My partner, Teresa, and I were COVID-weary and feeling eager for an adventure more exhilarating than the latest TV series to binge-watch. Living in downtown Toronto, we found that there were plenty of day trips we could take — beaches we could visit, new dog parks to roam — but nothing that felt quite like an adventure. We considered a trip to Europe, as well as a drive down to Florida. Both of those journeys were halted by rising case numbers at home and abroad. We came to the conclusion that travel was off the table for the time being, and resigned ourselves to staying at home.
And then on a Zoom games night (yeah, another one of those), a friend mentioned that she and her husband were taking an RV to explore Northern Ontario. They would visit family and work remotely while parked at a campsite. We had heard that RVing was becoming more popular but had never known anyone who actually did it.
“That sounds like fun,” I said to them. After thinking it over, though, Teresa and I were truthful with each other, deciding that we were probably not “RV people.” We dismissed the idea as something that felt a bit too out there for us, and forgot all about it.
As one lockdown gave way to another one and then another, we started to get the itch that only travel could scratch. Still wary of people-packed airports, unknown infection rates, and treatment capabilities in foreign countries — and the always terrifying possibility of being stranded abroad — we came back to the idea of RVing in Canada. The more we researched, the more it seemed to check all of the boxes for us.
- We could explore parts of the country we hadn’t seen before (wondrous new adventures — check!);
- Our dog could come along (woof! check!);
- And we could work remotely from the RV to extend our time away (paycheque!).
It was settled. We were going to give this thing a try and rent a CanaDream RV. We decided that we would explore the famed national parks of Alberta: Banff, featuring Lake Louise, and Jasper. With the help of the CanaDram Trip Planner, we were able to find inspiration for stops along the way as well as a few incredible sample itineraries. The CanaDream Club App helped us to plot the route from destination to destination and book our campsites. It also gave us exclusive access to activities, tours, and attractions.
Once the planning was complete, it got down to practicality. Neither of us had ever set foot in an RV or stayed at a campground — so the thought of plugging in the electrical connections and dealing with pumping fresh water or dumping sewage made us nervous.
Massive Pro Tip: Pay the $50 for a CanaDream specialist to walk you through your RV before setting off. You are required to watch all of the informational videos before pick-up, which are very helpful, but if you’re anything like us there is no substitute for seeing it done hands-on and in person. We found that the ability to ask shameless, “Explain-Like-I’m-Five-Years-Old” questions was extremely helpful, and set us up for success.
Our first stop was Banff National Park’s Tunnel Mountain campground, a popular location for RVers and campers alike. We got our 30V electricity plugged in without issue and were cooking a stovetop meal in no time. Pro Tip No. 2: We pre-cooked a few meals that we could store in the RV’s fridge and freezer, and could then heat them up in the on-board microwave or stove. It was like having a travelling kitchen at our disposal — with the added bonus of taking our meals a few steps outside the RV to eat surrounded by the incredible Canadian Rocky Mountains. We discovered early on that the RV has an extremely well-functioning carbon monoxide detector. Remember to use the hood fan on the stove and to open up as many windows as possible while cooking.
As we moved along, the trip provided plenty of surprises. As we pulled our RV into the Wapiti Campground in Jasper National Park, we were quickly surrounded by a group of elk — huge animals that were beautiful from afar, and a bit unnerving up close. Our group of visitors was led by an agitated male protecting his mates. He seemed to be assessing us as a threat, just inches from the cab of our RV. The Parks Canada team was on-site quickly and assured us that the elk’s behaviour was normal. Still, they advised us to stay within the protective walls of the RV as much as possible when elk were nearby. We made sure to make our garbage runs in broad daylight!
We were also quite surprised at how much gas we used — and how expensive it was to fill up. Our RV was the spacious-but-not-too-big SVC model, which is more efficient than other choices, but still consumed gas quickly, especially in the mountains. And with a giant fuel tank, fill-ups were around $350. The lesson we learned to be more economical was to book campsites with shuttle services into the nearby towns and attractions (there are plenty) instead of driving the whole RV from activity to activity each day.
As much as we were amazed by the wildlife around us, we were equally impressed by how friendly everyone was at the campsites. Each place we stayed felt like a community unto itself, with neighbours dropping by to say hello, accompanied by dogs to pat and stories and recommendations to be shared. We even ran into a few fellow CanaDreamers.
On our third night we started discussing what life might be like if we purchased an RV of our own someday and — wouldn’t you know it? — CanaDream has a collection of new and used RVs to browse online. The rigs aren’t cheap, but if you compare the cost to a cottage, it starts to feel like a bargain. And what better way to ensure adventure travel for the uncertain future ahead?
So, as it turns out — we surprised ourselves. We are “RV people.” And the nice part is, almost anyone can be. It is surprisingly easy, reasonably affordable, and inclusive for anyone with a driver’s license. You can bet that we’ll be sharing our experience on our next Zoom games night, and hopefully convincing one of our friends to give it a try — or maybe you.
Note: Jay Fleming will be writing a series of articles about his RV experience in Canada. This is the first article he has written for Vacay.ca