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Every Friday, we’ll feature a photo of an unidentified hotel here, on our blog, and we want you to guess how much it costs to stay there. Leave your guess in the comments below and you could win a prize. Get the answer in your inbox by subscribing to our blog.

What’s the price of a night in tropical paradise? Enter your guess in the comments, and be sure to include a valid e-mail address so we can contact you in case you win. The first person to guess closest to the price of the accommodations without going over wins an IndependentTraveler.com travel neck pillow. Here’s the property:



Here are three hints to help you win:

-This suite has a living area with a futon and a bedroom with a king-size bed, and can accommodate up to four people.

-This suite offers a view of the “Sleeping Giant,” a land formation that takes its name from an old Hawaiian legend.

-Daily breakfast prepared with local ingredients is included in the rates.

We’re looking for the maximum nightly price based on double occupancy as listed on the property’s Web site, excluding holidays, coupon codes or package rates. Enter your answer by Sunday night, December 18, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time to win. We’ll contact the winner and reveal the answer on Monday.

– written by Caroline Costello

busy winter highwaySanta Claus is coming to town — and so are nearly 92 million other travelers. Today, AAA released its annual holiday travel forecast, which predicts a very busy season this year. According to the report, about 91.9 million Americans will be traveling more than 50 miles from home — a 1.4 percent increase over last year’s numbers.

The good news? An active holiday travel season bodes well for the economy — and for the travel industry in particular. In a press release issued by the company, AAA Vice President Bill Sutherland said, “It’s a positive sign for the travel industry that so many Americans are planning to travel this holiday season, collectively contributing to the second-highest year-end holiday travel volume in the past ten years.” According to AAA, the holiday season spans from December 23 through January 2.

Now here’s the rather not-so-good news: if you’re hitting the road at the end of this month, you’ll be sharing planes, trains and roadways with 92 million fellow travelers. Stress levels will be high, and your chances of snagging an upgrade, a good parking space or a discounted plane ticket will be low.

But don’t panic just yet. You can find tips for avoiding crowds and surviving your end-of-year getaway in 10 Tips for Holiday Travel. Plus, learn what to do if you get bumped from a full flight in our Guide to Bumping and Overbooking.

Will you be one of the 92 million Americans in transit around the holidays this year? Take our poll!



– written by Caroline Costello

Paris snow winterEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: There are lots of super holiday gifts one can bestow on globetrotters, from travel gift cards to pet suitcases. Still, we wish we could whip out our credit cards and reserve a flight to an exciting destination for a special person or two on our lists — but we can’t. Or, at least, we can’t without stealing our loved one’s passport and requesting vacation days from his or her boss. All in all, it’s a bit rash to buy a flight for someone without any word of warning.

That’s not the case any longer. Aer Lingus has waived the name and itinerary change fees for flights booked by tomorrow, December 14. Purchase a flight from Boston, Chicago or New York to select European destinations, and you’ll have the option to make one change to the name on the ticket as well one change to the ticketed travel dates through the end of January. Tickets are valid for travel from January 1 through March 31, 2012.

It’s a fabulous gift idea: Present Mom with a flight to Paris, and let her pick her own travel dates! This deal is perfect for the holidays, but it’s also an excellent option for travelers who want to plan a European winter getaway but aren’t ready to commit to a set itinerary just yet.

The Catch: As we said, you may only make one change to the ticketholder’s name and one change to the travel dates for the flight. Further changes will incur a $210 fee each way. Additionally, if you change your dates and end up with a more expensive ticket than the one you originally purchased, you’ll have to pay the difference in fares.

The Competition: We haven’t seen another deal quite like this. But the next best thing is a travel gift card. Don’t miss this roundup of our favorite travel gift card deals.

Find more money-saving offers in our Airfare Deals.

– written by Caroline Costello

1869 O'Malley HouseHere’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog.

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $250 per night. Roger Kinnaman, whose guess was right on the money, has won an IndependentTraveler.com neck pillow.

The property pictured was the Tessitore Suite at the 1869 O’Malley House in New Orleans. This historic mansion is within walking distance of the French Quarter, and is set just steps from New Orleans City Park. There are eight uniquely decorated suites in the B&B, all of which have private bathrooms. The Tessitore Suite features a queen-size bed, a writing desk, a flat-screen TV, a working fireplace and a ceiling fan. Read more about visiting the Big Easy in our New Orleans Travel Guide.

– written by Caroline Costello

Every Friday, we’ll feature a photo of an unidentified hotel here, on our blog, and we want you to guess how much it costs to stay there. Leave your guess in the comments below and you could win a prize. Get the answer in your inbox by subscribing to our blog.

What’s the price of a night in a historic Southern mansion? Enter your guess in the comments, and be sure to include a valid e-mail address so we can contact you in case you win. The first person to guess closest to the price of the accommodations without going over wins an IndependentTraveler.com travel neck pillow. Here’s the property:



Here are three hints to help you win:

-This suite, which can accommodate up to three people, has a queen-size bed, a writing desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a jetted tub.

-This historic property is located within the geographic region of the U.S. that was purchased from Napoleon in 1803.

-Daily hot breakfast is included in the rates.

We’re looking for the maximum nightly price based on double occupancy as listed on the property’s Web site, excluding holidays, coupon codes or package rates. Enter your answer by Sunday night, December 11, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time to win. We’ll contact the winner and reveal the answer on Monday.

– written by Caroline Costello

gift cardGift cards are foolproof presents for the travelers who don’t fall into the “gadget,” “book” or “hilarious SkyMall purchase” categories of your holiday gift list. You buy the card. They book the excursion, hotel room or spa day, and send you contented Facebook status updates of thanks when their vacation comes around.

But here’s the best part: You get a little something, too. We’ve unearthed five travel gift card offers that sweeten the deal with discounted prices (hint: the amount on the card isn’t the amount you’ll have to pay), bonus gifts and other goodies.

Free $10 Gift Card with Best Western Travel Card
Receive a free $10 gift card with every $100 Best Western Travel Card you purchase. The $10 bonus card can be cashed in at the establishment of your choice (options include Amazon.com, Best Buy, Darden, Walmart and — naturally — Best Western). The Best Western Travel Cards can be loaded with several currencies (perfect for the continent-hopping jetsetter in your life) and are valid at Best Western hotels around the world.

Free $50 Hertz Voucher with Marriott Gift Card
They get no-cost accommodations. You get some cash knocked off the price of your next rental car. Receive a free $50 voucher to use toward any Hertz rental car with the purchase of a Marriott GiftCard worth $250 or more. Marriott GiftCards can be used for hotel stays, restaurant meals, spa services, golf and more at participating Marriott properties. Plus, if you’re a Marriott Rewards member, you’ll receive 10 rewards points for every card you purchase.

Get Deep Discounts with Costco Gift Cards
Costco.com sells legions of discounted gift cards for everything from gym memberships to movie theaters. And travel is no exception. The wholesaler offers cut-rate cards for hotel stays and excursions galore. Some of our favorites include $75 for a $100 BedandBreakfast.com gift card as well as Go Cards for several major U.S. cities. The Go Cards, which start at $59.99, offer free admission to a long list of attractions, as well as discounts at retail stores and restaurants. To get these offers, you have to be a card-carrying Costco member. (Annual memberships start at $55.)

$100 Spa Gift Card for $90
If you have someone on your list who’s traveling in North America soon, this gift will instantly upgrade his or her vacation — while simultaneously saving you money. For a limited time, Spa Week is selling $100 spa gift cards for just $89.99 each. You can purchase the cards in other denominations, too, and the more you spend, the more you save. Get a $50 gift card for $45, a $250 gift card for $225 or a $400 gift card for $360. You get the idea. The cards are valid at more than 4,500 spas in the U.S. and Canada.

10 Unique Holiday Gift Ideas


– written by Caroline Costello

 Le Blanc Spa ResortEvery Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.

The Deal: After all the cooking, wrapping and relatives, you might be seeking a soothing kind of post-holiday vacation. Our advice? Relax and say “Spaah” at Le Blanc, an all-inclusive luxury resort in Mexico, and enjoy $1,500 worth of dinners, spa treatments, games of golf and more — for free.

Cancun’s Le Blanc Spa Resort is offering up to $1,500 in resort credit with stays of five to eight nights through December 2012. Stay four nights and receive $750 in resort credit, or stay three nights and receive $500 in resort credit. You can use the credit toward a long list of special perks that aren’t covered by the resort’s all-inclusive rates, like a dolphin swim excursion, spa treatments, a romantic lobster dinner on the beach, room upgrades, Champagne and wine, and even wedding packages.

If destination nuptials aren’t on your 2012 to-do list, you can still enjoy the much-lauded service and plush accommodations at LeBlanc. The resort is ranked number one out of 169 Cancun hotels on our sister site TripAdvisor, and it was even selected as one of TripAdvisor’s 2011 Travelers’ Choice winners. The adults-only beachfront property features five restaurants, two golf courses, three outdoor pools, and a fitness center that offers yoga and Pilates classes.

The Catch: LeBlanc is an all-inclusive luxury resort, which means it’s not exactly the best place to go for a bargain-basement vacation. The lowest rates we found came to $296 per person, per night for an autumn stay. Prices are more expensive in winter and early spring.

The Competition: JW Marriott, Renaissance and Marriott Resorts are offering $100 in resort credit plus a free companion ticket with their “Stay Here, Fly There” promotion. This deal isn’t valid in Mexico, but you can snag the offer at select properties in other balmy beach destinations like Florida, California, Texas and Hawaii.

Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Hotel Deals.


– written by Caroline Costello

Rendezvous by the SeaHere’s the answer to last week’s “How Much Is This Hotel?” quiz. Play along with future hotel quizzes by subscribing to our blog.

We have a winner! The correct answer to last week’s How Much Is This Hotel? contest is $5,350 per week. Kim, whose guess of $4,500 was the closest answer without going over, has won an IndependentTraveler.com neck pillow.

The property pictured was Rendezvous by the Sea, a private oceanfront villa on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This beach house sleeps up to eight people and has a pool that overlooks a coral reef in the ocean. Guests can spot sting rays, turtles and other sea creatures right from the pool! The house is rented by the week, and you’ll get the most affordable rates by traveling in low season, from mid-April through mid-December. Read more about traveling to St. John in St. John Essentials.

– written by Caroline Costello

Every Friday, we’ll feature a photo of an unidentified hotel here, on our blog, and we want you to guess how much it costs to stay there. Leave your guess in the comments below and you could win a prize. Get the answer in your inbox by subscribing to our blog.

What’s the price of a week in a private beach house in the Caribbean? Enter your guess in the comments, and be sure to include a valid e-mail address so we can contact you in case you win. The first person to guess closest to the weekly price of the accommodations without going over wins an IndependentTraveler.com travel neck pillow. Here’s the property:



Here are three hints to help you win:

-This private oceanside villa has three bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, a kitchen and a large living room.

-This villa is located on the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands.

-Daily maid service is not included in the rates.

We’re looking for the maximum weekly price for up to eight people as listed on the property’s Web site, excluding holidays, coupon codes or package rates. Enter your answer by Sunday night, December 4, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time to win. We’ll contact the winner and reveal the answer on Monday.

– written by Caroline Costello

Christmas Box holidayDecember’s a month of family get-togethers, giving … and giveaways. Lots of giveaways. A multitude of companies are handing out festive freebies in celebration of the holiday season, and travel brands are no exception. In exchange for an e-mail address or a “Like” on a Facebook page, lucky globetrotters can snap up free vacations, cool travel gear, gift cards and more from their favorite blogs and travel providers. Below are seven fantastic holiday contests and giveaways that are on right now. Good luck!

Win Tons of Cool Travel Gear & Gifts
The Prize: Okay, we had to start off with a nod to our sister sites, Family Vacation Critic and Cruise Critic, both of which are running fabulous holiday giveaways for globetrotters. Enter to win a travel prize each day through December 9 on Cruise Critic’s blog, the Lido Deck, and snag some free family-friendly travel gear each day through December 12 on the Family Vacation Critic Blog.

How to Enter: To get that kid-friendly travel loot, submit your e-mail address on the Family Vacation Critic contest page daily through December 12. If seafaring’s more your thing, subscribe to the Lido Deck Blog and you’ll be automatically entered to win a succession of cool cruise gear every day through December 9.

Win a Trip to for Two to the Galapagos
The Prize: Red Mangrove Lodges, which has properties in the Galapagos and Ecuador, is giving away a free trip for two to the Galapagos Islands. The prize includes four nights’ accommodations at Red Mangrove Lodges, guided tours, local transportation and meals. The only part of the trip that’s not included is your flight to the Galapagos.

How to Enter: Sign up for the Red Mangrove newsletter by February 12 and you’ll be automatically entered to win.

Win $500 in Free Hotel Stays at Choice Hotels
The Prize: Close your doors to visiting relatives and encourage out-of-towners to get a room at the nearest Choice Hotels property — for free. But first, you have to get lucky. Enter the “Little White Holiday Lies” giveaway to win a $250 or $500 gift card valid for stays at Choice Hotels, which include Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, Cambria Suites, EconoLodge and other chains, in addition to a VISA gift card of $250 or $1,000.

How to Enter: “Like” Cambria Suites on Facebook and you’ll be automatically entered to win a $250 hotel gift card and a $150 VISA gift card. Take it a step further and share your “little white lie to avoid holiday houseguests” on the Cambria Suites Facebook page, and you could win a $500 hotel gift card and a $1,000 VISA gift card.

Win a Family Vacation for Four on TravelingMom.com
The Prize: TravelingMom.com is partnering with Capital One to offer travelers a second chance to redo their not-so-successful travel experiences. Just share your story of a vacation that went awry on TravelingMom.com and you could win a do-over trip for four to the destination of your choice (within the continental U.S.). The grand prize includes roundtrip airfare from your local gateway and four nights’ accommodations.

How to Enter: Simply post your vacation disaster story as a comment on the TravelingMom.com contest page. You may enter once a day through December 10.

HostelBookers.com 24 Days of Christmas Giveaway
The Prize: HostelBookers.com is giving away a travel-related prize a day for 24 days in December. Each prize is revealed daily, so you’ll have to come back to the site each day to see what you can win. Today’s prize is an iPad2, and future prizes include InterRail tickets and an around-the-world flight.

How to Enter: You must “Like” Hostelbookers.com on Facebook, and then answer a trivia question each day to get a shot at winning. New questions will be posted daily at 12 a.m. Mountain Time on the Hostelbookers.com Facebook page through December 24.

Win a Weekend Getaway to Asheville
The Prize: The Asheville tourism board is giving away a whirlwind two-night vacation to its home town. The winner of this contest will receive accommodations at the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, a $100 gift card, two passes to Biltmore, a brewery tour, a gift certificate to a local restaurant and more. Transportation to Asheville is not included.

How to Enter: Watch a video of a dancing Santa, then share said video on Facebook. After you’ve helped the groovin’ Claus go viral, you need to enter your contact information on the contest page.

Know of any holiday travel giveaways not listed here? Share them in the comments!

– written by Caroline Costello