Rental Cars: Patience, Smarts, and Snacks

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

If you're an experienced traveler, you may carry around some proverbial baggage when it comes to rental car experiences. Personally, I loathe rental companies. Everything about them. Of all the companies I've worked with in my career and life, rental companies are the least likely to negotiate or make exceptions, and other than a few notable encounters, they haven't been the most friendly when it comes to customer service. And, that goes for both in person and over the phone.

As a new traveler, it's easy to let hiccups derail your mood. Sure, you left the house excited about your trip and the adventures that await; but, hours later, you're tired, hangry, and waiting for your rental car in a line that seems to be moving at the speed of the sloth in Zootopia, while daylight is fading before your eyes. AH! I've been there. It's horrible.

Let's get in character

With more and more airports moving their rental centers further from the terminal, the walks are becoming harder to navigate and the shuttles have become a whole long thing on their own. By the time you get your luggage and walk to the shuttle pickup point, get settled along with everyone else, possibly make a few more stops along the way for others to hop on and even off (and don't forget the shuttles that stop at multiple companies along the way), it can be 30-45 minutes just to get from the curb to the rental car center. Then, you have to muscle your way to the luggage rack to grab your bag(s) before following the herd inside to line up for those coveted cars!

You can always tell who the seasoned travelers are when the shuttle pulls up to the rental car center, though. They're standing by the door of the shuttle with MAYBE 1 roll bag, having never sat down, and pop out of the shuttle and do a fast walk inside to ensure the best positions in line (I just attacked myself so hard).

If you happen to be just a walk away from the rental center, you have to haul your luggage, that never seems to want to roll nicely on the uneven concrete, in weather that is either too cold or hot for whatever outfit you chose for airplane comfort, and by the time you get there, along with everyone else, you're a sweaty, disheveled mess, which is only made better by the hour wait that you have to look forward to before signing off on your very own Mazda 3 for the low, low price of $700 for the next two days (ok, it's not THAT bad; but the point is made). And if you need to use the bathroom, forget it - there's no way you'll want to give up your "7th in line" position at this point!

If this has you shaking, we see you, it's so real! So, what do you do? There certainly are times when you are better off without a rental car; but what about the times when a vehicle really is needed? Especially now, with the rental car industry experiencing an unprecedented inventory issue and never before seen understaffing at the rental counter, we're all trying to find ways to minimize the pain! If this sounds like you, keep reading - we've got some tips for you!

Skip The Counter

Loyalty programs are about the easiest way to go, especially if you're a frequent traveler. Programs like Hertz Gold Plus Rewards allow you to simply get off the plane, find your name on their board, walk to the car class you rented, and pick what you want. You literally skip the counter and all the lines. Sounds amazing, right? It is!

Not interested in joining another program, or don't travel enough to take advantage of the full value? You're not out of luck yet!

Go Off-Airport

One of our very favorite travel hacks is renting "off airport." Some of it is personal preference and the amount of benefit can vary depending on the layout of the airport you're in; but, in general, renting from an off-airport location can cut down your overall wait time (not to mention to total price of your rental - off airport rates are generally more affordable).

When renting AT the airport, the rental counter lines ebb and flow as passengers arrive and leave. So, it stands that if you're getting off the plane and going to pickup a rental car - many others are also. That = lines!

Grabbing a $10 Uber for an 8 minute ride doesn't sound so bad when you will probably be picked up before the rental shuttle makes it around again. Once you're picked up, you'll be whisked straight away to a rental counter that isn't inundated with 12 other travelers who need the same service as you! Since stand alone agencies cater primarily to the community, they aren't having the same excessive understaffing issues as we are seeing at the airport right now. All of this adds up to less time waiting and more time exploring!

Added bonus? In many cases, Uber can drop you off closer to airport departures than the shuttle could, so you'll be able to get on with checking in and heading home faster too!

Parting Thoughts and Tips for Success

  1. Successful travel requires flexibility and patience. If you start your trip with a "go with the flow" attitude, you're going to enjoy the experience no matter what.

  2. Snacks are clutch. Every circumstance is harder when you're hangry. The good news is this is an easy fix. Travel with your own healthy snacks, or eat a little something and drink plenty of water when you have a layover. When something unexpected comes up (and it almost always does), you may not have a restaurant or Hudson News available and that banana you had at home 4 hours ago isn't going to cut it.

Have some of your own tips? We'd love to hear them! Happy Travels!

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