Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Families going on Vacation

We took our tax return this year and spent it on our first real family vacation. A good friend from high school and college lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a cousin lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. We went to Monticello, Jamestown, and Washington, D.C. I’m going to post several tips for families planning a trip.

We rented a minivan. Our 10 year old van has a few problems for such a long trip (Kansas to the East Coast – about 20 hours each way). We couldn’t get an affordable price locally, so we had to pick one up at the Kansas City International Airport. This was a few hours out of our way, but near the In-laws, so we could drop-off our van and not pay the airport fees, and they fed us lunch. TIP The best price we could get was through http://www.hotwire.com/. They sent us to Hertz. I’m not sure why Hertz didn’t give us the same or better deal themselves without the middleman, but there you have it. We will NEVER rent from Enterprise. They ripped off a friend of ours so badly, even the cynic I am, I was amazed. I don’t know if it was just the Joplin, MO store, or if it’s company wide, but they will NEVER get my business. I should blog about it sometime. If there was a chance Hotwire would send us to Enterprise, we wouldn’t use them either. One note about Hotwire, they only have locations in very large cities. More on the minivan later. It was great.

We planned on spending the night in Frankfort, Kentucky. That seemed about halfway. Daniel Boone’s grave is there. We booked for two adults and 4 children. When we got to the hotel (really a motel) there were only two beds in the room. So I had to go ask for a cot and get all that straightened out. The gal was very friendly and helpful, but she told me it was best to call the hotel directly to make reservations. This is good for two reasons. One, things are more likely to be done right, and two, the full amount goes to the local hotel and part of it is not siphoned off to some conglomerate somewhere else. TIP So search the internet to find the best price, then find the phone number of the local hotel that you want and talk to them directly.

Also, because I stay in hotels once a year or so for conferences, I am member of something called Trip Rewards. This is because, at one hotel, the person said “If you join today you can save 10% on your room.” So I said “OK,” figuring I would never use it again. It works at Days Inn, Ramada, Super 8, and several other hotels as well as airlines and travel things. I forgot about it for a while and probably could have used it when I flew for the first time in 20 years last year. As you use your membership, you add up points that you can eventually redeem for a free (romantic?) night stay in a hotel, free CDs, charitable donations, etc. It’s going to take us forever before we have enough points to amount to anything, but so what? It doesn’t cost anything to join, all I have to do is give my Trip Rewards number when making a reservation. I don’t think you can use Trip Rewards if you use Hotwire, so we couldn’t use it for the van rental.

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