How do I move across the country?
February 19, 2010 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Moving from Peterborough Ontario to Vancouver BC... how do I do this?

My ladyfriend and I just received acceptance to PhD programs at SFU (Burnaby Campus). We have an apartment full of stuff accumulated over several years, most of it for free, so we're happy to sell a lot of it off. But, I don't anticipate that we'll be able to sell everything, and there are a few things we're interested in keeping (I'm keeping the Xbox... even if I won't have time to play it).

So! Two-part question:

1) What's the best way to get our stuff from A to B? I should mention, we don't own a vehicle. Should we rent a u-haul? Have it shipped somehow?

2) How do we find a place to live? Apartment hunting is a bit tricky from across the country. I don't really want to sign a lease based on pictures. Is there an area of Vancouver that's particularly well-suited for SFU grad students? I keep hearing that there isn't much to do in Burnaby, so should we live closer to downtown? How's the transit system? We enjoy biking, so we might want to live somewhat close to campus. I don't know. I've also heard that the Burnaby campus is on top of a large hill... and I don't enjoy uphill biking that much. Perhaps more importantly, are there any good farmer's markets that we could live nearby?

And, I should also mention, we have two cats. They will be joining us.

Any and all advice/insight regarding this situation is very much appreciated!
posted by ndicecco to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you have the money, plan trips out there to apartment/house hunt. create a list from online resources of popular options, call and schedule as many viewings as you can in a day.
posted by royalsong at 6:33 AM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: About a year ago I moved from Kelowna BC to Newfoundland. I had about a bachelor apartment's worth of stuff. I looked into renting a uhaul and doing the drive, since I had some time.

It would have cost me about $4500, compared to $1700 by going through a moving company (I had about 1200 lbs, if I remember right). Not to mention 2 weeks of travel versus a cheap flight. Without having a car of your own, and with it being a one-way move, you shouldn't rent a van.

I went with these guys, and had absolutely no troubles - very friendly, no time delay, managed to get my fragile things (accordion) there without any troubles.

(Can't help with regards to SFU, sorry)
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:47 AM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: Not owning a vehicle makes this easier, in my opinion. I did own one when I moved across the country, and after researching it, I concluded that renting a U-Haul and a trailer hitch was the most economical option.

There are other options, like Pods, but they were (at least when I did this, three years ago) significantly more expensive than driving yourself.

Shipping your stuff could be an option, but be realistic about the time and money you'll have to invest preparing everything to be shipped (including making sure that X-Box doesn't break) along with postage/shipping costs.

I think you'll find renting a truck to be the most cost-effective option. I'm not sure if you enjoy road trips, but I do, and B.C. is a beautiful destination. It'll be long and stressful, but any move is, and the adventure might add some extra value.

Finally, one thing I wish I had done differently: sell or give a way more than you think you want to at first. Yes, you'll take a loss on the items (except the free stuff). Yes, it will be worth it.

When I added up the time it took me to move all the extra crap I brought, I did calculations of how much per hour I was paying myself to move my junk. The number was pitifully small. When I looked at it that way, I really wished I'd just taken the quilts, baking supplies and cheap end tables to a thrift shop and bought new ones.

Good luck and have fun! British Columbia is an amazing place.
posted by jeffmshaw at 6:47 AM on February 19, 2010

You can look at the streets via Google Maps. This should give you an idea of the naighborhood of a particular apartment or house that you see an online listing for.
posted by dfriedman at 7:01 AM on February 19, 2010

You're going to want to live in Burnaby in order to be close to SFU, which on top of a mountain. Living closer to downtown would mean a long commute, and the SFU campus can sometimes get shut down in the winter because of snow.

My own sister and her husband lived in Burnaby on Murray Street, a couple of blocks north of MMetrotown, and they liked it. It was really convenient. My sister also commuted to UBC from Metrotown, and it took about an hour by bike, and about the same time by public transit.

So, reversing the process, you could live in Kitsalano (a nice neighbourhood near Jeroco Beach, Spanish Banks, Pacific Spirit Park) and make an hour commute to SFU, except you would need to get to the top of the mountain.

I moved our household last summer myself, and it would have been cheaper to hire a moving company.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:27 AM on February 19, 2010

Sorry, that should have been "Kitsilano"
posted by KokuRyu at 7:28 AM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: Congrats to you and your ladyfriend!

I'm an SFU grad student, and the vast majority of my classmates live in the Commercial Drive area (I live in the suburbs, as I'm a native Vancouver suburbanite). Commercial Drive isn't really my scene, but it's generally well liked because it is walkable, highly transit accessible, and an eclectic neighbourhood. The transit commute would be about 30 mins.

Another good option is North Burnaby, along Hastings as that street goes right up the mountain to the school. Whatever you do, don't live on campus. The housing is not awesome.

And seconding what KokuRyu says about Kits - it is way too far away to be viable. I know one guy who lives there and commutes to SFU and it takes him 1.5 hours each way. Ouch!

Your options depend a lot on whether you have a car and are planning to drive it to school. SFU students get a highly subsidized transit pass that is good for the whole system, except the new skytrain line out to Richmond (don't move to Richmond!), so it's definitely a money-saver to go without a car, but it does narrow down your options a bit.
posted by just_ducky at 8:18 AM on February 19, 2010

Best answer: I would say the ideal area to live for you is somewhere in East Vancouver, near the Expo/Millenium Line of the Skytrain. That puts you halfway between downtown and SFU, and getting to SFU via Skytrain (plus one bus going up the hill) is very quick. Being all the way out in Burnaby or New West is kinda isolating, but maybe you want that.

Narrowing it down to a particular neighbourhood, Commercial Drive would be the most fun but it's crazy hard to find a decent apartment there because it's so popular. I would suggest you aim a little bit further east, near Nanaimo Station or 29th Ave Station.

As for finding an apartment in Greater Vancouver, craigslist is the way to go. And it will be HARD. There is no secret to finding an apartment in just have to expect that there will be 3 times as many applicants as you'd see in any another Canadian city. You just gotta pound the pavement, respond to lots of vacancy ads, see lots of places, and learn to make very quick decisions.
posted by randomstriker at 8:29 AM on February 19, 2010

While I have nothing against renting a truck/van, I must weight in against UHaul. When my wife and I moved our stuff from Toronto to her parents near Ottawa (in prep for us going to the UK) we did it by renting a cube van, and that bit went fine.

Our problem was that we used UHaul's online reservation system to reserve the van. About a week before we called up the local site to make sure they knew about the reservation and got a "it's in the system, no problem" type answer. When we called ahead on the day to make sure the van was ready, they denied any knowledge of our reservation whatsoever. At this point one of our friends had already arrived to help out with the last bit of cleanup. Eight hours later, after many calls to UHaul's customer service and every local UHaul place we still had no van (and no bloody help from UHaul, or even an apology). Best we got out of the the central customer service line was that "local franchisees are supposed to respect the reservation systems", and from the local place we got "we never check the system".

So, for the sake of your sanity, please do not rely on UHaul.

(Epilogue: my wife's father knows the guys at Budget where they are and managed to get a van from them around 4pm; they drove it to Toronto and we managed to leave by about 2am... it was a long day, especially since we had to empty the van and get it back to the Budget guys by 9am.)
posted by joeycoleman at 11:17 AM on February 19, 2010

I have friends who live off Commercial just south of 12th - they own their own home. Although Commercial and Broadway is pretty scuzzy, their neighbourhood (just a couple of blocks south of Broadway) is pretty convenient for getting around, and there's Trout Lake park.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:11 PM on February 19, 2010

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