Lodging in Washington covers the complete spectrum, from five-star luxury accommodations where a king would feel pampered all the way down to seedy motels so tawdry that even the roaches think twice. The law of supply and demand holds fairly true when it comes to motel rates. You’ll pay the least at motels in rural areas away from the main tourist track, and the most at popular destinations in peak season. This is especially true on midsummer weekends for such places as the San Juan Islands, Chelan, Leavenworth, Whidbey Island, or Long Beach, and for Seattle and vicinity year-round. At many of the resort towns, you may need to reserve months ahead of time for the peak season, and a minimum stay of two or more nights may be required. It always pays to call ahead.
Throughout this guide I have listed only two prices for most lodging places: one person (single, or s) and two people (double, or d). The rates do not include state tax (eight percent) and local taxes, which can sometimes be substantial. These prices are not set in stone. If a convention is in town or the motel is nearly full, they may rise; if the economy is tight, or it’s late February at a beach resort, you may pay considerably less.
For a complete listing of motels, hotels, and bed-and-breakfasts in Washington, request a copy of the free Washington State Visitors Guide (877/906-1001, www.stayinwashington.com) or pick it up at larger visitors centers around the state.
Hostels offer the cheapest lodging options in Washington, with bunk bed accommodations for just $15–30 per person. They are a good choice for single travelers on a budget, or anyone who wants to meet other independent travelers. Although commonly called youth hostels, these really are not just for high school and college folks; you’re likely to meet adventurous people of all ages. The official versions are managed by Hostelling International (also known as AYH), with statewide headquarters at the Seattle hostel (206/281-7306, www.hiayh.org). At these hostels, guests stay in dormitory-style rooms, have access to a kitchen, and generally do a cleanup chore. You’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag or linens, and an annual membership fee is required (nonmembers pay an introductory membership and higher overnight rates). A variety of restrictions may put a crimp in your plans: many hostels kick you out around 10 a.m. and remain closed till 5 p.m. or so, and no alcohol is allowed. Some also have a curfew. Most have a few spaces for couples who want their own room, but you may need to reserve these in advance. Instead of turning on the TV set, you’ll meet travelers from all over the world and discover must-see sights and great out-of-the way cafés.
Private hostels are less predictable, with fewer rules. Alcohol is generally allowed, and you won’t have to be back before the witching hour, but they can be more chaotic, noisy, and even downright grungy at times. These range all over the place, from the rambling old school hostel at Bingen that is now a destination for windsurfers to the funky Doe Bay Village Resort where the clothing-optional hot tub is filled most evenings. Seattle has a private hostel, and others are found in Port Angeles and south of Forks on the Olympic Peninsula, in Republic in the northeast corner of the state, in the town of Eldon on Hood Canal, and at Ashford near Mt. Rainier. All these official and unofficial hostels are described in accommodations sections of this guide. A good website for AYH and private hostel information is www.hostels.com.
Motels and Hotels
The largest cities—Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Bellevue, Olympia—obviously have the greatest range of accommodations. All of these cities, without exception, have reasonably priced lodging just outside city limits, so you can stay a half hour or less away and spend the extra money having fun. If you’re staying at the pricier chains, be sure to always ask about discounts such as AAA member rates, senior discounts, corporate or government rates, business travel fares, military rates, or other special deals.
In Seattle or Spokane, you can stay at the budget chains near the airport; in Tacoma, stay up the road in Fife. Make reservations ahead of time whenever possible; the least expensive rooms fill up fast. Finding a room—any room—can be extremely difficult in summer (even on weekdays) at popular resort areas such as Lake Chelan, the San Juan Islands, the national parks, or along the ocean. Again, staying a half hour from the action can better your chances of finding a room as well as saving you money—try the motels in Wenatchee when Lake Chelan is filled up, or stay in Forks or Port Angeles instead of at Olympic National Park lodges.
More than 500 bed-and-breakfasts are scattered around the state of Washington. Some parts of the state, particularly Port Townsend, are filled with restored turn-of-the-20th-century Victorian homes that have been converted to B&Bs. Other B&Bs are old farmhouses, lodges, cottages, or modern homes with private entrances. In most cases, a room at a B&B will cost as much as one of the better motel rooms. You may miss the cable TV and room service, but you’ll get a filling breakfast, a chance to spend time with a local, plus peace and quiet.
Many B&Bs don’t allow kids, and almost none allow pets or smoking; probably a third of the rooms won’t have a private bath (though one is probably just a few steps away). Bed-and-breakfasts are a fine way to get acquainted with a new area and a good choice for people traveling alone, since you’ll have opportunities to meet fellow travelers. Note, however, that there is often little or no difference between the price a single person pays and that paid by a couple.
The Washington Bed and Breakfast Guild (800/647-2918, www.wbbg.com) produces a brochure describing its members. Seattle B&B Association (206/547-1020 or 800/348-5630, www.seattlebandbs.com) also has a brochure, and you’ll find links to many of Seattle’s better places at its website. A Pacific Reservation Service (206/439-7677 or 800/684-2932, www.seattlebedandbreakfast.com) offers reservations at 225 B&Bs, houses, cottages, houseboats, condos, and lodges throughout the Pacific Northwest.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition