Enter to win jetBlue’s Jet and Drive Giveaway

I love a good travel contest, especially one that requires little effort to enter. So I’m excited about the jetBlue and Hertz Jet & Drive Giveaway, which runs now through through January 31, 2010. To enter, all you need to do is surf on over to the website, complete your free registration and then enter your email address. Easy, peasy.

For that minimal effort, you could win some pretty cool prizes, depending on the number of entries for the day. Yes, that’s right – the prizes will vary according to how many people have entered for the day, and you can enter every single day of the contest. If 2,500 people or less enter on a given day, the winner gets a $100 Hertz rental card. With 2,500 or more entries, the card’s value goes up to $250. But if 5,000 people enter, the lucky winner gets a $500 jetBlue gift card!

There will also be up to five grand prizes given away, one each time the total number of contest entries reaches another 50,000 milestone. The grand prize includes airfare to one of five destinations, Hertz rental car, and accommodations at a designated Starwood or Marriott hotel for two people. Destinations include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando and Aruba.

Rental car shortages in Europe may spoil your summer plans

How typical – the poor economy has forced rental car firms in Europe to scale back their operations, and to delay purchasing new vehicles. This was all fine and dandy during the low season, when their business was hurting, but now summer is on the way, they are in trouble.

European car rental firms are warning summer tourists that they need to reserve their desired vehicle as soon as possible, as they anticipate many large location running out of rentals.

The situation is apparently so messed up, that some European roadside assistance firms have started to transport second hand vehicles to countries where they expect their customers to break down. Normally, those customers would be told to rent a vehicle, but the expected shortage is going to ruin that plan.

So, if you are heading to Europe this summer, reserve as soon as possible, and if you can, call the rental location the day before you arrive to double check they will be able to honor your reservation. The last thing you want is to show up at the airport with all your bags, and not have any way to get to your hotel.

Budget Travel: Three steps to a cheaper car rental

Three main components go into any vacation package: Hotel, Airplane and Vehicle bookings. Once you can get around and have a place to sleep, activities and food can just fall into place as the days roll in.

Here at Gadling we’re covering all of the niches of vacation bookings in our Budget series. Earlier in the week was plane tickets. Later, will be hotel bookings. Today’s focus? Getting a good deal on your car rental.

It’s not as difficult as you think. The same booking engines (Kayak, Expedia etc.) used to find your bargain basement airplane tickets can be used to find cars as well. But with car rentals, the strategy is a bit different. Most of the time, airfare prices that are quoted from a search engine are fares that you’re stuck with until the bitter end. With car rentals, that’s the point from which you start.

From that marker, you optimize you booking in three ways:

  1. Join the club
  2. Get a coupon
  3. Be Flexible!

We’ll start with Joining the Club.
Like most hotel, airline and credit card brands, car rental companies will do anything they can to hook you into their product. By making you believe that you’re loved, you’re more likely to stick around, identify with them and feel better about yourself. Happiness is money.

National‘s Emerald program, for example, means absolutely nothing. Anyone off the street can join, get the card and walk to the Emerald Aisle when booking, it just takes time to follow the right links, sign up for service and fill in the forms.

Being a member, however, affords discounts. Coupon codes for Emerald members float around the internet freely, and by being in the “club” you’re entitled to these rates.

The same applies for basic membership in many other rental agencies — sign up for basic service and you’ll immediately see the benefit. Furthermore, you get the added bonus of getting through the line at the counter faster (or often bypassing it) and earning points, so it’s a win-win situation.

Get a Coupon

The internet is RIFE with coupon codes for car rentals. If you want a good place to start, check the repository at flyertalk.com, where coupons should be filed under each specific agency.

As a word of waning, remember that different policies and insurance coverage come with each contract code or coupon. You might get a great deal by renting under the Missouri Alligator Hunters contract ID, for example, but after you get into that fender bender, you also might find out that all insurance is waived. Just make sure you read the fine print and know what you’re getting yourself into.

That said, many a coupon code that we have found online have resulted in huge (40-50% discounts) over the rack search engine rate. Never, ever book without a coupon.

Be Flexible

Being flexible in pickup time, location and vehicle has its benefits, but some days, your favorite car company just doesn’t offer the best price on your itinerary. It’s difficult breaking free from your preferred carrier when you’ve worked so hard to earn that “granite status” that gets you the free windshield wash fluid, but you have to remember: most car rental agencies are charging you way too much to begin with. If they can’t offer a competitive rate, you can’t let their perks sway you. Join the competitor’s rewards program, do the research and book the cheapest fare. Hey, you might like the vehicle that you get to drive.


The nice thing about vehicle rentals is that getting a good deal is less time dependent than in working with airplane tickets. There is almost a higher supply than demand for cars, so usually a near term rental isn’t much more expensive than a reservation that you make three months out. Airplane seats, conversely, often sell out.

So take your time. Book your airplane tickets first, hotel second and spend a while shopping around for car rentals. Get the perfect convergence of membership rewards and coupon codes lined up, and you just might drive away with a bargain.

Hertz to launch entrance into car-sharing market

Car rental giant Hertz says it will enter the car-sharing market in a big way later this year.

A senior vice president at Hertz tells the Boston Globe that the company will unveil a new car-sharing program in several major U.S. cities, an effort, in part, to draw more business to Hertz’s 1,600 locations that are not at airports.

Hertz is not saying exactly when it will begin its car-sharing program, or just how fast it might grow to include so-called second tier cities like Boston and St. Louis. Also, it has not released rates.

The company has been testing rentals by the hour for some time now, the Globe says.

Hertz would be the first major car rental company to step up and attempt to cut into the market share of Zipcar, currently the car-sharing leader, with more than 200,000 members in 50 North American cities.

UHaul and Enterprise are also said to be contemplating entering the car-sharing market.

Notes from Portugal: Hertz Hurts

There are some things to plan when you travel and some things that are best left unplanned if you want to really experience a place.

I don’t usually reserve a hotel, unless I’m arriving at night. I can always find one, and the searching makes for more interesting travel.

However, if you need a car once your flight lands, securing a reservation ahead of time is definitely the way to go. That not to say you can’t ultimately find a car somewhere, for some price, if you look really hard. (If you’re really out of sorts, you can almost always find car rentals off-airport, from hotel car desks, or rentals from smaller, local companies, if you keep looking. But, it can take time and effort, some riding around on buses or taxis, and can eat into your holiday time.)

But what if you’ve done your car-rental homework and you still get screwed? Welcome to Madrid airport and welcome to Hertz.

We secured our auto rental several months ago, confirmed the reservation recently, and printed out all the paperwork off the internet. When we got to the rental desk, they told us: sorry, your reservation has been canceled. By whom, we asked. We don’t know, we were told, the reservations center canceled it. Why, we asked. We don’t know, we were told. Ok, what are we going to do about a car, we asked. Please can we see the manager. Your reservation was canceled. (You can see where this is going.) Sir, we’re heading to Portugal. Tonight. We’ve got a 7.5 hour drive…which we’ll need a car to accomplish.

No apologies, no assistance, no explanation, no cars. Nothing.

All other airport rental agencies said: ‘no cars.’ (A variation: ‘no cars without reservation.’ The distinction became important.)

But perseverance paid off: we found an internet kiosk near a bank of phones, logged into the internet, and found that Europcar still had cars. We pulled out the credit card, made the reservation on the kiosk, went back down one flight of stairs to the counter.

Ah, a sea change had occurred. Sure, your car is ready. Right outside. Right now. Have fun.

My new rule upon landing at an airport: keep an eye out for internet access and keep tabs on where it is. You might need it.

Oh, and avoid Hertz Rent-a-car. In Madrid, at least.