Crid's 1999 Grand Tour of Canada

3 weeks travelling by train from Toronto to Vancouver

How the holiday came to be

Itís fair to say that I have never been on a holiday quite like the one I have planned here.  While I have been on holiday on my own before, I have never done anything on this scale before (or this expensive).

The idea for this holiday came about three years ago, not long after I had been to Toronto for the first time.  The thought of seeing Canada by train appealed to me.  I figured it would be much better to see Canada from ground level than to see it from several thousand feet up in an aeroplane.  Only from the ground could you truly get a feel of the sheer size of the country.

Once I had decided to travel by train, it was immediately obvious to me that I should stop off at various cities along the route.  I really enjoyed visiting Toronto, and I wanted to see some other Canadian cities too.  To only look at the scenery and not meet the people seemed a bit nonsensical to me.

It was equally obvious to me that I should travel from east to west.  I had seen a few articles on television where people had travelling across Canada by train, and they all seemed to have travelled from west to east.  Perhaps this was so that they would have less jetlag when they fly back to England.  Whatever the reason, a quick look on the map showed me that if I travelled from west to east, I would see the Rockies first.  It seemed to me that I should leave the Rockies until last, since they would be the most spectacular part of the journey.

At this point, three years ago, I had not planned any further details.  Only that I would start in Toronto (where an old school friend lives) and travel to the west coast.  Since I didnít have the money at that point, it seemed pointless to plan any details.  I planned to save up the money and possibly go the following year.

Then events overtook me.  After housesitting for a friend (while he was on holiday), I decided that I wanted to buy my own house.  (At this point I was still living with my parents - at the age of 28).  All plans for my Canadian holidays were put on hold indefinitely.  Roughly a year after going to Toronto, I had saved up enough money to pay the deposit on a mortgage.

The holiday plans would probably still be on hold now, except that I suddenly came into some money.  When I was a child I had won some money on the premium bonds, and this had been put into a bank account for me.  This money had been sitting earning me interest for nearly 30 years.  I was told that I shouldnít spend the money on bills, I should spend it on "something special", or to save it until I had found something really special that I wanted.

Planning the holiday

It didnít take me long to decide what I should spend the money on.  This time I could make specific plans for my holiday.  The internet was very useful for this.  I had never used the net for this kind of research before, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much information I managed to obtain.  First stop was VIA Railís website, which showed me the train route, the times and, most importantly, the prices.

Looking at the major cities along the route, it was fairly easy for me to decide where I would stop off along the way. Winnipeg was fairly obvious.  Saskatoon was ruled out (sorry Saskatoon) because the train stopped there at 2am.  Edmonton was a real bonus for me, as I have an internet friend there who I have been talking to via email for the past four years.  Jasper is where the Rocky Mountaineer starts from, so that also went on my "must visit" list.  Vancouver would be my final stop, since that was where I was going to be heading anyway.

It quickly became apparent that this wasnít going to be a cheap holiday.  The first two legs of the train journey were going to be overnight trips, so I had decided to travel Silver & Blue class, which provides sleeper accommodation.  If Iím going to travel overnight, I might as well try to sleep if I can.  (I have been on a sleeper train once before, in England, and didnít sleep a wink).

Having decided my route and times, I had to book the time off work.  This is where my plans were set back slightly.  I had planned to take all of my yearís holiday allowance in one 4-week chunk.  Sadly, my boss had other ideas.  The most holiday I could have in one chunk was 3 weeks.  This meant that I would have less time in each city, which is a pity.  The longest time I will have in one city is 5 days in Vancouver.  Still, itís better than nothing.

With revised train times, I rang Leisurail (who, rather surprisingly, donít have a website).  Once the train times were confirmed, I then had to sort out a flight with my local travel agent.  Unfortunately (again), I couldnít get the return flight I had hoped for, so another day was whittled off my stay in Vancouver.

Now that I had all my travel details booked, I could now arrange my accommodation.  Right from the start I had decided to stay in Bed & Breakfast accommodation.  Having stayed in B&B and hotels in England, I know that B&Bs are often much more personal than hotels.  They would also give me a good opportunity to meet some real Canadians.

I found an excellent resource at www.bbcanada.com, which gave me all the information I could have hoped for.  Rooms were booked.  Now all I had to do was wait for 28 weeks until it was time to go.

Ready to go

As I write this, it is less than 2 weeks until I fly out.  The whole experience of finding information on the internet has been a good one for me, and I would certainly recommend the net as a good way to plan your holiday in Canada.  (Of course, my opinion may be different by the time I get back).  There is a lot of useful information out there, not only for planning the transport and accommodation, but on the cities themselves.

One objective I have set for this holiday (and it remains to see if I can stick to it) is not to rent a car at any stage.  All of the B&Bs are fairly close to downtown, so I intend to do everything either on foot, public transport or by guided tour (coach tours, etc).

Now all that remains to be done is for me to tidy up my house for my housesitter.

 
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Useful Resources
Yahoo Travel Very useful resource for finding all the information you need for your holiday
VIA Rail Rail transport across Canada
Rocky Mountaineer Rail transport through the Rockies, only travelling during daylight hours
Bed and Breakfast Online Canada Bed & Breakfast accommodation across Canada
Tourism Toronto Information for tourists about Toronto
Tour Wpg Information for tourists about Winnipeg
Discover Edmonton Information for tourists about Edmonton
Discover Jasper Information for tourists about Jasper
Discover Vancouver Information for tourists about Vancouver