Trip Planning: Quebec City, Canada
So…Quebec City…in May…Yay!
I am really excited about this trip. My only real apprehension is about my French – while I can read a menu and ask for a bathroom, my pronunciation is poor (okay, terrible), to the point that one waiter in Paris got frustrated and told me to “order in English, already”. I was trying to get a cup of hot water for Mom…and yes, it really is THAT bad.
With all of the excitement, I have been pretty immersed in the researching and figuring, so I thought I would share my basic trip planning process with you. Here is what I have done, so far:
1) Research Attractions and Tours
I know Quebec City is a photogenic destination, with lots of European flair in the Old City. The Women In Travel Summit includes several tours, but after some heavy-duty TripAdvisor research and a lengthy perusal of the Quebec City Tourism site, I realized that there are a ton of things that are not covered on those tours. I made a lengthy wish list, including Montmorency Falls, a visit to an Old Jail museum, a horse-drawn carriage tour, and a photography walking tour. Unfortunately, a lot of these tours are closed during the winter, so many of them have not gotten back to me about dates and booking; I don’t know how many of them will be open the first week of May, either; I’ve already had a horseback riding tour company get back to me to let me know they don’t open until the end of the month, which is really too bad.
Even without knowing for sure that I could get into some of these tours, I did absolutely know that there was no way I could pack in all the stuff I wanted to check out in just two days (or even three!). Knowing that, I am giving myself 8 full days in Quebec City – the most that my wallet and annual leave bank will realistically allow. Three of these days will be taken up by the conference, of course, but the other five are open for tours, photography, and general wandering.
2) Book Plane Tickets
I know there are entire sites devoted to getting the best airfares, but unfortunately, most of them really don’t work for me. Living out here in The-Middle-Of-Freaking-Nowhere, I generally don’t get great deals; the nearest big international airport is an eight-hour drive, so even if I can get a great price out of Edmonton or Calgary, I end up then having to book tickets from Saskatoon to get there, which often brings my actual savings to zero. For international flights, I find it worth doing a ton of research, especially if my dates are flexible (which they usually are). However, for a domestic flight over a set time period, I just compared Air Canada and Westjet. In this case, Air Canada had a deal available for conference attendees, so they won out; however, I was very frustrated to see a sale fare that was cheaper than the promotional price, just two days after I had booked. Of course, Air Canada will only price-match if the fare drops within 24 hours. Go figure.
3) Book Accommodations
As much as I would love to stay at the Chateau Frontenac, it was a choice between three or four days there or eight days in a cheaper place. You can guess which won out! I found several AirBnB places that looked just fabulous, but they unfortunately had two-week minimum stays. I know that a lot of the AirBnB accommodation was already booked for that time period, and I ended up having to look elsewhere. I found some interesting places on Booking.com, but had a bit of a frustrating experience booking with them. In the end, I got a budget hotel in the Old City for the time before and during the conference, and a Bed and Breakfast a little further away, in Saint Roch, for the days I am staying afterward. I am actually pretty excited about the latter, as their reviews are just stellar!
4) Book Tours
With my plane tickets booked and my dates confirmed, I made up a calendar of tour dates, and started booking and confirming the tours that I was able to get into for sure. I’ve had to do a bit of juggling with this, as early May is shoulder season for Quebec City, and not everything is open yet. One tour opens on the very last day I am in town, so that one was the one to work around. There are still a few tours that I have not heard back from, and I may not be able to get into them until the last minute (or even at all), just due to how early it is in the season…but that’s okay! I have a (long) back-up list of places to check out if I find myself with a free chunk of time.
5) Research Restaurants
This is not something I would spend a lot of time on in a cheaper destination, but for eight days (24 meals!) in Canada, I decided it was worth doing the legwork in advance, if only to save some money! An AirBnB would have helped a lot in that regard – having a kitchen allows you to at least prepare some of your own meals, and use the money you save on that to splurge when you do go out. Alas, it was not meant to be, at least for this trip. Being at a Bed and Breakfast will help for the last few days, especially since the breakfasts at this particular place are described as being hearty. For the rest of the time, I plan to check out some cafes and patisseries (bakeries, but many serve sandwiches) that I have found on TripAdvisor and Yelp. I am working on a list of solid options; that way, I am not stuck with a rigid plan, but I do have some options identified (with addresses) when I am hungry and not in the mood to do the research!
That’s it, so far – my process for researching and booking tickets for my trip to Quebec. I have booked my flights and accommodations, researched some restaurants and local attractions, and booked some tours. Over the rest of the month, I will start doing research for blog posts…but that’s not something that most people do. Quebec City, here I come!