If you want to experience the Canadian Rockies up close and personal, but you don’t want to drive, Canadian train trips are the answer. Having traveled three times on the Rocky Mountaineer train as a guest of the Canadian owned company, I’m an expert when it comes to Vancouver to Calgary train trips. Today, I’ll share my Rocky Mountaineer train travel tips on vacationing in Western Canada by rail.
Canada National Parks train travel
Welcome onboard; sit back, relax and soak in the experience of Canadian Rockies train travel by daylight. That’s right; the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train only travels during daylight hours. You will not be sleeping on board this luxury train, unless you decide to take a siesta during the day.
The fact that you don’t sleep overnight on the train differentiates Rocky Mountaineer from that other Canadian train line. Afterall, the point of traveling through these majestic mountains, glacial-fed flowing rivers and historic Canadian National Parks is to take in the gorgeous scenery by train.
Vancouver to Calgary Train Trips
My first train travel tip is to allow plenty of time for this once-in-a-lifetime luxury train holiday. While you may only be on board the train for two days, you’ll want to extend your vacation with Rocky Mountaineer train trips from Vancouver to Banff, Lake Louise, Kananaskis and Calgary.
The family-owned Canadian company is celebrating 30 years of being one of the best travel experiences in Canada in 2020 so why not join in the celebration?
The luxury train offers two types of rail service; GoldLeaf service and SilverLeaf service. If this a splurge trip for you, I’d recommend upgrading to GoldLeaf service. In 2019 Rocky Mountaineer announced the largest capital investment in company history in designing and building 10 new GoldLeaf coaches and they are fabulous. I’ll share more train travel tips regarding the glass-dome cars below.
Personally, I’ve flown in early to Vancouver for the First Passage to the West route. I regret not adding additional days in Jasper National Park when I took Journey Through the Clouds from Vancouver to Jasper via Kamloops.
Rocky Mountaineer partners with 13 different hotels in Vancouver, alone, so you’ll have plenty of Canadian hotel options. I’ve stayed in many different hotels on these luxury train trips. I prefer Fairmont hotels due to their historic connection to the Canadian Pacific Railroad and the scenic location of these iconic hotels.
What to Pack for a Rocky Mountaineer Train Trip
With 36 passenger coaches, a Train Manager, Guest Service Manager and dedicated hosts for each coach, you will be well cared for aboard Rocky Mountaineer train during your travels. So what to pack for your Canadian train trip? While the rail cars are deluxe, you don’t need to pack high heels, dresses or sport coats for this vacation. Instead, pack comfortable travel apparel. I prefer wearing layers so I can bundle up when I stand on the outside platform or cool down when I’m relaxing in the dining car.
Whether you travel with a large suitcase or carryon only, you won’t need to worry about your luggage the entire train journey! Maggie Mouilleseaux from Michigan and North Carolina traveled with her husband from Banff to Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer.
“What we loved was the service in our train coach,” said Maggie Mouilleseaux. “Jade and Andres were superb hosts; friendly, informative and the food was excellent! One of the best things about our trip was that our luggage was taken care of. We never touched it until the hotel rooms. The Delta Hotel in Kamloops was excellent. It was a fabulous vacation.”
As the train is constantly moving throughout your journey, you’ll want to wear comfortable walking shoes on board. The train is not the place for fashionable high heels when you are climbing the stairs between the dining car, viewing platform and your GoldLeaf Glass-Dome Coach.
GoldLeaf Glass Dome Rail Car Tips
These Rocky Mountaineer rail cars are first class. In fact, I felt like I was seated in a Jaguar or Mercedes Benz luxury car, rather than a train. The glass-dome coaches offer air conditioning and there are power sockets between your seats to keep your smartphone and tablets charged. With leather, heated seats and large picture windows you won’t want to leave your reserved seat. But do resist the urge to sleep, as you won’t want to miss the Canadian scenery unfolding in front of you.
If you are physically challenged with stairs, there is a mechanical lift for those needing extra assistance on their train travels. I met a woman who had recently fractured several ribs. Rather than cancel her much anticipated train trip, she let the highly capable Rocky Mountaineer hosts assist her in the lift. Her host also made sure she and her husband were seated before other passengers in the dining car to give them extra time to move from one floor to the next. In short, this is a luxury train journey that I would feel comfortable taking with my elderly parents as they are able to enjoy the scenery without having to over-exert themselves.
Rocky Mountaineer Photography Tips
As I mentioned previously, this is my third time traveling with Rocky Mountaineer, so I have photography tips to share. Before you even board the train, make sure your phone or camera is fully charged. I tend to take a lot of photos and videos on my iPhone so I bring a portable charger with me when I travel. This way, if my battery drains and I forget to plug in and charge my phone, I can plug in the portable charger and still continue taking pictures and video. Believe me, you’ll go a little crazy on day one snapping pictures because the scenery is beautiful. Spoiler alert, the scenery gets even better on the second day of travel so pace yourself!
“You’ll go a little crazy snapping pictures because the scenery is so beautiful!”
Bring a strap for your camera and put it around your neck when you take pictures on the outside vestibule. The train is rolling, trees are passing by and rivers are flowing. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of spotting a bear or mountain goats by the side of the train; you don’t want to drop your camera!
Fortunately, the wonderful Rocky Mountaineer hosts will let you know when points of interests are approaching. In fact, the train conductor will actually slow the train down when it comes to scenic photo opportunities such as waterfalls, bridges and wildlife. However, keep your camera with you at all times; even in the dining car, as the scenery is non-stop.
My other tip for taking photos in the glass-dome car is to put your camera right up against the window. The shatter-proof glass on the overhead dome allows for great visibility, but sometimes there is reflection or glare in the windows. Holding the camera flush with the window allows for sharper images inside the train.
Rocky Mountaineer dining travel tips
You will be well fed at all times on board the Rocky Mountaineer. Pace yourself and again, wear comfortable clothes. I think you know where I’m going with that statement. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are served throughout your journey. GoldLeaf service means that you’ll be headed downstairs to the dining car for both of your gourmet meals each day.
Rocky Mountaineer focuses on the bounty of Canada. Executive chefs will prepare plated meals using local ingredients that will tempt seafood lovers, meat eaters or vegetarians. Additionally, Okanagan Valley wines are featured during the entire trip. Of course, there’s coffee, tea, juice and water options for the non-drinkers.
Dinner is on your own each night, at your leisure, after you have arrived at your hotel.
I have plenty of additional blog posts on Rocky Mountaineer train travel tips. Use the search box to see additional articles. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the train ride.
Disclosure: This post is part of a paid partnership with Rocky Mountaineer. All opinions on this Rocky Mountaineer train travel tips article are my own.