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How to plan the ultimate Canadian road trip

Aug 08, 2017

Road Trip Canada Day

Planning the ultimate Canadian road trip takes a combination of research, leaving room for spontaneity, great company, awesome music and the perfect ride.

Just ask Kristen & Siya from Hopscotch the Globe. Despite being born and raised in Canada, they have spent the last 13 years travelling to over 50 countries around the world. Yet, neither had seen much of their homeland.

With 2017 marking Canada’s 150th birthday, they decided it was time to change all that.

This summer, Kristen & Siya spent 5 weeks driving across Canada. It turned into one of the best trips they had ever done.

In their Toyota Corolla, they started on the West Coast and headed east, finding smiles, laughter, and awe-inspiring moments along the way.

They returned home, not only with a special appreciation for all things Canadian, but a stack of great advice for anyone planning a drive across Canada.

Toyota Canada recently caught up with them for the lowdown on must-see places to go, essential items to pack, and what songs got them through those long drives.

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Lake Louise Alberta on the Great Canadian Road Trip

Now that you’ve driven across Canada, which places stand out as your favourite spots?

British Columbia holds a special place in our hearts. You can swim in the ocean, stare at mountains and hike through lush forest all in a day. Within British Columbia, Vancouver Island was hands down, our favourite spot. The journey going from mainland to the island is an experience in itself. The ferry ride is reasonably priced, smooth and has everything you need to make your ride enjoyable. We both spent our time sipping on hot chocolates on the deck as we watched bald eagles glide along the top of the mountains in the distance.

Driving around the island is quite an adventure with so many breath-taking and adventurous spots to stop along the way. We both fought over who got to drive the Corolla because it was just the most beautiful and perfect drive to take.

There are many places to spend your time on the island, but Tofino is a must visit. Be warned, that many people from all over the world who visit this surfer town, end up never leaving because it really does suck you in, and we felt that.

Which place surprised you the most?

Kristen: I was told my entire life that Saskatchewan was completely flat and really boring to drive through. Saskatchewan is in fact NOT so flat. The landscape is so beautiful with rolling green hills and the coolest badlands in Canada. Big Muddy and Castle Butte are a must see destination on a cross-Canada road trip. I felt like I was standing on Mars.

Road Trip Toyota Corolla at Big Muddy Saskatchewan

Siya: I love being surprised by Mother Nature. I’ve seen low and high tide around the world, but the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick has the most drastic change in tide elevation. Within a span of hours, a completely flooded bay vanishes and reveals a kilometre long beach, giving us land walkers the chance to stroll along the ocean floor.

Did you find any hidden gems along the way?

Along the drive to Tofino, we stopped at Cathedral Grove. This moss- covered forest is a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem, and it feels like you’ve stepped into a fairy tale book. There are trees as old as 800 years, standing 250 feet tall. We’d never seen anything like it.

You took five weeks for your trip, what is the best way to budget time to get the most out of the trip?

A little bit of planning mixed with a bit of spontaneity is the perfect formula for an epic road trip. We would suggest spending a week in each province and factor in it can take a full day to get to the next province. Canada is huge and giving yourself extra driving time will allow for longer stops along your route. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we pulled over to the side of the road to go on a random hike, admire a waterfall, take photos of wildlife, talk to interesting locals or purchase product from a local farm. When you give yourself time to get lost and really enjoy the ride, that’s when the magic happens.

Great Canadian Corolla Road Trip Kristen & Siya in Front of The Corolla

Given the distance covered, how did you pass the time on those long drives?

Looking out the windows and admiring the changing landscape was impossible not to do. Canada is so diverse, and each province offers unique beauty. We also listened many of the satellite radio stations. Our favourites were the 90s and 2K Pop stations. There’s was nothing like having our sunroof open, music blasting and singing along to TLC and MC Hammer.

Any favourite road trip games…?

Kristen: I’d have to say ‘20 Questions.’ One person chooses a person, place or thing and the others in the car try to guess what it is by asking yes or no questions. They can only ask up to 20 questions in total of course!

Siya: I really love the game ‘The Next Song.’ Our friend made it up, so that’s the name we’re giving it. One person starts by playing a song of their choice. Then taking turns, each person in the car chooses the next song to play, but it must relate to the previous. It must relate through the emotion you feel, style of singing, instrument, lyric or decade. Then you explain to the group why you chose the song and how it related to the previous. It’s a great way to pass the time and discover new music.

What one thing was essential on those drives?

Siya: Great music.

Kristen: Most definitely show tune sing-a-longs!

Siya: I beg to differ.

What tips would you pass on to others?

Fill up that gas tank before heading out on a long drive. You’ll want to make sure you look up gas station locations along your route as well. It’s not uncommon to spot cars along the road that have ran out of fuel, especially in secluded areas.

A little bit of planning mixed with a bit of spontaneity is the perfect formula for an epic road trip

What made the Corolla a smart choice for the trip?

Kristen: It was really spacious! I felt like I was in a larger vehicle than it appeared. The design of the car is really nice. It has a sporty look and feel to it which I think is quite sexy.

Siya: I love how fuel-efficient the car is. There were a few stretches where we were low on fuel and the next station was 50 km away. If we were in a car less fuel efficient, we probably wouldn’t have made it to the pump.

Kristen: It’s such a nice ride. We actually fought over who got to drive.

After spending so much in the Corolla, what features did you come to appreciate most?

Siya: The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. On a long road trip, you’re going to want to have a car with DRCC. The Corolla we drove had a radar system in the front emblem that detects the distance of the care in front of you. If the vehicle ahead of you slows down, the Corolla will pick that up and automatically adjust your speed to make sure you’re at a safe distance. This doesn’t mean it’s a self-driving car, it’s an added feature as part of Toyota’s Safety Sense system that makes driving safer.

Kristen: I really loved the Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist. I’ve never seen this option on a car before, and it came in handy on the longer drives, specifically at night. If we were drifting out of our lane, it would warn us with a simple, yet effective ding and safety steer the car back. Again, this doesn’t mean the car can do the driving for you, but it is there for additional safety.

Mountains in British Columbia during Great Canadian Road Trip

Which experience will stay with you?

There was a moment on our drive from Vancouver to Banff, where we were completely surrounded by snow capped mountains. We had to pull over to take it all in. We stood there, starring as the sun set as a warm breeze brushed across our face. It was emotional. We both looked at each other and didn’t even need to speak any words. We both knew how grateful we felt to live in such a beautiful country. At that moment, we fell head over heals in love with Canada.

So where are you heading to next?

We are craving more Canada. We just can’t get enough!  We’d love to visit the territories, specifically the Yukon. We’ve heard from other travellers that driving through the Yukon in September is mind blowing.