How To Travel on a Budget
1. Be Creative
Instead of staying in hotels then look for other options. We settled on an RV but if you are feeling adventurous then why not use a tent! There are also hostel options in most places if you are not about sleeping in a car!
2. Be Flexible
The best way to get a budget flight is to be flexible with your dates, it is going to allow you to find the cheapest priced flights. Another option that I always talk about is travelling in shoulder season, which is why we travelled in October.
3. Go Off The Beaten Track
Did you have to look up Whitehorse on a map? That’s because hardly anyone starts their Canadian Rockies road trip in Whitehorse. Why did we do it? The cost of an RV rental from Whitehorse was literally half the price of renting an RV in Calgary. They even waived the one way fee because the rental company was more than happy to get their RVs further south in time for Spring. I will break it down further below.
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The Total Cost of a Canadian Rockies Road Trip
Now for the juicy details that you really want to hear… the total cost. This cost includes flights, RV rental, groceries for 2 weeks, gas, any RV sites we stayed at and propane tank refills. The total cost of our RV road trip for two people from Whitehorse to Calgary was $3,500.23 USD, but let’s break it down completely.
The flights from Barbados to Whitehorse totaled $782.30 and then the Calgary to Barbados flights cost $614.52. This brought our flight total to $1,396.82 which seemed to be an average price for these flights. We usually track the flight prices through Google Flights.
Cost of RV Rental in Canada
As I said before the one way rental from Calgary to Whitehorse was almost double what we paid, it totaled about $2000 USD which made it way out of our budget for this trip. With some creativity we managed to get our RV rental cost down to $843.41 USD, all it took was changing our start point!
Our ride was a huge Ford F-350 Super Duty, as soon as we saw it we expected it to be a gas guzzler. To our surprise it was pretty efficient, it left us with a gas bill of $428.38 USD.
We did a big grocery shop at the beginning of the trip and then ended up just popping into a grocery a couple more times for important things, like wine… and cheese and crackers. Our groceries pretty much lasted the entire trip and cost a total of $250 USD. We managed to eat pretty healthy as well and I made some good home cooked food. I didn’t include the one or two times we stopped in A&W for some amazing fries. Our top tip is to buy a box of wine it works out to be way cheaper!
So we didn’t think we would need to stay in too many campsites but as we drove into certain towns and cities we realized we couldn’t just park anywhere and get away with it. Also it was nice to plug in to electricity here and there and these campsites provided the perfect opportunity to dump our waste and refill with fresh water. Over the 2 weeks we actually only ended up staying in 4 campsites, which was pretty good! Our campsite costs came to a total of $79.56 USD.
Propane was used for heating and cooking in the RV we went through 2 bottles that we needed to refill on our trip they cost us a grand total of $43.60 USD. We may have driven around our heating on for 2 days while we tried to figure out everything, so I definitely blame that for the cost here!
Airport Accommodation Costs
We had to stay in a few airport hotels on our trip, one on our way to Whitehorse at Toronto airport which was the Sandman Signature Toronto Airport Hotel for $116 USD. One in Calgary because our flight was super early in the morning, Wingate by Wyndham Calgary at $74 USD. Of course on the way back from Toronto to Barbados, Comfort Inn, $99 USD
The Cost of a Road Trip with Hotel Stays
So I was browsing through Kayak and noticed the a normal small rental car one way between Whitehorse and Calgary will cost about $1850 USD. If we also keep the cost of the flights the same at 1,396.82, then the total cost of the trip is already at $3,246.82. Just keep in mind there could have been specials on car rentals earlier in the year as well that may have reduced this cost. I would highly recommend renting a bigger vehicle or one with 4WD capabilities because you just don’t know what kind of weather you may encounter. If you do then you gas may be similar or slightly less but your rental fee may be higher. This website will help you decide which vehicle you should opt for; DriveBC.
The flexibility of a RV allowed us to pull over in more spots when we were tired but you may need to reach the nearest town to reach your accommodation. If we opted for a road trip with hotels these are probably some of the places we would’ve ended up staying. Keep in mind we don’t mind staying in places as long as they are cheap and clean. Also these hotels will just give you an idea of pricing along this trip at each stop:
Whitehorse: Midnight Sun Inn Bed & Breakfast $58 USD
Carcross: Cabins Over Crag Lake $117 USD
Fort Nelson: Super 8 by Wyndam Fort Nelson BC $81 USD
Dawson’s Creek: George Dawson Inn $102 USD
Prince George: Carmel Inn $54 USD
Jasper National Park: Maligne Lodge $68 USD – 4 nights
Banff National Park: Blue Mountain Lodge Bed & Breakfast $68 – 3 nights
The Total Cost of Accommodations
Total cost of accommodation including the previous airport hotel stays comes to, $1177 USD bringing the total cost to $4,423.82. Keep in mind this does not even include groceries which cost us $250 USD, which depends on if your accommodation has cooking facilities. If it doesn’t then you will be eating out quite often which will make the trip even more expensive.
The learning curve of renting an RV
Pros of an RV Rental in Canada
1. Freedom and Flexibility
When we got snowed in at Watson Lake we ended up staying the night here because we could not get any further until the roads were cleared. Luckily because we were in a campervan we just had to pull up to the first campsite park up and relax for the night without having to look for a hotel or worry about losing a deposit at a place we couldn’t get to. We also managed to sleep in beautiful spots with stunning views! This was the biggest pro for us, we had amazing campsites that we didn’t need to pay for, which saved us loads of money.
2. Amenities 24/7
We were travelling with our own shower, toilet and kitchen! This meant that we had the ability to cook wherever we were! This is one thing we loved the most, just pulling over and having lunch with epic views every day. We also loved that we never had to use public toilets or showers.
3. Save Money
We never had to eat out on our trip, which allowed us to eat healthy while we travelled. Of course it is nice to eat out occasionally but when we considered the cost, it would’ve been expensive to do it every night. Accommodation options seemed quite pricey as well and some spots weren’t exactly the most scenic spots, especially compared to where we sleep most nights.
Cons of an RV Rental in Canada
You will have to clean up after yourselves, if you are looking to be pampered then this is definitely not for you. You will be cooking meals and washing dishes. I even had to sweep out the RV a few times.
2. Resource Management
You have to monitor and maintain your tanks, which means the grey water, black water and fresh water tanks. The last thing you want is to run out of fresh water in the middle of a shower.
3. Fresh Water and Waster Disposal Stations
In October the fresh water pipes get turned off. This makes finding places to fill up with fresh water a bit more difficult and you have to get creative. We ended up keeping some water jugs and filled them up with river water for flushing toilets or washing dishes in case of emergency. You will need to drain your own poop at some point on the trip, do it often so that you prevent a sewage back up into your bathroom.
We knew what we were getting ourselves into after our 12 day road trip through Iceland. When we took the cost into consideration and realized how much we could save by renting the RV, it was a no brainer. This trip was a total luxury glamping trip, for us at least. This break down just proves that you can easily travel on a budget, all you need to do is think outside the box! For more information about our itinerary, check out our RV itinerary and guide!
Did this budget breakdown make you think about alternative travel options?
I’m moving to Canada shortly and would love to do a classic road trip like this! I haven’t done an RV trip before so it’s really helpful to read your practical tips. Exciting to have freedom, less exciting to have to do dishes on holiday!
Great breakdown. Your RV rental price is pretty good I think!
Wow! Canada is such an amazing country and I would love to hike there someday!