Planning Your Trip

About Our Tours

What is the difference between a Guided Group Tour and an Independent Holiday?

Guided Group Tours are directed by a John Steel guide who handles tickets, check-ins and tour arrangements on your behalf while you are on the tour. Guided groups depart on pre-set dates. An Independent Holiday may depart at any time based on availability, and allows you to personally look after your travel documents and maintain a pace that suits you. We provide our independent guests with travel tips and many of the included sightseeing tours are narrated. Regardless of the travel option you choose, the destinations and trains are memorable and you'll be sure to receive John Steel's friendly professional service and attention to detail.

What is covered in the tour price?

John Steel Rail Tours' inclusions are some of the most comprehensive in the industry. In our Tour brochures we take care to clearly show you what your tour inclusions are. Custom itineraries are also carefully detailed. Please see the Tour Inclusions and Info to Know sheet. PDF fileDownload printable PDF

What about meals?

On Independent Tours most meals are the guest's responsibility. If you are travelling in sleeping car accommodations on VIA Rail's overnight trains, select meals are included and you are free to make your own selection from the dining room menu (alcoholic beverages not included). At times, a pre-set menu with options is available. With the exception of an occasional buffet, you are free to choose from the menu during included restaurant meals. If you have dietary requirements, please advise us at the time of booking. On Amtrak, select meals are complimentary.

What type of hotels can I expect?

Hotels are the best available in the area and/or chosen category — either Premier or Popular. Location, reputation, amenities, cleanliness, service and overall hospitality are some of the attributes we seek when selecting hotels. Popular category may include such recognized chains as Delta, Best Western and Coast Hotels. Premier category may include the renowned Fairmont (formerly Canadian Pacific) chain of hotels: Jasper Park Lodge, Banff Springs, Royal York and Chateau Lake Louise, to name a few. Please note: triple/quad occupancy may be available. Please inquire.

What about baggage handling?

On Independent Tours baggage handling is generally the responsibility of the guest. If you would like baggage handling included, please advise the JSRT Tour Consultant at time of reservation. Please note that at international border crossings, by law, guests must handle their own luggage. TRAVEL TIP: It is recommended that you pack a small carry-on bag for overnight rail journeys, as sleeping-car luggage space is very limited. You may check larger items onto the baggage car but it will not be available until arrival at the train's final destination.

How accessible are your tours?

We make every effort to accommodate our special-needs guests. Most hotels are wheelchair accessible. The special services for rail passengers with reduced mobility vary depending on train cars and, with advance notice arrangements can be made for wheelchair assistance at certain rail stations. Please inform our Tour Coordinators of these requests at the time of your initial reservation.

What about connecting travel arrangements?

We recommend that you do not make closely connecting travel arrangements before and/or after your tour. Rail travel may be subject to unforeseen delays. John Steel Rail Tours is not responsible for missed connections.

Crossing Borders: US and Canada — What identification do I need?

It is the responsibility of each passenger to carry appropriate citizenship identification. In some cases, you may require a visa. Because regulations and deadline dates are evolving, we suggest that each guest familiarize themselves with the most current information issued directly from official sources. For more information, visit the official website of the Canadian Tourism Commission and [ Transport Canada's "Planning To Travel" ] website. For air travellers in USA, see the [ Federal Aviation Administration's "travellers Topics" ]. NB: If you are crossing any international borders, or flying, please note that all medications must be in their original packaging and/or properly labelled by your pharmacist.

What's the weather like in North America?

Canada and much of the United States enjoy four distinct seasons, with temperatures varying across the country. On the East coast and central provinces (Ontario and Québec), and northern central states temperatures average around 0°C (23°F) in January and 24°C (75°F) in July. Areas around the Great Lakes are more humid than the rest of the continent, and temperatures can get a little colder in winter and warmer in summer. Western mountain temperatures offer the greatest variation, from -16°C (-4°F) in winter to 24°C (75°F) in summer. When visiting the Rockies, be sure to have layers of comfortable clothing available in case of sudden changes in weather conditions. The summer evenings tend to be cool. In winter, come dressed for snow with warm and wind/water-repellent outerwear. West coast cities (Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Los Angeles) enjoy the mild weather yearround. The West Coast averages 5°C (40°F) in winter and 23°C (75°F) in summer. It's wise to bring an umbrella and raincoat, just in case it rains. The southern states do not experience four seasons and temperatures are moderate. Our Tour Coordinators will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

What kind of clothing should I bring?

We suggest that you bring comfortable, casual clothing. For winter trips or northern adventures, warm, wind/waterproof outerwear is a must. If travelling on overnight trains, you may wish to pack a light robe and slippers for after your shower. Some guests like to dress up a little for dinner, but it is your choice. Apparel such as golf shirts and neat trousers will carry you comfortably and appropriately in Canadian cities or countryside, on the train, and in hotels. Also, please wear sturdy, comfortable shoes and pack clothing that is versatile and can be layered to accommodate a range of weather conditions and activities.

Is there anything else I should bring?

You might want to bring a book you've been meaning to read, or a journal to record the highlights of your holiday. As well, a camera will capture the spectacular scenery and supply a record of people and places visited.

About the Trains

What is it like on the train?

The train offers you the very best opportunity to see Canada and the United States up close. Travelling through vast and varied landscapes, rail travel is a world unto itself. A spirit of friendliness is shared in the lounges, scenic dome and dining car. Guests in sleeping cars can retreat to their cozy accommodations and enjoy the splendid scenery passing by the train's large picture windows. Delicious meals, professional on-board staff, and even showers in the sleeping cars are some of the amenities. Free tea and coffee, videos, games and magazines are available in the Bullet Lounge (at the rear of the train) for sleepingcar passengers. This car also has a bar where soft drinks, alcoholic beverages and ice are available. You are welcome to enjoy your own beverages in your private accommodations. On-board drinking water is filtered. PDF fileDownload printable PDF

What are the train accommodations like?

VIA Rail Accommodations

Enjoy panoramic views from the scenic dome car (on select trains), socialize in the lounges and savour freshly prepared meals in the dining car or comfortably at your seat. Sleeping car accommodations on overnight journeys are a restful retreat with all the comforts of home. Most VIA Rail sleeping cars have a convenient shower room and provide amenity kits. Single Bedroom: This entirely private room for one person features a private washroom, sink and mirror. A comfortable sofa chair by day converts to a cozy bed by night. The shower is nearby. There is also a Bedroom available for two, with armchairs, a small closet, and upper and lower berths by night. Ensuite Bedroom: (Subject to availability.) Two double bedrooms are combined to create a larger area for families or those wanting extra space. Upper and Lower Berths: A semi-private area for two people, the wide couch-style seats give way to comfortable beds. Washroom and shower facilities are located only a few metres away. PDF fileDownload printable PDF

Amtrak Accommodations

Trains travelling long-distance routes use either the two-level Superliner or the one-level Viewliner train car equipment, each of which has sleeping cars with bedrooms. Sleeping accommodations and a full-service dining car are available on most long-distance routes. The Superliner Roomette, ideal for one or two passengers, is located on both upper and lower levels of the double-decker Superliner cars. A Superliner Bedroom is ideal for two passengers and has a comfortable bed and an upper berth that folds down from above. All Superliner Bedrooms feature private, self-enclosed restrooms with toilet, sink and shower. Also available is a Family Bedroom and an Accessible Bedroom for passengers with mobility impairment. The Viewliner Deluxe Bedroom has two beds, private enclosed shower and bathroom with a sink. The Viewliner Standard Bedroom has beds with the lower berth converting into two seats in the daytime. Each room includes a sink and toilet and a shower located down the hall. PDF fileDownload printable PDF

How many days does it take to travel across the country?

VIA Rail's Canadian leaves Vancouver in the evening and arrives in Toronto three days later, four nights on the train. Connecting train, the Corridor (Toronto to Montréal) adds a five hour trip and the Ocean (Montréal to Halifax) adds another night aboard the train (for a total of 5 days and 5 nights Vancouver to Halifax). Crossing the US from coast to coast on the Sunset Limited (a single train journey) for example, from Orlando, FL to Los Angeles, CA is three nights in duration. Or New York–Chicago (Cardinal) and on to Seattle (Empire Builder) takes four days.

If I depart Vancouver BC in the evening, don't I miss all the scenery?

The current VIA Rail Schedule allows guests travelling east to west or west to east, the opportunity to view the Canadian Rockies by daylight all year round.

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