For many years now, Mr. JJ and I have been thinking of planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies, specifically the Banff and Jasper areas. However, for one reason or another, it never materialized.
This summer, thanks to the kids’ decisions, we were limited to only one getaway as a family. With Mr. JJ celebrating a special birthday this month, July felt like a good time to go away. After all, the kids could not refuse their dad a family trip, not on his birthday anyway.
Mr. JJ had three places high on his travel list: the Canadian Rockies, Colombia and Spain. The kids didn’t favor Colombia since we had just traveled to Panama. Spain would be too hot and, probably, way too busy. Since the outdoors is where Mr JJ does best (his favorite hangout at home being our patio), the Rockies were a no-brainer.
After researching award tickets on American, Alaska and United, I booked through United. We would fly to San Fransisco on a Friday evening, then leave the next morning on United to Calgary. Our return flight, the following Saturday, would be from Calgary to Los Angeles on Air Canada and then onwards to Dallas on United. All of these were on United saver awards. Alaska had good options from Seattle, but the award prices were twice what I would have loved to pay, and similarly I couldn’t find any saver awards on American either.
Now, I knew we would definitely visit both Banff and Jasper National Parks. The eponymous towns are located within these national parks. Two other nearby parks that dont make the cut often are Yoho and Kootenay. I started researching hotel options about 3.5 months before our trip. Understandably, summer is a heavy favorite tourist season to these areas. Being small towns, accommodations are limited unless one plans to camp outdoors, though even these have to be planned ahead.
After looking at several options for Banff lodging, including down south in Canmore, we decided to book at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Normally, we don’t splurge on our trips, but with smaller hotels charging about USD 400 per night or more, the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel seemed a reasonable option at USD 705 (with breakfast for four), and was covered under the Citi Prestige umbrella. This meant if we stayed for four nights in Banff, our card would cover the fourth night rate (not including other fees and taxes).
I talked to the Citi Concierge who helped me look at different hotels and ultimately, the Fairmont. (She also encouraged me to and then waited patiently as I signed up for membership with Fairmont. Members get discounts for certain activities like the spa.) The Banff Springs Hotel is iconic as it put Banff on the map as a place to travel to for the well-heeled, to enjoy the outdoors as well as the hot springs. The Banff Springs Hotel is one of the most visited sites in Banff, even by visitors who don’t stay at the hotel. And since we were celebrating a special birthday (and perhaps, to make up for the lousy birthday dinner we had in Lisbon last year), it seemed a perfect reason to book this spiffy hotel as our base. We have stayed at several Intercontinental and Conrad hotels before on points, but this hotel exceeded all our expectations and then some! But that’s a post for another day!
For our next two nights in Jasper, finding a hotel was a bit of a scramble. Most of the hotels I looked at did not have openings for one or both of the dates. There were openings at hotels in Hinton, but that was an hour’s drive from Jasper town. Which would make our drive back to Calgary really long. After looking at several different lodgings and trying their reservation systems, I came across one called the Tonquin Inn. They had an opening for a family of four, charged around 350 CAD per night but given that they were in Jasper and I couldn’t find any other openings, we went with them.
For our last night in Calgary, I used my one free night from the IHG card and booked an airport hotel. The hotel was sufficiently close to the airport to drop off the car and it also provided complimentary shuttle services.
Our final lodgings list looked like this:
One night at the Hyatt Regency San Fransisco Airport which provided a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport. We chose not to book on points as Mr. JJ is working towards getting status with Hyatt this year.
Four nights at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff
Two nights at the Tonquin Inn, Jasper
One night at the Candlewood Suites Calgary Airport North
If you are interested in finding award tickets to this area or using points to stay here, do read this post from The Globetrotting Teacher.
We booked a full-sized car through Costco from Budget. Costco members can add a spouse as additional driver for free. And cancellations can be made without penalties.
I hope you will join us for the rest of our travels through the Canadian Rockies.