The New York Times named Canada the number one destination to visit in 2017. This means that whether you’re planning on taking a vacation during Spring Break or during the summer holidays, 2017 is a great year to explore all Canada has to offer. It’s never too early to start planning for your next family trip – and 2017 offers great ways for the family to have a great vacation without breaking the bank.
For Canada’s 150th birthday – more than 200 national parks and historic sites are offering free entry all year — from the turquoise lakes and mountain peaks of Banff in Alberta to the rolling dunes and red sandstone cliffs of Prince Edward Island along the Atlantic Coast to the newest reserve, the glacial-rounded Mealy Mountains in Labrador.
Here are the top 10 best places to enjoy an unforgettable family vacation – without breaking the bank.
1. Go Camping
Despite the fact that camping seems to be on the decline in Canada – its still a wonderful family outting. The Canadian Camping and RV Council released a report on the state of the industry in March 2017, that showed a steady decline. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of overnight camping stays in Ontario’s provincial parks fell by 10 per cent, while a 2010 study from Tourism Quebec found that campsite occupancy in that province fell by 8.7 per cent between the summers of 2006 and 2009.
However, as long as you have access to a tent (you don’t even have to own it – borrow one!), sleeping bags and other gear – camping can be an affordable getaway. And, it’s a great way for families to spend quality time together.
If you’re the ultimate urbanite who will miss the WiFi and other tech essentials – the the recent rise of “glamping” – a portmanteau of “glamorous camping” – has seen private campgrounds across Canada erect WiFi connected yurts in an effort to lure urbanites into the woods.
Estimated cost: Free in Canada for 2017.
Read: Canada 150 Celebrations: Free Park Admissions
2. Take a Road Trip
Photo: Cabot Trai, Nova Scotia. Readers Digest Canada
It’s Canada’s 150th birthday! There couldn’t be a better time to hit the road and explore Canada’s greatest sites.
With gas prices in Canada just above $1 per gallon, the cost of getting to a nearby destination can be affordable.
To keep the cost of food down, stay at an all-suites or extended-stay hotel that offers a small kitchen space in rooms so you can prepare some meals or at properties that include a meal as part of the room rate. Also, take advantage of entertainment and lodging discounts you might have through memberships in groups such as CAA. Lastly, keep an eye on lodging deals within a few hours’ drive from you through LivingSocial Escapes or Groupon Getaways.
If you’re heading to the U.S. attractions like the Grand Canyon have a range of other sites nearby that can provide for a great road trip as well.
Estimated cost: Varies.
Read: The Golden Triange (Grand Canyon-Las Vegas-Disneyland in Eight Days
3. Explore Canada’s National Parks
Photo: Readers Digest Canada
As a result of Canada’s 150th birthday celebration – visiting Canada’s national parks this year will be free. There could never be a better time to explore Canada’s natural wonders.
Camping can be the least expensive lodging option. If you’d rather stay in a hotel, Poirot recommended looking for hotels outside national parks, which tend to be cheaper than lodging within the parks or the cost of renting an RV.
Estimated cost: Varies, can be free
4. Relax at the Beach
A beach vacation is a no-fail way to ensure everyone is not only fully engaged but having fun.
For the most part, entertainment is free if you’re just hanging out on the beach and swimming in the ocean. You can keep costs down by staying in a vacation rental property that has a kitchen so you can cook your own meals. You can find vacation rental properties through sites such as HomeAway, VRBO and Airbnb.
Estimated cost: Varies, can be free
5. Visit a Theme Park
Canada’s Wonderland is Canada’s Premier Amusement Park featuring over 200 attractions, 69 thrilling rides, North America’s greatest variety of roller coasters, and Splash Works; a 20-acre water park. It provides tremendous value and is very affordable for families on a budget.
If want to head to the U.S. to Disneyland or DisneyWorld, you can save money by staying at non-Disney hotels, eating meals offsite and dividing your time between the park and lower- or no-cost activities in the area. Canadian residents can Save 25% on 4-Day or longer tickets and enjoy all 4 Disney Theme Parks. To take advantage of this special offer, you must purchase your tickets in advance between September 16, 2016 and May 20, 2017.
Estimated cost: A 2017 Season Pass at Canada’s Wonderland starts at $69.99. Annual passports at Disneyland start at $329; Disney World annual passes start at $749
Read: 17 Creative Ways to Save Money at Disneyland
6. Splash at a Water Park
Photo: Calypso Waterpark, Ottawa.
A water park can be a less-expensive alternative to a theme park and it’s a great way to stay cool while having fun in the sun. The Calypso Waterpark in Ottawa is Canada’s largest waterpark, set on an extensive 100-acre facility. Calypso Theme Waterpark is the summertime place to be, just east of Ottawa off Highway 417 and 75 minutes from Montreal.
You can also splash year-round at indoor water park resorts such as Great Wolf Lodge near Niagara Falls, Canada.
Estimated cost: The 2017 Summer Season pass at Calypso Waterpark in Ottawa is $99 per person.
7. Tour a Big City
A tour of one of Canada’s big cities will allow your kids to see skyscrapers, ride a subway and learn about urban life. Plus, there’s an abundance of things to do for all age groups. But visiting a big city can get expensive quickly.
To keep costs under control, stay in a hotel that offers free meals such as breakfast or an evening reception — or a kitchenette where meals can be made for less than the cost of dining out.
Estimated cost: Varies
8. Take a Cruise
A cruise offers tremendous value for large families with kids. Cruiselines like Royal Caribbean have activities and programs to fill litterally 2 weeks at sea. These ships boast loft-style staterooms, nurseries for infants and toddlers (6 months or older), skating rinks, carousels and zip lines at sea, 43-foot-tall rock-climbing walls, surf simulators special spas for kids and teens. Thanks to a partnership with DreamWorks Animation, guests get to mingle with various characters.
To save money on a cruise, look for sailings out of ports that are closer to your city, for example New York, which is close to various cities in Canada.
Estimated cost: A few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on the cruise line.
9. Stay at a Kid-Friendly Resort
There are a range of resorts, so you likely can find one priced in your budget. Plus, resorts often offer discounts of up to 50 percent off or free nights.
Estimated cost: A few hundred dollars a night.
10. Take a Staycation
According to a recent survey by online bank Tangerine, more than two-thirds of respondents — 69 per cent — said the value of the Canadian dollar is impacting their travel.
From Castles to epic waterfalls – all across the country, Canada has alot to offer in each city and province. Families can spend quality time together with a staycation vs. packing and heading outside the country.
Estimated cost: Free lodging, but activity costs can vary.