New Year, no new me! Still traveling and trying to see the world. I got back from Los Angeles on a Saturday, started a new job on the following Monday and had no plans for the long weekend I discovered I would have the following week.
On the Wednesday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a friend of mine said: “Let’s go somewhere.” These are the types of texts I love to receive so of course, I’m like YES! However, to actually find somewhere to go and pull it off requires a bit more work. When I said yes, I wasn’t quite sure how I would make it happen. I wanted to take advantage of the long weekend so I was ready to go anywhere. The goal was to spend less than $450 total and take no additional time off from work.
The top three things I focused on when planning my Last Minute Getaway:
- Budget (Flight & Lodging)
- New City & Experience
- Time (Flight Time & Time in the Destination)
I started with the budget. Holiday weekends can be tough especially if you’re booking a flight 3 days in advance, but the major perk of using an app like Skyscanner or Google flights is that you can scan the world for deals. Before I started digging into Skyscanner I checked the points I had available on my Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card. LOVE LOVE LOVE this card as a travel credit card. So many benefits and Chase makes it so easy to redeem your points, especially for flights. The points were a huge determining factor as I figured out my budget. I had about $250 worth of points so I looked for a flight between $200 and $300 including all taxes/fees. I used the “Explore” feature to see what flights were around that price range. As much as I wanted to go to an island or make a quick trip to Europe the flights were either above my budget or required additional time off from work.
I found that Canada (while a little chilly) had multiple options within my price range as well as a lot of options that were new to me. I’ve been to Toronto a handful of times but outside of that I’ve yet to explore the country. I narrowed down my search to Calgary and Montreal. Once I narrowed down the list I used TripAdvisor to see what the options for activities would be in each place. I also looked at housing options on both Hotel websites and Airbnb to compare pricing.
I ultimately chose Montreal because flights were cheaper and the timing of the flights was more convenient. I could leave Friday night and come back Monday evening. Since I’d heard great things about the city I was like, why not? While the weather was cold, the culture and the food seemed worth a visit. I flew Porter Airlines for the first time and really enjoyed the experience. Winter Travel on small planes can lead to some flight delays, so be flexible. I learned so many fun facts during my travels about how the type of plane you fly on can really impact the trip. I loved Porter but I’m pretty easy to please, a little extra leg room, full sized snacks and bottled waters goes a long way.
Ultimately Airbnb offered better housing options for this trip so that’s what we did. The entire two bedroom Airbnb that I stayed in for the weekend was the perfect choice. The hosts used a keyless system which made check in a breeze. The space was a beautiful apartment close to Old Montreal. If we had a little more warmth during the trip I definitely would have walked around the area more.
If you do book a trip in the winter, you’ll need to stay inside, there’s just so much snow. Here are some good indoor things to do:
1. EAT (the food is amazing): Everyone who knows me knows I love food. NHAU was a cool little bar with a great low-key vibe in the downtown area. The lower level is a bit hidden which makes it even more fun. The advice I got before going was to have Poutine, and I did. They sell it almost everywhere and there are lots of options to customize as well.
2. Notre-Dame Basilica: I went to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and The Notre-Dame Basilica reminded me a little of that experience. Beautiful colors, history, and architecture.
3. Montreal Biodome & Museum of Fine Arts: Two different indoor activities. The general exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts are free for anyone under 30 years old but the more exclusive exhibits did have a small cost associated. There was so much to see, we wandered around for about an hour and a half. The Biodome has a few different options and things to see so it could easily be a good half day activity.
Montreal is a great weekend getaway option but I’d definitely recommend bringing winter gear if you go during colder months. I did not come prepared with enough layers! I plan to make another visit during the spring or summer just to wander and see what else the city has to offer!