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Don't Leave Bucket List To Cheap Online Booking Sites

Imagine booking a car rental for $80 a week in Vegas that turned into $250 for the week.

It happened to me – someone who’s experienced in travel matters.

But it gives me the chance to offer you a good lesson – especially if you’re booking that big “bucket list” trip.

Fortunately, this was no bucket list trip for me. It was a business trip to Las Vegas, my old hometown, and I needed to get around quickly for meetings and some video shoots.

So I searched online.

Priceline ads came screaming. $80 a week car rental in Las Vegas. But clicking on it, only gave me $160 for the week. Not horrible, so I booked it.

I set the pick-up at 5 PM on a Monday. But meetings went longer so I couldn't get there until 7 PM.

Unfortunately, I booked it at a Budget Rent-A-Car that was not at the airport, but at a car dealership.

So when I arrived at 7 PM, the Budget rental office was closed.

The car dealership was still open. I checked the reservation; no mention that the Budget office closes at 5 PM.

So being a few minutes late cost me my reservation. I returned the next day. And the Budget employee said my reservation expired because I did not pick it up the night before.

However, he would book me a new reservation for $250 -- $90 more than what I booked and $170 more than what was first advertised.

He explained the Priceline deal was strictly through Priceline and not Budget.

Fortunately for him, I understood his dilemma, so I remained civil (which is what we should all do). I actually felt sorry for him.

So I went back online with Priceline. And all I could get was the same $250 deal Budget offered.

So I went back to Budget and took their deal for $250 for the week.

So this alleged bargain cost me $90 more for a cheap car with an engine sounding like it is fueled by tired hamsters.

It gets better. The new deal with Budget says that if the car isn’t returned with a full tank of gas, the charge would be – get this -- $9 a gallon. So much for the shale revolution!

In addition, I lost 3 hours of time from driving back and forth, filling up the tank, and trying to renegotiate to salvage the deal.

Talking to Priceline was useless. I missed the reservation; nothing they could do.

However, the Priceline guy admitted there was nowhere on the reservation stating when the Budget office would close.

Solace yes, but no financial compensation.

And then to cap it off. I told Budget I would return the car on the following Monday at 7 AM. When I got there, the office didn’t open until 7:30 AM. Again, there was nothing on the reservation mentioning that.

Granted, this was not life altering or devastating to my plans.

But imagine if that was a long-awaited trip you had planned.

Here are some guidelines for you.

  • Rent a car at the airport. You will get better service.

  • If you’re staying at a hotel try to book the rental through the hotel’s concierge desk which might have rentals right on property.

  • Have a relationship with one or two car companies and enroll in their rewards program. It is easier and you can get deals if you rent a lot. At first, it will be more expensive than the online deals, but less hassle.

  • Beware of most online deals. We’re not saying to avoid, just beware. Those $80 a week deals rarely exist.

  • Realize online booking engines offer deals that nobody wants. You get garbage as they clear the inventory just sitting there.

  • Read the fine print. If you don't pick the car up at the right time, they will cancel your booking then charge you at a higher rate. If you can't keep to a strict schedule, then you will get hit with higher fees. I am not saying don't use them. I'm just saying beware.

  • Try our booking engine -- – which is used by travel agents, so it offers a wide range of deals not just selected ones to reduce supply and raise prices.

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