For travelers who love warm weather (like me), the best months to explore Banff are June to August. These months are very warm during the day time, but you’ll still need a light jacket at night. The jacket will keep you warm when the sun begins to set and will also protect you from any potential mosquitos!
Since I’m writing this in July, I am going to plan your potential trip for this September. It will be a little bit chillier in September but there will also be less tourists! You should always book 3 months prior when it involves airfare. Yes, you may find a cheap flight last minute, but they can also sky rocket, leaving you to spend more than expected.
1. Let’s Book Your Flight
Personally, I use KAYAK to book flights. I’ve compared their pricing to other sites on multiple occasions, always going back and booking with KAYAK.
I picked a few locations to leave from so you’ll have an idea on pricing depending on where you live. Below are round trip tickets to Calgary (YYC) from New York (NYC), Seattle (SEA), Minneapolis (MSP), and Salt Lake City (SLC).
**Also, this trip I’m planning for you will be for 6 days.
You will notice the dates are different for each location above. KAYAK has a calendar feature that shows you what days are cheaper to fly on depending on your destination.
For example, below is a KAYAK calendar to list the days to book a roundtrip ticket from Minneapolis to Calgary. The green blocks under the dates indicate cheaper fares on that selected day. The 10th to 15th have a cheaper roundtrip ticket then the 18th to 22nd.
Looking at the pricing they gave us for all four locations, I would say the most expensive is Minneapolis. Yes the actual price is higher than the other three so duh, it’s more expensive, but I’m talking about convenience.
Minneapolis is only a 3 hour flight to Calgary but the cheapest flight from there is 7.5 hours of flying time which means there is a connecting flight before landing in Calgary. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to connect than it is for a direct flight (weird, I know).
All the other locations have great deals!
That Seattle pricing makes me want to move to Seattle! I’d be making trips to Banff every month!
The highest price out of the 4 locations is $427 roundtrip. I’m going to pretend to buy that ticket to give you the most realistic budget for this trip.
***ADVICE – SAVE $450 for a roundtrip ticket to Calgary*** always round your pricing.
2. Let’s Book A Place To Stay
There are a ton of places to camp and lodge within Banff. My findings are that the cheap ones are all booked for the next year. If you want to stay in Banff next year between June and August, BOOK NOW (12 months in advance)! If you can do this, then please do. It is the most convenient where you spend the majority of your time in the park and less time driving.
If you’re looking to book, book on your KAYAK app – the app has a “mobile rate” which is cheaper than booking on your laptop.
I’m very cheap, I won’t book anything over $100 dollars. I only need a place to shower and sleep. I hope to spend most of my time outside than in.
Top three cheapest places for June 2018 are listed below.
- Ywca Banff Hotel: $80 // Rated **GOOD**
- HI-Banff Alpine Centre: $122 // Rated: **GOOD**
- The Juniper Hotel: $125 // Rated: ***EXCELLENT***
Top three cheapest places for this September (2017) are listed below.
- Bumpers Inn: $153 // Rated **GOOD**
- Tunnel Mountain Resort: $195 // Rated ***Excellent***
- Banff International Hostel: $203 // Rated ***Excellent***
Now, if you’re someone like me, I don’t plan a year in advance. I like the spontaneous trips that I can just barely afford. It’s the impulse that makes me book a place last minute. That’s why AIRBNB is the best invention known to impulsive travelers.
Below are two maps. The first map shows you the distance from the Calgary airport to Golden (a 3 hours drive). Yes, you will have to rent a car and drive three hours west to Golden. Don’t be discouraged, I’m going to tell you why it’ll be worth it.
The second map is the AIRBNB map that shows places to stay in Golden, British Columbia, which is west of Calgary and Banff National Park. These listings are for this September 2017.
AIRBNB homes will either rent you their entire home, or a private room/floor. My dad, sister, and I rented a private room in Golden for 3 nights ($100 a night plus service/cleaning fee that was $68). We paid $368 for three nights split by 3 people was $122 total per person. The private “room” was their entire basement that included a bedroom, sofa couch, mini kitchen, and a full bathroom.
Now, if you look at the second map.. you will see homes listed below the map. A private room for $71 or an entire home for $75. If you’re traveling with one other person, it would only be around $35-$40 a night.
That’s the cheapest there is around the Banff area! Why do a 3 hour drive? I know….. but it’s worth it! The drive is throughout the entire national park, one of the most scenic drives you will ever take!
We saw mountains, crystal water lakes, waterfalls, goats, bears, wolves, and even picked up hitch hikers to put them in our pick up truck for 10 minutes of the 3 hours!
I know you’re thinking… well, we would have to drive 3 hours back to Calgary after visiting the park. Yes, you will! But, I have an itinerary listed for you. So on the drive back, you will make three stops and make an entire day out of the drive. It will all be worth it, promise!
ITINERARY for Banff National Park
- Flight booked for September 10th to 15th. $427.
- Airbnb booked for three nights (Sept 10th – 13th) in Golden. 75 per night plus $50 service/cleaning fees. Total: $275 //Split by 2 people: $137.5 per person.
- Book airbnb in Calgary for the last 2 nights of the trip (Sept 13th to 15th): $143 split by 2 people: $71 per person.
- Rent a Car with KAYAK app (recommend truck because you’re driving through the mountains): AVIS $30 a day // 6 days : No Insurance : $180 //Split by 2 people: $90
AIR FARE/CAR RENTAL/HOUSING TOTAL PER PERSON: $725.50
I would recommend bringing $200 for food and gas which would make the total cost of the trip $925.50 and I like to round to be on the safe side of things so I would suggest you save $1000 for the entire trip.
If you would like to make this trip within a year from now, put aside $112 dollars a month for the next 9 months. After the 9th month, book your airfare and housing. Then book your car rental the month of the trip.
My advice is to pack layers, I don’t like mosquitos so I wear black workout leggings, a tshirt, and jacket so I’m completely covered. Mosquitos always come out when the sun starts to set. In Banff’s summer time, it doesn’t get dark until 10pm but the sun starts to set around 5pm.
Bring hiking boots or sneakers that have good grips. Thick socks, rain jacket, and bathing suit incase you decide to do the hot springs.
Don’t bring liquids so you don’t have to check your bag. Wait until you arrive to buy shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, or whatever else. Sometimes the AIRBNB host has everything you need anyways.
Day 1 of Your Trip!
(Remember I am using Minneapolis as the example but the majority of flights will land into Calgary during the evening)
- Land in Calgary around 11:08pm. **Make sure you are well rested before your travels!**
- Go to Airport Car Rentals – line may be long. Make sure you have all your booking information.
- 12:15AM: Leave Calgary and Drive to Golden – yes it’s late, but you and your friend can switch driving to make it easier, and you will wake up in Golden ready to explore. It is not worth spending a night in Calgary and then driving to Golden the next day. Start your adventure once you land.
- Arrive to Airbnb around 3AM and settle in. Make sure you communicate with your airbnb host and inform them about your late arrival. They will understand and accommodate you by placing the key somewhere for you.
Day 2 of Your Trip!
- Sleep in! Wake up around 11am and head out of the house by 12. Check out Golden, go to the grocery store and buy a little cooler to put water, beer, and snacks in. Buy some bug spray and anything else you think you may need!
- Drive to Lake Louise – 1 hour away from Golden // find parking and then walk around the lake. Also grab a drink at the bar in the historic Fairmont Chateau Hotel! They do have canoes you can rent ($100 for an hour), but I would wait until Lake Moraine to canoe 🙂
- Drive 30 minutes to Lake Moraine (too far to hike). Find parking and climb the pile of rocks to check out the scenic view this area has to offer. It is by far one of a kind. After you take it all in, you can go canoeing, or go on an hour hike to Consolation Lake.
After experiencing all of these beautiful views, call it a night. Maybe your AIRBNB will have a fire pit where you and your travel companion can make some s’mores!
Day 3 of Your Trip!
How many natural hot springs have you been to? Many hot springs nowadays have become a business where you are charged an entry fee. 2 hours south of Golden is a place called Lussier Hot Springs. All natural with no fee! You will drive on the edge of a mountain and then take stairs down to a river where the hot springs are tucked in between the mountain and river. The drive is scenic and you will enjoy every minute of it. There are other hot springs you can stop by on the way but the best one is the Lussiers. I also recommend checking out Invermere Lake.. beautiful, quiet, and a great place for a swim.
**If you’re sore from hiking the day before, the hot springs will make all the pain go away!
- On the way back from the hot springs, take a few stops at the viewpoints, little towns, or other hot springs along the way.
- By the time you get back to Golden, you’ll want to grab dinner and relax for the remainder of the night. Rest up for the next day because it’s the most eventful! You’ll have to pack all your stuff since you’ll be checking out in the morning 🙂
Day 4 of Your Trip! The Most Eventful Day!
- Once you check out of your Airbnb, your goal is to end up in Calgary by the end of the day. You’ll be flying out of Calgary in 3 days. It’s more convenient and will make you less tired by the end of your trip if you spend a night or two in Calgary before traveling home.
- I have some places you’ll have to stop by before ending up in Calgary. Make sure you’re on the road by 11am to make the most out of your day!
First Stop: Emerald Lake
Spend an hour canoeing for $60 dollars and then make a walk around the lake before making it back on the road.
Second Stop: Peyto Lake
you’ll go a little out of the way for this gem, but it’s beyond worth it. It’s 40 minutes north towards Jasper. The hike is only about 30 minutes. It’s quick and easy!
Third Stop: Johnston Canyon
Want to see some waterfalls? Stop here! The hike is an hour up and then a little less coming back down.
- after Johnston Canyon, you will be a little less than 2 hours away from Calgary. Head towards Calgary, grab some food, check in to your airbnb, and call it a night!
Day 5 of Your Trip!
- It’s your last full day in Canada before you fly back home. Check out Calgary and relax.
- Some places to check out in Calgary: Olympic Plaza, The Core Shopping Center, Stephen Avenue, Eau Claire Market, Calgary Zoo, Telus Spark, and the Calgary Tower.
- ****If you can go between July 7th to 16th, do it!! They have one of the biggest events in the world called the Calgary Stampede. We were lucky to be there the day before it started and paid to see a sneak peak of everything! They have bull riding, horseback riding, motorbike shows, dog shows, an amusement park, and basically everything and anything you can imagine!
Day 6 – Say Goodbye Canada!
- The flight that was booked back to the States was an early one, taking off at 6am! Leave the AIRBNB at 3am – return your car at the airport and check in for your flight. You’ll have to go through customs in Canada to clear for the U.S. It’s pretty quick especially that early in the morning. You’ll be home in the States by 4pm 🙂
Hope this helps your travel plans to Banff National Park! This was the itinerary my dad, sister and I used when we went this July! Everything worked out perfectly!