Sometimes the best deals can be found in your own backyard. For Americans, that’s the big expanse we call the Lower 48. One of the more affordable domestic destinations I’ve discovered lately is Seattle, where hotels are available at any price range and free or low-cost activities are plentiful. Although the cheapest flights depart from cities in the West, at least one East Coast city will allow you to take a trip for under $500.
No matter where you’re based, all these savings will come in handy since you’ll need extra change for all that coffee you’ll be sampling.
Finding airfare to Seattle
On a recent fare search, January and February round-trip flights to Seattle were surprisingly low, especially from cities like Denver, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. People departing from those cities will not only make the $500 budget, but will have plenty left over for extra activities or food. However, if we’re talking just the basics—air, hotel, and free stuff—you can still afford a trip from other cities, even from far-flung Boston.
- Denver to Seattle: $139
- Las Vegas: $199
- Los Angeles to Seattle: $199
- Chicago to Seattle: $219
- Phoenix to Seattle: $219
- San Antonio to Seattle: $219
- Albuquerque to Seattle: $244
- San Diego to Seattle: $250
- Boston to Seattle: $268
All fares include taxes and fees.
Finding a hotel in Seattle
With a range of options, you can find a hotel for any budget in Seattle, even at the last minute. In fact, this past summer, I found a good rate at the 1920s historic Mayflower Park Hotel a few days before my stay. To see if this upscale property would still fit within the $500 budget, I recently checked February prices on Orbitz and Expedia, which had similar rates. For a two-night stay, the total comes to about $358, including taxes and fees, or $179 per person if you share the room with someone.
Add cab fare to and from the airport for about $80, or $40 when sharing with another person, and your grand total for the trip—including airfare ($268), hotel, and cab fare—comes to $487. Of course, you can add a third night from cities like Denver, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles, and still end up close to budget.
Also, if you go before January 31, boutique hotel chain Kimpton Hotels will take 20 percent off the best available rate at its three Seattle properties: $115 (plus tax ) at the Hotel Vintage Park, $139 (plus tax) at the Hotel Monaco, and $140 (plus tax) at the Alexis Hotel. Potentially cheaper than the Mayflower, these hotels could open the door for more spending flexibility.
If you’re from a more expensive departure city and want to stay more nights, you can come in under the $500 budget. Look for smaller, privately-run hotels such as the simple but well-located Mediterranean Inn, where I found rates as low as $87.20 per night. When adding taxes and fees, the total for three nights comes to $308.16. Share the room with another person and you pay half, or $154.08. When you include airfare, cab fare, and hotel, the total comes to $462.08. A price tag like this would give you more time—and leftover cash—to have fun in the city.
What to do and eat in Seattle
Because these hotels are located right near much of the action, you won’t have to spend anything on transportation. However, with potentially very little headroom in the budget, free activities are in order. Luckily, in Seattle there are plenty of those, such as the ever popular Pike Place Market, which can take up the good part of a day, or the new Olympic Sculpture Park, a nine-acre green space filled with works from notable artists. I also recommend strolling and shopping in and around the Belltown neighborhood at affordable boutiques such as the Endless Knot on 1st Avenue or The Powder Room on Stewart Street, which are loaded with inexpensive clothing and accessories. For more ideas on free things to do, visit SmarterTravel.com’s Seattle Travel Guide.
Depending on how much money you have left, you might feel comfortable spending a bit on activities with minimal associated costs. For instance, you can take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and spend the day for just $6.70. Of course, coffee shops like Starbucks, including the original at Pike Place, and Tully’s, are part of the Seattle experience and only cost a latte. I particularly like the Hungry Mind Magazine Cafe, where you can mull over a new periodical as you sip, or enjoy the free Wi-Fi.
For affordable eats, you can’t go wrong at Pike Place, where small, cheap eateries like Le Panier, The Crumpet Shop, or even the market stalls themselves abound. At all these places, you can find snacks and lunch items for $5 or less. If you want to try one of Seattle’s best upscale restaurants, Cascadia, but without its $30+ entrees, head right to The Bar & Lounge at Cascadia. Here, you can fill up on mini-burgers for $2.50 each ($4 regularly) during happy hour from 5:00 to 7:00 . Also, Flying Fish, another local favorite, serves reasonably-priced small plates made with fresh-from-the-Pacific ingredients like fried oyster Caesar salad and steamed manila clams for around $10 each.
Whether you like to eat, hang with the coffeehouse set, or walk city streets, Seattle makes things easy and affordable. The fact that you’re spending under $500 makes your life much easier.
Email me your favorite money-saving tips for Seattle, and I might publish them in a future article. Or, feel free to comment or suggest a new Escapes Under $500 destination.
(Editor’s Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com.)
All prices, dates, and booking details listed here were valid at the time of publication. Some information may have changed since that time.