Know something about Rental cars? Know something about New Orleans?
September 23, 2008 8:25 AM   Subscribe

I have a trip booked to South Carolina on October 17th. When we get there, we will be renting a car, driving to Alabama to visit family, and then finishing our trip in New Orleans. I'm looking for advice on how car rental agencies work w/ regards to reservations, and hotel/location/activity recommendations for first-time visitors to New Orleans.

So first up, I've 'booked' a car via Budget, using some random coupon found on the web. While the site listing the coupon claims it is specific to them, it clearly is not (it shows up as a "Disney Coupon" line item). The 'reservation' does not seem particularly binding to me: a credit card was not required, and I was told the price was a 'quote' which would reflect the price I'd be offered once I arrived to pick up the car. This doesn't give me a lot of confidence in the figure I've been given, and I'm worried I'm going to show up and find out that my price will end up being several hundred dollars more than I was quoted (FWIW, around $275 for a full week with unlimited mileage and a one-way trip). Is it worth booking with a company that will let me put down a credit card so I know what I'm getting, or if I take a print-out and a confirmation number should I be able to argue my way close to what I was quoted. We absolutely have to rent a car once we land, so if Budget fails to honor the rate they've quoted I'm going to have to pay whatever I can get at the airport. I've already 'booked' a second quote through another rental company, but they also did not take a credit card, so I'm not sure whether or not they will honor that quote. Any experiences or advice in this matter would be welcome.

Secondly, we're going to be in New Orleans from October 23rd to the 27th. I'm looking for ultra-cheap lodging for 2 (ideally around $60 a night, though we could probably go up to $100) in a walkable neighborhood and advice on what to do. I am travelling with my girlfriend and while we are not opposed to hostels, we would want to get a private room. My presumption is that we will want to be within walking distance of the French Quarter. Our NO soujourn is fairly unplanned -- we're not really interested in partying with college kids; I want to probably have a drink or two on whatever the main drag is there but if it's populated by rowdy drunks with beads year round we probably won't stay very long. Recommendations on good locals bars are welcome. I love walking and may consider a walking tour, ideally one that hits the major NO sights so that I can cram all the insipid must-see tourist junk into a single day (recommendations?). I want to get a feel for what is unique to New Orleans. Very interested in sampling the best locals-only cuisine that can be found although we're somewhat price-sensitive (dinners for two should be under $80).

Hopefully I've provided enough information -- as I probably won't get an opportunity to answer questions until 7pm PST.
posted by fishfucker to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I reserved a car a few weeks ago with Budget. Did it online, with no credit card info needed; a rate was quoted (I didn't have a coupon, but did have a AAA discount, I think). A couple-three days before I picked it up, I called to confirm the reservation and rate. Got the car at the ABQ airport with no trouble. I did print out the reservation from the webpage and the bit they emailed me. You should be fine.
posted by rtha at 8:44 AM on September 23, 2008

I can only help with the New Orleans part...
Previous Help Here

My advice from back then:
BRUNCH: Court of Two Sisters

DINNER: Brennan's

DRINKS: Pat O'Briens

SIGHTS: Jackson Square, Bourbon St. bars, Royal St. balconies, French Market vendors, Cafe DuMonde beignets, Cat's Meow karaoke, great art galleries are all over the place (some are closed), St. Charles homes, WWII Museum, St Louis Cathedral, Tipitinas, House of Blues, Rodrigue the Blue Dog

OVERRATED: The Aquarium, paddleboat rides, streetcars, MG beads, witty Katrina t-shirts

Updated goodness:
Check out the burgers at Yo Mama's. It is a hole in the wall locals joint on St Peter, half a block off Bourbon. Port of Call also has excellent burgers.
Cafe du Monde is a MUST. They are open 24/7. Find the time.

The Ninth Ward is still in shambles from Katrina, if you want to see that sort of thing.
A bit touristy, but a horse-drawn carriage tour might be interesting for you.
Check out the local artists at Jackson Square.
posted by nineRED at 9:35 AM on September 23, 2008

Muffaletta at the Central Grocery on Decatur Street. Preservation Hall. Cemetery tours. Bread pudding at Commander's Palace (I'd say eat brunch there, but it's six prices just to say you did it). There used to be a great little B & B at the end of Chartres Street just outside the Quarter, but I've forgotten the name. I'll post it if I can remember it.

Shoot me a MeMail if you're passing through Birmingham, I'll buy you a beer.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:29 AM on September 23, 2008

As for car rentals, what you've experienced is pretty much par for the course. Rarely do you pre-pay. In fact, some places give additional discounts when you prepay - I know Alamo does, and I've used that feature a few times. It used to be 10%, so if they still offer that, you can combine both one of their coupons (available on their site under the 'deals' section) and then get an add'l 10% off.

When you get to the counter you should be in their system. They'll ask for your name to look you up as well as your driver's license and method of payment. I always print out the reservation confirmation page on the website or the copy that is emailed to you after reserving online. Rarely have I needed to prevent it but it's good just in case the quote they have doesn't match what you expected. They'll also try and push some renter's insurance on you, which I never get and I think that's the path most people take as well. Many credit cards or auto insurance policies automatically cover an accident you may have in a rental car. If that really concerns you I'd check with both your insurance company and the credit card you'll be using. If they don't offer it, you could opt to get the insurance which isn't really that cheap - it would cover any expenses related to an accident.

On a side note, I was traveling in Los Angeles once for my company (who paid for the rental). I tried to make it through a yellow light - as did someone coming from the opposite direction who wanted to turn across my lane - the brand new compact car I was driving was demolished in the front. Completely smashed in on the front, damage to both front fenders, shattered windshield and 2 deployed airbags. The rental company sent out a tow truck, towed it to the closest rental location, I filled out some paperwork and drove off in another car (a nervous wreck, I might add). Luckily my company had paid for the rental so I never had to deal with the coverage aspect, however I did receive paperwork over the course of the insurance investigation and it turns out that, had I been the renter of the vehicle and had opted out of coverage, I would have been responsible for the $3000 deductible. So, I guess the story here is that the rental companies already insure their cars (which makes complete sense in hindsight). They are just insured with high deductibles, so it is the deductible you are ultimately responsible for, as their insurance takes care of the rest. Prior to this fiasco I was always under the impression that totaling a rental car would put you on the hook for the full retail value. They certainly make it sound that way when presenting you with the insurance coverage options.

As for travel deals, check out - they often have good deals on both hotels and car rentals. I've never been to New Orleans but my wife went once and they snagged a deal at the Omni Hotel there - during Mardi Gras - for $100 a night.
posted by MarkLark at 2:03 PM on September 23, 2008

For a non-touristy New Orleans place with great food, I highly highly recommend Cafe Reconcile. The You will be helping inner-city kids learn the restaurant industry, funding Katrina recovery, and eating award winning Bananas Foster Bread Pudding.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:51 PM on September 23, 2008

Thanks guys, this has all been super helpful and put my mind at ease!
posted by fishfucker at 7:31 AM on September 24, 2008

Yeah, the no credit card upfront thing is pretty standard. The only other thing I would mention is that sometimes they'll be out of the type of car you rented. A few times when this has happened to me (definitely a small percentage of the time), they've tried to upsell me to a more expensive type of car. I've always said no and they've always given me the nicer car for the rate of the car I'd reserved.
posted by hootch at 8:32 PM on September 25, 2008

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