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Ten Tips for Thrifty Vacationing

hand holding a map of san juan island
Written by Lindsey Smith. Published March 2, 2018.

Here at the San Juan Island Inn Collection, we like to make sure everyone can enjoy the beauty that our archipelago has to offer. That’s why we offer economically-priced accommodations all year round. If you’re looking for a great deal, check out Jennie’s Cottage, Shaw Suite and Amethyst Chain! For more tips on vacationing on a budget, keep reading:

1. Know your Seasons


By this I mean “off-season”, “shoulder-season”, and “peak-season.” The Peak Season for most all businesses on San Juan Island is June through September. Many businesses do well enough in these months to sustain themselves the rest of the year! While this is great for them, it isn’t quite ideal for the tourist who is faced with higher rates based on higher demand. Luckily for you, you now know this and can work around it. Schedule your vacation for May or October, instead! Believe me, you will still be able to experience all the same opportunities, restaurants, excursions, etc. that you would in those peak months. The weather is good, there are still whales and the island takes on a certain calmness. You’ll just be the real winner when it comes to some lower expenses!

2. Choosing the Right Ride


Okay, so getting to San Juan Island isn’t the easiest endeavor. But once you get to Seattle, there are numerous ways to end up in Friday Harbor (which, for those of you who are new to the area, is the main town on San Juan Island).


You can fly directly from SeaTac to Friday Harbor via Kenmore Air or San Juan Airlines. You can rent a car from SeaTac, drive 2 hours north to the Anacortes Ferry Landing and onto the boat, so you have it on the island. You can take the Bellair Shuttle from SeaTac to the Anacortes FerryLanding and walk-on the boat. And many more! It’s extremely beneficial to explore all your options to make sure you are taking advantage of the best, most cost-effective option for your group!

3. Scrolling the ‘Gram

Use your Facebook and Instagram account for more than watching cat videos! While you’re planning your stay in Friday Harbor, be sure to “like” local excursion companies you’re thinking about touring with! Many of the Kayaking and Whale Watching companies will post offers and contests for amazing deals exclusively for their social media followers. Sometimes it really pays to stay connected!

4. The Most Bang for your Buck

Say you are traveling as a family with 2 adults, 4 kids and 2 dogs. While many lodging properties are based on double-occupancy, the fees for extra guests and pets really add up! That’s why we offer the Sunshine Suite in addition to our two inns. This Vacation-Rental has a queen, full sleeper-sofa and 2 twin beds. It has 1.5 baths, full kitchen, dining table, washer/dryer and is pet-friendly! The best part? The base rate is what you pay, with no charge for extra persons. Sleeps up to 6 for roughly $310/night + tax during the summer season. Absolutely one of the best values you will find in downtown Friday Harbor!

5. Specials, Specials, and More Specials

For those who don’t mind doing a little digging, there are always amazing specials posted on our website. For example, we are currently running a steal of a deal in celebration of our 120th Birthday! The $120/night Special for our Queen + Jacuzzi Rooms! Valid for through the end of May 2018.

6. Picnic-Perfect Spots

There are tons of amazing restaurants to try in Friday Harbor (many with good happy hour deals, but I’ll get there in #8). But the truth is, eating out is expensive! Why not pick up a few groceries and pack a picnic to one of many scenic lookouts around the island. Talk about a meal with a view!

7. The Hidden Grocer

Right in the heart of downtown Friday Harbor you’ll find King’s Market. Full of charm and convenient in size. We love it! Especially all the friendly, helpful employees. But want to know a local secret? There is another grocer around the corner with lower prices! It isn’t marked with a sign, but it’s called the Market Place and you can find it at 515 Market St. Especially if you plan to stock up on groceries for all your beach-front picnics, you’ll save some green with Market Place!

8. Happier Hours

There’s an incredible amount of restaurants packed into our cozy downtown Friday Harbor grid. Perfect for whatever your palate prefers. For the nights you aren’t looking to splurge on a fancy meal, be sure to learn the local Happy Hour schedules! Many of the amazing restaurant such as Coho Restaurant, Tops’l Sushi, Friday’s Crabhouse, Friday Harbor House, San Juan Brewing Co., often offer some type of deal for an earlier or later dinner. A great way to save and still experience delectable local cuisine.

9. Who says Fun can’t be Free?

I can’t stress this enough. It’s a blessing to have so many beautiful sights to see on one 55 square mile island. Choose from a long list of picturesque hikes and nature walks: Mount Finalyson, Mount Dallas, Mount Grant, Jackle’s Lagoon, Grandma’s Cove, Young Hill, American Camp, English Camp, South Beach, Jackson Beach, Lime Kiln Park. Be sure to also visit the Sculpture Park in Roche Harbor open dawn-dusk and donation-only admission. Head downtown mid-day and relax to the sweet sounds of local music, preformed in many waterside plazas. Once you’ve had enough outdoor exploration, attend a showing at our local San Juan Community Theatre. They preform incredible shows year-round and their Thursday-night showings are traditionally “Pay What You Can”! Be sure to get their early, as these ones always sell out!

san juan island community theater    live music on san juan

10. Souvenirs

Ah, it’s your last day on San Juan Island. You just remembered your promised to bring home souvineres for everyone back home. Although downtown is lined with incredible shops, shelling out more cash on your last day for orca-shaped hand soaps doesn’t exactly comply with your budget-friendly vacation. Spend your final morning collecting some beautiful pieces of San Juan Sea Glass, small pieces of glass rubbed smooth by ocean water and sand, at “Sea Glass Beach” at Cattle Point. This unofficially named beach is at San Juan Island’s most southerly tip just past the Cattle Point light house. Your friends and family will love it!

We hope this list gave some hints and hacks on thrifty vacationing. If you find your own ways to save here on the island, let us know! We’d love to spread the word to other guests. No matter your vacation budget, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience on San Juan Island.

We’ll see you for check-in!

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