If you’re going on a road trip, usually you take your own car, but what about the times when your road trip is in another part of the country or another country altogether? Mark and I take road trips in many places, but sometimes we have to fly to get there first. So a lot of the times we end up renting a car.
Renting a car when you travel isn’t always the first choice, depending on your destination. Sometimes riding the train, the subway, the bus, or just walking is more preferred. But there are times when renting a car might be a better choice depending on where you go. Renting a car can be a good idea even if for only a day in order to see something you wouldn’t otherwise. Here are a few reasons why you might want to rent a car when you travel.
1. Flexibility and owning control. You’re in control of literally everything if you rent a car. You won’t have to rely on bus and train timetables, and you won’t have to wait for taxis. You won’t have to worry about the tour bus leaving you while you’re on the toilet. You can sleep in! You can stay out late! You can be your own boss. You don’t have to rely on anyone else at all. You can be as spontaneous or as deliberate as you want. It’s all up to you! (Throughout our road trip in Oregon, we had a flexible plan on what we wanted to see and do – but since we had a car, we could change things up. We ended up needing the flexibility a lot, so we’re so glad we rented!)
2. Some destinations are only attainable by car. Because of this, you’ll be able to see much more while driving than by traveling in another way. And you won’t have to be mad about missing that one place that you really wanted to see because you didn’t have a car to get there! (We visit a lot of national parks, and most of these are only accessible by car. You definitely can’t walk from a city to a national park! And sometimes, even tour buses aren’t allowed in certain areas of the park. On our last trip to the Grand Canyon, buses weren’t allowed on a particular road, but our car could go wherever we wanted.)
3. Your pick of accommodations. You’ll have your pick of places to stay, rather than having to pick accommodations close to the airport, close to the train station, or close to the city center. This will make your trip cheaper, of course, because of all the options, but also make it easier to choose your accommodations based on your desires instead of what’s merely convenient.
4. Get everywhere faster. If you rent a car rather than taking a train, bus, or tour, typically you’ll get everywhere a whole lot faster. The benefit to this is that you’ll get to see more and do more because your time allotted for transportation will lessen drastically. (When I lived in Hawaii, I took the bus everywhere. The ride from my bus stop to a nearby waterfall hike took 2 hours, even though it was only about 10 miles away, because of all the stops and having to rely on the timetable. But when Mark visited, we rented a car and drove to North Shore in less than 2 hours, getting to see several beaches, completing a waterfall hike, and even stopping for meals and to visit friends, all in one day.)
5. Road-side attractions. One of the best things about driving is getting to see fun, beautiful, or even weird things along the way. I love getting to stop just because I see something interesting. I would never be able to do that on a train or bus! (Without a car I would have never seen the Fremont Troll in Seattle or see the historic Hoover Dam. We love stopping at every viewpoint in a pretty area, or stopping after seeing billboard after billboard of the “largest ball of twine in America”.)
6. Food. You can stop as many times as you want and wherever you want to buy snacks or to eat a meal. You can also pack as much food as you want and not have to worry about having the space to keep it. (I mean, I just love having enough food to eat all the time, don’t you?! 🙂 We usually end up buying a disposable cooler to keep food fresh along the way.)
7. You do you. In a car, you don’t have to worry about anyone else. You don’t have to be polite and you can listen to your music as loud as you want. You can play a trivia game with your road buddies. Or listen to a book. You can just be yourself. And you can enjoy the alone time, because you’re likely traveling either to or from a place that’s packed with people. (If you’re like me, you need time to wind down from being with tons of people. I NEED my alone time.)
8. Pack heavy for a change. You can bring a huge suitcase and a purse or camera bag per person. You’ll have room to put a cooler in the car. Want to bring a pillow and blanket? Do it. (This is great when we go camping. Camping gear plus all of our clothes and food? Thank GOD we have a car to fit it all in.)
9. Driving a new car is fun. This is my husband’s addition to this post. When I asked him why it’s fun to rent a car while traveling, this was his answer, verbatim. Haha! I guess it’s true for some people, right? Is driving a new car fun for you?
Of course other modes of transportation are probably more reasonable depending on your destination. We took the rail around Europe most of the time, but when we wanted to explore the hills of Tuscany, we rented a car for the day. When we were in Orlando to visit Harry Potter World, there was no need for a car. But there was a free day on which we wanted to go to a beach (we were in Florida, after all). So we rented a car just for the day. We wouldn’t have been able to see the beach otherwise. It’s easy to get around on the bus in Hawaii, but sometimes you just want something faster in order to see and do more.
Renting a car is easier than you think, and can be cheap, even in a different country than your own. If you book early, know what you need, know what your insurance covers, follow the company’s rules and suggestions (like filling up the tank before you return), and compare rates, renting a car can even be cheaper than other options. Other countries might require a collateral (like cash) that they’ll give back when you return the car, as well as require a certain credit card for payment.
What are some reasons you have enjoyed renting a car when you travel?
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Photo by Sandy Horvath-Dori (with changes made) used under the creative commons license.