Wednesday, May 21, 2008

There's no place like home.

It’s been too long…

During the past couple of weeks, I was hoping things would work out a little bit better than they have been—I never expected to meet the other half of my new family over a death. Nonetheless, the trip had to be taken. And with it, we discovered our own economical way to make things work. How, you ask? Here’s your answer:

Since our home usually only has one working vehicle at any time, (with our luck it usually turns out that one car needs to be repaired immediately after the other was fixed) we decided to look into fast and efficient ways of getting down to Kansas from Wisconsin instead of trying to use one of those cars. Amtrak, car rental, carpooling, Greyhound, plane tickets…we had a lot of options to go through in a short amount of time (being that we had only about 12 hours to get there). Luckily, my sister-in-law hadn’t left when we got the news, so we let her and our nephew get in on the decisions. She agreed that any of those choices would be fine along with using her Blazer as a last resort, so we began narrowing down our options.

The first to be crossed off was the plane ride of course, with tickets obviously expensive in a twelve-hour time frame ($600 and up each). Next was the Greyhound. Not necessarily because of price, (about $580 for 3 adults & 1 child round trip) rather he fact that it would take almost twenty-four hours to get to our destination, when the trip straight through should take no more than eleven, and we would need to rent a car in Topeka because everyone who left before us also carpooled. The same was for Amtrak, although it was a bit cheaper than Greyhound (coming in at about $550), we would have wound up paying a weekly car rate in Chicago, which was the only available station traveling to Topeka, so with driving one of our cars, plus the parking rate, plus the rental car fees and mileage around Kansas…you get the picture.

Our last feasible option was turning out to be the rental car. However, the first obstacle in our way was the fact that none of us have a credit card. Yep, you read that right. Each of us deserted that crutch years ago, which happened to be a funny story we all learned about each other. (I call it a crutch for several reasons, and hopefully one of these blogs I’ll get around to it.)

Anywho, this was not something rental car businesses enjoy hearing. We took turns calling, and almost every place asked us the same idiotic question: “Why don’t you have a credit card?” When each of our responses was to say, “Because we don’t believe in using credit cards. Cash is just fine.” the general responses were to either laugh, or tell us we could rent a car as soon as we could provide them with a card number. Seriously? That question, to me, is like when friends ask me why I don’t have a new car. Or a new house. Or tons of shoes and clothes. (One shouldn’t really have to explain, especially to a stranger and/or company as long as you’ve got the money,) I guess now that I’ve looked at it in this manner, they all go hand in hand. If you don’t have a credit card in today’s world, you’re somehow not considered to be a reputable citizen.

So, after our FIFTH attempt to secure a vehicle in little ol’ Appleton, we found one place that would help us. (It turns out that cash works for car rentals if the city has non-airport locations to rent vehicles.) So we rented the car and took the trip. Everything wound up working perfectly.

I’ll skip the middle story (it’s a sad one anyway) and let you in on a little secret—this was the most economical and affordable way for us to travel. I know there are some of you out there who would disagree, but for those who have older cars, or nothing at all, this is your best bet. Who could argue with a new car that gets incredible gas mileage for its size, full insurance provided, unlimited mileage, and comfort in knowing that if something were to happen to the car, a replacement would be swapped? Here’s what we paid for about a week:

$150 cash deposit
$213 car rental fee (2008 Mitsubishi Galant figured at a full-size price, plus 1 wk deal)
$75 full insurance on the vehicle
$45 unlimited mileage for our use
$150 gasoline (our trip cost; mostly highway - we came up with 27.85 mpg each fill up)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
$670 with tax
- $150 deposit
- - - - - - - - - - -
$520 ($173.50 each person)

Not too shabby considering our “last resort” Blazer only gets between 14 – 15 mpg highway and the transmission was on its last leg. I would much rather pay for a rental car than have the stress put on our family because of an iffy car. The price of course will vary throughout the states, but comparatively it still seems reasonable. Not to mention that new cars have emissions ratings, so the Galant we drove was an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle. This means that it spared the state of Kansas from either one of our cars’ (a ’91 and a ’95) moderately high hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides emissions. That also seems VERY reasonable.

ULEV and SULEVs (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, like hybrids) are usually available upon request at any car rental business, as several chains are trying to phase out vehicles that aren’t as “ozone-friendly”. We were told that some SULEVs will be harder to come by because of demand, so if there’s an emergency like the one we had, chances are slim. Nonetheless, it is nice to see that environmentally friendly options are available for anyone wanting to rent a vehicle.

In addition to the rental, we chose to bring food from home for the trip there which consisted of fresh fruit, juice and tea in reusable glass jars, and doughnuts. Upon our return we received “take home snacks” from family in Kansas, and only stopped to eat once on the way back at a local restaurant. Essentially we were only paying for a couple of meals, so some good advice to anyone who’s on a strict budget would be to take what you have at home in a cooler—dollars to doughnuts it won’t be good when you come back anyway! And try to eat locally wherever you can…this choice not only extends your funds (local restaurants are usually cheaper than chains), it supports local economies and keeps the vacation fresh.

1 comment:

Missy said...

Welcome back! Hope next time you meet your family is under much better circumstance.

This is really thought-provoking!
We're lucky enough to have one vehicle that gets close to 35 mpg highway, but it isn't very comfy on long trips (the curse and blessing of a small Saturn). Definitely something to run the numbers on before a road trip.