BC,  Local Travel

The Lazy Girl’s Budget Guide to Whistler, BC

Whistler, BC is known as Canada’s outdoor playground. It’s the place to be for hiking, cycling, ziplining, skiing, snowboarding and any other adventure or athletic activity you can think of. Whistler is filled to the brim with Aussie expats (usually holding skis), expensive as hell, and one of the most beautiful and charming areas in the world.

And it’s in our backyard!

Whistler is just over two hours from Vancouver. Despite the close distance, before this year, I had only been to Whistler once. I went up with friends in university in 2012. We spent the day cross-country skiing (because we were too poor for downhill skiing) and downing beer-garitas (a beer bottle poured into a margarita). I learned that I was much more into apres-ski than I was actual skiing.

My first visit to Whistler in 2012

And then I never made it back! For some reason, I decided that Whistler and I weren’t a good fit. Probably because adventure sports and high price tags aren’t really my thing. But I’ve had a change of heart. 2018 found me visiting Whistler three times and I have to say, I’m a fan! I learned that it’s possible to have an amazing time in Whistler while sticking to a budget and passing on athletics.

If you love the idea of splashing out big cash for a vacation and you’re super into biking, hiking and snowboarding, you’re going to have a great time in Whistler. But I’m here to say you don’t have to be into any of those things to still enjoy a Whistler weekend.

Note: I call this the lazy girl’s guide but it applies just as well to the lazy boy! 

Go in the off-season

If you’re not in Whistler to ski or snowboard, there’s really no reason to pay a premium to visit in the winter. That’s not to say that it’s a budget destination in the summer, but it is definitely cheaper. Shoulder seasons like spring and fall will work too.

Even better if you can plan your visit for a weekday. There are tons of hotel deals to be had during the week. We found a great deal on TravelZoo and I would suggest checking out sites like TravelZoo, Groupon, etc. to find a hotel at half the price.

Explore the Whistler Village

The Village is adorable and, in my opinion, one of the highlights of a visit to Whistler. It feels like you’ve been transported to an adorable European town with cobblestones, cute shops and everything within walking distance. If I could afford to live in the Village full-time, I absolutely would.

Because the Village is such a hit, try to stay at a hotel in the Village or as close as you can. Some hotels also have shuttles that run to and from the Village, so look into those before booking.

Visit the grocery store

Food in Whistler is EXPENSIVE! Don’t be surprised if you rock up to a run of the mill pub and find that a sub-par burger is going to cost you over $20. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for splurging on food. But it has to be good food. Don’t waste your money on bad food that is just overpriced.

Instead, head to the IGA grocery store in the Village and do some shopping. You can buy ready-made meals or bring groceries back to your hotel if you happen to have a kitchen. Colin and I made nachos in our hotel kitchen and they were delicious and much cheaper than ones we would’ve bought at a restaurant.

Enjoy cheap treats

Because I find Whistler restaurants to either be bad and overpriced or good and out of my budget, I prefer to spend my food dollars on little treats instead. Two of my favourite snack options in the Village are Cows and Pure Bread. Cows is an ice cream store and they actually have two locations in the village (that are practically right next to one another). Their ice cream selection is amazing and the waffle cones are delicious.

Pure Bread is a bread lovers dream. They have all types of cookies, cakes, pastries, scones, brownies, muffins and more. I thought I had died and gone to carb heaven. I’ve sampled a few things from Pure Bread and every single one has been delicious.

PS: Neither of these snacks are healthy. Sorry!

Throw an axe

Yup, you heard me. Throw an axe. Whistler is known as home of the adventure activities. I’m not the person who is going to be bungee jumping off cliffs, racing down mountains or skiing out of helicopters. For one, I’m terrified. But I’m also broke and lacking the athletic skills required. But axe throwing was just the right amount of adventure for me (a teaspoon of adventure, you might say).

Because axe throwing is such a new sport (is it a sport?), no one expects you to be good at it. There is zero experience required. It’s also not that scary (you won’t get cut by an axe, I promise) and it doesn’t require too much strength or athletic prowess to do. And it’s one of the cheaper activities in Whistler. So it’s absolutely perfect for us non-athletes on a budget.

But most of all, axe throwing is just really fun! I had no idea I was going to enjoy it so much. In fact, I would love to start going to the axe throwing place here in Surrey. It’s such a blast! There are fun games you get to play, different axes you throw and different techniques you learn. And, it turns out, I’m not terrible at it.

Visit Lost Lake

Lost Lake is a really cool park area just outside of the Village. It’s got beautiful scenery, trails and a beach. It’s also dog-friendly with a little doggie beach area too. And, to satisfy the lazy quotient, Lost Lake is totally flat. You’re not hiking up anything or climbing over boulders. It’s just a nice leisurely walk around a beautiful space. I’d highly recommend it!

Make the most of your hotel

I think this is a great tip whenever you’re in an expensive location: make the most of your hotel. Staying in Whistler is never going to be super cheap (though you can find a deal). So take advantage of the place you’re paying to stay at. Sleep in late and enjoy the comfy king sized bed. Go to the pool and spend time in the hot tub. Enjoy the complimentary coffee and tea. Take a bath in the jacuzzi tub. And definitely bring some of those fancy mini shampoos home with you!

When Colin and I were in Whistler last, we went to the outdoor hot tub after dinner. Our hot tub happened to have a view of a dirt bike trail where people were zooming down for some sort of race. So not only did we enjoy our hot tub time but we also got to take in a show!

Splurge on the Scandinave Spa

Okay, this certainly isn’t a budget option. But if you want to splurge in Whistler, I have to recommend the Scandinave Spa. I visited the spa on a work trip (I know, I’m so lucky) and was totally wowed. The Scandinave Spa is basically a series of hot pools, cold pools, saunas and steam rooms. The idea is that you spend time soaking and enjoying the different temperatures while totally unplugging from the real world. No phones, no laptops and no speaking! The place is totally silent and it’s so serene.

While the spa itself isn’t cheap, you can make it worthwhile. It’s easy to spend hours and hours in the pools and rooms, reading a book and relaxing. The entrance fee is much more bearable when you think of how long you can actually spend there. Also be sure to check out their website as they often have deals for coming in the off-season. And pack a lunch because the cafe, like most things in Whistler, is pretty overpriced.

Bonus: Whistler is very dog friendly

Ellie sun-tanning in Whistler

This doesn’t have much to do with a budget or being lazy, but it’s just a great perk – Whistler is super dog friendly! Most of the hotels will let you bring a dog as long as you pay a pet fee (apx $25/night). The Village itself is also super pet friendly. They have poop bag dispensers all around the village and you can eat on most restaurant patios with your dog nearby. There are also lots of parks and green spaces around for your fur baby to enjoy!

Can you believe it? An entire guide to Whistler without one mention of where to rent skis or the best bike trails. There’s more to Whistler than just adventure sports and high price tags. You can totally have an amazing weekend in Whistler on a budget and while embracing your lazy side!

Have you been to Whistler?
What lazy budget activities would you recommend?


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  • kangaroo1964

    Wow, I have been to Whistler a few times over the years, but wouldn’t have thought of all the tips you provided. As usual, love the tips and reading your piece always makes me want to be there. Great pics and descriptions of everything! Thanks! Love it!

    • Riana

      Thanks so much, Moo! We had some great trips up to Whistler this year. I think you’d like the spa a lot so we’ll have to go back once you’re out here!

  • Gwen

    Great post! Whistler looks gorgeous and like so much fun. I completely agree with enjoying the hotel when you have actually splurged on one – there’s nothing like sleeping late in a big, comfy bed and feeling pampered for the day!

  • Josy A

    Oooh I have an extra budget tip for you! You can visit the Scandinavian spa more cheaply on Wednesdays. 🙂

    I know you’re less into it, but the hiking near Whistler is pretty spectacular (and cheap) too.

    I do love Whistler (although I was too poor to ski growing up, I am learning to love it as an adult) Still, we don’t normally stay the night so it works out a bit cheaper…

    • Riana

      Thanks, Josy! Such a great tip – I didn’t know about the Wednesday discounts. And I would love to get more into hiking, so will have to look up some easier trails.

  • Jen Ambrose

    Well I just spent a good 10 minutes reading about the Scandinave Spa – it sounds like heaven! I wish I’d known about the location in Montreal when we were there. Also, I’m cracking up at some of the negative reviews – like “I hated carrying around towels all day” and “We were not allowed to have two robes.” The horror! 😀

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