Marriage Proposal in Quebec City: Accomodations

Sunday 21st, December 2014 / 10:44 Written by
Marriage Proposal in Quebec City: Accomodations
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This is a series of articles about a romantic trip I took to Quebec City. I go over the ways I used the information that I share on this site to have a great trip for a very low price.

Recap

As mentioned, I recently took the love of my life to Quebec City where I asked her to marry me. In the other articles, I mentioned where to go and how we got there. In this article, I’ll go over how we chose our accommodations and how we paid so little for them.

The Skinny

Accommodations were as follows:

Friday Night
Chateau Laurier
USD$175 for 2 nights
Travel Pony
Saturday Night
Chateau Laurier
Sunday Night
Fairmont Chateau Frontenac
<CAD$202.50 incl breakfast and $100 at dinner
American Express Fine Hotels
Additional Bonus
$100 Statement Credit for $500 spent at Fairmont Hotel
  • Was able to combine promotions, flexibility and credit card benefits for all of this

Overview

As mentioned, I recently took the love of my life to Quebec City where I asked her to marry me. In the other articles, I mentioned where to go and how we got there. In this article, I’ll go over how we chose our accommodations and how we paid so little for them.

We were there for 3 nights, and stayed at the very nice 4 star Chateau Laurier hotel for Friday and Saturday nights. On Sunday night, we spoiled ourselves and stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, which is easily the nicest hotel in Quebec, and easily among the best hotels in Canada. We were able to do this all for less than $400 for all 3 nights, not to mention that we received a $100 dinner benefit and free breakfast at the Frontenac on Sunday evening.

Options Considered

Whenever looking at a trip, I will always consider all my options when it comes to booking a hotel. As I mention in the Travel Basics section, I tend to like Priceline and Hotwire as my baseline and Hotels.com to see what the prices of specific hotels is.

While there were some great options through these methods, we were actually able to do much better than what these methods offered by using some alternate methods of booking.

The Pricelines and Hotwires were showing hotel rates in the US$100 – US$120 range, however, those are opaque booking engines so you can never be sure which hotel you are staying at until the nonrefundable booking is finalized. This was not ideal for my needs on this trip, so I decided to look at other options.

I ended up using Travel Pony and American Express Fine Hotels for my hotel stays on this trip.

Chateau Laurier

The Chateau Laurier hotel is an upscale business oriented hotel. It would be the equivalent of a Westin or Hilton hotel. The rack rate for this hotel would likely be in the range of $175 – $200 / night during out nights there.

Travel Pony

The reason we chose this hotel was because Travel Pony suggested it. In my article here, I discuss the workings of TravelPony and how to use it to your advantage. I was actually sitting on $75 of referral credit I had earned over the past few months and was hoping to get some value out of that. So I checked TravelPony to see if there were any reasonable deals in Quebec for the dates I wanted. Fortunately, TravelPony suggested the Chateau Laurier as having a 35% discount with the promo code, so I decided to investigate further.

Using a Coupon

I was aware that I had a $35 off $200 coupon in my account that I had yet to use since signing up. This came in very nicely as the rate for 2 nights with taxes, was US$209, or a very reasonable US$105 / night (all in). After adding in the $35 discount, the price was lowered to $174 for the 2 nights.

I had the $75 of referral credit so my out of pocket expense came to a mere $99 for the 2 nights at the Chateau Frontenac.

From this, we see the kind of advantage you can get when you get your coupons just above a threshold. Even independent of my $75 referral credit, the rate through TravelPony was able to significantly beat the Pricelines and Hotwire rates.

Chateau Frontenac

Originally, I had no intention of staying at the Chateau Frontenac. We were already spending a good amount of money and I had always just considered it to be out of reach. When we were searching for hotels, however, we noticed that the base rate for this hotel on the nights we were interested in staying there was only about $200. Since this was well within our threshold, we started to investigate the best way of getting this hotel.

Through the general booking engines, including the Christmas in November promotion from Fairmont.com, the best rate I was able to secure for my dates was $171. I also investigated the other fine hotels programs (mentioned below) to see what the total cost would be going through each engine. From American Express and Visa fine hotel programs, the best rate I was able to get was $202.50. It was then a matter of seeing which total deal was best for us.

(All figures include all taxes)

Fine Hotels Programs

It seems that fine hotels tend to offer a lot of off item perks to people who have higher lever credit cards. While American Express is clearly the best on this front, both Visa Infinite and Mastercard have programs for fine hotels.

Here are the offers that each one has for the Chateau Frontenac:

Price (incl Tax) Dining Voucher Free Breakfast Free Wifi Upgrade
General Booking (Best Promotion from Fairmont.com) $171 N/A N/A N/A N/A
American Express Fine Hotels
(Platinum Cards Only)
$202.50 USD $100 / stay Yes Yes When Available
Visa Infinite $202.50 USD$25 / stay Yes Yes When Available
Visa Infinite $202.50 USD$25 / stay Yes Yes When Available

Payment must be charged to the card that was booked through.

American Express Fine Hotels

If you are ever going to stay at fine hotels, then the best way to get additional perks there is through the American Express Fine Hotels program. Through this program, American Express Platinum cardholders are given various benefits at fine hotels, and they appear to be better than the VISA or Mastercard versions. I ended up getting a platinum card just to take advantage of this, along with other benefits.

American Express Platinum

I actually did not have an American Express Platinum card prior to investigating this trip. One of the major reasons is the ridiculous annual fees which range from $400 to $700, depending on which card you get. I ended up getting a card and paying the annual fee so that I could access this benefit. In the first year, the benefits and sign up bonus actually offset the annual fee and then some. For me, it was a no brainer when I ran the numbers.

Costs for getting an American Express Platinum Card
Annual Fee $699
Initial Sign Up Bonus
60K Membership Rewards
(Worth at least $600)
-$600
Annual Travel Credit – 2014
$200 / calendar year
-$200
Annual Travel Credit – 2015
$200 / calendar year
-$200
Total Fee -$301

Assuming I hold this for only 1 year, I am at least $301 ahead.

Sweetening The Pot

So, on the surface, it appears that the American Express platinum card really only put us ahead of the VISA Inifinite program by $75. This would not have been independently enough to push me over the edge. I was, however, able to combine an additional promotion with this stay to get even better value.

American Express and Fairmont currently have a promotion geared to any Gold or Platinum card member. Spend $500 at any Fairmont in a single transaction and receive a $100 statement credit.

Since we were already spending at least $202 on the hotel room, and likely some incidentals at the hotel, I figured we were already halfway to the $500. That meant the statement credit works out to $100 off my NEXT $200 spent, given that I was already spending $300 at the hotel.

Spa

Fairmont hotels have spas, and in fact, the Chateau Frontenac has one of the nicer spas in Quebec City. One of the ways I thought of to spend some of that money was on getting my sweetie a massage while we were in Quebec. Each massage costs $90 – $120, so even a single one would get us significantly closer to that magic $500 number. This is valuable assuming that you value that massage at the price they are charging (which we did).

An added benefit to this method was that her employment benefits reimburse her for up to $95 / massage up to 5 times per year. As a result, this massage ended up costing us close to nothing but helped us increase our charge to the credit card by $100. Unfortunately, my benefits would not cover a massage at the Frontenac in Quebec.

If you are interested in this, check your employee benefits and use this to your advantage.

Gift Cards

At checkout, our bill only came to $405. At that point, an additional charge of $95 to my account would have actually saved me money (lowering the bill to $500 – $100 = $400).

A this point, I decided to buy a Fairmont gift card for the balance, to get my charge above $500. If you are in the situation where spending a little more gets you a major savings, then consider buying a gift card from there just to fill that gap. Just make sure you can unload this gift card for real value and you are not just spending more money than you otherwise would.

It is very important to have a liquidation strategy for this gift card before you buy it. Some options that you can consider would be:

  • Use it for a stay you had planned anyway
  • Sell it on eBay, Craigslist, Kjiji etc.
  • Give it as a gift to someone
  • “Cash” it out

I am opting to cash it out. Since I live in Toronto, we will use this gift card for a massage at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. Remember, my fiancee gets up to 5 massages / year reimbursed up to $95. We can pay for a massage at the Royal York and get the insurance company to reimburse us, allowing us to cash this gift card out.

Next year, when I am married, I will be covered under her benefits and I can take the same massage as her.

Recap

Using the tools available, I was able to stay at 2 very upscale hotels in Quebec City for a discount of more than 50% of the rack rate, and likely 20-30% over the best available options through almost all channels.

The Chateau Laurier hotel was attainable through a Travel Pony booking.

The Chateau Frontenac was attainable through American Express Fine Hotels program. Combining the dining voucher and free breakfast benefit, along with a promotion for $100 statement credit for stays at Fairmont hotels, I was able to stay here for a very reasonable price

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