Going on a family road trip with a rental car is certainly different from traveling with your own vehicle. You and your kids are accustomed to a certain way of travelling and to a certain degree of comfort which your own car offers. But putting your child in a rental car can change the whole dynamic drastically. There are many things you should consider before renting a car for your family, to ensure the maximum satisfaction of all members and a carefree trip for everyone. Here is a checklist of the 10 most important things to consider when renting a car for your family trip.
Do your research
The most important thing when renting a family car is to do your research in advance. Find out which rental car agencies offer the best deals by using an online comparison tool like Vehicle rent and if there are any ways to get a discount on your rental by registering, sharing an offer or adding a review.
Find a balance between convinience and price
Consider where you should rent your vehicle. The most convenient place is usually the airport, but renting a car there is also usually the most expensive and the best vehicles always sell out quickly, which means you might not get exactly what you wanted. Large rental companies usually offer the best deals, but smaller companies can offer more for your money. Some car hires that are located just off the airport can have a larger choice of vehicles and considerably lower prices, so do your research online before booking and check out the reviews.
Book in advance
Just as it is important to do adequate research beforehand, it is also very important to book your chosen vehicle at least 4 weeks in advance if possible. Booking in advance ensures you that you will get exactly what you need for the best price, instead of taking what you can get and overpaying for it at the last minute.
Choose the right type and size of car
The size of vehicle is extremely important when you’re traveling with your kids. Ensuring there’s enough space to comfortably seat everyone and to fit your entire luggage is the key to making the trip as carefree as possible. Most families of four to five people choose at least a medium sized car (if you don’t have a lot of luggage). The most popular choices are large sedans or station wagons, SUVs, minivans and passenger carriers (which allow you to fit more luggage). It is important to focus on the type of car that you want to get instead of a specific car, because it is not certain that you will get the exact model of car that you have booked, but you will definitely get one from the same category.
Think about boot space
Medium sized cars can seat four to five people, but there’s relatively little trunk space. If you’re traveling light, that might not be a problem, but if you have to fit a stroller and baby gear info the trunk, you should get a larger car.
Comfort is key
Make sure that your chosen vehicle type has adequate leg room and space to comfortably seat all your children (if you have two or more, an SUV or a minivan would be an optimal choice). Also consider renting a car with a lower window line in the back, so that your child can see out of the window easily, to prevent boredom and car sickness and make everyone’s drive a lot more fun.
Don’t compromise on safety
If your child still needs a child seat or a booster seat (if they’re under 12 years old or the seat belt does not fit them properly), either rent one along with your vehicle or bring your own along. The second is a better choice to avoid extra fees, lack of availability and defective seats, but if you don’t have an option of bringing your own, you should reserve one along with your booking. Or check out our review of the Trunki rucksack-style BoostaPak seat. Before driving off with your rental, always do a physical inspection of the vehicle to ensure everything is working properly and ask about the last maintenance check on the car.
Think about who will be driving
Depending on who will be driving the car, you need to specify the number of drivers and get the appropriate insurance. Also find out whether you need an international driver’s license and how you can acquire one. If you use a specific credit card, you might not need extra car insurance, because the credit card company pays for that on your behalf. This information can help you avoid double payment for car insurance.
Plan your trip from A to B
Depending on where you’re going and how you’ve panned your trip, consider whether it makes sense to choose the same pick-up and drop-off location to save money on drop-off fees. Also think about fuel policies and whether it is more convenient for you to return the vehicle with an empty tank or fill it up yourself (which is usually the cheaper option). Also think about the length of your trip and if it makes sense to rent a diesel or a hybrid.
Extra considerations and options
There are a few other considerations when renting a vehicle, for example whether you would like to drive with a gear stick or an automatic and what kind of extra gear you might need to add to your booking (a child seat, a roof rack, snow tyres and snow chains in the winter, a GPS preloaded with updated local maps, air conditioning in the summer, etc.). Being overly prepared might cost you a little bit more money, but it could save you worry and hassle in a foreign country.
We have lots of good ideas for car games for long journeys, as well as tips for little things to make longer car journeys go more smoothly.