‘Budget,’ and ‘Whistler,’ are not two words you normally see in the same sentence. Most hotels in Whistler Village cost an average of $400-$800 per night. That’s a lot of money, and still doesn’t include your lift tickets (an additional $100+ per adult per day), or food and transportation during your stay.
How then, did a college student like myself afford to take a weekend snowboarding trip to Whistler?
I found ways to save!
In this post, you'll learn about all the ways I saved money on this trip, and get tips on planning your own affordable, Whistler-weekend getaway.
1. Grab a friend or two and make it a road trip
Drive up to Whistler with your friends and split everything. The more the merrier - or in this case, the more the cheaper. You can share the costs of gas, parking, accommodation, and even snacks. I carpooled with my friend Yuting and the two of us had a blast! We put the back seats down, squeezed all our gear in, and then headed north.
Yuting’s car gets about 22 mpg, and had to be filled up with gas twice. Once before we left, and once on the way home - costing us about $80 total for the whole trip.
Read more: Planning a Leavenworth Summer Day Trip
2. Stay in Squamish, B.C.
I know what you’re thinking - Squamish is not Whistler, so why stay there?
Well, accommodation in Squamish is a lot cheaper than those $400-$800 hotels in Whistler. For $96/night plus a small cleaning fee, my friend Yuting and I got a private suite at an Airbnb in Squamish. It was a gorgeous, wide-open space, and only an hour away from Whistler.
What really sold me on Squamish though was the combination of peace and the outdoors. After spending all of Saturday flying down the slopes and waiting in lines for the lift, it was nice to wake up in Squamish and instantly feel relaxed. Squamish has the snowy hills and trees of Whistler, without the major crowds (Plus it was nice to know we were already an hour closer to home).
Read more: A Relaxing Stay in Squamish,British Columbia
3. Try out Whistler’s hostel scene
If you’re hoping to be as close to Whistler as possible, and still pay less than $50 on accommodation, I recommend trying out one of Whistler’s hostels. Both are within 9 km of the city center, and offer a great opportunity to meet other skiers/snowboarders.
Hostels to check out:
- HI Whistler - Lots of positive reviews, gear storage, onsite cafe
- Fireside Lodge - Close to the city center, less of a hostel feel, gear storage
4. Book your lift tickets ahead of time
For the lowest price on lift tickets, purchase your tickets online at least 7+ days in advance. Not only will it save you a bit of cash, it will also save you time once you get to Whistler.
If you purchase 14+ days before your intended ski date, your tickets will be mailed to your home. By purchasing 7-13 days in advance (what I did) you’re able to pick up your tickets at an EPIC Day Express Window, which has a shorter line than the normal ticket purchasing window.
For a 1-day, adult lift ticket (purchased online, 7+ days in advance) I paid: $107.20 USD
TIP: Make sure to change your currency on the Whistler-Blackcomb website to USD if you’re form the U.S. I forgot to do this before purchasing my tickets and was charged an additional fee by my credit card company.
Read more: The Weekend Trip Guide to Victoria, B.C.
5. Pack snacks and eat in Squamish
Food at Whistler is yummy, but expensive. Yuting and I made the mistake of not buying food in Squamish on our way up to the pass, and ended up paying $11.50 CAD (about $9.30 USD) each for a breakfast sandwich at Whistler.
To save money, prepare breakfast at your airbnb/hotel, or grab fast food in Squamish. If you’ve never tried Tim Horton’s before, I definitely recommend giving it a go. Tim Horton’s is a Canadian fast food restaurant know for its coffee and donuts.
In regards to snacks, load up the day before your trip or stop at a grocery store along the way. Make sure to follow the US-Canada border laws though or you may run into a little trouble. To avoid any mix-ups, buy your snacks once you’re in Canada and eat them before returning to the U.S.
6. Opt for sightseeing on the way home
Another way to make your Whistler trip affordable is to only buy a lift pass for Saturday, and go sightseeing on Sunday. The drive between Whistler and Vancouver is especially gorgeous, and full of great places to stop and stretch your legs for a bit. On our way back to Seattle, Yuting and I discovered Shannon Falls right on the side of the highway in Squamish.
Free places to explore between Whistler and Seattle:
- Shannon Falls | Squamish, BC
- Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge | North Vancouver, BC
- Stanley Park | Downtown Vancouver, BC
- Whatcom Falls | Bellingham, WA
The other perk of being near the Vancouver area with time to kill… the food. Downtown Vancouver is full of delicious and cheap food to try if you know where to look.
Affordable food options in Vancouver (that I’ve tried and approve of):
- Legendary Noodle | Chinese eatery known for its handmade noodles
- La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop | Authentic Mexican tacos
- Meat and Bread | Sandwich shop with freshly-roasted meat and yummy bread
Read more: How to See Chicago on a Budget
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Do you ski or snowboard?
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