Some people think about a train trip to the Canadian Rockies for years before they do it. Others decide on the spur of the moment to take the train (the plunge) and make plans on their way to the airport.
While both methods work, some advance planning increases your odds of getting what you want and having a stress free, rewarding experience. Here are some decisions you’ll want to make before booking your trip
1. Which month do you want to travel?
May is the most popular month to travel because winter is over and train prices are lower than they are in June, July, August and September. To balance the lower prices, temperatures are lower in both Banff and Lake Louise in May.
Banff is situated at an altitude of 1384 m (4541 feet) and Lake Louise is situated at an altitude of 1661 m (5449 feet). Lake Louise thaws, on average, about June 15. Jasper is situated at an altitude of 1062 m (3484 feet).
Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, on the other hand, are less rainy in May than they are in June, July and August. Traveling in the first week of October is generally less expensive than traveling during the summer and the temperatures tend to be warmer than they are in May. Generally speaking, it is less likely to get snow in early October than in May.
The busiest time in the Canadian Rockies is July and August, not surprisingly. June is quieter than July and August since most Canadian children get out of school about July 1.
2. How Long a trip do you want?
A number of factors determine the length of your trip: amount of time you have, your budget and how much you enjoy being away from home. Rocky Mountaineer train packages range from one day for the Rocky Mountaineer day trip to Whistler to the 16 day Coast to Coast tour.
If you add an Alaska cruise to your Rocky Mountaineer train package, the trip may run as long as three weeks.
To determine the optimal length for you, decide what you want to see and do. Will you spend time exploring Vancouver before or after your train trip to the Rockies? (Personally, we think Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and that, especially if you’ve never been here before, Vancouver is definitely worth a day or two in its own right.)
Do you want to focus on the train experience, the Canadian Rockies experience, or both? How many nights do you want to spend in the Rockies? How many days do you want to spend on the train?
If you prefer a round trip by train, do you want all of it on the Rocky Mountaineer or would you like to experience both the Rocky Mountaineer and the ViaRail train? (The ViaRail train travels overnight between Vancouver and Jasper.)
3.Which type of service do you want on the Rocky Mountaineer?
You have three service levels available when you travel between Vancouver and Banff or Vancouver and Calgary (or the reverse): RedLeaf, SilverLeaf or GoldLeaf.
You have three levels of service available between Vancouver and Jasper and Whistler and Jasper: RedLeaf and GoldLeaf.
RedLeaf Service includes reserved seating in comfortable, traditional passenger cars with picture windows, breakfast and lunch served at your seat each day, complimentary nonalcoholic beverages and overnight accommodations in Kamloops.
SilverLeaf Service includes reserved seating in a custom built single level car with 67% more viewing area than RedLeaf, hot breakfast and lunch served at your seat, complimentary wine or beer with lunch, complimentary nonalcoholic beverages during the day and overnight accommodations in Kamloops.
GoldLeaf Service includes reserved seating in the elevated GoldLeaf dome car, breakfast and lunch in the GoldLeaf dining car and access to the GoldLeaf outdoor viewing platform. Complimentary alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages are included on the train and overnight accommodations are included in Kamloops.