As the first days of summer pass and with school classes coming to an end, travel to overseas destinations will begin in earnest.
QUESTION: I will be travelling overseas to Europe over the summer. I want to drive as much as possible and wonder if you can give me any advice regarding car rentals?
ANSWER: Most of the major brands that exist in Canada are available in Europe as well.
With the consolidation of ownership in the car rental business over the last few years, there are few real choices to make anyway.
Auto Europe is one of the main brands you will see there that does not exist here. They are an excellent company but depending upon where you pick up your car, the lineups can be long and therefore slow.
Some countries mandate that insurance be purchased at the time of rental. This really is for your protection regardless of the extra cost, and I suggest extra coverage as a matter of course.
You will be driving in countries where signage in a different language may send you on the wrong course, where roads and driving conditions could lead you to an accident.
You need to make sure you don't require an international driver's licence. I suggest getting one anyway in case you decide to make a last-minute decision and visit a country that requires it.
Not all car rental franchise locations employ staff that understand or speak English. Your best pickup locations are those where there are significant numbers of international clients.
Airports and larger train stations are your best bets. The smaller downtown locations could pose a problem in communication, which could lead to a misunderstanding of charges and company rules.
Cars equipped with standard transmission are very common in Europe. They are much better than cars with automatic transmission for driving on steep hills and narrow, winding roads in unique but more remote locations.
Cars with automatic transmission are more expensive to rent and you need to specify that requirement when making your booking.
If you plan to drop off your car at a different location than where you picked it up, note that charges for doing so can often be significant.
Wherever you return your car, plan your driving route in advance. It is very easy to get confused when you must exit major highways onto a series of side roads that often seem to go in circles.
While a GPS should be an automatic addition to a rental today, even it may want to send you in confusing directions.
The Hertz Corporation in Europe has recently introduced a tremendous opportunity to drive the upscale brands you have always wished you could buy, but for a price.
Called the Hertz Dream Collection, you can now rent, at a much higher price of course, one of these interesting options: the Maserati Gran Turismo, BMW 6 Series convertible, Aston Martin, Porsche Cayman, and Mercedes S 350 BlueTec, to name a few.
Not all of these are available in every country, so you will need to check the list by location availability. But the chance to drive these vehicles, even for a short time, will appeal to many auto enthusiasts.
You'll pay a premium but the Dream Collection service includes meeting a Hertz employee at your designated pickup point who will show you the ins and outs of driving your super car before setting you on the road to begin your experience.
QUESTION: I will be taking a cruise this summer from Athens to Istanbul.
I hear a lot about both Istanbul and Turkey as excellent tourist destinations. At the same time there are often stories of unrest in the country as well.
Would you recommend spending extra days in the city or country?
ANSWER: While there have been some protest marches there are no current nationwide advisories against visiting Turkey.
Protests often occur in Taksim Square, which should be avoided even if the protest appears small.
But Istanbul and other unaffected parts of Turkey are exceptional places to visit.
Delta Airlines has placed its confidence in the country by resuming its traditional summer flights between Istanbul and New York.
This daily flight will operate in partnership with Air France-KLM.
Istanbul was recently voted the top worldwide destination so it would be a shame not to take the opportunity to spend time there after you disembark from your cruise.
If there were to be a more challenging situation arise in the city or country, your cruise would likely be diverted and Delta would most certainly curtail the flight service as well.
Go on to www.travel.gc.ca to keep in touch with any developing situations there you may be made aware of as a result of news broadcasts.
Turkey was one of the most impressive countries we visited over the last few years and worth spending an entire vacation there, let alone a few days.
To my surprise, tour operators have now started offering fully inclusive golf vacations for that target market, which they have worked to develop over the last decade.
I may have to return soon just for that journey.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.