The following post is sponsored by National Car Rental. All thoughts and oddly constructed sentences though are entirely my own.
In a normal year I would use the waning weeks of 2020 to reflect on my travels and start planning new ones for 2021. This of course is not a normal year, but the good news is that some limited and responsible travel has been possible. We have had to rethink what travel means, whether it be for business or leisure. For me, I prefer to still fly to a new destination, pick up my rental car and start exploring.
Even if I start my business or leisure travels from home, I always rent a car when embarking on an epic road trip which is why I’m thrilled to be partnering with National Car Rental to share how they’ve added flexibility and convenience to the experience.
Emerald Club Extended Benefits
The first in its industry to extend loyalty benefits a full year, National Car Rental now provides customers with a robust extension to its popular Emerald Club loyalty program. Emerald Club Program Free Days, previously expiring Dec. 31, 2020, now do not expire until Dec. 31, 2021. That’s not the only change though, they’ve also added a lot of flexibility to the overall program.
Within Emerald Club, there are 3 separate status levels you can earn that offer benefits including free rental days and guaranteed upgrades. Check out all the benefits and learn more about the Emerald Club here.
Especially convenient, Emerald Club members can redeem earned free days at any participating U.S. and Canada Enterprise Rent-A-Car neighborhood location in addition to National locations. There’s an Enterprise location just a few miles from my house, so it’s the perfect way for me to easily use those perks. Both National and Enterprise have also extended their elite tiers for another year, now expiring in 2022. Overall, these changes don’t just enhance the rewards program, they make getting out and exploring again (finally!) easy and fun. So where to go?
Hit the Road Safely
Like many people who have traveled since the end of strict quarantine in May, renting a car has been at the heart of the experience. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, there is a certain level of comfort inherent with using the same vehicle throughout a trip and it’s also my favorite way to explore a new destination. National and Enterprise have gone to great lengths to ensure that their vehicles are a safe part of that experience by instituting a number of initiatives including:
- Each vehicle is thoroughly cleaned and back with the Complete Clean Pledge
- Social distancing protocols are implemented on shuttles and in offices
- Easy and mostly contactless car pickups and drop-offs
Great American Cities
One thing that has helped me preserve a sense of normalcy and excitement in recent months is planning out some trips I want to take once the time is right. Whether you travel solely for work or combine business and leisure, there is almost always an opportunity on a trip to get out and explore at least a little. The U.S. is thankfully home to some amazing cities, including these personal favorites.
Not long ago I found myself back in Boston after an absence of more than a decade. Since it had been so long, I tackled the city as a first time tourist and I’m so glad that I did. What I discovered was a fun city but I especially loved experiencing it by walking the entirety of the Freedom Trail. Sixteen different locations dot the Freedom Trail, all of which are integral to the history of the United States. Organized in the 1950s, the Trail is a very easy to follow and manage pedestrian trail that not only shares the history of the country, but offers a look into modern Boston as well. My hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, couldn’t have been better situated to take advantage of the Freedom Trail. Located next to Boston Common, as soon as I walked out the front door I had already and unwittingly began my exploration of the Trail. If you take advantage of the many museums and other spots of interest along the way, tackling the entirety of the Freedom Trail should ideally take the full day, giving visitors the opportunity to not be hurried and to appreciate the stories at each stop.
If you’ve never been to Denver before, absolutely spend some time visiting the well-known spots in and around the city. It’s a gorgeous place that’s popular for a reason. But then, try to delver a little deeper and get to know its neighborhoods as well. Denver has seen incredible population growth in recent years, thanks to the famously sunny weather, great natural escapes and a whole host of other factors. This means that the city I visited just a few years ago looks nothing like the Denver of today. Entirely new neighborhoods have popped up out of nowhere, reclaiming areas of town long neglected and forgotten. One of these in particular was a highlight of my visit, the River North Art District or RiNo. Driving around, the shops and cafes were quirky and eclectic; artisanal everything, record stores and taco trucks. It was hipster heaven, and the center of this reclamation is the market known simply as The Source. Housed in an iconic 1880s ironworks building, the goal of The Source was to create for residents of Denver what folks in Seattle or San Francisco enjoy; namely a world class food hall. One stop shopping for the best meats, cheeses, breads, coffees, beers and more was the idea, but the industrial RiNo location at first drew a lot of skepticism. No one knew if the concept would work, but visiting on a busy weekend afternoon I could tell immediately that not only was The Source succeeding, it was flourishing.
Sandwiched between lakes and mountains, Seattle’s climate is famously temperate. With a moderate temperature and a vibrant atmosphere, Seattle is one of the best places in the country to escape the summer heat. The city is full of fun things to do like visiting the iconic Space Needle, towering over the city, and exploring the massive Pike Place Market where visitors and locals alike indulge their taste buds with delicious foods and shop for odd gifts. For those who would rather take advantage of the cooler temperatures of Seattle to venture into the great outdoors, the city is a good home base. Washington State has some of the most gorgeous and untouched forests in the country and are perfect for some light day hikes.
I’d long heard about San Antonio’s River Walk, but nothing quite prepared me for the actual experience of strolling alongside it. Created over time in what can only be called a brilliant act of urban planning, today it’s a 15-mile stretch of parks and walkways following the San Antonio River. Set a story below the rest of the city, as soon you as you climb the steps down to the River Walk, the change is immediate. Surrounded by blooming flowers, cooler temperatures and almost irrationally happy people, I soon found myself one of those oddly ebullient visitors, all mesmerized by the city almost instantly. The city though is so much more than the river, and throughout my time in San Antonio I was constantly surprised by how laid back and easy everything was. It’s a large city, but downtown isn’t chaotic and thanks to a culture of preservation, the city has a lot more character than most. Art deco facades blend in seamlessly with newer buildings, creating a rich architectural tapestry that frankly is hard to find.
In recent years, Detroit has become famous around the world as the city that went bankrupt. The city where entire neighborhoods were left in ruin, neglected and teeming with blight. That’s honestly all I knew about the Motor City before my first visit, and that’s part of the problem. Almost everything we see on the news, in magazines or even on travel blogs is obsessed with Detroit’s so-called ruin porn. Sharing the photos of these houses and city blocks that have been left to rot has been all the rage. Because of that, not many people know the real story of Detroit. That no, the city is not a burning pile of rubble. That Detroit is actually a great place to visit and I imagine to live, and that fact more than anything else surprised me the most. Great museums, delicious food and other fun diversions all come together to make Detroit a fun and, I think, an important city to visit.
Thankfully these and seemingly countless others are now made even easier with the latest program updates by National Car Rental – be sure to click here if you’re interested in becoming an Emerald Club member.
What does your next trip look like?
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