Where Canadians are travelling this Canada Day (hint: it’s not Ottawa)

Kim McGinnin, of Brantford, takes in the Toronto Blue Jays game in 2013. Toronto is one of the top places Canadians are looking to travel to for this year's Canada Day 150 celebrations.
Kim McGinnin, of Brantford, takes in the Toronto Blue Jays game in 2013. Toronto is one of the top places Canadians are looking to travel to for this year's Canada Day 150 celebrations. Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Canadians are buckling down on last-minute travel plans for the upcoming Canada Day long weekend, and where they’re choosing to travel may not be where you think.

Being Canada’s big 150th birthday bash, one might think the travel destination of choice for Canadians would be Ottawa – Canada’s capital city that is promising the biggest party in the country. However, according to travel website Kayak, last-minute travellers are choosing to visit Toronto and Vancouver – not Ottawa.

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“Perhaps not surprisingly, we found Canada Day weekend is the most popular travel weekend for Canadians this summer,” says David Solomito, vice president of North America brand marketing at Kayak. “More specifically, we’re finding that Canadians are keeping it local this Canada Day and are celebrating 150 on home turf… The most popular destination for six out of 10 provinces is somewhere within the country.”

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The No. 1 domestic destination searched for flights by travellers from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick was Toronto.

The top search for travellers in Ontario, Quebec and P.E.I., however, was Vancouver, while Newfoundland’s top search was Halifax.

The only province to have Ottawa as their No. 1 searched destination for flights was Nova Scotia.

“While Ottawa is the nation’s capital, Toronto and Vancouver are often considered Canada’s unofficial capitals and are also much bigger cities, offering more options for accommodation,” Solomito says. “Toronto and Vancouver’s airports are also larger and may offer more flight route options and cheaper prices. We also know that there has been a spike in car rental searches, meaning Canadians may be road tripping into Ottawa for the festivities.”

In fact, car rental searches are up 51 per cent compared to last summer, and 12 per cent compared to Canada Day last year – especially among British Columbians whose search numbers spiked 96 per cent on Kayak.

But perhaps where travellers will feel the financial hit the most is hotel accommodations.

According to Solomito, hotel prices have increased by 21 per cent compared to last summer, the median price being around $190 a night.

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The highest spike in hotel prices, however, is in P.E.I. where hotel rooms are now 34 per cent more expensive than last Canada Day.

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“P.E.I. hosted the inaugural Confederation meeting and is also known as the ‘Cradle of Confederation,’ so this will be a key destination, especially for history buffs,” Solomito explains. “The island’s pastoral landscape is also a huge draw for visitors with everything from rolling hills to long beaches and coves. Fans of the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables are sure to be making the trip to P.E.I. for July 1.”

So to help Canucks save some bucks, Solomito has some money-saving tips if you’re looking to travel this Canada Day weekend.

  • If you’re renting a car, take the extra day off. Kayak found a 10 per cent to 12 per cent dip in prices when booking a three- to four-day trip versus a one- to two-day trip.
  • If you’re flying in, take the shuttle from the airport and rent a car in the city’s core. Downtown car rentals are often 15 per cent to 20 per cent cheaper than their airport counterparts.
  • Consider travelling to provinces like Manitoba, Alberta or Newfoundland, all of which saw a decrease in hotel prices this Canada Day weekend compared to last year.
  • Keep an eye out for some last-minute deals online.
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