5 tips for planning a car rental across the pond

Motoring in Europe can be a challenge for the American psyche: the narrow lanes, the aggressive steering, the irritating tendency to drive on the “wrong” side in the UK, the complexity of dealing with different languages and … cue the screeching sound of fingernails on a blackboard … the horror of being on the road in ITALY.

Yes, driving in Europe does require a different set of muscles but with careful preparation you will only have to admire the Carabinieri from a distance.

Let’s be straight with each other. A car rental is great for some routes round Europe – in particular exploring little towns and hamlets ill-served by public transport – but not a great idea for really major cities. The key, as so often, is planning; know where you are going, establish your itinerary and sort out your transport accordingly. Here are five tips in the run-up to your journey.

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Prepare proper documentation

You will need travel insurance, a driver’s license and guidebook. Start packing at least a week before your trip and check that your phone provider allows you international access. And, yes, you will need a passport, the thing that Europeans always joke that Americans don’t need because they never travel. Prove them wrong! Retrieve it from the recesses of your cupboard, open it so you get used to the texture and feel of it and check the expiry date. Remember that ordering a new passport can take between 4 and 6 weeks.

Is your destination really car-friendly?

London is a case in point. What with gridlocked roads and the congestion charge and the relative ease of public transport, a car rental would be folly. Of course, that doesn’t mean we are recommending you travel on the tube at rush hour. But, for example, the Thames River cruise from Westminster pier to Greenwich would be far more enjoyable than being caught in traffic in the City of London. Driving around other busy European capitals is not necessarily the best option either.

Likewise, you would do better on two wheels in bike-friendly Amsterdam, or taking the tram in hilly Lisbon. If you do plan to hire a car in the UK, it would be advisable to pick up in a smaller city like Bristol or Bath. Steer clear of major destinations at the start and end of your trip and also avoid picking up at an airport. In Germany, for example, if you start your hire car at an airport or station, you will play an extra 20 per cent. Learn the rules of the road of the country you are visiting. Go to the US State Department site and click on your destination for more information.

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Book everything from the US

Always book the air fare before anything else. Then think about accommodation and the car rental. But every step of your journey should be pre-booked. This not only gives you peace of mind, it is also considerably cheaper than paying on a case by case basis in Europe where you don’t know what hidden expenses you may incur. If you get all your credit card fees out of the way in the US, then you know exactly what you have paid beforehand.

Budget carefully

You will always have to beware of hidden extras. Bring back a near empty tank to the drop-off point and you may find yourself with a 200 dollar fee for fuel plus a refilling charge. So fill up the tank and make sure you keep the receipt. Return the car early to avoid incurring late payments. Sometimes you are made to pay an extra day if you return your vehicle late.

If you want an automatic vehicle, order it well in advance but remember that in Europe it can cost an extra 100 to 200 dollars a week. Cars bound for Eastern European countries like Romania and Bulgaria, as well as the Soviet Union, will also cost more because rental companies are wary of such trips. Hopping between countries will also add to your bill. It’s as well to bear in mind that Italy has the highest car rental rates and Germany the lowest.

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Finally…choose a reputable company

Although many companies are available to you, it’s best to avoid very small ones. What happens if you break down in an isolated area and need help from your car rental firm? Avis, for example, has more than 350 locations in Germany alone. When you know you have a back-up in the case of an emergency you will drive more calmly.

 

 

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.

The eternal thrill of Vegas

Just the name “Vegas” evokes instant images – monster shopping malls, marauding mobsters, gold-plated towers and sybaritic splendor. Above all, of course, gambling…the 24-hour playground of those enjoying the pulsating thrill of a possible windfall of unearned earnings or…betting everything on one last desperate, doomed dice roll at 4am.

wbeem / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Jaundiced observers may see Vegas as a monument to artifice, greed and sleaze. Others see it as the most exciting city on planet earth. One fact speaks for itself; the city attracted 40 million visitors last year alone. And although the economic crisis has taken its toll on this extraordinary Nevada city, it’s still home to 15 out of 20 of the world’s largest hotels.

It’s no coincidence that Vegas has featured in so many movies, whether it’s Presley’s Viva Las Vegas or the Rat Pack’s Ocean’s 11 – moving on to Martin Scorsese’s sizzling profile of organized crime, Casino. Who can forget the psychopathic, pen-wielding mobster played by Joe Pesci? Be careful if he’s on the phone in any casino near you…

Or the doomed drunkard played by Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas? It’s a place that, of course, has its dark side, but only if you choose to see it so. It’s also the city of dreams, the ideal setting for a wedding or a romantic getaway.

Vegas may be designed to bankrupt the foolish gambler but it need not be that way. Set a ceiling on your spread and stick to it, down to the last nickel. If you lose, fair enough.  If you win, don’t get greedy. The “odds”, that elusive term common to gamblers, may ultimately be against you, but gambling IS fun. So if you like to bet on which raindrop will reach the bottom of the window first (although there’s little of that in Vegas) or in the words of former mayor Oscar Goodman – a fierce custodian of the city’s reputation – “which way a cockroach will move”, then this is your mecca.

Great perks accompany gambling in Vegas. Drinks in most casinos – the yard-long margarita being a particular favorite – are complimentary. So when you get to the fruit machines, take time to enjoy a good slug and don’t pull that handle too frequently. The biggest ever slot machine jackpot was 39 million dollars but be prepared to fall a little short of that. Of course, if you’re mega-rich and prepared to risk colossal sums, then, as Piers Morgan once proved in a documentary, a casino can take a million dollars off you very quickly!

A car is a great way to see Vegas. Don’t think about hiring a limo. That’s a cliché in Vegas and nobody will notice you. Parking is free almost everywhere and gas is cheaper here than in neighboring California. So a Las Vegas car rental will not break the bank.

Fancy going on a gondola in a replica Venetian canal? Or a trip up the Vegas version of the Eiffel Tower? Or staying in an Egyptian pyramid? You’re in business. Vegas caters to your every whim, especially if you’re a good customer. Are you pining for a mountain of caviar? It’s at your door, sir! Doubtless, certain establishments would deliver the Taj Mahal to your room if they could transport it!

And you’re in great company. The Venetian, which now occupies the site of the old Sands Hotel and Casino, was where the original Rat Pack – principally Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis – played to sellout audiences in the early 1960s. Howard Hughes and Tony Curtis were also former residents. Nowadays, you may find the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears prepared to officiate at your party … for a price!

Werner Kunz / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Go down Vegas’ strip and you will see what was once the world’s largest hotel, the MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Boulevard) the New York, New York Hotel and Casino (3790 Las Vegas Boulevard) and – just opposite at number 3785 – M & M’s stores – four floors of chocolate fun – and Caesars Palace (3570 Las Vegas Boulevard), the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino (3770 Las Vegas Boulevard) and the Trump Tower (2000 Fashion Show Drive – Las Vegas Strip) with its 24 carat-gold windows.

Werner Kunz / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

You can easily pay 25,000 dollars a night for the best accommodation in the city. But there are many places within the reach of mere mortals. Avoid coming on weekends when room prices spiral. Keep a cool head and enjoy yourself. Of course, if you ever get really fed up with the glitz, the desert is nearby. Just don’t bump into Mr Pesci; he may be disposing of a corpse or two behind those rocks!

 

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.

tvol / Foter / CC BY

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.

cai~cai~ / Foter / CC BY-NC

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?

Jeff S. PhotoArt / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

Eat, play, love in Delray Beach

This Palm Beach County coastal city used to be a quiet place back in the 1980s, dozing in its acres – a sleepy suburb of Miami. Since the building boom a decade ago, however, it’s become racy and trendy – brimming with art galleries, outdoor cafés, great restaurants, glitzy boutiques and beautiful people with seemingly deep pockets.

Colony Hotel, Delray Beach Jeff Cooney / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

Go along Atlantic Avenue, for instance, the city’s jewel in the crown, and you will be dazzled by the magnificent homes and passing yachts in the ocean. So what’s the drill when you have driven to this palm-fringed paradise with your Delray Beach car rental?

Scampi, shrimps and Sundy

Boring people claim they eat to live. Wiser souls, however, live to eat sumptuous seafood in places like Delray. Try the lunch at 50 Ocean (50 South Ocean Boulevard) where the blue crab puffs, mussels and lobster will give you a taste of the Atlantic waters below. Or enjoy an authentic Italian dining experience in one of the city’s oldest restaurants, Caffe Luna Rosa (34 South Ocean Boulevard). Menus change but the pan-seared shrimp scampi has received a top recommendation in the past, alongside the cheesecake martini for dessert.

Sundy House, Delray Beach Ohad Ben-Yoseph / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

One of Delray’s most famous landmarks is the Sundy House (106 S Swinton Avenue), just one block south of Atlantic Avenue, and built in 1902 in honor of John Sundy, the first mayor of Delray Beach. From the outside, you would never know about the breathtaking gardens, complete with swimming pool, within. The restaurant, which recently hired a new executive chef, has won plaudits for its grilled pork belly, among other delicacies. It’s an idyllic spot and particularly popular for Sunday Brunch or a romantic weekend …or even a wedding.

If you’re planning an imminent trip to Delray, then your timing is indeed exquisite. You can get there in time for the (second) Delray Beach Wine and Seafood Festival on the weekend of November 9 and 10. Around 50 booths usually decorate the east end of Atlantic Avenue with seafood ranging from 3 to 20 dollars.

Shopping, sipping, surfing

Atlantic Avenue, which offers excellent parking facilities on the street as well as a nearby garage, has great antique shops, galleries and clothing boutiques, and stores trading in everything from olive oil and vinegar, through to health and spiritual products. And, thankfully, not all the eateries are upscale; there’s even a Dunkin’ Donuts for those on modest means!

You can also venture north on 2nd Ave through Pineapple Grove where you will find more fabulous boutiques, restaurants, salons and other diversions. If the weather is stormy and wet, then the recently opened Delray Market Place (9025 W Atlantic Ave) has 258,000 square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment fixtures.

Intracoastal Waterway, Delray Beach Ohad Ben-Yoseph / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

For evening entertainment, try Paddy McGee’s on 307 E Atlantic Avenue which has live music every night. But, hey, you’re truly spoiled for choice in Delray. Stroll down Atlantic Avenue after dark and music spills out onto the streets – everything from classic rock to cool island reggae.

Of course, you probably wouldn’t be visiting Delray unless you wanted to hit the surf. And, in Delray, you have two miles of public beach accessible from Florida State Road A1. There are great waves all year round but perhaps the weather is at its most comfortable in the winter when it’s not so humid but daytime highs still hit around 75 degrees. Winter is also the dry season in this part of the world, especially February – the month that sees the annual Delray Beach International Tennis Championships.

Hideaways in Delray

If you fancy a sleepover in Delray, try the Hyatt Place (104 NE 2nd Avenue), a hotel known for its very spacious rooms – including 42-inch TV and Cozy Corner Sofa Sleeper – great continental breakfasts and excellent business amenities. The Wright by The Sea Hotel (1901 S. Ocean Boulevard) has wonderful grounds that include a large tiki hut, grill and patio area, lawn area and pool as well as a croquet and ping pong area with shuffleboard courts and basketball hoop. There’s a private beach, an observation deck to watch the sun rise and plenty of shady, palm-sheltered spots where you can sit and contemplate life. Crane’s BeachHouse Hotel & Tiki Bar (82 Gleason Street) is another secluded retreat decorated in old Key West style, billed as “Delray’s hidden treasure”.

You are approaching a great time of year to visit Delray. You just need a good Delray Beach car rental to make the most of this, one of Florida’s most atmospheric resorts. We hope you enjoy your stay!

 

 

 

Avoid Carmageddon: Five reasons to rent rather than own a car

Opting for cheap rental cars has many advantages over long-term car ownership. And we’re not just saying that to get you to rent one. The facts speak for themselves. Here are some good reason to favor renting.

1. To reduce congestion

 

Saf’ / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Space on this planet, believe it or not, is NOT infinite. Yet our overwhelming desire to get into our own vehicle, along with our continuing gravitation towards cities, is creating alarming urban gridlock. By 2035, the world is predicted to have 800 million vehicles on the road, twice the current number. And, by mid-century, it is estimated that up to 75 per cent of the world’s population will be living in cities.

This creates the prospect of even more traffic in our cities. That means real practical problems in getting to work and supplying food and essential goods. Remember the recent 11-day traffic jam in China? Is this the way ahead? It will be if we all own cars and use them every day. Ironically, William Ford, current executive chairman of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of legendary car-maker Henry Ford, believes that action is imperative to prevent a humanitarian crisis: “We see global gridlock as an issue of human rights, not just one tied to business and economics,” he says.

Rent a car for just a few days a week and it will alleviate the burden. Think of the environment. Think green.

2. Save money

Try to make do without a car for most of the week if you live in a city and watch yourself save the pennies. The American Automobile Association recently estimated the annual cost of owning a vehicle at about 9000 dollars, based on an assumption of 15,000 miles of annual driving. Use public transport most days and you won’t have to worry about paying for petrol. You will also save on wear and tear costs associated with owning a car; New York drivers can easily spend between 50 to 200 dollars a month on car maintenance alone.

 

Michel Filion / Foter / CC BY-ND

 

If you rent a car and it breaks down, then the car rental company has to help you. Plus you are putting mileage on a rented vehicle, not your own, and renting a car has a set charge, so you know all the costs from the beginning. Try just using a rented car on weekends, for trips out of town or to big stores.

 

3. Upgrade on special occasions

If you don’t own a car and only want one for that special occasion, then you can choose a cool model for that prestigious business convention or that high-class jamboree in the Hamptons. Or perhaps you would like a bigger car than you would normally buy (or could afford) to drive all the children to that camping trip or sporting occasion? A rental car can convey a special image and allows you to experiment with new models. Even with cheap rental cars, you will be driving a new or nearly new vehicle.

 

IceNineJon / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

4. Owning a car restricts you

Own a car and the tendency is for all travel to be within driving distance. Imagine the following scenario. You live in New York and you have to attend a convention in Charleston. If you own a car you may be tempted to drive all the way to Charleston. You arrive frazzled and you never had the chance to do the reading you wanted to do in preparation. If you rent a car, you can fly to South Carolina and then hire a car.

And rather than having to worry about your own car back home, why not dispense with it altogether? A rented car also takes you to places you often don’t normally go to. Hire that special car – a jeep or SUV – and you can deal with that treacherous terrain and venture to places off your usual beaten track.

 

5. Get fit

Do you really need a car all the time? You may instinctively say “yes”. But it’s not a good idea to get too dependent on your car. I remember some bulky neighbor of mine who lived in the same block as me, but several hundred meters down the street, once driving to my home for an engagement. All of 300 meters!

Do you really need the car to make that trip to the grocers to get a few items? Just try walking to work or to the deli. When you abandon your sedentary lifestyle, you will get fitter…and the roads will get lighter!

Are EVs the way to revive the three E’s?

Being the economy, the environment and the energy sector…

In Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York, the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities, a quiet revolution is taking place. So quiet, in fact, that if you closed your eyes you might not be able to hear the traffic. You see, park rangers are riding around on solar-powered electric vehicles (EVs), a move forecast to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in gas and electricity costs over the next 25 years.

So imagine the benefits if motorists worldwide did likewise. And this may be more feasible and more lucrative than you think…

JaulaDeArdilla / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Energy (in)dependence

We live in an era when America’s leaders constantly fret – understandably – about reliance on foreign oil. Those who underestimate the challenge should remember what happened in 1973 when OPEC nations quadrupled oil prices, triggering massive inflation in the West. We all want to avoid a recurrence of that nightmare. So, just as the electric light transformed our homes a century ago, making candles and smelly oil lamps redundant, could EVs do the same for today’s cities?

Big city dwellers know the problems all too well. When I was a kid, I was struck by a message I once say on a London street – “Let’s all make the world a better place and throw away our cars”.  Living in a city well served by its public transport, you could understand the graffiti, especially when you started wheezing while walking around the capital.

Ben Amstutz / Foter / CC BY-NC

 

Kinder to ourselves…

Motor vehicles are major polluters, not only through road emissions but also through refueling, manufacturing and disposal.  Some experts even believe that car pollution is linked to certain cancers. Perhaps the link to other illnesses, such as asthma, is more substantiated. Leave the big city for the countryside and you feel the difference immediately.

Of course, some green-minded activists manage to live without a car. As we get older, however, we find that coping without a car gets harder. Perhaps we have several children and move to the suburbs. In such cases we find that it’s increasingly necessary to have a vehicle at our disposal, at least some of the time.  But, if you don’t need to own a car all the time, and your conscience pricks you at the thought of renting a conventional motor, have you thought about renting an EV? You just need to find an agency with the best car rental rates.

jurvetson / Foter / CC BY

 

…and the environment

Electric car batteries pollute the atmosphere far less than internal combustion engines. Granted, they are not entirely pollutant-free because most electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. But EVs recharged from coal-powered electric generators cut carbon emission roughly in half. And those recharged from hydropower and nuclear plants reduce carbon emissions to less than one percent of those produced by internal combustion engines.

 

…And the economy

Then there is the reduced cost to drivers, proved by the example of the Brooklyn Park Rangers. New York taxi drivers who use hybrid vehicles also report annual savings of thousands of dollars. For many motorists, environmental considerations and spiraling petrol costs mean that EVs will probably become more popular.  Although EVs still have drawbacks, notably battery costs and recharging times, the benefits are stark.

Eco-friendly cars run on electricity or a combination of electricity and hydrogen-based fuel. Not only do they reduce a driver’s carbon footprint, EVs are constantly being re-designed to reduce pollution and waste. As a result, these cars often require less maintenance than gas-powered vehicles.

EVs are definitely good for the three Es. So it’s perhaps curious that, although electricity has transformed our lives in so many ways, most transport still beats to the drum of the internal combustion engine. We still spit fumes into the sky round the clock in cities everywhere, guzzling up one of the world’s most precious commodities in the process. Perhaps one day EVs will make out cities as sanitized as our homes. Here’s hoping…