buffalo_edited

If there was one destination that had been on my travel “to do” list for a very long time, it must have been the West of the USA. In June 2016 the moment had finally arrived and with a group of 5 friends we took a 3-week road trip through the amazing national parks and international cities of this part of the world.

There were a couple of things we planned in advance, like a selection of parks and cities we wanted to visit, the songs to include in our road trip playlist (very important!), a place to sleep for the first night (we would camp or stay in motels for the rest of the trip), and renting our car.

A car is an absolute necessity if you plan to visit national parks in the USA, as you need to cover a lot of miles and public transportation will not get you everywhere. As this car was going to be our second home for the coming 20 days, we really wanted to make a good decision here. The car had to be large enough to carry five people with all our luggage, but also comfortable to drive or take naps in.

Here are 10 “golden rules” that I’ve learned on this – and previous – road trips that will come in handy when renting a car abroad.

  1. Rates. Weekly rates usually start for a rental period of 5+ days, so if you extend your trip from 4 to 5 or 6 days, this can actually reduce the price. Or vice versa, to qualify for low weekend rates, you usually have to pick it up on a Thursday afternoon and return it before noon on Monday. So by adjusting your flights or pickup/return times, you might be saving a lot of money!
  2. Location. Off-airport car rental locations will have lower rates and fewer fees (airport taxes, shuttle fees etc.). It might be a little extra hassle to get to the location, but it can be well worth it if fees are significantly lower!
  3. Round trip vs. one way. Usually you will get a lower rate when returning the car to the same place where you picked it up. That’s also why we decided to pick up and leave our car at Los Angeles, where we landed.
  4. Insurances: at the counter you will often be offered expensive insurance to cover any damages, but be sure to check if your credit card company or regular travel/car insurance doesn’t already cover (part of) it.
  5. You might be paying more if the driver(s) are under the age of 25. Most car companies won’t even allow drivers under 21.
  6. Even if your drivers are all above 25, you are still likely to pay extra for each additional driver. So think carefully about how many you need, and make sure to check whether there will be extra costs. As we really had to cover a large distance, we decided to all take turns so the 5 of us all drove. Luckily there were no extra costs charged for this.
  7. Fuel: there are usually 2 options here: return your vehicle with a full or with an empty tank. When you don’t return it with a full tank, you will get charged for the gas you didn’t put in. And rental car companies will usually charge significantly more for gas than local gas stations. So returning your car with a full tank will save you money…and stress. Unless you like filling up gas a couple of times at the end of your trip and constantly drive “in the red”.
  8. Bring your own extras: fees that rental companies charge for GPS systems or child seats can be very high when not included in the standard price. So be sure to check this up front and – whenever possible – think about bringing your own!
  9. Make sure the name on the credit card is the same as the actual driver – or you will simply never get the car keys. I’ve experienced this once myself in Italy which was not exactly a great start of a relaxing holiday!
  10. Mileage. Most car rentals will allow unlimited mileage, but some may restrict the number of miles and start charging you extra for each and every additional mile. So pay attention to this up front!

patrice_edited

We rented a car in the FFAR (Full Size SUV) segment and were fortunate to get an upgrade to a GMC Yukon XL… which was truly a HUGE car for us, as in Europe we are certainly not used to this size of vehicle. This full option car had everything we dreamed of: GPS system, air conditioning, seat cooling and heating (the cause of many jokes of my friends to me…haha), 2 TV Screens, Lane Keep Assist, Parking Camera, 4G WI-FI Hotspot, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, Cruise Control, Rain-sensitive front wipers and many more. We could not feel safer and happier. And what’s even better: we got a very good rate for it, too!

As our group of friends always gives a name to a car, we decided to call her Patrice, after a character of the series “How I Met Your Mother”. Now we were really ready to hit the road with our dear Patrice.

map

Patrice took us from LA to the wonderful trees and cactuses of Joshua Tree National Park, to the decadence of Las Vegas, the red hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, the buttes and mesas of Monument Valley, the immense beauty of the Grand Canyon, the orange rocks of Antelope Canyon, the cliffs and arches of Capitol Reef, to Salt Lake City on our way to the bears, buffalos and geysers of Yellowstone, to the volcanic landscapes of Lassen, the sequoias of Redwood, the vineyards of Napa Valley, the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco, to end with the beautiful views of the Pacific Coast Highway on our way back to LA.

We had an amazing time. There’s something truly exceptional about the flexibility and freedom of driving a car in a unique scenery like this. We saw breathtaking nature, unique wildlife (avoid hitting that buffalo on the road!) and experienced crazy moments in the cities of Las Vegas, San Francisco and LA.

patrice-camping_edited

After 5000 miles on highways, natural parks and dust roads in no less than 7 different states, you can imagine that our car was in (very) high need of some cleaning. Although this was supposed to be included in our rental price, we were simply too embarrassed to leave our car looking as it was, so we did decide to take it to the car wash after all… which was probably a wise decision.

patrice-dirty

It was a truly great experience and I’m looking forward to many more road trips to come… hopefully with a car as nice as Patrice!

patrice-in-monument-valley_edited

 


Author: AnneloreAnnelore Valencia_edited

Annelore has been an employee of Bare International since September 2011 and is based in the Antwerp Office. She has a Master’s degree in English & Spanish literature & linguistics and a Master’s in Management. She likes discovering new places, travelling, reading and going out with friends to enjoy some very good (Belgian) beers.


Interested in becoming an Automotive Evaluator with BARE International?

Want to be a guest blogger for BARE’s Automotive community We Are Cars?

Apply to: akocsis@bareinternational.com

write a letter to Budapest

Dear Budapest,

 

It all happened on June 8th when we were told we would have the chance to come and visit you.

What an excitement… Your Danube, your bars, your nice people, we have heard so much about you that we couldn’t wait anymore to finally meet you.

Here we are… Thursday evening, rushing after work, getting on the plane…it didn’t take us more than two hours to reach you and we could already see you from the sky, you already looked amazing.

57b825f6663c2cb9844275e6e435169a8784496a75c7be74cepimgpsh_fullsize_distrOnce we arrived we saw people everywhere. Your streets were so vibrant and alive. It almost felt as if everyone knew we were coming.

The atmosphere at work was really nice. Our colleagues welcomed us so warmly, it did not feel as if it was the first time we met them. It was as if we knew each other all along. We were so happy we could talk to one another personally instead of via Skype or email. We were happy we had the opportunity to meet and get to know one another. We could finally match faces with the names that we often heard.

Budapest, your sun, your thermal baths, your amazing hills on the Buda side, your restaurants… We would like to say: your everything is amazing. Unfortunately we were too short on time… We assume that you were trying to tell us we should come back to visit you again.

See you next time Budapest, we cannot wait!

 

Yours,

Ikram & Meriem

PS.: If we were mystery evaluators in Budapest, we would say that we did not do it for the shop fee. We did it to explore the beautiful city. We did it for the lovely memories we got in exchange. The shop fee is the city itself and beyond!

 

dsc01555_edited


Author: Ikram20160925_210646

Ikram has been a part of the Bare team for more than a year now. She is a native French speaker, but also speaks English, Arabic and Spanish. She studied translation and had the opportunity to live in both Syria and Egypt during her studies. Within the Bare team she is a real community builder who tries to work on activities and relations inwards and outwards of the company. She loves traveling, reading and discovering new cultures.

 

 

Author: Meriem87ac2f4d7500464597836526f441c9dccf3782a2e56f23958apimgpsh_fullsize_distr

Meriem has been working for Bare International for 1 year now, and she is mainly responsible for projects in Belgium. In her free time she loves spending quality time with her family – especially with her 3-year-old son. She is very outgoing: loves having fun, shopping, travelling and having deep conversations with her loved ones. She has a degree in Office and Data Management.

 

 


Interested in becoming an Evaluator with BARE International?

Want to be a guest blogger for BARE’s Mystery Evaluator’s Community?

Apply to: akocsis@bareinternational.com

header_blog-post01

I’ll keep the introductions brief: all you need to know is that I lived in one country (Scotland) my whole life, and have now been living in another country (Hungary) for the past couple of months, indeed for the next year… and possibly beyond.

The reasons are various, though what’s important is right now (for this blog) is just how the Dickens all of it has been – moving to an entirely new country, which happens to be on the opposite side of the continent, where you don’t speak the language, nor quite understand the currency (367HUF = 1GBP?!).
[spacer height=”10px”]
Here are three things I’ll mention for now:
[spacer height=”10px”]

1. A Whole New World (Country)
[spacer height=”10px”]
I should probably start off with the most profound change of the past four-and-a-bit weeks: an actual switching of country. Not just a change of scenery, or a new view from your bedroom window, but a real, 100% genuine ”everything’s different” kind of altering you don’t normally find everyday.
[spacer height=”10px”]
I mean, yes – upping sticks from one nation to another where you can’t even read the ”open/closed” sign on a shop door is quite the change of pace; but having to learn (or relearn) an entirely new set of skills and routines is just as jarring/intimidating/exhilerating/exciting!
[spacer height=”10px”]
Having spent most of the past few years in and around Edinburgh was actually pretty good training for living in and around Budapest: lots of people, lots of traffic, and a frankly ridiculous amount of pretty sights from both a man-made and natural perspective. The architecture of both cities are, of course, world famous. It’s a rare joy to go walkabout in an unfamiliar city and consistently be impressed with what you’re looking at. Oh, and without question Budapest (indeed, many other European cities) has one advantage over Edinburgh in one aspect: the travel pass. For just over £25, this shiny ticket will see you right for a full month, letting you go by bus (trolley bus or regular), tram, metro, train, and even boat absolutely anywhere within the city limits, an unlimited number of times. I cannot overstate how much peace of mind this gives.

1

 

2. All Walks Of Life (Culture)
[spacer height=”10px”]

Remember that bit before when I said ”everything’s different”?
[spacer height=”10px”]
Not completely true. Yes, there are many differences: cinemas only serve salted popcorn, Hungarian men shave their armpits (not in Scotland), but there are also similarities. Food is very similar, and the Hungarian/Scottish sense of humour makes for natural bedfellows. Working in BARE International’s Budapest office helps ease any cultureshock or homesickness-inducing anxiety. As we work so closely with our friends in Belgium, a real team spirit is palpable. Everyone is contstantly on skype for both the most important conference calls and the smallest of questions. Even further, technology enables us to interact with offices even further afield, with the USA, India and China all reachable at the click of a mouse. It’s a cliché, but being able to actually speak to and hear a person in real time goes a long way. You get a feeling of presence, therefore the most enjoyable and efficient work can happen.

4

[spacer height=”20px”]
3. Ain’t No Sunshine (Climate)
[spacer height=”10px”]

In Scotland, there’s the saying, ”If you don’t like the weather, wait for five minutes”. The Brits are (in)famous for their obession with small talk relating to amateur meteorology, and thanks to the mercurial nature of clouds above the UK, it’s not unfounded. It’s pretty much given that in the months of July, August and September, the weather in Budapest is rarely anything other than tan-tastic sunshine. Almost certainly more than these three, but I haven’t experienced others first hand. One of the first things talked about if I mention I’m living in Hungary is how I’m surviving being a milk bottle-coloured Scot (spoilers: SPF is my new BFF). For native Hungarians, however, conversations about how the weather is would become repetative pretty quickly.
[spacer height=”10px”]
A quick note on hearing the Hungarian language day in, day out: at first it may sound quite argumentative, so even if you hear a mother and daughter talking perfectly well about how they slept last night, it’s easy to mistake it for a long-brewing fight.

2

[spacer height=”20px”]
BONUS 4TH POINT!

4. Faster Than A Speeding Bullet (Commute)
[spacer height=”10px”]
The absolute cherry on the cake in regards to my moving to a complete different country to a new job is how darn quickly I can get there; because of where my apartment and workplace are situated, I can easily make it from my front door to my desk in five minutes. To put it in perspective, my previous job took a 3-hour round trip to get from my town into Edinburgh (honestly though? It was worth every bum-numbing minute), whereas now it’s 2 minute dash to the office if I run.
[spacer height=”10px”]
There may be much I miss having left the place I called home for almost quester of a century, but there is even more I am looking forward to in the coming year. The past few months have been an enjoyable, sometimes surprising learning experience, and I’m sure the next few will take it to new heights.
[spacer height=”5px”]
Not to brag, but you know… I don’t think I’ve ever had it so good.

3

[spacer height=”10px”]


Author: Richard

dsc01370_edited-for-blog
Richard is a real community builder, involved in various activities within the office, helps charities and has a degree in filmmaking and screenwriting. He’s a ”Creative”, interested in telling stories, making connections and helping generate ideas. An avid reader, he is passionate about gaming, food (don’t feed him after midnight) and history. He has plans for the future, and you -the one reading this sentence- are part of them.


Interested in becoming an Evaluator with BARE International?

Want to be a guest blogger for BARE’s Mystery Evaluator’s Community?

Apply to: akocsis@bareinternational.com

1

 

With BARE International we have all sorts of mystery visits, in a wide variety of industries. But what would the comments of a mystery shop at a rock festival look like exactly? We can only have a wild guess here.

You have applied for a ‘Festivals International: ALL’ visit. You have to visit the following festival location:
Shop: Pukkelpop
Location: Kiewit, Hasselt, BE
Shop date: 18th of August 2016
Your scenario: You have an eclectic taste in music and are looking for some alternative bands to discover. You are open to many kinds of music.
Please visit at least the following departments: Main Stage, Marque, Boiler Room, Club.
DO NOT visit the Main Stage from 10:40pm to 12:10am!

 

3

 

What did you experience at the entrance of the location? How were you greeted/approached?

Before I entered the festival I noticed the bills advertising for other festivals. When I entered I was immediately greeted in a friendly manner. I had to place my belongings in a plastic box and walk through a detection gate, while security had a peek in my backpack. As the alarm went off I was frisked by a male security guard. They all did this with a smile and kind words.

 

Please write a comment about how you were helped with finding what you needed.

At the entrance there was a huge board with a timetable, where I could already make my own needs analysis and select which bands I wanted to check. There was a lot of choice, with over 80 bands and DJs to choose from and at least 10 stages to go to. There was also a catalogue with all the acts listed A-Z and a short and funny description. I think this was nicely done.

 

What did you particularly like about this visit?

What I particularly liked about this visit is the variety of bands. I think Wolfmother, The Last Shadow Puppets, Bloc Party and The Tallest Man On Earth gave some really interesting concerts. The pad thai I had for dinner, purchased from one of the many food stands, was excellent and not too spicy.

 

2

 

What did you not like about this visit?

What I didn’t really like about this visit was that The Avalanches had cancelled their concert. Even though we knew that upfront, it wasn’t really a positive aspect. It would also have been better had the concerts of Mastodon and Warpaint not overlapped, as I had to choose Mastodon, but also was interested in Warpaint. It wasn’t a very easy choice and I didn’t really feel respected as a customer. I didn’t quite like the loud basses during Half Moon Run. I think sound quality could improve here.

 

Please upload your POV.

As a proof of visit I uploaded a picture of my wrist with the Pukkelpop wristband. You can check the day of the week and the date on it: THU 18.

 

Any tips for future evaluators?

Bring earplugs to the festival!

 

4

 


Author: Gert
pimgpsh_fullsize_distr_Gert
Gert specialties are any coffee-related projects as well as reports in Dutch, French and English. In his free time he writes novels, plays and poems, and performs spoken word all over Flanders and the Netherlands. He also loves travelling, listening to music and going to concerts. He has a Master in Applied Linguistics and one in Modern Literature.


Interested in becoming an Evaluator with BARE International?

Want to be a guest blogger for BARE’s Mystery Evaluator’s Community?

Apply to: akocsis@bareinternational.com