A Nearly-Free Trip to Montreal

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I have just returned from another pretty-damn-close-to-free trip, and wanted to let our followers know the details of how I did it. In keeping with the secrets, tips and methods we share in detail in the book, my trip to Montreal cost next-to-nothing!

Yes, I was back in Canada, just one month after Keith and I took a trip to British Columbia (as well as Seattle). Apparently I’ve discovered that the key to combating a Texas summer is to escape to Canada. And well worth it in the winter, too, especially if you love to ski. Whistler in British Columbia and Mont Tremblant near Montreal are both fantastic ski areas.

On this trip to Montreal, from July 19-26, I took my mother, daughter and nephew. We all used frequent flyer miles for the most part; my mom and I both had enough miles to get our own tickets, using only 25K miles and a small fee. I had enough American Airlines miles to also get my nephew a ticket, and my daughter had an airline voucher that she had received last year, when she volunteered to get bumped a few hours to a later flight. It can be worth it, folks!

Our home exchange condo in Montreal

In Montreal, we stayed a couple of nights at the Marriott Chateau Champlain, which was arranged for me by Tourism Montreal so that I could review it. But the rest of the week, we stayed completely for free at a beautiful condo as part of a home exchange. Sylvain and his wife, Diane, will come stay at my place in Austin in November. The condo was a very cool, modern two bedroom loft in an old converted factory, in the leafy and beautiful Outremont neighborhood.

For a taste of Montreal, check out the fun, catchy video: Montreal in Two Minutes

Fascinating Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit

Montreal was a beautiful, historic, fascinating bi-cultural city full of the famously-friendly Canadians. We visited museums such as the Biodome, Museum of Archeology and History, and an incredibly creative Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts.

The city is continuously having festivals as well – more than one a week on average, all year long. A lot of these festivals and street events offer completely free shows and activities – for example, while we were there the Completement Cirque, African Nights Music Festival and Just For Laughs festival all offered free activities from concerts and street markets to workshops and even trapeze lessons!

Delectable pastries at Marche Jean-Talon

We also saved money by using the Entertainment Coupon book, and by cooking a couple of meals in our condo. This is another huge benefit of home exchanges – because you have a home with full kitchen, you can save a lot of money eating out. It was also a terrific experience – we shopped at the famed Marche Jean Talon and cooked from that. Read more about this at my other blog, 30 Days at a Time.

It was a fantastic family vacation, and we all had a great time for not a whole lot more money than we would have spent staying at home.

Bon voyage, and travel well!


About Shelley Seale

Shelley is a wanderer and student of the world, yoga chick, voracious reader and dog lover. She pounds the keyboard as a freelance writer, author and publication designer, based in Austin, Texas when she isn't traipsing around the globe. Shelley has written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, The Week, Fodor's, The Telegraph and Texas Monthly, among others. Shelley has performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano, and was once robbed by a monkey in India. But she doesn’t know how to whistle.
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6 Responses to A Nearly-Free Trip to Montreal

  1. Pingback: Traveling Free in Victoria, B.C. | How To Travel For Free (or pretty damn near it!)

  2. Paula says:

    Shelley, I’ve recently realized that I have a few close friends who are constantly frustrated by obstacles (real or imagined) to traveling the world. I will definitely pass on your blog to them, and hopefully they’ll buy your book too. I recently bought the Kindle version and started reading it–it’s my cup of tea! Thank you for the blog and the book…paula


    • Thanks for passing it on, Paula! That’s sort of the whole reason we wrote the book – we were constantly told by friends, “How do you do that?” etc….they always wanted to know our so-called secrets, grilling us for details about home exchanging, getting frequent flyer tickets, etc. So we finally decided to put all our tips and methods into the book. I am really glad you are enjoying it! I think I spend about the same amount in a year of travel (that typically includes a total of several months and MANY countries) that most people spend on their annual two-week vacation. Love it!


  3. Sandy Seale says:

    Absolutely, Shelley. I know I could never afford to travel as we do if it weren’t for all the tricks & shortcuts you’ve shared with me. Although personally not able to use my home for an exchange, I have been able to benefit from your exchanges. I actually prefer staying in homes as it gets you into the neighborhoods, among the locals so you get an entirely different experience than just staying in the usual “tourist” areas. The occasional hotel experience is fun & enjoyable, but there is something more hospitable & cozy about an actual home to retreat to at the end of a long day exploring a new city. Besides saving on usually expensive evening dinners by cooking in a few nights, we also shop for fruits, croissants, breads, quiches, etc. that we can enjoy in the mornings while getting ready for our daily adventures. You can also check out passes that most cities have available for their museums; usually good for use at all of them & often other places of interest throughout the city. With no more effort than you would take planning the “normal” travel experience, we’ve been able to actually travel much more & definitely for less money than we possible could using the methods most people use to plan their vacations. And I can honestly say these trips are much more about exploring & wandering the cities, finding amazing things we weren’t even looking for, than they were in previous years when I was an actual “tourist on vacation”, So look at travel from new eyes; taking the tips Shelley & Keith share, & have the most awesome experiences of your life.


    • Totally agree, and the whole “exploration and wander” aspect of travel is, to me at least, so much more enjoyable. You get a real feel for the place, and meet more locals that way. For example, we never even bothered to try poutine because Celine, a lifelong Montrealer, said she’d only had it twice in her life and didn’t even like it. Seemed enough to scratch off something that was just to say you did it, as a tourist. I much more enjoyed all the food we got from Marche Jean-Talon!


  4. Pingback: Traveling Free in Victoria, B.C. | How To Travel For Free (or pretty « My Awesome Web Log

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