With some fourteen years of road trips with my adult son, we are modifying some earlier how-to's to accommodate 1. Rental car size; 2. Trips technology; 3. Homeland Security assists; 4. Luggage limits; 5. Playing the theft odds.
1. Rental car size. Class C for ease. Not the tempting but misleading B, that is really a huge car. This is counter-intuitive. If you are using Hertz, choose a Class C car if you want access in little villages, blending in, and street parking. Class B, that to us had meant size a little above smallest economy, certainly not a mini, but not a big car, may well produce a station wagon for Italy and Sicily, or, as this trip, a big Opel RV.
Class C means a sacrifice on power, but that is easy. Don't push speed and power. Recommend: the one we finally got, a little Peugeot. Size like a Ford Focus.
2. Trips technology. Update the GPS, even if you resent having to do that because you are not a techie. The European Union has produced fabulous roads. The new roads and cloverleafs may well not be on your GPS, however, if yours is old. We never update or buy new maps, thinking we can find our way, and that is not wise these days when the new roads are motorways. No time to think when the exit is upon you.
Those of you with smartphones and devices can skip this. I travel with little fancy, however.
- Other technology. We would upgrade to something that offers a street map, for walking; not just how a car would get somewhere. We tend to park centrally where there is a good underground lot, then find the hotel. On foot, the GPS thinks you are a car and will not route you up the one-way streets. Always mark on the map where the car is, and where the hotel is. Old towns are warrens of streets.
- Theft and attention avoidance. We carry nothing another might covet and find easy to run off with.
Anticipate their issues. Put anything that could trigger an inspection in a hand-carry-on, not in your main bag. Carrying many glossy guidebooks, for example, and retaining receipts and tourist maps and pamphlets grows into huge volume. Put them all in a hand-carry-on, not in your backpack.
- Tainted tourist syndrome: Returning from Denmark a few years ago, I had all those picture books and paper and info in plastic supermarket bags in the bottom of my duffel-style backpack. Out it all had to come. They came, they saw, they let it all back in with no change. Just a tourist endangering her back with the weight.
- Then this year, returning from Spain, I was told by one of the agent-questioning people at check-in that my record on the computer showed that I had been found earlier to carry heavy dangerous items, so please explain what is in your backpacks.
- Yes, tour books could be thrown and their corners are sharp, so don't let the issue even arise. Carry them separately. Homeland Security: at least specify what was found to be dangerous. Everything went right back in again after inspection. How could it have been dangerous? No, just skip it. Another tainted tourist.
Tuck in an extra fold-up bag in each backpack. One serves for overnight joint toiletries and minimum clothing.
5. Playing the theft odds. The other fold-up bag? Handy for organizing the trunk with bad weather gear and other things not immediately needed. Keep anything else in the backpack and leave it all in the trunk. In the trunk? We do. Nothing is left visible in the car, it is obviously a rental car, but so are so many others. We play the odds. Someday it may backfire, but who can carry all that everywhere. And the documents and a change of clothes and basic maps remain with us all the time.