We just returned from a trip to the California with our two kids, ages 3 and 5. Flying with kids is never easy, but for the for the first time, it wasn’t difficult, either.
Their attention spans are now long enough to focus on watching videos and playing on their iPads for the bulk of the flight, so we weren’t forced to entertain them the whole time. Once again, landing treat got us through the last 20 minutes when electronics must be turned off, and soon the kids were running down the exit ramp.
The kids’ good spirits lasted through picking up our luggage and taking the tram to the car rental station, but then I found myself staring in horror at the lines. It was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, and there must have been over a 1000 people standing in lines for various rental agencies to get their cars. Waiting through these lines would take at least an hour, probably two.
And thankfully, we didn’t have to.
When I signed up for TripIt Pro a few weeks ago, it came with a couple of perks. One was a complimentary Hertz Gold membership, which normally costs $60. I had booked our car rental and answered all of the questions online (declining the insurance, navigation systems, etc.), so we simply turned and walked right past the long lines and headed down to the special Hertz Gold desk.
When we got there, we found another 50 people in line, all of whom had been stuck in the line upstairs and called to upgrade themselves for expedited service. However, there was an electronic board next to the desk, and we spotted a line that read “Rothman-Shore Stall 212”.
Since it was my first time using the service, I conferred with an attendant helping triage people in the line about what I needed to do. When he realized we already had an assigned stall, he said “You? You just go. Get in the car and go.”
And so we did. We walked over to the car, put our bags in the truck, installed the car seats, strapped in the kids, and left. At the exit gate, an attendant printed our contract, which took a minute or so, and we were on our way. In and out in 10 minutes.
Now this is the way to rent a car.
Flying with kids on any flight over one hour is like a sporting contest. You map out a strategy of what toys, games, and distractions will get you through the flight, and you pour all your effort into making it go as smoothly as possible. You leave it all out on the field. By the time you get to the rental car, you don’t have much left, and the kids have had more than their fill of sitting and waiting patiently. You just want to get in the car and go. Even a line of 6 people is too long.
So, paying $60 to just skip all the waiting for the car rental is money well spent. You just go.
Frankly, I’m not sure why all car rental agencies don’t do this by default. I have to imagine that it saves them money by not needing a rental agent to spend time with each individual customer. And it breeds good will.
I have to say, I am never going back.