Simon Calder's Travel Column

The chap at the Alamo car rental depot in Orlando was charm itself. "Where will you be travelling this week?" Touched by his interest, I outlined my plan to head to Florida's Gulf Coast. Immediately his tone changed to one of surprise. Leaning forward with an air of deep concern, he said "Sir, I would strongly advise you to upgrade to a bigger model."

"No thanks, I'm very happy with a small car." The promised model was about the size of a Fiesta.

"If you were to upgrade, I could probably get you a mid-size for the price of a compact - just $9.99 a day."

And the rest, I thought uncharitably. Renting a car in America is like taking a freeway off-ramp as you pass somewhere dodgy, like Dallas. As soon as you deviate, whether from Interstate 10 or the pre-paid fully inclusive car rental rate, you start paying. To that $9.99 you can add Florida tax and airport fees, and probably a whole trunk-full of other charges; a state government that is mean-minded enough to charge renters five cents (yes, the equivalent of three pence) per day for "battery and tire disposal" has many ways to dip into your holiday spending.

"No thanks, I'll take the economy car." After a 10-hour flight I just wanted to get going, Instead, the discussions continued in a rather less cheerful manner.

"Just a moment, sir, I think we may have a problem."

Ten minutes - and several hushed conversations with managerial types - later, he handed me the paperwork for a Suzuki Esteem. "It's rather larger than an economy model."

This was one of the largest car rental depots on the planet, yet it did not have a single small car. It is tempting to deduce from this that almost every client who has booked an economy model is persuaded to upgrade - and the corollary that anyone who stands firm will get a bigger car than planned anyway. Evidence for or against, please.

The whole episode was mildly amusing until I hit the rush-hour traffic and started thinking about the environmental implications. Since smaller cars generally use less fuel, you would hope that an environmentally responsible company would encourage people to trade down. Perhaps it is far fetched to imagine a rental rep asking "do you really need that gas-guzzling Lincoln, ma'am? The Geo Metro is much more economical." But at the very least, car rental companies should apply no pressure on customers to drive a bigger, heavier and more damaging car.

In Britain, the railway still provides an alternative for people who prefer not to drive - but in certain quarters there appears to be a concerted campaign to get people off the trains and on to the roads.

Virgin Trains is based in Birmingham. Last Tuesday, passengers at New Street station trying to find the right platform were confronted by a complete set of blank screens. (A ruse to prevent people seeing how late the trains were running?)

And get those sandwiches packed; from Monday, Virgin is stopping serving lunch or dinner on Birmingham- London trains.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Qualified Nursery Nurse for Bury Nu...

Maths Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Full time key stage 2 teacher job at ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn