It’s fall which means winter is coming to Canada! Like many, I just adore Canada in the winter; images of Anne of Green Gables, peaceful isolation amongst falling snow, and cozy cuddling in front of the fire. So enthralled with this image I planned a romantic vacation, with a now ex-boyfriend, through Calgary and then to Banff. Though our romance didn’t last I still list it as one of my favorite vacations I’ve been to. This blog will go over what we planned, how it went, and how we attempted to stay on a tight budget!
We flew from Chicago to Dallas then to Calgary. There are two options when flying to Banff: Vancouver (YVR) or Calgary (YYC). Since I had airline passes, we chose the long route to Calgary through Dallas. That being said tickets to Calgary are cheaper in the winter because winter is actually off season for Banff!
Day 1: Arrive into Calgary
Day 2: Rent car and drive to Banff
Day 3: Banff Sightseeing
Day 4: Banff Sightseeing
Day 5: Drive to Calgary + Fly Home
On our first day we chose to stay the night in Calgary due to the timing of flights and being tired. After 8 hours of flying, which my guy wasn’t used to, a night in an airbnb for the night was perfect. We rented a 1 bedroom apartment right on the river and just walked around the city for a bit. To save on costs we bought most of our food for the trip at the grocery store and didn’t buy anything that required a microwave.
The rental car and our hotel stays in Banff were the biggest costs because even though the car and hotel room itself was budget friendly, we used airline discounts, in Canada the “insurance” or “down payment” in the event of an accident was $100 per night on the room and almost $300 for the car. This was a huge budgetary surprise that actually totaled our spending for the rest of the vacation.
Don’t be surprised, have an extra $500 for deposits for your stay.
The drive to Banff from Calgary was gorgeous and nothing could have prepared us for the snowcapped mountains and lazy winding roads.
We stayed at the Inns of Banff which was a cozy “cottage” style motel that ran closer to hostel than hotel. Despite being a budget hotel the view from our room was spectacular! Once you are in Banff, everything is no more than an hour by car away. If you chose to take a shuttle from the airport to Banff, no worries! There is very easy access to public transportation once you are in this cute ski town. Many activities also include a pick-up and drop-off service for those staying in the resort areas.
Mt. Norquay Lookout
Banff Surprise Corner
Fairmont Springs + Lake Louise
Cave and Basin Historic Site
Bow Falls View Point
Vermillion Lakes View Point
Of course throughout our drive through Alberta we stopped and took tons of photos and had romantic pauses in the snow. Out of respect for our relationship being done, I won’t post any of our pictures together but let me tell you they are stunning, so bring your tripod!
There are few foods that are must haves in Canada, one is poutine which you can find multiple shops of in the main streets of Banff. For our romantic night out we ate at the Saltlik, a typical upscale steak eatery. Finally Canadian desert, beaver tails! Beaver tails are like the American style elephant ears of every state fair. These long fried pieces of dough are covered in your choice of topping from nutella to maple butter (my choice). It was a perfect finish to a very Canadian trip!
Overall if you’re looking for a budget friendly winter vacation Banff makes it possible! Just make sure to pre-book all adventures and know what your deposits are in advance. Since it took us by surprise here are few activities we didn’t do but are still budget friendly!
- Sledding on Mt. Norquay
- Park Distillery Tour
- Banff Upper Hot Springs (the gondola is not budget friendly though iconic)
- Ice Skating at Lake Louise