How to Save Money When You Visit Canada

There are plenty of ways to save on your visit to the Great White North

Exploring British Columbia's Vancouver
Getty Images/George Rose

Even with careful planning, travel costs can easily get out of hand: foreign taxes, splurges, unfavorable conversion rates and other unforeseen costs can gobble up your budget. Though Canada is among the most competitive countries in terms of travel affordability, you can't go wrong with this list of ways to save money without sacrificing the quality of your trip. 

Consider Flying into an Alternative Airport

Many of Canada's most popular cities are within a reasonable drive from the U.S. border. For example, Seattle is a two-hour drive away from Vancouver and the Buffalo International Airport is slightly closer than that to Toronto. Compare fares for flights into these U.S. airports; not only may airfares be cheaper, but you may also find savings in parking, car rentals, hotels and other amenities that are outside of the big city.

Also, consider flying into smaller towns outside of big cities. For example, travel bargains may exist flying into Hamilton Airport -- 45 min from Toronto -- that aren't available to Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Travel Off Season

Canada's travel seasons are comparable to those in the U.S. -- summer is the high season as is Christmastime and school break (which varies by province).

U.S. Thanksgiving in November presents a good chance for travel savings in Canada, as Canada's Thanksgiving is in October and November in Canada is a traditionally slow travel time. Other good times for savings include ski package deals In January and spring skiing in April.

Make Big Cities Your Day Trip and Stay in Smaller Towns

One of the benefits of cities in Canada is that they are all within easy reach of charming smaller towns, bodies of water, and inviting countryside. Consider staying in a more affordable neighboring town outside of a big city instead of paying top dollar for hotels, restaurants, parking, etc.

Make Lunch Your Splurge Meal

Dining out is a particularly egregious budget slayer in Canada. Though not especially expensive to travel overall, Canada has pricey restaurant food and alcohol because of high government taxes. Nevertheless, lunchtime presents a good opportunity to dine out at a discount 

Consider Renting Your Accommodation

Hotels are major budget hogs but who wants to skimp on this aspect of travel costs if it means staying in a sketchy hotel. 

Luckily for budget-savvy travelers, there is an increasing proliferation of vacation rental sites, like HomeAway, FlipKey and peer to peer marketplaces, such as Airbnb or HouseTrip.  By renting someone's home, you may end up saving big, getting spared such expenses as parking, tipping, dining out, and WiFi.

Book Weekends at Hotels Catering to Business Travellers

Hotels that cater to business travelers and those that are near airports are often busier Monday to Thursday and actually reduce their rates on the weekends to be more attractive to leisure travelers. Consider booking these for weekend stays. 

In addition, some airport hotels may put you in a prime location to visit a variety of local destinations at a cheaper rate, and possibly with free parking. For example, staying at a Toronto airport hotel situates you in between downtown Toronto (about 20 minutes away) and Niagara Falls (about an hour away in the opposite direction).

Take Advantage of Coupon Sites

When you're planning your planning your holiday, you probably search around for the best deals on airfare or train tickets using online tools like Expedia, RedTag or Trivago, but we tend to just start doling out cash once we've reached our destination like we don't have a choice. But online coupons offer a world of savings to travelers.

Popular sites, like Groupon, WagJag, and RedFlagDeals offer savings in a variety of categories, like attraction passes, dining, transportation, hotels, tours, spa packages and more. 

Most of Canada's larger cities have discounted attractions passes that give you line-skipping access to major attractions for one low price either through a provider like CityPass or the local tourism office.