Seattle on a budget: 7 travel hacks to save on your trip
Surrounded by mountains and hemmed in by the rugged Pacific coastline of Washington State, Seattle enjoys one of the most scenic locations of any US city. Known as the Emerald City because of the evergreen forests that surround the urban core, Seattle is a phenomenal place for those who love the outdoors. But it's also a cultural hub, home to artistic attractions like the Frye Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Olympic Sculpture Park, as well as iconic landmarks like the Space Needle, the Seattle Center Monorail, and Pike Place Market. Whether you want to paddle the calm waters of Lake Washington, enjoy a leisurely meal on the Seattle waterfront, or visit the top museums and galleries of downtown Seattle, it's hard to ever imagine running out of things to do in this exciting city.
However, Seattle isn't cheap. With one of the highest costs of living in the United States, Seattle can quickly burn a hole in even a generous vacation budget. But it doesn't have to be that way. If you're planning to visit Seattle on a budget, there are plenty of options that can save you money without compromising the experience you'll have of this jewel of the West Coast.
Before heading out to enjoy a more affordable side of Seattle, don't forget to leave your bags behind at a Seattle luggage storage. Knowing your things are being safely looked after will be a load off your mind and will free you up to enjoy Seattle on a budget.
Cheap places to stay in Seattle
Finding accommodation will usually eat up the lion's share of your vacation budget. Thanks to Seattle's crazy expensive real estate, that's as true here as it is anywhere else. Hotels in Seattle can be expensive, especially during the busy summer tourist season. And because of the nearby mountains and ski resorts, you could argue that Seattle has two peak seasons every year, one in summer and one in winter.
You can save money by visiting in spring or fall. Seattle's temperate climate means you don't have to worry about snow or extremely cold temperatures, though you will need to prepare for plenty of rain. You can also save some money by staying outside of the downtown core. Seattle has a good public transportation network, so it's fairly easy to get around the city and stay in the outlying areas to save some money. There are so many neighborhoods in Seattle to choose from, so a little research is a good idea before deciding on a location.
It can also be a good idea to consider a short-term holiday rental. Not only can these privately-owned businesses be cheaper than hotels, but they often provide cooking facilities so that you can make your own meals and save money that way. Pick up some produce at Pike Place Market and make yourself a meal at your vacation rental, and you'll be enjoying downtown Seattle the same way the locals do.
Green Tortoise Hostel Seattle
Options for cheap places to stay in downtown Seattle aren't all that easy to find, but this hostel definitely offers a great bargain in a wonderful location. Green Tortoise is located right in downtown Seattle barely a block away from the Seattle Art Museum and within walking distance of the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, and Pike Place Market, among other attractions. If you want to stay on the Seattle waterfront without blowing your budget, this is an option you have to consider.
In August, a bed in a dorm will cost you less than $40. There are even queen beds available in the dorms for $45, which is an incredible bargain if you're traveling as a couple. There is free Wi-Fi available and a breakfast station where you can make your own oatmeal or cereal along with coffee and tea to fuel you up for a day of exploration. The hostel even arranges tours of the city so you can get to know Seattle on a budget while staying in this incredible location.
Travelodge by Wyndham Seattle By The Space Needle
As well as being right by one of Seattle's most iconic landmarks, the Space Needle, this is one of the closest budget hotels to the upscale South Lake Union neighborhood. That makes it an ideal place both to explore more of the city and get away from it all and see some of the gorgeous nature that's everywhere when you visit Seattle. Extremely convenient for the Space Needle and the Seattle Aquarium, you can also hop on the South Lake Union Streetcar, which will whisk you downtown from this hotel.
A room here in the height of summer will cost around $250, which isn't especially cheap. However, that includes Wi-Fi, a mini fridge, and air-conditioning, and you can even get a king-size bed and a city view at that price. Combined with this incredible location, it represents a decent bargain in this expensive city.
Marco Polo Motel
The vibrant and anarchic neighborhood of Fremont is one of the best places to visit in Seattle if you want to get the feeling of living like a local. With some of the city's best shopping, restaurants, and cultural venues, this neighborhood is great if you're looking for nightlife or to enjoy Seattle the way the locals do. Plus, it's easy to reach downtown from here.
This classic motel is something of a dying breed in Seattle, but it provides affordable accommodation in this lively area. Every guestroom has a mini refrigerator and microwave good for cooking some basic meals, and there's ample free parking available. A room with a queen-size bed costs around $130 in the summer, which isn't bad for this city.
Cheap things to do in Seattle
They say the best things in life are free, and while the jury may be out on that, some of the best things in Seattle certainly are. Making use of free and cheap attractions is a great way to save some money when you visit Seattle, and in this outdoor-loving town, you'll find plenty to do that won't cost you very much money at all. In fact, some of the best attractions in this Pacific Northwest city are free of charge.
Pike Place Market
In many ways, this vibrant market is the heart of Seattle and a place you simply have to visit while you're in town. Local vendors sell everything from fresh fish to olive oil to clothing and household items, and you'll also find some of the best places to eat in the entire city here. Watch the famous fishmongers tossing freshly caught fish back and forth, and you'll be getting a free show while you enjoy an unquestioned icon of the city. Pike Place Market is free to visit, though it's easy to blow your budget at the stalls here.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Part of the Seattle Art Museum, this nine-acre park occupies a premium spot on the Seattle waterfront. Enjoy incredible views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains as you stroll the walking trails and admire the sculptures that give the park its name. As impressive as this park is, it is just one of many great parks in Seattle that are totally free to visit. Discovery Park, for example, offers 534 acres of woodland to explore, while Kerry Park can give you incredible views of downtown Seattle.
Ferry to Bainbridge Island
It's hard to beat the view of Seattle you'll get from this ferry, and it only costs $8.50 to ride as a passenger. Stand on the deck and enjoy the epic views of the mountains and the ocean as you sail to the island, and once you're there, you'll find lots more to do. You can enjoy the work of local artists at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, where admission is free, or check out the hiking trails through the rainforest known as the Grand Forest.
Cheap places to eat in Seattle
Seattle is home to some truly incredible restaurants, and there's almost no limit to what you can spend on dinner here. But the intense competition helps to keep restaurant prices low. And eating on a budget in Seattle doesn't mean you won't be eating well. Dine on the best street food in the city or go where the locals go to enjoy some incredible bargains on exceptional food.
El Cubano To Go
This tiny sandwich shop may not look like much from the outside, but it's become a local legend for a reason. Sandwiches like the Classic Cubano and the Spicy Tuna Melt cost around $10 each, but they are big enough to share or split into two meals. Take one of these gigantic sandwiches to nearby Echo Lake Park or Ballinger Park and enjoy what might be the best picnic opportunity in the city.
Located on University Way, this Chinese restaurant is unsurprisingly beloved by students and anybody else on a limited budget. The small tables are crowded tightly together to squeeze as many customers inside as possible, and you'll find this place busy no matter when you visit. Serving Chinese street food like the Tingly Beef Burger for only $6.50 and incredible noodle dishes for $10, this is a great place to have a satisfying meal that won't blow your budget.
Aladdin Gyro-Cery & Deli
Another popular student eatery, this grocery store/restaurant stays open late and serves incredible Mediterranean food to hungry customers. A lamb and beef shawarma is less than eight dollars, and the great range of veggie sandwiches are around six dollars each. They also serve more substantial platters that let you try just about everything they have to offer, and nothing on the menu costs more than $15.
Cheap bars in Seattle
Seattle has no shortage of options for upscale drinking establishments, but the city is no stranger to the odd dive bar too. If you're looking for nightlife options in the city, try one of these bars to get your buzz on without blowing your retirement savings.
This former gas station is now a gay bar that's just as popular with straight people thanks to its affordable prices. Happy hour runs until 8 PM every single night, offering deals on well drinks and draft beer. As long as you're not put off by the penises you'll see just about everywhere, this is a fun bar for a cheap drink in Seattle.
Easily one of the most fun bars in the whole city, Shorty's is modeled after a Coney Island amusement park theme, and the vintage arcade games that fill the bar are the main attraction here. However, with hotdogs at six dollars each and very affordable beer on tap, this is a great place to spend a few hours without spending too many dollars.
This historic bar stays true to its repeal-era roots. Popular with students, tourists, and anyone who likes a bargain, Blue Moon has a coffee window where you can buy a coffee for any price you want. Cheap beer and live music every night make this one of the best places to visit in Seattle on a budget.
Bonus budget tips for Seattle
Seattle's public transportation system is efficient and can get you pretty much anywhere you want to go. Leave the expensive taxis, rideshares, and rental cars behind and stick with public transport to save cash.
Eat well for less
Although Seattle's restaurant scene s enviable, don't forget about street food and use your accommodation's fridge, microwave, or kitchenette to your advantage. Making your own meals with local produce and other goods is still a great way to experience the city.
If you're planning to see a lot of things while you're in the city, consider getting a Seattle CityPass. While it costs over $100, it can save you up to 50% on entrance fees to popular attractions like the Space Needle and the Seattle Aquarium, plus another three attractions of your choosing. This is a great option if you're traveling to Seattle on a budget with kids.
Although Seattle isn't usually regarded as a cheap place to visit, there are lots of ways to save money in the Emerald City. Take advantage of the best free things to do in Seattle and look for ways to save on accommodation, food, and drink while you're there, and you'll have a great time without spending a fortune. And as always, don't forget to drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Seattle to make your trip easier.