Deciding to Drive From Toronto To Vancouver
We needed to be in Vancouver for an extended stay and we knew the day we needed to be there. While initially assuming that we would fly, with a little lead time to get to Vancouver, David suggested that we drive from Toronto to Vancouver. In May we did the road trip from Toronto to Nova Scotia and back. This would road trip would take us to the other coast.
What do you need to consider when doing this long road trip?
1) What Route To Take When You Drive From Toronto To Vancouver?
When planning the drive from Toronto to Vancouver, the biggest decision to make was whether to drive through Canada, through the U.S. or some combination. When we plugged our start and end point into MapQuest and looked for the fastest route, it offered up a route that started through the U.S. and then came back into Canada. This would have us avoiding the vast wasteland that is Northern Ontario and since neither of us really needed to see that far north, we did not feel we were missing anything.
Before making the final decision to drive through the U.S., we needed to do a quick assessment on the cost difference. The Canadian dollar was really low (about $0.75 exchange rate) which would make all purchases in the U.S. much more. But oil prices were still low, so with gas as one of our biggest expenditures, we needed to see a gas price comparison. There is a great site that provides a direct comparison including the U.S. dollar and U.S. gallon to litre conversion. It was clear that gas costs would be much less if we stayed in the U.S.
This lower gas prices meant we would be looking to stay in the U.S. longer. While initially we were travelling through the midwest USA and crossing into Canada as early as Winnipeg, by the time we left we had decided to hold off the crossing to between Montana and Alberta. We had both travelled across the Canadian Prairies before so wanted to see the U.S. path across the mid-west. As we travelled along we continued to re-assess our crossing point and before we hit the foothills on the way to the west coast we finally decided to wait until we hit the Pacific and head up from Seattle to Vancouver. We had done the trip from Calgary to Vancouver several times so decided we did not need to do that again. But if this is your first time across the country, don’t miss that drive from Calgary to Vancouver, especially if you can take a few extra days and go up the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper. But watch out for wildlife along that route!
2) What Places To Stop Along the Way?
One of the key things to think about when doing the drive from Toronto to Vancouver will be where you will be stopping along the way. This can include both one night rest stops and any extended visits you may want to do.
Having done road trips before, we were planning on doing not more than 8 hrs of driving a day. With this as our daily goal, MapQuest suggested it would take us about 6 days to drive with no major stops or detours. We left Toronto 9 days before we needed to be in Vancouver so we had a bit of room in our schedule.
Weather, traffic and scenic detours would be unpredictable, so we decided to book rooms as we went rather than book the stops in advance for the entire trip. The night before we selected a couple of potential spots that may be our day end point and looked at hotel options. Around mid-day, we would assess the progress we were making for the day and pick a spot to stop that night and decide on the exact spot and hotel to target. With wifi pretty available at lunch stops, we could make the online reservations and be sure we had a hotel. It quickly became apparent that we were not the only people doing this road trip and we realized that we really did not want to be wandering into hotels looking for available rooms. A pre-booked room locked us in but it also reduced the search stress after a long day on the road. Most times we ended up at our end point in time to grab dinner, have a bit of a rest, do the online planning for the next day and crash into bed.
What kind of accommodations do you want as you drive from Toronto to Vancouver? I generally want a 4 star hotel but for this road trip I said that a roadside hotel would be fine for one night. Most nights we picked on the nicer end of roadside hotels although one night I did let David talk me into a true motel.
Is this a long drive or a tourist trip across the country? Do you want to make any longer tourist stops along the way? We did one half day detour to visit Mount Rushmore but did not stay overnight to see more of that part of the country.
Pushing through the first 3 days with one night stops was tiring and I really needed a break, so we stopped and stayed for 2 days in Spokane.
Deciding to arrive right into our Airbnb accommodation in Vancouver, we also stayed for 2 nights in Bellevue outside of Seattle before we crossed the border. We will be driving back to Toronto with no hard date to be back and are planning to do a much more leisurely trip with more planned stops along the way. We will let you know once we start that trip planning!
3) What To Pack In The Car?
Driving would let us take more stuff which may not have been so good for two people who continued to fail “Packing 101”. At one point I even considered taking my coffee machine that I really miss when I am away from home for any length of time. After much debate, we packed food and a cooler but left all appliances but a small smoothy blender behind. We did pack a lot of clothes, mostly because we would be in Vancouver as it moved from summer to fall. And no matter where we go or how we travel, we both travelled with our geek bags full of electronics!
The biggest advantage of deciding to drive from Toronto to Vancouver was that we could take our bicycles. Our friends drove the route in a 1937 chevrolet coupe and although the car looked great, they unfortunately couldn’t take their bikes with them. I’m really glad we bought our bikes though! When we bought our new eBikes, we kept our old bikes not sure what we would do with them. We could now enjoy the bikes in Vancouver and then leave them behind for our son to use after we headed back home to Toronto.
It was a long drive from Toronto to Vancouver!
||4,400 km (2,734 mi)||4,800 km (2,982 mi)||All but 200 of this was in the U.S.|
|Time||48 hours||60 hours||Includes break time (3 coffee, one for lunch and occasional detours)|
Our route took us through 11 states and 2 Canadian Provinces:
|Day 1||Toronto||Rockford, IL||Border cross in Buffalo, NY. Travel NY, PA, OH, IND, IL.||1152 km, 13.0 hrs|
||Rockford, IL||Sioux Falls, SD||Travel IL, IO, MN, SD.||834 km, 9.5 hrs|
||Sioux Falls, SD||Buffalo, WY||Travel SD, WY. Detour to see Mt. Rushmore.||956 km, 11.5 hrs|
||Buffalo, WY||Butte, MT||Travel WY, MT.||625 km, 6.5 hrs|
||Butte, MT||Spokane, WA||Travel MT, WA. 2 night stop.||508 km, 6.0 hrs|
||Spokane, WA||Bellevue, WA||Travel WA. 2 night stop.||468 km, 6.5 hrs|
||Bellevue, WA||Vancouver, BC||Travel WA, BC||257 km, 5.5 hrs|
We had originally thought that if we drove for 6 days, the cost of the drive from Toronto to Vancouver would be about the same as the cost of two one way airline tickets ($1200). Our drive cost us about $2430 although with the drive we got 9 days of travel including accommodations and food (at a lower daily rate than being in Vancouver)! The cost breakdown:
Accommodations $ 1,447 (included 2 nights in Bellevue at a nicer hotel)
We had a fixed date on which we needed to be in Vancouver but we had more than enough time to drive across the country – through the midwest USA and into the foothills before you hit the west coast. We didn’t race along but we probably missed historic, interesting or picturesque spots along the route. We avoided the cities we passed (Chicago, Minneapolis and Seattle). Seattle we can see as a weekend trip from Vancouver and Chicago is on our list for a weekend visit at some point. We were heading to Vancouver and our trip across was viewed mostly as transportation. We had hoped to to do a more relaxed and scenic trip back to Toronto but after a first aborted return trip, our run home in December was fast and straight.
Have you done the drive from Toronto to Vancouver? Have you done another cross country trip? What did we miss? If we head back going a little further South, where should we stop?