Fourth of July of 2017 happened to be on a Tuesday, so what better way to go on a quick trip, right? And so, scouting randomly for destinations to go to on a quick weekend trip (4 days, to be exact), we chanced across 2 tickets via Delta to Toronto, Canada from Jacksonville, FL for only 19,000 Delta miles per person. Now, if you were a travel hacker, you would know that Delta miles are worth ‘pesos’ and it’s hard to find a decent, low priced redemption.
Guess what we did after we saw this? You guessed it, we booked the flights. So for 19,000 miles (38,000 Delta miles for both of us) + taxes and fees ($11 per person), we jetted off to Toronto, Canada. Here’s our experiences and some related posts:
- Travel Hacking-Related Posts
Going to Canada: People who have American passports can just go there without a visa. Foreign passport holders (like me) with US resident cards need to apply for an eTA.
Note about eTAs: make sure you have a printed copy of it. The airlines need to see a printed copy or a copy on your email if you’re flying from the US (make a screenshot of it for easier access). US Airlines don’t have access to the Canada eTA database so they’ll need to see that your travel documents were actually approved.
Applying for an eTA wasn’t hard. I put in all my information and within a few minutes, I got the approval email. I am going to Canada – Yay!
4 Day Niagara Falls and Toronto Canada Itinerary
2 tickets on Delta using points (19,000 points per person) + $58.96 taxes & fees
Day 1: June 29th
Hotel: Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Falls Fallsview (3,500 SPG points/night)
Car Rental: 3 day car rental from Avis – $55.48
- Greg Frewin Show (forgot how much this was), part of a Groupon package. The theatre is walking distance from the Clifton Hill district of Toronto (where all the entertainment is)
- Walked around Clifton Hills (stores and the attractions. Got 3D postcards for less than $0.50 each!)
- Lunch at Shake Shack (JFK Airport)
- Dinner at Outback Steakhouse (had a 40 CAD voucher, but overall it’s expensive)
- Snack from Tim Horton’s
Day 2: June 30th
Hotel: Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Falls Fallsview
- Hornblower Niagara Falls Cruise
- Walked across Rainbow Bridge to the United States (the bridge has a pedestrian toll and bring your passport with you as you are crossing borders)
- Niagara Falls State Park: Walked over to Goat Island, saw Maid of the Mist and back we went to Canada (they didn’t stamp my passport when I left Canada, arrived in the US, and went back to Canada)
- Journey Behind the Falls (back on the Canadian Side)
- Falls Illumination (happens every night)
- Breakfast: muffin from Tim Horton’s/self-catered (brought groceries)
- Lunch: Tim Horton’s
- Dinner: Mmmm I forgot where we had dinner 🙁
Day 3: July 1st: CANADA DAY!
We had to return the rental (+$25 for gas), and we left Niagara Falls pretty early (around 11AM) to avoid the traffic going to Toronto.
Accommodation: AirBnB walking distance to Toronto. If it’s your first time to use AirBnB, use our code to get $40 off your first booking. Was super tired and it was raining in the afternoon so we took a nap. Since it was also Canada Day, the grocery stores were closed so we can’t self-cater. Boo.
- CN Tower (had the Citypass)
- Watched fireworks over CN Tower
- Played arcade games in Niagara Falls (Mirror Maze, Mini golf, etc, as part of our Greg Frewin Groupon deal)
- Breakfast: Tim Horton’s muffins
- Lunch: McDonald’s
- Dinner: Thai food in Toronto (forgot the name also)
Transportation: Union Pearson Express from Toronto airport to downtown
Day 4: July 2
Accommodation: AirBnB (Toronto)
- Breakfast: Self-catered
- Lunch: Casa Loma’s cafeteria/self-catered (we split a hot meal and Peter brought sandwiches too)
- Dinner: Self-catered (bought food from a grocery store)
Day 5: July 3
Accommodation: Westin Toronto Airport
- Ripley’s Aquarium
- Looked at the giant duck at Harbour Square Park
- Hockey Hall of Fame (Peter)
- Yonge Street (Ruby) — we decided to split up according to our preference in the afternoon. Rather than force each other to a place that we won’t like to go to.
- Airport (byeee! Time to go home)
- Breakfast: self-catered
- Lunch: Thai Place near the Harbour
- Dinner: self-catered
Transportation: Union Pearson Express from downtown Toronto to the airport
Thoughts about the trip:
First off, we only exchanged $20 worth of USD to CAD from the airport. This was our ‘what if’ money in case we needed to get on a bus or get water from a street vendor. In hindsight, we should have just changed $10 worth because we only used up around $2.50 worth in cash. Anyway, it’s always better to have back up cash because not all places accept credit cards (like food carts, etc)
If you are going to Niagara Falls, the more ‘fun’ side is the Canadian side. There’s so many places to see and do in the Canada side, but after a while the falls can get boring. Two whole days is enough in Niagara Falls if you want to see both the American and the Canadian side. Other people just do this on a day trip, so it is perfect if you are looking for a quick weekend destination. Toronto is just 1 1/2 hours drive away from Niagara Falls, and Buffalo is 20-30 minutes away from the US side.
You can also, in theory, take a bus from Toronto’s downtown to Niagara Falls to save more money, but since there were two of us and if we factor in the train cost for both of us, it made more sense to rent a car. Sure, if we booked early we could have taken a $5 Megabus, but we didn’t. We also wanted the flexibility of traveling around on our own time.
Toronto is a huge city, so we definitely missed out on a few other places like the markets. We did, however, cover some of the bigger attractions. We skipped the Toronto Zoo and the Science Center because they are a bit further from downtown and we didn’t want to pay for an extra Uber there and back.
Toronto and Niagara Falls are both walkable cities. You can get by using public transportation or just walking around. That way, you don’t have to pay for parking fees and whatnot (except we did in Niagara Falls, but we don’t regret it because we technically got the hotel using points). This will also help save you money by not fueling up a car, and you’ll get exercise too! There’s also Uber available in these areas, so if you suddenly get tired and can’t walk anymore, then you can Uber your way back to your accommodation.
On another note, we each got $300 in trade vouchers from Delta (total of $600) because our flight from Toronto to Atlanta was already full. We decided to volunteer to give up our seats, and we got on a flight from Toronto to New York instead. We ended up back in Jacksonville 15 minutes from our original flight arrival and $600 in travel vouchers richer (hopefully for use for our Europe trip in May 2018). How’s that for good luck?
Have you been to Niagara Falls (both in the US and Canada) and Toronto? What are your thoughts about these cities? Feel free to comment below!
If you also have additional questions on how we ‘travel hacked’ our way to Toronto and Niagara Falls, let us know by commenting below too.