Explore. Experience. Engage.

Home Travel Tips Travel Deals Destinations Trip Reviews Blog
The IndependentTraveler.com Blog

This week’s puzzle is a word scramble. Below are the jumbled names of four major cities from around the world, followed by the country where they’re located. Your job is to unscramble them. For example, “IALM, EURP” would be “Lima, Peru.” Identify all four mystery cities to win.





Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, August 15, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday 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 Juan Herrera, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.





— created by Sarah Schlichter

Here’s what you might have missed this week in the world of travel:

KLM's Spencer robot helps passengers at Schiphol airport

Robot Customer Service Will Dominate Travel in the Future
Robots who help you go shopping, hotels constructed on 3D printers and virtual passports are among the technological advances we could see in the world of travel in the not-too-distant future, Vice reports. Many companies in the travel industry, including hotels and airlines, are testing such technologies, and they could be rolled out sooner than you think.

After ‘Brexit’ Vote, a Burst of Interest in Travel to Britain
Sales of airline tickets to the U.K. from the United States have jumped noticeably in the two months since Britain voted to leave the European Union, says The New York Times. British Airways, Expedia.com, Airbnb and others are all reporting an uptick in bookings.

Your Luggage Or Your Life? Airline Passengers Increasingly Choosing Their Luggage
All too often, when there’s an airplane emergency, video emerges of passengers slowing down the evacuation process by retrieving luggage from the overhead bins. The trend will lead to a tragedy, aviation expert John Goglia warns on Forbes.com.

Read This Before You Buy Travel Insurance
Can trip insurance holders receive refunds if they cancel a trip because of fears of the Zika virus? Money magazine says probably not, because most standard policies do not cover disease outbreak. This article provides good travel insurance reminders, including a rundown of policies that let you cancel for any reason.

Here’s What It’s Like to Travel 8 Hours Across Japan by Train
The sleekest, most modern trains in the world provide a quiet, plush experience, writes CNET’s Geoffrey Morrison. His fun travelogue details his eight-hour train ride from Nagasaki in southern Japan to Tokyo in the northwest.

Mindfulness Is Everyone’s New Favorite Travel Trend
Detaching from the rest of the world and destressing with a dose of mindfulness is the latest trend to hit hotels, Uproxx reports. Beyond yoga and meditation classes, a number of hotels are now handing out coloring books for adults, among other offerings.

The Most Photographed Spot in the U.S.?
Grand Teton National Park is one of the world’s most perfect places to take pictures, a “Disneyland for photographers,” says a longtime guide in this BBC feature on the famed Wyoming park.

Had enough of the heat and humidity of this summer? This stunning new aerial video of Iceland will cool you off.

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

Want dinner delivered in a box on a weekly or monthly basis? There’s a subscription for that. Ditto for beauty products, socks, diapers, loose tea, outfits, even goodies for pregnant women tailored by due date.

Monthly subscription boxes have never been more popular. Travel buffs can get in on the mailbox fun too, with travel subscription boxes geared just for them. Here are seven we love.

kitchen table passport france box

Note: Most of these companies ship all over the world, though shipping fees vary.

Try the World: Each month you’ll receive a themed collection of foodstuffs from a single country, curated by a local expert. For instance, Brazilian cookbook author and teacher Leticia Schwartz selected the items in the Brazil box, focusing on foods for a quintessential Brazilian barbecue. Refreshing caipirinha, anyone?

Kitchen Table Passport: Like other kits, this one profiles a different country each month and focuses on cooking. But the kits are more than just recipes and ingredients — they invoke all of your senses. You’ll smell and taste the meal you’re preparing, but you’ll also listen to music from the destination, hold locally sourced souvenirs and see photos.

GlobeIn: In addition to receiving four or five handpicked artisan crafts from around the world — kitchen items, home decor and recycled tote bags among them — you also get to learn the back stories of the people who created the crafts. The company is committed to making a social impact by supporting the artists, crafter and creators of the products.

Little Passports: Introduce children to travel through the adventures of cartoon globetrotters and the gifts they dispatch to their young subscribers. Three kits are available: one for early explorers aged 3 to 5 years, a world edition for ages 6 to 10 and a U.S. edition for 7- to 12-year-olds. Each monthly gift contains maps, stickers, play passports, toys, activity guides and other offerings. An Egypt-themed gift box, for example, includes suitcase stickers depicting the pyramids and pretend archeological dig kit tools. Subscriptions also include access to online games.

Bocandy: If you have an adventurous sweet tooth, this is a great subscription box. You get to sample candy and other treats from Bulgaria, Japan, Germany, Mexico and other countries. There are several boxes to choose from, including one focused on Asian treats.

Eat Feed Love: This foodie website offers a “Taste Club” that delivers boxes of sample or full-sized artisanal foods and snacks from around the world. Coffee, tea, syrups, spices, oils, condiments and chocolate are all in the mix, and items are sourced from markets, family farms and small shops.

Birchbox: Birchbox was one of the pioneers of the subscription box industry, providing sample-size beauty products for women. Though not geared toward travelers per se, the five items provided in their monthly kits are often travel-sized. Items are personalized too, based on your responses to a short questionnaire.

— written 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!

world destination

Hint: This city’s name comes from an indigenous word meaning “where the river narrows.”

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, August 8, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday 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 Dorinda, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was Canada’s Quebec City. Dorinda 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

Check out the week’s most interesting stories from around the travel world.

airplane food

“Nightmarish School-Dinner Fare”: Airline Food Taste Test
The Guardian puts airline food to the test with deliciously scathing results. Of one EasyJet sandwich, the author writes, “It is a bready Alcatraz incarcerating one slim slice of cheddar that has briefly been dabbed with ‘seasoned mayo’ (presumably seasoned with air, for all the flavour it adds) and a ‘mixed-leaf salad’ whose sparse scattering of shrivelled leaves looks more like some foliage has blown in through the window during prep than a deliberate garnish.”

Is This the Future of Hands-Free Luggage?
CNN profiles a bizarre new travel accessory: My Hitch, a gadget that allows you to hook your suitcase to your waistband so it will follow you wherever you go. Because every traveler needs a luggage tail!

Travel 3,000 Miles Through China’s Wondrous Wild West
A National Geographic photographer describes the experience of riding a train for 52 hours across China with his family. (Don’t forget to click through the gallery at the top of the story to see his powerful images.)

The Entire Continent of Australia Has Moved Five Feet in 22 Years
Thanks to its position atop an active tectonic plate, Australia has moved about five feet to the north over the last couple of decades. Though that may not sound like much, Conde Nast Traveler notes that such shifts can have a meaningful effect on devices that use GPS technology.

Tourists Blame Google Maps for Sending Them Into Venice in a Car
Speaking of GPS, Travel + Leisure reports on a couple of tourists in a rental car who blundered into a pedestrian-only section of Venice, nearly hitting a bystander along the Grand Canal. Their excuse? They were following Google Maps.

A Cheese Made from … Donkey Milk?
A BBC reporter journeys to Serbia to taste the world’s most expensive cheese, made from the milk of local donkeys. It’s said to slow the aging process and boost immunity and virility.

This week’s video is a tearjerker, featuring an Iowa choir singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” on a plane in honor of a WWII soldier, whose remains were being escorted on the flight from Germany to Atlanta.

Lost in Venice: One Wrong Turn and You May Never Leave
11 Things Not to Do on a Plane

— written by Sarah Schlichter

It’s the height of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means every time we look out the window we’re daydreaming about sun-splashed sands, turquoise waters, the sound of crashing waves, and the smell of salt air and sunscreen. If you don’t have your own beach vacation coming up, let the following photos take you on a mental escape to a few of the globe’s most beautiful stretches of sand.

beach boats koh lipe thailand

Koh Lipe, Thailand

coco beach guanacaste costa rica sunset

Coco Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

kauai beach chairs waves hawaii

Kauai, Hawaii, U.S.A.

beach innes national park australia

Innes National Park, Australia

beach brela croatia

Brela, Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

Which beach are you dying to be on right now?

How to Pack for a Beach Vacation
6 National Parks We Want to Visit Around the World

— written by Sarah Schlichter

It’s summer. The majority of European workers are likely on vacation while American workers are toiling away at the office, warehouse or other workplace. This isn’t necessarily because Europeans get more time off on average than their American counterparts (although they do). Poll after poll shows that around half of all Americans don’t use all of their allotted vacation time.

kanisa baker

Kanisa Baker has had enough. Americans must take vacation time, she says, for their sanity, for their health and for a fulfilling life. The 40-year-old from Maryland started Travel More Work Less, a website and online community that encourages people to use their vacation time. She knows firsthand how hard this is — but also why it’s so important.

IndependentTraveler.com: Why did you decide to make this your mission?
Kanisa Baker:
I used to be self-employed and could take off as much time as I wanted. But when I took a job with another company, I found that I was barely using my vacation time to take any significant trips. After talking to friends and coworkers and doing research on American workers, I saw how many of us are not taking much-needed and deserved time off.

Some studies show that we are more likely to suffer from heart disease [if we don’t take] vacation — women especially. I started Travel More Work Less so that together we could identify real strategies to break from the routine and stresses of life and put more vacation days on the calendar.

IT: Why do you think Americans don’t use all of their vacation time?
Because of a lack of planning. Many of us have an “autopilot” lifestyle, and planning a vacation can be a lot of work. You have to identify the location and the best time to go, search for the best price, figure out which activities are available, determine the best place to stay, etc. So many times we throw up our hands and either stick with our regular daily routine or just have a “staycation.”

There is choice and intention behind taking a vacation. If you don’t plan for a “real” vacation, you end up using your days off to stay home or visit family. Those options can be even more stressful than a day at work.

IT: Some people don’t use vacation time because they can’t afford to go away. What would you advise them to do?
This is one of the top reasons holding people, myself included, back. The costs associated with life, work and stress get in the way. Travel then gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list. One useful piece of advice is to focus on small, daily and intentional [money-saving] habits like eating out less, letting go of the unused gym membership, or selling stuff that you don’t need, all to increase travel funds. Save that money instead in a vacation fund.

9 Creative Ways to Save for a Vacation

IT: What advice do you have for people who are worried about work piling up if they took time off?
I wrote a guide about this exact topic, and one of the strategies I discuss is implementing a cross-training program within your company/organization. This could reduce the amount of work to come back to after a vacation.

IT: Is it okay for people to check email or do work while they’re away?
Well, checking email on the beach is certainly better than checking it in the office. But being on vacation means it’s important to be in the present moment with your loved ones. Perhaps it’s best to vacation is spots where Wi-Fi is very limited!

IT: Do you think people would take more time off if employers gave their employees more vacation time?
That’s a tough one. It really comes down to the person. Either you are someone that values and sees the importance of vacation time or you aren’t.

IT: Where do you like to travel on vacation?
As I’ve gotten older, I found I get really antsy on long plane rides. So I’ve enjoyed exploring vacation spots closer to home like Canada, Central America and the Caribbean. My last vacation was to the Florida Keys and Mexico.

Survey Says: Travel Makes Us Happier
10 Things to Do Before You Travel

— interview conducted by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

Our brand-new puzzle is a country shapes quiz! Take a look at the outline and below and tell us which country you think it is.

mystery country

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, August 1, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday 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 Antonia Sullivan, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery country was Spain. Antonia has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out the stories you may have missed around the travelverse this week.

vis-a-vis see through luggage

Traveling With a See-Through Suitcase Will Force You to Pack Neatly
Would you pay more than $550 for a suitcase that puts everything inside it on display? The makers of the Vis-a-Vis sure hope so, reports Gizmodo. This hard-shelled suitcase is completely transparent.

Behind the Scenes at a B&B: The Joys — and Challenges — of Being an Innkeeper
Ever dreamed of retiring to run a B&B out in the country? You might change your mind after reading this story, in which a Washington Post reporter shadows an innkeeper at a Pennsylvania B&B. She discovers a life of grocery store runs, room maintenance and endless guest requests — as well as moments when it’s all worth it.

23 Companies That Will Help You Travel the World for Free (and Maybe Even Pay You to Do It)
Forbes uncovers a few creative ways to take a free vacation, from house-sitting to helping foreigners practice their English.

Living Where the Sea Turns to Ice
BBC takes us on a moving journey to northwestern Greenland, where a reporter meets a 5-year-old named Dharma living in an orphanage in the village of Uummannaq. In a land of seemingly endless ice, the child and the reporter find a few brief moments of connection.

The NASA Space Treatment That Will Cure Your Seasickness
A doctor who regularly travels on cruises to the North and South Poles reveals to Conde Nast Traveler her choice for the best seasickness remedy: a prescription medication called promethazine. She also explains why the medicines we usually use for allergies also work for motion sickness.

Rescue Dog Becomes Instagram Sensation in L.A. for His Culinary Adventures
Lonely Planet wins the prize for this week’s most adorable story, about a rescue dog named Popeye the Foodie who’s been eating (or at least posing) his way around Los Angeles.

10 Travel Innovations That Make Globe-Hopping Better Than Ever
As much as we like to complain about the annoying parts of travel, this story from Bloomberg reminds us of the many nifty innovations that can really improve a trip, from smart bag tags that help prevent lost luggage to the rise of premium economy.

Get pumped up for the Olympic Games in Rio with this commercial from United, featuring members of the U.S. Olympic team.

12 Best Gadgets for Any Trip
Photos: 8 Best Greenland Experiences

— written 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!

monterey kayak

In this month’s winning review, a traveler lives out an animal lover’s dream: “On my bucket list: [kayaking] in Monterey Bay to observe wild sea otters up close,” writes Jill Weinlein. “This desire started last year after a trip to the Monterey Aquarium. The sea otter exhibit melted my heart. These playful furry mammals have a brown, thick coat that is the densest in the animal kingdom. They are most comfortable living in the ocean attached to kelp.”

Read the rest of Jill’s review here: Kayaking with Sea Otters in Monterey. Jill has won an IndependentTraveler.com sweatshirt.

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

— written by Sarah Schlichter