Rental Cars: The Secret to Successful Family Travel

Having a rental car gives you true freedom on your trip! Photo by P Smithy/flickr

Having a rental car  is essential for family travel! Photo by P Smithy/flickr

I recently came back from a 10-day trip to Europe in which I went to medieval towns, Mediterranean beaches, Alpine lake resorts and major cities — all with a two-and-a-half-year-old in tow. “How did you do that?” many people have asked me in complete wonderment. I could tell these inquisitive folks just about anything but I tell them the truth. “I rented a car,” I say. Having a rental car is the secret to successful family travel.

Now renting a car when you want to visit a lot of places might seem obvious, but some people think that they can rely on public transportation like trains, buses and taxis. Or that driving in a foreign country would be scary even if the roads are safer than they are back home. Or they have the mentality that once they arrive they just want to stay put, and even if they did want to go somewhere they couldn’t figure out how to get there.

My mantra for my last trip was that we could take one flight (no layovers) and then get right into our rental car at the airport. I knew that would be doable and successful with a small child. There was no room in my itinerary for attempting to take a squirming toddler and an excessive amount of luggage into any form of public transportation.

We don’t pack lightly when we travel because our foremost concern is that we want our toddler to be comfortable (under the premise that if the toddler isn’t happy then no one is happy). So on this most recent trip, we brought with us a travel crib, umbrella stroller, carseat, diaper bag, medium suitcase, large suitcase, DSLR camera with a zoom lens and a backpack. I have no idea how we got all of that into and out of the plane (and with no extra charges) but it was sweet relief once we were settled into our station wagon rental car. Throughout the trip, we packed it and unpacked it 10 different times because we stayed in five different places. A little nuts? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. And there was no way that we could have done it all without our rental car.

Next year when I finally get to go to Australia to visit my newly relocated friends (Australians who just returned Down Under after being in NYC for six years), I plan to check out Drivenow when renting a car on the Gold Coast. Our friends are Sydney residents but Brisbane natives, so I know we’ll spend at least some time on the Gold Coast beaches. Australia’s beaches are considered to be the best in the world, and I can’t wait to check out this Surfer’s Paradise for myself. I’m also excited to see the kangaroos and koalas. That is going to be one major road trip, dude. And I certainly don’t plan to pack lightly, because having everything you need for the kids is my other secret to successful family travel.


2 Responses to Rental Cars: The Secret to Successful Family Travel

  1. NicoleMN6 August 20, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    1) How did you deal with insurance for the rental car abroad?
    2) Did you focus on finding the best price or were you more concerned about using certain brands?
    3) Have you done any driving on the “wrong” side of the road? If not, would that impact your decision to rent a car vs. use cabs/trains etc.? (I recently traveled to a former British colony with my preschooler, and after a lot of trepidation, bit the bullet and rented a car. It worked out great after the initial 20 minutes of terror, but would have been MUCH easier with another adult along to help me navigate!)

    P.S. I think you can travel lighter, especially with hotels offering cribs/cots. Did you find that you really needed all that stuff?
    NicoleMN6 recently posted..Hello world 5

    • Liz Borod Wright
      August 23, 2013 at 4:26 am #

      1. We got the full insurance… Didn’t want to risk it.
      2. I always go for the best price within the major brands.
      3. I never do the driving, it’s all my husband. He did fine on the wrong side of the road in Scotland and England. I’m glad that the French know the correct way though.

      I’m happy that we brought the travel crib because we were moving around so much that it would have been stressful on my son to sleep in so many different cribs. This way, he always felt secure in his familiar crib. He seems to find the Bjorn Travel Light extremely comfortable, which is amazing because the mattress is very thin. He’s even happy to see his travel crib whenever I take it out for packing…

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