Travel Reviews

Canada – on a budget?

Our travels this year are going to be done in bite size chunks. My work as Celebrant and Trainer means that I already have existing commitments back in the U.K. for the remainder of this year and I will therefore have to come back home every few weeks to honour such and perhaps most importantly to see my 20 year old daughter regularly too. (She has been invited to join this trip but she has a new boyfriend, is saving for her first home and is enjoying her life as Cabin Crew. I am also taking her to Vegas for her 21st Birthday in September – so she isn’t being totally left out!)

But back to Canada (well actually Canada AND the U.S.A.) this will be our first big trip and we are going to travel across Canada from Vancouver to Toronto before crossing the Canadian/America border at Niagara Falls and then continuing our journey down to Albany and New York City from where we will fly home from 4 weeks later.

Now, I have included one BIG budget blowing element to this trip which is travelling from Vancouver to Banff on the Rocky Mountaineer train. It has been on my bucket list for years and with my 6yr old son being absolutely obsessed with trains I knew one day as I looked backed on our travels I would ask myself the questions “will I regret doing it?” or “will I regret NOT doing it?” – guess which thought won? (More on costs later….)

The Rocky Mountaineer – it’s blown the budget but you can’t put a price on memories.

 

Now I admit I have been a bit spoilt with my travel experiences these last few years, but that’s fine when you are only going away for a couple of weeks at a time, I have also become pretty savvy at picking up some incredible deals. However when you are planning longer term travel then naturally you have to make other sacrifices and make the budget stretch much much further. At the age of 47 with some savings behind me I am not doing is this on a shoe string but I am honestly beginning to wonder how young student travellers ever manage this because I am trying to be as careful as possible with budgeting and am still struggling.

My biggest grudge (and has been for years) is the lack of discounts for both single travellers or single parents travelling with children. Pretty much wherever I travel I am either charged for two adults or an absolute minimal discount for a child – yet if I was travelling with a second adult then the discounts start to kick in for the child.

I have stayed in all kinds of accommodation over the years from Youth Hostels to 5* hotels and at the end of the day when all is said and done a bed is a bed! However…I admit that I have probably passed the age where I want to share a dormitory or a bathroom with a load of teenagers, possibly the odd night but not for longer term travel. I do however want to meet other people along the way and for both of us to socially interact as much as possible because I know just Mum and 6yr old is going to get a little hard going at times for both of us, he will want to meet other children and I most certainly will want the mental stimulation of adult conversation.

I also need to bare in mind that I do need to properly educate my son on our travels and I will need times where we are totally free of distractions. I will also need to be working as we travel too – so again, ideally I want our own room and own bathroom, but as long as it’s clean I don’t really care how many stars it carries because for this trip it really is going to be little more than somewhere to rest our heads at the end of each day.

Surprisingly, Hostels are not coming out anywhere as near as cheap as I expected them too (Canada and USA are clearly not the places to go backpacking on a tight budget) and by the time I have paid say £50 a night for both my son and I, then I might as well pay £100 for a hotel room and enjoy some privacy and a few more home comforts.

I have generally been disappointed by the prices offered on AirBnB, but there are still bargains to be found.

I have heard so much hype about AirBnB that I was generally excited about pursuing this as a regular option throughout our travels, it seemed ideal – the privacy of our own room, whilst being able to socialise with the ‘locals’ in more family orientated locations outside of city centres etc. I have generally been disappointed however, there are not dramatic savings to be made as a general rule, many in fact are more expensive than local hotels and on the odd occasion I found somewhere which I felt was both suitable and affordable, I discover on the profile “not suitable for children under the age of 12” . So in all but one of the cities we are staying in, we are not using AirBnB – Calgary is the only city where this came up trumps for us.

I have searched extensively for the best accommodation deal to fit both our needs AND our budgets for our four weeks of travel in Canada/USA and it’s not been easy (next year we will be living like nomads!)

Here is what we have found and what it has cost us:

VANCOUVER (6 nights) Booked directly with hotel http://www.rosellensuites.com

Total cost £691 – Average per night £115

CALGARY(5 nights) AirBnB

Total cost £302 – Average per night £60.40

TORONTO (4 nights) Booked in at Super 8, Wyndham – Downtown Toronto, via http://www.booking.com

Total cost £339 – average per night £84.75

NIAGRA FALLS (2 nights) Booked at Comfort Inn, The Pointe, Niagara Fall (AMAZING location – see photo below) booked via http://www.budgetplaces.com

Total cost £201 – average per night £100.50

Comfort Inn, The Pointe (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) Budget Hotel for the area and time of year, but look at the incredible location.

 

ALBANY N.Y.(4 nights) Booked at Morgan State House http://www.statehouse.com via http://www.booking.com

Total price £428 – average per night £107

NEW YORK CITY (3 nights) CRAZY prices this time of year and hence we have booked at the Y.M.C.A West Side (and yes I have been singing it all day) Best deal at http://www.budgetplaces.com

Total price £316 – average per night £105

Average nightly accommodation price over 24 nights £94 per night.

 

The flights: British Airways economy class, flying out to Vancouver and home from New York JFK to London Heathrow, £917 for both of us. Very little saving on a child’s flight, British Airways charged exactly the same fare for each of us, the only saving was in U.K. Air Passenger Tax for Cameron which is £0.00 and saved £78. I am a member of the B.A. executive club so do try and stay loyal to the brand in order to build up my avios points. http://www.britishairways.com

 

And as for the bank busting trip on the Rocky Mountaineer, I left including this until last as I knew I would be wincing as I typed the ££££! but for those, who may be like myself and it is a massive thing on the bucket list then you can’t put a price on memories. (Neither is tomorrow promised to anyone, as I see far too often in my work)

None of the package deals I could find online actually fitted my requirements as all included flights and/or stopovers in very expensive hotels either end of the trip in Vancouver and Calgary, I didn’t need either of those as already had accommodation booked, however I did want to have a few days in Banff to explore at our own pace (and relax).

I ended up getting a travel agent to put us together a bespoke package which actually came out over £500 cheaper than the Rocky Mountaineers own advertised package (also had variations in the package however) So our trip will be as follows:

Day 1 – Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver (Gold Leaf Service) overnight hotel in Kamloops

Day 2 – Rocky Mountaineer from Kamloops to Banff.

3 nights hotel accommodation in Banff. http://www.foxhotelandsuites.com

Also included is an all day excursion from Banff to Lake Louise.

Then express bus after the 3rd night from Banff to Calgary.

Total cost for 2 …..£3700. (This would be same cost for 2 adults as it is for 1 adult and 1 child)

We booked this through http://www.barrheadtravel.co.uk

I discovered them purely by chance online but found both service and price comparisons to be excellent. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending them and will most certainly be using them again for onward travels.

It’s going to be the trip of a lifetime, but Canada on a budget as a single Mum?? Nowhere close to what I was hoping it would be. 😩

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