Shipping Your Car Across the US for a Travel Therapy Job

We at Travel Therapy Mentor often get questions about moving across the country for travel therapy jobs, including what’s the best way to get your car across the country. There are a few options for solo travelers, such as: road tripping across the country in your car alone, road tripping across the country with a friend and the friend flies back, or flying across the country and shipping your car. For pairs trying to get two cars across the country, you could road trip in both cars, road trip in one car while your partner ships their car, road trip in one car while towing a second car if you have towing capabilities, or both fly and ship both cars. Personally, we have always driven two cars to our assignments, but our longest move was 12 hours and most of them much shorter than that. We know that a lot of travelers have chosen car shipping options for longer hauls. Since we have never shipped a car ourselves, we asked our travel PT friends Alison and Nick about their experience with shipping cars as a travel pair. Check out what Alison had to say below in case you are considering shipping your car!


Alison & Nick’s Experience

One of the biggest parts of being a travel therapist is changing job locations, and many of us end up going long distances across the US from one contract to the next. This can be a great opportunity to take a road trip if that’s your thing. However, road trips are not always the preferred option for a variety of reasons. This is where shipping a car is a good option. As a traveling pair, Nick and I have always had basically three options: road trip in two cars, road trip in one car and ship the other, or ship both cars. Personally, we’ve always chosen to ship at least one car on all four of our cross-country moves (yes, I consider our trip from Miami to Connecticut to be cross-country!).

The first step in deciding whether or not to ship your car is to decide whether or not you want to do the road trip to your next job contract. Road trips are a great way to see the United States, but there is a lot of driving involved, obviously. Neither Nick nor I love driving long distances, and the only thing that makes long car rides bearable is being in the car together listening to music or podcasts or discussing where we should stop for dinner. For that reason, we always knew that we were going to ship at least one car every time we moved a long distance. But after we drove from Miami to Connecticut in one car (and shipped the other) during our first move, and then drove from Upstate New York to Las Vegas in one car (and shipped the other) during our second move, we knew that we didn’t want to do the same cross-country road trip again so soon to Pennsylvania from Vegas on our next one. So we decided to ship both cars to Pennsylvania, and 6 months later we shipped both cars again when we returned to Vegas from Pennsylvania.

Factors to Consider for Shipping a Car

  • Cost: You need to compare the cost of shipping the car(s) to what a road trip would cost. For the road trip, keep in mind the costs of gas, food, and lodging. If you’re a traveling pair, you have the option to ship one car while you road trip with the other car, or ship both cars and not road trip at all.  The price quote of the car shipment depends mostly on distance from the pick-up address to drop-off address, availability of truck drivers, and number other people shipping their cars on the same route. For example, shipping your car from the Northeast US to Florida at the beginning of winter will be more expensive because many people are trying to do that at the same time. To give you an idea, we spent about $1000 to ship one car and $2000 to ship both on each of our trips. The cost was roughly the same from Miami to Pennsylvania (1200 miles) as it was Pennsylvania to Las Vegas (2500 miles). If you were wondering if there is a discount for shipping two cars- there is! We were given $150 off for shipping a second car in the same shipment. We also got $50 off for being return customers to the same auto transport broker company.  We had to remember to specifically ask for those discounts. For us, since we don’t want to drive, we prefer the convenience of shipping our cars. If you are shipping your only car(s) and flying, then you need to also add in the cost of the flight(s) to the auto shipment cost.
  • Flexibility of travel time: The car shipment company will need an approximate 7-day availability window for them to pick up your car. Then you car will take an additional set of days to arrive to your destination, and this amount of time depends on distance, weather, traffic, etc. For all of our cross-country trips, we have planned for a 14-day period, which assumes they pick up the car on the last day of the 7-day window and then 7 days for the car to ship across the US. If you only have one week between travel contracts, this might be a little tricky. The company that we always work with says that a 7-day availability window for pick-up is ideal for finding the best price, but I have been told that a 3-5 day window would also be acceptable. So I assume that if you only have a 10-day period between contracts, this shortened pick-up availability window would make that work. You might just end up paying slightly more for it.
  • Location of your physical self in relationship to the car pick-up and drop-off: Most companies ship your car from door to door, which means you or someone you trust with your car(s) needs to be at both the origin and destination points to both pick up and drop off the car(s). If you are planning to ship one car and road trip with the other, then you need to drive the origin to destination distance in the same amount of time as the truck driver. If you are trying to do any sight-seeing, it would be tricky to be at both the drop-off and pick-up points. When we shipped our cars from Vegas to Pennsylvania, the driver made it to Pennsylvania in 3.5 days. Our road trip itinerary, including sight seeing, was about 8 days, so we planned ahead of time for my Dad to be the destination person. Terminal to terminal transport is another option, discussed below.
  • Wear and tear: This last one is no-brainer. There will be less wear and tear and miles on your car if you ship it, which is an important factor to consider especially if you have an older car, are concerned about its reliability, or simply don’t want to run up the miles on your car.

The Process for Shipping Your Car

To start the process of shipping your car, or the process of considering shipping your car, you ‘ll need to get quotes from various auto transport brokers. When you research online for auto shipping quotes, the companies that respond to you with quotes are auto transport brokers. The brokers are neither the owners of the trucks nor the employers of the truck drivers.  The broker will never have any physical contact with your car. They are only finding you an auto transport carrier, who is the company who owns the truck and/or employs the driver that will be physically transporting your car. The broker will list your car(s) on the “National Dispatch Boards” for a certain pick-up window (dates are your decision) at a certain price (the broker’s suggestion), and then an auto transport carrier will offer to transport your car(s). From what I understand, many auto transport carriers specialize in certain routes. For example, the truck driver who transported my car from upstate NY to Las Vegas told me that he only drove the route between upstate NY and California, and Vegas is on the way. So while we have used the same auto transport broker four times (savings of $150 in total for being return customers!), we have never ended up using the same auto transport carrier because either our origin or destination points have been at least slightly different for 3 of our 4 moves.

Things you need to know before getting a quote:

  • Pick up and drop off location: You will give the broker a zip code or address where the car will be picked up and dropped off. These addresses can be slightly changed (within reason!) once your auto transport carrier is assigned to you if your housing situation is up in the air. For example, when we moved to Vegas, our first housing choice fell through, so we had to have the truck driver take our cars to our new housing address that was 15 minutes away from the original address. We let the driver know one day in advance of the drop-off and it was not a problem. I think when they have already driven your car 2500+ miles, an extra 10 miles isn’t a big deal!
  • First available date: This is the first day that your car will be available for pick-up. When getting a quote, you need to plan for your car to be available for 5-7 days after the first available date. When the auto transport carrier accepts your bid, they will tell you the date within the 7-day window during which the driver will pick up your car. Our car(s) were always picked up within 3-4 days of the first available date that we provided.
  • Open or enclosed transport: Open transport means that your car is exposed to the elements. Enclosed transport means that your car is protected from weather, rocks, etc inside of a transport container. You will be spending 30-65% more money if you choose enclosed transport. Enclosed transport is only really suggested for luxury cars or restored antique vehicles. I suggest that you instead use open transport and then spend $20 on the most expensive car wash you can find at the destination point to get all of the dirt and debris off of your car (trust me, you’ll need this). We have never had any damage to either of our cars while transporting them, but there was so much dirt on our cars after one of the shipments that we literally could not see out of the windows!
  • Door-to-Door or Terminal-to-Terminal: 
    • Door to door is exactly what it sounds like: This means that the auto carrier (truck driver) will pick up your car at your pick-up “door” (house or nearby side street) and then drop off your car at your drop-off “door” (house or nearby side street). You or some other predetermined person (who you trust with your vehicle!) will need to be at the pick-up location and drop-off location. Nick and I usually are at the pick-up (origin) location with our parents at the drop-off (destination) location. This can be tricky if you don’t have a trusted person on the other end, because then your travel plans must be centered around when the truck *may* arrive (this is a 3-5 day window, depending on how far you are shipping your car and the weather). When our cars were shipped to Pennsylvania form Vegas, they arrived 1 day earlier than estimated. If you were road tripping the same distance, you need to make sure that someone is at the drop-off point to accept your car(s). When our cars were shipped to Vegas the second time, our cars arrived two days later than originally estimated. So each trip is going to be a bit different because there are so many factors involved. This is why we always gave ourselves the 14-day window.
    • Terminal to terminal: You leave your car at a terminal, the auto carrier picks it up, they transport the car to the destination terminal, then you pick it up from the terminal when you arrive in town. According to the website of the broker that we use, the terminals now charge $15-$35 per day to store your car, but shipping the car terminal to terminal is slightly cheaper. You may have to pay those storage fees at both the origin and destination terminals. We have not tried this option, so we don’t have much experience with it; however, if we didn’t have parents or someone we trusted to be the origin or destination location, then this would be a good option. The other caveats with this option: it sounds like this will take a bit longer than door to door transport, and there are fewer terminals available these days. This means that there might not be terminals available near your origin or destination points, which means that you have to drive a ways to pick up your car… which is tricky if you shipped your only car.
  • Avoid being in the boonies while your car is shipped: You will need to be available by text/phone starting the day before your first available date until the moment your car arrives, just in case there are any changes from your truck driver.
  • Packing stuff in your car: I think this topic is a bit controversial, so I’ll share what Nick and I have done in the past. From our understanding, trucks get weighed at weigh stations and therefore your car should be the weight that your car specs say it is. Some auto transport brokers say that you can ship up to 100 pounds worth of stuff in your trunk. So that’s what we do. However, there can be NO personal belongings VISIBLE in your car when you ship it. Everything must be in your trunk. Nick and I pack each of our car’s trunks full of about 100-150 pounds worth of our stuff. And when I say “pack,” I mean we weigh every single item and then play a real-life game of tetris until our trunks barely close. You might think that shipping your car is also a great way to ship your stuff, but if you were road tripping, then you could put non-valuables in your backseat and also fill your trunk, which technically gives you more room for your stuff. Here is the other thing to keep in mind: if you put stuff in your trunk and ship your car, the truck driver (or anyone else) could steal literally everything, and you have no recourse to get it back because it was not supposed to be there in the first place, nor is it insured like your car is. Fortunately, we have never had anything stolen from us up to this point. I am now typing with one hand and knocking on wood with the other. 

Summary

Overall, I think that the decision to ship a car (or two cars, if you are a traveling pair) is a personal one. There are many factors that go into it, particularly time between contracts, cost, and feasibility of taking a road trip. As I mentioned earlier, Nick and I have always shipped at least one car. The next time that we take a travel contract, we will ship at least one car again. We much prefer the convenience of this because we don’t like to drive long distances.

It has always been a pretty smooth process for us, and we recommend it to anyone who doesn’t love road trips or cannot feasibly do one (as a Florida native, I can’t imagine driving through the Midwest in the winter!). I hope that these suggestions will help you in your decision-making.


Nick and Alison are physical therapists who met while in PT school at the University of Miami. They spent two years at permanent jobs prior to taking two 4-month outpatient Travel PT contracts: one in Connecticut and another in Las Vegas. They are currently working in permanent outpatient jobs in Las Vegas because they loved living there while on their travel contract. If you have any other questions about shipping your car, you’re welcome to email Alison at alisoncarr.dpt@gmail.com or find Nick and Alison on Instagram @TravelingwithNickandAlison

Working Internationally as a Speech Language Pathologist

Since we have spent a lot of time traveling abroad, we often get questions about working internationally as travel therapists. We have actually never worked abroad and don’t have plans to. However, we do know that there are American therapists who do work abroad in different capacities. We want to share with you Noel’s story: a speech language pathologist (SLP) who has had a unique career working internationally. Noel highlights his variety of work experiences, some of which have been unconventional, and he provides insights to other American therapists who are considering trying to find work abroad. Get ready to get inspired!


Noel’s Story

My name is Noel Erik Simon and I’ve been an ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) certified SLP since 2006. During my time as an SLP I’ve worked internationally in several different countries. If I had to point to the reason why I’ve chosen my current lifestyle, it would probably go back to my time as an ESL teacher in the Peace Corps. I was stationed about 3.5 hours south of Moscow at an experimental school in Ryazan. Since repatriating and finishing grad school, I always had the dream of living abroad again.

The opportunity came as I was completing my clinical fellowship year (CFY). I saw a posting on the ASHA website for an SLP position at an international school in Jakarta, Indonesia. Serendipitously, I had taken a linguistics course in the past couple of years and remembered my professor saying that he had grown up in Indonesia. I reached out to him and he was very excited about this possible opportunity for me. That was the first step that led me to an SLP career abroad. Ironically, I didn’t end up moving to Indonesia. I ended up moving to Cairo, Egypt in August 2007 instead. Since that time, I’ve lived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Beijing, China; Warsaw, Poland; and I’m currently in Hong Kong.

Riding on the back of a motorcycle taxi in Kigali, Rwanda.

Even after moving abroad, I haven’t always worked in an international school setting. In Vietnam, a friend introduced me to a group of related professionals made up of special education teachers, pediatricians, a school psychologist, a play therapist, and an occupational therapist. I quickly found that I was the only practicing SLP in the country at that time. My new colleagues started sending me referrals; I made some business cards; and I built a reputation for myself in the expat and international school parent community providing private SLP services. I took my fee schedule from my OT colleague. This allowed me to make a good amount of money and make my own schedule.

Because of this flexibility and increased income, I was able to gain a lot of great experience with some side pro bono work as well. I traveled with Operation Smile on surgical missions to Cambodia, China, Uzbekistan, and Rwanda. I was able to partner with local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and special education schools in the city to provide workshops and training for teachers and parents. One of my proudest achievements was partnering with an NGO that rescues women from human trafficking. I worked with the survivors to help them modify their accents so that they could tell their stories to a wider audience in their own voices.

The variety of work that I had done by this time convinced me that I wasn’t as pigeonholed as I thought with my profession. Typically an SLP is seen as either educational (pediatric) or medical (adult). Of course, there are many other sub-categories, but these seem to be the biggest areas. With a little bit of creativity, I was able to branch out of my mindset of what I could do with my skill set and really extend myself.

My Operation Smile team in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Advice for Others Job Searching Abroad

I would say that there are several routes you could take if you’re looking for a job abroad as an SLP:

First: You could go the route of taking advantage of the mutual recognition if you want to work in five of the other primary English-speaking countries. This route requires a lot of research and finding a job first. After that, the job should help you with licensing and a working visa.

Second: If you’re an education-based SLP, I would suggest some search sites for international schools. Most of these have a fee (some cheap, others pretty expensive). A few examples are:

Working for an international school means you get to take advantage of school holidays: 6-10 weeks off during the summer, 2-3 weeks off around Christmas/New Year’s, a week off in the fall and spring, and depending on which part of the world you’re in, another 1-2 weeks some time in winter for Chinese New Year. All of these are what I like to call “Travel Holidays”. These are great because one of the things that can make travel prohibitive from the US is the cost of getting out of the US (unless you’re a proficient credit card hacker). Once you’re abroad, travel becomes significantly less expensive from one place to another. There are usually multiple discount airlines to choose from around the world.

Third: For pediatric and medical-based SLPs, I think there is a misconception about a large part of the world. People assume some kind of language barrier if you’re not looking at just the Anglophone countries. This is not entirely true. There are many countries that are officially another language but they use English as the lingua franca, or English is somewhat of a co-official language and it may not immediately occur to people. I would recommend checking job postings in the Middle East (specifically the Gulf States) or SE Asia (Singapore especially, but also Malaysia and Thailand). 

Fourth: I’ve talked to many people who’ve also recommended government jobs like the DOD, Veteran Affairs, Department of the Army, etc. All of these jobs have been centralized on USASjobs.com. Of course, these are more like a traditional job on a U.S. Army base (or Army base adjacent), but the people who I’ve talked to have highly recommended this lifestyle.

Almost every country has a sizable expat population. Even countries that you wouldn’t consider probably have a great need for “allied health” professionals. If there is a specific country that you have in mind, I would say to just do some research. Better yet, take a vacation and backpack around there and do some recognizance. You’d be surprised what you might find. I had no idea what the situation would be like in Vietnam. I got a job as a whole-school SLP and elementary school learning support teacher. I wouldn’t have known until I got there that there was enough of a need that I could start my own private practice.

I know that, in addition to the Anglophone countries, Europe is always big on people’s wish list. I would say these are all possible, but if you’re trying to do this for the money, then put these places out of your head (except possibly some places in Eastern Europe). If you want to make much more than you could in the US, then Asia and the Middle East are much better options. If you get a teaching job at an international school, even if your salary looks smaller than what you might be making in the states, keep in mind that housing is usually provided separately from this, and your salary will probably be tax-free. What you’re are being quoted is often (depending on the country) your net salary, without housing, flights, visa, etc. (these are provided separately). Plus, often these countries are much less expensive to live in than the US. For example, my first teaching job abroad was in Egypt. My salary was a little more than half of what I was making in the US. However, because Egypt is an extremely inexpensive country to live in (much more so than to travel through as a tourist), I found a cheaper place to live (pocketing the difference in the housing stipend), and I picked up some clients on the side, I was able to save significantly more than I was able to in the US. In fact, my two side clients paid all of my day-to-day expenses, so I was able to save all of my salary (except for what I used to travel on). I also had a 3-bedroom house, a driver, a house cleaner, a gardener, and a cook.

Another thing about working abroad is that many ‘developing’ countries don’t have the same standards as far as licensing goes. Some of our professions don’t have an equivalent in these countries, so there is no license. I was the only SLP in Vietnam when I was there. There was no need to seek out a licensing body. If you’re working at an international school, you’re often seen as a “foreign expert”. It’s more important to have a teaching certification than a license. I think that, with some major exceptions, a lot of the strategies are the same for occupational therapy and physical therapy professionals. I’ve only heard of a handful of international schools around the world that have employed occupational therapists. So, physical therapy might be the only profession out of the three that may already exist as a local profession in most countries. You would need a bit more research, but if I were trying to find a job in those fields, I would still check with clinics in the same areas (Asia and the Middle East). I would also just do a Google search on “working as a (insert job) in (insert country).” Checking LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed have also given me a lot of ideas.

In my experience, most contracts for international schools are initially two years (with school holidays) and then the option to renew yearly after that. Clinics may be just one year. I have been traveling with my wife since 2007. At least one of us has always had a job offer before we’ve moved to a country, sometimes both of us. Obviously, we both try to find jobs, but we have the added challenge that we’re both specialists (SLP and librarian), and basically, we’re both non-teachers. Out of the five countries that we’ve moved to together, we were both offered jobs at the same school for three of them. We’re not naïve going into jobs, but most of the time, when we’ve been offered jobs, it’s because we usually go by our motto “Leap and the net will appear”. Even bad job decisions aren’t permanent, and you can learn from them.

Hanging out with friends in Dahab, Egypt (one of my favorite places in the world).

Cultural Considerations

The countries where I’ve lived have been very easy to go about your daily life with little to no knowledge of the local language except niceties and “taxi language”. But, one of the reasons that I’ve chosen to live abroad is for a chance to learn a new language. I really don’t think there’s any better way to immerse yourself into the culture of another country than trying to learn as much of the language as you can. In most of the jobs abroad, you’re going to be with a mix of locals and expats, probably mostly speaking English. It can be challenging to force yourself out of your “easy” group of English-speaking friends and try to make more local friends, but the payoff is huge.

Most of the places I’ve worked have a very diverse staff. There are many international schools that are only international in that the curriculum is taught in English and most of the staff are native speakers. The student body could be 90% host country nationals. However, the average international school might look like a public school in Brooklyn or Queens, with students from 50-60 different countries. There are definitely cultural differences between colleagues and families. Sometimes it’s misunderstandings with host country people, but I’ve found most of my cultural misunderstandings have been with other “westerners”. I would say for anyone working abroad, it might be helpful to keep in mind that just because you might look like someone doesn’t mean you share the same cultural assumptions. I also think that in many ways it’s easier to live in a country in which you might not look like the majority of the people there. People look at you and assume that you’re a “foreigner”. You’re often treated as a guest. But I’ve also worked in countries in which I more or less look like I could be indigenous to that country. People assume that I must understand the language and the cultural nuances. They might have a little less understanding of my mistakes as I get acclimated to how things are done there.

For me, settling into a new country and discovering how to live, pay bills, find the best deals on groceries, learn to cook local food, etc. are the biggest pluses to living there instead of just traveling there. Most countries don’t have a Home Depot or a Costco. Most shopping is done at little shops or open-air markets. It sounds so mundane, but one of the best feelings I get is when I need to buy something that I wouldn’t think twice about in the states (e.g. a lightbulb). Finding the specific local shop that sells the lightbulb that I need and being able to conduct the entire transaction in the local language is incredible. Having a tourist stop and ask you directions is a cool feeling too. In some places I’ve lived, I’ve even had locals ask me how to get to an address because they weren’t familiar with the neighborhood. 

Color Run with my wife and friend in Beijing.

Conclusion

If it’s your dream to work abroad, there are a lot of different possibilities out there. First, suspend all of your preconceptions about licensing and language ability. Secondly, don’t be held back by your job title. There are more opportunities than you think in related fields. Do some research on a desired location to get started, and then plan a trip to get a feel for what it’s actually like on the ground. Reach out to schools, clinics, etc. Be willing to move on if things end up not fitting. Decide what’s important to you and keep at it!


Noel Erik Simon is an American-trained Speech Language Pathologist. He has worked in a variety of settings including international schools, group homes, early intervention programs, clinics, and NGOs. He has presented workshops and training to parents and other professionals on a range of topics related to speech and language. Over the past 15 years, he has lived and worked in the US, Russia, Egypt, Vietnam, China, and Poland assisting children and adults with a wide range of needs. You can find him via the following social media platforms:
Instagram: @vaguely_vagrant
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/nesimon1


If you’re an SLP, PT, or OT who’s interested in working abroad, feel free to contact Noel for further insights. If you have questions about traveling for work within the US, please contact us and we can help you!