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Stock Up on Extra Passport Pages Before December 31st

If your passport is filling up but its expiration date is still years away, it’s time to load up on extra pages, stat.

That’s because the United States Department of State plans to stop offering extra page inserts starting on January 1, 2016. The State Department announced its plan to discontinue the 24-page inserts for passport books this past March. The decision comes as the result of increased security measures and the need to comply with international passport standards.

Here’s what to expect once the new rule goes into effect: In lieu of ordering extra pages, travelers who fill up their passport before its expiration will be required to purchase a new passport for $110, reports Travel Pulse.

The silver lining is that anyone ordering a new passport will be able to choose between a book with 28 pages or a book with 52 pages—while the latter option may be bulkier, it’ll save frequent fliers from needing to purchase a new passport quite as often. (Prior to this change, all passports were issued with a standard 28 pages.)

Want to avoid purchasing a new passport? Then request additional pages before December 31 of this year. The 24-page insert will cost you $82. Order before November 30, and the State Department will guarantee you faster processing times than anyone who orders a new passport or pages after that date. (The department’s busiest months are January through August.) For more information on ordering, check out the State Department’s website.


No Other Changes on the Horizon

So far, the cancellation of additional page inserts is the only significant change to passports and passport processing announced by the State Department. Otherwise, the general rules about passports will remain the same:

Passports issued to people over the age of 16 are valid for 10 years, while passports issued to children aged 15 or younger are valid for five years.
If your passport expires before a visa does, you won’t need to purchase a new visa—simply bring your old, stamped passport along with your new one to present at customs.
Some countries require that a passport be valid for at least six months beyond the time of a trip, and some airlines will not let you board if your passport expires within six months. Other countries may require that your passport have at least two blank pages in order for you to enter the country. Review the entry/exit requirements for your destination to learn more.
If your passport has suffered significant damage, you’ll need to apply for a new passport (Note: Normal wear and tear doesn’t qualify as “damage”).
If you have any questions about passports or passport renewal, contact the State Department.
The main takeaway here? If you want to save $28, skip a bunch of paperwork, and avoid another cringe-worthy photo, order some extra passport pages before the end of the year. Otherwise, make your travel plans as usual (and be prepared to buy a new passport once your current one fills up).


NOTE: This article was posted on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on December 4th.

Lord of the Rings Tour Guide for International Travelers

There are an obscene amount of things to do in New Zealand. However, there’s one particular attraction that has fascinated a number of international travelers over the years.

Since the first Lord of the Rings movie was released in 2001, millions of people have flocked to see the scenes where the films were captured. J. R. R. Tolkien’s first three books turned movies (Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King) were filmed entirely in New Zealand across destinations such as Wellington, Canterbury, Southern Lakes and Nelson.

Though not all of us have the financial resources to set out on an extensive tour to visit every single location the LOTR films stopped, there are alternatives.

Luckily, there are several tours that cater for LOTR fanatics’ desire to take in the sights where Frodo Baggins and his fellow Elves lived. The Lord of the Rings official tour was curated by Mellissa Heath who has garnered global fame for her specialist insights into the Middle-Earth and other notable LOTR stops.

All the tours depart from Queenstown and are led by a number of highly knowledgeable guides who have an unbelievable amount of information on the history of the film, actors, props, costumes and storylines – it’s even rumored that one of them was in a LOTR movie.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Where the tour excels is that it provides each visitor a personalized journey through Middle-Earth. You have the opportunity to see the weapons used in the movie, costumes, photographs from the sets and “the comprehensive LOTR experience,” many hope for.

While there are a few of these tours across New Zealand very few are actually endorsed by Ian Brodie. As the author of the LOTR Location Guidebook, Brodie rates tour guide Mellissa Heath as “the perfect guide” through everything LOTR related.

The tours on offer include:

Trails of Middle-Earth (Queenstown)

Into the Vale of Wizards (Queenstown)

The Quest (Queenstown)

Touching Middle Earth (Queenstown)

Edoras (Christchurch) 

The best part about this particular LOTR tour is that there’s also on-site accommodation options which are available via a series of packages listed on the website. Additionally, the tour has accommodation available in Wanaka, Christchurch, Arrowtown as well as Queenstown. All prices for the tours and accommodation are detailed on the website.

Travel Tips for International Visitors:

While the trip is a fantastic experience it’s always best to plan for every eventuality. Here a few things to consider for your LOTR trip to New Zealand.

Make sure you don’t forget travel insurance

While many travelers choose not to purchase a travel insurance policy when they go on vacation, it’s not recommended. Travel insurance helps over 4,300 people every week. If you run the risk of not getting a policy then you might have to foot the bill for medical costs, lost baggage, flight cancellation and stolen money.

Another variable to consider when purchasing travel insurance is where you obtain your policy. Travel agents and airlines tend to charge huge commissions so it’s always best to entrust a reputable online comparison website. There you can find the best policy that’s relevant to your specific needs and at a cost that suits your budget.

Check for weather updates

The weather in New Zealand is extremely warm during the summer, however that doesn’t mean everywhere is beach-worthy. The South Island can drop to -10°C in the winter so make sure you have packed accordingly. January and February are the warmest months in New Zealand, and although this might not be practical for everyone, these are definitely the best months to travel.

Never forget your camera

The photo opportunities are endless on the LOTR tour so make sure you come equipped with your best camera. If you haven’t got a camera then obviously a smartphone will do. However, always bring a backup power supply, especially if you have an iPhone. There an abundance of external battery packs available online which can mean the difference between capturing a priceless moment in Bag End or your battery failing on you.

About the Author: Simon Harrison is a Kiwi born expat currently living in the UK. When not hiking around the Yorkshire Dales and dreaming of Hobbits in his homeland, he spends his time on tenterhooks awaiting the release of the latest Star Wars film.