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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

infographic Orbitz holiday stressThe holidays are finally over, and as the long, celebrationless weeks of winter stretch out across our immediate futures, we can reflect upon how stressful — or not — the holidays actually were. Orbitz makes this reflection easy with an eye-catching infographic based upon its 2013 holiday travel trends survey, dubbed a “best-practice guide to holiday travel stressors.” Orbitz found, among other things, that 71 percent of its readers actually found their trips not to be stressful at all.

In the planning stages of holiday travel, 29 percent of respondents said they were more stressed about planning a trip during the winter holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s) than any other time of the year. But a majority — 58 percent — responded that the planning aspect did not stress them at all. (Sounds suspicious to me.) Women were 23 percent more likely to be stressed than men, and travelers aged 18 to 34 were, in general, more stressed than the over-35 crowd (I guess that’s why I’m the stressed one). Unsurprisingly, those with children at home were 19 percent more likely to be stressed than those without kids.

Based on survey responses from travelers who kept their cool, Orbitz suggests developing a trip schedule, booking things in advance and reading customer reviews to ease the planning process.

During travel, suggestions to reduce vacation stress include staying in a hotel for at least part of your trip (rather than with family) and penciling in some personal or down time, while others schedule endless activities to distract them during their time away.

8 Holiday Travel Myths: Debunked!

Despite women experiencing more stress during the planning process, men were more likely to be stressed after a trip than women. Full-time employees were a whopping 82 percent more likely to worry about transitioning back to everyday life than those who are self-employed. Again, those with children seemed to be on edge at every part of a trip — they were 56 percent more likely to be stressed post-vacation than those without kids.

Transitioning “back to reality,” 37 percent of travelers responded that they were stressed and four percent felt “extremely stressed” regarding the transition. The good news? Nearly a third of travelers used the word “enjoyable” to describe their holiday trips.

So what are the keys to handling post-trip anxiety and post-travel blues? More than half keep up with home life while they’re away, 45 percent rarely (if at all) tell their office how to contact them while away and 44 percent never or rarely keep up to date with work while away.

How would you rate your travel stress this past holiday season? I solved it by not going anywhere!

– written by Brittany Chrusciel

a satellite image of europe at nightAs if we ever really need a reason to travel to Europe, the year 2015 nevertheless gives us several good excuses to shell out the money for a plane ticket across the pond.

In addition to a dramatically improving exchange rate — which means the U.S. dollar will go farther than you’d expect — England, Lithuania, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are among the countries that offer excellent justification for a European sojourn, from celebrating important moments in history to commemorating a significant contributor to modern culture.

Here’s why you should consider visiting Europe this year.

England Celebrates the Creation of the Magna Carta
The document known as the Magna Carta, first written in 1215, was one of the first attempts to limit the power of a ruling entity and provide some level of freedom to “the people.” Over the years, the Magna Carta has inspired subsequent efforts, including the Constitution of the United States.

Six two- to four-day tourist itineraries have been created as part of the 800th anniversary celebration. Each “trail” covers a different aspect of the history of the Magna Carta and takes visitors to cities including London, Salisbury, Kent and others. Additionally, London’s Temple Church will be offering free London walking tours from June 1 to September 20. And for those who want to see copies of the original Magna Carta, there are four which will be displayed in various exhibits throughout the year.

13 Best England Experiences

200 Years Ago at Waterloo Napoleon Did Surrender
History and war buffs take note, one of the world’s largest battle reenactments will take place over two days this June in commemoration of the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. The battle saw the end of Napoleon’s reign and brought peace, at least for a little while, to much of Europe. More than 5,000 people, 300 horses and 100 cannons will be used in the reenactment, and all are welcome to come participate or simply watch. Can’t make it to the battlefield on the exact days? Onsite guides offer a several tours (including those designed for slow walkers) of the battlefield seven days a week. Several museums are also available including the visitor center on the battlefield site, the Wellington Museum in Waterloo and Napoleon’s headquarters on the main road nearby.

In Memoriam, 125 Years: Vincent Van Gogh
July 29, 2015, will mark 125 years since Vincent Van Gogh died. Exhibits celebrating his life and body of work will be offered to the public in cultural institutions and art museums all over the world. Some of the most impressive exhibits will be in the Netherlands, Van Gogh’s birthplace. At the Kroller-Muller Museum, located in the Hoge Veluwe National Park, you’ll find the Van Gogh & Co exhibit between April 25 and September 27. The exhibit will concentrate on art styles popular at the end of the 19th century — still lifes, vistas, cityscapes and portraits — and will include more than 50 works by Van Gogh, as well as several pieces from his contemporaries. From September 25 to the middle of January 2016, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam will feature Munch: Van Gogh, which compares and contrasts the works of Van Gogh and Edvard Munch through the use of their paintings and drawings. One beautiful attraction to check out will be the Keukenhof Gardens, which in 2015 will have a theme of “Van Gogh, 125 Years of Inspiration.”

9 Best Netherland Experiences

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity
Last year Germany threw a party to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This year, the country honors the 25th anniversary of the legal reunification of the country. The largest celebrations will take place on the Day of German Unity (October 3), but you can be sure the country will be raising a beer stein throughout the year.

Lithuania Makes History, Joins the Eurozone
Lithuania will become slightly less off-the-beaten-track in 2015 when the country becomes the 19th nation to join the Eurozone and adopt the euro as its national currency. The country’s entry into the Eurozone means that exchanging money will become simpler and credit card use will become more widespread, both of which make visiting the country easier.

12 Best Germany Experiences

– written by Dori Saltzman

Welcome to our new “Spotlight on …” feature! Every week we’ll highlight a different country around the world.

piha beach new zealand


Population: 4.4 million

Currency: New Zealand dollar

Phrase to Know: Kia ora (a Maori greeting that means hello)

Fun Fact: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, the Maori name for a hill in Hawke’s Bay, is believed to be the longest place name in an English-speaking country.

We Recommend: An art adventure in Queenstown. While this popular South Island city is known for high-octane activities like bungee jumping and mountain biking, you can also meet local artists and even take a painting or sketching lesson with the company Art Adventures.

13 Best New Zealand Experiences

Have you been to New Zealand? What was your favorite spot?

– 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

2015 resolutionsDitch the diet and make a plan to broaden your horizons by way of travel — near or far — in 2015 (it’s way more fun than eating your veggies). This is what some of the staff at The Independent Traveler, Inc. resolve to do in the new year:

“I would like to finally win a free vacation this year, all expenses paid!” – Blake Bullis, Web Application Manager

“No more long lines — I’m finally going to apply for the Global Entry and TSA PreCheck programs! If the fee saves me a single wait in the hideous JFK immigration line, it’ll be worth it.” – Sarah Schlichter, Senior Editor

“I plan to travel to Ukraine to visit family and take a weeklong vacation in Greece with my husband and friends.” – Masha Uretsky, Social Media Specialist

“My New Year’s resolution is not to travel more, but to travel better — more immersive experiences, more thoughtful planning, a better focus on quality and value. I want to eliminate the insanity of way too many last-minute decisions — whether in booking trips or being on them — that cost of peace of mind and cold hard cash.” – Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor-in-Chief

“I’m not a ‘resolutions’ guy, but I’m focusing my 2015 travel efforts on appreciating my own state (California) more: mountains, deserts and beaches. This also supports my objective of spending less time getting there and more time being there.” – Michael Maher, Digital Media Sales Manager (Western Region)

“World Cup or bust! I’ve wanted to attend a soccer World Cup for many years, and with the next men’s World Cups being held in Russia and Qatar, the chances of getting to one within the next eight years are slim to none. BUT the women’s World Cup for 2015 is being held in Canada! As soon as I realized that, I took the first steps toward achieving my dream, reserving my hotel room and buying my stadium pass to the Women’s World Cup games being held this June throughout Canada. It will likely be the only time I get to see a World Cup in person, plus I’ll be seeing Canada play, so I’m looking forward to the home crowd atmosphere.” – Dori Saltzman, Editor at Large

“I told myself I’m required to go two new places every year — they don’t have to be abroad. So for next year, I already have Nashville booked!” – Stephanie Moccio, Senior SEO Specialist

“My 2015 travel resolution is to do more weekend getaways! After an 11-day vacation this fall, we decided that we prefer only being gone for four to five days at a time. More weekend getaway means we can explore new places, as well as revisit favorites.” – Kimberly Coyne, Director of Sales

“My 2015 travel resolution is to do two things: get certified to scuba dive, so that I can eventually go with my aunt who is now an expert, and also to make a solidified list of places I want to visit during my lifetime. Of course, this list will be added to in future years, but a list that I can begin to tackle in 2015 sounds like a good plan to get me started!” – Hilarey Wojtowicz, Editorial Assistant, Family Vacation Critic

“If I could see at least one new place — whether it be domestic or international, city or small town — that’s always a goal on my list for the upcoming year.” – Brittany Chrusciel, Editorial Assistant

“Gone are the days of planning a week to a new country. This year, my resolution is to survive a short trip to Disney World with my toddler … that’s as adventurous as it’s getting!” – Amanda Hoy, Brand Marketing Manager

“In 2015, we resolve to do a family trip that’s not a cruise. We need to see what other travel options are out there. Maybe there are other family trips we’ll enjoy just as much as cruising?” – Cecilia Freeman, Assistant Community Manager

“My New Year’s travel resolution is to get on a river cruise. I’ve spent an awful lot of time on ocean ships — which I love — but all I hear about at the moment is river, river, river! So here’s hoping I can take a slow boat down the Danube in 2015.” – Adam Coulter, Senior Editor, Cruise Critic U.K.

“My travel resolution is to go on fewer cruises and take more land-based trips. My hope is that I’ll be able to strengthen our destinations coverage by immersing myself in the ports and their surrounding areas; it’s tough to do that if you’re only there for a few hours when a ship calls.” – Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor

“I haven’t decided what my resolution is yet — it might involve Europe, but I most definitely want to explore more local attractions. Too often, we overlook the amazing places in our own backyards.” – Amanda Geronikos, Associate Editor, Family Vacation Critic

16 Signs You’re Addicted to Travel

What’s your resolution for the coming year? Post it in the comments below!

– written by Amanda Geronikos

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!

portugalIn this month’s featured review, reader Maria Marrocchino writes about a biking adventure in Portugal. On her third day, her journey took her to the Conquest of Valongo Castle: “When we finally arrive at the castle, we park our bikes and walk up. The 11th-century surreal castle is built in the middle of nowhere which of course makes it all the more majestic. We sit and eat our lunch over the spectacular view of the countryside.”

Read the rest of Maria’s review here: Biking in Portugal – Evora. Maria has won an IndependentTraveler.com duffel bag!

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Today’s post is part of a weekly series called “Travel Toss-Up,” in which we ask you to take your pick between two amazing travel experiences.

This week’s toss-up offers a choice of two sweet spots to visit during summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Would you rather …

… hit one of the world’s most famous beaches in Rio de Janeiro, or …

ipanema beach rio de janeiro brazil



… take a scenic coastal drive to see the 12 Apostles in Australia?

12 apostles australia


Famous beaches Ipanema (pictured above) and Copacabana have put Rio on the map, but the city is home to numerous sunny stretches of sand. Looking to visit? Consider family-friendly Praia de Leblon and beautiful Praia Vermelha. For a different kind of coastal view, drive the Great Ocean Road, which runs along Australia’s southern coast and is one of the world’s most spectacular drives.

Escape the Cold: 8 Warm Weather Winter Vacations

Vote for your preference in the comments below!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

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!

world destination


Hint: Due to its atolls, this nation is one of the most geographically dispersed countries in the world. Some say the aerial view of this island in the Indian Ocean looks like a flower.

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, December 29, 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 J. Kofsky, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was the Maldives. This reader has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

See All “Where in the World?” Challenges

– written by Brittany Chrusciel