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Best Programs & Deals to Save Money on Coaster Trips


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With my limited knowledge of rental cars I've found prices fluctuate pretty crazily all the time. I *never* pay ahead and book with a refundable rate and re-book as needed. I've seen hundreds of dollars differences just by checking a few times leading up to a trip. I don't know the secret to getting the best deal other than using comparison sites (and some awesome entertainment book rate codes), but never ever take and prepay what you think is the best deal because the best deal a few days later could be vastly different.

 

I think for my L.A. trip last year, over a 6 month span I rebooked about 6 times. Seems silly but I saved a crapload of money. My best deal initially was $247 after taxes and fees with shitty sixt for an economy car and ended up turning into $84 for a midsize SUV with Alamo after taxes and fees for 4 days with A ONE WAY rental (normally there can be significant fees on one way rentals) So keep running those comparisons, you never know when things are going to drop like crazy. I thought it was a price mistake at first.

 

The screenshots below were for the exact same rental dates for the same amount of days for the same exact airports, both were the best price on the same comparison site but were booked at different time periods.

 

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Edited by anonymouscactus
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With my limited knowledge of rental cars I've found prices fluctuate pretty crazily all the time. I *never* pay ahead and book with a refundable rate and re-book as needed. I've seen hundreds of dollars differences just by checking a few times leading up to a trip. I don't know the secret to getting the best deal other than using comparison sites (and some awesome entertainment book rate codes), but never ever take and prepay what you think is the best deal because the best deal a few days later could be vastly different.

 

I think for my L.A. trip last year, over a 6 month span I rebooked about 6 times. Seems silly but I saved a crapload of money. My best deal initially was $247 after taxes and fees with shitty sixt for an economy car and ended up turning into $81 for a midsize SUV with Alamo after taxes and fees for 4 days with A ONE WAY rental (normally there can be significant fees on one way rentals) So keep running those comparisons, you never know when things are going to drop like crazy.

Good point; I'll keep my eye out for a better price. Costco car rentals are cancel-able, and they don't even ask for your credit card until you pick up the car, so swapping my reservation out for a better price should be no problem.

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I think for my L.A. trip last year, over a 6 month span I rebooked about 6 times. Seems silly but I saved a crapload of money. My best deal initially was $247 after taxes and fees with shitty sixt for an economy car and ended up turning into $84 for a midsize SUV with Alamo after taxes and fees for 4 days with A ONE WAY rental (normally there can be significant fees on one way rentals) So keep running those comparisons, you never know when things are going to drop like crazy. I thought it was a price mistake at first.

One-way rentals are risky business. Cars from far out of state (or even cars from Canada!) will often sit in rental fleets, especially at airport locations, for a very long time until some sucker ends up one-way-ing them in the general direction of the state they're registered in. A car that's over 2 years old with 30,XXX miles, which may be leaving the fleet soon, might suddenly get one-wayed to a completely different part of the country and rack up miles as if it were new. It's not really "shady" because it's cost-prohibitive for a rental company to re-register / re-title the car in a different state.

 

Example, at the fleet I worked in part-time during college, we would occasionally get cars from Ontario. Due to random circumstances, the stars often wouldn't align to send them back north until they were 3 years old or more, with over 45,000 miles. Sometimes they were the only cars we had left at the end of the night, sometimes they were the only car that we had available in a certain class... Lots of reasons why they get stuck.

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So keep running those comparisons, you never know when things are going to drop like crazy. I thought it was a price mistake at first.

 

Which comparison site were you using? I definitely prefer to rent a car for a long road trip if it's a good deal then put a ton of miles on my car.

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Awesome news about WOW and Norwegian guys!

 

Anyway this sort of sounds like a straight up advertisement but I guess that's the nature of the thread and this is so awesome that it really needs to be mentioned so here goes. For anyone who's traveling to a park between now and November 11th and isn't currently taking advantage of a hotel rewards program, Choice Hotels has a really good offer right now. I know I've talked about them before and I'm a pretty happy Choice Privileges / Choice Privileges Visa customer but this is the best offer I've seen from them. You have to play the game a little though, so this is how it works...

 

Essentially they're running a promotion now that allows you to stay for 2 nights and get enough points for a free third night at one of their cheaper hotels or enough points to cover a large chunk of the fee for a more expensive hotel. We just did it in Orlando and got WAY more points than we generally would have for the same stays. The best part is, the promotion runs through November 11th and there's no limit to how many times you can do it. You do need to register for the promotion, but you can keep doing this over and over.

 

That said you do have to know how to play the game a little bit, so here's what I've found out.

 

1) Obviously you need to sign up for Choice Privileges (which is free and not tied to a credit card at all unless you get it to add an extra 5 points per purchase at a Choice Hotel and you might as well since there's no annual fee. I have it and I love it but BEWARE of the interest rate). Then you have to register for the promotion at the link above.

 

2) DO NOT stay at the same hotel 2 nights in a row. That's a complete waste. You need 2 separate qualifying stays which means two separate stays at one of their hotels. Normally you're free to do this with Choice, but don't do it during this promotion. When we visited Busch Gardens Tampa the other day we got into town on Friday night, went to the park and Howl O Scream on Saturday (with the 1:00 close) and needed to stay right near the park on Saturday night. Ideally we would have loved to just stay at the same hotel both nights but I booked a Comfort Suites one night and a Sleep Inn the next night for no f*cking reason other than to get it to count as 2 separate stays which worked. You can't fool the system by checking out and back into the same hotel. You need to actually pick two hotels. I know it's stupid, but it's worth doing.

 

3) From what I can tell there's actually no benefit to staying at a nice hotel (from a points standpoint). Normally when I pay for a room and don't use points (rare since it's so easy to rack up points with Choice) I stay at Comfort Suites or Sleep Inn (which I consider to be their best offerings) since I know I get 15 points per dollar anyway so I don't mind splurging a little but with this promotion you seem to get 8000 points no matter what so I suggest racking up sh*tty Econo Lodge stays. For this trip we stayed at Comfort Suites and Sleep Inn because Busch Gardens is in a sh*tty area and we didn't want to die, but if you're not in a sh*tty area then you get more bang for your buck by staying at cheap hotels. Kind of weird, but it seems like a loophole that they overlooked. You're getting the same amount of points regardless of what you spend on the room anyway. By the way, AAA rates or other discounted rates will all work for this promotion.

 

4) Rooms booked at rates below $40 per night don't qualify. I know you'll never find that in most parts of the country and if you do you should run away kicking and screaming but I've actually been to a few places where you can get a decent room for $40 a night (like Las Vegas or the Midwest for example) so I figured I'd point that out.

 

Thanks to this thread being rebumped, I just noticed that they're running this promotion again! It's any two stays between April 2nd and May 25th to qualify.

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Holy crap! This thread is alive. I just assumed nobody cared and started a Discount travel blog so I can annoy people with this type of crap to my heart's content.

 

I'd link it but I don't know if that's kosher.

 

^ thanks for the heads up! Now I get to replan my upcoming theme park trips next month so we switch hotels on the 2 night stays. And no way I'm redeeming last year's points now, just going to keep them racking up thanks to this promo lol

 

Yeah, that's absolutely the way to go. I'm so glad this is back. This is seriously the best hotel promotion ever since you can keep doing it. Make SURE you register for the promotion though (you don't get it automatically) and hotel hopping for absolutely no reason is definitely key.

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I think for my L.A. trip last year, over a 6 month span I rebooked about 6 times. Seems silly but I saved a crapload of money. My best deal initially was $247 after taxes and fees with shitty sixt for an economy car and ended up turning into $84 for a midsize SUV with Alamo after taxes and fees for 4 days with A ONE WAY rental (normally there can be significant fees on one way rentals) So keep running those comparisons, you never know when things are going to drop like crazy. I thought it was a price mistake at first.

One-way rentals are risky business. Cars from far out of state (or even cars from Canada!) will often sit in rental fleets, especially at airport locations, for a very long time until some sucker ends up one-way-ing them in the general direction of the state they're registered in. A car that's over 2 years old with 30,XXX miles, which may be leaving the fleet soon, might suddenly get one-wayed to a completely different part of the country and rack up miles as if it were new. It's not really "shady" because it's cost-prohibitive for a rental company to re-register / re-title the car in a different state.

 

Example, at the fleet I worked in part-time during college, we would occasionally get cars from Ontario. Due to random circumstances, the stars often wouldn't align to send them back north until they were 3 years old or more, with over 45,000 miles. Sometimes they were the only cars we had left at the end of the night, sometimes they were the only car that we had available in a certain class... Lots of reasons why they get stuck.

 

Interesting read; I don't know crap about cars but you are suggesting that you're more likely to get a car that will break down? I'm likely going to be getting a one way rental (although it'll just be from Charlotte/NC to Hilton Head/SC and I bet there are plenty of NC ->SC and SC -> NC rentals happening) and this seems like something more people should know about.

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Interesting read; I don't know crap about cars but you are suggesting that you're more likely to get a car that will break down? I'm likely going to be getting a one way rental (although it'll just be from Charlotte/NC to Hilton Head/SC and I bet there are plenty of NC ->SC and SC -> NC rentals happening) and this seems like something more people should know about.

If all cars were created equal, you would have no greater chance of breaking down at 45,XXX miles in a rental car than you would in your own 45,XXX mile car. However, some cars are just plain built better than others.

 

North Carolina to South Carolina is no big deal. Those cars can be easily driven / shipped across either state's border if they need their registration renewed, and agencies typically have several branch locations near the state borders that are in the same "group" for that purpose. I'm not sure how much more I can say without violating my own previous work contract, but when you walk down the rental line in North Carolina and see plates from, say, Ohio, or Louisiana, or Missouri, the reason they got there is because they were one-way rentals from their home state. If you reserve a one-way rental and you're heading somewhere in those directions, you might be placed in one of those cars (though never in a class lower than what you paid for), to get it as close as possible back to its home.

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Interesting read; I don't know crap about cars but you are suggesting that you're more likely to get a car that will break down? I'm likely going to be getting a one way rental (although it'll just be from Charlotte/NC to Hilton Head/SC and I bet there are plenty of NC ->SC and SC -> NC rentals happening) and this seems like something more people should know about.

If all cars were created equal, you would have no greater chance of breaking down at 45,XXX miles in a rental car than you would in your own 45,XXX mile car. However, some cars are just plain built better than others.

 

North Carolina to South Carolina is no big deal. Those cars can be easily driven / shipped across either state's border if they need their registration renewed, and agencies typically have several branch locations near the state borders that are in the same "group" for that purpose. I'm not sure how much more I can say without violating my own previous work contract, but when you walk down the rental line in North Carolina and see plates from, say, Ohio, or Louisiana, or Missouri, the reason they got there is because they were one-way rentals from their home state. If you reserve a one-way rental and you're heading somewhere in those directions, you might be placed in one of those cars (though never in a class lower than what you paid for), to get it as close as possible back to its home.

 

I've gotten many rental cars with out of state plates and they've all been one model year older or newer. I've gotten Delaware plates on a one way rental from Philly to Harrisburg, PA; Indiana plates in Nashville; Florida plates on a one way rental from Nashville to Knoxville, TN; and Georgia plates in Knoxville. Of course it makes sense that there are going to be a lot more out of state cars in places where states are a lot closer together. In Denver I had the option to pick any car from a row of compact cars and they had cars with many out of state plates including California and New York but I went with a Colorado one there. I guess a lot of people are driving across country and flying out of Denver.

 

Edit: Going back to my pictures from my winter Colorado trip the rental car I had there actually had an Arizona plate, not Colorado ones. I picked by the car I thought was going to be the best for me, not the state plates it had.

 

Speaking of how save money on rental cars if an one way rental is required: When I went to Tennessee, I flew into Nashville and spent a couple of nights there before going towards the Smoky Mountains and meeting up with a very special group (you can probably guess which one) for a tour of rollercoasters and special attractions starting with Dollywood and Pigeon Forge. I rented a car (Alamo I think) for a couple of days around Nashville before returning it at the airport the night before leaving and got a one day, one way rental (Budget I think) to Knoxville which I drove to the next day and returned it at their airport and rented another car from Hertz for a couple of days driving around the Smoky Mountains before returning it and meeting with the group to hop on a tour bus. When renting a car one way, usually you are charged more per day instead of for a long distance return fee, so if you limit the days of your one rental car to one day and get another rental car for the same area it will be charged less per day. I also switched rental car companies for each booking to ones that were similarily priced to avoid confusion among the rental car desk staff and since all the rental car companies are next to each other in airport locations anyways.

Edited by 805Andrew
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I've never had a problem with the car itself having an out-of-state license plate, but I do try and avoid them because of the extra attention from cops.

 

When I went to Six Flags Great Adventure, Indiana Beach, and Holiday World last Memorial Day weekend, I flew to Chicago and was given a car with a Texas license plate. While driving through Indiana to Holiday World, I saw a cop get behind me. I was already in the slow lane going the speed limit, so I figured the cop would blow by me like any cop in Massachusetts. Nope. He followed me for 15 miles. I sure as heck wasn't going to move any faster with a cop behind me, but finally my exit came up. I threw on my blinker and the cop's lights immediately flashed.

 

Immediately the cop asked if I had any drugs in my vehicle. After not being satisfied with my responses to where I was going (Holiday World), why I only had a single bag (gasp, I stayed at the same hotel back to back nights), or flew to Chicago instead of Indianapolis, he pointed to the salt in my empty bag of pretzels as suspicious and demanded to search my vehicle for drugs. Nothing was found, although it does make me wonder what would have happened if a previous driver had left drugs in the car.

 

45 minutes later I was free to go. But not before finding out what infraction I committed. Turns out I "only" gave 350 feet notice before entering the exit lane when I should have really given 400 feet. So I was let off with a warning. That's still the only time I've ever been pulled over to this day and why I try and avoid out of state license plates.

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^^ That's crazy! I would think that cops would be less likely to want to stop you with out of state plates because it might be more paper work if they get you on something minor. Maybe that cop thought you were a Texan before pulling you over and doesn't like Texans? I could see some cars with certain state license plates like TX, CA, or NY being a potential target in some places, but more by locals who may have low opinions of those place. Anyways that cop was an asshole for pulling you over for only using the turn signal 350 ft vs 400 ft - that's a difference most people wouldn't be able to tell apart. If I was in your situation I probably would've put the turn signal extra early out of nervousness and maybe would've gotten a warning for using it 500 ft before the exit vs 400 ft. I also pack more than you and there would have been a backpack up front with me besides the suitcase or carry on bag in the trunk and probably some snack bags and drink cups/bottles in the passenger seat area (if I was driving solo). I don't know how it is in other states, but in CA the CHP is very unlikely to pull you over on the freeway unless your going at least 10 MPH over the speed limit, so I would imagine they wouldn't pull you over for using a turn signal 50 ft later than your supposed to. I driven by CHP many times going 10MPH over the speed limit (of course I slow down if I see them but sometimes I don't until afterward) and they don't do anything because that's the flow of traffic - they're looking for the guy going 85 MPH.

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Cops love out of state plates because you won't contest, you'll just pay. Speeding tickets (along with seizure and DUI) generate revenue for the department and they're effectively incentivized to do it even if that's considered illegal (good luck proving that it's an illegal campaign in court).

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New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have pretty bad speeding traps everywhere. Tiny towns that get all their money from speeding tickets and such. A lot of times, speed limit signs are overgrown and not even fully visible. It's pretty hard to keep track of those and what speed you're supposed to be going, so keep a keen eye out, and when in doubt, go slower than you think you should in places like that.

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New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have pretty bad speeding traps everywhere. Tiny towns that get all their money from speeding tickets and such. A lot of times, speed limit signs are overgrown and not even fully visible. It's pretty hard to keep track of those and what speed you're supposed to be going, so keep a keen eye out, and when in doubt, go slower than you think you should in places like that.

If you use the app Waze, it's also a good backup. The lower left hand corner of the screen has a display to help you keep track of the speed limit and if you're exceeding it or not. If I'm driving on roads I'm unfamiliar with or through small towns out-of-state I always make sure to reference it (mounted on the dashboard within eyeshot, of course).

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I'm one of the last people who still has a GPS and I love how mine clearly displays the speed limit in the corner.

 

I'm just glad I didn't get a ticket from all of this. I actually checked afterwards and the 400 feet is a rule in Indiana, but I haven't a clue how you can visually tell a 50 foot difference.

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You weren't pulled over for that anyway. You were pulled over because Holiday World is in the middle of bumblef*ck nowhere and the cops are probably bored.

 

We drive a ton and I've never really noticed an increase in how often I get pulled over with out of state plates, but it's always a sh*tshow when it happens. I had a similar situation happen to me in Virginia where they told me that a bottle of Tums in the trunk was suspicious because a lot of drug runners swallow drugs in bags and use antacids to settle their stomach. An hour and 3 police cars later after a full pat down, a search of the vehicle, a good cop, bad cop thing where the good cop wanted to have an in depth conversation about Alex Rodriguez using steroids and threats that I was coming in for a full body cavity search they let me go when they realized they had absolutely nothing. They never told me why they actually pulled me over.

 

Now we have PBA cards. Even out of state those things are great. I don't really get pulled over that much anymore now that I stopped driving a red Dodge Neon with a spoiler on it (Dodge put it there... IDFK. It came with the car, I'm not some "Fast and the Furious" a**hole). That screamed "I'm a kid, pull me over". I don't want to hate on cops because most of them are great, but there are definitely some of them that have driven me insane and every single time it's in some bumblef*ck town where they have nothing to do.

 

Interestingly enough I never got pulled over in my first car, a purple (lol) $500 96 Neon. I always joked that if a cop pulled me over speeding I'd just laugh, hand him the keys and ask him to take it for a joy ride.That would be enough to prove my innocence. What a slow piece of sh*t.

 

... anyway, what were we talking about?

Edited by coasterbill
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I always book rental cars through Hotwire. I have paid as little as $9.95 a day and never over $20 (GSO airport, YMMV). I have even gotten a mid-size under $20 a day. I also play around with the dates before I book by adding or shifting days. On a recent trip, I added a day to the rental and the overall price dropped. My truck has over 200,000 miles and gets about 17 mpg so the savings in gas more than pays for the rental. I have done hotels through Hotwire occasionally and did some research on other sites to figure out the hotel in advance by looking at rating and amenities.

 

I use Wyndham and Choice rewards. If I am certain of itinerary I often pay in advance with Wyndham and get another 20% off. My two trips this summer will be somewhat flexible so I won't do that. I have found cancellation policies to be mostly generous and allow same day cancellations up to 6 p.m.

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I am a fellow cheap ass. I like to stay in nice hotels, but I shop like crazy online to get the best deals I can find. I use Hotels.com the most and now am a gold member so I get huge discounts and free nights through them. I also hate to fly cause it costs too much. I have a rule, if I can get there in less than 15 hours driving...I'll drive. But if I do fly, I also shop like crazy to find the best deals I can find online. I flew my wife and I to Cancun and back home for $600 total last month...I thought that was pretty reasonable. Traveling is the way I find to save money the most. I always drive over night and party during the day. Less traffic, means less gas...Also people in the car are usually asleep and not asking for food...So less money spent there too. So it's nothing for me to drive 12 hours and then spend another 12 hours at a park...Just get some good sleep before you start the journey and buy a six pack of 5 hour energy too. Back in February, I went nearly 48 hours without sleep driving to Daytona Beach and then to SeaWorld. I just got my sleep on the beach. Squeeze as much as you can into a 3 day weekend and you'll have a hell of a trip. Of course you'll be dead when you get home, but that's my system. Another thing is always buy annual passes...A small dollar amount each month is so much better than forking over tons of cash when you get ready to visit the park. I think I pay $3.50 a month for my Six Flags pass...And the only way to get one that cheap is cancel after your 12 month agreement is up. They'll ask you twice to keep it and offering a discount each time...But the third time is their last offer. Take that one! I wish other parks did this, but currently Six Flags is the only chain that begs you to stay. Lastly, one of my biggest secrets is Ticketsatwork.com ... I love my job for this...It gives me discounts on tickets to just about anything world wide...Parks, Shows, Events, Car Rentals, Hotels, Flights, etc...Just about anything. It helps! I used the hell out of ticketsatwork.com when I last visited New York City. Ask if your employer offers this benefit...And if they don't...Ask them why the hell not?!

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  • 1 month later...

For those of you that are rewards members, does CHOICE or any other hotel chain have anything going on right now?

 

Going to Kings Island and Cedar Point at the end of July and it will be one of those 3 hotels in 3 nights kind of trips.... Looking at the Cincinnati area for Thur. July 26, Findlay, OH, Friday July 27th and then Breakers on July 28th. Just trying to milk what I can out of the 1st two nights since the 3rd night costs $TEXAS

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We travel quite a bit, and here are just a couple of things we do to save a few bucks.

 

We use Hotels.com to book our hitels. They always have sime kind of decent deals, and every 10 nights, you get a free night.

 

When traveling east or anyplace that has a bunch of toll roads, it's worth it to invest in an eazy pass. Not only will you save $$$, but it's also faster at most toll plazas.

 

It's without saying that season passes to park chains like six flags is another way to save a ton of loot. Add in the dinning plan if you can as well. The dinning plan will save you money and time for not having to leave the park to eat. Most park chains have a payment program as well.

 

Another thing you can do is, months before your trip start buying gift cards. This is a good way to pay for some of the costs ahead of time. Every state has a McDonald's, so that's a good one to get. Gas cards can be a great thing, but just make sure that they have locations along your route.

 

If you are visiting an independent park, check to see if there are any online deals. Some of the smaller parks have an afternoon pass that could be half the cost of a full day ticket as well. Club TPR has a TON of discounts on park tickets, and the cost of joining is much less than what you can save on tickets in a lot of classes. The only downside to buying tickets in advance is the weather factor. So just be careful and check the weather in advance.

 

If your visiting multiple parks in the same chain, a refillable drink cup could save you tons. Six flags has drink cup holders on most of there ride platforms, so you don't have to get a locker for it. Cedar fair parks will more than likely make you get a Locker. If you don't drink pop, most parks will give you a free cup of ice water at food stands.(except for adventureland).

 

One last thing about hotels. It is almost always cheaper to stay at a hotel that is not near the amusement park. So if you are traveling to several different parks, it can save you $$$ if you stay 20 miles down the road.

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