How to best handle the Hawaii rental car crisis: Travel Weekly

Tovin Lapp

The shock of the sticker is real. With insufficient vehicle inventory to meet Hawaii’s rapidly returning tourism demand, car rental prices in Aloha state have skyrocketed.

In 2019, it was common to find car rental prices around $ 50 per day, but as the number of visits steadily increased until early 2021, tourists are finding that daily rates have climbed to more than $ 50 per day. $ 300, and in some cases travel counselors have reported receiving quotes. up to $ 600 per day.

At the start of the pandemic, tourism experienced an unprecedented decline and car rental companies responded by cutting vehicles to cut costs. Now, with vaccine distribution well underway in the United States and all types of return trips, car rental companies are struggling to rebuild their fleets and keep pace with demand. A drop in new car manufacturing has only exacerbated the problem, and the shortage could continue through the summer.

This is bad news for those planning a Hawaii vacation. Experts say demand is high on the islands: Holiday bookings have been strong for the spring break and also look promising for the summer and beyond.

“More and more travelers are arriving and Waikiki is crowded again,” said Keiko Mori, travel advisor at Kittle Travel in Oahu. “But a lot of travelers are now looking for very discounted packages, and the car rental prices are quite shocking.”

Travel Weekly spoke to several travel counselors who are familiar with Hawaii or live in the islands themselves to get their tips and advice on dealing with the car rental crisis and making sure a sky-high transportation bill doesn’t. not slow down a customer’s experience.

The best time to book? Yesterday

Many Hawaii specialists have said that in the past they paid little attention to booking a rental car and felt comfortable leaving it until the last minute. The current situation has led to a complete reversal.

“I tell my clients as soon as they book the plane ticket that they should look at the rental cars,” said Jasper Stevens of Island Time Travel in California. “Really, if you think you need a rental car, you should make a reservation as soon as your dates are set. That’s the most important piece of the puzzle right now; flights and hotels aren’t so. hard to find. “

While many visitors to Hawaii have been hit by high daily rates, others who have waited too long have found that some car rental lots have sold out.

“Right now you have to look at least two, three, four months in advance to get something reasonable,” said Laura Lukasik of Viking Travel in Illinois. “The prices are just outrageous, and if you’re looking a week or days in advance, good luck.”

For travelers heading to Hawaii during the busy summer months or the holiday season at the end of the year, the rental car landscape could be even more competitive.

Consider alternatives

It was national news when a U-Haul operator in Hawaii released a statement saying tourists were reserving the moving company’s smaller vehicles for getting around the islands. The white and orange trucks that show up at the beach parking lots were just one indicator of the creativity of tourists and transport advisers.

Commonly referred to as “the Airbnb of cars,” several travel consultants have said they have turned to the online service Turo, which allows people to rent their private vehicles and operates in more than 50 countries. A recent search on Turo for vehicles available in Honolulu for a week in mid-June found over a dozen options for under $ 75 per day. The service offers a wide range of vehicles, from Ford sedans and compact, easy-to-park Fiat’s to Tesla’s and exotic Italian sports cars.

“Just for the record, I’ve heard that a lot of people in Hawaii, where we had very high unemployment during the pandemic which is fortunately improving now, are turning to things like Turo for money. additional, ”Debbie Misajon, owner of Coconut Traveler on Oahu, said. “This is in addition to the stock of cars available on Turo when the service receives some attention.”

Other travel counselors have said they are looking to portals and online services outside of national car rental companies which tend to be the first place consumers go, like Enterprise, Hertz or Avis.

“For car rentals, I regularly check the Funjet Vacations site,” Mori said. “So far they still have rental cars available for booking.”

Choose wisely when booking a hotel

For those who want to avoid the hassle of finding an affordable rental vehicle, it pays to be specific about the location of your hotel or accommodation.

Resort areas such as Wailea and Kaanapali on Maui, Kona on the Island of Hawaii, and Poipu on Kauai are teeming with properties, restaurants, and other amenities and services in carefully planned and neat communities. Walking trails make it easy to travel between properties, and many resort areas or individual properties offer shuttles that cover the immediate area. Finding out about the shuttle situation at a resort is a smart thing to do right now.

Some small towns, such as Haleiwa on the North Shore of Oahu, Lahaina on Maui, and Hanalei on Kauai, are also easy to navigate on foot and have a lot of sightseeing activities in one small area. On the other hand, travelers who book vacation rentals or hotels in more isolated and less urban areas may feel stranded without a vehicle.

“It really depends on what the customer wants,” said Alan Cordera, an independent travel consultant based in Portland, Oregon. “If they want to spend time at the beach, upscale shopping and great food without much hassle, I would recommend keeping it simple. And focusing on one of the resort areas. ‘intending to do a bunch of hikes or stay in areas off the beaten path, then a car may be a necessity. “

Waikiki, the state’s largest resort corridor, is just 10 miles from the Honolulu Airport and offers a plethora of activities within a three square mile area. Without ever getting behind the wheel, visitors staying in Waikiki can surf, snorkel, eat at award-winning restaurants, visit the Honolulu Zoo, and choose from a list of shows and luaus. Using the city’s bike-sharing program, Biki, travelers also have easy access to Ala Moana’s shopping and parks to the west and the Diamond Head State Monument to the east.

“The [rental car prices] have created a situation where you have to dig a little deeper and find out what the person expects from their trip, ”Stevens said. “If they have to go out of the hotel every day to do something new and unique, transportation may be required. But maybe they can get whatever they want by staying in a certain area, and they’ll thank you for saving them $ 2,000 for a week’s rental car. “

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