Landscape shot from Canada


Canada is the second largest country in the world, so there is a vast amount of territory to explore on a road trip through this North American territory. However, all the land to cover, and the wide variety of things to do such as adventure sports, national parks and historical tours can come at a cost. Here are few tips to allow you to road trip through Canada while staying within your travel budget.

Head out on the Trans-Canada highway

The Trans-Canada Highway is one of the world’s longest roads and is the ideal route for a road trip through Canada. Spanning 8030 km, this road reaches Newfoundland on the East coast and runs through all ten provinces and reaches all the way to British Columbia on the western side. This massive highway not only travels through several destinations, but it also journeys into a variety of landscapes such as four different islands, tundra, boreal forests, national parks, glaciers, and alongside several lakes and massive mountainous peaks.

Unfortunately hitting the open road is not as easy, nor as cost-friendly as one might hope. While having your travel route on the Trans-Canada highway planned out might seem like enough, a lot more goes into a road trip. With this complete guide to a cheap road trip through Canada, you will be driving across Canada in no time.

Renting wheels

The easiest way to get on the road is by renting a car, unfortunately car rentals do not always come cheap and many rentals limit travel between some locations. However, renting a car is still possible when you are on a budget. More and more businesses offer one way car rentals so you do not have to worry about manoeuvring your route so that you can drop the car off at the exact same place you picked it up to avoid relocation fees. Also, the majority of car rental companies are offering more hybrid vehicles, which not only minimizes your carbon footprint but will also save you a ton of money on gas.

Make sure the car—and the road—is road trip ready

Do not forget winter gear

Make sure the car is equipped with four-wheel drive and proper snow tires or chains if you are road trip bound during the winter months. Not only do you not want to be responsible for ruined tires after trudging through the snow and ice, but it is an important safety measure because using winter tires or chains and four-wheel drive will help prevent your vehicle from skidding out or sliding on the roads when the weather gets messy.

There should be salt

Since Canada is notably a colder region, their winters definitely do not make for ideal driving weather. In order to prevent ice from building up, Canada puts salt down on the roads, so do not travel on any roads that look they have not been ploughed or salted yet. While an important safety precaution, the salt can unfortunately cause rust to form underneath the car. So during your road trip stop and check for signs of rust in order to avoid exorbitant rental car fees.

Be safe

Keep in mind that if you are driving during the winter time, your safest bet is to only drive when the roads are ploughed and the conditions are clear. If a road is covered in snow and ice and you cannot see through the snow coming down, the smart thing to do is pull over, wait out the storm or look for the nearest hotel.

Design your route

Plan in advance

Considering how large Canada is, and how expansive the Trans-Canada highway runs, a road trip through Canada can mean a lot of things. Have an itinerary planned out before you hit the road, that way you can estimate when and how often you will need to stop for gas, what sites you want to visit, and when you will need to stay overnight. Planning in advance is a huge help in creating a realistic travel budget, and sticking to it.

Be prepared for an overnight

A great way to save on money, especially on a Canadian road trip is by camping. Canada is a territory full of wide open space, national parks and reserves and beautiful camp grounds for guests to enjoy. Rather than spending money on a ritzy hotel room, fully embrace the natural beauty of Canada and pitch a tent.

While the Trans-Canada highway is all-encompassing, there are several other amazing road trips through Canada you can venture on. Take a look at our list of the five ultimate Canadian road trips to give you some ideas of where and what you want to see.

Travel tips for the budget conscious

  • Do not speed—a ticket could ruin your day and your budget.
  • Fill the car up with as many people as comfortable to maximize splitting the gas bill.
  • Have an idea of where you are going, so you do not waste gas—and money—on driving around aimlessly.
  • Have a look beforehand at a few good budget hotels that are along the way so you are not stuck staying in a ridiculously expensive room for one night. In case you end up needing a last minute hotel but do not want to spare the high cost, download the Late Rooms app to find hotels near you that are offering last minute deals.
  • Also plan where you can fill up the tank for the cheapest—prices can vary greatly. If you find yourself in a bind, and the gas metre approaching ‘empty’ sooner than expected, download GasBuddy, a great app that finds the lowest gas prices in your area.
  • Open the windows rather than relying on the gas-guzzling air conditioning. Especially if you are travelling during the spring and summer months when the temperature is mild and enjoyable.
  • Look for restaurants off of the main road for the cheapest eats. Avoid drive-thrus and fast food chains and buy snacks and drinks from supermarkets ahead of time.
  • Drive smartly. Using cruise control and keeping to the speed limit will help save gas.

Adventuring on a road trip is a great way to experience the natural landscapes and beautiful scenery of landscapes, but before you rent a car and hit the road, make sure you have travel insurance with rental car coverage to protect you in case of an accident. Especially during the Canadian wintery months.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Brandon Gieshbrecht; cropped from original