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Family vacation

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hi

please can anyone advise how I should plan our holiday to Canada as this would be our first time here. we would be travelling with 4 children (8, 13 x2, 15). our kids are not too interested in museums they prefer more activities ...

we would be arriving in Toronto on the 24/06/16 and would depart from Toronto (emirates only flies to Toronto)on the 13/07/16. we would like to visit Toronto, Niagara falls, Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver, Halifax - Nova Scotia. we would like to visit rocky mountains as well and also maybe spend 2 days at a beach lodge/park.

please advise our mode of transport that would suit each place drive/rail...and how many days in each place I know it is not a lot of time but its our winter break in South Africa.

any advice would be really appreciated.

thanks
Ramona

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    You have a little less than three weeks...

    Canada is a huge country, so you are going to have to make some choices. You don't have time to do everything on your list.

    Halifax/Nova Scotia are the far east of the country, while Toronto, Quebec, Montreal and Niagara Falls are a plane flight west, and the Rockies and Vancouver are on the far west of the country. And are a 2 day drive or 2 hr flight apart from each other.


    You can take the train or drive between Toronto, Niagara and Quebec, but the other locations would require a plane flight. I know the Canadian dollar is weak, but the rand is far weaker, so I suspect that flying 6 people back & forth across Canada is not likely to be feasible. There is a train across the country, but it would take a good 3-4 days from Toronto to Jasper (the only stop in the Rockies), so you'd be spending a week or more of your vacation on a train (with a lot of fairly boring scenery). And the trains aren't cheap either - would add up for 6 people.

    A lot will depend on your budget. By late June, it will be peak tourist season here and so peak prices. In the Rockies, a double hotel room can start at $200-250. Add on food, parks passes (per car or per person for each day you are in a national park), gas and incidentals.

    Note that July 1-3 is a holiday weekend here. I would book ASAP for any accommodation over that weekend - I know that accommodation is already going very quickly in the Rockies because the weak CAN $ is attracting a lot of Americans up for summer holidays. You will also find that weekend to be very busy and not a good time to find discounts on transport or accommodation.

    I would probably suggest dropping Nova Scotia - that would be an extra drive/ferry. With three weeks, it's still going to be tight.

    Generally we'd suggest:

    Rockies - at least 5-6 days, preferably more
    Vancouver - 3-4 days

    It's either a half to a full day to fly to Vancouver from Calgary or two days to drive between the two.

    Frankly I don't find Toronto that interesting a city in terms of being a tourist draw, but you probably want 3-4 days there to allow for a day trip to Niagara. Then 4-5 days to see Montreal and Quebec.

    It will take a whole day to fly to the west, and allow another whole day to fly back. And you need to arrive the day before you fly home in case you get delayed.

    For beaches, Vancouver has quite a selection and there are actually some nice beaches on the lakes between Calgary and Vancouver. However, if you wanted a true ocean beach with lodge, you'd really be looking at Vancouver Island. Unless you cut something out, I don't think you have enough time for that on this trip. You also have to fly or take the ferry to Vancouver Island - ferries charge per vehicle and per person, so it would add up for 6 people.

    So...I think you need to consider your budget and what you really want to see. If the kids aren't into museums, I think Vancouver, the Rockies and Niagara will appeal most. Quebec is cool, but Montreal and Quebec city are a fair bit about heritage. I like Toronto, but if I was visiting from abroad with a very limited time, I just don't think it offers anything really unique. It's a mid sized city with museums, a lake front and ethnic neighborhoods.

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    I should add that you need to book soon - June is not that far away and, as mentioned, the weak Canadian dollar is making Canada an attractive vacation destination for Americans. And that's exactly when US kids get out of school.

    Also, with 6 people and luggage, you will need a large vehicle and at least two hotel rooms or a larger suite. You may want to price out rentals & accommodations to see what is within your budget.

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    with 3 weeks and that many people, i would pick either the east or the west. flying into toronto, you could do that city, niagara falls, quebec city, montreal and halifax and a nice beach area.
    or, fly from toronto to calgary. rent a large vehicle and spend the time seeing the rockies (banff, jasper, etc), driving through british columbia, a few days in vancouver and fly back to toronto and home.

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    I've driven across Canada 4 times now. It is more like 4-5 days to get to Vancouver from Toronto. I fly from Toronto regularly to Calgary with 5 of us and the cheapest you can do the trip return is going to be around $3000 (that's finding a sale). It is a 4 hour flight in the air and you have time changes as well. Going there you gain a couple hours (3 if going to Vancouver on the 5 hour flight and more $) coming home you lose the time so plan a full day off your schedule.

    My favourite way is fly to Calgary and then jump in a car from there to Vancouver. You can do it in a day but it is very long and through the Rockies. I'd take 2 days and stop in the interior of BC (around Kelowna or Vernon) for a break, then go the rest of the way.

    Having spent time in both Vancouver and Toronto, each has its' own qualities but both are all about immersion into the area. Since you land it Toronto, I'd get a flight out right away and spend the time on the return downtown. Flight out would be Montreal as it is a wonderful city an hour flight away, and then to Calgary ... or skip east and go straight west. Canada is very big.

    Toronto - Aquarium, CN Tower, Harbourfront, Science Center are good choices. There is a beach as well downtown area. All this could be done in a long day. Subway is the best way to get around. Niagara Falls is 1 1/2 hr train away and a must see for one day too.

    Vancouver - Get to the coast, Stanley Park, the market and Whistler. You likely need a day for the coastline/park/market and a day for Whistler

    I am just going to say, I love Canada but driving across the country although beautiful and the more economic way has some very long long roads and remote for most until you get to Calgary. Kids will be very bored. Sorry, saying it as it is as have done this trip, with kids.

    You should make time to see Calgary and Area. Sights such as Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise are breath taking. Calgary has the stampede but I think you will miss it. It does have a zoo with dinosaurs that would be fun for the kids maybe. Mine have really enjoyed Drumheller / the bad lands of Canada at all ages but that is a 4 hour trip back eastward from Calgary. Well worth it if you can rent a car and do that trip.

    You may also want to look at open jaw back to Toronto and leave from Edmonton. This would mean driving from Vancouver northeast towards Jasper. This is a wonderful trip to stop and see the Rockies along the way but you will need 2 days. The icefields and Jasper are great places and if you have time for an excursion take the tour on the ice fields. Stay in Jasper and enjoy the town, then head to Edmonton the next day. Check out the mall i.e. West Edmonton mall.

    Having done this trip, you can do it if you fly in just enough time. It will be busy. Looks like this:

    Day 1 in Toronto - GONE as you will go straight onwards to Calgary or Montreal (1 hour), then Calgary after Montreal(5 hours)

    If you add east on it will look like this:

    Day 2 - Montreal and area, you will need a couple days as this city is so full of culture and ..shopping.. and it would be great to see Quebec City with the historical buildings but you will need another day.


    From Montreal you will need to decide east or west.. I haven't been East and look forward to it, but will leave to others to describe for you. If you could west...

    Day 4 - Calgary area i.e. downtown and zoo area.
    Day 5 - Wake up and head out to Canmore/Banff/Lake Louise. Sleep there or drive further to Revelstoke area (long day)
    Day 6 - driving through the Rockies, maybe stop in interior of BC or if good keep going
    Day 7 - you will be in Vancouver and go off to rest in Stanley Park, enjoy the city, sleep
    Day 8 - take a drive to Whistler if you'd like more mountainous fun or stay in Vancouver and tour around, sleep
    Day 9 - drive on way up to Jasper
    Day 10 - stop at ice field, arrive in Jasper, enjoy the town and rest
    Day 11 - drive to Edmonton, rest and visit the city
    Day 12 - flight back to Toronto
    Day 13 - Niagara (1 1/2 hours away but train) is a must see
    Day 14 - Toronto sites

    This is the crammed version and it would be great if your kids could see Drumheller as I'm sure they'd enjoy while you are there.

    Only leaves a few days of grace, which you could use driving from Toronto out west, but you'd have to drop Quebec off the agenda to do it.

    I agree you will likely have to pick east or west...

    Hope this helps

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    thanks so much or all your input....it helps out a lot.

    I think we will stick to on this trip, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa...how many days should we spend in each place....we want to drive and use the train but if we will gin more time flying we will look at that option.

    any other information would be helpful...should we use a tour group or we would manage our selves.

    many thanks

    ramona

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    Hi Ramona, The experts will jump in but I actually work in Toronto, live southern Ontario (grew up in Western Canada where met husband hence knowing that side of Canada too :)) and my kids are in Niagara Region. I fly to Montreal regularly so I'm going to say, all of the above are very easy to do on the train and I'd actually recommend the train given the traffic in Toronto and Montreal. You could drive to Quebec though but (sorry Montreal!) driving is a bit crazy in Montreal. Trains in both Toronto and Montreal are easy plus both have the majority of the attractions in central areas downtown.

    Montreal St Lawrence/Old Montreal is wonderful, the architecture and history here is amazing, plus St Catherines for shopping and beautiful trip to the mountain side with lot of boutique places (not as much for kids but really nice scenery) I'd give yourself a couple days in Montreal at least.

    Quebec City is very beautiful with lots of history, but could do it in a day if you wanted but I'd actually suggest heading north to the Laurentians for a trip in the mountains. Mt Tremblant would be perfect for a couple days (as it takes time to travel there). It is a mountain resort.

    Niagara Falls will be a glory day or two for your kids. You won't see it all in a day if you plan to hit the museums and rides. Most of it is walkable, and then there are the Falls. BUT you could do it in a long day trip from Toronto.

    Toronto needs a couple days to get a feel for it as well. Like Montreal, there are little neighbourhoods. Downtown there is Harbourfront, Entertainment District (movies, art gallery), Chinatown, Distillery (old cobblestone), Beaches / Cherry Street where there is a beach, up and over to liberty village and area. You can check games or concerts all in and around these areas too. Downtown is CN Tower, Eaton's Center with Dundas Square or City Hall (usually activity in Nathan's Phillip Square), Aquarium and take the subway/train up to the Science Center for sure too.

    Ottawa is about 5 hours on a train from Toronto, or Montreal
    to Ottawa is only a couple of hours. It is about 6 hours from Toronto to Montreal. So plan travel time for trains. You will need a couple days there as well.

    I'd do a loop. Toronto with a trip to Niagara, then to Montreal with some trips to the Laurentians/Quebec City, then back west to Ottawa and down to Toronto.

    Hope this helps. Check out www.viarail.com for train info.

    Oh, I'm suggesting the train as it is a beautiful scenic trip around Kingston.

    Cheers

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    Are you familiar with www.rometorio.com? It tells you how to get from almost any point A to any point B on the planet, with info on various modes of transportation, approximate costs and travel times. Very useful when you don’t really have a good sense of the area you are travelling to and find it difficult to grasp the distances involved.

    Also, if you want a truly Canadian experience I would suggest a couple of nights in a ‘wilderness’ lodge. The Haliburton region is more of less on the route between Toronto and Ottawa and would offer some options. You would need a car, however. The cities each have much to offer in their own way, but rural areas tell you a lot about what Canada is all about.

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