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The Great Canadian Road Trip: How to Save While Taking in Our Country’s Beauty

June 16, 2021
5 mins
A young couple walk up a series of steps

There’s something to be said for packing your bags, jumping behind the wheel, and taking to the open road to drive to another part of Canada.

Not everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to explore all that Canada has to offer, but if you’re planning to do a cross-Canada trek in 2021, you’ll need to be mindful of the COVID-19 crisis and any provincial and territorial health-related restrictions that may be in place.

It appears many of us are thinking of taking to the road this summer. A recent Leger survey on behalf of Toyota Canada finds two-thirds of Canadians (65%) feel the pandemic has given them a greater appreciation for travel within Canada. Furthermore, when travel is permitted, nearly half (49%) are planning to take a road trip this summer, an increase of almost 10% over last year, and 43% feel this summer could be the perfect time to explore Canada via a road trip as soon as it’s safe to do so.

We live in a country with one of the most immense landmasses in the world and there’s no shortage of things to see and do – all you need is time and a carefully planned-out budget. Here is a list of ways you can have an exciting and memorable summer road trip experience without breaking the bank:

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Finding comfortable places to stay

Nowadays, it’s easy to shop around for the best price for hotels, motels, and lodges – the same as you would when comparing the cost of car insurance and travel insurance policies.

Using a site like Airbnb is also an easy way to find an inexpensive place to stay while immersing yourself in local culture. Or, for a more natural experience, make it a camping trip by booking campsites ahead of time as per your schedule.

Another way to save on accommodations is to travel during the off-season. If you don’t have school-aged children, September is a terrific month to explore Canada. The weather is still nice, and you can avoid summer crowds. Something else to consider – ask to stay with any friends or family who live somewhere along your route.

Pack a cooler with food and beverages

You can save a lot of money on a road trip by bringing a cooler packed with items like sandwich meats, cheeses, fruits, drinks and snacks. Restock your supplies by visiting grocery stores along your route. Plus, there are plenty of gadgets or accessories you can bring with you on the road, like a cooler. Some models plug into a port in your car to keep everything chilled.

When eating out, stick to local cafés and restaurants. It’s worth putting aside enough money to treat yourself to the local cuisine, and it’s an essential part of the Canadian experience no matter where you travel.

Stretch your legs and explore your surroundings

After hours of driving, what better way to get the blood flowing than exploring cities on foot? Smaller cities like Halifax or Québec City are great for walking tours. It’s easy, free, and a lovely way to get exercise. Get a map, skip the bus tour, and strap on your best walking shoes.

If you’re visiting a larger city like Toronto, Montréal, or Vancouver, a bus tour is a great way to cover a large area in a decent amount of time. Take note of any areas you wish to go back to and explore by foot, like museums or tourist sites that do not charge admission fees.

Don’t buy souvenirs

It’s very tempting to pick up a t-shirt, apron, or silver spoon from every town you visit, but will you appreciate these items once you get home? You can save quite a bit by just skipping on the souvenirs.

If you want to take a piece of your vacation home, spring for one or two items you feel have more value than its actual cost, like a locally made wood carving or a book detailing the city’s or region’s history. But the best souvenirs of all are the photographs you take. Rather than simply posting them on a social media network, print them out and frame them once you get home.

Get a Parks Canada annual pass

A truly great Canadian road trip will pass through several national parks, especially if you’re headed out through western Alberta and B.C. Since most national parks and historic sites charge admission fees, a Parks Canada Annual Pass is a great way to enjoy breathtaking views at an affordable price. If you have kids under 17, admission to all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas operated by Parks Canada is free!

Earn credit card rewards

Just because you’re sticking to a car and not jumping on a plane doesn’t mean you can’t earn rewards for your vacation. Cross-country driving will result in plenty of trips to the pumps, so why not collect credit card points on gas? The Shell CashBack MasterCard® from BMO offers 1.5% cash back for every $1 spent at Shell locations in Canada and has no annual fee. Suppose you’ve got a cooler in the backseat. In that case, you may benefit from the President’s Choice Financial® Mastercard®, which can earn you points toward free groceries at President’s Choice retail banner stores across the country, including Loblaws, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, and Shoppers Drug Mart.

A rewarding road trip means planning ahead

The best part of being out on the road is the freedom to do whatever you please.

Canada is a beautiful country with so much to see, and it can be done affordably. Plan and get ready to enjoy an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. That plan should include ensuring your vehicle is up to the task of covering long distances in the summer heat and having adequate car insurance coverage in case something goes wrong.

If your plans involve visiting another province or territory once interprovincial borders open, don’t forget to buy travel insurance before leaving your home province.

Liam Lahey

Liam Lahey is a versatile, seasoned writer and editor. He worked as both a staff writer and freelance writer for many business and technology publications as well as for several newspapers. He writes about home, auto, and travel insurance, and is a media spokesperson for RATESDOTCA.

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