Sunday, 14 October 2012

How to save $ hundreds on your USA car rental

When we last left our hero, she was driving around Orlando somewhat like this ....

 ........ in one of these....

Today I am going to share the mystery and secrets of car hire in the USA so you can do the same!

Whilst Disney provides free transport within the World, once you want to go outside the WDW boundary you pretty much need a car to get anywhere. Inside WDW I like the car so as not to waste time with slow buses, long queues and changes with boats, monorail and buses.

Let's use my upcoming trip so see how it works.

  • 11 days
  • pick up at Downtown Disney, drop off at Orlando Airport
  • Mid-sized category - "Toyota Corolla" (although last year I scored that red VW Jetta in this category)
Right now, I will not add GPS, fuel purchasing, personal products insurance, road toll card, kiddie seats or any of the myriad of discount codes and coupons you can access.

Now Orlando Airport is the largest car rental location in the world - averaging 5,500 cars per day! Every company, offering every type of car is there - and they also offer every range of pricing.

Here is my first look through some of the major companies

* US resident and "pay at counter" rate
So what's going on? Look at that Alamo pricing - both the cheapest AND the most expensive! For the SAME car - from the SAME OUTLET!

Let's keep looking at Alamo - except this time through the travel wholesavers:

Again - the same car - same pick up office - same dates - Expedia double the price of Traveljigsaw
So by now you are yelling for me to shut up! Either you know what is going on or you wanna find out!

Insurance wholesaling

I know precious little about how it works, but here is what I do know:
  1. Car rental companies operate like two separate businesses - there is the car rental part, and there is the insurance part.
  2. Unlike Australia, in the US, residents' comprehensive car insurance can cover rental cars. So car rental companies allow you to rent a car without buying any insurance.
  3. I'm freaked out by the idea of crashing a car or hitting something when in the US, so I want insurance.
  4. US Car rental insurance doesn't have the concept of "excess". So the "car excess insurance" offered in Australian travel insurance and on my credit card is useless. 
  5. If you book your car online in advance you can access a WAY better deal on the insurance, and so NEVER turn up at the counter without having organised the insurance before hand. You will always pay the most expensive rate of insurance if organised in the moment at the counter. (e.g. that Alamo rate of $1,248 up there).
Another option for you - and particularly of interest for our UK & European readers - is to buy your car rental insurance separately, and then rent the car without the insurance - like a lot of US residents do.

icarhireinsurance can sell you all inclusive car rental insurance for almost anywhere in the world. For the USA they charge a flat rate of around $10/day - which is far lower than the $25/day charged at the rental company counter.
Based in the UK and will sell to anyone for car hire almost anywhere.
Going this way gives you freedom to book one of those last minute deals most of the car rental companies offer. Alamo's current last minute rate for the Corolla is around $200/week. So add the icarhire insurance rate of $110, 11 days rental would cost roughly $400. Hmmm ..... roughly the same as that Traveljigsaw rate.

And who likes standing at a rental counter feeling pressured to buy strange insurance products - you'll have the peace of mind to know you are already covered.

For me - has offered the best deal for a major rental supplier. It's about as close as I can get to cheapest rental car rate going for Alamo. I don't have to hope for a last minute deal and I have all the insurance products included in the booking.

It is easy to part with a lot of money for your rental car hire. Do a bit of online research save yourself hundreds!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Get your kicks on Route 4

Americans invented driving around in your car - zooming around on expressways - there is soooo much car culture out there it would be absurd for me to go there.

Post WWII with the rise of the middle class, with the mass purchase of cars, came the birth of the legendary USA expressway, 6 lanes wide, clover leaf exits and long, monotonous, flat, straight lines. Much like my writing style.

Many people write to me and say "But Mrs. Banks, the freeways are SOOOOO intimidating! And they drive on the opposite side of the road! How do you cope?!"

Answer: I was trained on the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

The best teacher (source:
Fortunately for you, gentle question asker, Uncle Walt was there - in his kindly, educational way - reminding us all how to share the road in The Art of Driving on the Super Highway

When I drive in Orlando, I always rent a GPS and let the woman tell me where to go (so to speak). I don't have to think, read maps and I always get to my destination. I have no idea if, like a taxi driver, she has taken me the long way.

In the US you can get those GPS units that have the famous people's voices giving the instructions.

Get this one before Mitt Romney makes Bert and Ernie history

 You can get 120 + different voices:


Just don't get the Backseat Driver voice.

"get left, left, left, left, LEFT LEFT - There's the exit, the EXIT, THE EXIT - you missed it! you missed the exit. Now what do we do ??......."


Before I go here is an example from my 2011 of Orlando driving. Have a quick look and then imagine this continously for 2 hours.

Now that we know how to drive on the expressway, and we have a GPS tool, we are gonna need a hire car. Join me next time as I reveal the secret to USA hire cars that could save you hundreds of dollars! kaching!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Don't be unAustralian at Epcot

So pretend you work at Disney and you are planning the menus for the Food and Wine Festival .... 46 days and squillions of people through more than 30 different international cuisines.

What do you choose for the Australia stall?

I asked this question to my facebook followers last year and they guessed immediately - cause you know it makes sense:


It's what lies at the core of our national identity

Australian's have been eating lamb chops since the beginning of time - we rode on the sheep's back - and that includes the 3 legged ones cause Sunday roasts were compulsory.

And so the Disney chefs naturally turned to lamb as the main dish at the Australian Stall. But before we look at the lamb, what do you think the other offerings would be??

If you are an American and you are wondering about the iconic foods of Australia, what other protein source comes to mind?

Shrimp on a barbie with sweet thai chilli sauce pepperberry citrus glaze
As every American learnt in 1984, there's nothing more Australian than throwing another shrimp on the barbie.

And given today's multi-culturalism in Australia, it's probably highly accurate that the pepperberry citrus glaze tasted more like it had come from the old Mae Ploy bottle.

Oh and whilst on the subject.... am I the last person to discover that shrimps and prawns are different? An American friend broke the news very gently.

Then if you are going to serve dessert, what Aussie icon would you serve up? Pavlova - maybe? But how about something so iconic it is not seen anywhere in the US? How about a lamington?!

Born in Toowoomba in 1902 and in 2006, the National Trust of Queensland, declared lamingtons a Queensland icon! according to wikipedia
But hang on - let's take a closer look at this so called lamington. Instead of the traditional dessicated coconut, this one is covered in shredded, fresher coconut. Making for one very chewy experience.

And then for some inexplicable reason, the lamington makers seem to have missed the most important part of the lamington making process:

Making sure all 6 sides were iced!
So the lamington wasn't quite right for me.

Back to the lamb chop. Last year's lamb chop was served as a grilled chop with potato and goats cheese salad with shiraz reduction. Probably more than I would ever do to a lamb chop, but I can live with it.

The chop was beautifully cooked. Just gone pink on the inside and very juicy. My mouth is watering now with the memory! Disney made a little video sharing the recipe.

And then they sell all this food from a lovely little themed Australian styled shed:

Half Paddington Terrace and half modern indigenous
The 2012 Food and Wine Festival opened this weekend and the Australian menu has been announced - it's almost exactly the same! The only difference is how the lamb is finished. Disney have made another lovely little video and the Aussie chop hits the highlight at 1.25m. Take a look.

Exsqueeze me? Salt and vinegar potato crisps?

Have I been missing a page in my Australian Commonsense Cookery Book? (remember those NSW ladies?) Since when were we cooking with salt and vinegar crisps? I mean ... I spent childhoods at Cronulla beach eating hot chips with salt and vinegar put on them. I just never went this far.

It's enough to put Barry off his beer

Stone the crows! Chips on me chop!
I wonder how the Caribbean's feel about the authenticity of the Jerk Chicken with mango salsa?

Or the Canadians about their maple and moosehead beer glazed salmon with barley salad!

Hey Canadians - are you eating this on a daily basis?
Well ..... we've been through this before. Come to Orlando where everything is FAKE! Absolutely delicious but everything needs to be taken with a 'grain of salt'.

Note: the F&W Festival will not be on in June during the convention period. In fact no festival of any kind will be occuring.