Road Trip: Toronto to Florida on a Budget

Sometimes I catch myself searching for flights to a magical place that I know I can’t afford. While it’s definitely possible to find cheap flights to Florida online, there are always those annoying hidden fees and extra luggage costs. To top that off, there’s the added fees of getting to and from the airport, around said city, and so on. So, there goes that idea right? 

Wrong. 

Taking a road trip is one of the best ways to save money while still being able to explore a new place! Not only that, you can gather the whole fam (yup! I’m talking about your furry friend too) AND save a ton of money. 

First things first, AirBnB is your new favourite friend. Whenever I travel to a new destination, I check AirBnB before ever even opening up a hotel booking site. I love pretending to be a local, and there’s really no better way to do that than to stay in the home of a local. PLUS, it’s usually cheaper than booking a hotel and finding the right place means more amenities to enjoy. For Florida specifically, we wanted to stay close to either Fort Lauderdale or Miami (where all the action is). Finding a place that met all my requirements in these areas were not particularly easy, mostly due to either being too expensive or not allowing pets. Side-note: I’m a safety freak, and highly encourage reading the reviews about other peoples experiences and doing a little Google search on the area of the rental itself to gain a better understanding of the neighbourhood.

Our two main requirements (other than a safe area) included: being pet friendly and having an outdoor pool. 

So the first one was non-negotiable since, we weren’t going to leave Bailey outside. The second, we technically could have done without but, like I said, soaking up the sun was a major priority on this vacation. 

That being said, be prepared to compromise a bit. We had to move a bit away from the major cities in order to find a place that met all three of our requirements. We found a beautiful home in Weston, Florida which, is about 40 minutes west of Fort Lauderdale. A bit far BUT, the perks included; saving money because of the location, being a gated community, pet friendly (Bailey even had a little pup to play with), and having an outdoor pool. Don’t forget, the best part about road tripping is the freedom to drive wherever, whenever. 

Second, enjoy the journey, because it really is a journey. Toronto to Florida is about a 22 hour drive straight. The perfect amount of time to get to know your road trip companion a bit better and to stock up on some podcasts (have you listened to S-Town yet?!). 

We had 10 days in total and allotted approximately two days to get there and two to get back. However, we wanted to maximize our time there so, while we wanted to enjoy the journey, we also wanted to make it as short as possible. Our stops along the way allowed time for pee breaks, short dog walks, and quick meals we only ate while driving.

Try leave early in the morning to get a head start. If possible, create a makeshift bed using sleeping bags and lots of blankets in the back of the car, that will allow for switching back and forth between drivers. While, my s/o was driving, I was sleeping in the back (don’t forget ear plugs and eye masks), every few hours we would switch. Later on, we were well enough rested to continue driving well into the night without tiring out. The drive scenery consists of mostly highway and gas stations, so, there’s really not much to miss. We stopped at a motel along the way when we felt we couldn’t drive any longer. There’s no need to book anything in advance since motels are frequent along the way and most are pet friendly. This method (and lots of coffee) meant we got there well within 28 hours. 

Stop at any Wal-Mart along the way and stock up on groceries. Most days we woke up, made breakfast at the apartment, and ate with our feet dipped into the pool. If we were headed out for the day, we packed lots of snacks to avoid spending a lot of money on lunches. ‘Happy hour’ is everywhere in Florida. Take advantage of this! And don’t be afraid to have some fast food (it is vacation after-all). Finally, if we were going to spend any money on food it would be for fancy-nancy dinners (like the Cheesecake Factory!!) three or four times throughout the week. 

It’s definitely easy to splurge, but there are a ton of free/low cost activities to fill your time! 

  • Hanging out at the Fort Launderdale beaches

  • Checking out the Wynwood Walls in Miami and the Art Deco District

  • Going to the marina at night to gaze at the massive yachts

  • Finding out when food truck festivals are happening (hint: low cost, delicious meals)

  • Taking advantage of your AirBnB amenities