Rental cars are like Slim Jims ─ you either like them or you don’t, as the commercial says. Well in the rental car world, they are either a blessing or a curse when it comes to trade show travel.
It is extremely important to understand the city you are traveling to when you need to decide whether to get a rental car or not. At Exhibit Edge, our supervisors would prefer to have the rental car so that we have the mobility to meet any last minute needs or client requests in the show city. With that said, there are some cities that you just do not want a rental car. Some cities, such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, New Orleans and Washington, D.C aren’t practical for rental cars. Other cities, such as Las Vegas, San Antonio, Reno, Orlando, and Phoenix are great for rental cars.
So what are the factors that go into these decisions? Well, this is what we take into consideration at Exhibit Edge:
- Cost of the rental car ─ In cities like Orlando, there is a high concentration of rental cars and companies who are competing for your business. Rental car rates are very low in comparison to other destinations.
- Cost of parking ─ In cities like San Francisco the cost of parking can be as high as $75 to $100 each day when you factor in the cost of the hotel you are staying at, which can run $40 to $50 dollars a day, and then the cost of the convention center parking facility. Most parking facilities do not have in and out privileges, so God help you if the show has staggered hours where you would like to go back to the hotel for a break.
- Rapid transit availability ─ This is an acquired skill as you become familiar with the transit systems of each city. As an exhibit supervisor, I travel to many different show cities and use the mass transit systems or taxis. I became fully liberated once I learned, through a friend, how to use the New York subway system. It is amazing that for 2 dollars and 50 cents you can go anywhere in the city one way. I also learned the bus transit system in Honolulu, and can commute from one end of Waikiki Beach to the other, or get to the Malls or Home Depot and back for just $2 or $3 dollars each way.
- Total cost of taxis and hotel shuttles versus getting a rental car and paying parking ─ Here you have to look at the distance from the airport to your destination to know how much a taxi will cost. It may cost $40 or $50 (like in San Antonio or Orlando) to get from the airport to the show destination. In these cities parking is free at many hotels and minimal at the convention center. In this situation it may be a good time and money saver to use a rental car.
Getting a rental car can be a blessing and a curse, which means you really need to do the math and check the logistics of the area you are traveling too. Online travel sites are great for getting excellent prices for rental cars. Just be aware that getting a rental car at the terminal, as opposed to an off-site location, may be worth the extra few dollars to avoid the hassle and lost time.