As we were planning our trip to Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, we quickly realized how far apart our destinations were and how we were going to need to be somewhat strategic about where we stayed in order to avoid spending the entire trip driving around in the car.
Brian was in charge of hotels so once I mapped a suggested itinerary, he went to work finding places to stay along our route.
This quickly stressed him out—there was nothing available within decent proximity to the places we wanted to experience for a reasonable price (e.g. less than $300/night). We looked at using hotel points, staying at AirBnB and VRBOs, finding space at campgrounds—no matter the venue, there were no vacancies, or the price was not right.
Much as we considered alternative destinations to the highly visited tourist sites we wanted to see, we began considering alternative locations where we could stay. Because of Brian’s diligence and creativity, this ended up working out for us, but I highly recommend you book your accommodations as early as possible if budget or location are important to you.
We ended up staying in three different places on our trip, putting us relatively close to the three general areas we wanted to visit: greater Banff/Lake Louise area, Icefields Parkway/Jasper area, and Calgary.
The Drake Inn, Canmore
We flew into Calgary in the late afternoon and immediately made our way to Canmore, just outside the park entrance. Canmore is only 15 miles (24 km) from Banff and the prices to stay there were half those in Banff.
There’s something to be said for staying in Banff—it’s picturesque, you can walk to endless restaurants and shops, some of the hotels appeared quite luxurious, and you can focus on all the town has to offer. If those things matter to you and you don’t mind spending more for them, then I would recommend staying in Banff—no need to fight the traffic and parking when you can comfortably stay and walk around to everything.
However, for those same reasons I think you can easily get stuck in Banff and end up missing out on the highlights of the surrounding area. Banff was an important stop on our itinerary, but one of many—it was relatively easy for us to pop in and out, see what we wanted, and continue on.
If you just need a place to crash, I recommend staying at the Drake Inn in Canmore, which is your standard motel – clean and simple. We were within walking distance of a couple groceries where we stocked up on items for the following day as well as restaurants, and as you can see from the photos below, we were nestled in between the mountains and had some stunning views from our rooms.
The Crossing Resort, Improvement District No. 9
Our second accommodation was my favorite–the Crossing Resort. The word ‘resort’ has a certain connotations that I would like to clarify in this instance. The Crossing is a resort insomuch as it is a recreational destination if you’re exploring the parks. It is also an inclusive resort insomuch that it has a grocery, gas station, restaurants, and rooms.
However, it’s not the glamorous, all-inclusive experience that I think typically comes to people’s minds when they hear that word. So, as long as you’re not looking for glamour, this is a wonderful place to stay!
It’s perfectly situated between Lake Louise and Jasper and is one of the last places you can get gas and food before driving the Icefields Parkway. This made it absolutely perfect for our itinerary as we were traveling from Banff to Lake Louise to Jasper and then back toward Calgary and wanted to stay somewhere in the midst of all those things, especially the day we were driving to Jasper and back.
Our rooms were nice, the restaurant had hearty ala carte and buffet options for all meals, and the complex is nestled between the mountains, affording us amazing 360 views regardless of which direction our rooms faced. I highly recommend staying here!
Fairfield Inn & Suites, Calgary
The last night of our trip we arrived back in Calgary and checked into the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Calgary Downtown. Brian was able to use points to book our rooms at a reasonable rate, and we were only a few blocks from the major downtown sites on our list.
The on-site, valet-only parking was a little steep, but the rooms were very nice, as was the complementary breakfast. Your standard hotel experience, but the location and price were right for our purposes.
We spent the night and then walked to everything we wanted to do in the immediate area the next morning prior to checking out and driving to our other destinations. I didn’t take any photos, but if you go to the hotel’s website, you’ll get the general idea.
Overall we were thrilled with the places we stayed, mostly because of their locations. We don’t tend to spend much time in our accommodations when we travel, using them primarily as a place to simply crash for the night, so these worked out perfectly for us.