Easy like Sunday morning for today’s business travelers

You shudder when you hear that this year’s convention will be held in New Haven. How well you remember the last time you made the 4400 km round trip from Miami in December, 25 years ago.

You anticipated disaster from the beginning as you pondered all the complicated permutations. And for once you were right. You spent a whole day gnashing your teeth, wondering why your CEO chose such an out-of-the-way place. But then you found out that most of the bigwigs in your business are based in New York or Boston. So New Haven was a convenient mid-point. For THEM – not for you, of course!

You (well, actually, it was your secretary, Mavis) spent hours on the phone to flight companies, car hire firms and hotels, working out all the finer details. Mavis had to make 20 phone calls before she finalized anything. And then you had to tell her to start everything from scratch because the final cost broke the expense account ceiling.

bark / Foter / CC BY


Nightmare of 1988

This is nothing compared to the inconvenience of the trip itself. It was something out of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In fact, you suspect that the famous movie starring John Candy was somehow based on your own experience. When you arrived at the conference you were utterly exhausted. You didn’t even have a mobile to tell them you would be five hours late for your presentation!

You didn’t know who to sue first, the company that booked your flight but refused to reimburse you – even though your plane got diverted to Washington because JFK was snowbound. OR the rental company whose car heating system broke down when temperatures plummeted to minus 10. OR the hotel who didn’t realize they had inadvertently double-booked your room. In the end you decided to sue EVERYONE.

You opted out of several trips to New Haven for the convention since then, citing the most far-fetched excuses. But this year there’s no getting round it because YOU have to make THE keynote address. Oh, and you are now deputy CEO of the entire company.

Sweet dreams in 2013

Yup, that was life back in 1988. Fast forward a quarter of a century. You don’t know how lucky you are. You don’t need Mavis at all. And you certainly don’t have to make 20 calls to individual travel companies. All you need is a website that can multi-task – fix your hotel accommodation, flight and car hire, all at once by aggregating information from multiple online sources. A site that will tell you the best and lowest car rental rates for your needs and arrange everything for you as a complete package. A site that offers multiple search engines, including the main rental car search, but also more besides, providing a complete travel planning tool.

Now, that trip from Miami to New Haven. No, don’t start twitching! It really is easier. You can get the best rates, at travel times of your choosing, on one site by collecting information from various travel and commercial companies like Expedia and Priceline. This can be done within a few seconds. If, for example, the aggregator finds that the best deal is through Expedia, you often find you can follow this up with a special deal on a hotel.

The site gives you a detailed breakdown of the vehicles on offer – economy, compact, intermediate or SUV etc – and lists all the prices offered by car rental firms. It gives you detailed information on the daily rate and the gizmos in your hired vehicle. You can plan the entire trip within minutes and do it all on your own!

thetaxhaven / Foter / CC BY

Thanks to the all-in-one package planner, you get a detailed and economical itinerary breakdown – instead of the mental breakdown you had to endure when having to go through different companies in the past. And, when you’re done with the convention, you can book a nice winter getaway because you can also check vacations and cruises on the same site. See, life really did get easier!

 

 

 

Wine and dine in style in Temecula Valley

If California were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest wine producer. It is certainly the number one wine-producing region in the US, making 90 per cent of the country’s wine. Proof of its success is that a bottle of Californian wine – red or white ­– is no longer sniffed at disparagingly by top connoisseurs.

Movies like Sideways helped to make California even more feted as a wine-growing area. The film followed the flagging fortunes of two 40-something n’er-do-wells (Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church) who took a few days out of their disappointing lives to visit wine country. Who didn’t see the movie and want to take to the road?

Hot Rod Homepage / Foter / CC BY

 

Historic and nostalgic

Southern California has now acquired a reputation as an excellent wine-producing region, one to even rival the more famous Napa Valley to the north. The Temecula Valley, in particular, which has been growing grapes since the 1700s, has become very popular over the past decade.

The 35,000 acres of rolling hills of Temecula are a short drive away from San Diego, Orange County and Palm Springs. The valley is never really cold and – thanks to its proximity to the Pacific – benefits from cooling breezes in the summer. Its cool, condensation-filled early mornings and hot dry days create the perfect micro-climate for grape-growing.

Before we get on to the area’s magnificent wineries, we should point out that Temecula is also one of southern California’s most historic communities. The town has a museum that revives the feel of the Old West a century ago. The area is also known for its fine dining, weekly farmers’ markets, great golf courses, bustling shopping malls and antique shops as well as its year-round cultural calendar that includes many concerts and theatrical performances.

Temecula Valley is also ideal for hot air ballooning – a particularly enthralling way to experience the magnificent scenery. And, if you fancy a little fun after dark, then try the Pechanga Resort and Casino, the largest resort/casino in the western US with 10 restaurants, golf courses and 200,000 sq of gaming options. All these attractions, as well as the wonderful wineries we are about to explore, are available with a Temecula car rental.

ms4jah / Foter / CC BY-NC

 

Wine on the vine

Temecula Valley is now attracting top-notch chefs, great restaurants and boutique hotels. But the area is perhaps most famous for its grape. We will list several wineries – although all are recommended. The Leoness Cellars was primarily a citrus and avocado farm before it turned to wine. You are encouraged to walk right through the vineyards, to fully appreciate the agricultural experience. There’s a beautiful porch and tasting room as well as guided tours, wedding facilities and tasty weekend food. The most notable wine here is probably the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Villa de Amore / Foter / CC BY-NC

 

Nick Palumbo is a busy man. Not only is he father to four children, he has run one of the area’s most up-and-coming wineries – the Palumbo Family Vineyards – for the past eight years. Citing respect, not profit, as his key arbiter of success, his kick comes through mixing with legendary names in the wine business and finding that his own produce is now highly regarded. His 13 acres produce some particularly fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Sangiovese varietals.

Sustainable and green

California is becoming a world leader in sustainable viticulture, through technology like solar energy. Going green has been shown to benefit everyone – locals, employees and consumers as well as the region’s soil and water. One of the best role models is The Ponte Winery, a family-run vineyard spearheading the kind of sustainable practices that are proving popular state-wide. Theirs is the largest grape farm in Temecula, a place for great food, lavish events and particularly fine Cabernet and Merlot wines. Here, you can enjoy a meal prepared by chef Clay Blake who prides himself on producing locally sourced ingredients, complemented by a great vintage from winemaker Mark Schabel. Every tank of wine is individually climate-controlled; you are even encouraged to return your cork and empty bottle to get a discount on your next purchase.

We hope you enjoy the wonderful wineries of Temecula Valley and that you use a cheap car rental firm to explore the area.

 

 

 

Drive to the Dukes in Newport and Huntington Beach

Early autumn – with daytime highs still hitting the seventies – is a great time to hit the beach in southern California. The Pacific offers an endless expanse of wonderful coastline. Some of the wilder fringes to the north are too bracing at this time of year, such as the rugged coastline of Big Sur, but head below Los Angeles and you’re still in business. So let’s follow the sun…

nate2b / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Endless surf

Have you thought of taking a Huntington Beach car rental? With its eight-and-a-half mile sandy beach, it’s an ideal place to take a long walk or just hit the surf. By the beginning of autumn, it’s fairly quiet and the beach is still dream-like because construction is, thankfully, prohibited without consent.

Huntington Beach has four different beaches: Northwest, West, Southwest, and South. Northwest is Bolsa Chica State Beach (3.3 miles), the West consists of “The Cliffs” or “Dog Beach”, Southwest consists of everything north of the pier, operated by the City of Huntington Beach.

The long walk…to the end of the pier

The resort is home to the fifth longest municipal pier in California (1850 feet), one that celebrated its centenary in 2004. It’s strewn with souvenir and fishing stores. Walk to the end of the pier and reward yourself with a tasty burger, shake or fries at Ruby’s Diner which also offers great ocean views. The pier is wheelchair-friendly, has excellent lookout points and is a wonderful photo opportunity. Just bear in mind that skateboarding, pets and skating are not allowed.

Huntingdon Beach is best known for its surfing and the consistency of its waves. Why not visit the Surfing Hall of Fame where legends of the foam are celebrated? Perhaps the most famous was Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968), a Hawaiian surfer who was also a five-time Olympic medalist.

Tai Gray / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

Star- spotting

Feeling star-struck? Don’t go to Hollywood because you’re liable to find yourself staring at huge electronic gates and bougainvillea – unless you board a helicopter, that is! Why not visit nearby Newport Beach, hangout of many screen icons? Believe it or not, not all movie stars choose to live in Malibu or Beverly Hills.

Newport Beach is an upscale community with palatial homes lining the shore. Perhaps the city’s most famous resident was John Wayne (1907-1979). “The Duke” – as he was known to his legions of fans – lived in a house at the end of Bayshore Drive and apparently used to wave at the flotilla of passing boats from his terrace. He also owned a yacht – The Wild Goose – on which he would cruise around nearby Catalina Island.

You can get a good view of some stars’ homes by taking one of the local harbor tours. The bay, nestled between Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island, is lined with yachts and celebrity mansions. Recent famous residents of Newport include sex sirens Bo Derek and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Many homes have summer vacation rentals (during the peak summer period) or, alternatively, you can just rent a little cottage. If you really want to enjoy a stylish overnight stay, you could consider the Balboa Inn (pictured), where you almost have your foot in the water, or Doryman’s Newport Beach Hotel & Inn.

gcmenezes / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The beach itself is always abuzz with volleyball and water sports and boasts a nice boardwalk. If you’re bringing the kids, they will have a ball at the nearby Balboa Fun Zone where they can enjoy the Great Ferris wheel and the bunjee jumping. (And if they really haven’t had their fill of fun, you can always take them to nearby Knott’s Berry Farm where there are even more attractions!)

You can take the morning ferry ride to Catalina Island or charter your own boat if you like. And you can watch fishermen bringing in sea trout and crab at the famous Dory Fleet Fish Market every morning between 7am and 9am.

Southern California has so many wonderful beaches. All you need to enjoy the sites in Huntington or Newport is a cheap car rental. But don’t think this is a reason to avoid walking to the end of Huntington Pier. You can’t spend all your time behind the wheel no matter how good your car is!

 

 

Small is cool – why gas guzzlers are heading south

People without cars used to be viewed as pariahs – even in large American cities so, doubtless, even those without cars (perhaps those who cannot afford to buy one right now) may well look to find the best car rental rates.

The pitying looks directed at commuters in cities like Los Angeles testify to the fact that non-drivers are seen as an underclass. But signs are that Americans are emulating what can be called the London example. There, drivers are being discouraged through transport infrastructure, congestion charges, environmental awareness and some (albeit effective) “gimmicks” such as mayor Boris Johnson’s rent-a-bike scheme.

infomatique / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

Owning a car in a city like London is very expensive – that, of course, is part of the plan to deter people from using one! Greater use of public transport frees up the roads and delivers faster journey times. The difficulty in finding parking spaces and the sheer hassle of driving a car round a large city is also a major obstacle. Other European cities, like Rome and Paris, are famous for their traffic, one-way streets and excitable drivers. Cities in Eastern European countries – Sofia and Bucharest being examples – may have infrastructural problems that make driving dangerous.

danorbit. / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Obviously, however, there are cases when people need to use a car even if they don’t wish to own one on a permanent basis. The parents of – for example – three schoolchildren will need to drop them off at school. Try struggling with a large shopping trip with young children when you don’t have a car.

If there is a pattern, however, it’s that the “monster” vehicles driven by Americans are becoming unfashionable. These gas guzzlers are extremely difficult to park and monumentally environmentally-unfriendly. The smaller cars, especially the “smart” cars as they are called, are more malleable and consume less gas. Another demographic shift favoring small cars is the urbanization of America; more people are living in cities than in suburban/rural areas.

Here in Van Nuys / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

 

A love affair that is tapering off…

So the signs are that some Americans are scaling back their passion for cars. Driving was at its most popular in 2007. Since then, average annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has declined by 0.5%, while average annual population growth has been 0.8%.  Younger Americans, in particular, (aged 16 to 34), seem to be turning to other means to get around. In the first decade of the new millennium they cut their per capita VMT by 24%, opting to walk more or take public transport. So are people giving up on their cars? Or at least is their love affair with big cars really coming to an end? Perhaps it’s true to say that car ownership is no longer as obligatory as it was for those in big cities.

If you don’t want to run a car on a permanent basis, then renting a car often gives the opportunity to step up to a posher model, if only for a week or so. You just need to find a firm that offers you the best car rental rates.

Yet small cars – the ones that may not impress your fellow drivers – are not necessarily as impracticable as they seem. You are unlikely to find even a small car that cannot accommodate a strapping six-footer. The key question is bulk; you may run into problems only if a heavyweight driver sits next to a bulky passenger!

canonsnapper / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Smart at heart

For years, many people assumed that small cars were of inferior quality because of their vulnerability in case of an accident. Many car-makers shunned the production of small cars because of slender profits. Yet, since 2009, Detroit’s automakers, for example, have introduced small cars that were not just inexpensive but well-designed – with tech features like Bluetooth-enabled sound systems filtered down from pricier models. And while smaller cars per se may be less durable – particularly in the case of accidents – all cars are getting safer with each passing year.

Boosts in small-car sales have generally been short-lived in the past. This was because of a fall in gas prices. But it would seem that demographic changes, environmental concerns and the sheer convenience of driving a small car around American cities all mean that the shift is here to stay. So why not rent out a smaller car and watch the drivers of those huge elongated monstrosities look on enviously as you nab that tiny parking space!

 

 

 

 

 

The Bronx: A neighborhood reborn

New York is a great city to visit. It seems to have enjoyed a renaissance since the late 1980s onwards and, to be honest, a walk around New York now feels safer than a stroll in many parts of London. The Big Apple has always been a crowd-puller, of course, even in its darker days. People have always enjoyed THE great sites: Radio City, Times Square, Central Park, Broadway, the Empire State building and the Statue of Liberty.

kevin dooley / Foter / CC BY

But for a while, especially between the late 1960s and about 1980, the city had a rather seamy air. Movies picked up on this too. Take Midnight Cowboy, for example, the story of a naive Texas hustler who comes to New York and ends up in a freezing tenement. Or Death Wish, which seemed to depict the city as a den of sadistic, violent gangs. Both films seemed to indicate how quickly “the American dream” can turn into a nightmare.

When things were a little rougher…

As for the Bronx, just the mention of the name conjured up images of poverty, drug-filled alleyways, rocketing crime, spiraling unemployment and a powerless police department. Perhaps the area’s reputation reached its nadir around 1980. Around that time I remember seeing a Paul Newman movie called Fort Apache – the Bronx, which really played up the image of a neighborhood under siege. Inner city groups complained about the film. But it was simply reflecting the times, in particular the depressed mood after a spate of arson attacks committed by slum landlords eager to pick up insurance rather than attempt to refurbish or sell.

 

Inner city resurgence

Thankfully, it’s all in the past and the area has been transformed. Rejuvenation in the form of significant construction started in the 1980s and crime rates started to fall. The area also got a boost from the “Ten-Year Housing Plan” whereby community members worked to rebuild the social, economic and environmental infrastructure by creating affordable housing.

The reputation of New York as a whole also improved dramatically. Perhaps Mayor Giuliani played a part too with his policy of zero tolerance and better local policing. 911, although a horrific event, showed New Yorkers coming together in a show of unity that few other cities can match.

wallyg / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

And the Bronx has experienced substantial new building construction in the new millennium. Between 2002 and June 2007, 33,687 new units of housing were built or were under way, and $4.8 billion has been invested in new housing.

Attractions galore

The area also has a great many sites which a Bronx car rental will enable you to enjoy. The neighborhood is home to the New York Yankees, one of the leading baseball franchises. The original Yankee Stadium opened in 1923 on 161st Street and River Avenue, a year that saw the Yankees bring home their first of 27 World Series Championships. The stadium has seen some of baseball’s greatest players, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.

Other places well worth a visit include the Bronx Zoo, the largest in New York, and numerous off-Broadway theaters. There are also many great parks and open spaces, like Pelham Bay Park and Crotona Park. And, unlike Manhattan, for example, it’s easy to get a parking space and it’s also less congested.

Mark Morgan Trinidad A / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

The area also has an action-packed cultural program to entertain you in the fall. You could watch the Bronx River Upper River Run on Saturday September 14, between 9.30am and 1pm. If you have a child with special needs – and you are thinking of relocating to the city – you could try Finding Your Inner Sherlock – a reference to the famous London detective. This workshop will help you identify your child’s specific educational and emotional needs, and find the support you deserve. This event – on September 16 between 5.30pm and 7pm at 7 West Burnside Avenue, Bronx – will help you to find and access NYC services and programs to help your child reach their full potential.

All in all, the Bronx is now a great place to be. You just need to use a reliable car rental firm to get you there.

 

 

 

 

 

White House Down? Only in the movies…

 

The Big Apple may be the most vibrant city in the US – the city that never sleeps, the city where “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” – but, personally, I think Washington is a more beautiful city. Not only do you have, naturally enough, the White House (home to the most powerful leader in the world and, no, I don’t mean Vladimir Putin!) but you also have such monuments as the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and The Washington Monument. So choose the best Washington D.C. car rental and let’s start our tour of this great capital.

 

Justin in SD / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

I well remember my first trip to the east coast. I saw the Statue of Liberty and got all gooey about that. But it’s nothing compared to the White House and the other historic buildings of Washington, not to mention the magnificence of The National Air and Space Museum which took me a whole day to tour.

I visited Washington in 1987 when Ronald Reagan was besieged by the Iran Contra affair. Somehow seeing the White House in the flesh is different from seeing it on TV. Those grand speeches over the years suddenly echo in your mind. LBJ in 1968: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.” Or Richard Nixon’s farewell speech to the White House press corps in 1974. “Only when you have been in the deepest valley can you know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain. Always remember: Others may hate you. Those who hate you do not win unless you hate them. Then, you destroy yourself.

Perhaps the most awe inspiring monument is the Lincoln Memorial. Unlike The White House, you can get up close and personal.  The building contains a large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln and inscriptions of two well-known speeches by Lincoln – The Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. In fact, the memorial has been the site of many iconic addresses, most notably Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream” speech of August 28, 1963. A visit here on the 50th anniversary of the speech would be really appropriate.

The most poignant monument, however, one that really stops you in your tracks, is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Located to the north of the Lincoln Memorial, it is free to visit and open 24 hours a day. The memorial includes the names of more than 58,000 servicemen and women who died in the Vietnam Conflict, the event that divided America like no other and one that is carved forever on the country’ national consciousness. The memorial also includes “The Three Servicemen” statue and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Another place to pay your respects to the fallen is the Arlington National Cemetery, visited by more than four million people each year. Special graveside services and ceremonies commemorate veterans and historical figures. Among the famous people buried here are war heroes Lee Marvin (1924-1987) and Audie Murphy (1924-1971).

Washington is a beautiful city to look at any time of the year. In the spring it looks picture-postcard perfect thanks to the magnificent cherry blossom trees. Once the intense heat of the summer has evaporated, it’s a great time to explore. You can take a nice ride around Georgetown, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and one that served as a major port and commercial center during colonial times. Now it’s a vibrant community teeming with upscale shops, bars and restaurants.

terratrekking / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

If you’re a film fan, then this year’s AFI Latin America film festival, between September 19 and October 9 and just a short drive from downtown Washington, is for you. Highlights this year include: Viola, an Argentine spin on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; The Future (Il futuro), Chilean filmmaker Alicia Scherson’s adaptation of a novel by celebrated author Roberto Bolaño, set in Rome and starring blast from the past Dutch screen star Rutger Hauer. Remember him as the creepy psycho from The Hitcher? Then there’s The Dead Man and Being Happy (El Muerto y Ser Feliz), a road movie across the Argentine countryside.

 

Il Fatto Quotidiano / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

You can see the whole program here.

Any visit to Washington will provide you with some unforgettable memories. Just remember to use the best Washington car rental firm.

 

 

The dwarfes and the dinosaurs of California’s National Parks

 

It’s time to hit the road as the summer heat gives way to the gentle September sun and the leaves start to turn. We have selected four national parks in the Golden State that will leave you awestruck at the towering expanse of nature. We have also chosen Los Angeles as the starting point for your California car rental.

When you see the magnificent trees, waterfalls and scenery of these Californian treasures, you will come away rejuvenated, humbled and reinvigorated.

Redwood National Park

Crescent City, CA 95531

Redwood National Park – all 4 billion hectares of it – lies in the far northwest of California, home to some of the state’s wildest yet most enchanting terrain.

OK, it’s a bit of a trek if you have taken a Los Angeles car rental – at more than 1100 km away and a 10-hour drive from the airport – but you can always break up the journey and the drive is truly breathtaking. Just imagine you’re in an open top, dovetailing Highway One. You look down on the magnificent Pacific. At times you feel you are dipping into the ocean itself as you pass lagoons, secluded beaches and twisting turns that take you almost to the southern border of Oregon. It’s just you and the love of your life against the world!

The Park itself – as the name implies – houses several groves of massive Redwood trees. Some of them can live for 2000 years. They can grow to a height of up to 367 feet and measure up to 22 feet at the base of the trunk. The Redwoods are evergreens, blessed by heavy rains in the winter and thick fog in the summer.

Before it became a national protected park, 80 per cent of Redwoods in the vicinity had been destroyed. So the park has been a lifesaver. One of the Redwoods in the park was once believed to be the tallest in the world.  Now scientists say that the tallest is hidden away in the forest, its location kept secret to protect it.

The lush growth in the area has appeared in the movies Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Be sure to visit Fern Canyon, home to Elk Prairie, and the Roosevelt Elk, the largest of the four surviving subspecies of elk in North America. The whole area is also a pure heaven for hikers, birdwatchers and campers.

Redwood National Park

 

Joshua Tree National Park

74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277

Perhaps, if you’re coming out of LAX, you don’t fancy driving so far north. In that case you would do well to opt for three parks a bit closer to the airport. Let’s begin with the Joshua Tree National Park, a distance of just 237 kilometers, or a two-and-a-half-hour drive away.

The park’s name derives from the distinctive Joshua Tree, a tall-growing variety of the yucca genus that litters the area. Joshua Park encompasses nearly 800,000 acres of the Mojave – the hottest desert on the North American continent – and the Colorado Desert, two separate deserts that collide to produce a remarkable ecosystem.

The area within the park was once populated by ranchers, rustlers and gold prospectors. Top attractions include the decayed ruins at Wonderland Ranch, a huge rock resembling a human skull, and the Wall Street Mill – a preserved gold ore crushing mill featuring late-19th Century two-stamp mill machinery.

Don’t miss the Oasis of Mara, a desert-like oasis attracting birds rarely seen elsewhere, such as the energetic roadrunner, which travels up to 15 miles an hour. Climbers will also appreciate the rocks, some of which geologists claim were formed millions of years ago.

Joshua Tree National Park

 

 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Three Rivers, CA

Although technically they are two separate national parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon –357 km from LA, a distance of about four and a quarter hours – are thought of as one park. The combined area embraces 865,952 acres, mostly wilderness.

Sequoia is home to the largest tree in the world – the General Sherman – and, altogether, 5 of the 10 largest trees in the world. It’s only when you see people walking past these trees, like dwarves at the feet of dinosaurs, that you get an idea of their incredible size. Even the branches are like large trees. You’ll spot some bears too if you’re lucky!

Sequoia-National-Park-32

 

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Village, CA 95389

Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountain, 454 km from Los Angeles, a four-and-a-half-hour drive away, is renowned for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity. It’s also the home of the Grizzly Giant – 2700 years old – one of the oldest giant Sequoia in the world.

Climbers will appreciate the Half Dome Cables Section. Pit your will against the imposing North Face; all you need is a firm step, a propensity to look up rather than down, a determined mindset and fair weather! The park is also home to some of the most magnificent waterfalls, including Bridle Vale and Upper Yosemite Fall.

Yosemite National Park, California, USA - summer 2000 - Patrick Nouhailler  ©

 

We hope you enjoy your trips to the California National Parks and that you choose a company that offers you the lowest car rental rates!

 

Five fun sites in and around Phoenix

 

Thinking about a Phoenix car rental service? You’ll find some of the lowest car rental rates at Rentacarnow.

There are some great places to see in the sun-baked state of Arizona, including one or two sites that you won’t find in the guide books. We start and end with a couple of attractions that are essential for movie fans.

1. Jefferson Hotel – Phoenix

109 South Central, Phoenix, AZ

Everyone knows the class Hitchcock movie Psycho from 1960. But I guess your first thought would be the Bates motel, the creepy building where that nice, nervous Norman looked after his mother. But, if you remember, the opening shot of Psycho featured a panoramic shot of downtown Phoenix and then homed in on Janet Leigh and John Gavin enjoying a lunchtime tryst in a steamy hotel – the Jefferson.

It was a pivotal scene because it explained Marion’s (Leigh’s) motivations to steal $40,000 and drive to California before her doomed meeting with Bates.

Today, the Jefferson is no longer a hotel and is now called the Barrister Place Building. But, never mind, the building now houses the Phoenix police museum. Set in only one suite (Suite 100), the museum holds tons of pictures, facts/figures, memorabilia and antique finds like handcuffs from the 1880s, a one-room jail, a police motorcycle, and much more.

So in a sense – and excuse the pun – because Norman Bates was a taxidermist, you’re killing two birds with one stone by visiting this site!

 

2. Arizona Science Center

600 E Washington St  Phoenix, AZ

This is well worth a visit and, thankfully, just in time to celebrate a general free admission weekend over September 14-15.

This is a great place to find the answers to those life-altering questions you have always wanted to ask. Like, why do sidewalks have seams or why we get red-eye in photographs?

Permanent exhibits include one that enables you to learn how your body works and functions from the inside out! Walk through an enormous “working” stomach, complete with sights, sounds and smells of the digestive process. Explore the systems of the human body – from defense and immunity to cardio and pulmonary, digestive and skeletal. You can also hear your actual heartbeat as it is translated into sound on a bass drum. A truly great place for children – of all ages!

Heading to Arizona Science Center

 

3. Desert Botanical Gardens

1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ

Arizona is a great, endless arid state where giant cacti bestride the sun-baked desert and summer temperatures easily top 100 degrees in the shade. But the early autumn is a much more comfortable time to visit.

The Desert Botanical Garden is a 140 acres botanical garden, established in 1939, that showcases some of the state’s top vegetation. It now has more than 21,000 plants, one-third of which are native to the area, including 139 species which are rare, threatened or endangered.

Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden

 

4. Arizona Capitol Museum

1700 W Washington St  Phoenix, AZ

There’s no better way to learn about the history of Arizona, from territorial days and into the current century. Visit the first Governor’s Office, the original Congressional chamber and other great places. This museum lies in the government complex near downtown Phoenix. Nearby are memorials to various historical figures, individuals and organizations, as well as a 9/11 memorial.

Arizona Capitol Museum

 

5. Old Tucson

201 S Kinney Rd ,Tucson, AZ

In Old Tucson, just an hour-long drive from Phoenix, and 15 minutes from the city of Tucson itself at the base of the Tucson Mountains, is a preserved slice of Americana. Passing through the gates of a western frontier town, you find yourself in the center of streets right from those old cowboy movies. And, of course, it was a theme that resonated with the public because it was the setting for more than 300 movies and television productions filmed in the area since 1939.

John Wayne’s last collaboration with director Howard Hawks, Rio Lobo was, largely shot in old Tuscon. Lee Marvin, the great tough-guy actor, lived nearby and filmed several movies here, notably Monte Walsh – a gentle authentic Western with Jack Palance. An absolute must for movie-lovers!

We hope you enjoy all these wonderful sites! And the good news is that the best car rental rates are within easy reach.

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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.