Vancouver is not an inexpensive city however one can still vacation there on a small budget.

When booking your hotel it pays to check around.  Check prices on several of the top online travel sites such as Expedia or hotels.ca and also check out the hotel's own website.  Sometimes you can get the best deal directly from the hotel's website while other times you will find a better deal on one of the major online travel sites.  Before committing to the best online price, one should  also phone the hotel and ask for their best rate on the phone.  Your mileage may vary from this depending on the hotel, but you may be able to negotiate an even better rate than you can get online. It certainly never hurts to ask.

Secondly, try to get a hotel that has easy to access to public transit.  This will allow you to get around Vancouver using the SkyTrain, Seabus and buses rather than relying on more expensive taxis. One example is The Met Hotel in New Westminster right next to Columbia SkyTrain Station. It is only 27 minutes from downtown Vancouver and has very reasonable rates. You can get a good overview of Vancouver just by riding all the segments of the Skytrain system which offers many good views of the city from its elevated tracks.

Next, find some destinations you can see free of charge which you can also get to easily via public transit.  Vancouver has many beautiful parks and viewpoints as well as historic buildings and neighbourhoods that you can spend days exploring without cost.

Stanley Park is only a few minutes from the downtown core of Vancouver.  You can easily spend a day exploring its 5 miles of seawall and the many many trails lakes and ponds.

Queen Elizabeth Park has a high vantage point that provides an excellent view looking north towards downtown Vancouver and the mountains.  It also features a beautiful garden set into a old quarry which makes it one of Vancouver's premier locations for wedding photos.

Deer Lake Park in Burnaby offers a peaceful oasis in the heart of Burnaby with trails and a boardwalk surrounding the lake.

Kids will love walking across the wooden suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver and this too is free.  

You can easily explore the historic neighbourhoods and shopping districts in the downtown area on foot and by transit.  Gastown, Chinatown, Yaletown, Granville Island and Robson Street will keep you busy for quite some time.

A ride on the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay is a great outing with some terrific views on the ride across Burrard Inlet and a neat public market to explore on the other side.

These are just a few  of the many things you can do while vacationing in Vancouver.  Visit  Tour by Transit - Vancouver for additional ideas on free things you can see and do in Vancouver.

Tourism Vancouver offers a list of 25 Free Things to do in Vancouver and a half-price ticket booth, Tickets Tonight, for same-day tickets to the performing arts.