Trip no. 2: 308 miles
Day 1: Seattle
Do. Get to know the city with Seattle Free Walking Tours, a nonprofit that launched last year. Take the Seattle 101 itinerary for sights like Pioneer Square and the waterfront. (Similar tours cost $20 to $40.) Try the Chihuly Garden & Glass exhibition, a green space dedicated to the artist Dale Chihuly's blown glass (tickets: $19).
Eat. At Pike Place Market, shop for bites -- baguettes from Le Panier and cheese from Beecher's -- before heading to the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park, picnic blanket in hand. Prefer a sit-down option? Hit II Corvo for homemade pasta, a bargain at $10 a plate, says Lorraine Goldberg of Seattle-based Allrecipes.com.
Stay. In summer, you'll pay up for the location, service, and green-cred -- hybrids get a 50% parking discount -- at the Hotel Monaco. But schedule a trip in October and rates fall as low as $209.
Day 2: Seattle to Victoria, B.C.
Distance: 108 miles
Do. Fill the tank before you get on the Coho car ferry to make the 90-minute trip to Victoria ($77.50 for two adults): Gas prices are higher across the border, recently $4.32 on gasbuddy.com. vs. Washington's average of $3.78. Then ditch the car for a bit: Hoof it on Scenic Marine Drive, a 1½-mile trail overlooking the Pacific, or splurge on a three-hour boat ride with BC Whale Watching Tours for guaranteed orca or humpback sightings (June through October, from $99).
Eat. Check out Red Fish, Blue Fish, a restaurant housed in shipping containers. Sustainably caught albacore tuna tacos topped with pea shoots and spicy spot-prawn mayo are one of the tastiest dining deals in town (two for $10), says Gary Hynes, editor of British Columbia's Eat magazine.
Stay. That night tuck in at the Chateau Victoria Hotel & Suites in downtown Victoria (summer rates from $159, lower in fall) for its rooftop restaurant -- the only one in the city -- and complimentary parking.
Day 3: Victoria to the Cowichan Bay
Distance: 138 miles
Do. From Victoria, Dave Paulson of Victoria's Times Colonist newspaper recommends a two hour drive west, along the waterfront Coast Road 14, to Port Renfrew to see the dramatic ocean views as well as tide pools that are (literally) crawling with sea life.
Eat. Head inland along the Pacific Marine Highway to the Cobble Hill area. Sample the seasonal menu items at the 115-year-old farmhouse at Amusé on the Vineyard. Then tour nearby Cherry Point Estate Wines -- this region has an up-and-coming wine industry -- before heading to the tasting room to sip some Pinot Blanc and sparkling rosés, suggests Vancouver Sun writer Joanne Sasvari.
Stay. The Oceanfront Suites at Cowichan Bay offers rooms with water views, living rooms, and kitchens (from $135). Or, from April through mid-October, book a plush yurt (it's a sort of circular hut) outfitted with gas fireplaces and even a soaking tub, on property at Merridale Estate Cidery in Cobble Hill. Rates start at $95.
Day 4: Cowichan Bay to Vancouver
Distance: 62 miles
Do. Catch the BC Ferry ($82.25 for two) from Victoria for the hour-and-a-half journey to Vancouver. When you arrive, seek out the Granville Island Farmers Market to browse local shops like coffee roaster JJ Bean and the Granville Island Tea Co. Take Edible Canada's Shop and Sample Tour ($40) to meet farmers and artisans, do some tasting, and snag discounts. Next, head toward the harbor to explore historic Gastown, which is packed with boutiques, cocktail bars, and art galleries.
Eat. Among Vancouver's 114 food trucks, sample fish tacos ($5) at Tacofino and British-style Indian food like butter chicken naan ($7) at Soho Road -- top picks from Eat Your Cart Out tour guide Jessica O'Neill.
Stay. Summer rates start at $149 (with breakfast) at the Burrard boutique hotel, where perks include Nespresso coffee machines and complimentary Wi-Fi. Best of all, you can explore the city using the hotel's Brooklyn Cruiser Bikes, which are included in the price.
They soar above ordinary trips and perform feats of vacation derring-do, all while nailing their budget. Here are their travel tips.