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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Frugal Travel Tip: Rental Cars

With the advent of travelocity and the like, it is supposed to be easy to save tons of money on travel. Just go on-line, compare and contrast, and bingo: you are a frugal traveler.

For us--and we travel a lot, owing to the locations of our surviving parents--it hasn't quite worked out that way. Mr. FS spends HOURS on line, watching prices go up and down (in no discernible pattern), changing dates a bit, and we end up spending...what we spend. All that work! No big savings on airfare.

However, it is worth checking and re-checking on car rentals. The prices change a lot. Unlike plane reservations, where you pay a big penalty for changing your dates, car rentals are no-penalty. You can change all you want.

Mr. FS has been quite morose because our car rental in Massachusetts was more than double what we usually pay. He first made a reservation in May: $549.91. He looked every few days, and then got a new reservation in June: $468.79.

Then he tried again. In the past, prices went up as the summer progressed. But this time, not. July: $234.66!

It's a bit cheaper at Dollar, but we are boycotting that company FOREVER, due to abysmal problems a few years ago. (Details on request.)

Question: did we save money or not? The price is what we are accustomed to paying, but it is $300 less than the first reservation. Whatever.

Do you have any good tips for frugal travel?

8 comments:

Funny about Money said...

Cheapest trip I took was three months in the outback of Alaska and Canada. We walked mostly. Rode the ferry up the inland passage to get there (that was the most expensive part of the trip, and it wasn't very). Rode the bus (once you get across the border into Canada, the Greyhound turns out to be a pretty pleasant way to travel...just stay away from it when you're south of the border). And hitch-hiked. We never rented a car (what???) and stayed in a motel all of three rainy days. Cost for the whole trip was a significantly less than a thousand bucks.

Shelley said...

I once travelled from Oklahoma City to Missouri via a Greyhound bus when I was 17. I can't recommend it as any other than an interesting experience on which to dine out...in certain company.

In some cities you can 'Rent a Wreck' or 'Drive a Dog', but whilst they aren't really as bad as they sound, they are only for local use.

There are networks for trading homes or sleeping in people's houses, but I think that's more of a teenager thing or someone with a lot more trust than I have!

I've only flown once or twice to visit family in the US; every other vacation in the US (other than the Greyhound experience) we drove our car across the country (Oklahoma is in the middle of nowhere so it's a long journey to anywhere else).

Not much help, I'm afraid. Good to know about the rental car though.

metscan said...

Travel as little as possible. Is there possibilities for your folks to come to your place?

Duchesse said...

metscan, your idea supposes that the parents are roadworthy. My mother stopped visiting us in in her mid-80s, and lived to 99.

Spend the money. One day you cannot, and even if the relationship is fraught, you can look back and know you gave them what they most desire, your presence.

Duchesse said...

I'm back, with an anecdote. Once, leaving my mother's in FL, the cabbie driving me to the airport turned around, nailed me with his gaze, and said, "When ya coming back?" "What?" I said, "I was just here."

"I drive them around", he said, referring not only to my parents, "And that's all I hear: when they're coming ,why they can't come, would they come if... You have no idea. They live for this, but they won't tell you."

Logan Leger said...

I recently traveled to DC, which I frequent because my uncle lives in the heart of the city. Free room and board — how's that for frugal? The only major expense for these vacations is the airfare. Because my plans were flexible, I booked both flights on Tuesdays, which are off travel days, and flew MSY - BWI, which saved me almost $200 over flying BTR - DCA on Airtran. Plus, it was a direct flight — no wasted time on a layover in Atlanta, the airport from hell. If I've learned anything from you, Frugal Scholar, it's that frugality is about more than just saving money. I think this was the most frugal I've ever been! And it felt great.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny--What a great adventure. I have an old friend in Alaska--must get back in touch....

@Shelley--It's hard to have Greyhound adventures when you get older..a good thing?

@metscan--As Duchesse says below--father-in-law hasn't traveled in years; my mother finds it difficult, plus has a great summer house. You are lucky to have family nearby.

@Duchesse--You are so right. We do try for frequent visits--we couldn't travel as much to family if we weren't teachers. My husband says we are providing role models for our kids--so maybe they will visit US.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Logan--Cultivate your relatives and friends who live in great places! Great story!