What is the best/cheapest way to move from Toronto to Alabama?
May 29, 2010 6:13 PM   Subscribe

What is the best/cheapest way to move from Toronto to Alabama?

I will be making this move in about two months. I saw a few questions about moving across the continent, but none specifically involving a Canada-US move.

Specific to my situation:

- I don't make a lot of money presently, and I am moving to become a grad student, where I will have even less money. Money is tight!

- Fortunately, I don't own a lot of stuff. I won't be bringing any furniture. In fact, other than clothes, the only thing I really want to bring is ALL MY BOOKS. But that is about 3 large bookcases worth, not including (ideally) another 2 or 3 bookcases worth in my parents' basement.

- It occurred to me that, comparatively speaking, books are extremely not-fragile, which maybe opens doors to cheaper methods of moving them.

- So, I thought maybe the cheapest way to do this would be for me to take a bus or plane down, with as much stuff as I can pack into carry-on/check-in, and "ship" the rest (mostly books and other non-fragiles) using... I don't know. What are my options?

- I don't have a car.


(I'm going out now but I will be checking back tomorrow.)
posted by skwt to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total)
Grad student, eh? If you're at Auburn or Alabama, the major disadvantage of flying is that neither town (Auburn or Tuscaloosa) has an airport. Montgomery and Birmingham are the closest (respectively), but I think about an hour away from each. Both suck, though. I lived in Auburn for 15 years, and flew into/out of Atlanta Hartsfield all but... twice? Flying into Montgomery and Bham tends to be more expensive too.

No real advice regarding books. Might be easier to take them with you on a bus than a plane. Not sure what USPS media mail rates are, but you'd surely qualify for that. Well... not sure about internationally. Hmm. 3-6 bookcases worth will be crazy expensive either way. You might be best off renting a van or small moving truck one-way. Again, not sure how that works across country lines, but in your situation, I'd definitely look into it.

Considering your situation, I would reconsider bringing all your books. The most beloved/irreplaceable, sure, but three bookcases' worth?
posted by supercres at 6:27 PM on May 29, 2010

Yeah, if you can get across the border, shipping 70 pounds of books via Media Mail will run you $30 US. So scale that based on how much you want to take with you.
posted by supercres at 6:35 PM on May 29, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, it's Alabama/Tuscaloosa.

I went down there a couple months ago to visit and the combined bus/plane trip cost about $500, as a data point. I was picked up at the Birmingham airport though (so I didn't have to pay for/figure out the Bham/Tusc. leg)... which I might be able to arrange again, I'm not sure.

And yeah, I'm definitely considering winnowing.

On preview--thanks! That's good to know.

Okay, out for real.
posted by skwt at 6:37 PM on May 29, 2010

Your plan of flying with most of your stuff and shipping the rest is what I did (no car/grad student too). I shipped stuff via FedEx Ground which is pretty cheap, and goes over the border without any problem (mostly - they looked at a box of feathers for a bit). It does take a while so it's perfect for things like books you don't need right away. Also, I shipped them to my grad school department since I didn't know where i'd be living. I would recommend that you rent a car for the first couple of days in town. It's pretty cheap and makes things much easier to get settled in. Good luck!
posted by hydrobatidae at 6:59 PM on May 29, 2010

Do you own a car? If not my situation is different but I'll give advice anyway--when I moved from Georgia to New Mexico, I drove with as much stuff as I could fit in my car and shipped 3 boxes of books that I really, reeeeally wanted to have with me, via media mail (which was surprisingly cheap).

As a grad student I've acquired probably another small bookcase's worth of books, so do note that you'll be coming back with more when you graduate.

A person here at my program moved from NY and shipped her stuff, so perhaps that's an option for you. I would guess that the cost of shipping stuff would be less than the cost of renting a moving truck or van (when I priced it for my cross-country move it was about a grand one way).
posted by LokiBear at 7:03 PM on May 29, 2010

Hmm. I have about the same number of life possessions (clothes + 4ish bookshelves worth of books) as you. I moved from ON to the States by means of my mum's car. I think an automobile's your best bet for getting the books over the border; after that, supercres indicates, it's relatively cheap. Toronto's only an hour and a half from Buffalo, if you time it well (i.e., midday or late night). So get a buddy to drop you off there, and take a plane or bus from there after mailing your books?
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:03 PM on May 29, 2010

Best answer: If you are flying don't do it from Pearson: drive to the US and fly from there. You will save a couple hundred dollars in airfare due to the lower airport fees. Other then that I don't know what to say. Good luck.
posted by Canageek at 7:39 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

elizard moved from Canada to Alabama and married BitterOldPunk. Maybe check out the answers from her question about shipping her stuff from (a different part of) Canada to Alabama, or sending her a MeMail to find out what worked for her?
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:44 PM on May 29, 2010

if you're going to live in tuscaloosa, you are going to want to own a car because it's hard to do basic things like shop for groceries without one and because you're want to get the hell out of tuscaloosa whenever you can manage it.

So, ship the ones you absolutely need and buy a car at some point drive the rest down later.

oh god, i feel for you, tuscaloosa... do you like american football?
posted by ennui.bz at 6:01 AM on May 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Media Mail seems like probably the way to go, + the flight from Buffalo (which I did last time but that's good advice for others reading the thread).

ennui.bz, buying a car is something I've definitely thought about. I guess I'll have to go down and see how it is. No, I'm not into football... I take it you lived there? Not to get off-topic, but are there no redeeming points of the place?
posted by skwt at 12:46 PM on May 30, 2010

Like I said, I lived in Auburn, which is similar (small town centered around a large public university), but um... perhaps a bit less "southern". (That's perhaps a prejudice; I never spent much time there.) So this is for Alabama as a whole.

Some of the food (stereotypical southern food, like BBQ) is excellent. Foreign food, with a few exceptions, is awful. And the people tend to be quite nice, friendly, polite... if you don't say anything that argues with the typical red-state mentality. There's a slower pace that's quite appealing/refreshing when I visit for a week (from Philadelphia).

This is for football-centered small towns: If you're not into football, I would strongly suggest trying to get into it. You will make friends much easier, because unless you find the odd enclave of anti-sport intellectuals (which, all things considered, is a good bet in grad school), it's nice to be doing the same thing as EVERYONE ELSE on EVERY SATURDAY in the Fall. Otherwise, you will get annoyed by the fleet of RVs that rolls into town every other week for three months.
posted by supercres at 2:03 PM on May 30, 2010

>but are there no redeeming points of the place?

Larger percentage of attractive undergraduates than most schools (above SEC average), slightly (not overwhelmingly) skewed F:M sex ratio.

Other than that? Tuscaloosa is is the economic hub for one of the poorest regions in the country. (It sits directly north of the black belt region of west Alabama.) Crime, though improved in recent years, is traditionally higher than other parts of the state. Almost twenty-five percent of the population in the Tuscaloosa MSA live at or below the poverty line. Outside of the university, there is no meaningful public transportation infrastructure. By the only major highway (20/59), you're an hour west of Birmingham, the closest major city. (City pop: 230,000; Metro area: 1.2M) To get to safety, however, you'll want to stay on the highway and not get off until you're almost out of the city, so add another 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic, to your drive. Oh, like others said, you'll be lost without a car. (I made a go of it for a few years mostly relying on my bicycle in a different and much more cycle-friendly city in the state but still needed a little automobile for groceries and local travel.) To the west on 20/59 is a vast expanse of even greater poverty and lack of meaningful civilization. And, as has been alluded to, Tuscaloosa sees 100,000+ rednecks descend upon it every football weekend. Any plans you make for these weekends will inevitably be fucked up by hordes of obese mouth-breathers swilling Bud Light and screaming "Row Tahd!" permeating every public space.

Have fun!
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 7:20 PM on May 30, 2010

I hope they're giving you a good deal.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 7:22 PM on May 30, 2010

Response by poster: supercres, I heard the same thing about football from the current students when I went down to visit. I dunno. I'll... see.

ferdinand -- thanks for the info. I was planning on just trying to get by with my bike, but groceries would be a pain. I've never owned a car though and don't know anything about getting or owning one. I don't even know how much they cost really! It would be nice to be able to get out of town though. And yes, they are mos def giving me a good deal. I would have no real reason to go if they weren't (it's a fine arts degree).
posted by skwt at 9:59 PM on May 30, 2010

Best answer: Car: Looks like you're in luck. I use ZipCar where I live now and it's pretty great. You may need to get an AL license for this but, provided you have sufficient documentation [PDF], the AL driver licensing is a breeze so don't worry too much. I'm sure the folks in your program will be able to guide you through the forms.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 11:35 PM on May 30, 2010

Response by poster: Wow thanks! Good to know.
posted by skwt at 11:58 PM on May 30, 2010

You can definitely get by w/o a car in Tuscaloosa if you live close enough to campus, I've known several grad students that don't have cars and manage fine, though I'm sure its occasionally inconvenient. Some of the apartments close to campus can be pretty noisy in the fall, with undergraduates partying, so that's something to ask about. In the summer its pretty damn hot though. It's an alright town if you have a good attitude.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 3:00 PM on June 1, 2010

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