Planning Your Trip
- Best of Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Island: High Tea to Low Tide
- Vancouver’s Totem Poles
- Vancouver’s Best Hiking
- Family Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
- Focus on Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Weekend Getaway
- Victoria Weekend Getaway
- A Tour Through Time
- Inside Passage Cruises
- Outdoor Adventures
- Winter Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
When to Go
Deciding when in the year you’ll be visiting Vancouver and Victoria usually revolves around your own schedule, but the following section may help you decide the best time to visit.
The high season for travel to Vancouver, Victoria, and Vancouver Island lasts from mid-June to early September. Tourist attractions and hotels are busiest during the peak summer months of July and August. May to mid-June and September are considered shoulder seasons, when crowds are a lot thinner and accommodations reduce rates. The rest of the year is the low season, when tourist numbers dwindle, commercial attractions shorten their hours, and lodging prices are reduced drastically.
In the ski town of Whistler, seasons are reversed and December through April is high season.
Victoria is at its blooming best in April and May, my favorite time to visit the city. The roses at Butchart Gardens don’t flower until July, but I can live without that. Instead, crowds are at a minimum, the days are long, golfers hit the links in shirts and shorts, and lodging rates are reduced. In Vancouver, temperatures are a few degrees cooler than across the water in Victoria, but May is warm enough to begin enjoying the outdoors.
Vancouver and Victoria can be visited year-round, with some outdoor activities—golfing, biking, hiking, and more—possible in the dead of winter in Victoria. Winter also brings a new bag of options in the mountains around Vancouver, which are covered with snow from December through March. If you find yourself in Victoria in winter, head north to the alpine resort of Mount Washington, near Courtenay.
Unless you and your children are keen skiers or snowboarders, winter is probably not the best time to plan a lot of outdoor activities in the region. On the other hand, October through April you’ll find empty museums and full performing arts schedules in both cities.
What to Take
No matter what time of year you’ll be traveling to Vancouver and Victoria, plan your packing around dressing in layers. As a general rule, keep it casual. Only the most upscale restaurants require a sports jacket or tie; at most places, men will fit in with a nice pair of pants and a button-down shirt. At any time of year, the weather can be changeable, so pack a light jacket—even in summertime.
Bring a bathing suit even if you don’t plan on swimming in the ocean because many better hotels and bed-and-breakfasts have hot tubs. Woolen clothing is bulky but practical in the cooler months. If you’ll be hitting the slopes, you should bring as much of your own winter clothing as possible.
For travel at any time of year, pack comfortable walking shoes, sunglasses, motion-sickness pills, a rain jacket, and prescription medication.
Electrical appliances from the United States work in Canada, but those from other parts of the world will require a current converter (transformer) to bring the voltage down. Many travel-size shavers, hairdryers, and irons have built-in converters.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition