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This week’s puzzle is a word scramble. Below are the jumbled names of four major cities from around the world, followed by the country where they’re located. Your job is to unscramble them. For example, “IALM, EURP” would be “Lima, Peru.” Multi-word cities or countries are scrambled into one word, so “San Juan” might appear as SJAANUN. (Hint: This week there is one two-word city.) Identify all four mystery cities to win.

RTAMLNEO, DNAAAC

RIAG, TIAALV

AMCIHINGA, TDALINAH

KWHDNOEI, IMNIABA


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, May 1, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

— created by Sarah Schlichter

This Friday’s challenge is a photo of an unidentified place somewhere in the world. Can you tell us where the photo was taken? Leave your guess in the comments below — and check back on Tuesday to see if you were right!

world destination


Hint: This quirky house of worship is a landmark designed by one of Latin America’s most famous modern architects.

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, April 24, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com prize. 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 Serafin who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location is the Cathedral of Brasilia in Brazil. Serafin has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

See All “Where in the World?” Challenges

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Have you ever considered bringing your dog with you on vacation — even when traveling overseas? Melissa Halliburton founded the website BringFido to make it easier for people to do just that. The site is a directory of pet-friendly hotels, vacation rentals, B&Bs and campgrounds all over the world; it also includes information on restaurants and attractions. We caught up with Halliburton to ask about her practical tips for traveling with dogs as well as find out where she and her own pet, Roxy, are headed next.

melissa halliburton with dog roxy on train


Independent Traveler: Other than companionship, what are the benefits of bringing your pet with you when you travel?
Melissa Haliburton:
Traveling with your furry friend can be good for your health and possibly your pet’s health too. You and your four-legged companion will both get great exercise exploring new destinations on foot. And bringing Fido along on your adventure will eliminate any concerns about separation anxiety. Traveling with a dog may also help you make new friends in an unfamiliar destination. Take your pooch to a neighborhood park and mingle with local pet owners. Mentioning Fido’s travel adventures is always a great conversation starter. Finally, bringing your pet along on your journey may save you some money. Many hotels and vacation rentals welcome pets for no extra fee, saving you big bucks over expensive boarding options.

IT: There are plenty of horror stories about bringing pets on flights, particularly in the cargo hold (for animals too large to bring in the cabin). How can you decide whether it’s safe to fly with your pet?
MH:
Before finalizing any travel plans, be sure to ask your veterinarian whether your pet is healthy enough to travel. Go over the full itinerary in the vet’s office and ask for his/her advice. Even if your pet is perfectly healthy, that doesn’t mean that she is safe to fly.

Reduce the risk of incidents by following a few basic tips: First, you should book nonstop flights whenever possible. Avoid destinations or connecting cities that may expose your pet to extreme temperatures while in cargo, on the tarmac or in the custody of the airlines. Second, anticipate delays and have a backup plan in case your original itinerary is impacted. Third, for your pet’s safety and your own peace of mind, invest in a pet tracker to monitor Fido’s whereabouts throughout your trip. Finally, don’t medicate your pet with tranquilizers, as these medicines can cause heart and respiratory issues. Instead, focus on making sure that Fido is comfortably fitted with an approved crate that is large enough for him to turn around and lie down inside.

IT: Which is a better bet for people traveling with a dog — a vacation rental or a hotel?
MH:
Deciding between a vacation rental or hotel is generally a matter of personal choice, as both have pros and cons. But pet owners may want to consider their pet’s individual needs and personality when making their lodging decision. For the pampered pooch, an upscale hotel may be just the ticket. Some hotels offer amazing pet amenities like doggie dining menus and pet spa services. If your pooch prefers some off-leash time, a vacation home with a fenced backyard would make his holiday special. Regardless of the type of accommodation, always consider the location around the hotel or rental, as you’ll likely be going on late night or early morning walks with your pup.

IT: What advice would you offer people who want to bring their pet on an international vacation?
MH:
Plan ahead. Depending on the destination, you will need to begin preparation weeks, if not months, prior to an international trip. Never book an international flight until you have double-checked that you pet can be safely accommodated and that your pet can satisfy all entry and exit requirements for pet transit.

IT: Which places are easiest for Americans to travel with a pet, and which are the most expensive and/or challenging?

MH: Traveling internationally with a pet is never as simple as paying a fee and setting off on your journey. No matter the destination, you’ll be completing paperwork, scheduling vet appointments and paying hefty sums to get your pet to your intended destination. But pet owners should be particularly cautious when it comes to travel in countries with strict quarantine requirements, such as Australia. Even domestic travel to Hawaii involves quarantine restrictions for your furry friend.

IT: What’s your favorite travel experience that you’ve had with your dog?
MH:
We recently visited the town of Canals, Spain (near Valencia) with our Chihuahua-pug mix, Roxy, to participate in festivities celebrating Saint’s Day for San Antonio Abad. Each year in mid-January, locals and visitors gather for a three-day festival involving parades, a bonfire celebration and the Blessing of the Animals ceremony.

IT: Where are you and your dog headed next?
MH:
We don’t have another international trip planned at the moment, but we’re likely to visit one or two Asian capitals sometime in the next year.

Want to learn more? Check out Halliburton’s book, “Ruff Guide to the United States,” which includes a directory of dog-friendly attractions and hotels across all 50 states. And don’t miss our guide to traveling with pets.

See more travel interviews!

— interview conducted by Sarah Schlichter

This week’s puzzle is a country shapes quiz! Take a look at the silhouette and below and tell us which country you think it is.

mystery country


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, April 17, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. 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 Margaret A Neate, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery country was Thailand. Margaret has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Imagine the Amazon, and you probably picture dense jungles, colorful birds, chattering monkeys and remote villages. Sound enticing? There are two main ways to explore this region of the world: staying in an ecolodge or taking a river cruise.

exploring the amazon river


I recently opted for a four-night Amazon cruise aboard the 32-passenger Aria Amazon, part of the Aqua Expeditions fleet. This small luxury ship explores the waters of the Pacaya Samiria Reserve near Iquitos, Peru. Itineraries range from three to seven nights, with many travelers opting for one of the shorter options in order to combine their Amazon excursion with a few days in Cuzco and Machu Picchu.

Below are several things I loved about my Peru Amazon experience, as well as a few aspects of the trip that weren’t as satisfying.

What We Loved
Wildlife: An Amazon cruise is all about birds and animals, and I saw plenty of them during my four days on the river. Memorable moments included fishing for (and catching!) piranha, seeing monkeys dart from branch to branch and watching hundreds of egrets and cormorants take flight at once during an excursion at dawn. Tip: For the best wildlife viewing, consider traveling in the rainy season (December through May), when the higher level of the river brings you closer to the treetops where many animals spend their time.

sloth in amazon peru


Cabins: Aria Amazon’s spacious, air-conditioned suites were always a pleasure to return to after excursions in the humid jungle. Creature comforts included king-size beds, rainfall showers and carafes of water refilled by the housekeeping staff, but my favorite part of the cabin was the floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, offering a mesmerizing 24/7 view of the rainforest slipping by.

Service and Staff: The Aria Amazon staff were uniformly friendly and eager to please, from the knowledgeable naturalist guides (with their uncanny ability to spot sloths and monkeys high in the trees) to the servers in the dining room, who quickly learned passengers’ names and dietary restrictions.

Food: A top Lima chef, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, developed Aria Amazon’s creative menus, which draw on locally sourced ingredients from the Amazon region such as passionfruit, yucca, hearts of palm and paiche, a freshwater fish that can grow up to seven or eight feet long.

Iquitos: I arrived a day early to explore Iquitos, a city that can only be reached by plane or boat. There aren’t any blockbuster sights to see, but the city is refreshingly low on tourists, and the Belen district — with its colorful market and houses that are submerged during the rainy season — is a fascinating place to explore.

What We Didn’t Like
Not Much Hiking: Because it was the rainy season, the river had submerged most of the jungle trails, leaving us few real opportunities to get off the skiffs. During four days we only set foot onshore twice — once for a village visit and once for a short jungle hike. Those hoping to stay active by hiking should cruise during the low-water season (June through November) instead.

hiking in the jungle peru


Bugs: You can douse yourself in DEET and treat your clothes with permethrin, but during late afternoon and evening excursions you’ll almost certainly get bitten by a mosquito or three. And these are hardly the only insects you’ll encounter in the Amazon. On one evening outing several passengers had black bees burrow into their hair. An Amazon cruise isn’t for the squeamish, even on a luxury line like Aqua Expeditions.

Enrichment: On most expedition cruises it’s common to have daily talks on the local culture, flora and fauna. On Aqua Expeditions the guides offer plenty of information during excursions, but onboard there’s less of a focus on education and more of a focus on relaxing. (We only had a single lecture during our four days onboard.) This suited some passengers very well, but if you’re seeking an in-depth learning experience, you might want to try a different line.

Staying in Touch: Given the remoteness of the region, you shouldn’t expect to keep up with your email or to text family and friends during your cruise. There’s no onboard Wi-Fi, and cell phone reception is only available when the ship passes near a local community.

10 Best Peru Experiences
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— written by Sarah Schlichter

Editor’s Note: I traveled as a guest of Aqua Expeditions, with the understanding that I would cover the trip in a way that honestly reflected my experience — good, bad or indifferent. You can read our full editorial disclosure on our About Us page.

This week’s puzzle is a word scramble. Below are the jumbled names of four major cities from around the world, followed by the country where they’re located. Your job is to unscramble them. For example, “IALM, EURP” would be “Lima, Peru.” Multi-word cities or countries are scrambled into one word, so “San Juan” might appear as SJAANUN. (Hint: This week there is one two-word city.) Identify all four mystery cities to win.

PESLAN, YLTAI

TLIZCIYBEE, LEBIEZ

RATHEN, RANI

AKADR, EAENGSL


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, April 10, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. 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 Brenda Chambers, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.

NAPLES, ITALY

BELIZE CITY, BELIZE

TEHRAN, IRAN

DAKAR, SENEGAL


— created by Sarah Schlichter

This Friday’s challenge is a photo of an unidentified place somewhere in the world. Can you tell us where the photo was taken? Leave your guess in the comments below — and check back on Tuesday to see if you were right!

world destination


Hint: The square above is in the heart of this city known for its cafe culture.

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, April 3, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com prize. 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 Rukesh, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia. Rukesh has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

See All “Where in the World?” Challenges

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Each month, we’ll highlight one new trip review submitted by an IndependentTraveler.com reader. If your review is featured, you’ll win an IndependentTraveler.com logo item!

traveler at diamond head


In this month’s winning review, a traveler climbs Oahu’s most famous peak: “The end result is worth all the exercise,” writes Jill Weinlein, “with sweeping coastal views of the seven beaches along Waikiki and the Diamond Head lighthouse, built in 1917 as a visual aid for navigation. The views of beautiful reefs along the southeastern shore towards Koko Head are awe inspiring.”

Read the rest of Jill’s review here: Hiking Diamond Head. This reader has won an IndependentTraveler.com sweatshirt.

Feeling inspired? Write your own trip review!

— written by Sarah Schlichter

This week’s puzzle is a country shapes quiz! Take a look at the silhouette and below and tell us which country you think it is.

mystery country


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, March 27, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. 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 JoeJoejoez, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery country was Peru. JoeJoeJoez has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Looking to pack lighter? You can save some space in your suitcase by storing your stuff in the clothes you wear. SCOTTeVEST offers a line of vests, jackets, pants and other clothing specifically designed with tons of pockets to help you stow gadgets and other essential items on your person instead of in a purse or backpack.

scottevest quest vest


I tested out the SCOTTeVEST Q.U.E.S.T., a vest that boasts a whopping 42 pockets, to see what it offers for travelers. Here’s what I discovered.

What We Liked
It’s cleverly designed. The designers clearly put a lot of thought into the layout of the Q.U.E.S.T., with pockets specifically meant for items such as cell phones, passports, tablets, glasses and pens. (Most of these compartments are labeled with little graphics so you can tell what’s supposed to go where.) Then there are dozens of catch-all pockets for everything else. Some are more useful than others — I’m not sure exactly what you’d want to put in the large back compartment, given that most items wouldn’t be all that comfortable to lean back on when you sit down — but there are plenty of pockets to customize in any way you see fit.

It’s attractive and well made. The vest feels well crafted and has a sleek, attractive look.

It’s water-resistant. When I poured water on both the hood and the body of the vest, it beaded up and ran right off.

There are tons of little surprises. Open the RFID-blocking pocket, and you’ll find a little document pouch that you can remove and then Velcro back in. The glasses pocket offers a soft cloth for wiping your lenses. There are holes and loops throughout to thread cords for earbuds or chargers.

It’s not just good for travel. Sure, the vest can save you space on vacation, but it’s also useful at home for day hikers who don’t want to carry a backpack or women who want to go shopping without lugging a heavy purse.

scottevest quest vest


What We Didn’t Like
It gets bulky. Realistically most travelers won’t use all 42 pockets; once you start putting in things like a full-size water bottle or multiple gadgets, the vest starts looking bulky and less flattering. If you do plan to use most of the pockets, you might want to order a size larger than you normally would to give yourself a little more space.

You may lose track of some of your things. There are so many pockets so close to each other — some divided only by a thin layer of fabric — that I sometimes forgot where I’d put certain items. In one case I could feel that there was a bottle of antibacterial hand gel in a certain quadrant of the vest, but I had to try about three different zippers before I could access the pocket I needed.

There’s only one color option. Other vests from SCOTTeVEST come in hues like blue, white and red, but the Q.U.E.S.T. is currently only available in black for women. (Men can buy the Q.U.E.S.T. in black or beige.)

It’s not cheap. The Q.U.E.S.T. is currently on sale for $175 at the SCOTTeVEST website and at Amazon. (To buy the men’s version, see the SCOTTeVEST website or Amazon.)

How to Pack Efficiently: 8 Products That Can Help
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— written by Sarah Schlichter

Editorial Disclosure: Some products are sent to us free of charge to be considered for review. We choose products to review based on their relevance and usefulness to our readers. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not promise any editorial coverage, particularly positive reviews.