Everyone says they want more time off work, but Canadians left an average of three vacation days unused in 2016, according to Expedia.ca’s annual Vacation Deprivation Survey.

top-5-spots-for-canadians-2017Image credits: Unsplash

If you think you can’t afford it, using your two weeks of vacation to go somewhere exciting this year doesn’t have to cost more than your basic all-inclusive resort vacation. Using one of the best travel credit cards in Canada, you can rack up points by using your card to pay for everyday expenses.

When you’re ready to travel, just pay for your flight, hotel and almost any other related expense with your card. Then simply go online or call and apply your points against your travel purchases.

How to get there

The new cards aren’t like the old-fashioned ones with restrictions and blackout periods. The BMO World Elite MasterCard, for example, allows you to fly on any airline with no blackout dates, and you can even apply your points to taxes and fees. The card has an annual fee of $150, which is offset immediately by the 20,000 welcome points bonus – worth $200 in travel rewards. A major perk: the free annual Priority Pass membership, plus four complimentary guest passes (total value: US$200), gives you VIP airport lounge access in more than 400 cities across the world.

Or take Scotiabank Gold American Express, which lets you choose between booking your trip through its full-service travel agency, or booking on your own. This card has one of the best return rates on the market, offering up to 4% back in travel rewards for every dollar spent. The $99 annual fee, which is currently being waived for your first year, includes concierge service and access to Priority Pass airport lounges, as well as discounts and special offers on hotels, airfare, car rentals, and vacation packages.

Here are the top 5 travel destinations we suggest redeeming those points on:

Iceland

When did Iceland get so cool? The answer seems to be sometime after the 2008 financial crisis, when they decided to focus on tourism as a way to shore up the economy. We’re thankful they did: Iceland is a truly unique travel destination with stunning fjords, tap water that comes from glaciers, steaming outdoor pools and bizarre culinary options, such as fermented shark.

Finland

2017 is the perfect year to visit this Scandinavian destination as it celebrates its centennial year of independence. In keeping with its peoples rugged, solitary and outdoorsy reputation, the occasion is being marked with four nationwide Nature Days, one in each season. Make sure to drop by some cafes while you’re there. For some unknown reason, the Finns consume the most cups of coffee in the world.

Croatia

This Balkan country offers something for everyone. If you’re an architecture lover, spend all day wandering around the historic centre of Dubrovnik and Split, both Unesco world heritage sites. If you prefer the outdoors, take advantage of the Adriatic coastline and go sailing, kayaking, rafting or scuba diving in the bluer-than-blue sea.

New Zealand

Canadians should identify closely with New Zealanders: when abroad, they, like us, almost always get mistaken for being citizens of a much larger neighbouring country with whom they share a similar accent. Adventure junkies will fit in perfectly: the country boasts an endless outdoor activity list of bungee jumping, skydiving, rappelling and hiking, all against the background of a stunning green landscape. Just make sure to pack a good, long book for the flight.

Canada

Don’t rule out our own fabulous country when planning a trip. Like Finland, we’re also celebrating a major milestone birthday in 2017: 150 years. Why not take advantage of free admission at our National Parks? Or fly out to a corner of our great land you’ve never been to before. It’s impossible to run out of options, from skiing in Banff, driving around the iron-red beaches of Prince Edward Island, polar bear-spotting in Churchill, Man., or viewing the northern lights in Yellowknife.

 

RateHub.ca is an independent financial product comparison site that empowers Canadians to make smart financial decisions by comparing rates on mortgagescredit cardssavings accounts and insurance.