Unfamiliar apps, services help make recent travel tickety-boo

While the pandemic has caused all kinds of unexpected bumps for travellers everywhere, my last trip to southern Ontario catalyzed me into finding out about some new and useful technologies to aid in travel in and around Toronto.

With Porter flying again, we were able to secure decent flights. The issue was trying to get a rental car. I knew they were difficult to find months back, but I’d hoped the problem had been resolved. It seems that many rental car agencies sold a portion of their fleets during the pandemic, and now they have been caught with their pants down with the uptick in demand now that people are double vaxxed and can travel, but the rental agencies can’t replace their fleet easily.

In Newfoundland, this summer, there were no rental cars available anywhere on the island, and I had tried booking over a month in advance. We had to look into RV rentals and U-Hauls before finding a friend of a friend willing to lend us a vehicle.

For my Thanksgiving trip to Toronto, it was similarly difficult to find a rental. Finally, I found one car available, but they were charging an exorbitant rate and had extremely inconvenient pick-up and drop-off hours. I will never suggest someone with short business hours has banker hours again, because rental agencies closing at 4 p.m. have banks beat. They are definitely not making renting cars comfortable.

A friend suggested I try Zipcar. This car sharing service in Toronto is membership based. The problem was that I would not be able to get my membership approved in time to have the card mailed to me with sufficient time to secure a car for a major holiday weekend. As it turns out, my membership card didn’t arrive until after Thanksgiving weekend, so it is a good thing I moved onto plan C.

Another friend suggested that I try Turo. Turo is like an Airbnb for cars, and you can search for cars close to your location with different amenities. I had the car delivered to the airport for a small fee, and was able to return it right before my flight. It was all quite painless and economical. While I didn’t get a fancy rental, I did notice a number of BMWs and Teslas available through this service.

Once I’d secured a rental car, I then needed to worry about parking. Luckily, it seems that there is an app for that in Toronto as well. SpotHero lets you find and rent parking spots by giving you the choice of location, price, and whether it’s a covered spot or not. You can only book a week out, but we found spots easily each time we used it. Not having to deal with parking attendants or queue to leave lots was an added bonus as the payment is through the app.

In addition, I was told by yet another friend about a website to reserve street parking in Toronto. A web search for Temporary On-Street Parking – City of Toronto, will find you the website, which again, you can book one week in advance, for multiple timeframes.

All of these apps and services were new to me, but worked out well. I’m still not sure what I would have done had it not been for my friends’ recommendations. Since I can’t be the only one with these travel problems, I thought I’d share what worked for me. Safe and happy travels.

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