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Renting a Car/ Joining AAA
Old 11-24-2011, 05:57 PM   #1
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Renting a Car/ Joining AAA

We are planning a major trip next summer in July.

We will tour the very western coasts of Oregon and Washington state for a week, and will rent a car to do so. (we have never rented a car before!)

We will then fly to Fairbanks Alaska and head south spending 2 weeks by car, touring Denali and the Kenai area. Also plan on some fishing.

We will stay in various lodges and hotels along the way. We want moderate but quality and CLEAN places to stay.

Our questions are:
1. If we reserve cars now, do we actually have a good chance of getting one once we arrive?

2. Should we join AAA and will that give us some rate advantages?

3. Is there a way to insure our trip costs-- MIL is older and while healthy now, we are concerned about losing prepaid flights, and rail costs should we suddently have to stay hgome for a funeral.

4. Recommendations for must see in Western Oregon, Washington, or in Alaska between Fairbanks, Denali, and Kenai?

Any and all advise welcome! This has been a long time dream that we are finally making happen.

Thank you!

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Old 11-24-2011, 06:05 PM   #2
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Wow, you have never rented a car......

Unless you are in a very isolated spot, you should have no problem renting a car much closer to the date. I am a member of several airline frequent flyer clubs and they frequently have discounts on car rentals.

You should absolutely, definitely join AAA. Not only will it get you some discounts, but you will be travelling through some sparsely populated areas and you really want that breakdown service for peace of mind. AAA also has discounted hotel rates and a guide to modest hotels. They will also prepare a TripTik for you with suggested routes.

If you are driving home you will have to pass through British Columbia, Canada and you might even find a few interesting places to visit there. Your AAA membership benefits will be covered by BCAA.


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Old 11-24-2011, 06:52 PM   #3
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My last experience renting a car was in August after flying to Portland, Oregon. I don't remember which discount method I used--AAA of AARP. I also got an additional 5% or 10% off at the counter but I can't honestly remember why. I only remember that I argued/debated some minor point in a rate discrepancy and they didn't bat an eye to take an additional 5-10% off.

My recent August experience was that if you reserve on-line you can cancel the reservation without penalty if you find a better deal elsewhere; and I got the best deal by going directly through the car rental's website and not a third-party broker.

Regardless of what type of vehicle you requested, my experience was that once I arrived in Portland the car rental agency tried *very* hard for me to upgrade to a more expensive vehicle.

Also, know going in if you are going to buy their insurance. If not, make certain your own policy covers damage incurred to rental cars. I have found this to be the most worrisome part of using a rental car.

If you like using a GPS unit, plan on taking one you own with you; or you can also rent one through the car rental agency.

Also inquire about their policy about having more than one driver driving the vehicle. Some places allow spouses to drive the same car for no extra cost; other place charged an additional $10.00 per day for a second driver.

Have a great trip.
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Old 11-24-2011, 07:28 PM   #4
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We belong to AAA Plus and Hertz #1 Gold Club. For a number of years we have rented from Hertz for our road trips. IMHO this is cheaper
than using your own car when driving big miles, say 2,000 or more in a week. We always rent in weekly increments. When you combine the AAA discount plus the various AAA coupons that are always available, the price is very reasonable. We usually rent from Hertz Local Edition because it is usually (but not always) cheaper than Hertz Airport. There is no problem making reservations on the Hertz website for any location months in advance. You can change or cancel the reservations at any time. Since I am a #1 Gold Club member, the keys (and current year car) have always been there when I arrived. Another advantage to being an AAA member is that either DW or I can drive at no extra charge.

I wrecked a Hertz rental car a couple of years ago. A cargo strap on a passing 18 wheeler came loose and struck the car across the grill and windshield. I thought we were dead and stopped and pulled over immediately. The truck kept going and was long gone before I gathered my wits. A cargo strap with a steel buckle can do a lot of damage since both of us were traveling at highway speed. My auto insurance paid for that. The repair cost that Hertz quoted was considerably lower than I thought it would be and the people at Hertz could not have been nicer.

When making motel reservations I start at the AAA website because it has most of the major chains plus mom and pop local motels. The AAA website often has comments about particular motels that you don't see until you log on as an AAA member.
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Old 11-24-2011, 07:31 PM   #5
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Our questions are:
1. If we reserve cars now, do we actually have a good chance of getting one once we arrive?

I would look at sites like for good deals and reserve a car when you see a good deal. You can always cancel and rebook a different one if a better rate comes up.

2. Should we join AAA and will that give us some rate advantages?

For a trip like this AAA membership will pay for itself in savings and peace of mind.

3. Is there a way to insure our trip costs-- MIL is older and while healthy now, we are concerned about losing prepaid flights, and rail costs should we suddently have to stay hgome for a funeral.

Yes you can get insurance. Just Google trip insurance there are many companies that can cover this for you. We always buy insurance for our cruises.

4. Recommendations for must see in Western Oregon, Washington, or in Alaska between Fairbanks, Denali, and Kenai?

We spent a week touring in Alaska a few years ago from Denali to the Kenai penninsula. I would book the shuttle into Denali. A great way to see the park and the wildlife.

On the Kenai penninsula we visited Seward and Homer. Lots too see and do.

I would suggest checking out the Cruise Critic boards for information on Alaska. It a website geared to cruising but there is a section for Ports of Call Shore Excursions. You can find out anything you want to know about Alaska especially the area you will be in. It is a favorite destination for cruise tours.

Cruise Critic Message Boards
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Old 12-13-2011, 06:15 PM   #6
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We went to Oregon last month, started out in Portland saw the Columbia Gorge River to Hood River, then down to Crater Lake then over to the Coast, up the Coast and back to Portland in seven days and this was taking our time.

As far as rental cars, I like National, join their club and you'll get some good prices, they also have free extra driver.
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Old 12-14-2011, 09:05 AM   #7
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One thing that I learned due to a co-worker.... do NOT get the insurance from the rental company if you do not cover the whole car...

For some reason she got a plan that only covered $3,000. She got stuck in a hail storm. It did a lot of damage to the car. They estimated it would take 28 days to fix, so the total cost was 28 days of rental X the daily rental rate PLUS the damage repair minus the $3,000.

When we called the credit card company, they said 'we will not pay because you bought other insurance'. SO, if she had not bought the rental insurance they would have covered the full damage.

I would also suggest that you make sure they cover in Canada if you are driving there. Not all plans cover other countries.
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Old 12-19-2011, 07:56 PM   #8
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Here is my recomendation - use Southwest Airlines | Book Flights, Airline Tickets, Airfare to book a car check periodically and when a rate improves - book it and cancel the old one. Also sometimes codes from Rental - Car Rental Coupon Codes - Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, Thrifty and Advantage Coupons. can be used to improve your rate. Also..... if you have down selected a rental car provider joining their program can give you at least accelerated checkout, maybe second driver free and sometimes 1 class upgrade.
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:24 PM   #9
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We had our car die in the middle of an extended vacation. I found a fantastic deal on a rental car through Costco. We have rental care insurance rider on our State Farm policy, I never buy the rental car company insurance.

I am an Oregonian, Haha a Seattleite. There are several of us on the board who live in the Pacific NW. You will receive lots of advice on what to see, just tell us where you want to start your journey, where you want to end it and how many days you have to spend. IMHO I don't recommend driving from Alaska to the lower 48. Your car rental cost won't justify the drive. If you plan your journey carefully you can take the Alaska Ferry and enjoy the voyage like a local. In my case I will be away for the holidays so can't address your adventure at the moment. My only plea is not to share our treasures with others.. unless they bring jobs with them when they move here.
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Old 12-23-2011, 12:28 PM   #10
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We rent cars fairly often...usually in Florida and in Europe. For USA, we have found the Costco discount code to be very good at Budget.

Rental car rates go up and down. Book if you see a good price but keep checking as rates to decrease.

We never take the rental company insurance or add ons such as GPS. We have our own.

Don't forget to inspect the vehicle prior to leaving the rental lot AND ensure that the gas tank is full. We never take the rental company option of returning not full. We find that it is better to fill it up on our own as we are returning.
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Old 12-24-2011, 12:54 PM   #11
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I always to to to insure my cruise vacations, but I think you can insure any kind of trip.

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