Travel

Suggestions for travelling from Windsor (ON) to Edmonton via road

  • Last Updated:
  • Nov 10th, 2019 6:13 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Feb 28, 2019
4 posts
2 upvotes

Suggestions for travelling from Windsor (ON) to Edmonton via road

Greetings,

I Will be driving to Edmonton from Windsor (ON) via road and have been looking for the best route options for the past couple weeks.

These are the 3 route options that I found so far:

1: Canadian route (Windsor - Barrie - Wawa - Thunder bay - Winnipeg - Saskatoon - Edmonton)
This is roughly 3710 kms and would require 38 hours of driving

2: Windsor - Sault Ste. Marie (via Michigan) - Wawa and then follow the same route as mentioned above.
This is roughly 3250 kms and would require 33 hours of driving

3: US route - Windsor - Chicago - Minneapolis - Minot (North Dakota) - Regina - Saskatoon - Edmonton
This is roughly 3100 kms and would require 30 hours of driving.

Since this is my first time driving almost cross country and it’s almost start of Winter, I would like to know if you guys have any suggestions.

The Canadian route, even though adds about 600 kms gives me a homely feeling as I will be driving in Canada throughout my journey.
Whereas, the US route would be much faster and cheaper I believe when it comes to gas and hotels.

I will be also looking at the weather conditions couple days before I start my journey. Planning to start my journey on November 1st.

At this point, I’m just wondering if anyone has travelled via road during winters and have any suggestions?
Also, would like to know about the road conditions?

Thank you
16 replies
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
16224 posts
13506 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
If you’ve never done the all Cdn route (TransCanada Hwy), I say that everyone should do it at least once in their life so as to truly see this great country and understand how huge and diverse it is geographically

The downside though is it’s a pretty deserted bit of highway thru Northern Ontario (compared to going any US route)
It’s mostly 2 lanes (on coming traffic) with occasional passing lanes ... that winds it’s way around the Great Lakes.
There is a fair bit of truck traffic
And miles and miles of Cdn Shield Scenery (Trees & Rockcuts ... followed by more Trees & Rockcuts)

Additionally, it’s a less populated part of Canada ... so you got to plan your driving & stops to line up with the towns / cities that have year round services ... the main ones being ... Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay, Kenora

If you are driving both to and from Alberta, I would make this journey in one of those directions
And considering it will be LATE Autumn / EARLY Winter ... it would be going out ... not coming back
As the snow flies a lot earlier in Northern Ontario & The Prairies (like October)
Plus you’ll be driving after November 1st
So we’ll be back on Standard time... so there’s that to plan for as well
(Don’t want to be driving after sunset ... the chance of hitting wildlife increases
And nothing ruins a road trip like a Deer or a Moose)

Alternatively, my second choice out of Windsor would be to go cross country up thru Michigan
And if not just to get to The Sault to meet up with the Cdn Route... (chopping off a bunch of hours)
Then onto Duluth, Winnipeg and points West

This route is a tad shorter
And will cut out the unneeded detour thru Chicago and the west side of Lake Michigan
(Unless you actually wanted to go to Chicago ... otherwise it’s just a busy corridor ... Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis)

The nice thing about the US is as you’ve already noted
Gas is cheaper
Food is cheap (and big portions ... pack a cooler for leftovers you can reheat the next day in the Hotel Microwave)
And there is definitely more choices for accommodations / price range
The roads are also generally better, as much of it will be Divided Highway / Interstate

BUT no guarantees on the weather

The US Midwest is also a big snowbelt
And come November anything can happen
Including a blizzard

So no matter which route you go
Play it safe
Make sure your car is in good repair
You have plenty of winter windshield washer fluid
Maybe new wipers
And decent tires (or better yet snow tires)
And pack along an emergency roadside / car survival kit
Including a shovel
https://www.caa.ca/winter-driving/winte ... gency-kit/

Drive safe
But do enjoy the trip
It’s pretty amazing
No matter which route you choose
Deal Expert
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May 10, 2005
36185 posts
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Ottawa
Personally, I would not even think twice and do #3. Not only is it a day shorter drive, why go all the way up to north western Ontario if you don't need to.
I have done cross Canada a couple times and really, north of Barrie to Winnipeg is a miserable drive.
Traveling this time of year is a gamble regardless of the route you choose so, take the shortest and as a bonus it will be cheaper. Also, just a little something, going through the States on route #3 you will be closer to population centers much of the time and if you should have an issue, help is much closer. Getting stuck in northern Ontario can be near impossible to get help or take forever and cost a fortune.
The Government cannot give to anybody anything that the Government does not first take from somebody else.
Deal Guru
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Oct 5, 2008
14000 posts
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Toronto
Pete_Coach wrote: Personally, I would not even think twice and do #3. Not only is it a day shorter drive, why go all the way up to north western Ontario if you don't need to.
I have done cross Canada a couple times and really, north of Barrie to Winnipeg is a miserable drive.
Traveling this time of year is a gamble regardless of the route you choose so, take the shortest and as a bonus it will be cheaper. Also, just a little something, going through the States on route #3 you will be closer to population centers much of the time and if you should have an issue, help is much closer. Getting stuck in northern Ontario can be near impossible to get help or take forever and cost a fortune.
This x 100

No point in backtracking all the way to Barrie to then go west
Deal Expert
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Jun 12, 2007
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London
sidhu0351 wrote: ..

3: US route - Windsor - Chicago - Minneapolis - Minot (North Dakota) - Regina - Saskatoon - Edmonton
This is roughly 3100 kms and would require 30 hours of driving....
I would do Windsor, Chicago, Minneapolis, Fargo . then I29 North / MB75 to Winnipeg (Hwy 100 ring road), Hwy1 west to Portage La Prairie, HWy16 west to Saskatoon, Edmonton which is about the same time 30-31hrs

Caveats - time your travels to avoid Chicago and Minneapolis during rush hours and border crossing busy periods. Chicago also has toll roads. Use the cash lanes or sign up for a NY state ez pass ( see the rfd thread)

This takes you along 4 lane divided expressway (US interstates , Hwy1) until you hit the Hwy 16 Yellowhead,which can be easier driving under winter driving conditions. US interstates, MB75, Hwy1 and HWy16 get priority winter maintenance/ clearing

Check the weather forecast 3 days out and adjust your route to avoid storms. As mentioned above, the DST/Standard time change is that weekend, so you gain any hour on Sunday (remember SK does not nave DST). Also, as you move west, you gain 1 hour for each time zone change.

For example, a weather alternate for Hwy 16 would be Hwy1 all the way to Calgary and then AB Hwy 2 to Edmonton. (All 4 lane divided expressway). While 3 hrs longer, it’s better than Hwy 16 during whiteout conditions
Last edited by l69norm on Oct 15th, 2019 7:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Sr. Member
Aug 3, 2017
691 posts
512 upvotes
Another vote for the shortest route. I did the TCH route on the Victoria Day weekend Ottawa-Whitehorse and I've never seen a more desolate, isolated, boring drive in my life than North Bay to Winnipeg. That's saying something considering I've done the Yellowknife to Edmonton drive several times and have gone across Newfoundland many times too.

Go the US route, the upside is how much you'll save in both gas costs and time. Pick yourself up a bottle at duty free to celebrate the end of the drive :)
Deal Guru
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Jan 9, 2011
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Vancouver
Do #3. I agree with PointsHubby, the all-Canada route should be done once in your lifetime, but don't do it in November. Save it for summer.
Be mindful of which border crossing point you choose between North Dakota and Manitoba or Sask. Only a few of them are open 24 hours, most close overnight, some as early as 5pm.
Take a comprehensive survival kit. In November, being prepared with warm blankets, clothing, and food can be the difference between life and death if something bad happens and you need to spend a night in the car.
Deal Expert
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Jun 12, 2007
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London
Kiraly wrote: Do #3. I agree with PointsHubby, the all-Canada route should be done once in your lifetime, but don't do it in November. Save it for summer.
Be mindful of which border crossing point you choose between North Dakota and Manitoba or Sask. Only a few of them are open 24 hours, most close overnight, some as early as 5pm.
Take a comprehensive survival kit. In November, being prepared with warm blankets, clothing, and food can be the difference between life and death if something bad happens and you need to spend a night in the car.
BTW, the two main crossings at North portal SK/ Portal ND (Via Minot ND / Estivan SK, Weyburn SK) and Emerson MB/ Pembina ND (Fargo ND/ Winnipeg MB) are open 24/7
Deal Addict
Aug 27, 2009
1384 posts
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Oakville
I vote #2. The drive along the N. shore of Lake Superior is beautiful even though the leaves will have fallen by Nov. 1.

If going thru the US have you considered health insurance - maybe you are covered via your employer? You don't mention other considerations like budget, time constraints, etc.
Penalty Box
Feb 22, 2016
4745 posts
4329 upvotes
Hands down #3. Shorter trip, much safer (Interstates vs 2-lane highways -- much greater risk of head-on crash on the 2-lane, and much harder to pass slow trucks on hills especially), higher speed limits, you're never too far from services (restaurants, hotels, truck stops, rest areas, etc), much cheaper gas, much cheaper food...

Unless you really are on a sightseeing tour of the north shore of Lake Superior I see no good reason to go that way. Unless you have immigration issues and are banned from the USA...
Sr. Member
Nov 28, 2017
570 posts
532 upvotes
I'm with the others I think. The Canadian route can be pretty, but winter driving aside, its no fun doing the Sault - Thunder Bay leg tired and/or in darkness. Not only do you not get the view, but my recollection of the road is going through the rock cuts and stuff makes it fairly claustrophobic (not much in terms of shoulders or anything), which is not a great feeling on a pretty dark road passing a bunch of Moose crossing signs.

I also don't see any point to the pure Canadian route over the US cut to Sault Ste Marie other than saying you did it. You are volunteering for Toronto traffic, and driving way more distance, without really gaining any interesting scenery.
Sr. Member
Jan 8, 2012
687 posts
470 upvotes
Williams Lake
I've done #1 a couple of times, and #3 once.

I'd choose #3 for all the reasons others have mentioned.

But #1 is a great drive. So if you get a chance to do it in the summer, do it. And take your time. The north shore of Superior is amazing, IMO. And as PH points out, the entire drive also gives you a real sense of just how big this country is.

Zipping along on a US interstate just doesn't give the same experience.
Deal Addict
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Feb 20, 2015
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Southern Ontario
30 hours is a serious drive. You'd have to be a glutton for punishment to do 38 hours... whether there's scenery or not. Believe me, you'll get bored of the scenery the first hour and wish that your one working day was returned to you afterwards.

Beware around this time that things can be tricky as hell in these northern climates. Windsor will be sunny and single digits, once you start going northwest - get ready for some snowshoes.
Deal Expert
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Jun 12, 2007
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London
Just FYI
The US national weather service has a US travel planner for cross country driving that incorporates weather forecasts

http://preview.weather.gov/edd/

The description of how it works

http://thevane.gawker.com/this-powerful ... 1655589552

It’s a bit convoluted, but you can enter your start and endpoint plus the start date/ time. It comes up with the route and weather forecast along the route at the time you pass that point in the route.

It also allows you to enter waypoints where you want to pass through as well as if you want to overnight at that waypoint
Deal Addict
Jul 26, 2007
1424 posts
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#3 all the way as well for me.

if you were starting north of Barrie, different story, I'd do just the TCH route. but it makes no sense for you to do that huge loop up north then west through to Winnipeg, huge waste of time. just bring your passport. also highly suggest a roadside emergency kit with good quality jumper cables (because bad cables can cause fires), space blanket, hi-vis vest and/or road flare/beacon.
Gibsons wrote: whether there's scenery or not. Believe me, you'll get bored of the scenery the first hour and wish that your one working day was returned to you afterwards.
the drive through SK might be the most boring drive anyone will ever do because the stuff around you literally never changes. it's just grass and farms. very easy to just zone out.
[OP]
Newbie
Feb 28, 2019
4 posts
2 upvotes
Sorry for the delayed response.

I really appreciate all your responses and I am sorry I didn't get a chance to reply back. I read all the feedback and planned accordingly.
I drove this weekend from Windsor to Edmonton via US.
Started journey on Nov 3rd at 8:30 AM. Took short breaks throughout the day and reached Alexandria, MN around 9:00 PM (Original plan was to stay around Minneapolis. However, I wasn't tired and was able to drive couple more hours)
Next day, started my journey around 9:00 AM and reached Regina around 6:00 PM.
For the third day of my journey, it started snowing between Regina and Saskatoon but other than that, there were no issues and I reached Edmonton safely around 5:00 PM

Overall, this was the 1st time I drove all the way and didn't feel tired or exhausted. (I normally get tired driving from Windsor to Toronto on 401 but that may be due to the fact that it is the same straight stretch with no scenic views.

In the end, I would really like to thank you all for your suggestions and appreciate all the help.

Thank you guys. You all are amazing :)
Deal Guru
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Jan 9, 2011
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Vancouver
Clement wrote: the drive through SK might be the most boring drive anyone will ever do because the stuff around you literally never changes. it's just grass and farms. very easy to just zone out.
I disagree with this. Saskatchewan is beautiful! Especially the southwest. The trick is to get off the TCH. Use the secondary highways. Between Swift Current and Winnipeg, I did Hwy 13 in SK and Hwy 2 in MB. Google Maps puts this route at 9h 44 min, vs the TCH's 9h 13 minutes. Trust me, that extra 6% of driving time between those two places is well, well worth it.

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