Persuading a car rental agency to give you an upgrade can be as difficult as upgrading from economy to business class on a flight. With profits soaring at most rental agencies, managers aren't giving up any more than they have to.
"The big car rental companies are cutting costs in all areas--including promotions and giveaways," says Darrin Deany of Northbrook, Illinois-based corporate travel agency BTI Americas Inc.
That doesn't mean you should expect to get stuck in that tiny box your travel agent booked. "There are still ways to get an upgrade," says Lauren Garvey of Park Ridge, New Jersey-based Hertz.
Here are a few tips:
- By far the best way to earn an upgrade is to join a mileage program, either the rental company's own (such as National's Emerald Club or Hertz' Number One Club Gold) or an airline's.
- Check newspapers or magazines for information about promotional specials. To grow overseas business, some companies offer deals on car rentals in places such as Europe and Asia.
- For just a few extra dollars, car rental companies will often upgrade you to a "special" vehicle--a convertible in California or a four-wheel-drive vehicle in Colorado, for example. Sometimes, with a little coaxing, an agent will waive the additional fee altogether.
Christopher Elliott is a writer in Los Angeles and a columnist for "ABC News Online."
- The Four Seasons Hotel New York offers a special "Executive Recharger" spa treatment for burned-out business travelers. It includes soothing oil treatments, an hour-long aromatherapy massage, a facial, a manicure, a pedicure and a high-protein shake. Price: $275. For more information, call (212) 758-5700.
- Want to really impress a client? Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, California, offers a room deal called "Sky's The Limit," featuring a full ocean-view room, chilled champagne, chocolate truffles--and a personalized banner towed by a plane. Rates start at $875 per night. Call (800) 334-9000 for more information.
- On The Road, an Internet-based destination information service for business travelers, will now book reservations for clients at the 500 restaurants it reviews for a fee of $50 dollars per year. A 60-day trial membership is available. For more information, visit http://www.go-on-the-road.com
Auto Europe, http://www.autoeurope.com
BTI Americas Inc., (847) 480-8400, http://www.btiamericas.com
Hertz, (800) 654-3131, http://www.hertz.com
Shutters On The Beach, http://www.shuttersonthebeach.com
U.S. Department of Transportation, (202) 366-2220, http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer