Renting a car on vacation can be:
an opportunity to test out a different car model,
a necessary evil,
an overpriced indulgence
some combination of the above
On our last trip, it was just a waste of money.
But by doing your homework, you can make renting a car on vacation a pleasure.
Based on our last vacation, I calculated how much we would use the car vs what it cost. What I had to consider:
-Getting from the airport to the hotel, and back, by cab: For us, cost was about the same as a two day rental (we were there for four days)
-Parking fees at the resort (which doubled the rental cost)
-Sightseeing plans (we’d already done this on a previous trip to Puerto Rico, so we were more focused on relaxing than seeing the sights)
-Traffic congestion and free parking in areas you’ll visit (we stayed in Condado, which had horrendous traffic and no free parking)
-Off property excursions only reachable by car (we didn’t make any)
As it turns out, with these considerations, renting a car would be silly. Add to it that every time we got the car from the garage (another time suck – it was a small garage, and you had to keep driving around and hunting for a spot) we got stuck in a huge jam, and that renting the car was time consuming; the cheapest rental was off-site, so we had to take a shuttle 15 minutes away from the hotel, wait on a long line, and wait 25 minutes in the heat when we returned the car.
When we went to Old San Juan, a huge demonstration against government pay cuts (I think) meant streets were blocked off and garages were full. We thought we had found a free parking spot, until someone pointed out a sign, all the way down the block, designating the area for taxis only (a $75 ticket had we left the car).
Another time, we were heading to a restaurant nearby. The Google map directions had us getting on the highway, which didn’t seem right. Good thing I checked; the restaurant was a mile away, with only one turn. Plus, we’re city folk, so we walked.
And we also walked into Old San Juan, a pleasant walk in the opposite direction. By walking, we found a place to rent kayaks on the lagoon, or go stand-up paddle boarding. My husband could have a few drinks and not worry about driving impaired. And we could grab an inexpensive taxi back to the hotel.
I did check with the concierge before our vacation, to see if he recommended renting a car. He answered, honestly, that some people found it useful. And it would have been, had we driven to the rain forest or the bioluminescent bay. But we didn’t.
Next time, I will do my homework more diligently.