How to Travel for Free: Believe!

There are many companies across North America that pay a person to drive a vehicle long distances.  There are thousands of snow birds in the north heading south for the winter.  What’s a snow bird?  A person (usually a senior) who wants out of the snow for a portion of the winter months.  Canadians tend to head down south around the first of November and head back sometime in April.  In Canada, we can only be out of our province for a maximum of 6 months to maintain our health insurance.  I’m away for 4 months this trip which will leave another 2 months for later in the year.

The company I chose to drive for was Toronto Drive-Away.  They’ve been around for a very long time and my brother has driven cars to Florida for them many times so I knew they were legitimate and dependable. Ken, John and Jean will treat you kindly, professionally and with a friendly respect.  It took a week to receive my payment but when I called to follow up, I was told that there were 700 drivers to be paid.  That tells me that this is thriving business.  I had to pick up my car in Barrie and I was given a $250 bonus.  It was not convenient to get there and took a lot of my day but in the end the extra money was awesome.  I received a total of $650 for driving and was reimbursed for all the gas.  I saved my receipts and had them scanned and sent off to the company the next day.

The car was great – a 2018 Honda CRV that had only 1500 kilometres on it and had only been off the lot for a week.  That new car smell was still there!  Mmmm.  I memorized the  licence plate number.  I stayed in hotels for 2 nights.  I had promised to drop the car off at a parking lot with shuttle service near the Fort Myers airport.  It was so easy since the couple came on the shuttle and I took it back to the airport.  The owner did a quick walk around inspection of the car as I had done when I picked it up.  I  had booked a flight on Southwest Airlines at 6pm.  We exchanged the car at around noon.  I was almost an hour late.  I had given myself an hour to get to the airport (only a 17 minute journey according to google maps) but I got caught in traffic because of a horrific 3 car pile up.  It was a mess!!  One of them was a state trouper vehicle.  You can read about it here.

Honda CRV
Honda 2018 CRV that I drove to Florida
3 car accident
Florida Highway Patrol trooper, driver he was helping on I-75 hit in Lee crash

The drive took me 3 days.  I tried to reach Athens, Georgia the first day but after 11 hours in the car, I was exhausted.  I had driven through rain in Ontario and New York state and even a bit of snow in West Virginia.  I left before dawn and it was not only dark but raining from Toronto to the Peace bridge at Buffalo. When you cross the bridge for Toronto Drive-away, you must follow the truck lane.  The look of surprise on the Custom Officer’s face was hilarious.  “Are you a commercial vehicle?” “Yes, I am bringing this car into the US,” I replied.  “Ok, give me your papers.”  I handed him the entire stack including my passport.  The papers included the list of everything packed by the owners in the trunk, a copy of both their passports, copies of the car insurance and registration and the contract between me and the couple as well as a manifesto with a bar code. The whole process took me about 20 minutes.  I had to park and go inside the building, hand my papers to another officer and wait for my name to be called.  I was on my way very quickly.  Easy peasy!

I started driving each day around 5am but I really don’t enjoy driving in the dark.  I think in the future I will plan to stay over night in hotels and to drive only from dawn to dusk – 8 to 10 hours a day especially if I am the sole driver.  I will go to sleep a bit later and get up and enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee and breakfast before hitting the road.  The hours in the dark, I found myself driving under the speed limit with my shoulders tense as I managed the unfamiliar highways.  The other problem, of course, is the blinding sun early in the morning.

However, the majority of my trip had clear roads, sunny skies, and no traffic delays. I love sirius radio – I found a channel with Beatles music, a 60’s channel, a 70’s channel, one called Bridge – singing at the top of my lungs with no critics or anyone to annoy – heaven!!!!!!!!!!!! When I reached the Florida state line, I stopped for a break, a free cup of grapefruit juice and a short conversation with a nice man who took my photo.

Florida Travel Centre
Florida welcome travel centre for a cup of free grapefruit juice and a moment in the warm air

I also have to mention the torrential rains just as I was exiting I-75 to Fort Myers.  I couldn’t see anything and slowed my speed to 45 kilometres per hour – the other cars were doing the same but it was a frightening period as I took the first exit and pulled into the parking lot of a business.  When it calmed down, I got back on I-75 to the exit for my hotel.  I recommend using hotwire to get some amazing hotel deals at the last minute.

After checking in, I went to the nearest grocery store to get a few things for my dinner and breakfast and lunch the next day.  Grocery stores are great for rotisserie chicken and premade vegetable and/or fruit salads.  I added a mini baguette and a bottle of seltzer water to my fruits and vegetables and I had 3 healthy meals for less than $20.

This is a great way to travel but it’s not for the faint of heart.  Put on your big girl pants and hit the open road!  Tell me what you think!

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