Banff National Park is one of Canada's most beautiful destinations, but it's also one of the most expensive to visit. With all of its breathtaking scenery comes a price tag and it's not always compatible with many people's budgets, which is why many don't believe that they can actually make this a future travel destination. The good news is that there are ways to save money when traveling to Canada's untamed, mountainous wilds, and with a few simple alterations, travelers could save hundreds on a potential trip north.
Luckily, since Banff is a national park, travelers won't need to account for things such as souvenirs (unless they want to) or other spurs of the moment buys like they would for a Vegas vacation or big-city trip. That's not to say that Banff doesn't come without its fees, though - here's how to save money while also getting the most out of this stunning landscape.
Stay Outside Of Banff Or Consider A Hostel
Part of the steep price when it comes to visiting Banff are the accommodations but this can be easily remedied with a few simple changes. Staying in Banff will usually run visitors at least $300 or more per night, according to The Adventures Atlas, which will eat up nearly half a budget if not most of it. That's because the town of Banff is home to many luxury lodgings that, while beautiful and luxurious, are also designed to be a high-end escape in the middle of the wilderness.
Rather than staying in Banff, more affordable lodgings can be found in the nearby towns of Calgary, Canmore, Field, and Cochrane. While Calgary and Cochrane are one and two hours away, respectively, Canmore and Field are only 20 minutes and 35 minutes away. Obviously, a car is needed to stay in any of these towns - especially those which are closest in terms of driving distance. In terms of affordability, visitors can expect to spend roughly $100 per night in these towns, which saves about $200 each night right off the bat.
Another alternative is to stay in a hostel. There are many perks to staying in a hostel that we won't dive into here, but the biggest perks are the affordability and social aspect of a trip. The Adventure Atlas recommends Samesun Banff, Jasper Downtown Hostel, and the Canmore Downtown Hostel.
Make A Gas Stop Prior To The Icefields Parkway
Another means by which to save money is in gas. For those who are driving their own car, it's a general rule of thumb to make sure to stock up on gas prior to hitting the Icefields Parkway. Gas prices skyrocket at any point past that which can mean doling out major dollars to fill up the tank - especially for cars that don't get many miles to the gallon. Using a gas finder app will also help tremendously to find the cheapest gas, which usually ends up being around Canmore and Calgary.
Go With Groceries Over Takeout Or Dine-In
It's not uncommon for one meal out to cost a visitor $20 or more in Banff. Saving money by skipping dine-in or takeout should be fairly easy when going with an Airbnb or a hostel because there will undoubtedly be kitchen access (inquire about this prior to booking).
Therefore, grocery shopping will save travelers plenty of money as they'll be able to shop for food for multiple days as opposed to spending $60 or more in one day on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Finding a balance between eating out and eating 'at home' is also a great way to compromise while saving money.
Know Which Activities To Spend Money On And Which To Forgo
It costs absolutely nothing to go hiking in Banff National Park and, luckily, this is also the way most people choose to tour the park. Guided hikes will cost a fee but to follow the trail blazes and maps doesn't cost a thing. There are also plenty of guides out there for hiking different parts of the park which can be printed out ahead of time.
Driving around the park can be just as rewarding as hiking, too - the road between Banff and Jasper National Park is absolutely stunning. For those looking to canoe in the park, it's best to do some research ahead of time. The most popular lakes, such as Lake Louise, will run visitors twice as much for canoe rentals as the lesser-visited scenic lakes.
Determine Which Park Pass Is Worth It
The annual pass, while pricey, is good for all the national parks and is a great option for those who will continue visiting throughout the year. However, if Banff is a one-time visit, it might not make sense to go for the splurge, because it won't save any money in the long run if it's not being used periodically in a one-year period.