For many travellers, the best way to know Canada is by train and I agree. We did enjoy it and we could rest a lot, since the seats are way more comfortable, even in economy class, than any economy class flights. For families with kids or without them, Via Rail was a great option comparing to any low cost or cheaper airline. We’ve saved time, money and arrived always on time with less stress. Here you can find how to get cheaper tickets and our family review.
The first price quotes were not so good, as they were more expensive than flights, but with a bit of persistence and using the same approach we apply when booking flights, we’ve managed to get tickets as low as CAD900 for all of us! It means 6 tickets Toronto-Ottawa; 6, Ottawa-Montreal; 6, Montreal-Quebec City; 6, Quebec City-Montreal Airport. Since Via Rail‘s cut off age is 12, tickets were priced for 4 adults + 2 kids.
Via Rail during summer has special prices for families with kids under 12. They pay only CAD15 and families with children under 24 months travel for free! Great option to enjoy Canada on a budget!
Below, you have 3 tips or tricks and how we pay CAD900 instead of almost double, CAD1700.
CAD = Canadian Dollars and includes taxes.
Departure Dates and Times
Same as flights, check different dates. We had our accommodation booked already, so, we could only play with departure times. Early morning, lunch time and late trains are normally cheaper than others.
We try to avoid early bird departures, we aren’t a morning family, and late arrivals, as we feel safe arriving during daylight in any unknown place. So, we’ve chosen the lunch time departure which has the second best price option, it was around CAD20 more expensive than the cheaper one. All good and money saved.
Destinations and Stopovers
In our Canada trip, we had family accommodations in 4 cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. Via Rail allows you to book tickets in different ways: One Way, Return or Multi City. Believe me, I’ve tried all possible combinations of family or individual options, and the best was to book 2 multi cities family tickets: Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal and Montreal-Quebec City-Montreal Airport.
See the image above. It gives you a good idea. Toronto to Ottawa, from CAD44. Toronto to Montreal, from CAD 44 as well. Note that most of Toronto – Montreal journeys stops at Ottawa, you can have 2 cities by the same price. Even if you don’t want to visit Ottawa, trains connecting at Ottawa station are half price from direct trains to Montreal.
Also, in our way back from Quebec City to Montreal Airport, instead of dropping off in Montreal Station, we dropped off in Dorval (next station after Montreal), which has free shuttle to the airport (included in your ticket already). A lot of savings here!
Via Rail, as any transport companies, has multiple fares types: Escape, Economy, Economy Plus, Business and Business Plus.
We travelled on an Escape Fare, budget option, which includes WiFi, power outlets and baggage. Seats were good, spacious and if you feel hungry, you can order something to eat or drink on the spot + you can bring your own food if want.
Below you see a day with very good deals, including CAD99 business class tickets. Instead of paying CAD76 for an Economy, why not pay CAD99 for a Business which includes a meal, not bad! Remember, only Escape, Economy and Economy Plus gives discount for kids. Business classes children pay full fare.
If you don’t mind simplicity and have decided your itinerary (no issues regarding cancelation or changes), go for Escape Fare! Again, money saved here!
The kids are pretty used to travel for long hours, so I knew it wouldn’t be a problem for us. The trains have wi-fi and entertainment too, so they could use that if they got too bored, but it never got to that point. They played on their phones and were happy with that. The seats have power plugs, so they could charge their phones while playing, which was handy.
During the first 3 trips, the kids received a travel kit, with paper trains to build, tattoos, stickers, pencil, and an activity book. On the last 2, they didn’t – which was funny because they were longer trips, but anyway. We took that as a blessing, seeing as Coral hates being parted with gifts and we’d have to throw them all away anyway. She did play a lot with the trains and tattoos during our time in Montreal and had fun with them.
We only had food in the train once, and it was surprisingly fine. We thought it’d be airplane food, but it was a bit better. I was surprised to see a vegan option of veggies and hummus, and it was pretty good. I’m not vegan, but I like veggies and hummus. The food cart passes a lot of times too, which is great for when we’re thirsty.
The only problem was the seating. We bought ours as a group, so they gave us sequential seats, which was fine half of the times, but on the other half, we ended up in very weird seats. On the last one, Angelo ended up on a single seat and I was seated with someone else. Most people are happy to exchange seats, but some people aren’t so we did sit separated a few times. It was fine since the kids were always together, but it should be something better.
We really enjoyed traveling by train, as it’s so little hassle and waiting time. We’d happily travel by train instead of airplanes. The trains had delays almost all the times, but it was always less than half an hour, and we were never on a tight schedule, so it was fine for us. If you intend on having a tight schedule, give an hour or so for train delays because it happens.
What’s your favorite transportation method? Ours is now, train!