Love to travel, but hate tours? This blog offers insight on how to go it alone, from safe accommodations to seeing the best, and maybe the worst. After all, independent travel is an adventure. Flexibility and traveling on a budget are critical. No five-stars or all-inclusives. So hop aboard. Learn to enjoy travel at your own pace and price. Meet other adventurers like yourself and mingle with the locals. Remember: You may travel alone, but you wonʼt be lonely. firstname.lastname@example.org
The “Land of Enchantment”, New Mexico, Pecos National Historical Park. - 9/22/2012 4:27 pm
All border crossings are not created equal... - 8/19/2012 7:58 am
Avoid Interstates, enjoy travel through middle America... - 8/12/2012 6:12 am
Right now is the best time to travel the Alaska Highway. - 8/4/2012 5:45 pm
Fifty Shades of Grey becoming a travel phenomenon. - 7/29/2012 6:46 am
Winners of the annual Independent Traveler Photo Contest... - 7/21/2012 10:00 pm
Independent Traveler photo contest, submit your favorite travel photo here... - 7/1/2012 10:38 am
How to get a good seat on your next flight. - 6/24/2012 9:26 am
Posted: September 12, 2008 - 1:35 pm
Talk about independent travel and getting off the beaten path, US Forest Service cabins in Prince William Sound are some of the remotest places on earth. However, they are darn hard to get. You have to book them six month’s in advance to get reservations at the more popular ones.
We’ve tried for the past three years to book the Shrode Lake cabin and this year we got it. Last year we went to the Coghill Lake cabin in the same area, but were told by some that Shrode Lake was as good or better. The cabin was great, but the trip didn't turn out as planned.
Posted: September 11, 2008 - 8:44 pm
I just got back from ten days of torrential rains in Prince William Sound, but more on that in my next blogs. Wanted to first let you know how to get to Brooks Camp as I didn't have time to post before I left for PWS.
If you're hankering to see bears or to shoot photos of bears close up and personal, Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park & Preserve is fantastic. Here’s what you need to know before you go. High season for bear viewing is July. It’s also high visitor traffic. The Park Service told me they get about 400 day-trippers plus the lodge and campground are full, another 120 people. This high number is really pushing the limits as bear viewing platforms only accommodate 20 to 30 people at a time and there are only three of them.
Posted: August 31, 2008 - 3:32 pm
As I mentioned, Katmai is not like Disneyland, and Ted and Divot, the only two bears we saw, are real live grizzly bears, even though Ted resembles a stuffed Teddy bear.
One day we ventured to Brooks Lake at the confluence of Brooks River about a mile and a half from Brooks Camp. All was clear on the beach, meaning not a sleeping giant. This time of the year the bears are beefing up for their winter nap and often sleep on the beach. They dig a hole for their belly and plop down.
We saw fishermen downstream and walked down the beach for a better look. Of course it’s a little disconcerting when you seen former belly holes, trampled grass and lots and lots of bear trails going through the forest. I had just mentioned to my husband that there probably was a bear hiding out in the trees when I saw her. “There’s, there’s a bear,” I stammered. She was no less than 15 feet away in a shrubbed area.
Posted: August 30, 2008 - 4:58 pm
Wow! I just arrived home last night after five days of camping out and bear viewing in Katmai National Park & Preserve, to be exact Brooks Camp. While July is the height of bear viewing followed by September, it is also the peak of visitor traffic. I’ll take fewer bears over more people any day, thus August was perfect for me.
Posted: August 29, 2008 - 1:25 pm
Okay, so you all know how I feel about the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). If not, check out my blogs. But I want to hear your air war stories too. Of course, there must be many, many out there with the airlines making so many changes and not offering the service of the past.
How about charging for checked baggage? First of all, why can’t they all do it the same? I recently checked in at Kearney, Nebraska and was told I could only check one bag free. The second would be charged $25 as I was connecting to Alaska Airlines through Denver. When I told the agent that her airline’s website said I could have two bags free, she said she had to collect for Alaska Airlines. I then advised her that if the originating carrier allows for two bags free, they go all the way free.
Posted: August 23, 2008 - 9:39 am
This is what the Olympics are all about. Little countries beating out the big guys. The thrill of adventure and no agony of defeat! The Jamaican men broke three world records and won three Olympic golds. My heart beat with pride and excitement every time Usain Bolt locked in those golden slippers at the start line.
I lived in Jamaica for a year, Kingston to be exact, and I know how proud he and his country-mates must feel. Since the Brits relinquished control of the island in the 60s, the standard of living and the island’s economy have plummeted. There’s not a lot to feel proud of on the crime-ridden island with its number one gross national product being foreign aid from the U.S. Forget those beautiful pictures of all inclusive resorts. The profits are only in the hands of a few big wigs. Bolt and his other Jamaican teammates are the shot in the arm the locals need to bolster their national pride.
Posted: August 22, 2008 - 9:04 am
My recent TSA fiasco when agents riffled through my suitcases got me thinking about packing in general. I’ve just returned from 100 degree weather and Sunday I leave for western Alaska to go bear viewing in Katmai National Park. Nighttime temperatures will dip into the 40s, plus I’m camping out.
However, I can quickly access the clothes and accessories I need because I compartmentalize. I pack my travel clothes and other related items away according to climate and activities. One Rubbermaid container contains my camping clothes, hats, gloves, etc. Another contains tropical clothes and paraphernalia. Hanging in my closet are casual clothes and dress clothes. The system works well for me.
Posted: August 20, 2008 - 6:51 pm
I just got back from my jaunt to see family and friends. When I opened my suitcases I found these baggage inspection notices from the TSA.
In addition to these delightful flyers, I also get clothes that look like they have been smooched, waded up and flung back into my bag. My shoes that were packed on the bottom are on the top or in between my underwear. Forget the ironed clothes. They look slept in and only heaven knows if anything is missing. And boy do I love it when my gels or lotions, which had secured lids and were sealed in zip locks, leak all over.
Posted: August 16, 2008 - 6:18 am
So how does one carry cash? Carefully! I use a waist wallet, available where travel accessories are sold. Since I mostly travel with my husband, we split up the cash. Once we get to our hotel, we put the cash, our passports and travel documents into a wall safe or the hotel safe. Most of the time that has been safe. But we did stay at a nice hotel in Ecuador where an employee was pilfering through guest’s money and siphoning off $100 bills.
“Geez I thought I had more money than that left,” I thought. I did. He had it.
To avoid someone messing with my bucks, I now carry several large envelopes and wrapping tape. When I put something in a hotel safe, I first place it in the envelope, write my name on it and then tape it shut. After I access it, I put everything back into a new envelope and seal it with the tape. It may seem paranoid, but it works.
Posted: August 12, 2008 - 9:00 am
I’m in Grand Island, Nebraska, my birthplace, visiting family and attending my first class reunion. I didn’t loose the extra twenty pounds before coming back nor do I look younger than I am, but you know? That really didn’t matter.
I haven’t made reunions in the past due to international travel or living, or just not having the cost in the budget. While I generally write about traveling to places, this is a different type of journey. A journey of the heart.
I don’t know about others, but sometimes I get stuck in a time warp. The friends I made growing up seem to be among the most influential in my thinking and I reflect back on my younger days often.
Posted: August 11, 2008 - 7:34 am
Money that is. When you travel internationally, you will indeed have to change money at one point or another. But before you do, you need to know the current exchange rate. You can log onto a currency converter website to determine it. Then you can compare what local banks offer. Usually the rate is much lower and you are likely to pay a transaction cost as well.
To avoid the fee and get a better rate, I change a small amount of cash at the airport upon arrival. Just enough to get to the hotel and tip the staff, because airport money exchangers generally don’t offer very good rates. If there are several at the airport, compare rates and be sure to ask if a commission is charged.
Posted: August 8, 2008 - 9:53 am
Let’s talk TSA. Anyone love the agency? I know a lot of people think that TSA stands for Too many Standing Around, but that’s not true. It’s officially the Transportation Security Administration. The federal agency that among other things makes passengers go through security check points at airports.
Are there any tricks to getting through more easily other than buying a first class ticket, being a special airline club member or needing special assistance? I’m sure there are, but I only know a few. By the way, I just learned from TSA that those first class queue jumpers get to go first because they pay more for their tickets. That doesn’t make sense to me as the airlines don’t pay a dime to TSA, yet they use its agents and equipment. Surely some lawyer will bring an equality suit for us low-life coach passengers, unless of course s/he flies first class.
Posted: August 2, 2008 - 9:15 am
I got high today. Like really, really high, 14,264 feet, my first fourteener, and I loved it. But I have to admit, I cheated. I, along with my daughter and son-in-law, drove up the highest paved road in No. America outside of Denver that transects the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area. We were escaping day 20 of Denver’s 90 degree plus sweltering heat. Today’s forecast, over 100.
The road ends in a parking lot at the foot of Mt. Evans’ summit, 14,230. Mind you, it’s not a walk in the park at this altitude to the rocky top, but much easier, of course, than my schlepping it up from the base. It was so worth it. I could see forever and now understand how mountaineers get addicted.
Posted: July 30, 2008 - 11:14 am
Taking photos of locals when you travel can be a bit dicey. Some people mind and some don’t.
But how do you know who is who? First of all you can ask, but I’ve missed more than one photo because the person said no. Of course, I don’t want to take a photo of someone who doesn’t really want their photo taken, but I’ve found that sometimes if I just snap the shot the person doesn’t really mind. Then I might take advantage of the situation and take a couple more to make sure I get a good one.
Posted: July 25, 2008 - 11:14 am
Shopping in other countries at local stores and markets is tricky to say the least. How much should you pay when the vendor gives you a figure? Definitely not full price. Bargaining is generally expected and is an important part of many cultures. A good dickerer is highly revered and a lousy dickerer is scoffed at. So consider bargaining part of your cultural experience when you travel. It’s really quite fun, unless of course you’re in a hurry.
Here’s how it works. You spy something at a seller’s stall or table and ask the price. The seller gives you the price, but how do you know it’s a good one. Well, think of it this way. Most Western tourists visiting underdeveloped countries are commonly thought of as walking wallets. Therefore, the first price is always going to be high. But how high is it? If you offer half and they bag the item and give it to you before you even get your wallet out, you paid too much. If you offer a quarter of what they are asking and they ignore you, you have insulted them.
Posted: July 23, 2008 - 1:34 pm
I’m Gloria Maschmeyer and I’m thrilled to invite you to join me in discussing my favorite activity, travel. It is my hope that sometime on our journey you’ll learn something new, something helpful or at the minimum enjoy the ride. Before we get started, I thought you might like to know how the idea for this blog germinated.
When I was at Machu Pichu, Peru last year I witnessed hoards of tourists (around two thousand a day) being lead like cattle through the famous archaeological site. How sad I thought that most people don’t have a moment alone to reflect on its mystery and magnificence.