Tips for Planning Your Trip to Canada
1. Plan on taking your passport for your trip to Canada
For international travelers, this may seem like a fairly useless tip. However, it used to be that American citizens could enter and leave Canada with little more than a state-issued photo I.D. Those days are over! As of June 1, 2009, the United States requires anyone entering or re-entering the country (even U.S. citizens) to have a valid passport. The former friendly agreement between Canada and the U.S. dissolved with that mandate. Canada now has no incentive to allow in a U.S. citizen if that citizen doesn't have the proper documentation to re-enter the U.S.
2. Know your currency conversion so you can better budget your Canada vacation
I recently took a vacation to Vancouver from the U.S. I forgot this simple tip when I was planning my trip to Canada and was shocked at how much more expensive things were in comparison. One of the factors involved is that the Canadian dollar has been floating near par with the U.S. dollar for nearly eight months (as of this writing).
On April 15, 2010, the Canadian dollar reached parity with the U.S. dollar, and it happened again for much of the second week of November. In Canada, higher taxes, higher distribution costs, and a different economy of scale all mean that things are more expensive in Canada for the U.S. citizen right now. Plan for that. In fact, everyone (regardless of nationality) should check the conversion of their currency to better budget their trip to Canada. Tourism dollars are always nice for the country you're visiting, but saving money on your Canada vacation is also important.
3. Be prepared for varying climates during your trip to Canada
Most people think that because Canada is so far north that it's always cold there. Well, that's definitely not the case. There are significant temperature variations among Canada's major cities. Vancouver and other cities to the west tend to maintain mild temperatures year round, while the eastern cities of Toronto and Montreal tend to warm up a lot in the summer. Wherever you decide to go, bring along several types of clothes for varying conditions. This is especially important for folks hiking through mountainous terrain.
4. Fully consider the travel options for your Canada vacation
While flying directly to your Canadian destination is the simplest travel option, other options do exist. For example, I found that flying to Seattle and then taking a bus to Vancouver saved me money. The same concept can easily be applied to other cities close to the Canada/U.S. border. (The border crossing process can take several hours when traveling by bus, so be prepared. Note that how fast the process is can vary from trip to trip.)
Canada train trips are another option for folks who want to travel to Canada from the U.S. For example, Amtrak was offering a $56 round-trip ticket from Buffalo, NY to Ontario, Canada as of this writing. Amtrak also serves the major Canadian cities of Montreal and Vancouver, as well as a handful of other minor stops.
Photo by Ed Kennedy on Flickr