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Traveling Canada on a Budget

The world is a big place. There’s lots to do and so many unique things to see. But for us Canadians sometimes forget the treasures in our own backyard. From the peaks of Whistler to the rolling hills of PEI, Canada is a beautiful country with so many incredible landscapes to get lost in, kind people to meet, and diverse cities to explore. It’s actually a bit overwhelming when you consider how much ground there is to cover. In honor of celebrating this beautiful land, we have some tips for traveling Canada on a budget, no matter which slice of this giant land you choose to tackle. 

1. Consider Camping

Summer in Canada is a great time of year to explore the many national parks we are blessed with. And those parks certainly can be pricey to spend a few nights in, as many accommodations book up quickly and the remaining few know they can charge you $300 a night for a mediocre stay. If you are okay with roughing it a bit, it makes total sense to turn your Canada trip into a camping experience. Throughout all the provinces, there are various designated camp spots where you can park your car and pitch your tent, which could cost approx $25 a night! It’s an exceptional way to save money and also get acquainted with the outdoors.

2. Take Advantage of Low-Cost Airfare

As rental car prices begin to rise throughout Canada, planning a road trip between provinces can become a bit dicey. With the arrival of Lynx and Swoop, and not to mention the recent deals seen for Air Canada and WestJet, flying between major cities is more feasible than it once was on a reasonable budget. It is becoming common for these flights to be less expensive than taking rail and they’re undoubtedly less time-consuming.  

Low-budget airlines like Lynx Air

Here’s some of the cheapest flights within Canada right now:
Toronto to Vancouver $226 roundtrip w/ Air Transat
Ottawa to Victoria – $150 roundtrip w/ Flair
Vancouver to Ottawa – $253 w/ Air Canada
Montreal to Calgary – $118 roundtrip w/ Flair
Edmonton to Moncton – $248 roundtrip w/ Swoop
Waterloo to Kelowna – $116 roundtrip w/ Flair
Calgary to Toronto – $140 roundtrip w/ Lynx
Edmonton to Halifax – $249 roundtrip w/ Swoop
Toronto to Whitehorse – $491 roundtrip w/ Air Canada
Hamilton to Deer Lake – $116 roundtrip w/ Swoop
London to Edmonton – $118 roundtrip w/ Swoop

3. Be Smart About Food

It bodes well to plan ahead when it comes to eating on a trip like this. After traveling or hiking all day, you may be too tired to research a local dive that suits your budget and end up begrudgingly spending more than desired at a convenient sit-down restaurant. Several cities throughout Canada have local blogs which aggregate the best cheap eats in the city and you could save a lot by pinning these spots on your map. Check out sites like Taste Toronto, Eater in Montreal, and WanderEater for Calgary, citing a plethora of eats from diverse cultures that won’t break the bank. 

4. Get An Annual Parks Pass

This one explains itself. If you’re going to be visiting more than two national parks in one year, it is more than worth it to have a Canada’s Discovery Pass on your dash. The entrance and parking fees associated with individual days at parks can add up quickly, especially since there are quite a few on each coast, where most travelers head. This pass costs $72.25 for an individual and $145.25 for up to 7 people in one vehicle.

Lion’s Head by @alexander_briere

5. Choose Free Activities

If the weather’s good (which it often is, in summer), there’s almost no need to spend money on activities. Hiking is free and arguably the most popular activity in Canada. Some noteworthy hikes throughout Canada include The Bald Hills in Jasper, The Skyline Trail on Cape Breton Island, Lion’s Head in Tobermory, and Joffre Lake in Whistler. Plus, many festivals will take place throughout the summer months which won’t charge an entry fee (or, if they do, it’s quite minimal) and can provide a unique form of cultural entertainment. Think notable events like: The Calgary Stampede, Halifax’s Busker Fest, Ottawa’s Bluesfest and The Summer Solstice Festival, celebrating Native history throughout Canada

Joffre Lake

6. Avoid Long Stays in Big Cities or Popular Areas

While Canada boasts some of the safest and cleanest cities in North America, they also come at a high price point. Toronto and Vancouver are undoubtedly the two most expensive cities and, while alluring, it’s best not to focus your itinerary too heavily on these destinations if you’re trying to keep it on the cheap. Montreal tends to be more affordable than both while offering big city draws such as great bars/nightlife, an extensive restaurant scene, and a lovely old town to stroll through. Calgary lands in the same category, being much more affordable but bursting with new life as the city grows and expands its list of microbreweries and pedestrian boardwalks. 

Montreal

Keep this in mind for the national parks as well! Banff is an expensive place to be so it’s best to pass through it on a day trip en route to Jasper, where costs aren’t exactly thrifty but definitely don’t reach the heights in its world-famous neighbor.

With all this in mind, it may not be the most budget-friendly destination ever, but it’s clear that there are ways to travel Canada without totally breaking the bank! Happy Canada Day and safe travels.

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