A few weeks back, we got word that Priceline.com was bringing high-end car rentals to the masses via a new program called FunRides, in partnership with a variety of big name rental companies (Avis, Budget, Hertz, and Sixt among them). With a summer trip to Florida already in the works, we took the program on a test drive.
Ryan Blaney is one of the up-and-coming drivers on the NASCAR circuit, now in his third year with Team Penske. And if you were going to take driving advice from anyone, wouldn’t it be a 20-year-old kid who wears fireproof underwear and tends to drive aggressively at 200 mph? So would we!
Blaney is making the media rounds on behalf of Hertz and its new 35-point Certified Clean & Safe inspection program. Not that we wanted to talk about that. We wanted some driving tips!
Q: Is it difficult to make the mental shift from NASCAR to highway driving? A: It’s hard to switch off going from driving a racecar to driving your personal vehicle on the highway. It’s very difficult for me, like after a race at Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway.
So you think you can just scooter around Rome like a carefree Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck? Think again. Mastering the iconic bike—not to mention the traffic—requires serious know-how. Claudio Sarra of Bici & Baci, which provides Vespas to the St. Regis hotel($$$$), gives us tips on safe navigation.
1. Driving in Rome can be dangerous. Put on a helmet, fasten the chin strap, and slide the visor down to protect against oncoming insetti.
2. Lift the Vespa off the kickstand before starting the engine and giving it gas, or risk losing control and launching it unpiloted into the street (a common mistake).
3. Avoid aree pedonali (pedestrianized zones) and bus lanes, which are marked with yellow paint. Everywhere else is fair game. Well, not sidewalks.
4. Romans hardly follow routine traffic laws, let alone use hand signals; be hyper-attentive for other scooters veering in and out of gridlock, and bypass the busiest intersections.
5. With such narrow frames, parking is a breeze—and free (even in metered spots). Be sure to take your belongings with you, and don’t forget to lock up.
Choose an agency. Large companies, such as Hertz and Enterprise or Europe-based Sixt, are best equipped to handle special requests (automatic transmission; GPS devices; children’s car seats). Local agencies often have lower prices but may not offer 24-hour service if something goes wrong.
Book in advance. When reserving online, check hours of operation for rental locations. Airports are usually open every day, but city-center sites may have limited hours, often closing for a few hours at midday and all day Sunday.
There’s a new ride in town, though you may recognize it by its signature facial hair. Lyft Plus, a new premium offering by Uber’s quirky, mustachioed competitor, is now piloting service in San Francisco before rolling out to all of its 60 cities coast to coast. As the name would suggest, the new model offers a more souped-up cab-on-call experience--while there’s nary a Mercedes-Benz in sight, the premium experience features custom-outfitted Ford Explorers, each decked out with custom under-car LED lights, 20-inch sport wheels, quilted leather seats for six, and (our favorite) Spotify Premium access. It’s less expensive that Uber Black by about a 20% margin, and roughly twice the cost of a regular Lyft ride, running $3.00 a mile or fifty cents a minute. As for the token mustache found on all of Lyft’s regular cars? You’ll find it affixed onto the grille in brushed steel—trés classy.
Nikki Ekstein is an Assistant Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.
The 2014 New York International Auto Show opens today, and it’s stocked with new cars and models that are sure to push your next road trip into high gear. Standouts include the 2015 Jeep Renegade, inspired by the original Jeep Wrangler; the 2015 Chevrolet Trax, another small SUV, complete with a built-in WiFi hotspot; the redesigned Camry with improved handling for quick turns; Chevrolet’s new 625-horsepower ZO6 Convertible; and the 50th anniversary Ford Mustang, which was reconstructed piece by piece on 86th floor of the Empire State Building. See these cars and more in person—the auto show at the Javits Center is open through Sunday, April 27th.
Guests checking in to select Loews Hotels have an exciting new amenity to look forward to this week—chauffeured service in the latest vehicle from Italian car brand FIAT.
The New York-based hotel group recently unveiled the exciting partnership, which takes place at properties from New York City to Washington, D.C., and offers guests the chance to be driven around town in the all-new (not to mention adorable) 2014 Fiat 500L.
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.