Summer Travel Planning: Have you thought of everything?

Take a moment to learn the risks of using valet parking services, and how a stroke of bad luck can impact your vacation.

Take a moment to learn the risks of using valet parking services, and how a stroke of bad luck can impact your vacation.

You plan for everything — but there might be one thing you are overlooking. And it could throw a monkey wrench into your carefully prepared vacation plans.

What is it? 

Whether you are renting a car or using your own vehicle, you need to have a "valet parking game plan." 

If you end up deciding to use these services, don't leave items of value inside the car. Not even a stick of chewing gum. Because some valet workers will steal even your gum.

Of course, it's possible you will encounter honest valets. However, it's also quite possible an honest valet will fail to ensure that all windows have been rolled up and all doors are locked. And that spells opportunity for any passing street bum, junkie, or small time criminal.

If items do go missing while your car is in the possession of a valet service, it's going to be a battle to get compensation for your loss... because the reality is: valet services will dodge a claim if at all possible.

Don't leave ANYTHING in the car. There are people who will break a window for the coins you left in a cup holder. Avoid the hassle. Leave items of value out of the car... unless you are doing an integrity test.

What's that?

You leave a dollar bill or two or three quarters in the cup holder. If that money is missing when you get the car back, summon the valet manager and say that you want the money returned and you also want your parking fee refunded. It's a legitimate complaint and it informs the manager that a thief is in their midst.

What would you do if the valet service gave your rental car to somebody else?

The valet industry is comprised mostly of an amateur workforce. These workers generally are not career professionals. For most, it's just a temporary job until something better comes along. Their time on the job will be short. So, there are a lot of rookies working at valet services.

What I have found is that it is not unusual for a valet worker to fail to ask for a claim ticket. If somebody is acting like a car is their's, and looks honest, the valet might just assume this is the right person to hand the key to, especially if a $5 or a $10 tip is presented.

Also, a new valet worker is likely to feel uncomfortable about challenging somebody who is acting like a car is their's. Here is an example why:

Even when the claim ticket is requested, if the customer says they don't know where it is and seems honest, in the interest of efficiency, the valet might just hand those keys over. 

Since rental cars can be similar in appearance, it's actually fairly easy for somebody to assume a rental car — that has just been brought out of the garage — is their rental.

It happens. Valet customers drive away in the wrong cars.

I recommend using a "Valet Client Photo ID Card."

Only a true moron would give your car away to somebody else when an ID like this is attached to your key.

It doesn't just happen to rental cars either:

Keys get lost.

Full-blown lost key fiascos are much more common than your car being given away to the wrong person.

Usually the keys have merely been misplaced on the cashier's key-board. But sometimes a valet will mistakenly leave the keys in another car, and now that other car is 100 miles away.

Give the valet service only the one key necessary to operate the car, not all the keys to your life. And keep a spare car key with you. If you are getting a rental car, ask the rental company if they would separate the keys for you so that you have 2 loose sets.

Valet Client ID Cards cost $20. It is cheap insurance for your vacation, and for any time you are handing over you car key to somebody else. Find out more about them here: