Give Me Back My Five Bucks

The cost of going home more often

photoLately I’ve been thinking a lot about family, and I realize that I don’t make the effort to go home often enough. This past weekend was great, but I find I’m only coming home for specific reasons – like a field hockey tournament, or a running race. I should be coming home just to visit sometimes.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I went home nearly every weekend (because I still had a PT job there, but also because all my friends were still in Victoria). Then when I quit that job, I started going back once a month. And now, nearly 7 years later? I end up going home once every 2-3 months.

There are excuses, of course. During field hockey season (Sept-March), it’s incredibly difficult to get away because games are on the weekend and I play on a competitive team where you are expected to go to most (if not all) games and practices. I have friends here on the mainland, a boyfriend, work commitments, and travel plans. Then there’s the cost of actually getting home.

When I was in high school, I paid less than $8 to ride the ferry one-way. Now? It’s $16.25 one-way. Add in the $53.25 one-way cost to bring a vehicle over, and a trip home becomes a major expense! Parking my car and walking onto the ferry is an option. I do that quite often, but sometimes a car is necessary. Plus parking is expensive as well (at the terminal it’s $16/24 hours, and at the Park-n-Go I believe it’s $14/24 hours).

Still. I want to see my family more often, and with the health problems of certain family members, I don’t want to miss out. I want to spend more time in my hometown, and if that costs more money and more weekends traveling, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m extremely lucky that the job I have right now offers flexible work hours, so I can take time off it needed to catch an early ferry on the weekends.

I don’t think going home once a month is realistic right now, but I will try to go every 6-8 weeks. This starts in a couple of weeks, when BF and I will head over on the May long weekend. I’d like to go back again in June or July, and then my family and I will be spending a few days in August to watch the Blue Jays take on the Mariners. :)

How often do you see your family? Does cost factor into that decision?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. eemusings says:

    My family live 5 minutes drive away. We probably see each other every couple of months? T’s also live about the same distance away and see them every few weeks.

    It’s pretty common for NZers to live overseas temporarily or permanently – I’m always boggled when they come back for friends’ weddings and such because it’s such a long and expensive trip. Personally I wouldn’t bother, even if that sounds harsh.

  2. Looby says:

    My family still lives in the UK (I am in Vancouver) and I go back once a year to visit. My gran is 93 which definitely plays a role in my annual visits.
    Personally the biggest cost for me is in using 1/2 my vacation time every year- this was not such a problem in my old job where overtime was paid out as time off. There are no direct flights to the area my family live so additional time and money for connecting flights/ trains/ hotel means it is not worth going back for less than 12 days.
    I’ve just returned from my annual trip and spent almost exactly my estimated $2500 (incl approx $700 spending money)
    I agree with eemusings- I have not returned for any of my friends’ weddings- that is crazy to me, luckily they have all understood.
    I’m fine with how often I go back but I dislike the intensity of the visit- several weekends throughout the year (like I did while I was at university) is a more enjoyable way of seeing family.
    I do wish my family seemed to appreciate how much (time and money) this annual trip costs me- they complain a lot that I’m home for such a short time or not often enough!

  3. Anon says:

    I’m in my 20s, and I moved to the BC Interior from further east a few years ago. I wish I could afford both the money and the days off work to visit my hometown more. Flights are expensive out of the regional airport in my town ($600-$900 round trip). Since I don’t have a car, my alternative is taking the Greyhound to Kelowna or Calgary to fly out, which is cheaper ($400 to $600), but eats into my vacation time and creates a possible hotel cost, since, of course, the bus doesn’t match up with the airline schedule! And in the winter in the mountains, you can get into some bad travel weather.

    My goal is to move back to my hometown, but I had been hoping to secure employment in my chosen field first. My job search has been frustratingly slow, though, and every day I am more tempted to throw in the towel.

  4. My family lives on an island off of Seattle so I know what you go through to get home. Our fares for a walk on passenger are around $8 round trip, and $15 per car one-way ($30 RT), but still – it adds up if my fiancee & I want to go over there. Plus, it’s a time suck and like you mentioned, is difficult to make it with busy schedules. Can you take the bus down to the ferry instead of parking your car? That’s what we usually do, and it helps that the ferry terminal is right in the middle of downtown.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Yeah, I could take the bus to the ferry instead of parking the car. Unfortunately our ferry terminal is quite far away from my home or my work, and according to Translink’s trip planner, it will take anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours just to get there. There are also a few other reasons, but as of right now, taking transit is not really an option.

  5. Tracy says:

    I moved to northern Alberta from Ontario 7 years ago. We used to go back at least once a year, but now our little dood is 2, so he doesn’t fly for free. I checked on the price to fly to Ontario for six days around long weekend for the three of us – $4,500 round trip. We just bought a house in a market that is experiencing a housing shortage (read supply and demand means prices are wicked expensive – almost Vancouver level) and live in an area that is experiencing a huge boom (read: oil).
    So no trip this year. We’ve finally come to the realization sometimes maybe family has to make the commitment to come this way – so it’s not just us carrying the cost of travel.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      You know, I definitely agree with you. It’s important to share the cost of travel, otherwise it becomes completely unbalanced. Actually, since moving to Vancouver very few relatives have come to visit me – not even my parents. :) And they’re just a ferry ride away.

  6. Alicia says:

    When I lived 20 minutes away from my parents I would see them once a week or two. Now that I live 5 hours away it’s probably once every two or three months. I’d like it to be more but when you’re trying to fit it in over a weekend it can get costly of your time, plus $100 in gas.

  7. Gina says:

    I live in Toronto and my family lives in Alberta. I go home about twice a year. It’s expensive, and it eats up a good chunk of my vacation time, but it’s a non-negotiable for me. I have two young nephews who can’t travel easily, and I know my parents won’t be around forever, so I try to make family visits a priority.

    My parents are awesome, though, and they try to help me out with the travel costs, or at least spoil me a little while I’m home. :)

  8. When I lived about three hours away from home, I made the trip usually once a month or every six weeks. It wasn’t cheap! It cost a tank of gas to get there, usually a little more. One of the big things I was excited about for moving home was being able to visit them more frequently, and I’ve definitely been taking advantage of that over the past three years.

  9. James says:

    I am lucky to live in the same city as my folks, so we’re seeing each others every week. I do think that cost is important in making the decision to see your folks, but then again money is just money. You cannot get back the time you lose by not seeing them, so I’d say it’s not a bad idea to get over the costs and make sure you spend the time together ;)

  10. M0len'z says:

    err my family live about 26hours plane ride away. I’ll be lucky if I can go back every 2 years.. flight only cost about CAD1,300 return (non-peak season). Not too mention the holiday time. I will usually have to use my whole year holiday time to make it worthwhile.

  11. SP says:

    It’s about a $400 – $500 per a person to get home, plus the time to get there (no direct flights). It definitely impacts how often I go home! I still make it about 2x a year, which I think is pretty good, all things considered. I only make it to the in-laws once every 2 years.

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