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Cross-Country Road Trip: Drive from Calgary to Toronto

After roughly 3,500 km and 36 hours of driving across 3 timezones, 4 provinces and 29 cities and towns, we finally completed our first Canadian cross-country road trip! If you are planning to drive from Calgary to Toronto, you might find our experience and tips helpful.

cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto Sault Ste. Marie

Getting Ready for the Road Trip

Like any other road trip, we bought snacks and drinks from the grocery store — Ritz crackers, Cheetos, a pack of Gatorade and water.  We also discovered two great long road trip must-haves!  Seedless grapes and instant coffee.  Grapes is a healthy and delicious snack.  Seedless grapes are easy to eat, perfect for driving.  It also satisfied our cravings for sweets.  Instant coffee helped us sustain our energy.  It was cheap and readily available.

Planning Our Stops

Our original plan was to stop at Moose Jaw (Day 1), Winnipeg (Day 2), Thunder Bay (Day 3), Sault Ste. Marie (Day 4), and Toronto (Day 5).  These stops are located at bigger cities which means there are many hotel options, food options and sights to see.  Unfortunately, there was an unforeseen circumstance which made us postpone our road trip for one day.

We only had 4 days to drive from Calgary to Toronto.  It was achievable but difficult.  We were pressed for time so we weren’t able to tour the cities as much as we wanted to.  We revised our stops to achieve our new 4-day itinerary – Regina (Day 1), Dryden (Day 2), Kakabeka Falls and White River (Day 3), and Toronto (Day 4).  It was crazy and exhausting!  If possible, take at least 5 days to drive from Calgary to Toronto so that you will have plenty of rest and time to explore.  

Accommodations

1st night (Regina, Saskatchewan)

Best Western Plus Eastgate Inn & Suites
Address: 3840 Eastgate Drive, Regina, SK S4Z 1A5
Price: CAD 124/night

We chose to stay at Best Western for 2 nights because they have a promo with Aeroplan until Nov. 30, 2016.  Our 2 nights earned a total of 4,000 Aeroplan miles (2,000 miles per hotel).

We enjoyed our stay in this hotel.  The staff was friendly and professional.  Our room was modern, clean and very spacious.  It had flat-screen TV, microwave, refrigerator, coffeemaker, shower/bathtub and free WIFI.  The bed and pillows were comfortable to sleep in.

The room rates also included an unlimited hot breakfast.  There were eggs, ham, DIY waffles and pancakes, cereals, fruits, juice, tea and coffee.  It was a heavy breakfast that lasted until late afternoon!

The hotel has free parking and a heated indoor pool with waterslide and whirlpool.  This is perfect if you’re traveling with kids.

Overall, the hotel was worth the price.

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2nd night (Dryden, Ontario)

Best Western Plus Dryden Hotel & Conference Centre
Address: 349 Government Street, Dryden, ON P8N 3L3
Price: CAD 150/night

We stayed here despite the relatively high price because our top choices were sold out and this was the next closest hotel on our route.

The hotel lobby was designed beautifully.  They have a friendly and professional staff.  Our room was big (but smaller than the first room), clean and decent.  The bed and pillows are comfortable to sleep in.  Our room had microwave, flat-screen TV, coffeemaker, refrigerator, desk, free WIFI and a sofa.

Unfortunately, we expected more from our room.  It was not yet renovated and its outdated decor like the walls, carpet, sofa, and shower made it feel slightly depressing.

We had complimentary breakfast where we chose 2 items from their breakfast menu.

The hotel has free parking and an indoor pool and a whirlpool tub.

It is conveniently located around restaurants, fast-food chains, grocery, gasoline station and Canadian Tire.  We stopped by Canadian Tire to have our tires and oil checked.

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3rd night (White River, Ontario)

Continental Motel
Address: 217 Highway 17 North White River, ON P0M 3G0
Price: CAD 93/night

On our last night, we had no other option but to stay at a motel.  We were unable to make an advanced reservation so we were lucky to get the last available room.

Its price is definitely cheaper but the experience is also different.  Our room smelled musty, the floors were creaking, and the floor cover near the washroom was already bloating.  The shower was outdated and the light switch used a timer.  The beds, pillows and blankets were all worn out.

Aside from these flaws, the room was decent.  The room had an air cooler instead of an aircon but it was still effective in making the room cold.  The TV was old but it had cable.  There was free WIFI, microwave, refrigerator and coffeemaker.

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Road Trip Gallery

cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto clouds alberta
Can you spot the heart? ♥ (Location: Alberta)
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto clouds alberta
(Location: Alberta)
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto clouds alberta
(Location: Alberta)
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto clouds alberta
(Location: Alberta)
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto clouds kakabeka falls
Kakabeka Falls (Location: Ontario)
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto clouds kakabeka falls
Kakabeka Falls (Location: Ontario)
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto clouds kakabeka falls
Kakabeka Falls (Location: Ontario)
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto sunset sky nipigon ontario
We had to stop for this stunning sunset  (Location: Nipigon, Ontario)
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto sunset sky nipigon ontario
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto sunset sky nipigon ontario
Old Woman Bay (Location: Sault Ste. Marie)
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto Sault Ste. Marie
(Location: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario)

Gas

We had 10 gas stops during our entire road trip and a total gas expense of CAD 195.

As much as possible, we chose the ESSO gasoline station to refuel.  With ESSO, we earn 1 Aeroplan Mile for every $3 spent on gas and convenience store items.  It also has a promo wherein we received a scratch card for every fuel purchase of 40L.  Out of 8 ESSO refuels, we were successful with one scratch card! 🙂

*Check the tips below on how to save on gas!

Food

Except for the first two mornings where we had full breakfast from the Best Western hotels, we bought our snacks and dinner from fast food chains like  McDo, A&W, and KFC Express.  We resorted to these because we were already pressed for time.  They were convenient and cheap.  We also had limited food choices along Trans-Canada Highway.

Our total expense for food and drinks during the 4-day trip was around CAD 80.

10 Tips for an Easy Drive from Calgary to Toronto

1.  Plan your stops

Our original plan for the stops was better and easier than our revised plan.  It is advisable to spend the night at the bigger cities.  End your night at Manitoba than driving through the night to Ontario.  Stops along Trans-Canada Highway were less frequent in Ontario.

It is better to drive during daylight at Ontario because of the scenic route.  It is also safer to arrive at your accommodations before the darkness sets in.  The Trans-Canada Highway route in Ontario is pitch-black at night.  It is very dangerous to travel at night because the route has lots of curves, single lanes, trucks, and rock walls.

Download the free Roadtrippers App – This app shows your entire route – from beginning to final destination.  You can add your stops in between so that you can plan your road trip and find points of interest along your route.  It shows nearby accommodations, attractions, camping, entertainment, food & drink, outdoors  & recreation, and tours & experiences.  It also shows the estimated total no. of hours of driving, total gas cost and total distance.

cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto Roadtrippers App
Our route
cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto Roadtrippers App
With stops
2.  Road trip playlist

It helps to have a good music throughout your drive.  It kept us entertained.  By the time you finish your road trip, you might have already memorized your playlist by heart!

For a good road trip playlist, click here.

Another option is to rent a car with Sirius XM.  It has excellent service across Canada.

3.  Save on gas

Use cruise control on flat roads.  Aside from driving easier, we noticed that we had better fuel mileage when we used the cruise control on the flat roads/prairies.

Drive on cooler days.  We didn’t use the AC because it was already cool and our gas expense is only CAD 196.

Gas up as much as you can before you reach Ontario.  Once you get to Ontario, fuel will become more expensive by 0.20/liter.

4.  Check your car before starting the road trip (even if it’s a rental car)

We overlooked this one and learned the hard way.  Since we rented a car from Hertz, we assumed that the car was at its best condition.  Early on the second day of our road trip, the rental car alarmed for oil change.  Fortunately, there was a car service near our hotel.  It delayed us for an hour.

5.  Gas up as much as you can

Before you leave for Ontario, fill your tank!  The gasoline stations are farther away in Ontario.  You’ll never know when you’ll see another gasoline station.  We refueled 3 times a day, before the marker hits the half tank.

6.  If you’re planning to do a road trip on a long weekend, book your accommodations in advance

We wanted to book our accommodations along the way since we didn’t know where we will stop for the night.  We thought that since these are isolated locations, it would be easy to book the accommodations.  Based on our experience, it is still better to book days/weeks ahead than within the day.  Many of our top choices, both hotels and motels, were already sold out.  We ended staying at locations 2-3 hrs farther than planned and prices are more expensive than usual.  Our back-up plan was to find decent (safe and clean-looking) accommodations that were along our route (Trans-Canada Highway).

7.  Check road and weather conditions regularly

Trans-Canada Highway provides the latest news in their website and social media.  On the last day of our trip, there was a car accident on our route.  We were stuck on the same spot for 7 hours.  There weren’t any police to update us on what caused the accident or the progress of the traffic.  Our only source of update was Trans-Canada Highway’s website and social media.

8.  Keep a car charger

We wouldn’t have survived the 4-day road trip without a car charger!  Our rental car did not have a built-in GPS so we used Google Maps for directions.  The GPS and data usage drained our phones’ batteries

9.  Prepare for changing weather

When we left Calgary, the weather was chilly and raining hard with hail. When we reached Ontario, it was already warm and sunny.

10.  Clean the windshield when you’re at the gasoline station

Your windshield will be splattered with bugs every day.  As it accumulates, it gets more difficult to see the road.  It’s impossible to clean the bugs using the wiper only.  Use the windshield cleaner from the gasoline station when you refuel.  It’s effective!

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cross-country roadtrip drive from calgary to toronto

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29 thoughts on “Cross-Country Road Trip: Drive from Calgary to Toronto

    1. Thanks Jennifer! It was a really long drive. It took us 4 days to complete the trip but the scenery and beautiful stops were worth it!

  1. That is a serious road trip! I’m from England and just can’t comprehend driving such distances, it’s insane! Thankfully you have provided plenty of useful tips to ensure that people like me are well prepared. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It was exhausting! Of course, I was only a passenger and Mr. C was driving the entire time. Thanks for reading! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! We are planning to do another cross-country road trip so it helps to learn from this experience. 🙂

  2. What an epic road trip! Some of my best holidays have been road trips in the USA. Would love to do one in Canada! thanks for the really detailed and informative post, have bookmarked it! Looks like you saw some great landscapes along the way too!

    1. Thanks Garth!! We would love to do this in USA too! Yup, we had to stop for the landscapes as soon as we saw how beautiful they were.

  3. I definitely need to explore more of Canada…especially the National Parks. You took great pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sounds like a great trip despite cramming the drive into 4 days! I would need to plan my stops very carefully as I don’t eat fast food so would need to make sure I stocked up on loads of bananas and protein!

    1. Great idea on the bananas and protein! 🙂 If you take the same route as we did, there are few (to none) options aside from fast food.

  5. I haven’t had chance to visit Canada even though I’ve got quite a few Canadian friends. One of my bucket lists for a long time has been to do a massive road trip from one side to the other. Enjoyed reading this post as it reminded me I should get it sorted out…

    1. Thanks for reading Barry! I’m glad you enjoyed it. We plan to do this again but at another part of Canada. I can’t wait to hear your experience once you push through with it. Keep me posted! 🙂

  6. Would love to go on a road trip myself. But I don’t know if I can stay in a motel. I keep thinking of the movie Vacancy where Luke Wilson starred in. It’s scary. I know it’s not real but still…

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