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There’s a Clever Way to Get a Free Trip to Sweden. But There’s a Catch

Want a free vacation and need a new car?

You know what they say about something being too good to be true. Ignore that rule of thumb. There really is a way to travel to Europe for free–with the catch that you need to buy a car, namely a Volvo.

The program is called Overseas Delivery, and although it’s been around for decades, it’s not widely publicized. But take it from somebody who’s done it once (and whose parents have done it twice): It’s the way to go if you want a new car and need to quell a craving for a European vacation.

Why It Pays to Meet Your Car in Sweden

Since 1954, Volvo has offered this program to U.S. customers. (Note that other companies like BMW and Mercedes used to offer similar programs, but they’ve been disbanded.) The reason? “The Overseas Delivery program has always been an excellent way for new customers and current Volvo enthusiasts to be part of a unique brand experience,” says Martin Hansson, senior manager of retail programs with Volvo Car USA. “For many, the Overseas program has turned them into lifelong Volvo customers, as we see people going to Sweden for the third or fourth time to pick up their new vehicle.”

And there’s good reason for that, as the program offers numerous perks, which may be why Volvo delivers between 1,000 and 1,500 cars yearly through this program. For starters, you get roundtrip airfare for two (plus airport lounge access if you fly with one of Volvo’s partner airlines) to Volvo’s factory location in Gothenburg, Sweden. Once you land in Sweden, you’ll be picked up at the airport and taken to your hotel. The program covers two nights there.

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On the first morning, you’ll be driven to Volvo’s Factory Delivery Center, where your experience will include a Swedish lunch, a tour of the factory, and a visit to the Volvo Museum. Then it’s time to greet your car, and once you’ve taken delivery of your vehicle, you simply drive it off the lot and start your explorations. Volvo gives you a temporary European vehicle registration and insurance coverage for 14 days, but you can extend it for an additional cost.

When you’re ready to return home, just drop your car off at one of several designated spots. Gothenburg is one, and there’s no additional fee if you choose this location. Or, for an additional charge, you can choose from 13 locations in other countries. Then depending on which North American port your car is being shipped to, your car will arrive at the Volvo dealer where you bought it six to 13 weeks later.

You should know another thing: Volvo also offers Overseas Delivery customers additional travel experiences through its travel agency. There are currently four trip options, most of which are in Sweden, with set itineraries. You’ll have to pay extra for them, but they offer a convenient, hassle-free way to tack on more travel.

How the Program Works

No doubt you’re wondering what the catch is. The surprise? There isn’t one, as the price of the car doesn’t increase with this program. The sticker price is the same whether you pick up your car in Fort Wayne, Indiana, or Gothenburg, Sweden. The main difference is how long you’ll wait for your new Volvo. If you need the car immediately, this program probably won’t work for you, but if you can wait several weeks, it’s worth checking into.

The procedure works almost no different than any other car purchase. You visit a Volvo dealership and order the car you want, placing a deposit with your order. The one caveat? This program is valid only for select models, including the XC90, XC60, XC40 ICE, V90 Cross Country, and V60 Cross Country. After you’ve confirmed your car, you work with Volvo to set up your trip, determining when you want to pick up your car in Gothenburg, where and when you’ll be dropping your car off, and if you wish to take advantage of the add-on travel experience.

In my experience, the process was seamless. Volvo worked with my husband and me to ensure smooth delivery and a unique experience. We also chose an add-on trip—Nice, France—and it was well worth the money.

Suffice it to say that this may be the most expensive travel souvenir you’ve ever purchased. Yet it will undoubtedly be your most memorable one, which is why I’m still driving my Volvo station wagon. It’s logged over 140,000 miles (including thousands in Sweden and Denmark), although the day to say RIP is near. Do I hear Sweden calling?