Explore. Experience. Engage.

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

Check out the most newsworthy stories from the travel world this week.

perito moreno glacier argentina

Why the United Kingdom Is the Best Vacation Deal Right Now — and Brazil Is the Worst
Vox has crunched exchange rate and inflation numbers to come up with a list of where you should travel to get the best bang for your buck. Unsurprisingly, in the wake of Brexit the U.K. is the best deal for Americans; it’s followed by Argentina and Mexico. Not such a great deal? Brazil, Japan and Iceland.

This Is Why Long-Haul Coach Class Has Hardly Changed in Five Decades
While airlines seem to be introducing constant improvements to first and business class, Skift looks into the reasons why those of us in the back of the plane haven’t seen any substantive changes in years.

The Moroccan Town Drenched in Blue
BBC offers a gorgeous photo essay on the town of Chefchaouen, Morocco, which is painted almost entirely in shades of blue.

Welcome to Purridise: Taiwan’s Houtong Cat Village
Calling all animal lovers! Lonely Planet spotlights a small Taiwanese village populated by hundreds of stray cats.

How Travel Nerds Book Airfare
Houstonia offers an in-depth look at how one traveler got creative to find an affordable airfare to Europe — including trying different cities, checking trains and rental cars, and piecing together itineraries with discount airlines.

Icelandair’s Celebration Stopover Buddy Service Will Help Plan the Perfect Layover
Icelandair has recently made some improvements to its longstanding stopover program, which allows travelers to add some extra time in Reykjavik to any Europe flight for free. Now Conde Nast Traveler reports that the airline is offering a “celebration stopover buddy” who will help you make your Iceland travel fantasy happen.

16 Evocative Pictures of Sri Lanka
Get inspired by these photos from Rough Guides from a recent trip to Sri Lanka. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom — we promise the last one will make you smile.

This week’s video is a short feature film from Holland.com. Yes, it’s basically a 17-minute destination commercial, but the sweet storyline and the dreamy footage of Amsterdam make it an entertaining watch.

9 Best Netherlands Experiences
10 Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out what you might have missed in the travel world this week.

angry man at airport

Unruly Airline Passengers Up Worldwide, But Down in U.S.
USA Today reports on a rising trend: airline passengers behaving badly. The International Air Transport Association saw nearly 11,000 reports of unruly air travelers in 2015, up from 9,316 incidents the year before. Such incidents involved verbal abuse, aggression against other passengers, failure to follow crew instructions and more; many also involved alcohol.

Craving a Life Reset? Meet the Woman Who Went Down Under to Start Over
This essay from AFAR details the physical and emotional journey of writer Maggie MacKellar, who moved from Sydney to a New South Wales farm and finally to remote Tasmania in the wake of two major losses. Maggie must learn to live in the sometimes harsh, insular world of a Tasmanian sheep farm.

In Pictures: Brushing Shoulders with Bears in Finland’s Newest National Park
We love these Rough Guides snapshots of Hossa, a wilderness area that will become Finland’s 40th national park next year. Bears, reindeer and pristine hiking trails are among the sights visitors will see.

It’s Cheaper to Travel with My Daughter for a Year Than to Live at Home
An Australian mom shares her experience of traveling around Asia with her 6-year-old daughter for 12 months. She tells the Huffington Post that it’s actually less expensive to live on the road than it is to stay home in Sydney, which has a much higher cost of living.

Fly-Along Companions Offer a Way for Older People to Travel
Most of us never want to be too old to travel, and a new trend offers some hope. The New York Times reports that a growing number of agencies are popping up to provide paid companions that can help older travelers navigate airports and manage travel logistics.

The World’s Oldest Library Gets a 21st-Century Facelift
CNN takes us inside the al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez, Morocco, which opened in the year 859 and is believed to be the oldest library on the planet. In the face of extensive water damage, the library is currently being refurbished and is expected to open to the public next year.

Starwood-Marriott Merger: Your Loyalty Program Questions, Answered
If you belong to a Starwood or Marriott loyalty program and aren’t sure how the merger of the two companies will affect you, don’t miss this Q&A from Conde Nast Traveler.

This week’s video takes a look at the daily life of the Nepalese people a year after an earthquake devastated the area.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out what you might have missed around the travel world this week.

airline pilot

17 Questions You’ve Always Wanted To Ask Your Airline Pilot
GQ sits down with British Airways airline pilot Mark Vanhoenacker to chat about how often he uses autopilot, which languages pilots speak with air traffic controllers and where the best place is to watch airplanes land.

Voyages: Visual Journeys by Six Photographers
Feast your eyes on these photos from the New York Times Magazine, taken in six different countries (Ethiopia, Albania, Australia, Finland, Peru and Spain). There’s a mini-essay from each photographer to provide context for the images.

10 Reasons to See More of Rwanda Than Just the Gorillas
Most tourists think of gorillas when they think of Rwanda (if they think of the country as a travel destination at all). Rough Guides encourages a broader view, touting Rwanda’s other attractions, such as performances of traditional dance, stunning hiking trails, a vibrant capital and the chance to bike with the country’s national team.

Americans Have Now Paid Enough in Checked Bag Fees to Buy Any U.S. Airline
Thrillist ran the numbers and discovered that U.S. carriers have collected more than $26.2 billion in checked bag fees — enough to buy just about any American airline outright.

Purple Drinks and Chicken Spas: A Spicy Thai Homestay
We loved reading this vivid National Geographic account of a three-night homestay in a small Thai village. The reporter immerses himself in local life by learning to prepare Thai food, enjoying a unique “spa” treatment and watching the Thai version of “The Price Is Right.”

On Smithsonian Museum Day, Visit More Than 1,200 Museums for Free
Conde Nast Traveler gives us a timely heads up: This Saturday, more than 1,200 museums across the U.S. will be opening their doors for free as part of a Smithsonian initiative. (The Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C. are, of course, free at all times.)

Reporter Returns to Haiti and Finds Cherished Hotel Shuttered
An NPR correspondent mourns the closing of the Villa Creole near Port-au-Prince in Haiti, where he stayed on multiple occasions (including the 2010 earthquake).

This week’s video had us swooning over Western Canada’s wide-open vistas and lush hiking trails.

11 Best Canada Experiences
A Pilot Speaks Out: What You Don’t Know About Flying

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out the best travel stories you might have missed this week.

plane in hudson river sully

What the “Sully” Movie Gets Wrong
If you’re planning to see “Sully” — the new Tom Hanks movie about the emergency airplane landing in the Hudson River back in 2009 — you may want to take it with a grain of salt. Conde Nast Traveler reports that the film had to massage the truth a bit, adding in “villains” in the form of National Transportation Safety Board investigators.

Why “Sully” Made Me Proud to Be a Flight Attendant
While the movie may not have presented the NTSB in the best light, flight attendant Heather Poole found the portrayal of her profession to be both accurate and inspiring: “I can tell [my son] a million times that [my job is] not just about serving drinks and snacks, but until you see something like what happens in the movie ‘Sully,’ it’s kind of hard to grasp. To see his face light up like that made me feel good.”

25 Years After Independence, a Country at a Crossroads
This story offers a window into a rarely seen country: Tajikistan. As with most National Geographic features, the photos — stark mountain landscapes and probing portraits of the local people — are at least as striking as the words.

As More Devices Board Planes, Travelers Are Playing with Fire
As if we needed something else to worry about, the New York Times reports that the lithium-ion batteries found in smartphones, tablets and laptops are a major fire hazard on planes. Battery fires have contributed to three cargo plane crashes within the past decade.

Meet Earl, the Gatekeeper to Paradise
BBC interviews a man named Earl, the sole resident of a place called Paradise, located on a rough dirt road that runs between Montana and Idaho. Earl is the “camp host” for Bitterroot National Forest, welcoming hikers, rafters and other outdoorsy types throughout the summer months.

The Best Wildlife Photos from @USInterior on Instagram
All together now: “Awwww.” We love this slideshow of cuddly critters — starting with a baby bobcat! — sourced by USA Today from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Instagram account.

Airlines Mining Consumer Data to Target Potential Passengers
CNN reports that your airline may know more about you than you think — including your birthday, the places you visit most and what you buy besides airfare. It’s part of an effort to “improve passenger experience” (and/or market to you more effectively).

We cracked up over this week’s video, an “honest airline commercial” that sums up so many frustrating aspects of modern-day flying.

Patrick Stewart Hilariously Acts Out 5 Most Annoying Fliers
New Study Reveals Travelers’ Biggest Pet Peeves

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out the travel stories you may have missed this week.

elephant in africa

‘Our Living Dinosaurs’: There Are Far Fewer African Elephants Than We Thought, Study Shows
CNN reports on a new study that will upset safari goers and animal-loving travelers everywhere. The Great Elephant Census found that the number of elephants left in Africa is much lower than previously estimated — and it went down 30 percent between 2007 and 2014. (Note that some viewers may find a few of the photos in the story graphic or upsetting.)

13 Ridiculously Gorgeous Pictures of Norway
If all you want today is to swoon over huge pictures of beautiful places, Rough Guides has the photo essay for you. Just don’t blame us if you find yourself booking a flight to Norway when you’re done.

Syria’s Message to Tourists: Come Back, Enjoy Our Beaches
Thanks to an ongoing civil war, Syria isn’t currently on the must-visit list for many travelers these days. But the Washington Post reports that the Tourism Ministry in this beleaguered country is trying to lure visitors back with a set of videos featuring the country’s beaches and historic sites.

There Might Be Millions of Dollars in Your Plane’s Cargo Hold
Conde Nast Traveler reveals that in addition to suitcases packed with clothes and souvenirs, your plane’s cargo hold may also be transporting millions of dollars’ worth of currency being sent between banks. (And yes, the airlines charge fees for these checked items as well.)

The Clock That Changed the Meaning of Time
BBC takes a fascinating look at a medieval watchtower in Bern, Switzerland, and the Governor of Time who is responsible for keeping its clock running. It was this clock that sparked the brainstorm leading to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Priceline Kills Name Your Own Price for Flights
Priceline is best known for its “Name Your Own Price” feature, which allows you to suggest the airfare, hotel rate or car rental price you want to without knowing which company will accept your offer after you’ve booked. Skift reports that the service is no longer available for flights (but it remains for hotels and cars).

End of the Road
Maptia offers a peek into the vanishing world of Bhutan’s Brokpa tribe, who have made their living herding yak for hundreds of years — but whose way of life is now threatened by a new road and the encroachment of modernity.

This week’s video offers a unique challenge: to see how many “Looney Tunes” characters this Southwest flight attendant mimics during an in-flight announcement.

Planning an African Safari
9 Places to See Before They Disappear

— written by Sarah Schlichter

I admit it: I’m mourning the end of summer — those warm days spent basking on the beach, those last rays of sun lingering late into the evening. Fortunately, one of my favorite seasons to travel lies ahead.

I love autumn trips for the cool, comfortable weather, the lack of crowds and — of course — the colors. Check out five photos to get you in the mood to travel this fall.

scottish highlands autumn

Go hill walking in the Scottish Highlands and enjoy the dramatic fall colors — without the summer crowds. (Check out our 10 Best Scotland Experiences.)

mt fuji autumn

Japan may be most famous for its spring cherry blossom season, but autumn is a gorgeous time to visit Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, with fall foliage peaking from late October through much of November.

central park new york city autumn trees

Crisp, cool temperatures and crunchy leaves underfoot make fall our favorite time to wander through Central Park in New York City.

waterton lakes national park alberta autumn

Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta is one of many magnificent Canadian parks where you can go hiking through mountains blanketed in fall colors. (See our list of the 11 Best Canada Experiences.)

amsterdam canal in autumn

Amsterdam’s canals are picturesque any time of year, but there’s nothing like biking alongside the locals under a fiery orange canopy of trees. (Don’t miss our Amsterdam city guide.)

Where do you want to travel this fall?

The Best Travel Destinations for Every Month
12 Places That Shine in Shoulder Season

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out our favorite travel reads of the week.

couple on vacation

Every Month, This Company Chooses a Random Employee to Send on a Two-Week Vacation
Okay, how do we land a job at this company? Travel + Leisure reports that The Motley Fool, a financial services firm, chooses one employee each month to take a spontaneous two-week vacation — complete with $1,500 of spending money.

Your Underwhelming International Holiday Photos
We love galleries of glossy destination photos as much as the next travel addict, but there’s something both funny and delightful about this roundup of lousy vacation pictures from the Guardian — complete with dismal gray skies, charmless parking lots and even an unwelcome eight-legged hotel guest. (Shudder.)

How Andy Steves Is Redefining His Dad’s Travel Guides for a New Generation
Fans of Rick Steves’ comprehensive Europe guidebooks will be glad to find out that his son Andy is carrying on the family business. Conde Nast Traveler checks in with the junior Steves to find out what’s on his bucket list, why print guidebooks are still relevant and what advice he’d give travelers before their first trip abroad.

Life With the Irish Travellers Reveals a Bygone World
A National Geographic photographer delves into the isolated culture of the Irish Travellers, an ethnic minority with an unwritten language, a nomadic way of life and a set of rigid gender roles. Her photographs offer a look into this rarely glimpsed world.

There Are Still Tons of Cheap Flights to Cuba You Can Book Right Now
On August 31, JetBlue became the first airline in more than 50 years to fly a regularly scheduled commercial flight between the U.S. and Cuba. If you’re looking to hop on one of these flights yourself, Time reports that there are numerous affordable alternatives on flights this fall, including October offerings from $205 roundtrip with taxes.

Returning to Everest: Trekking to Base Camp after the 2015 earthquake
A Lonely Planet writer checks out the scene in Nepal following the tragic earthquake of last year. She discovers that while some damage remains en route to the Everest Base Camp, the villagers along the way are eager to welcome back tourists.

Hong Kong’s Secret Night Meal
Foodies, take note — in Hong Kong it’s customary to eat not three meals a day, but four, reports BBC. Siu yeh is a nighttime snack served between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

This week’s video is part of a new ad campaign celebrating the “world’s greatest fliers,” who supposedly fly American Airlines. Those of you who’ve flown American — do you agree that your fellow passengers meet these lofty standards?

11 Things Not to Do on a Plane
12 Delicious Destinations for Foodies

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out the stories you may have missed from around the travelsphere.

leftover spaghetti on plate

In Germany, You May Be Fined if You Don’t Finish Your Meal
Conde Nast Traveler reports on a new trend hitting the dining scene in Germany: all-you-can-eat restaurants charging diners for food left on their plates. It’s part of an effort to reduce waste.

North Korea: How Can I Visit the Secret State, and Is It Morally Right to Go?
The Independent takes a look at the ethical issues associated with travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where visitors must follow rigid group itineraries that don’t necessarily provide a holistic look at the local culture.

This Woman’s Insane Etch A Sketches Will Blow Your Freaking Mind
I can barely draw a stick figure on an Etch A Sketch, which is why I’m so amazed by complex and beautiful images drawn by a traveler named Jane Labowitch during a recent trip to India. BuzzFeed has collected her pictures of the Red Fort, the Taj Mahal and more.

Want Your Children to Grow into More Empathetic Adults? Travel with Them
Quartz examines how travel early in life can serve to encourage empathy, compassion and cognitive flexibility in children. One psychologist notes that just taking a trip isn’t enough; parents should have discussions with their children to help them process the differences they see between the local way of life and their own.

Turning Instagram Into a Radically Unfiltered Travel Guide
A writer for the New York Times explains how she uses Instagram’s location-based searches to get a glimpse at new places before she visits — not to see beautiful photos but for more practical purposes such as figuring out what to wear during a visit to a Muslim country during Ramadan or finding a Puerto Rican beach where the locals hang out.

Bangkok’s Disappearing Street Food
BBC reports on a troubling story to those of us who love eating our way through a new destination. In an effort to clean up the streets, the Bangkok government has evicted thousands of street food vendors from public areas around the city. This includes areas popular with tourists and locals such as Soi 38 and the On Nut Night Market.

In this week’s mesmerizing video, actress Rachel Grant shows us how to pack more than 100 items into a single carry-on.

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time
7 Things Not to Do When Packing a Carry-On Bag

— 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

Check out our favorite reads from around the travel world this week.

ani ruins turkey

UNESCO Just Added 9 New World Heritage Sites to Your Travel Bucket List
Mashable reports on the nine sites recently recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including rock art in China, an ancient walled city in Greece and temple ruins in Micronesia.

15 Phone Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know
BuzzFeed offers useful tips for anyone who wants to use their phone in a foreign country, including how to protect yourself if you lose it and which apps offer messaging through Wi-Fi (so you can stay in touch without burning through data).

The Nation That Hates to Be Late
BBC investigates Switzerland’s reputation for efficiency and punctuality, values that for the Swiss represent “a source of deep contentment” but can sometimes be irritating to less organized visitors.

For Want of a Coffeepot, Your Flight Is Delayed
The New York Times examines a surprising source of flight delays: a non-functional coffee maker. It’s not all the potentially angry caffeine addicts that could keep your plane on the tarmac, but rather that a malfunction in the coffee maker could be a symptom of a larger problem such as an electrical issue.

The Secrets of the World’s Best Travel Photographer
The Telegraph interviews Marsel van Oosten, a Dutchman who just won the Travel Photographer of the Year competition. He lists Namibia as one of his favorite places to take photos and stresses the importance of finding unique places and perspectives to shoot.

Fair Warning: Don’t Visit This Country This Summer
A writer for the Business Journals examines how other countries’ governments warn their citizens against traveling to the U.S., citing America’s “racial tensions,” high medical costs and mass shootings.

Okinawa: Secrets for a Long and Happy Life
Lonely Planet journeys to Okinawa to try to discover why these Japanese islands are home to more centenarians than anywhere else on Earth.

Will [Your] Next Hotel Room Be Delivered by Drone?
CNN reports on an intriguing new concept: a self-sustaining hotel room that can be dropped off by a drone anywhere in the world. The idea, known as Driftscape, is one of the finalists for the 2016 Radical Innovation Award.

We always love Air New Zealand’s in-flight safety videos (don’t miss its “Men in Black” spoof from last year), and the latest one is no exception. Watch Anna Faris and Rhys Darby in a madcap romp through various Hollywood movie tropes.

Quiz: How Well Do You Know Travel Movies?
9 Places You Haven’t Visited — But Should

— written by Sarah Schlichter