In little under a month, we’re all gathering for one of the best weeks of our lives: TEDActive! In advance of that, I thought I’d share some travel hacking tips and tricks to making your arrival into Whistler a fun, inexpensive and engaging journey.
Flights to Vancouver (YVR) cost a lot – save money by flying to Bellingham or Seattle!
That’s right – due to some pesky international taxes, flights into the closest major international airport to Whistler (which is YVR) can sometimes be $140-$250 more than comparable flights to Seattle (SEA) or Bellingham (BLI). Using one of my favorite travel search engines, Google Flights, I was able to find flights from LAX-BLI for $224 roundtrip for TEDActive dates. The cheapest flights I saw for those same dates into Vancouver were nearly $120 more!
Takeaway: before booking flights into Vancouver, check alternate (close by) airports to see if you can save some dough.
Global Entry and Nexus: Your key to an easy border experience
A lot of hassle can be saved with these two handy travel tools. Though you may not be able to get it in time for TEDActive, if you’re a US Citizen and a frequent international traveler, read up on Global Entry (and its associated TSA Pre-Check benefit) and how to cut the line at Customs and Immigration on the way back into the United States — it’s an incredible time saving tool. Bonus perk: a lot of credit cards offer waived Global Entry application fees, so check with your card issuer to see if that applies to you!
Nexus is just like Global Entry, but it’s for folks heading into Canada. If you love our TED host country as much as I do, you’ll think about getting this to avoid the long Canadian Immigration lines, as well!
Takeaways: save time at the border with these five-year border fast passes!
You’re in Canada….but still two hours from Whistler
Though they make it look close on a map, your first port of entry into Canada through the Great White North and Whistler are not actually that close. Whistler is two hours from Vancouver by a scenic mountain road. There are a few creative ways of getting there with or without your own wheels, including:
- The Rocky Mountaineer train to Whistler
- Shuttle buses from Vancouver and other British Columbia destinations
- The stunningly beautiful Sky to Sea Highway
- And lastly, if you’re truly one to arrive in style, a helicopter charter.
Takeaways: however you choose to arrive, be sure to book in advance and bring a credit card with no foreign transaction fee (see below) to pay for it!
Paying in loonies, toonies, and plastic
Unless you’re one of the approximately 30 million folks lucky enough to call themselves Canadians, you’re going to be paying for the few things you buy in British Columbia in Canadian dollars. As of today, the one Canadian dollar is about $0.80 US cents, meaning that you can purchase a $10 CAD pint of Okanagan Spring Pale Ale for $8 USD. Not too terrible. Here’s the kicker: unless you’re paying in cash, your credit card company may be charging you a nasty two to five percent foreign transaction fee, which can quickly add up. Take a few minutes to learn about credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees as well as how to avoid ATM withdrawal fees overseas.
Takeaways: cash is always king (and easiest to use — it’s accepted everywhere), but your cards will work well too. Just make sure you’re not paying too many fees when paying with plastic!
Hotels abound in bountiful Whistler
Be sure to get the best possible perks out of your hotel stay at TEDActive. If you booked at the Hilton or Westin, two of the official TEDActive properties, be sure to add your HiltonHHonors or Starwood Preferred Guest, respectively, loyalty number to your reservation. That’ll ensure that you get the maximum points towards things like status and free future stays! And, if you have elite status with either hotel, you could be getting extra perks like more points, free breakfast, or even room upgrades.
For hotels that don’t have a loyalty program attached (I’m looking at you, Aava, Crystal and Pinnacle), you can sometimes get better rates by booking via online portals like Hotels.com or Orbitz (plus, you can earn valuable rewards credits through both).
Takeaways: be sure that you’re getting return on the money you’re spending to sleep at night. Whether hotel points or credits for future stays, remember to claim those available perks!
Leigh Rowan is a long-time TEDActive Veteran (he’s been to every TEDActive but one!) and COO of ThePointsGuy.com, a website dedicated to maximizing travel experiences. He’s a self-fashioned travel hacker, and today he’s offered to share some handy TEDActive travel tips to make your trip to Whistler an amazing one!