5 small Canadian cities you can use points and miles to visit in 2020
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Canada is one of my favorite places to vacation. It’s nearby and full of culture, great food, amazing cities and plenty of places to experience the great outdoors. I spent quite a bit of time in Canada in 2019, and already have plans to visit the country in 2020 (albeit, once the border reopens).
However, this year’s Canada plans are vastly different than my 2019 Canadian travels. Last year, I mostly focused on the big cities, visiting Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. This year though, I plan to visit a handful of smaller cities — starting with visiting my cousin in Victoria and eventually making my way to other places like Jasper, Quebec City and Yellowknife.
Interested in exploring Canada after the coronavirus outbreak is contained? Keep on reading — in this article, I’ll show you the best small Canadian cities you should visit in 2020 and beyond and how to book flights and hotels using your points and miles. But first, let’s take a look at how I chose cities to include in this article.
Let’s get started!
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Visiting small Canadian cities with points and miles
When writing this article, I focused on finding off-the-beaten-path destinations in Canada that are ripe for tourism in late 2020 and early 2021. I made a point to find destinations that you may not already know about and places that make it easy to social distance, so you’ll see many small cities and nature-focused destinations on this list.
I’ll give you a quick overview of each destination as well as tips for how to use points and miles to book flights and get a hotel in each city. Just remember — booking travel during the coronavirus outbreak comes with its risks, so make sure that you understand your airline’s cancellation policy before you book and pay attention to the CDC’s travel website in the weeks before you’re set to travel.
Related: 11 reasons to visit Canada this year
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the destinations.
Victoria, British Columbia
Let’s start with my first (tentative) Canadian destination: Victoria, British Colombia. My cousin recently relocated from Prague to Victoria for the year, so this trip is mostly to visit him. But the more he tells me about the city, the more excited I am to get there to see the sights and experience the local culture.
What to see in Victoria
Victoria is a city on Vancouver Island, located off the West Coast of Canada. The city is known for its beautiful parks and nature preserves, like Beacon Hill Park and Fisherman’s Wharf Park. You can also take in stunning architecture when you visit the Craigdarroch Castle and the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, all of which are centrally located in downtown Victoria.
Victoria also has a bustling craft beer and food scene. Some breweries on the island include Hoyne Brewing and Vancouver Island Brewing, both of which put out an excellent mix of IPAs, stouts and other awesome craft brews. You can also find an excellent mix of seafood, farm-to-table gastropub fare and other excellent culinary delights on the island, so make sure to come hungry.
Getting outside of the city, you can visit other islands like North Pender Island. These can be accessed via ferry, giving you plenty of easy day trips from Victoria.
Getting to Victoria with points and miles
Americans have three airline options for flying to Victoria: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, and WestJet. These airlines are either a part of a major alliance or have partnerships with major American carriers, so you can easily use points and miles to fly from the U.S. to Victoria (YYJ).
Using transferrable rewards to fly Air Canada
You can route through Calgary (YYC), Montreal (YUL), Toronto (YYZ) and Vancouver (YVR) to Victoria, giving you one-stop access to Victoria from most large and mid-sized American cities.
Those with American Express Membership Rewards points, Capital One miles, and Citi ThankYou points can transfer 12,500 points each way to Avianca LifeMiles to book a one-stop economy ticket on any of these routes from the U.S. — just note that your first leg may be operated by United Airlines.
Similarly, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus to book these same tickets. Pricing may vary as United recently moved to dynamically priced partner awards, but you can expect to pay around 12,500 miles each way when flying from the U.S. to Victoria when saver award space is available.
Using Alaska Airlines miles
Alaska Airlines flies to Victoria from its hub at Seattle (SEA), giving Seattle residents an easy air link to the island and those based in other U.S. cities another one-stop option. Alaska Airlines is in the process of joining the Oneworld alliance and already partners with major carriers like American Airlines and British Airways for mileage redemption.
If you live on the West Coast, your best bet for booking Alaska Airlines awards is using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. The carrier uses a distance-based award chart, so shorter routes cost fewer miles. Flights less than 700 miles in distance, such as Portland (PDX) to Victoria, cost just 5,000 miles each way. And trips from 701 to 1,400 miles, like Los Angeles (LAX) to Victoria, cost 7,500 miles each way. Even better, you can build in a free stopover, even on one-way itineraries.
Using British Airways Avios
If you don’t have access to Alaska miles, another option is using British Airways Avios. This program also employs a distance-based award chart and prices out awards by segment. So we only recommend using Avios to book Alaska Airlines flights to Victoria if you live in Seattle and will take a non-stop flight.
If you fall into this camp, you’ll pay just 9,000 Avios one-way from Seattle to Victoria in economy class with minimal taxes and fees. You can transfer points from both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points to British Airways.
Using AAdvantage miles
Booking a connecting ticket through Seattle? Book your Alaska Airlines award ticket with American AAdvantage miles and you’ll pay 12,500 miles one-way in economy. You can’t transfer miles to American from any of the major credit card programs, but you can earn them using a variety of different methods.
Using Delta SkyMiles
Delta has a limited presence in Canada, so it partners with Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet to offer service in the country. WestJet flies to Victoria from a number of different Canadian cities, with the most notable being Calgary, Edmonton (YEG), Vancouver (YVR) as well as seasonal service from Toronto (YYZ).
The airline also flies from a number of different U.S. cities to its Canadian hubs, including New York (JFK and LGA), Los Angeles (LAX) and Orlando (MCO), amongst others. This gives Americans yet another great option for getting to Victoria.
We’ve found that all WestJet tickets price at 12,500 SkyMiles one way when booking from the U.S. to Victoria through the end of the year. There are a number of different ways to earn Delta SkyMiles, but the easiest way is to transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards.
Where to stay in Victoria with points
There are a handful of points hotels located near downtown Victoria. These are your best options:
Delta Hotels by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort
Delta Hotels is one of Marriott’s newest brands. While it usually focuses on business travelers, the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort is geared towards the leisure traveler too. The hotel is housed in a beautiful building that meshes modern architecture and classic British Columbia style. It has a restaurant and pool on-site as well as newly renovated rooms.
A weekend night at the property costs around $233 at the end of the year. Alternatively, the hotel is a Category 5 property that you can use 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points or a free night certificate to book.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Victoria
Hilton loyalists can stay at the DoubleTree Hotel & Suites in downtown Victoria. This hotel is located just steps away from the Victoria ferry docks, so you can avoid Uber or taxi fare if you arrive by boat. Beyond that, the hotel is pretty standard for a DoubleTree — it has nice rooms, an on-site restaurant and a fitness center.
A weekend night at the property costs around $290 after taxes and currency conversion in late 2020. Alternatively, you can use Hilton Honors points and weekend night certificates from Hilton cobranded American Express cards. Award nights are priced dynamically, but a sample night in October 2020 costs 60,000 Hilton points.
Days Inn by Wyndham Victoria On The Harbour
Don’t let the Days Inn brand scare you — the Days Inn Victoria On The Harbour is a surprisingly nice budget property in downtown Victoria. It’s located right next to the ferry docks and has beautiful waterfront views.
The property is well-priced too — you can book a one-night weekend stay in Nov. 2020 for around $81 per night, including taxes. Alternatively, you can use 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points to book the same stay, although this isn’t a great value as you’d only get 0.54 cents per point in value (less than half of TPG’s 1.1 cents per point valuation of Wyndham points).
Best Western Plus Inner Harbour
Best Western operates a couple of properties in Victoria, one being the Best Western Plus Inner Harbour. This hotel is centrally located and has pretty standard rooms, all of which have a balcony. Plus, you can enjoy a free continental breakfast regardless of the room you book.
A weekend night in late 2020 costs $147 after taxes, or you can use 24,000 Best Western Rewards points for a free stay.
Related: How to get free hotel breakfast
Quebec City, Quebec
Quebec City has been on my list of places to visit since I returned from Montreal earlier this year. Friends have told me that the city is — even more than Montreal — the most European place in North America. Plus, it’s a quick nonstop flight from my home in New York City, so it’s an intriguing weekend trip destination.
What to see in Quebec City
As you might expect, Quebec City is known for its European architecture. The city has tons of French-inspired castles and districts, many of which are filled with cafes, French restaurants and independent shops. Some of the city’s must-see districts include Old Quebec and Quartier Petit Champlain.
Looking for a little nature in your trip to Quebec City? Head over to Montmorency Falls. You can hike around waterfalls that feed into the Montmorency River, which runs through the center of the city. You can get to the falls by walking or taking a quick public bus ride from Quebec City center.
Getting to Quebec City with points and miles
Being the capital of Quebec, Quebec City has nonstop flights from a number of major U.S. airports. Currently, American and United Airlines operate flights to the city — here’s the best way to book these flights with points and miles.
Using AAdvantage miles
American Airlines operates seasonal nonstop service from its hubs in Chicago (ORD) and Philadelphia (PHL) to Quebec City (YQB). Philadelphia service runs over the summer while Chicago service runs over the winter months, giving those based on the U.S. East Coast and Midwest easy connections to the capital city.
If you’re booking a nonstop flight, your best bet is to book flights using British Airways Avios. Flights from Philadelphia and Chicago both cost 9,000 Avios and have low taxes and fees attached. You can transfer points in from Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards. Remember though — British Airways charges by segment so connecting flights will cost significantly more points.
Connecting passengers will want to book with AAdvantage miles. All tickets with Saver award space cost 12,500 American miles with minimal taxes and fees, but you may be able to score a better deal if you find discounted Web Special award space.
Related: How to earn American Airlines miles
Using United or LifeMiles
United flies to Quebec City from Newark (EWR) year-round and seasonally from Chicago. These tickets cost 12,500 miles when you book with either Avianca LifeMiles, Capital One miles or ThankYou points.
Alternatively, travelers with Ultimate Rewards members can transfer points to United MileagePlus to book these flights. Again, United prices all awards dynamically these days, but you can usually find flights from the U.S. to Canada for 12,500 United miles one-way.
Where to stay in Quebec City with points
While most hotels in Quebec City are independent boutique hotels, there are some points options to be found. Here’s a quick look at some of our favorites:
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
With its imposing castle-like architecture, The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is one of the premier hotels in Quebec City. It’s located downtown near the St. Lawrence River, giving sweeping views of both the city and the river. Inside, you can expect luxurious rooms, five restaurants and even an on-site florist.
A weekend night at the property costs around $250 in late 2020. Alternatively, you can book with Accor Live Limitless points — 2,000 points gives you a 40 euro (~$43.75) discount on your stay, so you’d need around 12,000 points for a free stay. You can transfer points from Capital One to Accor Live Limitless at a 2:1 transfer ratio.
Marriott: Quebec City Marriott Downtown
The Quebec City Marriott Downtown is Marriott’s premier hotel in Quebec City. The recently-renovated hotel is located in the heart of downtown Quebec City, with breathtaking city views and an on-site restaurant that serves traditional Canadian fare and cocktails. The rooms are nice but pretty barebones, so the hotel is a good option if you plan on spending your time exploring the city.
A one-night weekend stay at the property costs around $155 or 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points in late 2020. In this case, we’d recommend paying your stay with cash — the 0.31 cents per point in value you’d get from this redemption is less than half of TPG’s most recent valuation.
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
Yellowknife is the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories. The city is located on the edge of the Arctic Circle, making it a premier North American location for seeing the Northern Lights. In the winter, the city experiences high snowfall, transforming it into a true winter wonderland.
What to see in Yellowknife
Given its location, most travelers go to Yellowknife for easy access to its surrounding nature. You can get in touch with local guides to take you on dog-sledding adventures, take a drive to the Dettah Ice Road and hike on one of the surrounding trails.
Better yet, you can see the Northern Lights from the city from mid-November to early April. Keep an eye out for Northern Lighthouses that are placed around the city — these miniature lighthouses light up green when the Northern Lights will be visible later in the day.
Want to take a break from the outdoors? There are a handful of museums in Yellowknife, with the most popular being the Prince of Wales Heritage Center.
Getting to Yellowknife with points and miles
Yellowknife isn’t served by any U.S.-based airlines, so you’ll need to make a quick stop in a larger Canadian city when you fly in. You can fly either Air Canada or WestJet to Yellowknife (YZF) using points and miles.
Using United or LifeMiles
Air Canada flies to Yellowknife from Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Use the Avianca LifeMiles and United MileagePlus options we discussed earlier to book these tickets using your points and miles — this is especially important since flights to Yellowknife are expensive during the Northern Lights season.
Using Delta SkyMiles
You can fly WestJet to Yellowknife through its hubs in Calgary and Edmonton. As discussed earlier, you can use 12,500 Delta SkyMiles to book award tickets on one of these flights. WestJet flights to Yellowknife are bookable on Delta.com.
Where to stay in Yellowknife with points
Yellowknife is home to only a small handful of points hotels, none of which are overly luxurious. But that’s OK — you’re likely visiting Yellowknife to see the nature surrounding the city, so these hotels provide a clean place to rest your head in between your adventures. These are your options:
Quality Inn & Suites Yellowknife
The Qualify Inn & Suites Yellowknife is a basic hotel located in downtown Yellowknife. Reviews note that the rooms are clean and the location is great, and the hotel’s website notes that it offers free breakfast and an airport shuttle for all guests.
You can book a weekend night in late 2020 for around $150. Those with Choice Privileges points can use 20,000 points for a free night, but note that you can only book 100 days out from your date of arrival. Choice Privileges points transfer from Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.
Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Yellowknife
Wyndham operates two hotels in the Yellowknife area, with the most centrally-located property being the Days Inn & Suites Yellowknife. Like the Quality Inn discussed earlier, this hotel is barebones. It does have two key amenities though: free parking and a free airport shuttle. Parking is a particularly great perk for those renting a car.
A weekend night in Dec. costs $113, or you can use 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points to cover your stay. We’d recommend paying cash for this stay — at less than 1 cent per point in value, you’re better off saving your points for another use.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax is a maritime city located on Canada’s East Coast. The city has a sizeable population of just over 315,000 people, and it’s known for its seafood, parks and boat life. Plus, it’s just a quick flight away from major U.S. East Coast cities.
What to see in Halifax
Halifax is a vibrant city, with a bustling downtown and a waterfront area that transforms into a nightlife hub in the summertime. Make sure to take a walk on the waterfront boardwalk when you first get to town — you’ll be greeted with classic buildings and tons of restaurants and shopping. It’s sure to be a hit for everyone in your group.
If you’re looking to eat and drink your way through Halifax, make sure to check out the city’s various seafood restaurants, breweries and gastropubs during your visit. The city also has a number of craft coffee shops, like the Weird Harbour Espresso Bar, which will help you start your maritime adventure off right.
The city is home to a handful of interesting museums too, with Pier 21 being a favorite for many. Here, you can learn all about early immigration to Canada. Those with Canadian heritage can trace family history and build a family tree.
Getting to Halifax with points and miles
Halifax has seasonal nonstop service from a number of U.S. cities on each of the big three U.S. airlines. Here’s a look at all your flight options (and how to book them with miles).
Using Avios to
American Airlines operates summer seasonal service to Halifax (YHZ) from its hubs in New York (LGA) and Philadelphia. Like other American flights noted in this article, those flying direct are best off booking with British Airways Avios and those booking connecting flights should book with AAdvantage miles.
Using Delta SkyMiles
Delta operates summer seasonal service from its New York (LGA) hub to Halifax, but the service doesn’t look to be running for the 2020 season. However, we’re hopeful that service will resume for the 2021 summer travel season — when it does, you should be able to book the ticket with your SkyMiles.
WestJet also operates a once-weekly, nonstop service from Halifax to Orlando (MCO) year-round on Sundays. You can book these flights with Delta SkyMiles as well, and we’re seeing all flights with award space price at 12,500 SkyMiles one-way through the end of 2020.
Alternatively, you can book a one-stop ticket on WestJet through Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto using your SkyMiles.
Using United and LifeMiles
United operates year-round service from its Newark (EWR) hub three times a day. Like other United tickets discussed, you can book this ticket using LifeMiles, United miles or another Star Alliance currency of your choosing.
Where to stay in Halifax with points
Halifax is one of the larger cities on this list, so it has a few points options. Here are some of the best points properties.
The Hollis Halifax, DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel
Hilton operates a few properties in Halifax, with the most centrally located property being The Hollis Halifax. This hotel operates under the DoubleTree brand, but is unique in that it operates an all-suite room plan. This makes the property a good choice for families or remote workers that want a larger room to work in.
The hotel is pretty nice too — it has a modern lobby, breakfast (free for Gold and higher elites) and a cocktail bar that’s perfect for winding down for the day. You can book a weekend night in late 2020 for $118 after taxes or just 27,000 Hilton Honors points a night.
Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel
The Halifax Marriott Harbourfront is Marriott’s flagship property in the city. It’s located right on the Halifax waterfront, giving you inspiring views of both the city and oncoming boat traffic. The rooms look a bit dated but are spacious and have everything you need for a comfortable stay. Plus, the hotel has a rooftop bar and an on-site coffee bar.
A weekend night in late 2020 costs around $140, or you can use 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. This isn’t a great deal at just 0.4 cents per point in value, so you may want to pay cash for the stay and save your Marriott points for a different redemption.
The Westin Nova Scotian
Marriott also operates a Westin property in Halifax. It has waterfront views similar to the Marriott Harbourfront, but we think that the rooms look a little more modern. Rooms cost around $200 per night or you can book for just 25,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a night.
Related: How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points
Jasper is a remote city in Alberta, surrounded by the Canadian Rockies. Visitors beware, though: being a town of just 4,500 people, you’ll need to drive from a nearby airport to get there. Here’s everything you need to know.
What to see in Jasper
Located in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper is the perfect jumping-off point for seeing all that the Canadian West has to offer. You can take hikes through the stunning Jasper National Park of Canada, ride the Jasper SkyTram for excellent views of the mountains and walk around Maligne Lake to see some of the most visually-pleasing blue water on the planet.
Looking to ski too? Go to Jasper in the winter and head to the nearby Marmot Basin ski resort to hit the slopes. The resort boasts the highest base elevation in Canada and has 91 runs that span four mountain faces. Just be sure to go at the right time — Jasper’s ski season runs from mid-Nov. to early May.
But Jasper isn’t all about the outdoors. The town has Canada’s first national park brewery — Jasper Brewing Company — and is filled with unique cafes and restaurants where you can recharge throughout the day.
Getting to Jasper with points and miles
Now for the bad news: Jasper doesn’t have an airport. Instead, you’ll need to fly to Edmonton and either rent a car or take a bus to Jasper. On the bright side, this gives you time to check out Edmonton and there are a number of ways to get there with points and miles, so let’s assess your options.
Use LifeMiles or Aeroplan
Star Alliance partners Air Canada and United both offer nonstop service to Edmonton from a handful of U.S. airports. Air Canada flies from San Francisco (SFO) to the city, while United offers flights from Denver (DEN) and Houston (IAH). You can book connecting flights if you don’t live in one of these three cities.
Use the Star Alliance booking options we discussed earlier to book one of these tickets — if you’re planning to book with Air Canada, your best bet may be to book with LifeMiles or Air Canada Aeroplan to avoid dynamic partner pricing with United.
Use Alaska miles
Alaska Airlines flies from its Seattle hub to Edmonton twice a day, giving those in the Pacific Northwest an easy nonstop option. You can book award tickets on this flight using the British Airways Avios and American AAdvantage options we discussed earlier, or you can pay using Alaska MileagePlan miles.
Use Delta SkyMiles
WestJet has a large presence in Edmonton, with year-round connections available to Las Vegas (LAS) and Los Angeles as well as seasonal service to Orlando, Phoenix (PHX) and a handful of Hawaiian airports. In addition, WestJet partner Delta Air Lines flies from Minneapolis (MSP) to Edmonton year-round.
You can book flights with WestJet or Delta using the Delta SkyMiles options we discussed earlier. If you go the WestJet route, you can expect to pay 12,500 SkyMiles on most dates. We’re also seeing connecting flights on Delta metal for as little as 8,500 SkyMiles one-way in late 2020, but this is subject to change with Delta’s dynamic award pricing structure.
Where to stay in Jasper with points
Jasper is a small city and it doesn’t have many points hotels. Most travelers opt to stay at local boutique properties and pay cash, although there is one option available to you if you have Accor Live Limitless points.
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is Jasper’s premier hotel — it offers four-star luxury, with amenities like an on-site spa, multiple dining options and beautiful views of the surrounding nature. The log-cabin inspired rooms are great too, and they’ll be sure to put you in the adventurous mood as you prepare for a long day of hiking.
The hotel isn’t cheap, though. A weekend night at the end of the year costs around $426 a night, though you can use Accor Live Limitless points to drop the price in 40 euro ($43.75) increments.
Canada is an amazing country with plenty of cities to visit. Add these places to your list for late 2020 and early 2021 post-coronavirus travel — they provide a great way to see a new city while staying relatively close to home. And if you have an assortment of miles and points available to you, you can do it on the cheap.
Featured photo by Maridav/Shutterstock.
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