Travel Seattle On a Tight Budget (And Have the Time of Your Life)
Traveling is good for many reasons. For one, if you work full time like I do, traveling is a great break from work. It not only gives you a few days off from work, it gets you out of the office and into a fresh environment. Traveling is also a great opportunity to experience new places, people, food, and cultures.
At the beginning of this year, I decided I needed a break. Since I spend so much time working both at my full-time job and on my side hustles, I decided it was necessary to step away for a few days and travel. Seattle seemed like the perfect location due to its fun downtown atmosphere and gorgeous nature.
The only reservation I had with traveling for 5 days was the tight budget I’m on. While I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to leave the state for a few days, I did want to stay within a reasonable budget.
Now that I’ve returned from my wonderful trip and reviewed my bank statements, all my planning paid off. I successfully traveled to Seattle for 5 days and stayed within my intended budget. Here’s how I did it:
Unless you’re within driving distance of Seattle, the first, and often most expensive part of traveling, is purchasing a flight. Getting a good deal on a flight will set the tone for your budget. While I’m not an expert on how to purchase cheap flights, this article has excellent information on how to get the best deals. Click Here to learn how.
From what I have learned and experienced, here’s the advice I can give you on how to save some money on flights.
1. Pack in a carry-on: Most airlines allow one carry-on and one personal item such as a backpack or a purse. Pack light and smart so that you can fit all your stuff in those two bags. Yes, it’s possible. Trust me, I did it for a 5-day trip and I still had clothes left over that I didn’t wear. Here is how I learned to pack everything into a carry-on.
2. Arrive early, leave late: Make the most out of your trip by getting an early flight on day 1 and a late flight on your last day. For my trip, we left at 6:00am and came back at 8:00pm. That meant we had another whole extra day to explore. Also, early flights tend to save you money. We were looking at about $40 extra per person for a late morning or afternoon flight.
3. Park smart: Airport parking is expensive. Naturally, we assumed we would take an uber to the airport. Well, that was running us about $50 one way. After some research, we found a nearby hotel that offered airport parking for a few bucks a day and it included a free shuttle to the airport. By parking smart, we saved nearly $100!
Where to Stay
The question these days is: Hotel or Airbnb? Well, I’ll say this much… If it weren’t for Airbnb, there is no way I would have stayed within my travel budget. So for us, Airbnb was the obvious answer for where we would stay.
Not familiar with what that is? Airbnb is basically a Bed and Breakfast for the modern world. Seriously, check it out here. It absolutely revolutionizes traveling. Since Seattle is a popular city, and hotels are rather expensive, we saved between $30-$50 per night by staying in an Airbnb. To help you out when selecting your Airbnb, here are some tips:
1. Location: When deciding which Airbnb to choose (you will have tons of options), pay attention to the location. If you know you want to be close to downtown, be sure to pick a place that is a fast ride to Pike’s Place. If you want to be in more of a nature area, a place slightly outside of downtown such as West Seattle is a great medium.
2. Check-in/out times: Since we chose to get an early flight there and a late flight home, we knew we could potentially be waiting around for check-in/out. To compensate for this, we needed an Airbnb that could be flexible with times. We were able to message the Airbnb owner of the house we liked and made accommodations for our check-in time.
3. Transportation: A great money saver when in Seattle is to utilize the public transportation such as the bus or train. This is the cheaper alternative to taking Uber or Lyft everywhere. We were able to pick an Airbnb that was walking distance of a bus stop. This saved us lots of money and was a great way to see even more of the city.
Where to Go
Lots to do, lots to see, lots to experience. Pretty affordable. Here are my favorites:
1. Popular Places: While there are many sights and tourist locations in Seattle, the biggest tip I have in this entire post is to purchase a City Pass. I’ll say it again. Purchase a CITY PASS! This bad boy will save you money and help you knock out all the touristy things on your list. With our City Pass, we were able to go to the Space Needle, Aquarium, Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and we went on a city Harbor Cruise, all for less than $90! So please, if you are on a budget, buy a City Pass.
2. Pike Place: If you go to Seattle, you have to go to Pike Place. It’s basically a gigantic farmer’s market with plenty of eating places and gorgeous waterfront views. Also, it’s three levels, so there is plenty to see. The great part about this is that you can enjoy Pike Place without spending one dime!
3. Great Wheel on Pier 57: This one is a must. The views of the city and the water are beautiful. My suggestion is to do this on the first day (along with the Harbor Cruise Tour) so that you can get a good perspective of the city you will be exploring for the next few days. Also, it’s relaxing and quite romantic.
4. Parks/Trails: Once you get done with your City Pass and you’ve had your fill of Pike Place, enjoy the gorgeous nature that surrounds Seattle. There are many parks with short, medium, and long trails to walk. We went to Pugent Park, Schmitz Park, Alki Beach (Park), and Discovery Park. The beauty of parks and trails is that it’s all free but the experience enriches the soul, which makes it priceless.
5. Ferry to Bainbridge Island: The part of our trip that surprised us the most was our impromptu trip to Bainbridge Island. The only way to get to the Island is by a 35-minute ride on the Ferry, which only costs $8 per person. Once there, we immediately hopped on an easy trail that seemed to take us around the whole Island. It’s absolutely lovely and the people are all great and friendly (probably because everyone who lives there is retired!). The only downside of the Island is that every place to eat closes around 8pm. Plan accordingly!
6. Gum Wall: It’s not a post about Seattle if the gum wall isn’t mentioned. Personally, I think it’s gross. But, do it for the experience. Bring a piece of gum, take cute pictures in front of the millions of nasty, chewed gum pieces stuck to the wall, post it on Instagram, and wash your hands. But seriously, it’s quite the sight to see and it’s free.
What to Eat
When we travel, we like to eat at places we’ve never had before, and we don’t eat at the same restaurant twice. This allows for more variety in our travel diet! Food was definitely where we spent the majority of our money, but because we had such great deals on flights, AirBnb, tourist locations, and parks (which are free), we were able to have awesome meals.
Here are some of the places I recommend eating at:
1. Lowell’s Restaurant: Great breakfast. Even better waterfront view. This is located in Pike Place Market.
2. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese: Lot’s of cheese here, obviously. The grilled cheese and mac n cheese go great together. My tip for you is to go during a non-food eating time. When we went during lunchtime, the wait was probably 30+ minutes. When we came back around 2:00pm, we only waited 5 minutes. This is also located in Pike Place Market.
3. Mora Iced Creamery: This small ice cream shop located on Bainbridge Island only made the list because it’s open past 8:00pm and we were craving ice cream. The good news is, it’s delicious.
4. Storyville Coffee: Supposedly the coffee here is great. I didn’t love it (maybe I’m too used to my white chocolate mocha’s from Starbucks), but maybe coffee connoisseurs will love it.
5. Mercato Stellina: We dashed in here on a whim because we were hungry and needed a break from walking. Turns out, it was pretty good. Although it was a bit fancy and the plates were a tad small, the handmade pasta and pizza were memorable.
6. The Crab Pot: This is a great place to splurge on seafood. Our meal included king crab, Alaskan crab, snow crab, shrimp, muscles, clams, potatoes, corn, and sausage. It was delicious and totally worth it.
7. Kidd Valley: This burger joint is kind of hidden on Pier 50. We decided to choose this burger place over Red Robin because we wanted to try something new, and it didn’t disappoint. Also, the price of a burger is very affordable.
8. Skillet Seattle: This place, located in the food court right outside of the Space Needle, is a great little spot for breakfast food. I highly recommend the mac n cheese and the breakfast burrito. Oddly, these foods went well together.
9. Docs Marina Grill: This cute place is a waterfront restaurant on Bainbridge Island. We were lucky enough to eat during sunset which made the meal even lovelier. The El Portal Burger was delicious and filling. Literally, we couldn’t put it down.
10. Pike Place Chowder: Totally worth the 30-45 minute wait in line just to get a bowl of chowder. This place has won awards for their chowder since the 90s. It’s completely worth it and not overrated at all.
11. Top Pot Doughnuts: This doughnut shop was a fun little break during our trip to Alki Beach. The doughnuts were good and the atmosphere was comfortable.
12. Roccos: This pizza is huge! Literally, humongous. They have pizza’s in half sizes, which is probably the size of a standard medium pizza, and they have pizza’s in whole sizes, which is just a gigantic pizza. We (accidentally) went with the whole size not knowing how large it really was. Needless to say, we had pizza left over for breakfast. Also, this pizza was amazing.
13. Taproom: The final place we ate before leaving Seattle was this little burger joint in the airport. While the airport had many eating options, this one had the best menu and we enjoyed the burger and wings we ordered.
Seattle, Washington is a fun and beautiful place to take a vacation. We stayed for a total of 5 days and 4 nights and utilized every minute. The best part is, we were able to stay within budget. If you take a trip to Seattle soon, I hope you can experience it like we did and have an amazing, affordable time. Trust me, it’s completely worth it. Still don’t believe me? Well, the proof is in the pictures! Check them out: