Getting Familiar: Renting a Car on Vacation

A Girls Guide To Cars | Getting Familiar: Renting A Car On Vacation - Screen Shot 2013 10 30 At 9.21.52 Am

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 At 9.21.52 AmUnless you’re being picked up when you land at the airport, most vacations often start at a rental car desk. Eager to get going, vacationers often jump into unfamiliar cars with just a cursory glance at the dashboard, a quick seat adjustment and that’s it. They might adjust the rear and side view mirrors as they drive away, but they rarely check out other features.

This is a mistake.

There are several things you should check out before leaving the rental car lot:

  • The wipers (and fluid)
  • The lights
  • Tire pressure
  • Where the fuel tank is
  • How to operate the defrost
  • Trunk closure

This is usually pretty evident when you stick your luggage in the trunk, but one time we put our few bags in the back seat. When we got to my daughter’s college to pick her up, we found out the trunk didn’t open. Problem!

Get To Know An Unfamiliar Dashboard Before You Drive Off

Get to know an unfamiliar dashboard before you drive off

These should all be checked out before you drive off while you still have rental car staff on hand to help.

Then there are a few things you should know before driving in an unfamiliar area:

Local driving customs. For example, in Boston, the first car making a left goes when the light turns green. This can provide a nasty surprise if you floor the car and plow right into a Boston resident.

People jaywalk in New York City. Old women with canes, moms pushing babies in strollers, businessmen and homeless people all step in the street against the light, in the middle of the block or wherever is most convenient. Be aware.

Also in NYC, you can’t turn right on red. Try this maneuver in front of a cop and you’ll get a ticket, whether or not you plead ignorance.

Bring change for parking meters – or look for Muni meters.

Check the whole block if you think you just found a free parking spot. Just a few city rules: New York City has street cleaning hours, Boston has resident only overnight parking and Chicago has snow routes that must be kept clear after two or more inches of snow.

Judy Antell, who is's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell