The majesty of the Canadian Rockies is no secret to anyone, and nowhere is that majesty on display more than in Banff.
Here you can have an experience worthy of the Swiss Alps without traveling nearly as far or spending nearly as much money. You’ll still take home just as many memories, though! Established in 1885, Banff is Canada’s oldest national park.
Its history dates back to the railroad boom, when the town of Banff was founded in 1883.
According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Renamed by Lord Strathcona (Donald Smith) on 25 Nov 1883 for his hometown in Scotland, and relocated 3 years later, the new townsite grew to 300 residents that first year.”
Even cooler, “Banff finally became a self-governing municipality within the province of Alberta on 1 January 1990.” Since then, it has seen a massive influx of tourists.
Today, according to statistics, “Banff National Park is the most-visited destination in Alberta and the most-visited national park in Canada. More than 4.5 million tourists enjoy the park’s splendor each year.”
So why should you join them? Because Banff is nestled in the center of the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. It brings together outdoor activities, hearty food, seasonal variation, wildlife, and adventure … all in one 2,500-square-mile package.
Even more noteworthy, Banff is both a town and a national park, making the latter a rare example in that it contains the former within its boundaries.
For this reason, you may see the settlement referred to as Banff Town to distinguish it from the park. It contains a magical blend of shops, bars, restaurants, and cafés to keep you busy whenever you’re not out exploring.
In other words, you should plan your trip to Banff, like, yesterday. Let’s talk about how to make the dream come true in a financially fit way!
Average Trip to Banff Cost in 2023
An average one-week trip to Banff for two people will cost around $3,400:
- Average Accommodation Cost: $125 per night
- Average Flight Cost: $450 per person
- Food, Drink & Activities: $100 per person, per day
- Transportation: $200 total
- Total Cost: $3,400
There are several benefits to traveling in Canada as an American, especially Alberta. According to LivingCost, “The average cost of living in Canada ($1,901) is 18% less expensive than in the United States ($2,317).
Canada ranked 17th vs. 8th for the United States in the list of the most expensive countries in the world.”
Even better, says the Alberta Government, “Alberta’s overall cost of living including housing, entertainment, and taxes is one of the lowest in Canada.” That’s a major woot woot for you as a tourist, because those basic costs – food, taxes, lodging, activity fees – will get passed on to you.
That said, no trip is “cheap.” In addition to getting time off work, you have to shell out for the tickets, accommodations, food and drink, activities, and transportation.
It may require that you save for a bit. However, if you’re smart and use the hacks below, you can see this stunning part of the world for much less than if you go off half-cocked.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Banff Trip Cost: Average by Item
Naturally, there is no one-size-fits-all vacation. The cost of your trip will depend on a variety of factors, such as how many people are traveling, when, what type of food you’ll eat, where you’ll stay, and what you’ll do while you’re there.
The following figures are based on averages of the above for two people, so you can begin drafting a budget and preparing for your trip. Take them with a grain of salt, and use this information to choose the areas in which you want to save and which you want to splurge.
The average cost of accommodations in Banff is around $150, though you can find good hotels for $125 and some will run you up to $200 in the high season – typically December/January and July-August.
If you book ahead of time, use credit card points, or fly with miles, you may be able to cut costs more. If you’re looking to save major moolah, check out the HI Banff Alpine Centre, a hostel with a lodge-like feel.
It describes itself as “perched above the Bow River and only minutes from the action on Banff Avenue,” which pretty well summarizes the great combination of socializing and natural beauty you’ll find here.
At only about $100 a night on average, with a free bus pass thrown in for most stays, it’s a real steal.
Note that while vacation packages may prove worthwhile for many international destinations, the proximity of Canada means it’s much better to book your accommodations and flights separately.
Another tip: do all your investigating in incognito mode.
That way, browsers don’t know you’re interested in something and save cookies letting travel companies know to jack up the prices. Once you’re sure you’re ready to purchase, go ahead and pull up the internet per usual and hit “buy”!
Overall, plan to spend an average of $125 a night if you buy ahead of time, throw in a hostel night or two, and don’t go crazy on the amenities.
Flights to Banff are pretty reasonable. From New York City, plan to pay about $400. From New Orleans, it’s closer to $600, and from Portland, Oregon, only about $300. Plan on an average of about $450 to get there via air.
Note that the best way to avoid paying more for tickets is again to browse in incognito mode and buy your tickets ahead of time. If you go through a travel company, you’ll likely pay more than if you do the research yourself, so skip it.
Food, Drink & Activity Costs
You can spend as much as you want on food and drink in Banff, but typically it’s pretty affordable. If you skip the nice dinners and spendy drinks, you can dine for about $15 per meal, a bit cheaper for breakfast.
Planning in a drink or two, that’s about $50 per person, per day, on food. Activities will run you a bit more. The gondola ride is a delightful thing to add to your itinerary for between $50 and $70, depending on the time of year.
You don’t need to be headed to the slopes, either, as you can take it all year and get a grand view of the Rockies.
Tours into the park are typically between $75 and $100. You can scope out the grizzly bears from a safe distance, view other wildlife, visit beautiful Lake Louise, or take a guided hike, all with pickup and dropoff from town.
Overall, we recommend budgeting about three paid activities into your itinerary.
The rest of the time, you can take public transport to various around-town activities and enjoy the bustling scene. Together, this will add up to an average of about $100 per person, per day.
Banff is an extremely easy place to get around. It’s very pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly, and it has a great public transportation system that charges about $2 per ride for an adult and $5 for a day pass with unlimited rides.
The town offers a very thorough description of how to utilize your various transit options.
Although there exist any number of tours from the town into the park – as well as outings for fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and so forth – you will experience a surcharge as you would with any tour company.
If you want to be out in the wilderness every day, it’s probably worthwhile to rent a car at about $45 a day. While that’s a lot compared to the US, it includes insurance (though the coverage is minimal and you can buy more). Plus, you can’t put a price on freedom, eh hoser?
Let’s assume you rent a car for three days and take public transit the rest of the time. In that case, your transport costs will come to an average of $200, priced up or down depending on your mode of getting around.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other things to consider when planning your trip to Banff:
- The stunning, aquamarine Lake Louise is only 45 minutes away. If you’re not going to drive there in a car, it’s well worth the cost of a tour to go see it. You’ll have some incredible pictures to add to the photo album, and the hike up to the hidden tea house is a charming experience.
- There are 1,600 miles of hiking trails in the national park. If you’re an outdoor aficionado and want to make sure you see the best of Banff, it behooves you to research and plan your hikes ahead of time.
- Go see Castle Mountain, which is a natural formation that looks just like a medieval fortress. If you want to stay nearby, Castle Mountain Chalets is a good bet.
- Some ski resorts open as early as October. Although you’re taking a bit of a risk that you might not get enough snow for a satisfying day on the slopes, you’ll save lots of money if you book earlier in the year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about budgeting your trip to Banff:
Is Banff a park or a town?
Both. Banff Town is located inside the boundaries of Banff National Park. It’s the only Canadian municipality inside park boundaries aside from Jasper, which is located inside Jasper National Park.
Is it safe in Banff?
If you’re talking about crime, Banff is extremely safe. Theft and break-ins do occur in town and in the park (as they do in all tourist areas), but as long as you’re not flashing valuables around or walking alone at night, you’re unlikely to face threats from other humans.
Mother Nature is a different story, though. Any time you’re in wilderness country, you need to take precautions. Remember that weather can change rapidly, so always dress in layers and bring as much warm-weather gear as you might need, even if you don’t wear it.
Know how to stay safe around wildlife as well. Carry bear spray and follow appropriate precautions when it comes to other wild animals.
What are the best times of year to visit Banff?
The best times to visit Banff depend on what your goals are. If you’re a major ski junky, then you’ll want to hit the parks in December and January, when there’s guaranteed to be good powder on the ground.
If you’re okay with missing a few ski days to save money, you can plan your trip in November or February and hope for the best. (Spoiler alert: there’s usually a lot of snow during those times, so it’s not much of a risk!)
More into the outdoor scene? Head to Banff in high summer, when water sports and hiking are excellent and you’ll see lots of wildflowers. Again, to save money, try coming in the shoulder season: late spring and early fall.
What should I see in Banff?
Fairmont Banff Springs, more colloquially known as Banff Castle, is always worth a visit. You don’t have to stay there to avail yourself of its incredible food, from the 1888 Chop House to Grapes, a less formal wine and appetizers bar.
The Cascade of Time Garden makes a gorgeous stop, and the gondola is fun as well. And of course, there are countless hiking trails in the park as well as innumerable vistas and viewpoints for those Kodak moments.
How should I get around?
How you get around is up to you. Cars are costlier to rent in Canada than in the US, but you’ll get a much wider travel radius without having to pay tour costs.
However, if you’re okay with day hikes and in-town experiences, or are only there to ski, then you’ll find plenty of cheaper transportation around town.
So, What Is the Average Cost of a Trip to Banff?
|🛎️ Average Accommodation Cost||$125 per night|
|✈️ Average Flight Cost||$450 per person|
|🍽️ Food, Drink & Activities||$100 per person, per day|
|🚕 Transportation||$200 total|
|💲 Total Cost||$3,400|
The average cost of a one-week trip to Banff is around $3,400 for two people. You can have a great time exploring the wilderness, eating great food, and seeing the majesty of the Rockies for a totally reasonable price if you follow the tips above.
So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that this storied destination has to offer. Happy travels!