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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: You can kayak, take a boat ride or even spend the night on this famous bay.

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, August 29, 2016, 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.

See All “Where in the World?” Challenges

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out the stories you may have missed from around the travelsphere.

leftover spaghetti on plate


In Germany, You May Be Fined if You Don’t Finish Your Meal
Conde Nast Traveler reports on a new trend hitting the dining scene in Germany: all-you-can-eat restaurants charging diners for food left on their plates. It’s part of an effort to reduce waste.

North Korea: How Can I Visit the Secret State, and Is It Morally Right to Go?
The Independent takes a look at the ethical issues associated with travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where visitors must follow rigid group itineraries that don’t necessarily provide a holistic look at the local culture.

This Woman’s Insane Etch A Sketches Will Blow Your Freaking Mind
I can barely draw a stick figure on an Etch A Sketch, which is why I’m so amazed by complex and beautiful images drawn by a traveler named Jane Labowitch during a recent trip to India. BuzzFeed has collected her pictures of the Red Fort, the Taj Mahal and more.

Want Your Children to Grow into More Empathetic Adults? Travel with Them
Quartz examines how travel early in life can serve to encourage empathy, compassion and cognitive flexibility in children. One psychologist notes that just taking a trip isn’t enough; parents should have discussions with their children to help them process the differences they see between the local way of life and their own.

Turning Instagram Into a Radically Unfiltered Travel Guide
A writer for the New York Times explains how she uses Instagram’s location-based searches to get a glimpse at new places before she visits — not to see beautiful photos but for more practical purposes such as figuring out what to wear during a visit to a Muslim country during Ramadan or finding a Puerto Rican beach where the locals hang out.

Bangkok’s Disappearing Street Food
BBC reports on a troubling story to those of us who love eating our way through a new destination. In an effort to clean up the streets, the Bangkok government has evicted thousands of street food vendors from public areas around the city. This includes areas popular with tourists and locals such as Soi 38 and the On Nut Night Market.

In this week’s mesmerizing video, actress Rachel Grant shows us how to pack more than 100 items into a single carry-on.


The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time
7 Things Not to Do When Packing a Carry-On Bag

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Baggage fees are the airline surcharge that most fliers love to hate, but a new study shows that they have an unexpected silver lining: They’ve made it more likely for your flight to leave on time.

luggage cart suitcases airport


The study comes from the University of Kansas, where researchers discovered that the implementation of baggage fees encouraged fliers to check fewer bags, allowing baggage handlers to load planes more efficiently. Of course, it now seems to take longer for passengers to board, given that we’re all trying to find overhead bin space for our massive carry-ons, but this is apparently outweighed by the time saved on checked baggage. Says a University of Kansas researcher, “The below-the-cabin effect dominates the above-the-cabin effect.”

The time savings weren’t huge — the median departure time improved anywhere from 3.3 to 4.2 minutes, and delays went down 1.3 to 2 minutes — but they benefited all major airlines, including Southwest (which doesn’t charge for checked bags). The researchers note that some baggage handling responsibilities such as security checks are shared among all airlines, so the reduction in total checked luggage improved performance for everyone.

The biggest improvements in on-time performance came at large hub airports where layovers are common; fewer bags going through such massive handling systems led to fewer delays.

In other positive news, luggage-related complaints per 1,000 passengers have fallen since baggage fees were first implemented.

Do these findings make you feel any more kindly toward checked baggage fees?

11 Things Not to Do on a Plane
7 Smart Ways to Bypass Baggage Fees

— written by Sarah Schlichter

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

mystery country


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, August 22, 2016, 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 Dan, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery country was Brazil. Dan has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out the travel stories you may have missed this week.

airplane on tarmac


This Fee Could Triple the Cost of Your Reward Flight
The Washington Post reports that fuel surcharges could make your reward flight cost much more than you expect. Despite the low cost of oil, some airlines have surprisingly high fuel surcharges, and you have to pay them even if the base fare is covered by miles.

Travel Writer Thomas Swick on the Seven Joys of Travel
Parade Magazine interviews travel writer Thomas Swick, who recently published a book on what he sees as travel’s greatest joys: anticipation, movement, break from routine, novelty, discovery, emotional connection and a heightened appreciation of home. Discover which of these is his favorite and which destinations he visits over and over again.

I Lost My Job and My Husband. Then I Found Newfoundland.
We loved this New York Times essay about a writer’s impromptu trip to Newfoundland following the end of both her marriage and her job as a teacher at a summer camp. It wasn’t the most glamorous of trips, with several nights spent sleeping in a car and locals recommending a “local” brew called Coors Light, but it was full of the thrill of discovery.

Lucky Baby Gets a Lifetime of Free Flights After Being Born on Plane
No mother would ever want to give birth on a plane, but one person benefited when this unfortunate situation cropped up on a recent Cebu Pacific Air flight, reports New York Magazine: the baby, who will now get free flights for life on the airline.

Behind the Curtain of Vietnam’s Oldest Circus
A National Geographic photographer offers fascinating images of performers in a Hanoi circus, drawn from months of living alongside them in an abandoned theater.

Working Amid a Turbulent Few Decades in the Airline Industry
The Atlantic sits down with Paul Mozeak, a crew chief at John F. Kennedy International Airport, to discuss the changes he’s seen in 32 years of working in the airline industry. He explains the evolution of security regulations (especially since 9/11) and how airline mergers affect their employees.

Future in Doubt for World’s Next Largest Hotel in Saudi Arabia
News.com.au reports that the massive new mega-hotel scheduled to open in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 2017 — complete with 12 towers, 70 restaurants, 4 helipads and 10,000 guestrooms — might never actually be finished.

Racial Bias by Airbnb’s Hosts Sparks Minority Alternatives
Travel Weekly reports on new peer-to-peer lodging websites designed for African-American travelers, who have reported discrimination on mainstream sites such as Airbnb. Options include Innclusive.com and Noirbnb.com.

This week’s video offers a glimpse at a remote island off the coast of Yemen.


7 Common Airbnb Problems and How to Solve Them
18 Best Airport Hacks

— written by Sarah Schlichter

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.” Identify all four mystery cities to win.

RUESBNASEOI, TARAINNEG

RENFCOLE, YAILT

SBBIEANR, LUASARITA

OGOHKGNN, CNHAI


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, August 15, 2016, 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 Juan Herrera, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

FLORENCE, ITALY

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

HONG KONG, CHINA


— 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 city’s name comes from an indigenous word meaning “where the river narrows.”

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, August 8, 2016, 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 Dorinda, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was Canada’s Quebec City. Dorinda 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

Check out the week’s most interesting stories from around the travel world.

airplane food


“Nightmarish School-Dinner Fare”: Airline Food Taste Test
The Guardian puts airline food to the test with deliciously scathing results. Of one EasyJet sandwich, the author writes, “It is a bready Alcatraz incarcerating one slim slice of cheddar that has briefly been dabbed with ‘seasoned mayo’ (presumably seasoned with air, for all the flavour it adds) and a ‘mixed-leaf salad’ whose sparse scattering of shrivelled leaves looks more like some foliage has blown in through the window during prep than a deliberate garnish.”

Is This the Future of Hands-Free Luggage?
CNN profiles a bizarre new travel accessory: My Hitch, a gadget that allows you to hook your suitcase to your waistband so it will follow you wherever you go. Because every traveler needs a luggage tail!

Travel 3,000 Miles Through China’s Wondrous Wild West
A National Geographic photographer describes the experience of riding a train for 52 hours across China with his family. (Don’t forget to click through the gallery at the top of the story to see his powerful images.)

The Entire Continent of Australia Has Moved Five Feet in 22 Years
Thanks to its position atop an active tectonic plate, Australia has moved about five feet to the north over the last couple of decades. Though that may not sound like much, Conde Nast Traveler notes that such shifts can have a meaningful effect on devices that use GPS technology.

Tourists Blame Google Maps for Sending Them Into Venice in a Car
Speaking of GPS, Travel + Leisure reports on a couple of tourists in a rental car who blundered into a pedestrian-only section of Venice, nearly hitting a bystander along the Grand Canal. Their excuse? They were following Google Maps.

A Cheese Made from … Donkey Milk?
A BBC reporter journeys to Serbia to taste the world’s most expensive cheese, made from the milk of local donkeys. It’s said to slow the aging process and boost immunity and virility.

This week’s video is a tearjerker, featuring an Iowa choir singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” on a plane in honor of a WWII soldier, whose remains were being escorted on the flight from Germany to Atlanta.



Lost in Venice: One Wrong Turn and You May Never Leave
11 Things Not to Do on a Plane

— written by Sarah Schlichter

It’s the height of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means every time we look out the window we’re daydreaming about sun-splashed sands, turquoise waters, the sound of crashing waves, and the smell of salt air and sunscreen. If you don’t have your own beach vacation coming up, let the following photos take you on a mental escape to a few of the globe’s most beautiful stretches of sand.

beach boats koh lipe thailand


Koh Lipe, Thailand



coco beach guanacaste costa rica sunset


Coco Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica



kauai beach chairs waves hawaii


Kauai, Hawaii, U.S.A.



beach innes national park australia


Innes National Park, Australia



beach brela croatia


Brela, Dalmatian Coast, Croatia



Which beach are you dying to be on right now?

How to Pack for a Beach Vacation
6 National Parks We Want to Visit Around the World

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Our brand-new puzzle is a country shapes quiz! Take a look at the outline and below and tell us which country you think it is.

mystery country


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, August 1, 2016, 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 Antonia Sullivan, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery country was Spain. Antonia has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

— written by Sarah Schlichter