ideas for my trip.
But I’ve found it even more enjoyable to follow them in the months since. Oh, the band I saw perform at the Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid, NM, is there again this weekend! Look — the chef who made that fabulous green chile cheeseburger we devoured late one night just won a cooking contest! Snow is starting to fall on those mountains we hiked!
This is a great way to stay connected to the places you fell in love with.
Buy yourself gifts at a grocery store. I usually blow all my money on gifts for other people, but lately I’ve started buying meaningful foodstuffs and ingredients that I can bring home for myself.
En route to the airport in Nairobi for my departing flight, I asked my taxi driver to stop at a supermarket, where I bought several boxes of Ketepa Pride tea bags. Even today, when I prepare a cup, I always remember the afternoons on safari when all the other guests were napping and I stayed up to caffeinate myself and watch the zebras and wildebeests grazing on the savanna just across a ravine from our camp.
Photos: A Morning in the Maasai Mara
What’s your best tip for preserving the memory of a vacation? Share it in the comments below.
— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma
This week’s travel puzzle is part of our ongoing Flag Friday series of challenges. Can you identify which nation the following flag belongs to?
Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, September 21, 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 logo item. 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 Mildred Greenberg, who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Mongolia. Mildred has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations!
— written by Sarah Schlichter
On September 13, Semester at Sea unveiled its sixth ship, the World Odyssey. Since the inception of the program in 1963, Semester at Sea has offered a unique “university afloat” program for college students and lifelong learners. The debut of the World Odyssey — a new breed of ship for the program — will include a more traditional and upscale cruise setting within its hull. Onboard public spaces include a pool, fitness center, library and outdoor dining area.
Semester at Sea is not about a single ship; it is about a voyage around the world — and a voyage of profound personal and global discovery. As a past participant, I carry with me a deep respect for foreign culture and an understanding of how language, history and sustainable living impact our lives on a global scale. Notable past SAS participants who have gone on to create globally minded enterprises include Jessica Jackley, co-founder and board member of Kiva; Po Chung, co-founder of DHL International; and Adam Braun, founder and executive director of Pencils of Promise.
9 Best Destinations to See from the Water
The Semester at Sea program caters to college-age students but also offers a lifelong learning program for past participants or travelers interested in an academic and cultural experience that is as deep as it is wide. The ship sails approximately 100-day itineraries departing in the fall and spring each year, visiting up to a dozen countries on each voyage. In the past, participants have enjoyed one-of-a-kind opportunities to meet key public figures such as Mother Theresa, Fidel Castro in Cuba and Desmond Tutu.
Would you consider a trip with Semester at Sea?
— written by Vicki Flores
Seville may be romanticized as the vibrant jewel of southern Spain, but for me it’ll forever be remembered as a dusty, hot and overcrowded tourist trap. My only vivid memory is of being drenched in sweat walking up the never-ending ramps of the Giralda bell tower.
Ditto for Florence, Italy, which was overrun with American tour groups and so lacking in lodging when I visited that I had to sleep in a shabby hostel where the roaches congregated at night by the drain in the shower.
There are cities that you’re supposed to fall in love with, that you’re supposed to dream of visiting over and over again. Seville and Florence weren’t among them for me, and I don’t ever think I’ll go back. (To see more staff picks for cities not worth a second trip, see 12 Places You Only Need to See Once.)
Where will I return? Most certainly these five places:
Lima, Peru: I must admit, I wasn’t impressed during my first visit to Lima nearly a decade ago. But the city has improved — traffic seems less frenetic and neighborhoods less run down. Lima is worth the trip for its foodie scene alone; some of the world’s most noteworthy restaurants are there.
10 Best Peru Experiences
San Francisco, California: I don’t think of the City by the Bay merely as a U.S. city. San Francisco belongs to the world. Of all the cities I’ve visited, San Francisco is, hands down, the most beautiful. I never tire of the view, especially if the Golden Gate Bridge is within sight.
Oslo, Norway: The two days I spent after a cruise to Arctic Norway weren’t nearly enough time in the pristine and pretty Norwegian capital. Oslo is expensive ($12 for a cup of coffee? Seriously?), but worth another visit merely for an extra day strolling through the incredible sculpture garden in Vigeland Park.
The Best Cities to See Cool Public Art
Toronto, Canada: This is where I first got hooked on traditional afternoon tea (at the Fairmont Royal York) and on ice hockey (at the Hockey Hall of Fame).
Segovia, Spain: I’ve visited several times, always visiting the cathedral and walking along the aqueduct walls. Segovia is the Spain you imagine. Sorry, Seville.
Which places could you visit over and over again?
— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma
This week’s brainteaser is a Friday Word Puzzle. We’ll give you a category and the first letters of five countries that fall into that category, and you fill in the rest. Keep in mind that there may be more than one possible response for each letter. For examples, check out this blog post.
Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Michele, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the winning entry below.
Ready to give it a try? Here’s this week’s challenge:
Enter your list of countries in the comments below. You have until Monday, September 14, 2015, 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 logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.
Stay tuned for further chances to win!
— created by Dori Saltzman