Author Archives: Svetlana Guineva

Your College Move Just Got Easier: Get the Best Car Rental

The last summer days are quickly slipping away and fall is around the corner, which means it is time to get down to serious business, energized and refreshed after the long warm days and nights. Whether you are a freshman or an old dog, moving in your new dorm or shared flat in the beginning of the college year is an exciting but challenging experience. Every fall feels like the beginning of a new era – and it also involves a myriad of things to consider and, most importantly, to pay for.

Most college students, naturally, immediately fancy the idea of getting their own car because of the independence and comfort that it provides. This is high on the agenda, especially when you have to transport your belongings to your new home on or off the campus. Besides the actual move, there are many other administrative and logistical issues to settle, which might be overwhelming for young people who are just making their first serious steps in adult life. Thinking ahead, packing the right amount of luggage, organizing the details for the transportation – the process is a complicated one. In addition to all the other expenses involved in the start of a college life, investing in a vehicle might not be the thing you can afford instantly.

 

College campus
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Although the benefits of owning a car are clear, the hassles involved cannot be ignored. On top of actually buying the vehicle, you need to take care of various taxes and checks, as well as parking and maintenance. Yet, you need a car to make the move to your new home and new life. Even if you do own a car, it might be too small or too old for a challenge like this one. Thus, a quick solution to this financially and logistically daunting situation is a car rental – and your college move just became smoother. This option can be useful in general in your first days at college, as you can use the car rental to get your official papers organized at different institutions, run away for a weekend with your new mates, or give a hand to a friend who is facing the same moving challenge as you did.

Renting a car, however, can also be a complicated project, so you need to get the details right. There are car rental options that can really make your life easier. Some renting searches give you a multitude of options to look into, and you can choose between economy cars, SUVs, discount cars and other specifications. With an aggregated search engine, you get the results from various car rental agencies. This means that a preliminary selection is already made for you – so you just need to pick the best from the best, in consideration of your needs and financial situation. You might even have the luck to get a weekly car rental discount or deal – just keep your eyes and ears open.

8 FAQs When Renting a Car

 

Renting a car should be a no brainer. Yet, how many times have you returned the rental at a different location, after getting carried away by the pleasant emotion of a fleeting vacation; or a stressful business trip; or just because it was most convenient?

Or forgot to fill up the tank upon return and had to pay a hefty price? Or got in an accident with the rental car and did not know what to do about it; or let your boyfriend/girlfriend drive without having listed them as a second driver, and when the fender-bender happened your insurance raised hell?

Well, nobody is insured against such misdeeds. The bottom line, though, is to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of the rental company. Most of the time companies keep rules pretty straightforward, but do not assume – contact them with any questions you may have.

Check out this compilation of frequently asked questions. Be aware that the list does not end here.

Will you check my driving record?

Well, yes. Most companies would contact the issuing Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and if they are not impressed with your driving history, they may deny you rental. You better not have any convictions of reckless driving or DUI in the past 4 years; two or three accidents within the last 36 months, or leaving the scene of an accident, to name a few unacceptable activities. Above all, make sure your license has not expired.

Do I need to pay a deposit?

Most likely. The deposit will vary depending on the in-house rules, type of car or the type of payment.

Håkan Dahlström / Foter / CC BY

 

Can somebody else drive the car I am renting?

In most cases, yes. The same license validity check applies, and sometimes there is an age requirement. You have to add the second driver when you go to pick up your car. He or she has to be present, and be ready to show the required credentials. In some states you may have to pay between $3 and $65 a day for your co-pilot; in others it’s free.

Will I be charged late-return fees?

Vehicles are rented on a daily 24-hour basis. Many companies allow you a grace period after the set return time, so you do not need to pay extra. Other companies will charge you a full day if you are late by one-and-a-half hours. Some will impose a flat fee for any delay and charge you daily. The best thing to do is check beforehand, but even better – try not to be late.

Can I change the return location?

You signed a rental agreement where you indicated the drop-off location. Most companies would have no problem with that, but you still need to notify them in advance.

What should I do in case of a car accident?

TimothyJ / Foter / CC BY

 

Companies certainly do not want to think of a such possibility on the road, but life happens.
Nevertheless, you need to be prepared and, before you sign, check what are the regulations, because they may differ depending on the size and location of the rent-a-car company. Act as you would in any other similar situation – call 911, fill out an accident report form and call the company for instructions what to do next. Do not panic, accidents happen even to the most experienced and careful drivers.

Do you permit pets in the car?

Raymond Larose / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Certainly. Pets can travel in the rental just as they do in your own car. Most companies would not ask for a deposit of some kind, but in case of a damage or an accident that requires special cleaning of the interior, you would be expected to cover the expenses.

Can I smoke in the rental car?

Nowadays, many companies have a pretty stringent non-smoking policy. In some instances, customers will be asked to pay an additional fee if the car smells of smoke. Some of the company’s agents may inspect the car for evidence of smoking – lingering odor, ash smeared on the upholstery or the floor; cigarettes or cigar butts; burns, etc. If a violation of the non-smoking policy is detected, the customer may be charged up to $250, or more.

 

 

Colorado: Journey in the heart of the Rockies

The long Labor Day weekend is a breather to many. What a difference an extra day off makes!

If you haven’t planned anything, do not despair. One of the many possibilities to get out of town and explore what this country has to offer is to go to the Rocky Mountains. Get a rental car in Denver and start your trip from the Mile High City.

You can take a stroll through downtown Denver and absorb the spirit of this former mining town, established in 1858. One of the most impressive buildings you can come across is the Denver Art Museum. The beginnings of the museum can be traced back to the end of the 19th century. It boasts a great collection of American Indian Art along with close to 70,000 other artifacts crossing through time and countries around the world.

Scorpions and Centaurs / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

In 2006, two new museums opened to the utmost delight of both Denverites and visitors. A true architectural gem, the Frederic C. Hamilton building holds the Modern and Contemporary art collection in addition to Ocean Art. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the construction consists of 20 sloping planes covered in titanium shingles. None of those planes is parallel or perpendicular to another. The titanium nicely reflects the brightness of the ever-shining Colorado sun and is a beautiful sight.

The Molly Brown House

This historic house is one of the most visited landmarks in Denver. It tells the story of one Margaret “Molly” Tobin Brown whose educated mind and brave heart became a legend across the nation. Born to Irish immigrants in Hannibal, Missouri, as a young woman Margaret moved to Leadville, Colorado, where she arrived with her brother in search of a better life. After a short courtship, she married a mining engineer with great ideas, but no fortune. As fate would have it, though, her husband soon made a gold discovery in the mine where he worked as a superintendent. The owners of the mine rewarded the Browns with significant shares of their company and the family soon accumulated great wealth. They purchased the house on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1894. Enabled by her fortune, Margaret engaged in philanthropy, especially helping poor, homeless children. She was strongly committed to social reforms and worked tirelessly for the establishment of a national juvenile court system.

Molly Brown is also famous for surviving the Titanic catastrophe in 1912 and for all the comfort she selflessly provided to other survivors in its aftermath.

ed and eddie / Foter / CC BY-SA

The family house today is turned into a museum that welcomes about 50,000 visitors every year. Back in its day, it was equipped with many quite advanced – for the time – features such as electricity, indoor plumbing, telephone lines and steam heat. Its lavish decoration reflects the fashionable European tastes of the time. Visitors can also see the variety of art objects Molly brought home from her travels.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

cobalt123 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

There are many great small ski towns and national parks whose peace and quiet you can enjoy in Colorado. But if you want to see something unique, head for the Great Sand Dunes. The view is not only spectacular, it is magical. The dunes have that outlandish quality, looking like a sand sea, surrounded by towering peaks. The park is located in the Saint Luis Valley. Scientists have determined that the formation of the dunes started around 440,000 years ago. Rising about 750 feet above the floor of the valley, the dunes are the tallest in North America. You can do some hiking or dune sledding. The park, however, is not a desert, even though it looks like one. Favorite tourist wet places are the Medano Creek and Zapata Falls, which can be accessed only through a hike in a small cave.

Mesa Verde National Park

Ken Lund / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

Mesa Verde, which means “green table” in Spanish, is an exciting archaeological site. It offers a peek into the life of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there between 600 and 1300 AD. The 600 cliff dwellings are very well preserved, so you can explore them further by getting inside. Since there are no doors, the only access you have is through the roof where you can use a ladder to enter. The small windows filter little light but, despite that, there is an overwhelming feeling of guarded security and safety. Perhaps the Pueblo people were trying to ward off belligerent tribes and intruders. Take a look at the masterfully crafted pottery and other objects of historical and archaeological value. Mesa Verde is among the most preserved sites of its kind in America.

6 Blunders to Avoid When Renting a Car

Not getting the right information about the possible pitfalls when renting a car could hurt you in two major ways: you end up paying more than budgeted and put a bitter end to an otherwise perfect trip.

Renting a car should be a pretty straightforward activity, yet so many people fall into traps through their own ignorance. Most of the time we guess, presuppose and fail to read the small print. Thus we never bother to ask the company’s representative simple questions because we think we know all the answers. Later on though, such an attitude turns out to be quite costly. Consider the following tips:

Should I rent a car at the airport?

Andrew | MotoGL.com / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

In most cases, it is cheaper to rent a car at an off-airport location. It is not a secret that many states and municipalities impose higher taxes and user fees on airport rentals that would make you pay more. What you can do is use the airport shuttle, your hotel shuttle or some kind of public transportation to get to the city and find an office of your chosen rent-a-car company there. On your way back to the airport, however, you can use the airport as a drop-off location and get there with the rented car instead of a taxi. It will save you some money.

Insurance Matters

timtak / Foter / CC BY

It is the most natural thing for a rental car representative to try to sell you insurance at any cost. To be on the safe side, check whether your car insurance covers rentals. If you possess Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit cards, you should be insured against all possible road accidents while driving a rental. So don’t pay twice, just check your coverage beforehand.

Preexisting Damage

Most of the time it is fair to assume that small and big businesses would play it nice and square, and they do. But sometimes, when they misjudge you for a rookie, or see that you are one, they may try to rip you off. Thoroughly inspect the offered car before you sign the paperwork. Some customers even take pictures, so upon return, if the rental company tries to falsely accuse them of causing any visible damages, they can show the pictures as proof. Let’s hope it never comes to that, but it’s not an impossible scenario.

Gas Issues

Usually, when you rent a car, you get it with the tank filled to the brim. Therefore, you are expected to return it the same way. Quite often though, still reliving the pleasant emotions from the trip or stressing out over something, we forget. If you forget, the rental company may charge you between $7.50 – $11 per gallon. Nowadays, you can take advantage of another option that some companies offer: prepaid gasoline. You pay for a full tank up front, and try to bring the car back with the tank as empty as possible. Prices of prepaid gasoline are even lower than pump prices. But here comes the tiny hiccup – if you return the car with a gallon or two in the tank, you could be charged for breach of the agreement to return it full and end up being overcharged again. Make a mental note on where the reasonable prices near the airport are, or compare prices on the Internet: GasBuddy.com or GasPriceWatch.com.

futureatlas.com / Foter / CC BY

 

Potential Extra Charges

This is like a category for “miscellaneous mistakes”. You should be proactive and ask if there are any additional charges if: a) you cross the border of another state and it is not allowed per your contract with the rental company; b) you put some unregulated extra miles on the car, and that goes against a clause in the contract; c) you returned the rental at the wrong location than the one indicated initially.

Ultimately, don’t be late. Some companies may charge you an extra day even if you are late a couple of hours. It is not correct on their part, for they should prorate and charge you accordingly. Stay alert on that one.

The +1 Driver Rule

It is advisable that you let the rental company know in advance if you are not going to be the only driver of the rented car. This could save you a splitting headache in the long run. If you got into an accident and your co-pilot was driving without being listed in the lease, you will have a great problem with your insurance company. Some companies charge a little something for the +1 driver, others – do not. Make sure you ask in advance.

Ghost towns from a dream machine

Summer is slipping through our fingers but this is a trip that you can embark on at any time of the year – explore the wild American West. It breathes the air of old times drenched in whiskey, lust for gold and money, bloody violence and awesome ill repute. And much of it IS haunted.

Dennis Larson / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Many ghost towns stand as silent witnesses to that era when America was trying to get rich quickly.

Catapult yourself back to the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, and get immersed in a long lost spirit. Fly in to Arizona; it is a good starting point. Then rent a car and cruise to some of the neighboring states. Indulge. Get the wheels you have always wanted to test – a luxurious SUV, or something more elegant; or better yet – a convertible BMW hooligan.

Make your first stop at Vulture Mine City, Arizona. This settlement sprang to life when a prospector named Henry Wickenburg arrived in New York from Prussia in 1847. He went to San Francisco but one time, during his travels to the “interior,” he noticed a quartz ledge not too far from the camp where he was staying in Arizona. Later he returned alone, and gradually began to work the mine.

Vulture Mine turned into the most important gold mine in Arizona, and would eventually spark the development of the city of Phoenix. But back then it wasn’t all golden nuggets and heavenly bliss, for the city did manage to live up to its eerie name. Today, a testament to the brutal violence there is an ironwood tree. It is said that, over time, 18 men were hanged on it for murder and rape or even stealing high-grade ore. The names of the men and their crimes are hardly remembered today because nobody kept a record. Yet witnesses have reported ghost sightings and strange knockings as proof that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

Goldfield, Nevada

Dubbed “one of the seven portals to the Other side,” Goldfield was founded in 1902. In only six short years, its population exploded to 20 000 people and produced $11 million in gold. “Money was flowing like wine,” wrote one of the notorious Earp brothers who lived there briefly. So was blood.

Today, two of the early buildings are well preserved – the local high school and the Goldfield Hotel at Crook Avenue. It is said that the hotel is filled with ghosts. Legend has it that its owner, George Wingfield, frequented a prostitute called Elizabeth. She became pregnant and claimed that the child was his. When her pregnancy began to show, Wingfield worried that a possible scandal could affect his business affairs. Allegedly, he tied Elizabeth to a radiator in room 109; after she gave birth, Wingfield murdered her and threw the baby in a mine shaft.

On the brighter side, the Goldfield had the longest bar in the history of American mining towns for whatever that’s worth.

odonata98 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Frisco, Utah

And here you have it – the Wild Wild West at its finest. The story of Frisco started in 1875 with lots of silver. Yet somehow, the town’s fabulous past is widely associated with ramblers, gamblers, gunners and tramps. Records show that at some point the dusty streets were so littered with corpses that city officials had a wagon collect them in the morning. The solution came in the face of a tough marshal who had no intention of building a jail or making any arrests for that matter. He just gave the outlaws two options – either flee or die. He reportedly killed six people on his first night in town. After that shooting spree, things in Frisco seemed to cool down.

Tony Frates / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

Bodie, California

People say this old mining town is cursed. Its history began in 1859 with a great promise of abundant gold supplies. Its development was so rapid that in no time the town boasted a Wells Fargo Bank, four fire brigades, several daily newspapers, a railroad and even a jail. About 65 bars along Main Street encouraged midnight brawls and shootouts. Bodie even had its own Chinatown. However, by 1880, most of its inhabitants were lured by other prospects and many began to leave. The population declined.

By 1915, Bodie was already labeled a “ghost town.” Homes, churches and other once important buildings were deserted. Most of the furniture was left exactly where townspeople had left it more than a century ago. Rumor has it that if a visitor is ever tempted to take something from Bodie, he or she quickly return it once they find that the object is cursed. Stuff such as old bottles, rusty nails and parts of a clock have found their way back. They belong to the past.