Tag: Travel Thursday

Rental Car Blues

The first time I ever rented a car it was the strangest feeling. I spent extra time making sure all my mirrors were correct and that my seat was just right. I was also terrified of having an accident in it; my company included the damage waiver on rentals, but it was my first job out of college and I didn’t want to have to call my boss to tell her I’d hit a wild hog in South Texas that turned my car into an accordion.

Now, renting a car is just business as usual, except for what I call the “Rental Car Lottery.” I typically reserve a standard sized car, but that is apparently the size car that most people rent. Chances are, when you arrive at Enterprise you will receive an automatic upgrade to a different class of car, or something completely different than you expected. This can work for or against you. For example, I had the pleasure of getting a Hyundai Accent at O’Hare airport, and had to road trip that thing up and down Michigan before dumping it in Cleveland. I’ve never been happier to get rid of a car, except maybe three weeks earlier in Ft. Lauderdale.

Because of Hurricane Irma, Enterprise had rented every available car except for white utility vans or minivans. The agent threw in a free tank of gas for my troubles after noticing the look of horror on my face. The poor elderly couple in front of me had just selected their minivan, and considering they almost ran over an employee while trying to exit, I’m betting they wished they didn’t have to drive one either.

I had room for 8 imaginary friends in my Dodge Caravan, and cruised into both Miami and West Palm Beach looking like the baddest bitch in town. The most humiliating part was the valet-only option at my West Palm Beach hotel. At least it had leather seats?

Of course you don’t always end up with a terrible car. Two years ago in Ft. Lauderdale I lucked into a convertible Camaro, which was the perfect car to drive up the Florida coast. The free BMW upgrade I got one other time made for a fantastic trip across Texas. However the Kia Soul I got in San Diego? My only request was that it did not come with hamsters. I’m sure the agent never heard that one before.

 

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Road Trip

I mentioned yesterday that I was busy planning and booking flights, hotels, and car rentals for my fall travel schedule. It always varies year to year, but this year I will be gone most of the end of September and all of October for multiple multi-city trips.  I typically fly a lot of places, but this year, since we are expanding and going to more cities, I was looking at ways to make things a little more economical.  Thus, I will be going on quite the adventure. MapIt turns out that the one hour flight from Chicago to Traverse City was going to cost over $300 alone, and the flight from Traverse City to Cleveland was going to go back through Chicago anyway.  Since I have the time to make the 734 mile drive, I’ll first set out for Traverse City, work there, then drive to to Cleveland, work there, and then fly home.  I better get a good car from Enterprise in Chicago, because it’s going to get some use!

I am pretty excited about this drive.  When I first started traveling for work, I rarely was able to fly anywhere except El Paso.  I’ve made the five hour drive to South Texas more times than I can count, and I’ve previously written about my meandering drive up to Amarillo.  While I love flying too, there’s something about setting out on the open road and being able to stop and see anything you want along the way.  We once did an overnight drive to Tampa, Florida and decided to stop off in Biloxi to play video poker at 3 a.m. just because we could.  We only regretted it later because, as it turns out, Florida is big!  It took seemingly forever to get around the bend and headed south toward Tampa. At that point, with intermittent sleep and three hours to go, a plane ticket sure seemed like the smarter choice.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories to share with you about my many mishaps this fall, but for now I’m looking forward to October, cooler weather, and all the sights along the way.