IWhether it's for work or fun, hubs and I have the pleasure of traveling around a lot. We are really lucky! We've definitely seen our fair share of rental cars, and they are NOT created equal. They typically start out generally cheap (for something that barely fits the two of us), but once you start making your way up to anything relatively special or fast, they can get expensive SUPER quick. Hubby likes to race cars, so it is usually pretty important to him to have a decent auto if we are gone for a while. We have been lucky enough to get some fun/fast/husband approved cars so I wanted to share some of our experiences with getting great rental cars without spending like we did. Keep scrolling!
I would say most of the luxury cars we have driven were through Sixt (including the BMW above!) This rental car company mainly focuses only on luxury vehicles. I've never seen them on an Expedia or Kayak style website, so if you want to book them you have to go through their website directly. And yeah, they have really great prices on luxury cars. However, there have been a number of times where I have vowed we are never using them again. We have waited hoursss in line to pick up a vehicle. Sometimes the vehicles are not in the greatest condition on the inside and outside. Often their prices are pretty basic and don't include any sort of extras (ie insurance). They make you pay extra per day for any additional drivers. (**however I recently learned that there are a couple states that require rental car companies to allow spouses to be able to both drive the car without any additional fees and California is one of them! But if you are driving across multiple states make sure to check those laws**) Our most recent experience with Sixt in Germany was actually really great though (and there's a funny/crazy story about that I'm sharing down below) so I guess it is a hit or miss, but definitely worth considering!
Join a Loyalty Program
Since Bjorn travels a lot for business, his work often pays for a rental car for him. I think it is super important to stay consistent with loyalty programs instead of bouncing around from cheapest company to cheapest company because a lot of companies have really great reward programs. We have had completely free vacations just from utilizing flight/hotel/rental car points. For domestic rental cars, we generally use National. When you become one of their top tier rewards members, a lot of times you will have your own check in/concierege whatever helping you get your car. I have found these people to be super generous with upgrades when they are available because they want you to feel special and keep coming back to them. Our most recent free upgrade was a Mercedes suv! <3
Don't Be Afraid to Ask and Haggle
Most of us book our rental cars online in advance, so the price may seem pretty fixed. But there have been many times when we rolled up to the rental car lot, and were able to negotiate a lower price on an upgrade. If the counter is pretty abandoned and the car lot is pretty full (especially of higher end cars) the likelihood of you haggling a cheap upgrade is very plausible! The car makes the company nothing if it is just sitting there, so they are really willing to get a couple extra bucks in exchange for putting you in a nicer car. Either we ask how much extra the upgrade would cost, or the associate will say they can give it to us for $x extra amount of money. We've often told them ok, we are willing to pay so and so amount extra for this car. They usually have to "check with their manager" but they usually meet us quite close to what we are willing to pay extra. Win win!
Sometimes You Just Get Lucky
So...really funny story about our Sixt rental car in Germany XD We had been picked up from the airport, and then the day after we arrived we were being dropped off at the rental car facility to get our car. So we get dropped off and run in (it's raining btw) and they can't find our reservation. After searching through our emails we realize we are at the wrong Sixt pick up location. Great. So we call our ride and have them drive us 30 minutes across town to the correct location. We run inside (still raining). This guy also can't find our reservation...turns out we had made it for pick up as the next day. Not only did we go to the wrong location, we came on the wrong day! #winning Luckily the customer service guy was super cool. We had originally selected a BMW 1series (the smallest BMW) as our rental car, but they were not getting one returned until the next day. BUT he did have a BMW 4series convertible available, and he gave it to us for the exact same price! Moral of the story? Not really sure, can't guarantee anyone that if you show up at the wrong location or on the wrong day that you will get an upgrade, but it happened to us!
If you are following along on Instagram, I went away for a little girl's trip to Santa Barbara over the weekend (my first time there!) and we had the most beautiful time! I picked up the cutest little spring dress at a great price for the trip so I wanted to share my outfit details + what we did in case you are looking to plan your own SB trip!
I took the Amtrak Surfliner from Los Angeles, which is the most amazing train ride that takes the California coast between SoCal and NorCal. You get the most breathtaking beach views! The train was pretty nice and clean, and there were a lot of big groups having a great time, so it would be a lot of fun to take this for a weekend with a group of friends. The Santa Barbara train station was located really close to the beach and downtown so you can plan to walk straight to wherever you were going once you set foot off the train.
We were only there for one night so we spent our time exploring downtown, the beaches, and eating our way through a couple really good restaurants. We ate lunch at the Sandbar, which is a really fun Mexican restaurant with yummy food and drinks! A lot of the restaurant is out on a patio so it's a great place to enjoy the weather, people watch, and enjoy a frozen marg.
For dinner we ate at Chucks Waterfront Restaurant, which is out on the water next to a boat dock. I recommend sitting on the patio! You have a great view of the water, plus we got the most fun table with a fire in the middle! We had seafood and steaks, which was all really yummy. A great place to chill and watch the sun set!
Below you can find the cute dress I wore, along with my favorite classic bag and a few slides on sale that are really similar to the ones I'm wearing above! (The ones I'm wearing are from Banana Republic but no longer in stock :() I really loved this dress because it's a high quality linen blend dress with cute buttons and a nice sturdy belt, plus even though I wore it on the train for a couple hours it didn't wrinkle! This is so surprising for a linen dress! I've also linked the best selling apple watch band below that looks just like the Hermes Apple Watch band! I've had mine for a couple months and it still looks brand new, and I get so many compliments on it. Shop everything below by just clicking the pic!
I was lucky enough to have Tampa be one of the places my dad was stationed and this is where I went to university so it is definitely a sentimental place I always love to visit!
How We Got There
We flew our typical airline, Southwest Airlines, because as I've mentioned before Bjorn uses this airline for all his business trips (which are often) so we always fly with them stateside for all our travel. We never pay for our tickets! Plus Southwest is super generous with those free drink coupons so if you are looking for an airline to stay loyal to for points, I would definitely recommend Southwest! (And those two free bags y'all)
Where We Stayed
I'm lucky enough to have family living in Tampa that we stay with when we visit, but the one place I've always wanted to stay at is the Don Cesar in St. Pete, which is a beautiful pink castle on the beach! This hotel dates back a century when it was a hospital during the war but is now an updated, high end hotel with multiple restaurants, shops, and an amazing view of the beach!
What We Did
- Going out on South Howard
This has been something I've loved to do since I lived here! South Howard (SoHo) has amazing restaurants and fun bars and clubs all within a few blocks of downtown Tampa. EVERY time we are back we always hit up Kotos, a Japanese hibachi restaurant and then World of Beer across the street where they keep in stock all the good German stuff. Whatever you like or are into, you can find it on SoHo!
- Hockey (and every other sport!)
I don't think it is much of a secret that I am a huge hockey fan (go Bolts!) and we were lucky enough to be visiting at the time when the Tampa Bay Lightning were having their first game of the season in Tampa! Hockey is so fast and exciting, but if it isn't for you Tampa also has a football, baseball, and soccer team so there is always someone to cheer for!
- Bayshore Blvd
Bayshore Blvd is a street/sidewalk that runs along the water and downtown Tampa. I used to live off Bayshore and I always loved walking it during the sunset. You can always find people working out or rollerblading and it is just always super busy. Sometimes you can hear people refer to it as "Babeshore", so it's not bad for people watching either. ;)
- Ybor City
Ybor City is a part of Tampa known for it's Cuban influence and cigar manufacturing. It's definitely seen a big change even since I moved away, being more "hipster" and having more of a nightlife. We enjoyed walking down the main street and watching people in the windows of cigar shops making cigars right in front of us! Afterwards we stopped for a drink at Bernini!
- Top Golf
The first and only place where I've tried Top Golf is Tampa! It's a fun thing to do with friends where everyone can just play and have snacks and drinks. I've never played golf before trying this but Top Golf is really just a chill, no pressure thing to do!
Sadly we didn't make it to Datz this trip, but Datz is an AMAZING restaurant in downtown Tampa that is known for curated menus and great craft beers. They also recently opened Datz Dough which is supposed to be a great bakery we will have to try next time!
- Beach day at Don Cesar
Even though I have never stayed at the Don Cesar overnight, we come here every time to enjoy the beach! We usually stop first the their restaurant/outdoor patio for a drink or two before heading right out the back of the patio onto the beach. They also offer nice lounges and chairs to rent for a more luxurious beach day.
- International Plaza
This is not just any mall. When I lived in Tampa I was here at least once a week! It's a higher end, luxury mall with pretty much any store you could imagine + a nice outdoor plaza area with a number of restaurants. One of my favorite places in Tampa to spend a couple hours!
- Things we didn't have time for but are also a blast: Busch Gardens, Florida Aquarium, Sarasota Ringling Museum, touring University of Tampa (beautiful old university), Gasparilla (famous Mardi Gras-esque parade during February!)
Gas, housing, food...almost everything is cheaper in Florida! (compared to Cali that is...)
- Warm the entire year
There is truthfully only a couple of days out of the year that go under 70.
- Young city
With multiple universities, this a very young city with so much to do (and so many places to party!)
- Variety of activities
Because Florida is such a popular tourist destination, there is really so much to do for anybody!
In all honesty, Florida is SO much less enjoyable May-August. Go another time when the humidity and heat die down.
Hubby can speak more to this, as he is the human mosquito magnet, but expect to wear bug spray all day e'ry day.
- Typical Florida Crazy
No hate to Florida, but doesn't it seem like every hard to believe news story comes out Florida? Expect to see some loco.
Stay Consistent To Earn Points
My husband travels A LOT for work. It sucks, but the one great thing that comes out of it is that he consistently flies, drives, and stays with the same companies so he racks up tons of points that we can use for our personal travel! For flying he uses Southwest, which I love because they allow 2 free bags and still give snacks (no shame). Last year he even got so many points that I had a companion pass and could fly anywhere with him the whole year for free! We used this a TON. Unfortunately he did not qualify for that again this year, but for our trip to the East Coast coming up in October we got over $1200 worth of plane tickets for free with his points!
Utilize Sites That Surprise You
Hotwire is the most popular site that offers "hot deals", but I've seen other travel sites start to offer this. Essentially, hotels can predict when their slow times will be and offer through third party travel sites discounts on their hotel but do not disclose what the hotel is until you have paid. This is in case someone wants to book this hotel intentionally and still pays the full rate. The down fall is that the stay in nonrefundable, but if you are certain you will be traveling at this time it is not a big deal! They still give you an idea of where the hotel is and how many stars it is rated, and will even tell you what hotel the last person who booked this deal got. And 100% of the times for me we have gotten that hotel! We got an amazing hotel in South Beach, Miami for half the price with this!
Plan Ahead And Use Groupon
Looooove me some Groupon. Whether it is for activities, spa services, getaways, or a dinner for two, you can always save some money if you look ahead. 99.9% of Groupons require a reservation and/or certain dates that it can be used, so make sure to read the fine print and look ahead for excursions you want to do. Currently looking up jet ski and boats rentals for our upcoming Florida trip!
Overbooked = Your Friend
True story: A couple of years ago, Bjorn and I were flying back from Europe and had a layover in New Jersey. We were flying United (I know I mentioned earlier we stick to Southwest, but they don't fly to Germany!) and our flight from New Jersey to LA was cancelled. They rebooked us for a flight the next morning, but low and behold the flight was overbooked. We already had to take off an extra day of work because of the initial cancellation, so when the United worker went over the intercom and offered $500 in United credit to take a later flight we decided to go for it. Not only did we get a combined $1000 in United money + food vouchers while we waited, but they also bumped us up to first class for our next flight! It was 4 hours of luxury and I didn't want to get off the plane! Not only was the flight back amazing, but we used our United credit towards another first class flight in the future. If you are not under a time crunch I recommend taking a desperate airline worker up on their offer.
Sometimes You Need To Pay Up
Sometimes when traveling, it pays to cough up more money. Example #1: read the fine print when renting a rental car. Most rental car companies don't allow additional drivers unless you pay for them (Budget does allow married couples though!) so if you are wanting to share the driving duties make sure to pay the extra money. If something happens while the other driver is behind the wheel you will have to pay all the damages! Also when it comes to rental cares, some will charge a "loss of use" if something happens to the car and it needs repairs. I.E. you will be paying the day rate for the car while it is being repaired! The auto insurance we use for our personal cars also covers rental cars, but we recently found out it does not cover "loss of use" so you may want to pay for the additional coverage offered by the rental car company if they charge a "loss of use" fee.
Example #2: if for any reason you think your trip may for the slightest reason not happen, you may want to pay for the travel insurance. Most airline fares, especially international that are not purchased through the airline directly, are nonrefundable or you will not get back a certain percentage. We have paid as little as $20 to refund our $1000+ flight in the case something happens.
We recently made a trip to the Pacific Northwest and I was totally set for the rainy temps with a few great fancy finds!
St. John Long Trench Coat [secondhand, $63] H&M White Blouse [new, $10] Gap Ankle Skinny Pants [new, $20] Hunter Chelsea Quilted Boots [new, $75] Gucci Clubmaster Sunnies [new, $140] Primark Backpack [new, $9]
The St. John trench is a piece I found through Poshmark. St. John is a high end brand with outerwear typically running in the $800- $1500 range. See for yourself HERE! This piece is vintage and needed a little cleaning, but was priced at $100. I had this item in my "liked" list and had made a few offers to the seller which had been declined. Over the course of a month the piece was not selling (its out of season) and eventually the seller lowered the price close to where I had been offering and I scooped it up! It is such great quality with a wool lining on the inside, so it super warm. It was longer than I expected but overall this is a great closet staple that really pulls an outfit together!
I have been so in love with the Hunter Chelsea quilted boots for a long time. They are classic and easier to wear than the tradition Hunter tall boot. These shoes don't typically go on sale because they are pretty timeless. and are priced at $150 However you can find designers selling unique colors and patterns of their items through eBay, which is exactly how I found these! Hunter was selling this color of the Chelsea directly through eBay, maybe because this color was a seasonal color and was not as popular as anticipated. Either way, I scooped up this pair at half price and with free shipping! The only sad part about this story is that I had actually ordered these for our trip to Europe and they were delivered the day after we left. *tears down cheeks emoji*
Live for luxury? No trust fund, no problem!
Join the fancy free journey as we seek the
finer things in life, sans millions.
- Marie Claire, September 2016