Traveling can be expensive, especially with a family. Before moving to Florida, we traveled to Orlando International Airport many times when vacationing. We experienced the car rental services, tolls and highways. Here are some travel tips for your Florida trip.
There are different ways with which you can make your dream of a Florida vacation come true without breaking the bank. However, Orlando is the largest rental car market in the world and very busy. A bonus is that most of the major car rental companies are located on the airport property. This is great because you won't need a shuttle bus to pick up your rental car. This link gives you more information about car rental locations in each terminal at Orlando International Airport.
Here are the steps we are going to discuss in this post:
Book Your Rental Car Online
It's pretty obvious that you need to book your rental car in advance especially during peak Florida tourism season. However, you may still have to deal with long waiting lines, or waiting for a car to become available. You can book your car using a website that offers a choice of many rental car companies, or you can book directly with a preferred rental car company. Make sure you read all the terms and conditions from all companies involved in the rental process, no matter which you choose! Depending on the car rental company you select, here are some helpful options to speed things along.
Be Flexible With Your Vacation Dates
Yes, we understand this is not always possible. But traveling at peak season and during popular holidays can be a nightmare. You are most likely aware of the rental car problems in Orlando during 2023 Spring Break. Shortages, delays and outright cancellations occurred at car rental companies. There are many reasons for this, including too much demand and too little supply. The bottom line is travel to Florida at another time if you can!
Only One Family Member Should Book A Car
This is another reason for the Orlando rental car shortage situation mentioned above. Travelers to Florida were making multiple, free car rental reservations online to avoid long waiting lines. Their strategy: to arrive at the airport, then switch to the shortest line! This can backfire and result in longer wait times for everyone. The rental car companies end up over-booking and then elite members or executive program get to use them first.
To make the problem worse, Florida vacationers are not always bringing cars back on time. This can all add up to a headache for you! Keep it simple. Book your car ahead of time and use accelerated check-in or a kiosk check-in if possible. In some cases, you can skip the kiosk and go directly to the car rental lot. This takes us to our next option.
Enroll in an Elite or Car Rental Points Program
Many of these car rental bonus programs are free and/or allow you to earn points. Perks include free rental days, select the car of your choice, bypass the rental counter, or even get a better rate. Here are some of the more popular 2023 car rental programs available (check each link for up-to-date):
Arrive With Your Documents Ready
You will need your rental agreement, drivers license (with a photo) and a major credit card. Keep in mind each car rental company may have different requirements. Keeping your passport handy is always recommended. Remember you must be 25 years old to rent a car.
Be Prepared to Wait for Your Rental Car
Because Orlando is so busy, there may be a wait time in line, but also for your vehicle. This can be frustrating especially with small children who just got off a plane. If you have snacks and drinks this can ease the stress. Orlando International Airport has many restaurants and shops. Here is their map to help you find whatever you may need. Patience is a virtue: you will soon be at your favorite Florida beach!
Picking Up and Returning Your Orlando Car Rental
There are three Terminals at Orlando Airport (A, B, & C). If you can, add your flight number to your car rental reservation. It may help with availability of your car pickup upon arrival of your flight. Vehicles are usually located on the second floor of each corresponding terminal inside a rental parking garage. It's a quick walk outside across a few driving lanes to the parking deck. Follow the car rental company signs to find your assigned vehicle space. Keys will often already be in the vehicle.
When you drive out of the rental car garage, you only have a moment or two to find the direction you want to go. East coast (towards Cocoa Beach) or West towards I-4, Tampa Bay and Disney World. There's often a traffic slowdown as folks try to figure out which way to go. If you need to stop at a Florida rest stop along the way, there are plenty to choose from.
There are many toll roads in Florida using the SunPass Prepaid Program. It is important to check with your rental car company at pickup time. Most now offer programs that allow their customers to include tolls in the rental agreement or pay an extra fee. Nobody wants to worry about carrying the right amount of cash for tolls so check carefully. More information about SunPass and rental cars is available to read here.
Car rental returns are easy and should be made at 1 Jeff Fuqua Blvd, Orlando, FL. Look for airport signs leading you to your airline departure terminal, and then follow the signs for Rental Car Return. Pull up, exit the vehicle and wait for inspection. It's usually really fast. Make sure you have all your stuff. Have a great trip!
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.