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When my wife and I requested a free 2017 parks Canada pass, I really hoped we would have a chance to head to Banff National Park. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to visit any Canadian National Parks in 2017, but I did identify several that I’d like to visit (SEE: 7 great parks to visit with the Parks Canada free pass in 2017).

Banff is at the top of the list, and when I got my pass in the mail (a week after Dan…SEE: I just got my free Parks Canada Discover pass), my wheels started turning.

From all the pictures I’ve seen, Banff National Park is spectacular. I could browse images of it and Jasper, another park in the Canadian Rockies, for hours…

banff-stock

But now I’ll be able to take my own pictures! We’ve nailed down some plans to actually visit! They may get interrupted if we are matched for adoption in the next month, but we are willing to take that risk (SEE: 4 airline awards for our adoption trip…which do I choose?).

We’re now booked to fly into Calgary midday on April 20, and out again the afternoon of April 25. We’ll spend the first 3-4 nights in Banff, and the final night or two in Calgary. This gives us all of Friday through Monday in the park.

Flights cost us $200 in Delta gift cards, a couple United vouchers, and about $70 cash, so it is pretty cheap overall. The downside is that we do have to drive 5 hours to SFO to fly out.

What should we do?

I know we are going in shoulder season, but I really don’t care. If there is fresh snow, I may consider a half day of skiing. My wife will likely stay warm and cozy in the lodge, or possibly enjoy herself on the bunny slope. I found out on our winter trip to Quebec at the beginning of 2016 that she is deathly afraid of skiing! The “easiest way down” at Mont Sainte Anne wasn’t exactly all that easy, and too much for her. She was a great sport and gave it her all, but skiing really isn’t her thing.

sunshine village banff ski

Other than ski, we hope to enjoy the town of Banff itself. We’ll definitely visit the hot springs as well. The gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain is also high on the list.

sulphur mountain gondola cc-2.0

Hopefully some of the valley hiking isn’t too impacted by snow. It would be great to take a couple short, easy hikes if we can. Any other Banff suggestions for shoulder season?

Where should we lodge?

In Banff we’re hoping to stay at either the Fairmont Lake Louise or the Fairmont Banff Springs. I’ve always eyed the Fairmont Lake Louise, but after seeing the close proximity of the Fairmont Banff Springs to both the hot springs and gondola, I’m split between the two. The choice may be dictated by what availability is like for the chase Fairmont award nights and upgrade certificates that should be posting to my account fairly soon. I jumped on the Chase Fairmont card before the application link was pulled completely.

fairmont banff springs

We’ll have 4 nights, and we can only realistically eke out 3 of them at the Fairmont. We’ll use the certificates for two, and then pay for most of another with arrival miles and the rest with cash. Hopefully Fairmont lets me use the upgrade certificate for all three nights. Sunday night is TBD, either in Banff or Calgary.

If for some crazy reason there isn’t any availability at either Fairmont, we’ll figure some way to finagle cheap nights. There is a Delta hotel nearby, but there was no availability when I checked. If it opens up, we’ll snag that. Any other great Banff hotel options we should know about?

For our last night in Calgary, I’ve booked the Delta hotel in terminal since we can use a Chase Marriott annual night. Our flight doesn’t leave until 1:00 p.m., though, so being that close to the airport really isn’t a necessity. We may still figure out another option and forego the night so we can dump the Marriott card. The annual fee is up this month.

Somehow we keep ending up in Canada

Oddly enough, this will be our fourth trip to Canada in the past two years. It started with a trip to Niagara Falls, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in mid-2015. We then took a winter trip to Quebec in early 2016, followed by a trip to Vancouver for New Year’s 2017.

Now we’re looking forward to our 5 nights away in Banff!

Featured image and others courtesy of Wikimedia under CC 2.0 license

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