KONA, Hawaii - Imagine booking your rental car, thinking you're all set for your vacation, only to be told the company's sold out when you get there. That's what happened to an estimated 200 or 300 Budget Rent a Car customers, after a massive shortage in December. The Big Island's tourism board says now, dozens of those customers are waiting for a reimbursement from the car company.

Alaska resident Cindy Coulter and her family had high hopes for their Christmas vacation in 2018. She booked and paid for a Budget Rent a Car 11 months ahead of her trip. When she got to Kailua-Kona on December 26, she was told there were no cars. "They ended up driving us to our hotel. We did some Ubers and cabs," she recalls.

They were not alone. They were one of hundreds of Budget customers left without a car. "I am angry. Not as angry as I was, but yes. I am angry," she said from her home in Anchorage, reflecting on her trip.

Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, responded on behalf of IHVB and the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which represents the state. "It was an overall lack of inventory. One specific car company ordered new vehicles to arrive but shipped out the older vehicles prematurely," he says, confirming it was Budget.

Coulter wonders if this will deter other tourists, saying, "It's terrible. The Big Island is such a beautiful place. I've seen things on the Internet with people going, 'Don't go to Hawaii at Christmas because of this.'"

Budget Rent a Car's corporate office released a statement that says, "The matter in Kona was due to an extremely rare and unforeseen situation involving new vehicles getting delayed due to the intensity and duration of the hurricane season. We apologized to customers affected and have worked with them on an individual basis to get them to their destinations and deliver vehicles to them. The situation has been resolved."

Birch adds some perspective to the problem. "We have about 45,000 visitors a day on the island in the holiday season, so it's an extremely small number in total."

Budget will reimburse for the taxi fares, according to Coulter and the tourism bureau. But some things, you can't put a price on - like time wasted waiting for cabs. "There was a lot of that waiting and plus there were five of us. Trying to find a cab or Uber to fit five of us was a difficult proposition," says Coulter.

While the trip started on a sour note, she did end up with nice memories. For her next trip, she says, "I will rent from a different car company. Because I will come back."

Coulter says she has yet to submit receipts for reimbursement. She says Budget told her it would reimburse for taxi fares, but not for tours.