Niagara Falls Trip Report

by Andy Hough on May 6, 2015

CAM00518After the end of tax season my GF and I took a weekend vacation to Niagara Falls. If you have been reading this blog for very long then you know we did not spend very much on this vacation. Our total spent for three nights hotel, two round-trip tickets from KC to Buffalo, three days car rental, and admission to several attractions came to just a little over $200. This post will explain how I managed to keep the cost of the vacation so low.

 

The airfare was basically free. I still had lots of Rapid Reward points left over from signing up for two Chase Southwest credit cards last year which allowed me to book my flight for free. I also earned a companion pass last year which allows my GF to fly for free with me as well.  This is pretty nice since we get double the value out of my points.  The only thing I had to pay for the two round-trip flights was the tax of $5.60 on each flight each way.

The hotel room was completely free. I received 25,000 Starwood points for signing up for the SPG American Express card and meeting the spending requirement earlier this year. Three nights at the hotel used up 10,000 of those points. We stayed three nights at the Four Points by Sheraton in Niagara Falls, NY.  The room was pretty nice by my standards. It was a little smaller than our room at Excalibur, but much newer and a little fancier than Excalibur. From reading reviews of the hotel I knew to request a river view room and I’m glad I did. We wouldn’t have gotten the river view otherwise and it was a great view. The hotel had free cookies by the front desk which were delicious and a nice perk for staying there. The hotel was about five miles from the Falls, which wasn’t a big deal since we had a rental car. If we ever go to the Falls again I’d probably get a hotel on the Canadian side though.

view from our room

View from our room

As you might have guessed, our main reason for visiting Niagara Falls was to see the Falls. The first day we went to Niagara Falls State Park and did some sightseeing there. A plus to being early in the season is that we didn’t have to pay for admission to the park or for parking. Also, it was not at all crowded. The minus is that some parts of the park were off-limits due to being covered in snow and ice so we couldn’t get quite as close to the Falls as we would have been able to later in the year. Also, the Cave of the Winds tour and Maid of the Mist boat ride were not yet operating. At the park we were able to view the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls from Goat Island and we also walked on the bridges to the Three Sisters islands and observed the rapids above the Falls.

The next day we headed to Canada to observe the Falls from the Canadian side and to visit some tourist attractions.  It was also the first time either one of us had been to Canada so we were excited to visit Canada for the first time also. The previous day I had bought us two Wonder Passes which included tickets to Niagara Fury, Journey Behind the Falls, the Butterfly Conservatory, and 24 hour passes for the WEGO bus system. The tickets were $19.95 Canadian each which I think is a great bargain. The visit to Journey Behind the Falls was worth that much all by itself. This was another plus to coming early in the season as Wonder Passes are only available in the off-season. The view of the Falls the previous day was awesome but seeing the Falls from the Canadian side is much more awesome. This post is already getting unwieldy so I won’t go into detail about everything we did. I will highly recommend going on the Journey Behind the Falls tour. You actually do journey behind the Falls. There are tunnels dug behind the Falls and you get to walk through the tunnels and observe the Falls from behind the Falls at a couple of different windows. There is also an observation deck where you can view the Falls outside at a pretty close range.

We both really enjoyed our visit to Niagara Falls and will probably go again sometime. On the next visit I would plan to stay on the Canadian side since the view is much better from there and most of the attractions I’d want to see are there also. A lot of the American side seems to be run-down and the roads are in terrible condition. The next trip we would also like to explore a little further into Canada. We didn’t feel like we experienced much Canadian culture in Niagara Falls since it was pretty similar to any other tourist town. Is there anything else you would like to know about our Niagara Falls vacation? If you’ve been to the Falls before do you have any suggestions on what we should do on our next trip?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marilyn May 8, 2015 at 8:01 am

We are going later this month or early June. Of course we have no credit cards so we have to pay full price. Currently we are looking at Groupon, but I looked at various hotel sites for casino packages and they seem reasonable. We will drive we live in Toledo, Oh so that is a 300 mile ride. We will saty on the Canadian side, since he already knew it would be nicer. I did want to take the ferry ride at the falls too. Please let me know any other tips for saving a few bucks. This will be the first time we will use our passports. I have to say I read your passport article and we got our passports in 2 weeks. I didn’t realize it would be this quick.

2 Andy Hough May 8, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Marilyn – Have fun on your vacation. I’m glad to see you didn’t wait to the last minute to get your passports. I looked at Groupon before we went on vacation and they seemed to have pretty good deals. Since our hotel was already free we didn’t bother with any Groupon hotel deals. We were not able to take the boat tour of the falls since it was too early in the season and there was still ice at the falls. That is the only thing I wish we could have done. Maybe we will get to do that on a future trip.

3 Samantha May 9, 2015 at 9:31 am

I never would have even known about the Canada side having never been! That is great information. Thank you. I can tell I would like the Journey Behind the Falls as well. This is an interesting article for me as I do everything to avoid credit cards…actually I should clarify, I did for years and now I have one that I payoff each month. So I do build points that way and it keeps charges off my less secure debit card. I only have been using the Amazon points however, I will have to see what there is for travel. Thank you for this!

4 Andy Hough May 10, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Samantha – Enjoy your vacation. I’m glad you found my post helpful.

5 Marie May 17, 2015 at 7:53 pm

I live 30 minutes from Niagara Falls. The Maid of the Mist is well worth the cost in season. Make sure you bring a raincoat or you will get very wet. You can buy a raincoat where you take the trip but save yourself the extra expense.

6 Andy Hough May 19, 2015 at 11:09 am

Marie – If we go again we will definitely go on The Maid of the Mist. Thanks for the raincoat tip.

7 Marilyn June 1, 2015 at 7:26 am

Well Andy, we went on our trip to Niagra Falls, yes they were beautiful on the Canadian side. A note for you if you stay on the Canadian side everything is very expensive. I really don’t take a likin to $5 beers (bottled 12oz Bug Lights)! Food is very expensive too, really $16.95 for a burger & fries. Luckily we won enough at the casinos to pay for all of our spending money. Trade your money in at the casinp….$100 American gave us $120 dollars. Fair warning #120 Canadian only got us $95.50 American. Oh and walk to the casinos, they charge $20 American & $25 Canadian to park! All in all we loved our trip and our Groupon hotel was nice. Skip their free food vouchers, they require 2 full entrees to get the deal. We will go back, but do a little better planning.

8 Andy Hough June 1, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Hey Marilyn-

I’m glad you loved your trip and were able to win some money at the casino to pay for your spending money. Now that you have visited it should be easier to plan for the next trip.

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