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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, July 14, 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 Craig Faanes, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Check out the winning entry below.

spanish speaking countries


Stay tuned for further chances to win!

– created by Dori Saltzman

This week’s travel puzzle is a “guess the flag” challenge. Can you identify which nation the following flag belongs to?


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, June 23, 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 Tim Foster, who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Slovenia. Tim has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. 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 five words 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:

foreign-currencies


Enter your list of currencies in the comments below. You have until Monday, June 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 Alex, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Check out the winning entry below.

foreign-currencies


Stay tuned for further chances to win!

– created by Dori Saltzman

This week’s travel puzzle is a “guess the flag” challenge. Can you identify which nation the following flag belongs to?


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, June 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 Autumn Case, who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Fiji. Autumn has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Who knew travel was the key to true love? This past weekend, some very lucky bachelors celebrating in Charleston, South Carolina, welcomed a surprise guest when none other than Bill Murray wandered into their party. Held in a cult-like status for not only his celebrity but also for doing this sort of thing — showing up uninvited to events and then doling out sage advice as only he could — Bill Murray didn’t disappoint with a speech that can be seen below:


We love that Murray suggests taking a trip with a future spouse before actually tying the knot — not just because it promotes travel, but also because we’ve experienced firsthand the way travel can both strengthen and challenge a relationship. From navigating the cold, rainy hills of Montreal without a map, to feeling like the only two people in the world on the charming streets of a medieval Austrian city at night, traveling with my significant other has had literal ups and downs. Check out these anecdotes from our office full of travelers:

“The first trip I took abroad with my ex-husband was to London and it was a miserable trip. During our marriage we traveled to St. Lucia, Jamaica, Mexico and Paris together, and every trip was a wreck. Since our divorce, I’ve returned to those places, including a week solo in Paris, and I found that I love each place I’ve been and that it was just the company I was with that spoiled the trip. I’m still single, so I guess I’m waiting to find the person who loves travel as much as I do and who can enrich the trip. Maybe I’ll follow Murray’s advice and marry that person once I find him.” – Lissa Poirot, Editor, Family Vacation Critic

18 Ways to Keep the Peace with Your Travel Companion

“I’m a firm believer that if you love to travel you should travel with the one you love before marrying him/her. I traveled to various places in Asia with my husband before we got married, and it definitely brought us closer. Traveling can be very stressful and you can see how the other person copes in a difficult situation and if you work well together as a team.” – Kathleen Tucker, President

“When Corbett and I travel we always find out new things about each other. Recently, we were on a Silversea cruse. The DJ in the very small lounge was playing some great old disco. Between the modest crowd and several bottles of wine at dinner, I learned unequivocally that Corbett cannot dance! Just horrible.” – Jim Walsh, Sales Manager

“Back in December, my boyfriend and I went to Boston for a weekend together. It was our first trip together as a couple so it was a great bonding experience and it really brought us closer together — not only because we had to plan our days and figure out how to get to all of the different attractions that we wanted to see, but also because my car ended up getting broken in to and my laptop was stolen. Although it was a terrible situation, my boyfriend really helped me get through that and he supported me and comforted me, which made our relationship stronger.” – Hilarey Wojtowicz, Production Assistant, Family Vacation Critic

“After meeting my future husband on half a dozen occasions, we met up in Hawaii and then he joined me to travel around Australia a few months later. We decided to spend our lives together somewhere along the way. If you can live together in a station wagon for three months, future homes will never feel small!” – Carrie Gonzalez, Senior Marketing Manager

“On one of my first trips with my boyfriend, I learned that my family’s dog had been diagnosed with cancer and would soon need to be put down. Hours from home, my boyfriend became my sole source of comfort, and despite the fact that the rest of the trip was ruined for me, he didn’t once tell me to ‘try to have a good time’ — he understood, and that in itself meant the world to me. We’ve since taken many, much happier vacations together.” – Amanda Geronikos, Associate Editor, Family Vacation Critic

“My boyfriend (now hubby) and I were long distance when we first met (he lived in England and I lived in New Jersey). My first time ever overseas was to visit him, and we took an awesome trip visiting Dublin, London and Venice. Venice was particularly memorable, as we had no idea how to navigate to our hotel once we got there, and a sweet little old Italian man led us there and showed us around. We also were in London briefly the day of the Royal Wedding, which was pure insanity. The trip made us closer than ever and we had an amazing time bonding and having fun visiting all these new places. I’ll never forget it!” – Jessy Parkes, Sales Planner

10 Ways to Be a Less Annoying Travel Companion

“I decided I would marry my husband on our first trip together.

“The long weekend in the island of Dominica was all Don’s idea. At the time, my vision of the Caribbean had been limited to all-inclusive resorts and Jimmy Buffett music, so I was skeptical. He assured me that we would hike, snorkel, and suss out local chicken stands and rum shacks. Sold! During the trip, not all went according to plan. Carnival was in full swing and the already hazardous steep mountain roads were full of partiers, stray dogs and the occasional goat. On one particularly knotty turn, I looked over at Don. He looked calm, cool and collected under his Caribbean hat, a cigar in his teeth and one hand on the steering wheel. Not only was Don able to keep up with me, he was HANDLING IT. I was impressed. We didn’t talk marriage until three months later. But my mind was already made up. Any guy who could deal with the chaos of the Caribbean could take on anything life would throw at us. And he has.” – Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor, Cruise Critic

– written by Brittany Chrusciel

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

deserts-of-the-world


Enter your list of deserts in the comments below. You have until Monday, May 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 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 Sandy DeSiervo, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Check out the winning entry below.

deserts of the world


Stay tuned for further chances to win!

– created by Dori Saltzman

inkwell and penDid you know that Monday was Limerick Day? According to DaysoftheYear.com, it’s held each year on May 12 to honor the birthday of Edward Lear, who popularized the short poems and named them after the Irish city of Limerick.

To celebrate the day, you’ll find some creations of our very own below — travel-themed, of course.

Today we’re writing a blog
About Shanghai and Tokyo and Prague.
How ’bout Barcelona?
You want to go, don’t ya,
To London, all shrouded in fog?

Australia‘s a fun place to play,
But the trip takes almost all day.
So start in the morning,
But here’s a fair warning:
Your connecting flight’s on delay.

Why not head to the equator,
Where you’ll lie on the beach till much later?
Be sure to use sunscreen.
The heat can be quite mean,
So ask for a drink from the waiter.

Bucket list places abound,
But they’re not that easily found.
Antarctica’s pricey,
And Egypt is dicey.
Maybe save them for next time around.

Now it’s time to start packing.
Make sure that nothing is lacking.
Camera and clothes
And a suitcase that rolls:
Check out our list, and get cracking.

We’d love to hear your travel limericks! Write your own, and post it in the comments below.

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

This week’s travel puzzle is a “guess the flag” challenge. Can you identify which nation the following flag belongs to?


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, May 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 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 Arnie Valeriano, who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Kenya. Arnie has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Domino SparrowI have a weird sense of humor. I admit it. So I was intrigued to discover that the Museum of Natural History in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is home to an exhibit entitled “Dead Animals with a Story.”

Sure, there are dead animals in natural history museums all the time, but these had stories that involved things like dominos and McFlurry cups. I had to see this exhibit for myself.

So while everyone else from my river cruise went to see yet more Dutch artistry, I found my way to Rotterdam’s Museum of Natural History. It took three sets of directions before I found the small building tucked into the corner of Museum Square. That was just fine with me; all the wandering added to my sense of adventure. I was on a quest to find these storied animals.

For such a small museum, it also took me a while to find the exhibit that had so caught my attention. For starters, neither the map nor the museum’s signage was in English. So I headed up the stairs and into every room I could find. Nothing, just your usual stuffed animals on display.

Could I be mistaken? Had I found my way to the wrong museum? Had they scrapped the exhibit?

The World’s Weirdest Museums

Back down the stairs.

I was exiting yet another exhibit room, disappointed at my failure, when I spied the stuffed remains of a hedgehog with his head inserted into a McFlurry cup in a display case right at the entrance to the museum. I’d passed right by it!

The low, long, narrow display case was placed unobtrusively along the wall immediately inside of the entryway. The stuffed animals in the case were small and easy to miss — a house mouse, a tiny bat, a sparrow, the unfortunate hedgehog, numbered among the maybe 10 animals displayed.

But what made these poor critters different from the hundreds of other animals in the museum?

Well, the house mouse, for instance, wasn’t killed in just any old house. He (or she) was one of several hundred killed in 2012 when the Second Chamber (part of the country’s House of Representatives) experienced a mouse infestation. When the curator at the museum saw the news of the problem, it occurred to him that his collection did not have a house mouse in it. So he sent a request to the government asking if they would send one of their dead mice to him. His request was soundly refused. The government, he was told, does not give away its trash — of any kind. And yet, a few days later, a package in the official envelope of the Second Chamber showed up, no return addressee listed, with a dead mouse still in the trap enclosed.

Then there is the “domino sparrow.” This unfortunate bird had the dubious honor of garnering international attention when he was shot and killed after knocking down some 23,000 dominos (of nearly 4 million!) at the annual Domino Day event in Leeuwarden just four days before the event. The shooting outraged animal rights groups around the country, and they took the shooter and the organizers of Domino Day to court. Prosecutors opened an investigation and issued a 200 euro fine to the man who killed the bird.

In Your Face: 9 Up-Close Animal Encounters

And then there’s the hedgehog. His is a tale of environmental caution for everyone. Once quite large, the Netherlands’ hedgehog population has almost halved in the past 20 years. Though the main cause of death is cars, a significant number die after inserting their heads into ice cream cups (the kind with triangular openings for spoons) and then being unable to get back out because of the structure of their neck and spine. These poor critters either starve to death or run around blindly until they fall into a canal and drown. The specimen in the Rotterdam museum is one such unlucky hedgehog. The good news is that an animal lovers’ group in England lobbied McDonald’s to replace the McFlurry covers with those that have smaller holes, thereby protecting hedgehogs from this sad fate.

One caveat about the museum exhibit: all the signage is in Dutch. I had to turn to a Dutch guide on my river cruise for translations (based on photographs I’d taken of the exhibit). Therefore, most of my enjoyment of the displays came after the fact.

What’s the strangest exhibit you’ve ever come across in your travels?

– written by Dori Saltzman

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

countries in africa


Enter your list of cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, May 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 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 Katie, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Check out the winning entry below.

countries in africa


Stay tuned for further chances to win!

– created by Dori Saltzman