VIDEO: Blowing All Your Money in Canada

Posted In: Canada, National Parks, Video

Last time I wrote about beating gas prices by camping close to home. So it seems fitting that in today’s post we consider what happens when you throw caution to the wind, and camp FAR AWAY from home. For my wife Kristy and I, the time we spent in Canada’s stunning Banff National Park qualifies. Here are a few thoughts about camping in Canada, with some pesky dollar amounts attached.

Banff is located about 3500 miles from Key West, where we began our “long, long honeymoon” journey. If we do a little fuzzy math (3500 miles traveled at 11.8 miles per $5 gallon of diesel) the total ONE-WAY price tag for this journey is $1483. And if you actually want to return home, this trip will cost $2966 in fuel. Or you could just watch our video for free, and say you’ve been there.

Camping in Canada is truthfully a lot of fun, if not terribly different from camping in the United States. You’ll need a passport. At the border there’s the obligatory Checkpoint Charlie where you’ll be required to answer a few security questions. (Yes, you packed your own RV yourself. No, you’re not transporting any international fugitives in your camper. And no, you don’t have any unwashed tomatoes.)

Once in Canada you’ll need Canadian money, though you can use your ATM card just about everywhere. As a general rule, prices in Canada seem to be a little higher than prices for the same goods in the United States. Fuel, sold by the liter, is not cheap. For that matter, neither is milk and cereal. Draft beer costs about the same per milliliter as liquid plutonium. I don’t know about you, but I feel it should be a violation of international law to charge more than six dollars for a Coors Light.

Watch out for cellular calls, too. One fateful day, Kristy’s phone rang. It was her parents calling from the United States. We answered the call and enjoyed a brief, pleasant conversation. A couple of months later, a rather unpleasant $28 Canadian surprise appeared on our bill. In a perfect world, I suppose confiscatory roaming charges would be against the law, too.

Campgrounds run the gamut. We stayed at some reasonably priced private campgrounds, and the national parks – such as Banff – were excellent. Our campsite in Banff was really more of a parking space, but the views it afforded were spectacular. Banff’s famous so-called “hot” springs were actually rather tepid. The natural sulphuric waters were piped into a shallow swimming pool. Building a refined swimming facility was a noble idea, but somewhere along the way the water’s temperature element was lost. We found far more satisfying hot springs south of Banff, in British Columbia’s fantastic Lussier Springs.

As for the town, Banff is one of the more scenic and charming little mountain villages we’ve seen. Replete with the requisite “cute” shops and restaurants, it is touristy but not tacky. It reminds me of Jackson, Wyoming – but the views from this town are superior. In Banff you always feel the serene presence of the surrounding mountains. And the local river is filled with glacial runoff, so it’s an almost surreal shade of green.

I must confess that it’s rather exciting to haul one’s RV across the border into another country. Intrinsic in the RV experience is that sense of bringing “home far away from home.” That’s especially true when venturing beyond United States borders. Although you’re leaving your native comfort zone, you’re also towing a piece of it behind you.

But the truth (and please don’t shoot the messenger) is that Alberta, Canada is not radically different from the United States. Most people speak English (although you will hear a little French), share a similar culture, and live a comparable lifestyle. Now, hauling an RV through sub-Saharan Africa (which has been done, by the way) or Central Europe would be quite different indeed. Who knows… perhaps this will be on our honeymoon agenda for next year. 😀

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