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Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is two words and represents the name of a country.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, December 16, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. 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 Jill, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Dominican Republic.” Jill has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Sarah Schlichter and 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).

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

Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is three words and represents a natural attraction you can only experience by boat.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, December 9, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. 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 Lee R, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Strait of Magellan.” Lee has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

interviewWhen Vicki Lawrence of “Mama’s Family” travels, she likes to bring along a candle that smells like home. Blair Underwood, of “L.A. Law” fame, thinks the French Riviera city of Eze is the most romantic destination in the world. And “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe recommends travelers avoid the bulkhead on an airplane and never check a bag.

These and other tidbits about the traveling habits of several actors, musicians and pop culture personalities can be found in the Chicago Tribune’s weekly “Go Away With…” column written by Jae-Ha Kim.

I first stumbled across Kim’s interview with Mike Rowe, the lovable host of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” and narrator of “Deadliest Catch,” who extolled the virtues of destinations like Hawaii in which he doesn’t have to worry about lice, tapeworms and diarrhea.

But Rowe also had advice for readers: When in Hawaii, let someone buy you a cold drink with a funny straw; when staying at a hotel, don’t forget to tip the housekeeping staff; and always pack less than you think you need.

Tourist No More: Three Secrets for Traveling like a Local

Since Rowe’s interview I’ve gone back and read earlier “Go Away With…” columns including one on journalist Lisa Ling who, like so many other mothers, is afraid other passengers will lash out at her if her baby makes noise on the plane. Her bucket list destinations include Morocco and Mongolia.

In Kim’s interview with Mayim Bialik, of TV’s “The Big Bang Theory,” I learned she tries to hit as many vegan restaurants as she can whenever she’s in New York City, uses lavender essential oil to calm herself down when she’s nervous about being on an airplane and always looks for a museum of Jewish history in every city she goes to.

Other personalities Jae-Ha Kim has interviewed for the column include Judah Friedlander, Billy Bush, Seth Rogan and many others.

Famous Traveling Companion: Who Would You Choose?

Which “Go Away With…” column is your favorite? Which actor, musician, artist or cultural personality would you want to see featured?

– written by Dori Saltzman

Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is two words and represents one of the world’s largest natural attractions … it’s even been named one of the seven wonders of a certain Southern Hemisphere continent.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, November 18, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. 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 Tanya S, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Ngorongoro Crater.” Tanya has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is two words and represents a famous man-made “natural” attraction.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, November 11, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. 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 Diana Kautz, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Mount Rushmore.” Diana has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

bill of rightsToday is Election Day in the United States, when people from all over the country celebrate our right to vote by going out and choosing our leaders. In keeping with the theme of the day, IndependentTraveler.com presents this (slightly irreverent) Travelers’ Bill of Rights.

1. Travel companies, whether tour operators, cruise lines, hotels or tourist boards, shall make no law prohibiting travel reviews, or abridging the freedom of travelers to tell others about their trips, good or bad.

2. A well-packed suitcase is necessary to the success of a trip; therefore, the right of the people to carry their (modestly sized) luggage onto an airplane without hindrance shall not be infringed.

3. No travelers shall, if they have paid a fair amount, be quartered in any hotel room that is plagued by bed bugs.

4. The right of travelers to be secure in their person, papers and belongings, against pickpockets and thieves in public places, shall not be violated. And no law keeper shall maintain, upon a traveler reporting a crime, a blame-the-victim attitude.

Nine Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful

5. No tourist shall be compelled to wear a silly outfit or act foolish while visiting any attraction or on any tour, nor shall any traveler be subject to street vendors loudly trying to push their wares on them.

6. At all tourist attractions, the visitor shall enjoy the right to a speedy entrance, and to be informed up front of all the charges and fees associated with the site and related experiences.

7. On tours, where the size of the group exceeds 20 people, the right to separate from the group if they are annoying shall be preserved, and no traveler may force his or her presence upon another during meals without the specific consent of the diner.

8. Excessive walking shall not be required, nor shall uninformative lectures from bored tour guides reciting names and dates be inflicted.

9. The powers delegated to travel companies, including any rules and regulations, shall not infringe on the basic human rights of travelers such as working toilets and clean drinking water.

10. The enumeration in the Bill of Rights, of these rights, shall not be construed to deny other rights retained by travelers.

How to Find a Clean Hotel Room

– written by Dori Saltzman

Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is two words and represents someplace tourists go to see amazing things.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, November 4, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. 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 Stacy, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Uffizi Gallery.” Stacy has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman

many handsYou know you’ve got it bad when all you want to do is run up to the nearest stranger and ask her for a hug. While I never actually did that, back in 2004, after six weeks traveling in New Zealand alone and about to start another five weeks solo in Australia, I was desperate for some human contact.

I’d never given it much thought before, but humans are by nature social creatures. We crave not just human interaction, but physical touch as well. And I’m not talking in-the-bedroom touch; I’m simply referring to the everyday casual brush of the arm, hand touches, half hugs and such, which we typically get from close friends and family. Take this away from us, and we start to feel lonely and cut off.

This leaves solo travelers in a bit of a bind. Try touching a stranger on the shoulder, and I bet you that person startles. Brush past a person and you’re bound to get a dirty look. So how do you get even a tiny bit of much-needed physical contact?

Single Travel: Tips for Going Solo

Shake Hands: Handshakes are the easiest way to ensure yourself physical contact because they are socially acceptable in most countries and you can offer your hand to most people you meet. There’s rarely much warmth in a handshake — but if you’ve gone two or three weeks without touching anyone, you’ll be surprised at how good it feels.

Ask Someone to Dance: While this may not be possible everywhere you go, there are certain countries where dancing is an important part of their evenings. In Ireland and Scotland, for example, ceilidhs are a popular forum for Celtic music and dancing, and the locals are always up for dancing with someone new.

The Arm Touch: This one’s probably easier for men, who are generally comfortable clapping another guy on the arm when saying hello, even if it’s just the hotel doorman. My tricky tactic: gently bump someone “by accident” in a store or a line, then place my hand on their arm to steady them, while I apologize. It may sound silly, but it works.

Risk a Hug: Slightly less problematic for women, hugs are the ultimate casual physical touch, but usually require at least a little familiarity with the person you’re hugging. Not so easy when you’re traveling, but it can be done. If you’re staying in a bed and breakfast, give your host a quick hug in the evening to say thank you for all she (or he) has done for you. On a tour or cruise, make friends and offer half-hugs in the evening. If you’re a really comfortable hugger, wear a “Free Hugs” T-shirt out and about. Someone will take you up on the offer!

Have you ever noticed you’re missing physical touch when traveling alone? How have you handled it?

10 Things You Should Never Wear When Traveling Abroad

– written by Dori Saltzman

Here’s something fun to kick off your weekend. It’s a travel-themed picture puzzle. You just have to tie the photos together to make words. For example, a photo of an eye, combined with a photo of a full glass of water would be eye + full = Eiffel. Get it? (For another example, check out last week’s puzzle.)

This week’s puzzle is two words and represents an annual event many people have on their bucket lists.

Once you think you know the answer, post it below. You have until Monday, October 28, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday morning we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. 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 Mary Adkins, who correctly guessed that the pictogram spelled “Serengeti Migration.” Mary has won an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Congratulations! Stay tuned for further opportunities to win.


– written and created by Dori Saltzman