Don't miss out! Join the thousands of people who subscribe to our once-daily email or our free miles and points Facebook group with all the best travel news. Some links on this page may pay me a commission - as always, thanks for your support if you use them

As I have mentioned a few times, my parents are in the midst of a trip to Scotland.  During the trip, my mom has been acting as a “roving reporter”.   For previous posts in the series, see

A cliffhanger of an email

Late Saturday night, I get a message from my mom saying..

Today was close to the worst day ever in my life. It was so bad, I can’t tell you about it until tomorrow. But we are now finally safe in our hotel in Glasgow

dun… Dun… DUN!!!!

Since I knew they were safe and sound and not in any physical danger, I thought I’d have a bit of fun and try to figure out what had gone wrong over on our free Facebook miles and points discussion group

I figured it had to be something REALLY bad to make it the worst day ever!  I didn’t vote in the poll so as not to skew others’ responses, but my thoughts were car trouble or trouble sleeping on the plane.

What made it the worst day of her life?

Finally, Sunday afternoon (evening her time), I got the report – here it is.

When we picked up our car in Edinburgh yesterday, the reservation clerk said, “And you reserved an automatic, correct?”  We said no.  We had talked about it, reasoning that there were enough differences in driving in the UK that maybe we shouldn’t add the manual transmission to the mix.  But, once again, the money issue weighed in. It was going to be an extra $150 or so, and we both knew how to drive a stick.

Or so we thought…..

Don’t follow our example.  Pay the extra money and get an automatic.  I read online that car rental people know to check the wheels and rims on the left side of the car, as there is always damage.  (By the way, we had printed off a wonderful guide to driving in The UK)  They were right.  Not long after we got the car, in Falkirk, our Garmin led us down some weird little shortcuts that were so narrow, I can’t describe how narrow.  We hit the curb with an audible crunch.  Within a few hundred feet, the tire was flat. ( we eventually hit the curb 4-5 times again, but no more flat tires.  It is really hard to gauge the left side of the car when traffic is coming at you on a narrow road.)

We pulled to the curb ASAP, kind of in a bus lane, but far enough back that the bus could still get in.  David struggled for a while with getting the lug nuts off, when a good Scot named Jock came by and asked if we wanted “a wee bit o’ help”.  We agreed.  He asked if we had the locking socket.  Not having a clue what he was talking about, he told us to look in the glove box.  Sure enough, there was this weird socket there.

Turns out it is anti theft device that is as unique to the car as the key.  That way, no one can steal your tires.  Without Jock, we would never have been able to change the tire.

We later got a low tire pressure warning, so we stopped to add air in the tires.  Apparently the spare donut tire does not have a sensor, so the car thinks you have a blowout.  While there, we bought a detailed map of roads in Scotland.   Yes, we had a GPS, but it is so weird about the routes that we were frustrated about that as well.  We needed a bigger picture.  A nice nameless Scot truck driver talked to us about how to program the Garmin.  Apparently, except to us, you should put in the postal code of where you want to go and it will take you right there.  He put in the code for our hotel in Glasgow, which the Garmin couldn’t find until he did that.

But, we were in Stirling by now, and we wanted to see the castle first.  So glad we did.  It was amazing, especially the doors and ceilings.

More car troubles

We had several times noticed a grotesque smell in the car and once stopped because it was smoking under the bonnet (hood).  In Stirling, after rejoining the “route” after another Garmin goof, the car was billowing inside and out.  A kindly red haired family stopped and phoned AA and the rental car company for us, as Jock had done.  They got there within a half hour, and David, the delightful AA Scot, told us it was the clutch, and that he assists rental car customers multiple times daily with that and the tires.  Again, the phone!  How difficult it is to not be able to call for help because our phones don’t work here!  He checked the car, told us we hadn’t killed it (though he said that if we had, the rental company would have charged us to fix it, not replaced the car, and charged us for the total time of the agreement.  Ouch!  But how somebody could have kept driving with the stink and the billowing clouds inside and out long enough to destroy the clutch is beyond me.  If WE hadn’t killed it, who could?).

One nice silver lining is that we DID book their car rental through the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which comes with primary rental car insurance, so we shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for any damages or anything to the car.

He arranged for us to exchange the car for an automatic at Glasgow airport the next day at 10:30.  He also, on his own time, had us follow him to Tesco, a superstore, where we bought our own UK phone.  God bless the man!  We just couldn’t stand to be so unable to call for help when we needed it.  Maybe we could depend on the unending generosity of the Scots, but our anxiety levels were through the roof, just like buying a map.

When we got to the Marriott in Glasgow (paid for by our points), about 9:30 pm, we had so had it that we ate at the hotel.  Fish and chips and a hamburger for $40.  But at least we didn’t have to get in the car again.  Well worth it.

BTW, at the airport the next day, they had no idea about the arranged exchange, nor did they have a single automatic in stock.  Except for 444 pounds more, we could get an Audi or a Mercedes.  Our original agreement for the car was less than $200, so we haven’t done that.

(SEE ALSO: You’re getting a great deal… I’ve been renting these for $100 / DAY!)

They suggested we drive back to Edinburgh to exchange as they have more selection, but they couldn’t guarantee that there was one there.  Online, there are no cars to rent from Budget for three more days in Edinburgh.

The holiday must get better from here on out.

Sign up for our once-daily email with the latest tips and tricks on how to travel for free / cheap. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!