Staycations Galore, The Final Episode

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These are the final stay cation ideas that I’ve chosen for you. I had 97 entries from across the country and have chosen to share those that represent the breadth of ideas geographically, as well as those that have the most detail (or that I simply liked best). Hope you enjoyed them and that they gave you some great ideas for enjoying a vacation close to home that keeps you on budget.


Melissa in Montreal, QU

“You live in one of the greatest cities in the world” – a statement I’m so often told by tourists. My city is culturally diverse; it has plenty of character, scrumptious food and a great party atmosphere. I live in Montreal, near Place-Des-Arts, which is the centre of the arts and summer festivals. I’m also lucky to call my parents’ home my second home in nearby Deux-Montagnes when I wish to get out of the city. My staycation around Montreal is from July 6 to July 13.

On the first day, I will be attending Tam-Tams at Mont-Royal Park. Every Sunday, the locals play drums in the park while people soak up the sun and watch participating Larpers (live action role play with costumes). Afterwards, I will attend the closing ceremonies of the Jazz Fest, which are free.  The next day (July 7), I leave open for whatever! On July 8, I will stay home and watch one of the elimination rounds of the FIFA World Cup, while trying some recipes that have been on my “to do” list. Then on July 9, the Just for Laughs Festival kicks off while I will attend the Nuits d’Afrique (African Nights) at Place-des-Arts on July 10. There are free outdoor concerts and skits available along with tasty international street food, so I will be spending my days taking full advantage of these festivals. On July 11, I’ll go to Oka National Park for a hike, borrowing my parents’ car from Deux-Montagnes for the short ride. I will then enjoy a BBQ in my family backyard, which was renovated with a hot tub and beautiful gardens, to definitely make you feel like you’re on vacation! On the Saturday (July 12), I plan on taking a walk up to my favorite borough, Parc Extension, where I can’t resist a sandwich at Wilensky’s and a caffe latte at Olimpico.  At night, I will be admiring the international fireworks competition from the Old Port, where its streets definitely make me feel like I’m in Europe! The FIFA finals are July 13, where I will host a potluck with friends. Here is my budget for two:

Train tickets to Deux-Montagnes: 19$

Gas for Oka: 5$

Oka entrance fee: 15$

Street food (two evenings): 35$

Wilensky sandwich: 3.90$ x 2 = 7.80$

Caffe lattes: approx. 2.80$ x2 = 5.60$

Ice cream or other treats at festivals: 15$

Potluck: 10$

BBQ contribution: 10$

Total: 122.40$


I have a low staycation budget, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay home! My schedule is packed and I chose locations that are mostly within walking distance to save on transportation costs. Every city has something worthwhile to check out during the summer, what does yours? As Mark Twain said, “Explore. Dream. Discover.”


Hayley in Vancouver, BC


I have planned a week long staycation for the Greater Vancouver area.  I aimed to make the most out of the free and inexpensive tourist attractions within our city for this getaway.  I have budgeted about $100 a day for the two of us, with most of this cost going towards food and transportation as almost all our activities are free, though this could be reduced slightly by taking public transit.  As for meal costs, I would suggest using Groupon/Living Social etc. to find restaurant deals.  Don’t forget to check the flyers in your local paper as there are always coupons for fast food joints or better yet, bring a packed lunch and breakfast from home to save even more.  To make this really feel like a vacation, I would suggest turning off cell phones and laptops so that you aren’t tempted to work or connect with friends etc. so you truly feel like you are away on vacation and of course take lots of photos just like you would on vacation.  If you have kids you could even set up a tent in the backyard.


Morning & Afternoon:  Lynn Canyon – Suspension bridge, ecology centre, waterfalls, hikes and swimming hole. Free

Evening:         Check out one of the many free or cheap (under $10/pp.) live Jazz concerts


Morning: BC Golf Museum-Free

Afternoon: Head to one of Vancouver’s many public beaches with picnic lunch

Evening:         Vancouver Art Gallery. 5pm to 9pm Tuesday nights – By donation.


Morning: Granville Island Market- free

Afternoon: Granville Island Ferry ($3.25 each) and afternoon at Second Beach heated outdoor pool.

Evening:         Check out one of Vancouver’s many free wine tasting events – free



Morning: Bloedel Floral Conservatory (more than 200 exotic birds and 500 exotic plants) – $6.50 adults

Afternoon: Disc golf and tennis at Queen Elizabeth Park – Free

Evening:         Join a game of drop in beach volleyball – Free


Morning:        Bike the Stanley Park Seawall and picnic brunch – Free with your own bike and food from home.

Afternoon:      Steveston Fisherman’s Warf – Fish and Chip lunch ($20) and check out the shops and fish market – Free

Evening:         Richmond (Asian Style) Night Market. Over 300 vendors, food stalls and entertainment. Fri and Sat 7pm – 12pm.  $2 admission


Morning:        Check out one of Vancouver’s many farmers markets – Free

Afternoon:      Tour Guys Walking Tour of Chinatown – Free

Evening:         Stargazing at the Observatory.  Open Friday and Saturday from 8:30pm – by donation (try to plan around next meteor shower)


Morning:        Hike the BMC trail.  Less busy, easier and cheaper than popular Grouse Grind – Free

Afternoon:      Explore Dr. Sun Yat Sen Park Chinese Garden – free (unlike Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens which are $10)

Evening: Outdoor movie in Vancouver – free


Sheryl in Calgary, AB


Each person packs one suitcase and carryon for the week for clothes and toys. We sleep in another bedroom for the week except for camp night and make someone else’s bed (reward is a mint on the pillow.) Each day we use a different bathroom for the promise of different toiletries and fresh towels.

A few rules:

  • No phones or checking on our voicemails. We will send “away on vacation” emails.
  • No television until we “check-in” to the hotel.


Our food for the week will cost our normally budgeted cost for the week for groceries, which is $200. So no extra savings will be used for any of our meals including take out and restaurant meals.

Breakfasts will consist of eggs and toast with the option of Nutella during the week, waffles and bacon, everyone’s favorite cereal and a continental breakfast with fruit and muffins. Twice during the week I will have a room service order form under each of the kids doors where they can choose which breakfast they want to enjoy in their room that day. Lunches will be sandwiches, granola bars, boiled eggs with plenty of veggies and summer fruits. Suppers include hamburgers, grilled steak and chicken, and hot dogs along with salads and veggie trays.

We have $100 per week budgeted for fuel. If gas for Volvo will cost $50, I will add $50 to our current entertainment budget of $75 a [month]. Our events are as follows (with promise to stop at one new playground the kids will take turns spying along the way):

Sunday, August 10:   Marda Gras. The different neighborhood will make us feel like tourists. Free entertainment and a good time! ($20 treats there) Bike ride in the evening then family movie night in basement rented from the library!

Monday, August 11:  Pool day! Spend the day at Village Square Leisure centre! Use bogo admissions coupons. Pack our lunch! Supper will be Little Caesars pizza with coupon for free crazy bread. ($18 for pool + $12 pizza = $30 )

Tuesday, August 12: Check out Sikome Aquatic Facility! Pack picnics & sand buckets! (Free) Montana’s for supper (a family fave and kids eat free on Tuesdays) ($45)

Wednesday, August 13:       Go karting & mini Golf in Shakers Fun Centre. There is no cost as we have a membership I purchased at the start of the year. We can spend the day day. Game tokens and a little snack! Other food will be in cooler in car! ($30)

Thursday, August 14:           Taste of Calgary in Eau Claire! Check out free Devonian Gardens nearby. Check out walking trails by river and park performances. Buy tickets for Taste of Calgary ($20)

Friday, August 15:     Campout in our backyard! Sleep in tent. S’mores over firepit. Weiner roast.

Saturday, August 16:            Campout continues! Games and read book in hammock day! Walk or bike to Tutti Fruity Frozen yogurt for my birthday. ($25) Check out a garage sale ($5)

Staycation Cost: $375

Emma in Toronto, ON

1. You can pre-purchase the Toronto City Pass (admission to Casa Loma, Toronto Zoo, CN Tower, ROM, Science Centre) for $55 per adult from Costco (it’s pricier to purchase it in person at one of the attractions).  We don’t want to spend every day in a museum, so we skipped this.

2. You can get free admission to museums by standing in line on Saturday mornings at the Toronto Public Libraries for a Museum Art Pass, giving 2 adults and up to 5 kids free admission at one of several museums in the city.

3. The City of Toronto website has vastly improved their site to check for events and festival listings:

Our Itinerary is for 8 days, Aug 9-16 in Toronto:

  • Saturday: Sleep in, eat, pack lunches and take a bike ride through Don Valley trails to Edwards Garden for an afternoon of photo taking; bike to the Danforth for the Taste of the Danforth festival.  We’ll pack snacks and water, but intend to sample options on the Danforth.  Daily Cost: $35 for food
  • Sunday: Sleep in, relax, eat, then head out to Harbourfront Centre for an afternoon and early evening at the “Expressions of Brazil” festival as well as a free concert in the music garden.  Daily Cost: $30 food sampling
  • Monday: We will use a free Museum Art Pass from the library (picked up a prior week to ensure we have one) and eat lunch there.  On the way home, we can grab a pizza.  Daily Cost: $35
  • Tuesday:  We’ll explore the Distillery District, then head to the St Lawrence Market where to shop for ingredients for a home cooked meal tonight.  Make dinner and prepare a picnic lunch for Wed, then head out to Bad Dog Theatre for a drop in improv class followed by an improv show ($5 each).  Daily Cost: $55
  • Wednesday: We will go to Rouge Valley Park for a free guided nature walk followed by our picnic.  For the evening we can join a free ROM Walk, then enjoy a sunset dinner at Panorama Lounge.  Daily Cost: $85
  • Thursday: sleep in, pack some food and drinks then head down to the harbourfront, taking the ferry ($7 each) to the island for a beach day, with spending money in case we want to visit Centreville.  Harbourfront Centre has live bands for dancing on the pier, so we will attend that, grabbing dinner from a food truck, or some other fast food option.  Daily Cost: $55
  • Friday: Sleep in, then head down to Queen St East, to enjoy treats (ice cream! cupcakes!) and explore the area.  We’ll bring bathing suits for swimming at the pool at Woodbine beach, finishing the day relaxing on a patio. Daily Cost: $85
  • Saturday: Stay in, catch up on sleep and watch TV, followed by an afternoon massage (free, thanks work benefits)!  If we are not exhausted, consider going to the CNE in the evening for opening weekend (approximately $5 each [guessing based on prior year’s opening weekend after 5 PM entrance discount), plus spending money).  Daily Cost: none – $50, depending on moods

Total Costs:

Between $380 and $430, well within our budget of $30/person/day (we used 8 days, since a Caribbean vacation would be 8 days if you go on that).  We could keep costs lower if we don’t spend as much on food (that’s most of the budget!), but we won’t want to spend a lot of time on our staycation with chores and cooking.  Transit is no cost because we already pay for metropasses to get to work.

This was an excellent eye opener – sometimes you think it’s just too expensive to go out and do things, but I found so many free and cheap things to do while looking into this that I couldn’t even note everything I wanted to do!  There are free movie nights at Yonge and Dundas Square and the Harbourfront Centre (on different days of the week, too)!  Since I’m under 35, I can get quite discounted tickets to the TSO as part of TSOundcheck (though they don’t have tickets noted until closer to the date of the events), and there is just so much happening, especially in the summer!


Vania in Pickering, ON

We live in Pickering Ontario and our plan for our staycation in August is:

Monday – Rotary Frenchman’s bay Park – it’s close to a beautiful marina and has a “Beach” where the kids ride the waves all day.  For smaller children there is also a Splash Pad. There are also several park benches so we typically pack a picnic. Total cost FREE.

Tuesday – I order movie passes from air miles since I never seem to have enough for an actual vacation.  There is  a movie theatre at Pickering town centre.  One movie pass gets 2 people with 2 large drinks and a large popcorn.  Total cost 200 air miles for my family of 4 its 400 air miles/free.

Wednesday – We go to Cedar Park in Bowmansville the kids love it there and so do I.  You can bring your own food they have several picnic/campsites.  They have pools water slides, splash pad and a really big park.  Adults cost $10 per day, kids 12 & under 9 Total cost for my family $37

Thursday – Seaton trail hike total cost free.  We take some disposable cameras along and take pictures of things along the trail.  It’s extremely fun the kids really enjoy hiking and nature and it’s wonderful to enjoy the outdoors together.

Friday – sprinkler party/bbq –  the neighbourhood kids come over and they run through the sprinkler and play water balloon fights and play with water guns.  It’s an extremely fun time and the kids have a fun time then we sit back relax and eat burgers, watermelon, freezies etc its a day that truly says “summer”.

Saturday – We head on over to the McLean Community Centre in Ajax there is a splash pad and skateboard park and a regular huge park kids have a blast we pack a picnic and literally spend the entire day there.

Sunday – We unwind and just relax it’s a lazy that includes a BIG breakfast then we go to church come home make Sunday dinner and the kids enjoy baking so we make a dessert together usually cupcakes and they decorate them.

So total cost of our staycation is $37.  Perhaps about $20 more for the cost of the balloon/freezies and water guns.



Gail Vaz-Oxlade

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3 Responses to “Staycations Galore, The Final Episode”

  1. The Richmond night market has gotten more expensive over the years. Admission is now 2 bucks, used to be free. Also, food is ridiculously expensive there.

  2. I love this focus on rediscovering what your community has to offer. As a small town girl on the prairies I am a bit in awe of the wealth of things one can do for a staycation if they live in a city.

    It does force me to think of the things that can be done in or around my community of about 15 000 ppl.

    My favourite of the ones listed above is the Montreal one.

    Hey if Brent Leroy can do it in small town SK on Corner Gas, anyone can 🙂

  3. I particularly liked Sheryl’s Calgary staycation, as it gave a real “away” feeling.

    BTW, people can check with their own local libraries, and more of them are doing the -free!- museum/attractions passes. Sadly, it’ll be another year at least before I get mine, as there are so many holds…

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