Budget travel: A westerner's guide to 3 states in 1 week
Friday, 27 May 2016
People living on the West Coast are lucky to have a mountain range, desert, and the Pacific Ocean within close reach.
But it can be difficult to decide how to maximize those precious vacation days and make the most of a week off. Here, we discuss the perfect way for a Westerner to visit three states in one week—without breaking the bank.
Let's use Fresno, California as our starting point. Instead of taking your own vehicle, rent a car and take I-5 almost 200 miles north until you cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. Set your GPS to 1630 Pacific Avenue and pull up to the Nob Hill Motor Inn. This is a budget-friendly hotel ($115-$200/night) located in the heart of the city's high-end Russian Hill district that offers free parking (a rarity in the city), and complimentary breakfast.
If you're looking for even more inexpensive accommodations (this rule goes for the rest of your week, too), try searching Hostelworld or Hostelling International. Couchsurfing is another great option that won't cost you a penny.
Spend your day walking around Polk Street (half a block from Nob Hill Motor Inn) and visiting bookstores and coffee shops. Consider taking a free walking tour through a variety of neighborhoods with San Francisco City Guides. Check TimeOut, San Francisco Eater, and Thrillist for happy hour specials, as well as Funcheap SF for inexpensive nighttime activities.
Take to the streets today for a nice walk. San Francisco is quite small—only seven miles by seven miles—and it is possible to explore two or three neighborhoods in the span of a day. Take out your map, choose your desired location and get moving. Consider areas that include the Ferry Building (downtown district) Golden Gate Park (Richmond district), and Ocean Beach (Outer Sunset district). If you'd prefer not to walk, master the city's mass transportation system. For just $2.25 per person you can go nearly anywhere. Don't miss a ride on a Cable Car ($7.00 per person).
Say goodbye to the friendly folks at Nob Hill Motor Inn and hit the road early in the morning. Set your GPS for Crater Lake, Oregon, and 414 miles later (almost a seven-hour drive), feast your eyes on Crater Lake National Park. The lake itself is breathtaking during any season. Go for a short hike down to the water and then come back up before the sun goes down. Take a few photos and then settle into a room at Crater Lake National Park Lodge. This place is a splurge for budget travelers and rooms will run you a little more than $200 per night, but it's worth it with its rustic chic mountain feel. You'll be cutting costs later in the trip.
Wake up early and set your GPS to 1022 SW Stark Street in Portland. About five hours later, park near the front of Ace Hotel, a hip property located in Portland's West End district that offers rooms for as low as $110 per night, with a shared bathroom. In addition to their great prices, Stumptown Coffee is available on the second floor. Spend the rest of the day exploring the International Rose Test Garden, where free tours are offered every day at 1 p.m., and the Portland Japanese Garden, which will reopen to the public March 16, 2016 after a construction project.
Portland is a mecca for cheap eats thanks to its food truck culture. When you get hungry, walk to the Alder Street food cart pod, a collection of trucks where you'll find everything from Chinese food to delicious Vietnamese dishes. Don't forget to head over to Powell's Books, which is known as the largest bookstore in the world.
Wake up, grab a bagel at a nearby bakery, and jump in your car. Head east on I-84 along the Columbia River Gorge. This area is absolutely beautiful and chock-full of hiking trails. Stop for some photos at Multnomah Falls, a 611-foot-tall waterfall with a bridge across its center. Selfies are encouraged here!
Keep driving until you get to the quaint town of Hood River. Park and walk around downtown. Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom is a good spot to try, and so is Sixth Street Bistro. Hood River is one of the best places in the country to go windsurfing, so consider taking a lesson from Hood River WaterPlay. Rentals are also available. After a full day, drive back to Portland.
Today you're headed to Seattle, your trip's final destination. Drive 173 miles north from Portland on I-5 and park near Hotel Hotel, a very hip hostel with a slightly confusing name on Fremont Avenue. Prices start at $28.28 per night for a shared room and bathroom. This place also has a kitchen on-site, so if you're running low on funds, you can run to the grocery store and cook your own meals.
After you get settled, head downtown to Pike Place Market, the city's original farmers market that's been around since the early 1900s. Walk through the aisles and chat with purveyors of everything from cheese and flowers to one-of-a-kind toys for kids. Don't forget to visit the original Starbucks location, just outside the market. You can also visit the Seattle Art Museum ($24.95 per person), and Olympic Sculpture Park.
On your last day, wake up early and head downtown. Grab a Seattle CityPASS for just $69, and check out some of the city's top attractions, including the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, and the Pacific Science Center.
Drop off your car at the rental parking lot and catch a flight back to California, and reminisce all the way about the memories you made during your holiday.
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