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Travel Tip #41: Consider Renting a Car

The Pros and Cons of Car Rental While Traveling

Renting a Kia Optima Hybrid

Travel is about experiencing all that the world has to offer. It is about letting go of your inhibitions and preconceived notions. It is about making every minute of everyday count. Travel is supposed to be about getting away from your normal daily routine and waking up each day wondering where you will end up. There is something about landing in an unfamiliar city and relying on your wits and travel notes made during your weeks (or months) of planning to get you from the airport or train station to your bed for the night, all while spending as little as possible, because, after all, you spent weeks (or months) saving for this trip.

So how does renting a car figure in to all of this? On the surface, it seems like an expensive way to make travel feel like home. You wake up, get in the car, drive some distance, complain about parking…you get the idea. The truth is, part of the fun of traveling is moving around like the residents of your destination, be it on foot, bicycle or public transportation. Often, renting a car will only add to your headaches and subtract from your bank account. However, there are times when renting a car is the most economical and convenient way to get some can’t miss destinations. I am, of course, talking about our state and national parks.

Some of the most wondrous natural beauty in the world is protected inside our parks systems, all free (or nearly free) to access. Most parks are located a safe distance from the harm that cities can inflict upon them, making hiking or biking an option only for the most intrepid travelers, and they have little or no public transportation to them. That pretty much leaves you with driving a car.

This does not have to be as bad as it sounds. If you have decided that renting a car may actually save you time, money and effort and allow you to see some unforgettable sights, then start planning. Start by shopping around online for quotes. Then, call the actual location you plan to rent from because they may offer different prices than the company website. Ask if they have any deals or coupons for your mileage programs, AAA, credit card or any other organization you may belong too. Enterprise wasn’t running any deals for my programs, but they took 10% off the price anyway.

If you are planning on dropping the car off at another location, be sure to ask about drop charges – they can be substantial if you are just renting a car for a weekend.

Also, call your insurance agent and credit card to see if their policies cover you in case of an accident. Often they do, and you can decline the more expensive and limited rental agency options.

When you pick the car up, be sure to choose the “gas it up yourself” option. We know it’s tempting to let them do it when you drop your car off, but it’s a lot more expensive, same goes for buying the full tank of gas – it never works out in your favor. Choosing a hybrid is also a great way to save money on gas. We also like to snap a few photos of the car, just to establish its baseline condition. We do the same at drop off, especially if no agent is at the location.

Do you have any tips or tricks for renting a car? Let us know in the comments!

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