The travel plans of many Canadians – particularly to the U.S. – have been seriously curtailed over the past few years thanks to the decline of the Canadian dollar. In fact, the number of Canadians travelling to the U.S. fell for the third consecutive year in 2016, down 7.7%, according to recent data from Statistics Canada.
Since 2013, when the loonie was last at par, the number of Canadians travelling to the U.S. by car has fallen by 31.3% to 31.8 million in 2016. However, the U.S. is still the top international destination for Canadians, accounting for three-quarters of trips abroad.
Still, even with a 79-cent Canadian dollar (as of August 29, 2017) most trips to the U.S. and elsewhere come at a premium. So while international travel right now can still be prohibitively expensive, there are some solutions.
Think Asia & Eastern Europe
“Asia has great budget destinations,” says cost-focused travel blogger Matt Kepnes, whose personal favourites include Cambodia, Thailand and South Korea. “All have amazing food, friendly people and fun nightlife. You can also get by on $20 to $30 a day if you really want to go cheap.”
While Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines can also keep on-the-road costs in check, Kepnes says value vacations aren’t only about Asia. “Bulgaria is a wonderful budget destination. The landscape is beautiful, there’s lots of history and the beaches are great in summer. Not enough people go there,” he says. Also think about Budapest, Dubrovnik, and ever-popular Prague as cost-effective alternatives to traditionally pricey spots such as London or Stockholm.
Don’t forget Lisbon
According to Tom Meyers, editor of budget travel site EuroCheapo: “Often overlooked by North Americans, Lisbon is sunny, friendly and almost shockingly inexpensive,” he asserts. “Berlin is also still one of Europe’s great values: Most travelers are surprised by its low-cost eating, sleeping and sightseeing as well as its vibrant nightlife.”
And how about some sun?
“Greece remains one of Europe’s great deals, if you travel with a certain amount of flexibility. Instead of heading straight to Santorini or Mykonos, think instead about exploring Crete. It’s far less expensive and offers history, deserted beaches and amazing food and wine,” adds Meyers.
You can also stretch your holiday dollars by choosing carefully in Central and South America. “Bolivia is South America’s least expensive country and it has stunning landscapes and a fascinating indigenous culture,” says full-time traveler and budget-conscious blogger Erin McNeaney, suggesting the colonial city of Sucre for its laid-back feel, inexpensive Spanish classes and access to the Amazon.
And while Guatemala also makes McNeaney’s low-cost list – she recommends the beautiful Lake Atitlan area – budget-huggers should additionally consider her favorite Mexican city. “Guanajuato is compact and walkable, but its large student population means there’s plenty going on with cafés, bars, street food, markets and art galleries. It doesn’t receive many foreign visitors, so prices remain low,” she says.
For McNeaney, the bottom line is that lower budgets don’t have to mean shorter vacations. “Travel slowly. Trips between destinations can still be costly, but if you stay in one place longer you can save money. We’ve found extended apartment rentals [to be] especially good value: We rented one with huge windows overlooking Lake Atitlan for $700 a month when the nightly rate would have been $100.”
Budget hotspots: a checklist
- Thailand. Meals for under $2, massages for $8 and a studio apartment for $300 a month. Suggested spots to visit: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Koh Yao Yai.
- Argentina. Buenos Aires feels like Paris or Madrid – but for a third of the price.
- Turkey. Delicious, inexpensive cuisine. Shopping (clothing, sandals, ceramics, brass, quartz) and good-value in-country flights. These past couple years several travel warnings have occurred for parts of Turkey so best to check first before you consider.
- Anywhere in S.E. Asia. Laos is a beautiful country – Luang Prabang and Nong Khiaw are great spots.
- South America. Bolivia is very affordable with 4-star hotels for as little as $80 a night.
The All-Inclusive Option
If the idea of planning an independently organized trip away seems too complex, there is always that old stand-by, the all-inclusive vacation. According to Claire Newell, President, Travel Best Bets globetrotters can still travel half-way across the world to destinations in South Asia, Central America and North Africa – including lodging for a week and round-trip airfare – for less than $2,000.
All of us at The Wooding Group hope an opportunity to travel abroad comes your way very soon. If it should, please don’t forget to share some highlights of your adventure with us!
The Wooding Group at CIBC Wood Gundy 780 498-5047