Budget Road Trip

Are you looking for an affordable road trip?  How about somewhere pretty-as-a-picture? I think this is a guaranteed memory-maker and yet respectful of your need to stretch your Canadian Dollar as far as possible.

Banff. Yes, Banff. Or you could make the trip to Banff AND Canmore. Or Banff, Canmore AND Calgary. You pick. Just fill up the gas tank and hit the Trans-Canada highway west from Manitoba.

If you make it just as far as Medicine Hat in the first day, you will find hotels like DH3 and Holiday Inn, at about $100 a night. That includes breakfast (DH3) or waterslides (Holiday Inn).

Next stop, (about 5 hours away) is Banff National Park.   The park pass itself will cost you about $20 per day, per vehicle with up to 5 occupants.

Since this is “shoulder season” or that magical time (April to June) between busy ski season, and busy summer season, you’ll find hotels inside the park itself for under $200.  Some really great hotels (like boutique Elk + Avenue) or Buffalo Mountain Lodge right around $130 (taxes included). Gosh, you could even splurge and get the Fairmont Banff Springs at this quiet time of year for about $300 a night. (Splurge! Do it!)

Canmore, is about 20 minutes away, and outside of the National Park. You could choose to stay at a lodge there or even the Holiday Inn for UNDER $100 a night.

What is there to do/see in “shoulder season?”  Mountains! The majestic mountains are there 24/7, all year round. If that’s not breathtaking enough, there’s wildlife!  Go hiking, biking, photo gathering or visit the famous hot springs. Just be outdoors in the fresh air and take in the view.

If you’ve got an extra day, and are looking for an indoor opportunity, do visit the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity  . You’ll be inspired.

The bottom line is, there are great opportunities to enjoy a spring road trip, to the mountains, for much less  than that very same trip in the summer.  With gas, and 5 nights in a hotel, cost shared by 3 people,  $250-$300 per person PLUS your food/entertainment/souvenirs.

 

Feature photo courtesy of Barbara Osiowy. 

Air Miles & Vacation Packages

Starting January 8th, 2019 Air Miles collectors will now be able to easily purchase their vacation packages online. Air Miles has entered into partnership with online Canadian travel agency RedTag.ca and has assigned a dollar value to miles.

Almost as straightforward as using a gift card  users should be able to pay for the vacation of their choosing with Air Miles. As I understand it, purchases can be made in whole or in part with Air Miles and the balance paid by credit card.

Air Miles will be valued at 909 Air Miles = $100  towards a vacation package. Therefore a $3000 vacation would cost 27,270 Dream Miles. Or a modest, and well timed vacation to Las Vegas, for 2 adults could cost as little as 9090 Air Miles.

Air Miles used to pay for vacation packages must be redeemed through RedTag.ca and can not be redeemed over the phone or at a local travel agency.

Air Miles can be collected through numerous retailers. Those Air Miles can be collected in two categories: Dream Miles (for travel, merchandise etc) and Cash Miles (for money off groceries, gas etc at point of sale.)

Visit Airmiles.ca to learn more.

3 Tips to a lower price on the vacation you want.

You’ve found the vacation you want, but it’s just a little out of budget. Now what? Here’s a few tips that could potentially save you 10% or more.

  1. Change your dates. Even if it’s one day earlier, or later, it could save you hundreds of dollars. Pro tip: Choose “flexible dates” in your search whenever that’s an option.
  2. Take the long way. Rather than the direct flight, take a look at a flight with a connection. Think of this as talking the bus to work rather than driving yourself. The bus is less expensive, will take longer, and is less glamorous, but you’ll still get there. BUT if it eats up another half day of your vacation, is the lower price worth it?
  3. Look for re-sellers like “Sunquest Vacations.” They don’t operate their own flights, but rather purchase packages from other providers (like Air Canada) and re-sell them. Think of them as the Winners (discount clothes/housewares retailer) of travel packages. They are more likely to cut prices than to sit on inventory they’ve already paid for. They will not have the same wide selection of packages, but what if they actually have the one you want? Same as shopping at Winners…. always worth a look. And lastly, just like at Winners, if you see a deal, GRAB IT. Don’t hesitate. If you go back tomorrow, it’s very likely to be gone… sold to someone else.

Use a travel agent. While there is a service fee attached to using a travel agent, he/she has has access to superior search engines, travel consolidators and the inside scoop on promotions. Using an expert (and paying $40+ service fee)  could genuinely save you hundreds of dollars over booking a standard vacation package yourself.  Think of a travel agent as a coupon…if you have one, you should use it and save yourself some money.

It was a sign

It was clear, detailed and pointed us in the right direction. It was just a simple sign, but it did its job.

As a tourist,  looking for the historic waterfront in downtown Shelburne, Nova Scotia (pop 1800) I got the information I needed.

I took a photo of the sign to use as an example of how to be tourist-friendly.  And while I acknowledge most people will have access to GPS or a Google map, that’s not how everyone travels. GPS can often be unreliable and while it is excellent for highways and major attractions, it doesn’t understand concepts like ‘waterfront’ or ‘arts/culture.’

As host cities we would be making a grave mistake if we left it up to GPS systems to tell our potential tourists where to go. Let me be clear, like the sign, we need to help people in every way possible. It’s impossible to dazzle them with hospitality if they can’t make it to their destination.