Getting to Portland on the Cheap

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Excited to come to Portland for the Vida Vegan Conference, but not sure you have enough dough to make it work? Relax, and let me guide you through the fabulously fun and cheap ways of getting to and around Portland.

The first post will be about getting to Portland. We will explore the awesomely fun (and infinitely easy) options of getting around Portland in Part Two.

Getting to Portland

If you live semi-close to Portland or have loads of time and/or money, definitely check out Amtrak, Greyhound, and Craigslist ride share ads.  If not, you will probably be flying in. Here is some advice on finding an affordable ticket.

AIR

these people all found great deals to Portland!

(source)

The important thing to remember about buying airline tickets about a year in advance is you have plenty of time to discover a great deal and pounce immediately. It can take time for a great deal, but if you’ve been looking and coming across $400 or $600 dollar tickets, let me tell you; you will find a better price. Don’t panic. It takes some time and some work, but wouldn’t you rather put in a couple of hours research to save a few hundred bucks? I certainly would. Plus, there’s nothing like the feeling of finding a fantastic deal to brag to all your friends about.

How online tickets work:

There are three primary ways to buy airline tickets.

1.) The first way is through site aggregates. Sites like Kayak check multiple airlines’ prices, offering you the best price. They don’t charge a fee but rely on affiliate hotel deals and advertising to make their money. This often works the best for the budget-conscious traveler.

2.) Then there are traditional websites (think Orbitz) that scan multiple airlines and offer you the best price. These folks charge a small percentage in order to make money, so tickets here will be 6-10 bucks more expensive than an aggregate. But if you find an amazing deal, that amount probably won’t be enough to make a difference.

3.) Certain airlines don’t allow either of these sites to scan their prices (Southwest and Jet Blue, I’m looking at you). You may find a cheaper deal by going directly to one of these airlines’ websites.

There is not a fail-proof way to buy a rock-bottom-priced ticket, but if you know how to operate and utilize these sites, you should be able to find a good deal.

Start with Kayak and Travelzoo. If you are not subscribed to Travelzoo’s weekly Top 20 newsletter, do it now. Seriously. This is how I found a $598 flight roundtrip to Istanbul last October and a $475 flight roundtrip to Iceland this coming January. They don’t always have insane deals, but when they do, they’re crazy-exciting insane deals. Check your inbox every Wednesday and hop over to their site to take advantage of recently released travel deals.

Kayak is awesome—take advantage of their interactive map. You can also sign up for price alerts here, opting to receive either a daily or a weekly alert to your inbox.

Next, I’d suggest trying Southwest and Jet Blue. I bought two roundtrip tickets on Southwest from Portland to New York last February for under $500. Total. They offer a great calendar where you can see the cheapest flights on multiple days, so if you have a little bit of leeway with your travel time, this is an especially good site.

Jet Blue is just awesome because they offer great vegan snacks. I have not flown with them yet, as they just opened their Portland gates not too terribly long ago and I’ve primarily been flying to destinations they don’t go. They offer great overnight flights for those wanting to maximize their actual vacation time.

Next up are sites like Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, Hotwire and Expedia. Personally, I’ve never found amazing deals with these sites, but a lot of people have and they’re definitely worth checking out. I suggest going to a site like Booking Buddy, which scans all of these at once and offers you a nice and tidy summary of what all these sites can offer. You can also sign up for pricing alerts with these guys.

Don’t forget to check the actual airline’s website—sites like Delta and Continental will offer the same fares that show up under the Orbitz-type sites,  minus that extra fee. And occasionally they’ll have unpublished dea­ls.­

International Travel

If you are coming to us from abroad, first of all, Yay! Second of all, here are some sites to start with:

Kayak

Travelzoo

Vayama

Skyscanner

Momondo

Tips

  • Do your research.
  • Check different dates, nearby airports, or consider piecing together your trip out of one-way tickets.
  • After you’ve spent a month or so looking at tickets, you’ll be able to recognize a great deal when you see one. You’ll be able to pounce without worrying if you’ll find a cheaper one.
  • That said, you may find one for cheaper after you’ve bought yours. That’s OK. Though highly annoying, it happens to all of us sometimes.
  • For travel in August, some fares may not be available yet. That’s fine; it’s actually a great time to start looking. It gives you more time to find a marvelously cheap ticket.
  • Don’t sweat the small things. If you’ve always wanted to come to Portland or just really really need a vacation, what better time than the weekend there will be hundreds of vegan converging on Portland, ready to go play and explore together (and maybe get a vegan tattoo together too)?
  • If you end up spending more than you’d like on a ticket, you may just have to be extra frugal here in Portland. I’ll explore these options in Part 2.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I will be happy to answer them for you. I will also be keeping an eye on flights to Portland in August and post any deals I see here on our website.

Good luck, and happy travels!

2 thoughts on “Getting to Portland on the Cheap

    jess scone said:
    November 7, 2010 at 11:28 am

    um, I’m going to use these as travel tips for my life!

    Scholarship Deadline « said:
    December 17, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    […] check out our cheap travel advice and get the skinny on the PSU summer housing ($27.50/night if you get a […]

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