I am a lucky holder of the equivalent-to-a-Willy-Wonka-golden-ticket VIA Rail 150 Youth Pass! Last week, VIA Rail announced a special promotion for Canada’s 150th birthday – unlimited train travel for $150 in July if you’re 12-25 years old*. For context, a 3-zone month bus pass in just Vancouver is almost $200, so I jumped at this deal!
Chaos broke out, their website crashed, people were on VIA Rail’s phone lines for hours, and at the end of 36 hours, over 4,000 Canadian youths will be embarking on a train adventure this summer (and I’m one of them -screams-)!
There’s a lot of angry people on Twitter and many people are disappointed that they were not able to get the pass. VIA Rail also made the mistake of listing this offer as unlimited in the beginning, only to cap it off at 1,867 more tickets (after selling ~3,000 tickets) when they realized they couldn’t possibly accommodate such a high demand.
On Wednesday night, I refreshed the website continuously, trying to keep my expectations low since the chances of obtaining a ticket was also very low. Over 900 tickets had already been reported to be sold. After 5 failed attempts at registering via their website, I received my confirmation email, hands trembling and sweaty. It processed. I did it – I’m Charlie!
I’ll be going on a 3-week backpacking trip across Canada this July with thousands of other Canadian youth! Unfortunately, many of us will be traveling solo since our desired travel partners were not able to buy a pass, but there’s an active online community of travelers who are excited to meet up and explore our country, so I can’t wait!
This deal is too good to refund simply because you don’t want to travel solo. I told myself: when will this opportunity come again? I won’t be a youth much longer and Canada’s 150th birthday only comes around once. Traveling within Canada is so expensive and you’ve never even seen the east side of your own country. You can do it, Loewe, even if you end up traveling solo!
Last summer I had an amazing Europe trip (#FLEuro2016) with my friend, Fatima, but this will be my first backpacking trip by myself if I don’t find anyone who wants to see the same places as me. My rough itinerary for now:
- Fly to Toronto (otherwise I’ll be on a train for a week to get there and back) – see Niagra Falls! Celebrate Canada Day in Ontario (maybe Ottawa)!
- Train east-bound, stopping at:
- Montreal: It’ll be hot af but hey I’ll bring a red scarf and reenact Goblin
- Halifax: see the maritime cliffs and beaches! If possible, explore around PEI or New Brunswick as well
- Train back to Toronto, rest before I make the horrendous 3-day/4-night trip to:
- Jasper/Banff: camp & hike
- Train back to Vancouver
Currently I have a group of travelers from Toronto who have a similar itinerary as me, so if all of us are able to book the trains that we want, I would be spending a majority of my trip with them.
Please comment with recommendations on places or things to stay/see/do/eat! I have already ordered the Parks Canada pass. If you have the pass too or if you’ve had experiences about VIA Rail, definitely shoot me a message!
* 26+ with a student ID thingy