Traveling on a budget is a great way to see many places. Five-star hotels are nice, but there’s something more rewarding, I feel, about pitching a tent, bunking at a hostel or camping in an RV, which is how I recently went through Washington and Oregon. Some of the best greenery and hippest cities in the United States are in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s a must-see region for any traveler. For me, traveling on a budget is about doing a lot of free stuff and saving your cash for the actual act of travel (gas or airfare) and, of course, food. You’ll also be able to splurge here and there wherever you see fit. Here are some wallet-friendly ideas to get you started on your adventure:
Find a Free Campsite
Hotels can be expensive. If you’re an RVer or tent camper like I am, you know camping can be less expensive. But even campground fees add up quickly, which is why I almost exclusively camp at free sites, something that’s actually quite easy to do in the Pacific Northwest. I highly recommend freecampsites.net to find amazing free places around the country, though there are other helpful online resources, too. One of my favorites was a campsite near ZigZag Falls, a gorgeous spot in Oregon near Mt. Hood. But you can find them at all popular areas in the PNW – even near Mts. Rainier and St. Helens. National Forest lands are plentiful in the northwest, and offer a multitude of free camping options, so be sure to take note of those if you’re into getting out into true wilderness.
Stay at a Hostel or Airbnb
While hostels aren’t as popular in the U.S., there are more of them in the Pacific Northwest than most other places in the country. They’ll be one of the best ways to get to know an unfamiliar city, meet some people and get a hot shower. They’re not only available in Seattle and Portland, but smaller cities as well. Airbnb is another good option for those who want indoor accommodations without breaking the bank.
Enjoy the Coast
Nothing is cheaper and more scenic, perhaps, than appreciating the great coastlines of the Northwest. There are a lot of beaches, but also rocky coasts best seen from the air (maybe you could splurge on a sightseeing plane ride) or from the water on a canoe or kayak (which is probably a much better idea on a budget). Here are some of the must-see coastal places in the Pacific Northwest:
Neah Bay, Washington: At the far northwestern tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is Neah Bay. Just wow. A truly stunning stretch of coastline. While you’re at it, stop at other areas of the peninsula as well.
Westport, Washington: Go catch some crabs in western Washington and stop by Aberdeen, hometown of Kurt Cobain, on the way there.
Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon: An amazing coastal spot off of Netarts Bay. You can also take a nearby stop in Tillamook, home of the dairy company of the same name. Cheese and ice cream? Yes, please!
Walk Around Beautiful Cities
The best things in life, they say, are free. Just taking a walk around a place is a wonderful way to see it and really get a feel for things. The biggest cities of the PNW – Seattle and Portland – are great. But the region has so much more to offer. Here are a few of the best cities to enjoy on foot:
Astoria, Oregon: One of the most historic cities in the state, Astoria sits at the mouth of the Columbia River, providing great Pacific Ocean views and all sorts of water-related activities.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: There are some incredible views of massive Lake Coeur d’ Alene in the Idaho panhandle. It’s another great place to hop in a watercraft.
Bend, Oregon: A quaint city in central Oregon, Bend is known for having one of the most charming downtown areas in the whole Pacific Northwest. And like the rest of Oregon, a craft beer won’t be far out of reach.