3 reasons why Banff is the perfect spring getaway

Banff is a beautiful mountain town tucked away in the Canadian Rockies. Located about an hour-and-a-half drive away from Calgary, Banff (and the surrounding area) is known for incredible views, breathtaking mountains, and, during the winter, skiing and snowboarding.

I’m not a skier/snowboarder myself and hate cold weather, but I’ve been dying to go to Banff for years. After finding an amazing deal (more on that below) and a willing friend to accompany me, I was lucky enough to stay there for most of the second week of May. After visiting, I’m convinced that Banff – known more for its winter-time activities – is also the perfect spring getaway.

1. Beautiful scenery

The drive to Banff from Calgary is stunning. When you land, you can already see the snow-capped Rockies in the distance and, in no time at all you’re soon taken away to a majestic winter-ish wonderland.

It’s a “winter-ish” wonderland because, depending on when you go in the spring, some of the snow has already started to melt away. This means that the rivers are starting to fill back up, that some of the lakes no longer are covered in ice, and that you may even be able to catch an avalanche (I did!). Of course, and this probably goes without saying, you should be careful if you’re searching for avalanches, as a number of tourists have died hiking in the area in the last few months.

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View from the top of Sulphur Mountain. Despite looking pretty cold, it was actually warm enough to stroll around in a t-shirt.

Something that drew me to Banff was pictures of snow-covered mountains and lakes with crystal-clear blue water. While some lakes, like the famous Lake Louise, were still covered in ice, we were able to find other lakes that had the iconic clear water.

2. Enjoy the snow/ice, but without the cold

Although it’s impossible to predict the weather in advance, May weather in Banff is often between 50-65 degrees farenheight for the high. When I was there, the weather was actually around 65-70 degrees. Because it was the first really warm days of spring, I got to enjoy one of my favorite activities – laying by the pool while staring at snow-covered mountains.

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Lake Louise, Alberta in 60-65 degree Fahrenheit weather (before the ice melts).

It also made hiking a lot easier, particularly if you’re woefully prepared for winter activities like myself. One word of advice, though – be very careful when hiking up mountains because melting snow can be slippery (so be sure to invest in a pair of hiking shoes, if you can).

3. Spring is one of Banff’s shoulder season

If you read Josh Trips regularly, you know that I love a good shoulder season. The most popular times to visit Banff are winter and summer. While in the winter you can take advantage of the slopes and during the summer you can play on the lakes, some major benefits to traveling to Banff during the spring are lower hotel prices, less crowds, and better availability for popular activities, like dinner at the top of Sulphur Mountain (the latter usually books up weeks in advance, but I was able to grab tickets only a few days before).

The entire time I was there, we didn’t experience one traffic problem (except for needing to stop for a few minutes to let a train pass), were able to get a table at every restaurant we went to, and were always able to easily find parking.

While it’s worth visiting Banff any time of year, I think I may have a found a new favorite spring-time destination.

My 2018 travel goals

My blog just celebrated its first anniversary (!) and I want continue a tradition I started a year ago, listing my travel goals for the upcoming year. This not only helps get me excited for the new year, but serves as inspiration when I’m looking to book travel.

Although I wasn’t able to accomplish everything on last year’s list (I still need to visit Alaska!), I had a wonderful year in travel, including trips to England, Portugal, Chile, Belize, Puerto Vallarta, Kauai, Miami, Scottsdale, Charleston, and two trips to both Colombia and New York.

My (exciting) travel in the last few months has largely come to a halt. I went to Kauai in September and I was getting ready to visit the Dominican Republic in October before heading to Madagascar in November; but a sick family member had me canceling those trips and heading back home to Philadelphia instead.

I’ve taken December and January off from travel to focus on my business and my health. That said, I am now getting excited thinking about traveling in the new year, and I wanted to share my travel goals for 2018.

1) Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan

It’s long been a dream of mine to visit Japan during the Cherry Blossom Festival. In early spring each year (the exact time changes depending on where in Japan you are), the sakura flowers bloom, putting on a marvelous show and attracting visitors from around the globe.

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While drafting this post last night before bed, I made this my number one goal and decided to look for flights. I quickly snagged a $595 ticket on All Nippon Airways (ANA), though by using my Chase points, I ended up paying only $200 for it.

I will land in Tokyo a day after peak bloom, though I’m still hoping to spend 1-2 days in the city and that I’ll be able to see some pretty flowers (as the exact time of blooming can change depending on the weather). From there, I’ll head to Kyoto and Osaka, where I will be there for the peak bloom.

This will be my first time back to Japan since 2011, when I was in Hokkaido for Yuki Matsuri, a.k.a. the Sapporo Snow Festival (which, to this day, is one of my favorite travel experiences ever). I am really excited to head back!

2) Hungary, Austria, and Germany

Last year, I had booked a trip to Budapest which I had to cancel at the last minute. I hope to make amends in 2018, finally getting to visit what seems like both a beautiful and an inexpensive European capital, and adding on trips to Austria and Germany in the process.

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While I often avoid Europe in the summer because of crowds and prices, I may make an exception for this trip, so that I can enjoy the mountains without snow (I haven’t owned a proper winter coat since 2009).

My rough itinerary includes Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, and Berlin.

3) Alaska

Alaska has made my list every year since I moved back to the mainland United States. But every year, I keep missing it.

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The main reason I haven’t visited yet is that I stopped driving in 2011 when I moved to San Francisco, and the idea of getting my bearings back in a rental car while in the mountains scared the hell out of me. That said, I finally drove on my last trip to Hawaii, and I didn’t kill myself, my friend, or anybody else. Visiting Alaska without a car seemed kind of pointless, but with my new confidence in driving and a bunch of miles on Alaska thanks to the merger with Virgin America, I’m hoping 2018 is the year I finally visit.

4) Banff National Park

Canada’s oldest national park, located in the Rocky Mountains, has been a dream destination of mine for years. Like Alaska, my main reason for not having visited yet was a fear of driving, but I’m hoping to put all that aside for an amazing trip to Alberta and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in pictures.

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To get there, I’ll need to fly into Calgary, and having looked at tickets before, I’m confident I can grab a ticket for around $200-$300 if I time it right. Lodging in Calgary is fairly cheap (I’ve found decent places for ~$50/night), and it’s possible to make the city your base to take on day trips to the majestic mountains.

Like Alaska, I hope to go in summer as well, although I am already getting a bit overwhelmed by all the travel I’m hoping to do then, and would be perfectly happy with a visit in spring or fall.

5) Guam

Earlier this year, I snagged a $550 ticket to Guam on United. Since I am barred as an attorney on Guam and have lots of friends still on the island, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to explore business opportunities and to see friends I haven’t seen in a while in the process.

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6) Patagonia

Patagonia has been a dream of mine for years. In fact, I’ve booked and canceled two trips to the region since 2014. On the first trip, I was in Buenos Aires when I looked at the weather forecast for Ushuaia (located at the very tip of South America) and decided to head for Mendoza instead. In 2015, I had something similar happen – I was in Santiago with a trip planned to Chilean Patagonia when a weather forecast scared me off, and instead I visited the Atacama Desert.

Since my other (hopeful) trips will bring me to Europe and the Asia-Pacific, which are difficult time zones for me to work from, I wanted to add on a South/Central American adventure, and think Patagonia will be perfect.

Torres del Paine

Ideally, I’m hoping to go to Bariloche, which is in Argentina and boasts incredibly beautiful mountains with amazing hikes, though I am also open to Torres del Paine, located in the Chilean lakes district. I’m hoping to time this around November/December, so that I can be as warm as possible, though I may need to invest in a heavier jacket just in case.

This post has me totally stoked for the new year. Comment below with your 2018 travel goals – I would love to hear them!