The honeymoon and wedding planning are nearly over. You've chosen your destination, booked your plane tickets and picked out hotels. Now, all you have to do is rent a car. It sounds easy, but there are tricks to navigating the process. Here, everything you need to know before you put the key in the ignition.
Rental-car rates, like those of plane tickets, rise with demand. So, in order to secure the lowest price possible, you'll want to reserve your car when you book your airfare. The longer you wait, the likelier it is that fares will go up, so do this early in the midst of wedding planning. Plus, since last-minute car-rental deals are rare, and even rarer in resort destinations, there's no incentive to wait.
Research rates at different companies just as you would with airfare. Start out on general travel websites, such as orbitz.com. Then, when you've found the rental-car company with the lowest fare, visit its website to look for a lower price—and coupons. Also, even if your stay will be shorter than seven days, check out weekly rates, since those can be heavily discounted.
Factor in the extras.
Be sure to allow for gas, valet fees and parking charges when you're setting your budget—these can add up.
Join the club.
Like airlines, rental-car companies have loyalty programs. Join the free ones, and you'll receive coupons and perks. With Avis, members skip the line at the counter at most locations and go right to the car; with Hertz and Budget Rent-a-Car, members can pick out their car's make and model.
Don't be a no-show.
Recently, rental-car companies have begun cracking down on last-minute cancellations by charging fees. So, when you book, ask if there's a cancellation policy.
Pay attention to details.
Don't take amenities for granted—especially if you're renting abroad. In Europe, for example, cars are smaller, and some vehicles may not have enough trunk space for several suitcases. In addition, air-conditioning and automatic transmission are not standard there. Ask your company to fax a confirmation that your rental will include requested features.
Be your own advocate.
When you arrive at the check-in counter, ask for an upgrade. Generally, rental-car companies will offer free upgrades when they have cars available. Also, inspect the vehicle before you drive off the lot, marking down any exterior scratches or interior stains.
Avoid unnecessary fees.
Renting a car at the airport may sound convenient, but be prepared to pay for the privilege. Most companies charge extra taxes and fees for airport rentals that can add up to an additional 25 percent. Plus, if you think you'll be jet-lagged after the flight, it's safer to take a taxi to your hotel, and pick up a car downtown the next day, when you're more alert.
Read the fine print.
The most complicated part of renting a car is deciphering the insurance. Buy coverage only if you're not already protected by auto and homeowner's or renter's insurance. Even then, check to see what your credit card covers. (It may be enough.)
Get gassed up.
Don't make the mistake of returning the car with a half-empty tank—the rental company will charge you much more to refill it than it would have cost you to do so yourself. Instead, before you leave the rental desk, ask the agent where the closest gas stations are so that you'll know where to stop on your way back.
Have some fun.
This is your honeymoon—so splurge a little. If you're vacationing in a tropical locale, consider upgrading to a convertible; if you're taking a ski trip in snowy mountains, check out an SUV. Want to feel like a celebrity? Ask for tinted windows, satellite radio, a GPS navigation system and leather seats—whatever it takes to make the experience feel like a treat.