My husband and I both grew up in a wealthy family. Our siblings went the traditional route of having the big fancy weddings that are very elegant, glamorous and boring. Neither my husband or me are really impressed by that. We are just casual people who like to have fun. So, when we got married, we decided to do things in a much more casual way, including renting a party bus in Ottawa for the festivities after the wedding ceremony.
We decided to get married next to a lake. My sister spent a lot of money to get married in a really fancy hotel. It cost her and her husband thousands of dollars. (more…)
Need wheels for your next trip abroad? There’s more to consider than driving on the “other” side of the road. From international driving permits to liability insurance, renting a car in a foreign country can be a bit more complicated than renting one at home. Here are some tips for getting a great deal, making sure you have the right documentation and driving safely while abroad.
Booking Your Car
Book in advance. Rental rates are almost always higher at the counter than they will be over the phone or online, even just 24 hours before pickup. If you have time, comparison shop. Visit the websites of several rental agencies and search for identical cars on your travel dates.
Whenever possible, make all car rental arrangements, from booking to payment, before you leave your home country. Doing it this way generally makes the process cheaper, easier, safer and less likely to include hidden clauses. Once you are overseas, shifting exchange rates, unfamiliar rental specs, language barriers and other cultural differences can cause unexpected problems.
Ask about weekend specials, late penalties and gas charges. Many unadvertised discounts and hidden costs will not be explained at the time of rental, and it may be too late by the time you’ve discovered them.
Ask what time a car is expected for drop-off. Many rental agencies begin charging for each 24-hour-period from the time of rental, and will bill a full day for cars returned after another 24-hour period begins.
Be aware that many countries have a minimum and maximum age for renters. Drivers under the age of 25 or over the age of 70 may face surcharges or not be permitted to rent at all.
Whenever possible, if you see an ad for a rental car special rate, clip the ad or write down the promotional code. Many of the best rates do not show up on agents’ computer screens without a little prompting.
Always ask about senior citizen, AAA, credit card and frequent flier program discounts or add-on offers.
When making reservations for car rental pickups at an airport, choose a smaller car than you would typically desire. Airport fleets are often stocked with larger cars, as they are primarily used by business travelers, and you will often receive a free upgrade from a subcompact booking. Be aware, however, that European cars tend to be smaller than their American counterparts; while this might be useful if you’re planning on driving on narrow country roads, it’s not so great for those who are extra tall, carrying a lot of luggage, or traveling with a family or large group. In these cases, don’t take a risk — be sure to order the size you need just in case you don’t get an upgrade.
In many countries, manual transmissions are the norm and you’ll have to pay a premium for an automatic. If you can drive a stick shift, it could save you money and hassles. Driving overseas can often be more strenuous than what you’re used to at home; roads may be poorly paved, winding, or precariously placed on a mountainside or ocean cliff. For this reason, it’s often a good idea to divide up the driving — so if not everyone can drive a manual transmission, consider looking for an automatic. Also, if you’re going to a country like England or Australia, be sure everyone’s comfortable with driving on the left side of the road — it can be challenging!
International Driving Permits
If you’re traveling to an English-speaking country, chances are you’ll be able to get by with an American driver’s license. However, many other countries will ask that you also obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), which is basically just a piece of paper that translates your information into 10 different languages and is recognized by over 150 countries. If you are planning to rent a car abroad, you may be asked to present one along with your regular state license. You must be at least 18 years old to get an IDP.
There are only two agencies in the U.S. authorized to issue IDP’s: the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the National Automobile Club. Be warned that many other websites sell fakes — don’t be fooled.
Be sure to get your IDP before leaving home, as it must be issued in your home country. An IDP is not a license itself, merely a translation of the license issued in your country of residence. If you are stopped by law enforcement officials abroad, you must present both your IDP and your home country’s license. The only driving record you have, therefore, is within your home country, so obey the local driving rules! Any infraction or citation issued abroad will be waiting for you when you return home.
Check with the consulate or embassy of the country you’re visiting to find out their policies on international drivers.
Know Before You Go
Make sure you have a realistic idea of how much you’ll pay to fuel your car in the country you’re visiting. Generally, drivers in the U.S. pay less at the pump than drivers in most other nations. Leave plenty of room in your budget for gas expenses.
Familiarize yourself with the local rules of the road well before you actually get into the car. Study up on such details as which side of the road to drive on, who has the right of way in a traffic circle and whether you’re permitted to turn right on a red light. The best sources for this type of information are the country’s consulate or embassy, or an up-to-date guidebook.
Check with your auto insurance company to see whether a rental car abroad would be covered under your current policy. Unless you’re a U.S. citizen renting in Canada or Mexico, you probably won’t be covered under your existing policy, so you’ll need to purchase insurance from your rental car company at the time of booking. Be sure that your coverage, whatever the source, meets the foreign country’s minimum coverage requirements.
Don’t forget your map! Particularly if you’re planning on driving extensively, the security of having a detailed road map or atlas is more than worth the price you’ll pay for it. If you own a GPS, you can usually download international maps (for a fee) on your GPS provider website. But remember GPS devices aren’t always accurate; an up-to-date map offers you the greatest protection against getting lost.
Most car rental companies offer GPS rentals; check the GPS rental rates for your rental car before you purchase an international map from your GPS provider. Rates to rent a GPS are charged per day or per week; for a two-day car rental, you will be better off renting a GPS and paying, say, $12 per day than paying upwards of $100 for an international map download for the GPS you already own.
We all love traveling and seeing new places, but there’s one part of travel that many of us don’t love: flying. For some, flying is simply a hassle, thanks to high fares, airport delays and lost luggage. But for other travelers, flying is more than inconvenient; it’s terrifying.
Fear of flying can be caused by a number of factors, including claustrophobia or a fear of heights. Many fearful fliers feel an irrational anxiety that their plane will malfunction and crash, no matter how many times they hear the statistics about how safe flying is compared to driving. Other travelers worry about terrorist hijackings or panic at the idea that they’re not in control of the aircraft that’s carrying them.
No matter why you’re afraid of flying, there are certain steps you can take to help alleviate your fears. Whether or not to fly is a personal decision, and one that we can’t make for you. But for those of you who are determined not to let this change your way of life, we offer a few tips on how to overcome fear of flying.
1. Know what to expect. For many fearful fliers, learning the basics of how airplanes work can go a long way toward alleviating their anxiety. For instance, understanding how a plane can continue to fly even if an engine fails can help you feel less concerned about your aircraft malfunctioning. GuidetoPsychology.com offers an easy-to-understand explanation of how planes stay in the air, what causes turbulence, and what’s behind those scary sounds during takeoff and landing.
2. Familiarize yourself with your plane. Getting to know what your plane looks like can make it seem a little less scary. We once knew a fearful flier who actually put a picture of the plane’s cabin on her computer’s desktop; by the time her flight rolled around, the image was familiar, not scary.
3. Choose an aisle seat. Most airlines and booking engines allow you to request a seat assignment when you book your flight. Request an aisle seat, particularly if you’re prone to claustrophobia; you’ll feel less hemmed in by other people, and you’ll be able to get up and move around the cabin more easily. This also makes it easier to avoid looking out the window if those sky-high views make you nervous. (For more information on nabbing the seat you want, see Get the Best Airplane Seat.)
4. Monitor your media intake. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning: Avoid airplane disaster movies, news coverage of plane crashes or other scary media images. Remember that the vast majority of flights arrive safely, but only the problem flights make the news. Don’t let that skew your impressions of flying.
5. Think positive. In the days leading up to your flight, it’s easy to let the anxiety build. Instead, try to focus on more positive things — like all the fun things you’ll do once you reach your destination.
1. Don’t rush. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport before your flight is scheduled to depart. Racing to the gate and worrying about missing your plane will only add to your anxiety.
2. Wait for your flight in an airline lounge. Most airlines have private airport lounges that are quiet, luxurious oases away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport. While they’re usually reserved for club members or elite fliers, you can often purchase a day pass for about $50 — which may be a small price to pay for a soothing place to relax and prepare for your flight.
1. Meet the crew. If there’s time before your flight, ask to meet the pilot of your plane. Alternatively, spend some time chatting with a flight attendant. Often, meeting the folks who hold your safety in their hands can make the plane seem like a friendlier environment and reassure you that that crew is knowledgeable and competent.
2. Tune in. Bring an MP3 player, phone or tablet stocked with soothing music to help get you into a peaceful frame of mind.
3. Remind yourself who’s in charge. Many fearful fliers are bothered by their perceived lack of control since they have no influence over the safety or performance of the aircraft. Try to regain a little control by reminding yourself that you made the decision to fly, and that you can decide how you respond to the experience.
4. Breathe. As anxiety increases, your breathing may get shallow — but deep breathing is an instant stress reliever. Breathe slowly and deeply for a count of 5 or 10.
5. Read or watch something fun. Pack a magazine or a good book to take your mind off what’s happening. Order up a comedy on your plane’s in-flight entertainment system, or pre-load a few of your favorite flicks onto your laptop.
6. Have a drink. Many frightened fliers turn to alcohol to calm their nerves. While this is fine in moderation, keep in mind that alcohol should not be combined with anti-anxiety medications. Also, alcohol can contribute to dehydration, particularly in the arid environment of an airplane; if you do treat yourself to a cocktail, be sure to follow it up with plenty of water.
7. Avoid caffeine. This and other stimulants can make you even more jittery.
8. Go with the flow. Turn on the air vents above your head as soon as you board; the flow of air will help you feel less claustrophobic.
My situation isn’t an unusual one; car rental deals can be notoriously hard to find, especially if you’re only searching in a few places. However, doing some more intensive comparison shopping can offer some of the greatest and most sensible savings available to the average traveler. Because brand and name recognition don’t matter too much when you’re renting a car — a Hyundai two-door is a Hyundai two-door, whether you rent it from Avis, Orbitz or Enterprise — it’s easy to keep your options open and increase your chances of getting a good deal.
If you’re willing to put in the time and research, it turns out that there are more hidden deals on rental cars than any other part of the travel experience. Take my New England rental: After my first unsuccessful searches, I kept at it, using some of the tactics below — and the effort paid off when I booked a reservation for $54 total. That’s about $13 a day, and cheaper for the whole trip than it looked like I might pay for the first day!
Clearly, there are some great deals out there. But how can you find them?
Major Booking Sites
While many of the options I will outline below have the potential to trump the big sites, the major booking sites — Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz — are still a good place to start your search. When appropriate, searching on “Flight and Car” together, or better yet “Flight and Hotel and Car,” will help you tap into the universe of vacation package and bundled discounts. These can be both compelling and competitively priced, especially with the added attraction of one-stop, time-efficient shopping.
Read on, however, and you’ll see that the big booking sites are probably best used to get a sense of the lay of the land. In my research for this article, I would estimate that nine times out of 10 I could find a slightly better deal on a rental car elsewhere. In some cases the savings were along the lines of about five bucks a day, which is not necessarily a deal breaker for the convenience of booking a car and being done with it — but if you’re seeing very high daily rates, as I did in several searches, it’s time to look elsewhere.
In past years, aggregator sites such as Kayak.com were mostly good for airline flights, and few travelers used them for much more than that. Times are changing. Aggregators like Kayak and CarRentals.com are probably the best place to figure out the range and location of the best car rental deals; the snapshot you can get of car rental rates is quite impressive.
A search on Kayak displays prices not only by rental company and airport, but by car class as well. And where you can toggle airlines and nearby airports and on and off when doing flight searches, you can do the same for car classes and rental companies for car rental searches. Kayak also lets you filter results by price range and options like automatic transmission and unlimited miles, and permits you to open up your search to include off-airport rental companies, where savings can be significant.
Discount Codes and Coupons
You may have noticed that most rental car reservation sites ask if you have a special discount code, but how many times have you used one? Where does one get these codes anyway? For starters, you can find some in our discount car rental deals, where we post new car rental deals every week. Additionally, Web sites with “secret discount codes” and online coupons have cropped up all over the place. Here are a few:
A simple Google search for “Avis promo code” or “Hertz discount code” can also yield productive results.
In my experience, ultimately you will most often get the best rate when booking directly from the car rental company Web site. Armed with price ranges and discount codes after checking the aggregators and coupon sites, a visit to the car rental’s own reservations Web site is well worth your time, as very few of your alternatives will consistently produce a lower price.
And when you do receive a rate quote, make sure you are not missing some of the hidden costs of car rentals, such as airport concession fees, sales tax, automatically applied insurance, and more; a recent study by Travelocity found that major U.S. airports tacked on an average of 25.8 percent of your total bill in local and state taxes.
So while a Hyundai may always be a Hyundai, no matter where you rent it, there is money to be saved by expanding your horizons when making car rental reservations — if you know where to look.
Whether you’re planning a honeymoon or looking to clock some time with your partner without the kids in tow, we’ve found ten of Mexico’s best adults-only resorts, from hyper-luxurious retreats where everyone dresses up for dinner, to fun-packed mega-resorts where no one dresses at all!
Wherever you’re heading, if you’re traveling during the holiday season, you need to realize that everyone else in the world is, too. But don’t let invasive security scanners, terrible drivers and long lines at airports get you down. We’re giving you tips to survive the holiday travel season without a Frosty the Snowman-size meltdown.
The overly friendly person next to you on the plane, the cancelled flights, the luggage that fell off in the middle of the highway? All of it will make for great stories over dinner when you finally make it to your destination. After all, holiday travel stress is just as much of a tradition as pumpkin pie and regifting.