Home

Home Travel Tips Travel Deals Destinations Trip Reviews Forums Blog
The IndependentTraveler.com Blog

… check your pulse. VisitScotland has just released a new video featuring two adorable Shetland ponies named Fivla and Vitamin, standing on a barren winter hillside in cozy-looking wool cardigans. The video was shot to promote the Year of Natural Scotland, a celebration of the region’s glens, lochs, mountains, wildlife and other natural attractions. Check it out:


After watching this, the first thing I wondered was just how they got the ponies into those stylish sweaters! Luckily, VisitScotland has provided a video of that too.


Now I want to do two things: Book a trip to Scotland — and figure out how to get a Shetland pony as a pet.

In Your Face: 9 Up-Close Animal Encounters

– written by Sarah Schlichter

We here at IndependentTraveler.com have seen some crazy airline safety briefings in our time (Richard Simmons, anyone?), but this one definitely caught our attention. Featuring 11 Air New Zealand crewmembers and surprise appearances by “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” producer and “The Hobbit” director Peter Jackson, plus J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandsons Mike and Royd, this Middle-earth-inspired video tells passengers the standard need-to-know information from seatbelt-fastening to oxygen mask application. Take a look:


Air New Zealand has partnered with Jackson to promote the new “Hobbit” trilogy; the first movie in the series, shot in New Zealand, is due in American theaters in December.

Do new twists on standard briefings make you any more likely to pay attention? Sound off in the comments below.

Watch more fun airline videos:
President Obama Appears in Air New Zealand Video
Delta Flash Mob
Finnair Goes Bollywood: Jai Ho!

– written by Ashley Kosciolek

I still remember the first time I saw the movie “Koyaanisqatsi” back in the 80’s. It was my first introduction to time-lapse film, and I found the combination of sped-up images and music to be moving in a way few things are.

Today time-lapse video is more common, and a quick search through YouTube turns up videos of flowers growing, children aging and buildings developing. But my favorite videos are those that show mountains, lakes, monuments or cities over the course of a day or week in just a minute’s worth of time.

Forget flipping through a picture book — I never want more to travel than after watching a day unfold somewhere in the world I haven’t yet been.

Here are a few time-lapse travel videos that will inspire you to travel.

Speeding Around The World in Under 5 Minutes

This time-lapse video spans 17 countries visited over the course of 343 days. Among the countries highlighted are England, France, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Thailand and Uruguay.



New York City
A great time-lapse glimpse at the city that never sleeps.



Around Paris
Some of Paris’ most iconic sights zip through time in this video.



Enjoyed these? Check out Get Inspired: Around the World in Eight Amazing Videos.

– written by Dori Saltzman

Today, Air New Zealand released another of its cheeky, star-studded in-flight safety videos — and this time U.S. President Barack Obama makes an appearance, along with Snoop Dogg and members of New Zealand’s rugby team, the All Blacks. (Previous videos have included cameos from Lindsay Lohan, David Hasselhoff and our personal favorite, Richard Simmons.)

The hand-drawn video is a departure from previous live-action efforts, and it’s filled with wry little details. As you watch below, keep your eye out for Queen Elizabeth and her corgis — and check out President Obama’s cocktail.



How many celebs did you spot? If you can name at least five, you can enter to win an around-the-world trip for two from Air New Zealand on its social media site, TheFlyingSocialNetwork.com.

Watch more fun airline videos:
Delta Flash Mob
Finnair Goes Bollywood: Jai Ho!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

spirit galacticHere at IndependentTraveler.com, we got through yesterday without slipping on any well-placed banana peels. (Whew.) But we did get a chuckle at some of the April Fool’s Day gags offered up by the airline industry this year.

Ultra-discounter Spirit Airlines extended its famous $9 fares to space travel with Spirit Galactic. Members of the carrier’s $9 Fare Club can enjoy ultra-cheap prices to the moon, but as always with Spirit, the devil’s in the details; additional “optional” fees include a million-dollar space suit and $1,200,000,000.99 for rocket fuel (“Hey, this stuff ain’t cheap”).

Spirit vs. Ryanair: Who’s the Ugliest Airline of Them All?

Skyscanner.net, an airfare search site, announced the launch of AirFair, a fare-free, “pay what you wish” airline that would allow passengers to give a donation based on what they think their flight was worth. “In order to ensure donations are sufficient to keep the airline profitable, AirFair has carried out extensive studies and plan[s] to offer flights only on routes most likely to generate high revenues,” reads the press release. “London City to St. Tropez, Monaco and Zurich are the first to be launched, whereas no flights to or from Scotland have been announced.” Zing!

Air New Zealand’s grabaseat.co.nz also trumpeted a splashy new product: Straight Up Fares, or standing-room-only tickets for full flights. Standing passengers, who can cling to hand straps dangling from the ceiling, will enjoy deep discounts “as consideration for the reduced inflight comfort, and the involuntary stranger-touching during turbulence,” according to the press release. For seniors who can’t easily reach the hand straps, says grabaseat manager Duane Perott, “We’ve modified a couple of Jolly Jumpers and hung them in the gap between the aft toilets. … We wanted to offer our elderly customers a solution with dignity, and I’m proud to say we’ve achieved that.”

The Most Awkward Moments in Travel

Finally, Canadian airline WestJet offers an innovative option for parents who don’t want to fly with their children any more than the rest of us do:



Did WestJet top last year’s effort, which called for airplanes filled with helium? Take a look:



– written by Sarah Schlichter

We take a break from our regularly scheduled grumbling about the airlines to bring you this toe-tapping video of a Delta Air Lines flash mob, featuring employees shaking their groove things at airports in Atlanta, New York and Detroit. (TOC, the fourth location mentioned in the video, is Delta’s Technical Ops Center in Atlanta.)

Be warned that the first minute is a bit of a snooze — but we promise you’ll be smiling by the end. Take a look:



Can’t get enough dancing airline employees? Don’t miss Finnair’s Bollywood performance and Richard Simmons’ in-flight safety video.

– written by Sarah Schlichter

Need a smile? Check out this video from Finnair, featuring an in-cabin musical celebration of India’s Republic Day (which is today, January 26):



We spend plenty of time writing about the ills of the air travel industry, but we love drawing attention to moments like these when the airlines really do get it right. For more, see 3 Flight Attendants Who’ve Elevated Air Travel and Richard Simmons’ flight safety video.

–written by Sarah Schlichter

The job of a flight attendant can be monotonous. Rote tasks include spouting lobotomizing FAA-approved safety briefings, maneuvering a heavy wheeled cart down a too-narrow passageway and repeatedly telling passengers to turn off their surreptitiously running electronic devices.

But there are those who’ve managed to elevate the craft.

In that rarified air, flight attendants rap, sing and execute pre-flight safety talks rife with wry quips about seatbelts fitting “low and tight like tailored pants.” The checked bags might be extra, but the instantaneous mood enhancement is included in the fare.

Here are three of our favorite flight attendants. We’d thank them personally if we could.

1. Many travelers argue that Southwest Airlines flight attendants are given the most comedic leeway — so long as they touch on the federally required safety points. Case in rap: Behold the rhyming flight attendant, MC David Holmes, who transforms a banal briefing into something a bit more bumpin’.



2. This sartorially inclined Southwest flight attendant believes that life vests, seat belts and “buttercup yellow” oxygen masks are the epitome of high fashion — more so if worn snugly to accentuate your waist or face. He even dispatches his coworkers down the aisles to see that passengers’ seat belts are fastened and that their shoes match their outfits.



3. Fly enough and you may witness a flight attendant leading the cabin in song (again Southwest seems to pop up most). But no stewardess has ever entertained like Trans American Airlines’ Randy, who belts out an ovation-worthy rendition of Peter, Paul and Mary’s “River of Jordan.”



(Look familiar? The above clip is from the satirical film “Airplane!”)

For more in-flight shenanigans, check out Richard Simmons’ flight safety video and the controversial dancing flight attendants at Cebu Pacific.

– written by Dan Askin

See the world through the eyes of a suitcase. The “eyes,” in this instance, are six cameras that Delta Airlines attached to a piece of checked luggage. Delta recorded the bag’s journey from check-in counter to baggage claim area and posted the footage on YouTube. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sway to a spacey New Age soundtrack as you watch the bag hitch a ride on a flight from Atlanta to New York. (I predict a big-budget Hollywood remake to follow.)



Note the teaser at the end: “Now you can track your bag’s journey.” Passengers aren’t permitted to attach spy cams onto their own Samsonites — at least not yet. But Delta’s making it easier to keep tabs on luggage with another kind of gadget. The airline has created a new app that allows travelers to follow the whereabouts of their checked bags on their smartphones. (Be sure that you don’t try tracking your bag during take-off or landing, lest you end up like Alec Baldwin.)

The app follows checked bags much the way postal services track packages, by providing a tracking code along with periodic status updates. In addition, fliers can use the app to get flight alerts, check in, make seat changes, rebook flights and more. Delta’s app is free, and it’s available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Download it here.

– written by Caroline Costello

Would rainbow lights, disco dancing and short shorts get you to pay attention to a pre-flight safety demonstration?

Air New Zealand hopes so. Yesterday, the airline rolled out a new safety video called “Fit to Fly with Richard Simmons,” featuring the famed fitness guru as well as a handful of local Kiwi celebs. Backed by dancers in sweatbands and wearing his signature itty-bitty shorts, Simmons is in full “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” form as he exhorts fliers to lose their baggage, buckle their seatbelts and follow crew instructions at all times. “FANTASTIC!”

You can check out the video below. (“Amazing Race” fans, keep your eye out for host and New Zealand native Phil Keoghan, who demonstrates the brace position in his seat — and even has a brief dance solo.)



Air New Zealand isn’t the only airline to get creative in an attempt to make jaded fliers pay attention to a safety demonstration; see our recent post about the dancing flight attendants on the Philippines’ Cebu Pacific airline.

– written by Sarah Schlichter