The Real Deal: Seven nights' accommodations in Charlevoix, Montreal, and Quebec City, dogsledding and snowshoeing equipment, the services of guides, some meals, and transportation, from $2,258 per person — including taxes and fees.
When: Dec. 23, 30, 2008; add $40 for Jan. 10, 24, Feb. 14, March 7, 2009.
The fine print: The $2,258 rate breaks down to $1,910 paid in advance and a cash payment of Can$370 ($348 at press time) that is due on arrival to cover local services. Based on double occupancy; single supplement from $280. Use promo code DQ. The services of local guides, seven breakfasts, four lunches, three dinners, hotel taxes, and ground transportation by heated minibus are included. Airfare is not included. Group size is typically 10 to 12 people. U.S. citizens will need a valid passport for travel; no visa is necessary. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Adventure Center, 800/228-8747, adventurecenter.com.
Why it's a deal: First, consider that the trip breaks down to $322 per person per night. Included in that rate is an experience that would be tough to book on your own — a three-night trek through the Canadian wilderness by dogsled with a trustworthy guide to show you the best spots. Adventure Center has taken the hassle out of planning that — plus, they've arranged accommodations in Montreal and Quebec City.
Trip details: The Dogsled Quebec trip will begin and end in Montreal. You'll meet the other trip participants at the Hotel Travelodge Montreal Centre. Note that international airfare is not included, nor are airport-hotel transfers. If you arrive at the Montreal airport, you can take advantage of L'Aerobus, which runs every 30 minutes and costs about $14 (Can$15) each way. Taxis are about $33 (Can$35) each way.
After spending the night at the Travelodge, you'll embark on a three-night dogsledding adventure. You'll mush about 18 miles a day with your own dogsled and team of Siberian huskies. You'll also have the opportunity to snowshoe into areas inaccessible by sled.
The sledding takes place in the Charlevoix region of eastern Quebec, about an hour from Quebec City. You're likely to see snow geese, moose, and deer.
Evenings will be dedicated to the care of the dogs, and you'll have local specialties like caribou stew for dinner. Depending on the distance you travel and the weather, you'll stay in cabins or prospector tents — large, wood-framed tents covered with heavy canvas.
A ride on a heated minibus brings you to Quebec City, where you'll have the day to explore on your own. Some must-see sights: the Hotel de Glace, a luxury lodging made entirely of — you guessed it — ice, and Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec. Quebec is in the middle of a yearlong celebration of its 400th anniversary.
You can also opt for more outdoor thrills through Adventure Center: three-hour snowmobile excursions for $170 (Can$180), two-hour snowshoe rental for $19 (Can$20), and skiing for $19 (Can$20). Or schedule a massage for $85 (Can$90) to relax your tired muscles. You'll stay in accommodations similar to the Travelodge in Montreal.
To finish up the trip, you'll board the minibus for the three-hour drive back to Montreal and have a free afternoon there. Montreal has long been a great eating city — not just a city with a lot of restaurants, but one that likes to eat and eat well, a city of gourmands. Besides sampling the food, you can take your pick of important sites like the Basilique Notre-Dame, the Canadian Centre of Architecture, and the Musee d'art contemporain, the only contemporary-art museum in Canada.
A word on packing: Adventure Center recommends a few winter clothing essentials such as thermal overalls, boots, mittens, and a hat; they'll offer these for rent for $108 (Can$115). Some important purchases you should make before the trip: oil-based sunblock and polarized sunglasses or ski goggles.
It will be cold! Quebec City gets an average of 13 feet of snowfall each year, with temperatures in the winter between –4 and 23 degrees Fahrenheit. The final itinerary will depend upon weather and trail conditions.
For more ideas on what to do, visit Canada's official tourism site. And for more one-of-a-kind experiences and trips to far-flung destinations, check the 40 Best Deals from Budget Travel’s September issue, devoted to the best places you've never heard of.
Getting there: The trip begins and ends in Montreal. A recent Kayak search produced these round-trip fares in late December: $609 from Chicago (US Airways), $630 from New York City (U.S. Airways), $639 from Boston (US Airways), $771 from Atlanta (US Airways), and $855 from Seattle (Continental).