It’s one way car rental season again! It’s what? One way car rental season is that magical time in Fall when rental car companies practically give away car rentals because you’re doing them a favor: Getting the cars back to Florida from up north. You can create an amazing road trip with half the miles and a quarter of the price! Travel Hack Traveling Mom Dia Adams has the scoop on how to score a one way car rental deal.
One-Way Car Rental Deal
Every Spring and Fall, I look for one-way car rental steals. Most months of the year you pay a mint to pick up a car in one place and drop it off in another. But in fall car rental deals to Florida from states up north hit rates as low as $5/day. During April and May it goes in reverse.
The best part: the companies price all sizes from economy up to full size the same. So even with taxes you can get a full size car for less than $70/week.
Coming from the DC area, I don’t want to do the round trip drive to Florida if I have less than 10 days; we lose too much time en route. However I’m happy to pick up my super cheap car at home, drive down with the kids on Thursday morning and tool around Florida till Sunday when we fly home.
This year is an especially good one to road-trip halfway with the cost of fuel so low. But act now. Gas prices around $2 a gallon may not be around forever.
Fall Trip to Florida Without Disney
Last year, the kids and I MacGyvered a last minute late fall trip to “Disney World without the parks.” The kids thought I was nuts when I pitched the idea of being so close to the Magic Kingdom and not riding a single ride but agreed to give it a shot. We flew down and stayed in Disney Hotels for around $100/night (prices tend to go down after summer and before Christmas week).
During five jam-packed days, we swam in Disney pools, watched Disney movies on the lawn, oohed and aahed at Wishes fireworks, shared s’mores with Chip and Dale, played Disney mini-golf, traded pins, and tackled the Kitchen Sink sundae at Beaches and Cream.
As we said “See Ya Real Soon!” for the last time, I asked the kids to rate the trip from a one to 10. Nine-year-old Deal Girl gave it an immediate 10. At 12, Deal Kid was a bit harder to impress. After pondering a moment, he settled on 8.5. His rationale? He docked two points for no rides then gave .5 back when I pointed out that if we had done the parks we would have spent at least 90 minutes a day in line. I’ll call it a win!
We then had a blast driving back in a loaded Dodge Charger. I loved the muscle car thrill of 8 cylinders while the kids sang along to Disney radio on XM. The price? $8 a day including taxes.
How to Find the One Way Car Rental Deals
Expedia is the best place to find the one way deals; it covers the major car rental companies. Each company’s terms are a bit different so using a search engine like Expedia puts them all on one handy page. Expedia also offers a free rewards program that earns you credit toward future hotel bookings. Searching the first week of December, I see rates as low as $4.95/day for a full size! $5/day is as low as I’ve ever seen one-way car rentals.
Remember when you see the car rates to take into account the airport fees and taxes. If I have a choice where to pick up I’ll check more than one location. Fees vary widely. For instance, at Orlando airport you’ll pay $17.72/day for a $9.95 rental. Pick up your car at Disney World’s Dolphin hotel and you’ll pay $14.55/day for the exact same rental. For a week-long rental it may be worth taking the hotel shuttle and picking up your car in town. Many of the neighborhood locations will come get you at your hotel so you aren’t out a cab ride to the rental site.
What You Need to Know about One-Way Car Rentals
Now there are a few caveats to keep in mind. Certain Florida airports do not qualify for drive-in rates (Jacksonville for example) so if you can’t find any one-way deals, try a different Florida airport. Most companies start this program between September 15 and end it Christmas week from the Northeast and November 1 from the Mid-Atlantic . You may still find a few one-way specials into January depending on demand. You can find the reverse in the Spring when one-way car rental deals FROM Florida kick in.
One-way car rentals can go from as short as one day or as long as three weeks. I’ve been known to keep the car around after we don’t “need” it because at the rock-bottom rental price it can be cheaper to commute in the rental car than to add the miles to our own car.
Have you done a one way car rental to or from Florida? How did half a road trip work for your family? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.