This is going to mostly be U.S. based, mostly because I haven’t gone passed American borders since I was 7-years-old (2005) to date. If you know of anything others might not be aware of share below! I personally have noticed some things that are restrictive while traveling through my own stories and through others online and in person, and if you haven’t traveled before or it’s been a while you might not realize they’re there until it’s too late! These are the things to look out for while traveling.
Most car rental companies in the US won’t even look at you if you’re under 25. Sometimes if you’re 23 or 21 they’ll slap on an extra fee. If you’re 18 you’re out of luck in most cases. I say this has to do with insurance companies deciding that those under 25 aren’t experienced enough drivers so they refuse to let them take their cars.
It’s not just car rental agencies. Anyone want a story? Well, I was recently traveling through a major city and I had a long layover (14 hours one way, and 10 hours the other, same city). I got to a large and cheap chain hotel near the airport at just after 9pm and when it came time to pay it wouldn’t come through. Why? Because I’m under 21. The lady behind the counter was nice enough to override it. I made a reservation for the same place for the second time I would be coming through. I went back and they said they couldn’t let it go through. They had just been audited within the 2 weeks I was away and she just couldn’t let me stay there. This time it was 11pm. We tried calling other hotels within that block but they also were 21 and up. Thankfully a part of the same chain was nearby but they “weren’t corporate” (I’m still not completely sure what that means, they had the same name and everything but they just didn’t follow all of the same rules). They allowed anyone 18 and over. I took another cab to there and settled in for the night at 11:30.
Many hotels in the US will only allow you to stay with them if you’re over 21 (unless you’re with another adult who is over 21). I didn’t know this until what happened above. It’s ageism but no one cares because after you’re 25 it doesn’t happen to you anymore, and more people are over 25. Well, it doesn’t happen to you again until you’re over 60 a lot of the time anyway, once you hit that age many people assume you’re senile and don’t know what you’re talking about anymore. It’s sad really.
Physical Restrictions in Airports
Again, I’m not too sure what this is like in other countries. From foreigners I’ve met they tell me coming into the US is a major issue for everyone. They ask so many questions and treat everyone like a terrorist. According to this video segment and many articles I’ve read over the years the best part is, they don’t even work!
Before 9/11 Americans could go right up to the terminal or get on a flight 10 minutes before take-off. Now they want you there at least 45 minutes early and the person who took you to the airport can barely wave goodbye before the cops decend from every angle and tell them they’re car is in the way. Pittsburg International Airport is trying a method to let people who aren’t flying beyond the TSA again.
Some Countries Won’t Let You In, Unless You Already Have a Plan on Leaving
Not in a “I’m going to be here for 3 months and then moving on to the next country” kind of way either. Some places won’t let you in unless you already have some sort of plane, bus, or train ticket in your hands for when you are leaving, which is less an optimal. I’m told the United States is one of these countries. It becomes more troublesome when you read about so many travel bloggers talking about “just go with the flow” and “don’t make too many plans.”
I do understand what they’re saying. No need to say you’ll wake up at 8am, eat breakfast until 8:30, get to the first thing you want to see a 9, only stay until 10 so you can enjoy something you want to see at 11:30 across town, and make sure to eat lunch at X restaurant by 1 so you can make the next thing you want to see by 2. I’m getting stressed out just by reading that! You still need some plans, and need to know some things. Costa Rica for example, they require exit tickets when entering the country. It’s hit or miss whether or not they check you for one however it’s still safe to have one on you just in case.
“I don’t want to have to buy a plane ticket in 3+ months in advance!”
I’m so glad you said something. Some people say to buy a refundable return ticket so you can just refund it for an alterative solution further down the line. I don’t know about you but all of the plane tickets I’ve ever bought are only good to refund 24 hours after you buy them. That’s no help. Another solution? There are sites that allow you to get a fake plane ticket, like this one or this one.
Does this mean you shouldn’t travel the world? No! I wrote up 100 Reasons to Travel the World not too long ago and I wrote up The Reasons I’m traveling the World. It means we might have to plan more than others tell us to. For hotels, look in advance to see what their age limits are. Airbnb and couch surfing is 18 and up, so if all else fails that should work for you. There are rent-a-car companies that will allow 18 year olds, you’ll have to pay more. Remember the rules of the airport, no liquids over 3.4 ounces and take laptops out of your bag before you go through the machine. Also, check the countries that need an exit ticket beforehand if you don’t have one on you already. Safe travels!