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Flying into Canada from Houston.. then flying across Canada... need help!

We have plans to fly from Houston into Vancouver. We want to rent a car and drive to Banff and then fly out of Calgary to Toronto where we will stay a few days before flying back to Houston. This trip can also go in reverse if need be for costs or convenience. Does this trip sound too complicated to enjoy? We will have a week and a half to do it. The west coast part will be for sightseeing and nature, while Toronto is more of a fun/scouting out type situation. My husbands' job may transfer him there one day and we want to check out the surroundings. Does anyone have any suggestions on flights that are the most cost-effective? Any places that we really need to see and how many days we should stay in each area before moving on? We really need this adventure more than most. We lost our home in Hurricane Harvey last year and we have been through pure hell for almost a year. We just need to have the time of our lives. Some privacy and romance wouldn't hurt either! Thanks ahead of time!

Posted by
51 posts

I would suggest that, for a week and a half, you should choose between your two destinations. You could easily spend a week and a half in both places and to do both might be rushed, rather than relaxing. I can speak to the west coast and perhaps someone from Toronto could speak on how to spend the time there. I would fly into Calgary and end your trip in Vancouver. You could break the drive up by spending a night or two along the way. (Banff is a popular spot.) Vancouver will have lots to do, as well as nearby Whistler and Victoria. You didn't mention when you are planning your trip. Book ahead on hotels and ferries, as summer is busy. If you are determined to fly to Toronto, check out flights on WestJet. (Remember that they fly into both Vancouver and Abbotsford when you are comparing prices.)

Posted by
3789 posts

(I grew up in Victoria and visit Toro to regularly)It will be rushed and not very cost effective as you have proposed it. Vancouver and Toronto are 2 of the 3 most costly cities in Canada. A one way car rental, particularly out of province is going to include drop fees of several hundred dollars. I don't consider WestJet as pricing for me is on par to Air Canada. You may want to do some research on the cost of a 'multicity' airfare. Houston-Van then Calgary-Toronto-Houston all on one ticket. The higher cost is going to be due to wanting to add in Toronto.
3 days in Toronto is more than ample in my mind. Understand, however, that downtown isn't the reality if you move there. Chances are, just like any city, you can afford to live in the 'burbs...and you commute.
I actually don't find Calgary all that appealing. I might suggest a return flight Vancouver, drive to Banff, up to Jasper then return to the coast (perhaps an alternate route). A day or more on one of the Gulf Islands or Victoria can add romance and relaxation.

Posted by
1172 posts

I agree with the above 2 posters that I would either go west and do Vancouver/Banff/Jasper or stay east/central and do Toronto/ maybe Ottawa/Maybe Montreal/Niagara.

I think it depends on what you want to do with that week and a half. Like the first poster, I would look into Westjet if you decide to go west. They are by far my favourite airline to fly within Canada.

If you decide to go central, I would look to fly into Montreal, train to Toronto and then rent a car to get down the Niagara Peninsula ( Niagara Falls/Niagara on the lake)

Posted by
68 posts

This feels like two separate vacations to me. I agree that focusing on one part of the country or the other would likely be more relaxing and enjoyable. I live in Ottawa and grew up near Toronto, so I could easily plan a great week and a half in Ontario. Maybe a few days exploring Toronto, then a few days in a resort in the Muskokas? No mountains, but Algonquin park is spectacular in every season.

You could also spend a couple of days in Toronto, take a train to Ottawa (about six hours) and spend a few days here, then another six hours on the train will bring you to Quebec City, one of the most romantic places in the country. From there, you could do whale watching in the St Lawrence for your nature fix. :)

It's my experience that no flights around Canada are cost effective, though. :/

Posted by
6872 posts

I think that's too many disparate places to combine for just a week and a half. The drive from Vancouver to Banff would be over 9 hours alone, and then you'll probably face steep rental drop off fees if you drop the car in the Calgary area to fly elsewhere. Canada is HUGE, and distances are vast. I would focus on one region, there is plenty to do in Vancouver and Vancouver Island alone (I would highly recommend it). If you say the job transfer is a "maybe one day", I would save that trip to later when the company will likely pay for it anyway.

I would go to your local library and check out some Canada books so you can develop your itinerary, also visit the excellent web tourist resources (https://www.tourismvancouver.com). You'll get a much better sense of how much there is to do in one region and distances from region to region. Last time I was in Vancouver (a year ago), we drove to Kalowna to the wine country and it was a really, really long drive...so I would not underestimate in-transit times between disparate places that you're contemplating. Good luck!

Posted by
3493 posts

I looked at some of the options.

The drive from Vancouver to Calgary is about 11 hours, non stop. If you are doing sight seeing along the way, you mentioned Banff, that of course will add time. I do think the drive is worth it just to see the sights.

Wow, I never realized car rental was so expensive in Canada! Best price I could find for a random date in August was CA$328 a day (Hertz. No discounts. Best available price. YMMV). This is from Vancouver to Calgary. It costs CA$450 a day if you go the other way.

Airfare is not much better for the flights within Canada. Calgary to Toronto is around CA$215 one way per person for the same random date. Flying into Canada from Houston has lots of options starting at US$175 to Calgary or US$250 into Vancouver or Toronto.

I think it would be best to focus on either the Western half of your trip or the Toronto part. Anything else would have you traveling more than sight seeing.

EDIT: The car rental is one way, which is what the OP mentioned. Renting and turning in at the same location is much much less costly. And I do not ever find Hertz is the most expensive for all the renting I do in the US, maybe in Canada it is.

Posted by
4 posts

After reading over the replies I have decided to focus on the Toronto side this time around. I really want to go to British Columbia but I need to wait until I have more time. So, I'm going to fly into Toronto from Houston. As mentioned above, being downtown isn't really going to be what we need because it won't represent real life. What do you all suggest? I would like to spend at least two nights downtown just to experience it. What are your suggestions on places to stay on the outskirts and the places we really need to see. We will be renting a car so we will be willing to drive all over. I'm open to just about everything.

Posted by
6872 posts

Wow, I never realized car rental was so expensive in Canada! Best
price I could find for a random date in August was CA$328 a day
(Hertz. No discounts. Best available price. YMMV). This is from
Vancouver to Calgary. It costs CA$450 a day if you go the other way.

I don't know what search engine you're using (Hertz? the most expensive car rental out there?) but it's nowhere near that expensive per day in Vancouver if you're talking about a regular compact or midsize car. I just took a scan at www.carrentals.com and found much lower rates for random August dates. It depends how early you book, what sites you use to book (I use third party sites because they often have much better pricing), where you're picking up/dropping off, whether it's an airport location, etc. I went to Vancouver in May 2017 and rented a car in Victoria, I paid $42 CAD per day with all taxes (I just looked at my receipts).

being downtown isn't really going to be what we need because it won't
represent real life.

I don't know what makes it not "real life" because it sure is lively and full of life; I sure wouldn't stay anywhere else (hotels are quite expensive there though). You don't need a car in the city, it's easy to walk and take public transit. You won't get an outdoors experience in Toronto like you would in BC though. You can take a trip to Niagara Falls since it's not too far away. Check out their visitor website, it has everything you need for planning purposes: https://www.seetorontonow.com
Toronto is a great, multiethnic city not unlike Houston - but I would not underestimate how much activity happens in the city center, it's not just the 'burbs. And if you have a car with you, prepare for some expensive parking (you really don't need a car in the city at all)

What are you going to do for an entire week and half in Toronto? Unlike British Columbia, I don't think Toronto has the same draw and you can see the city itself in about 5 full days (I did it in 3 but they were really busy days). So that leaves room for a lot of side trips.

Posted by
11289 posts

Just a note that LOTS of people do live in downtown Toronto and close-in neighborhoods. Of course plenty of people live further out as well (the "Los Angeles of the north" is famous for its sprawl), but don't feel that staying in or near the center doesn't represent "real Toronto life."

Posted by
43 posts

Just my two cents worth living in Victoria. As several others have mentioned this should be two separate trips.

If you are looking for a busy hectic CULTURALLY DIVERSE city Toronto is the ticket, but it doesnt need 10 days unless you take side trips as others have suggested. A trip to Montreal or Niagara would be lovely. If you go in the summer it will be incredible hot and humid (grew up in the area).

If on the other hand you are looking for jaw dropping scenery at every turn of the head, spending time in nature I would suggest heading for Calgary to Vancouver. Vancouver is also a busy and very CULTURALLY DIVERSE city, buy very laid back with beautiful ocean views, hiking trails, whale watching tours, eagles, seals etc. As someone also suggested a short trip to Vancouver Island would be time well spent. The climate is temperate. Depending on the time of year you visit you
could see the salmon spawning etc. Up island there are some of the most beautiful "rugged" beaches in the world. (In fact, Vancouver Island was included in the Nat Geo - ten of the most beautiful islands in the world).....
Good luck with planning your trip, and I hope everything works out for you.

ps - love, love, love the airport in Houston. Very efficient and people are very kind to sleepless travellers. We have used it several times now on our trips to south america etc. BUT the best thing is that they have a line for canadians "just passing through the states". Havent seen that at any other airport we have used......so three cheers for houston airport....LOL....

Posted by
313 posts

You don't mention when you are planning this trip?

Seconding what Holly just posted, you might want to reconsider Vancouver/Vancouver Island (Victoria), especially for some of the reasons you gave for needing this trip. And I'm very sorry to hear of the loss of your home.

Whatever you decide, I hope you have a fantastic trip!

Posted by
314 posts

Hi Gringaloca
You may have changed your mind already, but I actually think your original plan is doable. If you fly into Toronto you are actually landing in Mississauga. You have 2 choices then, either take a train downtown ( very convenient) or pick up a car. If you are landing fairly early in the day, I'd get a car, drive through all the suburbs west of Toronto ( Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington) and keep going to Niagara Falls. Spend the night there, or at Niagara on the lake. Then I'd personally spend 2 or 3 more nights in downtown Toronto to get a sense what the city offers and leave to fly to Calgary in the morning.

Pick up a car at the airport in Calgary, and drive up to Banff for a night or 2, then drive down to Vancouver. It can be done in 1 day from Banff. I'd drop the car in Vancouver. You won't want it, and there is excellent train service to the airport. If you stay near Stanley Park you can get your nature fill just walking there.

The only thing is, I'm not sure when you are thinking. Banff and Vancouver hotels fill up early for the summer and can be very expensive. But it is in Canadian dollars! On the other hand, you may not want to leave too late into the fall and risk driving in the snow.

Posted by
3789 posts

Let me try to explain the comment 'that being a tourist in Toronto isn't necessarily the reality'. Yes, people live downtown. But it is an expensive city and I wasn't going to assume that gringachica has a million dollars to buy a house. Yes, I know they aren't all that price, but many are. That is why there is urban sprall.
Most people accept that their cities are different depending on whether you visit or live there and that is why I made the comment. If OP is scoping Toronto as a possible move, then they need to keep that in mind.
So, Gringachicha, where exactly is the office located? Then look at the housing market. Heck, it doesn't hurt to even have a chat with a real estate agent to give you an idea of where you can afford to live, then scope out the area. We can't really say where you should be driving without knowing office location, salary, etc...that is what an agent would do for you. Also, doesn't work offer a house hunting trip?
Really, given your comments, I would steer to a relaxing and totally vacation type vacation, than one that includes the practical and tension of a possible move.....but that is your decision.
Prince Edward County (Sand Banks), is a couple (or so) of hours away and gives wineries, beaches, bed and breakfasts so you can get away from it all for a few days if you are firm on the Toronto plan.

Posted by
4 posts

As I mentioned in my original post, this trip really does serve two purposes. Personally, I would love to actually vacation in Vancouver and then on up to Banff. I know the natural beauty there is amazing. It's just that we need to scope out Toronto so my husband can get an idea of what it would be like to live there. We live in Houston now. We rarely go downtown. We hang back in the burbs because we have teens. When we move up there it will more than likely be to a burb area. I'd like to be in a somewhat trendy area that isn't completely crazy in prices. We do plan on staying downtown a couple of days to get some great views. I doubt we will go to Niagra since we've been there before but Montreal sounds like fun.
I'm just really tore on what to do now. I want to go to Vancouver but we really need to visit Toronto before we make arrangements to live there.

Posted by
3789 posts

If you need to scope out Toronto, then by all means.
My kids live in the St. Clare West area, but itmis still 'downtown'. I dkn't know the burbs so well. Also worlk location matters. So, contact an agent ahead of time and see what info they can offer. You dkn't want to drive all over, like an area and then find it isn't family friendly for you.
Toronto is a train, subway, bus sort of city, but of course others drive. The public transport might be an angle you aren't used to. Maybe make a point of using it for co sidering living near a transit line.
As suggested, take the Train to Montreal. A tip, Tuesday is sale day for knkine tickets. They can fet pretty pricey as you get closer to travel dates, but more relaxing than driving in Montreal. The car is not king in either city. Let Montreal or Ottawa be your leisure break and a chance to mull over the i fo gajned in Toronto. Once you move to TO, then do a Vancouver visit.

Posted by
1350 posts

If your trip to Toronto is to scout out for a possible move, and you are thinking that the burbs are where you are more comfortable, I'd suggest staying in the burbs, somewhere on the GO Train routes. The GO Train would be the way most burb folks who work in Toronto get to work (provided we are talking downtown offices). That way you could test the burbs, and still hop on the GO to visit Toronto's tourist sights.

I'm most familiar with the burbs to the East of Toronto, but people commute in from all directions. Why not spend a few nights to the East, a few nights to the West, and maybe even the north?

Posted by
6872 posts

It's just that we need to scope out Toronto so my husband can get an
idea of what it would be like to live there.

I think the differences in weather (fall and winter), housing costs, and housing sizes will probably be the most stark between Toronto and Houston. You'd get a totally different feel if you travel off-season when it comes to the weather. That would probably be more representative of what living there would be like for a decent chunk of the year. I'm from SoCal and never really "warmed up to" to cold weather, despite living on the East Coast for 20+ years now (I know I couldn't stand it any north of where I currently am, even though I love those northern cities - NYC, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, etc).

Posted by
4 posts

I'm not a true Texan. I've only been down here for six years so I'm pretty comfortable with really cold weather and snow. I just need to get used to using public transit. I am actually looking forward to not relying on my car so much. I'd like to ride my bike and take the train as much as possible. I REALLY love this forum because you all have really given be a reality check on this whole trip. I will be breaking this up into 3 different vacations now. The move to Canada is not something that will be happening right away. I'm thinking we will be up there within five years. I just can't wait to visit and really get a feel for the people and Toronto. I would love to live downtown but to be completely honest, I don't think we could ever afford it from what I've seen in my research. Maybe when retirement age approaches it could be something to think about if we could find a very small loft type apartment.
Anyway, on this trip we will be concentrating on getting to know the area. I would love to see some great art, listen to good music and eat great food.

Posted by
31473 posts

gringaloca,

First of all sorry about your home and all the trouble you've had over the last year. I hope things are improving for you. You've received lots of good suggestions so far. I have a few to add.....

Given what I've read so far and given the limited time frame of your holiday, it seems that you'll have to prioritize between....

  • having an "adventure" and "the time of your lives" along with some "privacy and romance" in order to have something good in your lives after all the misery you've been through..... OR
  • scouting Toronto to get an idea of the city due to a possible job transfer for your husband "some day". You used the word "may" so it sounds like the job transfer isn't definite, and may never happen.

In the same circumstances, I'd probably choose the "time of your life" option and spend 10 relaxing days in the beautiful Vancouver area, with a drive to Calgary via Banff. You'll have to decide which is the highest priority for both of you.

There are many sightseeing options in the gorgeous scenery of B.C., including Vancouver, Victoria (and other places on Vancouver Island) and you could also venture up to Whistler. If you're interested, you could stop in the beautiful Okanagan on the way to Banff and check out some of the many wineries. I won't bother posting more specific details on B.C. sightseeing until you make a definite decision on which place you're going to choose.

There appears to be at least one direct flight from Houston to Vancouver and several from Calgary to Houston, but I'd have to check further to confirm that.

Regarding car rental, I just rented a car in Vancouver for three days (Budget Rentals, full size Impala), and the total charges were <$200. Two points to note however.....

  • the rental contract states, "vehicles are authorized to drive in B.C. and Washington but extra charges may apply for Alberta, Oregon or California".
  • My bill did not include any charges for CDW or other insurance, as rental car coverage is provided by a feature on my own car insurance called Roadside Plus. These are the details of my insurance package if you're interested - https://www.icbc.com/autoplan/optional/Pages/rental-vehicle.aspx .

When is this trip taking place?

Good luck with your decision!