Travelling North America on a budget

| July 6, 2019 | 0 Comments

We can’t always afford a big fancy vacation, but still want a nice holiday. Here are a few travel suggestions in North America for the budget-conscious.

Wilderness wonder

Grizzly bears such as this one can be seen, hopefully from afar, at Jasper National Park. (Photo: Dwayne Reilander)

Grizzly bears such as this one can be seen, hopefully from afar, at Jasper National Park. (Photo: Dwayne Reilander)

Camping is the obvious choice for an economical vacation. Expensive equipment is unnecessary, much can be improvised, and you can rent what you don’t have or can’t borrow.
Canada and the U.S. have fantastic national and provincial or state parks. National parks tend to be crowded in summer so reserve ahead and avoid long weekends or mix it up with other destinations. Park passes vary in price, with some free options. The nightly camping fee varies by the type of camping — backpacking, tenting, RV with or without services, or glamping (glamorous camping).
Some of North America’s most picturesque camping areas are in national parks in the Rocky Mountains. They include Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton in Canada and in the U.S., Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

Road trip
With planning, a road trip is an economical option, even with volatile gas prices (several apps find the lowest price wherever you are). Stay close to home to save money and get in touch with your own region. Plan a route around free or inexpensive attractions. Go through rural areas and smaller towns for less expensive accommodations and look for lodgings that include breakfast or kitchen amenities. Or go old-school with a classic road trip along a historic route.
For example, you can ride the cliché, and find your kicks on Route 66. The historic highway (established 1926) runs 3,939 kilometres/2,448 miles from Chicago, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Santa Monica, California. The highway does not officially exist today, replaced by I-40 in 1985, but the road itself remains in segments, with signs indicating it. The first sign is on East Adams Street at Michigan Avenue, Chicago (visible on Google Maps). A guide is helpful. theroute-66.com/ and historic66.com/
Many roadside businesses failed when the route changed. Some exist as erstwhile museums, complete with vintage automobiles, but some of the original motels, diners and service stations are still in business. The Blue Swallow Motel is on East Route 66 Boulevard, Tucumcari, New Mexico. Rooms include a single (queen bed) for $85/night and a two-bedroom suite that sleeps five for $140. Rooms include an attached garage (seriously!)

Route 66, the historic highway, ran 3,939 kilometres, but was replaced by the I-40 in 1985, yet one can still travel on segments of it. (Photo: Dietmar Rabich)

Route 66, the historic highway, ran 3,939 kilometres, but was replaced by the I-40 in 1985, yet one can still travel on segments of it. (Photo: Dietmar Rabich)

Off of Route 66, there are interesting (and free) sights along I-40 or nearby, including the Oklahoma City National Memorial; Meteor Crater east of Flagstaff, Arizona, south of the Grand Canyon; and Cadillac Ranch, outside Amarillo, Texas. You’ll also encounter theme parks, water parks, zoos, trading posts, national historic sites and national and state parks
A road trip in Canada is best taken in summer; a convenient route is the Trans-Canada Highway, running 7,821 kilometres from Victoria, B.C., to St. John’s, Nfld. It passes through cities, towns and wilderness. From the West Coast, the scenery shifts from lush valleys to mountain passes before flattening out to the rolling Prairies. From Manitoba, around the Great Lakes and through Quebec, you cross the rugged Canadian Shield. Into the Atlantic provinces, the scenery changes again as you reach the East Coast’s quaint seaside towns.
Many spots along the way are worth a stop: Dinosaur Provincial Park, northeast of Brooks, Alta.; the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Man.; the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Ont.; and the walled city of Old Quebec, Que. Along the route, you will encounter roadside attractions (world’s biggest beaver, mosquito, cowboy boot….), feats of engineering, towns with unusual names (did you know Vulcan is in Canada, as is Paris?), an enchanted forest, theme parks, water parks and historic sites. This will help: transcanadahighway.com/

Winter Escape
Many of us in Canada and the U.S. long to escape winter, and Mexico offers delightful dollar-friendly options. The resorts of Cancun or Puerto Vallarta are not your only options, though they provide luxurious and affordable beach vacations.
Consider locations inland, such as Mexico City, if the beach isn’t essential to your vacation mode, or look for small beach towns outside of the resort areas.
One such area is Sayulita, on the Riviera Nayarit, about 30 minutes from Puerto Vallarta. It offers lovely beaches, open-air restaurants and a relaxed atmosphere. Accommodations range from vacation rentals below $100/night to luxury hotels with suites at several hundred dollars per night. (Be sure to check reviews and get references if deals seem too good to be true.)

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