by Jennifer and Dave Marx, Authors of PassPorter Travel Guides
For 15 days, we depended on our rental car to carry us along Californias freeways, take us to the parks, and even get us up to Soledad Mountain for a stunning 360-degree view of San Diego. With this experience fresh in our minds, we wanted to pass along a few tips for those of you who decide to rent cars on your travels.
1. Money-Saving Tip! Try Hotwire when you're shopping for rental cars -- we found a great deal for our rental car through them! While Hotwire doesn't allow you to specify the rental car agency, it does use name-brand companies and you can get great deals. Thanks to Hotwire, we got a full-size rental car through Avis for just $21/day (inclusive) at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). If you do decide to go with Hotwire, keep in mind that all purchases are final.
2. Collision Damage Waiver insurance offered by the rental agencies is expensive. Before you leave home, check with your auto insurance and your credit card to see if they cover you, and if so, skip the rental agency's insurance. The Disney Visa card does offer this type of protection if you use the card to initiate and complete the entire rental transaction and decline the agency's insurance.
3. Theres sometimes little difference in price between smaller and larger-sized rental cars. Before you assume a sub-compact is all you can afford, check the cost of cars that can fit all your luggage in the trunk.
4. Bring a good map. Your rental car agency will probably give you a basic map, but you'll find it easier to get around with a good set of detailed road maps. Get them in advance from Amazon.com, AAA, or pick them up in the airport bookstore when you arrive. If you're going to Disneyland or elsewhere in California, we highly recommend the Thomas Guide California Road Atlas and Drivers Guide -- it's well-regarded by California drivers as THE road atlas to have in your car. Going to Florida? Try the American Map State Road Atlas for Florida.
5. Rental cars look alike. It seemed like everywhere we parked we saw identical silver Buick Le Sabres with the same U.S. flag decal in the window. Bring along a Disney antenna topper (available at the Disney Store) to put on your antenna and help you identify your car in the parking lot. Or you may try wrapping a bright orange ribbon around the top of your antenna!
6. Fuel up before you return your rental at the end of your trip. If you don't, you'll be charged an arm and a leg for refueling. It's easy to forget about this little detail.