How to go on vacation without remortgaging your life

Although I am a huge proponent of the staycation, I am going on vacation next week. It’s my first real vacation in two years.

The last vacation my daughter and I went on was a 16-day road trip to Saskatchewan. Don’t laugh. Magical things happen in Saskatchewan. This happened in Saskatchewan:

Photo: Heather Setka

That’s a photo of my daughter dancing with Casey Laforet, guitarist/singer from one of my favourite Canadian bands, Elliot Brood. This incredible moment happened by accident at a musical festival on the badlands. And here they are being adorable, and posing for me, while I FREAK THE F@#K OUT.

Photo: Heather Setka

This sorta thing ONLY happens in Saskatchewan.

This year, my daughter and I are going to B.C., an equally magical place for much different reasons. We’re taking the train through the mountains to the coast, and the entire trip is costing me $2,000. I think that’s pretty decent for such an adventure. The trip to Saskatchewan cost me significantly less. Here are my tips for vacaying with almost no money.

1) Go where the family is: Two summers ago, I could barely afford my life, let alone a vacation. But I wanted to take my daughter somewhere. I grew up in Saskatchewan, and it remains one of my favourite places on the planet. I called up everyone in the Land of the Living Skies (a very true endorsement emblazoned on their license plates). As a result, I only paid for a place to stay one night out of 16. And, every single stop came with an awesome home cooked meal, and fabulous company. Not everyone wants house guests, so the maximum number of nights I stayed with one person was two (maybe three). I’d say that, overwhelmingly, people are so thrilled when you make an effort to see them that they are eager to feed, shelter and love you. Bring a small child, and they will be even more generous. (FYI, good friends totally count as family. The reason we are travelling to Prince Rupert is to visit this gal, who is one of my dearest friends from journalism school.)

2) Plan ahead: I used to think it was super romantic and exciting to go somewhere on a whim, to show up with only a backpack and a map (except I usually didn’t even have the map). Now, I think it’s stupid. You end up spending more money when you don’t have a plan. I began my spending plan for this vacation way back in March. I included: transportation, accommodation, food, activities, souvenirs, entertainment and emergency spending. Planning months ago gave me the opportunity to save, and to capitalize on deals. Bonus: it feels amazing to be heading off on vacation with every dollar I need waiting in the bank.

3) Keep it local: This helps a lot with tip #1. It also helps with the overall cost. Because I planned in advance, and we’re keeping it local, the train ride from Alberta to B.C. is costing me $375. Round trip. For two people. Yes, that’s it. I booked these tickets during a sale earlier this year. I realize this doesn’t always work. For example, an all-inclusive vacation to Mexico might cost less than my entire trip to B.C., especially if you book it about three minutes before the plane departs. But then I’d have to go to an all-inclusive. And, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I want to spend my vacation eating bad food, avoiding arrogant tourists, and chugging watered-down booze.

Canada is one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world, and it’s only liveable (read: blizzard-free) for about two months a year. Why would you want to be anywhere else?

~HS

P.S. I’m going on vacation, so this blog will be on vacation, as well. See you in September. XO

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3 thoughts on “How to go on vacation without remortgaging your life

  1. Sha Sha says:

    Still my favourite vacation of all time is the one we took to the East Coast (NS, NB & PEI). And I have been to Costa Rica, Egypt and even Yemen. Canada is entirely under-rated for vacations – especially by Canadians!

  2. Caitlin says:

    Great points!

    I think other important points to add are 1) to keep a lookout for sales (I have been to Costa Rica for $300 for flight), 2) remember when seeking housing that your goal is to enjoy your new surroundings and all that matters is a clean bed, and 3) cook as much as you can (somewhat related to your point #1).

  3. Cool, we are also going to visit family in B.C. Road trip….pack and bring food to keep down costs and my boys who have summer jobs are contributing to food budget!

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