Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Canada
Reload this Page >

Can't decide Rocky Mountaineer package or self drive/mixture

Can't decide Rocky Mountaineer package or self drive/mixture

May 19th, 2005, 10:56 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 112
Can't decide Rocky Mountaineer package or self drive/mixture


Need some help making my mind up!

I am planning a 2-3 week trip to Canada with the ideal trip involving going from

Vancouver to Calgary (or other way)
stopping off at br /> Victoria
Sun Peaks
Columbia Icefield
Lake Louise

The problem is don't really want to drive (wrong side of road etc). I know this is probably the best way and still haven't ruled it out but wanted to know more about the Rocky Mountaineer packages (as in Canadian Affair)

Has anyone been on these trips as I wanted to know if it is all a rush or do you get to visit the places I want to see during any of the stop off's.

Also how easy is it to get around Vancouver without a car and would I need a car if we wanted to go to Victoria. We would probably extend our stay to visit victoria because the packages only last 8 to 10 days.



TeddG is offline  
May 19th, 2005, 11:08 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,466
check into brewters bus line tours.
i have never read a bad review on the rocky mountaineer if you can afford it.
ltt is offline  
May 19th, 2005, 12:09 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
Hello TeddG,

I was not familiar with Canadian Affair, so I did an Internet search for it. If you are dead set against driving on what to you feels like the wrong side of the road, the tours that Canadian Affair offers look fine to me. They appear to be a combination of the Rocky Mountaineer and a coach to handle the territory that the train does not cover (Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise and so on).

I am sure you would have a pleasant enough trip if you went with Canadian Affair. Like ltt, I have never read a bad review of the Rocky Mountaineer. Many reports I've read have suggested that, if you can afford it, the extra price of Gold Leaf Service is worth it.

It would be a challenge to visit some of the places you say you want to visit if you were going by train. The Rocky Mountaineer does not go to Whistler, and neither does any other train. However, you could do that as a day trip or an overnight trip by bus from your base in Vancouver, so that's not really a problem.

The one place you would not be able to visit by train, as far as I know, is Sun Peaks. The Rocky Mountaineer stops in Kamloops overnight, but the train's passengers stay in hotels in the town, according to my understanding. I don't think you should treat that as a make or break issue.

You do not need a car to see Vancouver. There is a good public transportation system. In addition to that there are bus services for tourists, such as the hop-on / hop-off service that Vancouver Trolley Company operates.

You also do not need a car to visit Victoria. You can use Pacific Coach Lines' bus / ferry service to go from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria. Another option is to fly from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour by seaplane. Some people like to take the seapane in one direction and the ferry in the other direction so that they can view the scenery from different angles. The one caveat is that the seaplane accepts only 25 lbs (11.3 kg) of luggage per passenger. Therefore I think the seaplane is more suitable for a day trip than it is for an overnight trip.

I hope you will give yourselves AT LEAST 3 full days in Vancouver, not counting side trips you may take to other places such as Whistler and Victoria.

>>>Has anyone been on these trips as I wanted to know if it is all a rush or do you get to visit the places I want to see during any of the stop off's.<<<

No, I have not been on the tour you are contemplating, but I have covered the same territory, and I have seen passengers getting in and out of tour buses at popular attractions. I've seen how much (or rather how little) time they're given for their photo opportunities, etc.

I believe that the Rocky Mountaineer would be a fine way to travel from Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies. I personally prefer the Vancouver to Lake Louise route over the Vancouver to Jasper route. Both trains go from Vancouver to Kamloops and overnight there, so up to that point they're identical. Both legs after Kamloops are attractive, but the Kamloops - Lake Louise one is more scenic than the Kamloops - Jasper one, IMO.

The only part of this trip where you would REALLY, REALLY benefit from driving, IMO, is within the Rocky Mountain national parks (especially Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks).

The driving in the national parks is sooooo easy. Coming from the UK, you will find the traffic so light it just won't be funny. I hate driving in unfamiliar cities, regardless of whether the driving is on the "correct" or the "wrong" side. Although I am a cautious driver, however, I find it very feasible to drive on the "wrong" side as long as I'm outside of cities. I would be extremely surprised if you found driving in the mountains to be difficult.

If you do drive, you'll be able to do walks or hikes at the places that you stop to see. These side explorations would be denied to you if you were on a tour bus.

In addition to that, there are a couple of side roads that the tour buses don't even drive, because of the tight bends. I'm thinking of the road to Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park and the road to Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park.

So, while I believe you would be able to have an enjoyable trip if you did a tour, you'd be able to take your trip up to a different notch if you were willing to drive through the Rockies.

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
May 19th, 2005, 01:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 12
I have just returned from our honeymoon, we caught the first rocky mountaineer of the season vancouver to banff 2 days stop in kamloops, it was amazing first class excellIence.

If you can make sure you go gold leaf it was worth every penny.

We booked straight with the Rocky Mountaineer, who I think may also be part of brewsters.

As for the driving we did it and it took about a day to get over it and then it was completely natural. so give it a go. That plus people are far more friendly driving and in general


snowy69 is offline  
May 19th, 2005, 04:38 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 67
I drove in NZ, so the wrong side for me & once on the road it was natural, just needed to think before turning out of a parking lot what side I was to be on, otherwise no problems.
missk is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 01:13 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 79
Dear Tedd

We had the exact dilemma a couple of years ago when travelling from the UK with Canadian Affair.

As Judy says the traffic in the Rockies is light compared to UK but I still didn't fancy driving. I'm not a keen driver at home and on holiday I want to relax and look at the scenery.

We booked our flights and hotels and the Rocky Mountaineer with Canadian Affair. The Rocky Mountaineer is worth every penny and we splurged on goldleaf.

We are not keen on organised tours so for the rest of the travelling between Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise, Calgary we used a combination of the Brewster shuttle buses and day trips and that worked out fine for us.

You do not need a car in Vancouver the Downtown core is very walkable and the public transport to places like UBC and Grouse Mountain is cheap and easy to figure out.

We used Pacific Coach lines to get to/from Victoria and that was a breeze as they can pick you up from your hotel if you pre-book.The ferry ride back form Victoria in the warm autumn sunshine was one of our favourite bits of the trip.

This September we are returning to Canada a week on Vancouver Island and a week in Vancouver/Whistler and we are not having a car this time either.

Have fun
joxxxxx is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 10:08 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 112
Thanks for all your replies. I think we will probably use the rocky mountaineer from Vancouver to Jasper and as Joxxxxx suggested swap to shuttle buses or even drive from here to Calgary (Also not keen on guided tours). Have ordered a Brewsters brochures (2 to 10 weeks! I better try printing one at work)

Is it worth returning on the kicking pass route on the rocky mountaineer to Vancouver or should we fly back from Calgary?

Joxxxxx, Did you pre-book the day trips/shuttle buses or are these easy to arrange when there? Also do we book the pacific coach lines to Victoria before arriving or just organise at the time. Just read your itinery and wondered did it work out as planned (enough time in each place?)

Judy,Yet another great response, thanks. After I've planned the trip I'll be coming back for your approval. (you never know it may involve a car!)I've been getting stick at work for even considering not using a car.

Thanks again

TeddG is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 01:17 PM
Posts: n/a
I wouldn't go all the way back to Vancouver, the scenery isn't all that different on the two routes, and it does take two days of your trip.

Have you been to the Rocky Mountaineer website?
They do all sorts of packages, as well as selling train tickets only. I think these options may be cheaper than going through an agent like Canadian Affair.

I also noticed that starting in 2006, Rocky Mountaineer WILL be offering train travel from Vancouver to Whistler and on to Jasper via Prince George.

I would suggest the following:

- Fly in to Victoria. Air Canada should only charge a couple of dollars extra (if that) to fly all the way to Victoria, rather than Vancouver, but you will have to change planes.

- Spend a couple of days in Victoria getting over jet lag and checking out the sights. As was mentioned earlier, no need at all for a car, in fact, the central part of Victoria is all very walkable.

- take the Pacific Coach Lines Bus/Ferry combo to Vancouver in the moring.

-spend a few days in Vancouver (no car needed). Take a day trip to Wistler, or consider staying one night before going back to Vancouver to catch the train. There are bus options available from Vancouver to Whistler, but I am not familiar with them.

-Take the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff, it is the most spectacular of the two routes. And is the route that you can only see by taking the Rocky Mountaineer. Via Rail (Canada's regular rail service) also takes the Vancouver-Jasper route.

- Once is Banff, rent a car. I know you don't want to drive, and I don't blame you. We chickened out of getting a car in New Zealand, for the very same reason. But the driving in the Rockys is really easy. Locals complain about how slow people drive. It is not aggressive at all. Spend a couple of nights in Banff exploring the surrounding areas.

- Spend a day driving to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway.

- spend a couple of nights in Jasper and exploring the surrounding area, and drop off your car.

- Take the train from Jasper to Edmonton. (www.viarail.ca)

- Spend a night or two and fly home from Edmonton.

This gives you maximum flexability where you need it (in the mountains), but doesn't require you to drive on any big highways or in any cities. If you REALLY, REALLY don't want to drive at all, look into Brewsters for the Rockies portion of your trip. But I'd really try to avoid it. The delight of the Icefields Parkway (and the Mountain Parks in general)is being able to pull over and take a photo or walk or picnic wherever you fancy.

May 23rd, 2005, 11:12 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 79
Dear Tedd

As I recall we booked the Icefields Parkway bit of the trip before we went, over the internet - very straightforward. This included the snocoach ride on the glacier in addition to the travel between Jasper and Lake Louise. The shuttles between Lake Louise and Banff we just turned up on the day.

We phoned the Pacific Coach Lines when we were in Vancouver and booked the coach to Victoria about 2 days before, on the way back to Vancouver we just turned up at the bus station in Victoria and got on (with a return ticket obviously).

I do agree that a car would give you more flexibility in the Rockies and if you are a competent and confident driver in the UK you will probably have no problems. I'm not a confident driver and didn't want the added stress, also the comment about stopping to take a photo whenever you want - I would have been stopping every 5 mins and we would never have got anywhere!

In Jasper we hired a guide and went hiking on Mount Edith Cavell and down the Maligne Valley (on different days). I can't remember how much it was for the two of us but with the exchange rate etc it was very reasonable.

This meant we didn't miss out on the backroads places and whilst we were on the lake our guide scouted around and found some moose in the woods we she then took us to see. I had been saying that we had been lots of times to Canada and New England and never seen a moose.

I would agree with flying into Vancouver and out of Calgary (or in reverse) and not back tracking.
joxxxxx is offline  
Jun 25th, 2005, 10:19 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 1
I am a proud British Columbian and I have done the Rocky Mountaineer trip a few times - it is wonderful!

Rocky Mountaineer Vacations is more than just the Rocky Mountaineer train. They are also a travel agency and can book your trip however you like. If you are travelling in 2006, they are offering train trips from Vancouver to Whistler, and from Whistler to Jasper as well.

My suggestion would be this:

*Take the Rocky Mountaineer east bound (starting in Vancouver)
*Day 1 is from Vancouver to Kamloops, BC (Sun Peaks Resort is also here)
*Take a day or two and spend it at Sun Peaks (I recommend in July during the Alpine Blossom festival) - make sure you stay at the Delta - it is the best hotel there
*get back on the train and continue to Calgary
*spend a few days there and then rent a car drive to Banff (or catch a bus)
*Rocky Mountaineer offers several different packages in the the rockies including the icefiels, Lake Louise etc. Finish up your Rockies tour in Jasper
*hop the train from Jasper to Whistler (if you are travelling in 2006) (I think it is called the Northen Explorer or Fraser Discovery - they are all a part of Rocky Mountaineer) and travel through central BC - the scenery is beautiful and so much different from the rest of your trip.
*spend some time in Whistler and then hop the Whistler Mountaineer to Vancouver
*spend lots of time in Vancouver (be sure to visit the Vancouver Aquarium)
*catch the ferry to Victoria (you should have no trouble finding buses / shuttles etc)
*spend lots of time in Victoria - it is beautiful!

I know you can book all of this through RMV. If you choose to drive, they also offer driving tours. Happy travels! Can't wait for you to visit BC!
lauralu78 is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:26 PM.