Smooth Sailing to Convocation

The Logistics of Getting you to AU

Next month, hundreds of students—I mean graduands—will make the trek to Athabasca for convocation.

For many, it will be the first time they’ve visited AU’s campus.  For some, it may be the first time they’ve visited Alberta.

I went to convocation in June 2018.  It wasn’t my first trip to Alberta, but it was definitely my first time going to Athabasca.  If you’re an obsessive planner, like I am, you’ve probably got your trip planned down to a T.  But just in case you’ve got a few loose ends to tie up, here are some logistical tips.

Getting from Edmonton to Athabasca.

You can stay in Edmonton and get the free AU shuttle bus to and from convocation.  I didn’t do that, because it seemed like the day would be too rushed (and I still believe it would have been.)  Instead, I opted to stay right in Athabasca.  My husband and I rented a car from the Edmonton airport and drove two hours to Athabasca.  If you can avoid rush hour periods in Edmonton, it’s an easy drive.  Once you get north of the city, the drive is through pleasant rural scenery.  (For those graduating from Faculty of Health or Faculty of Business programs, staying in Edmonton may be your better option, as there are events planned for you at Edmonton hotels; see the Convocation Accommodation page for details.)

Driving Tip 1.

We found the route (linked from  AU’s Convocation Travel page) Google suggested to exit the airport absurd; better to follow the road signs that direct you east along Airport Road to Highway 2.  The remainder of Google’s directions were fine:  go north on Highway 2, then use Highway 216 to skirt Edmonton’s western edge, and re-join Highway 2 near St. Albert.  Your last chance to stock up on travel food or drink is in St. Albert, because the highway from that point bypasses all communities until Athabasca.

Driving Tip 2.

Do not speed!  Our car rental agency advised us that speed limits are strictly enforced by photo-radar in Alberta.  Twenty over the limit may be sort-of acceptable on Ontario highways, but five over is plenty in Alberta.  Make sure you’re not the fastest vehicle on the road, or you might have a surprise speeding ticket charge accompanying your car rental charges on your credit card bill.


Rooms fill up quickly at convocation time in Athabasca, so book ahead for the best selection.  We stayed at the Super 8 on the east side of Athabasca and found it just fine—it included breakfast, wifi, and a surprisingly large indoor waterpark.  A Tim Horton’s and other food outlets are nearby.  There are several other reasonably-priced motels in town; none are particularly near the university, but it’s not a big town.  You might want to check out Deanna Roney’s 2017 article Things to Do and Avoid at Convocation before you make any decisions.

Stay awhile.

If you want time to explore Athabasca University’s campus, and the town itself, plan on at least a two-night stay.  You’ll be better relaxed for convocation day if you don’t have to rush there in the morning, or rush away right after the ceremony.  Be aware that campus buildings may not be open for visitors on Saturday; if you want in inside look, plan on a Friday visit.

Next week, we’ll share some insider tips to help your convocation day go smoothly.  The more you know, the less you’ll stress!