Family travel: Tips for car rentals

Choosing a rental car (or not) can be an important part of the family vacation planning process. Here are five ideas to consider: 

1. Explore the options. Sure, you may be comfortable renting from the same name brand agencies. But if you are looking to save or get the best deal on a great car, be open to the options. Before you book, think through the specific transportation needs of your trip and where a car might fit into your list of spending priorities. Does your resort, hotel or tour operator offer a free shuttle service? Is train service available? Compare the cost of a car rental to what it might cost to use Uber, urban-bike sharing programs or walking throughout your trip. If you do choose to rent, know that you’ll pay the most when renting from big name brands, at the airport during peak times. Before you book, Google “cheap car rentals” in your destination and pursue those leads. Lesser-known brands may have a slightly older but still reliable fleet. Peruse local reviews for any red flags. Ask about extra charges for drivers under the age of 25, additional drivers and navigation systems.  


2. Coupons and discounts. Before making your final auto choice, search the internet for available discounts and coupon codes. Numerous sites will provide options for upgrades, percentage discounts that will not be promoted on rental car sites. Consider a less expensive weekly rate even if your travel plans do not extend seven days. Prepaying can result in hefty savings. Just be sure you can live with any cancellation penalties that may apply.  


3. Use your own resources. Are you a Costco member? Do you belong to AAA or AARP? Does your employer provide a corporate discount? Existing memberships, credit card perks and miles or discounts offered through frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs can provide savings for your car rental program. Check with your credit card company and your own insurance broker to gain a clear understanding of how and when you will be covered while driving a rental car. That way you can answer with confidence when the agent asks whether you would like to pay for additional coverage.  


4. Bring your own. Car and booster seat use dramatically reduces the risk of injury for children. If your child still requires this protection, it is best to bring your own gear to avoid extra charges, and to have confidence in the quality and availability of the safety seat. Don’t forget to bring your own phone chargers and directional apps if you are accustomed to using navigation software in your own vehicle.  


5. Consider Autoslash. This website will continuously track rates, search for coupon codes and put them to work lowering your rental car rate right up until the time of your car pickup. Be sure to monitor your Autoslash updates so you end up at the right counter to pick up your rental. Use the site to monitor a rate you’ve booked elsewhere. You can also book directly through Autoslash although their inventory of participating companies is limited.  



(Lynn O’Rourke Hayes ( is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via


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