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magellan's card size led travel lightThere’s not much that can take the place of a good book when I’m trying to kill time on a long-haul flight, but airplane reading lamps never quite give me enough light. Enter Magellan’s Card Size LED Travel Light. It claims to charge itself in one hour via a USB cable and provide up to two hours of light.

So, did it work? The short answer is yes, but there are caveats. Read on for the pros and cons.

What We Didn’t Like
Although this little baby only takes one hour to charge, it’s done by USB cable, which means it’s not super-convenient if you’re traveling without a laptop or an adapter for a regular wall outlet. We also found that, once charged, the light started to die out after only 90 minutes — 30 minutes shy of the two-hour usage time the packaging promises.

What We Liked
The travel light charges rapidly (assuming you have a proper place to charge it), and it’s definitely compact — the width and height of a standard credit card, to be exact. It’s a space-saving plus for someone like me who opposes e-readers on principle and travels with at least two bulky novels at all times. It easily turns on and off with the push of a button, and it’s got three different light strengths, so you can conserve battery power if you find that the highest settings are too bright. The USB cord also wraps right around the base for easy storage, and the bendable stem allows you to position the light wherever you need it.

Expert Packing Tips for 4 Common Trips

All things considered, this product is a win, especially at the affordable price of $20. Want one of your very own? Leave a comment below for a chance to win the travel light. Enter by 11:59 p.m. ET on February 17, 2014. We’ll pick one winner at random. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Diane Lieberman. Congratulations! Please check back in the future for other chances to win great travel products.

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

2013 2014 beach new yearBefore we jump head first into 2014, we’re taking one last look back at the year that was. Of all the travel tips and trends we covered in 2013, there were a few that got our readers ranting, raving or simply laughing. Read on as we count down our 10 most popular blog posts of the past year.

10. Air New Zealand did it again. The airline known for its creative and hilarious in-flight safety videos came out with another winner in November, this time featuring the inimitable Betty White.

9. We reviewed and gave away dozens of travel products in 2013, but the biggest hit was the ultra-innovative Suitcase That Beats Bed Bugs.

8. When an Asiana Airlines plane crashed at San Francisco Airport in July, it spurred us to wonder: Where Are the Safest Seats on a Plane?

7. It isn’t often that we can bring readers good news from the travel industry, so when T-Mobile Eliminated Roaming Fees for Cell Phone Users Abroad, we and our fellow travelers rejoiced.

6. Few things get travelers more riled up than the topic of kids on planes. This year saw several Asian airlines introduce child-free zones on some of their flights — and while many of our readers were supportive of keeping kids as far away as possible, one parent took a different tack in her controversial Open Letter to People Who Hate Flying with Kids.

5. Turns out that even a so-called “travel expert” makes the occasional packing blunder. See what happens When a Travel Writer Ignores Her Own Advice.

4. A guest contributor from a currency exchange service shared his best practical tips in Buying Foreign Currency: Get More Bang for Your Buck.

3. Our post on 5 Signs You’re Not a True Traveler stirred up some strong emotions in the comments section. Reader Christy said our list was “spot on,” while Clare accused us of “imposing [a] very restrictive idea of what an experience must be.” What’s your take?

2. On a long, boring flight, leafing through the SkyMall catalog is always entertaining. Readers got a good laugh from our list of 9 Useless Items You Can Buy at 35,000 Feet, ranging from a mounted squirrel head to a porch potty for dogs.

1. Catching Zs while crammed into a tiny airplane seat is always a struggle. Could the perfect travel pillow help the cause? We reviewed four of them in Travel Pillow Challenge: The Quest for Good Airplane Sleep.

The Weirdest Travel News of 2013

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Welcome to IndependentTraveler.com’s 12 Days of Travel Giveaways! Every day between December 2 and December 13, we’ll feature a different travel product for our readers to win. You may enter to win as many items as you wish (but only once per item).

lipault foldable carry-onOur final giveaway is a Lipault 22-Inch Two-Wheeled Foldable Carry-On, a lightweight bag that can be compressed into a four-inch-wide plastic case for easy storage.

Here’s what we had to say about the bag in The Quest for the Perfect Carry-On: “I expected a thinner, floppier material (a la LeSportsac bags or ultra-light camping equipment), but it’s actually pretty sturdy. I carried it onboard one way, and could easily lift and carry the bag, while simultaneously pushing a stroller and carrying a backpack. I checked it on the way back, and it came back to me with no scuffs or tears. And it truly does squeeze down into a compact storage case that would fit easily under a bed, in a closet or in the corner of a cruise ship cabin.”

The carry-on retails for $189 at the Lipault website.

Want to win this gently used purple carry-on? Leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 15, 2013. We’ll pick one person at random to win the bag. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Isabel Menendez. Congratulations!

Did you miss any of our previous giveaways? Catch up here: 12 Days of Travel Giveaways: Full List

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Welcome to IndependentTraveler.com’s 12 Days of Travel Giveaways! Every day between December 2 and December 13, we’ll feature a different travel product for our readers to win. You may enter to win as many items as you wish (but only once per item).

j-pillowToday’s giveaway is a J-Pillow, which was designed to reduce neck strain and provide head support for travelers or others who are forced to sleep sitting up. The pillow is unique in that it has a pillow for the side of the head as well as a “trunk” that slips under the chin to prevent the head from falling forward.

While the concept is solid, the execution is a bit shaky. The covering fabric, which feels like a combination of fleece and velvet, was a bit too slick, which means it’s difficult to keep the pillow in place. If you’ve got a window seat or an understanding travel buddy, prop the pillow against a window or shoulder, and it will stay put. We did like the nifty clip, which can be used to hook the pillow onto carry-on items.

It’s a nice idea, and while it didn’t work exactly as expected for us, it might work perfectly for you. The J-Pillow can be purchased for $34.95 at JPillow.com.

Want to win this prize? Leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 15, 2013. We’ll pick one person at random to win the pillow. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Michele Loper. Congratulations!

Stay tuned tomorrow for our final giveaway!

12 Days of Travel Giveaways: Full List

– written by Colleen McDaniel

Welcome to IndependentTraveler.com’s 12 Days of Travel Giveaways! Every day between December 2 and December 13, we’ll feature a different travel product for our readers to win. You may enter to win as many items as you wish (but only once per item).

surfeasyToday’s giveaway is a SurfEasy Private Browser, which plugs into your computer’s USB port to give you online privacy while you browse on the road. We recommend SurfEasy in 10 Unexpected Holiday Travel Gifts:

“SurfEasy plugs easily into PC’s and Macs, and enables you to browse the Internet through an encrypted channel so you don’t have to worry about the security of your data in public Wi-Fi hotspots. SurfEasy also shields your IP address from the Web sites you visit to make it harder for them to track you online.” (Learn more about how to protect yourself from identity theft while traveling.)

The SurfEasy Private Browser can be purchased for $69.99 at SurfEasy.com.

Want to win this prize? Leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 15, 2013. We’ll pick one person at random to win the prize. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Richard Pepin. Congratulations!

Stay tuned tomorrow for another giveaway!

12 Days of Travel Giveaways: Full List

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Welcome to IndependentTraveler.com’s 12 Days of Travel Giveaways! Every day between December 2 and December 13, we’ll feature a different travel product for our readers to win. You may enter to win as many items as you wish (but only once per item).

bag of travel itemsToday’s giveaway is a cosmetics bag stuffed with miscellaneous travel goodies.

Zip open the slate gray cosmetics bag and you’ll find a travel-sized toothbrush with mini-toothpaste, a sleep mask, camera or glasses lens polishing cloth, large plastic luggage tag and Zylast antimicrobial antiseptic solution, which claims to kills 99.99 percent of germs. Even if you don’t use the items inside, the bag itself is perfectly sized for carrying your makeup, a travel medicine kit, or contact lens cases and solution.

Want to win this bag of goodies? Leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 15, 2013. We’ll pick one person at random to win the package. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Sue Madrid. Congratulations!

Stay tuned tomorrow for another giveaway!

12 Days of Travel Giveaways: Full List

– written by Dori Saltzman

Welcome to IndependentTraveler.com’s 12 Days of Travel Giveaways! Every day between December 2 and December 13, we’ll feature a different travel product for our readers to win. You may enter to win as many items as you wish (but only once per item).

cabeau evolution pillowToday’s giveaway is a Cabeau Evolution Pillow, which we reviewed in Travel Pillow Challenge: The Quest for Good Airplane Sleep. Here’s what we had to say about it:

“The Evolution Pillow is an enhanced version of the standard, plush (non-inflatable) neck pillow. It’s made of memory foam and has raised side supports to cradle your neck — or you can wear the pillow backwards to support your chin. It even has a pocket for your MP3 player. …

“It was actually really comfortable. I used this one while dozing on an early-morning flight, and I did appreciate the extra head support, the soft material and the absence of the inflatable-pillow plastic smell.”

Want to win this gently used Cabeau Evolution Pillow? Leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 15, 2013. We’ll pick one person at random to win the pillow. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Joy Whitney. Congratulations!

Stay tuned tomorrow for another giveaway!

12 Days of Travel Giveaways: Full List

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Welcome to IndependentTraveler.com’s 12 Days of Travel Giveaways! Every day between December 2 and December 13, we’ll feature a different travel product for our readers to win. You may enter to win as many items as you wish (but only once per item).

san francisco bag magnetsToday’s giveaway is a trio of San Francisco-themed products: a San Francisco canvas tote bag, a set of four Golden Gate Bridge crystal magnets, and a set of playing cards featuring rules and regulations from the Alcatraz prison. (Example: “You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege.”)

Want to win these goodies? Leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 15, 2013. We’ll pick one person at random to win the package. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Lesly Christensen. Congratulations!

Stay tuned tomorrow for another giveaway!

12 Days of Travel Giveaways: Full List

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Welcome to IndependentTraveler.com’s 12 Days of Travel Giveaways! Every day between December 2 and December 13, we’ll feature a different travel product for our readers to win. You may enter to win as many items as you wish (but only once per item).

pronto plusToday’s featured product is a travel-size container of Pronto Plus, a pesticide spray designed to kill bed bugs, dust mites and other pests. Travelers who are worried about bed bugs in a hotel room can spray the box spring, mattress and other spots prone to critters (just be sure to air the room out for a few hours before sleeping). The product can also be used in your own house if you’re unlucky enough to bring the pests home with you after a trip. Read the instructions carefully before using.

You can purchase a three-pack of the travel-size Pronto Plus for $12.99 at Amazon.com.

Want to win the Pronto Plus? Leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 15, 2013. We’ll pick one person at random to win the product. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Kelly Malleck. Congratulations!

Stay tuned tomorrow for another giveaway!

12 Days of Travel Giveaways: Full List

– written by Sarah Schlichter

plugbug worldWelcome to IndependentTraveler.com’s 12 Days of Travel Giveaways! Every day between December 2 and December 13, we’ll feature a different travel product for our readers to win. You may enter to win as many items as you wish (but only once per item).

Today’s featured product is a PlugBug World iPad/iPhone charger. This gadget is ideal for people who travel with a MacBook and an iPad or iPhone; it attaches to any MacBook power adapter to create a dual charger for both your laptop and your mobile device. It includes five different snap-on plugs, allowing it to fit into just about any electrical outlet around the world. You can purchase this product for $44.99 on the Twelve South website.

Want to win the PlugBug World? Leave a comment below by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 15, 2013. We’ll pick one person at random to win the gadget. This giveaway is open only to residents of the Lower 48 United States and the District of Columbia. To read the full contest rules, click here.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Gina Strickland. Congratulations!

12 Days of Travel Giveaways: Full List

– written by Sarah Schlichter