Fun in the Pacific Northwest


The Little Man was quite impressed by his first sunset

If you’ve been wondering where we’ve been hiding, the answer is we were busy having a good time exploring Seattle and the surrounding area. For those curious, here’s a little summary of our wanderings, and some of the things that helped make the trip a bit easier on the wallet.


Being National (and State) Park junkies, our trips are often planned around them. The Pacific Northwest has some of the most beautiful parks and views nature has to offer. We spent ten days in the area: starting in Seattle, taking a scenic road trip around the Olympic Peninsula, visiting the San Juan Islands, before ending with a gathering of like minds (that was a convenient enough excuse to plan the trip).

The highlights here are from the first seven days on our own, before we got down to business and had even more fun; we were able to make the most of loyalty points and airline miles on this portion of the vacation.


Enjoying a stop at Lake Crescent


Miles & Points Redeemed Out of Pocket Costs Source of Miles/Points & Comments
Flights 13,545 Rapid Rewards points  $22.40  Chase Southwest Personal and Business Cards – 50K bonus points each
Accommodation 24,000 SPG points
10,000 AMEX Membership Rewards for Airbnb eGift card
$110 Hotel Tonight credits
 $40 – Airbnb
$28 – Hotel Tonight
SPG points accumulated through business travel
Membership Rewards – AMEX Gold Personal and Business Credit Cards (50K bonus each)
Rental Car 21,040 Ultimate Rewards  $0  Chase Ink Plus Business card – 60K bonus
Other Transportation N/A  $145  Ferries and Gas, Oh My!
Food N/A  $345
Entertainment N/A  $45

Our out of pocket costs for the first part of the trip were ~$625 or ~$89/day for two adults and one infant. The estimated cost of the trip without using points and miles would have been $2000+!! If we had redeemed the points for cash-back (where possible) we would have netted $340 instead. I think we did pretty good on this trip!


We flew to Seattle on Southwest Airlines. The MC and I have the Southwest Companion Pass (the best airline perk out there in our opinion) so it is essentially a buy one get one free ticket (even on award flights). The Little Man travels fee free at the moment as he is still under 24 months. We used our points to cover the flights and paid $22.40 in taxes and fees for two round-trip flights.

Rental with the Olympic Peaks in the background

Rental with the Olympic Peaks in the background

We didn’t need a rental car while in Seattle (or to pay for parking) but got one for the rest of the trip. We used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a rental through their points portal for an additional 20% discount on rewards redemption. We ended up with a Ford Fiesta, which we were happy to play around with. While not as luxurious as our normal ride, it was was fuel efficient and had plenty of room for our things and the Little Man.

The rest of our transportation costs were the multiple ferry rides to and from the San Juan Islands, public transportation from the airport, and a couple tanks of gas from all that frivolous driving we did while touring.


We stayed in a combination of hotels and Airbnb. Most of our hotel stays were via points we accumulated through credit card sign up bonuses and business trips. One of our hotel nights was booked by stacking Hotel Tonight credits (the best deal is done, but if you would like to try it, ask us for a promo code). The Airbnb stays were booked using referral credits and an eGift card bought using our American Express Membership Rewards during a 25% off promotion (10,000 MR points for $125 gift card).


Staying in a boat for two nights was quite an experience!

  • Westin Seattle – great central location that allowed us to walk around the city without the need for a car. The light rail from the airport, LINK, was within walking distance.
  • 25′ Sailboat in Port Angeles – this was a very unique experience sleeping in a sailboat on a quiet and beautiful marina. We booked this through Airbnb for two nights. The sunset views from the Marina were unbeatable!
  • Candlewood Suites Oak Harbor – we booked this hotel using credits accumulated through Hotel Tonight. HT is a great app for last minute travel stays at a discount (but is better with free credits). This hotel also had access to free laundry which came in handy for our Little Man’s clothes.
  • Centrally located private room with private bath on Orcas Island – we booked this just a few days before our stay on Airbnb when we decided to explore the San Juan Islands.

We had a pleasant stay at all of these accommodations. With the exception of the Westin Seattle which only had a coffee maker (which can be used for multiple purposes with improvisation..), all other places were equipped with ample kitchens that allowed us to make oatmeal and tea in the mornings, prepare lunches, and also bring home takeout on the nights we were too tired to eat out.

Traveling with children, and especially an infant, can be challenging at times. Having access to a kitchen and laundry made our trip much smoother.

Food & Drink


The MC enjoying his flight of fortified wine

As we have mentioned before, we can have expensive tastes and food & drink is an example of this. We did splurge on dining on one or two occasions during the trip. We took oatmeal and snacks from home and they lasted throughout the trip. For lunches we got wraps, eggs, hummus, carrots, yogurt, and cheese to make on the go.

In expensive food at the free local market

In expensive food at the free local market


We like to keep our entertainment costs to a minimum as much as possible. Here are a few (mostly free) things we did on our trip:

  • Walks along public beaches, parks, and trails
  • National parks
  • Scenic drives

The DJ taking in the view at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

Random Photos



Seattle skyline from Gasworks Park

The MC taking in the phenomenal view of Olympic mountains and peaks.

The MC taking in the phenomenal view of Olympic mountains and peaks.

Olympic mountains

Olympic mountains

Panaromic view of the Olympic Mountains


We couldn’t get enough of the views!

Panoramic view of the San Juan Islands from watch tower in Moran State Park

Panoramic view of the San Juan Islands from watch tower in Moran State Park


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10 Responses

  1. Wow — looks like a beautiful trip! And what an impressive list of travel hacks! We think of ourselves as being in the accumulation phase of travel point acquisition, since most of our travel is work-paid, and we pat ourselves on the back for, say, using points to cover one hotel night to extend a work trip. You all are masters, though! Thanks for the great tips. And glad you had a fab trip.

    • The DJ says:

      Thanks! We did have fun. I enjoy travel hacking and The MC enjoys the results of it 🙂 I also have accumulated quite a bit of miles and points from work-paid travel, but forsee that to change in the future. Stay tuned for more travel adventures from us!

  2. Mrs. FI says:

    Mr. FI and I LOVE this area. It’s absolutely gorgeous. We actually did a lot of the activities you explained on your list while on our honeymoon there…but for closer to the full price you mentioned. Alas, we got married and honeymooned before we began our journey to ER and didn’t really have cc point expertise. 🙁

    However, looking at your cost/travel-hacks breakdown and lovely pictures, I foresee us going again, but doing the next trip FI35-style 😉

    Thanks for sharing!

    • The DJ says:

      Thank you for reading! We love sharing our travel adventures. Yes, the PNW is a magical place – it’s even on our list of places to settle down in once we reach financial independence and retire early. Although the extended periods of cloud cover/rain can get to me. Hope you guys make it out there sometime soon – feel free to reach out to me if you have any specific questions about the area or miles/points strategy 🙂

  3. Gorgeous pictures!!

    We also like to keep our entertainment costs low, and are more than happy to wander around and enjoy parks when we travel. Keeps costs low but enjoyment high.

    Glad you are back to posting again!

    • The DJ says:

      Thanks – the area makes even the novice photographer look good! Nature is the best way to have fun on your travels and it’s usually free.

  4. Ditching The Grind says:

    What a great trip! We’re heading out on a 10 day road trip of our own in a few weeks. I’m hoping to incorporate some of your techniques.

  5. Joe says:

    Great post! I’m really glad you got to tour the Pacific NW and see all the awesome sights it has to offer! Hope to see you guys at next year’s retreat!

    • The DJ says:

      Thanks, Joe! We hope to return next year as well. Great meeting you and thanks again for organizing an awesome weekend!

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