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Canada 2015 Trip Planning Part 2 - Montreal Itinerary

Arriving Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL):
I'll be getting into Montreal airport late at night. So I need a hotel that's nearby and provides me a shuttle to the hotel. By then I should be exhausted and I don't really have time to figure out the public transportation although they do have an express bus from airport to downtown.

I found Holiday Inn Montreal Aeroport that provides free shuttle to/from the airport. They told me that the 24 hour shuttle goes around the airport every 15 and 45 minutes past the hour at door 7. They share it with the Crowne Plaza so both logos will be on the shuttle. This hotel costs me 15,000 points with IHG Rewards that I obtained from their credit card's sign up bonus 70,000 points. I think it's fair enough and for the convenience, I reserved it!

Airport to Downtown Transportation:
Next morning, the shuttle will take me back to the airport so that I can purchase the ticket for the express bus 747 into downtown where my hotel is.

Montreal Public Transportation:
Montreal's public transportation is operated by STM. The cool thing about purchasing the ticket for express bus 747 above is that the ticket costs $10 CAD and it's unlimited travel throughout STM buses and métro networks during 24 consecutive hours. You can read more info here. That means, for $10 CAD, I can go to all the attractions without a lot of walking in 24 hours. Therefore, I plan on doing attractions that are not within walking distance from my hotel that day to take advantage of this 24 hours ticket.

I'll be staying in Montreal downtown area. First it's convenient, and second it's close to Montreal Central Station where I'll take my train to Quebec City. I booked my hotel through Hotels.com and it costs me $64.51 USD per night. I have a one night reward of $64.18 to redeem this. My total cost comes to $12.58.

Things to Do:
You may want to read this up on your own to see what interests you. If you have more days than I do in Montreal, you should consider splitting these into couple days. Through my research, here's my planned itinerary.

Day 1: 
As I mentioned earlier, to take advantage of the 24 hour ticket, I planned on going to places that are not within walking distance from my hotel in downtown.

  • Mount Royal - I have to take public transportation there. To avoid hiking up to the viewing area, the only bus #11 will take me all the way to the top where I can take in the view of Montreal city. My 24 hour ticket will take care of that. 
  • St. Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal 
  • Jean-Talon Market
  • Biosphere - $12 entrance fee as of today. 
  • Montreal Biodome (Optional) - $19.25 entrance fee as of today.
  • Olympic Stadium (Optional) - 7 mins walk from Biodome
In the evening, I'll be checking out these close by attractions to downtown:
  • Old Montreal
  • Rue St-Paul - 6 mins walk from Old Montreal. 
  • Old Port of Montreal - 1 min walk from Rue St-Paul.

Day 2:

  • Notre-Dame Basilica
  • Underground City Shopping - before catching the train to Quebec City. This shopping center is conveniently located right in the train station. 
I might have more time than I expected on day 2 to re-visit places on my Day 1 if I really like the place(s) or if I didn't get a chance to do it. 

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Review: All Nippon Airways (ANA) NH8 Business Class 777 Tokyo Narita (NRT) to San Francisco (SFO)

ANA Lounge at Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT)

I walked up the escalator to the lounge. Was greeted and went right into the lounge. The food section was good from sushi to stir fry noodle. They also have salad, fruits, and drinks like other lounges.

They also have a cook there to take people's order for noodle soup and curry rice. The lounge area itself is huge and pretty nice quiet. There's another part of the lounge with more seats but the food is pretty much the same. 

ANA NH8 Business Class 777 Tokyo Narita (NRT) to San Francisco (SFO)

Boarding first the special need passengers, then First Class and then my Business Class.

My first impression of the ANA's cubical seating was wow! So much space and wide seat. There are lots of compartment to store stuff with a big TV screen. I was way excited! The flight attendant was very nice and they learned passengers' last name. The seat itself is super nice with many things that come along with it such as the slipper, a bag that consists of toothbrush, lotion, eye mask and ear plugs, a pad for the flat bed, a comforter that you can put feet in (I thought that pocket was for head lol), and a pillow. There's a usb charger and an iPod plugin. The seat configuration is 1-2-1. Mine is 1 seat so it was super duper nice and has a very good privacy (selfie as much as I wanted to lol).

There are so many choices of both alcohol and non-alcohol drinks. I ordered screwdriver and plum wine with soda water. The plum wine was very good. I got a buzz before I knew it! The snack that went along with the drink was delicious too. It was some sort of raw fish, feta cheese and more. Japanese apparently loves raw meat.

Later the appetizer was served with raw fish and beef and some other things like a salad, again it was delicious!

Then the meal was served. I had international cuisine of cooked fish in some type of ginger sauce (please see the menu). It was very good!

By the time the dessert was served, I was full already! I had grapefruit pudding, it wasn't my favorite.

Afterwards, I got the flat bed ready and snoozed away!

About two hours before reaching the destination, they started serving light dishes or breakfast between Japanese and international cuisines. I chose Japanese and it was good.

That's concluded my business class trip on ANA flight.

I have a previous business class flight before this flight. Review: All Nippon Airways (ANA) NH1084 Business Class 767 Taipei (TPE) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)

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Canada 2015 Trip Planning Part 1: Introduction

It's crazy that I have been to so many places in the United State, Europe, and Asia, but I have not been to Canada. Perhaps, I am just like those travelers out there that think Canada is just another North America and therefore take it for granted. A true traveler will Not think that way!

I have always wanted to go see the Niagara Falls from both the American side (Buffalo) and the Canadian side. With that in mind, I started brainstorming....

After my research, Niagara Falls in Ontario Canada is close to Toronto. I was told that there's also a train Via Rail (similar to US Amtrak) that goes to Montreal which is nothing like New Orleans. So I want to see Toronto and Montreal. Besides those two, Quebec City is the second best destination in Canada according to TripAdvisor. I looked at the map and QC is just a few hours away from Montreal via train. So I squeeze QC in my itinerary. I wish I have more time to see Ottawa too, but next time! I usually intentionally leave some places out so that I can come back again.

At first, I thought it would be interesting to check out Buffalo town. I could fly into Buffalo, then fly out of Canada. But given time and money, I had to change my itinerary a little bit. By flying out of Canada, it costs more than flying from US to Canada with all the taxes and surcharges. So here's my itinerary:

  • Flight from BOI to Montreal - $266 (excludes seat selection fee of Air Canada). I decided to use Alaska Air's 12,500 miles to book this award ticket. It costs me $18.10 ($5.60 for taxes and other fees, $12.50 for partner award booking fee)
  • From Montreal to Quebec City - Via Rail's total fare with taxes comes to $56.34 CAD (~$46.22 USD)
  • From Quebec City to Toronto - Via Rail costs me $111.53 CAD (~$91.49 USD) with a layover in  Montreal. I didn't want to fly into Quebec City first as it's much more expensive than Montreal. I enjoy train ride, so this will be fun!
  • From Toronto to Niagara Falls - My friend who lives in Toronto said she'll take me there. 
  • From Niagara Falls Ontario to US side - Cross the border via the Rainbow Bridge. 
  • Flight from BUF to BOI - $180.60. I used my Arrival+ MasterCard miles to redeem the cost of this ticket, and I get 10% miles back. I put all my travel expenses for this trip on my Arrival+ card and plan on redeeming the above costs some time. 
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Up to $450 Bank Bonuses

I'll try to add more bank bonuses to the list later on. Click on the link to view the bonus that interest you. Please make sure to read the fine print and let me know if you have any questions.

Banks Checking Saving Availability
Chase $300 Bonus through May 7, 2015 $150 Bonus through May 7, 2015 Nationwide
Chase $175 Bonus through April 23, 2015 Nationwide
Regions Bank $300 Bonus Unknown Expiration Date Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Austin, and Dallas.
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Starwood Hotels & Resorts Categories & Points Values

I value greatly on Starwood points as they are so useful for airline transfer purposes. The points though are difficult to get. The sign up bonus of 25,000 points is not very high either, but I love the fact that I can redeem for their category 1 hotel for as low as 2,000 Starwood Points.

In general, when I am trying to book a Starwood hotel, I usually do the math first to make sure I am using the right point for the right price hotel. For instance, if a category 1 Starwood hotel costs me $150 on the weekend night, the use of Starwood point redemption would make the most sense here.

Starwood Points can be purchased at $0.035 cents per point. On a category 1 hotel, it requires 2,000 points for a free night stay on the weekend. So 2,000 x $0.035 = $70 saving me $80. I have two options:

  1. I could use he accumulated points in my account and redeem the free night stay, OR
  2. I could save those points, and purchase 2,000 points for $70. I give up $70 cash here instead. 
Use the list above and find the hotel that interests you. Then search for the regular price for the night stay and compare it to the cost of points below. 

$0.035 cents per Starwood Point

Category 1:
Weekend Night: 2,000 Starwood Points = $70 
Weekday Night: 3,000 Starwood Points = $105

Category 2: 
Weekend Night: 3,000 Starwood Points = $105
Weekday Night: 4,000 Starwood Points = $140

Category 3:
7,000 Starwood Points = $245

Category 4:
10,000 Starwood Points = $350

Category 5:
Depending on the season, between 12,000 or 16,000 Starpoints
12,000 Starwood Points = $420
16,000 Starwood Points = $560

Category 6:
Depending on the season, between 20,000 or 25,000 
20,000 Starwood Points = $700
25,000 Starwood Points = $875 (20,000 points purchase is the limit + 5,000 points for $175)

Category 7:
Between 30,000 or 35,000
30,000 Starwood Points = $1,050
35,000 Starwood Points = $1,225

As you can see, the price of points for higher categories hotels is getting ridiculous. Personally, I prefer staying at Category 1 and 2 hotels.

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60,000 Hilton Points With Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card

There's a public offer of 60,000 bonus points for Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card. Personally, this isn't my favorite card, but without annual fee, I urge you to consider. Let's take a look at the benefits:

Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card

  • Earn 6 points for every $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 3 points for every $1 spent at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations.
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 4 months after account opening.
  • Enjoy HHonors Silver status as long as you’re a Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature cardmember.
  • Fast track to HHonors Gold status after four stays within your first 90 days of account opening or when you make $20,000 or more in purchases each calendar year.
  • Earn an annual loyalty bonus of 10,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points at the end of each calendar year in which you spend $1,000 or more on stays within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Link Offer

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Review: All Nippon Airways (ANA) NH1084 Business Class 767 Taipei (TPE) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)

EVA Air Lounge at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport (TPE)
No line for the business class as usual. After I got my boarding pass, in Taiwan you have to make sure your checked bag passes the scan first before heading to the security gate. I was confused for a bit. After passing the immigration point, I went up the escalator to the EVA Air Lounge. Apparently ANA shares the lounge with EVA Air.

I was greeted and there are two ways to get into the lounge: Star and Infinity. I picked Infinity. I went straight to the food section. It's a buffet style and has so many delicious food such as stir fry noodle, my favorite porridge, scrambled eggs & ham, soup, and some buns. There are also fruits, salad, dessert, and various drinks including alcohol beverages too.

I was so full and started checking out the Star section. The set up is a little bit different and brighter. The food section is the same but there are a few food that Infinity doesn't have such as soybean milk and ice cream. I'd say keep your stomach for both sections to get the best experience of the food lounge. The Star's toilet is wicked too! It's heated and controlled by a machine that sprays water out to clean your bum. It even has settings to massage it!! Lol

EVA air lounge has another section called The Garden. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to go through it. It's right across the Infinity and Star lounge.

ANA NH1084 Business Class 767 Taipei Taoyuan (TPE) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)
NH1084 Boarding time, after the special needed passengers, it was business/first class passengers. First impression of the seating was that I love the 2-1-2 configuration. I had the 1 seat by myself. The seat is very spacious and pretty wide.

There's a compartment right by the side so it fit my carry on bag perfectly without having to use the cabin. There is a seat control that makes the seat angle flat and feet pedal, making it comfortable for resting.

After the flight took off, warm towels were handed. Flight attandant started getting orders. I had the Charles Collin champagne and snack before lunch.

Then Japanese cuisine for lunch. They have western cuisine too. The Japanese cuisine was delicious (see the menu). Talking of menu, make sure you pull it out from the seat pocket so you are well aware of drinks and meal they are serving.

I felt asleep in my inclined chair comfortably.

That day afterwards, I have another leg of business class from Narita to San Francisco. Review: All Nippon Airways (ANA) NH8 Business Class 777 Tokyo Narita (NRT) to San Francisco (SFO)

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