How I saved money on our ice hotel trip
Visiting an ice hotel was a bucket list trip, but I knew I didn’t want to break the bank to do it. With three teenage boys in our house with cars and college on the horizon, I knew that my travel hacking skills were going to be put to good use.
The two well known ice hotels in the world are in Sweden and Quebec. Since I live in the middle of the United States, it seemed like Hotel Glace just outside of Quebec City was going to be less expensive overall. Not to mention the exchange rate weighing in our favor. You can read all about out stay in the Hotel Glace here. With that decision made, here are the money saving details…
1) Flights: Paying $1,400 for two people roundtrip to Quebec City was out of reach for our trip. So we cashed in 50,000 United miles and $141.32 in taxes. We had to make stops in Houston and Toronto to get there, but had enough time to have free lunch and drinks in the Centurion lounge in Houston. Luckily winter is low tourist season in Quebec, so saver level award flights weren’t hard to find. Make sure to avoid the 3 weeks surrounding Carnival. Carnival in Quebec City is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans with parades, concerts, etc. The french speaking population made me feel like we had traveled much further away. So fun. Total savings on flights $1,258.68.
2) Hotels: The lowest rates at Hotel Glace are Monday through Thursday. So we picked the Monday of Martin Luther King weekend since we had the day off and it is not a Canadian holiday. In addition, Hotel Glace had a groupon available for Mon-Thurs stays that reduced the cost by about 50%. So we snagged one of those for even more savings. We bookended our Hotel Glace night with stays at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. While costs in this iconic hotel would be sky high in the summer, the winter rates are pretty reasonable. Hotel staff warned us that high season is May through October and the population swells with cruisers during the day. Quebec City felt magical and uncrowded in the winter, so don’t let the temperatures scare you away. The Fairmont hotels do gift card sales once or twice a year with 20% off. Be sure to follow them on social media in order to get updates on these sales. I bought enough to cover our stay both nights. We also made sure to join the Fairmont Presidents club (their free loyalty club) and both separate nights we were assigned corner rooms on a high floor with 2 windows looking out on the river, free wifi, etc. Total savings on hotels: $404
3) Transportation: This might be a case of do as I say, not as I do. I correctly researched that there is Uber in Quebec City. Although the airport is quite far from the center of town and the Hotel Glace is even further from town in the other direction. So our back and forth transportation to the old city and the airport, combined with the Hotel Glace was probably not cost effective. If we did it again, I would stay in one place for a few nights, then the other to cut down on transportation costs. Our Uber from the airport to the Fairmont was $30 (Which beats the flat taxi rate of $45). However, the Uber to the Hotel Glace was $50. After our Hotel Glace stay we had to get a shuttle back to Quebec City that cost $45 for 2. Alternatively, you could price out a rental car, factoring in hotel parking fees to see if you come out ahead and have a little more flexibility too. Total savings on transportation: minimal, could have done better.
4) Food: We made sure to book our hotel stays with breakfast included if it wasn’t already as it seemed to save money and time. We also booked a food tour of Quebec City, which I highly recommend. Our tour guide gave us a lot of the history of Quebec City that you would get on just a plain walking tour, but we hit 7 eateries as well. We were stuffed from all the local Canadian cuisine, so it felt like we got a two fer! We were way too full to eat dinner that night. Our tour guide also showed us grocery stores where we could buy some of the things we had tasted to eat while on our trip or to take home. Total food savings: hard to calculate but we figure at least $200.
6) Credit card/ Phone fees: These small fees are often overlooked. Do not use a credit card in Canada (or any foreign country) that charges a foreign transaction fee. Just take the ones that charge fees out of your wallet and leave them at home. Always pay in the foreign currency, in this case, the Canadian dollar. The exchange rate from your credit card company will be much better than the gift shop in country. Don’t forget to sign up for the international calling plan for the country you are visiting. We’ve had this done before we left and cancelled the service as soon as we got home. Without it, that call or text will cost way more than you thought. Some of my travel blogger friends swear by T-mobile with free international roaming, so you might want to check that out.
So there it is. How I saved money without staying in a hostel, hitchhiking, or couchsurfing. I want to save money as much as the next guy, but I’m more comfortable in the middle, somewhere between camping and the Ritz Carlton. Most of my posts about saving money can be found under the loyalty button on my home page. Quebec City has a wide variety of accommodations, transportation and activities at every price point. So don’t let price deter you from such a great place!