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With the cost of travel skyrocketing over the past few years because of inflation, more people are choosing to vacation closer to home. But even travelling domestically can still be expensive in Canada, where a return ticket across the country can cost $600 to $800, not to mention springing for a rental car when you land.

If you’re willing to skip the flight and drive your own vehicle, some cities and regions are cheaper than others. The five destinations below are rich in experiences that don’t require spending a fortune.

For an outdoors adventure: Charlevoix, Que.

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Glamping has taken off with domes and yurts in Charlevoix, Que.Supplied

Glamping – camping with luxury accommodations and facilities – has taken off with domes and yurts in this region, an hour’s drive from Quebec City.

A five-kilometre-wide meteorite crashed here 400 million years ago, forming rolling mountains in a landscape that also includes fjords and numerous bays. Today, you can hike, bike, swim and kayak at popular spots such as Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie and Parc national des Grands-Jardins. (Make your way to the Observatoire de l’Astroblème de Charlevoix to learn about the region’s history.)

To keep your energy up, indulge in local delicacies directly from farmers, cheesemongers, distillers and more on the Flavour Trail, a self-guided tour. Or explore artisan shops and boulangeries as you take in 360-degree landscapes at L’Isle-aux-Coudres, a 23-kilometre island in the Charlevoix basin that can only be reached by a free ferry.

How to stay within budget: Domaine à ciel ouvert (DACO) offers cabins starting at $130 a night, but you can also tent camp for as little as $40. Some travellers will splurge for one or two nights on luxury accommodations while camping for the rest of their time to keep costs down. Cooking your own meals with food from regional producers can save you a fair amount too.

For the culture: Surrey, B.C.

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Surrey was the only Canadian destination recently featured in Food & Wine magazine as one of the next great food cities in the world.Supplied

Don’t sleep on Vancouver’s suburban neighbour. British Columbia’s second-largest city by population offers the perfect mix of urban and nature, with incredible culinary experiences: It was the only Canadian destination recently featured in Food & Wine magazine as one of the next great food cities in the world. Start your flavourful journey by checking out Surrey’s Spice Trail, which highlights foods available at restaurants and grocery stores from Colombia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Nepal, West Africa, Mexico and more.

For even more of an up-close look at the local community, head to the Clayton Market, a biweekly pop-up (May to October), or take a fun and educational train ride on a restored heritage car with the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Adventure ($28.83 with taxes). If you time your visit right you can also catch some summer festivals like the free Fusion Festival, which celebrates cultures from around the world.

How to stay within budget: Many hotels in Surrey, such as Best Western, Ramada and Comfort Inn & Suites, cost $200 or less a night and offer free breakfast and a kitchenette. Short-term rentals on Airbnb and Vrbo can be even cheaper. Sticking to free attractions such as the Museum of Surrey, the Historic Stewart Farm and the Surrey Nature Centre will ensure you keep costs down.

For fun with fewer crowds: Edmonton

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Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton.Supplied

This must-go destination in Alberta offers a city trip with lower costs.

A good starting point is Fort Edmonton Park, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. There, live actors and recreated historical buildings allow visitors to immerse themselves in history, from First Nations to fur trading. The Alberta Legislature, a stunning example of beaux arts architecture that sits on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River, offers free guided tours if you register in advance. The Art Gallery of Alberta is always free for those under the age of 18, or for all visitors from 4 to 7 p.m. on the last Thursday of every month. And the University of Alberta Observatory has free viewings on Thursdays.

Festivals are serious business in the city and most are free to attend. For fire-eaters, magicians, musicians and more, head to the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, which runs July 5 to 14. Many of the performances are interactive and great for kids. From Aug. 15 to 25, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival puts on more than 200 shows at dozens of locations.

How to stay within budget: Edmonton has some great hotels that cost around $200 a night. Downtown, try the Matrix Hotel; in the historic district of Old Strathcona, the Metterra Hotel is a hidden gem. The city has great public transportation, so you don’t need a car. That said, you can rent electric scooters for two hours for $35. This is a great way to get the lay of the land quickly and dip down into the River Valley.

For wine and waves: Annapolis Valley, N.S.

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Fort Anne National Historic Site in the town of Annapolis, N.S.Wally Hayes/Supplied

About an hour north of Halifax, this region is famous for its tides, wine industry, whale watching and seafood.

Your first stop should be Burntcoat Head Park: Arrive during low tide to walk the ocean floor. Then, if you stick around for a few hours (pass the time with a picnic, walking trails or interactive exhibits) you’ll be able to watch 40 to 50 feet of water – the highest tides in the world – roll in. Another option: Cape Split, ideal for a worthwhile hike with epic coastline views.

Throughout the region you’ll find historic sites that shouldn’t be missed. The Fort Anne National Historic Site was once a centre of European colonization and an important gathering place for the Mi’kmaq people. For a recreation of early colonial settlements, head across the bay to the Port Royal National Historic Site. The Annapolis Valley Macdonald Museum is also worth a stop to see a collection of more than 150 antique clocks and watches, some dating back to the late 17th century.

Wine drinkers will be spoiled for choice with more than a dozen vineyards in the valley. Many wineries, including Luckett, Grand Pré, Benjamin Bridge and Planters Ridge, offer tastings from $12 to $40 in picturesque surroundings.

How to stay within budget: Stay at a vacation home or bed and breakfast. In downtown Kentville, you’ll find the Yellow House on the Hill, which has rooms starting at $115 a night. The town is small, diverse and energetic, making it an ideal place to stay and meet locals. While there, check out the Kings County Museum and Tides Contemporary Art Gallery; both have free entry.

For walkable history: Kingston

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Guards at Fort Henry, Kingston.Dwayne Brown Studio/Supplied

Though it often flies under the radar for travellers, this city is for people of all ages – with historic sites, dozens of museums and memorable shopping experiences.

A stroll through the Princess Street Promenade and Springer Market Square will give you a quick feel for what the historic downtown is all about: small artisan shops, quaint vibes and community events. Visiting during one of the Doors Open Kingston & Area events (July 20, Aug. 24 and Sept. 28) can be well worth your while for a behind-the-scenes look at Kingston City Hall, Babcock Mill, the Perth Museum and several other sites. The city’s arts and culture scene is surprisingly vast, and visitors can learn about it through self-guided tours that explore film, literary and musical landmarks, including ones connected to the Tragically Hip.

How to stay within budget: Kingston is easily accessible by Via Rail from Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal. Once there, the city is easy to get around by foot, bus or the Kingston Trolley. The latter is part of the K-Pass ($109 to $159), which is a great way to reduce costs. It includes admission to some of the top attractions, such as Fort Henry, the Great Lakes Marine Museum, 1,000 Islands cruises and the Kingston Penitentiary. For more savings, Visit Kingston offers various getaway packages that feature accommodations, entertainment, spa treatments and meals.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated The Heritage Train is free, and that the price of a ticket to FVDED In The Park festival is $29.99. This version has been updated and removed the mention of FVDED.

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