Quick budget-friendly getaways from YYC

A split screen shot of the daytime Vancouver and nighttime Las Vegas skylines.
Plan your trip and save a buck with tips from a SAIT Travel and Tourism student.

A good deal.

It’s all any of us are looking for these days as inflation and gasp-worthy grocery store prices lighten our wallets. (A trip down the produce aisle can be tough to swallow. 🥕🙅‍♀️)

Time to trade in your grocery basket for a suitcase because travel bargains are ripe for the picking, and let’s face it — you deserve a getaway.

Enter Jordan Dahl, a SAIT Hospitality and Tourism Management student with a specialization in Travel and Tourism. Now completing the final term of his two-year program, Dahl’s spent part of his education gaining industry-level trip-planning experience working at Destinations Travel by SAIT, the only student-run travel agency in North America. It’s unique learning opportunities like this that helped SAIT rank #15 on CEOWORLD Magazine’s list of Best Hospitality and Hotel Management Schools in the World. (It’s also the only Canadian school to earn a spot on the list. 🏆)

Hospitality and Tourism Management Instructor Stephanie Mercredi and second-year student Jordan Dahl stand outside Destinations Travel by SAIT.
Hospitality and Tourism Management Instructor Stephanie Mercredi and second-year student Jordan Dahl stand outside Destinations Travel by SAIT.

Open to anyone looking to plan a vacation, Destinations gets students familiar with the latest industry software for flight and hotel bookings. And since you’re helping prepare them for their careers, you save on service fees.

For Dahl, whose goal is to become a tour manager with a company like Contiki or G-Adventures, the hands-on experience also gives him an up-close look at industry trends. He notes the influx of low-cost airlines is changing things for the better for travelers.

“Low-cost carriers are a wonderful way to get budget-conscious people to their destination,” he says.

“Since COVID paused the world for a while, low-cost carriers are anxious to get going — and that means deals.”

Ahhh, music to our ears. It also means the bigger airlines may be incentivized to keep prices competitive.

The proof is in the pudding, so we asked Dahl, and his instructor Stephanie Mercredi, to take us through planning a budget-friendly, three-night weekend trip this spring (they used May 5 to 8 for their research). Here are two very different, very dreamy bang-for-buck scenarios you can use as inspo for your next long weekend getaway.

Note: As much as we wish these prices would stick around forever, they won’t. Plan ahead and set flight price alerts through apps like Google Flights or SkyScanner.

🌊 Scenario one: Vancouver vibes for less than $400 (flights + accommodations)

Come for the coastal views, stay for the mild climate.

Dahl and Mercredi suggest picking a domestic location like Victoria, Edmonton or Vancouver when you’re looking to keep things easy — flights are quick and there are plenty of them, the culture is familiar and you don’t have to bring foreign currency.

$237 roundtrip, basic WestJet fare | Around 1 hour, 30 minutes non-stop each way

🛌 $40 – $100, The Cambie Hostel

  • Located in historical Gastown, an easily accessible district next to Japantown (sushi, anyone? 🍣) and a great starting point for a day of exploring the city.
  • Choose a shared dorm or private room.
  • Features dining discounts and an in-house bar.

Dahl’s pro tip

Prefer to go five-star? A bundle booking can save you money. A three-night flight and hotel package at the Delta Downtown Suites is just $769.

✅ Activities (single adult prices):

Explore the 405-hectare natural rainforest and scenic views of Stanley Park. Free
Appreciate the gorgeous architecture of Canada Place and check out upcoming events. Free
Take in the beauty of more than 7,500 plant species at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. 🌷 $12.30
The Vancouver Aquarium — Canada’s largest — is more than you might expect. In addition to tropical fish, crabs and sharks, it’s also home to penguins, sea otters and even sloths. ~ $41
Want to dance the night away? Granville Street and Yaletown are among the districts known for their vibrant nightlife. 💃🏽 Cost varies
Stroll through Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, home to trendy eateries, boutiques, art galleries in Victorian buildings. Don’t miss the Instagrammable Steam Clock! Free — until you stop to shop 😉

Dahl’s pro tip

Maximize your sightseeing and get around with ease on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour for just $65.

🧳 Keep calm and carry-on

For a quick weekend trip, save yourself from any misfortune and stick to carry-on luggage. A lost checked bag equals mega headache and wasted time tracking it down, especially when you’re only in town a few days.

Dahl’s pro tips for packing carry-on:

  • 🧼 Most hotels provide small things like toiletries upon arrival. Call ahead and check with the hotel — you might not have to take everything you think you need.
  • 👖 Make packing make sense: plan for one outfit per day of travel. Make what you wear on the plan count as your day one outfit to save even more room for souvenirs.
  • 📏 Pull out the measuring tape. Your bag might look compact enough to qualify as carry-on, but your airline might say otherwise. Check what measurements are allowed online.

🎰 Scenario two: Five-star Vegas for around $900 (flights + accommodations)

Want to venture south of the border? Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are all excellent options — warm climates and quick direct flights from Calgary at reasonable prices.

Try your luck at the tables, take in a world-renowned show or relax by the pool — Vegas has it all.

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✈+ 🛌 $800 – $900 package, WestJet

  • Around 2 hours, 50 minutes non-stop each way.
  • Virgin Hotels Las Vegas
    • Brand-new, five-star resort featuring a pool, casino, ample dining and three entertainment venues onsite.
    • Located a 20-minute walk east of The Strip.

Mercredi’s pro tip

Want to stay right on The Strip without breaking the bank? Excalibur is slightly less expensive than Virgin Hotels — but keep in mind it’s a three-star hotel. And don't forget, most Vegas hotels charge an additional resort fee upon arrival (plan for around $40 USD per night).

✅ Activities (single adult prices):

Wander up and down The Strip. Between the hotels, the shops and the colourful characters along the way, there’s plenty to see. Free
See the Fountains of Bellagio. Watch more than a thousand fountains sway to music during magical shows scheduled throughout the day. You can stand and watch from the sidelines or sneak in a reservation at a restaurant such as Lago, Eiffel Tower Restaurant or PRIME Steakhouse to dine while you watch. ⛲ Free (unless you decide on dinner)
Go back in time with a trip to Fremont Street, often referred to as “Old Vegas.” This is where you’ll find legendary casinos like the Golden Nugget and Binion’s, souvenir shops and a zipline spanning the five-block pedestrian walkway. Stick around until dusk, then look up for the nightly light and music shows! Free
Pick a show, any show. Get fooled by Vegas staples Penn and Teller, sing your heart out at a concert or take in the spectacle of Cirque du Soleil or Absinthe — whatever you choose, they’re all world class and well worth the money. 🎟 Price varies
Gordon Ramsay. Giada de Laurentiis. Nobu Matsuhisa. The list of celebrity chefs with restaurants in Vegas is endless. Put on your eating pants and get to work. (Save some room before the airport though — Dahl suggests hitting up Shake Shack on the way home.) 🍴 Price varies — a three-course meal at Hell’s Kitchen is ~ $90 USD

Dahl’s pro tip

As you plan your activities, try to calculate all transportation costs (public transit, cabs or car rentals) and build it into your budget. These are costs you often don’t consider until you’re there, and they can add up quick.

🗺 Get planning

Dahl says that the key to finding good value vacations is research and planning.

“Honestly, part of the vacation is the planning!” he says. “Yes, it can take a while, but it builds anticipation, the payoff of your work is rewarding and you can personalize it to what you want. Not up for it? That’s why people like me exist — let me do it for you.”

Drop by Destinations Travel by SAIT to book your next getaway while giving Hospitality and Tourism Management students hands-on experience.

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