Photo: ThinkstockBy Lynn Andriani
Renting a Clown Car
Aside from not reserving ahead of time, the most frequent mistake people make booking a car is choosing one that's too small for their needs. As Enterprise spokesperson Meghan Maguire explains, "A lot of people say, 'Let's go for the compact car,' when they have four people, five suitcases and golf clubs." Enterprise tries to match customers with the right model, but with so many people renting vehicles in the summer, it's not always possible. If you're traveling with your family or a group of friends, consider a full-size car, a minivan or an SUV.
RELATED: O's Essential Summer Travel Tips
Watching a Kayak Get Airborne...on the Highway
Who among us has not seen the car cruising down the highway with a mattress, canoe or rocking chair tied to the roof? Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations for AAA New York, knows those items can look funny, in a Beverly Hillbillies-esque way, but he also knows how dangerous they can be. When most people tie large objects to the roof, Sinclair says, they make the mistake of securing them to the roof rack but not to the car itself (by taking the ropes or straps through the car interior). Once you get up to 40 mph, a mattress (or any large object, like a kayak or surfboard) will create aerodynamic drag. Best-case scenario: It wreaks havoc with your fuel economy. Worst-case scenario: That improperly loaded object becomes a flying object. If you're transporting a kayak and aren't using a dedicated device (such as the Yakima HullRaiser Kayak Carrier, $129), use a ratchet tie-down strap, available at home centers.
Finding the Car in a Huge Parking Lot, Then Realizing You Lost the Key
People getting locked out of their vehicles used to account for 1 or 2 percent of the calls to AAA New York; now the "I-can't-believe-I-did-this" gaffe is responsible for closer to 18 percent of AAA's calls. With July through September by far the busiest automobile travel season, AAA expects more calls than ever this summer. If the key is inside the vehicle, AAA can usually help. If it's lost, though, you'll have to buy a new one, which is often pricey (replacement keys for new cars can cost $150 or more). To avoid this, Sinclair recommends wearing your key on a lanyard around your neck. If that's not your style, check out these adorable key chains, from queen bees to leather mermaids. "When we're on vacation, we tend to be very happy-go-lucky," Sinclair says, "but you still need to be mindful."
Pulling Up to a Nonexistent Rest Stop
Some states have closed or plan to close highway rest areas for budget reasons, which can be a problem if you've been counting on a restroom for the past 50 miles only to find an empty parking lot and boarded-up building once you arrive. State transportation websites are publishing lists of rest areas that have been closed; it's a good idea to check the ones you'll be passing before you leave home. Just in case, though, always travel with a bucket, toilet paper and antibacterial wipes, a precaution Hotels.com blogger Nicole Hockin suggests for times when you can't find a bathroom or when car sickness hits.
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