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The IndependentTraveler.com Blog

Check out the stories you may have missed this week.

hotel sign


Mermaid Instructor? Canine Masseuse? The Oddest Hotel Jobs on Earth
Bloomberg takes a deep dive into the weirder side of hotels, highlighting the industry’s oddest jobs. This includes a sunset bagpiper at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, and the massage therapist for dogs at the Belmond Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy.

Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Finally Called Off with Mystery Unsolved
After nearly three years, the governments of Malaysia, Australia and China have given up the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, reports the Washington Post. The aircraft vanished mysteriously in March 2014, but despite a $150 million search, we have no more answers now than we did then about its final hours.

60 Years Since Publication of Famous Travel Guidebook
The Associated Press interviews Arthur Frommer, who revolutionized modern travel with the 1957 publication of “Europe on $5 a Day.” Discover why his book was so unique and which city Frommer can visit again and again.

15 of the Most Beautiful Places in Alaska
Don’t miss this droolworthy gallery of Alaska photos from Rough Guides — we guarantee it’ll get your wanderlust going.

The Mystery of American Airlines’ Ailing Flight Attendants
The Chicago Tribune investigates the controversy over the new uniforms at American Airlines, which numerous flight attendants have claimed are making them sick. So far there’s no scientific explanation for the rashes, sore throats, blisters and other ill effects that the flight attendants are suffering.

How to Plan Your Next Vacation with a Chatbot
The New York Times takes three mobile messaging apps — aka chatbots — for a test drive to see how useful they are in helping travelers find a flight or hotel using artificial intelligence. Spoiler alert: The results were mixed.

7 Stunning Natural Wonders in Asia
Is your bucket list just not long enough? Give this National Geographic piece a read. After viewing these stunning photos, you’ll be considering a trip to places like Mount Kelimutu in Indonesia or Jigoku Valley in Japan.

Air India Says Women-Only Seats for Comfort After Reported In-Flight Sex Attacks
Reuters reports that Air India will now reserve six seats on every flight for female passengers traveling alone. Although the move comes after multiple reports of women being sexually assaulted on Air India flights, the airline says it’s trying to offer solo female travelers more choice and comfort.

This week’s video is an offering from USA Today that went viral: a too-big-to-be-believed alligator in Florida.


The Most Bizarre Requests from Hotel Guests
12 Hotel Hacks That Will Save You Money

— 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.” Multi-word cities or countries are scrambled into one word, so “San Juan” might appear as SJAANUN. (Hint: This week there are two multi-word countries.) Identify all four mystery cities to win.

TTESELA, ESTIUDTSNAET

OTIILPR, YLIBA

OESUL, OUOTHAKESR

DTSAUEBP, ANGRUHY


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, January 16, 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 Edwin Hendrix, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.

SEATTLE, UNITED STATES

TRIPOLI, LIBYA

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY


— created by Sarah Schlichter

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

traveler in myanmar


9 Things Everyone Who Has Traveled Abroad Has Thought at Least Once
Travel + Leisure has compiled a list of lessons international travelers have learned through their journeys — including “Mistakes are not the end of the world” and “Language doesn’t have to be a barrier.”

At the Grand Canyon, a Cancer Survivor Rises to the Challenge of a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Hike
We loved this inspiring Washington Post essay about a woman’s journey from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim and back after a bout with cancer.

Security Shortcut ‘Clear’ Coming to Four of the Busiest U.S. Airports
Conde Nast Traveler reports that there will soon be another way to speed through four busy American airports: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia and New York JFK. Clear (unlike the government-run TSA PreCheck) is a private program that lets you pay an annual fee to skip the line for document check at security.

9 Reasons You Need to Visit Mongolia in 2017
Vogue highlights the charms of a destination most travelers have never considered: Mongolia. After reading about its wide-open spaces and unique spiritual culture, we’re moving it up our must-visit list.

Europe’s First Underwater Museum Opens Off Lanzarote
The Guardian offers otherworldly photos from the newly opened Museo Atlantico in the Canary Islands. The underwater sculptures offer a profound political statement.

The City with a Chip on Its Shoulder
What unites so-called “second cities,” wonders BBC? It’s not just the fact of being a country’s second-most-populous city, but also traits such as fewer expectations and a bit of a chip on their shoulder.

Ancient History Along the Nile
This essay from the New York Times captures what it’s like to cruise Egypt’s Nile River, with all its enchantments and quirks.

This week’s video is a unique job opportunity. A family of five is seeking a nanny to travel with them and homeschool their young children — with all travel expenses paid.


9 Best Places to Travel in 2017
The Healing Power of Travel

— written 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 eighth- and ninth-century stupas of this famous Buddhist temple are protected by UNESCO.

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, January 9, 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 Loni, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was Borobudur, a temple complex in Indonesia. Loni 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 stories you may have missed in the travel world this week.

airplane wing sunrise


MasterCard Could Share Your Height and Weight with Airlines, But Will It?
Skift reports on an eyebrow-raising new patent application from MasterCard that could affect how your data is shared with airlines. Because the credit card company has records of consumer purchases — including the sizes of shoes and clothing — it could theoretically let an airline know how large you are, allowing the carrier to avoid seating “two physically large strangers next to each other,” according to the patent.

Travel Is So Much Better Than It Was
It’s easy for travelers to find things to complain about — baggage fees, security lines, shrinking legroom — but this column from the National Review points out that we actually have it pretty good these days, thanks to new technology and innovative services such as Airbnb and Uber.

The Most Colorful Job in the World?
BBC offers a gorgeous photo essay about the workers who make mosaic tiles for the Great Mosque in Herat, Afghanistan.

Coming Innovations That Will Make Flying Economy (Mostly) Better
Wired reports on new trends in the air travel industry, from mood lighting and heated seats to more efficient security checkpoints and in-flight virtual reality.

Five Myths About Hotel Room Service
USA Today debunks a few common myths about room service. Did you know, for instance, that you might not have to tip (if the gratuity is already included on the bill)?

The 2017 Travel Forecast: Reduced Demand Could Result in Vacation Bargains
The Washington Post reports that many Americans aren’t planning to travel this coming year — which could lead to good deals for those who do want to hit the road.

How to Travel the World with No Money — by People Who Have Done It
The Guardian interviews three people who recently took ultra-budget trips that relied not on money but on the kindness of strangers. (Would you hitchhike for 72 days across South and Central America?) They share the good, bad and ugly from their trips.

This week’s video explains the math behind a frustrating problem for travelers: overbooked flights.


What to Do if Your Flight Is Overbooked
10 Ways to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

— 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, January 2, 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 Perry Huntoon, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery country was Indonesia. Perry has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Check out what you may have missed from around the travel world this week.

drone photo of bogata forest romania


20 Best Photos of 2016
The Dronestagram blog offers picks for the best drone photos of the past 12 months, featuring striking shots of roads, beaches and lavender fields from a unique bird’s-eye perspective.

Resolve to Be a Better Traveler (It’s Easier Than Losing Weight)
This piece from the San Francisco Chronicle offers up some advice — in the form of New Year’s resolutions — for travelers in 2017. Our favorite: “Put the camera/smartphone down. Sit, breathe and watch a foreign world go by.”

U.S. Government Collecting Social Media Information from Foreign Travelers
The Guardian reports that the U.S. government wants foreign visitors to reveal their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts when applying for a visa. It’s part of an effort to fight terrorism, though we can’t help but wonder whether a would-be terrorist would happily volunteer his or her incriminating accounts. (The social media info is not required in order to obtain a visa.)

Georgia’s Svan Song
Roads & Kingdoms profiles the little-known region of Svaneti, in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. The unique culture and religion of this region is endangered by economic decline and a lack of visitors.

Inside the Life of an Oyster Hotel Investigator
Ever wondered what it’s like to review and photograph hotels for a living? Our sister site, Oyster.com, offers an interview with one of its hotel investigators, who shares what an average day is like and reveals why it’s not as glamorous a job as it might sound.

The 10 Best Low-Cost Airlines in the World
Business Insider reveals the best low-cost carriers around the world, according to a recent Skytrax survey. The winner for the eighth year in a row? AirAsia. The only American carrier on the list, Virgin America, came in second.

Evicted Tenants Fight Back Against Airbnb With Detectives and Lawyers
Airbnb’s ongoing legal battle continues, Skift reports, with evicted tenants hiring detectives to prove that their former homes are now being used as short-term rentals. Opponents of Airbnb argue that the service is reducing cities’ supplies of affordable housing.

Asia’s Most Interesting Bazaar
The Time Travel Turtle blog’s colorful photos of this market in Kashgar, China, are a feast for the eyes.

This week’s video was shot in Rwanda and Uganda, and captures the region’s people, animals and landscapes. (Our favorite part? The gorillas.)


What’s Your New Year’s Travel Resolution?
Planning an African Safari

— 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!

temple bar dublin


In this month’s winning review, a traveler drives across Ireland and discovers the meaning of craic. “Sean’s Bar, in Athlone (just about halfway between Dublin and Galway) is the oldest pub in Europe. Dating back to 900 A.D., the pub is still thriving and we had to check it out,” writes Alyssa Johnson. “It was worth the stop. The old bar was practically breathing antiquity. … The bartender was friendly and the sunny beer garden was the perfect place for our first pint of Guinness.”

Read the rest of Alyssa’s review here: An Epic Road Trip Across Ireland. 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 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 are three multi-word countries and one multi-word city.) Identify all four mystery cities to win.

CLOBMOO, NIALAKSR

ACSRNI, ATULRAIAS

RGEUAP, ELZERBCHCPICU

VSORSAAANLD, ORLALSDVAE


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, December 26, 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 Christopher Tallmadge, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR


— created by Sarah Schlichter

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

travel photographer


Travel Photographer of the Year: 2016 Winners Revealed
Feast your eyes on CNN’s gallery of the best travel photos of the year, which capture the world’s people and places in striking fashion.

Five Myths About Travel Photography
Want to create award-winning travel shots of your own someday? Start with these tips from USA Today.

On the Streets of San Telmo
This piece from the Globe and Mail is a funny and thoughtful personal essay about a tango lesson in Buenos Aires.

Inside the World’s First Year-Round Ice Hotel
Forbes offers gorgeous pictures from ICEHOTEL 365, located north of the Arctic Circle in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. It’s the world’s first permanent snow and ice hotel. (Most are only open in the colder months.)

What a Trip: Retiring Travel Writer Ellen Creager Tells All
Think travel pros never have snafus on the road? Think again. A veteran travel writer for the Detroit Free Press shares some of her funniest anecdotes of trips gone awry over the years.

This Instagrammer’s Fairytale Images of Moscow in the Snow Are Dazzlingly Gorgeous
We swooned over this collection of wintry Moscow photos from Lonely Planet. Put Russia on our must-visit list!

15 Tweets That Describe the Hilarious Hell of Holiday Travel
Have a laugh at this amusing roundup of holiday travel tweets from the Huffington Post. Our favorite: “If you put your bag in overhead bin near row 7 & you sit in row 20, I am putting you on Santa’s naughty list!! #Grinchmas #Holiday Travel” We couldn’t agree more.

This week’s video is the annual “Christmas Miracle” offering from Canadian airline WestJet, featuring a heartwarming gift to the community of Fort McMurray after it was devastated by wildfires earlier this year.


12 Things You Don’t Photograph — But Should
Don’t Make These Travel Photography Mistakes

— written by Sarah Schlichter