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So, buying a last minute flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Orlando (MCO) at the end of April to check out the annual hang-gliding competition in Groveland, Florida – a trip that a paraglider pilot plans to do with friends who are still jump – was anything out of the ordinary. What is unusual, however, are the Salamone rental car rates you find when you browse prices online for your three-night trip.

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He immediately called a friend who had a talent for planning a trip for advice, but they came up short. However, there is a solution for him when it comes to walking.

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Salamone told TPG that he found a truck from a U-Haul pickup near the Orlando airport for $19.95 a day, plus an additional $10 in mileage charges during his trip.

Every rental costs under $100 – and you save more because you can forgo a hotel and sleep in a van during the event thanks to friends in Florida who have an air mattress and pillows to spare. Salamone said they even bought him a magnetic screen from ACE Hardware to keep mosquitoes away from the beach.

The delayed flight meant Salamone landed late at the Orlando airport, so no one was working at the U-Haul office outside when he arrived. Additionally, the U-Haul facility did not work for him to pick up the van.

But even though he didn’t get into the U-Haul until the next day, Salamone told TPG he still considered the experience a success.

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“It’s clean and it’s very comfortable,” he said of the van. “For less than $100, I have a hotel and a car for my trip.”

With travel cancellations for many domestic and even international destinations, the pinched rental car inventory and spiking prices make it difficult – and expensive – to find a rental car right now. Travelers everywhere have agreed to call the current situation carmageddon (among others…more creative terms).

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A late April search on Orbitz for car rentals in the Florida cities of Tampa and Key West showed prices around $500 per week for May dates. In Honolulu, car rentals cost over $1,000 per week on the same days. CNN recently reported car rental rates in Maui total a staggering $722 per day.

While not all parts of the country have this problem (for example, car rentals in Aspen, Colorado, cost around $250 per week on Orbitz for the same week in early May), travelers organizations should know that car rental now. may come with sticker shock – if you can even afford to get a vehicle at all.

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Andrew Lock of The Travel Show said he relented to U-Haul rentals when he saw Las Vegas car rentals go up for his mid-April trip from London. Lock, who rents a car once a month on his travels and often books directly through Hertz, told TPG he has a very good handle on what the prices are in Las Vegas for car rental

“It’s usually about $40 per day, but I’m seeing rates around $150 per day, especially on sites like AutoSlash and Costco,” he said, the sites known for good rates.

Faced with a higher price tag, he turned to U-Haul in the hope that it would be cheaper. Lock calculated how many miles he needed to drive around Las Vegas during a five-day business trip (about 100 miles) and tacked on a $40 U-Haul insurance, too. He told TPG that it was a no-brainer to rent a U-Haul rather than a traditional rental car.

“For what it would cost me for a day’s rent, I have a U-Haul for the whole time.”

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You choose a cargo van, one of the cheapest rental options from U-Haul. According to Lock, the U-Haul van is comparable to driving a large SUV — with parking. But Lock cautioned fellow travelers to confirm what you’re getting with U-Haul when you book so you don’t risk upgrading to something too big if there’s no inventory.

Turo – a car service referred to as the “Airbnb of rental cars” – is another alternative to traditional car companies that has become popular in light of recent car rental issues.

With inventory in the entire US market as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, Turo’s app works as an online marketplace where car owners can rent their personal cars to people who need them. Prices are often cheaper than what you’ll find through a rental car company – a recent search showed rates at $23 per day for a Fiat in Los Angeles and $30 per day for a Prius in Maui, Hawaii.

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Turo is also susceptible to inventory shortages, however, which is what happened to Cindy Rich from Orem, Utah, during an April trip to Orlando.

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She and her husband changed their flights at the last minute to arrive a day earlier. They went to renew the car reservation they had made weeks ago with Thrifty, but there was no availability. They turned to Turo as their backup plan, but Rich said there were no cars coming through the app, either.

“My husband had a great idea to rent a Home Depot car,” said Rich, adding that he would do it on a previous trip to Colorado. The couple hailed a ride to the nearest Home Depot and had the last rental car in stock — a Ford 250 utility vehicle — for $130 a day.

“But I can’t imagine what we would do if my daughter was with us. Home Depot trucks are not car seat friendly. “

Tourists are lined up for car rentals at MCO. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Rich for The Points Guy)

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If you are planning an upcoming trip and need a car rental and find the prices too high for your budget, here are some tips and tricks to help you find a choice:

1. Home improvement companies such as Home Depot and Lowes often rent trucks which can be a cheaper option than rental cars in some markets. Keep in mind, however, that these trucks may not be family-friendly if you’re traveling with small children who need car seats.

2. If you’re seeing higher rates for specific rental days, try extending your booking window for a longer trip to see if the daily price comes up, suggests Lock. Often, car rental companies will let you return the car earlier than you booked it for without penalty – and in some cases, they may even reimburse you for the days not rented.

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3. Be sure to check car rental rates closer to your trip, too, because they may drop as the actual travel dates get closer.

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4. For trips between Florida and the Washington, D.C. area, look into Amtrak’s Auto Train to see if it might be a better deal to bring your own vehicle with you. The daily service travels nearly 900 miles (17.5 hours) along the East Coast between the Washington, DC, and Orlando areas.

5. Check out car dealers such as Nissan and Toyota that offer “try before you buy” weekends or rental car deals. This is another option that can be cheaper than traditional rental companies right now.

6. Finally, check retailers like Costco and AutoSlash for deals. Be sure to enter your AAA and AARP associations, too.

Terry Ward is a Florida-based freelance writer who travels the world with her two young children while contributing to Family Guy Points, in addition to several other outlets. He has lived in France and New Zealand and has a particular love for Norway. Terry-ward.com

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