A few weeks ago, we were invited to tour Canada with a friend’s family who was flying in from Europe. It was last minute, but we decided it’d be fun. Our friend would stay with us for around a week in NYC.
We spent a day in Montreal and then drove up to Quebec City to stay in Mont Saint Anne.
And boy, those homes were beautiful. I think I could be really happy living in an extremely modern house in the mountains. Whenever anyone talked about homes in the woods before I’d always imagined living in a tiny log cabin or something. But here, we lived next to nature with a modern home. It was quite the revelation.
Road Trip To Canada! Canadian Discount… Or Not?
In all matter of transparency, our friend’s family provided groceries and lodging.
Total trip cost per person: $323:
- $202 for the rental car (free car insurance through Chase Sapphire Reserve)
- $73 in gas
- $48 for restaurants
We drove (okay, Firebear drove) to Canada and back because we needed to rent a car anyway when we got to Canada. Renting a car in NYC was cheaper than 2 round-trip flights + a one-way flight for our friend + car rental being picked up in Montreal.
If you’re renting from NYC, considering taking the train to White Plains and renting a car there. It’s usually cheaper than NYC. I’ve done it in the past with a friend, but forgot about that trick until I started writing this post. Better yet, that’s a tip for most metropolitan cities. Take the train/subway about an hour out of town and you’ll find much cheaper rates.
Another tip: book your rental car, Airbnb, and plane tickets through a cashback site to get cashback. Ebates and Befrugal are the best online cashback sites and they each offer a $10 bonus — we compare them here.
We could have paid for the car rental through our Ultimate Rewards (UR) stash, but last year we burned through a ton of UR points as we went on 7 major trips, 6 of which were international (we wrote up a 5 part series on our trip to Japan, then got tired of writing about travel for a while). We still have well above 100,000 UR points due to optimizing our UR spending on bonus categories, but chose not to use the Chase travel portal this time.
If you haven’t started traveling for free (or heavily discounted) on points and miles, you should start with the Chase Sapphire cards. They offer pretty awesome rewards and we did a breakeven analysis of the two over here since you can only get one of the two cards. Did I mention the $500 bonus in cash? Though we prefer to transfer them to airlines, hotels, or the travel portal instead of cash.
If you’re visiting, both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards points can be used to redeem for hotels in the two cities.
Is Canada Cheaper?
Before I went to Canada, my thought process was: “Going to Canada is like getting a 25 percent discount. The USDCAD rate is going to be awesome for me!”
Sadly, I was somewhat wrong.
Gas is much more expensive in Canada and food in the grocery store is more expensive as well. It cost 40 percent more to fill up the tank in Quebec than upstate NY. Maybe there is a metro Quebec premium in there but 40 percent is a lot! Also, Canada has a large oil supply, so really, not sure why gas is that much more expensive in Canada.
Restaurants are cheaper, but I suspect that’s because we’re so used to Manhattan prices. The quality of normal French food is much better though. In NYC, it seems we mostly have fine French dining with 13 courses, but rarely do we have really good and simple (and cheaper!) coq a vin or ratatouille, so it might be a bit of an unfair comparison.
Rent is also much cheaper, but again, I suspect that’s because we’re so used to Manhattan prices.
I did learn that Montreal has rent control across the entire city. So, um, factor that into consideration if you ever decide to invest in rental properties there.
This was my third time going to Montreal and I still loved the city just as much as the first two times. It’s a great place to visit European-like cities without actually flying all the way to Europe. Plus, the people of Canada are super nice! Great food as well.
Driving from NYC to Montreal took roughly 7 hours. We used the Waze app to navigate our way. Did you know the app tracks your GPS even when you don’t have signal? It’s nice for navigation but kinda creepy how your phone can be tracked even without signal…
Eating In Montreal
On our way back, we tried to stop at Schwartz, which was recommended to us by a couple of blogging friends. A sense of doom came across us as we realized the line was super long. We were driving back to NYC and didn’t really want to wait that long. Our friend was not from the US, so we knew stopping at the border might take a while.
After consulting Yelp and Tripadvsior, we headed to the Main Deli Steak House across the street which also had very high ratings. Honestly, it was a great smoked sandwich place. We were lucky the line was so long at Schwartz, we found this gem! I don’t think I would wait an hour for Schwartz with this place around. We also got some poutine to go with it. We later asked a Montreal friend of ours about it and he says locals go here, so skip the tourist place if the line is too long.
On past visits we have eaten at La Banquise for poutine, L’Avenue for brunch (try to go early or else you’re going to have to wait an hour), Kougin Amann (pastries), Le Quartier General (nicer dining), and Yokato Yokabai (tonkotsu ramen) if you’d like some of our dining recs.
If you’re ever in NYC, check out our list of cheap and unique eats.
Quebec City Lodging At Mont Sainte Anne
After spending a day in Montreal, we made our way to Quebec. It’s about a 3 hour drive.
We stayed in Mount Sainte Anne and it was beautiful. Even the highway columns are full of art.
We entered in the address, but Waze led us about a mile away. We had to switch to Google maps to get to the right place (Google owns Waze so go figure why one works and the other doesn’t).
The house was booked through AirBnb and was very well represented.
I set up my desk in front of a window with a gorgeous mountain view to do some work for part of the trip. The view was amazing. I can see why people like to live next to the mountains and trees. Maybe I’ve been couped up in the concrete jungle for too long.
This trip really cemented our plans to travel the world for a while once we’re FI. Geoarbitrage is an awesome way to spend less and see the world at the same time. Just like this list of people who retired before 40, we think there’s a lot more to life than sitting at your desk and making money. It’s a good thing I convinced my significant other to be on board for financial independence.
The house gave new meaning to “cabin in the woods”. We were close enough to the woods with mountains, hikes, and waterfalls, but the houses were still surrounded by neighbors (though no one seemed to actually live there). The house was extremely well constructed and very high tech. It was super child-proofed and actually took us a bit of Googling to figure out how to use some things. Child-proof = mildly adult-proof as well, haha.
The house was 4 bedrooms with occupancy of 9 (each bed was a king/queen and there was one room with a bunk bed sleeping 3 total). I believe per night it was around 200CAD or ~$150 USD. If you’re looking for a ski/snowboarding vacation with your friends, you should consider Mont Sainte Anne. Note this is the summer rate, I’m not sure how much they go for in the winter. I still don’t snowboard due to the disaster that happened the last time I went, but have been told it has great routes!
If you’ve never tried Airbnb, it is generally cheaper than hotels and is always a much better deal for groups of people traveling together. Use this link for $20 off your first booking.
After we settled in, we visited old Quebec and it felt like walking down the street in Europe. Great place to visit when you’re there! Many great restaurants, cute shops, etc.
Tips: Roads are generally one way in Old Quebec, so you might have to go around a few times to figure out how to get the closest to the center road.
For my US peeps, note that French brand names are not necessarily cheaper in Canada (I had hoped). We looked at Longchamp, and the price was similar to the US price. If you go to France or Guadeloupe (territory of France), Longchamp is about 40 percent less in price there. If you’re looking for luxury goods, it’s something like 20 percent cheaper in France due to the currency exchange, tarrifs of the product into the US, and the refunding of VAT at the airport/online.
Hiking and Seeing Nature In Quebec
Quebec is a great place to catch-up with friends and family in the summer, and also to get your breath of fresh air from hiking, canyoning, and ziplining across the falls. The nature element reminded us of our trip to Miraval earlier this year. It was also the perfect place for a week-long digital detox.
I’d recommend checking out Montmorency falls. You can walk over the top of the waterfall and look down. If you’re queasy about height, I’d warn that the bridge is wobbly, which is disconcerting. Also, apparently the first bridge they built a century ago broke 5 days after it was finished. Good thing my group waited until the end of the walk to tell me that! Bad thing? I had to walk back over the bridge to get back to the car, haha. In all seriousness, the bridge is safe.
You can also zipline over the falls. We had one person do it, but she remarked it was a pretty short zipline.
There’s a park after you cross the bridge and there’s also a food truck in the park that is located at the top of the waterfall. It serves local food. Yes, that includes poutine!
On our way to the waterfall we noticed a post that was reminiscent of Amazing Race colors. Maybe we’ll get to be on show one day — it always looks so challenging and fun!
Jean Larose Waterfall
If you need a good workout everyday, hiking down and then back up would be an awesome exercise routine. It’s about a 3 minute drive from the mountain. I’d say hiking up was like 12+ flights of stairs. Boy, do you feel winded after that.
The waterfall is gorgeous and you can go canyoning on it. Canyoning is like rock climbing on a waterfall – I think it’s something you need to have experience to be able to do. None of us did it so can’t offer any more info there.
Mestachibo is a 14km long hike to another, bigger waterfall, but we didn’t go the entire way. We stopped at a nice stream a few km into the trail and headed back to the Jean Larose waterfall.
The Mestachibo and Jean Larose waterfall is interconnected, so you can do those in one go. It’s about a 6km hike if you go to the first Mestachibo stop at a stream, then back to the waterfall, so a good workout.
I would recommend proper tennis shoes — it’s a hike going up and down and not just walking on flat ground.
Mont Sainte Anne
In the winter, Mont Sainte Anne looks like it has amazing skiing and snowboarding.
In the summer, you can go mountain biking and put your bike in the gondola.
If you don’t have a mountain bike, you can rent some for about 70CAD per day (apparently they are $5kCAD per bike retail). You should not try to ride your normal bike on a mountain because you’ll probably break something.
The mountain bike has special shock-absorbing hydraulics so you won’t have as hard a landing. We had some pretty expert riders in our group, but they still came back with some bruises, just to give you a data point on whether you should consider doing it or not.
There is also a small course on flat ground for beginners. Apparently the mountain biking world cup is hosted here — we missed it by literally a week! At least the guys got to ride on the same trails (I think?).
The best thing about this was that we got a nice discount due to having a Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I’ve never seen Visa Infinite discounts so was super excited to take a look into the program after this.
There used to be a lake you could swim in, but that has been drained :(.
Eating In Quebec
I like to eat hole-in-the-wall food. I like to eat fancy food. I will eat food with sugar, fat, or salt. I just like all kinds of foods in general. Delicious food.
Our first stop was Poutineville. As we sat down, we realized it was the place of the 15 pound poutine challenge after we read the menu. Buzzfeed did a video on it, if you want to watch. It’s around the 10 minute mark. We’ve reached the next level of consumption when we find entertainment in watching other people eat. But still, it’s a fun watch!
For dessert enthusiasts there is Chocolate Favoris, where they dip your ice cream into chocolate and sprinkle it with different toppings. A lot of fun and I ate the thing in less than 5 minutes. If any Chocolate Favoris business dev people are listening, I’m sure NYC would absolutely love this store… Just saying.
It was last minute so I wasn’t able to make a reservation at the restaurant I really wanted to try, iX Pour Bistro. They’re rated number one in Quebec and only have 9 tables. If you’re in the area, you should try to make a reservation! They are not the tiny food on 13 plates kind of restaurant. Just really amazing food of normal portions.To make a reservation, you need to email the restaurant. Reading the reviews, it seemed most people had success emailing at least a month prior to their meal, so I’d aim for that if you’re planning a trip to Quebec City.
If you’ve ever met me, once I set my mind on eating somewhere, it’s pretty difficult to make a second choice unless we’re walking past a restaurant.
Lucky for us, after scouring the restaurant list, we happened to walk past Boulay (not Bouley). For one of the best meals in the city, it honestly was not bad. It came to $50 per person after tax and tip (we don’t drink). I think they are connected to a hotel which offers a menu set. Compare that to NYC where the price would easily be double or triple. Descriptions of the dishes in the pictures are taken from the website menu.
Overall, our trip was amazing and we loved Canada! We’ll definitely be looking to visit soon. Banff (national park) or Revelstoke (ski/snowboarding center) will be our next trip to our friendly neighbors up north.
Have you guys been to Canada yet? What were your experiences like?
Olivia worked in finance and wants you to learn the secrets of financial independence. She believes there are so many ways to monetize your life and make money doing the things you're already doing because so many companies offer free money.
The average savings account rate is 0.1%. The big banks have incredibly low savings accounts rates. CIT Bank offers a 1.75% savings account. You can open an account with just $100 and no monthly fees or charge . Tired of being charged fees and getting peanuts in interest at your current bank? Open a CIT Bank savings account in less than 15 minutes online.
If you have a car, Rideshare apps allow you to pick a direction you want to go twice a day, so you can get extra money going somewhere you were driving to anyway at least twice a day. Get a $300 sign-up bonus with Lyft.
One of my favorite ways ways of monetizing my life is via credit card bonuses with cards that give you cashback or rewards. Check out our review of the Chase Sapphire cards, which give you at least $500 in cash or $625 in travel credit.