This entry is intended for budget travelers and students wanting to visit Portland. I have flown to and from Portland around 10 to 15 times. For someone on a budget, the best option is Southwest Airlines (www.southwest.com), deals on the Travelocity fare watcher (www.travelocity.com, create a username/profile and click on fare watcher), or Student Universe (www.studentuniverse.com). You’ll fly into the Portland International Airport (code PDX). You will be able to find round-trip airfare from almost any major location in the US for $300 or less if you buy 2 weeks or more in advance. The standard Southwest internet deal costs $149 each way. This trip will not be the most comfortable or convenient (1 to 2 layovers and a much longer traveling day) compared to other airlines, but it can save you some major cash. Having said that, check Travelocity and Student Universe first. You have a good shot at finding something more direct for an equal or lower price.
For a two-city tour or a more extended West Coast trip, fly to Seattle. Seattle prices are generally cheaper than flying into Portland. Jetblue (www.jetblue.com) flies here, in addition to Southwest. I find the transcontinental Jetblue flight more comfortable and convenient than Southwest. For starters, the flight is more direct, you will have a TV at your seat, and you will be assigned a seat number rather than group boarding pass. This way, you will know before your trip that you won’t spend a very long flight crammed into a center seat. The major drawback to Jetblue is the return flight at 11:59pm - the only option for many East Coast destinations. If you can sleep on the plane, this won’t bother you. Otherwise, it may be a major disadvantage. However, if you are doing Seattle and Portland in one trip, a great option is to take Jetblue to Seattle on the way there, spend some time in Seattle, head on to Portland (via car or train), and return home on a Southwest flight from Portland at a more convenient hour. The great thing about discount airlines is the ability to purchase one-way fares at low prices.
To get from Seattle to Portland, you can drive (about 2 hours) or take Amtrak trains (www.amtrak.com, 3 hours at $27). Once you get to the Portland International Airport, take the Max to your destination. The Max Stop is located near the baggage claim area. See my entry on getting around the city for detailed information on the Max.