A few weeks ago, I wrote about my decision making process when I decide whether to fly or drive to Walt Disney World. Nine times out of ten, I pick driving, because it saves me money. Also, I love the fun of a road trip. But what if I could have the best of both worlds?
No, I’m not talking about bringing my Hannah Montana CD collection with me. If you pay attention to rental car rates and track flights carefully, you can find a great opportunity to fly and drive on the same trip. I’m talking about what the car companies call “snowbird” rentals, and if you use them wisely, you can save a lot of money and time.
To illustrate this, let’s take the case study of a trip I’m planning for my kids’ Spring Break. If we chose to fly, the cheapest roundtrip flight is $191 per person. For a family of four, that’s nearly $800 for a roundtrip to Disney. By comparison, driving would cost approximately $150 including gas, food and hotel for one night. The difference of course is time.
A flight down, including travel time to and from the airport in Atlanta and Orlando, will take about five hours total. A drive is going to take a total of about nine hours, not including the time it will take to spend the night, have breakfast and keep driving. Flying is more relaxing and less time consuming.
The “snowbird” rental is the solution I am exploring. What this offers is a one way drive out of Florida, if you rent the car from an airport location and return it to an airport location in another state. In my case, I would pick the car up at MCO in Orlando, and return it at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.
The attractiveness of this is that the rentals cost only a fraction of what a normal rental would cost. For example, Hertz has the cheapest one that I’ve found, at $5 a day. To rent the car starting Wednesday night when we fly down and return it Sunday afternoon costs only $42! Pair that with one way flights for all of us, and the total comes up to $342, which saves us a ton of money.
It’s a win-win situation – we get to get out of town on time on Wednesday, and be in the magic that very night. We get a rental car, one of the big “hidden” expenses of flying, for not a whole lot of money. We save time, and we save almost an entire day’s worth of driving. It’s a fantastic deal for spring trips.
If you’re interested in exploring options for a snowbird rental, check out Hertz’s Special Offers page. Others I have seen that are offering the same deal at higher prices include Avis, National and Alamo. All of these offer the one way deals for about $19.95 a day, which is still cheap, just not quite as cheap as Hertz. Dates vary, but most are from late April through early June. Check each site for blackout dates, etc.
Does this sort of deal sound like it would help you out? Would you take a one way flight to save a little money?