Hipmunk Presents: The World’s Best Airport Lounges

Picture it: You’re at the airport, waiting for your flight. Around you, the terminal is abound with its usual unrest. To your right, a bored child plays on his iPad, the volume ruthlessly cranked up; to your left, a gentleman snores on your shoulder. The intercom blares with messages for late passengers, babies wail, and overly-eager travelers argue with the check-in desk. To add to your misery, your laptop is running low on power, and every outlet within a two-mile radius seems to be occupied.

Then, from the corner of your eye, you spot an oasis: the airport lounge.

In the chaos of a busy terminal, the airport lounge is a haven from the storm. Complimentary food and drinks. Comfortable chairs. A quiet space to get work done. Sometimes, even showers and massage can be had.

Of course, these perks come with a price. Access to the lounge is usually gained by purchasing a business or first class ticket, by amassing a large number of frequent flyer miles with the airline, or by directly purchasing a day pass. None of these options are particularly cheap.

Regardless, the airport lounge is usually nicer than the rest of the airport. But within this mini-verse of luxury, which airport lounges are the world’s best?

To answer this question, Hipmunk worked with Priceonomics to analyze the data from Skytrax, an airport review site. Here, thousands of travelers post comments about airport lounges and rank them on various facets like comfort, Wi-Fi, drinks, food, and staff friendliness. These ratings fall on a 5-point scale, with 1 being the worst, and 5 being the best.

According to our analysis, the best airport lounge in the world is Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney Airport—the only lounge to achieve a perfect 5-star rating. In fact, the Australian airline consistently received high ratings; five of the 20 top-ranked airports are Qantas-owned.


Screenshot 2015-09-28 13.41.41At these elite lounges, the reviews speak of other-worldly levels of luxury and service. For instance, one traveler said of the Malaysian Business Class lounge in Heathrow (our list’s second-highest rated location): “Excellent service excellent food. Smiles all round from the staff; the chef even made me a Pecan Pastry specially!” That’s a far cry from fast food courts and snoring neighbors.

Notably, more than half of the lounges that ranked on our list are dedicated to business class flyers. Hipmunk’s vice president of marketing, Roxy Young, said, “It is not surprising that many of the top airport lounges are in airports that have a high percentage of international business travelers. These are flyers who need access to amenities not readily available in public waiting areas.”

Next, let’s breakdown which airport lounges rank best for specific criteria. We’ll start with a really important one: the bar.

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Two lounges tie for first place here: Qatar Airways lounge in London, and Qantas in Sydney. It seems Heathrow Airport’s lounges really do drinks right, as the Malaysian Business Class lounge ranks third here as well.

Of course, after enjoying a few drinks at the bar, food is an important consideration—and some of these lounges offer haute cuisine dishes that would earn even the most discerning foodie’s approval.

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“This lounge deserves the rave reviews,” wrote one traveler of the Qatar lounge in Heathrow. “Excellent restaurant quality food and service with a knockout wine list. Lunch of crayfish washed down with a premier cru.” Not bad, Qatar. Not bad at all.

In fact, Qatar Airways has the highest rated lounges of any airline. Across lounges worldwide, here are the 10 airlines that consistently receive the best scores:

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In all of these lists, airlines based in Asia and the Middle East dominate the rankings. As a representative from Dubai-based Emirates Airlines toldThe New York Times: “We believe that the comfort and convenience of dedicated lounges enables our passengers to enjoy the Emirates experience even before they have boarded the plane.”

We want to know: Do you agree with the rankings? Are you surprised no U.S. lounges made the cut?

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on October 16, 2015.

The Business Traveler’s Guide to Staying Healthy on the Go

While traveling for work can at times be stressful, it can also provide a nice break from the day-to-day grind of an office job. Then again, breaks from routine can be a catch-22. When it comes to health, for example, experts often suggest the power of habit can be key to everything from a good night’s sleep to a nutritious diet a reality.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three of the biggest hurdles to staying healthy on the go, along with tips on how to overcome them.

Beating Jet Lag

Switching between time zones can wreak havoc on some, with the World Health Organization listing everything from general sleepiness to reduced mental performance to indigestion as possible side effects. Beating jet lag is relatively simple, though. Besides making sure you’re well-rested before departure, the key is to get your body into the new rhythm as quickly as possible. More specifically:

  • Begin the transition before you travel. As the CDC suggests, simply start going to bed an hour or two later than usual if you are going to be traveling west and reverse that shift if you’ll be traveling east.
  • Once you get to your destination, resist the urge to collapse and take a nap as soon as landing and instead stay awake at least until an early local bedtime — even if it means you rise extra early the next morning.

Fueling Up

Food plays a large role in health as well, but the phrase “eating healthy” is a vague one that likely has different connotations for each traveler. Regardless of what it means to you, the main suggestion remains the same: Be prepared. No matter how or where you’re traveling, preparation is the main ingredient to keeping the right stuff in your stomach.

  • For starters, travelers hopping in the car for their business trip have it a bit easier since they can pack a cooler of fruits and veggies as some core eats, both for the travel itself and for staying full while at the new destination.
  • Folks traveling via air should research what’s offered on their airline to gauge how much needs to be packed in advance in order to stay full without sacrificing nutrition.
  • In both cases, keep your bag stocked with easy but healthy snacks to help combat compulsive buying food you might otherwise choose to avoid.
  • Finally, it can be useful to research both the hotel and surrounding area before departing, especially for travelers with food restrictions. (And we’ve previously rounded up some of the best hotels for gluten-free eaters and vegans!) Hunting around for hotels that come with kitchens can also be smart for folks with more severe allergies or other dining out concerns.

Staying Active

When it comes to staying active on a business trip, it can be relatively easy to hit the hotel gym early in the morning. Such an experience can vary dramatically based on the quality of the gym, of course, but an alternative approach is to make physical activity an integrated part of the itinerary.

  • To stay active even when you’re squeezing in meetings, try working in some destinations (perhaps a restaurant if no offices fit the bill) that are walking distance from your lodging.
  • If the weather permits, suggesting a couple walking meets or more active meet-ups is another way to make sure a business trip doesn’t turn into hours sitting in stuffy conference rooms.

All in all, a little extra planning is most straightforward way keep healthy habits on-point even while doing business away from home. Get into the new routine as soon as possible, fuel your body with the right eats, and work some movement into the itinerary to keep a healthy foundation everywhere you go.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on October 11, 2015.

What Flow For Instagram Means For Travel Planning

As of September 21, the popular Flow for Instagram app will be available to download on the iPhone for free. The app is designed with discovery in mind and could prove to be a useful tool for travelers looking to explore new destinations.

Flow was initially released for the iPad in 2013 and was originally conceived as an Instagram shopping app for users in Thailand. The developers soon realized that there was a broader need to be filled; however, and set about designing a user-friendly interface for Instagram on the iPadsomething Instagram itself has yet to do.

The new app offers many improvements on the Instagram experience. First of all, there are no ads, which have become a ubiquitous feature on most social media platforms. But more importantly, the app itself is rather beautiful and functions both practically and elegantly. The focus is on the photos themselves. On the home screen, photos appear in a minimalist grid without any text. Pinching the screen with two fingers increases or decreases the number and size of the pictures that appear. Clicking on a picture opens it to display the user and comments, and a long tap will bring up photo and sharing options. It’s sleek and easy to use. The main drawback is that it’s for looking only: Third party apps cannot post photos to Instagram, but users can still like, comment, and follow.

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Flow’s unique features make it a portal for discovery, and it’s invaluable to travelers. It’s easy to explore pictures by user or even by location, and places, tags, and users can all be bookmarked for easy access. (The ability to bookmark users without following them is a useful touch.) There are also two separate tabs for bookmarked photos and liked photos, which is excellent for keeping track of things to do or see. It’s easy to post to other social media from the app, and it loads photos and videos very quickly. For $3.99, users can upgrade to Flow Plus, which includes the ability to be logged in from multiple accounts, create unlimited bookmarks, choose between light and dark themes, and save photos and videos to the iPhone camera roll.

The ease with which users can explore related content will make the app a boon for travelers looking for new destinations. For example, search the tag Indonesia and start browsing nearby pictures. Before long, the gorgeous Raja Ampat district of West Papua takes over the screen with its lush and beautiful scenery. The photos of nearby users showcase the glorious hiking views from Wayag Island and the opportunity to snorkel with sharks. As the urge to visit becomes irresistible, book a flight to Jakarta and a room at the Swiss-Belhotel Sorong. Flow isn’t so much an app for looking at pictures of your friend’s cat (not that there’s anything wrong with that) — it’s an interface designed for action and exploration.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 30, 2015.

6 Selfie Stick Variations Every Traveler Needs Right Now

Selfie sticks: Love ‘em or hate ‘em (and boy do some people hate them), they’re becoming a legitimate trend for world travelers and homebodies alike. At no point has this been more apparent than with the recent creation of the selfie spoon, which allows anyone aspiring to Instagram fame to simultaneously showcase their meal and their own face as they consume it.

In the spirit of adding selfie capabilities to previously un-selfie-fied objects, we’ve come up with several proposals for selfie sticks that every world traveler shouldn’t have to live without.

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1. The Suitcase Selfie Stick

It’s a selfie stick, it’s a suitcase, it’s the selfie suitcase! This suitcase comes fully equipped with a selfie stick jutting out of its handle. Travelers will be thrilled to document that elusive, dramatic moment when they grasp the suitcase with their travel-ready hands before striding off into the unknown. The premium version includes a home manicure kit to keep users’ hands adequately photogenic come selfie time.

2. The Graffiti Selfie Stick

Given that some disrespectful tourists have decided it’s totally reasonable to carve their name into the Colosseum or tag graffiti in America’s national parks, it’s about time they had the option to record themselves in the act. The Graffiti Selfie Stick boasts a can of spray paint on the end so users can smile for the camera as they scrawl their names across every historical artifact or natural wonder they encounter on their travels. To facilitate running away from law enforcement, the stick easily collapses into the palm of a hand.

3. The Hotel Bed Selfie Stick

Those sleepy Instagram shots from beds in far-off places just got a whole lot easier to execute. The Hotel Bed Selfie Stick consists of a selfie stick sturdily mounted to the headboard of a queen-sized bed that’s ingeniously and generically designed to match most hotel rooms’ décor. Of course, you’ll need to pay extra to check this product, but it’ll be worth it once you arrive at your hotel, hit the sheets, and awake underneath a camera so perfectly positioned that when you smile, the world will see just how happy you are to be on vacation.

4. The Theme Park Selfie Stick

Whether at a waterpark in Orlando, a themed ride at Disneyland, or a roller coaster in Texas, no trip to an amusement park is complete without adequate photographic documentation. That’s where the Theme Park Selfie Stick comes into play. The stick comes securely mounted to a shoulder harness that can be worn at all times, so you can document your screaming face on a roller coaster just as easily as your satisfied smile after consuming a plateful of fries and cotton candy. Just be sure to follow all selfie stick length requirements on rides.

5. The Backpack Selfie Stick

Any solo traveler who’s set out to backpack around the world knows how tough it can be to document the journey without a helpful pal snapping photos. Despair no more, because the Backpack Selfie Stick is here to save the day. The stick comes fully integrated into the top of a backpack that’s just barely small enough to qualify as a carry-on. It’ll document your struggles as you attempt to hoist the overloaded pack into the overhead bin, maneuver it into crowded subway cars, and drag it up the three long flights to your shared room at a hostel (perhaps while quietly cursing your inability to pack light). Ahh, memories!

6. The Skyline Selfie Stick

The selfie-in-front-of-a-pretty-skyline is quite possibly the most essential photo in any traveler’s memory box. While obtaining these images is already facilitated by the original selfie stick, the problem is that standard options only showcase a small sliver of what is clearly a skyline worthy of more expansive ogling. Enter the Skyline Selfie Stick. Thirty feet wide and ten feet tall, the stick allows ambitious travelers to capture an image at least 40,000% larger than one taken from a standard selfie stick. Thirty-foot-wide phone sold separately.

It’s hard to imagine the travel industry has survived this long without these critical innovations. Here’s hoping someone develops a prototype for these models, stat. And if we left any essential selfie stick innovations out? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 29, 2015.

Travel truths you need to accept in order to stay happy on the road

Travel is one of the most educational and invigorating experiences that life has to offer. It allows you to get out of your routines and comfort zones, meet new people, experience different cultures and see more of the world. Couples trips can be highly romantic, and travel with a large group can create amazing memories; solo travel is an opportunity for a unique experience and perspective. No matter how, where or with whom you travel, there are some key things to be aware of to stay happy in any situation. Consider these travel truths carefully before you embark on your next trip so that you can enjoy your adventures to the fullest.

Fellow Travelers Need Clear Expectations

If you will be traveling with others, take the time to verify that everyone is on the same page about the details and logistics of the trip. Keeping to a budget by staying in youth hostels or cheap hotels in Paris while backpacking through Europe is fine; just make sure your travel companions weren’t expecting a five-star hotel experience.

Patience Is Key

Traveling is full of unexpected moments. Even the best laid plans will likely require adjustments along the way. If things don’t go as planned, stay calm, go with the flow and see where the road takes you. Being flexible and patient can open you up to magical travel experiences you might not have otherwise had.

Earplugs Are Indispensable

Unless you are one of those lucky people who can sleep anywhere, you’ll probably benefit from a good pair of earplugs. Sleeping in a new place can be invigorating, but it can be hard to adjust or anticipate the noise level outside hotels in Beijing or other busy locales. It’s best to be prepared: bring along earplugs to get the sleep you need to enjoy the rest of your trip.

Travel is an incredible opportunity to expand your horizons and enrich your life, but it requires a measure of realism and preparedness. Whether you’ll be staying in chic New York City hotels or traveling the world on a budget, consider accepting these travel truths before you set sail or hit the open road.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 1, 2015.

From Nice to Naughty: When Good Travelers Go Bad

Being in a foreign environment tends to provide travelers with a feeling of anonymity. It’s regarded as a space governed by different social rules, and while abroad people often engage in behavior that they would normally not allow. But we wanted to know just how naughty they would actually get—or at least, what they would cop up to.

From stealing food to skinny dipping, Hipmunk got the dirt (anonymously, of course) on just how badly travelers behave while en voyage. Scroll down after the infographic for even more naughty traveler behavior:


More Naughty Behavior:

Stealing Souvenirs

12% of travelers surveyed have swiped a towel or robe

Supporting Stowaways

37% of travelers surveyed have snuck in an extra, unregistered guest into their hotel rooms to stay the night

Skirting (U.S.) Laws

Travelers take advantage of activities that are perfectly permitted in their host countries, but may put them in legal hot water in the U.S.

12%  Doing drugs in countries in which they’re sanctioned

21%  Driving faster than any US speed limit

23%  Under-21 drinking

30%  Eating non-FDA-approved foods, like certain French cheeses

So, tell us. What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done on vacation? Sound off in the comments below!

Methodology:  Hipmunk surveyed nearly 1,000 travelers from from July 7 through August 6, 2015, about their travel habits and behaviors.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 2, 2015.

Your Most Pressing Travel Questions (According to Google) Answered

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:

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!

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 4, 2015.

The Traveler’s Guide to Tipping Internationally

Tipping is a hot topic in the United States these days, as rising minimum wages call into question the standard practice of making servers reliant on tips. For travelers abroad, tipping is an equally sticky issue. Figuring out what to tip when can all too quickly turn a relaxing vacation into a stressful one. Knowing what to tip, on the other hand, can empower travelers to navigate a foreign culture with ease.

Because tipping rules vary by country, region, and place of business, it’s important to research your destination’s customs prior to any trip. Start by consulting this guide, which outlines tipping customs in 20 countries around the world, for restaurants, hotels, and beyond!


Restaurants: While tipping at restaurants and bars isn’t considered a necessity, many tourists often tip around 10%.

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but consider rounding up to the nearest whole peso so the driver doesn’t have to sort out change. If they help you with your bags, add on a bit more as a token of appreciation.

Hospitality: Tip tour guides up to 20% and always give bag handlers a small bill or two.


Restaurants: Australian servers are paid decent wages and generally don’t expect tips. Recognize exceptional service by rounding up the bill. In upscale establishments only, tip 10%.

Taxis: While tipping isn’t expected, it’s common courtesy to round up to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: For the most part, tips aren’t expected within the hospitality industry.


Restaurants: Canada’s tipping protocols are similar to those in the United States (although most Canadian servers are paid minimum wage before tips). Most restaurants expect a minimum 15% tip.

Taxis: It’s customary to tip cab drivers 10% upon arriving at your destination.

Hospitality: Tip concierges for exceptional service only, leave behind a few dollars (or more) for housekeeping, and give bag handlers $1-2 for each bag they carry.

The Caribbean

Restaurants: Most places in the Caribbean islands follow the same tipping standards as the United States, so in general plan to tip 15% or more. One possible exception: If you’re staying in an all-inclusive resort, check to see if the service charge is included.

Taxis: Plan to tip around $1-2 for in-town fares. Tack on a bit extra for late-night or long-distance rides.

Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge in the bill. If this isn’t the case, be sure to tip bag handlers ($1-2 per bag) and housekeepers ($2 per day). Many resorts discourage tipping, so use your own discretion.


Restaurants: China has a fairly strict no-tipping culture (though some finer establishments may include a 10-15% service charge), so there’s no need to tip at restaurants. If you want to offer a tip for exceptional service, do so out of sight of the server’s employer.

Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but it is appreciated (especially in larger cities). Because there’s no customary rate, use your own discretion when deciding how much to tip.

Hospitality: Tipping is usually not expected, although this is changing in more westernized establishments. A good bet is to tip tour guides, housekeepers, and bag handlers a few dollars per day (or bag).

Costa Rica

Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most Costa Rican restaurants. If you want to recognize exceptional service, add another 10% on top.

Taxis: Tips aren’t required, but it’s a friendly gesture to tip a few dollars or round up the fare to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: Tip tour guides 10-15%, and give a few dollars to bag handlers and housekeeping.

Czech Republic

Restaurants: While tipping wasn’t always standard in the Czech Republic, the custom has been catching on. There’s no need to tip if the bill includes a service charge (though feel free to add on another 10% for great service). If no service charge is included in the bill, tip 10-15%.

Taxis: Round up the fare to the nearest whole number.

Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-3 per bag, housekeepers $3-5 per day, and concierges $20 if they go above and beyond.


Restaurants: The government requires a 10% service charge on all bills at restaurants, bars, and hotels. While it’s not necessary to tip more than that, you’re free to hand over a few extra dirhams to the server.

Taxis: Cab drivers don’t expect tips, but it’s polite to round up to the nearest 5-dirham note.

Hospitality: Because service charges are included in the bill, there’s little need to tip hotel staff unless you want to recognize great service.


Restaurants: Tip will be included in the bill at most establishments, but plan to tack on another 5-10%.

Taxis: Pay cab drivers 10-15% beyond the stated fare.

Hospitality: Give housekeepers $1-2 per day throughout your stay, tip $1 per bag for bag handlers, and give the concierge $10-20 at the beginning of your stay to ensure great service.


Restaurants: French law requires that service be included in the price, but most locals round up their bills with small change (or up to 10% of the bill).

Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers about 10%.

Hospitality: Give bag handlers $1-2 per bag and housekeepers around $2-3 per day. Exceptional service from the concierge should warrant 10 or more Euros.


Restaurants: Germany’s tipping customs work much like France’s: Service is included in the price, but it’s customary to round up the bill to an even figure (this usually amounts to 5-10% of the total bill).

Taxis: Round up to the nearest Euro or tack on an extra few Euros if you’re feeling generous.

Hospitality: While tips aren’t required, it’s courteous to leave behind a few Euros for housekeepers and to pay baggage handlers around 2 Euros per item. Slip the concierge 10 or more Euros for great service.


Restaurants: Tip 10% for the waiter, even at upscale restaurants (where a 10% service charge is included in the bill).

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected for short trips. If you hire a driver for a long trip or multiple days, tip around 150-300 rupees per day.

Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around 20 rupees per bag and offer tour guides several hundred rupees.


Restaurants: Tips aren’t expected, but feel free to round up the bill or tip 10% for exceptional service.

Taxis: Tips aren’t expected, but they are appreciated. Use your own discretion.

Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tipping really isn’t expected in Italy, but who doesn’t like being appreciated for good service?


Restaurants: It’s unlikely that a server will accept your tip, so it’s probably most polite not to offer one.

Taxis: Tips are not at all expected. A simple “thank you” will suffice.

Hospitality: Tour guides don’t expect tips but are likely to accept them. Hotel staff may refuse a tip if offered; you’re more likely to transfer cash if you put it in an envelope and leave it behind for staff, rather than foisting cash into their hands.


Restaurants: When service is included in the bill, there’s no need to tip. Otherwise, plan to leave 10-15%.

Taxis: While tips aren’t expected, it’s courteous to round up the fare.

Hospitality: Many hotel staff rely on tips as part of their take-home pay, so be generous. Bag handlers, housekeepers, the concierge, and anyone else who performs a service during your stay warrants a tip. The amount is up to your own discretion.

New Zealand

Restaurants: Like Australia, New Zealand doesn’t have much of a tipping culture. Service and sales tax are almost always included in the bill. Tip only for exceptional service or when the menu states that service is not included.

Taxis: Tipping isn’t expected, but acknowledge great service by rounding up the fair or leaving behind a few small bills.

Hospitality: Ditto the above. Tips aren’t expected, but they’re a nice way to express appreciation for a job well done.


Restaurants: Locals generally leave small change or round up to the nearest euro, so go ahead and follow suit. If you receive great service or are dining at an upscale establishment, leave a 5-10% tip.

Taxis: Small change, rounding up to the nearest Euro, or a couple of extra Euros are all acceptable tips.

Hospitality: Pay the bag handler up to five Euros, the person who delivers room service 1-2 Euros, and housekeepers a few Euros for the stay.

South Africa

Restaurants: In nearly all establishments, it’s customary to leave a 10-15% tip for the waiter.

Taxis: Plan to tip cab drivers around 10%.

Hospitality: Tip bag handlers around $1 per bag. Tip other hotel staff at your own discretion.


Restaurants: Expectations here vary widely: Some sources advocate for not leaving a tip, others suggest leaving 10-15%, and still others suggest leaving $1 per diner. Keep it simple by sticking with 10% or $1 per person, whichever is more generous.

Taxis: Tips aren’t encouraged, but a tip of 20 or 30 Baht is courteous.

Hospitality: It’s standard to tip bag handlers 20 Baht. While there’s no standard tip for housekeepers, it’s respectful to leave behind a tip (the size of which is up to you).

United Kingdom

Restaurants: If a service charge isn’t included in the bill, tip 10% (or higher for exceptional service).

Taxis: Tip 10-15% for black cabs and licensed minicabs, or just round up to the nearest Euro. Tip extra for help with loading or unloading baggage.

Hospitality: Most hotels include a service charge, but it’s still customary to offer small tips to bag handlers and housekeepers.

No matter where you are in the world, remember that servers, cab drivers, and hotel staff are performing a tough (and often thankless) job. Be both appreciative and thoughtful—try to tip in cash and in the local currency so your server can put the money to good use. And practice discretion when handing out tips, particularly in regions where tipping may be frowned upon. Respecting local customs will go a long way toward make any excursion a positive experience.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on September 9, 2015.

11 Travel Accessories Every Adventurer Needs

The number of travel accessories designed to make life easier on the road just keeps growing. From electronic luggage scales to portable Bluetooth speakers, there are so many things that can come in handy while traveling. Take a look at these 11 travel accessories that help you no matter where you go.

1. Neck Pillow

You can’t rest at five-star hotels in Miami every time you’re tired. A neck pillow can make sleeping in random places, like a train stop, much more comfortable.

2. Travel Packing Aid

A travel packing aid can help you neatly organize toiletries, travel documents and currency, ensuring important items are easily accessible and secure.

3. USB Utility Charge Tool

Even if you’re looking to be unplugged for your next trip, you’re still going to need to charge your smartphone, laptop, camera and so on. A USB utility charge tool means you only have to bring one product to charge all your devices.

4. Smart Luggage

Smart Luggage has arrived, and the features are amazing. Fingerprint locking mechanisms, built-in GPS systems, digital scale sensors, anti-theft systems, shape-changing abilities and more are available right now to make traveling safer and more convenient.

5. Shoe Bag

Why stink up the rest of your bag? Shoe bags are a great way to keep your luggage clean, and are a necessity for most vacations as you may need sandals for some activities and gym shoes or boots for others.

6. Self-Sealing Dry Bags

Clothing or other belongings occasionally get wet. That’s just part of traveling. A dry bag ensures that those wet items don’t soak the rest of your stuff.

7. Wine Bag

This can serve two purposes: one is to actually store wine and bottles of liquor; the other is to store glass items and other fragile things.

8. Waterproof Travel Backpack

Rolling around luggage can get annoying, especially if you’re on the move a lot and not just chilling in hotels in Paris or wherever else. Go with a sturdy, waterproof backpack that protects your belongings and is easy to carry.

9. Waterproof Phone Case

A phone is a necessity for most travelers, so using a waterproof phone case to protect it from water damage and accidental drops just makes sense.

10. Umbrella

It rains almost everywhere in the world at some time or another. Bring an umbrella.

11. First Aid Kit

Whether you’re backpacking your way through southeast Asia or sleeping in one of those luxurious hotels in Dubai, you never know when an accident could happen. So be prepared.

More travel accessories are being created all the time. Use the ones on this list, but also keep an eye out for new travel items to make your trip perfect.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s
Tailwind blog on August 27, 2015.

The Traveler’s Guide To Building The Ultimate First Aid Kit

Whether you’re building libraries in Zambia or adventuring around Madrid, any trip warrants a first aid kit. While it’s hardly the sexiest of travel topics, having basic first aid items on hand can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major catastrophe. Here’s how to build a travel first aid kit for maximum health and safety—no matter where you are in the world.

1. Prepare personal medications

If you have a preexisting condition, be sure to pack all medications in their original containers with the labels intact. Pack enough medication for the trip as well as some extra to cover unforeseen circumstances. The CDC recommends bringing along copies of any prescriptions as well as a note from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery—ideally, translate these materials into the language of your destination. In certain countries, some medications are simply not allowed—contact the appropriate embassy or consulate to find out if this is an issue

2. Consider your needs

Take stock of the length of the trip, the destination, and any planned activities. A remote trekker in the Himalayas will face a very different situation than a Berlin tourist, for example. The more remote or physical the trip, the more comprehensive a first aid kit should be (more on that later). Another big consideration is whether you’ll be traveling solo or going on a family trip, as kids are all but guaranteed to have accidents that may result in cuts or bruises (more on this later, as well)

3. Gather documents

In addition to medications and first aid supplies, a quality kit should include a contact card, proof of insurance coverage, and an immunization record (particularly if traveling in areas where infectious diseases are common) for every traveler. The contact card is meant to be used in case of a medical emergency and should include:

  •      The name and contact information for an emergency contact back home
  •      The name and contact info for your health care provider
  •      The address and phone number for wherever you’re staying
  •      The address and phone number for your country’s embassy or consulate
  •      The emergency contact phone number from your travel health insurance provider, if applicable

Additionally, people with preexisting conditions (such as diabetes or severe allergies) may want to wear an alert bracelet and carry a card in their wallet that explains the condition—ideally, the card will be written in the language of your destination.

4. Select a container(s)

Choose a hard, waterproof, and durable container for the first aid kit so as to ensure the items don’t get ruined in transit or bad weather. Choose a larger container for longer trips, and a smaller container for shorter trips. It’s also a good idea to pack a small first aid kit in a carry-on and a more comprehensive kit in checked baggage. Once you’ve unpacked at a destination, carry the small kit with you at all times and re-supply from the large kit if necessary.

5. Pack the basics

At a minimum, any first aid kit worth its salt should include the following:

  •      Band-aids
  •      Antiseptic wipes
  •      Antibiotic ointment
  •      Gauze pads
  •      Medical tape
  •      Tweezers
  •      Scissors (keep in mind that these will need to be packed in checked baggage)
  •      Painkillers/fever reducers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
  •      Ace bandages
  •      Digital thermometer
  •      Disposable, latex-free gloves
  •      Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (make sure it’s less than 3.4 ounces if transporting it in

carry-on luggage)

Other handy items include:

  •      Antihistamine medication
  •      Anti-motion sickness medication
  •      Antidiarrheal medication
  •      Mild laxative
  •      Cough suppressant/expectorant
  •      Cough drops
  •      Antacids
  •      Sunscreen
  •      Moleskin for blisters
  •      Lubricating eye drops (again, remember the 3.4-ounce rule for liquid carry-ons)
  •      Aloe gel for sunburns (ditto the 3.4-ounce rule)
  •      Condoms

6. Up the ante where applicable

Remember when you took stock of the trip’s specifics (#2)? Now it’s time to apply that information to your first aid packing list. Anyone traveling to the tropics, for example, should be sure to consider insect bite precautions (such as bed nets) and pack anti-malarial medications. If traveling in a remote area, consider bringing water purification tabletsand electrolyte replacements. Spending time in high-altitude areas might warrant packing medication to combat high-altitude sickness. If traveling in a developing country, it’s a good idea to pack oral rehydration salts and medications to treat food poisoning, giardia, and/or amoebic dysentery.

Consult a medical professional to develop the ideal packing list for your needs and destination.

Finally, if traveling with children, consider packing kid-friendly first aid items such as Band-aids featuring popular cartoon characters, kid-sized bandages, a couple of disposable instant cold packs, and a tooth preservation kit. Since children will be exposed to new foods and objects while traveling, read up on how to administer first aid in the event of choking. The ability to respond quickly to any hurts a child experiences may have the added bonus of preventing tantrums on vacation.

A few notes on packing choices

Whenever possible, choose tablets instead of liquids, gels, or creams. If that’s not possible, be sure to adhere to the 3.4-ounces-or-less rule for carry-ons in order to breeze through security.

To save space in baggage, opt for sachets and flat-packed tablets in lieu of bottles and tubes. Also look for travel or sample-size packaging whenever possible (your doctor may be able to help out).

The Takeaway

No matter where in the world you’re traveling, it’s worth taking the time to build a quality first aid kit that’s tailored to your destination and activities. In an ideal scenario, the kit will remain untouched during the entire vacation. But in the unfortunate event that you or a companion needs first aid? It is really, really nice (and potentially life-saving) to have proper supplies on hand.

his post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s
Tailwind blog on August 28, 2015.