Post Summary: How To Travel On A Budget In the Pacific Northwest
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to travel in the Pacific Northwest, and how to budget for it all? It’s a question we actually get a lot!
Traveling around the PNW as commercial photographers, we’ve gotten pretty good at saving money on trips, whether for work or just for fun.
In this post, we’re taking you through our own steps to create hand-crafted adventures on a budget!
Let the savings begin!
Our Background as Travel Photographers
We’ve been traveling on a budget in the Pacific Northwest since before the blog (when Berty and I were in college!). In the beginning, we wasted lots of money on eating out, staying in expensive cities, and covering for last-minute expenses.
Now, we’ve learned a lot of lessons in the 6+ years of traveling here. We almost always come in with a game plan, track spending, and get really smart about saving money on hotels and food.
Through lots of trial and error, we’ve fine-tuned our budgeting skills into a full-fledged travel business, and we want to help you do the same – without all the mistakes we made!
Keep scrolling because we’re sharing some of our biggest tips for a budget-friendly trip in the Pacific Northwest!
How To Travel On A Budget In The Pacific Northwest
This post is sponsored by First Tech Federal Credit Union. All writing, thoughts, and opinions are our own.
Choose Cost-Effective Destinations
Places like Seattle and San Francisco will always be popular, but have you considered lesser-known destinations for your next vacation? Sleepy coastal towns or mountain communities can have just as much charm (if not more!) than a big city, and can be quite a lot more cost-effective, too!
Consider smaller alternative towns instead of big cities to save money on things like accommodations, food, and experiences. Here are some fun alternatives to check out if you’re looking for affordable west coast travel destinations:
- Instead of Jackson Hole, WY > try Bend, OR (great skiing, great beer, river floating, and hot springs)
- Instead of Cannon Beach, OR > try Gold Beach, OR (lots of sandy beaches with fewer people!)
- Instead of Banff National Park > try the Sawtooth Mountains in Stanley, ID (epic hikes, beautiful mountain ranges)
- Instead of Portland, OR > try Astoria, OR (quirky thrift stores, great food)
Research Average Cost Per Day
Once you have figured out the average cost per day in your vacation city, (just a quick Google search will do!) it’s time to make a savings plan before your trip. First Tech Federal Credit Union’s Financial Calculators are a great place to start!
You can input your total savings goal and the time you have to save money. From there, you can get an idea of how much you should be setting aside from each paycheck to reach your savings goal. Make it fun by creating a tracking schedule like a savings thermometer to put on your fridge, and fill it in as you save up!
Track Your Expenses Before You Go
If you are hoping to save a bit of money when planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, it’s important to know where it’s going in the first place! Track any extras that you may be purchasing, and decide what can be cut from your expenses temporarily.
Easy things to temporarily cut from your budget can be things like eating out, buying clothes, or getting coffee. You’ll be surprised how quickly these savings can add up! If you wanted to boost your cash-saving opportunities, consider selling any unused, good condition items in your home to places like Poshmark, eBay, or Craigslist.
Decide What To Save On, And What To Splurge On
What is a luxury that you love to spoil yourself with?
Maybe it’s eating at a fancy restaurant, booking a resort by the ocean, or spending money on experiences like a personal guided tour. Whatever that is, go all out! (This sounds counter-intuitive to saving, but hear us out!)
Travel budgets require a good balance of savings AND splurging, and it’s up to you what way you’d like to treat yourself. Earmark your budget for those big-ticket items and enjoy a little bit of luxury when you’re traveling – you’ve earned it!
For us, we don’t mind spending money on experiences. We love booking guided tours (like this boat ride to Hot Springs Cove in Tofino or a photography flight over New York City), adventures led by others, and educational trips. It’s one way we develop a deeper appreciation of the land and the communities we visit.
How To Save Money During Your Trip
Now that you’ve saved a bit of extra cash for your trip, it’s time to stretch that money as far as it can go! Here are some more tips to travel on a budget in the Pacific Northwest:
Don’t Rent a Car – Rent a Campervan!
Are you planning a road trip? If you are flying into and returning home from the same city (for example, you’re flying into Seattle from the East Coast), consider renting a campervan! It’s like your transportation and accommodations all in one, and car camping can be an excellent way to travel on a budget in the Pacific Northwest.
Renting a campervan opens up several options for overnight stays. You can use car camping hacks like downloading an app like The Dyrt to find free campsites in national forest land and even reserve campsites. Even with all these awesome and cheap options for sleeping, you still have the option of booking a last-minute hotel for a warm bed and shower if necessary, too.
This is a great option if your vacation includes multiple destinations, and you love camping! Peace Vans in Seattle rents out vintage VW Westfalia vans for some serious PNW vibes on your trip. You could also try finding an RV or campervan on Outdoorsy in all the major cities, which is like Airbnb but for renting vehicles!
Get a Hotel With a Kitchen
When booking accommodations, consider getting one with a small kitchenette included. This way, you can cook your own meals and save quite a bit from eating out every day.
Renting privately from Airbnb or VRBO usually gives you access to some type of cooking space. Feel free to message hosts on these booking platforms to ask more specific questions about what’s available to you before you book. Some private hosts even provide complimentary coffee and snacks!
Buy Groceries Instead of Eating Out
As stated above, cooking your own meals on vacation is a great way to save money.
Easy items to buy for breakfast are instant coffee, protein bars, and fresh fruit like oranges, bananas, and apples. For lunch, you can opt for simple PB&J sandwiches, and dinners can be simple instant ramen bowls! You definitely can get fancier or healthier than this, but if saving money is your priority, this is a great way to slash costs!
While you’re at the grocery store, consider stocking up on hiking snacks, too!
Stock Up On Audiobooks From Your Local Library
You may know all about the best podcasts for road trips, or queued up your favorite playlists, but have you ever listened to an audiobook? It’s a great way to pass the time on long drives or plane trips. You can purchase and download them from places like Audible, but we actually would recommend another solution – your local library!
The Libby app is a great resource to allow you to borrow audiobooks from your neighborhood library. If you don’t have a library card, it’s easy (and completely free!) to sign up for one. This is a great way to save money on entertainment – on the road AND when you find yourself camping off-grid.
Some of our favorite books to read on road trips:
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (futurist adventure)
- The Guest List by Lucy Foley (murder mystery)
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (autobiography about growing up in South Africa)