Well, Jonathan and I have just returned from a very successful week-long trip to the Pacific Northwest! We spent two nights in Portland, two in Seattle, and two in Vancouver – then we went back down to Seattle for our last night before heading to the airport in the morning. We had a great time, and I have lots of fun pictures to share with you this week. But first, I thought I might share some of our tips on how to travel cheap. There are trips for splurging, and there are trips for saving…and this was a trip for saving. Trust me, we tried to keep our expenses to a minimum!
1. Book your flights on points.
Now, I know I have a job that travels a lot, but there are so many ways to earn frequent flier miles. It’s all about loyalty. Get a credit card with rewards – I use a Southwest Airlines card. Even if you don’t fly a lot, every purchase you make will earn you points. So will occasional bonus offers and survey reward programs. Pick an airline, and get loyal! Then you’ll get yourself some free flights 🙂
If you haven’t ever stayed in a hostel, it’s time you do. If you are on a budget, and you like meeting people, then this is the only way to go. Most hostels have 4, 6, or 8-bed dorms for around $25 a night, per person. They usually have free breakfasts, wifi, even some dinners. AND they ALWAYS have events going on, so if you are traveling alone you can join up with the group and have some fun.
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to pay a ton for meals every time you need to eat. Did I mention that hostels have full kitchens, where you can store food and you can cook? On this trip, Jonathan and I bought fruit, turkey, wraps, and other food and made our lunches and snacks ourselves all week long.
Ask your flight attendants for an extra peanut or pretzel snack for later…they are usually happy to give it to you! You can also sit next to the weirdest guy on the plane, who happens to hand you ALL of his extra snacks. And if you’d like to have a drink or two while you are on the plane, don’t buy their $7 drinks! Pick up a few mini bottles of your favorite drink onboard…just keep them under 3 ounces each! Here’s my honey, loading up on our free snacks!
5. Happy Hour
Apparently, not all happy hours are right after work. We found a restaurant in Portland that had a late night “happy hour.” We had a meal for about $6! There are lots of apps out there that will help you find food deals in real time, no matter where you are.
We walked a LOT and it was great. First, it’s the best way to see a new city, and to get some sense of direction. Second, it’s free. So brace yourself and wear tennis shoes. And now and then, you will need to take a train or subway, but when you can, take the opportunity to get some exercise and learn a city by foot! We only spent about $15 total on transportation around the cities on our trip. Plus…you’ll get to climb an enormous hill and get this view:
Our priorities were: see as much of the cities as we can, and meet new people. So this is where we put most of our time and energy. We also made time to relax, and hang out around the hostel and in local coffee shops and such. We took the time to sit at a few different bars for a while, getting to know the people around us – many of whom were local.We also really wanted to see the sites, so we chose to take an Amtrak train from city to city. The view was to die for, the ride was comfortable, and it was comparable (if not cheaper) than taking a bus or some other boring transportation. You get views like this when you take a train along the Pacific Ocean:
Don’t get your panties in such a tight bundle that you don’t enjoy your trip. Make space in your budget for one or two nice meals, or a particular activity you care about, like a museum or tour. We had one really nice dinner out, and it was totally worth the splurge.
Anyway, I hope these tips are helpful! We had a blast on our trip – we were gone for a long time and saw a LOT. And now we can say we’ve seen a whole new area of the country, one that is beautiful and friendly! Keep an eye out for a lot more pictures this week.