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, October 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 Dominic Zmarlicki, who correctly guessed that this week’s flag was from Georgia. Dominic has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations!
— written by Sarah Schlichter
Just last week, I greeted a new airplane cabin design from Airbus with cautious optimism. Sleeping boxes that might allow us long-suffering folks in cattle class to catch a few winks during a long flight? Yes, please.
But this week, we’re back to being appalled by the increasingly horrifying ways aircraft designers are trying to squeeze more humans onto each plane. Wired describes the latest design for which Airbus has filed for a patent as “a bit like blocks in a game of Tetris,” with seats stacked atop other seats. Take a look:
Airbus notes in its patent application that this design might be most appropriate for a business-class cabin because it allows passengers enough space to recline. Based on these diagrams, though, I have a hard time imagining paying economy-class fares to sit in this configuration, let alone front-of-the-plane rates. That said, this design might look a lot better if there were clear barriers or walls between different levels of seats, allowing fliers to feel like they have their own little contained area (and letting them forget that they’re stacked atop of other passengers like cans on a grocery store shelf).
Also worth asking: How safe is such a configuration? Could the cabin be evacuated efficiently if passengers have to climb down ladders, and would there be increased chance of injury during heavy turbulence?
7 Mistakes to Avoid When Booking a Flight
Of course, the same disclaimer we gave last week applies: Airbus and other companies apply for numerous patents, and an idea in this stage may never come to fruition.
You can read the full patent application here.
— written by Sarah Schlichter
About 25 percent of travelers say they bring workout clothes on vacation but don’t use them, according to a travel trends survey conducted earlier this year. The reason? They’re pressed for time, or too tired.
I’d also venture to say they’re bored by the workout offerings at their hotels. Who wants to waste valuable vacation time in a bland, windowless hotel gym when you can be out having fun? Fortunately, some interesting options are available to ensure you actually don your workout gear during a trip.
Here are seven of the more unusual vacation workouts you may want to try:
Skipping lessons: Yes, you read that right — skipping, like you did as a kid. “Intense” skipping lessons are included in the boot camp-style workout on the Isle of Wight in England through a company called Wildfitness. The four-day itinerary also includes boxing in the woods and leaping over rocks on the beach.
Nude yoga: Try it on one of several clothing-optional cruises to the Caribbean, Europe and French Polynesia organized by the tour operator Bare Necessities.
Desert ice skating: In Dubai, summer temperatures can reach 113 degrees Fahrenheit. But at the Hyatt Regency Dubai, you can learn how to ice skate in the desert from a professional trainer at the hotel’s in-house rink.
Heel workout: The Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian in Las Vegas has a foot-focused workout for women who wear high heels. After finishing the “Fit for Heels” class, you can get a complimentary analysis of the biomechanics of your feet.
Soca dancing: Jamaica’s Jewel Paradise Cove Beach Resort & Spa offers soca dance classes at its fitness center. Originating in Trinidad and Tobago, soca is a dance involving jumping, waving and hip swaying.
Ironman training: The Thanyapura Sports Hotel in Phuket, Thailand, has an elite Ironman triathlon coach on staff to provide private training to triathlete vacationers. The hotel also offers rugby and track and field training, in addition to lessons in the usual sports you’d find a resort (like tennis and swimming).
Spoga: The all-inclusive BodyHoliday Resort on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia has a glass-enclosed treehouse studio where you can do spoga (a spinning/yoga combo class).
–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.
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, October 5, 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.
Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Linda Gardner, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the winning entry below.
Stay tuned for further chances to win!
— created by Sarah Schlichter
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,” write 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!
–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