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7 weeks Canada and USA. Help with itinerary please.


Dec 3rd, 2013, 08:30 PM
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7 weeks Canada and USA. Help with itinerary please.

We are an Australian family (Mom, Dad and 20 year old Daughter) planning a trip to North America (July / August). Daughter is heading to North America on university exchange – exact university she is accepted to will not be known for a couple of months yet. However, as we are acutely aware that this is peak season in USA, we need to get booking as soon as possible.
We generally love the “great outdoors” (beautiful scenery, great walks (but not serious hikes), cycling, photography), and think we will largely leave the cities to daughter to see on her own during her 6 months there (however, we are open to all ideas). As a general rule we like to stay in self-catering apartments or cottages, but realise this may not always be possible. Generally we like to stay in places for 5 – 7 days and travel out from there, hence avoiding moving around too much (although this itinerary does not really look like it).
Any comments on our planned itinerary (not yet booked so still able to alter) will be most appreciated.
29th June. Fly Sydney to Vancouver.
3 nights Vancouver (Times Square Suites Hotel).
Fly to Calgary & Collect Hire Car.
5 nights Banff area (probably Tunnel Mountain Resort)
1 night Icefields Parkway (Glacier View Lodge if we can get a room there). If no accommodation, the extra night in Banff area or Jasper?
4 nights Jasper (Patricia Lake Bungalows)
Return hire car to Edmonton Airport and fly to Jackson Hole USA. Hire car at airport.
1 night Teton National Park area (probably Jackson Lake Lodge)
4 nights Yellowstone National Park. Have not yet looked into accommodation here, but wondering about staying in 1 place, or 2 places to see different parts of the park
1 night Bozeman Airport (because early flight out next day). Return hire car.
Fly to Sacamento or Reno. Collect hire car.
2 nights Lake Tahoe (south?) Or perhaps 1 night.
3 nights Yosemite. (Probably Yosemite View Lodge - all accommodation is frightfully expensive at this time of the year)
3 – 4 nights San Francisco. Any suggestions for affordable, well located accommodation will be gratefully accepted.
Then Mom and Daughter have a further 20 days to see the country after Dad goes back to work. Seeing the National Parks is on the list. Thinking Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Moab, Monument Valley, (Arches and Canyonlands National Parks), Bryce Canyon and Zion NP. Have not nailed down this part of the trip yet. Long way with one driver?
Thanks for any suggestions offered!
PRLCH is offline  
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Dec 3rd, 2013, 10:09 PM
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We have just returned form 3 weeks in Canada and 4 nights in San Francisco. In San Fran (which we just loved) we stayed at the Warwick Hotel in Geary Street. 2 blocks up from Union Square where the Hop On Hop Off buses leave from, and just around the corner from Café Mason, a family-based restaurant in all meanings of the phrase. While we had beautifully-cooked and presented meals at the Warwick Hotel, they were extremely over-priced we thought (we are Kiwis) - I was rather shocked to pay $US28 for 3 scallops, some potato gratin, 4 asparagus spears and some sauce as a main meal!!
We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, along the waterfront towards the little beach, and just around the streets around the hotel.
In Canada we stayed in Banff at the Hidden Ridge Resort - great outdoor spa, free bus downtown and back, laundry; Jasper where we went to Lake Maligne; Ontario but as you are not going there will leave that for report; and Vancouver. Here we stayed in Robson Street at the Blue Horizon Hotel. The Hop On Hop Off bus stopped outside the door including the free shuttle to Capilano. A walk around Gastown is worthwhile, but we were disappointed in Whistler (it was wet and misty so no point going up the mountain. We also had a night on Vancouver Island - a great place we hope to get back to.

Have fun planning your trip. Canada is amazin
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Dec 4th, 2013, 04:39 AM
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I heartily agree with your choice of Times Square Suites for Vancouver. We’ve stayed there a few times. From there you can walk or rent bikes to do Stanley park, Coal harbor, English Bay, and if you are ambitious get to the cute little ferry to Granville Island. Lots of restaurants and a couple of grocery stores in the area. Try Hon’s for great Asian food and a energetic fun vibe.

I’m not a big fan of Whistler Village as it is an over priced faux European town, and since you will in the mountains later in your trip probably not worth the full day it requires. As an alternate consider a trip to Bowen Island. You can get to the ferry (and just about anywhere else in Vancouver) by public transit and see some of posh West Vancouver in the process.

A must see in Vancouver is the Anthropology museum which has one of the best collections of aboriginal art and artifacts you will see anywhere, beautifully displayed in a lovely setting.

Capilano bridge is nice but overpriced. There is an alternative which I’ve read about on this forum but can’t remember the name. You won't have trouble finding three days worth of things to do for sure.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 05:29 AM
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Looks like a fabulous trip.

Some thoughts. I see you are often flying into one airport and out of a different airport. One way car rentals are very expensive. There is usually a steep one way drop fee. It is sometimes actually cheaper to do a roundtrip flight and car rental and just fly to your next destination. I would do a roundtrip from Calgary for the Canadian Rockies portion of the trip.

There is a lot of info on Yellowstone/Tetons on the US forum. It's been several years since we visited. National park accommodations book way ahead. Book your accommodations as soon as your have your dates. You can change if a better accommodation becomes available. Keep checking then for cancellations--there is no charge for cancellations. I would stay at Old Faithful Lodge or the cabins there. I loved the Tetons and would stay there a couple more days if you can work that out.

You can drive/fly to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite from San Francisco. Possibly fly from Jackson to San Francisco after Yellowstone/Tetons. Hopefully you will get better guidance from others on the US forum.

Good luck with all your planning. I would love to take this trip next summer.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 06:13 AM
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Plenty of research must have gone into your tentative routes for exploring the western side of North America. You obviously know that distances can be daunting, especially when driving through the mountain ranges. It will be worth it.
Here's a bit of advice for making a budget: In Canada, government Value-Added sales taxes on goods and services are not included in list prices. Alberta and British Columbia have somewhat different systems (no provincial tax in Alberta). And, however objectionable, tipping for food services really cannot be avoided in any mannerly way, unlike what you may experience back home. So you should calculate an extra 15 to 25 per cent on top of the prices you read on the menu.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 02:52 PM
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We can't tell, from your post here, just how vast is the range from which the single university may be drawn. Is it down to a few possibilities, or is it completely random?

Indeed there are SOME sightseeing interests which should be tied-down early, but many of them will let you improvise fully once you learn of the daughter's ultimate U.S. destiny.

If 'dad' leaves from San Fran, shouldn't Los Angeles/So Cal. be prominent on the list for Aussies in the USA after that?

Interestingly/inconveniently, you will have already covered areas (well) to the north of San Fran, and areas (well) to the northeast of San Fran. And IF they do go south upon dad's departure from S.F., they'd have little but hot dessert due east of them. (excepting the Grand Canyon, which makes great sense)

At what point will you learn which school it is??? I can see booking, say, Yellowstone-related things early, and for a fixed window, but most of those other destinations are flexible, and you should probably hold-off planning until you know which school she will attend.

IF, purely randomly, you learned she would go to school in, say, Colorado, then you could proooooobably do a much better loop, with one flight in, and one flight out, and then a circular drive, vs. what you have now.

But for all we know, she could be going to Connecticut (shrug).

It would surely make sense for 'dad' to visit the area near to the school, just for his own sense OF the images she later paints, and thus, booking things too soon may only cause aggravation.

And for the daughter, she'll be able to see the area immediately near to the school over her time here, so she'd probably do best to 'orbit' that area from a distance, while seeing things that will end up being otherwise just out of reach.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 04:16 PM
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Lynn Canyon is the alternative to Capilano. it's lovely. if @ the museum of anthropology @ UBC be sure to visit the lovely japanese garden on the campus as well

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Dec 6th, 2013, 05:32 PM
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Thank you for all the helpful advice. I have had several comments about one way car rental being experience. Certainly that is not what I am finding looking at the Avis website, but perhaps that is because hubby has a staff discount code which he can use .... not sure!?

NorthwestMale, I certainly understand where you are coming from re university locations, but believe me it is wide open. Daughter had to select 5 universities and she will get one - she will not find out until about February. They range from Salt Lake City, to Washington DC, to Cincinnati, to Richmond, Virginia to Vancouver. So we have decided to plan a trip irrespective of where she goes.

Having a totally open range of choices is fantastic in way, but also makes choices so difficult. We are considering perhaps visiting a friend in Atlanta and seeing some of that area. Or perhaps a week in an apartment in New York (and see an old friend nearby) - or fly to Boston and train to New York. Or perhaps even back to Canada and seeing cousins who live in Toronto. None of these alternatives have been seriously looked into yet.

As we have now booked our international flights (Dad going home from San Francisco, Mom going home from LA and Daughter booked home from Vancouver), we will now start booking the accommodation for Canada, Yellowstone and Yosemite. Not sure of we should stay in one place in Yellowstone or two areas?? (Old Faithful Lodge looks great - thanks for the suggestion). Will continue to look for inspiration for the last week to 10 days as I think we are going to take the plunge with the "hot" desert S/W parks.
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Dec 8th, 2013, 08:55 AM
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I would have posted your Canadian and US plans separately on the two forums. Makes it easier for people to respond.

First, your hotel choice in Vancouver is good. Great location and the downtown portion of the city of Vancouver is very walkable. I would agree renting bicycles for Stanley Park is the way to go. Granville Island is high on my list of places to see and taking the ferry is the only way to go. It's easily walkable to the ferry from your hotel. http://www.granvilleislandferries.bc.ca/

Leaving Vancouver however is where I begin to disagree with your plan. The drive on Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway) from Vancouver to Banff is a one day drive and incredibly scenic. I would not miss that by flying to Calgary. Instead, I would drive to Banff from Vancouver and then drop-off the car in Calgary or Edmonton. Sometimes saving money by avoiding drop-off charges is false economy. Yes, you save money but you miss out in other ways by doing so.

For instance, stopping just for a break at the site of 'the last spike' is worth doing. The story of the railways is a big part of Canadian history. There is also a connection in a way to your planned stay at Tunnel Mountain.

When they were building the railway, one engineer planned to tunnel through the mountain. Another said, 'why, just run the track around it.' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_Mountain

I have stayed across the street from Tunnel Moutain Resort at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge. The mountain was called 'Sleeping Buffalo' by the Indians of the area, due to it's shape. But the name 'Tunnel Mountain' stuck after the railway didn't even end up using a tunnel. So there is no tunnel, LOL.

Driving will also mean driving over the Rogers Pass. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogers_...itish_Columbia) And the Kicking Horse Pass. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kicking_Horse_Pass

I would say missing out on this drive would be a big mistake. People often take several days to do the 10 hour drive from Vancouver to Banff, simply because there is a lot to see/do along the way

Also note that you need a park pass for EACH day you are in the parks. An annual pass is cheaper if you plan on more than 7 days as it looks like you have.

Moving on from the Rockies, it makes no sense to be in the Calgary area in July and not attend the Calgary Stampede. It is truly a world class event and if the dates work out for you I would take the opportunity to spend a couple of days.

Then fly to the USA from Calgary.

On the US portion of your plan I would forget Reno/Lake Tahoe. Frankly, I don't find them worth the use of time to visit. All the rest make sense to me. The time after you leave and the ladies are on there own sounds fine for Grand Canyon, Zion, Monument Valley, Arches, etc. I'd add a visit to Sedona for the Red Rock and a hike in Oak Creek Canyon. A nice place to stay there is Junipine Resort. http://www.junipine.com/

Given your timing it will be extremely hot in places like Arches. Junipine and Oak Creek could be welcome cooler break before heading south to Phoenix and west to LA on Interstate 10 for the flight home. I'm guessing you daughter is flying from there to Vancouver for some reason after leaving mother.

I'd also suggest visiting the Grand Canyon North Rim rather than the south rim which gets 90% of all visitors. The North Rim to Lake Powell, Monument Valley and Moab all work well together for driving. Then backtrack on Highway 191 to Interstate 40 and west to Flagstaff, then down to Sedona.
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Dec 9th, 2013, 01:40 PM
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I agree with this last posting from dulciusexaperis. Drive from Vancouver to Calgary - well worth the drop off fee for the car. If you have to fly to Calgary, don't pay the drop fee in Edmonton. It's only about 2 1/2 hour max drive from Edmonton airport to Calgary airport.

I, too, would skip Reno and Tahoe. No question.

If you like dancing, drinking beer (or whiskey), and cowboys, then the Calgary Stampede is a must. Good luck getting accommodation, though.
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Dec 10th, 2013, 08:31 AM
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Personally, I prefer cowgirls Vinnie. Your choice of course is your choice. ;-)
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Dec 11th, 2013, 02:17 PM
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Man, I wouldn't want to position yourselves so that any of the school locations becomes a let-down for any reason.

On the bright side, if making a rare trip from across the world to see North America, one could do far worse than to reach Vancouver, Canada.

But say, you take the 20yo daughter around the American west, and really cover lots of great territory... and then she's shipped off to Richmond, VA - it could be like night and day in terms of the difference.

On the bright side, again, at least you're all of age to where you can make the most of any itinerary you plan, and nobody will hold-back the group as a whole.

And "February" is suitable for completing most of your booking, particularly as you are capable of adapting in many situations, for your merely wanting to complete a long car journey, and see nature, without so much focus on cities.

Of course, determine and commit to places like Yellowstone, etc.... but maybe wait until the university is known so you can tailor some of the trip that way.

With a 40% possibility of either S.L.C. or Vancouver, it makes grand sense to weight the actual trip heavily on either area in the event one of them is the ultimate destination. I love both for nearby nature, but in terms of the cities, Vancouver dwarfs S.L.C. in terms of interest. (not due to any shortcomings in S.L.C., I might add)

Guess I will summarize my thoughts with:

If you have any doubts, don't commit until you learn the daughter's destination, in February. (you could evolve to be so glad you can modify something in there)

And, eventually, maybe print clear dates here for each member of the group.

All arriving on June 29

Dad leaving S.F. on exactly which date? (this helps anybody painting a suggestion for you, by offering one parameter)

Mom leaving for home from L.A. on exactly which date?

etc. etc. (just have those tidbits here for ease of further suggestions)

You'll get it all down suitably, I'm sure... just don't want you to leap too soon.
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Dec 29th, 2013, 02:25 AM
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Don't miss Lake Louise!!!
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Feb 2nd, 2014, 03:51 PM
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Thank you all for your fantastic responses. We have spent hours pouring over your advice, done heaps more research, costed alternatives and finally finished booking.

In summary:
* 3 nights Vancouver (Times Square Suites Hotel)
* Fly to Calgary
* 4 nights Banff (Hidden Ridge Resort)
* 1 night Icefields Parkway (Glacier View Inn) - think I should perhaps pre-book a Glacier tour for here
* 4 nights Jasper (Cottonwood Suites)
* Then off to USA (I have outlines that part in my other post)
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Feb 3rd, 2014, 12:56 AM
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Sounds great and perhaps you should book the tour now. Don't know Glacier View but Hidden Ridge is fine.Have not stayed at Cottonwood so no comment. Great time of year but bring light jackets evenings can be more than chilly..You have a good looking itin. and good luck to daughter on upcoming adventure
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Feb 17th, 2014, 08:13 AM
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I hope your daughter will be 21 by the time you go to the States - drinking age. Could be a problem there if she wants to enjoy a glass of wine @ dinner or whatever. Not an issue in Canada
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Feb 17th, 2014, 08:30 AM
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Good point re the varying drinking age arjaykay.

Yes, it is now 18 across Canada but 21 in some US States. Funnily enough, when I was growing up in Toronto, Ontario, it was 21 and only 18 across the border in New York State.

So on a Saturday, it was common to 'shuffle off to Buffalo' with some buddies (crossing the border at Niagara Falls). We'd go to the Anchor Bar where we could buy beer by the pitcher (also unknown in Toronto at that time) and eat 'Buffalo wings'.


We didn't know we were witnessing history in the making.
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Feb 17th, 2014, 11:43 AM
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Turns 21 half way through the exchange. Not a problem for her as she is a non-drinker. Does not even touch soft drinks - sparkling mineral water is her drink of choice. Strange child!
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Feb 17th, 2014, 02:17 PM
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Clarity: The minimum drinking age is "21" everywhere in the USA.

It used to vary by state until the Feds. threatened to withhold various funds to those states who didn't boost their drinking age to 21.

Glad the daughter will turn 21 halfway through, as she will be able to add to her experiences in terms of where she can and cannot gain admittance upon the arrival of her birthday.

Be sure to let us know as soon as you do, just which destination shall ultimately be hers.
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Feb 17th, 2014, 03:29 PM
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Funny how Canada and the USA have reversed their drinking ages.

Not funny how you can go to war and die at 18 but can't drink legally.

Then there is the age at which people actually do start drinking regardless of the law. Often well under even 18.

Then there is Greece where there is no actual drinking age by law. There is no need for one. In Greece a man who cannot hold his drink is not a man. A man who does not know his limit is not a man. A man who staggers around drunk is not a man. So a boy, knowing this and seeing this example from his Father, acts accordingly. Sometimes macho works in ways some people would never have expected.
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