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A Pocket-Sized Guide to Traveling in Canada This Year

Canada Travel Guide

Canada has a lot going for it in the travel department. Obviously, it’s big and beautiful – a vast, diverse landscape of mountains, valleys, trails, oceans and lakes. Its cities are clean and vibrant, crackling with energy and diversity. And (at least for American readers) it’s a nearby destination where your dollar goes a little further. 

If you’re planning a trip to Canada this year, bring this pocket-sized travel guide, which includes hotspot destination, packing tips and transportation information. 

Where to Go?

There are thousands of hidden gems across Canada, from national parks to secluded cottage towns. But here, we’ve recommended a few cities. These cities are fantastic destinations in their own right; they’re also fantastic launchpads for seeing natural beauty. From east to west, consider:

  • St. John’s: This maritime capital has the charm of an Irish seaside city (Irish descendance is widespread in this part of Canada), with rocky cliffs, roaring Atlantic coastline and quaint, brightly painted houses. 
  • Montreal: The biggest city in French-speaking Quebec, Montreal shares more in common with European cities than North American ones. The food is fantastic, and the cafes and bars bustle with activity. 
  • Toronto: Canada’s largest city is a melting pot of various ethnicities. You’ll find all the major sports teams here, so catch a hockey, basketball or baseball game, depending on the season. 
  • Calgary: Alberta’s big city has a down-home, country twang, evidenced by its annual “Calgary Stampede,” a summer extravaganza of rodeo events, rides, concerts and more. 
  • Banff: See the towering, white-capped Rocky Mountains in one of Canada’s most picturesque destinations. In winter, ski the slopes; in summer, hike the trails and swim in the pristine, glacier-fed lakes. 
  • Victoria: On the southern end of Vancouver Island (just a short boat ride from Seattle), Victoria is a beautiful city filled with gardens, colonial architecture, stunning marinas and old growth forests. 

Pick one or all of these destinations to kickstart your Canada trip this year. 

What to Pack?

Packing for a trip to Canada means being highly adaptable. By and large, the weather in Canada is warm during the summer and freezing cold in winter. But temperatures can fluctuate depending on location altitude or seaside proximity. That said, here are a few must-pack items for your trip: 

  • Versatile Clothing: Merino wool works best, since it’s both insulating and breathable. As a bonus, merino wool is also sweat-wicking and antimicrobial, so you can stay fresh and dry on those nature hikes. Pack merino underwear, socks and merino shirts for travelling. In winter, supplement your wardrobe with sweatshirts and heavy down jackets. 
  • Hiking Boots: A sturdy pair of footwear goes a long way in Canada. If you aren’t planning on hiking, consider instead a comfortable, supportive pair of trainers or sneakers for urban walking. 
  • Sun and Bug Protection: Like most places, when the sun shines in Canada, the critters come out of the woodwork. Pack a formidable bug-repellent, as well as sun-protective items like a brimmed hat, high-SPF sunblock and a long-sleeve merino wool shirt. 
  • Portable Wi-Fi: No one wants to lose Wi-Fi out in the wilderness. To ensure you have a safe connection, pack a portable Wi-Fi device. 

Finally, pack all of the usual toiletries, electronics and documents for a trip. 

How to Get Around?

Canada is huge. Seeing it all will take some time – and transportation. If you’re planning on seeing all (or a large portion) of Canada, consider these three central transportation methods

  • By Car: This is the easiest way to see large swaths of the country, especially smaller towns and natural wonders. Every major city boasts several car rental options (Budget, Avis, Thrifty, Hertz, Enterprise, etc.). And you can usually drop your car off on the other side of the country, if need be. 
  • By Train: Canada is serviced by VIA rail, the national rail system. The trip from Toronto to Vancouver takes four nights, and is a terrific way to see the countryside.  
  • By Air: If you’re only seeing one or two destinations, it might make sense to fly. Major Canadian airlines include Air Canada, WestJet and budget airlines like Flair.

Hopefully, this pocket-sized guide arms you with the know-how you need to see the Great White North. Be sure to have a camera at the ready – you’ll want to capture the urban landmarks, rugged rural beauty and majestic wilderness that Canada has to offer. 

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