Author Archives: Svetlana Guineva

Essential Tips For Safe Winter Travel

Most people dread traveling in winter, but the season has its charm nevertheless. There are so many places you can still visit, enjoy a nice family outing, or spend your kid’s winter break in a nice winter resort.

Make sure to TAKE proper precautions when traveling in winter - Shreyans Bhansali / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA

Wherever you decide to go, don’t fly there, because canceled flights due to bad weather are more commonplace than closed main road arteries. Rent a car better suited to winter conditions than yours. Of course, there are quite a few things to be considered for your winter travel safety, but preparation always makes life easier.

Let’s review the basics.

Weather forecast

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Yes, it’s common sense to check what the weather’s going to be like during your travels. Still, it’s baffling how so many people forget to do it while fretting over other petty things. If a blizzard is on the go, very low temperatures are expected, or strong winds, you may want to postpone for a day, and perhaps wait it out at home. Even if your vehicle is well equipped, don’t risk it. As they say, better safe than sorry!

Tires x 4

If your tires are in bad shape, this is downright life-threatening. According to The Tire Rack, a tire should have at least 6/32-inch deep tread in order to leave a good snow traction. “Summer” tires have either very little or no grip on the snow. If you are headed to the mountains, don’t forget to take chains for extreme conditions.

Seeing is believing

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Blizzards can totally blur your vision and challenge your sense of direction during winter travel. Check the windshield wiper blades and replace them if needed. It is wise to apply water-shedding substance such as Rain-X outside all windows and mirrors. The windshield water system must function properly, and be sure to fill it up with an anti-icing fluid or antifreeze.

Shine a light

To be visible to other drivers during snowfall is essential. Keep your headlights and taillights clear of snow. Here’s an idea: to prevent lenses from pitting, you can cover them with a clear tape usually used to protect race car wings. You can find it on auto-racing supply sites.

Hit the brake… or not

Never forget that proper braking could save your life. Bear in mind that it takes longer to stop on a slippery road. Therefore, leave more distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Don’t brake hard on snow or an icy road because the wheels will lock if the car doesn’t have an anti-lock brakes (ABS) system. The best way is to get the wheels rolling by releasing the pedal slightly. Then brake again, but gently.

In case of hard braking, ABS prevents the wheels from locking and you don’t lose control while steering. Even during wheel lock-up, the system keeps the tires rolling by relieving enough pressure. Usually, all the commotion happens in a split second, and if your first impulse is to lift your foot off the brake or pump the pedal – don’t. If it’s a matter of emergency, press the brake quickly and hard. Remember, however, that the ABS system doesn’t shorten the stopping distance. Most importantly, keep calm.

Black ice

If you’ve never had to drive on “black ice”, consider yourself lucky. It’s an unpredictable, slick road condition that could test your resilience as well as the speed of your reflexes. Also known as “glare ice”, this is a transparent thin layer of ice that most drivers initially take for an innocent frost. Slow and very careful driving are your only way out. Avoid sudden braking at any cost.

Survival kit

Again, while traveling on snow-covered roads, you must be prepared. Take if not all, at least some, of the items listed below:

Al_HikesAZ / Flickr / CC BY-NC
  • road maps
  • extra antifreeze
  • booster cables
  • warning light or road flares
  • shovel
  • compass
  • sand (kitty litter)
  • extra clothing and footwear
  • ice scraper and brush
  • flashlight
  • first aid kit
  • food and blankets

Driving during winter can be quite stressful, but don’t let it ruin your planned vacation or a trip to a mountain resort. Just use extra caution and keep your eyes open. Oh, and go easy on the brake!

5 US winter resorts great for ski and family fun

Snow can be a real nuisance – it can hamper flights and ruin travel plans. But snow also means joy and play, and it’s a great time for your favorite winter sports.

Luckily, the US has an abundance of fantastic winter resorts, either a ski or snowboard heaven, or family-friendly mountain towns that offer a little bit of everything.
Driving in winter can be challenging but if you rent the right, well-equipped powerful wheels, they can take you anywhere you wish. So slide away to some of USA’s best winter resorts.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming

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Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure whether to start my list with Jackson Hole. Then I noticed that Forbes has labeled this winter resort as the best ski place in the country for winter 2014. And that’s something! The ski area is in Teton Village, only 12 miles away from the town of Jackson. Jackson Hole is in the valley, some 60 miles long and 15 miles wide – beautiful and offering breathtaking views. It is said that Jackson Hole has consistent slopes, true skiing fall lines and the greatest ski lift in North America.

Most importantly, the newly renovated Jackson Hole Airport is only 35 minutes away from the mountain. You can stay at the Four Seasons built not long ago. If you are visiting with your kids, see the Kids Ranch. It offers daycare programs for children aged 6 months to 3 years as well as ski and snowboard lessons for the older ones. Besides, if you want to go out on the town, there is a special Kids Night Out program to keep your children occupied and entertained.

Alta, Utah

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This famous ski resort has close to 400 residents, but over half a million visitors per year. Alta was founded in 1865 by miners who were exploring the silver mines in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Now the small town thrives around the ski area, which is one of the best in the country. Why? Maybe because of the low lift ticket price – only $79 for the busiest days, compared to $119 in Vail, Colo. Or perhaps it’s because of the laid-back atmosphere due to the fact that snowboarders are not welcome here. Oh, it has to be the snow! Alta gets some 530 inches annual snowfall, which has the perfect precipitation for skiing. Check it out!

Mountain Washington Resort, New Hampshire

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Perfect for a family vacation. If you want to teach your kids to ski, this is the place. The Hobbit Ski and Snowboard School at Bretton Woods offers all-day lessons to kids as young as 4. And if you’ve come with your infant, no problem. Bretton’s nursery will take care of your baby (they’ve done it for a 2-month-old already), so you can go skiing. However, if the whole family is out to play, you can go on one-horse-sleigh rides, do ice-skating, tubing or go on scavenger hunts. If you happen to be there the week before Christmas, there will be a snowman building, tree decorating, snow painting and much more.

The Peaks Resort and Golden Door Spa, Telluride, Colorado

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Telluride is a magical place in the heart of the Rockies. This winter resort can offer you real pampering at the Golden Door Spa. Bear in mind that Telluride is among the best ski areas in the US. You can try the perfect slopes, or take your children to the ski school. Ice-skating and dog-sledding are also popular. You can even go on a sleigh-ride dinner on a Friday night as children under 3 eat for free. Around the holidays, watch out for carolers and Santa who might be lurking around the corner.

Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe, California

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This may be a perfect spot to ring in 2014. The place is great for all-family fun because it can throw the most amazing New Year’s Eve party with games, music, crafts and a balloon drop at 9pm and midnight. Considering that the resort is at the center of the Squaw Valley USA ski area, you can ski or take your children to the beginner trails and take it easy. During the upcoming holidays, you can just drink hot cocoa by the fire, breakfast with Santa, or ice-skate with Buddy Bear. Have fun!

Travel to Europe: Go Off the Beaten Path

Traveling to Europe is an adventure in itself – exciting, highly anticipated and filled with myths.

Stop for a moment to think though and decide: to go off the beaten path or not.
Rent a car and explore the continent on your own, besides, distances are not what they are in the States. As old as Europe is, you’ll always find less popular but worth seeing places, and happily escape the tourist stampede.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) keeps an extensive list with unique cultural and natural sites, which are especially valuable for the common heritage of humanity. As of 2013, the list contains 981 sites of which 759 cultural, 193 natural, and 29 mixed properties in a total of 160 countries.

So when you travel to Europe keep in mind that you are going to see only a small fraction of the rich European heritage. However, you have to start from somewhere, and here are some suggestions out of UNESCO’s list.

Old city of Salamanca, Spain

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Spain, actually, ranks third on the list with the countries housing the greatest number of cultural sites, with a total of 44 points of interest, following Italy (49) and China (45).
Salamanca is an ancient university town near Madrid that has seen many invaders, ever since the 3rd century B.C. when the Carthaginians came. Then the Romans arrived, but couldn’t keep the territory and lost it to the Moors who ruled there until the 11th century. So you can imagine that the city displays monuments from different times and styles such as Romanesque, Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Those styles are recognizable in the remarkable group of buildings comprising the city university. Along with Oxford and Cambridge, it is one of the oldest in Europe. It was established in the early 13th century and proclaimed itself “Mother of Virtues, of Sciences and the Arts.”

The Garrison town of Elvas and its fortress, Portugal

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This spectacular site dates back to 10th century and represents the largest bulwarked dry-ditch system in the world. Its main purpose was to guard a key crossing between Portugal’s capital Lisbon and Madrid, Spain. Inside the walls, you can see town’s barracks and various military buildings, churches and even a monastery. The fortifications began in 17th century when Portugal became independent. Their designer was Dutch Jesuit padre Cosmander, and it’s accepted that this is the best surviving example of the Dutch school of fortifications. A point of interest is the Amoreira aqueduct, built to withstand heavy sieges.

Maulbronn Monastery Complex, Germany

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Thought to be the best-preserved medieval monastic complex north of the Alps, the Maulbronn Monastery was founded in 1147 by the Cistercian Order. The main buildings inside the walls were erected sometime between the 12th and 16th centuries. An interesting fact remains that the monastery’s church is in the Transitional Gothic style which set the tone of Gothic architecture in Northern and Central Europe at that time. Another exceptional element of the complex is the sophisticated water-management system with a great network of drains, reservoirs and irrigation canals.

Tokaj Wine Region, Hungary

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If you travel to Europe, you should definitely try Tokaj wine. The whole region is an example of traditional land use. It has vineyards and settlements that have existed for over 1,000 years and are well-preserved today. Tokaj has wine cellars with very specific structures, as those of King Kalman in Tarcal date back to 1110. The cellars are either vaulted – typically an open space under a house, dug before the house was built; and excavated cellars, which were separate from the house. Usually the wine is stored and matures in casks of sessile oak. One of the most famous cellar network is in the Ungvari district and connects 27 cellars at different levels.

Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, Bulgaria

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Located on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe, Bulgaria usually stays under the radar of American tourists, but the country has rich cultural heritage. Take the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak that archaeologists say dates back to the end of the 4th century BC. The Thracians were an ancient tribe that was first mentioned in Homer’s Iliad. The Tomb was discovered in 1944, in the small central town of Kazanlak. Nearby, the archaeological digs revealed the capital city of king Seutes III, Seutopolis, also a part of a large Thracian necropolis. Inside the tomb, there are beautiful frescoes representing traditional burial rituals and the Thracian way of life. Specialists agree that the murals are exceptional examples of Thracian art.

 

Plan a family vacation your kids will remember and treasure

The holiday season will soon begin, and now is the time to start planning your travels. A family vacation around Thanksgiving or Christmas would only add to the festive mood and the loving spirit. Here’s an idea: instead of spending hundreds of dollars on gifts for everybody, why not take a trip with the children and even the grandparents?
Down the road, your kids would appreciate such family trips because they are a quality time spent together and enhance that feeling of closeness.

Besides, many sweet memories are being created in the process. It’s a well-known fact that kids become more attached to their grandparents if they have the chance to go on a trip together. Well, it’s simple. People get to know each other better when they are confined in a car, or a hotel, for a period of time. The shared experiences are priceless and the abundance of photos taken cannot tell it all.

So make the family vacation pleasant and memorable by considering the following points.

Pick the right rental car

Considering the great selection every rental car company has to offer, think what kind of vehicle would suit your needs best. If grandma and grandpa are coming, and so is Maxie, the chocolate lab, you’re going to need something spacious. You never know who would want to go napping in the back and when. You don’t want territorial fights while you are driving. Besides, a family vacation should be an enjoyable experience for everyone. Rent a van, or if you are doing a cross-country travel, why not even an RV?

Find the right hotel

When doing your initial research, ignore advertising material that is sprinkled with words such as “intimate,” “romantic,” or “candle-lit dinner”. Make sure the hotel is family-friendly, and it has an indoor or outdoor playground. Moreover, there would be kids constantly running around, so yours wouldn’t be the only ones disturbing the peace. People with small children should think of childproofing the hotel room by bringing outlet covers, plastic cabinet locks and whatnot.

If you’re planning to take the dog on the family vacation, find a hotel that accepts pets. You wouldn’t want to be running around looking for a pet-friendly hotel after 10 hours of uninterrupted driving.

Visit places that will teach your kids something

Washington DC

Photo credit: eGuide Travel / Foter.com / CC BY

Historical monuments along with historical or natural points of interest are all over the place. Do your homework and mark your possible stops. Show your children the beauty of the country as well as parts of its history. They will never forget it, like you’ve never forgotten the family vacations when you were a child. Most museums are open during the weekend and are closed on Mondays.

Eat healthy while on the road

This could take a little bit of preparation in advance. Have breakfast at home before you leave. Understandably enough, your first impulse would be to make a stretch at the first fast food joint out of convenience, or maybe because you’re used to it. Don’t. Buy a cooler. No matter the season, a cooler would come handy if you want to chill water or preserve a home-cooked meal. Avoid eating lots of carbs because they make you sleepy. Eat light while driving; pack some fresh fruit and vegetables so you can snack along the way. Bringing food from home would also save you money.

Plan activities for the whole family

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You are not going to create valuable memories for your children if you don’t think of something interesting to do once you’ve reached your final destination. Go to theme parks, or zoos, or events suitable for kids. Take them to a sports game; if the weather allows it, go on a picnic and let your kids socialize with other children. Local museums usually have workshops organized especially for kids; take them hiking, or horseback riding if there’s such an option wherever you are. In the evenings you can play board-games, play cards or other games – create a fun and loving environment they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Teach Your Kids History While Traveling: 5 Family Vacation Ideas

Travel shouldn’t be only about moving from one place to another, while killing time by staring blankly out of a car or an airplane window. It should be about adventure and learning something new and exciting. Think up some fresh family vacation ideas, especially when you take your kids with you. Try to create an itinerary whereby the places you visit have some educational and entertainment value. Renting the right vehicle is vital, so the trip is comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.

Show your kids national historic landmarks. Teach them those important facts of American history that will stir their belonging and patriotism.
After all, what better way to learn the basics about the Civil War, for example, than to visit the actual battlefields?

The Antietam National Battlefield

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Southerners also call it the Battle of Sharpsburg because it took place near Sharpsburg, Maryland and Antietam Creek. This major combat in the American Civil War fell on Sept. 17, 1862, and it was the first to be led on Union territory. It is often referred to as the bloodiest battle in American history, for after 12 hours of an uninterrupted offensive, 23,000 soldiers were killed or went missing. In the end, the Confederate troops withdrew and Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, preventing the British and the French from recognizing the Confederacy.

Also, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, houses 21 original Civil War photographs documenting the Battle of Antietam. Mathew Brady, considered to be the father of photojournalism, took them in 1862.

The Plimoth Plantation

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There is no better place to go back in time and get a feel of how it all started. Plimoth Plantation offers a glimpse of the first original settlement, established in 1627 by English colonists. It is locаted in Plymouth, Massachusetts and it has gradually been recreated using facts from period paintings, artifacts and personal accounts as well as first- and secondhand records. To make the experience vivid and real, the museum employs interpreters who dress, act and speak as people did several centuries ago. They address visitors in the first person and are ready to answer questions as well as demonstrate skills in blacksmithing, animal husbandry, cooking and planting. If you take your kids there, check the Parent’s Guide on the museum’s website to find out about all the fun things you can do together.

The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

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One of the greatest American protests of all time, the Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773 and it jump-started the American Revolution. The Colonists wanted the same rights as true Englishmen and objected to being taxed without representation in the English parliament. And when one shipment of tea reached the Boston shores with an imposed tax the Americans had not authorized, the demonstrators destroyed the entire supply by dumping it in the water.

So this floating Boston museum is a treat for the entire family. Today, you can explore authentically restored tea ships; meet the colonists (role-playing actors) or dump tea overboard just like the Sons of Liberty did 240 years ago. If you have the chance, visit the museum on December 16 because the whole event will be reenacted, and it’s spectacular.

Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois

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This isn’t Abraham Lincoln’s birth house, but it’s the first one he ever owned. He lived there with his wife Mary Todd from 1844 to 1861, before becoming the 16th president of the United States. It contains 12 rooms on two floors. The presidential memorial includes also the four blocks surrounding the house and a visitor center. Back in 1887, Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln donated the property to the State of Illinois on condition that it would be open to the public free of charge and well-maintained at all times. Some other properties on that four-blocks perimeter are also preserved and open to visitors. The exhibits embody the spirit of the times and the life of Lincoln and his neighbors.

Cody, Wyoming

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The Wild West is a big part of American history, and it is strictly unique to this country. Probably the best place to take your kids to experience the murky times of when the gold rush was big is Cody’s Buffalo Bill Center of the West. So many things could be seen and touched at the five museums comprising the center. The kids could play cowboy or cowgirl, learn facts about the wild Buffalo Bill; collect information about Native Americans and the early ways of ranching. Nearby is the Old Trail Town where authentic Western buildings and cabins bear the spirit of times long gone, but a significant part of American history nevertheless.

 

In the Heart of a Southern Pearl: Blacksburg, Virginia

Blacksburg may be a small town in Virginia, but it has won some significant accolades.
In 2011, this community of almost 42,000 residents was crowned by Businessweek.com as the best place in the U.S. to raise kids. The same year, Southern Living magazine voted it the best college town in the South, home to the renowned Virginia Tech. So why not use the last days of the Indian summer for a family trip down there? Take advantage of Blacksburg car rental opportunities and see for yourself what this college town, that “everyone thinks is a fabulous place to live,” has to offer.

The best place to raise kids in the U.S.

At first glance, Blacksburg looks like yet another small town where the primary population is college students. But, according to Businessweek.com and its sixth nationwide ranking, it is the safest (and yet affordable) place for families to raise their children. The town, tucked between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, has amenities that encourage its inhabitants to do lots of sports, educational and social activities. Blacksburg also meets a bunch of other criteria that place it at the top, such as excellent schools and relatively low crime. The town’s residents are also highly educated with two-thirds aged 25 and older holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the survey. About 40% have a graduate or professional degree.

The best college town in the South

Virginia Tech Campus

Photo credit: mikemac29 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Founded in 1872, Virginia Tech first began as an agricultural and mechanical land-grant college. It is located in the New River Valley, which is a picturesque area within the Jefferson National Forest, Claytor Lake State Park and the New River Trail State Park. All offer plenty of recreational opportunities. Biking is extremely popular, rural and suburban alike. Trails connect the urban areas with parks and forests. In fact, the New River Trail along the New River is the longest off-road biking trail in Virginia. If you don’t want to sweat and puff, check Blacksburg car rental options and drive around, it’s equally enjoyable. As for recreational activities, spelunking is an extremely popular sport with hundreds of caverns and caves to explore. Rafting, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, and golfing go without saying.

Blacksburg is a top college town in the South because it’s also a great opportunity for recent graduates and young professionals to find a job. The local economy and technology industry is regularly supplied with fresh blood from the engineering program. The town is also home to research-and-development businesses, startups and manufacturing companies.

Smithfield Plantation

Photo Credit: twitter.com

This rich with history site is adjacent to the Virginia Tech campus in the heart of Blacksburg. The plantation was built from 1772 to 1774 by the Revolutionary War patriot William Preston where he lived with his wife Susanna and their 12 children. Four of their descendants became Virginia governors, and many others were involved in drafting state legislation. Throughout the years, some of the Preston clan took part in the founding and growth of several universities, including Virginia Tech. The house is L-shaped, with spacious rooms and high ceilings. The style of the architecture and the details are typical of frontier homes.

Steppin’ Out Arts Festival

Once a year, downtown Blacksburg becomes an arena for the arts. More than 200 artists and crafts people from all over the U.S. are featured with their work. Residents and guests of Blacksburg can find original jewelry, pottery, fine art, furniture, textiles, yard art and gourmet foods and so much more.

Music is an essential part of the browsing experience or just for chilling out. Three stages host live performances, which gives the event an even more artistic feel. The festival is family-friendly, but it’s advisable not to bring pets because it gets really crowded.
In 2014, Steppin’ Out will take place on August 1st and 2nd.

Airport Car Rentals: Trick or Treat?

Hopping on a plane and hours later landing somewhere often doesn’t mean that you’ve reached your final destination. A lot of times, the airport is just a stepping stone, taking you further along the way. It is a common practice, however, for people to continue their journey using the airport car rental services readily available on every corner. Rental car companies operate hundreds of offices around the country including at small local as well as major international airports.
When we get off a plane, the first thought racing through our heads is how to quickly pick up our luggage and dash out as fast as possible.

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If your next step is to rent a car, perhaps you need to consider some small but essential details that would make your airport car rental experience easier. Remember, even if you are landing at major international hubs such as LAX or Denver Airport, you can’t assume that all rental car counters would be open 24 hours. Do your homework, do some planning beforehand, because that could save you money and time. That said, here are some other tips to guide you during your travels.

Are same-day reservations possible?

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In case you decided on a whim to rent a car while still at the airport, you have an option to book it one hour before pickup. Terms and conditions may vary depending on the airport and the rental car company. Most likely, you would be asked to provide more details about your itinerary. The downside of such last-minute reservation may be that you won’t get the car you desire, for there may be limited availability.

What kind of car can I rent?

Most airport car rental companies offer a great variety of models and makes, but when you reach that counter, you’d better have an idea what you want. Think what would suit your needs best. Perhaps driving off Miami Airport in a BMW convertible is the coolest, if you’re planning to do some coast cruising. But if the family is with you and space is all you need, an SUV or a mini-van is your best choice. Keep in mind that you can request a non-smoking vehicle while at the airport, but the rental company usually doesn’t guarantee availability on the spot.

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Collision Damage Coverage

As unpleasant as it sounds, the CDC is a necessary evil even though it is optional and it can be purchased additionally. Since you are driving somebody else’s car, extra precautions are a must. This coverage is meant to protect you against unexpected damages or theft, fire, hail or flood. If you purchase the plan, in case of an accident, you’d end up paying less for the total cost of car repairs or any additional charges that may occur. The CDC costs $11 a day, but if your billing address is in New York State, it’s $9.

Cancellations

No business loves cancellations, but customers often change their minds. If you decide to cancel your Collision Damage Insurance, you can do it literally up to the very last minute before pickup. If for whatever reason you want to cancel your reservation, the CDC will be cancelled along with it. Then, if you change your mind again and want to rent a car after all, go online and go through the entire process.

I’m not a U.S. resident

Ok, no problem. You can still take advantage of the airport car rental offered at an American airport. Most rental car companies would accept your international driver’s license as long as it’s valid. Also, all major credit cards will do, just make sure it’s your name imprinted there.

I want to drive my rental car outside the U.S.

This could be tricky. If your plans are to drive to Canada or Mexico, you need to check with the rental company you’ve selected. Some may have a problem with it. If they allow you to drive the car outside the States, additional charges may apply. Ask in advance, don’t just drive off the parking lot thinking you are all set and on to a great adventure. Honestly, the border police would be more than inclined to make it an interesting trip for you, but you wouldn’t want any border mishaps, trust me.

Can somebody else drive the rental car?

Even if you haven’t disclosed in your reservation that there would be another driver, you can do it at the airport rental counter. If you are the primary driver, add your co-pilot to the rental agreement. Keep in mind though that he or she needs to be present at the time of the pickup. Just a small formality, but a requirement nevertheless.

Long-term car rentals: pros and cons

Renting a car is mostly a two-dimensional experience. You either love it, because the occasion you are renting it for is very special, and driving the car of your dreams only adds to the happy feelings. Or you hate it, sort of, because it means yet another business trip away from your family and friends. In case of long-term rentals, however, it’s all in the name of convenience. The situations may vary, but if you don’t own a car, or you are stranded somewhere and need a car; or you own a car, but don’t want to put more mileage on it – long-term rental is good enough to solve your transportation problems.
Needless to say, there are pros and cons to this decision but, either way, the option is quite accessible. It’s always there if you need it.

Who usually takes advantage of long-term rentals?

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Mostly people going on a business trip that lasts more than two weeks. If you are one of them, you’ve found out by now that renting a car is the best choice. Traditionally, the company pays the bill; it may not be your dream car, but at least you are not putting extra miles on your own. And why should you? Rentals are preferred also by vacationers who have decided to use that long drive as extended quality time spent together; or just to show the children how beautiful the country is. In the category of temporary “wanderers” falls a special group of people – the snowbirds. They often own two or more homes, and during the winter months relocate to places with a warmer climate.

Then, here come the college students, the most mobile of the long-term rentals customers. They are constantly on the move, doing something, going places. College students often rent cars during the summer when either going home, spending time with friends, or doing internships off campus.

Finally, out of sheer necessity, many people who move to a different state may need to rent a car at first, until they settle and get ready to buy.

What are the benefits of long-term rentals?

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Less expensive are the key words here. First, when you sign a long-term contract, the rental price drops significantly; second, your insurance costs would be reduced if purchased through the rental car agency. And it’s so much better than using public transportation. Another perk of a long-term rental is that there are no maintenance costs, except the gas fill. If something goes wrong while traveling, there is 24-hour roadside assistance available. Also, renting a specific make or model gives you a chance to try it out and eventually help you make up your mind if you’ve been thinking of buying the same model.

Disadvantages

In relation to the aforementioned fact, you may very much like the car you’ve driven for some time, so it would be hard to part with it in the end. Since you don’t own the vehicle, you have to be extra cautious because even the smallest scratch can hit your wallet with additional charges. Filling out a lot of paperwork is another downside as well as the risk of unforeseen fees that were mentioned in the small print, but you didn’t have the patience to read. When at the rental office, you need to indicate your drop-off location, or you may get fined if you change it. That may turn out to be inconvenient, since your trip could go in a different direction, and you don’t want to be a slave to some decision made weeks or months ago. You also have to remember to fill up the gas tank, otherwise you’ll end up paying double, if not more.

Useful tips to keep in mind

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Just so you know, you will save a lot more if you rent a car for 60 days, instead of 30 and then renew your contract. Many long-term rentals come with different perks such as hotel rewards, frequent flyer mile programs or even a frequent renter program. Don’t forget to ask about them. Same is true for any AAA, AARP or warehouse club members’ discounts.
Also, it is understandable if you are tempted to spend a few dollars more on a SUV or some luxury car. But if you’d be the one paying for gas, perhaps it makes more sense to rent an economy or mid-size car.

When considering a long-term rental, you’d better ask the rental car company under what circumstances you can cancel your contract and if that would cost you anything. If you’re planning to travel with somebody else, find out the company’s policy in terms of adding a driver to the contract.

Drive Into the Night of Horror: Car Rental Deals around Halloween

What is scary for you, may not be scary for me. People searching for a substantial dose of adrenalin around Halloween, may find the good ol’ skeletons and bloody zombies to be a silly joke. Ghosts are overrated and so are witches.
There are 2,500 haunted attractions nationwide, and many of them are betting on the extreme for more business. No matter where you live, take advantage of the Indian summer and the car rental deals. Don’t be afraid to drive there – besides, the fall foliage is absolutely gorgeous.

Come Halloween, many haunted houses around the country get creative in order to attract more customers and offer quite unusual entertainment.  Some compare the terror that gives you goose bumps to a drug addiction. Once you’ve tasted that first high, you want more of the same. There are people who spend their lives chasing it, going after the extreme, and little can be done to satisfy it. Well, little, but not nothing! Brace yourself for lots of creepiness, but keep your eyes open, even in the pitch dark. You never know what might be lurking around the corner. It often does. And it could be downright horrific.

Enter the ScareHouse at your own risk

Named one of “America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions,” the ScareHouse in Etna, Pittsburgh can easily turn your nightmares into reality. The ScareHouse has prepared some pretty unorthodox scenarios to scare you. They even ask willing enthusiasts to sign a two-page waiver acknowledging the risks and declaring that they are healthy enough to participate. Meaning that if you suddenly get startled by being buffeted, or assaulted in any other way, you won’t sue.

Along with the traditional scares the ScareHouse offers, there’s the Basement. You crawl there through tight passages and, at some point, may have to submit to handcuffs. While handcuffed, you will suddenly see a syringe in your face and hear a whisper in the dark: “How do you feel about needles? Want to play with this for a while?” And stuff like that.

You can get physically and emotional “abused” in many different ways, mostly by the 60 actors who take turns to torture you for 30 minutes. The trip down the Basement is highly recommended.

Haunted Castle in Muskogee, Oklahoma

The place is a lot more family-friendly. During the day, a nice carnival enlivens Halloween land, where a theme park offers “spooktacular” events for guests of all ages. Along with the food and drink, a lot of ghost stories fill the air and you can have your fortune read by one of the Muskogee castle’s fortune tellers. Kids can stop by the pumpkin-carving station, go on pony rides and more. At nightfall though, before you know it, your favorite horror movie characters will come to life to scare the living hell out of you. The medieval castle has a labyrinth that leads to the cemetery and to the Casa Morte. Before you get there, you have to pass through the dungeons of the castle’s torture chamber. Many surprises await you along the way, you can be sure of it. If you muster the nerves, take a stroll through the surrounding haunted woods on the Trail of Blood; you won’t be disappointed.

Knott’s Scary Farm, Buena Park, California

The Scary Farm is a seasonal event at Knott’s Berry Farm, and sees a lot of after-dark action around Halloween. First inaugurated in 1973, this year the joint has added new features to its abundant scare collection, especially to the network of mazes that Buena Park Farm is famous for. Take the Skeleton Key where haunt fanatics can go down the “Fright Lane,” and enjoy the repeated haunting. Or try the Trapped maze. Attempt to exit through a new set of door-less rooms. Which one leads to safety is for you to decide, but watch your back. Many people enjoy the Mirror, Mirror maze, because of its confusion and unpredictability. Don’t trust any of the milling monsters inside, even if some of them offer nicely to get you out. Chances are, it will lead you in circles until your head begins to spin. Monsters disorient, misdirect and misinform by default. Keep your eyes open and follow your intuition.

Fright Town, Portland, Oregon

Traditionally, one of the Portland‘s best haunted houses, the Fright Town actually has three venues and presents the ever changing Museum of Horrors, the disturbing The Madness and The Contagion. The latter is an apartment building where zombies roam and demons want to possess your body and soul. To all of it there is a touch of humor, though no makeup or props have been spared for a “real” haunting experience. Not to say that the Town isn’t kids-friendly; there are no age restrictions, but I’d think twice before I take my kid to some of the scares. Remember what Baron Von Goolo, the curator of the Museum of Horrors, once said: “You can pay for a babysitter tonight or a therapist tomorrow.”

Hertz: Innovations, Convenience and Low Rental Rates

Hertz has been a household name in the rental car business for decades. Ever since it was founded in 1918 by Walter L. Jacobs, the company has continued to grow rapidly, and today it operates at close to 8000 locations in 145 countries worldwide.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Hertz Corporation is the second largest US car rental company in terms of sales, as of the end of 2012.

Last May, its executives announced that its corporate headquarters would move from New Jersey to southwest Florida. The company is building a $68 million campus in Estero, but until it is completed in 2015, many of its employees will work from a leased location in Naples, Florida.

Its core business ethic has remained the same over the last century – aiming to deliver a first-class service while keeping its rates competitive and ensuring the company keeps abreast of new trends in technology. Underpinning the Hertz philosophy is its commitment to hard work and securing the loyalty of its customers.

Back in time

Hertz Rent-a-Car 1956 / Kemon01 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

At the age 22, Jacobs started his business with a dozen Model T Fords in Chicago. He repaired and painted them himself. Within 5 short years, his enterprise began to generate annual revenue of about $1 million. In 1923, Jacobs sold the business to John Hertz, who was then president of Yellow Cab and Yellow Truck and Coach Manufacturing Company. The rental business, later called Hertz Drive-Ur-Self System, was bought out by General Motors Corporation in 1926. It changed ownership several more times, but Jacobs continued to serve as president until his retirement in 1960. Striving to be the best rental car company it could be, today Hertz is constantly on the move. Here are some of the company’s latest perks to make its customers happy.

iPads, anyone?

Photo Source: Denis Schaal / Skift

Not long ago, Hertz announced that it would be adding iPads and other touchscreen devices to 800 of its retail stores and some airports in North America. The initiative is called “Road Trip by Hertz”. The iPad station, equipped with four tablets, is meant to reduce queuing times. In addition, customers can find all the local area information they need; there are pre-loaded travel apps and iPad-powered apps to make reservations by choosing the lowest Hertz rental rates. Kids can play games while they’re waiting for their parents, and the latter can check emails, print boarding passes, recharge their mobile devices, or simple pass the time until their flight. At some locations, iPads are offered for rent, but the general idea is for all global locations to be converted to this format by 2015.

Keeping it green and clean

Always wanted to see what a Tesla Model S electric car felt like, but your wallet was too thin for it?

Do not despair. As of late September 2013, Hertz has added Tesla Model S electric cars to its Los Angeles and San Francisco airport locations. Most likely, soon at a location near you. The prices are still high – $500 per day plus $0.49 a mile after 75 miles, but think about the good you will be doing to our planet. The Tesla cars are part of Hertz’s Dream Cars program and share the upscale top spot along with Lamborghini and Ferrari.

Hertz 24/7 rental plan

In the name of customer convenience, this “game changer” plan, as the company calls it, began rolling out last July. It is meant to make renting a car as easy as picking a sandwich at a local deli. Customers would be able to rent a car 24/7, for as long as they want without the constraints of normal business hours in the standard locations. The plan also includes rapid expansion as Hertz revealed that it intends to have up to 12,000 locations in the US alone – including at parking lots outside Walgreens and Low’s. Cars could be rented via computer or any mobile device with an improved and easy to use booking system. Hertz estimates that, by 2016, “self-service” vehicles will be accessible by the majority of the population.