Last weekend, we decided to take a quick trip to Palm Coast, Florida. On Saturday, we made all the reservations we needed and on Tuesday, we were in the air. Amazing what one can do with the internet these days.
I want to give a quick rundown and semi-review of what we experienced during this trip. Almost everything we encountered was service oriented, so I’m hopeful this write-up may help someone who is planning a similar trip.
Car Service To Bradley International Airport, CT
We needed to get to the airport up here in Hartford. With any trip, the most difficult part is undoubtedly getting to and from. It’s a real pain. We live about 45 minutes away from Bradley and I wasn’t too fond of the idea of leaving my car parked in an area I wasn’t familiar with. I decided to use a car service. In order to find one, I checked the Limousine Service page on Bradley’s website. I browsed a few companies and found one that had very good rates. I called them and made a reservation for them to pick us up at the house and bring us to Bradley on Tuesday evening and then drive us from Bradley back to the house on Thursday evening.
The company we used is called “Hartford Livery & Limousine.” This is a start-up livery service and I must say that we received excellent service. If you are interested in a car service to and from Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT, you can reach them at 203-645-4091. Great guys. On time and very professional. I’ll tell you one thing, you need to spend a bit more money for a ride to the airport, but you really do reduce the hassle of driving yourself.
Flying jetBlue to Orlando, Florida
We made reservations to fly to Orlando with jetBlue. The primary reason we chose this airline was price. I’m sure we could have flown into Jacksonville or Daytona, both of which are closer, for a bit more money, but for $100 each way per person, we chose Orlando.
jetBlue was fine. Since Bradley is a relatively small airport, we quickly made our way through security to the gate. Because we made reservations online, we were able to print our boarding passes a day early. This allowed us to bypass the (non-existent) line at jetBlue check-in. As usual, we were way too early and had to sit at the gate for about two hours.
The flight was like any other. Medium size plane with chips and a small bottle of water about half way through. I really have nothing exciting to tell you about jetBlue other than the politeness and professionalism of their staff. And, oh yeah, the price. Around $400 got us from Hartford to Orlando and then back to Hartford.
Hertz Car Rental at Orlando International Airport
When we arrived in Orlando, we made our way downstairs to the car rental area. Now, let me tell you, if you’ve never been to the car rental area of this airport, you are in for a surprise. There were about 50 companies, all lined up. If we weren’t offered to make a reservation with Hertz during our online jetBlue reservation process, we would have been bewildered. Actually, we probably would’ve just chosen a company online, but still, there are way too many car rental companies to choose from in Orlando. It’s crazy.
We walked and walked and finally found the Hertz counter. There were no lines, so we were immediately invited to speak with a rep. The car rental cost about $39 per day. All said and done, I believe it was around $100. But there is a tricky part of renting a car.
As we were going through all the questions, the rep asked if we wanted to upgrade to a mid-sized convertible. Since it was about 60 degrees and cloudy, among other reasons, we declined. He mentioned that it was only $40 per day to upgrade. I gave a chuckle because the original rental was only around $40 per day.
After that, the rep asked if we wanted insurance for an additional $15 – $20 per day (I can’t remember the exact price). It would protect us for up to one million dollars if anything happened to the car. I mentioned to him that the cost of insuring the car was approximately 33% of the cost of rental. I would have to be a fool. That’s worse than cell phone equipment insurance.
After that, the rep asked if we wanted to pre-pay for fuel. He said that it’s cheap and convenient at only $3.09 per gallon. I thought that was good and I accepted. When he handed me the receipt to sign, I saw a total of around $147. I asked why he was charging $44 for the fuel. He said it was a full tank I was paying for. I asked if I would be reimbursed for unused fuel. He said no. Hmmm…interesting. I asked that he remove that charge. He did so and then advised me to be sure the car was full when I returned it because Hertz charges $9 per gallon to fill the car after return. Hmmm…interesting again. It’s funny how these companies make money on the extras.
So, the total bill was around $97 for a new Mazda 323. If I had purchased all the options, I would have paid around $234. More than twice the original rental cost. My advice: beware of the upgrades when renting a car.
Staying at Days Inn, Palm Coast, Florida
Earlier on, when we made all the original reservations online, we also made a reservation to stay two nights at the Days Inn in Palm Coast, FL. There were many hotels to choose from, but the Days Inn offered a nice room at around $58 per night. Not bad. It was definitely the least expensive and looking back, I’m happy to have chosen it because it was close the everything we needed.
We checked into the hotel at around 11PM. I was surprised because the room was great. It was modern and clean. I’ve seen hotel rooms that were less than great, but this one was just perfect. It had two full beds, a nice flat panel TV, a microwave and a mini refrigerator. Good thing about the micro and fridge too, because we had to buy dinner at a local grocery store and eat in the hotel room. All the restaurants were closed, besides a few fast-food places. The room features came in very handy.
If you are staying in Palm Coast, Florida, I would happily recommend the Days Inn.
Eating at Dominic’s Deli & Eatery, Palm Coast, Florida
If you are in the area, I highly suggest Dominic’s Deli & Eatery in Palm Coast. I went there for breakfast both days we were in town and was blown away by the breakfast sandwiches Pete made for us. This is, of course, a shameless plug because Pete is a good friend of mine. But seriously, if you are visiting or live in Palm Coast, check out Pete’s deli. He’s got awesome bread and knows how to make sandwiches the right way. I’ve been living in Connecticut for five years and unfortunately, I had to go to Florida to get a good sandwich. Ask for the pesto mayo – you won’t be sorry. While I was in town, Pete took care of me and as I was standing in his deli, I watched him take care of everyone else too. Great guy.
Citrus Trees in Palm Coast, FL
Before we left, we were quite interested in learning what type of vegetation grows in Palm Coast. I was certain that citrus trees grew in the area and I was determined to find some. Well, just as luck would have it, as we were doing one of the things that needed to get done, we ran into an orange tree and a grapefruit tree.
Can you believe it? I can’t. I am used to apple trees and all that, but citrus trees really took me by surprise.
Visiting the Beach at Jungle Hut Road Park, Palm Coast, Florida
It was cloudy, but we didn’t mind. It actually made for a great and private visit to the beach. And I do have to say, Palm Coast offers some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen to date. The wind created some rather large waves and the water was warm. It was great.
The beach we visited, off of Hammock Dunes Parkway, was relatively non-developed. There was no boardwalk or restaurants. All I saw were a few houses with stairs leading the the beach. Perfect for those long walks people always talk about.
Flying Back to Hartford, CT From Orlando, FL
On Thursday, we flew jetBlue back to Hartford from Orlando. This trip was a bit more complex than the first.
The main priority was to fill the rental car with gas. I figured that I would pass a gas station fairly close to the airport and there would be no issues. Not the case. As you get closer to the airport, things get more and more cramped and confusing. The last thing I wanted to do was learn that an exit ramp that offered a gas station had no alternate entrance ramp. Especially when we had time constraints. So we kept driving – all the way into the airport and up the parking garage, right the the rental car return. I looked at the gas gauge and saw that it was going to cost me about $100 in fuel if I returned the car.
I asked the check-in woman if there were any local gas stations and she graciously directed me to one a few miles away. I left the parking garage, filled the car up and in about fifteen minutes, returned the car. Lucky me. It only cost around $24 at $3.25 per gallon.
We returned the car and a nice fellow approached us and informed us that Hertz offered a drop-off service right to the jetBlue counter. We accepted his invitation and he drove us up to jetBlue. I thought that was nice. He asked that we spread the word about Hertz’s drop-off service, so that’s what I’m doing.
When we got to the jetBlue area, we saw some pretty decent sized lines for check in. Luckily, there were automated check-in kiosks available. I used one of them quickly printed our boarding passes. The only reason I didn’t print the boarding passes early was because I didn’t have a printer. jetblue did email them to me, and it’s a shame I wasn’t able to use that handy service.
The security lines were much longer at this airport compared to the other, but we made it through. The good part about that was that we didn’t have to wait at the gate as long as we did up in Hartford.
The flight back to Hartford was fairly uneventful. I can give the same review of this flight as I did earlier, but at least this time, I got some pictures.
Overall, we had a good, but very tiring trip. It only lasted a few days, but we completed what we needed to complete.