Friday, February 27, 2015

Tips For Planning A Cross-Canada Road Trip

Road tripping across Canada is a wonderful experience. It’s a beautiful country with a lot to offer. We connect with many road trippers on Twitter, and it seems a cross-Canada road trip is near the top of many road trippers bucket list.

Road trip tip:
Don’t skip Newfoundland. It’s a bit challenging to get to. You either have to ferry it over, or fly. It’s totally worth the trip!

In this week’s blog, I wanted to share some tips on how we planned our cross-Canada road trip adventure.

There’s a few things to consider when planning your trip: timeframe, budget, transportation, where you’ll be staying, what you want to see, what’s your purpose for your trip.

Timeframe: we only had 2.5 weeks to make it across Canada, and home before my friend had to head back to work. We’re all about planning crazy road trips, and making them happen. Knowing your timeframe ahead of times gives you something to work with when planning your road trip.

Budget: in order to set our budget, we first planned where we were going, and how much gas we figured we’d need for this trip. Gas seems to be a good 60% of our overall road trip costs. When we did our first cross-Canada road trip, it cost around $1600 in gas. Keep in mind that places like Ontario will have higher gas prices.

Transportation: thankfully we were able to take our friends car on our road trip, so there was no rental fees incurred. We looked into renting an RV as this would make for ideal road trip conditions, but it was well over $3000 for the rental, so we stuck with our small Honda Civic and just made it work.

Having our own car allowed us to move across the country on our own timeframe, and drive to more remote towns for various adventures.

Where you`ll be staying: we planned to camp like broke college students for most of our trip. We were lucky enough to reach out to some family on the east coast who allowed us to stay at their place while passing through town. Stopped at hotels every night is not only costly, but it also eats up a lot of our travel time. We spent a lot of our road trip driving at night, and exploring during the day, while rotating nap times between drivers. This allowed us to cover more ground in a short amount of time, and we also miss a lot of rush hour traffic this way.

Also keep in mind, if you`re not staying at hotels along the way, you`ll have to consider where you will be showering. We`ve learned to stop at local rec centers or gyms. They allow us to just pay the drop in rate, and we get full access to their showers and hot tub (this is often much needed after long days on the road).

What you want to see: although it`s a fun idea to just hit the road and go on a spontaneous road trip adventure, doing some pre-planning in advance really helps save time, cost, and makes sure you don`t miss some awesome attractions.

Know your road trip purpose: this is a big one as it helps define why you`re road tripping. We`ve met fellow road trippers who are on a quest to visit top Canadian landmarks in each province. Maybe you want to visit many of the national parks along your trip. Knowing this in advance helps with the pre-planning process.

It`s alright if you don`t know any of these in advance.

How to start the planning process:

When we first planned our road trip, we sat down and wrote out a “must see” list of landmarks/attractions/cities we wanted to see. From there we narrowed down how far out of the way each attraction or landmark was. If we were passing through Winnipeg, but an attraction was 3 hours off course, we would scratch it from our road trip list. We of course didn’t mind deviating off course for some fun stuff, but if it was too far out of the way, we skipped it.

One of our big road trip goals was to make sure we did something in each province. It wasn’t enough to just drive through the province; we wanted to make a memory in each province. Many people who haven’t road tripped across the country before often overlook places like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In fact, several road trippers I’ve talked to often fly to Toronto and start their road trip there.  Each to their own, but I loved being able to explore each province along the way. Each of these provinces offers something unique and different that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. For example, in Saskatchewan, we parked in the middle of Highway 1 and jumped on hay bales for an hour, and not a single car passed by. I of course wouldn’t recommend this. We were “young and stupid” at the time, but it makes for a funny story now.

Once you figure out where you are going, how you’ll get there, and what you want to see, it’s easy to use Google Map to figure out thinks like “How long will it take to get from Vancouver to Calgary.” Once you know your main cities you’ll be stopping in, and main attractions to see, it’s easy to start your planning. Start with one city to another, like Vancouver to Calgary. Move on to “Calgary to Saskatoon.” This will help set the course of your road trip. From here you should know how much down time you have between cities/attractions.

For us, it was a matter of making across the country and back in 2.5 weeks. There were certain stretches of road that we knew were long drives, we chose to just drive through those long stretches, and then rest when we got to certain destinations. At times we were able to budget 6 hours in a city to explore, and other times we allowed for 2 hours in a city. Make sure you budget a time buffer in your schedule. A great example here, we planned on spending only 4 hours in New York City as that’s all the time we had. We ended up spending 7 hours there, which put us 3 hours behind our schedule, so we had to skip a few attractions along our route home. It’s really a matter of having a buffer, having a plan b and improvising while on the road.

Remember that road tripping really should be fun. It’s important to have a plan so you know where you are going, how you’ll get there, how much it will cost you, and when you’ll be home. But also remember, when it gets too planned, sometimes you take the fun out of road tripping. Leave room for errors, spontaneous adventures, and a time buffer for things like traffic or if your car breaks down and needs attention.

Road trip tip: some road trippers opt to road trip through the states to get from Vancouver to Toronto (or vice versa) to save time. It’s really only an extra 3 hours driving through Calgary-Winnipeg. If you’re planning on road tripping through the states to get across the country, remember that there are many toll roads along the way.

Have you road tripped across Canada before? Leave your comment below and let us know what your favourite attraction/activity/city/memory was.

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