Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Travel Smarter | DSLR Camera Rental

Buying a DSLR camera has been on my list for >5 years now.  For some reason, I haven't done it.  I've been intimidated with choosing a camera and how can you pick out a camera if you don't know how to use it? It's an odd conundrum.  Usually I can spend some time researching  something online and make a decision. But, for some reason I've really struggled with this particular choice. Do I get a Canon or Nikon? Which model? How much do I spend? The list goes on and on.

When a friend mentioned that she recently purchased a DSLR camera, I was all ears to hear about what model she got and how hard it was to use. Turns out its actually pretty simple. Who knew? Once she showed me how to use the basic functions, I tried it out and was surprised at how good the photos I took were. This is so easy, I thought! 

Fast forward to me procrastinating about dropping $500 - $1k on a camera and a lens. It was two days before our trip to Chicago and I really wanted a camera to take photos with. Enter ATS Rentals. I randomly found their site while googling 'camera rental'. I had a camera and lens rental in my cart on another company's website but it was going to be over $200 for a 4 day rental. No thanks. 

When I tried adding the Canon Rebel T5i and Canon 24-105 f4/L to my cart at ATS Rentals, it was around $100 (weekends are free) plus $50 for shipping. The bad news is that I had to pay an arm and a leg for overnight shipping so I could receive it before we had to catch our flight in a few days. But -- it was worth it and that was my bad! They even shipped a travel bag that I could use while traveling so I could have some peace of mind that my thousands of dollars of equipment was safe. Wait... it gets better.  Included in the box with the equipment was some candy! Whaaaaat? I had read some reviews on yelp so I was prepared for that curveball. How fun is that? Love me some lollipops!         

The equipment arrived on time and we were off! The trip was great (posts here and here), I got some amazing photos and it was so easy! All I had to do was add my own memory card (but you can also rent a memory card if you need one). And when the rental was up, I just mailed everything back in the same box it came in and dropped it off at a UPS store for free return shipping. They even included tape so that I could close up the box. They thought of everything, I swear!

I loved my experience so much that I did it again just a month later! I knew we were going to Turks & Caicos for Thanksgiving so I put my order in ahead of time since they get busy around the holidays. This time, I did the "standard Canon T2i vacation package" which exceeded all of my expectations. It's $57/day for the camera and a lens, holidays and weekends are free, so I ended up spending ~$100 for what I thought was a 7-day rental this time. They emailed me a few days before the equipment was supposed to arrive asking if I wanted to receive it a day early for no charge -- and that meant it would arrive on a Friday instead of a Monday. Yes, please. Sure enough, it arrived early and I had all weekend to play around with it.   

One of the most important lessons I've learned from this whole experience is that I actually don't want to buy a DSLR camera. I'm leaning towards the Sony Alpha which is a mid-size alternative to a bulky DSRL. I actually found that while traveling, I didn't want to lug the big camera around with me during our trips, so that didn't really make sense for me to invest in one for myself if I wasn't going to bring it everywhere. So, I feel like I learned a very valuable lesson and got to try out a few different cameras in the process. It was totally a worthwhile investment and if I ever decide to rent another DSLR, I know where to go.  This is not a sponsored post, I just really like this company. 

Do you have any tips to travel smarter? If so, please share in the comments section below. 


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