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Itinerary Planning Help

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Houston, Texas
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Itinerary Planning Help

Hi:

I am planning a family trip (with 17 and 20 yr. kids) from Houston to Montreal & Toronto from July 2nd to 13th (12 days). We will be flying int to Ottawa and would like to visit Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Niagara Falls. Along the way, would also like to include nearby day-excursions such as the Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre & Thousand Island Cruise.

Here is the tentative Itinerary:

Land in Ottawa and drive to Montreal

2 D / 3 N in Montreal

3 D / 3 N in Quebec City and/or Ile d'Orleans (includes excursions)

3 D / 3 N in Toronto

1 D / 1 N in Niagara Falls

1 D in driving via Thousand Island (Back to Ottawa)

2 D / 2 N in Ottawa

Fly out from Ottawa

Would appreciate feedback on this itinerary with suggestions for day-trips and best ways to see these places (drive, walk, city-tour-bus, etc.).

Would it be better to rent a car for the entire duration from Ottawa and drive everywhere or use a combination of conducted bus tours, local transport options and intercity bus/train service instead of driving between the hub cities (Montreal. Quebec City and Toronto)?

Any other tips to plan our vacation wold be greatly appreciated.

V. C.

New Jersey
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1. Re: Itinerary Planning Help

Sounds like a fun and awesome trip. I would spend more time in French Canada (Quebec) than in Ontario because of the French language, beauty and uniqueness because Ontario has more in common with the U.S. than Quebec, so your kids would love it and so would you having a taste of Europe in North America.

I would recommend you spending 2 nights in Toronto, 2 nights in Niagara Falls (make sure to also visit nearby beautiful small town Niagara-on-the-Lake), 1 night in Ottawa, 4 - 5 nights in Montreal and 2 - 3 nights in Quebec City. Quebec City is a must; amazing old city that looks much more like Europe than even many European cities. You would be impressed! Montreal is a huge city and there is tons of things to see/do. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and also many things to see/do.

I would recommend you renting a car (keep in mind that gas cost around $5/gallon in Canada,) but it is sold in liters because Canada uses the metric system. Keep in mind that road signs are only in French in Quebec, but English in Ontario or English/French on some Ontario highways, English/French signs in Ottawa.

Some French words to know when driving:

Pont = Bridge

Arret = Stop

Travaux = Work

Ile = Island (Ile-de-Montreal you will see)

Sud = South

Nord = North

Est = East

Ouest = West

Sortie = Exit

When parking in Montreal and Quebec City, signs are written in French so you must know the days in French, and the time is shown in 24 hours (such as 16h30 for 4:30 pm). Ask any local on the street and they will be happy to help you. Obviously once you are in the city, you should NOT drive because the city has great public transportation and walking everywhere. Quebec City is very small and you only walk.

Road signs are similar to those in America... you won't have any issues

Edited: 08 June 2014, 04:15
Houston, Texas
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2. Re: Itinerary Planning Help

Thanks, Valentino.

I have changed my itinerary per your suggestions - 4 + 3 nights in Montreal & QC, 4 Nights in Toronto/Niagara Falls and Last Night in Ottawa before returning back. Would appreciate your suggestions for sequencing - are weekends better for Montreal or weekdays (hotel availability & cost, ease of sight-seeing, etc.)? If I can take one day trip from Montreal, should it be the Laurentians or Monteregie or somewhere else?

What would be your recommendation for things to see and do in Montreal? We like history, culture, museums, nature and food. I am still looking at various threads in Montreal and QC forums, but asking for direct help to save time - I have 3 weeks before taking the flight to Quebec!!

Any help from you and other destination experts would be greatly appreciated.

V. C.

New Jersey
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3. Re: Itinerary Planning Help

Charles,

I would not take a side trip from Montreal because the city has so much to see and do that you need time. Since you will be doing some driving between the cities, you would still see a lot. Southern Ontario is flat, but Quebec has mountains. When you drive from Montreal to Quebec City, you could maybe eat at a nice place or walk for an hour or so in Trois-Rivieres.

While in Montreal, you should stay either in downtown (Centre-ville) or in old town (vieux Montreal). You should definitely buy the 3-day public transportation pass which is very cheap and use it as much as you want for any of the destination and sightseeing. It is both for metro and buses. Ask any locals and they will be happy to help you navigate - very easy!

There are so many places and things to see/do. Besides seeing the amazing cathedrals, going to the parks, the mountain park, universities, etc. I would go to Rue Peel (Peel Street) at the tourist information centre and ask for free guide and maps. They will be happy to assist you!

You could also google and look around this forum for sightseeing tips.

McGill University

Rue St. Catherine's

Notre Dame

St. Joseph's Oratory

La Ronde (Amusement Park)

Olympic Stadium

Mount-Royal

Eaton Centre

Old town

^^ Must see places.

Summer is high season in Canada; but in Montreal I would say perhaps maybe Thursday until Sunday?

Edited: 08 June 2014, 23:15
Montreal
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4. Re: Itinerary Planning Help

Hmm... different opinion, but normally we say 3-4 days for both Toronto and Montréal, 2-3 days for Québec City, and 1-2 days for Ottawa. Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-lake are actually quite do-able as a 1-day side trip, and indeed there are organized tours that do just that. If you like wineries tours and orchards, it's a great area to explore, but July is not the right season for that. Niagara Falls offers very little aside from the falls, and Niagara-on-the-lake is like 4 blocks long :) (Ok, a bit more than that, but you get the idea). Likewise, the Montmorency Falls and Île-d'Orléans in Québec require only 1 day and not even that. And as Valentino says, not much to see as a side-trip from Montréal.

The mountains, alas, are not between any of these cities. To get those, you need to go up to the Laurentians, or through the Eastern Townships, or (for the prettiest, most stunning ones), the Charlevoix or Saguenay regions.

Here is my take on the different cities to give you an idea:

The crowd-pleaser is Québec City, which is like a small seaside European village here in North America, with old cobble-stone streets and history and it's hilly and beautiful and close to some great nature and nicely fixed up. Alas, that, and a few museums, is about all it has to offer, and it quickly becomes your standard North American urban sprawl, leaving the old town feeling like a resort town full of tourists, not residents. Québec City and Ottawa are also government towns, making them a little more boring and uptight than they should be :) Be sure to check out the St-Jean-Baptiste area with the beautiful J.A. Moisan grocery store.

After that is Montréal, which, at 4 million, is Canada's 2nd metropolis after Toronto at around 5.8. It's not as pretty as Québec City -- it's a little rougher around the edges, and its old town is full of commercial buildings, not cute houses, but it's a lot more interesting and multicultural and cosmopolitan, and if you like architecture, it's Canada's most interesting city, although you do have to look for it sometimes. It's also nicely compact and well put-together, so easy to just wander around by foot, or the Bixi bikes (but beware of its limitations -- see this posthttp://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g155032-i51-k5475333-Beware_of_BIXI_Bike_Rentals-Montreal_Quebec.html for info).

Ottawa is our nation's capital, and alas not the prettiest city around. Oh, it's got some lovely areas, and lots of green along the water, for example, plus some amazing museums and other institutions to visit. But it's not particularly historic nor particularly interesting as a city, although when you get to know it (and its residents) more, you notice how much people like living there, so it has something going for it, even if for the first-time tourist it's a little less obvious.

Toronto is Canada's largest city, and it's enjoying flexing its muscles as a world-class city. It's wildly multicultural and has the big-city feel and yet hop on a streetcar and visit some of its inner neighbourhoods and you'll be surprised at what a green, human-sized city it can be, what with its cute little shopping streets and very neighbourhood feel, quite different each one from the other. Alas, its interesting bits are found all over the place, so you do need to go through some blah to get to them, making visiting Toronto a slightly disjointed experience in some respects. And the streetcars are lovely but not at rush-hour :)

Just a few ideas to help you prepare :)

SE Ontario
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5. Re: Itinerary Planning Help

<Alas, its interesting bits are found all over the place, so you do need to go through some blah to get to them, > Personally, as someone who visits Montreal regularly, I'd say exactly the same thing about Montreal.

Montreal
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6. Re: Itinerary Planning Help

Perhaps the OP can give us their opinion after visiting the two cities :)

Houston, Texas
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7. Re: Itinerary Planning Help

Thanks Valentino, Tristou and phpr for valuable feedback. This is helping a lot to finalize a good itinerary.

What about Mont Tremblant? It was recommended in few TA Posts.

Seems like renting a car is the best option - in terms of costs (compared to intercity bus/train rides for 4) and flexibility. Is parking a problem in Montreal Toronto? Is it better to park the car at hotel in Montreal and go about using bus/metro/walk?

Are B&B good option compared to hotels? Are they cheaper of more expensive? And are they better experience compared to hotels? We have moderate budget ($100 to $125 per night). Generally prefer 3* hotels or better.

Once again, thanks all for valuable feedback!

V. C.

8. Re: Itinerary Planning Help

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