The Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway

A little bit behind schedule I know but we’ve been super busy since getting into the States so I’m struggling to keep up! Anyhoo… back to Canada. We spent a total of 6 weeks in British Columbia and Alberta, drove 4797 KM and spent 45 nights resting our heads.

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As part of our trip I wanted to be as transparent as possible about how much it really costs to do this and how we go about our daily lives on the trip. This is done in the hope that someone considering doing the same thing might stumble across this site and see that it really is possible, with a lot of hard work scrimping and saving beforehand! That being said, I understand that a lot of people will think our budget is high for this particular country but it has never been about breaking some backpacker, low-spend record for us. We wanted to experience it in our own way, of course trying to make the pennies last as long as possible but we didn’t want to get home after a year having not seen anything because we were too tight to spend the money.

In preparation for this trip we devised two budgets, 8 months in the expensive countries and 5 months in the considerably cheaper Asia. Our expensive budget is £100 ($155-$160 per day) and the cheaper budget is £40 ($62-65). The good news is that for Canada we are bang on budget. Considering we had to buy our camping gear there and everything in Canada seems ridiculously expensive to our British standards, we think we’ve done pretty well.

 

Canada in summary, because I love a good spreadsheet!

45 days on the road

£100.15 ($160.24) TOTAL per day

£20 ($32.91) per day on food

£36.75 ($58.80) per day on accommodation

£26.30 ($42.08) per day on transport

 

One way we did save was mixing up our accommodation which we have continued to do in the States;

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    • 11 nights in airbnb locations. This has been a life-saver! Yes, it’s annoying paying a 12(ish)% fee to book but the rooms they are so much cheaper than hotels/motels most of the time. The main bonus is the personal contact with the amazing hosts we’ve had, such wonderful people.
    • 9 nights camping. We decided to buy really cheap camping gear for our time in North America and it was a great decision, camping fees have ranged between $15-$30 so the tent paid for itself very quickly.
    • 6 nights in motels. Still one of the cheapest ways to travel here, plus you have the ease of just driving up to your room.
    • 7 nights in hotels. 90% of which were booked with Hotwire. It’s very nerve wracking buying a room in a secret hotel but we’ve not been disappointed yet. Rates are slashed massively and they give you a total price (including tax) up front.
    • 2 nights in B&B’s. Pretty much out of necessity in busy tourist areas.
    • 8 nights in hostels. There were more hostels available than I expected and we had great experiences in all of them. Private rooms were plentiful and reasonably priced.
    • 2 nights in private accommodation. This was unique to Jasper in which locals rent rooms to tourists without the B&B type facilities, we had a great experience with a private attic room.

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Yes this is Canada and not a tropical island - Cape Scott

Yes this is Canada and not a tropical island – Cape Scott

As for how I felt about Canada, it’s a real mixed bag. I was awed by the national parks of Alberta, especially the Icefields Parkway area. They were vast, rugged and breathtaking. Vancouver Island was very pretty and we greatly enjoyed Victoria and the epic Cape Scott Provincial Park. However, Tofino and Ucluelet didn’t really do it for us, we prefer the quieter Olympic penisula in the U.S.

 

Vancouver from Stanley park

Vancouver from Stanley park

Vancouver was the real shocker for me. On paper this place sounded like somewhere I would happily move to. It’s bordered by mountains and ocean and has one of the most impressive public parks in North America and yet for some reason I didn’t love it. We were there for a week and while we used some of our free time to plan the first couple of weeks in the States, I feel like we would have been a bit bored otherwise. This didn’t really occur to me until arriving in Chicago where every day for a week was packed full of activities.

 

After hiking Athabasca Glacier

After hiking Athabasca Glacier

Canada was far more expensive than we thought it would be and that did limit us slightly but all in all it was a good start to our trip, we took it slow and didn’t kill ourselves by packing too much in. I will remember certain parts for the rest of my life and loved the time we spent in the wilderness. Having said that, I can’t explain the feeling of joy I felt as we crossed over the U.S border, there was definitely a little something missing that we’ve since rediscovered.

5 Responses

  1. David

    Vancouver didn’t do it for me either, Stanley Park and The Capilano Suspension Bridge were my only reasons for visiting and then I got out and back to the countryside. I prefer slower rural life and the laid back attitude as I did growing up and not the hussle and bussle of city life like Toronto where I work. If ever back this way Central Ontario (Muskoka Reagion) is beautiful in Summer and fall and Northern Ontario all along the north shore of Lake Superior is beautiful and also the area around Kenora,ON before passing into Manitoba. However I’m in love with Alberta and hope to find work that I enjoy and live there one day.

    Reply
    • Maddie

      I’m exactly the same as you about rural areas but I thought Vancouver’s proximity to loads of activities would a reason to love it, something just didn’t click 🙁 Alberta is by far the most stunning place we’ve visited so far, I’ve never seen scenery like it. We are definitely planning to explore more of Canada in future trips!

      Reply
  2. Ian Faulds

    Great photo of the Icefields Parkway, I remmeber being there years ago, especially the Athabasca Glacier. Such amazing scenery.
    I’m a huge fan of the Vancouver area, though I did go to school just on the US side of the border from it and was able to really explore (and study) the surrounding area. There are a wide variety of beautiful hikes and natural places, and being able to hike in the high mountains and then kayak in the Salish Sea later that day makes it one of my favourite places on the planet (behind only the Canadian Rockies and New Zealand).
    Great tips on travelling in Canada, I couldn’t agree more!

    Cheers!
    Ian Faulds recently posted..Lake 22My Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Ian, it still stands as one of the most impressive places I’ve ever seen. It’s such a wonderful part of the world, I’d love to go back one day.

      Reply

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