Which is best? Planes, trains or automobiles?

Author: Canadian Living


Which is best? Planes, trains or automobiles?

This story was originally titled "The Highs and Lows of Plane, Train and Automobile Travel in Canada" in the May 2008 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

Airlines have trimmed costs by doing away with the little luxuries. But for those who want to fly in style, there are still plenty of perks to be found.

• First-class flying. It's the high life – but it will cost you: first-class tickets from Montreal to Vancouver or Toronto to Calgary cost around $1,600, one way, as opposed to roughly $200 for economy. Perks: Roomier seats, extra baggage allowance, more attentive service, gourmet meals and complementary drinks, as well as priority boarding and security screening. Air Canada's "Maple Leaf Club" lounges are free for first-class ticket holders, who can enjoy complementary snacks and drinks, newspapers, magazines and Wi-Fi away from the bustle of the terminal. Some lounges also offer world-weary travellers a hot shower.

• One size fits all. WestJet only seats passengers in one class, but offers free snacks, nonalcoholic beverages and seatback TV's. Passengers can also pay from $14 to $30 to enter WestJet lounges in select airports, where there are free refreshments and reading materials.

• Other offerings. Toronto-based Porter Airlines provides free shuttle service to the close-to-downtown Toronto Island Airport. At the terminal they offer free snacks and drinks, plus computer and Wi-Fi access. Onboard, leather seats with plenty of legroom and complementary snacks and drinks (including wine and beer – in glasses, not plastic cups) give a first-class touch to their flights across Eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S.

Train journeys conjure up images of old-world elegance and gentle, rocking relaxation. While steam locomotives are long-gone, onboard elegance is not.

• Comfort class. This is VIA's standard aisle-or-window-seat option. Long-haul passengers snuggle down with blankets and pillows for the night, and have access to the dining car and the panoramic views from the iconic dome car.

• A notch up. Those willing to shell out a bit more can spend their days in the comfort lounge, and their nights in a private or semiprivate room, complete with a comfy bed and washroom.

• Something extra. For a romantic getaway in the Rockies, VIA's Romance by Rail package upgrades a sleeper to a double room with private facilities, a his-and-her vanity, and breakfast in your queen-size bed. Rocky Mountaineer Vacations' scenic rail trips in the Rockies and across Canada range from around $600 to more than $8,000, depending on the season, destination, which hotels you want to stay in and any extras you want to add on. But Rocky Mountaineer is more of a cruise line on rails than simple transportation – so soak in the sights and enjoy the experience.

• Go local. When visiting Canada's big cities, use local commuter trains (such as Montreal's AMT) for a cheap and flexible way to explore areas around the metropolis.

Some car agencies offer free pickup and drop-off services – handy if you don't plan to leave your car at the airport. The price of a rental car changes according to the specifics – the same car can be priced differently depending on the day and the city, not to mention the company – so shop around. Most companies offer a number of deals and special offers, so research ahead to reap significant savings.

• Ask about extras. These include portable DVD players to keep the kids happy, snow tires for winter weather, GPS locators – so wanderlust doesn't become wandering – and an upgrade to a luxury vehicle.

• Go green
. If you can part with an extra $1.25, you can rent green: National Car Rental, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Alamo Rent A Car offer the option of paying for a carbon offset.

Read more:
5 tips on travel health
Budget travel: How to score great deals
Children and travel: How to travel with the kids without going crazy

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Which is best? Planes, trains or automobiles?