Do I need Car Rental While Traveling Domestic or Abroad?

 Car rental or no?

Car rental while you are traveling can be liberating. Using public transit is the best route if you are in a major city. Why fight the traffic, pay high parking fees or having to feed a meter? It’s a major reason why the locals avoid driving. See it as the locals do… on foot, bicycle, bus, trams, trolleys, trains.

But if you want to get out into the countryside, or do a road trip, then car rental is a must.

Your credit card may be an asset

You can save yourself some money by doing your homework before you make that car reservation. Start by looking at the benefits provided by your credit card company. Most card companies have a downloadable guide to benefits they provide.

Yes, the benefits guide is tiny print but you need to read it carefully. It may save you money. In order for their coverage to be in effect you must charge the car rental onto the card. You must also decline the collision coverage offered through the rental agency. Your benefits details will tell you exactly what you need to do.

The benefits guide will also tell you what it does not cover. I found they don’t cover your liability and medical benefits. Check with your auto insurance coverage company. If you will be renting in the US or Canada you may automatically have coverage.

International car rental

However, if you are going abroad, the game is different. You need to check what requirements you need to meet to drive in that country. Then using your credit card benefits information to check for coverage on

  • Collision/theft Damage Coverage
  • Loss of use charges assessed by the rental company while the damaged vehicle is being repaired and not available to use.
  • Reasonable and customary towing charges related to a covered loss to take the vehicle to the nearest qualified repair facility.

You need to know what is not covered. It may seem like common sense but if you are in any way breaking the law, you forfeit coverage.

Not all US auto insurers will insure outside the country. Mine doesn’t. That means purchasing the liability/medical coverage from the local rental agency.

Not all vehicles are covered. “Exotic, expensive” vehicles are generally listed as excluded. Antique automobiles, some vans and trucks are not covered. Renting an RV? Be sure to check to see if it is covered. If in doubt, be sure to ask your credit card benefits department.

It’s a good idea to go over the rental agreement thoroughly. This can be a challenge if you don’t speak the local language. If the rental company insists you take coverage, call your credit card Benefits Administrator. It’s smart to take a copy of the benefits information with you. It will have the details and the contact numbers domestically and abroad.

Before a signing of the contract, ask to see the car. You want to assure yourself that there is no existing damage to the vehicle. If there is anything amiss, make sure you document it with a photo and have it noted on the agreement.

Take a look in the trunk

Is there a spare tire?

Many new cars have no spare. Some have “hard” tires that when damaged give you 50 miles to get to a repair shop. Others have a little kit that must when a tire goes soft. This seals the leak and prevents further problems. Note: it’s only good for a single use.

Get familiar with what is there, how to use it and what to do if you have to use it. Should you contact them for a replacement kit? If a tire requires replacement, who pays?

It may sound far-fetched but it happened to us on our trip to the UK last summer. Tire acted funny. Then going down the heavily traveled M4, it started deflating. All we could do was get to the side of the freeway before it was flat. No spare tire. The kit didn’t work. We called AA.

When the truck arrived, they drove it onto the truck. When we got to the shop, they drove it off the truck. New tire time. We hadn’t selected “that” section of coverage and I hadn’t checked the credit card benefits. We had to pay for it out of pocket.

Lesson learned. Check everything ahead of time and know what’s in the trunk… or not.

Navigation

It’s best to have a navigator so the driver can focus. There’s the traffic, strange environment and staying on the correct side of the road for where you’re visiting.

If the car doesn’t have a navigation system, consider taking a Garmin or the like with you. Be sure to get the card for the area’s location if it is not included. It’s a worthwhile investment. Mine got my girlfriend and me to all sorts of places. Everything from restrooms to restaurants and home again. In a strange country, it was liberating security.

Pay attention to landmarks and your surroundings. Things will look different after dark.  Street lighting is not common on all rural roads.

Discover Portland…Eclectic, Foodie, Quirky

Downtown Portland looking toward Mt. Hood
Portland looking east

Portland is Eclectic, Foodie & Quirky…

Eclectic and quirky, Portland offers diversity amidst natural beauty. You’ll find something for every type of visitor. Here where the Willamette River flows into the massive Columbia, Portland, the city of roses, spreads from the river out and up to the hills beyond. A center of Northwest history, it is the largest city in Oregon.

Straddling the River, Portland is a city of bridges. No two identical. Sunset on the east bank looking across the river and bridges to the downtown skyline is a photo opp not to miss.

Discover Portland

Discover art, music, theater, parks, biking, and hiking. Shop ‘till you drop… there’s no sales tax in Oregon. Year around Portland’s events calendar is crammed full, more than 54 of them annually.  Sure it rains here, that’s tree growing weather.  But here’s a link with 34 Things to Do in the Rain: https://www.travelportland.com/article/34-things-rain/.

Kicking off in April and running through September, outdoor events abound. On the site of a former freeway, the Tom McCall Waterfront Park attracts locals and visitors with music and festivals one after another. June attracts visitors from near and far for the granddaddy of all city parties, the Portland Rose Festival. It’s a full week of events, parades, concerts, a carnival next to the river, boat races and lots more.

On a budget?

Portland offers lots of free and inexpensive attractions and activities. Wander the neighborhoods. Portland is blessed with diverse neighborhoods full of quaint shops and awesome eats. Parks abound offering laid back or hiking experiences.

Walk one of the bridges. Hawthorne Bridge is over a century old. Tilikum Crossing is pedestrian friendly. St. Johns Bridge is tall and elegant.  All afford unique and beautiful perspectives on the city. Another great view and inexpensive treat is taking a ride on the Portland Aerial Tram.

Food scene

Portland is a food lover’s mecca. You’ll find 70 breweries in town and another 35 in the metro area. Renowned for coffee shops and food carts, you’ll also enjoy fine and family dining.  Seasonal fresh, local sourced and diverse. You’ll find vegans and carnivores munching side by side.

Explore

If you catch a bit of rain, enjoy one of the museums, galleries or bookstores. Blessed with sunshine, take a walk or hike in Washington Park, Forest Park, or the Rose Gardens. You’ll enjoy spectacular views of the city below and picturesque Mt. Hood rising majestically beyond.

For adventure, head to the Columbia Gorge 45 minutes to the east. Here you’ll find waterfalls, hiking and photo opportunities. Southwest of town about the same distance, you’ll be in the heart of the Willamette Valley wine country. More wineries than you could hope to visit in weeks, let alone a day.

Here’s a link so you can plan your Portland escape for a weekend, a week or more.  There’s lots to entertain you in the City of Roses.

https://www.travelportland.com/things-to-do/events/.

10 Tips for incorporating wellness into your travel

Wellness Lifestyle Travel

You feel good with your commitment to a healthier wellness lifestyle. Your stress is more controlled, your body feels better, and your clothes fit better. You exercise regularly. You focus your food choices on fresh organic, local, seasonal…

Now you want to maintain those choices while traveling. It can be a challenge. Long hours sitting in transit, airport and hotel food.

Here are ten tips to help you incorporate wellness into your travels.

1) Plan ahead and take favorite snack foods with you.

While you cannot take beverages through security screening, you can take

Healthy travel snacks

food. Proteins, (nuts, seeds, organic snack bars), firm fruits/vegetables, dried fruit… a little advance planning can have you feeling better about your choices.

2) Schedule time to move between flights.

Instead of racing from one flight to another, consider giving yourself a little more time. Walk the airport, explore, make use of the yoga room to stretch and rebalance. All airports have places to walk, more are adding gyms, quiet rooms and massage.

3) Check your destination hotel.

Look for those that feature healthy lifestyle choices. Fitness facilities, access to bicycles, walking paths, yoga and more. Increasingly properties are making healthy food choices available. Don’t see what you are looking for on their website? Call them and ask questions to see if they can accommodate your needs. If not, are there restaurants or grocers nearby that feature organic, seasonal local?

Use internet search engines to help you plan. Find healthy choice restaurants and grocers near where you will be staying. Keep a list of those who meet your specific preferences.

4) Locate the nearest farmer’s market.

Farmers market

This is a great place to find

Healthy travel snacks

seasonal organic items. Often they include vendors offering prepared healthy selections.

5) Ship it ahead.

Consider shipping your own care package of non-perishable foods ahead of time. On arrival, collect the package at the hotel’s business office.

6) Schedule your travel to include time dedicated to your fitness activities.

Don’t let a tight schedule prevent you from a morning walk or time at the gym.

7) Opt for in-room fitness.

Incorporate exercise

Many savvy travelers carry lightweight packable devices like stretch bands. These plus normal in-room furniture allow them to get an exercise routine in. This is a bonus if the weather is inclement or the hotel’s fitness center gets high use. Some hotels also have fitness tools available for in-room use including DVD workouts.

8) Skip the elevators… take the stairs.

If you are staying at a larger property, select a floor that coincides with your fitness level. Then instead of standing around waiting for the elevator, take those stairs.

9) Track your fitness goals.

If you don’t have a personal activity device, there are free applications you can download on your smartphone. Most can track your distance, steps, kcal, time spent and movement speed. Some can be set up with alerts and reminders.

10) Relaxation time.

Relaxation and focused breathing is a proven way to

Time to relax

destress. Work stress, travel stress, too much technology stress. All benefit from dedicated time to relax. Yoga, meditation, and massage are recognized “safety valves” to reduce stress and enhance wellbeing. Schedule some into your trip and renew.

With a little preparation and planning, your next trip can be a wellness fitness trip. You’ll feel better, be more alert, have more energy and come home rejuvenated.

Experience Tall ships under sail on the seas…

Tall Ships take you back to the 18th Century and the Era of Buccaneers…

 

Mast of the ship towers high above
Tall ship mast soars 89 ft.

Under a brilliant blue sky, the helmsman cut the trolling motor.  The silence was complete.  The 112-footlong “tall ship” wallowed in gentle swells that felt much stronger than their size.

There was no denying the power of the ocean around us. My hands gripped the nearest solid wood to steady myself against the roll. First-time sailors, my girlfriend and I caught glances and smiled. Here we were, senior citizens, ticking off a bucket list dream.

Wind whipped the sails. Wood creaked. Sailors, dressed in well-worn period garb, worked the rigging. Raising  4442 feet of sails using over 6 miles of ropes, (called rigging), and then rotating the angles of the masts to catch the wind is a complex job. It requires teamwork and precise orchestration.

Sailing…

Then the wind caught, the sails billowed and the ship surged forward cutting smoothly through the waves.  We were sailing on the ocean.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the first mate shouted over the noise of the wind. “You are traveling at the speed that conquered the world.”  The wind whipped and billowed the tall ship’s sails. The first mate shouted commands. Sailors chanted replies over the sound of ocean swells meeting the hull.

Tall ship quietly sails under the bridge above

Skillfully, the sailors guided the brig back into the long jetty that protects the Newport, Oregon harbor.  Just off starboard, a kayaker skimmed across the water, keeping pace with little difficulty. Gulls cried, sails whipped, rigging groaned.

A dozen crew and 45 enchanted guests sailed for the next 45 minutes before heading Lady Washington back to dock. As sailors, both male and female tend to the ship, their bawdy songs provide a tempo for the work.

One of the crew sat on the deck, gathering children around her and exploring the contents of a sailor’s rucksack and telling stories. Shutters clicked as passengers tried to capture the moment. Eighty-nine feet above us the peak of the main mast towered. There is no experience like it.

Tall ships

Lady Washington is called a tall ship because of the height of her sails.  She is a full-scale replica of the original Lady Washington. Following the Revolutionary War, the original ship was refitted and set on an adventure.  She sailed around the horn in 1778 to become the first US vessel to sail the Pacific and reach the west coast.  From there she traveled for the next 10 years around the vast Pacific Ocean on trading missions.

The modern Lady Washington was launched in 1989. She is dedicated to bringing the magic of the age of tall ships to locals and visitors up and down the west coast.  Her goal to educate, excite and preserve the history of the era.

Her home is in Gig Harbor, Washington but Lady Washington spends much of her time with her crew at sea. She is famous, having appeared in several movies including “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl.” Each year in December she departs with her companion the Hawaiian Chieftain. The two tall ships sail from Gig Harbor to San Diego, CA.

Shipmates work as a team to maneuver the tall ship

Slowly, they sail back up the west coast with numerous ports of call. School children are given tours. Living history. The public may also pay to tour the ships while docked or go for a sail.  If you want to go sailing, buy your tickets early as they generally sell out in advance in every port.

Feeling adventurous?

A limited number of guests are allowed to book passage and travel between ports with the crew. There are restrictions for these guests available on their website.

Because these are accurate historical replicas they are not handicapped accessible. But there is always a ready hand to assist guests safely on and off the ship.   For complete information on the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain, their history and their schedule please visit http://historicalseaport.org/.  Step back into history and enjoy the age and magic of the era of Buccaneers.

One of my readers commented they’d like to experience sailing but had physical challenges. Not a problem. There are companies that specialize in helping every level of ability enjoy sailing. Here are three links I found:

Voyages

https://www.connect2charity.com/sailing-for-the-disabled

Sailing

Enjoy your adventure!!!

Tall ship mast

Author: Judith Culp is a freelance wellness travel writer. She is a member of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance as well as the Professional Writer’s Alliance.