Growing up in the Seattle area, our summers rarely heated up past the mid eighties, and anything over 80 feels sweltering. I quickly adjusted back to Northwest weather after moving back from South Carolina seven years ago and prefer temperatures in the mid 50s to mid 70s, so when the weather forecast rocketed up to close to triple digits for last week, I made a quick decision to escape to a cooler area for a long weekend.

I had recently been told to take two days off work in the month of August (separate from vacation time), so this seemed like the perfect reason. My mother in law is even more sensitive to heat than I am, and since she watches our son Thursday/Friday, she was available to take a quick trip those days as well. We quickly made a plan to head up to the San Juan Islands, where the high temperatures stood at a much cooler  82 degrees.

Quick side trip – Shaw Island ferry terminal

British Columbia has had some bad wildfires this month and the smoke has engulfed Washington state (and we are still under an air advisory today), but the breezes kept the air reasonably clear for our visit over the weekend.

It was wonderful to breathe clearer, cooler air for a couple of days and we were able to avoid the worst of the smog. There’s a chance of rain this weekend along with a bit of a breeze, so things should finally clear up by next week.

Since this was a last minute trip, we had a very limited selection of places to stay and we booked a home for $1100 for 3 nights (including taxes, cleaning fees, etc) which is considerably more than we would normally spend, as we prefer to use our vacation money on food and experiences rather than the place we sleep. However, AirBNB is an awesome alternative to the typical hotel stay, and I highly recommend it. We love having a place to cook and do laundry, which saves us on food costs and packing space. AirBNBs also put you in neighborhoods so you can experience a more “local” perspective than staying in a hotel, which we love. If you haven’t stayed in an AirBNB before, use this link to get $40 off your first stay (and help to partially fund our next adventure – I get a $20 credit as well).

Agate Beach

We were bringing my 82 year old grandmother with us, and we needed a comfortable place for her to stay, so we checked out a number of different options that would have the space and amenities we needed. She’s very active and mobile, but is past the point in her life where she wants to camp or be without a working toilet, which is completely understandable.

While we are usually very frugal when it comes to trips, having experiences with her is completely worth the extra cost. And per person, the cost of the home was not that bad considering we had 5 people along, so would have required two rooms had we stayed in a hotel.

It was just a lot more expensive than our usual summertime campsite option of $10 – $50 per night. Bonus – we had a view of the water and access to a great rock-skipping beach directly across the street.

Farmers market options

Other than the cost of the house, we spent very little over the 4 day trip. We stocked up on food at local farms and the grocery store so we ate almost all of our meals at the house or packed them to go.

We spent our time at the beach, going on multiple hikes, exploring the awesome local library, and visiting the farmers market, all of which were free activities. Besides the house, we didn’t spend any more money than we would have at home, but definitely had a great time and got to explore places we’d never been before.

Taking a break at the library

We didn’t “miss out” at all by not spending more money. We don’t often go on week long vacations and prefer to take shorter weekend trips but more often throughout the year. By keeping the per trip cost reasonable, we’re able to do a lot of traveling and adventuring without hurting our budget. This also allows for the spontaneous last minute trip like this one when we know we can keep the cost minimal.

Skipping rocks at sunset

We don’t spend money on television, cars, or “things” so we are able to allocate more of our budget to experiences and travel, which are worth it every time. We never regret collecting memories like we would things.

Part of my feelings on frugality and long term planning is a focus on how to make the most out of every month and year instead of buckling down to the nth degree to reach financial independence a few years sooner.

We are careful with our money, don’t carry any consumer debt, and put money away for retirement with every paycheck.  While it’s important to keep that goal in mind for the long term, we never know what tomorrow may bring. It’s important to find joy and adventure today.

We won’t always be able to take my son’s great grandmother on hikes through the woods to a cliff overlooking seals sunbathing on the rocks. I don’t want to look back and wish we would have spent a little more money enjoying time with the people we love. Always take the trip (just don’t put it on a credit card).

Watching 20+ seals lounge on the rocks

52 thoughts on “Always Take The Trip: Lopez Island Washington

  1. This looks like a fun place to explore! I would really like the hiking. The farmers’ market looks like it has great things to offer. I’ve never been to Washington, but I hope I get to go someday.

  2. beautiful post and so true, the memories are worth it! you sound like us, if something is more expensive, like your accommodations in this instance, we budget in other areas, like on activities or food. I didnt realize the Pacific NW had smoke from fires also! The natural disasters are out of control!

  3. This looks like a trip that well worth it! I, too am frugal, but agree that sometimes, you just have to do it. You will remember the experiences you had as a family much more than having that little bit of extra money later. It looks like you are usually very good with your money, so go for it!

  4. I love the PNW! I had a chance to spend a week in Victoria, Canada (pre motherhood) when I still traveled for work and I fell in love with everything! Your pictures remind me of that great trip and I hope to visit again soon!!

  5. I agree… ALWAYS TAKE THE TRIP! Like you, we prioritize trips over a lot of stuff. This particular trip of yours sounds wonderful – relaxing, scenic, and great family bonding time. We love traveling with extended family. It creates unique bonding experiences that my children may not otherwise have with their grandparents.

  6. Hey! I also sometimes travel with my mum that is 72 years old. We do everything in totally different travel pace, but its so nice to watch how new things amuses people of different generations.

  7. First time here, love the blog name and I loved the article too. Finding the perfect balance between now and the future (when it comes to spending money) is definitely something to consider. But I agree this time spent with loved ones is priceless. I’m sure it was worth every penny.

  8. The island is so cool! Everyone likes beaches to have rest and relax, but I like places like this

  9. Nice post! I totally agree with your point. keeping my budget low is all I do, but when it comes to people and experiences, budget comes in second place!

  10. This looks like a great relaxed getaway! So glad you were able to take your mother-in-law and grandmother along – some trips are so much better when loved ones are with you, and those memories are cherished just a little more! Lovely post!

  11. Going traveling with family is such fun , glad you took your grandma too ! How far is this place from seattle ? Glad you enjoyed under the advisory due to the fire . Great pictures shared, noted for my future visit.

  12. Lopez island seems like a great place to hike, explore the beach and the amazing Farmers Market. Over the years, we have put our money towards travelling more and less on materialistic things as memories and experiences are far more important. Spending time with your family is worth spending that little extra money.

  13. I would love to experience this island with my parents and grandparents some day. I loved the farmer’s market and the library the most. Though I love reading it’s all together a different feeling when my grandmother reads out to me. This makes me feel I should soon plan a trip with my grandparents too.

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