Even though we like to fly around the world, our favourite way to get from one place to another is by car.
There’s something great about being in charge of your own transportation and being able to go wherever you want, whether it’s a small town, a big city, or a hidden treasure.
It’s also nice to be able to pack everything you need into a car and not have to worry about baggage limits, lost luggage, or people throwing away your perfume and hand lotion.
Road trips are popular in many places around the world, but Canada is the best place to take one. The best way to see Canada, which is the second largest country in the world, is by car.
The Trans-Canada Highway goes from Newfoundland to British Columbia and is more than 7,800 km long.
Then there’s the North, which now has a road that goes from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Along the way, you’ll see big cities, small towns, and beautiful nature.
We’ve been on many road trips, but our 150-day trip across Canada in 2017 was the best.
During those five amazing months, we drove through every driveable province and territory in Canada (except for Nunavut), swam in three seas, and enjoyed the best of Canada while capturing it for our 12-part travel series called Road to 150.
These movies have been watched more than a million times, and we’ve heard from hundreds of people who were inspired by our show to plan their own road trip across Canada.
CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE
So, first thing’s first. Where are you hoping to go? What kind of road trip do you want to take in Canada? This will help you figure out when to travel, how long you’ll need, and how much money you’ll need.
We wrote an essay about the best road trips in Canada and made movies for each of the country’s 12 provinces and territories. They might be able to help.
When you choose your trip, you can decide where you want to stop. I don’t think vacations should be planned down to the minute, but it’s a good idea to know what you want to see.
This will help you plan your time, money, and activities, just like choosing the overall trip. Perhaps your dream is to kayak Hopewell Rocks. With this in mind, you must see Hopewell Rocks and go kayaking.
You can now plan your days around this activity and maybe leave some days open for spontaneity in that area.
DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET
This is a very important step. If you only have $1,000, a cross-country road trip is usually not a good idea. You might be able to spend a week on the road in one province, though.
Canada is known for being an expensive place to live, but this depends on where you come from. Because of how the dollar compares to other currencies, Americans, people from Australia, people from New Zealand, and a few countries in Western Europe often find Canada to be fairly cheap.
If not, Canada could be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. If you want to take a chartered plane to a lake in the middle of nowhere, it could cost a lot.
It could be very expensive to go to the Arctic of Canada and go on Canadian safaris to watch animal migrations.
But if all you want to do is travel, go camping, and see some world-class cities, you can do that on a budget as well.
Most budgets focus on food, transportation, where to stay, and things to do. As you read this post, we’ll give you some examples of how much these things might cost.
What to Eat (Budgeting for Food)
The cheapest way is to not eat at all, but that’s not fun and won’t keep you happy for long. The cheapest way to eat is to get a cooler and go shopping for food. On our big road trip, we did this to save money.
We had a lot of ham, cheese, chipotle mayo, and pickle sandwiches. The pickles were good for you. It tasted good and didn’t cost too much (maybe $2 or less per sandwich), but after 150 days, I didn’t want to see another sandwich for a long time.
We also ate cheap fast food from places like Tim Horton’s and Subway. Most of the time, these are the “healthiest” alternatives to fast food, and meals cost less than $10.
Also, we’d always set aside money for a nice dinner once in a while because I wouldn’t want to travel across Canada and miss out on any of the great restaurants along the way.
Because so many people moved to Canada, you can find almost any kind of food you can think of.
There are more ways to save money when you eat out. For example, restaurants may have good deals during “happy hour” or sell large pizzas for $20 or less that can feed two to four people.
Regardless, try to spend enough money to eat at a local restaurant a few times each week so you can taste some pretty wonderful cuisine from all over the globe and get away from the routine.
Where to Stay (Budgeting for Accommodation)
Another important part of a successful road trip is finding a place to sleep at night. In Canada, there are several possibilities, including hotels, motels, hostels, Airbnb, camping, woofing, couchsurfing, or even sleeping in your vehicle (though this option should be used with caution since it is illegal to simply park anywhere and spend the night)
Though this option should be used with caution since it is illegal to simply park anywhere and spend the night).
Camping and couchsurfing are the cheapest options. Hostels and Airbnb homes are next on the list. Hotels and motels are usually the most expensive options, but they are also the easiest to find and most common.
But outside of busy times or places (like Banff), most hotels cost between $75 and $150 per night, which is a fair price. Most campgrounds charge between $10 and $30 per night for a tent site without electricity.
Some campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, while others can be reserved ahead of time. If you want to stay in a popular place, like Banff National Park, you should make a reservation months in advance.
(Remember that if you join Airbnb through our link, you and we will both get extra credit!)
We like to find local bed and breakfasts when we can because they’re usually pretty comfortable, have a great breakfast, and are a great way to meet people. Otherwise, we like staying at hotels because they are easy.
We also like camping, but we only do it on special road trips because it takes a lot of gear. For advance hotel reservations, we often utilize Expedia to seek room prices, or we may try Priceline and bid on rooms in larger cities.
You must make a reservation with Parks Canada if you want to camp in a national park. There will be a provincial park system in each province and territory. KOA is yet another choice.
What to Do (Budgeting for Activities)
How much money you spend will depend a lot on what you want to do on your road trip through Canada. If all you want to do is hike and camp, the costs will be pretty low.
You may want to consider purchasing a Canada Parks Pass, which allows you to enter all Canadian national parks for a whole year for as little as $80. Hiking would be a free thing to do on its own.
Every time you go to a museum or city attraction, it will cost you about $10–$20 per person. However, adventurous trips like helicopter rides, rafting, and whale watching will cost much more.
You can, however, get our Saver Card, which will save you money on a wide range of activities and attractions from coast to coast.
CHOOSE YOUR DATES
When travelling by car in Canada, it’s important to pick the right dates. When the roads are clear—usually from May to October, depending on where you go—is the best time for a road trip.
From December to April, snow and ice can make driving more dangerous and unpredictable. But it also depends on what you do. If you want to go on a ski road trip, you should go in the winter, and you should be ready.
Spring, summer, and fall are usually the best times of the year. Spring and fall are less busy and often better for driving, but summer is much busier when it comes to things to do.
On the other hand, the weather in spring is harder to predict. It might feel like summer one day and rain or snow the next. Furthermore, trees and flowers may not be in bloom yet, making the landscape seem dismal and lifeless.
The summer is wonderful, but expect more people and more expensive accommodations. Fall is a great time to visit because the crowds thin out and the fall colours (depending on where you are) are in full bloom.
WHAT VEHICLE WILL YOU DRIVE?
You’ll need some kind of car to embark on a road trip. If you don’t have one, you may rent one from a number of sites around the nation.
If you’re travelling into Canada, I’d suggest hiring one at the airport and returning it when you fly out. For an additional fee, you may be able to return the car to a different location.
In the warmer months, any car will suffice most of the time. You don’t need a large truck or SUV unless you want to go off-roading or just need more room. The majority of roads in Canada are in excellent condition.
Even in the Yukon, a vehicle will suffice; however, a 4WD or AWD will come in handy if travelling the Dempster Highway up to the Arctic.
The cost of renting an automobile is heavily influenced by the season. In May, for example, we paid $400 for a three-week rental of a midsize automobile in Calgary. This included unlimited kilometres, and our credit card paid for the insurance.
However, during the summer, we hired a vehicle in Newfoundland for $100 per day. It all depends on where you are and in what season you are travelling.
In any case, we usually start our search for the cheapest automobile using Expedia. The majority of bookings may be made for free by utilizing a booking engine.
When renting a vehicle, ask your credit card company about rental car insurance. Credit cards often feature free rental automobile insurance.
WHAT ABOUT GAS?
We propose breaking the window if you have gas for the benefit of your passengers. Oh, you mean gasoline. Gotcha. There is fuel everywhere.
Although distances between large cities might exceed 1,000 kilometres, there is usually a service station or small town every 200–300 kilometers.
We were only concerned about running out of gas on the Dempster Highway in Canada’s Arctic.However, there is a service station within 450 kilometres.
Apart from that, you shouldn’t have to worry about gas. However, we advise staying above the level of half a tank of gas just in case.
FAQ – QUESTIONS WE GET ASKED
When traveling long distances, is it better to book hotels in advance or just find one on the highway?
In general, you should be able to locate one on the highway or in a city or town without making a reservation. This, however, is very dependent on where you are and the time of year.
For example, during the very popular summer months in Newfoundland, you should book in advance. Unless there is a major event, you won’t have as much of a problem in larger cities.
When we’re hesitant, we generally do a preliminary search on Expedia or another hotel booking site. If availability seems limited, we may book it simply to be safe.
We’ll probably wait if there’s plenty of availability and/or hotels to select from. You may simply call the hotel and inquire.
When travelling long distances, will we run out of gas? Is it just wilderness?
People from Europe who aren’t accustomed to such a wild, open environment often ask us this question. With the exception of a few localities in the far north, there are petrol stations everywhere.
Most automobiles these days can go 500–800 kilometres on a single tank of gas, so getting from one place to another along the route is simple. However, it is still critical to monitor your fuel gauge and not wait until you are almost out of gas.
If I’m halfway through a lengthy road trip and find a gas station, I usually stop and fill up. It’s usually a good idea to take a break every 2-4 hours and stretch.
Should we get travel insurance?
We always suggest getting travel medical insurance, no matter where you go. It’s typically not too costly, and in the event of an accident, you’ll be glad you have it.
PLANNING A CANADA ROAD TRIP
The amount of preparation required will be primarily determined by the duration of your vacation. However, it’s not like you can’t simply get in your vehicle and drive.
If you’re flexible, you’ll have a great time even if you don’t plan ahead of time. However, if you have a tight budget or specific things you must accomplish, preparing ahead of time will pay dividends.
If you have any queries, please leave them in the comments section below and we will respond. We’ll also add additional information to this website for everyone’s benefit.