DESTINATIONS

A Canadian Adventure on the Cheap

Brandywine Falls, Canada
B and me in front of Brandywine Falls

 

Janes often get asked, “How can you afford to go on so many trips?” Well, the answer is simple: you don’t spend a boatload of money on every trip. If you can’t afford to go big every time (man, wouldn’t be great?), go little a few times. Over a three-day weekend in April, B and I had a lovely time checking out the Whistler area of beautiful British Columbia, Canada. Below is how we did it and how much it cost.

How much it cost…Flights

When looking for flights, it’s always a good idea to be creative. Looking for tickets that are round-trip, one-way, or two tickets to get you to one location (i.e. find a cheap ticket to a popular airport, look for a ticket there and then an additional ticket to your final destination) can save you money. For our Canadian adventure, we opted for two, one-way tickets. We found a one-way ticket to Vancouver for $111.63. We took the first flight out of Idaho and even though it was painful to be at the airport at 5:30 a.m., it was really nice to arrive at our destination before 9:00 a.m. Plus, since we left on Saturday instead of Friday, we didn’t have pay for a hotel on Friday. Cha-ching! Our flight back was a bit longer. But it left later in the day, giving us more time on our trip. It cost $134.29. So round trip, our tickets were only $245.92.

How much it cost…Rental Car

Our final destination, Whistler, is about a two-hour drive from the Vancouver airport. Since it was April in the Canadian Rockies, we decided not to risk driving in a snowstorm in a Ford Fiesta and splurged on a small SUV rental. Hotwire is our go-to for cheap car rentals and on this site we were able to secure a Dodge Journey for $92.47. We drove up to Whistler and back and only had to fill up the gas tank once for $38.09. You gotta love these new SUVs with their good gas mileage!

How much it cost…Lodging

We had to do a little legwork to find a place to stay at Whistler. We both prefer Airbnb or VRBO because it is always interesting to see how people in different places live. However, since we were only staying two nights and neither of these sites had anything that really jumped out at us, we decided to stay at a hotel. Hotwire had some good options, but the list really got expensive when we figured in resort and parking fees. The other pitfall of a Hotwire hotel is you can’t guarantee what kind of bed situation you’ll find. Since both B and I would much prefer sleeping in our own twin than sharing a California King with each other, we turned to Expedia. Expedia allows you to choose your bed options so we each got our own queen. Location was also a key factor in this decision because we knew we were going to be picking up ski rental gear and hitting the slopes the next day and didn’t really want to have to haul that stuff all over town. We choose the Listel Hotel and very much enjoyed the room, sauna and continental breakfast. The total for the room for two days was $217. Free food is a no-brainer when it comes to saving money. When you figure each of us would probably pay ~$15 for breakfast, that adds up each day and makes it possible to stay in a nicer place.

How much it cost…Activities

When we found out that the Whistler-Blackcomb resort would be open until the end of May, we decided to pony up for an experience of skiing internationally. Liftopia is a good app for finding ski lift ticket deals. But in this case, we knew we needed to rent gear as well so we went straight to the resort’s website. For a one-day lift ticket and rental gear the cost was $113.18 Canadian dollars. Oh yes, now is a good time to mention that the impetus for a Canadian adventure was the wicked exchange rate we have had with our northern neighbors for the last few months. The exchange rate basically meant everything was about 30% off. So our ski adventure really ended up costing around $87. (Air high five, ‘merica!) Skiing was our only real expenditure as far as activities go. The park system in Canada is awesome (meaning beautiful and free). We hiked three very different, yet all striking, waterfalls along our drive up to Whistler. In Idaho, each of the state park stops would have cost about $5 to use. We fully appreciated Canada’s socialist tendencies.

Ski Lift at Whistler-Blackcomb
Skiing at Whistler-Blackcomb

How much it cost…Food

Food was comparable to what you would pay in the U.S. after the exchange rate. For a meal of soup and salad at a trendy brewery in Squamish, we paid $20 Canadian, including the tip. Whenever we go to foreign countries, we always make a point to shop at the local grocery store. I could really list this in the ‘activities’ section above because it is pretty entertaining to see the different offerings. In Whistler, we hit up the grocery store for our snacks and desserts, thus saving money by not buying these things at restaurants.

Cash and other incidentals

The easiest way to get foreign currency is to find a bank and withdraw cash using your ATM. B and I have been to loads of countries and I have never once carried traveler’s checks or brought U.S. dollars to exchange with money changers. The prevalence of ATMs makes this the easiest way to get cash with a very good exchange rate. You do have to pay a transaction fee so it is best to estimate what you will spend and then only withdraw once. But it usually isn’t that big of a deal if you hit up another ATM along your journey. Confession: I pretty much always have to visit the ATMs several times during my trips. In Canada, I made the rookie traveler mistake of forgetting to call my bank to let them know I’d be using my card in a foreign country. But luckily for me, my bank must not consider Canada to be that foreign and it worked just fine. On this trip, I ended up pulling out $140 Canadian once and $60 Canadian another time, totaling a little over $150 U.S.

How much it cost…Grand Total

When everything was added up and divided between the two of us, we ended up spending about $660 each (excluding the adorable leather phone case B picked up at the Roots store and other extracurricular shopping.) When you figure you might spend about $100 in a weekend for food and fun at home anyway, it really doesn’t seem like that much more money to be able to pop out of the country for a long ski weekend.

Conclusion

If you save up for a month or two, you can accumulate enough money to go on a quick vacation. You don’t have to go foreign. There are some great places in the good ol’ U.S. of A. that would make an excellent three-day weekend.

The Olympic rings from 2010 at Whistler
The Olympic rings from 2010

 

 

Shannon Falls, BC
Shannon Falls

 

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