Is one ever too old to rent a car? Too young to enjoy a plane/train?

Published Jun 29, 2014 at 12:01AM

Q: We’re headed for San Francisco in September and need to rent a car. We are in great health, no accidents ever, but we’re both 82 years old. Does Hertz have a limit on what age they’ll rent to?

A: Hertz’s website lists minimum age requirements for certain vehicles, but not maximums. It varies by country, but in the United States, there doesn’t appear to be a limit.

Q: I’m traveling to Warsaw and Budapest in September with my 9-month-old baby. How can I prepare for the flight? Are there things you would recommend to help me entertain him while flying? And to get between Warsaw and Budapest, would you recommend a night train or flying?

A: Bring along any favorite toys (preferably not noise-making ones) and lots of little snacks — Cheerios and whatever else he likes — which I always found distracted my children well on flights. Otherwise, let’s hope that the drone of the aircraft will have your 9-month-old nodding off quickly. As for travel between Warsaw and Budapest, with a little one, I’d fly. The night train is 12 hours, and unless you buy a sleeper ticket or a couchette, it’ll be like the flight all over again, plus you’ll get very little rest if the baby is fidgety. The flight is only a little over an hour and not expensive.

Q: My son has been diagnosed with severe food allergies. How responsive are airlines to this? Is it worth a phone call? What about meal service on a flight to Europe?

A: You should definitely let your airline know in advance, preferably in writing. Most airlines have special service desks that handle these types of requests, and they’re usually very responsive.

Q: I’m expecting my first child in August, and my husband and I are planning a babymoon for July or August. Our idea was to fly to San Francisco for a couple of days, then rent a car and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to L.A.

A: I’m not sure about flying when you’re nearly nine months pregnant. Some airlines and lots of doctors say no to flying about 30 days before your due date. And sitting in the car for that length of time doesn’t sound all that fun. I’d stick closer to home and head to a local resort.

Q: Next month, I’m taking Amtrak from Chicago to Los Angeles. I’m flying into Chicago and arriving at about 10:30 a.m. My train is at 3, so my connection is at risk only if there’s a flight delay of three or more hours. But I still have that nagging “what if” feeling. Is there missed-connection trip insurance that could cover me if the plane’s so late that I miss the train?

A: If your flight is late and you have coverage for trip interruption and cancellation, then you could file a successful claim. I wouldn’t delay a decision on insurance — some policies require that you book within a few days of reserving your trip. For what it’s worth, I think you’ll be fine.

Q: I have an opportunity to visit Edinburgh this summer. For a number of reasons, I don’t have a credit card and don’t plan to get one. Am I ok going with just a debit card? I’m doing all large purchases (train tickets, hotel for an overnight) in advance.

A: It’s not as ideal as having a credit card, but you should be OK with the debit card. Just be sure to let your financial institution know that you’ll be using the card abroad, so that they don’t freeze your funds. Also doublecheck with them that your PIN will work overseas. (If it’s four digits, you should be fine. If it’s more than that, you may need to request a new PIN for use overseas.) Also ask about currency transaction fees, just so you’re aware if they’re going to be especially high. Once in Scotland, you can use your card to withdraw cash at any bank or financial institution that displays the ATM network logos found on the back of your card. To be safe, I’d bring along a reasonable amount of cash to get you started.

Q: A friend and I would like to do a fall foliage tour this year. I’ve looked at a couple of tours, but they’re limited to a handful of locations and seem pricey. Do you suggest a tour or independent travel? If independent, how many days should we allocate, and are there any must-see locations?

A: For a domestic trip like this, I’d go independent. You can go where you want when you want. A week would be nice. So much of Maine is scenic, but Acadia National Park is probably at the top of most people’s lists. Other locations to consider: New York’s Finger Lakes region; Shenandoah National Park; or Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (New River Gorge is spectacular).

Q: I’m 55 years old and have never taken a real vacation. I’d like to take a cruise to the Bahamas, but I’ve never planned a trip like this. Would it be better to go to a travel agent or book the flight and cruise myself?

A: You don’t need a travel agent to plan a cruise, but it couldn’t hurt. The price will be about the same as if you did it yourself. It would also be a good idea to do some research first. Cruise Critic is a good site for information on the various cruise lines. Also, if you’re going alone, a good agent can steer you to lines that offer single cabins or cheaper supplements. And finally, cruises to the Bahamas are often lively, noisy affairs, and there’ll be few singles on board. Think that through.

— Washington Post travel writers.