It almost feels like it ended before it ever truly began.
Recently, VIA Rail provided a glimmering ray of hope to cash-strapped students everywhere that they would be able to travel the country throughout the month of July on a $150 VIA Rail pass in honor of Canada’s upcoming 150th birthday.
Now, many young people will no longer have that luxury, as the passes–initially capped at 1,867, but expanded to over 4,000–recently sold out within 36 hours after numerous disruptions and website meltdowns.
VIA Rail announced the initiative to much fanfare on March 27. The fanfare was, in fact, so strong that the rush of prospective travelers hoping to purchase discounted passes online crashed the website. For that reason, VIA Rail announced that it had to temporarily suspend sales.
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But while the company managed to fix the site and release more passes, it recently announced that all of the passes are indeed sold out.
“We are pleasantly surprised and, above all, delighted to see that our offer has caused such a strong reaction. We wanted to reach youth on their favourite platform: social media. The offer was a great success and once again showed the power of digital media, including social media. That is why VIA Rail does a large part of its advertising online,” said the President and Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, in a statement.
The passes were only available to people who are 25 and under, so although people are no doubt disappointed that the passes are sold out, it’s nice to know that 4,000 young Canadians will get to see more of their country this year for less.
And while the VIA Rail passes are no longer available, residents can still grab other passes that will let them enjoy Canadian parks for free.
As part of Canada 150, admission to Canada’s national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas will be free with a discovery pass that you can order here.
As for how that works, you only have to order one pass for your group or family if you’re travelling together. According to the government, a 2017 Discovery Pass is valid for everyone arriving in the same vehicle at a national park or arriving together at a marine conservation area or historic site.
The pass can only be used at national historic sites that are operated by Parks Canada (so you won’t be able to use it at, say, the ROM or AGO). You can actually see a list of participating parks, historical sites and marine conservation areas here. You should also note that tours and parking may not be covered by the pass.
Camping fees are also not included and the pass is only valid from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2017.
In order to access parks for free, you must display the pass by hanging it from your rearview mirror on the driver’s side of the dashboard.
If you want to plan your camping or sightseeing trip early, some participating Ontario parks include HMCS Haida National Historic Site of Canada in Hamilton, the Fort Mississauga National Historic Site of Canada (which is actually in Niagara-on-the-Lake), Bellevue House National Historic Site of Canada in Kingston and more.
If you want to head out of province, you can check out a ton of sites free of charge all over the country.