Oh Canada. What a beautiful country, eh! 4 others and I packed ourselves and our suitcases in a car and took on an epic journey to explore as much of western Canada as possible in just 15 days. In this 2-week road trip we had very long packed days and probably need a holiday after this road trip but the route below is doable if you have the stamina.
As its two weeks and we packed a lot in, these blog posts will come in a series. This first one will give you an overview and my general tips and advice. So here goes…
Day 1- Fly into Vancouver and drive straight to Whistler. Sea to sky highway.
Day 2- Whistler
Day 3- drive to Clearwater/wells gray park
Day 4- Wells Gray Park
Day 5- Drive to Valemount- stop-off for a river cruise and Mount Robson
Day 6-8 Jasper
Day 9- Drive Icefields parkway
Day 10-11 Banff and surrounding areas
Day 12 Kelowna
Day 13-15 Vancouver
In hindsight, I think it would have been better to start in Vancouver and fly out from Calgary as we would have saved ourselves on quite a lot of driving between Banff and Vancouver. There were two reasons why we didn’t do that- firstly the flights were almost double the price and secondly Calgary didn’t interest us when we were doing our research and the likes of Kelowna did, wine tour yes please!
How we planned our stops and planning tools I used
I found a website online called Authentic Canada and they have an amazing free ebook that I downloaded and read before we made our choices and they even have sample routes. We knew we wanted to go to Western Canada so it was really just trying to narrow down our many many options from there.
Once we had a rough idea of where we wanted to go I found a website that would help me see if the route was doable. The first website is obviously google but the second was a really cool website that I love called Inspirock. If you want to find out more about Inspirock I talk about it here.
We struggled with this the most. Maybe because there were so many of us but we started to look at booking accommodation 6 months before the trip and everything was either sold out or not to a great standard.
Unfortunately in wells gray, jasper and Banff we stayed further out which added an hour journey each way. When driving through that scenery you can’t complain much though.
Here is a list of where we stayed and my comments on them will follow.
- Whistler- Evolution Hotel- This hotel has just been revamped so it looks and feels new. We had a self-service apartment and I could see how if you were staying there for ski season it would be a good accommodation
- Kamloops(1.5hrs from wells gray)- Airbnb
- Valemount- (half an hour from mt Robson and 1.5hrs from Jasper) Airbnb
- Golden (1hr from Yoho national park, 1.5hrs from Banff and Lake Louise) Airbnb
- Kelowna- Prestige beach hotel
- Vancouver- Canada stays apartment
All this cost on average of £300 per night. Not cheap I know but there is a certain level of comfort everyone wanted so we ended up paying more.
If you’re not going to stay in hotels or Airbnb’s you can always rent an RV/camper van or rent a car and camp.
You need to pay for your parking for the RV and obviously your campsite. The same rule applies as hotels- book as quickly as possible as they fill up fast too.
Driving, renting a car and petrol
Like most of the world, Canadians drive on the right-hand side of the road. Driving here is straight forward. Once you’re out of the cities and on your way you pretty much only have one highway to follow the whole way. So start training your accelerator leg as there is no respite in the form of traffic lights or stop signs.
Word of warning- do not go over the speed limit, it’s there for a reason. You will come across wildlife running along the road and if you’re going too fast and hit the animal, it will cause you, the animal and the car a lot of damage. Even with barriers on the side of the road, we saw a couple of bears jumping over them. So just be a smart tourist and follow the rules.
Petrol/Gas was the cheapest in Jasper coming in at $1.20(as of June 2019) and going up to $1.50 in British Columbia. We drove over 4000km and spent about 400CAD on petrol. Obviously this depends on your specific factors but we were driving a dodge grand caravan with 5 of us and 5 suitcases and backpacks attached to that so the car was quite heavy. Also noticed that diesel seems to be cheaper in Canada.
You are bound to see some form of deer, bear, bird or ground squirrel along your travels. Which is very exciting for city folk but please be respectful. It’s hard not to get overly excited the first time you see a bear but there are rules in place to protect you and the animal. The park rangers work hard to keep wildlife wild and humans safe so don’t go against their advice.
So what is the advice?
Firstly don’t be an idiot. Secondly, remember these animals are afraid of you and when they feel threatened they will attack. Do not panic and definitely do not let ‘omg I need a selfie’ come into your head.
Bears, cougars, and wolves
Carry bear spray, it’s around $50 to buy and you more than likely won’t use it but it’s not an expense you should skimp on. You do not want to be caught in a situation without it. Remember Murphy’s law?
You cannot travel on planes with bear spray so leave it at your last accommodation to gift to the next people that arrive.
Deer, moose, elk, Caribou and mountain goats
They might look cute and memories of Bambi surface when you see them but they are dangerous and scare very easily. So do not get close as they could turn aggressive and attack you.
Ground squirrels, marmots, birds, chipmunks
These little guys are adorable and you will see a lot of them, unfortunately, some will be viewed dead on the side of the road. Do not try to feed them, it makes them accustomed to humans and the whole point of wildlife is to keep them wild.
In general, there are only a handful of cases reported of people getting attacked by wildlife. If you keep your wits about you and are respectful you won’t become part of the statistic.
Do I really need bear spray and bear bells?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Yes.
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Pros and cons of our itinerary
- We got to see a lot, and so many varied cities and climates. We saw different sides of Canada every day and I love that because experiencing the variances in towns and cities made me feel like I got a true understanding of what Canada is made of.
- We really utilised our time on holiday as it was so precious.
- Driving in Canada has to be one of the best ways to see the amazing landscapes, none of which we would have seen had we flown everywhere.
- It really wasn’t that busy. The spots we hit seemed to be still quite with Banff and Lake Louise being the busiest.
- It was very intense. Driving for that long even as just a passenger can get repetitive and boring.
- With us cramming so much in such a short space of time you get exhausted and complacent by the end of the trip.
- You could argue we never gave ourselves enough time to truly appreciate and admire what we were viewing or experiencing
- The petrol cost can add up
- I packed too much due to not knowing what to expect in each different stop.
That’s the end of the first of many Canada posts. I hope that my experience will guide you on planning your own epic Canada road trip!