Budget vacationing with kids

March was a busy month for us. The kids’ father was down visiting us and because I had a one-time 50% discount voucher from Via Rail, we decided to a semi-cross country train ride with the kids. I love trains so if it were up to me, I would done the ride from East to West coast (or vice versa) but I just didn’t have the heart to inflict T3 on poor unsuspecting folks for 4 straight days.

So I decided Vancouver to Winnipeg was a good compromise. So our plan was to fly out to Vancouver, stay there for 4 days, get the train to Winnipeg, 2 days in Winnipeg and fly home.

The only thing was that, even with the 50% off, train tickets are definitely not cheap. But, we did manage to limit our expenditure here and there and this is how we did it:

1. Air Miles

I first started collecting Aeroplan air miles using my TD aeroplan infinite visa credit card in 2014. At the time, they offered the card for the first year free and I had every intention of cancelling it but at the end of the year, I thought I might as well pay the annual fee of $120 to keep collecting Aeroplan air miles. And I am very glad I did.

I hadn’t used any of the miles so I had over 90,000 miles which I used to buy our 5 tickets from London, ON to Vancouver, BC.

Each ticket would have cost around $450 (minimum) + tax but using air miles, I only had to pay the collective tax for all 5 tickets which came to less than $600 in total.

2. Friends or family benefit hotel packages

When I travel, I usually find good quality but cheap motels and inns to stay at because the good hotels cost an arm and a leg in the more touristy areas. A good friend of mine who works at Hilton had been telling me to use their friend and family package and so this time, I took him up on his offer and created a Hilton Honors account.

And it was great. 

The prices were slashed in half and we got to stay in beautiful hotels which were conveniently located to the airport, city centre or train station. So if you’re lucky enough to have someone you know who works in the hotel industry, use those benefits.

3. Minimize additional expenditure

Our original plan in Vancouver was to rent a car for all 4 days that we were there, which would have turned out to be quite pricey. Instead, we planned out our daily activities before we got there (I know this must be quite normal for most folks out there but for me, a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal, it was quite novel!) which was a good thing. This way, we knew exactly how many days we would need to rent a car.

Our hotel was in downtown Vancouver and because we wanted to spend a day or two exploring the city, we decided to hoof it as much as possible. Uber doesn’t exist there so we had to get a taxi from Stanley Park during a downpour. Otherwise, we mostly took the bus and walked.

So we ended up renting a car only for a day when we drove up to Whistler which was an awesome drive. The highway from Vancouver to Whistler is called the ‘Sea to Sky’ highway which basically says it all. Renting a car to do that trip was definitely worth it, even given the fact that we didn’t ski or do any of the other Whistler-ish activities.

One weakness I have is that I tend to shop when on holiday. Then again, I tend to shop even when I’m not on holiday so that might be a moot point! But I do tend to go overboard especially while vacationing as I get into this holiday relaxed mode. This time, I restrained myself, though I did go a little overboard in the Columbia store…but, I did get a $200 ski jacket at 50% off…score!

4. Minimize eating out

Eating out can quickly rack up the bills while on vacation, so we tried to be careful. Booking hotels offering complimentary breakfast took care of one meal of the day. Lunch was usually eaten on the go and was mostly chips, granola bars and nuts. Dinner was a quick fix like soup from a can or microwaved eggs and noodles. Easy, cheap, fast! Off course, there wasn’t much nutritional value but I didn’t care.
One of the few times I let my kids eat almost anything is when we’re on vacation. On holiday, I don’t think about how much junk they’re eating and how much sugar is going into their bodies. On vacation, I’m chill mama!

Of our 8 day long holiday, we probably ate out less than 5 times.

So all in all, we were able to stay mostly within our budget which for us, is almost unheard of so yupee to us!

We really enjoyed our trip. What made it so memorable was definitely the train ride. It was truly awesome; the views were fabulous, the food was great and the staff so friendly.
Even better, we were able to do it without breaking the bank…win!!

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