The Ultimate Tips for Going Car-free on Your Next Trip

There’s a rental car shortage–did you hear? No one is sure when it will end, but in the meantime, never fear! There are plenty of amazing destinations to visit without a car, which will save you a pretty penny these days. But just to make sure you’re able to have a great, car-free trip, here are my top tips for you!

Group Activities by Location

This is a good strategy even if you have a car at your disposal. It’s always best to plan to do things that are located close together. Avoid going back and forth across town multiple times in a day by doing just a little research: 

  1. Where are the things you want to do located?
  2. What days and times are they open?

I did a great job of planning my parents’ trip to Key West. On our first day, we went to breakfast at the exclusive Latitudes Restaurant, which you have to get to by ferry. Upon our return, I planned for us to visit attractions close to the ferry terminal: the Customs House Museum, Mel Fisher Museum, and the Truman Little White House. The problem? I didn’t double check the Mel Fisher Museum’s hours. They were closed the whole day we were there! 

My parents were good sports! We just did everything else that was on our list for the day and went back later in the week!
Bookmark this: How to Plan a Trip

Stay Centrally

No matter how often you walk in your normal life or how much you enjoy a long walk, you’ll get tired of it if you stay at a “cheaper” accommodation outside the city center, or far from the things you actually want to do and see! You’ll have a much better trip, and save yourself valuable time and frustration, if you stay in a central location.

There’s a certain freedom in the ability to walk wherever you want to go. I love to stay at smaller, boutique-style hotels, many of which can be found in historic city centers all over the world. Maybe your ideal location is in the city center, or maybe it’s not, but it should be within easy walking ditance of the things you came to do and see!

Staying close to everything has lots of advantages!
More here: The Beginner’s Guide to Hotel Rewards

Be Flexible

Flexibility will take you further than any other skill, and that goes double for pedestrian travel! If you’ve just walked 20 minutes to a museum and it’s closed, that’s a bummer. But what else is around? Can you walk just a little farther to something that’s open? Is there a little cafe nearby where you can get a coffee or pastry until the site opens? Keep an eye out for other possibilities so you’re not disappointed or wasting you time.

Or, maybe the hike you wanted to take to the Kalaupapa Peninsula was washed out in a mudslide. You can no longer walk there, so you have to fly. That’s what happened to us on our trip to Molokai! But we were okay with it. We paid more, but we got two scenic flights out of the deal, and more time at the Kalaupapa National Historic Park. Roll with the punches!

Even if you have to change plans, keep smiling!
Read on: 5 Habits of Flexible Travelers

Consult Your Map–Frequently

Even if you’ve been there before, and even if you know the general direction you’re going, do yourself and your travel companions a favor and consult your map! A restaurant I wanted to take my parents to on our first day in Key West was closed, but I had a backup plan. It wasn’t far, and we’d go past a few famous sites like the Southernmost Point and Duval Street on our way, so it would be no big deal. Except I thought it was three blocks away, and it was really 10 blocks away! Whoops! Should have consulted my map.

Even if you think you know where you’re going, check your map anyway!
Must read: How to Read a Map

Consider Renting a Bike

I love this option instead of a rental car. What’s better than taking it slow while covering a lot of ground? I’ve taken a couple bike tours, including one on Nantucket, pictured below, and each time it really was like riding a bike–easy to remember how to do it!

Both Steve and I have lived in places where a bicycle was the most reasonable form of transportation (Ise City, Japan for me; Toulouse, France, for Steve), and we loved it! Some locations are more friendly to cyclists than others, so be self-aware and follow the rules, but overall, this is an ideal alternative to renting a car when you want to cover a lot of ground quickly, or when the sites you want to see are just a little too far apart for reasonable walking.

A bike tour on Nantucket was the perfect way to see the island!
One of the most fun trips: Biking Block Island–with maps!

Don’t Be Afraid of Rideshares
or Public Transportation

Speaking of covering ground quickly or doing things that are outside of reasonable walking distance, don’t be afraid of using rideshare services or public transportation! Rideshare services like Uber, Lyft, Via, and others are better than taxis, in my personal opinion, because you know how much you’re spending up-front–no one’s going to take you the long way so the meter ticks up at your expense.

On our recent trip to Key West, we (my parents, husband, and I) spent $181 on Uber rides over the course of the week. If we had rented a car, we would have spent over $600! And $210 of that would have been just parking fees at our hotel every night. Yikes!

Similarly, don’t think of public transportation as a non-option. Growing up in rural Tennessee, I had never used public transportation–never!–until I moved to D.C. at 22 years old. But now, I’ve taken the bus in Turkey, ferries in the Galapagos Islands, trains in Switzerland, the subway in New York City, and the vaporetto in Venice. Remember that public transportation can be fun, and even a positive part of the travel experience! Don’t be afraid to give it a try. You might be surprised at how helpful locals and public transit employees can be if you’re not sure what to do at first!

Remember that a rideshare can be more than a car!
More here: My Top 10 Travel Hacks

Wear the Right Shoes

I’ve saved the best for last because it’s the most important: Wear the right shoes! Take it from someone who’s had two corrective foot surgeries, your shoes matter. Don’t worry about looking like a tourist, don’t worry about matching your outfit of the day. Choose your footwear for comfort and support when you know you’ll be doing a lot of walking. You can always throw a pair of sandals or flip flops in your bag to put on when you get to where you’re going. And don’t hike in flip flops, please!

Choose the right shoes for your walkable journey!
Read next: The Ultimate Guide to Travel and Your Feet

Want more? Check out my Travel Tips Page! And for more on where to go during the rental car shortage, take a look at The Best Car-free Destinations in the USA!

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2 responses to “The Ultimate Tips for Going Car-free on Your Next Trip”

  1. Wow! It keeps me inspired at … I liked so much the information you give and the pics you provide … well done!

    1. quickwhittravel Avatar

      Thank you so much! I always strive to inspire! Where there’s a will there’s a way!

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