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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.
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…
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.