Traveling as a couple requires compromise, and at times this merging of opinion is never met. After arguing over the best spots to visit and things to do in A Grand Adventure across Canada, we finally decided to split $1,600 right down the middle and offer the best of both worlds. The following is a Her Take account on the must-see places and activities to do with the tight budget of $800. Flights are not included, so you can either add on an extra $500 in gas for a cross-country escapade or be prepared to dish out a hefty amount to either Air Canada or WestJet.
Cypress Ski Trip in Vancouver
Two-night accommodation: $60
Lift Ticket, Transportation and Rentals: $103
Food and Drink: $100
The slogan on all license plates from Vancouver is Beautiful British Columbia, a sentiment that should not be regarded as opinion but mere fact. In one day it is perfectly plausible to ski the local mountains in the morning then head for a quick dip in the Pacific Ocean before sunset. This is why all tourists even contemplating visiting Canada should either come to Vancouver or head straight back to where they came from. Below is my ideal itinerary for anyone looking to spend two nights in this breathtakingly beautiful city.
For $30 a night, travelers can stay at SameSun Backpacker Lodge located at 1018 Granville Street. Situated in the downtown core, anyone staying here can access all of the best areas in Vancouver on foot. After settling in, head to the Old Spaghetti Factory in historic Gastown to experience cheap pasta and an area of Vancouver that’s been around since its inception. The food is subpar, but when you’re on a budget this choice is perfect for enjoying an evening with fellow travelers without breaking the bank. After you’ve stuffed your face and shared a cheap bottle of wine, head back to the hostel for a good night’s sleep. Skiing awaits, and the mountain is no place to milk a vodka-induced hangover.
Grab the Cypress Express bus for $23 round trip, and aim to be on the mountain by 10am at the latest (it only takes around 45 minutes max to get there from downtown). On a sunny day, Cypress Mountain is completely worth the $82 spent on lift ticket and rentals. Spend the day skiing above the clouds, sipping hot chocolate in the local lodge and taking in sights of the ocean and surrounding hills. The day pass also transfers over to night skiing, so die-hards looking to get in the most powder as possible can take a quick break and keep going well into the evening.
Upon returning back to Vancouver, quench your thirst at Guilt and Co, a cellar themed bar with local jazz musicians and delicious drinks that are always well deserved after a long day on the hill. Grab some food here too and start planning your next trip back to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Lake Louise and Banff in the Winter
Two-night accommodation: $74
Food and Drink: $100
Lake Louise is an amazing place to visit no matter the time of year. With an emerald lake so crystal clear it makes even the most clumsy of cameramen look like an expert, this is yet another Canadian destination that boasts the constant beauty of the country. I would recommend visiting this place in both the summer and winter, but for the sake of specificity, let’s discuss a winter game plan.
Like its location in Vancouver, SameSun Backpackers in Banff provides a great spot for travelers to kick back while still being able to access the most necessary parts of the town. Accommodation here will put you back $74, a far cry from the $400 it can cost to stay at the castle-like Fairmont. Although I highly recommend stopping in at this castle-like masterpiece to get lost in its hallways and experience a quick drink in the lounge, the historical lodge is not conducive to those travelling on a budget.
However, save drinking at the Fairmont for the evening and hop on a bus from Banff to Lake Louise. Shuttles leave in the morning from a variety of hotels such as the Rocky Mountain Resort and Red Carpet Inn, and return in the afternoon beginning at 2:00pm. Upon arrival at Lake Louise, head to the Chateau for skate rentals and hit the ice. If you don’t like the cold, you should never have come in the first place, so bundle up and start gliding across the frozen landscape. The workers at the chateau usually have a fire going at the side of the lake so warming up in minus 20 isn’t impossible.
Visitors can also choose to ski Lake Louise while visiting, although this will cost close to $130 for ticket and rental. No matter your choice of winter sports, I guarantee the surrounding landscape will provide enough entertainment to last you a lifetime.
Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto
Two-night accommodation: $40
Food and Drink: $130
Canada’s Wonderland: $40
While Toronto lacks the natural beauty that BC and Alberta continually offer, it makes up for it in great food and the best theme park in North America: Canada’s Wonderland. Stay at Global Village Backpackers downtown for $20 a night and head to this destination filled with thrill seekers and 16 roller coasters. The Leviathan is one of the highest and quickest coasters in the world, clocking in at 306 feet at the first drop and travelling at a top speed of 148 km/hr. Diapers cost extra, so make sure you pack accordingly.
After hopping back on the GO Transit (round trip being $12), you will most likely be hungry and thirsty. The best burger in town, if not the world, can be consumed in The Beaches district of Toronto, and goes by the name of Burger’s Priest. Although it’s slightly out of the way for those without a car, the streetcar down Queen Street provides a relaxing ride for $6 there and back. Have a double cheeseburger, drink and fries for $13, and start wondering what godforsaken scrap-filled patties you were eating before.
To cap off the night, Baby Huey on the Ossington Strip sells PBR on tap for cheap, and you can stumble your way back to the hostel in the wee hours of the morning. If you’re looking for a drunken food stop, Smoke’s Poutinerie is a favorite for artery-clogging gravy-covered fries. Did I mention how good the food was in Toronto?
Piknic Electronik in Montreal
Two-night accommodation: $30
Food and drink: $70
Montreal is a city with so much charm it’s hard to know which way to look. From the Old Port to the Plateau, not only does this place provide memorable European architecture, but it is also dirt cheap. After living in Toronto for two years, I now fully appreciate the culture, prices and pure soul that Montreal is known for. One highlight, however, is Piknic Electronik, an electronic music festival that occurs every Sunday throughout the summer months.
Before you head to this riverside music scene, check into La Maison Du Patriote hostel in Old Port for accommodation. The cost is only $16 a night, and you can wander the cobblestone streets for hours. Once your legs grow tired and lunchtime hits, Schwartz’s on St. Laurent is a must-see attraction for the best smoked meat in town. It’s owned by Celine Dion, but don’t let that deter you, as she has only the best working behind the counter.
To get to Piknic Electronik, head to the metro and get off at Jean Drapeau. Before going be sure to bring a “full picnic lunch” along with your one-liter limit of alcohol. Your best bet is to buy a meal from Subway beforehand (remember to include a non-alcoholic drink), and pick up a cheap $8 bottle of wine from the local depanneur. After paying the $10 entrance fee, kick back and enjoy everything this music scene has to offer.
Original Photography From: Couple of Yuppies
What would you do with $1,600 for A Grand Adventure?
Authored by Jamie Munro
See what Kyle would do with the other $800: His Take
Note: This post is entered in A Grand Adventure competition.