Cheap Canadian Flights – how to find them
Unfortunately, scoring cheap Canadian flights isn’t the easiest thing to do, even cheap flights to Canada are not that cheap.
Your flight to Canada might be the biggest expense of your whole trip. Shop around for cheap Canadian flights and compare different airlines and routes to find a deal.
There is no single best way to find cheap flights to Canada. It all depends on where you start your journey, and where in Canada you want to go to. It also depends on how flexible you are with your schedule, how long you want to stay in Canada, and what you plan to do when you are here.
In this section, I put together some tips for different situations, and I try to point you to the best online resources where you can compare cheap flights to Canada.
Tips on Cheap Canadian Flights
Flights to Vancouver, Canada – flights to Calgary Canada – flights to Toronto Canada
The largest number of cheap return flights to Canada go to either Vancouver or Calgary in the West and Toronto in the East. These destinations offer usually the cheapest Canadian flights you can get.
Return flights to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto offer the biggest flexibility regarding schedules and connections.
Travel distances in Canada are huge, and Canadian domestic flights into any backcountry regions are usually expensive.
In most cases, it is not the best option to book a return flight to/from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal, because you might have to travel a long distance just to get back to your port of departure. Doing this you only waste money and precious time.
Don’t just assume that cheap flights to Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto are your best bet. Depending on what you want to see, you might end up paying more when you start adding up all the expenses.
But on the other hand,
- if you only want to see the west coast anyway, where Canadian domestic flights are frequent and fairly affordable, then cheap flights to Vancouver or Calgary are your best bet.
- if you only want to see Eastern Canada, then checking on cheap flights to Toronto or maybe to Montreal would make sense,
- if you plan to stay in Canada for a long time, or work your way around, for instance on a working holiday visa,
- or if you are on a very tight budget, like I always used to be, and know how to get around spending very little,
then a return flight to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal is the way to go.
Cheap Canadian Flights – timing and season
Start shopping around early if you want to find a cheap flight to Canada. Don’t hope for last minute flight deals to go to Canada. The longer you wait the more expensive the flights usually get. If you want to fly cheap, book ahead, don’t leave it till last minute!
- July and August are the main tourist season in Canada. Canada has two months of school holidays, that’s when most Canadians travel, and it’s also the time when flights are the most expensive.
- May, June and September are great times to travel in Canada and flights are cheaper during that time.
- Christmas and New Year is crazy busy and not a good time to look for a cheap flight. Especially domestic flights are taken by Canadian travellers who are visiting relatives living in different parts of the country, and you sure will pay some holiday inflation. The same goes for about any other national holiday as well. If you want to come to Canada during any holiday, book early!
- Check for Canadian official holidays before deciding on travel dates.
- Winter month will offer you the cheapest Canadian flights (apart from the holiday season)
Cheap Student Flights
STA Travel is an excellent company if you are under 26 or if you are students. STA Travel offers discounted airfare as well as travel passes that save on attractions. Make sure to check out their website.
Canadian International Airlines
Air Canada is the official Canadian Airline and of course, has the most options and packages that combine international with Canadian domestic flights. They also have partnered with other international carriers, so you can get flights where one of the partners carries you for part of the trip, and you fly Air Canada for the rest of the journey, or on domestic flights. From my experience, if I fly with Air Canada with an inland connection and get stranded because of delays, they look after me very well.
Flying with British Airways is usually a bit cheaper than with other airlines. If you don’t mind travelling through London, you might find a good deal with them. British Airways flies to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
This is a good choice if you don’t have a connecting inland flight added with Air Canada or WestJet. If you get stranded in one of the big cities because of delay and you miss the connection, nobody will pay for your hotel or taxi costs.
One of my flights with British Air, coming back from Europe, I got into Vancouver after midnight. My connecting Air Canada flight to Kelowna was long gone. I had no choice but to take a hotel for the night and catch an early flight the next morning. I sent emails off to British, explaining the situation, hoping that they would reimburse some of my expenses they caused because of the delay, but no luck. They explained nicely, that their job was, to take me from Europe to Vancouver and that’s what they did.
If Air Canada would have been my carrier from Europe and all the way, they would have put me up in a hotel and paid for it. when you use different airlines you’re out of luck.
Some people save a bit in flying through the USA, which usually means longer travelling time and more stops on the way. I tried it ones but it’s not worth the hassle for me.
But should you always go for the cheapest flight? It depends on the route you prefer and the travelling hours. For me, to pay a bit more sometimes is definitely worth it.
Domestic flights in Canada
If your destination is a smaller city and you need a domestic flight, finding a cheap domestic flight in Canada is not an easy task; flying in Canada can be expensive. The two most popular airlines for domestic flights are Air Canada and WestJet. Both airlines run international and domestic flights through Canada.
Check for flight specials! Make a habit of checking for specials at least twice a week. Try to book your flight for mid-week, which is usually cheaper than flying on weekends. Apparently, airlines update prices up to 5 times a day, so it’s best to check early morning and late afternoon.
Another Tip Regarding Airlines
Don’t assume that there is no flight because the travel agent can’t find one, or your favourite online resource doesn’t show one. Phone the airlines directly if you left it too late and everybody tells you that all planes are full. The airlines never make all the seats available to agents, therefore, phone them and see what happens.
Cheap Canadian Flights – Booking
Although lots of travellers book their trip to Canada online, for many visitors a flight to Canada is still a fairly complex affair, with at least one stopover, with sometimes different ports of arrival and departure.
Although many visitors would be well advised to choose a package that includes domestic flights.
It depends on how much time you have for your trip and how flexible you are. If you only have two weeks and are restricted in arrival and departure dates and don’t know Canada at all, then you might be better off to book with an experienced Canadian travel agent.
On the other hand, if you plan to come to Canada for a few month, like many students and working holiday makers do, and if you don’t need a package with domestic flights, then there is a good chance that your cheapest option would be found online.
It pays to understand how the travel industry works
And it pays to spend some time looking. It’s important to check out all the dates, as far as you are willing to move them. I saved $200 on my last Canada/Europe flight by flying one week later. The prices are different for every day of the week, and airlines have all sorts of special deals.
Experience with arrival and departure ports if you can. Sometimes longer flights are cheaper.
A good Canadian travel agent knows all those options and is aware of any special deals, and therefore saves you lots of time digging through various online services at flight search engines.
Whatever way you book your flights, make sure that you have plenty of time between transfers. At the first port of arrival in Canada, you have to take out your luggage go through customs, which, especially at larger places like Toronto and Montreal can take some time.