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Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

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Melbourne, Australia
posts: 39
reviews: 13
Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

We're a family of 3 making our first trip to Canada in November - approx 2 Nov to 13 Nov. We were thinking of flying into Calgary (from LAX), then driving to Vancouver before flying into the US to continue our trip. I've read that picking up a hire car in one province and dropping off in another can be quite expensive - are we better to plan for a round trip to reduce costs? Or is it not much of a difference? The places we were considering visiting were Edmonton, Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise, maybe Whistler and Victoria (as well as Calgary and Vancouver). Any suggestions on itineraries, must-see destinations or general travel tips (especially around the weather at that time of year) would be greatly appreciated. We will be travelling with our 22-month old so hoping to avoid too many long days in the car if we can.

Thanks in advance!

Vancouver, Canada
posts: 14,822
reviews: 46
1. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

for a one-way trip with a 22 month old, I would plan for a minimum of 10 days to cover this area. there are lots of trip reports of this exact route on this and the Canadian Rockies forum, so I'd suggest you start by reading some of those.

Vancouver, Canada
posts: 14,822
reviews: 46
2. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

ah, you did say November here. I missed that. Have you already booked your flights? How committed are you to this plan. Terrible time of year for this area - probably the worst time of year. Oppressive rain, low clouds blocking most of the scenery, very limited hours of daylight (probably around 8 am to 4 pm at that time of year), snow in the passes making travel difficult and dangerous.

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 39
reviews: 13
3. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

Hi Vancouverite,

At this stage we only have flights to and from LA. Unfortunately between study and work, that was the only time of year we could both get off (and we've already had to reschedule the flights once, so won't be changing them again). But the plan was always to go to Canada, especially Lake Louise. I've read a few more posts about driving at that time of year, and they suggest flying into Vancouver and then flying onto Calgary and driving to a few places from there, so maybe we'll look at doing that instead. We were hoping to minimise our number of flights between places, but this is sounding like the best option. I don't think a long bus trip with an active 22 month old would be much fun for anyone! And I'm not keen to test our driving skills out on steep slopes. We have driven in wintery conditions plenty of times living in a city of 4 seasons in one day - but not so much in the snow other than the occasional ski trip.

I'm a bit disappointed that November is such a bad time to come, this trip has been a bit of a disaster before we've even left home - hopefully being early November, it won't be too bad and we'll still get to see a few sights, even if it's not exactly as we'd hoped.

Vancouver, B.C.
posts: 2,210
reviews: 3
4. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

It's a very bad time to travel the areas you want. Only 8 hours of sunlight, poor to impossible driving conditons in the snow, rain or fog. I wouldn't even attempt that trip unless it is late May till end of September. Try staying in the LA, Oregon area.

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 39
reviews: 13
5. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

Thanks for the suggestion Snorkler - we've already been to LA a couple of times. We don't have a strong desire to visit anywhere else on that side of the US, except maybe San Diego, but only for a few days. We'll be persisting with Canada either way, it's just a matter of working out how and where. Appreciate your input :)

Vancouver, Canada
posts: 14,822
reviews: 46
6. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

OK, so Lake Louise is a must for you. Here's what I'd suggest:

You are correct in flying between Vancouver and Calgary is your best option. Its a long way, with several mountain passes between here and there. Its an easy run from Calgary up to Banff. Plan on a few days in Banff, and do Lake Louise as a day trip. There's not much in the village at LL, and you will have more options around the town of Banff. Get your advice for this part of your trip from the good folks on the Canadian Rockies forum who are much more familiar with it all than me.

While it can be a bit of a dreary place that time of year, I think you can have a good time here on the coast if you are prepared for the conditions. Definitely plan a storm watching visit to Tofino on Vancouver Island:

www.tourismtofino.com/seasonality/winter

Whistler usually opens for skiing in late November, but as you are already going to Banff, you may not want another ski resort. However, they do have their Cornucopia festival in November I believe (however, you would probably need to find a babysitter to enjoy most of that I think. Check with Tourism Whistler for your options there). And overall, Whistler is a fun place with lots going on.

The other place to look at going is the "rain shadow micro climate" region on the eastern side of Vancouver Island. This area tends to be warmer and drier than every where else and is a good choice in the shoulder season. Look at the southern Gulf Islands (such as Saltspring and Galiano) and the resort town of Parksville.

http://www.hellobc.com/vancouver-island.aspx

I hope you don't feel this is a complete disaster. Its not the best, but given your parameters, if you plan this carefully, I think you can have a really good time. Travelling with a young child is very restricting anyway, so you wouldn't be able to dash about doing everything. What is good about November:

** low season rates in some very expensive places

** you will not have to prebook anything - there will be vacancies anywhere you want to go and you will have the place more or less to yourselves when you get there.

Get a plan together, but maybe leave off the actual bookings, then you can flex with the weather conditions once you arrive and see how you feel in different places.

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 39
reviews: 13
7. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

Thanks Vancouverite, I think I have a rough schedule now - though still plenty of room and time for changes to be made. And it sounds like we'll still have a lot of flexibility there if we want to stay longer anywhere or skip a stop altogether.

Thinking of spending 12-13 nights in Canada now as my next stop will be NYC and want to be there over a weekend. So considering 3 nights Vancouver, 2 nights either Whistler or Victoria (will just miss the Cornucopia festival you mentioned but I'm sure there's still plenty to see in Whistler despite the lack of snow?), fly to Calgary and spend 2 nights there, 2 nights in Banff, 1 night Lake Louise and then maybe the last 2/3 nights in Edmonton and fly to the US from there.

Disaster might have been a bit of an exaggeration - maybe disappointment would have been a better choice. Our first choice was to go in June, which is closer and would have been warmer, but I couldn't get time off work - hence the previous change in flights. November is the only time we can go, but also happens to be a miserable time of year not even accompanied by snow! But I'm sure it will be an amazing trip either way - if nothing else, it's 3 weeks off work :)

Vancouver, Canada
posts: 14,822
reviews: 46
8. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

Oh, you'll get snow!! Especially in the Rockies! The coast will likely be dreary and wet, but the mountain tops will be snow capped.

I do think you will like Victoria, and the ferry trip over is really beautiful under any conditions. Sounds like you've decided not to go to Tofino. Not your sort of thing? Its beautiful there any time of year.

What's the attraction in Edmonton for 3 nights?? I'd move those three nights to the Island for sure, and just return to Calgary for your flights to NYC.

Port Moody, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver, British Columbia
posts: 6,830
reviews: 71
9. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

Agree with Vancouverite. Skip Edmonton. Spend the time on the island or even in Banff/ Lake Louise

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 12,261
reviews: 85
10. Re: Suggestions wanted for family trip to Canada/Rockies please!

I agree too. Unless you have friends or family to visit in Edmonton, really the only thing that might appeal to a family would be a day at the West Edmonton Mall waterpark. The mall itself, while large, has the same stores you will find in any other Canadian mall. Oh, on re-reading, I see your child is only 22 mos. old, so the waterpark is not really a great option either. I would skip Edmonton. If you want to see Canadian cities, pick Vancouver or Victoria instead.

Here in the Rockies, early November tends to be cold and grey. The mountains and higher elevation areas will be snowy, but townsites may not be yet. The mountains are beautiful any time of the year, so it is not a loss to come then; it's just that some seasonal roads and attractions will not be open, and there is also the possibility of bad driving conditions, during or immediately after any storms.