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Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

Sydney
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Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

I’ve received some conflicting advice on this from a couple of friends and I’m hoping for some clarity from the experts on this forum.

A Canadian friend has helped me organise a five-week itinerary covering the major cities in the east and then finishing in Vancouver with a drive through to Banff, via Jasper, and then back to Vancouver through the Okanagan. He strongly advocates driving this journey and says that Canadians would not usually bother taking the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff because it won’t stop when you see something good - a car gives you more freedom.

My Australian travel agent, who has worked with me a long time and who I also trust, has booked many people on the Rocky Mountaineer and says that one problem with driving is that, as the driver, I will miss a fair bit because I will be concentrating on driving. She has suggested taking the Rocky Mountaineer and then picking up a car in Banff for the drive back to Vancouver through the Okanagan. That sounds like “the best of both worlds” to me, but despite putting this to my Canadian friend on several occasions he is adamant that I should avoid the train!

All good advice will be gratefully received. :)

seattle
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1. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

I'm a tour guide who has done the RM train at least 35 times. Its a very nice experience. You might want to price the one way drop fee for the car which is a big cost factor. If you look on the Alberta forum and search for Rocky Mtnr you will see many recent discussions about this. While you can drive you will also see a lot via car, however the train follows the Thompson and Frasier river and goes places the car would not. I do think train one way and drive the other will give you the best of both worlds.

May I suggest you look at the website for Scenic Tours and look at their itineraries that do the train then drive the other for some routing ideas. If you can afford it its a nice splurge however as others have pointed out for the co+st of the RM you could add an Alaskan Cruise for a little bit more.

Jasper, Canada
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for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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2. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

The Rocky Mountaineer is heavily promoted in overseas markets like the UK and Australia, and not so much here in Canada. It's also true that we Canadian are quite attached to our cars, and many people probably prefer touring by car, unless they are train buffs. There is also the VIA Rail's "Canadian" train, which is not as luxurious as the Rocky, but at less cost, which is probably more well-known to Canadians (service to Jasper only, though, not to Banff).

Your travel agent does have a point about the driver missing some of the sights, but if you both take turns driving, both have a chance for sightseeing. I also wonder whether the commission your agent would earn from RMRT may slightly encourage their enthusiasm for the trip - ? However, it's true, they are two different trips and the question is which one is right for you? The train is more relaxing... sit back and watch the scenery as the train rolls by vs. driving which gives more freedom, but is more effort, driving and navigating (and the decision about where to go, when you can set your own itinerary).

Edited: 07 April 2011, 00:46
Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

Here's my two bits, even though I don't know how much time you have to give to the Rockies and Vancouver.

Fly back to Calgary and rent a car.

1 night possibly, depending on your flight time, in Calgary near the airport. Rent a car.

3-4 nights Banff

3 nights Jasper

1 night back in Banff because it's a long drive from Jasper to Revelstoke. This would give you the opportunity to do the Icefields Parkway twice, definitely not a bad thing. Take a good long time to explore the IP even though it is only about 4 hours to drive.

1 night in Revelstoke

1 night in Osoyoos

x nights in Vancouver, fly home. 3 nights would be good.

Calgary - Banff: 2 hours drive

Banff - Jasper: ~4 hours drive

Jasper - Banff: the same

Banff - Revelstoke: ~4 hours drive

Revelstoke - Osoyoos: ~4 hours drive

Osoyoos - Vancouver 5-6 hours drive.

I believe that legs of this length would give you the opportunity to not tire out, to stop to see plenty, rest if necessary and really enjoy the flexibility of a self drive.

For exploring what's in Revelstoke and Osoyoos (the Thompson Okanagan region) have a look on

www.hellobc.com

for helpful information.

Calgary
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4. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

If you can afford to take the train one way and drive the other then I think it's a great idea! You get to see two very different perspectives.

Port Moody, Canada
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5. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

One way drop charges do not have to be high if you can get to Calgary and rent there.......the Vancouver/Calgary corridor is well travelled and one way rentals are frequent enough that many companies do not do drop charges.

I've not done the RM but have done Via train to Jasper. I'd vote for the car because you have the opportunity to stop whenever and where ever you want. I'd put the RM money into nicer accommodation or some tours or meals.....

sounds like your friend has you driving up hwy 5 past Wells Grey Park , Mt Robson and on to Jasper then down to Banff then back through Okanagan.. which is an excellent route that will give you diverse scenery.

Vancouver, Canada
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6. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

I think all of the advice you have received is accurate and valid. I'm afraid you will just have to decide what works for you. Weigh the pros and cons and then go with your gut. Either trip would be lovely.

Hull
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7. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

Firstly, all the above is good advice (as #6) and i wouldn't presume to second guess any of it. This is just a suggestion:

I think you'll know you've been touring for 4 weeks by the time you hit the Rockies; a train ride would be more relaxing and a change. If I understand you, you're flying into YVR, and then out of there home. Like Mufti, I suggest you fly into Calgary, rent a car, drive the Banff area (incl Revelstoke), Icefields Parkway to Jasper but then take the Via Rail 'Skeena' to Prince Rupert, flying back to Vancouver (try to sit left side on the later service to see coast in evening light).

Skeena is a 2 day roll through 1100km of unspoilt scenery and roughly, you get the = RM GL viewing opportunities and the RM RL food standard for the RL cost. Downside- you miss the Southern BC drive, unless you do some of it from Vancouver when you get there, also O/W drop fee of c$200? As RM, Skeena slows for views (esp Mt Robson) and for any trackside bears the driver spots. It also stops for non tourists to alight, as it runs to a timetable like a normal rail service. Overnight at P George- you must book the hotel!

Of course if you feel the RM GL is the standard you want, then the choice is made. Your friend must have his reasons for dissuading you from RM, but obviously he should tell you?

Endorse all in that the Rockies are your, and anyone's top priority- try to allow at least Mufti's timescale there.

Port Moody, Canada
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8. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

While ATSF has given you an interesting option with a rail trip link you should definitely check drop charges if you plan to leave the car in Jasper. there are not as many rental agencies there and I seem to

remember there being hefty charges for a pick up there that was going to be dropped in Calgary...just a consideration.

Hull
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9. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

Maybe it was my experience, traveller47 of the drop fee? I was charged C$200 for Jasper to Calgary for an Impala class car. Hertz and National have offices right on the station and I'd use them direct rather than through an agent. If you do, the O/W drop will come up at booking, but start with a YYC/YYC enquiry and then change to YYC/Jasper to see the increase.

I think Hertz Calgary keeps cars in a 'dark' area, so a torch would be good to check for damage before it's too late!

Port Moody, Canada
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10. Re: Drive Vancouver to Banff or take Rocky Mountaineer?

You definitely would have a one way drop fee between Jasper and Calgary. There's been lots of discussion on the BC and Alberta forums over the years about drop fees province to province. The exception would seem to be the one way route between Vancouver and Calgary ( or vice versa). It is so popular that there are many companies that don't have a drop fee for this route because of the competition.

Renting from a broker can often be much cheaper than renting direct from a company.. really depends on your personal experience and comfort level with broker. For example when travelling in Europe I've rented through nova car several times.. and gotten a much better rate than going direct to rental companies.. no hard and fast rule on car rental anywhere.. except to have your camera handy and take lots of pics of the car before you drive it off!!