Driving + Car Rentals
Avis Car Rental is keeping up its tech-y track record with the integration of Avis Preferred, its express rental service, with Google Wallet—making them the first company in the car rental industry to join Google’s new app. Wallet’s application allows users on Android and iPhone devices to send money, pay for online purchases, and store loyalty program info all in a 24/7 fraud-monitored location. As of today, travelers can enroll in Avis Preferred through the app and have their new Avis Wizard number appear automatically, while existing members can save their Wizard number in the app. Users will then receive offers from Avis directly through Google Wallet, expediting the car rental process—especially convenient for travelers on a tight schedule.
Maria Pedone is on the digital team at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @mariapedestrian.
Photo credit: Newscast / Alamy
When it comes to choosing a rental car, I'm always spinning my wheels, trying to balance comfort and price, and always ending up with something as sensible (read: boring) as a Chevy Aveo or Nissan Versa. Yeesh! What am I—a bank examiner or something? Now I have every reason, if not necessarily the funds, to don a pair of Tod's Gommino driving shoes and Brooks Brothers deerskin driving gloves (and perhaps a rueful smirk) and step behind the wheel of a real mean machine, thanks to Hertz's new DreamCar program, which launched this week.
Included in your room rate at these hotels? The chance to borrow a cool set of wheels.
Lake Placid Lodge, New York: Lexus RX 450h
Little Nell, Aspen: Audi Q7 TDI
St. Regis San Francisco: 2013 Bentley Mulsanne
51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Hotel & Residences, London: Jaguar XJ
Hotel Arts Barcelona: Smart Electric Drive
Regent Berlin: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG with gull-wing doors
Illustration by Michael Hoeweler
While car-sharing services are getting shot down on the West Coast, things are finally looking up for “e-hailing” taxis in New York City. Last week, a State Supreme Court case prohibiting their use was dismissed, and as of today, two e-hail apps are back in action in the Big Apple.
Uber made its debut in the New York marketplace last September, but was quickly snuffed out of business over legality concerns; now, it’s back in action as of Tuesday night. Users can book black cars from their mobile phones, but mobile payments are currently not available as they were previously.
Hailo, the only other app approved thus far, launches today with less name recognition but extra perks, from mobile payment to $10 credits for early adopters. Rather than livery-style cars, Hailo works exclusively with yellow taxis in New York.
Expect a glut of new NYC-based e-hail apps to hit the market in the next months, as developers wrap their heads around the new legislation. Part of the deal: participants must be able to integrate with the existing meter system for NYC cabs, and go through an approval process by the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
Still, the value of these apps is greatest in cities like San Francisco, where hailing a cab isn’t as easy as stepping onto any street corner and sticking out your arm. The laws keeping e-hail apps out of business in California—and other parts of the country—are antiquated at best; we can only hope New York’s example sets a precedent for the cities that need these services most.
See: How to Hail a Cab in NYC.
Nikki Ekstein is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.
Photo by Maria Pedone
Here today, gone tomorrow: FlightCar, that quirky car-sharing company we recently told you about, has been shut down by SFO.
And it's not alone: Also on the airport's cease-and-desist list are five other ride sharing companies, from UberX to InstantCab, according to The Huffington Post's Aaron Sankin. Why the sudden crackdown on automotive sharing startups? Apparently the tech-forward companies have been getting an easy break thanks to legal loopholes that don't require them to hold licenses from the California Public Utilities Commission, and taxi drivers—who not only need the licenses but pay fees for each airport ride—aren't too happy about it. But that doesn't mean it's game over for the six companies at stake, as a hearing is scheduled to determine their future later this month.
Our prediction? FlightCar will live on, sans curbside pickup service. As for the companies whose core premise includes a driver? They may not be so lucky.
Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.
With two days to drive from Madrid to a resort in Marbella on the Costa del Sol, my traveling companion and I wanted to see something of the Spanish countryside. If you've been to Castille-La Mancha, you know the countryside is rather flat and uninspiring, which can make for a long, boring drive. We are both interested in history and architecture, and also wanted to sample some of the local wines. So as we headed south on the A-4 highway, I used our GPS to look for some interesting diversions off the main route, and found two that only added an extra hour to our drive, and led to a great lunch as well.
Anybody familiar with Don Quixote will remember his "battle" against the windmills, and will probably find Campo de Criptana a worthwhile side trip. At the top of a hill in the center of this small town are 12 windmills from the 16th-Century, like the one faced by the famous knight-errant. Two of them are open for tourists to explore, and you can learn how medieval Spaniards used wind power to grind wheat into flour. An art studio nearby exhibits (and sells) paintings and drawings of the "molinos."
Our second stop was at the Museo del Vino in Valdepeñas. The wine museum has several rooms that explain the climate and soil conditions in the region, the types of grapes grown in the area, and the history of viniculture in Spain, including the efforts the locals went through in the Dark Ages to continue making wine despite official objections by the Muslims when they controlled the area. The exhibits also include farm implements and tools used in winemaking from grape crushers and hand pressers to the enormous barrels where wine is aged. We stopped for tapas at La Fonda del Alberto, Calle Cristo, 67, Valdepeñas for a delicious meal. A glass of vino blanco, some delicately grilled calamares, langostinos cocidos and pulpo a la gallega, and we were ready to get back on the highway and continue our journey south.
See also: José Andrés: Chef's Tour of Spain and A Tapas Tour of Spain.
Photo by Ron Harris
Certain things can only work on the West Coast—take, for instance, FlightCar, a new San Francisco-based startup that lets you loan out your car while it's parked at the airport. The concept is a win-win in theory: travelers get their expensive parking tab subsidized by approved renters, who get a better deal (and maybe even a nicer car) in return.
The program has recently piloted at SFO, with expansion plans in the works. And so far, the selection of cars is promising, ranging from a 2005 BMW 3 Series to a 2008 Honda Accord on a trial search (both would cost $46 a day to rent—compared to $150 for similar models at Hertz or Enterprise).
Q: I’m renting a car abroad. Should I get collision insurance through the rental agency or my credit card? —Hannah W., Portland, Ore.
A: Domestically, the answer would be simple: go with the insurance offered by your credit card company (after reading the fine print, of course). Once you head overseas, though, it becomes much more complicated. All four major card networks offer qualifying cardholders some form of insurance for international rentals, but you have to check your policy carefully. American Express (Travel + Leisure’s parent company), MasterCard, and Visa do not cover rentals in Ireland, Israel, and Jamaica. American Express also disqualifies cars in Italy, Australia, and New Zealand. There are other exceptions (American Express doesn’t cover certain SUV’s; MasterCard won’t let you drive on unpaved roads; most policies preclude rentals of exotic and expensive vehicles), so do your homework. Cardhub.com provides an excellent annual comparison of all of these policies.
You've come a long way, Zipcar.
The recent announcement that the Avis Budget Group is aiming to acquire the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company for nearly $500 million marked the pioneering car-sharing service's evolution from an upstart launched at the turn of the Millennium to a lucrative brand with serious international potential. Though Zipcar members (a.k.a. Zipsters) may squirm at the idea of a traditional (read: staid) car-rental agency holding sway over their quirky, beloved service, the deal could have great advantages for everyone.
When by-the-hour car-sharing services such as Zipcar and Hertz on Demand arrived on the scene, they upended the traditional model for short-term rentals. Now it’s their turn to be upended. Taking a page from bike-sharing programs, the latest car-sharing services offer by-the-minute rentals. The most traveler-friendly of the half-dozen or so services that have recently emerged is Car2go ($35 one-time membership fee), which rents smart cars in five U.S. cities (Austin; San Diego; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; and Miami), and 15 more across the globe (Toronto, Berlin, and Amsterdam, among others).