We are three adults visiting France in late April. We start in Paris for 3 nights (no car needed obvs) then plan to head for Versailles on 4th day, eventually making our way to Chartres for 4th night. Rest of trip will be touring by car. What would be the smartest way to get that car for the 4th day? Pick up in Versailles? Or western outskirts of Paris? If we do take RER train all the way to Versailles, is there luggage storage at the station for while we are visiting Versailles before picking up car? I am traveling with two 70 year olds who are new to traveling and may not have the most compact luggage situation also. Thanks!!
Versailles would be best on your route--as far away from Paris as possible. But depends on logistics as to where the rental place is.
Tricky thing is the bags. Can you pick up the car in the morning and throw the bags in there? They might even let you leave the car at the rental place until you return.
But you might have to rent a car in Paris simply to have a place for the luggage.
Another option would be to stay in Versailles for a night, and drop the bags there when you arrive (assuming you can check in early or they have a place for your bags). The drive to Chartres the next day.
I remember struggling with trying to rent an automatic out of Versailles in spring 2015; it really wasn't possible. We ended up visiting Versailles as a day trip from Paris -- and it was great, our train car was decorated to resemble the Hall of Mirrors so that was an experience in itself!
We then drove to Chartres the next day with rental car (automatic) picked up in Paris. However, I would pick up the rental car at Orly Airport if we had it to do over. We got the car at Gare Montparnasse and this meant about an hour of driving through Paris surface streets to get to the Autoroute. Orly would have been about the same distance from our hotel by taxi, and we'd have been right by the Autoroute.
La Defense might be a good place to pick up the car. If you need an automatic then airports are the best bet. and if you have too much luggage it will show and you will be very vulnerable to theft. Your travel companions will need some guidance on not overpacking; European cars have very limited luggage space and it will be almost certainly hatchback. Get to your destination and stow the bags rather than touring with them in the car.
Since we all seem to agree that renting in Versailles would be ideal, the issue has to do with bags.
I have no direct experience with any of them but there are some left-luggage options in Versailles, including at least one private company. Google "left luggage Versailles" to evaluate these, if bags are a sticking point.
From Versailles a nice route to consider is following the D91 till it hits the D906 near Gernay-la-Ville. From there the D906 leads to Rambouillet, Maintenon and finally Chartres. The D91 runs through the Chevreuse Valley with nice countryside and places like Dampierre-en-Yveline and the abbey of Vaux de Cernay, the latter worth considering a few km detour. Have to say roads are a bit narrow but worth the effort if you like to do this kind of itineraries and have some time for it.
Only visiting Rambouillet (via N10) and/or Maintenon remains ofcourse an option too.
Thank you everyone for your helpful advice! After reviewing all this and doing some searching, I think I'm going to get us a taxi to Orly first thing in the morning and rent a car there. We definitely need an automatic, and it is looking iffy to find an automatic in Versailles, as someone mentioned. Then we'll be out of town and have a fairly quick drive to Versaille on autoroutes and we can just park at Versailles. I will be helping my fellow travelers (it's my parents) with keeping their luggage compact, but it is a concern since they're newbies. And I'm definitely going to rent us a baby SUV so we'll have room for our luggage to be "hidden" in the back.
SUVs don't hide luggage though usually. If you are going to tour with luggage in the car here are the rules:
leave nothing showing not even a map or a sweater. That sweater might be covering a purse and invites a breakin.
If you need to fiddle with stuff in the hatchback or trunk, don't do it where you park to tour; stop and do it well before so when you arrive you just exit and lock the totally empty car.
Never leave valuables in the car no matter how 'well hidden' you think they are. If you have computers, cameras etc. use a messenger bag to lug them about with you even for a rest stop or lunch and certainly for visiting a chateau. I would have a money belt worn under clothing for passports and all money and cards and such. Leave only the money you need for that day and one card in purse or hidden inner pocket. It is always risky to leave luggage in a car, but if they only get your clothing, you can cope. If they get things like computers, cameras and prescription meds you are much more inconvenienced. (and travel insurance rarely covers those valuables at their value)
Don't park where there is a lot of sparkly glass on the ground. As a non-local you won't know where the notorious spots are where car thieves routinely practice, but broken glass is a clue that glass is being broken to enter cars.
Rental SUVs, in my experience, have a pull-down panel that covers your luggage or any other paraphernalia in the back. I was apprehensive about an SUV or station wagon type of car when renting in France and the UK, but upon seeing the cars I was immediately reassured. We still didn't leave stuff in the car when we could avoid it, of course, but on days when we were between hotels, with all our belongings in the back, we were able to stop for lunch or visits to tourist sites without feeling like we were a huge target bulls-eye for would-be car break-ins.
I agree with epltd - my SUV and the others I've seen have that cover panel for the back portion, like a hatchback.
I still think that anything of value should be carried with you, as Janet said. Computers, iPads, jewelry, passports, etc. if you're traveling with any of that. Anything that would really ruin your trip if it was taken, have it on your person. It's a worst-case scenario, but best preparation. It probably won't happen, but you have to be ready. Jeans or shirts or whatever you could, in the worst case, buy in France (not that that's a fun way to spend your vacation).