First of all, it’s a walkable city, and we took a walk every day with my brother’s dog Gracie (pictured here in her winter sweater). The best thing about Gracie (and she possesses many priceless qualities) is that she wakes up happy every day. As an optimist, she’s the perfect match for my self-admitted glass-half-empty brother. According to him, for Gracie, “A new day means a walk, and a cuddle, and maybe a biscuit (her favorite treat, which she occasionally receives at the drive-thru window at the bank).” She’s got a great attitude about the infinite possibilities of each new day.
In addition to a daily walk, sometimes to the dog park (!!), one day we took a longer hike that included a killer hill in Mt. Tabor. It’s a beautiful hike through the trees with a view of Mt. Hood. We were lucky to have a break in the rain, and it wasn’t even cold enough for a hat or mittens.
We also made a mandatory visit to possibly the best bookstore in the world: Powell’s Books, where I put $5.95 into the local economy by purchasing a used book in perfect condition that I’d wanted to read for quite some time. My brother used a $10 gift card to buy two used David Sedaris books.
After Powell’s, we met up with some friends at a brew pub and used a gift card that I’d given my brother for his birthday last year. The modest card bought us a beer sampler, sandwiches, onion rings, and another beer, because it was happy hour all day on Sunday. I’m not a big beer drinker, but Portland has some of the best tasting beer around with all its breweries.
The local Cineplex let us into a movie for free when I showed my Editor’s Guild union card, so we took advantage of it and went to another movie the next day. We saw True Grit and The Fighter, recent releases up for awards, not fare from last summer they’d be showing at the 2nd run theater. I have no idea why Portland would honor this card, but I love them for it. This perk is specific to me, but maybe you have some kind of discount card you can put to use on vacation too. I try to always remember to ask for a AAA discount when I’m traveling.
Instead of going out to eat, my brother and I cooked and had a party at his house for about 15 friends. He made a pork shoulder and I made Mexican crockpot chicken, and with some freshly made tortillas from the local grocery store, we set up a taco bar. Everyone brought beans or rice or guacamole, plus beer and even margaritas. It was delicious, and a lot less expensive than going out to dinner. Plus I got to visit with all of his friends which is harder to do in a restaurant. Don’t get me wrong: I love going out to eat, but this time my brother and I both really needed to be on a tight budget.
Another night we were invited to a friend’s house for drinks and were invited to stay for dinner, but my brother already had some lasagna thawing back at his house. I was just as happy to eat that because he’s a great cook. And to save money he’d made a pan of lasagna and had individually wrapped servings in the freezer, enough for several dinners.
I had just as much fun as I always do in Portland, because it’s beautiful and the people are friendly and there’s so much to do, and the total cost of my trip above the super-cheap plane ticket was half the the party food total ($30) and $5.95 for the book. In my book, that’s a great deal for a 4-day vacation.
What are your favorite activities on a budget vacation? Please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the Comments section.