For those of you who know me a little, I am a natural at travel bargains but in a comfortable way. My hobby: low-cost and alternative accommodation. Imagine when I got to know milesopedia! All these new combinations became possible!
I have enjoyed staying in hostels, on the beach and under the stars in the past. I even, a long, long time ago, accepted the offer of a sheriff in Alabama to sleep in the cell of his county jail during the imminent arrival of a hurricane. I was on a bike and in my 20s.
Over the years, I have discovered other modalities.
That’s the beauty of traveling, there is something for everyone and it adapts to the tastes of the moment.
Alternative accommodation: in exchange for pet-sitting
This brings me to introduce you to one of my passions of the last few years: pet sitting in exchange for home. This time in Oregon.
I am registered to a worldwide site : Trustedhousesitters (in English). But there are others like Nomador (in French) and House carers.
I pay about $130/year to be eligible for the thousands of babysitting offers worldwide. A cat, two dogs, a parrot, a mini-farm, two goldfish, a green mouse (well no, it was white). A weekend, two weeks, six months. What? Three months in Tuscany? This is my fourteenth time babysitting.
The organization’s parent company is located in the United Kingdom and babysitting offers are plentiful there. But there are some in the five continents. Oceania is very active. Expatriates also request services in Vietnam, Bali, Singapore, to give you some examples.
You choose what suits you, you apply and you make sure you have good references to be the chosen one.
Some assignments, in the heart of Manhattan for example, for a cat or a canary, receive dozens of resumes.
Agree to prove yourself in the area before aiming for the villa in Spain. You will then get your first 5* ratings and set the stage for the major leagues.
The owners of the animals also pay an equivalent fee and lend you their house in exchange for the care. Some add the car. There is no money involved on either side. We do each other favors.
That’s the context.
A trip to the Northwestern United States
With a “milesopedian” friend, we got the contract to babysit a kitty for 6 days in Monroe, Oregon.
The assignment is in the heart of the vineyards, two hours south of Portland, one hour from the waterfront, and close to two university towns, Corvallis and Eugene.
Our use of points for this trip
If most of the stay was covered by our house sitting, we decide to add three nights and a car rental with:
- our BMO Rewards points
- our Marriott Bonvoy points
- our AIR MILES Reward Miles
This is to visit Portland!
For the plane, my friend Joane used Scotia Rewards points to pay for part of the ticket: it’s simple, just apply the points to the purchase of the ticket with the credit card!
As for me, I used a $150 voucher from Air Canada. This trip should not be too expensive. We will come back to this in the conclusion!
The City of Portland, Oregon
Portland, the green Portland has first of all the reputation of its environment.
From the city, multiple walks are possible and announced, with reason. Already from the plane we could see the snowy top of the magnificent Mount Hood. It can also be seen from the city as well as Mount Saint Helens located in Washington State which erupted in 2008. Do you remember? A profile that is now beheaded.
So several excursions are possible to Mount Hood and the Columbia River Falls and Gorge. There are also several possibilities to reach the vast and wild seaside. In 90 minutes, here is Cannon Beach and its huge rocks.
But since we will have access to nature from our house, we opt to stay in town for these three days.
Our favorites in Portland
The transport system
From the airport to downtown and all over town, we loved Portland’s transportation system.
Trains and streetcars like those found in Europe.
Cost: $5.00 / day for as many connections as you want! Our Residence Inn Portland Airport at Cascade Station hotel was located, as the name suggests, 200 yards from the “Cascade Station”.
The Marquam Hill neighborhood
The Marquam Hill neighborhood is a favorite, including the University of Oregon College of Science and Health campus.
This part of the city offers a renewed architecture very interesting. The highlight of the visit: an aerial streetcar that takes you to the doors of the hospital with patients, doctors and health personnel mingling with tourists.
A short three-minute walk that offers a beautiful view of the city and the south shore of the Willamette River. We were also impressed by the number of bikes parked at the entrance of the streetcar.
The Japanese garden
The beautiful Japanese garden and its legendary calm located in Washington Park, on the outskirts of the city but well served by public transportation. This large park also welcomes:
- the zoo
- the rose garden
The Portland Grill restaurant for its view
We had a 5@7 on the top floor of the Bank of America building at the Portland City Grill. Always interesting to be at sunset sipping your glass of wine while watching the city light up.
The art of the street
We enjoyed the street art: the sculptures, the beautifully decorated garbage cans, the murals that brighten up the city.
Another favorite: the street trucks and especially – following the recommendation of a local – the ” Stretch the noodle “.
The cook demonstrates how to make her noodles and then prepares an EXCELLENT meal.
For posterity and the pounds on your hips, hum! Donuts from Vodoo Donuts. Let’s face it, it’s decadent!
The Pittock family's Victorian home
Finally, the visit of the Victorian house of the Pittock family with a superb view on the city.
Our surprise and downside
The large number of homeless people, many of whom are young people living with obvious mental health/substance abuse problems.
In their tents on the side of the highway and downtown. However, in no case did we feel in danger. Several security guards and police officers are present at the same locations. But is this what these young people need?
Monroe, Newport and Florence - Oregon
In the very large country house in Monroe where Nigel and I lived, we had coffee every morning with deer grazing on the porch.
We visited three wineries. Good wines and sometimes basic but nice facilities to receive tourists. So we were able to get to know and talk to the winemakers.
Green immensities, small villages, coniferous productions for Christmas and roads without cracks that take us everywhere. That’s what not having a winter is all about. An inch or two of snow melting in the afternoon doesn’t break the asphalt.
From Nigel’s house, we went twice to the seaside: to the cities of Newport and Florence.
Beaches with free parking, clean, as far as the eye can see, with backwash that is said to be dangerous (it is well indicated) but on which you can walk for hours.
Feet in the water? If you want it. But it’s cold in titi. Not a single soul was seen bathing there!
However, the wind invites the ” kite surfers ” to have fun. A real ballet!
All of them wear their overalls, sometimes even with the hood. That says it all.
We also visited the public markets in the two university towns of Corvallis and Eugene. Markets of fresh regional products but also of art.
And that was our surprise: we felt like we were back in the sixties. For those who knew them: hippie trend!
Many men with beards and long hair, many women with long dresses or skirts. The sale of dyed clothes with the technique on knots (with elastics). Very nice productions with a retro flair.
We were also surprised on this sunny afternoon to see a demonstration on bicycles by people of all ages who were claiming their freedom to walk around naked. I’m holding back from putting the photos. Well yes, I did!
Finally, as excellent slow travellers, we have often simply enjoyed the moment.
The costs in points and money of this trip
The initial cost of the plane ticket was $630 from Montreal.
For my part, I used a $150 Air Canada voucher (received during a claim for a past problem with the company). The flight cost me $480.
For my travel companion, it came to $430. She used 20,000 Scotia Bonus points to save $200 on her plane ticket! She had obtained her points thanks to the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card.
Our flight had a stopover in Toronto on the way out and on the way back.
With my Platinum Card®, I can access many airport lounges for free (and get a fellow traveller in for free).
Our stopover in Toronto allowed us to have a free meal and glass of wine at the Premium Plaza Lounge! On the way there… and back! A good way to start and finish the trip!
For the car rental, I used 2,920 Dream AIR MILES miles. Fees and taxes of approximately CA$130 are added to this price.
To learn more about renting a car with AIR MILES Dream Miles, read this article!
For the hotels, we used 2 point programs:
Residence Inn by Marriott Portland Airport at Cascade Station
We first stayed 2 nights at the Residence Inn Portland Airport at Cascade Station for a cost of 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Like all the hotels in this chain, there are:
- a kitchenette
- breakfast included
We particularly appreciated it:
- an upgrade to a suite with two bedrooms, living room, kitchenette upon arrival
- that their shuttle driver agrees to drive us back the next day to the car rental site which was not the one at the airport but still close by.
- the proximity of the streetcar station, a three-minute walk from the hotel, and the fact that the streetcar takes us to the city center in 30 minutes
To earn these Marriott Bonvoy points, simply sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card or the Marriott Bonvoy® Business American Express®* Card and charge $1,500 in purchases on it within the first 3 months.
It’s a good way to make the most of 2 nights in this hotel, particularly interesting for families!
Radisson Hotel Portland airport
We used 39,740 BMO Rewards points for our last night at the Radisson Hotel Portland Airport.
The hotel shuttle dropped us off at the airport on the morning of our flight.
Tip: Since the Radisson shuttle didn’t offer to pick us up after we dropped off our car at Budget, we took their mini-van to the airport and then took the streetcar into town. On the way back, we took the transport from the hotel to the airport
BMO Rewards points can be used for all types of travel:
- Car rentals
You have to use them on the BMO Rewards website. It’s all explained in this article!
To easily accumulate some, here are 2 interesting credit cards!
For restaurants and grocery stores, I used my American Express Cobaltᵐᶜ card which offers 5x points – even when traveling abroad!
For all other purchases, we used the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card because it has no conversion fees for foreign currency purchases!
We estimate the total cost for 10 days of a happy getaway in the Portland, Oregon area to be about $900 per person.
Affordable and accessible, with only three hours of time difference, for lovers of the great outdoors, nature and hints of the Woodstock years, we would gladly return!