New England On A Budget - Getting Around Maine, Massachusetts, & New Hampshire

We spent 11 days in June 2014 in beautiful New England.  During our vacation we traveled by planes, trains, automobiles, and boats. I did a lot of research on methods of transportation in New England. Listed below is what I found:

  • Cruises - Several cruise companies offer cruises that depart from Boston and go to Canada making stops along the coast of New England.  After doing research, I decided this would not be a good option for my family to stay within a budget.

  • Amtrak - Amtrak leaves the Boston North station  and will take you to several stations between Boston and Brunswick, Maine. I opted not to take the train because I wanted to be able to see more of the area than the train would have allowed.  You can visit the Amtrak website to see fares but they were comparable to renting a car for a week. If you opt to take the train instead of renting a car, from Logan Airport you will take the Blue Line to the Orange Line and then to the North Station.  

  • Ferries - There are over 3,000 islands off the coast of Maine. With so many islands, a ferry service is offered by the State of Maine. The Explore Maine by Ferry website gives information about service to some of the islands of Maine. We chose to travel to a lobster village on the island of Vinalhaven. During the winter months this island has less than 100 residents who stay through the brutal winter. The cost to ride the ferry was reasonable at $17.50 for adults and $9.50 for children. The ferry also transports cars but it is my understanding you have to book that months in advance. The ferry ride took 1 hour and 15 minutes each way.  We traveled past 2 lighthouses on our journey and tried to spot whales. In June the temperature was a bit cold for this Texas girl but I stayed on the outside dock of the ferry for the entire trip.  My husband and son went inside for a while during our trip due to the cold wind. Once we arrived in Vinalhaven we walked around town.  We then walked a short distance out of town to a reserve.  However, it was about to rain so we had to walk back but there were trails to explore.  We ate at the Harbor Gawker (see my blog on the food of New England) and then caught the ferry back to Rockland.  It was a great day full of adventure!

    My Rental Car
  • Renting a car - A good rule to remember when you rent a car is that it costs more money to rent from an airport rental agency than an agency outside of the airport. This rule works for any airport, not just Boston.  With that in mind I set out to find a car to rent for our 11 days in New England but NOT at the airport. I researched the car rental agencies and tried to find the best reviewed agency.  Car rental agencies are known to be a bit... crooked. I decided I would go with Enterprise after reading the reviews. Now the next task was to find one outside the airport yet still close enough that I don't spend too much money on subway, cab, or Uber fare. There are several Enterprise agencies in the Boston area.  I looked at the cost and logistics of renting a car for each one. I settled on the Enterprise near the Wonderland Station in Revere, Massachusetts. 
Note: When driving up the Maine Turnpike (I-95) you will encounter toll roads. Pay with cash instead of electronic payment so that you are not charged a fee by the rental car company on top of the toll amount. The tolls were about $6 each way. 

The plan was to get our luggage from the airport and ride the Blue Line subway up to the Wonderland Station.  Enterprise would pick us up and we would rent the car from that location that is approximately 1.5 miles from Wonderland Station. We would then drive back to Wonderland Station and leave our car and luggage and head into Boston for the day.  (Note: Driving and parking in Boston is crazy! We were going to try to avoid that if at all possible.) I booked on Enterprise website for the days I needed about 6 months prior to my arrival in Boston saving about $300 over renting at the airport.  (Note: If you rent a car for a week or more you get a MUCH better rate than just renting it for a couple of days.)  When you decide to rent a car check to see what insurance you have on your policy, it probably covers rental too.  My credit card I used even had insurance for rental cars. You do not have to purchase the insurance the rental car agency tries to sell you. Just remember to have the agent who is helping you make note of every dent and scratch BEFORE you leave the lot. I used my camera and took pictures and video of every dent and scratch. Remember how I said rental companies are known to be crooks? 

The good thing about renting a car from Enterprise is that you can cancel relatively easily without paying a penalty.  This worked to my advantage. After researching rental cars I discovered that prices change frequently based on the number of cars rented out.  Car rental companies do not like to have cars not rented - they lose money. With that knowledge I frequently checked to see if prices would drop at a different rental company in the Boston area or maybe I could get a luxury car for the price of an economy. This just required me to check the website every couple of weeks. Did you know that within 30 days of your scheduled rental, the company looks at upcoming reservations and determines what they have a surplus of and adjusts prices accordingly?  It's true! 29 days before I was scheduled to pick up my rental car, the price dropped at the airport location for Enterprise. I was able to get a higher grade car for the same price I was going to pay for an economy car in Revere, MA. I no longer had to worry about carrying all of my luggage on the subway and then waiting for some random Enterprise guy to come pick me up.  I could just take the airport shuttle to the rental agency and get my car! I was glad I kept checking prices because it turned out this was a great time saver. However, now I had a new problem...

Remember how I said parking and driving in Boston was crazy? See my blog on getting around Boston for the details.