This is a guest post written by Sam Thomas
The plethora of low cost airlines these days has changed the way we tend to buy holidays in recent years. For sure, there are still plenty of people who like the one-stop shop of a package deal whereby their flights, transfers and accommodation are all booked together. Nowadays, even package holidays are sold in modules and most tour operators don't even try to hide the fact that they are simply putting together three elements that any customer could do for themselves. Although that suits many families, more of us are simply booking our flights as early as possible - to get the best prices available - and sorting out onward transport and accommodation afterwards.
Making your own bespoke holiday certainly has lots of advantages, particularly if you don't want to be stuck in one resort but prefer to travel around a little and explore. If you have kids with you, then booking your accommodation in advance, at least for the first few nights, is advisable particularly in the high season when availability lessens and you don't have as much choice. However, many British tourists make the mistake of not sorting out their car hire before they arrive. This can be a bit of a disaster, because hiring your car from the airport terminal on arrival means you are often faced with little choice and inflated prices. Worse still, if you need extras like air-conditioning and child seats, your options can be even more limited.It is always advisable to get your hire car booked as soon as you have confirmed your flights and know the dates of your holiday. The next step is to work out the sort of car that is going to be needed. Perhaps you need an estate, to fit everything in, or an SUV so that you can cope with any back roads you might need to navigate. If you only have a short distance to travel, then why not go for a budget vehicle which can act as a run around. However, particularly if you have children with you, a larger car is going to be preferable.
For whatever kind of family holiday you are on, when hiring there is always a balance to strike, between comfort and expense. The last thing most families want is to be stuck in traffic in the heat of the day with screaming kids in the back, and pile of bags that won't fit in the boot. On the other hand, hiring a prestige car suitable for a high-powered business trip is likely to be overkill on most holiday excursions. Remember that in places like Spain, younger families - where the driver is under 25 - may have to pay a young driver's surcharge.
If you are looking to keep the cost of hiring down while not opting for the lowest spec car in the fleet, choosing the right car category is essential. SUV cars, for example, offer the right balance between practicality, fun and cost effectiveness. In much of southern Europe and beyond, the main roads are fine for saloons and hatchbacks, but if your accommodation is off the beaten track a 4x4 or a mid-sized SUV is definitely worth it.
It is also worth remembering that expressways often have toll charges, so if you have a vehicle that is capable of going on to the smaller roads, you may end up saving money. These days, more and more drivers are avoiding the toll charges in holiday destinations and sticking to the local routes. If you book the right hire car in advance, it can make for a better holiday where you discover something out of the way, while making sure your family travels safely and in comfort.