I just learned something that I had never knew before. In the spring, around this time of year, car rental companies offer insane deals on one-way car rentals out of Florida. It seems that they just have too many cars down there from the past winter and need to move them out of there. This spells out good news for all of us who are looking for an affordable vacation this spring. So here I am, suggesting a road trip not to Florida, but from Florida. I’m sure upon hearing that you have a few questions in mind like these:
- How the heck am I going to get to Florida?
- Can I drive the car back to where I live and drop it off here?
- How could that possible be cheaper?
- Would that even be fun?
I asked myself those questions too and have since become an expert on answering them after geeking out for a while these past few days. I’ll share what I learned with you below.
My Cheap Vacation Idea
What I found to be a pretty cheap vacation idea can be summed up like this:
- Fly to Florida on the cheapest flight you can find
- Rent a car from a rental company that’s offering a cheap, one-way rental deal
- Road trip back home, taking any route you want
- Have a blast doing it and do it cheaply
First, you’ll have to score a deal at a car rental company, like Dollar Car Rental, where (right now as of April 8, 2012) you can rent a car on a one-way trip out of Florida for $1/day. Yes, I said one dollar per day. I did the calculations and a qualifying one-way, full-size car rental from Orlando to Minneapolis would cost about $40. The normal price of this is $8-900. This is a deal, people. There are limitations to deals like these. You have to rent within a specific time window. You only get certain cars and they’re not even guaranteed. Also, you have to pick up the car at one of the qualifying locations (Orlando is one in this case) and drop it off at a qualifying location (Minneapolis is one in this case as well). There is also a maximum of a 7 day rental allowed for this discount. All the usual car rental policies apply as well.
Getting to Florida When You Don’t Live There
According to Dollar’s website, here are the qualifying locations for this promotion (which runs from April 9 to May 19, 2012):
Pick up airport locations:
Key West (EYW)
Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
West Palm Beach (PBI)
Fort Myers (RSW)
Daytona Beach (DAB)
Drop off airport locations:
Washington DC – Reagan (DCA)
Washington DCA – Dulles (IAD)
Raleigh Durham (RDU)
New Orleans (MSY)
Dallas Fort Worth (DFW)
Dallas Love Field (DAL)
Corpus Christi (CRP)
Houston Hobby (HOU)
Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH)
San Antonio (SAT)
Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Chicago Midway (MDW)
Kansas City, MO (MCI)
So, how do you get to one of their pick up locations? Well, you may choose to fly. Flights to cities like Orlando are really cheap from Minneapolis ($168/way) and I bet they’re reasonable from other major cities to Orlando as well. Obviously, the more picky you are about which city you fly into, the more you will probably pay for your flight. Remember, you’ll only need to purchase a one-way flight so you shouldn’t have to pay too much for it. I would suggest choosing the option to search multiple days at a time on your airline’s website to find the best deal.
Regarding driving the car back to your hometown, check the drop off locations list to see if your city is listed. If it’s not, maybe there is one close by that you can arrange a ride home from. If there isn’t one close to where you live, I’m sorry, but this probably won’t work out for you then.
Using Google Maps, I drafted out many different route possibilities. There are endless routes from Orlando, FL up to Minneapolis, MN. You could take the coastal route up the east coast through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, or you could take the Gulf of Mexico route through New Orleans and Houston, over to San Antonio and up from there. You could even go through the Great Smoky Mountains and up past the Great Lakes. There are so many options and possibilities. That trek, depending on your exact route, could cover as many as 2,500 miles if you really wanted to see the country. With a mid-full size car rental and with gas at $4/gallon, this trip will likely cost you around $350 in gas.
Obviously, you’ll have to stay somewhere at night. Us young adults could consider bringing a tent along and camping along the way home. Older adults would probably prefer staying in hotels. If you choose to go in April or May, the weather should be nice enough for camping. Camping in a tent will run you $25 per night as opposed to $80-100/night in a hotel.
Sounds Fun and Cheap, Doesn’t It?
Here’s what the trip would cost for me and a friend to go for 6 nights in mid-May:
- Two flights from Minneapolis to Florida: $336 ($168 /person)
- Full-size car rental with unlimited miles from Orlando, FL to Minneapolis, MN for 7 days: $40 ($20/person)
- Gas at $4/gallon (averaging 30 miles/gallon) for 2,500ish miles: $350 ($175/person)
- Tenting at $25 campsites for 6 nights along the way home: $150 ($75/person)
Total: $876 or $438/person
This is a heck of a trip for $438 per person, huh? Obviously, you could fit one or two more people in that car, which would bring the cost down even lower per person. Depending on where you live and how flexible your schedule is, this could be something really awesome to look into.
Have a Happy Easter everyone!