The Cost of Traveling and Moving Across Canada

driving in Canada
I recently moved across Canada, from Vancouver, BC to Toronto, ON, with my boyfriend, in a van with all of our worldly possessions! Here’s what it cost us:

Van rental: $842.11, ALL IN. I emphasize that because it should have been significantly more. The prices we were initially quoted for the 11-foot cargo van were at least that much, plus an additional $1,000 drop-off fee because it was a one-way rental. Had that been the case, we definitely would have just thrown away all of our stuff and flown. Then we discovered that my boyfriend was able to use his company’s corporate account for the rental, which meant a huge discount (no fees for insurance or additional drivers) and no drop-off fee. We rented the van for six days, but were able to make it Toronto in five, so we also saved money by returning the rental a day early.

Gas: $826.02. I’d like to say that we did a lot of research and budget planning for this move, but we most definitely did not, and it showed the most with gas. Our very rough estimate (based on nothing, I guess? Phantoms and vapors?) was that gas would be $500-$600. We were very wrong! Gas prices were highest in Ontario ($1.43/L) and BC ($1.42/L), and cheapest in Alberta ($1.16/L). We could have saved money if we had driven through ‘MURICA, but we were afraid crossing the border with all of our stuff might be a headache. The van was just a terrible gas guzzler, period, but our gas mileage also took a beating because of the terrain through BC, Alberta, and Ontario (where large parts of the trip involve very twisty roads through mountains, or at least mountain-ish areas), and the DEMON WINDS in the prairies, where you have to keep the steering wheel turned 45 degrees just to go in a straight line.

Food: $282.27. This seems high to me, especially compared to our usual food/grocery budget for a week. We did, however, buy most of our food from grocery stores rather than have meals in restaurants, which would have really blown up our budget. In five days, we had McDonald’s twice, pizza once, and two truck-stop diner dinners; other than that, we ate cheese and crackers, turkey pepperettes and beef jerky, apples, bananas, baby carrots, and almonds. And Timbits, because Canada.

Minor Disasters: $104.23. We had a minor disaster on the first day that ended up being a pretty big setback: Before we had even left Vancouver, a truck drove by too close, smashed off our driver’s side mirror, and then kept driving! It was stressful! We had to wait about five hours to get it fixed, which cost us $84. We didn’t go through the insurance because it seemed like a huge hassle for a relatively small repair, and we were anxious to get going. The other minor disaster was that we accidentally threw out our auxiliary cable sometime early on day three, which doesn’t seem like a big deal until you’re faced with two and a half days of white noise punctuated by a weird squeaking sound we could never locate.

Accommodation: $288.47. Initially, our big plan was to stay with friends the first night, and then camp the rest of the time. We knew, it being the first week of October, that it would be a bit cold, but we have good sleeping bags, so we felt prepared. There were a couple of things we didn’t count on, however. The first was that, in addition to being very cold, it would also be pouring rain the whole week, and, thanks to the time of year, very dark by the time we made camp. And YEAH OKAY, maybe we’re wimps, but setting up camp in the dark and cold and rain after driving 12 hours is just totally not in my wheelhouse. I could handle maybe, like, two out of those three conditions.  Also, thanks to our smashed-mirror-fiasco, we didn’t make it as far as we had hoped on day one, so instead of a free night’s stay with friends, we had an overpriced night’s stay at a Ramada ($110). Our second night was at a Motel 6, which was very weird and smelled like pee ($111.47). The third night we were able to book a really lovely AirBnB room, and wondered why we hadn’t just planned to do that from the start, since it was a thousand times nicer than the hotels and basically half the price ($67). On our last night we appealed to the kindness of strangers, and my boyfriend’s aunt gave us the address of some friends who offered to take us in for the night, bless them.


All in all, our total for the move was $2,343.10. This is, certainly, a large enough sum to make me feel slightly nauseous, and I am fairly sure there are ways we could have made the trip much cheaper, but of course there’s no point dwelling, and I am hoping very fervently to not have to move across the country ever again. In between the weird hotels and terrifying transport trucks and eating too much cheese, we did have a lot of fun. And, thanks to that auxiliary cable, we listened to an entire 12-hour podcast about World War I! So, you know—definitely worth it.


Emma Baker reads and writes in Toronto. She tweets here ( and blogs here.

Photo: Davebloggs



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