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Canadian Rockies (Banff, Yoho, Jasper) in July

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Can anyone provide feedback / suggestions on the following itinerary? We got a late start planning so trying to throw everything together in hopes we can still book halfway decent lodging without breaking the bank.

We are planning to fly out Sat July 8 and return Fri July 14. We are 6 adults (two 30-somethings and four 70+ in decent health). Half of us love hiking, the other half detests it. We have traveled together before.

** Version 1
Day 1: Fly into Edmonton, drive to Jasper (overnight Jasper)
Day 2: Jasper (Jasper)
Day 3: Jasper (Jasper)
Day 4: Drive to Athabasca Glacier (stay nearby--suggestions welcome)
Day 5: Drive to Lake Louise (LL / Banff area)
Day 6: Banff (Banff or airport hotel)
Day 7: Fly out of Calgary

** Version 2
Same as above, except fly into/out of Calgary. Flight prices are roughly the same either way, though we haven't looked into car rentals yet and I understand that dropping off the car in another city can rack up fees. If it's truly better to do Version 1 vs 2, though, we will make it work.

(Apologies if a similar itinerary has been posted before. If so, please help direct me to the thread).

Re: lodging, if you happen to know of any lodging that might still have rooms available at this late date, please do mention it. Mainly looking for something clean with private bathrooms.

Re: activities at the Athabasca Glacier, if anyone has done both the ice bus and hike tours, is it possible for half of our group to do the bus, and half to do the walking version? Time- and logistics-wise.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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    First priority is to find accommodation! Finding two or three rooms is going to be quite tricky now -- do it ASAP and be very flexible.

    I would go for version 2. The drive between Edmonton and Jasper is long, boring and did I say boring. Lots of trees and no mountains until about the last hour.

    Plus, you really want to drive the Icefields Parkway twice. It's one THE most scenic drives in the world - if you do it once and that day happens to be rainy/cloudy, quite the bummer. Give yourself two days -- you can easily fill up two days with lots of fun.

    At this point, your itinerary is going to be dictated by availability. It is very late to be booking accommodation, especially with 6 people (three rooms?!). Expect to pay $300-350+ per night for hotel rooms. In Jasper, I would suggest PHAs (private home accommodations) which are like B&Bs. They're cheaper and much more likely to still have some nights available at this stage.

    I would get on Jasper accommodation ASAP and build the rest of your stay around availability there. PHAs can only take up to 8 people; at this point you may need to split between different PHAs. That's perfectly reasonable - Jasper is tiny and most don't serve breakfast so you'd be headed out for meals anyway.

    Don't bother staying near the glacier - there are only four places to stay on the entire parkway (other than hostels and campgrounds). Not cheap and likely to be booked full up by now.

    Day 1 - drive Banff/LL/Canmore, stay there
    Day 2 - to Jasper, stay in Jasper
    Day 3 - Jasper, stay in Jasper
    Day 4 - Jasper, stay in Jasper (or to Banff/LL/Canmore).
    Day 5 - to Banff/LL/Canmore, stay there
    Day 6 - Banff/LL/Canmore, stay in Banff or Canmore
    Day 7 - to airport

    As to the glacier tour. The standard Brewsters' tour is the snowcoach tour - you take the snocoach tour and get to walk on a small roped off area of the glacier for about 10 minutes. It's a package deal. If you can, avoid the packaged tour with the Skywalk - the Skywalk is overrated and not worth the time or extra money.

    The IceWalks are run by a separate company, so you book entirely separately. There is a strict limit per tour, so you need to book as far in advance as possible. You'd need to check to see if there's availability on your dates.

    It's perfectly possible for some people to do the snocoach and others to do the IceWalk. However, the sno-coachers would likely be doing quite a bit of waiting. The sno-coach tour generally takes about one hour, while the IceWalks are 3 or 5 hrs. IceWalks also don't run every day. If you booked the IceWalk, the sno-coachers could start at the same time and then have lunch & wait in the Icefields Centre until the IceWalk tour is done.

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