Like most Canadians, I try to keep our costs under control when we’re on vacation. On the other hand, I’ve made a point of saving on boring necessities all year so that I can enjoy things that matter more to me when I’m taking a break. So I didn’t flinch to pay $56 to gain admission to an amazing museum crammed full of dinosaurs, luminous scorpions, Flashlight fish, Dall’s rams, Ruddy ducks, and where I could weigh myself in hummingbirds or checkout the groceries needed to fatten up a Grizzly for the winter. (Ok, I did use my CAA membership bought with Petro-Points to save a bit at the museum: I’m still
cheap frugal.) Still, as we’ve wandered around exploring new worlds and new civilizations and boldly going where too many have gone before, I’ve noticed something: It’s much easier to save time, money and exasperation-causing stress if you’re rich.
How Being Rich Can Help You Save
You can stay at a hotel right downtown and walk to the attractions. This saves time, parking or transit costs, and exasperation when you realize you’ve forgotten your camera and it’s 2 buses, a streetcar and a 10-block walk away.
You can afford to pay for a car and parking so you can get to the far-flung museums easily enough to make it worth going on Thursday nights when they have free admission after 5 p.m.
You can own a cell phone so after you line up for 3/4 of an hour for free admission to the Peace Tower you can call your partner and tell him you’re down and arrange where to meet. (There is no pay phone in the Parliament Buildings! As someone who could afford a cell phone but doesn’t bother with one that was a shock.) That saves money on the replacement of shoes worn out by walking back to the hotel each time you need to meet or walking trying to find a pay phone in this cyber age.
You can drive and don’t have to pay Via Rail an
extortionate amount for a family to travel from near Toronto to Ottawa or beyond. (One tank of gas = $60 or less for a vehicle carrying 5; train tickets even at Economy Fare $343.52.)
You can afford to buy a canoe and a tent and a vehicle to get you to the launching spot so that you can stay at ultra-low cost accommodation.
You can drive
- to the dollar store to buy small items (A stool to reach the bathroom sink anyone? New flip flops after the south-shore-PEI mud pulls your first pair apart?)
- or to a major grocery store or market to buy good food and low-priced drinks to take with on your outings rather than having to buy water at desperation-cart prices and buy snacks that maximize your daily cholesterol-inducing-fat intake while minimizing the flavour.
Why Having a Staycation Only Works If You Live in Vancouver
Another topic absorbed my mind as we idled along river and canal banks watching happy cyclists zooming along groomed paths past large flower beds and decorative ‘wilderness’ stretches. I found myself considering the over-used term Staycation.
Pundits extol the virtues of the “Staycation.” They act as if it’s an unusual and novel idea to stay at home when not at work. I thought of my relatives-in-law who, aside from one momentous year when they drove and camped across Canada, stayed at home for EVERY vacation. They didn’t have any choice: they had no money. In fact, more of my relatives have stayed at home for every vacation than have travelled for even half of them. Where did this new idea come from that people can afford to travel every time they are away from work?
Anyway, I was mostly thinking about Staycations. And I thought during an interval in Ottawa of how easy it would be to entertain yourself inexpensively in such an amazing city in the summer.
Then I thought of another town we’d been in: Tichborne. The name isn’t familiar to you? Not surprising. Both gas stations are gone, although I’m uneasy about whether any gasoline and diesel that likely leaked from their underground storage tanks lingers on.
Tichborne’s only claim to fame now is a level crossing that subsides badly enough each spring to launch unsuspecting cars into flight if they dare to drive at the posted 50 km/h over them. Oh, and maybe the sign stating “Deaf Child at Play” that’s been there for 22 years suggesting either a large brood of hearing-impaired youngsters or that maybe the sign has been kept more for traffic-calming reasons than for truthful ones.
What would one do on a Staycation in Tichborne that they didn’t already do all year?
- Walk to the store? What store? There no longer is one.
- No museum.
- No pool.
- No sports complex or playing fields.
- No public transit of any kind to even a small town much less the city.
Not really very much that wouldn’t be used on a daily or weekendly basis while working. It’s close enough to undeveloped Crown land that it offers some recreation possibilities, but it’s hardly like staying at home in Vancouver and walking the sea wall or visiting one of the museums and galleries.
Staycations sound much better in theory than in practice to many Canadians, I’m afraid.
Wherever Your Summer Takes You, I Hope You Can Find Things to Enjoy!
I hope this summer brings you a few unexpected pleasures wherever you are. A Chestnut-Sided Warbler singing from a Dogwood bush can be just as amazing a sight in Tichborne as it is in Ottawa. And seeing a Monarch soaring and dodging in its erratic journey south to a country it’s never seen can lighten your heart even if you can’t afford to drop everything and follow it. Life is everywhere and it can be very, very good.
- Five Things I Forgot This Summer While On Vacation That Cost Me Money
- Insurance: When It’s Worth It; When It’s Not
Do you have any tips for saving money on vacation? Or does your vacation consist of sleeping in and then working on repairing the roof and front porch? Please share your views with comment.