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Great Deals on One-Way Road Trips from Florida

SmarterTravel

When the snowbirds return from Florida to their northern homes, many rental cars do the same. As often in previous years, Avis/Budget, Hertz, and National are offering special one-way promotional rates, with no drop-off charge, for travelers who rent in Florida and return cars in the north.

Avis: Pick your car up April 1 through June 30 at “selected” Florida airport locations and drop it off at a company-owned location in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida (Pensacola), Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, or Virginia. The base daily rate is $9.95 for an economy through full-size car, $19.95 per day for an SUV, and $24.95 for a minivan, with a maximum 14-day rental. Mandatory taxes, airport fees, and some “recoupment” fees and optional fees such as additional-driver fees are extra. On a one-week test booking from Miami Airport to Boston Logan Airport, the total bill amounted to a base rate of $69.65 plus mandatory fees and taxes of $73.37 for a total of $143.02. The Avis website automatically keyed in the promotional code of “S705900” for me, but be sure to enter it yourself if you don’t see it. Sister company Budget has what appears to be the same deal.

Hertz: Pick up your car April 6 through June 30 at “selected” company-owned Florida locations and drop it off at a company-owned location in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, or West Virginia. The base daily rates are the same as posted by Avis and the fees and taxes differ by less than a dollar, total. The Hertz website automatically keyed in the promotional code of “ICLT1” for me, but be sure to enter it yourself if you don’t see it.

National: Although not promoted, National is matching the Avis and Hertz offers: Pick up the car on April 1 or later at a participating Florida location (except Pensacola and the Panhandle) and drop it off by May 31 at any participating location anywhere in the continental U.S. other than in Florida, with a 21-day maximum. Base rates for my test booking were the same as at Avis and Hertz, with trivial fee differences.

With all three companies, mandatory fees and taxes basically double the final cost, but the prices are still good deals for one-way rentals. Bring your own GPS or smartphone: The rental companies want $14 to $15 per day for their own GPS systems. And, for collision insurance, figure on using your own insurance or your credit card; if you want separate primary coverage, buy a primary policy from a third-party agency such as Protect Your Bubble, which, at $7.99 a day, is about one-third of what the rental company charges for its collision damage waiver.

The main differences among the three companies’ programs are geographical. National offers the widest area for return: You can drive as far as Seattle, if you want, as long as you stay within the 21-day limit. At the other end of the spectrum, Hertz offers the most diverse list of return options in the Northeast, with Avis/Budget somewhere in between the others. Unless you have some very strong preference for one of the companies, choose on the basis of origin and destination points and availability of a model you like to drive.

Any of these promotions provides a great opportunity for a one-way road trip from Florida to just about anywhere you might want to go. Presumably, most of you would probably opt to take a one-way air trip to Florida and drive back to a return station at or near your home. Fortunately, you can find lots of very good one-way airfares from most of the U.S. to Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, or Miami. Wherever you go, this program offers the chance to visit a bunch of national parks, exciting cities, and country resorts across a region or across the entire U.S. Give it a try.

Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2015 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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