Across Canada Road Trip

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Canadian Road Trip – Driving From One Coast to Another

It was something I always wanted to do… hit the road and drive from one end of our beautiful country, to the other. I didn’t really know where to start; which route should I take? Which hotels should I stay at? Do I pay for these in advance? How many hours should I drive a day? Are there areas to avoid?

I had consulted with a few friends and family members who had made the trip, to gather some information and make notes. Everyone’s advice differed slightly but there were some common themes that I picked up on and ones I learned myself as my journey concluded. Here I will try to share some tips and observations if you plan on making the trip yourself someday or are considering it. My trip began in Kicking Horse, British Columbia and ended in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We drove from one coast to another.

  1. You basically have two main routes you can choose from; driving through the US part of the way or staying in Canada for the entire journey. We opted for the latter because we had a truck that was filled with items we were moving. We didn’t want to experience any delays or problems at the border, so we played it safe and stayed in Canada.
  2. Decide how many hours you would like to drive in one day, this will help you plan your route. We decided that 8 to 9 hours a day would be enough. We were not in a huge rush but we did not have time to waste either. I found this pace to be a good one. It allowed us enough time to cover good ground each day but it also allowed us some time to stop at roadside attractions. It also allowed some room for delays caused by construction and let me tell you, there was a TON of it.
  3. In advance of your trip, map out your route and decide which cities you will be stopping in. We decided on the following route, which accounted for 8 to 9 hours of driving per day (except for Ottawa to Quebec City, we wanted to spend extra time there). We stopped in each one of these cities for the night: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Sault-Ste-Marie, Ottawa, Quebec City and Halifax.
  4. Although we planned to drive 8 to 9 hours a day, often times we would hit some pretty heavy construction that caused significant delays. By the time we stopped for food, bio breaks, city traffic, construction and other miscellaneous time suckers, our time from destination to destination to was approximately 10-11 hours.
  5. Use popular travel tools such as Expedia to compare hotels prices a couple of days before each stay. A friend of mine warned that although roadside motels appeared cheaper, it was really worth the extra $20 or $30 a night to pay for a nicer hotel. Most of the nights we paid approximately $70 to $90 a night and had no issues at any hotel. Do your research and read reviews.  Try to choose hotels that are closer to a highway so that you waste less time driving in heavy city traffic.
  6. Gas up whenever your tank gets to half empty. We were stuck in some very heavy traffic at certain points due to construction and we were not sure where the next gas station was located. Several vehicles were parked on the side of the road as they had run out of gas waiting. Don’t let this happen to you, gas up at half.
  7. Most of us have smart phones nowadays and like to rely on our phone maps for navigation. While this is a great tool, be sure to bring a backup such as a GPS device. There were times where we had no cellular signal and therefore were not able to rely on our phones. We did not encounter any instance when both our cell signal and GPS satellite were not responding.
  8. Hit the road early each day, I suggest leaving no later than 7 AM or 8 AM. This avoids rushing at the end of the day and also maximizes your time in the event you want to stop for attractions.
  9. If you’re not a satellite radio subscriber, invest in this! This provided us with hours of nonstop music, sports broadcasts, comedy skits and news channels.
  10. Download games on your phone to play with the person accompanying you on your trip. Driving gets incredibly boring and playing some trivia games or Family Feud was a good distraction.
  11. If you see something along your drive that you’d like to stop and check out, take the time to do it.  There are a lot of small towns and cities along the way and the drive is a lot more satisfying when you feel like you got to sight see during the long hours on the road.
  12. Always have water on hand and an energy drink if you start to get sleepy!  Don’t push it if you’re tired, switch spots with your passenger to break up the drive.

Overall I found this trip was an experience of a lifetime and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I was dreading the long drive initially but I really didn’t find the driving that long.  I enjoyed the trip and made the most of it.  Be safe and have fun on your journey!

– MJ

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