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Visiting Vancouver from Seattle and then Victoria. Train or rent a car?

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Jun 19th, 2012, 11:29 AM
  #1
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Visiting Vancouver from Seattle and then Victoria. Train or rent a car?

What do people suggest on transportation from Seattle to Vancouver (we plan on going to Victoria as well)

My original plan was to drive to Vancouver(then people scared me with the border delays), take the car on the ferry to Victoria, and then ferry to Port Angeles and then drive back to Seattle from there.

Would train to Seattle, rent a car in Vancouver be a better idea? I know that the clipper costs more, about $89 per person.

The car would be a lot more flexible but of course we would pay for it in parking costs.

Suggestions welcome.

We're flying in really late in Seattle as well, around 11:10pm. Would any rental counters be open? How early do they open the next day?
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Jun 19th, 2012, 11:54 AM
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I forgot to mention we will be in town July 21st.

So our plan looks like this:

July 21st (stay at hotel/get car somehow?! arrive at 11pm)
July 22nd drive to Vancouver
23rd Vancouver
24 Vancouver/Victoria
25-29 Seattle
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Jun 19th, 2012, 12:11 PM
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You're not doing justice to Vancouver with that..., and the hassle of Victoria at the expense of more time spent in Vancouver simply isn't worth it.

Rental counters at SeaTac are open all night to some degree.

A more sensible move, if you can swing it, is to both rent and return your car in downtown Seattle (for the period of "one week"), and you'll probably save enough to pay for most of the staggering parking charges you'll incur.

The last train (Link Light Rail) from SeaTac airport into downtown Seattle leaves at 12:10am. IF you think you can make that, then perhaps book a room in downtown Seattle for that night. Otherwise, book a room near to the airport, and rent your car the next morning, from a downtown location. Book it for "one week"... and return it downtown in time to go to the airport an hour-ish later (much cheaper.

In fact, IF you get back to Seattle after 3/4 days, then you could turn the car in early, and reduce the costs of overnight downtown parking, and likely reduce the cost of the rental as well.

Going to Victoria by bus is bad enough with the long, out-of-the-way travels, but with a car you are further limiting yourself and increasing your expenses a great deal.

I guess, first of all, ask yourself just how important to you IS Victoria?, and consider opting to soak-up wonderful Vancouver much moreso, while saving a bit of time for Seattle in the end.

Where are you from? (Maybe that would help to figure out your priorities as they relate to nature)
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Jun 19th, 2012, 12:27 PM
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We did a similar journey two years ago, we flew into Portland, slept, rented a car, drove to Vancouver, spent night, got ferry to Vancouver Island, drove to Victoria and returned on Port Angeles ferry and on to Portland (all over a space of 6 days). Worked well with the rental car, no problem at border and no difficulty transferring anywhere. We booked the rental car in advance online and we told them we intended to cross the border and to use ferries. Once they knew, no probs.
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Jun 19th, 2012, 12:36 PM
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I'd consider skipping Victoria' Vancouver is a lot more interesting. But, your car plan is workable. If you can cross the border mid-week rather than a weekened it will help. Have only been up once in the past few years, but the line at about 11 a.m. on a Wednesday wasn't as bad as going into Mexico.
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Jun 19th, 2012, 12:45 PM
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I'm so confused.

Are you suggesting we do a weekly rental and just pay the parking costs for it each day?

If we can't get the car at night to drive to a hotel, then we will stay at the airport hotel and then go get the car in the morning(7am)

I'm from Chicago. Our friend suggested we do Victoria.

Our itinerary is pretty much set, we can't switch it around. We have to leave in the morning for Canada on July 22nd.

So people think renting a car is better than taking the Casades train to Vancouver?
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Jun 19th, 2012, 12:46 PM
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I'm sorry, I forgot to say there are 4 of us, if that matters.
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Jun 19th, 2012, 01:32 PM
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I would suggest doing the simplest thing - rent the car.

The Amtrak train is a great journey but unreliable, delays could see you put on a bus anyway.

Victoria is lovely, nice to walk around and different from most of B.C. The ferry journeys are good and the drive from Port Angeles is different again. A journey of contrasts!

With four of you the train journey may prove to be quite expensive compared to driving.
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Jun 19th, 2012, 07:15 PM
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(trying to clear things up - in case I am "you" )

Firstly, I sense your trip to go for 8-ish days (21 through 29). SO, as "weekly" rental car rates tend to be better than are daily rates, and because "weekly" by that definition tends to span anywhere from "5 to 7 days" (per rental car customs)... getting the car needlessly upon arrival adds expenses in more ways than one (more than two, even).

I don't have a problem with leaving for Canada on the morning of July 22 - go ahead, do that.

To better understand, I think you should right now dash to (any major rental car company's website) and book pretend reservations for "ONE WEEK" beginning 7/22 and ending 7/29... comparing costs between picking up and returning at SeaTac Airport vs. picking up and returning in downtown Seattle.

The numbers should be tremendously less when picking-up and returning downtown. (the Link Light Rail makes it a cinch to get to and from the airport from downtown)

Under no circumstances do you need to collect your car upon arrival at the airport - at the very least, wait until the next morning and make your reservation for the period of "one week". It will save a whole day's charges, AND airport hotel parking fees for that night as well. (you could stay in downtown Seattle that night too, if you wanted) (A flight "arriving" at 11:00pm may, or may not allow you to catch the final Link Light Rail into downtown Seattle, which leaves at 12:10am

My reference to 'parking charges' was more a reference to the cost difference for a rental car when picking it up (at any off-airport location) vs. picking up the same car from the same rental company at an airport counter/location. (the TAXES they add on are the huge cost at the airport)

I was suggesting that the savings you'll know in getting your car downtown will offset the largely-unavoidable parking costs when staying overnight at nice, downtown hotels most anywhere.

As for Victoria:

I don't mind someone who has suggested it sincerely, and it is a pleasant destination, but it just doesn't add enough to the experience of the average traveler to this area, to warrant its irritating travel requirements added onto what is usually an already-"busy" itinerary.

Side note: I've lived about 75 miles from Victoria for many decades, and I've only been there once in the past 40 years (even that was 26 years ago). (sure I had a nice time there, when I went, in the middle of January, but I could always go tomorrow... )

Vancouver is just, so great, that people who've never been to the area should immerse themselves in Vancouver before considering the ferry trip to Victoria.

In my opinion, you rate more time than scheduled for Vancouver, and even less time for Seattle.


LOL - I think the weather relief alone you'll feel here, will be worth your whole trip.

Seattle temps have reached (as high as) "average" on just five days during the past month
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Jun 20th, 2012, 06:12 AM
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Well.... I love Vancouver. But I also love the ferry ride across to Victoria, and enjoy Victoria as well. Those of us who live in areas bereft of that mode of transportation might consider the ferry ride an end in itself....Our OP may regret not experiencing those two.

But, I live within an hour's drive of Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach, the Gulf, etc. And never go there either. Familiarity breeds contempt, I suppose..
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Jun 20th, 2012, 06:18 AM
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I would say if you are going to do the ferry over to Victoria then plan on doing more than just the downtown area; at least Butchart Gardens if nothing else.

I like Vancouver, also, but it is hard to say whether or not three-four days there is too much without knowing what your interests are.
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Jun 20th, 2012, 06:59 AM
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I'm sorry, I forgot to say there are 4 of us, if that matters.

It matters a lot, as do the ages/relationships. Most taxis won't accommodate 4 adults plus bags. And if it's four adults I'm assuming it's two hotel rooms?

As far as where to rent a car, yes, for your rental period picking up and dropping at the Seattle airport will cost around $125 - $150 more in rental charges compared to picking up/dropping off downtown. Some car rental companies will let you pick up downtown and drop off at the airport for no additional cost (e.g. Hertz) while others (e.g. Budget) will charge more to drop at the airport than if you picked up and dropped off downtown.

But take that differential and apply it to the additional costs you'd incur by picking up downtown. The light rail would cost around $12 for 4 persons, so not much to it. However downtown hotels on summer weekends will be packed with cruise passengers leaving the next day (or having just come back) and I'd expect a downtown hotel room will probably cost close to $100 more than one at the airport. If you need two hotel rooms, $200.

If your arrival is too late to use the light rail downtown (and I think it is, plus if there are kids, do you want them walking around a city at midnight?) then a taxi would cost around $40 to get downtown ($80 if two cabs are needed). Coming back with a downtown car drop, you can use the same math.

So it's always a tradeoff between convenience and cost; I'm just suggesting that in your case getting the car at the airport the morning after you arrive (or even the night before - parking will be cheap/free at airport-area hotels) might not be more expensive all in and it will obviously be way, way more convenient.

The border delays will be what they are. Generally northbound is faster than southbound. Driving takes around three hours wheels turning, add an hour at the border and you're at four hours. The train also takes four hours, followed by immigration/customs at the station in Vancouver, so around the same time net, maybe a tad slower.

As for Victoria, most first time visitors find it charming and fun, because it is. Victoria hypes up its "Olde English" vibe - flower baskets on lamp poles, double-decker tour buses, plenty of things with "Royal" in their names, etc. and it has some definite "wow" attractions - the Victorian "Parliament" (legislative) buildings and the Empress Hotel, the fabulous BC provincial museum, and the famous Butchart gardens way out in the suburbs. But aside from these things, and the pretty Inner Harbour, Victoria is otherwise a nice but unremarkable middle-sized city (IMO.) In cruise season it's also a horrendously crowded and expensive middle-sized city, and if you haven't priced the car ferries to and from, do so at once if your budget is an issue. Any savings or additional costs arising from Seattle airport v. downtown pickup are washed away just like that when you add ferry tolls.

If you didn't visit Victoria, you could use those same days for other things. For example, in terms of gardens, while Butchart is indeed great (and very pricey) there are several gardens in Vancouver city that are pretty close to comparable (or better IMO because of the variety) that are in public parks in town, so way, way cheaper and easier to visit.

Vancouver's aquarium in Stanley Park is one of the best in the world, and Stanley Park itself is in the top tier of city parks worldwide, too.

For out-of-town trips, the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler is unspeakably gorgeous, and Whistler in the summer is beautiful and has lots to do, for adults and kids. No ferry, just a scenic drive. Or if you want a short but lovely excursion that does involve a ferry, do some research on the "Sunshine Coast" on the mainland north of Vancouver, reached by a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay.

So in essence with a short trip, consider the tradeoffs in terms of cost/convenience, and decide what's important to you in terms of how you spend your time. One thing this region is NOT short of is alternatives.
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Jun 20th, 2012, 11:15 AM
  #13
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Thank you for all your help.

I think we're going to keep the car based on everyone's suggestions here. We're all in our 20's on a budget, so we're trying to squeeze into one hotel room(I notice that a lot of hotel are only priced for 2 people and I'm aware of that, and means I have to avoid)

I think the Ferry ride is what attracted us the most to Victoria, and then the gardens and the downtown. I think I might look into that Sunshine Coast ferry.

I looked into car rentals again (I think we're going to do 8am rental at a downtown location or eat the cost and pick up from the airport (because we have no way of getting to rental agencies from whereever we are). My friend has offered actually to put us up when we come in from the airport but she can't offer us accommodations for the rest of the trip.
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Jun 21st, 2012, 05:30 AM
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I'm lost in reference to "wherever you are":

Or does that mean the friend lives way out in the toolies, and that you'd have to first go there, and then, somehow, get a rental car??

At any rate, you can still cut costs by renting for a "7-day" window, and returning the car on, say, the 28th, and thus avoiding that extra day of car and taxes.

It is totally easy to get to and from SeaTac airport from downtown Seattle on the light rail.

The costs of taking a car on those ferries should be enough to persuade budget-minded people from adding Victoria to the trip.

It would be far more convenient had you been, say, touring near to Port Angeles, WA, and merely going across as passengers for much of a day. And ONE ferry ride is enough... by the time you go through that twice... it would probably be too much.
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Jun 21st, 2012, 05:34 AM
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PS - You can live the "ferry ride" part with an easy and inexpensive 'round-trip' to one of the islands west of Seattle. Just turn right around without getting off the boat. The photo opportunities out there are great, and it doesn't commit you for hours on end.
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Jun 21st, 2012, 05:36 PM
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@NorthwestMale Is that the San Juan Islands(Friday Harbor?) So either Sunshine coast or that?

I'm confused about the 7 day rental thing because when I plugged in the values for Budget, it was more expensive (same location) to do the week rather than the 4 days? I think I'm doing it wrong.

My friend lives somewhere near the University District(I think). I hope she can offer us a ride in the morning to get to the rental agency, otherwise, it should be easy to get downtown to one of the agencies correct?

That sky to sea highway looks gorgeous and ripe for picture taking..... Is it really 2 hour drive to Whistler though to do that highway stretch? What are some recommended stops there?

Again, thank you for the help.

I've booked a hotel room at Courtyard Marriott Pioneer Square ($260 including taxes per night but refundable x_x). Is it worth treking it out from Renton, Airport or Bellevue for lowered hotel costs?
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Jun 21st, 2012, 06:09 PM
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Well....I have a Priceline notification running right now, since we will be heading out there in September. There have been almost daily wins at $49 for a 3-star hotel.

Normally at SeaTac, our three-star wins have been Doubletree, Hilton Garden Inn, and Radisson.
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Jun 24th, 2012, 06:20 PM
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(talking to self - maintaining my focus: ) OK, there are 4 of you, perhaps staying with a friend near the University of Washington on that first night. The Friend will (or won't) be able to pick you up from the airport late at night??

IF the friend can pick you up, and take you to her place near the U. of W... then you bank on easily getting downtown to a rental location for car pick-up before heading north some 12-ish hours after your arrival. You won't even need a bus schedule, though perhaps a well prepared Google map of how to get back to her house to fetch the others would be helpful.


As to the islands... no, those are "Bainbridge Island" (or, possibly, Bremerton)... which are home to many who commute daily on the 2nd largest ferry system in the world (BC, Canada is #1). For you, they would offer photo opportunities all around (provided clear weather) and an otherwise small time commitment to gain your ferry rides.

And OK, about the car rental, IF you only need a car for "4 days"... then that's fine, only get it for 4 days.

If you are content with being back in Seattle, and without a vehicle (which is perfectly do-able) after 4 days, then that's great.

It wasn't exactly clear to me that you only wanted the car for a window smaller than one week. MY suggestion/information was that car companies tend to offer "weekly rates" which cover anything between "5" and "7" (24-hour periods)... on the chance that you intended to have a vehicle from the 21st to the 29th... I was suggesting that you strategize and wait until the 22nd to make your reservation so as to time it with your departure, and within (Seven 24-hour periods).

If you only envision having the car for 4 days, then all is fine as it rests in your thoughts.

If the friend offers you a ride at night (from the airport to the University District - that is much more important than what goes on in the morning. You can do the morning on the bus with ease.

Were it ME... in your shoes, with that price/budget you mentioned... I would book two rooms via Priceline.com for your Seattle nights (and heck, even your Vancouver nights). ('two rooms' hopefully eliminating any concerns you have over not having enough room for all of you to sleep comfortably/appropriately)

Last week I had the unique experience of using Priceline for 4 different nights for Downtown Seattle... each last-minute/last-day reservations. Each time I went for 4-star hotels (and humorously my out-of-town visitor stayed at 5 different hotels in 6 nights - caused entirely by his unwillingness to commit himself)

*** Side note: He consented to see the Mariners lose five consecutive games (further suggesting that he should commit himself...)

Anyway, my average winning bid on Priceline was $135, skewed miserably by one day when we had to go to $150 base bid. The other nights I got at $95 and $100... making the average total bill (of just those FOUR nights) $118.48 per room, per night.

I am confident that you could land two FOUR-star rooms at one hotel, via Priceline, (especially for committing yourself ahead of time)... in Downtown Seattle... for something not far from, and perhaps less than that $260 you mention. It would probably be a better hotel, in a better location... and your group of four would be more comfortable
.

I've shopped many, many times for 4-star hotel rooms in downtown Seattle for the same friend... and there really isn't a disappointing spot. The Edgewater isn't exactly central to all of the downtown hubbub, but if you land it, you can fascinate yourself with the vision of The Beatles fishing from the window of their hotel room there, and take it all in stride. (potentially a tad inconvenient when it rains - but so what)

Finally (gasp), regarding the Sea to Sky Highway... just take the advice of getting GAS well in advance, and not believing that you'll find a station on the way. I spent most of my first trek up that road running on fumes and praying I'd get to a gas station. (I'm sure the locals know where they are... but the wayward traveler shouldn't press his or her luck!
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Jun 28th, 2012, 06:55 PM
  #19
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Thank you Northwest Male and everyone else! I was thinking about doing two hotel rooms, but cost is definitely an issue. I thought our budget was much higher than was originally stated, so we only really have about ~160(max) per night to work with. I hope priceline will work out for us, if not I guess we're staying at the Best Western near the airport (140 per night with tax x_x). Still haven't worked out Vancouver yet.

We ended up xing all the plans to victoria or whistler and just decided to kayak in san juan islands(2.5 hour drive back from vancouver to get to anacortes)
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Jun 27th, 2013, 05:39 PM
  #20
 
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We are planning to do a 3 day trip to vancouver, victoria and whistler. Any suggestions for the route to consider as we are driving by taking a rental car from seattle to vancouver.

late night drive from seattle to vancouver to avoid the border delays.
Day 1: Whistler
Day 2: Vancouver
Day3: Victoria
take ferry from victoria to Seattle

Any suggestions on rental car restrictions ??
Any must see destinations
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