Before RD goes off on his annual 5-week work trip at the end of this month, we wanted to budget for Portugal, and at least book our flights to Portugal. But since a big goal of ours this year is to save for a down payment, going off on a 3-week long European vacation seemed a bit extravagant. We can afford to go, but it doesn’t mean that we should go if it means sacrificing a bigger financial goal that we hope to achieve.
So after thinking about it for a while, we decided on a pretty good compromise – we’ll reduce our vacation from 3 weeks down to 2 weeks, and spend the additional week off as a staycation where we can get as much autumn hiking in as we can. It actually works perfectly because we still get to go to Portugal, but we’ll also get in a bunch of regional hiking in that we weren’t sure how we were going to fit into the summer months.
Right now we have a preliminary budget sketched out for our (now) 2 week trip:
- Flights (Vancouver-Azores, Azores-Lisbon, Lisbon-Vancouver) – $2,450
- Accommodation (14 nights) – $1,200
- Food – $1,000
- Car rental (7 days + gas) – $450
- Transportation – $100
- Miscellaneous – $200
Our budget came to $5,400 total. We have about $500 in travel rewards points to redeem, so I’m thinking we can do this trip for under $2,500 per person.
For our itinerary, we plan on spending 1 week in the Azores (split between Faial and Pico), and 1 week on the mainland in the Lisbon area. I’ve been to Lisbon, Sintra, and Faro before, but RD hasn’t been to Portugal at all. So it will be interesting to see if it’s as amazing as I remember it being. :)
In order to save money, we’ll be trying to book AirBnB for most of our stay so we’ll have access to a kitchen. Our trend when traveling is to cook most of our meals in our rental anyway, but I’ve added a bit of padding because I’m sure we’ll go out for food more often than usual in Portugal. We also decided to forego renting a car for the mainland portion of the trip. Instead, we’ll just take a train from Lisbon to Porto, and save our car rental for the Azores.
Any suggestions to this budget are more than welcome!
Well we’ve been back from our vacation for a week or so, and finally got around to working out our expenses for the trip. I was also waiting for RD to finish editing his photos so I could share some of them with you. He’s such a good photographer and often sees the softer, smaller details that I overlook (meanwhile I’m just looking for something to put onto Instagram, haha).
Day 1-3: Vancouver to Cowley Lake, YT
It took three full days to drive from Vancouver to Cowley Lake (just a bit south of Whitehorse), but it was a pretty amazing drive. We encountered some sketchy road conditions (thick ice covered the road for our entire drive on Day 2), but a visit to Liard River Hot Springs, and getting to see a ton of wildlife along the highway was really cool.
Day 3-5: Cowley Lake, YT
We spent two nights in a cute little yurt on Cowley Lake, and it was so much fun. After 3 days of somewhat stressful driving, we just relaxed by the wood-burning stove in the yurt, went for a paddle around the lake, and eventually ventured into Whitehorse so we could watch the Blue Jays in the Wild Card game. :)
Day 5-8: Haines Junction, YT
Haines Junction was probably my favourite stop on this trip. It’s not too far west of Whitehorse, but the mountains in Kluane National Park are absolutely incredible. The downside of Haines Junction was that it was so small – there wasn’t a grocery store so we ate at the pub both evenings after our day hikes.
The first hike we did was recommended by our hotel owner (he’s also a guide) – King’s Throne. It was a pretty amazing hike, although we ended up getting just shy of the summit (turned around due to the wind, and also it was freezing!).
The second hike we did in Kluane was Sheep Mountain. This was our favourite hike of the trip. The trail was completely south-facing up a ridge and we were treated to a beautiful, sunny day. The dall sheep were incredibly cute, and the hike was much harder than King’s Throne (which we were happy about).
Day 8-11: Dawson City, YT
After playing in the mountains for three days, we headed 9 hours north to Dawson City, which was a massive gold rush town back in the day. Now it’s a bit of tourist town in the summer, and a nice spot to stay if you’re exploring Tombstone Territorial Park. We took it pretty easy while in Dawson – exploring the town, hiking Midnight Dome, and driving on the Dempster Highway into Tombstone Park. We were all set to go hiking, but forgot the bear spray back in Dawson … and we weren’t about to do a hike called ‘Grizzly Lake‘ without it. So we drove the 100km back to Dawson, and vowed to get back up there … some day.
But best of all? I finally got to see the Northern Lights. After a failed trip to Iceland in 2012 to try and see them, I got a nice view of them from our rented house for 3 nights in a row. It was so cold out tho that we enjoyed them from the comfort of the living room, instead of venturing outdoors to try and take photos. Yes, I’m a bit of a cold weather wimp. :)
Day 11-13: Whitehorse, YT
After Dawson City, we drove south and stayed in the downtown area of Whitehorse. We didn’t spend much time in the city (besides going out to a pub), but we did get to hike Mount Lorne, which you can’t miss as you’re driving south out of Whitehorse. It was an extremely cold hike (-13-15C), but the views were incredible. I can only imagine what it would be like to do that hike in the summer!
Being in Whitehorse after about 2 weeks into the trip really showed us how much of the stuff we love is available to us up north in Yukon. We both are obsessed with hiking and being outdoors (and away from crowds of people), and I like the feeling I got from being in Yukon. We even started perusing real estate listings and job boards to see what was out there. :) It’s something to think about for the future (and it’s exciting to know that it would be possible), but for now our lives are in Vancouver.
Day 13-15: Dease Lake, Stewart, and Hyder Alaska
After Whitehorse we began our slow journey back to Vancouver. Our first stop was Dease Lake, which was just an overnighter on our way to Stewart. A note if you’re looking to stay in Dease Lake – there are no restaurants. We bought our dinner from the gas station. :)
Stewart was very charming, and I can see why it’s a popular place to go in the summer. The small town and the gorgeous mountains made it pretty special. We took a quick side trip over to Hyder, Alaska which is basically a ghost town. I wanted to drive further up to the glacier, but the gravel road was quite active with trucks and neither of us felt like spending the time being stressed.
Day 15-20: Smithers!
The last 5 days of our trip was spent exploring RD’s hometown of Smithers. The weather was not cooperating for us while we were there, but it was my first trip to Smithers, so we made the best of it by going on short hikes every day, and we even met up with friends (a high school friend of mine ended up marrying one of RD’s oldest friends – which is very random).
We saw a ton of wildlife on this trip – cariboo (!), elk, bison, deer, sheep, fox, and tons of birds for my bird nerd boyfriend, but I really, really wanted to see grizzly and moose – and we didn’t get to see either! We were positive we’d see at least one grizzly on the trip, given the areas we were in and the timing, but we didn’t see a single trace of them. :| I was surprised about not seeing any moose either, but we’ll be headed back up to Smithers for Christmas, so I’ll get a second chance. :)
So… how much did this entire trip cost? Glad you asked!
We ended up $560 under budget, which I’m pretty impressed with. Our accommodation ended up being more than expected because we were going to camp at Liard Hot Springs, but that day was so stressful driving in snowy and very icy conditions (and we didn’t know how long it would take to get to our destination) so instead of setting up camp in the snow and cold, we stayed in a very fancy lodge (the only place available for hundreds of kilometers) for $190/night. :|
My gas budget was exactly as predicted, and I’m very happy we came in under budget for good. We did a pretty good job making our own breakfasts and lunches (and I was very happy that groceries were so reasonably priced), and that made up for the fact that restaurants in Yukon were expensive! A normal dinner out at a pub was $60-70, whereas in Vancouver we’d have paid $50. But we made it work by not going out often. I was even able to pick up some special ingredients (as well as a Tofurkey!) so we could make a nice Thanksgiving dinner while in Dawson.
I loved this trip to Yukon. It was different than what most would consider an autumn getaway, and because we were in the shoulder/off-season, we had most places all to ourselves. It also opened our eyes up to how beautiful this country really is, how much hiking and exploring we still have to do up there, and I cannot wait to go back.
As for what 2017 has in store for us for travel? Right now we’ve decided on a trip to Haida Gwaii, as well 2 weeks in Portugal. :)
I can’t believe we leave on our Yukon adventure in 2 days! There’s so much to do – like make a few batches of granola bars, make sure my kombucha will stay alive, write at least 3 blog posts for while I’m gone – plus we still have to clean out my car and pack.
The last week has been filled with running errands: trips to MEC, finalizing accommodation, getting my car tuned up, and buying dry goods that we want to bring up with us. I’m a bit concerned about how cold it will be up north. We’re a bit spoiled with weather here on the west coast, and I’m afraid I don’t really know what the cold feels like.
With all of this planning, you’d think we’d have a budget in place for this vacation, but we didn’t … until last night. I know, I feel a bit ashamed about that. But I had a rough idea of how much it was going to cost (a lot), and once I actually plugged those numbers into a spreadsheet, our 3+ week trip is actually turning out to be quite reasonable.
The first column below shows our combined expenses, and then the next column is obviously what we are projecting it will cost us individually. $2,000 for a 3-week holiday is okay with me!
A few things to note:
- All of our accommodation is booked. We are alternating between camping, AirBnB, and hotels for the first 2 weeks of our trip. The last week we’ll actually be staying with RD’s family, so accommodation is provided. :)
- We took my car to a mechanic who did my 100km service, an oil change, and made sure the car was running smoothly for our trip.
- Without any deviation from our route, we will drive approximately 6,900km. Chances are we will be well over 7,000km once the trip is over – which is a crazy amount of driving. But the drive is part of the adventure.
- We chose to stay at AirBnBs so that we could have access to a kitchen. My hope is that we’ll buy groceries and be able to make our own breakfast and lunch most days. I’d definitely like to go out for dinner when we’re in the bigger towns, but for some of the more remote locations, we will have to plan. We have packaged dinners for the nights we’re camping.
- Most of our entertainment will be free because we’re there to hike and explore. :) I don’t really anticipate doing anything that would cost a lot of money, but have budgeted in $300 just in case.
- We bought some supplies – like warm gloves, energy bars, coffee, bear spray (just in case), and other miscellaneous items from MEC.
- I added a bit of money for Miscellaneous expenses because you just never know. We’re not big into souvenirs, but I know we’ll buy fridge magnets, and I might get a few Christmas gifts while I’m up there too.
If you have any tips for our trip, or places we must see, please let me know. Neither of us have been up north, and we are open to all suggestions! :)