Oh Canada

Today is our last full day in the USA.  We are hanging out in Great Falls, Montana, doing our research on Canadian parks now, because Verizon Internet in Canada costs 25 cents per megabyte, ouch!  There are so many beautiful parks in Canada, it will be difficult seeing all that we want to see and still make it into Alaska by July 1st.  So we’ll have to use the same method we’ve been using in the USA, and spend just a few days in each park to get a small sample of what each park has to offer.

Classic view of a cloudfree Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Copyright © Frank Kovalchek. Image used under Creative Commons 2.0 License.

We’ve been preparing for our Canadian entry by eating up all our fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, as we are not allowed to bring most fresh foods across the border.  We drank up most of our alcohol (to avoid paying a duty on amounts greater than 40 ounces).  We also sold our firewood and even our dog food.  We had to ship home our stun guns and pepper spray because these are prohibited in Canada.  And we had to fill our a form and pay a fee to bring our 20 gauge shotgun into the country for “defense against wildlife.”

We also stocked up on non-perishable food and consumables from the local WalMart.  This includes packaged lunches, potato chips, Cheetos, granola bars, crackers, cookies, dried fruit, toilet paper, and paper towels.  There are WalMart stores in Canada, but most are located in big cities, which of course we tend to avoid on this trip.  We found five WalMart stores along our entire route through Canada.  But even with the WalMart discount, prices in Canada will surely be higher than in the USA.

We’ve already noticed the higher prices in Canada when researching the parks.  For example, we paid $80 for an annual pass to the U.S. National Parks.  The equivalent pass for two adults in Canada costs about $140.  Park campgrounds in the USA typically cost from $10-20 per night for no hookups to $20-30 for full hookups.  In Canada, it’s $20-30 for no hookups, and $35-50 for full hookups.  So Theresa has been spending the afternoon looking for dispersed free camping opportunities outside the Canadian parks.  The only good reason to pay $30 per night for no hookups is that you are camping inside the park, with its presumably great views and less driving to reach the hiking trails.  But being in the park also means living by park restrictions, such as keeping the dogs on the leash, closing our shades at night, and only running our generator during limited hours.  So just like in the USA, we’d prefer to camp more often for free on public lands outside the parks.

We knew going in that prices would be higher in Canada and Alaska.  On our trip to Alaska a few years ago, just about everything was 25-100% more expensive than in the continental USA.  Especially gasoline, which is currently running about $4.35/gallon in Anchorage, Alaska, and $5.15/gallon in Prince George, British Columbia, versus $3.68 per gallon here in Montana.  We’ve noticed that gas prices also run 20-50 cents more per gallon in remote areas in the USA, so the same is likely true in Canada, meaning we could pay as much as $6/gallon in some places in Canada.  Since we are averaging about 8 miles per gallon in our RV, that’s at least 55-65 cents per mile in Alaska and 65-75 cents per mile in Canada. 

Our current route has us driving through Canada into Alaska, then back through Canada to Seattle for a total of about 6,000 miles on the RV, and another few thousand miles on our SUV driving to the trails and attractions.  That’s around $6,000 just for gas, which is a bit of a shock to our checkbook.  We’ve discussed skipping Alaska and concentrating solely on southern Canada.  But we both consider Alaska and the Alaska-Canada highway to be a major highlight of this trip of our lifetime, and we’d probably regret shortening our trip just to save few thousand dollars, especially considering we had budgeted for this expensive gas when the trip started.

Since Internet is much more expensive, and phone calls are 69 cents per minute, we’ll likely be communicating a lot less on our blogs, Facebook, and on the phone until we reach Alaska, when prices return to their normal levels (there is no communications surcharge in Alaska).  The best way to communicate with us over the next few months will be through email, though please don’t send any big attachments. 

We appreciate everyone who has followed us on our blogs and have left us comments and questions.  It can get a bit lonely travelling for so long without our friends and family, and we feel a lot less alone when we know you are all with us virtually.

We hope you all have a fun, happy and safe summer!

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