portland on a budget


My littlest no longer little brother got married this weekend in Portland. Everything was perfect, and I mean everything. First, on our way there, our son M and I got upgraded to first class, aka heaven. I literally put my legs out in front of me and they couldn’t reach the seat in front of me. Then, when we got to Portland, our car got upgraded from the cheapest economy car to some other kind of nice car. We paid $19 per day to drive a shiny car with nice rims and leather heated seats. I could not even believe my life. Not only did we have a blast at the wedding, but we had a ball exploring Portland and all of its glorious quirkiness and natural beauty. The best part? It really didn’t cost that much. Here’s how to do Portland on a budget.



Let me start by saying if you don’t have a good rewards credit card, now is the time to get one. I’m a firm believer in taking advantage of rewards-bearing credit cards. This is assuming that you don’t have credit card debt and can commit to paying off the balance of your credit card every month before it accrues any interest. If that is a problem for you, I’d stay away from credit cards altogether. Otherwise, travel rewards credit cards can boast some serious benefits. We recently got the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This card came highly recommended– you get $625 back in travel just for signing up and spending $4k in your first 3 months (that means $1333 a month, easy to spend on your normal purchases like utilities, groceries, other bills). You could fly from practically anywhere in the country to Portland for less than $625!


If you really want to do Portland on a budget, stay with family or friends. If you don’t have family or friends in Portland, Portlandians are extremely friendly, so just make some. 🙂 But really. Portland has got to be the friendliest city on earth.

Anytime we travel, we try to stay with family or friends. Not only does this have the obvious benefit of saving money, but it changes your experience. You get to see the area the way someone who lives there sees it. Plus, family and friends are likely to know of good/fun/cheap/free things to do. Danny’s aunt was kind enough to host us on this trip and she was a treasure trove of Portland knowledge. Plus, her and her family were so good to M. He keeps begging to go back.

Obviously staying with friends and family is not always an option, so my second best recommendation to do Portland on a budget is to use AirBNB. If you haven’t used AirBNB before, basically you rent out other people’s property, usually at a far lower rate than you’d get at a hotel. Using AirBNB is a good way to get to know local activities in Portland (or wherever you are staying) too, as owners are typically local to the area. We’ve been using AirBNB for years and we really love it. Grab $40 off your first AirBNB stay by using this link.


One of the best things about Portland in my opinion, is that there are bike lanes EVERYWHERE. There is also tons of public transit. Between the two of these, you can get around pretty easily without a car if you are up for it. Portland has a pretty good bike share program with bikes that cost as little as 8 cents per minute (less than $5 an hour).

We were in town for a wedding so we needed to be looking sharp for a few events. We opted to rent a car. We got a pretty good deal using Priceline. We paid $19 per day (and we got upgraded to a pretty dang sweet car while we were there!) Portland drivers are pretty friendly and while there is rush hour traffic, it’s usually nothing crazy.


The best part about Portland to me is that there is SO much to do for free! You are basically in nature’s eye candy wonderland. There are so many hikes along and places to explore along the Columbia river it’s unreal. We hiked Beacon Rock (about 45 min – 1 hour from Portland). It was gorgeous and the weather this time of year made it truly amazing. If heights aren’t your thing, Beacon Rock might not be for you. There are some fairly steep ledges. And that’s OK. There are literally hundreds of other hikes you can choose from in this area.

In addition to hiking, we went to the Bonneville fish hatchery which M LOVED. He got to feed rainbow trout and I think all of our minds were blown by the size of the sturgeon fish swimming around in the Columbia river. You get to drive over some fun bridges along the way. And the landscape the fish hatchery on is beyond beautiful. All in all a perfect family outing.

If people watching is your thing, the Saturday market in downtown Portland is amazing. Tons of vendors, hippies, good vibes, and people watching.

The wedding is what brought us out so I’d be remiss not to share a few photos. M got to be the ring bearer. His little boutonniere had me swooning. He was a handsome but naughty ring bearer.  We got his shirt, pants and suspenders from H&M on clearance with a gift card. His sandals were from Old Navy and he wears them practically every day (and they are easy to get on!). My dress was also H&M clearance, and the bride and groom gifted Danny his tie.

portland on a budget

portland on a budget

Have you been to Portland? What are some cheap or free things to do there? I’d love to hear from you! 

P.S. If you’re just getting started dealing with your debt, student loans or otherwise, check out my (free) Debt Payoff Starter Kit! It will help you create and crush your financial goals, prioritize your debt so you know what to pay off first to get out of debt FAST so that you can move on with your life (financially).

portland on a budget

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