Updated: Mar 4
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This post will cover the strategies we use to travel on a budget in Canada.
If you are in Canada and have been able to plan and execute the move from your home country to Canada, there is a chance you will enjoy travelling.
We are part of that group, and like you, we want to travel.
Travel is not the priority when you are a newcomer because your savings are focused on settling you and your family in Canada.
I will leave here a story about our trips in Canada.
If you prefer, we can skip straight to the content.
Table of Contents
In 2021, I was in Canada but working on a contract in Chile for the same company.
I had accumulated a lot of vacation days in Chile because I rarely took a vacation there.
I decided to take a week, but since we were newcomers, our budget was tight. Also, we were living with our cat and had no friends or anyone who could take care of her.
We decided to stay in Mississauga and make daily trips to nearby cities. It was amazing!!! It's not so important the place. What is important is the person you travel with and the experiences you take away from there.
I also journaled what we did each day during our vacation, and weeks and even months later, I was able to go back to my notes, and we still remember what our experience was like.
Let's go over the systems we have in place for taking a vacation affordably, which allowed us to travel in one year to Oakville, Toronto, Toronto Island, Oshawa, Montreal and Niagara Falls (3 times).
Here are my tips for saving money on accommodation
1. Travel for the day
If you don't have money to pay for a hotel or accommodation or you have obligations at home like a pet, as was our case, it may be uncomfortable for you to leave your home for a couple of nights.
My recommendation is to plan daily trips to nearby places.
We did this on our first vacation. We did not have anyone to take care of our Corita (now we have discovered a new platform), but we did not know how to get someone to take care of her before, and we decided to travel only for the day.
We live in Mississauga, and under this model, we went to Oshawa, Oakville, Toronto, Toronto Island and Niagara Falls, all in just ten days.
We took at least one day between trips to rest because we did it all by public transportation, but it was well worth it.
2. Use the TrustedHousesitters platform.
For us, it has been the discovery of 2022.
TrustedHouseSitters is a platform where you pay an annual membership and create a profile as a pet owner, pet sitter or combined.
You have access to travel worldwide, take care of pets in their homes or have someone take care of your pets for free.
Every time you find a place you want to go, you apply to be the pet sitter, and it's the pet owner who chooses you; you can coordinate with them what you need to do at home or any special care for their pet, and that's it!
We joined this platform this year with a combined membership, and in 5 months, we have used it three times, so it has been worth it!
We used the platform on our second trip to Niagara Falls; we found someone to look after Corita for a long weekend.
Then we used it to travel to Montreal, where we took care of a precious cat (named Joey - we still miss him) for ten days, and we had someone to take care of Corita for those ten days as well (imagine what it's like to spend ten days in another city for free).
We are now planning our second stay as house sitters in Canada.
I highly recommend it, and it is available in many countries, you can check the platform here.
3. Find cheap accommodation.
Ok, let's imagine that your trip can't be for the day and you didn't find a house to stay in Trustedhousesitters either, but you still want to go on a trip.
So, let's look for cheap accommodation. When we planned to go to Niagara Falls (which we love), we found ourselves in that situation and decided to look for a hotel or similar.
We weren't looking for something luxurious because we tend to do a lot of walking and are pretty much out all day; it was more like something necessary to rest at the end of the day.
We were on a tight budget and were looking for something about 1-2 km from the falls, but walking was not a problem since we are good at it. Also, we were travelling in February (winter) when prices are usually lower, so we finally found a cheap place on booking.com
Here you can find accommodations in Niagara Falls.
Let's see how we get around. Remember that we like to travel without spending too much money, but we are also willing to deal with how slow it can be to use public transportation, so bear with me on this.
4. Using public transportation
Most of our trips have been made using public transportation. Our trips to Toronto, Oakville, and parks more than 10 km away have been made entirely by public transit.
So the first thing is to make sure where you are going they have public transportation and how you can pay.
You can use the same Presto card for local trips in Toronto and Great Toronto Area (GTA). We have used it to pay for trips in Mississauga, Toronto, Vaughan and Oakville, so no problem.
Just make sure you have enough money because it takes a while for the online reload to show up on your card.
The trips will be longer, but take it as an experience.
5. Use the GO bus
GO bus is a series of buses that connect different cities. We used it to go to Niagara Falls and also to Toronto.
Check the itinerary and make sure you arrive on time. From our perspective, they work well and are reliable.
In this case, remember to tap on the Presto on the way up and down. The price will depend on the distance travelled.
6. Using the train
Another way to get around comfortably is to use the train.
We travelled using the GO train to Oshawa (our first experience) and Niagara Falls. There are many destinations you can go to, and most of them connect to Union Station in Toronto.
We also used Via Rail to go to Montreal, it was almost a 5-hour ride, but it was super comfortable. They have a loyalty points system, and also if you buy the ticket on Tuesdays, they have special discounts. Check it out in case you are interested.
They have an escape fare, the cheapest, and an economy fare.
7. Local trips to nearby parks and trails.
If you don't know where to go, start with something nearby; if you are in the Toronto area, check out my post on 14 parks to visit in Mississauga. All of them are free admission and are fantastic.
Don't miss the opportunity to get out and enjoy what this country has to offer.
8. Places with free admission
Do your research before you travel. Nowadays, most of us have access to the internet, so look for information ahead of time and find places with free admission.
Maybe you can look on Pinterest; I always go there for inspiration.
When we went to Montreal, we could go to a garden that did not charge admission.
9. Bring your food
Another strategy we use is not just to save money, but because we are vegan and often there are no options available to eat, we decide always to be prepared with a stock of our food.
We plan, and if we go to a park, we carry some fruit, iced coffee and snacks distributed in our backpacks to make sure we don't crave something sweet.
We also did this on the train to Montreal, and it was a good idea because they didn't have vegan options.
They have no problem with you bringing your food, so take advantage of the opportunity.
10. Bring a reusable bottle with water/coffee.
Same goal as point 9. Suppose you don't want to get thirsty on the trail and have to buy a bottle of water or coffee or similar. Bring your bottle with the liquid of your choice.
We have had these two water bottles for three years, and they work perfectly. We go everywhere with them.
In addition, you'll be helping our planet by not generating trash and buying single-use plastic.
11. Bring a picnic blanket
Last year we bought one for about $20 CAD and took it wherever we went.
You never know if you'll have a seat in the park, so bring a blanket, and you will have a safe space to sit and enjoy.
And you can also easily improvise a picnic with your family or friends, and you will have a great time.
Being a newcomer can be challenging, especially from a mental health standpoint, so get out, bring your blanket, reconnect with nature, and get some sun.
12. Go to the grocery store
Usually, when you go on vacation, it's understandable that you want to go somewhere to enjoy food, but sometimes that takes a lot out of your budget.
When we went to Montreal, we ate at home most days. We went to a supermarket on the first day and stocked up on our usual vegan food, which eased our budget.
Of course, we still went out a couple of times, but eating at home saved us money.
I hope this helps motivate you to get out of your comfy place and enjoy the sun or winter, depending on where you are.
If you have any other tips, let me know in the comments below!