When doesn't just any rental car do for the family vacation? Hawaii that's when!
This story explores how the best vacation of our lives was nearly derailed by our rental car. Then how through a fortunate turn of events, our frowns were turned upside down simply by swaping rental cars.
A rocky start to a dream vacation...
My hope is that everyone of you that want to travel to Hawaii are able to do so at least once in your lifetime. A couple of years ago, before there was COVID-19 and quarantines my family took our first vacation to Hawaii for Christmas and New Years. Although I am sure we could have saved money in several areas, from accommodations to airfare, we decide to go all in. With the exception of one thing, the rental car. With prices already sky high due to the holidays, I opted for the standard compact SUV. At nearly a $1,000 a week, I figured that was all I wanted to spend. After a turbulent flight we arrived on The Big Island of Hawaii. We had heard about how popular Hawaii was during the holidays, and the prices certainly seemed to speak to that. It wasn't until we walked by all the airport rental car desks that weren't staff and just had hand written signs that read, "NO Rental Vehicles Available Until January 3rd" that we realized how crazy busy it really was. We weren't too concerned, after all we had booked our rental car nearly 9 months in advance. At check in everything was going smoothly although the rental lots looked empty. The customer service representative said, "We have you down for a compact SUV, let us bring that around for you." When he returned with a Subaru Forrester that looked like it had been entered into a local demolition derby, and lost. I tried to maintain my composure and optimism. After all, we just arrived at the closest thing to paradise I had ever seen. Unfortunately, as the reality of using this car for the next 10 days sunk in with my family things began to deteriorate quickly. I think I almost broke into laughter when the associate asked me to do the customary walk around to identify damage. After I called out about 6 things on the front left quarter panel alone, he proclaimed that this was the normal wear and tear from "all of the vacationers". The inside didn't get any better, lets just say the car had a very distinct smell, it wasn't quite like the smell of cigarette smoke as much as it did something a bit more exotic. The upholstery was terrifying, it looked as though it had been used as a babies changing table more often than not. My optimism was sinking faster than the Titanic and from the looks on my family's faces which had shifted from denial to utter disgust it wasn't going to be a good ride to the resort. After about 5 minutes of complaining the representative said looked at me and said, "Sir, you can have any car on the lot", but of course there were none. It was next to impossible to imagine this car was even supposed to be in their fleet. The bottom line was that it was Christmas Morning, there wasn't another soul around and the only way I was going to get out of the rental car lot was in this nasty car. Merry Christmas to me.
Jüst a sample of the nastiness that was present in the Funky Forrester.
Nothing like kicking a man while he is down....
So after swallowing all remaining pride and shelfing all sanitary standards, we loaded up the Funky Forester and headed for our resort. Keep in mind the The Big Island of Hawai'i is in fact "big" and every thing is about a 30-45 minute drive. We set out from the airport with our trusty Waze App leading the way, when we quickly realized our phones were all dying from the 13 hour flight. The car was way too old for any dash accessable USB plugs, so we started seaching for an outlet. That is when we found one of the sources of the stank in the car. A few crab carcases just sitting in the arm rest container. Not only were they left in there creating this nasty sight but the legs were broken off and shoved into the outlets rendering them useless. Fortunately, we had just enough juice left in our combined cell phones to get us to the resort. Nothing can bring down a man's ego faster than pulling into the Hilton Waikoloa Resorts valet in this Hooptie. I am pretty sure the family wanted me to drop them off a block from the resort so they could walk in separately.
Desperate to turn the tide of this debocale....
As I mentioned the island is vast with hundreds of miles of roads and virtually every kind of climate and terrain . The plan always was for us to put in a significant amount of driving just to see all of these wondrous sights. The Funky Forrester was a major wrinkle in our plans. I was down but not out. I reached out to the local manager and chatted with the corporate office. I even tried to communicate for an hour with what I am pretty sure was just a chat bot trying to get some resolution. The next day I received a call back from the local office manager and they asked me to meet them back at the lot to see if any cars came in that morning. With little support from my skeptical family I headed back to the airport. When I returned to the lot it looked just as empty as it did when we left Christmas Day. After a quick meet and greet with the manager and all the pleasantries were exchanged we got down to the business of what we could do about the problem at hand. You didn't need the office computer to see there weren't any visible cars. However, as I contemplated having to return to the resort defeated once more, the manager said, "Wait a minute, It looks like someone dropped a vehicle off at our overnight return location."
Oh, what a miracle.
To my plesent surprise the vehicle that was dropped off was a new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Hallelujah! The Wrangler was a fleeting idea 9 months previously, but was coming in at nearly $2,000. After the manager started in on the , well it hasn't been cleaned yet and that's a specialty rental, blah blah blah.......I had to shut her down with the photos I was ready to post online of the Funky Forrester's lovely interior. We came to a quick consensus that they could right the wrongs quickly with this Jeep. When the Jeep was dropped off for me it was so new and clean that it still had the new car smell, not that it mattered, I had the top off before I even left the lot.
The Big Island of Hawai'i
What a difference the right rental car can make.
Not long after returning to the resort the family was ready to head out in the Jeep. We removed the top off the Wrangle and were excited and ready for our first adventure. A big part of what made The Big Island in particular so special for us, was just the overwhelming sense of adventure that seems to be everywhere. Whether it is the exploring the beautiful black sand beaches, the lava fields and giant magma tubes, or a drive up Mauna Loa, the Jeep just seems to fit the part perfectly. We were quick to change our rental car to a Jeep Wrangler for the Maui portion of our vacation as well. It only seemed right given how much we enjoyed jeeping it on the first leg of our adventure.
Sunset on Hawai'i
Massive Magma Tube not far from Airport on the Big Island
That is my story on how important the right rental car can be. Feel free to share your rental car stories in the comments below.
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