Booking our hotel accommodations and airfare, honestly – that was the easy part. No sweat! If there was anything that was a great source of anxiety, It was the car rental situation that was a bit of a mess, nerve-inducing to say the least.

Up to $3,000 for a 10-day rental?

I am not kidding. I had reservations ranging from $700 to as high as over $3,000. Please know that our needs were very specific. Had it just been me and Nancy traveling, perhaps with 2 kids, a small compact car would suffice. But I had to account for all six of us. So it had to be an SUV or a minivan, anything that will fit 6 or more. So that in itself presented a challenge, I needed a vehicle that was categorically priced higher. And, no….we didn’t need a premium SUV.

Back-ups, back-ups, back-ups

Inventory was scarce and when I checked all the major rental companies for our timeframe, none were available. I had a corporate discount code, I also called off-site (off-airport rental locations). I called hotels directly. I called car sales dealerships for rental options. I booked and cancelled Turo (nothing wrong with my Turo host – but I just changed my mind). I called little unknown local car rental companies. Some of them had a van for me with NO air-conditioning. Yes, I was that desperate. I had reservations left and right.

My rates went up

I had a discount code that I used, and I was able to get a rental for 10 days at $701.  A couple of folks I know used that code (they went to Maui and Big Island in early July). Just weeks before their trip, the rental company sent an email notifying them that the rates were no longer valid, and their rates ballooned when they checked their reservation on the website. Mine did, too. Mine went up from $701 to over $2,400…..that was a $1,700 jump.

I called rental office at Maui Airport directly

I spoke with a couple of folks at the Maui office, and while their national website records showed the $2,400 rate, their local Maui office still showed my $701 rate…..and I was told whatever they see onscreen on their end is what mattered.
Just a few weeks before our trip to Maui, I received another email.  This time confirming again that truly the discount codes SHOULD NO LONGER work. So I called the local office again on Maui….and this time it was different. The office no longer saw the $701 rate. They now saw the $2,400 rate – meaning, there were no ifs, ands, & buts about it…I was hosed!

Rely on my back-up

After my $701 rate, the next low rate that I had was $1,400 with another rental company. Yes, it was 2x more than my low rate of $701, but it was $1,000 less than the $2,400 rate increase….so honestly, I was ready to face the music and suck it up and pay the $1,400. I didn’t want a dang rental car ruin our vacation. I figured hey….airfare $11 per person….all our hotels, condo – were all covered using points, then the car rental $1,400…fine, I’d be able to live with that.

Plan A and Plan B

On our travel day to Maui, Nancy and I decided to go with two plans. Plan A is try and go to the rental office directly once we arrive and see what happens with the $2400 vs. $700 rate. If that plan doesn’t go in our favor, then Plan B is to go with $1,400 rate from the other company.

Ready for battle

Our flight arrived on Maui just past 10am, and we headed to the rental desk rather quickly since we had no checked luggage, and we were all Hawaii Pre-Cleared. At the checkout counter, the  car rental rep confirmed my rental was going to be $2,400. No shocker there. Calmly, I said, “do you mind checking again because the initial quote was much less than that.” I handed her a copy of my initial reservation, I had a printout ready to share – the printout of $701. She looked at it, reviewed it….called her supervisor to ask for an override. Supervisor asked her if I had proof of the lower quoted reservation, and I sure did. The rep was advised to honor my original rate of $701. Whew!!!!! That was a $1,700 savings!!!

Lessons-learned

  • Book early
  • Use discount codes available to you (check with your employer, or club, or association – any kind of affiliation might have some kind of discount code)
  • Bring proof – I heard of folks who were asked to provide proof of affiliation (ID badge, or work email – so be prepared when asked)
Here are my other tips and workarounds that I wrote early this summer.
https://daddytravelsnow.com/2021/05/24/top-car-rental-tips-workarounds/

By Jason

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