Getting around on vacation is getting harder than ever. With another car rental shortage forecast for this summer, you might find yourself stranded at your hotel or vacation rental. But there are new ways to solve your ground transportation problems.
"This summer will likely be frustrating for travelers," says Robert Walden, editor-in-chief of VehicleFreak.com, a car maintenance site. "In addition to air travel woes and high gas prices, the rental car market has been upended by fleet shortages, high fuel prices and skyrocketing demand. This reality has no signs of abating soon, so travelers should consider other alternatives."
For many travelers, ground transportation is the first consideration when they're planning a vacation. During last year's car rental shortage, Mark Beales decided to skip his rental when he visited Hawaii's Big Island.
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He returned to Kona recently with his family, so he started looking for a car through AutoSlash.
"AutoSlash, through their rate tracking service, advised us that car rental prices had dropped such that a one-month rental was $1,258, far below the original quoted price," says Beales, a retired mortgage banker from Mill Creek, Washington.
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There are other ways to save on a rental car. "Find a hotel that has an airport shuttle and rent a car off-airport," advises Mark Mannell, CEO of Car Rental Savers. "In tourist locations, many hotels have car rental desks."
But there are other ways to get from point A to point B when you're traveling. The trick is thinking differently about ground transportation and using new apps and options to get around.
How to think differently about ground transportation
Travelers are starting to rethink ground transportation. Stan Caldwell, an associate professor of transportation and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, says new "mobility as service" platforms are offering travelers more options for getting around.
If you're traveling to Pittsburgh, consider downloading the Transit app, which partnered with MovePGH to let users combine inexpensive, shared mobility options with the city's mass transit. "These services include public transportation, bike and scooter share and ride-hail services like Lyft and Uber," he says.
If you're headed to Europe, you can download an app called Whim that allows you to access transportation options in places like Antwerp, Belgium; Helsinki; and Vienna.
What are the car rental alternatives?
Think outside the car rental box this summer. There are many other ways to get around by car, like a chauffeured limousine.
"As car rental shortages and rising rental prices continue, many of our members are experiencing increased business as travelers turn to alternate modes of transportation," says Robert Alexander, president of the National Limousine Association.
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It sounds counterintuitive, but with car rental prices so high, a limo may actually be less expensive.
"Using chauffeured cars can certainly be more practical if you rent a car for vacation but only drive it a few times," Alexander says. "Taxis and ride-share solutions are not always the least expensive options."
What about car-sharing?
"Planning is critical," she says. "You have to be flexible with your days of the week, dates and location. Vacationers will have better luck if they avoid key holidays and the most popular destinations."
Car sharing isn't without its challenges. Customers have complained about getting high-mileage vehicles that smell of cigarette smoke. But car-sharing companies are also more flexible than some car rental companies.
"Travelers can opt for a car share on an hourly basis, in contrast to the traditional car rental model, which requires people to commit to a full day," says Nick Tenekedes, vice president of marketplace at car-sharing site Getaround.
Now is the time to make your ground transportation arrangements
One of the smartest fixes for your ground transportation problems is not having them in the first place.
"Consider a destination where you don't need a rental car to get everywhere," says Narendra Khatri, principal of Insubuy, a travel insurance company. "In denser urban environments and island locations, you can rely on public transportation."
But whether you rent, share, use mass transit or take a scooter, make your plans soon, experts say.
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"This summer, book ground travel as early as possible," says Bryn Culbert, a spokeswoman for the ground transportation app Wanderu. "Bus and train companies often sell out of lower-priced fares, and tickets cost much more if they're booked at the last minute."
It's an undeniable fact about ground transportation that's unlikely to change anytime soon: You can't think about it soon enough.
Tips for getting reliable ground transportation this summer
Assume nothing. With supply chain bottlenecks affecting ground transportation, take nothing for granted. "Find out if trains and buses are still running," advises Frank Harrison, regional security director for North America and U.K. at World Travel Protection. "What are the schedules? Are you looking to rent a vehicle, rideshare, carpool, or similar? Throughout North America, there are supply restrictions. And in most cases, what is available is subject to price increases."
Shop harder. That's the advice of Peter Hoagland, a consultant from Warrenton, Virginia, who recently rented a car in Portland, Maine. "The rates were all over the map," he recalls. He decided to continue querying the same car rental companies using different discount codes until he got a rate that met his budget. "It pays to keep shopping even with the same rental company."
Run the numbers. It may make more sense to take your own car to your vacation destination instead of flying. Once you add up the costs of flying and renting a car, you might be better off just driving That's particularly true for some destinations in the Northeast, destinations in the Northeast. Renting a car can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars more, says Mario Medina, CEO of drvn, a technology and chauffeur service company. "So the winner here is obviously driving yourself," he says.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vacation ground transportation: It's never too soon to start planing