Don’t let the low Canadian dollar stop you from traveling
We’ve noticed an increase in the conversation around the low Canadian dollar and travel to the United States. After reading the post we wrote about our recent trip to Mount Baker in Washington State, we had multiple people ask us about how we deal with the terrible currency exchange rate that Canadians are currently faced with.
The general tone of these conversations is that people, especially families traveling with kids, are considering putting travel to the United States on hold until the low Canadian dollar bounces back.
Canadians have a new reality – the low dollar is expected to stick around for a while.
While we certainly appreciate the need to save money and respect the travel budget, we don’t feel the low Canadian dollar is enough of a roadblock to stop travel to the United States.
Sure, you can always put travel on hold to save a few dollars, but we are firm believers that you should not put life on hold. Life is unpredictable, so if you’ve always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon or the Florida Keys, there’s no better time to visit than today.
Here are just a few of the ways we’ve been combating the low Canadian dollar.
Look for Dollar-for-Dollar promotions
To help Canadians overcome the currency exchange rate challenges, Myrtle Beach businesses have come together to offer discounts that essentially offset the exchange rate deficit.
The Toronto Star published an article about the Myrtle Beach program a few months ago.
“Canadians can get hotel, dining, entertainment, golf and attraction deals that are up to 30 per cent off (with a some deals going as far as 65 per cent off). This more or less puts Canadian and American dollars on par.” [source]
Many other tourism-dependent destinations in the United States are following suit. Do your research, there are lots of deals to be had.
Rent an apartment instead of hotel
We prefer apartment rentals when traveling with our boys because we like having a kitchen and separate sleeping areas. By having a kitchen, we cook our own meals and cut down on expensive restaurants. Convenience aside, apartment rentals are often cheaper than hotels, especially if you need multiple rooms.
The longer you stay in one place, the cheaper the rates tend to be. For snowbirds looking to head south for the winter, booking an apartment for several weeks or months at a time will save you a lot of money.
For Canadians who are lucky enough to own property in the US, you can pay household expenses and bills (ie. utility bills), from Canada, using the new US Bill Pay service that TD Bank recently introduced. It’s less expensive than current options like bank drafts and wire transfers and it’s similar to paying a Canadian bill online from your account. This product also allows you to take advantage of discounts you get by opening a US retail store credit card.
Visit less popular destinations
The low Canadian dollar is hurting many of the less popular US destinations that rely on tourism. Similar to Myrtle Beach, many of these destinations are reducing rates on hotels, tours and flights to attract more visitors.
Instead of visiting the big, expensive US cities that are less impacted by the low Canadian dollar, consider the secondary markets and rural destinations.
Be flexible with travel dates
Being flexible with your flight days and times will help you save money. The general consensus amongst industry experts is that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly, with Friday and Saturday being the most expensive. If you adjust your flight dates and times you can save up 20% in some cases [source].
It’s also wise to avoid traveling in peak season, which is typically December to March for warm climates like Florida, Arizona and California.
Set-up Airfare Alerts
All of the major travel broker websites have an option for you to set up an airfare alert. You can do this for some of hotel/accommodation websites too. This is a great way to take advantages of last minute deals.
Building on the above point, you often need to be flexible with these deals. You may be required to depart/arrive at inconvenient hours or from remote airports. If you’re okay sacrificing some travel convenience, you’ll find considerable savings through these airfare alerts.
Plan ahead – start new US bank accounts now
If you don’t have a $US bank account, now is as good a time as any to get one. When the Canadian dollar eventually bounces back, it’s a good idea to transfer some money to a $US account so that you have options when the currency changes again.
Although winter has come to a close, it’s not too late to plan ahead for next year’s winter travels. For example, we booked our Caribbean cruise several months in advance, when the dollar was around $0.80. When we went on the cruise in January, the dollar had dropped to around $0.70. Planning ahead ended up saving us around 10%, which ads up when you’re traveling as a family of four.
If you need to send money south of the border, consider checking out TD’s Visa Direct service. If you are a TD customer, it’s a quick, no-fee way to send money to an account at TD in the United States.
Take a road trip
One of the best ways to reduce your travel expenses is to take a road trip instead of flying.
We love everything about road trips. The freedom. The flexibility. We love that road trips allow us to move at our own pace and see more sights and attractions.
As a family of four, road tripping offers considerable savings when compared to flying. The United States is built for road trips, so if you’ve had Route 66 or the Oregon Coast on your bucket list, now might actually be the best time to make that dream a reality.
Make sacrifices, Reduce your expenses
How many times have you caught yourself saying, “Sure, why not? I’m on vacation!”
This is a dangerous mindset. If you really want to save money when you travel, you have practice self discipline. Don’t order the expensive bottle of wine at dinner. Instead, purchase a bottle of wine from the store and have a glass at your hotel room or by the pool.
If you’re a foodie that lives for food and wine travel experiences, than be selective. You don’t have to enjoy an expensive 5-star experience every meal. Spread it out. Pace yourself.
There are literally hundreds of ways to reduce your travel expenses. You can take a bus instead of taxi, or better yet, walk. You can pack a lunch and skip the souvenirs.
If you reduce 25% of your unnecessary travel expenses you will essentially offset the poor exchange rate.
Our hope is that you don’t put off your travel plans because of the low Canadian dollar.
If you practice a few of these travel tips you should be able to strike a balance. If travel is important to you, develop a plan and take action today. Don’t let money be the reason you put life on hold.
What about you? What are you doing to combat the poor Canadian dollar?
Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below.