2019 Scrapbook

8 Hours, $200 in Ontario: Niagara and Toronto

For my 35th birthday, I decided to get out of the house every weekend in March. If you haven’t met me, I spend most of my free time at home in front of the television.  Lately, I’ve been getting a little bored of that and itching to do something different. I don’t think I love (budget) travel, but I’m drawn to adventure.  For the last weekend of March, I visited Toronto and Niagara Falls, Ontario for the day.


Since this blog is masquerading as a personal finance blog, let’s start with what this trip cost me.

Toronto (Mar 2019)
Airfare $205.37
Airport Parking $14.00
Rental Car $20.98
Fees $8.00
Fuel related to excursion $22.47
Total: $270.82

Notes on Expenses

Airfare – This was the cost of one way direct flight on Canada Air from Raleigh, NC to Toronto. You get free snacks on Canada Air! Protip- It seems these days airlines let your hold a fare for 24 hours without purchasing it. And more and more seem to let you purchase a fare for a full refund within 24 hours of purchase. News to me.

Airport Parking – I only went for a day but because of mechanical problems, my flight was delayed and I ended up spending the night in Charlotte, NC (only 2 hours away from home). It cost me an extra day of airport parking. I suppose I could probably request reimbursement for that from the airline?

Rental Car – One day rental in Canada.

Fees – Five dollars was for a cancelled Uber when I got lost in the shuffle of a surprise overnight stay in Charlotte. Ugh, I am not the savvy traveler I used to be. I mostly just panicked and had trouble navigating a cell phone and an iPad. I’m so out of practice with all this new-fangled technology! I think the other three dollars were for parking and a bank fee to use my debit card in Canada. That dumb bank!

Fuel – Driving the rental from Toronto to Niagara Falls. It was only about 3.5 hrs/rd trp. Barely used a quarter tank. Fuel is purchased in Liters. Silly metric system.

Some cost savings
I saved $200 on my return ticket by opening an American Airlines credit card. They gave me a statement credit, so the return flight was essentially free. I don’t recommend this hack for my future self because the temptation was too great to subsequently use that card for nonsense (see notes on South African trip). But that was my attempt at amateur travel hacking; I am obviously not ready! ️

I also realized it was the same price to fly in and out of Toronto the same day vs staying overnight as was my default since it was an international trip after all. I saved on vacation days by squeezing it into a weekend as well.

Were I a more savvy traveler, when the plane was having mechanical problems, I would have opted to stay the night in Toronto and catch a later flight the next day. Thereby giving me a chance to explore they city. Instead I stayed the night at my connecting airport in North Carolina and got the earliest flight back to Raleigh. Lame.

Getting there

Waking up at 4 in the morning wasn’t actually that bad. I beat my alarm and I had been working from home all week, so I was a bit eager to get out of the house!

Was quite late to board. Note to self, early bird flights out of Raleigh on a Saturday are quite popular. Leave more than an hour in advance next time. Almost missed my flight, as in doors closing. Apparently Canada Air calls you on your personal phone for close calls. Too bad I gave them my work number because Single Girl ain’t got no phone.

Flight was nice and short and a bit bumpy.

Toronto airport is huuuuuuuuuge-mongous. So many signs! So many trains!

Drive to the Falls was not bad. No cell service for the Single Girl. But my friend that I met there told me if you have Verizon, they’ll let you get international cell service at $5 for 24 hours. You get a magic text when you crossover.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

If you go on a dreary Saturday in March, there are plenty of places to park. They take USDs. Most places did. Municipal parking started at $3/hr. We found off brand parking for as low as $5 all day.

The Falls are free. The area surrounding is chock full of fast food and pretty average but plentiful consumer attractions. There is a sky wheel but seems to be weather dependent. Otherwise you can just walk up and down the path beside the falls. We crossed the Friendship Bridge to the US. That costs 4 quarters!!

Driving back

The drive back was pretty grey. Ten (10) lanes of traffic. Yes, ten. Apparently Toronto is a city of 2.6 million. Who knew?

Grabbed some Malaysian food in one of the city’s suburbs. Who can resist some roti canai? Ran out of time and got it to go! More traffic. Then shuttle from rental car place to airport. Given its size, I still tried to squeeze by with an hour before departure right? Right! NO LINE! Flying on American back, there were so many kiosks to check in and go through security.

Then the plane got delayed for mechanical issues. Then it had to be de-iced because wouldn’t you know it’s still snowing in Toronto at the end of March! American put us up for the night and provided a meal voucher. Good on them. Luckily, I had nowhere to be the next day.

Overall, I was kind of surprised by the little bit of Toronto I saw. The trains made me curious. If I can ever find a cheap flight out of Raleigh, I’d like to come back to explore Toronto via train. I also might like to see Quebec and Prince Edward Island.

That’s pretty much it. I’m officially a pro at visiting national parks in cold rain! Thank you for reading.

Read More:

When I Went To South Africa

When I Went To the Grand Canyon Solo

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