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May 7, 2019

10 things to know about a cross-Canada road trip

Have you been dreaming about touring Canada from sea to shining sea? Sounds like an amazing adventure! Before you hit the highway, browse through our tips and favourite ideas for a thrilling and well-thought-out trip.

1. Far and wide, O Canada: take your time!

There are more than 7,500 km between Mile Zero in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Mile Zero in Victoria, British Columbia. So be forewarned: whatever your start and end points, there will be a lot of road to cover. 

Take the time to map out your route to take full advantage of all that Canada has to offer. If a trucker can roll across the country in four or five days with practically no stops, vacationers should plan to take at least two weeks to avoid spending the entire trip on the road. 

Seasoned travellers will recommend a route that takes between three to five weeks for the best experience possible.

2. Planning: less is more

Start researching months in advance. Identify must-see sites and regions that you simply cannot drive past without stopping.

Establish a draft itinerary based on information you gather, but leave enough room between planned stops for unexpected discoveries along the way.

Some campgrounds, as well as provincial and national parks, are fully booked several months in advance. It is definitely a good idea to make reservations early.

Choose accommodations that have a flexible cancellation policy in case you decide to change your plans mid-route.

3. You can road trip even on a fixed budget

How much moolah does it cost to travel across Canada by car? Well, that depends. It is possible to save money by choosing cheaper accommodations instead of booking a hotel room, such as camping, youth hostels or third-party rentals.

You will save a lot by preparing your own food in advance (occasionally or every day on a camping stove before you head out) and keep an endless supply of snacks in the car.

Save room in your budget for activities like visits to national or cultural sites, or even a renowned culinary experience, for gas fill-ups and a rainy-day maintenance fund if your car breaks down or gets a flat tire.

4. You need to be able to rely on your vehicle… and your insurance

While some people may be comfortable cruising along in their clunker, we highly recommend you set off in a vehicle in proper working order. The recipe for your peace of mind: getting a mechanical and tire inspection, ensuring general maintenance is up-to-date, checking fluid levels and being a member of a Canadian roadside assistance service.

Think about increasing your liability insurance coverage. This way, you will be adequately covered in case of physical or material damage you could unintentionally cause to a person or their property that results in a legal claim or action.

5. Travel insurance… do not leave home without it!

Are you aware that your provincial health insurance does not necessarily provide coverage if you experience a health issue in a province other than your own?

Leave nothing to chance and purchase travel insurance to reimburse healthcare and repatriation costs not covered by your public health plan.

6. Highway Safety Code is pretty much the same everywhere

The Highway Safety Code is markedly the same from one province to the next. Turning right on a red light is generally allowed everywhere, except on the Island of Montreal in Quebec. Highway speed limits do vary by province and traffic signs are specific to each province. 

Familiarize yourself with these nuances by doing a bit of research on the official site of the provinces or territories you plan to visit.

7. GPS is your best friend while exploring off the beaten path

As the name suggests, the Trans-Canada Highway passes through all 10 Canadian provinces from one end of the country to the other.

To switch up the view and travel at a slower pace, you may want to explore some secondary roads or even some country roads along the way.

Let GPS be your guide. Consider downloading your itinerary so it is accessible offline as you will pass through areas with no available mobile network.

8. Atlantic must-see: Cabot Trail

Covering 300 km of coastline on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail boasts panoramic ocean views, steep cliffs, lots of wind and hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty. Raw beauty at its finest.

9. Breathtaking: Alberta Badlands

You have to veer off the Trans-Canada just north of Calgary to get there… but the detour to the Badlands is so worth it. Discover this barren landscape that looks right out of a sci-fi flick, with monoliths, cactus and… dinosaur fossils.

There is a reason this is called Big Sky Country. Look up! The sunrises and sunsets are a photographer’s dream and will delight anyone longing to experience Mother Nature’s majestic beauty up close and personal.

10. Following the glacier trail

Highway 93 North or Icefields Parkway snakes through the Rocky Mountains linking Lake Louise to Jasper in Alberta.

With its emerald lakes, glacier-fed waterfalls and snow-capped summits, it is no wonder it has the  reputation of being one of the most stunning routes in the world.