Travel To Banff For Under $600 – Flights, Hostel, and More!
Banff National Park. Chances are if you have any form of social media then you have seen this place. Twitter, Facebook, and most obviously Instagram have made Banff National Park a destination that everyone wants to visit. I, my girlfriend, and two of our friends were no exception.
Banff and the surrounding area was absolutely incredible. I have done my fair share of hiking and I can honestly say these were some of my favorite spots. Everyone wants to know, is the water really as blue as it seems in the pictures? Well, I’ll show you later on but I can confirm that it is What was even more incredible than the breathtaking sights and blue water is that we did the whole trip for under $600.
That $600 isn’t just the flights or our costs while we were in Canada. No, this is everything, $600 in total! Let me give you a breakdown of the trip.
Where: Banff National Park/Canmore
Duration: 6 Days/5 Nights
Group Size: 4 People
If you are asking yourself “What’s the catch?” just know there isn’t one. This trip seriously only cost us $600 each and I’ll show you how. Could it have easily cost a couple of thousand dollars? Absolutely. But as you’ll read, we did some easy things that you can do upfront to save money so that while we were in Banff we could spend more freely.
Flights To Banff
If you have read any of my past travel posts then you know I live in a mid-size town in the midwest and finding flights, especially affordable ones, can be an issue. This trip was no exception to that. In fact, just like my trip to Europe earlier this year which I wrote about in a piece called How Much Does It Cost To Backpack Europe Alone? we had to drive to a major city. We flew out of Kansas City and it was just over 3 hours to drive there but this saved us over $300 immediately.
How much did the flights cost after that?
Well, a whopping $0.
Yes, you read that a correctly we each paid $0.00 for flights from Kansas City, Missouri to Calgary, Canada. You’re probably thinking this is where I’m going to give you some sales pitch on a pyramid scheme scam, right? If you know me or have been following Young, Dumb, and Not Broke?! for a while you know this isn’t my style.
What is my style is using credit card points and specifically, using those point for travel. Yes, each of us used our own credit card points to pay for the flight 100% and some other things as you’ll learn here in a bit.
This article isn’t about how to use credit card points but if you want to know the specific card that was used, then read Why The Chase Sapphire Preferred Is the Best Second Credit Card.
If I wouldn’t have used my points, then the flights would have cost me $362.32 round trip. In terms of points, this equated to 24,155 Chase Ultimate Reward Points. If you read the article above about the Chase Sapphire Preferred and end up signing up through the article, you’ll receive 60,000 points.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand this means you could afford this trip twice with just the signup bonus!
Cost of flights to Banff: $0
The Rental Car in Banff
If you remember my Iceland trip a year ago, then you’ll remember how I told you we crammed 6 people and all their respective luggage into a not so large car. Well, I learned from that trip and it paid off huge when going to Banff. We rented a spacious Hyundai Elantra that easily held the four of us and our luggage.
The added bonus? It got like 35+ miles per gallon.
I’ll get to the cost of gas in a minute but let’s talk about the bigger cost first, the actual car. I can happily report that the cost of the rental car was the exact same as the cost of our flights, $0.
Just like booking flights, I booked our super cool Hyundai using credit card rewards points.
If I wouldn’t have used my points, then the car would have cost me $491.90 for the six days. In terms of points, this equated to 32,793 Chase Ultimate Reward Points. I can’t recommend the Chase Saphire Preferred enough so go read that article after you are done here!
The car was free but we still had to pay for gas. At the end of the week, our total for gas was $30. Yes, you read that right and I laughed as I typed it. Thirty whole dollars! That almost makes me want to trade in my truck right now and switch over (I said almost).
Cost of a rental car in Banff: $0 + $7.50 in gas per person
You are probably guessing that I somehow magically used credit card points to cover our hostel stay? Well, I’m sad to say that this wasn’t the case. Unfortunatley, the place we stayed wasn’t listed on the rewards website, and most hostels aren’t.
We stayed at a place called the Canmore Hotel and Hostel, and this place was interesting, to say the least. I’m in my mid 20’s as were the other three people on the trip so our tolerance for things that are a little out of the ordinary may be higher than someone older. I think by that preface you know where this is going. It was a little wild.
We could have stayed in the city of Banff itself but a room per night was $150+ at the minimum and that was for something like a Super 8. Canmore is located within 15 minutes of Banff and the national park so the drive was well worth it for the money we saved.
Anyway, the hostel was extremely clean and tidy. This included fresh sheets, towels, and especially the bathrooms. When I stayed in London I was afraid to walk around the hostel without shoes but I can’t say that about the Canmore Hotel.
The staff (basically one guy named Trevor) was awesome. I firmly believe the guy would do anything to make sure you had a good stay. He was extremely friendly and honestly made our stay that much better.
There were some downsides though. The hostel is listed as a party hostel and that is what it is. Days before our trip we started reading the reviews (probably should have done this well before we booked) and honestly it made me a bit nervous. Something that is listed as a “party hostel” can go a lot of different ways. To our luck, it turned out to be no big deal at all.
Yes, people stayed up late partying.
Yes, there was a band right below us playing quite loud every weekend night.
But it wasn’t that big of a deal. If you have ever stayed in a hostel then you know people are always coming and going. Noise is unavoidable so sometimes you need to use earplugs or have an eye mask. To me, that is just part of a hostel.
The best part? The Canmore Hotel and Hostel was super affordable. No, I didn’t get to use points but at just over $30 a night, it didn’t matter.
Cost of Hostel in Banff: $157 or $32 per night
If you want to read more about my first hostel experience then check out First Time Using A Hostel? Here’s What You Should Expect.
Food in Banff
While in Banff we ate good, real good. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to a handful of different places and I’ve always been concerned with the costs of food. You see, my budget has always been pretty tight and I haven’t all of the sudden started making more money.
No, you just read what happened above. I saved so much from being able to use credit card points that I didn’t really care how much I spent on food.
I have this weird mental model in my brain that any trip I take, I want it to be under $1,000. This seemed easily attainable after saving almost $500 on flights and the rental car.
Because of that, we ate like royalty or what I imagine royalty to eat like. Here are some of the delicious meals that come to mind.
- Poutine (pictured below)
- Duck balls
- Duck wings
- Naanwiches (pictured below)
- Bison burgers
- Buffalo flatbreads
- Pork fingers
- Ribs, barbeque chicken, and cornbread
When you eat this good, you are going to rack up a pretty big bill. This wasn’t a surprise to any of us.
In addition, I need to make sure I include the cost of alcohol in this. We enjoyed our fair share of cheap Canadian pitchers and it was awesome. If you are trying to limit spending while in Banff then you won’t be drinking any American brews. For example, a 15-pack of Budweiser was $30 USD. Nobody has time for that.
The cost of food and drinks obviously differs from person to person so I’m going to post how much I spent. I eat A LOT so you can assume that you’ll spend under this.
Cost of food and drink in Banff: $277 or $46.29 per day.
Affordable Activities in Banff
What if I told you there was more to do in Banff then take fantastic Instagram pictures? Don’t get me wrong the views were absolutely breathtaking, literally, the hikes to them were exhausting, but there were dozens of other awesome things to do.
To get into the national park you have to pay $20 per day per car. If you don’t pay or show up before the gate attendants are there then you’ll get a notice on your car. We started a hike before 6 am and I was worried it was a ticket. Don’t fret, it is just a warning that you need to get to the visitor center and buy your $20 pass. If you don’t you will get a $55 ticket.
After that, you can hike all over the park and there are plenty of options. I love hiking and I love it even more that it is free. We hiked a couple of trails:
- Upper Grassi Lakes Trail (5 miles)
- Sulphur Mountain Trail (7 miles)
- Lake Agnes Trail (5 miles)
- Cascade Mountain via Cascade Amphitheater (13 miles)
We did do some activities that cost some money. The biggest one being canoeing on Lake Louis. Lake Louis and its sister lake, Lake Moraine, are the ones you see in all the Instagram pictures. Their aqua blue water is caused by the sun reflecting off the rock flour in the lake. In simple terms, the glacier that is receding grinds up rock into a fine powder and the reflection of the white mineral makes it seem bluer.
We rented two canoes at $100 per hour.
Worth it? Absolutely!
There were other things we could have done but really didn’t interest us. You can take gondolas up to the top of certain mountains. This will run you $50 or more per ticket so we opted to hike it.
Additionally, there were tours in the park as well as in town but nothing really interested us.
Cost of activities in Banff: $75 per person.
Total Cost Of Going To Banff
I’m still shocked as I write this article about how affordable this trip was. Moreover, how cheap it could have been if we would have opted to grocery shop instead of eating out every meal. I seriously think we could have kept it under $400 apiece comfortably.
But we didn’t, and I have absolutely no regrets.
In the total, I’m going to add a couple of bucks in for things that are just too boring to write on. For instance, I buy a magnet, patch, and shirt everywhere I go. Can you imagine how awful it would be read about my thought process when buying a magnet? Yeah, not going to do that to you.
Our total cost for traveling to Banff: $596
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day going to Banff National Park was one of my favorite trips I have ever taken. It just seemed as if everything went our way. We always seemed to beat the crowds and I can count on one hand the number of times we had to wait in line for anything.
Are there crowds? Of course. This is one of the most over publicized places online today so that is unavoidable.
To be honest, I thought this trip would be much more expensive. The combination of using credit card reward points, a favorable USD to CAD exchange rate, and some halfway decent planning led to us easily saving over $1,000. That’s hard to beat.
If you have ever wanted to go explore Banff, the western Rockies, or Canada in general then go. It’s a beautiful country that I plan to revisit someday soon. The amount of wilderness and incredible landscapes there make it a place that anyone who enjoys the outdoors needs to visit.
If you have any questions about our trip, using credit card rewards, or anything else financial related, then feel free to contact me. I’ll get back to you within 24 hours and do the best I can to help. Thanks for reading!
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