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Surviving a Cancelled Flight 101: The Impromptu Rental Car Road Trip

October 29, 2012 at 2:29 PM | by | ()

Now that Hurricane Sandy is upon the East Coast and canceling flights in droves, we're dedicating today to using all our travel know-how (and some on-the-fly advice, as half the Jaunted team is stuck at airports as well) to help you ride out the storm despite delayed travel. Stay tuned and stay safe!

Obviously flying on the east coast is just not an option for the next couple days and many will make the executive decision to either attempt driving to get where they're going (hopefully still avoiding the brunt of the storm) or driving on an impromptu road trip to enjoy the few days of unforseen delay. Regardless, stuck travelers will be paying out for extra hotel nights, extra meals, extra everything but airline change fees (thank god for that), so save all you can on fuel prices when you do rent that car. Here's our tried and true tips for just that:

· If offered an upgrade from compact or economy to an SUV, decline or inquire about other options.
Oftentimes (twice recently to us), rental car agencies have sold through their economy or compact car options. As an apology move, they may try to upgrade you to an SUV. If you have a family or gear to tote, this could be a huge benefit. If not, your first thought should be fuel consumption and how much this supposedly free upgrade will end up costing you at the pump. Don't be afraid to tell the rental agent that you're watching your fuel consumption and would prefer a smaller or hybrid option, if available. This approach recently scored us an SUV with eco-driving system that relayed fuel consumption information to us directly on the dash.

· Choose the direct route.
Google driving directions is your friend (sorry, iOS6 peeps). With it, you can test a few routes to your destination and see estimated drive time as well as view the topology of the area. Skip the route with more mountains, more stop-and-go traffic, and of course more time. If that route is the scenic one you've got your heart set on, then only take it one way instead of round-trip.

· Avoid gassing up near downtown areas, airports and rental car hotspots
$4.73 for an unleaded gallon in downtown quickly can quickly became $4.40 on the way out of a city, which may then shoot down to $4.19 somewhere well down the road. Oftentimes you can't avoid filling up near prime spots, especially if you're renting from an agency that requires you to have a gas receipt from within 10 miles of their rental depot (ah hem Thrifty). The secret to getting around this is to top off at the cheapest place you find, then throw in a few dollars to re-top-off within 10 miles of the depot.

· Rent a manual transmission for improved fuel economy
First you've got to know how to drive a manual versus an automatic car, and double-check to make sure your rental agency has them available. This is no problem if you're renting in Europe, of course, but in America a manual trans is decidedly more scarce. A manual lets you control gears and, if you're doing it right, this will make your manual slightly more efficient than an automatic.

· Consider the rental agency's pre-fill option
This is best for one-way road trips that have you dropping off the car in a city center. Rental agencies will offer a pre-fill option that allows you to turn in your car completely empty and they'll handle the refueling. Ask for the total when you rent the car, and if it's within your budget, it's a solid option that relieves the stress of finding a cheap place at your destination, especially if you're in an unfamiliar city. A recent 3-day rental of our own would have had a $70 pre-fill price, but we declined because, after following all these tips, we only ended up spending $40 on gas ourselves.

· Rent a hybrid or electric car
Your best option is usually a Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, the itty-bitty Honda Insight, or the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV. Enterprise has a list of cities that offer electric cars for rent, and Hertz offers an entire "Green Collection" of eco-friendlier car options.

[Photo: Jaunted]

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