Portland: 1 City, 2 People, 48 Hours, $300

By Judy

Last September, J.D. and I took a 48-hour trip to Portland, challenging ourselves to spend only $300 between the two of us. We made many decisions on this trip in order to stay within the confines of our budget, but had just as good of a time as if we had spent twice as much.


Just before leaving Seattle, we filled up our gas tank, spending $3.99/gallon, which lasted until we returned on Sunday night. On our way, we ate snacks and leftovers brought from home, rather than buying chips and candy from the gas station.

Cost: $44.01 (11.006 gallons)


We stayed at the Northwest Portland International Hostel where we paid a total of $126 for the two of us for two nights in a six-bunk room. It was a great location, and we meant a lot of really friendly travelers there.

Cost: $126


One of the first things we did after getting settled was to take a walk to the local Trader Joe’s, where we picked up groceries. We also bought a lighter when we were out, for $1.25.

Back at the hostel, some other travelers offered me some extra spaghetti and J.D. at a leftover sandwich he’d brought from Seattle.

For breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, the hostel provided bread and jam, which we supplemented with eggs (6 eggs used each day), scrambled with cheese we had bought from Trader Joe’s.

We’d also bought clementines and a box of risotto, neither of which we ate. One of the clementines turned out to have spoiled, which affected the rest of the bag. We meant to eat the risotto for dinner on Saturday night, but ended up nibbling on leftover bread and cheese, which was probably a mistake. We put the box of risotto on the “free shelf” in the kitchen before we left.

Portland has a thriving food truck scene, and it took us a long time just to decide where to eat. We settled on Euro Dish, a Polish food truck. I have had better pierogies, but the stuffed cabbage was excellent.

I wanted to make it a point to eat at Pok Pok, the James Beard award-winning restaurant while there, so we went on Sunday before leaving town. Most importantly, I wanted to try their wings and their drinking vinegar. Looking over the menu, we very carefully chose our food, and ate them mindfully, enjoying them all the more for how thoughtfully we had chosen them. Back home, on any normal day, we would have ordered anything we wanted off of the menu, without much of a glance at the price. We also would have likely taken home a box of leftovers, which we may or may not have eaten.

I also wanted to hit up Voodoo Donuts. They are so popular, that I had to wait in a line outside while a couple finished getting married inside the shop. They were good, but not the best donuts I have ever had.

Cost: $71.28

Trader Joe’s: $21.03 (Mushroom & Herb rice risotto, Name Tag Lager, ABC trek mix, Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio, Clementines, Eggs, Crumbled feta w/ Mediterranean herbs)

Lighter: $1.25

Euro Truck: (2 Traditional Polish Cuisine Combo #2) $11.50

Pok Pok: (drinking vinegars, fried rice w/ house-cured sausage, wings, tip) $34.50

Voodoo Donuts: (2 donuts) $3

Friday Night Entertainment

After we put away our groceries, we sat on the patio and smoked and drank, talking with other people. We decided to go out with a couple of them, first to a bar called Gypsy, and then to one called Blue Moon. The prices were not great at either, but most enjoyable part was the company. One of the guys we were with was from Scotland and we talked for at least an hour just about the possibility of Scottish independence.

Cost: $26

Gypsy: $10 (1 Widmer Hef, 1 tallboy PBR, tip)

Blue Moon: $16 (our contribution towards sweet potato fries and 3 small pitchers split between 4 people)



Saturday Entertainment:

That day, we drove over to the Rose Garden, which is free. We could have opted to pay for the Asian garden adjacent to it, but decided instead to carefully examine each pristine rose instead.

We also roamed around downtown, through the market on the waterfront, and over to Powel’s City of Books. I love books, and was quite proud of having restrained myself.

That afternoon was the first University of Michigan football game of the year, and J.D. couldn’t miss it. We watched the very intense game at Marathon Tavern—just the kind of dive bar we like. We had brought half a pack of cigarette with us from Seattle, intending to ration them out, and when they were done, so be it. But this game was intense! That, the novelty of the cigarette machine in the bar, and the fact that our favorite brand of cigarette had a price tag of only $6.50, caused us to splurge on a new pack. A guy bought a round for the house, so we got a free mini-pitcher of beer. The Wolverines lost, but we still had a great time.

That night after drinking on the patio with a crowd of fellow travelers, we walked a few blocks to Couch Park, where we smoked, and eventually over to a bar called Underdogs, which had both ping pong and foosball tables. Our group struck up a conversation with some other bar-goers, one of whom challenged J.D. to a ping pong game, saying he’d crush him. The Wolverines may have lost that afternoon, but J.D. won the ping pong game.

Cost: $30.50

Rose Garden: free

Downtown, waterfront, Powell’s: free

Marathon Tavern: $21.50 (PBR, cigarettes, tip)

Underdogs: $9 (PBR, tip, ping pong)

Sunday Entertainment

After checking out, we spent most of the day in Cathedral Park, a park on the Willamette, beneath a bridge, whose supports are reminiscent of Gothic arches. We talked about life, the afterlife, or lack thereof, and what makes life worth living. When J.D. and I met when we were 14, these were the things that made us fall in love. Sometimes in takes traveling, getting out of our daily routine, to rediscover them.

Cathedral Park: free