Romping around the Northwest

Apps, guidebooks, websites? There's always lots of talk about one replacing another, but I rely on all three.

I start with the guidebooks, usually from Lonely Planet, Bradt or Rough Guides for foreign travel. On the road, I use iPhone apps to check flight information and map routes to destinations.

When it comes to planning weekend getaways around the Northwest, a handful of websites win my vote for the buzz on local neighborhoods, new restaurants and unique and affordable places to stay.

Here are a few of the favorites I mentioned in a recent  Travel Wise column for  The Seattle Times

Northwest Trip Finder: I like this hyperlocal site for its fresh ideas on day-trips and weekend getaways in Washington, Oregon and Vancouver, B.C.

No guidebook could stay up to date on all the deals author Lauren Braden unearths as she and her family travel around the Northwest. Tired of tent or yurt camping? How about spending the night in a re-purposed shipping container? Braden found one for rent at King County's Tolt-MacDonald Park.

Braden, the former communications director for the Northwest Trails Association, is on top of not only the best hikes but where to find pie and coffee in Forks or tea in Victoria.

Eater Pdx: Portland deserves its reputation as a destination for food-focused travel. Find your way out of downtown and the Pearl District and you'll discover neighborhoods filled with artisan ice-cream shops, indie coffee houses, gourmet-sandwich shops and cozy wine bars.

Eater Pdx is my go-to guide for keeping up with what's new. I love its "Cart Talk" section and its tips for late-night dining. See, and sign up for the weekly email newsletter. Check out the Seattle version at

Vancouver City Buzz: Food, arts, entertainment, events, sports. This website and blog will keep you up to date on last-minute happenings in Vancouver, B.C.

Recent entries included a post on $5 (or under) food-truck finds, news that the ABC Book & Comic Book Emporium will be closing in November, and an update on a gathering of nature artists at Grouse Mountain Oct. 13-21.

BootsnAll Indie City Guides: A new series of online Indie Travel Guides scoop up information on Seattle, Portland, Victoria, Vancouver and other West Coast cities into an organized, readable format useful to travelers on a budget.

The Vancouver guide offers advice on how to see the city by public transit. San Francisco travel tips include where to find a rotating Friday night collection of food trucks. 

Priceline: It pays to get comfortable with Priceline, the site that lets you to name your own price for hotels, but doesn't reveal the name of the hotel until after it accepts your bid and charges your credit card.

I landed a room last January at the Marriott City Center in downtown Portland for $60 (vs. $129 on its website), and I've used Priceline to snag similar deals in the $100-a-night range on four-star hotels in downtown Vancouver, B.C.

Check out the user tips at Bidding for Travel

Airbnb: Thousands of listings for spare rooms in private homes, apartments and condos in more than 8,000 cities from Brussels to Berkeley.

I've used Airbnb in San Francisco and Los Angeles and look forward to trying it out in Portland, where the offerings include urban farms, English cottage apartments and waterfront condos in the $65-$90 range.

The site includes pictures and bios of the owners, customer feedback and filters for searching by room type, price and neighborhood. 

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