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Backpacking across Canada with Kids

Geraldton, Western...
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Backpacking across Canada with Kids

We are in the early stages of planning our Canada tour 2013.

We are an adventurous active family of 4. Kids will be 9 and 10 at travel time. We would like to travel across Canada... maybe fly into Toronto and out of Vancouver. We love the train system and may take full use of this if we can on a budget? We can come for 2-3 months. Has any other families done this kind of thing? Backpacking with kids across Canada from Niagara, Rockies to Alaska?

We love nature travel and wildlife. Maybe a snowboard too.

Are we right in thinking Aug/Sept/Oct are the best months for what we would like to see? Seems to be conflicting advice for timing.

Wendy and family...

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

The train would be a nice way to go, but it is restrictive. A limited schedule and only one route across the country. You might want to take a close look at where the train stops and how many days you would have to spend there before the next train comes through, and what you will do with the intervening time. You would probably have to combine modes of travel - train for the longer legs and then bus or short term car hire within those hubs.

October will still be too early for skiing I'm afraid, but for most of Canada, you don't want to be much later than mid-Sept. You might also want to check when the bugs are bad in Ontario. I think they get very bad in the late summer, so August and early Sept.

http://www.nfb.ca/film/blackfly/

Honestly, if I was planning a trip like this (and I do like the prairies, but they do go on and on and on), I would EITHER go from Toronto east, through Quebec and the Atlantic provinces OR I would start in LA and make my way up the coast.

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

Welcome to the forums, Wendy.

I think you could fly into Toronto and out of Vancouver easily enough. And Aug/Sept/Oct would be okay, except for the Rockies which has winter coming in earlier than other parts of Canada. Only because Banff and Jasper are at about 1400 m and 1000 m respectively with the rest of the Rockies higher than that. So if you keep to that time frame, then starting from the west and finishing in Ontario might be worth considering.

"from Niagara, Rockies to Alaska" is a statement that invites me to say check your geography. Alaska is a long way from the Rockies and from Vancouver. I would think that would be a trip to the USA that would require some time, say 2-3 weeks as getting around Alaska involves big distances and time.

The distance from Toronto to Vancouver, through Canada, is about 4300 km. The distance from Vancouver to Anchorage, Alaska is about 3500 km. No train, only car or plane.

I think it might be worthwhile to think of such a Canadian rail trip along the same lines as taking the Indian Pacific across to Sydney. Where would you stop, i.e. how small a city would you want to choose, how would you get around when you did stop, what would you do for 3 days until the next train came through, how much time would you be willing to spend limited to rail cars on tracks.

I would suggest something like this.

±1 month for the western half of Canada. Vancouver, Vancouver Island (you would need a car for VI), the Rockies, to Winnipeg. 2 weeks split between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Take VIA Rail's The Canadian from Vancouver to Jasper, visit the Rockies for 8 nights or so. Continue from Jasper on the train through Edmonton, Saskatoon, to Winnipeg, with 3 night visits in each if desired. Unfortunately, the train would have you miss Calgary, Drumheller and Regina, the latter being settled in the Qu'Appelle Valley. Drumheller has the Royal Tyrell Museum (dinosaurs) - http://www.tyrrellmuseum.com/

Fly from Winnipeg to a major city back east. Toronto or Montréal.

±1 month in southern Ontario and Québec: Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Québec City, even the Charlesvoix region east of Québec City. Lots of trains and coach service there as they have the population base to warrant them. Day travel only though.

You would also want to consider visiting Niagara Falls and perhaps Kingston, and the Thousand Islands near Gananoque [Gan an nock way], but I'm not sure if those are serviced by train, definitely coach and car.

Now to Alaska. You would need to fly there. Anywhere from 3.5 hours to 5.5 hours flying, possibly with a connection in Seattle, Washington. Population is fairly low, relative to cities in the south. Infrastructure is limited, so I believe the roads are functional, connecting the main places. Requires time and making choices. My hunch is to allow two weeks to see the highlights there by car. Anchorage is the main airport but Fairbanks is a destination from the south as well. Your travel would radiate out from one of those cities. Asking on the Alaska Forum would shed some light on your plans there.

Have you thought about the Maritimes: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick? And then there is Newfoundland and Labrador. This could take a chunk of time as well: Fly from Toronto or Montréal to Halifax, NS: 2-3 weeks for NS and PEI, 14 days for Newfoundland. A choice of 6 hours or 14-16 hours by ferry one way from North Sydney, NS to either Argentia or Port-aux-Basques, NL. The Maritimes are a very beautiful part of Canada.

http://www.seat61.com/Canada.htm#.UGCElhigqHk

That's a big trip you've got, and with the right balance of travel styles and destinations, you could have a great time.

SE Ontario
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3. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

The bugs are worse in the early summer through to August in Ontario.

Blackflies basically finished by end of June. Mosquitos July through mid-August ... depends on the weather.

Your time is good - August - September are still prime tourist season, but kids are generally back in school after Labour Day - first Monday in September.

Train service in the Windsor-Quebec corridor is easy.So also is bus service. However if you want to get into the "wilderness" areas such as Algonquin Park and other provincial/national parks in this region, you will need a vehicle.

In the more spectacular areas of northern Ontario you will also likely need to use car or bus. Train service is limited. These areas are the place to go for nature activities, not Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls, etc.

Edited: 24 September 2012, 17:56
Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

Confused a bit with your post. Are you looking to backpack across Canada or carry your clothes in a backpack across Canada?

Jasper, Canada
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5. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

I think they mean "backpacker travelling", i.e. budget travel, as opposed to overnight hiking through wilderness areas carrying all their essentials. Some people use it in a sense to mean something different from the usual tourist-type of holidays, although personally, the distinction is lost on me.

Geraldton, Western...
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6. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

Thank you so much to all of you for your great comments and insights.

Will have a good look at the recommendations and the routes suggested. It is exactly that we needed to get the planning ball rolling... Thanks again xxW

Geraldton, Western...
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7. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

Yes when we say 'backpacking' in Australia it means travelling lighter with a backpack and more budget. Otherwise you do it with a suitcase and hotels.

We are considering doing it more free travel with our clothes in a backpack.

We dont really have 'wilderness hiking' where I come from. You would die in Australia hiking too far.. its too hot and vast in WA where I come from.

Backpacking refers to a traveler who catches the bus or train with a backpack on.

If you are living in the wilderness camping out we call that hiking.

The East coast of Australia would have more hiking.

Thanks again for all your great suggestions and comments. Wendy :-)

Vancouver, Canada
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8. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

You crazy Ozzies! Sloppy Joes..damn you! Ok, so not "hiking" which is what we call "backpacking" especially when you mention Rockies and Alaska.

So, tight budget, yes....it can be done. I did a camping trip across Canada (tighter budget) from Ottawa to Vancouver...brilliant....very very cost effective and fun. If you are up for that, drop me a message and we can get this Canuck party started!

Geraldton, Western...
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9. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

thank you so much... you have been very kind and generous with your detailed reply... xW

Vancouver, Canada
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10. Re: Backpacking across Canada with Kids

Wendy, I hope you will post your questions on the open forum so that others who may be considering a trip like yours in the future will be able to search/read the advice and information you get.

Edited: 26 September 2012, 06:03