Can’t Afford a Summer Vacation? 3 Ways to Make it Happen

Summer Vacay

As I’m writing this post, my mind is somewhat distracted by a family holiday that’s coming up in a few of weeks. Does that sound like gloating? To some Canadians, it just may be.

Maybe you’ve decided to invest more in renovations this summer, or you’ve recently bought a new car, or you have tuition to pay in the fall. No matter your reason, for those on a budget this season, here are some low-cost last-minute getaway options before the leaves start to turn, as well as some ways you can prepare for a dream holiday next year.

Stay put and see the sights

A few years ago, the term “staycation” entered our collective vocabulary. And not long after that, it became a dirty word for some, as its meaning turned into “I can’t afford a real holiday, so this is the best I can do.”

But unless you live in a particularly dull part of Antarctica, there are probably a number of interesting tourist sights and attractions in your own backyard that you’ve never even seen.

Case in point: Way back in 1975, my dad took me as a two-year-old to watch the very top of the CN Tower being set with a helicopter. And though I’ve lived my whole life in Toronto, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I actually took the elevator up to the observation deck for the first time (even my own kids had been already!).

And since 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday, there will be no lack of things to do from coast-to-coat. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, you’re guaranteed to be a short drive away from festivities, shows, carnivals, and more.

To save money, rather than paying full fare, most attractions offer discount coupons and special online pricing (for example, the free national parks pass for 2017). Also, you can easily turn your daytrip into an overnighter affordably and stretch the “stay” part of your “staycation” by going camping or booking a room at a budget hotel.

Rent, swap or mooch

My family is a big fan of online short-term rental services like Airbnb and VRBO when looking for holiday accommodations. Most recently, we stayed in a trendy part of Brooklyn, giving us easy access to the Big Apple, plus a chance to explore a culture-filled neighbourhood that we might have otherwise passed in favour of more tourist-y spots.

Short-term apartment rentals save you money in two ways: for one, the rent you pay tends to be significantly cheaper than what you’d pay at a hotel. Plus, you have a full kitchen (and oftentimes, laundry facilities) so you can make some of your own meals “at home” instead of eating out during the entire trip. Even having some toast or cereal with your morning coffee before heading out for the day can add up to significant savings over the course of a week. And, at the end of the night, a beer or a bottle of wine chilling in the fridge is a lot cheaper than trying to get a buzz from the minibar!

Another unique way to save and experience something new – Our family signed up with a few home exchange sites to see how we could potentially swap our home with someone interested in coming to Toronto. However, we found that by the time we registered in late-spring, all the interesting homes in the places we wanted to visit were booked. So we (read: my wife) are already searching around for potential destinations for next year.

If you still want to get away but your pennies are pinched too tight for accommodations overall, consider calling in a favour from friends and ask to couch surf or stay in a guest room. Just remember to offer to return the favour.

Looking for a rewards program that will help you build the vacation of your dreams? Compare the best travel rewards credit cards today! By signing up through, with a card like the RBC Royal Bank® Visa Infinite‡ Avion®, you can get up to 30,000 RBC Rewards Points¹ – that’s up to $700 in value after the first year! 

Last minute vs. long-term planning

There are certainly some fantastic deals when buying unsold flights and hotel accommodations on sites such as (seven days at a Cuban all-inclusive for less than $500 anyone?!?). But, with that being said, you’re leaving the timing and location of your trip to the whims of when and where everyone else didn’t want to go.

If it’s a resort holiday you’re looking for, you can also book months in advance for substantial savings. You’ll only need to pay a small deposit to confirm your reservation, and pay the balance just before your flight leaves.

Planning well-ahead also pays off if you’re looking into cottage rentals, short-term apartment rentals, or home exchanges. The best places get booked up early. So if you feel you’ve run out of time for a holiday this year, put some of your vacation time towards next year’s big trip.

Finally, mid-to-late September is a great time for a getaway if you don’t have kids heading back to school. In Canada especially, you’ll find popular tourist sites are less crowded, the weather is still quite pleasant and attractions and hotels are less expensive.

This post has been updated.

® / TM Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. RBC and Royal Bank are registered trademarks of Royal Bank of Canada.

1To receive 15,000 welcome points, your application must be received and approved by us. Upon enrolment, 15,000 welcome points will appear on your first monthly statement. To receive the 15,000 “anniversary” bonus RBC Rewards points (“Bonus Points”) your credit card account must be in good standing on the one year anniversary date of your account open date and the Bonus Points will be credited to your account 14 months after the account open date. Bonus Points offer runs from March 27, 2017 to June 19, 2017. Additional cardholders are not eligible for this offer. This offer is also eligible for the RBC® Visa‡ Platinum Avion® credit card and the RBC® Avion® Visa Infinite Privilege‡ card if you are approved for either through this offer. This offer may not be combined or used in conjunction with any other offer and may be amended or withdrawn without notice at any time. Air Travel Reward redemptions from the Air Travel Redemption Schedule start at 15,000 points for a round trip short–haul flight in economy class with a maximum ticket price of $350. All applicable taxes, service fees and surcharges are the responsibility of the traveler. For more details, including guidelines on redeeming for business class seats, visit Some restrictions apply. For completed terms and conditions that apply to the RBC Rewards Program, please visit or call 1-800-769-2512. Royal Bank of Canada reserves the right to withdraw this offer at any time, even after acceptance by you.

For complete terms, conditions and restrictions that apply to the RBC Rewards program, please visit: or call 1-800-769-2512.

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