Author: Dana

4 Ways To Avoid Rental Car Toll Ripoff!

4 Ways To Avoid Rental Car Toll Ripoff!

In May 2019, I traveled to Napa Valley, California, to attend Bottle Rock Napa Valley.  Since Bottle Rock is a camping festival, I rented a car from Dollar Car Rental at the SFO airport.  Hello, car camping!  After I picked up the car, I headed to the store to buy enough food and water for the rest of the trip.  Then I headed to the festival to set up camp.

When I returned the car to SFO, I mentioned that going through the toll was confusing.  Was I supposed to pay cash?  Was there a transponder inside the car that I didn’t know about?  (In Florida, the transponder gets charged whether or not you pay cash.  If you do pay cash, you get double-charged.)  I also didn’t understand how much the toll costs.  It roughly depended on the volume of traffic, but the cutoff times were not clear.

The rental car employee told me I should have been offered to rent a toll device when I picked up the car.  If I declined, I should have paid cash.  But I could call fastrak (the company that collects tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge) and pay afterwards if I set up a PlatePass account.  She handed me a PlatePass brochure.  I was thoroughly confused.  And I was definitely never offered to rent a toll device.  Now I was left even more confused and frustrated…Good talk!

When I got home, I called PlatePass, but they were unable to find any charges on my rental car.  I called back several times a week for a month.  They never found any toll charges.  Umm…ok?

Several weeks later, I got a $40 charge for rental car tolls on my credit card statement from a third party.  What!?  The Golden Gate Bridge toll was only $7 at most??  I tried to call Dollar, but I got an automated phone tree where none of the branches went to a human.  I tried several different numbers, including the one on my credit card statement.  But there was no possible way to speak to a human.

I called my credit card company and disputed the charge.  The credit card company strongly advised against it.  They said people never win against rental car tolls.  But after calling back two more times, I found someone willing to try, and I won.  Awesome!

Until November 2019.  I got a bill for rental car tolls for over $50.  This felt like a scam.  I did my due diligence in trying to pay this damn toll, but they are still upcharging me 800%?!  No part of this is acceptable.

After more calls, getting the run-around, and getting transferred in circles, I finally found someone willing to talk.  Here’s what rental car companies don’t want you to know about how tolls work, and how you can avoid Rental Car Toll Rip-Off:

1. When you pick up a car, always ask how are tolls paid.  Never assume there’s a toll device in the vehicle.  Never assume there’s not.  Ask for all the details.  Some companies will give you a toll device for an extra charge.  Sometimes they will refund the charge if you don’t go through any tolls. What if I pay cash? Will it still charge the transponder? Always ask if that’s the case and make them put it in writing.  They are preying on your ignorance in order to nickel and dime you on the order of $50 per toll.

2. Make a free PlatePass account.  PlatePass is a company that handles tolls for rental cars.  When you pick up the car, register the license plate number on your PlatePass account.  When you return the car, remove the license plate from your PlatePass. That way you don’t get charged for the next persons tolls.   PlatePass has a daily charge, but it is much lower than the rental car company will charge.  PlatePass is not available in every state.  Make sure to double check it is available in the states you are driving through.

3. It seems like there isn’t an easy way to automate PlatePass when you pick up and return a car.  In the future, if I end up making regular trips to California, I might have to buy my own fastrak toll tag (transponder).

4. Never rent from Dollar Car Rental!

I may have gotten ripped off in tolls, but I had one of the best festival experiences yet!  I got to see Neil Young, Imagine Dragons, and Mumford and Sons.  Some of them jumped into the crowd and were standing right next to me!  Check out my video below!

Want more Bottle Rock?  Check out the vlog I made last year about my my first festival camping experience.)

Want to go on a crazy adrenaline-filled adventure with me?  Sign up here to be the FIRST to hear about my next epic adventure trip you can join!

Nicaragua: Expectation vs Reality

Nicaragua: Expectation vs Reality

The week before I left for my solo trip to Nicaragua, I was so excited for my upcoming adventure! Unfortunately, many of my friends were not. I received many texts begging me to cancel my trip immediately to avoid certain disaster:

“There are riots going on over there. It’s not safe for you to go there right now.”

This was true at one point in time. I have friends who live in Nicaragua. When I originally wanted to go in Fall 2018, they said it was not safe. They suggested waiting. I ended up going in February 2019. I was in close contact with them while planning my trip. I waited until they said it was safe, instead of listening to fear-mongering by people who have never been to Nicaragua.

While I was there, the locals mentioned that few Americans come to visit. I told them Americans are scared to go to Nicaragua. They were surprised, and said Nicaragua is only dangerous for people who live there or people who recently left who are trying to come back. They said if you are a tourist or Nicaraguan who moved away years ago, you will be safe.

“There is a lot of human trafficking over there. They will scoop you up off the street so fast, nobody will ever know what happened.”

This sounds like a generic solo woman traveler fear. Sure, this could happen. But it could also happen in your hometown. Or anywhere. It’s not more likely to happen in Nicaragua. To ensure safety, my friend sent one of his drivers to pick me up from the airport. I asked him about potential scams to look out for. I never felt unsafe during my trip.

“Nicaragua?! Get ready to rough it. It’s a third world country. They might not have water there.”

Wrong. They had water there. The water out of the tap is not potable, but everywhere I went had filtered water available. Bottled water was also available in stores. I drank the filtered water and it was fine.

“Don’t eat the meat over there. You might actually be eating guinea pig.”

Nicaragua is known for their meat – carne asada. It’s amazing and you have to try it if you go (unless you are vegetarian or otherwise goes against your dietary restrictions.) I didn’t meet anyone there who had heard of eating guinea pig.

“Don’t go in the water with open cuts. They have bot flies that lay eggs in your wound.”

Botflies look similar to small bees. They can’t breathe underwater. Or swim. They deposit their larvae on mosquitos. If you get bitten by an infected mosquito, it’s possible for the larvae to be injected into your skin. Though they are native to Central America, I never heard of anyone getting botflies during my trip. If you do get infected, it looks like they are easily removed with petroleum jelly or iodine and tweezers. Keep in mind, everywhere you go will have bugs. They may be different from the bugs you are used to back home. Whenever you hear a crazy story about bugs you’ve never seen before, it can seem like a horror/sci fi come true. But when you see it, you realize it’s just another bug.

So what did I actually do? I went to the beach, surfing lessons, ziplining, ate local food, and went swimming. It was an amazing time, and I’m so glad I went! Check it out:

Epic Adventures: Chernobyl tour with Ivan

Epic Adventures: Chernobyl tour with Ivan

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try? In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, Ivan Salazar, a nine-to-fiver and adventure travel enthusiast, discusses his recent trip to Chernobyl. Ivan booked his tour with SoloEast.

My Secret Fear

My Secret Fear

A lot of people tell me I’m SO BRAVE to drive across country by myself, jump out of an airplane, raft down a ten foot waterfall, go hang gliding, or participate in a national oral presentation competition.  Many people think I am fearless.

I am not.  I was never really scared of any of those things (except skydiving, but I eventually did it anyway).

I’m secretly TERRIFIED of parking garages.

When I was 18, I had my first experience in a parking garage as a driver.  I drove in, found a spot, and parked.  Not so different from a parking lot.  When I was done with my school day at University of Florida, I got in my car and followed the exit signs.  As soon as I pulled out and turned the corner, I realized I was trapped in a labyrinth from hell.  Instead of leading me OUT of the garage, following the exit signs led me to the ROOF.  Each time I went up a level, I felt the walls and ceiling closing in on me.  The first ray of sunlight as I entered the roof felt like the door of my jail cell being slammed shut.  I couldn’t breathe.  I need to get out now!  How do I escape?!

I tried to think rationally.  Since I wasn’t actually locked inside the garage, I could park on the roof and scale the side of the building.  But then my car would still be stuck in the garage, so that would have to be the last resort.  For a split second, I considered driving my car off of the roof.

Defeated, I parked on the roof and screamed in frustration.  I felt like it was a setup.  An evil master plan to trap me on the roof of the garage.  And my evil captor had me right where they wanted me.  My whole body was shaking as I tried to catch my breath.  I had to act quickly if I wanted to get out alive.  Sitting in my car on the roof of the garage was not getting me any closer to escaping.  But I had already exhausted all of my ideas.  I wasn’t ready to abandon my car yet.

So I did what any distraught teenager would do:  I called my dad.  He told me to ignore all exit signs and look for a different set of ramps.  I slowly made my way back down through the labyrinth, still feeling like I was behind enemy lines.  Every time I turned a corner, I held my breath waiting to see what new obstacles would appear. When I got to the ground floor, I saw an exit sign that pointed the wrong way.  I felt my stomach tighten at the thought of ending up on the roof again.  Is this it?  Am I trapped inside?

I looped back around the ground floor, and saw a clear path to the exit!  I sped up to get through the exit before any more obstacles could appear.  I finally escaped!  I made it out alive!

Still terrified, I drove straight home and promised myself I would never park in a garage ever again.

 

Epic Adventures: Volcano Hiking with Joanna

Epic Adventures: Volcano Hiking with Joanna

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try? In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, Joanna Hoang, a full time biotech engineer and part time adventurer, talks about her experience hiking a volcano in Indonesia. Look for more of Joanna’s adventures on coffee then adventure (coming soon).

Epic Adventures: Shark Diving with Campbell

Epic Adventures: Shark Diving with Campbell

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, Campbell Miller talks about the time she went SCUBA diving with sharks!  Campbell teaches dance lessons in Texas.

Epic Adventures: Running with the Bulls with Chase

Epic Adventures: Running with the Bulls with Chase

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, Chase Boehringer, founder of The Bucketlist Lifestyle, talks about his experience Running with the Bulls in Spain.  Chase leads epic bucketlist vacations with small groups of awesome people.

Packing for Festival Camping

Packing for Festival Camping

I am leaving for another Festival Camping Trip!  I am so excited because Festival Camping is my favorite!!  Bringing essentials and things that make life easier (and leaving behind things I won’t need) are key to having an amazing time!

I’m flying to Ohio today, so I have limited space – I’m bringing one carry on and one checked bag.

Here are the things I’m bringing.  (Besides the obvious – clothes, socks, and underwear.)

From top to bottom, left to right:

Row 1: Sleeping bag, waterproof blanket, extra throw blanket, and zip ties

  • The waterproof blanket is flannel on one side and waterproof on the other side.  I put it inside my hammock tent, waterproof side down.  If it rains, the moisture doesn’t come through and get my sleeping bag wet.
  • Zip ties come in handy at the campground.  You never know when you’ll need to fasten or secure something.  Make sure you have something to cut it with!

 

Row 2: Powdered gatorade, toiletries, first aid kit, headlamp, extra long hammock straps, camping towel, and hammock tent

  • Powdered gatorade helps me stay hydrated, especially when I am outside all day.  Keep in mind, you may not be allowed to bring it unless it is factory sealed. (In my checked bag, because it’s more than 12 oz of powder.)
  • Travel sized toiletries are great for camping.  Everything fits in a small ziplock bag.  I am also bringing travel sized deodorant, lip balm, and bar soap that I made.  It’s difficult for me to use store-bought products because I have sensitive skin, so I make my own.  I use the bar soap as shampoo, face, and body wash.
  • Hand sanitizer in case I need to wash my hands and I’m not near a sink.
  • Foaming body wash on a string (held together with a hair tie).  Festival camping showers might not have shelves for me to put my body wash.  If that’s the case, I can put this around my neck and taking a quick shower becomes much easier.
  • Small zipper pouch with first aid.  They will have first aid stations, so I could leave it at home, but I like to have my own stuff.  Inside the orange pouch, I have various latex-free band-aids and different OTC medications in blister packs.  They should allow that inside because it is still in unsealed packaging with a label.  I have benadryl, pepto-bismol tablets, allegra, and prilosec.  Also ibuprofen in a travel tube that holds 10 pills.  Since it’s a short trip, I only have a few of each pill on the blister pack.
  • If you’ve never used a headlamp for camping, you need to try it.  It’s a game-changer.
  • Extra long hammock straps in case there aren’t two perfectly-spaced trees.  It gives me a little more flexibility.
  • Camping towel takes up considerably less space than a regular towel.  It dries much faster, and i can easily hang it in the shower and on my hammock rainfly line with the attached clip.  Another game-changer.
  • I prefer hammock tents, but most people bring a regular tent. In that case, I’d also bring a pillow, but I don’t need one for a hammock.

 

Row 3:  Cooling towels, water bottle, non-spray sunscreen, baby wipes, tissues, phone charger and portable charger, sunglasses, earplugs, menstrual cup, and a hat

  • Cooling towels help keep me comfortable, especially when standing in the heat all day.
  • Water bottle to get unlimited, free water at the water fill stations.  Also, I stop at the store and buy a few gallons of water to drink at the campground.  They always say they have free/cheap bottled water, but I’ve never had an easy time finding it.
  • Some festivals don’t allow spray sunscreen.  To make it easier, I just get the lotion kind. (In my checked bag because it’s more than 3 oz.)
  • Baby wipes are great for cleaning yourself when you might not have easy access to a sink or shower in case of emergency.
  • Tissues – because sometimes the toilets run out of toilet paper.

 

Row 4: Fuzzy pajamas, hoodie, thermal leggings, poncho, comfy shoes, slippers, and flip flops

  • Fuzzy pajamas in case it gets cold.  Gotta stay comfortable.
  • I’m bringing shoes I bought for mud-obstacle-course races.  I don’t care if they get dirty, and they are very comfortable for walking around all day.
  • Slippers in case it’s cold at the camp site.  I take my shoes off before getting in the hammock.
  • If it’s warm, sometimes I prefer flip flops.

Not pictured:  Snacks, breakfast bars, and power bars for the campground.  Also, after a unanimous Instagram poll, I decided to bring my espresso pot and Cuban coffee!

Check my instagram stories to see the progress of my trip!

Have you been festival camping?  What are some of your essentials?

 

 

 

Epic Adventures: Northern Lights with Arabela

Epic Adventures: Northern Lights with Arabela

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, Arabela Navarro, an adventurer and travel enthusiast, recounts her Northern Lights adventure in Saariselka, Finland.

Epic Adventures: Stratosphere Sky Jump with Monica

Epic Adventures: Stratosphere Sky Jump with Monica

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try? In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, I interviewed Monica Von about her Stratosphere Sky Jump experience in Las Vegas. Monica is the founder of Giving Adventures, which organize a epic international vacations that center around connecting to and giving back to the local community.

Watch Monica’s Stratosphere Sky Jump video!

Epic Adventures: Hiking to Mt. Everest Base Camp with Manish

Epic Adventures: Hiking to Mt. Everest Base Camp with Manish

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This we meet Manish Balakrishnan, who helps startups takeoff by handling the business side so that they can focus on production. His website is DSHG Sonic.  Manish talks about the time and some friends flew to Nepal and ended up deciding to hike to Mt. Everest Base Camp on a whim.

Epic Adventures: Rappelling for Charity with JR

Epic Adventures: Rappelling for Charity with JR

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, JR Hinds talks about the time he rappelled off of the tallest building in Portland, OR, for charity! When he’s not doing extreme sports, he likes to fly airplanes and woodworking.
To find rappelling for charity events near you, check out Over The Edge.

Epic Adventures: Bungee Jumping with Ryan

Epic Adventures: Bungee Jumping with Ryan

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, Ryan Sefko recounts his bungee jumping experiences. Ryan is an aerial sports enthusiast on a quest to find the top 10 bungee jumping spots in the world. For more inspiration on where to bungee jump, check out 17 highest bungee jumps in the United States.  Many states have banned bungee jumping due to accidents, so make sure you go with a reputable and legal company.  Due to these laws, you may need to travel out of state to go bungee jumping.

Epic Adventures: Swimming with Whale Sharks with Devin

Epic Adventures: Swimming with Whale Sharks with Devin

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, I talk to Devin Horne about swimming with whale sharks. Devin is a teacher who is a real estate investor on the side.

 

Overcoming Fear on the Flight: My First Skydive

Overcoming Fear on the Flight: My First Skydive

I wanted to go skydiving ever since I discovered it at 17 years old.  But I went back and forth several times throughout the years.

“This is going to be the most fun EVER!!”

“Hmm, maybe it will hurt my back when the parachute opens.”

“Why would I want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”

“What if the parachute doesn’t open?”

For many years, I let other people’s fears get in my way. I dismissed it and decided I probably wouldn’t do it. Then one day after seeing many friends post skydiving pictures, I decided I was ready to try it.  Unfortunately, my friends were not.  After several attempts at getting someone to go with me, I decided to do it, friends or no friends!

The last thing my best friend Devon told me before he died:  “Go skydiving immediately.  Don’t wait.  Don’t worry about having friends.  Go alone and you will meet new friends who won’t chicken out.”

I made it an “unofficial meetup” for the World Domination Summit, which is an awesome gathering of entrepreneurs, world travelers, adventurers, and changemakers.

I made an “open reservation” at Skydive Oregon.  They sent me a link to share with my friends.  Anyone interested in joining me could follow the link and join my group by paying the deposit.  I was fully prepared to go alone if nobody clicked my link.  I created an event and shared the link with fellow WDS attendees.  As long as everyone in the group met the physical requirements and the clouds were above Mt. Hood, we were good to go!

When the day finally came, two other attendees had signed up.  I was so excited!  As I was on my way to pick up my new friends, I looked east and could not see Mt. Hood.  I started to panic.  The clouds are too low.  What if we don’t get to skydive today?

I immediately called the drop zone and let them know I couldn’t see Mt. Hood, and asked if that would be a problem.  They said to call back in an hour.  That gave us time to go out for breakfast.  After breakfast, I called back and they said they had blue skies, and they were ready for us to come over!

It seemed so surreal.  It took me three years to find someone willing to go with me.  I was a little nervous.  I got nauseous from motion sickness while hang gliding.  Would the parachute ride make me sick?  What about the plane ride?  I don’t do well on small planes.  And lately, I’ve been feeling motion sick on large commercial planes.  The skydiving airplane is barely bigger than a helicopter!  What about being harnessed to a man?  I don’t like men getting that close to me.  Maybe I can make an exception if he’s the one with the parachute?

We took our training class, geared up, and walked towards the plane.  Any minute now, it’s going to hit me and I’m probably going to be terrified.  Hopefully I don’t freeze up. If I do, hopefully the instructor pushes me out before I realize what’s going on.

As I approached the plane, the smell of diesel exhaust made me slightly nauseous.  I climbed the ladder and got in the seat.  When we took off, the plane swayed back and forth.  But it was a smooth ride. It felt like riding the monorail at Disney.  I can do this.

I sat in the plane, now harnessed to my tandem instructor, waiting for reality to hit me.  I’m in a plane on my way up to 13,000 ft. How will I react when the fear hits me?

Then I remembered something.  Every single time I’ve been scared before an extreme sport, I was anticipating how it was going to be.  For example-

  • Ziplining:  When I’m standing on the platform about to push off, how far will I freefall before i start moving forward? (none)
  • Whitewater rafting:  What if I get seasick?  What if I can’t paddle fast enough, in the right direction?  (I didn’t, and that’s not how it works.)
  • Hang Gliding:  What if I’m going too fast and I end up 100 miles away from where I’m supposed to land?  (The glider goes pretty slow.  And they make sure there are no strong winds before you take off.)
  • also Hang Gliding:  I’m terrible at running.  Do I have to run off the side of a cliff with my instructor?  What if I trip over my feet?  (You can’t do a running launch as a tandem.  And you have to have lots of experience.)
  • Waterfall Rappelling:  What if my feet can’t grip the rocks because they are wet?  What if the waterfall pushes me down?  (It doesn’t work like that.)

Sure, each of these activities requires some training and safety. But in general, the thing I was most afraid of DIDN’T HAPPEN! Could skydiving also be on that list? Possibly. Whatever I am waiting to be scared of probably isn’t going to happen either. We’ll see!

I decided not to anticipate how it might feel. Instead, I’ll just be present in the moment and OBSERVE how it feels.

When it was my turn, we got up and walked towards the door. I was surprised that I didn’t feel like I was going to get sucked out of the plane with the door open. My tandem instructor approached the doorway until my feet dangled off the edge. I had seen this a hundred times in other people’s skydiving videos. Despite being 13,000 ft in the air with my feet dangling into the sky, I did not feel like I was about to fall off the edge.  I felt secure.

When he jumped, I felt the drop.  I was freefalling towards the earth! The sensation quickly disappeared; once we reached terminal velocity, it didn’t feel like I was dropping.  I felt the wind and the cool air.  It felt like going outside in the winter with no scarf during a strong wind.

Once he pulled the parachute, I felt the acceleration once again. Even though we were slowing down, it initially felt like we were going faster. The parachute ride felt similar to parasailing or hang gliding. It was a nice, relaxing ride with gorgeous views of the landscape. Except that I got nauseous as soon as we started to steer.

We made a perfect landing. Feeling sick, I was happy to have my feet back on the ground again.

It was definitely a fun experience, despite feeling sick. However, I was disappointed that I didn’t feel an adrenaline rush. I might do it again if I were able to find something to take away the motion sickness. Perhaps I could try sea bands or Transderm Scop.

How did you overcome your fears before an extreme sport?

Epic Adventures: Canyoning in Switzerland with Nick

Epic Adventures: Canyoning in Switzerland with Nick

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, Nick Huggins, from Adventurous Pursuits, explains what it’s like to go Canyoning in Switzerland.  Nick leads digital detox retreats.

Epic Adventures: Cliff Jumping with Slade

Epic Adventures: Cliff Jumping with Slade

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, I interviewed Slade Sundar about his experience cliff jumping in Jamaica.  Slade runs a fitness apparel brand called KRKN Brand.  His brand uses humor and positivity to promote fitness.