I’m really excited to publish the second post in the Ultimate Family Road Trip series! Today’s post is about renting a car. If you are planning a road trip in your home country, and you own a car, you obviously do not need to rent one. But if you are going to another country and plan on taking a road trip while there, you will need to rent a car.
But before we get ahead of ourselves you might be asking, “Kristin, why would I fly to a different country and then go on a road trip?” One of the best ways to see a different country (or a least a few cities in it) is to drive. There are places you simply cannot go by public transportation. You get to interact with locals in a different way than you would in the big city center, and you are more likely to see the hidden treasures that are the essence of the place you are at, that most tourists often miss out on.
Remember that driving in another country often has other costs than you would expect (check out the first post in this series: planning). And even if you don’t see a toll both, that does not mean you don’t have to pay. A lot of countries have vignettes that you have to buy to stick on the inside of your windshield. So make sure that you do your research! The last thing you want on your family road trip is to get pulled over and slapped with a 300 euro fine. Or even worse, you could get home and find out after you get home that the rental car agency was mailed a ticket from you getting caught on a speeding camera. Make sure you pay attention to the speed limit.
The same concept applies to renting a car as to the rest of your road trip: Research, research, research! A lot of rental car companies now have websites that you can look at to get an idea of what their prices will be. Don’t feel bad shopping around. You want to get the best price you possibly can. Remember when you are looking that a lot of sites have general prices for classes of cars. The class of car has to do with the type of car (ie. luxury vs. standard) and the size of the car (how many passengers can it hold?). If you want to secure a specific car instead of picking a class and taking whatever is available, you should call. Most agencies will have someone, somewhere that speaks English. “Do you speak English?” should definitely be one of the first phrases you learn if you are going to a non-English speaking country.
I also recommend that you get the insurance. Some credit cards do include insurance if you use the card to pay for the car, such as American Express. You may have an insurance policy at home that covers rental cars, but do they cover international cars driven in other countries? If you aren’t sure or the answer is no, opt to pay extra for the insurance. Better safe than sorry!
Get an international drivers permit. The main places to get one of those would be AAA (Automobile Club), or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. Make sure you go with one of these, because there are people that sell fake IDPs. What is an international drivers permit? It is simply a booklet with driving treaty agreements written in various languages that remind the people in your destination country that their country agreed to let people from your home country drive in their country, and there is the treaty number to prove it. You will need a passport picture in order to get your booklet. My favorite place to get passport pictures taken is Costco because they are the least expensive. You can also make your own passport photos. Find a white wall, and use http://www.idphoto4you.com/ Print on some photo paper and you saved yourself around $9.
When you are estimating fuel costs, remember that in other countries gas may be measured in liters, not gallons, and that currency exchange rates fluctuate. Always overestimate, so you don’t go over budget. One site I have seen people use frequently is http://michelinontheroad.ca/OnTheRoad/ … it is free and it takes your car year and make into consideration.
I hope these tips point you in the right direction, and if you have any questions… leave a comment and I will get back to you 🙂