View from Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. Credit: Chelsea Nesvig/Flickr CC
Tips for saving hassles and money on a family trip to the San Juans
- The ferry crossing is expensive, so consider options that allow you to leave your car behind (passenger-only fares are much cheaper). If you are taking a car, take advantage of the Washington State Ferries San Juan Islands reservation system. Reserved spots are available on all westbound sailings from Anacortes, and eastbound sailings from Friday Harbor and Orcas Island. Snag your spot up to two months in advance, and as late as two days prior to your trip.
- If you are going to stop at multiple islands, go west first to San Juan Island, then stop at Orcas and Lopez on the return trip (you’re only charged when you go west).
- July and August weekends are the most expensive and busiest times to visit — also absolutely gorgeous.
- Book accommodations that have a kitchen so that you can cook your own meals with fresh, local ingredients!
- Pack fixings for picnics to stretch your dollars — dine with a view on an ocean bluff.
- Consider the off-season (October–April) for incredible deals on lodging.
- Travel with another family and rent a vacation house.
- If you are staying at the same place for three or more nights, ask for a discount.
- And of course, the cheapest sleep is in your camping tent.
Handy links for more information on visiting the San Juan Islands:
- Washington State Ferries schedule
- San Juan Islands travel site, including its family activities finder
- Northwest TripFinder
More island adventures for Seattle-area families:
Editor’s notes: Originally published several years ago this article was updated most recently in 2023 — because the San Juans remain a must-visit destination for Seattle-area families (duh)! Image credit this page: Chelsea Nesvig/Flickr CC.