That Time When a Migraine Cost Me $80 In Gas

How many of you out there have ever rented a car?

Very often when I travel, I rent an inexpensive car so that I can get around without having to rely on loved ones. We often rent cars when we fly to California to see my husband’s mom and sisters—they live in the same region but not the same neighborhood, and it is easier for us to have our own vehicle.

Pro traveler tips

Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at getting great deals. I join the free membership clubs that often allow you to skip the line when you’re picking up a car (which can save you literally hours of time, as I learned in Albuquerque recently when I failed to book with my regular agency and was stuck in a car pickup line for 2 hours). When I approach the counter, I smile (a generally nice thing to do no matter what you’re doing, honestly), and I ask politely if there are any complimentary upgrades available. Car rental agencies deal with a lot of unexpected factors, and they can’t always be sure of how many types of each vehicle they’ll have on hand. This means that, if they end up having ten SUVs and only 2 economy cars left, they may upgrade you to an SUV if you’re interested. You’re welcome for this tip.

Anyway, as I was saying: I’m a pro at this. I book with my AMEX, which helps me as far as insurance goes. I waive the car rental agency’s insurance offerings and—until recently, at least—I say no to the gas fill-up option they offer. (For those of you who don’t often rent cars, here’s the skinny: you have to return the car with the same amount of gas in it as when you picked it up, which means you have to schedule a trip to the gas station on the way back to the rental counter, or you can pay x number of dollars per gallon to have the agency just fillerup once you’ve returned the car.)

Last time I went to Florida, I rented a car. As was my pattern, I declined all the extra bells and whistles and said no to their filling the tank up for me when I brought the car back. I’m onto your tricks, thought I. I will just swing by the gas station on the way to the airport and fill up the tank myself and save a few bucks!

Killer migraine interrupting my routine

Unfortunately, by the time the last day of my trip rolled around, I was on day four of a killer migraine and it was all I could do to get out of the hotel room on time, let alone return the car and get to my plane without being late. My head was pounding, and I pulled into a gas station on the way to the Orlando Airport. I sat there for a second and thought two things: 1, I didn’t have enough time to actually pump gas—I needed to put the pedal to the metal if I wanted to make my flight; and 2, the mere thought of smelling gasoline made me totally nauseated.

The hidden costs of migraine

So what did I do? I pulled out of the gas station parking lot, returned the car, and ended up paying a whopping $80 in gas fees at the car rental agency. If I had just said yes to their “affordable” fill-up offer, I would have spent about $20 having them put the tank back to full. But, because I declined that option, I was charged the premium price.


So, here’s a lesson from me to you: you never know when a bad migraine will strike, so plan ahead when you can (especially if you’re feeling healthy and strong). And sign up for that auto-fill option when you rent a car—you can always fill the tank yourself if you want, but this way you won’t get caught like I was, feeling physically ill and with a huge fee to boot.

What travel-related problems have you faced due to your struggle with migraine? Let’s commiserate in the comments below!

Original draft date: 2/1/18

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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