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No, your mind isn’t playing tricks on you. Even with cheap vacation packages, the cost of airfare and hotels have increased significantly over the years. In some cases, rates are 50% higher than before the pandemic. 

Once you add inflation and a weak exchange rate against the US greenback, you might wonder if travelling is still affordable. However, there are still some great places to travel that respect your Canadian dollar. Just look at the value of the Canadian dollar to peso! 

While there’s no denying costs have gone up, there are still a few cheaper vacation destinations where you can stretch your Canadian dollars.

Mexico: Excellent For Cheap Vacation Packages

Let’s start off with some great news: the exchange from Canadian dollar to Mexican peso is good. At the time of writing, the exchange rate from Canadian dollar to peso is C$1 = Mex$12.37.

Getting to Mexico is relatively easy for many Canadians, and it offers a variety of options depending on what type of vacation you’re looking for. Popular resort destinations such as Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and Cozumel have many hotels with different price points. 

To keep your costs down, try to book cheap vacation packages through a vacation operator such as Sell Off Vacations, Sunwing, Air Canada Vacations, or WestJet Vacations. Cheap vacation destination packages are the lifeblood of many travel operators.  

If you want an all-inclusive holiday, Mexico is the perfect place to get one. Given that the cost of food and some beverages is included in the price, an all-inclusive might be the most cost-effective option.

While it may be tempting to not just book a cheap vacation package but to book the cheapest resort possible, be sure to read some reviews first, as the quality can vary quite a bit.

If you prefer to see a more authentic side of Mexico, consider heading to Mexico City. It shouldn’t be too hard to find hotels in the C$100 to C$200 per-night range. You can easily get around the city via the metro system, but Uber is also relatively inexpensive. 

As for attractions, many of the top sites are free or have a reasonable admission price. Some things you won’t want to miss include the Museo Nacional De Antropología, Zócalo, Palacio Nacional, and the Monumento a la Revolución.

Argentina: Get The Blue Rate

Good news again! The exchange rate from Canadian dollar to Argentine peso is also strong. As of writing, the exchange rate from Canadian dollar to peso is C$1 = ARS$258.54. 

However, a better idea is to ask for the blue rate. To do this, bring some US dollars to Argentina. Do not exchange all your money for pesos before leaving Canada. Once you’re in Argentina, ask your hotel where the best place is to get the blue rate.

The blue rate, sometimes referred to as the blue dollar or blue market, is where you can exchange US dollars for a higher rate than the official currency exchange. 

For example, at the time of this writing, US$1 was worth ARS$350. However, the blue dollar rate would get you about 725 pesos. That’s more than double the official rate.

While some people may think this is illegal, it’s common in Argentina and has been around for decades. The way it works is like this. In major tourist areas or markets, you’ll hear people shouting “exchange” or “ cambio.” 

Once you approach these people, you’ll be able to exchange your US dollars. This service is offered because the local currency fluctuates quite a bit, so locals prefer to hold a stable currency like US dollars. Again, be sure to ask your hotel for a recommendation.

It’s worth mentioning that some credit cards give you the blue rate by default, but not all of them. When you arrive in Argentina, make a small purchase on your card to see what rate you’re getting. If you get the blue rate, exchanging cash will be less of a priority.

Even though you’ll have to exchange your Canadian dollars for US dollars before you depart, the increased value you get when you land is worth it. You’d essentially be doubling the value of your dollars, so checking out some of the country’s top attractions, such as Perito Moreno, Iguazu Falls, and Buenos Aires, can be quite affordable.

Montreal And Its Surroundings: Keep Paying In Canadian Dollars

The easiest way to stretch your budget is to stay within the country. One budget-friendly destination is Montreal and its surroundings.

When you’re in Montreal, you need to make your way to the old part of town, known as Vieux Montréal, to check out Notre-Dame Basilica and the nearby port, which has an observation wheel and pirate-themed amusement park for kids.

Montreal hosted the Olympics in 1976 and you can visit the installations. There is a world-renowned botanical garden, and biodome. Of course, if the Montreal Canadiens are in town, you can try to get tickets. In the summer, you have the International Jazz Festival and The Just For Laughs Festival.

Downtown Montreal is full of attractions such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Place des Arts. For spectacular beauty, you cannot beat Mount Royal.

Montreal also has a vibrant restaurant and club scene, not to mention world-class shopping. All of this, and you’re still paying in Canadian dollars and you don’t have to declare anything at the airport or land border.

Consider Staying In Laval

For instance, you can stay in Laval. You’re essentially getting access to Montreal, but with a huge discount on hotels. We’re talking a savings of up to a few hundred dollars a night, depending on the hotel.

Driving to downtown Montreal from Laval takes about 30 minutes. That would give you easy access to attractions such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Place des Arts, and Mount Royal. 

Laval also offers many local attractions that don’t get nearly as much attention as they should. The Cosmodome, a space science museum and education centre, is easily the top draw where you can immerse yourself in a space adventure. 

For those looking to get outdoors, the Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles is a protected wildlife area that offers kayak and canoe rentals, which gives you the perfect vantage point if you’re looking to spot some of the local animals and fauna. Some other fun things to do include visiting Fromagerie du Vieux St-François to see how goat cheese is produced and Spa Le Finlandais, a Nordic spa for some much-needed rest and relaxation.

Orlando, Florida: A Gator Instead Of A Famous Mouse

Yes, Orlando can be expensive, but there are plenty of ways to save. First off, low-cost carriers Flair Airlines, Lynx Air, and Porter fly to Orlando, so you could potentially save compared to Canada’s mainline carriers. That said, you may need to pay for seat selection and your baggage. Note that Flair flies to Orlando’s Sanford International Airport, which is further away.

The key to keeping costs down in Orlando is to avoid the major theme parks. Just southeast of Orlando International Airport is an area called Lake Nona. This trendy neighbourhood features a giant sculpture garden behind the Wave Hotel that will give you some pretty unique photos.

Just a few minutes on foot, and you’ll come across Boxi Park. This event space has taken shipping containers and turned them into restaurants and bars. Quite often, you’ll find live bands performing for free. There’s even a small playground for kids and beach volleyball nets.

For those looking for some adventure without spending a fortune, one attraction worth checking out is Gatorland. From holding alligators to learning how they’re preserved, Gatorland features more than 2,500 gators. Alternatively, there are some inexpensive activities, such as Disney’s Fantasia Mini Golf Course, the Wheel at ICON Park, and the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium.

Of course, visiting Orlando without making a stop at one of the Disney or Universal theme parks would just be silly. If you’re trying to keep costs down, pick one or two parks instead of trying to see them all. Be sure to research each park, as they all have different rides and themes.

Paying For Your Travel With A Credit Card Can Stretch Your Travel Budget

It is not news that many credit cards offer travel points. If you want to use them to pay for your vacation, do it. If you already have enough points to go somewhere, and you are not saving them for a bigger trip, cashing them in can keep you out of travel debt.

Staying out of debt is one of the best ways to stretch your budget. The less you pay toward servicing interest payments on a personal loan or other credit, the more you keep for things like emergency savings, retirement planning, or whatever else you need.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of where you’re headed, you may experience some sticker shock. Even cheap vacation packages cost money. If you cannot afford to go away right now, don’t get yourself into debt just to say that you went on a vacation.

The reality is that prices have gone up around the world due to inflation and demand. To prepare yourself, do some additional research so you’ll have a clear idea of how much you’ll likely spend. In addition, if you can add travel to your monthly budget, you’ll always have some funds available for your next adventure.

Barry Choi avatar on Loans Canada
Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert at moneywehave.com. He makes frequent media appearances where he talks about all things related to money and travel.

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