If there is one place in Canada that I had to recommend as a “must see before the zombie (or alien) invasion”, it would have to be British Columbia!
Ok folks! I know that an answer to the hypothetical question will raise some nerves. I have traveled across Canada (about 50% of it so far. Hey! it is a big country) and will admit that there is no real answer to such an unrealistic question. That being said, I will confess that I am still recovering from my BC-love mode since the trip in May (it is July time of writing). However, what I can answer for you is the question:
“How to experience a romantic and adventurous getaway for couples (tips apply to everybody) to Vancouver and beyond over a long weekend?”
Money Saving Tip #1 – Save on Airfare
Getting around Canada by air is the biggest financial hurdle for leisure travelers on a budget. Our large size, fewer urban clusters, relatively small population, only two major Canada based airlines, and relatively high airport surcharge fees are the primary reasons for it.
Having said that, it is also not that uncommon to score some sweet deals on airfares, although less common for travel within Canada. Of course alternate modes of transportation by bus, train, or car may be more economical options but if you plan on traveling over a long weekend (3days/4nights), airfare is your best bet.
The simplest way to find airfare deals is of course when advertised by the airlines so make sure you subscribe to newsletters of a few airlines. Don’t forget to ignore some of the regional operators as they can sometimes offer incredible package savings that will not be listed on aggregator sites. My best air experience was on AirNorth on a trip to The Yukon.
I do not recommend subscribing to newsletters of fare aggregator sites as any deals offered on their site is in effect a deal offered by the airlines and you may end up inundated with daily emails to point you will start ignoring them (and miss out on a deal!). But I do recommend you sign up for the newsletter of Chris Myden. He has portals for various Canadian cities (by airport code) that list flash sales or unique codes offered at any given time. You have to sign up by your primary departure airport’s portal page. Here is the portal for Calgary (YYC) airport. However, if you want to do a search on an aggregator site for different routing options I recommend CheapOair as I have consistently found them to offer the best routing and pricing. Plus their instant cash credit is nice to have!
Money Saving Tip #2 – Find convenient lodging at right price (not the cheapest price)
You don’t have stay at the highway motel (not exactly romance inducing) or sleep on some stranger’s couch (definite romance killer) to save moolah on lodging costs, which is possibly the second biggest financial hurdle for leisure travelers on a budget. I will tell you one thing is for sure that after years of traveling and experiencing various accommodation styles, there is nothing as comforting or soothing as good old hospitality. This is a rarity these days especially in the budget leisure travel market. However, the Bed and Breakfast and guesthouse or lodges still follow the old school philosophy of personal touch and warm hospitality. I recommend saving up a bit and spending a bit more to have the good hospitality experience. It will change your perspective on travel.
In Vancouver, if you want to combine convenience, proximity to downtown (where most of the action is), hospitality and romantic charm all at the right price, I highly recommend the West End Guesthouse. You can read about it on this blog post of mine.
Money Saving Tip #3 – Find a good local tour operator
I love to explore places on my own or with a group without pre-planning too much. But I can do this only when I have time to wander and chance upon curious delights in a foreign city. When pressed for time, such as on a long weekend in a new city, there is nothing like the classic Hop-On-Hop-Off tours offered in most cities. In Vancouver, Grayline Westcoast Sightseeing is a well reputed operators that offers open-top and closed-top buses at budget friendly prices. I recommend getting the two-day bus pass as you will need at least two days to see just the highlights of Vancouver!
Tip: They offer a main city route with Stanley Park option and a full Stanley Park route. If you do plan on getting off on the latter route, please ensure you check with the driver on the bus schedule and have him/her show you the exact locations on the route map where the bus stops. Actually, the bus does not stop unless waved down. So be aware of this as Stanley Park is huge and getting lost in there is very easy. Make sure you have the basic sunscreen, water, light snack as you will need this if you plan on walking the Park and possibly a cell phone for emergencies or if you get lost in there. And make sure to stop by the Vancouver Aquarium located inside the park. It is immensely fun for all ages.
Do you have any other tips on saving money in Vancouver or traveling on a budget across BC? Do let me know.
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