We’re back from Toronto, and can we just say we absolutely loved Caribana and the city?! The Caribbean pride coupled with beautiful architecture, walkable streets, and good food captured our hearts.
We arrived on Thursday evening, checked into our hotel and decided to stay in. Our 8 hour drive stretched into 12 hours due to construction and traffic, so we were pooped. Friday, we set out early to have breakfast at Sunset Grill (yummy local option), walked around downtown a bit, then settled into an evening of festivities as we enjoyed the music at a day party and then the live steelpan band performances at Panalive. Saturday we spent the majority of the day at the Caribana parade and spent the evening walking and resting. Sunday, we stopped at Niagara Falls before heading home.
We planned to travel with two other friends, but each had to bow out of the trip for different reasons. Of course having two other people share the cost would have saved money, but even with the two of us we made the trip happen for $547 per person, which included hotel, gas, food, hotel parking (which was ridiculously expensive), tickets to the day party, tickets to Panalive steel drum competition, a little shopping, and souvenirs. We wish you could have seen the 15 second dance party we had when we realized we stayed UNDER budget! Woop Woop!
Costs add up quickly, and sometimes it may feel like you have little control over how much you spend…but don’t fret! Before you plan your next trip, consider these tips to keep you under budget.
- Use Hotwire to find hotels: If you’re not familiar with Hotwire, you should be! The way it works is you search for hotels in a particular area. Hotwire will show you rates for anonymous hotels with different star ratings, and you pick one. Once you pay, they reveal the hotel. Yes, we know that’s scary for some folks, but have the thrifty chicks ever steered you wrong? So far, we have a 100% success rate with Hotwire. We stayed at the Eaton Chelsea on Gerrard Street, which is right downtown. Total hotel cost with travel insurance: $298 for three nights.
- If you’re close, drive: Full disclosure: driving can be a pain, and when we go back to Toronto, we’ll likely fly. With that being said, however, it was a cheap way to get there and aside from annoying construction and a little traffic, it was relatively uneventful. The good: driving gave us the flexibility to leave when we wanted to, which was a godsend because Ricks was sick the night before. The bad: driving takes a LOT out of you. Once we got to Toronto, we didn’t have the energy to do much the first evening. But it was cheap…we drove to Toronto and back to Virginia for $180.
- Try walking before taking a cab: We probably walked about 20 miles while we were in Toronto. Besides the streets being walkable, we did our research and learned that Toronto is a really safe city, with crime rates lower than where we live. Because we were staying downtown, we were able to walk to nearly every place we wanted to be and only took a cab twice. Cabs in Toronto were really expensive, so we opted to walk instead, which gave us an opportunity to see more of the city, get some exercise, and save money.
- When in doubt, ask about portion sizes: We didn’t spend a ton on food over the weekend, but there were definitely times when we wasted food because we ordered too much. For example, at Panalive, we each bought curry chicken and rice for $10 at the stadium, but ended up eating only half of it because it was so much. We definitely could have split it. Consider ordering less and sharing. Worst case scenario? You’re still hungry and you order more food.
- Plan to splurge: The thrifty chicks love sushi, and we give mad side eye to sketchy looking sushi places. While in Toronto, we realized we have sushi on nearly every trip we take. This is our thing. We might eat fairly inexpensive meals for most of the trip, but we give ourselves room to splurge on a really nice sushi meal.
- If the forecast says rain, believe it: So, we knew there was a chance of rain. We also knew Toronto has a milder temperature than D.C. Ask us did we pack umbrellas or jackets….go ahead. ask. hmm? No, we did not. We packed cardigans, which worked well against the chilliness, but our trusty denim jackets would have been better. It rained during the day party, and with no umbrellas, we got a little wet. Wishing for sunshine might work, but you should be prepared if it doesn’t.
Do you have thrifty traveling tips? Share with us!
Until next time,