I'm Jessica Lauren - a wedding photographer for happy couples who are stoked about their wedding day! I couldn't be more thrilled that you stopped by! This is where I share bits and pieces of my passionate heart, spontaneous adventures, and pretty pictures of my rad clients! Feel free to grab a cup of coffee and stay awhile! xoxo
Okay, y’all – I am so excited to FINALLY be getting this blog post up!! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve been raving about this trip since September (and probably won’t stop anytime soon – sorry, guys!) because honestly, I have never been anywhere more incredible in my life. Most of the time when I take trips, I enjoy them – but towards the end I really look forward to going home and settled settled back into the normal rhythms of life. But this trip? Gosh, I could have stayed for another week with NO complaints. There are countless places to go and explore that you could spend two weeks here no problem!
People often ask me how I’m able to travel relatively often, and my answer is this – look for cheap flights, and make it a priority. ;) Seriously. I feel like there is great value in the season I’m in right now – I have a job that can go anywhere, I don’t have a husband or kiddos that need me – so this is my time to go and experience as much as possible. I say this all the time – people spend money on the things they value. If you want to travel more, cut back in other areas so that you have more margin to make it happen! It’s very possible to visit AMAZING places and not drop thousands of dollars!
However, the biggest question I’ve had people ask after this trip was, “How did you pick Banff? I didn’t even know that place existed!” And to be completely honest – I don’t remember. Isn’t that ridiculous?! All I can remember is texting Andrea late one night saying, “Hey, wanna go to Canada?” with a screenshot of plane tickets to Calgary that I found on SkyScanner. (Sidenote – it is both dangerous and incredible to have this app on your phone. You decide.) We did *minimal* research on Airbnb prices and the next morning we bought tickets, and I booked the Airbnb and rental. And then we didn’t make any other plans until the week before our trip! (true story – but it worked out amazing for us!)
Here was our breakdown of costs!
Plane ticket: $340 Roundtrip (We flew AA and WestJet and I was honestly super impressed with WestJet)
Airbnb: $270 for 5 nights (split – $135 a piece)
Rental Car: $220 (split – $110 a piece)
So for our tickets, lodging, and transportation we spent $585 a piece for a Sunday-Friday trip. Not bad, in my humble opinion!
We obviously still had to buy food and gas, but we bought granola bars and breakfast/lunch food from the grocery store and typically only ate out one meal a day!
– Unknown to us, we apparently visited during the perfect time of year. We were there September 17th-22nd which isn’t tourist season, but also isn’t full on winter with feet of snow. Our first day we didn’t need coats as it was probably 55 degrees or so. But by the last day it was snowing hard and COLD! According to the locals that we chatted with, snow that early was incredibly rare and usually didn’t hit for another month – but neither Andrea or I were complaining because we LOVED it! I felt like we got a more full “Canada” experience with the snow!
– Staying in an Airbnb. Our Airbnb had a kitchen which allowed us to buy groceries and make food every morning! This was a life saver budget wise (we spent $30 a piece on groceries and and got 3 breakfasts and 2 lunches out of that + granola bars – way cheaper than eating out!)
– This seems silly – but bring your own water bottles! Andrea and I both are forever in love with Hydroflasks and they came in handy SO much on this trip. We never once paid for water because there are so many places to fill them up! Plus water in Canada just tastes good – it’s mountain water, y’all. ;)
– Everyone said getting through the Canadian border with photography equipment was the worst, but we didn’t have any issues! (Although I may or may not have pulled a ditzy young girl card on the customs agent. Sometimes looking like you’re 16 has it’s perks.) Between the two of us, we brought 2 cameras, a glidecam, and a 50mm, 35mm, and a 70-200mm. This was the perfect lens combo for this trip!
– Pack layers! I was really proud that I was able to pack everything in a carry on and a backpack (even the glidecam! woo!), but I could have packed a little bit less. I brought two pairs of shoes and really only needed my hiking/snow boots. I’m a notorious over-packer, but you really don’t need much!
– Honestly, everything about this trip was AMAZING and I have no major complaints. If I did do something different, I would probably get an Airbnb in Canmore instead of Calgary. We spent HOURS upon hours in the car driving (but it was beautiful – so we weren’t complaining), but gas in Canada is also quite expensive. (As in… double the price of the Midwest. Fun story, when we first saw the gas prices we though it was crazy cheap… and too good to be true. $1 per gallon? No way! Turns out it was $1 per liter. And there are 4 liters in a gallon. Talk about a let down!) Getting an Airbnb in Canmore as opposed to Calgary would potentially be a bit more expensive, but I feel like you would save money in the gas department and TIME, which is incredibly valuable!
– Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are both must-sees!! But Moraine Lake tops the charts – so you have to go! Typically parking midday is full and you have to take a shuttle up, but we hit it on a chillier day with less people out and were able to drive up ourselves which was a huge win! Even if you did have to take a shuttle, it would be 1000x times worth it.
– Peyto Lake (if it’s not snowing) would be incredible! Unfortunately, we drove all the way there only to find that you couldn’t see a thing because it was snowing so hard. Ha! Still a beautiful drive and we got some super fun snow photos!
– Banff in itself is the cutest little town. Every night as the sun was going down we’d find a place to grab dinner and then walk around downtown until all the stores closed. Seriously such a sweet way to end each day! Oh – and you have to get a Beaver Tail while you’re walking around – they’re the BEST, for real.
– We also loved Lake Minnewanka which is SUPER close to Banff! The incredible thing about Banff National Park is that 1) it’s MASSIVE and you never run out of things to see and 2) it’s just stunning. Every single part. There was no where that we went that was mediocre, everything was incredible.
– We were always starving by the end of the day of hiking/exploring, and some of our favorites places we ate were Yama Ramen Bar in Canmore (SO GOOD, especially if you’re freezing cold!), pizza at Bear Street Tavern in Banff, and mexican at Magpie and Stump was amazing! I got a buffalo burrito which was as legit as it sounds.
Okay, that’s a ridiculously amount of info – so here’s the GOOD stuff… pictures!!! Enjoy a peek into this once in a lifetime trip. The photos honestly don’t do it justice – you’re just going to have to go see it for yourself!!
(PS – Check out our little video we made!! I obviously love photos, but I feel like this video gives you a bit better of an idea of how incredible this trip was. We lived our best life in Canada, I won’t lie about it. ;))