Avoiding Car Hire Additional Charges

With online booking comparison sites (I like to use CarTrawler) and increased competition in the car hire market, there are some great bargains to be had. But when you turn up to hire the car, you can often be stung for some very expensive extras.

Earlier this month, we hired a ‘compact’ car in Salerno from Budget Car Rental, and it cost us €242 for a week, which is a pretty decent price. However, when we turned up to collect the car, the agent tried to sell a whole load of additional things.

First off, he informed us that our rental only included ‘basic’ insurance, which has a damage excess of €1,500. This means that if we were involved in any accident, we would be charged an additonal €1,500 to fix the car – and with the stories we’d heard of Italian drivers, we though an accident was more likely than not! And if the car was stolen the excess to pay would be a staggering €2,299!

He encourages us to reduce these excesses to zero, by upgrading the insurance cover to the ‘complete cover’ option for the price of €21.78 per day – that’s an additional €154! And to add in Personal Accident Insurance (which arguably might not be needed if you already have travel insurance) it would be another €12.10 per day – or €85 for the week. That’s a total of €239, which almost doubles the price of the rental.

Luckily, we had been forewarned of this insurance scam by a friend of ours that rents cars quite often. She put us on to Car Hire Excess Insurance, which can be used to provide the same protection against huge excess payments, but for significantly less money. Within Europe they charge just €2.99 per day to reduce your excess to zero, and if you hire a lot of cars you can get an annual policy for €49.99, which is still a third of the price the rental agent was going to charge us.

In addition, I noted that these were the prices for the other ‘optional extras’:

  • Under age driver (21-25 years old) – €18.15 per day
  • Additional driver – €5.00 per day
  • Booster seat – €7.26 per day
  • Toddler seat – €24.81 per day
  • Infant seat – €24.81 per day
  • GPS – €14.52 per day

If you had a bunch of young children with you, it would cost an absolute fortune!  In fact I’m sure it would be cheaper to bring child seats with you on holiday, even as excess luggage on a flight, rather than pay these prices.

I did consider whether we might need a GPS to get around, but at €102 for the week, it was cheaper and easier to use the navigation functions on our smartphones, even if it did incur mobile data roaming charges.

We’re all going on a…

Yesterday was the end of term, and the cathedral choir are now on summer holiday for the next 8 weeks.

Not that it feels like summer. It’s been throwing it down with rain for weeks on end, and it’s also unseasonably cold and windy. And there appears to be little sign of an improvement in weather conditions in the near future.

But weather aside, it’s good to know that we have some time off from our singing duties. I can reclaim my weekends, and do all the jobs I’ve been putting off over the last term. Although, having said that, I’m just as likely to miss the singing as well. During the recent half-term break, I ended up getting very bored, and I only had to survive a week without music.

It doesn’t help, as well, that almost my entire social life seems to revolve around the choir people. And without them, I would appear to be a bit of a ‘Billy no-mates’. So I can only hope that at least some of them are going to stick around in the city over the summer.

A few folk – sadly – will not be around, as they’re leaving the choir to go on and do bigger and better things. And we took the opportunity to say goodbye to them after evensong yesterday. The director of music made a bit of a speech, leaving presents were handed out, and quite a lot of alcohol was consumed.

Of course, come the start of next year in September, we’ll be welcoming a bunch of new people to replace the folk that left: a new organ scholar, and various different singers. One much-heralded arrival, however, looks like it might not happen. Rumour has it that one of our new tenors may have received a ‘better offer’ and is currently trying to back out of his contract. Which would be a shame, as we were all rather looking forward to having a full-strength tenor line again.

Even so, the choir still has many exciting things to look forward to at the start of next term, including two live BBC broadcasts, three concerts, a combined service with another cathedral choir, and three carol services just before Christmas. It’s going to be a fun term. Can’t wait!

Term Times and Holidays

It may be interesting for some people not involved in cathedral music to learn that choirs normally operate around academic terms.

The involvement of children as boy and girl trebles, and also of young adults as choral scholars, means that choirs very often have to work in sync with schools and universities. The autumn (Michaelmas) term will, however, be extended up to Christmas Day. And similarly the winter term from mid-January onwards is extended up until Easter Day. A week or two of holiday is then often given both after Christmas and Easter. During the summer, a break of about eight weeks is pretty much the norm – usually during July and August (again fitting in with school/university holidays).

When the choir is on holiday, there may not be any music in church, and services may instead be said. This is often a disappointment for visitors on holiday themselves, who may have come along specially to hear the choir. However, during these holiday periods other visiting choirs may take over the duty of singing the regular services in the cathedral. However, it is best to check in advance, to avoid disappointment. The more high-profile cathedrals will mostly have a full schedule of visiting choirs, but other more parochial cathedrals will have gaps in their musical services.

During the holiday periods, the cathedral choir itself may go on tour either nationally or abroad; often fulfilling the duties of a visiting choir in one or more other cathedrals. University and college chapels will often go on tour as well, as well as some parish church choirs.

Appointments to cathedral music jobs often also fit in with academic year pattern. Vacancies for new directors, organists, and layclerks are advertised throughout the year, but the majority of new appointments are made from September onwards.

Similarly places offered to trebles, choral scholars, and organ scholars are based upon academic years – from September to June. However, auditions for these roles can often happen many months in advance – with applications required towards the end of the proceeding calendar year.

Holidays are coming

With the end of term just a couple of weeks away, it’s not long till the summer break.

There’s no tour this year, so the choir are getting a full eight weeks off without any singing duties. And although I’m certainly going to miss the music (and the social aspects of the choir) during the break, I’m also quite keen on the idea of reclaiming my weekends.

I’ve already got two long weekends planned during July and August, and no-doubt I’ll fit in a few other short trips. But I don’t think I’ll fit in a proper holiday this summer – I just don’t have the money for it. Flights and accommodation are just so expensive at this time of year. Indeed, it’s the same old problem that teachers and parents have been complaining since the beginning of time – that holiday prices shoot up during the school holidays.

Oh well, I guess I just might have to prevail upon the (hopefully generous) hospitality of friends and family for this summer, and maybe slip a quick week away in the sun during the October half-term.

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