Skip pricey Barcelona and head to Girona instead - where most attractions, like the Jewish Quarter, are affordable and walkable.
FALL: Escape to Catalonia, Spain
Barcelona’s powerful pull on world travellers means that even the city’s off-season is spendy. Instead, head north and inland from the Catalan capital and you’ll find all the hallmarks of the region – striking physical beauty, deep history and culture – in spades, but in a smaller, more affordable format. First stop is Girona, a millennia-old town lined with ancient buildings and charming cobblestone streets. It’s the perfect size for exploring on foot, from the Jewish Quarter and Eiffel Bridge to attractions like the oldest Romanesque baths in the world, modestly priced at just €3. Next, take a train north to Figueres for €7.40, and soon you’re nestled along the French border in the birthplace of famed surrealist artist Salvador Dali. This small town embraces its favourite son: the excellent museum dedicated to him is the second-most visited in Spain after the Prado. You can also visit his house, another museum focused on his jewellery and yet another on his transformation of a medieval castle. But even without Dali, the town has its rambling charms – a dash of Spain, a dash of France, a lot of Catalonia – to draw you in.
Top tip: Avoid Barcelona and fly direct to Girona. You’ll skip the expense and hassle of the larger city’s bustling airport.
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Runs for days: Powder King Mountain Resort, Prince George.
WINTER: Carving BC’s Northern Powder Highway
Remember when skiing used to be about skiing, and not which hot spot you’d hit for an overpriced lunch? And remember when going with your entire family didn’t require the equivalent of a small-business loan? Well, in Northern BC, they never lost those grassroots connections to the sport, and a trio of family- and community-owned ski resorts – Powder King outside Prince George, Hudson Bay Mountain near Smithers and Shames Mountain in Terrace – offer a compelling mix of epic snow dumps and old-school value. All charge just double digits for daily lift tickets. And that’s just the start of the savings. Shames, for example, lets kids in Grade 5 pick up a season’s pass for only $20. At Hudson Bay, you can book a one-on-one lesson for just $70. Powder King charges beginners $60 for a lift ticket, but that includes rentals and lessons. On-hill dining skews toward hearty and economical (Powder King still has a cafeteria). And at the end of the day, there’s no sticker shock when it comes to accommodation, with rates in the adjacent small towns sitting at just a fraction of what they are in southern ski-resort towns.
Top tip: Make sure your legs are in shape! Line-ups at all three resorts are almost non-existent, even on the weekends, so you’ll be doing more runs.
Budget stays abound in Costa Rica's jungle-circled Arenal Volcano region.
SPRING: Costa Rica in the Glow of Luxury
Costa Rica has been on budget-travellers’ radar for the past decade or so. Few countries offer such a tantalizing mix of beaches, jungles, surfing and hiking within a small geographic area (the entire country is smaller than Nova Scotia). High-end resorts have taken notice too, though, and it seems a season doesn’t go by without some bold-name property setting up shop, charging astronomical prices. But there are still affordable stays to be found, many boasting the same stunning settings and views as their luxury counterparts for a fraction of the cost. Take swank eco-resort Nayara Springs, which swooped into the central Arenal Volcano region not long ago, lured by the plethora of trails, waterfalls and natural hot springs – and charging $1,000-plus nightly. The Hotel Arenal Paraíso is right next door and enjoys the same lush rainforest setting and stunning volcano views, for one-tenth the price. The luxury Cielo Lodge in the country’s southwest helped put the Golfito region on the map (along with epic surfing, bordered by pristine national parks). But just down the hill sits the Fish Hook Marina and Lodge, perched over the waters of crystal-clear Golfito Bay for another one-tenth the cost.
Top tip: Target late spring. Costa Rica’s low season starts in mid-April, so if you can hold off until then, expect prices to dip further.
Before you go, plan to pack these BCAA Member savings on travel:
Save up to 25% at Park YVR and Park’N Fly, Vancouver.
Evo Car Share is a hassle-free way to get to YVR airport (and park free by dropping your car at Park’N Fly). BCAA Members sign up free and save 10% on driving rates, plus get 60 free driving minutes.
Save 10% on flights with Pacific Coastal Airlines.
Save up to 15% at Best Western, Hilton, Marriott, Fairmont and more.
Save up to 20% and earn CAA Dollars® on rentals from Alamo, Enterprise, National and CanaDream.
For great Member savings on travel and more, visit: bcaa.com/rewards
The sleepy island of Solta, Croatia, is a budget traveller's paradise compared to tourist-packed Dubrovnik.
SUMMER: Croatia Beyond Dubrovnik
With its starring turn in Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik now rivals Venice as Europe’s most overrun city, while the well-publicized islands of Hvar and Brac are not far behind as official stops on the new jet-set tour. But if you’re looking for what Croatia used to be like, before it was “discovered” by the world at large, you only have to make the short jump to Solta. A throwback gem of an island that’s much less touristy and exponentially less pricey than its glam neighbours, it’s just a short ferry ride from Split, Croatia’s second-largest city. If you want Roman ruins and cobblestone streets, opt for a stay in the village of Grohote. If beaches are more your style, then the wide bay and pebbly waterfront of Necujam suits perfectly. But as the entire island is only 19 km long and 5 km wide, you’re never far from anything (and there’s a local bus that circles the island). There’s really only one hotel on the island – the pricey Martinis Marchi – but there are plenty of Airbnbs and VRBOs for around $125/night, even in high season. With your own kitchen, you can stroll to the harbour to pick out the fish you’ll cook for dinner, along with a $6 bottle of Dalmatian wine.
Top tip: Fly from within Europe. Croatia’s new popularity means there are direct flights to Split from all over Europe, with prices typically under $100 return from London. From Split, it’s only a short ferry ride to Solta. ■
TRAVELLING SOON? PACK THESE ESSENTIAL STRESS SAVERS
With delays and lost baggage still plaguing airports and airlines worldwide, international travellers should be prepared for extra hassle. Here are a few packable stress savers to help along the way:
Boredom buster: Magnetic travel games for kids, Puzzle Master. BCAA Members earn 10% in CAA Dollars® online.
Lost-bag tracker: Tile Slim, The Source. BCAA Members save up to 20% in store & online.
Outlet-free charging: Caseco 8000mAh Wireless Charging Power Bank, The Bay. BCAA Members earn 5% in CAA Dollars online.
First published in the Fall/Winter 2022 BCAA Magazine. Read more from BCAA Magazine.
Photo Credit: iStock, Powder King
Wherever your budget adventures take you, stay safe! Check travel advisories for the region before you visit. travel.gc.ca