Sunday 20 November 2011

Why should I book a Virgin Atlantic fly-drive with Charter Travel?

Many people prefer to self-book their fly-drive to Florida on the internet these days so here’s a few reasons why it makes sense to use Charter Travel’s services

1. Price

It’s all about the price and don’t think we don’t know it! We book thousands of seats with Virgin every year and have done for a long time now. Virgin make all their fares available to us including special fares that do not appear on their own web site. We’re more than happy to beat any price that you can put together yourselves on a like for like basis so call Alex on 01635 885 170. You will find him very negotiable!

2. Simplicity

Ever look at a web site and wonder what you’re letting yourself in for? Looked at the forms to fill in and considered what happens if you make a mistake? Thought about the penalties if you put a name in wrong or book the wrong date? The old fashioned way might be the easy way! A quick phone call and it’s our responsibility to guide you through the process and produce all the paperwork. You’re reading about us on-line but we’re an old fashioned travel agent. Give us your instructions and we’ll get on with it while you put your feet up!

3. You can’t know what we know!

When to book? Early or late? Will the fares go up or down? Are the planes empty or full? We spend our lives looking at Florida flight schedules and we know the right moment to book any date in the year. In this respect our advice is invaluable. A one day date change could save a family of four £1000 or more and the seasons change slightly every year. We know about these changes 18 months in advance so give us a call and pick our brains!

4. Ah but there’s a catch on the car hire – I’ve heard the horror stories!

Not with us there isn’t! Our car hire contract is very simple – you’re fully insured for 2 adult drivers and there are no insurances or CDWs to pay on pick-up. You hand in your voucher and off you go! We know that some other tour operators sell you ‘basic’ car hire at time of booking and stick you with a bill for insurance at Orlando. We simply never do this.

5. You can book with a small deposit

Book the flights and the car hire separately and you’ll nearly always have to pay both items in full. You might not be traveling for a year so you’re making someone a nice interest free loan. Save your money! You can book your Virgin fly-drive through Charter Travel with a deposit as low as £50 each.

6. We are bonded and your money is safe

Charter Travel have been established for 23 years and we are ABTA and ATOL bonded. That’s valuable in these uncertain times.

Ok we’ve said enough. Put us to the test by calling 01635 885 177 or have a look at

Saturday 19 November 2011

Top 10 Car Hire in Florida Questions

Hiring a car in Florida with is simple but there are 10 things you need to know to give you peace of mind. We get a lot of questions about car hire at Orlando and here we would like to answer some of your concerns.

1. Are there any extra charges for insurance or Collision Damage Waiver to pay? The answer is no! We have an inclusive deal with our suppliers and you pay all charges up front when booking your holiday. We know that some tour operators sell you ‘basic car hire’ here in the UK and then leave you with a big bill for insurance when you pick up the car in Florida. Surprisingly it’s the big, well known holiday companies that still do this and we don’t know how they get away with it! Their motivation is very simple – they can advertise very cheap ‘fly-drive’ packages and therefore receive lots of enquiries. Don’t be fooled!

2. What is the difference between ‘gold’,‘silver’, ‘platinum’ etc insurance? There are two types of car hire you can choose with us – different websites use different terms but we’ll call ours silver and gold.

SILVER - you are fully insured for two adult drivers. Adult drivers need to be 25 years old and to have held a driver’s licence for a year. You pick up the vehicle with a full tank of fuel and bring it back empty or as near as you can manage. You pay Alamo (our supplier) for the tank of fuel on pick-up at the airport. The charge for the first tank of fuel varies according to the size of the vehicle and to current fuel prices but I can give you a good example – I picked up an Intermediate 4 Door at Orlando in March this year and I was charged $45. I filled it up a couple of times during my visit from a quarter tank and paid about $35 so the charge seemed fair.
GOLD – you are fully insured for four adult drivers. You pick up the vehicle with a full tank and take it back empty. You pay nothing to Alamo for the fuel – instead we charge you a higher rate here in the UK. Is gold worth buying? Only if you need the four drivers. A lot of people believe that GOLD gives superior insurance cover but this is not so. You are fully insured on both deals and the insurance is identical.

3. What size of vehicle do I need? You have to be a little careful here. One thing’s guaranteed – you are going to have a few suitcases and bags to deal with so you need a bit of space. Another consideration is the type of driving you’ll be doing. Car hire is cheap in the US so in my opinion there’s no need to bother with the two smaller models which are economy and compact. Go straight to Intermediate if you are a party of 2 or 3.. If you’re a party of 4 adults don’t bother with Intermediate – go straight to Full-size or a Mid-Size SUV. If you’re a party of 5 then a 7 Seat Minivan or a Standard SUV is a good option. Larger parties have the 7 seat SUV, the 8 Seat Minivan or the 12/15 Seat Minivan to choose from but don’t forget that 2 Full-Size cars will work out cheaper than the 12/15 Seat Minivan and you’ll have more freedom while on holiday. The bottom line is that there’s no need to try and economise by choosing the smallest cars – the saving is tiny and you’ll be uncomfortable.

4. What’s the procedure at Orlando International and what about the deposit? Don’t worry – it’s not difficult. As soon as you hit ‘Arrivals’ you’ll see the car hire desks in front of you. The bigger companies such as Dollar, Alamo and Budget have quite a few desks and they know when the Brits are coming – unless you’re unlucky they’ll be well manned. You simply hand in your voucher along with your driving license and a credit card (must be a major card such as Visa or MasterCard). Usually your contract will be printed out within 10 minutes and you’ll be done. The credit card is authorised for a few hundred dollars against deliberate damage, traffic fines or missed tolls etc. We’re often asked if a cash deposit can be made. The answer’s yes but you won’t find the process convenient. For starters you will needs to leave $300 per week. That means if you’re on holiday for a fortnight it’s $600, 3 weeks $900 and so on. When you bring the car back the cash is not returned to you – instead you are given a dollar cheque. You’ll need to deposit the cheque with your bank on return to the UK and who knows what they’ll charge you to clear it or how long it will take. We’re also asked if the deposit can be made with a debit card. Again the answer’s yes but your debit card must be Visa or MasterCard – Solo, Maestro, Electron etc are no good. In addition this is only an option at Orlando International – not at Florida’s many other airports. Once your contract is printed you walk along to the garages – less than a hundred yards. Here you’ll find lines of cars organised in size category and all with the keys in and ready to go. Each size is likely to have several different models. Choose your favourite and off you go! Lots of potential here for arguing between yourselves over which is the best model but obviously Mum knows best!

5. I want a particular model – can this be guaranteed? The answer is 'No' unfortunately. Cars are graded by size. You’ll be amazed though if you ring round a few travel agencies – some of them will ‘guarantee’ a particular model. All nonsense I’m afraid! Don’t worry about the quality of the cars – they are pretty much all late model and the specs are good. All are air conditioned and have Radio/CD so take a few CDs with you if you want. If you forget it doesn’t matter – the US radio stations are excellent and there are loads to choose from. Bruce Springsteen guaranteed!

6. What about all the horror stories I’ve heard about extra charges? All the car hire companies will try to sell you some ‘extras’ and in the US they know how to sell! You’ll often be asked if you want an add-on and truth be told it’s possible that the staff will imply that some of them are necessary. Favourites include roadside assistance and personal injury protection. Suffice to say that you already have everything that’s required by US law to drive so think carefully before you sign for extra charges. Once you’ve signed it will be difficult or impossible to recover them so please be careful

7. Can younger people drive? Yes they can and we can arrange the ‘young driver’s package’ for you. This allows one driver aged between 21 and 24 per vehicle and gives a further 3 adult drivers on the same vehicle plus a tank of petrol. If you’re going for a week the supplement will be about £70 although this can vary

8. I’m picking up and dropping off at different airports – any problems or charges? No problem at all if both the airports are within Florida – say Miami and Orlando or Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. The car hire companies make no charges. If however the 2 airports are in different states you will need to pay a ‘one way drop-off fee’. These fees are on a sliding scale according to mileage and start at about $100 – they rise to about $500 if the journey is coast to coast although this circumstance would be unusual.

9. I’ve got children – what are the rules about baby seats? Nothing different here to the UK – the rules are identical. You have 2 choices on baby seats – you can either take your own at no cost (the airlines are very accommodating) or you can rent them locally from the car hire company at a cost of about £5 per day. I know what I would do!

10. I need a Sat-Nav Good idea – you’ll spend your holiday enjoying yourself rather than lost! There are 3 choices………….take your own with you having downloaded US maps from their website (not difficult to do and costs about £10)………….pay a fee to the car rental company who will supply you with a machine (about £35 per week)…………..or buy a US Sat-Nav locally if you’re a regular visitor. Radio Shack is a good shop to visit and you’ll find one in every mall.

Car hire in Florida is simple, but you need to be careful that you understand the full ramifications of your hire and that you not only get the best price but you also get the best advice. Feel free to contact me at and if you need a competitive car hire quote give me a call on 01635 885 170.