Number One Hike And The 5 Reasons Why

And the winner for best day hike is………… Shore Acres State Park on the coast of Oregon and here’s why.

Amazing views

1) The hike can be as long or as short as you wish, it is out and back and a gradual slope. Under nine miles is basically the longest it gets and there are multiple parking lots, meaning that you can choose from three sections. The end points are Sunset Bay and Simpson Reef Overlook/Cape Arago.

Section of the trail along the ocean bluff

2) This trek has you breathless at the ocean views and lazing on – an almost deserted – white sand beach (we had it to ourselves much of the time). You’ll be speechless at the section that feels very Jurassic Park with lush greenery and an abundance of glorious ferns. We did not see dinosaurs but a couple of deer crossed our path and my guy was quick on the draw with the Nikon.

A beautiful gift along our hike

3) Shore Acres is one of the few areas that seems to fit the bill for a vast variety of people. You can bring loved ones in wheelchairs, the elderly, those that simply want to look at the view but not hike, little kids on bikes, picnickers, flower fans, and hikers and everyone will be pleased. Note that there is even a glassed-in building for anyone wishing to experience the coastal beauty but not the ocean breeze.

Enclosed overlook, wheelchair accessible

4) The price is right. It is $5 to park if you are not camping and this price is one-time, daily, and covers all state parks. The price for the Botanical Gardens? Donation only. Picnic, relax, enjoy the coastal air and views and feel no pain in your pocketbook.

Wildflowers growing along the trail

5) The beach is very clean and not overrun. We do wish to share that we were there on a Thursday in June so the weekends will most likely see more visitors.

We’ll be adding OR and WA to our site in the next few weeks and give an update when the pages are complete. Follow us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram for all the latest adventure info and feel free to pass along our site and share the links if you wish. We are grateful and appreciate your feedback/suggestions in the comment section below. <3

Oregon Activity Links (will be adding to this and including it in our OR page in the next few weeks)

Birds Of Prey Sanctuary and Hospital 

Free Flowers

Free flower power is what we are celebrating in our post today and if you are in N. California or Oregon, do not miss these freebies!


We discovered Oregon’s Botanical Gardens, in Shore Acres State Park, and talk about an On A Dime Adventure/Life moment! This Garden of Eden is donation only and even the parking, at $5 for a coastal spot, is flat out heavenly. The $5 is paid once per day at any state park and good for all state parks visited on that same day or purchase a five-day pass for $10 per vehicle.

If camping is on your agenda along the Oregon coast, your options for on a dime fun are endless and we’ll have a full article in the next month on what we found near Bandon and Charleston.


Today, take a moment to stop and smell the roses and then get your trip planner out for Oregon!

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9 Bold And Free Vacation Links

This Wednesday’s blog celebrates the bold and the free, as in the inspiration gained when you learn from your kids. Last Saturday the eldest On A Dime child returned from college – with degree in hand – and made good on an offer to write a blog post. This On A Dime creator was thrilled to sip a glass of wine and shout invaluable pointers into the other room such as, “don’t forget the Oxford commas; adventurers always need those while traveling!” The child – in response – took my wine away.

I was left footloose and fancy-free while my guy handled the usual tech challenges, which included the weekly undoing of damage I’d done while randomly pushing buttons and my little (big) girl tackled the creative. Too much down time can be dangerous, I realized, as I added in links to the sites we purchase gear from and pondered what I would do with the millions in commission money that awaited me from said links. I studied the spread sheet for several days and concluded I could safely spend… a little less than nothing.

And, fellow travelers, the weird part is that the financial challenge energized me nicely. On A Dime’s goal of enhanced quality of life for less financial outlay is evolving into a sweeter philosophy, one that begs a return to community and good old-fashioned give and take. So when the college kid handed in her article on Couchsurfing, I felt it was a call to something bigger than saving a hotel bill and promptly signed up. As of yesterday, I committed to couchsurf my way back down the coast in a few weeks.

Couchsurfing heads up our list of the 9 bold things to consider when dreaming of a vacation, and conserving cash is only one bonus that these nine pony up. We can confidently state that Couchsurfing is justified in going number one on our list as the article on it exploded our website in popularity, but it is not the only – out of the box – consideration, so here we go. Let’s get bold and free.

1) FREE COUCH – Couchsurfing. We could take the easy way here and tout the fact that surfing an individual’s couch (sleeping on it) is free but that would miss a huge part of the equation. Couchsurfing is for those who wish to connect on a deeper level with the places they visit. Motel 6 has its place but an individual’s home and the beautiful hospitality that is offered cannot be duplicated by a corporation. The On A Dime kid wrote glowingly of Couchsurfing and also broke down the “do’s and don’ts” involved. Check out her article and boldly head out on a journey where the lodging is free and the hospitality is stunning.

View from my host's balcony in Amsterdam
View from my host’s balcony in Amsterdam

2) FARMING – WWOOF – Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms – Yep, it’s free. You put in 4-6 hours help on an organic farm in exchange for accommodations and food. Beautiful connections, beautiful experience. Bold and free.

Our hosts' windowsill in Bergen, Norway
Our hosts’ windowsill in Bergen, Norway

3) BIKING – Warm Showers offers a variety of freebies to those deciding to vacation via cycling. Depending on the host, you can receive warm showers (obviously), free camping, places to stay, meals and drinks. A biking vacation? Pretty darned bold!

4) CLEARING TRAILS – Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation – Free trips (food included) into the wilderness in exchange for 8 hr. work days spent restoring the trails. Located in Montana. You choose trips according to your ability with grades of “easy, moderate, and strenuous”.


5) HELPING HAND – Workaway. exactly as their site proclaims, A few hours honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community, with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings. 

6) CAMP FOR FREE – Dispersed Camping – Yes, we put this on every single list for freebies because we are determined to make more travelers aware of this jewel. Check our links on this and also ask (call ahead!) at the ranger station in the area you are headed. We cannot state this enough, many of the sites offer solitude and unspoiled beauty that cannot be duplicated in fee campsites.

7) FRIENDS – That’s right. We have social media and it’s time we tame the beast and make it our own. More people should simply be bold and put it out there that they want to travel to a certain area and try and arrange lodging swaps.

Hammock time
Hammock time

8) VOLUNTEER – Cross Cultural Solutions. Volunteer and experience cultural emersion in a safe and structured environment. This On A Dime creator volunteered for 3 weeks in Costa Rica and can vouch for Cross Cultural’s integrity and safety. The program is neither free nor cheap, however, they have a guide on how to raise the money required for the program and this proved successful in my experience with about 80% of my trip donated.

9) PAY IT FORWARD – Watch for 2015’s Pay It Forward Day but also enact this while traveling. If you have something to offer, consider sharing or exchanging. We’ve given away extra firewood, a dinner to a PCT hiker, and hilariously, received a 6 pack of beer left carefully at a campsite. In the backcountry we (ok, I) have cried with gratitude over donated power bars and Gatorade. The best bold and free thing we can take advantage of is the joy derived from our own generosity so here’s hoping that we can offer the couchsurfing hosts something equal to their hospitality, perhaps a bottle of wine, a potted plant or the bold and free offer of doing the dishes.

On A Dime heads out on an adventure for the next 18 days to Lake Tahoe, the coast of Oregon, and the backcountry of Washington and we’ll be looking for the best freebies to pass along. If you also have secret money-savers, please let us know.

Feel free to share on Facebook and/or Tweet. We are always grateful. <3


Teri Clifton’s collection of essays, THE THINGS I CANNOT DO, is now available on Amazon and if you plan to visit California, check out our new On A Dime Guide!

Today’s blog post is written by seasoned traveler Lexie Davis, and her On A Dime spirit offers a way to enjoy varied lodging sans fees but rife with hospitality.


By the Berlin Wall


Most of my conversations about Couchsurfing begin with the question “but isn’t it really sketchy?”, accompanied by a raised eyebrow and look of concern. It’s difficult to convince people who have no knowledge of Couchsurfing’s mission that the hospitality exchange network is not only not sketchy at all, but is in fact the best possible way travel, especially for those who want to fully and deeply experience the culture of the place they are visiting. Here are 14 of the many reasons why Couchsurfing is the best option for an adventurous and open-minded (and not to mention, cash-strapped) traveler:


The first time I Couchsurfed was in Oslo. As soon as my friend and I arrived at our hosts’ apartment, they greeted us with a dinner of trout and potatoes. Throughout the meal, we discussed the differences in Norwegian and American culture, and they taught us how to peel our potatoes like Norwegians do. During our one-week trip, we learned so much about Norwegian culture—about their history, fairy tales, customs, and social systems. We learned about all the small things that would never be written about on a Wikipedia page or in a travel book: about the raisin buns that Norwegians like to eat on long road trips and the correct pronunciation of Edvard Munch’s name (as well as the accompanying story of how that correct pronunciation has actually changed over time).


On our way to Bergen, Norway


 Most travel guides pride themselves on authenticity: If you want to do as the Hungarians do, then you have to go to eat at this place, and shop at this store. Yet nothing’s really more authentic than an actual Hungarian taking you around Budapest to all of his favorite places, telling you things about the city that only someone from that city would know. Whereas most people only get to dip a toe into another culture, Couchsurfing allows you to dive in headfirst. You may not walk away knowing all the details of Hungarian history and society, but you’ll come a way with a sense of what it’s like to walk around in the shoes of a Hungarian, even if just for a few days.


In Oslo, Norway


 When most people travel, they’re surrounded by their American friends and family. They eat with them, sleep in the same hostel/hotel rooms with them, ride the train with them,  and go to bars with them. Sometimes I travel this way too, and sometimes it can be fun. But it’s not the greatest way to fully experience another culture, and it’s definitely not a good way to escape from that safe little bubble that surrounds so many travelers, and protects them from really integrating themselves into the cultures of the places they visit. Showing up at a stranger’s home, having beers with them, and sleeping on their couches is a pretty intense thing to do for most people. Not knowing what to expect is a nerve-wracking feeling, but also an exciting one, and is very often insanely rewarding.


When I first began Couchsurfing, I thought that I would be offered a couch, and that’s it (and letting someone sleep inside your home for free is already a pretty generous offer). However, every time I’ve Couchsurfed, my hosts have given me breakfast, and on many occasions I’ve walked through the door to a home-cooked meal. Couchsurfing hosts are by and large people who share because they love sharing, and ask for nothing in return. My hosts in Norway made my friend and me a thermos of hot chocolate to bring with us while we walked around the city. My host in Ghent called in sick at work in order to show my friend and me around the city. My host in Montreal lent me a pair of beautiful Swedish clogs when my own shoes started giving me blisters. When I was traveling from Berlin to Warsaw, I accidentally missed my connection, and ended up on the last train to a Polish city I’d never heard of, all by myself, with nowhere to stay. I called the girl I was supposed to stay with in Warsaw, and in the space of an hour, she called all of her friends until she found one who lived in the city where I was headed, and set up a place for me to spend the night. All of these people had never before laid eyes on me, and were still willing to help me out in ways that normally only the closest of friends would.


 The Couchsurfing experience is most often about cultural exchange. While there are a lot of hosts who are okay with merely providing a place for a traveler to sleep, most want to get to know you, to learn about who you are and where you come from.


You might even make new animal friends, like Poulet, our littlest host in Montreal


Eating raw herring from a street cart. Going to a heavy metal concert. Riding on the back (“begagedrager”) of a bicycle. Scaling a snow-covered hill at midnight, and breaking wine glasses along the way. Trying brown cheese. Attending a stranger’s going-away party. Watching Frank Zappa documentaries until 4am. Eating fries with—yes—mayonnaise. Couchsurfing is full of surprises. Good surprises!


The “cool” bars and “trendy” neighborhoods outlined on travel sites are usually already passé (and not to mention touristy) by the time you get there. Your hosts will be able to tell you what’s a rip-off and what’s a must-see. If they’re not busy, more often than not they’ll take you there themselves. If you’re the type of person who likes to avoid tourist traps and get to know what “real” Italians/South Africans/Chileans/etc. do, then staying with a local host is pretty much the best way to do so.


It’s free. The only thing you need to provide is good company and an open mind (though offering to cook dinner or share bottle of wine is usually welcome as well). But really, it’s no charge for a roof over your head in houses and apartments that are often way cozier and more interesting than a room at a hotel or hostel. What more can I say?


The beautiful kitchen of our hosts in Montreal


 For some reason, this is the one that people have the hardest time believing. Really—it is safe. Hosts fill out a profile with photos of themselves, introductions of who they are and what they do, lists of their interests, and descriptions of their homes and where surfers will be sleeping. But couldn’t these people just be con artists, or worse—killers? How do you know they are who they say they are? you ask. The answer: when people surf at someone’s place, they write their host a review afterward (and vice-versa). It’s essentially a Yelp review for a person. Many hosts have pages and pages of these references, all from different surfers who have their own profiles with references. It would be a pretty elaborate scheme for someone to create hundreds of fake profiles and then write hundreds of fake references. People who are on the website for shady reasons are pretty easily identifiable, as they almost always those who have zero references, no friends, and an incomplete profile. Another safety feature of the site is something called “vouching”. A more experienced host or surfer can vouch for other hosts and surfers on the network who they found to be really great and trustworthy.

I’ve tried to explain to those who are skeptical about the safety of Couchsurfing that when you arrive at a hostel you don’t know who will be in the room with you, and you have no way of finding out before you arrive. With Couchsurfing, you do know who you are staying with. You talk to them beforehand, and read all about them from their former surfers. Another reason that I believe that Couchsurfing is an incredibly safe way to travel is that you have someone from the place you’re traveling to who is looking out for you. Someone who will tell you which areas are dangerous at certain hours and where to look out for pickpockets. Someone who will help you out if you get lost or into trouble. If you’re a smart person who is able to use basic common sense and judgment, I think it would be extremely rare to have an unsafe Couchsurfing experience.

For more about safety, check out the links section at the bottom of this post.


 When you look for hosts in a certain city, you can modify the search so that it only shows hosts between a certain age, or only female or male hosts. You can choose to stay only with hosts who don’t smoke or have pets, or those who speak certain languages (nearly everyone on the site speaks at least conversational English), or those who offer to host families with kids. The person you request to stay with is not random—you search the site and find a couple of people who seem like they would be the best fit for you, and then you send your request straight to them.


While looking for Couchsurfing hosts in Norway, I came across multiple grandmothers. There are also a lot of families who host, most often couples with a very small child or two. There are big houses full of roommates, as well as people who live by themselves. Because open-mindedness and enthusiasm about diversity are defining characteristics of the Couchsurfing network, it would be difficult to find a host who doesn’t welcome people of all races and sexual orientations. No matter your age or who you are, you will be welcomed by someone on the CS site, as long as you fill out your profile to best portray you who are and what interests you.


While I was traveling alone through the Netherlands and Poland, CS saved my life. I’m someone who needs company to stay energized, but always building travel plans around friends’ schedules can be limiting. Couchsurfing liberated me from my fears of traveling alone and getting lonely, because I knew that no matter where I went, I would be guaranteed to meet new people. Recently, I found out that I couldn’t fly to Amsterdam on the same flight as my boyfriend (whom I met while on a solo Couchsurfing trip, by the way). I was really bummed at first, but then I decided to book a flight with Icelandair, which offers free layovers in Reykjavik to people flying from the US to Europe. Before I’d discovered Couchsurfing, I never would have decided to plan a four-day trip to a Nordic island all by myself. Couchsurfing is perfect those who love company, but also like making their own plans.


Overlooking Oslo


 Many of us know that when you travel with a friend/family member for an extended period of time, you often start to get on each others’ last nerves. Spending all day and night with the same person or group of people (or even your lover) for days on end can sometimes get irritating, but when you Couchsurf, you have the opportunity to bring new people into the mix, which eases the tension and redefines the dynamic. Plus, after you’ve been traveling with the same person for awhile, you run out of stories to tell and things to discuss, so you will welcome the chance to hear new stories and have new discussions.


Close your guidebook. Don’t make a detailed list of all the places you need to go and things you need to see. Even if your host is busy working and can’t show you around during the day, she’ll give you advice of great places to go. Your schedule will (and should!) change based on her recommendations and pieces of local wisdom. If you know everything you’re going to do and see before you arrive in the city, where’s the fun and adventure in that? More likely than not, your host will want to include you in her plans, especially in the evening and on weekends. You might be invited to a small party where you’ll be the only American. Or you might end up at the concert of a band you’ve never heard of. Or your host might take you to her favorite dive bar, which is way better than the trendy club where all the tourists go. Vacation should be about going with the flow, and letting your whims and sense of adventure lead you. Often, your host will take pleasure in deciding where to take you, and for making the plans for the evening, allowing you to relax and just follow along. Also, it’s important to mention that most hosts don’t like to answer requests more than two weeks ahead of the date you’ll arrive. For the last-minute adventurer, this is an ideal situation.


  1. Surfing does not obligate you to host. Hosting does not obligate you to surf. There are plenty of people in the Couchsurfing network who only surf, or only host.
  2. Fill out your whole profile! You are carefully choosing the people you’d most like to stay with, but they are also carefully choosing those who they will host. Hosts want to see who you are as much as you want to know about them. Upload at least 5 pictures, and try to be detailed about the kind of person you are and your interests.
  3. Carefully read the profiles of all the people you request. Nothing makes a potential host more annoyed than being able to tell that you did not read their profile. When you send them a request to stay at their place, be specific about why you found them interesting, and why you think you would get along.
  4. Send requests out to multiple hosts. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You may not get accepted by your favorite host. Have a few back ups ready, and don’t feel bad asking a couple people at once in order to better your chances of being accepted by someone. However, if you are accepted by multiple hosts, be sure and respond to all of them, even if it’s just to say thank them for their offer, and let them know that you already found somewhere else to stay.
  5. You are an ambassador for your country. Remember that Couchsurfing is a reciprocal experience; your host is offering up his home because he wants to meet new people and learn more about other cultures. Treating your host’s house with the same (or more!) respect than you would your own is an expectation. Offer to do dishes, cook some dinner, fold up the bedding, etc.
  6. Gifts are never required, but it is kind to show up with some token of thanks, such as a bottle of wine, an interesting souvenir from your home county, some cookies, etc.
  7. One of the rudest things you can do is to be accepted as a surfer and then never show up. If you find out that you are no longer able to stay with someone who offered you a place, let them know sooner rather than later.


  1. Have a high-stress personality and don’t like improvising.
  2. Are a germaphobe.
  3. Are obsessive about things like pillow or mattress firmness or softness.
  4. Have difficulty with social situations and meeting new people.
  5. Need a lot of privacy.
  6. Aren’t easily accepting of different lifestyles or belief systems.
  7. Feel you need constant access to the place you’re staying. (Many Couchsurfing hosts don’t give surfers keys. Understandable, I think, but maybe a problem for some people.)
  8. Desire more of a solo getaway or privacy with friends/significant others traveling with you. Alternative lodging ideas can be found at this link.


How to be a great Couchsurfer:

 Safety tips and information:

 Proof that if a fussy, cynical old writer for The New Yorker can enjoy Couchsurfing, so can you:

10 Vacation Money Savers

If you are pining to get out of town and the urge for a vacation hit yesterday, last week, last month, it’s not too late so let’s get it started. The goal of On A Dime Adventure is to share ideas for getaways without spending a fortune and after a recent money-saving article‘s popularity, we’re looking to provide more information that encourages travel for less cost.


1) LODGING – Yes, we here at On A Dime rely heavily on camping (see #2) for a small fee or dispersed for free, however, we completely “get” that there are non-campers so here you go. Hostels. Yep, they have gone mainstream and offer private rooms for less than hotels. You most likely will need a reservation in the peak season but if you come up empty-handed, call for last minute cancellations. We are in no way suggesting the kind of luck we had is a given but we did score last minute accommodations via cancellations for a group of 6 on 4th of July, two years in a row at the Yosemite Bug which offers a day spa as well as beer and wine in the restaurant.  After a hearty Half Dome visit, this hostel offered an amazing respite. The photo below was our view from the Montara Hostel on the coast of California. Check out our article on COUCHSURFING, written by guest blogger, Lexie Davis.

View from our room
View from our room

2) CAMPING – This is the best way to spend no money or to save a lot of money and we depend on a strategy that has been successful repeatedly. We camp first, hostel or cabin second, and then hotel for our final night. We save big time as is illustrated on this trip to Big Sur. If you compare our camping, cabin, and hotel fees, you’ll see the savings created by combining rather than spending the entire time at the hotel.

3) ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS – These ideas rock the little ones and make for some inexpensive fun for the parents as well.

4) BEACH GETAWAYS – This link makes a very good point in the money-saving game, stay close to home. Whatever body of water is closest, explore that first. To drive this home, we are including photos of Lake Texoma a huge body of water that lands 1/2 in Oklahoma and 1/2 in Texas.


tealights = ambiance
tealights = ambiance

Obviously, the ocean is lovely but there are amazing lakes that are stunning and off the beaten path. Below is Elk City State Park in Kansas.

Kansas $15 a night
Kansas $15 a night

5) AMUSEMENT PARKS – Go ahead and jump on Priceline for all-inclusive packages. This will be your best bet. The  On A Dime strategy in peak season is to get a good package and perhaps consider bringing food to the park and storing it in a locker. Heed this warning, water bottles are expensive so go ahead and bring personal (non-glass) bottles to fill from the fountains and, if you desire, powdered flavor packets like lemonade.

Sta Monica Pier2

6) NATIONAL PARKS – Here’s a timeless article on some of the stunning sites that are not to be missed. Personal experience at the Grand Canyon allows us to impart to travelers that as the day wears on, the lines to get in the parks can swell. Be an early bird and avoid the wait and the crowds.

7) GOLF VACATIONS – This link was billed as cheap golf vacations but we here at On A Dime feel it’s more in line with less expensive as golf is never truly cheap. That said, for the rabid golfers, this link does provide ideas on spending less.

8) HOUSE SWAP – Just like it sounds. Trade your house for one in your vacation location and save hugely. Adventurers, many of you are in contact with friends/family all over the world via social media. Consider swapping with someone in your circle. Also check out Airbnb for cheaper accommodations offered by private individuals. You’ll have the opportunity to choose lodging in a variety of locales with a variety of styles. Prices vary. Also Vacation By Owner (VRBO) for private homes for less overall cost. We’ve used VRBO a number of times and never had a bad experience.

9) FOOD – If eating out, SPLIT. The end. Portions are almost always way too much for one person so split your meal but please tip your waitstaff as if you’d purchased individual meals. 🙂 The service is not halved when the food is split.  The photo below is an actual breakfast for less than $10 at the Mount Whitney portal and the pancake is the bomb in flavor as well as size!

BRK Portal

10) SAVE ON GAS – Friends, we cannot impress upon you enough that sharing transportation greatly cuts your travel cost. This link offers ride sharing and possibly an opportunity to connect with other like-minded adventurers. If you feel better with buddies rather than strangers, spread the word. Share costs with another family and watch your SUV gas cost shrink by splitting it up at the pump. We managed a $40 dollar (per person) weekend by going as a group and it was a joyful time around the campfire with friends.

Share on Facebook and Tweet. Our gratitude cup runneth over.