The Best Road Trip vs. the Adventurer’s Curse

My bestie KL and I had not had many chances to adventure together lately, so it was with great excitement that we concocted a plan to share the greatest of all road trips. We would fly up to Auckland separately, hire a rental van, and cruise down the country, hitting all the best adventure spots along the way.

With a month to go, I began drawing up my Master Plan. I carefully plotted out flight times, bookings, sights to see, and the best cheap overnighting spots along the way. Some might think it excessive, but an organised adventurer is a happy adventurer.

Or so I thought. My family have often teased me about my “travel curse”, for they have concocted a strange theory that wherever I travel, disaster dogs my heels. Of course this is ridiculous – they are only saying this to tease me!

…right?

Be warned: this post contains a lot of whinging, and if you came here to read about cool places and obscure history you might want to give this one a miss.

The first deviation from the Master Plan came only six hours before I was supposed to fly out from Dunedin at 6am. I had weighed up my options and decided that the early wake up was worth arriving in Auckland at 8am and having the extra day for catching up with old friends. More fool me!

The midnight text message peremptorily informed me that my flight had been cancelled, and I was rescheduled to leave instead at 10.30am . Since the flight was not direct it would take much longer and I would not arrive in Auckland until 2pm. I called the customer service line as directed, hoping to express my displeasure, but the phone tree was robots all the way down.

(In fact, two weeks after submitting my complaint, I’m still waiting to hear from a human – perhaps the robot uprising has begun with Air New Zealand)

Okay, I can deal with this, I’ll just reschedule my friends to late afternoon. The Master Plan is still mostly viable.

I slept fitfully and dutifully turned up at the airport at the new and improved mid-morning time. The flight to Wellington went well despite the bumps but I was dismayed to find the connection to Auckland was delayed. Each passing minute devoured another piece of Holiday Day 1, never to be recovered!

I finally arrived in Auckland shortly after 3pm. The schedule was tight but I might just be able to pick up my rental and meet up with my homies. I took the courtesy shuttle to Lucky Rentals and, as directed by the Master Plan, presented the remainder of the rental fee to secure my vehicle.

I was then asked for a credit card on which to secure the insurance excess. The what now? Apparently I needed to provide a “bond” of $250. Well no problem, I am fully prepared for unexpected expenses, here’s my EFTPOS card.

“No.”

No? Turns out only a credit card was an acceptable form of payment. Well, my card is already maxed out what with all the online bookings I’ve made for that trip, and it’s with a different bank than my everyday account…and it’s Saturday so they aren’t gonna process payments between those two banks. You will simply have to take the bond in the form of real money from my EFTPOS card instead of imaginary future money from my credit card.

And yet the service reps refused to budge. Credit only. In a last ditch effort to resolve the situation I power-walked to the nearest Kiwibank branch and had a shiny new Visa debit issued to me then and there. I made it back to the Lucky Rentals office just before closing and proffered it desperately.

No can do. Card doesn’t work. No van for you.

Lucky Rentals office
Let’s just say I’d become familiar with this view…

All I could do was reschedule pick up for Monday and step out into the unfamiliar streets of South Auckland. It was nearly 6pm, I was alone, I had no transport and nowhere to stay, and I’d run down my phone battery calling around in a desperate attempt to solve my problem.

What to do? Sleeping on the streets was not the adventure I’d been hoping for!

Lucky for me, I stumbled across the Airport Holiday Inn only a couple of blocks away. Let me tell you, it wasn’t cheap, but I wasn’t exactly in a position to shop around.

Reader, I hope that you will not think less of me to learn that when I was finally alone in my room, I cried. All my meticulous planning and I’d somehow managed to screw up so completely so soon? As an anxiety sufferer I’ve mostly managed the intrusive thoughts but at seriously stressful times (like this) they have a habit of seeping back.

How come everything always goes wrong whenever I plan something special for myself? Everyone else gets nice things but I get breakdowns, stuck hitches, dumped in a foreign country, and rampant perverts? None of the other travel bloggers ever seem to have this kind of trouble. What gives? Am I truly cursed? Are they all blogs of lies?

Whatever the cause, nothing for it now but to enjoy a deep sleep in this absurdly expensive bed and reconnect with KL and the Master Plan tomorrow.

I awoke from my refreshing slumber full of renewed energy. I was ready to take on an Auckland adventure! But first I really should read this message from KL.

“I’m in Auckland Hospital.”

Um…what?!

KL did not respond to my repeated requests for clarification. Looks like her phone was as dead as mine had been the previous day.

Torn between two great loves, my Master Plan and my bestie, I did what any reasonable person would do: calculated the most efficient solution. I’d been planning to walk the Coast to Coast Walkway, which coincidentally went right past the hospital. I could begin executing the Master Plan, drop in on KL, and then if she didn’t need me both she and the Master Plan might survive this day.

Really, this isn’t as cold-hearted as it sounds! KL was with friends, and I surely could do no more for her!

But the adventure is a tale for another post; here we are concerned with my tale of woe. So I shall merely say that I was able to locate KL and confirm that she was recovering well. Unfortunately there was no denying the obvious – she was in no condition for a road trip, and needed a flight home stat. That left me to make the journey alone (supposing I would ever get the vehicle) and another shred torn from the Plan.

Auckland hospital selfie
You can’t maybe…soldier on?

After a decent visit I left her in the capable hands of a professional pin-up, who assured me that all her coddling and practical needs would be fully taken care of.

I completed my day’s adventure and returned to the ludicrously expensive hotel, where at least I could take comfort in room service. True to my luck, the meal took an hour to arrive, but at least they threw in a free wine for my patience.

Consolation burger
Consolation burger

Come Monday, I was ready for action. I spent some time getting pumped in the hotel gym until Lucky Rentals’ opening hour arrived. I burst in the door wielding my fully-loaded credit card, only to be presented with a large and angry queue.

I breathed deeply and reached into the well of patience I had cultivated from a career in tech support. A mere 45 minutes later I was able to speak to a staff member, and triumphantly paid the bond. Now for the sweet freedom of the open road…as soon as they handed over my vehicle.

I think you can see where this is going. I waited…for three more hours. I watched as progressively more frustrated customers banked up, disappointed and yet somehow relieved to observe how many were surprised by the mandatory credit card “bond”.

By the time I finally received my vehicle, I had essentially lost another day of my precious road trip holiday. For my trouble, I was refunded a measly “one day” or $39 out of the $739.50 (plus surprise bond!) that I paid for the pleasure.

Lucky Rentals office
I sure freekin hope so…

My road trip adventures, as I have indicated, are stories for better days, so I will mention only my latest communication with Lucky Rentals. You see, I had the gall to express my displeasure to the company, but they have pointed out that my misunderstanding of their terms is my own responsibility.

Alas, it is true. How could I have misread the requirements so badly? At this point it’s merely salting a raw wound but let me pull up the rental agreement to find exactly where I went wrong…

Lucky Rentals booking snafu
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

At the time of publication, my complaint to the company is still outstanding. I left Auckland in the rear view mirror, hoping the curse would lift as I headed homewards.

7 thoughts on “The Best Road Trip vs. the Adventurer’s Curse

  1. Paul Hellyer

    You tell the story so well! Thanks for sharing, and for giving us all a “heads up” about Lucky Rentals. Ugh, what a nightmare they sound.

  2. Nancy Longnecker

    I am thrilled that a friend has shared your blog! What a treasure. I have read and enjoyed other entries. This one made me smile in a sad, empathetic, recognition way. Thank you for sharing your experiences (both good and not-so).

    This credit card (scam) is a frustrating (and international) phenomenon. Car rental companies and some hotels have surprised me with requirement of a credit card and refused my debit card. Maybe there is collusion with the banks?! (said only half in jest since if I buckle and get a credit card for this purpose alone, I will probably have to pay an annual fee. And will also be tempted to use it for other things which is why I got rid of them in the first place!)

    1. amanda

      Hi Nancy, thanks for you comment! You’ll be pleased to hear that I recently managed to settle with this company and get some of my money back!

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