Money-Saving Travel Tips: How to Save on Rental Cars

winter_trafficAs the holiday season ramps up, so do highway traffic numbers.  Most of these drivers are heading somewhere for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s Eve, and quite a few of them are renting cars to reach those destinations.  (The holidays are typically one of the busiest rental-car periods of the year.)  If your holiday plans this year include car reservations, here are a few tips on how to save on rental cars:

Book early.  The law of supply and demand states that prices rise in response to high demand.  As the holidays near, the rental-car supply will dwindle.  Not only will you have fewer models to choose from, you’ll also pay more for the privilege.

Search for deals.  From online coupons to discount codes, from credit-card arrangements to corporate rates, you can find rental-car savings if you know where to look.  Be sure to compare and contrast rates and offers from every rental-car agency in your given area.

fineprintRead the fine print.  Just because a rental-car ad says “$20 per day” doesn’t mean you’ll only pay $20 a day.  Extra charges and hidden fees can turn what looked like the best available deal into one of the most expensive ones.

Book only what you need.  Larger vehicles may offer more space, but they cost more, too, not just in per-day rates but in fuel charges.  Smaller cars generally get better gas mileage, and they also have smaller tanks, which makes fill-ups more affordable.  Plus, compacts are one of the most popular choices, so they might all be taken by pick-up time, which could lead to a free upgrade.

Pay for your own gas.  Rental-car agencies are happy to fill the gas tank for you, a courtesy that doesn’t come cheaply:  Their per-gallon charges are typically much higher than the price you’d pay at the pump yourself.  Make sure that, when you return the rental car, the gas-gauge needle is in the exact same spot it was when you drove the car off the lot.

car_rental_signAvoid airport pick-ups.  Rates are usually less expensive if you pick up your rental car in town or at other locations that don’t ask you to pay “airport fees” or other convenience charges.

Skip the rental insurance if you can.  If you already own a car, your auto insurance policy probably covers rental cars, too; call your insurance company to confirm.  If you don’t have auto insurance, your credit card issuer may very well offer rental insurance when you use your card to pay for your rental car; again, call to confirm.  Only if you’re not covered elsewhere should you consider purchasing insurance from the rental-car company.

One final way to save on rental cars is to book yours through Travel Plus.  You’ll earn 5% cash back on your reservation, along with rebates on rental-car services, including equipment rentals, additional drivers, late returns, and more.  Wherever you’re going over the holidays, travel safely!

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Top U.S. Vacation Destinations in November

november_carThe vast majority of travel in November revolves around Thanksgiving trips and reunions of families and friends, so U.S. vacation destinations in November tend to cater to holiday celebrants.  If you’re looking for places to go and/or things to do that can energize your travel plans — including one destination that has nothing to do with Turkey Day but provides fun for the whole family — read on.

New York City.  november_nycMacy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, perhaps the most famous display of floats in the world, attracts 3 million people along the route and another 50 million who tune in to catch some of the broadcast.  If parades aren’t your idea of fun, New York in November also stages the ING New York City Marathon, the New York Comedy Festival, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, among other events.

NFL games on Thanksgiving Day.  This season’s slate of traditional Thanksgiving fare offers three exciting contests, whether you attend in person or watch on TV:

  • Green Bay at Detroit.  Save for the 1939-44 seasons, Detroit has held a holiday game every year since 1934.  This year, the Lions take on their NFC North foes, the Green Bay Packers, at Ford Field at 12:30 (Fox), in what could be a pivotal step in the division title race.
  • Oakland at Dallas.  Dallas, which has hosted a Thanksgiving game in all but two seasons since 1966, welcomes the Oakland Raiders to AT&T Stadium in the 4:30 game (CBS).  The Raiders may be playing for an AFC wild-card berth at best, but the Cowboys have a shot at winning the weak NFC East this season.
  • Pittsburgh at Baltimore.  The Steelers travel to Charm City to face the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in an AFC North matchup at 8:30 (NBC).  The Steelers have been struggling this season, and the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens aren’t overpowering many teams, but this has been the fiercest rivalry in the NFL over the last decade.

The Colorado Rockies.  Savvy skiers are eager to take advantage of the relatively sparse number of mountain-goers over Thanksgiving weekend.  From Aspen to Vail, from Breckenridge to Steamboat, and everywhere in between, skiers and snowboarders can shred the steep vertical drops at Colorado ski resorts in November while navigating smaller-than-usual crowds.

november_rockies

Union City, Tennessee.  Discovery Park of America, located three hours west of Nashville, is scheduled to open on November 1 and will likely become a popular attraction year-round.  It will feature simulations of the area’s 1811-12 earthquakes; an “interactive starship theatre”; a 20,000-gallon aquarium; a 48-foot model of the human body (including a slide in its leg); and a wide range of natural and historical artifacts across the 50-acre complex.

Regardless of your November vacation destination, you can earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations, along with rebates on travel perks, through Travel Plus.  Click here for additional tips on how to save on Thanksgiving travel, and let us know in Comments where you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this year.

Money-Saving Travel Tips: Home Rentals vs. Hotel Stays

beach-houseOne of the joys of vacationing is taking a break from your day-to-day routine.  Cooking, cleaning, even laundry chores are put on hold while you relax and enjoy the finer things in life.  However, those finer things often come at a premium price; daily maid service, for instance, is a built-in expense that drives up your overall hotel bill.  If you’re traveling on a budget and you’d rather spend your money on activities instead of accommodations, consider the benefits of renting a home vs. staying in a hotel:

While there can be advantages to hotel stays — prime locations, convenience, easy access to personal services — renting a home when you travel can help you stretch your travel budget.  (To stretch it even further, be sure to book your airline reservations through Travel Plus — you’ll earn 5% cash back!)  If you’ve ever rented a vacation home, please share your experiences with us in the Comments section.

August Vacation Destinations in the United States

grand_canyonIf you’re a hardcore summertime devotee, the start of August can test your “is the glass half-full or half-empty?” philosophy:  You still have a month of “official” summer to enjoy, but you only have one month of summer left.  However you look at it, if you haven’t taken a summer vacation yet, the clock is definitely ticking.  In the spirit of assistance, we hereby offer you a few choice August vacation destinations across the country:

marthas

Martha’s Vineyard

There are plenty of other great August vacation destinations across the United States; feel free to share your favorite spots in the Comments section.  Wherever you go, be sure you make your plans early enough to find accommodations, of course.  And be sure to book your travel through Travel Plus if you want to earn 5% cash back on reservations and enjoy cash-back rebates on airline, hotel, rental-car, and Wi-Fi services.  Enjoy your final “official” month of summer!