What I Spent: A 5-Night Road Trip to Montreal

  • 01 of 07

    Upfront Costs

    ••• Elspeth Velten

    The upfront costs of vacations are predictable. It’s the little things—airport snacks, cocktails before dinner, tipping a tour guide—that can throw even the most well-planned vacation budget off track. In this series, we look at the spending patterns of real travelers in popular destinations, so you can estimate what you’ll actually spend.

    In this installment, one couple takes a five-night road trip from New York to Montreal.

    Airbnb: $424 for 3 nights

    Hotel: 53,065 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points ($795.98) for 2 nights

    Size of Group: 2

    Continue to 2 of 7 below.
  • 02 of 07

    Friday

    ••• Elspeth Velten

    11:30 a.m.: Our loaner car (a 2017 Ford Edge Sport) is being dropped off outside my Manhattan apartment, but finding a parking spot during the daily alternate side parking wars will be no small task. The driver double parks — like every other car on the street at this time — and I realize I'll need to wait around until 12:30 p.m. to snag a spot as soon as the street cleaning timeframe is over. I go grab a shrimp empanada from the corner cart to make the wait taste better. Cost: $1.50

    2:55 p.m.: My husband Charlie is home from work, our bags are packed and we're ready to go. Unfortunately, so is the rest of NYC — it's the Friday before Fourth of July weekend, and the FDR is bumper-to-bumper. I take the first round of driving — Charlie's new here and only has his Learner's Permit, and we're not clear on what the rules are around him driving on NYC highways.

    4:55 p.m.: We pull off the road to quickly switch seats, so I can broadcast how cool this car is over my Insta...MORE Story (literally cool — air-conditioned seats are something I can no longer live without), SYNC up my iPhone to get the tunes going, and eat leftover gummy bears I found in my bag. 

    5:30 p.m.: There's a store called Taste NY in the median of the Taconic State Parkway, and you can bet I'll be stopping there. We leave with a chocolate chip cookie, a cheddar and chickpea scone and one cold brew for the road. Cost: $10.65

    8 p.m.: There have been some serious storms outside (torrential downpours and flash floods) and driving is treacherous. We need to eat it off. We Google the nearby options and decide on New Way Lunch of Queensbury. It's a dive-y diner, and it's perfect. We go for two hot dogs with meat sauce, onions and mustard, a fish sandwich with fries, and two birch beers. Cost: $24.00, including tip

    8:30 p.m.: We gas up before getting back on the road. Cost: $20.32

    9:30 p.m.: Are we in Canada yet? No. One more snack stop — Charlie gets a Twix and a water. Cost: $4.35

    1 a.m. (Saturday): We made it to our Airbnb! We scored a prime parking spot on the street and had no problem getting into the apartment. Time to hit the sack.

    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    Saturday

    Jean Talon Market, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    ••• Patrick Donovan/Getty Images

    10:30 a.m.: We're awake and ready to get going — today, much like the rest of our trip, is all about eating. First thing's first: coffee. We find an ATM and then make a bee-line for the first cafe we can find. It happens to be the hipster hot spot Hof Kelsten bakery in Mile End. We order one latte and one cortado to go. Cost: $7.00

    10:50 a.m.: We walk up to St. Viateur in Mile End, one of Montreal's two most famous bagel joints. I have my heart set on a lox sandwich, but the location we just arrived at doesn't seem to have seating or a sandwich menu. We confirm that we're at the wrong location (St. Viateur's sit-down cafe is located back where we started, in Mont-Royal) and decide to fit bagels in on another morning. All the better, because we're headed to the famous Jean Talon market. 

    12 noon: We've made our initial lap around the market, and decide to start first at Boucherie An-Nasr, a brick-and-mortar butcher on the outskirts that's advertising...MORE merguez sandwiches. We share one merguez sandwich with tomato and harissa mayo, and one water. It's delicious. Cost: $6.33 

    12:18 p.m.: Next stop is the market's renowned charcuterie: Les Cochons Tout Ronds. We seek advice on what's best to try, and settle on a 100-gram mix of the spicy and regular salami, and a 100-gram slice of terrine, to go. Cost: $6.61

    12:30 p.m.: What's charcuterie without cheese? We head to La Fromagerie Hamel, where we let a cheesemonger talk us into one Quebecoise and one French cheese. Cost: $10.18 

    12:35 p.m.: The La Boite aux Huitres oyster counter is a must in the market. We ask for 12 Canadian oysters — two each of six types from both the East and West coasts of the country. We stake out two seats at the bar while we wait for the oysters to get shucked, and then down them.

    The couple next to us is waiting for a special order of "sea angel" oysters, and when they're delivered, we understand the novelty. They're huge! We ask about them and as our neighbors give us the scoop, our shucker lets us know he cracked open an extra for a different order on accident. One massive free (and somewhat terrifying) oyster, coming our way. Cha-ching. Cost: $23.17

    12:57 p.m.: So far we've only split one sandwich and 12 oysters, so we definitely still have room to split a crepe. We go to battle over which type to order, but I give in to Charlie's plan: spinach, egg, ham and swiss. Savory crepes for life. Cost: $11.61

    1:34 p.m.: We've finally eaten enough (I mean, not really, but OK). We pop in to Pharmaprix on the way home and leave with a razor, hair bands, water and toothpaste. Cost: $15.75

    1:47 p.m.: It's raining. We jump into the metro at Beaubien towards Mont-Royal. Cost: $5.12

    2:18 p.m.: We stop in the local depanneur (corner shop) to grab 10 beers and one big Evian before retreating to digest in our Airbnb. Cost: $22.21

    6:45 p.m.: Our dinner reservation is at 8:30, so we leave plenty of time to hit a bar for a drink before. We head to Bily Kun, a Czech bar known for its extensive beer list and its stuffed ostrich decorations. We order two small beers by Quebec brewery Brasserie McAuslan: one with apricot and one cream ale. Of course, we can't resist a snack. With our second round, we add a "Combo Jenni" — a plate of nachos with a side of cheese sausage. Cost: $22.28

    8:30 p.m.: It's our turn at Au Pied de Cochon.

    In researching this trip, I, of course, set my heart on a couple of restaurants that are super difficult to book. With a little bit of help from the concierge at the Hotel Gault (a Preferred Hotels & Resorts property), where we booked a room for the last two nights of the trip, I was able to snag reservations at three of my top choices. This is one of them. 

    Au Pied de Cochon is known for its unapologetic Canadian menu of rich meats, poutine and maple syrup desserts. The menu has an entire foie gras section! We decide to start with the tuna tartare (how could we not, when the tuna is fresh today, straight from Nova Scotia?), and then share the stuffed pig's foot and a foie gras poutine. We glug through two glasses of orange wine, one glass of red and one bottle of sparkling water, before admitting defeat in the face of half a remaining trotter. Our waitress pours us free shots of Calvados, and takes one with us. We drag ourselves home on foot, and I vow to never eat again. Cost: $158.51

    10:27 p.m.: Charlie can't end the night without sugar. He grabs an ice pop at the depanneur. Cost: $1.88 

     

    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    Sunday

    Boulangerie Guillame
    ••• Elspeth Velten

    8:30 a.m.: I wake up, and immediately start to think about what time I should get Charlie moving so we can go get bagels and not have to wait on a long line.

    8:45 a.m.: Oh wait, something suspicious is happening. Those are probably just hunger pains, right? Some fresh air on the walk to the bagel cafe will do me good, and then I'll be fine. 

    9 a.m.: This isn't normal. 

    9:30 a.m.: Oh, haha, I have actual food poisoning. "It's probably Norovirus", I tell everyone in my phonebook. Good thing this entire trip wasn't planned around eating or anything. Cost: My dignity and lifelong desire to eat oysters ever again

    12:45 p.m.: Charlie looks hungry — he can't do life alone. I try to pull it together for the sake of the team. I buy a water immediately, then make it about two blocks before retiring to a bench to hopefully not vomit in front of Canadians while Charlie goes back to Hof Kelsten for a croissant. I mean, I get it, but, kind of rude. Cost: $4.30

    3:20 p.m.: Trying...MORE this whole "going outside" thing again. But not without supplies. I grab three individual packets of Advil, a water, and a soda (for Charles). Cost: $5.13

    3:40 p.m.: I made it further this time — to Boulangerie Guillaume. I can do this. We settle for just one baguette and an almond croissant, and we walk over to sit in the grass at Mount Royal Park with the cheese and terrine we bought at the market yesterday. I'm suddenly feeling much better (it's relative — things won't be normal again for at least a week). It's Saturday, so the park is alive with the sounds of the Tam-Tams, a weekly drum circle that sprouts up around the George-Étienne Cartier Monument, and the crowds that the drummers attract. Cost: $6.10 

    7:15 p.m.: We cannot lose a night's worth of food plans. We don't have a reservation for tonight, but I planned that we'd drive to Le Coq de L'est, a hipster tandoori chicken joint way out in the 'burbs. Having a car on this trip certainly has its perks! Surely I can handle some chicken. We order a whole chicken (which comes with frites, cole slaw and house bread) and a Caesar salad. Charlie has a beer. The meal is worth the drive; this is the best Caesar salad I've ever had, and that's not the food poisoning talking! We wrap the leftovers. Cost: $55.20

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Monday

    Fruit at the Atwater Market
    ••• Elspeth Velten

    10:30 a.m.: We are awake, we are in eating condition, and we are at St. Viateur. We wait about 20 minutes for a table, and then order two traditional bagel sandwiches (that's smoked salmon with cream cheese, tomato, onions, capers and lemon) — one on sesame, one on all dressed (AKA everything) — with crab salad on the side. And two filter coffees! I'm a New Yorker, so it's important to me personally to suss out the realities of this bagel rivalry. Cost: $30.42

    11:23 a.m.: The bagels are bready, and there are no free refills on the filter coffee. I'm still a devout Long Island bagel enthusiast! On our walk back, we (I) can't stifle our intrigue surrounding a mysterious bakery we walked past earlier with a long line. We find it on the way back, and while I wait in line, I determine they're famous for making French kouign amann pastries. Guess what? They're sold out for the next 40 minutes. I grab a cheese croissant and a raspberry and almond danish instead. We...MORE save them for later. (Can you tell our food collection is growing?) Cost: $4.63

    12:29 a.m.: We've checked out of the Airbnb and stashed our stuff in the car. Now it's time to do some damage to that leftover stash we've been hoarding. We grab drinks at the depanneur and set our sights on the top of Mont Royal. We're rewarded after the climb with a view and a picnic. Cost: $3.32

    3:23 p.m.: Before checking into the Hotel Gault, we decide to drive over to the Atwater Market, another of the city's popular food halls. We meander between the rows of outdoor plants and perfectly preened baskets of berries, and drool over the display cases of pate inside. Remembering our existing food collection, we buy only a Coke and a Pellegrino. Cost: $2.23

    4:17 p.m.: We find a parking garage near the hotel. Cost: $13.29 per day for 3 days = $39.87

    6:30 p.m.: This hotel is beautiful — our modern room incorporates original design elements seamlessly behind the building's 19th century facade — and we booked it on points! Dinner tonight is at 8 p.m., so we head out early for drinks. Cost: $7.82 for two unlimited evening passes on the Metro

    7 p.m.: We go for beers before dinner on Rue Saint-Denis — Charlie picks L’Amere a Boire, and we take two seats at the terrace on the street. Cost: $23.51 for five beers.

    8 p.m: Tonight’s the night for L’Express, one of Montreal’s most famous French brasseries. We’re seated towards the back, where tables of two are lined up with little space between, and the waiter is lagging big time. That just gives us more time to enjoy our prosecco before ordering.

    Charlie chooses the celery remoulade and the hanger steak, and I go for the bone marrow and the house ravioli (they’re mushroom!). We down a bottle of Cote du Rhone, and end things with an ile flottante and a crème caramel. We laugh through the meal as nearby couples eye our food and order accordingly — we barely even remember that the service was subpar. Cost: $162.09

    Continue to 6 of 7 below.
  • 06 of 07

    Tuesday

    ••• Bota Bota

    10:45 a.m.: We start the day at the Titanic café, around the corner from Hotel Gault. They don’t officially serve breakfast — the only offer one type of egg sandwich and coffee. We order two sandwiches, a latte and a macchiato. The sandwiches arrive with scrambled eggs, tomato, lettuce, ham and cheese. They’re delicious, and make up for the fact that my macchiato is actually a latte. Cost: $28.35 including tip (I’m shocked! That’s what happens when you don’t order from a menu.)

    11:05 a.m.: Today we’re tackling Old Montreal. We walk through Place d'Armes, and pay to enter the Notre Dame Basilica. It’s worth it to stand beneath the basilica’s colorful interior for a few minutes. Cost: $4.86 each

    1:30 p.m.: We conclude our self-guided walking tour at Olive et Gourmando, where we wait for around 30 minutes before being seated inside the bakery. The restaurant is known for its homemade bread and healthy salads. We go for two sandwiches — one Cajun chicken and one Cubain — a raspberry...MORE lemonade and an elixir iced tea. This place lives up to its reputation as the best bet for lunch in Montreal’s most touristy area. Cost: $39.39 including tip

    2:45 p.m.: We’ve spent the last few days running around and eating — now it’s time to relax and sweat it out. We head to Bota Bota, a 1950s ferryboat that’s been converted into a spa docked on the St. Lawrence River. The boat stares directly at the Montreal skyline, so it’s easy to cycle between the spa’s saunas, steam rooms, hot and cold pools and hammock chairs for three hours. Cost: $102.45 for the “Water Circuit” for two

    5:30 p.m.: We’re walking along the river’s industrial edge, and we’re dehydrated. We grab two seltzers from a vending machine. Cost: $3.24

    7:45 p.m.: It’s time to head out for our last big meal, and it’s the one I’m most excited for. We grab two evening passes and take the metro to the Little Burgundy neighborhood. Cost: $8.10

    8 p.m.: We head into Burgundy Lion for our pre-dinner drink. Charlie has two beers and I nurse a vodka soda. I need to be in prime condition to make the most of dinner! (And my stomach is still a mess.) Cost: $21.87 including tip

    9 p.m.: We’re finally at Liverpool House, known for being the sister restaurant of famous next-door neighbor, Joe Beef, and for recently hosting Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama for dinner. Casual. Our table isn’t ready, so we order two beers while we wait.

    At a table out back on the terrace, we decide on a couple of dishes to share. We start with the homemade rabbit sausage and a dish of morel mushrooms served with garlic bread, then move on to pork ribs with clams and the restaurant’s most famous dish — a creamy and rich lobster pasta. The waitress suggests a bottle of wine to match: we agree on a 2015 bottle of Magic of Ju-Ju. We’re too full for dessert, and to ever eat again. Cost: $204.40 

    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 07 of 07

    Wednesday

    ••• Elspeth Velten

    9:30 a.m.: Just kidding! A stay at one of Montreal’s best boutique hotels would be incomplete without a big old room service breakfast. We order two orders of eggs Benedict with ham, one latte and one regular coffee. Cost: $54.27

    12:10 p.m.: We’re on the road, and we need to fill up before hitting the border. Cost: $44.01

    3 p.m.: I’m back in the States, and I’ve lost all desire to pretend I don’t still have food poisoning. And what’s more soothing for an upset stomach than fake food? Yep, we finish off a trip of fine-dining at McDonald's. Cost: $15.00

    6 p.m.: We fill up the tank one more time before arriving back in NYC. Cost: $33.50

    Totals:

    Accommodation: $424.00

    Food & Drink: $968.60

    Transport: $159.02

    Miscellaneous: $133.05

    (As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with some discounted services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.)