I remember a few months ago reading that there were more than 100,000 tickets to Vancouver Olympic events available for $25. So cheap! At the time, I thought that even someone on a pretty tight budget (say, for instance, me) could probably find an affordable way to go to the Winter Games.
But that was then and this is now. Sure, you can probably still get decent deals on flights to Vancouver during the Games (I found a round-trip flight from San Francisco for $437, including taxes). But more than likely, you'll quickly run into the following budget-pummeling realities:
Accommodations are hard to find and very expensive
When I looked at staying for a full week, my accommodations options narrowed dramatically because very few hotels had availability for seven days in a row. And even what was available was priced far out of most people's reach, and level of sanity. I'm talking $588 (U.S.) per night for a room at a one-and-a-half star hotel in a suburb of Vancouver. Yikes.
Thinking I might be able to outsmart the hotels, I looked into shorter stays at vacation rentals. But with rates for a rental with room for four starting around $900 per weeknight during the Olympics, it wasn't the deal I was hoping for.
My next tactic was to consider the hospitality packages being sold by CoSport, the Olympic ticket vendor, that combine accommodations and event tickets. On the upside, CoSport offered a better variety of accommodations options. The (big) downside was the cost: a four-day package at the River Rock Casino Resort, with tickets to ice hockey, snowboarding, figure skating, and the February 15 Vancouver Victory Ceremony, cost $2,782 per person.
Finally, finally, I found my in. Hostelbookers.com had one listing with availability: a budget bed and breakfast in a suburb of Vancouver from $139 per night. Hostels.com had a similar option from $146 per night. The location wasn't ideal, but the price was right.
Tickets to many events are pricey
If you want to watch the most popular events of the Olympics, expect to pay for the privilege. The cheapest tickets to the Opening Ceremony are going for $678 right now. The lowest price I could find for anything related to ice skating was $202 a ticket.
Tickets to in-demand events are expensive, but there are still affordable tickets to be had. Catch some luge or bobsleigh action for $41 per ticket. Biathlon tickets are positively cheap at $34. See women's short-track speed skating or snowboarding for $67, or speed skating for $128.
How to book smart and (hopefully) save money
Is there any hope for those of us who don't have a gold medal to hawk to finance an Olympic trip? Maybe. Here are some tips for booking:
- Choose your dates wisely: Check out the Olympic event calendar and find a window of days with events you want to see. Don't be too ambitious: It's much easier to find accommodations for say, three weekdays in a row than it is for a full week or a long weekend.
- Book accommodations now: There are very few options left. You'll need to be wily and creative to find anything less than extortionate rates. Go beyond online travel agencies and look at hostels, vacation rentals, or even couch surfing.
- Consider less popular events: Tickets to biathlon, luge, and other events are currently under $50 per tickets. Click on any date in the event calendar to check ticket prices and piece together an affordable set of events. And consider a ticket to the Vancouver Victory Ceremony. I'm not entirely sure what happens at these nightly events (I think there are medals and live music), but at $22 a ticket, it's the best deal in town.