A travel hacking success story – A 10-day Canadian Adventure with my Mum

A few years ago when I was living in the UK, I had accumulated enough BA miles for a free trip to Canada. Even better yet, through regular use of my BA American Express Card I was also able to take a companion, my Mum, along for free.  All we had to pay for were the taxes.  Two return flights to Montreal for under £375.  Can’t really do better than that, or can you?

flights for under £375 for 2 – London to Montreal return

Canadian Flag

Canadian Flag

With the flights taken care of we only had the accommodation, car hire and insurance to think about.  Travel Insurance for me is easy. During all my time in the UK, I used only one company, Insure and Go.  The test of an insurance company is not how cheap it is, but how they respond and recompense in the event of a claim.  Having had the misfortune to require their services twice in previous years and being suitably impressed with the customer service, support and no-hassle manner in which everything was dealt with, I had no hesitation in taking out another year long policy with them. Even better news, is actually they were quite reasonable with their premiums.

avoid the extortionate insurance offered by car hire firms

Well the car hire was with Hertz, but booked through Ebookers, who had a promotion on at the time and so we saved approximately 20% off the car hire charges.  By booking through Ebookers, it was possible to save (a lot) on the collision damage waiver and cancellation insurance, which the car hire firms love to charge at more than the daily rental for full coverage. (Although I had travel insurance, CDW is often not included.  And I won’t hire a car without this insurance, as I don’t want to be paying for a car I didn’t even own, if God forbid, there was an accident!). So even more money saved here!

internet deals for the accommodation

Accommodation was slightly more tricky as we had no set plan for our trip to Canada.  We knew that we wanted to spend some time in Montreal, visit Niagara Falls and the wine region and see Toronto in our 10 days. But how long we would spend in each location was totally free-flowing.  Before we arrived, I booked up our hotel in Montreal but that was as far as I got.  This was definitely an alien concept to my Mum, who I am sure would have preferred to know much further ahead of time where she would be staying.  The idea of booking things so last minute and online (without phoning ahead) took her right out of her comfort zone. But she trusted me that it would all work out and it did. In fact it was quite exciting sitting together at the internet corners in various hotels searching for the best deal for the coming night or two and making the decisions together on where to stay.

Catherine at Niagara Falls at Dusk

Catherine at Niagara Falls at Dusk

some positives and negatives to booking last minute

Booking hotels last minute can have its pluses and minuses – if the hotel is empty, you might be able to get a cheap deal, as often the hotelier would rather have some money for a room than none at all. But if you want to visit a popular area waiting to the last minute can mean that the only options left are really expensive or you have to stay a little further out. In our 10 days we experienced both ends of the scale.  To book the hotels, I used a mix of discount hotel websites but each time we tried to stay in the same “extended family” of hotels – the Comfort Inn chain of hotels. This enabled me to gather some more loyalty points, which I converted later back into airline miles, ready for another trip!

but the flexibility is amazing

My Mum and I had a super holiday and as we had not booked up all the hotels in advance this enabled us to even change our plans. For example when we drove into the picturesque town of Gananoque (right in the middle of the Thousand Islands area on the St. Lawrence River) we decided that 1 night was simply not going to be long enough and so immediately booked a second at check-in.

Town Green in Gananoque

Gananoque

Or when we found that after a couple of days we had seen all we wanted to in Toronto. So instead of staying longer we decided to leave and take a detour via Ottawa on our return journey to Montreal. I just loved this flexibility.

Toronto CityScape

Toronto CityScape

It was a fab holiday and I have no idea exactly how much I managed to save on the overall cost, but I do know that what I did spend was well worth it.   I had such a great time with my Mum, just exploring and following where our curiosity led us.  Highly recommended.

Written by Catherine Evans Joines

This blog post was written in response to the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge – Day 27 and 28.