Friday, May 01, 2009

Disney Vacation Day 1 - Arrival and Rental Car Follies

We flew from Detroit Metro Airport to Orlando on Spirit Airlines. A very nice, smooth flight, Spirit was nicely on time, organized and it was a good flight. Leah's first flight at 2.5 years old and she liked it. Both kids were very good on the plane, no crying, minimal fussing and boredom alleviated by a portable DVD player with their favorite movies in tow.

We arrived in Orlando to be greeted by a shining sun and 80 degree goodness Our one checked bag made it through and was quickly picked up and then we went to the rental car area of the airport. The day quickly started to go downhill.

Since we were staying off the Disney property, a car was pretty important. Not overlooking that detail my wife, planner par excellence had shopped around, called ahead, made a reservation at a good rate on the phone with the agent and had a confirmation number and all the details booked. The car rental agency was Budget.

The line up at the budget counter was not that big but it moved s-l-o-w-l-y. Very, very s-l-o-w-l-y. So much so that the kids excitement at being in the rental car area of the airport began to pale.

Finally its our turn and even with the confirmation number, the counter person won't honor the rate quoted. Apparently we need a coupon. Never mind no such coupon was mentioned as being needed on the phone when the deal was struck. After a fair bit of discussion and talking with a manager they decide to honor the reservation. How nice.

Then we went to the parking garage at the airport where Budget had their cars located. Of course no booster or car seat is ready and with the car. After asking were sent into a Budget rental booth to pull out the seats and find that there is a booster but no car seat. The Budget personnel promise to get one as we obviously can't drive off without it.

Time passes again, now in a warm covered concrete parking structure. The kids consider mutiny. The wife considers maiming Budget personnel to get them to do something other than standing around chatting away. I'm busy figuring how to load all our gear in the rental car we've been given, a Ford Focus (the confirmation was for a Nissan Sentra, but apparently that's flexible). Surprisingly the Focus has a TARDIS-like trunk that is bigger on the inside than the outside and everything fits, if only just.

Still no car seat. I begin to think the wife's proposal of maiming is too mild a form of attention-getting.

After asking yet again we get the car seat, 30 minutes after getting to the parking garage and well over 1.5 hours from landing at Orlando.

As you can guess, Budget Rent A Car is forever verbotten with this family (just wait till I describe the fun we had giving the car back on our departure -- it gets better). I'd heartily recommend avoiding them at all cost.

On the upside the Ford Focus is a product that Ford really got right. Tons better than the execrable Escort it replaced and the nasty Tempo before that. Smooth ride, no engine noise, but still zippy, good styling, huge trunk, comfy and really great gas mileage. Its enough to make me rethink my pledge to never get another Ford since the Taurus we had went to Fixed Or Repaired Daily Status and the terrible Escort I had gave Ladas a good name in reliability and handling. So from the experience at least we learned that Ford does seem to get some products right. The one we drove had 36k miles on it and was quite a nice ride.

Of course, it helped that Orlando's roads are ridiculously smooth and perfect compared to Michigan's, which are disgraceful with over 32% graded in poor condition, and that's understated because they started grading on a curve.

Once we got the car out and pointed in the right direction we followed the perfectly good and helpful road signs (another area where Michigan is sorely lacking).

We went to the Hotel and checked in and then went to Epcot.