Banff is one of the most amazing places in the world with a lot of ‘priceless’ and free viewpoints. But in peak seasons, it’s not exactly a cheap place to visit.
Now if budget isn’t an issue, there is an array of luxury hotels, high-end restaurants and swanky stores catering to visitors with deep pockets. But not everyone falls into that category, and that’s not a problem. Travellers with budgets can absolutely visit Banff and have a great time doing so – you just need to be smart about how you spend your money. Here are a few tips that will help you to significantly cut down your Banff trip costs, so that you can stretch your travel dollars further.
1. Have a Picnic
Banff has a number of excellent restaurants, but if you dine out for every meal this can really eat into your budget. Instead, go shopping at the grocery store and pick up some fresh fruit, bread, cheese and meats and then have a picnic.
You’ll spend less than you would in a restaurant and you’ll also be able to eat your meal while admiring the gorgeous Rocky Mountain scenery. Central Park at the end of Banff Avenue near the bridge is a great place for picnics. And if you’re lucky, you may see elk or deer along the banks of the Bow River.
Or, look for tours and activities that include a packed lunch or barbecue meal. This gives you the freedom to explore in nature all day because you won’t need to rush back to town to be near a restaurant.
2. Save on your entry fees
Banff National Park charges an entry fee. You can pay per day, but if you are planning to spend more than a week in the park then you will save money by purchasing an annual pass. Remember, the Annual Discovery Pass covers any of the mountain parks including Banff, Jasper or Yoho National Park – so make the most of it!
If you visit Banff every year, there is a clever way to get the most for your money. Buy an annual pass during your visit to the park and then next year, plan your trip for two weeks earlier while your annual pass from the last year is still valid. This way, you will get two yearly vacations in Banff for the cost of one year’s pass.
3. Look for combo deals
If you plan on visiting more than one of the paid attractions in Banff you can often find combo deal discounts. For example, if you book the Minnewanka Lake Cruise and the Banff Gondola together you can get a cheaper price. Look at the attractions that you want to visit the most and see which ones offer combination deals.
4. Use the Roam Bus
If you don’t have a car, the Roam Bus is a cheap way to get around between many of the local attractions as well as between Banff and Canmore. Sometimes your hotel may even offer you complimentary bus passes, so be sure to ask!
5. Check Out the Visitor Information Centre
One of the first places you should head after arriving in Banff (after taking a moment to marvel at the mountains) is the Visitor Information Centre on Banff Avenue.
The staff there are incredibly helpful and friendly and they can offer you complimentary brochures, maps and information about free and cheap events and attractions in the area. Plus, you can find out about the free guided walks and hikes that Parks Canada will be hosting during your stay.
While you are at the Visitor Information Centre you can also check out the Banff and Lake Louise community calendars to find out about the events going on during your stay. Often there are free concerts, festivals and other exciting events to enjoy.
6. Consider staying in Canmore
If you have a car (or even if you don’t), consider staying in the nearby town of Canmore rather than in Banff itself. It’s only about a 30-minute drive or bus away, but you’ll find cheaper prices on hotels and motels. Plus, Canmore offers a quieter atmosphere and a better chance to get to know the locals, rather than being surrounded by other tourists.
Oh, and if you are staying in Canmore make sure that you fill up your fuel tank there too. Fuel is cheaper in Canmore than it is in Banff or Lake Louise. Calgary is even cheaper. So if you’re travelling by car, it’s a good idea to fill up your tank there before heading off to begin your adventures in the Rockies.
7. Ask your tour guide or hotel staff for local tips
When you go on a tour in Banff, your tour guide is a great resource for local knowledge.
They live in Banff and they have firsthand experience exploring the town, so they can tell you which restaurants offer the best value for money and which bars have the most generous pours during happy hour. The staff at your hotel are also a great source of local Banff tips – many of them will have great suggestions.
8. Ask your hotel about a discount
After all, it never hurts to ask. Some hotels in Banff and Canmore will offer discounts for BCAA, AAA, CAA and AMA members and some also give discounts to Alberta and British Columbia residents. Even if you don’t meet these criteria, there’s no harm in asking, “is that the best price you can offer?” while on the phone booking your room. Sometimes they might be able to knock down the price for you, especially if it isn’t the peak of busy season.