Los Angeles is a maddening labyrinth of freeways and streets, spread out over an area the size of a small European nation.
But if you're a visitor to L.A., at least you won't spend much on a rental car.
In fact, the cost of a rental car in the City of Angels has dropped nearly 25% in the last year.
The decline in rental rates is documented in the 2010 Corporate Travel Index, an annual survey conducted by Business Travel News that ranks the nation's most expensive cities to visit. The report bases the rankings on hotel, food and car rental costs.
L.A. ranks as the nation's 16th most expensive city to visit, far behind the country's priciest locales, New York and Washington, according to the report. But based only on the cost to rent a car, the city ranks 38th. That's a huge drop from 2008, when L.A. ranked eighth.
In 2009, full-size cars rented for an average of $86 a day, compared with $112 in 2008, according to the Corporate Travel Index.
The reason for the drop is an increase in competition among car rental agencies in L.A., a glut of vehicles in the market and a decline in demand at the region's largest airport, Los Angeles International, according to car rental agencies.
In fact, LAX welcomed at least 3.3 million fewer passengers in 2009 than in 2008, a drop of nearly 6%.
"It's supply-and-demand economics in each market," said Meghan Maguire, a spokeswoman for Enterprise Holdings Inc., which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Making life easier during road trips
John Ireland knows a few things about living out of a suitcase.
As the Los Angeles Lakers' courtside TV reporter for CBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9, Ireland spends nearly a third of his life running in and out airports and hotels, following a team that plays at least 42 road games a year during the regular season. He has kept this schedule for eight years.
He offers the following tips for fellow road warriors:
"In terms of packing, the best piece of advice I can give is simple: one bag. I travel over 100 days a year, and I always take the same bag, no matter how long or short the trip is. It's a rolling duffle made by Delsey, but any bag will work.
"Over the years, I have put all of the little things that might come up on a trip in that bag. I have all of the toiletries I use, a pair of workout shoes, some flip flops, portable iPod speakers, and an ethernet cord. Every time I go on a trip, I only need to pack the clothes I wear — that's it. I have all the charge cords I need in there, extra pairs of shoelaces, Power Bars.... It's turned into a survival bag of sorts.
"If I'm traveling on the Lakers plane, I always check the bag. If I fly commercial, I can carry it on larger planes, but on smaller planes I have to check it.
"As part of this one-bag theory, I never use a suit bag. I wear a suit for every game I work but I learned a long time ago that putting your suits in a hanging bag and worrying about where you can hang it on a plane is a waste of time. As long as I fold the suits nicely into the duffle, and then hang up the suits as soon as I arrive at the hotel, it never looks wrinkled.
"I don't have to go to the airport as much as other people do, since I often fly with the Lakers on a charter plane. But when I do, I never dress up. I wear casual clothes and slip-off sneakers. I only carry on what I absolutely have to, and pack everything else.
"Remember, the less stuff you have, the less time it takes to go through security, board the plane and keep moving.
"In terms of eating on the road, I try hard to always avoid room service. It's too expensive and oftentimes isn't healthy. I've found if you ask the people who work at the hotel, they'll tell you the spots to go. It helps if you tell them what you feel like eating, and let them direct you that way.
"My last tip would be about staying at a hotel with a gym. I make a point of using the gym at some point, just to keep a pattern. Even if I just do 30 minutes on a treadmill, it keeps me from getting tired."