Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is British Columbia ’s main gateway and Canada’s second-busiest airport. Regularly scheduled service to and from Vancouver  is offered by major airlines throughout the world. Victoria  may be the capital, but it comes in a distant second when it comes to international flights; the only destinations served from its international airport are major Canadian cities and Seattle.
The advertised airfare that looks so tempting is just a base fare, devoid of a raft of fees and taxes collected by numerous government agencies. On domestic flights within Canada, expect to pay around $80–100 extra. This includes an Air Travellers Security Tax ($6 each sector for domestic flights, $17 for international flights), an insurance surcharge of $3 each way, and a fee of $9–20 each way that goes to NAV Canada for the operation of the federal navigation system. Advertised domestic fares are inclusive of fuel surcharges, but on international flights expect to pay up to $230 extra.
All major Canadian airports charge an Airport Improvement Fee to all departing passengers, with Vancouver charging $15 per passenger. You’ll also need to pay this fee from your original departure point, and if you’re connecting through Toronto, another $8 is collected. And, of course, the above taxes are taxable with the Canadian government collecting the 6 percent goods and services tax. The bright side to paying these extras? It’s often made easy for consumers, with airlines lumping all the charges together and into the final ticket price.
Ticket structuring for air travel has traditionally been so complex that finding the best deal required some time and patience (or a good travel agent), but the process has gotten a lot easier in recent years. Air Canada leads the way, with streamlined ticketing options that are easy to understand.
The first step when planning your trip to British Columbia  is to contact the airlines that fly to the West Coast and search out the best price they have for the time of year you wish to travel. The Internet has changed the way many people shop for tickets, but even if you use this invaluable tool for preliminary research, having a travel agent that you are comfortable dealing with — who takes the time to call around, does some research to get you the best fare, and helps you take advantage of any available special offers or promotional deals — is an invaluable asset in starting your travels off on the right foot. In addition to your local agent, Travel Cuts (866/246-9762, www.travelcuts.com ) and Flight Centre (877/967-5302, www.flightcentre.ca ), both with offices in all major cities, consistently offer the lowest airfares available, with the latter guaranteeing the lowest.
Flight Centre offers a similar guarantee from its U.S. offices (866/967-5351, www.flightcentre.us ), as well as those in Great Britain (tel. 0870/499-0040, www.flightcentre.co.uk ), Australia (tel. 13-31-33, www.flightcentre.com.au ), New Zealand (tel. 0800/24-35-44, www.flightcentre.co.nz ), and South Africa (0860/400-727, www.flightcentre  .co.za). All Flight Centre toll-free numbers will put you through to the closest office from where you are calling.
In London, Trailfinders (215 Kensington High St., Kensington, tel. 020/7938-3939, www.trailfinders.com ) always has good deals to Canada and other North American destinations. Or use the services of an Internet-only company such as Travelocity (www.travelocity.com ) or Expedia (www.expedia.com ). The Dream Maps function (http://dps1.travelocity.com/dreammap.ctl ) on the Travelocity site is a fun and functional way to search for the best fares from your own home city. Also look in the travel sections of major newspapers — particularly in weekend editions — where budget fares and package deals are frequently advertised.
Many cheaper tickets have strict restrictions regarding changes of flight dates, lengths of stay, and cancellations. A general rule: The cheaper the ticket, the more restrictions. Most travelers today fly on APEX (advance-purchase excursion) fares. These are usually the best value, though some (and, occasionally, many) restrictions apply. These might include minimum and maximum stays, and nonchangeable itineraries (or hefty penalties for changes); tickets may also be nonrefundable once purchased.
Edward Hasbrouck’s Practical Nomad Guide to the Online Travel Marketplace (Avalon Travel) is an excellent resource for working through the web of online travel-planning possibilities.