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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.

Ready to give it a try? Here’s this week’s challenge:

index card puzzle


Enter your list of countries in the comments below. You have until Monday, January 26, 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 Ella Farantatos, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the winning entry below.

countries with a monarchy


Stay tuned for further chances to win!

– created by Dori Saltzman

It’s an American epidemic: unused vacation days. Every year, surveys and studies are released with depressing statistics about how little vacation time Americans receive as compared with other westernized nations, and to make it worse, we don’t even take advantage of that time.

Skift released its own survey results this month, showing that 42 percent of Americans didn’t take any vacation days in 2014 — not a single one.

The Costa Rica Tourism Board, citing Expedia’s 2013 Vacation Deprivation Study, saw that 59 percent of Americans feel vacation deprived, and felt that it was a call to action. Calling its campaign Save the Americans, Costa Rica sympathizes with the plight of the overworked American, and rallies its most exotic inhabitants to sway you into vacation submission with a song.

12 Best Costa Rica Experiences

We dare you to watch these cute creatures’ original rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and not consider booking some time away immediately afterward.



Do you take all of your vacation time? Why or why not?

– written by Brittany Chrusciel

Sometimes the only way to get through an unpleasant travel experience is to laugh about it — and that’s why we love Sir Patrick Stewart’s recent appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” The legendary actor brings to life five of the most annoying types of airplane passengers (as voted on in an Expedia poll).

Our favorite? The Seat Climber, which had our entire office laughing out loud. Take a look:


We only wish Stewart had gotten a chance to do his screaming baby impression.

Check out the following links for more in-flight hilarity:

JetBlue Introduces Funny Flight Etiquette Videos
Betty White Stars in Latest Air New Zealand Safety Video

– written by Sarah Schlichter

woman facing empty picture frames alone in museumPicture Will Smith driving around an abandoned Times Square in the post-apocalyptic movie “I Am Legend.” Now picture yourself on a commercial airplane about to take off with only you and the crew aboard. Maybe not as dramatic as driving a sports car through Manhattan at the end of the world, but for one Brooklyn native, this travel dream became a near-reality on his Delta flight Monday. According to ABC News, Chris O’Leary boarded his delayed flight to New York to find that the rest of the passengers had been rebooked. He documented his experience on social media with updates like, “I just got a personal safety briefing from my two flight attendants.”

Alas, just before take-off another passenger boarded, and “the thrill” had passed for what might have been O’Leary’s only shot at a private plane. Still, we imagine they each had plenty of space to recline and enjoy the peace.

15 Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling Solo

This freak flight occurrence had us thinking: What other travel experiences would you enjoy more if you had them completely and totally to yourself? Would you take a cruise as the only passenger? A train ride as the only occupant? How about having the Pyramids of Giza to yourself? Would having the time and space to wander around major landmarks utterly on your own be more fulfilling, or would it feel strange and deserted without a bit of a crowd?

I would love to have the Louvre, or another cavernous museum, to myself for a day. To me, art is very subjective, and I would prefer to have my own experience interpreting the pieces without anyone else pausing in front to ponder.

Tell us: What travel experiences could you get used to solo?

– written by Brittany Chrusciel

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, January 12, 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 Sujata, who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Bhutan. Sujata has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Ever sat next to a chatterbox, a space hog or another undesirable seatmate on a plane? One airline feels your pain — and it’s taking a light-hearted look at the issue with a new series of videos called Flight Etiquette.

JetBlue has released two short, humorous videos on its YouTube channel, with more to come. The first one features the world’s most obnoxious napper. Take a look:


In an interview with Skift, a brand analyst from JetBlue explains the sentiment behind the videos: “Flight Etiquette is not only entertaining and humorous, it also says to our customers that we get you. We understand that on a plane, you’re sometimes forced to rub elbows — literally — with people you don’t know, and a little etiquette goes a long way. We’ve all been there.”

The second video shifts its focus from inconsiderate seatmates to the eternal dilemma of being stuck in the window seat when you have to use the bathroom. Watch and squirm:


10 Annoying Habits of Our Fellow Travelers

Did the videos make you laugh? Which scenario should JetBlue tackle next? Sound off in the comments below.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

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.

Ready to give it a try? Here’s this week’s challenge:

index card puzzle


Enter your list of countries in the comments below. You have until Monday, January 5, 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 Jenn, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the winning entry below.

countries that don't use a latin alphabet


Stay tuned for further chances to win!

– created by Dori Saltzman

vintage suitcase filled with santa hat and striped socks‘Twas the night before travel, when all through the house
Not a single thing was packed, not even a blouse.
The passports were placed on the table with care,
In hopes that by morning they still would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of security lines danced in my head.
With mom out in Yonkers and a 4 a.m. flight,
I had just prepared my brain for a long sleepless night,
When on The Weather Channel there arose such a clatter,
I turned up the volume to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
My heart did seize up and my teeth they did gnash.
For on the lawn was a fresh layer of snow
That looked like it had inches and inches to go,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
A winter storm advisory, to close out the year.
With a little old sigh, and a cigarette lit,
I took a deep breath, resisting a fit.
More rapid than eagles the phone alerts came,
And I cringed and I shouted and I called them all names.
Delays Newark! Delays Houston! Delays JFK and San Fran!
Delays, Atlanta! Delays Dulles! Delays LAX and Logan!

My blood pressure was up, I was climbing the walls;
I could hear stand-by now, through muffled airport calls.
Planes were all grounded, like before wild hurricanes,
Met with an obstacle, I sat down and ate candy canes.
Fed up with holiday travel, my nerves were askew,
We had gifts for Aunt Kathy (and her new beau, too).
And then, in a moment of panic I remembered:
Do we fly out next year or was it this December?
As I cradled my head, I saw a light and spun ’round,
Headlights in the driveway — our in-laws in town?

Dressed in faux fur, from head down to feet,
My fashion sense flinched, but my heart skipped a beat;
For a bundle of toys were flung on their back,
But more than just that — we didn’t have to pack!
My eyes how they watered! My spirits were merry!
(Mental note to fire my assistant, Jerry.)
His droll little mannerisms bothered me, oh!
But his scheduling skills were lacking more so.
The stump of a pen he held in his teeth
And the smoke on his clothes sometimes made me seethe;
But he has a good heart and he’s not all that smelly,
He does make me laugh and he stocks Jelly Belly.

With a crash came tumbling our Elf on the Shelf
And I snapped back to reality, in spite of myself;
An apologetic tail wag from the family dog Zed,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
I turned off all my email, even my work,
And hugged my in-laws (so I wasn’t a jerk).
I set a reminder to book flights for next year,
And still couldn’t believe we’re hosting it here.
So I sprang into action, part relief and part Xanax,
And away my cares flew, along with my panics,
But I heard the weatherman exclaim before he was snowed out of sight,
‘Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.’

– written by Brittany Chrusciel

Eight Holiday Travel Myths Debunked

Tips for Being a Good Holiday Houseguest

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, December 22, 2014, 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 Kelly M., who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Belize. Kelly has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

This week’s brainteaser is a Friday Word Puzzle. We’ll give you a category and the first letters of 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.

This month we’ve tweaked the puzzle. For each letter, we’re asking for two countries. The key: in one country end-of-year holidays are during the winter, but for the other country those holidays are in the summer. Ready to give it a try? Here’s this week’s challenge:

index card puzzle


Enter your list of countries in the comments below. You have until Monday, December 15, 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 Edwin Hendrix, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the winning entry below.

country pairs


Stay tuned for further chances to win!

– created by Dori Saltzman