Car Rental: Rent me a cooler and lots of other gear for road trips

Something I do from time to time is a road trip in a rental car. And while car rental companies much prefer the business customer who rents a big car at a high price, then just drives it to their meeting and back to the airport, they are not averse to the less profitable road trip business.

So here are some things they could do to make it better for that sort of customer.

Cooler

When I road trip, I want a cooler to keep drinks and food cold. I will pack a fold-up cooler (they make good protection for stuff as well) but they can’t quite cut it in a hot car in a hot place all day.

So it would be nice if they would rent a nice solid cooler, maybe with some freezer packs. It’s easy to make your own freezer packs from used drink bottles, but also useful would be a leakproof bag to put gas station ice in. Those bags of ice you buy at stores always leak, so you need to protect against that. Depending on where you stay you can usually re-freeze packs or get ice from an ice machine.

Now a typical small cooler only costs about $30. And if I know car rental companies, they will charge more to rent you one, since they have to stock it and clean it. The big advantage of an overpriced rental car unit is time. You don’t want to spend time hunting these things down.

What would make sense would be a company which does “road trip provisions” which partners with all the rental car companies, and will either provision your car, or be located near the airport to make it easy for you to pick up and drop off.

Those 12v coolers that run off car electricity don’t do anything. You have to have ice. Though it could be a backup.

Another interesting option would be to partner with stores that do online ordering, so that you could get your cooler pre-loaded with ice and groceries. That’s of value in places you know well — in new countries I actually enjoy visiting a grocery store and picking out local products.

(No, I didn’t rent a Lotus Super Seven on my road trip to the hotel where the Prisoner was filmed, but somebody else drove one there and parked it to show off.)

Other travel supplies

Long ago, you could not depend on your hotel to have a hair dryer and an iron. So they sold travel versions of these that people packed. Nobody packs them any more. Now there are other things starting to be found in hotel rooms, but you still have to pack them because you can’t be sure. Some are things almost everybody wants. Some are specialty items. I would love for them to be on the inventory of a hotel, road trip rental company or car rental company:

For the road

  • A good tripod. I have one of course, but these are bulky things to bring. I can bring the tripod head — those vary too much.
  • Swim fins, masks, beach towels, beach mats and sun umbrellas — if going to a swimming/beach location.
  • Folding chairs for the same reason.
  • Camping gear is avilable for rent in some camping stores. Would be nice to get all this in one place, though.
  • Trekking poles. They make hikes better exercise and lower impact. I have collapsing ones but they are still a pain to fit in luggage and don’t go in carry-ons.
  • Coats. No, they won’t fit very well, but I’ve been on trips where you only needed a coat (or a heavier coat) in one location on the trip, and an ill-fitting coat woudl be better than carrying your own on the whole trip. Sometimes you can rent these — for example on Mt. Etna in Sicily, it’s the only place on the island anybody wants a coat in summer.

For the room

Earlier I wrote on what should be in every hotel room. Every room should just have those things, and the things below, but until then, trip gear rental service should have them too.

  • A universal power strip for the local plug style — because so many rooms don’t have enough plugs.
  • Tools for doing repairs. One of the most frustrating things on the road is breaking stuff and not having your complement of basic tools. Yeah, I pack a multi-tool, but I would also like a hot glue gun and other glues, a soldering iron and electrical repair tools with other useful things. Some Duct Tape, of course. And a tiny voltmeter.
  • For people who did not check a bag, a multi-tool, and a pair of scissors.
  • Video cables (HDMI, VGA, dongles) to let me connect my computer to the TVs in hotel rooms. Now 95% of them are flat-screen HD units, though often just 720p, and often fixed to the wall in a way that’s not useful as a computer monitor. But I don’t know what cable I will need or if I will be able to use it so it’s nice not to have to pack it.
  • For trips where you will stay a long time in one place, a nice large monitor is wonderful if you will be working on the computer. As I pretty much always will be. Recently on extended trip I bought one — just $120 — and sold it to the landlord who will provide it to future guests.
  • Alas, USB charging probably is still best for you to bring or rent. Problem is there are now 5 USB charging systems (Qualcomm QC 2 and 3, USB C, general high-current USB, basic USB and probably more) and everybody needs more than basic 2.5w charging, and to not have this is a complete non-starter.

What else would you add to the road trip rental inventory?

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