Day One in Montreal: Sheraton Airport Review, Biodome, and more!

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I am in the very fortunate position of having about four trips back to back over the next month or so, so in order to keep up with sharing some info about our adventures, I am writing about this trip to Montreal as it happens! My husband has family from Montreal, so the trip was timed to visit them and then gather with family in upstate New York. We booked this trip using United miles as soon as the flight schedules opened about 10 months ago. We flew into Montreal and are flying back home out of Burlington, Vermont with a connection. Our flight to Montreal was a direct flight from Houston on a United Express flight. It took about 30 minutes to get through Customs and retrieve our bags in Montreal. This was a huge improvement over the 90 minutes to two hours it took on our MegaDo trip to Montreal last year. I would describe the Montreal airport as “hectic”, but not chaotic by any means. To keep things simple, we stayed our first night at the Sheraton Montreal Airport Hotel. There is a free shuttle from the airport to the hotel, and it took about 5-10 minutes to get to the hotel once the shuttle picked us up.

The hotel had a modern lobby with a restaurant and gift shop across from the check-in desk. I had a room on SPG points and cash that cost 1,600 SPG points plus about 37 Canadian dollars. It seems that the hotel has since increased to a Category 3 hotel and would now require 2800 SPG points + $45. I inquired about club access upon check-in and was told that only Platinums receive complimentary access, but I paid a $30 surcharge for my family to have club access. Since there were only a few minutes of evenings appetizers left when we arrived (which at that point consisted of some raw veggies and two sad looking popcorn shrimp), we probably didn’t get the full value of purchasing club access for the night. However, it was nice to grab some waters and Cokes for the room.

 

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Since it was already getting late, we ordered a club panini and a vegetarian pizza from room service. The food was very decent and priced fairly for room service. In fact, those two things were more than enough food for the three of us.

The room itself was comfortable for an airport hotel. The bathroom especially felt very modern. I had failed to notice when I booked the room that it only had a shower, so it accidentally became Little C’s first shower experience. Despite my efforts, she slipped when getting in the shower. However, once I got her to just sit down with her toys “and get rained on”, she loved it. I had to get in with her in order to make sure she got clean, but it worked just fine. I still prefer rooms with bathtubs though…

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The next morning we had breakfast in the Club Lounge. The selection was pretty limited, but it did the trick. I would not really enjoy multiple days of breakfast in that lounge. I would say we might have broke even on the $30 surcharge for club access, but we certainly didn’t come out ahead this time.

The pool at the hotel is a heated saltwater indoor/outdoor pool that looked really nice. There was even a pool attendant there who offered to assist us if we wanted to swim. We planned to swim at the Hyatt Regency Montreal later that day, so we passed on the swimming experience at the Sheraton. However, as it turned out, that was a bit of a mistake (more on that later).

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To get from the airport hotel to downtown we took the advice of The Weekly Flyer and called Joe at 514.953.3435. He was not available that day, but sent one of his associates (George) to provide our transportation. It was a very clean and new Lincoln Navigator with a professional and personable driver who arrived about 5 minutes early. It was a very well spent $55. They accepted US or Canadian dollars, but not credit cards.

We then went to the Hyatt Regency Montreal to attempt to check-in early, or at least leave our bags so we could keep exploring. We drove up in the middle of a protest over union issues. That didn’t bother me at first, but once we got inside and saw a letter explaining that due to the strike many amenities such as the pool, room services, and the restaurants (except for breakfast) would be closed, I was a bit bummed. Since we have a little one, swimming was high on our activity list! I also like the option to order room service on days that she has run out of energy by dinner time. Oh well, we’ll make it work.

I do wish we would have been notified ahead of time so we could decide whether or not to make alternate arrangements – or at least manage our expectations. Also due to the strike there was no early check-in. Our room was not ready until about 5:30 PM – two and a half hours after the regular check-in time. Upon my request, they did give us day access to the Regency Club, which was fantastic as C took a nap with Grandma in the chair and we all enjoyed some snacks and drinks. In all, we spent about four hours in the Regency Club that day due to trying to let C rest. I’ll share more thoughts on the Hyatt after we complete our stay.  Right now the protesters/strikers/whatever outside are making so much noise I can barely think!

After we rested a bit at the Regency Club, we took the Metro to the Biodome. The Metro station is very close to the Hyatt, but getting tickets proved to be very difficult. We did not have Canadian dollars with us as we thought we could use a credit card. However, they only accepted Canadian credit cards. Um, what? I was a bit dumbfounded when I found that out, so consider yourself warned. (Everywhere else we’ve shopped so far has accepted American credit cards).  So, we had no credit card that would work, and no Canadian dollars. Luckily we saw an ATM and were able to obtain Canadian dollars using that route. Save yourself the hassle, and plan ahead so you don’t look like a chicken with your head cut off when you try to purchase a Metro pass. Once we finally got our tickets, they were $8 each for an all day pass, and Little C was free.

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The ride to the Biodome was about 15 minutes and didn’t require any transfers from the Hyatt. This was C’s first Metro experience and she loved it! The Biodome was perfect for kiddos. There were several different eco-systems within the Biodome, so we went from rainforest to penguins to beavers to a really fun area where you got to play in the water and the rain. That was probably C’s favorite part of the Biodome.  For another month or so, you can get a discount by subscribing to their online newsletter.

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We purchased tickets that also included admission to the Olympic Stadium, but despite about 30 minutes of trying to find that attraction we ultimately failed (and wasted about $13 per person each). We walked through the stadium corridors, but that was not the actual attraction. I think the attraction might have been riding up the Montreal Tower located at the base of the stadium, but I’m honestly not even sure.  Huge thumbs down for the signage and information related to visiting the Olympic Stadium.

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Little C passed out on the Metro on the way back to the hotel and continued her nap in the Regency Club while many comedians who were in town for the Laugh Festival held formal and informal meetings in the Club all around us.  I learned about which acts bring in big tickets sales and which don’t.  I also learned about which comics have fans who drink a bunch (and thus make the clubs more money) and those that don’t.  It was entertaining (and loud) to say the least. My husband got to meet Jim Norton (@jimnorton); he was elated about that.  There are tons of other big name comics all around us here – which is both good and bad when you have a toddler in tow.

I know some folks will say that Canada doesn’t count as international travel, but let me assure you that if you have to have a passport to enter the country, your credit cards don’t always work, and you are greeted with “Bonjour” virtually everywhere you go, that it is decidedly international travel…and we are having a blast!  Up next is a visit to Notre Dame, Old Town, a small family reunion with some of my husband’s relatives who live in Montreal, and more.

 

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  1. Funny, when I went to Montreal, we missed half of our planned activities because of strikes. C’est la vie in Canada I guess.

    On another note, little C just gets cuter by the day!

  2. Can’t wait to see more! Quick question: we have from Tuesday Noon till Saturday. Do you think there’s enough for us just in Montreal or would you try to add in Quebec city as well?

  3. We are in Montreal right now as well and staying at the Hilton Bonaventure but haven’t seen anything about the strikes. Maybe it’s just Hyatt? Also for another data point we were able to purchase a Metro pass at the airport with an American credit card and then we rode the Express bus from the airport to a block away from our hotel. This was included on our pass as you can ride any metro or bus, just not trains with that pass. However, the payment situation has caused us some issues as well as there has been a surprising number of places (fast food, convenience store and even a tourist information selling tickets) that either don’t take credit cards at all or only Canadian ones. We didn’t bring enough cash either as we didn’t experience this when in Europe earlier this year. Maybe Canada has really high merchant processin fees on foreign cards? Anyways we are having a great trip as well. You’ll love Old Montreal – we were there yesterday.

    • @Susan, my understanding is the strike is a “rolling strike” and it will be impacting different hotels at different times. Can’t swear that is accurate, but that is what several in town have told us. Glad it isn’t impacting you b/c it stinks! Old Town is fabulous! We actually were there some yesterday as well!
      @Deal Mommy, I think you have time for an overnight in Quebec City if you want.
      @Kay, how interesting! We don’t get many strikes back in Texas. 😉

  4. Encourage the showers! She’ll continue to take baths for play for a long time, but it is so handy having a quick shower as an option! We didn’t start my oldest until much later, but the middle child started around C’s age and the little one wasn’t even 2 yet.

  5. Global boycott of Hyatt Hotels started this week.

    http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/global-boycott-of-hyatt.html

    http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Organizing-Bargaining/Hyatt-Boycott-Aims-to-End-Worker-Abuse

    The call to “Boycott Hyatt” does not include the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and the Grand Hyatt Kauai, which have current collective bargaining agreements with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and does not include the following Hyatt hotels with current UNITEHERE! collective bargaining agreements: Grand Hyatt New York, Andaz 5th Avenue, Andaz Wall Street, Hyatt Hotel (Highway One Monterey), Hyatt Regency Monterey, Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Hyatt Regency Dearborn (Michigan), Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center, Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina, Hyatt Regency on King (Toronto), Park Hyatt Toronto, Hyatt Regency Vancouver, Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, Hyatt Rosemont and Hyatt Place San Jose.

    The two Hyatt Hotels near my home in Monterey and Carmel Highlands are on the boycott exclusion list.

  6. Labour/political unrest is not the norm anywhere in Canada. Quebec has a bit more of a cultural history with this, and there has been quite a bit since the spring, but this is not what you would typically expect on a Canadian trip.

    While yes, Canada counts as international travel, at least in my books, you will only be greeted by “bonjour” consistently in Quebec and perhaps some parts of northern New Brunswick province.

  7. Upstate NY! Whereabouts? I took my parents to Montreal and we visited Biodome as well, and went up the tower too! It was pretty cool!

  8. I think its a best practice to always have at least $100 in whatever local currency your destination uses, even here in the USA. Sometimes there is just no substitute for cold hard cash, particularly abroad.

  9. I agree with DBest about the local currency when traveling abroad. If we don’t have any leftover currency from our previous trip, we always stop by the airport ATM just in case our credit cards don’t work.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip. I am looking forward to the rest of your report.

  10. I hope you are asking for some Hyatt points for the inconvenience of the unavailable amenities! I understand that strikes (and all sorts of other unexpected things) happen, but the hotel could have let you know by email in advance so you could make other plans if you chose. Hyatt has been having labor issues for a long time now…their workers at the San Francisco financial district location have been on strike off and on for nearly a year, disturbing lots of workers and hotel guests alike with excessive noise, so I’m running out of patience with both the hotel and the unions.

  11. Easiest way to get Canadian cash is to use BOA debit card on any Scotiabank ATM. I believe there is no foreign transaction fee for the withdrawal because they are both in Global ATM alliance

    Canada is not Europe and the majority of the credit cards are magnetic stripe without chip.

  12. Not related directly to this post, but. . . I’m guessing that Little C usually goes to bed before the adults and from the picture above it looks like you are all in the same room. What do the adults do after she goes to bed for the night? Are you able to keep the room lights on and go about your usual business, or do you need to turn off/dim the lights and tiptoe around?

  13. When are you flying out of Burlington? The airport is actually in South Burlington! I work in South Burlington!

  14. -Agree that having some local currency on you at all times is a very good idea. I am just so spoiled with no usually needing to use it.
    -When we are in the same room, we all go to bed at the same time. Usually a good idea since we all have to get up so stinking early with her. 😉
    -I would follow the strike info closely if you have plans to stay at the Hyatt Montreal in the near future. The remaining staff are doing their best, but it was not at all ideal. The noise makers were especially horrible. They said last time this happened it went on for months. They renegotiate contracts every four years apparently, so watch out in 2016 as well. 😉
    -We leave on Tuesday and are enjoying the heck out of Lake Champlain!

  15. It has to do with the chip, not that USA cards are not accepted.

    I used my swiss credit card and it worked great at the Metro.

  16. I wanted to go to Montreal so bad when DC did the 30 days of DC promotion–roundtrip to Montreal for $130. Unfortunately, it was only over Labor Day weekend and I already had plans that weekend. I have heard great things about Montreal.

  17. We were there this mid June. I hope the astrodome will not be turned into the another biodome. That place was the pits and a waste of tax payers fund. Montreal itself was awesome.

  18. I’ve travelled extensively in Canada. I always keep around 30 dolars Canadian when I leave Canada. The reason I do this is that is my starter money for tolls or incidentials until I get to a bank to get money from an ATM. If you try to get Canadian money here in the States it can be difficult and expensive. You normally lose on the exchange rate.

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