Toronto: The Plan

Ubiquitous black city squirrel

Ubiquitous black city squirrel!

Planning a trip and taking it are two different things, and that’s good – to allow the serendipity in!

I have been to Toronto about 8 times, half of them for conferences. Everyone knows that in Toronto, you go up the CN Tower, you take your kids to Canada’s Wonderland and the Hockey Hall of Fame, and you go to a Leafs or a Blue Jays game. We’re not such a Sporty Family, though. On our first trip, when Link was 10, we went to the Eaton Centre, Casa Loma, and the Zoo. Last year, on Rom’s first trip to Toronto, we went to the Picasso exhibit at the AGO, a Janelle Monae concert, and a steampunk fair!

Link has been living in Toronto for two years now. We were planning 7 days and nights visiting and vacation. So many decisions! First of all, we booked direct flights. There were cheaper flights available to the downtown airport if we wanted to fly on a turbo-prop plane and incorporate a stopover in the middle of the 150-minute flight. We did not.

Our home away from home

Our home away from home

Next we decided where to stay. Link has recently moved into a new apartment with 3 roommates. Staying there wasn’t a possibility, and the chain hotel we used before has hiked its rates way up. Link lives 45 minutes from downtown, and there are no tourist accommodations nearby. We chose a B & B in Cabbagetown so we could have a leisurely breakfast in the mornings and meet up with Link for downtown activities each day. The B & B was a brisk 15 minute walk (1.5 km) from the nearest subway station, and about a 30-minute walk (3 km) from downtown. We also paid a bit extra for a room with a not-shared bathroom!

In retrospect, we could have rented a suite with a kitchenette and stayed together for the week, but realistically, we weren’t sure we wanted 24/7 togetherness…I would have been impatient if I had to watch Link sleep away the mornings and skip those good breakfasts!

We had planned a few activities in advance. Before we left, we bought tickets to two concerts. One was the alternative pop group Sparks doing a greatest-hits tour, and the other was Kate Nash, who has changed styles 3 times so far in her 6-year career, and is currently inspired by Riot Grrl. Our next two priorities were seeing the David Bowie exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and seeing the Mesopotamia exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum.

My other goals were to have a meal at a Fresh restaurant, and to do a round of record stores. Rom wanted to visit comic shops, and play games at Snakes and Lattes. And of course, we wanted to see Link’s new place, visit, and have it feel like a proper (relaxing) vacation.

We planned out some of the days – Rom pinned the major destinations on Google Maps, we found restaurants and shops nearby, and worked out the public transit routes. We hoped to have our main meals at lunch time, so we could enjoy good restaurants at lunch prices, and have lighter fare in the evenings.

Somebody had a birthday recently!

Somebody had a birthday recently!

Packing for the trip was a challenge. When we left, the weather was unseasonably warm both in Halifax and Toronto. We knew we’d be spending hours every day walking. I planned for the weather forecast of 3-12 degrees with 2 days of rain showers, so I brought two rain-resistant fall jackets and a couple of sweaters. I normally hold off wearing a winter jacket until it gets down to zero, otherwise when it gets really cold, I have no warmer coats in reserve. I was wary of bringing a wool or down coat in case it stayed wet all week. Oh, the perils of travelling in November!

Everyone says to pack layering clothes for travel, but I don’t dress that way at home and didn’t really have the appropriate layering garments, like a moisture-wicking long-sleeve T-shirt. I made do with layering tank tops, T-shirts, cardigans and pullover sweaters. I was happy I brought my short boots, rather than shoes or sneakers.

Finally, I set the budget for our 7-day, 7-night trip at $3100 which may have been optimistic for 3 adults. The basic expenses were:

  • 2 airfares, $800
  • 7 nights at the B & B, $1100
  • Ground transportation (airport cabs and subway tokens), $300. We are 30 km from our home airport and our accommodations were 37 km from the Toronto airport.

So that left $900 for food, entertainment and shopping for 3 of us for a week. Do you think we came in on budget? 😉

Next time I’ll post about how the week went, because of and despite our plans!


  1. Sounds like you had a great plan. We were just in TO a couple of weekends ago for the Royal Winter Fair. It’s worth visiting too, if you are ever there again while it’s on. We had tickets to see the pony jumpers, a horse whisperer and some jack russell terrier races – it was a great show and well worth the ticket price.

  2. I’ve never see a black squirrel before. Always thought there were only red or grey ones. And just showed Mr Sans your pic. He didn’t know they come in black either. My cousin had a black toy squirrel as a young child many, many years ago, but I thought it was black because it was a toy. Not because there are black ones.

    Your week sounds like a great mix of fun events and relaxing. I hate packing for in between weather. Ski trips are OK as I just pack my skiing gear. Likewise summer holidays are fine – I can pack a few light dresses. But in between weather – too hard. Like getting dressed for work for in between weather – cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon.

    • Black squirrels are just a variant of the big grey ones. I joke that they have evolved to hide in the city soot, but probably it was to blend in with black forest soil. Here in Nova Scotia we only have the small red ones (which are different again from the British red ones, having no fluffy ear tufts).

      I am now thinking I will avoid vacationing again in Nov/Dec and April because the weather is impossible!

  3. You were in my city!?! I hope you had a fantastic time.

  4. Wow you could easily get a job as a travel planner- so much detailed planning. You sound like you had a great time despite the weather. We have booked a week off work at the end of November to go to Scotland – not sure if we will get rain , wind or snow!

    • Not exactly a summer holiday, eh? We saw our first two or three snowflakes of the season in Toronto – unless they were pigeon feathers, LOL! Do you have much outdoor work to do on this trip? I hope you can stay warm and cozy!

      • We had planned to do the roof – but still no slates so we are going up to visit all the roof slate merchants in the area. I never thought it was going to be so difficult! We will probably do a bit of outdoor work if weather holds otherwise painting inside with the heating on!

      • I remember that quest for roofing slate; how frustrating! I spent an hour raking leaves today but otherwise not much outdoor stuff remains. Lots of indoor work to ignore, though 🙂

  5. Fiona

    3-12 degrees is a big range to cover – especially when you were outdoors walking a lot. The David Bowie and Mesopotamia exhibits would be high on our list if we were there!

    I have a soft spot for “anything Toronto” because we were *almost* transferred to live there in 2010 with DH’s work (even had school/housing sorted.) Hope Link is settled and happy in the place!

    • Yes, 3-12 is “early spring/late fall” weather and there is usually cold rain and a chill in the air! I really do love Toronto and would be happy to live there (or, perhaps after Olivia Chow becomes mayor, LOL!) I’m sure you would find Toronto terribly cold in the winter. Even we in Halifax have it milder because we have coastal weather (read: winter rain!) I bet you were relieved to “stay put.”

  6. You’re right – you have very different wardrobe needs to my holiday in short skirts! I’m not sure if I prefer the humidity and heat or the cold and rugging up – it’s a tough call. I certainly pined for the autumn in Europe when I was in Vietnam, as the same time last year I was in France!

    I agree with Wherethejourneytakesme – you’re a good little planner, and it probably helps you get the best our of your holidays. Making sure you have good resturants sorted, and things to see – rather than us who ended up at a loose end a little!

    I bet you came under budget, it’s just in your nature.

    • Toronto is hot in the summer (30s in June, July and August) so I kinda wish we’d travelled in September, but Link was moving house that month. I think our vacation was over-scheduled a bit because all 3 of us had distinct things we wanted to do. But I’ve had two days off at home now to relax. Back to work tomorrow (Tuesday)!

  7. I’ve never seen a black squirrel before! How cute 🙂

    I think your expenses seem reasonable and it might be possible to stay within your budget since you’d already paid for some of the attractions you were planning to visit. Fresh sounds cool! I hope you got to check it out 🙂

  8. Jodi

    I am interested to hear your opinion of Fresh. I love their onion rings and always try something new there. I will be in TO this weekend, but I am lucky to be able to stay at my niece’s apartment in midtown.

    • I hope you enjoy your trip! there is so much to see and do – if you don’t mind braving the weather a bit! Fresh must be famous for their onion rings – everyone there seemed to be ordering them!

  9. Have a wonderful vacation! Toronto sounds great–I would love to visit there sometime. Looking forward to your after vacation post!

  10. Lisa

    Glad you had a good trip! Are you sick of the Rob Ford stories yet? I know I am!

  11. laura / move to portugal

    We do similar planning! I’m smiling because we nearly always plan where we’re going to eat – it’s a priority right?! 🙂
    Great tip about eating off the lunch menu – much cheaper. Sparks? Wow yes, I remember them!
    I hope you had a wonderful time with Link 🙂

  12. Ani

    Just a suggestion, an Indian restaurant would be the place to eat while travelling. They usually have lots of veggie options. Just remember to tell them less spicy while ordering. I have encountered this problem of eating vegetarian while travelling to other countries, as my mother and grandmother are strict vegetarians. Well me being an Indian its easy for me too eat in Indian restaurant.

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