This summer we bought a car, threw camping gear in the back and set off on a 100 day ultimate Canadian road trip. Our aim was to avoid cities, swim with beluga whales, see a polar bear in the wild, hike in the most remote and untouched national parks in the world and spend one month in the Canadian Rockies. Leaving no stone unturned we achieved everything we set out to do and stumbled upon so much more. With no idea how much this road trip would cost, we documented our dollars, tallied it up and have now created this blog to help your Canadian road trip. We’ve got the budget breakdown for you. It’s been designed so you have an accurate insight into where the costs lie so you can taper your trip to either become more ‘super budget’ or a little more decadent.
Note: All prices are in Canadian dollars.
Note 2: Through our blog we do receive discounts on accommodation, tours and activities however we have not factored our savings into this budget breakdown to make it a useful budgeting source.
Where we went: 4 weeks in Manitoba + 1.5 weeks in Saskatchewan + 1.5 weeks in the Yukon +3 weeks in Alaska + 4 weeks in the Rockies
Now let’s get straight to the point…
So where did our money go?
From hotels to camping to sleeping on the roadside, from eating out to home cooking: Here’s how money left our purse.
Purchase + Tax + Insurance: $5200 + $800 + $400
Sell car: $4000
Total cost of car for 100 days: $2400 // $24 per day between us
We chose to buy a car that was a little more expensive in the hope it would be more reliable. I’m sure it doesn’t always pay off but we had no trouble whatsoever. We also chose to buy our car from a dealership which included a 3 month warrantee and peace of mind. Buying from Craigs list or Kjiji would prove cheaper in the long run but with little knowledge of cars and car mechanics, for two girls solo road tripping, the risk wasn’t worth it. Read our guide to buying a car in Canada for more information.
Tip: Resale value is key. Buying a car with low kilometres and a year which doesn’t out date your birthday will be easier to sell.
Tip 2: We may have bought our car at a dealership but we didn’t sell it to one. In hindsight we may have put our price a little too cheap but within 24 hours of being listed, our car sold on Kjiji.
Tip 3: Pick a car which is popular in the area. Ford explorers seemed to be a favourite car for Winnipegers which when it came to resale, insured a quick sale.
Tip 4: Vans are ideal for road trips. Your accommodation, cooking area, living room and car are all over 4 wheels and that’s pretty damn handy. It will also save you purchasing a tent and all the camping gear that buying a car would require however be careful and know your stuff. We heard plenty of horror stories about vans on the road…. and have a couple of our own from owning a van in Australia but if you find the right one, you are laughing!
Tip 5: If you decide on buying a car, space is key for long-term comfort. We had our kitchen fully set up in the back, could keep our mattress inflated whilst on the road and had plenty of room in the back seats to have our clothes and we could even sleep in the back when we had to!!!
Total of 13 nights: $1115
A camping trip shouldn’t really require hotels but sometime you just have to. This $1115 includes 4 nights in Winnipeg when we were trying to buy a car, 7 nights in Churchill (where camping isn’t an option because of polar bears ha!) and 2 nights in a converted convent in Grasslands National Park when we just needed a shower ha!
Tip: If you are looking to drop the cost, dorm beds would be a lot cheaper but they are only available in cities.
Tip: Churchill accommodation was ridiculously cheap for the isolation and surrounding competitors. It worked out at $490 for the both of us for a week! That is thanks to one budget hotel available to summer visitors.
I think we were pretty lucky when it came to car maintenance. In 20000 km’s we got an oil change and 2 tire repairs. Not bad.
Tip: Jiffy lube or similar companies do cheap oil changes whilst you wait and will give your car a once over for a small fee.
A road trip shouldn’t usually require public transport but if you’re like us and want to get up to Churchill in northern Manitoba, you need the train. We found return tickets for $120 p/p online with VIA rail.
Tip: If you are flexible with dates, VIA Rail has a format online that allows you to view prices per day and find the cheapest.
You can’t get around without fuel and we needed a lot to cover 20,000km. In northern regions like the Yukon and Alaska, fuel prices soar reaching 50-60c per litre higher than in Canada’s southern provinces.
Tip: Driving less and making the most of your surroundings will help keep distances and fuel costs down.
Tip 2: Keep a look out for grocery dockets which can be exchanged for 5c off every litre of fuel.
Tip 3: A bigger car guzzles more fuel. An automatic car, more fuel. Cruise control, more fuel. Pick your battles.
Canadian Tire and Walmart have a fantastic range of budget camping gear. They both stock similar brands like Coleman and Outbound which will do the job without breaking the bank. From what we noticed, Walmart was cheaper in general but stocks less items. The great thing about shopping at these big stores is if you keep your receipt and something does break, they have a simple exchange policy. Perfect!
Our camping gear list:
Double burner stove
5 person tent which we exchanged later for a 2 person tent
foot pump, double inflatable mattress
2 x -6 degree sleeping bags (which could zip together!!)
2 x pillows
300g stove for hikes
cooking utensils incl. pots and pans
washing up, portable sink
glasses, mugs, plates bowl’s ect
Tarpaulin for rough weather
Rope for a washing line
dustpan and brush
Tip: Have a look at a salvation army store for any cooking gear.
Tip 2: Don’t feel you need to get it all at once. Get the basics and see what you need. What’s worse is buying loads of stuff and not ever using it!!
Running an online blog means regular access to internet, the bane of our existence, so I’m sure you will not spend anywhere near this amount. However having a phone on the road is important and you will need a sim card. Take it from us, do your research. We were told our provider covered 97% of Canada and that was a total sham. Unfortunately buying data is expensive in Canada, we were paying $30 a gig hence the huge bill. So if you can go without in-between McDonalds, Tim Hortons or a free wifi zone, you will save!
Tip: When choosing your phone provider, jump on their websites and check their coverage. Most providers have great maps which highlight low spots, we wished we knew this before purchasing ours.
Tip 2: Do not get Koodo if you are travelling in Manitoba – they have no reception!
On a stringent budget and with a lot of will power, you can certainly reduce your costs here. Unfortunately we are a little partial to pancakes, burgers and a couple of beers and didn’t hesitate spending some money on them. The funny thing about this section was in the first 1.5 months we spent barely $200 on eating out and in the last 1.5months, when the weather dropped and our taste buds were craving anything but what we had in our car we racked up nearly $1000 ha!
Tip: Diners have great value meals and can be found all over the country.
Tip 2: An obvious one, buy your booze from the supermarket rather than at a bar.
Tip 3: Canada has some great boxed wine. 5 L for $40 – Not bad!
Coin operated laundry machines are prevalent and cheap throughout Canada, I feel that 90 dollars is a very small amount to keep us smelling and looking clean for over 100 days.
Tip: Check if hotels offer a free laundry service, but if not doing laundry takes about the same amount of time as ordering and eating pancakes… what a combo!
This price is inclusive of food, propane gas and alcohol, namely all of our daily shopping bills. Eating self-cooked meals was the key to saving money while travelling around Canada and we put our two-burner stove to good use making various ‘camp-food’ meals with super food additions (adding e.g. spinach/broccoli to the pasta).
Tip: Creating a bulk meal keeps things cheap. Prue made an enormous ‘superfood porridge’ mixture which kept us going for weeks.
Tip 2: Wall Mart have cheap packaged goods including many basic staples.
Deciding to camp was one of the smartest decisions, not only for budget saving but because it meant we were in the heart of the action. Camping mainly in National Parks meant we had wild animals on our doorstep all day everyday and with decent weather throughout the summer it was a joy to spend most of our time outdoors.
Tip: Check if campsites include showers as many places will charge extra for these facilities (up to 6 dollars).
Tip 2: Roadside camping is free and can bring down your costs.
This is why we travel, to get stuck into doing exactly what we love doing: exploring, adventuring, finding wildlife and beautiful landscapes. Activities are our absolute priority on the road and Canada was the perfect place to get involved. We took canoe trips, multi day hikes, polar bear tours, swam with beluga whales, took an Alaskan cruise, kayaked with icebergs, hiked for a month in the Rockies , took guided tours in Denali and guided walks in national parks. We even watched ice hockey and baseball games.
Tip: Do-it-yourself hikes are extremely cheap; pack your bag, grab a permit and find spectacular destinations.
Tip 2: If like us you want to spend as much time in Canada’s National Parks as possible it certainly pays to get hold of a Parks Discovery Pass. It costs around $170 for a year permit, covers all the people in your car and prevents you paying the daily National park fees which rack up pretty quickly. The Icefields parkway in the Rockies for example is $11 p/p per day.
Budget was never at the forefront of our trip, enjoyment was: If wanted to eat out, we did; If we wanted to sleep in a bed and have a warm shower, we did; If we wanted to cook meals with yummy fresh products, we did; If we wanted to kayak with icebergs, we did. When we began this adventure we discussed the idea of completing 100 days but if we didn’t make it, we didn’t make it… as long as we had the best time trying. We choose what was important to us and were not unhappy to be camping for most of the trip. There’s nothing worse than watching your pennies, stressing about money and not doing what you went travelling for.
By choosing what is important to you, you can also save in some areas and splurge on others and I hope that this budget breakdown will contribute to your Canadian road trip by giving you an accurate framework to work from.