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borgund stave church norwayOn a recent trip to Norway, a member of the country’s tourism bureau told me that the number of U.S. visitors to Norway increased by about 40 percent in 2014 due to “Frozen.” That’s right — an animated Disney blockbuster for children boosted the number of travelers to the region by nearly half. That got us thinking about other movies that have spurred visits from loyal fans and, in some cases, even tours that feature the places where the actual filming took place. Read on for a list of some of the most notable ones.

“Frozen” (Norway)
Set in the Norwegian fjords, this story takes Anna, a princess, on a journey to find her sister with the help of a snowman. It sounds quirky, but Disney is now offering official “Adventures by Disney” tours of the region, which include stops in Bergen (on which Arendelle, the movie’s fictional setting, is based), as well as activities like rafting, hiking, fishing, dancing and fjord exploration.

“The Lord of the Rings” (New Zealand)
This famous fantasy series, shot entirely in New Zealand, had many filming locations within the country, including Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Fiordland, among others. Several companies like Lord of the Rings Tours offer guided excursions to various places seen in the movies, but you can also easily organize your own tour with the help of New Zealand Tourism’s resources.

I’ll Take a Large Popcorn and a Ticket to Paris

“Anne of Green Gables” (Canada)
The classic novels and their made-for-TV counterparts still draw lots of visitors each year to Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, Canada. While there, you can get a feel for the place Anne called home and even tour Green Gables, the house that was used in the TV/film series; it has been decorated to look just like what you’ve imagined from the books.

“Memoirs of a Geisha” (Japan)
Set in Kyoto, Japan, a “Memoirs of a Geisha” tour — like this one offered by Japan for You — will take you to several of the movie’s shooting locations and expose you to Japanese food and culture through performances and trips to shrines, restaurants and tearooms. You’ll also have some free time to explore on your own.

The Top 5 Airlines for In-Flight Entertainment

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

movie clapboardThere has been no shortage of screenplay-worthy travel stories in the past few weeks. Dennis Rodman’s holiday in Pyonyang with the reclusive dictator, Kim Jung-un? Lifetime should be on it. The Carnival Triumph cruise fire? Bet on it being retold in a three-part epic on ABC Family. The sequester’s impact on air travel? That one’s still under discussion, but there’s no doubt the right network will make it work. Here are three would-be plots.

The Real Story: Dennis Rodman’s diplomatic journey to N. Korea

The TV Movie Version, “Mr. Worm Goes to Pyongyang”: An American basketball star (retired), hair dye aficionado, pro wrestler and self-proclaimed “bad boy” travels to North Korea to secure a peace treaty with the country’s ruthless supreme leader, Kim. Like his piercings and tattoos, the Worm’s methods are unconventional — and pooh-poohed by stiff-collared American foreign service elites. But with the help of the Harlem Globetrotters’ feather-on-your-funny-bone brand of non-verbal hijinks, coupled with all-you-can-drink of apple soju-tinis, he succeeds in melting the dictator’s heart. (Kim’s favorite gag: Player pretends he’s pregnant with a basketball.) Choking back guffaws and sobs, the glorious ruler reveals that he feels ostracized by the West; all the tiny, tracksuit-wearing tyrant really wants is to hear the smooth baritone of the American supreme leader. Worm and Kim embrace during a moment filmed by a cell phone, and the video goes viral. Having proven the cynics back home wrong, the Worm earns the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service and, due to a clerical error, the Distinguished Honor Award from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The Real Story: The ill-fated cruise on Carnival Triumph in early February

The TV Movie Version, “Triumph Over Adversity”: The vacation of a lifetime, a four-night voyage on a 14-year-old Carnival ship, becomes a cruel Darwinian experiment when an engine room fire leaves the ship without power in the Gulf of Mexico. Raw sewage sloshes around the decks, the now-infamous red bags for toxic waste are dispensed and essential supplies quickly dwindle. Despite food and medicine shortages and a growing intolerance toward poop jokes, a perky cruise director tries to keep the mood upbeat. But after only 24 hours adrift, hungry passengers have formed into splinter groups, with a maniacal Texan leading a powerful sect of pseudo-religious cannibals. Their first victim: the chipper cruise director. Screaming headlines (procured from a handful of surviving cruisers who managed to salvage cell phone batteries) and a CNN helicopter that surveys the scene from a safe distance tell the story to the world. Even as tug boats manage to reach the ship and slowly pull it to Mobile, the carnage continues.

When it seems that all hope is lost, President Obama reaches for the red phone and dials. A voice can be heard over the receiver: “I was wondering when you’d call.”

“We need your help, Dennis Rodman,” the president says.

The Real Story: Sequestration’s impact on the travel industry (most notably, airports)

The TV Movie Version, “Sequestration, the Movie”: With the U.S. government unable to agree on some sort of budget by some sort of date, $85 billion in spending cuts are initiated. Services the American public depends on may be ravaged. Most importantly, lines at airports are getting dangerously long. “Get there 90 minutes before departure” becomes “get there three months early and rent a hibernation pod, a new for-fee option introduced by the airlines.” (First-class hibernation pod passengers get to board in Zone 1 in the unlikely event their planes take off.) It gets worse. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, played by Kathy Bates, announces that the TSA is sending out furlough notices to its workers. As TSA staff numbers dwindle, fewer and fewer bags make it onto planes and fliers grow increasingly confused by the lack of ineptitude, condescension and rude interactions. Republicans and Democrats refuse to budge on spending, despite a growing number of airport horror scenes captured on cell phones and streamed out on CNN. Travelers angrily refuse overtures from train companies, preferring to form angry mobs at airports instead. Is the president out of options? Not yet. Dennis Rodman, one of the most decorated non-military heroes in U.S. history, is called in to mediate.

The Most Awkward Moments in Travel

The World’s Weirdest Museums

– written by Dan Askin

Editor’s Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, which also owns Cruise Critic and Smarter Travel.



It’s a cold, dreary workday here at IndependentTraveler.com’s world headquarters, and we want to share something fun. If you like travel, technology and cinema, check out these short films, selected by Roman Coppola from more than 1,000 screenplay entries as part of a contest run by Intel and W Hotels. Sure, it’s shameless product placement for W’s accommodations and Intel’s new Ultrabook, but the mini-movies actually aren’t too bad.

Whether it’s cyber romance, Mexican wrestling or creepy wishes in Washington D.C., who doesn’t need a few more ways to waste time on a day like today?

Which is your favorite? Be sure to post your thoughts below.

What Not to Do at Your Hotel


–written by Ashley Kosciolek

fjordland national parkIn this week’s Friday Free-for-All, we want to hear about the movies or TV shows that have inspired you to travel. For me, two movies, more than any others, aroused a travel desire almost too strong to ignore.

If sweeping vistas of stunning landscapes are your thing, the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy movies can’t fail to get your travel desire boiling. Seeing New Zealand displayed in all its natural magnificence on the big screen was too much for me to resist and within a few years of the first movie coming out I was in New Zealand visiting many of the places used as backdrops for the film.

On a smaller scale, the lesser-known “Enchanted April,” which I saw as a teenager, left me with a lingering need to rent a villa in Tuscan Italy. Anytime I feel the need to take a step back from the hectic pace of life as I know it, I imagine standing on a hill overlooking a Tuscan countryside with nothing to do but be still. I haven’t yet done it, but I know that someday I will.

Which movies or TV shows have featured scenery that has stuck with you to this day and moved you to visit the places depicted?

Turn Your Favorite Hobby into a Trip

– written by Dori Saltzman

parisLast weekend, a hankering for popcorn and the urge to escape 90-degree temperatures drew me to the movie theater. Previews flashed, the protagonist triumphed, credits rolled and suddenly I found myself planning a trip to Paris.

The movie was “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen’s latest romantic comedy. It’s a love story about an American traveler and his devotion to Paris — more specifically, Paris in the rain … during the 1920’s. Aside from the fantastical time traveling bits of the movie, most of “Midnight in Paris” could pass for a film sponsored by the French tourism board. Allen highlights the city with heaps of gorgeous Parisian imagery: miles of sidewalk cafes, street vendors selling relics of the past, impossibly thin women in elegant clothes, the Eiffel Tower glittering in the night. Even Carla Bruni makes an appearance.

I haven’t been to Paris. It was on my places-to-see-in-the-next-decade list, somewhere behind Yosemite National Park and Mongolia. But now? Paris has edged past Mongolia, and soon I’ll be drawing disapproving stares with my lapsed college French and biting into baguettes alongside Carla Bruni.

I can think of a few other movies that tend to have a transformative effect on the hearts and travel plans of audiences. Here are some of my favorites:

“Lost in Translation”
Romance grows from a shared case of culture shock in Sofia Coppola’s Japanese gem. Tokyo, the star of this film, comes across as a mysterious, moody, otherworldly destination, and the movie is rich with beautiful footage of the city.

“Under the Tuscan Sun”
Long before Julia Roberts patched an on-screen split with a trio of trips in “Eat, Pray, Love,” Diane Lane played a divorcee who took a two-week tour of Tuscany and, on a whim, decided to drop everything and move to the Boot. Sure, “Under the Tuscan Sun” is an unabashed feel-good “chick flick” (if that term makes you cringe, I’m with you), but the shots of dazzling Tuscan landscapes and charming but crumbling Italian villas make this movie worth the two hours.

“Roman Holiday”
The movie that kicked off Audrey Hepburn’s dynamo career is, in my opinion, the quintessential traveler’s flick. In “Roman Holiday,” Hepburn plays Princess Anne, who breaks from the royal life on tour of Rome and stumbles into an unexpected romance. Although the movie came out in 1953, a traveler in Rome today will find that few of the ancient sites featured in film have changed since “Roman Holiday” was in theaters.

“Solaris”
In all seriousness, if that crazy planet were real, I’d want to travel there (but on a less creepy space station). Fun fact: The futuristic earth city featured in the movie is actually Tokyo.

What are your favorite travel movies? Share your picks in the comments.

– written by Caroline Costello