Social-distancing at home during Coronavirus time could be the best period to reminisce about the best old-time when I was freely going anywhere. Especially, I really want to tell and blog about a trip in Canada travel from Toronto to Winnipeg and Banff National Park. It was also the very first trip that I traveled alone. Of course, it brought to me a lot of feeling and unique experience.
There Was an Incident That Took Me to the Journey
I had a long time preparing for my study in Toronto, Canada back in 2017. Initially, I registered for a 1-year program to see if I could fit into a new place and a new life. Unfortunately, I only finished 2/3 of the program. And the incident happened in my last program’s semester.
There were strikes that happened around Sep – Oct 2017 in the education section. As a result, students weren’t able to go to school. The incident lasted a few months that caused so many problems for the students, particularly the international ones as we had to pay for the home renting and food during the period without going to school.
Of course, the kind Canadian government compensated for the students later. But because of the strike, my school allowed students to withdraw the tuition fee or reserve the course for other plans. And you know what was my choice? I pick the first option that I withdrew my tuition fee in the last semester and used the money for my journey traveling around Canada. Yes, I wanted to take advantage of already being in the territory of Canada at that time to explore the country and make it a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
The 4 Sentences to Start the Plan
At first, I had no idea of what path I should take or what place I should travel to in Canada. My family all live in Ontario. Evenly, some of them haven’t travel too far to other provinces after tens of years living in this country. I could proudly say that I’m the first person in my family to do this kind of trip. Hence, I did some researches and contacted my friends on what I shall do. Finally, this is what I wrote down in my note to describe the trip and base on to start planning:
– Train to Winnepeg.
– Flight to Calgary.
– Bus to Banff.
– Flight to Toronto.
Indeed, in this post, I will take you traveling from Toronto to Winnipeg and Banff National Park, all following that plan. Definitely, I must prepare carefully with the plan and travel kit for my first alone journey to be full of new experience, interest, and safety.
How I Prepared for the Journey
See what I prepared with the accommodation, transportation, and travel essentials.
Booking.com is always my top choice on any trip, so did in this case. Fortunately, in Winnepeg, I was able to contact a Vietnamese landlord, who could pick me up at the train station and carry me to the airport for departure. It cost me $70 for 2 nights stay.
Banff National Park
I have a friend who worked for Fairmont Lake Louise. Thus, I planned to rent a room nearby to easily visit my friend and wander around the top tourist destination. Lucky came to me this second time, I’m allowed to stay in my friend’s room. We then decided to use the budget to stay in Fairmont Banff Springs the next day to explore another beautiful land in this national park.
I tried to search for a cheaper fare using Google initially. Then, there was no hope with a discount. I finally pick the cheapest ticket on VIA Rail Canada for a seat. Literally, it wasn’t bad at all for the price spent, but a little bit uncomfortable for 2 nights on the train travel from Toronto. If you have more budget, a choice of sleeper train would be ideal for experience on this route.
This was the easiest part because there were so many search engines for flight tickets. By applying all the knowledge I knew to find a cheap flight, I finally book a ticket for Winnipeg – Calgary and a ticket for Calgary – Toronto on Jetradar.com. Yes, the Jetradar platform is a good alternative for Skyscanner, in my opinion. Perhaps you will want a try.
Perhaps you may know about the Greyhound buses in North America. It’s one of the top bus-service providers in the region.
Yes, I booked a ticket on Greyhound.ca to go from the center of Calgary city to Banff National Park. Actually, the destination was Samson Mall which is at the bottom of Lake Louise’s mountain so my friend could catch me up from there.
Below is the list of what I brought for the trip:
- A couple of clothes that well-fit the cold weather in the winter of Canada. I had a Uniqlo Ultra Light Down for the cold weather. And I didn’t forget to bring a shorts to keep my comfortable nights of sleep.
- A pair of hiking shoes. It would be suitable for trekking around the mountains of Banff National Park, particularly when there was snow.
- Surely I tried not to make any packing mistakes. I didn’t bring many clothes. Instead, I had a bottle called “Wilderness Wash” which able to use as fresh and saltwater, body-wash, shampoo, dish detergent, and clothes detergent as described.
- My oldest cousin gave me a bear-bell to stay away from the bears in case I hike in the forest. Well, I haven’t known of things I may meet, so I took that with me on the trip.
- It took many so many hours to move from a destination to another. Therefore, I brought a book with me for entertainment. The book was “Currency War” as I had been learning more about finance.
- I brought a combo of tools to make Vietnamese-style coffee for my friend in Banff National Park.
- A laptop. Yes, the one that I’m currently using to write this blog.
Those were what I had in my luggage at that moment. Yet, it was the trip about 4 years ago, when I didn’t have as much travel experience as today. Thus, if I can make another preparation of the travel kit, I would make some changes and recommendations for you:
- Instead of using a duffle bag, it was probably better if I used a backpack. There are many good choices of travel backpacks in the market, but a 40L one must be enough for stuff. Especially, the backpack has different compartments to store pieces of equipment easier.
- I will put the “washing liquid” and the bear bell at home. Yes, there is always a washing powder alongside a washing machine. And a bear rarely appears at a place with so many people. Those two occupied my luggage’s space a bit.
- If you don’t have to work or do anything that requires a laptop, it should be left at home too. Instead, carrying phone accessories to make your trip more enjoyable is a better idea. At least having a smartphone lens, a selfie stick, or a tripod, there are a lot of beautiful scenes for you to photograph during the trip.
- As a photography lover and also I’m making The Broad Life’s videos on Youtube, a drone camera will be my top pick. You can skip this selection if you don’t like or use it.
My Travel from Toronto to Winnipeg and Banff National Park
Let’s follow me on my 9 days travel from Toronto to Winnipeg and Banff National Park!
In the Beginning, I Spent One and a Half Days on the Train to Winnipeg
Thanks to my uncle Bảy, I was able to arrive on-time and saved some in my budget for the way from Richmond Hill to Union Station, a railway station in central Toronto. Because the train came late, a station’s staff gave me bread while I had been waiting. Honestly, that was one of the worst bread I ever had. It was kinda cold and hard to eat, but enough to keep my stomach calm so I could have a good sleep. I hopped on the train at around 1:20 a.m. and fell asleep soon after.
The next morning, I woke up at around 8:20 a.m. and had breakfast with a bread I brought from home. Perhaps you can guess what I did that whole day. Yes, I read my book, wrote a blog on my laptop, view the scenes outside, played games on my iPhone 7, and explore the areas on the train. Alas, I was only allowed to go to another similar passenger car and one that they call skyline dome car. It is the car that has a restaurant and space for a 360° view of scenes outside.
As one of the travel tips for the long-haul flight, I tried to use the book to sleep as much as possible so the trip on the railway seemed to be shorter. Unfortunately, the train sometimes stopped that disturb my sleep. Once, it was in Hornepayne where the train stopped longer than usual for the passengers to get out and explore, take photos of the place. Possibly, that could be a plan since the train started to travel from Toronto for passengers to relax in this long trip. That night, I met a nomad who sang a lot of songs with his special ukulele. The guy truly made my trip less boring.
The Two Days Exploring Winnipeg
The next morning, after had breakfast on the train at around 8 a.m, I arrived in Winnipeg two hours later. I head to the nearby park right after leaving the rail station to wait for the Vietnamese landlord. From the grass to the buildings surround, all brought to me the excitement to explore the city.
The First Day in Winnipeg
I met my friends at noon. After lunch, we decided to visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Trust me, Toronto has the well-known Toronto Zoo and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, but I haven’t gone to them. Accordingly, this was a chance for me to visit one of the zoos in Canada. The zoo opens from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. and an adult ticket costs CAD $21.50. To me, this zoo was extremely interesting with a lot of animals and exhibits that I haven’t seen before. Definitely, Assiniboine Park Zoo is a destination that I will recommend to anyone who travels to Winnipeg.
That night ended with a fun activity. The landlord invited me to join the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated by the Vietnamese community living in Winnipeg. Honestly, that was the first time I see and join a celebration in Canada with so many Vietnamese people participate. We had a great time enjoying Vietnamese food and games.
The Second Day Traveling Winnipeg
I and my friends decided to wander around the city to see if there is anything interesting. As they were the newcomers to the city too, they liked the idea that we randomly hop in a beautiful place we found, or a restaurant to try the new foods. Indeed, I love to do that in everything city that I come to for the first time.
A little snow couldn’t prevent us from walking far. We passed the University of Winnipeg to the city center. Then, we went to the railway station and an area of big houses. We found an old church and came to a place called The Forks. Finally, we stopped by a Vietnamese restaurant on the way back home. At night, my friends said goodbye to me by their homemade dinner.
Wow, It’s Banff National Park
I woke up very early at 5 a.m. to go to Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, where I met an awkward situation. The thing was, I worried to be late for the flight so I checked-in online to make the progress faster. When it was my turn to meet the ground stewardess for the boarding pass, I suddenly couldn’t find my passport. OMG! I was late to the airport, and it was 15′ left to the flight time. In front of a crowd, I opened my duffel bag to find the passport in panic. Fortunately, I found it out in one of my jacket’s pockets, where I put it in the morning, but I have forgotten. Fortunately, the securities opened the lines so I could cross forward and caught up on the flight on time. Calgary welcomed me with the -1°C cold!
From Calgary International Airport, I found the way to the gathering point of the Greyhound bus which took me to Samson Mall at the bottom of Lake Louise. Then, my friend caught me up at the place to Fairmont Château Lake Louise by shuttle bus. As a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada, Banff National Park offers free shuttle-bus services to move around the destinations inside the park. Yes, that was so ideal for me as I traveled on a low budget.
Explore the Area of Lake Louise
At about 5 p.m. on the 4th day, I came to my room in Lake Louise. Actually, Fairmont Château Lake Louise built separate houses for leasing to its employees if needed as there was no residential area nearby, and I stayed in the room that my friend rented from the hotel. Because it was afternoon when I reach the point, I could only take a walk around a part of Lake Louise on the hotel side. I slept early that night to keep the energy for a full tomorrow day of exploration.
My target for the 5th day was to enjoy and admire the beauty of Lake Louise. Therefore, I decided to reach the Little Beehive viewpoint, from which I can have a full view of Lake Louise and the Fairmont hotel. To do so, I took the Lake Agnes Trail and passed the Lake Agnes Tea House to reach the spot. Indeed, I met a frozen Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes at those points, all making stunning scenes for photography. Finally, I reached the Little Beehive viewpoint after about 2 hours of trekking. The blue Lake Louise paid off my effort with its astonishing landscapes at any corner. Indeed, it was serene but shiny as a turquoise gem.
It cost me another 2 hours and a cup of hot chocolate at Lake Agnes Tea House to walk back to my room. Yes, it was hard to say that I wasn’t tired, but the experience is extremely unique and worthwhile, except for the bear bell that I haven’t had a chance to use. I’m just kidding, but fortunately, I haven’t had to use that.
The 6th Day – Moraine Lakeee!
Moving around Banff National Park was easier thanks to the free shuttle bus during the 150th anniversary of Canada. I traveled to Moraine Lake at around 10 a.m., and right away stunned by the beauty of the lake. The weather was kinda cold at that moment. Nonetheless, I felt really warm inside as my heart has beaten faster in front of the gorgeous lake. I have seen many beautiful lakes in Canada before on the internet. Yet, I have never ever thought that one day I could put my steps there. It was such a dream come true!
I and my friends wanted to spend one more night at Lake Louise before we moved to the town nearby Fairmont Banff Springs the next day. Hence, we decided to do canoeing on Lake Louise. Generally, the activity only opens from mid-Jun to Sep every year. It would be the biggest regret when traveling to Lake Louise but missing the canoeing on the lake. Furthermore, because my friend was a Fairmont hotel’s employee, we weren’t charged for the fee of renting a canoe, which was quite high to me. So, why not canoeing on Lake Louise and be surrounded by turquoise?
Amazing Fairmont Banff Springs and Banff Gondola
I had to admire the beauty of Banff National Park at all the corners. It just simply took me from this wow to that wow, so did this town. At the first glance, it brought to me the feeling of a peaceful town hiding in a cold zone that stays away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Then, I realized that it still had something modern of a developed country, which separated it from other towns and villages around the world. Anyways, as a hobby when traveling to a new destination, I wandered around the town to see the houses, the trees, the roads, and the people, etc. The “town tour” has taken my morning.
From a search about ‘things to do in Banff National Park’ on the internet, I and my friend planned to go to Banff Gondola in the afternoon. It was like the rooftop of a mountain. By going to Gondola Summit, I had a 360° view of the Rocky Mountains around. Regrettably, I didn’t have a drone camera carrying with me. If so, I could surely show you how paradise in the North of the globe is. It was amazing!
I and my friend chose Fairmont Banff Springs for the last night to enjoy the most of the trip. Yes, why not experience one of the world’s best hotels when I had a chance, especially when I had a free upgrade for the room. I just felt like I was quite lucky in this journey.
It’s Time to Go Home
My friend got back to the job at Fairmont Château Lake Louise very early. I was still at Fairmont Banff Springs to enjoy the hotel till the check-out time. Yeah, I just wanted to make the most from every penny spent at the hotel. It was like a unique experience I ever had.
I planned to travel to Lake Minnewanka after checking-out at around 11 a.m. As researched, there was a shuttle bus that transports people from the town to the lake, so I went to Banff Visitor Centre to ask for more info. Unluckily, the bus didn’t work on that day. I then went to a Starbucks in the town center for lunch and wait till Greyhound came picking me up from Banff to Calgary.
I didn’t spend much time in Calgary. Truly, I just had enough time for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant before taking the midnight flight to Toronto Pearson International Airport. Yes, the air station put an end to my journey travel from Toronto to Winnipeg and Banff National Park, Canada.
IF YOU LOVE THE STORY OF MY 8 DAYS JOURNEY TRAVEL FROM TORONTO TO WINNIPEG AND BANFF NATIONAL PARK, “PIN IT” NOW!