What: Via Rail Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver viarail.com
When: Sept. 7-17
After I decided I wanted to make this cross-Canada train trip, I began looking at dates and decided on early September. That would be late enough to miss families whose kids would have to start school at the first of Sept. and early enough to hopefully miss snow in the Canadian Rockies.
Via Rail was getting lots of flak over widely varying amounts of timeliness for the Canadian (some arrivals more than 24 hours late) and in 2018 changed their schedules a lot to hopefully improve things. But that meant as I was planning I had to wait to reserve till new schedules came out.
When the schedules came out, I was able to reserve early for a discounted Sleeper Plus cabin, for one senior. A certain number of discounts are available before regular prices kick in. This gave me a private lockable compartment, with a wide seat, large window, my own toilet and sink, and pull down bed, plus all meals. There are both cheaper and more expensive options.
As I was waiting to book, I checked out all the options and decided I wanted a multi-stop trip, giving me 3 nights in Jasper, AB, in the Canadian Rockies. You can stop at the 2 other locations along the way (Winnipeg and Edmonton), as well - but I didn’t have all the time in the world. The train price for multi-stop was the same as for straight through, as long as your choice of cabin was available.
I fly out of a smaller town to DFW to pick up long distance flights and have to fly American if I don’t drive to DFW. It just depends on price and time. For some reason I bought two one-way tickets: home - Toronto and Vancouver - home. As I was leaving I wondered why I did that instead of a multi-city but, for the life of me, can’t remember why. I guess it was a better set of connections and just as cheap. I had decided to check my suitcase since it’s free and I have to valet check it for the first flight anyway. I did pack my carryon backpack well enough that I could get by for 3 nights on the train in a pinch if the suitcase were delayed or lost.
At any rate, I landed in Toronto about 6:00pm and went through customs and immigration. Customs consisted of stepping up to a kiosk to answer questions and getting my print out, then standing in a really long (but very fast-moving) line, showing my printout to one official in a chair (bypassing the typical one at a booth), and then giving the printout to another official after retrieving my suitcase.
I will say it was a fair walk from Terminal 3, where I landed, to catch the airport tram over to Terminal 1 to catch the UP Express. However it was very well signed and easy (“train to town”). Once I was off the airport tram, the sign directed everyone up an escalator to the cash or credit ticket machines for the UP Express ($12.35 for all the way to downtown). And the train was just beyond that, running every 15 min. It makes 2 stops along the way. It was an easy 25 min ride in a nice train with plenty of luggage room. And not crowded - which surprised me, with all the flights that had arrived at the same time as mine.
I had a reservation for a smart double at the Strathcona Hotel - a 5 min walk from the UP Express, just a short block down York Street and almost across from the Fairmont Royal York which faces Union Station. For dinner, I just needed a little something so grabbed a sandwich and cookie from the Tim Horton across the street. I was really happy with the room - it wasn’t large but I have stayed in smaller. And it was nice and cozy, clean, and the bathroom actually had a bathtub, which is always a plus for me - with plenty of hot water. I don’t know if I was just really tired or it was really quiet but I slept all night without hearing a sound.