What to expect for cost: Driving across Canada...and back.
Updated: Apr 1
The following breakdown is based on 4 months of travel, 19, 951 kilometers, one dog and one lady! Once we hit the part with the totals keep in mind this is a budget heavy trip, meaning I saved a ton by not paying for accommodations (not once) or going out to restaurants. I had to generally be very very mindful of spending in order to travel for so long and let go of some luxuries in order to do that. I hope it will inspire you to do the travel you dream about whatever your budget may be.
Besides the obvious, driving all the provinces in between each coast, here is all the ground we covered while on the east coast. Quite a bit!!
We left from Vancouver Island on June 20th, 2019 & and returned back to the island on Oct 18, 2019. So really right from coast to coast and during peak gas price season too. Gas will be the one amount that won't vary for planning your budget (assuming you are looking at going coast to coast as well). Whether you do it in two weeks or four months, you're going to spend the same on gas. All other things will vary depending on the length of your trip. I'm going to include some costs per day to help give you a potential average to do the math for the length of your trip!
The last note is that I saved *a lot* of receipts, I feel like I did a pretty good job...but I know for certain I don't have every single one. I do believe it is a strong representation.
The total for all receipts that I found was $4376.58. I anticipated to spend $5000 on this trip and I'm pretty certain with missing receipts and how I feel about my bank account, I'd say I spent right around that. $5000. Assuming $5000 for the total, that would average $1250 per month or $41.60 per day. Here is each category!
Gas ~ $2125.60 (Probably more like $23-2500). The price of gas during my trip was on average between $1.20-$1.30/L, sometimes as high as $1.45. Oh yeah, I drive a Honda Element so that's a bit of a toaster shape, if you're in a car perhaps you'd do better on gas than me. Over four months(120days) my average was $20.83/day. (I'm going to always assume the highest possible option throughout this write up). If you were going for 60days, your average would be $41.66/day. Use an app like Gas Buddy to help you find the best prices.
This is what an orange square toaster looks like.
Food for me: $1007.07 This would be my grocery store total, I definitely hit up farm stands for food and did not keep track of that. My bad! My food total represents no dining out, no takeaway coffees either. I'm assuming most people will want more freedom in this category (not going to lie I would not have minded!) but length of travel won in importance over spending more on more luxury food items. I spent about $250-300 each month on food.
The most hilariously large lettuce ever. Attendant, "which lettuce would you like? ...Okay, one moment while I go to the garden and get it for you." Message me if you go to PEI so you can go to this farm stand lol!
Food for Riley: $526.31 Makes sense, he's smaller than me. I did leave on the trip with a few weeks worth of food for him that I already had at home though, which would not be represented in this total. Riley is an active 19kg dog. I feed him dehydrated raw/freeze dried raw food. I also had to get him heart worm medication for this trip which cost $47.05, other than those things, I don't think he incurred too many other missing expenses! I would say Riley's expenses were about $150-200/month.
Transport ~ such as ferries/bridge tolls & where you might encounter them: $174.92 The first mode of transport I encountered would be leaving Vancouver Island. If you are traveling during their peak months check for promotions on their website. When I left in June if you traveled on the first sailing at 6a.m. or last sailing at 9p.m. they offered a 50% discount for vehicles! Sadly did not still apply in October.
I encountered random toll bridges in Nova Scotia and Quebec (be prepared for them other places too of course) so always have some small change on hand for that. I encountered an unexpected ferry in Nova Scotia as well that was a 3 second sailing and cost $7... I wasn't a fan of that one. :p
The other main transport cost is getting to PEI. Or rather getting off of PEI. There is the option of a bridge and a ferry, *both options are free to get there* but the ferry costs more than the bridge when you are ready to leave. To experience both I planned my route to take the ferry there and drive off the bridge to leave. It's approx $70 vs $40.
The eve before driving across the 12.9km PEI Confederation Bridge.
To consider!! Going to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia. I thoroughly wish I knew I wanted to go to Newfoundland before I started my trip. I didn't realize how bad I wanted to go until I didn't have enough time to do it anymore. It looks AMAZING. There are certain hindrances to taking a dog on the ferry, so be sure to look up the guidelines on that. And at the time of this writing the price *one way* is $370 for a vehicle/one passenger. I would definitely put Newfoundland in my budget and timeline now that I know about it for next time. That's saying a lot for my budget a$$.
Park Passes: $92.30 National Park Pass $67 and some change. It's valid for a full year and a purchase I'm really happy with. I super loved the parks that we visited so I find this to be a good value especially if you're visiting multiple provinces. I'm less of a fan of paying when it comes to other parks... I'm not used to that in B.C. In Manitoba a lot of trail heads I ended up at had a cost of $5 (which I did do).. In Ontario I found a bunch of places I wanted to go cost nearly $20! Even if I just wanted to stop to stretch for an hour.. which was unaffordable for me at the time. All other provinces we were able to explore nature easily for free. Oh the last one we did pay for was the Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick, $10. If you go after the toll booths are closed, it's free. (Yes, it says this on their website and is a legal thing to do but I couldn't wait at the time and paid). Which I recommend anyway (waiting) because it's overwhelmingly busy otherwise but a very cool place when it's quiet.
The Hopewell Rocks. Finally quiet.
The Car: Such as maintenance & fluids. This is a section where I couldn't find the receipts to add to the total above. I had two oil changes during the trip and one inspection to check my engine and topped up oil on my own too. I think these things totaled around $300. Thank-you to the car gods for not having me incur any car issues that cost a fortune. This is something you should 1000%, yes 1000% be prepared for though!! I was prepared (physically AND mentally, mostly mentally lol) with another $2000 in savings in case something happened. Maybe even more is smart though. I'm aware that the worst problem like an engine could be $3000-$4000. Just think about what you might do if that happens and how you'd like to personally prepare for it, :).
Random Miscellaneous Section: $220+ This write-up will get way too tedious probably if I keep breaking down every other thing. Things in this category include hiking boots, camera cards, water floatie (< very good purchase!!), mosquito coils, and things you don't get receipts for like showers and laundry, hence the "+".
Finally, Accommodation: $0 and how it was $0. I sleep in my car. I've made a comfortable bed in the back of my Element so sleep is always ready for us whether it is somewhere cool or less "cool" like a parking lot(which has only happened a couple of times). When I first started car camping I had a Ford Focus wagon, so perhaps you can make your vehicle work that you have! To find the cool spots it generally takes a lot more nitty gritty research on the internet. Canada does offer recreation/user maintained campsites which is amazing. I also find places by looking around on terrain view on Google maps and just looking for possible empty spaces and then drive to them. Sometimes it works! And sometimes you keep trying. Another way I have found places to stay is by talking to people and asking. Like if there's no one in line behind me wherever I am, I'll talk to the teller. Some of the best places have come from that!
I hope this makes you feel like you can take a trip whatever your budget may be!