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Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

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Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

Hi all,

My wife and I will be driving from Ottawa to Vancouver this summer, then heading to Tofino. The goal of the trip is the journey...to see Canada. We don't plan on rushing the drive to allow for some exploring, but won't meander forever either. We'd like a week or so in BC, leaving about 7-8 days for the drive. Assuming that makes sense.

We're looking for tips/suggestions from folks who have made the Trans-Canada drive. Tips on must-see stops along the way, great scenic detours, route info, places to stay...anything that is helpful.

We'll be going in early July to coincide with the Calgary Stampede. Other than that, on our must-see list thusfar includes Banff National Park, Lake Louise and Drumheller.

Thanks!

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1. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

Welcome to the forum, Chris ~

Will this journey of 7-8 days include the return to Ottawa? Will you be driving your own car?

Have a look at the following map which shows a one way journey of six days @ approx 9 hours drive a day, stops extra, stopping one night in each location on the way. Then an additional week's time just for BC. It would appear that you would have very little time to do much more than drive. I think you would have a more enjoyable time if you could allow at least 2 weeks for the drive one way. For a return journey, adding time to visit places on the way, you might want to count on 5-6 weeks.

Otherwise, you might like to fly to Calgary, rent a car and tour the Rockies and BC for 5-7 nights, with 1 overnight on the way to the coast, and with a car drop in Vancouver, for 4 nights, which could be done very nicely in 2 weeks. Closer to 3 weeks if you wanted to include Vancouver Island.

This map, when opened, will show you the route, driving distances and times.

http://goo.gl/maps/QIFXs

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2. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

We've been out at far as Regina. I know most people coming from further east travel through the US. Its shorter, and the gas is cheaper, so that's something to consider in one direction anyway.

Vancouver to Tofino is about a 5 hour trip, including the ferry. Make sure to reserve your ferry at least a day or two in advance, as nothing makes a 5 hour journey longer than it needs to be than waiting 5 hours to catch that ferry! To make that journey worthwhile (and it will cost you about $150 in ferry fares) you need to spend at least 3 nights in Tofino.

Sounds really, really tight for time to me, but if you are committed to some very long days in the car in order to get across to the west, then you can slow down a bit once you get here.

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3. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

Thanks for the posts so far!

Yes I should have mentioned that the trip is one way. Drive out to Vancouver, hang around in BC, then fly back. We will be renting a car.

We have a friend who just did the drive in 5-6 days. Mostly driving I believe. I wonder if it's better to nix Tofino and just hang out in Vancouver. That would buy us more time for the drive...making it 10 days or so. The one concern we have had is the cost/time of a ferry to Tofino for what should be a rather short stay. Though the Pacific Rim Highway does sound pretty incredible...

It seems like most of our points of interest are in Alberta (Banff, the Stampede, Drumheller). I imagine the Praries will be all about the drive. Anything else important we are missing? Are Regina and Edmonton even worth much of a glance?

One friend suggested that we fly to Calgary and drive from there, as did a previous post, but for us the great appeal is the drive across the country. Like I said, the journey more than the destination. Ultimately we want to make decent time (we have two weeks off work in total) but want to have the freedom to stop if we see something we like.

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4. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

Have you found a car rental company that will rent you a car affordably for a one-way rental from Ottawa to Vancouver? Just curious, and if you have, please post which company it's with - others who have posted with similar plans in the past have found that the one-way fee is usually too expensive to make it economically feasible.

Seems a shame to come all the way out west and miss the Icefields Parkway drive - National Geographic has designated this one of "Twenty Drives of a Lifetime". One way you could incorportate it into your itinerary is to take the Trans-Canada/Yellowhead #16 route once you get to either Manitoba or Saskatchewan (the quickest way would be to take the TCH #1 to Regina, then detour to Saskatoon to pick up #16 - then on to Edmonton, then Jasper, and then to Lake Louise, Banff and on to Drumheller, before heading to the coast via #3.

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5. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

Having done this drive a number of times, I can say it is long and at times quite tedious. However, if you've never done it before, it is absolutely an adventure and more than worthwhile. The route from Sault Ste. Marie can be quite spectacular in places as you drive around Lake Superior. From Thunder Bay to Manitoba border expect lots of rocks & trees. Once you hit the Manitoba border, the seemingly flat prairie opens up ... if you've not seen it before it is quite amazing. The wide open space is exhilerating I find. if you stick to the Trans-Canada there's no reason to head north to Edmonton, and bear in mind Calgary is much closer to the mountains than Edmonton.

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6. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

Glad to share. The best rental rate I've found thusfar is through Avis. They are offering a standard economy car (Hyundai Accent Sedan or similar) for roughly $1000, taxes, fees etc. included. That's for 14 days from the Ottawa airport to the Vancouver airport. Considering the price of two one-way airline tickets to Vancouver, that isn't bad. Most other places have quoted me around $1500.

The big saver is that I already have comprehensive car rental insurance through my regular car insurance. (TD Insurance). They are charging me $5 a month for car rental coverage - and I can cancel any time - vs. the $25/day that Avis would charge. The coverage and deductible are roughly the same.

As for the journey, my wife is from Sault Ste. Marie so our first night would be there. The second day around Lake Superior to Thunder Bay has some lovely spots (been camping around there). Thunder Bay all the way to Calgary probably won't feature many stops, other than for rest/food etc. Seems like we'll use up more time with a day at the Calgary Stampede, some time at Drumheller, and some time at Banff and/or Jasper National Park.

Two more questions:

how much time does one spend at Drumheller? Is the museum really a must-see? Or are the Badlands really the attraction?

We may include another night stop between Calgary and Vancouver...either in Banff itself or just over the border and past Glacier National Park. That way we aren't rushed. Kamloops or Kelowna seem the most logical choice. Is either one more recommended? Any other places around that area that are even better for a night's rest?

Thanks all! This is quite helpful.

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7. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

I think you will find the car rental costs for the one-way drop charge will be astronomical. Do some research into that before you get too far with this. You may find its much cheaper to fly. Or, as you live in Ottawa, perhaps even purchase and insure a car and then sell it again.

If you can be flexible and a bit spontaneous with your dates, watch this website as we get into the summer:

www.fraserway.com/content.asp…

They will often have RVs that have been rented one way and need to be returned. They give you a specific number of days and a very good rate to get the RV to where they need it next.

(Oops, cross posting. I took a long time to finish that and now I see you have posted again with more details.)

Edited: 08 January 2013, 19:09
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8. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

Ooops, my bad...even though I read and even repeated "Drumheller", I was thinking Lethbridge (well, both are dry places!), hence my comment about highway #3. I still think it is a shame to miss out on the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise though.

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9. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

I did Toronto - Vancouver twice, once in 2001 and again nine years later, but in an RV and iI took a lot longer than you're planning to.

And yes, the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the hoodoos are definitely a must-see.

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10. Re: Driving Ottawa to Vancouver...any tips?

<<how much time does one spend at Drumheller?>>

At least a day

<< Is the museum really a must-see? >>

Yes

<<Or are the Badlands really the attraction?>>

They are both attractions. You should want to spend a half day at the museum and another half day driving south to The Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, http://www.atlascoalmine.ab.ca/ You should take at least one of the tours of the mine and visit the village of East Coulee and the nearby ghost town of Dorothy.

<<Anything else important we are missing?>>

I think so.

<<Are Regina and Edmonton even worth much of a glance?>>

I cannot comment on Edmonton, but I think Regina (Wascana Park and provincial legislature, RCMP museum) and Moose Jaw (the Tunnels, the Western Development Museum) are worth the better part of a day. Although you will probably be running out of time at this point, a bit farther west you should be considering Grasslands National Park, Eastend, Cypress Hills Provincial Parks and Fort Walsh National Historic Site, www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/sk/walsh/index.aspx

For this latter grouping, read "A Geography of Blood:Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape", by Candace Savage.

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