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I'm planning a family trip to US (from Europe) and although we're going to stay in NY most of the time, I'd like to go to Washington DC and around for couple of days for example. I assume renting a car is the most suitable option here, but when I sum up all the costs (car, gps, 2x child safety seat) the price becomes not that compelling.

Is there any other way to travel at a reasonable cost with whole fam? Or which car rental company has the best prices for this kind of travels?

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    Depending on how old the kids are, buses/coaches may be the cheapest option. Trains aren't cheap at all (apart from suburban ones) and planes are a pain, especially on short distance trips. I'd suggest going with a car hire - even if it's a bit expensive, it adds a lot of flexibility. – Aleks G Dec 14 '14 at 15:23
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    Can you tell us more about the possible places you'd like to go? Transportation options vary a lot depending on where you're going. For New York City - DC, I'd definitely recommend the bus it will be cheaper and much less stressful than driving out of NYC can be. – Carl Dec 14 '14 at 18:18
  • @Cire how stressful driving out of NYC can be (from Williamsburg)? – rafek Dec 15 '14 at 5:35
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    You will want to take the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, cross Staten Island, and then the New Jersey Turnpike south. During rush hour, this will be ugly, but otherwise I think you are OK. I would be more tempted to recommend the bus, except that most of them leave from Manhattan. One-way rental car prices vary enormously. Start with the usual travel websites. In Dec 2013 I got a great deal from Alamo NYC-DC, but that luck comes and goes. They will charge you to turn on the transponder that automatically pays tolls, but it may be worth it to bypass the cash lanes. – Andrew Lazarus Dec 15 '14 at 7:21
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    Taking a bus from city to city is by far the cheapest and likely easiest option. There are good offerings from Megabus and other carriers sometimes for just a few dollars. Once you are in DC or any other destination, you might want to rent a car there. (I don't think you need one in DC, but it all depends on what you do and where you stay.) – Matthew Herbst Dec 15 '14 at 23:26
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Within New York (well, Manhattan), it is a real big bother to drive and quite expensive to park the car; Metrocard is your mean to go, maybe an occasional cab ride.

To DC, driving might be probably the cheapest, and then consider transit again.

With the rental cars, you might also look what rental car brokers offer (I had very good experiences with SunnyCars, for example). They often have good packages, and it may actually be that GPS is included (or available for a reasonable price). You might also compare the rates for different pick-up places (JFK is the most epensive in my experience).

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You're right that a car will be the most convenient for visiting DC with small children. Rental cars are often cheaper if picked up outside of NYC (sometimes you can return inside NYC at the same price), but this means taking a train with two small children which is not ideal.

You don't need to pay the car rental company for GPS; just have your "navigator" (husband/wife) use a smartphone. This works well where you will be travelling: cellular coverage is excellent throughout. You might want to bring a "cigarette lighter" USB charger for the car.

As for which company has the best prices, simply use your favorite online service to find out. Often the cheapest companies will include Budget, Dollar, or Avis.

One last tip: make sure you return the car before the shop closes. I was exactly on time once (pulled up at 10 PM), and I had called ahead to say I was running late, and they still tried to stick me with a late charge and parking fees.

  • It would cost a fortune to use a smartphone for a GPS internationally!!! – emmalgale Dec 23 '14 at 16:47
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    @emmalgale: who said anything about international roaming? I assumed a family travelling for a fairly long period like this would acquire a local smartphone for other reasons. If not, simply buying a used GPS unit might be sensible too. – John Zwinck Dec 24 '14 at 0:17
  • @JohnZwinck Who said anything about "travelling for a fairly long period"? The question and the comment by the asker say nothing about the duration of the trip to the US so I'd assume it's a standard family holiday of a couple of weeks. Who buys a new smartphone just for a family holiday? – David Richerby Dec 24 '14 at 10:58
  • @DavidRicherby: the OP is coming from Europe, where every cell phone uses a SIM card and most are either unlocked or unlockable for a $20 one-time charge. You can get a local SIM card at T-Mobile in the US for $30 or so and have data, albeit at slower 3G speeds due to the US using different frequencies. I have done this myself with a phone from the UK and it works fine. Only people from the US, Canada or Korea are likely to need a whole new phone for travel. – John Zwinck Dec 25 '14 at 1:09
  • For navigation you could download the map and then use it off-line with your GPS. sygic.com – Hubble07 Dec 25 '14 at 9:42
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Boost mobile smartphones are sold cheaply at any Wal-Mart type store and for 45 USD u get 5 gb data and unlimited talk and texting. Plenty to use GPS and call for directions if u get lost. I'd suggest going to once upon a child for car seats and selling then back at the end of the trip. Also att No contract to phone has a Nokia Lucia Windows smartphone which works well but its 60 for a month with less data. However the phone uses a SIM card so it's versatile with other carriers unlike Boost.

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