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I love road trips. Maybe it’s part of being Canadian and our collective unconscious, or perhaps it’s just me. To me, nothing says travel and summer like going on a road trip across Canada. I grew up on road trips, driving around Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. I’ve road tripped out east in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. In 2013 I drove by myself from Calgary to Toronto. I drove across four provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario) for a distance of about 3400 km or 2112 miles.
Here are some reasons why you should take a road trip across Canada (preferably this summer or in early fall when the weather is beautiful).
Why Road Trip Across Canada? You Decide
When you fly or take the train, there’s usually only one route you take. Sure, you might have to make an emergency landing somewhere (like if there’s a medical issue), but mostly you’re getting from point A to point B. It’s okay, but it’s also a bit boring. Often travel is more about the journey than the destination, and no more is this more apparent than with road trips. You can change your route, spend more time in one place, less time in elsewhere. When you’re on a plane or train, you don’t get to choose the route you take or the pace in which you can travel. When you’re on a road trip, you have more freedom and more choice.
Some of my best road trip memories came from taking detours and other routes. Whether it’s seeing the Icefield Parkway in Alberta or detouring to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (yes that’s the town’s name) instead of taking the usual route I do when visiting my family in Saskatchewan detours are what make memories, and road trips special.
You See More
One thing I love about road trips is stopping at cheesy tourist attractions. If it says the “world’s biggest” or “world’s smallest” then I’m there. People miss seeing these quirky attractions, small towns, and beautiful landscapes when they fly. Even taking the train, while you might see some (not all) of these sites out the window, you can’t get out and see them up close.
One reason why I went on my big road trip in 2013 was to see more of my own country. I’d never been to Manitoba or Ontario (well aside from Toronto) before that point. Granted I didn’t spend much time in Manitoba and only spent one night in Winnipeg, but it seemed like an underrated city and one I’d like to visit again. In Ontario, I was awestruck on the drive along Lake Superior (from Wawa Ontario to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario). Lake Superior is so big (the biggest of The Great Lakes) that it felt like driving along the ocean.
You Can Do More
It’s great to see landscapes and new places up close from a car window, instead of seeing it as a quilt patch from the sky. Road trips are also great because you can stop and explore what you want and when you want. You might be limited by time and by your budget, but you can usually do a lot more on a road trip than you can with any other type of travel.
When I was on my epic road trip, I made sure to stop at The Hoito in Thunder Bay, Ontario for Finnish pancakes (so yummy). I was able to spend an hour at The Forks in Winnipeg, and I could stop at Wolseley, Saskatchewan to stretch and see an opera house. It might take longer to get there, but all those stops and detours are what make the journey.
With a road trip it’s about the journey, and not just about the final destination. You’re not waiting for luggage or waiting in an airport or train terminal. You’re in transit and continuously seeing something new. Whether you take a big road trip or a small local road trip, and whether you travel alone or with others a road trip is a perfect way to see Canada.
Tips for Your Road Trip
Get your vehicle inspected to make sure it’s roadworthy before you go on your road trip. Having a vehicle emergency kit (available at stores like Walmart and Canadian Tire) can be useful. You should have a spare tire and jack in your vehicle. Alternately a CAA membership can be helpful if you can’t change a spare tire. If you’re renting a car, then you should check to see if they offer any roadside assistance. Are you driving in the winter? Make sure you have winter tires. If you are driving in the mountains check to see if you need snow chains (usually for winter/spring).
Canada is a big country and depending on where you are there could be a considerable distance between towns and rest stops/gas stations. Check Google Maps or Travel Math to see the distance from one town to another. Travel Math can also help you calculate how much your road trip will cost. Make sure your gas tank is at least half full. Carry a jerry can of gas if you are driving somewhere sparsely populated.
Pack a little cooler with healthy snacks (like fruit, and veggies and hummus), water, and bring some nuts, granola/trail mix. Bring some music. I also suggest listening to podcasts to keep you entertained on your drive.
Would you go on a Canadian Road trip?