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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

hong kongRead up on the latest from around the travel world with our weekly roundup.

10 Places It’s Cheaper to Fly to in 2016
If you’re dreaming of a trip to Hong Kong this year, you’re in luck — that city tops Kayak’s list of the top travel destinations for airfare savings in 2016, reports Time. It’s 26 percent cheaper to fly there this year than it was last year. Also on the list: Chicago, Beijing, Bangkok and Athens, among others.

The “Boring” Cities Worth a Second Look
Eric Weiner at BBC Travel argues that the cities we often think of as “boring” — such as Geneva, Switzerland and Cleveland, Ohio — actually have a lot to recommend them. You go in with no expectations, so you’re more likely to be pleasantly surprised. And boring places have their own charm that flashier places don’t: “When you relinquish the spectacular, you are rewarded with the quieter joy of the ordinary,” writes Weiner.

No Vacation Nation: 41% of Americans Didn’t Take a Day off in 2015
Well, this is depressing. Nearly 41 percent of U.S. respondents to a recent poll went all of 2015 without taking a single vacation day, reports Skift, and another 17 percent took fewer than five days off. Clearly, more Americans need to read that survey that says travel makes us happier.

Travel Broadens the Mind, But Can It Alter the Brain?
The Guardian looks at the benefits of studying or living abroad, which include being more creative, open-minded, independent and emotionally stable. The article also notes that coping with the challenges of travel keeps our minds sharp. (We always knew travelers were smarter…)

The Loophole That Could Save You Money on the Cost of a Flight
The U.K.’s Daily Mail has unearthed an interesting tip for saving money on airfare. If you’re planning to take internal flights within a foreign country, you’ll sometimes pay less if you purchase those flights while you’re in that country — or if you pretend to be from that country when you book.

Department of Transportation: Pilots Are Forgetting How to Fly Manually
Nervous fliers should probably give this article a miss. Popular Mechanics reports that the U.S. Department of Transportation is concerned that an over-reliance on automation has made modern-day pilots less proficient in manual flying — and more likely to make errors in situations that demand it.

Lufthansa Will Change How You Check Bags in 2016
For once, some good airline news! Conde Nast Traveler reports that Lufthansa will be introducing digital tags for checked bags this year, which will allow the airline to track the location of your suitcase and keep you notified via an app. In case of delays, you can tell the app where you want your bag delivered once it arrives.

Big Changes Coming for American’s Reward Program
Aaaaannd now we’re back to lousy airline news. The Dallas Morning News alerts AAdvantage members about coming changes to American Airlines’ rewards program, which include more limited dates for booking off-peak tickets, more miles required to book trips in some markets, and a new way of earning miles based on price paid instead of miles traveled.

For your visual eye candy of the week, we travel to Ireland with this dreamy, cinematic video:

Photos: 12 Best Ireland Experiences
10 Things Not to Do When Checking a Bag

— written by Sarah Schlichter

lanson place hotel hong kong conciergeEvery Monday, we’ll post the answer to the previous week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel guessing games by subscribing to our blog (top right).

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $347 (2,700 HKD). With her guess of $327 a night, Kathy Jensen had the closest answer without going over. She has won an IndependentTraveler.com T-shirt.

The room pictured in Friday’s post is a superior room at the Lanson Place Hotel in Hong Kong. This boutique property offers a range of studios and suites (the room we chose is actually the cheapest at $321 – $347 a night), all including kitchenettes — ideal for families or for travelers who want to save money on restaurants by cooking for themselves. The hotel is located across the street from Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay area of the city. Read more about the Lanson Place Hotel in Hong Kong Essentials.

Check back this Friday for another shot at winning a prize!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

With a lobby on the 103rd floor and a rooftop bar on the 118th, the brand-new Ritz-Carlton hotel in Hong Kong puts a whole new spin on the term “a room with a view.” The ultra-luxe property, which opened on Tuesday, is now the world’s highest hotel; its 312 guestrooms and suites overlook Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island from a height of some 1,600 feet. (A nice perk: Telescopes are available in all suites.)

ritz carlton hong kong hotel aerial view

Dining options at the hotel include the Italian restaurant Tosca, Tin Lung Heen (for Cantonese cuisine) and the Chocolate Library, where chocoholics can indulge in everything from savory dishes to chocolate afternoon tea. And don’t miss the 116th-floor spa, where you can savor the view through floor-to-ceiling windows while you indulge in a variety of therapeutic treatments. (Afraid of heights? Slap a few cucumber slices over your eyes and you’ll be just fine.)

ritz carlton hong kong tosca italian restaurant

ritz carlton hong kong ozone bar

Rates are nearly as sky-high as the hotel rooms. The best deal we’ve seen so far is the special Introductory Package, valid through the end of April — you’ll pay about $500 a night for a single-occupancy room with buffet breakfast.

ritz carlton hong kong hotel night victoria harbour international commerce centre

Learn more about Hong Kong in Hong Kong Essentials.

— written by Sarah Schlichter