Vancouver or Bust!
February 17, 2012 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Trying to plan a last minute trip to Vancouver and need some hotel recommendations. Also, it's looking like it's significantly cheaper to fly into to Seattle. Would that make sense to fly into Seattle and then make my way to Vancouver via rental car, bus or train, OR would it be smarter to just pay the extra cost and just fly straight into Vancouver.

Looking for a cool, reasonably priced hotel not too far from downtown. It would be great if there were a lot of food options within walking distance. If it's close to some culture even better.

My evenings will be pretty full but don't hesitate to throw in any recommendations for cool Vancouver things that I can catch during the day. I love street food and all things music & art related.

I'll be flying out of DFW on the morning of the 23rd, coming back on the evening of the 26th.
posted by ericthegardener to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I did the fly-to-Seattle,-drive-to-Vancouver thing 10 years ago, and I don't think it really saved me anything... it just made the logistics of getting home really annoying.

Hotel: when I was there, I stayed at the Sylvia Hotel and liked it a lot, both because of location (right next to English Bay and Stanley Park) and on its own merits. And if I could afford it 10 years ago, it must have been pretty reasonably priced, at least back then.
posted by COBRA! at 2:09 PM on February 17, 2012

How much cheaper are we talking? The train from Seattle to Vancouver is nice, but it only runs twice a day (departing at 7:40 a.m. and 6:50 p.m.) and takes four hours.
posted by grouse at 2:09 PM on February 17, 2012

Hotel Sylvia is a great choice, right by the English bay with lots of caf├ęs and restaurants. It a short bus trip (or a longer walk) to downtown.
posted by ddaavviidd at 2:10 PM on February 17, 2012

If you're planning to drive between Vancouver and Seattle, keep in mind that delays at the border crossing can potentially add an hour (or more) to your travel time, depending on the time of day. Also, the non-border traffic in both Vancouver and Seattle may be non-trivial.
posted by mhum at 2:19 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have stayed at the Sylvia Hotel twice (linked to above) and I loved it, but beware of the fact that it is an older building and I could hear other guests in their rooms. The location is great. Check to see if the Vancouver Art Gallery has any special exhibitions on because the permanent collection was underwhelming. To me.
posted by maggiemae at 2:25 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I stayed at the Burrard Hotel downtown a couple of weeks ago. It's basically a hiply renovated motel with tiny rooms, but it was cheap and clean and cute and tres hip. It's walking distance to lots of food and culture options.

I hear Japadog is good for street food, but it's never been open when I was there.
posted by matildaben at 2:30 PM on February 17, 2012

Response by poster: It's looking like it would be a savings of about six or seven hundred bucks to fly into Seattle grouse.

Great answers so far! Much appreciated!
posted by ericthegardener at 2:40 PM on February 17, 2012

Are you allowed to drive a rental car into another country these days? I don't know the answer, but it would definitely be something to check on before deciding to do that.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:48 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to note, the trip from Sea-Tac to Vancouver can get kind of hairy through Seattle proper. You'll get a huge slowdown on I-5 - down to 25 miles an hour as listed on the speed limit signs and probably lower. It'll probably clear up a bit once you get past N 100th street/Northgate Mall, but expect whatever the timeframe you expect, you'll have to add on at least a half hour, possibly up to an hour.

Also, make sure if you rent a car it's allowed to go into Canada on the base fee - there are some of the rental companies that make that an extra rider. (A friend of mine came here on business, and I met her at the airport as she didn't know the area. Hertz asked if she expected to go into Canada, and when asked said it was an extra $50/day for that, and if they found out she'd gone into Canada without it, it would be a 'large' extra charge.)
posted by mephron at 2:50 PM on February 17, 2012

Are you allowed to drive a rental car into another country these days?

Definitely check the rental agreement or call the local rental agent. I know my recent Dollar rental here in Portland only allowed travel to Vancouver and Victoria metro areas.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:51 PM on February 17, 2012

I recently stayed at the Victorian Hotel, right between downtown and DTES and steps from Gastown. It was $99 a night with huge rooms, not five star but pretty nice.
posted by saucysault at 2:55 PM on February 17, 2012

If you're considering the train (which wouldn't be bad), keep in mind that Seattle is some 20-45 (by car, traffic variable) minutes away from Sea-Tac Airport, which is considerably south of town, in beautiful, scenic City of Sea-Tac. (Yes, that's what happens when you incorporate.)

Figure 35-40 minutes (plus up to 15 minutes wait) via Light-Rail from Sea-Tac airport to International Dist./Chinatown station, which is about a 2-block walk to the Amtrak train station, if that's your preference.

Depending on how fatigued you are, why not find a connecting flight from SeaTac to Vancouver? There must be many, and cheap.

Have a nice trip!
posted by Sunburnt at 3:03 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: I flew into Seattle and then took the light rail to the train station and the train to Vancouver this past summer. I'm a near-broke grad student whose time isn't really worth much and I wasn't in a hurry. So long as I can be reading/writing on the plane/train, I'm as productive as anywhere else in the world. It took a long time. It was a hassle. It was tiring. But I'd definitely do it again for the $700 it saved me. The key question for you is, how much do you value your time?

The train ride really is quite beautiful.
posted by ootandaboot at 3:24 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Going the Seattle-Vancouver route will burn up a lot of you hours, I wouldn't do it unless I was staying at least a week, that's just me though.

The Sylvia (my wife's go to recommendation for friends coming to town) and the Burrard are both good, clean, not too pricey choices, I endorse that message.

If you stay at the Sylvia you are at the main downtown beach, at the intersection of two great walking/dining/peoplewatching streets, Davie to the east and Denman to the north.

For street food track down any of the food trucks, I have yet to go wrong with any of them.
posted by Cosine at 3:36 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: Echoing other sentiments regarding traffic, here's why I think the drive might be more aggravation than it's worth.

1) SeaTac Airport is south of Seattle -- you have to fight your way through the city before you're really on your way toward the Canadian border. Traffic on the I5 is notoriously bad, almost as bad as Los Angeles.
2) The border crossing is unpredictable -- it might take 5 minutes or it might take 3 hours.
3) You then have to fight your way into Vancouver, with 3 bridges/tunnels in between that all the traffic is funnelled through.

Playing it safe, I would plan on leaving Vancouver at least 6 hours before your flight on the 26th.

But $600+ is a pretty big difference for airfare, so I can see why you're tempted to do it the hard way.
posted by wutangclan at 3:39 PM on February 17, 2012

The I-5 border crossing is usually pretty backed up; Aldergrove/Lynden is usually okay. You'll need an enhanced driver's license or a passport to cross the border. Used to be a driver's license + birth certificate worked, but friends who are frequent crossers say this is no longer the case. The delays (or lack of delays) on I-5 really depend on the time of day. Early in the morning or late at night, you can sail right through. Rush hour is a parking lot.

For kicks, you might also check on prices into Bellingham, WA. Much closer to the border, and you miss all the Seattle traffic.

Definitely check your rental policies though.
posted by xedrik at 4:03 PM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I stayed at the Sylvia in December and add +1 to its list of recommendations. I don't know about the Sea-Tac part, but I tok the train from Vancouver to Seattle and the bus from Seattle to Vancouver, and neither was horrendously delayed. The train only runs in the morning and at night, I think. Check the schedules and see what works... The train is more pleasant but longer. The bus is usually not too crowded and not unpleasant. It depends what works with your schedule.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:12 PM on February 17, 2012

You can catch the quickshuttle bus from Sea-Tac to downtown Vancouver, easy safe, you won't have to pay parking in Vancouver. There are stops at hotels downtown, make reservations online and save money.
posted by jennstra at 4:31 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding jennstra on the Quick bus. Goes directly from SEATAC to downtown Vancouver, stops at several convenient stops downtown. $86 US round trip. Their website has more details.

The bus ride isn't bad. You may wait at the border depending upon when you get there. Otherwise, it saves $700.
posted by blob at 7:27 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Good news for me! Ended up using frequent flyer miles for a ticket straight to Vancouver. Immediately bought replacement miles for around the same price it would have cost me to fly to Seattle. Hadn't even considered this at first because I was saving those miles for a different trip and didn't think it would work to my advantage. Even though I was looking forward to a scenic drive or train ride, this will be much less hassle.

Checking out the hotels now. Thanks for all the great responses!
posted by ericthegardener at 7:41 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It seems that you've already found a flight, but I just wanted to chime in with a hotel recommendation. We stayed at the Listel Hotel this past summer and got a great deal through the Vancouver Tourism website - with a two night reservation, we got a $125 gift card for Vancouver tourist sites (which we used to buy a bus pass, visit the aquarium, take a carriage ride, and I can't remember what else). Touristy things are expensive, I highly recommend doing this if the offer is still valid. There were a number of hotels that offered the deal. Even if you don't go this route, I recommend visiting the Vancouver Tourism Office - they were super nice, had maps and suggestions, and I think some discounts on sites that we wanted to visit.

The Listel was really nice - lovely rooms, pretty artwork all over the hotel, an evening wine tasting, and free breakfast in the attached restaurant. Also a very central location - we walked everywhere and Robson street is on a main bus line, so anywhere we couldn't walk to, we took the bus. Have a great trip!!
posted by echo0720 at 8:03 PM on February 17, 2012

The Buchan Hotel has been recommended by friends who stayed there. It's around $60 a night and it's in the West End, near Stanley Park. I think the washrooms are down the hall, Euro style. But I've had two sets of friends stay there and like it. It's near Denman, English Bay, and Coal Harbour and Stanley Park and certainly convenient to anything you could want.

Hotwire is a good place to get rooms. My sibling got to stay at the Sutton Place for around $70 - check the Hotwire websites to get hints on what hotel you're getting. My sibling pointed out that there are only so many 5-star hotels and you can narrow it down that way.

I'm not sure I would want to spend 6-8 hours driving from Seattle round trip if I was heading into town for such a short time. Have you considered transferring and flying into Vancouver instead of flying into Vancouver directly?
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:41 PM on February 17, 2012

We've stayed at the Sylvia and liked it. I've also pricelined decent hotels in Van for good rates.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:19 PM on February 17, 2012

Response by poster: Hotels & flights booked, thanks for all the help!
posted by ericthegardener at 9:54 PM on February 17, 2012

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