Toronto is a multi-faceted, world-class city that is known for many things. Growing up in its suburb of Scarborough, I’ve been lucky enough to experience most of these things first-hand. Whether it’s visiting the CN Tower or Fort York, catching a Blue Jays game, celebrity watching during TIFF, or wandering through the Distillery District, you can never really be bored in this city.
Being a local can have its drawbacks, though. Sometimes you can go a little stir-crazy and find yourself needing a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. My favourite way of giving myself some respite is to go for a drive in the country. All I need is a few hours of country roads and I feel renewed.
One thing that is not ideal for these quick getaways, however, is that I do not own a vehicle. I rely on public transit to get me around, so I’ve never really had a need to look into car ownership. I might have been tempted in the past to rent a car for a weekend but then all the costs add up (rental, insurance, having to return the car with a full tank of gas), and it just doesn’t seem worthwhile in the end. That is, until I discovered Zipcar about two years ago.
For those of who may be unfamiliar with them, Zipcar is an international, car-sharing program with its Head Office in Boston, Massachusetts. Their concept is simple: Get access to wheels when you want them, without having to worry about additional fees. By becoming a member you have a fleet of cars to choose from that can be rented by the day or hour, and you never have to worry about additional costs as it’s all included in your membership fees — even insurance and gas. You have the option to pay on a monthly or yearly basis, with different levels of memberships to choose from based on your needs.
Zipcars are located throughout the city, so you don’t have to go out of your way to pick up a vehicle. Chances are there are some located near you right now, and you may not even know it! I can grab a car within a two-minute walk from my office in downtown Toronto, or choose from a few different vehicles located within a close radius of my home in Scarborough (which, might I add, are very conveniently located for me as they’re all on major transit lines).
My favourite part about being a Zipcar member is the different vehicle options. Need a van for a few hours to help you move? Cargo vans are available! Need a larger passenger vehicle to take a group of friends to the beach for the day? Choose from minivans or SUVs. Need to haul a dining room table? Get a pickup truck! Want to see what it’s like to drive a FIAT? Yes, even that’s an option. Zipcar doesn’t limit you to one type of vehicle like some of the other car sharing companies (you try fitting a load of groceries into a Smart car). Instead, you have a large fleet of vehicles suited to your every need, quite like the concept behind a traditional car rental company but without all the hassle.
Your membership card is your universal key to the entire Zipcar fleet, no matter what participating city you are in. Each Zipcar is fitted with a card scanning device located on or near the windshield, so all you have to do to unlock your car is wave your Zipcard over this area and voila!, you are free to go wherever you chose.
Everything you need to enjoy your drive is located within the vehicle — the car key, remote garage door openers if your vehicle is parked within a building, even a corporate credit card that you use to fuel up the car. Plus finding a car is easy. Using either their Smartphone app or website, you can filter down your search based on your current location, a specific neighbourhood, by city, or even car type. Their app even has some cool features on it, like helping you find your car in a parking lot.
Most vehicles even come with an auxiliary cable so you can plug-in your phone or music device, allowing you to pick your own soundtrack to your journey. Zipcar has quite literally thought of everything to make your driving experience the best it can be. To top if all off, rentals in Toronto start as low as $9.25 an hour. And remember, that includes gas and insurance. I can get my favourite car for this rate — a new Volkswagen Beetle that goes by the name of “Grymes” (all vehicles are individually named and labeled, making it easier to identify them). Grymes and I have already gone on a few trips together, and I’d like to think we’ve bonded. It does help that he’s a cheap date that basically provides for himself.
Since I became a Zipcar member I’ve used their services for many different things. A few months ago I rented a vehicle for a few hours so I could pick up cupcakes for my friend’s wedding. On another occasion I got a car to surprise another friend at the airport. Once, I had a particularly long grocery list to procure, so I got a car to help me bring everything home. I love that Zipcar enables me to do all these things without me having to worry about bus routes or how much a taxi might cost. Zipcar provides me with freedom and my own set of wheels without having to worry about fulltime car ownership and everything that goes along with it.
I’ve even started to use their cars to fulfill my need to get away from the city every now and then. I recently felt the urge for a Sunday drive, so I picked up my best friend and his wife to take them on a day trip within Ontario. Our method of choosing where to go literally came down to “Ok guys, east or west?” We chose to visit Bobcaygeon because of a line in a Tragically Hip song. It was spontaneous, adventurous, memorable and very fun. And, it got me thinking…
If there are two things that I love doing, they would be travelling and driving. Put the two together and you have my favourite type of trip — road trips! I have made it a personal mission to see as much of Canada as possible, so why not start in my home province of Ontario where I can discover the history of the copious small towns within it?
This idea led me to contact my friends at Zipcar Toronto, and now we’ve formed a wonderful friendship that we like to refer to as Zipcar + Meandering Mac. Using their services I will be discovering the charms of “Small Town Ontario”, following a theme that I’ve come up with.
In researching potential towns to visit, I noticed that Ontario has a number of towns that share their name with larger, more well-known international destinations. For example, we have a Cairo and a Paris, even a Brussels and a Zürich. So, I decided to go “around the world in a day” and take a little time to find out what some of these towns are like. This weekend I’ll be exploring “the British Invasion” and will be visiting Glasgow and Little Britain. I can’t wait!
To further prove how awesome they are, Zipcar has even thrown in a little something special for all of you!
A regular Zipcar membership costs $65 a year with a one-time $30 application fee (plus whatever additional rental costs you incur by using their vehicles). However, Zipcar is offering readers of Meandering Mac a $30 discount off their first year fee, as well as $30 in free driving credit to help offset that application fee! All in all, you too can become a Zipcar member and enjoy your first year for only $35!
Keep an eye on the blog for my stories from the road, plus you can also visit my social networks (links on the homepage) for live posts and tweets. In the meantime, visit the Zipcar website to find out more about their services. Want to join in on the fun? Click here to become a member using the Meandering Mac discount (make sure to click on the orange “get started” box on the right side of the page to sign-up)!
Zipcar + Meandering Mac — taking you around the world in a day, on wheels when you want them.