Free Hertz #1 Club Gold membership for Delta Skymiles members

Here is a simple bonus promotion for Delta Skymiles members – follow this link, and enter Delta Skymiles as the program name, and 5765 as the promotion code – and you’ll get instant free access to the Hertz #1 Club Gold membership. Of course, if you are not (yet) a Skymiles member, nothing is stopping you from heading over to Delta.com to sign up (also free).

The program normally costs $60/year, but that fee is waived for you. Sadly, the perks are limited to instant vehicle pickup and drop-off, but when you are in a hurry at the airport, every saved minute helps.

You’ll need to provide Hertz with a credit or debit card, and your drivers license number, and after your first rental as a Gold member, you’ll be able to bypass the desk and walk right up to your car. But best of all, you’ll get a nice shiny gold card for your wallet. A list of all Hertz #1 Club benefits can be found here.

Escape from New York: Five tips for leaving the city when flights fail you

New York is no stranger to tourist and business travel. We get lot of guests here, and eventually, their trips must come to an end. When the weather turns harsh, this can be problematic. Spring may be close, but March and April snowstorms happen, and there are always spring showers to make getting off the ground at JFK or LaGuardia a pure living hell. Whether you’re traveling in the northeast corridor or need to get to a different airport to get home, there are options.

I came face to face with this problem around six years ago. I was trying to get back to Boston, where I lived at the time. I was in New York every week on business and by Friday wanted nothing more than to get home. I stepped outside at 2 PM and saw snow accumulating on the street, even despite the city traffic. I checked Delta‘s website and saw that nothing had been canceled. So, I high-tailed out to LaGuardia hoping for the best. After a two-hour cab ride, I hit the Marine Air terminal only to find that the website wasn’t being kept up to date.

I needed some options and the thought of another two hours of taxi rides in a blizzard didn’t thrill me. Back in Manhattan, I figured I could pick up a train on Amtrak from Penn Station (which wound up working out). Along the way, I learned some tricks that can help anyone traveling the northeast or looking for an alternative airport when hope appears to be lost.1. Don’t fear public transportation
There’s no subway to LaGuardia, but there are buses. Catch the Q48 from the main airport or the Q47 from Marine Air (if you’re taking the Delta Shuttle). Get off at Roosevelt Ave in Queens, where the F or 7 train will get you back to Midtown. From there, it’s easy to hit Penn Station (New Jersey, Amtrak) Grand Central Station (Connecticut and New York) or the PATH train (if you want to try your luck at Newark). From JFK, you can catch the Skytrain to the subway, but brace yourself for a very long ride – the fastest I ever made it to Midtown was around an hour and a half.

2. Rental cars are risky
First, when flights aren’t taking off, there will be no shortage of people with the same idea. So, supply will be limited. Also, nasty weather makes for nightmarish driving conditions. You’ll be extremely unhappy behind the wheel, a situation that’s likely to be made worse by traffic. If you want to try driving, take public transportation out to the ‘burbs and use a rental agency out there (call first to make sure they can help you out).

3. . Be mindful of the other side
Getting out isn’t enough: you also have to think about where you’re going. If bad weather’s pounding New York, there’s a pretty good chance the situation in Philadelphia, Newark and Boston is also pretty ugly. If you’re having someone pick you up, call ahead. Arrange for a taxi or town car in advance. Definitely check the situation on the ground if you’re trying one of these airports instead. During my trek to Boston during the blizzard a few years ago, I called a local taxi service and asked to be picked up at South Station – and requested that they ask for my name before letting anyone into the cab. Sound arrogant? Well, it saved my ass. I saw the driver turn at least four people away as I pushed through the crowd, and I have no idea how many people tried before I got there.

4. Giving up may not be an option
Sometimes, it’s tempting to quit and just get a hotel room for a night (or a few, depending on how severe the storm is). Depending on what’s going on in the city, however, this may be a pricey alternative. As with rental cars, you won’t be the only person to think of this. Also, a busy night or weekend can cut available rooms down to nothing fast. If you are able to score some digs, you could wind up paying a fortune. If you do decide to stay in the city, hunt for the boutique hotels that y may never have noticed otherwise: they’re your best bet.

5. Draft your friends and family
During my escape from New York, I called my wife and asked her to book my train ticket for me. Handheld computing has come a long way since then, but it’s still inconvenient to hunt for alternatives on an iPhone or Blackberry. If you have someone who’s sitting in a warm office or home, hit him or her up for a hand. They’ll be able to find hotels or other travel arrangements easier than you will. By the time you get from the airport back into Manhattan, you may have a plan that only needs to be executed.

Eight rules for renting a car in a foreign country

Renting a car can be a great way to see a foreign country. Having your own wheels allows you the freedom to take your time, to stop for long lunches in the countryside, to turn down that little lane that looks interesting, and to go where public transportation won’t take you. But, renting a car comes with its own set of challenges and dangers. Here are eight road rules to remember when renting a car on your travels.

If you can’t drive a manual, now is not the time to learn.

Outside of the US, many, if not most, cars have manual transmissions. Finding an automatic rental can be difficult, and the cost will be significantly higher. You may be tempted to save money by taking the manual and if you’re fairly comfortable driving one, that’s fine. But if you’ve never driven one before, took a crash course just before your trip, or haven’t had to step on a clutch in over a decade, get the automatic. You’ll be concentrating hard enough on trying to figure out where to go, decipher all the crazy foreign road sides, and possibly drive on the “wrong” side of the road, that you really don’t want to add learning how to shift into the mix. And if you screw up the car’s transmission while you try to learn how to drive a manual, you could be held liable for the damage.



Always spring for the insurance.
$10-$20 a day for insurance can add up, and it’s easy to figure that, hey, nothing will go wrong, so why not skimp a little on the full coverage. Don’t do it (unless your credit card offers some coverage). On the off chance that something does happen, even if it isn’t your fault, you’ll be kicking yourself when you are stuck with a hefty bill. In some countries it is common to be offered an additional coverage on your tires and windshield. If you’ll be driving on gravel roads, definitely take this option. It’s usually just a few bucks more over the course of your rental and well worth the cost.

Let your hosts know when to expect you.
When you head out for the day with your car, always let your hosts know where you expect to go and when you’ll most likely be back. If you are going from place to place, let the proprietors of your next accommodation know when you’ll be arriving and what route you will be taking. If you do get horribly lost or get stranded along the road, at least you’ll know that one person has noticed that you’ve gone missing and they will have somewhat of an idea of where to start looking for you.

Make sure you have a spare.
In the US, it’s easier to get help if you get a flat tire. Chances are you’ve got your cell phone on you and you may even be a AAA member, making it easy to arrange a tow. At the very least, you can call the rental company and ask for assistance. If you are traveling in another country without a cell, getting help is a bit more difficult. Always check to make sure your rental car has a spare tire, and before you set out on your trip, make sure you know how to change it.

Don’t forget a map.
If you’ve got the cash and the option is available, get the GPS, but also bring a hard copy map with you as well. As we’ve seen, sometimes there’s no substitute for an actual old-fashioned paper map. If GPS isn’t an option, don’t rely on vague directions, be sure to pick up a comprehensive map in case you decide to wander a bit or in the event that the directions you were given turn out to be less than accurate.

Know the rules of the road.
Stop at stop signs, don’t speed, watch out for children and livestock. These are rules we know and which tend to be consistent across continents. Other rules of the road are more localized and often unwritten. Not following them may not get you a ticket, but they may not earn you any friends along the way either. Always research the road culture in a place you will be driving and learn customs that are followed there. For instance, when I was driving in South Africa, I was glad my friends had told me that on two-lane roads I should move over to the far left so that faster drivers could pass me. Had I not known, I probably would have made some other drivers very angry as they tried to pass me while I drove in the middle of my lane.

Don’t make yourself a target.
If you are driving from place to place, you’ll be traveling with your luggage and you may have a GPS unit mounted on your window or a map spread across the backseat. All of this screams “I’m a tourist, come pillage the car!” Always put your luggage in the trunk and stow the GPS and maps in the glovebox. Lock your doors when you aren’t in the car and don’t give anyone a reason to break in.

Read the fine print.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with your rental company’s rules. Some don’t allow rentals with debit cards, and a few countries require than the driver have not just a driver’s license from their home country, but an international driving permit as well. If you’re told something different in person than what you’ve read, be sure to ask for clarification. A couple I talked to in South Africa thought they needed to sign a special form to take their rental out of the country, but the rental agent said it wasn’t necessary. When they hit a cow and totaled the car in Botswana, they were told that because they didn’t sign the form before crossing the border, they could be liable for the cost of the car – about $7000US! Always read the fine print and know the rental rules.

Hertz running out of cars in NYC

When the airports shut down, short-haul fliers turn to the rental car kiosks. They’re willing to brave dangerously slick streets to get home, causing a one-way drain for the lots. The rush of bad weather that cut through New York on December 19 and 20, 2009 left parking spaces empty and led to more than a bit of frustration, as Hertz was unable to deliver on rental reservations.

According to an e-mailed statement in Bloomberg News, Richard Broome, a spokesman for the company, said, “We have been moving in cars to Manhattan as fast as possible, but we are playing catch up.” He continued, “The unusually severe storm created a temporary fleet shortage.”

When 10 inches of snow were dropped on New York City, 1,600 flights were canceled. Over the past two years, Hertz has cut its rental car fleet, and it has fallen victim to the travel slump that’s raged around the world. Both factors put pressure on the company’s ability to fulfill. This quarter, however, it began to increase its fleet by 18 percent, because of an increase in demand it had already noted.

Drive a rental car to Florida for $1

I agree with Mike Barish’s recent post. Road trips do rock. I love grabbing some friends, jumping in the car, and blasting great music as we cruise down the highway or along back roads. If you love a good road trip…..and you happen to live in Texas or on the east coast……and you want to drive one-way to Florida…..and you just happen to plan on going before November 15, well then Thrifty Car Rental has a deal for you.

The car rental company is offering the rock-bottom-rate of $1 per day for renters willing to pick up the car at Houston Hobby, Houston International, Corpus Christi, Boston, Burlington, or Providence airports and drive it to one of nine airports in Florida before November 15.

Odds are that not many people will be able to take advantage of this offer, except perhaps some of the snowbirds, like my grandmother, who head south every winter. But if the circumstances are right for you, it is an awesome deal.

There are some additional restrictions though (yes even more than those above!). Availability is limited and you must make the transfer within seven days. Drive fast, grandma!
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