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Booked: Weekend on the Atlantic

Next weekend, I’ll be taking advantage of a generous Aeroplan sweet spot to spend some meaningful time in Atlantic Canada for the first time. Across two days in each of Halifax and St. John’s, I’m looking forward to exploring a brand-new part of our country while indulging in freshly shelled lobster and, dare I say, a few outdoor activities in reasonable weather before the cold winter sets in. 

St. John’s, Newfoundland

St. John’s, Newfoundland

The Trip

Canada’s eastern provinces have fascinated me ever since I played with a wooden puzzle toy of the 13 provinces and territories as an infant, and I’m very excited to finally get a chance to visit. Jessy’s visited Halifax once before, but St. John’s will be uncharted territory for her as well.

(Back in the days before Miles & Points when I used to take trips in economy class for extended durations purely for the love of flying, I had once taken a multi-day journey from London back to Toronto via the five-hour hop across to St. John’s on an Air Canada A319 and then an overnight layover in Halifax as well, but sadly I had never gotten around to leaving the airport. Then, I swung by Halifax last year on my Canadian Hopper journey, but again simply stayed at an airport hotel and didn’t get to venture into town.)

In Halifax, our plan is to spend one day exploring the city itself, checking out the major attractions such as the Halifax Citadel, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, and walking around the harbourfront area. Then, for the next day, the hope is to rent a car and drive out to Nova Scotia’s many well-known colourful seaside spots, like Peggy’s Cove and the town of Lunenburg. 

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

St. John’s is going to keep us very well-occupied during our two days there as well. Obviously we’ll be spending some time hiking on Signal Hill and looking at the multi-coloured houses of Jelly Bean Row, although I also hope to make it out to Cape Spear Lighthouse and stand upon the easternmost point of the North American landmass. And of course, several friends have also recommended their favourite Newfoundland food and drink spots for us to check out during our time in town.

Incidentally, this trip will take the number of Canadian provinces and territories I’ve visited up to seven, leaving only Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and the territories left to check off the list. 

The Flights

One of the most underrated Aeroplan sweet spots for domestic travel within Canada is flying between Quebec and the four Atlantic provinces, as the entire region counts as “short-haul” under the Aeroplan Reward Chart. 

Thus, a round-trip flight with one stopover along the way would cost you merely 15,000 Aeroplan miles in economy class or 30,000 miles in business class, which is a fantastic deal when you consider the often prohibitively high cost of cash flights around the Atlantic provinces. 

A trip like this, where we’re originating in Montreal and visiting Halifax and St. John’s, is perfectly tailored to this sweet spot, so I looked no further than the Aeroplan search engine when planning out our trip. 

Now, the longest flight on this journey (the St. John’s–Montreal segment) clocks in at three hours in duration, and is therefore within the threshold of flights that I’d normally tolerate in economy class. However, we’ve taken quite a few weekend trips recently in the back of the plane, so I decided to treat ourselves and spend the additional 15,000 Aeroplan miles per person on a business class redemption, since this is such a compelling Aeroplan sweet spot anyway.

(Unfortunately, Air Canada doesn’t offer business class on the Dash-8 aircraft they run between Halifax and St. John’s, so that segment remains in economy class, although I’ll at least be able to use a couple of one-time Maple Leaf Lounge vouchers I had gotten from a bad customer service experience with Air Canada to use the lounge beforehand.)

My overall routing therefore looks as follows:

map (2).gif
  • Montreal to Halifax on Air Canada, departing 8:30pm and arriving 11pm, business class

  • Halifax to St. John’s on Air Canada, departing 5:20pm and arriving 7:34pm, economy class

  • St. John’s to Montreal on Air Canada, departing 5:35pm and arriving 6:42pm, business class

The Hotels

If I’m being honest, none of the Marriott Bonvoy properties in Halifax or St. John’s left me feeling overly inspired, but I do need a place to sleep and these hotels tend to treat me quite nicely as a Titanium Elite member, so I simply took a casual approach and booked the Marriott hotel that I liked best at first glance.

In Halifax, I had heard great things about the Marriott Halifax Harbourfront right by the water, but the hotel seemed to be sold out of rooms next weekend, probably because the HalCon sci-fi and comic book event happens to be in town on the very same weekend.

So instead I’ll be staying at the Westin Nova Scotian, which doesn’t quite get as high reviews as the Marriott, but is nevertheless the one of Canada’s grand railway hotels with a fair bit of historic charm about it. 

Westin Nova Scotian, Halifax

Westin Nova Scotian, Halifax

Then, in St. John’s, the choice really fell between the Delta St. John’s and the Sheraton Newfoundland Hotel, which looked pretty much on par with each other in the pictures. After looking at the two locations on a map, though, I went with the Sheraton given its close proximity to Signal Hill and other nearby attractions.

For both hotels, the cash rates were very reasonable compared to the option of redeeming points – the lowest cash rates I could find of $175/night and $134/night at the Westin Nova Scotian and the Sheraton Newfoundland Hotel seemed much more favourable than redeeming 35,000 or 25,000 points per night for the Category 5 and 4 properties, respectively. 

I therefore went ahead and paid cash, using a handful of Scotia Rewards points I had left to offset a small chunk of the cost, while saving my Bonvoy points for the next major redemption (and also standing to earn a fair bit of Bonvoy points through these cash stays as well). 

Sheraton Newfoundland Hotel, St. John’s

Sheraton Newfoundland Hotel, St. John’s

My overall out-of-pocket cost for this trip, per person, was as follows: 

  • Aeroplan taxes and fees, YUL–YHZ–YYT–YUL: $155

  • Westin Nova Scotian: $150

  • Sheraton Newfoundland Hotel: $134

  • Total: $439

Informal Reader Events in Halifax & St. John’s

The focus of the trip is to see as much of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland as I can during this long weekend trip, so I haven’t had the capacity to plan full-scale Miles & Points Events. 

Nevertheless, as many of you know, I do love to meet my readers and bring the community together whenever and wherever I can, so I’ll be happy to host a few informal get-togethers of about 15–20 people in both Halifax and St. John’s while I’m in town. 

In Halifax, my friend Anne from Packing Light Travel had offered to help out with planning a small gathering, which will take place on the evening of Friday, October 25. If you’re interested in attending, send me an email to let me know – space is limited at the venue, so I’ll be giving priority to readers I’ve spoken with before, followed by a first-come first-served basis.

Meanwhile, in St. John’s I’ll be keeping things even more casual – again, any interested Newfoundlanders should send me an email and I’m sure we can pull together the local Miles & Points community to meet and chat for a few hours on the Sunday evening over some craft beer and perhaps even some Newfoundland Screech!

Both of these events are informal and are free to attend, but like I said, space may be limited, so please do reach out if you’re interested and I’ll get back to you shortly.

Conclusion

As much as I love journeying to distant lands around the world, it’s always a special feeling to explore new parts of Canada as well, and the Atlantic provinces have been a frontier that I’ve looked forward to conquering for a very long time.

A four-day long weekend trip spread across Halifax and St. John’s, all while taking advantage of a generous Aeroplan sweet spot, seems an ideal way to familiarize myself with the region while also giving me a chance to meet some of my Atlantic readers. It promises to be a weekend to remember. 

2 Comments
  1. Marlene

    Ricky if you like live music I highly recommend seeing the band Signal Hill. They play at the Lower Deck in Halifax. I was born in Nova Scotia and love that part of the world and plan to go back again soon to explore more of those parts. Enjoy every minute of it!

    Kindly,
    Marlene

  2. DenB® YTO

    IME phoning a sold-out hotel day-before (or earlier, if you need to cancel the alternate booking you’re "settling for") yields a successful booking more than half the time. YMMV

Ricky Zhang

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