This post was originally posted by TheHipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 4th, 2015.
Search giant Google has created a site that showcases travel-related data, including the top five inquiries asked by travelers online. We here at Hipmunk decided to answer these questions once and for all. Here are insights into every traveler’s need-to-knows.
1. When is the best time to book a flight?
There are all kinds of theories out there, among them:
- 50-100 days prior to departing (for domestic flights)
- More than 100 days before departure (for international flights)
- Tuesday afternoon
- Wednesday morning at 1 a.m.
- Midweek (not the weekend)
Confused yet? In reality, there is no magic formula for purchasing flights. Ticket prices vary by sales, destination, competition, seat inventory, time of year, time of day…in short, there are too many factors involved to pin down a “guaranteed perfect time” to buy.
Instead, focus on your specific destination in order to learn the best time of year to fly into a city, the most popular airlines and airports, how to get to the airport, and, yes, how to score cheap flights. Whether you’re traveling within the U.S. or going abroad, our destination guides will help ensure a terrific trip.
2. Where is (destination)?
It certainly helps to know which continent (or country) you’ll be flying to. While a simple Google search can answer that basic question, don’t let the trip planning stop there. It’s helpful to have a sense of your itinerary and where you’ll be staying prior to arriving in a foreign land. After booking a flight, be sure to reserve hotels,rent cars (if needed), and get familiar with the region’s geography and currency. That way you’ll arrive knowing much more than “Hey, I’m in France!”
3. What do I need to know about passports?
Passports are an essential part of international travel, but understanding the rules around them can be challenging for newbie travelers. Here’s a breakdown of the passport basics.
- A passport book certifies identity and citizenship and allows you to travel internationally by air, sea, or land. When you arrive in a foreign country, customs agents will issue a stamp or sticker that establishes the terms of travel.
- If you’re applying for a passport for the first time, you’ll need to confirm your eligibility, apply for a passport (which includes paying a fee), and then wait to receive the passport or a denial letter—a process which takes approximately four to six weeks. (Note: An expedited process is available for people who need a passport in a hurry.)
- Passports issued to people aged 16 or older are valid for 10 years. Passports issued to people aged 15 or younger are valid for five years. Some countries require that a passport be valid at least six months past the date of a trip, and some airlines will not let you board if your passport expires within six months. Read up on country specific information to learn more.
- If your passport has suffered significant damage, you’ll need to apply for a new passport. Normal wear and tear generally does not constitute “damage”.
- Have additional questions? Consult the Department of State.
4. What to do in (destination)?
While there’s something to be said for remaining open to new experiences, having a sense of what you’d like to do at a destination can provide structure for the trip and ease some of the anxieties involved in being in a new place. Plus, no one wants to arrive home only to realize they missed out on seeing something truly great that could have been uncovered with a little pre-travel research.
Once you’ve settled on a destination, consult travel blogs and guides, such as our CityLove series, to learn more about all the exciting restaurants, bars, art, music, museums, and unique sites your destination has to offer. Whether you’re traveling to Melbourne, Australia or Irving, Texas, we’ve got you covered.
5. How old do you have to be to rent a car?
Rental car policies vary from country to country, state to state, and even between different branches of the same rental agency. In the past, U.S. rental car companies were unlikely to rent to anyone under the age of 25 because of the liability increases involved with less experienced drivers (Two exceptions to this rule are New York and Michigan, where rental agencies are required to rent to drivers over the age of 18).
Today, many rental agencies will concede cars to younger drives—for a hefty daily surcharge. Drivers under the age of 25 may still be prohibited from renting luxury cars, SUVs, or vans.
The only way to determine eligibility with crystal-clear certainty is to contact the specific agency and branch where you’re hoping to rent a car. They can explain any peculiar regulations. No matter where you rent, you’ll need to prove legal eligibility to drive.
So there you have it: The answers to travelers’ top questions. Now get out there and start planning your trip!