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Six Tips for Planning a Pacific Northwest Journey

Seeking something more than the usual tourist activities - on or off the beaten path? Sheri Doyle, founder of Pacific Northwest Journeys, offers custom itinerary planning for travelers to Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.

Because Doyle lives in Seattle and travels frequently throughout the Northwest, her savvy, up-to-the-minute advice can beat even the most reliable guidebook. With her help, you can see and do things in the Northwest you never would have known about otherwise.

Travelers view an investment in Doyle's trusted advice as an insurance policy - it prevents them from wasting precious vacation time and money. Here she offers six helpful tips:

1. First and foremost, plan ahead. The Pacific Northwest has become a very popular place to visit, and especially in the more remote areas, good places to stay are at a premium. The national park lodges, for instance, might be completely booked six months to a year in advance for the summer months. Planning ahead is especially important if you want to stay on a budget: without advance reservations, you may find yourself spending more than you want to or staying in a dive.

2. Slow down. The Pacific Northwest is vast and encompasses many different types of places, from cosmopolitan cities to high mountain passes, from rainforests dripping with moisture to arid deserts. The ferry system in Washington and British Columbia can add hours or even days to your schedule. Don't try to see and do too much in one trip. If you only have a week, you'll enjoy yourself much more if you focus on two or three locations.

3. Try a new outdoor activity. From sea kayaking in the placid waters of Puget Sound to rock climbing in the rugged Cascade Mountains, the Northwest offers unsurpassed opportunities to try something new in the outdoors. The hiking is superb, skiing is available just about year-round, and rivers abound for relaxing float trips as well as exhilarating class IV white water.

4. Stay in an unusual place. You can camp in a fire lookout, sleep in a treehouse, or enjoy bed & breakfast at a lighthouse. The Northwest offers all sorts of quirky accommodations. Take time to seek out the out-of-the-ordinary finds.

5. Visit in the off-season. While the Pacific Northwest is gaining popularity as a year-round destination, it is much quieter in the late fall, winter and early spring. Many accommodations offer excellent off-season discounts and travel is much easier without the crowds. Yes, it probably will rain, but enjoying a winter storm on the wild west coast from the coziness of a cabin with a fireplace is an unbeatable experience.

6. Plan on coming back. Unless you have several months for your first trip to the Pacific Northwest, you'll never cover it all in one trip. Assuming that you will come back at some point relieves the stress of feeling that you have to see and do it all.

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