There are a few lessons I learned the hard way on my Canada road trip and by sharing them, I hope I can save you from the same frustrations.
1) Gas Stations – Go Inside to Pay
If you are from the US, your credit card will NOT work at the pump. There were many times where I had hoped the gas station I was at would be different from the last. Nope. Every gas station we stopped at required me to go inside with my credit card and pay. Maybe you don’t mind this extra hassle, but I like the convenience of swiping my card myself instead of waiting in a long line inside.
2) Book Ferry Crossings Ahead of Time
Yes, this was a frustrating one to learn the hard way. We only came across one ferry crossing (10 minutes to Tadoussac) that didn’t require advanced booking. All the others we ran into did and space was filled very quickly. Save yourself the hassle and look online to see if reservations are needed.
3) Does Your GPS Work in Canada?
To test this, I sat in my car at home and typed in an address in Canada. My GPS routed me there just like the destination was in the US. My dad’s GPS on the other hand only covered the US & Puerto Rico.
4) Convert Money vs. ATM
We went to an ATM once we were in Canada to take out Canadian money. You’ll have to decide how much you want to do in Canada before you can get to an ATM. For us, we got to Canada really late at night and were able to go to an ATM the next morning.
5) Prepare for the Weather
We drove on a lot of roads where we were the only people we saw for miles. When we hit torrential downpours on the pitch black highway, driving got very dangerous. There were several times where we had to slow down to a crawling 25mph because the roads were covered in water and the tires started to hydroplane.
6) Dress Appropriately for Whale Watching
When I read on the whale watching website to bring a heavy coat, hat and gloves, I thought it was talking about whale watching in the winter. Guess again. We went the beginning of summer and it was freezing.
7) Know Some French
Even after 6 years of French, I can only read the language and not speak it. In the majority of Canada, the signs were in both English and French. In Quebec, they were only in French. We also ran into quite a few people who only spoke French in Quebec. Knowing a few key phrases can go a long way.
In addition to the lessons learned, I used several travel resources to plan our road trip. The main source was the Lonely Planet Discover Canada guidebook. I LOVE Lonely Planet guidebooks and the Canada one is no exception. The book had plenty of things to do in each city we visited and I’m looking forward to using it when I visit Western Canada someday.
The other websites I ended up using were ones I found through simple Google searches. Additionally, I’m always checking out WordPress blogs, travel pictures on Instagram and blogs posted on Twitter to get ideas of places to visit. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram (@lduboistravel) for travel ideas!