With blue skies and summer nights in full effect, that can only mean one thing… summer travel season is here! Before rushing to charge a pricey getaway to your credit card that you might not be able to afford – stop and hit the pause button. Reviewing your financial budget when planning your summer activities is vital to ensure your wants match your financial means. With today’s cost of living continuing to rise, the hope of having affordable summer fun can feel unattainable for many Canadians. If your finances are lean right now, there is no need to fret! With proper financial planning, you can have the summer of your dreams without breaking the bank, whether you embark on a quick weekend getaway close to home or an activity-rich staycation.
Here are a few useful tips to help you have memorable summer fun on a shoestring budget:
- Keep your Backpacking Adventure Close to Home
Oh Canada, the second largest country in the world. A vast land bordering the US that offers countless road trip destinations and opportunities to experience new sights, cultures, and experiences. With so much to see and do in our own backyard, there is no need to travel abroad for an epic backpacking adventure.
- Travel: If you don’t have access to a car, the bus or train can be affordable options to travel within Canada or across the border. Regional bus operators vary per location. Megabus is the cheapest option, with fares as little as $1 if booked in advance, offering transit between cities in Ontario, Quebec, and the US. Red Arrow is an Alberta coach line that can help you get around in Western Canada, and Maritime Bus and DRL Group are coach companies on the east coast. You could even research the cost of renting a car to get you to your destination and opt for public transit once you’re there. Consider splitting the cost with others, as it might be an economical choice and will allow you to make fun stops along the way.
- Accommodations – Generally, accommodations in larger cities like Toronto and Vancouver are more expensive than in smaller ones like Halifax and Quebec City. Hostels are a great budget-friendly option for backpackers and are available in most cities, big and small. You might also find some great rates with locals offering a place to stay on sites like Airbnb or Couchsurfing.
- Food & drink – Take advantage of Canada’s drinkable tap water by packing a reusable water bottle that you can refill as you go. Consider opting for street vendors for a few of your meals and buying groceries for quick breakfasts and snacks on the go.
- Make Your Vacation a Staycation
If you are feeling the financial pinch this summer or prefer the comfort of your bed, you don’t have to travel to an exotic destination to enjoy some relaxation. Take advantage of living in one of the most multicultural nations in the world! Rather than touring the world abroad, take this opportunity to be a tourist in your own neighborhood or city with the help of a staycation. Consider selecting a theme for each day of your summer vacation and plan activities and meals that align with that theme. For example, if you’re looking for a little taste of Italy, visit your local “Little Italy” neighbourhood or favourite Italian restaurant. Leisurely sip a negroni on a nice tree-lined patio with your besties, grab a scoop (or two) of gelato and take a stroll to the closest town square or park, play a game of bocce ball, and plan a homemade pasta or pizza night for dinner with your friends or family. Ultimately, just because you stay local doesn’t mean you can’t have fun too! Moreover, you’ll be able to have reasonably priced summer fun while rediscovering the hidden gems in your backyard and supporting local businesses. Now that’s a win-win!
“Whether it’s local art festivals or music festivals, there are so many ways to support our local communities while also supporting our own budget too – such a great option to stay local.” – Tera Lowrie, Innovation Credit Union’s Vice-President of Consumer Advisors, shares her thoughts on the benefits of staying local this summer.
- Set Up Camp in the Great Outdoors
If your summer holidays typically involve an annual family camping trip, don’t let inflation stop you from pitching a tent. Camping is still one of the more affordable vacation options available to Canadians, with campsites available at provincial parks nationwide for as little as $25 / night. Don’t have the gear? Some public libraries with a “Lendery” have camping gear available to borrow, such as tents, stools, lanterns, binoculars, and more. Consider also borrowing air mattresses, sleeping bags, or coolers from close family members or friends. If you find yourself in a jam with no car or no tent sites available, get creative and set up a tent in your backyard, roll out some sleeping bags, and grab snacks, beverages, and firewood to build yourself, your friends, and your family a cozy campfire experience you’ll never forget. Don’t have a backyard? Bring the outdoor fun indoors by laying out some blankets on your home floor, grabbing some flashlights, and gathering your loved ones to share fun campfire stories that will make you feel like you are in the great outdoors, all from your home.
- Take a trip to visit family or friends
Looking for a change of scenery this summer but cannot afford a trip abroad? Not a problem! If you have friends or family in a nearby city, take this opportunity to pay them a quick visit. With free lodging and even a few meals sure to come your way, staying with family or friends is a great way to have an economical vacation while spending quality time with the people that matter most to you.
- Build your own D.I.Y. backyard beach resort
You don’t have to go far to enjoy a great summer beach vacation – build one in your backyard instead! Whether you live in a house or an apartment, you can still create that tropical island vibe you long for right at home with a little creativity. Start by purchasing a few plants (natural or artificial) and adding them alongside your apartment balcony or backyard to give yourself that instant beach effect. Then, take a trip to IKEA or scope out Facebook Marketplace to snag some affordable and stylish deck chairs, tables, and outdoor lighting to complete your island-inspired aesthetic. Lay out your purchased furniture and decor items on your outdoor space and soak up the sun with a few tropical drinks and yummy eats to mentally transport yourself to the beach right from your doorstep.
- Outdoor Movie Nights
Make summer nights more magical with an old-fashioned outdoor movie night. Whether you live in a small town or a large metropolitan city, your local city park could be the key to a memorable movie night experience for you and your loved ones! Many cities across Canada sponsor free outdoor family summer movie nights as an opportunity for Canadians of all ages to access fun and affordable summer activities. Check out your city parks department website to locate the full roster of free movies being featured at the parks in your area to catch a fun flick all for free!
Set yourself up for affordable summer fun…become a credit union member
From rising gas prices to interest rates, today’s increased cost of living can make summer fun seem out of reach for Canadians – but it doesn’t have to be – and we hope these tips set you up for a fun and affordable summer season. Credit unions care about the financial well-being of Canadians and are a great banking option to keep your finances on track throughout the year. Not yet a credit union member? To find your nearest credit union, click here.