How to Visit Banff on a BUDGET in 2024

Many people think a trip to the Canadian Rockies will blow any budget, but visiting Banff doesn’t have to be expensive! There are so many ways to do Banff on a budget. It starts with choosing the best, most affordable time to visit Banff (hint: not July or August). From there, you can select cheaper accommodation and the right transport option, and choose activities that don’t require a payment!

From hiking to choosing the right park pass and best places to eat, ee summarize the best ways to visit Banff on a budget below.

Is Banff Expensive?


Many first-time visitors to Banff are probably curious if Banff is expensive and what an average trip will cost them, and it completely varies by visitor. It’s no secret that Banff is one of the most expensive destinations in Canada. We’ve had readers spend over $10,000 on a 7-day trip to Banff in the summer. This can be pretty easy to do if you’re a family of four, staying at high-end properties, eating out every meal, and paying for every single attraction in Banff.

A majority of travel expenses go towards flights and accommodation, although, we usually have readers mentioning the high price of a summer rental car too. All these travel costs considered, it’s very easy to spend $500+ per person per day in the summer. That being said, it’s also possible to visit and spend much less than that by utilizing our tips below!

Here’s How to Visit Banff On A Budget

Visit Banff in the Off Season

Banff in October

One of the top ways to visit Banff on a budget is by traveling to the Canadian Rockies outside the peak season. The busiest and most expensive time to visit Banff is in the summer. Summer in Banff starts in June and ends in late September. You’re probably not thinking that early June and late September sound like summer in Banff, as it can be relatively cold during these times. However, with school vacations, people from all over the world travel to Banff in June, so prices go up around now.

These prices stay high until late September. Late September is larch season in Banff, which is a magical time of year when the larch trees turn golden yellow. Although it’s a short autumn season it stays busy with international and domestic travelers.

The other busy season in Banff is from December to February. The holidays are a great time to visit Banff, and visitors travel from all over to have a proper White Christmas. The snow sticks around until April or May, but the higher season prices run until late February for peak ski season. To break it down, there is Banff’s off-season, shoulder, and peak season. The information is as follows.

Off Season in Banff (November, Late March, April, Early May)

Morants Curve in winter

These are generally cold, cloudy, and what some may call the more “miserable” months, but they are the best time to visit Banff on a budget. That is, of course, if you like the winter, snowboarding and skiing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and all that other fun stuff. If you’re a winter person this is still a great time to visit Banff. Low numbers of tourists, low prices, and plenty of snow!

By April, you can start biking and even challenge yourself to a few low-elevation hikes (with the proper gear!). We love to hike Ha Ling Mountain in early April. If you’re looking to save money these months are the best time to visit Banff and when you will find the lowest rates on accommodation and car rentals.

Shoulder Season in Banff (Late May/Early June, Late September, October)

Lake O Hara During Larch Season

The shoulder season months are a wonderful time to visit Banff National Park. Except on mountain peaks, the snow is pretty much gone by June, and the glacier lakes should also be thawed come June. That means bright blue glacial lakes, that are so blue your eyes might hurt. As you might expect, the weather is getting better and better in June.

You’ll want to visit in late September and October if you’re interested in chasing the fall and seeing the yellow larches. After Labor Day, the crowds start fizzling out as the kiddies return to school – summer vacations are over. But it’s still pretty busy in the park during September, just not at summer levels. Hiking is still great, as the winter gods (typically) haven’t dumped snow yet. That comes in late October.

High Season in Banff (July, August, early September, December- early March)

Moraine Lake

If you want to visit Banff on a budget, avoid this time. Banff National Park has a high season for winter enthusiasts and a high season for those after that perfect North American summer getaway. The first is much quieter than its summer counterpart, but around the holidays, the prices rise, and crowds flock to Banff in search of a white Christmas. Those after a ski vacation still visit Banff in February and March, and ski runs become busier during holidays like Family Day. During these two winter months, accommodation prices are higher.

However, that’s nothing compared to summertime in Banff. Visitor numbers explode between June and August, and while I would love to say that because of this, it’s not a good time to visit, I would be lying. July and August bring about the best weather in the park. Long days and sunshine await you during the summer. The wildflowers are in full bloom and it’s a great time for anyone looking for a summer adventure. (Just not on a budget).

Skip the Organized Tours and Enjoy the Free

Lake Agnes

While you could book many great tours in Banff, I can’t deny that they are expensive. For example, a ticket up the Banff Gondola can run anywhere between $50-$70 depending on the season, but you can actually get up to the top of Sulphur Mountain by hiking it for free. Or for instance, the Glacier Skywalk costs upwards of $40, but the views aren’t anything to write home about, and you can get much better views by going on a hike. Parker Ridge is one of our favorites nearby, or you can enjoy an easy Banff hike to the Toe of Athabasca Glacier.

Canoeing on Lake Louise costs over $150 an hour, but did you know that canoeing on Emerald Lake costs under $100? Better yet, skip the canoe altogether and enjoy a Lake Louise hike or rent a stand up paddleboard and head to Canmore. Banff doesn’t have to cost a ton of money, especially when you’re looking for things to do. We get out multiple times a week and rarely spend any money. That’s because things like hiking and enjoying all the beautiful lakes are completely free!

Free alternative ideas to popular Banff attractions

  • Instead of the Banff Gondola, hike up Sulphur Mountain for free.
  • Instead of the Glacier Skywalk, hike up Wilcox Pass or Parker Ridge nearby
  • Instead of the Lake Minnewanka cruise, walk around Lake Minnewanka lakeshore instead.
  • Instead of hopping on the Athabasca Glacier Ice Explorer, hike to the Toe of Athabasca Glacier
Our Ultimate Guide of FREE Things to do in Banff 

Think About the Parks Pass You Purchase

Lake Minnewanka in the shoulder season

You can purchase a Parks Canada pass at any park gate. Or you can buy them in advance online. A Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which gets you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for the full year, is only $151.25 for a family. It sounds expensive as one payment, but remember that day passes are $11.00 per person. So, if you are a group of four visiting Banff for over two days, getting the full year is worth it.

ULTIMATE Guide To Purchasing A Banff Park Pass (Parks Canada Pass)

Book the Right Accommodation

Big Beehive Hike

Banff National Park has quite a bit of accommodation for a Canadian National Park. There are plenty of options, from camping to hostels to mid-range and then there is some straight up luxury hotels with rates over $1000/night.

I know what you may be thinking – and no, you don’t have to camp or stay at a hostel to visit Banff on a budget. There are mid-range hotels for under $200 and lower, depending on the season. If you plan to visit around Christmas or in July, August, or September, you are advised to book well in advance to get a better deal. The sooner you book, the more options you have. If you wait until the last minute, you could be left with the more expensive hotels as the cheaper places tend to book faster.

Weekends in July and August book up quick, but even weekdays during these beautiful summer months will go fast. It’s best to book a room between Monday and Friday if you can. You don’t have to stay at a hotel though, there are some great Airbnbs in Banff to choose from. Airbnbs with multiple rooms are great for larger groups. Booking one with a kitchen also means saving money on food by cooking in.

If you can’t find any suitable Banff hotels or Airbnbs to stay at you can always stay just outside the park. Canmore, while still expensive, is a great option that is only 15 minutes away from Banff. Aside from staying in Banff and Canmore, there are also the small hamlets and towns of Dead Mans Flats, Exshaw, Harvey Heights, Field, Cochrane, or Golden.

Of course, you can camp in Banff too, which can save quite a bit of money. You’ll need to book the popular spots like Two Jack Lake, well in advance.

Budget Conscious Hotels in Banff

the dorothy motel

The Dorothy is a newly renovated motel that is not just one of the cheapest hotels to stay in Banff, but it’s also pet-friendly. It has rave reviews, and if you book well in advance, you should be able to score a good deal.

rundlestone lodge

The Rundlestone Lodge is right on Banff Avenue just steps away from all the best restaurants and shopping in Banff. Here you can expect pretty standard rooms, but they are more than comfortable!

juniper hotel

The Juniper Hotel is well known for its awesome restaurant in Banff. It is set on a hill, and surrounded by the Rockies in all directions. It’s about two kilometers from Banff Avenue, which means it’s more affordable than similar hotels in Downtown Banff.

Utilize the Grocery Store

picnicking in Kananaskis

You’ll save a lot of money in Banff if you avoid going out to eat for every meal. An average meal for two out in Banff will cost at least $40 (hello, Ramen Arashi!) and only goes up from there. Booking accommodation with a kitchen is a great way to visit Banff on a budget. Then go to the grocery store and cook all your dinners. Lunches, such as a packed sandwich lunch, can be easy, and breakfasts are always simple with things like oatmeal, yogurt, or eggs.

There aren’t many grocery stores in Banff, but IGA and Nesters are the main ones. Of course, that doesn’t mean skipping all the Banff restaurants, it just means limiting your eating out to a few times on your trip. If you find yourself hungry while in Lake Louise, there is a small grocery store in the village. The Village Market is surprisingly better stocked than you would think, though the prices are high here.

Alternatively, head to Canmore to save money. The two main supermarkets in Canmore are Safeway and Save-On-Food, which are slightly cheaper than Nesters and IGA in Banff. If you have a rental car and have extra time in Calgary when you land, you can always shop for groceries there, which may help alleviate some food costs. There’s a Costco, which can save you significant money if you’re traveling with a family.

Consider Your Transport Options

driving in the rockies in winter

There are really only two options for getting around Banff National Park without an organized tour. A rental car and public transport. Most people choose a rental car as public transport is limited.

Car Rental

Renting a car in Banff is a great option if you are a pair or group of travelers. The best place to pick up the vehicle is in Calgary and it’s best to drop it back off there. We’ve scored great deals in Calgary with car rentals costing us $30 a day in the off-season, though prices can go up well past $100 a day depending on the season and what type of car you get. Overall though, I think renting a car is the best way to explore the park.

Public Transport

It is possible to visit Banff without a car. ROAM Transit is the local transportation in Banff and is surprisingly efficient for a little mountain town. It can be critical if you want to visit Banff on a budget. The ROAM bus will take you to some of the hot spots like Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon and also shuttle you between Banff and Canmore, which is a great way to save money in Banff when you don’t have a car. If you don’t plan on exploring all over Banff and plan on spending most of your time in Downtown Banff, avoiding a rental car and relying on the ROAM bus is a great option.

Fuel Up Outside of Banff


Gas costs the most in Banff and Lake Louise, so to save money on fuel, you should try to fill up outside of the park if possible. My favorite place for gas is Dead Man’s Flats, which is cheaper than Canmore. Canmore is cheaper than gas in Banff, and the cheapest place of all is Calgary. If you plan to drive into British Columbia, make sure to fill up in Alberta first, trust me on that.

Affordable Alternatives to Staying in Banff

Our cabin in Golden
  • Canmore: Canmore is the closest alternative option to staying in Banff. It’s the next town over and is only 15 minutes away. The problem is Canmore has built up quite a name for itself in its own right and is a tourist mountain town at its finest. While it’s a bit cheaper than Banff, it’s far from budget.
  • Cochrane: Cochrane is not in the mountains, but it’s just over an hour to Banff. You’ll be able to find really affordable places in Cochrane to stay.
  • Calgary: Calgary is one of Canada’s major cities. You’ll be able to find any type of accommodation in Calgary, and it’s quite a lively city if you are more of a city and night owl. No, it’s not in Banff, it’s actually quite far at 1.5 hours, but a good option if you’re on a major budget. Though you’ll spend quite a bit on fuel driving back and forth to the mountains.
  • Field: The closest town to Lake Louise is Field. It’s about 30 minutes away in Yoho National Park. It’s an extremely small town, but it is in the mountains and you can find some charming budget places to stay. Oh and you’re also right next to Emerald Lake!
  • Golden: Lastly, you’ll be able to find some great options in Golden in British Columbia. It’s about an hour to Lake Louise from here, but it is another mountain town near Yoho and Banff. If you love skiing you can always check out Kicking Horse Mountain Resort too!

You Can Always Rent a Campervan/RV!

driving the icefields parkway
Renting a campervan can help you save money in Banff

No one says you have to stay in hotels and rent a car! A very popular option for traveling the Canadian Rockies is in a campervan or RV – especially in the summer! Sometimes the price of a campervan is a better deal than getting a hotel, especially when you factor in the kitchen and the ability it gives you to cook all your own meals.

They are great for families and groups of friends and can save a lot on accommodation! Keep in mind though you cannot just pull over anywhere and camp, you will still have to pay to stay at designated campsites with your camper. You’ll also need to book some campsites in advance, and ones like the popular Two Jack Lake Campground book up months in advance.

Our recommendation is to compare rates on Outdoorsy, Wicked Campers, Karma Campervan, or CanaDream! We like to compare rates before we choose, which you can do here!

Hopefully, this helps you travel Banff on a budget. If you have any other questions leave a comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!

↓ Join the community ↓

The Banff Blog Facebook Group is your headquarters for Canadian Rockies travel advice and information, including hike and off-season travel information. You can also meet new adventure buddies.

the banff blog facebook group

About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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2 thoughts on “How to Visit Banff on a BUDGET in 2024”

  1. In Banff there is the Rundle Thrift shop. Much needed things like a mug, a thermos, a bowl, fork and spoon, and towels can save you money on luggage fees when you are coming by airplane.

    If you can get a Banff Public Library card the Banff Public Library has the “Library of Things” where you can finds all sorts of things from tools to appliances like a slow cooker.


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