Fall Road Trip To Western Canada

Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

Planning Our Fall Road Trip To Western Canada

We are finalizing the plan for our fall road trip to Western Canada. This was our second big road trip in 2021.  The plan changed several times due to evolving local conditions in the provinces in Canada we will visit.

Our road trip in Eastern Canada was a great success. It was a great practice run and refreshed the tips about road tripping that helped our plan for this trip. It was awesome to finally travel after we stayed close to home for so long.

We are so excited about the chance to finally see two of our children on the west coast after almost 2 years. That is the driving force for this trip.

We also have British Columbia (BC) on the short list of places we might move to. So part of this trip will be looking at the real estate opportunities and living conditions in different parts of BC. You know that an extended stay in Portugal or living like a local in Bahamas are the other two on our short list!

The road trip west is a longer drive and we plan to be away for about 2 months. But we are conscious that things may change along the way and have contingency plans in place for a hasty exit.

Choosing To Road Trip To Western Canada

When we started to talk about a visit to Western Canada, we considered several travel mode options. I travelled by train a long time ago from Toronto to Vancouver. So we checked out the Via Rail train for this trip west. That trip could even have included an awesome luxury trip on the Rocky Mountaineer. The train trip even without the high cost of the Rocky Mountaineer was high. And we still needed transportation in BC and travel home.

Via Rail.jpg

In the past we flew to British Columbia and then rented a car to road trip around BC. So far we have not yet travelled by airplane since the pandemic set in.

Vancouver From the Air.jpg

But the biggest issue with both flying and train travel was the cost and lack of availability of rental cars in BC. We finally decided it made far more sense to have our own car and road trip to Western Canada.

Travelling Across The County

This was not the first time we planned a cross-country road trip. The first time we headed south and drove through the U.S. from Toronto to Vancouver. The scenery was better and it was much cheaper. When we returned that year in the winter, we took a route a little more south and avoided winter driving.

For this road trip to Western Canada, we don’t have the option to drive through the U.S. The border going south is still closed due to Covid-19. So our route to Vancouver from Toronto will go entirely through Canada.

Route Plan - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

Our route back home is still undetermined at this time. If the U.S. border is open to us, we may head south and drive back. But the pandemic situation in the U.S. will also be factored into that decision. If we can’t drive home through the U.S., the timing for our trip home will be determined to avoid winter driving conditions.

There were many ways to travel between Toronto and Vancouver. And stops that made each path unique.

Planning For An Early Exit Contingency

We travelled to Eastern Canada just as borders opened after long Covid-19 closures. The infection numbers were low. And most provinces had stringent entry requirements. We felt pretty safe travelling. But were still over-cautious and stayed safe.

This trip to Western Canada feels far less safe. The Covid-19 numbers are rising across the county and are worse in the western provinces. Our double vaccinations provide a little safety but we know that extra precautions will still be required. Especially in provinces like Alberta that dropped all pandemic precautions.

All of our hotel reservations were booked cancellable. It was worth the small increase in price to allow us to make changes or cancel when we needed to. Unfortunately AirBnb cancellation terms were onerous and if we really needed to abandon our plan, we lose a lot of money on those reservations. We figure the most likely early return home should be after our last AirBnb booking.

We only booked reservations before we left as far as Victoria on Vancouver Island. As the trip proceeds we will determine how much longer we want to stay, what places we still want to add to our agenda and our route home. At that time we will book the return travel accommodations.

On our road trip to Western Canada, we booked our travel plans with contingencies for an early exit. But sure hope we don’t have to do that!

Great Variety In Accommodations On Our Road Trip To Western Canada

As we planned for our road trip through Eastern Canada, we planned a wide variety of accommodations for this trip to Western Canada. We continue to maximize our hotel stays in Marriott Bonvoy properties. We have Ambassador Elite status with Marriott and there are great rewards for loyalty!

Free breakfast makes the start of day so much easier. We had some of the most amazing suite upgrades on our 4 days in St John’s Newfoundland, on our stay in Prince Edward Island and again on our road trip stop in Moncton New Brunswick. Many times we wished we stayed much longer! We sure hope the stays in hotels in Western Canada are equally as amazing!

Delta Moncton Penthouse Suite.jpg
Delta Moncton Penthouse Suite.jpg

Our Marriott hotel stays were booked in a wide range of properties. In most of the places we stopped, we had at least one Marriott option. In larger cities like Vancouver, we had some amazing choices. Hotel stops in basic brands with limited facilities were used when this was the only choice or we had a very quick stop planned. But we also booked some pampering hotels occasionally as treats.

On several stops on Vancouver Island, there were no Marriott options. We initially considered AirBnb properties. But the very restrictive cancellation terms made changing plans far too expensive. So instead we chose some great local boutique options for our stays.

We planned two AirBnb longer stays in Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast in BC that provided us with space and cooking facilities to enjoy time with our two kids. If restaurant shutdowns happened during our long stay in BC on this trip, we may even consider cancelling hotel bookings for new AibBnb reservations. It was nice to know we had some options if travel restrictions increased during our trip.

On our road trip to Western Canada, our accommodation bookings were all over the board and offered a great variety.

We Will Travel Around British Columba By Ferry

On our recent road trip in Eastern Canada, we used ferries for a wide variety of water crossings. We even took the day day ferry to Newfoundland and then returned on an overnight ferry. The ferries added and interesting dimension to our travels.

On our road trip to Western Canada, we have several BC Ferry trips planned. On our visit to the Sunshine Coast, our first ferry takes us from Horseshoe Bay. Even though the Sunshine Coast was not an island, there were no real road options to get to this part of BC.

Horseshoe Bay BC Ferries - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

Our second ferry trip takes us north on the Sunshine Coast from Horseshoe Bay to Gibsons. And then to get to Vancouver Island, we cross on the ferry from Powell River to Comox. This puts us north on Vancouver Island for our stay in the Comox Valley area.

BC Ferry Routes.jpg
From BC Ferries Website

To return to the mainland from Vancouver Island we have three options for ferry routes. If we leave from Victoria, there is a ferry that lands at Tsawwassen. We travelled this route when we last visited Vancouver Island. There is also another ferry service that we travelled before from Nanaimo mid-island to Tsawwassen or another back to Horseshoe Bay. Whales and Mount Baker are just some of the sights on this route.

BC Ferry Routes.jpg
From BC Ferries Website
BC Ferries and Mt Baker - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

On Vancouver Island there are many smaller ferries to the islands offshore. We may even take one or more of these for a fun day trip one day. If we wanted to head further north in BC, we could even take the North Coast ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. This would be similar trip to our inside passage trip on our cruise to Alaska.

BC Inside Passage.jpg

And if we decide to travel home through the U.S., we could even take the ferry from Victoria and visit Seattle.

Victoria Clipper to Seattle.jpg

So many great ferry routes on our road trip to Western Canada.

The Long Trip Through Ontario

Many years ago I travelled to Western Canada by train. And I remember it took forever before we finally left Ontario.

Leaving Toronto, on our first day of travel we head to Sault Ste Marie. We had a great visit to Sault Ste Marie last year in the fall and return to the Delta Sault Ste Marie on the waterfront.

Sault Ste Marie - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

It is a very long drive from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay. On our last visit to Sault Ste Marie, we enjoyed several of the great waterfalls in the area. But we missed a few. So on our travel day to Thunder Bay, we plan to stop at Magpie River Falls in Wawa for quick views of these great northern Ontario sights.

Sault Ste Marie Crystal Falls - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

Our one night stop in Thunder Bay is at the Delta Thunder Bay. The hotel is right on the shore of Lake Superior. Even though it is a short stop, we wanted the chance to enjoy these Great Lake views.

It takes us two full days of driving to leave our home province of Ontario on our road trip to Western Canada.

Through The Prairies

From Thunder Bay it is a full day drive to Winnipeg in Manitoba. By this time we know we will need a break from driving. So we have two nights planned in the Winnipeg Delta. Located in the downtown area, this allows us to wander and see the sights in Winnipeg and walk off the stiff muscles from driving. And let us relax just a little!

From Winnipeg we have another full day of driving to Regina in Saskatchewan. We are again stopping for two nights in Regina. The Hotel Saskatchewan is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection and should be an interesting hotel stop on our trip across the county.

All I remember of my train trip though the prairies is vast open fields and horizons that go on forever. Even on our road trip to Vancouver through the U.S. the same images of travel through the prairies greeted us.

Prairies View - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

We are glad we booked two night stops on our travel through the prairies on our road trip to Western Canada. We have a little time to enjoy some new cities. And get a break from driving.

A Fast Run Through Alberta

We were so worried about travel in Alberta that we dropped our plan to spend 7 days in the province on our trip west. There was now only a one night stop to break up the driving only. We contemplated several options for hotel stays in Alberta. But we finally decided to stay out of the city and booked the Element Hotel by the Calgary airport.

We have a very long driving day from Regina so we wanted to stop before we hit the city. And from there it was a quick drive to the British Columbia (BC) border.

If things are better in Alberta later in the fall, maybe we will spend more time there on the trip home.

Two AirBnb Stops In British Columbia

On our visit to BC, we booked two longer stays in AirBnb properties. The first stay is in Port Moody just outside of Vancouver. And the second is on the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver in Sechelt. Both stays give us more space and cooking facilities to spend time with our two kids on the west coast. And for the great Gypsy dog to play!

Fort Langley.jpg
Gypsy Dog.jpg

We stayed in AirBnb properties in Port Moody on previous visits to Vancouver. It was a nice break from hotel living. And we got some great home cooked meals!

BBQ Smoker.jpg
BBQ Smoker.jpg

On our last road trip around BC, we visited the Sunshine Coast for one day. It was a lovely day outing. And put the Sunshine Coast on our list of possible places to live. Our AirBnb stay on the Sunshine Coast in Sechelt will give us the chance to live a bit like a local and assess the area.

Sunshine CoastEgmont Harbour - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

Two AirBnb stops in BC will let us settle in for longer stays on our road trip to Western Canada.

Pampering Stays In The Vancouver Area

While it will be nice to have space and cooking facilities on some stays in BC, we wanted a little pampering too. So some of our stays are in more luxury hotels.

We had great customer service experiences on our stays at the JW Marriott Muskoka resort. So on this stay in Vancouver, we chose this brand and booked a longer stay at the JW Parq Hotel. This hotel is located a bit out of the downtown area but close to the False Creek area we enjoyed so much on a longer stay in Vancouver one year. We look forward to another great experience exploring Vancouver around the water in False Creek.

False Creek Views - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

For a change of scenery, we are booked for 3 nights into the Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler. We enjoyed Whistler in off-season before. And are building a full list of things to do in the Whistler area for this trip.

Whistler Off Season - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

On our road trip to Western Canada we figured we deserved a few pampering stops.

Travelling North To South On Vancouver Island

We start our visit to Vancouver Island in the Comox and Courtenay area. For this stop we are booked into the Old House Hotel & Spa on the Courtenay River. On our last visit to Courtney, we explored the area and had an amazing wildlife and whale watching experience out of Campbell River. We are sure to find some great outdoor fun on this return visit to the Comox Valley.

Whale Watching Campbell River - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

From Courtenay we head south to the Parksville area outside of Nanaimo. Our stay is booked in the Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Resort. We stayed in this great property on other visits to Vancouver Island. We have a great ocean view and will be sure to enjoy the onsite spa facilities again.

Tigh Na Mara Resort - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

The final stay we booked on Vancouver Island is a return visit to the Westin Bear Mountain Resort just outside of Victoria. We debated staying in Victoria or outside of the city. But knew was Victoria was an easy day trip. On our last visit, we enjoyed the harboufront and even had Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress.

Victoria Fairmont Empress Afternoon Tea - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg

We stayed at the lovely Bear Mountain Resort on our last visit to Vancouver Island. We know the views are awesome and the onside facilities are good. It was always great to return to places you enjoyed in the past.

Victoria Westin Bear Mountain Resort - Planning Fall Road Trip To Western Canada.jpg
Victoria Westin Bear Mountain Resort.jpg

After we explore the Malahat area our stay in the Victoria area, we have no more accommodations booked yet. Who knows how long we might enjoy Vancouver Island?

A Great Road Trip To Western Canada

We have another awesome road trip to Western Canada planned. The trip to British Columbia takes us through various Canadian provinces. The return trip is still to be determined.

We have great stops booked in a variety of accommodations and for varying durations. The stops allow us to visit with family, enjoy local sights, relax for some vacation time and even consider spots for future re-location.

But our trip was planned knowing that we will be take pandemic precautions seriously as we travel. We won’t let our guard down. And we built many contingencies into our plan to escape to home early if required. But we really hope we have a long and safe trip west!

Have you done a road trip to Western Canada? Any tips for us?

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  1. The road trip in Canada must surely be a dream road trip. With such spectacular landscapes, snow capped mountains, it will be amazing to take that road trip. Also I want to see those amazing whales up close. Taking the ferry around British Columba will also be amazing. So exciting to see this part of the world.

  2. I traveled by train through Europe years ago, but would love to do it again. It seems like Western Canada would be a great place for this since it is definitely too far for me to do a road trip there.

  3. What an incredibly comprehensive post on a road trip through Canada. I love seeing the train on the first picture since I had to travel by public transport. If I could I’d pack my bags right away and to on this trip. The sceneries look so soothing and serene – something I could really use after this crazy summer.
    Hope you can enjoy your autumn to the max! 🙂

    • There are definitely options for train travel in Canada for some routes. But not as extensive as we found in Europe. And sadly so many bus companies are no longer running. We are excited about this road trip to Western Canada. And the ability to finally see our kids!

    • Hi Hilary, We have enjoyed doing road trips close to home and broader in Canada. It was a very very long lockdown in Toronto and we were climbing the walls. One day we will see you again at sea!

  4. Canada is one of those countries that we fall in love with everytime we see other people’s travel post! Smart of you to take your car, the freedom of movement and knowing you will always have reliable conveyance! The weather looks like it was aamazing, really allowing you to make the most of all your stops. Next spring Canada is for sure on our bucket list!

  5. This looks like a wonderful trip to Western Canada! I absolutely love British Columbia in fall: beautiful scenery and gorgeous fall foliage. I’m sure this trip took a lot of planning, but the more you put into it the better chances of having a perfect trip. We’ve never been to Whistler, so I’d love to visit that too.

    • Much like our Eastern Canada road trip plan, we re-did the route, stops and timing a few times as things changed. But we have tried to build the plan as flexible as possible to have contingency. But we are so excited to be heading to Western Canada this fall.

  6. It seems you thought it all through! I am sure it will be a fantastic trip! I am always a bit reluctant to do that much advance bookings. But then sometimes I have to stay in not so favorable places because the better ones are fully booked. I envy you for the whale watching. We have just been on a whale watching tour in Iceland and did not spot a single whale….

    • We have had mixed experiences doing whale watching. But we keep going. We have tried to plan this trip with contingency built in. Things are still changing. But looking forward to getting on our way soon.

  7. Road trips are certainly the best way to see a country and this road trip to Western Canada sounds so exciting. The accommodation option looks lovely and so spacious. The food enticing too. Canada is in our plans and probably would include this option when visiting.

  8. Another amazing trip, the route is impressive. I wish you an amazing adventure! I haven’t traveled by rail in Canada yet, but I like the idea, even if it takes more time. I also dream of a cruise. I took the ferry to Vancouver Island several times, and the island impressed me. But, most of all, you were so lucky to see whales up close. They are amazing. I would love to take pictures of them. I would also like to visit Ontario next time.

  9. I’d love to do a road trip around Canada, the scenery looks so amazing. I haven’t really factored the prairies into my vision of Canada, but I bet that’s a really interesting part of the country.

  10. I often hear that Western Canada has a lot of natural beauty and tons of great scenic drives and fall might be the ideal time to visit. Now I read this post describing a great journey. You’re lucky with the Airbnb properties you found and stayed in!

  11. I’m very upset with myself that I still haven’t travelled through most of Canada despite being from Ontario. I would love to do a cross-country road trip like this. I like your choice of hotel stays too!

  12. This looks like an amazing journey. Wow! And all the unknown circumstances you dealt with I guess worked out. Vancouver Island and whale watching. I tried that years ago and just missed a whale pod. Nice to see you did it successfully on your last trip!

    • This is the plan for our coming trip. So it will be interesting to see what changes we will make along the way. We have built enough contingency to be able to adjust as things change.

  13. This looks like an amazing trip, and it seems you guys had good time. Mariott services are good and exhaustive. Booking them is a sure shot way to enjoy holiday. I want to travel to that side, let’s hope after pandemic ends. The whale show looks fun.

  14. Fall came to the North so fast. This morning, we had only 3˚C (37 °F) in Lithuania! Haha. Anyway, the season is so colorful and romantic. Without a doubt, I would like to take a road trip to Western Canada in the fall.

  15. This is such an epic trip. The one for the ages. Vancouver is the place that intrigued me the most in Canada. Very informative and insightful. Nicely captured pictures.

  16. This road trip looks incredible! I’ve been to the east coast of Canada but never the west coast, I’d love to explore it! The waterfalls look amazing…what a wonderful sight! Thanks for the great guide!

  17. I always enjoy your posts. I would love to visit PEI, New Brunswick, etc. Growing up in Southern Alberta, I didn’t get much further East than Alberta. Would really love to explore Canada more so this is a great post for reference.

  18. WOW! What a trip! I have not visited Canada yet! It seems to be an awesome experience. Thanks for detailed information and beautiful pictures!

  19. Sounds like an awesome trip!! The umbrella shot is so fun, and the whale is AWESOME! Hopefully one of these day US citizens will be able to come back and visit so we can enjoy a trip like yours.

    • We are very excited about our coming road trip to Western Canada. We have had great trips in the past and are sure that we will find so many new fun experiences on this new trip. Hope you get to visit one day.

  20. Knowing from experience I would highly recommend this road trip. A few summers ago my family and I flew to Seattle then drove up to Vancouver and whistler! Such an amazing trip with unforgettable experiences. Vancouver was definitely my favorite part, everyone there was so friendly!

  21. This would be such a fantastic road trip. I agree with planning to get breakfast included with as much accommodation as you can. It’s one less thing to think about and everyone is always happy with a good, full tummy for the start of the day. There are so many things here I’d love to experience, like the waterfalls at Thunder Bay and checking out Vancouver city.

  22. This is an epic road trip. So many interesting stops along the way, most i’ve never heard of! I like just 20 minutes away from the ambassador bridge, and we have been patiently waiting for the borders to open so we can explore more of Ontario. Thanks for the tips for future adventures!

  23. A cross country road trip in Canada during fall must be full with spectacular views. I haven’t been to Canada yet and my dream is to do the road trip from east to west or vice versa. I hope your fall road trip to western Canada will go well.

  24. That’s one big road trip but you have it very well planned. It’s great to see the photos from your Vancouver stops. They take me back to a much-loved trip many years ago. I would love to replicate your drive.

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